Author's Notes: Many thanks to Lucinda, Cal, Noche, Hedgehog, C. Dumbledore, GatewayGirl, Ice'is Blue, and Sherdelune who have been incredible betas throughout the course of this story. Thank you to RedRahl, Sherant, Reenka, Chantelle, and more who have provided beautiful artwork. Thanks to my t00b Gutterpirates of the S.S. Guns'n'Handcuffs, who have provided unending amusement for their crusty old Captain. And my deepest and humblest appreciation to the readers who have joined me on this journey of mine. Thank you.
And now, the conclusion...
"All Good Things…"
It was morning before Draco even realized he'd fallen asleep, and it took him a few moments of disorientation to realize that the previous night hadn't been a dream. He was really in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, and Harry was sleeping just a few feet away. He turned his head to look around, and discovered what had awoken him in the dim grey of early morning.
"Professor Dumbledore!" Draco said in surprise. He scrambled to sit up. "Er... how long have you been... er..."
"Spying on you?" Dumbledore said lightly. "Only for a few moments. I would have woken you directly, but I felt that an abrupt wake-up call would be a bit harsh after your ordeal last night. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Oh... er... yes, thank you." There had always been something about Dumbledore that had been off-putting, and Draco certainly felt a little thrown off balance this morning. In addition, he was still trying to wake up fully. "What did you come down here for, sir?"
"To speak with you, and Harry, about what has transpired, as well as to make arrangements for your future safety."
"Oh. Yeah. Safety."
"Our time is shorter than you may think." Dumbledore suddenly sounded much more serious. "If those who mean you harm plan to strike, they will make their attempt sooner, rather than later. Miss Parkinson's effort almost succeeded, despite our precautions."
"Strike… what?" Draco shook his head, as if he could dislodge the last traces of sleep from his head that way.
"Although everyone knows of your return, you have not been seen awake by any other students except Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley, and Mr. Crabbe, and it would be best that news of your recovery does not reach anyone else. There will be rumours, of course, but as long as you are not seen, it would be better for you. We must take every precaution. I should like to have you removed to a safe place as soon as possible."
Draco grumbled and punched the quilt between his legs moodily. "Is there such a thing as a 'safe' place anymore?"
"Certainly," Dumbledore said with a confidence that surprised Draco. "We have ways to protect people, Draco. I have discussed this with Professor Snape, and with Harry's approval, we have a place where you might be able to stay."
"I will explain shortly. And now, if you would wake Harry, I would like to speak with both of you in my office. It is more secure."
Draco rolled out off the bed hesitantly, keeping an eye on Dumbledore as he did. He didn't like cryptic discussion at the best of times. Right now, he was nervous, edgy, and uncertain about his entire future, and here was a man with whom he'd never had a civil conversation, calmly making cryptic remarks about taking Draco away from what little he had left. And away from Harry.
Harry woke very easily, which surprised Draco. He mumbled "good morning", and then remained silent as he gathered up his wand, glasses, and the travel sack that he still seemed to be carrying like a nervous habit. He also seemed to be avoiding eye contact, but Draco tried to write it off as early morning sleepiness, or the nagging effects of the poison, but Harry didn't appear sleepy or lethargic. He seemed distracted. It was even more disconcerting not even to get a smile from him. Wasn't this the same person who, just hours before, had risked his life to save Draco? Hadn't he said he loved him? Hadn't he? Draco tried to ignore those thoughts as he found his own wand lying on the bedside table, tucked it into his pocket, and fell in step with Dumbledore and Harry as they made their way out of the infirmary.
As they climbed the stairs, Harry didn't once turn towards Draco, nor did he say another word. It was eerie. Draco had to restrain himself repeatedly from stopping Harry and demanding that he just look at him. He needed to know why Harry was acting so strangely. Draco felt alone, and though he hated to admit it to himself, he was just a bit scared. He was going to be leaving, and although he was sure that Dumbledore wouldn't force him, he knew that in the end, he'd go. He desperately wanted to feel connected to something when his entire future was so uncertain, and it was with Harry that he wanted to connect, but Harry wouldn't even look at him. He felt so alone, even though he was barely inches away from the person that he now considered his best friend. Dumbledore was going to safeguard him, but where? And how? What was going to happen to Harry? And what the hell was Harry thinking underneath his impassive expression?
Draco hardly noticed as a gargoyle jumped aside, and they made their way up a twisting staircase and through an elaborately carved wooden door. Two soft armchairs were positioned facing the Headmaster's desk, and Draco flopped into the one on the left, while Harry quietly lowered himself into the other. Dumbledore, however, remained standing, and leaned back against the front edge of his desk. Behind the desk, a phoenix trilled softly.
"Fawkes!" Harry exclaimed, his eyes brightening for the first time since he'd awoken. "He wasn't here earlier, was he?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "I am surprised that you noticed his absence."
Harry shrugged. "Where did he go, sir?"
"He was needed to supply one of the ingredients for the potion you took last night."
"Ah," Harry said, as if that explained everything. He seemed to be searching for something else to say, and Draco recognized it as the way Harry often tried to extend meaningless conversations to avoid difficult discussions.
Dumbledore must have caught the signs, and said lightly, "Harry, you may remove your travel pack and stay for a bit."
Harry silently removed the pack and placed it on the floor beside him, but he didn't seem too keen to let it go.
Apparently realizing that Harry was not about to relax, Dumbledore folded his hands in front of him and leaned back in a businesslike matter. He looked at Harry carefully for a moment before addressing them both. "Boys, first, I must express to you how proud I am of the both of you. And please, do not think I say this patronizingly. What you have both accomplished over these past few weeks is nothing short of remarkable... for a multitude of reasons."
Draco, for his part, didn't know whether to be proud of the compliment, or to brush it off. He still had no intention of becoming one of Dumbledore's goody-goodies, but at the same time, there was something disconcertingly powerful about the old man. Something that Draco didn't quite understand, but could come to respect in time, if he learned more about it. Still, he didn't know Dumbledore well enough to trust him, and right now, the man seemed to be ready to direct Draco's entire life. He glanced over to Harry to see how he was reacting, hoping for some reassurance, but once again, Harry seemed to be wearing the carefully placed mask of indifference he'd had since Draco had woken him. It didn't make Draco feel any more comfortable.
Dumbledore seemed to notice the odd tension in the room, and continued lightly. "But it would seem that discussion of past accomplishments is best left for another time. We have several more pressing matters." He placed his hands on his knees and leaned forward slightly. "I believe that we must get Draco out of this school today, as soon as possible. Last night, I met with the Aurors who were interrogating Miss Parkinson. One of their primary goals was to have her list the other children of Death Eaters, or the Voldemort-loyalists amongst the student population at Hogwarts, particularly those who might try to finish the job she failed. As I suspected she would, she refused to comply with the interrogation."
