A fight can lead to so many things...
It was worth it, though. The aches, the pains, the loose teeth, the detention, the seventy-five points from Gryffindor - all of it utterly worth it, just to have planted my fist in the middle of his smirking face. I don't think I've ever heard Professor McGonagall sound as angry as she was when she pulled us apart and Snape looked ready to finish the job I'd started.
At the rate we're going, Hufflepuff is going to win the House Cup. Sprout should be thrilled.
I think we've been out, in robes and slippers, creeping around the corridors for every harebrained reason possible. There's no real reason this time; just insomnia. I'm bone tired but can't sleep, my jaw aches something awful, and listening to the others snore is making me itch. I got up and crept out without waking anyone - it's become habit, I can't help it. Sleepless nights are just better spent alone.
There's a wonderful view from the astronomy tower, if you've a mind to listen to the wind. I climb up there, sometimes, just to sit. That's where my feet lead me now, padding silently up the winding stairs to the very top, where the entire world seems to spread out down below.
The world, and a pale haired figure in white pajamas stretched out on the lip of the tower, just where I always sit.
Oh, bloody hell.
He starts, violently, and for one moment I wonder if he'll do me the tremendous favor of just falling over and off. My luck isn't that good, however. We glare at each other but I find my tongue first. "Trying to get another detention, Malfoy?"
He huffs and deliberately turns his head away. "Sod off." It's the first time I've ever really heard him say something vulgar. His voice squeaks a little; Madame Pomfrey set his nose same as she did my teeth, but she judged suffering through a normal recovery to be the best punishment and he'll have a nasal tone for the next few days until the swelling goes down. His eyes flicker to me, standing there wrapped in my robe. "Pot," he drawls, one bandage wrapped hand rising to point at himself, and then turning to point at me. "Kettle."
"Just what I wanted," I snarl. "We can spend now until the end of term in detention together."
"You could always leave," he points out sharply. "I can hardly tell anyone I saw you without implicating myself."
"Rot." I want to tell him I'm sure he'd find a way, but I'm exhausted even if I can't sleep and verbal exchanges with him take too much energy. Instead, I boldly step forward. "Shove over. I've been coming up here longer, that's my spot."
I expect a sharp retort. To my surprise, he utters not a word, only drawing his knees up to give me enough room to slip on to the low rock wall beside him. Up close, his pale face is a map of bruises, ranging from a sallow tan to the dark mask of puffy black that surrounds his eyes and nose. He looks, I think, as drained as I feel. We sit in silence for a while, both stiff and distant. Earlier in the day, I had dearly wanted to wring his neck. Now, I feel as though that rage has drained away, exorcised with his blood across the corridor floor in front of Potions class. His presence is an irritant, a sliver I can't quite ignore, but I can't work up enough anger to really want to push him off the ledge either.
Out of the corner of my eye I watch as he worries something between his hands. Moonlight glints on metal and the words are out before I can think better of it. "They let you keep it?"
His gaze snaps up, hands closing tight over the badge. For one moment I see him defensive, and then the familiar sneer is back in place. "Don't be stupid. It's too late in the year to be handing it off to someone else." He hesitates for a moment, the next words spoken grudgingly. "Professor Snape made certain I was aware that I'm the first Prefect in the history of Hogwarts to have lost their house so many points." It is an unwilling confidence, shared between fellow students against the unfairness of the resident teachers. It's also, to the best of my recollection, the first time I've ever heard him say anything negative about Snape.
"You've only yourself to blame," I tell him a bit nastily. I grin, though it hurts to do it. "You're usually smarter then that. Play the victim and lay all the fault on us."
He stares at me. "You," he says, enunciating each word clearly, "broke my nose and knocked me down the stairs."
"Yes," I agree mildly. "You probably could have gotten me expelled for that," I point out. "/If/ you hadn't turned around and loosened up my teeth for it."
He smiles, the expression holding some of his normal meanness. "Oh yes... how are they? You weren't at dinner."
