Author's Note: This was my submission for the Live Journal HD Cliché Fest 2014. It is a completed multi-chapter story that I haven't had time to post here until now. I figured that in honor of the snow day we are having in what I like to describe as an artic wasteland, I would post one chapter for every day I have off due to the snow. When the snow days end, I will post once a week, probably on Tuesday or Wednesdays.
"Mum's pot roast is my favorite; I'm stuffed fuller than a bird on Christmas. Do you think Hermione can learn to cook as good as my mum?" Ron asked as we made our way through the grounds of Malfoy Manor.
"Don't know; your mum set the bar pretty high with that one," I replied, approaching the front door.
We were Junior Aurors now, Ron and I, and the job title came complete with an assignment. That assignment happened to be at Malfoy Manor, where we've been working guard duty for months now.
"Yeah, she did, didn't she?" Ron asked climbing the stairs now.
"Absolutely." We stopped at the second floor landing.
"I'll take Narcissa; you take the git?"
That was how we always split up guard duty, with me watching Draco and Ron watching Narcissa. She and Draco Malfoy were on house arrest until the Ministry could get around to scheduling their trials. Lucius Malfoy was in a cell in the Ministry's holding facilities, but those facilities were extremely crowded and I had argued that she and Draco should be granted leniency. I got my way, thanks in part to my friendship with the current Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, which meant that Ron, four other Junior Aurors, and I had guard duty at Malfoy Manor.
"Wouldn't have it any other way," I replied, walking towards Draco's room to relieve Jackson, the day guard. I was used to guarding Draco and happy to continue the arrangement for another night. Watching him really wasn't all that bad.
When I entered the room, Jackson looked up from his book and nodded at me. He had been sitting on a chair in front of Draco's bathroom door, but now he got up to stretch.
"Malfoy's sick. He's been in there all day puking and what not. I reported it to Robards and he sent back an owl saying that he'll send Nurse Prichard over tomorrow or the next day to take a look at him. But if Malfoy takes a turn for the worst, you're supposed to apparate him to the Ministry holding cells and they'll take care of him there," Auror Jackson said.
"Do you know what's wrong with him?" I asked eagerly.
It wasn't that I was eager for Draco to be sick, but that I'd been telling the other guards for months now that he was sick. There was just no other explanation for his gloomy demeanor than that there was something seriously wrong with him; at least I thought so. Depression is what Hermione thought it was. Given that his side had lost the war, Voldemort and many of his relatives were dead, and his dad was in custody awaiting trial, depression did make a fair amount of sense. Ron mostly agreed with her, but occasionally thought that Draco was up to something or just seeking attention.
I, however, couldn't believe that it was depression that was responsible, not with Draco Malfoy. We have so much in common that I couldn't fathom that a mental weakness could be what brought my boyhood rival down, not after all that he had survived. If he could succumb to depression, then that meant it could get me too. I couldn't believe that, so instead I'd been telling everyone for months that he was sick. And now he really was sick, proving me right.
"Whoa, calm down there Harry; just because he's got the stomach flu doesn't mean he's been sick all this time. He'll be fine in a few days and right back to moping about in order to get your attention," Jackson said. He and the other guards were under the impression that there was nothing wrong with Draco.
"How do you know it's the stomach flu? Have you been in there to check on him?"
"Not for hours—I've been giving him his privacy to, you know—but I did go in there and verify that he's really sick. There was a big puddle of vomit on the ground and something nasty in the toilet."
"You shouldn't go home to your family tonight. Malfoy's been sick for months, so I'm sure it's something really bad and contagious. Doxy fever maybe…" I speculated.
"It's the stomach flu, nothing more. He said his stomach hurt."
"Did you give him the potion for upset stomach?"
We didn't have very many potions that were considered safe enough to keep on hand while guarding prisoners, but a tonic to soothe upset stomachs was one of them.
"I offered it, but he said he was allergic. He took the pain potion instead," Jackson said with a shrug. "Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to be getting home. I'll decontaminate my clothing before I hug my little girl if it'll make you feel better."
I nodded and Jackson left, closing Draco's door behind him. As soon as I was alone, I knocked on the bathroom door, identified myself, and called Draco's name. When there was no response, I repeated the process. Then when there was still no response, I said, "Draco, if you don't respond or open this door right this second I'll be left with no choice but to barge in." There still was no response. "Fine, but I hope for both our sakes that you're decent."
