Thank you, Oliver for being my beta and curing my bad case of writer's block. This story would not have been possible without you.
This story was inspired by the song Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional.
You all know that I don't own the Harry Potter characters (JKR does). But if I did, something like this would happen to them...
The war is over. Hogwarts is rebuilt. Harry and his peers return to complete their seventh and final year of studies...
Platform nine and three-quarters was packed with people surrounding the Hogwarts Express.
Smoke from the scarlet steam engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every colour wound between their legs.
Owls hooted in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and scraping of heavy trunks.
The first few carriages were already full with students, some hanging out of the window to talk to their families, others fighting over seats.
Draco Malfoy stood removed from it all, measuring in his mind the distance he would have to walk to find an empty carriage. It seemed a long way.
He began to walk, pushing himself into a rapid clockwork stride. He dumped his trunk into the first empty carriage he found and slumped into the seat.
A group of curious first years peered into his compartment, struggling under the weight of their trunks.
"Keep moving," he spat at them, pretending to reach for his wand.
They gaped at him fearfully with wide eyes and mouths, and pushed their trunks away from him as quickly as they could manage.
Draco gave them another brief sneer before turning his attention to the window.
He felt the presence of another intruder before they spoke.
"Terrorising the first years already, Malfoy?"
"Mind your own fucking business," he retorted before turning to glower at them. His fierce expression fell from his face when he saw who it was.
Blaise Zabini stood in the doorway, a large grin on his face.
"You're not that impressive, you know," Blaise said, grin broadening. "That lot would be frightened by a Flobberworm."
Draco grinned back at him. "Especially if they were told it's a type of Flesh-Eating Slug."
Blaise laughed. "I'll be back in a moment," he said, dumping his trunk next to Draco's and hurrying after the group of first years.
"Have you guys seen Trevor?" Neville Longbottom poked his head into Harry, Ron and Hermione's compartment, desperately searching for his lost toad.
"Sorry, mate." Ron shook his head as he opened his fourteenth chocolate frog. "Damn, I got Morgana again."
Hermione was engrossed in her seventh year Transfiguration text book and Luna Lovegood could be heard handing out her father's magazine along the train.
Harry sat in his own separate bubble of silence, letting the noise of the train wash over him.
It was as if the war had never happened. They had boarded the Hogwarts Express like they had done every year before, sat in the last available empty compartment and bought the same sweets from the trolley.
Harry even thought he heard some frightened first years scream down the other end of the train. The Slytherins were up to their old tricks already.
A small group of first and second year students peered into their compartment after Neville and stared openly at Harry.
"That's him," one of them whispered. "I can see the scar."
"Go on, ask him," said another. "Ask him for his autograph."
Luna suddenly joined them. Matching their astonished expressions, she looked quizzically at Harry. "You're red today, Harry. That's very strange."
Harry touched his face and looked at his arms in confusion.
Hermione put down her Transfiguration text book and looked at Harry. "You're not red," she confirmed.
"Yes, he is," said Luna, walking into the compartment and peering closely at Harry. "It's strange, because he is usually orange."
"What on earth do you mean?" Hermione asked. "He looks the normal colour to me."
Luna turned her attention to Hermione. "You're green," she said simply. "You've always been green."
Harry, Ron and Hermione looked at each other in shared bewilderment.
"Barking mad." Ron mouthed the words to Harry and Hermione before asking Luna, "What are you talking about?"
Luna turned to face him. "You're yellow."
"It's all here in this month's issue," Luna explained, handing him a copy of The Quibbler and turning back to Harry.
"I don't understand why you are red now, Harry." She stepped closer to him, bending down to look at him carefully. "Perhaps it is only an overlay of red, which would make sense seeing as you have just experienced a life-threatening situation."
"Right," Harry said, still confused.
"Or perhaps you have turned red because you have a sudden strong physical need." Luna continued to ponder. "You should probably read this."
