nursedarry: (Parselslut)
[personal profile] nursedarry
Title: Say the Magic Word
Rating: PG13
Word Count ~6K
Warnings: None, this is pure sssssschmoop.
Summary: Salazar Slytherin takes a holiday and Draco gets locked out of the House.
Author's Notes: Written for gunsandcuffs's HD Support series - [profile] hd_parseltongue. Many thanks to [personal profile] alaana_fair for her infinite patience, and to my beloved betas, [personal profile] groolover and [personal profile] delphipsmith and to [profile] cassie_black12 for the once-over. Dedicated to [personal profile] jtsbbsps_dk for saving my sanity this summer.



The Founders may have no longer been alive, but their legacies lived on. The houses' colours and symbols and their members’ traits were defined by them, the students’ lives and friendships were sculpted by them. The choosing of House passwords, too, was one such legacy.

It was rumoured that the Fat Lady, guardian of the Lions’ den, was once the mistress of Godric Gryffindor. Whether that were true, Draco never cared to discover; he was proud of the fact that the choosing of his own House’s password was the purview of the portrait of his distinguished Founder, not some…tart.

And so he found himself on the first day of the final term of his 8th year at Hogwarts standing in the dungeon corridor in front of a familiar frame containing a familiar canvas made disturbingly unfamiliar by the absence of his House’s Founder. The backdrop was the same as always, all of the accoutrements that surrounded the famous man were in their proper places – down to the snake wrapped around the headrest of the ornate chair in which Salazar Slytherin normally sat. But in place of the man there was merely a piece of parchment, stuck to the mahogany seat. Squinting in the dim candlelight, Draco could barely read the flowing script:

“Gone out. Ask the snake for the password.”

What? thought Draco, dumbfounded. Gone out? Gone out WHERE? He glanced quickly into the frames of the other portraits that lined the dungeon walls, as if Salazar Slytherin might be sitting in a punt on a lonely fog-covered river or standing on the ramparts of a sturdy Roman wall. But no, he was not. The mystery continued.

Should he inform the Headmistress? It seemed a little silly almost, and as Prefect it was Draco’s job to collect the password – a job he could still do in the Founder’s absence, if the note was to be believed. He eyed the snake warily and then huffed crossly.

“Well…?” There was no response. Did the snake have a name? Should he be addressing it more reverently than that? Should he first question the snake about its wayward master?

"HHHHHhhhhhssssssssthhhhhhhhhhaaaaaassssssssss," the snake hissed, startling him, and Draco was immediately wrong-footed.

He’d heard Parseltongue many times throughout the last few years – Voldemort had spoken it with Nagini at the Manor, and of course Potter… Potter had spoken it to the snake in second year. Sad as it was, that was the scene from his past to which Draco was most partial, and it shouldered its way to the forefront of his memory. He quickly and almost successfully pushed it back into the recesses of his psyche and contemplated the problem at hand. In addition to losing the Founder, he’d no idea what the snake was saying and therefore no way of understanding the password.

Behind him, he heard the footsteps of several students followed by the impatient voice of Blaise Zabini. “C’mon, Draco, what’s the password?” He was obviously impatient to get back into the dorm following breakfast. All of Draco’s housemates would be; lessons started in a quarter of an hour.

“I… There is none,” Draco said quickly, not looking round. “You just–” He wedged his fingertips into the masonry of the wall and attempted to yank where he knew the stones would separate when the password was spoken. All he did was tear his fingernails. He feigned nonchalance whilst stifling a moan of pain, then turned to his housemates, who stared incredulously at him.

“Look,” he said, assuming his best authoritative voice. “We don’t have a password yet. Just get to class without your stuff. I’ll have it sorted by the time you’re back.”

“What do you mean there’s no password?” someone complained loudly, a question echoed in several forms from nearly everyone standing in the hallway.

“Just go!” he shouted at them, and quickly started up the stairs on the long walk to the Headmistress’ office.

sSs


"As if we don't have enough worries at the moment, with all the rebuilding, exams and everything else," Headmistress McGonagall complained. "And now a Prefect cannot do something as simple as obtaining his House's password?"

