Fan Fiction - Harry Potter - Povídky



Wings Are for Angels (We Fly on Sticks)
For Kath


The reopening of Hogwarts came as a surprise; nobody had really expected the school to be up and running so soon after the final battle of the Second Voldemort War. There had been criticism – there were too many bad memories lurking in the halls of Hogwarts that would plague students with nightmares; the wizarding world was still too unsafe to send its children away to school, with leftover Death Eaters and former sycophants of the Dark Lord on the loose. But Minerva McGonnagal insisted that the return to normalcy – which, for most wizarding children, was represented by studying at Hogwarts – was what the society needed and besides, there hardly was a safer place in England than Hogwarts.

When it became known that Harry Potter himself would be returning to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to complete his last year of education, even the most vehement opponents of Hogwarts’ reopening and the most anxious parents closed their mouths and brought their children to King’s Cross to board the Hogwarts Express on September 1st.

For Harry, the decision to go back to Hogwarts was nothing particularly noble or brave. Despite what the Prophet claimed, it was not a result of his desire to encourage the rebuilding of the war-damaged society, nor a political statement. Harry was tired. All he wanted to do was go home and forget everything that he’d been through for at least a few months.

Hogwarts was the only home Harry had ever known. Besides, he didn’t know what else to do with his life now that the war had been won and the villain vanquished. Half of his life had been aimed – whether he knew it or not – at defeating Voldemort. With that burden off his shoulders, Harry realized that for the first time in his life, he was free – or as free as a public persona of his caliber could ever hope to be – and he had no idea what to do with this new found freedom yet. And so he went to Hogwarts, because Hogwarts was familiar and uncomplicated, and because Hermione had been trying to persuade Ron and him to come back with her, anyway. Hopefully, in the one year that he had left, Harry would figure out what he wanted to do now that he didn’t have to deal with evil overlords vying for his blood.

September passed in a sort of calm that was almost too consummate to be true. And yet it was, because October followed just as smoothly, with no incidents aside from the occasional first year shyly asking Harry for an autograph. Most of the students who had survived the war had returned, even some who had actually gone to school last year – from what Harry has heard, the teaching hadn’t been quite up to standard, not to mention the schoolyear being interrupted by the Battle weeks before its official end. And even though some seats at the tables in the Great Hall remained unoccupied, Hogwarts’ halls did not seem as empty as everyone – including Harry – had feared they might. Things had literally gone back to normal, or at least as normal as possible under the circumstances.

Even though she looked slightly frailer and older with the added lines on her face, Professor – Headmistress – McGonnagal was as strict and as fair as ever when she lectured them on how to transfigure cats into stools, apes into chandeliers and, eventually, themselves into tables and rocking chairs and wardrobes with creaking doors.

Professor Sprout’s increased focus on herbal poison antidotes and the use of aggressive foliage as a part of securing one’s home was well-meant and no doubt useful, and so most of them listened and took notes and tried not to think of the rain of screeching mandrakes that had descended upon the Death Eaters from Hogwarts’ towers in the final battle.

To the utter disbelief and dismay of Professor Slughorn, Harry no longer displayed his previous brilliance in Potions now that he could no longer rely on the assistance of the Half-Blood Prince’s book, though his potion brewing was still significantly better than it had ever been under Snape’s instruction. Harry tried not to think of Snape while he chopped and stirred and inhaled the vapors of their concoctions. They still had Potions with the Slytherins, just like they had always had, and the consistency was comforting, even though Malfoy now kept his mouth shut and his eyes on his cauldron instead of the mocking and sneering Harry had been used to.
Harry wasn’t sure why Malfoy had come back – possibly because, even though he had officially attended school last year, his actual presence had been rather sporadical. Or maybe he just felt safer at Hogwarts than anywhere else, too; Harry couldn’t blame him for choosing another year at the haven that was the school over a year out in the open, especially with the public image his family now enjoyed.
In any case, Malfoy always rolled his shirt-sleeves up ostensibly before he launched into cutting or crushing ingredients, and his forearms were pale, smooth and unmarked. It made sense, of course; they hardly would have allowed a Death Eater into the school, even one with mitigating circumstances and Harry Potter’s favorable testimony on his side. Harry couldn’t help staring at the lack of a Dark Mark on Malfoy’s skin and wondered if Dumbledore would have been satisfied with this outcome – one more innocent soul saved.

Though innocence was a relative thing, as Harry knew better than most – technically speaking, he had been the innocent party in the battle, and on the good side, but knowing that did nothing to alleviate the guilt over all the deaths that was gnawing at him.

Those seventh-years who had fought in the Battle of Hogwarts were not obliged to attend the Defense Against The Dark Arts lessons, which were taught by several hosting ‘professors’ from the Auror office. Harry was grateful for this. Some of his classmates did, however, decide to still take DADA – not many, apparently, since there only was one group with all houses mixed up, as Hermione and Ron had informed him. Hermione argued that while they may have learned a lot about the practical side of fighting the Dark Arts in the field, there was still a ton of theoretical knowledge to catch up on, background that may be useful for research. Ron took DADA, too, because he and Hermione had become inseparable; they held hands under the desk in classes and their secret smiles and glances were as secret as the fact that the sky is blue.

Harry considered taking the Healing lessons that Madam Pomfrey now offered to those interested, because knowing how to heal wounds and bruises certainly would come in handy not only in wartime, but in everyday life as well. In the end, though, he decided against it – he was neither deft, nor patient enough for the type of fine, meticulous wandwork required by most healing spells. While Hermione moaned about the overlap in schedules and wished she still had her Time Turner so she could take both DADA and Healing, Harry decided to simply take the time off. It wasn’t that he thought himself all-knowing or particularly skilled when it came to DADA. He just couldn’t make himself face the Dark Arts yet again, not even in the watered down version appropriate for the classroom, because even thinking about curses and hexes brought back memories of his friends writhing in pain or falling down dead. He had had enough.

The first few weeks of school, he wandered the halls aimlessly in those free periods, mostly under his Invisibility Cloak to avoid unwanted attention or company. He found out that Ginny had no lessons at that time, either; they could be spending the time to reunite and revive their relationship. Harry had followed her once, hiding under the cloak, until she disappeared into the girls’ bathroom from where he could then hear her sobs. After that, he gave up whatever thoughts he may have had about getting back together with her anytime soon. Partly, it was out of selfishness, because he didn’t feel strong enough to deal with her grief, and partly, it was out of consideration, because he was sure he would only remind her of the war and of Fred’s death. It was the same reasons for which he didn’t spend as much time with Ron these days as he once used to – in addition to the fact that Ron’s and Hermione’s besottedness automatically made him feel like a third wheel, of course.

