Thank yous: to shaggirl for a lovely and speedy beta, with thanks to orphne for reading and wibble-soothing.
Notes: this was done for miggy’s H/D Mp3 ficathon challenge.
This fic was written for marksykins. The song she requested was “Home” by The Cure -- lyrics here, download here.
Eta: the lovely scoradh has written the song that Draco makes up in History of Magic. Do go read!!!! It is lovely. :D
I’m fully aware that they would never play baseball at Hogwarts, haha. Just go with it.
The Properties of Being Lost.
Outside, a group of Gryffindors are teaching the other houses to play some idiotic Muggle sport.
Draco notices it because he has to; because he is supposed to find Weasley and tell him Slytherin has the pitch after dinner for the rest of the week due to the Ravenclaw match. He finds him waiting in line behind a ragged-looking mound of sackcloth, and in front of him is Potter, holding a long wooden bat. Draco tops the hill just as Potter swings, hitting the ball one of the Hufflepuffs is throwing. He hits it long, far across the pitch, and for a moment all Draco sees is an explosion everywhere—an explosion of boys: boys with long shirtless torsos and sharp, muscled legs, boys running and screaming and yelling and Potter running round in the middle of them with his shirt halfway up his exposed ribs, hair flying, pumping his fist in the air as if it had a Snitch in it. He arrives back at the tiny lump of sack cloth and touches it triumphantly with his foot. The rest of the Gryffindors act as if this is something to be quite happy about.
Shaken, Draco immediately turns around and goes back inside. The game, whatever it is, lasts well into the evening, and at dinner it is the talk of every house but Slytherin. They sit a bit more silently than usual, all of Draco’s friends keenly aware that Quidditch may be the best sport, but it’s impossible to pretend that it’s the only sport; impossible to pretend that seven games a year and endless practice are enough to counter the lure of a brief dalliance with a bat and a ball and the chance to see how far it will go, how fast you can run. Impossible to pretend they aren’t uninvited to this particular orgy. They pretend anyway. Draco pretends he hasn’t seen the game, that he doesn’t know the object is to do what Potter did—what Potter made look so easy.
The next day, Slytherin and Gryffindor both show up for Quidditch practice at the same time. Everyone looks at Draco for an explanation.
Draco has nothing to say.
That Draco has an obsession is old news; but that his obsession should turn into nights spent tangled, gasping in his sheets, fisting white-knuckled around his cock to the image of Potter’s exposed skin; this is at once Draco’s shame and intoxication. He pictures it night after night, what it would feel like to press his mouth against that slope of stomach; to worry Potter’s flat, faint nipples until they stood exposed and bruised and erect; to come at the bidding of Potter’s voice. When he does come he nearly blacks out.
Afterwards he turns over and tries to ignore the lingering scent of semen in his sheets; he feels nauseous and dirty and wrong. It hasn’t even the decency to be a fantasy of something vengeful and vicious and cruel; he is too weak even for that. No, what Draco fantasizes about is worse: he fantasizes about giving up; about giving up vengeance, about giving up cruelty; about taking Potter like it doesn’t matter—as if it doesn’t matter that he’s supposed to kill Potter; that Potter took his father away; that Potter will probably kill him too given the proper chance. He wants sex with Potter more than he wants to fight Potter, which makes him a coward and more than a bit insane as well. Draco knows this, and doesn’t care; the knowing makes the wanting more intense, and night after night, Draco wants Potter until he is drenched and pissed off and sore.
III. Unfamiliar Territory
Draco behaves like someone with a crush. He dresses his best on days he will see Potter. He stares when he doesn’t mean to. He plays out imaginary conversations wherein he is sparkling and witty, only to have them go horribly awry when he tries them out, thanks to Potter’s spectacular loathing and indifference. He cannot blame Potter, since he loathes Potter as well, and since he knows Potter is taking all his attempts at talking to be veiled threats. This is, in its way, a sort of comfort: at least Potter seems to judge Draco capable of making the threats, even if he doesn’t take them seriously. Draco himself hears only the thin-voiced almost-pleadings that keep inexplicably coming out of his mouth instead.
