Edits : Due to the Great Editing Spree of 2007 . . . . (See the chapter one for full information.)
Notes: The final chapter. Continues to contain highly improbable situations. I suppose I should mention that, given how very long ago I wrote this, I cannot always remember what I was thinking at the time when I wrote certain things. I can usually read something I've done that might come across as vague or ambiguous, and realize immediately what I meant, but in several cases with this story, I find myself at a complete loss.
The point being, I expect that some questions may arise that I simply cannot answer with any degree of clarity. On a side note, I find it rather interesting that some of the concepts I touched on in this story are ones I used later on to greater effect in other stories. Obviously, some things decided to lark about in the back of my head for quite some time.
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They waited for a slight lull in the noise level of the Great Hall, then swept through the door side by side and into the light-filled room. Eyes all across the room went hazy as they watched the pair enter wearing black leather trousers that skimmed over each of them like a second skin and long-sleeved silk shirts in silver and sapphire that were casually open at the neck. Alex wondered how many people were bright enough to realize that they'd chosen the colour of each other's eyes.
For once Draco didn't scowl at all the doe-eyed looks. He simply smirked like a fallen angel at the effect they were having. All offers to dance were firmly but politely refused and they spent the evening cruising the room, stopping to talk to various Slytherins, and eavesdropping on people from other houses. They both heard the worried undertones that laced some of the comments and paid particular attention to the indications that Gryffindors were 'up to something,' though neither of them could quite figure out what they could be doing that sounded so serious.
After exchanging a few puzzled glances between them, the pair continued cruising the room, pausing now and again to grab tidbits to snack on, being careful not to mar their outfits. The evening was well underway when Draco dragged Alex back off to the dungeons, having had enough of keeping his hands to himself, and having made enough conquests for the night among the student population.
"You know, I wish there was a way we could figure out what they're up to," Draco said with a thoughtful look on his face once they were back in their bedroom.
Alex nodded and considered this for a little while, wondering if he should reveal one of his secrets. After a time he looked up at Draco and smiled mysteriously.
Draco blinked. "Is there something I should know?"
Alex continued to smile at him and then abruptly turned and went to his trunk and opened it. He sorted through the contents until his questing fingers latched onto a silky cloak and pulled it out, then turned back to face Draco, giving the object in his hand a little shake.
"Is that what I think it is?" asked Draco with narrowed eyes.
A swirl of fabric later and Alex had vanished. "Mm. Something my mother gave me when I'd been especially naughty one day," came the faintly accented response.
Draco laughed. There was no other appropriate response. Alex was an archetypical Slytherin in that moment.
Alex appeared again before his eyes and dropped the cloak on his bed. A few steps brought him to Draco's side, and Draco's neck. "We could," he murmured against the soft skin, "have a little fun with it," then placed a few soft kisses before continuing. "Maybe lie in wait for a few Gryffindors and follow them to their common room. Listen in to see what they're up to." He nipped a few times, enjoying the soft moan that escaped Draco's lips.
Alex drew his head back and looked into Draco's eyes, noting with satisfaction the slightly glazed look of them, then flicked his tongue over the blond's lips teasingly. "Hm?"
Alex got what he deserved, silenced by a rough kiss as Draco responded with alacrity. Alex chuckled into Draco's mouth and willingly gave himself over to the sensation of Draco's tongue sliding against his own, then laughed when Draco pushed him away and called him a bastard.
Draco ran one hand though his hair and glared at Alex, who kept right on laughing at him. "Maybe some other time," Draco said in a ragged voice. "I have much better things to do than spy on people at present, like kissing you until you can't think straight and start begging for my mercy."
Alex had time to widen his eyes innocently before he was attacked.
— — —
After another hard night of slogging through homework and contributing to the ongoing work on the Dark Mark Detector (or DMD as they'd taken to calling it), Alex was ready to call it a night. Not that it was over for him yet. It would be another one of 'those' nights, draining and exhausting, even as he did it in his sleep. Ironic really, that in these instances, sleep was anything but.
Draco kept trying to pry information out of him in that concerned manner he only revealed when they were alone, but Alex continued to keep passing it off as the burden of having to wear the Slytherin mask in public. Alex might have a number of Slytherin qualities as part of his nature, but that didn't mean he wanted to make a life of it, so Draco had to be content with that explanation. In a way it encouraged Draco to share Alex's bed every night, keeping his arms wrapped around him as though to ward off the dark.
— — —
I'm getting so very tired of this damn graveyard, but I continue to be heartened by the progress I'm making. It isn't easy listening to the ravings of a madman on a regular basis, but I'm starting to see the light of sanity touch the depths of his eyes. He's even starting to look more human in this dream state, which is encouraging.
