A new story for my lovely readers! It took me AGES to write this, a few paragraphs here and there between classes at school and so on. Finally, though, it is finished! It was plot that was gnawing at my mind for a while and I stopped another fic halfway through just to finish this one. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy!

The Victorious:


Sex, Draco reflected through a haze of sizzling pleasure, was amazing. Incredible and hot and oh, so good. In fact, he didn't know why he hadn't been doing it before. It might have helped sixth year when he really needed something to take his mind off of…

"Ah! Yes!" he tipped back his head and cried out, blinded by the amazing feel of having someone's cock moving in and out of him, striking that place inside of him that sent curling ribbons of pleasure crackling up his spine. He'd heard his house mates talk about it but there were precious few boys inclined to like other boys at Hogwarts and back when he had the time and inclination to do it, he knew that if his father had found out, he would have been disowned. But now…now his father was in Azkaban and this boy, the one who moved so prettily over him, in him, connecting them together over and over again; this he wouldn't give up for the world.

"Good, Draco?" Zach's voice was rough in his ear and he moaned, opening his legs wider, begging for more. The other boy murmured something else that Draco just couldn't piece together through the haze of bliss that surged through his nerve endings, unaware of the way his fingernails dug into Zach's shoulders and how he kept uttering broken little cries every time his prostate was slammed into.

He never would have thought in a million years that it would be Zacharius Smith who would take his virginity. In fact, even just a year ago, he would have hexed anyone who even dared to suggest it. The other boy had always been a stuck up, annoying prick that Draco would have gladly had Greg and Vince bowl over in the hallways between classes. Actually, when he thought about it, he probably did a few times. But returning to Hogwarts had not been anything like he imagined and Zach had turned out to be the only one who showed a modicum of kindness to the Slytherin. Even Draco's own housemates were distant and sometimes cruel. If not for Zacharius, he would have given up entirely. Despite the fact that he needed to finish is schooling in order to stay out of Azkaban, he would have gladly taken prison over the cruelty he had encountered since coming back here.

And then Zach had smiled at him and offered to be his partner in Advanced Potions and he thought that maybe he could do this after all.

Zacharius was tall and handsome and had high standing among the Hufflepuffs. And while once Draco would have rather died than consort with a Hufflepuff, when the only person who was nice to him wore a yellow and black tie, he didn't care. Especially this Hufflepuff, who had proved himself to be someone Draco would never have expected. And now…oh, now

"Zach…" he breathed, arching his hips up for more and the other boy made a soft noise that sounded a bit strangled, the grip on Draco's waist so hard he knew he's have bruises by the time they were done. But what did it matter when Zacharius was moving just so and his sweat was dripping and rolling over Draco's skin and the taste of his kisses lingered between them…Draco supposed as he gasped through wave after wave of pleasure that was quickly cresting in his blood, that he could soon fancy himself in love with this boy. Because only someone who really cared about him would openly date him despite his former Death Eater status and if someone could get past that then what else was there?

Even when Zach finished before him with a wild cry, spurting hot come inside of Draco as his face scrunched with his completion, he thought he could love him.

Even when Zach collapsed on top of him, breathing like a winded Hippogriff and then promptly fell asleep, leaving him hard and shivering with denied pleasure, he thought he could love him.

Even when he was forced to finish himself off while staring at his lover's face, Draco thought that maybe this was love.


and then…


Draco woke to an empty bed the next morning, though when he fumbled for his wand that was tangled among the rucked-up sheets, he found it was still early yet. The bed hangings were still drawn closed but through a part in the fabric he could see that the light falling into the dorm room was grey. He wasn't too worried, though, for he remembered Zach telling him he was an early riser and was probably in the shower. Instead he wallowed amid the sheets for a while longer, breathing in the musky scent of the other boy and curling around the pillow they had shared the night before.

If there was a stupid grin sprawled across his face then that was okay too.

When he moved his limbs, there were aches in muscles he didn't know he even had and he shivered pleasantly when he reached behind himself and found his entrance still loose and slick with come. For his first time, it had been unexpectedly good, despite the fact that it had hurt like blazes at first. But Zach, while not gentle by nature, had been patient and waited until the inclination to tense around the thick intrusion inside of Draco eased somewhat. And then it had just been…well, damn good. Just thinking about it was making him hard again and he turned over on his stomach to leisurely rub against the sheets. He could remember every small detail of it and realized that he should stop thinking about it if he wanted to get out of bed before the rest of Zach's dorm mates woke up.

Reluctantly, Draco paused the slow motion of his hips and willed himself calm, thinking the unsexiest thoughts he could—Voldemort forcing him to torture two Muggle girls usually did the trick, though it had a side-effect of making him feel sick to his stomach as well—then rolled out of bed to collect his clothes. It was quiet in the room so he moved as silently as he could, pulling his clothes on and casting a Cleaning charm once or twice to get the sticky remains of the night before from his skin. He would have left it, wanting the comfort of smelling some else on him during the day, which would undoubtedly be filled with cruel taunts from his classmates and neglect from his professors. But he imagined what those taunts would be if someone else noticed he smelled like sex and he decided it wasn't worth it.

The halls were quiet as he made his way out of the empty Hufflepuff common to the Great Hall, keeping his own footsteps quiet lest he draw unwanted attention to himself. Even through his haze of contentment, he remained conscious of his position in the school; namely everyone else's punching bag. He still couldn't get used to the change from being the Prince of Slytherin to less than dirt on the bottom of everyone's shoe. Less because at least the dirt was largely ignored. Most of the time, he would rather be that dirt and the reality of his situation made him ache with something bitter and resentful. How far he had fallen and all because he had not known what side he had chosen until it was too late.

At times, he wondered how awful it would have been to go to Azkaban instead. The Dementors were gone and he had only been facing a year. If it hadn't been for an anonymous testimony at his trial, he would have been thrown in jail. He wasn't sure if he wanted to thank that person (there was only one person it could be, much to his chagrin, despite the anonymity) for their touch of chivalry in testifying on his behalf or hex them into oblivion. Though he would like to hex the prat on principle. Potter hadn't made his life any better by doing that and if it ever came to light that it was indeed the Savior, Draco would stomp on his face again, regardless of his parole restrictions.

Just thinking about it made him angry and he took a calming breath then thought of Zach before he stepped into a mostly empty Great Hall. It helped him to keep his face composed and his head down. That way, no one could feel provoked by his presence. That way they could just leave him alone.

Oh, so unsuspecting was he.

Why had he thought something good had finally happened to him? Okay, Zach had been nice to him when no one else would stand his presence. He had kissed Draco and held him and let him talk about how he just wanted everything just to stop. Zach took time to understand him when the rest of the world just wanted to kick him and perhaps throw a few curses his way. But, fuck, he really should have known; should have known better than to think he could safely give his heart away. What had happened to his self-preservation instinct? That was one of the first rules his father had taught him when he was young; never give your heart away. There was a time he had been made of ice and everyone either loved him or loved to envy him. Now they hated him unreservedly and he was made of the most brittle sand, crumbling away and grasping desperately at any show of kindness.

No matter their origin, even if that happened to be Zacharius Smith.

Draco was slowly finishing off his breakfast of toast and tea when the owls swooped in with the morning post. Like every morning, he continued to keep his head down and didn't make eye contact with anyone. Around him letters and packages fell for the other students and he was almost ready to accept he would never be one of those students again. No one was at home to send him mail, anyway. It was no use looking up to wait for something that would never come. He didn't even dare glance up at the Hufflepuff table to steal a glance at his boyfriend.

A few moments later, he was glad he hadn't. Though that would become a tiny comfort in the storm that was about to rip the ground from right under his feet.

It was delivered by two owls that swooped into the hall last, carrying between them a strange bundle that was spelled to open as the birds reached the tables, which were mostly full now that breakfast was in full swing. It was such an unusual sight that everyone was already staring upwards when the bundle split in a shower of yellow sparks and the air was filled with thousands of little papers. A low murmur whisked through the great, vaulted hall, every single head turned upwards, watching the graceful flutter of the papers as they dispersed through the hall and began to descend. They fell like rain upon the tables and floors, the plates and cups and platters mostly empty of food, tangling in student's hair and hoods of their robes.

Draco watched the chaos with feigned disinterest as the other students snatched and grabbed at the fluttering papers, whispering and chattering to their friends as they looked at what was on the little papers. Unable to curb his curiosity entirely, he reached for one that had landed in the butter by his plate and picked it up by the corner.

And froze in horror.

The pieces of paper were actually photographs, black and white and moving in real time.

Photos of himself but like he's never seen himself before.

Photos of himself writhing upon a painfully familiar bed, his bright head tossed back so that his neck was exposed and his mouth parted with pleasure. It was clear someone was fucking him by the way his photo-self kept getting shoved up the bed and how his legs were open, heels digging desperately into the sheets. For a long moment, all he could to was stare at it in horror, what he had eaten of his breakfast now a lead ball in his stomach that was violently about to rebel. There was a ringing in his ears that temporarily blocked the rising hum of shocked conversation and building laughter. He suddenly wished he had fallen from that damned broom last year and the Fiendfyre had consumed him. It would have been better than this.

"Oh, my God, is that Malfoy?" someone hissed loud enough that it sent a wave of twitters through the hall and crippling nausea through his stomach, "He's getting fucked like a girl!" several girls shrieked and he thought that Headmistress McGonagall was shouting for order but he couldn't tell past his abject horror. If she was, though, everyone else was ignoring her.

"He's a pouf!" someone else cried, probably one of the Gryffindors, judging by the sheer volume it was shouted at.

"I always knew you were a little whore, Draco," Blaise sneered from his seat down the table and all the stares and pointed laughter cute like a million knives, "I never knew you wanted everyone to see you being one!" Draco closed his eyes tightly when the entire hall burst into jeering laughter and never wished he could die more than he did then. He once used to tell himself that if something really horrible happened, it was just a dream and he would wake from it soon enough; back when he was naive and his parents could make most of his problems disappear. Yet since the war, he had learned that the worse it was, the more real it probably was. And this was horrible. Not a bad as Voldemort living in his house and making him and his family do…things that didn't bear thinking on. But right now, with sickening mortification swooping through the pit of his stomach, this felt pretty damn close.

Needing a shred of comfort, Draco made the mistake of looking at the Hufflepuff table because maybe Zac would give him the shred of kindness he really, really could use right about now.

The face that stared back at him was cold and a sneer curled the lips that had so sweetly kissed Draco only the night before. And he realized, with the painful realization of all the pieces falling into place, that the reason why only he could be seen in the photo was not because someone was playing a prank on him. It was so much worse than that.

Something inside of him cracked and crumbled into dust and he had the unfortunate suspicion that it just might be his heart. When Zacharius stood from his seat, Draco felt ill and he clenched his hands in his lap, telling himself that he won't run away. Even though he really wanted to. Even though he could feel the vomit in the back of his throat and his eyes prickled hotly and his entire boy shook.

"They're right, Malfoy. You're nothing more than a disgusting Death Eater whore. You didn't honestly think that I liked you, did you?" Zac said loudly, his voice obnoxious and strident as it cut through the undulating murmur and hissing laughter. Most of the girls and the younger boys blushed and giggled behind their hands but the older ones howled with laughter. A moment later, a shower of bright sparks crackled through the air, followed by a booming rumble that brought instant silence and all eyes to the staff table. The Headmistress was on her feet, lips pressed into an angry, thin line and looking more furious than Draco had ever seen her.

"That is enough!" she cried, face white and eyes glittering dangerously, "How dare you! Every single one of you, I am utterly ashamed to call you my students!" Draco looked down into his lap, so ashamed that he had to be defended publicly by McGonagall. At the same time, though, he was grateful for it. She was the only teacher that actually seemed to give a shit about his presence in the school, "Zacharius Smith, you will be in my office in ten minutes and if I catch anyone with a single one of these pictures, you will be expelled!" the heat of her wrath seemed to scorch the entire student body but he could see out of the corner of his eye the smirks hiding behind the ducked heads and the pictures being slipped into robes to be used for later torture.

It also didn't stop a fellow Slytherin from leaning forward to leer at him, "Fancy a fuck later, Malfoy?" and someone across the room to cough loudly, sounding suspiciously like "whore". Which, of course, resulted an a muted wave of more laughter and the Headmistress to completely lose her rag and take a hundred and fifty points from every single house. Which left them all in the negative digits.

But the worst part was the satisfied smirk on Zach's face, clearly not concerned about his impending punishment.

And Draco just couldn't take any more. With a deep breath that sent razor sharp pain shooting through his lungs that refused to inflate properly and his chin tucked low against his chest, he slipped from his seat and managed a calm, stately stride from the Great Hall. As soon as he was out of sight of the doors, though, he sprinted for the nearest bathroom and just managed to bend over a toilet before he was violently ill.

Only then did he let the broken sobs to rip free as he huddled alone and completely rejected on the cold, bathroom floor.


What Draco failed to notice in his flight from the Great Hall was that there was one person who was not laughing at his humiliation or cringing in disgust. There was nothing but anger and desire in those startlingly green eyes.


Sleeping in a bathroom stall is even less glamorous than it sounded and quite truthfully, it didn't sound all that glamorous at all. Once Draco would have cared that his limbs were long since numb and his back ached horribly from leaning on the unforgiving stone wall behind the toilet that he tucked himself behind after he had sicked up into it.

He didn't care now.

He didn't care that he had nowhere else to go now except this forgotten stall at the very end of the row in the second floor bathroom. He didn't care that he could smell the dampness of the stone of the wall he sat against and the lingering tang of his own sick. He didn't care that the tears he had wept had dried stiff and partially frozen against his skin. And he really didn't care that the entire school had seen pictures of him getting buggered by someone he thought at least cared for him a little. Enough to be kind to him. Enough to kiss him on the forehead every time they met up and hold his hand under the tables in the library.

No, he didn't care about any of that. He didn't care because if he did, he would find a way to end it all right there in that pathetic stall. And while that might sound inviting, in the back of his mind he rationalized that if he hadn't been offed by the Dark Lord, he sure as fuck wouldn't be done in by a bastard like Zacharius. It wasn't that comforting but it was better than nothing. Better than holding the tip of his wand to his wrists and uttering the incantation for a Slicing Hex. Perhaps it would be easier but he had promised himself he would stop being a coward.

Though, hiding in a bathroom hardly made him courageous.

Draco was shivering violently, his school robes that were drawn about him doing nothing to stave off the cold. His hair, which he was starting to grow out in sheer defiance, fell around his face in tangled strands, feeling lank and lifeless. Though he hadn't bothered to cast a Tempus Charm, by the sounds in the hallway outside, it was nearing dinnertime. If he could feel anything past the cold that had seeped from the stone and was slowly working its way through him, he would have felt relieved. It was not practical to stay there forever, as appealing as that might sound at the moment, but if he could sneak back into his dorm after curfew, he could certainly hole himself up there. The benefit of being a returning "eighth year" was that they all got their own rooms. They were small but they were private and that was all he really cared about.

After living in Slytherin for seven years and being the son of a rather paranoid Malfoy, Draco was quite good at locking charms. He could lock himself away from the rest of the world. That way, they could stop hurting him. He just wanted to stop hurting.

He wanted to be able to walk down the halls without abuse and the occasional vicious hex being thrown at his back. He wanted his father to be alive again, wanted his mother to come back from France where she had been exiled. He wanted Vince to step out of the destroyed Room of Hidden Things, whole and breathing and he wanted Greg to look at him again without loathing coloring his gaze. He wanted the teachers to stop ignoring him in class and turning a blind eye to the other students treatment. He wanted to go home, to the Manor that no longer belonged to the disgraced Malfoy family anymore.

But most of all, he wanted to be able to breathe and not wish in between each breath that he was dead.

A sob caught in his throat and he practically choked on it, the black despair that had been coiling ever deeper into his heart dragging heavily at him. It was like a set of iron chains, weighing him down until it was nearly impossible to lift his feet to take a step. Just trying to get through the days had already been a great struggle that he would have liked nothing more than to just give up on. The only encouragement he ever got anymore were weekly letters from his mother and Zach.

Zach who had pretended all along that he genuinely cared about Draco only to destroy him so utterly, he couldn't even feel the pain anymore. It hurt so much, the only thing that he could feel was the dull ache behind his teeth from clenching his jaw so tightly against his tears. Everything else was frozen in a mire of horrified humiliation and heartbreak. Well, until he shifted on the unforgiving floor and he could feel the ache Zach's cock had left behind. That was the worst. Being forced to feel the other boy inside of him and knowing that he had been a complete moron. Knowing that the whole time, Zach had been plotting against him; a plot to damage Draco so much, he wouldn't just be embarrassed and heartbroken but left completely and totally isolated.

Because, honestly, after this, who would want to go anywhere near him? Unless it was to humiliate him some more, of course. Even if someone else had been inclined to overlook the mark on his arm before, they wouldn't now. No, now he was entirely alone.

When he thought about it, through the haze of washed out pain and numb, blind despair, he realized that if he hadn't been so desperate for someone, he would have seen that Zach hadn't cared about him at all. The other boy was arrogant to the point of narcissism and rarely wanted to hear Draco talk unless it was to say something flattering about Zach. His eyes had wandered quite a bit when they studied in the library and Draco was helping him with Potions, a subject the Hufflepuff was pants at. When they kissed, there had always seemed like something was missing. Something Draco hadn't wanted to identify because that would have meant something wasn't right.

He could hear his father's voice in his head, "Never get to close until you are absolutely sure, son, that they belong to you," he had been told when he was only nine. Lucius had sat him down on a sun-warmed chair in his study one afternoon and loomed over him, looking so wise in Draco's young eyes, "You can never let your heart fall into someone's hands that will not take care of it. If that happens, they have immense power over you". Another power lesson by a power-hungry man. Now, though, Draco thinks that maybe Lucius had told him that because he didn't want his son to get hurt.

