Harry stared at the ceiling of the Great Hall for the third time that morning. If Hermione or Ron thought it was strange of him, they said nothing about it. More than once, he caught his friends looking in odd places when nobody was speaking directly to them.

The reason was simple; if he looked at a table bench, he could still see Colin Creevey's shoes pointing upwards - the rest of him covered by a blanket. And, though it had been scrubbed and cleaned, the floor between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw table had Remus and Tonks lying together, staring up sightlessly.

Listlessly, he poked at the eggs on his plate and watched the yolk slowly began to bleed out. Harry knew the imprints of the fallen bodies weren't going to leave him anytime soon.

He glanced toward the other side of the Hall, scanning for a white-blond head of hair and found it easily at the near-empty Slytherin table. Draco's eyes were lowered, ignoring his mother who was nudging a plate of toast his way. Lucius stared into the distance beside him, looking exhausted and drawn. Harry was again struck with how similar they looked; father and son.

Ron noticed where he was looking.

"He and his parents are still around, are they?" he said darkly. Harry couldn't blame him. Not since what had happened with Hermione at the Manor. "I should think they'd have been smart and ducked out while nobody was paying attention."

"That wouldn't have been smart, actually," Hermione said. "It would've made them look worse. They must be banking on connections in the Ministry to keep them out of trouble."

That twinge of pity for Draco that had been in Harry since the end of sixth year had not grown by much, but it hadn't dwindled either. "What do you think will happen to them?" he couldn't help but ask.

Ron gave him a strange look, but it was Hermione who spoke up. "If they're marked, any of them, they'll likely go to Azkaban. They'll at least stand trial first," she assured him, and swallowed her toast. "It won't happen for a while though, Harry. The ministry is a mess. People who supported Riddle have either claimed Imperious, or fled the country, or separated into factions to continue where he left off. They've got to sort all that out before anything else."

"So while that's happening, everyone who tried to kill us will be hiding or leaving the country!" Ron spat, disgusted. "Hardly seems fair."

"The Aurors will be conducting arrests of course, but whoever they arrest will have to stay in holding cells until then. And there's plenty of those - they had to be built to contain muggleborns after all."

"Ha! Well, that bit them right in the arse, didn't it?" Ron relaxed a bit, and grinned at Harry.

Harry returned it faintly, glancing again at Draco. The pale boy, like Harry, didn't seem able to eat. Lucius said something to Narcissa lowly. She stopped waving bits of toast temptingly under her son's nose and sat back, looking frustrated. Harry could see why; Draco already looked thin.

There was no sign of Goyle anywhere. Perhaps he had left the castle when he and Draco parted ways? Harry didn't know, and he wasn't certain who to ask. Other Slytherins were seated at Draco's table, but Harry didn't know any of them. All he knew was that they had snuck back into the school to fight.

"Harry, m'boy!" roared a voice, which shook him out of his study. Harry looked at the table, and closed his eyes. Slughorn, of course. He'd only shaken his arm nearly off his shoulder this morning.

Harry didn't entirely loathe the man, but he thought it rather telling that Slughorn was more interested in being seen with him than in trying to rally the Slytherins that had returned. Whether or not Slughorn had even spoken to them remained to be seen.

A hand clapped him on the back. Go away, Harry told the salt shaker and forced a smile on his face. "Hello, Professor."

"I was hoping to speak to you when you're finished with breakfast," Slughorn said, looking jovial and strained all at once. Harry was instantly suspicious, but he nodded.

"Good lad."

"Actually," Harry said, "I'm finished right now, sir." It was the truth; he had lost his appetite some time ago.

"Excellent! Very well, then, let's go somewhere - ah - more secluded." Slughorn waited for Harry to get up and marched toward the exit of the Great Hall. Harry followed, eager to just get it over with; whatever it was.

When they were in the corridor outside, Slughorn glanced about to make sure they were alone. Then he sighed and looked everywhere else but Harry. "My dear boy, I know you have a million things on your mind and bless you for putting them aside to deal with the worries of an old man. I wish to speak to you of the Elder Wand."

Harry blinked. Of all the things Slughorn wanted to talk to him about, he hadn't expected it to be that. The Elder Wand was an issue he'd been expecting to hear about from Headmistress McGonagall, or Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Yes?" he asked warily.

"I've heard, as has everyone else by now, that you announced that it had been the Malfoy boy who'd truly won the allegiance of the Elder Wand. And that it was yourself that won his own wand from him." Horace licked his lips nervously. "You're a good boy, Harry. A very good boy who thinks of others before himself often - too often. And well, I'm sure you've heard about Malfoy's plight. What that poor boy has been through . . ."

