A/N: this chapter is dedicated to winglessheartscan'tfly, thank you!
Ever since their encounter in the bathroom, after Draco had lost control of himself, Harry had been watching him from afar. It was mostly curiosity in the beginning but as he felt them getting closer it was also with growing concern. He'd been watching him so closely that he could see little differences in his looks and actions.
He'd noticed that after one of their chats the Slytherin would seem in a better mood, almost happier in a sense. It never lasted very long but it was there so he kept going. Then after the first hug he'd seen a major change. When Draco had come for breakfast the next morning he had almost been radiant, his smile had been brighter and more genuine, a sparkle in his eyes had made him seem less cold.
Then he'd watched as gradually over the next few days Draco reverted back to his more subdued self. Every day a little more until the greyness once again vanished to be replaced by the façade he'd seen before. He had straight away known it was a façade because there was no sparkle in Draco's eyes and his smile lacked the honesty he had noticed on previous days.
He had a suspicion what the cause of the short spell of brighter days had been. In order to know for sure he'd taken Draco aside one day and given him a hug. It was between classes so he hadn't had much time but the opportunity had presented itself and he hadn't been able to resist it.
As expected Draco had seemed much brighter again the next day, only to slowly start reverting back to greyness another day later. Now that he was certain, Harry had made a plan. His next step was getting Draco on his own again, they needed to talk.
It was after yet another encounter with Draco and his friends just as the Slytherins were walking away that Harry saw his chance. He'd been carrying a note with him, just waiting for the right moment. With a silent spell he moved the note into Draco's hand, glad to see those pale finger curling around it, holding on to it. Then he saw Draco throw a look over his shoulder and he winked at him, ignoring the sneer he received for his troubles.
A couple of hours later Harry stood in the bathroom where he had first found Draco. He'd already been waiting a while but that was to be expected. Being a Malfoy Draco would never be early, rather than being the one waiting he would always be the one to make others wait for him. Harry could accept that, so long as the blond would show up eventually.
So when after what felt like eternity the door opened and Draco walked in, Harry felt a wave of relief. For a moment he didn't speak and just stood smiling at Draco, who in turn just stood, leaning against the closed door, glaring at him.
"Draco. I'm glad you came. Wasn't sure you would." Harry eventually said.
Draco just shrugged.
"I've been watching you this past week." While talking Harry walked closer, until he stood right in front of Draco. "I've seen the difference in you. You felt better after our last chat but now... it's worse again, isn't it?"
"What makes you think that?"
"You're wearing a glamour."
"How do you know that?" Draco asked in obvious astonishment.
"I just know." Harry shrugged. "There's only a few things I know about you. One of them is that no matter how bad things are, you would never willingly ask for help. I don't want to imagine how bad it would have to be before you relented. So I'm gonna give you a way out. I'm going to insist that we meet at least once a day. It doesn't have to be long, we don't have to talk. All we have to do is hug. And to make it easier on your conscience, it's me that wants these hugs. You're the one granting me a wish or favour or whatever else you want to call it, so it'll be me in your debt." Harry stopped to let his words sink in. Even though it was difficult to read Draco, he knew that the wheels were turning. He just hoped that the blond would accept.
For a long time neither of them spoke. The only sound in the room was that of their regular breathing. Draco was staring at Harry intently, studying him to try and figure out any between-the-line-bits. But he couldn't find any flaws. It almost appeared that the Golden Boy knew him better than he had ever expected.
"So... YOU want ME to meet you on a daily basis so that YOU can hug ME?" Draco asked sceptically after a while.
"No conditions? No hidden anything?"
"You're not going to tell anyone about it? About any of it?" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"Anything that happens between us, anything that is said or done will stay only between the two of us."
"And if I do this, you will owe me a debt? Something to repay how I choose?"
"Well... you are a Slytherin. I can't possibly say I'll do whatever you want, Merlin knows what you'd come up with! But if it's a reasonable request and within my power I will do it, yes."
"Why?" Draco asked incredulously.
"I'm here as your friend, Draco. I want to help you, which is obviously something that you would never accept. So instead I'm here to ask for YOUR help. I want to be able to hug you and hold you, for a little while at least. It would make me feel better."
"If you weren't such a do-gooder I would have to wonder if they put you in the right house..."
Harry chuckled. "One day I'll tell you a little secret about that."
Draco narrowed his eyes and looked at Harry suspiciously but he only got a shrug and grin. "So how would this work? When and where do we meet?"
"I'd say the best option is probably to meet in here. It's in the middle between Gryffindor Tower and the Dungeons. It's not used so we won't be interrupted. As for time... probably a while after dinner but before curfew."
"And you agree we won't talk?"