Too late.

Always the foolish one, he thinks, burying his frozen face in his knees and feeling sick all over again. Always made the fool in the end.

Just a stupid, pathetic fool.


Draco had no idea he wasn't alone until someone cleared their throat right in front of him and a pair of shiny, pointy shoes scuffed the stone in his line of vision. Surprised but nearly frozen stiff now from the cold, he processed that it had been a rather female sounding throat-clearing right before he found himself peering up at Headmistress McGonagall. He knew he should be feeling something but all he was able to dredge up was some kind of distant wonder for why she was lurking in the boy's loo. Anything else took too much effort. She stared down at him, face tight with some unnamable emotion before she sighed.

"I have been looking for you everywhere, Mr. Malfoy," her voice was gentler than he expected and wished it wasn't. The last person who had been gentle ripped his heart out and flung it about the Great Hall like so much dirty laundry, "This is no place to hide. Come along, lets at least find you somewhere a bit warmer," and when she reached down a boney, somewhat wrinkled hand, Draco took it numbly and let her pull him to his feet. He didn't think he would have if he wasn't thrown so off guard by her kindness. There was no judgment in her eyes; she was just the Headmistress, come to rescue one of her students.

Draco wasn't sure if he resented her for it or not. His arse was always being saved by damnable Gryffindors and their stubborn, unwavering sense of honor. Maybe he should be used to it by now. He wondered if obligation was what made her seek him out in the boy's bathroom or if her kindness was genuine.

He had already assumed that about someone else once. Maybe he was just making that same mistake again. Though he doubted McGonagall had some nefarious plot for revenge against him up her voluminous sleeve. When she turned around to look at him as he was following her through the dark, empty bathroom, there was nothing cruel or unkind in her gaze at all. But that was what he needed to be wary of most. He had fallen for that once and while she had always been a rather fair teacher, even to the Slytherins, he was the one who let Death Eaters into the school. He had put dozens of young lives at risk. It would not surprise him one bit if the Headmistress resented him for that and thought he had only gotten what he deserved.

But then why would she bother to come find him?

Completely confused, Draco shuffled along behind her, a tall, hunched shadow in wrinkled Slytherin robes. Every single ounce of pride he had once worn around his shoulders like a majestic mantel had been trampled by hateful feet into the dirt and while he wanted to trust, he knew that he could easily be kicked out of Hogwarts. Thankfully, the hallways were empty; the sounds of low murmurs coming from the Great Hall suggested that supper was in full swing. No one stared at him as he was lead to the Headmistress's office and whispers didn't follow behind him. Yet he could still feel them, sticking to his skin like so much muck. Every step he took, he felt like his foot was being dragged down by the weight of it, deep, sinking holes of hate pulling him down, down…

"Thank you, Mr. Potter," Draco jumped when Headmistress McGonagall spoke and he glanced up to see them in front of her office with none other than Harry Potter waiting at the bottom of the spiral staircase. Those green eyes were dark with a familiar emotion, anger shadowing their startling depths of color. Potter was looking at Draco and worrying an old, folded piece of blank parchment in his hands, "That will be all," the other boy jerked his gaze to the Headmistress, looking like he would argue but McGonagall must have given him her intimidating eyebrow raise because Potter backed off without saying a word. Draco tried not to make eye contact. He had been avoiding Potter like a plague since the beginning of the year but now it just felt a million times worse. How hard had the Gryffindor Golden Boy laughed when he witnessed the blonde's humiliation that morning? Probably the hardest out of everyone and as Draco walked past him to the spiraling staircase that lead up into the office, he swallowed down thick resentment. It was almost a surprise the other boy didn't slip him a snide remark in passing.

Yet, until he slipped out of sight up the stairs, he could feel those intense eyes on his back, burning like twin brands between his shoulder blades. It made breathing difficult and Draco was grateful when the door clicked shut behind him. It was one thing to have McGonagall treating him decently. It was entirely something else when Harry Potter failed to take an opportunity to embarrass him.

Even more confused than before, he glanced around the office he had just stepped into, his chest feeling tight. It was like Dumbledore's old office enough that the recognition made him shiver. The clutter and whirring magical contraptions had been mostly cleared away, leaving it almost painfully bare. There were a few neatly kept bookshelves off to the side but the only personality in the room was from the design of the room itself. But other than the huge, vaulted ceiling and stone pillars, it had been stripped of anything that might have identified the previous Headmaster. If McGonagall had added touches of her own, he couldn't find them.

He had frozen inside the doorway, looking all around him and trying to squash uncomfortable surges of memory but the Headmistress didn't seem to notice. She had walked over to a small table next to the big desk that took up the back portion of the room and was fussing with a tray of tea, her back to him, "Have a seat, Mr. Malfoy," she said over her shoulder. Feeling like a puppet made from wood, Draco complied, moving to sit in the straight-backed seat before the desk. He was careful to keep his eyes away from where Dumbledore's portrait snored softly and where Professor Snape's stood conspicuously empty, "How do you take your tea?" It took Draco a moment to realize he was being addressed and he had to do some throat clearing to shake his voice free.

"Two sugars and lots of milk," he responded softly, and watched with a sense of detachment as it was prepared for him. A moment later, the steaming cup was placed before him and he was staring at his Headmistress from across her desk. He didn't touch the tea because his stomach still had yet to settle and he was afraid that if he did, he would probably have just thrown it up again. McGonagall sipped her tea then leaned back into her chair, her stern expression never once softening.

"Judging by the look on your face, you are probably worried that you are in trouble," she said finally and he winced because the thought had been floating around in his mind. He just hadn't wanted to catch it and settle it down so he could examine it closely, "I assure you, Mr. Malfoy, you are not about to be punished. Unless you had a hand in what happened this morning at breakfast, you have nothing to worry about," he managed a sharp shake of his head, face flaming when he recalled breakfast. She had seen those pictures, no doubt. Hell, the entire school had. It seemed worse thinking about it now and the implications of the teachers having seen what he looked like having sex. The thought was so horrifying, he had to shut it down before he fell apart.

"Draco," McGonagall's voice was oddly gentle when she addressed him and he forced himself to look up and meet her eyes, not realizing his own were glazed and puffy from crying, "No one deserves to have something like that happen to them, no matter their mistakes in the past and I take full responsibility for this. I promised every student upon returning that they would be equal to everyone else and protected on equal terms but I see I have been remiss. I understand that the damage has been done but you will no longer suffer this injustice any longer," Draco could only stare at her, noting the way her nostrils flared angrily and her mouth pinched tightly closed.

"Even the Death Eaters?" he whispered, voice rough and harsh in the big room. His question made her eyes flare for a moment and her chin to lift slightly.

"Especially Death Eater children. You are only children, no matter what the Ministry says, and the choices you all made were no easier than the ones those in the Order made," she sounded like she believed that and he had to duck his head in order to hide the sudden swell of emotions in his chest. The choice had been torn out of his hands before he even knew there was another road he could have taken. Maybe if he'd had a moment to recognize it, things would have gone a bit differently in the end.

"No one else cares about that," he said instead, bitterness tasting like bile on the back of his tongue. McGonagall's sharp gaze never left his face as she took another calm sip of tea, though her expression was a bit pinched when she placed it back down on the desk.

"Some people care, Mr. Malfoy," she murmured softly and he had to swallow back a sneer of disbelief. He had yet to see evidence of that yet, "In fact, it was Mr. Potter who told me where to find you," well, that came as a bit of a nasty shock and he found he couldn't hide it from spreading across his face.

"Potter?" Draco fairly squeaked, positive he had heard her wrong. The Headmistress just smiled a little bit, looking inordinately pleased. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

"Indeed. Maybe the animosity between the two of you cooled since the end of the war?" it sounded more like a statement than a question and he couldn't even shake his head to deny it. Though he would still like to kick Potter's face in most of the time, it was for different reasons than before and sometimes Draco thought it wasn't just out of resentment either. McGonagall must have read his thoughts from his expression because she just nodded when he didn't answer, "Perhaps you would rather still be huddled away in that bathroom, then? Because without Mr. Potter's help, you would still be there," she said bluntly and he bit his lip in embarrassment. Every time he turned around, Potter was rescuing him. He couldn't escape the git if he tried, it seemed.

"Why didn't Potter just come and get me himself?" he mumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. Not that he would have wanted the other boy to see him in his abject misery, of course. It was just the principle of the matter. The Headmistress lifted an eyebrow at him and he could have sworn he saw her suppress an amused smile.

"Would you have listened to him if he had?" she just asked softly and Draco had to admit she had a point. He probably would have just screamed at the git until Potter was either forced to hex him or leave because he would have been too humiliated to listen to what the prat might have had to say. If Potter would have said anything at all; he might have just laughed his arse off. That's what Draco would have done if their positions had been reversed. McGonagall cleared her throat and folded her aged hands upon the desktop.

"Well, you should know that Zacharius Smith has been expelled," her eyes flashed dangerously and Draco wasn't sure why he felt surprised. Maybe after the way he had been treated, it was difficult to accept that anyone would aid him, "His uncle was killed during the war and his mother is still in St. Mungos but revenge is absolutely unacceptable and there is no place for that inside Hogwarts," she was clearly furious and Draco ducked his head in shame. He didn't like always being saved, though he wondered if the Headmistress had done him a service after all. The Hufflepuffs would become dangerous now, he realized in dismay and though they were not usually the vindictive type, he had seen first hand what they were capable of during the war.

He just nodded, not quite sure how to feel about the fact that Zach was gone. Of course he wanted to see some kind of punishment for the humiliation he had suffered today but the Slytherin in him made him wish he could deal out the punishment himself. He'd had nothing to do with Zach's family but he had been the closest one with a Mark upon his arm. It seemed that had been good enough for Zach. Under the aching hurt and left over shards of his shattered heart, Draco was angry. He was enraged at himself for allowing something like this to happen but he was even more furious at the ones who had been involved. It had clearly been Smith's plot but there had to be someone else there in the room with them to take the pictures. Zach was taken care of for now but Draco found himself wondering about the others.

Before he could dwell upon it any further, though, there was a whoosh from the fireplace behind him and Headmistress McGonagall looked up at the person who had just stepped through the Floo with a smile, "Ah, just in time, Mrs. Malfoy," Draco, his heart in his throat, whipped around in his seat while hope beat a fluttering rhythm in his chest.

It was indeed his mother who had stepped into the office and he nearly knocked the chair he had been sitting in over in his haste. With a broken cry, he threw himself at her, wrapping her in a hard hug. All at once, her familiar scent and the soft brush of her hair against his cheek overwhelmed him and the tears he had not finished crying burst free. It was an incredible comfort to be able to press his face into her shoulder and cry. Five months since he had seen his mother and he had missed her fiercely every singe day.

"Oh, my love," she murmured softly against his ear as she held him close, "I'm here, darling," and, not caring that there was someone else in the room with them, Draco let himself break down in his mother's embrace.


When Draco stepped out of the office sometime later, the castle was nearly silent and Potter was sitting across the hall against the wall. His dark head was tilted back and his lips were parted on a soft snore. It was the least intense the blond had ever seen him and he took a moment to stare.

Potter just looked so defenseless. Draco should have been annoyed that the prat had presumably waited for him but the proper emotions seemed to be curiously absent. What he couldn't figure out was why the other boy even bothered. He'd done his good deed and sent McGonagall to find Draco. Hadn't that been enough? Looking down at the oddly peaceful face that was both familiar yet not, he supposed Potter's hero complex wouldn't be satisfied until he saw Draco was okay with his own eyes.

Irrationally annoyed all of a sudden, he picked up one of his feet and poked the dark haired boy in the side with his toe. He probably could have nudged Potter but it ended up as more of a kick and when the other boy jerked awake with a sputter, Draco refused to feel bad. The green eyes were as wide as saucers as they looked wildly around the hall, the color of them impossibly vivid. He made sure to scowl and cross his arms over his chest when Potter finally managed to fix his gaze on the blond standing over him, though it was more out of defense than anything else.

"Malfoy," Potter's voice soundly oddly wooden and Draco just raised his eyebrows in answer because he honestly didn't trust himself not to start screaming at the other boy if he opened his mouth. It would be so much easier to dump it all on that dark, unruly head even though Potter really had nothing to do with what happened that morning at all. When the dark haired boy leveled himself rather gracelessly to his feet, Draco merely took a step back. His staring seemed to put Potter on edge for he shifted on his feet awkwardly then lifted one shoulder, "Um, how are you?" by the way the other boy winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized they were indeed as stupid as they sounded.

How the bloody hell does he think I am? Draco wondered in annoyance and decided he wouldn't deem that question with an answer, "I hope there is another reason you feel asleep in the corridor other than foolishly waiting for me," he said instead, winding his chilly distain around him like a defensive cloak. Potter could very easily destroy him with a few well-spoken words so the only way to head it off was to act like he didn't care. Another awkward shoulder lift from the be-speckled git.

"Erm, no, not really," Potter said honestly, the earnestness burning in his eyes like a storm of emerald fire. Draco hated it and he hated when hope flickered in his chest like some pathetic flame that refused to stop burning. Hadn't he already learned his lesson? And the last person who would care about him would be Potter; they had been nothing but enemies since the dark haired boy had refused Draco's friendship when they were eleven. Rolling his eyes, the blond turned away.

"Good night, Potter," he growled, moving to stalk past the other boy so he could seek out his bed down in the Slytherin dungeons. The tears he had shed on his mother's shoulder had worn him out and he just wanted to go to sleep. Maybe, if he was lucky, he wouldn't wake in the morning. But before he could get too far, a cool hand caught his wrist and he wheeled around to face those huge, burning eyes. Something in them sent an trembling echo of emotion clanging painfully through his chest.

"Wait," Potter's voice had gone rough and his fingers were a vise around Draco's wrist when the blond instinctively tried to pull free. Alarmed now, and worried the other boy was going to take this chance to take his cheap shot, the blond tried to pry off the cold fingers with his free hand.

"What? What do you want? Let me go!" the back of his throat ached and his head throbbed from crying and he really didn't want to do this right now. But Potter, despite Draco's desperately scrabbling fingers, did not let go and his eyes never lost that honest, determined shine.

"Let me walk you to your dorm," at first the words didn't make sense and Draco continued to yank against the other boy's hold. Then he realized what Potter had said and he stopped fighting to stare blankly. Surely he had misheard. But as the moments slipped by and they stared at each other in the silence of the corridor, he realized that no, he had indeed heard the other boy correctly. Finally the blond was able to gather himself enough to snarl, yanking his wrist free at last.

"Piss off, Hero-boy. I don't need your fucking pity," he barely even recognized his own voice, it was so dark with anger, which surged up the back of his throat like sludge to choke him. Not waiting for Potter's response, he once again turned away, walking swiftly for the stairs, telling himself that throwing a hex would get him sent packing after Zacharius. And that was something he didn't want. He had promised his mother he would tough it out and that was what he would do. No one, not even stupid, exasperating Potter, would chase him off.

Potter had not taken the hint at all and was simply matching Draco stride for stride as they walked past the front doors and towards the entrance of the dungeons. Furious, the blond whirled around on the other boy in the middle of the entryway, frantic to get away from him.

"Was there something about my refusal that you didn't understand?" he hissed, stepping into the Gryffindor's personal space and glaring for all he was worth, "Did I not state it clear enough for you? I'm not some damsel in fucking distress that you can keep rescuing. Fuck. Off," but he might not have said anything at all as Potter remained unmoved, his green eyes strangely dark as they stared back at the blond looming over him. Though Draco wasn't very much taller, his anger and his need to hide his nervous fear made him tower. The dark head tilted to the side.

"I can still follow you, whether I walk beside you or not," Potter said very quietly, voice barely audible over the lingering echoes of Draco's anger. The response brought him up short and he breathed heavily for a second before he whipped away again with a helpless grunt, hoping his longer stride would take him far enough from the insane Gryffindor before he caught whatever malaise Potter seemed to come down with. Because it was surely not normal for him to be so bloody concerned about Draco.

Follow him down to the very door of the Slytherin dorms Potter did, keeping just a step or two behind the blond the entire way. Draco wasn't sure what the dark haired boy wished to accomplish by this, as the rest of the students were all asleep and couldn't hurt him now. He had given up thinking that Potter would make some cutting remark about what had happened that morning but he doubted he would ever be able to trust anyone but his own mother again. And as far as people he could possibly trust, Potter was already very low on the list.

Which was why he wasn't sure why he paused when the other boy called out to him in a soft voice right before Draco muttered the password to get into the common room. Annoyed, he glanced over his shoulder at Potter, who looked like a messenger of some dark god standing shrouded in the shadows with his green eyes blazing through the gloom, "When I saw the pictures this morning, I didn't laugh," he murmured, making the blond suck in a tortured breath as embarrassment flooded him, "You were beautiful," The intensity of those eyes shook him to the very core and he could feel himself beginning to shake.

If only he had not stopped to hear what Potter had to say, but his desperate whisper of the password came too late.

"I want you," unable to face the horrible weight of that admission, Draco fled into the common room and was not able to take a full breath until he was locked safely in his own room. Around him the words lingered, humming softly in Potter's voice.

I want you


The entire following day, Draco hid in the shadows of his small private room. He had slept fitfully and knew that by the time he gave up trying to dissolve into dreams there was no way he could face the day that waited for him outside the magically locked door. It was Wednesday, which meant Potions and Muggle Studies (another requirement he needed to fulfill to stay out of jail) and he just couldn't face them. He couldn't face the eyes that would follow him around, knowing and judging; he couldn't face them cutting into his skin and turning him into nothing but dust. But, more than that, he couldn't face it alone.

And he was so terribly alone.

