Work Header

When The World Was Asleep

Work Text:

“Are you certain this is a good idea?” Draco doesn’t dare to speak above a whisper, heart beating high in his throat and cold creeping up his feet. (He really wishes he wore shoes, but Draco has raided the Manor's kitchen often enough to know that sneaking is easier in socks. Some things are worth the cold.)

“Yes, absolutely certain. 100%. Why, are you scared?” Theo is smirking back at him, the Lumos giving his face an eerie shine. Draco scowls at him. He is not afraid, he is not a baby after all!

Although, it is quite dark here. And they are all alone, in a castle they haven’t even begun to learn, twisting staircases sworn against them and ill-tempered portraits Draco doesn’t yet know well enough to bribe potentially watching and reporting their every move. Draco doesn’t even want to know what could happen if they were found out — surely there would be consequences.

Most importantly, his mother wouldn’t like it. Draco can already see her disappointed frown, the way she would hold the letter detailing Draco’s failure, looking from the lines the spot where Draco would be standing, praying to Merlin the ground would swallow him to escape her lecture. It would be useless to hope, foolish and far too late by then, her disapproval long since conveyed and shame hanging heavy over him.

Perhaps they shouldn’t do this. It was a bad idea, wandering through poorly lit corridors on nothing but promises, doomed to –

“Hey Draco, calm down. You trust me, don’t you?” That’s a big thing Theo is asking here, trust, but Draco finds himself nodding before he even realises that.

That is how he ended up here in the first place, agreeing too quickly, charmed by a smile. Draco was merely talking about breaking into the kitchen, Theo was the one who suddenly lit up and challenged him to do it. And Draco never could back down from a challenge.

“Good, that’s good. Just remember that and think of the pastries, alright? They will be worth it.” Draco would glare at Theo for treating him like a baby, but the thought of the delicious pastries is enough to spare Theo. Draco can smell them in the air already, can feel them calling out to him, just waiting for him to come and collect them.

“Exactly, so if you are done standing around, we can finally move on.” Draco almost sounds like his father when he uses that tone of voice, all subtle demand and politely covered impatience.

His father is never laughed at, though. It’s lucky for Theo that he is already walking again, or Draco would have to confront him about it. But as it is, Draco is sure they are nearly there, the pastries beckoning him closer and closer —

“Malfoy?” Draco stops, freezing at his name being called. Surely he must have heard wrong. Or maybe it was Theo, who is looking at Draco with wide eyes and, now that Draco thinks about it, actually sounds completely different. It most likely was not Theo. Which means someone is here, someone saw him and Draco needs to find a good excuse if he doesn’t want to be expelled. “What are you doing here?”

Now that he thinks about it, Draco knows that voice. Too young to be a professor, too suspicious to be a friend, oddly hostile from the very first moment — Potter. Of course, it has to be Potter. Of course.

Draco can only hope that Theo is still undiscovered, hidden in the shadows and disappearing back into them with a meaningful look. He’ll get the pastries while Draco stays and distracts Potter. Fantastic. At least Potter is easily handled, the only thing Draco has to do is make sure he has all of his attention. Draco has charmed enough of his father’s friends to know he can do that.

“Potter, such a nice surprise to meet you here!” A lie, obviously. Draco has never been less happy to see Potter.

Potter frowns even harder than before, which would be an admirable thing had anyone else done it (it still is, but Draco absolutely refuses to acknowledge that). Draco gifts him with his best smile, the one that convinces the house-elves to secretly bring him hot chocolate whenever he wants and more often than once made his mother smile when she was sad. Potter, however, looks more confused than anything else.

“Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you didn’t answer the question.” In truth Draco was hoping for exactly that. Apparently everything must be difficult with Potter. “I’ll ask again: what are you doing here?”

Draco has to resist turning around and checking the corridor Theo disappeared into. Potter might not be particularly smart (proven by his choice of clothes and friends) but even he would realise he is being masterfully distracted. No, Draco has to keep him here, too wrapped up in Draco to think of anything else. Only, now that his smile was not as appreciated as it deserves to be, Draco doesn’t know what else to do.

Draco isn't often helpless, but when he does find himself in such a situation, he knows a sure way out of them: what would his father do?

Lucius Malfoy surely never had to cover up pastry-smugglings, but Draco has seen him steer away nosey Ministry employees often enough to learn a thing or two.

Draco draws himself up to his full height, head held high and posture impeccable. He is taller than Potter, and Draco makes sure Potter knows that too, forcing him to look up at him. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I have permission to be here.”

Potter doesn’t believe him. He also doesn't answer the heavily implied do you have permission? He just stands there, glaring at Draco and not convinced at all. Draco can do better than this.

“You see, Professor Snape”, Draco watches with satisfaction as Potter’s expression darkens, “he trusted me with a special task. I’m afraid you can’t be trusted with the details —” That was the wrong thing to say.

