The following characters are the property and creation
of J.K. Rowling; they are used without permission, intent of infringement
or expectation of profit. This story is set in Harry's seventh year, but only
nonspecific spoilers for the series are involved. Nonexplicit references to
male/male sexual activity are included, so if this bothers you, stop reading
Thanks are due to my betas, Rheanna and Tehomet, as well
as to Sabine, who requested this fic via Fan The Vote. Feedback would be greatly
welcomed at email@example.com.
"What is it that you see in him?" Hermione said.
Harry didn't look up; he suspected Hermione was still
bent over her books as well. It was easier to have this conversation without
eye contact. "I don't know."
The silence of the library surrounded them for a few minutes.
He breathed in the musty scent of the pages, stared down at the page of the
Potions book he was studying. It showed the correct method for severing the
wings of bats, for greater brewing strength. Careful attention had been paid
to detail: sinew, tendon, the arteries that lead into the wing. Harry still
preferred looking at the drawing to meeting Hermione's eyes.
"If you don't know," Hermione said at last,
"why are you with Draco to begin with?"
"Because I want to be." He did not add, because
I have to be. Because I couldn't do anything else. If Hermione really understood,
Harry wasn't sure how she would react. Despite his uncertainty, he was glad
that she wanted to understand. It meant that they were still friends.
Hermione hesitated, then closed her Charms book; it twinkled
briefly before relocking itself with a series of metallic clicks. "Harry,
I want to ask you one more thing. After this, I promise - I won't bring it
up again. Not even if - well, I won't."
He recognized that tone of voice; it preceded her recitations
in class, and her lectures about rule-breaking, and her latest mission statements
for S.P.E.W. Focusing on the tiny claws at the end of the bat's wing, Harry
said, "Go ahead, then."
"Are you certain you can trust him?"
Harry hadn't been expecting that.
Her words came quickly, tumbling one atop the other, high-pitched
and uncharacteristically unsure. "Draco's family are still tied up with
the Death Eaters, you know it wasn't just his father, don't you? And I don't
mean to suggest that Draco is necessarily a traitor just because some of the
Malfoys are, that would be unfair -- but the things he says - Harry, he could
be one of them. And if he's one of them, and he's this close to you -"
"Hermione, stop." Harry wasn't angry. Only tired.
"Draco won't betray my trust. He never could."
They were silent. He focused on a brass plate above the
library door, one that had been mounted during the summer. In Memory of Neville
Longbottom. His grandmother had refurbished the entire Herbology collection,
in his honor. If the war went on much longer, Harry thought, Hogwarts would
be filled with such plates, such gifts, the tribute of the dead.
Hermione finally whispered, "Do you - do you really
love him, then?"
"I know him." Hermione didn't seem to think
it was much of an answer. But Harry knew it was the only one he could ever
give. It was the truth.
Harry had never imagined that Draco might think of him
- that way - until the last Quidditch match of sixth year. The Gryffindors
were still singing, "Weasley is our King" on the pitch, the beginning
of what promised to be an all-night bash, but Harry was sweaty and tired.
He'd ripped off his playing robes and his T-shirt, ready only for the showers.
When he jogged back into the equipment room, he'd known
a few Slytherin players might still be back there, sulking. So he hadn't been
surprised to see Draco shoving a resisting Bludger back into its box. But
when Draco had glanced his way -
--his eyes had swept down Harry's body, past shoulders
and chest, belly and thighs, only a glimpse, only a second, and yet unmistakable
--Harry had felt it like a punch in the gut.
They stood there, staring at each other, breathing hard
- from the exertion of the match, Harry had told himself, and for his part
could believe. Draco's white-blond hair seemed to be the only light in the
room. Neither of them said a word. Probably it hadn't been more than thirty
seconds before he turned away from Draco, but those seconds played in his
mind over, and over, and over.
During the summer, he had time to consider. To weigh the
repercussions. To realize what people would say, what they would think. Sometimes
Harry pushed the memory away. Sometimes he didn't.
Late at night, when he was alone in his room, he would
reach down with one hand and try to think of Cho, or Fleur, or the pretty
girl with curly hair who read the Muggle news in the morning. But even then
- as he shuddered and sweated and ached for release - he couldn't help thinking:
Draco wants this. He wants to touch me like this.
