Title: Comfort after Pain
Team: Team AU
Prompt:Prompt 4: Never tickle a sleeping
Warnings: Some blood and a few curse
Summary:When Harry decided to visit the Dragon Preservation Centre Britain, he hadn't quite thought it would turn out this way.
Author's/Artist's Note:Thank you, team_au! I had a lovely time! Thank you very much, joanwilder, for the speedy beta-reading! Also, thank you, tacuma811 for the support and cheering for me from de sidelines. Written for hd_wordcup 2009
Comfort After Pain
Travelling by Portkey was still something Harry wasn't used to. The strangeness of having to grab some piece of garbage to get teleported somewhere hadn't completely disappeared. This method of being teleported did little to recommend itself; all that swirling around was making Harry sick in the stomach. But what bugged him most of all was the landing; he couldn't quite get it right to land safely on his feet. He hadn't much choice in this matter, however, seeing that the only way to get to the Dragon Preservation Centre Britain (DPCB) was by Portkey.
So here he was on his ass on the grassy plains just out of the camp, while his best friends (damn them) had managed to stay upright. Thankfully nobody else had witnessed his superb landing skills; that would have been more embarrassing. It was bad enough that Ron was still sniggering at him!
Harry tried to get up from the ground; the slightly muddy and therefore slippery ground wasn't making it easy for him. His sneakerclad foot slowly slipped from under him, and if it wasn't for Ron catching him, he would have fallen face down in the mud.
"You all right there, mate?" Ron asked, still sniggering, as he swung one of Harry's arms around his shoulder to keep him steady. Harry merely nodded, too busy concentrating on his steps than anything else. He really shouldn't have bothered. While he was being careful, Ron wasn't, and before Harry knew it, he was lying on his back on the ground.
"Honestly you two," Hermione scolded, helping them up and casting a few cleaning charms to get the mud stains out of their clothes, "can't you watch where you are walking! Harry, you should really practice your landing, it might be crucial for you later on. And Ron, try to stay clean at least, please. "
Ron snorted, "Come on, Herm, it's not like we could help it! Everyone slips now and then, it's normal. And you know that Harry is a klutz when it comes to transport; it's a wonder that he managed to stay upright when using the Floo! You can't blame him, really."
"Thanks, Ron," Harry said sarcastically.
"You're welcome," Ron replied, smiling brightly, "that's what friends are for!"
Hermione sighed and smiled at them. "What am I going to do with the two of you?"
"Love us!" Ron said swinging one arm around Harry's shoulders and the other around Hermione's. Harry started laughing, and his friends soon joined him. It felt good to laugh like that. He hadn't laughed that much, the past year, or at least it felt like that.
The war had ended in the middle of their seventh year at Hogwarts, during their winter break, just before Yule. Voldemort had come as close as Hogsmeade. Aurors, Order members and others brave enough to fight against the Death Eaters had fought hard to keep Voldemort from reaching the castle. They had succeeded. Harry was one of the warriors that had been fighting that day, alongside Dumbledore himself. He had left his friends at the castle, and had made them promise that they wouldn't follow him under any circumstances. Harry had known of the dangers that would come, and he didn't want his friends to become involved in it. He didn't want to see them get hurt.
It had been a dark few days. In his nightmares Harry could still see the shadows of those memories. He could clearly recall the burning buildings around him while he hastened through the town. He could remember seeing Honeydukes and Zonko's, and fleetingly remembered better and happier days.
There had been so much blood everywhere. Harry had been covered in it. Blood from the dead, blood from the wounded he helped carry to safety. There was so much of it, too much. He didn't think at the time that he would ever be clean. Never be free from seeing the bloodstains on his hands. Even now, six month later, when his thoughts turned mournful and memories flitted across his mind, he sometimes still could see the stains on his hands. He'd never really told anyone about it.
The thing that would always be stuck in his mind was the expression on Voldemort's face when he was practically cut in two, the mix of fear and anger. He could also clearly remember the redness of the blood that sprayed over Dumbledore and himself, covering them. The look of desperation in Dumbledore's eyes before the curse was cast, and the look of relief that followed; Harry still could see it when he closed his eyes.
Harry couldn't quite remember in detail what had happened. He knew that Dumbledore had managed to distract the Dark Lord long enough for Harry to cast a curse. The only one that had popped into his mind was Sectumsempra, and the scribble of for enemies in the book of the Halfblood Prince. It had been the first time he used that curse, but the name - and what it'd done - still echoed in his mind and haunted his nightmares. It had been after that first time that Harry vowed to never use Sectumsempra again, no matter what danger he could possibly be in. It was later that he found out that that curse had been made by Severus Snape.
Snape had been a powerful asset to the Light. As a spy for Dumbledore he knew of the weaknesses of other Death Eaters, and as a Potions Master he was unequalled in the quantity and quality of potions he could produce. And while Harry had started to feel some respect towards the Potions Master, he couldn't still quite tolerate him yet.
And now here they were, six months later, and fresh out of Hogwarts. They had eventually passed their NEWTs in July, something Harry was quite proud of. Harry and Ron had decided that the war had taken too much from them. Ron had lost his brother Bill and his father, Arthur. Harry had lost his innocence in a way killing someone did that to you and Remus, who had been slaughtered by Fenrir. Harry had talked on one of those sleepless nights at the Burrow about relaxing for a while or maybe travelling before he would settle on a job and a home. Surprisingly, Ron had agreed, and felt the same.
When they were invited by Charlie to spend a couple of days on the newly built DPCB, they had practically jumped at the chance. When Hermione heard about the invitation, she'd wanted to come as well. Harry figured that she had wanted to come because of the new learning material. Since Hogwarts had ended, Hermione had spent much more time with her nose in a book than she had before. Sometimes he wondered if she did that because she had become acutely aware that she could have died in the war.
They were still laughing amongst each other when Charlie came to meet them. Harry noticed that Charlie had pierced his ear; hanging from it was an earring with a fang attached to it. It reminded Harry of Bill's, but he couldn't be sure that it was the same earring, although he was positive that Charlie had done it in memory of his brother. He wanted to ask about it, but kept his mouth shut for now. Harry knew that if he asked, it would dig up all kinds of unpleasant memories. He'd rather spend this day in peace, laughing with his friends and relaxing. There was no need to dig up the past now, even if he wanted to know.
"Welcome to the Dragon Preservation Centre Britain, little brother," he said joyfully, hugging Ron to his chest and thumbing him a few times on the back. Charlie grabbed Harry's hand in a crushing handshake, and pumped it a few times up and down. Then he grabbed Hermione's hand and repeated the gesture. Harry noticed Hermione wince during the handshake.
"Harry, Hermione, it's good to see you two again! I hope all is well. Welcome to the DPCB! Come, follow me. I'll lead you to the camp," Charlie said, beckoning with his hand towards the woods behind him. "Oh, watch out that you don't slip! The ground is slippery; it has rained for the last couple of days, so it is no wonder. I had almost forgotten what the weather was like here in Britain!"
