CHAPTER 10: A Forbidden Letter

Beta: Neon-Panda


CHAPTER NOTES:
I know, I promised to update sooner, and I really wanted to, but life got in the way and then it took me longer to write this chapter than I had thought it would and … I'm sorry…

I won't ever promise to update at a certain time again, I hate breaking promises…


Despite his exhaustion, Harry hadn't slept very much the previous night, plagued by nightmares as he had been. They were not ghost images of the war and the friends he had lost in it as many would naturally be prone to assume. Those had never been much of a problem for him during the last two months, only disturbing his rest when he had thought much about the victims of the war during his waking hours.
It was because he hadn't been helpless and because he had prevailed over his enemies, Hermione had said with a shrug of her shoulders as if it was totally normal and understandable that he was not traumatized by what he had been through while so many around them fought to keep the memories from ruling their behaviour and their life. Hermione always had an answer.

She herself sometimes dreamt of the torture she had endured at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange in Malfoy Manor, he knew that. Ron had told him. Hell, Ron sometimes dreamt of the screams they had heard from the dungeons, where he and Harry had been unable - helpless - to stop it all and save their friend.

But no, it was nothing like that; he had dreamt that he hadn't regained his magic and that he had to leave the Wizarding World because of it. Somehow all the changes of his body had been reverted, he didn't know why or how, but he hadn't even thought about it then. Logic, as is known, is not important for the dreamer. In any case, he had been sent back to the Dursleys, abandoned by his friends, left alone once more with people who hated him.
The knowledge that Dudley didn't hate him anymore (he wasn't so sure about Petunia and Vernon, you hate what you fear after all) and that his friends would not even abandon him if he ever should lose his ability to perform magic had come only after Harry had awoken. Then the idea that had scared him so much during his sleep had seemed so ridiculous: Ron and Hermione leaving him with the Dursleys, breaking off all contact… god, after all they had been through they'd never do that to him, it was unthinkable. Whatever happened, he knew he'd always have them. But his magic, Merlin, his magic! He wouldn't have survived losing that.

He hadn't lost it, though, and he was still in the Wizarding World. Somewhere. His best friends were out there and probably already searching for him.

But all that knowledge was unimportant while he laid there in a foreign bed, looking up at the blurry image of the fresco in which the birds just started to flutter around and greet the new day, while all around him foreign smells and sounds permeated the night air. The soft murmuring of the rolling waves and the salty freshness the wind brought to his window only emphasized it: he didn't belong here.
Yes, he knew what Zabini and Malfoy had said, he knew that he might not be safe, not in Italy and not in England. Yet a little, vicious voice in the back of his mind asked persistently why he should believe them. For some reason they wanted him to stay in the manor - maybe they intended to mate him, maybe not. How was he to know? From an objective point of view there were certainly some benefits to such a union for a family whose name had been tainted by fighting on the losing side of the war… it could all be a lie to keep him here.

No, he couldn't trust anyone within this blasted house. He needed to leave, find his way back to England and his friends and sort this out, even with his somewhat dubious control over his magic. If anyone would be able to deal with that it were the two persons who had stood at his side during the war. Malfoy and Zabini in contrast had proven that they didn't know how to handle the situation: all they had done so far was making his magic lash out, who said it wouldn't happen again? Who guaranteed him that they would be able to help him regain control over it?
At least with Hermione and Ron there was trust and honesty and maybe it was naïve of him, but they had faced worse situations in the past and had always come out on top, he just knew that the three of them could manage the unthinkable again.

But how was he to leave the Manor without help and return to his friends? He had no wand to apparate away, and several house elves had the order to keep him within the wards. And damnit, He knew just how powerful they could be. It hadn't been so long ago that Harry had seen them in battle after all.

By now he certainly wouldn't be able to use the floo connection any longer and he couldn't even approach the wards without getting stunned and dragged right back.

