Author's note: Hi everyone! This is the first new story from me for a while! It's been finished completely so there will be no prolonged wait between chapters except that which I choose to maliciously torture you with. The story is only four parts and its something I put together to kick start me back into writing again. Many thanks go to Lex for the precious time she spent betaing this story for me, I value her friendship (and her patience) greatly.
I hope you enjoy it!
Second Chance: Part 1
"Malfoy?" Draco heard the gentle voice of his boss and he cringed at the papers he had scattered across his desk. He bit down hard on his tongue as he silently told Potter to piss off. He had been completely involved in putting together the final report for the Cassandra Wattlebrush assault and battery case; he didn't need Head Auror fucking Potter asking him any more stupid questions. Draco wondered constantly how Potter had landed the job of Department Head; sure he'd destroyed the Dark Lord, but clearly he was inept. Okay, not completely inept. Potter actually managed the Department quite well; crime rates were down, there were few Death Eaters left on the loose, and the staff were efficient, capable, and hard working. How this all came about was anyone's guess since Potter seemed to be nothing more than a blabbering idiot.
"Hmm?" Draco replied distractedly. He refused to let Potter pull him out of his deep concentration on the final pieces of this case. He was so close to finishing the paperwork to officially close it.
"I have a meeting with Dunk Richards at two, but nothing really urgent that I need to do before then," Potter said, stepping further into Draco's small office. "I thought maybe you'd like a hand on the Kimber murder, Dave was saying some of the evidence didn't match up and-"
"Kimber case is in those two boxes," Draco stated, interrupting Potter's no doubt long-winded explanation as to why he still thought after seven years as one of the Department's best Aurors, Draco still needed to be babied by the boss. He was long sick of it by now, but knew he couldn't say anything. Besides, on this particular case, he really did need some help.
"Oh, sure, I was thinking we could go over it together," Potter added and Draco gritted his teeth. This is why Draco thought Potter couldn't possibly be doing his job properly, who ever heard of a Department Head with enough time to hover over his workers all the damn time!?
"I'm actually just finishing up the Wattlebrush case so I can close it," Draco sighed with frustration, knowing Potter would insist on doing the murder case he'd been poring over for weeks now. He really just needed a break from it. "If you give me another forty minutes I can have the case finished and ready for you to sign it closed."
"Oh," Potter said sounding a little disappointed. "Right, of course. It's just that I may not have time to go over the Kimber case with you later today, so unless you'd like to maybe grab something to eat with me tonight, we could-"
"You're the boss," Draco huffed, cutting him off again and pushing his report aside to make room for the two large boxes he'd thrown disgustedly into the corner that morning. He could humour Potter with the Kimber murder and finish closing his other case when Potter was meeting with Richards; that man could talk the life out of a donkey so Draco knew Potter would be caught up for the rest of the afternoon.
Potter bit his lip and frowned, again looking disappointed. Draco thought he could have killed the man right then. He was getting what he wanted for goodness sake, and he was still unhappy?! "Well, good," Potter nodded and picked up one of the boxes.
Half an hour later saw Draco gritting his teeth harder than ever as he went around in circles with Potter arguing about the relevance of a small amount of blood found in the bathroom. Draco thought that it wasn't conclusive enough to spend any length of time on since the blood belonged to the victim and it was his bathroom – he could have cut himself shaving for all they knew – but Potter insisted he shouldn't discount it so quickly.
Salvation came in the form of a call out.
"Malfoy! Get your coat, Buddy," Draco looked up to see Quinton, one of the few colleagues he got along with, grinning at him from his doorway. "You're gonna love this."
Draco rolled his eyes. "What is it?"
"Draco and I are in the middle of something, can you take Farrar?" Potter suggested authoritatively, and Draco balked. His boss didn't often call him Draco, nor did he often assert his position as Head, preferring to blend in as a colleague, but this time he'd done both.
"Sorry, Boss, it's Hopper," Quinton replied, still grinning like an idiot. Hopper. He was a regular that only responded positively to Draco, in fact, Draco was convinced the idiot caused trouble just to see him.
