Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Harry Potter. I'm just having some fun with the characters.
AN: This was originally written for dramionechallenge over on tumblr but the challenge has a 1000 word limit so basically I'm just plugging the challenge for no real reason here.
Song for the Brokenhearted
"What were we talking about?" Harry asked. He pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. At this time of day the light glinting off the manmade lake outside was far too bright in the small sitting room.
"Quidditch," Draco said. He frowned at Harry for a moment before waving his wand at the offending window. The curtains immediately fell to cover it and the small decrease in light eased the pain in Harry's head.
"Thank you," he sighed, putting his glasses back on.
Harry never would have imagined he and Draco Malfoy would be on good terms. They shouldn't have been, given their mutual loathing in their school years and the circumstances surrounding his change of heart during the war. But there was something about fighting trolls together and after Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco had fought off nearly two dozen of the great lugs there was nothing to be done but bury the hatchet and become friends.
"Tea?" Draco asked, reaching for Harry's cup. Instinctively Harry extended his arm to hand it over, only to stop at the last second.
"No!" he snapped so loudly that Draco's pet bird let out a frightened squawk from its cage in the corner. "We weren't talking about Quidditch!"
Harry slammed his hand down on the table, making the tea set rattle. Draco eyed Harry warily, his fingers tightening almost imperceptivity around the handle of his wand.
"You cannot keep doing this, Draco! For weeks now you've been changing the subject whenever I bring this up. This time you're not getting away with it, I'm sending Kingsley's secretary word that you're coming to the ball and if you don't show up I will hunt you down."
Draco shook his head and returned his wand to its place inside his coat. "I don't know why you're so set on me going to this thing."
"You're a war hero-"
Draco scoffed. "Says you. The rest of the world would disagree."
"And they'll keep disagreeing until you start proving them wrong. You hide away in this house like you're ashamed."
Where Lucius Malfoy had been well-known for his appearances at social functions - whether he was invited or not - Draco seemed determined to do just the opposite. When the first celebratory events began months after the war, Draco had attended only a handful. Since then he'd drawn further and further into himself.
"She wouldn't want this," Harry said quietly.
Draco's eyes flashed dangerously, warning Harry not to venture further down that path. Harry didn't need it. He knew from experience that a single mention was more Draco would allow in most conversations. Draco grabbed one of the small teacakes from a plate on the table and walked to the corner where the birdcage stood. He broke off a small piece and held it through the bars to the dully colored finch inside.
"She wouldn't, would she?" Draco asked.
Harry blinked in surprise. The one and only time Draco had spoken of Hermione since her death had been during her funeral. Since then he refused to speak of her, going so far as to leave rooms in which she was brought up.
"N-no," Harry said. He doubted anything would ever have happened between Draco and Hermione - she was involved with Ron by the time Draco changed sides and anyone who knew the two of them assumed once they finally got started there would be no turning back - but Hermione had always been kind, she would never have wanted Draco to spend the rest of his life pining for her.
"She would have wanted you to be happy," Harry added.
Draco pulled his hand from the cage with a slight hiss. Harry caught sight of blood on his finger before it was tucked into his mouth.
"No," Draco said after a moment, now shaking his aching finger and eying the finch with a half-hearted reproach. "No, I really don't think she would."
"Draco-" Harry began. The man was morose enough as it was without thinking Hermione had hated him.
"It's okay," Draco said, returning to his seat. "I'll come to the ball, I'll even dance with all the eligible young ladies looking for a safe thrill. Will that make you happy?"
"Very," Harry said.
"You're coming?" Ron demanded, bursting into Draco's study. Harry followed behind at a slower pace, shrugging his shoulders in apology when he caught Draco's eye.
Draco, far from being mad, gave the tiniest hint of a smile as he leaned back in his wingback chair.
"Yes," he said calmly, "I'm coming. About time, don't you think?"
"Past time!" Ron said, flopping into one of the chairs sitting before the desk.
