Therefore, I Am
Warnings – Harry/Draco slash
Rating – PG-13
Notes – Harry Potter and his entire universe belong to JKR, her legal representatives and publishers. I make no claims other than fan entertainment.
Spoilers - All the Harry Potter books excluding the Epilogue.
"Cogito, ergo sum" (English: "I think, therefore I am") Rene Descartes
It was dark, but not absolutely pitch-black and there was something beneath him, or he wouldn't be standing. Standing, he was aware of standing. So, he wasn't dead? He felt his chest for blood and there was none. He felt his neck for ripped flesh and found none. "What?" he said aloud, but there was no echo, no answer.
He waited, he'd tried walking away, but everything remained the same and he didn't know if he was actually moving or just thinking he was moving. He tried scuffing his feet on whatever it was beneath him, but his shoes didn't make any sound, not even muffled footfalls.
He waited and tried to organize his thoughts, but nothing came to mind except the overwhelming perception that he was 'here', wherever 'here' was.
Time passed; how fast or how slowly, he had no idea. He understood that at least. The darkness became less dark. He couldn't see anything yet. He tried putting his hand over his eyes and then taking it away to see if he could discern layers in the dark, he saw no difference.
The darkness lifted, he couldn't explain how even as he watched it happen. Dark gave way to dim and diffuse to murky. Shadowy shapes began to form. He tried walking towards the shapes, but once again, he had no perception of moving.
He waited and shapes formed. It was an amphitheater, a semicircle of chairs going on and on past where he could see in the distance. He was in front of the chairs, on a dais, as if he were about to lecture to the huge audience. The chairs in front of him gradually filled. In the front row nearest to him was Bellatrix, looking shocked. Beside her was one of the Weasley twins, eyes wide open in disbelief, it was the first time he'd ever seen a Weasley actually sit quietly and still. There were others near the front; Remus Lupin, Tonks, Alistair Moody, but two rows in and sitting with a straight spine, white beard flowing down his chest was Dumbledore, on his right Sirius Black, smirking up at him.
The chair on Dumbledore's left flickered. Was that Harry Potter? It flickered again and solidified back to empty.
Another chair filled next to Dumbledore. His mouth opened in a silent scream, Lord Voldemort came into focus.
'Ah', he thought, 'I am dead' and then, "Potter triumphed.'
The first time Draco Malfoy saw Snape postmortem was in a miniature on his father's bookshelf in the library at Malfoy Manor. Instead of sitting and sneering at him, as the portrait had done ever since he could remember, Snape stood and stared out into the room. Draco, who had been attempting to steal some galleons, which he knew his father kept for petty change and owl tips in the bottom drawer, was startled by the movement in the frame.
"Where's Lucius?" Snape asked rudely without a greeting.
Draco frowned, but he answered politely, more from habit than from inclination. "My father is inspecting the grounds."
"And your mother?" Snape barked.
"She's having tea with Mrs. Crabbe," Draco answered shortly and began stuffing his pocket with the galleons.
"Resorted to petty theft, have you, Mr. Malfoy," Snape stated instead of asking.
"What business is it of yours?" Draco answered and turned his back on the frame. He could hear Snape march, affronted, out of the frame. Draco sighed, he was committed now and not even a visit from the departed was going to stop him.
Outside the manor a few minutes later and sitting on a carefully chosen large stone in the miles of rock wall that enclosed Malfoy Manor at the far reaches of its property line, Draco Malfoy was half whispering and half singing to himself, "Alone again, alone, alone, a-lone-lone-lone." He repeated this self-made ditty over and over, at the same time, through omnioculars, watching Mrs. Crabbe, Vincent's mother; take her leave at the front door of the manor. She was all in black, almost as large as her son had been and bent over like a women three times her age. Draco had escaped the visit as soon as he could, because having her stare at him dully, so much like her son, with a faint, but present accusation in her glance, had made him uncomfortable. Besides, he had already told her several times about Crabbe's final moments, emphasizing that the Fiendfyre had been so out of control and so hot that Vincent would not have had time to suffer. She hadn't been convinced, but could hardly insist he change his story, especially since the Weasel and Granger had told the whole tale to the papers. Still, she visited once a week since the end of the debacle at Hogwarts. By now, Lucius ignored her and went to ground in his study or out in the gardens with a cigar and his mother always sighed when the house elf announced the lady, nonetheless, she was allowed in, given a substantial tea and allowed to pat her dry eyes with a bit of a black silk hankie without criticism.
Draco had been isolated at the Manor since the family's return from Hogwarts. There had been no public funerals for any of the dead Death Eaters and the Malfoys had not attended any of the private ones. He hadn't asked what happened to Voldemort's remains and no one told him. At first, Draco had been glad to be alive, although owing his life to Potter was not a happy thought. Now, after almost four months of being marooned on the manor grounds with only his parents and the occasional grieving or angry visit from one bereft Death Eater or another, he was beginning to talk to himself.
He shifted on the wall. He had added a Cushioning charm to the stone beneath his ass, but it wasn't like sitting in a squishy chair. At least he was outside and not in the dense, darkened rooms of the manor. Voldemort had changed the light Rococo rooms into dungeon-like cells, with room after room becoming smoke damaged, blood stained and malodorous. So far, his mother's and the house elves' efforts had been for naught. They had not been able to spell away or scrub away the residue of the former Dark Lord's presence.
Draco dreamed of moving away altogether, somewhere like the coast of Spain, the south of France or the Malfoy's Flemish holdings, which were older than Malfoy Manor in Britain. His father wouldn't go, wouldn't consider leaving England until things cooled down and retribution against Pure Bloods wasn't the favorite pastime of half the Wizarding world. Draco meandered through the oppressive summer with neither direction nor the energy to choose a road. He knew every inch of the manor grounds better than he had since before he'd gone to Hogwarts, after wandering around for all these weeks. But now, unlike then, when being out of sight from the manor windows had been an adventure, the grounds held little excitement for him.
It had taken him a while and rereading the Prophet and those reports issued by the ministry which were publicly available from the last year, to understand exactly what had gone on outside the manor and Hogwarts before the final confrontation between Potter and Voldemort. He pieced together the actuality of the old Tales of Beetle the Bard, adding them up until he understood about the Elder Wand and the wasted gesture of Snape's death. Snape, who despite his spite against Potter had protected the boy unto death, and he realized how absolutely cunning and manipulative Dumbledore had been too. His new perspective highlighted the hard road Potter had taken to defeat the Dark Lord, but knowing hadn't made Draco sympathetic of Potter's former burdens. Potter had ended up the savior in the end and the acknowledged leader and hero of the Second Extinguishment of Voldemort. Along with his other thoughts, Draco wishes with all his might that he still had the Elder Wand.
Potter had a lifetime of goodwill and advantage owing him and he would never have to hide away or face a lifetime of humiliation like Draco had ahead of him. Draco jumped off the fence and began walking to the opposite end of the property. He'd begun to appreciate the maze's mysteries. The maze was never the same two days in a row; the bushes and shrubs had been charmed to change shape and direction each time someone stepped onto the path; the center was always in the same place. Only being a Malfoy or while accompanied by a Malfoy in the maze, could the charm could be overturned and an easy exit appear. Draco saw it as a challenge to make his way in and out without magic. Some days it took him a mere fifteen minutes or so after reaching the center to find his way out. Other times it took hours, but so far, he'd managed it on his own.
Mealtimes had become something of a chore rather than a pleasure of well chosen, well cooked delicacies. The food hadn't changed, but the atmosphere had. Granted, it wasn't as awful as when Voldemort had sat at the head of the table, but the frigid temperature between his parents was just as stultifying. They never talked to him so he had to guess what the reasons were for their cold, silent war. He figured it was because his mother had chosen to get into Hogwarts to do what she could to protect and save him instead of finishing off Potter and leaving Voldemort to insure the survival of his supporters, both inside and outside the castle. Draco thought his mother had done the intelligent thing; hadn't they learned Voldemort had little regard for the Malfoys and less than that for any of the lives of his followers when it came to battling Harry Potter?
Nevertheless, the manor held few charms for him anymore and his parent's ongoing cold-war over the fallout seemed like a waste of time and effort to him. They were still rich, youngish and could travel and enjoy themselves, make new acquaintances and move on. Draco certainly wanted to do those very things.
Summer turned to fall and the stones on the wall didn't hold warming spells any better than softening charms, the maze lost its leafy cover and revealed its secrets and still Draco moldered at the manor.
In truth, after seven years of going off to school in the fall, he missed something to look forward to and he missed the company of other people, missed the joking, the sarcasm, and the pranks, the beginnings of an active sex life and the competition of his peers. The entire upper class of pure-blood society was decimated, so there was no coming of age parties, teas or routs to introduce the younger members to choice picks among the other pure families. Not that Draco wanted to get engaged or married, not that he wanted a girlfriend at all, but he needed other people and the need was becoming overwhelming.
Finally, on the tenth of November, he packed a large case with his best clothes, his Slytherin ring and tie clasp, his personal Gringotts key and stuffed his pockets with as many spare Galleons that he'd found around the manor. He presented himself as a done deal at breakfast and announced he was going to use the family Portkey to go to the Costa-del-Sol or the Cote-de-Azure for the winter, someplace, anyplace that was warm, sunny and had new people to meet.
Lucius responded with derisive laughter and his mother narrowed her eyes at him.
"Let him try it, Narcissa," Lucius said sardonically. "He'll get as far as the Ministry and spend a few days answering questions until he's sick on Veritaserum and having to hand over all his Galleons as bribes to get home again."
"Nonsense," Narcissa answered, "You can't go anywhere Draco. Do you think if I could get away from this disaster of a home I would still be trying to clean the walls?"
"What do you mean?" Draco asked.
"The great Harry Potter may have temporarily saved us from Azkaban, but that doesn't mean we are free." Lucius said bitterly.
Exasperatedly, Narcissa huffed. "Draco, we are under House Arrest, I can't believe you're pretending not to know about it when we've discussed it over and over again. We can stay here or leave Britain permanently and live in exile elsewhere, unable to return. People who are not similarly bound can visit here, we can order what we need from vendors, but we cannot leave, even to go to an old friend's trial or burial, let alone go to Diagon Alley for a day of shopping. The hearing to determine our sentences is on the Wizengamot docket for January. It's not a sure thing that we won't have to spend some time in Azkaban, let alone get released back into society."
"No one said anything about this to me, mother," Draco answered, shocked that he had been living in a bubble for months on end and in the dark. "I don't know when you imagine we discussed this, but we never have done so."
Narcissa stood with her hands on her hips and Draco saw how thin she had become, instead of elegantly slender. His father looked no better; pale and gaunt where there had been vigor and magnetism before.
"I don't understand!" Draco exclaimed, allowing a childish whine in his tone of voice.
"No wonder the Mudblood always scored better than you at school," Lucius said dryly, "Seeing you can't remember important facts from one month to another."
Draco screamed at his father for the first time since he was four and had experienced five seconds of Cruciatus for his backtalk. "No one told me this. Neither of you told me this; there were no conversations, no explanations, nothing!"
"Draco," Narcissa said seriously put out, "We were right here at the breakfast table the day after we left Hogwarts and explained all of this to you. We talked about the topic almost exclusively for days. There were dozens of owls back and forth to the ministry and between our surviving friends for weeks."
"No," Draco said with certainty, beginning to think his parents had gone mad, "We never did any such thing."
Narcissa rubbed one hand in the other, pressing on the knuckles until they were white. She only did this when she was truly angry and for a moment, Draco was nervous. His father would punish him in the moment of frustration or anger and it would be bad and painful, but his mother brooded on her frustrations and made him pay for weeks at a time.
Moderating his voice, Draco spoke more quietly. "We came home; I took a bath and some Dreamless Sleep potion and went to bed. I woke late and you and father had already had breakfast. I had what was left of the toast and some tea. I was alone in this room. You and father were in his study. We didn't speak until eleven and coffee was brought to the atrium, as usual during the summer. You had Middy fetch some Burn-Be-Gone salve for my left hand. We did not have breakfast, we did not have a discussion about house arrest, I saw no owls or proclamations arrive that day or since. I honestly do not know what you are referring to when you say I should know."
For a split second, the bleak, blank expression on his mother's face frightened him. She straightened and the momentary expression was lost. "Draco we are not living under a Multiple Dimension charm and there are no Time Turners at the manor. You are not now or then being impersonated by someone else in Polyjuice, and neither are your father and I. I don't know why you have lost the memories of that first day home. But, you have. I want you to go lay down and I will call my old friend Iris to come and examine you. She is only working part-time at St. Mungo's while she is pregnant, she'll come today."
Draco stared at his mother. "Mother," He said as gently as he could and still keep the hysteria out of his voice, "I am taking the Portkey and leaving the manor. I think it would be better if Iris examined you instead."
Draco went to the second drawer in the highboy by the large fireplace and picked up the Portkey, a bent, tarnished and misshaped teapot. He stared at the clock on the wall above the fireplace and tapped the Portkey with his wand. "I really have to go now. I will keep in touch and hope you will get the help you need as soon as possible."
