Disclaimer: All characters and situations are based on those owned by J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros., etc. No money is being made nor is any trademark infringement intended.

Author's Notes:If slash offends you,please do not read. Once again, I would like to thank my betas carnilia and Valedro for all their help.

v.v.v.v.v.v.

Scandal at the Ministry

Auror Parvati Patil arrested for the attempted murder of ex-Death Eater Draco Malfoy.

Late Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Magic was thrown into an uproar when Aurors arrested Parvati and Padma Patil and Justin Finch-Fletchley for the attempted murder of Draco Malfoy. Our sources report that none other than Harry Potter, defeater of He Who Must Not be Named, was the Auror protecting Mr. Malfoy and is the one bringing the accusations against his fellow Aurors. Mr. Potter could not be reached for comment.

Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, both high level supporters of He Who Must Not be Named, was sentenced to two years in Azkaban for his involvement in You-Know-Who's second attempted rise to power. Sources at the Ministry have revealed that Mr. Malfoy, like many other former followers of You-Know-Who, has been in hiding since being released from Azkaban, under the watchful eye of Aurors. Many felt that two years was an insufficient sentence for these practitioners of the Dark Arts. Why Harry Potter is consorting with such a person is unclear.

Further details will no doubt become available as the date of the trial, set for next Friday, draws near.

Harry threw the paper on the table. Typical of the Daily Prophet, always searching for the most sensational side to their stories. At least Rita Skeeter hadn't returned. He hated to think what she might have written.

A post owl tapped on the window. Harry groaned. The first of the inevitable letters demanding to know exactly what was going on. Sure enough, it proved to be from Robards, demanding that he come in to the office with Draco and explain just what the hell had happened.

"We have to go to the Ministry," Harry told Draco, who had just wandered into the kitchen, looking sleepy.

"It's Saturday. Anyway, I can't go to the Ministry in this," Draco complained, pulling on the sleeves of his robe. It was actually Harry's robe, and the sleeves ended about halfway down Draco's forearm. The hem of the robe came to Draco's ankle, revealing scuffed and worn boots.

"No one cares what you're wearing."

"I look like the leftovers from a rummage sale. Just like you always do."

"Thanks," Harry said dryly. "We'll go get something later if it's so important, but we really need to get to the Ministry quickly. The Daily Prophet already has news of the arrests."

"It's important to make a good impression." Draco examined his reflection in a spoon. "If I want to have any chance at getting my wand back, I need to look like someone the Ministry should take seriously."

"We'll just be meeting Robards this morning, not the entire Wizengamot."

"Fine, fine." Draco buttered his toast so hard the entire piece snapped in his hand.

"Nervous?"

"No," Draco snapped. "Why should I be nervous?"

Harry shrugged and kept silent. Draco glared at him for a moment and then went back to his toast.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v

"And you found the gun in Finch-Fletchley's house?" Robards repeated.

Harry nodded. "Yes, sir."

Robards sat back in his chair and looked at Draco and Harry. "Well, I don't like it. I don't like it at all. But it sounds pretty cut and dried." He sighed. "Parvati was a damn good Auror, too. You'll both be required to testify at the trial, of course," he went on. "As for you, Mr. Malfoy, I'll put someone to work on finding you a new set-up. I suppose we better work up a new glamour, too."

Draco took a deep breath. "I'm not going back into hiding."

"What?" Robards blinked a few times. "What do you mean you're not going back into hiding? We may have captured these particular attackers, Mr. Malfoy, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty more out there. Without a wand…"

"Which is why Draco needs his wand back," Harry put in.

Robards stared at him for a moment. "I'm sorry, Potter, but that isn't an option. Mr. Malfoy is a convicted Death Eater—"

"Who served a term in Azkaban for it—"

"And it is too dangerous to let him have his wand back."

Draco shifted next to him. "If you want me to hate your Ministry, you're doing a superb job."

Robards' hand drifted towards his wand. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Draco's eyes narrowed. "It means this is exactly why people joined the Dark Lord in the first place. Because they felt the current system was unfair and unjust."

"Voldemort felt all Muggle-borns should be killed," Robards said. "I hardly think the fact that the Ministry did not support that suggestion should be a mark against them."

Draco hands were clenched into fists. "I'm not saying the Dark Lord wasn't wrong. He was wrong. But I'm sure I'm not the only ex-Death Eater who's not exactly thrilled with the way things are currently going."

"If you do not want the continued protection of the Ministry, that's your decision, but I cannot countenance the return of your wand."

"It's not protection you want to give him!" Harry burst out. "You want to keep him under surveillance, so he can't try anything. You don't give a damn about whether he lives or not!"

"You are out of order, Potter," Robards warned.

"No, sir, I think you are." Harry stood up. "Come on, let's go," he said to Draco.

"I can't believe this!" Harry slammed his fist angrily into the wall of the corridor outside Robards' office. "The Ministry is being as stupid and blind as they were back when they were denying Voldemort had returned and saying I was delusional!"

"I don't know if denying me my wand is quite up there with ignoring the worst Dark Wizard of the century," Draco muttered.

Harry sighed and leaned against the wall. "It is."

Draco looked at him for a few moments and cleared his throat. "You know, I'm a little…surprised…to hear you saying all this. I always got the impression back at Hogwarts that you hated the Dark Arts and anyone and everything that were involved in them with a passion."

"You're right." Harry ran his hand through his hair, standing it all up on end, and slid down the wall into a sitting position. "But we were all a little naive then, weren't we? In the past few years, I've realised that you can't just draw a line through the world and divide it into black and white." He rested his head in his hands. "I won't say that it didn't shatter some of my beliefs to come to that conclusion," he went on. "And I think it disappointed some people." He thought briefly of Ginny and then drove her from his mind. "It certainly makes things more complicated." He looked up at Draco. "I can't really put it more clearly than that. Things change, you know?"

Draco nodded.

"Did you mean it? What you said back there, about Voldemort being wrong?"

"Yes." Draco hesitated. "But…I'm not sure what I believe instead."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v

Hermione answered the door when Harry knocked, and her face lit up in a smile. "Harry! We've been so worried about you! The Daily Prophet – we didn't know what to think!"

"Harry!" Ron appeared behind Hermione's shoulder. "It isn't true, is it?"

"What part?" Harry asked, following them inside their apartment and sinking onto a chair.

"Why, Padma and Parvati and Justin of course!" Hermione exclaimed. "What did you really arrest them for, Harry?"

"I was thinking maybe it was just a trick and you really needed to get them somewhere secret for their own safety, you know?" Ron put in eagerly. "I mean, if the Death Eaters are after them."

"There aren't any Death Eaters after them. I arrested them for exactly what it said – for trying to kill Draco."

Hermione and Ron stared at him for a moment. "Since when are you two on a first name basis?" Hermione asked.

Harry shifted uncomfortably. "What does it matter what I call him? Anyway, Parvati and her accomplices aren't why I'm here. I need some help. The Ministry refuses to give Draco his wand back, and I need to find a good lawyer to take his case before the Ministry. I thought maybe you could ask your dad, Ron, if he knows of anyone…" Harry trailed off. Ron and Hermione, instead of nodding their agreement, were both looking angry and upset.

"Help Malfoy get his wand back?" Hermione said. "Why on earth would you do that?"

"Because," Harry explained, "Draco can't protect himself without a wand and if he can't protect himself he'll have to go back under the Ministry's protection. Except that it isn't really protection. It's just an excuse to keep him as downtrodden as possible and completely in their control."

"Which isn't a bad idea," Ron interjected.

"It is a bad idea. Draco can change – he's already changed – but he'll never make a complete recovery if the Ministry keeps him imprisoned, whether in Azkaban or out here. The Ministry doesn't have the right to take someone's life from them."

"So Malfoy's told you that he's changed? Become the perfect rehabilitated criminal?" Hermione shook her head. "I can't believe that you think he's telling the truth, Harry. You know what Malfoy is – he's a lying piece of scum."

"Maybe he was once," Harry allowed, "but he isn't anymore. I'm not sure what he is now, to be honest, but it isn't something wholly evil, that's for certain. And if we can just get him away from the Ministry, I think he really has a chance – a chance at a new life."

Ron and Hermione looked at each other and then back at him. Hermione put her hand on his arm. "Now don't jump down my throat, Harry," she began. "We're just asking you to think about this a little longer."

"A little longer? Hermione, he needs help now."

Hermione pursed her lips. "I'm sorry, Harry, but I can't find much sympathy in my heart for Malfoy. Don't you remember what he did to us? Don't you remember what he called me? What he thought about me? I cannot believe that he has completely thrown away all those old beliefs. And I will not help someone who thinks I'm a…a Mudblood."

"I know it's hard, Hermione. I felt terrible arresting Parvati. But people change. I'm not saying Draco is a saint, but he is a human being. Maybe if you forgave him –"

Ron snorted. "Forgive him? He might have blinded you with some contrition act, Harry, but once he lets his true nature shine through, you'll be right back to hexing the living daylights out of each other. This is Malfoy. He's just using you."

"He is not using me! I can't believe you're being so narrow-minded about this. Can't you trust me when I say he's a different person? Why won't you believe me?"

"This isn't about you, Harry," Hermione said, distressed. "This is about Malfoy. You have to admit that he was involved with Voldemort. The Ministry might be right in thinking that they should keep an eye on him. If you would just look at it objectively for a second."

"So you're taking their side?" Harry stood up. "I thought you two would always be there for me, but I guess not."

"We're not taking their side, Harry. We –" Hermione started to say, but he cut her off.

