The black walls of Malfoy Manor shaded Draco from the hot July sun. He sat on the stone balustrade on the small balcony off his bedroom, his favourite place in the Manor, looking out over the expansive property towards the woods. The manicured green grass and thickly leaved trees stretched as far as he could see. The clear blue sky made for a perfect summer day, yet he wasn’t enjoying it. His mind was on other things.
Or rather, on one particular thing: Harry Potter.
Draco swung his foot back and forth, left leg hanging over the stone rail, dangling far above the ground. He should be enjoying his summer holiday. Sixth Year had finally ended and he had only one more year to go before he left Hogwarts. Then, he’d no longer have to see Harry every single day.The thought was actually rather depressing. Draco didn’t like it.
Pansy said it was because he was in love with Potter, probably had been since he was eleven, and then laughed herself silly.
Draco scowled into the distance. Pansy was wrong. He couldn’t stand Harry Potter. Hadn’t he made Harry’s life miserable over the past six years? Granted, his participation in PRATS made things seem suspect, but really, he needed Harry to be alive and well in order to torture him. That didn’t mean that he fancied the gormless twit.
Right, so Harry was rather attractive, in a messy, four-eyed, freakish way, all short and firm and wiry and easy to hold down. Draco found plenty of blokes attractive, because he was gay, not because he had feelings for them.
But if he did feel something for Harry, it was loathing and irritation. He fought with and tormented Harry whenever possible. The same went for Harry’s mates and he definitely didn’t fancy them. The difference was that if they met their end, Draco would be first to celebrate, whereas merely the thought of Harry being seriously injured or killed made him shrivel up inside in a rather bothersome manner.
Draco scraped his fingernails lightly against the stone balustrade between his legs. He watched glitter flecks sprinkle from the rail towards the ground. He supposed it was a bit different, too, in that picking on Harry was like sitting on the balcony: it was comfortable, secure, and he could enjoy himself. Taking the piss with anyone else was rather boring.
Sitting and mulling over what Pansy had said was also rather boring.
A black bird soared over the grounds, circling for prey. Draco watched as it swooped down, claws extended, and snatched something from the manicured lawn. The bird and its victim fought, and Draco imagined the squeals of pain and death and smiled as the bird took flight with a limp body in its claws.
Draco debated on whether or not to floo Vince and Greg and make them come and entertain him. His expression darkened. He’d wager they were busy with their girlfriends, like they’d done all Sixth Form, leaving him at ends. Thankfully, they thought he was having it off with Pansy, even while she dated other blokes, something he didn’t contradict. She was his excuse for PRATS meetings and why he wasn’t hooking up with other girls. His defence of being picky only went so far.
He cringed at the thought of them, or anyone, finding out he was bent. Bad enough that he trailed after Harry, saving him from physical danger and voluntarily associating with others in the Rescue Potter Brigade. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, ever, and he’d hex anyone who might suggest it, but he sort of liked and respected Neville Longbottom, too.
“Draco, are you out there?”
Draco jumped, startled, and nearly fell from the balcony. “Yes, Mother.”
He swung his leg over the rail and stood, as his mother came outside. She paused regally, surveying the land like a queen, her blond hair knotted in an intricate bun, woven with rubies. She turned her attention to Draco, her statuesque stature allowing her to look him in the eye.
“The Montagues are coming for tea. I expect you to join us.”
“I will,” Draco said.
Her pale eyes swept over his summer-weight robe. “And do change before you come down.”
“Yes, Mother.” Draco smoothed the front of his pale grey robe self-consciously.
His mother studied his face. “Are you all right, Draco? You’ve been in your room since you returned from Hogwarts. It isn’t because of what happened on the train?”
“No,” Draco replied truthfully, though he felt his cheeks heat. “I’m fine, Mother.”
She didn’t appear convinced, but let it drop. “Very well. I shall see you at tea time.”Draco watched her leave and then sagged against the balcony rail. He needed to get things sorted if he didn’t want her to find out, or his father. Simply because he was in love with Potter—
Draco started, eyes growing wide, and then cursed everyone and everything, especially Pansy for putting the notion into his head. It wasn’t the truth, he refused to let it be the truth, and even if it were, it wasn’t like he could do anything about it anyway.
Well, that part wasn’t true. He was a Slytherin, and if he wanted to, he could make it happen. If he wanted to – and he most certainly did not.
Draco looked out over the vast estate, but it gave him no comfort. Bloody hell. Now what should he do?
