The Great Hall was a sea of purple lumps under an enchanted ceiling of stars. Harry Potter lay in his sleeping bag beside his best friend, Ron, along with the rest of the school. Sirius Black had broken into Hogwarts and slashed the Fat Lady’s portrait in an attempt to enter Gryffindor Tower. For security reasons, Headmaster Dumbledore gathered the students into the Great Hall for the night, while they other professors searched the school for Black.
What most students didn’t know was that they were safe. Black was only after Harry.
It was half past three in the morning before Harry was able to fall asleep, worry about Black niggling his mind. Despite the cushioning charm, the floor was hard beneath the sleeping bag. A teacher came in to check on the students every hour on the hour and the school’s ghosts floated like watchguards in the Hall.
Harry dreamed of a huge, black dog-like creature standing over his sleeping bag, saliva dripping from a foaming mouth and glistening on its needle-sharp teeth. Foul breath panted across his face. Fear seized Harry, preventing him from drawing the wand hidden beneath his pillow. The creature lowered his head, glowing eyes staring at Harry like he was a tasty meal. Its jaws parted wide and—
Harry woke abruptly, his eyes snapping open. His heart pounded in his chest and he clutched the hand beneath his own. He could hear the Head Boy, Percy, waking students in order to command them to go to sleep. The pale light of dawn filtered through the windows. Harry could make out the ginger blur of Ron’s hair poking from the top of the sleeping bag beside him.
It took a moment for Harry’s sleep-fuzzed mind to realize it was not Ron’s hand he was holding. He turned his head, nose scraping against the pillow, and focused nearsightedly on the person sleeping on the other side of him.
Harry stopped breathing in shock. He’d recognize that pointy white-blonde blur anywhere. It was Draco Malfoy.
And Harry was holding his hand.
Harry blinked several times but the sight didn’t change. He was holding Malfoy’s hand. Malfoy was lying on his side, facing Harry, asleep. His hand rested in a gentle fist in the small space between them. Harry’s hand was curled over the top of Malfoy’s, his fingers dark compared to Malfoy’s pale skin.
Lying on his stomach, his head turned towards Malfoy, he continued to stare at their co-joined hands as his mind whirled. What was Malfoy doing next to Harry? Last Harry had known, Malfoy was on the other side of the Great Hall hidden between the two giant, purple mounds of Crabbe and Goyle. He lifted his head and peered in that general direction, but he didn’t see any giggling blurs of Slytherins, though moving Malfoy next to Harry wasn’t a Slytherin-type of joke. Maybe it had been Fred and George.
Sinking back onto the pillow, Harry looked at Malfoy. They were close enough that Harry could make out Malfoy’s features, slackened in sleep. Malfoy’s hair was still glued perfectly to his head. Harry wondered if Malfoy’s slicked hair was actually painted on and his lips twitched at the thought of a bald Malfoy, post-bathing. He’d have to try a water charm on Malfoy, or perhaps push him into the lake.
Malfoy snuffled in his sleep, snuggling further into his pillow. A sneer briefly curled his lips before smoothing away. His fingers flexed beneath Harry’s grip.
Harry realized he was still holding hands with Malfoy. In actuality, Harry was the one holding Malfoy’s hand, which was rather disturbing. He started to pull his hand away, when he heard Percy’s footsteps by his head. He stilled and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he was holding Malfoy’s hand. Percy would overlook him as long as he feigned sleep.
Percy stopped and spoke in low tones with a ghost. Harry could sense him standing right above Harry’s pillow. Harry concentrated on breathing slowly and evenly, listening to the extremely boring conversation. Sometimes, Percy could be worse than Professor Binns.
Harry didn’t know when he’d fallen asleep again, but when he woke, the Great Hall was lighter, he was still holding Malfoy’s hand, and Malfoy was looking directly at him.
Gray eyes the color of early morning focused on Harry. They were very near to one another, Harry somehow having shifted closer to Malfoy while he was asleep. Their purple sleeping bags touched and Harry’s head was at the very edge of his pillow. He could feel Malfoy’s breathing on the back of his hand. Neither of them moved for a very long minute.
Then, Malfoy turned his hand over beneath Harry’s and linked their fingers.