"Yes, you are." He shook his head. "I can't believe it. After everything we've been through, you're going to make me do this alone." Ignoring Hermione's tears, he walked out, slamming the door behind him.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Draco could tell Harry was upset when he came back. His green eyes were flashing, and his cheeks were flushed. "So, I take it they weren't thrilled at the prospect of me getting my wand back?"

"No," Harry said shortly.

Not that he had ever expected those two to help him, but Harry had seemed so sure. The anger was fading from Harry's eyes now, replaced with a look of sad bewilderment. Drawn by some emotion he couldn't place, Draco went over to him. Hesitantly, he took one of Harry's hands in his own.

"You aren't using me, are you?"

Draco blinked. "Using you? Where did you get that idea?"

Harry sighed, and suddenly he was leaning his head on Draco's shoulder. "I'm so tired," he said in a muffled voice.

Draco found that his arms had slid around Harry. "I suppose Weasley said something," he murmured in a slightly shaky tone, not quite sure what to do with an armful of Harry. "Well, I'm not the conniving Slytherin of the past, in case you hadn't caught on to that fact. I hardly have the wherewithal to get up in the morning, let alone lead you around on a string."

Harry raised his head, and Draco caught his breath. "You're feeling better though." Harry rested his hand on the back of Draco's neck and distractedly twisted a strand of Draco's hair between his fingers. "Aren't you?"

Draco nodded. He seemed to have lost the ability to speak.

"I'm glad." Harry dropped his head back to Draco's shoulder. "I want you to be happy."

Draco shut his eyes tightly and leaned closer into Harry. That wonderful warmth he had been so close to for the past few days, that had driven off the shadows, was now engulfing him, filling him up inside. He felt his mouth lifting up into a smile. If he tilted his head just a little, he could –

Harry sighed, and broke away. "Thanks." He rubbed wearily at his eyes. "I needed a little comfort, I guess."

Disappointment and embarrassment flooded Draco. "Of course," he said stiffly. Apparently Harry hadn't just been filled with a desire to start kissing passionately.

Noticing Draco's discomfort, Harry frowned. "Sorry I sullied you with my touch."

"No – it's not that!" Draco protested. "It's just…" He fumbled for words, but trailed off into silence.

"Just me?" Harry lifted his chin.

"No, not you. Merlin – does every moment have to be some emotional confession around you?"

"Well, I'll leave you to your repressed thoughts, then," Harry muttered. "I'm going to bed."

Draco glared after him for a moment, then sank down on the couch and buried his head in his hands. What was the matter with him? He couldn't be attracted to Potter! But he was, Draco admitted to himself. He was horribly, deeply, impossibly attracted to Harry Potter.

Sitting up, Draco forced himself to look at it rationally. Harry had saved his life, after all, and now he was fighting on Draco's behalf against the Ministry. It was only natural that Draco should feel this way about Harry, but there wasn't anything deeper behind it. It was just a passing thing, a bit of hero worship.

But Draco knew that wasn't true. He had never been taken in by the image that was Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived. Back at Hogwarts, he had seen the boy behind the legend – a scrawny, annoying, provoking git. At least, that's what he had thought at the time. Now, Draco knew he had seen Harry's courage and loyalty and love, and hated him for it, because those were all the things Draco had never had and never thought he could have. And those were still the things Draco saw when he looked at Harry, except now the hate was gone, replaced by something else entirely.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

"Eventually, it will all come down to you, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco nodded his understanding. Chester Cardinal, Attorney at Law, had assured them he could get Draco a hearing in front of a Ministry panel. He said that he would present the case to the best of his ability, but that at some point the judges would question Draco directly.

"You will need to testify too, Mr. Potter, about what you believe the Ministry's true reasons are for keeping ex-Death Eaters 'protected', and why you think it is unjust. Being who you are, your word will carry some weight."

"All right," Harry agreed, although he looked unhappy about his celebrity coming into play.

"I will proceed with the preliminaries then, and notify you of my progress," Cardinal finished, shaking their hands.

"The Ministry won't like you testifying against them," Draco said, as they left.

"To hell with what they like," Harry growled. "I've never let them direct my actions before, and I'm not going to start now."

"You weren't directly employed by them before," Draco pointed out.

Harry ignored him. "I thought you said you wanted to go get some new robes?"

"Yes."

"Well let's get on with it then."

Taking the hint, Draco dropped the subject.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

"I would never have been caught dead in this fabric," Draco muttered to himself, staring in the mirror of a dressing room at Madam Malkin's. "Mother would have a fit."

But he couldn't afford the best anymore. It was already hard enough to make himself borrow enough money from Harry for this. He would pay it back, though. He had told Harry that, even though Harry had brushed his promises away. At least these fit. Draco studied his reflection. He looked better, he decided. The hollows were gone from his cheeks and the shadows from under his eyes. He straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin. He could almost pretend he was getting fitted for new Hogwarts robes. That when he stepped outside his mother would be standing there, waiting to fuss with his collar.

Blinking back the sudden tears, he turned away and stepped outside the dressing room. "These are fine."

"Yes, no resemblance to the clergy whatsoever," Harry commented from where he was sitting in a corner.

"What?" Draco asked, nonplussed.

Harry grinned. "Nothing."

They walked along Diagon Alley for awhile afterwards, looking in shop windows. Harry paused in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies and Draco noted the wistful look in his eyes.

"Still play?"

"A game with Ron now and then, but it's not the same." Harry trailed his fingers across the glass. "I miss it."

"Not that you were ever that good," Draco said, lying through his teeth.

"You never beat me," Harry replied, smirking.

"We only played three games total," Draco retorted, stung.

"Oh, so you're saying if we played again, you'd beat me?" Harry raised his eyebrows in polite disbelief.

"That's exactly what I'm saying."

"You're on."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

The field was in a valley, further shielded from the village by the surrounding trees. Harry had gone flying there several times, relishing the feeling of freedom he always felt up in the air. Now, with the added spice of competition, it was even better.

"You're sure the charm will work?" Draco cast a suspicious glance at the Firebolt. He was going to be flying Ron's Cleansweep Eleven, which Ron had left behind the last time he and Harry played a game. It was the Firebolt's inferior as far as speed went, and so Harry had cast a charm on the Firebolt to restrict its speed.

"Yes, not that it will help you any," Harry replied and then laughed. Playing with Ron was fun, of course, but the true spirit of competition was missing. The game lacked a spark, a feeling that spurred him on to fly to the best of his abilities. With Draco it came right back. Reaching into his pocket, Harry pulled out the Snitch.

Draco raised his eyebrows. "Where did that come from?"

"I nicked it from Hogwarts, before I left." Harry blushed.

"Always knew you were nothing more than a petty criminal," Draco smirked, although he looked like he was trying hard not to laugh.

"Well, ready then?" Harry took a deep breath. Draco nodded, and he released the Snitch.

Both of them were airborne in seconds, soaring up to the treetops and then diving back and skimming across the grass. Harry let out a whoop at the pure joy of it all. He could almost hear the yelling crowd and the whoosh of Bludgers as they swooped past him.

They both spotted the Snitch at the same moment, and Harry pulled his Firebolt into a stomach-churning turn. His heart raced, as the little golden ball danced in front of them. Draco pulled his broom up a fraction, reached out his arm, and caught the Snitch.

For a second, Harry was furious. Malfoy couldn't beat him! Then the noise of the crowd faded, and he was back in a sunlit meadow, clouds scudding across the sky. Draco looked both triumphant and apprehensive, and Harry's anger faded.

He jerked his head toward the sky. "Want to go again?" Draco grinned and nodded.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry tried to contact Ron and Hermione that evening. "Do you want to come over?"

"Is Malfoy still there?" Ron inquired.

"Yes."

"Then no."

"You're being a stupid prat!" Harry yelled at him, but Ron had left the room.

Draco was watching silently from the sofa when Harry pulled his head out of the fireplace. "I hate talking to people that way," Harry grumbled, brushing ash from his knees. "It's bloody uncomfortable."

Draco remained silent, so Harry went and sat down next to him. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Draco mumbled, although it obviously wasn't.

"You're feeling all right, aren't you?" Harry asked, concerned. "You haven't been hearing the Dementors again?"

"No. Not since that day in the graveyard."

"So what is it then? I mean, you beat me in Quidditch for the first – and may I add, last – time. You should be jumping around, celebrating."

"I wouldn't be so sure about 'last'." Draco shrugged. "I guess I was just thinking about afterwards. You know, after the hearing. Even if I do get my wand back, what am I going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I don't know how to do anything except cast a few Dark curses. I never took my N.E.W.T.S. after all."

"You're forgetting your skills at being a snobbish aristocrat," Harry teased. "I'm sure they're in demand."

Draco glared at him. "This isn't funny. No one is going to want anything to do with me." He rubbed his arm where the Dark Mark was branded. "I don't have any money. The Manor is gone. I can't even be the only thing I was ever any good at – a snobbish aristocrat, as you put it."

Harry reached over and caught Draco's hand in his own. "Don't. I didn't mean that."

"But you're right. My whole life was geared toward one thing and now that one thing has disappeared."

"Sounds familiar. After I killed Voldemort – it was like my purpose for living was taken away."

"But you got to be a hero for it," Draco muttered. "Anyway, you seem to be doing fine as an Auror, saving us benighted souls from the injustices of the world."

"Is that all you see in me?" Harry asked, wistfully. "The hero?"

Draco looked at him and sighed. "No," he said, and Harry felt a flash of happiness. "But you are an Auror. You're not sitting around on the couch all day."

"Yeah, but sometimes…I mean, I've been dealing with the Dark Arts my entire life. I'm kind of tired of being surrounded by danger and death all the time."

"So quit."

"And do what?" Harry laughed ruefully. "I guess I'm like you – it's the only thing I'm good at. Guess we better start checking the classifieds for 'snobbish aristocrats' and 'saviours of' – what did you say – 'benighted souls'?"