His mother was unable to stay for very long last night, breaking her sentence as she was. The moment the authorities caught wind that she was in the country, even all the wards and protections on the school couldn't keep her out of Azkaban. He'd had twenty minutes with her before she was forced to go back into exile. She was the only one. The only one who was willing to hug him as he sobbed out his heartbreak and the only one who kissed him and told him she loved him. The only one who cared. McGonagall was sympathetic but she was only allowed, as a teacher, to care up to a point.

So who else did he have? His friends were gone, either dead or joining the rest of the popular opinions of the school that hated him. His father was gone. There had never been anyone else in his life and now he could feel the darkness of all his wrong choices creeping up under his feet, yawning like a great chasm to swallow him up. Not even the Head of his House was willing to keep the crueler students at bay. Slughorn would rather die than be seen aiding one of his more unpopular students, especially a convicted Death Eater.

It made Draco miss Professor Snape terribly. The man might have been cold most of the time but he genuinely cared about what happened to the Slytherins under his care. He wouldn't have shied away from Draco, even after the way his sixth year had turned out.

The only thing he had left to keep him company was dark green canopy over his bed and the mer-folk that sometimes swam past his window. Their smiles didn't seem so ugly now when they were the only ones willing to give him one. He would not think about the last person to give him one; if he were fortunate, he would never have to see Zacharius again. Draco wasn't quite sure what he would do if he did. The very thought made him think of what he had done with that boy and what Zach had done with it and it made him feel ill.

Lunch passed by slowly, followed by the afternoon when he was supposed to be attending classes and not once did he twitch a single muscle. Even his stomach, though achingly empty from eating nothing but a bisect or two on McGonagall's office last night with his mother, was nothing but a dull, distant ache. Because the windows in the Slytherin dorms looked out into the bottom of the lake, even the light was grey and stagnant. Which suited him just fine.

In between staring listlessly at the bottom of his canopy and watching three of the mer-people playing an odd game of tag in front of his window, Draco wondered what the Ministry would do if he just stopped attending classes altogether. Maybe he would get sent away with his mother after all. Or maybe he would get sent to Azkaban.

He tried to pretend that that particular idea wasn't sounding more and more appealing.

All the while, the silence in his room remained steady and there was not a whisper of a voice to be heard outside of his door. Which made the pop of a house elf appearing in his room even more startling than it should have been and he found himself scrambling up onto his elbows despite himself. Usually the house elves didn't bother the students at school but he wondered if maybe the Headmistress had sent this one, for it was carrying a tray laden with more food than he could possibly eat in a week. It sent a pang of shame through him and he swung his feet over the bed as the little elf, dressed in a filthy pillow case and clearly unsteady on its feet, regarded him morosely from under the heavy tray.

"Um, can I help you?" he asked after a moment of mutual staring, though he thought the staring in the elf's case was due to whatever strange detriment that had it swaying as it stood still. Draco's voice was rough from lack of use and pent up anguish but the little elf barely seemed to notice as it blinked slowly at him.

"Winky be bringing Draco Malfoy dinner," it said in a high, monotone voice, lifting the tray up as if he hadn't already seen it. If he didn't know better, he would say by the way it couldn't stop swaying as it stood in one place that it was drunk. It was strange that Hogwarts would keep in its employ an elf that couldn't stay sober on the job, "Winky being told that Draco Malfoy is to be eating all of his dinner. Winky is also being told that Draco Malfoy is to be reading the letter," as it spoke, it shuffled forwards and plopped the tray rather ungracefully onto the bed next to him. He would have protested that there was no possible way he could finish even a portion of all the food on the tray the elf had set in front of him but as soon as it was unburdened of the tray, it popped out of existence.

Blinking, Draco stared at the food for a long moment, doubting he had the appetite for any of it. The meals at Hogwarts were always exceptional, of course, but it looked like the elves had outdone themselves just for him and he had to wonder who sent it. Most likely McGonagall, he thought as he spotted the letter tucked between a covered plate and an ice-cold picture of pumpkin juice. With a sigh, he reached out and picked it up, finding it was just a plain white envelope with no name on it. Frowning, he flipped it over and pulled the letter inside of it out, curious despite himself.

It turned out that the letter was not from the Headmistress at all but from Potter. Draco would have recognized the slanted scrawl anywhere, even if he hadn't glanced down at the name at the bottom of the letter. For a moment he contemplated not reading it at all but he remembered the words the other boy had thrown at him the night before and he found he couldn't help himself.


I had hoped that I would see you during the day but I guess you never left your dorm. Given the circumstances, I suppose I can hardly blame you. However, that doesn't mean you should starve yourself; it wouldn't solve anything. At least try eating a little. I can almost see that sneer on your face. I suppose that's the best I can hope for. The house elves made the food for you at my request so I'm sure it'll taste good.

About what I said to you last night, I hope that isn't part of the reason why you hid yourself away today. Though I meant every word, I will not push. I do ask, however, that you meet me after curfew by the trophy room. I just wish to talk.

I'll wait until midnight,


Utterly baffled, Draco set the letter down and stared at his feet. There had been a time when he would have lit a fire in the fireplace in a fit of rage and watched the letter burn. Not only was Potter being overly familiar but he was so arrogant it set even Draco's teeth on edge. But none of the rage he was expecting flooded through him and instead he was left in doubt.

Slowly, he reached out and picked up a sweet roll from the tray, biting into it as he thought.


Hogwarts was a strange place to walk through at night once most of its occupants had gone to bed. Draco sometimes thought the castle was almost sentient, watching over the students within its walls, making sure that they didn't get into too much trouble. The portraits snored quietly in their frames and the staircases didn't rumble, staying still until morning. Even the ghosts refrained from wandering the halls. Even so, he could still feel like he wasn't quite alone, the stone walls around him offering a strange embrace as he traversed the corridors.

He still wasn't quite sure why he was meeting Potter. He wasn't sure of anything anymore. The only thing that seemed to matter was that the hole in his chest ached and he didn't know how to heal it. This meeting had the potential for disaster. Potter had always been able to strike harder at Draco's weaknesses than anyone else so he could very well just be walking into a trap. Then he thought of what the other boy had written in his letter and Draco paused in the middle of a shadowed hall.

It was very possible that Potter was mocking him. What he had said the night before struck Draco strange. After all, it would mean that the other boy was bent and surely that was impossible, right? But Gryffindors valued honesty and from what the blond had seen, Potter was no different. So why would he lie about this? It didn't seem like something Potter would do.

Did it?

Draco bit his lip, unsure. He didn't think so but then again, he wouldn't have expected something as Slytherin as dating a person only to fuck them over after buggering them from Zacharius Smith. It just wasn't something a Hufflepuff would do.

That was before the war, the thought floated through his mind like a stray wisp of cloud but he had to acknowledge it as the truth. The war had changed everyone, whether they had been involved directly like himself or indirectly as Zach had been (however he boasted, the fact remained that Zach ran away during the Battle at Hogwarts). Draco wondered; Hufflepuffs becoming Slytherin, Slytherins turning into Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors becoming suddenly unreadable. Though he supposed Potter hadn't lost any of his fierceness. Those impossible green eyes were still the same as they had always been; intense and burning like two miniature suns.

The thought almost had him turning in his heel and retreating back to his room.


But in his mind, the words Potter had written seemed to repeat themselves and he found himself wanting to know what the other boy had to say. There had been a time, once, when he had dreamed about being Potter's friend. The desire was taken away by the roles that they would both later play but he wondered if, just maybe, he might have had a chance after all. If Potter was not haunted by destiny and Draco by the overwhelming shadow of his father's hungry play for more power. It might not have been so impossible after all. Well, he thought so, anyway. The other boy was still a self-important git.

By the time Draco reached the trophy room, he had completely convinced himself that he was being a complete moron and whatever happened was only his own fault. He had to be. Only a moron would do what he was doing; meeting his schoolboy rival in the middle of the night in a lesser traveled section of the castle. Yet, with each heavy footstep, he found that despite his many misgivings, he was unable to turn away.

And then it was too late because he was turning the corner and Potter was right there, standing in the bright glow of his wand.

Like the moment snatched in the hall outside of the Headmistress's office, he had a chance to observe the other boy without Potter realizing he was being watched. The dark head was bowed enough that wild locks hid the bright gaze from view but the lit wand tip illuminated Potter's face enough that Draco could see how intent he was on the trophy case he was looking at. It made the blond wonder what name had caught his attention. Aside from his rapt expression, he nearly blended in with the rest of the darkened room. For a wizard that had fought on the side of the Light, it was strange how Potter seemed to wear shadows like garments, even with the Lumos.

A moment later, though, Potter was turning towards Draco where he was standing in the doorway and he went back to being an ordinary, if somewhat thin, eighteen year old boy.

"Oh, hi. I didn't hear you come in," his greeting was perfectly casual and Draco found himself unsure of how to respond. He still couldn't see the other boy's eyes and it left him feeling uncomfortable. Though he doubted he would ever be comfortable in Potter's presence. Then a smile stretched across the sharply shadowed face, crooked and warm, that made Draco feel completely flat footed, "I have to say I'm a bit surprised you came," which made him twist his mouth up to swallow a sarcastic response. Draco was surprised he had come too.

"You asked me to," was all he said and that earned him an even more uneven smile and a piercing look through the wild hair that fell into Potter's eyes. It made Draco wonder when the other boy's hair had gotten so long.

"I know. That didn't mean you had to come," It was true. And he was still sure that he was crazy for doing it. Yet there was no trace of maliciousness in Potter's face and his stance lacked aggression, body language Draco had quickly become fluent in upon returning to Hogwarts. Potter turned back to the trophy case, wand light flickering slightly as he moved, "My father was a Seeker when he came here. Helped win the House Cup for Gryffindor," it was such a strange statement, completely out of context, though Draco had not known that about James Potter. As a matter of fact, besides dying at Voldemort's hand seventeen years ago, he didn't know anything about the man at all. It made him wonder if it was relevant after all.

"Bragging again, are we?" he asked, voice snide and it earned him a quick look that he couldn't interpret. Though Potter didn't look mad, he also wasn't smiling. Half expecting some kind of attack, Draco braced himself, watching the other boy for signs that he had come to fear. But Potter still refused to do what was expected. He simply turned back to Draco, wand held at his side so his face was impossible to read and stared back steadily through the thick shadows.

"That's why I think you're incredible, Malfoy," he said softly, eye glinting in the small light, "No matter how many times the world steps on you, you're still you," and Draco had no idea what that was supposed to mean. If Potter was insinuating that he was still the spoiled, naive kid he had been a few years ago, he was going to turn around right now and forget this had ever happened. Yet as he studied the unyielding expression on the other boy's face, he rather thought that wasn't what Potter had meant.

"Why did you have me meet you here?" he asked, intending his voice to be sharp but instead all he sounded was tried. Well, he was tired and it wasn't from the late hour. Potter took a step closer to him then another, face flickering in and out of the light as his wand hand swung with the movement. It made him seem sinister.

"I talked to Professor McGonagall," he started, drawing uncomfortably close to Draco, who refused to back away on principle. Thankfully, Potter stopped before uncomfortable became downright suggestive, "About your sentence," somehow, the blond managed not to wince. It was a close thing and the other boy went on like what he said was a remark about the chill in the room, "If you miss more than three days of classes consecutively, the Ministry can still send you to Azkaban on grounds that you are not fulfilling the agreement that allowed you to come here. It's a load of tripe but they can still do it," there was an angry flare of the thin nose that Draco recognized, though he had never expected Potter to be angry for him.

As for the agreement of which the other boy spoke, he wasn't sure if that was true or not. Though it sounded like something the Ministry would do. They had forced him to sign a long length of parchment that he'd had no interest in reading when they gave him his sentence. At the time it wasn't even a consideration. It was either he signed the damn paper and went to Hogwarts to he went to jail. It was only now that he was considering the wisdom of that decision.

"What the fuck do you care about any of this?" he managed to hiss through his anger. And he was angry because that's what happened when he was embarrassed. Being reminded of his trial and its outcome was embarrassing, especially by someone who was unfailingly good and always would be. Potter lifted one shoulder but there was no trace of apology on his face. It only served to make Draco angrier.

"I want you to go to your classes. Promise not to hide anymore. Show them you're the better person," it was such a fine speech, he would have believed it written by Dumbledore himself. If only Dumbledore wasn't dead. A blanket of fine, crimson hued rage flared within his chest, so thick it nearly suffocated and in that moment he wondered if he could actually strangle the boy standing across from him. Unthinkingly, he took an aggressive step forwards so that he was once again towering over the other boy, his fury making him tremble.

"What the fuck do you know, Potter? What do you know about what I have suffered through and choosing to hide from it or not? How can you know anything that I…that…" he was so angry that he couldn't even figure out what else he wanted to say. Instead of rearing up in self-defense, the other boy watched him calmly, not a change in his expression. In fact, if there was a change, it was simply the softening of the line of his face.

"I know enough," Potter murmured, then did something Draco would not have predicted in a million years.

Potter kissed him.

It wasn't just a peck nor was it timid. A hand snaked around the back of his neck, slender fingers sliding through fine, silvery blond hair, holding him in place. Not that he could have gone anywhere. His feet had frozen to the floor and his knees had locked in shock and every single thought was blown from his head. Warm breath that didn't really smell like anything ghosted over his face and before he knew what was going on, soft lips were pressed against his own. It wasn't a demanding kiss. In fact, it asked nothing from him at all. There was just a slow moment of hot lips sliding against his own, pressing, insisting before his bottom lip was sucked on lightly. And then Potter was gone, with his soft lips and hot breath and even hotter taste.

The entire time, Draco just stood there, entirely still, because he had no idea how to react.

By the time he was back to himself, sputtering and stumbling back while pressing shaking fingers to his lips that felt entirely too hot, Potter had stepped away. His eyes were so very green and Draco had no idea what to say. Yet it turned out that he needed to say nothing at all. The other boy walked past him to the door, taking the light with him as his footsteps echoed in the empty room.

"If you let me, I can help you, Draco," and then Potter was gone, leaving Draco alone in the darkness.

Alone with the lingering heat of a kiss and the unwelcome yet inexplicably tantalizing blaze of a promise.


Harry Potter had kissed him.

This was the thought that he fell asleep to. Harry Potter had wrapped his arm around him and given him a soft, lingering kiss. A kiss that Draco wasn't sure he wanted to deny or relive over and over. Because one this was certain; Zacharius had never kissed him like that. Like he was the only person in the world that mattered and all that Potter had wanted was to kiss him.

As much as he wanted to hate Potter and all of his righteous arrogance, he found himself kissing back in his dreams.


Draco did end up going to class the next day after all. He had awoken with Potter's words echoing in his mind and a lingering taste upon his lips completely prepared to spend another day staring pitifully at the ceiling. If fact, it was because of those things that he nearly stayed. Potter was wrong; he didn't know nearly as much as he liked to think he did, especially about Draco.

Then a small part of Draco's mind reminded him that Potter hadn't always been the hero. In fact he had been ostracized and proclaimed insane during much of his early time at Hogwarts. And while he had friends on his side, he did not have the comfort of his parents. He had known what it was like to have people stare and say disgusting and hurtful things behind indiscreet hands. The only thing he didn't know was the heartbreak that came with betrayal of someone who was supposed to be trustworthy. Zach had not only been his lover but the only friend Draco thought he had left.

But he had not kissed me like Potter did last night. The logic of that thought frightened him badly enough to jolt him out of bed in order to get ready for classes. It was Advanced Charms and double Arithmancy. Not any easier to face than Potions or Muggle Studies but if Potter had been able to do it, then so could he.

Couldn't he?

To make it easier on himself, he showered early, before any of his other house mates were awake and came back to find a tray piled with food on his bedside table. It filled the room with the scent of bacon and sausage and cinnamon, causing his mouth to water and stomach to growl. A letter identical to the one that had been on his dinner tray the night before was leaning against a chilled glass of orange juice and he opened it with some trepidation as he snagged a slice of toast.

It was, of course, from Harry once again, though Draco found himself surprised by the lack of flowery statements or reference to last night. The only thing that might have betrayed the other boy's state of mind was that his handwriting was a little sloppier than it had been in the last letter. All it said was:

Draco, the Ministry said nothing about you attending meals with the rest of the school. That's no reason to starve. Harry.

This time he didn't hesitate to eat the food, though he continued to frown at the note as he ate. How very like a Gryffindor to go and do something as insane as kissing Draco one moment then sending a note that was perfectly polite yet borderline distant. If this kept on, he reasoned as he slowly munched on sausages and sucked grease absently from his fingers, he was going to go completely mad. Not that he was going to let the other boy kiss him again. Absolutely not. But the strange way Potter pressed in and then pulled away was making his head spin.

And not because he liked it. It was bloody annoying, was what it was. Couldn't the great prat make up his mind? That way Draco could reject him properly and go on being….well, alone, which wasn't quite an exciting prospect either.

At least, this was what his line of thinking right up until Charms, which was the first class of the day. He got there early, before everyone else, spilling into a seat near the back of the classroom with his head down. He sat as still as he could in hopes that would make him invisible. Though while he suspected that his mere presence in the class so soon after the incident that had driven him into hiding in the first place would incite some rather unwelcome comments from his peers, he hoped that by keeping his head down and mouth shut it would be kept to a minimum. In the blessed silence during the few minutes before breakfast ended and the first class began, he let himself pretend his efforts might actually be successful. He let himself pretend, just for those few precious moments, that he was entirely alone in the world and he could sit in his chair in an empty classroom for as long as he liked with no interruptions.

It was okay to pretend sometimes. Especially when reality wasn't a kind place to reside in.

Unfortunately reality reestablished itself far too soon.

He knew the moment breakfast in the Great Hall was over. There was a shift in atmosphere that hung in the quiet room, becoming sharper with hurried anticipation. As he had never been early enough to his classes to sit in the stillness that came before students started filing into their respective classrooms, he hadn't realized that the very spaces within the castle seemed to wait to be filled by its occupants. Draco supposed the reason he had never really noticed it before was because he had either been surrounded by friends or had been too occupied with other things to pick up on something as subtle as the moods of the walls around him.