Hogwarts felt almost like home again… and yet it didn’t. The calm was wonderful, certainly, but Harry soon noticed the impact this static state was having on his moods. He was either constantly prickly, restless like he was sitting on a thorny surface that wouldn’t let him rest, or he slid into indifference, feeling hollow and directionless and lifeless. When she wasn’t too busy making out with Ron, or revising in preparation for the next day’s lessons, Hermione shot him worried glances. Harry ignored them; she didn’t say anything and he wasn’t going to address the issue, especially since he didn’t even know what exactly his issue was.

And then, one day in early November, Harry remembered the one thing about Hogwarts that was missing. He was lolling around in the Astronomy Tower during one of the DADA-related gaps in his timetable, staring off into the distance, when a tiny black dot against the gray sky caught his attention. Too big and too fast for it to be a bird, moving in patterns too elaborate for a thestral – somebody was out flying. Harry watched for a few moments while the person executed a few bold loops, skyrocketed higher and higher until they disappeared among the clouds, only to reappear seconds later in a reckless, dizzyingly steep dive that ended somewhere among the trees of the Forbidden Forrest. Harry held his breath and counted seconds, wondering if the flier had not over-estimated themselves, if they had not crashed and broken their neck, maybe he should run to the infirmary to alarm Madam Pomfrey… But then the flier rose above the trees once again and Harry exhaled, his heart racing.

Quidditch. He hadn’t played in so long that he’d almost forgotten the exhilaration of it, but now that he remembered, he could barely wait to mount a broom again. He wouldn’t get a chance to play, of course, as there were no teams, but even flying on his own – or maybe with whomever he had seen practicing out there – would be brilliant. He all but ran to the Owlery to send an inquiry to Quality Quidditch Supplies.

Only those students who were of age were allowed to have brooms, only they were allowed to fly – at their own risk. As impenetrable as Hogwarts’ wards were, there was always the risk of a student getting out of the protective cocoon as they flew, after which they would be an easy target for anyone lurking nearby. Not many of Harry’s classmates had brought their brooms as far as he knew, and one look at the broom shed beside the Quidditch field confirmed his suspicion – there was no Quidditch, after all, and thus no real use for broomsticks.

Harry had obtained the password for the broomshed’s locked door from McGonnagal the day before his brand new Supernova arrived. The Headmistress had not said anything, but Harry had seen the worry-line that appeared between her eyebrows. He was too giddy to care, though.

The complex, password-strengthened locking spell warding the shabby wooden door was obviously a measure to keep underage students from foolishly breaking the rules rather than protect the broomsticks in the shed from getting stolen. The four school Cleansweeps, someone’s forgotten Comet 180 with loose twigs sticking out of its tail, a dusty box of Quidditch balls, and a heap of rotting protective gear – those were hardly worth breaking in. Then Harry’s gaze fell on the broom in the very corner of the closet. He didn’t need to read the silver lettering on the dark, polished shaft – he’d spent enough hours poring over the pages of the catalogue Quality Quidditch Supplies had sent him to immediately recognize the Quicksilver.

Harry grinned. It had been a tough choice between the Supernova and the Quicksilver; they were both superb, state-of-the-art racing brooms. In the end, Harry had picked the Supernova, because the warm brown lacquer and the ash wood it was made of reminded him of the Firebolt – it was a decision based on pure sentimentality, though; according to the catalogue, the two brooms were of comparable quality and speed.

His fingers were itching, he wanted nothing more than to test the new broom right away, but he had classes to attend and he was sure Professor McGonnagal wouldn’t be too happy if he skipped Transfiguration and went flying instead. With a sigh, he carefully leaned his broom against the wall beside the Quicksilver. He would have to wait for his free period, which wasn’t until after lunch. He gave the two racing brooms one last glance – hopefully he would find out who the Quicksilver belonged to and test which broom was superior – and hurried back to the castle for his fist lesson.

The morning dragged on and Harry nearly buried Professor Flitwick under a heap of books when his mind strayed while he was in the middle of an advanced levitation/transportation charm. When it was finally lunch, Harry gobbled down only a few spoonfuls of stew and washed them down with pumpkin juice before making a hasty exit.

When he spelled the broomshed door open, the Quicksilver was missing. Harry smiled to himself, grabbed his own broom and re-locked the shed. He took a few steps towards the Quidditch pitch before mounting the broom, and then he kicked off.

The cold November air whipped at his cheeks as he rose, making his eyes sting behind his glasses. When he was high enough, he turned towards the Forbidden Forrest and leaned into the broom. The Supernova shot forward like a bullet and the world around Harry turned into a blur before he got used to the speed. He let out an excited whoop and, reaching the forest, zig-zagged between the tops of the tallest trees that protruded from the green mass below. The broom reacted to even the lightest touch; it was almost as if it was a part of him. He executed several loopings that made his insides tingle with the well-known mixture of fear and excitement, he flew up in spiraling circles and then aimed back to the ground like an arrow, his feet brushing the treetops as he leveled his broom in the last second.

Harry was still gulping air after he had held his breath during the dive and basking in the afterglow of the adrenaline rush when another flier came into view. The person rose above the trees a fair distance away; judging by the acceleration, it had to be the owner of the Quicksilver.

Harry smiled and started towards the distant figure – a race would be fun, even better than flying on his own. The other flier was intent on their practice – Harry recognized the Woollongong Shimmy, which the flier executed at full speed, drawing a neat sharp zig-zag into the air, and then the Double Eight Loop. By then, Harry was close enough to see more than a dark blurry outline against the sky. The person’s hood slipped off their head on the final upside-down arc of the move and Harry clearly saw the white-blond hair that spilled out.

Malfoy must have spotted him at about the same time, because he left the Eight unfinished, abruptly twisting his broom around to bring himself upright again. He came to a halt in mid-air. They stared at each other for a moment, then Malfoy turned his Quicksilver and whooshed off.

Automatically, Harry gripped his broom more firmly and followed, picking up speed until everything but Malfoy’s back some two hundred yards ahead became an indistinct streak of gray and green. The wind was howling in his ears and his bare hands were freezing on the broom handle, but he didn’t care; the only thing that mattered now was the chase and catching up with Malfoy, possibly getting ahead.

It soon became obvious that the Supernova and the Quicksilver were as equally matched as the catalogue had claimed. Despite the bloodcurdling – or thrilling, the way Harry saw it – speed, he wasn’t gaining on Malfoy. He gritted his teeth and willed the broom to move faster.

Malfoy whipped his head around and upon seeing Harry in pursuit, he turned a sharp right towards the lake. That was a mistake – Harry laughed past the stinging wind and turned, too, taking the diagonal, which cut the distance between them by almost a half. But by then Malfoy was already dipping lower and soon Harry was busy dodging the irregular line of trees that wrought around the lake shore, following Malfoy as he slalomed between them at breakneck speed. It was stupid and dangerous and Harry felt more alive than he has in a long time, his mind blank except for the focus that kept him from crashing into the next tree trunk.

