Summary: Harry is dealing with the aftermath of his accident and has to realize that problems don't just get solved by themselves.
Now the "big secret" is lifted, my titles are taken from two gorgeous poems by Petronius Arbiter, to be read in the appendix of this disclaimer.
An illustration to this story can be found at http://silver.glasscases.net/bt-illu.htm.
Part Five of the Petronius Series
Harry strode down the corridor, noticing how a couple of students stopped with their conversation as he passed, almost twisting their necks to catch a glimpse of him. He closed his eyes for a moment and then decided to ignore them.
The first steps back into normal life weren't easy. Harry had found that out soon after he had been released from the hospital.
Wherever he went he found curious faces directed at him, excited murmur behind his back and opened palms. Part of him didn't even care what they were talking about. It didn't really matter whether they were gossiping about the wild orgy he supposedly had had with the twins, or the deadly quarrel with Malfoy that had culminated in its fateful final battle at the Quidditch match, or the severe injuries he was still suffering from and that had deprived him of all of his magic, or Hermione's secret love, or Ron's envy, or all the other stupid rumors that were floating around Hogwarts about him. He just did - not - care.
Hermione had been there when he had finally left the hospital room and with it his sickbed and his two weeks of anguish and pain. Later, all his friends had joined them. They all had been very caring and he had felt loved. And then... not.
Everybody had been there, except for Ron. It wasn't until he had entered the common room, that he had seen Ron rise from his seat, the scroll falling off his lap unseen. They had stared at each other for a moment and then they both had turned away. Harry had blinked away a tear and swallowed hard, continuing to answer his friends questions and letting them help him, even if he hadn't needed their assistance, just to make them feel good.
They followed him around everywhere. Their constant concern and fuss, it made him want to scream and just fall back into that bottomless pit that had been his friend for such a long time. It made him wonder, if it was possible at all to have a bad accident that does not result in half of your friends' reproaches and self-blame. In a way, he understood them even. He would have to tell them soon that there was no use in finding someone to blame. After all it was plain to see that it had all been his fault entirely.
Harry entered the Great Hall where some students already had gathered for dinner. He frowned gloomily at the prospect of not being able to have a meal tonight. As he crossed the Hall in order to reach the corridors that led down to the dungeons, his glance fell on the Slytherin table.
His frown deepened when he was reminded of the first time he had seen him again, when he had dared to take his first meal in the Great Hall, his first "public appearance". He had stood under the arches that formed the entry of the Great Hall, taking a deep breath and bracing himself for the impact of hundreds of eyes zooming on him, the sudden silence and the tense atmosphere. It had been as if through the mist of curiosity and sensation-seeking there had been one bright beacon, guiding him to his place.
Draco's look had been so much different from what he had gotten from all the other students of Hogwarts. The difference had been that Draco had known everything. Every little detail of the story. Okay, maybe not everything, since he hadn't told him the truth behind his encounter with Fred and George, but at least Draco had known more than any other person in this room. His gaze had formed a lane through the sea of curious eyes and Harry had kept his own eyes intently fixed on it as he walked over to his place and sat down.
When those gray eyes had finally left him, he had felt cold and lonely suddenly and he had hated himself for it. Harry had looked to the side and found the place that usually was occupied by his best friend Ron to be vacant. The pain... the sadness... a constant reminder of what was ahead of him.
The following days hadn't been much different. The school calmed down about him and refrained from pursuing him any further. His friends calmed down as well when they saw that he wouldn't tilt over and collapse as soon as they stopped making a fuss over him. And Ron... Ron continued watching from the distance, never saying a word, never doing anything that Harry had learnt to love about him. In a way, Harry felt painfully reminded of the time, when the he had been chosen a champion for the Triwizard Tournament. He wanted to talk to Ron so badly, wanted to explain everything to him, but couldn't. He didn't know how to start.
After a week had passed, Harry expected Draco to make another approach to him soon. He could tell that they both had some issues to resolve as well and he could hardly imagine Draco keeping his possessive hands off him. But it did not happen. There were occasions that they met in the Hall or in the class, but Draco always acted as if they were nothing but faint acquaintances. Harry told himself that he should be glad to have gotten off the hook so easily and that this wasn't pain that was raging in his chest, but merely relief. Yes, that was surely it.
And he kept waiting for a chance to talk to Ron.
This chance had presented itself sooner than he would have expected. This was the very reason for his missing dinner tonight and walking down to Snape's rooms. They both had incurred the wrath of Snape for different, absolutely ridiculous reasons. Somehow Snape seemed to have been intent on bringing them together as soon as possible, almost as if he found a wicked joy in making them both feel uncomfortable about it. Almost? This was Snape! Of course this was all intentional.
He closed the door behind them with a vicious grin on his face, leaving them alone with each other and 50 pounds of dungbeetles that needed to be peeled, ground and mixed with belladonna.
For a while they worked in silence, not speaking a word with each other. Harry occasionally cast Ron a tentative glance, only to find his friend's eyes intent on his work, nothing in his face betraying that he had noticed Harry's attention. Harry sighed and looked at his hands again, soiled with smelly paste. He clenched them to a fist, getting increasingly annoyed at this situation. When he couldn't bear the tension any longer, he yelled: "All right! I'm fed up with it!"
Ron jerked his head, looking at him, surprised. His features hardened again in an instant and he made an attempt to continue with his work, but Harry slammed his hand on the table, demanding attention.
"You will talk to me now!" he said sternly.
For a moment, emotions fought on Ron's face until defiance won the upper hand. "What do you want me to say?"
"Just... anything! Dammit. I've been in a coma for almost two weeks! I thought you were my friend. But apparently this didn't bother you a bit."
Anger flickered across Ron's features. "You're only thinking of yourself, aren't you? About how I missed to fulfill my duties as a friend, how I didn't care enough for you. You never even considered that I might feel the same, right?"
Harry opened his mouth, but closed it again.
Ron was getting warm to the subject. "Oh no, Mister Celebrity never thinks of that, doesn't he? It's all just you, you, you! I can't believe that you never told me one bloody thing! The whole damn school is gossiping about it, spreading the rumors and I'm the last to learn about every single one of it!" He snorted. "I thought we were a team, Harry. I thought I was important enough to you that you tell me... such things."
Frowning, Harry repeated meekly, "Such things?"
"Well, you know! Things!" Ron waved his hands around vaguely. "Such weird stuff."
"Weird stuff!" Having his problems summarized like this exasperated him. He would have expected more from Ron than this. Friends were supposed to support each other!
Harry froze inwardly when he realized the direction his thoughts were going. He had to think about this. He got up abruptly and turned to go. Suddenly, he didn't want to talk to Ron anymore.
Ron jumped to his feet as well. "Where are you going?"
"I'm done with my stuff. I'm going to clean myself up now." He tried to say this as impassively as possible and reached for the doorknob.
"Well, I'm talking to you now!" Ron snarled.
Harry looked at him sadly. "But you're not saying the right things." He had wanted the confrontation, but seeing Ron working himself up in such absurd accusations was more than he could cope with for the moment.
"What do you want me to say then?"
A sad sigh. "If I have to tell you that, then it's obviously too late already." He left the room without looking back.
Harry went down the dark corridor of the dungeon, lost in his thoughts. What a confusing situation. He was rather annoyed about Ron's lack of support and understanding about his situation than anything else.
He froze, when the door to Snape's office swung open. Damn, he had hoped to be long gone before Snape came to inspect the progress! He slowly turned around and gasped when he looked into Draco's startled face.
For a moment he couldn't tell whether he had gasped in surprise or because Draco was so heartwrenchingly beautiful. He knew the look in those pale gray eyes, knew the way his lips shun and his cheeks glowed. And because he knew that look, his heart turned to ice that very second and he took one step back.
Draco looked thunderstruck for a moment, then he lifted his hand to touch Harry.
Suddenly filled with life and energy, Harry took himself out of reach and retreated further.
"Just forget it, okay?" Harry said aggressively and sped down the corridor, leaving both men he loved behind. When he was around the corner, he leaned against the wall, breathing heavily and pondering for a moment. Had he really thought this right now? Yes, he had...
Hanging his head low, he took the stairs up to the Great Hall, shuffling over to the now completely deserted Gryffindor table. He couldn't tell how long he had sat there when he heard a commotion coming from another corridor. A look told him that it was Fred and George, dragging something along the hall. Obviously they were up to no good again. When they saw him, they immediately dropped whatever they were moving and walked over to where he sat.
"Hey, Harry, what's up?" George said brightly.
Harry just shrugged.
Fred sat down next to him, giving him a probing look. "It's not getting better, is it?" he said.
This time, Harry shook his head, sniffing suddenly.
"Wanna tell us?"
"So?" George helped.
"I thought... for some strange reason I had thought that things would be better when I return. You know?" He looked at the twins. "Don't think that people don't feel when they are in a coma. That's not true. Your mind is racing and you can't even stop it. I thought that anything would be better than the darkness." He sighed. "Now I'm no longer sure."
