Title: A Gryffindor and a Slytherin - Chapter 17 - As They Once Were Meant to Be
Chapter Rating: R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: The school year draws to a close and even Draco can't help but wonder at how much has changed. It had all started with a sunny afternoon in September. It ends on a no less sunny afternoon in June. Features bizarre accidents, a rolled-up newspaper, an ivy-covered building, a possible temper tantrum, a burning question, and an honest answer.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 17 - As They Once Were Meant To Be
Many people looked relieved to be boarding the train to leave for the break. Hogwarts seemed much less safe now. Pansy had broken down again when she saw the Thestrals pulling the school carriages to Hogsmeade station. Nearly every student could see the Thestrals now. It was as though every bit of the innocence traditionally associated with one's Hogwarts years was gone. A giant sent by the Dark Lord had attacked the school and killed a teacher and a student. In retrospect, it seemed miraculous that the losses had been so low.
The Slytherins had hung a black-framed wizarding photo of Queenie in the common room. Taken during a party at the end of fifth year, the photo showed her with a rare smile on her face. She perpetually tilted her bottle of Butterbeer at the unseen photographer. Nott sat beside her, scowling in the other direction. Treacherous prig or not, Nott had been one of them, so they decided against cutting him out of the photograph. Besides, what Nott had done paled in comparison to the giant.
Draco was of age now, and neither Snape nor Dumbledore could stop him from leaving Hogwarts for the break. Pansy's parents had invited him to stay with them, but Draco begged off. He planned to spend the week in London. If he was supposed to be an adult wizard now, he would act like one. His mother clearly thought him adult enough to deal with his father's death without any support, he thought bitterly as he stared out the train window. The Parkinsons took him to Diagon Alley and Draco took a room at the Leaky Cauldron.
"Harry Potter himself stayed in this room once, young master," Tom, the grotesque landlord, told Draco as he let him into the room.
Draco briefly considered demanding another room, just for old times' sake, but who was he fooling? He was willing to suck Potter off but refused to stay in a room where Potter had once lodged? Such hypocrisy was for Gryffindors, not Slytherins. He stood by the window and looked out onto the Muggle street below. The journey to London had sent Draco from that fine line between two worlds, out from his comfortable past and into an uncertain future. That evening had been the first time he had disembarked from the Hogwarts Express and had not seen his parents there.
Having to fend for himself wasn't so bad with a Gringotts vault of his own, though. He had food sent up to his room every evening. He walked around Diagon Alley, drank smoothies at Florean Fortescue's, bought trinkets for Pansy and the girls, browsed the shelves at Flourish and Blotts, and stayed well away from the Weasley twins' new joke shop. He even ventured into Knockturn Alley once, but fled from the display of Borgin and Burkes; because try as he might, he could not forget his father.
Draco considered using the time away from school to write to his mother, but he didn't want to take the risk -- he'd left Pandora at Hogwarts, and he couldn't trust any other owl, especially not post office owls. On many levels, he still couldn't believe what his mother had done with the information about the giant. Despite the fact that his resentment was ebbing for the way she'd completely ignored him after Father's death, Draco didn't think things would ever be the same between them. Still, they were family, and families moved past such things.
He almost didn't want to go back to Hogwarts when Easter break was over. Almost.
Gryffindor lost to Hufflepuff in the final Quidditch game of the season. Potter had caught the Snitch, but Hufflepuff was so far ahead on points that it didn't matter. For the first time in twenty-five years, Hufflepuff had the Quidditch Cup. Draco thought it a testament to that whole year at Hogwarts. He was sure that in the future it would come to be known as The Year of Bizarre Accidents.
Before dinner that evening, he glanced at the giant hourglasses that counted house points and saw that Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were head-to-head, with Slytherin and Gryffindor trailing behind. Draco shook his head and took his seat at the Slytherin table. Bizarre, there was no other word for it.
Their teachers, for their part, seemed determined to drive any thoughts of unpleasantness, war, and death out of the students' minds with massive amounts of homework. Some days, Draco wondered if he should even bother going back for his seventh year. If the weeks leading up to the examination period were any indication, seventh year would simply chew them all up and spit them out as mere husks of students.
