In the night, the heat waves protected Harry. Neon-like and blue, they kept him safe from the outside world, from the cold, from the aggressions his body endured day after day. The shadows all around him, once scary and menacing, seemed almost friendly coloured in blue. They were magically induced and had been Hermione’s idea: they created a temperature that would be intolerable for most humans but perfect for Harry. Ollie helped with the cold too, being constantly by Harry’s side. He reminded him of Draco and kept him warm inside and out.
All his nights were spent taking potions and Muggle pills but despite all of this medication, his insomnia never went away. How could he sleep when every bone, muscle and articulation in his body hurt? How could he sleep when his closest friends were either worrying in Hogwarts or lost in a jungle?
After Draco had left, he had started to get cold again even though his potions still seemed to keep a steady temperature in his body. It wasn’t the same cold that had kept him awake so many nights last summer, wondering if he was going mad, if he was going to die from hypothermia even though the sun was bright and warm. This cold was slowly gaining him, seizing control of his body and there was nothing he could do except wait it out.
Two weeks. Draco had been gone for two weeks. What was supposed to be a routine expedition had turned out to be a disaster. The Portkey somehow took the boys miles from the supposed location of the plant and they had no idea where they were. They couldn’t use magic because they didn’t know where the plant was and they were aware that any magical exposure would ruin it.
They were all alone in an hostile jungle with not enough food and no magic. They’d only been able to send little messages through Dumbledore’s Army’s old coins.
All Harry had heard from Draco was “Am okay. Take care of yourself. Love you” eleven days ago. Harry had held the coin in his hands for a long moment while Mrs Weasley patted his shoulder and covered him with a plaid when he started shivering uncontrollably.
“No one wants to come back before they find the plant,” Mrs Weasley had told him.
Harry knew this already. He knew none of them would give up. He knew that even if they all lost hope, Draco would still need to be Stupefied in order to bring him home without the plant.
“I hope they’re okay, wherever they are,” Harry answered.
Mrs Weasley tightened her grip on Harry’s shoulder and nodded. They were all on edge, waiting for news all day long. When Harry started getting worse, Mrs Weasley ordered him to stay in bed under the heat waves most of the day. He didn’t have the strength to contradict her and so he waited at home for owls that never came.
Harry was certain they were doing everything that was possible to find the plant but as he lay in bed, cold despite the heat waves, he just wished they’d hurry. He wanted peace, he wanted Draco, he wanted his well-deserved rest. He was sick of the nausea and the constant pain, the dizziness and the helplessness that came with the potions. When he woke at night, alone, his body cramped and aching, Draco wasn’t there to reassure him and to help him into a bath.
He had to drag himself all the way to the bathroom and collapse into the bath, chest heaving, limbs shaking. During these moments, he wanted nothing more than to wake up in Guernsey, Draco’s arms around him, the sun filtering through their hotel room’s curtains.
If he focused and closed his eyes, he could almost hear the sea outside the window, waiting for them.
In the middle of the cold and dreary night of the fifteenth of January, they finally arrived.
The loud cracks of multiple consecutive Apparitions echoed in the flat. Ollie started barking as soon as he heard it and woke Harry instantly. He stumbled out of bed and tumbled down the stairs, a blanket around him. Ollie was following him, still barking, tail wiggling excitedly as if he knew who was coming home.
Draco was waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs. Harry could have wept with relief. He looked tired, exhausted even, sported a few cuts and bruises on his arms and a big one on his left cheek but he was alive and safe now. Harry dropped the blanket, put his hands on Draco’s face, feeling the beginning of a beard beneath his fingers and chuckled. It suited him, this new adventurous look. He threw his arms around him and hugged him.
Draco let out a breath he seemed to have held for the three weeks he’d been gone and tightened his grip on Harry.
“We have it,” Draco whispered. “You’re going to be fine, Harry.”
Harry peppered his face with kisses, first his cheek, nose and finally his mouth. He then bent down to grab Ollie who licked both their faces, tremendously excited to be reunited with both his owners. Draco petted him and told him he’d been a good boy, taking care of Harry while he was off. The dog seemed almost unbearably happy to hear all this praise.
