Author Notes: Hello, everyone! I'm back at last although this isn't quite the update you've been waiting for - sorry, please don't shoot me! The start of June didn't give me as much free time as I'd hoped it would but I promise I'll get the next HMN chapter up next week.
Well, this is what happens when you start reading really good HP fanfics (that get into your head and refuse to be dislodged - must be magic :D) right after helping your almost nine year old discover the delights of Harry Potter, Hogwarts and magic spells... you get inspired to write your own HP fanfic! I read this really lovely one shot called Dormiscere by Sara Holmes. I fell in love with the dreamy sleepy sweetness of her story, her Harry and especially her Draco. I'm afraid they're still here in my head, smirking at a most put out Kaname and Zero - sorry guys!
This is my first ever HP fanfic and with half a million other HP fanfics out there, I'm nervous to say the least. I know it's shaky, not as detailed as my other stories and probably full of glaring pot holes but uhm, well, here it is anyway. I still have one other HP obsession but hopefully getting this one out will help my muse be more manageable. Enjoy if you can.
Acknowledgement: Thank you Sara, for your kind permission in letting me use the same setting as your Dormiscere for my story even though I know and you know and everyone knows it can't compare to yours :)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowlings, just in case there really are some people out there who still don't know. 'Flying Without Wings' is the title of a song from Westlife.
Brief Summary: Post Book 7. Voldemort is dead and Harry goes back to Hogwarts to finish his last year of school. He gets along well with everyone else except one and not even his Firebolt can help. Or can it?
- Chapter Start -
It was the end of October. School term had started almost two months ago. Harry, Ron and Hermione had gone back to Hogwarts to finish off their final year of schooling and sit for their NEWTs, along with many of their classmates and those from the other Houses. There were a lot of absences though. Since the teachers didn't want to crowd them with the current seventh years, Harry and the others had ended up sharing everything together - all their classes, a common room dubbed 'The Eighth Years' Common Room' that was housed in one of the many unused towers of the castle and dorms that had the same name except for 'Common' replaced with 'Dormitory' and 'Room' changed to the plural form.
Those weren't the only changes of course. With Voldemort dead and his Death Eaters scattered or rounded up and thrown into Azkaban, new and tentative friendships had been and were slowly being formed amongst the eighth years. Hard to avoid really when you were no longer a Gryffindor or Hufflepuff or Slytherin or Ravenclaw but a bunch of people out to complete your final year and get your NEWTs so that you could find a job. Besides, you saw the same faces day in and day out and the teachers just randomly assigned working pairs so that one day you could be making a potion with an ex-Ravenclaw and then trimming a poisonous plant with an ex-Slytherin.
Harry didn't mind all that. He just wished that sometimes, his partner could be Draco Malfoy but somehow, that never happened. He must have paired up with every other person in his class by now except for that blond skinny Slytherin. Ex-Slytherin. Hermione had said it was probably because the teachers didn't want to take the chance of them destroying one of the classrooms or perhaps the greenhouses but that was rubbish. Fighting was in the past where it belonged and everyone in eighth year were surprisingly friendly or polite or wary or all three to one another or at least kept nasty comments to the very minimum. Ron had said that was only because the really nasty ones hadn't come back and the rest were under strict warning by McGonagall that if anyone did anything to get themselves into trouble, they would be thrown out of school and don't even think for a minute that it would be the same as 'doing a Weasley' and getting rich and famous marketing joke products. That market had already been cornered.
Harry was pleased about the warning and agreed wholeheartedly with it. He was sick and tired of fighting. Now that his mortal enemy was dead, it was really nice to remember what a normal school day was supposed to be like. Hell, it was nice to remember that he was still a schoolboy after all. It was reassuring to know that the next day would be just as normal as today and the one after that and so on. It felt great to have a scar that didn't twinge and a head that didn't feel like it was going to burst with evil laughter and horrifying visions. It was wonderful to know you didn't have anything to worry about other than oversleeping and being late for classes or getting your assignments completed on time or the upcoming exams.
Yes, Harry was enjoying his final year at Hogwarts immensely even if he couldn't join any of the House Quidditch teams seeing as the eighth years didn't have a 'team' of their own. Well, that also meant they didn't have House points to win or lose either which was a bonus point to him and Ron. They had shared a grin when Hermione's hand didn't shoot up in the air in class as often as it did in the old days. Ron had snickered over this when they were back in their common room, wondering aloud if the honour of hearing a 'Correct answer, Miss Granger' was somehow less appealing when it didn't have a 'Ten points to Gryffindor!' attached to it. Hermione had said loftily that it was about time she allowed the others the opportunity to shine and that only made Ron snicker harder. Harry didn't say anything then, his attention caught by the tall blond curled up in one of the comfortable cushioned chairs near the fireplace, head bent over a book.
Why do I never get paired up with Malfoy?
"Tomorrow's Saturday, mate," Ron threw a cushion at Harry to get his attention. "Hey, can we go flying?"
Harry blinked and turned back to Ron, noting that some of the others seated beside them had looked up with interest. Harry nodded with a smile.