Draco stood silently; he could hardly argue with her.

"Well, if students are injuring themselves trying to get into the dungeons, we'll have to do something, I suppose," McGonagall continued. "We can hardly expect you all to stay trapped outside."

"Yes, ma'am," Draco agreed. As much as he didn't want to go to lessons, he'd miss eating and flying.

"And you said it was the snake that spoke to you? No sign of Salazar Slytherin?"

Draco nodded.

"Well, there's nothing else for it – you need to find Potter. Ask him to listen to the snake and tell you what the new password is." She put her reading glasses back on and sat down.

Draco realised he was being dismissed. "Uh, Headmistress…?"

"Mr Malfoy, I should have thought that instruction was clear enough." She didn't look up.


“Yes, Professor,” Draco said sullenly and left the office.

sSs


He found Potter walking down the corridor on his way to the greenhouse, Longbottom and Lovegood flanking him like bodyguards.

“Potter,” Draco called from behind them. The trio stopped and then all turned to face him. It was most disconcerting. “A word, if you don’t mind.” It was the closest Draco could come to saying please, and Potter must have realised it. He raised his eyebrows in a gesture urging Draco to continue. “Alone.”

Potter muttered something to the others and they strode off, leaving Draco and Potter awkwardly confronting one another in the corridor. As uncomfortable as it made him, Draco reached out a hand and gently steered Potter into an alcove. He could sense Potter tensing up, and said quickly, “Relax, Potter. This isn’t anything… bad.” Or, yes it is, Draco thought to himself. Here he was, standing far too close to someone who made him feel ridiculously uneasy and… something else which he was only now beginning to understand.

“What is it then?” Potter asked.

Draco waited until a gaggle of Ravenclaws clamoured through the corridor and past them. “Potter, I’ve got a problem with my House.”

“What’s the matter with it?”

Draco waited a moment, expecting a sarcastic remark, something about treason or cowardice. It never came. “I can’t…” He broke off, distracted. Something about Potter smelled wonderful, was it shampoo? Toothpaste? And under that, he smelled of Quidditch and...power. Draco caught himself travelling further down this path and his eyes grew wide. No! He wasn’t going there. Not now. Not ever.

“Malfoy, I’m going to be late for class,” Potter complained, and the spell was broken.

“Never mind class, Potter. This is more important.”

“Well, what is it?!” Potter sounded exasperated. And why shouldn’t he be? Draco had called him over to talk and all he could do was stand there and inhale.

“The password to the dungeons. I need you to tell me what it is.” Draco looked over Potter’s shoulder and out the window, trying to focus.

“How would I know what your password is?” Potter -- understandably -- sounded very surprised. He also had a perplexed grin on his face, like this was all part of some elaborate joke. Or worse.

“Because, Potter,” Draco all but spat, “Salazar Slytherin is gone from his portrait, leaving behind his snake and a stupid note saying that the snake knows the password. And as we know, there’s only one person at this school who can understand snakes.” For all that Draco was glad Voldemort was dead, he was still very jealous of Potter’s gift.

“Yeah, right, Malfoy. Pull the other one.” Potter started to walk away but Draco reached out and grabbed him by the elbow. Potter spun around. “I don’t have time for this, Malfoy. I know you don’t like me, but this has just got stupid. Leave me alone.”
This was not going at all well. Not only was Potter unwilling to help, Draco had managed to antagonise him to the point where Potter was telling Draco to leave him alone – the last thing Draco wanted, had wanted these last months. “Potter, I swear I’m not joking," he said desperately. "You can ask the Headmistress. She’s the one who told me to come and find you.”

It was hardly likely that Draco would fabricate a lie so easily discovered, and Potter must have realised this. He chewed his bottom lip for a moment. “Malfoy, you know I might not be able to speak to snakes any more.”