The last thing Draco saw as he began to be pulled under the effects of the Portkey was his father rising to his feet and coming after him. A disorienting moment later he landed in the courtyard of the Ministry of Magic where, before he had time to take a step, he was stopped by a Petrificus Totalus. As he fell to the ground, he wondered who his parents had spent that morning with almost six months ago in the breakfast room of the manor, because it certainly hadn't been him.
Draco was levitated into a ministry office and laid on a couch. They leave him alone. He looks around as much as he can without being able to turn his head. The ceiling has molding where the wall meets the ceiling. It's painted a very light green and what he can see of the walls is white, as is the ceiling. Rolling his eyes to the side until they ache, he sees a desk made of some kind of wood. It's not mahogany and it's not oak, but it's polished and smooth. He can see the tiniest edge of a window ledge and there is a dream-catcher on it, the streamers are several shades of green and there is a small, beautiful green butterfly made of glass in the center of the macramé knotting.
Together with the fine molding, polished desk and the long couch he is on, Draco concludes that this office belongs to someone important enough to alter the usual plain, drab regular-issue ministry décor. He waits, resigned. There is nothing he can do besides wait, so he goes over the bizarre conversation with his parents. He still can't make sense of it.
After what seems like hours, daylight wanes through the window, Draco goes to sleep with his eyes still spelled open.
He wakes when his he feels his eyes burning and sees fingers holding an eye-dropper and the slow descent of a single drop until it gets too close and his eye burns from the saline.
"Sorry," Draco hears a voice murmur. "They didn't tell me you were stuck with your eyes opens. I know it stings but they are too dry and when I release you, you will blink and it will be a relief instead of feeling like your lids are scraping against your eyeballs."
After a moment, the hand goes away and Draco hears, "Finite Incantatum." He blinks and the saline drops spill onto his cheeks, but his eyes do not hurt.
Draco stretches down to his toes and all the way to his fingertips and it feels wonderful. He swallows and coughs because his throat is so terribly dry. The hand returns with a cup of tea. Draco leans onto one elbow and takes the tea and sips it. He doesn't look up yet to see who is with him, he just wants to enjoy being mobile for a minute before the questioning starts and the world drops on his head.
After a few sips, he hands the tea back and sits up. With a strange, but entirely predictable certainty, he sees Harry Potter sitting on a chair drawn up to the couch.
Harry puts the cup back on the coffee table and turns to Draco. "I'm sorry you were left here such a long time. I was in class and no one told me until it was over. I came here as quickly as I could manage."
"Why am I here at all?" Draco asks. His voice is a little rough, but it is not snotty or sly or challenging.
Harry's eyebrows rise, "Your Portkey put you down in a restricted ministry area. Everyone here is still pretty spooked, what with all the resignations and disappearances of personnel. Some people believe the remaining Death Eaters at large are planning an attack on the ministry."
"Oh," Draco replies skeptically. "I was headed for sunny Spain."
Harry sighs gustily, "I don't blame you," He says surprising Draco.
"Was there some reason the Portkey didn't work properly?"
Harry stares out the window, "There has been a rash of former Voldemort supporters trying to leave Britain. All of them end up here." Harry smiles grimly and Draco is shocked to see how old the other boy… man looks, how tired and worn. "I think it was meant to be a final joke that Voldemort wanted to play on those of his followers who tried to defect and leave him before he was finished with his plans to take over the world. He would have known all Death Eaters would be sent to Azkaban to await trials if they tried to jump ship."
"He went from house to house gathering up Portkeys and charming them?" Draco asked incredulously.
Harry smiles, "No. He must have figured out a way to target the Portkeys. Probably he did it through the owners of the Dark Mark somehow. He did a lot of things that the ministry hasn't puzzled out yet."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me," Draco says dryly and reaches for the tea cup.
Harry sits quietly while Draco finishes the cup of tea. The atmosphere is different from any other time he has been in Harry Potter's presence. Whatever fire and anguish that had always thrummed through Harry is missing. Draco is intrigued. "So, you're in Auror training?"
Harry blinks, "Eh, not exactly. I'll probably do it eventually, but I am still recovering and I have to take some of the seventh year class work that I missed last year in order to qualify."
"Recovering from what?" Draco asks. To the best of his knowledge Potter hadn't been injured in the last duel with Voldemort.
Harry sighs, "When I finally got to rest afterwards, uh, when I left the Great Hall, I fell asleep and didn't wake up."
"You're up now," Draco says.
Harry smiles grimly, "After two days, people began to worry. At first they thought it was exhaustion, a mental breakdown, any number of understandable things, but when it was almost a week, they took me to St Mungos. There were a number of odd things that made the healers believe it was either a curse or a potion which prevented me from waking up.
They tried everything they knew, even talked to Dumbledore's portrait and dug up an old painting of Snape. No one had answers. I just lay there. My hair did not grow, or my nails. Every potion or food they poured down my throat came up immediately, but I didn't lose weight and nothing passed through my system in any other way." Harry flushed and it took Draco a moment to realize what Harry meant. "They determined I must be in some kind of Stasis Spell, but they had never seen anything like it." Harry paused for breath, "I understand it put something of a damper on the celebrations." And he began to snicker. "I heard Scrimgeour proposed having me there anyway, propped up like a puppet with a smile spelled on my face."
Draco is appalled that Potter is laughing at such a ghoulish suggestion.
"I'm sure he was happier with me when I couldn't speak." Harry adds and frowns.
"That I can understand," Draco adds and Potter looks at him.
After a moment, Potter smiles. "Still the Malfoy I know," Harry says, but it's not said maliciously.
"So…" Draco drawls, "What happened, you woke up, obviously."
"Yes," Potter answers, "I woke up. They tell me the sleeping state became lighter after about three months and I showed signs of dreaming and mumbled in my sleep. After almost four months, Ron and Mrs. Weasley came to visit. Ron had a handful of fresh baked caldron cakes and was munching them while his mother tried to talk to me. I understand the healers told everyone who visited to talk to me, just in case I comprehended despite being asleep. I opened my eyes and said I was starving." Potter shrugs, "And that was that. They never figured it out. Because of the way I had been under whatever it was, my muscles hadn't atrophied or anything. I was able to get up and walk." Potter looks at the window, "The end."
Draco stares at Harry Potter, everything he thought he knew about the other man's self aggrandizing fell away in that moment. He realized that Harry Potter had never been in control of anything, ever. That the heroic road he'd traveled his whole life had been forced upon him. Snape had been wrong, Harry didn't want celebrity, and he didn't want to be famous.
Harry Potter wanted to be left alone. Draco wasn't sure how this epiphany came to him, but he knew it deep in his bones. The old, worn young man was tired, anyone could see it if they looked. Crazily, the idea that Potter should go with him to sunny Spain and soak up the sun for a few months occurred to him. Right now, however, sunny Spain was still a dream.
"What happens to me now? My parents seem to think we are all under house arrest for the interim until our cases come up before the Wizengamot. Is it true?"
Harry had returned to staring out the window. "The class I was just attending is about how to write ministry approved reports to the Wizengamot. My Pensieve memories weren't enough for Scrimgeour and neither was a verbal retelling." Harry scratched his nose. "The minister is insisting all my testimony is completely and acceptably done before I get on with the rest of my life. He wants to lord it over the trials and having me there in person would rob him of the spotlight. I agreed because thought it would be easier than having to testify in person. I want it all to be over. But, exercising any bit of power he can get over my life, he managed to convince the Wizengamot that I had to take this class before I could document what I know." Harry stands up and begins to pace, "I told him I was Dumbledore's man at the Headmaster's funeral and Scrimgeour hasn't forgotten. I guess I'm being forced to pay through any penny-weight bullshit he can come up with these days."
"My family?" Draco says as a reminder to get Potter back on topic.
"You can all come and go as you want as long as you accept a Domus-Departo charm for the day of your docket. It's like a permanently attached Portkey that'll activate as preprogrammed to bring you back."
Draco mulls over this information. He gets up, passes Potter and goes to the window. He fingers the Dream Catcher. "My parents are under the impression that they are prisoners at the manor. They also believe they had explained it to me when they had not done any such thing. It's confusing, have they gone mad or is this one of the remainders of Voldemort's spite?"
Harry comes and stands next to Draco, "There have been a lot of reports about Death Eaters having strange ideas, apart from having followed an insane Dark Lord that is. Some of the ones who were known murderers, have sent the ministry body parts, from themselves, as payment for their crimes and believe that was what the ministry imposed on them. God, Malfoy, Gregory Goyle's parents sent in his hand still holding his wand"
Draco choked and looked for a trashcan to vomit in. Potter handed him one right away, but all Draco could bring up was some acrid spittle which burned his throat. "Hasn't the ministry notified everyone? Why aren't they doing something to stop the madness?"
Potter leans his forehead against the cool glass of the window, "They have. They've sent owls, they've sent emissaries, and it's in the papers everyday. Nothing helps. It's as if those affected cannot see these things or hear the emissaries. They seem entirely sane while the ministry person is there with them, but within minutes of them leaving, the Death Eaters forget they'd been visited."
Draco feels like vomiting some more, but he asks for fresh tea instead. Potter conjures it wandlessly, without any visible effort. Draco is impressed despite himself. "The Dark Lord was a piece of work wasn't he?" Draco says and Potter chokes back a laugh and comes away from the window.
"That's one way to describe him, I guess." He says and sits down on the couch Draco recently vacated.
Draco doesn't understand why he is still here with Potter. True, this is the first and only real conversation they have ever had. True, he is interested in knowing what is going on with resolving Voldemort's legacy to the Wizarding world. True, finding out what he and his parents have been ensorcelled for the last six months is important, but really, he could be on his way by now. He sits down on the couch a half-foot away from Potter. It's the closest they have ever been when not fighting. Hesitantly he asks, "When you finish the reports, what are you going to do next?"
Harry frowns, "I inherited the Black Townhouse from my godfather, Sirius Black. I didn't want it at first, but now I think I would like to live in London and do normal things for a while. Kreature, the ancient Black house elf is willing to help spruce the place up; I figure I could hire whatever passes for Wizard interior decorators and make the dingy place livable. I just want to be on my own." Harry runs out of breath and stops speaking.
"The Black Townhouse is at Grimmauld place, right?"
"Yeah," Harry says, "It was under the Fidelius Charm. The Order of The Pheonix met there."
Draco scrunches up his eyes, "I've been there. I seem to remember a particularly morbid example of house elf heads on display."
"That's the place." Harry answers, "Do you want them? They're one of the first things that have to go."
"Ugh," Draco says. "Burn them."
"Yeah," Harry says tiredly.
"So what you were saying is that there is no way to set my parents straight."
Harry rubs his forehead, "Not at the moment. The curse breakers and charm specialists are pretty sure it's some version of Imperious, which Voldemort had the time to do to his followers since he returned. It was implanted to go into effect once he was dead."
Draco leans back on the couch, "I stopped believing my parents and tried to leave. How was I able to do that?"
"We sent healers to the Goyle house as soon as the hand arrived. Gregory Goyle had been healed, but he also thought his parents had gone mad. Not because they cut off his hand, but because he was sure they hadn't been asked to provide reparations. I think the more recent acolytes were not as deeply cursed or whatever. In any case, he was more than happy to be taken to St Mungos; he's there now, regrowing a hand. The healers aren't sure that it will actually be a working hand, but it'll look like a real one."
Draco smiles grimly, "Hands, Voldemort really had a theme going on, eh?"
Once again, Harry almost grins. "Good thing you don't have to grab Goyle now. He might not be able to hold on."
"Merlin," The sound whooshes from Draco.
Harry scrubs at his head, "Sorry, there hasn't been a lot of levity around here. I guess I'm getting off on gruesome humor these days."
"I think you should go to Grimmauld Place and burn it to the ground. You can afford to have it rebuilt, can't you? You need to purge something or you're going to go crazy yourself."
"Ha-ha," Harry says. "Haven't you always thought I was a nutter, Malfoy?"
"Yes and I still think so. Here you are - the fucking hero of the century and you're torturing yourself with edicts from another asshole of a minister. You want to see justice happen, the right Death Eaters punished and not some random, but innocent wizards? Hell Potter, you want the truth of what happened to be the news of the day. People don't give a crap. The Dark Lord is dust. Snape, who left a history of sadistic summations about the characters of his students for the last eighteen years won't become a hero or be seen differently just because he had an obsession for a girl who dumped him when he was fifteen. Dumbledore will never be understood, Potter. The old bastard was a master manipulator as well as a brilliant man and a great wizard. That's all anyone wants to know. Your best friends have already spilt the details about the Hallows, the Horcrux hunt, the insane possessiveness of Goblins and how much all of you suffered for the past couple of years. You made a public declaration about how my mother saved you and corrected the assumption that Snape was only pretending to be a good Death Eater when he murdered Dumbledore and that I was an ineffectual Death Eater cum murderer. What the fuck more do you want? Why do you need to write these reports at all? If you don't, Granger, the Weasel, even Longbottom and Loony will be called to testify at the trials. The minister cannot stop every iota of testimony from reaching the Wizengamot, nor can he make himself the hero when he wasn't there for any of these adventures and activities." Draco, huffing a little from his long speech, grabbed the tea cup and drank the few drops in it to ease his throat once more.
