Harry was pretty sure there was something off going on, but he couldn't seem to figure out what it was. He was sitting at a long dining table that was covered in a pristine white cloth and the most glorious feast. Draco was opposite him and they were at the middle of the table. On his right at one end of the table was Dumbledore and on his left at the other was Voldemort.
They were both looking at the food, but neither of them was touching it.
Looking down, Harry realised there was an ornate place setting in front of him with at least twenty pieces of cutlery, some of which he had never seen before. There were knives and forks and spoons and other things, but of different shapes and sizes. It was all very grand.
"Why don't you start, Harry?" Dumbledore asked with a smile.
"Um," Harry said staring at all the knives and forks. [Draco, which one am I supposed to use?]
[It's up to you, Love,] Draco told him with a dreamy smile.
[But I don't know what some of these are for.]
[I'm sure you'll choose correctly.]
"Come, Harry," Voldemort said in his sibilant voice, "we really must start."
"Yes, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore added, "we can't keep everyone waiting."
Harry looked between them, trying to figure out what to do. The headmaster continued to smile at him, twinkling all the while, and Voldemort smirked in a superior manner. Harry could almost see the original Tom Riddle under all the changes the wizard had been through.
[Draco,] Harry tried again, [what should I do?]
[I can't make that decision for you, Love,] Draco replied. [I'll always be with you, but you have to choose.]
[What are we supposed to eat first?]
[Whatever you choose?]
[But what if I choose wrong?]
[It'll be embarrassing.]
Somewhere at the back of Harry's mind he thought it might be more than that.
[So help me.]
Desperately Harry looked towards Dumbledore.
"What should I do?"
"Choose," the headmaster said as the bread in the basket in front of him began turning into sweets.
A feeling of dread started to swirl in Harry's stomach; he didn't know where to start. He turned to the other end of the table to see what Voldemort was doing. He was still smirking and the bowl of fruit near him was beginning to turn black.
"You should try the wine, Harry," Voldemort said.
Harry reached for his goblet desperate for something to do, but when he picked it up, the contents bubbled and swirled. Drinking would give him something to do he understood, but there was something wrong with the wine. With shaking hands he placed it back on the table.
"Desert is always nice," Dumbledore said, "it's waiting on the table behind you. We won't mind if you want to start there."
Turning, Harry realised that there was indeed a table behind him and it was stacked with all sort of sweet treats. All of his favourites were there.
"What about you?" he asked.
"Oh, we have to stay at this table," Dumbledore said, still smiling, "but Draco can come with you."
[Do you want dessert?] Harry asked his soulmate.
[If you do,] was the unhelpful response.
A horrible smell made him look back to Voldemort's end of the table. The fruit was putrid and decaying and the meat on the next platter had begun to change colour as well.
"Why don't you join me at this end of the table," Voldemort invited, "I can make everything good again."
The Dark Lord waved his hand and everything at his end of the table returned to how it had been, only Harry could still smell the rotten fruit.
"That's just an illusion," he said.
"And what's wrong with that?" Voldemort asked.
It was a game, Harry was sure it was a game and he didn't understand the rules.
He looked at all the cutlery and all the food, then at Dumbledore and Voldemort. Everything felt wrong. He couldn't do this; this wasn't something he knew how to do. His chair made an ugly scraping sound on the floor as he pushed it back.
Something had to be done; he knew that, even as Draco mirrored his actions on the other side of the table. He couldn't just sit there, but he couldn't start the meal like they wanted him to either. The cutlery was too unfamiliar, he would fumble it, he was sure, and embarrassing Draco would be the worst thing ever.
They said it was his choice, so he made it. He pulled out his wand and he aimed it at the table. The only way he could make this work was if he changed the rules.
With one swirl of his wand he lifted all the cutlery from his place setting off the table and brought it together. It warped and twisted and melted into one big mass of metal that slowly flowed into a huge knife. It glinted in the light as it lowered back to the table.
Harry picked it up and the handle felt solid in his hand.
"Very nice, Harry," Voldemort said, "but how do you plan to use that."
When Harry looked back at his enemy this time there were Death Eaters standing between him and Voldemort. Somehow Voldemort's chair had been pushed back from the table without Harry noticing and his followers were ringing him completely.
Harry looked at the knife, then at the Death Eaters. He didn't know what to do, but he was sure he was running out of time and he had to figure it out.
* * *
"They have moved," Harry heard a voice as his brain retreated from dreams and spiralled for consciousness.
His peculiar mind informed him that he was unshielded and there were at least two people standing no more than a few feet away.
