Title: Soaring
Characters: Draco/Harry, implied Hermione/Ron, most every other student in their year
Genres: Angst, Drama, First Time, Humour, Hurt/Comfort, One Shot, Romance
Rating: R
Warnings: Adult Language, Angst, Sexual Content, Violence, Hurt/Comfort
Summary: Submitted for HD_Holidays on LJ: Draco Malfoy is reaching the halfway point of his eighth year of Hogwarts, post-war. Though things are back to normal, Draco feels haunted, suffocated, broken by his past. And he can't be fixed. Can he?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. I've just taken the characters, angst-ed them up a bit, and let them loose to play.
Warnings: DH-compliant, EWE, slash, angst, flangst, mild violence, male-male sex, oral sex, nightmare/panic attacks, and silly quirks
Length: ~9,000
Author's Notes: This was a festgift for the lovely artist Nsche, on LJ. Plenty of flangst, Christmas partying, and lots of Quidditch. I have purposely left out any explanation on Ginny and Harry's non-relationship, because the story is in Draco's POV. Any Pansy-Harry rift has been ignored for the whole "starting over" regime Harry's taken on.

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November 8:

He is running. Breath stings his lungs with each pound of his shoes on the ground, dirt and filth splashing with the impact of his strides. He can't see—he can hear nothing but the pounding of his heart and the distant cries of the innocent. His peers fight in the shadow of the castle, and he is running.

Wind and rain and tears whip at his cheeks, the soft voice of another reaching out to him, echoing:

Draco, you are not a killer.

And it is horrible. And it is terrible because he's never wanted to be one. He never signed up for this. He's never felt so…

He is alone, this time, and the mud seems to cling to the soles of his shoes, slowing him, reaching into him, clawing at his insides. He is running.

And then, slow, slow, slowly, he is sinking.

And the earth swallows him up, and it is no longer the biting air that crushes his lungs—his heart—but everything. Everywhere. He can't see, he can't hear, he can't—

~*~

Draco woke with a start, hearing the faint reverberations of a hoarse scream in the confines of his dark four-poster. He was sweating, shaking, yet again. With a faint grunt of disgust at the trickle of perspiration edging down his spine, he shoved the bed-curtain aside and sucked in a breath of cold air. He ran a hand over his face and, after rubbing the sleep from his eyes, rolled out of bed. The sheets slid with a stubborn sluggishness to the floor as Draco shimmied out of their tangle and padded swiftly to his trunk, wrenching it open and finding the warmest clothes he had, along with a pair of woolly socks and his favourite jumper.

The floor was always too cool for his tastes, Draco noticed, shivering and cuddling into the warmth of the soft turtleneck, hunching his shoulders so his nose could slip under the cashmere. He pulled the sleeves over his wrists and breathed into his cupped palms. He could see the steam.

Living in the dungeons had always seemed to have its perks—the absence of obnoxious Gryffindors, among other things—but Draco hated it.

For some reason, Draco had always felt suffocated down in the belly of the castle, and during the winter months he could swear it was cold enough to freeze one's prick off. And no, he'd not be willing to test the theory.

"When I get older I'm taking a permanent vacation to the tropics," he whispered, and then jumped when Greg snorted in his sleep.

Determined to push the remnants of his nightmare from his mind, he wiped his palms on his flannel pyjamas and turned towards the charmed window. According to the Reflecting Charm (a spell that reflected the precise weather patterns of their Scottish countryside), it was snowing again, causing faint, fluttering shadows to fall over the dark wood flooring.

Teeth rattling, he searched in his trunk for his towel and booked it to the showers, sliding around on the wood flooring as he made his way to blissfully hot water.

Even for Draco, there had to be some entertainment gained from the small things in life.

Like sock skating.

Though, no one needed to know about that.

The warmth melted away the tension in his shoulders and the memory of his dreams, but Draco couldn't quite fight the glum mood that had settled over him since the dreams had started. Back in May. Two years ago.

They were getting old, really.

But at least they weren't the same each time. If any entertainment was to be gained, it was the variety of odd scenes and disturbing images his subconscious could conjure up from repressed memory.

And the sickening feeling was back again, and suddenly the slippery, tiled walls were closing in on him and he was getting shampoo in his eyes and he couldn't breathe and so he stumbled out of the shower, rubbing his body raw with his towel to get the darkness off.

He charmed his hair dry, shoved on some long underwear, corduroys, his jumper and his winter coat. And socks and boots and scarf and hat.

He needed to get out of here.

~*~

Flying in a snowstorm wasn't the best of Draco's many ideas, but it made him focus on things other than failed assassinations and blood soaked floors and red-eyed monsters that went 'Crucio!' in the night.

In fact, once an Impervious Charm was cast, Draco was fairly giggling with the freedom that flight gave him, air whisking through his hair as he dipped and spun and raced around the pitch.

Nothing could catch him.

~*~

It was seven o'clock when he landed, panting and invigorated, near the stands and set off towards the locker rooms at a brisk pace, Nimbus 2001 slung over his shoulder.

"Getting a bit reckless, aren't we, Malfoy?"

No sooner were the words uttered that Draco spun around, shouting "Stupefy!" at the boy in the stands.

Potter, standing tall and obnoxiously Gryffindor several feet above him, lazily batted Draco's spell away with a silent Protego. "That wasn't an attack," the pillock hissed.

"I think it's safe to consider anything from you an attack. Glorified prat."

"Look, it didn't come out right, but I was going to say you shouldn't fly like that in this weather. It's not safe."

"Thanks for the concern, Potter, but I don't need another mummy."

"Alright, alright!" he said, raising his hands up in a placating gesture. "Just saying."

Draco rolled his eyes and turned away, walking a few steps until it occurred to him that it was indeed seven in the morning and no one was up unless they were up to something. He whirled around again. "What are you doing out here, anyway?"

Potter shrugged, although a blush crept up above his house scarf all the same. "I always take a morning walk. It clears my head."

