Harry woke up with a soft moan, the sound of arguing bombarding his head where a headache was quickly coming to life. What happened? The last thing I remember is flying in the Quidditch match. Draco was flying with me. And then…the Bludger! Harry shot up, knocking the Hospital Wing bed covers off of him and looked around wildly, then cringed as his headache spiked. He gripped at his head, just as the arguing people stopped and turned their attention to him.
"Mr. Potter!" came about three or four shouts at once that had Harry groaning and leaning back on the bed, adjusting himself so he could sit up.
"Stop yelling. You're giving me a headache."
The sound of bustling and shooing replaced the arguing as Madam Pomfrey started fussing over him, handing him a headache potion and some Bruise Removal Paste, as well as a pain-relieving potion Harry had never seen before. "Welcome to the world of the living again, Mr. Potter; here you are. Take these and turn around so I can rub the paste on your back."
"What? Why?" Harry drunk the headache potion first, sighing in relief when his headache went away. Before he turned around, he took a moment to look and see who else was in the room to figure out who was arguing.
Hermione, Ron, Theo, Pansy, Blaise, McGonagall, and Madam Pomfrey were crowded around two beds, one of which holding Harry and the other with covers pulled over a similarly sized form with only thin, sickly blond hair peeking out. It took a few seconds for Harry's disoriented mind to understand the form was Draco.
"What the bloody hell do you think you were doing!" That was Ron, who was absolutely livid and about as red in the face as his hair. "You could have died!"
"What was he supposed to do? Just let him die?" Hermione. She turned on Ron.
"How un-Gryffindorish of you, Weasely," Pansy sniffed, arms crossed and standing closer to Draco's bed than Harry's.
"Yeah," Theo added, standing near Pansy. "Never thought you guys wouldn't risk your necks for anybody. Half-witted martyrs, you are."
Ron bristled and turned on Theo. "Who in their right minds would do anything for you lot?"
"Your Golden Boy , obviously," Blaise cut in smoothly. He was closest to Draco, sitting on the end of his bed. Harry stared, remembering what he'd seen in the hall. "What are you looking at?" Blaise asked when he noticed Harry's staring. Harry quickly looked away, glancing at Draco, who was obviously unconscious, then looking back at his friends.
They were still arguing, though McGonagall and Pomfrey were giving them a tongue-lashing for making so much noise in a hospital via senseless arguing. They only shut up when Pomfrey threatened to kick them out.
"Could somebody tell me how I got here?" Harry asked, filling in the now awkward silence. That got their attention. "My memory stops at going after Draco."
"You did go after him, and reached him just before he hit the ground and my spell reached him. It caught you both so you only got minor injuries; just a few bumps and bruises really, but the reason why you're here is to make sure you're not seriously hurt, and to deal with a matter that was just recently brought to my attention." McGonagall cut in before any of the students could start. The mood of the room gradually dropped as McGonagall went on, sobering almost completely by the end.
'"What…matter?" Harry said, unconsciously quieting, confused at the new mood.
Instead of answering, Hermione motioned towards Draco's bed, biting her lip and looking at the ground. Harry looked and watched Blaise pull the cover away from Draco. Harry gasped.
Draco was covered in bruises and burns, with a few blisters littering him. He was ridiculously thin, and everything on his body— which was only covered by the cover pooling around his waist and a pair of boxers— was almost off-white, it was so pale, minus his ears, which were tinted red. There were deep, dark bags under his eyes, his hair was a complete mess, and his arm was lying uselessly at his side and the darkest blue and purple and ugliest bruise was there. Draco's eyes were closed, he appeared to be asleep. Harry had seen Draco in the showers awhile ago, had seen the bruises already, but they were nowhere near this bad. He'd never seen all the other things either.
"What happened to him?" Harry asked in astonishment.
"That's what we've been trying to figure out, Mr. Potter," McGonagall replied. "But it seems we're having a little trouble uncovering the truth. According to Mr. Malfoy's friends, this state was caused by his fall as well as inter-house bullying. That Mr. Malfoy is being attacked by members of the other Houses and keeping it to himself. Your friends, on the other hand, think that something else is going on instead, or, at least, the Slytherins aren't telling the whole story."
"What reason do we have to lie?" Pansy asked, peeking at Draco. "What else could it possibly be?"
"What reason don't you have," Ron practically hissed, getting riled up again. "I wouldn't put it past you dirty snakes to beat up on your own kind. Maybe you hate him now, now that his daddy is rotting in Azkaban and he can't go rat on you anymore."
