this isn't another abandonned story :) Yes, I have been busy, don't hold it against me! I'm graduating from High School in a month, I have a lot of exams to go through. My laptop was in a coma for the past four months, but it is back and this chapter was, thanks to some miracle, still in it. I'm sure the technician who repaired my laptop had a blast reading all my slash.

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Chapter 20:

His eyes were closed, his glasses, removed from his nose, were now resting on the night table and Draco took his time inspecting each and every one of his dark lashes, examining every detail of his features – curve of his lips, the arc of his brows, the bridge of his nose and the few freckles erratically found on his skin – as if they revealed something he had never noticed before. It was simple yet troubling the way he found all of this normal. This boy laying unconscious in the bed in front of him... it was love. Because it was only now that he took notice that what was in front of him was what he was ready to give everything up for. He had chosen it as quickly as he had placed himself between his rival and that Death Eater.

The whole scenario felt like a dream, and yet it could not be, the wonderful daze that drowned his mind when he was really sleeping having nothing to do with reality. His clothes were filthy from the dirt and mud and his muscles were truly aching, tired from having dragged Harry all the way to the hospital wing, where so many other students could be found, all of them fearful and in pain. Draco had unwillingly made up his mind, and his decision did not involve letting anyone hurt the young dark-haired man laying in front of him. Was it that hard to believe?

Draco Malfoy was in love, in love with Harry Potter. Hell, it wasn't love, it was an obsession, an obsession that had pushed him to betray his family, deceive who he thought he could have been... what would happen then? Who was the Death Eater he had hexed, and what would the Dark Lord think? A Malfoy protecting Harry Potter.

He could already see himself on his knees, in front of his father, in front of the Dark Lord, surrounded by Death Eaters he could no longer recognize trying to stutter a vague lie, desperately trying to protect himself, to protect Harry. What would he say? That he did not want anyone but the Dark Lord to hurt the Boy Who Lived? That he knew it was what Voldemort would have wanted? Lies everyone would see through, lies that would get him nowhere. There was no point in hiding it, he was doomed.

He knew it by the way Harry's chest rose and descended as his intakes of air kept him alive, by the way everything seemed too bright, too surreal. Was this his place in life, waiting by Potter's bed, looking down at him fondly as if nothing else mattered?

But other things did matter. What would happen to him? What would happen to them? They had declared it to each other, what was between them could not be considered anything else but love... passion, desire and lust, nouns that all meant the same thing. They, who had been pushed in opposite directions were now connected in a way not even dreams could bring...

But their differences made him want to scream. He was a Slytherin, the other was a Griffindor... they were enemies; they could never be together without the world being opposed to them, opposed to him. Because he was a Death Eater's son, and he could never be completely trusted. Would Harry even trust him completely? He did not know.

Everything seemed so peaceful now, as if nothing really mattered. He was insensible to the blood on his hands, the mud on his clothes, the cries around him and the strange smell of burnt wood that reached his nostrils from time to time. All he could really concentrate on was Harry. His legs were numb for having stood there so long but he would have to be knocked unconscious to be moved, that he knew it.

Madam Pomfrey had said that everything was more or less fine, but that it could have been horrible if Draco had not done anything. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn't helped him! But then again... could another possibility, such as Harry Potter dying, be truly considered? Did Fate not hide behind every action a man made throughout his life? Then it was Malfoy's fate to die due to the fact he loved Harry Potter. Or would Harry save him, just like he had saved so many others throughout his years at Hogwarts? Harry would vanquish the Dark Lord, they would run away and be happy together...

Draco heaved a sigh, shuffling his feet in anger. What a foolish thing to actually take the time to imagine that there would be a happy ending to their situation. What an idiotic thing for Draco to be optimistic. He suddenly became aware of the wails, cries and restrained screeches that filled the room, as if he had swiftly recovered the use of his ears when coming back to the cruel reality that was laid out in front of him.

Harry hurt and unconscious, others crying, the ground covered in mud, shadows of students twisted in pain seen through the canvas sheets that separated the room into an undefined amount of compartments... Draco even thought that only the lucky firsts were located in the Hospital Wing, so many more were probably located in other rooms through the castle. Madam Pomfrey had probably summoned beds in the hallway leading to the hall where she usually worked, to accommodate all the others. She now had numerous staff members from Saint Mungo's to help her with her fastidious occupation.