Draco didn't respond to that either, so I spelled open the locked door. My eyes were drawn instantly to the large black lump on the bathroom floor. Adjusting to the dim light, I realized that it was Draco on the floor and the black was his bathrobe. I ran to his side, casting a spell at the flame in the wall sconce as I went, to brighten the room. Flickering shadows from the flame danced across his body; his pale face looked very sickly and drawn and I didn't think it was just the torchlight.
I checked first for a pulse and then when I found one, I checked to see if he was breathing. I couldn't tell at first, but then I noticed his chest rising up and down. I let out a sigh of relief and cupped his head in my hands. "Draco, it's Harry, are you alright?"
His eyes flickered and he let out a moan, but there was nothing that could be described as a coherent response.
"I'm going to pick you up and carry you to your bed, alright?" I asked.
He didn't respond to that, so I took it as permission to go ahead with my plan. I didn't think I would be able to carry him, both because he was taller than me and because he'd put on a lot of weight lately; the weight gain was one of the factors that had Hermione convinced that he was depressed. Thus I levitated him with a simple first year spell. As his body rose up into the air, a heavy white object rolled out of his grip and hit the ground with a loud thump. I looked down to see a large egg rolling away, towards the wall.
The egg was smaller than a dragon's egg, but larger than most other animal eggs. It was big, but not huge. I figured it was an ostrich egg or something and wondered where it came from as I picked it up. But then the silver embellishments caught the firelight and I realized that this was a decorated egg. It was warm to my touch, but that was probably because Draco had been cradling it and warming it with his body heat. It was a weird object to clutch for comfort, but I was sure he had a reason for it; it was bound to be a super expensive hand-painted egg-shaped piece of granite given to him by his mother or something; it was certainly heavy enough to be solid stone.
Weird egg or no, Draco still needed to be put to bed, so I guided his floating body through the doorway, into the next room, and released the charm only when he was directly over his huge four poster bed. I tucked him in and set the egg by his side, before summoning his towel from the loo. He may be asleep, but there was no reason to believe he was better and since I didn't want to clean puke off of his bed, I carefully tucked the towel under his head. The Malfoys weren't allowed elves in their rooms or wands, so the other guards and I were responsible for cleaning up after our prisoners.
Once I was satisfied that he was all set in his bed, I went back to the bathroom to clean up. The toilet needed to be flushed and was the source of the vile odor. Jackson must have cleaned the floor, because besides a reddish brown washcloth lying near the claw-foot tub, it was spotless. I vanished the washrag downstairs to the laundry hamper, where the elves would take care of it. Our job wasn't entirely elf free, because the Malfoy elves were still allowed to clean anything left for them on the ground floor; it was just Draco and Narcissa's rooms that the elves were banned from.
With that taken care of, I sat down on a chair in Draco's bedroom and pulled out the book I was reading. He tended to be one of those people who slept peacefully through the night, which made nightshifts very boring for me. As a guard, I wasn't allowed to go to sleep and I found that the only way I could stay awake was to read. I wasn't always on the nightshift and was far more used to taking the dayshift. Harper and Culver, the Junior Aurors who were usually on night shift, were off on vacation for the week. That meant that we were only dividing the day into two shifts instead of three and that Ron and I were on night duty. Luckily I had managed to get in a fair bit of sleep today, so I wasn't dead on my feet. Still, by sunrise, I was yawning and trying to keep my eyes open.
It was mid-August and as such, the sun rose very early in the morning here in Wiltshire. Draco had two sets of curtains on his windows, but since he hadn't closed the heavy curtains for bed, only the sheer daytime set was drawn. The weak morning rays lit up the room and allowed me to see him in proper lighting. I hadn't noticed it before, but there were definitely dried tear tracks running down his face. I didn't want Narcissa to come in and see him like that, so I summoned a washcloth from the loo, wet it, and washed his face for him.