"Excuse me?" Pansy spun around towards, hackles raised. "What do you think you're implying, you Mudblood-loving blood traitor! How dare you even accuse us of such a thing!" Despite Pansy being the only one to verbally react, both Blaise and Theo tensed considerably at Ron's insult, an action that didn't go unnoticed to Harry.
"It's true and you know it!" Ron huffed, not backing down from the angry girl in the least.
Before Pansy could attempt to throttle Ron, Hermione and Theo stepped in almost as one. Theo pulled Pansy into a hug, which was actually more like physically restraining her than anything. He whispered things in her ear that Harry couldn't make out, then she visibly relaxed, took a deep breath, and was cool and unaffected again. Theo let her go when he was sure she wouldn't do anything she'd regret later. Hermione simply called Ron's name, sounding incredibly cross. Ron looked at her almost immediately and then down in shame at the look she gave him, the tips of his ears burning.
"Now then," Hermione said, turning her attention to Blaise. "Blaise."
Blaise straightened up a little. "Yes, Granger?"
"What were you saying to Draco when you caught him mailing a letter to his Mum a couple weeks ago?"
Blaise's eyes narrowed for a moment, then his face went back to passive. "That's none of your business, Granger. How did you know about that, anyway? We didn't see you there."
"How I know isn't important. What's important is that you answer my question. To me, it looked like you were the one bullying him."
"I wasn't," Blaise didn't hesitate, nor change expression. "I was comforting him, if you must know. He was writing to his Mum about the other Houses and wanted her advice. He'd been about to be hexed by another student when I found him. He was overwhelmed and upset and I was supporting him. Believe it or not, Granger, but we Slytherins do stick together, and some of us are friends, as hard as that is to believe."
Hermione blushed, unable to think of any flaws with what Blaise had said. "Who was the student who'd been going to hex him? Surely you must have saw him, or at least what House the person was in?"
"I don't know. The student ran away when they heard me coming. All I saw was Draco leaning against the wall. He told me about a student wanting to hex him, but I didn't want to upset him more by asking for more details. He told me to forget about it, so I did."
Harry frowned. There was nothing wrong with Blaise's story that Harry could prove at the moment, but what Blaise was saying and the little bit of conversation Harry had heard didn't match up. If Harry remembered correctly, Blaise had sounded anything but comforting when he'd talked to Draco. He'd been pissed, and was insulting Draco, if anything. And there was something about someone getting expelled? Harry couldn't remember, he was overworking his weakened mind and his headache was starting to come back.
"Harry? What do you think?" Hermione asked him, worrying her lip. Harry could easily see Hermione had forgotten the finer details of Harry's explanation, or it didn't occur to her to bring up since she couldn't prove it either. They were basically playing 'He-Said-She-Said' without any proof, and Harry was too out-of-it to think of a way to prove it.
"…" Harry was silent. The Slytherins took Harry's silence as a defeat,
"See, Granger?" Theo said. "Now stop making baseless accusations about us."
"But—But—" Harry could see Hermione's mind working a mile a minute to prove her case. "I got it! Headmistress!" Hermione turned to McGonagall, who was silently watching the whole exchange with Madam Pomfrey.
"Yes, Ms. Granger?" McGonagall replied, somewhat caught off guard at being addressed.
"Can't you make the Slytherins take the Truth Serum so we can ask them questions and know they aren't lying?"
"Absolutely not!" McGonagall sounded appalled. "The Truth Serum is only brought out when absolutely necessary! It's used for interrogations, as I'm sure you know. On what grounds do you think I should take these students in to be interrogated? On your word alone?"
"No, but I can promise you he's lying!" Hermione said, getting more passionate towards the end. "Draco is under some type of spell that someone put on him to keep him from telling the truth!"
"What on earth makes you say that?" McGonagall looked startled.
"He told us himself! Well, not me or Ron, but he told Harry!"
All eyes went to Harry. "Is this true, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked.
"Um…Yes. He did tell me that, Headmistress," Harry hesitated, distracted by Pansy's nostrils flaring at the mention of a spell.
"Were you three aware of Mr. Malfoy being under the influence of a spell?" McGonagall turned onto the Slytherins, who were once again uniformly impassive.
"Draco isn't under any spell," Pansy said. "He would have told us if he was."
"So you weren't aware?"
"There's nothing to be aware of," Blaise agreed. "Draco isn't under any sort of spell. Who would cast it on him without any of us knowing?"
