The first time he felt it, Harry was half-dozing through History of Magic. It began in his midsection, a twisting, squeezing sensation that caused him to sit up with a jolt, drawing Hermione's attention from her endless jotting of notes. Her brow barely twitched, but Harry caught the question as easily as if she'd asked it aloud.
His answering head-shake replied in kind. No problem; all is well. He slouched back to the desk to prove it, but the odd flutter in his abdomen, just below his navel, suggested otherwise. At first he thought it was indigestion, but that vague hope was quickly put to rest. Instead, it felt like pulling, as if someone had gripped hold of his organs and claimed them as their own. Someone that wanted them immediately.
What now? Harry thought with a flare of annoyance. He was supposed to be finished with all of the weirdness that had plagued him throughout his life. Voldemort was gone. Harry had done his heroic deeds. Hogwarts was being rebuilt and they had all—well, mostly all, returned to school to complete their N.E.W.T.S. "Eighth-year" they called it, although it was still only the seventh for most of them. Those were Hermione's words, of course.
A tug, insistent. Harry flattened a hand over his abdomen. What if he had a tumour? A leftover gift from being a Horcrux? Or something new. A curse. Harry still had a number of enemies. It would take years to round up all of Voldemort's former supporters.
"Tomorrow, we shall learn about Beaumont Marjoribanks, the famous Herbologist." Professor Binns droned on and then and there was a mad scramble as students bolted for the doors. Harry forced himself to walk, aware of Hermione's scrutiny. Luckily, she had Arithmancy while Ron and Harry had Care of Magical Creatures.
Her hippogriff-sharp gaze pierced him and he pretended to be busy stuffing away his mostly-doodled notes. Thankfully, his false casualness seemed to work. "I'm off, then," she said. "See you after class."
"See you! Come on, Harry, it's a bloody long walk to Hagrid's."
"Coming." Harry did not mention the strange feeling. The pressure eased as soon as he started moving in the direction the tugging seemed to prefer. It diminished, but did not depart, becoming a gentle prod, prod, prod.
He and Ron left the castle and headed for Hagrid's hut. Only when they reached the path that veered towards the Quidditch pitch did the pulling increase in force. Harry stopped. Turned.
The Quidditch pitch?
"What is it?" Ron asked.
"I don't know. I need to go to the Quidditch pitch."
"I don't know."
"Merlin, don't go all mysterious on me again." Ron shook his head and sighed. "But whatever. Let's go."
"No, you go on. Take notes for me in Creatures if any of it's worth noting. This shouldn't be a big deal."
"Shouldn't be. Famous last words with you, mate."
"Yeah, go on." Harry gave him a good-natured shove. Ron flipped him an obscene gesture and went.
Harry started for the pitch, moving faster with each step until he was nearly jogging. The tugging felt like a wild bird, trapped beneath his skin and struggling to get out. He rounded a bend in the path and stopped short when he encountered another person hurrying in the opposite direction; trotting and out of breath like Harry. That was where the resemblance ended, however.
"Malfoy," Harry said, striving to have no inflection.
"Potter." Malfoy looked distracted and he managed no more than a vague sneer.
Harry gave him a curt nod and moved aside, bypassing him by a wide margin. Malfoy did the same and walked away with long strides. Harry took four steps and then spun back to face Malfoy; his jaw fell open.
Malfoy had also turned back. He looked thunderstruck, eyes going wider than Harry had seen them since the Fiendfyre incident.
"What?" Malfoy snapped. "What the hell?"
Harry took a tentative step towards him. The tugging in his midsection leaped eagerly, battling with the sick sensation that had taken up residence in his stomach. Harry couldn't speak as he slowly closed the distance between them.
"Listen, Malfoy…" Harry began, stretching out a hand as if to tame a wild beast. Any chance of blaming Malfoy for whatever had befallen him was eradicated by Malfoy's near-panicked expression.
"What is it?" Malfoy demanded with a sharp downward gesture. "What is this?" Harry nearly cringed. Malfoy must have felt it, too.
