Disclaimer: Characters are, of course, owned by J.K. Rowlings. I own nothing, but oh yes, would SO love to borrow Draco indefinitely.
Warning: Draco/Harry slash. Rating for this story is PG-13.
Author's Note – March 2007. Checkmate is now five years old – I wrote all the planning notes for the entire story in February and March of 2002 – so for new readers, please note: Checkmate is an alternate seventh year story that is based on the events of the first four Harry Potter books. Any events that occurred in the books after Goblet of Fire had not yet been published when this story was plotted, and therefore were not incorporated within the Checkmate story line. The events of Harry's fifth and sixth years in Checkmate are not the same as those in Order of the Phoenix or Half-Blood Prince.
PART I – THE SETUP
Knowing I want you,
Knowing I love you,
I can't explain,
Why I remain
Careless about you.
How can I love you so much,
Yet make no move?
I pray the days and nights,
In their endless, weary procession,
My sad obsession.
Lyrics from "You and I" from Chess by Benny Anderson, Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus
Draco walked slowly down the shadowed Hogwarts castle corridor. It was sometime after midnight. He hadn't really paid attention to where he was going; he was just walking, letting his mind lose itself in his private obsession, following the halls, avoiding the intermittent red-gold pools of lamplight, his bare feet completely noiseless on the stone floor. Dressed in black pants and turtleneck, his face and hair, hands and feet seemed disembodied, graceful, pale as moonlight, floating ghostlike in the dark sections of the hallway. He walked like this when he couldn't sleep, and that was often these days. As a seventh year student and a prefect, he had some excuse to be out of his room at night, but he still slipped as quietly as possible along the long corridors, from strict habit, he tried to avoid running into Filch, or Mrs. Norris, Filch's cat.
Long swaths of winter moonlight fell across the floor from the high windows on his right and he paused for a moment, then walked around the pale rectangles of light, hugging the shadows of the far left wall. His fingers trailed along the cool stone, and as he walked on, he was reminding himself yet again how utterly hopeless it was to wish that he might run into another certain person out here in the middle of the night. And how hopeless it would be even if he did, because he couldn't, no, must not, let himself act on his desire.
Then he turned a corner and froze. He held very still, his mastery of the art of stillness exquisite. Twin lamps cast a confusing pattern of light and shadow from two suits of armor, but surely there was no mistaking what he saw. Was that really a pair of achingly familiar sneakers and knees sticking out from between the two suits of armor?
Get a grip, Draco, he told himself. You're starting to hallucinate.
But then the hallucination sniffled and sighed, and Draco's heart did a slow melt. Suddenly he wasn't very clear about what it was he shouldn't do. Surely it couldn't hurt just to talk. If he dared. He stood for a long time completely motionless, debating, his heart pounding.
Draco knew without a doubt that he would be totally unwelcome, and that hurt so much that he almost turned around and walked away. He'll be very angry. I know that, so I can't let myself react to it. If I don't get angry back, maybe he'll listen to me. But, oh God, what if he doesn't? He might have stood there immobile, indecisive, all night, but the sound of another sniffle sparked his curiosity and concern, and before he knew it, he had stepped forward, unable to resist the longing that drew him on.
He walked down the corridor until he stood in front of the slight, dark haired figure that was slumped down between two suits of armor. He looked down on Harry, and felt a moment of elation, for it really was Harry, who was sitting there with his elbows braced on his knees and his face buried in his hands. Then he felt a moment of shock – this was Harry, and he looked like he was – crying!?
"Harry?" said Draco, as gently as he could.
Harry's head jerked back, and he looked up and up until he saw Draco's face, then he sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth, and let his head fall back down into his hands. "Go the hell away, Malfoy," he muttered through his hands.
Draco crossed his ankles and dropped with fluid grace to sit cross-legged in front of Harry. "Hey," he said softly. "What's wrong?"
Harry raised his head and stared at Draco in disbelief. Did Draco Malfoy just ask him what was wrong? Did he just call Harry by his first name!? And if there was anyone Harry hadn't wanted to see him like this –
"Do you have some kind of seventh sense, Malfoy," he retorted angrily, "that tells you when you are the last person in the world that someone wants to see, just so you can show up?" Harry ran one hand through his unruly hair, which only made it stick up worse. He leaned back against the wall and glared at Draco. "Just go away," he said flatly. He crossed his arms over his chest and continued to glare.
Draco felt the old hurt rising up inside him, turning to anger as it always did, but he fought it, willed himself to not react this time. He let his head fall forward and looked down, breaking eye contact with Harry. Fair blond hair tumbled down over his forehead.
