Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended
Distribution: Ask first, please.
Author's Note: This was written for the February challenge at Armchair. First, H/D scenes were drawn. Then we were assigned to write for a specific picture. I got this amazing pic by Gred and Feorge.
Thanks and hugs to Penguin for beta-reading.
Draco pulled his cloak more tightly around his body as he climbed down the stairs to the second floor of the west tower, on his way back to the Slytherin entrance. It had been a good night - he'd caught two fifth-year Hufflepuffs making out in Flitwick's empty classroom, and had fined them ten points apiece for being out of bed after hours, and for their 'inappropriate behaviour'. Actually, in his mind, it wasn't the fact that the girl had her hand down the boy's pants which had prompted the extra point-removal; after all, he'd done the same - and more - with a few boys himself. No, to him, the 'inappropriate behaviour' was that they'd been so stupid as to choose such a likely place to get caught. For that alone they deserved to lose those twenty points.
The view out the windows along this corridor was that of the Quidditch pitch; the moon lit the silent hoops and stands with a ghostly silver glow, a sharp contrast to the sunny glint and splashy House colours which would be displayed that Saturday, in Slytherin's game against Ravenclaw. He wished they were playing against Gryffindor, but that game wouldn't come until the end of the season. He wanted to see Harry again, up close, to have the excuse to touch him, even if just for the required handshake. To have that one moment alone with him. And even though the Gryffindor would probably just glare at him, it would still give Draco the chance to take a good look at those green eyes, to feed his unspoken crush on Harry's graceful and confident movements.
He shook himself out from his thoughts, and focused instead on getting back to his room as quickly as possible. The stone corridors got terribly chilly once the majority of torches were extinguished for the night, and the body heat generated by the day's passage of students had dissipated. He walked faster.
As he turned a corner, however, Draco spotted a lumpy shadow outlined by the dim moonlight of the window behind it. A small window seat had been tucked into a nook in the south-facing wall; there were many such odd little corners and benches throughout the castle, probably placed there with the same disregard for logic as everything else in the place. Yet someone was there, clearly breaking the bedtime curfew. Harry.
He recognised Harry immediately - there was just something to the lines of his body, the shape and size and limber posture, which Draco would have recognised anywhere. He had watched Harry nearly nonstop during their entire school careers, first in hatred, then out of habit, and lately.... Well, if there was one thing which was patently obvious to his well-trained eyes, Harry wasn't here for a pleasure stroll.
The Gryffindor sat huddled on the padded bench, hugging his knees, and staring blankly off into the night. "If you're going to take points, just do it and leave me alone," he whispered, as Draco approached.
There was something in the way Harry spoke which sent a chill up Draco's spine; he also noticed that Harry was shivering. "Potter, what are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep." The seemingly careless shrug was in sharp contrast to his tightly controlled reply.
Draco knelt down by Harry's side. "Then shouldn't you be awake in your own common room? I would imagine it's a great deal warmer there."
"Can't. I don't want to wake the others, make them worry. And I don't like having them fuss over me." Harry turned his head slightly in Draco's direction. "Please,"-he drew a small gasping breath-"just.... I can't."
Draco blinked, surprised by even the small gesture of trust present in this confession. But he shook his head in response. "You can't stay here - not like this. I'm taking you to Madam Pomfrey. She can give you something to make you sleep, and--"
"No, don't." The familiar bass voice took on a pleading tone. "I've taken her potions and I hate how they make me feel. And she'll tell Dumbledore I was there. I just ... I just need to be alone."
"Potter, if I leave you alone, you'll get hypothermia." Draco stood up and looked at the huddled boy, thinking. "Look, if I take you somewhere warm where no one else will find you or bother you until morning, will you come?"
The other boy finally raised his head, green eyes dark in the ill-lit corridor. "I don't suppose it's a remote tropical island?"
Draco felt a hint of a smile play at his mouth in response to Harry's feeble attempt at humour. "No. It's just the prefect's lounge. Will that do?"
There was a pause before Harry finally whispered, "All right."
Quickly, before the Gryffindor could change his mind, Draco held out his hand and helped pull Harry to his feet, then nodded down the hall in the proper direction. They walked in silence, Draco slightly in the lead; he had to slow his pace considerably to allow Harry to keep up, and twice he had to put out a hand to steady the other boy when he stumbled.
"Dukas," he murmured, as they finally arrived at the hidden entrance to the lounge. A wall sconce flipped down in response, triggering the hidden panel next to it. He steered Harry inside and deposited him on the sofa in front of the fireplace. Then, after transfiguring his cloak into a blanket and draping it over the other boy, Draco pointed his wand at the hearth and re-ignited the dying cinders with a well-placed Incendio.
"There, that should do it," he said, turning away from the now-steady flames. Harry did not respond. He seemed to have sunk back into himself, the way he had appeared when Draco first found him: his legs were pulled back up to his chest, and his gaze was turned slightly down and to the right, but it was obvious he was not actively seeing anything. Only whatever was in his own head.
Draco took a seat at the opposite end of the little sofa, and quietly observed the other boy. Although he was extremely worried about Harry's current state, he said nothing. The Gryffindor had admitted to leaving the warmth and security of his rooms because he didn't want his friends to fuss over him, and Draco had promised a refuge in bringing him here. If Harry couldn't handle being questioned by his closest friends, there was little chance he would tolerate anything from Draco.
