Fledglings

~~

~ooOOOoo~

Flitwick’s spell hit the suit of armor behind which Snape had taken shelter: With a clatter it came to life. Snape struggled free of the crushing arms and sent it flying back toward his attackers: Harry and Luna had to dive sideways to avoid it as it smashed into the wall and shattered. When Harry looked up again, Snape was in full flight, McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout all thundering after him: He hurtled through a classroom door and, moments later, he heard McGonagall cry, “Coward! COWARD!”

“What’s happened, what’s happened?” asked Luna.

Harry dragged her to her feet and they raced along the corridor, trailing the invisibility Cloak behind them, into the deserted classroom where Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout were standing at a smashed window.

“He jumped,” said Professor McGonagall as Harry and Luna ran into the room.

“You mean he’s dead?” Harry sprinted to the window, ignoring Flitwick’s and Sprout’s yells of shock at his sudden appearance.

“No, he’s not dead,” said McGonagall bitterly. “Unlike Dumbledore, he was still carrying a wand...and he seems to have learned a few tricks from his master.”

With a tingle of horror, Harry saw in the distance a huge, batlike shape flying through the darkness toward the perimeter wall.

---Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 30 The Sacking of Severus Snape

Fledglings

The shock of blond hair caught his eye. It was unmistakably the Malfoys, which was hardly unusual around the Ministry these days. What was unusual was that there were three Malfoys, not two, walking towards the lifts. Draco Malfoy had left the country five years ago to go live on some magical island or something like that. As the lift doors opened, Harry caught a quick glimpse of Malfoy. He looked older and his jaw was clenched, but not in a menacing sort of way. He appeared nervous as he played with his long blond ponytail that fell several inches down the front of his ornate dress robes. His parents' stoic faces echoed that concern.

Already ten minutes late to meet Hermione for lunch, Harry suppressed his urge to ask the information witch where they were headed. Still, he couldn't help but watch them until the lift doors had closed. His curiosity ran high as he walked through the streets of Muggle London to their favourite pub.

"Sorry I'm late," he apologised.

"Not to worry, I got here just." Hermione looked up from her menu and smiled at him as he slid into the seat across from her. She knew him well.

"What's the special?"

"Cod. I think I need something completely different from my usual. I'm having the strangest sense of craving, but I don't know what for."

"That sounds odd. Shouldn't you be craving pickles or something weird like anchovies and ice cream?"

"My cravings have been non-descript." Hermione had just started her ninth month, but she looked as if she might burst any day. It was her and Ron's first child, and they were anxiously awaiting his arrival. She had read every parenting book in Flourish and Blotts along with several Muggle titles as well. Despite Hermione's nagging, Ron had refused to read a single book, and instead went out and bought anything and everything that was baby sized with a Chudley Cannons' emblem on it. In typical Weasley fashion, it was a boy.

The waitress came to take their order.

"Cod and chips. And a pint of stout," Harry said.

"Fruit plate and tea." Hermione handed her menu to the waitress then turned to Harry. "I'll steal your chips."

"No doubt." Harry knew Hermione as well as she knew him.

"Any news?" While her voice was conversational, her constant twisting of her wedding ring told Harry that she was deeply worried. Ron had gone to Ireland on a mission last week and still wasn't back.

"Nothing yet, but I'm sure everything's fine." Harry had wished he could've gone, but the team leader had selected Ron, who was much better at tracking. Lately, Harry had doubted his skills. It was as if he'd hit a plateau. Now he was here comforting Hermione when it should be Ron.

"Oh, I saw Draco Malfoy in the ministry lobby just now. Is he back in the country?" Harry said, not making even the slightest attempt to finesse a change of subject.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "He hasn’t been back but a few days and you're already obsessing. Five years out of sight has done nothing for you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I was joking, but it seems as if I was closer to the mark than I thought." Hermione answered him with another eye roll and exaggerated exhale, but relented and spoon-fed him the information he wanted. "He's at the Ministry to get approval to return to Wiltshire. Perfunctory really. The Malfoys have half the Wizengamot in their gold-lined pockets. It's been on the schedule for weeks. Not reading your daily departmental updates?"

"Pffft, you know I don't. Those updates are only a step above Rita Skeeter's gossip column. A small step."

"Well, you should," she said with penetrating stare. "Although in this case, it's probably a good thing you didn't."

The waitress served their drinks. Hermione put four sugars in her tea.

"Sweet craving? Maybe you should order some cakes. What was the name of that island he went to?" Harry asked.

"I'm fine. I just like my tea sweeter than I used to. Magicae Insula."

"What an original name," he said, utterly deadpan.

"Don't make fun of it. It's been under wizarding control for over two thousand years. It's Unplottable and has more Muggle Repelling Charms than Hogwarts. Muggle ferries sail right by it every day."

"Where is it?"

"Tyrrhenian Sea. Luna visited there last summer. She wrote about it in the Quibbler."

"So what was Malfoy doing there? I hardly see him getting in touch with his inner eye or chasing after Nargyles."

Hermione frowned at him. Since the war she no longer joked about Luna's bizarre interests and kept a regular subscription to the Quibbler. "It's not like that at all. Malfoy was studying under Giuseppe Palermo. He's the current head wizard on the island. There's an incredible wealth of ancient natural magic there. Palermo has written several books on using the natural magic in our surroundings to our advantage."

"Which you've read, of course." This was also said deadpan, but Hermione was so caught up in the idea of Palermo and books that she didn’t hear his gentle ribbing.

"They were fascinating," she gushed. "He's been there over a hundred years and is one of only a few head wizards actually born on the island. Very powerful."

The food came, and Hermione changed the subject to the furniture that she'd ordered for the nursery.

Harry lost track of what she was saying within a minute, and just nodded and said uh-huh every few sentences without her being any the wiser. Did he really obsess over Malfoy? He truly hadn't thought about much over the past few years, but every once in a while he'd remember Malfoy's arms tight around him as they'd flown away from the Fiendfyre. Harry always thought it was more about the fire and the danger, but maybe it was about Malfoy.

Back at the office, Harry checked the interoffice memos to see the outcome of the day's hearings. Malfoy's petition to repatriate had been granted.

~ooOOOoo~

Draco had only been back at the Manor for a few days, but he was already restless. On the island, he always had something he was working on; magic he was learning. Having lived the life of a perpetual student, he now needed something new to task his wand.

Immediately after the war, Draco picked up a second hand wand in Italy. He used it the first year on the island, but it became clear that the wand was only temporarily filling a void until he found his true match. As fate would have it, a young wandmaker from Spain came to study on the island for ten months. He crafted a wand for Draco out of wood from the stump of an ancient Rogglewort tree long extinct. The wand felt like perfection the first time Draco held it in his hand.

The week before Draco was scheduled to return to Great Britain, he began to wonder if the wand would work off of the island. Thankfully his concerns were unfounded.

In the corner of his father's study, Draco found a box of books and notes that had belonged to Severus Snape. How his father came into their possession, he'd no idea, but he was intrigued by what they might hold. Rummaging through the books, Draco noticed that all of them were filled with margin notes and modifications.

In a well-worn spell journal, Draco found a section of extremely detailed Arithmancy diagrams and notes regarding magical flight. Independent flight. Like a Niffler to a Galleon it drew him in. Other than Snape and the Dark Lord, Draco had never known a single other account of flying without the use of a magical object.

The summer after Dumbledore's murder, Draco remained mostly trapped in his own home. That night in the Astronomy Tower was to be a source of nightmares for years to come. His memories of the weeks after were clouded and inconsistent. There were powerful images of death and destruction, but no memory of the daily passage of time. Draco didn't remember any particulars such as meals with his parents or time spent on the Manor grounds, yet he vividly remembered boarding the Hogwart's Express that September and having the ominous feeling that he would never see his parents again.

As he immersed himself in Snape's notes, bits and pieces emerged from the dark recesses of his mind where he'd sequestered, sometimes unsuccessfully, the events of those years under the rule of the Dark Lord. An image of Snape and the Dark Lord flying above the Manor in a demonstration of triumph became so clear that it filled Draco with a sense of purpose.

"And what have we here?" Lucius said, as he entered the study. It wasn't accusatory. His Father had given Draco unlimited access to his books and spell supplies since his return home. In fact, he'd been encouraging Draco to pursue his magic via the family trove.

Draco turned the pages so that his father could see what he was reading. Lucius raised a well-tailored eyebrow, but then smiled in approval.

"Snape taught the Dark Lord in secrecy first, before showing the rest of us," Lucius said.

"He taught the rest of his followers?"

"Not all. Some of us. We were told that we were deemed worthy to learn but I suspect he knew we would all fail and have to admit our inferiority." Lucius looked away and appeared to be elsewhere for a moment.

"Can you tell me what Snape told you?" Draco was desperate to know more.

With a thorough eye, Lucius looked over the notes. Every so often he would "hmmm."

Draco carefully looked over his shoulder silence.