With hardly a blink in his direction, Potter refilled the cup.
"And what's with the wandless magic all of a sudden?" Draco said with breathless exasperation.
Harry leaned back on the couch and crossed his legs. "Listening to you makes me tired, Malfoy. You've said more words to me in the last ten minutes than in the past eight years. Just so you know, a lot of what you said is exactly the same as Hermione has said at least a dozen times." Harry smiled with genuine amusement.
Draco frowned, "Scrimgeour won't be able to block your appointment to Auror training either. If he tries it'll cause a riot and calls for his removal. I don't see why you are stressing yourself out over doing the reports at all."
Harry clasped his hands in his lap and stared down at them, "I want closure, Malfoy. I don't want to have to testify for years to come, I don't want the press to follow me and quote what I say each day in the witness chair. If I write these reports and have Hermione and Ron add their commentary as well, there won't be any more new revelations. It will be over. Then, maybe I will feel free to run away to sunny Spain too."
Draco sighed, "After all these years of being the famous 'Boy Who Lived' you don't seem to understand that the attention is not going to end no matter what you do. The papers and the ministry will praise you or take potshots at you as it serves them for the rest of your life. If you run away or emigrate, they will make stuff up instead. You sell papers; Potter and your name can make policy or unmake ministry careers."
They sat quietly for a while, each immersed in his own thoughts. Harry added another cup of tea and drank it.
"Why are we having this conversation?" Malfoy asked with an edge in his voice. "We've never actually conversed before."
"It's over Malfoy. With Voldemort dead and your father defanged, there's no power base behind you to put any nastiness into effect anymore. Being a sarcastic, bigoted git is all you have left. So, go ahead and say Mudblood until you run out of breath, it doesn't have any impact."
"It could get me stoned to death in Diagon Alley." He said snappishly, defending a position he no longer held.
Harry grinned, "True."
"Humph," Draco grunted.
By the time Harry had pushed and prodded the ministry's travel bureau to give Draco another Portkey, it was the middle of the night. "Are you going right now?" Harry asked as he handed over the Portkey.
Draco yawned, "There's got to be a Wizarding Hotel in Malaga," Malfoy said.
"Maybe," Harry said, "Maybe not. Come on."
"Where?" Draco asked.
"There are any number of bedrooms at Grimmauld Place, you can kip for the night and go in the morning."
Draco stopped suddenly and perforce, Harry stopped too. "This is out of character, Potter. I can't see any reason for you to feel like you need to offer me hospitality or anything."
Harry shrugged; He didn't want to say that the time he'd spent with Malfoy on his problems had been a relief from the rest of his days or his duties. It was, despite being a git, which Malfoy certainly still was, the conflicts of real consequence were over and Harry wanted to live as if they were and act that way urgently. Instead he said, "Come take a final look at the elf heads before they are gone forever. You can gloat about your Black relatives' long dark history to your heart's desire."
Malfoy grimaced, he was tired and starting his travels in the morning was appealing. It was obvious that Potter meant to put the past behind him, "Why not." He answered.
The two young men exited the ministry and from the courtyard, Apparated to Grimmauld Place.
Kreature was waiting as Harry opened the door. The ancient elf tut-tutted when he saw how tired Harry was, but he smiled, quite horribly, Harry thought, when he saw Draco Malfoy come in after him. "Masters," he said. "There's a meal ready in the dining room. Which room should I get ready for Master Malfoy?" He asked Harry.
"Give him old Mrs. Black's room. She wouldn't object to him being there." Harry answered and Kreature bowed. "Certainly Harry Potter, sir."
While Harry and the ugly elf conversed, Draco looked around the gloomy hall. No wonder Potter was wound so tight, the place was a disaster, but, Draco had to admit, it was still less dingy and dark than what the Manor had become. "Food?" He questioned when the elf left the hall to ready the room.
"Yeah," Harry said as he looked up the stairs where the elf had gone. "I'm famished."
Dinner was hot and fragrant on the kitchen table. The kitchen itself shone with well scrubbed pots, pans and cabinet doors. Kreature had managed to shine the ancient stone floor too. The young men sat down and without further ado, began to eat.
Harry poured the wine Kreature had breathing to the right of his place setting. Harry never asked which kind of wine, he was sure Kreature knew what was best. Thinking like a Muggle, when the elf had shown him the wine cellar, he thought how much money these bottles could bring at a wine auction. The wine was wine, just the same as Muggle wine and not magicked in any way, unless maybe the vineyards themselves were farmed by wizards. In any case, he had begun to enjoy the rich addition to his meals as well as the last glass or two he took to the parlor and sipped before going to bed. Someday, he would try Brandy and a cigar and become an eccentric recluse in his dingy house with too many rooms and no previous history of happiness. If he were haunted, it would only be icing on the cake.
"Excellent," Draco commented and took a deep swallow of the wine. "You're better company than my parents these days." He said twisting his mouth sardonically.
Harry waved his wine glass in a semi-salute. "Nice to know I can aid your digestion better than Lucius Malfoy. Or maybe it's because there are no prisoners in the cellar waiting to be called to the parlor for the nightly after dinner torture sessions with the cigars."
Without missing a beat, Draco replied, "There's that too."
It was late into the night by the time the young men finished eating and had a final glass of wine. Kreature came to clear the table and Harry suggested to Draco that it was time to turn in and follow him upstairs. The former Mrs. Black's bedroom seemed to be decorated permanently in a funereal black Victorian style. "Lovely," Draco said dryly when Harry stepped back towards the doorway and into the hall.
"The bed's soft and the blankets warm. The old bat liked her comforts." Harry said and closed the door.
Draco found this to be true as he stretched and blew out the candle. He might not have made it to the Costa-del-Sol, but he felt as if he were in a far distant country to the one where he'd woken the previous morning.
No flicker of light permeated the bedroom, but Draco sensed it was late morning when he woke. "Tempus," He cast with his wand and the disembodied voice answered "fourteen passed eleven."
As he swung his feet over the side of the bed, Kreature appeared at the door. "Your bath is drawn, Master Malfoy." He said. "And I've taken the liberty of cleaning and pressing your robes."
Draco looked at the ancient elf, "Are you serving Mr. Potter properly these days?"
"Yes, young master," The elf croaked.
"See that you do." Draco said sternly and entered the steamy old fashioned bathroom.
Harry was reading the paper at the table, sipping tea and scattering toast crumbs about when Draco finally made it downstairs.
"Considering the hour," Harry said and lowered the paper, "I assume you slept well in the old bat's bed."
Draco poured tea in his cup and sipped it while the table was filled with food. He saw it was a combination of breakfast and luncheon items. The old elf knew about brunch. "I slept very well, thank you, Potter." He replied.
Harry paused with his fork halfway to his mouth, carefully, as if he were measuring his words, he said, "You're welcome, Malfoy. I'm glad you found the bed comfortable."
Draco smiled and began to eat.
"You, erm… well, Malfoy, if you aren't in a hurry to go to Spain or anything, you could stay here for a while. If, you know, you'd like."
Draco chewed thoughtfully; he'd never seen this side of Harry Potter before. He'd never imagined Potter could be a good host or that they'd ever get along at all. "I don't know what I'd do here." He answered. "I'm not welcome at the moment anywhere, it seems, than here. I have no profession to work at, there's no more school, really nothing to do, besides the weather is awful in town."
Harry put his fork down. "It's Saturday and I don't have to go in to the ministry. We can watch football on television or I can load in one of my favorite movies. I can show you some of Muggle London if you are interested. There are some wonderful things on this side of the Leaky."
Draco cocked his head. Potter had suggested Muggle things without any challenge in his voice. Draco could accept or reject his offer without, for the first time in their history, cause a resultant lava flow of insults or fighting. It made him feel marginally safer about asking questions regarding Muggle things. In truth, he had a lot of questions about what Muggle things were and what they were meant to do.
"Why Potter?" Draco asked simply.
Harry got up and paced the length of the dining room. "As much as you have always thought I did the things I did for attention or fame that was never my intention or aim. I went from an unloved and undernourished Muggle orphan to a famous and powerful wizard in an instant. My identity has always been defined by others; to your family, Snape and Voldemort, I was a burr under the saddle of your ambitions or a reminder of past failures or both. To everyone else I was a shiny symbol to take out and polish or tarnish as often as the winds blew. I have fulfilled these roles every minute of my life since Hagrid came for me on my eleventh birthday. Even with all the roadblocks Scrimgeour is erecting, the end is near. I will either submit the reports or testify and then I will be free. I am not naïve enough to suppose I won't still be in the public eye, but it will be less and nothing of such import as Voldemort ever again, I pray. I want a life on my terms, although I am not entirely sure what those are. But you know what Malfoy? Almost no one knows at eighteen and finally I am in common with the rest of my generation and I like it."
Harry sat at the table and continued, "There are all kinds of things I want when I am fully grown. I would like a family, a house and all that goes with it. I would like to have a career that brings me satisfaction. Regardless of seventeen being the age of maturation in the Wizarding world, I do not believe I am entirely adult and don't want to be finished with my youth quite yet." Harry grinned, "I want to make mistakes that don't endanger anyone seriously. I want to go places and see things and enjoy myself without being responsible for or to anyone else. It's so easy for everyone else, including my good friends, to say I should become an Auror, get engaged to Ginny, continue to represent or be a symbol of the new era or half a dozen other clichés about post heroic behavior. I just want to live and that includes a Saturday in front of the TV with a tray of snacks or a week lying on a beach somewhere warm or going to clubs and drinking myself under the table or waking up in bed with someone who's name I can't recall."
By the time Potter said 'post heroic behavior', Draco was grinning. Harry had so much passion and energy. He was surprised quite a lot by how fluidly the words and ideas flew from Potter's tongue, but here was the energy that Potter had been missing last night.
"I've thought you were a nasty git from the moment we met and you insulted Hagrid and then again when you laid into Ron. I believed you a bully and a coward. Nothing changed my opinion until I saw you struggle on the Astronomy Tower and lower your wand rather than be the one to kill Dumbledore. And that was only a touch of sympathy and pity. But Malfoy, the year was so long between the tower and the showdown with Voldemort and I learned more about loss and exhaustion and fear than I ever had before. No one was perfect; Snape was self-sacrificing as well as pitilessly unbending, Remus was afraid of fatherhood as well as warm and generous, Dobbie and Hedwig gave me their lives in silent devotion, and Ron faltered along the way. Now, here we are. Hermione and Ron are a committed, Ginny is back at school and wanting either an engagement ring or the freedom to spread her wings without me around, the fucking ministry is still the fucking ministry and people are still trying to run my life for me. You've broken through and rejected the sorcery to keep you trapped in Voldemort's shadow. For me and I believe for you, we are about to be finally free of the overwhelming forces which shaped and controlled our lives up until now. Why shouldn't I ask you to keep me company for a while, there are no more impediments if we chose to move on without them."
Draco stopped smiling. He wasn't sure Potter lumping them together like two lost souls was something he could accept without at least a token objection. "I don't know Potter, I want to escape the weight of my family's present difficulties, which are all tied to the immediate past, but I don't think escaping meant becoming bosom buddies with someone I hated for eight years. I really was thinking more about a long lie-about in the sun with some iced, spiked pumpkin juice and a few daring magical darlings in a lot less clothing than robes and school uniforms."
Harry grinned back at Malfoy, "You'd get burned to a crisp in the first ten minutes, which is not exactly sexy, Malfoy. But you know what? I've never seen a wizard or witch in a bathing suit, other than the Triwizard Tournament. I didn't know wizards went sea bathing."
Draco put his nose in the air, "There are spells to prevent sunburn, Potter and of course wizards can swim or haven't you ever heard about how Muggles tried to drown us to see if we were witches and wizards a few years ago?"
"Maybe in the Middle Ages Malfoy, not a few years ago. Besides if you want to see flesh there's nothing like satellite television channels."
"See, Potter? I want more than a view. If you really want to be a regular chap, you should start by admitting, despite the female Weasley, the last couple of years haven't been a lot of fun in the flesh category. Or, come to think of it, in any category I can think of."
Draco looked affronted for about another two minutes before he too, gave in and chuckled.
Draco stayed and in the clean and bright parlor on a squishy couch next to Potter, watched TV for the first time. By the end of the half of the game, Potter had rummaged around in a large stack of unshelved books and tossed one about electricity into his lap. "Think about it as a combination of potions and arithmancy." Potter said and slumped into his warm, soft hollow on the couch.
Minutes later, Draco was searching for a Muggle dictionary to go along with the technical book. Potter rolled his eyes, "Thank Hermione the next time you see her, she brought all those over," He said gesturing to the large piles of books. "She thought I should learn everything a Muggle needs to pass the General Certificate of Secondary Education test. Like, OWLS, Malfoy. She's already passed her A levels, which are like NEWTS."
