The prickling of his Mark was an added bonus to the great mound of despair that was Draco's day. He lost his Potions revisions, spending all of lunch trying to find them with no success. So now he was behind on studying, late for class, hungry, and in pain.
And through it all was his anger at Potter. Draco had spent so much time being upset over the holidays that he didn't even know what to do with it. He had forgotten for a while when Harry gave him the Black signet ring, which Draco still loved but he didn't like to think about how much because it made it harder to be angry. Instead he focused on how embarrassing it was to receive a gift without giving one, and that Harry was the cause of that. Harry made him look a fool, again. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised; he'd been doing it all his childhood after all.
Besides. A family signet ring? Even if it hadn't been one so steeped in personal history for the both of them it seemed far too much and Draco worried what Potter would want in return.
Draco stood nervously outside the Charms classroom. He had been avoiding Harry like the plague all week but he could do so no longer, unless he skipped Charms which was actually becoming a more and more attractive option. He just didn't want to deal with this whole Harry issue. Draco didn't know what to say to him, or even what he wanted to say to him. All he knew was that he had to put an end to this. It was getting much too dangerous.
But he couldn't. He couldn't walk into that classroom and break up with Harry Potter. And he couldn't sit there next to him and pretend to be as happy as he knew Harry expected him to be. He knew it would have to happen eventually, The Talk, but maybe if he just waited a bit longer, it would be easier. He turned and walked away quickly.
Draco made up for skipping Charms by studying for the Charms NEWT in the library. It made him feel better and he was surprised at how easily he was able to concentrate on the textbooks.
"I heard you skipped Charms," Luna said conversationally.
Draco groaned. "Not now, Luna. I don't wanna talk about this." He closed his book and retreated to the boys' dormitories.
Draco walked down the stairs from the Owlery and heard a familiar trio of voices approaching.
"I think it's a good thing, Harry. It's mad that you even started—"
"Ron," said Hermione's voice warningly.
"No, Hermione. I'm going to say it outright. It's a great opportunity to just stop all this nonsense. He's dangerous, and a git besides."
Draco ducked down a different corridor and took the long way back to Ravenclaw.
"Hello Master Black! The usual?"
"Yes, Flicky, thank you."
Draco waited patiently for his roast beef sandwich as the house elves scurried around him, preparing to send lunch up to the Great Hall.
Draco had spent another week ducking down corridors and skipping meals. Potter was everywhere! He remembered a time, just a few short months ago, when he had been trying to find the git and he seemed to have vanished. Now that Draco was avoiding him he was all over the place. He hadn't actually come to the Common Room, for which Draco was grateful. (Although he did feel a tiny bit put out, not that he would admit it. Was he listening to that fool Weasley?) Unfortunately, it was time for Charms again, and he found himself outside the door feeling exactly as he did a week prior. Perhaps he needed more time, or maybe too much time had passed, but he did know he did not want to deal with Potter right now. The thought was mildly terrifying. If only he hadn't messed up and let himself get this attached.
Luna's voice startled him. He had been so deep in his thoughts he didn't even answer her, just stared blankly.
She sighed. "Why don't you come study with me in the library?"
Draco nodded and followed her down the corridor, throwing a harried glance back at the Charms door.
Draco had assumed that Luna would immediately start questioning him about what the bloody hell he thought he was doing about Harry Potter. Not that she ever phrased it that way, but it seemed to him that it was the main focus of every conversation they'd had to date. But it seemed she actually wanted to study. Draco couldn't concentrate on the books.
They sat quietly for quite a while when Luna asked unexpectedly, "Do you want to hear a story about my childhood?"
He sighed. He didn't, particularly, but he was grateful for the distraction. "Sure, why not?"
"When I was eight years old, I saw a Lastek for the first time."
"What in the world is a Lastek, Lovegood?"
"In mythology they're similar to sprites and pixies, and with an even worse sense of humor. They were said to be seen around before natural disasters and some even believed they caused them. But they were also witnessed at times of great joy. Weddings and births and the like. Because of their association with death and disaster people thought that any child born with a Lastek around was cursed, and similarly that a wedding with Lasteks in attendance were doomed to fail."
"Were they?" Draco asked tiredly.
"Well, technically. Most of children were left on hilltops and it was strange for two people to stay married after such an inauspicious beginning. I think the people got it all wrong."
"I think so. The babies and marriages were just abandoned, that wasn't the Lasteks' fault. The natural disasters that caused the superstitions, there was almost always at least one survivor. Most accounts say that the Lasteks surrounded them and then they don't remember what happened. Usually they were children. I think the Lasteks saved them. They just got a bad reputation because they were only around during bad times. But they were just trying to help."
"This is all really interesting and what have you, but is this going anywhere?" Draco said, with only mild irritation.
"When I was a little girl, my mother was experimenting in her work room. Something happened, and there was an explosion. The Lasteks saved me."
"My mother wasn't so lucky."
"...Oh. Well. That's not very good, then."
"No, it isn't."
They sat in uncomfortable silence. At least, it was uncomfortable for Draco.
"You always have a few Lasteks around you," Luna stated finally, for all the world sounding as if she was just discussing Charms homework.
Draco didn't understand Luna, Merlin, no one did, but for some reason he felt better after his time with her in the library. So much so that when he was unceremoniously jerked past a tapestry and into a familiar-looking stone hallway he wasn't nearly as nervous and irritated as he might have been.
A very nervous and irritated Potter had his wrist in a vice, but that didn't bother him much, either.
"Hello, there, Scarhead," he said amiably.
"Don't you 'Hello, there, Scarhead' me," he said. "You've been avoiding me for two weeks, you can't just 'Hello, there, Scarhead.'"
"Yeah, that was a bit rude of me, wasn't it?"
"It – yeah. It really was."
"I was a bit… I was shook up by your gift. It was a lot, it meant a lot to me. I didn't know what to do about it."
"I figured that's what it was," Harry said slowly. "This is going a lot better than I thought it would." He released his hold on Draco's wrist, and in turn Draco took Harry's hand in his. He lifted it up and studied the long, slender fingers. "I get that it could've scared you—"
"Shook me up," he corrected.
"Right. I get that it scared you, but if you're ever scared of anything you should come to me and talk to me about it. Don't just ignore me. I worried…" Harry took a deep breath. "I worry that you changed your mind about me. About us."
"I don't know what I can give you that is equal to that, Harry. I don't have anything as important as that ring. I don't have anything at all, really."
"Sure you do," Harry said. "You have something that is so much better."
Draco looked away from their twined fingers and into Harry's eyes. "What's that?"
Harry gave him a little crooked smile and squeezed Draco's hand lightly. "Yourself."
And maybe Harry was right, Draco thought. Maybe that's all you really needed. Not grand gestures or flashy gifts, though those things were nice now and then. All you needed was you and them and maybe it didn't have to be so conditional. It wouldn't be the first time his father was wrong, after all.
And there you have it. Sorry it took so long for this but so much has changed in my life in the last few months and I don't feel connected with this story like I used to. I hate leaving things unfinished, though, so there you are. The last chapter. The end. The very end. There will be no more, not ever. Which is a bit sad, as this is my most popular story (God knows why) but I just have nothing more to say about it.