After many long minutes, Lucius declared, "I believe it's all here. Flight is more similar to Apparition than a Levitation spell or flying with a broom. There is determination and deliberation involved while the destination is variable. The key is that you must devote a section of your mind to maintain the flight so that you can function and perform other spells."

"No one besides the Dark Lord and Snape mastered it?"

"No. Many tried and failed miserably. The Dark Lord always gloated that he had learned it in one day. It was not our reward to learn, but Snape's reward to teach us and watch us fail."

Draco vaguely recalled a period of several weeks when a number of the Death Eaters were outside running around and jumping. It was extremely odd, but he ignored it and took the opportunity to seek refuge inside the quiet house.

One thing he remembered clearly was Bellatrix screaming in defeat. He'd never seen her so wild. She blew up several of his father's prized peacocks. There were white feathers strewn across the grounds. It looked as if snow had fallen in July.

"I want to learn. I want to master it," Draco stated. He was committed.

His father placed a hand on Draco's shoulder. "Then you should attempt it, but I dare say, you couldn't have chosen a more challenging task." His father had been skeptical of Palermo's teachings and had been urging Draco to return home for years.

Is there any better reason to choose something? Draco thought, but didn't dare say so out loud. During his time on the island, Draco had come to realise that in his youth he'd looked for the easy path. He'd wanted things to simply happen for him with a minimal amount of effort. Now he knew better. It was the most arduous challenges that reaped the sweetest rewards. He would master Snape's flight and reap his father's respect.

~ooOOOoo~

Luna's back was turned to Harry as he walked into her office at the Quibbler.

"Oh, hi, Harry. Such a lovely surprise," she said without turning around. Her attention was focused on the small rat that she was feeding in the cage behind her desk.

"Hi, Luna. How'd you know it was me?"

"Your shoes, of course." Finally, she turned around and smiled wide. "What brings you here?"

"I need a reason?"

"You usually have one, not that I mind. I like your visits."

"Well, I would like to ask you about something."

"All right."

"Magicae Insula."

"Such a wonderful island. I wrote about my trip in the magazine last fall."

"I know. That's why I'm asking. You wouldn't happen to have a copy of that issue?"

Luna walked over to several towering stacks of Quibblers. "I'm sure I have many."

Without any hesitation, she pulled out a magazine from the middle of one of the stacks, and held it out to Harry. "Here you are. Keep it. "

"Thanks. Umm, I was wondering, if you'd seen Draco Malfoy when you were there?"

"Oh yes, he lives there."

The fact that Luna didn't offer any additional information was not surprising to Harry. For Luna, everything was simple and direct.

"Did you spend any time with him?"

"Not much really. I was working on an exposé of the native fungi. Draco spent most of his time with Giuseppe Palermo. He reminded me quite a lot of Dumbledore. Everyone called him Papa."

"So you didn't spend any time with him?"

"I mostly saw him at meals. Everyone ate together. The first day he seemed a bit embarrassed and had trouble looking at me. I think I was probably the first person from Hogwarts to visit the island since he'd been there. I told him that everything was okay."

"Not to mention that you were locked up in his family's dungeon for months."

"That's funny. That's what he said." Luna picked up a watering can and spelled it full of water.

"And what did you say to that?"

"I told him that I knew he didn't have any choice in the matter." She began to water the potted plants. "This Lala Plant I'm watering came from the island. The seeds are quite useful in a variety of potions. It's one of four species that I brought back to see if I could grow them indoors. I gave two to Neville."

Harry envied how easily she could talk about the past and effortlessly segue to the present. He could feel the anger and resentment rising up from his insides on her behalf. She didn't seem to give any of it a second thought.

"Nothing else about Malfoy? The reason I’m asking is that he's moved back home."

"To Wiltshire?"

"Yes. The Wizengamot approved his return last week."

"Sorry, I'm not more help. He was a rather quiet sort."

It was difficult for Harry to imagine Malfoy as quiet. He always had something to say, and for the most part, something that made Harry's blood boil.

"Do you have time to take a break? We could go to Honeydukes." Harry felt badly that he hadn't seen Luna for some time and now he was simply trying to milk her for information.

"That sounds wonderful. Don't you need to get back to the Ministry?"

"I've got time," Harry replied with a smile. It was the truth. They were still waiting to hear from Ron's team. Candy shopping with Luna was a welcome distraction.

~ooOOOoo~

It was another week of anxiously waiting for word from Ron's team, but finally good news arrived. Their team of Aurors had caught the wizard they had been tracking and hauled him off to Azkaban. After a brief gathering at the Ministry Auror offices, Harry gave Ron a clap on the back and watched him hurry home to reunite with his due-any-day-now wife.

The people that surrounded him were changing and growing. It made Harry wonder why he didn't feel as if he were growing, as if he were evolving. His life was stagnant. Since his sexual awakening three years earlier, not much new had happened. Sure there were dates and even the inevitable short lived relationships, but he hadn't had a serious relationship since he broke things off with Ginny. He'd had a massive paradigm shift in his life. And now? Nothing.

Harry didn't feel like going home alone, and he certainly couldn't go over to Ron and Hermione's. They needed to savor their reunion without their third wheel. So he did the cliché for the single homosexual wizard. He went to The Rusty Candlestick for a drink.

Tucked into a small side alley of Diagon, The Rusty Candlestick was the sole wizarding gay bar in London. Certainly it was a place to pull, but it was also a place to simply have a few pints.

It was a quiet weeknight with only a dozen or so patrons, so it took less than a second for Harry to notice Draco Malfoy sitting alone at the bar. He was sipping from brandy snifter what was no doubt something pretentious that Max, the owner, had to search for in the depths of his cellar.

Harry strolled up to Malfoy's shoulder. "What are you doing here?"

"Having a drink, Potter, what does it look like? Although this cognac hardly qualifies in my book."

"Two shots of Firewhiskey and two pints house ale," Harry said to the Max as he took up residence on the stool next to Malfoy's. The man was as pompous as ever, but he looked as downtrodden as Harry felt.

"Binge drinking?" Malfoy asked.

"I'm buying you a drink, Malfoy. A real drink."

Malfoy looked surprised to say the least. Harry's stomach churned with the sensation that his team had scored a goal. Why after all these years did it still feel like they were on a Quidditch pitch?

"Cheers," Harry said, lifting a shot glass and pushing the other one towards Malfoy.

Harry raised his eyebrows in encouragement as he waited for Malfoy to come out of his foggy stare. Tentatively Malfoy reached for the shot glass and raised it in toast. He grimaced as he swallowed it down in one go. Harry quickly tossed his back and then grabbed his beer.

Malfoy took a long sip of his ale and turned to Harry. "You're right. This is a much better way to get drunk." Malfoy held up two fingers to Max, who immediately refilled their shot glasses.

"One more," said Malfoy, holding his glass up in toast. "Salute."

"Salute," Harry replied, thinking that Malfoy had probably picked up that affectation on the island.

The Firewhiskey burned going down even more the second time. As Harry reached for his beer, a tingling in his chest told him the alcohol was already kicking in.

"So, I'll ask again. What are you doing here?" Harry hoped the alcohol would loosen Malfoy's tongue. His curiosity was piqued.

"I've been home less than three weeks and Father 's already hounding me to marry some pure-blood bint."

"And you don't want to?"

"Perceptive as ever. I'm drinking alone in a gay pub. Does that answer your question?" Malfoy caught Max's attention and signaled another round of shots. "The Firewhiskey was a good idea by the way. I'll give you credit in the drinking department."

"That seems to be my only talent of late."

"Potter! How shocking. Am I not the only one being maudlin tonight?"

Max poured two shots for them.

"I think we'd better slow down," Harry suggested.

"Fine. You tell me what you're doing here. I find it hard to believe that you're not out being celebrated by your legions of adoring fans."

"You make it sound like I'm Viktor Krum."

"Aren't you?"

"Hardly. Let's just say that life moves on."

"Aren't you the big-evil-wizard catching Auror?"

"Oh, I became an Auror, but I'm not exactly the department's first choice, nor second, nor even sixth." A bitter taste flooded Harry's mouth. He reached for his beer and took a long sip to wash it down.

"Colour me surprised."

"Go ahead, gloat."

"Oh, I'm not gloating. It's not like I have much to gloat about. It's simply… unexpected."

"What's unexpected is that you went to some island to commune with nature," Harry said. He read Luna's article and couldn't imagine what had lured Malfoy to that island.

"Nature is apathetic."

It was an intriguing response, and it threw Harry off kilter, or maybe it was the alcohol. "Meaning?"

"The island didn't care what I'd done before, and lucky for me, Papa—Palermo," Draco corrected himself, "didn't either."

Draco must've noticed the confused look on Harry's face, so he explained further. "I applied to a number of schools and educational centers, but Magicae Insula was the only place that extended me an invitation."

"Why'd you leave at all?"

"I can't believe you can seriously ask me that."

Harry nodded. Malfoy had a point. "So what did you do there?"

"You still haven't answered my question. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, right." Harry drank down his third shot.

"I thought we were pacing ourselves."

"Sod it."

"Very well." Malfoy tossed back his drink. His tongue darted to the left to catch a bit of whiskey that had dripped on the corner of his mouth.