"I don't know! It just started!"
"If this is some sort of fucked-up spell that you've cast—"
"It wasn't me!" Harry drew himself up as well as he was able, despite what seemed to be a pit of snakes squirming in his guts, urging him in Malfoy's direction.
"As if I believe—" Malfoy lifted his hands in a defensive manner as Harry moved closer. Harry's hands rose reflexively and then, as if catching a Snitch, his hand snagged Malfoy's.
Immediately, the pulling, writhing feeling stopped. Harry drew a breath, his stare finding and locking with Malfoy's.
"What did you do?" Malfoy asked in a hushed tone. They were stood so close together that Harry could make out individual colours in Malfoy's lashes—not white-blond like his hair, but with hints of gold and capper. They made his eyes look vibrant, alive.
"I didn't do anything," Harry insisted. He waited for the feeling to resume. After all, he had not done anything beyond touching Malfoy, although he was suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that Malfoy's skin was warm and his fist was bony and almost fragile feeling beneath Harry's fingers.
"I'm going to let go," Harry decided, since Malfoy did not seem inclined to move. Malfoy nodded.
Harry let go and stepped back. They watched each other for a tense moment.
"Do you feel any different?" Harry asked.
"I don't know!"
"Well, whatever you hoped to accomplish I hope you've finished."
Annoyed, Harry started to yell at the git but Malfoy spun on a heel and tromped away.
"That was bloody weird," Harry muttered.
Harry shoved the oddity to the back of his mind and tried to forget it, which worked nicely for about three days. And then the fluttering sensation returned one morning as he stepped out of the shower. By the time he threw on some clothing and bolted through the common room—tossing a quick "Come on, I'm starving!" at Ron—the butterflies had turned into wasps.
He took the stairs two at a time, ignoring Hermione's shouted, "Harry! Wait for us!" He couldn't decide whether he hoped or dreaded to find Malfoy at the end of the magical tether pulling him onward. What was that old saying? Better the devil you know?
He met Malfoy on the third floor riser. His hair was mussed and he was breathing hard, as thought he had been running, possibly all the way from the dungeons.
Before Malfoy could speak, Harry grabbed his arm. There was no change and Harry frowned because the—whatever it was—definitely proclaimed Malfoy to be the target. Malfoy growled and covered Harry's bare hand with his own.
Everything ceased. The world seemed quieter and he realised there had been a ringing in his ears along with the tugging. The absence of both was noticeable and made the sound of their mingled breathing loud in the stillness, until a giggle and whispering voices rose behind them.
Harry jerked away from Malfoy, face flaming, and stood silently as a group of Ravenclaw girls walked past. Harry did not recognise any of them. Third-years, maybe, or fourth.
When he glanced back, Malfoy was gone.
That night, Harry jolted upright in bed with a cry on his lips. He choked it back. The fingertips of his left hand were burning. The pain faded as he stared into the darkness, heart beating wildly. He thought it might be the remnants of a dream, but it seemed far too real. A familiar flutter drew him out of bed. He pulled on his dressing gown and then his invisibility cloak. His fingers throbbed as he bounded down the stairs to the dungeons.
He was nearly to the entrance to the Slytherin common room when he ran into Malfoy. Harry reached out and steadied himself to keep from falling.
"Potter?" Malfoy hissed.
"What happened? Why are my fingers burnt?" Harry pulled back his hood so that Malfoy could see his face, if not the rest of him.
"They are?" Malfoy sounded surprised.
"Yeah." Harry held them up and then reached out to touch Malfoy's face, just to silence the jumpy, annoying clamour in his abdomen.
Malfoy pulled away. "Stop that. Blaise dared me to drip hot wax on my fingers."
Harry gaped at him. "And you thought that would be a good idea?"
"As if you've never taken a dare." Malfoy scoffed. "Or maybe you haven't."
"Of course I have. What are you doing out here?"
Malfoy looked back towards the common room. "I… I felt you panic like a ninny and assumed you would run down here. I see I was right."
