The letter seemed to burn a hole in his pocket, and it took everything fibre of his being to try and act normal. He watched as Ron disappeared into the hospital room to say goodbye to Ginny and his parents. Part of him felt that he should have gone too, but he felt rooted to the spot. Ice freezing his spine rigid.
“Are you alright?” Draco’s whisper came softly next to his ear. He jumped and then inwardly cursed himself. He couldn’t look the taller man in the eyes without spilling the truth out all over the floor.
“Yeah, just tired!” He lied. He swallowed thickly.
“Just so you are aware, I don’t believe you” Draco kissed his head and pulled him close with an arm around his shoulder. “I won’t ask you if you’re sure. When we get home, you go back to bed!” Draco offered a small smile, and Harry nodded without returning it, still avoiding his eyes. Draco watched him for a few seconds longer before letting him go with a squeeze.
“You guys off?” Asked Wood standing slowly. He grimaced as he straightened stiffly.
Harry nodded tiredly. He felt like he had been running on nothing but oxygen and adrenaline for the last few hours.
“There’s nothing any of us can do until the healers finish their tests so, we’ll probably be back later, right now though, we need sleep! Why don’t you guys get home too?” Draco asked. Harry was eternally grateful for his articulate fiancé. He couldn’t seem to find the energy to talk like his words had dried up in his throat. He desperately needed to talk to Ron about everything before he exploded.
“Come on George.” Lee coaxed. George shook his head silently, not meeting anyone’s eyes as he stared fixedly at a spot on the wall, his posture allowing for no reason or argument. Lee sighed and sat back down. “I’ll see you guys later” He muttered tiredly as he wedged himself up against the wall and closed his eyes.
“What about you guys?” Wood asked the other two. Harry’s mind drifted as the others talked, he wanted to reread the note, just to make sure it was real and not a tired hallucination. His hand reached his pocket unconsciously before he jerked it away.
“I’ll stay for a while, see if he wakes up.” He heard Zach say as a hand grabbed his elbow
“Come on, Love.” Draco guided him gently towards the door.
“What about Ron?” He heard himself ask.
“I’m here” Ron’s voice came hollowly from just behind him. Harry nodded as he pushed his fingers into his eyes, hoping to clear away some of the sudden weariness that had washed over him.
Harry heard the distant chatter as they pushed open the doors, but it wasn’t until they were around the corner that they realised what the commotion was.
Flashbulbs exploded, and Harry was stopped by a wall of people.
“Mr Potter! Is it true that your ex-wife’s fiancé is in a coma?”
“Mr Weasley? Do you suspect Harry of poisoning your sister’s fiancé?”
“Harry? Were you involved?”
“Will Ginevra be playing this season, Or will this sudden set back affect her winning streak?”
“Mr Malfoy! Why are you here? Has the wedding been cancelled yet?”
Harry stood, his mind blank and panic building inside him. White flashes stained his vision from the exploding camera flashbulbs.
“Auror Weasley! What does the Ministry have to say about this?”
“Does it have anything to do with the missing Ministry officials?
Harry’s eyes darted to Ron and then to Draco, fear rising inside him, fear that Draco would hear something that would put him in further danger. He was just about to say something when another voice cut through everything.
“For the love of Merlin! This is a hospital! Do I have to call security?” Harry watched as all the paparazzi grumbled a few more shouting questions.
“Auror Weasley! When can we expect a formal statement from the ministry?”
“Don’t ask me, the Ministry is closed for the weekend, and I can’t think for myself!” Ron cried back, some of the reporters laughed as they exited the room. “I really hate reporters!” said Ron as they turned to the healer to offer their thanks.
“Hello, chaps.” He smiled back.
“What are you doing here?” Ron asked. Harry was still struggling to find his voice.
“Would you believe I work here?” He laughed as he gestured to his lime green robes.
“A healer? Impressive Finch-Fletchley!” Draco commented nodding his approval “In which area do you specialise?”
“Potions and Plant-poisoning although I am frightfully interested in Muggle medicine and how it can be used in a complementary manner.” He beamed. He paused as he looked at them all.
“Harry? Are you quite alright?” Harry felt himself nod.
“We’ve all had a very long evening, Gin’s fiancé is in the next ward.”
“Mr… Archer?” Justin asked as he looked at his clipboard.
“That’s him!” Ron said in astonishment.
“I was on my way to see him, an interesting case” Justin nodded.
“We’ll be back later, we would be interested to find out any information you have.”
“As you’re an Auror, how could I refuse?” Justin replied with a smirk.
Ron smiled, warmly before speaking again “Is there any other way out of here, mate? I really don’t want to have to walk through that crowd again!” He rolled his eyes as he pointed to the doors the paparazzi disappeared through.