Draco laughed and Harry joined in. Twice in one day. Twice he had found himself laughing and smiling with Draco. And he had been able to talk about something he had never mentioned to Ron or Hermione. It had seemed wrong to complain about his life when he was lucky just to be alive. It was nice to have someone who understood.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Draco woke up in the middle of the night, surfacing from a dream involving Harry and flying and glittering Snitches. Blinking sleepily, he became aware that Harry was standing at the window, a darker shadow against the night sky. His forehead was resting against the glass.

"Harry?"

Harry half-turned his head toward Draco. "Nightmare," he explained quietly.

Draco shuddered, remembering all too vividly his own recent nighttime horrors. He thought about how Harry had soothed and comforted him. Is that why Harry was here now? Did he expect Draco to do the same thing? He cleared his throat, trying to remember what Harry had said to him. "Are you okay?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yeah." Harry was silent for a few moments and then added in a rush, "I wish they would stop."

"Maybe you need something else to dream about." Images of Harry racing through the sky came to mind. He winced. Merlin, that sounded like some terrible pick up line.

But Harry didn't seem to notice. "Maybe." He slid down the wall to sit on the floor.

They sat in silence for a few moments. Draco fidgeted on the sofa. What was he supposed to do now? Finally he got up, taking one of the quilts with him, and sat down on the floor next to Harry. "Here." He awkwardly tucked it around Harry's shoulders.

"Thanks," Harry murmured.

The floor was cold and hard. Draco felt uncomfortable and useless. He wanted to put his arms around Harry, hold him close, but wasn't sure how Harry would take it.

Harry drew the quilt closer about his shoulders. "Whenever I have a nightmare, I always think I'm back in the cupboard at the Dursleys', the first few seconds after I wake up. There was never anyone I could go to there, when I was little and had bad dreams. I remember lying in the dark, feeling terrified and alone."

"You're not alone now," Draco whispered.

Harry sighed softly. "No." After a few minutes, his breathing evened out, and he fell back asleep.

Leaning over, Draco gave him a soft kiss on the forehead. "Good night, Harry."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry woke up, feeling stiff and sore. He was lying on the floor, curled up in a quilt, and Draco was pressed against his back, one arm draped over Harry's chest. Slowly, the memory returned of how he had gotten there – the nightmare. He shivered. It had been the same one as before, with Voldemort killing Draco. It had only mildly disturbed Harry the last time, but now… He had had to get up and see that Draco was still all right.

The clock chimed softly, and Harry groaned. Great, he was late for work. And Robards was already pissed off at him. Resolutely, he pushed away the thought of how nice it would be to stay where he was. Draco had been so, well, un-Draco-ish last night. Harry realised he was idly stroking Draco's arm and stopped. He wriggled away from Draco, who slept on peacefully, and covered him with the quilt. Sighing, he went to get into his robes.

"You're late, Potter," Robards snapped at him when he Apparated in.

"Sorry, sir."

"In my office, now."

That didn't sound good, Harry thought, his stomach sinking.

"Someone from the Justice Department Flooed me this morning," Robards said, after Harry closed the door. "Told me some lawyer had come in and filed a suit against the Ministry on behalf of Draco Malfoy. And that you were listed as a witness. For the prosecution."

"And?"

"And I hope you are going to deny this, Potter."

"Your information is correct."

Robards scowled. "And just what are you planning to say at this trial, Potter?"

"I'm planning to say that your so called 'Protection Program' is really nothing more than a way to spy on released prisoners and keep them under Ministry control," Harry bit out.

Robards drummed his fingers on the table for a moment. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you under administrative leave until all this business is…sorted out."

"Administrative leave?" Harry laughed. "The Minister is putting you up to this, isn't he? Trying to tarnish my reputation I suppose. Come on, sir, let's be reasonable about this."

"You're the one who needs to get reacquainted with reason, Potter. Are you out of your mind playing around with Malfoy like this? He isn't some misunderstood kid that you can fix with a few hugs."

Harry's smile faded. "You're right. He isn't going to be fixed with a few hugs, thanks to what you did to him – what you're still planning on doing to him."

Robards shook his head. "See what I mean? We fight the Dark Arts in this department, Potter. I can't have you here if you're going to start sympathising with the enemy."

"Do not tell me how to fight the Dark Arts. After everything – don't you dare question my loyalties."

"It's my job to question your loyalties, Potter. It's my job to make sure Ministry employees are working for the best interests of the wizarding world."

"Loyalty to fighting against the Dark Arts does not translate into loyalty to the Ministry."

"Then maybe you shouldn't be working here."

"Maybe you're right," Harry retorted. "Go ahead and put me on administrative leave. Go ahead and tell the entire world that I'm a liability to the Ministry. I don't fucking care because Draco and I are going to fight this, and we are going to win." Turning around, he stormed out of the office.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Robards apparently took Harry at his word because the Daily Prophet was all over it in seconds. Once more, his sanity was being questioned by the world as the reporter wondered exactly why Harry Potter of all people was helping a Death Eater. Or maybe, the reporter slyly hinted, Harry Potter was tired of his name being out of the spotlight. Perhaps he had concocted this whole affair just to get his name in the papers. There were plenty of rumours about the number of Muggles Draco had supposedly tortured and killed for Voldemort, too.

Harry crumpled up the paper and threw it in the dustbin. He had been wandering around ever since leaving the Ministry, ending up on a park bench in Muggle London. At first he had been angry, but now the anger was fading, leaving behind worry and a fear of failure lurking in the background. And Ron and Hermione weren't there by his side. He had promised Draco that he would help him, but now he didn't know what to do. Cardinal seemed like a good lawyer, but Harry wasn't an expert on wizarding law. If only he could confront all this bigotry and injustice directly and fight it down. He knew how to do that. Burying his head in his hands, Harry tried to fight off the despair. He kept seeing Draco's face whenever they talked about getting his wand back or what they would do in the future – a tiny flicker of hope and an almost-smile.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Finally, he made himself go home. Draco was sitting in the kitchen, looking out of the window. He didn't say anything when Harry entered. "You've seen the Prophet then?"

"Came by owl." Draco's voice shook.

"Don't worry about it. Once we're in court and we can lay out the facts…"

"Shut up," Draco broke in. "Just shut up. We don't have a chance of winning this. If you'd just let go of your fucking optimism for one minute. This was a stupid idea from the start."

"So what, you're just going to give up then?" Harry said angrily.

"Maybe I am. This was all your idea anyway."

"Don't blame this on me. Do you think I've been happy doing any of this? I've had to arrest my friends! Ron and Hermione won't talk to me! Do you think I wanted any of that to happen?"

Draco stood up abruptly. "So that's the truth, Potter? I knew all that about wanting to save me was a load of bullshit. I suppose you felt you had to do the right thing. But you never really wanted to. You never really wanted to help the poor little Death Eater. Well, I'll just take my sorry little life out of your hands then, Potter. Leave you to make up with your good little Gryffindor friends and go back to being the Ministry's Golden Boy."

Harry stood up too, facing Draco. "You really are a coward, aren't you? Can't you believe that I meant what I said to you? But maybe you don't want to. Maybe you're too afraid, because it would mean you'd really have to change. You'd really have to do something with your life. Well there's the door, Malfoy. There's the door, so leave if you want to."

Draco flinched, as if Harry had physically hit him. For a second, anger flared in his eyes and then it died out. "Fine." He turned away.

Harry stared after him. Draco's shoulders slumped, as he slowly walked towards the door. He reached for the doorknob. "Wait!" Harry called out.

Draco froze.

"Don't go."

Draco looked back at him, tears shining on his face and suddenly Harry was across the room, clutching Draco to him. "I'm sorry," he mumbled into Draco's shoulder.

"I didn't do any of those things that they said in the Prophet," Draco whispered. "I swear I didn't."

"I know," Harry soothed, "I know."

"Everyone thinks I'm some monster," Draco said, a sob caught in his throat. "When you weren't here, when you didn't come…It got all dark again. I was so afraid."

Harry pushed Draco's hair back from his face. "Don't be afraid. I promised I wouldn't leave you alone."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Draco never knew how the information got out – the house was supposed to be Unplottable, but suddenly he and Harry looked up from dinner that evening to see a group of wizards trooping up the road, holding signs and followed by reporters.

Squinting through the dim light, Draco felt his stomach freeze. Go back to Azkaban where you Belong, the signs said. He glanced over at Harry.

Harry looked more furious than Draco had ever seen him. His jaw was clenched and his eyes blazing. He stood up abruptly, pushing his chair over. "How the hell did they find us?" he muttered, pulling out his wand.

Draco grabbed his arm. "Don't," he pleaded.

"Let go." Harry shook him off. "I'm going to go tell them to get the hell off my property."

The crowd had started yelling things now – "Your kind killed my family!" "You should rot in hell!"

"Please, just leave it alone," Draco said desperately. "Can't we just go?"

"We shouldn't let them drive us off," Harry argued. "This is our home."

A thrill of pleasure filled Draco for a moment to hear Harry call it 'our home', but it died quickly. He couldn't explain this to Harry. How it would be so humiliating to go out and argue with these people. To have to face their taunts and insults. He was a Malfoy. And he was frightened. "Please, Harry," he repeated.

Harry looked down at him and sighed. "Okay."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

They ended up in a dingy Muggle motel. Draco looked at the peeling wallpaper and stains on the carpet with distaste. "Couldn't you have found someplace where we won't come down with a deadly disease just by breathing?" he muttered.

"Don't be so dramatic," Harry admonished from where he was peering out at the street from behind a curtain. "No one will think of looking here."