"Of course she has," Malfoy commented, "If they have tests in China she'll probably learn the language and pass those too."
Potter grunted and turned up the sound on the TV.
Harry answered questions all through dinner, often having to say he didn't know because he'd left the Muggle world before this or that has been taught.
Draco complimented Kreature for the wine selection and his ugly visage melted and he bowed low.
They touched on many subjects as Malfoy's questions brought things to mind for Harry. They didn't speak of Voldemort or the elder Malfoys or the ministry and Harry went to bed soothed by a day without reference to his status.
Malfoy stayed the next day and buried himself in the pile of books while Harry did his weekly Weasley visit. Ron and Hermione were at the Burrow too, but Harry never mentioned Draco Malfoy. Ron was being tutored to get into Auror training as soon as possible. George was paying for it and in return, Ron worked at Weasley Wizard Wheezes several evenings a week. Hermione was already employed in the Magical Creatures Relations and Rights section of the ministry, although she intended to start school to become an attorney in the spring.
Harry enjoyed his visit. Despite their losses and his uncommitted relationship with Ginny, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley always welcomed him without reproach. For the first time, he was conscious there was someone at Grimmauld Place waiting for his return. It made the visit better somehow, sweeter. It gave him a sense of wellbeing because he wasn't some lonely person hanging around for their generosity. He had a bit of life that was his own. He hugged it close and thought of Malfoy's blond head bent over a book illuminated by candlelight in the parlor ready to ask him Muggle-centric questions and sneer when he couldn't answer them.
He took the leftovers Mrs. Weasley offered him without protestations and flooed back to Grimmauld Place thinking he almost said "home" when he tossed in the Floo Powder.
"Hey Malfoy!" Harry called when stepped out of the fireplace.
"In the parlor," Draco answered.
Harry went to the parlor and saw Malfoy had set himself up comfortably; the TV was on, an old episode of All Creatures Great and Small playing with the sound low, a candelabra with all the candles blazing was on the end table and Malfoy sitting in the corner of the couch, legs tucked beneath him, books spread out beside him and a cup of hot chocolate in his hands. He had the lightest of chocolate mustaches above his upper lip and the sight made Harry smile. He tossed one of the packages of leftovers into Malfoy's lap.
Draco raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"There's raisin and fig bars in there, Malfoy."
Draco opened the package and took a bite of one of the thick cookies.
Harry sat on the couch and took one too. They munched in silence.
Draco joined Harry at the kitchen table early on Monday morning. He was half dressed in trousers, thick socks and a fuzzy sweater.
Harry was dressed beneath his standard black robes. He was making an egg sandwich out of scrambled eggs, some slices of crisp back bacon and toast. "I've got to go in today," Harry said and took a bite.
Malfoy grunted and poured a cup of tea, added sugar and drank the glass of pumpkin juice, which appeared at his elbow, "More instructions in how to write reports?"
"Actually," Harry said after he swallowed, "I got an early owl from the Department of Mysteries this morning. Do you remember Penelope Clearwater?"
Malfoy swallowed tea, "Ravenclaw who was a few years ahead of us?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "She's a bright one, got picked up right out of Hogwarts by the DOM. Anyway, she thinks she has a way to take my Pensieve memories and create a kind of moving picture out of them, kind of like a Muggle Movie." Harry smiled grimly, "If she can do that I can call a meeting of the Wizengamot and submit the whole shebang at once and let them use it at each of the Death Eater trials. I wouldn't have to be there at all."
"Who'll you get to authenticate them?" Malfoy asked. "Scrimgeour will insist on it or declare that you're hiding information. You can choose which memories after all."
"Well," Harry said, almost rubbing his hands together gleefully, "She can attach a running clock; I'll give them so much time when nothing happens that they'll go to sleep with the boredom of it all. If they want to watch months and months of Hermione and I going hungry in a freezing tent or wandering around frozen countryside, they can. I don't have much to hide anyway, just a few harsh moments with Ron or a few arguments with Hermione and being incredibly stupid when dealing with the Goblin. I don't intend to hide my own feelings of fear, self doubt or loss. They can see it all and choke on it for all I care."
Draco ate breakfast, obviously thinking quite hard with each bite. Harry waited. Smiling maliciously, Draco said, "Send a copy of the entire record to Rita Skeeter at the same time as you submit it to the Wizengamot. Tell her it's an exclusive."
Harry laughed, "She'll piss her pants."
"Yes," Malfoy said and she'll watch every second of it and vilify everyone regardless of stature. It'll make her career and make you redundant."
Harry poured both of them another cup of tea. He sipped it while he clamed down a little bit, "I don't want any of the Death Eaters to get away with anything because of her exaggerations or lies."
"That's the beauty of it, Potter. She'll have to tell it like it is. She can write whatever she wants about who is feeling what or why they did what they did, but she won't be able to actually change the events to glorify or trash anyone on either side, because the record will be shown at the trials and the truth will be there."
Harry put down his cup, "You and your parents aren't going to look so good, Malfoy."
Draco sobered, "I know, but by the time my mother saves your life everyone will be cheering. I know I'll look like a sulky, bad tempered coward. As the months have gone by since Hogwarts, I've realized a lot of stuff about myself and it's not a pretty picture. But I didn't kill anyone and in the end my total ineffectiveness with be what shows. I doubt they'll convict me for years based on doing nothing much and as far as I know, I can't get the Kiss for not killing people."
"You don't care?" Harry asked seriously.
"I care, Potter." Malfoy answered, "But I want it to be over more. Merlin, until it is, we're all stuck in limbo and the rest of the magical world moves on without us. They've got enough of a head start after the past few years. We're behind in Potion's inventions, the discovery of new uses in Herbology and way behind in Arithmanical discoveries, although maybe they are just keeping quiet at the DOM."
Harry leaned back in his chair, he laughed. "There have been a great many serious meetings at this table over the years. I never thought I'd have one with you. On the other hand, I knew you were always trying to beat Hermione scores, but I didn't realize you were really a geek all the way through."
Harry got up and walked out the door into the hallway by the stairs. Draco came up behind him, "Do you think the Wizengamot will send me to Azkaban?" He asked quietly.
Harry stopped, had it only been three days and now he couldn't imagine Malfoy rotting away in prison? "Letting the Death Eaters in was pretty big, Malfoy. People were injured horribly, people died. All I can say is that they will see Dumbledore offering you clemency and protection. That should allay some of the calls for retribution. I really don't know. The Wizengamot is as corrupt as anything else at the ministry, but maybe they will have some sense when it comes to sentencing. The call for Lucius's head will be loud and long, but if they can see you as his creature as well as Voldemort's, they might go easier."
"Well," Draco said in a dry voice, "That's certainly honest if not particularly hopeful."
Harry barked out a laugh, "That's me Malfoy, the great hero who spreads everything but cheer." And, with that, Harry tapped his wand to his forehead in a quick salute and Apparated.
"What's a geek?" Malfoy yelled to the empty hallway.
Draco spent the day wandering Grimmauld Place. There were bits and pieces of things his mother had mentioned from time to time about her youth, but nothing Draco coveted. The house was gloomy throughout and looked like it had been that way for centuries and not just because of Mrs. Black's lifetime reign of terror. Without a word, but with many significant glances, Kreature came to him while he was in what had been the brothers' wing of the house. Kreature dusted the same two volumes on a low shelf several times, all but glared at Draco and went away.
Draco sat on the floor and took the first volume into his hands. It was a sort of casual diary, which had been written by Sirius Black, he who'd been Harry's godfather. It was running commentary of a very proud, brilliant and impatient youth. There were spells, both dark and legal, potion recipes that surely rivaled whatever Snape had invented as a student, a long list of girls and women Sirius had found interesting, from first innocent idealism to almost libertine worthy experiences. Draco took both volumes to the parlor, he didn't turn on the TV, but he asked for tea and Kreature brought a pot with a plate of scones and biscuits. Draco read what Sirius had written about Dumbledore, Snape, Voldemort and paid special attention to how his mother's cousin described his three friends and the woman Snape loved, Lily Evans Potter.
Malfoy closed his eyes and leaned back onto the couch. Sirius Black had been as much of a snob as Draco was himself. Superior attitude reeked on every page, even describing his initial friendships with James Potter and Remus Lupin in less than complimentary terms, believing they wanted to be reflected in his glory. But, he'd grown to love his friends, to value them and find them worthy of his protection. His hate for Snape had been instinctual; Snape was as intelligent as he was and had been scooped up immediately into Lucius Malfoy's circle, a few years older, but who'd held the position as the leader of Slytherin as well as that of Hogwarts premier heartbreaker.
Sirius was certainly a Gryffindor, but he was also too much of a Black not to appreciate the power Slytherins valued and wielded inside the school at the time.
Draco thought about it for a while. He'd heard stories about his father's school years, but he'd never seen or heard an account from someone who hadn't wanted to lick his boots. Sirius Black hadn't wanted to praise Lucius Malfoy or Severus Snape, he'd wanted to best them, beat them at everything from potions grades to Quidditch to scoring girls.
In the quiet of late morning and the mostly empty old house, Draco Malfoy began to laugh. He laughed and laughed until his gut hurt and tears poured from his eyes. Perspective was a real bitch, he thought. He and Harry Potter hadn't had some epic rivalry; he and Slytherin hadn't been ostracized because they were evil or represented evil. It was how Hogwarts, and by extension, every Wizard boarding school must be like. Hormones and hurt feeling, stung pride and boys who would carry on to the death, never mind how ridiculous, how petty and how meaningless their squabbles ultimately were compared to real concerns and tragedies.
Had anyone told him in years past, he wouldn't have believed them. His blood had been roused for seven years and nothing was able to douse it except real life. Draco sobered, real life had come to him in spades and there had been no way out; not for him and not for his father who'd been living in the fantasy a hell of a lot longer than he had.
He put the books prominently on the rent table by the windows in the parlor. It had only been three days exposure to Harry, but he could hardly recall the way he'd felt for all those years, the envy he understood, but the depth of scorn, had that been real?
He wasn't sure why he didn't pack up and go, but he wasn't leaving, he was going to stay and see what else was revealed to him in the aftermath of Voldemort, which he had believed had nothing in it for him except ruination and despair.
Potter returned looking as though the day had aged him. Without a word, Draco watched as Kreature helped him out of his outer robes and handed him a glass of wine, holding in front of him as a lure to get Potter to sit down.
Potter sat, took a sip, leaned his head back on the cushions and sighed.
"Rough day?" Draco asked dryly.
Harry smiled, "You could say that," He answered in a rough whisper as though he'd spent the day screaming; he didn't open his eyes.
Draco sat down next to Potter on the couch. He took the glass out of his trembling hand and put it on the end table. Feeling compelled, Draco bumped shoulders with Potter, "What happened?" He asked.
"Penelope Clearwater and her staff were hauled in front of Scrimgeour and accused of undermining the ministry's rules about private projects and misuse of ministry funds. None of them faltered, maintaining they were doing valuable research for the Wizengamot's upcoming Death Eater trials. The word spread and half the ministry jammed the corridor outside Scrimgeour's office. He accused me of planning a coup by undermining his authority. The crowd didn't buy it and got angry. He called the Aurors to clear the area. It was a mess."
Draco saw it all in his mind; the confusion of the ministry employees when Scrimgeour's first volley to undermine the hero happens on an otherwise dull Monday morning, Harry's excited attempts to get Clearwater and her associates out of hot water, the hours of invective filled lecturing by the minister. He sighed in sympathy.
Compelled once again, Draco pats Harry's knee and knows Harry is no longer Potter said with spitting out the P and Ts. "Remember what you said when you found me, Harry. The end is in sight no matter what shit Scrimgeour pulls."
Harry leaned didn't open his eyes, "My Muggle relatives would have enjoyed the way Scrimgeour raked me over the coals. They're my watermark, you know? Anything they would approve of is bad for me, it keeps me balanced."
"I'd heard…" Draco trailed off.
"What?" Harry asked with a small smile. "You can insult them with impunity, Draco, they're the worst kind of Muggles imaginable, although my fat cousin was decent for one second as we parted last year."
Draco coughed into his hand, "I saw them waiting for you at King's Cross once. I thought the huge fat man was going to clout you about the head by the time you said goodbye to Weasley and Granger."
Harry rubbed the back of his head on the couch as if he were rubbing away a pain. "He did often enough. He told everyone I was in a school for criminal youths whenever I was at Hogwarts. They really hated magic." Harry sighed. "My aunt, Petunia, which is a name I find very amusing in the face of so many witches, including my mother and yours, who were named for flowers."
Harry sat up and Draco could see some energy returning, "Snape was the one to identify my mother as a witch. He lived nearby their childhood home and would watch the sisters play at the playground. At first, my mother though he was insulting her by calling her a witch. Muggles say that about nasty women. After a bit, she listened, then the Hogwarts letter came and a Wizard to explain things. Petunia didn't get a letter and wanted to go to Hogwarts too.
When she was denied, she became jealous of my mother and began to hate magic, saying my mother was a freak."
"Muggles," Draco muttered.
