Chapter Three: The Key To Magic

Draco entered the yard and watched for a minute as Harry slowly raised and lowered himself in the grass, his arms bulging with every push-up. It was hot outside, and sweat plastered his ebony hair to his head and soaked clean through his sleeveless t-shirt. Draco shook his head at the idiocy. "Why do you bother, Potter? We're wizards, not Muggle laborers."

"Exercise clears the mind," Harry stated, rising to his feet. He wiped his forehead with the back of his arm and pushed his glasses into place. They immediately began to slide down his nose again. "Plus, it gives me an advantage."

"Yeah, your stench could kill a bloke at twenty paces." Draco waved his hand in front of his face. "You bloody reek."

"There is that." Harry circled Draco. "Draw your wand."

Draco drew his wand, glancing over his shoulder at Harry. "Are you planning to teach me a deodorant charm?"

"No." Harry struck with the speed of a seeker, sliding his arms under Draco's and linking his hands behind Draco's head, effectively trapping him. Draco immediately fought, trying to break out of Harry's hold. When he couldn't, he aimed his wand as best he could at the larger boy behind him, but Harry caught the attempt to cast.

"Expelliarmus!" The wand flew from Draco's hand, landing in the grass several yards away. Harry laughed softly, cruelly. "Now what are you going to do?"

Draco struggled again, anger heating his face. Sweat beaded on his upper lip. "Let go, you pillock!"

Harry's breath was hot against Draco's ear as he whispered, "Titillandus."

Hundreds of invisible fingers suddenly danced along Draco's ribs and other sensitive parts of his body. He was shortly gasping in laughter, squirming in Harry's iron hold. "Stop! Stop! Stop!" he begged.

"Stop it yourself," Harry said. "Remember what I've taught: the magic is inside you. The wand is just a tool."

Draco was going to kill him. "Fin- fin- finite incantatum- um!" The invisible fingers were still tickling him mercilessly. "Potter!"

"Finite incantatum."

The tickling stopped instantly, and Harry released Draco immediately thereafter. Draco spun and shot Harry a deadly glare. Harry simply stared back expectantly.

Draco growled. "Fine! You're right, exercise gives you an advantage."

"I'm glad you said so." Harry started for the house. "I want ten push-ups and ten sit-ups before I return."

"I hate you, Potter!" Draco called after him.

"Ten of each!" Harry yelled back.

Draco's arms felt like jelly and his abdomen hurt like a bugger later that night, from exercising unused muscles. He was lying in bed, cursing at Harry, who sat with his bare feet up on the desk across the bedroom, an open book in his lap. Draco's wand was balanced on Harry's knees, and he expected Draco to retrieve it by magic.

It had only been five days since Harry had started teaching Draco and already he expected miracles. Still, if Harry-Bloody-Potter could perform wandless magic, so could Draco Malfoy. Though it would be easier to concentrate if his muscles weren't screaming.

The sleeping draught Draco had brewed worked perfectly, but he was damning himself for making it. A well-rested Potter was three-times as masochistic as a sleep-deprived one. Draco's own need for perfection only added to his stress, and he had a feeling he'd soon be taking the draught, too.

"Hmm. I think it moved a bit that time," Harry said, glancing at the wand. "Oh, nope. I was wrong. It was me that moved."

"Bloody bastard," Draco muttered.

"Aw, you say the sweetest things."

"When I get hold of my wand--"

"If you get hold of your wand," Harry interrupted. He turned the page in his book. "At this rate, I'll die of old age before you can follow through on the threat."

Draco felt anger boil inside of him. He wanted his wand so badly at that moment, he could taste it. "Accio wand!"

THWAP. "Ow!"

Harry clapped. "Not bad, Malfoy. Not bad."

Draco rubbed his face where his wand had smacked him, clutching the offending object in his other hand. It took him a moment to realize that he'd actually done it, he'd cast a working spell without his wand. He sat up, ignoring his protesting stomach muscles, and stared at the length of wood in his hand. "Wicked."

"What did you feel right before you cast?" Harry inquired, putting his book aside. He set his feet on the floor and rested his forearms on his knees.

"Anger," Draco replied.

"What else?" Harry prompted.

"I really wanted my wand," Draco said thoughtfully.

"That's the key to magic, Draco," Harry said softly. "You have to really want the results, beyond question or doubt. Everything else is flair."

Draco lifted his gaze and looked at the teen seated across the room as if seeing him clearly for the first time. Harry's ebony hair was falling every-which-way, the lightning bolt scar peeking between the thick strands. Emerald green eyes stared back with earnestness and a haunted maturity he shouldn't have yet. "Why aren't we friends, Potter?"

"Because you're a bigoted snob with a mean streak a kilometer wide, and I'm the goody-goody wonderboy who can do no wrong," Harry replied with a shrug. "Things probably would be different if I'd been sorted into Slytherin, like the Sorting Hat wanted to do."

"You don't have the heart of a Slytherin," Draco said coldly.

"Oh, I don't know about that." Harry turned towards the open window with a slight frown. "A murderer would fit right in, don't you think? Heads up, incoming."