Charlie went ahead, his pace strong and fast. Hermione soon followed after; she caught up to him and asked him all sorts of questions about dragons. She seemed particularly interested in their eggs for some reason. Harry didn't really know why; she had seen a dragon's egg up close before. He mentally shrugged his shoulders, and just attributed it to Hermione's needtoknowitall personality. Harry fell into step beside Ron, a couple of paces behind Charlie and Hermione, and looked around.
All around Harry were trees, their thick foliage covering what might've lain behind it. Above the tree tops Harry spotted a few mountaintops. They seemed rather close by, and if Harry remembered his classes from Magical Creatures right, it could mean that some dragons lived in those mountains. Harry could hear the camp before he saw it, or rather he heard the dragons, a constant roar that became louder and louder with every step he took.
There on a grassy plain, hidden by trees, stood an abundance of tents. Some as big as circus tents, others as small as the tents that were used at the Quidditch Cup. The only thing that they seemed to have in common was that they all were a pale brown colour that blended in nicely with their surroundings. The ground in the camp was much firmer than out of it, probably to keep the tents from slipping. Charlie led them towards a smalllooking tent in the middle of camp, and held the flap open for them to go in.
"Go on, get in! You haven't had lunch yet, have you?" Charlie asked. "This is the canteen, so we probably can find something edible here."
Harry stepped inside and was amazed by the size of the interior of the tent. It was nothing like the small Wizarding tent of the Weasley family. On the outside, it looked the same, but the inside was so much bigger. There was a complete kitchen, and a counter on which stood a deliciouslooking chocolate cake. In the middle of the room stood two rows of large, sturdylooking, wooden tables.
"Hey, Cookie," Charlie said, waving to a tall, skinny man with wavy brown hair, who stood behind the counter. "Have you got anything edible for my kid brother and friends? They haven't eaten lunch yet, and are practically dying for food."
Cookie, Harry wondered, that was a rather funny name for someone. Especially for a man. Apparently Ron thought the same thing, because his face was one big question mark. The man saw their confused expressions, and said, "My name is actually Pete. Charles, however, can't quite remember it. He always did have a small brain."
Charlie started laughing. "Stop being such a tight ass! Come on with the food. Oh, and make some of those delicious sandwiches of yours. They are the best!"
Pete gave him a small smile, and with a mischievous look in his eyes, he said, "Okay, I will, but just because it's you. But only if you say the magic words..."
"Oh, Great Lord of the Kitchen, could we humble servants get some of your absolutely delicious food, please?" Charlie deadpanned, while batting his eyes at Cookie. The cook smacked him on the head with a spoon. Harry was grinning at the scene; the Weasley twins weren't the only ones who could joke around. It seemed that only Percy hadn't inherited that gene.
"Coming right up!" Pete said, and started to prepare lunch for them.
Charlie turned towards them again and said, "Go sit down. I'll come pick you up in about a halfhour. Then I'll show you around camp, and we'll probably see some of the dragons as well. Until then." With a wave, Charlie turned and walked towards the exit.
Hermione and Ron sat down on the stiff wooden chairs around one of the tables. Harry stood there a little longer, and looked around the tent some more. He noticed that on the ceiling there were little lampions that gave off a soft glow that resembled sunlight. In one of the corners of the tent stood a large flower arrangement that spread a light flowery smell. When Pete walked towards them, carrying a tray with three cups of tea, and followed by a floating tray with sandwiches, Harry sat down next to Hermione.
"Here you go. Enjoy!" Pete said, placing the trays on the table. "Let me know if you need something."
Ron practically dived towards the sandwiches, grabbing two at the same time and stuffed them in his mouth. Hermione watched the scene with some horror. "Honestly, Ronald! Eat with your mouth closed! We are guests here, show some manners," she scolded Ron, as she handed Harry one of the cups of tea. Harry quite agreed with her; having to look at a half chewed piece of food wasn't something he wanted to do while he was eating.
Harry grabbed one of the sandwiches on his plate, and took a bite. "Delicious," he mumbled.
"Isn't it?" Hermione replied, as she bit into one of her own sandwiches. Ron made a rather pleased moan as he quickly stuffed another sandwich into his mouth.
"I can't believe I'm here," Hermione gushed. "It would be fascinating to see dragons in their natural habitat. We could learn so much about their behaviour. "
"If you don't mind, I'd rather not get too close to them. One firebreathing dragon after me was enough," Harry said, taking a sip of tea. He made a face: not enough sugar.
"But dragons are fascinating creatures. Did you know, for example, that almost all parts of a dragon are useful? The skin is a great material to make all sorts of leather things. And organs like the liver are used in various potions," she continued, "not to mention that they are beautiful creatures. Besides the dragon that chased you at the Triwizard Tournament was a Norwegian Ridgeback. Charlie says that the dragons here are all species of Common Welsh Green. They are hardly comparable; they're totally different species."
"A dragon is a dragon to me. Even if they are different, that hardly takes away the danger. They can still burn you to crisp, you know."
"Yeah, Herm," Ron said with his mouth full, "I've seen dragons before in Romania, you know. They are dangerous. Awesome, true, but dangerous."
Hermione harrumphed, "I know that they can be dangerous. I'm not an idiot! But dragons can be tamed, not all of them are dangerous. Charlie said that a lot of the dragons here have been tamed."
"It's no use talking her out of it, Harry. You know how she gets, when she puts her mind to something. As stubborn as a donkey, that one!" Ron complained. "By the way, 'Mione, are you going to eat that?" he said pointing towards the sandwich that was left on her plate.
Hermione sighed, and shoved her plate towards him. Harry shared a look with her. Ron was always a big eater; they often joked about his black hole of a stomach. At that moment Charlie returned, waved at them, and asked, "Are you done?"
Harry and Hermione nodded and got up from the table. Ron quickly stuffed the last sandwich into his mouth and stood up as well.
"Good! Come on. And keep up; we've got a lot to see today. I want to show you around camp, and show you my precious Daisy, at least. She just laid her eggs a couple of days ago," Charlie said, his face shining with pride, as if he were going to be a father.
Once outside, Charlie led them towards one of the big circus tents, and opened the flap to led them inside.
"This is the medical centre. For the dragons, of course, " he said. The tent contained a few huge cages where several dragons were sleeping. Harry noticed that one of the dragons had a bandage covering one of his wings. There were also a few rooms that reminded Harry eerily of the rooms at St Mungo's; it just screamed hospital. He shivered because he really didn't like hospitals; they always gave him a sense of dread.
"Come on, let's move on!" Charlie gestured and walked towards the exit.
"These are the barracks," he said, pointing at a series of small tents. "Most of us sleep there. The last one is the EHBO, so if you are in need of a healer you could go there."
Charlie moved on and led them towards a large fence. Harry looked at it carefully; it looked like a huge cage. But he hardly thought that the fence was strong enough to hold back a dragon. The cage seemed more like a huge chickencoop, than a place where they would keep dragons. Harry walked closer and hooked his fingers in the holes of the fence.
Charlie pushed him gently backwards. "I wouldn't get too close if I were you. The wilder ones live here."