"How does that work? Your head's as empty as they come."

"Fuck you, Malfoy."

"No thanks," Draco said.

The silence strung out awkwardly between them, even as they tried to glare effectively into the other's face.

"I might ask the same thing of you," Potter finally said.

"What of me?" Draco asked, genuinely confused.

"Why you were out here early."

"I was flying, you idiot."

"Why? Need more practice for the Gryffindor-Slytherin match in two weeks?"

"No, it… clears my head."

Potter gave an undignified snort.

And Draco again turned away, only to hear Potter clear his throat. "What?!"

Potter jumped from the stands and landed on his own Cushioning Charm, making Draco want to punch him in the face extra-hard. Because Draco always wanted to punch him in the face, so an extra-hard punch would be much more satisfying. Perfect Bloody Potter. "I, uh… I noticed your spell-work's been a bit off lately." He approached, gesturing mildly with his hands.

Draco glared up at him—when did Potter get taller than him?—with fists clenched.

"Have you."

The prat adjusted his scarf against the cold, looking down at him, appraising him. "Are you having trouble with nonverbals?"

Draco clenched his teeth.

"Sorry, it's just… well, I've started up the D.A. again, this year, as a legitimate club, so if you want to come…"

"Why would I want to join to your fan club, Potter?"

It was the other's turn to roll his eyes. "It's a good way to learn. And it's not a fan club. It's only for fifth through eighth years."

"And are fifth through eighth years automatically exempt from the Golden Boy charm?" Draco drawled.

Potter smirked, looking surprisingly Slytherin in that moment, and leaned forward a bit, quirking an eyebrow. "I dunno; you tell me." With that, the Gryffindor left Draco gaping after him as he strolled into the flurrying storm and out of sight.

And as Draco tossed his broom, not so kindly, into his locker several minutes later, all he could think about were Potter's parting words. "What the fuck did that mean?"

He slammed his locker shut with a satisfying clang and forced himself to think on it no longer.

November 16:

Being a seventh-year repeat was tougher than he'd thought, Draco decided, as he sat in the library quilling his Transfiguration essay and feeling decidedly morose. The library was dark and musty, and it shouldn't have been, except that the weather outside was frightfully grey. And Pansy was insisting that their group go to Hogsmeade on Saturday for a drink and he really didn't want to go outside unless he was going to be riding a broom for an extended period of time.

Speaking of flying, he'd spotted Potter several times over the past two weeks, observing Draco from the stands as if he had a right to… to… look at him. Draco never said anything, though. He always felt…

…watched over.

A ball of parchment hit him on the shoulder and he looked up into Blaise's smirking face. "Stop daydreaming," his study partner whispered.

Draco sat up in his chair and did his best to look dignified. "I was not daydreaming."

"Looked like you were. Drooling and everything."

Draco tossed the parchment back, hitting Blaise squarely on the nose, and reached over to dip his quill into his inkpot when he saw Potter and Granger enter the library with a large, garish poster held between them. They appeared to be chatting quietly as they approached the front desk and talked with Madam Pince before moving beyond to the announcement wall, spreading out the poster and Adhering it to the stone with a caress of Granger's wand to the glossy paper.

Draco hovered his quill over his parchment to begin writing as he watched them: their heads cocked to the side, they shared a grin and whispered animatedly about something Draco couldn't quite catch. Potter made a movement of his hands and Draco followed them, following, following until they tucked neatly into the back pockets of his denims.

Draco looked away, setting his gaze determinedly on his essay when he realized his quill had been steadily staining the right cuff of his oxford shirt as it rolled down his hand onto his neat, well-written paragraphs. He swore loudly, too loudly, and grabbed his wand to try to siphon the ink away. Blaise shook his head at Draco, muttering something about absent-mindedness, but Draco ignored him, glancing up in the direction of the announcement wall.

Potter was looking directly at him, Granger smirking, and he didn't know… what to do… He felt like a right idiot. The Gryffindor just shrugged at him, looked behind him at the poster, and held out his arm to Granger.

They walked away.

When they were gone from sight, Draco glanced back at the poster, finally seeing the shapes as words when he focused on it.

'THE D.A. NEEDS MORE RECRUITS! OPEN TO ALL FIFTH-YEARS AND ABOVE' was the headline, and below more information detailing the purpose and meeting times for the club. The next meeting was on Thursday at 7:30PM.

November 20:

Getting to sleep was not a problem, most nights, especially since most of his dorm mates were still awake when he curled up under the covers. The silence couldn't get to him, that way. He'd often drift away to the sounds of pages turning, or quills scratching, or sometimes even soft music coming from the gramophone in Theodore's windowsill.

Last night there'd been orchestral Christmas music on, for some reason, and Draco had fallen into dreamland as soon as he'd hit the pillow, the low sounds of distant jingle bells echoing off the dark walls of their room.

But even the comfort of yuletide songs couldn't stop the nightmares apparently.

As Draco zoomed around the pitch, again, he felt the lingering terror melt away, and the smell of smoke eliminated as he breathed deep and long in the frigid air.

It was a clear morning, and Draco felt freer than usual, perhaps because the dream hadn't ended so terribly. Through the fire and smoke a hand had reached for him, and he'd caught hold, and had never let go.

Shaking his head as if to clear it, Draco raced around the pitch several times more, practicing manoeuvres and feints until an indistinct figure caught his eye, moving out of the shadow of the castle and into the soft orange light of the sunrise. He flew lower.

~*~

"Morning, Malfoy," said Potter from beneath his swaddle of jackets and scarves and hat as Draco touched down and dropped his broom in the snow. Draco flopped to the ground, breathing hard and fast, and just looked at him: a strange shadow of lumpy arms and body in the light of the morning sun. "Nice flying, today. I have to admit, you're a fair flyer."

Draco looked up him, again, and said, "You warm enough under there? I can't even see your ugly mug."

