Part 6 - Most Beautiful

By IvyBlossom


I've found a way to make you
I've found a way
A way to make you smile.
At my most beautiful
I count your eyelashes secretly.
–R.E.M., At My Most Beautiful

Harry pulled his socks on quickly and pushed his tired feet into his shoes. Ron, Neville, Dean, and Seamus were doing the same. There was a single candle burning, casting odd shadows as they hurriedly pulled their heavy woolen cloaks over their pajamas. They moved in relative silence, confused and apprehensive but also oddly excited. Harry had woken as the door opened; the quiet shuffle of slippered feet, the soft click of metal unlatching from an ancient groove, the sigh of an old hinge. He sat up quickly, peering into the darkness, seeing only light, colour, a shapeless brown and yellow glow that grew larger as the door opened wide.

"Harry! Oh, You're awake." It was Professor McGonagall. He blinked, trying to understand this. For a moment he was embarrassed, as if he had just woken up in the middle of Transfiguration class, a broken crease in the shape of the fold of his robes pressed into his cheek. Professor McGonagall. With a candle. In his dorm room. She was speaking in a hushed voice, and Harry registered that she was speaking as he realized that he was in his bed, that it was well past midnight, and that he ought to pay attention. "Wake the others, Harry, would you? All the students are gathering in the Great Hall." She was lighting a candle at his bedside, and smiled. "Don't worry, Harry. Nothing's wrong."

The others had been confused and groggy, and try as he might, Harry could not entirely convince Seamus that Voldemort had not returned, and was not waiting to slaughter him in the Great Hall. Seamus chewed his lip and slipped his wand into the arm of his cloak. Ron grumbled, clumsily tying his shoelaces. "What did McGonagall say this was about, Harry?"

Harry shrugged. "I told you, She didn't say."

In the common room they met the other Gryffindors looking pale, confused, and bleary-eyed. Hermione looked slightly frightened, but helped lead the younger students out through the portrait hole and then took up the rear guard with Harry and Ron as they all marched down the hall in a kind of daze. There were scattered whispers back and forth, some confused banter, a wet cough or two, but for the most part the crowd of Gryffindors proceeded in relative silence. It seemed that no one had been informed more fully than Harry had been, which was cause for curiosity as well as some alarm.

Before long Hermione and Harry found themselves playing nursemaid; Hermione had a weepy first year on either arm, clutching at her as if they might get lost in the familiar hallway without her. Harry fell in step with the second year boys, who were terrifying each other with phantom sightings around corners and whispers no one else could hear. With Harry reassuringly in their midst, they stopped searching down dark stairwells for their doom and destruction, but kept glancing at him instead, as if he were a crystal ball, as if the scar on his forehead might glow in warning should any monster think to leap out at them, as if it might give Harry some special words to speak to banish evil and keep them safe. Harry sighed. Ron kept himself occupied by walking with his sister and her friends. Ginny, her bedraggled hair a mass of colours, looked forlorn without all her makeup, with her pink flannel nightie poking out underneath her robes. She kept her eyes down, her arms wrapped around herself.

They reached the Great Hall shortly after the Ravenclaws; the Hufflepuffs were on their heels. The students exchanged glances and whispers as they gathered between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, a few of them pulling out chairs and sitting down, or perching on tables, gathering in groups. In this large, familiar room, their whispers grew louder and more confident; they felt safer. Some of the Hufflepuffs were laughing outright, showing off their pajamas, teasing the girls, poking each other awake. But no one seemed to know precisely what they were doing there in the first place.

"It's a new moon," Terry Boot hissed. "It's black as pitch out there. You-Know-Who might be using the cover of darkness to sneak in to Hogwarts!" Faces around him darkened.

"I hardly think," Hermione retorted, with terrified first years still clutching on either arm, "that darkness will make Hogwarts any less safe than it usually is, Terry. Good lord. Maybe it's a surprise party."

"At nearly one o'clock in the morning?" Anna Phoenix pointed to her wristwatch. She tapped a foot, the laces of her running shoes dragging on the smooth stone floor. Hermione shrugged. It was just then that the Slytherins arrived.

Professor Snape was leading them. Unlike the others, the Slytherins all seemed to be at least partially dressed; other than the odd flannel pajama top visible beneath cloaks, all of them wore proper clothes, but they were just as bleary-eyed and confused-looking as the rest. Crabbe and Goyle were stumbling sleepily into each other, a couple of the first years looked as though they had just had a good cry, and Malcolm Baddock was still rubbing sleep out of his eyes. But Draco Malfoy looked as though he had just been interrupted in the middle of class, hauled out into the corridor perfectly pressed. His hair was immaculate, his shoes polished. He wore his school shirt, tie, and sweater. Harry watched him breeze into the Great Hall with Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini, both of whom looked peaked and puffy. Malfoy only looked bored.

