Gift for: fiona_fawkes
Word count: 14,400
Summary: The Tri-Wizard Tournament is returning to Hogwarts to mark the ten-year anniversary of the defeat of Voldemort. Harry is asked to help ensure the safety of the students, a task he finds difficult, not only because he's not sure he can do it, but also because the tournament itself is unearthing emotions in him that he has kept suppressed for most of the last decade. When Draco walks off the Durmstrang ship, Harry is thrown by an unexpected attraction. Over the course of the next year, he will have to deal with those feelings as well as the aftermath of the war, something he has put off for far too long.
Author's notes: I'd like to thank my beta-reader who is amazing as always and my friends who encouraged me along the way in various ways. You know who you are and once the veil of anonymity is lifted, I will thank you all properly and publicly. I hope you enjoy this, Fiona!
"And finally, Mister Filch has asked that I remind you that Dungbombs are not an appropriate educational tool. If they are to be used for instructional purposes, which he strongly discourages, please be sure to clean up the resulting 'filthy residue' thoroughly." With a wry smile, Headmistress McGonagall let the piece of parchment fall to the table and looked up at the assembled faculty members.
Harry could feel the eyes of the other professors on him. Even McGonagall seemed to be focusing on him. It wasn't fair. Filch wasn't always talking about him in his "friendly little reminders" to the faculty. True, there had been the incident with the specially-charmed Fanged Frisbees, but that had been during his first year teaching. At the time, it had seemed like a good way for his students to practice Repelling Charms. Anyway, no permanent harm had been done; Mrs Norris' hair had grown back. Mostly.
"As you are no doubt aware, there will be no meeting next week to give you all ample time to prepare your examinations. The following week's meeting will be used for planning the end-of-term feast and other activities. The year is almost over -- congratulations on making it through in one piece." There were a few muted cheers in response to her words. "Harry, I would like to speak with you. The rest of you, thank you for your attention and have a pleasant evening."
Harry sighed and stayed in his seat while the rest of his peers shuffled out. Professor Flitwick winked at him as he passed. The door closed, leaving them alone in the room.
"Headmistress, I swear I haven't been using Dungbombs in my class--"
McGonagall held up her hand. "That's not what I wish to speak with you about, Harry. I have a somewhat more serious matter to discuss with you."
An old, familiar feeling clawed its way up his throat, tearing through the carefully erected defences that allowed him to live a normal life. Once a week during the war, no matter where he was, Hedwig had brought him a letter from Remus, a letter that told him who among his friends and classmates had lived and who had died. Every Thursday he had waited for Hedwig, that same feeling ripping him to shreds on the inside.
Until one week, the letter didn't come.
"Harry." The gentleness of the voice pulled him away from his memories. "My goodness, you look …. I apologize if I alarmed you. I do not have bad news."
He took a deep breath and the ghosts began to recede.
"It is a school-related matter I wish to discuss with you. The Tri-Wizard tournament."
He was not prepared to hear those three words. Fragments of images and sounds flashed in his mind; memories of fear, doubt, and anger echoed through him, weakened by time but still potent.
"The Department of Magical Games and Sports thinks it would be a fitting way to mark the ten-year anniversary of the defeat of Voldemort. I am inclined to agree with them. It would be held at Hogwarts next school year." She paused, and Harry wondered if she was expecting him to say something. He pushed the memories back, trying to regain some control over himself.
"However," McGonagall continued, "the Governing Board is insisting that you serve as the Head of Task Safety for the Tournament. They are concerned that some of the parents would fear for their children's well-being, given … given the history of the tournament."
You mean, 'given what happened the last time', thought Harry, as "Kill the spare" rang in his head.
"I will not force you to do this. But the fact of the matter is that everyone would feel safer if you were to accept this position, including myself. Not only are you Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, you are also--"
"Harry Potter. I get it. I just … I don't think it's safe. I don't know." I don't know if I can protect them. I don't know if I can handle the memories. "Could I have some time to think it over?" I'll just pretend. In a few days, I'll refuse and this will all go away.
"Yes. Yes, of course you may. Thank you," she said; the disappointment was clear in her tone.
He was halfway out the door when she spoke up again.
"We are really and truly out from under the shadow of the madman, Harry. It's time to enjoy the sunshine."
He nodded without looking back and closed the door.
Harry stood near the edge of the marsh, watching the progress of the Beauxbatons champion through the deep, murky water. The boy had been surprised by the Dugbogs, which looked like dead logs floating on the surface of the water, but had eventually managed to get away from them. Hermione would have been especially proud of this first task, Harry thought, since it required the champions to get through the marsh without doing any permanent harm to its inhabitants.
After several minutes of struggling with what appeared to be a school of fish, the student pulled himself out of the water and onto the sand-covered shore. As the Fire Crabs scuttled towards him, the Beauxbatons cheering section began to chant something in unison. Harry turned to survey the crowd behind him.
His glance swept over the line of people standing in front of the stadium, stopping at the far end on a man in a long green cloak, his white-blond hair blowing around his face with the wind. Harry tried to look away, to return to watching the task, but he couldn't. The current competitor could be burning to death right now, and he still wouldn't have been able to stop staring at Draco Malfoy. He had been causing problems for Harry ever since his arrival here with the Durmstrang delegation.
