Hey guys! Sorry this is late again, it was actually completed, and uploaded...and I realised I had uploaded the document, just hadn't added the new chapter. Yeah, I suck :P

How's this for a new years resolution! Already uploaded! :)

I would like to say thank you to all my fans, reviewers and readers - you all truly make my day. I can't believe this story has gotten so many positive views, its really amazing. Well, we're heading for the finish line now, more than half way done. Next chapter is going to have laughs, sorry about the lack of humour in this one.

Well, enjoy!

Also, Harry Potter is not mine. I write for enjoyment, not for profit. J.K.R owns Harry Potter, not me.

Chapter Twenty Six – Protect that which you…

Harry groaned, rolling over and blinking in the gloom. Bloody hell, it felt like he had lain on a tack the entire night. Pain stretched up his back, protesting at his attempt to sit up. He was on a tiled floor? In…where was he?

Harry blinked around, shuffling to the window to peer into the darkness. Night had settled quite easily into the sky, despite the fact Harry remembered it had been lunch time only mere moments ago.

Wait a moment.

Where was Zabini and Nott?

A second glance around the small room didn't reveal either boy. But they had been speaking moments ago; he remembered Zabini chuckling, and even the usually blank Nott twisting his face into an amused grin. Nott had been nodding to whatever story Blaise was telling, had pulled out his wand…

Nott had fucking hexed him!

Harry cursed angrily as he shoved himself to his feet. Just as he was warming up to them, they did something Slytherin like this! Hexing him, after he had revealed he lacked a wand. Those bastards.

He couldn't believe how stupid he had been. You didn't trust Slytherins, it wasn't done. He wasn't one of them, and this proved it. They wouldn't accept him.

Harry glanced at his hands, sighing in relief as they didn't twitch. Finally, the break he had been waiting for. Now there was no evidence that it ever happened. It didn't happen.

It left a bitter taste in his mouth.

He walked through the corridors quietly, not afraid of being discovered. It seemed that having this disease trying to utterly destroy him had a few benefits; the strolling around after dark ban had been unquestionably been lifted for him. He didn't know whether to be upset at that or not; he could basically go anywhere he wanted and not be reprimanded, but on the other side, he liked sneaking around after dark.

The chance of being caught was always a thrill.

And he had always had such great memories of breaking the night ban. The time Hermione and he had carried Norbert…Norberta…to the astronomy tower. He had discovered the mirror of Erised in darkness, and had visited the library more times to count to read banned books. The fact he could use the lie that he was simply going to fetch his potion as a counter to any professor's questions numbed the experience.

Harry sighed as he approached the Hospital Wing doors, rubbing his eyes tiredly. It was tiresome, having to come out here every night. Couldn't he be trusted with his own potions, by now?

He expected a quiet admonishment as he entered the room. He hadn't expected stillness. Harry frowned, eyes straining in the darkness for the usual pacing Pomfrey. She wasn't there.

There was another bed occupied, unfortunately. Harry just hoped the student was asleep; he remembered what happened last time there was a student in here, and he hadn't gotten rid of him since.

Harry frowned slightly, wondering. Why had Draco been in the room that time? Both times, in fact. He had never asked, and he had never divulged. It wasn't as if Harry kept important secrets from him.

Shrugging, Harry made his way over to the cabinet that held his potions. He could take them himself, like an adult. For all the unknown student knew, Harry was stealing potions. He would prefer that than be caught by another student.

Harry cringed as he swallowed the potions, gagging to himself. Merlin, but they were awful. Couldn't they have added honey or something to the concoction, to make it less…nauseating? It seemed potion masters only made medicine to annihilate taste buds, or worsen the illness of the unwell. This potion definitely couldn't be considered healthy.

Harry went to close the cabinet, but his hand refused to. The stupid hand, ignoring his commands. But it had a good point…Couldn't Harry be trusted to take his own potions? It was his failing life here; couldn't he be in control of it? Harry smiled to himself, and searched the other cupboards for a vile stand. He would take enough for this week, and no more.

Looking at the amount of potions collectively was…numbing.

Seven pain killers.

Seven Internal Healers.

Fourteen of the Magic Stabilizing Potion.

Twenty eight potions to take, in a week.

Harry frowned, putting some of the pain relievers back. If another student needed them, he wasn't about to deplete the stock. He needed the internal healer for ailments he didn't know about, but pain was manageable. Even so, twenty two potions seemed a tad excessive for a single week.

He could barely carry it all.

Harry inched back towards the door, trying to escape with his stolen goods. This was going to be fantastic. If he was taking the potions by himself, he had some control back.

And it meant he could sneak around at night, without a valid reason.

He could have some fun again.