The events of early spring seemed to have broken many house barriers that the house unity projects couldn't. People from all houses were frequently seen in groups on the lawns of Hogwarts grounds, in the library, in hallways between classes. Draco would have spoken out against this blatant break of tradition if it weren't for a particular Gryffindor's guarded smiles whenever they passed each other. Draco refused to acknowledge what he and Potter had as a relationship. They were gay teenagers with healthy sex drives, that was all.
Pansy had forgotten about his promise to tell her why he'd saved Potter from the giant; Draco didn't bring it up. He was sure that Blaise suspected something. Fortunately, Draco was much more discreet with night-time disappearances than Blaise had been.
Draco couldn't believe exams were finished. Almost everybody else had gone to Hogsmeade, but Draco couldn't be bothered. Potter had cornered him, quite literally, the evening before, and persuaded him to stay behind. Draco wondered if he should check into the hospital wing. Clearly, he was going mad and losing touch with reality. In the real world, Potter was not supposed to employ persuasion tactics that involved tongue usage.
Draco was leaning against the statue of Circe in the courtyard, pondering whether perhaps he had dreamt the whole thing and Potter wasn't going to show up. Just then, Potter walked outside. Draco wasn't sure if Potter was smiling at him or if he was screwing up his face as he squinted into the sunshine. While he was busy thinking about this, Potter walked right up to him, put a possessive hand on his hip, and kissed him without preamble.
Draco pushed him away, looking around in alarm. "What do you think you're doing, Potter?" he spluttered. "We could be seen!"
"Nah, everyone's in Hogsmeade," Potter said in a raspy voice.
There was something wicked lurking behind those irritatingly green eyes and Draco found himself wanting to agree. Fortunately, common sense triumphed. "Not the teachers, you daft prat."
Potter's mouth curled into a smirk. "Fine, let's find someplace more private."
"If you'll unhand me," Draco said, trying to sound grumpy but failing.
They were just about to re-enter the building when Snape materialised in the doorway. Draco hated it when he did that. The two boys backed away a few steps and Snape strode out into the courtyard, looking decidedly at odds with the sun-drenched surroundings. He was holding a rolled-up newspaper. He frowned at Draco, then turned to glare at Potter.
"Were you fighting with Mr. Malfoy?"
"No, sir," Potter said in a sullen tone.
"Very well. I have something for you from Professor Dumbledore. Hold this for me," Snape said, extending the newspaper to Potter and reaching into his pocket with his other hand.
"I'll hold it, Professor--" Draco said and reached out for the paper at the same time as Potter.
He felt a jerk behind his navel and his vision blurred; the words "Potter will probably drop it" never left his lips.
Draco blinked. He found himself standing on a dirt road instead of the cracked stones of the courtyard.
"Idiot boy," Snape barked at Draco, and yanked the newspaper back.
Draco gaped, turning to Potter, who was standing next to them, his hand still extended.
Potter looked up at Snape. "What is this place?" he asked, looking bewildered.
"Welcome to Godric's Hollow, Mr. Potter," Snape said with a bitter edge to his voice.
Draco's eyes widened. This was the village where Potter's parents had been killed. He looked to his left and saw the ruins of a two-storey family home. The entire top floor was caved in. Thick sheets of ivy covered most of the building. The front door was partially off its hinges. It swung softly back and forth as a strong wind gusted all around them.
"Professor," Potter said, his voice low and urgent.
Draco looked up at Snape, who was giving Potter a significant look, angling his head ever so slightly towards Draco. Draco's eyes widened and he glanced over at Potter, who was staring straight ahead, obviously avoiding looking at him.
"Ah, Harry, so glad you could join us," came a high-pitched, cold voice from the front door of the house.
Draco looked away from Potter and saw a tall, skeletal figure with a horrible white face. He didn't need to be told who it was. Draco's stomach gave a violent lurch. He hadn't thought the Dark Lord was quite this grotesque.
"You see, Bella?" the Dark Lord said to a cloaked figure standing next to him. "I told you Severus could be trusted." He turned back to gaze at Potter, but noticed Draco. "Who is the other boy?"
