Firstly, to anyone who started reading my other HP/DM story, The Consequences of Reputation, I'm sorry there hasn't been a new chapter. I honestly don't have internet at home right now, so it's very hard for me to post new stories. Not to mention that I've recently gotten a new laptop and I am in the process of moving everything over from my old one.
This story is called Yesterday's Wishes and I've been working on it for well over a month. Originally this story was going to be pretty short, but it just grew and grew and well, here it is. It's long, but I am not going to separate it into chapters because it was and still is intended to be read all at once. I'm sorry if there are any errors, I don't have a beta reader and for whatever reason it's harder for me to catch my own typos. Strange, I know. As this story has grown it has become terribly important to me, so I hope you enjoy it.
Regardless of the pleasant weather that had decided to grace them that day after weeks of rain they were still gathered under an enormous white tent. Harry had been one of the people to help assemble it even. Actually, most of the people in the seats around him had helped with the set-up as well. There weren't many people here, and most of them Harry hadn't seen since his Hogwarts days. Although, he supposed that shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, he didn't frequent the circles of high society.
There were only three short rows of chairs, and Harry was seated at the right end of the middle row. In front of him sat Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. And next to Mrs. Malfoy was Astoria Greengrass. Her long blond hair was only a shade or two darker than Narcissa and Lucius' nearly platinum hue. You could see the years of practice in calm composure on her face. Every so often Narcissa would engage her in idle chatter and Harry suspected she just needed to break the deafening silence.
Directly to his left was Pansy Parkinson, and next to her was Theodore Nott. They had apparently had a rather lavish wedding just a few weeks earlier. Harry remembered skimming over the half-page article in the Daily Prophet detailing the event. Pansy had let her hair grow a little bit since Hogwarts, and she no longer sported the straight bangs that he had thought were quite ridiculous. Theodore hadn't changed all that much. He had acquired the natural stubble that came with aging beyond the teen years, but beyond that he was very much the same. At least in appearance.
Behind him was Blaise Zabini and Gregory Goyle. Blaise's eyes were shadowed and downcast, he avoided looking at anyone. However he had seemed puzzled when Harry had walked in and he couldn't blame him for that. Being here was a bit surreal for him as well. Goyle was still a bit on the larger side, but not nearly as bad as Crabbe had been. He seemed to be lost in thought, which if it weren't for the circumstances Harry would have found this to be very odd indeed, and every few minutes he could see Goyle shake his head in his peripheral vision. The only other people present were those hired by the Malfoy's to take care of certain aspects of the day's event.
A middle aged wizard stepped up the podium at the front of the tent. He didn't bother casting sonorous charm on himself as there were so few people. He coughed briefly to clear his throat and everyone turned their attention to him as he began to speak.
"Witches and Wizards, it is truly something regrettable when we must attend events such as these. Even more so when losses from the Great War are still fresh enough to sting." He took a breath as if needing a moment to compose his thoughts. "Today we have gathered together not to mourn the loss of life and magic, but rather to celebrate the life which has been lived. Of course there will be sadness, but don't let it linger for there must have been many happy memories that were shared."
Next to Harry, Pansy had started to cry. Silently, but the tears were proof enough that she found being here unbearable. Maybe she wanted nothing more than to run out and never think of this again, but Harry found it admirable that she chose to stay seated and simply let the tears roll down her face. Nott was holding her hand tightly, silently giving her his support.
Harry turned back to the podium when the man spoke again. "Let us take this time to remember and share our experiences of Draco Malfoy." Narcissa leaned forward and started crying into her hands. Lucius placed one hand on her shoulder and used the other arm to wrap her in a comforting embrace. It was the most open display of affection Harry had ever witnessed from the Malfoy's, and he felt a pain in his chest when he saw how broken and defeated Narcissa looked in this moment. He had never seen her appear weak in any way before, not even when the threat of Voldemort loomed directly behind her. Harry felt a bit guilty thinking like that though when he remembered how badly Mrs. Weasley had reacted to Fred's death. It had taken weeks to get her out of her room. Harry supposed he didn't really know what it was like to lose a child, and he suspected it was worse for Mrs. Malfoy since Draco had been her only child.
Goyle stood up and replaced the older wizard at the podium. Apparently he was going to share first. It was just as well, Harry himself didn't want to speak until the end. He was going to need time to gather that infamous Gryffindor courage and some time to accept that he was willingly going to share something that was quite possibly the most intimate experience of his life.
Goyle stood behind the podium and Harry couldn't help but think that he looked so much smaller than he'd ever seemed before. He shook his head one last time before beginning to speak.
"My last friend is dead now. I've known Draco since our first year at Hogwarts. We met at Ollivander's wand shop, and at first he wasn't really that nice to me. I was used to that though." Here Goyle took a long pause, like he needed to figure out what to say next.
Mrs. Malfoy had stopped crying for the moment and was looking at Goyle with rapt attentiveness. Harry saw desperation on her face. She needed to hear these things. The memories that made up her son's life. This was her form of closure, knowing he had lived fairly decently. Observing her reaction to hearing Goyle speak about Draco reassured Harry of his conviction to share details he had been keeping to himself even when Ron and Hermione looked worried about his wellbeing.
"After Ollivander's we didn't see each other for awhile. We met again on Platform 9 3/4. We were waiting for the Hogwarts Express, Crabbe and me. We were talking when Draco recognized me and walked over. He introduced himself and said, 'You lot look like you'll be in Slytherin with me. Mind if I join you?'" Goyle stood there for a moment before taking a swig of water from a bottle he had brought with him.
There was extreme sadness on his face, so obvious that even Harry could see it plainly. Perhaps he shouldn't take everything Hermione said to heart as she was always calling him oblivious. There was even a running joke that he must have been obliviated at some point for him to miss so much.
Goyle sighed, long and heavy and continued. "Draco joined us on the train. Sat across from Crabbe and me went on about the Malfoy fortune and his family's ideals. We didn't mind listening to him, actually. We were real happy because he had chosen to join us. It wasn't so lonely with him around. We liked him right away, but we acted like we didn't care if he was around or not. We were just stupid firsties trying to protect ourselves. We were just waiting for the moment he'd get tired of us, tell us we were too stupid and abandon us. We weren't sure he wasn't going to leave."