Brooms came to his mind then: maybe if he could find a fast broom and flew high enough right through the wards, the house elves wouldn't dare to stun him for fear of hurting him. Harry thought he might manage to orientate himself well enough: although Zabini's explanation the day before had told him nothing at all about where he was - how was he to know the names of coasts in Italy? - he could deduce from the position of the sun that he was somewhere on the south-western side of Italy. He could probably follow the coast north and then he would have to cross France. In the best case scenario he might be able to find the Delacours, he knew where Fleur's family lived after all. She had shown him the location of her hometown on a map once. If he had understood it correctly, it was something like Hogsmeade, an all-wizarding village.
As a wizard he should be able to find it…

But there were many ifs and buts in that plan: what if the elves willingly took the risk of hurting him? What if Zabini or Malfoy had ordered them to do whatever it took to keep him within Lanai Manor? As much as he wanted to escape at the moment, he didn't want to die. He wasn't that desperate yet. And aside from the dangers and the fact that Harry didn't know where to even get a broom, his hosts had wings and probably knew how to use them - in contrast to him. It would not be difficult for them to follow him, even if Harry should destroy all other brooms in the manor. Or maybe it would be difficult? How fast were Vykélari?
He would have to find that out first, and that meant staying in the manor for some time. An idea he was not really fond of at the moment.

Wandless apparition then? Yeah, talking of danger; he really didn't feel like getting splinched somewhere…

No, it seemed that for the moment he need to play by the rules and bide his time.

He needed to sail close to the wind.

"What are you allowed to do?" Harry whispered into the early morning air, worrying his lower lips. What had Zabini said? God, remembering the moment was more difficult than he would have thought with his memory clouded by anger. But Zabini had been infuriating when he had given all those orders…
"You are not allowed a wand and you are not to go near the wards." He recited thoughtfully, his voice still a little bit tight: who did that Slytherin think he was, ordering him around like that?

But there had been more. Harry almost hadn't listened to it at the time, too furious with the rules that had been imposed on him. Yes: otherwise he was to be treated like a Zabini by all the house elves; so the question was: what was a grounded Zabini allowed to do?

Suddenly, Harry grinned a smile as narrow as his eyes. If the prophet won't come to the mountain, the mountain must go to the prophet: as he couldn't just go and get help and, the help needed to come to him, and now that he thought about it, that was nowhere near as difficult to achieve as an escape…

But he would need to be able to see, and so as much as he didn't want to, in order to escape he had to accept his new eyes, at least temporarily. Once he had his glasses back he could always transfigure them back and never have to deal with them again.
Steeling himself, Harry willed his vision to change to that overwhelming richness of detail and colour and just like that it did. Gazing up, he watched as the blurry image of the fresco became sharper, until he could make out the outlines clearly and then he could see every unevenness of the ceiling it had been drawn upon, every line of each brushstroke. The colours themselves didn't change much; it seemed that additional colour had not been part of the paint used for this fresco, and for that, Harry was glad.
Within seconds, it was over and in contrast to the day before, Harry only felt a slight fatigue, nothing that would hinder his body or mind to function.

Now he could begin!

With renewed enthusiasm, Harry climbed out of the ridiculously large bed and walked around it towards the curved foot bench. Like the previous morning he found a pile of clothing, which his two captors had laid out for him when they had accompanied him back to his rooms the previous evening. Harry had been too tired to mind much and hadn't even complained when Blaise had vanished behind the curtain to the side of the king size bed and returned with a fresh pyjama which he had deposited on the bed. It seemed they didn't trust him to dress properly and Harry had thought he should maybe tell them that there was a reason why he had been so tastelessly clothed during their school days, but really, the Dursleys were none of their business; and he had still been so very tired.

Although not tired enough that Harry hadn't wanted to ask for a moment about who had changed his clothes after he had been brought to Lanai Manor, but while his sluggish mind had still dithered, torn between embarrassment and indignation, Zabini had spoken up and made the decision for him. The Italian had explained about the suite of rooms Harry had been given and told him not to hesitate to call upon the house elves, should he have need of anything. With that, both he and Draco bade him goodnight and left him alone.

Alone in a room that was far too large for his comfort.

He had stood there for awhile, watching the slight gap in the curtains opposite of his bed, through which the two Slytherins had left. Then with a sigh, he had taken the pyjama and crossed that very curtain and into the living area behind it. He hadn't taken much notice of the room then, only interested in getting into the bathroom on the other side of it to take a quick shower and then return to fall into his bed.

