Chapter Nine: Breaking Point

Saturday dawned crisp and clear, a perfect day for a House Quidditch game. The stands on the Quidditch field were filling quickly for the second game of the season. The first had been played in early October, Slytherin against Hufflepuff, and Draco, as Slytherin seeker, had caught the snitch within seconds of its return to the game field, twenty minutes into the game. A victory for the Slytherins, but a hollow one for Draco because of the lack of challenge. He'd hoped all games wouldn't be that boring or it would be a very long season.

Draco perched on the end of the second row of benches in the Slytherin section of the stands. Today's game was Ravenclaw versus Gryffindor and, while the Slytherins would be rooting for Ravenclaw, Draco was there specifically to watch Harry play. To others, it would seem that he wanted to check out the competition, but Draco already knew how well Harry played. Draco was there just to watch his classmate play like a friend would, if he didn't actually hate the Gryffindor seeker.

Draco looked down at his hands, lightly gripping his knees. The tattoo spider was on his left pinkie, splayed around his finger like a ring. It reminded him of his successful casting of the killing curse on Thursday and the conversation with Harry prior to then. Harry trusted Draco, and that either made the other boy extremely foolish, or Draco extremely lucky. Draco hadn't decided which, yet.

A third year Slytherin boy sat down beside Draco and gave him a tentative smile and a "Hello." Draco nodded politely and turned his attention to the field as Dean Thomas, Lee Jordan's replacement, started the pre-game announcements.

"Welcome students and professors to the second Quidditch game of the season!" Dean's voice boomed in the stadium. Everyone cheered. "Today's match-up: Ravenclaw versus Gryffindor!"

The two teams flew onto the field, a mixture of blue and white, and red and gold, as they lapped the playing area. Madam Hooch was the referee and, as she walked to the center of the field, the players took their starting positions. The beaters and chasers formed a circle, the two keepers hovering on their brooms slightly behind them. The two seekers, Harry and Cho Chang, sat on their brooms high above the center of the circle.

Draco focused on Harry and Cho as Dean introduced the teams. Cho wore a yellow and black armband over her team uniform and her facial expression was not a friendly one. She said something to Harry, who reared back as if he'd been hit, although the blank mask he always wore did not flicker. Cho's expression grew darker when Harry said nothing to her.

"Madam Hooch has released the bludgers and the snitch--" The golden snitch flew straight up between Harry and Cho, and Harry's head tilted back as he followed the small gold ball with his eyes as it disappeared into the blue sky. "-- And there's the whistle. Let the game begin!"

As Draco watched, Harry veered his broom and shot straight up in the air, almost vertically and at an unbelievable speed, Quidditch robes flapping wildly behind him. He sped higher and higher: 100 meters... 200 meters... 300 meters... Suddenly, he spun on his broom as if it were a pole, hand shooting out to snatch something Draco could not see.

"Harry Potter has caught the snitch!" Dean screamed over the amplifier, a pair of omnioculors pressed to his eyes. "Harry Potter has caught the snitch!"

The two teams on the field froze on their brooms, mid-first-play. The students in the stands roared. Harry slowly circled towards the ground.

"Thirteen-bloody-seconds!" reported Dean excitedly. "This has to be a Quidditch record!"

Harry flew past the Slytherin stands. He was not smiling. His expression was one of stone. His eyes looked dead.

Draco stood and made his way out of the stands.

Draco circled the Quidditch field slowly, flying low to the ground. The moon was dark and the stars dim, but his eyes had grown used to the night and he could see without trouble.

Without a sound, Harry glided beside him. Harry had appeared shortly after midnight and quietly joined Draco in the air. Draco had known instinctively that Harry didn't wish conversation, just companionship. Sometimes, being alone made the silence scream.

The night was peaceful; the flying a soothing activity for them both. They'd been lapping the field for an hour, now, and neither one had said a word.

Draco pretended he didn't see the tears staining Harry's cheeks.

On Sunday at dinner, in front of the entire student body in the Great Hall, Harry Potter finally reached his breaking point.

Draco was holding a quiet conversation with the same third year Slytherin who'd sat beside him at the brief Quidditch match. The dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned thirteen-year-old was a potions fanatic like Draco. Snape, apparently, had been bragging about Malfoy in the third year class and, as a result, Martin Umphrey had sought out his Housemate. He didn't seem to care that Draco was a growling recluse nowadays, or that he associated with Harry. The younger Slytherin was intelligent, too, which was different. Draco's former friends had the combined intellect of a box of rocks.

"Will you just shut up about the bloody game already?" Harry's agitated voice rose over the din of dinner conversation in the Great Hall. "We were all there; you don't need to keep rehashing it over and over again!"