"But he never did…" Goyle said this in a much quieter voice, and Harry had to struggle to hear it.
He was honestly shocked to hear how lonely Goyle had been before meeting Draco. He felt some sympathy for the man, as he recalled his not-so-wonderful childhood with the Dursley's. Back in school he'd classified Crabbe and Goyle as wizard versions of Dudley without a second thought on the matter, but listening to this Harry realized that Goyle was more like himself than he'd ever known.
"Day after day after day," Goyle continued, "he would still come to us each morning. 'Morning Crabbe. Goyle,' he would say and would walk with us and eat with us. Even when he made better friends like Parkinson and Nott over there he would never forget us. For a long time Crabbe and me would talk, wondering when it was going to happen. When was Draco Malfoy going to ditch us like everyone else had? But he never did."
Before Goyle went on he looked at the small audience and locked eyes with Harry, who suddenly felt rather nervous and began fiddling with the ends of his sleeves. "We almost died with Crabbe that night." And Harry knew exactly what he was talking about, and knew Goyle was talking to him alone now since he was the only one here who knew about the fiendfyre. "I regret that I was the one that lived… But at the same time I'm glad that Crabbe died knowing he had friends." Goyle looked away from Harry again, instead focusing on his hands.
"It doesn't seem fair that Draco's dead now. That I'm alone now. I was always alone before, should be used to it, but I'm not. Not anymore. I miss Crabbe and Draco. We'd talk, laugh and sometimes Draco would insult us with a smirk on his face. He didn't have to tell us he didn't mean it. We just knew somehow."
Goyle's face looked annoyed as he began again. "A lot of people saw Draco in a bad way. Too many people. For some it was because his family was connected to You-Know-Who. Others said he was too arrogant, spoiled and selfish. He was a bit spoiled, but he was never selfish. He was always with us, even when we annoyed him and he knew he didn't have to stick around. He was always with us."
He took another swig of water, and as he did Harry looked around. Narcissa and Lucius hadn't moved. Pansy now had her head on Nott's shoulder. Blaise still avoided eye contact with everyone, but his hands were now clenched into tight fists in his lap.
Harry turned forward again, a bit awestruck himself about what he was hearing about Draco. He'd never seen the boy Goyle was talking about. Back in school Draco had really seemed like an arrogant git to him, but had Harry given him a choice? Harry felt tears sting his eyes as he realized that he had never tried to understand the enigma that had been Draco Malfoy. He had just blindly hated him. If he was honest with himself he felt like an arse.
Swimming in guilt, Harry nearly missed it when Goyle started talking again. "Draco visited me nearly every day after Crabbe died. He would come over and sometimes we would talk. Sometimes we wouldn't, but he knew, don't know how, that it was enough for him to be there at all. Because Crabbe couldn't do that anymore." His voice cracked on the last word and he took a deep shaky breath. "Now Draco's gone. Don't know who will be there this time. But I don't regret meeting Draco. Even though it's lonely again I'm glad I met him. He was my last friend and one of my only friends."
Goyle quickly stepped down as a light applause was given. It was a soft sound, hands barely touching, almost like a melody. Harry struggled to make sure he wasn't clapping too loud, he didn't want to look like an idiot.
The moment Goyle was seated again Astoria stood and practically glided to the podium. She gently cleared her throat and wasted no time beginning her tale. "I am Astoria Greengrass. I am aware that I did not know dear Draco long enough to have anything near as heartfelt as the memories Gregory has of him. We are, however, here to bask in the blessings that Draco's life has given us. For a short time, as many of you may know, Draco and I were engaged."
Harry, who had been ready to retreat into his head immediately looked up in shock at the word 'engaged'. He had been engaged? He decided in that moment that it might be worthwhile to see what else Astoria might say on the subject.
"Draco had contacted me two months after war ended. His letter was full of flattery and the kind of courtesy only a Pure-Blood could know." Harry thought that comment might have been aimed at him. "He requested a meeting between our families to discuss the possibilities of a marriage. The initial meeting went well, so we began the courting process. I believed everything was fine until I received a letter from him saying we needed to have a serious discussion. We met at my home, and from the second he stepped out of the floo he was apologizing for letting things get so far and for leading me on."
Behind his glasses Harry frowned. It didn't sound like something Draco would really do. He wasn't sure if he should believe it or treat it as total rubbish.
"I stopped him from rambling on too much," Astoria continued. "I asked him to explain his meaning. He quickly seated himself and explained that a marriage between us was entirely impossible. When I asked why he told me it was because he was in love." Her eyes visibly softened; like that space of time had been something precious to her.
"He had apparently known this person all throughout school and had been in love with them for years. He told me outright that marrying me while he had these feelings was not something he would allow himself to do. 'The spouse of a Malfoy deserves complete devotion. I can't give that to you,' he had said. He had been entirely serious, and I agreed that he should follow his ideals. For what are we without the beliefs that define us?" Astoria shut her eyes for a brief moment, as if replaying everything in her mind.
"We remained friends after that incident, and he eventually told me who the person was that had so thoroughly captured his interest. Although, their story is not mine to tell. It is because of Draco though that I am about to be happily married. Without his steadfast dedication to his ideals I would have married him rather than holding out for the right man. He has all of my gratitude."
Astoria briefly bowed her head to the small crowd and gracefully made her way back to the seat next to Mrs. Malfoy. The same applause that had been given to Goyle followed Astoria as well. Maybe Harry was imagining it, but he could swear there was a light flush to her cheeks that hadn't been there before. What he did know was that once Astoria sat down she turned just enough to see behind her and looked at him for several seconds. She had been correct, it was not her story to tell, but it was his, wasn't it?
Astoria turned back to the front and was asking Mrs. Malfoy how she was faring as Theodore was gently moving Pansy off of his shoulder. Apparently She was quite shaken up, so Astoria offered her comfort in the form of a supporting hand on her knee. Narcissa gave her a gentle smile in gratitude. Harry admitted quite readily that it was strange to see these people showing so much emotion. Everyone in this room, with the exception of Pansy, was well known for their ability to control their emotions so well. See the masks fall away made him feel as if he was only now seeing them as people, human beings.