By the time seventh year began, Harry had known what he
meant to do.
He had no opportunity until they'd been in school nearly
a month, one evening after Potions, when Snape ordered them both to stay late
scouring cauldrons. They worked in silence, backs to each other, until Snape
finally left for dinner.
The heavy door swung shut, hinges creaking. As soon as
he heard the thump, Harry glanced over his shoulder. Draco had already turned
toward him, hands against the table's edge, as though he were bracing himself.
Their eyes met, and for the first time Harry knew what his decision would
mean - if he held true to it. If he dared to do what he'd imagined all summer
long. The reality was a thousand times more dangerous than he'd dreamed, and
they hadn't even touched.
Two quick steps and Harry was with him, on him, mouth
to mouth, body to body. His fingers were raw from scrubbing the iron-bellied
cauldrons, tender and sensitive, making every touch torment. That night he
lost his virginity in an empty study room, crying out in as much surprise
Afterward, Draco went back to the Slytherin tower, and
Harry finished the cauldrons. The die was cast, and he had never questioned
his choice that night.
"I used to think Hogsmeade could never get old,"
Ron said. He sounded a little too cheerful; he was trying too hard. "Who'd
ever think Honeydukes could get boring?"
"After Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, everything seems
boring." That got him a smile, a real one, and it was good to see. Since
Ron had found out about Draco - Harry had never exactly told his friends about
it, but he'd never tried to hide it, either - everything had been different
between them. Of course, Harry had expected that and accepted it, but it didn't
make it that much easier to endure.
Swarms of third-years jostled around them on their way
out of the sweet shop, bags of sherbet lemons and Bernie Bott's clutched in
their mittened hands. Through the shop window they could see the proprietor,
his ever-present scowl as permanent a fixture as the cash register. "Always
grumpy, that one." Ron shook his head. "What's that about, then?
Being surrounded by sweets all day, making pots of money - seems like a good
life to me."
Harry shrugged. "Maybe it's just Hogwarts weekends.
He gets attacked by dozens of screaming kids who've eaten too much sugar."
Just then, a fourth-year with frizzy dark hair ran by,
shrieking at the top of her lungs as two boys chased her with a Spontaneous
Stinkbomber. Ron raised his eyebrows. "Never thought of it that way.
For the people who live here, these weekends must be like the Ogrish Invasion
"Did you just remember something from History?"
Harry only had to half-feign his astonishment.
Ron looked even more shocked than Harry felt. "Some
of it must have sunk in. Don't know how."
"Hermione will be proud." His two best friends
made a good couple, Harry thought. They seemed to be happy when they weren't
fighting, and often even when they were. "She'll say it's because she's
such a good influence."
"Tell her about this, and next practice I'll knock
you off your broom." Ron's step hesitated, just briefly, but Harry knew
what was coming. Tension knotted his shoulders, his back, his stomach. "Speaking
of, uh, of romance -"
"I wouldn't call it romance." Sex on or against
any available flat surface was something, Harry realized, but not romance.
Ron grimaced. "I'd rather call it that."
"Hermione said she talked to you. About Draco."
His friend's broad hands were crammed in the pockets of his robe, the fists
visible even through the fabric. "Said you didn't want to hear it."
Harry fixed his eyes on the far horizon - soft shapes,
the trees and homes, covered with frost against a gray sky. He wished for
the textbook that showed the bat's wing, anything that would give him an excuse
not to face Ron. "That's right. I don't."
Ron breathed out heavily, not quite sighing. After a brief
silence, he said, "He could be lying to you. Setting you up for a fall.
I know you don't like to think about it, but it's possible."
"Draco's not setting me up for a fall." Though
sometimes, Harry thought, it felt like falling. Like plummeting through the
dark, arms outstretched to catch the wind, the sensation almost indistinguishable
"Your dad never thought Peter Pettigrew was setting
him up." Harry stopped short and stared at Ron. A blush made the freckles
on Ron's cheeks all but invisible, but he kept talking. "They weren't
- I mean - they were just friends, but they were good friends for years and
years. Didn't matter. Wormtail betrayed him, killed him and your Mum and for
all he knew, you too."