He heard Harry let out a martyred sigh. "Are you too dense to understand the meaning of 'go away'?"
A small bit of Draco's will power snapped. He looked up and flipped the hair out of his eyes with one small refined toss of his head. "No, Potter, I'm not," he said, much more calmly than he felt. "I am having trouble understanding why you feel it's necessary to be so relentlessly rude to me."
Harry's jaw dropped slightly. "You have got to be kidding. After all the rotten things you've said and done to me and my friends?"
Draco looked back down. "You started it," he said quietly.
Draco started worrying at the cuff of his pant's leg. "First year . . . that first day . . . on the train to school. You really hurt my feelings, Harry."
Harry made a sort of strangled noise. "You were acting like a stuck-up, arrogant, insufferable git! And then you insulted the first two people in the world who ever offered to be my friends."
Draco shrugged one shoulder slightly. "I was only eleven."
"So, that was seven years ago."
"You still act like that!"
Draco looked up and met Harry's eyes with a steady gaze. Very softly, he said, "Do I? Have I at all this year so far? Am I now?"
Harry said nothing, as he studied Draco's light silver-gray eyes. He tried to remember something that Draco had done lately to torment him. They had been back at school for three months now – it was only a week and a-half until Christmas break, and Harry, to his increasing surprise, couldn't think of anything. They had played against each other ruthlessly in Quidditch, had sat through almost an entire excruciating term of Advanced Potions class, but Harry could not recall even one insult thrown his way. In fact, Draco had barely exchanged a word with him the whole term. He had been his usual cold self, distant and aloof, arrogant – no, admitted Harry, the arrogance wasn't there now. Instead, it was more like – almost like – Draco had been deliberately avoiding him.
Draco held himself very still. He felt Harry's stare to the marrow of his bones, and though it was hard, he didn't try to hide his new feelings for Harry, instead he let all his real, honest emotions show in his own eyes for Harry to see. "You're right, Harry," he said in a low voice. "I did act awful. And I'm sorry for it now. A lot of things happened to me over the summer, and I . . ." He looked away, then down at his hands. "Would you believe me if I said that most of what you think you know about me was just an act I put on, to hide what I really felt?"
"I don't know, Malfoy. If it was acting, you were very good at it – it seemed quite real."
Draco glanced back up at Harry. "I am good at it. It's something you learn very young, when your father is Lucius Malfoy. But that doesn't make it real."
"Oh," said Harry, very softly. "I always thought you, well, wanted to be just like him. All that pure-blood-wizarding-family-Slytherin-Death-Eater-Malfoy stuff, you know."
Draco shivered, and his eyes glazed over, cold with bitterness. "No," he said. "I hate him. He brainwashed me from the day I was born. When you and I met, I just didn't know it yet. But I know it now, and he terrifies me. Lucius Malfoy is evil."
Harry looked very sober and studied Draco as if he'd never really looked at him before. "You must have had a really rotten childhood," he said slowly. "Like I did."
Draco's icy glare thawed at Harry's words. He studied Harry back, warmth, and then a spark of amusement creeping into his light eyes. "Potter," he said, raising one elegant eyebrow, "my childhood was never as bad as yours. I, at least, had clothes. That fit."
Harry groaned. "Oh, very funny, Malfoy," he said with a sarcastic tone. He looked at Draco with narrowed eyes, a little startled by the warmth in the other boy's gaze. "Did I really hurt your feelings?" he asked, finally. "On the train?"
Draco nodded. "Terribly, horribly, and down to the bone."
Harry was silent for a long moment. "Then, I'm sorry," he said at last. "If it's not too late to say so."
A soft expression appeared in Draco's eyes that Harry found almost mesmerizing. "No, it's not too late," he said. "Thank you."
This last was said with such quiet sincerity that Harry just sat and stared at Draco, stricken speechless as all his previous conceptions about Draco Malfoy tried to mesh with this new person who sat facing him.
Finally, Draco broke the silence. "Harry, why are you sitting up here?"
"I, er . . ." Harry sighed, propped his elbows on his knees again and put his head in his hands, his fingers laced into his already disarranged hair. "It's nothing really. I was just being stupid and I knew it, so I came up here where I thought no one would see me." He glanced pointedly over at Draco. "So much for that idea."
Draco dismissed Harry's comment with a shrug. "Well, now you have someone to talk to. So, what were you were being so stupid about?"
