The sunset was beautiful, shades of orange and pink spreading across the sky like a watercolor painting. It was as though even nature itself was trying to make up for the ugly atrocities that had happened only a year before. It wouldn't be obvious, looking at Hogwarts now. The repairs over the summer had been done well, and with the exception of a new memorial on the grounds, it looked the same as it had before the bloody end to the war.
No amount of beauty, however, could make Draco feel any better about it, or his day. Harry Potter would be the death of him eventually, he was sure.
"The lake is beautiful this time of night. Perhaps you should go sit by it awhile."
Frowning in confusion, Draco looked up to see who had spoken. It was the Lovegood girl, smiling placidly at him as though she hadn't been held prisoner in his cellar less than a year ago. Puzzled, and vaguely annoyed that his brooding had been interrupted, he then glanced around him, sure that she must be speaking to someone else. As though sensing his thoughts, Luna spoke again.
"Really, Draco, there's a very nice spot I think you'd like," she said, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. "Maybe you'll be able to get rid of the wrackspurts. They're all over you, you know."
"I don't need your help, Lovegood," Draco retorted, giving her his best Malfoy sneer. Why did she have to make his day even harder, showing up and treating him like a friend, instead of someone who deserved to be in Azkaban? "And I certainly don't need you calling me Draco."
"Well, alright," she replied with a shrug, starting to turn back towards the castle. Then, with a small smile, Luna added, "I think it would make Harry very happy if you went and talked to him though. The wrackspurts have been bothering him lately too, you see, and I heard about that argument you two had earlier."
"By the lake, yes. He's been moping a little."
This time, Luna really did leave him, humming an unfamiliar melody under her breath as she wandered up to the castle. Draco scowled and wrapped his cloak tighter around himself, watching her go. It was still only late September, but the evenings were already getting chilly.
"Fucking Lovegood," he muttered under his breath, kicking at a small rock and watching it skitter down the hill. "No good can come of talking to Potter." But, then again, Draco mused, his family was disgraced, he was on Ministry probation, had gotten a zero for the day in Potions, and now he was standing outside talking to himself. Could having a conversation with his rival really make things any worse? If Luna was to be believed, Harry was actually upset about their argument. That was enough to pique Draco's curiosity, at the very least. Resigning himself to his fate, he started walking towards the lake, keeping an eye out for Potter.
Even in the rapidly dimming light, Harry's eyes were absolutely stunning when they met his own. He'd been noticed. It was too late to back out now. With a harsh inhale, Draco made his way to the Gryffindor's side, sitting down carefully in the grass.
He should have known that it wouldn't be easy to start a conversation with him. Frowning, Draco gazed out over the surface of the Black Lake to avoid looking at Harry, smoothing a few imaginary wrinkles out of his clothes.
"I spoke to Lovegood a few minutes ago. She seemed to think you were upset about something. Trouble in paradise? Crying over the Weaselette, perhaps?" It was a bit harder than usual to sound so scornful, but Draco tried not to think anything of it.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Harry sounded exasperated, but more than that, he seemed...tired. Draco read the papers, and observed the other students at Hogwarts. He knew how much attention Harry had been getting ever since the war ended. More than he ever had before, if that was possible. But still...surely he was enjoying it. Who wouldn't want to be exalted as a hero by all of wizarding Britain?
"I want to talk," he said simply, daring to glance over at the other again. Harry looked tired too, he realized, like he was bracing himself for a fight he'd rather avoid. Gaze flicking to the way Harry was fidgeting, idly tearing up grass just to give his fingers something to do, Draco found himself reluctant to attack him. He'd had a lot of time to think over the summer. He'd always just wanted Harry's attention, and after the Gryffindor's rejection of him in first year, it seemed that antagonizing him was the only way he could get it. Maybe now, that could change.
"You want to talk to me."
"Yes, Potter, are you deaf? That's what I just said."
"I'm just...surprised, that's all. You've been acting very different lately."