Harry wasn't sure what disturbed him more, the fact that he could feel what Malfoy felt or the reverse.
"Okay, this has gone beyond weird. We need to find out what it is, since it seems to be getting worse."
"Agreed. Meet me in the library after breakfast tomorrow."
"Yes, Potter. That place where books are kept."
"I know what it is!" Harry remembered he was standing in the dungeons talking to a total prat. "Fine. Library. Tomorrow. Good night."
He pulled his hood back over his head and went back upstairs.
They might have been in the library together, but they were most certainly not together. Malfoy had given Harry a quelling look the moment he'd walked in, and a flick of his eyes had directed Harry to a table at a far corner of the room. Malfoy was seated near the centre of the library with Parkinson and another Slytherin girl.
Several books were scattered atop Harry's assigned table. He sat down and pulled one closer. He wasn't sure what to do if Malfoy planned to ignore him the entire time. It had been hard enough to get away from Ron and Hermione, even though they desperately wanted "alone time."
Malfoy got up and walked past Harry, giving him a sneer as he passed. A wisp of folded paper spun across the table and Harry quickly covered it with his hand, hiding it from sight.
"Interesting reading material, Potter." After the sardonic drawl, Malfoy disappeared into the shelves.
Harry closed the book he'd been not-reading and looked at the cover. Magic While Menstruating: Does Your Cycle Affect Your Spells? Harry shoved it away with a moue of horror. He pushed his hands beneath the table and unfolded Malfoy's note.
Magical biographies – Section M was all it said.
Harry frowned and tried to remember where the biography books were kept. Upper level past Foreign Languages and World Historical Accounts, maybe?
He took a different route than Malfoy, feeling clandestine and almost wicked, as if he were meeting a secret boyfriend. Or girlfriend, he corrected himself quickly. Merlin, where had that thought come from?
He found Malfoy without getting lost. Malfoy was leaning against the corner of an ornate shelf, tapping his wand against his hand impatiently.
"You are incredibly slow."
"Anyway, now that you're here, we need to find as many books on magical bonding curses as possible. I've made a list. Here, this will keep us from duplicating our efforts." Malfoy tore the parchment in half and handed half of it to Harry.
"Are you sure it's a curse?"
"Are you enjoying it?" Malfoy's tone was scathing.
"Well, no, but…"
"Precisely. It's a curse. We need to find out what it is, and then we need to determine who cast it, and then we need to remove their internal organs with a powerful and potent hex."
Harry thought he should probably say something about that being inappropriate and likely to get them expelled, but instead he reached out and touched the back of Malfoy's hand. Malfoy's vengeful expression fled, replaced by a startled widening of his eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't know. Maybe if we, you know… touch more frequently it will prevent this whole… pulling thing."
Malfoy smirked. "I think you just want to grope me."
Harry flushed and yanked his hand away. "Touching your hand is hardly groping."
"I wonder if groping would lengthen the amount of time between episodes."
"What?" Harry really didn't want to think about groping Malfoy, especially while in such close proximity to the prat.
"Don't have a conniption, Potter, I was merely theorising aloud. My, your face is red. Does talk of groping offend your prudish Gryffindor sensibilities that much or are you secretly curious?" Malfoy took a step closer.
Harry backed up so quickly his shoulders hit the shelves opposite. Malfoy followed, looking distinctly predatory. Harry's pulse leaped as Malfoy moved even closer.
"You have thought about it, haven't you, Potter? It's difficult not to in a dormitory full of fit boys—although there aren't many in Gryffindor, I'll give you that—but you must have given it a thought or two. Have you fantasised about touching a hot bloke? Grabbing a bit of cock? Have you ever wanted to fuck one? Do you think about having your cock sucked? Have you ever kissed a boy, Potter?"
Malfoy was close, stiflingly so. Harry could hardly breathe, could hardly think through the wild pounding of his heart. Malfoy stare was taunting and intense. Harry's eyes dropped to his lips and then snapped back to his eyes, afraid such a glance might be interpreted as an invitation.