Their ship had risen from the lake, and Harry had been there with the Headmistress and representatives from the Ministry to greet them. Malfoy was the last off the ship, his steps down the gangplank slow and hesitant. Harry didn't even realize who the man was until he was standing in front of him, hand extended. They shook hands, and Harry mumbled the same thing he'd said to all the others: "Welcome to Hogwarts."
As Malfoy walked away, he looked back at Harry for a second, his face unreadable, and Harry felt a jolt of familiar but unwelcome emotion. Not that again, he thought. That had just been a phase, a confusing phase during the war that was over and done with. He couldn't go through it again: the desire, the need, the confusion.
That night, during the feast, he'd done everything in his power to not look at Malfoy, but had spent the entire meal watching him anyway. After McGonagall's speech, during which Harry was announced as Head of Task Safety and Malfoy was not announced at all, Malfoy walked up to him and said, "If anything happens to one of our students, I promise to personally kill you."
"As long as your students play by the rules, they'll be fine," Harry said in return, glad to feel anger instead of … that other thing. They hadn't spoken for weeks after that. Harry kept to his duties and tried to ignore the growing inferno inside of him. Then last night, while on his way to conduct a final examination of the first task setup, he had caught the Durmstrang champion sneaking through the protective barrier that surrounded the marsh. She had claimed she was just going for a walk and had accidentally gotten caught in the wards, but as she'd already disabled three of them, he'd found her excuse implausible. While escorting her back to the castle, they had run into Malfoy. Harry had needed to speak loudly to drown out the roaring in his ears.
"Malfoy. Your student was trying to sneak a look at the first task. You know that's against the rules. But more than that, it's dangerous."
"Thank you, Professor Potter. I will handle this. Nika, please go inside." Malfoy said something to the girl in a language Harry didn't understand, and she scurried away, flashing him a clever smile. Once she was gone, Malfoy stepped towards Harry until their faces were only inches apart. Harry swallowed roughly, feeling his body respond to the closeness.
"You hypocrite," Malfoy said in a low voice, his breath warm against Harry's face. "Everyone knows you had help when you were in the tournament. If you know what's good for you, you'll look the other way next time you see a Durmstrang student wandering about where they're not supposed to be."
"I am responsible for tournament safety," Harry said, when what he wanted to do was lean forward and lick Malfoy's lower lip. "It wasn't safe for her to be there." Part of his brain finally managed to process what Malfoy had said. "And don't you dare threaten me. Not if you know what's good for you."
He had hurried away before he could succumb to his impulses, leaving Malfoy standing in the darkness. Back in his quarters, he had taken a long, cold shower and not thought about how Malfoy's skin might taste. But in the morning he had woken up with sticky sheets, the power of his desires having overcome him in his sleep.
The small reception, held in celebration of the first task, had been subdued so far. The professors and other adults from the schools' delegations were exchanging pleasantries while munching on elf-passed hors d'oeuvres and drinking cocktails. Harry had accepted many congratulations, some reluctant, and was currently having an interesting conversation with an official from the Department of Magical Games and Sports about proposed changes to the rules of Quidditch.
All during their conversation, Harry was aware of Malfoy on the other side of the room. Every time the crowd parted in just the right way, Harry could see him, alone, leaning against the far wall with an untouched drink in his hand. Sometimes, he looked directly back at Harry, and Harry found it necessary to grab a drink and down it immediately. He had lost count of the number of times that had happened.
The head of Games and Sports turned away, and Harry decided to go tell Malfoy to stop looking at him; otherwise he was going to get horribly drunk. The room swayed a bit as he took a step forward. Hmm, maybe it was already too late for that. Out of nowhere, a thin woman with carefully coiffed hair appeared in front of him. Harry squinted at her. It was Madame Roux, a professor from Beauxbatons.
"I would 'ave a word with you, Professor," she said. "It is not fair zhat some of zhe creatures in today's task were native to zis country. It 'as given zhe 'ogwarts student an unfair advantage. She must have known not to fear zhe … what do you call zhem? Limpies? Our Sebastien was only zhe slowest one because 'e did not know zhat such fishes were 'armless."
"What, you mean the fish in France have arms?" What was this woman talking about?
"You dare to mock me?" she yelled, and the room fell silent. McGonagall worked her way through the crowd towards them, and a low buzz of whispered conversation started up. When she arrived, the woman was in the middle of a tirade about … about fish, Harry thought. He wasn't quite sure; he was having a bit of trouble following her. As McGonagall began to speak with her in a low, firm voice, Harry wandered away.
Where had he been going again?
"That woman is a harpy."
Harry looked to his left. Oh, yes, that was it. "Malfoy," he said, "I was looking for you."
"Were you? Whatever for?"
Good question. "Don't remember." He looked into Malfoy's eyes. I want to worship you with my lips and tongue. "Um. No reason."
Malfoy snickered. "Hogwarts' finest. You're teaching Defence, aren't you? Pansy told me."