"No! You can't say that, Harry!" George exclaimed.
Harry smiled faintly. "I can't?" He stared at the gaps between those large cobble stones that formed the floor of the Great Hall. Then he continued. "For some strange reason I had thought that people would sort things out for me and all would be like before once I returned. But it's not. Ron wasn't talking to me at all and now that he does I wish he had never opened his mouth." He laughed dryly. "'Weird stuff'! Indeed... I'm just too weird. Unnatural. And Draco... he doesn't need me at all. Bet he used the time I wasn't available well with Snape!"
It only now dawned on him that he had revealed much more than he had wanted to and quickly looked up to the twins, alarmed.
Fred made a disparaging movement with his hand. "Don't worry, we already figured that out."
George stared blankly. "Ron?"
Harry smiled faintly. "You know," he continued. "I always thought that I'd be happy again, once Draco stopped pursuing me with this determination. But now that he apparently did... I'm not happy. I don't understand why he suddenly turned away from me, what I've done. As if something changed him while I was gone."
He thought for a second that the twins exchanged a guilty glance, but dismissed the idea. Then Fred turned to Harry again. "And do you now know what you want at least?"
A shrug. "No. I'm thinking, if it's Ron I want, then why does my heart hurt so much when I think of Draco and Snape together? And if it's Draco I want, then why does it hurt so much when Ron doesn't understand me?"
"Rejection always hurts."
"Hm... probably." Harry scratched his foot along the cobble stones again.
"You know, Harry," Fred started again. "You should try and figure out what exactly hurts so much. A lover who cheats on you? A friend who doesn't understand you? A lover who doesn't want you? A friend who doesn't need you?"
Harry frowned thoughtfully. Then he nodded. "Yes. But I can't do that now. I... need some time. Guess I will try and talk to both of them and then I'll know."
"That's probably the best way to do it," Fred agreed, patting his shoulder.
Harry got up and smoothened his robes. He looked down at the twins. "Thanks, guys. I really wouldn't know what to do without you."
George's smile looked a bit forced. "Heh... you'd probably have a few problems less, I guess!"
"Rubbish!" Harry smiled. He bowed down and gave each twin a soft kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad for everything you've done for me." With that he turned and left them behind. He heard George's mumbled "Yeah, let's hope so..." and decided not to ponder too much about the deeper meaning of this utterance. His thoughts, however, were rudely interrupted anyway by George's horrified "Snape?!?" echoing through the Great Hall. Harry grinned and made for Gryffindor Tower.
The dorm was completely deserted, which was a good thing. Harry sighed in relief at the prospect of not having to face any of his roommates right now. He just didn't feel like it. Maybe he should go down to the Quidditch field and practice a bit. After all, after such a long time of inactivity he had a lot to catch up on. Yes, that seemed like a good idea.
He opened the wardrobe to get his Firebolt. Suddenly a hand right next to his ear slammed the wardrobe door shut again. Harry spun round and stared into Ron's angry face.
"Is it true then?"
Harry hesitated for a beat. "I don't know what you're---"
"You know exactly what I mean!" Ron interrupted him angrily.
Harry forced a smile. "Come on, you know Peeves. He's always talking rubbish. He saw us talking in the corridor and then he was spreading this silly rumor."
"You might be able to feed Hermione that crap, but not me! Peeves may be exaggerating, but he never makes anything up. He saw us talking in the halls tons of times and never came up with a story like that. So don't take me for a fool and tell me the truth! Is - It - True?"
Harry could tell by the unusual way his face was clouded and his eyes sparkled that Ron was menacingly serious about it. There was no use in denying anything. Ron most probably knew it all already, considering that he must have had enough time in those past two weeks to ask around. He certainly hadn't been kept up by visits at his bedside, that's for sure. Harry sighed sadly.
"Answer me, dammit!"
He wanted to answer, he just didn't know how to put it. The lost look on Harry's face must have told Ron the terrible truth.
"No..." he gasped. "I... don't believe it!" His astonishment was soon replaced by plain anger. "How could you??" He stomped into the middle of the room, throwing his hands in the air. "With my own brothers! Just how could you? How could they??" He turned around again, staring at Harry with burning eyes, expecting some kind of an answer.
Harry tried to think of anything to reply, but he was completely at a loss. He shrugged.
Ron's indignant expression changed to sheer disgust. "And Malfoy. Have you completely lost your mind?"
Still, Harry said nothing, crestfallen.
"Dammit, Harry, say something already!"
He shook his head, sadly. "I don't know what to say..."
"You could start with why."
"I only did it, because..." Harry hesitated. What was he to say? The truth? Well, could be worth a try for a change. He took a deep breath. "Ron, I love you!"
Thunderstruck, Ron stared at him. "You... love me?" The surprise left his face and he snorted. "You've got a strange way of showing that! Harry, don't take me for a fool."
Harry shook his head again, more fervently this time. "You don't understand, Ron. I love you. I really love you." And with an meaningful glance he added, "Not as a friend..." The very moment the words had left his mouth, he knew that they were wrong. Now that they were spoken, they sounded like the hollow echo of days gone by. He wished he could take them back. But it was too late.
Ron looked stunned. "What do you mean?" he asked meekly. Then it seemed to dawn on him. He stumbled backwards. "Wait... you can't be serious."
Harry winced inwardly. This all went wrong. "Ron, I..." Harry made one step forward, his arms reaching out imploringly as if he was trying to touch him, but Ron shrank back against the wall with a stifled sob.
"Don't touch me! Don't touch me ever again!"
Harry paled. Anything but this. He could handle an upset and hurt Ron and assure him that everything was fine, but not when he talked like this again. "Don't..."
Kicking himself off the wall, Ron crossed the room, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. He got increasingly angry. "That's so very much like you! When you can't be the center of attention any longer, can you? And when there's no possibility to save the day, you just get involved in such stuff in order to receive the attention you obviously can't live without!" He stopped raving, keeping still in the middle of the room. Then a jerk went through his body. "You're destroying everything we had!" he yelled. He swung round and pointed at Harry. "You're trying to pull me into this sordid affair, because you can't face it yourself, but I won't let you. I can't stand this any longer!"
Suddenly, Harry felt very weak. Hundreds of possibilities flashed through his brain of how he could have handled this situation better. It was only now that he realized that Ron was staring at him in horror. He had to say something to save the situation! Just something! But suddenly his mind was blank. "Ron, don't say that, please," he whispered.
With a look of unmistakable disgust, Ron backed away towards the door. "Pathetic..." he mumbled. Then he turned around and left the room, slamming the door shut behind him.
Harry was left standing in the middle of the dorm, staring at the spot where his best friend just had stood. His friend who didn't love him. His friend who couldn't bear his touch. His friend who thought he was pathetic. Like in a trance, Harry turned and sat down on his bed, feeling numb.
He sat there for a while, contemplating the recent events. Admittedly, talking with Ron hadn't went according to plan at all. One down, one to go, Harry thought cynically. Yes, he had to talk to Draco immediately to prevent himself from going crazy. At least there was someone who obviously could bear his touch...
With a newfound determination, Harry waited patiently in front of the entrance to Slytherin Dungeon. When the painting swung open, he quickly slid inside, past the protesting Slytherins, racing down the stairs right into the common room. He scanned the room, spotting Draco at once, sitting near the fire. He walked over to him, right in time to avoid the grabbing hands from the students he had taken by surprise and who had followed the intruder.
Harry stopped next to Draco's chair, staring down at him for a moment, before being noticed.
Obviously, Draco had been lost in his thoughts, not taking any notice of the commotion. He woke from his brooding with a start and stared at Harry, perplexed. "What are you doing here?" he asked roughly.
"I want to have a word with you," Harry said, twisting his elbow out someone's grip.
"Are you mad? You're not supposed to be here at all!" Draco snarled.
"Then come out with me and we'll talk."
Draco snorted. "Beat it." He stared into the fire again.
"You'd better come with me to a quiet place now or I'll raise a fuss like you haven't seen it before. I'm sure you'll appreciate it, if your fellow students don't find out about..."
Shooting upright, Draco snatched Harry's sleeve and pulled him near, hissing: "Do you want to compromise me in front of everybody?"
Harry just smiled. "Then come."
"All right then!" Draco exclaimed and got up, snapping at some goggling Slytherins, as he stormed out of the room, not waiting for Harry to follow.
"What is it, then," Draco asked coolly, when they stopped in one of the many deserted hallways in the west wing.
"I want to know what happened."
Draco lifted one eyebrow. "Happened?"
"What has changed."
"I don't know what you mean." Draco turned his back at Harry, crossing his arms over his chest.
Harry felt himself unpleasantly reminded of the conversation he had had with Ron less than an hour ago. Still he said the same words. "You know exactly what I mean."
There was a silence. A silence that stretched so long until it became almost unbearable for Harry. He felt so nervous suddenly that he didn't dare to move or breathe. When he was just about to repeat his question, Draco's dry laugh rang out and echoed through the hollow hallway. Harry froze.