The chase continued for several minutes – or hours, perhaps, Harry had lost track of time – and Harry hardly felt his fingers anymore. They were above the forest once again when Malfoy suddenly dived. Harry trailed after him at full speed, expecting another feint – there had been several already. This time, however, Malfoy slowed down at the last moment and landed on the side of the Quidditch pitch. It was an effort to pull his broom handle up and not crash into the frost-covered grass, but Harry managed and skidded to a halt a few yards behind Malfoy.
He barely had time to unclench his frozen fingers from the broom and hop off before Malfoy came striding towards him.

“What the fuck, Potter!” he yelled. His nose and ears were as red and wind-bitten as Harry’s felt and his hair was covered in frost. “The fuck did you follow me for?!”

Harry swallowed; his throat was still burning and dry from the bitingly cold air. “I just got this Supernova,” he croaked, indicating his broom. “Just wanted to race.” He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “Fuck, but the Quicksilver’s fast,” he nodded towards the broom in Malfoy’s hand.

Malfoy glared at him a moment. “You’re crazy, Potter,” he informed him, then shook his head and strode towards the broomshed, turning his back on Harry. Harry felt a wave of disappointment wash over him; it had been such a brilliant race! He started after Malfoy, fishing for something to say, something like the childish insults they used to throw at each other to make each other flip. But there was nothing, or at least nothing Harry could make himself say, not when he knew the motives that drove Malfoy to obey Voldemort’s orders.

Malfoy flicked his wand at the door of the shed, tossed his broom inside and slammed the door shut with a bang.

“Malfoy, it was just a – “ Harry started meekly. Playing catch-up with Malfoy had felt so much like his old Hogwarts days and he wouldn’t mind a repeat here and there, if only Malfoy would –

“You’re not taking DADA, either,” Malfoy said as he turned around to face Harry. It was an observation, not a question. “The next class is on Thursday morning.” He shrugged. “I bet the Quicksilver is faster than the Supernova.” Then he shouldered past Harry to trot back towards the castle.

*

On Thursday, Harry ran into Malfoy on his way to the pitch. They walked in silence until they retrieved their brooms.

“Ready, Potter?” Malfoy asked once they stood on the pitch, side by side, astride their brooms. Harry nodded and clutched the handle firmly in his gloved hands. He felt a surge of adrenaline when he saw Malfoy return the nod, then grin ferociously.

“Go!” he yelled and up they went.

It was like that every Tuesday and Thursday after that, and, increasingly, Saturday afternoons as well. Harry could never tell who won, but it didn’t matter, because the contentedness and exuberance he felt as they walked back to the castle after every chase, flushed and breathless, were reward enough.

Hermione was the first to notice – a few weeks after he’d bought the Supernova, she caught his sleeve after he’d come back from one such flying session and dragged him aside.

“You look good, Harry,” she said with a small, curious smile.

“Yeah?” he asked, running a hand through his hair to smooth it; it had been particularly windy out that afternoon. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Are you –,” she started, then dropped her voice to a whisper. “Did you and Ginny get back together?” she asked in a conspirational tone.

“Er – no?” Harry said, suddenly feeling awkward. He hadn’t thought about Ginny in weeks – not since he and Malfoy had started going flying together.

“I won’t tell Ron, you know. You can tell me,” Hermione rushed on.

“There’s not much to tell,” he shrugged. He could, of course, tell her the truth. But for some reason, he wanted to keep this – this freedom. It felt like ages since he’d done something that was just his, without sharing it with Ron and Hermione, or without doing it for someone, or for some higher cause.

“Okay.” Hermione shrugged and patted his shoulder, but the wink she gave him before letting go told him that she didn’t quite believe him.

*

As fall turned into winter and the temperature dropped significantly below zero, bringing snow storms and wind that was sometimes strong enough to throw one off the broom, Harry and Malfoy were forced to reconsider their flying habits.

“Potter!” Malfoy yelled one afternoon. They were in the midst of a blizzard and Harry could hardly hear him over the roaring wind. He could barely see him, a black smudge in a flurry of white. He flew closer until they were facing each other in mid-air.

“What?” he asked and brought his right hand up to wipe the melted snowflakes off his glasses to see Malfoy. The gust of wind that rocked into him before he could get the hand back on the handle nearly toppled him over – Harry was fairly sure he would have slid off his broom if Malfoy hadn’t moved forward, pressing his shoulder into Harry’s for balance. “Thanks,” Harry muttered and quickly steadied himself, both hands back on the broom. Malfoy probably couldn’t hear him over the wind, anyway.

“We can’t fly in this!” Malfoy said and tossed his head to the side to get his hair out of his face.

Harry couldn’t but agree. “I know!” They were reckless, the way they often flew just barely dodging trees and other obstacles, stopping mere inches before crashing into the ground. Reckless, but not suicidal.

“Then let’s get down!”

It was the only sensible thing to do. Except… “I don’t want to go back yet,” he blurted. “To the castle,” he clarified, because he didn’t particularly fancy staying up in the air in this weather. But they had barely just started. Harry didn’t have anything else to do in his free period. He didn’t want to do anything else but – but hang out with Malfoy? The thought seemed odd, but Harry realized that it was the truth.

To his surprise, Malfoy nodded. “Follow me,” he instructed and started a slow, cautious descent.

Several minutes later, they landed on a clearing in the middle of the Forbidden Forest.

“You know that the forest is out of bounds?” Harry said, shouldering his broom, and let Malfoy lead him from the snow-covered clearing into the trees.

“When have you ever cared about rules, Potter?” Malfoy snorted. “We’re not going to stay in the forest for long, anyway.”

“What do you mean?” They were in the middle of the forest. From the ground, Harry couldn’t even tell in which direction the castle lay.

“Here.” Malfoy reached out to grab a low branch of a particularly thick tree. There was a quiet sound, like the creak of one’s joints after sitting motionless for too long, and the trunk of the tree opened to reveal a hollow.

Harry peeked inside the tree. It seemed to be an entrance into a secret passageway. One he didn’t know about. “Where does this one lead?” he inquired, slightly incredulous. It didn’t seem right that Malfoy should know a secret passageway that not even the Marauder Map knew about.

“Get in, will you, Potter? It’s not as cold here as up in the air, but it’s still freezing,” said Malfoy and a puff of his warm breath brushed Harry’s cheek. Harry shivered.

He rolled his eyes and stepped inside the hollow tree. When Malfoy squeezed in after him, the trunk closed once again. With their broomsticks and winter cloaks, there wasn’t much room left. It was a big tree, but they weren’t exactly tiny, either, and Harry suddenly felt warm, almost too warm for comfort, even though the heat was definitely more pleasant than the bitter cold outside.