The anticipation that filled the classroom also flooded his lungs and made it difficult to breathe. What had possessed him to listen to Potter? Yes, he would have been sent away if he had stopped going to classes but he didn't think he could do this. How could he sit there while everyone was sure to be looking at him and remembering the pictures? Knowing what a fool he had been. Knowing everything. Streaks of white-hot panic flickered through his mind and his hands were already trembling helplessly.

He didn't think he could do this.

No one said anything when the first students started to arrive. In pairs of twos and threes, seventh and returning "eighth" year Slytherins and Gryffindors began to file into the lofty Charms room, filling the air with soft murmurs and the grunting scrapes of chair legs against stone floors. He could feel their cold, judgmental stares on the back of his head, painful, like shards of glass being drilled into his skull. Soft giggles filtered through the classroom then harsh whispers, loaded with the hissing sting of his name. Malfoy. Malfoy. Like it was a dirty curse word barely worthy of touching their righteous tongues.

Much like how he said Mudblood once upon a time. The fact that it was probably only what he deserved didn't make the trembling stop or the panic to ease.

"Oh, look who's finally deemed to grace us with his presence," the strident voice of a Gryffindor seventh year whose name he had never bothered to learn rattled through the classroom, which was mostly full by now, "Out little resident whore," Draco hunched in his seat, shoulders up around his ears and he wondered if his face was as pale as he thought, a result of the rush of vertigo making him swallow bile. Oh, this had been a bad idea indeed.

The entire class howled with laughter, the sound of it ringing through the insides of his skull and making it ache. Through his mortification and desperate wish to sink into the floor, he wondered at the way they had chosen to insult him. He'd only had sex once in his entire life and, while that was with a person that barely merited a thought, it hardly made him a whore. Then again, the entire school had seen him during that one time. Anything to take a cheap shot at the resident Death Eater. It seemed that everyone had forgotten about Goyle's former allegiance to the Dark Lord and that of the Parkinson family. Though they had done far worse during the war, he was the one taking the brunt of the world's ridicule and hate.

Someone made another snide comment and he chose not to hear it. What he really hated was how their cruel words got to him so easily. He had never thought that he could have such a thin skin but each new insult felt like another layer of bricks upon his shoulders.

And then a new voice joined in the fray.

"Oi, bugger off, you lot. Stop taking your pathetic existences out on someone else," It was a voice he was well acquainted with, strident and strong, instantly stilling the hissing laughter like it was so much smoke caught in a gale. Shocked, Draco couldn't help but turn in his seat to see none other than Weasley standing next to his table glaring at the rest of the class. Surely, he thought, the Weasel wasn't sticking up for him. Was he? Because by the way the redhead stood, arms crossed over his broad chest as he pointed his fierce glower out over the rest of the classroom, Draco thought that just maybe he was. But that couldn't be right either. The last time he had checked, Malfoys and Weasleys never stuck up for one another.

"What the fuck are you doing, Ron?" snarled the same seventh year that had made the first snide comment at Draco. He wasn't advancing on the redhead but his stance was aggressive and his expression mean. It sent a shiver of fear down Draco's spine. He had seen Death Eaters wearing that kind of face; hungry and cruel. Then the other boy sneered at Weasley, face twisting into something ugly, "Unless you want the little slut for yourself. I didn't know you swung that way but needs must, right? Does Hermione know?" there was another tittering of laughter but it was nervous now and everyone had started shifting and averting their eyes.

After all, Weasley was a war hero. Only the very brave or very stupid dared to insult a war hero these days.

"I said, piss. Off," though Weasley didn't rise in towering anger like Draco expected him to, the warning growl in his voice still held a threatening bite of power. His voice crackled through the room, the final say to the argument and the blond wondered when he had acquired any kind of power at all. The war, it seemed, had changed everyone. The other Gryffindor boy scoffed but he backed down, slouching to his seat on the other side of the room. There were some murmurs of malcontent and many confused, sidelong glances but no one else dared to question the tall redhead still towering threateningly in the middle of the classroom.

Draco himself wasn't quite sure what to think.

What was he to make of someone who had been previously, if not an enemy, then definitely an antagonistic force in Draco's life suddenly defending him? And though their personal conflict had started when in their first year, the animosity between the Malfoy family and the Weasley family had been going on for generations. They weren't supposed to stick up for each other. Yet here it was, Ron Weasley standing between Draco and the rest of the class that would gladly see him torn down to the smallest particle of himself.

And then Weasley took the empty seat right next to Draco and he was even more shocked. Shocked enough that he couldn't stop himself from staring at the other boy who was pulling his books from his bag as if he hadn't done anything out of the ordinary. But it was so far from ordinary that Draco had no idea what to say. Certainly he couldn't tell Weasley to piss off and find a different seat because he was grudgingly grateful not to have to listen to other people calling him a whore. At the same time, he wasn't sure he really wanted to sit beside the other boy. Sharp blue eyes swung around to meet his own wide gaze and he nearly bit his tongue.

"You know, they wouldn't bully you so much if you didn't present yourself as such an easy target," Weasley said without preamble and Draco felt a surge of indignant anger that he quickly swallowed down. It wouldn't do him any good to punch that stupid freckled face. Carefully he weighed his response, feeling it pressing anxiously on the back of his teeth.

"Indeed," his voice was shockingly cold but the other boy didn't even flinch, "And how would I go about doing that?" the classroom was nearly filled by then, with a few empty seats for the stragglers which, he noted absently, included Potter. Draco told himself he only noticed that because Potter usually came in with his friend, who was currently sitting next to Draco. Surprisingly, Weasley gave him a quick grin, as if he could see right through Draco's icy exterior to the swirl of thoughts underneath.

"You look like you're waiting for it. So they give it to you," as much as he hated to admit it, the redhead had a point. He was expecting it. How could he not? "You hunch your shoulders and your chin sits on your chest. It's really quite pathetic," this time Draco felt his nose flare with his temper and he dared a sharp, withering glare that seemed to have no affect on the other boy. Not that he really expected it to. It had been a long time since anything he did had any weight.

"If that's the case, then why did you bother? Why didn't you just take your cheap shot along with everyone else?" he hissed as Professor Flitwick scurried into the room. Weasley just gave him a steady look that Draco couldn't decipher and which made him decidedly nervous.

"At first I thought that you deserved it all," the redhead said slowly, voice soft as the rest of the class settled into their seats and readied for class, "But I reckon Harry was right when he said that no one deserves what happened to you, with the pictures and whatnot. Lines like that shouldn't be crossed, no matter who you are," being reminded of the pictures sent a flash of deep humiliation through him and he ducked his head, not seeing the flash of humor in Weasley's face before he muttered a soft, "Except maybe You-Know-Who," which was a disturbing thought all of its own.

Right before Professor Flitwick announced the assignment for the day, Draco couldn't help but murmur, "Thanks for that, Weasel. I could have done without that mental image," at which Weasley snorted.

"Any time, Ferret," They didn't speak to each other for the rest of the class but Draco felt just the tiniest bit better.


Potter was late to that class, claiming he'd been kept behind by Headmistress McGonagall and had sat on the other side of the room. He didn't seem too surprised to see his best mate sitting next to Draco but for the entire class, the blond could feel that intense emerald gaze like a ray of heat against his back. It was all he could do not to turn around to meet it.

Whether he wanted to turn around to tell Potter to stop staring or to thank him, Draco still wasn't sure.


If Draco was surprised by the way Weasley had come to his rescue in Charms, he was even more surprised that afternoon during Arithmancy when Granger simply sat down next to him before class began and dumped her bag onto the desk.

Again he had been the first one in the classroom, having taken his lunch in the solitude of his dorm room. He figured if he kept out of the halls while the rest of the other students were in them traveling to and from classes, there was less chance of, as Weasley put it, 'making himself a target'. To be honest, he could see the rationality of that. He had been cowering into himself, afraid of the ridicule and the knowledge that there was absolutely no one on his side. Having lived the spoiled life he did up until the war, he wasn't used to being the brunt of everyone else's derisive ridicule. There was no mocking comments this time to prompt Granger's odd change in behavior as they were, as of yet, the only two people in the room.

He just looked at her for a moment as she calmly set out the textbook for the class and a notebook that, even though it was still October, had been used quite a bit already. Where as Weasley and he hadn't gotten along because of the blood feud between their families, there was a more immediate and darker animosity between himself and Granger. When she continued to not say a word to him, he finally let his exasperation take over.

"What is this today? Gryffindor intervention?" he snapped, voice sharper than he anticipated, though it did get her attention. He was rather surprised to see, then, that instead of the annoyance he expected, there was amusement sparkling in Granger's light brown eyes.

"Of a sorts," she allowed and he squashed his heated flash of annoyance, "Ron said that you were your same snarky self. I have to admit I'm glad for it," Draco couldn't help it. His mouth fell open. Of all the things he would have thought to come out of Granger's mouth (not that he sat around and thought about it much) he would never have expected her to say she was glad he was being himself. Especially with their history. Especially since she hated him. Well. He thought she did. Draco was quickly coming to terms with the fact that he would never understand Gryffindors no matter how hard he tried.

They were silent for another long, indeterminable amount of time, discomfort making him fidget in his seat. He noticed that Granger was sitting calmly, going over the notes she had taken the class before. This time as the rest of the class filed into the room they didn't make a fuss over his presence, though that might also have been because most of them were Ravenclaws. There were a few sharp murmurs but no one bothered him. He wasn't fooled. He knew it had to do with the girl sitting beside him.

"Why?" he finally murmured, picking at the cover of his textbook, "Why are you even bothering?" at first he thought she hadn't heard him, staying still at his side and remaining focused on the neat handwriting of her notes. Finally, when he was thinking about repeating his question, she turned to him, her gaze uncomfortably steady. He fought not to look away.

"I don't like bullies, Malfoy," she said softly. He blinked at her, catching the hint of irony in her voice. Of course. This was the same girl who advocated for house elf rights. That would be her reason. There had been a time when he had been on the opposite end of that hard, determined look she was wearing now and he wasn't sure he liked the protective expression he was getting now.

"According to you, I am a bully," he returned, recalling the punch she had delivered to his face in their third year. Not that he would ever admit it aloud but even he could see how much of a brat he had been back then. Still, she hadn't needed to resort to nearly breaking his nose. It had throbbed for nearly two days afterwards. This time she smiled at him, a small and somewhat cool smile that was just this side of friendly. He didn't care very much for it because it hid absolutely nothing.

"You were, Malfoy. But you're not anymore, are you?" and all he could do was shake his head because even a first year wouldn't be cowed by him anymore. The entire school knew how low he had fallen and even if he wanted to, it was hard to be intimidated by dirt. Which was what he was, at least in everyone's eyes. The thought made him feel very diminished and he said nothing else to her.

No, he wasn't a bully anymore. But he thought that he would rather be the bully than have to endure being bullied. Even after all the lessons he had learned during the war, he wished he didn't have to learn this one as well. What he hated most was that he had been lonely either way. Back then, before the war had torn the veil of spoiled ignorance from his eyes, he had been lonely because most of his peers feared his name. They only wanted to be around him because it was better than being on the receiving end of his wicked tongue and bold threats.

Now he was just as lonely but it was because everyone hated him.

Glancing at Granger, he amended that in the bleak privacy of his own mind, no, they didn't all hate him. Those that didn't pitied him instead.

As he listened to the professor being the lesson, he deliberately didn't think about the bright shine of Potter's eyes and the warm tone of his notes he sent with food. If Draco did think about it, he would recall that there had been not a hint of pity in the bright emerald depths. And that was something he didn't dare accept.


It became a routine of sorts.

Potter would send him small, meaningless notes with a tray of breakfast in the morning, delivered by one of the house elves. Draco wouldn't tell the other boy this but he was extremely grateful because he wouldn't eat at all if it wasn't for the meals being sent to his room. The humiliation and hurt was still too fresh to brave the Great Hall. He supposed that food would have been sent to his room anyway since he doubted he would be allowed to starve. Yet he found himself looking forward to what Potter had scrawled upon the little notes that accompanied the trays of food. Most of the time it was meaningless things, babbling about nothing in particular. Sometimes, though, the other boy would offer a tiny piece of himself, like a gift of sorts. Though Draco wasn't sure what kind of gift it was supposed to be.

One day Potter had written, good morning, Draco. Potions today. You know, I used to hate Snape to an almost unhealthy degree but now that he's gone I find I miss him. I wish he was still teaching the class instead of Slughorn, The words had shocked Draco so much he had to read them three times to make sure he was seeing them right. Though he had never grasped the full depth of animosity between Potter and Snape beyond the glee he had found in watching the Professor torturing the other boy in class, he realized then there was something more between them that he didn't understand. And yet there was that note.

A tiny piece of Potter that he doubted he would ever fully understand.

Another note had been a little bit more light-hearted. Peeves played a prank on a couple of my housemates about an hour ago. I find a group of surly Gryffindor girls covered in dragon dung and chicken feathers never gets old. It made Draco snort at the image it provided; a group of sour-faced Gryffindors trudging around with white feathers stuck in the dung decorating their heads and shoulders. What was even more amusing, however, was the clear childish joy that Potter seemed to have gotten out of it. It made him realize just how little he knew about the dark haired boy.

What disturbed him was how much he found himself looking forward to these stupid little notes. As much as he tried to tell himself that he didn't care about what went on with the Boy-Who-Lived, he found he was hungry for the small glimpses into Potter's life. Draco's desire to be his friend in first year had been genuine and he could see, if he stopped to think about it objectively, that he had never really gotten over that rejection. It was almost like he was now being offered another chance. Only this time, Potter was the one stretching out his hand, waiting for it to be grasped. Draco wanted, deep down, to accept it.

And when he read those notes, he would remember the intensity of that bright green gaze, hungry and hot, when Potter had followed him down to the Slytherin common room. When Potter kissed him. It made him feel lost and confused.

Other than the notes sent with his meals, Potter didn't approach him during class or in the halls. It seemed he had left his two sidekicks to become Draco's bodyguards. It was something that he didn't understand in the least and welcomed even less. Granger and Weasley seemed to have taken it upon themselves to shield him from the derision of the rest of the school by sitting beside him in the classes they had together and walking casually beside him in the halls.

He had no idea what to make of it.

Everything that he had ever known about the world had officially been turned on its head. Out of all the things that had changed, he thought he could always count on Gryffindors to hate Slytherins and vice a versa. No matter how crazy life had become when the war started, and even more so after it had ended, this was one thing that he knew would never change. Except, as Weasley calmly sat beside him in Muggle Studies, Charms and Transfiguration, and Granger asked to see his notes in Arithmancy and discussed advanced principles with him in Theory of Magic, he realized it had changed. Not only did these two particular Gryffindors not hate him but he was beginning to see, as days slowly dragged into weeks and the weather began to turn icy, that he didn't hate them all that much either.

Granger really was quite intelligent, more so than himself which, if he had any opinion on the matter and he most certainly did, was really saying something. She was a fascinating person to hold a conversation with because she was a wealth of information. Any topic that could be read and researched she knew about. Though at times she could come across as an insufferable know-it-all but he was beginning to see past that. Weasley, on the other hand, was definitely not as studious as his friend. Well, somewhat-girlfriend, as he reminded Draco whenever Granger came up in conversation. It didn't mean, however, that the redhead was stupid. No matter what Draco might have thought in the past, there was a depth to Weasley that he didn't find in too many other people. Usually, when they spoke, it was about class work or Quidditch but, as was inevitable when their unlikely alliance started, the war did indeed come up. They knew they didn't see eye to eye on the topic, obviously, but except for a few sharply exchanged words, they didn't feel the need to fight over it. It was over. Weasley had been on the winning side and Draco on the losing.

The real fighting had already been done.

So as the school year turned into late November, Draco found himself becoming unlikely and tentative friends with Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Even more unlikely, he greatly suspected that it was mostly the doing of Harry Potter. And though he still got dirty looks and sly comments thrown in his direction by both students from other houses and from his own house, he felt strangely safe in the company of one or both of his new Gryffindor friends.

Yet as they neared Christmas Holiday, Potter never once approached him. The last time they had spoken was the stolen moment in the trophy room. They did have a few classes together but Potter remained on the other side of the room, always quiet. Always watching.

Watching Draco, his intense green eyes unfailingly steady and heavy.

The notes with his meals continued but Potter and he didn't speak face to face and Draco was beginning to wonder if they ever would. Even when he was with Potter's two friends, the dark haired boy kept his distance. He suspected that when he was hiding in his room Potter was with his friends but it was confusing and somewhat annoying.

Because all Draco could think about was the way Potter had said I want you and they were slowly driving him mad.

But he was beginning to think that maybe Potter would keep his distance until the end of the year.


To his surprise, and not a small amount of concern, he was practically thrown together with Potter on the first week of December in Potions. He would admit that he was shocked the other boy managed to get into the class as it was advanced potion making but then again, Slughorn had been fawning over Potter since he arrived in the beginning of their sixth year. It was indeed a challenging class but it seemed that without the looming and admittedly intimidating presence of Snape hovering over him, Potter was actually quite good in Potions. Much to Draco's chagrin.

"This is going to be your final Project for the year," Slughorn announced in the beginning of class that day, holding up a small phial of pale silver potion that made Draco think uncomfortably of unicorn blood spilled in the dark loneliness of a forest, "What you see here is called Phasmatis Spiritus. Breath of the Spirits. Does anyone know what this particular potion does?" he paused but Granger, who would normally be the only one with their hand waving enthusiastically in the air, had Potions with the Ravenclaws because of her modified schedule. And Draco, the most versed in Potions out of everyone in the class, had not a clue what this new potion did.