"Harry, Harry, Harry... what were you thinking?"
It was as if the coldness of Draco's voice made him shiver.
"Did you think it would go on like this forever?" Draco laughed again. "You should have known better, shouldn't you?"
Draco still wasn't looking at him and Harry wasn't too sure if he wanted him to at all. He didn't even dare to imagine what his eyes looked like right now. But it was too late for idle wishes. Draco turned to him, in slow motion, and the look on his face was more terrible than he had ever imagined it to be. It was... empty. Emotionless. Indifferent. Harry gasped.
"Did you really think I'd bother much longer with you?" Draco's voice was deceivingly soft, but what he said was pure steel and hurt just as much. "I would have thought you smarter." He approached Harry, slinking like a tiger.
Harry backed up against the wall, horrified at the coldness.
Propping one hand against the wall, right next to Harry's head, Draco moved his face very close to Harry's, holding him into place with the piercing look of his pale eyes. "To tell the truth, you've become boring, dear friend. I never bother for long with my little toys."
That was the last thing Harry had expected to hear and he felt as if everything inside him was turning upside down and his throat became too tight to talk.
It must have been the look on Harry's face that turned Draco's features into mock compassion. "Oh. You didn't know? I'm sorry, I must have forgotten to tell you. You were nice, really. Extraordinarily nice, to be honest, but now... how can I say? You've just lost your sparkle. All this talk about you and the twins has spoiled you for me. You're soiled somehow. The innocence is gone."
At last, Harry found the strength to talk. "You can't be serious! All those times we... you..."
"You didn't really think we had something special going on, did you?" Draco interrupted him coolly.
Fortunately, Harry's pride kept him from nodding and he managed to accomplish something that looked at least a bit like the shaking of his head, even if it was just a confused attempt to clear his thoughts. He couldn't bear the look in Draco's eyes any longer and so he stared blankly at the wall opposite of him. It would all go away soon for sure, he told himself.
"You got it?" Draco asked roughly. When Harry didn't react, he grabbed him by the chin and forced him to look into those terrible eyes of ice again. "Did you hear me?"
Harry swallowed. "Yes... yes, I hear you."
Draco released him again. "Good."
He straightened himself up and started to retreat, but before Harry could stop it, his hands shot up and he grabbed Draco by the lapel of his robe. He hated himself instantly for his weakness. Yet he whispered, "Don't go."
Freezing in the middle of the movement, Draco closed his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath. When he opened them again there was the struggle of conflicting feelings in them for a moment before he got a grip of his feelings and when he finally laid them on Harry they were blank again.
Harry noticed this tangled play of emotions on Draco's face, but it was gone too quickly for him to sort it out. "I've got nobody else now. Ron won't even talk to me anymore."
Draco laughed sharply. "Go to the twins then." He grabbed Harry's hands and plucked them off his clothes before he released them quickly as if they had scorched him.
"Tell me why!" Harry insisted again.
Sighing softly, Draco said, "Didn't you listen to me? I told you."
"No, I mean why! I don't buy it. I want the truth. You owe me that!"
There was this dangerous sparkle in Draco's eyes again. "I owe you?" His lips twisted to a cold smile. "All right then." With that he pressed Harry against the wall, fixing him with an arm across his collarbone. His face moved very close and when he spoke his voice was merely a hiss, so soft that Harry hardly dared to breathe. "What happened? Did Ron finally give you the boot? Why do you keep coming back? I'm trying my damnedest here to---" He broke up, dropping his eyes for a moment. Then he continued, "I didn't realize you were so desperate for it. Anyone will do, eh?"
Draco's voice had changed by now. It was no longer impassive and cold. Finally, anger seemed to have gotten him. "I don't owe you one fucking thing!" He painfully squeezed Harry's shoulders. "It's not my fault when you keep---" Another pause. "Actually, I think I do owe you something. That's all you seem to be coming for anyway!"
Harry opened his mouth to reject these absurd accusations, but it was covered by Draco's instantly, pushing his tongue deep inside. He kissed Harry roughly, giving him no time to breathe. Harry reached up to touch Draco's face, but his hands were pushed away, making clear that Draco didn't want any activity on Harry's side.
Without further prelude, Draco reached under the folds of Harry's robe and cupped the bulge between Harry's legs.
Harry groaned in surprise, but didn't dare to move his hands for fear of making Draco stop. He sighed into Draco's kissing mouth as the hand started rubbing over his growing erection through his pants. Somehow this wasn't at all what he wanted from Draco. Never before had he felt so much like an object. He wanted passion and feeling, not this rough assault and loveless groping. He carefully tried to lean a bit more into the kiss, but was forcefully thrust back against the wall again by the arm across his chest. Harry groaned in frustration.
Draco pulled back abruptly and let go of him. Harry staggered for a moment, shivering from the sudden loss of Draco's body heat. He lifted his head to meet Draco's eyes and winced inwardly at the look of sheer contempt he found.
"See how miserable you are?" Draco growled, brushing his hair back with a quick movement. "I'm treating you like shit and you let me. I'm breaking your heart and still you want me." He snorted. "You're too pathetic. A wretched little wimp. And that's why I don't want you anymore." He paused for a moment, letting his words impact with full force. Then he said derisively, "I shouldn't have wasted my breath to explain at all."
Then he turned around and left, leaving a stunned Harry behind. He heard Draco's steps echo through the silence. For an instant he thought he had heard a soft thud and a cry when the steps faltered for a moment, but he bitterly attributed this to his imagination.
It took a long while until he left his stupor. His knees gave in and he dropped to the floor, staying there for another ten minutes. He felt nothing, had no thoughts, no feelings inside him and that was good. He didn't want to think about this at all. This just wasn't happening. This was just a bad dream.
He got up and left this cursed place, not wanting to look back. His feet just walked and walked until he stood at the top of Gryffindor Tower, staring out into the open landscape, the lake lying like a black mirror in front of him. Light-footedly, he jumped on the battlement. The wind rushed around him, pulled at his robes, almost begging him to let go. He marveled at the feeling for a moment. He still felt nothing. Would he still feel that way when he fell? He got on the tip of his toes, tentatively, testing what he'd feel. He leaned into the wind a bit, closing his eyes...
"Harry!" At the sound of Hermione's voice, he leaned back again, turning around with a surprised look on his face.
"Harry, please come down, okay?" She sounded worried. Why? All was fine. There was no problem at all. Still he hopped off the battlement, looking at her impassively, waiting for her next move.
She approached him slowly. "Harry, I know what you're going through right now. But things will work itself out, I'm sure."
Harry frowned. No, no, no, no! She wasn't supposed to talk about this now. He had been fine before! How could she bring this all up again? He shook his head slightly, stifling a sob.
"Come here, Harry," she said soothingly, opening her arms.
Without hesitation, he slid into her embrace, pulling her close and feeling the comfort of her touch.
Suddenly it all came breaking down on him. Tears came to his eyes and he couldn't stop crying. It was as if all the pain, all the anguish of the last weeks came washing out of him now and he couldn't stop it. All the while, Hermione held him, rocking him gently and murmuring calming words.
When it was over, he remained in her embrace, feeling sheltered. Then he sniffled and lifted his head, looking into her compassionate eyes. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I met Ron a short while ago. Or rather, he stormed past me, not saying a word! Then, next thing, Lee talking about some kind of riot in the Slytherin common room. I already guessed that that probably was you. When I was just about to come looking for you, I saw you walking up the stairs to the top level of the tower. So I followed."
Harry nodded faintly. "I see." He frowned. "But how did you know what was going on?"
Hermione clicked her tongue. "Harry, I'm not stupid!"
Smiling faintly, he replied. "No, you're not."
"Besides, I talked to Fred and George," she added.
Harry paled. "What did they tell you?"
"Oh, don't worry!" Hermione smiled. "They didn't spill the beans on you. But they talk more between the lines than they actually think, I guess."
Harry smiled, but chose not to say anything about it. Then his expression turned wistful again, thinking of all his troubles.
"You should talk to him, you know?" Hermione said carefully.
It was no use to feint ignorance, so he just said, "Like he would listen to me."
"He will, I'm sure. You're friends."
With a sigh, Harry replied, "But he made it quite obvious what he thinks of me."
"Talk to him. I know he's at Hagrid's." Hermione nodded encouragingly.
Harry took a deep breath and then nodded, too. "Okay then."
Harry stood in front of Hagrid's door, hesitating. He nervously wiped his damp palms at his robe and forced himself to breathe normally before he finally reached up and knocked. It didn't take long after the knock for Hagrid to open. He smiled at him broadly, but it was somehow obvious that he was concerned, too.
"Ah, Harry! There you are, boy. Already bin wonderin' when you'd be comin'. C'min." He pushed the door open to reveal a pale Ron sitting at the table. He looked just as miserable as Harry felt.
"I'll leave you two kids alone," Hagrid announced and left the cabin.