Some students were not hurt, some of them not having been in Hogsmeade when the disaster occurred. They were scurrying left and right helping the others, fetching them what they needed, giving out messages... indeed, the windows of the castle were now all shut tight seeing that owls kept barging in at any moment, frantically searching for whoever the letter was addressed to. Everyone knew who they were from: parents, family members, all of which had been informed through the news. A reporter for the Daily Prophet must have been in the Three Broomsticks because Dumbledore would have made sure that the situation was under control before letting the rest of the world know about what had happened. He most probably did not want parents appearing at Hogwarts looking for their children to take them away, exposing them even further to the dangers the war was bringing.

The war.

Was this it? Was this the beginning? It sure looked like it. Had it been the same thing seventeen years earlier? Had the Dark Lord attacked innocent, defenseless children before? He could not see any motives other than letting the world know that he was back, but even then, what had gotten into him? He had sent his Death Eaters to attack children... what was going on?

Draco had always seen the Dark Lord as a grand being, powerful, incredibly intelligent, there to defend his cause and impose the right way of thinking... what was happening to all of that? Was it only him discovering what Voldemort was really doing, or was the Dark Lord simply mad from the beginning, having drawn in so many purebloods into believing he was working for their sake? Had he been wrong since the beginning or was he just starting to see the war like someone from Dumbledore's side would?

He was not the kind of person to doubt what he was certain was true, and so went with the idea that a piece of the puzzle was missing, that some of the information had not reached him and it was the only reason for which he saw no point in attacking children. If he knew everything, he would not doubt because he would have the proof that Voldemort was not being immoral. It had to be it.

But still, the idea of this being the beginning of a war made him shudder, because now, he did not know on which side he was. What would the Dark Lord think of him having attacked a Death Eater? What would his father think? Would he still be accepted? What if Harry asked him to stay on his side to fight Voldemort? Would he do it? What was going to happen to him?

The clatter of scurrying footsteps was heard, the only difference with the ones he had heard before being the fact that they seemed to be coming towards the section in which he and Harry were located. Before he had the time to even consider the idea of hiding or leaving, the drape separating Harry's bed from all the other cubicles of sheets was pushed aside as two students in Griffindor uniforms entered, covered in mud and panting like tracked animals.

Draco recognized them as being Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, but stayed in his state of cold indifference, not moving from his place, nor bothering to hide his bloody hands. Immediately after entering, or maybe a moment later, Hermione broke down, falling to her knees and crying more loudly than everyone in the Hospital Wing. What she said, no one understood, seeing that it was said in an incomprehensible manner, interrupted by sobs and sniffles and drowned in her cries.

Having not noticed Draco's presence, she dragged herself to Harry's side, opposite the one where the Slytherin was positioned. Her face buried in the sheets of the bed, she kept on crying, the sound barely subdued by the covers. When she looked up again, her face was discernible, most of the mud having been cleared by the sheets and her tears.

She started talking in a loud tone, her voice still shaking with emotion. Her speech explained how sorry she was, how she now knew she was wrong and that there was no excuse for what she had done. She whimpered about Harry's situation, about how it was her fault and that his friends should have been there for him. She kept on going about how she would have never forgiven herself if he had died, that she was now ready to go through everything Harry deemed to be the right thing to do, that now she knew what they were facing and that everything would be fine, that they would find a way to get through it.

Of course, Harry was still unconscious at the end of her speech, but it seemed to calm her down to have said everything out loud. Ron, who had stayed by the entrance, did not move. She shakily got to her feet, took off her glove and passed her white hand on Harry's forehead, the whiteness of that patch of unblemished skin clashing with the rest of her face and garments, which were all so dirty. Draco imagined that he was possibly in the same state as she was. In fact, he turned sideways and made the few steps that separated him from the window. Outside, the lands were pitch black, and yet he could see his reflection staring back at him in the glass, piercing eyes in a grimy face. He looked like an Azkaban prisoner. They all looked like prisoners.

And they truly were, he thought. Prisoners of their fate.

"What are you doing here?" Ron suddenly exclaimed, noticing Draco, or rather, recognizing him.

"You helped him didn't you?" Hermione started, making her way around the bed to reach him. "You helped him..."

Draco could see the confusion in her eyes and in them, could almost read the questions she wanted to ask. Why? How? What was happening? What was happening to them all?

Tears started gliding down her cheeks once more as she threw herself into Draco's arms, sobbing. Taken aback, he could do nothing much save stop her from sliding down to the ground. He did not know what to say... silence seemed the best option at the moment. Hermione let go and walked back to the entrance, where Ron was still positioned. His wrist seemed bent at an odd angle, and he was still holding onto his wand. Before turning around and leaving, he sent a little nod in Draco's direction, the only exterior sign that he had registered what had happened mere moments ago.