Pansy tried clinging to the edge of Nott's sleeve to prevent him from leaving her for the podium. Instead of the annoyance Harry might have expected in any other situation he saw Theodore's eyes soften dramatically. He reached up and ran his hand over her hair and whispered, "I'll keep it short". Pansy nodded, her eyes now downcast like Blaise's, and Nott walked up to the front. He only turned back once to glance at Pansy who was not looking away from the floor.
Nott pulled a letter out of his pocket and unfolded it. "I'm going to keep this brief. I just wanted to share with you a letter that my wife and I received from Draco days after our wedding three weeks ago. While he was still in hospital." This announcement seemed to create a whole new kind of tension in the tent. So far people had shared memories that were at the least a few months old. This however was something from the end of Draco's life. An outlook into how he was thinking in his last days. In front of him Lucius stiffened, and Narcissa placed her hand over Astoria's wrist, seeing as she had never removed it.
Nott stared at the letter for a moment longer and began speaking.
"Dear Theo and Pansy Nott, (You are changing your name, right Pansy? Don't be vain.)
I hope this letter finds you well. I don't think apologies can express how sorry I am for missing your wedding. I had been looking forward to it for months, and even went as far as buying new robes for the event. Please tell me there are at least pictures you can send me?
You cannot believe how incredibly boring it can get when the only thing you can do is sit in bed day in and day out. There are only so many times I can read the same five books and be entertained. Before you ask, no, I do not want to trouble my parents by asking for more books.
Father is obviously trying very hard not to let the situation affect him too much. I fear if it continues the stress alone may kill him prematurely. Mother on the other hand is another matter. She can't even stand the sight of me in this bed. She visits much less than Father does, but every time she does she goes into hysterics. I don't think she knows I heard her, but she blames herself and Father for my condition.
She blames my state on picking the wrong side in the war, but how can that be? It was a war for merlin's sake, we were trying to do everything we could to protect our small family. If that had meant siding with the Dark Lord then so be it. There was nothing wrong with that way of thinking, and I'm just glad we've had this time since then to be a family. I don't know how to tell her this though. Do you have any advice?
I fear there is far graver news I must share with you than the latest Malfoy family troubles though. The healers have finally exhausted all options. The Deterioration curse has nearly reached it's eventual end. They've given me two, maybe three weeks. Merlin, there's so much I haven't done yet. It almost seems a waste that Potter gave that testimony at my trial, doesn't it?
That's what I'm going to do before my time is up. I'm going to talk to Potter. There are too many things between us that were left unsaid and unresolved. I intend to fix this. I don't want to go out with any regrets. That's bad luck, did you know? Not sure what I'll need luck for to be honest. I'm not sure if I'll even be able to get Potter to talk to me really. One can hope.
I do hope you'll visit though, as it gets awfully boring pretending I haven't lost it when I'm talking to the walls.
Without another word Nott folded the letter back up and made his way back to his seat. Pansy grabbed his arm as he sat down and leaned once more on his shoulder. Harry had felt his heart clench when Nott had read the part about Draco wanting him to visit. That had sounded like Draco's final wish. For Harry to visit him? He couldn't fathom how he'd been that important to Draco. He was just Harry.
Lucius stood up and walked regally to the front. Somehow he made the simple black podium with white trim look more valuable and exquisite just by standing behind it. His long blond hair was in its customary ponytail, but the simple black tie was gone, replaced by a thicker tie with a short black lace skirt that covered maybe an inch of his secured hair. His robes were also back and had a large Malfoy family crest on the left side of the chest.
Behind the usual air of superiority that Harry usually got from the head of this family there was something deeper. Lucius' eyes were uncharacteristically shiny and had bags under them betraying the lack of sleep he was getting to anyone who looked closely enough. The last time he'd seen evidence of sleepless nights on that face was during the war. There had been the bags, but also an almost crazed glint of desperation coloring his features. Now he looked as if he was living in a nightmare that would never end.
"Besides Mr. Potter here," Lucius said with a small gesture of his head, "I believe we all share an intimate understanding of what it was like working under the Dark Lord." It was the first upfront acknowledgment Harry had received that he was there amongst them and the covert looks he was getting from everyone made him flush. He felt so out of place that it was ridiculous, but he resolutely kept his eyes on Lucius.
"Other than my wife and me you are all children of the war, convinced by your loyalties to your families and threats from the Dark Lord himself to play certain roles. My son, Draco, was one of you as well. We tried not to openly pressure him to take the side he did. In fact we talked about it as little as possible. But the Dark Lord threatened to have us killed if he did not cooperate, and that threat proved to be a greater motivator than what he wanted to do." Lucius seemed to be struggling to hold himself together, but after a few breaths collected himself.
Harry cocked his head to the side in confusion. What he wanted to do? Did that mean that Draco hadn't wanted to accept the dark mark or the repercussions it carried? Harry had always assumed, rather readily it seemed, that Draco had been perfectly willing at the time. In fact, he was starting to think he'd been blinded by those thoughts…
"Draco," Lucius stated, "had never held any desire to side with the Dark Lord. After the Dark Lord's return during the Triwizard Tournament everyone was whispering to one another, and the world was in a panic. Draco came home that summer in a reclusive mood. He was holed up in his rooms for exactly five days before he asked to speak to his mother and me."
"He told us quite plainly that he didn't want to make the same mistakes that we had made. He wanted to fight against the Dark Lord because he didn't believe he would win this war. We asked him how he could be so sure and the only thing he could tell us was that, 'Potter likes saving people too much to let him win.'" Lucius' tone suggested that he thought the reasoning was far from ideal, but Harry couldn't care less what he thought of it.
He was feeling oddly touched by how much faith Draco had placed in him. With anyone else he would have been slightly annoyed, saying they had a hero complex of other such nonsense, but he knew Draco better than that. His trust wasn't earned very easily. So, what had he done to earn it? Maybe he'd never know.