Harry smiled, "Yeah, Snape was my mother's first wizard friend and they were actually pretty close until OWLS. She tried to stop some boys from tormenting him and in retaliation for interfering, he called her a Mudblood. When he wouldn't recant and agree words like those as well as much of what Slytherins thought was right was really racist and dangerous, their friendship ended. It was the worst day of his life." The smile left Harry's face, "Snape never got over it and when she married one of the boys who had tormented him, he never forgave him and by extension, me. After Voldemort killed her, he never could forgive himself for passing him information. I'm sure he hated me alright, but in the end, he loved my mother more and did so much to keep me alive. He was incredibly efficient at being a spy for the Order of the Phoenix and more incredibly brave all those years. I wish I could thank him, but I don't know if there is a portrait of him in the Headmaster's office since he didn't actually retire or die before he was chased out."
Draco patted Harry's knee again, "Oh, I think you'll get your chance. There are other portraits and paintings of him around. I don't think he would expect or appreciate thanks though."
"Doesn't matter," Harry said and drank his wine. "I need to thank him; how he takes it is up to him."
The seats in the amphitheater reached as far as the horizon, Snape thought, but was entirely silent. He thought he could see his mother twenty or so rows back, but he couldn't be sure it was her. His mind was protesting what his eyes were seeing and telling him that an audience of every witch and wizard that had ever lived and died couldn't possibly amass in one place like this, even in the afterlife. Nonetheless, he was here and they were here and this was reality, maybe reality, he'd been to the Department of Mysteries a few times to be convinced anything one saw was the only reality. Except, as far as he knew, no one had ever reported what the afterlife was from the afterlife, so who could really know?"
The light grew stronger and came from the north, everyone except him was facing north, but he was afraid to turn around and look. Instead, he watched the ones he knew best; Dumbledore, Voldemort, Lupin and Moody as the light brightened their faces and he could see it dance in their eyes. He felt the heat on his back begin to prick him through his robes and he shifted on the dais.
Sound started, Snape heard it but couldn't begin to describe it. It wasn't noise and it wasn't music and it wasn't harsh and it wasn't soothing. Like the darkness had been and the light, which came lately, it just was, period."
Here and there he saw flames. Inside the flames were people who had been sitting there like everyone else. The flames danced blue and black, gold and crimson and the bodies began to burn, to melt, to deflate into nothing. As the flames began to eat Voldemort, he heard screaming over the noise. It was Voldemort who screamed and screamed until there was nothing left of him in that seat next to Dumbledore and everything was silent once more as only his scream echoed until it too, faded into nothingness.
Snape felt his knees begin to give out and when he faltered, he found himself sitting in the seat between the Weasley twin and where Bellatrix had been before she melted away. He and the Weasley twin turned towards each other and said with one voice, "This has to be hell."
Harry and Draco had dinner together after Harry had rested a bit and drank a second glass of wine. Draco thought he should get Kreature to decant some Sherry so Harry could drink an appropriate aperitif. The food was excellently prepared and served; he thanked Kreature, who rolled his eyes, probably because in his book, proper wizards did not thank elves.
Over chicken and roasted potatoes, Draco told Harry about Sirius' diary and hoped he wouldn't think he'd been snooping.
"Sirius was great," Harry said. "He was a bit crazed after twelve years in Azkaban, but I think he'd always been a little dangerous and careless. I wanted to know him better, wanted him to take me away from the Dursley's and make a home for us. Bellatrix killed him and laughed. That was the night at the ministry when I went to find the Prophesy and your father and the other Death Eaters showed up to get it too. Voldemort and Dumbledore battled, which destroyed the ministry's magical creature's statuary and most of the hall. I was glad Lucius and the others got arrested, but I wish they had caught Bellatrix too."
Draco laid down his cutlery, "From the distance of Dumbledore's and Voldemort's demise and the intervening months, I realize how many mistakes my father made and I am not including the initial one to take the Dark Mark when he was our age. I believed him to be faultless in all respects, you know."
"I know," Harry interjected dryly.
Draco smiled wryly. "I guess you do. But those were epic times and larger than life characters, all of them. I couldn't have chosen differently, Harry. I didn't try either. The morality of the situation, which was of primary importance to me, was loyalty to my family and ultimately, protecting them as best as I could. By the time Voldemort forced the mark on my arm and I saw he'd judged my father a failure; it was too late to change sides without getting him killed. If any of it had gone well, I don't think I would have wanted to change sides in any case."
Harry poured another glass of wine for each of them. "It's a good thing your side lost, Draco. The Wizarding world needs Hermione's brains and all the power from all of the mixed bloods and Muggleborns to keep us a great people. We would shrink and die without them. The Muggles are destroying the planet and we need every iota of energy to outlast their actions and survive. We need every magical creature in order to do it. We're all important."
"So you agree it is at least between them and us?" Draco asked.
Harry sighed, "Not in the way you mean. Trying to eliminate all the Muggles is not the answer either. They are here, if you want to go that far, by whatever ultimate power that created us too. So they belong here as much as we do. Despite their millennium of destruction, they are trying to reverse some of the damage and save what's left of the unharmed good things."
"I don't know. I still think history has shown that when Muggles find out about us, they persecute before asking questions. They live in a different science, if I can categorize it that way. Their perceptions of the natural world are completely different. I don't see how we could ever survive if the knew."
"Maybe not," Harry replied. "But there are a few Muggles who do know about us. Mostly they try to get us to use our power to help them achieve wealth or greatness. They see soon enough, we won't help them. Afterwards, they mostly forget about us or ignore us lest we show up and annihilate them. The families of half bloods and the Muggleborn cope pretty well and once the ones with magic get old enough to control it, they either come to live on the edges of wizarding society or only see the ones with magic occasionally, since the magic ones cannot help their families to achieve health, wealth, power or happiness."
"I've been told many stories, Harry, about family disintegration caused by intermarriage or the surprise of having a magic child from out of the blue. It always seems to be the Muggles who get violent and tear things apart."
Harry smiled, "Do you or do you know if wizards believe in extraterrestrial life coming to earth?"
Draco grinned, "Of course not, Harry. That's ridiculous."
"Well, Draco," Harry said leaning closer. "Muggles do believe there may be something out there, from space and the infinite array of universes and planets. If we suddenly popped into existence in front of them one day, I think they would assume we were aliens. If there has been such contact in the past and they have secretly made relationships with the Muggle world leaders, like wizards have, the public would never be informed. It is really only the hazard of megalomaniacs on our side that really threatens the balance. A Muggle leader would be dismissed as insane before he could try and prove anything. A dark and powerful wizard, on the other hand, would be sure his power could overcome anything Muggles would try against him."
"True," Draco replied. "I've seen how wizards think they can actually control Muggles."
"Yeah," Harry said and subsided tiredly, "One on one maybe or even a hundred to one, but Draco, there are almost two billion Muggles on the face of the earth and I doubt a couple of million wizards, should they all agree, would be able to rule or control all of them."
Draco sighed, "I'm not giving you that point Harry. If there was ever a consensus of wizards who wanted to put down Muggles, I think they could do it. But, they would have to do it without me; I've had enough of torture and killing. I think I would rather be a lover these days."
Harry laughed, "So where's your little black book then?"
"What little black book?" Draco asked blankly.
Harry laughed again, "It's a Muggle thing. Men who go after a lot of women write down their telephone numbers in little address books and after a while they have more than a few books. It's just a way of saying a guy is a successful lover with the implication that he uses women rather than has relationships with them."
"So he's a cad?"
"Old fashioned word, but yes." Harry answered.
Draco leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his lap, "Being a cad could be fun." He said glancing through his fringe slyly at Harry.
"I don't know about quantity being important, Draco, but I'd like to get to have a few, let's say 'romantic' experiences without strings."
"Is that why you and the littlest Weasel have parted ways?"
"Yeah, that's a lot of it. Not to mention I'm only eighteen and haven't seen or been anywhere except London, wandered around a few bleak landscapes, and Hogwarts. Oh, and I've been distracted by a monstrous Dark Lord and a Machiavellian Head Master for the past seven years or so."
"Tsk," Draco said needling Harry a bit, "As if that's an excuse for not snogging."
Harry laughed. "Hopeless, I know, but change is coming after all, you're here aren't you and that's totally unexpected."
Draco stayed. The days repeated themselves all week, he and Harry ate a quick breakfast and Harry left for most of the day, coming back exhausted. He explored the house or studied the Muggle text books. They talked for long stretches at the dinner table or on the couch after dinner. Harry brought home shiny round disks that played stories, which they watched in the evening on the TV. Harry would do an Enlargement charm and the screen would get huge. Muggles, it seemed to Draco, dropped their clothes at every opportunity, even or especially in the middle of solving tense and violent mysteries.
Harry Apparated them to a narrow alley behind a cinema complex and Draco watched "Rocky Horror Picture Show" with him at midnight on Friday. Harry had given him a tray packed with food; popped corn, Muggle chocolate with raisins and peanuts in it, salty chips with a disgusting liquid cheese dip and a very large cup of Coca Cola, which he had heard of although never tasted. Unwittingly he drank a lot of it at once and was mortified to find he belched loudly when he was done. Harry laughed, but Draco thought he could hear people try to cover their belches all through the movie. Not that a belch or two mattered when people in the audience jumped up and down and spoke or sang with the characters on the screen. It was chaos with umbrellas, newspapers and squirting water everywhere, but he thought it was fun in a low class sort of way.
The movie itself left him speechless. The gender bending, as Harry called it afterward, was something which was never shown in Wizarding Theater. Everyone knew that men and women could do glamours and have experiences with their same sex. But really, it was certainly not discussed or celebrated in public.
Harry took him to a Muggle Pub after the movie and bought him pints of a very bitter, but strangely satisfying, butter… er… beer. They weren't disturbed; no one recognized either of them and drank alone or with his own companions without bothering the young wizards.
Harry explained that the movie was old, but had become a kind of cult favorite for those who had fun watching it, keeping it going here and there around the world in many cities. In its time, it had been outrageous, even banned in places. He promised they would see other films with the lead actor and actress in them.
His head spinning from the noise, colors, music, theme of the film and the bitter beer, Draco asked, "Ever snogged another guy, Harry? Ever wanted to?"
As soon as he asked, he was appalled, but it was too late; the words had been spoken.
Harry's eyes opened wide, "You're drunk Draco." He stated. He drank another swallow and looked past Draco into the back of the murky bar, "There was this kid who lived on one of the streets in Little Whinging. I would see him from time to time. He was a couple of years older and at home a lot. I always thought he might have been sickly. Anyway, when I would try to outrun my cousin and his mates, this kid would open his front door and let me run in and hide for a few minutes. His house was the exact same model as my relative's house, but completely different inside. We didn't talk or become friends or anything, but he would always mutter what a bastard my cousin was. Scant, but the only sympathy I ever got those days. After fifth year and the death of my godfather, I wandered a lot, staying away from home and my relatives as much a possible. One late afternoon he found me sitting on a low fence under some trees at the back of one of the houses. It was my favorite hiding place. Seems, he knew the place too. He joined me and we sat in silence until it grew full dark. He leaned over and put his hand on my chin, turned my face and kissed me without a word, he got up and left. I never saw him again."
Heart pounding in his chest, Draco asked, "And?"
Harry smiled sadly, "It was okay. Maybe I should have been offended and punched him, but it was so quiet, so calm and in a way, the kiss was kind and soothing. Oh, and he wasn't crying." Harry smiled at a thought of his own.
Draco didn't know what to say; obviously it hadn't been a sexual experience, at least not on Harry's part.
Putting down his pint and focusing on Draco, Harry asked the same question.
Draco hesitated. He'd kissed both genders and gone a bit farther, but he hadn't decided who he wanted to shag more than the other. He'd been looking forward to finding just that thing out in Majorca or wherever he ended up. "I think," He said carefully, "That I'm open."
Harry widened his eyes, "That's different," Was all he said.
Draco smiled, "I'm selfish," He said with a shrug.
Harry ordered one more round and they walked to a taxi stand and Draco rode in his first Muggle auto mobile. He couldn't recall it very well the next day, but agreed it had been better than walking, but not as good as Apparating.
Draco stayed and Harry's project got underway with Penelope Clearwater and her aides, regardless of Scrimgeour's active disapproval. They came to the Grimmauld Place Floo often and if they found Draco's presence hard to explain, they didn't say so and for his part, Draco remained polite and very interested, adding his own ideas, which became welcomed as his intelligence was apparent.
Late one evening a week or so later, Harry said when he finally ended the Floo session, "Hermione and Ron will be coming tomorrow to work with everyone. You've been great about adding your ideas to this project and I thank you, but I don't want any trouble with my friends, Draco."
Draco spread his hands in front of his body with a 'who me?' attitude. But, Harry didn't smile. "I won't risk being tossed off this project because of Weasley and Granger." He said shortly.
Harry stared him in the eye and Draco met his look. "Okay," Harry said and left it at that.
Being a Saturday, Harry was home and they had brunch instead of a rushed breakfast. Kreature was going to prepare dinner for everyone who was coming that evening, because Harry thought they should get something out of helping him.