Neville, George and Theo were behind them but neither Harry nor Draco had yet registered their presence, otherwise occupied at finding each other again. The boys all dropped their heavy backpacks at the same time on the floor and cleared their throats.
Harry hadn’t forgotten about them while they were off and his thoughts had lingered for a long time on the sacrifices they all had decided to make in order to find the plant and help him. Putting their businesses on hold for Theo and George and leaving Hogwarts and his important botanic studies for Neville. Harry was extremely grateful to them but he hadn’t realised he’d be so happy to see Draco.
“Hope you’re not planning on thanking us all like that,” George said.
Harry blushed. He hugged everyone and thanked them individually. He invited them to sit down and fetched tea and biscuits for everyone. Draco followed him in the kitchen and helped him, moving around the cupboards comfortably as if he had never left, as he had just been off on a business trip for a few days. But that wasn’t the case, it had been weeks since he’d last seen civilization and it was probably off-putting to be back here but Draco didn’t let anything show.
He behaved perfectly normally and Harry was pleased to see that he was still just as meticulous when it came to making tea. On top of that, Harry figured he had just needed an excuse to be alone with him a little longer and he was proven right. As soon as the kettle was on, Draco turned towards Harry and smiled. It turned out he couldn’t keep his hands to himself and they ended up staying in the kitchen for a long time, kissing each other.
“I was so worried about you, you stupid wanker! How long were you planing to stay in that jungle?”
“Until we got it. Months, years, I didn’t even care,” Draco answered between kisses.
Harry shook his head, amazed by how stupid Draco could be even though he had been one of the smartest students at Hogwarts. The boy obsessed with self-preservation was long gone and he had grown more mature in the past months than in six years spent studying in an excellent school.
Unless, Harry thought as he recalled most of his Sixth Year, unless he considers me family too. I know how far he’s willing to go to protect his family.
Knowing that this possibility was far more likely than he’d care to believe, Harry put his hands on Draco’s face and kissed him again and again, trying to show all the tenderness and love he felt because he knew he’d never find the words to express it. They jumped apart when the kettle started whistling, startled, and eyed the living room warily.
“Have we really been gone that long?” Draco asked, lips bright red from all the kissing.
Harry rearranged his clothes and tried to flatten his disheveled hair a bit but it was hopeless. They’d definitely knew what Draco and Harry had been up to. Thankfully, Ollie had proved to be a worthy entertainer for Theo, George and Neville and they hadn’t even noticed that the boys had been gone for almost fifteen minutes.
“So, where is it?” Harry asked as he sat down, a warm cup of tea in his hands.
Neville grabbed his backpack and searched in it before retrieving the reduced jar and enlarging it.
“Neville, wait, you’re not supposed to do magic around it!” Harry yelled.
George chuckled and reassured Harry:
“Don’t worry, it’s under stasis. We can cast charms and everything around it as long as it stays in that spelled jar.”
Harry turned the jar in his hands carefully. The plant was beautiful; there were three white flowers with blue spots on them forming strange patterns.
“We’ve got everything ready. I’ll start the potion tonight and it should be ready in a couple of days,” Theo added.
This was going fast. Harry was conflicted: on the one hand he wanted to be cured and to get rid of his potions more than anything, he really wanted to start his life. On the other hand, he was scared that the ritual or the potion would somehow fail. He’d be so disappointed, having his hopes up like that for nothing.
“By some miracle we managed to come back just in time for the right lunar cycle,” Draco explained. “It’s now or never.”
Harry nodded, eyes still riveted on the beautiful plant. He had no trouble believing it could be extremely powerful, he could almost feel its power emanating in the room even though the plant was sealed in the jar.
“How did you even manage to find it?” he asked.
“Manually. It took a long time and it got us to think of the Muggles with a lot more understanding and amazement. I have no idea how they do it all the time without magic,” Theo explained.
“Though at some point we started feeling the magic radiating from this thing like a beacon,” Draco added.
“Yeah, and thanks to magic we’ll even be able to Apparate straight to bed,” Neville said, yawning.
Everyone instantly agreed. They had been working non-stop for the last days and were all looking forward to a good night (and probably day) of sleep. They said goodbye and Apparated to their respective homes, where Mrs Weasley awaited nervously and where Mr Filch, awakened by an House Elf with much difficulty, grumpily welcomed Neville back into Hogwarts.