Lucius' brow furrowed in contempt, like his thoughts disgusted him. "We told him that he should worry about his own future, and what happened to us was of no concern to him. He never got a chance to act of his own volition as his fifth year included Dolores Umbridge as his Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." Now Harry understood Lucius' look, because he didn't know anyone who could look pleasant while thinking of Umbridge.
"From his letters I learned that she was secretly warning him to mind his actions. And then she made him part of that ludicrous Inquisitorial Squad. From that year on, any and all plans he had had to fight against the Dark Lord were thoroughly squashed." Lucius' voice trailed off on a sour note. "But perhaps, since Mr. Potter is among us today, I can choose to believe that Draco's hand being forced was not as much of a failure as I had once thought it to be."
Harry was left speechless as Lucius returned to his seat in front of Nott. Not that he was tempted to say anything quite yet, but the feeling was still there. He was feeling so overwhelmed that he almost wanted to stand up and get some fresh air, though that probably would have been rude. Draco may haunt him if he actually did it. Tempting as it was he wasn't too sure that Draco would make the experience enjoyable.
Blaise stood up, but he didn't make any move towards the podium. In fact, he still wasn't looking up from the floor. Everyone turned in their seats to look at him, staring like what he was doing was the strangest thing in the world. After almost a minute of silence he spoke.
"I only have one thing to say. It's something that Draco told me during the final battle. He found me hiding in an alcove on the second floor. I had my wand in my hand, and I was shaking so bad. Slowly I was turning my wand on myself. I was going to kill myself before someone else had the chance to do it." His words were soft, but with so few people here Harry imagined that everyone had been able to hear him.
"Draco came bursting into the alcove, hiding from someone I imagine. He held himself close to the wall for a couple minutes, and I was shocked to see him that I hadn't moved at all. He saw where my wand was pointing and snatched it out of my hand before I could even react. He was furious." Harry swallowed as he felt a shiver go down his spine remembering the more heated encounters he'd had with the younger Malfoy. He knew from experience just how wrapped up Draco could get in his emotions.
"He practically snarled at me and told me what an idiot I was for thinking that offing myself would do any good. Then he let me in on how he had been running around and stupefied Death Eater's where ever he could. Said if I wasted his efforts by killing myself that I was really as useless as he was tempted to think. He held my wand out for me, and I grabbed it. Before he let go he told me not to die just because I'm scared. That it was better to die for something you believe in. He smiled at me and ran out of the alcove. I didn't see him again until after the battle had ended." Without hesitation Blaise sat down again.
Something you believe in. Somehow the stories seemed to be drawing a new picture of Draco Malfoy right before his eyes. He'd accepted that the person he had known after the war was different than the boy he'd gone to school with. What he hadn't thought of was the events that had led to that change. He felt disappointment seeping through his veins, coursing through his body and burning him. His mind replayed all their interactions and altercations and he couldn't help himself from feeling like an utter arse. Not that he'd want to feel any other way right now, because he deserved this.
Harry had chalked it up to the war changing everyone, but obviously he had been changing for a long time and he had never even noticed.
Pansy's face contorted in agony, not the physical kind or Harry would have rushed her to St. Mungo's, but she composed herself and stood. Her posture was rigid, and her steps were rushed. She reached the front in record time, but started to let the tears fall again from her eyes. Her face was horribly blotched and her eyes red and puffy. She looked at the small audience with glassy eyes and shaky breath.
"Draco… I was in love with him."
Narcissa was quickly sitting up straight when she heard this, and Harry could have sworn she gasped in surprise. Blaise didn't seem affected at all, and he was the anomaly. Nott looked like he had just been slapped in the face, his expression a mixture of shock and anger. Astoria had a delicate looking hand over her mouth. Lucius looked like he was considering the seriousness of her words, which Harry suspected was unsurprising since she was married to Nott. Goyle looked a bit like he didn't believe her.
Harry was debating whether or not his heart was going to survive this ordeal; it felt like it was going to beat right through his ribs. It seemed as if the shocks he was supposed to live through today were never going to end. Of course Harry had noticed her clinging to Draco all throughout Hogwarts, but he'd never once thought to name it love. He had been convinced that she just had a very extreme crush on him. But then…
"I loved him with everything I had. I know he thought I was annoying. I gave him all of me though because that's all I could do." Pansy said in a rushed sort of voice. "The days of our trials were the same." Her voice was much slower now.
"He pulled me aside while we were waiting for everything to begin. 'Pansy,' he said, 'our new lives will start after today if we make it through alright.' I agreed with him, but I was shaking so bad. I was convinced we'd be sent to Azkaban. He told me to calm down. We were both quiet for awhile. He spoke up first. 'You have to move on. I'll never see you as more than a friend, and you shouldn't stay hung up on me.' That's what he told me." Pansy was starting to look like she was going to start crying all over again.
A couple tears did slip down her face, and she still continued. "I asked him why things had to be that way. He smiled at me. 'Because I'll never be able to return your feelings. Not when I have those exact sentiments aimed at someone else. I want you to do what I can't and just move on' He said it so sweetly. It took a long time, but I knew in that moment that he'd never be mine." Pansy sighed.
"But I loved him so much that I did it. I moved on, but I never once stopped caring about him." With those words hanging in the air she returned to her seat, her strides a little more confident than when she had started. She looked like she had just freed herself.
Narcissa Malfoy wiped her watery eyes before rising and walking to the front with a grace that Harry imagined was a talent belonging solely to her alone. She stood behind the podium, her cheeks were stained red from the occasional crying spell, but she still managed to exude an aura of authority and confidence that was more than a little intimidating. There was something about the emotions in her eyes though that reminded him that she was just as human as he was. More often than he cared to admit he would forget that about some people. Humanity was easy to lose.
Narcissa pulled a stray hair out of her face and delicately cleared her throat. "Draco was my only son, my only child, and I thought I knew him better than anyone could ever know him. Today has been proving me wrong in unexpected ways. The tales I have heard today about the ways my son has touched so many lives are both enlightening and strengthening. I was not convinced before, but I now believe my son lived a full life. He saved lives, had friendship, gave strength, fell in love and was loved. There is not much more I could hope for. There are still mysteries about him, but I have accepted that I may never solve them. Who did my son love, and was it requited? What were his last words and who did he share his final moments with?"