Draco laughed, "They're going to get medals and accolades if this works. It'll change the way we have trials."
"Food is good anytime," He answered and then asked Draco to choose a menu, including wines.
Draco bowed, "Glad to be of service," He said wryly, but forbear a remark about Harry's plebian tastes and spent the early afternoon in the kitchen and wine cellar with Kreature.
Harry thought he heard the ancient elf laugh once, but decided it was impossible.
The guests came; Draco almost felt as he had many times when forced to be in the room with guests of his parents who, after greeting him, immediately forgot he was there. But, it seemed he was wrong, it was the dismal house which captivated Penelope's interest as well as the other three from the DOM who came with her. Once they had gaped and shuddered and advised Harry to burn the place to the ground, they relaxed in the parlor and included Draco in the conversation.
Draco found he was nervous. It had been so long since he had spoken in person to anyone but his parents and Harry. Penelope and her team were not overly warm or curious about him; they merely assumed that since he was with Harry in his home, he knew what was going on. Since he did know and was interested, by the time Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger arrived, the mood for the evening had been set.
Surprisingly, they were not boisterous in the expected way. They glared at him, but greeted him with short, but not aggressive, "Malfoy," and left it at that. The conversation was serious and centered on the laws which governed the Wizengamot and how much leeway the minister had to disrupt the proceedings. Naturally, Granger knew the most about the details, but Penelope and Harry knew more about the overall trial experience and had practical ideas about how to present the new media.
Ron spoke just before they went in to dinner, "According to my dad," He began, "The Wizengamot body is severely depleted. Not just because some were supporters of Voldemort or owed everything to Fudge, but because they know the workload for the next couple of years is going to be hard and pretty awful. There is still some residual fear that the ones on trial can wreak vengeance. I think you should offer these recollections or whatever you want to call it, in short concise pieces, they will understand it better and not be threatened by it."
Penelope smiled, "Yes, Ron, I think you're right. We need a really strong and confident sounding name for these memories and make it as simple as possible for the Wizengamot to understand comfortably. While many on the panel take their duties seriously, there are many for whom the appointment was a feather in their cap and who don't want to work hard or be accountable for the decisions."
Draco followed the group to the dining room. He was amazed; he'd never heard the Weasel sound so knowledgeable and intelligent before. Frankly, he had never thought Gryffindor's could have conversations of this caliber. In the dining room, the food was laid out on one of the huge ancient sideboards. Draco had planned for them to serve themselves and see as little of Kreature as possible.
It worked. They took what they wanted, sat down comfortably and Harry poured the wine. One of the team, a wizard in his thirties named Andrew Allspice, proposed a toast, "The end's in sight," he said raising his glass, "That my children can live in peace."
The company said, "Hear, hear," and drank the wine.
For some reason, Draco felt tears gather in his throat. He didn't know if it was more because this little ceremony made Voldemort seem really gone or because he instinctually understood this was thoroughly adult business and he was part of it. As he drank, he said 'adios' to sunny Spain and running away. He had not been on the right side in the past, but he had a chance to help them now.
He sat quietly during the meal, not interrupting or uttering scathing comments. By dessert, Granger and Weasley were including him in the conversation and when coffee and brandy were offered in the parlor, Granger sat beside him on the couch.
Ron Weasley didn't send Draco any glares either.
That night, Draco had no nightmares.
The following week showed Draco what it was like to be on a mission of importance for something other than his name or for his family's survival. Although, he did allow that doing good here might help his family one day. He worked hard, mostly from Grimmauld Place, but occasionally from Penelope's office in the DOM. They worked and reworked as many scenarios as they could think of about what the minister and the Wizengamot would ask of them to guarantee, and how they could offer irrefutable proof. McGonagall was contacted, raised her eyebrows at Draco's presence at the Fire-call with Harry, but made no remark. She told them to come to Hogwarts and interview Dumbledore's portrait. He'd been head of the Wizengamot after all.
They waited for Saturday and Apparated to the gates. It was bleak, cold and unlike London in the south, had a hard cover of frost on the ground and snow on the towers. The few students running around on the grounds were playing games designed to keep warm and still be outside in such weather, stopped what they were doing and ran up to Harry. He greeted them and didn't stop walking. There was no one Draco recognized, so he didn't stop to chat either.
Professor McGonagall was waiting inside the entrance and without a word, led them to the spiral staircase, "Tartan Plaid," she said and the staircase began to move. The headmaster's office was everything Draco had ever imagined. It was light, full of interesting inexplicable things and portraits of former headmasters sitting, standing, sleeping and sneaking peeks at them. Dumbledore had pride of place at the moment on the wall behind the large desk. He was sitting, stroking his beard seemingly engrossed in whatever argument was going on between two other portraits.
"Professor," Harry said in a loud voice and all the sounds in the room ceased.
"Dear boy," Dumbledore said and twinkled at Harry. His eyes opened wider and he nodded at Draco, "Mr. Malfoy." He said.
Draco nodded, speechless.
McGonagall sat down, pulled a scroll into place on the desk, folded her hands and waited.
"Sir," Harry began, "I need some advice about the Wizengamot."
Dumbledore nodded and smiled, "What do you need Harry?"
Harry explained about the plan to present movie-like memories to the Wizengamot instead of in person testimony. He asked if this was legal and what would Dumbledore recommend that he do.
Dumbledore nodded and stroked his beard for a while. "I don't know if they'll agree Harry. They'll want to have you present and under their control as much as possible. You're just too juicy a prize to overlook. However, right now I imagine you could write your own ticket." Dumbledore chuckled, "You could ask for elections and become minister if you wanted to do so. It's no wonder Minister Scrimgeour is concerned." After a few more minutes of thinking, Dumbledore spoke again with no touch of humor or whimsy present. "Maybe you should infer such a thought has occurred to you when next you meet with the minister in private. He'd understand you lusting for position more easily than you want to efface yourself from all the hoopla."
Harry shook his head, "I'm no good at that kind of pretense and Merlin forbid anyone should take the idea seriously."
"Well then dear boy," Dumbledore spoke, "Make your movies and when they are reviewed for accuracy and content, allow one or two of the best Legilimensinside your mind while it shows. They will be able to verify the memories as accurate. There is certainly nothing in the law which would disallow this kind of testimony simply because it hasn't been done before."
"Thank you," Harry said. "I just want it to be over."
Dumbledore smiled and seemed to become hazy in his chair.
"The portraits can only experience communication with the living for so long at one time," She said, "Before they fade out for a while."
Harry nodded, looked at Draco and turned toward the door, "Headmaster, ma'am," Draco said as he nodded at Dumbledore and looked at McGonagall, "I'm sorry."
Dumbledore's image sharpened briefly, "Certainly, Mr. Malfoy."
McGonagall looked severe, "It's a new age, Mr. Malfoy. I hope we can have peace at last."
"We're trying," Harry said and took Draco's arm. Together they exited the office and road the staircase down in silence.
They ran into Ginny and some of the seventh year Gryffindors in the corridor leading from the Great Hall.
"Harry!" Ginny exclaimed with a ready smile.
Draco felt Harry freeze next to him and saw the Weasley's smile falter and a frown appear on her forehead.
"Hey Gin," Harry said slowly, giving a limp half wave.
Ginny approached them, "I heard you were hanging about," She said to Draco and put her arms around Harry in a hug.
Harry patted her shoulder and moved back slightly.
"Oh, Harry," She said and sighed, "You don't have to be afraid I'll cause a scene. I would have hugged you hello no matter what happened. I am happy to see you, you know."
Harry smiled, "I know Gin," He replied, "I'm happy to see you too."
"Okay then," She said and giving Draco a hard look, she skipped away to join the other Gryffindors who'd waited in the corridor.
Draco watched Harry watch her leave, but got no clue what Harry was thinking about because he had that old young man's look on his face again.
"Let's get a shit-load of chocolate," Harry said as they walked across the grounds towards the gate and the road to Hogsmeade.
"Sounds good," Draco answered.
Hogsmeade was not busy without students milling about. Shoppers stopped, stared and smiled at Harry, but left him alone. Each time someone stopped, Draco heard Harry catch his breath as if he were getting ready to run. Honeydukes was nearly empty, just a couple of pre-Hogwarts age children clasping small-change in their hands and debating what to spend it on. They were more interested in the sweets than in Harry Potter.
Draco used a small shopping basket, something which was considered absolutely dorky when he was a student no matter how much money one was spending. Piling stuff in one's arms and balancing it was a well honed Hogwarts skill. He saw Harry quirk a small smile as he filled the basket. Draco shrugged, he'd had many other more important moments of humiliation since his last visit to the candy store, this one didn't simply didn't rate.
They paid and went outside. Harry led Draco down the path passed the Shrieking Shack and further into the countryside. He found a well protected nook made naturally in the side of a hillock and alee of most of the cold wind. Harry cast a Drying Charm and sat down on the ground, Draco followed.
"Ugh," Draco said as he saw Harry open a box of chocolate covered nuts. "I hate nuts," He said.
Harry masticated with his mouth opened on purpose.
"That's mature," Draco said and turned his head away.
"Nancy boy," Harry replied and chuckled.
"Good manners are not poncy," Draco said. "It's a matter of breeding and training."
"And you were trained up good, weren't you Malfoy." Harry said.
Draco found he was shocked, this was the first time Harry had been spiteful. It hurt. Carefully he selected the next sweet, his hand was shaking slightly. He didn't reply.
"Sorry," Harry mumbled.
Draco nodded after a while he said, "Better the devil you know."
Harry laughed, offered Draco his choice of chocolate frogs and said, "Goes both ways between us, doesn't it?"
Draco smiled, "As a summation of a dysfunctional relationship, it works."
They Apparated to Grimmauld Place and Kreature was waiting with lunch. "Been to Hogwarts," Harry said somewhat guiltily, chocolate in the corners of his mouth, "We've already eaten."
Kreature stared at them with more than his usual dead-panned expression. Harry handed him a fistful of candies. Kreature closed his eyes as if he were counting to ten for patience, but all he said was, "As you wish Mr. Harry Potter."
"He'll burn dinner," Draco said sotto-voce and Harry laughed.
A few minutes later cracks of Apparation sounded the arrival of Penelope and her team, they got right down to business. "We need to move fast Harry," She began. "Scrimgeour gave an interview to the Prophet and intimated you are suffering from Battle Fatigue and stress and might not be able to testify. It'll be in the paper tomorrow. I think you should tell the Prophet what we're really doing."
"Call Rita Skeeter," Draco urged. "Give her the exclusive and she'll make the minister eat his words."
"I don't want to exacerbate the situation," He said. "If I become an Auror, he will be my boss, dislike is one thing, but all out enmity is another."
Penelope sat down, "I'm afraid it's too late, Harry. He is the one who raised the bar. He knows how much you hate being in the limelight so he is forcing you into it."
Quirking his lips, Draco said, "When you dance with the devil…"
Harry smiled sadly, "I didn't want to come to this ball at all." He straightened his shoulders, "Let's go for a drink at the Leaky. All of us together, I bet it's less than ten minutes before the Prophet to send a photographer."
It was as Harry said and it had none of the glamour that Draco always thought was part of being famous. The photographers flashed their lights into his eyes; a couple of reporters from other papers yelled their questions, hardly pausing to hear the answers. Rita Skeeter preened and waited her turn, confident she would get an exclusive and winked at Draco as if he were in on it with her against Harry, like he'd been in fourth year.
After about ten minutes of chaos, Harry stood up and announced he would give a statement if everyone shut up and back off. The room quieted somewhat, although there were asides from one or another of the media, which were entirely audible.
"From the moment I found out I was a wizard," Harry started and ended a quarter of an hour later with, "I will allow my actions and memories to be investigated by three Wizengamot Legilimens to vouch for their veracity. Afterwards, I will not be necessary to the proceedings. I am not having a mental breakdown of any kind, but I am tired and need some time to adjust to a non-Voldemort world, just like everyone else. I would like to do some normal things for once. I would like to travel to other wizarding places, get into an Auror training cycle in the next year or two and most of all, and have some privacy to get on with my life. If the Wizarding world wants to thank me, I ask, with all my heart, that this is the way to do it."
Rita Skeeter's mouth was compressed in annoyance, "Come on Harry," She crooned shrilly, "Since your breakup with Ginerva Weasley you're heartbroken and that's why you want to go into hiding, isn't it? After all, the greatest hero of the century should get the girl in the end, don't you think?"
Harry frowned, but before he could speak, a well dressed and groomed reporter from the WWN spoke up. "Mr. Potter? I am Javier Carroll from the WWN."
Harry nodded at him.
"I appreciate what you have done for all of us these past years and understand your desire for privacy. I don't think," He glared at Rita Skeeter, "that we have to dog you constantly, however, we do need to stay abreast of any plans for the Death Eater trials in which you play a huge part. These trials are the news after all."
"Everything I know and everything I have done will be part of the record, I promise. More than that, I cannot guarantee to share with the world. It should be more than enough." Harry answered in his deep voice.