A few days later, the potion was finally ready and the moon was rightly positioned for the ritual to take place. Harry had stopped taking his potions as soon as Draco came home and he was watching with satisfaction the empty bottles he had emptied in the sink.
He went to bed, opened the door and watched the scene in front of him with fondness. Draco was already asleep with Ollie next to him, peaceful in the bedroom’s blue lightning. He wanted to take a picture of them like this, innocent, without any sign of the stress and difficulties they had experienced. He never wanted the sun to come up: it would mean Narcissa was on her way, ready to arrive with the witch she had managed to find, one of the last ones in the world capable of mending wounded souls.
The potion was under a stasis charm in the living-room, ready to be drank by both Harry and Draco. Harry couldn’t ignore it, couldn’t take his eyes off of it. He was thankful for all the hours Theo and Draco had spent working on it the last couple of days but he was scared of its effects. What if it destroyed everything?
He hadn’t much of a choice in the matter anyway. The potions had been slowly killing him and the cold would soon if they didn’t do anything about it.
Draco stirred beside him in bed and woke up. He opened his eyes and immediately smiled when he noticed Ollie still asleep between them.
“I told you we’d never get rid of him if you let him sleep with you while I was gone,” Draco muttered.
Draco turned around and looked outside, noticing that the sun wasn’t up yet and that it was heavily raining outside. Ollie, troubled by all the noise and movement around him, decided to head towards the foot of the bed. Harry took the opportunity to get closer and to find his way into Draco’s arms. He absorbed the heat of Draco’s body, perhaps for the last time. Indeed, if the ritual worked, a part of Draco’s soul would mingle with his and he’d always be a part of Harry.
“You’re not actually complaining, are you?” Harry laughed.
Draco shook his head. They were lying next to each other, slotted together, legs intertwined.
“Lost your tongue?” Harry asked, certain that Draco would’ve jumped at the opportunity to criticize Harry’s permissiveness when it came to Ollie.
“Catch it if you can,” Draco replied, provocative.
Harry laughed and it sounded incredibly alive and warm to Draco. He grabbed him by the collar of his ridiculous oversized Gryffindor t-shirt and pulled him towards him to kiss him without waiting for a reply. Harry’s lips were dry, as if frozen by an internal winter but the sensation was still deliciously familiar. He caught Harry’s tongue himself, raised his eyebrows in victory when their eyes met.
A warmth spread to their stomachs. And a little below. Draco took his shirt off, threw it on the floor and pushed Harry on the mattress. He kissed him again while Harry’s hands wandered on his back. Suddenly, their pressure increased and nails scratched his back.
“Draco… wait. We can’t.”
Draco groaned as he remembered that Harry wasn’t on his potions anymore.
“I know,” he muttered grumpily. “It’s so cruel. And unfair. If you want my opinion, we should be having sex all day. On every single piece of furniture of this flat. Except it might kill you. How are we supposed to relax before the big day, right? Stare at each other and wait for something to go wrong?”
“Merlin, I really missed your delicateness…” Harry laughed.
“If you wanted delicateness, you shouldn’t have started dating a Slytherin.”
Harry smiled at him carefully but didn’t answer. Draco was far more delicate then he let on, especially when they were alone, but he wasn’t going to talk about that and piss him off.
“Come on, if the ritual goes well we’ll be having sex all day tomorrow to celebrate.”
Draco brightened up. He liked the sound of that. But for now, risking Harry’s life was out of the question and even though they joked about it, Draco would never consider endangering it for something as casual as sex. He’d wait years if it meant Harry was safe.
They got back under the covers, cuddling and listening to each other’s steady heartbeat. After a few minutes like this, they weren’t even thinking about having sex anymore. What they were sharing was somehow far more intimate anyway. Soon, their souls would be joined.
Draco kissed Harry’s shoulder and neck and breathed in deeply, nose buried in Harry’s hair. His slow and regular breathing left a moist and lukewarm trail on his skin; he hoped it would go through it, pierce it and unfroze his cold blood and icy veins. Draco seemed to understand and he rubbed his back, arms and hands until Harry fell asleep.