Harry smiled to himself, glancing around as he approached the door. It wouldn't do to be caught now…

The student in the bed was still.

Impeccably still.

Were they even breathing?

Harry slowly put the potions down, turning to approach the bed. Where the hell was Pomfrey, if she had a patient to attend to? She tried to ignore Harry; that was understandable. But whoever this was surely didn't deserve…

Oh, god.

Harry's mouth dropped open, in either shock or disgust. Or both. The…this couldn't happen in Hogwarts, could it? It was… barbaric.

The poor student was mutilated.

His face was puffy and blotched, bruises marring it completely. His eyes were so swollen Harry didn't think he would be able to open them again; his chest was barely moving.

Tears dribbled down his face at each breath. A pained whimper left his throat. He was unconscious, yet crying.

Fuck, Harry wanted to cry for him.

His wand was snapped in two, sitting uselessly on the bedside table.

Whoever had done this had been vicious.

Harry swallowed tightly, eyes still wide. He hadn't seen anything quite like this, not during the war. Death, yes. Pure violence? Never like this…

He wore a Slytherin tie, loose around his bruised throat.

Merlin, Draco needed to be told about…





Harry knocked against the Slytherin wall, oddly numb.

He didn't know what to feel; anger, relief…a horrible sort of satisfaction? He felt sick, and it wasn't going away any time soon.

Eventually it opened, a small first year poking his head out. The blonde kid blinked at Harry, but didn't question. Instead, he opened the wall, stepping back to let Harry in. As if he belonged there.

But he didn't.

The maimed boy gasping for air in the Hospital Wing did.

"Disgusting behaviour!" Harry hesitated near the entrance to the common room, frowning as he stared at the entire Slytherin house crammed into the area. Slughorn was blasting them, his podgy face for once furious. "We will find the culprits, and they will be expelled! Do you hear me? Expelled!"

None of the faces in the room seemed pleased.

From first years to eighth years, the same grim expression faced Slughorn. Eyes didn't blink. No one moved.

Stoicism radiated from the congregation. And Slughorn detested it.

"You should be worried about your housemate!" He bellowed, gesturing wildly. "He's a Slytherin, for Merlin's sake! I understand about the portrayal of weakness, I was a part of this house once upon a time! But he's supposed to be your friend! Where is the anger for him? The mutters of revenge?!" He paced angrily, throwing glares at them all. "The only reason for the silence would be because you know something! You all know something, and you're not helping your friend! Incredible! Slytherin house was, once, the most pure of houses! Look at you now!"

He couldn't have made his opinion more evident if he had spat on the floor in disgust.

Harry glanced around the room, taking in the…blankness of the Slytherins. Not one person seemed inclined to care. Not one. The boy that had let him into the room stood besides him, arms crossed, and a polite look of disinterest on his face. He was eleven! Surely the torture of his housemate should have been worrisome.

But no, he just stood as if bored.

Harry immediately found Draco. The blonde was, naturally, staring at him.

Oh, his face wasn't indifference, or disinterest.

His eyes glittered with anger.

It seemed that pummelling the shit out of his friend hadn't appeased him.

So Harry stared blankly back.

"I understand that no one in my house would be capable of this…brutality." Slughorn attempted the yell quieter, but his face was murderous. He certainly seemed capable of brutality. "But you know something. I know you do. If anyone has anything to say, now would be your chance. If not, you can always find a Professor to confess to. If it is discovered anyone withheld information, they will be suspended. Am I making myself clear?"

Still, no one answered him.

It seemed as if all the houses were experiencing similar berating. And, naturally, no house leader would want to consider their house demonstrating such violence. No one would get caught, unless someone snitched.

"Everyone will meet in the Great Hall for breakfast. You must attend, or I'll dock fifty points each. For every minute someone is late, a detention will be handed out." He shook his head in disgust once more, turning around to storm out…

When his eyes landed on Harry.

"Harry, what are you doing in here?" He frowned angrily again, crossing his arms dangerously. "You're not permitted to be here; I don't care how you got in, but you will not do it again. Fifty points from-"

"He was invited." The small boy beside him said quietly, not flinching under the furious glare. "We play games on the weekends."

"Potter's woeful at chess." A second year added, turning the attention to him instead. "It's funny to watch him struggle."

Slughorn blinked at this, not quite able to wrap his head around it. Harry was left wondering why two boys he had never spoken to before were suddenly defending him.

"Be that as it may," He eventually muttered out, "I don't think this is quite the time to be playing games and having fun."

"Why?" A sixth year girl asked, raising her eyebrows. "We're not the ones disfigured in the hospital wing."


Harry couldn't believe their guts; if anyone tried that with McGonagall, they would wither under the ferociousness of her glare. These…

They just didn't care what Slughorn thought of them.