"Sure," he replied, nodding at the others to silently include them in his reply. "We'll all take turns around the pitch and over the lake."
Amidst a chorus of 'Thanks, Harry!' and 'I can't wait!' Harry just shrugged and looked down. He wasn't the only one to have brought a good broom to school - Theo Nott had a Nimbus 2001 - but his was faster. Harry still loved his Firebolt but after the great showdown with Voldemort last year and the stress of hiding from everyone while looking for the Horcruxes and basically trying to stay alive, the things that had felt so precious to him now felt like just... possessions. A change in perspective, Hermione would say and perhaps she was right. Anyhow, the eighth years - or most of them anyway, Hermione still didn't like flying - had gone out two weeks ago for a bout of flying and it had gone well. Ron had berated Zabini for letting the Firebolt's twigs drag on the ground for longer than two seconds and Harry had suddenly felt like snatching his broom back when he saw Lavender Brown's far too long fingernails absently scratching the gold lettering on the handle - she said she was just tracing the name - and of course he had ended up sitting cross legged on his bed that night, polishing away the numerous fingerprints from his Firebolt but everyone had had a good time and no one had thrown curses or hexes at one another.
Except that that one person from their group hadn't joined in. Harry's gaze flicked over to Malfoy again, the dancing flames of the fire turning that light blond hair impossibly silver.
Why do I care anyway?
- o -
Saturday was bright and sunny, the air cool and crisp. They all trotted out right after breakfast since it wasn't a Hogsmeade weekend and the exams were still a blip on the horizon and Slughorn had apparently forgotten to give them their weekly Potions assignment.
"Blimey, I could spend the whole day out here," Ron said happily as they walked down the stairs into the sunshine. He had Harry's Firebolt slung over his shoulder. Hermione raised an eyebrow, laden with a bag full of books including A History of Hogwarts that Ron had rolled his eyes at, muttering to Harry about what was the point of reading a book that one had already memorised?
"Are you sure? Not even to take a break for lunch?" Hermione teased.
"Of course we'll break for lunch!" Ron sounded properly indignant. Hermione laughed and Ron grinned, moving closer to nudge her free shoulder with his arm. She smiled back at him. Walking behind them, Harry smiled a little as well. He and Ginny had started dating again but it wasn't as intense as before. They probably just needed some time.
The eighth years walked out to the Quidditch Pitch in small groups of twos and threes and Harry covertly glanced around. Yup, no sign of Malfoy. He had been there earlier when they had breakfasted at the smaller rectangular table placed next to the staff table in the Great Hall, the other four House tables too full to accommodate the eighth years. As usual, Malfoy had kept his head down, eating little and talking even less. It wasn't that he was rude or anything, he answered when spoken to but he seldom joined in any of the conversations that went on, not even those from his ex-Slytherin friends. Finnigan said the new Malfoy was now so boring he could almost - but not quite - miss the old one. Harry hadn't laughed then and he was the only one who saw the grey eyes dart up to meet his gaze and then back down again.
It was as if Malfoy feared to make any move that would call attention to himself. It was understandable. All the Malfoys were meant to end up in Azkaban but in the end only Lucius did. Narcissa was put under house arrest and could not leave the Malfoy Manor for the next five years. All this had come about only because at the moment when it mattered, Lucius and Narcissa weren't helping Voldemort to fight the others but had just gone searching for their son and having found Draco, the three of them had huddled in a corner, determined to stay out of the fight until it all ended and hadn't quite cared whose side won. Draco was also under house arrest but he was allowed to finish his final year of school at Hogwarts so that he could graduate but only after solemnly promising to stay out of trouble.
Unsurprisingly, it was Harry who had insisted on Draco being allowed to sit for his NEWTs. Draco had helped save his life at Malfoy Manor however cowardly he had been. Harry had saved the Slytherin in turn in the Room of Requirements but right after that, Narcissa had saved Harry's life in the woods even though her main reason was to find her son. Despite knowing that, Harry still wanted to repay the favour and he did. Malfoy couldn't have been thrilled to have Harry witness his embarrassment as he made his promises to Kingsley Shacklebolt, the new Minister but Harry had respected the way the blond had held his chin high. When Harry stepped forward to give him back the hawthorn wand, Draco had seemed genuinely pleased to have it back. He had thanked Harry quietly. The words were so soft and the eye contact so brief that Harry thought he might have imagined it but he was quite sure he had heard the whispered 'Thank you'.
Only ever since the first of September, Malfoy never spoke to him if he could help it. He stared at Harry sometimes and looked as if he did have things to say to him... but he never did.
- o -
The morning passed by quickly enough as the Firebolt and the Nimbus 2001 passed from hand to hand, each person gleefully kicking off from the ground, pleased to experience the speed and precision of the fast brooms. They could borrow the school ones of course but everyone knew the old brooms sucked and often veered to the right or left or refused to be maneuvered at all. Harry had already had his go and was now sitting with the others under the shade of a large tree when he felt someone watching him. He turned around swiftly and saw a blond head ducking out of sight behind the courtyard wall. It could only be Malfoy.