I never thought I'd end up being a pseudo-psychologist. There is something to be said about being as patient, understanding, and yes, even forgiving as I've been and will continue to be. After all, if I don't work things out this way, I will have to confront him bodily, and I tremble at the idea of having to do so. I know I've often been brave. Even this is a kind of bravery. But the idea of physically confronting him makes me want to hide in the darkest, deepest cave.
I find it interesting that along with the small changes I've wrought in him that the graveyard is also changing. The sky is less grey and the growths have become smaller and less tenacious. Perhaps it is a reflection of his inner struggle. I continue to wear the guise of his younger, unchanged self. Sometimes I think that is all that allows him to open up to me.
— — —
Alex signed his name to the list with neat strokes of his quill, pleased to note that Draco had already done so. A Hogsmeade weekend was just coming up, so he should have some time to pick out a present for Draco. He smiled to himself, unwittingly sending several nearby students into a swoon, then walked off toward the Slytherin common room whistling, completely oblivious to the adoring stares he was getting.
Someone did notice though. Draco, who had been wondering what his angel was up to, had watched Alex sign up for staying on over the holiday and then send a dozen or so students into rose-filled bliss by smiling. He scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. Had these people no pride? Had these people nothing better to do but stand around mooning after his property? Granted, nobody actually knew what was between them, but still. . . . He growled and people scattered to the four winds. Satisfied, he followed Alex to the dungeons, a sardonic smile twisting his lips.
— — —
Hogsmeade was picture perfect in its covering of snow and with icicles hanging from every roof line. It was also bitterly cold, the chill seeping through layers of warm clothing. Draco and Alex had been there for most of the morning, wandering through the shops looking for small gifts for their housemates. They thawed out in a corner table at the Three Broomsticks over glasses of butterbeer, twitting each other about bright red noses and cheeks.
Now came the hard part. Since they had yet to purchase gifts for each other it was necessary to take turns. This was settled easily enough, in the end, by the simple expedient means of flipping a coin. So, Draco was to continue to warm up in the pub and read a book while Alex was shopping, and then it would be his turn. After they were both done, they'd have lunch.
Alex left after the matter was settled and made a beeline for Scrivenshaft's to purchase something he thought Hermione would like. Directly after he headed to the quidditch shop for Ron's gift. Both of those he had wrapped at the shops themselves. He attached cards he'd made out prior to the trip and hurried to the owl post office to send them immediately.
His friends would get their gifts early, but at least they'd know he was still alive, and Dumbledore had already agreed that this plan was perfectly acceptable. If anyone had seen him and asked, he'd lie like a champion and say he'd sent gifts to his mother. With those tasks accomplished he shot off to get the gift he'd already chosen for Draco, having wasted enough time already. A half hour later he was back at the Three Broomsticks to face a rather impatient Draco, who was tapping his foot steadily on the floor.
"Am I that hard to shop for, Alex?" he drawled, a look of annoyance marring his face.
"Absolutely, Draco. How do you shop for the man who has everything?" he shot back with a smirk.
Draco rolled his eyes and shut his book. "You're a git sometimes, you know that?"
Alex flashed one of his angelic smiles at Draco and sat down, ready to take his turn at guarding the things they'd bought earlier.
With a long suffering sigh he didn't mean in the least, Draco placed his book on the table and stood up. "If you would, order the usual for me. I'll be back right about the time it's ready." He sent a smoldering gaze at Alex and huffed off to do his own private shopping.
— — —
Tapping at the window made several heads shoot up in the Gryffindor common room. It was quick work to open it long enough to allow two owls to swoop in and deliver packages to Ron and Hermione before flying back out. They glanced at each other and immediately went upstairs to Ron's room and sat down on his bed, pulling the curtains shut.
Each of them opened the cards first, to read the same inscription.
This is the only exception I've been allowed to make. Please
know that you Happy
Christmas. All my love,
two will always be my friends and I could not let this Christmas go by
without letting you both know I am alive and well, and am thinking of you
frequently. Please try be happy. I won't say not to worry about me, because
I know you will.
All my love,
They gazed up at each other and smiled, a bit teary eyed to be sure, but comforted nonetheless, even if they couldn't actually see him. Then they opened their packages.
— — —
"What do you think, are we ready?" asked Alex, his forehead wrinkled with doubt.
Draco passed his gaze slowly over Alex, taking in the silver-trimmed midnight blue silk dress robes, a waterfall of glossy dark hair, and a nervous smile. Draco took so long that Alex began to fidget and fuss at his robes, casting a soulful gaze at his beloved.