Harry woke up alone in bed. He heard voices downstairs so he got dressed and joined Draco and his mother in the living-room. They were sitting down on the couch, listening to a small witch who seemed quite old. She was wearing black robes and her long grey hair made her look wise. Actually, Harry wouldn’t describe her as an old person but rather as someone ancient or sacred. She wasn’t like any other old lady but she definitely had the looks of someone who had seen quite a lot of things in a lifetime, good and bad.
As soon as Draco noticed that Harry was up, he got up and joined him.
“Harry. This is Magda, the witch my mother found. She’s the one who will perform the ritual.”
Magda eyed him impassively. She then took a deep breath and exhaled quietly.
“I can sense what’s wrong with you from here, young man,” she said. “Walking around with a bruised soul, the wound wide open and untreated. Of course one might expect consequences.”
If only he’d found her last summer when nobody believed him…
“But you can fix him, can’t you?” Mrs Malfoy asked.
Magda frowned and with Harry’s approval, she cast a few diagnosis spells and tried to meditate for a couple of minutes while her wand vibrated and swirled.
“I can try, yes. Unfortunately it’s been months since the cut has been made and it’s going to be very difficult to repair it completely.”
“Even with a piece of my soul?” Draco asked. “Because I’m willing to give everything he needs, we’ve discussed it.”
He took Harry’s hand in his.
“Yes, Mr Malfoy,” she sighed, “even with your help it’s going to be a difficult case. I told your mother it would put both of you in danger but she said you were willing to take the risk.”
Draco looked up to his mother and nodded. Harry was overwhelmed by all the risks everyone was willing to take for him. Shaking slightly, he hugged her for a long time, happy to learn that she cared about him enough to let Draco face dangers. Knowing that she had lied to Voldemort to protect him, Harry was more than aware it was a rare and thoughtful decision.
“I have to warn you though,” Magda told Draco, “what you’re thinking of doing isn’t the same as giving someone a kidney or a blood transfusion. It’s a piece of your soul, your very own being.”
“I know,” Draco answered.
“If you’re certain. It’s not a decision to be made lightly.”
“It’s not,” Draco answered. “He already has that part of my soul anyway.”
She shrugged and put her wand back in her robe and straightened her back. She seemed competent and motivated which gave Harry all the courage he needed.
“Lead the way to St Mungo’s then. We need to work while the moon’s on our side. They’ve prepared a room incase anything goes wrong.”
Narcissa looked worried and pale but she let them go, fine with their decision of going forward with the ritual. She put a hand on her son’s cheek and smiled at him. Harry and Draco petted Ollie and left for St Mungo’s hand in hand. Soon, they would be joined on a whole different level.
The room in which the ritual was going to take place was completely white and had the distinctive smell of hospital disinfectant that Draco despised. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to care today and was nervously stealing glances at Harry.
“Stop worrying,” he said. “It’ll be fine.”
They had both taken the potion and were lying in comfortable beds next to each other in the room, hands still tightly intertwined. Magda had also recommended taking a Sleeping Draught so that they’d be asleep while she worked. Eyes locked together, they were waiting to fall asleep.
“Do you think it’ll be it?” Draco asked. “We fall asleep, wake up and you’ll be fine?”
He had a point. Nothing was easy with them. However Harry didn’t want to worry. He wanted to hope for the best and relax for his last moments awake with Draco before everything changed forever.
“I think we’ve been through enough. I think this is it, yeah.”
“I can’t wait for you to be fine, to start eating and doing magic again and I can’t wait for you to stop feeling cold and in pain all the time,” Draco muttered, eyes closed.
Harry smiled and closed his eyes as well. He couldn’t keep them open anyway, he felt so sleepy and dizzy… It was like he wasn’t even in the room anymore but floating on a cloud somewhere in the sky.
“I’d like that…” he managed to answer.
Harry didn’t hear Magda come into the room; he was already peacefully asleep, ready to believe that perhaps the universe would be on his side for once. He didn’t dare imagine a world in which one of them didn’t make it.
Faces flashed all around the room and worried voices echoed endlessly. The white walls were punctuated by little red spots everywhere. It took a while but Harry guessed the Weasleys had come and were visiting him.
“Is he waking up?” one voice asked.
“I’m not sure.”