"But Charlie, is it safe to have them here? The cage doesn't look stable enough to keep them in. Aren't you worried that they would could break free?" Harry asked. A loud roar sounded from deep within the cage.
Charlie laughed, "Nonsense! This is magically enforced steel, there's nothing stronger! Even a full grown dragon couldn't burn this down."
Hermione stepped closer to the fence, inspecting the metal up close. "That's rather interesting. I haven't seen it before. Is it used often to contain dragons?"
"For the more dangerous ones, sure. The tame ones are often left free or kept in stables. But this is the first time that I've worked with it as well. In Romania we didn't use that kind of thing," he said, looking rather pleased with something, "But come on, there is more to see. "
They walked towards a huge wooden building. Harry hadn't noticed it before, which he thought was odd since it was rather eyecatching. Maybe, he thought, there were some charms around it, to keep it hidden from plain sight.
"These are the stables. Once a dragon has been completely tamed and flyable, they are looked after here. It's kind of like an riding school really, only instead of horses we have dragons," Charlie said rather joyfully.
"Can we see them? I would like to see them from up close. Can I talk with a few people there? I would like to ask them a few questions," Hermione practically begged. Her thirst for knowledge became clearly visible in her behaviour.
Charlie laughed slightly. To Harry it seemed like he was a bit overwhelmed by Hermione's determination, which he imagined Charlie possibly was. Everyone who met Hermione had to at one point feel overwhelmed. Harry could still acutely remember what'd happened when she'd been determined to make better working conditions for houseelves. She still sometimes talked about S.P.E.W.
"You can't see them right now. I haven't got the authority yet to let you through. The big men up above usually decide who can enter, and at the moment, visitors are not included on the list. Unless you're some famous doctor or dragon keeper, of course. It's actually the same with the laboratory, the big tent over there." Charlie pointed towards a huge tent close to where Harry thought the canteen was. "But not to worry. You'll see it before the end of your stay. If everything works out fine, you could even ride on one of them. But let's not dawdle here! Let's go see some dragons!"
They walked out of the camp, towards the mountain peaks Harry had seen earlier. The ground that had been firm in camp was muddy here. The heels of his sneakers got sucked into the mud with every step. Once they were on forest ground, the ground was sturdier. Harry noticed that there was a small strip of flattened earth that seemed to be a path. Charlie followed the path into the mountains, roots of large trees snaking over the forest ground. The further they went from camp, the higher they were. The trees grew sparser, and Harry could see flashes of green scales between them. Charlie stopped suddenly and seemed to be listening for something.
"Well, this is it! You have to be a little patient. Alexia lives here, she's just a babe and not quite used to strangers, but she's rather playful. So you could probably pet her," Charlie said, making a few cooing noises. "You don't need to worry about the dragons here. They wouldn't hurt a fly! Most of them are female or really young. With the Common Welsh Green, it's the male that's the more dangerous of the two."
From behind a cluster of thick oak trees came a small, green dragon, about two feet tall, who let out a small keening noise. The dragon sniffed the air, let out a happy sound and bounded over to Charlie.
"Hey Alexia," Charlie cooed, rubbing the dragon's snout. "You can pet her now, if you want."
Hermione immediately strode towards the dragon, and placed her hands on the creature's neck. Harry and Ron were more reserved, but eventually they made a motion to pet the dragon. Harry placed his hand on Alexia's flank, close to the wings. He thought that the scales would feel rough, but he couldn't have been more wrong. Harry attentively caressed her skin; it felt rather like a snake, all sleek and smooth. Alexia let out a loud purr; Harry quickly withdrew his hands.
"Wow!" Hermione said, looking in wonder at the dragon.
Charlie laughed as he watched Harry and Ron moving away from the dragon. "She just loves the attention. The purr was to let you know she loved what you were doing."
"Really..?" Harry asked, as he once again stepped closer to the dragon, and repeated the caress. Alexia immediately began purring. Harry looked at her in awe. He was actually petting a dragon, and she was liking it. He grinned; maybe being around dragons wasn't so bad after all.
With a last caress over Alexia's snout, Charlie moved away. "Come on, guys! There's more to see. I want you to see my darling Daisy and her eggs. She's a beauty and deserves to be admired."
They moved on, leaving Alexia behind, who let out a soft whine. Harry looked at her; she seemed so lonely to be left behind like that. He wondered if there was another dragon there that could keep her company.
"Charlie? " Harry asked, still looking back at Alexia. "Why does she stay there? I mean, why not follow us or look for other dragons?"
"Well, I guess it's because she has a friend close by. Alexia is usually with one of the younger females named Salazar, or with her sister Alexandria."
Harry looked at him. there was a young female dragon named Salazar? That was strange.
"Salazar? As in Salazar Slytherin? Oh, Merlin, wait till I tell the others, " Ron laughed, "Can you imagine a female dragon named Salazar? Can you see the look on the faces of those Slytherins when they are told that their big hero shares the name with a female dragon!"
"I didn't pick that name! One of the dragon keepers here was quite a fan of Hogwarts, A History. We've also got dragons named Godric, Helga and Rowena. We've even got an Albus!" Charlie replied, looking slightly put out.
Harry started laughing. He'd suddenly got a picture stuck in his head of a dragon with a long grey beard and halfmoon glasses, over which it looked with twinkling eyes. Hermione looked at Harry in question, and he described the picture to her. She started giggling as well, and Ron, having overheard the story, laughed even harder.
Suddenly their laughter was cut off when a tall, broad man with wild blond hair called out loudly, "Weasley! Oi, Weasley!"
"What is it, McCloud? " Charlie returned.
"It's Balthazar! His wing got caught again. We need all the help we can get!"
Charlie frowned. "All right, I'm coming!"
He turned towards them, and smiled lightly. "You can go explore. Go visit Daisy, you can't miss her. She's the only one with eggs around here. I really have to go and help Balthazar before he gets hurt. Be careful!" And with that, Charlie practically ran after the other man, trying to go as fast as possible to get to the dragon in need.
Ron, Hermione and Harry were left there, watching them until they disappeared from sight.
"Maybe we should return to camp. We could always see Daisy tomorrow, when Charlie is with us," Ron said, looking unsure. Harry nodded faintly, his opinion split. On one hand, he thought that it would be safer if they went with Charlie, but on the other hand, he was rather curious, now he was here. He wondered if Daisy was like Alexia, playful and wanting to be touched. He wondered what her eggs would look like. The only dragon's egg Harry had ever seen was Norbert's; he wondered if it would look different.
"No, we're here now, so let's go see some dragons. I want to see Daisy, I'm curious about her eggs," Hermione said determinedly as she strode through the woods to find more dragons.
Ron sighed and shook his head. Harry shrugged his shoulders at him and followed her. It wasn't like you could do or say anything on the contrary when she was in this mood. If she was this determined, she could argue a fish about leaving the sea. It was better to just follow along.