"Did baby Harry bwing a fwend?" the woman -- Aunt Bella! -- said in a mocking tone, pushing her cloak's hood off. "Why, it's Draco!" she said, her tone back to normal. "Draco Malfoy, my nephew."
"Ah, I see. A shame about your mother and father, boy," the Dark Lord said, not sounding sorry at all.
Draco's heart stopped for a moment. He swallowed. Mother and father? What--
"Why did you bring the other boy, Severus?" the Dark Lord continued, turning to Snape.
"He happened to be standing next to the Potter boy when the Portkey was about to activate, my Lord. I knew he could be trusted to keep quiet about our -- ah -- sudden disappearance, so I continued as planned. Unfortunately, Draco decided to be helpful when I asked Potter to hold the Portkey," Snape replied in a smooth voice.
Not a muscle twitched in his face and Draco wondered if he had known about his mother...?
"Very well," the Dark Lord said. "Bring him in, you can take him back with you when we're done."
Draco just stood there, opening and closing his mouth in astonishment. Had this man just brushed off the deaths -- deaths, plural? -- of his mother and father without even a second glance at him?
Snape grabbed Potter's arm and pushed him roughly forward. "Come along, Draco," he murmured. "It'll be all right."
Draco stumbled after them as they entered the dilapidated house, glass and rocks crunching beneath their shoes. The inside wasn't much better than the outside. There was an unhealthy, musty-sweet smell about the place, like a dead thing festering. Draco wrinkled his nose. He could see a patch of blue sky above; part of the ceiling still held. Brown and yellow leaves rustled underfoot as they walked further in.
"Welcome home, Harry," the Dark Lord said in an amiable tone. "I don't expect you remember this place at all. This is where your parents lived and died." He gave a short laugh, like nails down a blackboard. Draco shuddered. The Dark Lord continued speaking. "I thought it would be nice of me to let you see your birthplace before you died."
Draco glanced at Potter, who was struggling furiously. Snape was still clutching his upper arm, his lip curling.
The Dark Lord seemed to have noticed Potter's struggling as well. "Your persistence is admirable, Harry, but surely you must realise how futile it would be to run? There's nowhere you can go. My people are all over the village; they'd only catch you and bring you right back. You're only making things harder on yourself."
Potter stopped struggling and squared his shoulders. "Who said I was going to run?"
The Dark Lord laughed again. "Ambition. I admire that in an adversary. It's too bad you are no match for me, boy. The potion, Severus?"
Snape reached into his pocket and handed him a black bottle. The Dark Lord's long, spidery fingers closed around it. Draco shuddered in revulsion. This... thing was supposed to be the most powerful Dark wizard in the world? Couldn't he magic himself into at least a semblance of a human being?
"I'd wasted so much time on that useless Auror," the Dark Lord said. "He knew nothing, of course. That glimpse our -- mmm -- special connection allowed me into the nature of the prophecy in September was most illuminating. Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on Dumbledore's keeping it a secret from everyone but you, Harry. I'd thought he would have told his precious Order everything. But no matter! I will find out what this mysterious power you possess is." He uncorked the bottle in his hand and shook it slightly. "I will become Harry Potter. Whatever other power resides in your blood shall be mine for an hour and I will know how to destroy you. Severus."
Snape grabbed a handful of Potter's hair and yanked. Draco winced involuntarily and looked over at his aunt, who was watching the scene in front of her with a cruel smile playing across her lips. She looked so much like Mother. If her hair weren't dark, her features softer, and her eyes not quite so hard and menacing, he would have thought she was Narcissa. Draco couldn't bear to keep looking at her. He wanted desperately to ask about Mother but he knew better.
Meanwhile, Snape deposited Potter's hair into the bottle the Dark Lord held out. Polyjuice. Why, though? What was all that rot about prophecies and powers? He glanced at Potter, who was looking at the floor, his jaw set stubbornly. Draco noticed that Potter's left hand was inching across his stomach. The nutter was reaching for his wand. Draco wondered if he should alert Aunt Bella to Potter's plan, and then it hit him.
