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Art and layout by saridout

All other image and content © Deirdre Riordan 2004. All rights reserved.

This is my epic WIP. I started it as the prequel to Coming Around and it got a little out of hand. Each of the stories can stand on their own, but I'll clarify again that this is pre-slash. And that the canon's a mess because I started it before OotP came out. This fic and I have kind of a love-hate affair going. Please send any feedback to deirdre @ muse-wanted . com (remove spaces).

Table of Contents:
Part I: War and Aftermath
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Part II: Fall and Falling
Chapter 1

La Découverte ou l'Ignorance

Part I: War and Aftermath

Chapter 1

Oh, these are the days
These are the strangest of all
These are the nights
These are the darkest to fall
--David Bowie, "Slow Burn"

Curses rained down all over. The air was thick with blood and smoke and magic. No one would have recognised this corpse-scattered plain as the front lawn of Hogwarts, where the Order of the Phoenix, alongside the Ministry of Magic and the Giants, desperately tried to fend off the siege of Death Eaters trying to gain access to the castle.

Just behind the front line of defence, Draco Malfoy could be seen running for all he was worth, up to the castle, dodging Killing Curse after Cruciatus after Killing Curse. Tears streamed down his face as he ran. Severus Snape, possibly the one real friend he'd ever had, had just been struck down by Draco's own father, and he had been powerless to stop it. The siege had come nearly by surprise. The Order had only had a couple of hours' warning, not enough to get all the students to safety in time. Most of them now huddled in heavily warded rooms deep in the dungeons, waiting for the word to come out, knowing that there might be no one left to give the word. Draco, like most of the seventh-years, had refused to be locked in, knowing he had to fight. And now he ran. They needed help, all they could get.

Potter, of course, was right at the front of it all. If someone had told Draco a year ago that he'd be taking orders from Potter, he'd have had them shipped off to St. Mungo's for an extended stay. But when the 7th-years had hastily banded together, Potter had been tacitly appointed leader.

"Run to the castle!" Potter had shouted. "Get the 5th and 6th-years, anyone you can! And get someone to the Owlery-- tell them to write anyone they can think of!"

And Draco had taken off running without a moment's hesitation. Now he'd escaped the range of most of the curses, but he didn't slow down. Great Merlin, his getting to the castle in time could decide the fate of Wizarding society as he knew it. He ran to the Dungeons; fortunately he could have found the way blindfolded. He reached the room in which the older students were secured and hastily shouted the passwords through layer after layer of wards. He finally got through the last one and touched his Order ring to the keyhole. The doors swung open and a hundred terrified faces turned to look at him.

"Anyone who can fight, come now! We need defence!" he yelled, breathless. They stared at him, stunned. "What are you waiting for? Do you want there to be a world tomorrow or not?" His words sank in and people began to spring to their feet, stripping off their robes and readying their wands.

"Weasley!"

Ginny Weasley looked at him, clearly astonished at being addressed.

"You and Crawford there, get up to the Owlery! Write everybody you can think of. Use every owl in the place. Then come down to the gates and fight!"

Ginny Weasley nodded bravely and dragged a sobbing Leslie Crawford off with her. Draco addressed the rest of the crowd of young wizards before him. "A lot of you probably aren't coming back. But your teachers, your parents, and your friends are out there fighting for you and they need your help. Use any curse you've got. Don't be afraid to use the Unforgivables if you know them, the Death Eaters won't do you that courtesy. If you know worse, use that too! Now come on!"

Draco bolted from the room and it emptied behind him. About a quarter of the 5th and 6th year students were dead before they had the chance to utter a single curse. But the rest managed to make it up to the front, where Draco found Pitter in the midst of a duel with Lucius. Draco couldn't but watch, at least partially. It was terrifying. Even if he hated this man, he was still his flesh and blood. Potter was holding his own, dodging and blocking, but Draco could tell he was exhausted and that Lucius was gaining on him. He realised nobody was really watching him. "Immobilus," he whispered. The curse hit Lucius and he froze where he was. Potter fortunately had the sense not to waste time looking round to see who his helper had been.

He didn't even hesitate for two seconds. "AVADA KEDAVRA!" he shouted. A flash of green light, and Lucius Malfoy was no more. How many times has Potter used that curse today? How many times have I? Draco wondered. He felt a surge of magic surging toward his stomach and hit the deck. He saw where it had come from. His old "friend" Goyle. How had that moron survived this long? Goyle and many other Slytherins had mysteriously disappeared from Hogwarts a few months ago. Everyone knew where they had gone, but no one talked about it. That was why the Order knew something was coming-- they just hadn't known when. Draco finished Goyle off easily. When he got up, he saw that the area had gone silent. Looking in Potter's direction, he saw why.

There was Voldemort, in all his scaly red-eyed black-cloaked gruesomeness, face to face yet again with his nemesis. But Draco had the idea-- no, he knew-- that this was the final showdown. Something about Potter's air told him that he was really ready this time. It had to be the end. Of one of them, anyway.

"We meet again, young Harry," rasped the Dark Lord. "So like your mother, so courageous. She was such a loyal servant in the beginning, so obedient. But she turned out badly, just as you have."

WHAT? Potter's mother had been a Death Eater? That explained a lot. But it didn't seem to faze Potter. He must have known already. Imagine living with that. Oh wait, I did.

"Don't talk to me about my mother, *Tom.* You didn't know her. You've got no right to talk about her. And I'm not letting you ruin anyone else's life." They raised their wands. "I think you know how this goes, Voldie. But this time, I win."

Voldemort shouted "Avada Kedavra" at the same time that Potter shouted some curse Draco had never heard in his life. It sounded like 'Deleo Spiritus' or something like that, but he couldn't be sure. Instead of anything happening to either of them, the two curses met in the middle. A beam of dark red light emanated from Potter's wand, and a green one from the Dark Lord's. They fought to overtake each other. Sometimes Voldemort's gained a little, but Potter managed to gain it back plus some. Potter was winning! They were screaming at each other in Parseltongue, adding an eerie soundtrack to the already terrifying situation. Draco wondered in spite of everything whether they knew they were doing it or not. And how long this was going to go on.

But then suddenly Potter screamed, "NO! YOU.... DIE..... NOW!" There was a great explosion as the red beam overtook the green one. Draco and the others on the field watched in horror and awe as shades of screaming, dying people began to shoot out of Voldemort's wand and then vanish. Potter stood there stone-faced until it was over. And just for a second, there was nothing. But then Voldemort was screaming in agony, his entire body glowing red. Not even his followers dared approach. At last Potter hissed something in Parseltongue over the writhing form and Voldemort crumbled to dust that scattered on the wind.

"He's dead," Potter said, not really to anyone.

Nothing short of mayhem ensued. Some of the students were cheering and hugging, but others knew it wasn't over yet. Frightened Death Eaters, now leaderless, began to scurry to escape, throwing curses in their wake. Potter jerked his head for Draco to follow him. They ran and dodged anew, petrifying or killing all the Death Eaters they could. Then Draco felt a splitting agony shoot through his right leg to his shoulder. He'd been hit. Yes, he was bleeding. There was a deep gash all the way down his body. Something else hit him. Bugger. His left leg was broken. Then he felt the unmistakable agony of Cruciatus surge through him. He looked over, nearly blind with pain. Goyle's father.

"You killed my boy, you Muggle-loving scum!" Then he groaned and fell over, revealing Potter behind him. Potter had just saved his life.

"Thanks," Draco muttered weakly, collapsing.

Potter immediately rushed to his side, breaking his fall and laying him down gently on the ground.

"Potter, leave me, you idiot, the Death Eaters are getting away!"

"Let them. They've got no Voldemort to run to now, it doesn't matter." Potter removed Draco's shirt. "Jesus," he breathed, "I can't heal this. We've gotta get you to Madam Pomfrey."

"Potter, leave me, it's not worth it. Go save someone who matters."

"You do matter. And I've killed too many people today already." Without another word, Potter picked Draco up and began to carry him back toward the castle. Draco drifted in and out of consciousness, looking round him at the bloodied field, deserted now but for the remaining able-bodied people gathering up the wounded and the dead.

They didn't even have to go as far as the Hospital Wing. There was a makeshift infirmary set up in the Great Hall, filled with students and professors in various stages of pain, healing, or death. Fortunately someone had thought to call in reinforcements, so there were about twenty mediwitches there to help Madam Pomfrey. Potter set him down gently on a bed and Madam Pomfrey came over to see about him.

Potter squeezed his shoulder. "You'll be fine. I'll be back later to see how you're doing."

Draco could only nod dumbly as he watched Potter's retreating back. Why did he do that? Why didn't he just leave me for dead? Merlin knows after all I've done to him, I didn't deserve any better. Probably just that bloody Gryffindor heroism, Draco thought bitterly as he passed out.

He returned to consciousness some indeterminate amount of time later to hear muted voices beside him. Potter and Madam Pomfrey, he realised through the haze of the painkilling potion.

"How is he?" Potter was saying.

"He'll be all right eventually. There were some fairly serious internal injuries. If you hadn't brought him in when you did, his lungs probably would have collapsed."

"Oh..."

"But that's all healed now, don't worry. He's just going to be sore and weak for a while. And if I know this boy, rather unpleasant."

"Good. Thanks, Poppy."

"Now, Harry, you've avoided me too long. I want to have a look at that leg of yours."

Leg? Potter had been injured? Draco hadn't even noticed. "It's nothing," Potter said, "I think the ligament's torn is all." All? Potter had bloody carried him back here with a torn ligament in one of his legs?

"Give an old woman peace of mind, will you? Hop up."

Draco didn't get it. Potter had, indeed, saved his life, no doubt about that. All right, he probably felt it was the right thing to do. But coming back to check on him? Draco highly doubted Potter was doing that for every other poor bleeding sod he'd dragged in here. The thought crossed his mind that maybe Potter actually... cared? He laughed to himself. Yeah, right. Must be the drugs.

Draco woke up again sometime later to find Potter sitting by his bed. "Hey," Potter said softly.

"What time is it?" Draco muttered groggily.

"Quarter to midnight. You've been out almost two days."

Two DAYS? Bloody hell. "What are you doing here Potter? Why don't you go stand vigil over your friends?"

Potter's regard went dark. "Because the only vigil I'm going to be holding for a lot of them is going to be in a graveyard."

"Oh. Sorry."

"It's all right. It's war. Hermione and Seamus and Fred and George are alive at least. But that's about it for my close friends. Draco, I should tell you, I---"

DRACO? Ooookay, whatever. He didn't like the idea of being called Malfoy too much right now anyway. But he knew what Potter was about to say. "You killed my father, I know."

"You know?"

"I was the one who cast the Immobilus curse on him when nobody was looking."

"Oh."

"Potter, don't be afraid I'm angry. I'm not. If anything I should be thanking you for doing what I probably had a hundred chances to do throughout my life but never could bring myself to."

Potter was silent for a bit, obviously not sure what to say now.

"Potter, really. He was an evil bastard. I'm a bit sad that I don't have a father in theory, but in reality no one could miss that particular father."

Potter just nodded.

"I am sorry about your friends, Potter. I know what that's like. But at least you knew who they were." Draco felt his eyes closing again.

Potter touched his hand. "I'm sorry, Draco. I can't even begin to imagine what that was like."

"Don't worry about me."

"I do anyway."

"Why?"

"I don't know," Potter said simply. Potter was still holding his hand, Draco realised. "Look, you should rest some more."

"You should too. I don't even know how you can still stand."

"I don't either, frankly. But I feel like shit," Potter said with a bitter laugh. "I've got to go meet with what's left of the Order. If you need me, just send someone to find me. I any case I'll be back later."

Draco nodded and started to drift off again. If I need him? What's that supposed to mean? He finally decided, after a bit of bleary deliberation, that Potter must have felt sorry for him, knowing that there would be no one else to visit him. He resented that somewhat, but at the same time he had to admit to himself that he was grateful to have someone to break up the long periods of nothingness.

That night he had his first dream since being in the infirmary. He was twelve again, riding his broom across the grounds of Malfoy Manor. And then Potter appeared, flying next to him, diving and looping together with him. For some reason he woke up with tears in his eyes. That's not how it was, he said to himself. But that's how it could have been, had your father been anyone else. Maybe it could have even been that way despite his father if Draco had found a nicer way of introducing himself to Potter. That's what the tears were for, he realised. He could have had probably the best sort of friend he could have asked for, but through an accident of birth, it was not to be. Okay, probably more than that, but his birth certainly didn't do anything to help.

He knew how Potter was with his friends. He stood up for them, protected them, listened to them. Had things been different, Potter could have done the same for him. Malfoy, you retard. What do you think he's been doing for you the last few days? But that's out of pity. How do you know? Pity or a sense of debt. Maybe he actually cares. Maybe he thinks he was wrong about you. Draco stared into the clouds rolling across the charmed ceiling. He couldn't figure Potter out. Maybe if he just asked him. Potter did tend to be brutally honest. But he wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answer.

Draco struggled to sit up. Gods, it hurt. Whatever that mediwitch had done to patch him up was certainly taking a long time to heal. Just... a ... little...more.... There! He'd done it. He lay back against the pillow, exhausted by the exertion.

Just then Potter came in, carrying a few books and some parchment, levitating a tray in front of him. "Hey!" he said, grinning. "You've sat up!"

"Had a hell of a time with it too."

"Yeah, Madam Pomfrey said you'd probably be sore for a while.

"Great."

"Hey, be glad you've still got lungs."

"I am."

"Want some cocoa?"

"I don't know, have you poisoned it?"

"Oh, naturally," Potter said, rolling his eyes. He set the tray down on the bedside table along with the books.

"What's all that?" asked Draco, carefully lifting his cocoa to his mouth.

"Reading material."

"Don't tell me they're actually going to try to finish out the last month of classes?"

"No, this is for next term. It seems that Hogwarts is yet again in need of a DADA professor."

"Is Arabella---" Not her...

"No, she's fine. But she's retiring. She said she's aged thirty years in two days. Dumbledore asked me if I'd like to take over."

"And you said yes."

"Yup."

"What about Quidditch? I heard a rumour that you had about ten teams dangling contracts in front of you."

Potter shook his head. "I turned them all down. Hogwarts is my home."

"You're lucky, I haven't got a home to go to. When I turned my father in the Ministry seized the house. Not before he went into hiding, of course."

Potter looked incredulous. "You're the one who turned him in?"

Draco confirmed with a sober nod.

"Wow," Potter breathed.

"What, never believed I'd be such a traitor to my own blood?" Draco spat. Of course it would turn out like this. Of course all this niceness was too good to last.

"No, no, it's not like that at all!" Potter protested. Huh? "I just never knew you could be so... pardon the expression, but... Gryffindor. And I mean that in the nicest possible way."

"There's loads of stuff you don't know about me, Potter."

"I imagine the reverse is true as well."

"What don't I know? Your life is pretty much public. I doubt you could say anything that would surprise me."

Potter's regard went very dark. "Three days ago, I killed my grandfather."

"You don't mean--"

"Voldemort. He magically sort of...birthed my mother. A servant who would never betray him. Unfortunately for him, even with all his powers, he couldn't prevent her from learning how to think for herself. She became a spy the year she married my father."