Well, if he wanted to fly, then why the hell didn't he come out? And of course he wanted to otherwise he wouldn't be spying on them. Malfoy liked flying, Harry knew he did. He was also good at it. So why didn't he...?
"Anything wrong, Harry? You hungry already?"
Harry shot Hermione a startled glance. Her head was still in a book but she had obviously seen him crane his neck.
"No, course not," he muttered. Well, if Malfoy wanted to join them, he could very well come out on his own. Harry wasn't going to give him an engraved invitation. Malfoy might take it the wrong way and get offended again.
- o -
Lunchtime came before they knew it and laughing and chattering, the group made its way back to the Great Hall. This time, Malfoy was nowhere to be found. Nott and Zabini even went looking for him in the library after lunch but couldn't find him. They went out again after lunch for more flying and chatting and enjoying the sunshine with bottles of pumpkin juice they had sneaked out during lunch. It was only while they were packing it in for the day, at around five in the evening when Harry caught sight of that blond head again. Malfoy was standing near the Quidditch pitch even though the Hufflepuffs had already finished their practice and gone back inside.
Harry made up his mind there and then. He walked closer to Ron who once again had insisted on carrying the Firebolt back to the castle.
"Listen Ron, I'm just going to have one last go on it. See you all later, all right?" he said quietly.
"Sure. Sorry, did I have too many turns?" Ron apologised at once and Harry shook his head with a quick smile. "No, you didn't. See you later."
He waited until the rest of them had climbed the stairs, a couple of them glancing back looking as if they would have joined him if Ron hadn't hurried them inside. Harry hoped uncomfortably that they wouldn't think he was regretting his offer to share his broom. It wasn't that. It was just...
He sighed and hurried over to the Quidditch pitch.
- o -
The blond was already starting to walk back towards the castle when Harry called him. He glanced back and predictably started walking even faster. Harry hurried to catch up with him, still clutching his broom
"Hey, Malfoy, wait up!"
The blond only walked faster and Harry grumbled under his breath. He broke into a run and caught up just as Malfoy reached the stairs, halting abruptly as Harry stepped right in front of him. Harry's look was determined. Malfoy's was a glare. There was silence for all of ten seconds before Malfoy broke it.
"Excuse me," he said tightly and stepped around Harry whose hand shot out to grab his arm.
This time, the silence lasted longer. About half a minute.
"What do you want?" Malfoy asked looking as if he was trying to sound polite but with gritted teeth. Well, since he was asking, Harry decided to be blunt.
"Why didn't you join us?" he asked. Malfoy's eyes flicked away and then down to the ground.
"I join you all for classes and meals," he answered. Harry frowned.
"I meant two weeks ago. And today," he clarified. "For flying," he added just in case Malfoy still pretended ignorance. The thin shoulders stiffened under the white school shirt and the pale jaw clenched.
"I'm not interested," Malfoy said shortly. He shook off Harry's arm and Harry was surprised he was still holding onto the other boy.
"Excuse me," Malfoy muttered again and tried to step around Harry who moved faster, blocking him.
"Rubbish! You love flying," he retorted. "And you're good at it. Go on, you can borrow mine."
He held out the Firebolt. Despite himself, Malfoy glanced at it for just a second too long and then he glared at Harry.
"I told you, I'm not interested! Leave me alone..."
He gave the Firebolt another look, his jaw tightened and he brushed past Harry and started up the stairs. It was too late. Harry had seen the flash of interest and something else in the grey eyes. Malfoy did want to fly. Harry dug his teeth into his bottom lip and frowned. The blond hadn't brought his own broom and was probably too embarrassed to ask to borrow Harry's. Malfoy pride and all that.
Still, Harry felt giddy relief. He really wanted to get along with all of them and for some reason, it galled him that Malfoy didn't. Still, if he could get the blond to borrow his broom and fly a couple of rounds, it might make him more approachable. With his usual Gryffindor impulse, Harry jogged up the steps and grabbed hold of Malfoy's hand.
"Come on, there's still time!"
"What the - let go of me!"
Malfoy tried to twist his arm out of Harry's grip but the latter was pulling him back down the stairs and since Malfoy was facing the other way, he had to concentrate on not falling over backwards.
"Let go! Are you crazy?"
Harry didn't speak. They had reached the foot of the stairs and he started jogging, pulling Malfoy along. His green eyes were glinting with determination and all he could think of was that someone was missing out on the joy of flying all because he was too bloody proud to borrow his Firebolt. Well, Nott had one too but... Harry shrugged off the thought, still pulling a struggling Malfoy along.
"Let go before I hex you!"
It was an empty threat since Malfoy's wand hadn't appeared. Harry stopped abruptly and let his Firebolt broom hover in the air before throwing a leg over the handle. With a speed and strength that caught Malfoy by surprise, Harry released his hand and pushed him in the chest, causing Malfoy to stumble backwards and sit on the handle of the Firebolt. That was good enough for Harry. In two seconds, he had placed his arms on either side of Malfoy, gripped the handle firmly and kicked off from the ground. Hard.
"Potter, you - aaaahhhhh!"