"Better yet," Theo cut in. "Why would Draco tell you three, his enemies since Year 1, about a spell he was under before he told us, his closest friends?"
McGonagall paused, then looked towards Harry. "Well, Mr. Potter?"
It was Harry's turn to flush. "He told me in the showers after the Quidditch match. He had bruises then too, but not as bad as this, and he told me a spell was the reason he couldn't tell me how he got them."
"That doesn't answer my question," replied Theo.
"So you knew about Draco being hurt before?" Pansy added. "Why did you keep that to yourself?"
"What spell did he say he was under?" Blaise said too. "And you haven't answered my question either?"
"Why would he tell you that?"
"Why would he want to be in your presence any longer than necessary in the first place?"
"When were you planning to tell someone about this?"
Harry faltered under the barrage of questions from the three Slytherins, who were asking him question after question without giving Harry any time to answer any of them. It wasn't until now that Harry realized how insane it sounded that he would know all these things about Draco when, as far as the majority of the school was concerned, he and Draco were still mortal enemies. Which brought up the question of "What are we to each other now?" since they had obviously moved past the enemy territory.
"Alright, enough!" Luckily for Harry, McGonagall had heard enough. "Since it's obvious we can't get a straight story everyone can agree on now, the only we can do is wait. Poppy? Why don't you do a quick check for any spells placed on Mr. Malfoy for us please?"
Madam Pomfrey nodded, shooing the Slytherins away from Draco and taking out her wand, performing the necessary spells to check for any curses, hexes, or wizarding spells that were placed on Draco. The procedure didn't take long, and when Pomfrey pulled away, the conscious occupants of the room were waiting with baited breath.
"There are no wand-casted spells on Mr. Malfoy, Headmistress," Pomfrey announced, earning various reactions from the students. "The only spells I was able to find were traces of schoolyard hexes and jinxes and minor curses like the Stinging Hex, or the Jelly Legs Jinx. Most of these injuries were caused by these spells. There's no type of silencing spell or restrictive spell that I can detect on him."
Harry was dumbfounded. "What?"
"No student casted any type of silencing or restrictive spell on him, Mr. Potter," Pomfrey repeated herself, casting counter-curses for the hexes she identified. The blisters, cuts, burns, and quite a few of the bruises were taken away one-by-one. When Pomfrey finished with that, she ran one more check up spell over Draco. "Though there are no spells, it does seem that Mr. Malfoy has been consuming large amounts of Pepper Up Potion on a daily basis, which is why his ears are red. Where he has been getting the Potions, or storing them, is the question."
McGonagall sighed. "All we are doing is creating more questions without answering any of them. The best thing we can do is wait until Mr. Malfoy wakes up and see if we can get more information from him."
"But he can't tell you!" Harry cried, now very confused. Draco had said he was under a spell, under a spell he needed Harry's help to get out of. Had he been lying?
"And why not?"
"Because—" of the spell he's under. Harry gave a frustrated growl, ignoring his throbbing headache. "Because he can't! Every time I asked something that's what he said! 'Because I can't'! He told me he physically can't say anything about the spell."
"Harry," that was Hermione's voice, sounding quite small. "There is no spell. Madam Pomfrey just checked for it herself."
"Then maybe it's a potion—!"
"I just checked for that too, Mr. Potter. The only potion Draco has consumed in the past few weeks has been Pepper Up, which doesn't have any restrictive or silencing capabilities," answer Pomfrey, recognizing the almost desperation in Harry's voice.
"Mate, maybe the Slytherins are right," that was Ron, using the tone Harry knew to mean 'Calm down, you're getting to into this'.
"I'm sorry mate, but there is no spell. If Malfoy was lying to you about this, what if he was lying to you about the other things too? Maybe Zambini is telling the truth."
For some reason, the accusation made Harry particularly angry. Harry had no reason to really believe that Draco wasn't lying—it's not like Harry trusted him or anything—but something about the way Draco had been acting made Harry want to believe him.
The room went silent as Harry fought his internal battle, until McGonagall announced that it was time for supper. She ushered the students out of the Hospital Wing, glancing back at Harry just before she left. "I'm sorry, Harry," she said, then closed the door behind her.
"You're free to go, Mr. Potter," Madam Pomfrey said somberly, when the silence started to settle in the previously bustling room. "You don't have any lasting injuries that would keep you here. Go on to supper now," she continued, softening as she went on.
Harry leaned back heavily against his bed frame, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He turned to Draco, and watched the boy sleep for a few minutes, then said quietly. "Why haven't you healed him completely yet?"