"Yeah." Harry looked into his drink, a bright blue concoction that tasted strongly of coconut. "That's nice that you keep in touch with your friends. Mine are all dead." He threw back the rest of the drink and looked around for another, but the elves seemed to be avoiding him.
"Yes, well, she's more than a friend."
"Pansy. You're completely smashed, aren't you?"
"Dunno. So what is she? You're not married to her or anything, are you?" In his mind, Harry saw himself strangling Pansy Parkinson.
"Merlin, no. We're 'seeing each other' in an exclusive fashion. Seven years of bliss, I think, when you add it all up. And really, 'seeing' isn't quite the right word. She lives in America at the moment, which presents a bit of a logistical challenge."
"Wow. That's really far away." He saw himself burying Pansy's lifeless body in a shallow grave deep in the Forbidden Forest. It occurred to him that he should change the subject.
A house-elf carrying a tray of miniature pumpkin pasties walked between them. Seeing an opportunity, Harry grabbed two and handed one to Malfoy, who, looking surprised, popped it into his mouth. Once he was done, he held up his hand, examining the buttery crumbs on his fingers.
"Oh, let me …" said Harry, stepping next to Malfoy to grab a serviette from the table behind them, pressing his body into Malfoy's side, relishing the sensation of solid warmth. He didn't need to be standing this close to him, but why shouldn't he, when it felt so good?
He reluctantly stepped back to where he had been standing. "There you go."
Malfoy took the serviette, wiped his hands and then stood there, holding the crumpled paper and looking around the room, as if trying to find somewhere else to go, someone else to talk to. Harry wondered if he'd done something wrong. He cast about for another conversation topic.
"So, what are you doing at Durmstrang?"
"The same thing you're doing here."
"Wow. You're Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts too?"
"No." Malfoy sighed impatiently. "I'm … teaching."
"Oh. But why there? It's so far from home. Don't you miss, y'know, stuff? I'd miss stuff."
"As I'm sure you'd remember if you weren't totally pissed, I have no home. Your people took it from me, despite what I did. Why would I want to be here? Being here does nothing but remind me of what I've lost. You have no idea what that's like." Malfoy stalked away, and Harry's head suddenly felt clear.
"I know exactly what that's like," he said.
The next few weeks went quickly. December arrived, and snow piled up outside the castle. Harry felt a strange sense of contentment. Ever since the reception, Malfoy had been friendlier with him. He didn't understand it, since as far as he could remember he'd behaved like an idiot. But for whatever reason, Malfoy would now say hello when he passed by, and would often stop and chat with Harry for a few minutes at meals and in the corridors. Harry hated to admit how much he enjoyed those conversations, even when they turned into arguments, which happened frequently. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't deny that days he didn't see Malfoy were disappointing.
It wasn't even that he liked Malfoy; he didn't. Nearly every conversation, Harry added another item to Malfoy's list of character flaws. He was arrogant, immature, and completely unreasonable on issues regarding blood purity. Harry didn't like him, but being around him made him feel alive. He liked that feeling.
The day before Christmas holidays were to begin, Malfoy showed up after Harry's last class and asked him if he wanted to go to Hogsmeade for a drink. Harry bit his lip, feeling like a giddy teenager trying to control his delight at being asked out.
"Uh, sure. That would be great," he said, picking his cloak up from the back of his chair.
The Hog's Head was crowded, as usual for a Friday night. Harry and Malfoy had found a small table in the corner. So far they had drunk two lagers each and managed to not say anything of substance. Harry swirled the dark amber liquid around in his glass. He had first stopped outside the Three Broomsticks, but Malfoy had sped up and walked past it, forcing Harry to follow him further up the street. Perhaps he was afraid of seeing Madame Rosmerta. Harry wondered if he should tell him that she was dead.
A peculiarly dressed crone walked up to their table. "Tell your fortunes, dearies?"
"No, thank you," said Harry firmly.
Malfoy grinned. "Wait, this could be fun. Sure, tell me my fortune," he said, holding out his palm.
"Ten knuts, please," she said, holding her own hand out.
Malfoy fished the money out of his cloak while Harry watched, surprised that Malfoy was going along with this. Of course, his life hadn't been irrevocably changed by a prophecy, so perhaps he didn't have the aversion to fortune telling that Harry did.
The crone grabbed the coins and Malfoy's hand and ran her fingers along the lines of his palm. Harry shivered, wanting to be the one touching that pale, smooth skin. He pushed the rest of his beer away; perhaps he'd had enough.
"Well?" demanded Malfoy. "What does it say?"
"You will be wealthy again, but not … not yet." She inspected Malfoy's thumb, then each finger. "You will travel a great deal in your life. Ah. And … you have already met your soul mate." She released his hand.
That's me, thought Harry. What? Why the hell did I just think that? He exhaled a shaky breath. He must be more drunk than he realized.
"Is that all? I've gotten more thorough predictions from packets of breakfast cereal."
The woman glared and walked away.
"That was disappointing," Malfoy said.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, during which Harry tried to convince himself that he had not just thought that he was Draco Malfoy's soul mate. But it was hard to think straight with those cool grey eyes focused on him. Right. New topic.
