Hermione places the book delicately in front of Harry’s nose about five seconds before he’s about to fall asleep. He blinks at it, taking in the faded cover, the words on the front swimming.
“What’s this?” He asks. It’s a stupid question.
“It’s a book.” Hermione doesn’t bother to hide the dripping sarcasm of the answer. It is a stupid question. Harry is about to open his mouth, to form some vague protest at Hermione giving him a fucking book, when she flicks him on the end of the nose with it. “Will you just try reading it before you go to sleep. Maybe with some tea. You need to have a proper night's sleep.”
“Tea has caffeine in it,” Harry grumbles, knowing he’s being facetious and not giving a shit. He’s tired. He can’t sleep. He can’t even go to his room and lie down, because he’ll be there. Taking up space. Humming softly to himself. Wearing that fucking tight tshirt like some sort of animal.
“So drink a chamomile tea, and read a book so that you have something to focus on that isn’t Draco and his obscene clothes.” Hermione’s tone doesn’t allow for argument, so Harry doesn’t bother to give one. Hermione puts the book down, pointing towards the eighth year shared dorm rooms. “And get some sleep!”
Draco is in their bedroom when Harry wanders in, the book in his hand. Draco smiles up at him, not quite bright enough to disguise the deep purple circles under his eyes. He has a nice smile. Very white teeth. Long canines. Slightly quirky lips. Harry realises he’s staring at Draco’s mouth and quickly looks somewhere else. He thinks he smiles back at Draco. Although maybe what he does is more of a grimace.
Draco’s wearing that tshirt again. His sleeping tshirt. When McGonnegall had first put him in a room with Draco he’d assumed he was going to get an eyeful of silk pyjamas and nightly hair routines. Instead he’s got tight tshirts and flannel tartan pyjama bottoms and Draco tumbling into bed after brushing his teeth, writing essays and not touching his hair. It’s disconcerting. He’d imagined Draco to be much more… high maintenance.
Draco goes back to work, and Harry tentatively sits on his bed. He needs to sleep. He’s very tired. Hermione told him to sleep. But if he sleeps then he’ll be asleep in the same room as Draco and the potential of him doing something embarrassing is too high. Like talking in his sleep. Or farting. Or dry humping the bed. Or waking up from the nightmares that never seem to come, but threaten. No, better that he doesn’t sleep.
The book Hermione’s given him stares up at him and he groans. Maybe reading will help. At least he won’t have to think up an excuse as to why he is very deliberately not staring at Draco. He sighs, standing and walking into their shared bathroom so that he can summon Kreacher to ask for chamomile tea. He doesn’t like asking Kreacher anything in front of Draco. He doesn’t like doing anything in front of Draco.
It’s becoming a problem.
He wakes up at ten o’clock. He can’t remember the last time he woke up at ten. He glances over to where the cup of tea is sitting, stone cold, on his bedside table. Huh. Imagine that. Hermione was right.
He sits up, scratching at his head and ignoring what it probably does to his hair. He’s pretty sure it’s Saturday, and even if it’s not, he’s probably only missed Care of Magical Creatures, and he can catch up with that later. It’s only when he glances around the room that he realises he’s not alone.
“You were asleep,” Draco says when Harry lets out an embarrassing squeak. “I didn’t want to wake you.” Draco smiles, looking somewhat awake. He still has the purple circles and his skin is starting to look translucent, but at least his hair is sort of neat and he’s fully dressed in something other than his tight tshirt. Instead he’s wearing a soft looking tight jumper.
“Oh… thanks,” Harry mumbles, looking around for trousers. Standing, Draco hands him a pair of jeans, before disappearing into their bathroom. Harry stares down at them. He feels refreshed, full of more energy than he has in months. He clambers out of bed, wiggling on his jeans and glancing over at the book resting on his bedside table. He really needs to stop doubting Hermione.
He immediately regrets thinking nice things about her when he arrives at lunch. He’s spent the morning flying, allowing himself to revel in the energy he has, and he knows that he’s looking good, healthy. The smirk on Hermione’s face, her eyes glinting, tells him so. He slinks onto the bench next to her, opposite Ron, reaching out to fill his plate with spaghetti bolognese.
“Did it work?” she asks, completely redundantly. Harry rolls his eyes, dunking a piece of garlic bread into the bolognese and taking a big bite. It’s hot and rich and just what he needs after a good sleep and a great fly. He glances at Ron who shrugs and goes back to hurriedly scratching at a potions essay whilst eating. Harry sighs, clearly no support there, and turns back to Hermione.