Draco smirked, at which point Alex snorted and cuffed him lightly, calling him a prat for stringing him along.
"I'll never understand why you do this," drawled Draco. "Isn't it bloody obvious that you are one of the two best looking fellows in this school, me being the other one?"
Alex shrugged and looked uncomfortable. Draco closed the distance between them and slipped one hand into the hair at the nape of Alex's neck, stroking softly with his fingers. He liked it when Alex shivered and closed his eyes in response, so he kissed him, flicking his tongue inside when Alex moaned quietly.
Draco wrapped his other arm around Alex possessively, stroking his hand hard downward and then squeezing, eliciting another, louder moan. If it weren't for the fact that they had a ball to attend, and that neither of them had made a declaration of love, Draco would have stripped him right then and shown Alex exactly what he thought of his looks, never mind what he thought about the person inside the body.
With some difficulty Draco disengaged himself from his dark-haired angel and adjusted his own dress robes, fashioned from heavy, forest green silk. The dreamy look in Alex's eyes almost made him rethink his plans for the evening. It truly did continue to surprise him that someone who looked like Alex had so much trouble seeing the effect he had on others. On the other hand, it meant Alex was generally oblivious to the lustful stares of other students, which was a huge bonus in Draco's eyes.
"Right, let us be off, then. We'll go break some hearts," said Draco with a cocky little grin as Alex came back from his dreamy state.
As before, they waited for a slight lull in the noise level of the hall before they entered side by side. Heads all over swiveled to see what they'd taken to calling the Seraphs sweep in looking like they owned the place. And, as before, they refused any and all offers for dance partners and spent their time nibbling on tidbits and cruising the room, listening in where they could and wearing their nearly identical masks of cool disdain, before sweeping back out a few hours later, well before anyone else even considered leaving the festivities.
Back in their room Draco magically locked the door, then they both changed into far more casual clothing before making stealthy grabs for the presents they'd purchased earlier. Alex cleared his throat and looked at Draco, wordlessly holding out a small black box. As Draco took it, Alex stepped back and sat down on his bed saying, "Maybe it's a little cliché, but. . . ."
Draco cocked one eyebrow and opened the box, eyes widening in surprise at what was inside. Nestled in a bed of black velvet was a platinum band. The ring itself was a play on Alex's own last name, that of a snake biting its own tail, and had sparkling diamonds for eyes. Draco took the ring out, set the box aside, and handed the ring to Alex, leaving his hand out palm down.
Alex nibbled his lip and stood, then smiled nervously and slipped the ring onto Draco's finger, watching as it adjusted itself to fit. "I love you, Draco," he said softly, a blush staining his cheeks.
Draco stared at his hand wonderingly. Then, reaching up, he cupped Alex's face with that same hand and rubbed his thumb along Alex's jaw line, then leaned in for a sweetly chaste kiss before stepping back.
Draco stared into Alex's eyes as he lifted up the present he'd bought for him, but opened it himself, removing a ring identical to the one on his finger except that it had sapphires for eyes. A funny little smile quirked his mouth as he tossed the box over his shoulder and held up the ring, then slipped it onto Alex's finger. "I love you, Alex."
As they lay twined together in bed in the afterglow quite some time later, Alex had only one real thought before slipping into the darkness of sleep. He was going to stay Alex for the rest of his life.
— — —
In a quiet, private place, Alex and Dumbledore met.
"Sir, there's a couple of things I need to tell you," said Alex, looking earnestly at the older man.
Dumbledore nodded, his eyes twinkling merrily at the ring gracing Alex's finger.
"First, I think I've been making real progress on the one matter. I really think I'm getting through to him. I honestly don't think it'll be all that much longer."
"Good, good. You know I have every confidence in you, and if I suspect what you're about to tell me next, I think it will be a valuable asset, now that certain anxieties you might have had are relieved."
Alex flushed a little at that. Dumbledore always seemed to know everything. "Er, yes, sir. That exactly," he said, glancing down at his hand. "But it worries me a little, too, just as it did before. I'm not sure what will happen afterward. Are you able to guarantee that he can't be pulled from school?"
"Oh, I think I can come up with something should the situation arise. Do not worry, young Alex."
"Thank you, sir. You have no id—well, perhaps you do know how much that relieves me. At any rate, I think I should tell you that I've decided not to go back. I am who I am now."
Dumbledore nodded again, smiling gently. "If that is your wish, I shall make the necessary preparations as soon as things are settled. Please remember, young Alex, your credentials are impeccable. Quite as good as those of another young man. And if I may say so myself, quite safe from exposure."