Further down the path, they saw more dragons. Harry looked at them; every dragon looked different from the other. Some had very pale green scales; others had scales so dark that they looked almost black. Some were very large, others smaller than Alexia. The dragons stayed away from them, however; they seemed content to observe them from a distance, much to Hermione's disappointment. The dragons probably weren't so fond of strangers, Harry thought.
Ron and Harry watched as Hermione fluttered around and admired the dragons they passed.
"She's gone mental!" Ron mumbled. "I mean...more so than usual. She's taking this dragon thing extremely far."
Frankly Harry had to agree with him on that. "I've never seen Hermione be this interested in something other than books."
Ron nodded. "The way she is carrying on is like she's going to wet her pants in excitement if she looks at one more dragon. She's usually only like this when she sees a library, or even better, a sale at Flourish and Blotts!"
"What do you think has happened to her?"
"It's madness, that's what it is! Fred and George always said that books rot your brain. She's living proof! She's gone utterly mental!"
"Do you think she might have a crush on Charlie and his vast knowledge about dragons?" Harry teased. He knew Ron had had a crush on Hermione for quite some time. He had admitted it to Harry in the summer of their sixth year at Hogwarts. The only problem was that he was too shy and too afraid to ask her out properly, no matter Harry's assurance that Hermione felt the same way.
Ron blushed and spluttered, "Don't even joke about that, Harry! You know how I feel about her!"
Harry laughed and punched Ron lightly against his shoulder. "I'm just joking, mate. Besides, I think that she's more interested in the dragons than Charlie. You know what the allure of knowledge does to her."
"Yeah, I know. But are you sure she isn't after Charlie?" Ron asked; he shuffled his feet, pushing a few stray leaves to the side.
"I'm sure! Don't " Harry was interrupted by Hermione, who let out a whoop of excitement. Ron and Harry looked at each other, and followed the sound.
Hermione turned to them, her face glowing with excitement, and said, "Look! Look! That has to be Daisy! Isn't she beautiful? Look at those scales!"
Harry looked around a small clearing, and in the middle of it lay a beautiful sleeping dragon. Her scales were like emeralds, her neck long and thin. Harry thought that she had a somewhat regal air about her, if that were possible for a dragon. Daisy had her long tail curled around her eggs, pushing them against the warmth of her stomach. Harry took a few careful steps closer, and watched the eggs closely. They were smaller than Norbert's egg. Also they were an earthly brown colour speckled with green flecks, instead of an uniform black.
Hermione ran forward, and gently placed her hands on the dragon's tail. Daisy groaned but didn't wake. She let out a puff of air, blowing soil and dirt up in the air. Harry stepped forward, getting slowly closer to the dragon; he really wanted to touch those scales. Would they feel like snake's skin, like Alexia's, or would they be rougher to the touch? Ron stayed were he was, not wanting to get any closer.
"Oh, wow!" Hermione mumbled. She reached to lean over the tail, and placed her hand on one of the eggs. "Harry, come touch this! They are warm!" she said in awe, as she leaned further forward to touch the egg farthest away. She couldn't quite reach it, so she leaned over more. Hermione's frizzy hair brushed against the stomach of the dragon, and suddenly everything became quiet. Birds had stopped whistling, and it was like time had stopped.
"Hermione, get out of there!" Harry heard Ron shout behind him. He looked back at Ron, saw the look of horror on his face and quickly turned his eyes towards the dragon. Harry watched with a horrifying sense of dread as Daisy uncurled, and sat up to full height. She let out a thundering roar, setting the birds to flight. Harry noticed that Hermione hadn't moved; she seemed petrified by the massive dragon. Daisy seemed to lift up her claw in slow motion. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw a flash of red passing him by; when his mind caught up to the fact that it was Ron running towards Hermione, Harry sprang into action. Ron grabbed one of Hermione's arms and Harry the other, and they managed to pull Hermione away just in time. There was a loud thump, and when Harry looked back, he could see a claw with sharplooking nails on the place where they'd been just seconds before. The dragon let out a loud highpitched screech. She lifted her claw again for another attack.
"Run!" Harry screamed. "Back to camp!"
They started running through the woods, dodging trees and following the path that they'd used to come to the place. Behind them, Harry heard once again the thump of the dragon's claw coming down on the ground, followed by a screech and a series of smaller thumps. Harry didn't dare look back, but he knew that the dragon was following them.
Harry ran and ran. His feet hurt, his side hurt and his breath was coming out in puffs. He wanted to stop, to take a rest, but he couldn't because the dragon was getting closer and closer. He had no idea were Ron and Hermione were; sometimes he saw flashes of them running between the trees, but other than that he had no idea if they were okay of if they were hurt. The salty sweat flowed down his forehead into his eyes, and it stung. Overhead, a burning stream of fire hit a tree, not far from where he was running, and he could barely dodge it. The smell of burned hair filled the air, and all around Harry branches fell. He jumped over the branches, almost falling down when his foot got stuck underneath one of them.
Daisy screeched, and blew a narrow stream of fire somewhere on the left. Please, let Ron and Hermione be all right, Harry prayed. What if they got burned by that fire? What if they didn't make it on time to the camp? What if Daisy caught up to him? These questions haunted his mind. Daisy was hot on his heels, and running got more difficult with every step. Harry gritted his teeth and begged his legs to speed up a little more. He had to move faster! Daisy was too close!
Harry ran as hard as he could. He had no idea where he was exactly, no idea how far the camp was from here. He didn't pay attention to his environment. All his attention was focused on the dragon and the path that would lead him to safety. Sometimes worry for his friends flashed through his mind.
Then he saw it: there where the trees grew sparse and the big tents of the camp were visible. Harry saw Ron running right in front of him, Hermione running on the left somewhere. He could see her bushy hair flicker in and out of the corner of his eye. He could have sighed and thanked Merlin for having spared his friends.
Harry felt relief bubble up from his stomach, and in the distance he could see that people had gathered to help them. The only thing that they had to do was get closer to camp. The transition from sturdy forest soil to slippery and muddy grass was hard; it made running more difficult. He cursed, his feet sunk deep into the drab, and his steps felt heavier because of it. Harry quickly looked back, trying to calculate the distance from the dragon. Just out of the forest border, he could see the dragon coming; it wasn't that far behind, only a few meters or so. Harry knew that Daisy would catch up in time, especially now that there weren't any trees that could slow her down.
From camp, Harry could see a red speck that could have been Charlie coming towards them. They were safe, he thought, just a little bit further and they would be safe. In horror, Harry watched as Hermione fell down, her shoe stuck in the mud an inch away from her. He was acutely aware of the fast approaching dragon. Harry ran towards her, and shielded her body with his. There was a moment of silence, and then Harry screamed. The claw came down on his back, scraping his skin, and the next thing he knew, he was thrown into the air. He landed not far away, on his back. He screamed again. He had a coppery taste in his mouth, and his back burned like hell. Make it stop, he prayed, please make it stop.
Around him he could hear the soft rumble of voices and a scream that sounded like his name, before darkness claimed him.
