Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and its characters are not mine. The poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" belong to Emily Dickinson.
A/N: Happy April Fools' Day! This one-shot takes place in the same universe as Muses by the Gaslight and Lullaby in a Teacup. I suppose you can call this story a prequel.
The Thing with Feathers
The evening was deep as the sea, cerulean blue darkening into indigo like a cloth being soaked in water. The last of twilight dwindled in the west and sank beneath the horizon. As soon as the veil of the sun was lifted, stars came out to play. Sitting on the parapet of the tower and hugging his leg, he rested his chin on his knee and contemplated the sky that would give him no answer to his dilemma.
When a cool drift crept beneath the collar of his coat, he shuddered, yet he remained where he was. The cold helped rid his mind of idle musing and muddled thoughts. In truth, there was very little he could do beyond pondering about his options. If he were to follow his father's path, his future would be cemented in black for as long as he lived; but if he were to revolt, it would be equivalent to signing a death warrant.
Intuitively he knew he was neither as strong nor as brave as he claimed to be. A part of him could not help blaming his father for the plight he now faced. Still, he loved his father, even if the gulf between them was growing ever wider into a valley of guilt and regret. Perhaps if he were to possess the courage to jump off the tower right now, he would be able to push his problem onto someone else. Others would no longer be able to use him to threaten his parents, and in turn his parents' lives would no longer be at stake because of him. Never again would anyone be able to use him as a pawn in this vicious game of chess named War - it was a tempting prospect, other than the little convenience of his being dead.
The corner of his mouth twisted into a bitter, self-depreciating smile. What was he saying? He was too afraid to live, yet at the same time, he was too cowardly to die. Unlike the gallant hero in a Greek epic poem, ideals alone could no longer compel him to fight, for he had seen worms crawling out of the sugar-coated apple named Glory.
Slowly he stood up on the parapet, letting the gust whip against his figure and fashion his black coat into a pair of featherless wings. The sting and the subsequent numbness on his cheeks reminded him that he was still alive. If you do not want to die, then you have to live - that is the most basic philosophy. Everything else comes a distant second to survival. Moral, dignity, pride, principle, even love and hate - none matters when one passes on to the next realm.
Between a certain death and imprisonment at Azkaban, he knew all too well which one he preferred. As he traced the shapes of various constellations with his eyes, his lips curled into a smirk. It might not be a bad idea to rebel just this once in his life. If he were allowed to have one little wish granted before the end, then he would do anything to turn his wish into reality and the rest be damned.
Deux ou Trois Choses que Je Sais de Lui (1)
Without a care in the world, Harry Potter flew across the frozen lake in the midst of drifting snow. The wind, carrying with it fine white dust, caressed his figure like an overly eager lover and numbed his exposed skin. The chill in the air was another creature altogether from what it was like on the ground. Shivering that he was, he had no intention to stop. Right now, his world was the sky, and the sky belonged to him alone.
Once upon a time, he was a child who could only gawk at birds and aeroplanes flying overhead. At some point in his childhood, he had entertained the idea of becoming a pilot, interference from the Dursleys notwithstanding. Ever since he had learnt how to fly on a broom, he was at last able to reach the sky that he once thought was beyond him. If there was one thing he would miss about life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it would be the freedom to fly whenever he wished.
Gliding past a thicket of snow-covered evergreen, he looked on ahead. Rolling hills of white sprinkled with darkness rose and fell against the icy sky; clouds of various shades of grey moved across the sky like a smokescreen. When he reached the edge of the forest, he slowed down. The swiftly darkening sky and the snow slapping his face signalled the prelude of a snowstorm; he should head back lest he be stranded. Despite his reputation for being reckless, he was not suicidal. Letting out a misty sigh, he turned the broomstick around and returned to the castle.
After a quick shower, he threw on his school uniform and headed down to the Great Hall for dinner. Along the way, he encountered no one in the corridor; everyone must have gone to the Great Hall by now. The vision of a long, empty table crossed his mind before his stomach grumbled. Rubbing his grumpy stomach, he jogged down several flights of stairs until someone called out his name. When he turned, he found Draco Malfoy standing there as neatly dressed as he himself certainly was not. The prefect badge on Draco's black robe glared at him like an evil eye.
Crossing his arms as if he was the law of Hogwarts, Draco took one look at Harry's dishevelled state and drawled, "You should know better than running around Hogwarts half-dressed, let alone presenting yourself in the Great Hall looking as if you've been shagged. Five points from Gryffindor for failing to meet the dress code."
Infuriated by the bane of his adolescent life, Harry tried to contain his irritation to no avail. Despite Draco's obvious relish in abusing his power, Harry could not argue with the prefect. At the moment, Draco looked like the model student polished to razor-sharp perfection, and Harry the rough-edged delinquent who had gotten into a fight.
"Are you done?" Harry glared at the prefect, who seemed more amused than anything else. "I don't want to be late for dinner, so if you will excuse me."
"You are going to the Great Hall looking like this?" Draco sounded so incredulous that Harry raised his eyebrows. "Honestly, you Gryffindors are the worst offenders when it comes to sloppiness."
In four steps, Draco came up to him, and ignoring the questioning look on Harry's face, undid the messy tangle that was Harry's scarlet-and-gold tie. "What's this? Are you trying to make a noose to hang yourself with?" Draco continued to vent as he buttoned up Harry's white shirt. "If you were using the tie for some bizarre bondage game, keep that in private. At least make yourself presentable when you are in public."
"I appreciate your concern about my appearance," Harry said sarcastically as Draco pulled up his collar. Warm fingers brushed against his neck like the softest of feathers. "Unlike you Slytherins, we don't wear a three-piece suit everyday."
Grey eyes looked up briefly at his face. "It's called etiquette. I hope you have heard of the term before?" After throwing the tie over Harry's collar, Draco fixed the knot with an efficiency Harry did not expect from the pampered Slytherin.
In normal circumstances, Harry would have retorted, but something about the ambiguous air hovering over him and his rival held his tongue. The movement of Draco's long fingers was a shadow too sensual, the scent of cedar and musk enveloping the Slytherin prefect a shade too sweet. There were too many little details about Draco Malfoy that he had not noticed before, too many details dancing around like pixies and teasing him about his thousand and one oversight.
For a tantalizing moment, Harry had the strangest impression that he was diving through the air, the sensation of flight bearing little difference from the sensation of free fall. As warmth flew onto his cheeks, he averted his gaze and filled his head with the prospect of hot pumpkin soup and freshly baked bread and lemon souffle.
When Draco appeared satisfied with the tie and the collar at last, he took off his silver tie clip and clipped it on Harry's tie. A small green jewel, set to the otherwise unadorned silver, winked while he stepped back to examine his work. After adjusting the angle of the tie, he nodded in approval. "There."
