I do not own these people or their stories. This is for my own benefit since I was extremely unhappy with the end of Deathly Hollows.
Eternal gratitude to Riku-Rocks for her patience and help with this little project.
Feedback is loved.
In Stau Quo
"Potter;" A broken yet still somehow haughty voice called to the small group.
Harry looked over along with the others. Draco Malfoy simply looked worn, much older than he was. He managed to hold on to his slightly arrogant stance, but there was no depth to it. It was such an obvious façade.
"If you can pry yourself away from your gaggle of loyal followers, I'd like a word." He walked away before Harry could reply.
Ron's mouth twisted in something akin to disgust. "What do you fancy he wants?"
"Apparently a word," Hermione replied dryly. Harry was watching after the blonde, who had crossed the room and left out the doors to the main hall. Hermione nudged Ron. "Come on, we'll check on the others."
Ron frowned heavily, but followed her.
Harry was just as confused as his two best friends were. He had not so much as spoken a word to the Slytherin, who had been his nemesis throughout all of their years at Hogwarts, since the end of Voldemort. However, there had been several occasions when he flat-out caught the other watching him.
He followed the path Malfoy had taken out, entering the Great Hall. He flicked his green eyes about, seeking out the white-blonde teenager among the few scattered around. The school was still badly damaged, and Harry had been astonished at how quickly the rebuilding was going. He knew he should not have been, but he was.
A brief flash of nearly white hair caught his attention from the top of a nearby staircase. Did he expect Harry to simply keep pursuing him? How did he even know that Harry would be following? …And he had no doubt that the blonde knew he was being tracked.
With a low sigh, Harry traipsed up the stairs after Malfoy, wondering why in the world he was doing this. Ahead, Draco rounded a corner into one of the small side halls. Once the Gryffindor reached it however, the other was nowhere to be seen.
Two doors were in the hall, both locked. Harry flicked his eye between the two. Going with his gut instinct, he tried the left one first. Two spells unlocked and opened it. He slipped into the room, re-shutting the door behind him.
"You do realize that you have entrapped yourself."
The dark haired teen whirled around at Malfoy's voice. The slightly leaner boy sat atop a squat cabinet, a light smirk on his face. In the bright light of the room, Harry could see that, though he was healthier looking than he had been the last time he saw him, the other was still rather frail in appearance.
For whatever reason, he refused to meet the boy's grey eyes directly.
"I sometimes wonder how you've managed to survive all of this." Malfoy did not need to explain what this was.
Harry blew out a breath. "So do I."
Silence spread between them. It was not necessarily uncomfortable, but there was a noticeable tension in the room. It was obvious that the almost white-haired one had something to say, probably a great deal to say. It was already understood that he would not however until he knew exactly how he wanted to say it.
Harry marveled for a moment at how well he had come to understand the other young man. He supposed it made sense; he had been rather … obsessed with Malfoy's actions the past few years.
"Thank you for returning my wand."
Harry nodded a bit. "It belongs to you."
"It worked quite well for you." Malfoy countered quietly. "If wands truly do choose their masters, we must have much more in common than either of us like."
Harry supposed that was true enough of a statement.
Grey eyes turned toward him. "My mother sends her regards and gratitude."
"Tell her I return them." Harry stated a bit awkwardly. While he appreciated the woman's need to express her appreciation toward him for informing her of Draco's condition, he knew there was nothing else he could have done at that point. He was not about to let a mother suffer through not knowing if her child was all right.
It did not matter who that mother was.
"I thank you also. Mother is very important to me." The blonde's voice was very quiet.
Two thank you's in a row? Harry really was not sure what to make of this conversation.
"We're not what you think we are." Draco stated suddenly. "Mother and I were never like the rest of them. We never wanted power or control."
"What did you want?" Harry asked the question before he took the time to think it.
Draco snorted, "My father's approval."
For some reason, this answer did not come as a surprise. In fact, it had almost been expected. Looking back at every instance that Harry had seen Draco interact with Lucius Malfoy, it had always been there; that near desperate need for any kind of appreciation from the man.
From what he had seen, the elder Malfoy treated his son as one would a prized pet. His cold corrections of the boy's behavior were definitely in that vein of thought. Harry really could not understand how any parent could act that way toward their child.
"I should have known I could never…" Draco stared ahead of him. "Father always came first and foremost in importance followed by the Dark Lord. I've yet to figure out how Mother or I fit into his grand scheme, though I'm certain we did.
"The Dark Lord certainly found uses for us. I have to wonder if he chose me on his own or if Father at some point offered me." Draco was speaking almost absently. "Whether or not does not matter so much any more, I suppose. Father is completely broken now and Mother is close to it. Perhaps it would have been better had all three of us been outright killed."
"I don't think so."
The blonde glanced over. There was obvious interest in his expression, along with carefully guarded pain. "No? Do you have any idea what our lives will be like from now on? My father has been re-imprisoned with a life sentence that will not be revoked, Mother is barely holding on; I'm terrified I will have to commit her.
"And I… I don't feel like I know anything any more." He sighed. "Everything I thought I knew is wrong, and the more concerning bit is that I'm beginning to realize that I've known for some time now that it was. Yet I kept right on doing it."
Harry watched the other struggle to keep his composure. This was about the last conversation, if that is what one could call it, that he expected to be having. Malfoy seemed to be simply venting. Why he chose Harry to do so with, the brunette could not understand.