"We shouldn't really indulge him by sending you out all the time," Potter frowned, glancing at Draco then back to Quinton. "You know that's the only reason he does this."
"Yeah, I know, Boss," Quinton nodded, his shoulders starting to shake with laughter. "But really, you should think of the children."
At this it seemed Quinton could no longer contain himself and he doubled over with laughter. "He's in Quality Quidditch in Diagon trying to ride all the brooms," he explained. "Naked. Anna was first on the scene, but couldn't get him to calm. Oh, it's brilliant. She sent pictures!"
Even Draco had to crack a smile at this, it did sound rather hilarious. He eyed Potter in the chair opposite his desk; he knew that he couldn't leave if his old enemy decided to send someone else. Potter glanced back at Draco and nodded. "Just go," he said with a sigh and a wave of his hand.
Draco scrambled from his chair and grabbed his coat, glad to be free of their incessant arguing. As he left, Potter called out after him. "This is the last time, Malfoy! Make sure you tell him that if he does this again he will not see you, and he will find himself stunned and spending the night in lock up."
Draco huffed and nodded before rushing out after Quinton. How the hell did he end up taking orders from Harry Potter? He didn't remember signing up for this when he'd enrolled as an Auror all those years ago. He'd only started his training a year after Potter did, but he supposed it wasn't too surprising that the Ministry's Golden Boy ended up as Department head before he was thirty.
He seriously needed to consider a career change.
The Universe hated him. He was sure of it.
Draco had stopped into his favourite pub on the way home for a quick drink. The bartender was cute and flattering in his attentions, although Draco noticed he did it with everyone, but that didn't take away from the fact that the man made a Martini like no other. He had been rather enjoying himself, quietly contemplating life with his Martini, when he heard a rowdy bunch enter the establishment. Glancing over he was horrified to see his boss, Harry Potter. Was he fucking following him or something?
Judging by the out of tune version of the 'Happy Birthday' song, he guessed Potter wasn't following him. Still, it'd explain a lot if he were. Stupid Gryffindor.
Eager to get out of there, Draco swallowed down the rest of his Martini and moved to slip off his stool and out the door. Except he couldn't… he couldn't… breathe!
Draco gagged a few times, but nothing happened. He tried desperately to suck in another lung full of oxygen, but again, nothing happened. Something was stuck in his throat!
It was the damn olive from his drink!
Panicking, Draco turned back to the bar, gripping it tightly and trying to get the attention of the barman. His head was starting to feel thick and heavy and he was struggling to stay conscious. He banged hard on the top of the bar to try and attract some attention but the movement seemed to have drained the last of his energy and his knees collapsed from under him. He felt a sting in his kneecaps as they connected with the floor, and then he was pulled into darkness. Hearing his name called from somewhere in the distance, Draco tried to respond, but he couldn't.
Draco blinked his eyes open and glanced around him. It was bright – brighter than anything he'd ever experienced before, but for some reason it wasn't blinding. He could breathe which was a relief, there seemed to be nothing but air in this endless space, and that worried him. To his left and right there was a vast nothingness, but standing in front and behind him seemed to be a line of people – a very long line.
"Oi, you there," Draco called out softly to the person in front of him. It was so quiet he wondered if he should be talking at all, but he couldn't help himself. "Excuse me!" he hissed louder and the man turned around.
"Oh, hi," he said, giving Draco a weak smile. He looked to be a few years younger than Draco and rather attractive with dark brown hair and dark eyes.
"Where the hell are we?" Draco asked none too kindly.
"We're in line."
Draco wanted to hit him. "How did I get here?" he asked, trying a different tactic.
"You mean you don't know?" the young man asked, his mouth falling open slightly.
"You're dead, Mate," he shrugged and Draco's eyes widened in horror. "Sorry to be the one to tell you."
"I'm not dead! I – I can't be! What the hell is this?" Draco exclaimed rather loudly, but no one else around him seemed to react.
"We're all dead, Dude," his new acquaintance sighed.
"You're dead?" Draco gasped.