The fact that Draco knows how pathetic he is being does not seem to keep him from being pathetic.
The baseball games, as they were called—someone’s best friend’s cousin’s American girlfriend had taught them to play over the summer, or something of the sort—take place fairly regularly now, on Sundays if it’s not too muggy out. The other three houses turn out and fill the bleaches; Slytherin doesn’t go and is never asked to.
Draco has never seen a game beyond that first glimpse of shirtless boys everywhere at once and Potter in the center, but he knows that the object is to round the circle and touch the dumpy little sack in the middle, rather like a terribly involved game of tag. There are other sports the Muggles and Muggle-lovers like to play, of course—there is outmoded football and rugby equipment in the Quidditch shed, as well as other things such as croquet and exploding snap and horseshoes. But none of those other sports have ever offered him Potter, running, legs unfolding endlessly, shirt riding up and clinging to his chest; so Draco adds this game to the never-ending list of things he hates about Muggles, and things he hates about Harry Potter.
Draco begins to suspect that Potter likes boys the way Draco likes boys. He begins to suspect this because Potter never stares at him the way he stares at Potter. Instead, Potter stares at the black Muggle Gryffindor in his year: stares so much the black Muggle looks nervous and awkward and won’t look up at him. Sometimes he stares at the Hufflepuff Seeker, one of the students who kept on hexing Draco that day on the train home last year, long after he had gotten the message that Harry Potter would always beat him, at his own game or any other, for as long as he lived or until Potter decided to go ahead and finish him off. Draco really hates the Hufflepuffs, but sometimes this particular Hufflepuff looks back at Potter, and Draco finds within himself whole new levels, worlds, universes of hate that he is just beginning to canvas.
Once in a while, Potter will accidentally look at him. When he does, Draco looks bored, raises an eyebrow, and tries to look faintly inquisitive, in a ‘what do you want?’ way—as though Draco were not actually looking at Potter first. Potter always looks away again directly. He does not stare, does not sneer back, does not find Draco later and exchange pointless jeers about absent fathers. He just looks away.
Draco is helpless and stupid, and he knows it.
The moon is bright the first night Draco sneaks out to the Quidditch shed—bright enough that Draco stays in shadows as he makes his way down to avoid being seen, and bright enough that even inside the darkened shed he can find what he is looking for with no problem.
He is expecting the bat to be far heavier, like a bludger; instead it is lightweight, made of pine and possibly, Draco suspects, hollowed out with something like cork.
Where’s the challenge in this? he thinks, picking the ball up, tossing, and swinging.
Several frustrated tosses and swings later, he begins to grasp where.
There is absolutely no reason for him to risk detention, house points, and general Malfoy pride by staying out for hours under the moon, tossing and swinging a stupid Muggle ball and a stupid Muggle bat in an effort to see what all the stupid Muggles and Muggle-lovers think is so great. But that is exactly what he does. He is sixteen years old; he has never shaken hands with a Muggle, been kissed, or beaten Harry Potter at Quidditch, and he has never stood under the moonlight playing a game by himself simply because no one else would play it with him. But he is, and no one else will, and he will never, ever matter to Harry Potter, and he throws the ball higher and higher and sends it flying farther and farther out across the pitch, until the grass tickles his legs with dew and the moon has started to set.
Harry Potter is looking at him.
Moreover, Harry Potter won’t stop looking at him. Not over breakfast, not during Double Potions nor Advanced Divination (Draco is apparently going to meet his match this week at the hands of a dark-haired enemy, said with significant glances towards Potter, just like every other week with Trelawney, only this week maybe he had better start paying her more attention, because it’s only Monday and Potter won’t stop looking at him). Draco has been imagining for weeks that if such agreeable circumstances ever came about, he would walk up to Potter, clap him by the throat, and coldly inquire (in a commanding, yet seductive voice) what was so important that Potter couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of him. What happens in reality is that Draco spends a good portion of the day with his face red and his eyes firmly averted towards his desk, the walls, or any direction but wherever Potter is sitting.
