Hawthorn and Unicorn Hair

A bell chiming somewhere above him told Harry that it was three o'clock, and when he opened his eyes groggily and looked outside, he was able to establish that it was afternoon. He wasn't entirely sure how long he'd slept for, only that he could still hear the faint murmurings of celebration somewhere below him.

His robes, which he'd fallen asleep in, were rumpled to the point of almost being un-presentable. Likewise, his hair stuck up in more directions than usual, but his green eyes were sparkling. What did appearance matter, on the day after Voldemort's defeat?

He descended into the common room, and for a moment it felt like any of the other small victories he'd accomplished over the years: Quidditch, the House Cup, the Tri-Wizard events, all had ended – by some stroke of luck, Harry was sure – with him returning to the common room and the thunderous applause of his housemates. As such, he was slightly surprised to find it deserted of all but two people, and Ron and Hermione had not even noticed him come down. He smiled and shook his head as he passed them; they deserved some time alone together.

He made his way down the familiar corridors and stairways. Twice, in the places where the destruction had been most severe, he was forced to backtrack and pick a different route. But as he continued he found that the castle was not in such a bad state as he'd thought; suites of armor were clearing pathways through the rubble, fitting statues back into their places, filling gaps in the walls with fallen stone. Harry waved his wand, and a new pane of glass appeared in a broken window. One of the empty visors nodded its thanks.

The Great Hall was still full and noisy. Not only were people still hugging each other, still singing the praise of their hero, but they had also begun to prepare the bodies for burial. Those who had died were each being wrapped in their house colors, a tiny flag hung over each of the headstones being created.

The same way he hadn't been able to disrupt his friends, Harry could not bring himself to go into the Hall. It wasn't guilt that kept him out; that particular emotion had run its course. It was more like detachment. Like, after so many years of waiting for this moment, and of not really believing he'd get to see it, he didn't feel as though he could join in with those who had.

So instead, he wandered out to the grounds. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. The air was fresh and cool, blowing down from the mountains. If hope could have a smell, Harry thought, it would smell like this.

He finally found himself at the side of the lake. He contemplated taking off his shoes and rolling up his pants to wade in the shallows, but he thought Mrs. Weasley might scold him for wandering barefoot around a battlefield. So he kept walking, without a clear direction or purpose, just glad to be outside, to be back at Hogwarts, to be alive.

He finally stopped and leaned against the castle wall. The stones at his back were warm from the sun. He shut his eyes again, enjoying the first feelings of real freedom he'd had in years. And then all of a sudden there was a strangled cry from somewhere off to his left, and first he thought he was imagining it, and then he reached for his wand, out of instinct.

And then there were hands on his shoulders, and he recognized the sound of a woman sobbing and footsteps approaching behind her. He opened his eyes, afraid he would be confronted with the face of a mourner, and instead found himself looking into Narcissa Malfoy's pale blue eyes. It was a shock to see her so disheveled: wisps of hair had fallen down around her face, which was dirty and tear streaked, and yet she smiled up at him. He released the grip on his wand, ashamed that he had even thought to touch it.

"You," she chocked out, tears still falling down her face. "You saved him. Twice. I can't thank you enough."

"You saved my life too," he reminded her.

"Yes, but you saved him first. And I didn't know… I didn't know…"

She was sobbing again, and Harry was at a loss for what to do. He patted her rather awkwardly on the back. It occurred to him, as obscure thoughts tend to do, that through his relation to Sirius, she was something like family.

Lucius reached them then, and slowly and gently drew his wife away. He looked at Harry, and neither said anything for a long moment. Then the blond man nodded, and led Narcissa away.

And Harry was left standing face to face with Draco.

He didn't know what to say. There was a lot he wanted to say – beginning with "stupid, poncy git" and going steadily downhill from there – but he couldn't bring himself to do so. Instead, what tumbled out of his mouth was, "Thank you."

Draco, who had just opened his mouth to say something else, stopped and stood there with an incredulous expression. "You're thanking me?" he finally asked.

"Your wand," Harry said simply. Draco just continued to stare; their gaze broke only when Harry started to draw the thin piece of wood from his left pocket. "I believe this is yours."

Harry added the memory of Draco's eyes to the list of things he'd experienced in the last year that he'd never forget. The pale face he usually associated with arrogance and anger had been replaced with a look of gratitude and wonder.

"I found a broken wand in the Hall," he murmured. "I thought for sure, it had to be mine." He reached out with tentative fingers and wrapped them around the ten inches of hawthorn. A few green sparks flew from the end as it left Harry's hand.

"Pot – Harry," he started. "I – I can't even begin to – Why?"

Harry shrugged.

"Did you think I was going to – to help?"

Another shrug.

"I wanted to help." Draco was speaking very fast now, as though afraid he would loose his nerve before he finished. "I did, really. But I was afraid. They knew me, see, they were looking for me, because I failed them. And I just… didn't know what to do."

He stopped suddenly and looked down at his wand for another long moment. Then, with new determination, he stuck it into his pocket and looked at Harry. "Seven years ago you declined my friendship, and I was angry. But I get it now. Everything. Everything that's been happening for the last seven years has been leading up to this." And, in a strange echo of their meeting all those years ago, he stuck out his hand toward Harry. "I can help, if you'll let me."

Harry shook it. "Of course," he said, smiling. The corners of Draco's mouth twitched upward a bit, and then he too smiled in earnest. Harry thought he could not have been any different from the pointed, drawling boy from Madam Malkin's.

The clock started to chime again. When the last bell faded, there was silence on the ground aside from the wind racing toward the forest.

"Well," Harry muttered. "I guess… we should go in."

Draco hesitated a few seconds before following Harry. The people in the Hall had calmed some in the last hour. Having prepared their own dead, families were now seeing to the bodies of the Death Eaters who had been strewn around the school. Draco helped George to carry Bellatrix into another room, while Harry and Bill lifted a broken bench off of Yaxley. When they'd finished, Professor McGonagall placed hand on his shoulder.

"We've been discussing," she said quietly, "what to do with the body of Voldemort. We thought you should have the final word."

"Burn it," he replied, after a moment's pause. And then, sensing the question she would not ask, "I'll do it."

People lined up in the hallway as he levitated the body outside, and followed him in a long procession to the edge of the forest. Professor McGonagall laid spells to protect the ground before Harry lowered it. And then he murmured "Incendio," and watched as the fire started to lick at the long, billowing robes. It was joined by a long stream of blue flames from Hermione's wand, and then by a patch of vivid scarlet, the combined efforts of the Weasleys. Gold spilled from Neville's wand; pale green from McGonagall; and a strange silvery-blue burst from the end of ten inches of Hawthorn and Unicorn Hair. No one spoke, even when the fire died away and a cloud of ashes and smoke was all that remained to be blown away by the wind. Silently, they moved together back up to the Great Hall.