"So, what did you think of the first task?" Harry asked in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner.
"It was … fine. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason. S'just … I sort of designed it."
Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "We were told that the tasks were designed by an impartial committee."
"The committee," Harry said derisively. "Tossers. Do you know their proposal involved four separate magical beasts rated five Xs or higher? As if I was going to approve a plan that required teenagers to face a Chimaera, not to mention a Manticore. I mean, why not just throw them into a cage with a nundu while you're at it?"
"So they just let you redesign the-- of course they did. You're Harry bloody Potter."
"Let me? They made me. They didn't much like it when I called them a bunch of incompetent, sadistic child-abusers. Apparently they took that as an insult."
"Who would have thought?" murmured Malfoy.
"So they said they weren't going to change a thing on their design, and if I wanted changes I had to do them myself. So I did. 'It'll be on your head when the spectators all die of boredom,' they said. But I think the first task went really well. It was exciting and no one got hurt."
"Yes, it was good wholesome fun for the whole family." Malfoy looked at his watch and then pushed back his chair. "I have to be heading back now."
"What? But it's early still. And we're on holiday!" It was nice to just sit here, near Malfoy. They didn't even have to talk. It was better if they didn't talk, actually. That way it was easier for Harry to pretend that his feelings for Malfoy were reasonable.
"Yes, I know. But I'm leaving at the crack of dawn. Travelling. Pansy is coming home for Christmas, so I'm spending the holidays with her family."
Malfoy stood and walked towards the door while Harry sat at the table and finished his beer, imagining Pansy falling down a mineshaft.
It was a beautiful night; the moonlight made the falling snow sparkle in the air. Harry ran, keeping his eyes on the solitary figure walking slowly back towards Hogwarts. He caught up with Malfoy just inside the front gates.
"Isn't that a good thing?" he asked, panting.
"Getting to see Pansy."
"When did I say it wasn't?"
"You don't seem very happy about it."
Malfoy stopped walking and looked up at the sky. "Look, Potter. Being emotionally stunted, I don't expect you'll understand, but … seven years is a long time." He kept talking over Harry's squawk of protest. "It's impossible to know someone for that long and still find them exciting. I don't know. I suppose if she's my bloody soul mate I ought to just marry her. Marriage is the next step, isn't it? It's what one does. Although to be honest, I had been thinking of breaking things off with her. It's got to be one or the other. Something needs to change."
"But … you can't go off and marry her just because that old witch said you'd already met your soul mate. That's ridiculous! You don't even know if it's her! It could be … it could be anyone!"
"Like who, you?"
Harry flushed, remembering that little voice in the back of his head. It had been a ludicrous thought. "Ha, ha, very funny. I just mean … you shouldn't marry her if you don't want to be with her. You shouldn't … it's not fair to her. That's not how things are supposed to be." He was tempted to laugh hysterically as the Pansy in his head crawled out of the mineshaft, dusted herself off, and glared at him.
Why did he even care what Malfoy did? It wasn't as if he wanted to be with Malfoy, at least not in that sense. He only wanted to touch him, to lick him and suck him and slide his hands and tongue up and down the length of him. And even that was never going to happen. Malfoy was straight. For that matter, Harry was straight. Straight-ish. A little bit straight. Well, he didn't know what he was, but that didn't matter, because Malfoy was with Pansy. And even if Malfoy wasn't with Pansy, he wasn’t going to be with Harry … which was good, because Harry didn't want to be with him.
Harry wondered how long he had been standing there, lost in thought. Malfoy was staring at him strangely. He hadn't said any of that out loud, had he? No, if he had, then Malfoy would have punched him. He grabbed Malfoy's arm and pulled.
"Come on, it's freezing out here."
Malfoy allowed himself to be led back to the castle.
That night, Harry thought of Malfoy while he wanked. It was the first time he'd allowed himself to do that. At breakfast the next morning, he caught himself searching for Malfoy over and over, and felt a crippling sense of loss each time he remembered that he had gone to visit his girlfriend. Disgusted with himself, he vowed it would all stop. No more obsession, no more inappropriate thoughts. This couldn't go on.
By the end of the holiday, Harry had gotten Malfoy completely out of his head. But instead, he was thinking about Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Hagrid, Remus, and all the others who were gone. He saw them everywhere -- in the groups of students chattering excitedly about the Yule Ball, in the Great Hall at the Christmas feast, and in the light of the full moon reflecting on the lake. Worst of all, he saw them in his dreams.
The first year after the war had been nearly as bad as the war itself. Harry had been lost in an endless nightmare, the horrors of what he had witnessed and what he had done insinuating themselves into every facet of his life. Whether awake or asleep, he saw blood and death and heard screams of pain. He had been close to losing his mind; he often thought that he already had. Then one night Snape had appeared before him, his face dripping blood, and told him that he would die unless he learned to shield his mind. Snape had transformed into Voldemort, and Harry had slammed his Occlumency shield up just as he felt the first tendrils of magic reaching towards him. When he woke up, he saw his bedroom and nothing else. He heard the ticking of the grandfather clock, and nothing else. He could sense the pain somewhere inside him, but it couldn't touch him. He could no longer feel it.