He had read about potions of such a pale silver color before in books he'd taken from both the libraries at school and the Manor but none had such a name. It was aggravating that he didn't know what it was and vowed to do some more reading as soon as he was able. Although, he realized that might prove difficult with his new Gryffindor guardians always in tow, as he was not keen on dragging them anywhere. It was bad enough as it was. Finally, when no one seemed to know the answer, Slughorn took pity on the confused class, seemingly disappointed by their lack of knowledge.

"Phasmatis Spiritus, by definition, is the breath of a spirit. Or, rather, those of us who have already passed on," Draco felt his eyebrows make a valiant attempt to reach his hairline. If it meant what he though it meat, that should be impossible. A moment later, his suspicions were confirmed, "Yes, I see Mr. Malfoy has caught my drift," confused eyes flickered to him then flickered away and Weasley lifted an eyebrow in question, "This little potion here can give you the ability to, so called, reach between the rift between life and death and give the drinker the ability to talk to their loved ones who have died."

Despite having already suspected, Draco let out a huff of surprised breath. That was nothing, however, to the general outcry of disbelief. Since so many lives had been lost so recently, a potion like this would be greatly coveted. The only person who did not become immediately animated was Potter, who had withdrawn into himself, face blank and pale. It made Draco think of all the people the other boy had lost and he felt a pang of sadness for him. Potter would probably not care for such a potion.

"Professor," Potter's soft baritone rippled through the room, the sound of it holding enough power to silence the chatter and turn every single eye in his direction. Draco found himself holding his breath, "That's impossible. Only the Resurrection Stone can let someone talk to the dead," his voice was flat but there was an underlying emotion in his compelling gaze that seemed to fill the air around him. Draco thought it might have been grief.

"That was so, my dear boy," Slughorn answered, "Until very recently. This potion was created by none other than the late Professor Snape himself!" Draco felt himself go pale but that was nothing to the expression that flickered across Potter's face for the shortest of moments. He was angry but he was hurt too. Why, the blond could not figure, though he was not sure why he should care. He also did not miss how Weasley was watching his friend with a worried expression. Draco told himself not to be intrigued by any drama of Potter's, no matter how involved he already seemed to be.

"In…light of recent events, don't you think that maybe doing a potion like this would be in…bad form?" it was said with difficulty, as if ground out against Potter's teeth. There was a surprised hush and Draco watched as a myriad of emotions, including surprise and confusion, danced over their Professor's round face.

"Well, I had thought of that," Slughorn finally said with an air of someone who had done the exact opposite, "But perhaps we can put it to good use? One sip could give just an hour of comfort for someone who really needs it. Or closure," it sounded like a good argument, Draco supposed, seeing some of the pained, hungry looks around the room from people who had lost someone in the war. But it also sounded like Snape had been trying to cheat death. Why, he couldn't guess but judging by the dark look on Potter's face, he thought that maybe the dark haired boy knew.

"You should let the dead rest," Weasley said in a strained voice, lips bloodless and suddenly the temperature in the classroom dropped. Everyone knew he was thinking of the brother he had lost. The air in Draco's lungs had suddenly become stagnant. He had no idea what his father might say if he was to get a chance to speak to him again but he found himself not wanting to find out. Even a single minute would be much too long.

"It doesn't bring the dead back to life," Slughorn said softly, with more than his usual lack of tact. The way his porky shoulders slumped in his expensive robes, he looked like this weighed upon him heavily as well, "It just gives the living a chance to speak to them for a short while," Draco found himself wrapping his arms around his middle, an action that drew Potter's attention. He pretended to ignore the opaque look but in reality it burned right through him.

"Sir," Potter no longer looked angry but infinitely sad, "wouldn't it only serve to make us pine away even more? Knowing that we are hearing their voices but cannot be with them ever again?" One of the Parvati twins stifled a sob with her hand and Draco caught Blaise duck his dark head to hide the shine in his eyes. He and Nott had been very close, even closer than Draco had been with Crabbe and Goyle. What happened to Nott was not spoken about by anyone.

"It can," Slughorn said slowly, a frown on his face, "But it was designed to give the survivors peace of mind. There is never any doubt that the dead will remain dead. It just gives us a chance to…say our goodbyes," Something thick lodged itself in Draco's throat and as the room fell silent for a moment, he fought his grief. It didn't make it any easier that everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing.

The moment was broken when the professor cleared his throat, dissipating the ghosts of the painful memories still floating in the air, "This potion is extremely advanced. It will take two of you and the entirety of the five months you have left to make," there were a few groans at that, one of which definitely came from Weasley. Yet Draco, despite the disturbing nature and origin of the potion, found himself intrigued. He had always had a soft spot for potions, often entertaining the idea of becoming a Master. This particular potion, which claimed to do the impossible, touched upon that interest, "As the ingredients are particularly rare and the brewing of it is both time consuming and needs time to mature, every moment in class is imperative," It made Draco wonder when Snape had the time to brew such a complicated potion. But more than that, he wanted to know why.

When the groups were called out, though, Draco told himself his enthusiasm wouldn't be squashed by his partner, no matter how strange or sullen Potter got. Or intense. Really, those eyes were fucking green. Too green. The color made him uneasy.

It had to be the color because he refused to acknowledge the emotion behind it.

He refused to see the desire. In the safety of his own mind, Potter didn't want him. As Draco plunked his bag down at the table he would be sharing with the other boy for the rest of the year, he said absolutely nothing, ignoring the soft "hullo, Malfoy," his proximity drew. He also didn't feel guilty when those fantastic, impossible eyes dimmed a bit when he didn't answer. He was afraid if he did, it would never stop.

"Interesting potion," the other boy murmured softly as they prepared the first ingredients, the cauldron beside them already over a softly simmering fire. It was a gold cauldron and he wondered if there would be Elf blood in this potion as that was the only potion ingredient he knew of that reacted to all other metals. Potter's head was bowed over the yew bark he was gently crushing so that Draco couldn't see his eyes but he thought he heard a world of depth in those two words. Finally taking pity on the other boy, he hummed softly.

"Indeed. I'm not sure if I'm grateful or terrified to use it," the yew bark littered the water that filled the cauldron to the middle, acting as a stable base. Slowly the soft brown powder sunk into the water and made it grey and cloudy. Potter glanced at him through his dark hair and Draco could see a small smile curling on his full lips. At once the ice between them was thawed just a bit and they worked for the rest of the class in a strangely comfortable silence.

Potter's confession of desire for the blond remained untouched and Draco was happy to leave it that way.

At least, that's what he told himself.


It was like that one class had knocked down a barrier Draco had been unaware of until it was gone. When Weasley or Granger walked with him in the halls or sat beside him in class, so did Potter. He didn't say very much of anything, even to his friends, but his presence was like a solid mass, looming heavily in the background. It was becoming commonplace for Draco to be completely befuddled by this small yet willful group of over-protective Gryffindors.

And they were over-protective. Annoyingly so. They weren't even subtle about it. They crowded around him in the hallways and sat in the aisle seats during class. The handful of times another student thought to test out the Gryffindor wall around the lone Slytherin, that wall tightened around him and bounced the hateful words back so that he could barely even feel their sting. Weasley, surprisingly enough, was the fiercest of the lot. It seemed that once he found a cause, he would flare up at the smallest provocation and became this towering, roaring lion that cowed even the bravest of souls. When Draco questioned Granger about it, she had given him a tiny smile and shrugged.

"Once Ron gets an idea in his head, there is no shaking him," she'd answered, affection for her red headed boyfriend plain in her voice, "And it seems he has this idea that you don't deserve to be so alone after all," her answer had only served to astound him and he was even more convinced that he would never understand how the Gryffindor mind worked. The person who had hated him the most, animosity fed by a blood-feud between their two families, had turned out to be his most staunch protector.

The thing about Ron, Potter had wrote in one of his notes after a particularly violent confrontation between Weasley and several Hufflepuff seventh years, is that it is nearly impossible to change his mind once he has made it up. It takes long weeks of thought before he is willing to be swayed but once he is, he cannot be persuaded back. It was a strange insight into the red head that Draco had always felt such contempt for and he grudgingly had to admit that it was a good quality to have in a friend.

If that's what he could be called. Draco wasn't so sure but he only spent time in the trio's company so he didn't know what else they could be. Mere acquaintances wouldn't stick up for him as much as they did, as he had found out with his own housemates. Yet because he was silent most of the time, keeping his thoughts mostly to himself, they couldn't possibly know him very well and that didn't make a good basis for friendship. And besides their selfless actions during the war and their Gryffindor tendencies, he really didn't know all that much about them either.

Granger wasn't as protective of him. Out of the three, there was the most tension between Draco and her. Where the hate with Weasley had been simple and Potter had now added something to their already strange dynamic with his desire, prejudice was a difficult thing to move past. Even for him, though he had not truly believed her dirty because of her blood for several years. But when push came to shove, as it did on one or two occasions, she defended him just as fiercely as Weasley did.

And then there was Potter.

In all honesty, Draco still didn't know what to make of him. He didn't know what to make of his desire and his strange unwillingness to approach the blond. Clearly Potter wanted to talk to him. Every time a house elf sent his meals to his rooms where Draco continued to hide when he wasn't in class, there was a note from Potter. This was fine too Draco was beginning to see. Despite his doubts and reluctance, he found that he was looking forward to reading those notes and seeing what small piece of himself the other boy would give this time.

All the same, it was still odd.

"This is strange," Draco said aloud to his (yes, he had begun thinking of them as his and no matter how hard he tried to stop, he was unsuccessful) Gryffindors who were talking beside him before Transfigurations. Potter was sitting next to him, a first since this whole strange alliance had begun, and Weasley and Granger were in the desks in front of them. At his voice, they all paused and glanced at him, the redhead seated backwards in his chair while Granger leaned over the back of hers.

"What's strange, Malfoy?" Weasley asked, tilting his chair back and forth on two legs. Draco didn't usually speak up first except to maybe offer a scathing comment that he personally felt was well deserved. Now he fiddled with his quill, drawing random swirls on his parchment for notes and frowned.

"This," he said, waving his free hand about expansively, "The three of you sitting with me. A bunch of Gryffindors with a Slytherin. It's just…odd," his speech earned him a small laugh from his companions, though he noticed that none of them spoke up to disagree, "Especially the three of you, the paragons of Gryffindor-ness," Weasley looked confused but he thought Granger was going to fall out of her seat, she laughed so hard. Draco didn't look at Potter, though he told himself it wasn't because he was afraid of what he might see on the other boy's face.

"We're hardly 'paragons' of anything, Malfoy," Granger snickered behind her hand, brown eyes glittering in amusement. He frowned at her, unaware that he had said anything amusing. Wasn't it the truth, after all?

"No, you are. It's actually quite alarming just how Gryffindor you all are," he pretended to shudder though there was no bite lingering in his words. They all seemed to sense this as there was a group eye rolling session and a foray of shaking heads.

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," Potter murmured beside him and despite himself, Draco glanced over. The smile that curved upon the full lips was rather crooked and charming and he couldn't deny the tiny tug on his own lips in response. He tried to look away before any of them could see, he rather suspected he hadn't been successful. It was an odd thing, too, because when he was with the Slytherins, he never let himself appear any thing less than completely in control of his emotions. But now that he had been spending time, too much of it, really, with a bunch of emotion driven lions, his own had begun to unfreeze. It was a strange transformation that he had never expected to go through but now that he was, he wasn't sure he hated it.

"Don't be silly, Potter. Of course it is," he blustered and the soft, rumbling laugh that followed sent an unexpected shiver down his spine. Weasley was shaking his ginger head, no doubt still stuck on trying to figure out what paragon meant, blue eyes unnervingly sharp.

"I don't know, Malfoy," he said slowly, too sly for Draco's comfort, "You might just have a little bit of lion in you after all," the blond stared at him in surprise for a second, mouth no doubt hanging wide open. He didn't know what it was in reference to but he did know it was supposed to be a compliment. It felt like one too, though he couldn't think why. He could also feel the atmosphere getting heavier, thoughts of the dark past flickering between the four of them. Unable to face what lay in the memories of that darkness, he gasped dramatically in order to lighten the mood and widened his grey eyes.

"Bite your tongue, Weasley, or I will be forced to cut it out," he hissed and merely earned himself another laugh. He wondered when they had stopped taking him so seriously. Probably around the time when the rest of the world did, though perhaps for different reasons, "There is nothing wrong with being a snake," Class started shortly after that, cutting off their teasing conversation before it had the chance to get too heated but not before he heard Potter's soft,

"Yes, a snake's bite can be deadly too," when he glanced at the wide green gaze, it was unreadable and yet uncomfortably warm.

Or maybe that was the flush working its way up Draco's neck.

Either was disconcerting.


"Potter, that's the Wormwood you are crushing. We need the Moon Flower petals next," Draco muttered absently as he stirred a glass rod into the potion in front of him three times counter-clock wise and then seven in the opposite direction.

Potter, looking slightly flustered, reached for the jar of silvery petals with a red tint staining his cheeks. They had been working on the final potion project for a week and a half, leaving it under a Status spell when they weren't in class. It was coming along but it was indeed a complicated potion, requiring care and at least a small touch of creativeness. They had agreed on the first day when they started it that Draco should be the one to do most of the delicate brewing and Potter would gather and prepare the ingredients. So far, their routine had been working smoothly and Draco found himself enjoying the other boy's quiet, steady presence at his side.

Today, however, he could tell there was something weighing on Potter's mind. He had been fidgety all morning, eyes shifting away constantly and it was beginning to grate on Draco's nerves. Yet every time he went to say something, the dark haired boy was either on his way to the ingredient cabinets or his back was firmly turned and the blond hesitated to break the tense silence that surrounded them.

Just as he was about to burst, Potter abruptly turned to him, a jar of newts eyes in his hand and a pained expression on his face. The sight of it made Draco's heart skip a frantic beat.

"I'm sorry," the words were rough and delivered with a strange desperation that left the blond staring. He could think of nothing that Potter had done that warranted such an apology. When the other boy didn't go on to explain himself, Draco cast him a quick glance, a single eyebrow raised. Around them the rest of the class was quiet, paying no attention to them as they focused on their caldrons.

"For what, Potter?" he asked softly, aware that Slughorn was hovering somewhere in the front of the classroom. Their potion had turned a soft, pale green, the exact color it was supposed to be and he gave it an absent smile.

"For the war," the other boy said and Draco jerked his head around in surprise. They didn't talk about the war. Not with Potter, anyway. There were too many shadows that lingered in his luminous green eyes and it felt intrusive to try and see behind them. When the blond continued to gape at him, the other boy continued, talking almost too fast to understand, "For not understanding. For not realizing that you needed help rather than derision. I could have saved you and your family from…from him but I didn't realize until it was too late that you even needed help. I'm…I'm sorry," his dark head was bowed, distress clear in the line of his sloping shoulders. For a moment Draco thought he was going to rear back and punch the other boy clear in the face.

Who did he think he was, taking responsibility for someone else's life? Though they had been getting along much better than they ever had, there was always going to be parts of Potter that Draco was going to strongly dislike. He suspected this deep-seeded need to always be a hero Potter had was always going to make him furious. Taking a deep breath and laying the stirring rod he had been using down on the table so as not to bash Potter over the head with it, he told himself he could not answer guilt with fury. No matter how much he wanted to.

"That was never and will never be your responsibility," Draco praised himself for keeping his voice steady, though he couldn't look at the other boy for fear of losing his cool, "It was a choice made by both my father and myself and no one else could have told us any different. Though I wish things had been different, my mother is still alive. I doubt she would be if I had chosen another course," Potter blinked a few times in that oddly endearing, befuddled way of his before he huffed out a long sigh out of the corner of his mouth that made his dark fringe stand on end.

"Yes, I know that," the other boy murmured softly, staring down at the jar he still clutched in his hands. It made him looked even more pathetic, prompting Draco to roll his eyes and snatch it away. As he dropped two newts eyes into the caldron, that green gaze followed him, filled with guilt, "I still feel like I should have done something more," there was genuine remorse in his voice and Draco had to squash down the helpless memory of wishing many times last year that he had just talked to Potter rather than trying to Crucio him.

"Well don't," he said shortly, annoyed but confused at the same time. What difference did it make, anyway? It was too late now for anything to be done about it. It was better if he didn't think about it. After all, he had enough opportunities already to feel sorry for himself. He didn't need more. There was a tense silence that stretched between them for long moments and he tried to ignore it as he gave the potion the proper stirs then added the required powdered rose wood. It was hard to stay angry, though, as he concentrated on his work.

"Do you have plans for the hols?" the soft question caught him off guard and he almost dropped the glass stirrer into the caldron. Potter's green eyes were sincere when he glanced over at the other boy. Then again, when was he ever not sincere? Even when they were at each other's throats, Potter had always been terribly honest and straight forward.

"Erm, no. I have to stay here," he finally managed, feeling flat-footed and a bit embarrassed. Even if the Manor was still in Malfoy possession and his mother hadn't been exiled, he still would have been forced to stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas holidays. His probation wouldn't allow him outside the school grounds, not even to venture out on Hogsmeade weekends. Inside the cauldron, their potion was a softly simmering pink, the exact shade the instructions said it should be. As he watched it, he tried not to think of the magnificent celebrations that would take place at the Manor in years past. It would hurt too much if he did.

"Oh, right," Potter said elegantly as he fiddled with a black feather from a rare Talking Crow and glanced at the blond sideways, "Then you can keep me company," a small smile flickered across his face, "Ron and Hermione are going home but I didn't feel comfortable going to the Burrow this year. So I'll be here by myself," there was a hopeful cast to his eyes, making them shine even greener than usual. And Draco was unable to snuff it out. So he sighed and put the last ingredient into the cauldron for the day. After this it would have to sit for twenty-four hours and then they would have to come down tomorrow to take it off the heat and put it under a Stasis spell.

When he turned to Potter, he couldn't understand why his heart fluttered a bit within his chest.