Harry blinked several times at this rival of his, whose visage seemed soft beneath the golden torchlight. The sardonic turn on Draco's lips had mellowed into a curve resembling a smile. The frost in those eyes had melted away, revealing a hint of steel blue in the midst of grey, a hue not unlike the sky during the evening hour.
At length, Draco held a lock of Harry's wet hair between his fingers, a gesture so gentle and intimate Harry did not know how to react. "I can't do anything about this mess you call hair though."
"I was born this way," Harry retorted, and the delicate moment was lost forever. "Is it your hobby to scold people about their appearance and then fix their ties for them?"
A pale eyebrow arched. "Of course not. I'm not some busybody who has nothing better to do." Or so Draco claimed, but Harry thought otherwise. "Well then, to dinner." With that Draco turned away and strolled down the corridor in broad strides, leaving Harry to scramble after him.
When he fell into steps with the Slytherin prefect, Harry contemplated Draco's profile, wondering what was on the other boy's mind. Briefly he touched the silver tie clip, finding, to his surprise, a spark of warmth that matched not his impression of this silver-tongued boy. The tactile sensation of fingers brushing against his neck lingered still on his skin like the remnant of a fragrance. Despite the draughtiness of the corridor, he could feel heat spreading outward to his limbs.
"It's not polite to stare," Draco drawled, and Harry had the grace to look bashful. "I don't understand your mentality. No one in his right mind would go flying in this kind of weather. Are you obsessed about flying or just plain mad?"
Harry let out a sigh. It appeared that neither age nor experience could cure Draco Malfoy of his acid tongue; in fact, the crossing of the threshold between adolescence and adulthood had honed his sarcasm into a morbid art form. Then again, it was a comfort to know that something will never change. In this malleable world, a constant had become such a rarity it might as well be once upon a blue moon.
"I like flying. What's wrong with that?" Harry retorted, sounding a note more defensive than he would have liked. "By the way, how do you know I was flying?"
Those bluish grey eyes of Draco's shifted suddenly to the side. It must be the first time during this semi-civilised conversation of theirs that Draco's composure faltered. "I saw you carrying your broom with you. Unless you've been sweeping the snow in the courtyard using a Firebolt, the answer is obvious."
Even though Harry suspected there was another story within the story, he decided to let it be for now. Looking out the window, he saw an expanse of darkness beyond the white-rimmed glass. The reflection of two young men, dressed alike yet dissimilar in everything else, passed from frame to dusky frame like a pair of phantoms, leaving not a lasting image behind.
It occurred to him that he and Draco had never walked side by side like this before. Whichever paths they ventured forth had always led to different directions; even their points of intersection could last no longer than the time for a grain of sand inside the hourglass to fall. At least, such was his belief until Draco dragged him into this questionable pas de deux against his wish.
After absently gripping the necktie Draco had knotted for him, Harry shook himself out of his brooding and attempted to reignite the wicker of their conversation. "Do you enjoy flying? You already knew how to fly before coming to Hogwarts, right?"
Grey eyes narrowed as though trying to discern a hidden meaning behind the innocent question. "I'm not as addicted to flying as you are." There was a pause. "Still, it's pleasant to be in the air. There is only me, the sky, and nothing else. For that moment, the sky belongs to me alone."
The echo to his earlier sentiment made Harry blink; he did not expect Draco Malfoy of all people to share his opinion, however mundane the subject might appear to others. For the second time in this befuddling rhapsody, he sensed the gap between his impression of the haughty pureblood and the sardonic enigma standing before him, who possessed the dry sense of humour to give him a brief grooming session for the price of five house points.
When the pair of boys rounded the corner to the last several flights of stairs, lively noise of a gathering seeped through the temporary calm they shared. Forming a mosaic of forgotten moments along the walls, portraits of different eras and settings marvelled aloud at the rare sight of a Gryffindor and a Slytherin strolling along in peace.
As Harry stared at Draco's back, he had an impulse to say something, anything to disperse the contemplative silence that weighed on his mind like snow weighing down bare branches. "This is probably the first time we ever agree on something."
The tall figure ahead of him halted for a heartbeat before resuming the steps. "It might be the last time." The condescending drawl returned. "In any case, I don't fancy a meal consisting solely of desserts. But at this rate, we would be lucky to reach the Great Hall by the time dessert is served."
You were the one who held us up in the first place, Harry thought. Nevertheless, Draco had already glided down the staircase with the agile grace of a bird, leaving him no choice but to follow. The resonance of their hasty footfall, accompanied by ever increasing chatter, bounced around the tower-like enclosure and became a muddle of footstep chasing each other in a game of tag.
Down the stairs they went, past a rusty suit of armour, through an archway, and down the wide corridor leading to the Great Hall. When those familiar double doors were at last in sight, Draco stopped dead on his track, forcing Harry to sidestep him before he crashed into the other boy.
"What?" Harry blurted out as Draco turned to face him. Uncertainty danced across Draco's visage like shadows, his mouth parting and closing as if those words he had been searching for did not exist in this reality.
In the end, Draco gave up on any attempt at speech and brushed a finger against Harry's cheek. With wide eyes Harry stared at the Slytherin prefect, all the while wondering if there was a smudge on his face. Nonetheless, he sensed a certain something from the gentle gesture, an emotion that stemmed not from mere mischief. Before he could make sense of it, however, the feeling slipped past his grasp and sank into the deep.
"You are warmer now."
With that the fair-haired boy turned his back on him and vanished into the smell and sound and sight of the Great Hall. After a pause, Harry took a deep breath and went to sit with his friends at the Gryffindor table. While his friends questioned him about the delay, he cast a glance at Draco, who did not meet his gaze. The balance had been restored, and yet, why did he feel as though something had been lost to him?
For the next several days, Harry set out to return the silver tie clip; but every time he tried to approach the Slytherin, the boy would be a step away from him. Like the steps of a waltz, whenever Harry took a step forward, Draco took a step back with such perfect synchrony that the distance between them never changed an inch. That did not sit well with Harry, particularly when Draco was the one who broke the glass wall between them in the first place.
His paranoid self thought the boy might be plotting something, but so far his rival had done nothing beyond fixing his tie and ignoring him. Without Dumbledore's lesson to arrest his attention, his mind became preoccupied with this game of cat and mouse he was forced to participate in. For some time, Harry thought the game would continue in an endless loop - if something had not happened.
Across the iridescent sky, sunset orange in the west faded into pink and lilac, ending with deepening steel blue in the east. The golden evening star shone like an amber, the thin crescent moon a piece of disintegrating ivory; clouds rimmed with gold hovered in the sky as an afterthought. Despite the fine weather, the temperature had dipped, and Harry, already clad in his most weather-resistant clothes, could feel his fingers becoming numb.