They didn't respect him enough to take him seriously.

"And what's this, then?" Slughorn turned away from the girl, missing the smirk she gave her friends. Instead, he gestured to the box of potions Harry was holding. "Banned items?"

Merlin, why did he pick tonight to be perceptive?

"You know what they are, sir." Harry ended up muttering, lifting one so he could see the label. He tried not to squirm as several heads shifted to try to get a better look.

Slughorn dropped it back into the box as if it bit him, noticeably wiping his hand on his robe. Harry stared at him coolly, indignant. He was contagious, damn him. He didn't have the plague.

"You should return to your house, Harry." He still muttered, now an odd mixture between livid and uncomfortable. "Where you belong."

And with that, he stormed from the room.


No one moved yet.

Instead, they stared at Harry.

Every. Single. Slytherin.

Harry opted to ignore the gazes being drilled into his skull, to turn to Zabini and Nott instead. Both met his stare evenly, not ashamed in the slightest.

No one spoke.

So, they wanted this to be a communal battle, did they? Fine.

Fine. They didn't think Harry would admit it, did they? He was still a Gryffindor, he could still summon up courage sometimes. He would just have to put his pride on hold for the moment; it was manageable. He didn't mind admitting Goyle had cursed him. A curse was a curse; it was expected at a wizarding school.

"Liars." He didn't have to yell; his quiet voice reached them quite easily. "You fucking liars."

"We said we wouldn't tell him." Zabini was the first to speak, nothing like the amusing, happy boy from a few hours ago. His eyes were cold. "We didn't."

Such a Slytherin answer! "And what did I forget? Some clerical error? Let me guess, you didn't necessarily say it, you wrote it down? Or pointed? You bastards!" Okay, so he may have been yelling. You would too, if you had a hall full of Slytherins watching your with their fucking blank faces.

If Draco was just sitting there, on the back of a couch, face empty. Not uttering a thing. Just staring. Furiously staring.

"Not in the slightest. We started. Draco joined in."

"Why?!" Harry bellowed, arms gesturing furiously. "He's supposed to be your friend!" If they could do this to a bloody friend, what the hell else were they capable of? And Harry had trusted these monsters. This was…

It was something a Death Eater would do. The thought made him sick.

"He hasn't been our friend in a very long time." Nott said quietly, eyes cold as he studied Harry. They all had such cold eyes. "Why does it matter?"

"I didn't even recognise him!" Harry shoved the box into the first year's surprised arms, if just to clench his hands furiously. He needed to calm down, but he couldn't. His stomach was twisting violently, wanting to throw up. That twisted face… "The only thing I could see was his tie and his…you snapped his wand! Do you have any idea how-?"

"We snapped his wand so he would be defenceless." Zabini said quietly, "Like you were."

The air dropped another twenty degrees.

"We broke his hands," Nott continued, "so he wouldn't be able to hold another wand until yours stopped shaking."

Harry swallowed tightly, clenching his hands. "They've stopped." He growled quietly.

"We crushed his throat so he couldn't scream. Like you couldn't." Zabini continued as if he hadn't said a thing. "If he's capable of using an unforgivable, he's capable of hurting others. We were just protecting our house; even you can't fault us that."

They could have done something else. Anything else.

"Why are you so angry about this?" Nott asked, seeming genuinely curious. "You can't have liked him. He tortured you."

"He cursed me; there's a difference!" Harry snapped back, ignoring the incredulous glances the Slytherins all shared. "I didn't particularly want his face distorted and-"

"You're not angry about that. What are you so angry about?" Nott cut across, ignoring the growl from Harry.

"Don't any of your care that you've-"

"What are you so angry about?"

"You know you all could get expelled and suspended for-!"

"What the fuck are you so angry about?!"

"I didn't want him to know!" Harry bellowed, wincing as the people closest glanced around nervously and shuffle backwards. Shit, he was even scaring Slytherins now. "For fuck's sake, what's so difficult to understand about that!? I didn't want him to…" Harry couldn't even look at them. How was he supposed to?

Furious, he spun around and headed to the exit. He would sleep in the forbidden forest if he had to-

"Harry," His feet betrayed him as they slammed to a halt. "We don't like doing this. I feel sick, and twisted, and filthy." Harry swallowed again, glancing at the blonde.

He had his mask firmly in place. "But sometimes, it's necessary to protect that which you…care. I had to know." He stood, finally, crossing his arms. The room held its breath, people scurrying to the walls as if they didn't dare to block their gazes. "I would have cursed the entire school until I did."

But why?

Harry swallowed, ignoring the answer blinking at him from across the room. They didn't speak, just stared. Draco's face hadn't changed expression since he entered the room. As soon as Harry was close enough, he was certain the blonde would smack him across the head.