Pomfrey paused, having expected Harry to leave as soon as she gave him the go ahead. "He needs Skele-Gro to fix his arm, but I can't feed it to him while he's still asleep. From my check up, I've found that Mr. Malfoy hasn't been sleeping or eating anywhere near as much as a boy his age should. He's malnourished, and sleep depraved, so I figured he needs as much rest as he can get. Not to mention I didn't want to wake him with everyone else in the room. They would have put stress on him that his body really doesn't need right now. I was planning on waking him up after you left, actually."
Harry stayed quiet, still watching Draco sleep. "Can I stay?" he asked.
"No! Didn't I just tell you he doesn't need to be stressed right now? Don't you think you arguing with him will make it worse?" Pomfrey was returned to her normal huffy self, then.
Harry didn't rise at all. "I promise I won't argue. I just want to talk to him. This is my only chance."
"You'll be seeing him everyday in classes when he gets out! How could this possibly your only chance to speak with him?"
"He's avoiding me. He's mad at me. I don't know why. I want to apologize and see if I can get anymore information from him."
"You can do that later, when he's stable. Now shoo!"
Madam Pomfrey stopped, softening again at the word. "What did you say, Mr. Potter?"
"Please, can I please stay and talk to Draco?" Harry's head was hurting too much for him to argue. But he couldn't pass up this chance.
Pomfrey sighed. "If I let you stay, you absolutely will not do anything to work him up. The second I see it happening, you're leaving, understand?"
Harry nodded. "Could I have another headache potion first?"
Pomfrey prepared the potion for him, as well as getting the Skele-Gro and taking the Bruise Paste back from Harry. She quickly cast a feather light charm on Draco's body, carefully arranging him so was sitting up like Harry was without bothering his arm, then releasing him and casting "Rennervate!"
Draco woke up, though not with a start, as Pomfrey and Harry were expecting. He looked around with bleary, half-asleep eyes, only to let them land on Harry. A slow smile spread on his face as he looked at Harry; "Hi, Harry," he mumbled, then started to attempt to move. Pomfrey was faster, and had her hand on his chest in seconds telling Draco to stay still.
Draco pouted, and mumbled again "I want to go by Harry!" but didn't make any attempts to move.
If Pomfrey was thrown for a loop by Draco's behavior she didn't show it, instead replying "Be good and sit still and Harry will come to you."
The smile came back then. "Okay," and he sat still. Pomfrey was reluctant to let him go for a few moments, then cautiously did so, only reaching for the Skele-Gro after she was sure he wouldn't try to move again.
"I need you to drink this, Draco," Pomfrey said sweetly, pouring out the necessary amount of medicine and offering it to Draco. "It doesn't taste good, but I need you swallow all of it. Can you do that for me?"
"Will Harry come here if I drink it?"
"Then alright," and Draco opened his mouth, waiting patiently for the medicine.
Pomfrey hesitated only a little, then fed the potion to Draco, who made an almost distressed noise as it burned his throat going down. Pomfrey petted his hair, giving him words of encouragement as she urged him to swallow the potion without spitting any of it out. Harry, who'd drunk his potion and was now a lot more lucid than Draco, was surprised that Draco was acting like and letting himself be treated like a child, but he didn't want to interrupt, so he stayed silent.
Draco coughed and spluttered when he finished, while Pomfrey patted him on the back. "Stop hitting me!" Draco snapped when he got his breath back, and it was clear to both of them that Draco was awake now.
Straightening up, the gentle air Pomfrey had had around her disappearing, she put the Skele-Gro back on the cart and put the Bruise Paste in Draco's lap. "Here you are, Mr. Malfoy," she said gruffly. "Have Mr. Potter help you put that on while I go check up on my other patients." Without waiting for answer, Pomfrey was gone, pulling the curtain around the two of their beds, leaving the two to their own devices.
"So, do you still want me to come to you?" Harry started conversationally, while Draco was fumbling with the Paste, attempting to open it with one hand.
"Yes, still, you were just calling for me a minute ago," Harry said, amused.
Draco blushed, mumbling "I thought I was dreaming," so low Harry was sure he wasn't meant to hear it. Why was Draco dreaming about him?
Pretending he hadn't heard, Harry continued. "Toss me the paste. There's no way you're going to get that open with one hand."
"I can do it myself!" Draco insisted, trying valiantly.
"Draco. Give it here."
Draco sighed, felling the magic wrap around his useable arm. "Take it," and he tossed it to Harry.