Apparently, it was. Malfoy's lashes fell closed over his too-intense stare and his breath was warm on Harry's face. Harry wanted to escape, but he couldn't seem to move. Everything, even time itself, seemed suspended, hanging upon Malfoy's mouth as he closed the distance.
Malfoy's lips touched his, barely a feather-light brush, a tease, really. It was still a shock, as everything Harry believed about himself took a tumble, fell into a thousand pieces, and rearranged itself between the space of one heartbeat and the next.
Malfoy pulled back, but only a hairsbreadth, as if waiting to see what Harry would do. Harry drew a ragged breath and collected his courage (if not his wits) and cast caution to the wind. The kiss was firmer this time, and most definitely initiated by Harry. It was terrifying, as though he'd stepped off the edge into an abyss. He half-expected Malfoy to shove him away with a derisive laugh and hurry back to the Slytherin dormitory with a tale of Potter the Bent.
But there was no shoving. The kiss was dry, warm, and soft, different from all of Harry's prior kisses and yet fundamentally the same. Lips, as it turned out, were lips, and kisses were kisses, varying only in emotional intensity based on who was doing the kissing, and—Harry's rather clinical analysis shattered when he felt Malfoy's tongue brush against his lips and a fierce, overwhelming surge of something welled up from the centre of his being.
He opened his mouth and the tip of his tongue grazed Malfoy's. Harry shivered, his nerve endings jangled and frayed. This was uncharted territory; he was swimming in the dark.
The sound of a throat-clearing caused Harry to jump so violently that the back of his head smacked into shelf. He wildly sought the source and noticed Malfoy sidling backwards like a shadow. Fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, someone just caught me kissing Draco Malfoy. The hysterical thought raced through his brain and the panic quintupled when he identified the onlooker as none other than Pansy Parkinson. She looked displeased.
Harry bolted. He didn't bother to look at Malfoy, having no desire to add ridicule to ridiculousness. He passed Parkinson in a flash and almost escaped the library entirely, but the reason for his being there was still valid, possibly more so in light of this latest disturbing trend, and so he dove into the chair and sat, pressing the heels of his palms into his thighs.
Huh, he thought when his heart stopped threatening to choke him and retreated back into his chest from his throat. That was interesting. The vague thought was possibly the understatement of the year.
He stared hard at the scrap of list in his hand; it was partially crumpled. He darted a glance at Malfoy and Parkinson when they returned to their seats. Parkinson craned her neck and gave Harry a glare. Malfoy looked more placid than ever and did not even glance at Harry.
Harry looked back at the list and tried to concentrate.
A Compendium of Common Curses and Their Counter-Actions
Curses and Counter-Curses
Jinxes for the Jinxed
Fighting the urge to look over at the Slytherins again, Harry left his seat and went to fetch some books. He located the first two on the list and debated hunting down the rest to avoid returning to the table, but chances were good that he wouldn't get partway through one before he had to leave. When he reached the table, he saw that Malfoy and the others were gone. Harry pushed the menstrual magic book farther away, plopped down the other books, and made a valiant effort to seek out potentially viable Bonding Charms. It was difficult to focus when his mind kept wandering to Malfoy and the kiss. Was Malfoy carrying the tale now? Was he owling the Prophet with the story that Harry Potter liked blokes?
Harry groaned and dropped his head to the book, thumping it a couple of times for good measure.
"Mr Potter. Please cease that infernal banging at once!" Madam Pince's voice was a loud whisper, far more distracting than Harry's quiet frustration, judging by the curious stares that now turned his way, but he only nodded and went back to turning pages.
What would he do if such an article appeared in the papers? It wouldn't be his first time at being subjected to ridicule. Of course, same sex relationships were not a big deal in the wizarding world, so being called a poofter would not carry the same venom as it would in the Muggle world. It would damage the expectation that he marry Ginny and have a Weasley-esque number of children, however. The largest fallout would likely come from the Weasleys.