Draco was stunned silent by Harry's casual admission that he'd killed. Draco had heard nothing of the same, unless Potter actually had killed Cedric Diggory last June.

Hedwig flew into the bedroom, carrying a package by her claws. She was followed by a Hogwarts school owl, also carrying a package. Both dropped their parcels onto the desk behind Harry and settled on top of the owl cage.

Draco snapped out of his shock when a tiny owl burst through the window, clutching a grey motley-looking bird, who in turn was clutching a paper bag. The grey owl and bag were dropped on the bed beside him, and the tiny bird let out a sound like a groan of relief before landing on Harry's head.

"What's going on?" Draco asked, prodding the dead-looking bird beside him.

Harry glanced at the digital clock on the desk. "It's my birthday in ten minutes."

"You mean, you're just turning fifteen now?" Draco picked up the paper bag and began to open it. "I turned fifteen months ago."

"Hey, shove off, they're my presents." Harry snatched the bag from Draco and reseated himself at the desk. The bird on Harry's head chirped in annoyance at the sudden movements.

"You don't have many," Draco noted as another owl flew in, dropped a parcel in Harry's hands, and immediately left again.

Harry shrugged. "I used to get none, so I count my blessings that I have friends who care to send gifts now."

"Who would send you a dead owl?" Draco poked at the grey bird again.

"That's Errol, and he's not dead. He's... resting."

At that moment, Errol opened an eye and nipped at Draco's finger. Draco yanked his hand away and glared at the bird. "I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Errol belongs to the Weasleys."

"Say anything disparaging about my friends and I'll turn you into owl kibble," Harry warned, not raising his eyes from a letter that came from the bag.

"Very well," Draco sighed. "So, who're the extraordinary number of gifts all from?"

"The Weasleys, as you know," Harry answered, setting the bag and letter aside and picking up another. "Hedwig brought Hermione's, I've got one from my godfather, and the school owl brought Hagrid's and a letter from Dumbledore."

"How exciting for you." Draco shoved Errol off the bed and lay down. "Try not to make too much noise celebrating. I'm knackered."

"Whatever, Malfoy."

Draco closed his eyes and listened to Harry unwrapping his gifts. He heard no laughter, no oohs or aahs of excitement or pleasure. If it weren't for the crinkle of paper, he wouldn't know anyone was in the room.

Draco remembered his own fifteenth birthday was a loud, boisterous gala with his family and friends at the Manor. He'd gotten more gifts than he had room for in his bedroom. Even his father had been in a good mood and had shared vintage Doubletec, a wizard's cognac, with him.

The soft flap of wings roused Draco's attention and he opened his eyes to find the bedroom empty of both birds and boy. Rising, Draco noticed Harry's Firebolt was gone, too, and he went to the window. Potter hovered in the yard, unmoving and looking up at the nearly full moon. The luminous snitch hovered in the air beside him.

Draco retrieved his own Firebolt and kicked off. Silently, he pulled alongside Harry and surveyed the Surrey countryside. It was lovely, lush and green, for a Muggle territory.

"Dumbledore wonders if I've killed you yet," Harry said, not turning away from the moon.

"You might, with all the bloody exercises you're foisting on me."

"I might," Harry agreed stoically, falling silent again.

Below, Draco could see glowing eyes from nighttime animals, both magical and non, in the hedges and under the neighbor's back porch. Harry had told him that the Dursley's property had been magically cloaked by Dumbledore and Professor McGonnagal at the beginning of the summer, when they had brought advanced materials for Harry to learn over the holiday. They could practice magic without fear of being expelled or being investigated by the Ministry of Magic and the neighboring Muggles would turn a blind eye to anything happening within the boundaries of the property. The Dursleys themselves ignored any magic that Harry or Draco did, yet they still treated Harry like dirt.

"Hermione sent me a book, like she does every year," Harry commented, continuing the conversation as if they hadn't floated silently side-by-side for five minutes. "Current Events in the Wizarding World. It updates itself and deletes anything prior to the last twenty years."

"Sounds like something Granger would send," Draco said with a snort.

"I'm in it," Harry said, his voice barely a cracked whisper. "I'm in it several times, in fact. 'The Boy Who Lived miraculously defeated You-Know-Who not once, not twice, but three times, before his very own blood brings He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named presumably back to life.'" He glanced at Draco. "I saw your father's name in the last few pages, but I didn't read it."

"You can if you want." Draco shrugged. "I don't care." Though he did care, because he shared the Malfoy name. He could easily imagine the pity he would receive once others read what his father had done. There'd also be the whispers of wonder if he'd follow in Lucius' footsteps, and the wariness of true Light Wizards towards him. He silently cursed his father again for putting him into this predicament.

Enough brooding, Draco decided. He cast a sidelong glance at the other teen. "Up for a game, birthday boy?"

"I suppose I am," Harry said with a fast exhale of breath. "I've not played against anyone in a bit, so this should be a laugh."

With a flick of his wrist, the luminous snitch flew off. A few seconds later, the boys flew off after it.

Chapter 4