Narcissa paused briefly, her eyes scanning the audience. "He lived a beautiful life, and obviously made some important amends. That is what matters, and even in death I am proud of him. May he carry himself as beautifully in death as he did in life."
She had shared nothing but her thoughts on what other people had shared and how her views on Draco had shifted because of it, but, Harry supposed, perhaps that was the point. She had only known Draco from how he acted at home. Maybe hearing what everyone had to say about Draco was what she had needed. She needed to know that he had indeed lived.
As she returned to her seat Harry gathered that blasted Gryffindor courage and rose to his feet.
Everyone blatantly stared as he stood and walked to the front. His courage and resolve wavered on the short walk up, but remembering Narcissa's short speech oddly gave him some form of encouragement. He knew that what he was going to say was something that she needed to hear. Something she deserved, and it was the least he could do to give it to her.
"I'm sure you're all wondering what I'm doing here." Harry started. It seemed as good a place as any if he was honest. "All of you are aware that Draco and I didn't get on very well at Hogwarts. If I'm truthful it's a bit strange to me as well."
Harry swallowed his nervousness, decided that dragging this out was just going to be a waste of everyone's time. "It all started two weeks ago-"
Harry laughed raucously as Ron finished his story about one of the Aurors planting some pixies in the Head Auror's office. Roberts, the current Head Auror had been furious. Ron said his face had gone almost as red as his hair and had stomped through the halls for a week straight. "That's bloody brilliant!" Harry managed as his laughter started to fade.
Ron looked pleased with himself and got up to refill his cup. Harry's tea had long since gone cold, but he drank it anyway. Ron and Hermione had moved in together only a month ago, but they had a quaint little home just outside of Ottery St. Catchpole. He knew it was only a matter of time before they were engaged. He cast a quick tempus charm as he sipped at his cold tea and jumped out of his seat when he realized he was late for a meeting with Ginny, Luna and Neville. "Ron! I have to go, I'll see you later."
His best friend waved him off with, "See you later, mate," as Harry flooed to Fortesque's. Ginny called him over as soon as he stepped out of the fireplace, having already claimed a table and sitting with Luna and Neville. Harry took a seat next to Luna. "Hello Harry. You seem to have a good number of wrakspurts around you today."
Harry laughed good naturedly, having missed Luna's particular brand of quirkiness. "Thanks Luna, it's good to see you." And then he was greeted by Neville and Ginny. Before long they were trading work stories as he and Ron had been before. Neville told a story about his boss at Plants to Potions, an apothecary specializing in plant based ingredients, fainting from trying to replant the baby mandrake that Neville had started growing.
Ginny had a good time reenacting a fight between her coach and her team's star keeper. She had joined the Hollyhead Harpies, much to Ron's dismay. He had eventually caved in and supported her by buying a blue Harpies poster. It stood out badly against all of the Chudley Cannon orange in his and Hermione's room. He still griped about it occasionally though.
Luna had, as everyone predicted, joined her father in working on the Quibbler. Harry had spaced out a bit during her story, but from what he gathered it had something to do with her tracking down some Mirkwood Sprites or something like that.
Harry on the other hand had done something no one had predicted, which had been incredibly easy since everyone had seen him becoming an Auror with Ron. He was the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. When he hadn't joined the Auror program he had received an invitation from McGonagall to interview for the position. After the summer he was going to be starting his first year in the position. Needless to say, he had no stories as of yet, but he was more than happy to listen to his friends.
They had stayed and chatted at Fortesque's for another hour chatting and reminiscing before Ginny declared that she needed to get to practice. Harry headed back to his flat in London, and was greeted by the clacking of an owl trying to get in his window. He opened the window and the bird glided into his flat and landed on his dining table. He fed the elegant brown and white bird a treat, took the letter and watched it fly off again without even waiting to see if he'd respond.
He opened the letter, and his eyes immediately flew to the signature, curious as to whom the sender could be. His eyes widened in disbelief as he read the name. "No way…" He whispered to himself. He went back to the top and read the letter.
I honestly can't believe I'm writing to you, but I sincerely hope you've been well since we last met. We did not ever get along particularly well, but I am grateful for the help you gave me and my family. I never got the chance to tell you that and I feel it is long overdue.
As it happens though that is not the only reason I have decided to reach out to you. You have probably not heard, but I was hit by a curse a couple of weeks ago and am currently in St. Mungo's. My hospitalization has made me realize that there were a lot of things left unsaid between us, and I wish to remedy that. I was hoping you would come visit me. No need to send a reply. If you wish to visit just come to St. Mungo's, I'm in room 714.
Harry silently folded up the letter, not quite sure if he should believe it or try to pinch himself. Throwing caution to the wind, he decided to trust the letter, which he threw on the table, and apparated.
Harry popped into St. Mungo's, which was bustling with people. Healers, Medi-witches and patients alike filled the place. He made his way to the elevators and took them up to the seventh floor. "Floor Seven - Terminal Curses Ward" The elevator helpfully announced, and Harry's heart started to beat a little harder as he stepped out into the hallway. He turned to his right, since the room numbers seemed to go up in that direction and quickly located 714. There was a somber air to the floor that Harry had never felt the few times he had visited the hospital before. He nearly shivered, but pushed the feeling aside and reached out to open the door.
White. That was the only way to describe the room. The walls, the floor and even the bedding were bleach white. The only exception being Malfoy's hair. It framed his head like a crown of gold and stood out harshly against the whiteness of the room. Harry was only able to observe for a moment before Malfoy's head whipped around to face him.
His expression was guarded, but surprised. They stayed that way for moment, almost shocked to see each other. "Potter," Malfoy finally said, breaking the silence.
Harry jerked as if shocked out of his thoughts. "Sorry to bother you. Um… May I come in?" He asked, unsure how to act in this situation.
Malfoy smirked, and Harry felt a tingle of irritation making its way into his mind. "I invited you, or course you can come in." He abruptly turned away to look out the single window that was in the room. Harry stepped into the room, shutting the door softly behind him. When Malfoy spoke again his voice was much softer. "I wasn't sure you'd actually come."