Some third years gamboled by, giggly with bottles of butterbeer
in their hands. After they'd passed out of earshot, Harry said, "Draco
isn't Wormtail. My father's life isn't my life."
"I know you - you like him, and all, but - Harry,
you know what kind of person Draco is. He's the kind of person who could do
"Who could do what?"
"Lie to you. Even when you're together, even when
he's telling you - I don't know what he tells you, but, but -" Ron's
panic at trying to talk about romance and Draco in the same sentence might
have been funny, in different circumstances. "-He could say all these
great things to you, and be lying through his teeth. He could turn around
and tell his friends everything you do, everything you say. Betray you in
the worst way anybody could ever betray anyone. Draco's enough of a snake
to do it, you know he is, you HAVE to know that -"
"SHUT UP!" The shout escaped Harry, against
his will. Ron stepped back, but more as a matter of politeness; Harry could
see that he wasn't surprised. He'd been expecting something like this. So
had Harry, really, but it hadn't made any difference.
They were quiet together for a while, staring down at
the frost-crusted ground. Harry wished he could explain, but knew he never
Finally, Ron said, "You know it's not because - not
because Draco's a guy, right?"
Harry blinked. "Yeah. I know."
"Because I don't care about that."
Privately, Harry thought Ron might have cared quite a
lot about that, at least at first, if his horror of Draco hadn't outweighed
everything else. Probably Ron would now give his blessing to any other guy
in the world Harry wanted to be with, as long as it wasn't Draco.
Of course, that wasn't going to happen.
Draco had a room of his own.
He got permission for it this year; the Malfoy coffers
had opened up for the Board of Regents, and the right donation cleared the
way. Sometimes Harry wondered what that meeting with Dumbledore was like.
Other times he was just glad they had the broad, soft bed, the roaring fireplace,
the four thick walls that closed them in from the rest of the world.
Reaching that room meant going through the Slytherin common
room. It wasn't forbidden for students to visit the towers of other Houses,
but he'd never gone into Slytherin before this year, at least not clothed
in his own skin. The Slytherins stared at him, disdainful and amused, but
their respect for or fear of Draco kept them quiet. Walking through there,
with everyone knowing what he's there for, was embarrassing, but Harry found
it preferable to Draco's one and only visit to the Gryffindor common room.
Nobody there feared Harry, and the snide comments were not in short supply.
That alone, Harry might have borne, but far worse was the way that some of
them - Hermione, Ginny, Colin Creevey - had tried to be nice to Draco for
Harry's sake. Draco hadn't responded in kind.
But once he got to Draco's room - he could stop thinking
about that. He could think about what was more important.
Draco's hands were slim and smooth. Sometimes Harry just
liked to close his eyes and think about nothing but those hands. Then Draco
would kiss him, and it would be his mouth Harry thought about. Their kisses
seemed to swallow up the whole world.
Was it still just the same battle between them? The same
struggle for domination or control or vindication? Harry wondered that often
enough when he had Draco's silky hair entwined in his fingers, or when their
hipbones collided, sharp edges of bone pressing through the flat muscles of
When Draco spoke to him - they didn't do all that much
talking, most nights - it sounded as though nothing had ever changed. "What's
the matter, Potter?" he would pant in Harry's ear. "Can't last any
longer?" The taunts might have been about Quidditch, about a wizard's
duel, any of the countless battlegrounds they'd chosen for each other over
But in the end, every night they were together, Harry
triumphed. When they were covered in sweat, bodies entangled, excited already
beyond the point of frustration, Draco would be the one to give in. He rolled
over on his stomach, a simple and wordless surrender that set them both free.
In one of Aunt Petunia's romance novels, a younger and
curious Harry had once read that the submissive partner was always the dominant
one, really. Sometimes he thought about that as he gasped out the last of
his passion and sank down, his forehead against Draco's back.
Ginny sat up with him by the fire one night in early spring,
talking with him about anything and everything in the world as they played
chess. Really, Harry thought, she was just letting him talk - coaxing him
out of the shell he'd created the past few months with clever questions and
a sympathetic ear. He tried very hard not to think about how familiar that
pattern had become. But he knew that if the pattern held, trivial questions
would soon give away to important ones - as soon as the others were all gone,
and they were alone.