By the time Malfoy ran out of breath, they were fifty feet above the ground and zooming towards the Quidditch Pitch. That didn't stop Malfoy from struggling and pushing at Harry. Harry pressed his lips together and gripped his boom hard with both hands and knees.
"Take me down, Potter! Now!"
Grey eyes narrowed in a glare three inches from his face but Harry just smirked at him. He hadn't expected a grateful 'Thank you' right away. That would probably come later.
"So you can get off or so that you can sit properly like a bloke?"
Draco's mouth fell open and then closed with an almost audible snap. He looked almost too indignant for words, his hands clamped on the broom handle on either side of his legs.
"You know what, I'd better get you down," Harry agreed, grinning. "Wouldn't want anyone to see Malfoy riding a broom sideways like some sissy-"
"How dare - I am not a sissy!" Draco exploded. "Get me the hell down now!"
"Uh uh, only if you promise to sit properly-"
"You shut your bloody -"
Increasingly rude words spilled out of their mouths as Malfoy released one hand and shoved Harry in the chest. They started tussling, elbowing and shoving. Harry had stopped steering the Firebolt but his knees were still gripping it tightly and they went on flying towards goodness knows where. His hands were occupied in blocking Malfoy's punches but the blond was fast. Harry's breath left his lungs in a whoosh at one point as a sharp elbow found his ribs. He elbowed Malfoy right back and heard the grunt of pain with satisfaction. At least he was sitting astride his broom properly and not even in danger of tipping off. Malfoy should really watch it - one good shove against his back and he would be the one to fall. With that sobering thought in mind, Harry inhaled sharply. He jerked his head sideways to avoid a punch and caught Malfoy's wrist.
"Look - enough, all right? You're going to fall off if you don't-"
"I said, get me down! Now!"
"All right, but what's the -"
Malfoy just snarled at him, his pale face white with anger. He jerked his wrist out of Harry's grip and twisted to face front. Grabbing the Firebolt handle with both hands, he leaned forward suddenly, pointing it down. Straight down. Almost vertically so.
"Oi!" was all a startled Harry could manage as they plummeted back to earth. "You little...!"
The rest of his words were lost in the dizzying rush of wind as the Firebolt and its two struggling occupants dropped sharply out of the sky. It was a good thing they had flown quite high because the drop was almost vertical at first. Then it straightened out somewhat but then the Firebolt began jerking from right to left as both boys fought for control of the broom. Harry didn't even realise he was practically hugging Malfoy in his arms and Malfoy didn't even care that his cheek was pressed next to Harry's as they tussled. Still, they continued to drop down, down, down, the Firebolt occasionally dipping up drunkenly before bearing down again.
Harry's heart was lodged in his throat and choking him. He stole a panicked look at the ground that was rushing up to meet them way too fast. They were going to crash on a rocky and very uncomfortable looking ground at the side of a hill. Voldemort hadn't managed to kill him in the last seven years despite trying his hardest but it looked like Malfoy was going to succeed. Harry couldn't help wondering a little wildly if Voldemort had given Malfoy last minute instructions from the grave.
"Damnit, do you have a death wish or something?" Harry yelled right in Malfoy's ear. Damn the Slytherin - what the blazes had gotten into him, anyway? With a desperate strength bordering on panic - wait, he was already way past panic, wasn't he? - Harry finally prised Malfoy's white knuckled grip from the handle and pulled up as hard as he could, fearing the wood would crack halfway and it would be just like those Muggle movies where the bemused looking man ended up holding the detached steering wheel of a car just before he crashed into a wall, except in this case, it was going to be half a broomstick handle and they would be hitting the ground. Hard.
The did end up on the ground after a somewhat rough landing that dug a track in the ground twelve feet long, not in little pieces scattered along the earth and sparse grass but alive and relatively in one piece. Well, three pieces actually if you wanted to be precise - one piece ex-Gryffindor, one piece ex-Slytherin and one piece Firebolt. Harry ended up sprawled on one side of the broom and Malfoy on the other.
"You freaking idiot!" Harry exploded, jumping to his feet as soon as his vision had cleared and he realised he was still alive even though his heart was still lodged in his throat. He brought his stinging left arm up, fuming as he examined his shredded left sleeve, torn cotton swiftly turning bright red with the blood it was soaking up. There was a three inch gash along his lower arm and his left hip felt tender, the denim of his jeans over it looking a little threadbare. His right shoulder felt bruised too as if he had bumped it against something hard.
"You're dead if I find so much as one scratch on my Firebolt!" he threatened as he dropped onto his knees beside his broom. He pushed Malfoy's leg away impatiently and turned his Firebolt over swiftly, looking for scratches or broken off twigs. There weren't any. The handle still gleamed, each twig still dead straight. The only imperfections he could see were the numerous fingerprints upon the polished wood.
Rather belatedly, Harry remembered that Firebolts were impervious to scratches and nicks. Feeling like he had overreacted yet knowing he had good reason to, Harry fell silent and shot a glare at Malfoy, daring him to say something scathing in reply. The blond was still sitting on the ground, one long leg straight, the other bent at the knee where Harry had pushed it away earlier. Malfoy's head was down, his white blond hair ruffled, pale long fingers gently probing his jaw. He glanced up at Harry and quickly looked away again. Harry saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed.
