Summary: A year to the day after the Battle of Hogwarts, half-bloods started to get sick.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Pretty heavily implied major character death, although you never know.
Epilogue compliant? Complete and total EWE
Word Count: ~1700
Author's Notes: I went with the prompt of a degenerative disease striking a certain segment of the wizarding population, and tried to show just snapshots of what that might be like. This is angst for Christmas – I hope you enjoy!
The first Yuletide after Voldemort’s defeat was the happiest in most living witches’ and wizards’ memories. No pains had been spared in making the first holiday season of the new era a truly magical occasion, and every part of wizarding Britain was covered in an enchanted snowfall and alive with the music of carols. That was the first year in far too many when the sound of laughter was untouched by the knowledge that everything they had could be ripped away in a second, and everyone’s spirits were flying high as a result.
Harry had loved the winter holidays ever since his first year at Hogwarts. That had been the first Christmas he’d had all the food he could eat, and had gotten presents that weren’t someone else’s castoffs. Even for him, however, the festivities after Voldemort’s defeat were the happiest he’d ever had. That was the year that, after a night of going from one party on Diagon Alley to the next and getting stuffed with as much food, butterbeer, and elf-made wine he could fit in his stomach, Draco Malfoy had kissed him.
It had come out of nowhere, like a lightning bolt from the sky. Harry had managed to be on his own for just one minute, Ron and Hermione a few steps ahead peering at Gambol and Japes’ brightly-colored window display while he stopped to adjust his cloak, and then Draco was right there next to him. He hadn’t been dressed the way Harry was used to seeing him. When Harry pictured Draco Malfoy, he was always in finely tailored clothes made from expensive fabrics. The man in front of him now was wearing a nondescript black cloak with no ornamentation whatsoever, but Harry would know Draco anywhere. They’d been watching each other throughout all their years at Hogwarts, after all, and by now Harry knew exactly how Draco carried himself.
The two of them had never spoken once the Battle of Hogwarts was over. After Harry had pulled Draco out of the flames, events had moved at such a breakneck pace there hadn’t been time to think, much less worry about mending fences. Then the Malfoys were gone, Harry was on the whirlwind victory tour, and for the next several months they only saw each other at a distance. Harry had heard about him from time to time, of course - while Lucius had been content to count his blessings and stay in as out of the way as possible, Narcissa and her son had made an attempt to restore the Malfoy name by donating piles of money to St. Mungo’s and all the rebuilding charities they could find. Harry had thought, once or twice, about sending him an owl. It was just that something else was always more important, and then he’d forget.
Seeing Draco in the midst of Diagon Alley’s enchanted snowflakes, Harry had thought of all the things he’d wanted to say since Voldemort fell. He didn’t have the chance to give voice to any of them, though, because before he could even think of how to start that particular conversation, Draco leaned forward and kissed him.
It was nothing more than a brief press of lips, as gentle as the feel of the snowflakes melting on his cheeks, and then Draco vanished back into the crowd while Ron called for Harry to catch up. Just a simple kiss, but it had been enough to make his insides feel as warm as if he’d just downed a pint of butterbeer.
That first Yuletide after Voldemort had given him hope. But only twelve months later, everything had changed.
“It’s snowing again.”
Harry took a deep breath and opened his eyes. Even the smallest of actions took more effort today than it had yesterday, and tomorrow it would be still more difficult. One day soon, Harry knew, he wouldn’t be able to move at all. The thought didn’t frighten him as much as it once had, when he’d first found out about the sickness. He’d had time to adjust since then.
It was Draco he worried about now. Draco, who had grown up with the understanding that all he had to do was snap his fingers and whatever he wanted would be handed to him on a silver platter; who, for all that he’d managed to adjust his worldview in the past year, had never really lost that sense of entitlement. It was a trait that Harry admitted to being frustrated with, but that he had also learned to live with. He’d had to, in order to keep the peaceful rhythm of their lives. Draco, however… well. Draco still had a long way to go.
“Get me to the window?” he murmured, and he saw Draco’s face tighten for just a second before he lifted Harry carefully in his arms and carried him over to the cushioned window seat. It was wide enough for both of them to curl up in, piled with enough brightly colored pillows that it was as comfortable as a bed, and kept nice and cozy with warming charms. It was easily Harry’s favorite place in their tiny cottage, a little haven of peace and tranquility that Draco had made just for him.