For a moment, Harry imagined that Malfoy didn't sleep at all; he was vampiric, wandering around in the shadows at night in his school tie, never laying his head against a pillow for fear of mussing that perfect hair. But then Harry remembered seeing Malfoy in the hospital wing, shivering and red and blistered. His hair had fallen over his face then, his eyes looked bloodshot, his lips thick with pox and dry. Seeing him this way did not have the desired effect; if anything, it made Harry's eyes linger a little longer on him now, wondering a little at the façade, at the effort that clearly went into maintaining it. Malfoy was well healed now, more than a week later, and though Millicent still looked both smug and annoyed, the chicken pox incident seemed to have passed generally unnoticed. Millicent, however, had taken mysteriously ill a couple of days afterward, and had had to miss the Hallowe'en feast. Harry shook his head.

"Students!" Dumbledore had entered the room, flanked by the other teachers, and his soft voice brought conversations to a halt. "I am sorry to have woken you all so abruptly. We have just had word of a very special event that will take place tonight, and I knew that you would all want to be present to witness it." He moved toward the centre of the room. "This year, our house ghosts were honoured as finalists in a symphony of light competition; it has been nearly two hundred years since their last performance, and it will take place tonight, in roughly fifteen minutes." There was some whispering among the students. "Muggles call these lights created by ghosts 'Aurora Borealis'. They believe it to a natural phenomenon. It is best that they think this. Now," he turned, gesturing toward the door. "We will proceed outdoors. But I will warn you; once we are all settled, all light within the school will be extinguished. It will be quite dark indeed, as there is no moonlight tonight. So: do stay close to your friends, and keep track of each other. If you are nervous, you may use a lumos spell to find a teacher. Professor McGonagall, if you are ready?" The doors opened, and the teachers and students began to file out.

It was profoundly dark outside, and Harry understood why tonight was the chosen night. Hermione was chattering excitedly beside him. "They're going to use the house colours, you know, so we'll know Nick's work by the red and gold light. And I heard that peeves hasn't been seen tonight either, perhaps he's involved as well!"

"I wonder if Moaning Myrtle was invited to participate," Ron mused. Ginny sniffed. "You're not still afraid of the dark, are you, Gin?"

"No. Of course not." She said. Ron giggled. "Do you remember when–"

"Shut up, Ron."

Hermione giggled. "This is so exciting, don't you think? I've seen Aurora Borealis before, and I read that they had ghostly origins, but I didn't realize that Hogwarts ghosts had ever worked together to create them. How wonderful! Penny?" She still had a first year clutching her hand. "Are you alright? Don't be scared, it will be beautiful."

Once they arrived and got settled, the lights behind them disappeared, leaving them fully in thick darkness. There was some scattered gasping, and one tearful sob, but the rest watched the sky in silence. And suddenly, it began.

The Griffindors cheered as a spike of red undulated across the sky in slow motion, flicking its tail in crimson and dipping behind the horizon. The green that followed in its wake was like lightning, but softer; it moved like a snake across the darkness, leaving a blurry gray line in its wake that twitched and faded slowly. An astonishing pale blue erupted from behind the trees and spread like water into the sky above their heads, turned upside down, swiveled and bent upon itself. It was quickly joined by a yellow reflection that danced with it, with tentacles like arms that reached out and embraced it before drifting like smoke and melting into the night. The sniffles in the crowd stopped as the houses cheered for their respective ghosts. Red met green and yellow and blue in the sky, spinning, twirling and blending into each other. In a mass of green fingers caressing their way across the night sky, a spitfire white line began to draw itself within in, winding around the fingers and nestling, finally, in a blurred glow, in its palm.

"Peeves!" Hermione whispered. There was great laughter now, and students were moving about, running into each other in the dark, pointing to new elements of the show above, left right, behind the dark spires of the school. The teachers were gathered together whispering to each other, nodding and gazing up with the same kind of joy and awe as the students. A group of first years had begun a game of hide and seek, running and hiding among groups of other students. Harry felt calm, his sleepiness segueing comfortably into this quiet watching, the reds and blues leaving only the vaguest reflection on the upturned faces around him. He felt strangely safe in this darkness, his arms wrapped around his shoulders invisibly. He wasn't sure where Ron had got to.