"Why don't they use Veritaserum?" Harry asked.
"Because Veritaserum is tightly controlled, and Miss Parkinson is still underage. We can not force her to take it, and she has refused."
Draco frowned. "But we don't need Pansy to tell us. I know who they are. Why don't you just kick them out?"
"If it were only that easy," Dumbledore said with a long sigh. "I am unable to simply remove students from this school based on suspicion without evidence."
"I'll give you the bloody evidence!" Draco said angrily. "I'll give you names, conversations –"
"I'm afraid that will be insufficient. We're trying to hide you, Draco. Your testimony will have to be heard by the board of governors for those students to be removed."
Draco's eyes widened in understanding. "Half the members of the board of governors are Death Eaters."
"Well, less than half, but enough such that it would be prudent for you to avoid such meetings. It is not an option. But in the meantime, we must make haste to remove you from the school."
Draco shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Dumbledore had said he'd be leaving soon, but Draco hadn't thought it would be today. It was too soon! He'd just arrived back! And last night, something incredible had happened between himself and Harry. Whatever it was, Draco didn't quite understand it, and he desperately needed a chance to talk to Harry privately and find out if they were both feeling… whatever Draco thought he was feeling. Especially now that Harry seemed to be giving him the cold shoulder. He looked over at Harry, but Harry was facing the Headmaster, seeming not to see anything else around him.
"Where will he be sent?" Harry asked flatly.
"I have discussed this with Professor Snape, as Draco's Head of House, and with the other members of the Order of the Phoenix. As Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place is now yours, you can decide how it shall be used. Until better arrangements can be made, or until the school has been better secured, I believe that it would be best for Draco's safety to hide him there. He would be protected by the Fidelius Charm, as well as by several Order members. But permission to use the location in such a manner is up to you, and consent to this plan is up to Draco."
"If Draco wants to go, he can. If you think that's best." The corner of Harry's lips quivered; a tiny crack in his composure. He turned to look at Draco. "It's not the nicest place, you know."
"I know," Draco said carefully. "I went there when I was much younger. Four years old, I think. Old Auntie Black was rather batty."
Harry managed to smile for a split second before his expression fell again. "Do you want to go?"
"Well, I –"
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry cut him off suddenly, "the only threat to Draco is from the Slytherins. Why can't we just put him in another house? I'm sure I could convince the Gryffindors –"
Dumbledore shook his head. "I am sorry, Harry, but it isn't so simple. No one has ever switched houses, and –"
"We could make an exception for once! I mean, how is Draco going to finish his schooling? He's only just taken his OWL's!"
Draco scowled and poked Harry in the arm. "While I appreciate the invitation into your illustrious Gryffindor Tower, did you bother to think that I wouldn't want to be in a different house?"
Harry frowned. "But you can't want to be in Slytherin anymore... can you?"
Draco sighed and leaned on the arm of his chair. "I don't particularly want to die, so no, I don't want to be surrounded by Death Eaters' children who would love to turn me into a trophy. Nor do I want to be stuck in Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw, and I'd be forced to commit ritual suicide if I were placed in Hufflepuff."
"But..." Harry turned back to Dumbledore. "But Professor!"
"Ah, Harry, that was what I was about to explain when you interrupted. Houses are not arbitrary. I know you are convinced that Slytherin house is synonymous with Dark wizards, but Draco is a Slytherin, and I doubt that you would call him a Dark wizard anymore."
"No," Harry said, kicking morosely at the carpet.
"Then, would you be amenable to allowing Draco to use Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place?"
"Draco's my friend. He can use anything of mine that he wants." Harry finally looked at Draco again. "If you want to go, that is."
Draco looked from Harry to Dumbledore, hesitating. He didn't really want to answer either way.
"The arrangement would be temporary," Dumbledore insisted gently. "There are ways for you to continue his studies, and Harry can visit you whenever the situation permits."
Draco worried the fabric of the armrest between his fingers as he met Harry's gaze again. "I think I have to, Harry. Pansy tried to kill me. It's just going to keep happening until one of them succeeds. Or until their parents pull them out of Hogwarts."
"Which might happen sooner than you think," Dumbledore interjected. "Just this morning, I received an early owl from Gregory Goyle's father. It appears that Gregory is destined for a finer educational institution, and will be leaving us by the end of the day. I expect more similar occurrences as this situation progresses."
Draco gave Harry the bravest smile he could, which wasn't much. "See? I'd be back in no time. Don't tell me you'd miss me that much."
Harry shrugged and looked away. Draco knew what Harry would have said, but he wished he'd said it aloud. I'd miss you that much, Draco thought to himself. But sometimes, I guess we have to do things we don't want to do.
"So, the consensus?" Dumbledore prompted.
Draco didn't want to answer. It felt too sudden. They'd finally arrived back home, and now Draco found himself being asked to leave. Even though he'd known logically that he'd be facing plenty of trouble upon returning to Hogwarts, anything from imprisonment for his crimes to exile for his own safety, part of him had wanted to be swept up in some ridiculous fanciful notion of a heroic homecoming, where everything would be okay. But now that he was being asked to go into hiding, he could no longer take refuge in his fantasy. Not taking his eyes off Harry's downcast face, Draco answered, "I'll go." He didn't miss the shadow that passed over Harry's features as he said it.
Dumbledore nodded. "Then I shall make the arrangements. If you wish, I can apply to have you legally emancipated from your parents. We have channels through which we can do that."
"That might be best," Draco said, still watching Harry.
"Well then, we have a lot to do today, don't we?" Dumbledore said brightly, rousing himself. "Draco, I can have Biddy pack your belongings so that you need not go to the Slytherin dungeons yourself."
"All right… I mean, thank you, sir."
"And Harry, I am sorry to do this to you, but there is a matter that I must discuss with Draco privately."
Harry's head snapped up, and his eyes were furious beneath his glasses. "Sure. I'll see you both later, then," he growled, and without even looking back, he marched out of the office, shutting the door loudly behind him.
Harry's departure was so abrupt, Draco felt as if Harry had slammed him, not the door. "Harry!" Draco called behind him, but he knew Harry wasn't going to come back. From across the office, Fawkes trilled sadly. "What's got into him? Professor, I should probably go –"
"Not quite yet, Draco. Give Harry some time. And I honestly do have something I wish to speak with you about before you go find Harry."
Draco forced himself to sit properly in his seat and face the Headmaster. "Yes, sir?"
"First, I would like to know if you wish for us to contact your mother."
Draco nearly choked. "My mother is dead."
Dumbledore only looked surprised for a moment, but then he shook his head. "I can assure you that she is quite alive. Professor Snape saw her only three days ago, at Malfoy Manor."
Draco was stunned and mouthed silently to himself, trying to process this. When he spoke, his voice cracked. "Snape was at the Manor? He really saw her?"