It was just one of the many small gestures that made Harry love him in spite of all his faults.
Draco settled Harry carefully into the cushions and draped the brightly colored, admittedly hideous blanket that Mrs. Weasley had knit for him over his skeletal frame, then crawled up behind him so that Harry could lean against his strong chest.
They watched the snowflakes dancing through the air together, and if Harry could hear the occasional catch in Draco’s breathing, neither of them mentioned it.
The sickness first appeared a year to the day after the Battle of Hogwarts. It began with a few unremarkable symptoms - a cough here, a fever there, nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a few simple healing droughts. It hadn’t seemed like anything out of the ordinary, at least at first.
The thing was, the symptoms never went away. A draught would ease the cough for a few days, or a spell might bring relief to aching joints, but only a few days later it would be worse than before. After that, there was no stopping the progression of the disease. Within a few weeks, the poor witch or wizard would inevitably be dead.
It was clearly magical in nature. There was no doubt on that score. But all the talent of St. Mungo’s failed to find a cure, or even a cause. The only thing they managed to establish was that the disease affected half-bloods, and that there was no precedent for this sort of magical plague.
The name Voldemort began to be whispered more and more. Voldemort did this, was said of glasses of butterbeer and tumblers of firewhiskey. One last curse sent to bring us misery and fear. This is the Dark Lord’s doing.
No one could prove it, of course. But everyone knew.
Harry fell ill when the thing he had with Draco was still tentative and mysterious. Their chance encounter in Diagon Alley had led to the exchange of owls, which had led to the occasional meeting over ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s. They told him they were discussing various ways to rehabilitate those witches and wizards who, like Draco, came from unsavory backgrounds but had not been charged with any criminal activity. Florean had just looked at them, smiled, and brought out more ice cream.
Those lazy afternoons with Draco after the dust had settled were some of Harry’s happiest. It was nice to finally get to know Draco instead of Malfoy, years of schoolboy antagonism giving way to mutual respect and understanding. He found out that Draco kept a collection of wizarding children’s books that he made sure to read through once every three years; in turn he told Draco about the snake he’s unleashed at the zoo. It turned out that once Draco let go of the rich and privileged exterior he’d been bred to project at all times, he had a fair number of interesting thoughts in his head, and Harry couldn’t help but regret that he hadn’t had the chance to hear them while they’d still been at Hogwarts. Then again, there was a time for everything, and maybe things were progressing exactly the way they needed to.
Their second kiss wasn’t some brief peck on the lips done on the fly. No, their second one was deliberate: Harry leaning across the table at Florean’s to press his mouth gently against Draco’s, taking the time to really explore the geography of Draco’s mouth. He tasted like elderberry wine ice cream with an undercurrent of Early Grey tea, and his lips were soft and smooth. Harry took his time about it, and when he pulled away Draco’s eyelashes were fluttering across his cheeks and there was a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“Well,” said Harry after a minute, swallowing hard. “I suppose this means we’re friends now?”
Draco had laughed and kissed him again.
That had been in April. In June Harry ran a fever and started to cough, a deep incessant hacking that sounded like his lungs were trying to escape his body. They went to St. Mungo’s first, of course, and the mediwitches and wizards provided an entire apothecary's worth of spells and draughts. There would be nothing but the best for Harry Potter. And there was relief, for a little while, but then Harry’s joints started to ache with a pain so intense there were days when it was difficult to move. There were also the days when he was too tired to move from outside the confines of his bed, and the days when he coughed up drops of blood that were dark red and violent against the white sheets. The disease continued to progress, as uncaring and inexorable as time itself, and there was nothing they could do about it.
“We should go out and make snow angels, once the snow gets deep enough,” said Harry, reaching down to twine his fingers with Draco’s. “I used to have so much fun doing that, sinking down in the snow until all you can see is the sky. It’s a perfect day for it.”
Draco’s fingers tightened. “Of course. Whatever you want,” he said, and Harry closed his eyes and leaned back into his embrace.
Perhaps caring for Harry was the penance Draco has given himself, a way to atone for his past mistakes. Perhaps it was done as a way of mourning everything they would never have. Harry had never asked, and Draco never offered any explanation.
“They’ll find a cure.” Draco’s voice was a warm puff of breath behind Harry’s ear. “We beat Voldemort once; we can do it again. We won’t let you die.”
Harry just smiled and watched the drifting snowflakes.