After midnight, Seamus and Lavender parted at the door
to the girls' rooms with a few last, lingering kisses. Ginny raised her eyebrows,
but Harry didn't smirk. He had little enough reason to mock anyone's love
life at this point.
"Poor Neville," Ginny said as soon as Seamus
had gone. Harry frowned at her; there were many reasons to say that, but he
was at a loss as to why Neville was more to be pitied at this moment than
at any other since his death almost a year before. Seeing his confusion, Ginny
added, "He had a bit of a thing for Lavender, you know."
"No. I didn't know that."
If Neville had lived, would he have made a move? No, Harry
thought. He would still be watching Lavender across the room, lovestruck and
lonely. Every once in a while, he thought about all the days Neville wasn't
going to have, all the things Neville was too frightened to do, the life his
friend would never lead. Those memories strengthened his resolution about
Draco, his conviction that he'd done the right thing by acknowledging that
fleeting revelation of desire in the Quidditch room. No more time wasted.
No more opportunities lost.
They'd reached the point in the dance when Ginny would
ask the hard questions, dig in for deeper answers. Harry was ready for that.
He was not prepared for her to simply withdraw a small blue phial from her
robes and set it on the chessboard between them. "Vassuage elixir,"
she said. "It detects betrayal between, well, people who are close. The
fluid starts to glow, and remains that way for hours."
Harry stared at the small phial. "You need a piece
of one of the partners' bodies for Vassuage," he said. He'd read about
it in one of Hermione's advanced Potions books, which she'd pressed on him
in preparation for their O.W.L.s. "It's like Polyjuice."
"Hermione brewed it up," Ginny said, brushing
her red hair away from her cheeks. Her skin was flushed slightly pink from
the heat of the nearby fire. "Ron pulled some hair from your comb."
"I don't need this," Harry said. "But -
I understand why you all did it."
"Really and truly?"
He took her hand in his, just for a moment. "Really
"Will you take it with you, then? Not that you need
it. Not for yourself." Ginny leaned forward, and her robes brushed against
the white figures of her chessmen. "For your friends, because we care
about you. To make us feel better. Will you, please?"
"I'll take it." Harry palmed the phial as he
gestured to his queen, which was menacing her bishop with rude gestures. "Better
do something about that, don't you think?"
After that, they played the game with true concentration
and enjoyment. Ginny went up to bed around 2 a.m., and as her light footsteps
faded on the stairs, Harry remembered the crush she'd had on him long ago,
how different everything might have been.
Then he took out the Vassuage elixir and stared at the
swirl of blue for a few seconds. One quick pitch and it shattered in the fireplace,
turning the flames an electric green for a few seconds before it evaporated
and was gone forever.
The last Hogsmeade weekend of the year emptied the school
of all but its youngest students - and those who had better things to do than
Draco stretched beside him in the bed, lazy and spent.
"You're not going to be an Auror. You wouldn't do anything so ridiculous."
"It's not ridiculous." Harry didn't let Draco
bait him. They couldn't have spent time together any other way. "Though
I don't know if they'll take me in the training program."
"Oh, they'll take you." Draco rolled onto his
back so that they were side-by-side. His foot brushed against Harry's calf.
The day's heat was already oppressive, and even the thin sheet that had covered
them had been kicked to the floor long since. "The great and powerful
Harry Potter? Nothing Dumbledore's bootlickers would like so much as to make
you their boy wonder."
"It turned out I wasn't so great and powerful after
all," Harry reminded him. "It was Neville all along."
"Turned out Neville wasn't so great and powerful
either." Adrenalin surged inside Harry, and he bit down on his tongue
to keep his silence. "The boy from the prophecy could've killed Voldemort,
but he didn't, did he? The prophecy turned out the other way round."
Deep breaths, Harry reminded himself. "Still. Neville
was the one in the prophecy. Not me."
"Tell it to the readers of Witch Weekly. They still
take on over you. Ridiculous, really." Draco sat up, then shook his head
fast enough to ruffle his hair. "It's too bloody hot to live. Stupid
house-elves. I'm going to make them fetch us something cold to drink."