“Don’t be smug,” Harry says around his mouthful.
Hermione raises on eyebrow, pushing the hair from her face and sitting up slightly straighter. “I deserve to be smug.” Her voice is one notch too high, and he can hear the genuine happiness and care there. “I was right.” Which is true. She was. But Harry can see in the way she leans into him a little, the soft look she gives Ron as he shovels food into his mouth, that as much as she loves being right, she loves them more.
Harry is distracted from his book by the low growl coming from his roommate. He looks over to see Draco dragging his fingers through his hair, his hands shaking slightly. He does not look good. Harry thinks for a second, not entirely sure what he should be doing. In the past he would have just ignored him, let Draco get on with whatever he was doing in private, but recently they’ve been chatting a little more. Draco keeps disappearing, and Harry recently caught him apologising to Katie Bell and figured that’s where he must be going. Like he’s putting a real effort into being a nicer person. It makes him much more likeable.
“Are you… um… you ok?” Harry asks, putting his book on his bedside table and moving over to where Draco is sat at their shared desk. Draco looks up at him, his skin sallow, his eyes red, and grimaces.
“Fine! I’m fine! I just—” He stops himself before his voice becomes too loud. Taking a deep breath, he tugs at his hair again, and Harry has the sudden urge to reach out and brush it gently, soothing what must be a tortured scalp. Draco sighs, “Sorry, I just can’t focus on this essay because it’s so fucking boring I nearly fall asleep, but I don’t want— it’s very frustrating.” Harry nods, hoping that the urge to stroke Draco will go away soon, and tries to think of the best thing for him to do right now. Probably go back to his bed and ignore Draco and his tight tshirt and his poor, abused hair.
“Um… want some help? I know I’m not as smart as you, but I can work with you and it might keep you awake and focused.” Ok, so he’s not doing the best thing. Oh well… he can work with this. Especially if Draco is going to keep looking at him with that smile. “I do it with Ron sometimes.”
“That would be great,” Draco breathes, his shoulders slouching slightly, as he turns back to the essay. “Thank you.”
“No worries.” Harry shrugs, sitting in the chair next to Draco, entirely too close, and leans over to look at the book Draco is reading, ignoring how warm Draco is.
Harry wakes up feeling refreshed, his mind immediately on the book next to him. He blinks his eyes open to find Draco sitting next to his bed, looking over Harry’s potions notes. He winces, his writing hasn’t become any better over the years, and sits up, letting the duvet fall from his shoulders. Draco glances up at him, smiling softly. He still looks ill, but at least he looks a little more relaxed than he had the night before.
“We have a potions essay due, and I noticed you seemed confused last lesson,” Draco says, gesturing to the notes. “Do you want to study again today?” There’s something in his eyes, something shining and full of hope that does interesting and not completely unenjoyable things to Harry’s stomach. His mouth stretches into a wide smile without his permission, and he finds himself nodding.
“That would be amazing. You’re a lifesaver, Draco!” His voice is too loud, too excited, and he’d feel embarrassed if Draco didn’t look so happy. But he does, so Harry isn’t.
“Hey… where were you?” Harry looks up as Draco comes into their room. They’ve been studying together for the past few weeks, and it feels weird, not studying with Draco. He’s been staring at his parchment for the past two hours and not writing anything, his mind completely blank. Draco shrugs, flopping onto Harry’s bed and tilting his head so that their eyes meet.
“Apologising,” he says, and Harry frowns. Draco’s apologies don’t usually last for two hours, which means he must have been apologising to someone who he hurt directly, or who is a big presence in their lives now. Except he’s already apologised to everyone like that.
“To who?” Harry puts his quill and parchment down and rests his feet against his bed.
“Longbottom today…” Draco trails off, his head moving so he can look up at the ceiling. He starts to shoot small sparks from his wand, tiny fireworks of colour that almost distract Harry. Almost.
“I thought you apologised to Nev before you came here?” he asks, certain that Draco had. Neville hadn’t been able to stop talking about it, about how sincere Draco was, how lovely and gentle, about how everyone makes mistakes and his parents would be proud of him if he accepted Draco’s apology. The sparks change colour into an angry red and Harry wants to reach out, to calm Draco.