Potter is a brute, half-wild and without manners. Draco really should have known that after he so rudely refused to shake hands with Draco, but he didn’t think Potter would go as far as attacking him. That is exactly what Potter does though, making low grumbling noises that might be words and lunging at him, getting dangerously close to Draco.

This, Draco thinks, is what his father means when he talks about blood supremacy. Muggles are basically animals — less evolved than even some animals, one might argue — and the only thing they are good at is spreading their filth and tainting everything they touch. And blood, more than anything else, is vulnerable as much as it is strong.

Potter, however, stops, a few inches away from choking the life out of Draco, staring at something over his shoulder. Which is extremely rude, even for Potter. If he is going to attack someone he can at least look at them at them while he does it. That’s just basic decency.

“Brought your friends, did you Malfoy? I should have known. His Highness doesn’t go anywhere by himself, after all.” Friends? What is Potter talking — Theo. Theo must have returned, carelessly didn’t check if Potter was still around and now Draco’s pastries are in danger.

This might be worse than being killed by Potter (he would at least die a mourned martyr, sure to be avenged).

Draco has to think fast if he wants any chance of turning this disaster around. He knows exactly what his father would do: smoothly hint at generous donations waiting in the future, promise his support or silence on certain matters. Lucius Malfoy is good at making people see reason, and he made sure Draco knows every trick there is. That also involves judging when the effort is worth the outcome though. Potter, in his stubborn naivety and annoying moral righteousness — bribing him would be exhausting and require more time than he has. While Draco would love to wear him down, prove that Potter is not better than him, much as he likes to act it, he needs to be smart about this.

“Oh, you mean Theo? He is just carrying — well, you don’t need to know what he is carrying. Professor Snape would not be pleased to hear we are talking about his best-kept secrets so freely.” Potter’s eyes light up, focusing on the basket as if he could coax it’s secrets by staring hard enough. Draco would call that a full success, very quietly so no one can overhear and mess with the next steps of his brilliant scheme.

“What are you bringing him?” Potter’s voice is a hilarious mixture of horrified and interested, wanting to know more despite himself. Exactly as planned. Draco can hardly keep the proud expression of his face.

“I couldn’t possibly tell you! He would be very angry if he heard.” That finally gets Potters attention again, looking at Draco instead of the pastries.

Potter is thinking hard, studying Draco as if looking for a trap. He won’t find it though, Draco is too smart to be caught.

“What if I promise not to tell anyone?” It doesn’t escape Draco that, as eager as Potter sounds, he hasn’t actually promised not to tell. Did Potter notice too? More likely he simply plans on breaking his promise, that Potter should possess a stealthy wit as doubtful as him not telling Weasley the first chance he gets. That’s fine with Draco, once they are out of this situation, they can deny everything. Who is going to believe Potter over them?

Draco makes a great show of considering Potter’s proposal, glancing between him and the pastries, watching him grow more and more impatient. It’s only Theo’s subtle cough that startles him out of his game, Draco could have gone on all night.

“Alright, as long as you promise not to breathe a single word about this!” Potter still doesn’t promise, only nods vaguely as he pushes past Draco to look into the basket. Draco would be insulted if Potter wasn’t neatly falling into Draco's trap, his face lighting up as he discovers the pastries.

“You are bringing pastries to Snape? Ron swore that old bat sucks blood out of students at night. Just wait until he hears …” Potter trails off, finally realising what ‘not telling anyone’ means. If it wasn’t so bothersome, Draco could almost admire his loyalty.

“Now Potter, you better remember what you promised. You said you would keep the secret.” Potter looks conflicted for all but a second, before he juts his chin out and crosses his arms, turning to scowl at Draco. He probably means to look determined, hoping Draco won’t argue with what he says next, but Draco really wants to tell him he looks like a pouting toddler. He would, too, if it wasn’t important to the plan that Potter feels he has the upper hand here.

So Draco doesn’t say it; instead he focuses on the picture he makes and tries his best to commit it to memory to tease him later.

“I think I changed my mind about that, Malfoy. It doesn’t seem fair to me, that you get all these pastries and I have to keep the secret and not get even one.” Draco doesn’t point out that they shouldn’t get pastries either, that in this scenario, Snape would want them all for himself. This is what Draco aimed for after all, to bribe Potter with pastries into letting them go without Potter realising he is being manipulated. It’s by far the most effective way out.

After some grumbling and watching Potter look smug, once again interrupted by Theo (why did Draco bring him again?) Draco heaves a sigh and gestures at the pastries. “Fine, you may choose one. You are lucky I feel generous tonight.”

Potter snorts but doesn’t answer him. Draco is oddly disappointed at that.

“They all look good, how am I supposed to choose one?” That is a problem Draco can relate to, the first sign that Potter does have some decent values after all.

“Just take a treacle tart, you’ll like it.” Potter grins at him, forgetting for a moment that he doesn’t like Draco, and takes the pastry. Theo looks bored out of his mind, but Draco can’t bring himself to care, not when he can watch Potter have his first taste of the tart.

