Sweet Dreams

Title: Sweet Dreams
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Beta: Kamerreon
Summary: After the Yule Ball, Harry is angry since he caught his date Cho Chang snogging the Triwizard Champion Cedric Diggory. Not only is he not good enough for his best friend, who he’s loved since he first saw him in Diagon Alley, but even his fame can’t keep a girl he doesn’t care about interested in him.
Notes: Fluff. Au. Hufflepuff!Harry.  Ernie Macmillan/Harry Potter. Response to Kamerreon’s Rare Slash Pairing Alphabet Challenge.

Warnings: Slash, Fluff.

Tearing his yellow and black tie angrily from his throat, Harry Potter stormed into the Hufflepuff Basement and threw himself on the black leather chair in front of the blazing fire.  “Why do I even try?” he muttered.

Ernie placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder and returned the smile sent his way.  “That bad?” he asked his first true friend, before sitting down near Harry.

“You have no idea, Ernie,” he sighed, running his hands through his messy black hair.  The firelight reflected off his round, horn-rimmed glasses and Ernie Macmillan couldn’t help but chuckle at the endearing sight.  “Laugh all you want,” Harry said petulantly.

“Thank you, I will.”  Ernie looked up at him with pale blue eyes and Harry couldn’t help but feel some of his anger melt away.

“It’s just – she’s just – why did she go with me to the Yule Ball if she was going to go snog Diggory in the bushes during the damned thing?”  He leaned down and made an aborted gesture toward Ernie’s hand.

Ernie tilted his head and smiled sadly.  He wanted to reach out and pull Harry into his arms, never letting go. However, it didn’t seem like Harry would appreciate that at the moment.  “I don’t know.  But she’s not worth it, Harry.  Those types never are.”

Harry looked so vulnerable, his emotions clearly written over his face, and Ernie sighed.  He remembered the first time he had seen Harry Potter; it was when they were eleven, in Diagon Alley.  It was only two days after their Hogwarts letters had been sent out and the magical district of London had been bursting with parents and students, and yet one little boy in oversized Muggle clothes was wandering about alone, looking dazedly at everything and holding a strangely egg-smeared Hogwarts list in his hands.

He’d looked so lost, yet so determined, that Ernie had decided in an instant—as he watched the small boy walk into Flourish and Blotts, head bent low—that this boy was going to be his best friend for life.

“You’re right, of course,” Harry sighed, breaking Ernie’s train of thought.  “I mean, I thought she was pretty since last year, but I didn’t really know her.  I don’t even like her.”  Unshed tears shone in his green eyes and Ernie’s heart broke.

“Then why are you crying?” Ernie whispered brokenly, wanting to just take those tears away.

Harry turned away, looking ashamed, and Ernie could only watch and wait.  “I don’t know,” he finally admitted.  “I didn’t even fancy her.  It just—I just—” He bit down harshly on his tongue, trying to force the words out, but they remained lodged in his throat.  “I just don’t know.”

Reaching up, Ernie grabbed Harry’s hand and interlaced their fingers.  He bit his lip, looking up at Harry nervously.  Ernie knew his eyes always showed his emotions and he was terrified that Harry would see and hate him for how he felt.

Harry’s glistening eyes turned toward him and looked searchingly at him.  But then Harry relaxed into the touch, squeezing his hand slightly.  “You’re my best friend,” Harry said; he looked like he wished he could say more, but was unable to.

Ernie could only nod.  “Always,” he agreed, secretly wishing that they could someday be more than friends.  “I just—I don’t understand, Harry.  What’s wrong?  I thought you were going to go stag to the whole thing.”

“I was,” he admitted quietly.

Ernie stared at him, waiting for more.  Then why—?” Harry glanced up at him and shifted in his seat, fingers picking at his robes.  “Then why did you even ask her?”

“I was—we were supposed to go together, and then—”  He turned bright red.

Ernie smiled and reached out tentatively, brushing his fingers through Harry’s hair.  He smiled to himself when he saw Harry’s eyes close in happiness.  He knew Harry never received much—if any—affection when he was a child. 