Suddenly he felt warm fingers slip along the back of his neck, grab his cloak and the back of his pajama top underneath, and tug.

"Wh–" he began, as he was dragged backwards. He tried to turn, but couldn't without losing his balance. The grip on his collar was insistent. Within a few footsteps he was away from the crowd where he had been standing, still in the thick of it, voices all around, small points of light flickering on and off when nervous students whispered spells to calm themselves. The hand released him, but slid along his neck and rested on his flannel-covered chest, fingertips resting against his collarbone for a moment, and then disappeared. His skin felt cooler, more naked and exposed, without those fingers. Anna? Harry wondered.

"Who is this?" Harry laughed. "I can't see you." He peered into the darkness, seeing only a shadowy shape, the cool blue in the sky revealing nothing but the possibility of a human shape in front of him. Its head was covered in the hood of a thick Hogwarts cloak. Before Harry could think to move, he felt hands on his wrists, moving them gently behind his back as the figure loomed closer. For an instant he felt breath on his face, the edge of the woolen hood brushing roughly against his cheek, and then he felt lips against his own.

This was not Harry's first kiss. His first had been an awkward, tight and somewhat uncomfortable meeting of flesh and clashing of teeth, accompanied by the smell of warm milk. Harry's glasses had pressed uncomfortably against his face, and dug painfully into hers. Their tongues met briefly, a strange, vaguely unpleasant sensation that made Harry think of flobberworms. Harry had wiped saliva that was not his own off his lip afterwards, and they sat in silence, looking out of the window at the owlry, at the Quidditch practice outside. After a short time, and several more less-than-stellar kisses and some damp hand-holding, they agreed that they were better off being just friends. Harry realized in retrospect that it had been disappointment he had seen on her face , but after a week or two they were back to being friends again, the way they had been before. Once in a while they did look at each other a little wistfully, but they knew the truth. It would have been nice, really, for them to end up together. There had been a part of him that had been almost expecting it in the last couple of years. Harry trusted Hermione completely, but somehow. No. Something was missing there, something was wrong with them charging through kinds of boundaries with each other. Theirs was a comfortable closeness, the intimacy of sharing notes and pencils and quick, friendly embraces. Their tentative, hopeful, but essentially vacant kisses had proved this.

This kiss, however, was quite different. At first there was only the slightest pressure against his lips, just the lightest brush of lip against lip, the tentative caress of nervous, warm breath against his face. Harry hadn't given lips a tremendous amount of thought before. They were expressive, certainly; from the firm, downturned line he was accustomed to seeing on the faces of his teachers in frustration, on his friends during exams, the sour frown of each of the Dursleys when Harry arrived in their house in the summer. There was also the pale, chapped, wide open smile on Ron's face when he played Quidditch, the charming pout Cho Chang had always sported, Malfoy's curled scowl, Ginny's well-bitten lower lip that often slipped under her teeth when she looked at him. He had never considered how soft lips were, how delicate, how the slightest movement and pressure could convey a thousand different words, a thousand different expressions. Fingers would be too rough, too clumsy and monstrous against these lips that brushed and curled against his own. Fingers would spoil these small words, wouldn't sense them at all. They would miss the delicate shift in pressure, slowly increasing, becoming more certain, more demanding, more desperately passionate, tracing less and less quiet words against the canvas of his skin.

Harry leaned closer, pressing tighter into the embrace of these lips, dragging his own, inexperienced and awkward, against them. He took a deep breath and smelled warm things, ginger, pumpkin juice, soap, cedar, and a buttery, smooth smell that reminded Harry of almonds, warm nut bread, and holidays. As he opened his mouth a little more, he could breathe in that smell, and a vaguely familiar warmth filled him, forced him with quiet insistence to think of nothing else but these unknown lips pressed gently into his own, slipping between them, grazing against his teeth.

He felt the hands restraining his wrists shift, and at same time felt a hot tongue slide slowly against his upper lip. Harry started to tremble a little, his heartbeat racing madly in his chest. He had not known, not really known, why people always broke out of kisses panting, why they trembled and moaned and made such a fuss. He had seen it on television when he was at the Dursleys in the summers ("Oh Miranda!" "Oh, Clyde, more, more!"); he had seen it in the street sometimes even, couples pressed up against a wall, a shop window, a lamp post, clutching each other with a kind of desperation that made Harry giggle into his hand as he walked past. What kind of a display was this? What kind of adult charade? No charade at all. He silently apologized to Clyde and Miranda for doubting the power that drove them to pant and exclaim. He was lost in the heat of that tongue on his lip, grateful for the wet trail it left behind on his skin, which could not bear the shock of pure absence.