Diving towards the snow-covered castle, he caught a glitter out of the corner of his eye. At first, he thought it was the snow, yet as he got closer, he saw a figure in black perch on the parapet of the tower, a splash of shadow against virgin white, its face obscured by a pair of Omnioculars. When the figure put away the Omnioculars and shook off the hood, Harry recognised with a start the sharp visage of one Draco Malfoy.
"Are you mad?" Harry yelled and pulled to a stop in front of his rival, whose choice for a front row seat to whatever spectacle he wanted to pursue was perilous at best. The thought of Draco accidentally losing his balance and plunging down the tower made Harry's stomach churn.
A pale eyebrow arched before the corner of Draco's lips turned wry. "I can say the same about you. Considering you are a flying maniac and a closet masochist, that's understandable."
Exasperated, Harry shot daggers at the other boy, who did not once lose his damnable composure. "What are you then? Suicidal? A stalker? A Peter Pan impersonator?" When Draco gave him a blank look, he realised a young wizard from a pureblood family would not understand the Muggle literary reference. "You are not watching birds, are you?"
Draco cast a glance at the decidedly birdless sky. "I'm here to admire the sky and the moon," he replied in such a nonchalant tone that it was impossible to tell if he was being earnest or sarcastic.
Harry narrowed his eyes, yet before he could say anything, a gust blew away his thought and nearly knocked him into Draco's arms. Hastily he turned the handle to the side, hoping to avoid colliding with the other boy. Snow scattered like ashes reaching for heaven; blond strands flew back like feathers stirring in the wind.
"You might want to get off the broom before you are blown off it."
Torn between taking his rival's advice and being defiant to the bitter end, Harry eventually decided to be sensible and landed on the roof. After he propped the Firebolt against the wall, he stood beside Draco and peeked over the weather-beaten battlements. A meadow of frozen white spread out at the bottom, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to spread wings and fall into its embrace.
Unable to suppress a shiver, Harry turned to the other boy, whose alabaster profile was tinted with the faintest hue of the sky. "You aren't scared sitting out here like this? If you slip, no one can save you."
A hint of a smirk flirted about Draco's lips. "Would you give up flying because there is a chance you'll fall off the broom and hence to your death?"
Harry wrinkled his brow. "At least I'm not the one who's looking ready to jump off the tower." Draco cast him a quick glance as if appraising him, but that was all.
Resting his elbows atop the parapet, Harry contemplated the landscape the other boy had been watching, of remote mountains and silver lake and watercolour sky. Irrespective of how little common sense the fickle Slytherin possessed, he had chosen the perfect spot to capture the perfect scenery. Harry took a deep breath, letting the fresh air fill his lungs and cleanse his mind; instead, Draco's scent stole away his attention and made him suddenly conscious of how close the boy was to him, the boy who was normally a step ahead of him.
At length, with a sleigh of a gloved hand, Draco pulled out a silver flask from who knows where, twisted it open, and offered it to him. Raising his eyebrows, Harry eyed the flask as a man would eye a venomous snake. Steam rose from the flask like smoke from a chimney, but a whiff of roasted coffee beans dispersed some of his misgivings.
"It's coffee," Draco said, clearly sensing his suspicion. "In case you are wondering, if I wanted to poison you, I wouldn't just hand you a flask."
"Isn't that reassuring? You'll probably slip something in my soup when I'm not looking or send me poisoned chocolates on Valentine's Day."
Nevertheless, the prospect of hot coffee proved more tempting than composing verbal arsenal against this mercurial classmate of his. His mouth watering in anticipation, Harry accepted the flask and drank. As soon as the bitter liquid burnt its way down his throat, he coughed.
"How's the taste?" Draco drawled, one blond eyebrow raised in amusement. "Nothing warms the body quite like coffee and a generous shot of rum."
When Harry recovered from his coughing fit, he glowered at the culprit. "Aren't you supposed to be the prefect? I'm sure it's not written in the prefect rule book that you are allowed to drink liquor in school."
"I'm off duty right now. You can report me if you like." The self-defeating remark was uncharacteristic of Draco; in fact, he sounded tired. Even if Harry had not unwittingly become his accomplice, he had no intention of telling on the Slytherin.
Draco plucked the flask out of Harry's hand and took a swig; apparently he had no trouble drinking his own alcohol-mixed concoction. "Besides, I'm sure you Gryffindors had sneaked liquor into the dormitory and gotten drunk. You aren't exactly the caricature of the good boy act."
The scenario Draco suggested had indeed befallen him once upon a foolish night, but Harry was not about to admit that. "I'm not trying to be a good boy." Harry tapped the stone wall with the toe of his boot. "You are awfully eager to play the rebel without a cause, aren't you? Are you a wolf in sheep's skin? Or would that be a wolf in black sheep's skin?"
The curve on Draco's lips widened into a smile, the very image of an ordinary teenage boy having pulled off a successful mischief. For some reason, Harry was struck by a pang not unlike an ache from an old wound, followed by warmth spreading across his chest, his annoyance fading into background noise. Was it because of the rum or something else? At that very instant, he found himself on the verge of understanding yet unable to cross the boundary.
"One would assume that a black sheep isn't much different from a wolf, Harry."
"That's exactly my point, Draco," Harry retorted, the name of this insolent boy rolling smoothly out of his mouth.
"Point taken." Draco raised the flask in a mocking toast. Silver gleamed like the moon against the black of his slim leather glove, a study of wildness in civility that somehow complemented this fox of a boy well.
Petty pride and recklessness took over Harry. Beneath the gaze of the bemused Draco Malfoy, he grabbed the flask and swallowed another mouthful. Draco's special blend of coffee was as bitter and biting as the boy who made it, but Harry drank some more, letting the fluid burn down his reserve and resistance as if they were made of paper.
It would not occur to him until he was lying half-asleep in bed that he had forgotten to return the tie clip to the insufferable boy.
Harry's rendezvous with the sky gradually became a pas de trois, with Draco playing the third wheel who enjoyed sitting at the edge of the roof. As much as he hated to admit, Harry had found something akin to a comrade in his rival. Great men of ambition longed to conquer lands, yet he and Draco longed for the sky. It was as though the gravitational force that held sway over them came not from below but from above.
Whenever they met on the roof, they left everything else on the ground. At times they bickered over nothing and everything; at times they watched the sky in silence; and at other times they shared whatever hot drink, alcoholic or otherwise, Draco happened to have brewed on that day. Reckless - that was the term Harry never thought would one day apply to the Slytherin prefect. Something must have happened in the summer and the subsequent autumn to cause the metamorphosis in Draco, but Harry did not comprehend the full extent of the transformation until one white-washed, forlorn morning.