“Well, you can try,” Draco said matter-of-factly. It was rumoured that many of Voldemort’s attributes had found their way into Potter while the dark wizard lived, and that these had disappeared when he was vanquished. Potter wasn’t having prophetic dreams anymore, for instance. Draco had overheard Finnigan telling Nott that in the library one night. “Potter?” Draco ground his teeth, hating to have to ask for favours. “Please?” There, he'd said it, although it came out more like a curse. “No one can get into the dorms.”

Potter sighed. "I must be mental, but all right." He motioned for Draco to lead on, and followed him towards the dungeons.

sSs


"Okay Malfoy, I'm here. Now what?" Potter was unmistakably glaring, but Draco hoped his mood had changed slightly since acquiescing to Draco's request. Unlikely, as Potter was now well and truly missing Advanced Herbology.

"Look." Draco gestured to the picture frame hanging next to the empty space on the dungeon wall where the door was concealed.

Potter leaned forward slightly, scrutinising the picture. Draco tried not to stare at his backside whilst Potter was bent over. After a time, the snake uncoiled itself and regarded Potter in much the same way Potter was staring at it. Finally, Potter stood up straight and spoke. "Ssssaahhhhaa."

Draco closed his eyes briefly. The sound was like a caress across his face.

"Hhhhhssaaaathhaaaasss."

"Faaaasssatthhh."

"Malfoy."

Draco vaguely heard someone clearing his throat.

"Malfoy!"

His eyes started open and he came to his senses. Stupid Potter. Stupid snake. Stupid password. All he wanted to do was go somewhere private and wank, not stand here getting more turned on. He coughed. "So what's the password?"

"Um… How do you feel?"

It was the last question Draco expected Potter to ask him. He was certainly not going to respond to it truthfully. "What are you on about? How do I feel? Why?"

"Because that's the password, apparently," Potter answered, looking as puzzled as Draco felt.

Draco frowned. "I'm… I'm confused, I guess," he said slowly.

"Confused?" Potter repeated.

"Yes. Perplexed, confounded, at a loss." Draco wondered how the silly prat had managed to get through school, let alone defeat a Dark Lord. He watched as Potter's attention turned from Draco back to the snake in the picture.

Potter opened his mouth and -- presumably -- repeated Draco's words to the snake. "Sssshhhhuuuthhsssaaah."

The dungeon door creaked open.

Well, that was easy, Draco thought sarcastically. He blinked dumbly at the open door.

"Aren't you going in?" Potter asked.

Draco considered. "I don't know. I've got to keep the door open for when my housemates get back." He moved to stand in the open door, one foot in the room and one in the corridor, hoping the snake wouldn't slam the thing on him.

"Well, it's simple," Potter said. "The password is whatever your mood is when you get to the door, evidently."

"Simple?" Draco moved out of the doorway and back into Potter's personal space. And smell. "What's simple about it?"

"How hard can it be to tell the snake how you're feeling?" Potter held his ground and crossed his arms in front of him.

"No hardship at all, Potter," Draco said, glaring at him. How dare he be so damned attractive? No, not attractive. Dense. Yes, that was it. Dense. "No hardship at all to say it in English."

"Oh, yeah." Potter unfolded his arms and shrugged. "I guess there is that."

"You're going to have to do it," Draco said matter-of-factly. Now it was his turn to cross his arms in front of his chest. He watched as Potter's gaze followed the movement of his hands. Odd, that. Then Potter seemed to regain his focus.

"I'm, er, going to have to do what?"

"Open the door for us." Draco smirked. "All day. And all night. Until Salazar comes back from wherever he's gone."

"Malfoy, you're cracked if you think I'm going to stand around all day waiting for any Slytherin who needs to get into the dorm." Potter leaned down to retrieve his book bag and made as if to go.

"Wait!" Once again, Draco grabbed him by the arm. He realised as he did so that, short of hurting each other, wrestling for his wand, and Draco's rescue from the Room of Hidden things, he'd never actually touched Potter for any length of time before. He didn't let go this time. "I don't mean for you to stand here all day. I'm sure this isn't forever, but..." he spoke reluctantly, "I need your help."