“I did,” Draco whispers, his voice strained, the lines around his eyes deep and thin. “I was not a nice person.” The air around them feels static, like too much magic is there for walls to contain, and Harry reaches out before he even thinks about it. Draco’s hand is warm under his, boney and comforting.
“You’ve changed.” His words come out so quiet he isn’t sure Draco heard them. Everything is silent for a moment, and Harry is about to pull back, to take his hand off Draco’s when Draco’s hand twists in his, their fingers linking together.
“I hope so.”
Harry has officially run out of books from Hermione’s reserve. Or at least, books he’s interested in. He doesn’t really want to read the psychological thriller she insists is fantastic. It just doesn’t strike him as something that will calm him down, which is the whole point of him reading before bed. He sighs, looking around the room for something to read. It’s become a nightly ritual, reading with a chamomile tea. Logically, he knows that he doesn’t need distracting anymore because he and Draco are friends, but he also knows that if he didn’t read and drink his tea before bed he’d probably be unable to sleep. It’s part of his routine. Like having lunch with Hermione and Ron, and studying with Draco.
Thinking about studying with Draco reminds him of how ill Draco is looking at the moment, his hair lank and his skin grey. He’s always awake. Whenever Harry goes to sleep he’s still awake and whenever Harry wakes up he’s awake. Sometimes, if Harry gets up in the middle of the night to pee, he can see the soft glow of Draco’s wand from behind the drapes of his bed, and he knows he’s awake then too.
He doesn’t think Draco has a real problem, like insomnia. He did a little research about it when he couldn’t sleep and was feeling melodramatic, and Draco isn’t exhibiting any of the other symptoms apart from not sleeping. It’s not like Harry is being forced to watch Draco attempt to fall asleep. It just seems that Draco… doesn’t. Or at least doesn’t want to.
The puzzle of why Draco doesn’t sleep has been bothering Harry for days. Almost enough that he’s stopped sleeping again, instead wanting to watch to see if Draco does actually ever try to go to sleep. He must sleep sometimes, or at least take a potion or something to make him not grumpy. Because he’s never grumpy. Never snappy. He never speaks in grunts the way Harry and Ron do in the mornings. But whenever Harry sees him, he’s awake.
“Why don’t you sleep?” he asks, because really he’s becoming obsessed and he isn’t really into being obsessed with Draco. Draco pauses, his quill hovering above the parchment. He doesn’t look at Harry, but the vein in the side of his jaw twitches slightly, and Harry worries that maybe he overstepped the mark. Maybe Draco really doesn’t want to talk about it. Maybe Harry is being insensitive. Actually, Harry is probably being insensitive. He’s about to apologise when Draco turns his head and looks at him, his eyes swimming interestingly.
“Nightmares.” His voice is strong, decisive. Like he’s ready to have this conversation.
“Oh,” Harry replies, because he doesn’t know what the fuck else to say. Nightmares are logical, but does that mean that Draco actually gets them, or that he’s scared of getting them? He nods, attempting to look sympathetic.
“Don’t you get them?” Draco asks. Harry tilts his head to the side. Harry hasn’t had a nightmare since Voldemort died, and when he thinks about it, all his nightmares before were vision-centric.
“I used to… but not since he died. Maybe I was always actually a very heavy sleeper…” he smiles and Draco looks at him for a moment longer before turning back to his work.
“Draco doesn’t sleep…” Harry says when he finds Hermione in the library looking at a book that’s bigger than his trunk. She’s not holding it, just turning the pages with her wand every few minutes. He watches her, not sure whether she’s not heard him, or whether she’s just ignoring him.
“Because he has a medical condition, or because he’s stubborn like you?” she asks eventually and Harry slumps into the chair next to her, happy that she’s now talking to him. He didn’t search the entire castle for her not to help him. Ok, not the entire castle, but enough of it to make him feel tired.
“I’m not sure… he has nightmares.” He looks at his thumb nail where he’s been picking the skin. Maybe he shouldn’t be telling Hermione this. Maybe it’s just between him and Draco. But it feels bigger than anything he can deal with, so he just doesn’t want to. “I think he’s refusing to sleep just in case.”
Hermione stares at him, raising one eyebrow. “I feel like there’s an obvious answer.”
“Those are your favourite ones to give.” Harry grins at her, wiggling his eyebrows. Hermione sighs, turning another page of the giant book, and looking down at it, her hair almost obscuring her face.
“Reading, Harry,” she says. “And tea.”