Draco gingerly lowered himself into a chair. They hadn't turned on the light in their room, and Harry was silhouetted against the streetlight. He looked small and fragile. There Harry was, willing to face off against the world once more, but this time, doing it for Draco.

It was all so unfair, Draco thought angrily. Just when he and Harry had a chance to be friends, maybe even something more, his past caught up with him. He would always be seen as something inhuman, unfit for society, and eventually Harry would quit caring. See Draco? We told you it was foolish to hope. Do you believe us now? A wave of bitterness flooded him. Why should he even try to be different? What did he care what Harry thought? "So I guess your friends are still refusing to help, aren't they?" he found himself saying, seizing on a topic he knew would upset Harry. "Too noble to help you now that you're associating with me?"

"You don't know anything about it," Harry snapped, turning around. "What do you know about real friendship anyway?"

That hurt more than Draco expected. "I thought…" He paused. "All they're doing is proving that being on the side of Harry Potter doesn't mean you can't be prejudiced and vindictive," he finished with a sneer.

"That's rich, coming from you. Anyway, I can't blame them. Everything you did to us at Hogwarts. The things you said to Hermione and Ron. They have no reason to want to help you."

"You don't either."

"Yes I do," Harry protested.

"What is it then?"

Hesitating, Harry didn't respond.

Draco dropped his gaze from Harry's. His anger faded as quickly as it had come, replaced by guilt for starting a fight, and hurt that Harry hadn't responded immediately. It was no use. He did care what Harry thought of him, and he did want to be different. We'll never let you go, Draco. Give in to it, give in to the darkness. Come to us. No. Draco clenched his fist. He would fight this. "You're right," he admitted slowly. "I guess I don't know anything about real friendship. I shouldn't have said that about your friends. But, I…I thought we were friends now, too."

"I didn't mean it like that," Harry apologized. "I wasn't thinking." He ran his hand through his hair. "Shit, this is hard. It was a lot easier in some ways when all we did was insult each other."

"Tell me about it," Draco said gloomily.

Harry stood silently for a minute, then turned and walked over to Draco, kneeling in front of him. "I want to help you, because…because I care about you."

Tears welled up in Draco's eyes. How strange that such simple words could make him feel this way. He blinked hard and reached out to ruffle Harry's hair. "I always knew you were stupid," he said hoarsely.

Harry smiled and reached up, catching his hand before he could pull it back, slowly tracing circles in his palm. Draco shivered. "You know the other day, when I asked if all you saw in me was a hero, and you said no?" Harry asked. Draco nodded. "I was wondering," Harry continued softly, "what you saw instead?"

Draco looked down at him, kneeling there with his messy hair and glasses.

"Just you, Harry."

Harry sighed deeply and pressed Draco's palm to his lips. A chaste kiss that made Draco ache for what he couldn't have.

"You can't let yourself give up," Harry told him. "You can't be afraid of what other people think about you. We're going to get your magic back – your freedom back. I promise."

Draco slid off the chair to sit next to Harry. "You've already done so much," he began. It was hard to find the words to say what he wanted when he had always hidden behind arrogance and insults. "You gave me hope, Harry, and…and I can't thank you enough for that. I don't want you to blame yourself for not being able to stop all the injustice in the world. No one could do that." Harry started to protest, but Draco stopped him. "No, just let me say this. I've been happier these last few days with you than I have been in my entire life. I know I never did anything to deserve what you've given me, so if this is all that I get, well, it's more than I ever expected."

Harry smiled. "I've been happy with you, too. Even if we do still fight a lot." Draco couldn't help laughing at that.

"I wish…" He stopped.

"What do you wish?"

"Nothing." Draco sighed and let go of Harry's hand. "I'm just glad you're here."

Harry slipped his arm around Draco's shoulders. "You're doing it again," he murmured.

"Doing what?"

"Being un-Draco-ish."

Draco smiled. "Don't get your hopes up," he warned.

"Never," Harry replied, resting his head on Draco's shoulder.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry looked over at Draco and hid a grin. Draco was fidgeting nervously, and he kept reaching up to draw his robe tighter about him, only to realise that he wasn't wearing it. It was odd to see Draco in jeans and a shirt and doubly strange to see him sitting here in a Muggle restaurant.

"What are those things?" Draco hissed at him, looking up at the ceiling.

"Ceiling fans," Harry explained. "They keep the place cool."

Draco looked doubtful. "Have you decided what you want?" Harry asked.

"I don't know…are you sure this stuff is safe to eat?"

"Just let me order for you," Harry said with a sigh and asked the waitress for two orders of toast and scrambled eggs.

"What is that kid doing over there?"

Harry glanced over in the corner. "It's a game. You move that metal arm into place and then drop it – there he goes – onto a stuffed animal and try to pick it up. Oh, too bad. It's really hard. I remember Dudley had a tantrum once when he couldn't get one. The manager gave us a free pie just to shut him up."

"Bizarre," Draco muttered, taking a tentative sip of his orange juice.

When their plates arrived, Draco looked warily at the eggs. "You weren't this picky the other night in the pub," Harry pointed out.

"That was different." Draco poked tentatively at the eggs with a fork. "That was alcohol. Anyway, I was in an emotionally disturbed state of mind."

"And you're so much better now," Harry murmured, as Draco's hand once more rose to his nonexistent collar. Draco glared at him.

Harry laughed, and suddenly he found himself leaning across the table and giving Draco a kiss.

They both froze, Draco holding a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth. Harry's heart was pounding. Merlin, what did I just do? Draco set his fork down. Reaching across, he grabbed Harry's shirt and pulled him closer, claiming his lips in a firm kiss.

Draco released him and sat back. He picked up his toast and took a bite. Harry ate a mouthful of eggs. He glanced up at Draco and found Draco looking at him from under his lashes. They grinned at each other.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

"Quit bouncing around, Harry," Draco said, as they walked down the sidewalk after breakfast. Draco had insisted on trying the 'magic claw thing' as he called it, and looked a little sulky that he had failed at a Muggle game.

"Sorry." Harry slowed himself to a more sedate pace. He knew he had a silly grin plastered on his face, but didn't care. He noted that Draco had a small smile hovering around his mouth, too. Stepping a little closer, he slipped his hand into Draco's. At some point, he supposed, they would have to talk about what was going on, but not just yet.

"So where exactly are we going?" Draco inquired.

"I don't know." Harry laughed.

Draco shook his head. "Are you always this damn cheerful when someone kisses you?"

Harry shrugged. "I guess you'll have to find out."

"Oh, I will, don't worry about that." Draco smirked at him. They turned into a small park, deserted on this cold winter morning.

"You know," Harry said. "I've been thinking I might quit this whole Auror business."

"I told you that you should."

"Yeah, well, I thought I might start practicing Quidditch again, maybe try out for one of the teams. I mean, even if I didn't get to play much, it would still be great," he added quickly.

"They'd be falling over each other, trying to sign you on. Granted, I did beat you, but you're still brilliant."

Harry hit him on the arm. "You prat. It wasn't even a real game."

"I'll keep quiet about it if you want," Draco offered. "It'll cost you, though."

"Oh really?"

"Yes." Draco slid his arm around Harry's waist.

"We might be able to work something out," Harry murmured, his breath tickling Draco's cheek.

Harry slid his arms around Draco's back a few moments later, his own pressed against a tree. Draco's fingers combed through Harry's hair, his breath hot on Harry's lips. He was a few inches taller than Harry still, and Harry tilted his head back to look into Draco's eyes. The sun was just touching Draco's cheek, and Harry blinked against the bright light.

Draco smiled at him and brought their lips together. Oh, I could get used to this, Harry thought dizzily. He was just beginning to appreciate the warmth of Draco's skin when he felt Draco stiffen in his arms. "What?" he whispered against Draco's lips.

"Two men watching us, over there," Draco replied quietly.

Harry slowly turned his head. At first he thought they were Muggles. Both were wearing suits, but on closer inspection Harry saw that one suit was a deep magenta and that the other man was wearing bowling shoes. Fucking hell.

Pulling away from Draco, Harry stalked over to them. "What are you doing here?" he demanded, hand straying towards his wand.

They removed their sunglasses, and Harry recognised them as two junior Aurors. "Just keeping an eye on Mr. Malfoy, there," one of them replied, looking slightly unnerved by Harry's cold demeanour.

"I see. On whose orders?"

"Er, it's standard protocol when the target enters an unknown area."

"The target?" Harry's voice dropped a few degrees.

"Mr. Malfoy," the Auror explained in a small voice.

"How did you find us?" Draco asked from behind Harry. Harry looked back at him. Draco's shoulders were ramrod straight, his chin sticking up slightly in the air, and his arms crossed casually on his chest. He looked like he used to look, at Hogwarts. Of course, back then, the sight hadn't made Harry want to leap on Draco and snog him senseless.

"Um, well, you see," the Auror stuttered, "there's a, uh, permanent Tracking Charm on you."

"What!" Harry exclaimed, whirling around.

"It was installed when Mr. Malfoy was released from Azkaban."

"So that's how Parvati found us." He glared at the Aurors. "You can go back and tell the Ministry that I'll Stupefy the next Auror who comes within fifty feet of us."

"Uh, I don't think…"

Harry clenched his hand around his wand. "Go." The Aurors glanced at each other, looked at him nervously and Disapparated.

Draco's shoulders had slumped, and he was staring at the ground. "I should have guessed," he said quietly.

Harry opened his mouth, but couldn't think of anything to say. What could he say that would make it better? What could he say to erase yet another violation of Draco's freedom? Nothing, he thought, shivering. The sun had gone behind a cloud, and neither of them was dressed too warmly. "Come on." He put his arm around Draco's shoulders, and Apparated them both.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

There were two owls and a reporter waiting when they got back to Godric's Hollow. Harry firmly told the reporter to go away, which the man did, albeit reluctantly.