Harry looked at him blankly.

"The Carrows you see," Slughorn explained. "Were none to kind to him after your escape over the Easter holidays - nay, even before that they were unkind. Their unspeakable means of punishment for the students . . . Ah, you truly haven't heard?"

"Ginny and Neville told me," Harry said darkly. "I've heard some of what they did, but nothing about Malfoy."

"Good, good. Well, as it happens - no students were safe from such treatment. Especially if they were held in disfavor of any kind. Not even Slytherins."

"So, you're saying after I escaped, I made things more difficult for Malfoy here?" It would make sense then, why Draco was so determined to be the one to hand Harry over to Voldemort. He wanted to save himself and his family - wanted to make up for being reluctant at the Manor in identifying Harry.

"In a way, m'boy, yes," Horace went on, sounding a trifle impatient. "But the worst of it he brought on himself. You may or may not have heard of an incident during which the Carrows were teaching Unforgivables and practicing them on younger students who'd broken minor rules. Miss Amelia Hornshaw I believe, in second-year, was to be punished for talking in class. They appointed Draco to demonstrate the Cruciatus." Here Slughorn trailed off, looking unsure as how to proceed.

"Did he do it?" Harry prompted.

The Potions Master shook his head. "Before he could lift his wand, the girl burst into hysterics. Mr. Malfoy then claimed he was unable to perform the curse."

Harry, who had pressed his lips into a thin line of anger at the Carrows, felt a tiny stir of admiration for Draco. "Why not?"

"He blamed it on his mother's wand not working correctly, not giving him full allegiance since it had been given to him and not won, but the Carrows didn't take that into account. He was punished most horribly - it is rumored that Fiendfyre was used."

Harry paled. "What? But that would kill him, wouldn't it?"

"Not if you have enough control over it. There was said to be severe scarring, but I've only heard that by rumor. Mind, you'll hear many more rumors circulating about Malfoy and so it's best to hear all the facts from me." Slughorn sighed. "My point is he is not a Gryffindor like you, Harry. His actions toward Miss Hornshaw, while chivalrous, were rather uncharacteristic. I'm sure you'll agree with me."

Harry was stunned. It was very uncharacteristic for Malfoy to stick his neck out like that. But then, he remembered the look of terror and loathing on Draco's face when he'd been forced to torture Rowle. He hadn't outright identified Harry and the others at Malfoy Manor. And as for Goyle; Draco could have made it to the door himself, had he simply abandoned Goyle to the flames.

Draco refusing to torture a crying little girl didn't require such a large stretch of imagination after all.

"I'm not going to think he's this great heroic person or anything all of a sudden. Though from what I've seen, this war has brought out different sides in everyone," Harry said.

"Well spoken, Harry. Well spoken. And now we've come to the real heart of the matter. You've fixed your old wand, so I've heard, and so you've no need for Mr. Malfoy's. Had you any plans on returning it to him?"

No, he hadn't. He hadn't thought about it at all. "I could. I suppose perhaps I ought . . ." Harry trailed off at the look of panic crossing over Slughorn's face. "Hang on, you're saying I shouldn't?"

"I am not saying you should not give back the boy's wand, merely that you should be careful when doing so. You must remember, Harry," Slughorn said. "The Elder Wand has allegiance to whomever that hawthorne wand will obey. Should you go to him honorably, and he attack you trying to gain the wand's allegiance back -"

"Wait a moment, what?" Harry interrupted, completely lost.

One minute Slughorn was regaling how Malfoy had defied the Carrows for the sake of another, and the next he was insinuating that Draco was going to leap out at him from behind piles of rubble.

"Nobody in that family has a wand for their own protection - and considering what happened to Ollivander in their residence, I doubt the old fellow's going to jump at the chance to craft them new ones. Draco has done one or two commendable things during this War, that is true."

Slughorn wiped at his brow with a handkerchief and stuffed it back into his robes.

"But you mustn't deny the terrible stress he's under now. His parents might even put him up to it! Merlin knows, once the Ministry gets its act together, the Malfoys might all be incar -"

"Professor," Harry said, firmly. He couldn't get the image of Narcissa trying to feed Draco breakfast out of his mind, or how thin and tired and scared the family had all looked huddled together in the Great Hall. "There's no way any of them would want anything to do with that much power - not after what they've been through."

"Trust me," Harry added, seeing Slughorn about to protest. "I've seen more than you think. But if I do decide on giving it back, I'll be careful."

