Chapter 28: Full Circle
Harry could hardly believe that the school year was at its end, at that he had helped – however little – win the House Cup. Decked out in green and silver, he watched in awe as the plain banners overhead morphed into those of Slytherin, the silver scales of the serpent shimmering in the flickering light. Beaming, Harry joined the rest of the Slytherins in their raucous cheers.
The Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs clapped politely, and the Gryffindors looked murderous, but then again, they were Gryffindors.
"Yes, yes," the Headmaster spoke over the crowd, as the noise slowly dwindled down. "Congratulations to Slytherin House."
He peered at the Slytherin table over his half-moon spectacles, a twinkle in his eye.
"Perhaps next year, you'll give someone else a chance, eh?"
That elicited raised eyebrows all down the Slytherin table, and judging by the smug look on Snape's face, Harry didn't think the man would ever settle for that. And if the rest of the House had anything to say about it, well, Harry thought they'd be happy to keep the Cup for the next century or two.
"There's a higher chance of Draco dancing in my mother's dresses than that happening," Blaise whispered in his ear, and Harry couldn't help but laugh at the mental image that sprung into his head.
Draco looked quizzically at them from across the table, making Harry laugh even harder – and if Millicent hadn't told him to knock it off, Harry thought he might've kept at the giggling through the whole Feast.
At the staff table, Dumbledore clinked his glass.
"Now, since we have established this year's winner, I have two words of import for you."
Harry nudged his friends, betting that it'd be some nonsense, again.
Harry groaned – trust Dumbledore to lose him a perfectly good galleon.
"It's alright, mate. There's always next year," Blaise laughed, slapping him on the back.
Well, Harry thought, significantly more cheered up. There is that.
As the laden platters appeared before them, Harry realised just how hungry he was, and dig in he did. He reached for the roast first – after all, that had been what had made him fall in love with the food at Hogwarts in the first place.
And yet, as those around him discussed their holiday plans, he knew that this – this happiness – wouldn't last once he stepped through the barrier at Kings Cross, unless he did something about it.
"Draco, you live in Wiltshire, right?"
"Yeah, and the Manor's a mile away from Stonehenge."
"He keeps peacocks too," Pansy injected.
"They're Father's peacocks, not mine."
"And Draco hates them," Blaise laughed.
"They creep me out, alright. Peacocks aren't supposed to be white, or intelligent."
"White peacocks?" Harry asked, stunned.
"See, Harry agrees with me," Draco said, satisfied. "You know what? Come for the summer, and you can kick a few of those peacocks for me."
Mischief twinkling in his eyes, Draco shot Harry a grin.
"No, really, Harry, Father will let you get away with it. You're Harry Potter, after all."
"Um, ok, if it's alright with your parents."
Though inwardly, Harry was more than happy – he'd be rid of the Dursleys, for this summer, at least, and he hadn't even asked.
"I'll owl Mother tonight," Draco said, and Harry couldn't help but smile.
Harry bounced on the balls of his feet, wondering why he'd been summoned to Snape's office so late in the term.
Snape's eyes raked over Harry, lingering on his loosened tie and untucked shirt.
"It may be the end of term, but I expect better from my students," he admonished, an edge to his voice.
Harry blushed, mumbling an apology, and hastily fixed his uniform.
Snape gestured for Harry to sit, which did nothing to assuage Harry's nerves.
"I have gathered that you will not be returning to your relatives' for the summer," Snape said, eyeing Harry with something that looked like approval.
Harry had to give the man props – he hadn't called it home. And it wouldn't ever be.
"Yes sir, Draco offered to let me stay at the Manor."
Snape looked sceptical, and Harry marvelled at how he knew them so well.
"Even so, have you considered that there may be better options?"
Harry knew what Snape was hinting at, but it mattered little to him.
"No," Harry said, tired of how hypocritical Snape could be, sometimes. "Perhaps the Malfoys deserve a second chance."
Harry saw Snape visibly fight his instinctual anger, and he regretted his words for a moment.
"Perhaps you're right, Mr Potter," Snape admitted, composing himself. "And yet, the Headmaster does not believe so."
"You told him?" Harry exclaimed, indignant.
Snape glared, and Harry deflated.
"I do not particularly care where you go, as long as you return before the start of every school year," Snape said. "Do you think it would be in my interest to do so?"
"Then–" Harry paused in the middle of his question. "Right, Dumbledore has his ways, whatever that means."
Harry kicked at the stone floor spitefully – of course someone had to go ruin his day.
"A fortnight, Potter," Snape said. "Surely even you could keep out of trouble in that time."
Harry's eyes lit up.
"So, I only have to live with the Dursleys for two weeks?"
"Then… why do I have to stay at all?
"The Headmaster wouldn't say."
Harry figured it was another one of those stories for another day; he couldn't wait for that day to come, if it meant he was finally told the truth – or, anything, really.
Wouldn't it help to be more aware?
And where did Dumbledore get off, having a say in his life? He hadn't cared before, had he?
But Harry would not speak those thoughts aloud, knowing they would get him nowhere. He would make do with the hand he'd been dealt.
"Fine, but not a day more," Harry consented. "I want Dumbledore to know that."
"And so he should," Snape affirmed, looking pinched. "If it were up to me, legal guardians or not, you would not be going back there."
"Thanks, Professor. It means a lot, you know, knowing at least someone cares," Harry murmured, around a grateful smile.