Harry caught it, frowning. "Have you been lying to me, Draco?"
"Madam Pomfrey says that there's no spell on you. How am I supposed to help you if you lie to me?"
"I'm not lying to you. It is a spell."
"No it isn't!" Harry snapped, watching Draco cringe. "Someone is beating you, Draco, and you won't tell me who. You won't tell me how I'm supposed to help you; you won't tell me anything! What am I supposed to do?"
Draco was studying his lap, once again looking defeated. "…How did you find out someone was beating me? All I said was this was a punishment."
The fight left Harry just as quickly as it came. "Your glamour came off when you passed out. You were an absolute mess before Pomfrey cleaned you up. It's obvious to anyone who looks you didn't get all those injuries from just falling…Draco?"
Draco had frozen after the first sentence, and gotten progressively paler and more shaken up as Harry spoke. His eyes were almost comically wide, something Harry would have laughed at in any other situation. "It-It came…off?" Draco breathily whispered.
"Me, 'Mione, Ron, McGonagall, Pomfrey, Parkinson, Nott, and Zambini. Why?"
Draco didn't say anything, just continued to make breathy sounds until Harry moved from his bed and stood near Draco's. "Did you…tell…them anything?" Draco was trembling now, looking at something Harry couldn't see.
"What did you say?"
"I told them about what happened in the shower, and Hermione talked about what happened when you tried to mail a letter to your Mum a couple weeks ago…Wh…Draco?"
Draco was in tears. His good arm was wrapped around his body, and his legs were pulled up to his chest. He was chanting "No," into his legs and seemed to have forgotten Harry was there.
"Draco?" Harry tried again, gingerly placing his hand on Draco's shoulder.
"Harry…hurry up," Draco hiccupped, leaning into Harry's touch.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, trying genuinely not to freak out like he'd down the last time something like this happened.
"He's going to kill me. Hurry up and save me. I can't take this for much longer."
Harry's blood ran cold. "Who's going to kill you? Save you from who?"
"You can't tell me, can you?"
"At least tell me what I'm supposed to do to save you. I have no idea, and I might have to do this on my own."
"Give me a hint, then."
"You told me that already."
"You haven't looked yet. You're not expecting this book, but it's in books. Find a book that'll tell you about me and it'll tell you what to do."
"What kind of books am I looking for?"
"Where am I looking for the book?"
"You can't be any more specific than that?"
"No. If I'm too specific, I'll tell you too much, and the spell won't let me do that. It hurts if I try."
"Madam Pomfrey says there is no spell."
"It is a spell, just not one she looked for," Draco winced, the noose tightening a little for the slightly too specific detail.
"You aren't lying to me are you?"
Draco glared harshly through his tears. "Why in Merlin's name would I lie to you when I need you to save me? What would that accomplish besides getting me killed?"
"Why do you need me to save you? It can't be anyone else?"
"No. No one else. Only you."
Harry sighed. "I need more information. Is there any way you can tell me more?"
"…I could…write something down…" Draco whispered, halfway hoping Harry wouldn't hear.
"What did you say?"
"I could write something down," Draco repeated, louder. "I'll give you a hint; why you're the only one who can save me. I'll write it down."
"You can do that?" Harry exclaimed, nearly forgetting Draco was leaning on him and letting him fall. "Why didn't you do that before?"
Draco mumbled something unintelligible, than had Harry conjure a piece of parchment and a quill. Swallowing inaudibly, Draco put the quill on the paper, then immediately pulled away.
Draco shook his head, and said "Nothing." Taking his trembling hand, he determinedly wrote, ignoring the pain in his hands that got worse every scratch he made on the paper. He was incredibly slow moving in his writing, unable to go any faster from the pain, and he almost dropped the quill a feel times when he got to the 'T'.
It wasn't until then, did Harry noticed Draco was actually hurting himself by writing, and he moved to grab Draco's hand, only to have Draco snap at him to let him finish. Harry had to restrain himself from grabbing Draco again as he got to the 'E'. Draco's hand was started to make rather grotesque noises that Harry could recognize as the sound of breaking bones. Draco was gritting his teeth, and stopping frequently, but refused to give up until he'd finished the letter, and his hand was about as ruined as his arm.
"There," he panted, already on the brink of unconsciousness. "That's why. That's you. Mine," then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "I'm sorry," and was out again, before Harry could even respond.
On the parchment, barely legible thanks to Draco's trembling and jerking, were the letters M, A, T, E.
Harry was Draco's mate?