The git laughed, surprisingly. "Better for you then, eh?" They fell into silence as Draco sat up and stretched his pleasantly aching muscles, reaching up over his head and rolling his shoulders before stretching his legs out and touching his toes. The Gryffindor shifted from foot to foot as if he were nervous, and then decided it would be best to speak. Which it wasn't, but Draco was admittedly curious to hear what was making Potter so antsy. All that came out, though, was:

"I saw you're trying out the Wronski Feint."

"Yeah." Draco rearranged his legs into a butterfly and pressed down on his knees with the heels of his palms.

"It's a difficult move," Potter muttered, "but you're doing well, I think. Just a couple more test runs and maybe trying it out with an opponent—"

"What is it you want, Potter?" Draco gave up on stretching and stood up to lean on his broom, finally looking at the other boy with narrowed eyes. He was startled to see a slight smile slide off of his… enemy's face into a frown. The only change in Draco's features was a tightening of the jaw.

Potter looked at him for a moment, seeming to scan Draco before sighing in defeat. "Look," he began. "Can't we just… start over or something?" Potter held out a tentative mitten, trying out a bit of a smile, although Draco could see the worry behind his eyes. The hope, and the fear that Draco would reject him.

Suddenly, Draco was so angry he could barely see straight. "What?"

"Hi, I'm Harry Potter," the other boy said in a rush.

Draco gripped his broom, slung it over his shoulder and shoved past the bloodysoddingscarfaced arsehole, storming toward the locker rooms.

"Hey! What the fuck, Malfoy?" He heard Potter yell from several metres away. "What was that about?"

Draco, incensed, whirled around and shouted, "How does it feel, Potter?"

The Gryffindor frowned at him, breath huffing out in puffs of steam around his eyes. "What?"

"How does it feel to be rejected?"

With that, Draco turned and, trying his very best to tamp down the hurt that rose nauseatingly in his chest, walked away.

November 26:

"Thanks, June," Draco murmured, as Slytherin's second Chaser (a sixth-year) pressed her fingers into his shoulder muscles, kneading out the knots as Forrest, a burly seventh-year and captain of the team, ran over the plays they'd be using against Gryffindor, marking their weak points (like Weasel's keeping) and their strong points (like she-Weasel and, of course, Potter).

"You're so tense, Draco," the girl said, an unnecessary giggle working itself into her voice, somehow.

"That's what you're here for," he said, receiving a playful smack on the head as she scratched her nails through the hair at the nape of his neck. He immediately tensed and grabbed her wrist, holding it in a death grip, remembering the creeping darkness from a dream several nights ago, being swallowed up again by fear.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, and she sounded sincere, so Draco let her wrist slip from his fingers and patted her knee.

"Draco, you've got to watch out for Potter's sharp turns as usual, and his general recklessness, as always. He's been distracted, lately—"
Draco wasn't surprised. If he hadn't been noticing first-hand the Gryffindor's edginess, he'd have known Potter wasn't doing well 'cause he'd not been going for his daily walks since their row… or whatever it was.

"—so you've got a good chance of confusing him out in the air. I don't think he'll be ready for a feint, so keep that in mind. Beaters," Forrest smirked at Greg and the tall fifth year, Hadrian, "set your sights on girl-Weasley, but keep an eye out for Potter."

Everyone grinned and stood, gathering around Forrest in a huddle, second-stringers fighting for a view on the outside.

"All right!" Forrest exclaimed. "WHAT DO WE EAT?" he roared into the crowd of his teammates, spinning around as they roared back.

"LION MEAT!"

"HOW DO WE EAT IT?"

"RAW!"

"Fuck yes; let's get this joke over with! Slytherin on three!"

"ONE, TWO, THREE—!"

~*~

Draco raced again and again around the pitch, high above the other players, as the Quaffle seemed to jump in a blur between houses and Bludgers swerved towards dodging team members. Draco felt so strung up that he'd have been bouncing on his broom if he didn't keep moving, weaving in and out of the viewing boxes and passing Potter frequently, the Gryffindor's face twisting into an angry grimace, even though he never met Draco's eye.

Slytherin was up by sixty points, now, and one of Gryffindor's Chasers was down and replaced with a second-stringer (a definite plus for Green), although she-Weasel more than made up for the loss with her intensity. Her brother, however, was having one of his mediocre days, even though he still received roaring applause and chants of Weasley is our King (revised edition) from the Hufflepuffs and remaining Gryffindors. Ravenclaw was split half-and-half.

The score was 150-110 when Potter went into a dive half-a-pitch away, and Draco took off, gaining on his rival even though a Firebolt was usually much faster. All the practice had been paying off, apparently. Draco saw the Snitch hovering near the lowest Slytherin goalpost and leaned into his broom, speeding until he was neck and neck with Potter, gaining on the golden, flighty ball every millisecond. The other boy shoved him, hard, to the right and Draco shoved right back, shouting over the wind at the begoggled Gryffindor, "Up yours, Scarhead!"

"Fuck you! Fuck you, Malfoy," Potter yelled and tried his very best to cut Draco off. They were nearing the goalposts, now.

"You wish!"

This had no response, and just as the Snitch swerved away to dance across the pitch to the other side, Potter kicked Draco's broom and sent him spinning off out of bounds as Slytherin scored another ten points and Gryffindor intercepted the Quaffle at June's first throw-in, according to Abigail Smith, Zacharias' youngest sister and a fourth-year.

Draco sped towards the opposite side of the pitch at an alarming rate, although all he saw was the back of his opponent's broom as he gained on him, yet again.

And they shoved and kicked at one another as they zoomed toward the sparkling ball, zigzagging as it seemed to waver between left and right.

"Ready to lose, Potter?" Malfoy jeered, slamming into the other's left side, causing him to tilt dangerously to the right.

Potter fairly growled and turned to respond when Draco pushed, yet again, with his hand, and suddenly Potter had lost balance and slipped over to hang on to his broom for dear life, upside-down. They weren't far off the ground, however. Draco allowed himself a moment to ponder how bloody awful it would be for the saviour of the Wizarding world to die a sudden and painful death—again—in a school Quidditch game, before Potter suddenly swerved upwards and the boy fell, as if by chance, into the Snitch, clutching it to his chest as he rolled in a funky, backwards somersault and landed on his hands and knees, fingers splayed and back heaving with exhilaration.