How could he explain to Potter that his role as Prefect and reputation in his House was tenuous at best? His name was still synonymous with evil deeds and suspicion. If anything, Potter's involvement with their predicament -- indeed, Draco's securing that help -- would do a lot to raise Draco's profile as well as his standing. But Draco knew Potter would be oblivious to this. Nothing like that would ever cross Potter's mind – he was a hero, the darling of the Wizarding World. He'd never have to fight for status or want for companionship.

All of a sudden, Draco felt more lonely than he had in months. Maybe it was just the moment – here he was, standing next to someone he'd wanted, and denied wanting, for so long: Potter – Harry, not the hero, not the Chosen One, just a silly boy he'd fancied since he was fourteen. Draco had never felt so powerless in his life. He couldn't say to Potter what he wanted to, he couldn't even say what he had to in order to get the damned door to the dungeons open.

His hand on Potter's arm clenched and Potter seemed to notice it for the first time. Draco slowly uncurled his fingers from Potter's elbow. He looked away, awash in self-pity and hoping it didn't show on his face.

"How about this, Potter," he began and mentally slapped himself back into what passed for normal for him these days. "I'll make sure everyone has whatever they need for the whole day when they leave, and then you need only be here after dinner to let them back in. They can bring any library books they need back with them. Quidditch season is over and it's too damned cold at night to be outside or wandering the halls for very long. Hopefully this is just temporary, and it's not like we're overcrowded in there anyway." He finally looked at Potter.

Potter seemed to consider Draco's suggestion for a moment and then looked him in the eye. "What about you?"

"What about me?" Draco asked.

"You've got Prefect duties, you might need to be out after hours, you might want the… er… Prefects' bathroom or something." Potter dropped his gaze to the floor and Draco smirked at his embarrassment. Potter couldn't even insinuate that Draco would want to be bathing alone or accompanied – the luxurious bathing room was a notorious venue for coupling among the Prefects – without blushing. It was endearing.

"I can manage with the Slytherin showers, Potter. And I'm not going on any hot dates these days, as you can imagine." Draco hadn't meant to speak that last thought aloud but it was too late now. Now it was his turn to blush. "But being Prefect does mean that I'll need to be out after the rest of the students are in the dorms – or supposedly in the dorms. I promise to just make a token tour of the area before I go back in. I don't want to inconvenience you."

"It's a bit late for that, isn't it?" Potter retorted, irritation clear in his voice. "I've already missed Herbology and now you want me to stand here and open doors for all the Slytherins, like a bloody porter..."

Draco scowled. "Look, this is just as much an inconvenience to me as it is to you." Surely Potter realised that. Of course, empathy wasn't high on his list of characteristics. Nor mine, Draco admitted to himself. It had only been recently that Draco had even thought to put himself in someone else's shoes.

"Fine," Potter said. "I don’t want McGonagall to start ordering us around about this, because you know she will…" He looked at Draco meaningfully.

The two boys had tried to be on their best behaviour around each other, which pretty much meant each of them ignoring the other whenever they were together. Draco figured Potter did this because he hated Draco's guts; he himself ignored Potter for fear of what might pop out of his mouth if he spoke. Either way, the Headmistress had made it her job to keep an eye on both of them, particularly now that Draco's benefactor was no longer among the living.

Potter sighed. "All right. I'll come down here every night at seven o'clock to let in anyone who's here. Anyone left will have to come in with you later—"

"Anyone left won't be coming in at all, I'll make sure of that," Draco said indignantly. "I'm a Prefect, no one gets out on my watch." Potter just stared at him. Draco rolled his eyes. No sense of humour, not a speck. "I'm kidding, Potter. If anyone gets stuck out here, they can come in with me at about half ten when I finish my rounds. Does that suit, or will you be tucked up in bed with your favourite stuffed toy and book of Muggle nursery rhymes?" Draco fought against the image of Potter in pyjamas – or better yet nothing at all, tousled and sleepy.

"Hardly, Malfoy," Potter said, grinning. It was clear that Potter knew Draco was winding him up and wasn't going to play. Or maybe he wasn’t sleeping alone and just didn't want to discuss it.