Harry took a steadying breath and got to his feet. There was no help for it. He had to tell Ron and Hermione.
"You did what?" Ron repeated.
"I kissed Malfoy. But that's not the important bit, Ron. Focus!"
"I'm… focussing on my best friend kissing the biggest git that ever walked the halls of Hogwarts! Well, apart from You-Know-Who. And possibly Snape. And Malfoy Senior. And Barty Crouch— But that's not the point! The point is Malfoy! Why Malfoy?"
"He told you, Ron. It's a spell. He's been cursed. Honestly." Hermione sighed. "Why didn't you tell us earlier, Harry?"
"I didn't know what it was! I thought it might go away!"
"The gay thing?" Ron asked.
"No, not the gay thing! The spell!" Harry fixed his annoyed stare upon Ron.
"Right, the spell. Of course. Good to know it's a spell making you kiss Malfoy. Hey, how do you know Malfoy didn't cast it?"
Harry shook his head. "He didn't." In truth, Harry felt a bit guilty about making it sound like the spell was the only reason he'd kissed Malfoy. It was tempting to believe it himself, but if that were the case it didn't explain why he kept thinking about it. The urge to touch his tongue to Draco's had been entirely his own and he refused to lie to himself about that, nor about the fact that he wanted to do it again.
"How can you be sure?"
"I just am." Already Harry was having second thoughts about bringing it up.
"All right, we will rule out Malfoy for the moment. Who else might have had the motivation to do such a thing?" Hermione, thankfully, was at least willing to focus on the problem. Harry gave her a grateful smile.
"I have no idea."
As expected, she sighed heavily and pulled out a quill and parchment.
In the middle of the night, Harry bolted awake and sat up in the darkness, clutching his wand. He fought the clinging vestiges of a nightmare. Weirdly, it was of Neville, holding the sword of Gryffindor. Neville's eyes were red and his chest cavity gaped open to reveal Nagini, hissing through venom-tipped fangs as Neville's hands thrust the sword into Harry's midsection.
The pain was real, growing even as the terror of the nightmare faded. Harry dropped a hand to his stomach, thinking he might be physically ill. He swallowed the feeling, but swung his legs out of bed and pushed his bare feet into his trainers. He didn't bother to lace them as he grabbed up his invisibility cloak and hurried out.
He met Malfoy on the fourth floor stairwell, Malfoy wore a black dressing gown and girlish-looking green silk slippers. His blond hair was uncharacteristically mussed and he gripped his wand in one hand.
Before Harry could speak, Malfoy grabbed him with his free hand and shoved him against the wall. He seemed to know exactly where Harry was, despite the invisibility cloak. For a moment, Harry wondered if it was really Malfoy.
"Take it off," Malfoy snapped.
Harry pulled back the hood with both hands and then Malfoy's lips were on his. Harry had only a moment to revel in the cessation of the annoying, painful sensation in his abdomen before it was replaced by something else, a warm, pooling heat that felt perfectly natural.
Malfoy's mouth was demanding; his tongue pushed past Harry's lips and Harry let it come, hell, he welcomed it inside. He had no idea why Malfoy felt it necessary to kiss him, but he wasn't going to ruin the moment by asking. Instead, he wrapped his hands around Malfoy's hipbones and dragged him closer.
Malfoy pressed against him and slotted into place, as though he'd always belonged there. The notion, vaguely acknowledged through the storm of emotion assaulting Harry's senses, was probably a result of the spell, curse, or whatever it was, and yet Harry could not dismiss it entirely.
Malfoy's hands were in Harry's hair, alternately tugging roughly and softening into gentle caresses.
They kissed for what seemed like hours; each time Malfoy drew away Harry would reel him back in, once by simply making a needy sound.
Finally, Harry had to stop. His lips felt swollen and bruised and it was becoming hard to breathe. As if given some silent signal, they both stopped. Instead of pulling away, Malfoy brushed his cheek against Harry's and his breath, mimicking Harry's harsh gasps, huffed against his ear. He leaned on Harry as though too weak to stand on his own.