Potter's mother was a Death Eater? And a spy at that? Potter's mother was Voldemort's daughter? How had he not known that? How had no one known that? "That explains a lot about why he wanted to kill you." And how could Potter have lived with knowing that? How could anyone?

Potter shook his head, as if shaking off the thoughts. "Anyway, now you know that. And I know something else about you."

Draco was genuinely surprised. "What?"

"I happen to know that as soon as you're strong enough, Dumbledore's going to offer you the Potions position."

Draco nearly spat his cocoa all over the place. "Are you serious?" He spluttered.

"I am indeed."

"I don't believe this!" Draco said, grinning, even as much as it hurt to do so.

"Believe it. I take it you'll accept?"

"Of course I'll bloody well accept! Where else would I go?"

"Didn't the Wimbourne Wasps offer you a position?"

"Well, yeah, but that would create a housing problem. As in, I haven't got any and they don't provide it."

"Well, there's nothing that says you can't do both."

Draco hadn't even thought of that. Loads of people who played for local clubs had regular jobs as well. "The golden boy has a point."

Potter made a face. "Don't call me that."

Draco laughed a little. "Sorry, what should I call you? Gryffindork?"

"That's Professor Gryffindork to you," Potter said, laughing now too.

Okay, he's in a good mood. Maybe I should ask him. Do I want to know? Yeah. I do. "Potter, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Why are you being so nice to me all of a sudden? Is it because you feel sorry for me?"

Potter looked sort of offended. "No, I'm being nice to you because I want to."

"Why do you want to? I've never done anything to deserve it."

"Well, you saved my life, for one. But it isn't even really that. It's more that I've wanted to make peace with you for ages, but I've never had a good enough excuse. Sometime at the beginning of last term, I saw a change in you that made me think you weren't the insufferable git I'd always thought you were. And I wanted to say something, but the time never seemed right. But now that I've got you as a captive audience, it's a little easier. But listen, if you don't want me around, just say the word and I'll piss off. I am aware that not the entire world wants to be my friend."

Wow. He's wanted to be my friend all year. That can only mean one thing. He's absolutely barking mad. But he must have seen this 'change' around the time I turned Lucius in. "No, don't piss off. I like having someone to talk to. Besides, you couldn't piss off very far since we'll be working together."

"Entirely true."

"Hey, Potter, the next time you come here, would you mind bringing me a few books? I'm bored out of my skull here most of the time."

"Sure, what do you want?"

"Well, I guess I'd better be brushing up on Potions, so if you could snag the Encyclopaedic Index of Magical Herbs and Ingredients, that might be useful."

"Done and done. Anything else?"

"Oh, I don't know. A trashy novel or something to entertain me."

"Sure."

The next time Potter came was the following afternoon (or at least Draco assumed). He brought the Potions book along with a thick stack of novels.

"Potter, I've never heard of any of these."

"I figured. They're some of my Muggle books."

"Muggle books? You read Muggle books?"

"I was raised by Muggles."

"True."

"You'll like them, don't worry. Though they're not exactly trashy. Here, try this one."

Potter handed him a slim cloth-bound volume. Draco read the cover. "'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,' by James Joyce. Okay." He opened it and tried to read, but he found that the more he tried to focus on the words, the more they swam about on the page and made him feel sick and dizzy. He squeezed his eyes shut and dropped the book. "Bugger, I don't think I'm well enough to read yet."

"I'll just have to read it to you, then," Potter said, picking up the book.

"You don't have to do that. I'm sure I'll be fine in a couple of days."

"Oh, just let me. I enjoy it. Hermione used to come read to me whenever I got myself into nasty accidents. "But if you don't want me to--"

"No, no, I'd like that. Just so long as you don't mind."

"I don't." He opened the book. "Chapter One. 'Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road--'"

That made Draco laugh.

Harry cleared his throat pointedly and went on. "'And this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...'"

"Potter, what the hell is this?" Draco said, giggling and clutching his aching ribs.

"It's great literature, now shut up. 'His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass. He had a hairy face. He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.'"

"What's lemon platt?"

"I don't know, some kind of candy I think."

It went on like that, with Potter reading a few lines and Draco laughing. He was thoroughly enjoying it despite how little sense it made. He wondered privately if Dumbledore had written this book under a pseudonym. Potter didn't even seem to mind when Draco stopped him, asking him questions about Parnell and football. Harry explained everything he could patiently and read till his voice started to go hoarse and Draco got sleepy.

"Shall I bring you dinner?" Harry asked, closing the book.

"I'm not allowed solid food yet. Madam Pomfrey's orders."

"You're not a baby. And it's Madam Pomfrey's night off. I'll bring you some nice pasta, that can't hurt you."

Harry-- since when have I started thinking of him as Harry?-- reappeared a little while later carrying a tray of something that smelled divine. Draco had to eat slowly. His hands were still shaky and his jaws hurt, but it tasted a hell of a lot better than whatever magically enriched soup Madam Pomfrey had been feeding him. At one point he dropped his fork. He blushed furiously, not really knowing what to do. But Harry picked it up again without a word and spelled it clean again.

"I hate being so bloody helpless," Draco fumed, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"I know, but it's not for much longer. Madam Pomfrey told me this morning that you'd be able to try walking in a few days."

That thought somewhat terrified Draco. What if he couldn't do it? "Will you be here when I do?" He asked in a small voice.

"Sure, if you want me to. I'll make sure they send for me." Harry left after dinner was done, saying he had things to do. He responded to Draco's unasked question by saying he'd be back first thing in the morning.

The next morning, though, Harry did not come. Is he bored of me already? He started to get extremely paranoid that perhaps Harry'd gotten over whatever bout of madness had caused him to be friendly in the first place and returned to hating him.

He called Madam Pomfrey over and asked her sweetly (though his voice trembled) if she could go look for him. She frowned slightly, but agreed. She returned twenty minutes later, alone. "I'm sorry, Draco, but nobody knows where he is. He might have gone out."

"Gone out? Where? He was supposed to be here first thing this morning!" What is wrong with me? Why am I having a life crisis over this? Just calm the fuck down Malfoy, you lived through the end of the world already.

"Now dear, don't worry, I'm sure he'll be along." She patted his hand and bustled off to attend to the other patients.

It was nearly 1:00 when Harry finally showed up, out of breath and somewhat dirty. "Sorry!" He exclaimed.

"Where were you?" Draco asked, trying not to whinge and failing utterly.

"Damage control. I sort of lost track of time," Harry said with a sheepish grin. "I'm really sorry. As soon as I realised what time it was I ran straight up here."

"It's okay. I was just afraid you'd... I don't know, decided to hate me again or something." Draco blushed at how ridiculous that sounded.

Harry clasped his hand and Draco felt a current of warmth run through him. "I wouldn't do that."

Harry was never late again, but for the next three days he was always dirty and disheveled whenever he came to see Draco. In spite of everything, Draco decided he was kind of cute that way. Harry read to him and snuck him food he wasn't allowed to have and they talked. Their conversations covered an incredibly wide range of subjects, from Quidditch to vampires to childhood anecdotes. Draco had never had someone to talk to like this, someone he could really talk to about anything. And certainly no one who he was sure was telling him the whole truth. That was what really blew him away about Harry-- his sincerity. And he found himself trying to mirror that candor, which surprised him even more. But what he really couldn't fathom was how someone who'd been through as much as Harry had could still trust so easily. Draco had learned a lot about the bad side of human nature in his life, but in those three days he learned more about the other side of it than he had in all his eighteen years.

The fourth morning was a little different. When Draco woke up, Harry and Madam Pomfrey were standing over him. Harry was grinning and freshly showered, the first time Draco had seen him clean in days.

"What's the deal?" Draco muttered sleepily.

"Time to try walking," Harry said, his smile getting even bigger. "Madam Pomfrey says if you can do it, you can be released."

Draco was at once elated and frightened. Released to what? Dumbledore still hadn't approached him about the Potions position, and Draco was wondering if he ever would. Well, surely they wouldn't just turn him out.

Harry wrapped his arms around Draco and helped him out of bed. Slowly Harry walked him around the room, allowing him to work the stiffness out of his legs. He realised that his ribs didn't hurt so much anymore, nor did anything else. He'd gotten so used to being in pain that he'd somehow failed to notice when it had gone away.

Draco giggled. He let go of Harry and did a clumsy pirouette. "I'm cured!" he exclaimed melodramatically. He threw his arms around Harry and hugged him. "I couldn't have done it without you," he said quietly.

"Well, dear, it seems you no longer have need of my care," said Madam Pomfrey. "Harry, would you be so kind as to escort him to his rooms?"

Harry beamed. "Sure." He tossed Draco a robe to put on over his pyjamas and led him out of the Great Hall.

"Where are we going?" Draco asked.

"To where you live."

"To Slytherin?"

"Not exactly."

Part I: War and Aftermath

Chapter 2

Harry led Draco down to the Dungeons. But they went down a corridor in the opposite direction of the Slytherin common room. Harry de-warded a door and led Draco in a room. An apartment, rather. There was a sitting room and a desk, and he could see into a kitchen and a bedroom. But unlike most rooms in the Dungeons, these were filled with light.

"Whose rooms are these?" Draco asked, looking around.

"Yours," Harry said, grinning. "I hope you don't mind my choosing them for you. I figured you'd probably want to live in the Dungeons, but I knew you wouldn't want Severus' rooms. These were the only others that had windows. Of course, if you'd rather live someplace else..."

Draco stopped him. "No, this is perfect! Thank you," He hugged Harry again.

"This is where I was the past few days, getting this place ready. Hadn't been used in centuries."

HARRY had done all this? Draco had figured it had just been the house elves. "Why didn't you just get the house elves to do it?"

"Oh, they helped with the nastier bits. But I don't know, I guess I wanted to do it myself. Having something to do with my hands helps me think. And I've got kind of a lot to think about."

Draco nodded. He wasn't sure why he deserved this, but Harry seemed to think he did.

"C'mon," said Harry, grabbing his hand. "Let me show you the bedroom, I'm proudest of that." He pulled Draco into the bedroom, which was as full of light as the sitting room. Rich dark green velvet curtains hung from the windows and the bed, and the wall sconces were shaped like dragons' heads. And the bed! It was a gigantic mahogany structure, and the woodwork was engraved with dragons like those on the wall sconces. On the wall opposite the windows there was a dressing table and a full-length mirror. Draco's trunk stood in the corner.

"I didn't want to unpack your stuff," Harry said by way of explanation. "I had Dobby magic it into the trunk, but I would have felt weird going through it. I did put all your books on the shelves in the sitting room, though."

Draco was astonished. How could someone who ostensibly knew him so little, know him so well? Harry showed him the kitchen, stocked with basic things like bread and tea and wine. The odd thing was that everything there was the exact brand that Draco would have gotten himself. "How'd you know what kind of tea I drank and what kind of wine I liked?"

Harry shrugged. "I asked Dobby. I figured if anyone would know, it would be him."

Suddenly Draco was utterly overcome that someone would go to all this trouble--that Harry Potter would go to all this trouble--just for him. He hugged Harry yet again, trying desperately to keep the tears in his eyes from falling. "Thank you," he choked out. "You don't know what this means to me."

"I think I've got some idea," Harry whispered into his shoulder.

Draco managed to get hold of his emotions and asked Harry if he'd like to have a drink.

Harry nodded. "Finite Incantatem," he said, and a chilled bottle of Champagne and two glasses appeared on the coffee table. "I thought you might do that."

Draco laughed. "And if I hadn't?"

"Then you'd have knocked it over and gotten Champagne and broken glass all over your freshly waxed floor and it would have served you right for being a bad host," Harry said, grinning impishly.

Draco punched him lightly in the arm and opened the Champagne. He poured two glasses and handed one to Harry. Harry raised his glass. "To new beginnings," he said quietly, emerald eyes sparkling.

Draco assented silently and they drank. He had the strong urge to hug Harry yet again, but he managed to restrain himself. Suddenly he remembered the problem of Dumbledore. "Harry?" Oh, Merlin, I've gone and called him Harry....

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Hmmm?"

"There's just one thing-- Dumbledore still hasn't talked to me about the Potions position."

"Oh, I nearly forgot. I think there's a note on the desk that might resolve that."

Draco bolted to the desk where, sure enough, there was a piece of parchment with his name on it. He opened it.

Dear Mr. Malfoy,

Please see me in my office as soon as you feel up to it.

-A. Dumbledore.

"That could be anything!" Draco exclaimed.

"Look, will you just trust me?" Harry said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "He certainly wouldn't have provided you with permanent living quarters if he didn't mean for you to stay on. Besides, who the hell else is there for the job?"

"Oh, gee, I don't know, maybe a couple of hundred wizards with more qualifications and training than me?"

Harry grabbed his other shoulder and pulled him round to face him full on. His tone was stern but his eyes were almost pleading. "Trust. Me. About this, about everything. Anyway, in this case, you're just being thick and pessimistic."

Trust him. Well, I suppose if I'm going to trust someone it might as well be him.

"Go on, finish your Champagne and we'll go to Dumbledore's office together."

"Would you mind if I got a shower first? I haven't had anything but cleaning charms since the day of the battle."

Harry laughed. "Sure. Why don't you come meet me in my rooms when you're ready."

"Ummm, okay. Where do you live?"

"Near Gryffindor Tower. The green door down the hall to the left of the Fat Lady. The password is 'Viktor Krum has dirty knickers.'"

Draco snickered at the password, all the while marvelling that Harry just gave it to him like that. "Okay, I'll be up in a bit."

Harry hadn't shown him the bathroom. Draco's jaw dropped when he saw it. The walls were all panelled with mirrors, and the fixtures on taps matched the dragon heads in his bedroom. He had to wonder how much time and money this had actually taken Harry.

He sank into the bath and promptly fell asleep. Wizarding baths do not go cold, so he was not awakened until three hours later by a banging on the bathroom door.

"Draco!" Harry was shouting. "Are you in there? Are you all right?"

Before Draco could gather his wits to respond, Harry shouted "Alohomora!" and came through the door. "Oh, thank god."

"Sorry, I fell asleep."

"I figured you had, but I was afraid you'd drowned. You shouldn't go to sleep in the bath."

"I didn't mean to."

"Still feel up to seeing Dumbledore?"

"Sure."

"I'll just wait in the sitting room while you get dressed if that's okay."

"What, you don't want to watch?" Oops, did I say that out loud? Must be all the potions. But something strange came over Harry's face for a second. Great, I've offended him.

But Harry recovered his good spirits almost instantly. "Why Professor, I never knew you were an exhibitionist." Harry tossed him a towel and left the bathroom.

Draco dressed slowly-- he hadn't had to do it in a while, and his hands were still somewhat weak and uncooperative. He pondered over Harry's reaction to his idiotic comment and what could have caused it. Perhaps, he thought, the mere thought was just that horrific. Or maybe he thought I was implying he's gay. Maybe he IS gay. Maybe he wanted to watch me undress... Yeah, right Malfoy. It'll be a cold day in hell when anyone volunteers to look at your skinny white arse.

He didn't bother about gelling his hair down, he just let it hang around his face. A glance in the mirror told him he looked presentable. Fortunately, the mirror said nothing. Perhaps Harry found talking mirrors as bothersome as he did.

He went out into the sitting room where Harry met him with an approving nod. "You look three hundred percent better."

