Harry watched as the splinters from the elder wand flew away with satisfaction. He glanced to his left to see Ron looking after the shards longingly, and Hermione looking pleased. They all knew this was for the best; well, maybe Harry and Hermione knew it. If Harry had kept it, he would constantly have to be on the lookout for witches and wizards who would try to best him in a duel to become the elder wand's new owner. No one should have that much power. Being the master of death for the short time that he had been, Harry knew that he didn't want it. He was content with his own wand, the wand that he had mended just before breaking the elder wand.
Harry sighed, gripping them both around their shoulders and gesturing towards the castle. He began walking into the great hall, glancing behind him to see his two best friends following behind slowly, their hands grasped tightly. Harry smiled to himself slightly. After everything that had happened and all the people they had lost, he was glad that his friends had finally given in to each other and were together. Merlin knew that they would all need to hold everyone they loved closer in the aftermath of the war and losses.
Walking into the hall, he surveyed the scene before him. Destruction was everywhere, with rubble, stones, and dust covering everything. There were people sitting around chaotically, with students sitting at random house tables. Everyone was mingling and talking about the war and the future to come with each other. Everyone except three morose looking blonde's off to the side of the room. Harry halted, slightly hidden behind a semi-erect pillar, as Hermione and Ron passed him by. He was shocked that the Malfoy family was still here. He had expected them to flee the second they could, as had all of the other death eater families at Voldemort's demise. But, Harry thought, perhaps their refusal to fight in the last battle and Mrs. Malfoy lying for him truly meant that they had finally seen the horror that was Voldemort and decided to switch sides at the last minute.
Lucius and Narcissa had their heads bent and were quietly talking to one another, while their son sat slightly away from them starring at his hands. Harry watched as the blonde boy sat seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, ignoring everything that was going on around him. Harry, still hidden behind the pillar from the prying eyes of his classmates and other people still milling about, took in the blonde before him. He saw that despite the boys slightly dusty clothing, his hair and skin still appeared to be immaculate and clean. Of course, it wasn't like he was fighting or anything, the coward! As he was watching, Malfoy glanced up towards his parents as he heard his name fall from their lips. Harry saw a haunted, gaunt look on the younger Malfoy's face that he remembered seeing that fateful day during 6th year when he had seen Malfoy in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Harry was surprised to feel a strange sensation as he watched his classmate, deep in himself. What was that he was feeling? Pity? Maybe. Slightly. But he thought it was better described as understanding. Malfoy looked as alone as Harry felt at the moment. Apparently deciding that his parents were done speaking to him, Malfoy started to glance down again when he felt a pair of eyes burning into him.
He shifted his sharp gray eyes, immediately finding the pair of green eyes staring at him. Startling to find the other eyes intensely scrutinizing him, Draco starred right back at Potter, replacing his dejected look with a familiar sneer gracing his lips. Who did Potter think he was? Staring at him, judging he and his family, no doubt. Gryffindor's golden boy, Saint Potter! As he watched, Potter, realizing he was caught starring at his nemesis, scrambled from his spot, a pink hue gracing his cheeks, much to his dismay. Glancing again, he saw Malfoy smirking at him as the blonde saw the blush across his face. Snarling to himself, he turned away from the boy in frustration, silently glad that they were back in their normal roles, with the smirking, snarling, and general hatred of one another. The slightly disturbing warmth that he had been starting to feel while staring at Malfoy was quickly replaced with the all too familiar feeling of anger towards the blonde.
Striding away quickly and shaking off the strange reaction he seemed to be having to Malfoy, he walked over to the long table where the Weasley's sat. "Shake it off, Harry. You're just exhausted" he thought to himself. He saw Mr. and Mrs. Weasley holding each other tightly, with tears slipping down Mrs. Weasley's cheeks, and Mr. Weasley looking devastated. George was still sobbing noisily, kneeling on the floor next to his dead twin's body, with Percy holding him from the side. Ron and Hermione were also now sitting at the table, talking quietly with Charlie and Bill. Ginny sat starring at the floor silently. She had tear tracks on her face but her eyes were dry and hard. Looking up, she saw him approaching and locked eyes with him.