Perhaps this shocked Harry more than it should have all things considered, but the words flew out of his mouth before he had a chance to stop them. "Why would you think that?" Malfoy turned back to him, but this time his eyes were narrowed as if trying to decide if Harry was sane or not.
"Why?" Malfoy asked in what Harry thought to be a mocking tone. "Do you remember who I am or who you are? Correct me if I'm wrong, but anyone in their right mind would be surprised to see us within fifty feet of each other."
Harry opened his mouth to make a comeback, but then shut it realizing that he didn't have one. He shifted his weight awkwardly before replying. "Yeah, I reckon you're right about that." Harry took a second to look around the room and spotted a chair. He pulled it over to Malfoy's bedside and sat down. "Figure I might be here a while," Harry said when he caught the single raised eyebrow.
For nearly an hour they made idle chatter about their lives since Hogwarts and the lives of their friends. Harry was surprised to actually find himself enjoying Malfoy's company. He'd never taken the time to notice how he was full of witty remarks about nearly everything and knew just how to get the reactions he wanted out of people.
When he told Harry about Theo and Pansy's wedding the previous week Harry's eyes had felt like they nearly bugged out of his head. "Parkinson and Nott? I thought she was fancied you!" He had exclaimed. Malfoy had actually chuckled at Harry's reaction.
Malfoy shook his head. "Everyone knew she fancied me. She made no secret of it. I honestly would have been happier if she'd been in love with the Whomping Willow. She eventually gave up though." Harry thought there had been some bitterness in his voice, but chose to ignore it.
When there was finally a lull in their conversation, Malfoy looked at him very seriously. "I owe you an apology." Harry had been expecting the moment for some time. Ever since the note to be honest, but that didn't make the actual event have any less impact.
Harry knew there were so many things he could be apologizing for, but not which one or if he was apologizing for everything at once. So he asked. "For what?"
Malfoy stared into Harry's eyes for several long moments. So long, in fact, that Harry started to doubt he would get an answer. It seemed that Malfoy was trying to convince Harry of his sincerity with a single look, but Harry didn't have a doubt to begin with. He thought back to the moment when the elevator announced that the seventh floor was the Terminal Curses Ward, and when he focused again on Malfoy he noticed that he didn't look like someone who was about to die. He seemed perfectly healthy, but looks were apparently deceiving. Facing the end of his life seemed to have put things into a new light for Malfoy though, if albeit a little late.
Malfoy's voice seemed a little chocked when he finally answered, but his voice was still strong. "For not realizing that you didn't have to be my enemy. It was stupid and childish of me, and I should have tried harder. Not just to be friends with you, but to stand by my beliefs as well. Maybe then I would have ended up on the right side." Harry had no idea how to respond to Malfoy. He had never thought that Malfoy would have such deep regrets about everything.
A nurse poked her head in and both Harry and Malfoy looked at her. "Visiting hours are now over. Please finish up and you can come back tomorrow." She smiled politely and shut the door again.
Harry looked back at Malfoy. "I don't think it was entirely your fault. Us never getting along was just as much my fault as it was yours. I was a bit rude to you and let myself be prejudiced against you. I should have given you a chance." Harry stood up, and Malfoy simply nodded knowing he didn't have the time to get another word in.
Before Harry turned away Malfoy asked, "Will you visit again?" Harry seemed to take a minute to think about it before nodding. He turned and began to walk out.
When he was halfway out the door he turned around to look at Malfoy again, who had gone back to looking out the window. He cleared his throat to get Malfoy's attention. When slate blue eyes met his he asked the question that had been eating at him for some time. "What curse was it?"
Malfoy didn't hesitate when he answered Harry. "Hades' Embrace." Harry didn't recognize it, but he was going to firecall Hermione later and ask her about it. He nodded and briskly walked out.
Two days later Harry found himself in front of Malfoy's door again. Hermione had done some research and told him last night what she was able to find on the Hades' Embrace Curse. The curse was designed to work like Avada Kedavra, but instead of killing the victim on contact it killed over a period of weeks, sometimes even months. And it was such a subtle spell that it could be cast without the victim even realizing. There was a counter curse, but it only worked within the first few minutes, ten at most. Malfoy was lucky that he'd known the curse was cast on him, but he was still going to die anyway.
Harry walked in and saw Malfoy grabbing a book off a small shelf in the room. "Why don't you just summon the book?" Harry asked before Malfoy had a chance to notice him. Malfoy didn't jump, which showed many years worth of practice at self-control, but he did look at Harry with wide eyes.
"Using my magic accelerates my condition. If I tried to use my magic like I normally would then I'd probably be dead tomorrow." Has face was grave, but Malfoy looked as if he had already decided that he was defeated. "It's a depressing thought, but I'd rather live a little longer than go to bed tonight knowing it's my last day."
There was silence following Malfoy's thought, and Harry had no idea what to say to something like that. What do you say to that? Somehow a 'sorry you're going to die' didn't seem very appropriate. He took advantage of the time to sit in the chair that was still by Malfoy's bed. Malfoy, with the book still in hand sat on the edge of the bed facing Harry.
Harry finally decided that a change of subject was called for. "Hermione told me about the curse. That's some serious dark magic. Why would anyone curse you like that?" Malfoy's gaze only hardened further at the reference to the curse.
According to the papers Malfoy had been only been hit with the curse a week or two before, which one it was Harry couldn't remember. What Harry did remember though was the photo they published along with the article. Malfoy was being interviewed by an Auror, but the look on his face seemed completely foreign. Malfoy nodded to whatever the Auror had said, but Malfoy wasn't even looking at him. His eyes were downcast and uncharacteristically wide. Malfoy's mouth had hung open and his expression was filled with terror and distress. And Harry was ashamed to remember that all he had felt was pity.
Harry was glad to see that he'd become more like himself since he was admitted to St. Mungo's. The life had come back to his eyes, but it had taken on a different form than before. It looked not quite like acceptance, but something rather close to it. His features had a more resigned set to them than Harry could ever recall being on his face. Looking at Malfoy was all it took for Harry to feel some of his hopelessness.
