“C’mon, mate, I’m sure he’ll be along any minute,” Ron assured, clapping Harry’s shoulder.
Harry chewed his lip worriedly, eyes fixated on the classroom door, just as they had been since he had arrived. “He wasn’t at breakfast,” he pointed out anxiously for the umpteenth time.
“I’m sure that Mal-, sorry, Draco,” Hermione quickly corrected herself. “Is just fine. He probably wasn’t hungry, that’s all.”
“Ha, that’s one knut Hermione,” Ron said gleefully, holding out his hand. “You totally were about to call him ‘Malfoy’.”
“I’m sure Hermione didn’t mean it, Ron,” Harry sighed, still watching the door, heart sinking every time a group of Slytherin students walked in and his boyfriend wasn’t among them. “It was just a slip-up. It’s fine. The knut for saying Malfoy instead of Draco was just a joke. I don’t expect you to call him Draco every time after referring to him as Malfoy for five years. Even I mess up sometimes. And Merlin knows he still calls me Potter far more than Harry.”
“I was reading up on why that might be,” Hermione interjected excitedly, slamming a large book down onto her and Ron’s shared desk. “And it’s likely due to psychological impact through—”
“Hermione, please, it’s far too early in the morning for a psychological impact discussion!” Ron groaned, resting his head on the table.
“Hmmph,” Hermione said, in a tone that clearly displayed her disagreement. She proceeded to open the large book and pointedly ignore Ron’s attempts to apologize.
But Harry barely noticed their argument as he saw a Slytherin student with pale features and coiffed blond hair finally entered the Charms classroom. Harry stood up quickly, intending to rush over to his boyfriend, when Professor Flitwick called for everyone to sit down and direct their attention to the front of the class. Reluctantly, Harry slid back into his seat and waited for Draco to join him at their table.
“Morning, Potter,” Draco said as he sat down, slinging his polished leather book bag over the back of his chair.
“Where were you? I didn’t see you at breakfast,” Harry asked worriedly, trying to look as though he were paying attention to Professor Flitwick’s instructions when all he wanted to do was turn to Draco.
“Oh, sorry.” It still felt a bit shocking to hear those words come out of the Slytherin’s mouth sincerely. “I think I’m coming down with a bit of a cold. My head was pounding quite badly when I woke up and so I didn’t feel up to sitting in the maelstrom of noise that is breakfast in the Great Hall.” Draco rolled his eyes, letting out a small laugh, but it quickly turned into a painful fit of coughing which he covered as best he could with his cloak.
Harry watched Draco with concern, noticing his reddened nose and pallor, which was even more pronounced than usual. “Are you sure you should be in class? You don’t look so good.”
“My, Potter, such flattery! Do you say that to all the boys?” Draco said mockingly, lips curled into a smirk as he got out his Charms textbook. “’You don’t look so good’! A right knicker-dropper, that one.”
Harry sighed. “You know I always think you look attractive; I just think that maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey.”
Draco sniffed delicately and rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Potter, for someone so famous for escaping death in clever ways, you are awfully dense. There is no magical instant cure for a cold. You just tough it out.”
Seeing Harry’s still worried expression, Draco laced their fingers together under their desk. “I’ll be fine, love, really. Now at least pretend to be focusing on the lesson, or you’ll have us both losing points, which will only confirm my housemates’ suspicions that you’re only dating me so Gryffindor will win the house cup. Really, as if a Gryffindor could come up with a plan as Slytherin as that! A Ravenclaw, maybe, but I doubt they’d waste their intellect on something so trivial.” Draco shook his head, sniffing again as he turned back to his textbook.
Reluctantly, Harry went back to his own work, still not reassured that his boyfriend was fine.
Harry’s unease only expanded as the rest of the day continued.
Draco’s cold seemed to get progressively worse with each class. At first it was only infrequent sniffing and small bouts of coughing, but eventually Draco couldn’t speak without sounding as though he was hacking his lunges up and he was shivering so hard that Harry had forced him to wear his cloak on top of his own.
By the time that they were walking to Potions after lunch, Draco was leaning his weight nearly fully onto Harry while Ron and Hermione carried both of their bags with concerned expressions on their faces. Harry took the fact that even Ron was worried about Draco as a sign that things were really bad now.
“Draco, I really think that you should rest,” he said, standing beside him until the Slytherin had lowered himself into his chair, all while grasping Harry’s shoulder tightly for balance.
Draco waved him off. “Really, Potter, I’m fi-fi-achoo!”
Harry passed Draco the monogrammed handkerchief his boyfriend kept in the front pocket of his school bag. “No, you’re not.” Harry said firmly, before walking up to the front of the classroom to where Slughorn was puttering around with the test potion for the lesson.
“Professor,” Harry began, trying to catch Slughorn’s attention.
