In the fortnight leading up to the re-opening, when reconstructions have been completed and volunteers are no longer required at the castle, Draco takes to wasting the entire day in his room at the Manor, keeping well clear of human company, especially his mother's. He even stops going in to help George and cuts off contact with Weasley (who would never be 'Ron' in Draco's mind) and Granger altogether.

He is afraid that people will take one look at his face, and just know what he is thinking. Because really, as the first day of September approaches, his mind is so completely focused on one singular thing - or person, rather - that Draco assumes his stupid feelings must be plain as day for all and sundry to see, as if they had been scrawled across his forehead in ink.

Whenever he tries to divert himself, angry that just the idea of Potter can make him feel as anxious as a fourteen-year-old Hufflepuff fan-girl, he reads his textbooks, trying to soak up as much information as he can before term begins.

He has been placing second in his grade every year up to and including fifth, but he has plans to change that this time around. He might be kind of friendly with Granger now, but that doesn't mean he isn't going to try his hardest to graduate with straight O NEWTs - for himself this time, so that he can do whatever he wants after school, not for his father's approval.

With this in mind, he studies hard, sometimes during the day with the last rays of summer sun pouring in from the bay windows in his room, sometimes into all hours of the night using the light of a kerosene lamp. It isn't taxing for Draco - he hasn't been sleeping well anyway. At best, he can manage two, maybe three, hours a night. He's become used it to, really. It has been happening ever since Azkaban. No more dreams, just the inability to drift into unconsciousness until the early hours of the morning.

As such, in those last two weeks, the house elves bring all his meals to the room while he memorizes spells and makes copious notes and brews several potions that they will be studying that year.

Mostly though, to his great consternation, he just keeps thinking about Potter.

The anticipation, the burning, twisting hope, that Potter will be coming back from wherever he'd fucked off to, the idea that Draco would be seeing him again - in classes and at mealtimes and in the corridors…

It is enough to keep Draco occupied for hours, on edge, wearing his carpet with incessant pacing.

Merlin knows he's thought about the boy wonder often enough over the past year, while lying awake in bed or while in the shower. So, then, deep down he's perfectly aware that his anxious need for the first day of term to just get here already is evidence of the fact that it's not just a physical attraction, this thing he has where Potter's concerned. But just as he had evaded discussing the issue with Pansy, so too does he avoid confronting, even to himself, exactly why this is so important, the fact that he'll be seeing Potter in the flesh again.

Then, the morning of September first dawns, a grey Sunday, and he's barely able to spoon his porridge into his mouth at breakfast.

"What is it, darling? Has Poesy burnt it again?" His mother's voice is weak and tired.

The tiny creature in the corner, dressed in a clean white tea-cosy, waiting for them to finish so she can clear their dishes away, trembles violently. Why, Draco doesn't know. Granger's new laws stipulate that corporal or verbal abuse is no longer acceptable against the elves. In any case, his father had always been the one to punish the help.

"No, Mother, not at all." He eats as much as he can, left hand twisting under the table, clenched tight around a rolled-up copy of Rita Skeeter's article from the day before, the one that all but confirms Potter is coming back.

Packed and ready, Draco does nothing but pace for the entire day. When the sun disappears over the horizon, his mother walks him through Hogsmeade, up to the school gates. She looks as though she is going to burst into tears at any second. A side-effect of the war, this proneness she's developed to (often bed-ridden) weeping.

He loves her more than he's ever loved anyone, and he's going to miss her too, but they've never been a particularly demonstrative family, so he presses his right cheek to hers just as he had for seven consecutive years on Platform Nine and Three Quarters. To his surprise, she draws him into her arms like she had when he'd been a small child, pulling away only after several long minutes, pushing him gently towards the gates, brushing her eyes with her left hand, his father's ring still there.

His stomach clenches painfully as he walks away from her, relaxing only slightly when he remembers the promise he'd extracted from his Aunt Andromeda - that she would take her of his mother.

He nods to Granger and Weasley on the way inside the Great Hall, still mostly empty because the carriages haven't arrived yet. They perk up and wave back madly, looking like a pair of graceless idiots truthfully. He rolls his eyes, despite the fond smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Without Pansy and Vince and Greg this year, it's nice to have people notice, and be glad, that he's there.