"Indeed, he was and he did. You see, as I partially told Harry, Voldemort has disappeared. As you have good cause to know, on the night of the eclipse, things did not go well for him. According to Professor Snape, he collapsed just moments before the eclipse reached completion, and was taken away by two of his most loyal followers. The Death Eaters scattered, and we do not know what their current plans are, as Professor Snape did not follow any of them. Instead, he went to your parents' house to see if he could learn anything further about your situation before reporting back to me. He can now use his contact with your parents to maintain his appearance of loyalty to Voldemort."
"He is loyal to the Dark Lord!"
This time, Dumbledore smiled as he shook his head. "Now that your situation has changed, why do you not ask him yourself?"
Facts were coming too fast now, and Draco shook his head slowly. "This is too much… damn. But… what about my mother? I thought… but You-Know-Who told me that she was dead! I saw her dead!"
Dumbledore placed a hand on Draco's shoulder in sympathy. "I would suspect that Voldemort has shown you images of your mother's dead body in order to intimidate you. And I would hope that Harry has assured you that Voldemort is a master of illusion. Lord Voldemort does not kill anyone for whom he might have further use. With you still out of his grasp, your mother may yet be useful to him. He would not bother to kill her without a purpose. Our spies have seen her only two days ago, and she is quite alive."
"And... my father?"
The emotional relief felt like a noose being cut away from his neck, and Draco flopped back down against his pillows, breathing a long, shaky sigh.
"I'm surprised, that's all. I'm just... glad. I may have left the family, but I never wished harm on any of them."
Dumbledore patted his arm softly then backed away again. "I know you didn't. But my question remains, do you wish for us to contact your mother? She may be the wife of a Death Eater, but she does not bear the Dark Mark herself. As long as she is alive and within the control of Lord Voldemort's people, she is at risk because she could be used as leverage over you, and you are at further risk as a result. We can approach her and offer her refuge, if you wish."
Draco considered this for a moment, then closed his eyes. He pictured his mother. Narcissa Malfoy: proud, strong, cold. A woman from a long line of pure-bloods, the wife of a powerful pure-blood, and proud of both facts. Narcissa Malfoy: the mother of a traitorous son. Sure, she loved him, but a blood traitor for an offspring didn't fit into her plans, and would only endanger her further. If he allowed her to simply disown him, she could continue her life, uninterrupted, and he could just walk away. And then, after everything was over, maybe he could find her. If Dumbledore went to safeguard her now, she would become a refugee. She would feel shamed. She would be forced to face the fact that she had birthed a blood traitor. That would never do for Narcissa Malfoy.
"Leave her," Draco finally said, and he opened his eyes. "It's better that way. She'd never leave my father, and he wouldn't want to come, just as much as I'm sure you wouldn't want him."
Dumbledore didn't seem pleased by his answer. In fact, he seemed ready to offer another argument, but finally, he nodded. "As you wish. And now… I wish to discuss your rather miraculous healing of Harry in the infirmary."
Draco sat still for a moment, then looked down at the floor. "What's there to discuss? It happened."
"I am aware that it was not the first time you healed Harry in such a manner."
Draco's head shot up. "How do you know about that?"
"Harry allowed me to view the memory," Dumbledore said simply. "It was not the memory I needed to view specifically, but it existed in close conjunction with the memories I required."
Draco shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He suddenly had the feeling that Dumbledore had viewed many of the events that had happened during the three weeks he and Harry were away from the school, and he wasn't so sure he liked that. "So... the healing. What about it?"
Dumbledore inclined his head. "The first instance, I think, was a case of simple wandless healing."
"Simple! I'll have you know that Harry had broken at least four ribs, probably had some internal bleeding –"
Dumbledore held his hands up. "Draco, I did not say that the healing was not impressive, nor would I belittle what you have done. What I wish to explain to you is that you did not accomplish anything that has not been done before. There have been many well documented cases of witches saving their children in such a manner, or –"
"Yeah, I know, I know. It's all been done... er... sir."
"Indeed." Dumbledore peered at him over the rims of his spectacles. "What has not been done before – at least in my substantial memory – is the more complicated healing you performed last night."
Draco sat up a bit straighter. "What do you mean?"
"Harry had consumed a poison with was both physical and magical in nature. In comparison, yes, a few broken bones were very simple injuries to heal. The poison Harry used caused extensive damage to his body, as well as to his magic, which is an incredibly difficult injury even for professional Healers to fix. Also, in the more widely reported cases of wandless healing, the effort was spontaneous and desperate; your actions in the infirmary were deliberate. As Madam Pomfrey stated, you are not a mediwizard, so by all accounts, there seemed to be no possible way for you to have saved Harry. However – and this is what might have made the difference – the poison Harry consumed was designed to bind you together... as was the Soul's Eclipse potion. I have hypothesized that with both sets of bonds still in place, your healing attempt was greatly enhanced."
Trying to process all the small bit of information, Draco picked out the simplest thread. "We were bonded together?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Temporarily. The magic involved was highly complex, and with the combined effects of two potions, both being used for things for which they had never been intended, I doubt that we will ever know exactly what allowed you to do it."
"I needed to save him. Isn't that enough?"
"It may well be, Draco," Dumbledore said. "And certainly you would not have been successful had your desire to save him not been so great. However, for your own safety, and Harry's, I would like to see if those bonds have been dissolved."
"Most certainly. They were never meant to be permanent, but in a case of experimental magic, unforeseeable circumstances may arise." Dumbledore drew his wand. "With your permission, I would like to check you over."
"Why didn't you check Harry?" Draco asked testily.
Dumbledore sighed. "I would only need to check one of you, and Harry seemed quite agitated. I felt that keeping him here for such a test would only trouble him further."
Draco felt a flash of anger. "And you didn't trouble him more when you told him to leave?"
"I also thought that perhaps you would not want him to know about your mother."
Draco scowled. "Anything you can say to me, you can say in front of Harry. This is what he was talking about – people not telling him things. So hurry up and test me. I need to get ready to go."
Dumbledore said nothing as he flicked his wand towards Draco. A soft yellow glow began at the top of Draco's head, slowly enveloped him, and faded away.
"And the prognosis is...?" Draco pushed.
"The bonds have been dissolved."
Draco wasn't sure if he was happy with that or not, but he put on his best look of indifference as he stood and turned a foot towards the door. "Then I can leave?"
"You are free to go, but Draco..."
"What?" he asked irritably.
"I must tell you that while I have made my share of mistakes –"
"– my deepest concern has always been for the students of Hogwarts. This includes Harry and yourself. I want you to know that I am aware of how dangerous your situation truly is, for multiple reasons."
"Well, sir, that makes two of us who are aware of it, doesn't it?"
Dumbledore smiled patiently. "Draco, I understand your past prejudices against me, but it would seem that now, we are fighting on the same side."