The next time Harry woke, he was lying on his stomach and covered in blankets that smelled of hospital, all sterile with a faint hint of no doubt disgusting potions. His sight was blurry, as he hadn't got on his glasses. He stretched his hand out to get them when he froze. He had to bite his tongue from screaming out. Pain spread throughout his body. His back was burning, like his blood had started boiling and was trying to melt his skin, like an volcano waiting to erupt. Harry shifted, withdrew his arm, and hissed out loud. God, why did his back hurt!
Suddenly there was someone in front of him, a gentle but firm hand pushing him back into the mattress.
"Mr. Potter, where does it hurt?"the someone asked. Harry guessed she was female by her voice, but he couldn't tell for sure, since the only thing he could see was a blob of colours.
"Back," he rasped. In an instant his back was wrapped with cool fabric, and he hissed when the cold cloth came in contact with his boiling skin. A cooling sensation spread through his body, smoothing the pain on its way. Harry sighed; his back felt pleasantly numb at the moment. The gentle hands helped him sit upright, carefully avoiding any contact with his back. His glasses were pushed onto his nose, and a glass of cool water was pushed into his hands. As the cool water hit the back of his throat, Harry suddenly realised how parched he had been.
"Do you know where you are, Mr. Potter?" the woman asked. Now that Harry could see her, he was vaguely reminded of Mrs. Weasley. She had the same motherly vibe to her. He thought that he was at St Mungo's and told her so.
"Okay, and what is the last thing you remember?" Scattered memories flew across his mind. The Dragon Preservation Centre, Hermione and Ron laughing, Charlie, dragons, more dragons, and Daisy coming at them, Daisy attacking them.
"Daisy...the dragon...attacked us. I ran towards camp...friends followed. Hermione tripped," Harry managed to get out. "Is she okay? Are my friends okay?"
"They are fine, Mr. Potter. It seems you are aware of everything that has happened. That is a good thing, as we feared you might have a concussion. You have been unconscious for the last three days, you see," the woman replied with a kind smile. "I'm Mediwitch Peterson, by the way. Healer Taylor will be with you in a moment." And with a last smile she left him there, feeling a little dazed.
"Well, well, well, Potter. Killing the Dark Lord wasn't enough excitement for you. No! You just had to wrestle a dragon!" The voice came from behind the screen that separated Harry's bed from the rest of the room. The voice sounded familiar somehow, yet different. The screen was pushed to the side, and there stood Draco Malfoy.
"Malfoy," he rasped. He hadn't seen Malfoy since the end of the fourth year; it had been rumoured that he had left with his mother for France. One thing was certain, he hadn't been an Death Eater.
"Potter." Malfoy nodded, and smirked, "Still pathetic as ever, I see."
Harry gave him a small smile. Same old Malfoy. It was good to know that he hadn't changed, and gave some consistency to life. It was refreshing not to be treated like a hero for once. And the snipes that Malfoy threw at him made him remember happy times. Times before the war.
Malfoy hadn't really changed much in appearance. He was still skinny, pale and pointy. He had got taller, Harry supposed. His hairstyle had also changed; Malfoy had let his hair loose, and somehow Harry had an itch to touch it, to feel if it was as soft as it looked. Harry noticed that one of Malfoy's arms was wrapped in bandage to the wrist; he could see parts of it sticking out above the neckline of the hospital gown he was wearing. There was another bandage wrapped around his leg; the white cloth was peeking out from under the light green gown. What had happened to Malfoy? he wondered. He didn't ask him, as he doubted that Malfoy would answer his question anyway.
"Before you got here, this was my own private room. You just have to make my life miserable, don't you, Potter?" Malfoy said, smirking slightly.
"Yes, making your life miserable is my true calling in life." Harry grinned at him.
Someone knocked on the door of their room, and a small, balding man, with glasses that seem to be too big for his head, stepped into the room. Harry figured that he must be the Healer that the Mediwitch had spoken of.
"Good afternoon, Mr Potter. I'm Healer Patrick Taylor," said the Healer. "I'm sure Mediwitch Peterson told you that I would be coming by to discuss the extent of your injuries and your treatment."
Harry nodded, all the more aware that Malfoy was still standing next to his bed and was about to hear all about it as well. The Healer opened the chart, and rattled off his injuries from it.
"Sprained wrist and ankle, both healed already. Bruised ribs, shouldn't give you much problem at all, but tell me if you have chest pains. A slight concussion, for which you will receive a potion later," he said rather monotonously, "and of course your back. You had the bad luck to be attacked by a nesting female. As extra defence they often have poisonous claws. If you had just been scratched, you could have been easily healed. The poison changes they matter."
Taylor looked gravely at Harry. "The thing is, the treatment against the poison isn't something that is recommended, but there isn't any other way to do this. The thing we will be doing is opening the wound up every two days, and applying the Cambrensis Potion to it, which should help to clear all of the poison out of your system within a month. Sadly, we can't give you any anaesthetic potions, as those interfere with the treatment. The only thing we can do to relieve the pain is to cool the wound afterwards with Diamond Dust Potion."
Harry looked in horror at the Healer. Had he heard right? Were they really going to open up the wound on his back every other day? Oh, God, he really didn't want to think about that. He spared a look at Malfoy, and noticed that he looked particularly green around the gills. So, Harry wasn't the only one who was affected by the idea of opening an injury every two days without the relieve of an anaesthetic. Believe it or not, it made Harry feel slightly better about his predicament.
"So, do you have any questions for me, Mr. Potter?" the Healer asked with a smile on his face, like he hadn't just described a painful treatment. Harry only shook his head; to be honest, he preferred not to know what they were going to do. Then, maybe, he wouldn't be stressed about it.
"Does your back hurt? No? When it does, call for a Mediwitch, they'll press a bandage soaked with the Diamond Dust Potion on your back for you," Taylor said as he pushed his glasses further up his nose, making his eyes look bigger. "Well then, if you don't have any questions, I'll be leaving. I'll send your visitors in, Mr. Potter. Good day, Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy." Healer Taylor scribbled something on the chart and with a smile and a nod of the head, he left them alone.
"I assume you want to be left alone," Malfoy sniffed. He strode towards his bed, and shut the screen just in time before the door opened and a stream of concerned Weasleys came storming in.
Mrs Weasley was the first one by his bed. "Are you all right, dear? You look rather peaky. No wonder, with all that nasty food they have been giving you," she said, rubbing her hand against his cheek. "Not to worry, though, I have brought you a little something. It should cheer you right up." She was carrying a basket filled with delicacies. Homemade cake, Chocolate Frogs and Harry's alltime favourite, Treacle Tart.
"Thanks, Mrs Weasley," Harry said, smiling at her.
"Not a problem, dear," she replied and placed the basket on the small bedside table. "I hope you'll feel better soon. Charlie would love to see you soon. He's a little distressed right now. Daisy was injured, but they managed to save her from execution. You don't mind, do you? If he stopped by, I mean." Molly looked imploringly at him. She probably thought that he would hold a grudge against her son for his injuries. Strangely enough, Harry hadn't even thought about blaming Charlie, even though he had been the one who had left them there with the dragons.
"Of course not. You are always welcome, Charlie too." Mrs Weasley let out a sigh of relief. She looked more at ease now, than when she'd come in.
