Author's Note: Just a one shot inspired by a moment. Post-war slightly AU with regards to Deathly Hallows. I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Summary: Draco never expected to win the war, because no matter the outcome, he was bound to lose. But perhaps not all is lost.
Let's watch the rainfall drown the filth from dying streets. Let's live for chance, another chance to make things right.
-Chad Michael Stewart
Exhale. It was all he could do. Each breath in felt increasingly smothering. Asphyxiating. He was going to choke to death. And at a party.
Gravity had never been particularly antagonistic to Draco Malfoy. It had always been a neutral agent, one with which he found it only too easy to co-exist.
Had Draco been possessed of the ability to lift his head, he certainly would have. Presuming there was something worth seeing. Presuming he wasn't so focused on the elementary task of breathing in and out.
He couldn't recall how long he'd been sitting here; perhaps a few hours. He might have imagined it to be days if he didn't know better. All he knew was that his back was stiff, his legs wouldn't have straightened if he tried, and he couldn't lift his head. Another shallow, ragged, pointless breath in.
If only he knew how to stop his mind from racing.
A pesky, ironic little voice in the back of his mind was telling him he should be happy; this is what he had worked toward, after all. He should get up, dust himself off and celebrate!
He felt heavier than ever before. Heavier than when Lucius had told him the date had been set to receive his Mark. Heavier than the first day he'd willingly spoken to Harry Potter as anything but a nemesis.
He'd been here, on the hard floor, his knees bent upward, arms tossed carelessly over his kneecaps, unable to move for hours. He clenched his eyes shut, willing away the images, the thoughts.
Somehow Draco had expected things to go differently. Lucius had always seemed oddly indestructible. Sort of like a cockroach. But here he was, 21 years of age and legally entitled to the entire Malfoy estate.
Of course, had Lucius had even the slightest clue of what Draco was up to, he would've been disowned without a knut to his name. Draco planned to sell the Manor once the dust cleared, and settle his mother in a vacation home in Italy; it was what she had always wished for. He wasn't sure about himself yet.
He had time, now. After all, the Dark Lord had been gone for seven hours, forty-three minutes and twenty-nine seconds. Thirty seconds. Thirty-one. Draco was in no hurry to face the cold facts.
He should feel light. Carefree, even. The last of the Death Eaters were being rounded up as he sat; the frequently apparating and disapparating aurors all around had informed him of that.
There remained the fact that he couldn't move, and couldn't breathe. The longer he sat here, the more he surrendered these abilities. He was numb, a statue. Surely he could force his neck to move, to look around him. He was sure there was more to see than simply red hair; the entire Order of the Phoenix was around, less casualties from that afternoon. Which had been kept to a minimum, according to Potter, due to him and his information.
He held a grudging friendship of sorts with the war hero. These things naturally happen when two young men are forced to put their complete faith in one another to work to a common end.
Perhaps if he forced himself to really focus. With a breath out, he achieved two inches upward of the neck. His eyes fell to stare at the tattoo on his left arm. The ugly snake glared back at him, trapped by the elegant eagle he'd had added several months prior. The eagle was magical; it always emerged victorious over the snake when they fought for rightful placement on his forearm.
Freedom over oppression. It had been Draco's mantra for years.
And here was freedom. Why did he feel so oppressed?
"Oy, Malfoy," a voice above him called, nudging his foot with theirs. It was Charlie Weasley. "Join the party, mate."
Draco very nearly suffocated. He tilted his head upward, just inches more, squinting in the light his eyes had become unaccustomed to.
"In a bit," he murmured. Gravity won out and his head crashed back down to his arms.
"You'd better not spend the whole night being anti-social, kid," the most congenial of the Weasleys muttered. Draco pictured a broad smile on his face and almost groaned. Then the feet walked off. Draco liked Charlie Weasley on most occasions. Not this one.
It was all he could do to keep alive. What more did they expect?
He wondered how long he could go without thinking of the war, of his father. He counted to eleven before a particularly shocking image of his father's corpse snuck in. He shuddered subconsciously, exhaling until there was no air left in his lungs. Not that there had been much to begin with.
There was absolutely no way this was what he'd expected when he confessed to Potter he'd wanted out, back when he was only eighteen. Charlie was right; he should be in the living room, enjoying himself, tossing back firewhiskey with the best of them.
But he was here, alone, in the kitchen, sober as he'd ever been. He tried his feet. His toes wiggled just slightly. He clenched his hands into fists, and loose again. He took a breath and it felt slightly less laboured than the last had.
Taking down Voldemort had been a walk in the park compared to forcing himself to stand. Agonizingly, he straightened his back so he was leaning against the wall, observing his surroundings. He blinked heavily for a while.
One thing at a time. Draco squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Took a breath. His lungs burnt.
He'd seen too much, done too much. Twenty minutes passed. He pressed his hands, palms down, to the floor, tentatively. He didn't imagine he had the strength to lift himself. He was right.
His breaths started to come shallow again, his recent progress lost. Shallower, and he was choking more than ever. He needed some fresh air, the oxygen in here was stale and stifling.
He attempted a deep breath, sucking in air until it started to hurt. Squeezed his eyes shut even tighter. He held the breath.
Hold it. Hold on. Can't let it go.
He choked the breath out, coughing painfully. His lungs seared. He opened his eyes, meeting the bewildered brown ones of Hermione Granger.
"Yes?" he questioned, shutting one eye in the bright light, keeping the other fixed on her. She watched him, until he was able to open the other eye. She was crouched in front of him, her face obnoxiously close. Her brow was furrowed. He was caught in her gaze.
She stood and Draco was disappointed. She held out a hand to him and he stared, confused.
"I won't bite," she finally said, hand still extended. Hesitantly, cautiously, Draco placed his hand in hers and she tugged, assisting him to his feet.
He stumbled, his lack of balance attributed to his immobility of the last several hours. He stabilized, inches from her, frantically searching out her eyes once more.
They made him feel not so numb. Like standing had been worthwhile. She stared back, placing a hand on his arm. His skin burned at the contact. Without a word, she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, burying her face into his collarbone.
Shocked, Draco stood unresponsive, unaware how his heart was suddenly beating in his throat. And he was suffocating all over again, in a completely different way.
He reached his arms behind her back, loosely, then tighter, and pulled her to him. He breathed her in, deeply, and when he exhaled, he felt alive.