The pinkness of Malfoy's tongue against his pale skin was distracting and it took Harry a moment to remember where he was in the conversation.

"Ron came back today, which is good, don't get me wrong. It's just that—"

"He's with his wife."

"Right."

"And everyone else?"

"Dunno. Busy? Partnered up? Didn't ask. I just needed a drink." Harry knew he sounded pathetic, but couldn't be arsed to care.

Malfoy lifted his half-filled pint. "To open pubs."

"Cheers." Harry clinked his pint glass to Malfoy's.

They both drank the remaining contents of their glasses.

"We'll need more," Malfoy said.

"Keep ordering. We'll split the tab." Harry waited until their glasses were full before asking the question that he really wanted answered. "Why'd you come back?"

"It was time. Palermo is a very wise old wizard. He told me the day I arrived that I had much to learn but that I'd learn the most when I left."

"He sounds as cryptic as Professor Dumbledore."

"They were old friends."

"Really? Why didn't—" Harry stopped himself. The war was a touchy subject to begin with, never mind discussing it with Malfoy.

"Why didn't he join the fight against the Dark Lord? That is the question you want to ask. Yes?" Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Harry.

"Yea," Harry murmured, not making eye contact with Malfoy.

"Palermo offered. Dumbledore turned him down. Told him that if they didn't succeed, he'd need to protect the island."

"Why?"

"I'm not too sure. That's just what some of his other students told me. My guess is that the island would have been a significant source of power, maybe a steppingstone to the rest of Europe. Who knows?"

"Did the people there talk about the war?"

"Not much after the first year. Are you asking if they'd heard what happened? Yeah, they'd heard of the great Harry Potter."

"That's not what I meant."

"Fine. You want to know why I left. Most people stay on the island to study for a year, maybe two. There are only a few dozen wizards and witches who make their permanent home on the island," Malfoy said. "Staying five years was a very long stint. I think the last two years Palermo spent waiting for me to come to the conclusion that I was not one of those wizards."

"Who stay their whole lives?"

"Right, and he was right. This is my home."

They finished their beers while making only light conversation about the current Minister, the new shops in Diagon, and the current UK National Quidditch team. They'd probably had too much to drink and it was time to go home.

On wobbly legs, Harry somehow walked to the door, but once outside the cold night air revived him to the point that he thought he could Apparate home without splinching himself. Unsteadily Malfoy walked down the alley next to him.

"Can you make it home alright?" Harry asked.

"I think so."

"Arggh," Harry yelled and jumped into the air. "What the—?"

A snake had slithered over his foot and was making its way along the cobblestones. It was too dark to make out what kind it was, but it wasn't more than a foot long.

Malfoy laughed. Harry knew he must've looked ridiculous trying to regain his balance. His stomach churned and for a moment he thought he might vomit. He took a deep breath. He was fine for the moment, but guessed he'd be spectacularly sick after apparition.

"Why don't you have a chat with your little friend? Tell it off for startling you," Malfoy said, still laughing in between every few words.

"Piss off,"

"Touchy,"

"Sorry. Just a bit sick here." Harry steadied himself. "Actually, I can't talk to snakes anymore."

"Really?" Malfoy looked at him quizzically.

"Nope. Apparently the Parselmouth came with my connection to Voldemort."

Malfoy cringed. "It's true then."

"What?"

"What was in Granger's book, about his soul being shattered and a piece of it was in you."

"You read Hermione's book?" Harry was astonished. The nausea subsided slightly.

"I had a lot of time on my hands," Draco replied. "It's true?"

"Yeah," Harry answered, not elaborating. He didn't like dwelling on everything he'd lost. It was more than a fair price to pay. It just stung a little to think about his lack of magical progress these past few years.

"Oh."

"Did you think she was lying?" Harry challenged.

"Not exactly, I only wondered if there was a touch of fictional license involved."

"She wanted to tell the truth and not have it twisted by the Ministry or some Rita-Skeeter-wanna-be."

"Okay. Okay. I was only asking a question."

It had been an evening of letting off some steam. Disappointment flooded over Harry. "Sorry. Hit a nerve."

"I get that."

"I'd rather end on a good note."

"You were surprisingly good company," Malfoy said. It sounded like a truce offering.

Harry smiled and let his anger wash away. "You too, Malfoy."

"Good night then."

"Good night."

~ooOOOoo~

Draco had to stop once to catch his breath up the long spiral staircase to the Manor's second floor. It wasn't just the alcohol that had his head swimming, but also the strange encounter with Potter. Intuitively, Draco knew that he'd have to face Potter sooner or later, he never would've guessed so soon and certainly not in the only gay bar in wizarding Britain.

As he reached his bedroom, all he wanted to do was pull off his boots and fall back into feathered sweet oblivion. He'd take a potion in the morning.

"Draco," a familiar voice whispered.

He sat up immediately. "Mother?"

"Lumos," she said, and her face became visible in the wandlight. She was perched in the overstuffed armchair across from the bed. "Sorry, I waited up for you. I wanted to make sure you were all right." The passage of time was irrelevant to his mother. He was always her baby, and she was always overly concerned.

"You needn't have worried."

"You left in quite a state. You seem to have come back in one as well." She waved her wand and lit several candles around the room, thankfully, not too many than what provided the dimmest of light.

"I went to the Rusty Candlestick and had a few drinks," he said, trying to make it sound casual.

"Drinking alone is not particularly becoming of a proper wizard in society."

"Neither is being a homosexual Death Eater."

"Nor is being insufferable prat," she said, without even a hint of anger.

"Ah, motherly love."

"Your father loves you too."

She never played fair. A cascade of complicated emotions overwhelmed Draco, and unwanted tears swelled in his eyes. He paused to take a deep breath. "I'm far too drunk for this conversation."

"Surely you must know that he loves you, Draco."

"I do." It took five years on a secluded island with nothing but his magic and his thoughts to come to that realisation. "But I’m not going to marry Astoria Greengrass."

"I know that. Give your father time. You're talking about the end to a very long-standing pureblood line."

"He's had five years, or has it been out of sight; out of mind?" His time away hadn't changed anything. They still thought of him as a child.

"That's not fair."

"Name me something that's fair."

"You're quite disagreeable when you're intoxicated." She stood and stepped towards the door.

"And for the record, I wasn't drinking alone."

"None of my business." She tried to feign nonchalance, but Draco saw right through it.

"No, not…" He didn't want his mother thinking he was a complete whore. "Friendly drinks, if you can call it that."

Draco didn't miss the curiosity that flashed in her eyes either. "Never mind," he said quickly. "Good night, Mother."

"You can't expect me to leave that boiling cauldron," she said, and sat back down in the chair. Draco mentally cursed himself for bringing it up.

"I'm really tired. Let's talk at breakfast when my head isn't screaming like a banshee."

She waved her wand and coolness washed over him. Sobriety quickly followed.

"Why didn't you do that earlier?" he asked.

"I thought you reveled in your suffering, but now I want to know more about this mystery man."

"Hardly a mystery. Let's just say the Malfoy line isn't the only one coming to an end."

"And who is joining you in ending a branch of their family tree?"

"Potter." Draco watched carefully for his mother's reaction. If she had an opinion, she betrayed nothing.

"There had been rumours."

"But you didn't believe them?"

"Surely you know not to believe every bit of rubbish you read in The Daily Prophet."

"But in this case, it turned out to be true. And we even managed to share a drink and not trade hexes."

"You seem frightfully proud of that. What did you expect?"

"I don't know, but not that."

"Well, if Harry Potter can surprise you, perhaps you can be patient and see if your father will as well."

"I won't pretend, not even for him."

"I didn't ask you to."

"It's what he wants."

"We all want a great many things. It doesn't mean that we're going to get them. Now what about Harry Potter?"

Draco knew that he'd never get to bed if he didn't tell her something. "We had a few drinks. He wanted to know about my time on the island. Light conversation, really."

"I doubt there's anything light between the two of you."

"Yet somehow it was." Not the entire truth, but he wasn't giving away any more than that.

"Hmmm."

"You've had your biscuit, Mother, now off to bed." His buzz was gone, but Draco still wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

"Very well. Good night, darling." She spelled out the lights and closed the door behind her.

While the conversation with his mother still lingered in the air, Draco decided that tomorrow was the day to start flying. He had always considered his time on Magicae Insula as his fledging, but perhaps he hadn't truly left the nest. Or maybe he had and his parents hadn't yet accepted it? Either way, they needed to see for themselves that he was moving on.

~ooOOOoo~

A tuft of red hair sticking out of the top of a soft blue blanket was the only sign that there was a living breathing human being on the inside, well, that and the endless cooing by the baby's parents. Ron and Hermione were parents. It was strange for Harry to think of Ron and Hermione in that way, but there they were focused wholly and completely on the wee bundle wrapped inside that blanket.

Suddenly, Harry found that he couldn't breathe. A barrage of emotions overwhelmed him as images of his parents flooded his mind. A pity one couldn't learn Occlumency against one's self. He felt woozy and needed to get some air.