Draco faced the Headmaster squarely and folded his arms across his chest. "I knew you were going to do this. And I already talked to Harry about it before... well... before the night of the eclipse. I don't want any part of this. I'm not going to fight for you. I don't want to fight on either side."
Dumbledore leaned forward heavily on his desk. "The fight will come to you, Draco, whether or not you are prepared for it. I should not need to enumerate the reasons why you are already thoroughly entrenched in this conflict, but carefully consider your situation. You may not wish to fight for me, nor would I ever expect you to do so... but would you fight for Harry?"
Draco opened his mouth before he realized that he had no argument. Yes, he would fight for Harry. Without question. He already had.
Dumbledore nodded knowingly. "And so you can see exactly why you are now part of this fight."
The significance of Dumbledore's words hit Draco hard, and suddenly the room didn't seem to have quite enough air in it. "I don't want to fight," he said again, weaker this time.
"Neither did Harry. He has been marked with a burden since he was an infant, and he has shouldered this responsibility valiantly. Still, he had a choice. He could have walked away from the burden if he wanted to, but he hasn't. If you wish to walk away from this fight... Harry would continue on without you, and you would have to leave Harry behind as well."
Draco felt himself go pale.
Dumbledore's voice was soft, but his words dug sharply. "We will do everything we can to protect you, regardless of which path you choose. I swear this to you. But I want you to ask yourself, when the time comes, will you choose to stand with Harry?"
Draco stared at the far wall. There was nothing he could say. Not now. Not to Dumbledore. "I need to go," he said hoarsely.
"Then go. Although I will remind you that you would do well not to be seen throughout the school."
Draco's stomach twisted as he realized the Headmaster was right. "Fuck!" Draco looked up at the small clock on the wall. "People probably aren't awake yet, but they will be. Damn it..."
"Before you enlighten me to any more of your vocabulary, might I point out that Harry seems to have forgotten the pack he has been carrying since he arrived." He indicated the dusty bag lying by the chair Harry had deserted. "My guess is that you might find something useful in there, and that Harry would probably want you to use it."
Draco looked at Dumbledore in surprise for a moment before grabbing the pack and turning for the door.
"I expect that your belongings will be assembled shortly," Dumbledore called from behind him. "As soon as you have handled your affairs, please report back to my office. The password is 'pineapple'."
Pineapple? Draco thought to himself as he closed the door behind him.
It felt strange to be using the Invisibility Cloak without Harry, but as Draco swept by a small group of Ravenclaw sixth-years who appeared to be on their way towards the library, he knew that Harry probably would want him to use it. He felt as if he should be going to find Harry, but he had no idea where the boy might have gone. To Gryffindor Tower? Possibly, but somehow, Draco doubted it. Breakfast? Not likely. Draco put it out of his mind. He'd find Harry before he left. Right now, Draco had to see someone else.
His path took him down the stairs, across the main foyer, and towards the dungeons. He passed the turn that led to the Slytherin dormitories and continued straight towards the Potions classroom, beyond which were the living quarters of his Head of House.
Draco tried to knock softly on Snape's door, but the sound echoed throughout the corridor. Above the door, a rather hideous small gargoyle snickered. "What do you want, invisible boy?"
Fuck, that thing really can see everything. I thought it was just a rumour. I hate that bloody gargoyle. "I need to see Professor Snape."
"Oh, you need to see Professor Snape, do you?" he said in a singsong voice that reminded Draco far too much of Peeves.
"Will you just announce me already?" Draco hissed.
"Absolutely, your highness-ness. One invisible Malfoy to see the esteemed Severus Snape, God of the Dungeons." The statue went still, and Draco knew that the magical watchdog had gone through to one of the gargoyles inside Snape's living quarters. A moment later, the door opened, and a dishevelled Potions Master appeared. In a heartbeat, he'd swept his arm across the space in front of the doorway, grabbed Draco by the shoulder, and had hauled him inside.
Snape whipped the Invisibility Cloak from Draco and glowered at him darkly. For a terrifying moment, Draco wondered if he'd just made the biggest mistake of his life. Shit! What if he really is loyal to the Dark Lord? I don't trust Dumbledore, so why the fuck did I trust him about this?
Draco looked back over his shoulder at the door, considering making a break for it, but then Snape grabbed him by the arm again. In a surge of panic, Draco threw up his free hand and yelled, "No! Let me go!"
The grip remained firm. "Be quiet!" Snape snarled at him. "Do you want to alert the entire dungeons to your presence? What do you think you are doing, sneaking around out there? Are you daft?"
"I... er..." Draco stammered for a moment, unsure what to think.
"Professor Dumbledore has been awake all night, as have I, making arrangements for your safety, and you risk it all by traipsing about the dungeons?" Snape finally released his arm. "What were you thinking?"
"I needed to talk to you," Draco said, trying not to let his voice shake. "Dumbledore said... he said to ask you if I didn't believe it was true... about your loyalties... and my mother... but..."
"Draco," Snape said evenly, "I did not think I would need to explain to you how stupid this was. Have you learned nothing as a Slytherin? Self preservation is paramount! What if Dumbledore had been wrong, and I had decided to turn you over to the Dark Lord immediately?"
"Er... I'd be in a lot of trouble?"
Snape scowled at him, turned, and walked to the corner of his sitting room in front of the fireplace. He sat in his own chair and indicated for Draco to sit in the one facing him. "You have come to talk, so talk."
Draco settled himself uneasily into the chair. Although the seat appeared padded, it was really quite hard. "I had to find out..." He hesitated. "Is my mother really alive?"
"She is," Snape said, but offered no further information.
It took all Draco's willpower not to squirm. "And... I needed to know if you were really loyal to Dumbledore," he said as calmly as possible. "I always thought... well... that Dumbledore was just a fool for trusting you."
Snape didn't reply for a minute as he stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Trust is always the act of fools. Loyalty, however, is not."
Draco frowned. "I don't understand."
"I did not expect that you would, although it would have been a pleasant surprise." Snape leaned on the arm of his chair. "There is never a reason for trust, Draco. It is given freely, and often irresponsibly. Loyalty is a far deeper commitment, and should never be given without reason. Tell me, Draco, why did you leave the Dark Lord's service?"
Suddenly, Draco felt very nervous. Snape still had not admitted the true nature of his loyalties. Still, Draco had known him for years. If Snape was going to turn him in, he would have already acted. "It just seemed... wrong somehow. Serving him."
"Were you scared?"
"No!" Draco protested, but Snape's piercing glare made him wince. "Okay, yes, I was scared. But that wasn't everything."
"No, it wasn't. I am well aware of this. You did not merely drop your prior loyalties; you gained new ones."
Draco found his cheeks burning.
Snape nodded slowly. "Ask yourself, Draco, why would a person shift loyalties? Or, more to the point, why would a Slytherin do so?"