Harry, unaware of all the eyes in the great hall suddenly on him as he was now in full view again, including the pair of cold grey eyes still starring intensely at him, only saw Ginny. He took in her vibrant red hair, her pale, stark face, and her blazing eyes. She looked so similar to the day that they had first kissed that for a moment, it took Harry's breath away. Seeing her looking at him with her hard, blazing, determined eyes had him walking quickly towards her as she stood to meet him. For a moment they said nothing to each other, just starring and drinking each other in. And then, as if they had suddenly been unfrozen, she leaped into his arms, as he crushed her to him, burying his head in her long hair as he felt her start to shake with low sobs. Closing his eyes, he breathed in her floral scent that he had missed so much while on the hunt for horcruxes. They stood, wrapped around each other for what seemed like hours, but was really probably only minutes. When Harry felt her stop shaking for a few minutes, he pulled away, looking down at her. Her eyes were dry again, and she had an exhausted, broken expression on her face. Harry gently wiped the tear tracks from her cheeks and leaned down to brush his lips across her forehead lightly. When Ginny leaned into his touch, he pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers.
"I'm so sorry, Gin. I'm so, so sorry" He whispered to her.
In response, she clutched his arms tightly and nodded her head. Opening her eyes and looking back up at him, she gave him a slight smile, some of the cold leaving her normally warm brown eyes. She grabbed his hand and tugged him to sit down next to her with his surrogate family.
Upon sitting, with his hand still clutched in Ginny's small palm, the rest of the Weasley's looked to him. Almost immediately Mrs. Weasley came around to crush him to hear chest, sobbing and thanking him over and over again. Harry awkwardly patted her on the back as he looked to Ron for help. Upon being detached by a grumbling Ron, Harry joined in the scattered talk between the family, comforting each other as best they could.
"What the hell was that?" Draco thought to himself quizzically. It had felt like a magnet was holding his gaze to the messy haired hero, and he had been unable to tear his gaze away, along with the rest of the crowd. "And what the hell was that feeling when he hugged the little blood traitor?" It had been like Draco had been willing Potter to look up at meet his gray eyes again. For what, he didn't know. He knew the connection he had to Potter was intense. But that intensity had always been fueled by hate, which seemed to suit them both just fine. He had been relieved when he saw Potter snarling to himself for being caught staring. He was happy to see that pitying look wiped off his enemy's face. They didn't pity each other! And they sure as hell didn't feel anything for each other, other than pure, blind hatred.
Shaking his head from his confusing thoughts, he stiffened when he realized his parents had been staring at him while he was staring at Potter with a slightly dazed look on his face.
"What?" He snapped at them rudely. He was in no mood for their scheming and taunting.
"Draco, that is no way to speak to your mother and I. Watch that mouth!" His father said, his eyes flashing dangerously. "You may want to be less obvious the next time you decide to eye the savior as if you want to eat him". With a smirk, he glanced at Potter hugging the despicable Weasley girl.
"Excuse me? I was doing no such thing! That foul git has my wand, and I want it returned!" Malfoy snapped at his father, infuriated by his father's smug, knowing look that he shot his son in return.
"Whatever you say, Draco" his father said nastily. What his son saw in that mess haired, stumbling, awkward man he would never know. He knew that there was animosity and hatred between the two boys, but Lucius had a feeling that there was much more to it than that. There was no way that his son being so obsessed with Potter was normal. All he heard about all school year in Draco's letters home were 'Potter this, and Potter that'. Draco was clearly unaware of this obsession he had.
A few minutes later, Lucius stood, gesturing to his wife and son. "Come. Let's go home and rest while we can. I'm sure someone will be along to collect us all soon enough". Narcissa and Draco followed him resolutely, knowing he was probably right. The aurors were bound to show up on their doorstep any minute now. With a last glance at Potter, who was watching them leave, Draco walked out of the castle, and disapparated home.
They had sat together for another hour before the Weasley family had started to disperse, most going to the burrow for comfort and familiarity. Only Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny stayed behind, heading towards the Gryffindor common room to sleep in their old quarters.
Upon entering the empty common room, they sprawled in the chairs, and Hermione lit the fire. Ron and Hermione cuddled on the couch next to the fire place and Ginny curled up in Harry's lap on his favorite plush chair directly in front of the fire place.
"I can't believe it's all over," Ginny murmured.
"I know. It's like I don't even know what to do with myself now", Harry answered quietly.
Hermione pulled her head up from Ron's chest where he was stroking her wild hair. "I'm sure that in the morning Professor McGonagall will begin with restorations to the castle, beginning with the wards around the perimeter. As it is, anyone can apparate in and out of Hogwarts, so it's not safe. And with all the death eater's still needing to be rounded up by the aurors, the wards need to be put up as soon as possible." She explained reasonably.