Draco doesn't talk to anyone as the tables fill up, doesn't hear a word of the Sorting Hat's song, doesn't clap when terrified-looking first years scurry over to join the half-empty Slytherin table.

His palms feel sticky.

Where is Potter?

Why isn't he at the Feast?

Several times, he glances over to the Gryffindor table to see that Granger and Weasley look about as restless as he feels. So they had been expecting Potter back too. Beside them, Weasley's sister seems to be either on the verge of tears or about to curse someone with her horrible Bat-Bogey Hex, Longbottom helplessly patting her on the back.

Over the past year, Draco hasn't ever so much as asked Granger or Weasley a single question about Potter (it would have been too uncomfortable with all that history) - but Pansy, with her love of collating and spreading good gossip, had told him once in seventh year as they passed notes to each other in class, with that horrible Alecto Carrow smiling at them indulgently, that while Potter had been MIA from Hogwarts, Ginny Weasley had taken up with Longbottom instead. Draco hadn't seen much of either of them during reconstructions, but he had overheard Granger, about a month ago, telling Dean Thomas that the Weaselette had been signed onto the Holyhead Harpies side for the next six months, would be taking Longbottom on tour with her, the pair of them not returning to finish their schooling.

As such, Draco doesn't know why, as someone not even attending Hogwarts, and as Potter's ex-girlfriend, she should be looking so upset at his continued absence. More worryingly, he doesn't understand why, as someone who had formerly claimed to hate Potter with such shocking regularity that even Vince had told him to shut the fuck up once, he himself should be glaring daggers at Weasley's sister, a feeling of completely inexplicable sense of envy burning through him.

McGonagall stands and makes her address. He doesn't exactly pay attention but claps politely when it's over anyway because when he'd offered his services in the reconstructions, she'd only pressed her lips together for a few seconds before bizarrely offering him a ginger biscuit, and saying, "Well then I do hope you're prepared to spend twelve months working very hard indeed, Mr. Malfoy," her harsh Scottish brogue matching her severe expression.

After another thirty minutes, the chattering among returning students dies down. The extravagant platters of food weighing down the tables disappear. People start moving towards the exit.

The Feast is over and Potter hasn't come back.

Draco tries not to think about why that makes him feel like he's going to be sick.

After that almost debilitating encounter with Potter during Monday's breakfast, he is absolutely useless for the rest of the day.

In that morning's Potions lesson, he feels like someone has simultaneously cast a Cheering Charm on him and locked him in a room with a Dementor. He can feel himself trembling for the entire hour, not knowing what to do now that he is actually sitting right next to this person that he hasn't been able to stop thinking about for so long. Especially when Potter clearly wishes he could be anywhere else if the extremely wary (and extremely fleeting) looks he keeps shooting Draco are anything to go by.

Draco doesn't even know why he acts like such a bastard during the lesson. By all accounts, he had been ready to get down on bended knees and beg for Potter's forgiveness after what had transpired at the trial…but that had been before Potter had left.

Is that the reason, then, that the instant Potter speaks to him in a quiet voice infused with sincere gratitude for saving Teddy Lupin's life, Draco feels an irrational burst of anger welling up inside himself? Does he resent Potter for his disappearing act, leaving behind the Weasleys and Granger and Teddy and…other people who might have relied on him?

He doesn't understand the artless tumble of feelings rolling around in the pit of his stomach.

All he knows is that they make him want to punch Potter right in his stupidly handsome face. And they make him want to yell and ask where the fuck Potter has been for the past year. And then, when Potter doesn't show up for the day's remaining lessons, they make him want to hunt the bastard down and shake him, over and over, until he would just start making some fucking sense.

He breathes a little easier when, over breakfast the next day, he sees a familiar mop of messy black hair across the dozens of students milling around the House tables, and then Potter is there during all of the day's lessons, Herbology (though he does inexplicably run out with Granger about halfway through) and Defence Against the Dark Arts and Charms, sometimes throwing unfathomable glances at Draco, but otherwise keeping his distance.

Later, as Draco is walking out of Tuesday night's dinner into the Entrance Hall, he frowns in confusion when he sees Oliver Wood and Katie Bell walking into the castle from the Pitch, laughing together, each carrying broomsticks and sporting wind-swept hair.

"Malfoy, just the person we wanted to see!"