The hands behind him brought his wrists together and crossed them, pinning both against his lower back with a one-handed grip, two slim fingers sliding over the palm of his left hand. Harry guessed that a deal had been silently offered in the quiet pause before their lips met: keep your hands to yourself, and I'll kiss you. Move your hands, and I'll disappear. For the moment, Harry agreed wholeheartedly with any arrangement that would keep these lips pressed close to his own, keep that tongue, slipping from one lip to the other, sliding along the slopes and curves of his shocked, hapless and willing mouth.

Harry wondered if this stranger could feel him trembling; he wondered if that was alright. He wondered if it was alright that he barely responded; he didn't know what to do. The most he could offer was himself in this moment, succumbing to this tenderness, to open his lips and melt into the warm breath on his face. He hoped it was enough. He wrapped his fingers around the two cool ones resting firmly against his palm, and squeezed a little. With the smell of pumpkin juice and soap and cedar rising through his brain, feeling the slick interior of this foreign lower lip against his own, it was the most he could offer, the most he could think of to give.

He felt a sigh pass between those lips, drawing a complex and unreadable pattern against his own, evaporating into the stillness of the darkness that surrounded them. Gryffindor red glowed hotly in the sky, still revealing no clues about the mystery standing in front of him. This small sign, this gentle exhalation against his damp skin, felt so profound, so expressive, Harry longed to reach around and gather this passionate and gentle and completely baffling figure in his arms, run his hands along that cloak-covered back, to press his hands into skin and leave an imprint that would describe him, a vague, shadow in the darkness wishing the sun would rise and expose them both. He was tempted to draw his wand, whisper "lumos", pull back that hood and see who stood before him, whose breath was hot against his face, whose lips were tracing the outline of themselves softly against his own.

Who could it be? Lavender? Parvati? Not Hermione, certainly. Su Li? Morag? Lisa Turpin? Sally-Ann or Padma? Anna? No. There was something more here, there was a desperation and sadness, a kind of knowledge that didn't seem to fit any of them. Could it possibly be, Harry wondered. Could it be a boy? He couldn't tell, and at this moment, he didn't really care. He wanted to speak, but knew he shouldn't; speech would separate his mouth from these lips, and he couldn't bear the thought. Speech might shatter the still moment and send this odd character running away into the night. He pressed the idea into the back of his mind and concentrated on the luxurious feel of this damp, soft mouth against his, the smell of utterly foreign and familiar skin, so close but increasingly feeling too distant. Harry was overwhelmed by this tender intimacy and yet found himself craving it, and the space between them felt too great for his sanity.

The edge of the cloak rubbed against Harry's face as a cool hand pressed on his neck, fingers stroking his cheek. Harry moaned a little at the contact, hoping the sound was not enough to frighten his admirer away. He leaned into the palm of that hand, shifting his cheek against it, a delicious friction that made his lower stomach spin. He was glad for a moment that his body was draped in his cloak, that there was a gulf of space between them; his reaction to these small touches was becoming increasingly obvious to him. As the hand on his cheek slipped down and stroked his neck, his throat, his collarbone, and slid coolly and firmly into his pajama top to stoke his shoulder and chest, he realized that that space and that cloak were no gift to him at all.

He stood almost entirely still, cold, damp grass under his feet, the prickly tendrils of the sedge next to him brushing wetly against his shin in the night breeze, transfixed, mouth open, being kissed with such nimble intense lips, with an agile tongue dipping gently and questioningly into his mouth; Harry felt a sudden rush of desire for motion, for movement, for an end to his passivity. That curious tongue sought out Harry's lower lip again and Harry, scared and trembling with something quite unlike fear, reached out his own tongue for a taste of this entirely fascinating stranger. He discovered first the soft upper lip, warm and moist now from its travels against him and within him, tasting of himself, of buttery nut bread, holidays, of marzipan and comfort and gingersnaps. He felt rather than heard an almost imperceptible groan, and while the fingers delicately restraining his hand began stroking his palm, the other hand curled, cradling his cheek and directing his jaw, Harry's tongue met the other.