And that he had done and nothing more.

Now he swiftly dressed into the light brown pants and the black, short-sleeved shirt waiting for him on the foot bench, wondering not for the first time how the hell the two Slytherins had managed to get all those clothes that fast. They fit him perfectly; maybe he would have to ask them.

But for now he would concentrate on putting one over on them…

Not bothering to check his appearance in the large mirror at one side of the bedroom, Harry pushed the curtain to the living area aside and crossed the room swiftly, not even appreciating for a moment the wonderful view of the wide windows, or the warm décor and the furnishings that looked as chic as they seemed comfortable. Not even the fireplace, that only held illusionary fire anyway and didn't even possess a flue. He strode right up to the pair of doors on the other side, from which one lead to the bathroom and the other - as Zabini had explained in an embedded sentence - to a study.

Harry told himself that he was not nervous as he opened the door to the latter one. After all it wasn't as if he was afraid of his captors per se: they hadn't resorted to violence even when he had tried to flee, even when he had attacked Zabini and Harry was rather sure that he was safe from them for the time being. But if they found out what he was about to do, they would take away more of his freedom until he wouldn't be able to move anywhere without supervision, and his chances of escape would be drastically reduced.

In comparison to all the other rooms, the study was rather plain: warm peach-coloured, marbled walls and a white ceiling, the exact same colour of the living area, and high but relatively narrow windows (only in comparison to the wide ones in the other rooms) that were partly veiled by pale curtains. Some kind of plant stood in front of each window, but Harry had no idea what they were. Maybe Neville would have known; no, surely, Neville would have known, Harry smiled fondly.
The desk stood parallel to the windows, a light table with no ornaments whatsoever. The dark tabletop was firmly joined with the wall unit at the side of the room and was empty aside from the silver sculpture of a Pegasus and a crystalline ink well and a white quill. It didn't even have any drawers. Harry frowned and walked round it, seating himself into the pale office chair, on which cushioning charms had been casted so skilfully that one had the impression of sinking into clouds.
If the chairs at Hogwarts would have been anywhere near as comfortable, Harry thought, shaking his head slightly, the teachers would have had no chance of keeping their students awake.

Not letting himself be distracted for long, Harry opened the drawers of the wall unit, one after the other until he had found what he had searched for: letter paper; thick, gold-bordered, luxurious letter paper with a Pegasus embedded as a water mark.

Well, it was a bit snobbish, but it would do.

Quickly, he took out two of the papers, shut the drawer and laid them out in front of him. Then Harry opened the inkwell with the royal blue ink in it, that was probably some fancy custom-built model if he judged those purebloods correctly and took up the white quill.

He didn't hesitate for one moment as he wrote the first words.

-|-
Dear Hermione, dear Ron,

I need your help…

And so Harry began what should become a momentous and consequential event during the unusual courtship that he was the centre of without even knowing it yet.

Once he had finished the letter and rolled up the papers, closing them with red sealing wax he had found in one of the drawers, he stood and clapped his hands.

This was the critical moment of his plan, the one he didn't know if it would succeed. He needed to get a house elf to send the letter away or give him access to an owl. If it refused, then Malfoy and Zabini would learn of it before he had had the chance to fulfil his plan and the constrictions that had been put upon him would be reinforced and tightened around him until there was no chance of escape. Harry took a deep, steadying breath just as a small house elf appeared in the study with a quiet pop, bowing lowly to him.

"Desidera? Signor Harry Potter, padroncino? Non riesci a dormire?"

Harry blinked at the little creature in front of him that was wrapped up in layers of a pale cloth with dark edging that had once probably been part of a discarded curtain. "Uh… do you speak English?"
God, he hoped so…

The elf looked up at him, and nodded fiercely, sending its long ears flapping.
"Naturalmente! Of course, young master Potter!"

"Good." Harry said and made an effort to sound nonchalant and imperious. "I need you to do something for me."

"Anything, master Harry Potter, sir! Giallina do anything." Almost Harry would have smiled at the eagerness in the elf's voice. How naïve they could be and yet so insightful at times.

"I need you to send a letter for me. I haven't been shown to the owlery yet." He hoped the elf would buy the impression that what he was doing was totally within his privileges, if only he managed to present himself confident enough... but it seemed to waver.