He cringes away from Katie's voice, the first time he's heard it in about two years, meets her eyes hesitantly. She isn't smiling, but nor does she have her wand out, so he walks over slowly.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to hex you." There is a pause. "But only because I'm technically a professor now, and I'm not allowed."

Wood tries to muffle his laughter while Draco tries to quell the churning in his stomach.

"Katie, I'm really -"

She holds up a hand. "Save it. I just want to talk to you about Quidditch." Her tone is extremely curt. "I know the Carrows suspended all games during your seventh year, but you were made captain of the Slytherin team the summer holidays before right?"

"Yes. But McGonagall isn't letting any of the eighth years play. I think Sourav Kartik's been made captain this year."

"He has, but he's quite hopeless, really."

Wood cuts in, voice scandalized. "It's an outrage, how terrible all the teams are. We saw them at tryouts yesterday. No technique, no finesse!"

Katie nods. "And Madam Hooch has taken a year's leave, for a holiday in Africa with her husband, to tour the Cleansweep factories they have over there apparently."

Draco eyes the broomsticks they are holding. "Is that why the two of you are back then? To be the new Quidditch instructors?"

"Sort of, " Wood says, "McGonagall asked us if we'd do it together - share the responsibility, you know - because we're both still playing for Puddlemere. But even with the two of us here three afternoons a week, scheduling is still a bit of an issue. We're good to teach the first years on Mondays, the Ravenclaw team on Tuesdays, and the Hufflepuffs on Wednesdays…but Thursdays and Fridays we've got all-day training sessions ourselves, and our weekends have been reserved for games."

Draco nods. "And you want me to take the Slytherins."

They nod, looking uncertain.

He shrugs lightly. "Sure."

Their expressions clear instantly. "Great! Thanks, Malfoy. We weren't sure if you would agree." Katie beams at him, and he exhales in a rush of relief, feeling just slightly awed. Could it really be that easy to earn her forgiveness after almost killing her with the Opal Necklace? Shouldn't he…offer her some money or something?

Before he can ask, however, Wood's eyes slide up, over Draco's shoulder, and he smiles widely. "Harry! Over here!"

Potter is leaving dinner with Luna Lovegood, her waist-length hair blonde and straggly over her shoulders. They both look up at the shout, Potter's face breaking into a wide grin that nearly stops Draco's heart, and then he is running over, not even noticing Draco, throwing his arms around Katie before shaking hands with Wood enthusiastically.

"I haven't seen the two of you in ages! How have you been? What are you doing here? Aren't you both still playing for Puddlemere?"

Draco turns away, about to leave them to their conversation, but Luna has walked over too and is standing in front of him now. "Hello, Draco. It's been a very long time since I last saw you, although I can't say I miss being locked in your dungeon." She smiles softly, as though referring to something as mundane as the weather, and not, in fact, the torture she suffered in his Manor. "How have you been?"

He blinks at her matter-of-fact tone and forces away the gut-wrenching jealously that had seized him upon seeing her with Potter, the pair of them obviously very close.

"I've been well. Thank you for asking."

"Actually, I wanted to thank you for the donation you made to The Quibbler last year. It was very generous, you know. The largest we've ever received."

He nods slightly, feeling his face heat just a little. "You're welcome. I'd better get go -"

"Harry! What are you staring at? Pay attention, this is important! We said your first training sessions have been scheduled for the upcoming Saturday and Sunday evenings."


Draco turns back curiously to see Potter's thunderstruck expression and Wood's perplexed frown. "Saturday and Sunday, from six to nine. We'd take Gryffindor ourselves, but the team is so terrible this year that they need more than one session, and we just don't have the time to spare."

Draco feels his heart give a funny little wobble in his chest. Right. So they've asked Potter to coach too. Which means that Potter will be flying again. Which means that Draco will be watching Potter flying again.

He catches Luna's wide-eyed gaze, a bit too knowing for his liking, and pretends that the very idea doesn't wreak havoc with his cardiovascular system.

"No, it's not that. I don't mind two nights. But can't I take them on a day other than Saturday though? Any other day? It's just that I've got dinner plans with the Weasleys and Andromeda Tonks that night."

Wood seems very uncomfortable indeed, eyes darting over to where Draco is standing with Luna, a few feet away. "Uh…we've actually got Malfoy booked for the Pitch on Thursdays and Fridays. Sorry."