Avoidance can only take him so far, though, and that tactic fails for Draco shortly after dinner, when a cold voice stops him in the corridor back to the Slytherin dormitory.
“Malfoy.” It is Potter; he is alone. Draco turns, and Crabbe and Goyle automatically turn with him. Potter ignores the two of them and stares calmly at Draco, as if debating with himself whether to waste his time talking to the serpent or to go ahead and crush it under the heel of his boot. Draco waits, transfixed, for Potter to decide, and in the wake of the suspended silence, Potter takes the path of the Parselmouth.
“I know where you were last night,” he says at length.
Apprehension sweeps over Draco, and he snaps reflexively, “Can you prove it?”
For a moment Potter’s eyes narrow; then they widen and narrow again. “You would assume I wanted to blackmail you,” he says, upper lip curling slightly.
“Well, let me see,” Draco hisses. “I can’t think why else you’d care what I did on my own time, Potter.” He feels the presence of Crabbe and Goyle beside him and bites down on all the words he can’t say with them there—all the things he can’t, mustn’t dream of saying to Potter; not alone, not ever. Potter doesn’t care, and they both know it, and this might as well be gotten over with quickly. Please do it quickly, Draco thinks, feeling the heat rise to his cheeks even as he fights to remain as collected as Potter.
Potter doesn’t flinch. “I saw what you were doing,” he says.
“Your point?” Draco snaps, unwilling to stoop to the demonstrative curiosity of asking how Potter knew where he was and what he was doing last night.
“Look,” Potter responds swiftly, suddenly all business, “Dumbledore’s been hinting that the other houses should—” he cleared his throat. “You know.”
Of course Draco knows, everyone knows. He crosses his arms and waits. Potter sighs and fidgets in an exasperated way, as if it should be obvious what he is getting at, and as if he is clearly a saint for putting up with the slow-moving idiot Slytherins. Behind them Crabbe and Goyle remain motionless— and they are behind, now, for Potter has somehow got Draco against the wall, Potter leaning in as if he thinks the extra two feet will prevent Crabbe and Goyle from hearing what he is saying.
“I thought Slytherin might like to play with us,” he says smoothly. “Next Sunday.”
Now Crabbe and Goyle shift awkwardly, which means they are surprised. Draco’s heartbeat begins to race. He glares at Potter.
“In other words, you’re asking if I’d like to help gain you points with Dumbledore for being the star Gryffindor diplomat. I think not.”
Potter straightens, and now he is gazing intently at Draco—now it is a challenge, and Draco is alert and staring back.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Potter says. “That’s what would happen. But it’d make you look good too, and your house—and you won’t just get opportunities like that handed to you.”
“Why not?” Draco retorts before he thinks about what he is saying. “You do.”
Potter opens his mouth to respond, and then shuts it again, which is when Draco’s brain finally catches up with his voice, and he feels the battleground slipping away as quickly as it was gained.
“We don’t need any scraps of your Gryffindor generosity,” he says quickly by way of recovery. Potter’s jaw clenches.
“Fine. Have it your way, Malfoy. But I know what you want.”
Draco freezes. “You—know…”
“I know you want to play. I’m giving you the chance. Sod it, I shouldn’t have to say anything to you, you could just bloody show up next week, it’s not like any of us could stop you.”
Draco experiences a keen rush of relief that Potter is talking about baseball.
“You aren’t,” he says slowly, “giving me anything.” Potter looks back at him stubbornly. “But I’m beginning to think you want me to play.”
“I don’t,” Potter responds with finality, “want anything from you.”