She handed Harry a copy of The Quibbler before leaving the compartment. "Not to worry, I'm sure it will go away after you have sex," she added as an afterthought.
It was Harry's turn to gape. "What the hell was that about?"
"Like I said, barking mad." Ron held up his copy of The Quibbler. "Something about finding your aura colour."
Harry looked at The Quibbler in his hands. The title page read:
AURAS AND HEALING
How to see the colours of the aura
"Reds are physical and sexual. They love expressing themselves through their sensuality and their physical bodies," Ron read from the magazine. "What a load of rubbish."
"Sounds like something Professor Trelawney would be interested in," Harry agreed.
Ron widened his eyes and flailed his arms in a comical impression of the Divination professor. "Your aura is pulsing, my dear! Are you in the beyond?"
Harry laughed. Hermione rolled her eyes and resumed reading her Transfiguration textbook.
"Luna's right about you though, Hermione," said Ron, turning back to the magazine and reading. "Greens are some of the most powerful and intelligent people in the aura spectrum. Greens are extremely bright. They process information and ideas quickly."
"Don't be ridiculous," Hermione said, not taking her eyes away from her textbook. "Aura colours are complete and utter nonsense."
"I think they make sense."
Romilda Vane had appeared at their compartment door when they weren't paying attention.
Harry, Ron and Hermione regarded her apprehensively.
"Your condition sounds very serious, Harry." She entered the compartment, trying to look seductive. She stalked towards Harry. "I'd be happy to help. Luna said it would go away if you-"
"Oh, for Merlin's sake." Hermione threw down her book. "Get out!"
She shooed Romilda Vane out of the room, which promptly knocked several first years over in the process. They scurried away, looking embarrassed.
"I don't want to hear any more about this aura rubbish," Hermione snapped. "Harry's perfectly fine."
"I don't know. It may be serious. Maybe I have a red aura too," Ron said to her, looking hopeful. "Maybe you and I should-"
Ron was stopped from finishing his sentence, as Hermione's textbook levitated from its position on the floor and swiftly dropped on his head.
"What's the fucking point?" Blaise grumbled, thrusting a glass of Firewhisky into Draco's hand. They had retired to the Slytherin common room after an exceptionally long welcome feast. "Another year at this bloody school."
"We're nineteen years old," Gregory Goyle agreed, also accepting a glass from Blaise. "What use is another year of Charms class?"
"The rest of the school don't want us here anyway," Pansy Parkinson added. "Did you see the filthy looks the Gryffindors were giving me during the welcome feast?"
"To be fair, you did say we should just hand Potter over to Voldemort before the final battle," Blaise reminded her. He poured himself a glass of Firewhisky before handing the bottle to Pansy.
"Whatever. " She rolled her eyes before snatching the bottle. "Draco did worse than that and they're not paying any attention to him."
"Do you not read the paper?" Blaise asked incredulously. "Draco's innocent. He and his mother completely ruined Voldemort's chances several times. Isn't that right, Draco?"
Draco glared angrily at him in response. They'd already had this discussion without Pansy present. Blaise had been surprised and relieved. His friend wasn't going to Azkaban after all.
Pansy stared at Blaise in astonishment. "What are you talking about?"
Blaise promptly produced the Daily Prophet and handed it to her.
The article had begun with a brief summary of Potter's achievements and then contained quotes from Potter himself. He thanked Granger and the Weasel for standing by him, paid tribute to the people who had died, and finally, at the very end of the piece, mentioned the small contribution the Malfoy family had in helping him achieve his objective.
He discussed the incident at Malfoy Manor, when he had been captured by Snatchers and taken to Lucius Malfoy.
"Hermione disguised me by using a Stinging Jinx. Nobody could recognise me. They were unsure and didn't know whether to summon Voldemort or not. They didn't want to take any risks. Instead, they called upon Draco Malfoy to look at me and verify my identity. He immediately recognised me. I could see it in his eyes. To my surprise, he didn't turn me in. He was always on the evil side of things, but I always thought his heart was never really in it. His actions that day proved he wasn't for Voldemort. He just didn't have any other choice."