Saying Draco is nervous as he watches him chew would be too much, but he definitely wants to know how Potter likes it. Not that he cares about Potter’s opinion, obviously, this is purely about making sure he judged him right. That’s all there is to it.

Draco forgets all about justifying his nerves at Potter’s slow smile.

“This is really good. Who would have thought you have such good taste, Malfoy?” Potter smiles at him, half of his face covered in crumbles from the sweet pastry, his eyes almost friendly.

Draco wants to answer something snide, something about how they are all lost if Potter were to be a judge of good taste, but he is completely lost in that smile. It’s unfair, that Potter can make him lose his mind with nothing but a smile, that he looks so handsome despite the crumbs on his face.

Draco doesn’t want Potter to ever stop smiling at him.

“While this is all very nice, Draco and I do have to go now. Snape is waiting and all that. Goodnight, Potter.” Draco could curse Theo as he drags him away, forcing him to leave Potter standing all alone, the pastry still in his hand and the smile growing smaller.

“Get it together Malfoy, how much longer did you want to stand around there?” Right, yes. Draco was not supposed to take this long, to stare at Potter and think about how nice he looks. Thank Merlin Theo was there to remind him of his priorities.

(If Draco finds his thoughts slipping back to that night and Potter’s smile, if he ever thinks about maybe offering Potter a second treacle tart to see that smile again and break the silence hanging over the moment, well, no one has to know.)

Draco never liked the dark. It’s the oldest of cliches, fear of the unknown, embarrassing and pathetic, but not even his father’s increasingly reckless attempts at conquering this weakness could cure him. No, Draco never liked the dark and he still doesn’t, but it’s getting harder and harder to escape.

It’s easy enough to distract himself during the day, to sneer and scoff and flaunt derision like a shield around him. But at night, laying in a bed, sleep long since abandoned, there is nothing to hide him from the looming shadows. Draco tried to ignore them, pretended he didn’t know where his father kept disappearing to, kept his head down and hoped things would be over before they started. It was foolish and naive, the prayers of a scared little boy still believing in miracles and heroes.

Somewhere along the way, Draco lost his ability to deny the undeniable. He can’t act like everything is normal anymore, like Potter is just a demented nut-case clamouring for attention.

Damned Potter, he really has an aggravating predilection of ruining Draco’s life. Of course he has to be involved in this nightmare, always the root of chaos. The public might not believe Potter, might be better than Draco at deliberate ignorance, but Draco knows Potter is responsible for this. And yet Potter has the gall to run around like he is the victim here, suffering and moping and making sure everyone is aware of it. Draco can’t stand it.

Arguably the worst thing is that he can’t even complain about the git effectively. There are things better not talked about, and while making fun of Potter’s hair used to be enough, it doesn’t address the real problem anymore. Most likely it never did in the first place, but back then Draco was better at ignoring his problems. These days they never leave him, imposing in silent judgement, impossible to forget or outrun.

That doesn’t mean that Draco doesn’t try. He might have lost his naivety, but he is still stubborn. So he keeps on not acknowledging the truth beyond conceding its existence, keeps on walking and tells himself he doesn’t realise the darkness is gaining ground, that things will crumble very soon.

At least this way, his magic keeping up the small ball of light, his feet carrying him through the now familiar corridors, Draco feels like he has some control left, the semblance of a choice.

Draco is in fact so determined to just walk straight ahead and tune out everything else, that he doesn’t realise he isn’t as alone as he thought until he runs into someone else. And it’s undeniably someone Draco collides with, their hands grabbing his arms for balance and their heads knocking together. It’s painful and undignified and the absolute last thing Draco needs.

“Watch where you’re going, you arrogant wanker.” Draco moves past them, hoping to avoid having a conversation and get on with his brooding.

“That’s rich coming from you.” He knows that voice, would recognise it anywhere — Potter. Of course it’s Harry bloody Potter. Just when Draco thought this night couldn’t possibly get worse.

“Potter, what a pleasant surprise to meet you here.” Potter looks tired, the small light casting shadows on his face and revealing the dark circles under his eyes, the mussed mess of his hair. Potter looks about as wretched as Draco feels. And yet here he stands, head high in defiance and daring Draco to comment. Potter has always been stupidly brave.

Draco doesn’t know how to deal with him, with how uncompromisingly Potter reflects the emotions Draco tries so hard to bury in himself.

“Can’t say the pleasure is mutual.” There is something about the way Potter says it, hollow and not quite there, the most obvious retort that Draco would have perhaps expected from Weasley, but that seems far too flat for Potter. It grates on him, already unsettled by Potter’s appearance and his pent-up frustration, oddly offended by Potter’s lack of originality in his jape.

This isn’t like Potter at all, devoid of any tangible emotion, eyes glazed over, entirely too still. Potter looks vacant, not really present, staring right through Draco and seeing nothing. This goes beyond one night of little sleep, beyond simply being startled by running into Draco. Now that he considers it, Potter has been like this for weeks now, even months, maybe.