"You all right there, mate?" Ron asked, as Harry took several steps back towards the door. "You look a little green."

"Didn't eat this morning," Harry lied. "I'll just go grab a spot of tea and come back. You need anything?"

"I'm good," Ron said with a big smile. "I've got everything right here."

"No need to hurry," said Hermione. "Come back when you're feeling better."

She'd only had the baby four hours ago, but seemingly everything had already changed. The trio no longer included Harry. The third member of Hermione and Ron's trio was now the newly born Brian Weasley. Named to honor Dumbledore, of course.

Harry walked the halls of St. Mungo's not really headed anywhere in particular. He simply needed to walk, and find the loo. He'd had several cups of tea with breakfast.

Coming out of the loo, he heard a Healer speaking unusually loudly for a hospital. "Madam, I know how to mend broken bones, but this is the third time in two weeks. He's going to have to stay overnight. And if it keeps happening, I'm not certain that I'll be able to mend them at all. What is going on?"

Harry turned to see that it was Narcissa Malfoy to whom the Healer was speaking. She replied with a calm quiet tone, such that Harry had to get closer to make out what she was saying.

"... magic gone awry. There's nothing you need concern yourself with other than ensuring that my son's bones are correctly healed. I doubt your father would—"

Mrs. Malfoy turned her head as Harry passed by. He was trying to act nonchalant, as if he wasn't rudely eavesdropping, but the look in her eye when she abruptly stopped speaking made it clear that she knew exactly what he was doing.

"Hello, Mr. Potter," she said as if they were old friends. They rarely crossed paths, and usually only at sizeable functions where he didn't need to do anything more than nod or utter a quick greeting.

"Hello, Mrs. Malfoy. I couldn't help but overhear. Is Ma—Draco all right?" He knew that she was taking advantage of the opportunity to put the Healer in his place, but he'd been caught and had to play along.

"Why don't you go in and visit. I'm sure Draco would like that."

Had Draco told his mother about their running into each other a few weeks earlier? Even so, Harry didn't believe that Malfoy would want to see him. Still, he was curious, obscenely curious.

On the bed, Malfoy lay with eyes closed. A sheet was pulled up to his waist and his entire torso was bandaged. One of his wrists was bandaged as well, and judging from the bulge beneath the sheet, there was additional damage to Malfoy's legs.

"Um, Malfoy?" Harry whispered.

Malfoy opened his eyes, and they instantly narrowed as the focused on Harry. "What are you doing here?"

"Your mother said to go in."

"What?" Malfoy said.

"I mean, umm, I was visiting Hermione… and the baby."

"Fantastic, one more Weasley in the world."

"Were you trying for one less Malfoy?"

"What?" Malfoy said again, but this time with much more anger. "Who told—"

"Sorry, I didn't… no one said that… well, at the bar you were…" Harry grappled to find a cohesive thought. "The healer said this was your third time in two weeks. How many bones have you broken?"

"Seven. This time. Not that it's any of your business. And no, I'm not trying to off myself because Father wants me to marry an absolute shrew."

"Oh. Is she really?"

"What?"

"A shrew?"

"Have no idea, and don't plan to find out. Fucking Merlin, Potter. You really don't think much of me."

"I didn't mean it as an insult."

"What was it then?"

"I was…" Harry pondered just what he was when it came to Malfoy. "I was concerned, as anyone would be. So why are you here?"

"None of your business."

"Come now, Draco, there's no reason why you can't tell Mr. Potter about your little experiment," Mrs. Malfoy said, entering the room.

Harry wasn't sure what she was up to, but she was most definitely playing at something.

"Mother, stay out of this."

"My dear, if you think that I'm going to let you continue jumping off the Manor roof as some sort of sport, then you are gravely mistaken."

"Jumping off the roof?" Harry looked to Malfoy for an explanation.

"It's not what you think," Malfoy quickly replied. "Thank you, Mother."

The most that Harry could surmise was that Mrs. Malfoy was rather upset about whatever it was that Malfoy was doing and for some inexplicable reason she thought that he might be of some help.

"Why were you jumping off the roof?" Harry asked, and hoped that Malfoy might actually answer this time. The confusion was giving Harry a headache. At least it had sideswiped all of the baby thoughts out of his mind.

"I was not jumping."

"Then what were you doing?"

"I was trying to—" Malfoy gulped, and turned his head to his mother for a brief moment. She gestured at him to continue.

"Fly."

"You fell from you broom? Three times?" Harry didn't understand. For all the things Malfoy was or wasn't, Harry would never begrudge the fact that he was an excellent flier.

"No broom," Malfoy stated, and then stared Harry down and waited for him to get the meaning.

"Like Voldemort?" Harry's anger began to rise. He savored both Malfoy's and his mother's visceral reactions to the name.

"No," Malfoy challenged, "like Snape."

"Voldemort taught Snape."

"Wrong, as you are about a great many things. It was the other way around."

As Malfoy's ire hung in the air, Harry pondered the idea. It made sense. Snape had invented many spells. Snape was a master at Occlumency. Why not flying? Harry began to wonder just how far Snape's powers had stretched and how far they could've developed had his life not been cut short.

"Nothing to say, Potter?"

"So what if he did? Why are you?"

"I spent the last five years exploring my connection to the world around me. What better way to challenge what I've learned?"

"You're testing yourself?"

"Perhaps, but I don't need to explain myself to you or anyone."

"No need to explain," Mrs. Malfoy said, "but you need to take appropriate precautions."

"And what does Potter have to do with appropriate precautions?"

Narcissa smiled at Harry for just a second, and then said, "You shouldn't be trying to fly alone. Mr. Potter could join you."

"Mother, have you gone mad?"

"Do you have a better idea?" she asked. "I hardly doubt Greg Goyle would be of any use, unless you were planning to use him for a soft landing."

"I'll do it," Harry said. Flying. Flying without a broom. Harry wanted to master it first. And just like that, they were competing again.

"What?" Malfoy's face turned red and he narrowed his eyes at Harry.

"Excellent," said Mrs. Malfoy. "You can use the lake cottage. No one will be around this time of year, and you can fall into the water to your heart's content."

Malfoy was obviously unhappy about it, but he acquiesced to his mother. Harry knew that it was probably a bad idea, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to spend some time with Malfoy. What kind of man had Draco Malfoy become? And he would be lying to himself, if he didn't admit that the idea of mastering flight was intoxicating, even if it was Snape's method. Perhaps especially because it was Snape's method.

~ooOOOoo~

Draco rested for a full week until he felt up to resuming his flying endeavor. After several owls back and forth, Potter finally agreed that Saturday morning would work for him. Draco suggested they meet behind Hogsmeade Station. He assumed Potter wouldn't want to be seen together. From there it was a just a short Appartion to the lake house, but he'd need to side-along Potter the first time.

"All here?" Draco asked Potter when they materialised just outside the garden gate.

Potter made an exaggerated check of all his limbs and vital bits. "I think so."

"Very droll, Potter." Draco rolled his eyes and sighed.

As they walked up the path to the front door, Potter looked apprehensively at the cottage. "Not what I imagined for the Malfoy summer home."

The wood was weather-beaten and the ivy was overgrown across most of the front porch to deter trespassers.

"It belongs to my mother. Been in the Black family several generations." Draco spelled open the front door and gestured for Potter to enter first. He wanted to watch Potter's reaction to the interior as he was obviously—incorrectly—judging the cabin based on the exterior. Mother had sent two house-elves over yesterday to get it ready.

Potter gaped at the opulent yet tasteful décor. A fire was roaring in the hearth and the brass candelabra were all alight. Draco knew that the main room was about twice the size that the cabin appeared from the outside.

"Wow, this is nice," said Potter.

"Nice?" Draco knew Potter was a simpleton, but frankly he'd expected a little more than that. "You know there's this thing called magic. Ninety-five of the world's population doesn't believe in it, but a select special few enjoy its benefits."

That earned a glare from Potter.

"I just forget about magic sometimes."

You can take the wizard out of the Muggles but not the Muggle out of the wizard. Draco couldn't imagine ever forgetting about magic. Draco removed his satchel from over his shoulder and set it on the coffee table in front of the fire. "I'll show you the lake and then we can come back and go over Snape's notes."

"All right. Lead the way."

The lake was eerily deserted. Draco had never been there outside of the busy summer season, and it had been well over ten years since he had last spent a carefree summer holiday swimming and chasing Water Sprites. As a child, he hadn't appreciated the majestic beauty. Scores of magical plants surrounded the shores and a shimmering moss hung from the trees, creating a peaceful canopy above. Across the top of the lake, ripples of water glistened in the early morning sunlight.

"It's lovely," Potter said, taking in the surroundings. "Is it only for wizards?"

"Always been, as far as I know. I think there are more Muggle Repelling Charms on this place than at the Quidditch World Cup."

"It's really quiet," Harry said, still looking around in awe.