Draco wisely damped down both his teasing and his imagination before they got him into trouble. "Thanks, Potter," he said simply, and that did look like it had shaken the other boy. Clearly, he wasn't expecting Draco to be grateful. "I'll see you at seven."

Draco went into the dorm to retrieve his books, and spent the rest of the day pretending not to look forward to later that evening.

sSs


That night, Potter, true to his word, met the Slytherin House members at the dungeon door at seven o'clock. Draco had informed them all at lunch and again at tea what the new arrangements would be until further notice. There was some grumbling, mainly from the older students who were involved (or some other word) with members of other Houses, and who would now be unable to arrange rendezvous in neutral territory. It was unlikely they could sneak non-Slytherins in among the Snakes waiting to get into their common room at seven, and if they chose to go out afterwards, they'd have to find another home for the night if Draco wasn't feeling charitable at half ten. It had been known to happen before – there were plenty of hidden places in the castle – and Draco figured he'd not see Blaise, Theo, or Pansy waiting impatiently at the door for Potter after that first night.

He pushed his way to the front of the group and stood next to Potter.

"Well, Malfoy?" Potter prompted.

"I'm cross," Draco grumbled. "And I hate this."

Potter grinned. Draco suspected that he was secretly enjoying the discomfort of Slytherin House, despite the inconvenience it caused him, but then he was unable to hold the thought -- or, really, any thoughts at all -- as he heard the voice hissing from Potter's mouth. "Thassssuuuuuuussssss. Hsssssesssssiissss."

All eyes turned to Potter as he "spoke" to the door's guardian. The snake turned its head toward Draco first – it was, after all, not interested in Potter's mood but in those of its House's members. Draco didn't notice. He was too busy trying to think of Filch wearing stockings and a feather boa in a desperate attempt to fight the effect that Potter's speaking Parseltongue had upon his body.

The door opened.

Draco was pushed aside as the other Slytherins shoved their way into their common room. That brought him back to the business at hand. He waited until the last student entered and then turned to mutter a quiet thanks.

"I'll see you at half ten, Malfoy," Potter called, already turning to go.

Malfoy didn't move until Blaise leaned back into the corridor, made a wholly inappropriate comment, and yanked his Prefect into the dorm.

sSs


And so it went. The next night Draco was tired, and the door responded to Potter's translation. The following day, Draco was hungry from missing tea in order to spend some time in the library before Prefect rounds and tired again by bedtime. He'd nearly been caught out a couple of times thinking about Potter's sibilant voice, but "distracted" was sufficient to get the door open. Fortunately.

Only once was he completely thwarted, one night when Potter came in straight from flying, smelling of broom polish and sweat, and Draco had to cower behind a third-year, begging off, saying he'd left something in the Hall and running away, leaving Goyle to tell Potter that Draco was worried about tomorrow's Potions exam. The snake didn't seem pleased that Draco had abdicated his place as House spokesman, and made Potter and Goyle work for it. Finally, it relented, and opened the door. Draco had watched from an alcove, but instead of going to the Hall he had gone to the nearest toilet and stayed there for some time, the sound of Potter's voice still hissing in his head.

Things only got worse after that. Draco tried desperately to think of anything he could for the next three hours, but nothing – not even telling Pansy and Anthony Goldstein that they'd have to spend the night with the Grey Lady – could drag Draco's focus away from Potter and his talented tongue.

sSs


“Potter, I need you to let me in.”

Draco had roused the Fat Lady outside Gryffindor House and Dean Thomas inside on the sofa by knocking on the portrait, and waited impatiently for him to get Potter. Potter stumbled into the Gryffindor common room, rubbing his sleepy eyes. Draco had forgotten how different he looked without his glasses. A sleepy, rumpled Potter in a tee-shirt and pyjama bottoms was not going to make Draco feel cross, and he had to maintain the emotion or something like it if he had any chance of getting through the dungeon door without incident.

Draco narrowed his eyes, tapped his foot and tried to feign impatience.

Potter yawned hugely. “Malfoy, it’s midnight. Why weren't you at the door at half ten? I waited half an hour for you."

And that made Draco feel worse.