"Maybe master Harry Potter can wait for master Blaise?"

Oh shit. "He is still abed, isn't he?"
The elf nodded, still looking unhappy.

"I don't want to disturb him, I think I did enough of that yesterday." He gave it a small smile. "And I'd like to settle this before breakfast."

"Giallina is not sure, master Potter. Giallina thinks she should wait for master Blaise. She will take the letter and send it after seeing master Blaise." Hopefully the little thing looked up at him.

Harry desperately tried to keep his heartbeat and breathing under control. Oh, Merlin, how he wished he didn't have to do that. "Is that how you would treat another Zabini?" He asked as sternly as he was able to, but he almost faltered when the large eyes became even larger and started to shine suspiciously. "Blaise ordered you to treat me like you would a Zabini! Do you want to go against the direct orders of the master of this house?"
Inwardly Harry cringed as the small elf started to whine pitifully and pull at its bat-like ears violently until tears were streaking from its large eyes. "Stop that at once!" he ordered. "I don't want you to punish yourself further."

"But Giallina is a bad elf! Does master want Giallina to punish herself where the master can't see?"

"No! She…" Harry closed his eyes. Honestly, dealing with house elves could be trying sometimes. "you are to send away this letter now, without delay. It is important."

"Yes, master Harry Potter! Giallina will do it right now." Harry sighed in relief as the elf held its hand out for the envelope.

"And afterwards I don't. Want. You. To punish. Yourself. Is that clear?"

Again the bat-like ears fluttered as the elf nodded fiercely.

"Good. Then be on your way."

And with a last "Yes, young master!" the small elf was gone.

Slowly, with a relieved sigh, Harry seated himself again on the comfortable office chair. He knew it was but a little victory, but he couldn't stop himself from grinning. He had lost a battle yesterday with the floo debacle, but that didn't mean he would lose the war.


If Harry's mood was suspiciously improved in comparison to the day before or if he seemed a little bit excited and nervous at the same time, when Blaise and Draco met him this morning, they didn't notice it, too busy to assess his lithe frame and his somewhat short stature. How much of that came from the mistreatment he had endured and how much was natural? Were his eyes so bad because he had been forced to spend much of his time in a small, ill-lit cupboard from such a tender age on? Would his body show scars from the beatings he had taken at the hands of his cousin?

If it did, Blaise and Draco would have them charmed away by a specialist and the muggle wouldn't live much longer…
And by Morgaine's vengeful nature, if that dog had sunken its fangs into the flesh of the Gryffindor's body only once, Draco swore he would skin the mutt and its owner alive!
And then, then he would watch them burn.

He knew a dark curse that wizards had sometimes used in medieval times which would make a circular scission around the belly and back of the victim and then peel the skin upwards, severing it from the flesh up to just below the armpits. The skin would melt together above the head and the victim would suffocate in a bag of his own skin.

Rather painful but not that useful against a wizard or witch because even without a wand the victim's accidental magic would usually manage to free him or her before death occurred. But used against a muggle…

Of course such a method would normally be too crude and unsophisticated and way too messy for Draco and he had never even killed before, but what could he say? It was a good image at that moment.

Hopefully unaware of his line of thoughts, Harry interrupted them nonetheless as he spoke up, looking at him cautiously.
"You're staring, Malfoy." It seemed to seriously unnerve him, more so than the day before. He was a little bit jittery, Draco thought, wondering what could have caused the change in behaviour overnight. Almost as if he was nervously waiting for something to happen…
Maybe the notion of what Blaise and he could want from Harry was finally settling in after all. Though privately, Draco hoped that this wasn't the reason for his nervousness. After all he didn't want the prospect to frighten the young submissive.
Draco gave him a small smile, meaning it to be reassuring. "I am sorry." He murmured, the teasing quality to his voice implying that his apology didn't have to be taken for one, if Harry didn't want to… It only served to unnerve and confuse the younger Vykélari further as it seemed. That was fine, Draco told himself, Harry would warm up to them in time.

"You agreed to call me Draco."

Harry stopped in between steps to glare at him. "Fine, Draco. But stop staring at me!"