"Shit," Harry mumbled when he saw the trickle of blood slowly making its way down the side of Draco's lower lip. It looked like he had cut his lip on his own teeth when he had bumped into something. Like a shoulder perhaps...
Harry swallowed the sour guilt rising swiftly in his throat and hardened his heart. It was Malfoy's own fault if he was injured, pointing the broom downward like that. They were both lucky to be alive. But it was too late, the unreasonable rage had faded, probably in the face of that pale dejected looking face with those grey eyes somewhat glazed over. Harry struggled with himself and blocked out every random word his mind came up with - grey, smoky, slate, misty. Pathetic. Yes. Malfoy looked pathetic. Harry floundered to find another reason for his anger suddenly deserting him and grasped onto the fact that it must be because it was he who had pulled Malfoy onto his broom in the first place. Yeah, that was it. Guilt. And stop thinking of naming that particular shade of grey.
Malfoy was still silent and Harry shot him another look. He was still probing along his jaw and wincing. Harry exhaled, his gaze flicking over their surroundings before he chanced another look at the blond.
"That was a pretty stupid stunt to pull," he said quietly, eyeing Malfoy out of the corner of his eye. The blond head just dipped a little lower, the pale fingers dropping onto the knee. They were thin and they had started trembling. Harry swallowed at the sight. He wanted to - no. He didn't.
"I know," Draco finally said in a low voice. He glanced briefly up at Harry and just as quickly looked away again. There was that same furtive, fearful look in those eyes. Harry didn't know what to say - only that the Malfoy of old would have hexed him for even saying that.
"I didn't think," Draco continued, his voice dropping to a shaky whisper. "I just... freaked out."
Harry twisted around to face him, mouth almost hanging open. He was still not quite used to this quiet Draco Malfoy even if that was how he had behaved for the past almost two months. And it touched the Gryffindor in Harry, it insisted that he owned up even if it killed him.
"I meant me," Harry clarified evenly. "For pulling you on in the first place."
Malfoy's head snapped up and those eyes were wide with surprise. Then he looked away and gave a non-commital shrug... as if Harry was just being true to himself. Expected really, being who he was.
"That's why you didn't join us. For flying," Harry stated quietly, his voice resigned as the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place, leaving him unsurprised. He should have known. He had forgotten about that incident. Well, not forgotten exactly but who would ever want to relive any of their worst nightmares?
"Ever since that FiendFyre in-"
"In the Room of Requirements. Yes."
The blond head dipped even lower. In acknowledgement and in shame. In remembrance of a life debt owed. In remembrance of why the Sorting Hat decreed he was a Slytherin and not a Gryffindor. Harry stared at him, tongue tied. There was hardly any time to think back then as to whether he should or should not have turned back to save Malfoy and Goyle, whether he should or should not have turned back to grab that Horcrux - he hadn't known the cursed fire would eventually destroy it in the end. There was only a knowledge of what had to be done, the certainty that there was no second chance and no going back and that he and Ron and Hermione had already sacrificed so much it just didn't make sense to turn back without one last attempt to find that diadem. All Harry had to guide him were his instincts and his single minded determination to finish the job he had set out to do no matter what the sacrifice. And as for saving Malfoy and Goyle - well, that was a no brainer. He had to if he could. It was just who he was. Ron and Hermione too. Just who they were even if Harry was the one who had turned back first.
When his arm stung again, he finally remembered his injury. He brought his left arm up, pointed his wand at the cut and murmured the useful healing charm Hermione had taught him. The gash closed up with an itchy, almost ticklish sensation. He cleaned the blood and gravel off his skin and sleeve with a cleaning charm before mending the tear in his sleeve with another useful repair charm, thought this time by Ron who swore it had saved him and his brothers numerous times from Mrs. Weasley's scoldings throughout their growing years.
Harry then turned back to Draco who was still sitting there, eerily silent, most likely regretting his admission.
"Here, look up."
Draco didn't move. Impulsively, Harry reached out and grasped that pointed chin with his left hand, forcing that pale face to turn to his. Draco winced again and tried to resist but gave in as Harry's hold tightened. They locked gazes and Harry blinked. Had those eyes ever looked that grey, that huge, that... wounded? Draco saw his expression and closed his eyes tightly, trying to turn away again.
"Stop it. I'm fine," he whispered tightly. But of course he was not because he was shaking and his lip was still bleeding and one pointed cheekbone in that too thin face was starting to discolour with a bruise.
"Shut up. I did this," Harry mumbled, mortified to have been caught staring. He pointed his wand at Malfoy's cheekbone and muttered the same healing charm before attending to the split lip. He was guilty of yet another bout of staring when the tip of a pink tongue appeared to lick at the bottom lip, probably soothing away the same tingling, itchy feeling Harry had felt in his arm earlier. He blinked and cleaned the blood off the pale skin before lowering his wand. Malfoy's shirt didn't look torn and Harry decided he had stared too much already. He promptly forgot and went on staring as the pale hand came back up and those long thin fingers probed at the newly healed skin.