"This is fucked up." Malfoy's voice was a warm rasp.
Harry grunted in reply, neither agreeing nor denying, and tightened his arms around Malfoy's waist. His pulse was racing and his thoughts were too jumbled to make sense of them. All he knew was that Malfoy was an incredible kisser. Snogging him was the most brilliant thing ever, and Harry didn't want to let go.
He had to, though. They were on a public stairwell. It was a wonder they hadn't been discovered, either by Filch or a wandering student, or by a disobedient student, a ghost or—worst of all—Peeves. The thought of the poltergeist cackling and making up horrible, petty songs about the two of them brought Harry back to his senses.
"We should go back to bed."
"Together?" Malfoy's voice was husky, amused and, most surprisingly, teasing. It was also ridiculously erotic and Harry's cock, which had been off-and-on hard throughout the kissing, twitched with renewed interest. Harry was not ready to acknowledge what that meant. Kissing was one thing, but bed was a whole different level.
Harry nipped him on the neck, unwilling to wade into those waters by hinting at agreement, but also not wanting to offend Malfoy with a denial. Malfoy made a soft sound of protest and Harry impulsively raked his fingers over Malfoy's back. The resulting shudder was very interesting and Harry filed it away for future exploitation, even though the very idea of "later" was patently terrifying.
"We need to sleep," he said rationally. "I'll see you tomorrow. Today. Whenever."
Malfoy returned Harry's affirmative grunt and took a step back. For the first time, their eyes locked. Malfoy's expression was unreadable in the darkness, and then his lips quirked in a way that made Harry want to pull him in for more kissing.
"Until tomorrow, today, whenever, then, Potter."
Harry should have been tired, but he felt strangely energized the next morning as he dressed and bounded down the steps to the common room before his dorm-mates even awoke. He might have thought his Malfoy encounter to be a dream except that his lips still felt tender and his jaw ached whenever he opened his mouth.
Ginny and Neville were awake, sitting before the fire with a large book and a number of scrolls.
"Morning, Harry. You're up early." Neville yawned.
"Hello, Harry. Are you planning to rush off somewhere? I haven't seen you in days." Harry didn't think he imagined the tone of censure in Ginny's voice. He realised with a guilty start that they had never quite reconnected after the war. She hadn't pushed or pursued him, but she always seemed to have an air of expectation about her, as if they would eventually pick up where they had left off and become the couple everyone believed they should. Harry hadn't really questioned it even though he'd been in no hurry to leap back into a relationship. He'd rationalised that he just wanted some time and space to unwind after the trauma of the war. He hadn't questioned it, at least, not until Malfoy.
With a jolt, it dawned on him that he hadn't once thought about Ginny whilst kissing Malfoy. Now that he had a basis for comparison, he wondered why he'd never felt such raw, all-consuming need when he'd kissed Ginny as he had when kissing Malfoy. Was it the spell, after all?
"Um… hi," he said lamely and pushed a hand through his hair. The gesture made him think of Malfoy's silky-soft hair and he shoved the memory firmly aside as he sat down next to Ginny. "What are you guys doing?"
"Nev is helping me with my Herbology homework. You look pale. Are you feeling all right?"
Harry reflexively put a hand on his stomach. The tug was there, a mere flutter, but the time between episodes seemed to be growing shorter. Already, he itched to get to Malfoy. He nodded. "I'm fine. A bit hungry. I think I'll go down and see if the house-elves have breakfast ready."
"Great idea," Ginny said. "I'll come, too."
Harry's midsection produced a flutter of anxiety. Neville frowned. "But what about—?"
"I think I've got the seventeen principle uses of nettle down now, Neville, thanks." Ginny quickly rolled up a scroll, tapped it with her wand, and tucked it into a pouch she wore at her hip. Harry couldn't think of a logical reason to stay her, so he screwed up his fortitude, nodded goodbye to Neville, and led the way out of the common room.
"So, what have you been up to, Harry? I've barely seen you."