"Yep, I got a better batch of… recreational potions-" The guy smirked. "-than I thought and I took a bit too much. But what is it that Peter Pan says – the next great adventure?" he added with a bitter chuckle. "What about you? How did you die?"
"I don't know." Draco was dismayed. Dead? Really? That didn't seem right at all. There were so many things he'd yet to do. He'd never even fallen in love.
"Yeah, you do," the guy prompted. "What is the last thing you remember?"
"I was at the pub, then Potter walked in and I – oh my god…" Draco thought he should have felt sick, but he didn't. He felt fine. Perfectly healthy. In fact all these people looked perfectly healthy; none of them looked even remotely dead.
"See," the young man answered smugly. "What happened?"
"I choked," Draco almost whimpered. He was too young to be dead. He'd only just turned thirty a few weeks ago! "Where do you suppose this line goes?" Draco asked his new friend eventually, once the shock had worn off a little.
"Dunno," the guy shrugged. "Fingers crossed its Heaven, eh?" he laughed quietly.
"I think I'm going the other way," Draco speculated, not really meaning it. At least he hoped…
"Next!" Draco heard another voice call and he leaned around his new friend to find himself at the start of the line. He hadn't even known he'd been moving forward. His friend stepped up and spoke to a rather odd looking woman with some kind of tattoo on her left cheek that looked like an arrow. After a few tense minutes the young man looked back at him and winked before stepping through a newly materialized doorway. He found it strangely comforting.
"Next!" It was his turn. Swallowing thickly, he stepped forward.
"Name?" the woman asked uncaringly.
She had a large book in front of her and when he spoke his name the pages flipped over and over in a flurry of papers before they stopped abruptly. The women used a long, thin finger to scroll down the page, looking for Draco's name he guessed, and when she found it she slid her finger along to the left.
"What was your name again?" she asked, looking up at him for the first time.
"Draco Malfoy." Draco's stomach knotted with nerves about what was going to happen to him now.
"Draco Lucius Malfoy?"
"Yes." There was some kind of problem, he could see it in her eyes and he was starting to panic.
"Date of birth?"
"Fifth of June, Nineteen Eighty," he answered anxiously.
"Lucius Abraxas Malfoy and Narcissa Gilda Malfoy, but she was born Narcissa Gilda Black." The frown on the woman's face deepened and he felt an immediate urge to run; though he wasn't sure where he could go. He hadn't led a very good life and if the afterlife was retribution like some people believed then he was in a lot of trouble.
"I'll be right back," she muttered before rising from her chair and shuffling away, fading into thin air until she'd completely disappeared.
This was an unusual place.
Draco's skin tingled with fear, the air was silent around him and if it weren't for the sigh of his breaths as he exhaled he would have wondered if he'd suddenly gone deaf. He turned around to look at the line of people behind him, thousands of men and women as far back as he could see. No children though and he was glad of that, seeing children in this depressing world would have broken him.
"Nervous?" he asked the woman behind him, but she just slumped her shoulders further and stared at the hard white floor under their feet. He turned back around.
Tentatively he took a step forward to the desk at which the disappearing woman had sat and he tried to peer over to see the large book that must have contained records of the dead. As far as he could see the pages were blank.
"Do you mind?" someone snapped making him jump back. The woman had returned and brought someone with her, an older man that looked a little like his old Headmaster. Draco cringed. Bad memories.
"You say your name is Draco Lucius Malfoy?" the man questioned him sternly.
"Yes, Sir," he answered immediately. As far removed from his parents as he now was, some of their teachings still remained strong within him; respect to those who had power over you.
"Give me your hand," the man instructed, and Draco complied. He took Draco's hand gently within his own and examined it for a few very tense seconds. "Come with me."
Draco felt fear wash over him and it was all he could do to remain standing. He didn't understand any of this. A doorway appeared and the man, who was nearly as tall as the top of the entryway, stepped through it, beckoning Draco to follow.
Another empty room, save for a white table and two chairs. "Does this room make you uncomfortable?" the man asked him.