"I'm not saying there won't be any talking at all. But I certainly won't force you to say anything." Harry paused for a moment, then asked. "So will you agree?"
"How long will this go for? I mean, if I want out at some point, you won't hold me to this?"
"I can't let you off the hook that easily. You have to meet me at least 10 times in the first two weeks otherwise no debt. After that time, if you want out, we'll discuss it. If you refuse to meet me I can't make you though. Either way you lose nothing."
"Fine... I guess I'll agree then." Draco said grudgingly.
"Give me a hug to seal the deal then." Harry said and had to fight to not break out in a grin.
Draco stared at him wide eyed for a moment before pushing himself away from the door with a sigh and opening his arms. Harry immediately stepped closer and they wrapped their arms around each other.
With his head hidden in Draco's shoulder Harry allowed himself to smile. He hadn't expected Draco to give in so quickly but was pleased all the more for it. "Now that you're here you might as well tell me a little more... about your nightmares let's say."
Draco tried to protest and pull away but it was a futile attempt. He was being held tightly.
"I think you know the drill by now. You stay here until I say otherwise. And today I want you to tell me something more about what's wrong. Before that happens I'm not letting you go." Even though his words could have been threatening, Harry said them in a way that they were almost soothing instead.
"I hate you..." Draco sighed in resignation.
"No one asked you to love me. You're just supposed to talk to me." Harry chuckled. After stroking Draco's back in silence for a few moments he continued. "So tell me about your nightmares. You dream about the Death Eaters? What do they do?"
"What do you think?" Draco hissed, barely stopping himself from rolling his eyes. "They torture!"
Harry could feel Draco tensing in his arms and just tightened his hold a little more. Then he gently asked, "whom?"
Draco took a deep breath before answering. "Depends... muggles... wizards, witches... me..." The last word was so quiet Harry barely heard it but he did and it made his heart ache.
He could feel Draco trembling in his arms and suspected that his legs would give out soon. So he led him away from the door and sat down leaning against the wall, taking Draco with him so he was sitting between his legs. Holding him tightly against his chest he started stroking a hand through Draco's hair hoping to soothe him. "Why you?" He gently asked after a while.
Draco choked out a desperate laugh. "Why me? Why not? No one is safe... They hate me... there's a million reasons...!"
"And your father?"
Harry wondered whether to prod further. It wasn't enough of an answer for his liking but he didn't want to push Draco. After a while the decision was taken from him when Draco continued.
"I think he's with...You-Know-Who... But father never actually appears in the dreams. It's always the others. They... they sc..." He trailed off choking back a sob.
"Sshh it's alright. You're safe here." Harry mumbled trying to soothe Draco. He gave him a little time to compose himself before gently asking, "Has anything like it ever actually happened?"
Draco couldn't answer, instead he choked back another sob. Harry figured he had his answer and it worried him. He also realised he wasn't likely to get anything else out of Draco. So instead he just held him tightly, whispering soothing words while at the same time stroking his back and head in hope of giving some comfort.
For a long time they just sat in silence except for the occasional sounds from Draco while he fought for control. When he had eventually calmed down Draco wiped his eyes with a sleeve. He was annoyed with himself because he'd been so emotional but his attempts to fight it had been useless. He gave himself a few more minutes to collect his cool. While he waited, he realised for the first time that he was sitting cradled in Potter's arms, head resting against his shoulder, both hands oddly wrapped into Potter's robe. He also realised that his back was being stroked, as had happened before. But the really astounding matter was that Potter was stroking his hair.
"I'm not a pet, you know?" He couldn't help but remark, his voice only holding a small amount of annoyance.
"Excuse me?" Harry asked back in confusion. He was surprised that the silence had been broken so suddenly and he didn't understand what Draco meant.
"You're petting me! Stroking my hair..." Draco pointed out, somewhat incredulously.
"Oh..." Harry stopped what he was doing, looking at his hand still tangled in Draco's blond strands. "I didn't really realise. I just wanted to... comfort I guess."
"You did. But you had better not mention it to anyone, ever! And don't presume I'll always let you do it."
Harry chuckled. "I wouldn't dare. I'm glad to know you're feeling better now though."
"I do." And with that Draco pulled away from Harry and stood up, stretching his muscles that had become a little sore from staying in the same position for too long.
Harry followed his example and stood up as well, watching Draco while he stretched. When the blond headed for the door he spoke. "I'll see you tomorrow then. Say an hour after dinner?"
Draco looked confused for a moment but then remembered the deal he'd agreed to. He rolled his eyes and shrugged before heading out of the room.
Harry let out a quiet sigh. They'd come far but no where near far enough. He really hoped that Draco would show up the next day. There were so many questions he wanted to ask. Two weeks, he realised, may not be enough.