He understood in the back of his mind that Mother was dead. He didn't particularly care how. All he knew was that both his parents were dead, and that man with his snake-like face and cold voice was responsible. To top it off, he didn't even care. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy had been expendable to this man. Ultimately, Draco would be expendable, too. Draco watched as Potter's hand moved slowly and carefully towards his pocket.
Draco was only vaguely aware of the Dark Lord drinking the Polyjuice Potion and transforming across from him. There was a teeming mass of thoughts and feelings in him, but the need for revenge was strongest. The Dark Lord had caused the deaths of Draco's parents. He would pay. Potter would fight the Dark Lord. Draco knew this. He also knew that he would do everything to make sure that Potter won.
Draco Malfoy always picked the winning side.
He watched as two of Potter's fingers disappeared into his pocket. He felt something strange and glanced briefly up at Snape. The professor was staring at him intently. Draco's eyes strayed inadvertently back to Potter's fingers and hot guilt filled his insides. He'd given Potter away without meaning to.
To his astonishment, Snape's gaze shifted downwards to Potter's hand then snapped back to Draco. Draco's eyes widened. Snape was on their side.
"Well, well, well, your vision is quite bad, Harry," the Dark Lord said in Potter's voice.
Draco shivered as he stared at the two seemingly identical boys. He was stricken by how easily he could tell the difference between them -- the real Potter could never sneer like this, he never looked so comfortable in his own skin.
"Take his wand, Severus," the Dark Lord commanded, staring at Snape with an unfocused look in his -- Potter's -- eyes.
His eyes. The Dark Lord didn't have Potter's glasses. It was now or never.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Draco shouted, whipping out his wand and pointing it at Bellatrix. She fell onto the floor with a thud.
The Dark Lord whirled on him. For a second, Draco thought he was looking at Potter. All he could see -- the mad look in his eyes, his aggressive stance, his bared teeth, that hand curled around a wand -- made him remember other things. The slightly surprised look when they'd kissed, the way he'd bitten down on Draco's shoulder that first time, those hands--
"Stupefy!" the Dark Lord screeched.
The jet of red light rushed towards him and Draco looked helplessly at Potter. He immediately found his wits again; the other boy looked terrified and real... There seemed to be no one else in the room but the two of them, and for one delirious second, Draco thought that time had stopped. Then the Stunner hit him and Draco was falling through a web of white-hot pain, his lungs leaden and useless. All he could see was Potter's face, set in grim determination, his eyes shining with resolve and... gratitude? Potter turned towards the Dark Lord. Inky darkness exploded behind Draco's eyes and he saw no more.
Draco opened his eyes and blinked several times, adjusting to the gloom around him. Was this the Beyond? Somehow it didn't seem right that the Beyond would have pillows and blankets. He turned his head to the right and saw Potter, of all people. He sat slumped in a visitor's chair, clearly asleep. His legs were stretched out in front of him, going under the bed. Draco squinted and saw that Potter was drooling onto his robes. He sniggered quietly, and prodded Potter's knee.
"Wha?" Potter sat up straight, pushing his glasses back up on his nose. "You're awake."
"So are you. What are you doing here, Potter?"
Potter flushed. "I'm, er, not sure. I fell asleep." He ran a hand through his hair. "Are you okay?"
"Never better. Did you kill him?"
Draco sat up and fixed him with a glare. "Did you kill the Dark Lord?"
"Er, no. He got away. With your aunt. Again." Potter's voice wavered and he stared down into his lap.
"Honestly, Potter, do I have to do everything myself?"
Potter frowned. "Dra-- er, Malfoy, what? I don't understand. You want me to kill--"
"What, you think I'm making idle conversation?" Draco demanded, leaning forward and grabbing Potter's robe.
"Why?" Potter whispered, his breath catching in his throat.
"He killed my parents."
"Mine too," Potter said, his tone brittle.
"You're going to kill him, aren't you?" Draco asked, leaning even closer. They were nose to nose now. He suddenly became aware of Potter's heart beating against Draco's fingers where they clutched his robe.
"Yeah," Potter breathed, his tone unsteady. "I'll try..."