Draco thought in silence for a moment before venturing an answer. "A Slytherin would always pledge loyalty to the person with the most power."
"Very true, Draco. However, a truly clever Slytherin would understand that raw power alone means very little. The winner of this war will not be the one with the most power. It will be the one with –"
"The most strength," Draco finished for him as his heart started to thud harder in his chest. "Power has no loyalty... no depth... By Merlin..."
Snape raised one eyebrow. "You surprise me, Draco. Where would you have encountered such a valuable nugget of wisdom?"
Draco looked at him bleakly. "You'd never believe me if I told you."
"Really?" Snape asked in a tone that didn't demand an answer. "Regardless, deserting a post for such a reason is one matter. Throwing your lot behind someone at great personal risk to yourself is another matter altogether."
Draco felt as if Snape's eyes were boring holes through his skull. He tried to remember what little Occlumency he'd been taught, but he was too tired from his ordeal the previous night, and his brain was too fuzzy. Cautiously, he let himself meet Snape's piercing stare, and tried sidetracking the conversation with his own question. "So... why would you throw your loyalty behind Dumbledore?"
"I think I should ask you why you would throw your loyalty behind Potter."
Still holding Snape's gaze, Draco realized that the older man was in full control of this exchange and there was nothing he could do about it. Snape wouldn't answer any questions until he wanted to. Draco sighed in defeat. "I saw how strong he was when he faced You-Know-Who. Unarmed, trapped, and he didn't even flinch. Even I couldn't do that when I thought I was loyal to him. But then... I was supposed to meet with You-Know-Who for myself, and by that time, I was... wavering."
"A very dangerous thing, to waver in your loyalty when meeting with the Dark Lord. He demands absolute devotion."
"I know," Draco said with a shudder. "And I knew then too. I thought that maybe I could blank my mind, or Occlude him, but I was too exhausted, and too... well..."
"Fixated on your prisoner?"
"We'd been talking for days! What did you expect? And he wasn't at all what I thought he was."
Snape cocked his head in amusement. "Then what was he?"
"Better," Draco said flatly.
"Interesting," Snape said mildly. "So, what did it? Why did you place your loyalty firmly behind Harry Potter before you even stepped out of the Dark Lord's dungeons? And do not look so surprised. You never would have left with him had you not already changed loyalties."
Now Draco was surprised. "That's what Wormtail said!"
"Indeed. As he said to me, not that I needed that rodent to tell me things I already knew."
Even more surprises, Draco thought to himself. "When did you see him?" he pressed.
"Briefly, late last night, but that is not the issue now. I asked you a question, and I expect an answer."
Draco pressed his lips together, sighed, and stared at the pattern on Snape's throw rug. "Harry helped me. Everyone else wanted to test me, but Harry... he knew what I would be facing when I met with You-Know-Who, so he helped me. He got me angry... just enough so that I could cover my fear and indecision. Looking back, it was impressive how he did it. I didn't even realize what he'd really done until I was on my way up the stairs. I think he saved my life that night."
Draco looked up to see how Snape was reacting, but Snape's expression was still completely neutral, so Draco pressed on. "He didn't need to help me... he was my prisoner... but he did anyway. I couldn't understand why someone would help me when they didn't need to, but when it happened, it all made so much sense. And then, when I finally met with You-Know-Who, everything that Harry had said... about fear, control, servitude..." He paused and smirked. "...power and strength."
Snape's eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "Potter told you? You were right. I don't believe it."
Draco's smirk turned into a rueful smile, which then faded. "I met You-Know-Who, and I believed every word Harry said to me. He was right. I could tell who was stronger. I knew what I wanted then. And I knew that Harry had given me something that I'd never had before." Draco took a deep breath. "A choice."
"And so you made that choice."
"Yes, I did."
Then Snape did something Draco had seen him do less than a half-dozen times in his life. He smiled. "And so did I."
Draco sat there, stunned, as Snape got up and crossed the room to his desk, plucked a piece of parchment from atop a stack of books, and returned. "I trust you recognize this parchment?"
He held it up, and Draco could see the diagram he had drawn of the Soul's Eclipse and its counter-curse. "Of course I do."
Snape nodded. "I required the use of your spell diagram as I prepared the potion Potter consumed last night. Your diagramming skills need work, Draco, as does your grasp of the Ogham alphabet, but we shall save that for another time. Before I began my work, it was rather difficult not to notice the writing on the back of this parchment. Potter's handiwork, was it not?"
"He wrote a note on it," Draco said. "It was in case he didn't survive... he wanted me to bring it back as proof that I didn't kill him... or let him die intentionally."
Snape frowned. "You have not read it."
Draco shook his head. "I told myself that I'd read it if I had to. If I read it while Harry was still alive, it was like admitting that he was going to die."
"A word of advice, Draco: if you ever have the opportunity to read something, do so immediately. You never know when you will need that information. Which is why I took it upon myself to read this."
The fact that Snape seemed pleased about reading something Harry had written made Draco very uncomfortable. "What does it say?" Draco asked, reaching a hand out, but Snape pulled the note further from him.
"Before I give this to you, I wish to remind you of something. While loyalty to the Dark Lord demands complete subservience and dedication in exchange for power, loyalty to another demands just as strong of a commitment, if not stronger. Do not make a commitment that you are unable to keep."
Draco thought for a long moment, then stood. "I made a promise to Harry the night we escaped. I told him I'd get him back to Hogwarts, no matter what happened. 'Whatever it takes.' That's what I said, and I did it. I told him I wouldn't leave him, and I didn't. I even promised... that if it looked like You-Know-Who was going to win... I'd... Merlin, I still can't say it."
"You promised that you would kill him, rather than let the Dark Lord win?" Snape seemed unsurprised by the thought.
Draco hung his head. "Yes."
"Could you have done it?"
"I would rather have died myself. I didn't have to kill him for us to win, so... it doesn't really matter, does it?"
"You know better than that. Look at me, Draco. Now, tell me, could you have killed him?"
Draco looked up, but the words wouldn't come.
"You will answer me, Draco. Out of loyalty to Harry, could you have fulfilled your promise to kill him?"
Draco's throat was squeezing in on itself, but he finally managed to choke out an answer.
Snape gave a satisfied nod and held out the parchment. "Then you have earned this."
Draco hesitantly accepted the parchment and flipped it over. The note was shockingly straightforward at first, but then Draco remembered that Harry hadn't exactly had the luxury of time in which to mince words. Still, as blunt as it was, Draco read slowly as tears began to well up in his eyes. Snape was watching, but it didn't matter. When he got to the end, he composed himself and then looked up. "I need to go find him."
"Even with that cloak, you would have a difficult time infiltrating Gryffindor Tower."
"I don't think he's there... wait, I have an idea."
"Do you? How novel."
Draco glared at him. "I found a hiding place of his last year... he used it for that little Dumbledore-club. I think he might be there."
