A/N: This started as a drabble, turned into an out-of-control flashfic, then became a oneshot.
As always, endless thanks to bookjunkie1975 and vampthenewblack. This is for my beautiful girl, sweetandsaltyff, who shares my blankie tents and snuggle time from 600 miles away.
It's been only a year since our world changed so drastically; since I went from The Boy Who Lived to The Boy Who Died and Lived Again.
I watch you from across the room, just like I always have. There's a pain in your eyes reminiscent of a thousand lifetimes of agony that I can't take away.
I listen as you speak to the group each week, all eyes focused on you, but your gaze remains fixed to the cold stone floor. What happened to the pride you used to have? We all lost something in the war. Was that the part of you that was lost? Outside of the group, in class and around the greater student body, I still see some small semblance of false bravado; a defensive mask you slip on for others.
I know you now, even if you don't want me to, even if you never would. You also wear your regret on your sleeve for all to see, but somehow no one seems to notice. You don't expect forgiveness, though; you only want some degree of acceptance.
I wonder if it pains you to know that you and I aren't that different. They whisper that you're alone. There's no one like you left—not here. But they don't know. It's as if they don't hear you at all. Or, perhaps they simply don't understand.
When you tell our grievance group that you had no other choice, I see a young child thrust into a mass of confusion in a fairy tale world of unicorns and goblins and everything in between.
When you say that it was your duty to obey, as your father's only son, as the Malfoy heir, I see a scared boy with misplaced expectations and responsibilities weighing him down.
When you say that you had to, that lives were depending on you, I see a teenager who knows nothing other than what is expected of him.
When you say that you tried, you tried to do the right thing, within reason, I see a young man who doesn't want to disappoint or hurt the people who care for him...I see myself in you; a perfect match, and still, somehow, I see my opposite.
I wonder if you listen when it's my turn to speak. I think you do. The way you tense when I recall the pains I've suffered, when I recount the feelings of watching helplessly through an unwanted link into the mind of evil as innocent people are tortured and killed.
Your fingers tremble, barely noticeable, as they worry at threadbare hems of your once pristine school robes, and I know. I know that you must hear me. I know you understand because you've seen the same things I have; more, even.
Don't, they say. Don't pretend you weren't on his side. Don't think we'll forget the part you played. Don't come near us. The Ministry may have forgiven you, but don't expect us to forget. Don't. Don't.
I pass you in the hall, aching to reach out to you, just to see if you feel as real as you seem in my dreams. I don't dare, but as your eyes linger on me, I can't help but wonder if you crave that, too. A comforting touch, soft or gripping. I ache for that—for you—but I shove those thoughts down and make my way to class.
This Saturday morning is just like any other; a Hogsmeade weekend which will rob the castle of nearly all life. I usually don't go, and I know you never do. We'll find each other on the Quidditch pitch later and partake in a silent game of one-on-one, just like we always do. Maybe today I'll find the courage to talk to you, to ask you the unanswered questions that churn through my mind in the late hours of night. Like, why did you come back, and what will you do next, when this chapter of our lives has closed. Will I know you out there, in the real world, away from Hogwarts and war and Quidditch? Will I still see you?
House unity, they say. Togetherness and harmony, yet the Great Hall has never felt quite as large to me as it does this morning. So much space between us, you and I. A sea of students in silver and black—the new unified school colours—rippling like unsettled waves of an angry tide, and there you are, alone as if a whirlpool has taken away any company that dares near you. You keep your chin up, defiant in your solitude as if it doesn't matter to you, but I know it does.
Without a second thought, I cross the great sea and slide into the empty seat beside you, offering no explanation, only a tentative smile as you look over at me in confusion.
The hall falls silent. Outwardly, I ignore it, loading up my plate with toast and sausage and eggs; inside, I'm itching for a third layer of clothing; anything at all to offer some small sense of security against the hundreds of eyes that are now burning straight through me.
Slowly, sounds of life begin to fill the air once again, forks scraping against plates, benches sliding across the stone floor, chatter, both loud and whispered. I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding before chancing a glance at you again. Your eyes narrow indignantly and I can almost feel a chill in the air around you. I hope I haven't spoiled this...whatever it may be.