"Good as new now," Harry offered quietly. Malfoy nodded, not quite looking at him as he dropped his hand and scrambled to his feet with less elegance than usual.
Still avoiding Harry's searching gaze, Malfoy spun around slowly to see where they were, absently dusting himself down at the same time. His mouth fell open when he finally recognised the landscape. Shit. They were on the far side of Hogsmeade village. It was a good twenty minute walk back to the school from here and his right ankle ached, after falling on it rather awkwardly. Still, it was better than flying, right?
"Well, see you around, Potter."
Malfoy squared his shoulders and took one step. He winced but he took another. And another. There was a quick step behind him and a strong hand clamped onto his shoulder, stopping him.
"Don't be silly. We'll fly back."
Malfoy swung around faster than he had meant to.
Those eyes were wide again but Harry's jaw was set, his eyes gleaming.
"Yes, we will."
He was through making enemies. The one real enemy he had was dead and he didn't need another, not even this boy whom he had been sniping with for the past seven years. He had managed to make friends with everyone else, regardless of which House they were from. Some distant, some close but all were now friends or at least acquaintances. All except this blond boy who for some strange reason, refused to be his friend.
The grey eyes looked away and the Adam's apple bobbed again in the pale throat.
"I - I can't."
Harry hesitated and then he reached out and gave that shoulder a squeeze, feeling the fragile bones underneath.
"You're not going to fall. I promise."
Malfoy hesitated, his gaze darting from Harry's face to the broom lying on the ground behind them.
"No FiendFyre this time, Malfoy," Harry said quietly. "No life and death situation. No one else around."
Malfoy swallowed again and Harry wished he wouldn't keep doing that, it wasn't helping with his staring problem. He nodded encouragingly instead.
"Just you and me."
Slowly, the head lifted and the haunted eyes filled with wonder and a hint of something that might have been courage. Harry waited and Malfoy inhaled deeply and nodded. He took a step forward.
Harry smiled before he could stop himself.
He turned and retraced his steps, picking up his broom.
"I'll get on first, shall I?" he asked. It was a rhetorical question since he was already mounting the Firebolt. Malfoy approached slowly, staring at the handle as if were covered with bobotuber pus. Harry held out his hand.
Malfoy took another step forward. He inhaled deeply and gingerly lifted a leg across behind Harry.
"I must be mad," he whispered. Harry swallowed the retort that wanted to slip out. Instead, he waited patiently as Malfoy settled himself behind him, hands resting lightly on his sides. Harry took a deep breath and turned his head.
"You ready?" he asked quietly. Malfoy's eyes were still wide, his face paler than ever. Despite the cool wind, there were tiny beads of sweat on his upper lip and forehead.
"We won't fall," Harry promised quietly, telling himself he was not interested in wiping off the perspiration from that pale face. "Hold onto me."
With that, he kicked off from the ground again and pretended he didn't hear the alarmed cry behind him or feel the hands that clamped tightly at his waist or the body pressed against his back. He didn't fly too high or too fast although a little imp of mischief was tempting him... just to get that scream in his ear again.
They circled over Hogsmeade, low enough to see the shops in the village. That was one good thing about being the eighth years, Harry thought with satisfaction. The students belonging to the Houses weren't allowed to use their brooms outside of the Quidditch pitch but the eighth years could. Or, Harry corrected himself, they probably couldn't but just hadn't been caught or told off yet. He could feel the trembles in the body pressed to his back and in the arms curled around his waist. Now that nobody else was around to see, Harry let his grin stay in place.
After a minute, he turned his head to the side.
Malfoy's face was still pressed into Harry's neck because he could feel the fast, shallow puffs of breath against his skin but he nodded and Harry felt that too.
"You might want to take a look," he chided after a few minutes. "The sun's just starting to set and everything looks beautiful."
Harry felt the head against his neck shift and he turned his head sideways, seeing the grey eyes peep up and the strands of fine blond hair and the straight slim nose.
"I'd forgotten," Malfoy whispered and he gave Harry a shy sideways glance. "It is beautiful."
Harry smiled back and he bent forward a little. The Firebolt picked up speed the wind blew in their faces and rustled their clothes. The arms had tightened around his waist again but when he chanced another sideways look, Malfoy was smiling. Harry's smile widened into a grin and he gave himself up to the pure simple joy of flying. He had always enjoyed solo trips with his Firebolt but right now, having someone along to share the joy was fun too.
Harry just didn't want to think too much on why that person couldn't be Ron or Ginny or someone else other than the boy behind him.
- o -
They flew for almost half an hour around Hogsmeade village and its surrounding area. Halfway through, Harry had at last felt the moment when most of the fear left Malfoy, enabling him to sit up straighter and leave his hands lightly holding Harry's waist instead of the death grip he had on earlier. They were quiet for most of the flight but it had been a comfortable silence and Harry's heart was brimming with satisfaction as he brought the broom lower and they finally came down to a smooth landing at roughly the same place as before. Both boys dismounted and stretched their arms and legs and in Harry's case, groaning a little as his sore muscles protested.