He kissed Draco, prying his lips softly with his tongue. Draco sighed and leant into the kiss, but suddenly felt like there were several thousand needles stabbing him in the chest. He let go of Potter's robes and fell back down on his pillow. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"Stunner -- damage," he managed, trying to inhale. A Stunner to the chest at close range was not a laughing matter. Ideally, he shouldn't have moved at all.
"Sorry," Potter said, looking worried. "Should I get Madam--"
"No, I'll be fine. I just need rest," Draco said, regaining his breath. The last thing he needed right now was Pomfrey asking him questions about why he was leaning forward in the first place.
"Okay. I'll, er, just go then." Potter got up, knocking the chair over.
Draco winced as the loud bang caused a stab of pain behind his eyes. Potter picked up the chair and stood over Draco's bed for a moment. He opened his mouth as though to say something, but seemed to think better of it and turned to leave.
Draco remembered something. "Potter," he called.
The other boy turned around quickly. "Yeah?"
"What did the Dark Lord mean by 'special connection'?"
Potter's hand shot up to worry his scar. "This. He, er, can see things. Sometimes. If I let him."
"Oh. Can you do the same?"
Potter's face was grim. "Yeah, it works both ways. I have to let him in if he lets me in, though."
"Was that how you knew about the Azkaban breakout?"
Draco was sure Potter grinned, though he couldn't tell for sure in the gloomy darkness.
"You're really clever, you know that? You and Hermione would get along," Potter said.
"You're making me ill."
"Yeah, yeah. See you, Malfoy."
Draco watched him go with a bemused look. Potter was a terrible liar. Madam Pomfrey would not have allowed him to fall asleep in that chair, not unless Potter had a tantrum and made Dumbledore tell her to let him stay.
Snape visited Draco in the morning. He told him that Dumbledore had known about the trip to Godric's Hollow the whole time. He showed up almost immediately after Draco lost consciousness. The Dark Lord had fled, as had Bellatrix, who had time to recover from Draco's curse. Draco was just glad he'd survived; he didn't care for the details. It was done with, for now. Snape looked tired as he told Draco about his mother's death. It turned out that she'd killed herself shortly after the failed attack on Potter that ended up killing Queenie. Snape hadn't known, he'd found out at the same time as Draco.
Draco would never know why his mother died. He would never see his parents again, that was all that mattered. On the one hand, there was the Dark Lord with his Death Eaters and supposedly awesome power. On the other hand, there was Dumbledore and his Order, whatever it was, along with the Ministry wonks, various Weasleys, and Potter. Let them fight their stupid wars. Draco would finish school and leave them all behind.
Madam Pomfrey decided that Draco was well enough to leave the hospital wing to attend the Leaving Feast. When he reached the Slytherin table, he was immediately surrounded by his housemates, who had more questions than Draco had answers. He didn't even know what exactly had happened after he'd passed out. He didn't want to know. He'd done as much fighting as he ever would. Nothing would change that, not if Draco could help it.
The feast was delicious as Leaving Feasts were wont to be. As he finished his second helping of trifle, Draco remembered to glance around the Great Hall, which was... decorated in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw colours. He turned to look at the hourglasses and saw that, indeed, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were tied on points. So, it seemed, were Slytherin and Gryffindor, but they were just behind the other two houses. He elbowed Blaise and nodded towards the hourglasses.
"Yeah, I noticed the decorations," Blaise said. He took a swig of pumpkin juice. "Wonder what Dumbledore will say about that."
"He'll just award some extra points, you wait," Draco said with considerable bitterness. "Five thousand points to Gryffindor because Potter managed to not get himself killed yet again!"
Blaise snorted juice out of his nose. "From your lips to his ears, mate," he said, dabbing at his robes with a napkin. "Speaking of which," he added and nodded in the direction of the head table.
Draco turned to look -- indeed, Dumbledore had risen.
"Another year is ending. It has been, in a word, an experience. A learning experience for all of you, I hope, in more ways than one..."
Draco tuned him out. The Headmaster would blather on about house unity, no doubt, and tragedy for good measure; he'd tell them all to watch their backs because the Dark Lord was coming to get them. Nothing the old man said would bring back Queenie, or Draco's parents. Draco wondered why he even bothered, surely he knew that no one took him seriously. They'd all go home and listen to what their parents told them. He felt a pang -- well, those who had parents to go home to. He reached for the coffee pot and almost dropped it when Blaise gave him a sharp poke.