He wondered now how he had ever understood beauty, or joy, or hatred, or love, or desire, or any intense feeling, any great, overwhelming surge of emotion before he had felt the small movements of this tongue against his own. How could he have lived without knowing what this could be like, without imagining distilling himself into this particular moment, in this span of time that existed only as a shared place between himself and this stranger, a space that could only exist between these two open mouths, these two parted lips. He felt dizzy, he clutched the fingers behind him, the hand on his cheek shifting into his hair, sliding down to the nape of his neck, holding him as if terrified to let him go.

Harry slid his tongue over these lips, teeth, soft palate; returning to stroke that hungry tongue again, to do its bidding, follow its lead. He pelted those lips with small kisses, drawing that quivering bottom lip between his own. He heard a sharp gasp, and felt the grip around his wrists falter, and the lips disappeared from his. He was breathing hard now, chest heaving, feeling equally desperate breaths against his face as the hand clutching around the back of his neck tightened, and a forehead pressed hotly against his own. Harry leaned forward, kissing a cool cheek, jaw, his tongue sliding over a warm neck. It tasted like night, like wind, cool and smooth and dry. The figured stepped back, a hand pulling his chin up. As quickly as they had disappeared, those lips, damp and cooled against the night air, reappeared, and two hands now cupped his face as lips danced lightly across his own.

Harry didn't realize what he was doing until after he had done it. His hands, free now, hung loosely at his sides for a moment, and then rose unbidden, responding to the gentle teasing against his lips. He wanted more, he wanted that tongue deep inside his mouth again, he wanted to feel flesh hot under his hands. His arms draped thoughtlessly across the wool-coated shoulders in front of him, finding a perfect perch. His hands touched the back of the hood, which pressed against his face, bending inwards. In an instant, those lips vanished, he felt the figure before him duck out of his awkward embrace and disappear. Harry gasped. What had he done? He stared blindly down at his hands, open in front of him but invisible in the darkness. He peered into the gloom before him, green light playing in the sky, and saw nothing, no hood, no vague form. His hands, traitorous, hung loosely at his sides. He stood still a moment, his head bowed, feeling as if he had been punched in the stomach, feeling as though he might burst into tears. Gone. He closed his eyes, unwilling to move now, unwilling to look up, knowing there would be no evidence, no hints, no welcoming arms around him, no hot and desperate mouth suddenly seeking out his own again.

When Harry rejoined Hermione, she was pointing out stars among the white glow in the sky to Penelope Carter and Emma Bartleby, two first year Gryffindors. Ron, Neville, and Ginny were standing next to her, laughing at a group of Hufflepuffs who were attempting to play tag in the pitch darkness. No one seemed to have noted Harry's absence at all.

"Light travels at three hundred thousand kilometres per second, and yet, it still takes centuries to reach us." Hermione was saying to the two young girls. "That star there, Altair, it's a long, long ways away, you see? It might have gone supernova yesterday, or a hundred years ago, and we wouldn't know it. It might just be a lump of cold rock for all we know. It's like looking back in time, looking at stars. Messages in bottles, really. Oooh, look at that deep blue. The Gray Lady is really quite an artist, isn't she!" Harry looked up at the sky, rubbing the back of his neck, imaging that it wasn't his own fingers he felt against his skin.


Pansy had gone shopping in Hogsmeade the week before, and the week before that. She had spent hours browsing through shops, looking for just the right gift. Every year she gave Draco something for this birthday, and every year she knew she managed to find something better than the year before. It was always something small, something thoughtful. It was not a matter of 'what do you get the wizard who has everything'. Draco didn't have everything; he just had the most obvious things. His parents made sure that he had fine clothes, an excellent broom, top quality quills and parchments; he had everything a Hogwarts' student could conceivably need and keep within in the confines of a shared dorm room.

He had a signet ring, a delicate silver chain with only a tiny, ornate clasp as decoration that he wore around his neck, he had fine leather shoes that he kept well-polished. At Christmas time the year before she had seen his suite of rooms in his parents' home and had been surprised by their relative sparseness. She had expected that Draco Malfoy would sleep between silk sheets on a monstrously large bed, that he would have a small golden bell at his bedside to request attention. She had pictured large elegant paintings, chaises scattered about with tiger skins on the floor. She imaged that every doorknob would have a thick tassel hanging from it; every window would drip with cream sheers and velvet curtains; every corner decorated with an ivory bust and elegant end table. She expected pearls to roll down the stairs, dipped in gold, gathering prettily along the edges of every threshold. Pansy realized that she had an over-active imagination.

