Harry mutters as he steps in a slushy puddle at the top of the turret stairs, soaking the bottoms of his pyjamas.
'Why are you here?' he squints into the half-light, puzzled and sleep-drowsy.
'Why are you here, Potter?' Malfoy returns. At four in the morning Harry isn't capable of telling if Malfoy is laughing at him.
Harry stumbles across the floor to the corner where Draco is sitting, wrapped in his cloak.
'Isn't it my turn? Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays?'
Draco tugs on the bottom of Harry's cloak as Quetzal glides in through the window, and Harry can feel the air rushing from the black owl's wing strokes as he ducks down.
'It's Sunday.' Draco shakes his head, rolling his eyes. 'You did this last week, too.'
Bugger, Harry thinks, I did too. He sits down heavily and tries to wring out the damp from his pyjama trousers. It doesn't really work. He rolls up the bottoms until the wet bits are covered, but then his ankles are cold, so he tucks his cloak in all around him and clutches his knees to stop the shivers.
'Well, I'm here now. Might as well stay for a bit.' Harry looks up at at Hedwig who is pale and fluffy on the nest, nuzzling into Quetzal with droopy eyelids. He smiles and calls her name softly, gratified to hear her low hoot. 'Why don't you go back to bed?'
'I'm fine here.'
Breakfast is porridge. Draco stays behind for second helpings, because, he thinks, you can never have too much hot porridge with cream. Cream and loads of brown sugar.
Peasant food, Lucius always sneers. At home he has to get the house elves to sneak the occasional bowl up to his room. It's just easier that way.
'Malfoy!' Harry calls from the hall entrance, broom in hand. 'Hurry up, it's going to snow again soon.'
Draco holds one hand up in Harry's direction, slurping on the caramel-coloured cream at the bottom of his bowl.
So bloody impatient, he thinks.
'Awww, can you not fly in the snow?' Draco taunts, flashing teeth. He finishes his tea and grabs his broom from under the bench.
Flying practice, then.
It starts to snow hard. Harry has to wipe his glasses continuously - even with repellent spells - and once or twice his grip on his broom slips precariously. Flurries of snow swirl heavily around him, making navigation impossible against the white landscape and eventually Harry admits defeat, to which Draco grudgingly concedes. Harry thinks it seems like Malfoy wants to stay out in the snow, and wonders why, but it's getting unbearably cold. He can't even see Malfoy half of the time in that white cloak.
'Come on,' Draco appears disconcertingly at his shoulder. 'Let's go check on them.' He looks Harry over and shakes his head just like the night before in the owlery.
'When are you going to learn some useful spells, Potter? I mean, resisting curses is all very well, but you can't even keep your clothes dry.'
He pulls out his wand and Harry is dry. And able to see.
'Better?' Draco says.
'Oh, sod off, Malfoy,' Harry sighs.
'Oh,' Draco breathes, clutching behind him to pull Harry down from the window. 'They've hatched,' he whispers, and swallows hard.
Harry is close beside him and staring too, wide grin and eyes at the bedraggled owlets flopping around messily in the nest. Hedwig is busy removing pieces of eggshell, dropping them over the edge, while Quetzal is poking some kind of food down the squawking chicks' throats.
'Wow,' Harry says and turns to Draco, face alight, and clutches briefly at Draco's arm. 'They're all different.'
The owlets are different. One is more or less black, one is more or less white, and one, Draco thinks, is exactly what Harry feared: it's a mongrel. It's patchy black and white all over, which gives it a comic look, just like an Italian clown.
'Harlequin,' Draco decides, gesturing. 'The patchy one.'
Harry tilts his head and considers, nodding agreement.
Quetzal looks down at the two of them and flutters his wings at the two boys, annoyed.
'We should go,' they both say together, and they tiptoe out.
Obviously, the Hall is neutral territory. As is the Library, but Madam Pince has closed the doors on the last day of the holidays - My holidays, too! says the note.
'Bollocks to that then,' mutters Harry.
'We... ah,' Draco drums his fingers on the oak door. 'We have books. Downstairs. You know...'
Common Room! thinks Harry, panicking a little, fleeting images of stored-up retribution in an empty dungeon warring with the lurching ease of the last few weeks. What are we now? he wants to ask, but he won't. Can't.
'We're not enemies, Potter.' Draco peers at him, eyes narrowed but palms up in appeasement. Harry smiles reflexively, startled at himself and stinging at Malfoy's shrug of... bemusement? It's something that implies Harry's not up with the current state of affairs.
'I know that,' Harry snaps. 'I've just heard your common room is really cold.'
Draco grins. 'I'll get you a blanket.'