Harry moved his hands from the sides of his head around to cover his face. "Oh no, Malfoy. I'm not talking to you."
Harry moaned. "It's too . . . embarrassing. And it really isn't important. I just needed to . . . think . . . and . . ."
Gentle hands closed around Harry's wrists and pulled his hands away from his face. Harry opened his eyes, surprised, and met Draco's steady silvered gaze.
"I just spilled my guts all over in front of you, Potter," said Draco softly. "Be fair."
They stared at each other for a long moment and then Harry sat back against the wall, drawing his hands out of Draco's light grasp. He crossed his arms over his chest and was silent for a long time, looking down, chewing on his bottom lip. "It's about Hermione and Ron," he said at last. He looked up suddenly, his eyes spitting green fire. "Malfoy, I swear, if you ever tell anyone this, I'll . . . I'll scoop out your heart with a rusty Muggle spoon and feed it to Hagrid's skrewts!"
For a second, Draco's eyes flashed with anger. "You don't have to threaten me, Harry," he said. "I have no intention of talking about this . . . little encounter we're having, to anyone." Then he laughed. "I mean, look at us. Who'd believe it?"
"Well," said Harry, "even so . . . I'm not sure I want to tell anyone this. . . ."
Draco just sat looking at him, one eyebrow arched up, the beginnings of a grin lurking around the corners of his mouth. "Ron and Hermione?" he prompted.
Harry glared at him. "This is just some new way for you to torment me, isn't it?"
Draco laughed. "Evidently so. But only because you're being so stubborn. Look, I swear, on the threat of excruciatingly painful death by rusty Muggle spoon, I will not tell a soul, living or dead, what you are about to tell me. Now, c'mon, Potter, spill."
Harry let out a long exasperated sigh. "You're not going to go away, are you?" It was not really a question.
Harry closed his eyes. Maybe if he didn't see who he was talking to, he wouldn't feel quite so mortified. But he doubted it. He took a deep breath. "Tonight, right after dinner," he said, "Ron and Hermione told me that they're getting engaged. They wanted me to know – but they haven't told their parents, so they're not going to announce it yet. But then they were standing there, holding hands, looking at each other like . . . well, so in love . . . and then he kissed her, and it was so . . . sweet . . . and oh God, Malfoy, I can't believe you're making me tell you this." Harry leaned forward and laid his forehead on his knees and covered his head with his arms. "This is mortifying," he mumbled into his knees.
"Harry?" said Draco softly, and Harry didn't see the sudden flicker of anguish in his eyes. "Are you in love with Granger? Is that why you're upset?"
"No!" Harry jerked up and stared at Draco, his hair all awry, and his glasses crooked. "No, it's not that . . . it's just. . . ."
Draco's heart did that funny little quiver it had been doing lately whenever he saw Harry being so unconsciously adorable. He reached out and straightened Harry's glasses. "Well what, then?" he asked.
Harry didn't seem to notice that Draco had set his glasses right. Instead, he slumped back against the wall in defeat. He closed his eyes again. "I always thought I'd have someone by now." He paused. The words, I thought I did have someone, ran unbidden through his mind. He tried to ignore the thought, and went on. "My parents did. They met here and fell in love. And I've been in and out of a few relationships here . . . but nothing where I was really . . . in love . . . or anyone's been in love with me." Oh God, it hurts to say that. Harry took a deep breath and continued. "So, when I saw Ron and Hermione together, I guess I was feeling afraid that no one will ever look at me like that, or kiss me like that. Now that they're together, I'm really very happy for them, but . . . I'm, well . . . going to feel so . . . alone." Harry took another deep breath, which mostly came out in an enormous sigh. He waited for the ridicule to start, but there was only silence. Cautiously, he opened his eyes.
Draco was sitting very still, his eyes downcast. As if sensing that Harry was looking at him, though, he looked up. The expression in those silvery gray eyes made Harry catch his breath.
"Harry," said Draco gently, "that is not stupid."
Harry felt a flush of heat spread slowly across his face because of the way Draco was looking at him. "Well, it – it just seemed like I was feeling sorry for myself, and –"
"Shhh!" hissed Draco suddenly, jumping to his feet.
Harry scrambled up. "What?" he whispered. Then he heard the footsteps.
"Quick!" said Harry. "Get under here!" He snatched up the Invisibility Cloak that had been lying next to him and threw it over his head, holding up the edge so Draco could duck under it.
Draco didn't need to be asked twice. He threw himself under the cloak, knocking Harry back against the wall.
"Mmpf!" said Harry.