He felt Draco react to the stimulus of his soulmate being in discomfort and they both opened their eyes at the same time. Harry realised he was lying on his side facing his lover with one arm thrown over Draco's chest. Draco was lying on his back and as his eyelids fluttered fully open he turned to meet Harry's gaze. Almost before either of them could think of anything else instinct kicked in and Draco's presence intensified in Harry's mind as he rebuilt the barriers that were currently non-existent in his head.
Only when this was complete did either of them look to see where they were and who was with them. Harry recognised the familiar surroundings of the warded room in the hospital wing instantly and the surprised, if slightly blurred, features of Hilde and Madam Pomfrey were not much harder to distinguish.
The brain was a wonderful thing; protecting itself from too much stimulation at the same time, and so it was that only after he had registered this fact did he remember why he was here.
"Sirius," Harry said very rapidly and sat up when the last image he had seen of his godfather being dissected by the wild magic filled his mind's eye.
Sitting up was a mistake and sitting up fast was an even bigger one. The room span, Harry's tentative grasp on consciousness flicked out for a second and when it came back he felt very, very nauseous.
"He's going to be sick," it was Madam Pomfrey's voice and the school nurse was by his side in a second, pushing a bowl under his nose.
He had no choice but to give in to the impulses of his body as his intestines tried to turn inside out. It was not pleasant trying to throw up when your stomach was in fact empty and the mixture of bile and stomach juices which he heaved into the bowl was uncomfortable. His throat burned and he coughed painfully.
"Take it slowly, Mr Potter," Madam Pomfrey's calm tones informed him kindly. "You have been lying down for a long time and you will need to adjust."
Draco's hand rubbing his back helped sooth the burning and prevented a repeat performance, but it didn't help Harry's need to know.
[He carried you back to school,] his soulmate's inner voice said knowing what he needed. [Last time I saw him he was whole and alive.]
Draco felt as weak and as confused as Harry did, but his words were like salve to an open wound. It was not everything Harry needed to know, but it calmed the panic that had threatened to send him right back into the darkness from which he had just escaped.
"Harry's shields are in place," Harry heard Draco say and then Madam Pomfrey was helping him sit back against the pillows.
The nurse fussed over him for a moment and his soulmate relaxed back onto the headboard next to him, but Harry could not contain himself for long.
"Sirius?" he croaked, drawing another cough from his uncooperative lungs.
Madam Pomfrey tutted and handed him the glass from the bedside table.
"Drink this slowly," she said and crossed her arms when he just looked at her. "Oh really," she continued disapprovingly, "your godfather is fine, incredibly well in fact for a man who has been dead for years. You will be able to see him as soon as I say you are well enough."
Harry took a sip of water as the woman glared at him sternly. He could not begin to describe the happiness that bubbled up from within him. Even the fact that Madam Pomfrey had put something foul tasting in the water could only keep the smile from his face for a fraction of a second.
[You did it,] Draco's tired voice said with pride and pleasure.
[We did it,] Harry replied and took another sip of the awful tasting liquid.
Neither Madam Pomfrey nor Hilde would tell them anything; it was like asking questions of a Muggle brick wall. Harry tried asking things and then Draco tried and all the women would do was avoid the whole thing, ask a question of their own or dose the pair with something else. If Harry hadn't been quite so tired he would have been relatively annoyed.
Both healer and Hecatemae expert threw a whole set of enquiries at Harry and Draco about how they were feeling, if they were experiencing any discomfort or side effects etc. etc. Even though he was frustrated that they gave no answers to any of his questions Harry responded to the women's enquiries calmly; he had long since learned that putting yourself on the wrong side of Poppy Pomfrey was a bad idea.
At some point during the inquisition Draco put his head on Harry shoulder and went back to sleep propped up by the pillows the school nurse had stacked around the pair. Harry was reminded of china dolls wrapped in cotton wool, but he didn't voice this opinion, that also would have been a bad idea. Not one to give up, he tried to rephrase some of the things he wanted to know and asked again, but he would have had more luck trying to talk to a blast-end Skrewt.
* * *
In the end Harry didn't actually remember when he fell asleep, all he knew was that he woke up to the smell of hot food. Madam Pomfrey was once again by the bedside and she was just putting down a large tray that held two steaming bowls. She looked at Harry thoughtfully as he blinked up at her and then the woman handed him his glasses.
"You need to rebuild your strength," the healer said pleasantly, "you should both eat. There are many people who would like to see you and once I am convinced you can both act in a sensible manner I will allow them in. Any repeat performances of this morning, Mr Potter, and I will keep them out until tomorrow. Is that understood?"