Malfoy motioned towards the corridor that sloped down, under the earth. “After you,” he said. Harry nodded and crouched slightly so he could enter the passageway. “It leads to the Room of Requirement,” Malfoy told him and Harry banged his head on the ceiling as he bolted upright.

“Fuck!” he cursed and rubbed at his head. “You’re kidding!” he then said. “I had no idea!”

“Neither did I,” said Malfoy from behind him. “Luckily,” he added quietly and Harry thought back to their sixth year, thought about following Malfoy around, and about the Vanishing Cabinet and Dumbledore’s death and he’ll kill my whole family!

“When did you find it?” he asked.

“A few weeks before the Battle,” Malfoy said. “I needed to get out, away from the castle, to think – I found it the other way around first.”

Harry whipped around.

“Watch where you stick that broom, Potter!” said Malfoy, closely dodging the handle of Harry’s Supernova.

“Sorry,” Harry mumbled. “But – if you knew before the Battle, why didn’t you – you could have – “ He gestured with his free hand uncertainly.

“I could have let Voldemort walk in?” Malfoy finished for him.

“Yes,” Harry said, aghast. If Malfoy had done that… He didn’t want to follow that line of thought to its end.

“He humiliated my family, invaded my home, made me watch and do things I’d have preferred not to do…” Malfoy took a breath. “He deserved to die,” he said, his eyes dark and glinting in the semi-darkness of the passageway.

Harry nodded, not sure what to say. Well, he agreed with Malfoy. He agreed with Malfoy a lot lately, though usually it was just Quidditch strategies and broom equipment and flying routes. He bit his lip and turned around. They climbed the rest of the way in silence.

They spent most of the winter afternoons in the Room of Requirement after that, unless the day was clear and sunny and conductive to flying. It was pleasantly warm inside, with a fire crackling in the fireplace the room so conveniently prepared for them, and there were couches to lounge on and chess sets for when Harry was feeling particularly bold.

“Check mate,” Malfoy said on one such occasion and they watched the white Knight behead Harry’s Queen with his sword. “I’ve no idea how you ever managed to win the war, Potter,” Malfoy commented and swept the broken black pieces onto the table between them. He cast a quick Reparo to mend the Queen, then looked up at Harry. “You have no sense of tactics.”

“I was just lucky,” Harry shrugged.

Malfoy didn’t argue with him the way everyone else did. He just nodded and, absently rubbing at the skin of his forearm, said: “Yeah.”

“You never got marked,” Harry said, following the movement of Malfoy’s fingers over his pale skin. He wondered if it’s as soft as it looks.

“No,” Malfoy said.

“Why?” inquired Harry.

Malfoy remained silent and Harry thought he’d probably pushed it a bit far. But then, Malfoy cocked his head to the side. “I refused,” he said nonchalantly.

“You refused?” Harry echoed. “And Voldemort left you alive?”

“I was just lucky,” said Malfoy dispassionately and leaned back into his armchair, closing his eyes. “My father wasn’t happy, though,” he added and Harry remembered Lucius’ eagerness when he and his friends had been brought to the Manor. Well, Draco? Is it Harry Potter? If we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiven.

*

They resumed their races as soon as the worst of the snow melted away. One day towards the end of February, Harry arrived to the broomshed to find Draco with dust on his robes and a wicked grin on his face.

“What?” he asked by way of greeting and couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corner of his lips. Draco was grinning like a madman and Harry could tell he was up to no good. It made his blood rush with anticipation.

“I was thinking,” Draco started and stepped forward. “That we could make things a bit more interesting.” Triumphantly, he reached into his pocket. When he pulled his hand out, he was holding a tiny golden ball, the silvery wings beating erratically against his fingers.

“Where did you get that?” Harry laughed, delighted. They’d checked the box of balls months ago, but the Snitch had been missing. Eagerly, he reached for it, but Draco snatched it away.

“Nuh-uh, Potter,” he said and twirled out of Harry’s reach. “You’re going to have to win this.” Harry moved fast – faster than Draco had expected, apparently, because he didn’t manage to dodge this time. Or maybe he hadn’t expected Harry to move at all – he clearly was not aware that the Sorting Hat had almost put him in Slytherin. Either way, Draco’s wrist was trapped in Harry’s grasp and before Draco had a chance to protest, the Snitch had changed its owner. It was warm in Harry’s palm and the delicate wings tickled where they brushed his hand.

“That was easy,” he grinned.

Draco didn’t say anything and Harry wondered if he really could be offended over such a stupid thing. Then Draco spoke: “Was there something else of mine you wanted to steal, Potter?” He looked down at his hand significantly – their hands – and Harry realized that he was still holding on to Draco’s wrist.

Blushing, he released it. “I’m not planning on stealing anything,” he stuttered. “I’m going to win it, fair and square.” He held up the Snitch between them.

Draco raised his eyebrows. “We’ll see,” he said, his expression bright and playful when he met Harry’s look.

The Snitch, which – Draco explained – had been trapped under the heap of Quidditch gear behind the box with the ball-kit, brought a whole new level to their flying sessions. Now it was serious, now it was for real. They counted points, one for each capture of the Snitch.

1:0, when Harry scooped up the Snitch in his palm right in front of Draco’s nose, as a result of which Draco stomped off after the game, leaving Harry to put both their brooms back into the broomshed. Harry did it, snickering to himself all the while. Draco was such a sore loser.

1:1, when Draco bodychecked Harry so hard they both tumbled into one of the Ravenclaw spectator towers around the Quidditch pitch. He got the Snitch, however, and Harry laughed so hard at his smug grin that he didn’t even mind the pain in his ribs from crashing into a wooden plank.

5:4, when Harry nearly got whacked by the Whomping Willow and Draco called him a reckless idiot once they landed. (“Takes one to know one,” Harry replied and grimaced at Draco.)

And then – Harry thought they were by 28:25 – he proved Draco right. It was a crisp spring day and they were in one of the less dense parts of the Forbidden Forest, flitting through the lush green branches in a mad chase for the Snitch. The golden ball was just ahead of him, Harry could see it glint in the sunlight filtering through the leaves.

He laughed out, throwing his head back in delight, and looked over his shoulder to see the expression on Draco’s face – Harry was going to be four points ahead, a feat neither of them had managed until now. He caught a split-second glimpse of that fierce, determined look Draco got when he knew he was about to lose but still not giving up, his wind-swept hair aglow in the sunshine, so beautiful –

Terror flickered across Draco’s face as he shouted: “Watch out!”