Snape responded with a nod of the head. "Then if you know where the boy has gone, and you have no further issues of teenage angst to discuss with me, I would appreciate an hour of sleep before I face the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw third-years for class this morning. They are not anticipating my return. Though tiring, the results should be... entertaining."
"Yes, sir. Thank you for listening."
"You're welcomed. And Draco..."
"You're about to embark on a very difficult path, one which is likely to make your trek through the northern forest seem like a pleasant camping trip. But you should know... you will not be alone."
Draco clutched the parchment to his chest. "I know." Without another word, he threw the Invisibility Cloak back over his head and let himself out. As he did, he realized that Snape had never actually said outright to whom he held loyalty. Clever bastard.
When Harry had arrived in the Room of Requirement, it reminded him very much of how it had looked just yesterday for Ron, Hermione, and himself, except instead of beanbag chairs, there was one plush couch, long enough for him to stretch out on comfortably. However, instead of stretching out, Harry curled up against one of the arms and thought about how empty the other end looked.
I'm being ridiculous. Of course we need to put Draco someplace safe. If he stays here, he's risking his life, and I can't let him do that. That's the last thing I could let him do! But then why the hell am I so upset about this?
Harry rolled off the couch and started pacing the small length of floor. His trainers sank deep into the carpet with every step.
Sure, I spent the last few weeks with him, but how the hell could I become so damned attached that I don't want him to go? In just a few weeks? And why the hell did it take almost losing him to make me understand? What if we hadn't saved him? No, I'm not going to think about that... but I'm losing him anyway!
He's leaving. And fuck, he knows I'll miss him that much. At least, I hope he knows. How can he not? And how can he leave so easily? It didn't even seem to bother him! He just said he'd go... just like that. Doesn't he remember what happened last night? He's in love with me... he's...
Harry grabbed a pillow from the couch and wrenched it between his hands and continued to pace. He was angry, he was upset. Everything was all right, but everything was fucked up beyond belief. They were both alive and safe, but Draco was leaving. Somehow, he'd fallen for Draco, and it made so much sense, but it made no sense at all. And now that he was back in the familiar setting of Hogwarts, no longer in his place apart with Draco, common sense seemed to be creeping up on him.
Maybe he's having second thoughts. Maybe, now that it's all over, he thinks this was a stupid idea. Now that we're back, and everything is different, and he has to deal – we have to deal with everything... maybe he's changed his mind. And maybe he's right. How much shit will we be in for this? Fuck, fuck, fuck... why me? Why him? And why did it take so long?
He's a boy. He's Draco Mal – he's Draco, and he's a boy. Of course I wouldn't think of it. It's just too unbelievable... right? There was no reason for me to realize it...
All of the strange conversations he'd had with Draco about girlfriends and love interests came back to him, and Harry slammed his pillow against the wall a few times in anguish as he realized just how oblivious he'd been to the whole thing.
Yes, he's Draco. Yes, he's a boy. And he's got grey eyes.
It was all Harry could do to stop himself from slamming his head against the wall in imitation of the pillow a moment before.
Of course I knew what was happening... between us. I knew for days. And now, he's leaving.
With an animalistic growl, Harry hurled the pillow against the couch where it bounced once and landed on the floor. For some reason, that only made him feel worse, and he picked it up and began twisting it again.
Why was I such an arse this morning? Why did I run off like that? I'm going to miss him, but that's a pathetic excuse. We're trying to protect him, but I wanted him to feel guilty for leaving. What kind of friend am I?
He resumed pacing, scuffing his feet against the carpet as he walked.
A friend who wants to be more than a friend.
For several minutes, Harry mentally kicked himself for his sheer stupidity. He needed to talk to Draco, but instead of being supportive, or at least waiting at the bottom of the stairs to Dumbledore's office, he'd run off like a proper arsehole, and was now sulking. Besides, he had no idea what he would say. Goodbye? See you later? Do you remember that kiss we shared on the brink of death? It was good for me – was it good for you? Nothing seemed quite right, and now, all Harry wanted to say was "Don't go!"
He had to tell Draco how he felt. He'd never had a need to talk about things like this with anyone. In that dream, vision, or whatever it was that he and Draco had experienced on death's doorstep, it hadn't been the real, physical world. In desperation to save Draco's life, he had been able to say it without hesitation. And he had meant every word. But now...
I already told him how I feel, but that wasn't flesh-and-blood. Everything was so desperate, I would have said anything. And I meant it! But what about now? Could I say those things to his face? I have to tell him before he leaves, though. I don't want him to go. Why so soon? Why? Why me? Why us?
Harry thought back over the last two weeks. If he thought hard enough, he could still feel Draco's warm back against his as they settled down for the night, and Draco's hand clasped tightly in his as they helped each other over rocks and fallen trees. He could hear Draco laughing – mostly at him – and the way his voice sounded when he talked about things he was passionate about. He could see the smirk and the faint twinkle in Draco's eyes as he went to pull Harry from the pile of leaves. He could reach out and touch the goose bumps on Draco's arms and torso as he walked into the river. He could feel Draco's warm body against his in the cool water as they clung to each other, and Draco's limp body clutched tight in his arms as he walked and stumbled the rest of the way back to Hogwarts.
He never wanted to let go again.
But he had to.
Harry came to a stop like a wind-up toy that had run out of steam, and collapsed on the couch. He buried his face into the pillow that he was still holding, not crying, but occasionally shaking. He didn't really hear the door open, but he jumped with a start when he felt someone sit down beside him.
"It's okay, Harry, it's just me," said thin air. The Invisibility Cloak fell away, and Draco was sitting there, looking very sombre.
Harry quickly adjusted his glasses on his nose, unable to quite hide his shock at Draco's unannounced arrival. "Er... hi, Draco. Did... er... Dumbledore have anything interesting to say?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
Draco didn't answer right away. Instead, he was looking at Harry with such intensity, sincere yet gentle, that Harry had to wonder if Draco could see right through him.
"Why did you run off like that, Harry?"
Feeling very childish, Harry cringed. "I... er... I guess I was a bit surprised at the idea of you leaving so soon."
"So am I. But you were already acting strangely when you woke up."
Harry had to look away. "I was sleepy. Not really in the mood to talk."
"You weren't acting sleepy," Draco insisted. "You were avoiding me."
"No!" Harry protested, but Draco gave him a piercing stare, and Harry shrank back again. "All right, so I was up most of the night, thinking too much."
"I thought Madam Pomfrey gave you a Dreamless Sleep potion!"
Harry shrugged. "I didn't drink it all. Just enough to put me to sleep, and I dumped out the rest of it. So I woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn't stop thinking. I didn't want to stop thinking anyway."
Draco seemed as surprised as Harry thought he would. "Wait... so you heard me talking with Dumbledore?"