There hadn't been the slither of regret.

Not in any of them.

Even the ones who knew, the entire bloody Slytherin house knew what had happened now, didn't show regret. They were risking expulsion and suspension, and they had merely shrugged.

Gryffindor didn't have this loyalty.

Harry didn't even feel that angry, really. A little nauseated, a bit saddened that they could do that to another human. Not angry.

What the hell was wrong with him?

Harry sighed inwardly, knowing he had already forgiven the blonde and his thugs. They had, albeit in an unorthodox manner, protected him.

They had chosen him over a housemate.

That shouldn't make him relieved.

Harry slowly walked over, still ignoring the audience. The audience that had no intention of leaving, might he add. They all looked curious, amused, interested. What was wrong with these kids?

And, as predicted, as soon as he was within reach, Draco did indeed whack the back of his head. The bloody git.

Harry just shook his head tiredly at him, resting his forehead on his shoulder. He knew if it had happened to Draco instead of him, he would have pulverised Goyle too, without magic. He would have squeezed that throat with his bare hands if Draco had been held under the cruciatus. After all, you had to protect that which you care.

"What is this?" He asked quietly.

"It's enjoying the moment."

"No, it's not."

"No, it's not." Draco couldn't even pretend to lie.




The Great Hall was held in silence. Students ate quietly, barely speaking. A few mutters every now and again, a few whispers drifted across the room.

They had been told that after breakfast, everyone was to remain in the room until someone admitted their guilt. They forgot one major flaw in this; Slytherin.

They Slytherins sat with bored faces, disinterest apparent. Determination flickered in every eye.

They wouldn't get caught, because they wouldn't allow themselves to get caught. They were in this together; all for one and all that jazz. That's why everyone had sat there and pieced out what had happened last night. That was why they were staring at Harry oddly now, not with the sneers or amusement he usually directed at him. They were doing all this just because he didn't want to admit he had been cursed to the professors.

Well, also to save their skins. No one really wanted the eighth years expelled; odd as it was, they held the house together. It was like they were little lords in the school, and whatever they said, went.

Harry stared at the other tables, taking in their faces in comparison. They didn't look guilty, not in the slightest. Well, they wouldn't, would they? However, they looked…interested. They wanted to know who did it, and by the smug glances they were throwing towards Slytherin table, thought that the students in green were simply angry over it. No one was going to blame a Slytherin over the attack of another Slytherin. They were going to get off, if no one snitched.

And, glancing along the table, it was more likely that Zabini would tap-dance along the table than anyone would recant.

"Stop looking so worried, Potter." Parkinson said quietly, smirking as though she was gossiping instead. "You'll give us up."

Harry glanced at her before turning back to his breakfast to nibble on. For once, he wasn't the only one not touching his breakfast. "I wouldn't give you guys up."

The simple statement had her eyes harden. She exchanged a knowing glance with Draco, before flicking Harry's hand. "Don't."

"I just said I wouldn't-"

"You didn't do anything either. So don't do something horribly noble and give yourself up. He deserved it. He…he's sick in the mind."

"What do you mean?" If he had some sort of disability, that would make it worse-

"…He hasn't quite been the same since last year. It doesn't excuse his actions, certainly not. It's just…he needs help." She sighed at his confused face, leaning in closer. "He enjoyed the Carrow's class far too much to be considered normal. Used to quote them. Like I said, sick in the mind. Though, I do wish I had been told something so I didn't have to rock up late and miss-"

"Get over it, Pans!" Zabini exclaimed, quite loudly. His voice echoed throughout the hall. "Like we were going to wait!"

"It's not fair that you guys get all the fun!" She snapped back, rolling her eyes. "You could smell all the testosterone in the room."

Harry smiled slightly at the bickering, glancing at Draco again. He hadn't spoken much since last night, nor given any indication to. He just sat at the table with his hands intertwined before his mouth. Calculating. Thinking.

He didn't say much last night, either. Just turned and went to bed, expecting Harry to follow.

He had immediately.

Draco had pressed his forehead into the back of Harry's neck the entire night; he doubted that he had slept though, with the stillness of the bed.

They laid there in silence, the overwhelming sensation of need hovering in the room.

The need clung to Draco.

His smile fled. What was wrong with the blonde? He didn't feel guilty, that was for certain. He wouldn't regret his actions. He just…seemed numb.

What had he said last night? That he felt sick, and dirty?

Harry could never believe that; the blonde never looked anything less than immaculate. He never was anything less than immaculate. "Help with my potions homework." Harry sighed, pulling out the heavy book he had borrowed from the library. Most students had brought work down to the hall, if to only cure boredom while they waited for the nonexistent confession.