The warning had come a second too late. A branch whipped at Harry’s face and then his outstretched hand, followed by the rest of his body, crashed into the tree he hadn’t seen in time. Pain – and then he was falling, falling into blackness.

He woke up to an incessant stream of muttered spells and curse words. He could feel the spells tingle all over his body and could only guess what they were meant to do; he didn’t recognize the incantations. The pain in his limbs made it impossible to focus.

He let out a groan when he felt something press itself uncomfortably against his aching leg.

“Can you hear me?” There was a warm touch at the side of his neck. “Harry?”

He opened his eyes. Draco was a blur above him. Automatically, he moved to fumble for his glasses – they must have slid off his nose when –

“Don’t move, you idiot!” Draco hissed angrily, but then carefully put the glasses onto Harry’s face. “I’ve fixated your leg and one arm with Petrificus Localus; I think they’re broken. I can heal bruises and cuts, but I can’t mend bones,” he continued, speaking quickly. Harry’s mind felt hazy, he caught the words but it was hard to attach meaning to the sentences. He saw a flash of gold right beside Draco’s shoulder – it was the Snitch. “I think we’re beyond the school grounds, I’m going to Apparate us to Hogsmeade,” Draco was saying, oblivious to the sound the wings of the Snitch made as it whizzed around him where he sat beside Harry. “I don’t know how else to – I can’t leave you here and go get help – if someone came – there’s no wards. Then we’ll get you to Madam Pomfrey from the village. She’ll fix you, you’ll be fine.”

“I know,” Harry mumbled, feeling safe, and then he fainted.

When he woke up again, his vision was blurry once more, he was clad in the horribly itchy standard school pyjamas, and the air in the room smelled distinctly of disinfection. Clearly Madam Pomfrey had already gotten her hands on him, because he was surprisingly pain-free. He flexed his hands and wiggled his toes experimentally to test the condition of his limbs.

“It’s about time you finally woke up.”

Harry turned his head. “Hi,” he said to the Draco-shaped blur by his bedside. When he reached out, Draco handed him his glasses. He put them on and realized that, except for the small pool of light emanating from the tip of Draco’s wand, the infirmary was dark and completely quiet. “Why are you here at night?” he asked, lowering his voice in case there were people sleeping in the other beds.

“Because I don’t have a death-wish,” Draco answered and when Harry glared at him, he went on: “When I tried checking on you in the afternoon, Granger nearly punched me in the face while the Weasel spluttered obscenities and then attempted to strangle me. And – “ Draco raised a finger for dramatic effect, “his younger sister threatened to Bat-Bogey my balls if I ever came near you again.” He shook his head. “I didn’t even know there was such a variation to the Bat-Bogey hex.”

“She would invent it especially for you,” Harry said, trying not to laugh out loud.

“Oh, I’m honored.” Draco rolled his eyes. “Though I must say my life would be a little easier without your Gryffindor posse after my private bits.”

“I’m sorry about that. I haven’t told them about us – “ Harry stopped, feeling the heat creep up his face, “erm – this. I haven’t told them about this,” he corrected himself and gestured uncertainly. “Not yet.”

“That much was clear from the reception I got,” Draco said, scrunching up his nose, but Harry could see the hint of a smile tugging at his lips. “It’s good to know that even the Gryffindor poster boy can be intimidated by a bunch of scary females,” he teased.

“Girls are scary,“ Harry insisted. He’d seen both Hermione and Ginny in action and he wouldn’t want to face their wrath.

Draco just nodded and they sat in silence for a few moments. Then Draco reached out and touched Harry’s right forearm, running his fingers down the length of one of the bones searchingly, as if he wanted to make sure everything was back in place.

Suddenly, Harry remembered something. “The Snitch,” he whispered.

Draco blinked and released his arm. “What?”

“The Snitch!” Harry repeated and let a grin split his face.

Draco eyed him suspiciously. “What are you talking about, Potter? Are you delirious or something?” He cocked his head to the side. “Madam Pomfrey didn’t say anything about brain damage, but maybe she’d overlooked something.” He picked up his wand and poked at Harry’s temple. “Are you sure you’re not hallucinating? Any unusual pains in your head? Any – “

“The Snitch,” Harry interrupted and swatted the wand away. “It was flying right around you!” he explained and when Draco lifted his eyebrows, he added: “After I’d crashed.” Draco mulled it over for a second, then shook his head. “I didn’t even see it, Potter.” He frowned. “You must have imagined it,” he said quietly and looked away.

Harry smiled to himself, feeling a bubble of warmth spread inside his chest as more images and memories came floating back to him – the troubled look on Draco’s face, his frantic murmurs as he had been trying to fix Harry’s trashed bones, the frustration when he realized he couldn’t.

“It’s lost now, though,” he finally said and pouted. “We won’t have anything to play with now.”

Draco shook his head. “I think it will come back. It’s our Snitch; Snitches have a flesh memory.”

Harry nodded. He knew that, of course. Luckily, Draco went on, not giving Harry the chance to dig up memories of the night he had walked into his own death.

“And even if it doesn’t,” Draco was saying and the expression on his face– half mischievous smile, half wicked grin – wiped the unpleasant memories right off Harry’s mind, “I’m sure we’ll find other ways to keep ourselves entertained.” He winked at Harry. Then he stood up and turned to leave, waving his hand in Harry’s direction. “Good night, Potter.”

“Night,” Harry echoed. “Oh and – Draco?”

Draco stopped mid-stride and turned, staring at Harry in surprise for a moment. “Yes?”

“Thanks,” Harry said. “For, you know, saving me.”

Draco shrugged. “My pleasure,” he said nonchalantly. “Believe it or not, I rather prefer beating you over beating myself.” He was all casual, but there was that small, close-mouthed smile again, and Harry couldn’t stop picturing it when he went back to sleep a little later.

The peace of the quiet nocturnal moments with Draco was quite effectively disturbed when Madam Pomfrey released him from her care the following morning. The walk back to the Gryffindor common room was peaceful enough – nobody had expected him to be up and going quite so early – but once he walked in –

“Harry!” Hermione was on her feet and fussing over him the moment he stepped through the portrait hole. “We didn’t know you’d get released so soon! Are you alright? When they brought you in yesterday, you were – “

“I’m fine,” he reassured her, placing his hands on her shoulders. She nodded and exhaled, calming herself down.

“How did Malfoy get his hands on you?” Ron wanted to know. “You sure looked nasty – what did he trick you with? Madam Pomfrey didn’t let us hex him, but – “

Harry drew a deep breath. “He didn’t trick me. I flew into a tree. He just brought me to the infirmary.”

“Oh,” said Ron. He sounded almost disappointed.

“How did he find you, though? You must have been pretty far from the castle to Apparate! Not to mention in the forest!” Hermione pointed out. They had apparently wheedled a lot of detail out of Madam Pomfrey.