Draco rolls his eyes when Potter turns to him, looking resigned, as though he knows better than to even ask for a time-swap. "Take whichever one of those days you want, Potter. It's fine."

Potter looks comically surprised for a second, before Katie breaks in. "Actually, Harry, two of the Gryffindor Chasers are in the Chess Club this term, and they're supposed to be attending meetings every weeknight for the first two weeks of the year." She pats a glum-looking Potter on the shoulder. "Cheer up. Maybe you can have that dinner next weekend."

Before Draco knows it, he is already into the second week of term.

During this time, his eyes seem to be automatically drawn to Potter with disturbing frequency: to his blush when Molly Weasley pinches his cheek during their third Defence Against the Dark Arts class, to his delighted surprise on Monday of the second week when he discovers (having missed the previous week's lesson) that Charlie Weasley is their new Care of Magical Creatures professor, to his glazed expression as Professor Binns' drones on ad nauseum about goblin rebellions ("How many could there possibly have been?" Draco wonders resentfully, continuing to take notes out of sheer willpower alone.)

It is as though his subconscious is trying to make sure that Potter won't up and leave again. Draco had known it would happen, of course, this constant spying business that Pansy would have described as verging on psychosis…so the compulsion to just keep staring at Potter isn't too distressing for him, old habits dying hard and all of that…

But apart from this reaction, his first ten days back at Hogwarts are not at all like he had been expecting.

The eighth years are scheduled to begin Muggle Studies, now mandatory for all students, for the first time on Wednesday, the fourth day of September. The professor is a young blonde Scandinavian witch named Louise Ebel. Draco supposes that if he swung that way, and if she didn't have just the slightest accent (it may have been slight, but it grated on his nerves for the entirety of the sixty-five minute period nonetheless), he might have found her quite attractive.

Despite that, however, he likes her, and he likes being in her class, even if he does have to sit next to Blaise, who is still only giving him one-word responses. She doesn't mention what happened to Muggles and Muggleborns and indeed the former Muggle Studies teacher during the war, even though these are the very reasons McGonagall begged her to leave a private wizarding school in Denmark to teach them and even though every single student is thinking about those very things during her lesson.

And as if that isn't cause enough for her to have earned Draco's approval almost immediately, she doesn't simper all over Potter either, which is a nice change, even though Draco doesn't know whether it's because she doesn't quite understand just what Potter has done, or if she does know, and simply doesn't believe in favoritism. The final thing he likes about her is that she has a no-nonsense approach to teaching that makes her seem like a younger, non-tartan-wearing version of McGonagall, which makes it easier for him to listen as she babbles on and on about visual forms of Muggle entertainment with that truly aggravating accent.

Another thing that doesn't go quite as planned is the treatment he receives from two-thirds of the Golden Trio.

Somehow, he had thought that, now Potter had returned, Granger and Weasley would stop talking to him like they had for the past approximately eight months (well, seven really, because it had taken four weeks of working at Weasley' Wizarding Wheezes before Weasley had approached him to mumble something that might have been "Thanks for helping George."). But although Potter himself steers well clear of Draco during eight of the nine subjects they have together, and as much as he can while sitting at the same table during their next two Potions lessons, his best friends are still apparently perfectly happy to speak to Draco whenever they see him.

He finds that these moments make him feel unaccountably happy. It's still strange, thinking of them as friends - good ones too, no less, though he doubts he will ever admit that aloud. Especially when most members of his own house generally only talk to him when necessary, while Theo, with whom he'd always been on quite good terms, doesn't talk to him at all during those first ten days. He assumes it's because they haven't seen each other for a year and because the boy is still grieving over what happened to his father in Azkaban (Draco would be horrified too if Lucius had received the Kiss - and not even because of Ministry sentence, but because the Dementors had been furious at Kingsley Shacklebolt's dismissal).

On Wednesday night during their second week, however, it becomes glaringly obvious that depression isn't the reason for Theo's withdrawal. Blaise is already in bed, his hangings shut, and Draco is sitting at his desk, shivering but shirtless, writing a letter to his mother - his first since term began - when Theo walks in from the bathroom.

"How is she?"

Draco is so pleased that they seem to be speaking again, and he's concentrating so hard on his letter, wanting to reassure his mother that all is well, that he misses the malevolent glint in Theo's eyes. "How is who?"

"Your blood-traitor bitch of a mother, of course."