"AND HARRY POTTER HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH! GRYFFINDOR WINS TWO-SEVENTY TO ONE-SIXTY!"

Malfoy dismounted and stomped furiously over to Potter, glaring down at him, frustration and anger bubbling up from his chest—he fought tears.

Potter tore off his goggles, standing on wobbly legs and said, "You fouled me, you fucking prick." And then his leather-clad fist swung at Draco, knocking him back. And he swung again.

And Draco shoved him, dodging another punch and shouldering him in the stomach, sending them tumbling onto the ground. Draco quickly bested Potter, straddling his hips and laying into him, punching the git in the stomach over and over as he tried to flip Draco over while grasping at Draco's hands.

And this was no longer about Quidditch. No longer about stupid school rivalry, but the friendship they'd never had, and Draco, aside from the swelling eye, felt tears drip down his nose and onto the other's chest. "IhateyouIhateyouIhateyou!"

Draco heard, somewhat distantly and couldn't tell whether it was he or Potter who said it over and over.

There were shouts above the cheering and Draco, distracted by them, was slammed onto his back, Potter's big hands grabbing his wrists in a death grip, pressing them forcefully into the grass above his head. The wind was knocked out of him, and he lay there staring up at the other boy, whose glasses had cut into the bridge of his nose and whose eyes watered. With physical pain, he didn't know, but it was entirely possible.

"Yeah, I hate you, too," Potter growled, and then was torn away by Weasley as McGonagall screeched bloody murder and Greg came and yanked Draco to his feet.

Draco couldn't tear his gaze away from his rival as the Headmistress doled out double-detentions and, on top of that, informed the two of them of their future shared dinners every Tuesday, which Potter would be joining the Slytherin table for, and Draco's new membership in the D.A.

All in all, it wasn't the best of days.

~*~

That night, Draco and Potter were forced to sleep in the hospital wing.

And even though Draco was sporting a broken wrist and a black eye that just wouldn't go down, despite all the charms and pastes and salves—much to Potter's smug amusement—he'd rather spend a night with his disappointed friends in the dungeons than have to share a room (albeit a very large one) with his stupid Gryffindor enemy.

It was nice, though, to know the prick had three broken ribs and a pulled muscle. Although the strain was clearly from playing and not because Draco had physically yanked on Potter's abused muscles—that would be strange and quite a feat, seeing as the muscle was in the other's neck.

They lay in complete, sullen silence until Potter turned onto his side and fell asleep and Draco couldn't keep his eyes open they were so heavy. He slipped away into dreamland to the sounds of Potter's slow, even breathing.

~*~

The sudden click of the bedside lamp startled Draco into reality, and he stared, wide-eyed and frightened, into a pair of sleepy green eyes.

"You were crying in your sleep," the boy muttered and sat carefully on the side of the bed as Draco curled up into a ball, wiping his cheeks quickly and nuzzling into the starchy pillow. He took shaky breaths as the other boy shushed him soothingly, and Draco let his eyes fall closed again, drifting away to the constant, comforting motion of fingers stroking through his hair.

December 1:

An awkward silence fell over the Slytherin table when Harry Potter stepped over the bench and sat across from Draco, who blushed and kept his eyes averted from the Headmistress, who said something like, "I trust you'll be civil, gentlemen?"

Potter answered with an obedient "Yes, Professor," as the older woman retreated to the head table and sat between Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout.

Nobody said a word for a moment or two, until Harry said hello. Awkwardly.

"Potter," everyone murmured respectfully, and Blaise nudged Draco into a delayed and much more embarrassing, "Hullo."

"Listen," he said haltingly, "I'm sorry you all have been punished for this. It was really stupid of us."

"Yes, it was," Pansy said matter-of-factly in her screechy voice, "but I think we'll survive. We're Slytherins, after all."

Harry laughed quietly. "Fair enough," he muttered, and asked Draco to pass the potatoes.

Draco gave him the dish without complaint, silently agreeing upon their truce.

But he felt immediately off-kilter when Potter and Forrest got into a heated debate about whether or not the Kestrels or the Magpies would win the U.K. cup this season. Forrest and several other Slytherins were of the opinion that the Kestrels would undoubtedly win because of their superior offensive strategy.

Potter disagreed because the Magpies were his favourite team and they'd win because they had Mitchell Brooks as Seeker and a fantastic Keeper and lead Chaser.

Draco agreed, but never mentioned that the Magpies might have been his favourite, too.

December 3:

Again, Draco felt as welcome as a first-year in a barrel of Blast-Ended Skrewts when he stepped into the transformed Great Hall on Thursday at 7:30PM. Most of the eighth years from Gryffindor and many others from the other houses (other than Slytherin, save four or five fifth years) were there, gathered in groups of chattering friends or groups of lovey-dovey twos, or helping levitate the House tables to the far sides of the Hall as a group effort. All together, there were around thirty-six, and never before had he seen such a display of House unity other than the Battle of Hogwarts less than a year ago. Potter, Weasley and Granger were talking over by the Headmistress' dais, until Weasley saw Draco hovering by the entryway, scuffing his shoes against the rough stones.

It was then that they called the group together and the Lovegood girl appeared next to Draco, tugging on his hand so he would follow. They gathered in a big circle, Draco feeling extremely out of place in his Wizarding attire, once he looked around at the rest of his peers, and Granger announced that there were eight new 'recruits'. His name was last, and of course, no one seemed surprised that he was there.

