(Chapter Thirty Six and a Half)
AN: Wrote this after finishing Deathly Hallows. I had rather been hoping to see a scene something like this, but alas. This kind of picks up where the book left off (epilogue not included). Apologies for the punny title.
In his exhaustion, Harry could hardly bother to appreciate how much he had missed the Gryffindor common room and how thankful he was that its welcoming feeling had seemed to endure eternally even through all the strife. While climbing the stairs, he did notice that, unlike much of the rest of the castle, the inside of Gryffindor Tower had remained peacefully unscarred by battle: Only the whisper of evacuation to safety echoed on the bedcovers.
Harry's own bed had remained untouched, probably for the entire year, as if it had been waiting patiently to receive him at the moment when he could finally, for the first time in too lengthy a recent memory, sleep in absolute peace.
And sleep he did. It was dreamless, long, solid, and uninterrupted until late in the afternoon.
It occurred to Harry, yawning, that he'd taken care of all the important business – all the really important business – before allowing himself to even consider sleeping, but he had the feeling there was yet more that ought to be seen to. Before he could clear his sleepy mind enough to work out what exactly these things were, he felt anew a huge pang for those who had been lost in battle so recently. So recently it still hurt like a scar.
No, the wound was still too fresh to be a scar, but he told himself that in time that pain, too, would be allowed to dull, though not be forgotten. He swallowed and touched his forehead, which was now only dully tender.
He reached over and seized his glasses, then his wand. His own phoenix-feather wand, returned to him in what he vowed would be the only self-serving use to which he would ever put the miraculous wand of legends. He clutched his wand closely, feeling just as whole again as it looked.
He then remembered the Hawthorn wand he had taken from Draco Malfoy and immediately felt the need to reunite it with its proper master as well. Unquestioningly. Or nearly so, anyhow. Old habit was delighted to procure the slightest detest for Draco Malfoy from the back of Harry's mind, but Harry no longer believed he could continue to behave so childishly toward his classmate who – annoying obstacle and coward though he may have been through the very end of it all – had chosen not to kill like his family, whose example everyone had expected him to follow.
Harry dressed, gathered Malfoy's wand, and was careful not to wake Ron and everyone else as he crept out of the room. He was even more careful not to wake the dozens of Gryffindor family members who had been too exhausted or reluctant to travel home yet and were now fast asleep in the common room. Harry was filled with a sharp mix of regret for those not amongst them, and joy for all who were – those who would live on today and onwards, free of the terror that had surely made their nights as restless as his own had been for the past couple of years.
He exited the room and found himself standing in quiet hallways that glimmered in golden afternoon light. Unsure whether or not Draco remained in the castle, Harry faltered a moment before deciding that walking in the general direction of the Slytherin dungeons was worth a shot.
He had just turned his first corner when he literally ran into Draco himself, who had evidently been too busily staring pensively at his own feet to be bothered with watching where he'd been going. This was most unlike the haughty schoolboy Harry had known, but still it took Harry a second to swallow the old instinct that had told him to lash out.
Both boys stared at one another, brows furrowed as if the rest of their faces were unsure whether to glower or to grimace a smile of truce.
Finally Draco said, "I've come to fetch my wand back, Potter; I know you've still got it." He did not smile. But, neither did his stare develop into a discernable glare.
Harry couldn't help himself; the abruptness and accusatory implications had struck him a little. "Well, too bad I awoke before you arrived then; might've been rather comical to wake up seeing you try something to get it back while you haven't got a wand anyhow." There wasn't malice in his voice, but he sounded as if he could have been making a joke to someone he knew to have a small sense of humor, or one quite different from his own.
Draco lowered his eyebrows. "My mum's wand, Potter," he reminded him, holding it up, though turning slightly red, and after having seen the Malfoy parents recently, Harry guessed it had something to do with having been forced under threat of disownment to take it with him for protection on this mild excursion.
"Right, well," said Harry. "No need for any more holes blasted in these walls today, eh, Malfoy?" He drew Draco's wand from his pocket and extended it in offering.
Draco blinked, momentarily caught off guard. He took the wand slowly, but looked as though he could not bring himself to utter the polite words of thanks that any decent wizard would know to be compulsory, which is why he had to think of something else to say in order to fill the gaping silence. "Er – haven't I got to duel you for it or something, Potter? I mean, that wand-passing stuff you and the Dark —Lord Vol—uhh," he paused and pushed his shaggy blonde tufts aside distractedly, "...were having that lovely chat about?" He tried to sneer the last bit, but it didn't come out quite as sneery as had been usual for him in days long past.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you, Malfoy," Harry sighed. If a "chat" were all it took to keep his Dark Master at bay, why hadn't Draco tried it long ago to get himself out without a hitch?, he thought bitterly. "Look, take it; take it back to your family and tell them you won it back from me if that's what you'd like, if you think it would make them realize how brave you really are, or something."
Draco's eyes enlarged momentarily and then he looked ready to spit something out in a temper, but he settled on a squint instead. "You have no idea what it was like, being stuck where I was at, Potter," was all he said. He strode on past Harry, heading generally in the direction of the Gryffindor portrait, which amused Harry a bit seeing as how he ought not have had any further business there now. Still, Harry couldn't help feeling a little guilty somehow for what he'd said. But then again, he figured Draco would feel much better off not to be treated as an object of his pity.
Draco stopped right before getting around the corner from Harry. Their backs faced one another, but Harry could nonetheless sense a taut hesitancy in Draco's demeanor.
"Th—Thank you," Draco finally stammered.
Harry could hardly believe he was hearing those words from this person, but he only continued staring ahead in the opposite direction. "Well, it's what any decent wizard would've done; the right wands belong with the right people," he said honestly. "I know what that feels like at least."
"For saving my life," Draco choked, as if the words had pained his throat coming out. He ran a few steps, turned the corner, and Disapparated with a crack before Harry got the chance to turn around and catch a glimpse.
Harry ran to the corner and stared at where Draco had just been. The protective charms that had been on the castle must've been damaged or wearing thin (but the magnificent thing was that they were no longer severely needed). At Draco's behavior he was reminded uncontrollably of Dudley, and remembering how spoiled Draco had always been, he suddenly had a vision of Draco's mother poring over him with something Petunia-like. "Such a lovely boy...saying thank you!" he recalled. But then it struck him that the Malfoys' sense of pride, though strong, was altogether rather different than the Dursleys' and he thought it unlikely. And he couldn't believe that a mother who had taken such a risk for her son (his heart gave one giant thump) would bother herself right now with something so trivial in the face of things. But even more than that, he was certain that Draco's words of gratitude would remain unspoken of by both parties, a final exchange between rival Hogwarts peers – no, perhaps gentlemen now.
Harry smiled. He took out his own wand and looked at it again, but there was no need to Apparate back to the Gryffindor portrait, which stood less than thirty paces away. He wondered what would end up being the first spell he would cast with his own newly re-acquired wand, and suddenly he thought it ought to have something to do with food, which should definitely be the next item to consider on the list of things to take care of.