"I feel a lot better."

"Well, ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

Draco was too nervous to say much of anything on the way to Dumbledore's office. A million what-ifs ran through his head, everything from 'Yes, well, Mr. Malfoy, I was thinking you might like to be Headmaster,' to 'Mr. Malfoy, you're under arrest.' Just trust Harry, he told himself. He wouldn't have got my hopes up for nothing. But what the hell do I do if he was wrong?

Somehow they'd gone into Dumbledore's office without Draco even noticing. He gawked around him, as he did every time he came in here. He'd only been two or three times in his entire Hogwarts career, but Harry seemed to feel right at home. Harry took a seat on one of the leather sofas and Fawkes the Phoenix came to rest on his shoulder.

"Where's Dumbledore?" Draco whispered.

"He'll be along. He knows we're here," Harry said with a shrug, twitching a little as Fawkes nibbled affectionately on his ear.

"How come that bird likes you so much?" Draco asked. "He won't come near me."

"He knows his own kind, I guess," said Harry cryptically.

HUH? Draco didn't get the chance to question him, as Dumbledore chose that moment to enter. He didn't look surprised to see Harry there with him. Draco really hated the way that man knew everything.

"Hello there, Harry, Draco. How goes the syllabus, Harry?"

"Almost done. There are just a few matters I'll need to confer with the Potions Master on, once we get one."

"Ah, yes, the Potions Master. Well, with any luck, we'll be engaging one very shortly. Which brings me to why I asked you here, Draco. As you may have noticed, the... unfortunate demise of Severus has left a bit of a void on our staff. You're the only one I can think of who can fill his shoes. Will you do it?"

"I---"

Dumbledore cut him off. "Now, don't let the matter of housing bother you. You're welcome to stay here as long as you like even if you don't take the position."

Faced with this, Draco wasn't sure. He wanted desperately to try his hand at Quidditch....

"Oh, and I've heard of your offer from Wimbourne, and I don't see that it would interfere with your teaching if you chose to accept it," he said with that damned twinkle in his eye.

Draco was floored. He had, of course, been accustomed for a great deal of his life to getting everything he wanted. After his father had more or less disowned him and most of his worldly possessions (being Malfoy property) seized, he had gotten used to getting nothing, ever. Now that he was yet again faced with the opportunity to have his cake and eat it too, he didn't quite know what to do. "Sir... I... don't know what to say. Except... yes. And thank you so much for giving me this chance."

"No less than you deserve my dear boy."

Deserving anything had never been something Draco was used to. "There's just one thing, sir-- I'm kind of afraid I don't have enough practical training. I know that normally, the person to take over Severus' position would have apprenticed with him for two or three years, and I had only just started when the war broke out. I know it's impossible for me to train with him now, but do you think it would be possible to find someone willing to take me on for the summer?"

"Oh, without question! I've already arranged for it. I'd never hear the end of it if I hired an unapprenticed Potions Master. You're to start an intensive apprenticeship next week with Clive Kettlebottom of Diagon Alley."

Clive Kettlebottom? The man was a legend! Draco just gaped.

"Of course, if you don't think his skill is satisfactory, I'm sure we can--"

"Oh, no sir! It isn't that! He's more than satisfactory! It's just that... well... how'd you do it? The man's turned away every potential apprentice for the last twenty years!"

A god-love-you sort of smile. "I'll teach you a lesson, Draco-- always have at least one talented, powerful person who owes you a favour. Of course, I managed to convince him I was doing him the favour when I told him of your exceptional talent."

EXCEPTIONAL? Draco gulped. "I'll... do my best not to disappoint you, sir."

"I know you won't my boy, I know you won't."

During this conversation Harry had been making little noises in the back of his throat at Fawkes, who'd been making the same sorts of noises back. It was almost like they were... talking to each other. Well, he can talk to snakes, why not Phoenixes too? And obviously Dumbledore didn't find anything out of the ordinary about it. At last the old man chased them off, saying he had a very important nap to take. Draco was on the verge of asking what was going on with the Phoenix, but Harry ran off, saying he had to go to Diagon Alley.

"Why don't you come up to my rooms later? I'll cook you dinner," he called as he hurried off down the corridor.

"Ehm, sure, but Harry---" But Harry had disappeared. Weird. Very weird.

Draco busied himself that afternoon with unpacking and arranging his things. What had filled his small Prefect room to capacity barely took up any room at all in his spacious new quarters. In fact, it looked sadly bare. He promised himself that as soon as he got paid, he'd go blow it all in Diagon Alley. He hadn't had money in a long time. He knew his father had had some in an offshore vault somewhere that the Ministry probably hadn't touched, but he had no idea how to get to it. He didn't really want it anyway. It probably smelled of death. Maybe Dumbledore would give him an advance. No, that was too much to ask. Dumbledore had already gone far out of his way for him.

Draco tried to read, but he found that the oddly constructed Muggle book wasn't the same without Harry's voice reading it. Am I becoming codependent or what? All Harry all the time is not a necessity, he told himself. But somehow he wasn't entirely convinced.

At last it was respectably close to dinnertime, so Draco made the trek up to Harry's rooms. He wondered if he should knock. No, he's expecting me. He said the password, trying not to laugh at it, and the door swung open. He didn't see Harry anywhere, but he saw Fawkes perched on the back of the sofa.

He approached the bird slowly and tentatively petted its head. It gave a pleased-sounding squawk.

"You like that, huh? I guess you don't hate me after all. What have you done with Harry?"

The Phoenix gave another little squawk and suddenly Draco no longer felt feathers under his hand, but soft hair. He realised he was no longer petting Fawkes--who had not been Fawkes at all--but petting Harry's head.

"Gah!" he jumped back.

Harry grinned, still sitting on the back of the sofa. "I do love it when you scratch behind my ears," he said with a smirk.

"You're... you're an Animagus!"

"Fifty points to Slytherin for stating the obvious, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco relaxed, having gotten over his shock. "That explains a hell of a lot. I was wondering what Fawkes was doing here."

"Since when does Fawkes have a green lightning bolt marking on his forehead?"

"He never let me get close enough to notice. Harry, that's so cool! Does anybody else know?"

"A few others. But you and Dumbledore and Hermione are the only ones still alive who know. But now that Voldemort's gone, it'll be safe to register myself."

"Why, so you can show off to your students?"

"Naturally. Let's eat." Harry waved his wand and the wall sconces went out, leaving only the light of a few candles on the dining table in the corner. They sat down and began to eat the tomato bisque Harry had already set out. Draco had never tasted better. "I'm not much of a cook," Harry said apologetically.

"Don't be daft, this is great."

The rest of the meal was equally good. "Where'd you learn to cook like this anyway? I can't even make toast."

"Slavery," Harry said with a dry laugh.

"Oh, right, the Muggles. I'm surprised you can even look at a stove."

Harry shook his head. "After a while it became a sort of refuge. I find cooking extremely soothing."

They made light conversation about Quidditch and their future classes. Draco began to notice things. Like how gorgeous Harry looked in candlelight, the flames reflecting off his irises, making his eyes seem to dance. It must be the wine, Draco tried to tell himself. Don't ruin this with some ridiculous crush. It isn't worth it.

"Draco?"

Oops. Harry'd been trying to get his attention. "Hmmm? Sorry, I was a million miles away."

"You looked it. Are you going to sign with the team or not?"

"Yeah, I think so. What about you? I know you can't exactly say yes to England right now, but I'm sure any of those other clubs--"

But Harry was shaking his head. "Someday, maybe I'll play for England. But I need to be here right now. I need to get myself sorted out."

They settled into the sofa for after-dinner drinks. Draco nearly fell over when he tasted the seemingly innocuous apple-scented substance. "Christ, that's strong! What is this stuff?"

"It's called Calvados. Believe it or not, it's made by Muggles. You don't like it?"

"No, I do, I do. It's just that I was expecting it to taste like cider rather than.... burning."

Harry laughed. "I think I did something along those lines too the first time I had it. But I had an excuse, I was fifteen."

Draco made a face and upped his voice an octave. "Oh, look at me, I'm the great Harry Potter, look at all the liquor I can drink, I am sooooo manly!" he exclaimed, flailing his hands around and rolling his eyes.

"Prat."

"Showoff."

"Ferret."

"Scar-head."

Draco marvelled that they were already laughing about their old animosities. Old animosities that weren't even that old. Draco leaned back sleepily into the cushions. "What's that thing in the corner there?" he asked, yawning.

Harry grinned proudly. "THAT is a record player."

"A... what?"

"It's a Muggle device that plays music."

"I thought those kinds of things didn't work here."

"They don't normally. Sirius fixed this one up so it would. Gave it to me for Christmas."

Sirius Black, Draco knew, was Harry's Godfather. "Is he... all right?" Draco asked tentatively.

"Yeah, he's fine, a little beat up, but okay. He's already off on some crazy reconnaissance mission for the Ministry. Hunting down the last of the Death Eaters, I imagine."

"He's an Auror, then?"

"Sort of. He's an Unspeakable."

"Wow."

"Yeah."

"So, will you show me what this... record player does?"

"I don't know if you're ready for Muggle music."

"How bad can it be?"

"Well, it can be really really bad. But even the good stuff is nothing like Wizarding music."

"Oh, just try something already."

"Okay, but if you don't like it, tell me."

"Believe me, I will."

Harry went over to the record player and placed a large black disc-shaped thing on it. The machine crackled to life and after a bit of popping, music began to come out of it. Draco wasn't sure if it was a man or a woman singing, but whoever it was had a strange, haunting sort of voice.

"What do you think?" Harry asked anxiously.

"I think I like it. Is that a man or a woman singing?"

"A woman. Nico."

"Nico?"

"Yeah."

"She's got a weird voice. Sort of spooky."

"Yeah, that's what I like about it. Here, wait, I want you to hear my favourite song of all time." Harry did something to the record player and the woman started singing a different song.

'I'll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don't know,

I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset, the light on your door,

To show that you're home....'

Draco wondered fleetingly if these were things Harry would say to him, would be to him. He wanted him to, he realised.

'...I find it hard to believe you don't know the beauty you are

But if you don't, let me be your eyes, a hand in your darkness,

So you won't be afraid...'

"Pretty, huh?" Harry said when the song was over.

"Yeah, it really is," Draco said, trying to sort out coherent thoughts from the little musings that were coming a thousand miles an hour. At this point, though, no matter how much he wanted to stay awake, Draco was fighting to keep his eyes open. "I think I should be getting to bed," he said apologetically. "Unless you want to find me still on this couch in the morning."

"I don't mind. You can stay if you want."

Draco suddenly thought how lovely it would be to be in a bed with Harry. Damn, I really am tired. My brain's all addled. If I didn't know better, I'd say I'd just thought about going to bed with Harry. Oh, wait. I did. That settles it. Back to the Dungeons with me before I do anything stupid. "No, that's okay, I think I'd like to spend my first night out of hospital on something comfortable."

Harry laughed. "I understand that. I'll see you tomorrow then, I guess. I'll be up here working, but you can come by whenever you want."

Draco nodded, said goodnight, and went on his way. His mind swam as he walked to the Dungeons. Bed...Harry...no, bad, bad, bad idea. Terrible idea. No crushes on your friends allowed. Friends? Friend, singular. He didn't really have any others.

Part I: War and Aftermath

Chapter 3

Draco slept until noon. Fortunately for his sanity, he didn't remember the dream he had about kissing Harry. He just knew that he felt kind of strange and lonely when he woke up. He made himself a cup of tea and stared out the wdow until he felt awake enough to face the world.

He showered and went up to Harry's rooms. He was about to open the door when he heard voices. Harry and someone female.

"Hermione, I promise you, he's nothing like he used to be."

Ahhh, Granger. "Harry, all I'm saying is be careful how far you trust him." Draco got the strange feeling that he was the subject of this discussion.

"Hermione, he saved my life over his father's. I'll trust him as far as I like. You're always wanting to believe the best about people, why don't you want to now?"

"Because, he's.... he's Malfoy."

"Not to me he isn't."

Draco felt vaguely surprised that Harry was standing up for him to his best friend. But at the same time, he knew he'd have been devastated if he hadn't. He retreated quietly down the hall and reapproached the door, making as much noise as possible. He said the password and the door swung open.

He'd been preparing to look surprised, but he truly was taken by surprise-- he didn't see what he'd expected to at all. Harry was shirtless and wet-haired, and Granger was still in her dressing-gown. Had they slept together? Draco felt a sort of stab in the pit of his stomach. Wait, why should I care? Because I do. Oh, dammit...

"Uhh, sorry, I guess I should have knocked," said Draco, starting to retreat.

Harry laughed, shaking his head. "Oh, yes, Draco, you've caught us red-handed in the middle of our Saturday morning tryst." Hermione laughed at this as well. Draco felt he was missing something.

"Sorry, it was just...."

"Our respective states of undress?" Harry offered helpfully, still smiling.

"Um, yeah, I guess."

"Yeah, we don't presume much upon respectable attire anymore. After seven years in close quarters it's a little pointless," Granger said.

Draco could not imagine a situation in which any of the Slytherin girls would ever have allowed herself to be seen in her dressing-gown with messy hair by a member of the opposite sex, but he just nodded.

"Well, are you going to sit down or not? Or have we frightened you too much?"

"No, not at all," Draco muttered, taking a seat across from Harry-- who has no shirt on, who has no shirt on, oh good god, shut up!

Granger must have noticed him looking, because she smirked with no other provocation. Draco blushed even more.

"Have you had breakfast? D'you want some coffee or something?" Harry asked.

"Ummm, sure, thanks."

"Sure you've had breakfast, or sure you want some coffee?"

"Coffee," Draco managed not to say 'nipples.'

"Wow, you're worse than me without caffeine." Harry said. Draco failed to correct him. Harry got up to go into the kitchen, at which point Draco noticed that his jeans were a little too big in the waist so that his hipbones showed. Draco quickly looked away and crossed his legs to avoid any impending embarrassment. What is wrong with me? Oh, crap, I'm alone with Granger. Please don't let her hex me.

"So, Harry tells me you saved his life," she said instead of drawing her wand.

Not quite what he'd been expecting. "Sort of. He'd have got on okay by himself, I imagine. I just helped a little."

"Well, whatever your interpretation of it is."

"But he saved my life. Without question."

"He didn't tell me that," she said, eyes widening a little.

"What, you expected him to brag?"

"You have a point. Look, Malfoy--"

"Draco. I don't much like hearing Malfoy right now."

"Draco, then. Look, I don't know all the details of what's going on between you two, but--"

"What's to know? We're friends. He saved my arse. He makes me coffee and plays me records. He's one of oh, three people in my life who's ever been genuinely decent to me."

"Oh. I thought--"

"What, you though the great Slytherin Slut had seduced your precious Harry?"

She looked taken aback.

"Yeah, I know what people said about me. But it isn't like that, not with Harry."

"Right, sorry then. But so help me, if you EVER do anything to hurt him---"

"I know, I know, you'll hex me into next week. Listen, I know you don't like me much, but believe me, I'm not the snotty rich brat I used to be. I know you're going to be around here for a bit while McGonagall recovers, so we may as well at least agree to be civil."

She seemed unconvinced.

"I know I used to be horrid," he continued, "and I'm sorry for all the stuff I did to you. And I don't expect you to want to be my friend, but can't we at least not be enemies?"