"You won't be by yourself, Potter," he said with slow deliberation as Slughorn informed them they needed to start cleaning up, "After all, its seems the only people who put up with me anymore are fool hearty Gryffindors," for some reason, the responding smile was achingly sad.

It was novel for him to realize that such a smile might actually be for him.


So everyone is gone now. It seems so lonely up here in this tower by myself. It's kind of nice, though, not to have to listen to Ron snoring in the next bed every night. Let me tell to you, he can out-snore a three-headed dog. Which, believe me, is quite a feat.

Oh, and since most of the students are gone, you should come to the Great Hall for meals. That way I don't have to sit with Slughorn and the handful of younger students by myself. At least there will be someone there whom I like.


The note had come with Draco's breakfast the morning after everyone went home for the break and it made him smile despite himself. It was amusing to think that Ron Weasley snored loud enough to disrupt his roommates, though he had no idea what a three-headed dog had to do with anything. Perhaps it was some kind of inside joke that he just wasn't present for. It was sad to think of Potter alone in that drafty tower, though he couldn't say why that was exactly. Draco was beginning to see that was happening a lot. Positive thoughts about a boy he wasn't supposed to like kept sneaking into his consciousness and he was past the point of trying to change it.

Besides, Potter liked him. He had admitted as such and even put it down in writing. Maybe, Draco thought as he loitered around his room as the morning wore on, just maybe, he could make this change too. The rest of the world had changed around him without his say-so, including people he now called friends. Why not the fact that Harry Potter was a likeable person?

And he was.

Likeable to the point that Draco found himself smiling at the thought of the other boy's bright grin and quite way of talking. He found himself thinking fondly about the wild black hair that fit Potter quite well, rather than being annoyed by the lack of grooming. Oh, and that soft, gentle chuckle; he was so different than Draco had always assumed, it was nearly impossible to hate him. He wasn't sure if he even wanted to anymore.

Draco didn't think, however, he wanted to leave the safety of his dorm. No one bothered him here. The locking and security wards he used on his door kept even the most adventurous and daring housemates from invading his space. As they surely would if they didn't already know that by tripping any one of his protective wards, they would be in for a sorry surprise. But outside his room, he felt like he couldn't protect himself. Even leaving for classes still made him feel uncomfortable. Because he was in the presence of the Golden Trio for most of the time he ventured out into the rest of the castle, no one would dare say a cross word to him. He could feel the looks, though. Feel them burning into his back and stabbing him like blades of ice. It made him wonder about the sheer power Potter and his two friends had over the rest of the Wizarding world.

It also made him wish he hadn't been so mean when he was younger. It forced him to realize that his meanness might have stemmed from something deeper. The self-examination had been truthful to the point of brutality but he felt better for it. He hadn't been mean before arriving at Hogwarts; at least he didn't think so. He thought perhaps that when meeting Potter, and subsequently being snubbed by the other boy, might have started the vicious cycle of hate and bullying. After all, Lucius Malfoy's son had never been denied anything in his life until that day he was refused a friendship with Harry Potter.

Now I have it, Draco thought as he watched the dark, lazy water of the lake outside his window breaking up the weak light of the winter sun. It had taken…he frowned. Well, it had taken a complete fall from grace, right through the cracks in the ground and into the very Earth itself before Potter expressed an interest in him.

Oh, and a picture of him getting fucked.

But that was beside the point. Well, at least he thought it was. Perhaps it wasn't. Maybe that was exactly the point. Potter had come right out and said it, hadn't he? I want you. Remembering the words now made the blond shiver and draw his robes closer around him. I didn't laugh. You were beautiful. Who would have thought? Harry Potter desired Draco Malfoy. Wanted him. Said he was beautiful. Zach had never said that to him in the month or two they had been "dating". That was certainly something.

How was he supposed to feel about Potter wanting him? It certainly wasn't horrible, that was for sure. The other boy had the most beautiful eyes Draco had ever seen and he was actually quite good looking if one managed to get past his Gryffindor tendencies and rather skinny frame. It seemed, too, that they could get along if Potter didn't start spouting strange things about regret, what-ifs and should-haves.

In the end, Draco found himself walking down to the Great Hall for dinner that night. His mind was no clearer than it had been when he first started trying to sort out this web that had wove around him and Potter. The halls echoed with his footsteps, completely empty now that just about everyone had gone home. Even many of the portraits lining the walls were missing from their frames. In the emptiness, his doubt jangled unnervingly. There might not be that many students remaining in the school but that didn't help his unease. Each one of his echoing footsteps added to his distress until he was ready to turn around and forget about the whole thing. He didn't mind spending the holidays by himself in his room. Really.

He made himself ignore the dull pain that gripped his chest and made it difficult to breathe.

It was just Christmas. It didn't matter if he couldn't see his mother. It didn't matter if his father was dead. It didn't even matter that he no longer had a home to go to. And if he could make himself believe it, maybe it would actually become the truth.

Stepping into the Great Hall felt strange after not daring to show his face there for the past month. Nerves filled him like a mad swarm of butterflies, making him slightly nauseous. Even the smell of the rich food waiting at the single long table in the middle of the room only served to make him feel even more ill. Snow fell gently from the enchanted ceiling, disappearing just before it landed upon his hair and the hall was oddly quiet but he could still hear the laughter and the jeers in his mind as he paused in the doorway. He expected them to come. It hadn't been all that long since the pictures had fallen from the sky and there were still a few students left. Surely they hadn't forgotten.

Surely they wouldn't let him forget.

But instead of being greeted by sneers and giggles, the only thing he stepped into the hall to see was Harry Potter looking up from his spot at the single table and lifting a hand to wave at him. If anyone else noticed his entrance, they simply looked away again, occupied with their meals and their conversations. And there were so few students who had stayed, too. Just a handful, really. Draco found himself relaxing, his shoulders dropping from where he had lifted them in preparation of the jeers.

Maybe it would be okay after all.

Cautiously he made his way across the hall, keeping his eyes on the smiling Potter. Even though no one had reacted much to his arrival, he wasn't brave enough to see if that might change. Thankfully Potter sat a little removed from everyone else and moved over as the blond approached so that Draco sat at the end of the table. That way, even if anyone else should sit near them, they would have to sit next to Potter. He felt a surge of gratitude, stronger than normal and told himself he shouldn't get too used to it. Unfortunately for him, though, he already was quite used to it. Then he was standing at the table and Potter was grinning up at him, looking ridiculously happy. Draco felt his heart skip the tiniest of beats.

"You came!" the other boy exclaimed, beaming as Draco sat beside him, "I was almost convinced you wouldn't," in that moment, he had a revelation of sorts. No one had ever been that happy to see him before. At least, none of the people he used to consider friends. Even when he had gone a whole summer without seeing Greg and Vince and they would meet up again in September. There had never been simple, genuine joy in their faces or in the light of their eyes when they greeted him. Even his mother most of the time was subdued. Yet here was a boy who had been an enemy since they were eleven, smiling like he had never been so happy to see anyone in his life and it was directed at Draco. It was confusing and odd yet something warm was building within his chest that he couldn't suppress. And Potter continued to smile at him even as he settled in his seat.

Zach certainly never looked at him like that.

"Me too," he muttered, still feeling the affects of that smile. Potter shouldn't be allowed to make him feel so off-balance. It should be a rule of the universe. And yet there they were, sitting side by side and feelings things for each other that they simply should not.

"Well, I'm glad you decided to come," the other boy said as he reached over and started to served both of them without so much as a by-your-leave. Draco wanted to be annoyed but for some reason he wasn't, even when Potter plunked a spoonful of mash potatoes onto his plate. Draco didn't have a chance to tell him he hated potatoes, "I was getting bored listening to those two Ravenclaws over there discussing some magical law something or other," his green eyes glinted in the bright candlelight and the blond couldn't get rid of the warmth still pooled in his chest. In hopes of dispelling the feeling, he eyed the Ravenclaws in question who were seated some way down the table.

"Maybe I should go sit with them. More intelligent conversation," he said, voice flat and for a second he thought the other boy's face would fall. But instead of being hurt, Potter just rolled his eyes and snorted into his goblet.

"Sure you will, Malfoy," and he was right. Draco had no plans of relocating his seat. When it was all said and done, Potter was actually quite good company and he was okay admitting that, if only to himself. While the other boy was no Ravenclaw, or even on the same level as his friend Granger, he was certainly not stupid. And conversation with Potter was interesting. He knew quite a bit about Quidditch for someone Muggle-raised and he was clever, keeping up with Draco's wit like it was nothing. It was fun, sitting there with the Gryffindor boy, ragging on one another or talking about the newest broom set to come out in the spring.

It was worth leaving the safety of his dorm. No one bothered him and he was able to talk normally to someone who, it seemed, had become a friend somewhere along the way.

Draco also ended up eating most of the potatoes as well, though it certainly wasn't because Potter had put them there.

Besides, they weren't that bad.

It became a routine. Well, he didn't want to think of it as a routine, exactly but at least it became familiar; getting up late, meeting Potter for lunch in the Great Hall and spending the rest of the day in his company. "Thick as thieves" his mother had teased in one of her letters, which had made him flush inexplicably. It sounded so simple and stupid for what it really was. They were friends but it was starting to feel like it was something else too. At least on his end, anyway. Potter hadn't said anything since that day with the kiss. There had been looks that lingered a little too long and several times Potter had touched the back of his hand or his elbow. But nothing in the way of definite words. Draco wasn't sure if that made it worse or better.

That didn't stop him, though. Potter turned out to make a great friend, all of his Gryffindor traits surprisingly pleasant to be around. He was generous and an excellent listener and somehow always knew what to say without seeming to try. He was cute too. With his hair all over the place, his outdated glasses and his sweet, shy smile, Draco couldn't help but enjoy watching the other boy when they were together. He often wondered if this was what Granger and Weasley got to see all the time and it made him irrationally jealous.

Which made no sense. Potter was his friend too. He got to see the dark haired boy as much as he wanted so it shouldn't matter if others got to see Potter like that too. Then again, the more time he spent in the dark haired boy's company, the less sense he made to himself.

In this way Draco was able to forget that the rest of the world hated him. No one was really there to bother him and Harry's presence seemed to ward off any unfriendly glances. He could pretend for a while that he hadn't been a Death Eater, that there was no mark on his arm, that he hadn't made terrible mistakes. Potter certainly didn't care what he had once been, even if Draco had been the most cowardly Death Eater of them all.

And it was nice to forget for awhile. It was nice to feel kind of normal, like an eighteen-year-old boy with somewhat normal concerns that didn't make him wish he didn't exist. His mother still wrote him almost every day and it was okay that he wasn't since the Manor as this wasn't the first holiday break he spent at Hogwarts. Yes, he had different friends now. Fewer friends, but he suspected much more true. He had someone to talk to and after months of being completely isolated with the exception of a false relationship, he knew this to be worlds better. It wasn't anything like what he was used to but he was beginning to see that maybe this was just as good. After all, he had come to find the warm, genuine company of Gryffindors infinitely more appealing than the cool, more standoffish friendship of his own housemates.

Draco was tired of plots and intrigue. At least he always knew where Potter and his mates were coming from.

Even Christmas day was much better than he anticipated. Potter had actually managed to convince him to stay over in the Gryffindor common room on Christmas Eve, sharing warmed pumpkin juice and talking quietly while surrounded by cheery decorations. They had fallen asleep in their chairs, curled up beside the fire. Draco couldn't remember the last time he felt so content and it disturbed him that it was in the depths of the lion den.

They had awoken late the next morning to find their presents heaped beside their chairs. Potter had quite the pile, it seemed, but Draco was happy with the three that he found leaning against his seat. He had honestly expected nothing, or perhaps maybe a single one from his mother. There had been a time when he would wake up to mountains of gifts from his parents and his friends. He was wise enough to know that those times were gone. But the three were certainly a pleasant surprise.

His mother's gift was the biggest, with boxes of his favorite chocolate from Switzerland and two beautiful cashmere sweaters in different shades of blue. He had exclaimed loudly over them and had the satisfaction of watching Potter's eyes go round behind his glasses when he felt the soft weave of the sweaters. Naturally, in true Potter style, he had to go and ruin it a moment later when Draco dug happily into his chocolates with a groan of bliss.

"How can you eat all that chocolate and not break out?" the blond had glared at his disdainfully over the lid of the box, mouth filled with the thick flavor of dark chocolate and vanilla crème filling. When he managed to swallow it all, he lifted his chin in the air.

"Malfoys never break out, Potter," he had sneered, though without any of the bite he'd once used, "It's in the breeding," it had earned him an eye roll and a chuckle and he had injected one last sniff before turning to his other two presents. If their mere presence was a surprise, then their senders were quite a shock.

Pansy had sent one. And while that in of itself had him slack-jawed, then the letter she sent with the beautiful, enchanted figurine of a jade snake left him speechless.

Dear Draco,

I know I have been distant this year and have not supported you when you needed it most, I wish to let you know that I am deeply sorry for that. You know I have never been selfless or one to stick my neck out for someone else but I should have for you. I know that by fifth year we started growing apart but I always thought we would be friends for the rest of our lives.

I wish for you to know that I still feel this way. When I witnessed what Smith did to you, my heart ached and I wished that I could be strong enough to stand with you. But I am not. Oh, my beautiful Draco, you are so much better than anyone realizes, and so very strong. You have been so brave, my dear.

So this is my pathetic attempt at an apology. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness but I hope that one day you can find it in yourself to look on me kindly. In the mean time, the snake I sent you will keep you company should you find yourself alone and will be your loyal companion until the day you die. I am told it can even communicate with real snakes or someone who can speak Parseltongue. Surely Potter can confirm it.

I hope, someday, you can be happy. Here is to wishing that for you,


He had to put the letter down once and cover his eyes, his throat tight. No, they hadn't been the best of friends; Pansy had often been too intense and stubborn for his liking when they were younger. But one thing that could be said about her was that she was loyal. The little green snake, just a little longer than the length of his forearm and gleaming a hard, pale green in the light, curled around his wrist and peered at him with twinkling emerald eyes.

Potter didn't ask about the letter or his sudden bout of emotion but apparently the jade snake did speak. And it was quite rude to the dark haired boy, much to Draco's amusement. It was given the name Scorpio.

Potter smiled ruefully when the blond finally got around to opening his last gift, a flat, square box that made no noise when he shook it. Eyeing the other boy curiously, he tore away the paper, which was less than expertly wrapped, then peeled open the lid with ill-concealed excitement.

Only to exclaim in amazement when out slithered a long, silvery cloak that flowed through his hands like water.

"The Weasley twins were commissioned to make Invisibility Cloaks for the Ministry when they were researching products to make people invisible," Potter exclaimed as Draco gathered the cloak in his hands, marveling over its beauty, "They studied the one I have and while they couldn't duplicate it exactly, the ones they made are quite successful. Of course, the Ministry will never know that," here, the other boy grinned and Draco blinked at him, still feeling like he had been pole-axed in the back of the head, "The twins told them they had been unsuccessful and kept the seven that they made private," the blond shook his head, swirling the cloak around his shoulders and gasping when his body instantly disappeared.

"Brilliant," he breathed, holding his invisible arms out as Potter laughed at him from his seat, "So, how did you manage to get one if it was kept so top-secret?" he asked, still distracted by his gift. The little snake hissed from its perch around his wrist, stone body feeling cold. Oh, yes, he was certainly invisible and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift.

"It was the money I won from the Triwizard Tournament that helped them start their company," he said with the ease and modesty that Draco had come to find only Potter seemed to possess, "Let's just say I'm invested," the blond whistled, then stood and pulled the cloak over his head, smiling when the other boy blinked at his disappearance.

"I had always wondered about that," he said as he stealthily made his way around Potter's chair, noting how those brilliant green eyes were trying and failing to find him. No wonder the other boy had gotten himself into so much trouble, if he had one of these cloaks. The dark head turned just as he leaned over the back of the chair and shoved Potter out of it, cracking up when the other boy tumbled out of it.

It deteriorated from there until the common room was a mess of balled up wrapping paper, garland from when it had gotten wrapped around Draco's leg when he was running away, and their laughter. By the time they made it to lunch, they were red in the face and Potter's hair was even more of a fright than usual.

And it was good.

The days swept by in a strange haze of strange happiness and the buzz of a new friendship that continued to teeter on the brink of something else. He realized that Pansy had gotten her wish and that he was happy, if not in the way he had ever imagined he would be. The war no longer mattered nor did affiliations or houses. A lion and a snake, it seemed, could get along better than he had ever thought possible.


Then, one day, several days after the New Year, Draco walked into the Great Hall for dinner to find the rest of the school had returned.

Once again, reality came crashing down on his head.


Draco stood frozen in the doorway of the Great Hall, horror drenching him in white-hot lava as nearly all of the eyes turned his way. How could he have forgotten that the rest of the students were returning that day? He was even positive Potter had mentioned something about it earlier but he hadn't been paying any attention. Because now nearly everyone was paying attention to him and he hated the way the judgment in their eyes suddenly had him progressing back to the way he felt only a few months ago.

Like he was less then worthy.

In reality, he knew it was probably not nearly as bad as it was before. There were newer, more interesting things to feed the voracious rumor mill now, plus news from the holidays. But the weight of the stares that did turn in his direction made his heart race and his face heat. And it made him, once again, feel hopelessly alone. He could see Weasley and Granger already sitting at the Gryffindor table but it seemed they had not noticed his entrance. Not that he wanted them to come to his rescue. Unpredictably, he found himself wishing there was someone else there to rescue him, someone he didn't see in the Hall. How Potter had become his security blanket he didn't know but he had and Draco didn't know how to change it.

