Chapter 7 – Epilogue

Harry took a sip of pumpkin juice and was just reaching for a plate of blueberry pancakes when the Daily Prophet delivery owl landed right next to his elbow. The newspaper was meant for Hermione, of course – he would never buy the rag, let alone get a subscription – but the owl nipped his finger, so he sullenly found a few coins in his pocket and put them in the pouch on the bird's leg. As the owl flew away, he glanced at the front page. Then he blinked. Then took a deep breath, shook his head and looked at the page again.

He stood up and slowly walked to the Slytherin table, feeling the eyes of everyone in the Great Hall watching him. It was unusually crowded for a Saturday morning. Harry, however, only saw one person.

"Malfoy," he said in a very low voice.

Draco was sitting with his back to the other tables. His narrow shoulders went visibly rigid, but he didn't turn around. The little Seeker girl next to him stole a nervous glance at Harry, moved a bit to the side to leave a gap between her and the blond and, with a look of great concentration, started to pet the white kitten lying comfortably splayed among the plates, cups and goblets.

Harry unfolded the newspaper and cleared his throat. "'Harry Potter has always been my best enemy,' says Draco Malfoy," he read out aloud, pronouncing every word with emphasis. The hall, silent and alert all of a sudden, echoed with the sound of his voice.

Draco slowly put down his lavishly buttered toast, stood up and faced Harry. His fringe, dyed black and turquoise for the weekend, flopped over his silver-framed eyes. All the shades exactly matched the colors on his hooded sweatshirt with a dragon embroidered on the front. He crossed his arms on his chest and leaned on the table. "That's the only reference to you in the whole interview, Potter," he said in a cold, unemotional tone.

"So you're giving interviews to the Daily Prophet now." Harry seemed very calm, but the air around him shimmered.

"This is the first and the last one."

"And it didn't occur to you that I possibly might have liked to know about it before the bloody rag landed on top of my breakfast."

"No one forces you to read it. And if I have told you, you would never have allowed it."

With a crash, a glass shattered on the Slytherin table. Harry didn't take his eyes from Draco's. "You bet I wouldn't have allowed it. For fuck's sake, we have been on the front page every day for a month now, all insinuations and lies, and you go to them behind my back and give them an interview?" He spoke the last words through his teeth.

"That's exactly the point!" snapped Draco all of a sudden, uncrossed his arms and clenched his hands into fists. "I'm sick of reading all the crap about how Voldemort's youngest underling corrupted our innocent Saviour, just because you don't want to talk to anyone from the press about us! So I told the truth about myself, and only myself, and made sure they print it word by word! The headline was the only concession. It's about war, not about you and –"

"I don't give a fuck what it's about!" This time a plate on the Hufflepuff table cracked and burst into shards. "How dare you consort with the Daily Prophet?"

"I'll do whatever I want to do," hissed Draco. "I'm not at your beck and call."

At the staff table, Headmistress McGonagall rose and prepared herself to speak, but before she could do so, Harry tilted his head to the side and said: "Because you're not my girlfriend?"

Draco flicked his fringe and narrowed his eyes. "We've already made it very clear that we're both boys."

Before anyone could as much as blink, Harry was kneeling on the bench, fingers buried in the silky blond hair, kissing Draco as if the world was coming to an end. Emily Waters and other Slytherin little girls started to giggle and someone wolf-whistled. Draco laughed into the kiss, wrapped his arms around Harry, tipped him back and slid both his hands in the back pockets of Harry's jeans.

Everyone watched the scene with avid interest and nobody noticed the three people standing in the entrance door. Ron stared at the Slytherin table with an unusual mixture of incomprehension and fascination, Hermione had her lips pressed in a thin line and Ginny, with an alarming gleam in her eyes, was standing on tiptoes and craning her neck to get a better view.

"Harry…" croaked Ron when his best friend's hands left the blond hair to burrow under the dragon sweatshirt. "Harry is groping Malfoy in the Great Hall. Again."

"We can see that, Ron," said Hermione briskly. "That's exactly the kind of behaviour I was trying to discourage when I insisted they don't sit together at meals. As if it wasn't enough that the whole Ravenclaw team walked in on them in the Quidditch locker-room last week."

"Oh, shut up, you two," grumbled Ginny and pushed around her brother without taking her eyes from the boys. "Perhaps it escaped your notice, but nobody minds it anymore. Merlin, Harry never jumped me this way! I always had to do all the work. At least I know why now."

Headmistress McGonagall cleared her throat so loudly that it sounded like a crack of a whip. Draco shot her a look and smirked as he let Harry go. He sat on the bench next to the other boy, whispered something in his ear, pressed as close to his side as possible and glanced around the Great Hall haughtily. Finally, he petted his cat, smiled at Emily and asked her something. Harry leaned his head on Draco's shoulder and started to read the head article on the front page of the crumpled newspaper.

Ginny gave a disappointed huff and sat down at the Gryffindor table. Ron and Hermione stayed at the door for a while longer.

"My own little sister gets off on watching them," whined Ron.

His girlfriend squeezed his hand in a soothing manner. "Well, they really look good together," she said.

Ron groaned. "Wait till I find the proof that the bloody ferret-face Confunded you all! You can say what you want but it simply must be a –"

At that moment Harry put the newspaper down, reached for Draco's left hand, pushed the sleeve of the turquoise sweatshirt down and pressed his lips on the black mark etched into the pale skin. The other boy turned his head sharply and flinched as if a snake bit him, but then he met Harry's eyes and his alarmed expression melted into a sad smile. Harry let his fingers slip over the Dark Mark in a caress and for a span of a heartbeat, they both seemed brittle as glass.

Ron goggled at them, open-mouthed. Then he turned to Hermione. "It – it must be a spell," he whimpered, all his previous certainty gone. "Mione?"

Hermione squeezed his hand again.

Ron heaved a heart-felt sigh. Then he shrugged his shoulders in resignation and went to eat some breakfast.

The End

Author's Note: So, it's over. I'm so grateful to everyone who took the time to review! You gave me the motivation to go on, no matter how inadequate I felt. Thank you!