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Chapter 8

At breakfast Draco found it difficult to speak to anybody. In the space of a few days he had turned his life upside down. Recognising his feelings about his future meant that some day he would have to abandon his family, and his friends. He couldn't bring himself to chat amiably as though everything was the same.

He avoided catching Pansy's eye as she sat down opposite him. He turned away before she could speak...and found himself staring at, and being stared at by Harry Potter.

Oh yes, that was the other thing. Coming to terms with a complete political about-face and the knowledge that he would be forever distanced from everyone he knew as a result, was a problem. But discovering that the animosity, jealousy and resentment he had always harboured for Harry Potter was rapidly giving way to admiration and growing fascination...well that was a whole different can of worms.

As if I didn't have enough to deal with, he thought to himself. At that point he realised that he was still staring, and he looked away abruptly. He had time to notice that Potter had been looking at him with a most peculiar expression. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, just as he had looked that day in Madam Malkin's, the day he had been wrenched from his hitherto mundane existence and discovered a whole new world...

Ok, starting to understand exactly how that feels... he mused, redirecting his gaze into his bowl of corn flakes. He tried to pay attention to the buzz of voices around him, anything to distract him from the sight of Potter gazing at him. He caught a thread of conversation between Pansy and Crabbe, and clung to it.

'...he don't feel well. Gone to see Madam Pomfrey. She said he probably been eating too many sweets but I think it's flu or somefin'.'

'Goyle does eat too many sweets, it's a wonder he's still got any teeth. But I have heard there's a bug going round so it can't hurt to get checked over.'

Draco tried to look interested in the discussion about Goyle's troublesome bowel, but his mind was somewhere else entirely when the sound of his name made him snap his attention back to Pansy.

'You ought to go and see Madam Pomfrey, Draco. You don't look healthy, and you're not yourself these days. Maybe you're going down with something'.

'I'm not ill,' he countered defensively. Pansy didn't look convinced. 'I mean, I've had a lot on my mind lately and I don't sleep so well, but once I've got my Potions project finished...'

'Potions assignments have never stressed you out before. Are you sure there's nothing else bothering you? You can always talk to us you know, we're your friends.'

Draco tried to smile gratefully, but the expression didn't come naturally. He had to think about each little muscle in his face and mentally tell it to pull.

Pansy continued. 'My parents are having your parents over for dinner this weekend. Would it help if I passed a message on for you? Whatever it is, they might be able to help.'

'No!' snapped Draco, a little bit too vehemently. Pansy looked taken aback.

Absolutely the last thing Draco needed was for his father to get an idea that all was not well with his son. Not until he was ready, if he was ever ready, to come clean. He struggled to recompose himself while Pansy ploughed on.

'Well, I know it can be difficult to talk to your parents about personal stuff, but that's why I thought if it came from me...'

'I don't want to talk to my parents about anything. I don't want you interfering, and there is nothing to tell anyway! Now can we talk about something else please?'

Their end of the table fell silent for a moment. Then Crabbe decided to initiate a new discourse with his customary eloquence.

'Anyone know how to get Flobberworm piss off a pencil case?'

Harry was very pleased that he didn't have any lessons with the Slytherins that day. Being around Malfoy made him nervous, and he found it very difficult not to stare at him with a mixture of fascination and horror whenever he was within sight.

Malfoy had caught him staring during breakfast, which had made Harry panic for a moment and drop his toast into his tea. But there had been no disdainful sneer, and no spiteful remark. He had simply turned to Pansy Parkinson and started talking.

Even so, Harry was fairly sure he wouldn't be able to concentrate in class if Malfoy was anywhere near him.

As it turned out, he found it pretty hard to concentrate anyway. There seemed to be some sort of conspiracy to make him think about Malfoy at every possible opportunity.

In Divination Professor Trelawney announced that they were to continue studying the prophetic power of dreams. She made them all write down one of their recent dreams, then moved around the classroom, helping them to unravel the symbolism.

Harry had always been quite sure that dreams were just the product of random nerves firing in the sleeping brain, and he hoped against hope that he was right. If his most recent dream actually meant anything, he wasn't quite sure how he would deal with that. Anyway there was no way he was going to let the whole class know about it. So he wrote down one of his earlier Voldemort nightmares, and winced when Professor Trelawney announced that it meant he was about to discover something surprising about himself that would change his life forever

Yep, discovering that I can't stop thinking about Malfoy is pretty bloody surprising.

In Defence against the Dark Arts, Professor Gaunt discussed the merits of employing some basic Muggle fighting techniques when up against a dark witch or wizard.

'Most of those who practice dark magic are completely out of touch with the Muggle world, and the last thing they will be expecting is a swift kick or punch...''

Harry's mind returned to a playful punch...then a push...a roll around on the grass...Argh! He forced his mind back to the lesson with some difficulty, but was relieved when the bell signalled the end of the morning's classes.

At lunch he resolutely sat with his back to the Slytherin table, and tried to resist the temptation to look over his shoulder.

It being Friday, there were no classes in the afternoon. The time was supposed to be set aside for private study, but most students took the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely lunch before setting off to catch up on their homework.

Hermione launched into her usual spiel, urging Harry and Ron to hurry up with their dessert so that they could get a good table in the library. For once Harry didn't object, and wolfed down his chocolate trifle before grabbing his bag from under the table and heading for the door.

He only half heard Ron's protests (Why the rush? We've got all weekend to do sodding homework!), and he completely ignored Hermione's reply (But you'll end up leaving it all until Sunday night if you don't do it now), because he had to pass the Slytherin table to get out of the hall. Malfoy was sat almost at the end of the table. He'd have to pass within a few feet of him.

He forced his feet to take a step forward, then another. He paused when Malfoy looked up and met his eyes, his expression unreadable as he took a sip of juice. Harry's eyes involuntarily fell to Malfoy's mouth and he helplessly remembered what those soft, pale lips had looked like close up. He couldn't tear his eyes away, but falteringly he managed to start walking again. Just when he thought he might escape with his sanity, Malfoy licked his lips.

Harry fled.

Draco was almost tempted to use the potion again that night, but he remembered the warning in Moste Potente Potions. Much as he craved the illusion of Harry's friendship, understanding and...(he struggled to admit it)...affection, he didn't want to be responsible for giving him a one-way ticket to a private suite in St Mungo's psychology unit.

So he resisted.

All weekend he tormented himself with the memory of the last time he visited Harry's dream, and hoped that Harry was catching up on some natural sleep because he wasn't sure how long he could stay away.

Not long at all, as it turned out.

On Sunday night he sat in the common room, listening to Blaise and Millicent bragging about how accomplished their families were in the dark arts.

'...well, my cousin Silas has written a whole grimoire of original mind-control curses. One of them is almost as effective as Imperius, and my mother says if it's true that the Dark Lord has returned he'd almost certainly want to implement some of the alignment hexes for recruitment purposes....'

'...my brother is working on an infertility curse that can be cast at a distance of up to a mile. If it works it could prevent half-blood scum from ever being born. He'd find that extremely valuable, I think...'

It was all Draco could do to restrain himself. Inside he screamed 'YOU FOOLS! Do you think because your relatives have dabbled in the dark arts your families will be safe? Do you think Voldemort gives a Doxy's toss about amateur hexes and involuntary contraception? Wake up and smell the killing curse!'

Silently he rose and retired to bed, feeling frustrated and helpless. He knew the truth about Voldemort, and he couldn't tell them. There was only one person who understood, only one person who cared. At least, in the safe, pleasant environment of a dream, he could convince himself that he cared.

His mind made up, he reached for the potion.

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