The day was grey, the sky a bleak, ashen counterpart to the snow below. The capricious winter had shown a shred of mercy to the people, yet the clouds hovering over the landscape depressed Harry's spirit. The wind whistled a broken tune into his ear and tousled his hair like an overbearing parent.
Something small fluttered across his line of sight. When he caught one in his hand, he realised it was a piece of scrap torn from a page of handwritten words. He looked around him, wondering where they came from. As soon as he fathomed out the direction of the wind, he came to the conclusion that these non-festive confetti could only have come from the castle.
Sailing to where a certain tower stood, he saw the culprit sitting on the parapet in the same suicidal fashion, methodically ripping out a page from what appeared to be a leather-bound diary and tearing the page into shreds. Paper butterflies flapped their ink-tattooed wings around the prefect before gliding towards the clouds, pieces from a jigsaw puzzle that was not meant to be solved.
"You can just burn it," Harry said in half-jest. "It'll save a lot of hassle."
Draco did not look up as he reduced another page of writing into pieces of memory no one else could touch. "This is more satisfying." When he opened his palms, the fragments, now transformed into feathery flakes, flew away and disappeared into the sky.
"How did you do that?" Harry landed lightly on the roof, and after a moment of hesitation, he brought himself to sit beside Draco. Dangling his feet at the edge of the tower was not as daunting as he imagined. At the very least, he was certain he would not share the same fate as the doomed Humpty Dumpty.
"What have you been learning all these years at Hogwarts? McGonagall and Flitwick will cry if they knew their prized pupil hadn't learnt anything at all."
Harry narrowed his eyes, annoyed at Draco and at himself for bringing up the subject; after all, he was not the fresh-eyed lad he used to be. At the same time, he thought there was something different about the blond today, a certain hollowness in his voice that he did not like. "I didn't think you are the kind of person who keeps a diary."
"You don't know much about me, do you?" What Draco had said was true. Despite his talkative nature, he had revealed surprisingly little about himself. Every time Harry thought he could glimpse into Draco's personal life beyond the boulder that was his family name, the Slytherin prefect would evade the conversation like a fish slipping out of the net.
"If you want to talk, I'll lend you an ear." Gripping the edge of the stone, Harry leant back and stared upward at the sky, where leaden clouds moved fluidly by.
For some time, the air was filled with the off-key whistle of the wind and the sound of ripping paper. In the space between Harry and this rival of his, silence lengthened. Even though they sat side by side and faced the same wintry landscape, they were contemplating two separate sceneries, Harry looking up and Draco looking down.
At length, Draco took a deep breath. "Someone I knew had passed away." His voice was quiet, albeit a little self-depreciating; nevertheless, Harry felt a twist in his stomach. "I liked her. Mind you, she's older than me, so she didn't take me seriously. She probably thought of me as her little brother. She's cruel that way."
Harry stole a glance at his rival, who became silent; weariness clung to the other boy like smoke soaking into one's clothes. Those long fingers of Draco's were toying with several pieces of scraps, substitutes for the tears he did not shed, or the earth he could not scatter onto her coffin. An invisible thorn pricked Harry's heart, and he could not understand why. "I'm sorry."
"It's not as though you killed her." What was supposed to be a playful remark sounded hollow as a knell. Draco threw away the scraps and hugged his leg, a boyish posture bespoke of the vulnerability behind the facade of nonchalance. Something more than mere sadness lingered on his profile; he seemed cold in his robe, shivering as though from the chill or from certain emotion he refused to name.
Question after question flooded Harry's mind: how that woman died, what she looked like, what kind of history she shared with Draco, what kind of face Draco showed when she was with him. Yet Harry could not bring himself to ask, for the living, breathing Draco Malfoy was more important to him right now than a dead woman he did not know. "You'll catch a cold."
"Probably." The blond stared at a point in the distance, perhaps reminiscing, perhaps regretting, perhaps resenting, perhaps trying his hardest to forget.
It's as if you were punishing yourself, Harry mused, gazing at the figure that seemed somehow fragile beneath an armour of sarcasm and pride. Wordlessly he took off his scarf and draped it over the boy's shoulder. Dry grey eyes regarded him for a measured beat before Draco wrapped the scarf around his neck and mumbled a soft thank you.
"Do you know where she's buried?" Harry asked, not so much wanting to know the answer than trying to conceal the sudden shyness that had overcome him.
"Yeah, but I'll never go there," Draco replied, the crimson scarf tainting his skin the lightest shade of rouge. "It's probably for the best that I didn't show up for the funeral. I don't have the right to be there." There was a pause. "Besides, she's not really there anymore."
The pragmatist in Harry could understand the rationale behind Draco's words. What was buried beneath the gravestone was nothing more than a shell devoid of a soul; nevertheless, he did not want to believe that nothing was left behind after one's death. "I don't know where my parents were buried," Harry said absently. "It doesn't mean much, but it would be nice to know they are out there somewhere."
Silence followed. When Harry cast a glance at his rival, he found Draco studying him, his gaze neither curious nor sympathetic, and for that he was grateful. "They were probably buried in Godric's Hollow," Draco uttered in that deceptively mellow voice of his. "That's where they lived. No one ever told you that?"
"It's more like I didn't get a chance to find out about it. Either the timing wasn't right, or I didn't think to ask until I'd missed the chance to do so. Something keeps getting in the way."
Even as he spoke those words, Harry knew they were merely excuses. If he were so inclined to find out more about his parents, he could have picked up a book written about the First War, and yet he had refrained from doing so. To behold his parents' grave would be akin to losing them for the second time, and that he could not stand.
Melancholy hung over the rooftop like the yellow fog of old-time London. The wind, carrying with it a touch of ice, caressed his face as though in solace. Harry chewed on his lower lip; now was not the time to wallow in grief when Draco's wound was still fresh and raw. "It's nothing."
"I can take you there if you want."
At first, Harry thought his ear had deceived him, yet what his companion said next shattered his hypothesis into pieces. "If we hurry," Draco drawled while stretching his arms, "we could reach Godric's Hollow by air before nightfall."
Harry blinked at the other boy. Of all the impulsive antics the fickle Slytherin had played thus far, this proposition went beyond his wildest imagining. "Are you serious about this?"
Bluish grey eyes bored into his, beckoning him to fall into their immeasurable depth. Whenever Draco beheld him like this, Harry had the impression that his rival wanted - needed - to see his face more clearly. The intensity of the gaze reminded him none too pleasantly of a man who was desperate to impress into his memory the visage of one he held dear or one he cursed to the lowest of hell. What it all meant Harry only had the vaguest idea; nevertheless, he knew he could not leave his sky-gazing comrade alone, and in truth, he did not want to.