This is so true that for a moment Draco has no response. He thinks of the last time they both stood here in this corridor, of the vow he made then, how all hope of fulfilling it has gone out the window because he wants Potter, wants to taste him and enter him and have him; and here and now, what he wants is Potter, and what he wants is to do something that will matter to Potter; and what he understands is that he will never matter to Potter; that all that really matters is what he is willing to settle for: what scraps of Gryffindor generosity he will cling to in the name of being close to what he cannot have.
He thinks of how weak he would look right now to his father—how weak he must look to Potter, at that—how predictable, how boring. How tired he is of himself.
Draco steps away from the wall and brushes past Potter as he moves toward the door to the dungeons. “You must want something,” he says. “You started this conversation, not me.”
“Is that what this is?” Potter says. “Here I thought it was me attempting to be nice to you for once and you being an asshole.”
“Whatever you like, Potter.” Draco ushers Crabbe and Goyle through the door and turns to follow suit. “You still started it.”
He lets the door shut slowly, but there is no response from Potter.
This is the part Draco is used to.
V. Wandering Farther off the Beaten Path.
That night Draco comes into his hand, thinking of Harry Potter. He can’t sleep afterwards, and as going out to the pitch again to be spied on by Potter is not an option, he sits up until dawn thinking of Potter, and baseball, and of things no one ever told him; like the fact that when you are eleven the things you assume about people aren’t supposed to be the things you assume when they are sixteen; like the fact that hating someone on a full-time basis is rather exhausting, and wanting to hate them and fuck them at the same time is pretty much impossible. And Draco has never been strong.
It occurs to him around four in the morning that instead of waffling between the two emotions he should perhaps pick one and stick with it. This is a concept that he has never before considered, and the thought of it is so earth-shattering in its way that he sits up through the rest of the night and through breakfast trying to grapple with it. In the end he falls asleep and wakes only when Crabbe shakes him to inform him he’s slept through all his classes. It is three pm.
Groggy and glazed over from the wrong kind of sleep, he staggers into the shower, where the bright porcelain and the scalding water bring the epiphany back to him: he has a choice. He doesn’t have to hate Potter if he doesn’t want to. Potter won’t care either way, so the choice is up to Draco.
Draco has hated Potter so long he is not sure how he would go about stopping; he is, however, comforted by the certainty that not hating Potter can’t be harder than not thinking about Potter’s body and the things he wants to do to it. Draco has had ample experience with hate; lust is a brand new drug.
He decides to test it—to try, for a day, to not hate Potter.
The experiment is a tremendous success because he does not see Potter at all for the rest of the day. Because he does not see Potter, he discovers that when he thinks of Potter, it is usually to wish he were doing something lewd to Potter, or vice versa. It’s not so terrible, then—a screw and a fistfight aren’t really all that far apart in terms of physical contact. Draco considers the oddity that two things with such different meanings are carried on in quite a similar fashion; then he thinks that both are things he wouldn’t mind doing to Potter, and he wonders if their meanings are all that different after all.
It is Wednesday, then, before he sees Potter. They are going into the Great Hall for breakfast, Potter following a little ways behind Weasley and Granger.
“Figure it out yet, Potter?” Draco calls from the Slytherin entrance.
Potter stops and turns and looks at him curiously. “Yeah,” he says. “It’s because Dumbledore’s making us try to be nice to you lot. Because I have to, not because I want to.”
Oh, thinks Draco. Potter tilts his head, shoves his hands in his pockets. Draco comes over to him and leans in close before he can help himself, deriving a strange sort of courage when Potter does not immediately withdraw.
“Then Dumbledore told you to spy on us to see where we go at night?” he says, as pleasantly as possible.
“No.” Potter looks affronted. “I just wanted—“
“I’m sorry, what?” Draco breaks in innocently, and then grins at the immediate flustered frown that comes over Potter’s features. He can’t pursue this interesting topic, however, because Granger turns around and asks Potter in her whiny voice if he’s coming. Potter takes a last look at Draco, rolls his eyes, and walks away.
Draco thinks that wasn’t so bad; that for their first official exchange of non-hatred, it could have gone worse.