"All right," she said finally. "We can try anyway."

"Have you two made your peace yet?" Harry called from the kitchen. "I'm getting bored in here!"

Draco gaped, but Granger rolled her eyes and smiled. "Yeah, I want my coffee," Draco managed to call back at last.

Harry re-entered with a tray of coffee and toast.

"So that was your plan all along? Leave us alone so we'd have to talk?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes.

"It worked, didn't it?" Harry said with a shrug.

"What if we killed each other instead?"

"I knew you wouldn't."

"I've got to be careful or you're going to start anticipating my every move."

"He does that anyway," Granger said. "So how come Mal-- uh, Draco gets offered coffee and I don't?"

"Because you'd have told me not to trouble myself."

"See what I mean?" she said with a mock-pout.

By the time the coffee and toast were gone, Draco had decided that he genuinely liked Hermione Granger. Not half as annoying as he used to think. And damned smart. But she had this way of looking at you that made you think she could read your thoughts, which Draco found somewhat unnerving. Especially with the sort of thoughts he was thinking due to the fact that Harry still had yet to put on a shirt.

Hermione left soon after, saying she had to go see McGonagall. Draco wondered idly if she'd go visit McGonagall in her dressing-gown as well. Once she was gone, Harry fell back onto the couch and heaved a sigh.

"Well, that's done," he said, putting his feet up on the armrest."

"What's done?"

"The placating of Hermione. We were arguing for ages before you showed up. She was trying to convince me it was a bad idea to be your friend."

"Oh?" Draco tried his best to look like he didn't know this.

Fortunately Harry was not the most observant of people. "Yeah. Whatever you said to her seems to have worked, though."

"All I said was that I was not evil and that I had not, in fact, seduced you."

"Seduced me?"

"She seemed to think I had. The Slytherin Slut and all, you know," Draco said with a dry laugh.

Harry laughed outright. "She's not usually that far off. But I guess it's payback for your thinking I was sleeping with her.

"Well, what was I supposed to think? You were all shirtless and wet and she was in her dressing-gown!"

"I guess I can see your point. But she's like my sister. We've never really had any sense of propriety, though. Loads of people though we were together."

"You didn't mind?"

Harry shrugged. "Kept the Gryffindor Groupies off me, why should I mind? Much easier to let them think I was taken."

"Point. What, you didn't like any of them at all?"

"Ehm... no. They're not really my type."

"What is your type? Oh, wait, I remember, that Ravenclaw girl you used to go out with."

"Hey!"

"Well you did. What was her name, Chang or something?"

"Yeah." Harry wrinkled his nose. "What a disaster."

"How so?"

"Well, y'know, I thought I really liked her, we were together about a week, but then I realised she did about as much for me as a Playboy Bunny for Liberace. When I told her as much she thought I was just making excuses and never spoke to me again."

"Wait, wait--- a *what* to *whom*?"

"A Play-- wait, never mind. Muggle stuff. What I meant was I figured out I'm gay."

Oh, great. He likes guys. That makes things even worse. Now my damn imagination will never leave me alone. "Oh," was all Draco could say.

Harry squirmed a little. "That doesn't... bother you, does it?"

Well, not how you think it does! "Yes, Harry, I am a bisexual homophobe."

Harry looked somewhat relieved and laughed. "I haven't heard that one before. I'm glad you're okay with it. Some people get all weird when you tell them, afraid you're going to trap them in the shower or something. Then you explain to them that you are not, in fact, attracted to them personally, and then they get insulted like you just called them ugly."

"That's why I tend to keep my preferences to myself."

"I wish I'd known better. I've always thought it was important to be straightforward about things like that, but most of the people I told would rather not have known. Oh well. At least I figured that out sooner rather than later."

"Yeah, and then you get the bastards who are like, 'oh, yeah, I have no problem with that at all! Some of my best friends are dirty pillow-biters!'"

"Tell me about it. Hey, do you want to go to Diagon Alley in a bit? I need to drop off my book lists before I lose them and buy some stuff for my rooms. I imagine you probably do too."

Draco had been hoping this wasn't going to come up. "Well, I would, if it weren't for the small matter of all my money having been seized by the Ministry," he said, his face burning. He might have gotten used to having no money, but he'd never gotten used to having to tell other people about it.

Harry didn't seem to notice his embarrassment. "Oh, that. Sorry. But it's no big deal, I can pay for your stuff and you can get me back next month."

"Next month?"

"Yeah, we're paid for the summer too, didn't you know?"

"I didn't. But anyway, I couldn't ask you to do that."

"Why not? It's not like you spent it all drinking. It isn't your fault."

"I don't want to owe you money, I hate the idea of that."

"Well if you're going to be like that about it, then you don't have to pay me back."

"Harry!"

"See, wouldn't you rather owe me money?"

Well, he had a point. And there was some stuff Draco genuinely did need. "Okay, fine, I give."

"Good." He laughed. "You know, that's the first time I've ever had to beg anyone to let me loan them money."

"And it's the last time you're even offering me any."

"Whatever." Harry stood up. "Are you ready?"

"Um, yeah, *I* am. But... you might want to put a shirt on."

Harry looked down at his bare chest. "Oh, right."

He went off down the hallway and came back pulling a t-shirt over his head. "Right, let's go." He started for the door.

"Harry?"

"Yeah?"

"Have you got your book list?"

"Right." He retrieved a sheet of parchment from his desk. "What would I do without you?"

"Go to Diagon Alley shirtless, I imagine."

"Probably."

They strolled out to the edge of the grounds and Apparated to Diagon Alley. First stop was Flourish and Blotts so Harry could drop off his list. Draco was mildly amazed he hadn't managed to drop it along the way. Draco told them to just keep the old Potions list. No sense in changing. He knew the structure of the texts well, and if they were good enough for Severus, they were good enough for him. He toyed with the idea of getting some new cauldrons, but in the end he decided he'd rather just use Severus' old ones.

Next they went to ----- so Harry could pick up some contraption for his broom that Draco had never even heard of. Why am *I* the one joining the Quidditch team?

"Don't you want to get a new broom?" Harry asked as Draco was about to leave the shop.

Of course he did. But he knew the one he wanted would cost more than he'd be able to pay back in three months. "Ehm, I'd rather wait and see what the coach wants me to get," he said lamely.

"Ooooh, wait! The Firebolt II comes out next month! C'mon, let's pre-order them before they all get bought up!"

Before Draco could even protest, Harry had signed them both up for new Firebolts. Draco nearly choked at the number Harry wrote on the Gringotts cheque that he gave to the clerk.

"Harry," he whispered. "What are you doing? You know I can't pay that back!"

"You've got a birthday sometime, right? Here's your certificate. You'll have to show it when you come to pick it up. On second thought, here, take mine too, I'll just lose it." Draco dumbly took hold of the two pieces of parchment. Harry had just bought him a hundred-galleon broom without blinking an eye. How much money did he *have* anyway? Maybe there'd been some huge price on Voldemort's head. Well, at any rate, the Wasps would probably give him some kind of stipend, and maybe they would pay for part of the broom.

Lost in thought, Draco suddenly realised they had walked into Madam Malkin's, and Harry was talking to the saleswoman about some deep green velvet. When she went away to get the tape measure, Harry turned to him excitedly. "I am so glad we don't have to wear black anymore!"

"Hey! I like black."

"Well, that's you. I'm just glad I don't have to go round in something that looks like a damn tent."

"Hmm, that's true. But I'd better make sure and get something fireproof." He really did need to get robes. His old school ones would be no good for teaching potions. He had somewhat outgrown them anyway.

By the time they left, Harry had ordered four pairs of trousers, three sets of robes, one set of dress robes, a cloak, and six shirts. He'd also managed to talk Draco into a few things, among them an utterly frivolous smoking jacket, upon which Harry had insisted.

"Time for toys!" Harry exclaimed on leaving the shop. He dragged Draco to four more shops, where Harry bought himself a chess set, an astrolabe ("I've always wanted one"), and a furry pillow that magically warmed when you leaned on it. Draco honestly couldn't find anything he liked very much.

"I know where I need to take you," Harry said, and before Draco knew it they were stepping through the barrier into muggle London.

When they stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron, Draco was terrified. "Harry, I should tell you---"

"You've never been here before?"

"Never."

"It's okay, just stay close to me and you'll be fine. Just... try not to gawk too much, okay?"

But gawk he did nonetheless. Everything was weird and shiny and loud, and the streets were crawling with Muggles out doing their shopping. They walked for a while until they got to an antique shop. "Now this is more like it," Draco said when they walked in. This shop was much more similar to what he was used to, dark and a little bit musty, crammed with random objects organised in a fashion known only to whomever had put them there. Draco ended up with a Chinese tapestry with a dragon on it, a green glass oil lamp, a miniature Venus de Milo statue (he wasn't *that* clueless about muggle art), an old set of scales that had almost certainly belonged to a wizard, and a silk top hat that Harry laughed at him for even wanting.

Of course, muggle shops don't deliver by owl, so they were quite weighed down with their purchases. Once they had ducked into a deserted alley and reduced it all so they could carry it, Draco asked how the Muggles could manage.

Harry pointed to the street. "Muggles have cars to carry things around in."

Cars. Draco found them frightening. Fast and noisy and huge, he'd been afraid of being hit by one the whole time they'd been here. "Have you ever been in one?"

"Sure, loads of times. Why, haven't you?"

"No, only in a carriage charmed to look like one. How do the Muggles get them to do what they want?"

"They... they drive them. There's a wheel inside that steers them, kind of like steering a ship, and pedals you push on to make them slow down or speed up."

"You know how to drive one?"

"Sure, Sirius taught me a couple of years ago. I mean, I haven't technically earned a driving licence according to the British government, but Sirius helped me conjure one up. Do you want to go for a ride?"

Draco looked at Harry, then at the street, then back at Harry. "I.... don't think I'm quite ready for that."

Harry laughed at his expression, which Draco was sure was quite undignified. "You'd think I'd just asked you to cut your legs off!"

"For all I know that might happen if I get into one of those things," Draco said, folding his arms.

Harry laughed again. "All right, then, not today. But I'll get you in one yet."

Draco wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. "So, uh, what now?" he asked, trying to get off the subject of dangerous things with wheels.

"Well, what do you say to some curry before we go home?"

"Umm... I've never had it."

"Really? Well, then, you've got to try it. Brilliant stuff. And much safer than cars."

Harry took him on the Underground (a terrifying experience-- it was certainly no Hogwarts Express) to a place he said had the best curry in town. It was, indeed, brilliant stuff, especially once he realised that the fruity yoghurt drink Harry had made him order did a great deal to calm the burning in his throat.

"I wish they served this stuff at Hogwarts," Draco said when they were done eating.

"I doubt that'll happen," said Harry with a bemused expression, "but I can replicate the stuff reasonably well, not that it's all that much trouble to get out here."

Somehow Draco really liked the idea of Harry cooking for him, and it had little to do with what a good cook Harry was. It gave him a warm sort of feeling...of...domestic bliss or something like it. Domestic bliss?! I'm going barmy.


Part I: War and Aftermath

Chapter 4

Between his Potions work and his pre-season training with the Wimbourne Wasps, Draco saw precious little of Harry that summer-- or of Hogwarts at all for that matter. All his time seemed to be spent popping back and forth between Diagon Alley and Wimbourne and bed. And the more time he spent not seeing Harry, the more he wanted to see Harry, who was also incredibly busy, requesting strange creatures from all over the world and Ministry authorisation to use them, as he had informed Draco during one of the rare lunches they were able to spend together. He also told him that he'd spent four days in a Ministry tribunal with Dumbledore, arguing for the authorisation to demonstrate the Unforgivables. Harry and Dumbledore had won out in the end, of only by virtue of having worn them down.

They tried out their new brooms together, but only for a few minutes because Draco was about to be late. Some nights after practice when Draco wasn't too exhausted, he'd go up to Harry's rooms for a little while. Harry would fix him some tea or some whiskey and they'd talk for a bit, but the conversations were always short and rushed. Sometimes Hermione was there too, to provide sage commentary and occasional motherly advice. Draco realised that she had somehow actually become his friend, rather than just his ex-enemy-on-civil-terms. He didn't mind-- he rather liked it, actually-- but it was odd that he hadn't even noticed it happening.

Suddenly, it was the thirtieth of July. 'Bugger,' Draco realised, 'Harry's birthday is tomorrow.' He figured he should try to get at least half the day free. And somehow he needed to find him a present.

Getting the day off was easier than he expected. His coach just waved his arm nonchalantly and told him he deserved a day off, and Kettlebottom was pleased at the chance to have a lie-in. All that left was the matter of the present. Jewellery? No, too suggestive. Clothing? No, too easy to screw up. Books? No, too.... Hermione. What did that leave? Quidditch stuff. No, too impersonal. Bloody hell, what do you get for a best friend you've got an unfortunate crush on? Well, maybe jewellery was okay. As long as it wasn't a ring and at least was... manly.... or something. Oh yeah, Harry's *such* a manly man. Draco harrumphed in frustration and headed toward the locker room, so absorbed in his quandary that he nearly smashed into Hermione.

"What are you doing here?" he exclaimed.

"Hello to you too," she said with a smirk. "I figured if I waited till you got back to Hogwarts you'd either be asleep or with Harry, neither of which would have done me a lot of good."

"Oh."

"You know it's his birthday tomorrow, don't you?"

"Course I do. I even managed to get the day off."

"Really? That's great! We're throwing him a party. Not too big of one, it's just going to be me and Sirius and the twins, but I was hoping you'd be able to come."

"Sure I will. Where and when?"

"Well... we were actually hoping we could have it in your rooms. I haven't got enough furniture yet, we can't have it at Harry's because it's sort of supposed to be a surprise, ad it would be a little too depressing to have it at the Burrow. I know it's a huge imposition, but--"

"Don't worry, it's fine. Do I need to do anything?"

"No, Fred and George are ordering the cake and I'm taking care of the dinner. That is, if you're willing to give me free reign of your kitchen for the day and keep Harry occupied."

Draco wasn't sure he liked the idea of Hermione and the Weasley twins running about his apartment unsupervised, but he agreed. "There's just one thing I'll ask as payment."

Hermione looked puzzled. "What's that?"

"Help me find the man a damned birthday present."

She laughed. "Sure. What kind of a thing do you want to get him?"

"That's the problem. Everything I can think of seems wrong somehow. I've ruled out books and Quidditch stuff and clothes, and I've mostly ruled out jewellery, so what does that leave?"

"Well... not a lot. What's wrong with jewellery?"

"He's not my boyfriend or anything, it seems kind of inappropriate."

"Nobody said you had to buy him an engagement ring. What about a watch or a cloak pin or something?"

"A watch! You're a genius!"

"I am?"

"Yeah! A watch is perfect. Didn't he tell you how devastated he was when his father's one was destroyed?"

"I'd nearly forgotten."

"Now all I've got to do is find one. Unfortunately everything's going to be closed now."

"Not in London, it won't."

"Oh, no, you'd don't mean muggle London?"

"Sure I do."

"I don't have a clue about how things work over there, and I've got no way to get any muggle money anyway. I'll have to find a way to sneak off tomorrow."