His eyes fly up immediately. "What?" Surely he'd heard that incorrectly.

"I said, Malfoy, that your mother is a dirty, Mudblood-loving whore who stood back and helped Harry Potter defeat the Dark Lord." He says it almost lazily, continuing to towel-dry his hair. He grins maliciously. "So how is she?"

Draco takes a deep steadying breath, fighting for control, clenching his quill so tightly it snaps into two. "Look Theo, I know you must be very upset right now, and I know how you feel. My father -"

"You know nothing about how I feel, Malfoy. Everyone knows you hated your father. But you'll find out soon enough what it's like, I'm sure. Your mother's been sick as a dog, hasn't she? Exactly what she deserves, if you ask me."

Draco sees red, dropping his broken quill and lunging forward, the movement so sudden it catches Theo completely off guard. The first punch gets him on the side of the face, the second just under his jaw. He steps back with a pained yell, ducking his head and clutching his face, but Draco doesn't let up, pounding wildly at his shoulders. "You bastard! You take that back!"

He feels a pair of strong hands grab him around the elbows, pulling him back, Blaise' deep voice in his ear, telling him to calm the fuck down. But then Theo is hitting him back, taking advantage of the way Blaise has his arms pinned back, his face and body left wide open.

Blaise lets go immediately, trying to get in between them now, but it's no use. Draco doesn't know how every blow seems to take the breath out of him when Theo is so slender, even more so than Draco himself, but there it is: hooked assaults to the face that have his neck snapping back, blood spurting out of his nose, falling freely from a split lip; Theo's fists driving into his torso so hard, his legs give way; relentless kicks to his sides as he lies in a heap on the floor.

Eventually, they stop, and he squints up through swollen eyelids to see that Blaise must've finally remembered that he's a wizard because Theo is up against the wall, bound tightly in what Draco recognizes as Incarcerous ropes.

"With Crabbe dead and Goyle at Durmstrang, you're just pathetic, aren't you?" Theo thrashes against the ropes. "Damn it, Blaise, get these off!"

Blaise looks shaken, hands unsteady around his wand. "I'm taking him to the hospital wing."

And he does, Levitating Draco out of the dormitory, out of the common room, down two corridors, up a flight of stairs and onto an empty bed in the wing. But that's where his assistance ends, it seems.

"Sorry Malfoy, there's nothing else I can do. My mother says it's not safe to be seen speaking to you with the Death Eaters still on the loose." His voice is genuinely sorry and he hesitates before leaving, but leave he does, Draco unable to stop him or yell out for Madam Pomfrey.

He curls his aching body inwards, and waits for morning, the ugly scars across his chest reminding him that he'd made it through a night in the wing before, and the situation had been much more critical then.

"Come back for more Pepper-Up, have you?"

"Yes, please. I mean, if that would be okay."

The voices sound distant through the haze of pain clouding his brain, but logic dictates that they must be in the corridor outside, if he can hear them through the open doorway. He swallows through the aching in his throat and jaw, opening his cracked lips, readying himself to shout out.

"I didn't want to say anything last week in front of Miss Granger, Potter, but my diagnostic spells indicate that you're showing signs of mild substance abuse. Both Dreamless Sleep and Sleep Deprivation Draught unless I'm very much mistaken."

Draco shuts his mouth, shock momentarily numbing his agony.


Substance abuse?

For a few heartbeats, there is silence.

"Yes, that's right, I know. And I must say, I am very disappointed in you, Potter. You know that isn't the correct way to handle things. Excessive potion consumption can lead to kidney damage, liver failure, arrhythmia, hallucinations, all sorts of problems that even magic can't fix. I'll give you Pepper-Up today, but only because I can see your exhaustion. After this, no more potions. And you'll come down here at least once every week from now on so I can cast a few spells, just to be sure you aren't ordering from the Apothecaries."

Draco can almost imagine the chagrined expression on Potter's face. "I swear I won't anymore, Madam Pomfrey, there's no need -"

"You'll do it, or I'll be speaking to the Headmistress. Now, if you're having trouble with nightmares, as I deduce you are if you've resorted to drugging yourself to avoid sleep, then magically speaking, apart from more Dreamless Sleep, there's nothing I can do."

The voices are getting closer, the sound of footsteps louder against the concrete corridor.