"Listen," Blaise said, ignoring his glare.
"Well, tradition dictates that it is time to award the House Cup," Dumbledore said with an important air. "The point standings are as follows: in the lead are Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw house, with six hundred and eighty points apiece. Gryffindor house is just behind them with six hundred and thirty points, and Slytherin in last place with six hundred and twenty-five. Well done, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw!"
Cheers broke out from the two middle tables, but Dumbledore held up his hand. "We are not quite done yet."
"Here it comes," Draco spat, throwing his fork down and glaring at the Headmaster.
"I still have some points to award," Dumbledore continued.
Draco wanted to hurl his plate at him, trifle and all. The Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs looked mutinous.
"To Mr. Harry Potter, for once again demonstrating outstanding courage in the face of insurmountable odds, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."
The roar from the Gryffindor table was deafening. Draco was grinding his teeth as he watched the rubies fill the hourglass until they were level with the yellow and blue sapphires.
Wait a second. The three other houses had equal point counts--
"And last but not least, to Mr. Draco Malfoy, for decisive action when it mattered most and for out-foxing the oldest fox in the chicken coop, I award Slytherin house fifty-five points."
Draco's jaw dropped. There was a moment of silence that seemed deafening. Then the Slytherin table exploded in cheers that far outstripped the Gryffindors' earlier ones. People were getting up all around him, clapping and shouting his name. Draco just kept blinking. Then Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and even Gryffindors were on their feet -- cheering for him, for Draco. Blaise looked down at him with an enormous grin on his face. Draco looked over at the Gryffindor table and saw Potter, applauding wildly and beaming. It was unreal.
Not only that, but he'd got more points than Potter. When the cheering and applause died down, Dumbledore smiled down at them all. Draco suddenly wondered how he hadn't found his eye-twinkling endearing before. He immediately pinched himself. Honestly, what was he thinking? Endearing. Dumbledore was still a mad old coot.
"As you may have noticed, this means that the point counts are equal. The House Cup rightfully belongs to all four houses this year. I hope you are as proud of yourselves as I am proud of all of you. Through co-operation, you all have managed to achieve unity between the four houses, and such a thing has not happened in over a thousand years."
It was the best Leaving Feast Draco had ever attended.
Draco was staring out of the window of the Hogwarts Express, watching the stretching plains go by, thinking about how things had changed in only a year. Vincent and Gregory had decided to ride with Millicent and Tracey, so it was just Draco, Blaise, and Pansy in the compartment. Pansy was telling Blaise about her plans for the summer; this was one thing that hadn't changed.
He shifted around on the uncomfortable seat, wondering when the food cart would be coming. He wouldn't say no to a pumpkin pasty. Draco wondered if they'd passed Edinburgh yet -- it would be on the other side of the train. He decided to go out in the corridor and look; he'd always liked looking at the city. He wondered what it would be like to live there. It was large enough to get lost in, yet there was something about the air and the people that endeared Draco to Edinburgh whenever he visited. He got up and smoothed the front of his robes.
"I'm going to go and see if we're past Edinburgh," he told Blaise.
Pansy was rhapsodising about something Italian-sounding and ignored him completely. Blaise nodded.
Draco pulled the door open.
Potter stood outside the compartment, looking defiant. Draco cast a glance at Blaise, indicating Pansy with a quick flicker of his eyes. Blaise winked and turned to the girl, who hadn't noticed their exchange of looks and was still going on about Milan. Draco left the compartment and shut the door behind him tightly, murmuring a locking spell.
"Not going to invite me to sit with your lot, are you?" Potter asked with a bitter undertone.
Draco glanced at him in surprise. "I thought you wanted to see me. If you'd like to sit with my friends--"
"No, no, that's not what I meant. Oh, forget it." Potter dug his hand into his hair, his jaw tightening.