"You forget who you're talking to. I know exactly how things work over there, and I've got a muggle credit card. All you've got to do is find the thing, and I'll do the rest. Now go get changed."

Draco changed out of his Quidditch robes and met Hermione outside the locker room. They Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron (where Draco left is rather conspicuous broom and Wimbourne Wasps duffle bag with Tom) and went into muggle London. It wasn't quite as terrifying this time, but Draco still hated the Underground.

He found nothing he wanted at Marks and Spencer, nor at Harrod's, which were the last two places open. "Well, I guess this was no use after all," said Hermione as they headed back toward the Underground.

"Sorry I'm so picky."

"No, it's not your fault. I wouldn't have bought any of those watches for Harry either."

"Wait, what's that?" Draco asked, pointing to a tiny shop that still had a light on.

"Esther Conrad, Master Silversmith," Hermione read. "Well, I'll be damned. Let's see if she's open."

They went up to the shop and tried the door, but it was locked. "Damn," Draco said. They started to walk away but then they saw the woman inside coming towards the door and unlocking it.

"Come on in," she said.

"Sorry, are you closed?"

"No, not really, but I can't just be letting anyone in, can I?"

"I suppose not," Draco said, looking around the shop. Every inch of the place seemed to sparkle.

"Now what can I do for you? You obviously need something very special pretty badly or you'd never have found me."

Draco exchanged a look with Hermione. Was this woman a witch or just a kook? Whatever, she's the only option. "I need a watch," Draco said finally. "Like a pocket watch. A nice one. It's for my friend's birthday tomorrow."

"Oh, sure, I've got loads of watches, diaries." She pulled out a velvet-lined drawer filled with nothing but pocket watches. One in particular caught his eye. Its cover was engraved with a dragon that had emeralds for eyes.

"This is perfect," he said to Hermione.

"You think?"

"I know."

"So get it."

"How much is this one?" Draco asked the strange lady.

"That one? Forty quid."

"How much is that in Galleons?" he whispered to Hermione.

"It's a steal."

"Okay, we'll take it."

"Would you like it engraved?"

"Ummm, sure. Just his name and tomorrow's date will do. And 'Happy Birthday from Draco.'"

"Can do. What's his name?"

"Well.... which do you think sounds better, just Harry Potter, or Harold James Potter?"

The silversmith eyed him strangely. "I'd go with Harold James myself. Is that Draco with a 'c'?"

"Yeah."

The engraving took all of a minute and a half. At first Draco was afraid she'd made a mess of it, but when he looked at it, the inside of the cover was engraved with some of the most ornate lettering he'd ever seen. It shouldn't have been possible.

"Do you take credit cards?" Hermione asked once the watch was boxed up and ready."

"No, I don't. I'm afraid that in your case, I accept neither cheques nor credit nor pounds nor Galleons."

Draco's mouth dropped open, but Hermione just smiled as though she'd known all along.

"I owe my life to Harry Potter," she continued. "And I'd very much like to give him a present."

"Who....are you?"

"Esther Conrad, Master Silversmith, just like the sign says. But I left the witch bit off. There are occasionally Muggles who have need of my services."

"How did Harry save your life?" Hermione asked.

"Well, he didn't directly," the old woman explained. "But the night he killed Voldemort the first time, I was next on the list."

"Oh," was all Draco could say.

"At least let us pay you what it cost you," Hermione offered.

She laughed. "I bought it for two quid off some crazy old Turk who didn't know what he had."

"Look, I came here to *buy* Harry a birthday present," Draco said, beginning to get impatient. "One from me. Can't you just send him a card or something?"

She sighed. "I suppose you have a point. All right. I'll let you give me ten Galleons for the watch, and I'll give Mr. Potter my own present." She rummaged about for a minute and produced a flask that matched the watch. She polished it quickly and engraved it simply 'Thank you.'

Draco was not sorry to get out of the shop. "That was one kooky witch," he said once they were safely round the corner.

"I thought she was sweet," Hermione protested.

"She gave me the creeps, personally. I'm going to check both of those things for curses before I give them to Harry."

"Draco!"

"Hermione, don't you think it's just a *little* odd that a random witch in the midst of muggle London when everything else is closed would have exactly the thing I was looking for?"

"Okay, yeah, I guess that is a little weird, but--"

"I could never forgive myself if something happened to Harry because of something I did. There are still Death Eaters out there. And they're hidden better than ever."

Hermione sighed. "I guess you're right. Why don't we take this stuff to Dumbledore when we get back? If this Esther Conrad is anyone bad, he probably knows her name."

They returned to Hogwarts and went straight up to Dumbledore's office. They showed him the flask and the watch and told him the strange story of Esther Conrad.

As soon as Draco had said her name, Dumbledore began to laugh. "Esther Conrad is quite insane," he said. "But she's also quite harmless. An old friend of mine, in fact. Founder of the official Harry Potter Fanclub."

"There's a Harry Potter Fanclub?" Draco asked, incredulous.

"Indeed there is."

"Well, I guess that settles that," said Hermione.

"Wait a bit, we haven't checked them for curses."

"Draco, Dumbledore just told us she was harmless?"

"Yeah, but what about the 'crazy old Turk' she bought the stuff from?"

Hermione sighed one of her long-suffering sighs. "Headmaster, would you mind doing a few detection spells?"

"Not at all." Dumbledore mumbled a few things over the objects in question and then leaned his ear down next to them. "The only spell on these is a protection charm," he said, sitting up.

"Who do you think put it on?"

"Ask them yourself, my dear boy."

"Huh?"

"The detection spell I used gives the object the power to respond to the caster's questions. Just say 'dico' and ask it what you want to know."

Draco waved his wand over the flask and the watch. "Dico," he said, "Who put the protection charm on you?"

"Isadora Pinehurst," they whispered in unison.

"Who's Isadora Pinehurst?" Draco asked, confused.

Dumbledore closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "If I'm not very much mistaken, Isadora Pinehurst married Eustace Potter in 1862. She would be James Potter's great grandmother. These things probably belonged to Eustace. He was somewhat famous in his day for having saved his village from a dragon." Dumbledore stated all this as though it were just another Goblin rebellion.

Things were just getting weirder and weirder. "How on earth did I just randomly happen upon something that belonged to Harry's great great grandfather?"

Dumbledore got that bloody twinkle in his eye. "Some things just wait to be found by the right person," he said simply.

They left Dumbledore's office soon after. Hermione went to bed, but Draco wanted to go se Harry. He waited until he knew Hermione had gone into her rooms and went to Harry's door. He said the password and entered quietly, in case he was asleep.

Harry wasn't asleep, not quite. He was lying on the couch, forgotten book in his lap. "Draco? 'Zat you?" he muttered.

"No, it's Queen Elizabeth," Draco said, approaching him.

Harry opened his eyes a little more. "Good evening, your highness."

Draco couldn't help but notice how lovely Harry looked with his eyes half-closed and his hair hanging in his face.

"How was practice?" Harry asked, sitting up partway.

Draco couldn't resist pushing Harry's hair out of his eyes. "It was all right," he said softly, momentarily mesmerised by the emerald-green eyes looking up at him. "I've managed to get tomorrow off for your birthday."

"Lovely. You gonna bring me breakfast in bed?"

"If you want. Harry, are you drunk?"

"Maybe a little. Charlie was here for a bit."

"Charlie?"

"Charlie Weasley."

"Oh."

"He wanted to come say hi because he has to go back to Romania tomorrow. He brought me this insane whiskey. Lovely man, Charlie."

Draco couldn't help but feel a little jealous. "Are you two seeing each other?" he finally asked.

"No! Of course not! Charlie's like my brother. Well, he is now, any way. Okay, so he kissed me a few times. But that was like three years ago."

Three years ago. Where was I three years ago? Oh, yes, I was being evil. The model Death Eater kid. Begging my father to initiate me. Stupid git I was. I could have been kissing Harry Potter instead. Wait, I don't want to kiss Harry. Okay, fine, so I do. No, I don't. Oh, bugger.

Harry put his arms around Draco's shoulders and pulled him down next to him on the couch. "So what are you bringing me for breakfast?"

This closeness was going to kill him. He pulled back a little and half sat up. "Let's see... burnt toast, runny eggs, and the worst coffee you've ever had in your life."

Harry laughed. "Mmm, sounds divine. Long as I don't have to cook it myself."

"I'll burn the toast extra just for you. And then I'll take you for ice cream."

"Ahhh, has Hermione given you orders to keep me busy all day?"

"Why, no, what made you think that?"

"Knowing Hermione. On my sixteenth birthday she locked me in a closet for two hours so she and Ron could decorate the Gryffindor common room."

"Ah, no. No closets. I just thought we could hang out, since I never see you anymore." Draco knew he was doing a terrible job of lying, but if Harry noticed, he had the grace not to let on.

"I think I'd like that. Are you going to take me to the zoo?"

"Ummm... if you want." Well, Harry was definitely an entertaining drunk.

Draco eventually convinced Harry to go to bed and then returned to his own rooms. Oh, how had he been railroaded into this breakfast business? He couldn't cook! Well, he'd just have to try. He toyed with the idea of getting one of the house-elves to make something, but in the end he decided that knowing Harry, he'd probably prefer for Draco to at least try. He figured he'd probably better get up early so he'd have time to screw up once or twice. Or ten times. He set his alarm for seven o'clock and passed out.

Part I: War and Aftermath

Chapter 5

After a shower and cornflakes the next morning, Draco set to work. All right. Eggs. This shouldn't be too hard, right? Stove on, yes. Frying pan on said stove, check. Right. Now all I need is an egg. He cracked the egg into the pan. Instantly itegan to sizzle and the white started to bubble. Shit! What do I do now? Spatula! I need a spatula! He had to open four drawers before he finally found one. But the egg was a lost cause by that time. He sighed and cleaned away the ex-egg with a spell. Spell! There were loads of cooking spells! Unfortunately, he didn't know any, nor did he own any books that contained any. Who'd know one? Probably Harry. That wouldn't do. He'd just have to do this the Muggle way. Muggles! Hermione! He raced to the fireplace and called her up.

A rather annoyed-looking Hermione appeared in the flames. "This had better be good."

"How do you fry an egg?"

Hermione muttered something that sounded vaguely profane and rolled her eyes. "You woke me up for an egg?

"I'm trying to cook Harry breakfast."

She gave him a strange sort of smirk. "Okay, have you got a frying pan?"

"That, I have." Draco took furious notes while she explained.

"Is there anything else?"

"Ummmm.... coffee pot?"

"Some Potions Master you are."

"Quiet, you."

"Ingrate."

Draco returned to the kitchen with his notes. All right. Pan on stove. Heat 3/4 up. Butter in pan, mash around with spatula. Butter melted, time for eggs. One egg, two eggs. Oh, bugger. Better get that bit of shell out of there. Careful.... almost got it.... OW! "Bloody fucking hell!" Draco had just fried his index finger. "Sano." Okay, all better. Ooooh, magic. Duh. "Wingardium Leviosa." The offending bit of eggshell levitated above the frying pan and Draco grabbed it. Done and done. Whites getting solid, break yolks with spatula. Perfect. Yolks getting solid, flip eggs. "Woo!" Draco let out a cry of triumph. He was prodigiously proud of himself. Cover pan, turn heat way down to keep warm. Oh yeah, I am the chef, I am the chef. He was very glad there was no one there to see his rather undignified egg victory dance.

Rats. Time for toast. Well, the toaster should know what it's doing, right? Draco ruined four slices of bread before he discovered the little knob that made it toast less darkly. "I am....the Toast-Master!" I really shouldn't get up this early.

The coffee machine was the easy part. It was just like macerating Mandrake roots. Except with coffee. And without all the nasty squealing in the beginning.

He put it all on a tray with some butter and jam and a little bowl of strawberries. He conjured up a rose for decoration and went upstairs to Harry's rooms. He crept into the bedroom, where he found Harry still sleeping. He almost hated to wake him. And he sort of wished he had a camera. Harry was lying on his back, the blankets down around his waist, providing a view of his finely muscled chest. His hair was spread out over the pillow. It was almost... art. Oh, stop staring.

Draco knelt down on the bed. "Rise and shine, birthday boy."

Harry stirred and opened his eyes. "What the..."

"Breakfast is served, milord."

Harry blinked a few times and then laughed. "Good god, Draco, I didn't really mean you had to bring me breakfast in bed!"

"Well, I did. So sit up and eat."

Harry looked at the clock. "Merlin, what are you thinking, getting up this early?"

Draco blushed. "I wanted to be sure I'd have time to get it right."

Harry sat up and took a sip of the coffee. "Well, you got the coffee right anyway. It's really good."

"That was the easy part. I'm honestly not so sure about the eggs."

Harry took a tentative bite. "Hey, these are really good! Liar, I thought you said you couldn't cook!"

"I can't," he said sheepishly. "I had to Floo Hermione to get her to tell me how to do it."

"I'm sure she was thrilled."

"Oh, murderously so."

Harry picked up a strawberry and stuck it in Draco's mouth. Draco bit into it and the juice dribbled down his chin. Harry wiped it away with his thumb. What is he doing to me? Harry Potter is feeding me strawberries. Going to lose mind. Okay, so I've got a little crush, so what? It'll go away, right? Right?

Harry ate every crumb and gave Draco a sticky kiss on the cheek when he was done. Draco felt his face go bright red. "What was that for?"

"For making me breakfast. And for the purpose of seeing you with strawberry jam on your face."

Draco wiped away the stickiness on his face. "Beurck! You slob!" Okay, must not read too much into this kiss thing. He does that to Hermione all the time. So great, what does that mean? He sees me as a sister?

"Draco, there's just one thing."

"What's that?"

"Please don't make me go to the zoo."

Draco laughed. "I wouldn't even subject myself to that for you. I can't stand the smell of those places."

"Good. I kind of have traumatic zoo memories."

Draco laughed, remembering Harry's story of accidentally setting a python on his cousin and being soundly thrashed afterwards. "So what do you want to do then? I am at your beck and call for the rest of the day."

"Well.... first I think I'll take a shower. Then I want to go get my eyebrow pierced. Afterwards, to dull the pain, I want to go to Diagon Alley and eat obscene amounts of ice cream. Then I want to go to Buckingham Palace and scare the tourists, and then I want a pint of porter and an enormous basket of chips drenched with salt and vinegar. And then back here for one-on-one Quidditch and a nap in the sun. How's that sound?"

"Well, you've certainly got it planned out. Why the piercing?"

"It's sort of a Muggle rite of passage."

"You want a Muggle piercing?"

"Yup. You'll be there to hold my hand, right?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "He can stand up to Cruciatus for hours without blinking and he wants me to hold his hand for a little poke in the eyebrow."

"Hey, I'd like to see you try it."

"Fine, I will. I'll get one too. Whoever flinches the most has to grade the other's Hufflepuff essays for a month."

"You're a cruel man. But you've got a deal."

Technically speaking, Draco lost the bet. But due to the fact that he got both his nipples pierced instead of just his eyebrow, Harry reduced his Hufflepuff-grading sentence to two weeks.

I've gone insane. Why did I do that? I mean, it looks hot, but this shirt is killing me.

"Why are you all hunched over like that?" Harry asked as they were on their way to Florean Fortescue's.

"Shirt... nipples... bad... ow," he muttered through clenched teeth.