"Will you share your experiences with the press, Mr. Potter?" Another reporter asked.
Harry smiled, "Oh, yes. I have been advised that full discloser will put an end to inaccurate, exaggerated and purple hued prose about me in the papers." He stared at Skeeter and raised an eyebrow. "Besides, it is or will become important history soon enough and I want it to be true more than anything else."
"Give us everything the Wizengamot will have and I, for one, will leave you alone," Carroll said.
The other reporters echoed Carroll's statement.
Harry smiled, "Thank you, as soon as the record is ready, I will share it with all of you."
Harry grabbed Draco's arm and they exited the Leaky to the Muggle side as the crowd made room for them to pass.
On the street Draco started laughing, "Well done, Harry, well done."
"Still want to be me?" Harry asked, but he was smiling.
Draco sobered, "For a long time I didn't want to be me, that's for sure. Now, well, maybe there is a future worth sticking around to see."
Harry grinned, took Draco's arm and walked him briskly down the Muggle street and into a pub as different from the Leaky as it was possible. "Sit," Harry said and lightly pushed Draco into a booth, which was all gleaming red leather and had Western American décor with saddles on the wall and pictures of old American cowboys. Harry went up to the bar and placed an order with the barman. He joined Draco in the booth, "The waitress will bring it." He said with a smile.
"Muggle liquor?" Draco asked.
The waitress came presently with a large tray. She placed large baskets of steaming food on their table and tall steins of lager as well as tall glasses of iced water.
"Muggle snacks," Harry said. "Try them, they are delicious, but very spicy," He said and tapped his glass of ice water with a fork.
Draco took his first sip of beer and let it slide down his throat. He waited as the taste exploded in his mouth and nostrils. He took a larger swallow and burped.
Harry laughed, "The name of this beer is Arrogant Bastard. All I ever knew was Guinness because of all their advertising, so the first time someone explained the names of beers to me I thought I would send you a case someday, because the name was so perfect."
Draco smiled, coyly replying, "You thought of me on your own time? Should I be flattered, Harry?"
Harry smiled and offered Draco a Chipotle flavored chicken wing from one of the baskets, "Arrogant Bastard in the same thought as Draco Malfoy. I don't know Draco, is that a compliment?
Draco looked up with watering eyes, "I knew it," he gasped and scrabbled for his water. "You are trying to kill me."
Harry laughed and Draco, though his tears, thought he sparkled.
"Try these," Harry said and pushed the basket of nacho chips and salsa toward Draco.
Draco finished his glass of water, sweat beading at his hairline. "No wonder there are so many Muggle alcoholics," He said and gingerly dipped a nacho in the salsa, shaking off all but a tiny drop."
"Sure," Harry said, showing off by eating a chipotle chicken wing with seeming relish and no effect. "These tidbits sell a lot more beer."
"I like this stuff," Draco said. "We could go to Zapopan and have the real thing."
"What's Zapopan?" Harry said biting into another wing.
"It's the Wizarding section in Guadalajara, Mexico. I've never been there, but it has a reputation for wild night life."
Harry smiled and Draco thought it was almost a fond smile, like friend to friend, the way he smiled at Granger. "Soon I'll be free." Harry quirked a brow; "Then the sky's the limit."
Now that he was seated in the Audience of Dead Souls, which he'd immediately named the phenomenon, Snape could see that they weren't staring blindly north, there was a huge manifestation of an ancient wizard, apparently sitting on nothing but air. "Merlin!" exclaimed Snape.
"So much older than him," Snape heard, like a whisper of wind in his mind.
The ancient wizard didn't speak again, at least not to him; whether he was communicating with any of the millions of others, he couldn't tell.
Snape identified the Weasley twin as Fred, who whispered, "We're all dead, aren't we?"
"I presume so," Snape answered, hoping he wasn't going have to spend eternity answering questions.
"I want to feel bad," Fred continued, "I mean I know my family is probably very upset, but I can't seem to make my heart feel it."
"I don't know any more than you do at the present time," Snape said, "I haven't been dead before either."
"The next great adventure, Dumbledore said." Fred added in, turning to look at Dumbledore.
"He had a quote for every occasion," Snape replied and closed his eyes. He wasn't all that surprised to see the image of the ancient wizard behind his lids.
Sated with food and drink, at Grimmauld Place, Harry and Draco sank onto the squishy couch in the parlor. Draco rubbed his belly and sighed, "I'm stretched to the limit. There's absolutely no more room to swallow another mouthful." He glanced at Harry and saw he was staring at his hand rubbing his stomach. Draco patted it, making a sort of gourd sound, like a dull drum, "I'll get fat if we eat like that very often."
Harry smiled, "I don't think we have to worry about that for a long time, maybe when were forty or something. Besides," He smiled grimly, "I still have a lot of meals to make up for from when I was starved at the Dursley's."
Draco frowned, "Have you seen them since you left home?"
Harry laid his head back on the cushions and stretched out his legs, bringing one foot to rest barely an inch from Draco's foot. "No. I think it's best we go on as strangers. As we said goodbye my cousin showed a moment of almost being human, but I'm sure it was merely a passing impulse. They don't have anything I want or need any longer."
Draco tapped his toe against Harry's toe. "You were so skinny the first time I saw you."
Harry grinned, "You weren't much heavier."
"At least my hair wasn't a mop." Draco smiled.
Harry laughed, "No. It was slicked back with a ton of oil and your ears stuck out."
"They did not!" Draco said and pushed at Harry's foot.
"Did too," Harry laughed.
"I have perfect shell like ears, I'll have you know." Draco said.
Harry grabbed Draco's chin and brought them face to face. He breathed into Draco's ear and Draco shivered. "All I see here are potatoes growing." Harry said.
"Why you…" Draco twisted away and grabbed a handful of Harry's hair.
"Now, now, Draco," Harry said and stared him in the eye.
Draco drew a breath, but couldn't seem to exhale. Harry's eyes were very green and his breath was warm on Draco's lips. Harry's eyes dilated and Draco moved in. They rubbed noses, and Draco started and tried to move away, overcome with something he couldn't name, but was making his chest ache.
"Now, now' Draco," Harry repeated softly and brushed his lips against Draco's lips.
"Harry?" Draco questioned on a gust of breath.
"Sshhh," Harry whispered and laid his lips on Draco's lips and they both trembled.
Harry didn't try to deepen the kiss, Draco thought. Having met lips to lips, he simply stayed there, his mouth resting on Draco's. Draco liked it; there was no aggression, no plea and no expectation. He'd never had a kiss like it before. He made a small sound and began to actually kiss Harry. Harry responded, but the whole thing was extremely tenuous and innocent. They broke the kiss at the same moment and identically licked their lips before sitting back on the sofa.
Harry took Draco's hand, but said nothing.
Draco wrapped his fingers around Harry's and sighed, let the large meal and the Muggle alcohol wash over him and closed his eyes. He felt Harry lean into him, kiss the crown of his head and lay back again. Although he could have never imagined such a situation, being here in this moment was perfect. He yawned, slid until his head rested on Harry's shoulder and let sleep take him.
Draco woke in his usual spot on Old Mrs. Black's bed. His mouth was dry and sour and he had a bit of a headache. It took him a moment to remember what had happened the previous evening. No doubt; Harry probably got him to bed or asked Kreature to do it. He was undressed to his underwear and socks, but was otherwise, entirely unmolested.
Draco searched his mind and his heart and found he wasn't nervous or dismayed about what had happened. There'd been a curious gentleness to what they had done or maybe, he thought as he pealed off his underwear and got under the shower, maybe that's just how Gryffindor's made love.
Clean, brushed, pressed and with an absolutely do or die need for caffeine, Draco headed for the kitchen. Harry was there hunched over his tea, a plate of toast ignored and going dry.
"Morning," Draco said and smiled when a large mug of milky sweet coffee appeared at his right hand. "Not going in today?"
Harry grumbled, "Had seven owls and three fire calls already this morning. If Scrimgeour wants to bitch he can come here."
"Tell Kreature to say you're not at home and have a quiet day." Draco drank deeply of his coffee, "You want that toast?"
"Have it," Harry answered. Without looking up he said, "Everything okay with you Draco?"
Draco buttered the toast carefully, spreading it evenly from crust to crust. "I'm fine. Thanks for getting me to bed."
Harry let out a sigh and sat up, reaching for the last piece of toast. "Good. I was worried."
Wryly, Draco replied, "I know you believe I am an emotional wrecking crew from most of our previous interactions, but I can assure you Harry, I am not a nervous romantically inclined teenage girl. I told you I was open minded and I meant it."
Harry chewed, swallowed, took a sip of tea, "I didn't know I was, er… open minded. Until last night."
"You could have been just drunk, Harry. I won't hold it against you if you were. Everyone does stupid things when their drunk."
Harry smiled, "I wasn't that drunk and it wasn't stupid." He said firmly.
Draco smiled back, "All of a sudden, I'm starved."
A feast worthy of Hogwarts appeared on the table. Both young men dug in.
From the corner cupboard, Kreature went on polishing the famous seventeenth century House of Black teaspoons.
Things progressed although Harry found the process of making the memory films tiring. Creating them meant he had to relive all the thoughts and feelings he'd experienced that hard year. Unlike merely removing a thought and putting it into a Pensieve, he had to go into each experience and broaden it with everything he'd seen or heard, but at the time, hadn't registered as important. Now, a lot of it was important, people at the edges of his consciousness who had done things that needed to be seen and added to their list of crimes. It was wearing and Harry came home tired and weary of struggle and death all over again.
Surprisingly, when he got back to Grimmauld Place, Draco always had something new he wanted to talk about or have explained. They began to go out into the Muggle world too. The first time Harry took Draco to a game arcade, Draco became very excited by the fanciful worlds depicted in the games as well as the challenge to hone his skills well enough to beat the games. After a week of being dragged out to play endless games of pinball, Street Fighter and Alien vs. Predator, Harry took Draco to a Forbidden Planet store and bought him the latest game system and half a dozen games.
A few days later, Draco went out on his own and bought a LCD TV in the largest size, hooked up the game system to it and remade one of the empty rooms downstairs into a gaming haven. Had he planned it, Draco couldn't have come up with a better plan to get Gryffindors on his side. Once Ron and Seamus as well as Penelope's team saw the set up, they were hooked and Draco got to show them something for a change. Soon, several male Weasleys were hanging out as often as possible and within a few weeks, George and Draco were deep into designing modified handheld games for the Wizard market.
Harry found the whole thing hysterically funny and kidded Draco about all things Muggle every chance he got. He was speechless however when after dinner on a Friday night, George and Draco handed him their first prototype, Dark Lord vs. Scar Head.
Sitting on the squishy couch late one evening, Draco said, "I never dreamed in a million years that I could make my own fortune in the world. The extent of my ambitions was to travel and hopefully, end up with a bride I could stand being in the same room with for the next hundred years or so."
Harry smiled brilliantly, "The future had begun and Draco Malfoy is playing a part. I hoped the new era had to be different from the last one. I'm happy for you, Draco."
Draco leaned into Harry and put his hand to the side of his face, turning it towards him. "Until that bride comes along, Harry, we don't have to waste the time."
Harry closed his eyes, but his neck was stiff and resistant. "I… I don't know. I haven't had time for a lot of romance Draco."
Draco barked a laugh, "I know that you fool. I messed about a bit in fifth year and knew last year there could be more, but with Voldemort peering into my head every other day, I wasn't about to add anything for his viewing pleasure. So, we may be the only Hogwarts alumni who remain chaste."
Harry smiled and relaxed a bit. "I don't know, it's hard imaging Percy Weasley as getting any, like ever get any."
Draco laughed, "He's keen enough to help George make money on the post war stuff, but his real happiness is doing the books and ordering supplies. I understand what you mean."
"You'll sneer at me, but I remain ignorant about a great many wizard traditions. I can't afford to lose any credibility at this point or Skeeter will have a field day with Scrimgeour cheering from the stands."
Draco sobered, put his arm around Harry and looked into the distance, "Untraditional relationships are tolerated pretty well, on the whole. The important factor is to marry at a reasonable age and produce heirs. Like you said a while ago, the wizard population lags behind the Muggle population by overwhelming numbers. The pressure to reproduce is fierce."
Seeing the worried frown on Harry's face, Draco withdrew slightly, "I do understand, being Malfoy and you being Potter. I get it; nothing to do with me can enhance your reputation. On the other hand, look at what most of the population between eighteen and thirty are doing these days. Everyone's having a party and it's on you, because you defeated Voldemort and it's time for you to get something out of it too."
Harry smiled sadly, "I know. I feel frightened though and I'm not sure why. Maybe all I have ever been is a weapon for Dumbledore to wield when he thought I was ready. My education, as you were forever making a point of, is spotty at best. You thought I was fooling around breaking rules, but it doesn't matter what the reason, I missed out on a lot. How am I prepared for the rest of my life?"