Harry and Ron stared at each other for a while, not saying a word. When Harry realized that Ron would never start talking to him, he broke the silence. "Listen, I'm sorry..." he said cautiously, but Ron interrupted him immediately.
"No!" At Harry's surprised look, he added. "Don't be. No need to... I was a real jerk." He blushed and stared at his mug of tea, steaming in front of him.
Harry didn't quite know what to make from it, so he started again, "No, really. I understand why you should feel that way. You were absolutely right." He laughed without humor. "I know I am pathetic... degenerate..."
"What do you mean?" Ron blinked, confused.
"Well..." Harry shrugged. "You said it, didn't you. That you couldn't bear my sight anymore, my touch..."
Ron winced slightly.
"And that I am pathetic. And you're so right about everything. I hate myself, too, so why should others feel anything else but disdain for me..." He looked out of the window, swallowing hard. Repeating this hurt more than he would have thought.
"Stop saying such things! You... you stupid prick!"
Harry jerked his head. "What??"
Ron got up and went over to him, his face full of rage. "How can you believe I think such crap about you?" He stopped in front of him, arms akimbo and glaring.
This all took Harry completely by surprise and he muttered, "But... you said so."
"Idiot! How can you think that?" Ron shook his head. "True, I said that I didn't want you to touch me, but I was hurt then and this had nothing to do with you and what you did, okay? I just needed my personal space."
Dazed, Harry nodded. Then he shook his head again, quite speechless.
Ron was all serious now. "You hurt me, Harry. Hurt me very much. Can you imagine how it feels when everybody knows something about your best friend before you do? How very painful it is when this... this creep Malfoy comes over to you, in front of everybody, and tells you that he's been screwing your best friend's brain out for months and you'd been thinking he wasn't even going out with anyone yet? That hurts."
Harry blushed and looked away.
"But I admit," Ron continued. "I was being a twat. I was too shocked and hurt to think clearly and that's why I treated you so rottenly. I really shouldn't have done that. But all the while you were in that coma, it was gnawing at me, it was brooding inside of me. I saw Malfoy and I wanted to punch him! I saw my brothers and they wouldn't tell me anything and I got so angry! I knew that only you could tell me and then, when you finally could, you wanted me to explain! And that's why I snapped."
"God, I'm sorry, Ron. I know I deserve..."
Ron interrupted him with a wave of his hand. "When I said you were pathetic, that wasn't because you're gay, okay? Well, maybe it was in that moment, but I just lost my head. This was all so new. I just felt run over. It was just... too much. Way too much. I mean, you must give me time to sort things out. I have to change my whole way of thinking. About so many things."
Suddenly the pieces moved into place and the tons of lead weighing down on his heart disappeared in an instance. Ron didn't hate him! He didn't think he was disgusting. Harry dared a small smile. "Then... you can forgive me?"
Now Ron smiled, too. "Of course, silly!" He looked contrite for a moment. "And I'm really sorry about the pathetic bit..."
They looked at each other for a moment, then both moved towards each other and embraced, hugging each other tight with all the despair of the last weeks.
"I missed you, Harry!" Ron sobbed. "I was so worried..."
"It's okay, it's okay..." Harry mumbled, feeling the familiar wetness in his eyes again.
When they let go of each other again, they sat down at the table and Harry took the mug that already was waiting for him. He glanced suspiciously at Hagrid's homemade cupcakes since he was feeling a bit hungry, but then decided that it wasn't worth the risk.
They drank their tea quietly. After a while, Harry said, "Listen, I'm also sorry for... sorta making a pass at you. That won't happen again. I know you fancy Hermione, so..."
"What are you talking about?!? I'm not in love with Hermione!" Ron exclaimed, indignant, but then he quickly added: "I mean... I don't know. I never really thought about it. And you know I love you. But... as a friend." He stressed this last word with insistence, his eyes intent on his friend. "You see? I'm not... you know, gay."
At these words Harry suddenly felt as if a knot inside of him was coming loose. Not that he hadn't known already, but now he had the definite proof, he realized that he wasn't crushed at all. He smiled. "It's okay."
Harry said nothing for a while, reflecting his situation. Suddenly, he saw something. Something that surprised him a lot. He wanted Ron, yes. But he wanted him for his friendship. He wanted him, because he was the best friend he had ever had, because he was the brother he had never had, because he knew him inside out and couldn't imagine his future without him. He loved him with all he had, but it was different. Different than the love he had... for Draco.
His fingers tightened around the mug. Yes... this was the sad and terrible truth. He loved Draco. Draco who had dumped him like an empty shell, but still, he did. He now understood why their encounters always had left this stale taste of defeat on his lips. Because he wanted Draco to love him, too, wanted his tenderness and care. Well... that was over now. Harry sighed sadly.
"Harry?" Ron asked timidly, interrupting his thoughts.
Harry lifted his head and smiled faintly. "It's okay, Ron. It really is. I just realized something."
"And what is that?"
"That I love you. Like a brother, because you are my brother in every aspect, the most important thing in my life. But I've always seen too much in you."
Ron grimaced. "Geez, thanks a bunch."
With a grin, Harry replied, "No, not what you think. I thought I wanted more than just your friendship from you. But that wasn't the case." He shrugged. "Guess I was just lonely... craving for love."
Ron nodded serenely. "I see. And that made you hook up with that cr..." He caught Harry's look and blushed. "Eh, with Malfoy? Draco. Ah, whatever!"
Harry smiled. "That's okay. You don't have to love him just... just because I do."
"Huh?" Ron blinked. Stared. Blinked again. The tea got colder. His brows shot upwards. "OH!" Pause. "You mean, as in love-love?"
Harry's smile widened. "Yeah..."
Another pause. "Why?"
The smile disappeared. "I wish I knew."
"Are you working on telegram-mode today?"
With a sigh, Harry nodded. "Alright. Then I will tell you the sad and miserable love story of Harry P." And he told him everything, without embellishment or omissions. He wasn't even quite finished yet, when Ron jumped up from his chair and shouted, "I'll beat the crap out of him!"
Harry put a placating hand on Ron's sleeve and said, "Sit down, Ron. I think Fred and George already did their part of physical violence. No need for more. I have to face the facts. It's over. I should stop pretending." He sighed again. If he had only made up his mind earlier...
"But you can't just give up like that!" Ron objected indignantly.
"Why this? I thought you'd welcome my staying away from him."
"Well, yes. No! I mean... I want you to be happy, Harry. That's all that matters. Even if I have to get used to such a creep as my "brother-in-law"."
Harry smiled, honestly and heartfelt for the first time in weeks, and said, "Thank you. This means a lot to me. But still... I must get used to this. It's over."
Ron looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "Okay."
Hagrid returned shortly after their conversation had ended, sticking his head very cautiously through the crack of the door, almost as if he feared that crockery might be flying around. They reassured him that everything was fine again and made their way back to the Hogwarts main building across the sloping lawn. The walked quietly next to each other for a while. Then Ron broke the silence. "How is it?"
Ron blushed. "You know... kissing a guy."
Harry stopped and smiled. "Well, it's basically the same as kissing a girl."
"I see... So, what's the big deal, then?"
"No big deal. It's not like you have the choice, you know."
"Of course not."
They continued on their way to the main building. They were almost there when Harry added casually, "The only difference is that people talk about it when you do it." Ron answered with a pensive nod.
When they entered the Great Hall, Ron held Harry back by the sleeve.
"What is it?" Harry turned around.
"Just..." A wry grin appeared on Ron's face. "Let's give them some more to talk about!" He pulled Harry into a tight hug.
Harry was a bit surprised first, but then he realized that Ron was just trying to make him feel better, so he closed his arms around his best friend's waist and hugged him back. It felt good and reassuring. He buried his nose into the folds on Ron's shoulder and closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling that at least this aspect of his life was all right again.
When he opened his eyes again, he registered a couple of confused faces staring into their direction, but for the first time he didn't care. Then his eyes fell on Draco who stared at them with a stony face before he disappeared into one of the corridors. Harry's heart sunk again, but he instantly remembered the situation and even though it hurt he felt as if now his defeat was less painful. Ron probably knew that, too.
Harry groaned and took off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose to relieve the strain on his eyes. He'd been trying to concentrate for hours on his book, but he just couldn't focus. His thoughts kept wandering around and somehow they always returned to a special someone he didn't want to think about at all.
In those weeks that had followed his reconciliation with Ron, Harry had learnt how to get along with the absence of passion in his life, learnt how to ignore the constant craving and how to reason away every urge to seek Draco's closeness. In moments like this, however, when there was no one near to keep his mind busy, it still happened that he caught himself in the act of wistfully remembering the times he had been close to Draco.
He wasn't happy and he knew that he probably looked like that to everyone around him, too, but that was a fact he could not change. To him, this seemed to have been the only way to shut out the pain and hunger: by shutting out all of it. And by doing this, something inside him had died. Slowly, lingering, unnoticed first, like some disease. Could people see it on his face? He hoped not, for he would not have the strength to explain it to them.