The first time he’d held Harry’s hand had been in first year.  Harry had just, rather surprisingly, been sorted into Hufflepuff.  Ernie had been so afraid that Harry would be sorted somewhere else, anywhere but with him.

Harry had smiled brightly when the hat called out “Hufflepuff!” and then stood, running toward a waiting Ernie, who grabbed his hand and pulled him into a tight embrace.  The table had erupted all around them.  Older students shouting, “We got Potter!  We got Potter!” over and over again.  Ernie, though, had ignored them.  Instead, all he felt was Harry stiffening at the contact and then relaxing against him.

“I’m so glad you’re with me,” Ernie had whispered.

“I asked the hat,” he’d whispered back, tears forming in his eyes.  “I’ve never been hugged before.”  Harry had buried his face in the shoulder of Ernie’s robes.

The soft confession, barely heard, had made Ernie tense before he forced himself to hold Harry closer before releasing him.  Noticing the tears in Harry’s eyes, he’d smiled sadly.  “Well, then, Harry, I’m just going to have to change that.”

“Why did you go with her?” Harry asked in the present, breaking Ernie from his trance.

“She—asked,” he said lamely, wincing at how pathetic the answer sounded to his own ears.

Harry nodded sadly before pulling away from Ernie’s stroking hands.  “I see.”

“It’s not like that,” Ernie sighed.  “She was supposed to go with Higgs—from Slytherin, if you can believe it.  At the last moment, he pulled out and she was really upset that he broke up with her—and she was crying—and she knew I wasn’t taking anyone, and she just—she wanted to show him up, I guess,” he finished lamely.  “I went with her as a favor.  As a friend.  You saw us; we only danced at the beginning after the Champions.”

Harry stared into the fire, his tie hanging loosely around his neck, causing Ernie’s breath to catch in his throat.  Tear tracks ran down Harry’s face, glittering in the firelight, making him look both tragic and beautiful.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Harry asked, hands picking at his robes again.

Ernie sighed.  “She asked me not to.  I thought we were okay—and then you asked Chang,” he said bitterly, with a slight hint of jealousy. Merlin, that had hurt so much.

Harry looked at him, startled.  “I’m sorry, Ernie,” he whispered.  “I didn’t think you’d care.” He glanced down at Ernie’s clenched fists.

“Of course I care, Harry,” Ernie said.  “How could I not?”  Harry was the most important person in life—more important than his blood relatives.

“You confuse me,” Harry said, running a hand down his face.  “I never know what you’re thinking.”

His tone with dead, withdrawn, making Ernie’s heart clench.  Harry turned toward him—eyes open with pain, before looking away.  “I thought—it doesn’t matter what I thought.  The point is that I thought, and then you were going with Bones, so I went with Cho.  Turns out I’m not even good enough for her.”

Not even good enough—? “Harry?”  What did he mean by that?  It sounded like Harry thought—

“You don’t get it, do you?” Harry whispered.  He made to stand up, but Ernie quickly grabbed Harry’s wrist in his large hand.

“Don’t go, Harry,” he begged.  “Don’t go.”  There was something here.  Something!  And he felt like he was close to figuring it out.

Harry glanced away again.

“Make me understand,” Ernie pleaded, loud enough so a couple of third-years nearby turned and looked over at them.  “Please.”  He reached out and entwined their fingers, pulling Harry down so that he was sitting next to him instead of in his favorite chair.  “Make me understand,” he begged again.

Harry nodded, but said nothing, as he stared into the flames of the roaring fire.

Ernie played with Harry’s hand, tracing the lines of his fingers, smoothing out the palm that was rough with playing Quidditch since first year.

Harry took a deep breath.  “It’s because I’m not a pureblood, isn’t it?” he asked, fingernails biting into the back of Ernie’s hand.

“Harry?” Ernie looked up, startled, ignoring the slight pain and trying to figure out what Harry meant.  “Do you mean Chang?”