Harry took the other chair, trying not to laugh. From the looks of it, Draco was having the same trouble.
"Shut up, you!" Ron snapped, though not at Draco or Harry. Just behind Draco sat the finch in its cage. It had begun chattering the moment Ron burst in. "What is it with you and that bird?" Ron griped.
Draco looked over his shoulder at the bird, which had now added hopping about and waving its wings in an odd dance to its squawks. "I like her company," he said with a small smile.
"If you're going to have a familiar, couldn't it be a normal one? You used to have the most pretentious owl ever hatched, can't you find another one like that?"
"One thing at a time," Harry said. It had taken months of badgering to get Draco to agree to come to a ball and he'd even thrown in an agreement to dance. One miracle was more than enough for the moment. And really, if Draco was going to have a quirk, affection for his pet was better than the dark magic his ancestors had dabbled in.
Ron opened his mouth to argue and Harry quickly added, "If you keep at him like this you're going to sound like your mother."
Ron's mouth snapped shut but it only took a moment for it to stretch into a broad grin.
"Oh no!" Draco said, holding up his hands to ward Ron's idea off. "Do not sick your mother on me! If I even see that woman I swear I'll run away to France and you'll never see me again."
"Where's your fireplace?" Ron asked immediately, rising to his feet. "I'm sure she'd drop whatever she's doing for such a noble cause."
"Ron," Harry called, half laughing as Ron headed for the door.
"Get back here, Weasel!" Draco laughed. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
"Dang," Ron said, snapping his fingers in mock frustration. He flopped back down, throwing a leg over the arm of the chair. "So close." He smiled cheekily at Draco.
It had taken a while for Ron to get used to Draco, especially given Draco's rather obvious feelings for Hermione when he switched sides. Hermione had taken it in stride and even encouraged cooperation between the two boys but even she couldn't stop the antagonism that rose up whenever they met.
When Draco had turned up at Grimmauld Place, weeping and clutching Hermione's cold body, Harry thought they'd never find common ground, especially when Draco refused to let go of the body. But Ron had surprised him. He fell onto the body beside Draco and the two wept together, forming a bond greater than any troll fight could create. They still quarreled from time to time and not a single conversation was wasted being entirely civil but these days it was more friendly than hostile.
Harry winced, drawn out of his thoughts, as the finch behind Draco let out a particularly shrill cry.
"Merlin!" Ron gasped. He rose again and rounded the desk to peer into the cage. The bird stopped its fluttering to watch Ron warily, its little head twitching as it tried to contain its excitement. "How do you get any work done with this thing around?"
"She's not usually like this," Draco said, lifting a finger to the bars of the cage. The bird ignore it, keeping its focus on Ron.
"You heard him," Harry said. "We bother the bird. Let's go."
"Let's all go," Draco said quickly. "I need a break and I'm sure Ron can get one of his many, many brothers to play a two-on-two game of Quidditch with us."
"You just want to avoid work," Ron said but Harry could see he was already thinking of where all his brothers were at that very moment.
Draco pushed Ron towards the door. "True, but mostly I want to distract you from the ball. I have no doubt you're on orders from your mother to ensure I'm making the proper arrangements and you're," he looked to Harry, "on orders from Ginny to remind me of all the eligible young women who'll be attending."
Harry and Ron shared a look. "That doesn't mean we were going to do it," Harry said.
"Uh huh," Draco said. "Quidditch, and we'll pretend I let you list Cho Chang's good traits."
"You couldn't just try?" Harry asked. He was standing in the door of the Malfoy library. It was the morning after the ball and he was staring at the only person on the guest list who did not attend.
"Something came up," Draco said.
He was in his dressing gown with no shoes on his feet. On the low table beside his chair sat his constant companion: the finch in its cage. It was curled up in a tight little ball and seemed to be shivering. Draco shifted in his chair and resumed softly reading aloud to the creature.