Harry sidles up to Draco, his favourite book clutched in his hands. Maybe he’s read the situation wrong. Maybe Draco really does have insomnia. Either way, he has to try. “I’ve got you something.” He slides the book across the table, ignoring the way his cheeks feel like they’re on fire. He’s probably blushing. Oh well. He doesn’t mind blushing in front of Draco. Draco looks up at him, his eyes wide and Harry levitates the cup of chamomile tea from where it’s resting on his bedside table.
“It’s a book,” Draco says, somewhere between a statement and a question. Harry smiles, placing the tea next to the book and letting the lightly herbal smell of it waft around them.
“Yes. And tea. I… it helps me… I thought, maybe…” he mumbles, not quite sure whether this is the right thing to be doing. When Hermione had suggested it, it had seemed so simple. And it had worked for him, obviously. And Hermione is usually right. He watches as Draco looks at the books, picking it up and turning it over so that he can read the blurb. Harry nevers bothers to read the blurb. If Hermione recommends a book to him, chances are he’ll like it. He takes a small step back, reaching for his own tea and book. He’s just settling onto his bed when Draco clears his throat, very quietly. Harry glances up, to see Draco holding the tea with both hands, his eyes closed.
“Thank you,” Draco whispers, before taking a sip. Harry grins to himself, nodding once before leaning back and opening his book.
“Did you sleep better?” Harry asks the next morning when Draco wakes up. It’s the first time he’s been awake first, and he’d been at a loss for what to do. Luckily he’d had to wait a total of three minutes before Draco stirred. Draco looks at him, his hair all over the place and his eyes still blurry. He looks like he’s been moving around a lot in his sleep, which he may have. Not that Harry would know, because he slept like a log.
“Somewhat.” Draco shrugs and Harry resigns himself to that fact. He’s going to just have to deal with the fact that Draco is not a big sleeper. And that he looks ill. And that there’s nothing harry can do. He shudders a little at the thought of being so helpless. He growls softly before shaking his head.
“Can I help?” He knows he probably can’t, but he has to ask. He has to do something. He can’t just have Draco sleeping metres away, maybe not being able to sleep, getting more and more ill, and not do anything about it. That’s not who he is. Maybe in the past, when they weren’t friends. But now… no. He has to look after his friends.
Draco nods, running long fingers through his hair and gives Harry a sad grimace. “If you hear me, wake me up.”
Harry is woken by the loudest, most guttural scream he has ever heard. It’s so loud, so disorientating, that it takes him a couple of seconds to realise that the sound is coming from Draco’s bed. He’s up before he can properly think about it. Before he can stop himself with silly things like doubt and self-awareness.
Dragging the curtain away from Draco’s bed, he sees the other man, drenched in sweat and writhing on the bed. His eyes are clenched shut and his hands are tangled in the duvet. He looks terrified, his whole body tense in a way that Harry has never seen. Not in the flesh. He can feel his own panic tingling at the back of his neck, his mouth dry and his fingers numb, but he pushes it down. This is not the time for him to be panicking. This is the time for him to be helping.
“Draco!” he shouts, not sure if he should be touching him, shaking him. How he should be waking him up. He leans closer, resting a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Draco, wake up!”
“Please… I can’t! Please don’t!” Draco screams, wrenching his shoulder from Harry’s grip and almost rolling off the bed. Harry’s hand is out in a flash, grasping at that fucking tight tshirt and pulling Dracon close to him. Draco struggles against him, screaming and twisting, tears streaming down his face, and Harry doesn’t know what to do. What he can do. How he can help. He wraps his arm around Draco’s shoulder, shaking him a little.
“Draco!” He tries again, shaking a little harder, needing his friend to wake up. “Draco… it’s ok. No one else is here. You’re safe. Everyone is safe. You’re ok.” Draco’s eyes start to flutter open and Harry breathes a sigh of relief. He goes to pull away, releasing Draco from his grip when Draco’s hand tightens on his tshirt.
“I don’t want to be alone with him,” Draco mumbles into his chest and Harry tries to breathe, tries to think. He slowly climbs into bed with Draco, letting the other man curl around him, and tightening his hold on Draco’s skinny shoulders. He can feel Draco relax, feel him soften in his arms and he can’t help but close his eyes.
“You’re not alone,” he breathes as he drifts to sleep.
Harry finds Hermione in the library, because now that their exams are only three weeks away that’s where she lives. She’s reading an advanced arithmancy book, and Harry dismisses the idea of asking her why she needs to read it. He doesn’t have time.