Weasley spoke afterwards from his position opposite Granger. "Alright, so, I know you all hate this, but Harry and I agreed that we should go around with our names again, telling everyone one non-magical thing we're good at, and one magical thing we could use some work on. I'll start." The ginger grinned at everyone, who seemed to be smiling indulgently back. "I'm Ron. I'm good at strategy games, but I could work on my reaction speed in duelling…"

They went around the circle, and Draco learned a surprising amount of things about those outside of his house. Like the fact that Susan Bones played the bagpipes and Dean Thomas drew with charcoals and Harry Potter liked baking.

"I'm Harry," he'd begun. "I'm terrible with offensive magic, but I bake a mean chocolate soufflé, so…"

"You could take out your opponent that way, Harry!" a girl across the circle had yelled.

"Yeah, one bite and they'd die," Weasley'd added.

"Oi!" Potter had exclaimed indignantly, while the group laughed.

"Happily, mate!" Weasley had said, "They'd die very happily."

Soon, though, it came to be Draco's turn. Everyone looked at him appraisingly, some a little less friendly, but it really only mattered what Potter thought, and as soon as Draco saw the encouraging half-smile on… on the git's face, he was able to begin.

"I'm Draco," he said quietly, "and—"

"We can't hear you!" Zacharias Smith sneered from across the way.

"Oh, honestly," Granger snapped. "We know who he is, Smith."

Draco cleared his throat and said, louder, "I'm Draco. I'm good at fencing. But… I'm terrible at nonverbal spell-work."

And as he exhaled, only half listening to Lovegood's ability to arrange flowers, he caught Potter's eye again, and suddenly it didn't seem so bad to be a part of Dumbledore's Army.

Even if they participated in cheesy, mind-numbing, icebreaker games.

~*~

And when everyone paired off to work on one-on-one duelling, Draco found himself under the watch of Harry Potter, who helped him out with his focus.

"If there's one thing I learned during the war," the Gryffindor had muttered, "it's that you have to mean what you're casting. Try to focus on what the spell will do to your opponent, or what it will prevent them from doing, instead of screaming it in your head. You know what I'm saying?"

Draco had nodded slowly. And had failed miserably when casting the Jelly-Legs Jinx on Hannah Abbott. Potter had come up and corrected his grip on his wand, stepping a little too close for comfort, and said quietly, so near to Draco that he could feel the breath against his ear, "Think about how much you want it, Draco."

Well, it had worked the third time, once the prat had stopped staring at him and had moved on to a pair of fifth years.

December 15:

The "punishments" seemed to pass by so quickly that Draco couldn't keep up with the many things he was learning, and the many things he was learning about Potter.

Who'd have thought Potter watched Bollywood movies on the telly while his family wasn't home over the summers? Or that he hated Christmas pudding? Or that he was shit at chess (well, that wasn't entirely unbelievable)? Or how he could bake an orgasmically good batch of gingerbread biscuits?

On December fifteenth, Potter sat down at dinner with a rectangular, pink box in his hands. Everyone had greeted him accordingly and peered curiously at what looked to be a garishly decorated present.

"All right," Draco snapped, when five minutes had gone by and nobody'd done anything but stare at the thing while Potter ate his asparagus. "What's in the box, Potter?"

The Gryffindor rolled his eyes and put down his fork and knife, reaching for his box. "I thought you'd never ask." He opened it to reveal ten glorious looking biscuits, each with an eighth year's initials on it: a B, two D's, an E, a G, H, one P, an S, and a T.

Forrest wondered aloud why there was no 'F' for him, and Harry smiled apologetically. "Only eighth years, mate."

"I can't decide whether to feel touched or nauseated by your Gryffindor sentimentality," Millicent muttered, and everyone chuckled.

"I think the appropriate reaction is: 'Can I eat it now?'" Potter replied.

Everyone grabbed for theirs, biting into the treats, through their frosty initials and chewing delightedly. Draco tried his best to keep the pleasure from his face, but Potter was watching him so intently that he felt the heat of his blush long before it registered in the other boy's eyes.

"Good?" Potter asked.

Daphne sighed on his left. "Orgasmically, I've gotta say."

Draco silently agreed.

December 17:

It was a day before the day before break, Draco noted as he headed from dinner with Blaise, Greg, and Pansy in the dungeons to the Great Hall. And he would be early for the D.A. meeting, but he'd wanted to get out of the close air and breath easier.

He strolled in to see Potter, Granger and Weasley sitting on a Hufflepuff bench, Granger seated comfortably in Weasley's lap as the boys—from the look of it—talked Quidditch. Granger was smiling, though, as if being with her two best friends was good enough. And Draco supposed it would be, if one had best friends.

Granger sat up a little more when she saw Draco, smiling a little less widely, but smiling all the same. She waved him over as the boys continued to talk… about alcohol?

Seeing Draco's confusion, he supposed, Granger explained. "We're hosting a holiday party tomorrow night, and Harry and Ron are figuring out how they'll get Firewhisky and Butterbeer and such into the school."

Draco quirked an eyebrow.

"I know; you'd think I would be pulling my hair out, wouldn't you? But it sounds like a bit of fun. And we need more fun, you know?" They both glanced over at Potter and Weasley. "I think it's only a matter of how to get to Hogsmeade and back, now. They haven't told me any details because they think I don't want to know, but I'm pretty sure George is giving us a couple bottles of various brands… if they can get themselves into town."

Potter and Weasley looked up at that moment, and seemed startled to see Draco there. "So," Potter said a little awkwardly, "you've heard about the party…"

"Yes," Draco answered. "Should I not have?"

"No!" Potter was quick to reassure him. "You should come," he said quietly, and then added, "Bring your friends. It's just for eighth and seventh years, though."

"All right. I suppose we have nothing else to do, anyway," Draco said, although he caught the knowing grin that passed between Weasley and Granger.

~*~

Their last D.A. meeting before break was surprisingly fun, as they were all working on Patronuses, which Draco learned was not so new for the veterans.

But, he was very proud as others ooh'ed and ahh'ed when he finally conjured a majestic tiger, which stalked around the Great Hall, eyes sweeping protectively about the area as smaller, cuter animals weaved between its feet.

