Draco watches Harry.
At first it's just on the Quidditch pitch. Even when it isn't Gryffindor versus Slytherin, Draco watches him, traces the lines that Potter and his broom make together in the sky, relative to the Snitch, which is always easier to spot when you aren't after it. (He has dreams involving the triangulation of gold and red-and-gold flightpaths, endlessly free-wheeling across the clouds.)
Then Draco starts watching him at practice, following the process of what preparation bleeds into the performance on match day. He'll loiter in the deep shadows of the stands, getting a crick in his neck from looking up, or watch through a telescope-charmed window pane up the north tower.
It isn't quite enough. There's something fundamental about the way Potter moves that sets him apart, forms the basis of everything else. Draco's determined to find it out.
When he starts watching Potter in the halls, he realises that this might be considered stalking.
He doesn't stop, though.
It's Draco's seventh year. Harry's too. Draco's starting to feel like one of those Muggle doom-sayers, carrying around the hard truth (that everyone knows but no one admits) like a placard slung over his shoulders.
The end is fucking nigh.
And all Draco wants, before that end, before one side or the other comes surging to a victory that will surely involve his death for the parts he's played, all he wants before that, is to be the best Seeker at Hogwarts.
To beat Harry Potter to the Snitch. Just once.
Once would be enough.
"Are you following me?" Potter sounds more exasperated than concerned. Or shocked. Or scared.
Draco is alone. He is most of the time, these days. Since the events on the Equinox, Crabbe and Goyle haven't dared continue following him. Without guidance, they've just been drifting around the school like two very heavy jellyfish. Even the ghosts don't know what to make of them.
"Well?" Potter's alone too. Which is rarer. Even if Ron and Hermione are more interested in each other these days, there are many others in the retinue. The Weasley girl. What's-his-name Longbottom. But Harry's alone.
And standing with his arms folded, his weight canted, an aggravatingly inexplicably Potter stance. Draco's drifted closer than he intended, wanting to see from all angles. He lifts a hand, and when the backs of his knuckles graze up the side of Potter's neck, he hears a hitch in Potter's breathing that he's never heard before. "Why do you hold your head like that?" he asks.
"What?" The word feels funny, buzzing through Draco's fingers. But he's more interested in what he's suddenly noticed, about the way Harry's whole body drapes from his spine. Hanging from the central core, like gangly decorations on a Christmas tree. This is something, he thinks. Something. He's around Harry in two steps, pressing his fingers against the knobbly vertebrae where they were still concave, up in Harry's thick, messy hair, running down to the first bump, that he has to skew the neck of Harry's robes to reach.
Harry shudders, skips forward, out from under Draco's hand, whirling around to face him, flustered. "What are you doing?" he demands.
Draco just watches the movement begin and end with Harry's spine, trying to understand. When he doesn't say anything for minute after long minute, Harry walks away.
And Draco watches.
He honestly doesn't know why it's taken him this long to figure it out. After all, he already knows how to draw a cat, is practised at it after hours sketching his mother's favourites over long summers with nothing else to do. Draw the spine first, and the rest of the cat will fall into place, elegantly, felinely.
Cats definitely centre around their spine. It's the axis upon which they spin when dropped, the core of the myth that cats always land on their feet. (They don't, only when dropped from a certain height. Draco has discovered this, too.)
Maybe Potter is a cat. Nine lives. That might explain a lot of things.
Draco isn't. He only has one.
The changing room is empty except for Potter. Draco knows this before he steps inside, having watching and counted carefully.
Harry once again isn't shocked or concerned or scared. He's half dressed, his shirt on but not buttoned, hanging loose down his chest and stomach.
He doesn't protest when Draco pushes it off his shoulders, even though it pools at wrists whose cuffs have already been fastened. This time, when Draco circles him, he can see almost his entire spine. He runs two fingers from the top again, unimpeded down the long swoop of Harry's back until they hook into the low waistband of his trousers. Harry's skin is very warm under Draco's fingers. His breathing seems loud.
From the front, Draco wonders if the influence of the spine can be mapped over flesh. His fingers are splayed across Harry's chest when Harry lunges forward and kisses him.
Even though he has his glasses on, Harry's eyes are closed. His mouth is hard and insistent and immediate, and there's a tearing sound as he forgets his arms are pinioned by his own clothing. He sheds the shirt behind his own back, fingers scrabbling, and his lips never leave Draco's. His lips part, his head tilts, and with the shirt finally gone his whole body wraps around Draco's as their tongues tangle together.
Draco kisses with his eyes open. He brings his hand up to the back of Harry's head, threading his fingers through the wild hair until they're knotted into place. He cradles the back of Harry's skull, and feels the spine falling away under his palm. The whole of Harry's body under his control.
The mill of gossip and news is turning at a fever pitch, the whole castle abuzz with tension. It's spring, the perfect time for new beginnings, and the tree branches are still bare as though even they know to wait. It's going to be soon. It's going to be now.
These are truly the last days, but Draco barely notices. He's not sure he has eyes for anything Harry.
He is so close to knowing.
Draco has Harry right where he wants him. The dorm is empty and the door is locked and when Draco says, "Move like this," Harry, naked on the bed, does. Draco can watch with his hands - even better, for eyes may be deceived by skin, but the feel of tendon shifting over bone under his fingers can't lie.
He knows almost every inch of Harry now. But it all comes back to the spine.
"Turn over," he murmurs in Harry's ear, coaxing with voice and hands until Harry is on his hands and knees. Draco leans over him and Harry is rasping, mewling, arching. "That's it," Draco whispers, as the hard pebbles of Harry's backbone break out along his skin, press against Draco's chest. He licks at that first protrusion, right between Harry's shoulders, from where his head hangs down between his arms.
Harry whimpers. "Do it," he begs. "Please."
He arches the other way as Draco begins to push inside him, the vertebrae disappearing back beneath the skin, mountains to valleys. Draco still knows they are there. Inside. Inside.
He keeps only one hand on Harry's hip as he fucks him. The other he runs up Harry's back, from the tail up, up to Harry's neck, where it all begins, where he holds him hard. The chokehold on a cat, to make it go utterly limp, dangling from the one point.
Harry is not a cat after all, and Draco watches him as he comes, hard and hoarse.
Draco knows the image of a life as an hourglass - time endlessly running away from you - is merely a cliche.
He also knows how cliches come into being.
In the long, slow, small hours, when everything is absolutely quiet, he thinks he can hear the faintest hiss of sand on glass. It might be merely Harry's breathing beside him, but Draco prefers his explanation.
There's only one Quidditch match left this year.
The dressing room is empty, but Draco is not willing to leave. Not yet, not yet.
Harry walks in. He is alone, which must be something of a minor miracle, the captain apart from his jubilant, victorious team.
Draco is also alone. He is fully clothed, his uniform sticking slightly in the damp air. He is empty-handed.
"I'm sorry," Harry says. The words echo ridiculously.
He's not. How could he be? That's the way the game is played. That's what they were there for, what they were trying for. To catch the Snitch. Draco had been so close. So close. So nearly and perfectly there when Harry's hand had closed around it, shut down that golden light.
Harry. Not Draco. Not even just once.
He looks up at Potter. Sees the boy he knows in the minutest physical detail, and doesn't understand even slightly. "What makes you so fucking special?" he demands.
Harry blinks behind his glasses. "I'm not special."
Draco just stares at him - doesn't even bother watching - until Harry leaves, closing the door behind him.
Just Once by dee
For Nat, my favourite Daphne ever, who asked for: angst, Draco watches Harry, stalk.