“Of course, follow me, we have a staff entrance via floo.”
“Cheers mate, you are a lifesaver!”
“Yes, Thank you Finch-Fletchley!” Draco smiled calmly.
“Thanks, Justin,” Harry muttered as they were heralded into a side room.
The room inside was a large changing room with lockers surrounding the walls and a couple of benches in the centre. There was a large fireplace at one end which Justin pointed at, stepping out of their way as they entered the room.
“As you see, excellent for a disappearing under the reporters’ noses.”
“Thanks again mate! See you later,” Ron said as Draco grabbed a handful of powder and handed it to Harry.
“See you later chaps,” Justin called as he shut the door behind them.
Seeing Draco’s nervous face seemed to awaken Harry from whatever trance he had been under.
“You go first Dray,” Harry said with a smile. Draco’s paling face looked at him and nodded, the bones in his jaw tight and stiff. He took a deep breath as he threw his powder in and called out for their home. Within a second there was a whoosh of green fire, and Draco was gone.
“Are you alright mate?” Ron asked, placing his hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry shook his head.
“Not really, I’m surprised you’re so calm. That note-”
“If I got worried every time I got a death threat, I’d have left the Auror’s years ago!”
“But how many times has that threat come with one of your family members getting hurt?” Harry watched as Ron’s jaw clenched, his Adam’s apple dipping nervously. Harry knew he was just as worried and had more to lose. “What do we do?” Harry asked as he pulled out the note from his pocket, shaking it for emphasis. It was a simple note, written on plain parchment in thick, black ink. “Back off, no one else needs to get hurt” scrawled in a delicate hand.
“What if it had been Draco? Or Hermione? Or one of the kids?” Ron sat down on the bench, his fingers pushed through his copper hair. There was a long pause where Harry could hear nothing but Ron’s breathing and his own heartbeat.
“This is my job, Harry! I can’t quit this. Even if I could, someone else would get assigned and then it’ll be their family at risk.” He sighed heavily as he swallowed again. “I don’t think I could live with myself with that on my conscience. Could you?” Harry closed his eyes and shook his head. No, he couldn’t live with himself if he had led the danger to someone else.
“We need to tell them, tell them all,” Harry said
“What? We can’t do that, what if it gets out?” Ron asked, his voice rising in pitch.
“And who would do that? Draco and Hermione are both trustworthy. Hell, Hermione held out against Bellatrix Lestrange without spilling, and Draco managed to help us under Bellatrix’s nose at the manor! Unless you think someone in your family would talk?” Harry crossed his arms as he leant against one of the lockers. He didn’t think, for one second any of their family would utter a word. “Come on, Ron! They need to know that they’re all in danger, forewarned is forearmed!”
Ron leant forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he rested his lips on his hands. Harry watched and waited as Ron thought through the idea. He glanced up and shook his head.
“I hate this plan, and it goes against all my training, but you are right, I would never forgive myself if something happened and that knowledge could have saved them!”
“What was it that Mad-Eye used to say? Constant vigilance!”
Ron nodded, his gaze far away and then nodded again as if trying to think of an alternative plan. After a few moments, it was clear, no other suggestions were forthcoming.
“We’ll tell them tomorrow, while we have everyone at the Burrow.” Harry nodded
“Mind if I tell Draco alone?” Ron thought for a second and then shook his head,
“Might be a good idea that we both tell our better halves first, might reduce the amount of shouting and swearing around the kids tomorrow.” Ron laughed humourlessly. They paused again before Harry pushed away from the wall.
“Draco should be clear now, you next,” Harry said as he pointed to the fire. Ron nodded and stood as he stepped up to get a handful of floo powder. Harry did the same as Ron disappeared into the green blaze.
Harry took a deep breath feeling slightly better knowing that he would be telling Draco everything.
He waited another handful of seconds before throwing his own powder in and stepping forward. His voice calling out the cottage name clearly.
Harry released the breath he didn’t even realise he’d been holding as he stepped from the fireplace, his eyes automatically searching the room for Draco. His eyes didn’t need to wander far, as the pale, grey eyes met his and he knew he was home. Draco smiled, and it seemed that some of the lines around his own eyes disappeared.
“You took your time.” Draco commented as his eyes dropped back down to the thick tome in his hands.
“Yeah, sorry, we had to discuss something” Draco nodded, not looking up from his book.
“I gathered, I took the liberty of making you both tea, over on the table” Draco waved in the direction of the dining table without looking up for a second time. Harry walked towards him and kissed the top of his head, his soft hair filling his senses with its sweet scent. Draco hummed contentedly, the back of his hand rubbing the side of Harry’s leg lovingly. Harry straightened up as he squeezed Draco’s shoulder, then turned to the long wooden table.