"Okay, we'll be stopping by sometime soon, then. I have to leave now, though. Charlie needs me," she said, already halfway across the room. "Until later, my dear. I'll bring something extra next time."
The rest of the Weasley family was quiet until Molly left the room, then they all simultaneously burst out noisily.
"Harry, are you all right?" Ron asked.
"I'm so sorry, Harry!" Hermione cried.
"Cool, Harry! You fought your first -"
" -real life dragon! Do you think we could use the concept- "
" -for our latest Wheezes product!" said Fred and George, wearing twin faces of excitement.
They talked for a few hours. Hermione had cried, saying that it was her fault that the dragon came after them. "I must have tickled it somehow. I must have! Oh, I'm so sorry, Harry! It's all my fault," she had said, crying. Fred and George mostly wanted to hear what had happened to Harry.
"The full story please, don't skip the details!" they said at the same time. Soon thereafter Ron changed the subject to Quidditch, and started to discuss what the chances were for the Chudley Cannon that year. Hermione sometimes cut them off to tell them some weird fact about the Quidditch mascots. How Hermione would know that, Harry didn't know. She had never shown an interest in Quidditch before. Ginny for the most part stayed quiet; she participated in the Quidditch discussion to defend her favourite team, the Holyhead Harpies. But for most of the time she was pale and withdrawn. Ginny wouldn't even look at him in the eye.
The friendly atmosphere soon came to an end, when Mediwitch Peterson shooed everyone out. It was after visiting hours, she claimed. They all took their time to say goodbye, but once they left, the screen separating Harry's bed from Malfoy's was jerked open.
"Finally. I thought they would never leave!" Malfoy said grumpily. "Call a Mediwitch, will you, and get her to open a window. The smell of a Weasley lovefest is stinking up the room."
"Shut up, Malfoy! Just because nobody ever wants to see your ugly mug, doesn't mean you have to insult my friends!" Harry countered angrily.
"You don't know anything! I've got plenty of visitors! Plenty! You have just been conveniently passed out for the last couple of days!" Malfoy shrieked, his cheeks turning red in anger. "I'm happy that they weren't here today. They could have caught something from those awful Weasleys!"
"Shut up, Malfoy!" Harry shouted; he really had had enough. "Just shut the fuck up! I don't want to hear a word from you!"
"Don't tell me to shut up! You shut up!"
Harry turned his back to Malfoy, and was determined that he would never during his stay at St Mungo's speak another word to him. He can go stuff himself, Harry thought. He'd rather be silent all the time then talk to that git.
The silence between them lasted for two days. Two whole days they ignored each other. That was until the time came for Harry to undergo his treatment. He lay on his stomach while Healer Taylor removed the bandages from Harry´s back. It didn´t hurt as much as he had thought; the bandages didn´t get stuck on the wound and the fresh air felt good on his back. Then the treatment started, and the pain flared. It was like his whole back was on fire, feelings like thousands of needles heated by fire. Harry couldn´t take it, so he screamed and screamed. His hands clutched the bedding. He lifted his back from his bed, trying to get away from what was causing him pain. A firm hand on the back of his neck pushed him down again. He couldn´t leave. He had to get through this.
All of the sudden, a cool hand wrapped around his own hand. Looking through squinting and teary eyes, Harry could see the whiteness of Malfoy´s hair, surrounded by a pale pink blotch. Harry squeezed the hand; it calmed him somewhat, and his mind could focus on something other than the pain. It was a relief.
And then it was over. The pain had stopped, and the only thing that was left was a numbing sort of sensation. One that didn´t hurt as much, but wasn´t comfortable either. Then it was all gone, replaced by a cool sensation and a brush of new bandages. It was then he noticed that he still was clutching Malfoy´s hand. Harry was reluctant to let go. It was strange. Somehow, he felt like if he let go, he would lose this comfort and the pain would return.
Harry could hear the vague voices of Healer Taylor and of Mediwitch Peterson, but he didn´t pay attention to what they were saying. He didn´t want to, since in a petty and childish way, he thought that they deserved being ignored for the pain they had caused him just now. He felt exhausted, tired beyond belief. So tired that the need for sleep had passed.
His glasses were pushed onto his nose. One of the arms had missed his ear and was pushed uncomfortably into his cheek. He corrected them, and Malfoy´s face came into view. Strange, Harry thought, he never would've thought that he'd see Malfoy look at him with such concern.
"How are you?" he whispered, as if talking out loud would scare Harry somehow.
"Fine," Harry rasped, his throat a little hoarse from screaming. He smiled at Malfoy, and was surprised that he got a small smile in return.
"Potter, why was I on the bottom of the Lake at the Triwizard Tournament?" he mumbled, ducking his head so that his eyes were hidden from Harry's view. To Harry he looked shy at the moment, but it was possible he was just afraid of the answer to his question. He didn't know. He knew what Malfoy was talking about. During the Second Task of the Tournament, Harry'd had to rescue a person dear to him. He was surprised to find Malfoy there at the bottom of the Lake. He had spent some time pondering why, but he just couldn't answer it.
"I don't know..." he mumbled sleepily. His eyes felt heavy, all of the sudden. The exhaustion was catching up to him. Harry fell asleep, still clutching Malfoy's hand in his.
The week after that flew by. Harry had undergone two more treatments, and Malfoy, or Draco, as Harry had come to think of him, was there to comfort him. Afterwards they talked about their lives. Harry learned that Draco had gone to France after fourth year, fleeing with his mother the madness his father was getting into. Narcissa, Draco had said, hadn't wanted to be part of it. He also talked about his education at Beauxbatons, which was different from Hogwarts, as they didn't have Houses and their approach to teaching subjects was different. Harry had laughed, as he imagined Draco prancing around in blue silk decorated with ribbons.
Harry had asked about the others' injuries, and had managed to get the story out of a reluctant Draco. It seemed that Pansy, his best friend, had been nice enough to make a body lotion. He had been wary of using it, but with a skill that Harry could only term as something Slytherin, even though Draco didn't say this outright, she had managed to persuade him otherwise. As it turned out, the body lotion was highly toxic, and its only use was to turn skin into liquid.
"Thank Merlin, I had used a cloth to put it on, or else my hands would have come in contact with it as well. Then I would be practically an invalid," Draco had said jokingly.
A few of their friends stopped by as well. For Harry, various members of the Weasley family, Hermione, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom, came to bring flowers, candy and all sorts of things.
For Draco it had mostly been Pansy, sometimes accompanied by Crabbe and Goyle, who kept telling him she was sorry. A skinny man, whom Harry later found out was called Theodore Nott, had also stopped by once.
Albus Dumbledore had popped by at one time, cheerily wishing them well, while eating a few Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. He also had time to share some funny anecdotes about students, and a few pranks that had been played on the teachers, one which he had admittedly had a hand in, a prank on Snape. Harry had been curious what the prank was about, but the Headmaster stayed tightlipped about the whole thing. He only smiled mischievously over his glasses, and winked at Harry.