"Um… you know. Just schoolwork and stuff. Trying to catch up after missing a year." Harry descended the steps quickly while trying to make it look like he wasn't hurrying. The flutter in his stomach was growing, letting him know it would soon be a full-blown feeling of need. He would have to touch Malfoy soon.
The thought of touching Malfoy after the previous night's snogging activity left him a bit lightheaded. He missed a step and might have fallen headlong if Ginny hadn't snagged his arm and hauled him back.
"Merlin! Be careful! What's your hurry?"
Harry righted himself and then pulled away from her grasp. She frowned and he forced a smile. "Sorry, just… bacon."
Ginny gave him an odd look and they continued on at a slower pace. They were nearly to the ground floor when Ginny stopped him by clutching his sleeve. "Harry."
He halted with a longing glance at the entrance to the Slytherin dungeons, visible just beyond the stair railing.
"Harry, I'd hoped we could get back together by now. You know, officially, like we were before you left. I understand why you had to go and maybe I even get why you left me behind. After everything, you know, the war, and Fred, and all of that, I thought you needed space, so I left you alone. But now…" She trailed off.
Harry met her earnest stare for only a moment before looking away with a surge of remorse. If she had brought this up a week ago, or even a few days ago, things might have been very different. Harry had meant to take up with her again, he really had, but first there had been grief, and anger, and long stretches of nothing but bone-deep exhaustion that no amount of sleeping seemed to cure. He had slowly regained his energy only to be thrown into returning to Hogwarts and planning for his future. And now there was this Malfoy thing.
"To be honest, I'm really… confused right now."
Harry nodded, uncertain how to elaborate when he didn't really understand his feelings enough to articulate them. Sorry, I might like blokes, or maybe just Malfoy seemed ridiculous even in thought form.
At that moment, Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson exited the dungeons and started across the entrance hall. A multitude of emotions assailed Harry. His heart leaped at the sight of Malfoy while his chest monster threatened to claw its way out through his throat (why was Malfoy always with Parkinson?). The tickle in his abdomen turned into a near-physical pull, urging him to rush down the stairs and leap on Malfoy. Harry took hold of the stair-rail to prevent such foolishness. Malfoy took two steps in Harry's direction before Parkinson stopped him with a hand on his arm.
Their eyes locked and Harry nearly gasped aloud. Malfoy looked furious.
"Harry, what's wrong?" Ginny's head snapped round and she glared at the Slytherins. "Has Malfoy done something?"
Harry nearly laughed hysterically. Yes, he wanted to shout, he most assuredly has, and Harry wanted him to do more. He wanted to throw himself on Malfoy, tumble him to the floor, and kiss and touch him…
"No," Harry croaked as Malfoy gave him one final, glacial stare and turned away. "It's nothing."
Nothing beyond his heart pounding nearly out of his chest and the cold sweat that had broken out all over his body. Nothing beyond the screaming need, need, need trying to propel him down the steps.
"Malfoy!" Harry called, desperate.
Malfoy paused before the doors leading to the Great Hall. Harry pounded down the steps and stopped close to Malfoy, probably too-close, judging by Parkinson's stare and lifted brow, but Harry didn't care. He groped for Malfoy's hand, caught it, and then stood awkwardly as the world righted itself. He looked at Malfoy, at a loss for words, but he noted with a flush of pleasure that much of the ice had thawed from Malfoy's pale eyes.
"Potter," he said quietly after a moment, "you just felt like holding my hand?"
Parkinson snickered and Harry dropped Malfoy's hand and stepped back.
"Oh, he's got it bad," Parkinson said. "Are you sure it wasn't a Love Charm?"
"I'll talk to you later, Potter." Malfoy's gaze dropped to Harry's lips and back to his eyes and he smiled. Harry hoped he wasn't imagining the gleam of promise there. Malfoy and Parkinson continued into the Great Hall and Ginny gave Harry a sharp elbow to the ribs. "What in the hell was that all about?"
Harry started and then took a deep, steadying breath. "I think maybe we should have a talk."