"Good idea." Harry watched Draco go, the long
lines of his slim, muscled frame. Then he sat up, wondering how Draco would
react if he said he wanted to borrow a robe. Wearing anything in such heat
seemed unimaginable, but sometimes concealment felt like a good idea.
The wardrobe would hold dressy clothing, furs and silks,
all of it appropriate for Ministry functions and none of it interesting to
Harry. He opened a few boxes - heavy oak, with iron padlocks Draco hadn't
bothered to use - and found only junk: spellbooks and broomstick-maintenance
kits. After a moment's hesitation, he knelt by the bed and pulled out a battered
brass case he found there. No spell was needed to pry off the lid.
"Lemonade. Can you believe that's all they've got?
Pumpkin juice would -" Draco's voice trailed into silence. Harry did
not turn to face him, just looked down at the brass case's contents.
The black robe, the green mask: They might as well have
been in the center of a spotlight. Death Eater's garb.
Harry heard a soft clanking that was undoubtedly Draco
putting the tray down. Then he felt hands on his shoulders turning him around.
As Harry stood, heir eyes met. "What were you doing?" Draco asked.
Just like Draco, to begin with a demand. "I wanted
"It's nothing. You know that, right?" Draco
was already relaxing, settling into some semblance of calm. "Pranks on
Muggles who've got it coming."
How much could he possibly accept? Harry didn't have much
time to answer that question. "Death Eaters serve Voldemort," he
said. "Some of them tortured me." He didn't add that Draco's father
had been among those; either Draco already knew that or he never needed to.
"That's not what it's about! Not for me, anyway."
Draco hesitated, then stepped closer, putting his hands on Harry's shoulders.
It was a gentle gesture, lover-like, in a way very few things were between
them. Harry tried not to reveal his surprise. "Maybe I hear them talking
sometimes. But none of that concerns me - or you. Neville was the one they
were after, and they got him, and you're safe. Got that, Potter? Safe as houses."
"Are you protecting me?" How good that would
be, to believe in a protector.
Draco smirked. "No need. I'm enjoying you, that's
all." But his voice was a little quieter as he added, "Don't get
any other ideas."
"Never," Harry said, in a way that made it a
lie. When they kissed the next time, it was different than it had ever been
before - deeper, softer, more true.
As they fell back into bed, Harry turned away, so he wouldn't
have to see the mask grinning at him from within the case. Betrayal took so
many forms, visible and invisible, always in shades of gray.
The portraits in Dumbledore's office pretended to be reading
or doing a bit of mending, but Harry wasn't fooled. They were listening raptly,
as well they might; he figured his conversation made an interesting change
from second-years confessing to cheating on their homework.
"You're quite sure, Harry?" Dumbledore twirled
a quill between his fingers.
"I can't yet be positive. But I think Draco's involvement
in the Death Eaters is exactly what he told me, and no more." Harry slumped
back in the soft chair. "But he hears the Death Eaters talk, and that's
just as good. Better, maybe."
Dumbledore's eyes were sad behind his half-moon spectacles.
"When you suggested this charade to me months ago, you thought there
might be far more to Draco's involvement. I would never have aided you in
this if I hadn't agreed."
Harry often wished he'd been able to hear Dumbledore's
conversation with the school regents about Draco's private room. Had the old
man really been able to sound surprised? "We've learned a lot about the
Malfoys this year. We know that they're still convinced Neville was the boy
from the prophecy. It's enough, isn't it?"
"Perhaps, for the purposes of the Order." Dumbledore
considered Harry carefully. "But the consequences for you, Harry - for
you as a person -"
Ron's voice rang in his memory: He could turn around and
tell his friends everything you do, everything you say. Betray you in the
worst way anybody could ever betray anyone.
"We're fighting a war," Harry said. "After
Voldemort's dead, then we can worry about - stuff like that."
"Honor, and friendship, and love." For a moment
Dumbledore bowed his head. "After the war."
For no reason he could name, Harry found himself thinking
once more about the method to cut away a bat's wing, how to know what to save
for use and what to cast aside. The living creature the bat had been was forgotten,
because it had to be. You couldn't brew potions any other way.
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