Of course, he could no longer feel much of anything, but that was better than the alternative.
A few months later, bored and restless, he had gone to visit Hogwarts, which was set to re-open after extensive rebuilding. The castle had been the first real home he had ever known, and being there felt right. When McGonagall offered him a position as Defense teacher, he had decided to stay.
In the years since then, he had sometimes thought of his old friends, but he had never seen them, had never felt the pain of their absence. Not until now. The ghosts were back, and he could no longer block them out. He didn't understand what had happened. He could hardly sleep for the nightmares.
At dinner the night before the new term started, Malfoy walked into the Great Hall, chatting amiably with one of the seventh-year Slytherin boys, and Harry nearly choked on his bread. He followed him with his eyes, unable to look away, his heart pounding and body tingling.
"Is everything all right, Harry?" asked Professor Sprout.
"Yeah, fine. Thanks. It's just … dry." He pointed at the bread and grabbed a glass of water. As he drank, he watched the Slytherin table, hoping Malfoy would look up at him.
That night, Harry fell asleep imagining pinning Malfoy against the wall of the Great Hall; he slept soundly and did not dream.
Malfoy had been avoiding him ever since Christmas holidays; it seemed he didn't want to talk to Harry. That was too bad, because Harry certainly wanted to talk to him. He paced the corridor near the entrance to Slytherin, where the Durmstrang delegation was staying, waiting for Malfoy to return from lunch.
Fifteen minutes later he came striding down the corridor. Nika, the Durmstrang champion, was skipping along next to him and babbling excitedly. When she saw Harry, she fell silent.
"Malfoy, I'd like a word with you."
Nika grinned at Harry and scrambled into the common room. They were alone now; Malfoy looked at him expectantly.
"Someone broke into my office and stole some of my notes on the second task," said Harry. He felt a spiteful pleasure at seeing Malfoy suddenly look wary.
"It is. Especially since there's only a week until the task and I haven't time to redo it. Which means that someone will have an unfair advantage in the competition."
"And … you'd like me to uncover the culprit?"
"No, I want you to admit to being the culprit. I know it was you."
"What?" Malfoy's face flushed pink. "I didn't touch your fucking notes, and I don't appreciate the accusation. I suppose the fact that I'm both a Slytherin and from Durmstrang made me an irresistible target to you. You are such a hypocritical, prejudiced--"
"It has nothing to do with-- I am not-- God, shut up, Malfoy! You're the only one who knows that I designed the tasks myself!"
Malfoy paused for a moment. When he spoke his voice was quiet but intense. "Potter, if I had broken into your office and rifled through your papers, you can be sure that I would have left no trace, and we would not be having this conversation."
"You are the Head of Task Safety. Everyone knows that you were consulted on the design and implementation of each task. You had to inspect the task setup and presumably document your safety assessment."
Oh. He hadn't thought of that. He had seen that his protective spells were inactivated and that some of his papers were gone, and his mind had immediately jumped to Malfoy. He'd thought they were friends -- well, not friends exactly, but something, even though they hadn't spoken in weeks -- so for him to have done this had hurt. It surprised him how much it had hurt. But maybe Malfoy hadn't done it after all. He rubbed at his forehead where his scar used to be.
"Finally caught up, have you? It wasn't me."
"Just because it could have been anyone doesn't mean it wasn't you," Harry said, while silently hoping that Malfoy was telling the truth.
Malfoy was quiet for a moment. He looked to be calculating something. "If I prove that it wasn't me or any other member of the Durmstrang delegation, would you be willing to take steps to rectify the current information imbalance?"
"What sort of … steps?"
"That can be discussed later. Do you or do you not want the competition to be fair?"
"Of course I do, but--"
"That's what I thought," Malfoy said. "Expect an owl from me within the hour." He turned and walked back down the corridor.
Harry wandered back upstairs to his office, wondering what Malfoy had planned. He sat behind his desk, intending to look through his remaining notes, but instead found himself watching the clock in anticipation. Within five minutes, his clock had had enough.
"Why do you keep staring at me? It's rude to stare, you know."
"Sorry … I just want to keep track of the time."
"I'm getting a rust spot, aren't I? Is it my minute hand? It feels itchy."
"No, you, um, you look great."
"You're lying. I've been hanging in this room since 1883; I can tell when I'm being lied to. I'm getting a spot. Admit it."
After ten minutes of fretting, the clock shrieked, "Don't look at me!" and turned to face the wall.
Harry spent the next forty-two minutes looking at his watch; it proved to be much less paranoid. Exactly fifty-seven minutes after he'd arrived in his office, a brown owl flew in through the open door, clutching a roll of parchment in its talons. The note was written in small but neat handwriting.
Mme Roux has your notes. They are inside a red dragonhide-bound notebook under her mattress.
He was reading the message for a third time when Malfoy walked in. He hadn't even knocked, but Harry had more important matters to focus on.
"You went into her room?" How did he even know where she slept? Harry felt an irrational stab of jealousy.
"Of course I didn't. I couldn't very well have looked through every room in an hour, could I?"