Draco just blinked, finally looking up from his plate. "You excel in asking for assistance."

Well. Harry swallowed at that, knowing the blonde wasn't talking about the homework. Of course one of the first things he would say would be a mine waiting to be detonated. "I wasn't asking for help, was I?" He managed to get out, trying not to wince as the Slytherin's expression turned icy. "I need you to help." And let him determine that for himself.

Harry flipped the page open, ignoring the steady looks he was surely receiving and instead shoved the plates to the side so Draco could see the page. "I don't understand why the alkalinity of an ingredient changes the potion."

Take the bait. Take it.

Draco stared at him for a moment, the hint of a smirk appearing at his lips. He knew what Harry was doing, but would feign ignorance either way. Thank Merlin.

"I don't know how you reached this level of potions without destroying the lab, Potty." He sighed, leaning closer to the book. He scanned the page, scoffing. "Ignore whatever nonsense this incompetent author scribbled here; he's wrong. Alkalinity and acidity are interlinked; it changes how volatile the potion is."

Harry had to repress a smirk as Nott and Zabini both lunged for a scrap of paper, quickly scribbling down the answer too. If they were having trouble too, it couldn't be an easy question.

"Is that somehow linked the why we're not supposed to use fruit in potions?"

Draco groaned, running a hand on his face. "Use your head, Potty. Try to link the two together…"

Harry grinned as he struggled through the homework, as Draco slowly became himself again. This little incident wouldn't hurt them. Harry's opinion wouldn't change of the blonde. He was a git at the beginning of the year, he was a git now.

And Harry still got butterflies whenever he glanced his way.

Three hours in, and no one else had homework they could temp Draco into doing. Harry had spent a good forty minutes writing a letter to St Mungo's to plead for some files, or to arrange a meeting with Simon Harvey's relatives. Harry would be crazy if he didn't look into this case; three years he managed to live with it. Who was to say Harry couldn't, either?

Of course, writing a letter in the company of various bored Slytherins was not an ideal situation. Harry had to leave specifics from the letter, opting to fill them in later. So whenever someone looked over his shoulder, all they would understand was Harry wanted some people to help him talk to someone else. He grinned at how vague he had managed to get it.

When that was completed, he had another go at the Rubik's cube.

And was beginning to understand why Draco had such an intense hatred of the thing.

He had managed, somehow, to get it all completed…

Except for the middle square.

Each centre square was the wrong colour.

The darkest corner in hell was reserved for the creator of this cube.

Even that, shockingly, began to grow tiresome after a while.

"So, I'm think of admitting that I pulverised Goyle," Harry groaned into the table, "If just to save everyone else the sheer hell of sitting here a minute longer."

"Touching." Harry glanced at Draco, watching him quietly. He was still acting different. Not as sarcastic, or…arrogant as he usually was.

Harry didn't like the hushed Draco.

"I put the cube away."

"It still exists." But he said it to the table, with his hands still crossed over his mouth. What was with him? Harry didn't know how to act around empty Draco.

Harry groaned again, staring down the long table…

What the hell?

He blinked, shaking his head slightly but…no, they were still doing it. Slytherins were massacring themselves down the table.

It looked odd, because several students were already lying across the table or slumped on their chairs, 'dead'. And it slowly crept up the table, student by student. No one was laughing at the weird demonstration, but lips were twitching everywhere. Who knew Slytherins knew how to have fun?

Harry watched as a second year shot himself in the head, whilst his friend hung himself on his tie. A girl laughed hysterically…but her eyes grew wide, her laughter grew frantic. She gasped, and slumped down on the table. She had literally laughed herself to death.

Seat by seat, Slytherins were killing themselves in preference to this boredom.

Harry grinned, sitting up to get a better view. It was hilarious!

A fourth year held his own nose until he died of suffocation. A first year giggled as she launched herself in front of her friend and took an imaginary curse intended for him, slumping down, her corpse still giggling. The curse rebounded, somehow, and hit the attacker, who fell in slow motion. Then, the boy the first had valiantly tried to protect went to run over to her, and tripped over his own feet, falling face first and not getting up again.

Harry snorted, turning to the next girl. She jumped as the Bloody Baron drifted past, scared to death. Her boyfriend choked on his own tears. His best friend took up his imaginary dagger and stabbed himself in the chest, slumping over onto the table.

"No repeats." Zabini whispered to Harry, grinning. "Up for it?"

"You have yours already?"

"Of course."

"Aren't you worried someone else took it?"

Zabini just snickered at that, watching the line of dead students drift towards them. "I hope they did."

A blonde second year pretended to bite his own tongue, effectively drowning on his own blood. A fifth year did a fantastic impression of pronouncing a spell wrong, and charmed a toy buffalo to fall on his head, crushing him. He even got a few claps for that one.