Draco kissed Harry's forehead and laid his cheek against the top of his head. "Here's something I know for sure, Harry. No one is 'ready' for the rest of their life. Life is what happens as we live, as we do it. The gods laugh at plans and hopes alike and Fate watches us for exhibitions of hubris daily. It's going to be messy whatever you choose. Life is messy."
"Malfoy the Wise," Harry said and moved back a bit. He initiated the kiss and there was no more talk of futures or destinies. The physicality between them ruled at last. The squishy couch embraced them as they embraced each other. Shirts and trousers, shoes, socks and pants piled on the floor. Naked at last they lay on their sides facing each other, kissing anything within reach wildly and for once, Draco's hair was as big a mess as Harry's always was.
Harry, the Hero, reached out to touch Draco's penis and arched his neck when Draco whined out an, "Oh, god!" and then "Harry!"
Draco's eye lashes fluttered, but he saw Harry strain against the couch and the pulse in his neck beat like a maddened thing. It was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. He stretched and bit Harry's neck and Harry came against Draco's belly and Draco followed him down. Gasping, they let the come and the sweat bond then together as tight as glue.
"Well," Draco said at last, "That was better than a poke in the eye."
Harry sputtered and laughed so hard he fell off the couch. "I think we need a shower, dinner and a bigger bed than what's in either of our rooms."
Draco leaned over the edge of the couch and whispered into Harry's ear, "We can have whatever size bed you desire, we're wizards."
In the amphitheater, Snape sat with his eyes closed. He supposed he could have leaned towards Dumbledore and spoken to him, but somehow he was content to simply sit. There had never, as far as he knew, been anything like the present scenario described as part of a wizard's afterlife. Maybe it's different for each wizard, but why was he here, someplace which he had never imagined during his lifetime?
So Potter had won, Voldemort was dead, as were a slew of others who had been important in the scheme of things; the Order of the Phoenix and in Potter's life.
He thought about Potter for a while, but found he had no more emotional attachment to the boy or his plight. He wondered where Lily was in the crowd behind him and even that didn't affect him at all. Maybe being dead meant feeling dead too and all the passions of a lifetime simply disappeared.
He found that he didn't mind and it was a relief to be free of turmoil. He'd never thought too much about what came after death. His life had been rife with terrible mistakes, a more terrible time of atonement and guilt and very little peace or happiness. He'd lived in a dungeon, lived like a monk and hated every dawning day since Lily's marriage, so it wasn't as if he had much to miss about being alive. Still, he felt unfinished.
When he opened his eyes, everything was dark and he could sense he was alone again. Alone again in the dark, Snape grinned like a feral dog into the blackness, surely this was retribution.
In the morning, Draco and Harry didn't discuss their newfound intimacy. Harry got up, showered, dressed, ate toast and had a cup of coffee and went to the ministry as usual and Draco read the Prophet, did more research into Muggle science and planned a delicious dinner menu for Harry when he got home.
During the afternoon he heard an Apparation bang in the front parlor and went to see who was visiting. Hermione Granger stood there adjusting her large tote-bag on her arm. Several books and scrolls lay helter-skelter at her feet.
Without a thought, Draco bent down and helped her collect them and stuff them back into the tote bag.
"Thanks Malfoy," She said in a surprised tone. "Harry's fine, I just wanted to talk to you, if you don't mind?"
"Not at all," He said coolly and "Come with me." He led her to the second parlor where he had been studying.
Hermione at on the squishy couch and raised a brow, "Are you reading the Muggle textbooks?"
Draco shrugged, "I wanted to understand what the television was and Harry had no idea beyond that it was electricity and he had never gotten to watch it when he lived with the Dursley's."
Hermione laughed, "Most Muggles take their technology for granted, although they learn in school a bit more than just what electricity is. I was so overwhelmed with what magic was once I went to Hogwarts that for a long time I dismissed what Muggles had accomplished."
Draco nodded, he'd never thought about how Muggleborns or half-bloods who were born into Muggle lives felt in the wizarding world, other than they should go on their knees and praise the gods for giving them magic. "What did you want to talk about?"
For a moment Hermione looked lost, "This, I suppose," She said and gestured to the room in general and Draco's set up in particular. "I was surprised to find you with Harry, needless to say. Then, I was more surprised that you seem so changed from what you were at Hogwarts. I wanted to know what you are doing with Harry and why you seem to be living here with him."
Draco could feel the set-down form in his mouth and swallowed heavily. "I'm here because Harry found me when I Apparated into the ministry instead of landing in Spain as I had intended. As I recovered from the dozen spells sent my way, we discussed Portkeys and the supposition that Voldemort had somehow tampered with them as well as his supporter's memories. My parents believe they are under house arrest and will be sent to Azkaban soon." He paused, "Kreature," He called and the elf appeared, "Could we have tea please?"
Hearing Draco Malfoy say please made Hermione choke, but she didn't say anything.
"I was curious, as you can imagine. I'd been isolated at the Manor since the Voldemort's demise and had no idea what was happening."
"So," She said, "Thank you, Kreature. You came home with Harry and stayed? What about your plans to go to Spain?"
Draco got up and paced a bit, "I'm still going to travel and see the world, but what's happening here is very interesting and something, I think, I can help. Harry and I get along, as surprising as that is. He has plenty of room and enjoys having someone here besides him and Kreature."
Hermione put her cup into its saucer carefully, "We offered to come and live here. Ron and I and many others, but he said he wanted to live alone for a while. We thought it was too soon for him to take on the weight of another huge battle with the ministry, but he did anyway."
"You're afraid I'm another responsibility for him?" Draco asked, sat and sipped his tea.
"I don't trust you, Malfoy. There hasn't been a single moment of accord between us from the day we met. Harry has a very soft heart beneath all his power and he's been hurt so many times and stretched to the limit by the very people who say they care about him."
"I am not another weight, Granger. Over the past few weeks we've negotiated a kind of understanding between us and part of that arrangement if that I try to make him more comfortable in this ancient pile." Draco smiled, "He's having fun introducing me to Muggle marvels, including alcohol, television and a very bizarre outing to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Hermione almost spit out her tea, "No way!"
"Way," Said Draco grinning cheerfully at Hermione.
Her eyes got huge and she blushed as if she had discerned a secret. "Draco," She said and then closed her lips.
Draco stared into his teacup, "If you prefer, you can believe that all the negativity I generated towards Harry in the past is now the opposite."
Hermione let out a huge sigh, "Maybe we do grow up after all." She looked up at Draco, "Harry has always traveled a path none of us could truly understand. I want more than anything in the world, for Harry to get to choose what he wants now that he's free."
"I think it's what we all want… uh, Hermione." Draco said softly.
Hermione smiled widely, "So, Draco, is there anything you want to talk about in regards to your Muggle Studies?"
"Actually," Draco said and reached for one of the thick books on the couch, "What's this mean exactly?"
Harry returned tired, hungry and angry at the continuing annoyance of dealing around Scrimgeour. He heard voices and taking a glass of sherry off the tray Kreature offered him went into the second parlor where Draco seemed to be entertaining.
Before they noticed his arrival, Harry stopped short at the door, his mouth hanging open in amazement. Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger were building a model of an electronic circuit on the coffee table. They were surrounded by reams of parchment with diagrams and notes scratched in red ink, a dozen swirls and bits of colored wire and piles of small metal parts on the table and the floor; both of them were yanking on a screwdriver. They both had ink on there noses, cheeks and fingers. Almost forehead to forehead, they didn't look up to see he was there. Draco won the screwdriver and Hermione said, "Really Draco, have some patience!" And she laughed.
Harry sank to the floor. He'd seen many astonishing things in his life so far and even more miraculous magical things, but this astounded him, flabbergasted him and made him so happy he felt tears come into his eyes.
Happily bemused, Harry sat on the floor, sipped his sherry and watched these two disparate individuals talk about electricity and magnetic poles and generators as if they'd worked together for years.
Kreature came into the room from the other door closest to the kitchen; he frowned when he saw Harry sitting on the floor. He said, "Ahem, Master Malfoy." Draco looked up briefly and returned to the puzzle in front of him.
"Master Malfoy," Kreature croaked in a louder voice. "Master Potter is home and dinner is ready."
Both Hermione and Draco looked up and around, spying Harry sitting on the floor. Identically they each raised an eyebrow, although Hermione's was the right one and Draco's the left.
"Why didn't you say something?" Hermione asked, getting up and brushing off the detritus from her lap.
"I was enjoying watching you eggheads interact," Harry said with a smile.
"Hermione," Draco said with a quelling glance at Harry, "Would you join us for dinner, I'm sure there is plenty for all of us."
"Yes, Hermione," Harry said, copying Draco's drawl, "Do stay and eat."
Dinner was pleasant, without Ron, unbending the bit he had, nonetheless, there was a lot less tension. Hermione and Draco talked about classes and teachers Harry had never taken. The words flew above Harry's head, but seeing them argue in a friendly manner, made him happy. Seeing Hermione finally meet her match in intellect and opinions made him simultaneously proud of them both as well as worried that he had finished school an ignoramus.
Her presence also eased the transition for Harry from coming home to a newfound lover instead of a non-enemy who was visiting for a while.
He had no idea what to think. He hadn't considered the male half of the population as potential lovers. He hadn't written them off either, staying quiet when his roommates or teammates had made derogatory comments about queers through the years. Having experienced rejection in many varieties, Harry had held his tongue when others tried to get him to join in their aversions.
Draco, kissing Draco, touching him, orgasming with him had all been revelatory and in a way, humbling. He'd felt enormously grateful when he and Ginny had made out and that had been something he was quick to understand she expected him to feel. But, with Draco, there was an equality that hadn't existed with Ginny. It was as if he and Draco had a simpler understanding, which wasn't really strange, because they were both guys bent on getting to orgasm before they stopped for the night and went to sleep. He'd felt aggressive and vaguely dirty when he had Ginny in his arms and his arousal had gotten hot. He knew she wasn't teasing him in a mean way and that she was just having him go through the expected and usual paces leading to intimacy, well a ring on her finger and then intimacy. With Draco there had been no such coyness or expectation of forever after.
Harry watched Draco mimic Professor Vector, make Hermione laugh and felt his heart expand. Yes, he wanted more sex with Draco, he also wanted more time with him too.
Suddenly, Harry stood. Draco and Hermione looked up at him surprised. "To friends," Harry said raising his wine glass.
"To peace," Hermione said and they sipped again.
"To freedom," Draco said.
"To freedom," They all echoed.
"Dessert," Kreature croaked, bring in a tray piled high with fabulous chocolate concoctions.
And they laughed and it resounded through the old house and stirred the ghosts so that they gathered at the dining room door and looked in, amazement on their transparent faces.
No one noticed them; instead, they dug into chocolate and had Kreature pour the Brandy, still laughing.
Snape didn't know how long he sat in the dark. He wasn't uncomfortable to any terrible degree, but he was bored and becoming impatient to know if this was indeed his eternity in Purgatory or if there was more to come his way.
He felt a tap on his shoulder, "Severus", a voice said quietly and he knew it was Lily. Without thought he reached and her hand was there. "Come see this," She said and Snape didn't know if they were walking or floating, but they were moving.
The blackness once again gave way to shadows and the shadows took on shape and definition. As it lightened, he could see Lily was still young and as beautiful as she had been all those years ago. He could see the deep green of her eyes and he could see the deep happiness in her gaze as she smiled at him.
"God," Snape cried in his heart. "God if you are there, please…" But he didn't know what he was asking for or whether there was a future or not.
She led him to an opening, which he saw was really a picture frame. There was no wall as such, but there was a boundary between them and what was on the other side of the wall. He couldn't see out into a room yet and had no idea where they were.
"Take a deep breath," Lily whispered and took his hand. They crossed the barrier and it hurt something in his very soul. It seared him and scorched him. He had thought, no counted on, the end of pain. He was panting by the time they were seated on a settee in a dingy parlor scene, an ancient harpsichord and a harp with missing strings to his left and a white Persian cat, with a dusty pink bow around its neck, on a hassock, to his right.
"Where are we?" He asked.
"Shhh," Lily whispered.
Snape sat holding Lily Evans Potter's hand. Once more marveling how entirely surprising death was showing itself to be.
Two children eased into the room and quickly closed the door behind them. For a moment, Snape thought it was Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy as first years, but they had never smiled at each other like these two or whispered and giggled as they ran across the room towards him.
Lily leaned closer and whispered softer, "Potions have come a long way since last you were here."
"Here?" Snape breathed.
"The Room of Requirement," She said with a chuckle.
"Al, look at this!" The blond child cried.
They peered into something just out of Snape's sight.
"Do you think this is the same cabinet, Sev?"
"Can't be," Sev said. "There was Fiendfyre and everything, including someone named Crabbe, burned up."
"But the Room wouldn't give us a fake," Al said stubbornly.
Snape turned to Lily and squeezed her hand," Explain." He said.
She smiled like DaVinci's Mona Lisa, "That's Albus Malfoy Potter and Severus Potter Malfoy. They're twins." She said and her smile grew into a grin.
"Potions?" Snape said and started to smile.
"Potions," Lily said and winked.
The children were too busy arguing to hear the people in the portrait laugh.