They left.

What had just happened meant nothing impressive. Draco Malfoy was not going to be Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley's friend. They were from different worlds, hated each other and would continue to do so... possibly with less avidity. Granger simply had a rather external way of showing that she was thankful, especially when she was in such a pitiful state, as if all her certainties had fallen apart. She did not know what had brought Malfoy to help her friend, and the possibility of him being in love with Harry had not even drifted across her clever mind. Many questions left unanswered for her, as for Draco and Harry themselves. All were dealing with problems seeming to have unattainable answers.

Draco fell into a light slumber, a catalectic kind of state in which he was neither fully conscious or unconscious. Tiredness had taken the better of him but was not strong enough to bring him away from reality, because even though he laid unmoving in his chair, his eyes, seeming to have been veiled by a form of daydream that had not yet been discovered, watched Harry's unconscious body like a greedy pirate would watch his treasure, ready to harm anyone that approached too close.

The next day, he was forced out of the Hospital Wing. A few Slytherins brought him back to his room, where he was told to take a shower and go to bed seeing that there wouldn't be any classes that day, or the next, or the one after that for that matter. Draco took a bath, his skin recovering its normal color as blood and dirt were cleared away. But inside, he stayed changed, marked by the events of the previous day and the choices he had made.

He spent the next two days locked in his room, a house elf brining him his food and certain information he deemed necessary for the young mister Malfoy to know, such as the fact all students were to remain in their dormitories or in the Hospital Wing. No one left their house's common room, teachers were busy with all sorts of problems and measures that had to be taken care of. He also let it slip that Harry Potter had left the Hospital Wing.

Alone, Draco took the time to think of himself for the first time in a rather long time. He stayed sprawled on his bed, thinking of his family, what was going to happen to him... he felt greatly compelled to write home, but a letter reached him before he had mustered the courage to write and send his own.

Dear Draco,

We heard about the awful news that took place at Hogsmeade. We hope everything is all right and that you are not hurt. Your father has been asking questions and showing a great deal of preoccupation towards you, Draco. You should come home as soon as they re-open that school floo network, I want to see you, and it has been so long since your last visit. Your father and I will be expecting your presence in a week or so.

Take care my dear,

Your mother

P.S.: please take the time to contact your father... he does not seem too well and is greatly thoughtful for some reason. You have not done anything wrong, have you?

Draco did not write to his father. Instead, he marked down a few sentences to his mother, saying he was indeed fine, that the school was rather shaken and that they were not allowed to leave their rooms for the time being. He told her to send his salutations to his father... and also said that he would come home when the opportunity presented itself. Of course, he hoped the opportunity would not come too fast, because then he would not have had enough time to muster having to hide his thoughts and anguish from his father, who would detect it and force all sorts of news out of him.

Four days after the incident, the students were asked to present themselves to the Great Hall at eight o'clock, for them to eat together for the first time since their trip to Hogsmeade. The students found themselves facing one grand table instead of four separated ones. The table formed some sort of curved shape that allowed people to sit on either side of it. The students were asked to sit together, with whoever they wanted, mixing all the houses and ages in a way that made them appear to be a simple muddle of school children. Separations could no longer be found.

Draco waited at the door for Harry to come. Unafraid of what others thought, he joined him and sat next to him, along with the mudblood and the weasel, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs neither of them knew.

A silent understanding seemed to bind the two boys together, meaning that they did not feel the need to talk to each other or really seem to acknowledge each others presence. They simply knew they were together and that was the only thing that really mattered. Still confused by their unfinished conversation, they could not find a way to finalize the way they felt, and so they just sat by each other, calmed by each other's presence.

No one really noticed that they were sitting together because so many strange mixes had formed at the table, Slytherins mixing with Hufflepuffs and even Griffindors in a way that sounded too strange to be fully explained. No one said anything misplaced, all connected by the fact that they were facing the same situation.

They were all united. Dumbledore's speech only emphasized what they had all unconsciously decided. He spoke of solidarity and strength, perseverance and unanimity, protection and security. New defenses had been put into action, a protective shield now encircling the school and the lands around it. When the amount of light permitted it, they could see it in the form of a blue orb that floated above them all, high in the air, in order of even the astronomy tower to be protected by it. He spoke of war, of death and its ever present aura on the world, the light and dark side, of Voldemort, of the Minsitry, of them. It was the beginning of a new age.

Under the table, Harry's hand shakily slipped into Draco's.

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A short one this time, do tell me what you think. Don't forget, this is for you!