For the Speed of Lightning Competition. Requirement – 6,000+ words.
No promises on fast updates past the first two chapters, sorry.
I don't own HP.
His face is an expressionless mask even as the chains lash themselves around his wrists. He holds his emotions on a tight rein – but he almost doesn't have to. This is a lot easier than what he's been through in the past. He's faced so much worse than this in the last two years. What harm can the Wizengamot do to him? Sure, they can lock him up. They can take away his freedom, give him to the Dementors – but he knows that he can survive any of that. And there are already movements in place to banish the Dementors from Azkaban, led by Potter, no less. With his backing, they can't fail. Not with Potter as the "Slayer of Voldemort," the "Savior of the Wizarding World," and all of the other ridiculous things they've christened him in the papers.
So when the Wizengamot members ask him to tell his story, Draco tells it straight. He twists every single bit of it to his advantage, of course – he's a Slytherin, and he's resigned, not stupid – but the facts are there, if people know how to look. He doesn't leave out any of it: letting Death Eaters into Hogwarts, disarming Headmaster Dumbledore, the hellish summer at the Manor, all the people he hurt, and his horror at all of it. He explains it all, his voice not monotone but expressionless.
And the Wizengamot members are looking at him, and Draco can tell by the look in their eyes that they've heard it a hundred times already, and he's no different from the rest of them. He's not done anything spectacularly bad, but he's done nothing spectacularly good, either, and he is Marked – though not anymore, because every Dark Mark vanished with the Dark Lord – and they will find him guilty. It's not surprising, but it's not an easy potion to swallow, either.
The members murmur amongst themselves before Amelia Bones speaks. "Will the accused provide a witness in his defense?"
Draco's already shaking his head when a voice comes from behind him.
"He will." Draco would swear up and down that he recognizes the voice, but it just isn't possible. Potter cannot possibly be standing behind him, speaking in his defense. It's not possible.
"Harry James Potter, witness for the defense." Well, apparently the impossible is happening. Though his face remains placid, Draco's thoughts are racing as Potter steps out from behind Draco's chair. He's wearing emerald dress robes and appears to have actually attempted to comb his hair, for once. He's gotten new glasses, some distractible part of Draco's mind notices, and his eyes don't look so ridiculously magnified in them.
Potter nods at him, and Draco's mind slips back into the moment at hand. Whispers fly across the room.
"For the defense!"
Draco ignores the whispers, and so does Potter – though Potter's probably quite used to them by now. He nods back, hesitantly, and Potter smiles slightly.
Amelia Bones clears her throat quite loudly. The whispers dull and quiet.
"Mr. Harry James Potter, witness for the defense. Proceed with testimony."
Potter blinks, as though this isn't how he expected things to go. Draco wonders if he expected a normal trial, with advocates and everything. That's not how the Death Eater trials have been going – not from what Draco has heard, and not today either. Everyone gets a fair chance to tell his or her side of the story, but that's usually it, unless the person can find a witness for defense, and, given it would have to be someone credible, that's atypical at best.
Potter is basically the definition of credible. Draco wonders what twisted sense of nobility has brought him here today, but he finds himself really unable to care, in this moment. Whatever Potter's motives are, he's here, and that's enough to save Draco from Azkaban.
Potter takes a moment to collect his thoughts before launching into things in the most Gryffindorish way possible.
"Draco Malfoy made it possible for Voldemort to be defeated. And he saved my life."
Mutters fill the room again before Madam Bones silences them.
And Harry proceeds to explain a lot of things that Draco already knew but didn't think were important, and he ties them all together with the image of one thing – the Elder Wand. And Draco keeps his expression carefully emotionless, but it's harder now, because his mouth really wants to fall open in shock. He was, for a few brief months, the Master of the Elder Wand. And that moment at the Manor, the moment where he couldn't knowingly sentence Potter to death when Potter was his best hope of ending the hell that his life was, if that moment hadn't happened, Potter wouldn't have won.
He listens to Potter explain to these people that in the key moment – the moment that could have restored his family to its former glory – Draco hesitated. And that was enough for Potter and his friends to escape. He listens to Potter paint the picture of Draco as a misguided man with a good heart underneath it all – because in the moments that matter, Draco can never go through with anything terrible.
And Draco wonders if Potter maybe isn't so Gryffindor after all, because the words spilling from his mouth like quicksilver paint an image of Draco Malfoy that Draco himself cannot even fathom, and he wonders if anyone is actually believing any of it. And then he looks around and he sees them staring at Potter with open-mouthed wonder, and Draco knows that they are lapping up every single word. They believe in this Draco that Harry is creating without any knowledge of what was really going on in Draco's head, from words and a few instances of truth.
And Draco wonders, for just a moment, if Potter himself believes the story he's spinning, but Draco rather doesn't think he does, because the look on Potter's face is that of a story-teller, weaving words together from past experiences, yes, but combining them into something new. No one else seems to notice this, thank Merlin.
