What Separates Us
headers and warnings

Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.
-Iris Murdoch (1919 - 1999)

Chapter 1
In Which We Explore the Evils of Inattention, and Its Consequences

"If you would all take your seats, we could begin at something resembling the scheduled time." Snape's voice sounded bitter, tired. He'd been spreading his energies between Hogwarts and Voldemort for over three years now, and they were getting so thin even Harry could see it.

Harry Potter slid into his seat. The class held barely a dozen seventh-years, mostly in Slytherin and Ravenclaw, and each of them got their own lab station now, no partners to watch your back or help you out. He had a spot in the back, one table over from Draco Malfoy, his oldest enemy at Hogwarts, which usually kept him focused on his work. Yet with the end of the term so near, what weighed on his mind most was preventing what had happened to the Slytherins last year -- all of them vanished from the Leaving Feast, recruited to be Death Eaters. Those that had refused were found later, mad or tortured or simply dead.

Harry shook himself. Now was not the time to worry about Malfoy and his cronies. In a way, it seemed like everyone, including Voldemort, was waiting for Harry to finish school before starting the war in earnest. There had been feints, and the annual scheme to attack or kill or simply undermine Harry, yet none of it was on the kind of grand scale they all knew the Dark Lord was capable of, and now had the manpower for. In just over a month, Harry would be out of Hogwarts and in the real world, doing god knew what, but mainly trying not to die.

It had been a long week for everyone, and this was the last class before Harry could finally give in to his own morbid thoughts. He'd surprised himself by getting an O in his OWL, and continuing on with Advanced Potions even after he could have seen the last of Snape. He found he had a certain fascination with the smell of the ingredients, the methodical weight and measure of it, the way three drops of clover dew would turn a certain potion useless, but four would make it stronger. He'd even mostly solved his concentration issues now that Snape was making them test everything they made -- on themselves.

Harry carefully laid out all the ingredients for today's healing potion and tried to concentrate on what Snape was saying. "If you will notice, I have outlined here the similarities between this, a complex and all-purpose healing potion, and one of the milder love potions of old. This particular potion is said to inspire, not lust, but actual love in the drinker, opening them to care for someone they might have otherwise dismissed. I would advise you, therefore, to work carefully, lest you be ensnared."

Harry began carefully chopping and measuring the herbs involved. He kept glancing up as Snape swept by, eager to get this done and get out. His cauldron was bubbling gently, a soft green that smelled faintly of rosemary, despite having none in the mixture. He glanced over at Malfoy and saw the same gentle green roil of liquid, saw deft hands scooping up ingredients with the small knife and sifting them in. Malfoy leveled a glare in Harry's direction, and he went back to his own work, reassured.

A part of him still measured himself against Malfoy, at least in Potions class. Draco had shown an aptitude for the subject that Harry had thought was cheating in his early years, but later had realized was simply talent. Harry could still fly circles around the other Seeker, though, he thought reassuringly. He tipped in his little pile of chopped herbs and watched the green deepen, then go faintly blue. He glanced up at the chalkboard, checking ingredients, but Snape was in the way, leaning over another student's work.

He leaned to the left, barely making out the last few things on the list. He carefully got out his tiny vial of unicorn's tears and dripped in the requisite 7 tears, then added the three whole dove hearts with a slight shudder. Most potions ingredients were dried or powdered, but sometimes it was just... yuck. Snape was talking again, something about making sure to get the right amount of cypress bark or the potion would be ruined. He leaned around again, but Snape had erased much of the board to do a diagram for Blaise Zabini.

He shrugged and glanced over at Malfoy, whose potion had turned translucently lavender, and was now cooling. Harry sprinkled the ground-up bark over his pink-tinged cauldron, and was relieved when it, too, went clear and lavender. He thought his might have been a bit more iridescent than Draco's, but it could just be a trick of the light. He stirred it carefully, 13 times clockwise and 3 counter, then set it aside to cool.

He shrugged and put everything away in his ever-growing personal ingredients kit, then said the charm that would reduce the case to a manageable size and stuffed it into his bag. "All right, class," said Snape abruptly, "who can tell me why we use cypress bark in this potion?"

Hands went up. This was the part Harry usually hated, because although he knew the facts cold when Hermione quizzed him, he could never quite manage to get them right with Slytherins watching. There was something about the eager look in Malfoy's face whenever Snape called on Harry, like the greatest pleasure in Draco's life was to watch him fail. He sighed, then raised his hand anyway, fairly sure he knew the answer.

Snape's eyes glinted with anticipation, and he managed to somehow voice doubt that Harry even knew his own name as he said, "Potter?"

"The cypress binds the disparate ingredients together, allowing the potion to heal different types of physical maladies rather than just one thing, as a lesser potion might." He let his eyes flicker to Malfoy who looked... not disappointed, precisely, but sort of intrigued.

"And what might the cypress do in the other version of this potion, the love potion?" Snape sounded vaguely annoyed, which boosted Harry's confidence.

"Binding the heart of the drinker," said Harry.

Snape looked decidedly put off and said, "Malfoy. Who will the love potion bind the drinker to?"

Malfoy looked thoughtful. "Well, since there's no part of the maker in the potion, the frog's eyes direct the binding to the first person the drinker sees."

"Correct. And what do the frog's eyes do in the healing potion?" Snape sounded pleased, and Harry was grateful he'd moved on, because he hadn't known that. He'd just assumed that there was another step involved that Snape hadn't told them about since personal ingredients were usually the last step in any potion. And, of course, since love potions were rather illegal.

"They allow the potion to heal maladies of the senses, like blindness or deafness." Malfoy was looking both smug and thoughtful, and Harry was beginning to worry that Snape really had taught them how to make and use a love potion. Harry decided he'd better watch what he drank for awhile, or he might end up mooning over Millicent Bulstrode.