There is, of course, the issue of Potter still hating him. Draco knows exactly why he has always hated Potter. He has never really thought about why Potter hates him. He ponders this throughout breakfast, during which Potter pointedly doesn’t look at him. Obviously Potter’s terrible, unfortunate taste in friendships, the sort of taste which comes from being raised by Muggles, led him to choose Weasley over Draco, which in turn led to Draco hating Potter. Obviously, Potter hates Draco because Draco hated him first. And obviously, once Potter realizes that things have changed, that Draco no longer hates him, Potter will get over it.
Draco knows now that Potter is queer, and though Draco suspects Potter of being capable of many things, he doesn’t think him capable of hating somebody who wants to suck him off.
Draco proceeds to do the following things with regularity: He nods to Harry Potter across the dining hall. He does not laugh when Snape berates Potter in Potions. He rolls his eyes and shrugs conspiratorially at Potter when Trelawney shrieks that a dark-haired man will cause his untimely demise by the end of the week. He refrains (with great difficulty) from making fun of Hagrid in COMC, at least while Potter is within earshot. He also refrains (with great difficulty) from making fun of the other Gryffindors at any time, at least while Potter is within earshot. He stops referring to Potter as “Scarhead,” “Scarface,” “Pottymouth,” “Potty,” “Pooter,” “Poufter,” or “You Bloody Idiot.”
Additionally, on Thursday, he picks up Potter’s quill for him when he drops it, and hands it back to him. He slides his parchment of notes over to Potter’s desk on Friday when Potter falls asleep in Charms and wakes up at the end of the lecture. He politely steps aside when Potter needs to access his side of the Library Quidditch aisle. When Potter needs a book on the top shelf, Draco hands it to him. This is also on Friday. He says, “Hey, Potter, like the song I made up?” and proceeds to show him a (really rather clever) verse about getting stuck in History of Magic for all eternity and dying from boredom. Potter even has the decency to look faintly impressed through the veneer of utter confusion. When Longbottom trips and falls on his way into Potions (which may or may not be caused by Goyle accidentally sticking his foot out into the aisle more or less at the moment Longbottom passes by) Draco most generously helps him get to his feet. When Potter glares at him over Neville’s back as they stand him upright, Draco beams, “Do turn that frown upside down, Potter.”
Whether or not anything comes of this foray down the paths of non-hatred, Draco feels that Potter has enough stunned expressions to make this a very entertaining game for quite some time.
Draco has learned to hit the baseball (that is what they call it, which is why the whole game is called baseball, though Draco doesn’t understand why they don’t call it just Bases) by throwing it up and swinging the bat. He can hit it a fair ways, but he’d really much rather someone threw it to him so he can try the thing properly. He suspects Potter has spied on him again, though Potter has not spoken to him about it (or indeed, about anything). Draco takes it upon himself to broach the subject. He pauses to watch and clap politely when Potter scores a home run (what you call it when they run round the circle) during the game on Sunday. Potter looks up and sees him as he crosses the plate.
“So you’ll teach me then, before next week?” he says to Potter, after bumping through numerous sweaty Gryffindors all trying to pat Potter on the shoulder. Potter wipes his forehead with the bottom of his shirt and looks confused.
“To hit the ball,” Draco says patiently.
“Oh,” says Potter, and then, “Oh,” again.
He does not say yes, but Draco assumes anyway.
Potter throws the ball, and Draco swings the bat.
It is a very mundane practice, but the ball sails wide and long, and Potter looks impressed, and Draco is impressed.
“This was fun,” says Draco after about half an hour. “Let’s do it again tomorrow.”
Potter stares at him and does not say yes.
On Monday morning, Draco walks into Potions and sits beside Potter, and that afternoon Potter snaps. Draco thought it would take longer, but he is not unpleased—not when Potter storms up to him in the deserted end of the Charms corridor and slams him up against the wall. Well.