“He was right behind me. We’ve been going flying together for months,” Harry shrugged easily.

His friends gaped. “You go flying together?” Ron asked, flabbergasted.

“Yeah,” said Harry, growing irritated. Ron and Hermione had known he’d bought a broom and probably figured out that he was using it – but they had never asked about the details.

“Why didn’t you go flying with me?!” Ron suddenly burst out and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“Oh come on, Ron!” Harry rolled his eyes. Their concern was nice, sure - it proved that, despite not having much time for Harry lately, the two still cared. But it was also kind of hypocritical. “You’re too busy snogging Hermione to think about anything else these days!”

The ensuing silence was awkward; Ron stuck his hands into his pockets and looked away, while Hermione blushed furiously and lowered her eyes. Harry couldn’t help but start feeling guilty. “Look, I didn’t mean – “

“No, you’re right,” Hermione piped up, then looked up as she gathered her composure once again. “We haven’t been very good friends lately. You have every right to be mad at us and – “

“I’m not mad at you!” Harry threw his arms up in frustration. He really wasn’t – he was glad that they were finally together, and that it made them so happy. These days, he didn’t even mind being the third wheel, he no longer felt the envy he had had to keep suppressing at the beginning of the school year. “It’s just – I have the right to have someone I like to hang out with, too.”

“Of course you do, Harry,” Hermione said slowly, but Ron burst in:

“But it’s Malfoy, Harry!” He shook his head in disbelief. “He’s a Slytherin!”

“Snape was a Slytherin!” Harry snapped.

Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione placed a gentle hand on his arm, and he swallowed whatever he’d been about to say.

“Harry, we just don’t want you to get hurt,” Hermione started carefully. “And after what happened yesterday,” she gestured towards his arms and legs, as if to remind him of the broken state he’d been in just hours prior, “I’m not sure if Malfoy is the ideal choice of companion.” She looked as if she wanted to say more, but she kept the words in and gave Harry a pensive look, twirling a strand of hair around her finger.

“He’s the Ferret, Harry!” Ron said, clearly unable to stay silent. He bugged his eyes out and stared at Harry as if doubting his sanity.

“I like him just fine, alright?” Harry said irritably. “And I think I’m capable of judging who to trust,” he added with a look at Hermione.

Wearily, he dropped into one of the squishy armchairs and ran a hand through his hair, suddenly yearning for the uncomplicatedness of being up in the air with Draco, carefree and with only one thought in his mind – get to the Snitch first. He recalled one time when they had been so close in the race for victory, thighs pressed together as they both reached out for the Snitch in the same moment, and when Harry’s fingers closed around the golden ball, Draco’s hand wrapped around Harry’s fist instead, a split-second too late. Draco had dug his nails into Harry’s skin afterwards and only let go after they’d come to a complete standstill in the air, eyes locked and the silvery wings of the Snitch struggling against both their hands. Harry had had to use his cloak to hide the bulge in his pants after they had landed, and later that night he had jerked off to assorted memories of Draco – his eyes, his laughter, the feel of his skin against Harry’s, what he knew of his body from the countless physical encounters that occurred frequently when they were on their brooms…

“You could have gone flying with Ginny,” huffed Ron suddenly, interrupting Harry’s train of thought. Harry looked up and knew that the blush on his cheeks had little to do with the subtle accusation from his best friend.

For a moment, Harry remained silent. Then he mumbled: “It wouldn’t be the same.”

*

Nothing was the same when Harry compared the present to what the past used to be like. But it wasn’t a bad change, it was exciting, and he found himself pondering new options, new paths. It was not like he was erasing his past, his friends or his adopted family – he was adding to them. He didn’t dread the end of the school year as much as he used to, or if he did, it was for a different reason. He pushed the worry away, though, and listened to Draco as he filled him in on how he’d move to France – or perhaps Australia, I’m not sure yet – and join the Quiberon Quafflepunchers (or Thundelarra Thunderers, if he opted for Australia) and bring them to international Quidditch glory by his extraordinary Seeker skills and, in the case of the Quafflepunchers, by changing their hideous hotpink team robes.

“Why don’t you just stay here?” Harry asked as they strode down towards the Quidditch pitch. “There’s teams you could play for in Britain.”

“My family’s not exactly popular in Britain,” Draco said, but Harry was sure Quidditch fans would forgive and forget by the time Draco won their favorite team the first match. He was sure Draco had to know that, too.

They arrived at the broomshed and Draco unlocked it, reaching inside for their brooms. “There’s nothing holding me here, is there?” he said pensively and turned to Harry, the Supernova and the Quicksilver in his hands.

The words stung and Harry stood frozen for a moment, surprised equally by the statement itself and by his own reaction to it. He wanted to grab Draco and shake him and –

“Potter?”

Harry jerked his head up from where he’d been staring at Draco’s hands on the broom handles and blurted the first thing that came to his mind: “Can I ride your broom?”

Draco’s jaw dropped and when Harry met his eyes, the grey was dark and intense and made Harry’s insides flare up with sudden heat. When he realized just how his request had sounded, he blushed, but before he could say anything to explain himself, Draco’s fingers on the shaft of the Quicksilver tightened and gave a quick stroke, up and down... “Any time, Harry,” he drawled and Harry turned even redder at the imagery that invaded his brain. He swallowed, wondering just when his mind had become so familiar and comfortable with the idea of Draco touching his dick to spring to it with such alacrity. He drew a shaky breath, licked his lips – but then Draco burst out in uncontrollable laughter and the moment was gone.

The embarrassment hit full force and Harry snapped: “You know what I mean! I just want to try and see which one is better.”

“I know,” Draco said appeasingly once he caught his breath again. He thrust the Quicksilver into Harry’s arms. “Of course you can ride my broom,” he added and waggled his eyebrows. Despite himself, Harry joined in on the laughter this time.

*

“Happy now, Potter?” Draco asked when they landed, having flown a huge lap around the school grounds. “Now you know for sure that my broom isn’t faster than yours – every time I beat you, it was my own merit.”

“You know that I knew that before already,” Harry rolled his eyes.

“I do?” Draco asked, an amused smile playing on his lips.

“Well, you do now. You’re a good flier – so there. You can stop fishing now.” Harry mock-glared at him. “The Cushioning Charm on your broom is not as good, though.”

“Sore arse, Potter?” Draco asked, head cocked to the side, and Harry had to stop himself from self-consciously smoothing his robes over his backside as they climbed the slope towards the castle.

*

It was mid-May and Harry was swamped with homework and his revising for the N.E.W.T.s when the Snitch returned. They could have simply bought another one, of course, but by unspoken agreement, they had decided to wait. It was their Snitch.