Blaise chuckled lowly just as he held the door towards a dining room on the eastern side of the manor open for Harry and waved him through with a graceful hand gesture before following him.
"He is staring, because you look beautiful." He offered, delighting in the indignantly embarrassed blush it got him and while his fiancé was still staring at their charge, proving that he was not at all sorry, he took Harry's hand and - despite the other's best attempts at pulling it away instantly, managed to press a light kiss onto the knuckles. Harry hissed and immediately snatched his hand away the moment the Italian released it. Even the skin on his ears and neck had flushed by now. Blaise never would have thought that he would find something like that adorable, but with Harry, it was.
"I'm not a girl! I don't even know if I believe you that I am what you say I am. So don't you treat me like one!"

Blaise chuckled lowly. "I assure you Harry, if you were a girl I would treat you rather differently. I am perfectly bent." With that he flashed a winning smile at their guest.

For a moment, Harry seemed to be imitating a carp, his mouth opening and closing in rapid succession, and he was doing a pretty good job of it, too, aside from his slightly flushing cheeks. But Draco's half-suppressed chuckle tore him from his stupor.
"Well, I am not!" he spat, turning towards the round glass table in the middle of the room, that had an oversized black amphora as a base.

Silently Draco and Blaise watched the Gryffindor pull out one of the white leather chairs jerkily and sit down, the movements shouting the brunet's irritation out to the world in no uncertain manner.

Well, that was a problem… Draco and Blaise shared an alarmed glance as they approached the table also and seated themselves on the opposite side of Harry.
"Harry," Draco started cautiously. "Are you really, absolutely, positively straight?"

"That isn't any of your business!" Harry growled with a pointed glare and grabbed a slice of ciabatta out of the silver, filigree breadbasket.
Blaise shook his head. "I don't want a repeat performance of yesterday, but I have to say this: You won't be able to settle down with Ginevra Weasley or with any other woman. They will not let you."

"You mean you won't let me." Harry said, not looking up from the ciabatta that he was currently soaking with honey. Idly Draco wondered if he should tell the brunet that the honey and the marmalade were meant to go with the cornetto and the cheese and jam were intended for the ciabatta. Really, to slather a slice of such a fluffy bread with the sticky, half-liquid pine honey … he just knew a cleaning spell would be in order afterwards…

"No, Harry, every dominant Vykélari between 17 and 50 will not allow you to. And while most maybe wouldn't try to force your hand, there are enough who would. If you married a woman, be assured she wouldn't survive the first week of your marriage."

Finally Harry looked up, the redness draining from his cheeks. "What?" He whispered.

Draco held his gaze. He knew that although Harry was shocked to the core by his statement, he was now enough in control of his emotions that he would search his eyes for a sign that Draco was lying. If he looked away, Harry would not believe him, and he needed to believe him. It would do none of them good if they coddled the brunet. "They would murder her, Harry, in order to get to you. I'm sorry, but it had to be said."

Harry's eyes seemed to tear up but Draco couldn't be sure, as fast as the Gryffindor turned his head away from them. But he heard him swallow audibly and his breathing hitched.

Two years ago he would have sneered at the other teen, would have taunted him gleefully for the weakness he was showing. He would have taken the image of the memory and stored it into the mental file he kept on each of his enemies, waiting to be used later, when it would be beneficial.
Now, with the prospect of having the younger Vykélari as a mate, a real mate, and with Severus's words still haunting him, he couldn't do it. There was no logical explanation, nothing that would have sounded reasonable to him anyway and yet ... he just couldn't.

But he had no idea what to do either.

Next to him, Blaise slid out of his chair and approached the younger Vykélari. Ignoring the unimpressive glare of swimming eyes, he gently turned the other's chair around to face him and hunkered down in front of the brunet.
"It won't come to that. If you don't want to mate, you don't have to, you will always find a safe spot in Lanai Manor." Reassuringly the tanned Italian laid one of his hands on Harry's knee and squeezed gently.
"Don't think of it now and don't pressure yourself. You've been through so much... let Draco and me show you around the Manor today and then, if you are not too tired, we could go swimming - either in the pool or the sea, whatever you prefer. Tomorrow you should be rested enough that we can explore your magic together and maybe fly a bit. You have no obligations here, Harry. Try to enjoy it and take all the time you need to familiarize yourself with your new abilities."