He stirred and moaned when he felt the touch of the warm rag. He reached up and caught hold of my hand, stopping my progress, but then seemed to remember his fancy egg. His pale fingers grasped the large egg and pulled it tightly to his stomach. Something looked off about the way the egg rested against his stomach. I finished his face, before gently pushing the black fabric of his bathrobe aside. He was wearing black silk pajamas underneath, but he was most definitely thinner than he had been. I hadn't seen him walking around this last week, because I'd been working the night shift and he was asleep most of it, but I was positive that last week he had been growing fat and these pajamas had been tight. Maybe I was wrong, but I could've sworn that he was still fat yesterday morning, before my last shift ended. Now however, he wasn't thin exactly, but he was several inches thinner.
He was moaning in his bed, eyes closed and turning from side to side, but keeping the stone egg clutched to his chest. I figured he was still in pain and offered him a pain potion. He nodded, so I summoned a vial of the stuff and helped him sit up to drink it.
"How'd I get here?" he asked when he'd drunk the potion. His eyes were still closed and his voice sounded very groggy.
"I found you sleeping in the loo and moved you to your bed," I answered.
"Thanks," he replied, and lay back down, clearly intending to go back to sleep.
"Did you pass out in there or something?"
His only response was to nod, but I distinctly saw glistening at the corner of his eye. Great, he was going to start crying again and then Narcissa would think I'd done something to him. I owed her and Draco both a life debt; her for lying to Voldemort in the forest and him for lying to his family on Easter. The life debt I owed him canceled out with the two life debts he owed me from the final battle, but the life debt I owed her stood. That was a big part of why I had gotten them put on house arrest, instead of letting them await their trials in the holding cells like everyone else. That was also why I felt I had to do a decent job taking care of her son while on guard duty; he was clearly all she cared about in the world and I didn't want to disappoint her.
That was also why I'd initially chosen to watch Draco instead of letting Ron do it, because I knew Ron was still too angry at Draco to do a good job watching him. Ron was definitely of the opinion that Draco should be grateful that he was only under house arrest and not expect the guards to clean up after him. Narcissa did a reasonable job cleaning up after herself, which was why Ron liked watching her. That and she liked to tell embarrassing stories about things Draco had done when he was very little.
Draco's breathing evened out and I went back to my chair to read. It was hours more before Narcissa woke up and she and Ron and came in. She knew immediately that there was something wrong with her son and let out a loud pitiful wail as she ran to him. She climbed into his bed and pulled him into her lap. He stirred, moaned, and then seemed to settle into her lap and go back to sleep.
"What happened to Malfoy?" Ron asked me, leaning against the doorjamb.
"Jackson said he was sick all yesterday. He's been asleep almost the entire time since I've been on duty," I answered, trying to keep the smug look off of my face.
"Come off it; just because he's sick now doesn't mean he's been sick all this time."
I walked over to Ron and leaned up against the wall next to him, to reduce the odds of our conversation being overheard. "Doesn't mean he's been well all this time either."
Ron grunted and nodded. "Don't suppose this means we'll be getting breakfast anytime soon."
"Doesn't look like it," I confirmed.
"Narcissa doesn't seem to be interested in anything other than her little dragon, does she?"
"Nope. Bit strange really."
"How so? My mum is always all over me when I'm sick," Ron replied.
"Yeah, but she hasn't asked what's wrong with him or how long he's been sick. It's like she already knows," I whispered.
"You think this is a ploy to cover an escape attempt?" Ron whispered back.
"No, I think he's been sick all along and she knows what's wrong."
Ron groaned and whispered, "Not this again."
"Yes this again. There's something seriously wrong with him."
"The only thing wrong with him is that he's cuddling a giant painted egg."
"Maybe she gave it to him or something," I said with a shrug of my shoulders. "So how was watching her last night?"
"Fine; she was painting again."
Narcissa was a bit of an artist, so that gave me an idea. "Hey, you don't think she painted the egg, do you?"
"Yeah, probably. If they really aren't going to eat breakfast, I hope Jackson and Pollock get here soon to relieve us."
I nodded my agreement, because my stomach was rumbling too, but knowing it was hours yet until our end of shift. Breakfast at the Burrow would be over by then, but Mrs. Weasley would fire up the frying pan for us; she never let anyone go hungry.
Author's Note: Please Review! I know I posted it once before on another sight, but Live Journal doesn't work right for me, so I couldn't access my reviews :( I would love to hear what you think of this story!