"I’m not going all the way down there now.” Potter blinked and peered myopically into Draco’s face. Draco tried not to peer back. Potter glanced over his shoulder into the Gryffindor common room and then back at Draco. “You can sleep here, if you want.”

Draco’s eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed again as he realised Potter was suggesting he sleep on one of the common room sofas. “Yes, Potter, that would be a great idea. I can’t wait to wake up and find Weasley’s fist in my eye.”

“Hell, Malfoy. What else can I say?” Now Potter sounded the way Draco should feel, but his wayward thoughts were still stuck on the image of waking up in Gryffindor Tower. Although maybe not the part of the tower Potter had meant.

“How about I just tell you the right word. Let’s see… You’ve been cross, tired and hungry. That’s cross, tired, hungry," Potter over-enunciated.

“Potter, you idiot, you’ve just said that in English.” Draco couldn’t hide a small smile as he realised Potter had been trying to say the words in Parseltongue.

“I did?” Potter smiled back, embarrassed.

“Come on. Prefect’s rounds were endless and I just want to get back.”

“Malfoy…” Potter whined, then stopped as a huge yawn split his face.

“Charming.”

Potter must have realised there was no arguing. “Okay, hold on a minute. I’ll be right out.”

The picture fell back into place and the Fat Lady snorted in her sleep as the frame clunked against the wall. A moment later, the picture opened again and Potter stepped through. He carried his Invisibility Cloak under his arm.

“Let’s go then.” Potter motioned to the stairs with an impatient wave.

Draco strode sullenly down the stairs listening to Potter plodding behind him. They walked in silence, save for their footsteps, down the long stone corridors and around the sharp corners until they reached the top of the stairs leading to the dungeons. Potter must have been dozing and walked right into him. Draco wheeled around to confront him but saw nothing, though he could feel Potter’s warm body still pressed against his. Until Potter realised Draco had stopped and quickly backed up.

“Watch it,” Draco warned. He rubbed his back where Potter’s elbow had connected with it.

“Sorry, Malfoy. Didn’t see the invisible traffic signal.” Potter’s disembodied voice sounded even less impressed than Draco’s had moments before.

“Prat.”

“Whatever. Can we just get going? I’m keen to get to bed.”

Draco stared into the nothingness across from him a bit longer than was necessary. Potter must have sensed something, because moments later Draco felt a shoulder press against his, urging him forwards.

“Sorry, Malfoy,” Potter said. “I know this isn’t your fault.”

Draco was surprised at Potter’s gentle tone as well as his empathy. Then again, lost causes had always been Potter's thing. Draco descended the stairs slowly and waited at the bottom until he felt Potter’s presence beside him. The Cloak slipped from Potter’s frame, leaving his hair even more dishevelled than usual. They glanced up at the portrait. The snake uncoiled itself and looked at them from its place on the chair.

Potter turned and looked at Draco. He was waiting for a word.

“I’m cross,” Draco said, with his usual sneer.

“Thsssssaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh,” Potter said and the snake uncoiled a little but the door remained firmly shut. It hissed something back.

Potter blinked a few times, looking confused, and turned to Draco. “Um…apparently you’re not.”

“What? As if that stupid snake could tell what I’m feeling!” Draco spat angrily, now legitimately cross. “I tell you I am!”

“Malfoy,” Potter said with what sounded like barely-contained impatience. “It doesn’t matter what Ithink. It’s what she thinks!”

“That snake’s a girl?” Surprise flooded Draco, followed immediately by the dawning of an idea. “Potter,” he said, keeping his voice very low. “I reckon this snake is an Animagus, and old Salazar has kept her in this form for some reason. We always knew he had a consort, we just never figured out who she was. What if this is her?”

The snake hissed with a defiant tone, its anger directed towards Draco who, of course, couldn’t understand a thing.

“No...”Potter said slowly through the hissing, translating the diatribe. “Slytherin does have a consort. She’s in a portrait in some gallery somewhere on the Continent. That’s where he is, visiting her. This snake was – is – his familiar.”

Draco frowned. This was all news to him.