Perhaps it was just as well that he had never tried to approach Harry, then. He had heard rumours that The Boy Who Lived was gay, but there was no reason to think he would ever be attracted to Draco, not after all the bad feelings between them in years past. Besides, even if Harry were interested... the scandal would be enormous. They were both too well known, both at school and in the public world. Well, Draco wasn't so important himself outside of Hogwarts, but his family certainly was. His father would never understand how a Malfoy could even consider such a relationship. Draco and the Famous Hero? Lucius would never permit it. In fact, the entire wizarding world would probably never permit it, from the reverse angle; they would not want to see their shining saviour associated with a Malfoy. Lucius worked hard to keep his public image clean, but Draco knew the suspicion and fear surrounding his family name. He could just imagine the outcry if he were to be spotted kissing Harry. Gryffindor was the house for the brave, not Slytherin. Draco just wasn't that strong. It was easier to simply watch Harry from afar.
But right now, there was no powerful father or disapproving public. Nothing to keep him from at least taking care of the withdrawn boy in front of him. And despite the room's rapidly increasing warmth, Harry was still shaking.
"Are you still cold?" Draco leaned forward and risked pressing a hand to the Gryffindor's cheek, checking for fever. Cool, although not frozen, and neither clammy nor remotely flushed.
"C-cold on the inside," Harry muttered, by way of explanation. "It's the ... I just can't get warm, even with the f-fire and all."
Draco hesitated, then reached forward further and gathered the other boy into his arms, pulling Harry toward him. He expected Harry to put up more than a fuss, but except for a small "What are you doing?" he did not resist.
"Trying to warm you up better," he replied, resettling Harry next to him, with the dark head on Draco's own chest. "That's all." And, Draco realised, that really was all. Although he had often thought about what it would be like to feel that lithe body pressed against his own, right now he was more concerned about Harry's well-being than in any physical pleasures. Harry shifted once, raising his head and pulling off his glasses so they wouldn't dig into his face, and then tentatively set his head back down against Draco's ribs.
For a long time, neither boy moved. The magic-fueled fire crackled steadily, and Draco alternated between staring into the hypnotizing flames, and gazing at the familiar figure nestled next to him. He was scared - for Harry and for his own feelings of responsibility - and yet he felt strangely peaceful. Even though nothing would, could, happen between them, and even though the situation was born from a need for refuge, not a need for him personally, Draco knew he would remember this moment.
"It was a nightmare," Harry murmured suddenly against his chest, startling Draco out of his reverie. He held his breath, afraid that if he spoke, he would frighten the other boy into silence again.
"I'm fighting Voldemort, but it's not me he wants, not really." The normally strong voice was scarcely more than a whisper. "Instead of just trying to kill me, he kills everyone else instead. All the people I love. Dumbledore and my godfather, and then all the Weasleys, one at a time - Ron last so I have to watch him suffer at the death of each of his family members." Harry took a deep breath. "Then Hermione, of course, and the rest of my House and ... other people too. All gone, slowly, painfully. Not with Avada."
Draco didn't know what to say. He still thought the Weasleys were a bunch of red-headed hicks, and that Hermione was infuriating on numerous counts, but he also knew how highly Harry treasured them. He wondered how he would feel after such a nightmare.
"Have you dreamt this before?" he asked softly.
Harry gave a small nod. "But this was worse. Much worse. I ... just couldn't handle talking about it. That's why I left."
"But you just told me."
"I ... you're different."
There was no further explanation, but Draco found he didn't really need one. And since it had obviously cost Harry a great deal to say even that small amount, he didn't want to push for more. Let his so-called friends fuss over him. Draco had promised a refuge, and that's what Harry would have.
They settled back into a comfortable silence, with the fire providing the only noise. Harry's shivering had long since dissipated; now he was just a gentle weight against Draco's side, his breathing slow and even. Draco was sure that Harry had fallen asleep, but after a time, he felt the other boy stir ever so slightly.
"Thanks," came the faint murmur, his breath ghosting warmth through Draco's t-shirt. "Always ... wanted ... this."
Draco wasn't sure he had heard correctly. Harry wanted this? Wanted him? Or something else? It was hardly likely the Gryffindor wanted the nightmares, after all.
"What did you say?" he whispered back. But there was no reply, other than the sound of Harry's glasses slipping from his dangling fingers to fall with a soft *thump* on the rug. And then silence.
Draco didn't know what to think. He wasn't even positive of Harry's words, much less what they might have meant; it seemed too much to hope for, that his former rival might have feelings for him too. But then, he had accepted Draco's help and companionship - even the relatively intimate position they currently shared - with little objection. Any doubts he had expressed had been for his own concerns, not for Draco himself.
Would Harry remember his last words when he awoke? And even if he did, would he own up to them? Draco tried to remind himself that it didn't matter either way; there was no future for them, not with the biases against each side. Yet right that minute, with Harry's trusting form curled up by his side, and a sense of shelter and peace filling the prefect's lounge, it was hard to care what anyone else thought. He had never felt so peaceful, so whole. What would he be willing to pay for another moment like this?
Draco settled himself more deeply into the shelter of the sofa and watched Harry breathe.
*Password: Paul Dukas composed "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
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