"What does it matter, Potter? Don't you want your precious papers back? Then go get them. She's still in the Great Hall finishing her lunch."
"Of course I do, but I have class in--" he glanced up at his clock, then sighed in disgust and looked at his watch "--eight minutes. I'll have to go get them during dinner, if they really are there."
That evening, on his return from Ravenclaw Tower, Harry found Malfoy waiting for him at the door to his office; his insides did a little dance of joy at the sight. He had felt quite silly sneaking around under his Invisibility Cloak while everyone was in the Great Hall, but he hadn't particularly wanted any of his students to catch him rummaging under the mattress of a visiting Beauxbatons professor. He nodded at Malfoy and then opened the door. Once they were both in his office, he pulled the missing notes out from within his robes. They had been exactly where Malfoy had said they would be.
"So, you found them then," said Malfoy.
"I did. I can't even say that I'm surprised she had them. After the first task she was very upset that Sebastien had done so poorly. I suppose she wanted him to do better this time around."
Malfoy looked as if he were about to say something gloating. "But," continued Harry, "I had valid reasons for suspecting you, so you can drop the persecuted act."
"Act? What act? I just want to hear you say it," said Malfoy. He ran a hand through his hair; Harry watched the silky strands fall back into place around his face.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Now who's acting? Come on, Potter."
"Fine. I was wrong," said Harry; Malfoy looked ridiculously pleased. "I want to know how you knew the truth, though."
"Let's just say I know how to uncover information. It's better if you don't ask too many questions about my methods. I wouldn't want you to have to report me to the Ministry."
Harry was fairly sure that Malfoy had just hinted at being an unregistered Legilimens. He was also fairly sure that he didn't want to ruin this new rapport they seemed to have developed. "I see. Lucky the culprit wasn't a Hogwarts student, or else you would have been out of luck." He had insisted that Occlumency instruction be given to all students starting in their first year. By fourth year, most of them were able to completely block all but the strongest attacks.
"Yes, I'd noticed. Clearly, they have at least one competent teacher."
The compliment caught Harry by surprise; he couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face.
Malfoy sat down in the small chair in front of Harry's desk; it was where students sat when they came to his office so it was odd to see Malfoy sitting there. "Now," he said, "let's discuss what you can do to even out the playing field, so to speak."
It took them over an hour to reach a satisfactory arrangement. Initially, Malfoy had demanded that he be given his own copy of the notes on the grounds that Madame Roux could have made her own copies during the hours she'd had the originals in her possession. Harry thought that was ridiculous; she likely didn't expect to lose them, so why would she have copied them?
"The papers were gone when I came into my office this morning. I got them back at half six this evening. Even assuming that she stole them yesterday just after I left my office for the evening, at the most she had access to the information for twenty-two hours," said Harry. "So that's what you'll get: twenty-two hours."
Malfoy sighed. "Fine. Hand them over and I'll return them tomorrow at … what the bloody hell is wrong with your clock? Turn and face me like a proper timepiece. That's better. I'll return them at five o'clock tomorrow. Sorry, at three minutes past five."
"You think I'm an idiot, don't you? Don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question," Harry said, seeing a smirk beginning to form on Malfoy's face. Even if Madame Roux hadn't made copies, Malfoy certainly would. Another possibility bubbled into Harry's head. He could supervise Malfoy's access to the notes. Twenty-two hours alone with him. He was at once terrified and delighted at the idea. Malfoy's reaction to this suggestion was surprising.
"That would be acceptable."
"It would?" asked Harry.
"Yes," said Malfoy, "it would."
"… Did you write this while holding the quill with your toes? I've seen trolls with better penmanship."
Harry didn’t respond, not even to point out that trolls were illiterate; in the seventeen hours he'd spent with Malfoy so far (three hours per night had been their agreement, with one extra hour to be used at Malfoy's discretion), he had lost count of the number of times his handwriting had been insulted.
"And here we are at this line again. What the fuck does this say? Is it even English? Or any language that uses the Roman alphabet? I think I'll just blackmail you into telling me what it says. Or I could torture you; nothing is stopping me from casting something nasty on you right now. I know this is the key, this line right here. 'Put the something on something, cast something.' Or 'cat something' … but it's probably 'cast', since 'cat' isn't a verb last I checked. Sod it, can't I just stay quiet unless I've miraculously learned to read your baboon writing? Surely by now you've grown tired of hearing my every thought, fascinating though I may be."
Harry snorted. Another part of their agreement had been that Malfoy would speak his thoughts out loud, so that Harry would know what he had figured out; this would allow Harry to share the information with the Hogwarts champion. If they were going to be fair, he had reasoned, then they had to be completely fair. Harry knew Malfoy would still be able to keep things from him; but this was the best he could do in the circumstances. Plus, it was extremely entertaining.
"No. Keep talking, or else I'll take the notes away and you'll never see them again."
"Fine, take them; they’re useless! Madame Roux was probably glad when she discovered they'd been taken away from her. Nothing but a bunch of cryptic squiggles and symbols masquerading as descriptions of obstacles."