His friends had the sensitiveness not to address his extraordinary paleness and listlessness. As a matter of fact, they seemed to try to avoid the touchy subjects at all costs. Once, Fred had mentioned Draco in one of his stories and was immediately whacked by George. When Harry had asked them what this was about, they had just grinned and offered some lame explanation before changing the subject.
Hermione was different. She didn't panic at the thought of talking with him about the sensitive subjects and offered rational advice, or at least a calm and patient ear. He used this occasion sometimes, when he felt like talking about his problems. It helped him to ease the pain when he could talk about Draco with someone objective. Unlike Ron who, whenever he mentioned Draco in his presence, went off like a firecracker, promising swift and brutal revenge to "that bloody wanker who made Harry miserable". That always made him smile.
This was one of the few bright spots in his life: Ron's friendship. Now that it had overcome the hardship of those last weeks, it had grown stronger than ever before. He took all his strength from it. It was almost the only thing that kept him going.
Of course, Ron was concerned. He showed it in the way he looked at him when he noticed how Harry hardly ever finished a meal, how he looked worn out and tired in the morning after a night of tossing and turning and how he had lost more weight than it was good for him. But he granted Harry the forbearance of not addressing the issue, for which he was very grateful, yet insisted on Harry eating on a regular basis and taking a second helping of the dessert, even if he didn't feel like it at all.
As the weeks proceeded, Ron even started to revise his opinion about "the creep". He obviously saw how much Harry suffered and this seemed to bug him. After one of Harry's cynical and philosophical moods where he referred to himself as a flower slowly dying without the light, Ron had carefully suggested, if Harry wouldn't at least want to sort things out with Draco. Of course, Harry wouldn't want to hear about it.
After that, he sometimes caught Ron having a lively conversation with the twins while casting him measuring looks, but he never had the energy to investigate that. He just didn't care.
And then there were those situations he dreaded the most. The classes he shared with the Slytherins. Of course, Draco was always present and just to see him gave him a sharp pang in the heart. He just couldn't help it. Not matter how much he told himself that Draco was a swine and that he didn't care the least about him, Harry still wanted him.
Draco would never look at him, though. It was as if he had vanished from the face of the earth for him. Sometimes it would happen that Draco actually looked in Harry's direction, but his eyes always went through him as if he wasn't even there. When the pain got too big then, Ron always seemed to notice it and then gave his arm a reassuring squeeze or touched his shoulder in a familiar way. Then he found the strength to endure the rest of the class and work some more on the impossible task to forget Draco Malfoy.
And as always, he had failed once more. With a sigh, Harry closed the book, giving up on the idea of reading at last. He had been sitting in the library for hours, staring out of the window, lost in his thoughts. It was useless.
Suddenly, Ron and Hermione sat down next to him. They just sat there, watching him for a minute or so, before he actually signaled that he had noticed them, without turning around though.
"Did you notice, Hermione," Ron started, not taking his eyes off Harry's back, "that Malfoy looks terribly sick lately?"
Harry tensed, but continued to inspect the large tree in front of the window.
"Oh yes! I wonder what's wrong with him."
"Probably swallowed too much of his silver spoon in the morning!" Ron chuckled.
"No, seriously, I think something's wrong with him. Now, Parvati told me that she heard that he resigned from the Quidditch team! Can you believe that?"
Yes, the leaves certainly were... green.
"Yes! And he stopped taking private lessons with Snape, too."
And this trunk. So... trunkish.
"Now, that's strange!"
"Indeed! And then Angelina said that she heard Pansy say that she heard Draco say..."
"Hermione," Harry interrupted her tiredly. "Aren't we supposed to keep quiet in the library?"
"Oh, this one time won't do any harm, I'm sure."
Now Harry finally turned to his friends. "What exactly are you aiming for with this?"
Ron looked at him with scrutinizing eyes. "Harry, we know you're not happy. Can't you just talk..."
"Look, Ron!" Harry lifted one hand to cut off his friend's sentence. "I told you that I'm finished and done with this, okay? I will never talk to him again. It's over."
Hermione and Ron exchanged a glance. "But he does look tired, you know?" Hermione tried. "Sad. Retreated. Careless about himself. In a way he reminds me of somebody I know." She gave him a meaningful look. "Of you."
Shaking his head, Harry turned away from them again. "I don't want to hear about that. There must be some other explanation. Draco Malfoy knows no remorse." He considered the issue settled.
When his friend's got up, he heard Ron mutter "Plan B", but this soon slipped his mind again as he indulged himself in forbidden memories. Nobody would know when he thought a bit about the sparkle of silver eyes and the silkiness of milk-white skin.
If their friends were right? He really wondered... true, he wouldn't have noticed, since he had done his best not to look at Draco too much. It had just been too painful. Next time, yes, next time he would check carefully.
This next time never happened. The next time they shared a class with the Slytherins, Draco wasn't there. He couldn't help it, as much as he tried not to, he felt worried. At dinner then, he carefully glanced over at the Slytherin table, only to find Draco's usual place not occupied. Now the worries were gnawing at him more persistently. Especially after he noticed that the twins were gone as well. He cast Ron a questioning glance, but he didn't seem to have noticed anything at all, wolfing down his second helping of Trifle. Harry was still moving the peas around of his main dish. Now he felt even less inclined to eat.
Muttering a lame excuse, he got up and hurried to the dorm. There he went over to his trunk and got the Marauder's Map. His hands were shaking so much that he could hardly read the tiny labels once he had made them appear. He squinted to find either Draco's dot or the twins'.
His eyes widened in surprise when he finally found them. And both on the same spot! At least a dozen explanations flashed through his head immediately, none of which were very pleasant. He vigorously moved them aside. There must be some completely rational explanation for this.
The Map told him that they moved along the corridor in the third floor. While he was watching, he saw how they settled down in one of the many disused rooms there. He couldn't take the anxiety and uncertainty anymore! For a moment he considered taking the Invisibility Cloak, but his body had already left the dorm and was heading down the stairs, so he dismissed the idea again.
When he finally reached the third floor, he was completely out of his breath. He leaned against a pillar and tried to calm down a bit while he took out the Map again. Much to his own surprise, two new dots had appeared right in the vicinity of Draco's, the twins' and his. It was Ron's and Hermione's. There was something very fishy going on here and he would investigate this as soon as he had checked what was going on between Draco and the twins.
Without giving it a second thought, he ran over to the room in which he assumed them to be and burst through the door. It was very dim inside and his eyes needed a moment to adjust. Then he saw Draco standing in the middle of the room, ruffled and nonplussed, staring at him. That very moment, a door at the other side of the room fell into its lock and he heard the excited chuckle of the twins as the key turned in the rusty lock. He span around to see the door he came through slam shut and magically sealing itself. He had heard about that spell and he knew that only Hermione knew how to do it!
Harry turned to Draco again and yelled, "What's going on here?"
First, Draco only stared, as if he still wasn't sure what was going on, then he yelled back, "How the hell should I know? What are you doing here?"
"I--- I came to save you!"
Draco looked baffled. "Save me?" He snorted. "Don't be silly! Although! I was abducted by those red-haired morons! Again!"
Harry decided not to question this any further. He had to get out of here! Suddenly he felt very stupid and he just couldn't bear the thought of staying alone in one room with Draco for longer than five minutes. He started pacing around the room, glancing past the stacks of chairs and tables. "There must be some way out of here!" he ground out desperately, scanning every corner. Anything was better than looking at Draco.
Somehow he knew that Draco was watching him, quietly, thoughtfully. And indeed, a few moments later he said, "Harry, what are you doing?"
Harry stopped dead, not turning to face Draco. "I have to get out."
"Why? Can't you just relax and wait until those pranksters let us out again?"
"No! I can't stay like this for another minute..." He was getting uneasier by the minute. He raced over to the sealed door and started banging his fists against it furiously. "Let us out! Ron! Hermione! That's not funny!" Yet he knew that it was in vain. He kicked the door one last time, then leaned his head against the wood and sobbed quietly. "Please..."
He hadn't heard Draco approach and when he touched his shoulder, Harry jumped with a yelp, finally looking into Draco's face, which was gray and serious. "Harry," he just said.
"What's wrong with you? Can't you bear being in one room alone with me for more than a few minutes? I know you despise me now, but I can't change the fact that we're here..."
"No!" Harry interrupted him. "You won't blame this on me! No, you won't!"
Draco stopped, looking at him, surprised.
Harry swallowed. Much to his own dismay, he felt at the brink of tears. "You don't understand! I don't hate you. God, I wish I could! Then I could go on at last. But I can't!" He stared at Draco, eyes brimmed with tears, but he kept them back heroically. "You broke my heart! And now I'm staring at the pieces every goddamn day, trying to think of a way to put them together again! Just to see you hurts so much that I just want to die! I can't sleep and I can't eat and I can't think, because you're always on my mind and I hate myself for this and I hate myself even more now because I'm telling you!"