Draco bowed his head. "A little," he confessed. It felt so clinical and sterile; it would be impossible to be comfortable in here.
"So change it," he replied, smiling slightly at Draco. "Close your eyes and imagine where you'd most like to be right now." Draco was hesitant at first, glancing sideways at the stranger. He didn't want to close his eyes, he would lose one of his senses and he'd been trained to avoid that, especially in foreign and suspect situations. This whole experience had been foreign and suspect. "Close your eyes, Draco."
He took a deep breath and carefully he closed his eyes. "When can I open them again?"
"When you have a clear image of where you'd most like to be," he heard the man whisper from close by. "Do you see it in your mind?"
"Yes." Draco could see the green tones of his mother's plants and the bright colours of the flowers she so loved to tend to. He could feel the breeze on his cheeks and the warm spring sun on his nose. This is where he longed to be again; back home when he was a child, loved, and safe in the arms of his mother.
"Open your eyes." Draco gasped at what he saw. He was back home in Narcissa's garden, even the smells were the same, the warmth of the day brought out the scent of the flowers and it soothed him. "You long to be loved again," the man observed, "to feel safe with your family."
"I want lots of things I'll never have now," he replied, neither confirming nor denying the statement.
"You could have had love and security if you'd chosen it," the stranger said, almost chastising him. "You didn't."
"You don't know anything about me," Draco snapped, trying not to let this otherworldly man get under his skin.
"On the contrary, I know more about you than you do," the man almost chuckled. His similarity to Dumbledore was rather painful for Draco to endure; he had never truly forgiven himself for the role he had played in the man's death.
Instead of responding, Draco turned to make his way to his mother's favourite shrub. She had always spent more time tending to this plant than any other in her garden; Draco never remembered any of their names, but he knew which ones she liked best. He caressed the deep green leaves, tracing the veins along the stem.
"Do you know why you are here?" the man asked him.
"I died," Draco replied in barely a whisper. This garden was making him feel his loss more acutely than ever before; the loss of his family – his father in prison and his mother's suspicious death not long afterwards, his social isolation, depression, and now the loss of his own life. A wasted life without love or happiness.
"You are not supposed to be here, Draco," the man told him, and Draco looked up at him in surprise and uncertainty. Was there another afterlife waiting for him? One that was filled with foul things instead of forever blooming flowers? "You have died before your time."
"You mean because I'm young?" he queried, feeling his anxiety all over again.
"No, I mean because you did not fulfill your destiny."
Draco's thin eyebrows shot up into his hair at this declaration. "My destiny?" That just didn't sound right to him. People like Potter had destinies, not people like him. "I think you have the wrong bloke."
"No, it's written in your hands," he assured him confidently. "You have an important job to do on Earth, perhaps the most important job there is."
"The most important job there is?" Draco asked incredulously. He found it hard to believe that fate wanted him to save the world, or something equally heroic.
"Love, Draco," the otherworldly stranger told him. Draco could hear the excitement in his voice and see it dancing in the man's golden eyes that had locked with his; he could not look away no matter how much he wanted to. "It is your destiny to love, and to be loved."
Draco's heart skipped a beat. Love? It seemed too wonderful to be true for love to be his destiny. He wanted to be loved so much, and to give his love to another, but he'd never let himself even try. He had made some terrible choices when he was young and he feared that he would never find somebody that would be able to love him in spite of his history. He didn't believe he could truly find the kind of love he needed without honesty, if he couldn't confide in his companion then there was no point, and how could he expect to find someone who would understand about the mistakes he'd made.
"It's a nice thought," Draco sighed; he'd long given up hope of finding something more than a superficial relationship. "But it's too late now anyway."
"It is your destiny, Draco, but it is also the destiny of another who is still alive," the man explained. "Your true love, he has sacrificed so much and you are his reward for those sacrifices. If he does not have you, he will die just as surely as you are dead now."
"What are you talking about?" Draco was becoming more confused the more time he spent here, and he was starting to get angry that this man was talking like he could be with this person now. He was dead and, as far as he knew, it has always been a rather permanent state of being.