Harry laughed. "Baby."

"Hey, you try it."

For a second Harry looked as though he were seriously considering heading back to the tattoo parlour. Then he shook his head. "Nah."

"Can't you give me a pain-killing spell or something?"

"That's cheating."

"Please?"

"You'll have to grade the papers for three weeks."

"Fine, fine, just make it stop!"

Harry applied the spell and Draco breathed a sigh of relief. "That didn't heal them, though. You'll still have to do all the cleaning and stuff. I'm not letting you off that easily."

Draco nodded feebly, just glad that the pain was gone.

Over ice cream they filled one another in on what they'd been doing the past two months. There wasn't a whole lot, mostly just work and errands, but it made Draco moronically happy that Harry even cared about such mundane details of his life. In a lull in the conversation they overheard a table of students talking. They listened with bemused expressions.

"Who's teaching DADA this year? I heard Professor Figg retired."

"No, she's too young to retire!"

"Then why are all the books changed, huh?"

"Hey, she's got a point. My brother told me the position was cursed!"

"I heard it's going to be Harry Potter."

"No way! He's going to play Quidditch for England, everyone knows that!"

"Oh, yeah, and the Seeker they signed last week is just going to step aside?"

"Hey, I would."

"Professor Figg was boring anyway."

"Hey, she was the closest thing we had to a pretty teacher."

"Not anymore! My brother said the new Care of Magical Creatures professor is part-Veela!"

"What's a Veela?"

"You'll see."

Draco couldn't help but wonder who the brother in question was. He obviously must have at least gone to Hogwarts recently. The students' conversation kept going, speculating on professors and school rumours. Harry snickered. "D'you think I ought to go tell them?"

"Nah, let 'em speculate. By the end of the day they'll have convinced themselves that you were the real head of the Death Eaters and you're going to kill them all, and meanwhile I'm a vampire."

They went to the palace, they heckled the tourists, they ate frightfully greasy chips that even Draco had to admit were excellent. It was the most fun he'd had in ages. "All right, you ready for Quidditch?" Harry asked as they neared the castle.

Honestly, Draco was knackered, but he didn't want to disappoint Harry. "Prepare to die, Potter," he said, rallying what little energy he had left.

They summoned their brooms and headed to the Quidditch pitch. "I'm sure you've got loads of slick new moves, Mr. Professional," Harry said, poking him in the ribs.

"Not exactly."

"No? What do you practice all day, then?"

Draco blushed. He'd sort have been hoping Harry wouldn't find out about this. "I've actually been perfecting that crazy feint you used on me at last year's Quidditch final."

Harry laughed. "The one that had you in hospital till the second week of the holiday?"

"That's the one."

"I'm flattered."

"How'd you come up with that anyway?"

"It was actually a complete accident. I was practising the Wronski Feint one day, but there was a bludger coming at me, so instead of just stopping, I had to shoot up vertically to escape with my head. I thought it was pretty cool, so I started working on it, diving toward the bludger on purpose and pulling up just in time. Pity I can't use it on you anymore."

"Pity indeed. I really would have loved to crack my skull again."

"I'm kind of jealous; you're going to make my move famous."

"Nah, everyone on the team knows I got it from you. And I highly doubt I'll be famous."

They decided to have a contest for the Snitch, with a few bludgers thrown in for entertainment. Harry won, due to the fact that as they were both racing for it, he reached over and tickled Draco.

"That's gotta be a foul!" Draco exclaimed once they were on the ground.

Harry shrugged. "Hey, if you can get access to the complete list and it's on there, I'll give you a rematch."

Draco stuck out his tongue. Only officially licensed referees had access to that list, and even then they weren't allowed to give it out to people. It was a long-standing policy, created to keep people from 'getting ideas,' according to the WQF.

Harry flopped down on the ground. "Nap time!" he exclaimed.

"Out here? We're going to get sunburned as all hell!"

"So?"

"So the pain in my nipples is enough, thank you."

Harry laughed. "Nobody ever told you about Acceleration charms?"

"Ummmm, no."

"Oh. Well, in the case of sunburn, it turns it into a tan in the space in a couple of minutes."

"I don't tan, I just freckle."

"I like freckles."

What was that supposed to mean? "Believe me, you don't like them on me."

"How do I know?" Harry asked with an impish grin. "Oh, fine, if you're going to be vain about it, Impervius," he said, waving his wand. "There, you're safely pale as a ghost for a good week. Now come on." He stripped off his shirt ("can't be getting tan lines"-- why, oh why did he have to do that?) and pulled Draco down on the ground next to him. Despite Harry's shirtlessness, Draco managed to fall asleep due to sheer exhaustion.

When he woke up he found that he had no feeling in his left arm because Harry was lying on it. He tried to move it, which woke Harry up.

"Hi," he muttered with a sleepy grin.

"Hi yourself. Can I have my arm back?"

"Nope, mine," Harry said, rolling over and grabbing his arm.

They wrestled a bit for the ownership of Draco's left arm, rolling around in the grass and tickling each other. Draco prayed to every deity and ancestor he could think of that Harry wouldn't notice the horrible hard-on all the physical contact was giving him. It either worked or Harry was just being polite, because he didn't say anything, and he eventually granted Draco possession of his arm.

"What time is it, anyway?" Draco asked once they had caught their breath.

Harry looked at the sky. "About five, I'd say."

"You can tell that just by looking?"

"Sure, didn't you ever pay attention in Astronomy?"

"Not really."

"Oh. Well, we're filthy. Hit the showers?"

"Good idea." Draco tried not to think too much about the Harry-shower combination. They hiked back up to the castle. "Got any big plans later?" Draco asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.

"Not really."

"Why don't you come up to my room around dinnertime?"

"More eggs?" Harry asked, laughing.

"No, I'll order something."

"Sure."

Draco entered his living room to find it filled with Weasleys. If Hermione hadn't told him they were coming, he'd probably have hexed them on the spot. Well, 'filled with Weasleys' was overstating it; there were only two of them. Fred and George, he knew, but he wasn't sure which of them was whom.

"Hi there," he said.

"Wow, he didn't hex us," said one of them.

"I told you, Hermione said he's all right," said the other.

"And I knew you were coming," Draco added. "Sorry, which one of you's Fred and which is George?"

"I'm Fred," said the one in the grey shirt.

"And I'm George," said the one in the.... grey shirt. Dammit.

"I'll... try to keep that straight."

"It's okay, no one else much can. Other than Harry, but I'm not really sure how he does it."

"Okay, then. Where's Hermione anyway?"

"She's just gone to the baker's. Well, I guess that was about two hours ago. Hopefully she'll come back."

"We won't know what to do with the roast otherwise."

"Hmmm, I wouldn't either; I've only just mastered toast. Is that my whiskey you're drinking?"

"Yeah."

"Hermione said you wouldn't mind."

"I don't." And the funny thing was, he really didn't mind. "Do you guys want anything else?"

"Nah, we already ate all your jelly beans."

"I haven't got any jelly beans."

"Well, now you haven't."

"No, seriously, I never had any to begin with. Where'd you find them?"

"In the press over the fridge."

"Oh. I've never looked in there."

"Well, there aren't any jelly beans there."

"There are some chocolate frogs, though, if you want any."

"Umm, no thanks." Wait! They're offering me my own food! Too weird.

"Anyway, how come you didn't know you had a press full of sweets?"

"Oh, I didn't have anything to do with stocking the kitchen. Harry did all that while I was still in hospital."

"That was nice of him."

"Yeah, it was. So what'd you guys get Harry, anyway? I had a horrible time finding something."

"Oh, some new jokes, some Muggle beer from Czechoslovakia, a t-shirt that says 'World's Greatest Teacher'--"

"--And some stuff that's probably going to make him cry," the other twin finished.

"Cry?"

"Ron's photo album from school."

"And a jumper our mum made for him."

"Wow."

"We thought he should have them."

"He may not cry." Draco had never seen Harry cry.

"Oh, he will."

"Just not where you can see him do it."

"You sure you don't want a chocolate frog?"

"Umm, no, I've got to get a shower." Draco escaped the surrealism in his living room. Those two were absolutely mad. Not only did they look alike, but they also seemed to be sharing the same strangely-functioning brain. Hopefully Hermione would be back when he got out.

When Draco emerged twenty minutes later, Hermione was just coming through the door. "Hi, sorry it took me so long! There was a queue from hell at the baker's, and when I finally got up to the counter, it took them ages to find the right 'Happy Birthday Harry' cake. Seems most of Hogsmeade is celebrating his birthday. And once the other people there realised I was actually getting a cake for Harry Potter, half of them tried to give me their cakes and the other half wanted to come to the party. I barely escaped with my life."

"Wow, the man's a legend," said one of the twins.

"Ooh, that's new and interesting," said the other.

Hermione finally looked at Draco. "Hey, you look great," she said, grinning.

He blushed slightly. "Thanks." He had spent a good bit of time agonising over what to wear. The outfit wasn't really anything special, just a deep blue shirt and black slacks, but somehow that shade of blue looked better on him than just about any other colour.

"Fred-or-George, can you come help me with the roast?"

"Does help mean eat?" asked one of them, popping up.

"No, help means help. One of you needs to hold the pan while I turn it, I'm not going to try to levitate them both."

One of the twins followed her into the kitchen. "So you know Sirius is coming, right?" asked the remaining one.

"Yeah, Hermione told me. Don't worry, I've personally got nothing against the man, I hardly know him."

"Well.... good, then." Clearly he'd been prepared for some sort of protest.

Hermione and the other twin came back into the room and Hermione threw herself onto a chair with a sigh. "I'm beat! That stupid queue took the last of it out of me. Where's that whiskey, anyway?"

Draco could only laugh. He suddenly realised that maybe only a year ago, he'd have been throwing a fit because someone had touched his stuff without asking. But now.... well, honestly he was just happy that they were there, even as odd as the twins were. He was already definitely friends with Hermione. Maybe soon he could add Fred and George to that list as well.

The door burst open and in walked Sirius Black, tanned as a Turk and carrying two large boxes. Hermione immediately ran and hugged him, and Fred and George did too. Draco just kind of stood there, wondering how the hell he'd gotten in without the password.

Sirius came up to him and shook his hand. "Good to see you again, Draco," he said.

"Yeah...." Draco said, "...How did you....?"

Sirius laughed. "I've known the password to this room for years. I can't believe you haven't changed it."

"Oh, well, Harry's the one who set the wards."

He laughed even harder. "No he didn't! He just left the old password on there. Let me ask you this-- did you ever give Hermione the password to get in here?"

Draco thought about that for a moment. "No, I guess I didn't."

Sirius was still laughing. "I do believe you've been Marauded."

"HUH?" He was definitely missing something important, as Hermione and the twins started laughing too.

Sirius sat him down and told him the story of a werewolf and three of his friends, of a map confiscated by Filch and liberated by Fred and George, and the bequeathed to Harry.

"Wow." Draco suddenly felt that he had missed out on a lot of fun in school during all the time he'd devoted to being evil.

"Probably if you're extra-nice, Harry'll let you see the map."

"Extra-nice? I already have to grade his bloody Hufflepuff essays for three weeks."

Sirius choked on his whiskey, laughing. "What bet did you lose?"

OOPS. "Umm.... a piercing bet."

"Ah, you couldn't make yourself do it and he could?" Sirius asked.

"No, I did it. But I flinched more."

"Wait, what did you--- never mind, I don't want to know!" Hermione cried, covering her face with her hands.

"Just my nipples, Miss Mind-in-the-Gutter."

"Cool!" said one of the twins.

"Can we see?" asked the other.

Draco sighed and unbuttoned his shirt to show them. Hermione cringed, Fred and Gorge exclaimed "wicked!" and Sirius nodded approvingly.

"What did Harry get pierced?" Sirius asked.

"You'll have to wait and see."

"So that means it's visible?" asked Hermione.

"Not telling."

Hermione groaned.

"I like your style," Sirius said.

"When's Harry coming?" Hermione seemed eager to move the subject away from poking bits of metal into one's body.

"I told him around dinnertime, so he ought to be here pretty soon."

"Oh, good. The food's almost ready. Sirius, do you mind setting the table?"

"Not at all. You don't mind if I enlarge it, Draco?"

"No, go ahead. We won't all fit otherwise."

Sirius enlarged the table and began to set it, and Fred and George set about piling up the presents in the chair where Draco had already put his and the weird lady's.

"Draco, where's your good china?" Hermione called from the kitchen.

GOOD china? "I don't think I've got any," Draco said, going into the kitchen.

"You didn't think you had any jelly beans either."

"I don't have any jelly beans."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I knew it was a bad idea to leave you alone with those two. Believe me, you have good china somewhere. Now help me find it." At last they unearthed it, nearly hidden behind some tea-towels. "Leave it to Harry to buy a set of Wedgwood and throw it in with the linens," she grumbled, pulling things out and handing them to Draco.

"How'd you know I had this?" Draco asked.

"Because Harry thinks of things like that. Besides, I was with him when he bought it. Now go take this stuff to Sirius so I can make the salad."

Finally everything was done that could be done and all there was to do was wait. Hermione made them put out the lights and get behind the couch. "He'll come in, shout to see if anyone's home, then he'll turn the lights on. As soon as he says Lumos, we all have to pop up and shout Happy Birthday."

Draco groaned at the silliness of it. "And what if he just decides nobody's here and pisses off again directly?"

"He won't."

"I don't see why we all have to hide, I'm sure he knows what's up anyway. Ow, Fred, you're on my foot!"

"I'm George!"

"Oh, whatever, just get off my foot!"

The door opened. "Draco, I'm here!" Harry shouted. "Draco? You awake? Lumos."

That was their cue. They all got up, but Fred and George vaulted up over the back of the couch, causing Sirius to fall down again. "Happy birthday!" they all shouted, with Sirius grumbling and cursing and dusting himself off.

"Draco Malfoy, you bloody---" Harry's admonishment was curtailed by the appearance of his godfather.

"Sirius! I thought you couldn't make it back!"

"So I lied," said the leather-clad man with a shrug.

Harry ran over and hugged him for much longer than Draco thought was strictly necessary. "You look great, really great," Sirius said with his hands on Harry's shoulders.

"So do you," Harry said, hugging him again.

Draco looked over at Hermione and the twins, who didn't seem to find this extraordinary or troublesome in the least. If Draco hadn't known better, he'd have thought they were a pair of lovers who hadn't seen one another in ages. But he knew better... didn't he? Well, they weren't kissing... so maybe they're secret lovers.... oh, shut up.

Harry gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek and hugged the twins. Then he got to Draco. "And you, you bloody liar," he said, grinning.

"What, you don't mean you actually believed me?"

Harry shrugged. "Not really, no." He wrapped his arms around Draco and hugged him too, though not as long as he'd hugged Sirius, Draco noticed with a twinge of jealousy. Oh, come on, the man just saw me this afternoon. So? Grrrr.

"Hey, nice piercing!" exclaimed one of the twins once Harry had released Draco.

"Thanks, Fred."

"How'd you do that?" Draco exclaimed.

"Drac, you were there."

"No, tell them apart like that!"

"Oh, that. Their eyebrows are a little different."

"You've got to be kidding." Draco looked from one twin to the other. He couldn't see any difference.