And, once more, Draco wonders about Potter's motives. He watches the green eyes fly and dance around the room as Potter gesticulates wildly, and Draco wonders what gears are turning behind them. What is Potter trying to accomplish here?
Then Potter's hands go still, and Draco stops wondering about motive and starts inspecting the expressions of those who will determine his fate, because all of the sudden, that matters more than it did twenty minutes ago.
Surprise appears to be the dominating expression, though there is quite a bit of awe as well. And shock. And Draco smirks internally as he notices what emotions are conspicuously absent – skepticism. Cynicism. Disbelief. Condemnation.
The only one Draco can't read is Amelia Bones – the most important one. But Wizengamot votes are majority, not status, and it requires two-thirds approval to vote for a conviction.
"The Defendant and the Witness will now exit the courtroom as the Wizengamot discusses," Madam Bones says, and Draco follows Potter out, but it's not until the great wooden doors close shut behind him that he allows himself a small smile of satisfaction. He clears his expression the moment Potter turns to face him, though, and puts up an impassive front.
"Malfoy," Potter greets, but there isn't any malice in it.
"Potter," Draco says in the same tone. He knows what he's supposed to say. Thank you. I appreciate it. What he really winds up saying is, "Why?"
Potter shrugs his shoulders, and Draco finally sees the old Potter in him – the teenager. And that's when he realizes what it is that feels different about this Potter compared to the Potter he knew. This Potter feels like an adult – dress robes, fitting glasses, tamed hair, but it's more than that. It's in his demeanor; Potter holds himself like he knows what he's doing, now. He practically exudes confidence, but unlike Draco himself, it doesn't feel arrogant. It feels like Potter has finally realized where he belongs, what he is capable of.
And some part of Draco is terrified by the fact that this seventeen-year-old – who won a war about a month ago, yes, but is still only seventeen – feels like an adult. But a bigger part of Draco understands, because the war aged all of them, and Draco himself feels ancient, and he's only a month or so older than Potter, even though Draco is eighteen now, just barely. Cheerfully enough, he spent his eighteenth birthday in a holding cell, awaiting trial. It's never seemed to Draco like Potter's older, though – Potter has always had this weird sort of innocence that makes him seem younger, in Draco's mind.
Not anymore. This isn't the naïve eleven-year-old Draco met in Madam Malkin's all those years ago. This is a man who's been through a war, who's looked Death in the eyes and come out the other side more than once, who's killed, when he had to.
Yet, somehow, the emerald eyes still pave a path straight to Potter's soul, and Draco, who has always been talented at reading people, can see that he remains remarkably untainted by it all. He squashes the brief spark of jealous at this thought – Draco has never in his entire life though of himself as untainted.
Potter's voice finally breaks through Draco's thoughts and subtle inspection. "It was the truth."
Draco shakes his head, but he allows his lips to curl at the corners, know that Potter likely won't catch the note of humor buried under false scorn in his tone, and not really wanting to offend the man who may have just saved him from a life in prison.
"It was a few facts so coated in rose-colored fluff that they were barely discernible. And you well know that."
Potter shrugs almost sheepishly. "I do know that." He looks up, meeting Draco's eyes with emerald ones. "But you don't deserve to go to Azkaban."
Draco wants to blink in surprise, but Potter is meeting his gaze without blinking, so he doesn't. He meets Potter's gaze, and he tries to figure out what Potter meant by that.
Potter looks away first, as doesn't surprise Draco at all. "You did save my life, though," he mutters. "We both know you knew it was me."
Draco curses the uncontrollable process that tinges the skin of his cheeks lightly pink, and thanks Merlin that Potter is looking at the ground.
He turns his back to Potter with a flourish, masking the motion in arrogance rather than exposing it as an embarrassed gesture. "Well, excuse me for looking out for my best interests," Draco says haughtily. Trusting the color to have faded, he whirls back around. "I'm not an idiot, Potter. And I don't take well to having my home invaded." Draco arches an eyebrow elegantly. "You were the easiest way to get him out."
Green eyes flash. "You're saying you used me?"
Draco looks down at Harry, tipping his chin up and shifting his gaze. "Of course not. I'm saying I bet on you." At Harry's appalled expression, Draco rephrases. "Not literally, Potter! I set things up for myself as though you were going to win."
The fire in Potter's eyes mellows a little.
"You assumed I was going to win?"
"Not entirely, of course. I had a backup plan. But yes."
"Because you're bloody stubborn, that's why!" Draco can't help the raised tone, but he modulates it within a sentence. "You may be a reckless fool of a Gryffindor, but you're too bloody stubborn to die."
The corners of Potter's lips curve into what Draco might dare call a smirk. "Malfoy, I think that might be the kindest thing you've ever said to me."
Draco scowls. "That was an insult, Potter."
The smirk only widens. "Perhaps," he says vaguely. "On the surface."
