by Draeconin

For story details and disclaimer, please see chapter one.

Chapter Four

During breakfast, Draco and Harry hardly spoke to each other, except to ask for some item or other to be passed to them. There was no animosity present, but both were just a bit discomfited. They had woken up rather intimately entangled with each other, and with Harry's hand somewhere it probably didn't belong. Neither really minded about the other, but they didn't know that, and were rather embarrassed about their own actions, even though it had happened when neither was consciously aware. If they hadn't still been wearing yesterday's clothing when they woke, their embarrassment may have been worse.

They had showered separately, completing their ablutions as best they were able. Transfiguring a toothbrush from a hair was no problem, but toothpaste, or a reasonable substitute was problematic, so they had to make do with water. Draco cast cleansing spells on both sets of clothing, taking out the wrinkles at the same time. It didn't leave the clothing as fresh as physically washing and then air-drying the clothes, but it was better than nothing. In fact most of their preparations for the day were rather make-shift in that regard.

Still not able to meet each other's eyes without blushing, they had then made their way to breakfast in the Great Hall.

"Draco..." Harry began, when the tension got to be too much for him.

"Harry, don't," the blond interrupted.

"Don't what?" Harry asked, confused.

"Don't complicate things. I - I liked what happened last night, but now you're my master. I don't want - "

"I don't think so," the Gryffindor said, interrupting in turn.

Now it was Draco's turn to be confused. "You don't think - what?"

"I don't think I'm your master. You haven't been acting like a bond-servant. It's true I've never seen one before, but from the little I've learned since I've been in the wizarding world, that kind of thing is rather harsh on the bonded person. At least, on unwilling ones."

"You know I was willing, Harry. I had to talk you into it, remember?"

"My memory isn't that bad, Draco. I'm going to confess something to you, but you have to promise not to get nasty about it. Promise?"

"I can hardly promise not to react when I don't know what I'm promising about, Potter," Draco replied, impatiently.

"See? Would a true bond-servant be able to resist his master's wishes?" Harry asked knowingly.

The blond sat there with a stunned expression on his face. Slowly, he answered. "No, he wouldn't. And yet... we are bound, Potter. Professor Snape said... We need to talk to him. We still haven't figured out -"

"Draco!" Harry interrupted. "Your promise?" he reminded.

Draco sighed. "Very well, Harry; I promise."

"Thank you. Well, it's rather embarrassing, so please let me finish before you say anything. You see, having you be with me willingly has rather been a daydream of mine for a couple of years, now. So when you popped up at my door practically begging me to bond with you... "

"Malfoy's don't beg, Potter," Draco said, interrupting.

Harry looked at him with a half-hurt, half-annoyed look upon his face. "I didn't say you did beg; I said 'practically', which isn't the same thing at all. Now, may I continue?"

The blond nodded graciously. It was a gesture normally calculated to irritate, but Harry decided to take it at face value.

"Thank you. As I was saying, when you showed up practically begging me to bond with you, I thought my prayers had been answered - until I found out the kind of bond it was going to be. I didn't want you that way, where you had to do as I said. That's why I was so hard to convince. I didn't want you in a state where you had to do what I wanted, I wanted you to be willing to be with me because you wanted to be. I think what we got was something between the two. You've still got your free will; or at least you certainly seem to. We may want to test that sometime, to find out the boundaries of the bond, by the way. But since the bond, you've mostly been very pleasant to be with..." The look he sent Draco said 'until now', causing the blond to feel a bit guilty. "... and I like it. I hope you're not too upset with it. Are you?"

Draco was touched, but ruthlessly shoved his emotions down. "That was quite a speech, Harry. Are you through?"

Harry nodded.

"No, I'm not upset about it."

Harry waited for more, but Draco just sipped his coffee. "That's all you have to say about it?" Harry finally asked.

"You expect me to make a speech, too?"

"No, but I know you, Draco. You always have an opinion about everything. So what are you hiding?" Harry asked.

"Hiding? Why should I be hiding something?"

Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Tell me what you're hiding."

The blond gazed at his, for want of a better word, master - maybe 'bonded' was closer? - gauging the other young man. Then, coming to the conclusion that he really had nothing to lose, he quietly spoke. "I think I may be falling in love with you, Harry."

Harry's eyes popped wide open, an expression of joy crossing his face, quickly followed by one of dismay. "Is this the bond's work?" he asked, fearful of the answer.

Draco shook his head slowly, silver eyes never leaving the emerald ones across the table from him. "I don't think so," he replied. "I've wanted to be close to you since we first met. Then circumstances got in the way, and I had to... Well, I had to act like I hated you." He dropped his eyes to his cup as he said, "I never did."

Harry shook his head. "Then why were you so nasty about Hagrid, and Ron, and... other things?"