The first message was from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, informing Harry that he was scheduled to appear at a disciplinary hearing on Thursday morning. The second was from their lawyer, Cardinal, saying that he needed to meet with them at their earliest convenience.

Harry looked over at Draco. "Up for a trip to Diagon Alley?"

"I guess so," Draco replied, although he looked pale.

"Don't worry, we'll keep our hoods up," Harry reassured him.

It was a good idea, except word had gotten out that Cardinal was their attorney. A group of reporters was clustered in front of the building. The reporters spotted them approaching and put two and two together. Immediately they began shouting questions and clicking cameras. The smoke and noise attracted passers-by and in seconds there was a sizeable crowd.

"How do you feel now about the executions you performed for You-Know-Who, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Do you think all the Death Eaters should be set free, Mr. Potter?"

"How long has the Malfoy family been involved in Dark activities?"

The questions were hurled at them, and the crowd began shouting less than kind remarks. Harry felt Draco shrinking towards his side, and he gripped Draco's arm tightly. "We don't have any comments at this time," Harry told them, pushing his way through the press of people. They reached the door and were about to enter when Draco paused.

"Wait." He turned back towards the crowd, pushing his hood off his face. Startled, Harry stopped with his hand on the doorknob.

Seeing that Draco was about to say something, the crowd quieted. "I shouldn't have to answer these unfounded accusations," he began. "But I will. I never killed or tortured anyone for You-Know-Who. The Malfoy family has a proud history, extending back for generations. Not every one of them was a saint, but then you people, grubbing around for your sensational little stories, aren't either," Draco finished with a sneer.

The questions and shouting broke out again. Grabbing Draco, Harry jerked him inside the building and slammed the door.

"What in the hell was that little display?"

Draco didn't look at him but stared fixedly at the wall. "I told the truth."

"A little tact wouldn't have hurt! Even your father was more subtle than that."

Draco's head snapped up. "Never compare me to him," he said coldly.

Okay. Clearly Lucius was a subject that would need to be approached with care at some point in the future. Harry dropped it and followed Draco into Cardinal's office.

Cardinal looked up. "There you are. Sorry about all that out there. I hope you didn't say anything to them?" Harry and Draco avoided his gaze. "Ah, I see. Well, I wanted to tell you that I've secured a date for your hearing, Mr. Malfoy. It will be the Monday after the trial of the Patils and Finch-Fletchley."

"We have some new information," Harry broke in and proceeded to explain about the permanent Tracking Charm. "Do you think that will help?"

Cardinal sighed. "It's very hard to say. I will, of course, be pointing out how all of these measures are a violation of Mr. Malfoy's basic rights and freedoms as a human being. He has completed the sentence given to him by the Ministry for his past criminal actions and should now be given the chance to create a new life for himself. I will also demonstrate that it is crucial that he be given his wand back, so that he can protect himself against people like Ms. Patil."

"So what's the problem, then?" Harry asked. Draco was just sitting there, staring at the floor. Harry reached over and took his hand.

Cardinal gestured out the window. "I think you can see for yourself. There is a very negative sentiment associated with anyone who had connections to You-Know-Who. Fear and prejudice may override a rational sense of justice."

Harry shook his head. "That can't happen."

"I must be honest with you," Cardinal said gravely, "and say that there is a very good chance that it will. The only opportunity the judges will have to hear Mr. Malfoy's side of things is in court, but they will have been bombarded with this negative press attention for two weeks beforehand. The Ministry will also probably be putting heavy pressure on them and without any public sentiment in Mr. Malfoy's favour…" He trailed off.

Anger boiled up inside Harry, and he stood up, pacing agitatedly around the room. "This is just like fifth year! Just like when all the Daily Prophet printed was what the Ministry wanted it to!"

Draco sighed. "Maybe we shouldn't do this. What's the point?"

Harry, however, wasn't listening. "Just like fifth year," he repeated to himself.

"Yes, we heard you shout that already," Draco said, annoyed.

Harry grinned at him. "Draco, I have an idea."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

"The Quibbler?" Draco stared at Harry. They were back at home, seated at the kitchen table.

"Exactly. They're the ones who printed the truth about what happened with me and Voldemort in fourth year. Sure it didn't change everyone's opinion, but it got my side of the story out. Luna's working on the editorial staff now – I'm sure she'd do an article for us."

Draco buried his head in his hands. "The Quibbler. To what depths have I sunk?"

"Come on, Draco. It's our best shot."

"Okay, okay." Harry was right. It was his best – his only – shot with the Daily Prophet in the Ministry's pocket. Which didn't mean it wasn't grating – giving an interview to some tabloid rag.

Harry was already writing a letter and giving it to Hedwig. "We'll stop by tomorrow."

Silence fell, and Draco fiddled with the buttons on his shirt. This was the first time they were having a quiet moment since what had happened that morning. He had been so shocked when Harry had kissed him. And then so happy. He didn't know what to say, though. He was afraid that if they started talking about it, Harry would say it had all been some mistake. The silence was becoming uncomfortable. "So, want to, uh, play some more Quidditch?" Draco finally burst out with.

"Um, okay," Harry agreed, sounding a little surprised. He also sounded slightly disappointed, and Draco hoped he wasn't imagining it.

They walked down to the field again, but a silent tension remained between them. Draco could feel Harry's eyes on him. Harry released the Snitch, and they flew into the air. It was colder than the other day, and Draco wished he had some gloves and a hat. He risked a glance over at Harry, who was staring off into the trees. It took him a few moments to notice that the Snitch was hovering right under Harry's broom. Belatedly, he urged his broom forward. Harry started and jerked downward, but the Snitch was gone in a flutter of wings. Draco grimaced. "Good thing no one from the Harpies was around to see that."

Harry laughed. "Yeah, good thing." He took a deep breath. "I guess I'm a little…distracted."

"Oh?" Draco kept his tone light.

Harry blushed. "I think I might rather be doing something besides playing Quidditch."

"Oh, okay," Draco said in a slightly breathless voice. Harry was suddenly right next to him in the air, and he was finding it hard to string more than two words together. Kissing on brooms, Draco discovered a few moments later, was damnably awkward. He couldn't quite reach, and the angle was bad. Recklessly, he flung one leg over Harry's broom and overbalanced. Harry caught him, but their combined weight was too much for the Firebolt, which plummeted to the ground.

"Sorry about that," Draco gasped, rubbing his hip and wincing.

"It's fine." Harry straightened his glasses. He leaned over Draco. "This is better anyway."

Indeed. Their legs tangled together, and Harry's body was warm and firm on top of his. Draco reached up and removed Harry's glasses, as Harry kissed him again.

"I was afraid you didn't mean it this morning," Draco murmured some minutes later. Harry had tucked Draco's head under his chin and was holding Draco close against his chest.

"I meant it."

Draco shifted in Harry's arms. "It's weird. Even with all this stuff going on with the Ministry, I feel…"

"What?"

"Happy."

"Me, too."

"Your friends aren't going to like this, you know."

"They'll get used to it. I should probably have a Healer on hand when I tell them, of course."

Draco smiled and turned in Harry's arms. He liked how Harry looked without the glasses. Draco kissed him. Yes, he was definitely very happy. But –

"Are you sure about this?" he asked quietly. "I can't be un-Draco-ish all the time, you know."

"I know. Anyway, I didn't mean it like that. When I say you're being different, it's just a part of you that I never saw before."

"I don't think I ever did either," Draco admitted.

"But it's part of you anyway, and I think it's wonderful. Not that I don't find other parts of your persona equally endearing."

"You say that now," Draco protested.

"Now and later." Harry hugged him close.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Luna, Harry thought affectionately, hadn't changed. She blinked at them when they came into her office and warned them to watch out for the Teething Harpshards, which were apparently flying invisibly overhead. She then sprayed the air vigorously from a small bottle smelling strongly of mint. Coughing, Harry asked her about doing an article on Draco.

"You were always mean to everyone in school, weren't you?" Luna asked Draco, staring at him with her large blue eyes.

"Er, yes," Draco replied, looking taken aback.

Luna nodded. "I thought so. Well, we'd be happy to do it of course, Harry. I'll get one of our reporters. We now have a permanent staff," she added proudly. "With the increased sightings of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, we needed help keeping up with the work."

"That's great, Luna." He nudged Draco.

"Spectacular," Draco agreed quickly. "And…thank you."

"You're welcome," Luna said airily and floated from the room.

"Stop laughing, Harry," Draco muttered.

"Sorry," Harry managed, choking down a snicker.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Ministry Plot Uncovered

Secret tracking charms! Underhanded surveillance methods!

Featuring an exclusive interview with Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter

Draco glanced at the headline of The Quibbler as Harry tossed it on the table.

"Already in its second printing. Luna owled me. And no one at the Ministry this morning looked too happy. I heard they're already getting Howlers."

Draco nodded. "So how did the hearing go, then?"

"Well, basically they told me I could support the Ministry or leave, and I told them to go to hell. Needless to say, I am no longer employed as an Auror."

"You don't seem too put out about it."

Harry shrugged. "I'm not. I feel…free, I guess."

"Well, isn't that just grand for you?" Draco muttered, flipping through the rest of The Quibbler. Some rot about a Squib performing 'miracle' healings.

"What are you upset about?" Harry demanded.

"Oh, nothing," Draco sneered, not bothering to try and keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Just that your entire life can be turned upside down and you're fucking happy about it."

"Well pardon me for not wallowing in self-pity and despair," Harry retorted. "Maybe you should try it yourself someday."