“I have a problem you can’t solve with reading,” he says, flopping into the chair next to her and placing his hand on her book so that she’s forced to look at him. She raises one eyebrow and looks over at him, clearly annoyed. Harry has no idea why. She likes being the person they come to if they’ve got a problem. That’s her thing.
“Oh?” she prompts after a moment. Harry looks around, checking that no one is listening, They aren’t.
“I think I like Draco…” he mumbles, feeling hot and sticky all over, his heart pounding and his stomach doing a now all too familiar somersault. It’s the same feeling he gets when he arrives back in his room at the end of the day to find Draco waiting for him. The same feeling he gets when he wakes up and Draco is there, wrapped around him like a koala. The same feeling he gets when their hands accidentally-on-purpose brush against each other.
“What gave it away? The way you can’t stop staring at him in tight tshirts, or the way you’ve started sharing a bed?” Hermione snips, leaning back in her chair and not keeping her voice remotely quiet.
“No… I mean I like his personality.” Harry is embarrassed that he has to make the distinction, but he feels it's quite important. Draco has been sleeping much better since Harry has started sleeping with him, and he’s looking so much healthier. And he’s an attractive man, so of course Harry likes him physically. But he also likes him for being him, and that’s much more complicated.
“How is that a problem? You are both single men who like men.” Hermione frowns, clearly missing the point. Which is unlike her. She’s obviously being deliberately ridiculous.
“Because he might not like me,” Harry points out. Which is true. Draco might not. Although the bed sharing would sort of suggest otherwise. But maybe it’s just Draco’s way of ensuring that he doesn’t have any more nightmares. Or less nightmares. There’s still the occasional one.
“Ah. Well, you’re right. I can’t solve this with reading,” Hermione concedes, and for a split second Harry feels smug. And then Hermione ruins it. “But you can solve it by asking him.”
“What?! I can’t!” Harry shouts, before being shushed by both Hermione and Madam Pince. Harry pulls an apologetic face and slinks down into his chair a little more in a pathetic attempt to make himself less obvious. Hermione places her hand on his, giving him a stern look that reminds him horribly of Madam Pince, and glares at him.
“Do we really have to do this? Just go and ask him,” she commands. He thinks about arguing, but really, what’s the point? He’ll end up doing what she says anyway. And, logically, she’s right. The best way for him to find out if Draco likes him is by asking.
“I like you.” The words fall from Harry’s mouth, even though he was actually trying to ask Draco if he wanted to continue studying or read. Draco looks mildly confused, his eyebrows raised, and his lips twitching at the corner. He sits down in the chair next to Harry, lifting his feet elegantly and resting them on Harry’s lap.
“What?” he asks, his eyes shining, and Harry feels a little ill. He shouldn’t have said anything. They’re doing fine just the way they are, floating between friends and more. Why does Harry always have to push things? Why can’t he ever just leave them and be happy. He takes a deep breath, in a vague attempt to calm himself, and looks Draco in the eye.
“I… um… like you?” he stutters, forcing himself to be brave, to look at this man he definitely likes and not be ridiculous. He’s not going to lie about how he feels. He never has, and he never will.
“Is that a question?” Draco asks, clearly amused by the whole situation. Harry shakes his head.
“No! I like you. A lot. And I don’t know if you’d want to… but maybe we could… I dunno.” He shrugs, not sure how to finish the sentence. Not sure how to ask Draco to become more than he already is. More than friends who share beds and whispered conversation in the middle of the night. More than study partners and roommates and support systems. Draco watches him, his eyes rippling, and his lips quirked into a wonderful, beautiful smile. Harry holds his breath, not sure if he wants the moment to pass, in case it doesn’t end how he hopes. Although, regardless, Draco will always be one of his best friends.
“I know a really nice place to get tea in London. We could go this weekend?” Draco says finally, and Harry’s mind whirs. Does that mean…? Is it…? He bites his lip and Draco leans forward, brushing one long finger over Harry’s lip and releasing it from where it’s trapped. “Like, on a date.”
Harry lets out a breath, pressing a soft kiss to Draco’s finger and leaning forward. His heart is tight and his hands are shaky, and he couldn’t be any happier than he is in this moment. He reaches out, threading his fingers through Draco’s hair and pulling him close.
“Sounds perfect,” he breathes, before pressing his lips against Draco’s, licking off the soft taste of chamomile.