Harry tore his eyes off Draco's disturbed face and turned around. He couldn't believe that he had told Draco everything. He couldn't believe that his pride meant so little to him. He obviously had made a complete fool out of himself, because Draco said nothing for a long while. Harry could almost see Draco's sneer and the derision on his face for such a pathetic wimp like him. He couldn't stand the thought... he just wanted to disappear... wanted to...
Suddenly Draco's arms closed around him from behind, pulling him against his chest.
Harry didn't have the strength to resist. So he submitted, but with all of his body tense and alert. The weakness that crept through his bones was too familiar, the warmth too enticing.
"Harry..." Draco breathed close to his ear. His arms tightened around him. "You just had to do it, didn't you? You just had to become all sad and miserable. You just won't be happy. God... how thin you've become..."
It was as if something inside of Harry had just snapped. Something that had kept him upright for the last weeks. The strength left his legs and he started slipping to the floor. Draco, trying to support him, went down with him, until they both were kneeling on the floor, Draco clasping Harry's body tightly against his chest.
Harry dropped his chin to his chest and started sobbing, quietly, almost inaudible. He just wanted Draco to disappear right now. He couldn't stand his touch. It was scorching his skin. He felt Draco shudder behind him, his hands tightening around his shoulders until they were clutching them almost painfully. How he hated this situation.
Draco's hoarse whisper reached his ear. "I just wanted you to be happy. That's all I wanted. But you just won't be. Why, Harry? Why, why, why?" His voice broke.
Slowly, the words penetrated Harry's veil of despair and their meaning dawned on him. 'Me, happy? That's ridiculous!' he thought, thankfully retreating to anger. Trying to make his voice sound as icy as possible, he said, "Let go of me. Now."
Without resistance, Draco let his hands drop when Harry freed himself and got up.
Harry turned to Draco, folding his arms over his chest and studying him coldly. He wouldn't allow Draco to fool him again. He wouldn't let himself become soft at the sight of Draco, kneeling in the middle of the room, looking so lost, his blonde hair falling into his face. His heart contracted painfully. God, Draco was so beautiful...
Harry shook his head vigorously. No, this time he'd be strong. He gave Draco a stern look. "I don't know what kind of trick you're trying to pull here, but it's not working. I won't let you take advantage of me again. You said I was boring, fine. I've learnt to accept that. But the moment I've shown weakness you immediately tried to get a hold of me again. But I won't let you do that."
It was as if this pulled Draco out of this strange mood that Harry couldn't really handle. He gratefully registered how Draco's expression changed to his cool superiority again as he got up and brushed off his robes. "Of course." When he lifted his hand to brush the hair out of his face, his sleeve slipped down and revealed the milk-white skin of his arm. Harry swallowed hard.
Draco turned around and walked over to one of those broad tables and sat down on them gracefully, clasping his arms around his knees and concentrating on ignoring Harry.
Since he had placed himself with his back turned to Harry, he gave him the opportunity to let his glance wander over Draco, sizing him up and trying to convince himself that Draco's sight was absolutely despicable and that the elegant curve of his back wasn't at all adorable and that the small piece of skin that was visible at the nape of his neck wouldn't be soft to touch and kiss...
Realizing the direction his thoughts were taking again, Harry desperately tried to retrieve the anger he had felt before. Somehow, Draco's refusal to join the fight had taken the wind out of his sails. But he wanted to fight! He wanted an excuse to yell at Draco.
He slowly approached Draco from behind. "Must be quite a strain for you actually to be locked up here with me, eh? After all, you might have to talk to me. Must be such a bother."
Draco cocked his head. "Get lost."
"No, really. I imagine it was easy as long as I was in that fragile state and you had the upper hand. Then you could handle me. But now that I'm actually strong and free of hurt, you're afraid. Isn't it so?"
"Because truth is, I just got over you!" That was a blatant lie, but to say this gave him a tremendous feeling of exhilaration. "You're just as pathetic and miserable as anybody else."
"I'm serious. Leave. Me. Alone!" Draco's voice sounded a lot more strained now.
It worked! Harry jubilated secretly. Soon he'd get his cleansing, relieving fight. He started making a mental list of all the things he was going to yell.
"I was so blind. I let passion and lust block my common sense. Otherwise I would have noticed that this was all we had. Just like you said. Nothing special at all." Draco tensed and Harry rejoiced. It all made so much sense! As he spoke he realized that this was the way to challenge his unfortunate passion.
"Ah, I wish I had had the strength before to challenge you like this," Harry continued. "That would have saved me weeks of pain and sleepless nights." He walked up behind Draco. Suddenly he felt dizzy with the feeling of power surging through him. He'd prove to Draco and himself once and for all that the spell was broken. And there was only one way to do it.
He lifted his hand and put it one Draco's shoulder. He only remotely registered that is was shaking, he was way too occupied with his plan. "Come on," he whispered into Draco's ear. "It was only sex. You know it, too. So, why not have some fun while we wait. For old times' sake."
He moved his hand over Draco's chest from behind, caressing it. Then he pushed the folds at Draco's neckline aside and touched the hot skin of his chest. It shot through him like an electric shock. Harry closed his eyes for a moment. He desperately hoped this worked and he'd have the strength to stop in time. He blew hot air into Draco's ear and felt him shudder. Then he stuck out his tongue and gently touched the ear lobe.
"Stop that..." Draco's voice was hardly more than a croak. He gave a strangled little moan and Harry felt the urge to answer with a sigh himself. This was getting out of hand...
Harry's hand moved down.
"Get your fucking hands off me!" Draco erupted so unexpectedly, that Harry couldn't help but flinch. The same moment, Draco spun round and grabbed Harry's wrists tightly, tugging so hard that Harry lost his balance and toppled over. He went down on one knee, staring up into Draco's face, startled.
Draco's expression amazed him. He had expected anger now, hurt pride. But instead there was an astounding display of emotions. It was a strange mixture of pain and torment. Harry blinked in confusion.
"I've told you repeatedly to leave me alone!" Draco ground out through gritted teeth. "I've tried my best to keep away from you." His body was quivering as if he was holding himself back, but still his voice sounded rather calm. Desperately calm, actually. "Why do you torture me like that, Harry?"
That called for Harry's rebellious self again and he answered defiantly, "I'm doing nothing that you didn't do before!"
"Hogwash!" Draco released Harry's wrist with a sudden push that sent him flying on his behind. "I'm not prancing along the corridor, wiggling my cute little ass and I don't fill every room with my presence the moment I enter it."
Harry blinked. "I... I wiggle my ass?!"
But Draco didn't take any notice of his scandalized interjection. "Don't you think I've tried so hard to keep away from you? To keep you away from me. I've given you a hard push in the right direction, but you just won't go..."
Very slowly, the meaning of Draco's words dripped through the shields Harry had put up around himself. He wasn't too sure if he was right, but now there was a small glimmer of hope, a source of warmth that started glowing, reaching out to melt away the shell of ice around his heart. He fixed his eyes on Draco's face which was a mask of agony. Harry's mind all clear and alert now, registering intently everything Draco did.
Draco didn't seem to have noticed any of this. He continued, apparently rather talking to himself than to Harry, "God, it was so hard. But I tried, I really did. I wanted to do the right thing, just for once in my life. I thought you'd be better off without me. Everybody is..."
Harry's eyes widened. The picture moved into place, got clearer, until he saw it in all its bright colors. Unbelievable...
"The plan was so simple, and yet it didn't work out too well." Draco shook his head. "What a twisted situation."
"What did you just say?"
Draco looked at him blankly, almost as if he was surprised to find him still there. "What? I said 'What a twisted situation'."
"No, before that."
Averting his eyes, Draco said, "Nothing."
Harry smiled bitterly. "You liar. I may be stupid, but I'm not deaf."
A pair of serious gray eyes met his again. "I advise you to run like the wind, if you don't want to face the consequences..."
Harry's words hovered through the room, surprising both boys alike.
"What?" Draco asked, thunderstruck.
Harry got up from the floor, staring at Draco angrily. "You blooming, dim-witted idiot!"
Draco blinked, once, twice. Then he gasped, when Harry's body hit him and threw him on the table.
Harry was towering over Draco, staring down at him with flushed cheeks, holding him down by the shoulders. Then he leaned forward, capturing Draco's lips in a desperate kiss. For a moment, Draco tensed in surprise, but then he let it happen, his body relaxing as he wrapped his arms around Harry's frail body.
The kiss lasted for a about a minute, until Draco finally decided to resist, grabbing Harry by the wrists and pushing him off his body. He got up, smoothing the creases of his robes and raking his shivering fingers through his hair. "Listen, Harry... I thought I told you---"
Harry scrambled to his knees and stared at him with burning eyes. "Yes, you did. And I believed you. But now I no longer do!"
Draco closed his eyes for a moment and took a shuddering breath, then he tried again, "No, Harry. You don't understand---"
"Oh yes, I do. Now I understand perfectly." He got up and approached Draco, slowly, almost slinking.