A shadow of wistfulness passed across the blond's countenance before a wry smile flitted onto his lips. "I was joking, of course." As though he could no longer bear looking at him, Draco returned to staring at the sky, the shutter fallen once more over the window into his psyche.
It was not a joke, was it? Harry realised as he observed the other boy. It did not matter whether the lie Draco had composed was for Harry's sake or for the sake of his own pride. The gesture alone was enough.
At length, Draco pulled out his wand and conjured a shower of forget-me-nots, letting the wind carry the blossom along as a messenger would carry a message, a tribute or a simple farewell to the one who had crossed the Lethe to the opposite shore. In the midst of this monochrome world, those delicate blue flowers were like pieces of the sky falling into the snow, and with them a piece of the boy's heart.
Was he asking for her not to forget him, or was he promising not to forget her? Harry had no way of knowing the mind of this unpredictable creature, this boy whose temperament resembled the wind. As he quietly contemplated Draco's sharp profile, he felt, for one fleeting second, a pang of envy towards this nameless woman he had never met and will never meet in this lifetime.
Later that evening, Harry, unable to resist his curiosity, went to the library and looked up old issues of the Daily Prophet. The library, smelling of ink and old parchment as always, was not as crowded as it would have been during exam time, therefore he was able to secure an empty table for himself. When he dumped an armful of newspapers onto the table, the sound prompted several nearby schoolmates to glare at him. After whispering an apology, he sat down and got to work.
It took him almost half an hour to find a likely candidate. The short article, nearly swallowed up in a sea of bureaucratic affairs and reports on the mass destruction in the Muggle world, mentioned a double murder that took place three days ago near the Darvell's Cove. A recently married man and his pregnant wife were found murdered in their home, and the Dark Mark was spotted hovering above the house. There could be no mistaking the signature of the kill: It was the work of the Death Eaters.
Harry bit his lower lip and reread the article. The woman, one Geraldine Sherwood, belonged to an ancient pureblood family, whereas the man, Dorian Sherwood, was a muggleborn. The motive for the murders could not be more obvious; the unborn child from the union was the fuse that set everything into motion.
After throwing down the newspaper, Harry stared at page after page of ill news scattered across the table, unable to rid his mind of the look on Draco's face as the diary was reduced to fragments. The reckless streak in Draco might prompt him to attempt something more serious than breaking a school rule or two. However little he knew about his boy, however little he understood why he cared, Harry could not stand aside knowing Draco might get himself into trouble.
Resolve morphing into action, Harry began the unsavoury, mundane task of spying on his rival, an endeavour he put into motion on that very night. Once the last of his dorm mates had retired to bed, he had the Gryffindor common-room all to himself, which suited his clandestine mission just fine. Armed with the Marauder's Map for the actual spying and a crossword puzzle for whiling away the time, he sat down in front of the fireplace and got to work.
In between solving each clue, Harry cast a glance at the map. The miniature figure marked Draco Malfoy kept wandering around the Slytherin dormitory like a somnambulist - or an animal trapped in a cage. Twirling the quill in his hand, he wondered what he was trying to achieve by tracking the movement of the prefect, but in the next instant, he snuffed his doubt.
The midnight hour came and went on tiptoe. Stuck on a particular clue, he stared at the nearly finished puzzle and willed his mind to find the answer; nevertheless, the warmth and the hypnotising interplay of shadow and light lured him into a daze. Shifting into another position, he turned his gaze towards the map. His target had at last gone to bed, which meant it would be wise for him to follow suit. Weary and relieved, he yawned, gathered his belongings, and went to bed.
The fitful night was filled with dreams of crossword puzzles and depthless maze and shreds of paper he was trying desperately to catch. Morning could not have arrived soon enough, but it brought Harry as little relief as a weather forecast would to the regular listener. For most of the day, he spent more time in class watching Draco than looking at the professor. The Head of Slytherin House, Severus Snape, took notice of his inattention and snidely deducted house points, much to the Gryffindors' chagrin.
The routine continued for several days and nights, during which he had not once caught Draco making suspicious moves. The more he observed the boy, the more he came to realise what it was about his rival that bothered him. Unlike his usual defiant, sarcastic self, Draco was far too composed and stoic; it was as though he was determined to perform a daring act on the tightrope and consequences be damned.
After four fruitless nights, Harry settled once again before the fireplace in the empty common-room, half hoping, half dreading that something might happen tonight. As he worked on a new crossword puzzle, he mused dryly if he had become Draco's stalker; then again, if the target in question knew nothing about this, it mattered very little what he called himself.
Halfway through the night, he took a look at the map, only to find that the pictorial representation of his rival had disappeared from the Slytherin dormitory. His stomach tightened in nervousness, he scanned the map until he at last spotted the figure on the fourth floor. The figure glided onto the flat staircase, disappearing from one floor and reappearing on the floor above. Wherever Draco was going, he was not trying to sneak out of Hogwarts as Harry once suspected.
Realization slapped Harry in the face, and at once he scolded himself for being so dense. Grabbing the map and his wand, he dashed through the dormitory entrance and into the draughty corridor. Hogwarts in the late hour was quiet as the peak of the snow-covered mountain, but he was in no mood to enjoy the nocturnal visage of the castle. The destination to this late night adventure could not be more obvious, but most of all, Harry feared what Draco might do once he reached his goal.
Scenes from the past several weeks flashed across his mind. Conversation with an arch-nemesis, a sudden disregard for school rules, a penchant for perching at the edge of the tower - these clues had always been there for Harry to discover, yet he did not understand the significance till now. Draco was like a dying man who wished to use what remained of his life to do something he had not dared to do, to rebel against those he had not dared to defy, perhaps his father, perhaps the Dark Lord, perhaps the world at large.
When Harry ran up the last set of stairs to the rooftop of the tower, a blast of cold and a world drenched in indigo opened up to him. Beneath the velvet sky and a sliver of moonbeam, a figure was standing on the parapet, his fair hair illuminated by the moon. His heart nearly jumping out of his chest, Harry rushed towards the figure and grabbed onto his waist. For one tantalizing second, the figure seemed to be on the verge of losing his balance, and then they tumbled back to safety in a heap. Harry banged his elbow on the ground, and his arm turned numb from the impact; nevertheless, he was more preoccupied with his other arm being trapped beneath the figure.
The mystery character, who could only be Draco, rested on top of Harry for several heartbeats before twisting around to face him. The silence of the night was punctured by the sound of heavy breathing. As anger bubbled to the surface of his consciousness, Harry grabbed Draco by his coat and yelled at him, ignoring the fact that their faces could not be more than inches apart. "What the hell were you doing? Trying to kill yourself? If you die, then it's all over!"