"I'm not sure. I think... I think I was just emulating my father. I worshipped him, you know. He wasn't always like he is now." At Harry's look of disbelief, he said, "It's true! At least he was always good to Mum and me. Then when the Dark Lord came back... he changed. He got moody, and... And why am I telling you all this, anyway?" he concluded, defensively.

Harry took Draco's hand in one of his own, and squeezing gently, said, "It's okay, Draco. People change. I'm sorry your father changed towards you and your mother, but I saw an entirely different Lucius Malfoy. The one you're seeing now, is the one I always saw."

Draco turned hurt eyes on the man he was now bonded to, removing his hand from the gentle embrace. He was going to hurl a sharp retort at him, but looking into the Gryffindor's green eyes stopped him. What he saw was sincerity and hurt - for him. Anything he said now would either heap more hurt on the Gryffindor, or be weak, at best. And since what Harry had said was possibly, even probably true anyway, it really was a moot point. So he did the only graceful thing he could do - he changed the subject. "Hagrid... Well, Hagrid is - huge! And you must admit, the way he dresses is rather... Well, it's not exactly stylish."

Harry understood, and allowed the change in subject. "And that makes him a bad person?" he asked quietly, but pointedly.

"He's a giant, Harry!" Draco said exasperatedly, as though that explained everything. He was feeling on the defensive for reasons he couldn't quite fathom, and that was making him decidedly uncomfortable and edgy.

"He's a half-giant, and a very good and gentle person," Harry corrected, "and if you tried to meet him half way, you'd see more of that."

Draco stubbornly refused to respond.

He knew that if he pushed it, Draco might dig in and never change his mind, just to spite him. But if he let the idea simmer in the blond's mind, there was the off-chance... "And Ron? Hermione?" Harry prompted.

"My father's thoughts, of course. But Weasley's a hot-tempered little git," he offered.

Harry chuckled. "Yes, he lives up to his red hair, all right. But he's one hundred percent Gryffindor. Once you earn his trust and loyalty, he'd die for you. Almost has, on occasion. Hermione thinks things through, more, but she's put herself on the line for me a time or two, herself."

Draco hadn't known that, but knowing Harry, he wasn't surprised that he'd engender such loyalty in others. Still, it fuelled, for a second, the jealousy he'd felt towards those two for so many years, now. They had been where he should have been.

He hid a small smirk from the raven-haired lad across from him. Well, he had a closer tie, now, even if he'd been pushed to the other edge of desperation, and had to submit himself to the man, in more ways than one, in order to get there. If he could let himself be open enough to admit his feelings, and accept what his now-ex-rival could offer... He hoped he wasn't mistaken about what had happened during the bonding ritual, and that Harry really did care.

"Harry?" he asked, before he realised what he was doing. "How do you feel about me?"

That question seemed to come out of nowhere, insofar as Harry was concerned. He was totally unprepared for it, and he wasn't too sure he was prepared for any consequences of answering it, despite the blond's earlier confession. "Um... Why?"

Draco looked at him as though he'd gone quite insane. "Because I want to know, of course."

"Well, I think you've been mean-spirited, malicious, sarcas-"

"Harry!" Draco interrupted. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."

Harry was frantically trying to find a way to avoid answering the question, so he answered the accusation, instead. "How am I supposed to know that? I'm not a mind reader!" Although quite brave in physical situations, the green-eyed young man was rather lost when it came to emotional ones. That arena had rarely offered him anything but pain.

Draco closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held it, then let it out, slowly. "Harry. Please. Just answer the question. How do you feel about me?"

Trapped, Harry sighed, then answered, staring into what was left of his coffee. "I'm not sure, Draco. I want you: that's certain. I do have... tender... feelings for you, but I don't know if they add up to love. If given a chance, I suppose I might love you, someday," he waffled.

"I'm glad," Draco said. An outrageous understatement, but he hid it well. "I hoped it wasn't just a physical act, last night. It wasn't, was it?"

"Not for me, anyway."

"Nor me. You took my virginity, you know."

"I what? You... But you... But what about that whole 'Slut of Slytherin' thing?"

The Slytherin looked up with an open grin on his face. It was dazzling. "You got taken in by that, too?" he asked. "That was just a rumour I had a few people start. I thought it would give me a more manly image."

"I rather thought it soiled your image," Harry said, sourly.

Draco's face fell. "I thought you were a lost cause anyway, Harry. Or rather, that I had lost any hope with you, so it didn't really matter."

"Yes, well, I'm glad to learn that it wasn't true, anyway," Harry said with a smile. "It will make getting to know you better a little easier, knowing I'm not having to compete with a lot of memories."