I make a show of testing my front teeth with the tip of my tongue. Thankfully, they aren't the ones that are loose. His fist had caught me across the lower left side. "All intact."
"I'll be sure to try harder, next time," he drawls.
That seems to use up our available store of sniping for a time and we fall silent again. When Malfoy speaks up some minutes later, it is in a mild, oddly uninflected tone. "Ravenclaw will have the House Cup this year."
"Hufflepuff," I object automatically. "They've the better quidditch team."
It's a ridiculously normal thing to argue about, considering all the other things we've flung back and forth over the years. His face is turned away from me, profile dim in the darkness. "You might be right," he admits after a moment, the words leaving me with my mouth gaping open in surprise. Draco Malfoy, admitting anyone else was right?
He drops his head, his expression hidden as his hands continue almost mindlessly turning the Prefect badge over and over between his slender fingers. It's a curiously vulnerable position, one that, in any other, I might attribute it to real emotion. In Malfoy... I'm at a loss to interpret it.
"I didn't expect you to hit me," he says at last, his voice almost contemplative. It isn't an accusation, or said in anger, or any of the other voices I have come to expect from him. I find myself wondering, randomly, if this quietly calm voice is the one his family hears when he is at home.
The words themselves leave me equally flummoxed. "You didn't expect it? You bait us constantly, and then you don't expect us to do anything about it?"
"You usually don't," he points out, almost reasonably. "We both talk a good fight, but we hardly ever actually come to blows. Besides, you've always got Granger there, holding you back."
"Don't start in on her again," I warn him, feeling the ember of my temper flare, but he waves a hand, disregarding the subject.
"I'll admit, she occasionally has a point," he says roughly, the words in his mouth leaving me gaping again. Grimacing, he gestures to the two of us. "Look at us! Bruised and bloody, loosing the House cup for both our houses, in disgrace, and for what? Because we didn't have enough sense to save it for later and take it somewhere without an audience." He sighs, leaning back against the higher portion of the wall. "I really didn't expect you to hit me. Not like that. It wasn't just that Granger wasn't there to do your thinking for you... you really snapped."
I let the insult slide - it, at least, sounds normal. The rest of what he said seems incredible, coming from him. The first thing that comes to mind makes it regrettably to my tongue. "I should have 'snapped' years ago if it'd make you sound this reasonable."
He stares for a moment, the laughs, a short, sharp bark of sound. "If this is your version of 'reasonable', save me," he replies, and that, at least, sounds more like him. "Maybe I should toss you down a flight of stairs next... maybe it might shake some sense into you."
"Just make sure you don't do it when Snape's around," I remind him, oddly cheered by his own pointed words simply because they are something familiar and reassuring. "Or else we'll both be expelled, and then where will we be?"
It was the wrong thing to say, because the usual oily glint goes out of Malfoy's eyes, replaced by that disturbing quiet. "Just don't think about it," he suggests, his steady gaze making me shiver. "It's not worth thinking about. Or having to live through, just because we lose our tempers."
"Because I have no self control, that's what you really mean to say, isn't it?" I snap sourly. "You're too above that, aren't you, Malfoy?"
Something almost like a smile touches his lips, curving them up rather more then his usual smirk. "Hardly. If I was, you wouldn't have those bruises." He sat up, swinging his legs around and hopping down off the wall, the badge he has been fingering slipped into a pocket. "You know... there may be something you might wish to keep in mind, next time you're tempted to push me down the stairs."
"Besides being expelled and the joys of being stuck in detention with you?" I ask with fake cheer.
Again, that tiny twitch of his lips, as though he might smile but is swallowing it down. "Besides that."
He is on me in an instant, and if he had wanted to push me off the wall to my death he could have done it - I didn't expect the attack at all. I can't quite bite back a cry as he grabs my hair, jerking my head back and sending pain streaking through my jaw and all the other bruises that abound. A curse springs to my lips, but I haven't brought my wand with me and the words are useless; as I try to pull away they change to swearing instead, equally useless but at least giving my angry outrage a voice.