“So, Malfoy,” Potter said through another yawn. “How about trying the password again?”

“What? Oh.” Draco’s thoughts returned to his immediate surroundings. “I’m tired.”

“Sssssttaaahh,” Potter translated.

Listening to Potter speak more Parseltongue than he'd ever heard at one time was causing Draco’s pulse rate to rise rather higher than it should be for a man who had just claimed to be tired.

Potter's voice brought him back to reality. “And?”

“And what?”

Potter raised his eyebrows. “Tired and what?”

Draco could feel his face heating up. All of a sudden he was very tired. Tired of pretending. “I’m…” He looked away, down the dark and empty corridor. “I’m lonely.”

Potter stared at him for longer than Draco thought necessary. No wonder. He'd never heard Draco admit to anything like that before. Maybe Potter felt sorry for him. Maybe he was stunned. Or maybe he realised that Draco was just as human as he was. Just as capable of feeling things that weren’t fuelled by hatred. Whatever the reason, Draco was grateful Potter made no comment and simply translated the words.

Still the door remained resolutely closed.

“I think she’s still waiting,” Potter said quietly, at last. "Is there more?"

Shit. I was afraid of this... Draco's cheeks felt like they were on fire. He could only imagine what he must look like and for once was glad for the gloomy half-light of the dungeons. That didn’t make what he had to say any easier.

“Draco?”

Draco was only partly aware that Potter had called him by his first name. He steeled himself, took a deep breath, and said something he'd never thought he’d say to another human being, something he’d only recently admitted to himself. “I think I’m in love.”

“What?” Potter’s tone was surprised, but not sarcastic. He was clearly truly startled by Draco’s confession. Rather than turning to the snake to translate it, though, he spoke to Draco. “Um… I know it’s none of my business, but… if you’re lonely… and…”

“Spit it out, Potter,” Draco said irritably. Could Potter not see how embarrassed he was? Could he not see that he was just making things worse? No, of course not. This was Potter, after all.

“I mean,” Potter stammered. “If you’re lonely and you’re…you know…in love, why not… why not just tell the person you fancy. If they felt the same way, then… maybe you wouldn't be lonely.”

He made it sound so simple. “As if you'd do that, Potter. I don’t see you attached at the hip to Ginny Weasley, so you’re hardly one to be giving relationship advice. Are you going to get me into the dorm or what?”

“You’re right,” Potter admitted. Now it was his turn to look away. “I’ve not said anything like that to her. I can’t even tell her I don’t fancy her.” This last part was said almost to himself. He looked up then, right at Draco. “But I do know that life is too short to spend it alone. And I do know that I’m not going to live the life other people think I should be living. It’s my turn now. And I think you deserve some happiness too.”

Draco was speechless as he digested the words. Surely Potter hadn't the first clue about Draco’s feelings for him, but he’d be stupid to ignore the advice. If anything, like himself, Potter was an expert at being at the whim of other people’s expectations.

“Just tell the snake what I said.” Draco looked back at Potter. His voice lacked the malice it usually had. He hoped Potter would comply without asking any more questions.

“Ssssssaahhhhasssseeeeethheeessssss,” Potter whispered to the snake.

The dungeon door slowly swung open, but Draco didn’t bolt through it as he probably should have. Instead he took two careful steps inwards and then turned. Potter hadn’t moved.

“Potter?” Draco said quietly. And he held out his hand.

Potter didn’t make a sound, but his eyes got impossibly big behind his glasses. Draco watched as they locked first onto his hand and then onto his face. Then Draco did something else he’d never done before: he smiled. A proper smile. It was, apparently, a night for firsts.

Potter smiled back shyly and took a step closer. Then he stopped as if afraid of what to do next. Draco said nothing, just stood as bravely as he could with his hand out, hoping that this time Potter would take it.

And this time, Potter did.

sSs


There was no need for Potter to put the Cloak back on; no one was stirring this close to midnight. Draco didn’t look back, but Potter’s hand was warm and firm in his – once again trusting Draco with his safety, but securely holding on in case someone might challenge his presence there.