“Ahh, Harry m’boy!” He said jovially, looking up from his cauldron, which was filled with a bubbling green mixture that smelled like compost. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s just, Malfoy’s quite sick. Can I take him out of class so he can rest?” Harry asked quickly, pointing back to where Draco was collapsed over a desk. “We both hate to miss one of your fascinating lessons, but as you can see, he really is not doing well.”
Slughorn’s expression turned grave. “Of course, of course. I completely understand. I’ll just send along the notes with one of your friends, alright? And I’ll slip in a little extra research that I think you’ll find quite fascinating!”
Wincing inside at the thought of more potions’ work, Harry managed a smile of gratitude before hurrying back to Draco, who had somehow commandeered both Hermione and Ron’s cloaks as well to try to combat his shivering. Harry’s friends were seated on either side of Draco, propping him up in his own chair.
“I think he’s dying,” Ron said matter-of-factly, watching Draco with a sort of horrified fascination.
Draco rolled his eyes, bursting into an explosive series of sneezes before he could refute Ron’s point.
“Ron, he’s not dying,” Hermione said exasperatedly. “But Harry, he really needs to lie down and rest. I don’t think he’s going to be able to sit through the rest of today’s classes.”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I’m going to take him up to the common room. Can you make our excuses to the other profs?”
“For sure, Harry,” Ron said, shifting out of the way so Harry could gather Draco up in his arms.
“Okay, love, I can carry you, but I’m going to need you to give Ron and Hermione back their robes,” Harry said softly in Draco’s ear.
Grumbling unintelligibly, Draco pulled off two of the four heavy sets of robes he was wearing, dropping them unceremoniously on the floor.
“Are you and Hermione alright keeping a hold of our book bags?” Harry asked, shifting Draco’s weight as his boyfriend curled his head up against his shoulder.
“We’ll be fine,” Hermione said. “Just make sure that he gets some rest.”
“Honestly, Granger, you said it yourself, I’m not dying!” Draco said crossly, linking his arms around Harry’s neck so he could glower down at her.
“Dying or not, you need to lie down,” Harry said firmly, heading out of the classroom and down the hall up out of the dungeons.
Sighing resignedly, Draco leaned back against Harry as he made his way up to Gryffindor tower. “Guess all that Quidditch training is coming in handy now, Potter.”
“Not really, Draco,” Harry said through gritted teeth, arm muscles aching as he reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. “I’m a Seeker. And you weigh a lot more than the Snitch!”
“Password?” Inquired the Lady.
“Chocolate frogs!” Harry said impatiently, panting as he carried Draco into the common room and dropped him onto a sofa near the fireplace.
“Merlin, Potter, you didn’t need to drop me! I’m sure you could have managed a few more steps. I am an invalid!” Draco said huffily, curling up at one end of the couch. “And if it was really so bad, why didn’t you just ‘levicorpus’ me up the stairs? I wouldn’t have judged.”
Harry groaned. “Why didn’t you suggest that then, instead of letting me struggle up all those flights?”
Draco’s grey eyes were wide with false innocence. “I thought that you were fine until you started wavering at the end. Besides,” he added, gaze moving away shyly to focus on the crimson carpet. “I thought it was rather dashing of you to carry me.”
“Dashing, huh?” Harry grinned as Draco’s cheeks grew pink.
“Until you bloody well dropped me!” He shot back, his renewed annoyance sending him into a fit of coughing and reminding Harry why exactly he had carried him up to the common room in the first place.
“I’ll be right back,” he said, getting up and dropping a quick kiss on the top of Draco’s head.
His boyfriend leaned back against the couch, rolling his eyes but with a soft smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Don’t worry. I don’t think I could go anywhere if I tried.”
Harry ran up to his dormitory, grabbing the blankets of his bed and a Gryffindor scarf that was draped around his bedpost, before heading back downstairs.
As promised, Draco had not moved from the couch and was staring distantly into the roaring flames in the hearth, the light glimmering in the reflection of his eyes.
“Your common room is a lot cozier than mine,” he said conversationally as Harry tucked the blankets around him. “There aren’t even any carpets to cover the stone floors. Leeches any heat right out of your bones! Wait a second, hey! What are you trying to do, Potter? Bloody re-sort me?”
This last bit was in response to the red and gold striped scarf that Harry was trying to wrap around Draco’s neck in an effort to cover the gaps between the blanket and Draco’s uniform.
Harry sighed. “No, Draco, you have far too much Slytherin in you for me to even contemplate such a thought. You’re cold though, so just put the bloody scarf on.”
Draco grumbled, but conceded. “Bloody scarf is right though, with these bright red bands! It looks like it’s been stabbed! You Gryffindors, so violent!”
“Uh-huh,” Harry said, settling down beside Draco and curling an arm around his shoulder. “Take your pick, Draco, we can’t be cozy and violent.”
“’Course you can,” Draco said, sniffing, and leaning his head against Harry. “I had a great-aunt Gertrude who knit baby blankets with needles made out of the bones of her enemies.”