"In a life of almost complete darkness, your love has always been able to see the one glimmer of light he had to hold on to, for a while now you have been his light and even now he is losing hope and letting the darkness close around him."
"What do you mean 'for a while now I've been his light'?" Draco scoffed in disbelief. "That's ridiculous; I haven't dated anyone for months!"
"You have been resisting his advances for years, his light is the hope that one day you will notice him as he has noticed you," the man explained. His voice had been calm throughout their conversation, as if he was telling Draco a fictional story and not torturing him with all the things he would never have now.
"Who are you talking about?" Draco asked, suddenly desperate to know the truth, even if it would never be a reality. "Who is my true love? It's not Quinton, is it? Because that would be so wrong for a number of reasons you probably already know about."
"You don't need to ask me, Draco, you know already," the stranger teased him. "You've known for years, but you don't know how to accept it. You must force yourself to accept it because the consequences are grave if you don't," he warned. "That's why you are here. You are walking the wrong path, this life was not meant for you and you have strayed too far for too long from your destiny."
Draco felt his chest tighten at this declaration. It couldn't possibly be true, none of this seemed real. Could he really be dead because he couldn't accept love from another?
"I can give you a second chance," the man whispered and Draco gasped, snapping his gaze up to the man for the first time since he'd been told his destiny was to love. "But you must make it count because you will not get another."
"A second chance? You mean I can – I'd be…" Draco stuttered.
"Alive, yes. A second chance, but you must accept your destiny. Let this man into your heart and I promise you, you will be rewarded with a long, happy, and fulfilled life with him."
"You have to tell me who he is," Draco pleaded, and the man smiled at him in a frustratingly reassuring manner.
"You already know who he is," he said, and then pressed his hands firmly on Draco's chest and pushed hard.
Draco fell back, stumbling as he tried to keep his balance. "Ow!" he cried. "What the fuck?" The man came at him and shoved him again. "Stop it!" He was starting to lose his breath again and his lungs were burning. "What are you doing to me?"
"Love him well," the man said simply and he shoved Draco one last time.
His lungs burned and his chest was throbbing. Someone was leaning on his rib cage, crushing him and he couldn't breathe. Desperately, he started to thrash about, trying to push them off and with one last punch to his stomach he coughed, taking in his first sweet gulp of air.
"Oh my God, Draco, are you alright?" someone asked him, sounding panicked.
He was lying flat on the floor and he could make out a crowd of people around him; he didn't care. He rolled to his side and coughed harshly, trying not to throw up as he did.
"Can everyone please just give him some space?" a woman asked. Draco could feel her kneeling close beside him, but it didn't sound like anyone heeded her request.
"Everyone back the fuck off before I drag your arses out of here personally one by one!" It sounded like Potter was about ready to rip people's throats out, and immediately Draco heard the crowd dissipate. "Draco, can you hear me?" he asked gently. Draco felt Potter's hand rest lightly on his shoulder. "Is he going to be alright, Mione?"
"Well, he's breathing, that's certainly a good start," Draco heard her reply; it had been Granger who'd warned people away the first time. "Just give him a moment, he's only just breathing again, it will be a few minutes before he will feel comfortable speaking."
Inwardly Draco was grateful to her, he couldn't stand Potter's nagging questions right now and didn't have the energy or the breath to tell him to bugger off himself. He focused on steadying his breathing; in, out, in, out. Slowly he felt his heart rate slow and his lungs ease as they relaxed in his chest. He felt someone rubbing circles on his back and he sighed, releasing his tense shoulders.
"That's it, just relax and breathe," he heard Granger whisper to him soothingly. "The Emergency Healers are on their way, they'll take you to St. Mungo's for a proper check up. You're going to be just fine."
"Draco?" he heard his boss call to him softly. He sounded shaky and scared, like a little boy who'd just discovered he was alone.
Draco looked up at him through his clearing vision, and the moment he locked eyes with Potter he knew. He knew that the ghostly man was right, he knew that Potter was in love with him, and he knew deep down he'd known that for a while.
Potter was his destiny.
So what do you think of the concept?