Snape cleared his throat to fill the silence that followed, sliding a slip of parchment across the table to Harry. Harry glanced at it, and upon seeing the familiar layout of unit number, street and postcode, met Snape's eyes, surprised.
"Yes, it is my address, should you need it." Snape confirmed, answering Harry's unasked query. "However, it is a Muggle neighbourhood, so do not attempt to send any owls."
Harry had a feeling Snape was breaking all sorts of rules, but, as Blaise put it, rules were only meant to be broken. And anyway, it'd be useful for emergencies.
"I'll make sure no one turns up at your door too, sir."
"You'd better, and Potter, do try not to get yourself killed."
Looking amused at something, he added, "The Malfoy peacocks have quite a reputation."
Harry smirked at that.
"So do I, sir."
Draco was outraged on his behalf, but the arrival of their exam results served to distract both boys from their frustration. To his great surprise, he'd done far better than he had ever anticipated, and ranked just behind Draco and Hermione in Potions. Of course, Hermione had topped just about every subject, something which Draco was still sore about – so too were the Ravenclaws, who looked decently miffed at the snub.
The Slytherins, as a whole, had coasted through, save for Gregory and Pansy, who just scraped passing marks – and would be looking forward to weekly dates with their Head of House the following year. (Harry felt for them, he really did.) And, though they'd hoped that Weasley would be thrown out for abysmal grades, it wasn't to be. It was a shame, but as Draco said, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
And suddenly, before they knew it, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed, and it was time to say farewell. Notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays; if any Slytherin had entertained any other thought, the threat in Snape's eyes was warning enough. Hagrid was there to take them down to the fleet of boats that sailed across the lake (He'd ruffled both Harry's and Draco's hair upon seeing them, wishing them a good holiday. Draco has scrunched up his nose, but Harry thought he'd secretly liked it.), and too soon, they were boarding the Hogwarts Express; talking and laughing as the countryside became greener and tidier; catching Chocolate Frogs before they could escape out the window into Muggle towns; exchanging uniforms for casual wear; everyone promising to stay in touch over the holidays; and pulling into platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station.
It took quite a while for them all to get off the platform, which was no surprise, seeing as everyone could not bear to leave their friends. Even he couldn't – and he'd be seeing Draco soon.
"It won't be long, Harry, you'll see," Draco said. "We'll come get you as soon as we can."
"Thanks," Harry replied. "I'll need something to look forward to."
As he passed them on the platform, Harry bade Hermione and Neville a good summer, and from the former, he received an unexpected, but not altogether unwelcome hug. Catching Percy Weasley's eye as the Gryffindor prefect shepherded the students from Muggle families towards the ticket barrier, he gave a short nod. Weasley – the younger – saw it, and narrowed his eyes in suspicion as they pushed their trolleys past him.
"Watch out, Weasley," Draco laughed. "I hear the cost of living in Britain is rising."
"Back at you, Malfoy. I hear the Ministry's raiding the home of Death Eaters, and yours is next," Weasley retaliated, red-faced.
Draco lunged for Weasley, but Harry pulled him away.
"Uh, Draco, I think it's your mother."
"Where?" Draco asked, panicked for a moment.
"Right, yes, it is Mother," Draco smiled, and proceeded to completely ignore Weasley, heading in the opposite direction.
Harry took off after him, jostling the crowd aside. Just like at Hogwarts, stares and whispers followed him, but this time, it was the adults – yet, he ignored it. After a year, it didn't bother him much anymore; some of his friends copped far worse.
"Mother, this is Harry Potter," Draco said beginning the introductions. "Harry, this is my mother, Narcissa Malfoy nee Black."
Harry swallowed; this was the hard part. He held her gaze – her eyes were hard, but not unfriendly – just as Draco had said to, and offered his hand.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs Malfoy."
"Likewise, Mr Potter. We have heard much about you," she returned, taking his hand with a smile.
Mrs Malfoy laid a hand on Draco's shoulder, and in that one gesture, Harry could plainly see the love she held for her son.
"Mrs Malfoy, Draco," Harry said, trying not to let the jealousy show. "I'd better go; my relatives are waiting."
Mrs Malfoy frowned at the mention of the Dursleys, and Harry shared her sentiments.
"I'll see you soon," he said, embracing Draco.
"Owl me, alright," Draco whispered, so his mother couldn't hear. "If anything happens, Father will ruin the Muggles."
A realisation struck Harry then.
"Oh, I don't think anything will happen," Harry declared. "They don't know we're not allowed to use magic outside Hogwarts…"
The grin on Draco's face matched his own. Privet Drive wouldn't be so bad this summer, after all.
And here we are, three years later, at the end of this story. What a ride it's been!
Thanks go to all of you, whether you've been around since day one, or whether you read your first chapter yesterday. Your suggestions, encouragements and the likes that keep coming have made this story what it is, and without the reception that you've given me these few years, I would never have reached this point. Thank you, honestly - you've all been such great gifts.
And, of course, the question of a sequel. I love this world, and I love these characters, and I hope - I really hope, to continue writing till the end of seventh year. I don't think it's a matter of if - it's a matter of when. (And unfortunately, that's not a question I can answer.) But hang tight, my friends, and someday, you'll get your sequel. Now though, I think it's time to get back to my other story first - 'Mending the Cracks', oh, that's been on hold for too long. Do support that, if you can!
As they say, this is not a goodbye but a see you soon.
Until next time,