"I think the safest option would be if I suggested a number of Muggle home remedies for you to try. Don't look at me like that, they have been known to work. For example, you might place a scented candle on your nightstand, or perhaps practice a range of deep breathing exercises before bed, or there's always - OH MY GOODNESS! MR. MALFOY!"

There is the sound of running footsteps and in the next second, he feels gentle hands pushing him onto his back, running over the gashes in his face, his swollen eye, the grotesque protrusions in his abdomen. She mutters under her breath the entire time.

"- should've been here last night. I would have heard him -"

"- bruised tissue around eyes, jaw and stomach, broken skin around the hands, three broken ribs but no concussion, thank heavens -"

"Potter, why are you just standing there? Get me that box sitting by the cabinet."

He feels something cold and wet being applied liberally all over his face and unclothed torso. A healing salve, of some kind, he assumes, because almost immediately the pain in those areas is dulled. The throbbing in his side, however, remains sharper than ever.

"The ribs will be the worst, poor dear. There's nothing else for it, Mr. Malfoy, you'll be here all day and will probably be spending the night as well."

That's actually welcome news to Draco, who doesn't relish the thought of coming face to face with Theo again, but he doesn't mention it, keeping his eyes clamped shut, feeling the swelling rapidly receding under the salve, before opening them to horribly bright light, a combination of the hospital wing's ceiling chandeliers and currently un-curtained windows.

The thin, grey-haired matron forces a heaped spoonful of vile-tasting, bubbling, blue potion into his mouth before trotting off into her quarters to file his report. Almost instantaneously, the pain in his ribs intensifies two-fold, the cracked bones evidently mending themselves, the movements visible under his skin, gruesome and disturbing.

Horribly aware of Potter at his bedside, gawking like some kind of demented giant at the plethora of what he no doubts considers horrible sights - the moving bones, the Sectumsempra scars, the Dark Mark - Draco turns his left forearm to subtly hide his fading Mark, cursing for the thousandth time the fact that he'd been unable to mask it, and reaches forward for a thin cotton blanket lying at the foot of his bed to cover his chest, groaning weakly at the fresh waves of pain created by the effort.

"Don't move, you'll make it worse." Potter rushes forward, lifting the material, letting it billow out over Draco's aching body.

"Malfoy," his voice is quiet and his eyes are troubled, "what happened?"

Draco tries not to notice how very green those damn eyes are up close, especially without the glasses in the way, and makes sure to keep his tone deliberately light, hands pressing into his ribcage, alleviating some of the pressure. "Nothing, nothing. Just a little roughhousing, you know?"

Potter's expression is incredulous. "Roughhousing? With what, the Whomping Willow?"

"Har har." It's difficult to breathe, but he tries to keep his face emotionless, giving nothing away.

Potter doesn't buy it for an instant. "Tell me who did this to you."

Potter had saved Draco from the Fiendfyre, and then again from Azkaban, and he'd just let it all unfold like some swooning damsel in distress. He would be damned if he willingly let it happen thrice. In any case, he's not about to give Theo the satisfaction of knowing that he had squealed like a piglet to The Boy Who Lived, as though Potter were his keeper or something.

But Potter is still just standing there, clearly waiting for a response. Wildly, he remembers that attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

"I will if you tell me why you're apparently hitting the potion vials harder than my father did the summer after fourth year."

Potter's lips tighten infinitesimally, but he isn't distracted, simply crosses his stupidly fit arms over his stupidly broad chest, waiting imperiously for an answer.

"Just mind your own fucking business." Draco snaps, annoyed.

If he had been expecting Potter to storm off in a fit of rage the way he certainly would've done in the past, an angry flush seeping along his cheeks perhaps, Draco would have been sorely disappointed. Potter's voice is mild as he says, "You know, you should really stop running that mouth off, Malfoy. One day, it'll get you into a lot more trouble than just a black eye and a few cracked ribs."

He closes his eyes, the light making him feel too dizzy to keep them open a second longer. "For your information, Potter, this didn't happen because of anything I said."

A snort. "Somehow, I find that hard to believe."

"Believe whatever the fuck you like. I didn't ask for this, and I certainly didn't start it."

"So then who did?"

"Nice try. Now, go away."

"Was it someone in Slytherin? Was it even an eighth year? Was it Zabini?"

"No!" His eyes fly open. "No, Blaise had nothing to do with this."