Shadow concealed the other boy's expression from his scrutiny. "I wasn't going to jump, Harry." The drawling voice laced with a sardonic note was unmistakably Draco's. Somewhat pacified for the time being, Harry released him.
"Liar," Harry whispered, an assessment Draco neither admitted nor denied. This strange connection they shared had gone far beyond school boy rivalry and metamorphosed into another creature altogether. How pointless it would be to conjure any more ludicrous excuses to explain the Slytherin's action when the truth was already within reach.
A soft laughter escaped the boy's mouth. Draco, still half lying on top of him as if he was a cushion, cradled Harry's head in his arms and pressed his forehead against his. The sudden closeness drove every reproachful word out of Harry's mind. "What are you doing?" he asked, vaguely aware that he was inhaling the air Draco had exhaled and vice versa, as though they were sharing a single breath.
"I'm trying to read your mind." Warm air teased Harry's lips like the wings of a flame-worshipping moth. Although the boy's visage was hidden from him, he heard the smile in that low, slightly husky voice of Draco's.
"That's not how you read minds," Harry argued, relieved to find himself returning to the familiar ground of petty banter.
"I know." The calmness in Draco's voice did not quite translate to the rest of his body. All too clearly Harry sensed the boy shivering against him, and all too well he could feel himself shaking once the tension evaporated into the night. Who infected the tremor to whom was of no consequences; he only knew that he had never been so close to this boy before, so close he could almost hear his heartbeat.
The snow beneath him had melted and soaked into his clothes and hair, a snap of chill that brought him out of his reverie. Seduced by the web of Draco's scent and warmth, he put his arms around the boy for several heartbeats, reminding himself that this certain silver-tongued someone had not fallen over the tower and become a lifeless, broken thing of blood and flesh and bones and phantom wings.
"This was not just about that woman, was it?" Harry asked quietly before letting his arms fall to the ground. "Geraldine Sherwood, I mean."
Still attached to him like his Siamese twin, Draco stiffened at the mention of that name, an indication that Harry had guessed correctly the identity of the mystery woman. "You've been masquerading as a detective again?" He moved away from Harry and sat down on the ground. "How bloody nosy of you."
Following the other boy's example, Harry sat up and looked at his companion, who was in turn contemplating the midnight sky. "Would you have told me had I asked?" Harry paused. "Do you want me to ask?"
Moonlight unnecessarily accented the paleness of Draco's visage, lending his skin a translucent glow that did not look quite real. "No."
Harry could not tell which question of his Draco had just answered - perhaps both. Respecting the boy's wish, he merely said, "If you are in trouble, I'll help you."
Draco turned his eyes to Harry, his irises reflecting the lustre of the moon. "You are offering to help the son of a Death Eater whom you helped caught?" the prefect remarked, a trickle of bitterness eating away at his composure. "What makes you think I won't betray you out of spite and duty?"
The ache from the same old wound crept once more into his consciousness, and Harry began to understand the source of the sensation. What the boy had said might very well be true, but he did not wish to believe the Draco Malfoy he had come to know on this rooftop was a complete lie. "If you tell me you don't want to be a Death Eater, I'll believe you."
Stunned silence followed. Staring at him as though he had reasons to be concerned about his mentality, Draco drew a breath before letting out a sigh. "Your naivety knows no bound, does it? Or perhaps you are just too crafty?" Unceremoniously he dropped his head onto Harry's shoulder, startling him. "But I don't hate that."
Feeling the weight on his shoulder, Harry gazed outwards at the celestial veil beyond the parapet where the boy had nearly spread his wings. The dampness on his back made him shiver, but he neither complained nor moved away. As the wind began to weep, he thought Draco was crying, yet when he returned to the dormitory later that night, he could not find a trace of wetness on the front of his sweatshirt.
Large arched windows in the Transfiguration classroom framed the cloudy sky and snowy mountains, yet the interior of the classroom was anything but serene. Professor McGonagall had not arrived yet, which compelled some dozen students to exercise their abundant energy. In the midst of the commotion, Harry yawned; the loss of sleep for the past several nights had at last taken a toll on him. Beside him, Ron and Hermione engaged in yet another round of bickering. Shifting on his chair, Harry turned just enough to behold a certain someone leaning out an open window at the back of the classroom, alone but not necessarily lonely.
However little the boy had divulged to him in words, Harry knew he had glimpsed Draco's heart behind the acidic mist of dry humour and arrogance. A selfish wish though it may prove in the end, he wanted to know more about this boy named Draco Malfoy.
Harry cast a glance at his friends, who seemed to revel in the heated argument with a vehemence he could not quite understand. Discerning his absence will not be missed, he slipped away and went to the back of the classroom. The cool morning breeze, smelling of Draco's scent, flapped its wings against his face and refreshed his spirit. "How are you feeling?"
"Better." The tension that had set Draco's shoulders rigid for the past few months was gone; in fact, he looked almost relaxed in a way Harry had never seen before. "You, on the other hand, look as though you'll doze off if McGonagall drones on for more than ten minutes."
Harry smiled sheepishly, for he could not reveal to the boy the real reason behind his lack of sleep. "I'll try to stay awake. It wouldn't do for the Gryffindor to lose any more house points." It was then that he remembered a certain silver tie clip he had neglected to bring with him this morning. There will always be next time, he consoled himself. "You really like staring at the sky, don't you?"
"And you really like riding on the broom, don't you?" With that Draco turned his gaze towards the rest of the class. Their fellow classmates, preoccupied with creating as much noise as possible, appeared oblivious to what was transpiring in the quiet corner of the room. "I'm going to see Dumbledore today."
Taken aback, Harry stared at his companion, his heart skipping a beat. Those keen grey eyes of Draco's were now boring into his, the very indication that a jest was far from the boy's mind. "Oh."
"Don't get me wrong. You might think the world of him, but I don't. I don't trust him any more than I trust You-Know-Who." The harsh comment stirred in Harry the obligation to defend his mentor, yet what Draco said next made him pause. "Still," the boy looked towards the sky in rumination, "I'm tired of the war."
An indescribable feeling rippled across the surface of Harry's consciousness. "This is the second time you and I agree on something," he heard himself say, which earned him a sidelong glance from Draco. "I'm sure Dumbledore will be able to help you."
As though sceptical of Harry's claim, Draco narrowed his eyes, though he did not voice his opinion. Harry was about to say something more when McGonagall stalked into the classroom and put an end to the merrymaking of the unruly students. After exchanging a look, the two boys parted ways and rejoined their fellow classmates, Harry to the Gryffindors and Draco to the Slytherins.