Embarrassed, Harry nodded. He half expected Draco to be angry, but Draco only looked sad.
"So you already knew that I was going to be leaving when I 'woke you up', didn't you?"
Harry nodded again, feeling very sheepish.
Draco sighed and sat back against the couch. "My mother is still alive."
Now it was Harry's turn to be surprised. "She is?"
"Yeah. And so is my father. You were right. You-Know-Who was just messing with my head. But then, you're always right when it comes to him, so I've noticed."
"Not always," Harry said hesitantly. "So your parents are alive. That's a good thing, right?"
Draco's face warped in an unreadable expression. "Well, of course, but it complicates things."
Draco quirked a smile. "I hear an echo. And yes. It does. I told you before... I still love my parents. We may not have had a warm, fuzzy sort of household, but I still love them. Before... I thought they were gone... and I could just begin a new life. Nothing to tie me back."
Harry's heart gave an uncomfortable thump. "You're not thinking about going back, are you?"
Draco looked mortified. "Contrary to everything I've done lately, believe it or not, I don't have a death wish. If I go back... well, let's just say that my life expectancy would be far better in the Slytherin dungeons than in the Malfoy dungeons."
The odd little smile returned to Draco's lips. "It's just... that I'm going to be worried about them, you know. Plus, I'll have to wonder, for the rest of my life, what they think of me, if they miss me, and what might have happened if I'd stayed. I've already chosen my path, Harry. Even when I didn't know if we'd get back alive, I was willing to stick with this. I made my choice... that choice you wanted me to make... and now look at us. We made it. We're alive. That's as much as we could have hoped for when we started out – more than I had hoped for at many points along the way. And now that we're back, there's no way I'm changing courses now."
"So... where's the complication?" Harry asked, thoroughly confused.
"It's... an emotional complication. Even when the choice has already been made, and even if you're happy with that choice, it's not easy to give up one thing that you love for another. Or, more to the point, to give up one person that you love for another."
Harry's heart leapt again, but it wasn't painful this time. "What do you mean?" he asked cautiously.
Draco shook his head and sidestepped the question. "What were you thinking about last night, when you should have been sleeping?"
"I... was thinking about you," Harry said, hearing his voice start to shake. Suddenly feeling too edgy to stay in his seat, Harry got up and began pacing again. "I was thinking about the time we spent together, and how it's coming to an end. I knew Dumbledore would try to send you away. Even before he showed up this morning, I knew what was going to happen. He's right, of course. I shouldn't have wanted to keep you here... but it seems like we've just started something, and now you're leaving! I can never have anything normal! Everything important to me always seems just out of reach, and there's nothing I can do about any of it. I keep losing things and people, and now I'm losing you."
Draco caught him by the arm and spun him around so that they were standing in the middle of the room, facing each other. "You're not losing me, Harry."
"Then what would you call it?"
"I'd call it a temporary arrangement. You're not losing me. You've got me, Harry. Whether I like it or not... I'm part of this fight now. And I'm ready for it. I'll only be able to hide for so long anyway, but then I'm coming back." Draco took a deep breath, looked at Harry for a long moment, and then moved a half-step closer. "You never left me. And I promise, I'll never leave you."
Harry knew those words. He'd written them.
Draco reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small roll of parchment. "I got this back just now," he said as he unrolled it.
Harry recognized it at once, and bit down on his tongue in a vain effort to stop the tears from welling up as he reached out and accepted the parchment from Draco. It only took him a moment to read over the words he'd written before he put it aside. "I figured... if we both made it back... I could just ask for the parchment back... without you ever reading it. I meant it like a last message... oh, Merlin."
A hand cupped his cheek and forced him to look up into a pair of eyes shining with sincerity. "'Oh Merlin', what? You wouldn't want me to read this? Are you embarrassed about what you wrote?"
Harry shook his head, even though he did feel a bit embarrassed. It was all so awkward now.
Draco must have sensed his discomfort, because he frowned slightly. "Did you mean what you wrote?"
"Of course!" Harry blurted out before he could think. "Er... I mean... well, yeah, of course."
"And did you mean what you said?"
Draco looked at him incredulously. "Don't you remember anything from last night?"
"Well... I wasn't sure if you had remembered it the same way that I had, or if you had changed your mind, and –"
Draco's other hand came up to completely trap Harry's face, and he leaned in, only inches away. "Well, let me try to clarify things. I believe that somewhere on the edge of death, you somehow remembered what happened on the night of the eclipse. And what you'd said the previous night when you were half asleep. And you shouted it out, and pulled me back from the edge... and there, in the middle of hell, you did this."
Draco kissed him. Not the hesitant, nervous kiss that some part of Harry's brain was expecting, but a bold, forceful kiss that would have knocked Harry backwards if Draco hadn't been holding his face so firmly. Harry was stunned. His heart was suddenly pounding furiously in his chest, and his mind was racing, but his lips were kissing back. And just as abruptly, Draco stopped.
Harry opened his eyes – when had he closed them? – to see Draco peering at him shyly, a comical contrast to his actions only seconds before. Harry licked his lips, surprised that he could already recognize Draco's taste on them. "Draco?"
Draco smiled. Slowly, he reached up and slipped Harry's glasses off, folded them, and tucked them into a pocket. They were so close that Harry could see him clearly enough, and the slight blur only made everything more surreal. "You said that your greatest fear was being alone. You faced death without fear… for me…" He leaned his forehead against Harry's, a gesture that felt incredibly comforting and familiar to Harry, before continuing. "After everything you've done for me… how could I ever let you be alone again?"
Draco moved to kiss Harry again, but Harry dodged him. "But you're still going to leave, aren't you?"
Draco's smile faltered. "I have to, Harry. But you know I'll come back as soon as possible."
It was supposed to be a reassurance, but it didn't make Harry feel much better. He looked at Draco for several seconds, trying to decide what to say next. "I need to know, Draco… what is this? Between us?"
Draco's face became pensive. "I'm not sure. I've never felt anything like it… but I think it's a good thing."
"Even though I'm a boy?" Harry asked before he could stop himself.
Draco only smiled. "Remember when I said that there were no girls in Hogwarts in whom I had any interest?"
"Yeah… oh." Harry felt himself blushing.
"It's amazing how naïve you can be when you want to avoid the obvious answers," Draco teased.
"Don't remind me," Harry grumbled. "I almost needed to beat my head into the wall when I realized how many clues I had missed."
Draco laughed lightly. "And you had no idea you liked boys?"
"I don't," Harry said quickly. When Draco scowled at him, Harry cringed. "All right, so maybe there's some evidence. But I don't like boys. I think I just like you." Harry cringed again. "That sounded pretty stupid, didn't it?"