"In the summer it's mobbed. There are cabins around the entire perimeter, just inside the line of trees. We used to come here every August. I'd spend my days swimming and playing Gobstones with Vince and Greg." During his time on the island, Draco had decided that he'd remember Vince that way: young and innocent.

"A Malfoy tradition?"

"Actually, it's my mother's. She used to come here as a child. What did you do for summer holidays?"

With that simple question, Potter's mood changed. His eyelids dropped and he stared at the ground. "I didn't do anything. I don't think staying at the old lady neighbor's house and being forced to look at photographs of all her cats, past and present, counts as a holiday. The whole place smelled like cat piss and cabbage."

Draco didn't know how to respond to that. He'd read about Potter's sorry childhood, but wasn't sure how much of it was exaggerated to build up the image of the boy hero rising up against horrific odds.

"Did the rest of the Black's have cabins?" Potter asked, his tone lightening a little. He must have sensed Draco's discomfort and was mercifully moving the conversation along.

"Don't know, but a lot of Ministry officials and old pureblood families have cabins here. My father used to joke that more decisions were made at summer luncheons than during the Wizengamot sessions in the fall." Draco watched Potter stew over that information.

"What's down here?" Potter asked walking down a path that led around the bank.

"There's dock over there. I thought that we could turn it into a tower or something like that."

"Better than the roof." Potter sounded like he was teasing, but Draco wasn't sure.

"I have no intention of being held responsible for your injuries. They'd probably revoke my citizenship."

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Just show me where."

The dock was at least thirty feet of wood planks. The transformation looked like it would be simple enough. They could do it in stages.

"Here, I'll start," Draco said and held up his wand. He Levitated about a half dozen planks over the water and then with a quick flick of his wand, he managed to create the beginning of a truss. "You take the next leg."

"Okay," Potter answered tentatively. He was able to Levitate the wood but the planks merely fell into the water when he attempted the transformation. "Bugger. Let me try that again."

Potter cast a Summoning Charm and then Levitated the wood over the truss, but as he flicked his wrist, the wood merely formed what looked like the makings of a bonfire.

"Come on, Potter. It's not exactly an advanced Transfiguration. The wood isn't alive. Just transform it."

"Shut it."

Draco flicked his wand at Potter's woodpile and formed the next level of the truss. "Why don't you try again," Draco said. "Think of the towers they built for your second Triwizard task."

"I know what you're going for, I just can't seem to manage it." Potter blushed. What had happened to confident cocky Potter?

"There's a lot of magic here at the lake. You can draw from that," Draco suggested. After all, it was what he was doing.

"There aren't any Grindylows in there, are there?"

"Pffft. Please, this is a tiny swimming hole compared with the lake at Hogwarts. A few Sprites and maybe a magical eel. Nothing of concern. Let's get on with it." Draco Summoned more planks and constructed the third level of the tower.

Potter tried again, but failed to do more than put the wood into a stack. Draco finished off the tower. It stood about thirty feet high with a long diving platform that extended out several feet over the deepest part of the lake.

"That should do it. Potter, your transformation skills are abysmal."

"Not my forté," he admitted.

"Fine. How are your Apparition skills?"

"Excellent," Potter said with a smug smile. It was the first smile Draco had seen all morning, and for some reason, it set him at ease. In the past, he would have found Potter's attitude quite irritating.

"Good. There's a strong similarity between flying and Apparition. Let's go inside and review Snape's notes over a cup of tea." After all his hard work, Draco was desperate for a cup of tea.

"I could use a cuppa," Potter said, and followed Draco up to the cottage.

The house-elves had tea and biscuits waiting for them on the large rustic dining room table. Draco retrieved his satchel with Snape's notes and set them out on the table.

When Potter picked up the notes, it was the strangest reaction. Potter stared at the pages as if he were looking at Snape's ghost.

"What is it, Potter?"

"It's been a while since I've seen Snape's writing. I'm having the strangest feeling of déjà vu."

"Really." Was there a history between Snape and Potter that Draco didn't know about? "And that troubles you because…?"

"It doesn't," he replied emphatically, perhaps a little too emphatically. Draco let it go.

"As you can see," Draco pointed to the most critical paragraph on the page, "it involves many of the same principles as Apparition. I suppose the real trick is to be able to compartmentalise a portion of your mind to maintain the flight."

"Snape was a master at Occlumency. "

Snape’s facility with Occlumency was certainly well-known in Death Eater circles, but how did Potter know it?

"He had a keen mind, that's certain," Draco agreed.

"He had a controlled mind. He tried to teach me Occlumency." Potter studied the notes in front of him.

"And?"

"I was pants at it." Potter scowled and put the notes down on the table.

"If it makes you feel any better I wasn't a raging success at it either," Draco admitted.

"Then what makes you think that we can do this?"

"Not we. Me. I think I can do this. You. You're just here because my mother was tired of dealing with the Healers at St. Mungo's."

"You're so sure. Arrogant much, Malfoy?" For the first time that day some of Potter’s old antagonism showed itself.

"I spent the last five years studying how to enhance our own inherent magic with the magic in our surroundings. This is something I was meant to do. I can feel it."

"Well I'm not here to babysit. I'm going to master this," Potter said, confidently.

"No time like the present."

"What now? I've looked at this for what…five minutes?" Potter sounded nervous. How quickly his confidence waned.

"I've looked at it for hours on end and it hasn't done me any good." Draco finished the last of his tea and then stood. "I'll go first, if it makes you feel any better."

Potter followed Draco to the door.

"You can take the notes," Draco offered.

"Nah, I'm more of a hands-on learner. Show me what you got."

Draco took Potter's words at face value. It was a challenge. Not only was he proving something to himself, but he was also going to show Potter. A lot can change in five years. Draco's magic was far more powerful than it was during their Hogwarts days, and he was probably the best student in their year, not counting Granger, which he didn't, and never would.

When they reached the lake, Draco Apparated to the top of the tower. He closed his eyes and took a deep cleansing breath. He listened to the birds in the trees and the sloshing of the water against the rocky shore. The wind gusted against his skin, fresh and full of life. Magic surrounded him from the water to the sky. Draco focused his mind and visualised taking to the sky in flight.

Draco opened his eyes and took three deliberate strides to the end of the platform. Then he jumped. His mind reeled with the images of flight. Magic coursed through his veins with determination.

He fell like a stone.

As he hit the surface, the thought that he probably should have cast a Cushioning Charm came to mind. The water immediately soaked through his clothes, including his wool cloak. A Water Proofing Charm would have also been a capital idea. Had he learned nothing from his misadventures jumping off of the roof?

His clothes heavy and dripping, Draco sloshed up the bank of the lake. For the briefest moment, he thought about telling Potter to cast the few, now obvious, charms, but one look at Potter's smug face made him bite his lip.

"Nice," Potter said.

"Piss off. You think you can do better?"

"I'll give it a try."

As Draco cast a Drying Charm, out of the corner of his eye he saw Potter stripping off his clothes. He still had lithe build of a Seeker. If it not for Potter's big fat head, Draco might have thought him attractive. Well that, and the fact that he was… Potter.

"The water's cold." Draco said, mentally cursing himself for stating the obvious.

The air was also fairly cold that autumn morning. Standing in nothing but exceptionally ugly Chudley Cannons boxers, Potter's pale skin was already covered in gooseflesh.

Potter cast a Warming Charm. "That should help."

"Suit yourself." Draco stared at Potter and couldn't help but wonder what was under those orange shorts.

Potter Apparated to the top of the tower. He took his sweet time up there looking out over the water.

Draco cast a Warming Charm and took off his cloak while he waited impatiently on the shore.

When Potter finally jumped from the platform, he might as well have been taking a summer dive into the lake. Relieved, Draco saw no evidence of flight. It would have broken him if Potter had succeeded on the first try.

Potter swam across the lake and tromped out on to the shore. His pants clung to his body and Draco could see the outline of his thighs and naughty bits. To be fair, Draco wasn't going to judge because he knew first hand just how cold the water was.

"You could have warned me to cast a Cushioning Charm. Hitting the water hurt worse than Splinching."

"I seriously doubt that." Draco couldn't help but smile, just a little one.

Potter cast a Drying Charm. "Do you want to try again?"

"I'm game if you are." There was now a competition underway, one that he was going to win.

Unfortunately, the day ended at zero-zero. Although Draco did find that by casting a few extra charms he was able to make failure less physically painful. However, the damage to his confidence was another story. His ego was bruised and battered, and there was no spell or potion at St. Mungo's to heal it.

Exhausted from hours of effort, they agreed to meet up again on Wednesday. Potter was going to take the day off and Draco needed at least that much time to rethink his strategy. He was also going to scour the Manor archives for any additional information. He made a copy of Snape's notes for Potter to take with him and said an awkward goodbye. After Potter Disapparated, Draco took refuge in the old lake house for a well-needed nap.

~ooOOOoo~

It wasn't uncommon for Harry's past to infiltrate his dreams. He wouldn't classify them as nightmares as much as painful memories that he usually tried not to dwell upon during his conscious hours.

It was unfortunate that his first Apparition outside of a class was that fateful last night with Dumbledore.