They should be heading back but Harry wanted to help Malfoy just a bit more. He already had, he knew that but somehow... it just wasn't enough. He made the Firebolt hover again and stepped closer to Malfoy.
"C'mon, your turn now," he said quietly. Malfoy's gaze snapped up to his face but Harry ignored it. Taking hold of one of those cold hands, he placed it firmly on the polished handle, curling the thin fingers around the wood. When he looked up, Malfoy's eyes were still on him, wide and startled. Harry nodded encouragingly, his heart skipping a beat at how those grey eyes were so close to his. So close...
"Go on, take us home," he added evenly.
"You sure?" Draco was completely wide eyed, his voice nothing more than a shaky whisper that ghosted over Harry's cheek.
"Very." Harry kept his voice as steady as his gaze which was saying a lot since he was suddenly shaking inside. Not at the fact that his was entrusting Malfoy with his Firebolt but at the absolute certainty that he would never again see this boy as his enemy, would never want to in fact. Malfoy looked down and Harry realised their hands were still touching. He dropped his hand and shoved it inside his jeans pocket.
"All right," Malfoy whispered. He mounted the broom and Harry got on behind him, hands resting lightly on the blond boy's hips. He could hear Malfoy taking a couple of deep breaths and then he was kicking off from the ground and they were airborne once again.
Malfoy flew slowly at first and Harry kept silent, content to look around him. The sun was starting to set now and the lake would look glorious as the waters reflected the rays. Harry leaned forward, putting his lips close to Malfoy's ear, feeling the silky blond strands against his cheek.
"Fly us over the lake," Harry suggested and Malfoy nodded. He executed a smooth turn and they circled the village one last time, heading towards the distant outline of the Hogwarts with the evening sun warming their backs. Without realising it, Harry had rested some of his weight on Malfoy, even going so far as to rest his chin on the blond's shoulder.
Before he knew it, they were over the lake and Hogwarts was in clear view, sunlight flashing off its many windows like diamonds. Harry felt a strange pang inside him. He was tired, he was hungry... but at this moment, he felt as if he never wanted to get down. Malfoy was pointing the broom handle up and Harry kept quiet, letting him take them higher. They went up from thirty feet to forty and then fifty. Harry looked around him. The sun's rays were bathing the lands and trees in shades of crimson and gold and everything looked beautiful.
Then without warning, Malfoy pointed the Firebolt handle sharply downwards and Harry blinked.
"Wha - Malfoy!"
Malfoy felt Harry's arms tighten around his middle in alarm but he didn't care. What he was doing now wasn't due to panic but a God-knows-where-it-had-come-from burst of determination to conquer the rest of his fear even if he was still terrified. It had left him a while back when Potter was flying in that supremely confident way of his but he might never offer again and Malfoy just... didn't want to be so scared anymore. He hoped that Potter knew why he was doing this and perhaps he did because he was now silent even though those strong arms were wrapped tightly around his waist.
They were right over the middle of the lake and they were heading straight for the dark icy waters, cheeks stinging with the rush of cold air, hair blown backwards, breaths half frozen in their throats. They were so damned close Harry could see their reflections on the dark surface looming larger and larger, the wind causing it to ripple and distort. He forced himself to keep his eyes open as he hugged the trembling body in his arms and braced himself for an impact that never came.
Malfoy pulled smoothly out of the dive before their shoes could touch the water and then they were suddenly shooting up into the sky with a speed that made their heads spin. Harry could have sworn he had left his growling stomach floating about a foot above the lake. His heart was pounding away in his throat and Malfoy was whooping away like a mad man. By the time he leveled the broom, he was outright laughing with glee and before Harry knew it, he was laughing as well, the wind almost snatching their laughter out of their mouths.
The slanting rays of the setting sun were bright in their eyes, they were both alive and Voldemort was gone. Harry was on his Firebolt and in the air where he was happiest. He was suddenly content to keep his arms around that slender waist, his heart leaping wildly as Malfoy leaned back trustingly against him.
"We're flying," Malfoy whispered but pressed so close to him, Harry heard. He nodded.
"Yup. Without wings," he murmured back. Malfoy turned to him and Harry saw that bright smile again.
"God, it's good to be alive," Malfoy said fervently and Harry grinned.
"Yup," he said. It was probably a first but they had finally agreed on something…
- o -
Malfoy executed a perfect landing just beside the lake and they got off the broom reluctantly and in Harry's case, with legs trembling in exhaustion and a slightly sore behind. Malfoy handed him the Firebolt and he took it with a nod of thanks. The sun was going down fast now. It would be fully dark in fifteen minutes, maybe less. Harry looked out at the lake, feeling that same strange reluctance go back inside the castle even though they should. He had enjoyed his time with the others earlier in the day but the past hour or so with Malfoy had been...
No. Don't say it. Don't. Say. It.
... special. Harry shook his head, pressing his lips together.
Harry turned at the casually spoken words, his eyes landing on Malfoy. Blond head tilted a little to the side, windblown bangs half hiding his eyes, hands shoved into trouser pockets in a way that was meant to look casual but somehow just gave away the fact that he was anything but.