Malfoy pulled up the left sleeve of the garment the hospital had given him to wear; the pale colors made his already pale skin take on a nearly ghostly tone. On his forearm was the Dark Mark, a heavy contrast with the all around paleness. It was a deep reminder of the war and of all the pain everyone had suffered. And Malfoy had to live with that every day of his life. "In the eyes of many people this mark has branded me either a criminal or a traitor. I have never once wondered why I was cursed." Harry's heart ached with that confession. To know he was cursed for things that could never be entirely his fault, Harry didn't know if he'd be able to live with that.
Without reason Harry reached out and allowed his fingers to brush along the edges of the Dark Mark. He heard Malfoy gasp, and when Harry looked up he was focused on Harry's fingers outlining the mark on his arm. Harry increased the pressure of his fingers minutely, but Malfoy refocused his eyes on Harry. "I don't think you're either of those things." It was short and simple, but the words carried so much in them. Malfoy's face softened and his eyes grew in surprise. He started blinking rapidly and turned away from Harry.
"I'm sorry," Draco said, not facing Harry at all. "I think I'm slightly overwhelmed with everything today. Probably not fit for company right now. Do you think you could excuse yourself for the day?" Still shocked from Draco's reaction Harry just nodded almost mindlessly. "You can come back tomorrow if you wish though." Harry nodded again and stood up.
Draco was pulling his sleeve down again to cover the Dark Mark as Harry was opening the door. He looked at Harry finally when he heard the door click open. His eyes were soft and bright and shining, as if he'd been given a gift he thought far too good for himself. Draco acknowledged him with a gracious tilt of the head, Harry smiled and walked out the door, shutting it softly with every intention of coming back to visit Draco.
Harry was still smiling long after returning home when he realized that Malfoy had somehow become Draco.
A week later and Harry had visited Draco five more times with today being no exception. He stepped into Draco's room and flashed a smile, one that quickly faded when he saw the despair painted all over Draco's face. "What's wrong," Harry asked immediately.
Draco shut his eyes momentarily, carefully breathing in and out. After about five breaths he opened his eyes and turned them on Harry, who was unnerved by the intensity. "I never told you how long I had, did I?" Harry's heart began to hammer wildly in his chest. And he felt the bile rise into his throat, because he just knew what was coming next.
Harry didn't trust himself to speak so he just weakly nodded his head. Draco sighed. "I apologize; I should have made that clear in the beginning." He apologized, and somehow that only made Harry's chest ache.
Harry gathered as much will as he could manage, found his voice and asked what was possibly one of the hardest questions. "When?"
After an indeterminable amount of time Draco finally opened his mouth, but his eyes were about as far from Harry as he could force them to be. "The end of the week. Saturday. I die on Saturday morning." Harry swallowed, trying to push the lump back down his throat. Today was Thursday, and Draco only had two days left in the world.
He wasn't sure his gesture would be welcome, but Harry suspected that he needed it as much as Draco might. He rose to his feet, and Draco didn't look at him until he realized the steps were getting closer rather than further away. Before comprehension dawned over his features Harry leaned down and wrapped his arms around Draco's lithe frame and rested his head on Draco's shoulder. "Harry-What-?" Draco tried to protest, but in the end he gave in and rested his head on Harry's.
Harry listened to Draco's breathing, shaky, nervous and absolutely terrified. Harry listened to his own breathing like an echo of Draco's. They were both scared, and they were both defeated. They had been fast friends when they put the rivalries aside, but that didn't affect the intensity with which Harry just wanted to hold onto Draco, and to remind him that right now he was alive.
Draco's voice, once again steady, is what convinced Harry to let go and look at him. His breathing was still trembling, but it was more even than it had been minutes previously. Draco was looking him right in the eye, and Harry felt like those eyes swallowed the entire room, leaving only Draco and him. "I want one thing before the end of the week." He had strategically avoided the words 'before I die', and Harry was grateful for that, not knowing if he was quite ready to face that reality again so soon.
"What is it?" Harry found himself asking. One thing appeared to be an easy order to fill. Harry thought one thing was an awful small thing to ask for until he-before the end of the week.
Draco's eyes widened fractionally, something Harry would not have noticed if he wasn't now sitting on his bed he was sure. Another thing Harry noted was the flush of color that returned and decorated his face. Before Harry could contemplate the reason for embarrassment Draco shut his eyes, leaned in, placed a hand on the back of his neck and locked their lips together.
Harry's eyes felt as if they would pop out of his head, but seconds later found that Draco's advance wasn't entirely unwelcome. His eyes slid shut and he kissed Draco back. At the same time as he felt the heat explode throughout his entire body his mind was overridden with sensations. Their lips moving sensually against one another. Draco's fingers playing with the hairs on his neck. His own hand, over-sensitized, coming up to rest against Draco's cheek.
For a fraction of a second their lips separated, and a longing whine escaped Harry's throat. He was soon gasping as Draco licked his lips and dove into his mouth. Their tongues met, and Harry was lost to this new feeling. Draco teased his tongue and explored every part of his mouth as if there wasn't even enough of Harry for Draco to satisfy himself.
And Harry had no idea what he was doing.
His eyes flew open and he was pushing Draco gently away. His face was flaming and his heart beating fast enough that it was practically stuttering.
"Oh god, Draco. I'm sorry-I can't-" His words weren't even coming out correctly, so he just stood and bolted from the room. It was too much, and everything was so overwhelming. He couldn't deal with it, at least not in front of Draco. He flooed straight home and collapsed on the couch, his head spinning with everything that had transpired. The memory of the kiss. His response. The feelings that the moment they shared had stirred up. He had no idea what those feelings were or what they meant. It wasn't until he was lying in bed that night that he even thought about how much he might have hurt Draco.
It was Saturday morning before Harry thought about anything other than the kiss. As he was eating eggs he'd come to the conclusion that he could at least tell Draco that he enjoyed what they had shared. He was already dressed to go to the hospital as soon as he finished eating. The hospital! He thought back frantically to Thursday and remembered that Draco had never told him when on Saturday he was going to-die.