"It's going to be all right, sir," Harry said over and over again, more worried by Dumbledore's silence than he had been by his weakened voice. "We're nearly there. ... I can Apparate us both back . . . Don't worry. . . ."

"I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."

One moment he was Apparating and the next Harry watched himself falling from the Astronomy tower. He woke abruptly. Sitting up on sweat soaked sheets, he gasped for air.

"Fucking Malfoy," he muttered.

Harry stumbled to the shower and let the hot water pelt against his skin, washing away his unease. He'd agreed to join Malfoy and was going to see it through. Memories be damned.

The Apparition to the lake was pretty straightforward. If only Snape's flying spell were that easy.

Harry walked the grounds towards Malfoy's cottage and took in the tranquility of the woods and beauty the lake. He imagined that it would be nice to take Teddy to a place like this. He never had such summer holidays. Is that what real families did? It was funny to think of the Blacks as a real family. Perhaps Sirius visited as a young boy. As Harry was making a mental note to ask Andromeda, a large rock that had something carved into the surface caught his eye.

His question was conveniently answered. There in the rock, obviously engraved by magic, was "Sirius was here." Harry couldn't help but laugh at the serendipity of the moment. Maybe Sirius was still watching out for him.

Harry ran his hand over the letters where they endured like an epitaph. He imagined that Sirius probably was young and still figuring out his magic. The letters were rather crooked and had varied depth in the stone. The thought that perhaps Sirius left his mark to annoy Bellatrix, made him smile.

"What are looking at, Potter?"

Harry jumped at Malfoy's presence. Instinct propelled him to draw his wand. He hadn't heard him Apparate or come down the lane from the house.

"Don't sneak up on me like that or you might end up knocked out by an Impediment Curse," grumbled Harry, stowing away his wand.

"A herd of Centaurs running through wouldn't have garnered your attention. What's on the rock?"

"Sirius," Harry said simply, and then backed away so Malfoy could see.

"There are names all over the place. It was a tradition for the kids. Rite of passage sort of thing. My handiwork is on a tree in the back garden. "

Malfoy wouldn't understand the carving's significance to Harry, so he let it drop. "So you lived here in the summer?"

"No, we just visited once a summer, maybe for a week or two. The Manor property has its own lake. The lake cottage had actually been bequeathed to Aunt Bellatrix, but she was in Azkaban all that time. Mother only inherited it after… well after." Malfoy paused and there was a painfully awkward silence. "Are you ready?"

"Oh. Right. Sure." Harry noticed that Malfoy was wearing only a bathrobe. "Did you just wake up?"

"Swim trunks." Malfoy untied the belt and opened the front slightly so that Harry could see. "I think you had the right idea. Despite all the spells, my clothes still soaked through and were nearly impossible to swim in."

"It does feel like we're having swimming lessons more than flying lessons."

"Today is the day. Confidence." Malfoy said, and turned for the shore.

"Determination." Harry followed him.

"Right."

As Malfoy disrobed, Harry couldn't help but admire his body. He was lean with a well-defined chest and long legs. Malfoy was also a lot less pale than Harry had remembered. There was a definite tan line at the waist of the swim trunks. Five years in the Mediterranean had done wonders for his complexion. Malfoy also looked particularly enticing, as he emerged glistening with water after his first plunge.

"Better luck next time," Harry said.

"It's not luck, Potter. Get that through your thick head," Malfoy said with a scowl.

Whatever momentary attraction Harry may have felt, it quickly evaporated with the appearance of Malfoy's foul mood.

Harry stripped down to his pants and Apparated to the top of the tower. He tried his best to clear his mind and concentrate on flight, but ended up in the lake just as Malfoy had.

They each took half a dozen more unsuccessful attempts that morning. Without a doubt, Harry's swimming was improving, but flying was no closer than when he'd first contemplated the idea.

Harry shivered in the cold air. His last Warming Charm had worn off. As he raised his wand to cast another, Malfoy put his hand over the top of it and stopped him.

"Don't bother. Let's go inside. I'm cold, I'm starving, and I need to rethink my strategy."

"I wouldn't say no to lunch." Harry's stomach growled. They'd been at it for hours.

"And I need you to tell me everything that Snape taught you about Occlumency."

"I told you it was a colossal failure. When I had Occlumency and Legilimency during Auror training, I wasn't any better then."

"But anything you remember might be useful."

Harry followed Malfoy up to the cottage, desperately trying not to stare at Malfoy's arse clad in nothing but clinging wet swim trunks. It wasn't fair that he was so fit. People like Malfoy should grow fat and have receding hairlines.

When they entered the house, Malfoy immediately Summoned two blankets. "Let's get warm by the fire," he said, handing one to Harry and wrapping the other around himself. "I'll have the house-elves bring some tea and sandwiches."

The kindness was unnerving. Harry'd spent the better part of the morning convinced that Malfoy was the same selfish prat he'd always been. The man had barely uttered two words to him. There was no offer of even a sliver of advice or encouragement. Now Malfoy was gesturing for him to sit by the fire and politely asking an elderly looking house-elf to bring tea.

Harry made himself at home on a barrage of pillows that were assembled around the hearth.

"Comfortable?" Malfoy asked as he sat down next to Harry. His tone was amicable without a trace of the sarcasm that Harry was used to.

"I'm warming up." He meant it in multiple ways.

"I'm rethinking this whole thing."

"You want to give up?"

"Of course not. I meant that I think I've been coming at it from the wrong angle. I've been accessing the magic around me and trying to power my way through it. So much of the past five years has been spent learning to enhance my magic that way, but this is different. It's an internal struggle."

"Snape used his mind and his focus for much of his power. It's why he was such a successful Occlumens."

"You speak so highly of him now. You used to hate him."

"He hated me." Harry paused and thought about it for a second. "No, you're right. I hated him too. But things aren't always so simple. In the aftermath of the war, of everything, I came to respect him."

"And what did he tell you about the mind?"

"That it was complex."

"Profound."

Harry ignored the verbal jab. "To use your mind, you need to completely empty yourself of emotion."

At first Harry expected some snide remark about Snape's lack of emotion, but as he studied Malfoy's contemplative face, Harry realised that Malfoy was serious about doing whatever he needed to learn to fly.

"I've been too emotional," Malfoy said. "That's why I've been failing. I want it too much."

The sandwiches arrived. Harry was famished, and so was Malfoy judging from the way he tucked in.

As he ate, Malfoy spread several pages of Snape's notes across the floor.

In between bites, Harry told Malfoy about how he used to practice clearing his mind of everything: emotions, memories, and all thought. They'd spent several months during Auror training devoting time to the subject. Harry never mastered it. Maybe it was time. Older and more in control of his magical power, he might be mature enough to master this.

After lunch, Harry got dressed and was about to leave when a barn owl pecked at the window. It was Hermione's owl.

Harry quickly opened the window to let the bird inside. As he removed the letter from her talons, he asked Malfoy, "Any owl treats?"

"Don't think so. Didn't think to stock up. Give it some of this left over sandwich."

Malfoy handed a piece of chicken sandwich to Harry, who in turn offered it to the owl. She gobbled it down quickly and then left without waiting for a reply.

Harry unfurled the small scroll and read.

"Anything wrong?" asked Malfoy.

"No, well not anything serious. Hermione says the baby's been up fussing all night and she's exhausted. Molly's there now, so she can try and get some sleep. I was supposed to go over there for dinner, but she wants to postpone it until tomorrow."

"Get used to that."

"What?"

"That's what happens when your friends procreate."

"I'll always be friends with Hermione and Ron," Harry said. It came out more defensive than he had meant. Was he angry?

"Of course you'll always be friends. It's just that they're busy with their families. Pansy used to write me once a week. She even came to visit the island twice. Then she and Blaise started making Zabinniettes. I'm lucky if I get a Christmas card."

Harry frowned. Ron and Hermione were not Blaise and Pansy. "Whatever, Malfoy."

"Don't get your knickers in a twist. All I'm saying is that we're different. We don't have wives and kids, and so naturally we get left out."

Deep down, Harry had feared this would happen. Maybe he'd been in denial. Malfoy was right. Bastard. Harry collapsed on the closest chair.

"Sorry," Malfoy said. "I didn't mean to bring you down. We were doing so well. Shocking, I know."

"Not your fault. You're merely stating the obvious. So why not marry Astoria Greengrass and fit into your cookie cutter life?"

"Why didn't you marry Ginny Weasley? Now that would've been a fairy tale ending."

"Thought about it. Wanted it. Wanted it bad."

"But…"

"Yeah, it's a rather big but, isn't it?"

Malfoy shrugged. "To thine own self be true."

"Muggle quotations? How scandalous."

"Shakespeare was a wizard, you twit."

"Really?" Harry was sure he'd never heard that before.

Malfoy threw his hands up in the air.

"Okay. Okay," said Harry.

"Well now you have time to stay and practice Occlumency," Malfoy said.

"Not sure that's such a smart idea."

"Why not?"

"It can get rather…" Harry searched for the right word, "…personal."