Harry didn't look at them as he nodded his consent, his jaw clenched. Draco watched him silently, knowing that the Gryffindor was only further slipping away from them, thinking that they lied, but not knowing how to reach him.
Maybe Ives would be able to convince the obstinate Gryffindor, and if not, well, there was always veritaserum, even though that might lead to rather awkward situations if Harry exploited the chance to ask them any questions he could while they were unable to lie to him; he'd rather use that option as a last resort…


They stayed true to their word: after an opulent breakfast, Blaise and Draco spend the forenoon showing Harry around the manor. Blaise was rather taken up in his explanations, telling the other two teens of this event or that or simply made them aware of some detail or the other.
The manor that had been in the hands of Vykélari for ages had been build to accommodate their needs or offer certain luxuries that would not be needed by normal wizards. That ranged from frescos which had been worked out with a special kind of paint that showed ultraviolet over wide balconies that would allow a Vykélari to land and start from comfortably even with their huge wingspan, and to walls that had been spelled soundproofed. When Harry asked why anyone would need that, Draco explained that most Vykélari tended to keep their improved visual, acoustic and tactile senses permanently.
Since they weren't linked with a physical feature that any other wizard would be able to see and were an immense advantage during a sudden attack, a duel or simply to take notice of things that weren't meant to be noticed (here Draco smirked and winked at Harry conspiratorially, who merely was reminded of Fred and George and their use of extendable ears and thought that maybe they would be able to hit it off with Draco if not for their tiresome family feud…), most Vykélari accepted the minor disadvantages that came with oversensitive senses.

At last Blaise led the way to the roof of the building where a narrow spiral staircase lead to a spacious roof garden. It had a spectacular view over the coast and the cyan water that slowly blended into the dark blue of the open ocean. And to the eastern side ascended a hillocky landscape behind which the Apennines would be visible on clear days, as Blaise promised him, his dark eyes shining in a contagious way that made Harry forget himself and smile for a moment, before he remembered where he was and who he was with. Yet though Blaise continued with his monologue, still completely unaware, Harry's eyes met Draco's for but a moment and Draco smiled back gently, genuinely and Harry just knew his school nemesis had seen…
He looked away quickly again, his heart beating a little bit faster.

"This roof garden has been used by my father's ancestor's for generations to teach newly fledged Vykélari how to fly. I myself learned it here, too. My cousin taught me and he was also the one who guided me through my transformation."
"Can you imagine soaring towards the sun, when it is setting there over the endless water, not on a broom but on your own wings? I wasn't strong enough to really fly at first and just floated downwards until I landed with a splash. I swear my cousin had way too much fun on my expense."

"Was it…" Harry fell silent, unsure whether to ask.

Blaise and Draco turned to him, blinking against the sun. "Was it what?"

"Nothing… It's just, you know, it was … really painful…" he shrugged, dropping his gaze along with his voice.

Draco took a step towards him and tilted his head. Was that one of the reasons why Harry felt so reluctant to accept his inheritance? Was he … traumatized by his transformation?
"I don't know, Harry. Normally you would have been given a drug prior to the transformation that would have made you insensitive to the pain. But as no one knew that you would transform … was it that bad?"

Harry shrugged, looking towards the sea helplessly. "It was like a very strong, localized Cruciatus, you know? And I … I just … it took away my magic and my vision and everything else … and I just didn't know what was happening … I thought that maybe I was dead." He muttered at last, somewhat embarrassed.

"Merlin, Harry!" Blaise whispered and took a step forward, wishing to envelop the Gryffindor in his arms but not knowing if he'd be welcome to do so after Harry had spurned all bodily contact with them. After being imprisoned in a cupboard and then a room he had now been imprisoned in silence and numbness.

"I'm sorry that your transformation went like that. It's … meant to be a joyous event. My parents were so proud when I did, I … I think they were not sure I would be powerful enough." Draco murmured, his guilt pushing him towards honesty. He hadn't thought about what that experience might have done to the submissive, not for a moment. He had just expected Harry to pick himself up and go on, like he always did, had expected him to fight them and with time, to give in to them.
How naïve he had been.
He licked his suddenly dry lips. "Would it help you if you could speak with someone who has … been through something similar?"