Instead, they called upon Draco Malfoy to look at me and verify my identity. He immediately recognised me. I could see it in his eyes. To my surprise, he didn't turn me in.
He was always on the evil side of things, but I always thought his heart was never really in it. His actions that day proved he wasn't for Voldemort. He just didn't have any other choice."
He went on to explain how Narcissa Malfoy had played a very important role. She had lied to Voldemort. She had checked Potter's pulse and told Voldemort he was dead when she knew he wasn't.
Draco continued to glare furiously at Blaise as Pansy read, taking small sips from his Firewhisky. He didn't want to talk about Potter right now.
He had read the article in the Daily Prophet numerous times himself. His initial response to it had been bitterness, followed by relief, and then a kind of weary discomfort. What did this mean for him and Potter now?
He and Blaise knew why he hadn't revealed Potter's identity to the Death Eaters. It was partly to do with not wanting to support Voldemort, and partly to do with Potter himself. Draco had always behaved strangely when it came to Potter.
What they didn't know was why Potter had acknowledged Draco and his mother in such a powerful and deliberate way. Potter didn't just save them from Azkaban. He saved their reputation as well.
Draco hadn't spoken to Potter since the Final Battle, and after reading the article, he was unsure of how to proceed.
What was going to happen between them now?
The question kept him awake most nights, and when he did sleep he had clear, reminiscent dreams. He dreamt of strong hands grabbing him and pulling him out of burning fires. He dreamt of brilliant green eyes distorted by lumps of uneven skin. He dreamt of Harry Potter.
"TO HOGWARTS!" Seamus Finnigan called, raising his bottle of Butterbeer in an impromptu toast.
His fellow Gryffindors loudly parroted him, raising their bottles high before clinking them together messily.
Harry sat apart from it all, not wanting to draw attention to himself. He had had enough of that.
"TO HARRY!" Seamus continued his toast, and everyone turned to Harry, smiling and cheering.
Harry smiled weakly back at them. It was exhausting.
"You haven't got a drink," Dean Thomas said to him, before turning back to the group. "Will somebody get the saviour of the wizarding world a damn drink!"
Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown nearly knocked each other over trying to bring Harry a Butterbeer first.
He held both bottles in his hands apprehensively as they sat down next to him, their long legs folded on either side of him, flirtatiously pinning him in.
Harry didn't want Parvati or Lavender or any girl for that matter. What he wanted was peace.
He tried to get Ron's or Hermione's attention, but their eyes were locked on each other, Ron's blunder on the train clearly forgotten. Nothing could break their delighted absorption.
He briefly wondered if Ginny would help him, but Dean had made his way over to her after the toast. She made room for him on her seat, curving her leg so that her hip tightened in her little skirt. Dean put his big hand there.
Humbly Harry ducked his head. He searched for Neville or another ally who could join him, but they were all preoccupied.
"I'll open it for you, Harry."
Harry didn't trust Parvati's grin or the sultry way she said his name. He wished Ron or Hermione or Neville – anybody – would look over and excuse him.
While Parvati was busy with the bottle cap, Lavender edged closer to him, curving her plaint body inwards so that her thigh and hip and shoulder touched his.
Parvati glared at her in fury. She handed Harry the opened bottle, running her free hand across his back.
"You're tense," she said, moving behind him. "You need a rub."
She began massaging his back, pressing her chest into him as she did so.
"You're doing it wrong," Lavender protested, sitting up and pushing her out of the way. "I can do it better, Harry."
They had stopped touching him in order to rebuke each other. Harry seized the opportunity and moved away quickly.
He began to walk towards his dormitory, but was blocked by Romilda Vane.
Her hand found his shoulder and she looked up at him with wide, inviting eyes. "Going somewhere?"
It was late in the evening, the time when most people split off from the party in pairs to find more private and secluded areas.