Draco never thought this day would come, but he misses Potter. He misses poking Potter’s temper and watching his anger flare up, wants to see the spark in his eyes and hear his voice full of — right. Draco didn’t realise he spent quite this much time thinking about Potter. Or that it would hit him this hard to see Potter hurt.

For some reason, that only makes Draco angrier.

Who does Potter think he is? Standing there all sad and vulnerable, sparing Draco not even a glance, too absorbed in his misery. This was supposed to be Draco’s escape, the one time of the day that he can just exist and — admittedly — indulge his own misery for a few hours. But Potter has to steal these too, hasn’t he?

Well, Draco is done letting Potter take whatever he wants. He has seen enough, has limited himself to comments and observations when he should have stepped in far sooner. And now see where it got him. Draco’s life is falling apart, Potter is once again claiming the spotlights and nothing is making sense anymore.

Potter still just looks through him, not moved at all and standing far too close — why does he stand this close? No wonder Draco can’t think, not with Potter crowded against him and invading his mind, leaving him no space to move let alone form thoughts. If Draco could just get some space, just some time to consider all of this, preferably away from Potter and his oppressive quiet.

It’s too much, Potter close enough to count the freckles on his face but so far away, emotions whirling inside Draco and refusing to settle down, everything loud and hurt and so full — Draco pushes Potter away.

There is an unexpected rush of giddy satisfaction cursing through him, seeing Potter stumble and knowing Draco is the one who made him lose his footing — it’s an intoxicating kind of power like Draco never felt before.

“What the hell, Malfoy?” Finally. This is the Potter Draco wants, spitting mad and glaring, anger coiling around him and his eyes boring into Draco.

This is exactly what Draco needed, not to wander alone in these drab halls or to turn his thoughts over and over again. No, all he needed was Potter, shoving him hard against the wall, his fury burning away everything else.

“What? Nothing more to say? Pathetic, Malfoy. I thought you had more fight than that.” The words are whispered into his ear, Potter’s breath hot against his face, his hands holding Draco’s wrists, pressing him into the wall with his fight.

As loath as Draco is to admit it, Potter is right. This fight was embarrassingly short. It can barely even be classified as a fight, not with how easily Potter restrained him.

As cleansing as Potter’s anger might be, Draco resents being handled like this, like it doesn’t take any effort at all to keep him pinned. Potter is lucky Draco can’t reach his wand, or their positions would be turned before Potter realised what happened. Then Draco would be the one smirking.

Unfortunately, all Draco can actually do is struggle in Potter’s hold, trying to free his hands and push him off. Potter only laughs at his efforts, that bastard.

“Don’t give yourself too much credit Potter, I’m simply too sophisticated to excel in this brutish muggle brawling. Figured you would be good at it, considering —”

“Merlin, Malfoy, just shut up for once, would you?” Before Draco can respond to that, can even think of what to say to that, Potter is kissing him.

If it can be called a kiss, that is, brutal and biting, much more forceful than any of the tentative kisses Draco shared before. Much better too. Potter knows exactly what he wants, hands gripping tightly at his hair, pulling Draco’s head up to meet him, crowding him closer against the wall.

It’s overwhelming, Potter’s lips on his, the desperate noises he makes, his hair between Draco’s fingers, everything hot around them, muffled, nothing as important as Potter kissing him, demanding more and more until Draco’s lungs burn from the lack of air.

Draco never wants him to stop.

Potter breaks away suddenly, panting heavily and staring at Draco in wonder, the hands in his hair softened to almost cradling Draco’s face. Potter’s eyes are glazed again, unfocused from pure pleasure and because of Draco, this time. It’s a far better look on him.

No matter how good Potter looks like this though — lips red and kiss-bitten, skin flushed dark, hair a mess — Draco wants him closer again. He wants to feel his hunger again, wants to lose himself in Potter and see what noises he can get him to make, wants to brace himself against Potter’s ferocity and forget the world around them.

Potter stubbornly resists Draco tugging his hair to get him back down. It’s a whole new kind of cruelty Draco didn’t think him capable of, taunting him with being so near and so out of reach. He leans over Draco and just looks at him, Potter’s fingers tracing his cheekbones, his nose, his lips, sending shivers down his spine. It's wonderful and tantalising and not enough, not what Draco wants.

“Are you going to kiss me again, or what?” The moment the words leave his mouth, Draco wishes he hadn’t said them.

Potter breaks away as if suddenly realising just who he is pressed up against, glancing up and down the corridor in wild panic and leaving Draco stumbling at the sudden loss. It’s abundantly clear, even without the bewildered look Potter shoots him before turning around and running away — Draco broke the moment, beyond repair.

Alone again in the echoing darkness, Draco can’t help but feel he should have expected this. Good things never last. And whatever else that kiss was (fantastic, consuming, addictive, tender, primal) it was definitely a good thing.

Potter quite effectively ruined the brooding wanderer thing for Draco. It’s not about escaping anymore, with just one encounter Potter made it all about him. Draco simultaneously hopes and dreads to run into him again. There are only so many nights he could meander through the corridors, not sure what he is looking for and even less certain if he wants to find it.