Harry slept on. He felt unanchored, drifting in the sea without his lifebuoy. He couldn’t hang on to anything, couldn’t open his eyes. He had no control over his body.
Draco, he wanted to yell.
He was blind, trying to keep his head out of the water around him but it was impossible. Everything around him was moving and unsteady. He lost consciousness.
When his eyes opened again for a second, he was alone and it was night. He wanted to stay awake, to turn his head and see Draco for just a fraction of a second but his body still wouldn’t respond. He put all of his strength into trying to turn his head but he had to give up because it was pointless. His body was so heavy it seemed to be made out of concrete.
He also felt genuine warmth radiating in all of his body and his pillow was incredibly soft. He stopped struggling and fell asleep.
Harry woke up, sore and aching. The light hurt his eyes and his vision was blurry. He held out his hand to search for his glasses on the bedside table.
The first thing he noticed was the warmth in his limbs. He hadn’t felt it in months, had even forgotten how good it felt. He stretched his muscles, amazed by the fact that it didn’t hurt a bit like it always did. Except the soreness in his body, probably due to the complex spell he had gone through, nothing hurt anymore.
He felt whole again for the first time ever since he walked into the Forbidden Forrest and stood still while Voldemort ripped his soul apart.
Harry smiled and turned his head, ready to laugh and kiss Draco again and again, feeling so happy he could burst. But the smile on his lips faded immediately when he noticed he was alone and the bed beside him was empty.
He tugged the covers off of his body, jumped out of bed, wincing when he lost his balance and stumbled. A nurse came in immediately and grabbed his arm. He couldn’t hear what she was saying, couldn’t process the meaning of the words coming out of her mouth. He managed to focus enough to recognize her: it was Amy, his old nurse from his first stay in St Mungo’s.
“Draco,” he managed to say as he struggled against her, ready to collapse.
“Harry, go back to bed, you shouldn’t be up!” she answered.
He yelled Draco’s name until she had no choice but to stop trying to put Harry back into bed. She led him to an adjacent room, face sealed, lips pursed. The panic was everywhere, in Harry’s chest, crushing furiously his lungs, in his trembling hands, in his ragged breathing.
When he first saw him, he almost fell and he would have if it wasn’t for Amy’s strong hold. Draco was lying in bed, livid, machines beeping steadily all around him. His room had that smell he hated, the white walls and informality he despised.
“Merlin,” he muttered, legs paralyzed.
He couldn’t enter, couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. How could this happen? He didn’t understand anything.
“What’s wrong with him?” Harry finally managed to ask.
“Nobody knows exactly,” Amy answered softly while she rubbed Harry’s back. “Magda is off doing some research with his mum to try and find out what happened to him but so far, it’s unclear. He just didn’t wake up after the procedure.”
Harry hid his face in his hands. It was all his fault. He couldn’t bear to go in. He never should have agreed, he never should have let Draco get hurt.
“You should go in there, he needs you,” Amy added as if she understood what was going on in Harry’s head.
“I can’t, I can’t…”
Don’t you understand? Harry wanted to yell. I’m the one who did this to him!
“Harry, we’ll find out what happened, we’ll fix it. We’ve got our best Healers on it.”
Harry rested his forehead on the wall and tried to calm his erratic breathing. He wanted to hit the wall with his bare hands until he bled.
“How long has he been like this?”
“Three days. But look, it also took you a long time to wake up! Maybe his body needs a little bit more time.”
Harry breathed again and his vision became clearer as oxygen started to fill his brain. His panic didn’t quite subside though: there was a voice in his head that wouldn’t stop bringing up the possibility that he might never wake up.
“I remember being conscious on and off the last days though,” Harry said, frowning. “I remember seeing faces and hearing worried voices. Has he been like that as well?”
"Amy sighed and shook her head. “Every case is different though, Harry. We shouldn’t give up.”
Harry nodded and stepped inside the room. He wasn’t about to give up. Amy was right, he needed to be by Draco’s side even if it hurt him to see him like that. He sat down next to the bed and held his hand. He put a lock of hair back in place, kissed his cheek and talked to him.
He hoped his voice lulled him and reassured him. He hoped he’d be okay.
More than anything, he hoped he’d wake up soon.