Draco backed off, until his back hit a wall. "Harry, please---"
His plead was cut off by Harry's mouth on his, kissing him tenderly, even cautiously, as if he feared another rejection.
And indeed, when Draco pushed him away once more, Harry could hardly suppress a groan of frustration. Maybe he had been wrong after all? He watched Draco as he disentangled their limbs and turned his back at him, wrapping his arms around himself in a defensive manner, like he did so often. But he had to be right! He just had to be!
A deep breath lifted Draco's shoulders. "No. I've told you all there was to be said. I won't go back there. I don't want us like that anymore."
"Neither do I."
Draco shook his head. "You don't understand a word of what I'm saying, Harry. I---" He paused for a second. "I don't want you!"
"You're a liar."
"And you're a fool! You don't know what you're asking for!" Draco turned to Harry, his arms still crossed in front of his chest.
Harry smiled faintly. "Oh no, I know."
"You don't know what you want!"
The smile broadened. "Is that so?"
"You're beside yourself."
Harry tilted his head, smiling leniently. "Will you stop telling me what I am and what I do and finally tell what you feel?"
"That is irrelevant."
Draco looked lost. "Since... since I..." He groaned, frustrated, and got ready to turn around again, but Harry grabbed him by the shoulders, looking at him sternly.
Finally, Draco got angry and yanked himself free, putting the whole distance of the room between the two of them. He started pacing around for a bit, looking for a way to get out.
Harry almost laughed at the irony of the situation. Now it was Draco who was desperate to get out. But the laugh soon got stuck in his throat when Draco reached the door through which the twins had left and yanked at it with brutal force. The rusty lock creaked and gave in. Draco stumbled back, not expecting this, and the door hit the wall with a loud bang. As soon as he had caught himself again, Draco threw one last look at Harry and started for the door.
Harry knew he had to do something. "Don't go!" was the only thing he came up with. When Draco didn't react, he added, "Or I'll..."
Draco stopped dead and turned around, grinning bitterly. "Or you'll what? Tell my father that his son is gay? Spread the news among the Slytherins? Tell Dumbledore I had raped you?"
Shaking his head, Harry replied, "No. I'll die."
Draco let out a sharp laughter. "Die? Harry Potter? The famous Harry Potter who takes on a different monster at the end of each year? The Harry Potter who defeated a dragon and escaped the clutches of You-Know-Who? Yeah right!"
Harry nodded. "Yes, this very Harry Potter. The one who was so miserable for weeks, because he thought you didn't want him anymore. How much better do you think he'll get, if you walk out on him a second time, now that he knows why you really did it."
"If you're trying emotional blackmail here, then---"
With an annoyed sigh, Harry ground out, "When will you finally realize that I'm not trying to pay you back? I'm trying to get you back!" Then he added softly. "I need you. I want you to be with me."
Shaking his head sadly, Draco said, "Harry, it's never going to work out."
"That's not true. If you're using the energy you're mustering to push me away from you for trying to make this work, then I think it will."
Draco looked at him for a moment, then he closed the door, leaning against the wood. "Says the Harry Potter who wanted Ron Weasley so much that he slept with his brothers just to pretend that it was him."
Harry grimaced. "This Harry Potter's quite a stupid prick, isn't he?"
Now, Draco grinned, too. "Yeah, looks quite like it."
For a moment, Harry stared at the ceiling and sighed deeply. Then he looked at Draco again, all serious. "God, I can't believe I cheated on the one I love and... my best friend."
Draco frowned. "What are you talking about, I'm not your best friend."
Harry smiled. "No, you're not."
"You don't even like me."
A grin. "Possibly..."
"But, if I'm not your best friend then---"
The only reply Harry gave him was a soft smile. And it was all Draco needed. He quickly covered the distance between them and swept Harry roughly into his arms. "Are you telling me that---"
Harry nodded. "I do."
With a sigh of relief and disbelief all the same, Draco replied, "Well, I do, too."
Now it was for Harry to look surprised. "You do?"
"You're so stupid!"
"I know." Draco gently brushed the hair out of Harry's face. Then something seemed to come to his mind, because his smile slowly faded. "And Weasley?"
"Ron is my best friend and we care a lot for each other."
"And that's all?"
"I'm so stupid!"
Harry grinned. "That's what I've been telling you all the time."
"Oh, shut up!" And he made Harry, with a lingering, passionate kiss.
Once they had parted, Harry looked at Draco with a dreamy expression. "Say it."
"No, you first."
"I already did!"
"You did not!"
"That doesn't count."
"It doesn't??" Harry looked at him, scandalized.
Draco smiled. "Well, maybe it does." He brushed another strand of black hair out of Harry's forehead. His attention diverted to the scar.
Harry noticed how those pale gray eyes fixed on it and he started feeling awkward again. Maybe Draco was reminded of their rivalry just now. He tried to turn his face away.
"I've been wanting to do that for the longest time..." Draco murmured, cupping Harry's face. Then he gently bent the face down and pressed a kiss on the scar.
For a moment, Harry's throat got so tight that he couldn't have said anything, even if he had known what to say. He couldn't remember ever having felt like this, ever having been hugged and kissed like this. And this was Draco...
He closed his eyes and felt hot tears emerging from under his lids. The next moment, tender hands brushed away the tears. He looked up and saw Draco staring at them as they glistened on his fingers, just like he had done once before, many weeks ago. But this time, no gloom clouded his features, no, it was rather as if something dawned on him and a relaxed expression of relief washed over them.
Draco lifted his hand to his lips and kissed away the tears. Then he gently pulled Harry's face towards him and captured his lips in a sweet kiss that erased completely the mildly salty taste of those tears.
With a happy sigh, Harry lifted his arms and wrapped them around Draco's neck, pulling him deeper into the embrace. Draco responded and shifted slightly, grabbing Harry by the hips and pressing them tightly against his. Their kiss got hotter and more passionate.
The sounds of their kisses and sighs filled the empty class room and soon were joined by the rustling of clothes, when Harry's hand left its position at the nape of Draco's neck and sneaked over to his neckline, slowly starting to free the heated skin.
Draco tore himself loose from Harry's lips with a moan and whispered, "Wait, no..."
It took Harry a moment to clear his head. "What? Why?"
"I..." Draco swallowed and licked his lips nervously. His shaking hand traced along Harry's jaw line as he gave him a loving glance. "God, Harry. I've wanted you so much in all those weeks. I've always wanted you, from the first moment on I could actually understand such feelings." He planted a short kiss on Harry's lips. "But I want so much more from you, not just your body. This time I want to do everything right. I want to be proper and..."
Harry's smile interrupted him. "Oh, you silly... I'm very touched that you want to protect my virtue, but I don't think this is necessary. And that's not what I want either." He gave Draco's chest a gentle prod and pushed him against the table. "It's been weeks since I had some." He chuckled and slowly approached Draco who started sliding further down the table in an attempt to avoid the boy with the menacing glitter in his eyes.
"Now... get undressed," Harry softly ordered.
"What?" shrieked Draco, nonplussed.
"You heard me." Harry smiled lovingly. "I want you, now. Here. On the table, on the floor, against the wall, I don't care." He kneeled on the table and shimmied until he managed to straddle Draco's hips.
Draco watched in disbelief as his robes were opened and one piece of clothing after the other vanished from his body. Soon he lay there, naked-chested, and looked up to Harry in awe.
"What? Have I grown a pair of horns?"
"Well, not on your head actually..." Draco replied cheekily and moved his hips a bit, then ducked, when Harry whacked him playfully. He caught Harry's wrists and pulled him down to him. "Okay, who are you and what have you done to Harry? Tell those aliens who've abducted him that I want my Harry back..."
Harry looked at him innocently and rolled his hips, pressing both their erections against each other. "You sure?"
Draco stifled a moan, then grabbed Harry's ass and held him into place, pushing his hips up. "Hm... maybe later."
Sighing happily, Harry joined the movement and started rolling his hips on top of Draco's body, causing delicious friction. After a moment, Harry stopped. Their breath mingled as they held each others glances, keeping perfectly still. Both knew, panting and exploring the depth of the other's eyes, that one movement too much would finish them both off and as if they had discussed this before, both were determined to make this last.
Reluctantly, Harry rose from Draco's warm body and reached for the seam of his own robes, pulling them off his body. He enjoyed Draco's hungry glance as he stripped himself of all his clothes. Then he reached for the buckle of Draco's pants and pulled those off his body as well.
With playful hands he started exploring Draco's beautiful white skin, testing the feel of the muscles under the silky skin and enjoying his jerks whenever he touched a sensitive spot. In their previous rushed and guilt laden encounters he never had had the chance to do so and now he wanted to enjoy this to the full.
He lost himself so much in his fascinating activity that he completely forgot about Draco for a few moments. His frustrated whimpers of unfulfilled desire brought Harry back to reality. It took him a moment to clear his thoughts and realize that Draco needed more than idle touches. He dove down and fastened his lips over one of Draco's erect nipples, suckling it. His efforts were rewarded by Draco's hoarse cries.