Draco looked towards the end of the corridor, making sure no one was there to see them. He opened the door leading to the platform that connected their carriage with the next one, motioning for Potter to follow. It was dark on the platform as there were no windows, and the floor was slightly wobbly. Draco leant gingerly against a wall, hoping it wasn't too dirty. It was a tight, closed space filled with the smell of burnt tea leaves that was characteristic of train stations and railways. Potter followed him in and shut the door, plunging them into near-total darkness but for the light that filtered in from the adjoining carriages.
"Are you afraid?" Potter asked in a raspy voice.
"Afraid? Afraid of what?"
"The Dark Lord. What you did back there..."
"...is none of your concern. I'm safer at the Manor than anywhere. The Ministry doesn't know Mother is dead, do they?"
Potter shook his head, looking away.
"The Dark Lord wouldn't go after me where I'm being watched by Aurors, Potter."
"He goes after me anywhere."
"Well, that's you. I'm not worth getting caught over, Potter," Draco said, suddenly surprised by the acidic undertone in his voice. It was the truth, but it stung. Even here Potter had him beat; even the Dark Lord's attention was not on the son of his once-faithful Death Eater but on the son of his dead enemy.
A part of Potter's face was illuminated, the rest of him was in shadow. Draco was reminded of Godric's Hollow, and the way Potter had looked right before Draco had lost consciousness. His eyes held none of the panic they'd glittered with then, but there was something about the set of his jaw, or was it his frown? As Draco's heart did that little leap he had forgotten it could do, he reached out and pulled the other boy close. Potter's hands fell on his chest and he felt a tugging in his heart at the closeness. Why Potter? Why did it have to be Potter? Their lips were touching then, and Draco kissed Potter with a kind of bitterness he couldn't put into thoughts.
Potter drew a breath and thrust against him, hands sliding down Draco's sides, hitching up his robes, running along his bare chest, waist, hips. Draco sighed into their kiss and reached to pull up Potter's robes. Somewhere at the back of his mind he was afraid that someone could come through the door at any moment, but at the same time he didn't care. He bit down gently on Potter's lower lip and pulled, causing him to whimper, fingers scrabbling against Draco's sides as he tried to pull off his pants.
Ten minutes later, they were cleaned up as best they could be, given the lighting conditions. Draco ran a hand lightly down Potter's cheek and leant in to kiss him -- slowly and carefully, closing his eyes for the first time since their kiss in the Forbidden Forest. He wasn't bitter. He was just tired. The fact that he wanted to be kissing Potter seemed almost an afterthought after everything that had happened. Why shouldn't he allow himself an indulgence? This was something that finally belonged to him, and his to take, not something procured by his parents.
They broke apart and looked at each other. Potter's eyes were glinting in the shadows, and Draco knew that no matter what happened, this moment would stay with him for ever.
"I'll see you in September?" Potter whispered.
"If you're lucky," Draco whispered back.
"I'll see you, Potter."
Smirking through his frown, Draco left the dark platform and unlocked his compartment. He caught a glimpse of Potter staring after him as he disappeared behind the door.
The Hogwarts Express pulled into Kings Cross station just after seven in the evening. Students jostled in corridors, shouting at their classmates to hurry up. Draco and his friends waited out the initial rush in their compartment. They'd talked so much on the way that no one spoke; Draco stared out of the window. It felt strange not to see the landscape passing by anymore. A mangy yellow cat was perched atop a railing on the opposite side of the station. It seemed to be staring straight at Draco. He stared back for a while, then it was time to leave. He told two fourth-years to load his trunk onto a trolley.
After passing the magical barrier between Platform Nine and Three Quarters and the Muggle world, he said his goodbyes to Blaise and Pansy. He'd see Blaise in a few days; the boy had been disowned by his family and he was coming to live with Draco after he collected his things. Draco was only allowing it as long as Blaise didn't bring home any stray Hufflepuffs. Pansy promised to write just like she always did. Draco knew he'd get about two letters; Pansy was a horrible letter writer.
Mrs. Goyle had come to collect both Vincent and Gregory. Draco smiled thinly and assured her that her son had been on his best behaviour all year. She made him promise to come visit in the summer, after he got his Apparition licence. When they were all gone, Draco stared around at the other wizards and witches on the platform.
