Author's Note: Many thanks to the recently elusive Laurel for her beta of this chapter. It's brief, but exactly what I've been planning for this story since the earlier shifts and changes in the plot.
Chapter 15 Moving On
"I'm selling the flat."
"You're what?" Ginny asked incredulously.
Harry was bone weary from his Portkey trip back to London and normally would have gone straight to bed, but he'd decided to take care of one of the many epiphanies he'd had on his extended vacation right then or else he feared he might never do it.
"I'm selling the flat," he repeated leaning against the stoop. He hadn't bothered with a 'hullo' or any other manner of pleasantry before simply getting to his point. He and Ginny were long past idle chitchat by now. "Mione tells me you're with someone new, pregnant even," he added, pointing to the already visible lump beneath her blouse. "I think it's time you moved on from here."
"But I like it here, I picked the flat out to start with," she grumbled. "Are you trying to prove something by booting me out now? Is this some petty revenge?"
"I'm not being petty," Harry replied. "I'm tired of getting Owls about this place, it's just one more reminder I don't need that my life went awry. If you want to keep living here, you'll have to buy it from me. I'll be reasonable, but I don't want it in my name anymore."
"Harry," she began to protest but Harry held up his hand, firmly halting her speech.
"I should have done this from the start," he told her. "I was too shocked by what you'd done and I avoided this confrontation for long enough. You've been only too ready to take advantage of my kindness and it stops now. For the first time in my life, I'm ready to start over. I don't need old ghosts haunting me." His body and eyes betrayed the strength in his words better than the words themselves, because Ginny nodded solemnly and sighed.
"If you'll draw up the paperwork for what you want for it, I'll talk to Stephen and see what we'd like to do." Harry was glad she wasn't going to argue the point. He hadn't wanted to be cruel, but he would be if it got this property out of his name and off of his mind. Most of his friends thought he was barmy for not evicting her from the start, but he loved Ginny, no matter how much she'd hurt him, and he wasn't going to refuse her a place to live. That just wasn't his way, but she had a new man to provide for her now, and that title was no longer Harry's.
With a nod, Harry left the landing to their old house, hoping it might be the last time. He doubt he'd ever feel the urge to stop by for tea anytime soon and ventured to guess that he'd only see Ginny again when at the Weasley's.
Hermione was next on his list. She'd stirred up quite a bit of trouble from afar, but Harry knew some of it was to try and persuade Harry to come back, though her lawyer mind had twisted the good intentions into something hurtful. Still, she was his oldest and dearest friend and they both knew he would eventually forgive her anything, same as he always had with Ron.
One of these days, Harry hoped to add someone else to his short list of people he could count on implicitly, but now wasn't the time to think about the future. He was too busy trying to repair the past.
Draco stared down at the immense pile of crumpled balls of parchment on his floor and sighed. Most were letters he'd written and then rewritten to Potter, trying to explain his feelings in words that would not contain them. The rest were Potter's letters to him written throughout his many months of traveling and being…away. Word had come to him of Harry's affair with a man in New York, Britain had not given up watching for movement from their savior even though he was on the other side of the world. Photos were snapped and printed in every wizarding paper, stabbing through Draco's heart like a crudely made shiv. Still, as much as it pained him to see it, he felt a bittersweet relief for Harry's contentment, and deep down he hoped it was more.
He wanted Harry to be happy, even if it wasn't going to be with him.
When he told his therapist that, the man dismissed him from his care and sent Draco along to make his own way in the world. "You still have some work to do on yourself and your own self-worth, but I think that there is no more that can be learned from me. The rest is up to you," he'd said at their parting.
Perhaps, after the many years since officially coming of age, he was finally growing up. He supposed it was too late for him and Potter, but perhaps there was someone else out there for him who could make him just as happy as he hoped Harry might, and fill him with as much joy.
The photo he'd coyly taken at the ball, the first day he realized Harry was his one, still occupied the same frame on his desk, but it soon joined the jumbled assortment of papers on the floor. He banished it all to the fireplace and stared at it cheerlessly. It was rather sad that the culmination of his and Harry's relationship, if it could even be called that, could all be fit in a small, stone hearth. Hardly anything tangible happened between them, yet he couldn't seem to think of anyone else.
He hoped the Incendio would help to ease Potter from his mind somewhat, and it seemed to work. As he watched the orange flames lick up and around his scattered obsession, Draco finally began to feel a sense of peace wash over him. Harry was happy and he would be too. He held to hope, and hope would take him far.
Atonement was something he had sought, and he felt certain he had achieved it in these long months. When he thought on it, he was forced to admit that he'd never really known Potter very well. He observed him, he assumed things about him, but he never really knew him. Not as a friend, or a lover, or anything that mattered. His biggest regret was not that he'd failed to procure Harry's love, but that he'd missed the chance to truly learn about a man, who was by all accounts, a fascinating and complex individual who could have well complimented Draco and his goals in life.
There would be others, Draco felt confident of that. Even now, people were writing in to Witch Weekly to find out how to contact him because of an interview he'd given. Letters were forwarded to him daily with everything from dinner invitations to marriage proposals, and even if none of them suited him as well as Potter might have, someone was bound to be a fine match for him. This time he wouldn't ruin it. This time he would go about courtship in a proper manner.
He smiled wryly to himself as he thought about the last few years and the gigantic mess he'd made of things in the process of chasing his obsession. He'd been out of his head. Draco never did go after what he wanted through the usual channels, but what he'd done had been unspeakable. He should have had himself committed the moment he thought shagging a Weasley as a viable option to win Potter over. The man was right to move on, right to seek the heart of someone who wasn't such a loose and unpredictable cannon.
But now that he knew of his mistakes, now that he could see his errors in the full light of day, he felt he might be allowed to move beyond this and into a happier time. As the mementos of his past delusions turned to ashes before his very eyes, he felt that mad part of himself disengage and leave him behind.