Harry nodded gravely: he was under no illusions as to who was in charge. Under Madam Pomfrey's watchful gaze he gently shook his lover's shoulder.
"Draco," he said tenderly, "time to wake up."
Grey eyes opened and peered up at him blearily.
[Food,] Harry said cheerfully.
That woke his soulmate up a bit more and when Draco pushed himself into a more upright position he looked and felt stronger than last time. Whatever potions Madam Pomfrey had fed them appeared to be working.
"Oh good," Draco said eagerly, "I'm starving."
The meal was some kind of stew and it tasted wonderful, however, Harry realised very quickly that what his mind thought he could eat and what his stomach could actually hold were two entirely different things. He managed to make it through about half of the bowl Madam Pomfrey gave him before he could not eat another mouthful. Putting his spoon back in the vessel, he glanced over to see that Draco was having a similar problem. He could not help but wonder how long they had been unconscious this time.
"Hmm," the school nurse said speculatively as both Harry and Draco looked up at her with their half empty bowls, "I suppose that will have to do."
Harry felt like a naughty schoolboy held back at playtime because he hadn't cleaned his plate; it was quite embarrassing. He was eighteen years old and yet under Madam Pomfrey's watchful eye he felt about five.
[I think I preferred it when they left us in here on our own,] he commented to his lover.
[Tell me about it,] Draco replied silently, [if she insists on holding my hand to the bathroom I am leaving even if I have to crawl.]
[I'll be right behind you,] Harry promised, but smiled politely as he handed the bowl back to the nurse.
"Now, gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey said firmly, "you may get out of bed if you wish, but you may not leave this room. You are both very weak and I will not have you wandering the halls. There is half an hour before the end of the normal school day, at which point I expect there will be a queue of visitors crowding up my hospital wing. I suggest you rest and relax; you are going to need all the strength you can muster if what I have had to put up with since you arrived is anything to go by."
Her tone was stern, but there was a smile playing at her lips. Harry and Draco nodded at her: they both knew what was good for them.
"Thank you," Harry said sincerely, "I don't know what we'd do without you."
"Probably draw a halt to life as we know it, Mr Potter," Madam Pomfrey said, "or something worse."
Harry smiled at her as she picked up the tray she had brought in and then efficiently removed herself from the room. The two soulmates looked at each other and Harry knew they were thinking the same thing.
"Bathroom," they voiced their opinion at the same time.
Being up to sitting in bed eating was not quite the same as having the strength to wander across the room in a carefree manner, as Harry and Draco found out very quickly. Legs that had been unused for some time did not like being put under any strain and Harry found himself leaning on Draco and his soulmate leaning on him in the same manner to make it to the bathroom. It could have been incredibly annoying, but Harry was in far too buoyant a mood to let it get him down. When they veered off course and he ended up clinging to the doorframe, he giggled.
[I've said it before and I'll say it again,] Draco commented as he reached for the other side of the door, [you have a strange sense of humour, Potter.]
[I don't know,] he replied as they ungracefully made it through the bathroom doorway, [two grown men staggering around like toddlers, I think it's pretty funny.]
His soulmate gave him a dirty look and steadied himself on the sink.
"Half-bloods," he commented aloud.
It took them another twenty minutes to use the bathroom and then head back to the bed. Harry did not think there was any danger of him breaking the rules and wandering the halls any time soon. A snigger escaped him as he lay on the bed where he had just collapsed after the walk back from the other room.
[What's so funny this time?] Draco asked; he was obviously not enjoying anything about the partially helpless idea.
Harry shared the mental image of the pair of them staggering towards the teachers' wing in their pyjamas that had caused him to laugh. When he glanced over at his soulmate there was a small smile trying to force its way onto Draco's face.
"Have you started to enjoy public humiliation?" Draco asked with a shake of his head.
"Well when you've managed it as many times as I have you have to get used to it or crawl into a hole and disappear," Harry replied looking back at the ceiling. "Being warped is far easier, and it helps me cope with you as well."
His lover swiped at him half-heartedly, but the comment did draw a laugh. They had both sat on the bed and flopped backwards when they returned from the bathroom and hence they were lying side by side on the bed with their feet over the edge still on the floor. It was not the most comfortable position.
"Can you move or are we stuck like this until someone comes in and helps us?" Draco asked as neither of them shifted.
Harry moved his head to look over at where his soulmate was lying and tried to push himself off the bed. He almost made it onto his side before he fell back again.
"We're stuck," he said and then burst out laughing.