"Thank you," Malfoy said softly. He looked a little shy again but he was also looking straight at Harry who just stared back at him and looked his fill. For some reason, he couldn't imagine ever getting tired of looking into those eyes. They were not a piercing blue like Dumbledore's had been. They were not a softer blue like Ron's or an intense brown like Hermione's or a blazing lighter brown like Ginny's... but they were an endless grey, of something neither hard nor soft but something so real that it just reached out and caught you and held you and saw you from the inside out.
Harry inhaled deeply and let it out. Now was the moment to say what he had been wanting for a long time now... seven years long in fact.
"My friends call me Harry," he said, keeping his voice matter of fact. He watched Draco's expression closely, his breath catching as the grey eyes first widened and lit up from within and the pale lips tilted up in a tentative smile.
"My friends call me Draco," Malfoy returned softly and Harry nodded. Then the smile faded.
"Friends then?" Malfoy whispered. Harry blinked and looked down to see the pale hand held out to him. In a second, he was pulled back seven years into the past. He was standing next to Ron at the landing of the marble staircase leading up to the Great Hall, both of them nervous and excited at the prospect of being Sorted. Malfoy - no, Draco - was there too. Eleven years old just like him. Still staring at the hand proffered to him, Harry recalled that it was much smaller then. Not as thin.
He looked up. The face before him was a lot younger then with a slight roundness that spoke of a luxurious upbringing and more meals than one cared to count. The boyish features had been twisted with an arrogant, self important sneer that Harry hadn't liked on sight. Coupled with the insult Malfoy had thrown at Ron, Harry had never regretted not shaking that hand then.
But like they say, that was then... and this is now.
That boy was much taller now, perhaps even an inch taller than Harry himself. The blond hair was dead straight and falling straight down without the requisite gel to hold it in place, the fine strands more silver than gold. The face was more handsome than before but much thinner as well, the high cheekbones and pointed chin more pronounced. The complexion was paler too and it wasn't hard to recall the almost sickly pallor it had in their sixth year. There were lines of pain and suffering etched around those haunted eyes and the trembling lips that had not been there seven years ago.
Harry had a fair idea of some of the pain and nightmares that had caused those lines but right now, he didn't want to focus on that. The only things that mattered were that those lips were no longer curled in a condescending sneer but tilted in a hopeful nervous smile and those eyes were not narrowed at him but filled with a hope that was almost desperation and something that was just so, so new it made Harry's heart ache to see it.
He swallowed and looked down at the hand again, still held out to him. The long thin fingers were trembling. Right now, Harry wanted nothing more than to grasp that hand in his and... and hold it tight. Keep it safe. Warm even, for he knew those fingers were more often than not cold. He was suddenly seized with a longing to hold that hand in his for... well, for forever really.
Malfoy held his breath for what seemed like an eternity. He was fairly sure he was turning blue in the face. It was taking all the courage he possessed to keep his hand outstretched, courage he knew he didn't have an abundance of. Potter had hesitated and that could only mean the Gryffindor didn't want to shake his hand but was too damned noble to refuse. Malfoy was on the verge of snatching his hand back when it was engulfed in warmth and given a firm squeeze.
"Friends!" Harry declared, his smile turning into a wide grin. Malfoy expelled whatever air he had left in his lungs and started breathing again. Inhale. Exhale. Again. Inhale. Something was wrong though. There was something lodged in his throat and - and it was making his eyes burn and his chest hurt - and -
Malfoy groaned inwardly. Now was so not the time to start bawling, damnit! He started to tug his right hand free but Harry's hand had closed tightly around it. Malfoy tried to swing around instead and again, he was stopped, this time by Harry's left hand grasping him by his upper right arm, holding him still.
His right hand was yanked hard. Caught by surprise, still fighting to breathe past that stupid lump in his throat, Draco stumbled forward, colliding against a hard chest. Something pressed against the back of his head, pressing his face down into a warm neck.
The same word was whispered in Draco's ear. It was too much. Something hot had slipped from his eyes and he screwed them up, mortified to the point of not daring to breathe. Breaking down alone in his bed with the muffling charm in place was one thing. Breaking down in the arms of the one person he had always - no, this was not a good thing at all. Still, it was better than being alone because those strong arms were finally around him and oh God, how he had longed for those arms all these years.
"You don't know," Harry was whispering hoarsely in his ear. "You can't know how many times I've wanted to - shit..."
Harry stumbled to a stop, horrified that he had blurted that out. Had he said too much? But there were trembling arms closing around his back and squeezing tightly and pulling him closer still so perhaps Draco hadn't heard or he had but didn't really mind or perhaps he just hadn't realised what Harry actually meant by that.
"Yeah," Draco choked out softly.
Or maybe he did.
Harry nodded and held him tightly and they rocked slightly as the very last rays of the sun bathed them in a soft golden light, highlighting the straight blond strands nestling close to the messy dark locks.
"We're friends now," Harry whispered and Draco nodded. They finally had all the time in the world. Time to study and time to fly, to get to know one another and to put the past behind them, time at last to be friends and perhaps one day...
... to end up as more than friends.
- Chapter End -