As he thought that and turned around to make his escape, a voice called his name from the Slytherin table, welcoming and hopeful. The voice belonged to Pansy, standing at her seat, looking at him with an uncertain gaze and putting herself in a vulnerable position among their housemates. Maybe he did indeed still have a friend in Slytherin. Draco swallowed hard against the lump that had formed in the back of his throat. Everyone who hated him would now have a reason to turn on her as well.

She knew all of this and yet she had stilled called out him name and beckoned to the seat beside her. It surprised him how much he wanted to. Despite the sneers from some of the other students at his table, he desperately wished he had the courage to walk over there and sit down like he belonged.

Then there was a touch on his arm and he found himself staring into wide green eyes that smiled softly in a manner that was comfortingly familiar.

"Go on," Potter said softly, glancing over that the Slytherin table to where Pansy still nervously stood, "I'll see you in class," behind those words, Draco could hear the unspoken You'll be fine. In that moment, he believed them. With one last glance at the other boy that seemed to send a rippling hush over the hall, the blond squared his shoulders, lifted his chin and walked over to the seat that he should have been sitting in all along.

"Getting a little cozy with Potter there, aren't you?" Blaise jeered at him just as he reached the table, "Oh, but I guess a whore can't help that," Draco could feel heat rising up his neck, threatening to infuse his face with color and he sat down gracelessly, unable to think of a single come-back. Though that would only have made things worse. Then Pansy, bless her, proved that she was indeed contrite and was willing to be his friend no matter the obstacles.

"Piss off, Zabini. You're just jealous it isn't you," The rest of the table snickered at her words, words that tipped the balance in an instant. Blinking in surprise, Draco shot her a startled look before having the pleasure of seeing Blaise's face burning with rage and humiliation. Pansy just brushed her hair back and smiled sweetly at him, "Pass me a biscuit please, Draco," followed by a very soft, "I'm so glad you are back." As he took in her familiar pug nose and sharp, dark eyes, so was he.

Especially when he glanced over at the Gryffindor table to see Potter wink at him and smile slyly from behind his goblet.


"I have no one to talk to," The words came out of nowhere during potions class in the middle of February, Potter's gaze trained upon their cauldron with an intense determination. Taken by surprise, Draco stared at the other boy in surprise. By now the class was well into the brewing process of their Phasmatis Spiritus potion, which was now a dull, flat blue with flecks of silver floating in it. The others he could tell were struggling with it, even Granger, and Draco had to admit that it was not an easy potion to brew by any means. Yet so far his and Potter's continued to go smoothly.

"What for?" he asked now, noting the way his partner's shoulders had tensed and the tighter than strictly necessary grip he had on the stirring rod. This outburst was unexpected, to say the least. Potter had a lot of people he could talk to, didn't he? He certainly had enough of friends, including two who would give up everything for him. Then Draco really looked at the other boy, at the way he was gazing into the cauldron with a troubled expression on his face. At once he realized that Potter was talking about the potion and suddenly he didn't know what to say.

Surely, out of everyone in that classroom, including Draco, Potter had the most amount of people whom he could use the potion to speak to. Those brilliant green eyes flickered sideways, shadowed and unsure.

"Erm, well…" the other boy licked his lips and the blond forced himself not to notice the way they shone in the light, "I've sort of…already made my peace with them," there was a deep frown marring his features as Draco leaned in so he could hear his partner speaking. He found that he was mirroring the other boy's expression; he didn't much like it when he couldn't follow the thread of a conversation he himself was involved in.

"Okay," he said slowly as he sorted through a handful of dragon scales to find the two roundest, smoothest ones, "I don't get why that means you can't talk to them," there was a tense silence between them that lasted long enough for Draco to start believing Potter wouldn't answer. Then the other boy carefully put down the glass stirring rod he had been using and shifted a little closer to the blond, his soft, heady scent filling the space between them.

"I mean I already have spoken to them. My parents and Sirius and Remus," the words were practically whispered yet Draco heard him loud and clear. The brilliant green gaze met his own, steady and shadowed, filled with ghosts, haunted by darkness. It made him feel like he had been struck, paralyzed with a silently cast spell and it took him a moment to remember how to fill his lungs with air.

"You…how?" he breathed, having by now forgotten that they were in the middle of class and Granger and her partner Michael Corner were only a table away. Surely Potter couldn't mean what Draco thought he did. Did he? Had he really spoken to the dead…after they were dead? Unless he had somehow gotten his hands on a batch of the very potion they were currently brewing, which was impossible because Snape would not have just given his least favorite student any no matter how Potter might have begged. Not only that but the other boy had been just as surprised as everyone else when he had found out the purpose of the potion. They both found themselves making sure that Slughorn was concentrating on helping another student whose potion was looking a little sickly before drawing even closer together. Close enough for their breath to mingle and for that bright, unforgiving gaze to fill up Draco's vision completely.

"You know the story of the Deathly Hallows," Potter murmured and despite himself, Draco felt his heart skip a beat, "About the three brothers who met Death and were each granted a boon," Draco might have been annoyed about Potter having him on but the other boy's eyes never wavered, remaining straightforward and earnest in only the way Potter's could.

"That's a myth," the blond managed, voice rough and unsteady. He was rewarded a moment later with a slow, complicated smile that sent an odd chill down his spine. It wasn't a happy smile and he hated seeing it on Potter's face. It was gone a moment later but the darkness of it lingered in the emerald gaze.

"If only it were," the other boy murmured, breaking off to nod at Granger when she glanced up and noticed his and Draco's close proximity. He did back off, though, just enough for the blond to take an unstilted breath and realize he had barely been breathing, "It's not, though. I had all three in my possession at one time or other," this time his smile was amused and Draco closed his mouth with a snap of teeth. Still, he was flooded with overwhelming disbelief. Surely Potter was having a lark. He had to be.

Draco really, really hoped he was.

"I had the Resurrection Stone right before I…" he looked away and swallowed and Draco knew. He had heard at least that part of the story. Had been present, even, for a small portion of it. Still in shock, he reached out and touched one of the other boy's boney wrists, drawing that gaze quickly back to his face. Oh, yes, he was so haunted by the past year that Draco could see the memory taking almost solid form in Potter's eyes.

"Maybe this potion won't work for you, then," he said softly, not realizing it would be comforting until the other boy looked at him with hopeful gratitude in written all over his face. Draco doubted his own words but he was rather glad he had said them if only to see the easing of that haunted expression. Potter moved back to the cauldron that was hissing softly to itself. It would need the next step in a few minutes but for the moment they let it sit.

"I'd really prefer if it didn't," the dark haired boy said softly, that frown back on his face, the one that made Draco want to do ridiculous things just to see it go away. Which was a distinctly uncomfortable feeling and he decided that ignoring it would make it go away. Taking a deep breath, the blond cleared his throat and reached for the roll of parchment that had the potion's instructions written on it.

"So, studying Charms in the library tonight?" he asked, voice probably louder than it needed to be. He had been going to study with Potter and company for the past month and a half, ever since school had started up after Christmas holidays and he was glad when the other boy glanced at him with a crooked grin.

"Yeah, sure. Bring Parkinson with you," Draco's eyebrows shot up, making Potter laugh and earning them both a beady look from Slughorn, "I know, I can't believe I said that either. But she has an uncanny knack for Charms," well, that much was true but the words were still sounded odd coming out of Potter's mouth. As he laughed softly and agreed with the other boy, Draco realized something that made his stomach drop.

He really quite liked Potter.

That in itself wasn't a problem. They were friends, after all. But it was more than that. A friend wouldn't make his heart stutter whenever Potter smiled and a friend wouldn't make his face heat every time that steady, piercing green gaze touched upon him. Oh, and how his hair fell into his face and the way he smelled of open skies and something distinctly male. Draco was able to control the way his body reacted but it was a close thing.

It was terrifying.

He was falling for Potter and it scared him so much, he could feel panic licking at his awareness every time he thought about it. This had happened once before in the beginning of the year with Zach and he knew his heart couldn't handle another betrayal. Even when his head told him that Potter would never even think to do something like Zach had, the possibility that it could made his chest ache and his stomach cramp. Then he would think about the way Potter's voice sounded when he said he wanted Draco, thought about that bright, burning kiss and for some reason the thought of his feelings being returned frightened him even more.

So when he turned away to put the next ingredient into the cauldron, he told himself he didn't think Potter's husky chuckle was sexy and his heart hadn't skipped a beat when he caught sight of that lovely, crooked smile.

Because if there was one thing he knew, it was that he could not fall in love with Harry Potter.


Draco leaned his head on his hand, bored silly. Usually he enjoyed Arithmancy but for some reason Professor Vector's voice was droning and he was fighting to keep his eyes open. His little jade snake was dozing in a lose coil around his wrist and he wanted nothing to join it. Beside him, Granger was studiously scribbling down notes and he figured he could get away with one day of not paying attention. He had a feeling she would let him borrow her notes if he asked. More than just bored, though, he was quite tired too. He had been up for hours after he had gone to bed thinking about Potter.

Specifically, how he felt about Potter. Or how he didn't want to feel but just couldn't help it. Or how, no matter how he tried, he felt himself being pulled backwards, into that gravitational force that seemed to surround the dark haired boy. It was a force Draco knew he had no hope of escaping and that just made it all the more frightening. What was it about Harry Potter that ensorcelled all of his thoughts and bewitched him beyond hope? Draco had even, in his despair, asked his mother a variation of that very question but she had been unable to offer an answer. Not that he really expected her too. Though he was a bit annoyed that she didn't seem to be surprised at all by his attraction. In fact, she encouraged it.

But he could not allow anything to happen, even if Potter was still interested. Which Draco rather thought he wasn't. Not one word had been mentioned about it and he seemed to act no different towards the blond as he did with all his other friends. Not that he could tell. It was difficult to convince himself that this was a good thing and that by receiving no encouragement from the other party, it would be that much easier to get over this ridiculous crush he seemed to have developed.

Besides, it was dangerous for him to even entertain the hope. Dangerous for himself. Dangerous for the condition of his heart. His father had always called him soft-hearted, easily hurt by outside things but his mother once told him that it was not soft hearted-ness but purity of heart. He had never liked inflicting pain on others and could not seem to handle very well pain also inflicted upon himself. Especially emotional matters. Zach's betrayal had cut something deep inside of him because he had already known that trusting someone based on how they smiled at him was a great risk. But he had taken it thinking that at least some of his feelings were being returned. It was crippling to learn that they were not.

So what if the same thing happened with Potter? He already knew that the other boy's warm Gryffindor heart would never be so cruel to another human being but Draco thought that noble sacrifice and pity would almost be worse. And surely no one except his mother could love him for the rest of his life. Who would want to? It was all so hopelessly lonely, being forced to think in such a manner, but he knew he would never be able to stand it if he was left loving someone that no longer felt anything for him in return.

After a few hours of hopeless reflection, Draco was also forced to realize that he had spent many, many long nights over the years in that very bed wearing himself out with thoughts of Potter. They were not always so charitable, no, but the other boy had been a staple in his life ever since they were both eleven. It made him wonder what he would do when school ended and Potter was no longer in his life. They might be friends now but he doubted they would see much of each other once the NEWTs were taken and they had found lives of their own.

The thought scared him so much that he had forced himself to shut it down all together and had finally managed to fall asleep. But now he was in danger of drifting off in class and the thoughts that had plagued him the night before were still knocking distractingly against the insides of his skull. The noise they were creating were threatening to give him a giant headache, already pressing heavily against his temples.

It stood to reason that he missed the end of class and was only jarred back to reality when Granger tapped gently on his shoulder. Her brown eyes reflected concern as she fixed her overweight bag on her shoulder.

"Class is over, Malfoy," she said softly, kindly. The show of worry made him feel strange. Lonely, "You look a bit peaky. Are you alright?" he made a show of gathering his books and casually putting them back into his own bag. Despite his efforts, he moved clumsily and knew it had been noticed.

"Yes, just tired," he reassured her, following her from the classroom, "I didn't sleep well last night," which was the truth. He never did. Not since the war. Not since living in a house that had been taken over by evil. Not since Voldemort's mark had been burned into his arm. Even last night, after he had managed sleep, it had been filled with confusing dreams of huge, shadowy snakes and sweet kisses from a boy who had already died. Granger just hummed in response, face troubled. Draco bet she was thinking of the nightmares she herself no doubt was plagued with and they walked side by side in silent thought. It wasn't until she broke the stillness hovering around them with an exclamation that he realized he was having a moment with a girl he used to hate.

He supposed that he didn't hate her anymore.

"Oh! I nearly forgot!" startled, he paused his stride when Granger screeched to a halt in order to hunt around in her school bag that seemed to hold quite a bit more than its size suggested. Her bushy hair fell about her face in wild curls and Draco wondered what he had thought so awful about her. She was just another person that happened to be born with a gift of magic. Just another girl. When she found what she was looking for with a bright 'ah-ha!' Draco was suddenly very glad the Dark Lord had not won the war, "Harry asked me to give this to you,"

And just like that Draco's heart leaped into his throat and his stomach flip-flopped in the most nauseating way.

Granger was holding a letter out to him, the envelope small and the parchment ordinary. On it was scrawled his own name in sloppy, familiar handwriting. His chest ached to see it because he had a sharp, sinking feeling that he knew exactly what was written. He was terrified that his hunch would prove to be correct and it was with shaking fingers that he tore it open.


Meet me in front of the tapestry at the end of the hall on the sixth floor before dinner tonight.


Upon reading it, Draco felt his stomach drop and his heart slammed painfully in his chest. Alarm bells were wailing in his head; or at least there should have been alarms rather than the fluttering excitement flapping about in the pit of his stomach. There was only one reason Potter would want to meet him alone and in a part of the castle that students only visited when they didn't want to be interrupted. The other boy had already told Draco in the very beginning how he felt and just because he hadn't brought it up since then didn't mean he wouldn't.

About feelings they seemed to mutually share.

About feelings that were entirely impossible and Draco couldn't allow to


With a deep breath, he tucked the note back into its envelope with fingers that continued to shake and he just gave Granger a bland half-smile before heading off to their last class of the day. When she asked about it, he just shrugged and said it was nothing.

Because nothing was all it could be.


Potter was indeed waiting where he said he would be, pacing back and forth on the stone floor as if he wanted to wear a hole right through it. His messy black hair stood on end and as Draco paused down the hall to quietly observe, long fingers were shoved through the dark mass, making it even more unruly. He told himself the other boy's anxiety wasn't cute. Not at all. If he started allowing himself to think like that, there was no way he could do this. There was no way he could refuse Potter.

And refuse him he must.

Taking a deep breath and steeling for what he knew would end in heartbreak, he stepped into the hallway, allowing his shoe to scuff against the floor so Potter would hear him coming. At once he was struck, heart banging painfully in the back of his throat, when those startling green eyes met his own from across the hall. And then Potter's entire face lit up, an easy, crooked smile curling on the corners of his lips and Draco suddenly had a hard time breathing. It was as if a Stunning spell had come out of nowhere and exploded right in the middle of his chest. Maybe he couldn't do this. He wanted this boy so bad, he could feel the ache right down to his bones but any relationship between a former Death Eater and the Savior of the Wizarding world could never be.

Draco had to force himself not to falter. He had to force himself not to smile back and to keep his expression calm and cool. He had to stop himself from just dashing over to the other boy and kissing that stupid, beautiful smile off Potter's face. He could be wiping it off anyway in just a few minutes. The very thought made his chest ache.

"Hey," Potter greeted shyly, rubbing the palms of his hands against the rough material of his jeans, "You got my note?" fuck, Draco really didn't want to do this. Couldn't they have just circled around each other for the rest of the year until they graduated and then went their own separate ways? That way, he could have been allowed to forget without ever being forced to confront his feelings. With an arch of one eyebrow and his arms crossed over his chest, Draco curled the corner of his lips in a smirk.

"That much would be obvious," he said dryly, hating the way it made Potter laugh in self-deprecation. How ironic it was, this situation. He had once wanted nothing more than to find a way to tear this boy down but now that the opportunity had arisen, Draco found his own feelings standing in the way, "Why all the secrecy?" he managed to ask, though his throat felt dryer than sand, "Not very Gryffindor of you," the comment made Potter lift one shoulder and turn his green, green eyes to Draco's. It made the blond feel like he had pinned to the spot.

"No, I suppose not," they fell into a short, charged silence that had his palms prickling with anxiety and he resisted the urge to shift around in place. Then Potter cleared his throat and looked away, hands plucking nervously at the edge of his t-shirt, "I know this is might seem sudden but I…"he broke off, bit his lip then looked up at Draco from under his fringe, making the blond feel like he had been slain right through the chest with a lance, "I'm…in love with you, Draco," well, so much for not being very Gryffindor about it.

The words sent a ripple of wonder and elation through him and he had to clamp down against it lest it escape in a way he knew he would regret later. Draco took a deep breath and then another before mentally reassuring the supports of his mask of his indifference. Then he did the hardest thing he was sure he would ever have to do, including surviving the reign of Voldemort.

"Surely you are just joking, Potter," he said, voice even and holding a noticeable amount of distain. Those fucking amazing brilliant eyes flickered, hurt and uncertainty dulling them a fraction. A shaky smile tugged at the corners of the other boy's full lips, a heartbreaking thing to see. Draco wanted nothing more than to flee so he wouldn't have to witness the way he hurt Potter.

"Joking?" the other boy murmured, clearly confused and judging by the trembling that had started at Potter's lips, terror. That horrible, wrenching terror of being rejected. Draco physically ached, "Why would I—" the blond crossed his arms and arched one eyebrow.

"I don't know, Potter. Why would you?" so harsh he wielded his words, an unfeeling sword that seemed to pierce the other boy for he to flinched and deflated upon himself. Draco wondered if there would be little crescent shaped cuts on the palms of his hands from clenching his fists so hard. It would ruin the façade if he were to reach out and touch that messy dark hair or press his fingertips to those faintly trembling lips. No matter how much he wanted to.