And then, without warning, he takes even that away, his lips sealing across my own.
I think, for a moment, I stop even trying to breath, I am so shocked. He is actually very gentle about it - he doesn't force, where it would pain my injured jaw, and once he has me the hand clenched in my hair eases, almost cradling.
All I know is the surprisingly warm press of his mouth on mine and the wet, sliding flicker of his tongue against the inner flesh of my bottom lip. My breath is lost somewhere, my mind racing in tiny circles without any words I can find. He takes advantage of it, tongue sweeping across my frozen lips and pressing farther to touch my own.
When my mind finally connects back to my body and I jerk away, he lets me go. I am breathing hard, not yet able to find my voice, and there is a tremor working its way through my body. I flinch as his fingertips brush my lips.
"/Try/ to remember that," he says quietly, his usual drawling tone once more in place. Turning, he leaves quickly, his footsteps fading down the stairs.
"Hell." It is the only thing I can think to voice. "Bloody hell."
It is a long time before the tremor lets me be, and I do not sleep at all.
"I can't believe this term is finally over," Hermione groans as we load our trunks on to a carrier at King's Cross station. "I never felt so unprepared for exams! I don't know how I passed!"
"You?" We chorus at her in mock surprise. "The world is going to end, Hermione. You got less then a hundred percent," I add jokingly.
"Don't remind me," she wails, shooting me an angry glance. "I don't know how you passed at all! Getting in fights..."
"I don't want to talk about it," I snap, a bit sharply. I have not told them, either of them, what else transpired that night. Malfoy, to his own credit, had made himself unbelievably scarce in the last weeks of the school term - he was a pale, bruised face in the back of the classroom, or a fleeting glimpse in the corridors, one that vanished every time I might have cornered him to demand... answers? Explanations? I wasn't even sure what.
I have cause to regret my sharpness when Hermione's eyes flash. With a jerk of her chin in the air, she nearly drops the end of her trunk on my foot.
"Fine, then!" She's barely been talking to me since the fight, and now it looks like we might not be speaking at all again. Lovely.
I flinch and see the other two tense as Malfoy's shout rings out from behind us. Disagreements forgotten, we three turn as one, in time to see Malfoy, on the steps of the train, draw back his arm and throw something. Small and flat, it glitters in the light as it tumbles end over end towards us.
I may not be a top class Seeker, but my reflexes aren't bad. I thrust up a hand as it soars over Hermione's head and feel the thing smack into my palm, round and smooth and still warm from his touch. Our eyes meet across the crowded station and for one instant I see him smile, an honestly warm expression I've never seen on him before. He raises his hand, a quick flash - almost, but not quite, a wave - and then, stepping down from the train steps, is gone in the crowd.
Hermione is hanging onto my arm, her eyes huge as she stares at what is in my hand. "His Prefect badge?"
Behind me, Harry pushes his glasses back up his nose, frowning. "Why'd he throw that at you, Ron?"
I close my hand around the badge and shove it in my pocket. The first thing I can think of comes to my lips; "His little joke. Rubbing my nose in it that he was a Prefect and I wasn't." I force a smile and a little laugh. "Well, joke's on him - he's not going to get it back now!"
They grin with me and the tension is broken. Hermione is chattering about how much studying she'll have to do for her NEWTs as we roll our luggage out, and Harry is asking when I think he can come over for the summer. I'm only half listening, my hand in my pocket, clenched around that silver Prefect badge. I feel as though I'm trying to leech that lingering warmth from it, letting it sink into me and hoarding it away somewhere, along with the memory of his hand in my hair and the fierce press of his lips on mine and that fleeting, tiny smile.
It's insidious, like a cold, or the flu... creeping in and then lingering on, like endless glimpses of something I'd rather not see.
Summer holiday. Maybe, if I'm very, very lucky, it will be enough time to put Draco Malfoy out of my mind.