"Oh I'd love to. Tell me when you've published Harry Potter's Guide to Remaining Cheerful through Losing your Family, Friends, and Even Your Job while Managing to Defeat the Greatest Dark Wizard of All Time. I'll order an advance copy."

"Back then, I wasn't happy – I haven't been happy." Harry paused, taking a deep breath. "It was the other day, when we were talking about what we would do in the future, and how we only seemed to be good for one thing. I started to think that maybe I really could do something else, try different stuff." He glared at Draco. "I thought I was going to have your support if I did, but I guess I was wrong." Standing up, he stalked out of the kitchen, and Draco heard his bedroom door slam.

Stunned, Draco remained where he was. He had said something to encourage Harry to be happy? Harry wanted his support? It had seemed like it was always Harry who was helping Draco – helping him overcome the Dementors, fight against the Ministry. It had never occurred to Draco that he could help Harry as well. That Harry wanted – needed – his help.

Draco stood and went to the bedroom door. He knocked softly. "Harry?" No reply. Draco twisted the door knob.

Harry was sitting up on the bed, hugging his knees to his chest and looking out the window. "I'm sorry," Draco told him.

"Really?" Harry said coldly.

"Yes, really," Draco snapped and then made himself calm down. He had apologised and it hadn't killed him. He could keep going. "I think it's great that you quit – good riddance to that pack of fools at the Ministry. And you're going to be a fantastic Quidditch player. And I'm glad you're not 'wallowing in despair' because then I really wouldn't know what to do." He sighed with relief when Harry smiled at that.

"You think I'll be good at professional Quidditch?"

"You played in your first year at Hogwarts, Harry. Anyway, I'll help you train. With me coaching you, you'll knock the competition flat."

Harry groaned. "I should never have let you beat me. You're going to be insufferable about this from now on, aren't you?"

Draco smirked. "Let? I won fair and square. And yes, I am going to be insufferable."

Harry laughed. "Thanks for the offer, though. I'd love to train with you."

Draco came over and sat next to him. "I'll be up against the best, though," Harry went on. "I might not get picked."

It really was amazing, Draco thought, that after all this time Harry still had no conception of how famous he was and what that fame meant. Any Quidditch team would sign Harry in two seconds merely because he defeated You-Know-Who, regardless of the fact that he really was a terrific Seeker. Harry would be terribly upset by that thought, though, so Draco kept it to himself. "Any team that doesn't pick you, I'll personally curse to lose for the next two centuries," Draco promised. "If I get my wand back."

"It's the thought that counts," Harry said, putting his arm around Draco and hugging him close.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry woke up slowly. He felt warm and relaxed, probably because he was wrapped in Draco's arms, he decided with a smile. He glanced at the clock – eight in the morning. They needed to be at the courtroom at ten for the trial. Harry's stomach sank at the thought. He was not looking forward to this. Sighing, he decided he would just lie there for a few more moments before getting up to face the day.

He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew he was waking up again to the sound of yelling outside the window. He sat up quickly and grabbed his glasses. Draco was standing in front of the curtained windows, wrapped in Harry's robe. "They're here again," Draco said tightly, noticing Harry was awake.

Shit. Sure enough, Harry could distinguish various curses at Draco and Death Eaters in general, mixed with obscenities. "That article was supposed to get rid of these people," he muttered, pulling on his clothes.

Draco smiled weakly. "Well, I think there are only twenty-seven instead of thirty this time."

"We'll just ignore them, okay?" Harry said, and Draco nodded. "We have to get over to the Ministry anyway."

Harry's stomach was jumping with nerves as they took the elevator down to the courtroom. He had testified at criminal trials before, of course, but never one like this. It would be hard to accuse his old friends, hard to see them sentenced to Azkaban. If only Ron and Hermione were with him. Draco looked pale but determined, and Harry took a small measure of comfort from that.

The courtroom was packed. Harry and Draco were taken to a small side room to wait until they were called as witnesses. There was quite a bit of shouting as they crossed the floor – a few encouraging comments, but many nastier ones as well. They didn't talk to each other as they waited. Harry felt like he might throw up if he opened his mouth, and Draco looked equally nervous. Draco was called first, and Harry waited in increasing agitation. Finally, the door opened and he was summoned to the witness stand.

The prosecution questioned him first and Harry told what had happened – the various attacks on Draco's life, his suspicions of Parvati, and finally the confirmation of those suspicions when she tried to kill Draco in the graveyard. Then the defence lawyer stood up.

"You were just fired by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, were you not, Mr. Potter?"

"I quit."

"Oh, of course, pardon me." The lawyer gave him a predatory smile. "Due to the fact that you were first put on administrative leave and then subjected to a disciplinary hearing, I presume?"

"Due to the fact that I do not agree with some of the Ministry's current policies," Harry retorted.

"The Ministry's policy regarding ex-Death Eaters, to be specific?"

"Yes."

"You and Mr. Malfoy seem to be awfully close these days, Mr. Potter. You are concerned for his welfare?"

"I am."

"And what about the welfare of the countless wizards and witches who lost family members to You-Know-Who?"

"Objection!" the prosecutor shouted.

"Sustained."

The defence lawyer cleared his throat. "You believe Mr. Malfoy should be allowed the use of his wand again to protect himself?"

"Yes."

"And having my clients here convicted of attempting to murder Mr. Malfoy would strengthen that claim, would it not?"

"Only because it's the truth."

"That is for this court to decide, Mr. Potter. Now, you admitted that during your investigation, you illegally entered Ms. Parvati Patil's home, searching for evidence."

"Which I found."

"Which we must take your word on, Mr. Potter. No irrefutable evidence of that letter has been discovered."

"The gun was found, though," Harry argued.

"We have heard testimony today," the lawyer broke in, overriding him, "from Ms. Patil that she did indeed fire on Mr. Malfoy that night in Godric's Hollow. She did not intend to kill him, however, but was reacting to her emotional distress at the murder of several of her friends by Death Eaters. Ms. Patil has been suffering from depression due to these losses and has already agreed to enter counselling. She hid the gun in her sister's house without the knowledge of either her sister or Mr. Finch-Fletchley. Ms. Patil says that she was not in the graveyard the day you claim she was and denies that she ever confessed to you."

"She's lying," Harry protested.

"I'm afraid we have only your word on that, Mr. Potter."

"Draco can corroborate it."

"Yes, we have heard Mr. Malfoy's testimony." The lawyer waved a negligent hand. "Including his statements as to the increasingly affectionate nature of your relationship. You have just been dismissed from the Ministry. I think it is fair to question, Mr. Potter, if you are still on the side of truth in this matter or if you might be tempted to twist the truth for your new friend."

"That's ridiculous," Harry began, but the lawyer interrupted him.

"I have no more questions for this witness."

The head of the Wizengamot stood up. "Very well, we will retire to our deliberations and return shortly with our verdict."

Fuming, Harry strode from the courtroom and out into the hall. Draco was leaning against the wall, looking miserable.

Harry glared at the closed door. "That bastard. He managed to imply that I had excellent reasons to lie about the whole thing. Twisted everything I said."

"He didn't have to work so hard with me," Draco said dully. "All he had to do was get me to admit to taking the Dark Mark. After all, a Death Eater would never tell the truth."

Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry. I was stupid to think that it was all 'cut and dried' like Robards said. I should have kept looking for more evidence to back it up."

"You did everything you could. Don't beat yourself up over other people's stupidity." Draco scowled. "I hate that they can treat me like this."

They stood silently in the corridor until the level of noise picked up in the courtroom again. Exchanging glances, they nodded and stepped back inside. Flashbulbs kept going off, causing a low cloud of smoke to hover in the air. A wizard stood up and began reading from a piece of paper.

"On the count of conspiracy to commit murder, this court finds Padma Patil and Justin Finch-Fletchley not guilty. On the count of attempting to commit murder, this court finds Parvati Patil not guilty. On the count of attacking, with intent to harm, this court finds Parvati Patil guilty and suspends her Auror license for one year and includes a referral to mandatory counselling."

Harry felt like he had just been punched in the stomach. He watched as Parvati hugged Padma and Justin with a kind of numb detachment. "Come on, Harry, let's get out of here," Draco whispered, pulling on his sleeve. "The reporters are starting to head this way."

Harry allowed himself to be led outside and into the lift. Draco punched the button for the Atrium, and they began rattling upwards. "You never really thought they'd convict her, did you?" he asked Draco.

Draco sighed. "No."

"Why didn't you say something?"

Draco shrugged.

"This will make it a hundred times harder to convince them to give you your magic back!"

"I know. But it was nice to have that hope, even for just a little while."

Harry trailed dejectedly after Draco through the Atrium. He had had doubts about Draco's upcoming hearing, certainly, but never about this trial! Why did I get upset about sending my friends to Azkaban, he thought bitterly, when all Parvati gets is a slap on the wrist? Someone touched him on the shoulder, and he whirled around with a snarl. "No, I don't want to be interviewed for your stupid paper!"

Hermione jumped back, startled. Ron was hovering next to her shoulder.

"Hello, Harry," Hermione said hesitantly.

"What are you doing here?" Harry growled. "Come to gloat over how wrong I was?"

Ron winced and Hermione looked pained. "No," Hermione said in a small voice. "We wouldn't do that."

"We read the article in The Quibbler, mate – and we reckon that maybe you're right."

"Just maybe?"

"Oh, Harry, we're sorry!" Hermione cried. "When we heard that you quit – and seeing that farce of a trial back there – it isn't right."

Harry looked from one to the other. "You're with us on this, then?"

Hermione and Ron both glanced uneasily at Draco, and Harry stepped a little closer to him. "Yes," Ron confirmed, and Hermione nodded.

