Never had I thought I would see the day Draco Malfoy, who was known for his pride, apologize to me, but well. Here it was. Granted, he did it rather stiffly, but not only did he manage to keep his trademark sneer and any other nasty expression he might have picked up off his face, he also extended an apology to Ron and Hermione. Fancy that! It couldn't change the past, of course, but it was still good to know that he didn't still feel that what he did was right. It made a nice change, and secretly, I hoped it would last.
Ron and I became Aurors while Hermione and Malfoy ended up in the same department – Magical Law Enforcement. Consequently, as they got along better, Hermione encouraged us to improve our relationships with him too. She told us, "After all, wouldn't you like to have a fresh start? The war's over and it's time to overcome our prejudices. Especially for you, Harry," she added, with a meaningful look at me, and despite our grumbling, the both of us went along with it in the end like we did for SPEW. She was right, after all.
It was awkward at first, of course, and we got into many fights reminiscent of our Hogwarts days over the inevitable tricky topics – some of which were so serious that Hermione was forced to magically restrain us until we had all calmed down and 'could listen to logic', as she called it. Her patience with us was amazing, now that I think of it, but it did pay off. Our fights gradually reduced in frequency and intensity to the point which we were able to tease each other about our extreme reactions in our previous fights, and we became real friends. Close friends, too, the kind you laugh and cry with and confide in. We learned never to push Draco for more details than he was willing to give – he still remained an intensely private person who kept many things to himself, and we counted it a success that once in a while, he actually admitted some matters that upset him.
Draco made some flirtatious gestures towards me, but I always chose to take it as he was joking and respond in a friendly manner. After all, I told myself, he had no reason to act that way when he knew I was straight, and that belief was further reinforced when he and Hermione started dating. Ignoring the strange feeling in my stomach which I knew as jealously from sixth year when I had watched Ginny date other guys, I told myself firmly that U was happy that they were happy and that was that. They broke up after about two weeks though, for the same reason Ron and Hermione did – they quarreled too much. I couldn't deny the relief I felt then, but due to the awkwardness, we didn't meet Draco for quite some time and the next thing we knew, we were being grimly informed by Hermione that he had apparently applied for a months' leave from their boss and had been granted it.
All without even a single letter to us to inform us of it beforehand. Rumors had it that he had been seeing someone secretly and they had decided to go on a vacation together. Whether it was true or not, one thing we knew for sure was that wherever he was, it definitely wasn't at home. A week passed, and there was still no response to the many owls we sent. My intuition screamed to me that something was seriously wrong – it was totally unlike Draco to just take off like that without at least informing one of us of his destination, and even more so, not to even bother to send a short note in response to our frantic questions, if nothing else. He should have known that this rift between us was merely temporary and that we were still friends, no matter how many arguments to the contrary others made.
I couldn't shake off the feeling that something bad might have happened to him, and decided to search for his whereabouts despite Hermione's protests that we might be disturbing him from getting some much needed relaxation simply because of my 'feelings'. She did eventually join in when I suggested she research ways which would enable us to see Draco and his surroundings – we could then ensure that he was safe without him even being aware of our scrutiny. Of course, if he was really on vacation somewhere with his new beau and we caught them at an inappropriate moment…well, that would just be unfortunate.
"What is it, Hermione? Don't tell me we really caught him in bed?"
Ron joked, in an attempt to lighten the mood, as Hermione's eyes were wide with horror and she had her hands clapped over her mouth. His smile quickly dropped off as we stepped forwards to examine the image. A tall man with brown hair was sitting on Draco's stomach and was brutally and repeatedly bashing his head into the ground. He looked barely alive – he wasn't struggling and both his fair blond hair and the polished marble floor were stained red with his blood. The feeling that washed over me then made me do what I hadn't done for years, leaping into the situation without any plan. I followed my instinct, studying the place as much as I could from the image then Apparating. Hermione would continuously lecture me later that it was a miracle that I hadn't splinched myself.
Luckily for me, there weren't any anti Apparition wards present and the stranger was shocked enough by my appearance for me to Stun and Body Bind him before he could fire off any curses or escape. As I studied Draco, trying to decide which would be the best way to get him to St Mungo's without further aggravation to his injuries, he shifted slightly and moaned.
"Alex, please, no more. I'll show you that I'm worth something. Please…" My anger suddenly flared as I suddenly realised what else he could have been subject to, and I had to forcibly remind myself that getting Draco's injuries treated was currently more important than getting revenge before I could regain enough control of myself to hover him gently into the Floo and link our hands before throwing the handful of green powder.
"I wish I could just kill that bastard, not just leave him to be dealt with by Kingsley and the rest," I muttered mutinously under my breath as I paced by Draco's bedside. "Too cocky, indeed!"
The Healers had diagnosed him with broken ribs, a sprained ankle, and numerous bruises over his whole body. In addition, we had been informed that he was lucky that he had had a protective spell cast on his head in his childhood – if not, he might have died from the head injuries inflicted – the fragments of the broken skull bones could have easily pierced the brain and caused serious internal bleeding and possibly irreversible brain damage. As it was, he was simply going to have constant headaches for the rest of his life.
"Draco! How are you feeling, mate?" I almost jumped as Ron's excited exclamation startled me from my thoughts.
"Fine. Can you all please go? I want to rest."
Both their faces fell, but I remained undeterred.
"Draco, I have to talk to you later. " I told him before leaving the room.
"…so, I would like if you could give me a chance." I finished off, and met his incredulous gaze. I hurriedly added, "I know I've never shown any interest in you before now, but I just thought it would be inappropriate!"
"You don't know what you're asking from me, Harry. I…you wouldn't want to be with me, trust me." He spoke, averting his eyes from my searching look.
"Well, I do, and I'll prove it."
And so I did. He never mocked the famous Gryffindor stubbornness again, at least, after being subjected to a prolonged dose of it.
"What, are you getting tired of me already?"
Anyone else who was listening would have heard his tone as joking, but I knew him well enough by now to hear the self doubt, fear, and self loathing concealed underneath. I stifled an impatient sigh – for I knew it would only worsen the situation since he would misunderstand it – hating the fact that I couldn't just erase what the bastard had done, and drew him towards me for an affectionate kiss before I whispered in his ear, "Silly, I told you I'll never get sick of you and I'll repeat that till you finally believe me." I could, in fact, Obliviate him but he was violently opposed to it and I wasn't about to go against his will even if I did feel it would be better for him. I could understand why though, since to do that would be to take the cowards' way out. It was brave of him to try to overcome his fear without the help of Mind Healers – he insisted that he didn't want others to know about such a private and embarrassing experience – to learn that the constant poison(well in this case, not literal)his past 'lover' had fed him had no truth to them.
Anticipating his next sentence, just as I saw his mouth opening, I then added, "Draco, there's no need to apologize," and had the pleasure of seeing him shut it again with an audible snap. He apparently somehow saw the smirk I couldn't manage to hold back from the corner of his eye though, as I saw his eyes narrow. But fortunately for me, I had no objection to the 'punishment' he chose to inflict. Merlin, I have to remember to remind Draco this is certainly another of his talents. And I have to stop here, because he's making me…ahh…well I think you get where I'm going, so goodbye!