The second task was going to be a sort of logic-based obstacle course. The elements would be physical, but getting through them would require reasoning and logic. Malfoy had figured that part out rather quickly. But he had yet to solve a single one of the puzzles, mostly due to Harry's handwriting. Also, the notes really were notes: shorthand words and phrases to help Harry remember the task plan.
"Once this is over, Potter, you are going to pay for this. I can't even begin to tell you-- wait!" Malfoy's eyes lit up. He stared at the parchment in front of him, mouth agape.
"Malfoy, you stopped talking."
"Yes, I did stop talking. That's because I'm too shocked to speak. What kind of a task is this? You do realize the competitors are children, don’t you?"
Harry felt his face heat up. "Of course I know they're children; one of them is my own student."
"This says 'cast Erogenus'! Please don't tell me they have to turn themselves on in order to get through the task."
Harry bit the inside of his cheeks, trying to keep from reacting in any way. He had no idea what Malfoy was talking about, but he was not about to let him know that. He focused on the far wall and kept his face neutral.
Malfoy dropped his head to the desk. "It doesn’t say that, does it?" He looked at Harry and shook his head. "That is without question the worst poker face I have ever seen. And I've played poker with house-elves."
That sounded like an interesting story. Harry would have to ask about it some time. But not now.
"You don't even know what the Erogenus spell does, do you?" asked Malfoy. "It's a fantastic little charm. It allows you to turn any part of your body into an erogenous zone. Just imagine instead of having only ten, having hundreds of them."
Harry couldn't help it; his curiosity got the better of him. "Of what?"
"Erogenous zones. Were you even listening to me?"
"I was, but … ten? I thought there was … just the one."
Malfoy's eyebrows tried to climb off his face; then he burst into laughter. "Oh, Potter. No wonder you're still single. You are single, aren’t you?"
Harry wanted to sink through the floor. Or crawl under the desk and hide. "Stop laughing at me, you arse."
"Sorry," said Malfoy, still chuckling. "What am I saying? No I'm not. You're pathetic." He looked at his watch. "The human body has seven specific erogenous zones and three non-specific. I advise you to look them up before your next encounter with anything other than your right hand."
"What, is it your left hand, then? How was I to know?"
"I'm not pathetic."
"Yes you are. You're alive but you haven’t lived. You're hiding from life." Malfoy wasn't laughing anymore.
Harry glared at him, disoriented by the fact that he wanted to both slam his fist into Malfoy's nose and shove his tongue down his throat. Their eyes met for a few seconds. Harry could feel the energy between them, drawn tight like a bowstring. He looked away, afraid of what would happen if he didn't. "I suppose you're the expert on living." He knew his voice had that dangerous edge to it, the one that almost always made people back down.
"All I know is that you could have everything I've ever wanted -- fame, glory, power, fortune -- but instead of living that life, the life you could have, you're holed up in this old castle."
Harry thought back to his life before he came to Hogwarts and imagined the empty existence he would have if he weren't teaching. He felt blood rush to his head. "You have no idea what you're talking about," he said. A pot of ink on the desk began to rattle. "You should get back to the notes. You're wasting time."
Harry couldn’t be certain, but he thought Malfoy looked frightened. He looked paler than he had moments ago. Malfoy picked up the stack of papers and began to leaf through them. A few seconds later, he dropped them back onto the desk and stood up.
"This whole thing was a waste of time," he said. "I'll see you around, Potter."
The next night, Harry did not expect Malfoy to show up. The second task was tomorrow, and it was unlikely that he would be able to learn anything useful in the hours he had remaining. Harry waited in his office anyway, not willing to be the one to break their agreement.
He had been so angry last night, but in the cold light of the morning, he had seen what Malfoy had meant. What was he doing with his life? Was he missing something by being at Hogwarts? He was approaching thirty, and sometimes he still felt like he was seventeen years old and waiting to grow up -- waiting for the time when he would be able to choose his own destiny.
Harry shook his head. That wasn't a productive line of thought. The past determined the future. His past had eliminated the possibility of a normal life for him. There was nothing for him out there. Maybe if he were another man, there would be options. But not for him. He picked up the book in front of him and opened it to the first page.
"You were listening to me."
Harry looked up, surprised to hear that voice. "Malfoy! You're here."
"I am. And you are reading Simple Enchantments to Spice Up Your Love Life."
"I … I am," stammered Harry, trying and failing not to blush.
Malfoy sat down with a sigh. "Where was I? Oh right, I was lamenting the quality of your penmanship."
Three hours later, they were both yawning. Harry put down his book.
"That's three hours. Unless you want to use your discretionary hour?"
He took Malfoy's disgusted grunt to mean 'no'.
"So did you figure anything else out? You got kind of quiet near the end there."
"You were so engrossed in your reading that I didn't think you’d noticed. But no, I didn’t figure anything out. I was merely in a stupor of frustration," Malfoy said. He stood and stretched. Harry trailed his eyes up and down the length of his body.
Harry stood as well, and walked with Malfoy to the door. He stood with his hand on the doorknob, reluctant to open it. "Good luck tomorrow."
"Thank you. So … what did you learn tonight? Do you know all ten now, at least?"