"Most would say that's a good thing," Draco replied with a scoff, gray eyes glinting with resentment. Those who said that would be right, of course. Even he could admit that he hadn't been a very good person in the past. "Things change."
"Yeah, they do," Harry murmured, gazing up at the sky. He looked beautiful, and Draco was surprised when the usual surge of guilt for thinking that didn't come.
"Maybe I'm not ready for talking to you," he said, the words spilling out before he could stop them.
"Oh?" Harry looked over at him again, full lips twitching into a frown, and it was all Draco could do not to kiss him. So beautiful…
"Don't look so crushed. I didn't say I was leaving," he said, rolling his eyes. "I'm not ready to talk to you, Potter, but I can sit here. The, uh, the sunset looks lovely. The lake is beautiful too, this time of night."
To his surprise, Harry actually started laughing. Draco blinked at him in confusion, a pink tinge spreading across his cheeks. What had he said that was so funny?
"Luna said just that to me earlier," Harry said once he'd gotten his giggles under control. "That the lake is beautiful this time of night. It's just funny, I suppose, since the two of you are so different. Wouldn't think you'd be caught dead quoting her."
Draco's blush only deepened when he took in Harry's words. He hadn't even realized that he was using the younger girl's phrase at the time. He'd just been searching for something, anything to say to get that frown off Harry's face. He'd succeeded, he supposed, if not in the way he'd planned. At least Harry didn't know that Luna had said it to him too, so he could feign ignorance.
"We're not all as uncultured as you," he said with a disdainful sniff. "If Lovegood can at least recognize a beautiful thing when she sees it, maybe she has some other redeeming qualities I've been unaware of." It wasn't the most glowing praise, but it was just about the closest thing to a compliment he'd ever given to one of Harry's friends.
"You can just say you like her, you know," Harry said. "There's nothing wrong with getting along with someone who isn't in Slytherin."
"I know that. I said I wasn't going to talk."
"Right, right, no talking...Why are you still here, then?" The way Harry cocked his head to the side in confusion reminded Draco, maddeningly, of a puppy. Did he not even realize how effortlessly adorable he was?
"We can watch the sunset together," Draco said, gesturing to the still-beautiful sky. "Since you seemed so distraught at the idea of losing my company. Wouldn't do for the golden boy not to get what he wants. Then I'd really be in trouble."
"Ginny and I broke up over the summer."
"A few minutes ago," Harry said, trailing off for a moment and looking away. "You asked if I was crying over her, and I know you were probably only mocking me, but...I wasn't. We're not together anymore. It was a mutual decision."
"Alright." Draco felt incapable of speaking in more than one word sentences at the moment. Harry Potter was single. Had been for months, by the sound of it. How had he not known this before?
"So...now you know."
Harry scooted a little closer as they both turned their attention to the darkening sky, and Draco felt the other's leg bump up against his own. He didn't pull away, drawing an odd sense of comfort from the feeling of Harry's warmth, even through the fabric of their trousers. Then, Harry's hand touched him, just barely. Their pinkies grazed, and that was it. Or would have been, if Draco didn't instinctively seek more, letting their fingers interlock. All of a sudden, he was holding hands with Harry Potter, and it was taking his breath away.
"I'm sorry about earlier," Harry said earnestly. "In Potions, I mean. I didn't mean to fuck it all up."
"Yeah," Draco said again, once he felt like he could finally breathe. "Yeah, me too. You, uh, you were trying your best, so..."
"Does that mean you'd like to be partners again tomorrow?" Draco know that he was likely only asking out of sympathy. Who else would want to work with a former Death Eater, even if it was just in Potions class? Not to mention, he was one of the best in their year at the subject, so Harry would be getting good marks out of the arrangement as well.
"You won't be touching the unstable ingredients unless you want me to curse your hands off. I don't need another zero."
Harry just laughed and nodded in agreement, nudging gently against his side. They were still holding hands loosely, and the guilt still hadn't made an appearance.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever...Harry."
Things still weren't perfect, but they were changing, and that was a start.