Potter asked that the eighth and seventh years stay behind, and told everyone in a hushed tone that festivities would begin at 10:00PM on the seventh floor in the newly restored Room of Requirement, be there or be square.

December 18:

The party was better than Draco had been anticipating, mostly because he'd been nauseous with nerves, chewing his nails down to the skin as he got ready earlier than he should have on Friday night.

He'd decided on his new Muggle denims, to 'make a statement', as he'd told Pansy and Blaise. But, really, it was because they made his bum look good, and that was always a plus when one was trying to impress his… new friends. The oxford had looked silly so he'd taken his favourite jumper and thrown it on in frustration.

Which Pansy had very much approved of, patting his shoulders affectionately while shamelessly eyeing his chest.

He'd tried over and over to not picture a pair of bottle green eyes staring at him from across the room while she'd exclaimed over and over again how fabulous he looked.

And now, here he was, amongst a crowd of merry teenagers as they celebrated yuletide and good tidings and all that rubbish, nursing a cup of Firewhisky that was doing pleasant things to his frayed nerves.

The decorations were cheery, the music was loud, the food was amazing and Draco was having an incredible time getting to know people that he'd really never wanted to know in the past. He'd found himself talking to Neville Longbottom, of all people, about the Gryffindor's plans to apprentice under Professor Sprout next year, and hopefully become an accredited Herbology teacher, if not at Hogwarts than at some great school on the Continent.

"What are you gonna do?" Neville asked amiably, spelling his cup to refill with Butterbeer and sipping quietly.

Draco froze up. What was he going to do? He'd seen the final career counselling announcements all over school. He'd tried to think about it, really, but that would mean that things were changing, again, and drastically. Draco stared down at his shoes. "I haven't given it much thought."

"Given what much thought?" a familiar voice asked from his left.

Draco started, and watched wide-eyed as Harry Potter glanced between Neville and him with a slight smile on his face. Neville, looking at Draco as if he were slightly unhinged and might explode at any moment, said gently, "Draco hasn't decided what he wants to do when he graduates from Hogwarts."

"Yeah? I haven't given it too much thought either. Just trying to be normal," Harry said, shrugging and looking at Draco, seeing if that would get a reaction.

Draco stood taller and took a big gulp of Firewhisky. It burned his throat pleasantly. "You're… you're doing a good job, getting everyone to forget and all. And you've miraculously made friends with all the Slytherins, which is quite a feat."

"Really? Do they like me now?" Harry asked excitedly, revealing his insecurity with the bright look in his eyes.

"Oh, I think so. If it wasn't your strange affability then it was your biscuits that did it."

Neville snorted.

"Have I really made friends with all of them?" Harry's voice was lower, this time, and hopeful.

Draco couldn't look away from him, even as Neville awkwardly bid them adieu and pretended to spot Seamus on the other side of the room, yelling out a 'What was that, mate? Oh, yeah, I'll be right there!'

"My father always told me the Aurory was for commoners," Draco said finally, wanting to slap himself for his cowardice, "but I've always thought it'd be cool to… to be on the good side, for once."

Harry shook himself, and then smiled. "You should apply. Applications are due in mid-January. Just submit last year's N.E.W.T. scores and your grades. There's also an essay and a written exam, but I don't think you'd have a problem with either of them. Just… be yourself."

Draco snorted.

"Well, that's what Hermione told me. And now I've got the best essay I've ever written sitting on my desk waiting to be sent out after I get a chance to sit the exam." Harry gulped at his drink. "And just because you're Lucius Malfoy's son doesn't mean you can't try it out, or at least apply. You never know, they might like your honesty."

Draco finished his drink and looked around for another, but couldn't spot a little house-elf anywhere. Instead, Harry took his cup from his hands and gave Draco his own.

"Thanks."

"You should think about it. I think you'd make a great Auror."

Draco nodded, gulped down more Firewhisky, and stuffed a molasses biscuit in his mouth the moment he spotted the tray.

Suddenly someone, who sounded an awful lot like a tipsy Pansy, shouted, "PARTY GAMES!" There were cheers, groans, and laughs.

Draco felt a bit sick.

"C'mon," Harry muttered and led Draco by the small of his back the back of the room. Draco couldn't relax until Harry's hand had slipped away. In the back of the Room of Requirement there was a grand fireplace in front of which sat a squashy chintz sofa over a soft Persian rug. Pansy was indeed there, holding a full bottle of Ogden's Best in her hands. She leaned on an indulgent Blaise and smiled widely at the eight or more gathered.

"Sit in a circle, everyone!" she exclaimed.

They did, and Draco found himself the only one standing as Harry, Blaise, Pansy, Hannah, Neville, Terry, Ginevra, Regina, and even Luna sat down, cross-legged across from each other.

"Come play with us, Draco," Luna said, airy voice surprisingly persuasive, holding out a delicate hand.

He took it.

"Alright, so, I assume everyone knows the rules—we can do truth or kiss, or we can do traditional Spin-the-Bottle. It's up to you all."

"Truth or kiss," was the general consensus.

Pansy outlined that all truths or kisses within the circle would stay within the circle, the interrogator took a shot before asking their question, and kisses were to last for a good fifteen to thirty seconds. "Oh, and no magic, cheating or otherwise," she added finally, uncorking the bottle with a bit of wandless magic.

"Boot!" she said. Terry sat up and looked nervous. "Okay, so you can answer my question, or you can spin the bottle."

He nodded and she took a shot from the bottle.

"What's your latest wank fantasy?" she asked, and everyone gasped and groaned appropriately.

"Parkinson, that's so vile," muttered Ginevra as Terry lunged for the bottle and spun it around.

"Ohhh, lighten up, you prudes. This is a drinking game," Blaise laughed.

The bottle landed on Pansy though, so everyone was treated to a light snog between the two. Tortured might have been a better word though.

Draco took a deep breath and tried not to think about Harry sitting across from him.

~*~

Draco's head was buzzing pleasantly by the third time he'd subjected others to questioning or kissing, and only twice Ginevra and Luna, whose lips were pleasanter than one would think, had kissed him.