"Just on my way to the bathroom," he lied, quickly changing course.
If the way to his dormitory was blocked, he would have to go out the portrait hole.
He swiftly grabbed another two Butterbeers from a nearby table as he made his exit.
It was just past midnight when Draco made his way down to the lake. Sleep had refused to come.
Draco welcomed the insomnia, seeing it as an excuse to sneak out of his dormitory into the warm spring night.
The light was liquid. The moon was sliced in half, but held a white, gleaming brightness.
The flowers which flanked the lake were silvered with it. The scent of blossoms, hot and pungent during the day, seemed more mysterious, more exotic, by moonlight.
The lake spread in a wide half circle. Draco sat in the grass by the water and ran his hands through his hair.
The sky was full of stars, silver against black. The lake whispered.
Footsteps. They crunched in the sandy dirt.
Draco looked up and saw the faint outline of another man.
Messy hair. Broad shoulders. Harry Potter. There was no mistaking him.
Looking at him, Draco remembered the feel of hard, wiry muscles, as he had clung to Potter on the broomstick.
Damn Potter, Draco thought, feeling a quick twinge. Only sappy Hufflepuffs and foolish Gryffindors find him attractive.
Because he felt vulnerable, Draco countered with bravado. He stood, took out his wand and glowered, a common reflex when it came to Potter.
Potter had stopped walking; one hand thrust into the pocket of his jeans, the other holding two Butterbeer bottles by the neck. He had recognised Draco immediately as well.
Surprisingly, Harry found he wasn't annoyed by Malfoy's presence. He had wanted to be alone, but now he welcomed the company.
Malfoy may have been unjust in the past. He may have been weak and resentful, but he had never been inconsistent. Harry always knew what to expect from him.
He laughed. "You're a bit late, Malfoy. The war is over."
"Force of habit, I guess," Draco replied, he pocketed his want, but kept a hard face. "The war may be over, but you're still enjoying the usual fame and glory. I saw your article in the Daily Prophet."
Harry laughed again and spoke sarcastically. "Yeah, it's been great. Half of my friends have died and I get forced to talk about it over and over again to complete strangers."
"If it was such a hassle," Draco asked, "why did you say all that about me? You didn't have to."
"I know I didn't have to." Harry sighed, turning away from Draco. He sat by the edge of the lake, crossing his legs and resting his elbows on his knees. "I was just telling the truth, Malfoy."
"It felt like you were doing me a favour." It was more of an accusation than a statement. With their history of hatred, the worst thing they could do to each other was give a favour. Malfoys were too proud after all.
"You did favours for me too." More accusations. "I know your recognised me at Malfoy Manor, I saw it in your eyes, but you didn't turn me in."
The memories made Harry tired. He opened one of his Butterbeers and took a long swig.
Draco sensed that he was losing Potter's attention. He didn't like that at all. He raised his voice and walked over to where the Gryffindor was sitting. "I panicked, Potter. It felt wrong to do it."
Draco was standing next to Harry. When Harry turned his hand he could see Malfoy's feet, facing him, demanding his concentration.
"I didn't think that you had a sense of right and wrong," Harry said, crueller than he meant to. He tried to remind himself that it wasn't Malfoy's fault. All of his life he had had to bend and conform the way his parents wanted him to. Harry knew the feeling. He had been forced to fit a pre-determined shape himself as the Chosen One. Nevertheless, it was hard to feel empathy for Malfoy.
"Don't talk like that. Don't talk like you know me. You don't know shit." Draco was angry, with a quick, defensive heat.
"How am I supposed to know?" Harry demanded, looking up at Draco and matching his anger. "All you've ever shown me is cruelty and resentment!" Harry knew Malfoy wasn't one dimensional. He knew there was more to him than what appeared on the surface, but he never saw it. How could he accept it if he never saw it?
"You haven't been so angelic yourself, Potter," Draco retorted. "I bled out in the bathrooms because of you."