"Hey, now that I think about it, that's probably true!" said George. "I burned mine almost entirely off in the third year and Fred didn't. I guess they grew back a little funny."

Hermione was looking at Harry and shaking her head.

"What? What?" He said.

"I'm just glad it's on your face," she said, gesturing to his eyebrow. "Draco had me afraid."

"Oh, did he?" Harry said, glaring at Draco. "I suppose you know what he's got then."

"Yes, I was... favoured with that... lovely sight."

Harry laughed. "So, what have you people got planned for me?"

"Well, what do you want first, presents or aperitifs."

"Hermione, you're a terrible muggle! You of all people should know that the presents come with the cake and ice cream."

"Right, right. Well, aperitifs then. I take it everyone wants more whiskey?"

Hermione's question was met by five affirmative responses. They had whiskey and little sausage things, then a long dinner with loads of wine. Through it all, Draco couldn't stave off pangs of annoyance and jealousy. He couldn't help it, try as he might to remain neutral, because Harry and Sirius kept whispering things to one another and giggling. In the cake-and-presents phase of things, Draco tried to sit next to Harry, but Sirius was quicker. Calm down, Draco, you bloody idiot, it doesn't matter. Yes, it does. You know it does.

Harry opened Hermione's present first. It was an appendix to Hogwarts: A History focussing on the history of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry teased her thoroughly, but Draco could see that he really liked it. Next were Fred and George's non-sentimental gifts, and then Sirius', which turned out to be a spectacular pair of motorcycle boots and a leather jacket. Harry let out an odd sort of squeal and Sirius got a kiss, just on the cheek, but it was nearly enough to put Draco over the edge. Finally, it was his turn. He sat on the arm of the couch next to Harry and made him open the wacky witch's present first, telling him about the strange encounter.

"And this actually is from me," he said, handing him the watch.

Harry opened it, a strange look crossing his face when he saw it. "Thank you, it's beautiful," he said.

"I couldn't replace your father's, I know, but this turns out to have belonged to one Eustace Potter, who would have been your great-great-great grandfather."

"Oh, my god." He hugged Draco tightly. No kiss, though, Draco noticed ruefully. "How did you ever find this?"

"I didn't actually know till I got back here. We took them to Dumbledore to check for curses because the witch was so bizarre. All that's on them is a protection charm, put on by Isadora Pinehurst, who was Eustace Potter's wife. I figure she got him this stuff after he saved their village from the dragon."

"Weird coincidence," said one of the twins.

Harry shrugged, still wearing the same odd expression. "Some things just wait to be found by the right person."

"That's what Dumbledore said!" Draco exclaimed. "I'm going to have to keep the two of you separated."

"There's still two more," said (perhaps) Fred.

"From you guys?" asked Harry.

"Not... exactly. I think you'll understand when you open them."

First Harry opened the package with the jumper. His mouth dropped open. "Is this...?"

One of the twins nodded. "Mum had already made it."

"It was like she.... knew," said the other, his voice breaking a little.

Harry hugged the twins, eyes shining. "Thank you," he said, barely above a whisper. He opened the photo album and leafed through it with a faraway smile. "Guys, I can't take this. You should keep it."

The twins shook their heads in an eerily synchronised motion. "No, we decided you should have it. We've got all the family albums and stuff."

"This is the part of Ron's life you shared in a way we didn't."

Harry hugged them both again. "I don't know how to thank you."

"You don't need to."

Soon Hermione excused herself, yawning, and the twins followed soon after. Draco talked to Harry and Sirius for ages, swapping war stories and listening to Sirius talk about some of the more ridiculous stuff he'd encountered in his work as an Unspeakable. What of it he could talk about anyway. Draco fought to stay awake, but eventually he fell asleep in his chair.

Voices woke him. For a moment he didn't know where he was, but then he realised he was in his sitting room and that the voices belonged to Harry and Sirius, who must have fallen asleep on the couch. They didn't seem to know they'd woken him. What Draco saw made his heart stop. The two of them were entwined on the couch like lovers, arms and legs in a nondescript tangle, talking softly and laughing. Harry occasionally reached up to play with Sirius' hair. So they are lovers. If that doesn't beat all. Draco couldn't stop the horrible sick feeling in the pit of his stomach or the thoughts running through his head. And he couldn't watch anymore. He sprang up and ran to the bathroom. He sat on the side of the bathtub for ages, head in his hands. Why didn't Harry ever say anything about this? Why didn't he want me to know? Because I'd think he was a freak for sleeping with his godfather? Because he just didn't trust me with it? Because he knew I have a horrible crush on him and thought I'd be jealous? None of these theories was a very pleasing answer. And nothing could make Draco believe that perhaps his eyes had deceived him.

Someone was knocking at the door. "Draco? You okay in there?" It was Harry.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I'm just going to have a bath," he made himself answer back, though his voice trembled.

"Okay, just don't fall asleep."

Draco got into the tub and briefly contemplated drowning himself, but decided he'd probably just screw that up too. What had he done to keep Harry from trusting him? He wracked his brain but could come up with nothing. At length he came out of the bath. Sirius was gone, but Harry was still there.

"Hey," he said, "You are okay? You look kind of sick."

Draco just shook his head. "Want some coffee?" he gestured to a cup.

Draco just sat down and picked it up, trying in vain to keep his hand from trembling.

"Hey," Harry said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Really, what's the matter? Did you just drink too much or is there something else bothering you?"

"Maybe," Draco managed to say. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"Sure." No hesitation.

"Are you... are you and Sirius...."

Harry started laughing. Laughing. Why is he laughing? "Merlin, no! What made you think that?"

"This morning. I saw you and--"

"You'd have me sleeping with the whole world! No, it's nothing like that. I'd have told you ages ago."

"But you were all over each other."

"In a strictly nonsexual fashion. Imagine two people who, for a good portion of their lives, have had very little affection from anyone." Draco began to feel sort of stupid. "We're only like that because it's nice, not because we're going to jump each other. It was probably added to by the fact that Sirius spends a lot of time as a large cuddly dog."

"Oh."

"So you were angry because you thought we were sleeping together and I didn't trust you enough to tell you?"

"Yeah, pretty much." He didn't add the other reason. "Not really angry even, just hurt. I'm sorry, I feel a right berk now."

Harry surprised the hell out of him, sliding his arms around Draco's shoulders and pulling him partway into his lap. "Listen, I'm sorry if I hurt you or scared you. But I'll tell you this once and you've got to remember it. I trust you with my life. And there's nothing I won't tell you if knowing it won't get you killed. Okay?"

"Okay," Draco muttered, revelling in the feeling of being held by Harry.

They stayed that way for a long time. Draco wouldn't have minded staying like that all day, but unfortunately he had to go see Kettlebottom.

"Hey, just one more week," Harry reminded him as he was walking him out to the edge of the grounds. "Then you get to have pre-term staff meetings!"

"Hurrah," Draco deadpanned.

And that week dragged prodigiously. Draco started going to Kettlebottom's earlier in the mornings in order to finish everything the man wanted to cover. Which meant he was more tired than ever and saw even less of Harry. But finally it was Friday, and Kettlebottom presented him with his shiny apprenticeship certificate and sent him on his way, telling him to make sure to give his thanks to Dumbledore for sending him such an apt student, and to owl him if there were ever anything he could do for Draco. I guess that means he owes me a favour?

~~end of part 1~~


La Découverte ou l'Ignorance
Part II: Fall and Falling

Chapter 1

The start of term arrived more quickly than Draco had wanted, but on the first of September he found himself seated between Fleur Delacour and Harry at the High Table, watching the Sorting Ceremony. It was going to be strange, teaching people who'd known him as a student only last term. At least none of the graduates he knew were old enough to have children at Hogwarts yet. Tht just would have been too weird.

As it was, the dead silence that fell over the room when Dumbledore announced the new Potions professor was deafening, and the whispers that followed were worse still. Of course, Harry got a standing ovation, which Draco hardly found surprising, despite the fact that it wasn't customary.

Full of food and sleepy, they went up to Harry's rooms together after the feast. Harry put on a record (someone called the Rolling Stones) and gave him a glass of whiskey.

"Merlin, I hope every night isn't like this," Draco groaned, sinking into the couch.

"We'll get used to it. But I think Fleur has a little crush on you," Harry said with a lopsided grin.

Fleur? She was pretty, but... well, she wasn't Harry. "What makes you think that?"

"Well, maybe the way she hardly took her eyes off you all night. You could have loads of beautiful blond children," Harry taunted.

"Ugh, no thank you! The last thing I want is heaps of filthy, wailing babies."

"So I shouldn't try to set you up with her, then?"

Is he blind? "There is quite possibly nothing I would like less."

"I thought you liked women too."

"I do, at times, just not that particular one."

"What, the accent doesn't turn you on? Ohhh, Draco, you are zee mozt bee-utiful man I have aye-ver meet!" he crooned in a terribly exaggerated accent, complete with googoo eyes.

Draco tossed a pillow at him. "Gah, stop!"

Harry climbed onto his lap, holding him down with the pillow. "Ohhh, nooo, you do not weesh to cause me to yelling zee fraynch obsceenities in ake-stasy?"

Well, if you actually meant that... Draco freed his arms and a great bout of tickling and shouting ensued. They stopped when they noticed an annoyed-looking Hermione standing in the doorway.

"You two are not setting a very good example for your students," she said sternly. "How am I supposed to get them to quiet down when their professors are screaming like banshees in the next room?"

They promised to quiet down and Hermione left. Draco suddenly realised that Harry was lying on top of him. Harry realised it too, but he didn't jump up in horror. "Oh, sorry, I'm squashing you," he said and rolled over so that he was next to Draco. "Mmm, you're nice and warm."

And you are driving me crazy. Maybe he's making a point to do this since I was jealous of Sirius. They fell asleep like that for a while. It was nearly three when Draco finally stumbled back to his own apartment and fell into bed. He had a terrible dream about teaching Potions in his underwear.

When the morning came, he was too nervous to go down to breakfast. Not that he could have eaten. He fixed himself a cup of tea and painstakingly readied himself for the day. No need to be nervous, Malfoy. You know what you're doing. You know what they're talking about. You're in charge. But he really didn't feel like he was in charge of anything. After he had redone his hair six times, he could delay it no longer. It was time to go teach.

His first class was the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw fourth-years. When he walked into the room everyone fell into a terrified silence. He was prepared for this, but he had been hoping it wouldn't happen. He sighed and pulled up his sleeve, baring his arm. "I know, there are rumours. But as you can see, I am not, nor have I ever been, a Death Eater. So you can all stop looking so terrified. With that out of the way, welcome to Potions. We're going to start this term with potions that alter one's appearance in one way or another, the simplest of which is a cutaneous shrinking potion..."

The class went on fine from that point, as did the following ones, although he had to show his arm every time to prevent his students from looking as though they'd all been petrified. What surprised him was how much respect he got from them, even being a totally untried professor. Certainly nothing like the awe and slight disgust (or reverence) that Severus had inspired in these same students, but respect just the same. He imagined it didn't do any harm that despite his unmarked arm, all but the Slytherins still seemed pretty afraid of him.

On his way into the Great Hall for lunch, someone grabbed his arm and pulled him into a corner. It was Harry. "Why, Professor Potter! This is highly improper!"

Harry giggled. "Sorry, I had to catch you somehow. I need your help."

"What with?"

"How would you like to be me for an hour?"

"Ummm...."

* * *

"As you know, I'm Harry Potter, and I'll be teaching you Defence Against the Dark Arts. I know you're sixth-years and that many of you knew me as a student. If it's too weird calling me Professor all of a sudden, I don't mind if you call me Harry." It was too strange, being in Harry's body. To feel what it felt like to be in Harry's body. He'd had to work very hard to resist exploring the more... private regions of it. As tempting as it had been, he knew it would have been a terrible violation of trust. He glanced at his watch. Two minutes.

The door opened and in walked (the real) Harry. A confused murmur rose up from amongst the students. "So, which one of us is the real Harry Potter?" Harry said, standing next to Draco and assuming the exact same stance.

"He is!" said one of the students, pointing at Draco.

"Why?"

"Because I played Quidditch with Harry for three years, I think I should know my own team-mate!"

"No way!" exclaimed another girl. "Obviously you're the real Harry," she said, indicating Harry. "I know Harry too, and he'd have put the impostor in here first to try and throw us off."

"Ten points to Gryffindor for a correct answer and sound reasoning," Harry said.

And...now. Draco felt the uncomfortable sensation of the potion wearing off and his body going back to its usual form. Another murmur went up when the class saw who he really was, and another, more giggly one, when they saw that his clothes were now just a little too tight.

"Lesson one," said Harry, smiling. "Just because you think you're seeing someone you know and trust doesn't mean you are."

"But he acted just like you!" protested the boy who had originally pointed Draco out as Harry.

"A good impostor always does," said Draco, still imitating Harry's voice. This seemed to unnerve a few people.

"And Draco here happens to know me very well. So, can anyone tell me how to tell an impostor from the real thing? Yes, Lisa?"

"If they go an hour without drinking anything?"

"Five points to Gryffindor. That's one way, it'll rule out regular Polyjuice in any case. Anything else? Yes... I'm terribly sorry, I don't know your name."

"Angelica Burton, I just transferred here from the ASWW in New York," said the blonde, her violet eyes sparkling.

"Right, that explains a thing or two. So what were you going to say?"

"The Video Veritas charm?"

Harry looked surprised. Draco knew he hadn't expected anyone to know that, as it was supposed to be today's lesson. "Exactly right. Ten points to Gryffindor. Did they teach you that in New York?"

"No, my father taught me."

Draco was, at best, unsettled by this girl. At worst, he was suspicious. What was she doing, transferring in her 6th year to someplace halfway across the world? Was that even allowed? And why did she keep staring at Harry? He'd have to do some detective work, he decided as he left the class. He still had an hour before he had to teach again, so he went straight up to Dumbledore's office.

"Ah, Draco!" said the old man. "How goes the first day? Would you care for a bit of cocoa?"

"Umm, no thanks, sir. I was just wondering, who's the new Gryffindor?"

"Ahh, you mean Miss Burton."

"Yes. What's with her transferring in her sixth year?"

"Oh, that's simple. Her father's working for the Ministry over here, helping out with prosecution of the war criminals and whatnot."

"But why did she have to come here?"

"Her father wouldn't have it any other way, I'm afraid, and they needed him on the prosecution team. He's a very talented lawyer."

"And just who is her father? Do you know his background? His allegiances?"

Dumbledore just chuckled. "Draco, my dear boy, I am thoroughly certain that John Burton has no evil tendencies."

"Right, then." Am I turning into Mad-Eye Moody or something? He went back to the Dungeons to get ready for his next class. Great. It was going to be the Gryffindor and Slytherin sixth-years. That meant miss weirdo-know-it-all-pixie-yank-girl was going to be there. Would she stare at him too?

He wanted to go back and talk to Harry, but Harry was still in class. But a glance at the timetable told him Hermione was not, so he headed for her office. He found her there, scribbling something furiously. "Sorry, are you busy?" he asked, pausing in the doorway.

"No, no, it's just my lesson plan for next month," she said with a grin, trying to rein her fluffy hair back into the bun it was escaping from. "What's up?"

Next MONTH? Oh, dear. "Have you had the sixth-year Gryffindors yet?"