"If you give his wand over," Slughorn advised quietly, "You must choose your words carefully. Draco will be able to use it again if he accepts his defeat by your hands. But for your own part, there can be no hint of submission or apology - I'm serious, Harry. If you give back that wand, one little word could change everything."

Harry smiled, despite everything. The day he was going to be apologetic or submissive to Malfoy was nowhere on the horizon. "Even if it does, I think he's seen enough war for a lifetime. I doubt he's going to try starting up another one."

"Once again well spoken, Harry." Slughorn put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I am relieved I at least got the chance to talk to you about this. You've got a wise head on your shoulders. If you feel so strongly that young Mr. Malfoy's going to behave like a gentleman, you've got my support."

"Er, thanks."

Slughorn beamed and made his way back to the Great Hall. Harry watched after him blankly, mind a-whirl.

Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy had done something that Snape would have once referred to as 'idiotically Gryffindor'. True, Malfoy had tried to cover up and make excuses for himself; to do anything else would have been against his nature as a Slytherin. The fact remained he had shown mercy despite the consequences.

Harry started to walk toward the Gryffindor towers. He wondered if he should talk to Ron or Hermione about this, but shot the idea down quickly. He knew what they'd say. Quite frankly, they had enough on their plates for now.

Ron and his family were still mourning Fred. Hermione was going to find her parents before the week was out. After everything he'd been through, Harry knew he could handle Malfoy by himself.

He told the Fat Lady the password and stepped into the Common Room - the elves had fixed it to the barest minimum. They had patched up the holes in the brick wall, repaired the fireplace, and were still cautioning students to have the utmost care when going to the upstairs dormitories. The stairs had been rather confused about who to let into their own rooms and still randomly sent students sliding back down into the Common Room. Harry decided not to test his luck and raised his repaired wand.

"Accio Draco Malfoy's hawthorne wand," he said, and there was the sound of a trunk opening and slamming shut upstairs. In short order, a wrapped parcel flew down to the Common Room, draped with a brightly colored sock and part of a chocolate frog wrapper. Harry plucked the sock off and stuffed it into his pocket. The black wand dropped into his other waiting hand, still encased in brown parchment.

"Kreacher," he called and with a soft {pop} the house elf appeared in the Common Room and bowed low.

"What does Master Harry have need of?" Kreacher asked, smiling. Harry returned it, glad to see him. He'd always feel a pang for Dobby, but Kreacher was here and alive and far less loathsome than he'd seemed before.

"I need to speak privately to Draco Malfoy. But I don't think I'm going to have luck if I go right up to him and ask." Draco's family would be protective and insist on going along. Harry was not fond with the idea of Lucius standing there while he negotiated a delicate wand allegiance. Likewise, even if he could avoid all three Malfoys being present, he knew every Gryffindor would insist on being there to make sure Harry was alright.

"You . . . You wish to speak to the Malfoy boy?" Kreacher's face lit up. "On peaceful terms?"

From the look of pure bliss on Kreacher's face, one would think Harry had just announced his intent to wed Malfoy.

"Er. Yes. I need you to convince him to come alone, and try to do it without attracting attention. I don't want anyone in the Great Hall knowing except him and his family. They'd trust you, I think. You said you always got on with Narcissa. Tell her it's important and that he'll be safe. If he wants, he can even choose the meeting place."

Kreacher nodded, then bowed again - still looking rapturous. He disappeared with a crack.

Harry sat down to wait.

It felt like an hour, but it truly wasn't very long before Kreacher popped back, looking very well pleased with himself. "The Malfoy boy has agreed to meet alone. Sixth floor bathroom."

Harry's grin crashed into a frown. Draco wanted to meet there? In that same bathroom? He'd have thought Draco would never want to go there again - not with him. Unless he wanted to rub Harry's face in the worst mistake he'd ever made. That seemed likely.

"Did he say why?" Harry asked lowly.

"Only that the sixth floor bathroom is least likely place to be disturbed."

Harry had a feeling of foreboding. He had to have been right earlier - about Malfoy not wanting to start a war again. Malfoy couldn't be planning to attack him out of revenge. The Slytherin boy was a git, but he'd never struck Harry as stupid.

Then he realized something. More than likely, Draco wanted to be standing in the middle of that sore reminder to ensure that Harry couldn't make him feel ashamed of his own mistakes.

Harry smirked, confidence returning little by little. The sixth floor bathroom was neutral ground in that case; where both he and his rival would be equal. He followed Kreacher out of the Common Room and down the corridor to the stairs.