Some of the tension drained from Harry's shoulders. "Thanks, guys."

Hermione sobbed and flung her arms around him. "Oh, Harry, that was just terrible, all those things that lawyer said about you! And the Daily Prophet, too!"

"Yeah, you'd think I'd be used to it by now." He glanced over at Draco, who was standing off to the side, looking aloof and uncomfortable. "Hermione?"

Hermione disengaged herself from around Harry's neck. Catching the direction of his gaze, she looked over at Draco, then back at Harry. "Please?" Harry whispered.

Taking a deep breath, Hermione held out her hand. "Malfoy."

Draco hesitated and then took it. "Granger."

They all looked at Ron, who cleared his throat. Hermione nudged him in the ribs. Ron held out his hand, and Draco shook it. They both let go quickly, and there was an awkward silence.

"Come on," Hermione said at last. "Let's go back to our place before the reporters get up here."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Draco sat stiffly on the sofa in Granger and Weasley's living room. Granger had bustled off to make tea. Weasley was slouched on a chair opposite from Draco and kept shooting sideways glances at him. Harry was pacing over by the window. It was enough to set Draco's teeth on edge. "Would you stop that?" he snapped, as Harry's elbow whipped past.

"No," Harry said shortly.

"At least you two haven't stopped fighting," Weasley muttered.

Draco began tapping his fingers restlessly on the cushions. "Don't worry, the universe isn't about to implode." Weasley blinked at him for a few seconds and smiled weakly.

Hermione reappeared with the tea. "Well, I'm glad no one's hexed each other while I've been in the kitchen. Harry, come and sit down," she ordered.

To Draco's amazement, Harry promptly obeyed and meekly accepted a cup of tea. He might have to talk to Granger later – pick up a few pointers on Harry-managing. Yeah, right. He wasn't going to spend a second in their company that he didn't have to. For Harry's sake, he would be civil, but that little ceremony back at the Ministry hadn't fooled him. Distrust showed clearly in the stare Granger turned on him.

"So you're a changed man now, Malfoy?" Weasley asked.

"Two years in Azkaban will do that to you."

"I don't remember the other Death Eaters being any nicer when they got out."

Harry frowned. "Ron, don't."

"It's true, though," Weasley protested.

Draco smiled thinly. "I never said I was nicer."

"And yet you want to get your wand back, rejoin the wizarding world," Granger said. "Just what exactly are you planning on doing?"

"I don't know."

Granger raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Yes, really."

Weasley leaned forward. "No plans to take up where your father left off?"

Draco was on his feet, anger clouding his vision. "Don't you dare talk about him."

"Why not?" Granger inquired, her tone cool. "Lucius must have had some influence on you."

Draco whirled on her. "If I hear his name come out of your filthy mouth again, Mudblood—"

"Stop." Harry was gripping Draco's arm. Breathing hard, Draco looked down at him. Hurt was filling those green eyes – hurt and disappointment. How many times had his father looked at him with just such disappointment for not being the perfect Malfoy, for not being the perfect son?

"I am not going to fit myself into some ideal vision that you have of me!" Draco shouted at Harry and stormed from the room. He wrenched open the front door. He had to get away. He began running. He didn't know where he was going, didn't care about the surprised stares the Muggles were giving him. He ran until his lungs were burning and he collapsed onto the sidewalk.

He felt trapped and confused. He didn't know what he should do, what he should be. He had always wanted to be the perfect son for his father – he had wanted it so badly – and never could do it. Now, he wanted to be the kind of person that Harry would respect and love, and once again, he couldn't. He was too weak and cowardly for the one and too mean and twisted for the other. Sobbing, Draco buried his head in his arms.

"Don't," a soft voice said in his ear, and then Harry was kneeling beside him, wrapping his arms around Draco. "Don't cry. It's okay."

"It's not okay," Draco choked out. "I don't know who I'm supposed to be. And I'm afraid I'm going to lose you."

Harry kissed him on the forehead. "You're not going to lose me. Didn't I promise I wouldn't leave you alone?"

"But I can't be what you want me to be! I can't be as brave, as kind, as understanding as you."

"When did I ever say that's what I wanted? I want you, Draco."

"And what if I'm a horrible person?"

"You aren't."

"I just insulted your friends – called Granger a – a Mudblood."

Harry sighed. "I won't pretend that didn't hurt me – it did. But I don't hate you for it. You're trying to change and that's not going to happen all in a minute."

"Father – father wanted me to be a Malfoy."

"You don't have to stop being a Malfoy. Your family goes back centuries – they can't all have been dark and evil, right?"

Draco managed a small laugh. "I wouldn't be too sure about that." Still, Harry's words made him stop and think. Maybe he could restore the pride once associated with his family. Only it would be on his terms this time – not his father's.

"I can't hate him," Draco admitted. "In spite of everything he did."

"You don't have to."

Draco leaned his head on Harry's shoulder, and they sat quietly for a few minutes. "Will Granger and Weasley let me back in their house?" Draco asked him.

"I think so."

"And Weasley won't hex me for what I said?"

"Well, Ron is a little…angry. But I promise you that I know the counter-spells to all his hexes."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Harry."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Granger and Weasley were suitably shocked when Draco came in the door and promptly offered an apology for what he had said. Not that shock value was the only reason he did it. It felt…right.

Granger gave Harry another hug, and then both she and Weasley apologised to him. This was becoming something of a routine, Draco reflected, although it was more heartfelt on all sides this time around. Weasley did have a slightly regretful look in his eye, though – probably imagining all the hexes he could have used. They settled back onto the couch and chairs.

"Losing today, I'm afraid it's going to kill our chances at the hearing next week," Harry said.

"You don't know that," Granger argued. "I heard a reporter interviewing one of the Wizengamot members before we left, and apparently the decision today wasn't unanimous by any means."

"The article in The Quibbler should help, too," Weasley added. "And my dad says Cardinal is a great lawyer."

"I'm afraid it will depend on what judges you get," Granger concluded with a sigh.

They sat in a glum silence for a few moments. "So, what are you going to do now that you've been kicked out of the Ministry?" Weasley finally asked Harry.

"Well," Harry shot a quick glance at Draco. "I've been thinking about trying out for a professional Quidditch team as a Seeker."

"Brilliant!" Weasley said, and Granger beamed. "You should try out for the Cannons, Harry! You know they actually won a game last season." Weasley went off on a Quidditch themed rant, which Harry soon joined in on. Granger sat quietly with an amused smile on her face. At first, Draco felt jealous at their easy camaraderie, but it slowly faded away. Harry and Weasley were reliving Hogwarts Quidditch matches, and several times, when Draco knew Weasley was going to make some derogatory comment about Draco or Slytherins in general, he glanced at Draco and changed his remark to something innocuous. Granger stood up after a few minutes and gathered up the tea things. Harry and Ron continued jabbering on, but she tilted her head at Draco and motioned toward the kitchen. Slowly, Draco got up and followed her.

Granger was washing the tea cups in the sink when he entered. Draco leaned against the door and watched her in silence. "You're going to have to give us a chance," Granger told him, not looking around. "It's not going to be easy – being friends. Especially for Ron."

"I'm not expecting miracles."

Granger looked at him for a few moments and then shook her head, smiling. "Listen to those two. You have no idea what it was like to have to hear this night after night in the Gryffindor common room."

"I think Pansy had similar feelings," Draco responded, thinking of how he and his fellow housemates would argue over Quidditch for hours, and Pansy would surreptitiously fire off silencing spells from a corner.

Looking discomfited for a moment, Granger slowly nodded. "I'm sure she did."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry was up early the next morning and dragged Draco off to play Quidditch. "If we're going to keep this up," Draco shouted to Harry across the meadow. "I'm going to need a new broom!"

"What's wrong with that one?"

"It's slow!"

"Are you sure it's the broom and not the rider?"

"Yes I'm sure!" Draco gritted his teeth. Quidditch seemed to bring out the annoying side of Harry's personality.

"I'll be glad when you're on a team," Draco told him later. They were sitting in a patch of sunlight on the floor, resting their backs against the couch. "Then they can deal with your obnoxious comments."

"I'm not obnoxious," Harry protested. "And even if I am, you're just as bad. We'll have to find someone for you to annoy, too."

"Well, I was thinking – what's the one place that wouldn't give a damn about my past?"

"What?" Harry asked, yawning.

"Gringotts. All they care about is money – a topic I happen to be rather well acquainted with."

"Gringotts? I can't see you crawling around dusty tombs in Egypt looking for gold."

"Not everyone employed by them is a treasure hunter."

"Sounds good, then. But isn't it kind of a bad idea to annoy a goblin?"

"Depends. On the one hand, they're mean and obnoxious themselves, so I should fit right in. Then again, if I really do piss them off, they'll probably lock me in some underground vault."

"Not good," Harry murmured.

"Look on the bright side. If they do, your troubles with me will be over."

Harry leaned over and kissed him. "I don't want my troubles with you to be over. Just promise me I won't have to fight another Goblin war for your sake."

"I'll try."

Harry laughed. Draco was just beginning to doze off when Harry spoke again. "Um, I was wondering – Hermione and Ron and I usually get together for dinner once a month, and it's supposed to be tonight."

Draco groaned.

"If you don't want to go, that's okay," Harry said hastily. "We can reschedule."

"No, don't reschedule. I might as well begin getting accustomed to their company. Just make sure that wherever we go will have plenty of alcohol."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Part of Draco wanted to melt into the floor. The other part wanted to throw the contents of his wine glass into the face of the next person who looked their way and then turned to murmur something to their companion. "Are they ever going to get here?" he hissed at Harry.