Snape moved on, and Harry checked his cauldron for coolness. It had stopped boiling almost as soon as he took it off the heat, but there seemed to be a pulsing light at the centre, and he gave another worried glance at Draco. He was pouring his potion into a vial, and the liquid caught the light with a magical sheen as it fell. Harry shrugged and began to decant his own potion into a reusable bottle, mouth just the size for easy drinking.

Like many potions, you ended up with a surprisingly small dose at the end of the process, and he figured he'd have just about three good gulps to find out if he'd done it right or not. He twirled it thoughtfully, watching the way it refracted the light in soft, slow swirls like the surface of a bubble. Such a small thing, to be able to heal almost any physical ill, but some of the ingredients were prohibitively expensive, making it a rare and precious potion indeed.

Harry spent the rest of the lecture idly wondering how many of these little doses his fortune would buy for the Aurors, and if they'd do any good when most wizarding wars were fought with spells that did much more subtle damage. He was surprised when he realized Snape himself had just made a very similar point, and seemed to be about to wrap up. Harry shuffled his things together until all that was left on his table was a small silver knife and his potion. He was ready to test and run.

"All right, class, we'll test the potions all at once. Take your knives and make a small cut to your hand or arm, just enough that I can see from here you've actually wounded yourself."

Harry met Draco's challenging gaze, and they both set their knives to their left wrists, just above where the blood flowed closest to the surface. One quick slice and blood was seeping out, dripping down his arm to hit the floor. He hadn't even felt the pain yet when Snape said, "All right, take your potions."

Harry grabbed the small bottle, eyes on Draco, and drank it. Three swift gulps, just as he'd thought, and he felt a warm tingle run through him from head to toe. Draco's wrist had closed like magic, even the blood vanishing from the pale, flawless skin. His eyes dropped to Harry's wrist and went wide, but Harry didn't tear his gaze away from Draco's face. Something flickered across it that seemed almost like concern before Draco's most sarcastic voice drawled, "Potter seems to have failed again, Professor."

Harry looked down to see blood pooling in his hand, pulsing out of the wound ever faster as his heart began to race. He set the jar down and fumbled in his pocket for a handkerchief, wondering suddenly what he'd just dosed himself with. He was pressing the white square to the surprisingly large wound when Snape stalked over, brandishing a small flask of familiar lavender fluid.

"Well, Mr. Potter, it's lucky for you that I happen to have one of these already made up. Let's hope all you've done is mildly poison yourself with your latest mistake."

Harry blushed. He'd done something, but god knew what, and he wasn't about to admit it to Snape. "Thanks, Professor, I am kind of queasy." His stomach felt odd, fluttery and tight, and he kept glancing over at Malfoy. Downing the healing potion fixed his arm and gave him a very similar wash of warmth, but it didn't fix the struggling-bird sensation in his chest. He handed back the vial and removed the handkerchief to show his now-clean arm.

"Very good. Rather than take points from Gryffindor, I will require you to come in tonight and assist myself and any volunteers in making as many batches of this potion as we have the ingredients for. Donations of personal ingredients would be welcome, as this is the last legitimate use for unicorn's tears that you will have this term."

Snape swept out, dismissing the class simply by not being there. Harry carefully capped his mostly-empty bottle in case he suffered any more effects, and needed it later to be analyzed. He shuffled over to where Malfoy was packing up. "Er, what time?"

Malfoy looked up at him, eyes frosted over like grey shards of ice. "If you can drag yourself away from practice, we're starting right after dinner."

Harry nodded. He felt like apologizing, although he didn't know why. Malfoy had looked somewhat outraged when Snape had made his little announcement, and Harry wondered just what else Malfoy had had planned for their little potion-making session. Something stabbed through him, making him gasp at the absurd idea that there might be something going on between student and teacher.

Still, it wasn't like Malfoy hadn't glued himself to Snape's side during their sixth year when his parents -- and the rest of the Death Eaters -- had gone completely into the Dark Lord's service, openly defying the Ministry instead of working from within. He repressed a shudder. Death Eater parents had not, as expected, pulled their kids out of school to serve Voldemort; instead they'd literally kidnapped all the Slytherin graduates from the Leaving Feast last year. He glanced again at Malfoy, who was angrily shoving bottles into his ingredients case.

"Let me help you," Harry heard himself saying. He walked around the desk, gently rearranging the contents until everything fit. He was struck with the thought that Malfoy had to be a lot more worried than Harry about what would happen when the end of term came around. He wasn't sure where the notion sprang from, but he let Malfoy snatch the last bag of dried bats' tongues out of his lax hand, barely getting his fingers out of the way before it was snapped shut and shrunk.

"Thanks for nothing, Potter," sneered Malfoy, stalking out. Harry watched the familiar glide, blond head held arrogantly high, slim shoulders tense as if waiting for a blow. Harry shook his head again, and sat heavily on the stool. He'd been developing some sympathy for the Slytherin students lately, but this was ridiculous.

Chapter 2 >>

Title: What Separates Us
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Draco, mentions of Lucius/Draco and Snape/Lupin
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Slash, underage (17), mild BDSM, mentions of underage non-con incest,
rimming, wanking, somnophilia, violence, cliches
Summary: Harry does something phenomnally stupid in Potions class, and the consquences are farther-reaching than anyone suspects.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Signe most of all, for giving the Intoxication Challenge. Additionally, many, MANY heartfelt thanks to my intrepid betas, Kattiya, Kel, Gary and Ximeria, plus Carla for the Britishisms, and my wonderful audience who read chapter after chapter and put up with my whingeing when it wouldn't finish up.

All of the works contained herein are labours of love, unauthorized by those who hold the rights to such things, and no profit is made from them. No harm is meant, and hopefully no offense given.