A fourth year girl ripped her heart out. Her friend ate it and died of infection…how morbid.

Then it was Nott's turn.

He didn't look impressed that the Slytherin house, dead and alive, was watching him with anticipation. He didn't give off the vibe of joining a game, even one such as this. Therefore, it was a shock when he sighed, rolling his eyes and mimed slitting his own throat, complete with fake blood.


He slumped onto the table with a loud 'bang', which echoed around the silent hall.

Harry gaped at the red that was seeping into the table, at the gruesome display. "Is that allowed?" He asked, getting shrugs from everyone around him. They were more interested in Zabini, who smirked, and yawned excessively. He rested his head on his hand, eyes slowly sinking until he began snoring.

Then his head slipped, and he landed face first in his bowl of soup.

He drowned in his soup.

Harry laughed, until he realised every eye was on him instead now.

Shit, he hadn't had one thought up yet.

Glancing around for inspiration, he remembered he had a Magic Stabilizing Potion in his pocket, to be taken at lunch. No one hear knew what it was, except for Draco. Even then, he only knew it was a potion he had to take.

It could be poison.

Harry fumbled for the potion, pulling it out and holding it aloft. After everyone had gotten a good view, he hesitated, pretending to be nervous. Eventually, cringing, he downed to potion…and started gagging, pretending he couldn't breathe. Obviously poison.

Slowly he began sinking onto the table, eyes fluttering shut.

Draco leant across the table, and touched their lips together for the softest kiss.

Harry froze.

But Draco merely placed his head on the table too, grey eyes staring intently at Harry. He had stolen his poison.

The git.

Harry licked his lips; they were tingling now, and it didn't help that Draco was staring at him as if he wanted to devour him there and then, entire school watching be damned. He didn't really care what the rest of the table was doing to kill themselves; he didn't realise he had missed Parkinson's completely.

He wanted to reach across and kiss Draco again.

But he couldn't very well do that, could he? Not in the middle of a school incarceration. People would think he didn't care what had happened to Goyle.

Instead, with a dry mouth, Harry reached over to touch his foot to Draco's.

Grey eyes blinked coolly, and a smirk touched his lips. He must have removed his shoe, somehow without the fumbling and idiocy that Harry surely would have demonstrated, for the next moment had his foot running smoothly up Harry's leg.

He swallowed quickly, his stomach clenching with anticipation. Merlin, they were in a hall full of students. If anyone in the other table happened to see what was happening…

Or, worse, what if it wasn't Malfoy.

Zabini would do this sort of thing. It was definitely a Zabini sort of trick.

Harry glanced at the tanned boy, almost wincing as he caught his eye and winked at him. Okay, if it was Zabini, he was going to shove the foot currently stroking his calves and shove it up his-!

Malfoy…why did that sound strange now? That was his name, yet it felt foreign. Harry frowned slightly, moving it immediately. He couldn't have been calling him Draco, could he? Nah, he would have noticed.

Mal…Draco was staring at him oddly when he turned to him again, an eye brow raised. Merlin, he probably looked like a lunatic. Who the hell turned away and went off on a thinking tangent when they had another boy slowly creeping his foot up his leg?

Draco smirked, his toes drifting over Harry's knee, ghosting over his thighs…

"Well, I hope you've all amused yourself to completion."

McGonagall's voice was a cold shower as any.

Harry snorted, whacking his head on the table as Draco sighed in annoyance, throwing a filthy glare at the headmistress. As if she had planned to say it that way.

Harry eventually glanced up to find the entirety of Slytherin killed in some way, the last impaled on his spoon. Still, no one moved. A few of the first years were still giggling, but everyone else just took death in their stride.

"I'm glad to know that you find the fact there is a beaten boy of your house suffering in the hospital wing dull!"

Draco shifted so both his feet were resting on Harry's knee, using it was a footrest. He blatantly ignored the raised eyebrows, opting to smirk at the table instead.

"I want you to look inside yourselves, look deep! If you fail to find a slither of compassion for your housemate, by all means, leave! However, if you find the kindness instilled…sit back down this instant!"

Harry glanced around, biting his lip to stop his laughter. As soon as she had given them permission to leave, the cadavers of Slytherin had leapt to their feet, grabbing their belongings for a speedy escape. If she didn't want the students to leave, she shouldn't have made the bluff.

It was Slytherin, for god's sake.

The house exchanged glares, slowly sinking back to their seat.

"And the rest of you corpses, sit up at once!"

Harry sighed, pushing himself up. He frowned, picking up the bottle as if reading the label, and winced, grinning. "My mistake, this one was pumpkin juice." He got a few appreciative chuckles.

"Do you have something to say, Mister Potter?"