He was sitting in one of the school yards, working with a pair of swallows that he transfigured into black notebooks and then into dragonflies, back into swallows and then into books again – Professor McGonnagal insisted that to truly master the art of transfiguration, they needed to be able to do it automatically, without thinking. Clearly, quick, mindless repetitions of chain transfiguration exercises were supposed to do the trick.

The sudden flash of gold made Harry look away from his swallows – currently in book-form – and the poor things clattered to the ground before he could transfigure them into winged creatures once again.

The Snitch completed a circle around his head and when it zipped past his face again, Harry shot out one arm, securely trapping it in his palm. The ball looked a little battered, one of its filigree wings was crooked, but after a quick Reparo, the Snitch was as good as new.

It was late afternoon, Harry still had several exercises to go through once he was done with the swallows, and it would soon be time for dinner. Besides, he and Draco had already been flying today; they’d raced each other to Hogsmeade and back. He should just wait for their next meeting, which would be on Saturday, and focus on his homework... He looked at the Snitch. Then he looked at the abandoned swallow-notebooks and the pile of textbooks he’d brought for reference.

Five minutes later, the two swallows were happily flitting through the air, and Harry was on his way to the library to find Draco.

Harry knew Draco preferred to study in the library, even though it meant having Madam Pince breath down his neck. The Dungeons are chilly this time of the year, had been his only explanation and the expression on his face prevented Harry from pointing out that the dungeons were always chilly, regardless of the season. He’d looked haunted and Harry had decided not to pry; he had seen the use to which the dungeons in the Manor had been put while Voldemort had resided there.

He found Draco at one of the tables by the windows. Draco looked up from his Advanced Arithmancy book. “What are you doing here, Potter?”

Harry didn’t say anything, just lifted his hand, holding the Snitch up for Draco to see. The ball caught a ray of the afternoon sun and glinted. “Up for another round?”

Draco’s eyes lit up and he snapped his book shut. “Let’s go,” he said and quickly shrunk all his belongings to stuff them into his pockets.

They released the Snitch above the stretch of lawn between the Forbidden Forest and the lake, counting to ten before they kicked off into the air in pursuit. The afternoon sun made the lake glitter so brightly that Harry couldn’t even look at its surface without squinting, so he decided to search above the shores first. He flew in wide circles, searching for a flash of gold against the green grass. He constantly kept one eye on Draco, too, just in case he spotted the Snitch first.

The air was tepid and Harry felt incredibly relaxed, his speed getting languid; he could just fly like this forever, with the wind combing through his hair and the sun warm on his skin and Draco –

Draco dived. He sped like a rocket towards the ground at the opposite shore of the lake. Harry was far, but not too far to catch up and he leaned into his broom, turning into a steep descent. The wind whipped at him and his eyes watered as he shot towards the ground, yards behind Draco. Frantically, he sought for the Snitch as he raced down. He’d have to see it any moment; was it behind those bushes? He blinked away the tears the wind had driven into his eyes.

Suddenly, Draco pulled at the handle of his broom, steering it back up, turning in the last instant.

“Fuck!” Harry hissed and started to brake, the muscles in his whole body straining as he tried to avoid the crash, his mind steeling itself for the impact in case he wasn’t fast enough. There was an ominous creak as he grappled the Supernova’s handle, but the wood held, and he whooshed up, the grass undulating where his feet had whipped through it.

“Gotcha!” Draco yelled as Harry came level with him. He was laughing freely, his head thrown back.

“Bastard,” Harry laughed, his heart pounding from the adrenaline, and his eyes were drawn to Draco’s exposed neck. “I could’ve killed myself.”

“Harry Potter, the Savior of the Wizarding World, defeated by a Wronski Feint.”

“It would have made a lovely headline,” Harry agreed and teasingly body-slammed Draco, sending him into an involuntarily rolling twist.

“That was a foul, Potter,” Draco informed him when he steadied himself.

“When have I ever cared about rules, Malfoy?” Harry quipped and stuck out his tongue before speeding off to resume his laps above the lake. When he looked back over his shoulder, Draco’s eyes were still on him.

The sun started to set behind the forest and shadows crept across the lake, turning its waters inky dark. The air was turning cold without the sun and Harry reconsidered the wisdom of their decision to release the Snitch with barely an hour of sunlight remaining. They would end up staying half of the night; they were both too stubborn to concede before the Snitch was caught.

He flew over to the other shore, which was still bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. Draco was hovering above the lake, his hair and white school shirt in stark contrast to the darkened landscape behind him. One second he was flying in idle circles, then in the next, he had turned his broom at a sharp angle and was descending towards the lake.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Not bloody likely,” he murmured, ignoring Draco’s feint. He wasn’t stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice. He let his feet dangle through the air, watching Draco streak through the sky, towards the lake. It was a sight to behold, the way he flattened his body against the handle of the Quicksilver, his hair streaming behind him and his eyes trained ahead, on a spot on the surface of the lake –

And then Harry saw the flicker of gold above the dark ripples on the surface of the water. Draco wasn’t feinting this time. Cursing, he dived and headed for the Snitch. He was closer to where it was fluttering above the water, but Draco had a headstart. It would be a matter of sheer luck.

The luck was on his side, it seemed – he was gaining on Draco, he’d get to the Snitch first, just a few more yards. He stretched out an arm, readying himself for the endspurt.

Suddenly, Draco launched himself forward, leaping off his broom, fingers outstretched towards the Snitch. At a speed that made Harry’s stomach clench, he plunged into the lake headfirst, disappearing under the water with a mighty splash.

“Fool,” Harry whispered as he pulled his broom back up and leveled it just above the water. He looked down, hoping to see Draco resurface again, unhurt and victorious despite the dangerous stunt. Draco’s broom floated on the water thanks to the inbuilt Flotation Charm, but its owner remained out of sight, as if the lake had swallowed him and refused to chuck him back out.
Even if Draco had broken something, Harry mused, he’d still make it back to the surface, wouldn’t he? And there were the merpeople, who wouldn’t let a student drown, would they? But there was also the Giant Squid, about whose sentiments concerning wizards Harry wasn’t sure, there were vicious plants and other nasty things that could be one’s downfall. If Draco was hurt and got tangled in one of the seaweeds…

Harry didn’t know how much time had passed, time seemed to drag on as he waited, peering into the waters and seeing nothing but inky blackness. His heart was still pounding from the breakneck dive, but the adrenaline in his veins was quickly subsiding – it was fear he felt now, panic, as seconds ticked away without a sign of Draco. What should he do? Plunge in, see if he could find him and pull him out? Accio him the way he’d once Accioed Hagrid? He drew his wand and took a deep breath.

But before he could jump in, a hand broke the surface. A hand clutching a Snitch. Harry exhaled in relief when Draco resurfaced. He was coughing out water, but aside from that, he obviously unharmed; he was grinning like a lunatic.