"I suspect we're beyond the boundaries of personal." Malfoy looked at him pointedly.

It was true that they had a rather intimate history, even if it was completely negative up until a few weeks ago. What horrible secret was there between them? Not able to think of one, Harry agreed to stay. If it would help them master flight, he was game.

"Okay. Let's try it."

"Just give me a few minutes to change." Malfoy was still in nothing but his swim trunks and a bathrobe.

Once Malfoy was dressed, they returned to the hearth. The fire was warm and the crackling of the wood was relaxing. Maybe this could work.

"Clear your mind," said Harry. He extended his wand. "I'm going to try and penetrate it. Keep me out."

"Right."

"Legilimens!"

As the spell made contact, Harry caught glimpses of Malfoy in the Manor with his mother, in class at Hogwarts, and as a child with Dobby serving him breakfast. Harry kept his concentration and tried to probe farther. An image of Malfoy making love to another man came into clarity. A tall swarthy man was fucking Malfoy from behind. Harry was hard in an instant. It was so intimate, that he wanted to break the spell himself, but couldn't bring himself to do it. He watched the scene with fascination and could feel Malfoy's arousal. The image faded abruptly causing Harry to lose his concentration. The spell was broken.

"Liked that, did you," said Malfoy. His tone was seductive, not angry, which only served to confuse Harry.

"Why…?" Harry wasn't sure what was going on, but Malfoy had a smug smile of control.

"That's why I'm not going to marry Astoria Greengrass, and the fact that you enjoyed seeing that is exactly why you didn't marry Weasley."

"You wanted me to see that?"

"I have more control over my mind than you do."

Harry was determined not to be out maneuvered. "Legilimens!"

There was a flash of light before Harry could see anything. The image of Malfoy crying before Myrtle came to the front of his mind.

The sharp push of a Stupefy sent Harry backwards onto the pillows.

"What the hell are you doing?" accused Malfoy.

"Trying to teach you Occlumency," Harry said. "That's how it works. You need to keep me out completely, much more than try to control what you show me."

Malfoy's eyes were wet and his expression looked like that of a wounded animal. Maybe he'd thought it was going to be much easier. Harry had warned him about the personal nature of what he was going to do.

"Fine," Malfoy said. "Give me a second."

It dawned on Harry what Malfoy had said earlier about being too emotional. They had that in common. Both of them had always led with their emotions, for better or worse.

"Legilimens!" This time Harry hit a black curtain. Malfoy's mind was blocked completely. He tried to break through for at least a minute, but then acquiesced.

"Good?" Malfoy asked.

"Yes. Good. Better than I ever was." Malfoy's success had left Harry defeated.

"Oh. Well, this wasn't my first attempt at it, Potter. I needed practice, that's all."

Was Malfoy trying to make him feel better? "I think I should go."

"You don't want to practice?"

The idea that Malfoy might see him defenseless tasted like a vomit flavored Bertie Bott's bean. "Not today. I don't think I'm up for it."

"All right. Maybe we both need a break. There's an Arrow's match on the wireless."

Now that his dinner with Ron and Hermione was off, Harry didn't feel like going home to sit in his flat alone. Hanging out with Malfoy didn't sound like such a bad offer. "Sounds good."

"Good."

It turned out to be a very good Quidditch match and Malfoy turned out to be very good company.

~ooOOOoo~

Draco wasn't expecting to meet up again with Potter until Saturday, but on Friday he got an owl from Potter asking if they could get together that afternoon as well. While their last meeting two days ago had ended amicably, they hadn't made much progress in the flying department, so getting back to work sounded like a smart idea.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" Draco asked Potter when he arrived at the cottage.

"I'm taking a leave of absence."

"Really. Why?"

"They formed a new team for a mission, and I didn't get picked, again."

"Did you want to go?"

"Yes, I am an Auror."

"The Ministry has quite a few Aurors. Maybe they needed ones that weren't so… well known?"

"That shouldn't matter. Besides, I want to do this, and flying is going to take all my time and focus if I want to succeed."

"Don't make me your excuse."

"You're not. This is for me."

Apparently Potter had just as much to prove to himself as he did.

"Well then, let's get to the lake." Draco tightened the sash around his robe, and marched off.

On their first two attempts, they ended up swimming in the lake as usual, so Draco suggested they practice clearing their minds and focusing on the vision of flying.

Once calm and clear headed, Draco was ready to try again. He could do this. It was a literal leap of faith.

Steeling himself Draco jumped off the platform. At first he fell, but as he spread his arms wide and concentrated on the wind pushing against his body, he swooped upward in a long arc. The sensation only lasted a few seconds. It was so startling and strange that it threw off his focus. A moment later his body plunged into the water below.

As Draco came up for air, he saw Potter jumping up and down on the shore. It wasn't his imagination. He'd actually flown. Draco swam quickly to where he could stand and then padded up toward Potter, who was smiling the most ridiculous smile.

"You did it!" Potter yelled. "You were doing it. You were flying. Fucking flying. Five seconds at least."

Draco bent over to catch his breath. Water dripped from the end of his chin. Only a few minutes earlier, he'd felt so light and airy. Now his body felt heavy and sore from the exertion. He lifted his wand to spell his swim trunks dry, but stopped short when he saw Potter running at him.

It was an odd and off balance tackling hug that ended with Potter on top of him. Draco wasn't sure what to do. Potter's body was a warm blanket over his cold, wet skin. He turned his head and Potter's mouth was right there for the taking.

"You did—" Potter started to say as Draco covered his mouth and silenced him.

There was magic in the moment. Not breaking the kiss, Draco rolled them over. Draco pressed his body atop Potter's. Now they were both covered in mud. Potter rolled them over again and trapped Draco's wand between them.

"Ow. Ow," Potter murmured into the kiss, but kept on kissing him.

Draco wiggled his hand and wand free and wrapped his arms around Potter, who was deliciously pressing his weight against him. Potter was as hard as a broom handle, and Draco wasn't far behind.

There was a seaweed taste to their kisses and even dirt on their faces, but Draco wasn't going to worry about that. He rolled them over again so that he was on top. He gave two sharp thrusts against Potter's crotch. It had been so long since he'd done anything even remotely sexual with another person. With the exception of a few short-lived trysts, Draco had practically been celibate on the island.

Draco pulled away from the kiss to look in Potter in the eyes. His glasses were crooked and smudged with dirt. Ever so gently, Draco pulled them off and placed them down on the ground above Potter's head. The man's eyes were a deep green that almost blended in with large black pupils. Draco gave another quick thrust and watched for Potter's reaction.

Potter closed his eyes and moaned. Draco knew he wanted this just as much as he did.

Draco buried is face in Potter's neck and began to rut against him in earnest. Potter met him thrust for thrust. Draco didn't care if he was acting like a fifth-year in a broom cupboard. He would die if he didn't come soon. He grabbed a fistful of Potter's hair and continued to drive against him. His wet trunks were chafing and sticking to his thighs. The constriction added to the excitement. It became almost painful.

Faster and faster Draco snapped his hips, desperately rutting against Potter as he writhed beneath him. The pressure built with each thrust as Draco danced the edge of sweet release. With two forceful hands, Potter grabbed his arse, and it was more than enough to send him over. Draco bit his lip and moaned softly as he came.

Draco pushed himself up onto his hands and looked at Potter. The man was flushed and his eyes completely dilated. Potter wriggled his hips against Draco's thigh in an attempt to create some friction. Draco shifted onto his side and rubbed his hand down the front of Potter's pants.

Potter lifted his hips and groaned. "Please. Please," he whispered.

Draco worked his hand inside the front of Potter's pants. His cock was hot to the touch despite the fact that rest of Potter was cold and damp. Draco pulled the top of his prick out through the front opening and stroked it. There was no lubrication, so Draco spit several times into his hand and then continued with more speed and a firmer grip.

Potter moaned and pushed into his hand. "Fuck. Fuck. Oh, Draco, fuck."

Draco watched Potter's face contort with his eyes squeezed shut. Potter's neck arched further and further back as his hips rocked and his cock pulsed in Draco's fist. Potter was quite a sight when he came—cheeks flushed and mouth hung open in a silent cry.

When Potter had finally stopped shuddering, Draco let go and wiped his hand on Potter's pants. Exhausted, he collapsed next to Potter.

They lay on their backs panting and looking up at the sky. The clouds had grown darker and more threatening.

"I think it's going to rain any minute," Draco said.

"Let it." Potter's blew out a long breath.

"We should go." Draco grabbed his wand from the ground next to him. He quickly spelled himself clean and dry.

"Oh. Okay." Potter tucked himself in and sat up.

"Here." Draco handed him his glasses.

"Thanks."

They looked at each other obviously not knowing what was next.

"I'll meet you here tomorrow morning," Draco said, desperately wanting to Disapparate as soon as he could.

"Right. Ten O'clock?"

"Right. I'll see you then." Draco drew his wand and spun. He was lucky he hadn't splinched himself. He meant to go straight to his bedroom, but ended up in the Manor gardens.