Anxious to know the result of the meeting, Harry tried to catch Draco alone that evening - and failed miserably. For the next several days, other matters occupied much of his mind that he could not find the time to talk to the boy. Instead, during his lesson with Dumbledore, he took the opportunity and asked the headmaster about the meeting.
Smiling that knowing smile of his, the old wizard said, "It is not my place to reveal those words that were exchanged in this office on that day." After a pause, he added. "Forgive me, Harry." The sincerity in Dumbledore's voice forced Harry to abandon his inquiry.
"No, it's fine." Harry sat down on the chair in front of the headmaster's mahogany desk, trying to absorb all the information he had just learnt from Professor Slughorn's memory. Nevertheless, he found himself tracing the pattern that the candlelight was weaving on the scarred desktop, his attention wavering like the flame.
Behind the desk, Dumbledore studied him for a long time before he said, "He is fighting a lonely battle as you are. Watch over him if you can." On hindsight, the headmaster must have known what was about to happen, but at the time, Harry did not understand the meaning behind his words.
The breathless week zoomed by before Harry decided to take out his broom for a ride, somehow knowing Draco would be waiting for him at the place of their celestial rendezvous. With open arms, the cerulean sky and fluffs of white welcomed him back to their fold. On the ground, the snow had begun to melt away, destined to vanish into the memory of this passing winter. When Harry sailed towards the rooftop where he had shared more than words and coffee with a certain fair-haired boy, he was not surprised to find the said boy sitting at the edge.
"Are you trying to kill yourself again?" Harry jested, even though it was hardly an appropriate joke to tell.
Clad for once in a casual grey jumper, dark trousers and black coat, Draco affected the air of one who had obtained a certain revelation about the workings of this world. "I've already grown past that stage of my adolescent rebellion."
Had Draco ever seemed so close yet so far away at the same time? Harry mentally shook his head and asked the question that had been plaguing his mind, "How did the meeting with Dumbledore go?"
"Come closer." It sounded less like a demand and more like a request.
Surmising that his companion was about to divulge a secret or two, Harry glided closer until he was within arm's length to the boy. As he looked expectantly at his companion, a hand shot out and took away his glasses. In an instant, the rest of the world blurred around Draco, who tilted his head to the side and peered at his face like an artist examining his own work.
"You look better without your glasses." In triumph, Draco twirled the arm of the round glasses between his fingers. "Besides, they don't suit you anyway."
"Very funny. Am I supposed to laugh?" Harry held out his hand, though in truth he was not as annoyed by the blond's harmless prank as he appeared to be. "All right, give those back."
After letting out a sigh, Draco slipped the glasses back onto his face with a gentleness that made Harry hold his breath. "I mean it." A finger lingered over the contour of his ear for a beat before drawing away; nevertheless, the sensation remained on Harry's skin as though Draco's fingertip had branded him.
When he came to his senses, Harry realised, with no small amount of indignation, that the mercurial blond had tried to evade his questioning with this mischief of his. Once he landed on the rooftop, he stood beside Draco, who had swung his legs around and hopped onto the ground. "You haven't answered my question yet."
The corner of Draco's lips turned ever so sardonic. "I thought you weren't going to ask?" Recalling the unspoken vow he had made beneath the moonlit sky, Harry flushed, a shadow of guilt hanging over him like the clouds high above. "Sorry, it's a secret," Draco said.
The apology echoed Dumbledore's so much that it merely stoked the flame of Harry's curiosity further. Disappointed though he was, since Draco was being frank with him for once, he did not wish to appear any more intrusive than he already had. "Don't worry about it," Harry mumbled, but he knew he could not entirely conceal his feeling from the prefect.
Running his hand over the rough stonework, Harry turned away to survey the expanse. Still water in the lake, bare branches devoid of ice and snow, birds soaring and diving in frolic - spring had crept into the scene and delivered a flicker of hope he wished he could believe in. Hogwarts had been spared from the turmoil of the war thus far, yet how long could peace last within this ivory tower?
"Do you like Hogwarts?" Harry heard himself say.
Draco turned his back on the breathtaking landscape and rested his elbows on the parapet. "Yes. Do you?"
"Yeah." Harry absently rubbed his chin with the back of his hand. The sudden need to confide in Draco caused his tongue to loosen. "This is the only home I know of. I couldn't remember what my old home with my parents was like. And Ron's home, however welcoming it is, doesn't belong to me."
"What about your other home? Aren't you supposed to be living with your Muggle relatives during the summer?"
How Draco came about the information was beyond Harry's power to speculate, and he doubted the tight-lipped Slytherin would reveal the source even if he were to ask. "I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say that in their eyes, I'm a burden no one wants." Harry let out a dry laugh to relieve the negative emotion that was crawling its way out of its slumber.
"Who do they think they are?" The iciness in Draco's voice made Harry wince, for the tone reminded him too much of Lucius Malfoy. "Nothing more than mere Muggles who-" Draco caught himself before more damning words could be uttered. "How could you just laugh it off?"
Although Harry appreciated Draco's indignation on his behalf, he sensed once more the gulf between him and the boy. Their ideals were too different. Harry could not accept Draco's view, and Draco refused to throw away his; it was a tug of war which neither of them could win. The same thought must have crossed the blond's mind, for a pained look passed briefly across his countenance.
"Self-preservation, perhaps." Words slipped out of Harry's mouth before he could take them back, and like a charm they doused whatever agitation might have left in Draco. I've said too much, Harry thought. Restlessly running his hand over his hair, he said, "Enough about me. Tell me about your family."
Draco stiffened and shot Harry a sullen glance. "You are surprisingly manipulative." Harry feigned innocence and shrugged; in turn, the boy heaved a sigh in resignation. "I have nothing to say about my family. Nothing you would be interested in, at any rate."
"Do you love your parents?"
"I do, but it's complicated." Draco bowed his head so that Harry could not see his expression. The wind toyed with his blond strands like a child seeking the attention of a parent. "To you, my father might be a villain. But to me, no matter what he does, he's still my father."
For a moment or two, Harry wondered if he could say those words had he been in Draco's place; nevertheless, he had no answer to give. When Draco spoke no more, he knew he would get no more out of the prefect on this subject. As he cast around for something to say, his eyes fell upon the broom he had left propped up against the wall. "Do you want to ride the Firebolt with me?"
Widened grey eyes stared at him as if it was the first time they ever beheld him. At length, Draco opened his mouth, closed it, and let out a noncommittal sound, which Harry took as an affirmative. After he retrieved his Firebolt, Harry got on and tilted his chin, urging the boy to sit behind him. His lips curving into the faintest of smiles, Draco settled behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist.