— — —
I think I shall have nightmares about this graveyard in the years to come, even though it's starting to show signs of life. Perhaps I can get that taken care of? He's starting to see the light now. His eyes are confused rather than venomous, even speculative. Cause and effect is a vicious thing at times, but he's starting to realize that things didn't have to be this way.
He's starting to realize that he had a choice, simply by my showing him the path he could have taken. It helps that he's talking to himself, in more ways than one. I don't think he'd take this from anyone else. Somewhere in there is a lost and lonely child crying in pain, begging for release, understanding, and comfort. I still may have to confront him in person, and the idea still scares me into the shakes. But like so many other people, I will do what must be done.
I wonder what it takes to make a man grow up?
— — —
Things were getting pretty hectic for the Gryffindors. Two of the three years mainly responsible for their secret work were having to fit things in around studying for OWLs and NEWTs. The Room of Requirement was pretty popular for meetings and practices, and a number of especially trustworthy Ravenclaw students had been pulled into help.
In some ways it was an extension of the original DA meetings, though that wasn't something Alex could explain to Draco. But in reality it was much more serious. The pair had slipped in behind some other students under the invisibility cloak, taking a huge risk of getting caught. Seeing the people before them not only continue the DA, but expand it to work on ways of repelling or negating the unforgivables, was both heartwarming and worrisome.
Alex wondered just what it had taken for Dumbledore to approve of this, and what it had taken to get Severus to agree to assist them. It seemed as though, as always, Severus was wearing a multitude of masks and playing a number of roles.
— — —
Winter had begun to let loose its grip on Hogsmeade and the town was no longer quite so charmingly picturesque. Still, it was a weekend away from the castle and most students who could took advantage of the fact. The Seraphs were out shopping again, Draco having decided that his Alex needed a better wardrobe than what he currently possessed.
Not, he thought on reflection, that it was anything to be ashamed of, but it did need a bit of sprucing up. Of course, Draco was having a great deal of fun picking out clothing for his beloved and watching Alex's embarrassment at having to model every last stitch. Finally satisfied that he'd done his good deed for the year, not untainted by selfish ulterior motives, Draco called it a day and dragged Alex off for lunch at the Three Broomsticks.
Alex was heartily glad that Draco's current obsession had been exhausted, and equally glad to see Ron and Hermione also having lunch. It was a bonus, to both boys, that they were sitting close enough to overhear them, though they had separate motives for feeling that way.
One of the more interesting things they overheard was a puzzled discussion over the day's Daily Prophet, which led with an article on the confusing lack of general mayhem being caused by certain dark witches and wizards, something that nobody seemed to understand. Well, perhaps two did. The general tone of the piece vacillated between cautious relief and rising fear that it was only a matter of time before something truly heinous occurred.
Draco noted that Alex had a peculiar look on his face, and then he was noticed. Alex flashed him a sultry smile, and Draco responded.
— — —
"It is time," was all he said, and all he received was a nod.
— — —
Easter midnight, the Feast of the Resurrection. Tom Riddle stood in the middle of a graveyard blooming with life, the tilting time-weathered stones barely visible in the dark of night.
"Don't you think it's time we let go? Haven't we suffered enough pain for a thousand men?"
A hissing sound shivered through the night.
"Isn't it time to move on? Face what hurt us and lay blame where it truly belongs?"
Pebbles rattled against stone, skittering across the surface of an overturned tombstone.
"Can we not move on, you and I?"
Blades of grass were bent under heavy footsteps, whispering against the heavy folds of a cloak.
Tom Riddle smiled, gazing into slit-pupiled eyes, reaching up with one hand to lovingly caress skin that was pale and dull from lack of sunlight. "I forgive you for what you've done to me, to yourself. Can you not forgive yourself? Can you forgive me?" Tom smiled up into Voldemort's eyes with heart stopping innocence. "For us?"
And lo, in what had to be the most anti-climactic moment known to wizarding history, the being known as Lord Voldemort relaxed his grip on the magics that surrounded and sustained his form and slowly, but irrevocably, slumped to the ground dead.
The Death Eaters surrounding the graveyard could only stare in horror as a gentle breeze swept through the graveyard and Tom Riddle knelt to gather the lifeless form in his arms, crystalline tears trickling down his face. As he stood, turned, and walked away, his features slowly melted and changed. Just before he disappeared, the figure looked back with emerald eyes and a shock of messy dark hair, and was never seen again.
Some simply stood there in shock, easily overtaken by the forces that had lain in hiding for this moment. Others fled for what remained of their lives. But nobody followed the two figures, one alive, one dead, into the darkness.
