Chapter Ten: Tattooum Arachnid

Students were still abuzz about what happened between Harry and Draco on Monday morning, when classes started. The rumors about their relationship now centered on them being boyfriends in some way: from a strictly sexual relationship to a deep romantic love. Only Hermione and Ron knew and believed the truth, although, to Draco, the truth seemed to have become rather ambiguous. Draco didn't want to claim Harry as a friend, but they were much more than simply classmates or student and teacher... even though Draco hated Harry.

Draco contemplated his relationship with Harry while waiting for Double Potions to start. The messy-haired seeker (did Harry even own a brush?) sat in front of Draco, with Hermione and Ron protectively flanking him on either side. Draco was surprised the two were speaking with Harry, considering the way he cut them off and then left with Draco at dinner the night before. Their loyalty was admirable.

"Malfoy, scoot over a seat, eh?" Crabbe's request pulled Draco's attention away from the Gryffindor Trio. "I want to sit next to Pansy."

Draco turned to Crabbe with a dark look. The oafish Slytherin stood beside the last stool in the row. Although Draco didn't necessarily want to sit beside Pansy, principle declared that he not move readily. He opened his mouth to speak scathingly--

-- and closed it with a snap when Crabbe suddenly smacked him on the forehead with the heel of his palm.

"You have something..." Crabbe loomed up in Draco's face, and Draco, startled, jerked back. He bumped into Pansy, who had come up on the other side of him, and knocked her books from her hands. Draco's head whipped around at the clatter.

"Hey!" Pansy snapped, glaring at him. "Watch what you're do--aiiii!" she shrieked, and slapped him across the cheek.

Draco's mouth dropped open in shock. Pansy continued to shriek shrilly. She slapped Draco again before turning to cling to Goyle, standing behind her.

Almost the entire Slytherin/Gryffindor class stared in confused silence.

Harry... laughed.

Harry started rocking back and forth, holding his stomach, laughing. He rocked so much, he overtipped and fell off his stool, cracking his head on Draco's table before landing with a thud on the ground. The fall didn't stop the laugher. The rusty, unused sound rose up from the floor, slightly wild but wholly amused.

Draco leaned forward across the table and peered down at the prone Gryffindor. Harry was clutching his stomach, his glasses askew, as he continued to laugh. Eyes bright with tears of mirth briefly focused on Draco before they slammed shut and Harry, impossibly, began to laugh even harder.

Draco wasn't the only one staring at Harry like he'd lost his nut. Hermione and Ron looked like they were about to fetch Madam Pomfrey. It was quite possible one of the other Gryffindors already left to do so.

"Potter," Draco ventured blandly, as if speaking about the weather, "do you find something funny?"

Harry nodded emphatically, hooting like a hyena. He clamped his lips together suddenly, but the sniggers and snickers weren't entirely muffled. Pushing to his knees, he reached out towards Draco. Draco didn't jerk back like he had with Crabbe; he stayed unmoving as Harry touched a finger to Draco's nose. A moment later, Harry withdrew his finger and held it up for Draco to see. Draco's eyes crossed slightly as he focused on the calloused digit.

On the tip of Harry's finger was the tattoo spider.

Draco shifted his gaze and met Harry's dancing eyes behind cockeyed glasses. His lips started to quiver as laughter began to bubble inside him. Harry reached out again and touched Draco's inflamed cheek a moment, apparently returning the spider. He snorted once, hard, as he lowered his hand. Then, suddenly, he reached back out, lightly slapped Draco, slanted a glance at Pansy, and lost it. Draco wasn't far behind.

Silver-blond head thrown back, Draco's peals of laughter echoed against the stone walls of the potions classroom, Harry's scratchier laughter underlining it. Harry's head was downcast and he pounded a fist on the edge of the table in absent emphasis, their laughter seeming to perpetuate each other's. Soon, Draco's stomach muscles hurt and tears were streaking down his cheeks. It had been a very long time since he'd last laughed so much over something so ridiculous.

"Gentlemen, if you don't mind, I would like to begin class." Snape's annoyed tone broke through the laughter, and Draco attempted to calm down. It was difficult. Harry seemed to be struggling as well. He had removed his glasses and was wiping his eyes with his robe sleeve. His face was red and wet with tears of mirth, like Draco's. The two of them must have made quite a spectacle.

Harry slid his glasses on his nose and smiled a blinding Harry Potter smile at Draco; the same smile that used to make Draco want to slap him silly. Today, it made Draco laugh a little more.

Harry stood, wrapped an arm around both Hermione's and Ron's necks, and yanked them close. They both squawked in surprise. He pressed a loud, smacking kiss to the crown of Hermione's head, repeated the action on Ron, then released them both, took his seat, folded his hands neatly, and pretended to play the attentive student to Snape.

Snape glowered, but said nothing at Harry's behavior when he caught sight of Draco.

Crabbe, Pansy, and Goyle looked almost frightened, when Draco shifted his seat so Crabbe could have his spot. Draco's cheek tingled where Pansy twice slapped him. It was hard to believe that his fellow Slytherins hadn't seen the tattoo spider before, in the weeks since school began. He'd seen it crawling on Harry's neck just in the last potions class, before Potter had passed it to him on Thursday.

A stray chuckle escaped and Harry cast an enormous grin over his shoulder at Draco.

Draco smiled in return.

Chapter 11