Draco smiled, his grey eyes peering into Harry's from only inches away. "You say stupid stuff all the time. But I won't hold it against you. You've said incredible things, too. And you said you loved me…"
Then Draco was leaning towards him, and Harry was closing his eyes, and the entire world existed in the tentative brush of lips and Draco's breath on his cheek. Somehow, Harry's hand found its way to the back of Draco's head, and Draco's arms were wrapped tightly around Harry's shoulders. It didn't make sense, but somehow, Harry knew it wasn't supposed to. After a long moment, Draco pulled back, but this time, he paused before breaking contact, and nibbled lightly on Harry's lower lip. In all his life, Harry had never realized that kisses could be like that. He let his lips linger against Draco's, and then, hesitantly, he traced Draco's upper lip with his tongue. Draco made a sound in his throat and caught Harry's mouth again with his.
When they finally broke apart, Harry was breathless, confused, happy, and nervous all at once. It was something he'd never imagined, and would never have wanted, but now that he had it, it was perfect. Even if Draco was leaving, he had this, here and now. "Draco… what does this all mean?" he asked, not even sure what "this" was, but somehow, he was sure Draco would understand.
"It means," Draco said slowly, "that life is going to be hell for both of us, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."
"If this is hell," Harry whispered, pulling Draco just a bit closer to him, "I can't imagine what heaven would be like."
"Well, well… Quidditch star, aspiring Auror, junior philosopher, and cheesy poet."
Draco smiled. "Don't be. I think I like it."
Harry smiled back tentatively, and Draco's arms tightened around him. This time, when Draco kissed him, Harry met his lips eagerly. It seemed like forever, and not nearly long enough, when Draco suddenly pulled away with a gasp. "Harry... open your eyes and look."
The awe in Draco's voice made sense the instant Harry looked around. The Room of Requirement had changed. They were no longer standing in a small, cosy room with a couch and too many pillows. Instead, they seemed to be in the middle of an open field. It was night-time, and overhead, the stars glittered like diamonds. But the sky paled next to the unearthly dance of hundreds of glowing fairies floating all around them in a ring of light. Harry gasped and pulled Draco tighter against him, as if to anchor himself to something solid in such a surreal place. A second later, the sweet chiming melody reached his ears, and a familiar warmth welled up in his chest.
"It's all for us, isn't it?" Harry asked.
"I was thinking… one night, while we were out there… that that was all for us, too. The real fairy ring, the mountains, the stars. It was like our world apart, where nobody could touch us. Just us. I remember thinking that I would almost be sad to return to Hogwarts. Does that make any sense?"
"It does," Draco replied, and Harry detected a hint of sadness in his voice.
"It's really over, isn't it?"
"That part's over," Draco said with a shrug. "But this –" He gave Harry a squeeze. "– is just beginning."
Feeling just a bit awkward, but not so much that he wanted to pull away, Harry returned the squeeze. "I think... I think it's going to be okay." He looked back at Draco, whose face was now framed by the blurry lights of the fairies behind him, making his hair look like a bizarre halo. Harry laughed, and he felt some of the tension drain away as he did. "We're going to be okay."
"We are," Draco answered, and leaned in to kiss him softly. "And who needs heaven? This is better."
For a long time, they held each other, watching the fairies, not wanting to leave their illusion and return to the mundane world. Finally, however, they knew it was time. The door to the room was tucked into the side of a large beech tree at the edge of the field. Draco reached into the pack, which he was still carrying, withdrew the Invisibility Cloak, and threw it over Harry and himself before opening the door. The lights from the hallway seemed unnaturally bright after the soft glow of the artificial night-time. Sunlight was streaming through the windows, heralding the passing of yesterday's storm.
As the door closed behind them, a single piece of parchment fluttered to the ground, covered in hastily scrawled script:
To Whom It May Concern,
If you're reading this, it's because Draco has returned to Hogwarts without me. Please consider this my last request. Welcome Draco as if he were me. It's not his fault I died. He did everything he could to save me. I have forgiven him, and I ask you to do the same.
Draco is no more to blame for my death than the deaths of my parents, Cedric, Sirius, or any of the uncountable others who have died because of Voldemort – the real culprit in all this. Draco finally realized that he was in control of his own future. He chose to leave everything behind, risking his own life to escape with me, and has saved my life more than once out here. I know – I just know – that if he could, he would trade places with me.
I wouldn't want him to, though. If this is my fate, then I can accept it. I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of being alone. If you read this, you should know that I wasn't alone when I died, and for that, I'm grateful. I died in the company of a friend, someone that I love. I couldn't have asked him for more.
Draco, please keep my Invisibility Cloak. After what we've been through with it, I can't imagine anyone else keeping it now. It's a part of me that you'll never have to leave behind. You never left me, and I promise I'll never leave you.
walked across an empty land.
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand.
I felt the earth beneath my feet.
Sat by the river and it made me complete.
came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me.
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?
And if you have a minute why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything,
So why don't we go
Somewhere only we know?
Author's Notes: And there you have it. The end of the story, and the end of a chapter in my own life. I've been writing this for over two years, and I'm thrilled, relieved, sad, nostalgic, and satisfied at the completion of this story. I hope you're pleased with the results.
Please note that the line spoken by the Gargoyle, "Absolutely, your highness-ness" is a composite of two different lines spoken by Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy. "Yes, your highness-ness," and "Absolutely, your worshipfulness" were the originals, I believe.
Now, a few orders of business:
First, please drop me a review! I like to know what you think!
Second, keep your eyes opened for the Epilogue. It should be posted here within the next few weeks. It's not part of the main body of the story, but it's a little bit of closure for some of the questions you might be asking yourself.
Third, if you haven't already read it, hop over to my page on The Dark Arts at FictionAlley and read my one-shot fic, "Only Your Shadow". It's hosted on this site, too, but the formatting is much much better on FictionAlley.
If you would
like update information about this fic, the upcoming sequel, fic
discussion, my HP artwork, and information about my other writing
endeavors, please join my Yahoo group, here:groups. yahoo. com
/group /Beyond the Eclipse/
(Remove the spaces, and insert underscores between the words "Beyond the Eclipse". If you need help with the URL, please contact me.)
I hold group chats, and you can also find artwork posted in the "Photos" section. Membership is open to everyone, and there are several e-mail options, so that you only get the e-mail you want. If you want update notifications only, select "Special Notices Only". Simple! Look Ma - no spam!
Also, feel free
to find me on LiveJournal, here:
www. livejournal. com/ users/ mijan/
(Again, remove the spaces.)
I don't spend a lot of time in the LJ community (I just don't have the time to keep up with it!) but anyone is welcomed to friend me, and I try to reply to all comments that people leave in my LJ.
Also, if you have any questions, or would like a response to anything you say in a review, just leave some sort of way for me to contact you (IM screen name, e-mail addy, Owl, etc.), and I'll be sure to respond.
Finally, much love to everyone I met at The Witching Hour and Lumos. You were all awesome.