It took Harry a moment to realize what he meant. He chuckled nervously. "Oh. Well I couldn't find all ten in that book. I mean, it said there were ten, but didn’t list them all. But … let's see: lips, neck, um, nipples, and, um, the one I already knew about. They called it 'the male member'. That's funny, like it’s in some sort of club."
"Yes, a club where the members wear odd little hats."
"Right, with -- oh! I always thought it looked like more of a helmet, but a hat, yeah … okay, this conversation is officially weird."
They were both silent for a while. Harry was berating himself for babbling so stupidly, and Malfoy … well, who knew what Malfoy was thinking? He had an odd look on his face; it could almost be described as predatory. Perhaps he was plotting some way to embarrass Harry further.
"Well," Malfoy finally said, "at least you know four of them. That's a start."
"I suppose. I don't really understand the neck one though." What am I saying? Shut up!, he thought, but his mouth seemed to be ignoring his brain. "I mean, this doesn't really feel like anything special," he said, rubbing the side of his neck with his hand.
"It's like tickling," replied Malfoy. "Someone else has to do it for you to really feel it." He raised his arm and slowly slid his hand from Harry's throat to the side of his neck. His touch was cool and gentle but left a trail of fire behind. Harry lost track of the rest of his body, he was so focused on the feel of Malfoy's fingers against his skin. He held his breath, or maybe he had forgotten how to breathe. He wasn't sure which it was.
He realized that he had closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, Malfoy's hand was gone. "That … that is a bit different," he said hoarsely.
Malfoy nodded. Harry opened the door and followed him into the corridor.
"Are your quarters this way?"
"Oh, um. Yeah. This way."
They walked down two flights of stairs together, neither saying a word. Harry could feel the heat between them, even though they were several feet apart. He wanted nothing more than to close the distance between them; his body craved contact.
In the entrance hall, Malfoy paused at the top of the stairs that led down into the dungeons. "I know your quarters aren't in the dungeons."
"Um, no. They're that way," Harry said, waving his hand vaguely toward the other side of the hall. He couldn't leave yet. He needed … something. Contact. Skin on skin. "Good luck tomorrow." He extended his hand. Malfoy took it, and they stood there with hands clasped, not shaking them, not moving. It wasn't enough. Harry dropped his hand.
With a whimper, he lurched forward and kissed Malfoy, who responded instantly, as if he had been expecting it. It wasn't a chaste closed-mouth kiss, but a desperate fusion of lips and tongues. Malfoy wrapped his arms around Harry and pulled him closer.
They broke the kiss to take a breath. "We shouldn't be doing this," said Malfoy, pressing his forehead against Harry's.
Harry grinned. He felt reckless, invincible. "Probably not," he said, and then kissed Malfoy again, slower this time, and deeper. His whole body was shaking as the pent-up desire poured out of him. A thousand hours of wanting and needing were suddenly fulfilled; it was bliss. He felt a hand on the front of his robes, undoing some of the buttons, sneaking down under the waistband of his trousers. The hand wrapped itself around his cock. Harry moaned against Malfoy's lips. Malfoy's hand moved slowly, caressing, stroking--
Were those footsteps?
Harry pulled his face away and stilled, trying to listen for the faint sound. Malfoy bit the side of his neck and continued the smooth movement of his hand. Harry stifled a moan.
"Wait, stop … I think I hear footsteps," he whispered.
"It's one in the morning, the entire castle is asleep," murmured Malfoy. He didn’t stop.
"No, I heard something. It … it might be a student." Harry desperately wanted to keep doing what they were doing; he also didn't want to be seen.
Malfoy sighed, pulled his hand out of Harry's trousers and stepped away. "Fine. Good night, Potter."
"Wait! No, I didn't mean … We could go to my room." Harry couldn't believe he had just said that. But he didn't want it to end yet. Just a little more, perhaps, and it would be enough.
"We could," said Malfoy, smiling slightly. "Is it actually nearby?"
Harry laughed. "No, it's on the sixth floor."
The walk up to his quarters had never seemed so long. Of course, stopping at every landing and in a number of conveniently located alcoves along the way hadn't helped shorten the distance. Harry was sure that if the statue of Frederick the Freckled on the fifth floor had suddenly come to life, it would have been aghast at their wanton display.
By the time they arrived at the door to his room, he had never been so turned on in his entire life. Granted, he didn't have much to compare it to, but this was beyond anything he'd thought was possible. Every nerve ending in his body was singing in harmony, his very being a conduit for some kind of super-powered lust. From the sounds Malfoy was making, Harry guessed that he was feeling the same way.
They stumbled onto his bed, pulling off their clothes; fabric ripped and buttons flew, but it didn't matter -- there was always Reparo. Harry had no idea what was going to happen now. He had spent hours fantasizing about what he would do to Malfoy, but it had been in fuzzy generalities. Now here they were, naked and tangled together, and the feel of Malfoy's lean, angular body was nothing like it had been in his head.
Malfoy slid down and sucked Harry's cock into his mouth.
Harry decided that reality was much, much better than dreams.
Continued in Part 2…