“My mistake,” Harry said soothingly, smoothing small circles on Draco’s blanket-covered knee.
“At least you admit it,” Draco begrudging, snuggling closer to Harry and yawning contentedly.
They sat in silent for a moment, both idly watching the fire as Draco’s shivers slowly dissipated, the quiet only punctuated by Draco’s dignified sniffs.
“Harry,” Draco said quietly. “Would you read to me?”
“What?” Harry asked, the affectionate sound of his first name coming from Draco’s mouth doing funny things to his insides, the way it always seemed to do.
“You know, read something out loud to me like kids’ bedtime stories.”
Harry flushed, hesitating before saying, “No one actually ever read me stories out loud when I was a kid.”
“Excuse me?” Draco half sat up, brow furrowed. “What are you on about, Potter? Surely someone did? The Prophet said you lived with your aunt and uncle, surely they . . . ?”
“No,” Harry said simply, shaking his head. “To my cousin, sure, but not to me. I don’t think they even would have fit in my cupboard if they—”
“Cupboard?” Draco let out a surprised sneeze. “You mean that it’s true? You actually slept in a cupboard?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably. “Well, yeah.”
Draco stared at him, shock painted over his face. “Bloody hell, Harry. I’m so sorry.”
And then Draco did something that still felt strange to Harry, even though they had been dating for several months.
Draco hugged him.
Harry wasn’t quite sure how to respond as Draco wrapped his arms around his shoulders, resting his head in the crook of Harry’s neck. Finally, he settled on simply returning the embrace, holding Draco tightly and breathing in his comforting, familiar smell of expensive cinnamon cologne, the spiciness easing the sudden tightness in his chest.
Draco pressed a soft kiss to Harry’s jaw as he pulled back, settling in against Harry’s side once more. “Well, I guess I could tell you a story then.”
Harry laughed, tucking a lock of Draco’s hair behind his ear. “You have a sore throat from coughing all day and need to sleep, so no, as much as I appreciate the offer, you will just have to put up with my own made-up story, specially created on the spot, just for you.”
“Ooh, I’m intrigued,” Draco said, with only a touch of affectionate mocking in his tone.
“Alright, here it goes.” Harry cleared his throat self-consciously. “Once upon a time there was a little boy—”
“Named Leroy,” Draco interjected stubbornly.
“Um, well it was actually supposed to be you,” Harry admitted, kissing Draco’s temple. “But I guess you can have a stage-name.”
“What’s a stage-na—”
“Shh, you’re interrupting the story. I’ll tell you later,” Harry promised, smoothing a finger across Draco’s forehead until the lines of his frown went away. “There was a little boy named Leroy. And one day, Leroy discovered that he was magical.”
“You bet your ass he was,” Draco murmured sleepily.
“Anyway,” Harry continued determinedly. “Because Leroy was magical, he got invited to attend a wonderful school, where the wisest wizards and witches of the land taught magical children how to properly use their powers.”
“I’m sorry, Harry, but I would say Dumbledore is more crazy than wise really—”
“Okay! Sorry, love, I’ll be quiet.”
“ANYWAY! Leroy was super excited to go to this school—”
“Actually, I was more nervous that excited.”
“Did you interrupt your parents this much?!” Harry asked, exasperated.
“No,” Draco admitted. “If I did, they made Dobby read me the rest of it and he never could do the voices quite as good as Father.”
Harry was struck dumb for a moment by the thought of Lucius Malfoy reading out children’s stories with different voices for each character.
“Please keep going, Harry,” Draco asked, obviously thinking that Harry had stopped talking because he was fed up with his interruptions. “I won’t make another peep, I swear. If I do, I won’t kiss you for a month.”
“Well, that’s more of a punishment for me,” Harry complained, placing a soft kiss on Draco’s mouth.
“Mmm, don’t know about that,” Draco said softly, pulling Harry down for a follow-up. “Okay, continue with the story.”
“Alright,” Harry said skeptically, settling back against the couch cushions. “So Leroy was excited to go to school. But so was another boy, whose name was, umm, Darren. Now, Darren had never known that magic existed, and discovering that there was a whole other world just waiting for him was one of the most wonderful moments of his life. So Leroy and Darren both bought all of their school supplies and got on the train that would take them to their new school. But as wonderful as the idea of getting to learn magic was, what they both wanted most of all was a friend. So when Leroy came into Darren’s compartment and offered him his hand . . . Darren took it. And for the rest of their lives, they never left each other’s sides. The end. Okay, you can talk now, Draco.” Silence. “Draco?”
Harry looked down to see that his boyfriend’s eyes were shut and his breaths had smoothed out with only a hint of congestion still audible as he slept. Smiling, Harry carefully took off his glasses and leaned back against the pillows, warm and comfortable curled up with Draco. Safe. And so filled up with happiness, that Harry realized it had been worth all the struggles to get there. At last, hand in hand.