He'd had the unfortunate problem of having to watch with bated breath as Harry kissed Regina and Hannah, leaving the both of them breathless and leaving Draco with a terrible urge to throttle the lot of them.

After Blaise had been forced to snog Neville, he apparently was feeling rather vindictive and shouted, "Draco!" as soon as he'd settled in his seat, lips moist and eyes averted from Neville's direction.

Draco sighed. "Yeah?"

"Who takes most prominence in your wank fantasies?"

Everybody giggled, as Blaise and Pansy seemed most adamant about retrieving this information from as many people as possible, even though they'd only got the answer out of Luna, who liked some first-stringer for the Cannons. It was funny to Draco, who never really thought Luna was much of a Quidditch fan. But, then she'd mentioned something about his love of imaginary fauna and his frequent interviews in The Quibbler and suddenly it made sense. The bloke was obviously mental.

Draco reached for the bottle, giving it a good, hard spin and watched as it gradually slowed, the others chatting and laughing amiably as the glinting glass slowed, slowed, slowly until it looked as if—oh, Merlin—as if it would land on…

Hannah laughed when it slid to her nearly at a standstill, and remarked to Harry, next to her, how much of a close one that had been.

Draco'd crawled over and given her quite a show in his thankfulness.

~*~

The bottle was nearly empty when Ginevra asked Harry which teacher he'd like to shag most—if he had to choose—and Harry, with a laugh, chose to spin the bottle, instead.

Draco, for all of his edginess since the beginning of the bloody game, somehow didn't expect the bottle to land on him.

Which it did, of course.

Everyone seemed to hold their breath as Harry looked up at Draco, nervously brushing the fringe out of his eyes, and crawled over to kneel in front of him.

"Just do it, mate," Terry said, although Regina shushed him quickly.

Biting his lip, Harry cupped Draco's cheek, and closed his lips over Draco's—and Draco's heart, which had been beating out of his chest, seemed to skid to a halt and drop into his stomach.

Draco's eyes fluttered closed until he felt Harry's tongue slide tentatively across the seam of his lips, and he gasped, hands grabbing hold of the other boy's arms as Harry pulled Draco up to kneel across from him, slipping his tongue into Draco's mouth. Harry's boldness sent shivers down his spine, causing his heart to hop, skip, and jump back to full, pounding speed again. And soon their tongues were intertwined and one of them gave a startled moan as Draco traced his tongue across the back of Harry's teeth while Harry carded his fingers through the baby fine hair at the nape of Draco's neck. And he was totally, completely, utterly lost.

A strong arm wrapped around Draco's waist, pulling him flush against Harry as they kissed, and the silence around them was deafening, save for the quiet Christmas music that had switched on as people headed back to the dormitories. The faint, comforting sound of harp music played, but that was all.

It was only when Draco brought his arms up to wrap around Harry's neck that someone coughed, loudly, for what might've been a second time, and the two of them broke apart and stared, startled into the other's eyes.

And then Draco sat heavily, in his place between Luna and Terry.

And Harry stood, walked over to his own spot, and sat.

"Well," Pansy said, suddenly sober. "I… I think that's a good place to stop, don't you?"

Everyone stood immediately with a unified, "Yes."

And soon the mess from the party was Vanished and suddenly the room was too small and the air too close and Draco was pushing past everyone, rushing to get out.

"Draco!" he heard. "Draco, wait!"

And he was running, down the dark hallways and out of sight, and he could hear Harry running after him as he dodged through secret passageways and down a set of stairs.

"Draco, stop."

He reached the heart of the castle, where the staircases led up and up and down and down and Draco had an opportune moment to rush up the nearest staircase to get to the main hall on the seventh floor, with Harry catching up behind him. But just as soon as he'd lunged for the top step, the staircase jolted and swung away from the wall, leaving Draco to stare down, down, all the way to the Entrance Hall six stories below. He let out a sob, and almost collapsed until arms wrapped around his waist and held him fast, and Draco turned into Harry's chest as they leaned on the banister, completely still, until the staircase settled again.

"C'mon; come back with me and we'll…" Talk? Could they have a coherent conversation after everything that had happened? Harry trailed off and instead grasped Draco's hand, leading him back down the same hallway that hosted the Room of Requirement. And they walked slowly, silently, back to the party room. No one was there, and the room had darkened and the Christmas décor—tinsel and mistletoe and garlands and faerie lights—had vanished. All that remained was the hearth, casting soft orange light over the rug and sofa. And Draco collapsed on it, cupping his face in his hands.

Harry knelt in front of him, then, and pulled Draco's hands away from his face, wiping Draco's cheeks with his thumbs.

"I hate you," Draco said, voice scratchy.

Harry smiled slightly, and tucked a lock of Draco's hair behind his head. "Yeah, I know," he murmured. "I hate you, too." And they were kissing again.

It was different than last time, none of the newness, the awkward angles, but the hands were still there, grasping. Draco held Harry's shirt tightly in his fists as Harry pulled him bodily to the edge of the sofa, fitting snugly between Draco's legs as he knelt up into their kiss.

When they broke apart, heavy breaths mingling in the small space between them, Harry pulled Draco to the floor with him and rolling him onto his back. They kissed again, and Harry's hands were everywhere, working Draco into a frenzy as he arched his back into the caresses, and then Harry was touching his skin—slipping his warm hands under his jumper and it was hot, too hot for him. He moaned, quietly, what might have been a plea.

"Yes," Harry breathed in response, and soon the cashmere was sliding up over his ribs and he was lifting his arms and suddenly it wasn't so hot anymore. In fact…

"Need you," he said, reaching with outstretched arms toward Harry, who sat near-him-but-not-near-enough, staring, licking his lips.