Harry marched across the room and slapped the book out of Draco's hands, sending it flying across the carpeted floor. Draco looked up at Harry, his face carefully impassive.
"You are the same selfish little prick you always were in school, you know that? I don't know why I ever thought you'd change. One thing! The people who care about you ask you to do one thing - and even that largely for your own benefit - and you can't even do it! What the hell is wrong with you? Do you honestly think Hermione would want you to sit in this damn house all by yourself? If she were alive she'd be married to Ron by now so stop moping around like you lost something! You never had her!"
Draco's throat worked soundlessly for several seconds before he said, "What I do with my own time is none of your concern-"
"It is if you're my friend," Harry said, more quietly now that he'd gotten through the worst of his anger. "Are you?" he asked.
"I'd like to think so," Draco said honestly. "I truly am sorry I couldn't attend."
"'Couldn't'?" Harry echoed.
It was early in the day, earlier than he'd expected Draco to be up, honestly, and now that he looked more closely he saw dark circles under Draco's paler than usual skin.
"Have you been up all night?" Harry asked.
Draco nodded and reached into the cage to pet the finch's shaking feathers. "She's sick," he said, sounding more bare than Harry had ever heard him.
Harry knelt down before Draco. Maybe Ron was right and this attachment Draco had to his pet needed to stop.
"And you had to miss the ball for that?" he asked gently. "Couldn't you have left her with a veterinary healer or-"
Draco shook his head fiercely. "No. They wouldn't understand." The finch, looking ruffled from whatever illness had plagued it, looked up at Harry through the bars and began hopping closer, most likely in search of a treat.
"Draco-" Harry began, pulling his eyes from the small bird and focusing on his friend.
"She needed me," Draco said fondly. "I couldn't let her go."
"It's not magical, is it?" Harry asked. He'd never heard of magical finches, though that didn't make it impossible. "It must be pretty old for a bird by now."
"She's still quite young. She'll get over this."
Harry looked at the bird. It was still staring intently at him and had begun singing.
"See?" Draco asked, smiling. "She's getting better already."
Harry wasn't listening. Something about the tune the bird was singing tugged at his memory. "Is that-"
"What?" Draco asked. In an instant he was back, no longer lost in thoughts of his ailing pet, but more serious than Harry had seen him in years.
"Nothing," Harry said, taken aback by the change. "It's just- the song," he said with a self-deprecating smile. "I thought it sounded like the tune the Sorting Hat used in our first year."
As he said the words several things happened: the bird began to sing louder, more forcefully, more excitedly; Draco's face twisted into a wicked smile; and Harry realized he was absolutely right, the song was the same.
"That's not possible though," Harry said quickly, looking at the bird in confusion. It was flapping its wings madly now and - no, it couldn't be - nodding its head.
"You really need to stop doing this, you know," Draco said lazily.
The bird gave a single, stricken cry, and Harry looked back to Draco, shocked to find a wand leveled at him.
"What's going on, Draco?" Harry asked, easing his hand towards the jacket pocket where he kept his own wand.
"Accio wand," Draco said. Harry's wand sailed millimeters past his fingertips and into Draco's free hand.
Harry quickly assessed Draco. It was possible something had happened to him. Maybe he'd been attacked last night. Maybe this wasn't even Draco. Maybe it was and he was under the Imperius Curse. Maybe-
The bird cried out again, shocking Harry back into the present. Maybes wouldn't do him any good. He needed to get his wand back and get away from Draco.
"What do I need to stop doing?" he asked. If he kept him talking there was less chance Draco would attack him and more time for Draco to make a mistake and Harry to get his wand back.
Draco actually smiled. "You usually do better than this, you know." He looked to the bird. "Don't hold it against him. He probably stayed out late at the ball, didn't get much sleep."
The bird screeched.
Harry moved forward and Draco's attention flew back to him.