"Speaking of death eaters, did you see ferret and his parents hanging around after the battle? I bet if they'd had wands they would've attacked us!" Ron snarled.
"Ron! You have got to get over this paranoia with the Malfoys. You don't know that. Maybe they weren't sure what to do. I mean, Voldemort took over Malfoy Manor. They can't have been in a hurry to return to that place." Hermione scolded.
Ron grumbled to himself under his breath for a few moments, and then it was silent again for a few minutes.
"She saved me." Harry broke the silence.
"What are you talking about Mate?" Ron questioned.
"Narcissa. Mrs. Malfoy. When I was there, in the woods with Voldemort and the death eaters, she told him I was dead. She asked me if Draco was alive and then she lied for me. So that I could kill him. She saved me. And Malfoy lowered his wand. That day. You know that. I told you that. I told you that I found him in the bathroom the day I used sectumsempra on him. What I didn't tell you was that he was crying. Like, really crying. He looked miserable. Like he was lost…" Harry trailed off from his heated speech for a few moments, leaving the room in a stark silence. "you didn't see him. So you don't know. But he's different now. I can feel it. He might still be a snarky git that we all love to hate, and an arrogant pure blood ass, but he's no death eater. You know what Lucius is like. And with him for a father and Voldemort living down the hall, do you really think he had much choice in the things he's had to do the last few years?! So shut the hell up about things you don't know about ok Ron?" Harry vehemently finished, breathing hard.
There was a continued silence while Harry refused to look at anyone. He had felt Ginny go rigid in his lap during his tirade of defending Malfoy, and he wasn't sure what to do to dispel the sudden awkwardness. He cleared his throat after a minute and gently nudged Ginny off his lap to stand up.
"Look… it's been a long day. Hell, it's been a long 17 years. I've spent the last 7 years of my life fighting to survive. And now Voldemort's dead, and I can start to really live my life. I'm tired of the fighting, Ron, ok? I never wanted to be this person. This- this hero, this savior" he grimaced distastefully. "And now, I'm also a murderer. I didn't have a choice. It was thrust on me, just like Malfoy didn't have a choice."
"Didn't have a choice!? Of course he bloody had a choice! He didn't have to take the mark! He didn't have to stand by while Hermione was tortured! Or have you conveniently forgotten the fact that he was there while Hermione was TORTURED!" He raged.
"Of course I haven't bloody forgotten, don't be dense. I'm not saying that Malfoy and I are going to become best friends, or anything. All I'm saying is that he and I have more in common than I ever thought. And besides, is not doing something, like taking the mark, and dying for it really a choice? You know I saw in Voldemort's head Ron. You know that. Voldemort was threatening to kill his mum if he didn't take the mark and kill Dumbledore. So what kind of a choice is that? I don't have a mum, but If I did, I would do anything to save her too." He said back stonily. He was tired. Beyond exhausted. Hell, he had died and come back to life today. Didn't that deserve him a bit of a break?
Ginny and Hermione had been silent up to this point, but Ginny jumped up and rounded on her brother fiercely. "Shut up Ron! Haven't we all been through enough today? And you're going to stand there and argue about Malfoy of all people. Get over yourself!" With that, she turned to Harry, gave him a swift kiss, murmured good night, and stalked up the stairs to her dormitory.
Hermione also got up to follow her, giving Harry a tight hug before she walked past him. "I'm glad you didn't stay dead", she whispered in his ear.
He smiled back at her, hugging her back. After she had gone into her dormitory, the two men stared at each other awkwardly. Ron then approached Harry with a sheepish look on his face.
"Sorry, mate. I'm just- I'm just tired. And I'm definitely not used to you defending the git. But I can see what you mean. Kind of. Let's get some sleep, yeah? I'm beat. And dying and coming back to life's got to be a real bitch on you" He said, smiling.
Harry smiled back, glad for the normalcy once again between them. He clapped Ron on the shoulder and followed him to their dormitory.
As he undressed and climbed into bed, his mind raced with restlessness. He should've been thinking about the battle. Or the people they had lost, like Fred, Remus, and Tonks, among countless others. He should've been thinking about what he was going to do with his life now that his one purpose for the last 7 years was over. He should have been thinking about how now that it was all over, he and Ginny could be together again, with no barriers between them. But no. His mind was far away from Ginny and everything else. Except for a pair of intense gray eyes that he couldn't seem to get out of his head. Malfoy. Why was it that everything in his life always came back to Draco Malfoy? Sighing and closing his eyes, he tried to calm his racing thoughts, and drifted off into a fitful sleep.