'Good riddance,' he thought.
It had been almost twelve hours since Harry arrived back in London. He was still feeling a bit Portlagged and was craving coffee – a nasty habit he'd picked up on his travels, and he hadn't yet been to bed. As he wandered the streets of wizarding London for somewhere to indulge his craving, he ran across a rack of magazines. A familiar face stared out at him from the cover of Witch Weekly and Harry reached out, gently touching the papery cheek of Draco Malfoy. He tucked a copy of the magazine under his arm and flipped a coin to the man selling them with a nod before heading further into Diagon Alley.
He decided to stop at Camilla's for coffee, grabbing a seat in a shadowy corner of the sparsely populated cafe. Pulling out the magazine, Harry stared down into the piercing gray eyes on the cover, knowing full well that they were far more potent in person. He just couldn't seem to pull his gaze away from those eyes until he caught the headline in his peripheral.
'Europe's most eligible bachelor back on the market.'
His heart dropped as he read the words, a not-so-subtle announcement that everything between Draco and Harry had gone south and that the blond was now perusing new suitors. It served Harry right, and perhaps it was for the best. It was a sick thing for him to have even entertained the idea of dating Draco Malfoy, his stalker, ruiner of his marriage, and otherwise dishonest bloke.
He thought briefly of Allen, which he hadn't done since he left London more than a year ago; he supposed the fact that the Australian had been far from his mind that whole time spoke plenty in and of itself. His desire to be with Allen had proven a passing fancy, and perhaps if things had worked out originally, they might have been happy together, but just like where things stood with Draco, Harry would never know for certain and tried very hard not to live in the 'what if'.
Yes, it was definitely a good thing that Draco had chosen to move on, it would make things that much easier for Harry to do the same. Harry acknowledged that Hermione was trying to stir things up from afar and he properly reprimanded her for it the moment he got back, but their separation was about more than that. Harry had his own doubts about how a relationship between someone like himself and someone like Malfoy would ever work out. It was probably better to just avoid it altogether than to start things up and then have them end as tragically as they had for him and Ginny.
He realized the moment he set eyes on little Teddy, snuggled tightly in his bed at Andi's, that he'd been doing just that. Avoiding. Hiding. Running. A part of him thought that he could just skip over love altogether and avoid all the pain that came along with it. What good was love anyhow if it only left you broken in the end? Harry could break himself quite easily without anyone's assistance, least of all Draco's. The blond had the power to crush him with a mere bending of his pinky; such was the hypnotic power Draco seemed to have over him.
Harry didn't even begin to try to understand it, he just knew innately that those feelings would always be there lurking just under the surface. He'd proven as much with the paper in his lap. Just the sight of Malfoy's face on the cover had made his entire body respond. It was pathetic.
But it didn't matter. Draco had moved on and so should he.
Quickly discarding the magazine in the closest rubbish bin, Harry set out with his coffee in hand. One of these days he'd have to stop running and hold to hope that someone worthwhile would be there waiting for him.
"Watch it," balked a deep voice from behind him and Harry whirled to apologize, only to be met by the same dazzling gray eyes that often haunted his dreams. "Harry? When did you get back?"
"A few hours ago," he admitted bashfully. Just seeing the blond standing there filled him with warmth and all he wanted to do was leap across the sidewalk and snog him senseless. He leaned in slightly and breathed the other man in. He hadn't realized how much a person could miss a scent until now.
"Well, I'm sure you have a lot to take care of since you only just got back. I'll leave you to it," Draco replied, tilting his head slightly as he turned away.
Harry reached out and clutched Draco's arm, holding it firmly and refusing to let go. He was tired of running, he was tired of hiding. He wanted to find love now. "Do you think you might," he began, taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly before starting again. "Do you think you might like to have dinner with me?"
"Dinner?" Draco asked blandly. "After everything, you want to have dinner with me?"
"Yes," Harry replied confidently, loosening his grasp on Draco's arm only slightly. The blond looked down at Harry's hand and then up at his face several times, looking quite conflicted. Harry could see how torn he was between accepting and refusing, but eventually he nodded, a subtle smile playing on his pink lips that filled Harry with relief.
"Alright," he confirmed at last and Harry's heart thrummed a little heavier in his chest at the blond's acceptance. "Tonight?"
Harry nodded vigorously, letting go of the breath he'd been holding. He'd invite him to breakfast right that moment if he hadn't thought it was too presumptuous. "Or we could go to breakfast now," he suggested anyway, damning the consequences of his eagerness. He didn't want to part with the man again just yet.
His reward was a grin, one of the most enchanting and beautiful grin's he'd ever seen on that cool and stunning face. "How about both?"
"I think both sounds perfect," Harry replied in a soft whisper, lacing his fingers through Draco's as they set off.
He had no idea where breakfast would lead, or where dinner would take them, or whether or not they would even speak to one another afterward, but for the first time in a long time, Harry found himself not worrying about it. The past was the past, long forgotten, and he was finally coming around to forgiveness.
Maybe it was too late, or maybe it was just in the nick of time.
Only time would tell.
Author's Note: So, that's it. The End. Yes, I'm aware it doesn't ring with the same finality that most of my stories do, but I thought that was more fitting for this pair. They've been on different train tracks all along, and I can't see far enough into their future to see if they stay that way, or if their tracks eventually merge. I'd like to think that they stay together, but maybe they don't. Demons have a way of sneaking up on a couple long after they were locked away. I had a lot of fun writing this story, especially since it was so outside my norm. I told a few of you that it wouldn't have a happy ending, but it wouldn't be unhappy either. I think this is filled with just the right amount of hope and you all can decide for yourself what happens to them from this point. ;)