Despite the thrill of flying and the aftermath of the excitement with Potter, he felt overwhelmed like he had made a horrible blunder. It was a complete lapse in judgment, or perhaps sanity.

He'd tell Potter that it was all a mistake.

~ooOOOoo~

Harry couldn't get Malfoy out of his head. The image of Draco writhing on top of him came to mind when he was eating, doing laundry, cleaning his flat, and especially when he tried to sleep. He tossed and turned, and even got up at one point and took a cold shower. No wonder he couldn't fly. His mind couldn't even manage to sequester one simple event. Only it wasn't simple, not when it concerned Malfoy.

Tired from the lack of sleep, Harry Apparated to the lake. He found Draco waiting for him at the base of the path to the cottage.

"It was just the thrill of the moment," Malfoy blurted out.

"We got carried away," replied Harry, uncertain if he was trying to convince himself or Draco.

"Let's forget it."

"Good. Good." Harry let out a long breath of relief, yet something he couldn't quite define was nagging at the back of his mind.

"Let's get to work then."

As Draco turned for the lake, Harry took note that he thought of him as 'Draco'. He chalked it up to the fact that it's difficult to think of someone sexually with only their family name, and he couldn't deny that he was thinking about Draco sexually. Harry couldn't take his eyes of the man's arse framed by the silk of his bathrobe.

Once at the lake, Harry offered to go first. Today, he desperately needed the cold water. He waited until he was atop the tower to strip down to his pants. Without giving the slightest thought to flying, Harry jumped off the platform. As he surfaced, Harry watched for Draco's reaction to see if he noticed that he hadn't even tried. Draco seemed none the wiser.

After the success of the previous day, Harry was optimistic about Draco's first attempt. However, Draco fell straight into the water without a trace of flight.

Draco scowled as he trudged up to the shore. "Nothing," he said.

"Okay. This time I'm going to clear my mind completely. Just flight." Harry Apparated up to the tower.

The wind blew cold against his skin. Harry didn't bother to cast a Warming Charm. He simply ignored it and focused his mind. He cleared his head of Malfoy, and Ron and Hermione, and the Auror department, and everything else that had been bothering him. It was time to conquer his emotions and let it all go. It was simple. He would fly. Harry remembered the sensation of the first time he flew on a broom. It was exhilarating and freeing. He concentrated on that feeling. He let it fill him up, and then with his wand clutched tightly in his grip, he ran across the platform and hurdled himself into the air.

It took a few seconds for Harry to realise that he was flying straight ahead over the lake. He clutched his wand tighter and swerved to the left and then to the right. He focused his mind on turning in a long graceful arc back towards the tower. It was the most brilliant thing he'd ever felt. It didn't feel flying on a broom at all. It was as if he were a bird. Magic thrummed through his body.

Harry looked down and saw Draco staring up at him. He was too far way for Harry to make out his expression. Harry swooped down and then tried to get his feet underneath him. With an awkward stumble forward, he touched down on the shore. He'd never mastered coming out of a Portkey very well either.

As Harry gained his balance, he turned to see Malfoy's angry face. After what had happened yesterday, he hadn't expected Malfoy to run and hug him, but he'd expected some kind of positive reaction. Malfoy looked like he wanted to hurl a Hex at him.

Cautiously, Harry walked towards Malfoy.

"You steal everything from me!" Malfoy fumed.

"What are you talking about?"

"The Great Harry Potter." Malfoy over-enunciated every word.

"What? Because I flew? You flew yesterday," Harry protested.

"For maybe a few seconds. You looked like you could've stayed up there all day, catch a snitch, have some lunch, read The Prophet. This was supposed to be about me!"

"So go fly." Harry gestured to the tower.

"I can't now!"

"Why the hell not?"

Malfoy didn't answer. His shoulders tensed and loosened several times while he breathed deep long breaths through his nose. Harry guessed that he was trying to calm himself down. It didn't seem to be working very well.

"I wasn't here as a spectator, Malfoy," Harry explained, willing himself to keep a calm tone. "I thought we were in this together. I thought we were friends, or something. After yesterday—"

"Yesterday was a fluke. A freak accident," Malfoy yelled.

"Yes, I think we've already established that. But at the very least, there was…" Harry was at a loss.

"I hate you!" Malfoy said it with such venom that it shocked Harry. Since Malfoy's return, the snide remarks and competition had an almost friendly tone to them. This was different. This time Malfoy had betrayed a deeper animosity.

Harry wanted to resolve whatever was going on. He wanted to make peace. He even wanted Malfoy to fly. But he got no chance. Malfoy spun and Disapparated on the spot.

For a week, Harry sent an owl every day to Draco without reply. He even Apparated to the lake twice, but found the cottage deserted. He took several practice flights to hone his skills, but the success rang hollow without Draco there.

In such a short time, Draco Malfoy had become a part of Harry's life. Whatever there was between them now, Harry didn't believe it contained animosity. There was definitely a kinship, and maybe something more. With each passing day, Harry became more desperate to talk to Draco. Finally, after ten days, Harry decided that he would have to go to the Manor.

~ooOOOoo~

Draco sat on the roof watching the peacocks down below. A male was vigorously shaking his plumage in the face of one the peahens. Each time she turned her head and walked away annoyed, he would chase her down and prance for her again. It was an endless dance and Draco found himself commiserating with the poor rejected peacock.

The crack of Apparition startled both Draco and the peacocks. Looking off into the distance, he could see there was someone was just outside the Manor Gates. One of the house-elves appeared and allowed the wizard entrance.

Just as he was wondering, who was coming to visit, he recognised Potter. Damn him. He couldn't leave well enough alone. He really shouldn't have been surprised. While not replying to ten letters should've sufficed as more than a subtle hint, Potter was not known for giving up.

Draco watched Potter make his way through the front gardens. He looked so small down below in stark contrast the inflated image that Draco held in his mind. As Draco leaned forward to get a better view, a few bits of tile crumbled underneath him. It made only the slightest sound, but Potter, who was an Auror after all, looked up immediately. Bugger, he'd been spotted.

"Not jumping are you?" Potter yelled.

Draco stood and pulled out his wand. He didn't need this.

"Wait. I'm sorry. Don't go," Potter pleaded. "I'm coming up."

If Potter flew up, Draco was going to stun him midair. Thankfully, Potter Apparated and a moment later he was on the roof sitting down next to him.

"You didn't answer any of my owls," Potter said, shifting back and forth. Was it nerves or was he simply trying to get comfortable? Draco wasn't certain.

"There's nothing to say. You finished what you came to do."

"No, not really. I wanted to learn to fly just as much as you did, but I also agreed to help you."

"I don't need your help, Potter, or your pity."

"That's not fair. I was genuinely happy for you when you first flew."

Draco had experienced that genuine happiness pulsing in his hand. The heat rose in his cheeks as he remembered. Draco quickly pushed the image out of his mind. "So what?"

"I'm here, aren't I? Do you know what it took for me—" Potter stopped abruptly.

It took Draco a moment to remember the only other time Potter had been to his home. It hadn't been a social call.

"Why are you here?" Draco asked, using every last ounce of self-control to remain calm.

"Can't we continue what we were doing?"

"I don't know." Draco had thought he was done with Potter, but now wasn't so sure.

"You can fly. I saw you do it. Forget about what I did. What does it matter?"

For the life of him, Draco couldn't understand why Potter was being so kind. He expected Potter to gloat, but Potter seemed genuine in his support. Why did Draco doubt what was developing between them? Why didn't he believe he could fly?

Potter waited patiently, while Draco collected his thoughts. Maybe it was real. Draco decided to put his trust in Potter. Hell, everyone else had, and that turned out well. Why not him?

"Okay," Draco said.

His response surprised Potter. "Oh? Okay? What?"

"I'll try."

"To fly?" Potter stood and dusted himself off. "You want to go to the lake?"

"No." Draco shook his head. "Right here. Right now. If I'm going to do this, it has to be now."

"But—"

"Go down." Draco looked into Potter's eyes and carefully said, "Catch me if I fall."

Potter smiled an awkward toothy grin. "You won't."

As Potter drew his wand as if to Apparate, Draco stopped him. "You can fly, can't you?"

Potter nodded.

"Show me."

Potter smiled once more, and then closed his eyes. A neutral expression washed over his face. A second later he flew from the roof like a leaf caught in a gust of wind. He curved around in a large circle before slowly descending to the ground.

It wasn't showing off. It was just enough to give Draco the confidence that if Potter could do it, than he could too. There was something between them, and as soon Draco could fly alongside him, he was going to master that too.

Draco willed his emotions to evaporate on the wind, and then cleared his mind of all thoughts and feelings except the exhilaration of flying. He devoted himself. With wand outstretched, he leapt from the roof.

The wind was invigorating against Draco's face. Triumphantly, he swooped down and then up again. Soaring above the Manor, he watched Potter run across the grounds, tracking him from below. Father's peacocks squawked in displeasure at Potter's intrusion.

Draco turned into the breeze again. He longed to glide down into Potter's waiting arms, but not just yet. For now, he was content to simply fly.

~The End~

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