Draco stumbled and held on tight to something to stop from falling. He blinked rapidly, clearing the blinding white spots from his vision, and found Harry clutched closely to him. “Potter?”
Harry’s dark head tilted back to look up at him. A smile graced his features, causing Draco’s stomach to perform a slow flip. “We’re home.”
“Indeed you are, Harry,” Albus Dumbledore said, beaming at them from behind his desk.
Draco jerked, released Harry, and back-stepped rapidly. He stuck his nose in the air, crossed his arms, and scowled in general.
The sight of the Headmaster’s circular office was wonderful, though. Books and artefacts cluttered the shelves against the walls all the way up to the unseen ceiling. The rug swirled with colours beneath their feet. Fawkes, looking rather shabby, squawked from his perch. The portraits of past Headmasters had awakened and were talking with one another about the six students who’d appeared suddenly in the office. A clock on the wall indicated it was nearly six o’clock. On Dumbledore’s desk, the recognizable Tome of Entrapment sat open to the last page. As Draco watched, the book closed on its own.
“Professor Dumbledore,” Ron said. “It’s really good to see you.”
“I am pleased to see you all, as well,” Dumbledore said. “Though I had little doubt that you would find a way out of the Tome of Entrapment.”
Dumbledore turned and gestured with a sweep of his hand. Six hard-backed chairs appeared in a semi-circle behind the students. “Please, have a seat,” he said. Another chair appeared under him as he sat himself down. “I’m certain you have plenty you would like to share. Would any of you care for a lemon drop?”
“Oh, Professor, it was quite an experience,” Hermione said animatedly, as the lemon drops were passed around. Draco didn’t take sweets from barmy codgers in sparkling violet robes. “I’ve taken plenty of notes and- where’s the backpack?”
Ron face screwed up. “I don’t know. You were wearing it.”
“I saw it on the ground after you disappeared,” Pansy said.
Hermione appeared crestfallen. “I suppose I’ll have to recount by memory.”
And she did, from the moment she opened the Tome of Entrapment in the library until she touched the white ground. Draco thought it rather scary that she didn’t stop to take a breath the entire time. Harry, Ron, and Neville paid her no mind, glancing around with interest, although Harry appeared slightly angry for some reason. Draco didn’t know Pansy’s reaction because he refused to look at her.
“Then, we were suddenly here, in your office,” Hermione finished finally.
“That is quite a story, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said. “I am glad that you children made it out all right, though I had little doubt that you would.”
“Did you help us escape?” Harry said, somewhat tersely. It seemed to Draco that Harry did not want to be in Dumbledore’s office.
“I’m afraid I was unsuccessful in any attempts to assist you, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “In fact, it gave me quite a start when the book opened on its own and you six popped out.”
“There are others trapped in the book,” Neville said. “Besides the Death Eaters, I mean. We were lucky that Hermione figured out the way to escape, but what about the other people? We don’t have the map showing where they are anymore, either.”
“Do not be concerned, Mr. Longbottom. Now that the method of exiting the Tome of Entrapment has been deciphered, a team of Aurors can go in and liberate them.”
“What are you going to do with Scribner?” Ron asked.
“I’m afraid Philos Scribner is a troubled wizard,” Dumbledore began. “Although my best researcher was not here to assist us—” his eyes twinkled behind his half-moon glasses as he looked directly at Hermione, who blushed in pleased embarrassment, “—Madam Pince and I discovered that he originally created the Tome of Entrapment as a means to escape his overbearing family. He felt as though he had no control over his life and so he made a fantasy world where he had complete power. It was only by mistake that others entered the book. The first to be caught inside were members of his family. Imagine the supremacy he’d felt being the person in control of them.
“One of his brothers, a young wizard by the name of Anthos, was the only member of his family to escape to book after years of being tormented by Philos. His traumatic experience landed him in St. Mungo’s and what information the Mediwizards were able to extract from him was noted. However, he did not, or could not, reveal how he escaped.”
The clock on the wall suddenly made a clamour, and Draco jumped in his chair. A tiny door opened at the top of the chalet-shaped timepiece and the bell end of a flugelhorn emerged. It blared an upbeat tune before hitting six whole notes on a rising scale.
“Ah, dinnertime,” Dumbledore said. “The house elves are serving quail with mint sauce this evening and treacle pudding for dessert.”
“Good. I’m starved,” Ron said, and his stomach let out a rumble in agreement.
“I will not keep you any longer, then,” Dumbledore said, rising from his seat.