There wasn't room for them to stand side by side between the two suits of armor, so they were pressed face to face. Harry was pinned, squished between Draco and the wall, with Draco's hands flat against the wall on both sides of him.
"You're standing on my foot!" breathed Harry in Draco's ear, which incidentally was right by his mouth.
"Sorry!" breathed Draco back.
Harry felt him move his foot and try to position it elsewhere.
The footsteps turned the corner and both boys froze. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty," Filch called out in a sing-song falsetto voice. "Mrs. Nor – ris. Where's my ickle Dumplin-wumplin?"
Harry and Draco's eyes met. Harry turned beet red and clamped his lips together. A small snort escaped anyway. Draco clapped his hand over Harry's mouth, which made Harry almost lose his balance and fall sideways into the suit of armor on his left. He threw his arms around Draco to catch himself.
"Is that you, Poopsie-kins?" called Filch.
Draco almost choked, and had to drop his face onto Harry's shoulder to stifle the sound.
The clomping steps stopped right in front of the suits of armor. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty," yelled Filch at the top of his lungs. He banged on the armor with his stick. CRASH! CLANG!
Both boys jumped and Harry grabbed Draco tighter to keep from falling over again.
"Damn, blasted, bloody cat! Where are ye?"
"Hrumpf," growled Filch. He turned away and scowled, searching the corridor with his murderous stare. "Could 'a swore I heard something over here," he muttered.
A small stifled whimper escaped from Harry.
Filch whirled to face the spot where Harry and Draco stood.
"PEEVES!" he yelled, his furious eyes boring a hole directly into Harry and Draco. "You'd better not be messing with me tonight, Peeves!!"
"Hrumpf." He turned on his heel and clumped away.
The footsteps faded down to the end of the corridor. Harry and Draco heard one last "Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Sweetie-kins?" and then a door slammed. Draco lifted his head from Harry's shoulder and took his hand away from Harry's mouth.
"Oh God!" said Harry, breathing hard. "I thought I would die when he said –"
"Poopsie-kins!" said Draco, gasping, grinning from ear to ear and wiping his damp eyes. "Oh, Lord, that was unbelievable!" He glanced at Harry, who was grinning back at him, then looked up at the Invisibility Cloak. He lifted his hand and ran his fingers down the inside of the fabric. "This is so cool, Harry. In fact, this has to be the coolest thing I've ever seen." Then he laughed again. "So this is how you've managed to get away with murder around here all these years."
"My dad left it to me," said Harry proudly, smiling.
Draco dropped his gaze to meet Harry's eyes and smiled back at him, their faces only inches apart.
Harry suddenly became very aware that they were standing pressed against each other, and that he had his arms wrapped around Draco's waist. He quickly pulled his arms away and blushed. "Sorry," he whispered.
"I'm not," said Draco softly, and made no attempt to move away. "And by the way, Harry – that little story you just told me? I think you have nothing to worry about. I'm actually quite sure there is someone here, maybe very close to you right now, in fact, that would love to kiss you like that."
"Er, Malfoy –"
"Do you play chess, Harry?"
"Do you play chess? You know, Pawns, Queens, Kings?"
Harry felt his glasses sliding a little down his nose, but he couldn't move to push them up. "I play some with Ron. I'm really not very good at it."
Draco shrugged. "Have you ever played Dare Chess?"
"No. I . . . I've never heard of it."
"Then I'm challenging you to a game, Harry. I'll play white, so I go first." Draco leaned in so that their heads were so close together that Harry could feel Draco's words in warm breath on his face. "Pawn to D3," whispered Draco. His eyelids fluttered closed and his hands came up to grip Harry lightly by the shoulders. Then he kissed Harry on the mouth, an exquisitely gentle, achingly slow, but only for a moment, feather-soft kiss.
Harry thought his heart would stop from shock.
Draco pulled away and looked Harry in the eyes.
Harry's heart almost did stop.
"Consider that my opening move," said Draco, his voice still a whisper. "You can tell me tomorrow if you accept the challenge." He reached up and trailed one finger down the side of Harry's face. "Your move, Harry." Then he ducked down and slipped out from under the Invisibility Cloak.
Harry's knees gave out and he slid down the wall until he sat abruptly on the floor. "Arrrgh!" He struggled for a moment trying to get the tangled Invisibility Cloak off. "WAIT!" He pulled the cloak away. "Malfoy!" He pushed his glasses back up straight and looked around. "What the bloody hell was that!?"
But he was alone in the corridor. Draco had vanished.
End Chapter 1