So, after glaring at Potter and cursing him under his breath, Draco decides he needs a new habit. Something to keep him busy when the night brings truths he doesn’t want to face.

Breaking into the Prefects’ bathroom seemed like the ideal task.

Draco has always enjoyed charms, liked figuring how they all work together to build the most complex of wards and constructions. Plus, dismantling wards is a necessary skill when one is as unabashedly curious as Draco is. With his friends all knowing better than to leave their things unprotected, he learnt early on to sneak past the protective charms they would put on their trunks. All things considered, snooping is a very rewarding fault. Draco learnt more than his fair share of secrets, and the better his friends got at warding, the better he got at evading them.

Even with all that experience though, cracking Hogwarts’ wards seems more than a little daunting. Probably a good thing. Anything else would have been concerning, to say the least. Since Draco has no intention of actually breaking in though, that hardly matters. It’s about the puzzle, the thrill of discovering something new in the never ending maze that is Hogwarts.

Draco wouldn't turn down a bath either, should he by some miracle find a way through. He heard enough whispered fantasies about the spigots, dazzling scents and iridescent bubbles to know only an utter fool would decline when opportunity presents itself. It doesn’t even need the added intrigue of access being restricted to snatch Draco’s attention. If the rumours are to be believed, it’s the most luxurious space Hogwarts has to offer. Maybe Draco would finally find something in this castle that satisfies his standards.

Thus prepared to spend the night sitting in front of a locked door, mind deep in complex magic work and all his problems forgotten, Draco thinks he can be forgiven for some befuddlement when the heavy door gives under his pro forma nudge. And he really can’t be faulted for going inside, not when the door is already open in an invitation that could not be clearer.

In fact, the one thing that Draco will take any critique on is stopping in surprise once he sees who’s already in there. Because of course it would be sodding Potter.

The only saving grace here is that Potter looks as shocked as Draco to see him.

They probably both should have expected this. After all, fate does have a way of throwing them together. But standing here, the air humid and filled with glittering bubbles, too many scents all around to name them, Draco doesn’t think of fate and how he should resent being forced back to Potter again and again.

This is the last thing Draco expected. He thought he would be safe from Potter and the haunting thoughts about that kiss, that he could postpone untangling the mess of emotions the memory causes in him. The most spectacular thing Draco was prepared to handle was someone catching him tinkering with the wards and having to come up with a cover. Instead he stares like an idiot, none of his excuses fitting and torn between joining Potter and getting out of here.

“You can stop staring now, Malfoy. I was here first and I refuse to leave.” Right, that settles it then. Draco can’t leave now, not when it would look like admitting defeat after what Potter just said. If Potter doesn’t have a problem with this … unorthodox situation, Draco doesn’t either. Any embarrassment he might feel is shoved down without acknowledgement, the heat blamed for his flush and the surprise for his hesitation. Yes, Draco is completely fine.

He closes the door and steps further into the room, closer to Potter. Potter who, to Draco’s immense satisfaction, clearly didn’t expect him to come in.

“I suppose we'll just have to share then, Potter.” It’s a miracle Draco is able to keep his composure and not let his nerves show, smoothly covering the uncertainty bubbling up in him with a teasing smirk.

Malfoy’s aren’t flustered, not even when they are about to bathe with an arch-nemesis they have confusing feelings for.

Before he can change his mind and bow to the increasingly loud voice in him demanding he get out of here as fast as possible, Draco strips himself of his clothes. There is nowhere private to change, a glaring oversight in planning that is easier to focus on than the awareness of Potter’s eyes on him. Seriously, who designed a bathroom with absolutely no space to hide? It speaks of nothing but incompetence and sloppiness and if Draco could he would —

The moment he is naked Draco flees into the relative cover the foam provides. It’s regrettably less opaque than he hoped, not actually offering much of a wall between him and Potter. At least Potter who finally realised how rude staring is and looks into the opposite direction, blushing up to his roots and shifting where he sits, collecting more foam around himself. It does nothing to obscure the view.

“Enjoying your bath, Potter?” Draco wishes something would break out of the water and swallow him whole. How did he think that was a good idea to say out loud? It’s almost excessive in how embarrassing it is, causing Draco to flush in what he knows is a most unflattering shade of red and Potter to turn back towards him, splashing widely and spluttering.

Well, at least he got Potter’s attention. Draco firmly believes that anything that gets him Potter’s attention can’t be completely horrible. He might have to rethink that one though.

“Am I — what are you even doing here?” It's a good question, Draco has to concede that much.

“I believe I have as much right to be here as you do.” Which boils down to essentially no right at all, not that it matters right now. Although — “I would like to know what you are doing here. Aren’t you supposed to be a paragon of goodness? That means no breaking and entering, not even for purple bubbles.”