Harry gaped at her for a moment, glancing around angrily at the whispering room. Of course she would single him out. Of course she didn't want to give him a moments reprise; it wasn't as if he was struggling over here, not at all. Why would a headmistress want to apply leniency to a student that had nothing left? They had to be fair, after all.

Fair and just.

That was why she singled him out of hundreds whispering or talking throughout the hall.

Harry gritted his teeth, a little scared at how quickly the anger had risen up within him. Damn it, but he needed more control than this. He knew she was just trying to control the hall; and for control, you had to set limits and examples. But why was it always him?

"No, Professor."

"Do you think it's funny that we're here?"

"Not at all."

"Do you think Mister Goyle deserves to be in that hospital bed?"


Oh, shit.

Harry glanced around almost desperately, wincing as he realised, yes, yes he did just say that. It might have been better to place a neon sign over his head with the phrase 'I'm guilty!' lighting up the place.

McGonagall agreed with his sentiments.

Her eyes narrowed as she studied him, turning to study those around him in turn. She mustn't have deemed them wanting, for she soon turned away with a grimace. "This was an atrocious matter. I will not have this repeated inside my halls again. Do I make myself clear?"

She tried to make eye contact with each and every student, as if she could see into their minds and judge them. Harry noted she skipped him, however. Her eyes landed on Draco, and narrowed. He had leant forwards to whisper something to Zabini, which made him snicker. Quite loudly.

"Do you have anything to say, Mister Malfoy?"

Draco turned to her, raising his eyebrows. "Maybe you should stop wasting your time finding out whoever did whatever to the ape, and spend more time considering what he did to deserve it." He said it quietly but through the silent hall, it reached her quite easily.

Harry frowned, kicking his shin. But the blonde barely threw him a glance before raising his eyebrows to McGonagall.

"And what did he do?" Harry almost expected Draco to answer. He threw a panicked glance at Nott, relieved as they shared the same sentiments; no one wanted to get expelled for this, and furthermore, no one wanted Draco to get the blame. He had done it for logical reasons, in his own head at least.

But Draco merely shrugged. "How am I supposed to know?"

They continued to glare at one another, their opinions most clear. McGonnagal, damn her, knew it was Draco, and Draco couldn't care one bit. He smirked at her without feeling, as if he was taunting her.

Well, what could she do about it without evidence?

"May I see your wand, Mister Malfoy?"

Harry blinked in shock, frowning. Wasn't that…a breach of his privacy? Was that allowed? He knew they couldn't use a penseive without permission; was this under the same circumstances?

Muttering surrounded the hall, identical expressions of shock and interest on every face. Parkinson was muttering under her breath, shaking her head at Draco.

Only the blonde seemed unperturbed.

Without hesitation he stood and approached the seething Headmistress, that ghost of a smirk plastered on his face. What the hell was he doing? If she recalled the spells he had used, then she would see, as would the entire cohort, that he was the one that had sent Goyle to the hospital wing! Did he want to be expelled?

Did he want to leave Harry here, alone?!

"Lucky bastard." Zabini muttered, a smirk flittering across his face. How could he be so calm?

"Lucky? She's going to find out-!"

"No, she won't, Potter." Harry must have seemed confused, for Zabini smirked again. "He didn't use his wand."


And sure enough, as Draco stood at the front of the school, his recently used spells fluttering out for everyone to see, he didn't look worried. He just stood there, arms crossed, eyebrows raised as McGonagall handed the wand back to him.

Clearly furious, she didn't even dismiss him. "As soon as Mister Goyle regains consciousness, he will tell us who was responsible for this atrociousness. And they shall be expelled." At the clear dismissal, everyone launched to their feet again, hurrying for the doors.

Harry didn't move; Draco had returned to the table, propping his feet back up on his knees.

"I thought frowning gave you wrinkles." Harry stated more than asked, reaching forwards to smother out the lines on the pale boy's forehead, much like he had done the other day. "Stop thinking bad thoughts."

A ghost of a smile graced his lips, but the lines were still there. His eyes still calculated, never leaving Harry's. "No one will tell." Harry tried again, sighing inwardly with relief when he was answered.

"Of course they won't. They're Slytherin."

"Then why do you-"

"Last year…" He began, swallowing to buy some time. He looked distinctly uncomfortable; talking about weaknesses definitely wasn't the norm for a Malfoy. He had finally glanced away, but now refused to make eye contact.

Draco must have been mortified by what he was about to say, or in the least humiliated.

And suddenly, Harry didn't want him to explain.

"Here, charm this for me; I want it stronger, and sharper." Harry cut across him, forcing one of the blunt knives into his hands. If looks could kill. "Quickly!"

"One day I'll have to instil tact into you, Potty."