Harry glanced up from the menu. "They'll be here. Ron's always late – can't find his tie, has to hear the Quidditch scores on the radio – drives Hermione nuts."

"Harry, do they know about us?"

Harry looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that anyone with half a brain could have figured out from that lawyer's comments in court yesterday what's going on between us. But this is Weasley we're talking about, so I just wanted to make sure."

Harry frowned, but let the comment slide. "I don't know. Ron did seem a little too understanding, now that I think about it."

"Well maybe we should make sure."

"Make sure about what?" Weasley asked, plopping down next to Harry.

"Uh, nothing," Harry said quickly.

"Nothing doesn't blush like that, Harry," Granger said, taking the chair by Draco.

"It's just, I don't know if this is a good time."

"Out with it, mate. You can't keep secrets around us."

"Well, Draco and I, that is we – " Harry stopped. Draco stifled a laugh, and Harry glared at him. You're not helping, he mouthed silently at Draco.

Granger and Weasley were staring perplexedly at them. "What is it, Harry?" Granger asked.

"The thing is that Draco and I are…together."

"As in together, together?" Granger asked, and Harry nodded. Weasley's mouth dropped open.

A long silence fell. "I wondered, during the trial," Granger said slowly. "But I thought that lawyer was just making it up."

Harry toyed with his fork. "It's true." He looked up at her. "You aren't upset, are you?"

"No, I'm – I don't know what I feel about this, Harry, to tell you the truth. It's just a lot to take in."

Harry glanced at Weasley. "Ron?"

Weasley shut his mouth with a snap and cleared his throat. "You couldn't have waited to spring that on me until I'd had a few drinks, Harry?"

"Amen," Draco muttered and pushed the wine bottle in Weasley's direction. Weasley blinked owlishly at Draco for a moment, then shook his head and poured himself a generous glass.

Harry looked relieved that neither had collapsed on the floor. He reached over and squeezed Draco's hand. Draco smirked. "That was very smooth, Harry."

"Well what would you have said?" Harry asked defensively.

Draco shrugged. "How much I enjoy kissing you and running my hands through your hair?"

Weasley moaned.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry woke up early Sunday morning to find all the covers gone and his leg dangling half off the bed. Draco was sprawled in the middle, only the top of his head sticking out above the blankets piled on him. Harry pulled at a sheet. Draco tugged it back. "You have all the covers," Harry complained. "I'm cold."

"Mmmph."

"I'm cold," Harry repeated, tugging more insistently at the bedcovers. "And I'm falling off the bed."

Draco gave an unconvincing snore.

Harry managed to squirm under a small piece of sheet. "You're hogging the entire thing."

"I'm trying to sleep," Draco mumbled.

"So am I. But I can't when you won't move over." Harry dug an elbow in Draco's ribs.

"Ow!" Draco sat up. "Don't do that."

Harry took advantage of the moment to slide further toward the middle and pull some more blankets over him. Draco collapsed next to him with a huff. "We need a bigger bed," Draco said.

Reaching out an arm, Harry fumbled on the bedside table for his wand. "Engorgio," he muttered. The bed swelled suddenly and also increased in softness. Harry sank into the newly fluffy mattress.

"Better," Draco said.

"Too fluffy."

"Shut up and go to sleep, Harry."

Harry lay quietly for a few minutes. "Look, whatever happens tomorrow, this won't change," he whispered after a moment. "I want you to stay with me no matter what." A part of him, which he had been trying to ruthlessly suppress, was afraid that if Draco did get his magic back, he would leave.

Draco rolled over to face him. "Are you worried I won't?"

"A little," Harry admitted. "It's not like this is the biggest house or like I live a glamorous lifestyle. I don't know if you really like it or not."

"I'm with you," Draco said simply.

Harry reached over and ruffled his hair. Draco pawed his hand away irritably. "And before you ask – no, we are not going out to play Quidditch at seven in the morning today."

"But – " Harry began.

"No."

Harry sighed. "Okay, be that way. You wouldn't have lasted ten seconds on our team when Wood was Captain. I remember one time –"

"Harry!"

"Okay, okay, I'll shut up."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Cardinal sent them an owl that evening with the details of the wizards and witches who would be sitting on the panel. "It sounds okay," Harry said, scanning the names. "Holloway – she's fair, supports house-elf rights, Andrews – good, Baxter – good, Pritchard, only bad one looks like Ingram – he always pushed for the Dementor's Kiss during the trials at the end of the war."

"Wonderful. So I'll either regain the right to use my magic or have my soul sucked out."

"That won't happen," Harry said firmly. Draco had been looking increasingly pale all day and was slumped in his chair. Reaching over, he took Draco's hand. "You know I would never let them hurt you."

Draco nodded, but didn't look at him.

Neither of them slept much that night. Harry would doze restlessly only to jerk awake again. Draco's breathing was often too fast for him to be asleep. Harry stared up at the ceiling, willing the sun to come over the horizon. Moving closer, Draco pulled Harry into his arms, and they lay still, listening to the clock tick loudly in the silence.

Ron and Hermione were waiting for them at the Ministry. Hermione gave Harry a hug and then quickly hugged Draco, too, looking almost as surprised as Draco when she did. Cardinal arrived a few moments later. He gave them a few last-minute reminders on what to expect, and then they walked to the room where the hearing was being held. Ron and Hermione stayed out in the hall, whispering good luck as they went in.

The room was small and heavily panelled with wood. The five judges were already seated against the wall. A lectern and chair stood in front of them. Draco and Harry sat in two chairs off to the side as Cardinal got up to present the case.

He began by clearly stating that Draco had served time in Azkaban for his actions as a Death Eater. Draco had completed his sentence, Cardinal said, but the Ministry continued to punish him. He enumerated the measures taken by the Ministry against Draco. He did not mention the Patil case by name, but made it clear that someone had tried to kill Draco. How could Draco rejoin wizarding society if he could not protect himself? Wasn't the Ministry obligated to provide Draco the same rights as it provided other citizens? The Ministry's protection program had not acted in Draco's best interests, but had repressed him and stripped him of his freedom. Shouldn't Draco be given the chance to live a different life?

Harry stood up next. The judges questioned him about his investigations into the murder attempts.

"Do you believe, Mr. Potter," Holloway asked, "that Mr. Malfoy should be allowed to rejoin the wizarding world?"

"Yes."

"And do you think he can remain free from the Dark Arts if he is allowed to do so?"

"Yes."

Draco moved slowly when he was called forward, but his shoulders were straight and determined. Harry felt a rush of pride as Draco faced the judges. They questioned him about his family, how he became involved with the Death Eaters, how he felt after Azkaban. Draco answered their questions quietly, but without hesitation.

"We have heard compelling evidence today," Andrews said, "that you should be given the use of your magic back. Would you be able to live a better life if we gave you this chance?"

Draco was silent for a few moments before answering. "I would try. I don't know if I can, but I want to try."

Andrews nodded. "We will adjourn then and return with our verdict."

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

They waited silently. Draco gripped Harry's hand. Perhaps twenty minutes passed and then the door opened, and the judges filed back into the room. One of them was holding a slender box, and Draco didn't need to hear the words. With trembling fingers, he reached out to pick up his wand from where it rested on the velvet lining. Smooth, fine-grained wood, a grip that felt just right in his hand. A thousand memories rushed at him as he held it, and he welcomed them all.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

Harry smiled as he watched Draco. They were all gathered in the Leaky Cauldron, celebrating the victory. Draco's hand kept reaching for his wand, making sure it was still there and smiling every time he felt it.

"You've really got it bad for him, haven't you?" Ron said quietly.

Harry laughed. "Yes, I guess I have."

"And you think you'll be happy with him?"

Harry took a sip of Butterbeer. "I don't think it's going to be easy, but I feel so alive when I'm with him, Ron. Like there are a million possibilities in front of me that weren't there before."

Ron nodded and then grinned. "A million new things to do on broomsticks."

Harry punched him in the arm.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

"I'd like to do something before we go home," Draco said as they left the Leaky Cauldron.

Harry drew his cloak closer, warding off the evening's chill. "Sure. What is it?"

Draco told him, and Harry nodded. "Of course."

The shadows were lengthening across the snow when they stepped through the cemetery gates. Draco walked slowly to his parents' graves. He began talking softly, but Harry hung back, not sure if Draco wanted him to hear. After a few minutes, Draco drew his wand and waved it in a complicated little twist. Three white flowers with pale blue edges appeared in his hand. Draco turned towards Harry and smiled sadly. "They were her favorite."

"They're lovely," Harry said, coming over to him.

Draco knelt and placed them in the snow on Narcissa's grave. Straightening, he sniffed, rubbing his eyes. "I told them what happened. About how I'm going to lead my own life from now on. About you." He laughed a little shakily. "I think father would have died from shock anyway, when he heard that."

Harry reached for Draco's hand, and they stood side by side while the sun sank behind the hills.

v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.

A cold mist filled Harry's vision, and he forced himself to keep moving. He tripped over something, landing heavily, his hands sinking into the mud. Dread filled him because he knew what he would see when he looked up. Cedric, lying dead, and Voldemort standing over him, laughing. Voldemort, pointing his wand at Draco, and the green light that would take everything he loved away.

"Harry, wake up," a voice said, shaking him by the shoulders.

Jerking awake, Harry shuddered, fumbling blindly in the dark. "Lumos," Draco said, and a warm glow filled the room.

Harry pulled Draco to him, reassuring himself that Draco was really there, running his fingers through the soft hair that shone brightly in the light. "He was going to kill you."

"It was only a dream," Draco murmured, his lips caressing first Harry's cheek and then his lips.

Harry rested his forehead against Draco's. "Promise you won't leave me alone?"

"I promise."

"Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."

Rainer Maria Rilke