“I didn’t break in! I know the password.” Potter looks triumphant for all but a second, before he frowns. Draco has the uncomfortable suspicion that he could watch Potter think all day, expressions flickering over his face and eyes lighting up in excitement or righteous indignation.

“I knew last year’s password, which probably shouldn't have worked ...” Potter trails off here, staring at Draco with wide eyes as he realises the implications of his sentence.

“Hogwarts simply let you in as well? Why even bother with wards if she makes exceptions for everyone who is passing by?” Draco doesn’t think he said anything indecent, but Potter looks at him in alarm.

“Are you telling me Hogwarts set us up?” Draco can only stare at Potter, the question asked in all seriousness and whispered as if afraid someone could overhear.

Potter’s sudden paranoia is enough to infect Draco, making him suspicious of the walls around him. He didn’t consider this, that Hogwarts could have brought them, specifically Potter and Draco, here to — for what exactly?

This suddenly feels like a very bad romance, the ones Pansy likes to read even though she doesn’t admit it. The main characters, fighting since the day they met, unexpectedly locked up together and discovering long hidden secrets in the steaming bath. Draco can almost see the cover already. They would hold each other in a passionate embrace, looking deep into each others eyes as if —

“Hello Harry, how nice and unexpected to meet you here!” There is the ghost of a girl suddenly sitting between them. Draco is too surprised to do anything but stare at her, nestling up against Potter and ignoring his horrified expression.

“Myrtle! Hi, I, I didn’t … what are you doing here, Myrtle?” Potter evidently knows the girl, though he seems as surprised as Draco by her appearance and not at all pleased, scooting away in futile attempts to create some space between them.

This is not something Draco was prepared to deal with — neither Potter, nor Myrtle and least of all the bizarre relationship they apparently have — and Draco would be lying if he said he doesn’t mind being eclipsed by her, but he is also very intrigued. Myrtle has been here for only a few seconds and has already created quite the spectacle, and Draco rather enjoys seeing Potter this flustered.

“Oh I was just passing by, terribly alone and looking for a friend … and now here you are.” Her speech is interrupted by an excessive amount of sighing and significant looks Potter is too busy scooting to see. It’s all very dramatic. Draco fully approves.

“Yes, right, here I am. Myrtle, would you mind—” She talks right over him, nodding eagerly up until that point but not interested in listening to Potter’s plea. Draco supposes that is just as well, she likely would have ignored it anyway and if Potter doesn’t learn to speak up he really can’t expect people to respect his wishes.

“Do you remember the last time we were here?” Potter evidently does remember, choking on air inhaled too fast and coughing inconveniently loud, obscuring most of what Myrtle says. Draco isn’t sure whether to be grateful or disappointed that he doesn’t hear what is sure to be a colourful retelling of their last meeting. “I was hoping we could —”

“Myrtle, have you met Draco Malfoy?” Oh, that’s him. Myrtle’s head whirls around worryingly fast, eyes pinning him in place as she inspects him. It’s a very tense few seconds in which she scrutinises him with more seriousness than Draco thought her capable of, before she giggles and waves at him. Draco isn’t entirely sure, but he thinks he passed some kind of test.

“So Draco, how do you know my Harry?” Potter sputters and curses next to her, denying the claim of possession in the most clumsy way possible. Really, Myrtle should have picked someone with grace and grandeur to fawn over, she deserves better than Potter’s foul mutterings. Though Draco has to admit, there is something oddly endearing in the way Potter tries so hard to be polite, to let her down gently.

“He cruelly rejected my offer of friendship, can you imagine? We have been sworn enemies ever since.” Draco is too busy smirking at Potter’s glare to fully listen to Myrtle’s maudlin reaction to this ‘tragedy of destined souls’, but it sounds appropriately overbearing and Potter is still charmingly embarrassed, so he doesn’t really care.

“He rejected me too, you know.” That gets Draco’s attention again, Myrtle bends towards him as far as possible while pressed against Potter, voice pitched low to a conspirator murmur. “I offered him a place to stay with me should he unfortunately die on one of his little adventures, but he stubbornly refuses to die! And he never visits, though he always promises he will.”

That is indeed very scandalous, Potter looks ready to die right here and now, and Draco can’t hold his laughter back for much longer. This entire situation is too ridiculous. Myrtle’s overbearing presentations, Potter clearly desperate to be literally anywhere else, the fact that this is likely a regular occurrence — how is anyone not supposed to laugh at how preposterous it all is?

“I told you I’m sorry for not visiting more often. I’ll try to come by soon, okay?” It’s a desperate plea that not even Potter himself believes in, and Myrtle shakes her head in disappointment.

“You always say that, you never do though.” Before Potter has a chance to defend himself against the not-quite-accusation, Myrtle dives back into the waters with a last despairing howl. Rather more sudden than Draco expected; but then, so was this entire encounter. Anything else, more normal, would have been disappointing.

Yes, Draco will simply have to make sure that this time, Potter keeps his promise to visit. Draco will drag him there himself, just to make sure.