'Be careful, Malfoy,' Harry says, grabbing at the basket that Draco has precariously balanced on the counter of the Hogsmeade Post Office.
Avery Fleet, the Postmaster and sometime owl-expert, scoops out each of the owlets from the basket and sits them on the counter, where they squawk and totter sleepily around. He watches them move about, strokes them on the soft feathers underneath their chin and lets them nip at his fingers.
'What do you think, sir?' asks Draco. Fleet places a metal contraption that looks like half a pair of binoculars over his left eye and peers intently at each of the owlets eyes. Changing lenses, he lifts up the birds' feet and examines them closely too. Draco glances sideways at Harry to find him watching with rapt attention.
'Let's take these lovely creatures outside, shall we?' Cradling the hooting owls in one burly arm, the Postmaster beckons for Harry and Draco to follow him through a side door out to the back of the Post Office, where the garden is mostly taken up by a small owlery. Fleet stands in the centre of the cobbled yard with his feet planted on a stone in the shape of an owl.
He winks, and throws the three owlets high up into the air.
'-And then he cast this charm that made Hajari - that's the black one, Ron - zoom around in circles, which apparently means she'll be a good racing owl, and Quisling snatched up an envelope, which is fantastic, because I'm going to give him to Hermione for a post owl, but Harlequin-'
'Harry.' Ron sighs. 'Please don't tell me you're friends with Malfoy now.'
Harry picks at the bedspread, little pieces of red fluff coming off in his fingers. He is acutely aware that Ron has narrowed his eyes and is measuring his response.
'Not friends.' That's true, isn't it? Harry thinks.
Harry scans the library for a seat.
'Malfoy.' Harry nods, putting his Herbology homework on the table.
Malfoy looks up briefly from his notes - lots of numbers and diagrams, must be Arithmancy - and nods back.
Draco sits in the turret window, not exactly sulking, but he hopes that Harry sees his pointed look when he arrives with Hermione in tow. The owlets are being fed, their wide mouths gaping up in the nest. Harry gestures up to the small white owl.
'That one - see, he's the white one, like Hedwig - is for you, Hermione,' Harry begins.
'-As long as you call it Quisling,' Draco breaks in, feeling unnaccountably miffed. 'He's going to be a very good post owl, apparently.'
Hermione turns to regard him with an insufferable curious look.
'Malfoy.' She nods. Draco nods back, but she has turned already, beaming and thanking Harry in quiet tones, reaching up to stroke Quetzal's forewing.
Draco calls to his owl and turns away to smile when Quetzal immediately comes, landing on Draco's outstretched hand. He barely notices when Hermione leaves, busy instead watching Quetzal swoop down in the trees and bushes to pick up insects. The black owl swooshes in the window again to deliver food to the chicks, feathers brushing Draco's cheek and he shivers, leaps down from the window noisily, starting a chain reaction of irritated hoots.
'I'm cold,' Draco says, noticing with horror that he's whining a bit. 'And my scarf, you'll notice, is covered in owl shit.' He tries to glare at Harry but thinks it might have ended up being more like a pout.
Harry - thankfully - doesn't seem to notice Draco's wonky expression, as he's engrossed in teasing the greedy chicks. A few moments later, when he turns around to face the window, he has a new look, a thoughtful wicked sneer.
'When, Malfoy, are you going to learn-'
-Harry pulls his wand from his pocket and utters a warming spell-
'-some useful magic?'
Draco suddenly feels hot, but it's not from the spell. He's not warm, he's hot. It might conceivably be that he's got some kind of fever from flying in the snow. It might be from the unbearable smirk that Potter is flashing, which Draco feels has got to stop. Relatedly, it might be that Potter is standing far too close to him for no good reason.
And talking, it seems.
'Would you like my scarf?' Harry asks, and Draco blinks and maybe he nods too, because then Potter is tugging his red and gold scarf off and loosely winding it around Draco's neck. Draco squeezes his eyes shut for several impossible seconds while Potter smooths down the fringe ends and tugs ever so very lightly and laughs.
'Gryffindor does not become you, Malfoy,' Harry says with a quick grin, but Draco looks down and fixates on the fact that Potter hasn't let go, and is in fact now grasping the ends of his scarf, and is, unbelievably, tugging harder. Draco can't decide whether Potter is trying to strangle him or kiss him, but it doesn't seem very sensible to ask.
'Are you trying to strangle me, Potter?'
'You're an idiot, Malfoy.'
1. Quisling: n. Someone who collaborates with an enemy occupying force.
2. Harlequin: n. A buffoon or clown of the Italian commedia dell'arte, traditionally dressed in black and white, with mask and diamond-patterned tights.
3. Hajari: [Swahili] n. Flight.