“I win,” he coughed out finally.

“I thought you had drowned! Or broken your neck! You idiot! Did you even know what you were doing?!” Harry wanted to sound indignant, but the relief he felt showed in his voice. “And I can’t believe you actually caught the Snitch!”

“I was lucky,” said Draco, treading water. “And while I appreciate your attempts at conversing with me, would you lend me a hand now? The water is kind of cold.”

Harry blushed. He hadn’t thought of much past thank god he’s fine, but now that he looked properly, he noticed that Draco’s lips were trembling from the chill. He leaned down and extended his hand towards Draco, intent on pulling him up onto the Supernova.

Draco gripped his wrist and tugged hard, tipping Harry off balance. He splashed into the water rather ungracefully and Draco was right, the water was too fucking cold for comfort. He kicked his legs to get back to the surface.
“Malfoy!” he spluttered and launched himself at Draco, mercilessly pushing his head under the water.

They struggled for a moment and Harry swallowed more water than would have been healthy, because he couldn’t help but laugh throughout the water fight.

“Alright, alright, let’s get out,” Draco finally said, teeth clattering and his hair tousled.

Harry nodded and, after some more splashing, they managed to swing themselves back onto their brooms to fly to the shore.

“I’m freezing,” Harry complained once they landed. It was almost completely dark now and the air was chilly. His drenched clothes were clinging to his skin uncomfortably. “And it’s all your fault.”

Draco looked at him through strands of wet hair. “Stop whining, Potter. We’ll get you warm again.”

He was soaking wet himself and his shirt clung to his chest; Harry could see where his nipples poked at the thin material. He could imagine several ways of getting warm again, hot, even. Most of them involved some form of intense skin-to-skin contact and exchange of body-heat. He lifted an inquiring eyebrow at Draco.

Draco smiled crookedly, took a step forward and Harry held his breath. Would he dare to…? “I’ll race you to the castle,” Draco whispered and turned on his heel to start sprinting away. Harry cursed under his breath, frustrated, and followed, water sloshing in his shoes as he ran.

*

June came in a whirl of exam-related stress and Harry felt like he was walking on needles half of the time these days. McGonnagal kept dropping hints about sending his application to the Auror office and Harry didn’t quite have the heart to tell her that he was too sick of the Dark Arts to even consider going through Auror training at this point.

Hermione was bugging both him and Ron with last-minute cramming sessions that he participated in because he knew she meant well. Besides, if he refused, both Ron and Hermione would ask if he was going out with Malfoy again – and as if the frowns on their faces weren’t uncomfortable enough, Harry didn’t know what to answer to that. He and Draco were still meeting, still flying, still chasing the Snitch – they’d arrived at 39:40 in Draco’s favor. But these days, it was as infuriating as it was fun to hang out with Draco.

Harry spent most of their time together with his dick hard in his pants, mad at Draco for doing this to him and not taking any corrective action, and mad at himself for not doing anything, either, and letting Draco mess with him. He was going out with Malfoy – except he wasn’t. And he wanted to. Or well, he didn’t much care about the official term. He wanted Draco. It was terrifying, but exciting, and Harry didn’t want it to evaporate the moment they both left Hogwarts – unless, of course, he’d been completely misinterpreting everything and Draco didn’t actually stare at his ass and flirt and deliberately use dirty innuendo.

And then the exams were over and even though in theory, the N.E.W.T.s should have been a piece of cake in comparison to the war most of the current seventh-years had lived through, everyone breathed a breath of relief once they’d taken their final test.

“We should celebrate,” Draco suggested and Harry agreed, of course. It was a balmy, sun-bathed afternoon and, after racing each other above the Forbidden Forest, they descended onto their clearing. The ground was covered with grass and moss that felt incredibly soft and comfortable when Harry plopped down on it, stretching out on his back beside Draco.

“So, what are you going to do after school?” Draco asked after a while.

Harry bit his lip. “I’ve been thinking about playing Quidditch,” he admitted. It was not as irrational as it sounded, he told himself, though it was probably not the career the wizarding society had envisioned for its favorite celebrity. But then again, the wizarding society probably also didn’t envision him crushing on a former Death Eater affiliate, who he’d despised for most of his school years and who just happened to be male. Harry had thought about it and come to the conclusion that he didn’t care anymore. There were no battles and no obligations left, except for the battle for his own happiness that he had promised himself he would fight.

“Oh?” Draco said. “I thought you’d always wanted to become an Auror.”

“I changed my mind,” Harry shrugged. “About many things.”

Draco rolled to his side and propped his head up on his hand to look at Harry. The scrutiny made Harry feel self-conscious, but he didn’t move, didn’t flinch away when their eyes met.

“You know that that is my secret plan, right? Becoming a Quidditch star,” Draco pointed out. “You stole it,” he accused.

“Well… Seems like I can’t help stealing things from you.”

“No,” Draco breathed, eyes soft for a moment. “You win them fair and square.” Then he recuperated: “Whatever. I’m still going to be a Seeker star,” he said firmly, challengingly.

“I guess that means we’ll never get to play for the same team,” Harry concluded, a notch of sadness in his voice. He wanted to do more than banter about Quidditch and the lives they might lead one day, separate lives. His last year at Hogwarts was coming to a close and Harry knew that this time, there was no safe place to go. He had to take the next step, make a decision, if he wanted more from his life than whatever someone else had planned for him. He had had his share of fulfilling others’ expectations, but were his own hopes and expectations right? real? possible? It was one thing to be Gryffindorish and daring against an enemy – but it was so much harder when you cared for the person you had to face. It was harder still when they kept teasing and dodging, within reach like a Snitch, and yet so evasive.

“I always had the impression, Harry,” Draco said slowly, “that we were playing for the same team.” Warm fingertips brushed the inside of his wrist, trailing slow circles on his skin, and Harry’s eyes snapped open. He caught the tentative smile on Draco’s face and returned it, feeling braver.

He propped himself up on his elbows, bringing their faces closer together. And then he was kissing Draco, and it felt reckless and brilliant, Draco’s tongue plunging into his mouth and the nails that dug into his wrist when he grabbed at Draco’s shoulder and tipped him over so they were sprawled over each other in the grass.

It was surprisingly easy, finding a rhythm, rocking his hips against Draco’s thigh, finding the right buttons to push to drive Draco crazy in completely new ways. This was it, Draco’s arms around his waist – safe and real. This was the path he wanted to take, his lips sliding down Draco’s throat, his hands traveling the smooth skin on Draco’s chest, his fingers caressing the single long scar across his heart. And even though Harry knew that there might come a nasty crash, it was still worth the risk, because this was the one thing that had been missing. It was like flying.

~fin

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