"You'd have to find it first. Come on, hurry."

Draco merely rolled his eyes, swishing his wand at the knife. "I'm just a wand to you." He drawled, flipping the knife easily through his long fingers. Harry blinked, quickly getting to his feet and nodding for him to follow. His fingers were stubs compared to Draco's; Harry had never considered fingers attractive, of all things, however the Malfoy was making him reconsider.

"Come on, I have something for you do to."

"What makes you think I want to do anything with you?"

"Because you're Draco." And with that, he led the way to the school grounds, pointedly ignoring the strange glare thrown at him. Students whispered as they passed, giving them a wide aperture. It could have been the fact Harry was leading Draco for once, stubbornly taking the lead when lately the roles had been reversed.

Or it could simply be the rather large, sharp knife that the blonde was still twirling around his fingers, shocking everyone as he his appendages remained intact. Anyone else, and a trail of blood would be stalking them through the grounds.

"Leading us away from judgemental eyes whilst I'm carrying this big pointy knife? How daring of you."

Harry resolutely stared before him, and not at the blonde. He could feel a glare drilling into his back at his next words. "That's why we're here. You think because you showed a little violence that whenever I look at you my eyes will be driven to your forearm."

He snatched an arm out, grabbing Draco's arm to keep him walking; the boy had jerked to a halt, and only took a few steps at Harry's persistence. "But it won't. You were a prat then, you're a prat now. Due to the incident, your usual prattiness has diminished somewhat, and for whatever insane reason I have, I miss the pratty Draco. I want the prat back."

"You're compliments are astonishing." Draco replied dryly, "However, it doesn't explain why we're stalking through the grounds with a knife."

"You're going to stick the big pointy knife where it belongs." Harry answered easily, finally glancing towards the blonde. He was staring at him, head cocked to one side, an almost nonexistent smile pulling at his lips. "Into the trunk of the Womping Willow."

"Are you trying to get me killed?"

"I'm challenging you to be as awesome as I am." Harry sighed in relief as Draco rolled his eyes, his lips twitching wider. "Etch your name into the trunk. Be a prat."

"You're trying to make me into a bloody Gryffindor."

"Fairs fair; you made me into a Slytherin."

Draco didn't seem numb anymore; he was staring at the knife, considering his options. He glanced at the tree too, noticing how still it was. Almost as if expecting the attack. "I hope you know that this is utterly without thought." He drawled, smirking. "This has no connection in the slightest to whatever has happened the past few days."

"It hasn't," Harry agreed, "Until you do it."

He really wasn't expecting Draco to agree; anything that could potentially harm him, or destroy his face was to be avoided at all cost. It was a bluff.

A stupid bluff, to try to get the blonde to respond to some taunts; to try to get him to sneer and be himself again.

Therefore, it was quite a bit of a shock when he sprinted towards the tree.




Harry grinned as he sat besides the hospital wing bed, trying to hold back his laughter as Pomfrey berated Draco for being a foolish. Belligerent. No respect for his life.

Draco rolled his eyes, throwing an exasperated smirk at Harry. His left arm was broken, crushed in two places. He had a nasty gash on his cheek, but that was the worst of it. Considering what he had just done, it was remarkable that these were his only injuries.

"Well," Harry tired to speak with a straight face, he really did. "This is a bit reversed."

"The things I do for you." Draco drawled, smirking as Harry snorted.

"You weren't supposed to do it."

"You challenged me."

"It was a bluff!"

"You need to learn to deceive better."

Harry grinned again, dodging as Malfoy threw the empty potion bottle at his head. There was no numbness in his voice, he didn't seem to be distressed anymore; his prat was back.




Draco smirked as Potter laughed, holding back the wince as his arm throbbed. Bloody tree, it had walloped him. If Potter hadn't kicked it from the other side, it would have successfully pummelled him to death.

All to sketch his name haphazardly into its trunk.

His hand had been shaking so much; he couldn't believe how nervous he was.

Or how thrilling it had been. Knowing that in any second the tree could whack him and he wouldn't wake up again. Knowing that Potter had been watching from the side, eyes wide and shocked.

He had just managed to start the loop on the 'y' when the tree finally smashed him against a couple branches, hurling him just out of its reach. Thank Merlin.

Potter hadn't stopped smiling though, hadn't stopped laughing. He grinned like a lunatic, had to leave when Pomfrey came in due to his insistent snorting and, Merlin forbid, inappropriate snickering.

It made it all worth it. Seeing Potter happy because he was content.

Draco smiled as Potter continued to chuckle, eyes flicking to the other occupied bed across the hall. He was still unconscious, it seemed. Good.

He wouldn't want to wake up.

Next time, he wouldn't hesitate in drawing his wand.