Harry noticed that Draco was also undergoing some kind of treatment. It seemed that the Healers didn't quite know how to cure him, so they just fed him any sort of potion. Some of them didn't have any effect, while others had nasty or sometimes strange side effects. There had been a potion that made Draco cry almost nonstop for a day. Everything could set him into a bawling mess. Another potion had made him feel so cold from the inside, like his insides were freezing, yet when Harry'd touched him, his skin felt incredibly warm. Harry got used to comforting him, when he had to take another one of those potions. They looked after each other, providing comfort where needed.
Then, during the second week, an unexpected, yet expected, visitor stopped by.
"Hey kid!" Sirius said as he came bursting through the door. He strode towards Harry and ruffled his hair. Harry grinned up at him. He hadn't seen his godfather in a while, seeing that he was an Auror and sometimes had undercover missions that kept him from visiting Harry.
"Sirius!" replied Harry joyfully. He had almost lost his godfather at the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts. Harry had been convinced that Voldemort had held Sirius captive in the Department of Mysteries, so he had gone to save him, followed on his journey by his friends. It had been a trap, planned by Voldemort, and Sirius had almost paid for it with his life. In the end, it had been Lucius Malfoy who had been killed by the Avada Kedavra from his sisterinlaw.
Harry noticed Draco looking curiously at Sirius. "Draco, this is Sirius Black. My godfather," he said smiling.
Sirius turned towards Draco. "Oh! You're Cissy's kid, aren't ya?" He walked towards him and ruffled his hair the same way as he had Harry's. Draco glared at him, and ran his hand through his hair.
Sirius sat down on the edge of Harry's bed, and grinned. "Sorry it took so long to visit you. Been on an undercover mission again. All very hushhush, you see. Couldn't leave earlier, but I wrapped it all up as fast as I could. So what's happening?"
Harry told him everything that had happened, how Daisy had tried to have him for lunch, what his injuries were and how the treatment was going. Draco inserted some comments of his own into the story.
"You should have been more careful. I assume Hagrid told you all kinds of things about dragons. But since you are doing all right, I guess I'll let it slide for now. Especially now that you have learned your lesson," he grinned wickedly. "James used to say, 'No pain, no gain'. Though he probably hadn't expected his son to take it quite so literally."
Draco sniggered and Harry glared at him. He was glad that Sirius wasn't going to lecture him about the dangers of working with dragons. He had heard that enough, particularly from one Mediwitch who always seemed to scold him on the subject.
"Oh, before I forget." Sirius jumped up and grabbed something from his inside pocket. It looked like a small box. He waved his wand at it and it turned into a book, which he handed to Harry. "I want you to have this. It's a photo album. Mooney made it, when he was just out of Hogwarts. I've got the pictures myself, so I thought you would like to have this one."
Harry opened the album and started leafing through the pictures. He watched as his father, James, came into view riding his broomstick, holding a Quaffle. In another photo he saw Sirius winking at the camera. His mother studying, with a frustrated expression on her face. The caption read, Lily working on Ancient Runes. The next picture was of Lily and a beautiful girl, who was wearing a Ravenclaw uniform. She had long blond hair and very pale skin, and in the margin was scribbled,Lily and Cissy on their way to Charms.
"Is that..?" Harry asked, pointing at the girl. Sirius looked at the picture and grinned. "That is Narcissa Black, or rather Narcissa Malfoy. Surprised she was in Ravenclaw, aren't you? She was always the most sensible of us all, got on well with Lily, by the way. That is until she married Malfoy. After she married, she just broke contract with us all."
Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear, as the saying goes. A few seconds after Sirius' explanation, Narcissa regally entered the room. To say that she looked different from when Harry'd last saw her would've been an understatement. The last time he'd seen her, she had been dressed in dark and stiff robes, and had had her face curled up like she'd smelled something rank. Now she practically glowed! She wore her long hair loose, and it floated behind her. The dark colours were gone, and she wore a sky blue robe that flowed around her. She was stunning. Harry could now clearly see the resemblance between her and her son. He had always thought that Draco looked more like Lucius, but as he watched Narcissa he realized he couldn't have been more wrong.
"Hello, darling," she said as she went to Draco and kissed him on the cheek. "I hope you are feeling better. Healer Taylor said that they are close to finding a cure. Aren't you happy?"
A sourlooking Severus Snape had been following Narcissa; he was the first one to spot Harry and Sirius.
"Potter. Black," he sneered, "what are you doing here? Couldn't you keep yourself out of trouble?"
"Had an accident with a dragon," Harry replied. He still didn't like the man. He would acknowledge that he had been valuable to the Light side in the war, and it was true that he respected him to a certain degree. But Snape hadn't changed much in attitude. He was still the sour and bitter Potions professor of Hogwarts.
"If you had paid more attention to Hogwarts' motto, you wouldn't have been in this situation. Never tickle a sleeping dragon!" he drawled, "But then again, I shouldn't be surprised that you didn't pay attention, as you were after all raised by Black."
"Shut it, Snivellus!" Sirius growled. "Just because you are a bitter old man, doesn't mean that the rest of the world has to live like you do."
Sirius stood up and walked towards Snape, ready to return every sneer that would be thrown at him or Harry. Narcissa took the time to glide over to the chair that was stuffed into the small space between the two beds.
"Shouldn't we stop them?" Harry questioned, as he watched the sparring match between his godfather and his exprofessor.
"Nah," Draco replied, "Uncle Severus needs to spar once in awhile. Makes him more bearable to live with."
Narcissa nodded, smiled mischievously and said, "Makes him less of an uptight old man. Even Dumbledore is fitter than he is."
They watched the duo get redder and redder, lost in their fight. Draco sniggered a couple of times at some of the more creative comebacks. Harry grinned; it was rather funny to watch.
Then Narcissa noticed the open album in Harry's lap and asked, "May I?"
"Sure," Harry said, and he handed it over to her. Narcissa leafed through the pages, and pointed things out to Harry and Draco. She told them stories about her time at Hogwarts. She talked about her friendship with Lily, and about the wish she'd had to marry a powerful wizard.
"I regretted, of course, that I broke off my friendship with Lily. I thought it was best at the time. I was going to marry someone who made all my wishes come true. It was only later that I found out that he was a Death Eater. I couldn't do anything about it, because I already had Draco, and I didn't want to him to get hurt. But sometimes I wished I had, maybe she would have been alive." She looked sad for a moment before going on about Draco's baby stories, much to the embarrassment of Draco and the hilarity of Harry. They didn't stop talking about it, until visitors' time was over. Narcissa promised that she would return soon, and that she would bring some of the pictures she still had of Lily.
Another week had passed by slowly. Life at St Mungo's became normal to Harry; He'd been dragged into the daily routine of the hospital. More friends had visited, and the room slowly became stuffed with all the flowers and wellwishes he and Draco had received.
Today was supposed to be just a normal day. The morning started the same and was followed by Harry's treatment. Healer Taylor had said that Draco would be given a new potion this afternoon. Harry wasn't that worried; the sideeffects he could handle. Draco, too, was optimistic about it.