He shook his head in denial.  “She’s a half-blood, too.”

“Then what—what do you mean?”  What did Harry’s blood status have to do with anything? Had someone—? Harry tried to withdraw his hand from his friend’s grasp, but Ernie held it firmly. “Who cares that you’re not a pureblood?” Ernie asked angrily, his grasp tightening on Harry’s fingers.  “I’ll hex them into next week.”

Harry looked up, startled.  “You don’t care that I’m not a pureblood?” he asked, astonishment easily visible on his face, mouth slack.

What?  Him?  Why in the world would Harry think he cared about something like that?  “Of course not!  I told you first year, when you were upset that you didn’t have a Latin middle name.”

“Ernest Valentinus Macmillan,” Harry snorted, despite the tension between them.

“Blame my mum,” Ernie muttered.  “Crazy woman.  Just because I was born on St. Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean I should be named for it.”

Harry laughed softly, causing Ernie to smile.  “Then why?” Harry finally inquired.  “Is it because I’m a boy?”  His voice caught in his throat, causing Ernie to reach out and stroke Harry’s cheek.  “Don’t do that,” Harry pleaded, eyes closing as if he was in pain.

Ernie furrowed his brow in confusion.  “W-why not?”  Harry had never objected to his touch before. . . .

“I can’t bear it.  Not when you—”

Ernie removed his hand immediately, ceding to Harry’s wishes as always.  “Not when I . . . what?”

Squaring his shoulders, Harry stared directly into the fire, eyes avoiding Ernie’s gaze.  “Not when it means nothing to you.”

Ernie froze at those words and his hand, which was holding Harry’s, relaxed in his shock.  Not when it means nothing to you.  He gulped.  How could Harry think that?  It meant everything to him; Harry meant everything to him!

“You’re my best friend,” Harry said hurriedly.  “And it’s stupid, I know.  You’ve always just been my best friend, and I don’t want that to change—but I thought, when you said we should go stag together, I thought—” A sob escaped from his throat and he blinked back tears.  “It was stupid,” he reaffirmed.  “You’re the only one who’s ever wanted me—just Harry.  I’m not a freak to you, like at home,” he spit out the word, “or the Boy-Who-Lived.  I just thought . . .” 

He took a shaking breath, and plowed on with his confession.  “You’ve loved me and wanted me, which made me realize I love and want you back, and then you went with Bones and didn’t even care when I asked Cho.  I don’t care that she fancies Diggory, not really.  I just wanted someone to want me when you didn’t want me.” 

Harry looked desperately at Ernie, who stared back at him in disbelief.  “Apparently being the Boy-Who-Lived, though, wasn’t even good enough for just a ball.  Not even that; I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t the Hogwarts Champion.  Ironic, isn’t it?  How no one even wants me for my fame, except for that crazy Weasley girl who follows me around all the time.”

Finally, Harry became quiet again and slumped against the couch, breathing somewhat heavily.

“I love you, too,” Ernie whispered so softly that he wasn’t sure if Harry would hear.  Was this real?  Had Harry just confessed to him?  Merlin, please let this not be another dream.

Harry snapped his head toward Ernie, astonishment clearly written on his face.

Ernie laughed joyfully.  He could see it now, clearly—the love in Harry’s eyes—love for him.  “I’ve loved you since first year. I thought you didn’t love me back, that I was just a friend.”  He reached out with deft fingers and traced the tear tracks on Harry’s face.  “I can’t bear to see you cry.”

Clasping Ernie’s hand against his face, Harry leaned into the touch.  “Do you mean it?”

“Yes,” Ernie replied, leaning forward until their foreheads rested against each other.  “More than anything.”

The fire crackled before them, and neither of them noticed when it began to dim and finally burnt out.  When the common room had finally emptied out and the fire turned to nothing more than embers, Ernie pulled Harry down into his arms, Harry’s eyes fluttering closed.  “Sweet dreams,” he murmured before falling into dreamland, happy and content, both knowing that this was forever.

The End.

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