Draco's room, or, rather, rooms, were not anything like what she anticipated. He studied a great deal more than she had imagined; he had a room entirely dedicated to books, with a large desk covered with notebooks in front of the window. She had sat in a deep red leather wingback chair then, watching him pace back and forth, fingers sliding over the bindings until he found what he was looking for. He had a small potions laboratory, his own private store of ingredients that frankly rivaled Snape's. He had a cabinet filled with curiosities: an ancient cup made from a curled tusk; a large, opalesque shell that looked as if the figure of a woman had been etched into it by thousands of years of waves; a medieval reliquary ("It's still got the finger of St. Ambroise in it, would you like to see?"), a large, heavy bottle of water from the dead sea; a palm-sized piece of amber with a prehistoric scorpion inside which Pansy had held in her hand, feeling its odd warmth, its lightness. His sheets were cotton; straight and smooth and crisp.

She had been surprised in second year at how utterly delighted Draco had been when she presented him with a small music box, which, when opened, would play any of a small number of classical pieces; Water Music, Serenade for Strings, Canon in D, Für Elise. It was a small thing, a trinket with a slightly tinny sound, something she had picked up offhand in a shop in Diagon Alley before school started. Until then she hadn't known he like music at all. He had seemed too hateful for music somehow, as if he would never be able to quite hear it. The following year she had given him a creamy-paged and compact diary with a silver clasp and an old-fashioned key. It was these small things that pleased him best, the sorts of things that everyone had, the quiet pleasures of ordinary people.

They were all still a little sleepy after the strange awakening in the middle of the night. In the cold light of mid-afternoon the entire thing seemed mysterious and strange, the colours and electric shapes in the sky felt like a kind of vague dream peopled by the faceless and nameless. Pansy had never been one for crawling around in the dark; she was a morning person. She did her best work, her best thinking, and was in the best mood within the hours of eight and eleven in the morning. Now, as it approached three o'clock in the after noon, with dinner still at least three hours away and her eyelids feeling heavy, she finally managed to find Draco. He had slept late, and then had cloistered himself away with his letters and packages from his parents. He was sitting now in his chair by the fire, his eyes half-closed, wearing a pair of (new) linen slacks and a dark purple silk shirt. His mother's gifts, no doubt. She adored seeing her son in the best, nicest fabrics. The sliver chain tightened against his throat as he tensed, and then relaxed.

"Happy Birthday, Draco!" She said, laying a small box on the table beside him and sitting down in the chair opposite. He smiled.

"Thank you, Pansy." He lifted the box and shook it gently, waggling his eyebrows. She giggled at him.

"Oh! Just open it, silly!" she curled her legs up onto the chair. "I wondered if I would see you today at all. I'm exhausted after that odd outing last night. What do you make of that?" Pansy had been mildly impressed with the aurora borealis, but she rapidly got bored and tired and cold, and they stayed outdoors for an entire forty-five minutes before they trooped back up to bed. And even then she had had trouble falling asleep, still feeling damp and cold and shivery with exhaustion.

Draco merely grunted, and pulled at the ribbon on the box. He laid it delicately on his lap and removed the lid, pulling out the silvery contraption. He grinned. "I love these!"

"Oh, I thought you might. I have no idea what you see in those things." It was a puzzle, a trick. There were two silver pieces, one straight, and one a mess of curls and twists. There was a way to separate the two manually, apparently, though Pansy couldn't imagine what it would be, or why anyone would care to do something like this without magic. Yet she had watched Draco wrestle with delicate puzzles like it before, sitting with his lip in his teeth, thinking, his fingers stroking its surface. Pansy had forgotten about them altogether until she saw him obsessing over the riddles several weeks ago. At least, she thought, Potter won't beat him at this.

Draco put the box on the table and studied the puzzle carefully. Pansy watched his mouth, waiting for the telltale biting of his lip that announced his concentration. She placed her palms flat against the cold green armrests, feeling a warm glow in her belly as she watched. There was something erotic in watching Draco touch something that she had given him. This had always been true. For a moment she imagined that that small, delicate bit of silver that had rested so coolly in her hands not long before was really her, a piece of her, fascinating to Draco and worthy of such scrutiny. As he twisted it around, memorizing it, his fingers sliding over it, she imagined that should could feel him, his gaze heavy as his fingertips against her skin. The hairs on the back of her neck rose. She watched his bottom lip roll back behind his front teeth and emerge again slightly dampened and red. His mouth opened, and then he smiled. Clink. With the sound of metal against metal, Draco pulled the two pieces apart.

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