Harry had to face the word sooner or later.
Harry was on his feet so fast that he made the table jostle. He ran to the floo and nearly stumbled over the words as he announced his destination. As he ran to the lifts he was silently damning St. Mungo's anti-apparition wards on the upper levels. Harry was agitated and made no secret of it on the lifts, and people edged away from him because of it, but he paid it no heed and was back to sprinting as soon as the doors opened on floor seven.
His steps slowed as he approached the room and he was surprised to find the door propped open. Inside was Draco, still alive and lying down and a Healer seated in the corner of the room. Draco had heard him, probably accountable to his labored breathing, and turned his head to see him. His eyes brightened and he started to smile. "Harr-"
His voice cut off abruptly, and the smile left his face as his eyes glazed over.
"Draco?" Even whispering Harry's voice came out hoarse and uneven. He stepped forward until he was close to the bed and reached out to touch Draco's hand and dropped it just as quickly when he felt that it was already losing heat. He was gone, as quickly as a Killing Curse would have done.
Through the haze in his head he somehow managed to hear the Healer. "Time of death: Ten thirty-five a.m."
"According to the Healer he was supposed to pass on at nine thirty, but instead he'd managed to hold on for over an hour and died the moment he saw that I came. I can't imagine the strength it must have taken him to do that. But that was Draco. Even in moments of weakness his strength was something to be admired." Harry paused, about to step down before adding something to the end of his speech. "And I'd like to thank the Malfoy family for allowing me to attend today." Narcissa was so still throughout Harry's time up front that he could have easily been fooled into thinking she was a statue, but now she nodded graciously like all the tension had flowed out of her body like a river. Lucius nodded as well, but with notably less grace than his wife.
Harry felt lighter as he walked back to his seat and allowed himself for the first time to feel the love they had, at least on Harry's part, unknowingly shared. Because that's what it was. Love. In all the idle gestures and seemingly purposeless conversations there had been a deeper feeling being shared. When their eyes met, and even more the one time their lips had met. Draco had loved him with everything he had, and Harry had been too late to tell him that he wasn't alone in this overwhelming feeling.
He wished Draco were still here with him.
He wished there was no reason to even have a funeral.
He wished that he had gone back to see him, just one last time.
But those were wishes of a yesterday long gone.
Shortly after Harry was seated again Narcissa returned to the front and announced that the reception was beginning. A table along the side of the tent that had been empty was suddenly over flowing with food and drink. Harry stood with everyone else and headed to the table. He picked up a half sandwich and stood to the side and ate it slowly.
Harry knew everyone was either looking at him or whispering about him, but he wasn't feeling inclined to do anything about it. Narcissa was the first to separate from the group and approach him. "Hello, Mrs. Malfoy." Harry said politely, thinking Draco would appreciate it if Harry showed his mother courtesy.
Narcissa inclined her head. "Hello, Mr. Potter. I would like to extend thanks from my husband and I for choosing to share the story of Draco's last days with us. It was something we very much needed to hear." Harry smiled; glad his story had served its purpose.
"If I may," Harry started, "could I ask you why you weren't there yourself those last two weeks?" Narcissa's eyes narrowed, and just when Harry was starting to think he had crossed the line her face relaxed and she nodded again.
"It was just too much." Narcissa said, her voice emptier than it had previously been. "To watch our only son die in front of us was more torture than I have ever earned. I would not wish it on my worst enemies, and it quickly became too much for me to bear." Harry silently agreed with her. He had no children of his own, but he wasn't sure if he could have been stronger if put in Narcissa's position.
Narcissa bowed to him as she took a step back. "Enjoy the food Mr. Potter and I hope you too are finding comfort in being surrounded by those who knew different sides of Draco than we did." Strangely, the words put him at ease, more so than he had felt before.
After a few minutes peace, lost in his thoughts he was startled by a hand on his shoulder. He turned and was faced with Astoria Greengrass. She had the same grace about her that Narcissa did, but something about her really intimidated Harry. He didn't let that show. She removed her hand as soon as she had his attention. "I just wanted to say that you are blessed to have been the object of Draco's affections." As quickly as she approached she was gone. She had backed away and picked up a conversation with Lucius with ease.
He walked back to the table and reached for a deviled egg when he saw Pansy Nott step up beside him. She grabbed a glass of water and turned to walk away, but before she even took a step he heard her speak. "Now I know who Draco was so desperately in love with. I should have seen it." She walked away without another word, but Harry wasn't sure what to make of her attitude towards him.
It was a quick thing to pop the deviled egg into his mouth and eat it. He sighed, and without waiting for anyone else to approach he stepped out of the tent. Compared to the dimmed light in the tent the sun outside was close to blinding. Harry didn't mind, even if he had to squint, because the way he felt was more than enough to fill him. He felt a kind of freedom after sharing his story, but he was also still trapped underneath the grief and unresolved feelings that had been left between him and Draco.
Draco had come into his life again so unexpectedly and left it in much the same fashion. Along the way he had come to cherish Draco and value his life. Had there been time or a way to save him Harry probably would have done anything to do just that. Things hadn't worked out that way though.
No, they hadn't and there was no point in wasting time and wishing for a different outcome. The truth of the matter was that Draco had been in love with him, and along the way, in such a short space of time, Harry had fallen in love with him as well. He'd never been able to tell Draco, but somehow and against all odds Draco had waited to see Harry one more time. Harry hoped that coming back, even if nothing was said, was enough to show Draco that Harry at least felt something for him.
He loved Draco. He knew that now. He loved Draco, and he wasn't sure that he would feel something like that again. He didn't know if he'd ever be ready to fall in love with such intensity again. His doubts. His insecurities. They would stay with him for some time, Harry knew that. The wounds were too deep and too fresh to be healed so easily.
They were no reason to forget that he had a life to live.
He breathed in a large bit of air, but he couldn't shake the feeling like something was missing and the world was trying to balance itself again. With this loss his world felt like a much emptier place. It was like he was a planet that had lost its sun. Harry laughed a bit at that thought. Irony was like that he supposed.
It seemed his life had always, one way or another, revolved around Draco Malfoy.