“You can stop laughing now, you smug bastard.” Draco hadn’t even been realising it, trying to keep the laughter suppressed and apparently only succeeding in holding back the sound while his entire body shakes from it. Well, no sense in holding back anymore.

Potter doesn’t look amused as Draco breaks out laughing, pouting and scowling at him, only making Draco laugh harder.

“Oh, shut up already.” This time Draco really does stop laughing. He supposes anyone would, if they were suddenly aggressively kissed after convincing themselves that it wasn’t going to happen again and they had absolutely no problem with that.

A few kisses shared in secret are no excuse to be this invested. Draco doesn’t know when he started caring and he knows even less how to deal with it. This was never supposed to happen. Things weren’t meant to evolve further than their rivalry, damning enough in its intensity.

Feelings, those are what brings the real trouble.

It might have been alright if they could have continued as they were, accidentally meeting all over the castle, spending sleepless nights together that could be discarded in the light of the day. Draco could have gone on hiding from the growing realisation, could have blamed the orchestrated intimacy of the late hour and never thought about it again.

But Potter just had to get hurt.

Objectively, it’s nothing dramatic. A Quidditch accident, Potter’s had worse. Draco’s heart (foolish, obsessive as it is, unaware of the tragedy it announces with every beat) couldn’t be reasoned with though, demanding he visit Potter to make sure the git is alright. As if Draco could do that better than the highly qualified Mrs. Pomfrey, but Draco’s heart stubbornly ignored logic. It didn’t care that Potter wasn’t supposed to matter like this, that Draco might have stalked into the Hospital Wing to make fun of Potter for his fall, have his fans shoved around a little, maybe, but under no circumstances was Draco meant to become as useless as them, wanting to hold Potter's hand until he is better again.

It’s a despicable weakness Draco wasn’t even aware of, discovered too late to avoid and frightening in its size.

Not that knowing this makes it any easier to deal with. Knowing that visiting Potter with all his friends there would be a bad idea doesn’t mean some part of Draco doesn’t yearn to go, willing to accept the suspicious looks and Potter's facade dripping in false bravado telling everyone he is fine – Draco would have accepted it all as long as he could just be there.

Draco honestly doesn’t know where he found the quite remarkable amount of restraint necessary to keep from throwing away all decorum and give in to his instincts, but he somehow manages to preserve the image of unaffected arch-enemy.

But it’s late now, any reasonable person asleep, no one here except them. It’s rather cruel, how Draco came to crave what doomed him, but he will have to contemplate that later. Potter is more important than Draco’s internal crisis.

“Did you come to laugh at me?” How Draco wishes Potter were right.

It would be so easy, to pretend this is why he’s here, say something rude and insulting about Potter’s skill and watch him fume. But looking at him, pale and thin in the sterile bed, Draco can’t bring himself to say it.

Potter looks horrible, worse than a fall really should be. It fits neatly into the picture of the tragic, hurt hero, and Draco resents that he falls for it. He can’t decide whether this gets better or worse by knowing that it really isn’t an overly-dramatised tale of suffering but Harry, the boy Draco has been catching glimpses of and been meeting with.

If Draco hadn’t known, he could have taunted him with snide remarks and left, feeling smug and superior. It would have been simple, almost no thinking required, what he has done all his life.

Since Draco does know though, he doesn’t answer the question.

Potter doesn’t need to know why Draco really came, doesn’t need to hear about the unpleasant realisation of even more unpleasant feelings, should never learn how much power he holds over Draco.

So, to save himself the embarrassment of an incredibly saccharine answer, Draco silently sits down in the chair next to the bed.

Neither of them is saying anything, Draco because he can’t trust what comes out of his mouth and Potter because he’s a stubborn and childish bastard who lacks the proper decorum to make this more bearable and talk over Draco’s silence. Back in the dorm, pacing and listing the reasons to wait over and over again, Draco didn’t anticipate how awkward this visit would be.

Perhaps Draco should just leave again. After all, he gave in and came here, against all logic, to make sure Potter is alright. And Potter is; painfully frail and quiet but nonetheless fairly healthy and surely back to his obnoxiously bright behaviour tomorrow. No need to remain any longer.

Except that Draco doesn’t want to go. Everything in him rebels against the idea of leaving Potter alone, with no one here should he need something and nothing to do in what is sure to become a long night. What would Draco even do? Sleep is further from his mind than it ever was, his thoughts running with no end in sight, peace unreachable. He would just stand on the other side of the door, too weak to leave and too proud to return.

If Draco is going to stay anyway he might as well try and salvage what dignity he has left. Besides, pacing out in the corridor like a misbehaving dog sent outside is not a very appealing picture. Draco would rather not experience it first-hand.

Not that this stupid chair is a much more comfortable prospect, digging into his back and too small to move around. It’s also bound to become cold sooner rather than later; freezing and cramped up is simply more than Draco is willing to accept.

Before he has much time to think and doubt, Draco stands again, glances up at Harry reaching for him, and climbs onto the bed.