The Mediwitch came into the room, carrying a tray with a glass of redcoloured potion on top of it.
"Drink everything," she said briskly.
Draco shrugged, then he emptied the glass and handed it back to her. She quickly left the room, on to helping other patients.
Draco just sat there for a while, nothing seeming to happen. Then his face slowly changed and he started screaming. Harry panicked. What was happening? What was happening to Draco?
"Make it stop! It burns! It burns!" Draco shrieked, flailing his arms and legs about. Harry managed to grab his hand and gently squeezed it, hoping to calm him down. Draco's hold had tightened, as he held Harry's hand like it was his life line. His only hope.
"Harry! Please make it stop! Please! It hurts! It burns! Make it stop!" Draco begged, tears streaming down his face. Harry lifted himself out of his bed, his body still feeling heavy from his treatment that morning. He had to get to Draco, though, he had to do something. He had to comfort him, take his pain away, take his mind off of it. Harry crawled into Draco's bed and wrapped his arms around the shaking boy.
He hugged him tightly to his chest, and whispered in his hair, "Shhh...It's okay. It's going to be just fine." Harry softly kissed his forehead. He was worried about Draco. No one of these potions had had such a volatile effect. It was frightening to watch Draco writhe in pain like that.
"Harry, please make it stop! It hurts so much," Draco sobbed. Tears were streaming down his face; his cheeks were red from the exertion. He was sweaty, and his hair stuck on his forehead because of it.
"Shh...it'll be over soon. Just hang on a little longer. I'm here." He cooed, and planted kisses around his face. Anything to calm him down. He began rocking Draco back and forth, still whispering reassurances in his ear. He didn't want to see Draco like this ever again. It hurt Harry as if he had taken the potion himself.
Draco grabbed the front of Harry's hospital gown, and begged, "Please, don't leave me alone, Harry. I can't do this on my own! It burns!"
"This is going to be okay, Draco. I promise you everything will be all right. I will be here, and everything will be over soon. Just calm down and focus on me."
After a while, Draco settled down and fell asleep, still clutching Harry to him. Harry, exhausted from holding a struggling Draco, fell asleep not long after.
The next time Harry woke, his glasses were digging painfully into his cheeks and nose. He became aware that he was still holding Draco, and had probably held him throughout the night. He had swung an arm and a leg around Draco, a protective gesture. Draco's face was lying against Harry's collarbone; Harry could feel soft puffs of air tickling his neck. His arm had became numb; it was stuck underneath Draco's shoulders. Harry didn't want to wake him up just because his arm was feeling uncomfortable.
He reached up with his free hand and corrected his glasses. Then he snuggled back into the mattress and under the covers. He hadn't slept that well in quite a while. It felt good, and he had Draco to thank for that. This was better than he could have hoped for.
This comfort of waking up beside someone was mindblowing. Harry wanted to experience it more often. But experiencing this with someone else than Draco wouldn't feel right. He pictured himself sleeping next to Hermione or Ginny like this, or - considering whom he'd woke up with - Neville or Ron, but it just didn't fit. Really, just the thought of sharing his bed with Ron was making him feel nauseous. Harry sighed, thinking life was good. He caressed Draco's hair, wiping it out his face. He looked cute like this, Harry thought, more relaxed and slightly childish. It was adorable.
Then Draco let out a sleepy moan. Harry froze, startled. What if Draco didn't want this. What would happen then? Should he pull away, right now? Draco snuggled closer to Harry, and sighed. Harry kept perfectly still, looking at Draco's face, trying to see any sign that he was waking. Suddenly, Harry found himself staring at a pair of grey eyes.
"Good morning," Draco whispered breathily, yawning and smiling up at Harry.
"Morning," Harry croaked. Draco smiling was a good sign, wasn't it? That meant he could stay like this, right? Draco reached up and cupped Harry's face between his hands. It was strange, Harry thought, that Draco's hands were so cold while his body was warm.
They stared at each other, then slowly their lips met. Harry didn't know who had moved first; what he did know was the feeling of bliss as those soft pink lips pressed against his own. It was different than the other kisses he had experienced. The kiss he had exchanged with Cho, he could only describe as wet. With Ginny it'd been more of a challenge, rough and filled with tongue. This kiss was like heaven; it was gentle and comforting. Harry lost himself in it.
Draco slowly opened his mouth, and then their tongues caressed attentively, carefully. They were both afraid of the other's reaction. Harry grew more bold and pulled Draco flush against him. He combed his fingers through Draco's hair and marvelled at the softness. They parted, but stayed close together.
"Stay, please," Draco said, his breath puffing against Harry's lips.
"Yeah..." he replied.
Epilogue - One year Later
It was one year later and Harry hadn't regretted making the promise he had made. On the contrary, he had loved it. It had been a year since they'd left the hospital. As it had turned out, Draco'd had to stay longer than Harry had. But they had kept in touch, and Harry had visited often. They grew closer and closer, and finally admitted to each other that they were in love. It was one of the happiest days of Harry's life, hearing Draco say, "I love you."
It hadn't always been easy, dating a Malfoy. There were people who didn't want the Chosen One to be dating the son of a Death Eater. Not to mention the reactions of Serverus Snape and Ron Weasley to the news. Snape had kept making snide remarks and Ron had exploded in a spectacular tantrum; he'd kept reminding Harry of all the bad things Draco had done while they were still at Hogwarts. Luckily, Ron stopped soon enough. Harry figured Hermione had had her hand in that one, threatening to break up with him if he'd kept it up. Thankfully, Narcissa had been fine with it; she'd practically welcomed Harry into the family. She and Sirius had managed to get Snape under control.
Then there was of course Draco himself, who sometimes wasn't easy to live with. There were days when his attitude was similar to that of his fourteen year old self, moody and prickly. Draco could throw tantrums as big as he himself was, and would curse everyone that looked at him the wrong way. But at other times he was perfectly sweet and adorable.
In the end it didn't really matter to Harry what others thought of Draco. He knew what he wanted, and he wasn't going to change his mind just because his best friend and his lover's godfather couldn't bear to see the two of them together. He loved Draco and he was going to stick with it. Thankfully Draco felt the same way. They have been living together for two months now and life couldn't be better.
It was still early in the morning; they didn't have to get up for another hour. They were expected at Narcissa's for brunch at ten. Harry was already awake, and looked at the perfect pale skin of Draco's chest and sides. His skin had been perfectly healed, and there wasn't any sign that there used to be an injury, unlike Harry, who would carry the scars on his back forever. The poison that had been in the wound had prevented them from disappearing completely.
Harry watched the rise and fall of his lover's chest with every breath he took. He felt content. He reached out his hand, and ran his finger lightly across his side. Draco moaned, slapped off the offending hand and turned away from Harry.
Harry grinned and snickered. "It true you shouldn't tickle a sleeping dragon," he mumbled.
"Hmmm?" Draco asked, half asleep.
"Nothing. Go back to sleep." And with that, Harry wrapped himself around Draco, hugged him close to his chest and fell blissfully back to sleep.