They were silent as they stole into the dormitory and Draco led Potter to his bed, pulling the curtains around it as soon as they were safely inside. Neither even whispered Lumos to aid in their quick and somewhat awkward removal of robes and shoes, and both sat, then lay down beside each other on the narrow bed. Draco felt as if he were dreaming. A dream he’d had for years, but never dared try to make a reality.

As his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, he saw Potter remove his glasses and place them and his wand under the bed. In the same motion, after stowing the objects, Potter brought his hand to the fringe of Draco’s hair. He toyed with it gently, pushing it from Draco's face and idly sifting it through his fingers. Draco briefly wondered if that were all of him that Potter could see. Not that he minded; it felt divine. Draco felt his eyes fill with tears and tried not to curse himself for being weak. But since Potter appeared to be vulnerable now after being strong for so long, maybe it was time too for Draco to let himself feel fragile, for just a little while.

“It’ll be okay,” Potter whispered and pulled him close.

sSs


Draco woke slowly. He felt uncomfortable, all pins and needles in one of his legs which he now realised was trapped between someone else’s. He was far too warm …

Oh, god.

Potter.


Draco blinked several times to get his bearings and take stock. He was in his own bed; the canopy was proof of that. But Potter was tangled up under the duvet with him. He could feel Potter’s arm around his torso, Potter's body spooned behind him.

Draco still wore his shirt and trousers. His jumper, tie and socks were somewhere – where had he thrown them? He couldn’t remember now. As he stretched out and attempted to get the circulation back into his leg, his foot encountered clothing stuffed under the duvet. At least one of them had had the sense to keep Potter’s robe from being strewn onto the floor next to the bed.

He was startled by a voice and warm breath against his shoulder.

“So – um – are you still feeling those things from last night?”

Draco hoped that whichever of them had had the wherewithal to remember to hide the Gryffindor robe had also remembered to cast a Silencing Charm. Draco cleared his throat. What was Potter talking about? He’d said lots of things. Probably too many things. “What do you mean?”

He could sense Potter smiling against his back.

Draco felt a hand move up his chest. Fingers found a shirt button. “You know, tired…” The button came undone. The fingers moved to the next one. “Cross…lonely…in love?” The next button came open. Then a hand was placed against Draco’s skin.

Draco turned in the embrace, his sore leg twinging briefly as he shifted. Potter’s features were soft and sleepy and he looked beautiful. Draco reached out a tentative hand and gently traced the faded scar on the famous face. This time his smile came more easily. “Just one of them.”

sSs


It was nearly midday when Harry reached the entrance to the tower. Being Saturday, no one would have been overly surprised to see a student coming home a little dishevelled after a late night. Harry kept the Cloak on anyway, to avoid the obvious questions that would no doubt have been asked by his friends the moment they realised he'd been out all night. He hoped to sneak in, have a shower, change into weekend clothes and be in the common room before anyone returned from lunch.

He pulled the Cloak off just enough to uncover his head and was greeted by a startled yelp from the Fat Lady at his sudden appearance. “Young man, you frightened the life out of me! Don’t do that!”

“Sorry,” Harry said awkwardly. He removed the Cloak completely.

She winked at him suggestively. “A good night, was it?”

Harry couldn’t tell if she really wanted to know or was just being facetious. He decided to answer truthfully, anyway. “Yes, it was.”

“I’m so glad.” Now that had been said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Password?”

"Apple crumble."

“Sorry.” The Fat Lady turned her head and pretended to be interested in the foliage around her.

“What?” Harry blinked a couple of times. Clearly he was still half-asleep and must have misheard. “I said apple crumble.”

“And I said ‘sorry’. That’s not the right password.”

“What do you mean?” Harry was getting impatient now.

“The password was changed this morning. The Gryffindor Prefects will know it. Ta ta, love.” And with that the Fat Lady strode out of her painting and disappeared.

The End

Date: 2011-08-01 09:54 pm (UTC)
alovelycupoftea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alovelycupoftea
LOVED IT!!!

Poor Draco! And YAY for Harry finally twigging empathy.

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