Harry reached between his legs and cupped Draco's swelling erection, pressing against his ass. He saw the play of emotions on Draco's face when he started gently caressing him and it gave him an idea. He shifted some more, licking a trail down Draco's body. When he reached his hips, he hesitated for a moment. He wanted to make sure that this time it was going to be so much different from all the other encounters they had had. Slowly, he lowered his head.
Draco threw his head back and groaned helplessly when Harry's mouth engulfed his length. He buried his hands in Harry's hair, but didn't pull him any closer or try to manipulate him otherwise. It appeared to Harry as if it was only Draco's way of reassuring that this was really happening and not just a figment of his fantasy.
Much to his own surprise, Harry found himself enjoying these ministrations a lot, although he had never done this before. He enjoyed the power he had over Draco, loved the immediate response he got whenever he tried a new angle or lick. Unfortunately, he could only dwell on his new skills for a few minutes, because then he was suddenly jerked back and pulled into a raging kiss.
"God, Harry! You're driving me crazy!" Draco mumbled, licking over Harry's lips. "If you want me somewhere else in your body tonight, we should get it on soon, or else I can't guarantee for anything."
"I've got no objections," Harry replied, shifting to straddle Draco's hips again.
"Wait," Draco softly interrupted. "I want to try something else." He moved to the center of the table. Then he pulled Harry closer by the hips, positioning him astride between his parted legs, letting Harry's legs rest at the sides of his hips. Draco used this upright position for a deep kiss, before he licked his hands to provide the lubrication he needed to smooth the entry into Harry's warm body.
He slid in easily and, once it was accomplished, held Harry's shuddering shoulders in a tight grip to keep the enticing movements from bringing him to an all too sudden end. When he had regained enough control over his body, he moved his hands down Harry's back and cupped his ass, pulling him closer to his hips.
Harry replied with a content sigh and tightened his thighs' grip around Draco's hips. He enjoyed this new position with them both sitting upright and being able to watch each other closely. He could see the expression of stern concentration when Draco started the first slow strokes, moving Harry's hips against his lap. Harry helped him keep his position by wrapping his arms around his waist and balancing them both that way.
They moved like that for a while in perfect balance, only their mutual support making it possible. The pleasure of this slow, exploring pace was something completely new to Harry since he only knew those hurried, passionate encounters. But soon, this wasn't enough for him. He loved the expression on Draco's face, intent and lustful, but it was keeping him way too occupied for his liking.
Slowly, to keep their balance, he moved one hand up to Draco's neck, demanding his attention. Dazed gray eyes met his. Their look grew focused and, most wondrously, warm. Harry felt a source of warmth emerging from the center of his chest, pouring over to the whole of his body. He felt wonderful. "God, I love you..." he whispered, pulling Draco into a kiss.
Their lips parted, but their foreheads stayed together as they breathed hard. "Harry, I..." Draco started. He swallowed. "You know I..." Another pause. "I... damn! I can't..." He looked into Harry's face again. His eyes were still full of this wonderful warmth that Harry never had seen before and torment about his inability to express it.
Harry smiled. "It's okay. I know."
Relief washed over Draco's features. He nodded.
As if they both had decided to change the position, Harry laid back and Draco moved to slide onto his body, eager to restore under feverish kisses the connection that was lost for a moment. Then they picked up a frantic pace that was not unlike their many times before, but this time both their eyes were wide open and no other thought filled them but the person they were with. And when they both finally reached completion, Draco a little later than Harry, Harry held his shuddering body close to him and stroked his back until the jerks subsided and his breathing calmed down.
Harry felt dazed and tired after this rush of emotions. The sudden gush of cold air made him shiver, when Draco got up abruptly and left his heated body. A piercing pain shot through Harry's body when he realized that Draco was leaving him once again right after the passion had subsided. He wanted to scream... But before he actually could do that the warmth returned in the form of their robes as Draco wrapped them both up in them and pulled Harry close to his chest.
Harry sighed contently, snuggling up closer. He felt Draco's arms close around him, gently stroking his side. Something soft touched his hair and he knew it was a gentle kiss.
"If only I could die like that..." Harry whispered after a while.
"Hmm...?" Draco responded sleepily.
"I'd say goodbye to the business of living forever." He let his fingertips run over Draco's chest and felt him shiver.
"No, you don't," Draco said, hugging him tighter. "It's only just begun. Would be a shame to waste."
They fell silence once more. This time it was Draco who broke it. "I wish I could make love to you in a real bed, on soft sheets, all night long..."
For a moment they both thought about the same thing, inevitably conjuring up the image of Malfoy Manor and the unbreachable trench that lay between them. They'd never make love there and most certainly not in Harry's home, if that existed at all.
Harry found himself hugging Draco even tighter, almost violently and forced himself to loosen his grip. He blew a kiss on Draco's shoulder. "Maybe we should get dressed again. Who knows when they return and let us out."
He sat up reluctantly and leaned over to the pile of clothes, fishing for something he knew that was buried in there. He found it. The Marauder's Map was still unwiped and lively monitoring the movements of Hogwarts. "Uhm, yeah, we definitely should get moving!"
They got dressed quickly. While slipping into his boots, Harry said pensively, "So we'll go on like before? As if nothing ever happened?"
Draco shrugged. "Guess so."
"But what has changed then?"
Draco closed the buckle of his belt, staring thoughtfully into the nothingness for a moment. Then he looked at Harry and smiled warmly. "Everything..."
They walked down to the Great Hall together. Harry's cheeks were still burning after the experience of seeing Ron and Hermione's smug faces peering through the crack of the door, knowing exactly what had been going on in there. Draco had handled the whole situation with his usual superiority, but this time it had been lacking the icy arrogance.
Now they stood in the middle of the hall, looking at each other, both feeling a bit insecure.
"Well, guess I'll retire now," Draco said.
Shifting on his feet, Draco quickly scanned the area for intruding eyes, then lifted on hand to gently touch Harry's cheek. "I will send you an owl tomorrow, okay? Maybe we can spend the afternoon somewhere outside of the boundaries of Hogwarts."
With a happy smile, Harry tilted his face into Draco's caressing hand. "Yes, that would be very nice."
Draco hesitated for a moment, as if he wasn't sure what he was going to say next. "Listen Harry," he then said. "I need to straighten out a few things."
Harry frowned. "Snape?"
A nod. "Please don't think I was betraying you, okay? Never think that. Can you trust me?"
Hesitatingly, Harry nodded. "I'll try. But you'll have to earn it."
Draco smiled. "That's a fair deal." A tiny jerk went through Draco's body, giving Harry the impression that he had been wanting to lean into a kiss with him, but stopped in time. Harry couldn't help but feel disappointed.
Draco still had his hand on Harry's cheek, refusing to break the connection. Sounds of people walking down the corridor finally made him drop it. Both boys turned into the direction from which the sounds came. The twins appeared in the soft light of the torches.
Harry just wanted to raise his hand and greet them when he noticed that Draco paled considerably. He rose a confused eyebrow.
"Harry, do me a favor," Draco gibbered.
"T-tell Fred and George that everything's fine between us, okay? Just... just tell them you're okay, yes?" With that he turned on his heels and dashed off into the opposite direction, leaving a dumbstruck Harry behind.
But there wasn't much time for confusion anyway, because the twins slapped him on his shoulder. "Hey, Harry!"
"Say, Fred, have you ever seen a ferret run like that?"
"Nope, George. Talk about 'quicksilver', eh?" The twins chuckled and Harry glared. They sobered at once. "So, what's up? Tell us all your news!" Fred and George beamed at each other and Harry knew immediately that they knew everything.
He smiled. "We're fine now."
"We know! We've got the pictures," George announced, patting his breast pocket.
The twins giggled again. "Just clowning!"
Harry cast them a suspicious look. "Sure hope so!" He looked down the hallway where Draco had disappeared into, sighing a bit wistfully. He missed him already.
He still couldn't believe the way things had turned out all of a sudden. Now he had a best friend again and a love. A secret love, but special nonetheless. For the first time in weeks he truly believed that things could turn out well in the end. That there was a light to live with. Who would have thought that this light would come in the form of silver hair, gray eyes and white skin.
It felt like he was finally waking from a dark and lonely dream. Or maybe he was starting to dream and he wished he'd never wake up from it again.
He shook his head in disbelief. "Good God, what a night that was..."
Since so many people asked, here's the source where I got my titles from and the reason for me calling it the Petroniusius-series. They've been taken from two gorgeous poems by the Roman poet Petroniusius, Arbiter Elegantiae:
Good God, what a night that was
The bed was so soft, and how we clung,
Burning together, lying this way and that,
Our uncontrollable passions
Flowing through our mouths.
If I could only die that way,
I'd say goodbye to the business of living.
(translated by Kenneth Rexroth)
Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay.
But thus, thus, keeping endless holiday,
Let us together closely lie and kiss,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleased, doth please, and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.
(translated by Ben Jonson)
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