— — —
In a quiet, private place, Alex and Dumbledore met. Draco was there as well.
"Mr Malfoy, I'm sure you must be wondering what this is all about," said Dumbledore quietly.
"Yes, professor, I do admit I am quite curious at this turn of events," came the lazy drawl.
Dumbledore merely smiled for a moment before saying, "I have some things of yours I think you would prefer to get back, and a present for the both of you." He held up a pair of small devices in his hand, one of which was green and the other gold. The green he handed to Draco and the gold to Alex.
"Alex, please remember not to deal with yours until after I've had a chance to speak on certain matters. You'll know when the time is right."
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
"Good night, then." And Dumbledore left with a merry twinkle in his eyes.
— — —
As soon as the two young men returned to their room he rounded on Alex. "What the bloody hell is all this about? What's he on about?"
Alex gave him a loving smile before answering. "It's very simple, Draco. I asked you once, in another life, if you trusted me with my life and yours. And you said yes." He paused long enough to magically lock the door and silence the room.
Draco narrowed his eyes, wondering what nasty curse had addled the brains of his angel.
"I know you think I'm crazy, but please trust me and tap that"—he indicated the device—"with your wand."
Draco's face pulled into a scowl as he considered for several minutes, keeping his eyes locked with those of Alex. Finally, slowly, he tapped his wand to the green device and waited for something to happen. Seconds later both objects toppled from his grasp and his eyes widened in shock.
Every thought in his head was screaming at him like banshees. How in Merlin's name could he have fallen in love with someone other than Harry!? What in bloody hell was he going to do? He looked up at Alex with haunted eyes and could feel his insides icing over in agony.
His eyes widened again as Alex just looked at him with a loving smile on his face then leaned in to whisper, "Draco, serpents don't always poison lions." Alex leaned back and waited, waited for the key phrase to trigger an elusive memory Draco's mind.
"Yes, love. But that's not my name any longer. You can't use it ever again."
Draco nodded, remembering, then did a double-take. "Are you trying to tell me it's over? He's gone?"
— — —
It took as long as the first Daily Prophet to arrive that next morning at breakfast for the Great Hall to begin an explosion of sound that started small, but gathered in force to sweep the entire population.
Dumbledore rose, bringing silence to the students as they expectantly looked up at him.
"Yes, yes. You can rest assured that what you have seen in the Prophet is indeed true. I would like to make a few noteworthy mentions. Please all give thanks to the efforts of members of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw in researching and finding ways for the Ministry and other . . . interested . . . parties to resist any efforts of any malicious spells on the part of fleeing Death Eaters. I raise my glass to you."
After a pause he continued. "And, though this will no doubt come as a shock to many of you, please also all give thanks to a large number from Slytherin, who successfully devised a method of tracking every single Death Eater so that they can be brought to justice. To you also I raise my glass."
Another pause ensued as people made silent toasts, though many of the students were looking at Dumbledore in surprised confusion.
"Next, I would like to inform everyone that classes are canceled for the next week and any who wish may go home to visit their families."
Raucous cheering and wild hooting broke out over that announcement, people having gathered their scattered wits.
"And last, I must raise my glass in a very special toast to the Boy Who Lived, Savior of the wizarding world, one Harry Potter, without whom none of this would have been possible."
It was not until much later that Ron and Hermione, and a number of other students, recalled that not once had Dumbledore ever said anything about Harry returning or where he had gone. But they did note that he was mentioned as having been present at the defeat of the Dark Lord.
— — —
A graceful hand, covered by another, dropped a small golden device into a cauldron of bubbling acid.
— — —
The remainder of the school year passed in a blur of celebration, hard slogging (because they still had exams), and intermittent news of Death Eaters being tracked down and dealt with. Inter-house rivalries, while not gone, had considerably cooled down, especially given that it was Slytherin House ultimately responsible for these little rays of sunshine in the form of news bytes.
Just before the NEWT exams were scheduled for the seventh years, two people received one more note from a friend and were able to carry on with lighter hearts, despite having come to the conclusion that they would very likely never see that friend again.
Two people had to keep silencing their room to keep the listeners away over certain salacious activities. Blaise Zabini finally won the bet.
At the seventh years leaving ball, two young men stood quietly in the corner as one proposed to the other, fulfilling the promise of the rings, and they finally shared a dance in public.
— — —
Dumbledore was sorting through the papers on his desk one day and came across the list of positions he needed to fill. Yes, yes, he just the right people in mind. New graduates in fact. He rather thought that young Mr Ouroboros would make a fine Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And perhaps young Mr Malfoy would do equally well as the new flying instructor. Yes, yes. He must have a word with them before the train.
— The End —