Chapter Eight: Trust

Harry never smiled. He didn't laugh, either.

Two months had passed since the start of school and everyone had settled into a routine. Things seemed the same as they did every term: students complaining about classes and homework, teachers complaining about students and grading, which House would win the upcoming Quidditch game, could anyone pull a prank under the current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher's nose.

There were differences, though, this school term. Many of the older students still wore armbands in memory of Cedric Diggory. Trips to Hogsmeade were no longer allowed. More owls were sent back and forth between parents and students. Voluntary extra classes were held in Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts.

And Harry never smiled, he didn't laugh, and neither did Draco.

There was really nothing for Draco to smile or laugh about. His father was dead. His friends all but abandoned him once they found out he was working with Harry. With O.W.L.s this year, his classes were harder and involved more homework. Quidditch practice was actually boring since his skills were phenomenal due to playing with Harry. Plus, any free time Draco had he spent either researching in order to create experimental potions, sleeping, or eating.

He wasn't completely anti-fun, however. He and Harry met almost every night to play midnight Quidditch. They harped, sometimes, on classes and other students with each other, or shared war stories if they had a particularly bad day. Mostly, though, they let the speed and the wind and the competition and the challenge of capturing an enhanced snitch chase their daily nightmares away.

Draco glanced across the Great Hall at the always messy-haired Potter, who was conversing with Hermione and Ron. Lunch was over, but a few stragglers remained as long as possible before their afternoon classes started. It was Thursday, so once everyone was gone, Draco and Harry would begin their own lessons.

Four times a week the two teens met, to practice charms, hexes, and other spells. They were more than three-quarters of the way through their fifth year Charms text, which they needed to complete to receive credit for their Independent Study. They didn't have scrolls to write, but once a month Professor Dumbledore planned to observe their lesson, and the O.W.L.s would serve as their only Charms test.

"I don't understand you, Draco," Pansy said with disgust from behind him. "Really, Harry Bloody Potter?"

Draco turned and scowled at her. She refused to associate with him any longer -- a blessing in disguise for Draco -- but she still asserted her opinion on him whenever the desire hit her. "What are you talking about?"

"I thought you were better than most students in this school," Pansy said, "but you've fallen under the Great Goody-Goody Potter's spell, too. I thought you were just being forced to work with him, but after watching you these past two months I can see that you're mooning over him like his other groupies."

"I am not mooning over him!" exclaimed Draco, aghast.

"Please. I do have eyes," Pansy laughed. She looked down her nose at him. "I'd be careful if I were you. Some Slytherins aren't as tolerant as I am of your involvement with Potter."

Draco watched her leave, somewhat dismayed by her thinly veiled warning. She had to be joking; no one was going to come after him because of his association with Harry, and Draco most certainly was not mooning over him. Draco told Harry as much, once they were alone in the Great Hall.

"Hmm, that's odd," Harry said as he flipped through his Charms text, smoothing out bent edges and glancing at scraps of paper stuck between the pages, as he tried to find where they'd left off. "Ron thinks I fancy you, as well."

Draco's pale brows lifted. "Do you?"

"In my nightmares," Harry responded. He leaned his cheek on his fist, elbow propped on the open text, and looked across the table at Draco. "Actually, I think Ron is jealous of you. Hermione, too, to an extent."

"Well, I am better than them in every way," Draco bragged unabashedly as he watched the tattoo spider emerge from beneath Harry's sleeve to crawl over his hand.

Harry rolled his eyes. "You're quite modest, too."

"Aren't I, though?" Draco utilized his bookmark to open to the correct page in his Charms test. "So, why is ickle Ronnie jealous and how can I rub it in his freckled face?"

Harry shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure why he's unhappy. I've not spent much time with him since school began. We haven't even had time to play a game of Wizard's Chess, between my working with you, playing midnight Quidditch and then sleeping through breakfast, regular Quidditch practice, homework, my own extra reading, and Hermione's bloody OWL study sessions." He sighed disgustedly. "I can't believe she insists we study already. The O.W.L.s aren't until May."

"The O.W.L.s are extremely important," Draco stated. "They measure your basic mastery of wizardry and determine your focus of study for the last two years of school. The more O.W.L.s you receive, the more freedom you have to choose."

"You've already started studying as well, haven't you?" Harry said wryly.

"So what if I have? My father expects--" Draco cut off abruptly, a sudden twist in his gut. He looked blindly at the open textbook, jaw clenched against the familiar wave of grief and anger.

Harry reached across the table and lightly squeezed Draco's clenched fist. The tattoo spider dancing across Harry's knuckles crossed immediately onto Draco's hand.

Draco's chin shot up and he met Harry's gaze squarely, determination reflecting in his glittering pale eyes. "Teach me the killing curse."

Harry studied him a moment and nodded slowly. "All right. We'll need to go outside and collect some insects."

They left their books and school robes in the Great Hall and went out into the warm fall day. Dressed only in their underrobes, they passed Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, garnering strange looks from the other students. The whole school knew Harry and Draco had Independent Study together during the week, and rumors ran rampant as to what the two did when they disappeared on the weekends, ranging from the truth (they were practicing magic in one of the empty classrooms) to wild lies (they were shagging each other rotten). Still, for second years and up, seeing the once-malicious rivals striding causally beside each other was always a shock.

(It would also be a shock if the general student body knew of the boys' midnight Quidditch games, but surprisingly that was, as yet, uncommon knowledge.)

Harry and Draco walked along the edge of the Forbidden Forest, away from Hagrid's and towards the lake. The trees were vibrant in color: reds, yellows, oranges, and browns; and the leaves danced when they chose to fall from the branches. Harry cast a petrificus spell on a rotted log and, once they were out of both earshot and sight, they sat in the neatly mowed grass and broke open the log. Inside, roughly fifty insects of various types were frozen in place by the spell.

"Before we start, I want your word that you will never, ever, ever use this spell unless you have no other choice," Harry said, green eyes serious behind his glasses.

"Why not?"

"That would make you a murderer, Draco, and no better than Voldemort," Harry said flatly. "You might as well have killed your father, yourself."

Draco was silent as he thought about what Harry told him. "I understand," he said finally.

"Then you know what to do." Harry plucked a petrified centipede from within the log and dropped it on Draco's knee. "Finite incantatum."

"Wait--," Draco trapped the suddenly mobile insect with his hand and looked questioningly at Harry, "--don't you want me to promise or something not to use the curse?"

Harry shook his head. "No. It's not necessary. I..."

The mask Harry wore dropped briefly, and Draco saw fear, sadness, worry, and... hope? The emotions flashed so quickly across Harry's features, Draco couldn't be sure. Harry lowered his chin, preventing Draco from further examination. Harry's almost inaudible words made it unnecessary. "I trust you."

It was a good thing Draco hated Harry, or else he might've done something ridiculous, like smile. "That's good to know." Draco wondered when he swallowed a frog. "I trust you, too, Potter... which makes us two of the most feckless gits on the planet."

"It will certainly chafe Voldemort if we are the ones to bring him down," said Harry conversationally as he looked up. The mask was back in place, but there was a slight curve to his lips.

"Well, then, we'd best stop acting like a couple of poufs and get to work," Draco told him. He lifted his hand, stared at the centipede, and said, "Avada kedavra!"

Chapter 9