In Harry’s favourite stoneware mug sat the tawny coloured liquid and Harry knew it would be exactly as he liked it. Next to it sat two small purple vials of liquid. He picked one of them up carefully as Ron reappeared from the bathroom.
“Now that you’re both here, I also made up a batch of ‘dreamless sleep’ recently which I thought you could do with,” Draco said as he clapped the book shut and placed it down before smoothly standing to join them by the table. Harry watched as he gracefully moved from the sofa, towards them. It was times like this when Harry truly appreciated how elegant he was. “I suggest you take it with you and consume when you’re in bed as it will work immediately. I’ve measured it precisely and should provide approximately four hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
He had never been a fan of sleeping draughts as they made the sleep seem uncomfortably heavy. Harry opened his mouth to argue when Draco spoke, cutting him off. “I know about the nightmares, Harry!” Draco crossed his arms as he perched on the edge of the dining table. Harry closed his eyes in defeat, he knew he would never be able to win an argument now.
“You’ve thought of everything,” Ron said with a raised eyebrow. “You know, you can be really scary sometimes!”
“One of us has to be” He smirked causing Ron to chuckle.
“Well, I’m going to bed before you decide to feed me anything else cooked up in your lab!” Ron said as he picked up his cup and vial. “See you both later, Thanks again for the bed!” He waved his spare hand up as he disappeared out of the room toward the spare room.
“No problem,” Harry muttered, his eyes all for Draco. Draco sat peering at his nails as if there was nothing of interest happening around him. Harry took a deep breath “Have you known long?”
Draco chuckled as he slowly looked up at Harry, his head tilted pushing his hair into his eyes. “Oh, my love, as if you could keep secrets from me!” He was trying to sound jovial, but Harry could tell he was worried. There was tightness to his eyes and a force behind his laugh.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said as he stepped closer pressing himself between Draco’s legs. He didn’t want to look up and see the lines of worry he’d put on that perfect, pale face.
“Harry” Draco tried to protest, hands on Harry’s shoulders, but Harry ignored him as he pulled him into a tight embrace, resting his head on Draco’s shoulder. After a brief hesitation, Draco surrounded him in his arms and held him tight, his fingers carding through his hair.
“Are you going to join me?” Harry whispered into Draco’s hair, the pale strands surrounding him in the spicy, intoxicating scent.
“I will in a little while, first I intend to gossip with Hermione about the two of you, and then I will come up.” Harry felt him smile against his ear and knew he was smirking without looking.
“You know, I’m not sure I like you and Hermione being so friendly with each other!” Harry said as he pulled away to look at him.
“Well, there is no need to worry, she is happily married, although Merlin only knows why!”
“I heard that Ferret-face!” Came Ron’s voice from down the corridor.
“You were meant to, Weasel! Buy your long-suffering wife some flowers!” Draco called down the corridor only to be answered by a huff and a grunt. “As I was saying, she is also much too female for my tastes,” Draco responded with a wink.
“Very funny!” Harry said rolling his eyes. “That wasn’t what I meant, Together I’m sure if your intentions were evil, it would take the ministry Aurors, Hitwizards and the Macusa to work together to take you down, and even then I’m not sure they would be able to”
“Luckily for the world, our intentions are good, now you’ve put it off for long enough! Off to Bed!”
“You know how much I hate sleep draughts!” Harry muttered with a pout.
“Yes, and you know how much I hate being woken up! We all have our crosses to bare however some of us can do something about it!” Draco raised his eyebrow as he looked at Harry sternly. “Unfortunately, short of suffocating you with one of the pillows, I have to live with it.” He smiled before the humour left his face, replaced with concern. “You’ve barely slept since joining the damn Auror’s on this foolhardy, top-secret mission! Your body needs time to recover!”
“I’m alright! I can cope!” Harry said pulling Draco into another cuddle.
“No, Harry! You can’t. Enough is enough! Go to bed, I’ll join you soon.” Harry could feel the concern in Draco’s words. He waited a few moments, enjoying the embrace before pulling away. As he tried Draco’s arms tightened, refusing to release him.
“Dray?” Harry chuckled “If you want me to go to bed, you need to let me go.” Draco nodded into Harry’s collarbone but made no other attempts to loosen his arms. “Dray!”
“Just a little longer,” Draco said holding Harry close, Harry smiled and closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth of the blond in his arms. After a few moments surrounded by his sweet scent, his arms slackened, and Harry was suddenly free. When he opened his eyes, Draco was returning to the living room and was reaching for the floo powder.
“Say hi to Hermione and the kids for me” Harry called as he grabbed his mug and vial.
Draco nodded with a small smile as Harry turned and climbed the stairs.