“How long have we been gone?” Harry asked.
“Today is Tuesday,” Dumbledore answered. “You have been missing since this past Friday evening.”
“Two days of lessons!” Hermione was aghast. “The amount of material we’ve missed will set us behind horribly on our revisions for the N.E.W.T.s. We have a lot of work to do.” She practically dragged Ron with her out of Dumbledore’s office, after Harry waved her off.
“One thing, sir,” Harry said. “How did the Tome of Entrapment get to be in the library?”
“Ah, as I am certain you will soon learn, Delores Umbridge was detained for using her powers as Chief Cataloguer at the Ministry to ‘borrow’ items from the Department of Mysteries,” Dumbledore said.
Harry glanced at the back of his hand with a dark expression.
“It would seem that the former Professor Umbridge sent the Tome of Entrapment to her nephew to pass on to you,” Dumbledore continued. “As he is only a Second Year, he did not witness the events that occurred during your Fifth Year and merely thought he was doing a favour for his aunt. However, the wrapped package disappeared from his dormitory and somehow ended up in the library, where I assume Mr. Longbottom found it.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled again in a rather frightening way, as he looked directly at Neville. Neville gulped and smiled timidly.
“Now, I’m sure your friends are waiting.”
Harry nodded and left the office, along with Neville.
“Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore said, as Draco and Pansy, whom Draco continued to snub, made to follow. Draco turned, nervousness setting in, and looked back at him. He merely smiled. “Happy eighteenth birthday.”
“Thank you, sir,” Draco responded automatically. Dumbledore inclined his head, and Draco left with Pansy following.
Neville waited in the empty corridor outside the Headmaster’s office when they emerged and the gargoyle guarding the door jumped back into place. Neville’s smile now was bright. “Pansy, may I escort you to the Great Hall for dinner?”
Draco saw as his ex-best friend’s cheeks flushed pink in pleasure. She dipped in a demure curtsey. “I’d be honoured.”
Neville offered his elbow and Pansy looped her hand through it. He looked at Draco. “PRATS meeting tomorrow night.”
“Brilliant,” Draco drawled flatly.
“Are you coming to dinner?” Pansy said.Draco set his jaw. “I don’t eat with traitors.” Pansy looked heavenward and then urged Neville down the corridor, casting a recrare spell as they rounded the corner.
“What was that all about?” he heard Neville ask.
“Draco being a tit. Would you like…” Pansy’s voice faded away.
Draco glowered down the corridor. She’d get hers, mark his word. He pivoted on his heel and stalked in the direction of his House. Yanking his shrunken robe, jumper, and tie from his pocket, he was surprised when something else fell out and clattered on the floor by his feet.
Bending over, Draco looked at it. It was the book stone Pansy had given him for his birthday.
“Petrificus!” Draco jumped, drew his wand, spun, and cast the spell in one startled instant.
Harry Potter gasped and cringed. The torch sconce on the wall above his head was hit with the spell-light and the flame froze.
“Potter, I told you not to sneak up on me.” Draco shoved his wand through his belt and looked angrily at him.
“You did,” Harry said, glancing up at the torch sconce. “Poor shot.”
Draco scowled. “Most wizards aren’t the size of house elves. What do you want?”
“What do you have in your hand?”
Draco frowned at the question. He opened his closed fist and looked down at the stone in his palm. He hadn’t realized he’d picked it up. “Not that it’s your business, but my book stone.”
“Really?” Harry closed the distance between them and took the stone without asking, quicker than Draco could snatch his hand away. He glared as Harry turned it between his blunt fingers, exposing the Watcher rune carved into the polished surface. “The Aurors take applications all the way up to the N.E.W.T. exams.”
Draco stared at the mop of black hair on Harry’s down-turned head. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”
“Hogwarts is ending, but I still have three more years of schooling.” Harry rubbed his thumb over the rune. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that appearances can be deceiving.” He looked up beneath his fringe at Draco. “It’s hard to make out who’s really got your back.”
Draco tensed. “You’ve gone spare. No, I’ve gone spare, being trapped with you for four days. I’m never going to get your stench out of my hair.”
“Portraits talk, Malfoy,” Harry said. “And being stuck with you for four days is why I’m doing this.”
“Doing what? Blithering on and on, like the Mudblood?”
Harry’s expression darkened. “You make things so difficult sometimes. No, all the time.”