"Uh uh uh," Draco sing-songed. "You're not getting the jump on me - not after last April."
"What happened last April?" Harry asked.
"The same thing that's happening now. Well, not quite. In April you figured it all out, you even went to her grave and dug up the body - what was left of it anyway."
"Whose grave?" Harry asked. Had Draco killed someone? He ran through every missing person's report he'd seen in the past year, trying to find a connection to Draco.
"Hermione's," Draco said, the name sounding like a prayer.
Harry felt the blood drain from his face, leaving him oddly numb. "What did you do?" he asked, stumbling to his feet and trying to distance himself from Draco. There were a hundred all-too-true legends about those left behind attempting to bring back those they'd lost and most ended very, very badly.
"Not what you're thinking," Draco said. "He really is slow today," he added to the bird.
"Stop talking to the damn bird and tell me what you've done with Hermione!" Harry yelled.
The room was left oddly quiet after this demand. The bird made a sound like crying and Draco cooed soothingly at it. The bird leapt at his side of the cage, screeching fiercely until it fell against the bars in exhaustion, its entire body heaving with every labored breath.
"I kept her," Draco said finally, smiling proudly down at the bird. "You Gryffindors thought just because McGonagall was your head of house, you were the only ones with any talent in her class. Do you have any idea how much skill it takes to transfigure a cloak so perfectly into a body that even an experienced healer wouldn't know it was never alive? Or how difficult it is to bind a witch's magic so she can't break through the transfiguration you have her under?"
"God," Harry breathed, wide eyes fixed on the finch. "Draco. You … you kept her? She's not something you can own! How could you do that? How is this even Hermione anymore? She's a bird! She can't talk to you or touch you!"
"The scars on my fingers say otherwise," Draco said, not at all phased, "and she's been talking up a storm today."
"It's not the same! How is this at all what you want?"
Draco smiled sadly down at the bird - down at Hermione. "You told me yourself, Harry. She would have married Ron. I gave up everything for the chance to be with her, I wasn't about to give her up so easily."
"So you told us she was dead? You stole her humanity? Her life? That isn't love, Draco! If you care about her at all-"
"I know it's not love," Draco said harshly, "but it's enough for me."
He raised his wand and Harry realized it had been lowered for several minutes now. He'd had his chance to gain the upper hand, to beat Draco, to free Hermione from years of torment, and he'd lost it in his anger and horror.
"Now," Draco said indulgently, "this time, do try not to get too close to the truth. If I keep erasing your memory it's going to do permanent damage and then I'll have to rekindle those old rumors about your precarious mental health."
"Draco," Harry said, pleading, "don't do this. You know this is wrong."
Draco's expression became thoughtful and Harry felt the smallest flare of hope. "I know," Draco said, "and I don't care. Obliviate."
"What were we talking about?" Harry asked. He pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. It had been a long night at the ball and he'd been too angry to sleep more than a couple hours. He'd have a headache all day if he didn't take a potion for it soon.
"You were yelling at me for missing the ball," Draco said lazily. "And you threw a two hundred year old book across the room to make your point," he added, nodding towards the fallen book.
"Right," Harry said, replacing his glasses. "So you learned your lesson then?"
"Oh, most definitely. I am thoroughly chastised."
"Good," Harry said. He was feeling drained after the confrontation.
"Will you be staying for breakfast?" Draco asked.
"Might as well. Ginny's sleeping in until noon and I'm too tired to cook."
Draco smiled and stood. He adjusted the collar of Harry's coat. "You look horrible, by the way," he said, walking around Harry towards the door.
Harry felt the pocket where he kept his wand. He thought he'd felt it move but it was right where it was supposed to be. He caught sight of the bird, huddled pitifully in the corner of its cage.
"Is your bird all right?" he asked, hurrying to catch up with Draco.
"Oh yes," Draco said happily. "She's been ill and got a little overexcited, but she'll be fine. I'll take good care of her."