Potter has touched him before, but not like this—never this prolonged contact, the sustained pressure of Potter’s hands on his shoulders. Draco’s breathing is unsteady. Potter is touching him.
And Potter is yelling at him, face contorted, eyes blazing. “Just leave me alone,” he is screaming, and his mouth is open and Draco is pinned against the wall and Potter’s legs are brushing against his.
“You don’t get to me,” Potter shrieks. “You’re too little, you’re nothing, your whole family is nothing—” his legs are shaking, or maybe Draco’s are. “Don’t you get it? Just—just stop it! You don’t get to me!”
Draco believes Potter. He believes Potter, and Potter is stronger and faster, and the worst thing Draco could possibly do right now is to push him any further, because Potter might snap altogether and unleash all the savage Muggle blood tucked away in him somewhere.
Draco moves, and he is moving forward, and he is saying something without knowing what it is. “No, I don’t,” he says hoarsely. “But I’ve got you.”
Potter’s mouth falls open, and Draco kisses it. It is a brush of lips, one quick press. Potter does nothing until Draco leans back, surprised at his own boldness. Potter is clearly surprised too. He doesn’t move, just stares at Draco, stands there staring for so long Draco gets nervous. He lost the script long ago, but now he has lost the stage directions. Does he kiss Potter again? Does Potter punch him or hex him or swear at him? Draco has stood staring back a half-instant too long to be able to pretend he knows what he is doing, what he has just done. Potter will see right through it.
He pretends anyway. He starts to sneer.
“Don’t do that,” Potter says suddenly. “Don’t go back.”
“Go back to what?” Draco wishes he lived in another universe where his voice didn’t crack and Potter’s eyes weren’t so hard to stop looking into.
“That’s just it,” Potter says. “To what.”
He takes two steps backwards and suddenly seems far away. Draco wants him back, up close again. “So you’re a pouf, then,” Draco says. He tries to sound disgusted. He sounds like someone who is trying to sound disgusted when what they are is completely confused.
Potter shrugs. “You kissed me.” He is still staring intently at Draco. Before he was all fury and motion and now he is perfectly, unnervingly still. “You wanted to do that.”
“To see if the rumors I’d heard were true,” Draco scowls, making a valiant effort. “You’re a dirty fag.”
“Yeah,” says Potter. “So now what?”
Draco blinks. Potter, he realizes, is taking his safety net away from him. And isn’t this the whole point of not hating Potter? To end the stupid circular conversations and have real, honest exchanges instead? Except now, Potter is waiting for him to say something and Draco doesn’t know, he doesn’t know—
“I—I wanted to—”
“I’m sorry, what?” Potter says, and smirks.
Draco thinks about his life. He thinks about hating Potter, and not hating Potter, and about his father in Azkaban and Potter putting him there, and what his family would say. He thinks about punching Potter and throwing him off buildings, and jumping off them, and Unforgivables, and then Potter says, “Hey,” a certain way, and Draco can’t think anymore.
The next day, Potter comes up to Draco in Divination as if it is the sort of thing he does all the time, while a flabbergasted Trelawney looks on. Draco wonders if prophecy-fulfillment keeps a schedule.
“You make more sense now,” Potter says to Draco, as if he were explaining a difficult homework assignment.
Draco wants Potter. But he does not want to make sense to Potter.
Besides, it is only Tuesday.
It is Sunday, and the sky is bright and clear over the Quidditch pitch. Draco strolls out into the middle of the field and promptly assigns himself the role of pitcher for the bewildered Hufflepuffs. They are too stupid to question and too weak to protest.
He throws the ball. He does this repeatedly, and sends Weasley and the Black one away from the mound without a hit. The Hufflepuffs are stirring in wary excitement, and then it is Potter’s turn.
It is a beautiful, cloudless day. Potter smiles at him encouragingly from where he stands over home plate. Draco has Potter’s complete attention.
Draco grins, and aims the ball squarely at Harry Potter’s face.
Sequel: The Properties of Voyeurism.