Potter gives him a strange look. "Nott?"

Draco swallows slowly. "No, it wasn't Theo."

"So then who?"

"For the love of Merlin, will you please just fuck off?"

"So I'm supposed to just let it go that you've been beaten to a bloody pulp, then, am I?"

"Yes! Yes, you are! Nobody asked for you to come in and save the day with your fucking pathetic Gryffindor savior complex."

And that does it, there it is, that familiar fire in Potter's eyes, the snarl forming around his mouth. "You know, I don't recall you having much of a problem with my fucking pathetic Gryffindor savior complex in the Room of Requirement last year." Draco looks away at that, heat flaring in his cheeks. "Or at your trial." Potter finishes, eyes still blazing.

He is just about to retort that Potter himself hadn't seemed so grateful about his incessant need to play the hero during fifth year, when it had effectively gotten his godfather killed. The words are right there, teetering on the tip of his tongue, waiting to be spat out…

But he can't do it. For some unfathomable reason, he just can't. It would be…too cruel.

The embarrassment at being reminded of his (apparently non-magically binding) life debts is still there though, so he grasps onto that, and lets it color his tone with the derision he'd always used in the past when arguing with the infuriating boy standing in front of him.

"That's ancient history, Potter. You haven't done anything worth mentioning since then. What's wrong? Running away like a coward wasn't enough? Taken to getting more hammered than an old Irish hag, have you?" Draco tries not to let Potter's thunderstruck expression affect him. "I wonder how much the Prophet would be willing to pay for the story that the Saviour of the wizarding world has finally lost his fucking marbles."

Potter steps back as though in shock, his hands begin shaking, and for one terrifying moment, even though Draco can't even see Potter's wand, every source of light in the hospital wing is extinguished. But the musty old chandeliers flicker back to life in the next second and then Potter is leaving, his robes swishing behind him in a manner that reminds Draco forcibly of Snape.

Hysterical laughter bubbles up inside him as the gilded doors to the wing are slammed shut.

He doesn't know what to panic about first.

Potter's alleged addiction?

Having managed to piss the Gryffindor off yet again without even trying to?

The fact that Potter's breathtaking display of uncontrolled magic has him so outrageously affected that when Granger and Weasley come down to visit him hours later, he is still almost unbearably hard under Madam Pomfrey's white linen sheets?

He stares at the pair of them, standing there anxiously, in confusion.

"Harry told us you were here, Draco. What happened?"

"Mate, tell us who it was. We won't hurt them…much."

He shifts to hide his discomfort, and inwardly puzzles over the fact that Potter had told his friends about his injuries, but keeps his mouth shut.

Granger fusses over his pillows while Weasley looks at him thoughtfully for a few minutes. "You know, in fifth year, Umbridge made Harry write lines with this special quill that used his blood as ink. For the entire week, the back of his hand bled like mad. It was so bad that he's still got the scars to show for it."

Draco's arousal flags almost instantly, an onslaught of hot shame replacing it instead. He had helped that vile woman. He hadn't heard about this detention business with Potter, but knows instinctively that he would have found it hilarious at the time. He tries to keep his voice even. "Why are you telling me this, Weasley?"

"Because. Even though Dumbledore could've had Umbridge fired for what she was doing, Harry wouldn't even tell us. We had to figure it out for ourselves."

He ignores the sick feeling in his stomach, the pity he feels for Potter warring with horrible guilt about what everything he had said earlier. "So?"

"So the point is, that was stupid because we could have helped him. And you're making exactly the same mistake by not saying who did this."

"Not true, Weasley. I'm betting Potter kept his mouth shut for some stupid Gryffindor reason like wanting to take it like a man. Me? I won't tell because it's not worth my pride."

Granger frowns, forehead creasing in worry, while Weasley sighs in exasperation, rolling his eyes. "Fine, be an idiot. I've got your Astronomy and History of Magic notes, Hermione's done Muggle Studies, Ancient Runes and Transfigurations. You really picked a bloody awful day to have your face rearranged, Malfoy."

At that, despite the guilt still turning his stomach, Draco almost smiles.

I'm feeling so nervous. I hope everyone found that to be a believable first encounter! D:

Please let me know what you thought?

By the way, I definitely don't share Draco's views about Scandinavian accents! They're totally hot! ;)