"But…it's not a joke, Draco," Draco. When had Potter started using his first name? He tried to recall the moment or the day it started but he couldn't. Even in the little notes Potter sent him, the other boy had been calling him by his first name for a while. Why had he not noticed? How could he have missed it?

"Really." He said flatly and watched as Potter fidgeted, "This is a rather sudden development. Can't be my friend without wanting to fuck me?" the taunt was low and it hurt him as much to say it as it seemed to hurt Potter. Along with the hurt, though, anger was starting to build, flaring like fire behind those striking eyes.

"No!" the other boy practically shouted then huffed a deep breath as he ran his fingers through his thick hair, "No, damn it. That's not what this is," Draco felt like he was drowning in green and his breath caught in the back of his throat, "I'm serious here, you know," Potter mumbled and the way his face was starting to crumble, Draco was terrified that the other boy would start to cry. Merlin, he didn't think he could handle it if that happened. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and touched Potter's shoulder, bringing that unrelenting stare back to his face.

"I can't, Harry," he whispered, unaware that his voice was full of regret, "I'm sorry but I can't," with those words, the rest of Potter's vestige seemed to crumple, heartbreak filling his expressive green eyes and sending a shock of pain to Draco's heart. Then the other boy forced himself to smile, the action clearly causing him pain.

"Okay," and if his voice broke on that one single word, it didn't crack the fragile, fake smile that was pasted over his lips.

Unable to watch anymore, Draco turned tail and ran, forgetting that he didn't want to be a coward anymore. Away, away, he wanted to fly to the very ocean and lose himself in the waves. When they ate his body, maybe they would eat his soul too and he would never have to remember the way the boy he loved looked when Draco refused his affections.

When Draco reached his dorm room, he cried and cried, hating that he had to go and fall in love with the one person he could never hope to be worthy of. He cried because that person loved him back.


It took Draco three weeks to realize that he might have might have been wrong after all.

Three weeks of avoiding the one person that had made his last year at Hogwarts bearable. Three weeks of once again going through his days virtually alone, though Pansy certainly tried hard to make up the difference and her little gift snake was a reassuring weight on his wrist. Three weeks of seeing Weasley and Grager's confused stares and, much, much worse, three weeks of seeing Potter wandering around looking like a ghost.

Three weeks of harboring the pain of that awful day, of that one rejection ushered by himself and three weeks for him to realize that he looked no better than Potter did.

It was at dinner, on the fifth day of the third week, that he knew he had made a huge mistake.

Looking across the hall with Pansy prattling on in his ear, seeing that dark head bowed miserably over the table as Potter tried to force food down his throat, Draco knew that as much as he feared the heartbreak to come later, things could not remain as they were.

If there was one thing that he learned from the war was that he needed to correct the mistakes he made.


Draco didn't think about what happened next.

Not a single hesitation or doubt flickered across his consciousness. The only thing he was aware of was a sudden burning determination and the desire to make the miserable expression on Potter's face to go away. More than that, he simply wanted the other boy. Merlin, how he wanted and he could see now that it would never go away. Though it had only been three weeks, he knew that this bright, consuming emotion he felt for Harry Potter would never go away. This was the one. The one love that he would never be able to replace, even should he live to be two hundred years old; the one he would never be able to let go.

So, for as long as he possibly could, that was what he was going to do.

Not let go.

The murmurs started as he was halfway across the Hall, his strides eating the ground in his hurry to reach the Gryffindor table. He could hear the surprised whispers and the other students' questioning looks tickled the back of his neck like puffs of stale air. But he didn't care about everyone else. He only cared about how that dark head lifted, confusion darkening those beautiful green eyes before they landed on Draco making his way purposely through the Great Hall. As soon as their gazes met, an electric shock burst through Draco's body, tingling along his nerves and making him feel both hot and cold. By then he was rounding the end of the table, heart beating frantically at the back of his throat and tremors of anxiety making his fingers twitch. All the while, Potter watched him, eyes wide with surprise and an undeniable flicker of hope that made Draco's heart soar.

And then he was right there, right in front of the other boy who had turned in his seat in order to keep the blond within sight.

There was a visible question on Potter's lips and perhaps he might have even asked it but Draco heard nothing over the rush of blood in his ears. He body was moving without consent of his conscious mind, which clearly seemed to have gone off to fairyland somewhere. He could only watch on as his own feet stopped behind the other boy's chair and his own hand reached out to take a fistful of Potter's t-shirt in order to haul him to his feet. No matter that Potter almost stumbled in the process or that most of the school was in uproar now. No matter that there was clear confusion in Potter's bright green gaze or in the ready protest on his parted lips.

No matter because Draco was kissing him.

Right there in the middle of the hall, kissing him with every ounce of feeling he had in him. At first it was just a mashing of lips and teeth, knocking together hard enough that he heard a grunt of pain from the other boy. Potter's mouth had been open in astonishment and his lips frozen and impassive. So Draco backed off, softened the contact, catching that full bottom lip between his own and all at once it was perfect.

Potter tasted like pumpkin juice and something starchy, his own unique flavor making Draco's senses tingle. His hands were tangled in the dark hair as he tired to pull the other boy closer, opening his mouth wider, wanting to disappear inside the hot, slick slide of their kiss. In the tangle of their tongues and the way Potter's hands had found their way into Draco's fine hair. In the hot mingling of their breath and the way Potter seemed to be just as winded as Draco. It was sloppy and too wet and wonderful.

Unfortunately, it couldn't last forever and kiss broke far too soon after it started. He didn't think he would ever forget, however, what it tasted like to have Harry on his tongue. Or the way those brilliant eyes looked just moments after they kissed. There was a roaring and a flurry of movement around them but he only had eyes for one person. Who, at the moment, looked both pleasantly dazed and puzzled.

"What are you—" the other boy began but Draco cut him off before the questions had a chance to completely solidify.

When he spoke, he did it so that only Potter could hear him over the mounting commotion in the Hall, voice rushed and rough, "I refused you out of fear but I need to tell you that I return your sentiments and I apologize for the pain my refusal caused. I'm…I'm sorry…" his entire being vibrated as he waited for the other boy's response. He didn't need to wait very long. Harry's face broke into a bright grin, the expression making his eyes gleam in the light of the floating candles and he threw his arms around the blond with a bright laugh.

"There's not getting rid of me now, you know," Potter murmured with a rumbling chuckle that sent heat trickling through Draco's chest until his insides felt like they were drenched in sunlight.

Something within him released, something tight and dark that he had been carrying around with him since the war. The shadows in his heart slowly began to shred and blow away, like mist caught in a gale. He felt lighter, freer, than he had since he was a child.

Then all at once the rest of the world came rushing back in a flurry of shouts and voices crying out in outrage, the Hogwarts student body, and much of the staff, in a tizzy over the fact that Draco Malfoy had kissed Harry Potter. He wanted to laugh out loud, to dance, to flaunt it in their faces. Potter was his and there was nothing any of them do about it. Somewhere in the middle of it all, he could see Pansy standing at her seat and grinning like a loon while Weasley's booming voice was added into the fray,

"It's about time, mate!" and the smile that curled over Draco's lips felt like a fracture in the earth that let sunlight into places never once before touched by warmth. Then Harry was capturing his hand and dragging him from the Hall, away from the jeers and cat-calls, attention both good and bad. Just before the heavy door closed behind them, he peered into the Great Hall and over the majority of angry, shocked faces, glimpsed McGonagall sitting in her seat wearing a small yet warm smile of approval.

And then Harry was dragging him away, saying something with an excited laugh catching in his voice and Draco let himself be moved along.

This moment was worth everything else he had suffered in the last year. It didn't matter that he had no idea what the future held and how much it would hurt him should his fears came to pass. Suddenly it didn't seem to matter. Because wasn't important. It was the warmth and joy bubbling in his chest right at that very moment that was the most important thing of all. It was their breathless laughter and the feel of Harry's hand in his and the burning excitement in the other boy's eyes every time he turned to look at Draco over his shoulder. Maybe later he would be embarrassed at putting on such a display for the entire school and he would fret over the kinds of articles that would be written about them in the Prophet.

But at the moment, he didn't care. Harry's hand was in his and they loved each other and that was okay.

When they finally stopped their headlong flight away from the Great Hall, Harry pushed him into a secluded corridor and pressed his lithe body against Draco's, breath hot in the blond's face.

"It's definitely about time," Harry whispered and as he moved in for a kiss, Draco agreed.


"NEWTs start tomorrow," Potter, or Harry as Draco had started to allow himself to think of the other boy, looked windswept and very touchable in the watery Scottish sun. It was a warm day, with nary a chill in the wind that blew down from the mountains. It was the first warm, dry day they'd had in a while, in fact. One storm after another had buffeted the castle for the last several weeks and the only time anyone had dared venture from the safety of Hogwarts grey walls had been for the final Quidditch match of the school year.

Surprisingly enough, Ravenclaw had reared up in a display of raw determination (and not a small amount of dirty playing) to snatch the Cup right from under Gryffindor's nose, much to Harry and Weasley's dismay but to Draco's delight. He might get on with a few of them now but that didn't mean he wanted Gryffindor to win the Cup. Still, it had been a miserable game that lasted five hours in the driving rain and Weasley still swore the Ravenclaw seeker caught the snitch by accident. Draco was privately inclined to agree but he would never say as much aloud.

Now he looked at Harry as they stood side by side at the lake, taking in the wild black hair and distant green eyes. They had been together for the past two months, much to the dismay of most of the school and, as soon as the news of their relationship had hit the papers, the rest of the Wizarding World. Draco had gotten no less than sixteen Howlers and had ignored every single one. Harry was the one he wanted and the longer they were together, the more they kissed, touched, loved each other, the more convinced he was that Harry would always be the one.

"Bite your tongue, Potter," he said sharply, feigning annoyance, "here I am trying to enjoy this rare appearance of sunlight and you have to go and bring up the NEWTs. Have you no humanity?" Harry rolled his eyes at Draco's dramatics, no doubt used to it by now. But he smiled too and briefly touched cool fingertips to the inside of Draco's palm. It sent a sliver of warmth through the blond's chest and he returned the touch for a fleeting moment.

"Sorry," the other boy murmured in good humor, "I'll refrain from being inhuman," to which Draco could only snort out a laugh. The light mood lasted only a short time before the shadows of ghosts flickered in the depths of Harry's eyes. He knew at once what had drawn those ghosts out of hiding but he was unsure how to broach the subject. For a while he watched Harry stare out over the lake, the silence between them heavy and the need for Draco to reach out to offer comfort even heavier. If there was one thing he had learned in the past few weeks, however, it was that when Harry began to brood, it was best to wait it out. At least until the other boy was ready to speak out.

As the sounds of other students taking advantage of the warmer weather echoed back to them from over the glassy surface of the water, Harry reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a familiar phial of pale silver potion.

Draco felt his throat dry up at the sight and his hands turned clammy.

"As much as I told myself I wouldn't use it, the temptation is stronger than I thought it would be," Harry's voice was raw and low as he examined the little bottle in his hand. It looked so innocuous; just another project grade for Potions class. Yet it had the power to pull souls from the afterlife so they could interact with the living. He could understand the temptation that it posed, as there were many things that he wished he could say to his father and Crabbe, whose death still sent a pang of guilt through him.

Everyone else had given up their potions to Slughorn, much to the Professor's disappointment. The deaths from the war were still too raw and real and being able to talk to the deceased ghosts wouldn't make the losses any easier to bear. They were the only ones who had taken theirs but Draco was beginning to wish they hadn't.

So when Harry reared back and threw the little phial into the lake, Draco just smiled and secretly breathed a sigh of relief before sidling sideways so he could wind his fingers around Harry's. At once it felt like that heavy, pressing weight had been lifted and when the green eyes turned to him, the haunted expression was already receding.

"I think it would have been nice to talk to Sirius again," the other boy murmured, voice nearly blending in with the stiff breeze but the lightness in the set of his shoulders suggested he was glad he had thrown the potion away, "I don't think I could stand another visit from my parents, though. They've done enough for me," Draco stepped closer, close enough that their breath mingled and he could curl an arm around Harry's slender waist.

"You don't need to talk to them to know they loved you. They did," their lips brushed and Harry smiled a bit, "But there are those of us here that love you just as much," if Draco's cheeks burned bright red, the kiss they shared a moment later made his embarrassment worth it. When they broke apart, Harry was smiling and the return of his feelings burned in the depths of his eyes.

"Come on," Harry said, catching the blond's hand and beginning to tug him back towards the castle, "lets go see if Hermione will help us study for Charms," his smile was bright and the warmth of their connected hands made Draco's heart flutter madly in his chest. Laughing, he let himself be dragged across the grounds to where Weasley and Granger were lounging under the shade of a tree, books already spread around them on the lawn.

"You might be a moron but I don't need help studying, you twit!" he half shouted at Harry. Those brilliant eyes turned back and the other boy laughed out an 'I know' before continuing down the slope to his friends.

And Draco, feeling lighter than he had in years, followed.


Sex, Draco decided through the hot, thrumming pulse of pleasure, was so much better when it was with someone he loved. Warm skin under his palms, damp with sweat that gleamed in the rich, buttery summer sunlight that spilled in through the window above their heads, shifted with each of their movements. They couldn't contain themselves long enough to make it to the stairs, let alone a bed. The moment he and Harry had stepped through the front door at Grimmuald Place, they had been all over each other, lips hot and demanding, hands everywhere, tongues tangled in a desperate kiss. In fact, he supposed it was a feat that they even managed to make it out of the front hall and into the adjoining sitting room.

Looking down at the man underneath him now, though, he wondered how he had controlled himself at all. Under the worn t-shirts and baggy jeans, Harry's skin was as smooth and as pale as moonlight and his dark hair, black as pitch, caught wildly on the dusty carpet. Most of his clothes were off now, torn away in a flurry of passion only to catch at his wrists and ankles. Though this was not the first time they had done this, Draco still could not get over how beautiful Harry really was. With those green eyes half-lidded in desire, the color of them dark and liquid, and those slender legs wrapped around Draco's waist, he was sure he would never want anything more.

And, oh, the heat of Harry's body that gripped his cock every time he pushed in, in, in. Just a few strokes and he knew he could come. Deeper, he pressed, long, even thrusts out and sharp, penetrating dives in. With every in, Harry let out a small, breathless ah, fingers gripping at Draco's shoulders and breaking his skin with his fingernails. He didn't care. He would catch sight of those marks later in the bathroom mirror and he would feel stupid and warm and giddy.

The best part happened right then; the moment that he struck Harry's prostate, making him cry out and tighten, which made Draco's control melt into a ribbon of liquid heat that curled low in his belly. Every time it got to him. The way Harry threw his head back with abandon, the way he gasped desperately for air, the way he felt, so good, deep inside.

And Draco always knew it was unbearably good when Harry made not a sound when he came.

It was always so good.

His life had become something like a dream. Since graduating from Hogwarts, he had been staying with Harry at the oddly familiar yet dank Black family home. He didn't have his own home to return to and was unwilling to ask his mother for money to procure his own flat. Besides, Harry had invited him and he decided it would have been very lonely without the other boy.

Draco had managed an O on his Potions and Arithmacy NEWTS and Es on Transfiguration, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts. He had almost laughed with relief because with those grades, he could now apply to start his training to become a Potions Master like he had been dreaming about since he was nine. A dream he had almost given up on because of the growing lack of confidence he had in himself. Harry had taken one look at his results and grinned, pressing a kiss to his temple.

"I knew you were amazing," it was the boost Draco needed, especially since there had been nothing but warm sincerity in Harry's voice.

Harry himself shattered everyone's expectations for him and did not put in for Auror training. Even his best friend, who signed up for training the very next day after their graduation, was shocked. But Harry, when put on the spot the following week, just shrugged and refused to look hassled.

"I'm done chasing after criminals and dark wizards. I'll take my time and figure out something to do with myself. In the mean time," at that moment, he had thrown his arm around Draco's shoulders and given him a smile that had the blond feeling a little stupid and a lot embarrassed, "I'd just like to spend time for me," and Draco knew by the gleam in those intense emerald eyes they would be rolling around together in a bed in about an hour.

Indeed, it was the best month of Draco's life. Though his birthday he had watched slip by with nary a mention, he didn't care. He was with Harry and his life was finally starting to look like it wouldn't stay bleak forever. The day after he's graduated Hogwarts, he had put in an appeal to the Wizmanot to get his mother's banishment revoked. It would take some time but he was hopeful for the hearing that had been set at the end of August. Even if she decided that she wished to stay abroad, at least she could still visit her home whenever she wanted. She had, of course, sent her blessing to him and Harry as soon as she heard the news of their attachment. The letter had made him ache for missing her but he knew he would see her again soon, even if that meant he had to visit her in France. Harry had seemed rather excited when he brought the topic up, stating he had always wanted to travel outside of Britain. It made Draco feel warm and hopeful for their future.

Oh, they still fought. In fact, they had more fights now than they did when they were at odds in school. But the fights merely led to amazing make-up sex that was just this side of too-violent and it was always fantastic. Draco couldn't ask for more.

As he lay on the floor beside Harry as they trembled and tried to catch their breath, Draco found he was unable to contain the bubble of delight expanding in his chest and let it burst free in a rasping laugh that had Harry glancing over at him with a questioning look on his face. But he couldn't stop laughing. Though his arm was still marked and his father was still dead and he could never see his childhood home again, he was free. Free from it all; the bleak darkness that haunted his path from the very moment he was born a Malfoy, the fear and the bitter rage that had very nearly consumed his heart. Because he had a future and he had a man who loved him.

Worried green eyes filled his vision and he stopped laughing so he could tackle Harry back to the ground and whisper a soft "I love you," in his ear. Worry melted and strong arms came up to wrap around his neck, reciprocation filling the space between them.

It was enough.

Because Draco was victorious.

. . . . .