"We bring out the worst in each other." Harry heaved another sigh. Malfoy was exhausting. Every exchange between them was full of raw intensity. Harry could handle it in the past. He would follow Malfoy and match his hatred because he had the energy for it. Now the war was over and he was tired. He just wanted peace. "I don't want to fight you anymore. Maybe we should just-"
Harry found that he couldn't finish his sentence. He looked at Draco imploringly.
Draco stared back, refusing to help him.
He wished Harry wouldn't look at him like that. It made strange feelings that he didn't understand or recognise build up in his chest. All of his energy went into appearing aloof.
"Take a break?" Harry suggested in the end.
Draco sneered at him. "You're becoming too weak to handle me, Potter. It must be humbling for you to admit it."
"Whatever, Malfoy." Harry took another sip of his Butterbeer. "You can go on fighting if you wish, but you will be fighting alone."
He turned away from Draco again, staring out across the lake.
Draco's mind underwent rapid adjustments. Potter was detaching himself from him. Draco didn't want that. He wanted to be close to Potter. The only way he had ever been able to achieve that in the past had been through animosity, which was no longer an option. He quickly changed tact, voice altering.
"I've never had the option of taking a break," he said softy. He sat down next to Harry, looking out across the lake as well. "From anything."
Harry didn't reply. He simply handed Draco his other Butterbeer.
Draco accepted it without a word and removed the cap.
They sat side by side, sipping from their Butterbeers, letting the novelty of silence seep over them.
From somewhere in the distance, they heard the soft thump of water splashing. The giant squid, Harry thought, and smiled. It would be quite an adventure to swim under the moon. He found himself removing his shoes and socks. He wiggled his toes.
Draco leaned forward and stared into the water. He saw the reflection of the moon, silvery white and radiant.
Their thoughts were the same yet separate. They realised it had been a long time since they had been able to enjoy the sound of silence.
Harry was constantly surrounded by news reporters and fans. He appreciated Ron and Hermione, but even they smothered him with too much love and attention sometimes.
Draco felt smothered also. Blaise was constantly bringing up the war and Potter. He didn't want to talk about it anymore. He was as exhausted as Potter. It occurred to him that Potter was as sick of everyone has he was.
"Where's Weasel and Granger?" he heard himself ask.
"In the common room," Harry answered, keeping his gaze in front of him. "They'll be busy with head boy and head girl stuff this year," he added.
Draco smirked. "So they'll be busy giving each other head?"
The moonlight played on Malfoy's skin, and Harry enjoyed it. He chuckled. "Something like that."
They were both suddenly wearing matching smiles.
Draco felt Harry's gaze shift from the lake to him. "What?"
"I've never seen you smile like that before."
It was Draco's turn to chuckle. "I never really had reason to," he said. "Even as a child. We were forced to grow up so quickly."
Harry nodded in agreement and they fell into silence again.
Draco began to run his fingers through the water. He accidently lifted his hand away too quickly, and made a small splash.
Some droplets of water from the splash landed lightly on Harry's face. It felt cool and refreshing. Harry reached forward and flicked a small amount of water at Draco. He was beaming again.
Draco looked surprised and wiped the water off his face. He leaned over the edge and splashed a large amount at Harry.
"You'll pay for that, Malfoy," Harry said, shaking with laughter. He was standing up now. He glided both of his hands in the water and pushed the resulting wave onto Malfoy. His pants and shirt front were completely soaked. Harry laughed harder. He knew how important appearances were to the Slytherin.
Draco was shocked, but recovered quickly.
"You've done it now, Potter," he said, lunging forward and pushing Harry over the edge of the lake.
Thinking fast, Harry grabbed Malfoy's leg as he fell. They both landed in the water with a large, loud splash.
Harry gasped for air as he resurfaced. Water had gone up his nose and he had lost his glasses. Malfoy was nothing but a blur. He reached forward and grabbed at Malfoy, not knowing where his hands were landing.