Draco looked over to the Gryffindor table and saw Ron reply something. Harry exploded, shocking the Hall into silence.

"I caught the snitch in thirteen seconds because I didn't want to play the soddin game!" Harry shot to his feet, face flushed with anger. "It wasn't an amazing feat, it was desperation to get as far away from Cho as fast as I could!"

A collective gasp filled the Hall, followed by quick whispers and darting stares between Harry and the Ravenclaw seeker, whose features reflected shock. Harry rounded on her with malice.

"Don't act so surprised, Cho. You were the one who implied that I killed Cedric in retaliation for his catching the snitch and being the only seeker to beat me."

Cho goggled and reddened. The whispering grew in volume. Several Ravenclaws yelled at Harry in Cho's defense. The professors at the head table were prevented from doing anything by Dumbledore, who watched with speculative interest.

"Well, guess what, Cho? You're wrong," Harry continued hotly, shaking off Hermione's hand on his arm. "I didn't kill Cedric because he beat me. I killed him because I'm Harry Potter and there can only be one Boy Who Lived."

Silence again washed over the Great Hall. Harry's chest heaved as he glared in Cho's direction. Cho and her Ravenclaw friends shrank back. Everyone held his or her breath, waiting to see what would happen next.

Draco didn't stop to question what he was doing as he began clapping slowly; he'd puzzle it out later. "Bravo, Potter. I say, bravo," he drawled as all eyes turned to him. "I think you should win an award for that performance."

"Sod off, Malfoy," Harry spat.

Draco smirked nastily as he rose and started around the tables towards Harry. "Tell me: how, exactly, did you kill Diggory, eh? Did you use your bare hands to strangle him? Did you hold his face below water until he drowned? Did you beat his head against a rock until it cracked like an egg? Or did you go the boring route and simply cast avada kedavra on him?"

"Malfoy," growled Harry warningly.

Draco stepped right up to Harry, invading his personal space. "No, really, I want to know. I'm sure everyone wants to know."

"Shut up," Harry ground out, fists clenched.

"How did you do it, Potter?" Draco pushed. "How did it feel?"

"Shut up."

"Did he scream, Potter?" Draco asked with calm maliciousness. "Did he beg you to spare his life?"

"Shut up!"

Draco leaned intimately close to Harry and whispered, though his voice carried clearly in the silent Hall, "Did you enjoy it, Harry?"


An invisible force slammed into Draco's chest and propelled him backwards. He hit the stone wall beside the open Hall doors, hard enough to knock the breath out of him.

The students gasped loudly. More professors stood to intervene, but again Dumbledore stopped them.

Draco pushed away from the wall and casually straightened his robes. "What's the matter, Potter? Was I too close to the truth?"

"Bastard," hissed Harry.

"Murderer," said Draco blandly.

Ron and Hermione leapt to their feet, wands out and curses on their lips. Harry's reflexes included a quick tongue, it seemed. "Silencio," he cast before his friends finished their own hexes. Without a glance at either of them, he brushed past Ron and stalked towards Draco. Draco would have appreciated the expressions on Ron's and Hermione's faces, if he wasn't so focused on Harry.

The blank stone mask had returned and Harry's eyes were flat and unemotional as he looked down at Draco. "You hate me," he stated.

Draco nodded. "True."

"Then, I know you won't sugarcoat the truth," Harry said. "I'm a killer, aren't I? A murderer, as you said."

Everyone in the Hall strained to hear Draco's reply.

"What you are is a pompous tit who thinks the world revolves around him." Draco snorted derisively. "Really, Potter, don't flatter yourself. You didn't kill Diggory, You-Know-Who did, just like he killed my father."

"But if it wasn't for me, Cedric would still be alive."

"No; if it wasn't for you, everyone would be dead by You-Know-Who's wand the first time he was around."

Harry's brows furrowed. "So, er, what you're saying is... the whole world does revolve around me."

Draco opened his mouth, closed it, and his own brows furrowed. "Huh. I guess it does. Fancy that."

"I'll try not to let it go to my head," Harry commented without inflection. He turned and glanced around the Hall at the listening students. His eyes landed on Cho Chang. "I still feel guilty."

"Of course you do," Draco said. "You're a Gryffindor; it's part of your bloody genetic code."

"Hmm," Harry agreed non-verbally. He glanced around again. "You do realize the whole school is staring at us and Dumbledore's smiling like a loon."

"Sod them," Draco said with a shrug. "Want to go play a real game of Quidditch?"


They turned together and walked out of the Great Hall without looking back.

Chapter 10