“Good. Everything else is so bloody easy for the Boy Who Lived. Someone’s got to put you in your place,” Draco said. And as long as Harry wasn’t physically hurt, he deserved everything he got.
“If I didn’t know you were all bark, no bite, I wouldn’t bother.”
Draco bared his teeth menacingly. “I do, too, bite and rather hard.”
Harry laughed. Laughed! “You’re part of a group that protects me from being injured. I think that rather says differently.”
Draco stiffened and glanced quickly up and down the empty corridor. “You better not have told anyone.”
“I haven’t,” Harry said. “Dumbledore already knew, which I found out when I questioned him about it, but I haven’t said anything to anyone else. Ron and Hermione wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“That there are people protecting you?” Draco said.
“That you are protecting me.” Harry glanced sidelong at him. “I’d like to know why, though.”
“I have my reasons and I’m not going to explain them to you.”
“I think I have a right to know.”
“You haven’t the right to anything,” Draco said. “We’re not friends, you don’t like me, and what I do in my spare time is none of your business.”
“I’m what you do in your spare time.” Harry’s cheeks reddened and he focused intently on the book stone in his hand. “I haven’t asked before now and I’m really curious.”
Draco’s own face felt hot. “You can stay curious, for all I care.”
“That’s just it, you do care.”
“I do not.”
“Admit it: you’re protecting the Boy Who Lived because you care about what happens with Voldemort.”
“Is that what you think?” Draco sneered, even as he winced at the name. “You don’t know anything at all. What You-Know-Who does means nothing to me regarding this.”
“It means something to everyone.”
“No, you mean something to everyone.”
Harry smirked. “Even you?”
“Yesss,” Draco hissed, eyes narrowed into slits. “Is that what you wanted to hear, Potter? Are you satisfied knowing all my dirty, little secrets? Not only am I bent, but it’s you that flicks my wand. Is there anything else you’d like to know, like does my father beat me or my mother put me in dresses for tea?”
Harry stared, stunned. “Do they?”
Appalled by his own outburst, Draco drew himself up imperiously and prepared to flee. “If we’re done.”
Harry nodded slowly and held out the stone. “Here.”
Draco wanted to bat it away, but it was his birthday gift, even though it had been picked out by Harry and given to him by that betraying wench. He lifted his hand.
Instead of dropping the book stone into his hand, Harry pressed it into his palm. He titled his head slightly as he met Draco’s gaze. “I’ll save you a seat, then.”
“Come again?” Draco’s response sounded far away to himself. Harry’s fingers lingered over the stone, his hand warm against Draco’s. He couldn’t look away from Harry’s eyes, which were large and dark and intense behind his glasses, staring steadily back at him. His pulse thrummed under his skin. A coil of pleasure unwound in his stomach.
Slowly, almost as if he weren’t moving at all, Harry rose up and forward on his toes. As if pulled by invisible strings, Draco leaned down and his head lowered. His breath hitched as Harry lifted his chin, just before their lips met.
Petrified, Draco didn’t move, his mouth resting firmly against Harry’s in a dry kiss. Harry’s lips were chapped, like his. Hot air prickled his upper lip as Harry breathed heavily through his nostrils. The edge of Harry’s spectacles pressed against the bridge of his nose. The fall of his hair drew blurred lines in his vision, his eyes still locked on Harry’s.
Harry wobbled suddenly, unbalanced on his toes, and he grasped Draco’s hand, causing Draco to start and draw back. Harry’s heels smacked on the stone floor, his eyes as wide as saucers behind his glasses.
Draco could only blink at him.
Harry licked his lips. His fingers drew across Draco’s hand, tickling it, as he backed away unsteadily. He bumped the wall, jumped, and laughed nervously after a glance over his shoulder. “Um, I haven’t told anyone, either.”
His hand came up and touched his mouth, before dropping swiftly. He spun on his heel and fled.
Draco stood and stared at the spot Harry had been for a long, long moment, as a balloon blew up larger and larger inside his chest. Harry had kissed him!
Then, instead of falling all over Draco, he’d said something about not telling anyone, which didn’t make any sense. What hadn’t he told anyone about? Snogging blokes in the— oh.
Maybe he owed Pansy an apology. Not that he ever apologized to anyone.
Draco looked at the book stone in his hand, tossed it in the air, and caught it again. Laughing delightfully, he tucked it in his pocket and strutted to the Slytherin dorms.
Harry had made the first move.
Now, what Draco was going to do about it… well–
A sly smile spread across his face.
– that was a different story.