"The almost ironic thing about all of this is that I got the attention I craved and it turned out to be the last thing I needed. This…" He gestured vaguely, "… is not what I wanted."
They fell into a strange, comfortable silence. Harry did not know exactly how or why, but somewhere along the way, he seemed to have developed an intrinsic understanding of Draco. It had not been until recently that he had begun realizing how deep this ran.
Yet he could not figure out what this conversation was about. He leaned against the far wall, arms hanging at his sides. He did not look at the other as he, in a surprisingly gentle tone, asked, "What is this about?"
Malfoy actually snorted, shaking his head. "I honestly am not sure. I didn't come here with the intention of speaking to you. Actually, I had no indication you would even be here. For whatever reason, I decided that today I would come to pay my respects to those lost here."
Harry glanced up. The blonde's sharp jaw was tight and he had placed his hands in his lap. He seemed genuinely grieved. The Slytherin had lost people during the battle but for whatever reason, Harry had not considered how that had affected him.
Draco fixed his grey eyes on him. They both seemed to recognize that there were several things that simple little sentence could be applied to. Neither wanted to be the one to begin analyzing just how many levels of communication were being used here.
Suddenly, Draco turned away. As if angry with himself, he slid off the cabinet, "Don't be."
He stalked across the room. "I'm the one would should be sorry."
"Why?" Harry snapped out. He had no idea why he was reacting so strongly. "Why should you be sorry? You didn't want to hurt people. You proved that when you couldn't kill Dumbledore. You had plenty of chances to seriously hurt me or my friends and you never did."
"But I have," Draco's voice was very calm. "I have hurt more people than I care to think about."
The blonde fell silent again. Though he could not see them clearly, Harry could swear there was a haunted look to those grey eyes. He wanted to say something, but he did not have the words to set this right.
Eventually, he managed to think of something. "You've changed."
"Have I?" There was a curious lilt to his tone.
"Yeah, you have. You are not the same person I met in Madam Malkin's shop first year."
"You remember that?"
"Of course I do. I disliked you from that very first conversation." Harry pulled away from the wall. "You reminded me of my cousin. Dudley felt threatened for whatever reason and he beat upon anyone who he perceived as a direct threat to him. I was always his number one target.
"I never understood why he seemed to hate me so much. Then when they had to go into hiding and he seemed so upset that I wouldn't be going with them it hit me: he didn't hate me. He actually didn't even dislike me, but his parents did. They despised my presence in their lives and because of that, he had to."
He had walked over to stand beside the slightly taller teen. "You are the same. You used words to intimidate those who concerned you, but they weren't real threats and you knew it. That's why, even though there were those who were scared of you, no one took you seriously."
"I did tend to look the fool, didn't I?"
"Sometimes," Harry agreed, "But it was only because you're not a hateful person. You were angry and afraid and lashing out."
Draco suddenly looked at him. "How is it that you seem to understand so much about my behavior?"
"Because I spent just as much time watching you as you probably did me." The brunette actually smiled. "You're not that big of a mystery."
Malfoy studied him for a moment. "You really didn't like me from the beginning?"
"Not really. You sounded like a spoiled prat."
The blonde snorted lightly. "You don't want to know what I thought of you."
Harry moved away and sat on the cabinet Draco had recently abandoned. "I'm fairly certain I know what you thought of me. It isn't like either of us tried to keep it secret."
Harry stared at the floor for a moment. "It really has been hard for you, hasn't it?"
"I think I can safely say you had worse."
"I don't think so. My situation… it was very straightforward. It was… No one should be placed with that kind of burden. I was so angry about it all. Why me? What fate decided I was the one it would hang everyone's hopes on? I just wanted to be normal.
"But it's done now. I don't have that burden on my shoulders any more. I bloody well know I am never going to be the same. I can't go back to who I was and honestly, I don't think I would if I could."
Curling his shoulders forward, he rested his elbows on his knees. "My parents didn't put me in this position, it just happened that way. I know they'd be proud of what I've done, who I've become…Blimey, Lupin's told me often enough."
Placing his chin on one hand, he adjusted his glasses with the other and looked to Draco's turned back. "What your father has done to you… I can't even begin to imagine."
They again fell into a comfortable silence.
It was disturbing how truly little was being said and yet, it felt like so much had been discussed. How long had they been in this room now? An hour at most? It seemed so much longer.
"It's over now," Draco suddenly stated, though his voice was soft.
Harry snorted. "Is it?"
The blonde turned toward him. Grey eyes met green for a brief moment. That understanding that had been hovering just out of reach fully established itself. Both knew that, while one part of the journey was complete, the next one was only beginning.
"You better get back to your friends." Draco smirked; "Wouldn't want them to worry that I've done something horrendous to you."
Harry chuckled. Ron would certainly think that and Hermione would already be grilling him for details as to what they had been discussing. He honestly did not know what he was going to tell them.
Malfoy muttered some words and then stepped toward the door. He opened it and made a sweeping gesture, "After you."
The brunette came forward, pausing beside the slightly taller teen. After a moment he glanced at Draco; "This was good."
The barest trace of a genuine smile crossed the Slytherin's face. "Considering it was in no way planned, I found it rather… interesting."
Interesting… Harry supposed that was what it was. "Well, maybe we'll cross paths again someday."
"It would not surprise me in the slightest."
...And with those words, they parted ways.