The bed is smaller than it seemed. Too small for two people, really.

Potter is very close, suddenly, their noses almost touching. It’s still all very awkward, Draco balancing over Potter because he intended to move him to the side and stopped in the middle of the movement, Potter looking up at him in confusion, the moment stretched too long.

“Hi there.” It’s probably the stupidest, most uninspired and absurd thing Potter could have said. Draco leans down to kiss his smile.

Things are better after that, novel and strange but thrilling, too. They fit together, not perfectly and not on the first try, but they make it work; Potter’s arms around Draco, clinging like he is afraid Draco will leave, Draco curled around him, hands idly tracing his spine and drawing patterns on his back, protecting Potter from the outside.

Pressed close to Potter, feeling his steady breath under his hands and on his neck, Draco has never slept this deep.

Potter is late. He usually is, always getting distracted or too polite to tell people to bother him some other time, but Draco really isn’t in the mood to wait for him today. He’s had a horrible day of friends teasing him over absent-minded smiles and needing to bargain for Theo’s notes because he was too distracted all day to take his own. That alone is annoying enough, but the fact that his behaviour could be interpreted as mooning over a secret boyfriend, all too easily, doesn't help matters. As if Pansy needed any more encouragement.

So yes, Draco would very much like to go to sleep now. Which he won’t be doing until Potter deigns to show up.

It’s moments like these when Draco regrets this whole arrangement. They both sleep better together, that’s undeniable by now, but sometimes he doubts if sleep really is worth all the hassle. Usually that is around the time when Potter storms through the door with some poor excuse, and, snuggled deep under the covers with the steady beat of Potter’s heart lulling him to sleep, Draco always forgets his irritation.

But Potter still isn’t here, and Draco has waited long enough. He’ll simply have to collect the git. Even if that means fishing him out of that dreadfully red common room Potter insists is comfortable. Draco swore he would never set as much as a foot in there, back when they argued over whose bed they should sleep in and Potter refused to acknowledge that Draco’s is obviously the superior choice.

Now that he thinks about it, Potter might actually be trying to goad him into sleeping in his bed. He has been sulking since he finally accepted Draco wouldn’t make any concessions on that point. Potter trying to trick him in such a blunt fashion is not exactly out of the realm of possibilities.

Well, Draco will make sure Potter regrets insulting him like that. The least he could have done is come up with something clever.

Draco does not expect to run into Potter in his own common room, clutching his now fairly useless invisibility cloak to his chest and glaring at his friends. It would make for an amusing picture, if Draco weren't the one who has to answer them all. He really hoped to avoid that. A foolish hope maybe, considering his friends are all terribly nosey and Potter is not subtle in anything he does, but Draco hoped nonetheless.

“Ah Draco, look who I caught trying to sneak in.” Theo’s smirk is far too knowing, far too pleased with himself. Theo knows, and he has no intention of allowing Draco an elegant out.

Potter whirls around at Theo’s words, his entire posture sagging in relief and smiling when he sees Draco. There goes Draco’s last shred of hope that he would somehow be able to salvage this disaster. But Potter smiling at him instead of insulting him? Not many things could possibly explain that happening.

“Trying to smuggle your boyfriend past us, are you?” Daphne is clearly pleased with herself too; judging by her mocking tone though, she hasn’t figured out how close to the truth she has come.

Unaware as she might be, Draco wishes she hadn’t phrased it like that. Potter isn’t his boyfriend, likely never will be, and Draco has come to terms with the reality of that, that Potter is only here because Draco practically forced him and he doesn't have a better option at the moment. Draco doesn’t need Daphne’s snide comment reminding him how precarious the situation is.

“Yes, he is. Anything else you would like to say?” The room falls silent. Everyone (including Draco, to his utter shame) stares at Potter in astonishment. Potter, who glares at Draco’s friends, daring them to object, standing proud and defiant and boldly proclaiming himself Draco’s boyfriend. His boyfriend – Draco likes how that sounds.

Watching him now, every bit the hero everyone expects him to be, undeniably the boy Draco got to know when the world was asleep, Draco finds he doesn’t mind Potter essentially making that decision for him.

Draco still feels stunted, somehow, unsure of the appropriate reaction but giddy excitement threatening to overwhelm him. The one thing he is sure of, is that Potter is standing far too far away for his liking. He also isn’t willing to wait around here until the inevitable teasing and interrogating begins.

“Wonderful, if that's all then, we are going to leave now.” No one dares to protest as Draco takes Potter’s hand and drags him away, Potter himself only smiling and squeezing his hand in return.

Draco doesn’t allow himself to linger on how perfectly their hands fit together, how nice simply touching Potter feels, but this is definitely something he could grow used to.

Looking back over his shoulder and immediately caught in Potter’s bright smile, Draco knows he won’t ever grow used to this, the warmth of affection and happiness flowing through him and making him smile too, impossibly light, the rest of the word fading into insignificance. But that is alright, Draco can’t think of a better future than discovering Potter’s smile every day anew.