Harry stared at their clasped hands before his confused gaze returned to Malfoy. But Malfoy had closed his eyes again and Harry was too stunned to pull away. Harry was holding Malfoy’s hand and now Malfoy was holding his in return.
Harry thoughts spun. What was going on? Why had Malfoy entwined their fingers? Why hadn’t he yanked his hand free?
Harry’s self-questioning was interrupted and he shut his eyes. Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster had entered the Great Hall. They were speaking softly, as they walked past the still sleeping students.
“Sir Cadogan is settled into the Fat Lady’s frame, making a racket whenever anyone approaches. Albus, why in the world did you select him out of all the portraits to guard Gryffindor Tower?”
“Precisely because he shall make quite a bit of noise whenever anyone approaches. Although, I doubt that will stop Sirius Black from breaking into Gryffindor, if he so chooses.”
“But we’ve searched the entire school. You don’t think Black is still here?”
“I’m afraid, Minerva, that Black will continue to prowl Hogwarts until he accomplishes what he’s set out to do.”
McGonagall and Dumbledore’s voices faded as they passed from earshot. Harry lied there, fear trickling along his spine again. Black was possibly still in the castle.
Malfoy’s grasp on Harry’s hand tightened, obviously having overheard, as well. Logic told Harry to pull away, but instead he held on more strongly. Harry was afraid and he’d take the feeling of security where he could get it and worry about the consequences later.
Percy woke the students in the Great Hall rather rudely, when it was time to get up. Harry felt Malfoy untangle their hands and slip away without a word. Conversation revolved around Black and no one mentioned that Malfoy had been sleeping beside Harry. The Twins gave Harry mischievous looks throughout the morning, telling Harry without words the blame belonged to them.
Harry’s dark and fear-tinged glare in return kept them quiet.
Anxiety dogged Harry’s footsteps that day and the following, and by the time he reached Potions class he was hanging onto his sanity by his ragged fingernails. Ron and Hermione weren’t helping, talking about all the possible ways Black could get to Harry.
“We only want you to be prepared for anything, Harry,” Hermione said, as they slipped into their seats.
“If it were me Black was after, I’d surround myself with Aurors,” Ron said. “How can you walk around without protection?”
Harry looked flatly at Ron. “I have you, don’t I?”
Ron gulped. Hermione huffed. “If you’re not going to take us seriously, it’s obvious you think you don’t need our help. You’ll change your mind once you’re dead.”
“Then you can say, ‘I told you so,’” Harry grumbled. Professor Snape swept into the room, cutting off further conversation. Malfoy sauntered over from where he’d been chatting with his friends and took the open seat beside Harry. The white bandage and sling on his arm meant he was still milking his hippogriff injury, no matter that it should’ve been long healed by now.
“Open your books to page four hundred and two,” Professor Snape intoned. “Today, we will be learning about the wolfsbane potion. Potter, take notes for Malfoy.”
“And write neatly this time,” Malfoy told Harry. “I couldn’t make out a single word you wrote from last class. Your penmanship is atrocious.”
“If you don’t like it, take your own bloody notes,” Harry hissed under his breath. He wiped the ink off his left hand on his robe and rested his hand on his thigh.
“Potter, stop talking. Five points from Gryffindor,” Snape said. “Wolfsbane. Who can tell me what it’s used for? Anyone?”
Hermione’s hand shot up, as usual. Ron scrunched down in his seat. Harry tried not to jump when he felt a hand close over his own, beneath the table.
Harry looked sideways at Malfoy. Malfoy faced front attentively, acting as if that he hadn’t just taken Harry’s hand.
Harry opened his mouth to question Malfoy, thought better of it, and returned to his note taking. The fact that Malfoy wasn’t making fun nor trying to draw attention, in spite of the fact that he could get away with humiliating Harry by saying that Harry was trying to hold his hand, had Harry wondering what the heck was going on – especially when Harry did, indeed, curl his fingers around Draco’s in return.
Potions class wasn’t the place to get into a discussion about it, however, so Harry listened to Snape lecture, wrote neatly scripted notes, and pretended he wasn’t holding hands with the enemy under the table.
Harry pretended not to like it, as well.