Potter is still smirking when the wooden doors open behind them. Draco spins on his heel and stalks away from the annoying menace that is the Savior of their world. He stops beside the chair, arcing his arms across his chest in a gesture of defiance, a refusal to sit. Madam Bones nods primly at him, and Draco senses Potter standing at his shoulder, hands twitching – seeking pockets, Draco discerns intuitively. Potter isn't used to the dress robes. This is oddly reassuring to Draco. Clearly the old Potter isn't completely gone.
"Draco Lucius Malfoy," Madam Bones announces. "Accused of sympathies to the societal menace known as Lord Voldemort. Confessed a Marked supporter. All in favor of convicting the accused, please raise your hand now."
At first, there's nothing. Then one hand goes up, then another. A sporadic smattering of hands goes up, but not nearly two-thirds, Draco knows. He allows himself a small smile.
"All in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?"
Nearly every hand goes up, including, to Draco's surprise, that of Amelia Bones. Her face is impassive, but Draco can tell what she's saying anyway. I don't want to see you in that chair again, Mr. Malfoy. Don't prove me wrong.
Draco nods at her, once, firmly.
"The accused is cleared of all charges." For the first time, Amelia Bones smiles ever-so-slightly. "You may go, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco bows. "Thank you, Madam."
She nods at him, and Draco walks out of the courtroom. He wants to run, to sprint, to jump, to skip, but that would be undignified and unbefitting of a Malfoy. And embarrassing. Instead, he walks at a steady pace, but he allows himself another small smile of satisfaction.
He only stops his pace when he hears the footsteps tracking his, echoing on the stone floor. He turns around. It's Potter. Of course it's Potter. Who else would it be? Draco sighs. Again, he knows what he's supposed to say. Thank you. I appreciate it. How can I repay you?
He doesn't say any of it. He doesn't say anything at all. He waits, and he lets Potter speak.
Potter doesn't seem to know what to say, but he seems a bit unnerved by the fact that Draco hasn't spoken. A very large part of Draco enjoys watching him squirm.
Eventually, Potter speaks, if only to break the silence that has engulfed them. "Where are you going to go, Malfoy?"
Draco raises an eyebrow. "Go?" he asks. "I'm going home." The words are matter-of-fact, as though Potter really should have known the answer to that. As he should have – where else would Draco be going?
But Potter seems surprised by his answer. "But…" he begins to protest, frowning. Potter stops to formulate a sentence, and then he finishes. "Memories?"
And Draco freezes, because Potter has a point. The Manor is full of memories, many unpleasant. But then he shakes himself. The Manor is his home, memories or not. And it's certainly large enough that there's room for Draco and his ghosts all at once – it's not like he needs to use that parlour, anyway. Or the dining room. Or the cellar.
Draco tips his chin up again, and says haughtily, "I don't need to run from memories, Potter. I'm no coward."
Potter's next sentence is almost a whisper, and Draco's not entirely sure he's heard it properly, but Draco would almost swear that Potter mutters, "Then you're stronger than I am."
But then Potter meets Draco's eyes as though daring him to mention it, and so Draco doesn't. "I'll see you around, Potter."
The corner of Potter's mouth twists. "Might as well be Harry. You saved my life, the least you could do is use my first name."
Draco looks at him appraisingly, and eventually decides that the new Potter might as well have a new name. "Harry, then," he agrees. He kind of likes the way the name rolls off his tongue.
Po– Harry smiles. "I'll see you around, Draco."
And Draco turns around to walk away, but he only gets a few steps before his eyebrows furrow and he turns again. Pot– Harry's still standing in the same place, watching Draco walk away. "Potter, where are you staying?" Draco asks.
Potter shrugs. "I've inherited a house from my godfather, but it's far too big for just me."
Draco frowns as dots connect like constellations in his head. Soon enough, he shrugs. "The larger it is, the easier it is to avoid the memories. But then, that's also easier if you aren't the only one, isn't it?"
And that's as far as Draco is going with this conversation. If he's drawn the right constellation, Potter is going to have to finish it.
Potter meets his eyes, examining Draco's. He's looking for something. Draco's not going to let him find it so easily. His expression is, as always, stoic. Potter's eyes flick across Draco's face, looking for some confirmation, anything. Draco's face is carved from stone – something he perfected too many years ago.
Potter breathes in deeply, and then finally says, "It's rather easier for two people to inhabit one house, rather than each trying to keep his own."
And intuition tells Draco that Potter doesn't want to be left alone, and he doesn't blame the man. But Draco doesn't like to make things easy. Not things like this.
"Indeed," he drawls. "Good afternoon, Potter." And then he walks away. He can feel Potter's eyes staring into his back, and he can feel Potter wondering if he misinterpreted the entire conversation, and he can tell that Potter is cursing him in his head, but Draco doesn't mind any of that. He feels Potter's eyes on him all the way until he turns a corner and rides the elevator up to the Atruim – the only place in the ministry that people can Apparate – where Draco Disapparates. He's going home.