Willing the Firebolt into the air, Harry turned the handle to the left and brought them away from the castle. The wind embraced his figure like the loving companion that it always was, but the warm body pressed up against his back reminded him he was not alone this time. To fly is to be free; to be free is to be alone; and yet he would not mind sharing the sky with Draco, who could have been the reincarnation of the wind. The exhilaration of flight mingled with contentment and a lingering ache, distracting him long enough that he almost missed the shift in the flow of the wind. He recollected himself and changed course.
The sky had become overcast, a leaden mass stretching well beyond Hogwarts and ending within arm's length to the horizon. As Harry mused about how the rain might come down soon, Draco mumbled something that was probably not intended for him to hear, "So this is what the world looks like through your eyes."
"What did you say?" Harry asked, but his voice was dismembered by the wind.
"Nothing." Warm breath fluttered close to his ear, and for a moment, Harry wished he could see the expression on Draco's face.
Drizzle began to fall upon the earth, tinting the wind with a touch of coolness. Feeling the sting on his cheeks and lips, Harry unconsciously leant back against his companion and asked, "Do you want to go back?"
Those arms that were encircling him tightened ever so slightly. "Not yet." After nodding once - even though Draco might not be able to detect the movement - Harry complied and nudged the Firebolt towards the direction of the lake, for he too wanted to continue flying. Somewhere deep within his subconscious, he had a premonition that he might not be given another chance to fly with the boy.
For a long time they soared and swooped in the rain, trepidation fading into laughter and thrill. There was nothing out there but him, the boy and the sky, no war, no clashing ideals, no sorrow and grief for lost loved ones. It was not the freedom he sought, but something far more profound and precious he longed to keep it in a bottle he could carry around with him wherever he goes.
When the rain deteriorated into a downpour, the visual condition became so poor Harry was forced to return to the castle. Once they landed on the rooftop, he and Draco ran for shelter beneath the stairs. Cold and soaked to the bone, Harry watched the equally drenched Draco push his wet strands away from his face, a flick of a wrist that was oddly graceful and adult-like. Catching his gaze, Draco raised an eyebrow at him.
As they stood facing each other in silence, a sense of deja vu struck Harry like a tap on the shoulder. This very moment was like a replay of the scene in the labyrinthine corridor of Hogwarts once upon a wintry evening. Draco was once more a step away from him, a distance that may or may not extend to infinity. Driven by intuition, Harry reached into his pocket and took out the silver tie clip, which he held out for Draco to take. "Here."
Soft grey eyes stared at the clip in his palm before looking up at him. A certain emotion Harry did not fully comprehend passed across Draco's visage and died a swift death. "I didn't think you would keep this."
"It's not mine to throw away," Harry said simply, the inorganic silver glittering like a beacon in the dark.
Draco reached out and brushed his thumb over the green jewel that was set into silver; yet instead of taking the clip, he left it where it was. "Hold on to it for now. I still have your scarf with me. You can give this back when I return the scarf to you."
"Okay." Trusting the boy to keep his promise, Harry pocketed the tie clip. Without warning, a question surfaced from the depth of his mind, a question that Draco had only answered once as though to appease his curiosity. "Why is it that you always know when I'd go flying?"
A smile wormed its way onto Draco's lips and widened into a carefree grin. For a moment, Harry forgot to breathe, the image burning into his retinas as though he was gazing too long at the candlelight. The pitter-patter of rain drowned out every sound but Draco's low, mellow voice. "Perhaps I've been stalking you."
Several days later, Draco, along with Severus Snape, vanished from Hogwarts as though they had melted away with the snow. The broken body of Albus Dumbledore was discovered at the bottom of the tower; his untimely demise closed the curtains on the golden era of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As fear struck the heart of every resident at Hogwarts, theories concerning what happened on that fateful night travelled around the castle like an inferno. Harry alone knew the truth, which he had divulged to the remaining three Heads of Houses and his two best friends.
The weather could not be more different when Harry set out to fly once more. Spring was nearing its end, and the footstep of summer could already be heard. The sun shone without remorse against the azure sky; the occasional white cloud floated so low he could almost touch it were he to stretch his arm. Somehow, the sky was so blue and clear that it seemed distant and unreal, an illusion one must never pursue lest one suffocate during the attempt.
This would be the last time he shall ever fly beneath this sky he had once shared with a certain fickle blond. In several days, he would hop onto the Hogwarts Express and lie in wait at the Dursleys for his coming-of-age, after which he would set off on a journey to fulfil the task his mentor had entrusted to him.
As he glided past the unfathomable lake and the verdant forest, he cast his mind to the silver tie clip he had locked away in the trunk, the only token remained of those lost moments in the final winter of his adolescence. Those last words his rival had spoken to him lingered still in his mind. On hindsight, Draco had probably known things would turn out this way, and yet he had elected to make a promise he had no intention to keep.
You are a step ahead of me again, Harry thought while turning the Firebolt back the way he came. There are things I wanted to tell you, things I wanted you to tell me.
Hogwarts, majestic and imposing as always from a distance, seemed more empty and forlorn than usual, for a certain blond was no longer waiting for him on the rooftop of a certain tower.
The boy who had fixed his tie for the price of five house points, the boy who had told him he looked better without his glasses, the boy who had pressed their foreheads together in the guise of reading his mind, the boy who had a penchant for sitting on the ledge like a wingless Icarus - he had gone beyond the rite of passage and into the great unknown. Soon, Harry would follow him through the threshold and into the harsh reality of war. There was nothing more left for him to do but fight and survive and pray that someday he would catch up to that boy once more.
With dry eyes, Harry gazed outwards at the clear blue sky and the distant horizon he could not reach, the wind slapping his face without an ounce of mercy or tenderness he used to know. Gripping tightly the handle of his beloved Firebolt, he had an inkling that the sky would not be his today.
(1) The subtitle Deux ou Trois Choses que Je Sais de Lui, which translates to "two or three things I know about him", is an allusion to the title of Jean-Luc Godard's film, Deux ou Trois Choses que Je Sais d'Elle.
A/N: At last! This is somewhat of an unplanned prequel, since the one I had in mind is actually told in Draco's point of view. Still, this story brings me back to the time when our two boys are still so very young. I hope Draco is a bit more in-character here than in some of my other stories?
This is also my love letter to the sky. While the title of this story comes from Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope is the thing with feathers", I've substituted the word hope with another word. You can decide what that word might be. In this story, Draco is someone who likes to play with fire, just like the wind that at times stokes the flame and at other times puts it out; and Harry is the fire.
I intend to work on another prequel, this time in Draco's point of view, but I won't start on that until I update Nape first. Thank you very much for reading! Comments will be greatly appreciated!