Every year since their fourth, many Slytherin family members greeting their children would look more and more haggard. This time there were many more tears and furtive glances at the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw families. Nearly palpable lines had been drawn between children and parents alike, and perhaps for the first time in his life, Draco realised just how different Hogwarts was from the rest of the world. Unity had reigned at Hogwarts when they had left the castle. Mistrust and fear ruled the world at large.
In a flash of realisation, Draco understood why Dumbledore had been so keen on fostering and strengthening house unity at Hogwarts. Children and teenagers made quick decisions, and close friendships were formed so much easier. The students would take the message -- and proof -- of unity home. After all, everything began in the family. Draco smiled bitterly -- he was his own family now. He was glad Blaise was coming to stay. He hadn't wanted to spend another lonely summer at Malfoy Manor.
Draco had to get to Paddington station quickly if he wanted to catch the last train to Pewsey; it left at half past eight and it would take him at least twenty minutes to switch stations. He didn't trust the Underground and so needed to take a taxi. In his pocket, he had a roll of those funny-looking papers Muggles used as money. He'd found it in his Gringotts vault when he'd gone to London during Easter.
When he reached Pewsey, he was going to have to take another taxi to the Manor. He wasn't sure if he had enough to pay for both journeys, but he was overage now and he could simply Obliviate one or both the Muggle drivers in a pinch. He wasn't supposed to do it without a license, but he truly did not care. He gripped the handle of his trolley and set off towards the station exit.
"Hey, Malfoy, wait!" came Potter's voice from behind him. When had Draco begun to recognise that voice so quickly?
Draco stopped and turned to face him. Potter was looking to his right and waving an impatient hand at something. Draco glanced over to see the werewolf Lupin standing a few feet away from three Muggles who were all glaring at Potter. Lupin nodded, smiling, and Potter turned to Draco.
"Do you still hate me?"
Draco stared at him intensely for a moment, then turned around and walked away.
June 31, 1997. Malfoy Manor, Avebury, Wiltshire.
Last time we spoke, you asked me if I still hated you. I didn't answer you then because only a true Slytherin would have been able to understand the short answer. The long answer, however, would have taken much more time than I had then. I think I've managed to break it down as simply as I can without compromising myself should this letter fall into the hands of a Weasley.
When I was small, things were very simple. There were Malfoys and there were those who opposed us, the villains. Since the day we were introduced, you were the designated villain in my life. Our last year at Hogwarts changed many things about the way I see the world. Some of them were sensible things like realising that the associations my friends choose needn't reflect badly on me. Others were less sensible things like realising that I was really quite interested in associating with the designated villain.
I'll cut this short because I do have a modicum of faith in your ability to pick up sub-text. For what it's worth, you've proven that you're not the typical cardboard villain. You're disgustingly brave and unnecessarily generous. You're surprisingly ambitious and uncharacteristically cunning. I don't hate you any more because you are so unlike your housemates in many ways and so like mine in others: a Gryffindor and a Slytherin.
Well, this is it. Thanks so much to everyone who's reviewed, commented, encouraged, and criticised -- that you all took an interest in my story, even if to say how much it sucked, is flattering and very humbling. An extra special thank you goes out to my beta-readers, who nitpicked and goaded and prodded and poked, and made me want to do better. Kristal, Mishty, Vel (who looked up train schedules and travel times for this chapter), Autumn LeCroix (Draco's desire to live in Edinburgh in this chapter is a nod to her ab epistulis), and Jaxmari -- you are all brilliant and lovely and I owe you far more beers and body-shots than I'll ever be able to afford.
Q: BUT WHAT WAS DRACO'S ORIGINAL PLAN? YOU NEVER TOLD US!
A: That's right, I didn't. This was intentional. :P
Note that there will not be a sequel, so please do not ask. The ending is like this on purpose; imagine what you will about what happens next. I wanted to see if I could bring the boys as together as I could believably, without resorting to tired plot devices. I think I succeeded. If I didn't -- let me know. I'd love to hear from you. The story was completed on March 27th, 2005 and it's going to be canon-shafted into AU land as soon as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released on July 16th, 2005.
Icons! evilsource has made icons for AGS *snogs madly* Get them here.