"No, I don't have them till tomorrow, why?"

"Oh, there's a new student I wanted to ask you about, that's all."

"You mean Angelica?"

Angelica? "Um, yeah, the American."

"Lovely girl. She came to see me this morning about advanced lessons. Wants to learn the Animagus transformation. I told her she'd be better off asking Harry. But she's very nice, terribly eager. Why? What'd you want to know about her?"

Lovely girl, indeed. Feh. "You'll laugh, but I was a little suspicious."

Hermione did laugh, and told him to loosen up. He vaguely wondered if he should just find something tall to jump off of and end it all now, having heard something like that from her. Great, so miss bottle-blonde facial piercings was going to be taking private lessons with Harry. Idiot, he's gay. So? People can change. Okay, now you're just making your life difficult. Leave it out.

Draco was in a rotten mood by the time the dreaded Gryffindor/Slytherin class arrived. "See, look," he snapped, baring his arm. "Nice and clean. Not evil. I'm sure you've heard. Now let's get down to work. I trust you've all done your summer homework, so who can tell me what happens when you add Unicorn hair to the Dreamless Sleep potion?"

Two people raised their hands. Angelica Burton and Pansy Parkinson's pain-in-the-arse (though at least not evil) little sister Rose. "Right, then, Parkinson, can you enlighten us?"

"You get a topical healing potion, but it's very weak."

"Very good. Ten points to Slytherin. Now, I trust Miss Parkinson isn't the only one who's done her reading. You there, Johnson is it?"

"Yes, sir."

"What can we do to make our weak healing potion more effective?"

"I... I don't know, sir."

"You didn't do your reading?"

"I did, sir, but---"

"But nothing. Five points from Gryffindor for your laziness."

He turned to the rest of the class. "If any of you think I'm going to be a pushover because I'm a new teacher, you're dead wrong, so I advise you all to do your homework if you don't want to cost your house points. Now, back to the healing potion--- put your hand down, Miss Burton, I know that you know. Ashburn, what will strengthen the healing potion?"

Ashburn was a smallish sort of boy, and he looked terrified. "I'm not going to bite, you know. What are you, a Hufflepuff?" Some of the class giggled nervously.

"I think the book said to add a couple of caterpillars, sir."

"At last! An answer! Yes, caterpillars. Five points to Gryffindor. Once you stop looking like you're about to wet yourself every time I speak to you, Ashburn, I'll give you five more."

It went on like that the entire period, with Draco teaching in a decidedly Snape-ish manner. It was sort of fun. Most of the students bolted when Draco dismissed them, but the damned American girl (as Draco had come to think of her over the last hour) stuck around. Great. "Is there something I can help you with, Miss Burton? If not, I'm going to go have a whiskey and lie down." There, that should make it clear that I want nothing to do with her.

"I was just wondering if you needed an apprentice."

An apprentice? Merlin's beard, he was barely out of apprenticeship himself! What would he do with an apprentice? Particularly one he already couldn't stand. But no, he wouldn't let on that he didn't think he could do it. "I hardly think that you're going to have time to properly work on a Potions apprenticeship on top of Animagus lessons. You won't be able to do either one properly if you try to do both at once."

"I'm sure I can. If you just give me a chance---"

That grating accent was giving him a headache. "Have you got any idea how much energy it takes to transform even so much as your little finger without your wand? You're going to be hard-pressed not to fail your regular classes."

"I learn very quickly!"

"I'm sorry, Miss Burton," okay, so I'm not sorry at all... "But I have to say no."

"But, Professor! I know I can do it!"

"Have you even discussed this with Ha--- with Professor Potter? Did he happen to tell you what exhausting work you're going to be embarking on?"

"Well, no, we're going to meet about it tomorrow, but---"

"But nothing. You tell him you're thinking about trying to take on an apprenticeship on top of becoming an Animagus. If he tells you it won't be a problem, then come back and see me. But he's going to tell you it's got to be one or the other."

She scowled. "Well, of course he will! He's your best friend! You're going to tell him what to say!" she whinged.

"It will be a cold day in Hell when I convince Harry Potter to do something he doesn't want to. And ten points from Gryffindor for your insolence." Oh my god, I sound just like Severus. Insolence, indeed. Well, she was insolent! He watched her storm out of the room. What was with this girl, anyway? She was like Hermione's evil twin.

He went back to his rooms to lie down for a while before dinner. His head was killing him. At least Quidditch was only twice a week now. Quidditch. Ugh. He'd probably be expected to oversee the tryouts, since Professor Sinistra (he couldn't bring himself to call the imposing woman Olivia for some reason) didn't know a quaffle from a hole in the ground. Not a thing to think about right now. He managed to let himself drift, and was nearly asleep when Harry came in.

"Oh, sorry, were you sleeping?"

"Not really. It's okay, come in." Draco sat partway up and Harry sat down next to him. "How was your first day?"

"Went really well. How about you? I heard you put the fear of god into your sixth-years."

"Are people talking about it?" Oh, Merlin, was it that brutal?

"I overheard a couple of people, that's all. They were speculating on whether you were going to be worse than Snape or not."

"Fine way to talk about you war heroes!" Draco scoffed.

Harry just laughed. "Get used to it. As professors, we are now dinner conversation."

"Brilliant." Draco sighed and tried to lean back onto Harry as nonchalantly as he could. He wasn't sure whether it actually looked nonchalant, since it was extremely deliberate.

"Ohhh, does the poor ickle Potions Master need a hug?" Harry cooed, putting his arms around Draco in an exaggerated fashion. "Eww, you smell like a potions lab," he said, sniffing Draco's hair.

"Well, being as I was in one all day..."

"Yes, well...shut up."

"So, I hear you're giving Animagus lessons to That American Girl."

"If she still wants to do it when she finds out what it involves."

"She came and asked me if I needed an apprentice."

"What did you tell her?"

"Basically that if she tried to do both, she wouldn't be able to do either properly."

"In the nicest way possible, of course," said Harry, grinning.

"Oh, yes, of course. Anyway, she kept insisting, and I finally told her that if you said she could do both, that I'd take her on."

"Knowing fully well that I would say no such thing."

"Well, yes. And do you know what she said then? She said 'Of course he'll say no, he's your best friend! You're going to tell him what to say!'"

Harry laughed at Draco's horrid imitation of her accent. "She kind of reminds me of Hermione when she was younger."

"Yeah, like four years younger."

"Point. You really don't like her, do you?"

"You know I do."

"Not Hermione."

"Oh. Well, in that case, no, I don't. There's something a little...off about her. I don't trust her."

"Draco, she's from a different culture."

"It's not that different."

"It's different enough. I don't think American Wizarding society has anything like Hogwarts. The school she came from is in a skyscraper in Manhattan. She's probably disoriented. And from what I can tell, it wasn't her choice to come here."

Why is he defending her, anyway? "Well, whatever. I'm still entitled to my opinion."

"You are. But try to give her a chance, at least."

Give her a chance? Humph. No. Draco just wanted her to go away.

The following evening found Draco in Harry's kitchen. He had figured out that he probably could cook--after all, it was just another potion. So if he just followed the book, he reasoned, it should be all right. Harry had gamely agreed to taste his experiment. Unfortunately, the cookbook didn't use the same terms as the Potions book, so he kept having to go back and forth between books to work out what to do.

"Harry? What's sautéing?" he called over the music.

Harry came into the kitchen. "What are you sautéing?"

"Mushrooms and onions."

"Oh, just cook them at medium-to-lowish heat in a bit of oil or butter."

"Why don't they just say that?"

"To annoy you, I imagine."

"Is that someone at the door?"

"Shite, the Burton girl. I'd forgotten."

"What, you invited her to dinner?"

"No, no, I've got a meeting with her."

"Here?"

"Well, at the moment, it's the closest thing I've got to an office."

"True. I hope you don't mind if I stay in the kitchen."

"Whatever you want." Harry left to open the door.

Draco grumbled to himself, chopping the mushrooms a bit more vigorously than was strictly necessary. Next he'll be bloody well having her in for tea.

The music shut off. "Hello, Miss Burton," came Harry's voice as clear as if Draco were standing next to him.

Draco was startled for a second, but then remembered the spell Harry had put on the sitting-room so that Draco could hear the music in the kitchen without having to blare the stereo. I should really take that spell off. Why? It's not as though it's a personal conversation. And Harry's probably going to tell me the whole thing anyway. So what's the harm?

"Oh, please, call me Angelica."

"Erm, right, Angelica, then."

The conversation was really pretty boring. Harry told her about what kind of work they'd be doing, and how she should be prepared to spend a great deal of time being exhausted. When he got to the bit about not doing the Potions apprenticeship in addition, though, the girl exploded.

"He told you to say that! That man hates me for no reason!"

"Miss Burton, calm down, he did no such thing. I don't just do what people tell me to do. And you'd better be careful about how you talk about your professors. There are a great many that wouldn't just let that little outburst go like I'm going to. I should take points off your house for saying that, but I'm not going to this time. I don't know how you treated your teachers in America, but I'm thinking it must be a little different." Harry said all of this in a cool, tense tone that reminded Draco a great deal of his father. He shuddered.

"Sorry," she said. "But I really think I can do it."

"And I'm telling you it's not possible unless you're drinking three pints of Pepper-Up potion a day, which will rather unfortunately ruin your kidneys."

"Oh, can't you just let me try? What do you care anyway?"

"I care about not being responsible for one of my students dying from exhaustion, either that or becoming a half-arsed Animagus."

"Can't you just tell Professor Malfoy you said it's okay?" She was using a horrid-sounding tone, hoarse and pouty, like she was trying to imitate some film vixen, but only succeeding in sounding like a bad case of laryngitis. "I'd be very grateful."

"What are you--- mmph!"

What the hell was happening? Some rustling and a thud.

"Get off me! Are you insane? I could have you expelled for that, you know!"

Merlin's balls, did she just kiss him?

"But you won't," she said in that same awful tone. "I can tell you're attracted to me."

"And what gave you that idea? Was it the 'get off me', the 'are you insane', or was it the total and utter lack of arousal on my part?" Harry was shouting. Harry never shouted.

"You know when these things happen, sometimes the stories get a little mixed up, and the teacher comes out looking like the bad guy. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

"Are you threatening me, young lady? Have you never heard of Veritaserum?"

"There are ways around it."

Draco decided he'd better come out of the kitchen and put this to rest. "There are ways around Veritaserum, Miss Burton," he said in his best I'm-going-to-cast-Cruciatus-on-you-till-your-eyeballs-bleed voice. "But it tends to cause trouble when two witnesses say one thing and the self-proclaimed victim says another."

"You!" she exclaimed, going a bit pale, then a bit red.

"Yes, me. I'd strongly suggest getting the hell out of here right now if you want to spend another night at this school. As it is, that's fifty points from Gryffindor."

"So?"

"Seventy-five. And your father's going to be hearing from the Headmaster."

"But--"

"But nothing. Out. Now." Harry said, using that icy Lucius voice.

The girl stormed out of the room. Harry leaned back against the door and sighed. "Well, I wasn't expecting that."

"Frankly, neither was I. I somehow assumed her motives were more sinister than mere seduction."

"We should tell Dumbledore about this in case she decides to try anything."

Draco shook his head. "If she's going to, it's Hermione she'd run to first, so I suggest getting her up here and then worrying about Dumbledore."

They got Hermione on the Floo and told her to come right away, very little explanation given. They briefed her on the situation as they rushed to Dumbledore's office.

When Hermione heard what all the commotion was about, she just laughed. "I don't know what you're so worried about. It's obvious she's just got a dumb schoolgirl crush. She's probably mortified and crying in her room."

"Hermione, you didn't hear her. She didn't seem mortified. She seemed... vicious," Harry said with a small shudder. "Like she wanted revenge. Of all the women I've rejected, I've never seen a single one of them with that look about her."

Hermione snorted. "All three of them."

"Shut up! Just help me here!"

"Well, even if she does want revenge, you've got Draco as a witness. By the way, how was it exactly that you came to hear the whole thing from the kitchen?"

"We'd essentially put an eavesdropping spell on the sitting room so that Draco could hear the stereo, but when she showed up I forgot to end it."

"How come you didn't take it off?" she asked, eyeing Draco.

"I didn't think it mattered."

Hermione looked utterly nonplussed.

"And okay, I didn't trust her. But I was thinking more of curses than kisses."

Harry made a face. "I hope I didn't kiss like that when I was sixteen."

"Does anyone even know?" asked Hermione with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, shut up, let's go talk to Dumbledore."

They entered Dumbledore's office to find the Headmaster sitting at his desk making stupid cooking noises at Fawkes. "Well, well, my three newest professors. Is this a social call, or have you got troubles already?"

"Troubles, I'm afraid," said Harry.

"Oh, dear. Well, we must have some tea, then. I find it makes bad news go down more easily."

They took the proffered tea and Harry told Dumbledore the whole story. For once the old man's eyes weren't twinkling.

"Oh, my. This is very serious."

"Well, yes, that's why we came to you, we weren't sure what to do next," said Harry with a note of exasperation.

"I think she ought to be expelled," said Draco, folding his arms.

"Draco!" Hermione exclaimed with all the admonishment of an outraged mother. "She's just a child!"

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Hermione on this one," said Dumbledore. "After all, there was no real harm done to anyone, and I don't think she's likely to try it again."

"So, what then?" asked Harry.

"Well, I do think that a letter to her father is in order. I think that and the points already taken should be punishment enough. And I'll have a talk with her as well."

"I'm supposed to be giving her Animagus lessons," said Harry, picking at an exposed bit of fluff on the arm of his chair. "What do I do about that?"

"I'm afraid you've already agreed to the lessons, so they'll have to go on as planned. Of course, if you're that uncomfortable, I'm sure Minerva is strong enough by now to take her once a week, at least for the theoretical part of the training. But I don't think you should let it be an obstacle, Harry. I'm sure it's not the first time you've been the object of unrequited teenage infatuation."

Hermione snorted again and Harry elbowed her.

"It's not just the... kissing thing," Harry said. "I'm worried about her concentration as well. If she's going to be too busy staring at my arse to pay attention properly, she's not going to be able to do the work properly, and I don't want to be responsible for a failure."

"A student's failure is rarely entirely the teacher's fault," said Dumbledore. "But as I said, I'll have a talk with her."

"You do believe us, don't you?" asked Harry, still picking at the chair. "I mean, if she comes in with some story about me molesting her--"

Dumbledore held up his hand. "Harry, my dear boy, you've told me enough tall tales in the past seven years for me to know that you've just told me the truth. If I think she's going to take any action, we'll initiate an enquiry ourselves to keep you from looking bad. And would you please be a bit kinder to my poor chair?"

Harry snapped his hands together in his lap. "Sorry."

"You really have nothing to worry about. Now, if there's nothing else, out with the lot of you. Old men need their sleep."


~~to be continued~~

©2003-2004 Deirdre Riordan. Email comments to deirdre.riordan @ gmail . com (remove spaces)




• WIPS:
Striking Thirteen
Hallways and Forgotten Spaces
La Découverte ou L'Ignorance
Legal

• ONE-SHOTS: 
Coming Around
Operation: Parkinson
Wanna Touch

• ON HIATUS:
Far From Innocent
Riverrun
An Accident of Birth

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