His hands ended up on Malfoy's chest, which shook with laughter. "I've got your glasses here, four eyes." He held the glasses forward for Harry to take.
Harry went to take the glasses, but due to his poor vision he missed. His hand grazed Malfoy's cheek instead. He was surprised at how soft the blond's skin was. Malfoy always appeared so hard and tough.
Draco attempted to help Harry, trying to fit the glasses on his face. Harry noticed that he was fumbling.
He reached up to help Draco place them properly. Somehow his hands ended up on top of the other man's. He noted how the skin on Malfoy's hands was as soft as the skin on his face.
When Harry's glasses were steady and when Harry's vision had returned, they stepped away from each other, their playful water fight forgotten.
Draco leaned against the edge of the lake and Harry propelled himself backwards in the water.
"This feels weird," Harry said, moving his hands around in the water around him. "Swimming with so many clothes on." He felt like he had been ship wrecked.
"It does," Draco agreed. He pulled his shirt off over his head. It landed with a soft slapping noise on the bank of the lake.
Harry followed suit. The water was cold on his bare chest, but his skin relished in it. He felt relaxed and completely energised at the same time.
He swam over to where Draco was leaning, and went to throw his shirt next to his on the bank. It landed on Draco's head instead.
Harry cringed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"You're in for it now, Potter," Draco growled. He tossed Harry's shirt aside and dived under the water.
Harry stood uneasily, looking around the water and waiting for Draco to resurface. He felt a firm hand pull at his leg. He overbalanced and fell under the water.
Harry quickly pushed himself to the surface, his sudden breathlessness making him dizzy. When he broke the surface he was standing directly in front of Draco. Their noses were millimetres apart.
Draco's sharp eyes had softened and appeared depthless. The change made Harry's lips twitch. He felt a heavy throbbing in his chest. His heart had started beating very fast. He clasped Draco's shoulders and attempted to push him under the water.
Draco didn't budge. He stood strong, feet firmly planted to the spot. He smirked and looked challenging at Harry.
Harry lifted himself up higher, still attempted to push Draco under the water. It didn't do much good. His hands slipped on Draco's wet shoulders.
Draco remained strong. He caught Harry with his arms, preventing him from falling into the water. Harry found himself moulded against a solid, muscular chest.
Draco's body was tempting now that Harry had time to appreciate it. The scent of the lake rose to surround them, and heat - such a furnace heat that seemed to come from within and without at the same time.
Draco looked down at Harry as Harry looked up at him. Their mouths closed over each other's, hot and stunningly sweet.
Almost leisurely, they explored each other's mouths. Harry's heart beat wildly against the quick, steady beat of Draco's.
As the kiss deepened, Draco nibbled at Harry's lips as if he would draw out more taste. Slow, easy. His tongue tempted Harry's then retreated, then slipped through his parted lips again to torment and savour. For a moment, Harry feared he would faint in Draco's arms.
"You've really done it now, Potter," Draco murmured against his lips.
Harry pulled away from him. "I have not. You kissed me!"
Draco scoffed. "I hardly think so, Potter. You grabbed my shoulders. You practically threw yourself at me."
"I was only trying to push you under the water," Harry protested. "You grabbed me with your arms."
Draco's eyes narrowed. "I only did that to stop you from attacking me!"
"You're mad. And you're madder still if you think I'm taking all of the blame for this." The temper in Harry's voice was cold, coated with control. "I'm leaving."
"No." Draco swung out his hand to stop him, catching his wrist.
"I said I didn't want to fight you anymore, Malfoy." Harry pulled his wrist from Draco's hand with a sharp jerk. "We should just forget it ever happened."
He turned and climbed out of the lake. He began to walk back towards the castle.
Draco watched him until he was swallowed by darkness.
What did this mean for him and Potter now?
To be continued
Many thanks to the wonderful readers who have reviewed my stories so far. Your encouraging and helpful words are my strongest inspiration.