"Yes," Harry said again, and stretched out beside him, leaning on a forearm as he slid his other hand, again, across Draco's chest. His lips followed next and Draco couldn't—

"Oh," he gasped when Harry placed an open-mouthed kiss to Draco's collarbone, tongue tracing the contours of his clavicle as he insinuated one corduroy-clad leg between Draco's. Draco grasped at the thick curls of Harry's hair, stuck in indecision whether he should pull the boy back to his lips or press him further into his skin. But Harry had better ideas, kissing his way up Draco's neck until he met his jaw. Draco turned toward Harry and captured his lips, slipping his tongue into the hot cavern of Harry's mouth, coaxing a deep moan from the boy above him, and Harry slid his hands up Draco's bare arms and pressed his wrists into the carpet, finally giving in. Harry thrust his hips, groaning as their lips and teeth slid clumsily against one another's and Draco needed more.

"Off!" he said, and somehow Harry understood. They both helped—hindered?—the process of getting Harry out of his damned shirt and then they were pressing together again, rubbing, fumbling, and then Harry was slipping a hand beneath the waistband of his denims and it was hot again, but good-hot, and Draco couldn't stop the moans from bubbling out of his chest, mingling with their heavy pants.

His denims were quickly undone and—and Draco couldn't breathe. His breath hitched as Harry grasped his cock, squeezing and stoking his desire higher and higher. All he could do was thrust up into that strong hand. All he could think was:

"Harry…"

"Yes," he said again. But suddenly he went away, and Draco sat up, blearily taking in his surroundings as he leaned back on his elbows. Harry was standing, frantically unzipping his trousers and shoving both them and his pants to the floor. He toed his shoes off not so gracefully and knelt again between Draco's legs, tugging on Draco's jeans as if this was some timed exam and he had to get everything right immediately or Draco would just slip away. Evaporate.

"God, Draco, I need to… Fuck."

Suddenly laughter bubbled out of Draco, and he couldn't stop. "You're priceless, Potter," he sighed.

"Harry," the other boy corrected, and then he leaned over and took Draco's cock in his mouth, sucking hard.

Draco choked, falling back onto the rug, and covered his face with his hands. "Sweet—oh, gods! Harry, I can't …"

The Gryffindor slid Draco's cock from his mouth with a loud 'pop!' that made Draco cringe in embarrassment. "Me neither," Harry whispered huskily into the skin of Draco's thigh, placing a kiss there as he'd done it a thousand times.

They breathed heavily into the darkness. Draco watched the light from the dying fire flicker across the ceiling and tried to cool down.

"Are we going to do this?" Harry said, finally.

"Do you want to?" Draco whispered.

"What do you think?"

"Merlin, I hope so."

"Good," Harry sighed. "Prop your legs up a bit."

It didn't take long for Draco to get worked up again, especially since Harry was kissing and touching him and—loving him, and they were the only two people in the world and—

"Shit, what was tha?—oh!" he screeched when Harry whispered an incantation against his lips and slipped a finger into him, preparing him. "Warn me next time!" he muttered, receiving a breathy chuckle and an 'I will' before another finger was added. And then another, and Harry had him writhing, wanton on the floor before long.

"Ready?" Harry asked, and before Draco could yell, 'Just fuck me, already!' Harry pressed inside.

It hurt at first, but Harry carefully arranged Draco's legs about his waist and never pushed too hard. They held their breaths as Harry thrust in to the hilt, and Draco felt stretched beyond imagination. His eyes watered. Harry brushed his lips across his temple in apology, and pulled away, thrusting back in, trying to angle just so to—

Draco's eyes snapped open at the tingle that shot up his spine. He could feel Harry's smile as the Gryffindor did it again, and again, until it wasn't so unpleasant anymore and he'd forgotten at all that this wasn't what young pure-blooded boys did and just felt.

"Liked that, did you?" Harry growled, and all Draco could do was whine for more.

Soon it was frenzied and clumsy and wonderful and Draco couldn't imagine it getting any better and, from Harry's blissfully tortured expression, Harry had to agree. Harry was slamming into him within five minutes, and Draco was right there with him, meeting his thrusts eagerly, needing the climax but hating that after, it would all end.

"Draco," Harry moaned into his neck, and Draco scrabbled at Harry's back, trying to find purchase on something, trying to keep grounded. But with another tortured moan of his name, Draco was seeing stars, shuddering uncontrollably as Harry emptied inside him.

And they collapsed, limp and sated, to the carpet, trying to catch their breaths and never letting go. Harry grimaced as he slipped out of Draco, but curled around Draco's body all the same.

They spooned.

"I still hate you," Draco murmured sleepily several minutes later.

He felt more than heard Harry's sniggering behind him. The other boy nuzzled into the nape of Draco's neck, giving him goose pimples. "Happy Christmas, Draco," he said wryly.

"I'll still miss you, though, over break," he whispered.

"I know," Harry sighed. "I'll miss you, too. So much."

December 19:

Harry walked Draco to the dungeons, kissing him lingeringly at the entrance to the Slytherin dormitories. And Draco clung to him, wishing that they'd figured this out months—years ago so he'd not have made so many mistakes and had so many broken bones and so much… heartache. Had that been it?

It made sense, now.

With a final kiss to Draco's temple, Harry walked into the darkness and left Draco for the comfort of his bed.

~*~

He is running. Breath stings his lungs with each pound of his shoes on the ground, the rain slicking his hair to his face, adhering his clothes to his skin. The rain is loud, pattering against the hard earth, but he can hear nothing but the pounding of his heart.

Wind whips at his cheeks, the soft voice of another reaching out to him, echoing:

Come back.

And it is not so horrible, this time. And it is not so terrible because he's not alone.

He's not alone, this time. The rain washes away the hurt and the confusion, energizing him, reaching into him, cleansing him. He is running.

And then, suddenly, suddenly, arms wrap him in a warm embrace and nothing can catch him, ever again.

And he is caught and he is laughing, and it isn't the darkness that crushes him from the inside—from his heart—but something else entirely. New and different and wonderful lips capture his as they stand in the rain and he is floating, flying—

He is soaring.

Finite Incantatem