You're there, at the Quidditch pitch later in the morning and I breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of you. You've decided to forgo your shin guards and wrist braces again, just like last time. I wonder if that's some sort of a challenge you extend to me.
I cast my own padding aside and mount my broom. I could almost swear I see you smile as you take off into the air.
We pass the quaffle back and forth in an attempt to distract one another from our search of the snitch. Silently meandering through the air all afternoon, we bypass lunch and nearly miss dinner as well when finally the glint of gold catches my eye. Focusing all of my efforts on catching the snitch, I lose track of you. I've no clue how close you are until my fingers are closing around the winged ball and yours are closing around my wrist.
I can feel your warm breath against my neck as you curse yourself for missing it for the second week in a row. And then your hand is gone, leaving my bare wrist cold, and we're both back on the ground.
I wonder if these feelings are normal. I wonder if it's all right to want you the way that I do. How deep must my own scars go for me to want the type of emotional pain that I know you're capable of causing me?
You cast Aguamenti and a stream of water begins to flow from the tip of your wand. I squeeze my eyes shut against the image of your lips, slightly parted as you drink, water dripping down your chin.
I'm drawn back to reality when I realise that you're offering some to me. How long have you been trying to get my attention as I stand here with my eyes shut tightly? I decline, knowing there would be no way to do it as gracefully as you and not wanting to make an arse of myself anymore than I already have.
Between the Quidditch pitch and the castle doors, I somehow manage to find my voice. It isn't any of the questions that typically play on my mind when it comes to you, though.
"Are we friends?" I ask, nervous to hear your answer. The question's slipped out before I've had the chance to reconsider it and I have to fight to keep my shoulders from slumping in defeat at the weak, vulnerable tone of my own voice. Outside of the group, we don't speak much, but I think that's okay. There's a calm comfort between us and I've found myself seeking you out more often in search of that peace.
You don't bother looking at me as you shake your head. "Haven't you noticed, Potter? I have no friends."
You do, though, and over the next few weeks I do my best to show you just that. We talk more frequently now and it's obvious—to me, at least—that you do find the same comfort in my presence that I do in yours.
You catch me in the hall after our group meeting one evening, beckoning me with a tilt of your head. Come with me, it says, and I do.
You lead me into a vacant classroom that I immediately recognise to be the very one I used to come to as a child in first year; the classroom that once housed the Mirror of Erised. Dusty drop cloths cover unused desks and chairs and I wonder if it really was I who last stepped into this room, forgotten and disregarded as it seems to be. A cloud of dust and dormant magic rises up around me as I sit heavily on a desktop.
"What was it like out there?" you ask. My mind returns immediately to this evening's group session; to Ron and Hermione recounting very few select pieces of that experience at the prompting of the healer in charge. "Running and searching, isolated from the entire Wizarding world for all those months?"
"It was..." I'm not exactly sure how to put into words what it was like, which is part of my reason for not contributing to that portion of the group discussion. "Frustrating, I suppose. I felt useless...helpless."
"Were you scared?" Your arm brushes mine as you slide up to sit on the desk beside me.
"Yes." I watch as your fingers curl around the edge of the desk. "I was afraid that something would happen to the people I cared about and I wouldn't be there to stop it."
"You weren't afraid for yourself, then?"
I shake my head slowly. "Not really, no. I understood my place and it wasn't something I really thought about."
Your arm brushes mine again as you shift your weight slightly. I want to lean into you, to feel your warmth pressed against the side of my body, but I don't. Instead, we sit and talk well into the night. You tell me what it was like to be a stranger in your own home; to be scared and alone and, eventually, accept that that's all life would ever be for you. I tell you about searching blindly for things we knew little to nothing about, what it felt like not ever knowing who could be trusted, what it was like to live in a tent in the middle of a silent forest while the world around me was falling apart.
"It was oddly comforting some nights," I tell you. "To be surrounded by flimsy fabric walls and still cocooned in protective magic. It was a reminder that even weak things can be strong when necessary."
"I've never slept in a tent," you admit. I'm not surprised. Even at the Quidditch World Cup, you probably had an actual house to sleep in. "I'd like to someday." Your voice seems far away, as if you aren't even speaking to me anymore.