"Just because I didn't sleep around, Harry, doesn't mean I didn't experiment at all in other ways," was Draco's slightly acerbic reply. "You're still going to have to give me your best."

Harry was now looking askance at the blond, wondering just what it was he had let himself in for. It was going to be interesting, anyway.

About ten minutes of somewhat uncomfortable silence later, Professor Snape walked into the Great Hall.

As curious as the boys were to learn what the professor might know, both were loathe to be the first to approach him. Given their history, Harry was naturally reticent about talking to Snape at any time, for any reason; but after their confrontation last night, he was doubly so. But even Draco, with his preferred student status, was reluctant to approach the potions master before he'd had at least his first cup of tea. They decided to wait. To their surprise, however, the professor called them over to the staff table just as soon as the house elves had served him his tea and toast.

"Sit down, Potter, Mister Malfoy," he said, his voice carefully neutral in tone, "I have some questions for you." After they had seated themselves, Snape asked "What did you do last night?" To his astonishment, both boys blushed. When he realised why, his lip curled in a sneer. "I know what the ritual required of you; I want to know what you did that was not required by the ritual."

"We followed the procedure exactly, professor," Draco replied.

"Um... Not quite, Draco." Turning to the professor, his face crimson, Harry said, "I, ah... I pulled Draco up into a kneeling position on my lap, so I could..." He paused, mortified that he was telling his potions professor, a man he despised, such intimate details, but he knew it might be important. "... so I could cuddle him a bit, and more easily kiss him." He held his head up high, looking the greasy-haired man in the eye, refusing to be ashamed, even though he was mortally embarrassed. Draco, he noticed, was almost as red as he was, and was glaring at him.

"To kiss... "

The look on the potion master's face was priceless. For Harry, all the embarrassment was worth it, to see that.

Snape looked sick. "Potter, please tell me you don't harbour feelings of... affection... for young Mister Malfoy, here?"

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Professor," the Gryffindor replied, to Draco's satisfaction.

The professor closed his eyes. "I'm almost afraid to ask... Mister Malfoy? Draco? Do you reciprocate those feelings?"

"Stuck in it up to my neck," Draco replied evenly, a faint note of pride in his voice.

Abruptly, Professor Snape stood up from the table, his toast untouched, his tea barely sipped, and knocking his chair over backwards in the process. "I have to check a reference, but if my suspicions are correct..." He didn't finish the sentence, but turned with a swirl of his robes, and stalked off - presumably on his way to the dungeons and his office, leaving two very curious, and somewhat apprehensive young men staring after him.

"Ah, good morning, gentlemen! Isn't it a glorious day!" The headmaster had finally arrived.

"That depends on how you define 'glorious', I suppose," Harry replied, distractedly. Then, focusing more fully on the old man, he asked "Professor, what happened last night? You said you felt a blast of magical energy that had our magical signatures on it?"

"Indeed I did, but haven't you already talked to Severus?"

"He just asked some questions, then left," Harry said. "He said he needed to check up on something. He looked almost... sick."

"Ah, well... Then I suppose we aught to let him do that, aughtn't we?" Dumbledore replied.

"Do you know anything about this, or not?" Draco demanded.

Dumbledore peered over his glasses at the impatient young blond. "I suspect a great many things, Mister Malfoy," he replied, in a gently reproving voice. "What I know is that you could both be in a great deal of danger, should anyone of the wrong persuasion have sensed that wave of energy, and could identify either of you as being connected to it. On the plus side, there are few who would be powerful enough to do so."

"And on the negative, my father and 'You-Know-Who' are among them," the blond said.

The headmaster's normally twinkling eyes were grave. "Quite so, Mister Malfoy," he replied, "although your father would sense it because of family blood ties."

"What caused that surge of magic, anyway?" Harry asked.

"Two powerful wizards completing a love-bond," the old man replied simply, the twinkle back in his eyes.

"A what?" both boys exclaimed, in unison.

"It was a mastering ritual, not a love binding!" Draco protested.

"Even so, my boy," Dumbledore replied, the twinkle going wild in his eyes.

Harry just sat there, stunned.

"Well, that didn't take long," came the oily tones of Professor Snape from behind them.

Both boys swung about to face him, waiting expectantly for the verdict, almost hoping that he'd come up with an answer different from the headmaster's.

The potions master didn't keep them waiting. Having had a chance to absorb what he'd learned, he looked positively gleeful, in a nasty sort of way. He'd been against involving the Potter boy from the start, and now felt entirely justified. "Although the master/servant factor of the ritual couldn't be overridden entirely, the emotional factor, in effect, turned a straight-forward binding into a marriage bond. Congratulations, Mister Malfoy; you're a wife." He then sat down and enjoyed the play of emotions on both young men's faces.


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