"What? No … no, no. I'm fine!" Harry turned towards them and then he blinked in rapid succession as if he had noticed only now that they were even here.

Silence spread between the three of them, not awkward, nor comfortable, only full of unspoken thoughts and regrets and unsaid apologies.

Finally Blaise nodded. "If you say so."
A silent communication passed between Draco and Blaise and the decision not to press further. One day the smaller brunet would open up to them and when he would tell them his secrets of his own free will … that was a goal worth pursuing. Another challenge of another kind.

"Come," Draco waved the Gryffindor to follow. "Let us have the house elves prepare us something for lunch and go swimming. You'll like it: the sea is warm and all cyan blue…"
He stopped as Harry tilted his head, his brow knitted in obvious bewilderment over the blonde's behaviour. Well that might be somewhat deserved.

But Draco just smiled. Maybe this would become a difficult long-time project just like that damned vanishing cabinet; but this time, he was sure, the result would be much more satisfying.


Soon they rushed their charge to his chambers and Draco vanished behind the curtain to the side of Harry's bed to choose a bathing suit for him.

As Harry found out, the curtain hid an oversized walk-in closet, its walls covered with dark wardrobes and as soon as Draco and Blaise left him alone to give him some privacy and he started to change, a set of five frameless, high mirrors surrounded him in a lose circle, turning and dipping with his head movements just so that he was able to examine himself from every angle.
It kind of freaked him out a bit and Harry hurried to finish, his face as red as a radish. He had always found himself too thin, too small and although the muscles of his body were defined, he didn't think that they looked at all … impressive. He was an endurance athlete, trained by Quidditch and war and his body bore testimony to that. Draco and Blaise were both taller and broader and he just knew it would make him even more self-conscious.

But once he stepped onto the terrace where they had had lunch the day before and met the two Slytherins in their tight, square cut bathing suits, his mind went too blank to be self-conscious at all.
Up close, half-naked and bathed in the golden light of the early afternoon sun, they reminded him of an image of Michelangelo's David, or at least Blaise did with his locks. Sure, his face was a little bit more … angular, his hair not as curly, his body definitely darker and he wore that dark vine red bathing suit that was … too tight to hide anything. But there were similarities that made his whole body tighten…
And Draco, though his built was a little bit slighter, his skin was as pale as the marble that the famous sculpture had been made of. It glowed, too, as if covered in lotion and it was, probably: with such pale skin the blonde would surely need sun blocker after all.
Harry really tried to keep his eyes away from the blue-grey suit that hugged his slender hip like a second skin. But his well-muscled stomach and chest were not much better either, and the smile that just tugged at his lips at seeing Harry, him, certainly wasn't. He was running out of options to look at…

He knew that he hadn't lied earlier: he wasn't bent, he certainly liked women, too, and he had never been much interested in men before, but damnit, could anyone fault him if the vision in front of him made his stomach do summersaults and his pulse flutter? And something else swell traitorously…

"Are you ready?"

"Huh?" God, he sounded like such a fool.

"Are you ready to go?" Draco repeated, though he tried to hide his amusement. He was too relieved and pleased that Harry seemed to be attracted to him and Blaise despite of his earlier claim to be straight to destroy it now with ill-placed insensitivity.

Harry nodded quickly, hoping the two Slytherins would blame the heat for his flushed skin. At least they didn't make any derogatory comment…
But he could feel their eyes wandering over his body appreciatively and rather self-consciously he put his arms around his naked chest. They might be handsome, very handsome even, but he was rather uncomfortable with all the attention. In the past it had always been him who had had to do the pursuing, not that he had been very good at the whole seduction thing, but still …

Demonstratively he tugged in his chin and walked past the two Slytherins towards the stone path leading down the garden terraces towards the beach down below.


CHAPTER END NOTES:
I meant to do more, I really did, but exams are starting soon and I don't have much time at the moment, sorry! But I didn't want to leave you waiting for so long, so I cut the chapter short… I might not be able to update next week for the same reason. Please bear with me, for a while.