I turn to look at you just as your eyes come back into focus. You're so close now that I can see the ripples of sorrow in the depths of grey. I can't stop myself reaching up to wipe a hot tear from your cheek. You catch my wrist, holding my hand there as your eyes slide shut, blocking me out. I can't move. All I can do is watch as you seem to take comfort from the feel of my skin against yours.
In a moment of haste, I lean toward you, pressing a kiss to your forehead, your cheek, then, finally, brushing my lips over yours. I know it's wrong, that I'm taking advantage of your vulnerability, but I've wanted you so long that I can't even stop to think. You inhale sharply, but don't pull away. Then you're kissing me back, your soft lips moving with mine, warm tongue sliding against my teeth as you tilt your head to deepen the kiss.
You pull away, and all at once, you're gone. The silence of the room falling heavy on me, crushing me in your absence and I wonder if that, like so many other kisses shared with you, was just a dream. I lick my bottom lip and I can still taste you there. I know that this time it was real.
Time passes slowly after that, each moment without you ticking by at an aching pace. For weeks, you don't meet me at the Quidditch pitch, you don't sit beside me in potions, you won't even look at me.
I catch your wrist as you walk by me in the dungeon one afternoon, stopping you as you try to blend in with the moving current of students that pass.
"It doesn't have to be that way," I tell you. "I'm sorry that I...I'm sorry about what I did," I say honestly. The feel of your lips against mine still echoes in my thoughts and tingles on my skin, but it wasn't meant to push you away. It wasn't meant to scare you. "We can be friends. It doesn't have to be...that."
You yank your wrist from my hand and step toward me, your face mere inches from mine.
"Don't," you hiss, and I flinch at the icy tone. I see a glint of sadness in your eyes from that tiny gesture before it's replaced with cool indifference once again. "I don't need your pity."
"I'm not offering pity," I return. "Only friendship from someone who understands."
"You don't–" you begin, but stop yourself short of the acidic response that I know lingers on your lips. You won't say that I don't understand, because you know that I do.
You turn on your heel and walk away.
The common room is boisterous and each voice scrapes at my soul like nails on a chalkboard. I crave comforting silence, the warm embrace of solitude, the magical insulate.
Without much thought, I let my feet guide me away from the offensive noises and laughter. I find myself in the deserted classroom once again, basking in the darkness and silence. Draping the dust cloths over rearranged desks, I make a tent for myself and climb inside, casting silencing charms and disillusionment spells. The magic is warm around me, and I fall asleep thinking of you, wishing you were here beside me.
You find me the next morning as I'm stretching, aching and sore from a restless night's sleep on the stone floor. Our eyes meet and I look away immediately, not wanting you to see the pain that's settled there in your absence.
"I'm broken, Harry. Beyond repair." Your words cut through the silence like a hot knife in butter and my eyes snap back up to you. Is that what this is about? Is that why you've separated yourself from me?
"You think I'm not?" I ask as I take a step closer to you. "We all are, Draco. Sometimes things break, and when you piece them together again, they aren't the same. That doesn't mean they're ruined." You look at me, eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"What if I am, though?" you whisper.
I reach out and take your hand. It's cold and I wonder if you've been wandering the castle all night, waiting for me, looking for me. I lead you to the makeshift tent under the desks, and I almost smile at the lack of protest as I climb inside, tugging you along with me. Casting the cushioning charm that escaped my mind last night, I lie on the ground and pull you into my arms. It's safe here. We're safe. I'll stay here forever with you, if you want, wrapped in warmth and magic and safety. I feel you relax as you curl in closer, your hand fisted in the back of my shirt, face buried against my neck.
It's your turn to speak again as we sit in our usual circle in the group meeting. Your lips form words of profound apology, but they hang heavy in the air as if no one hears them, finally falling at my feet. Your eyes flick up to meet my own and I realise that you're speaking to me, and suddenly it occurs to me that you have been since this began.
It's no one else's approval that you seek, no one else's forgiveness. When it's over, you take my hand and we leave the room together, ignoring the shocked gasps and wide-eyed stares of the people around us.
The ones who matter will come around soon enough, the others...well, they don't matter at all, do they? Not to me or you. Not to us.