On Harry's seventeenth birthday, Narcissa and Draco were coming to visit. Harry was expecting them, so the house was clean of his dirty clothes he left everywhere, and all the dishes in the sink were done. He didn't bother sweeping the sand off his back porch – ten feet from the seashore meant it would never be all the way clean. It didn't annoy Harry – he rather liked his environment to be natural.
Harry stood on that porch to await his visitors. A strong breeze blew his hair and his clothes about, and brought the smell of the sea to him. He heard papers and cabinet doors ruffling and banging within the house; the back door was open. It was a small stone house that certainly no Muggle from the town just down the beach could see, and in all honesty, he was one of the four people who even knew it existed; completely Unplotable.
He shifted his weight, getting more comfortable, when suddenly he saw from the town, walking towards him, two blond people in light-colored clothes. Harry stood up straight, squinting to see, and sure enough it was them. He raised his hand into the air and opened his fingers wide, and they did the same a moment later. He put his arm down and smiled.
Narcissa walked up the stone steps and gave Harry a brief hug.
"How are you?" she asked, looking deep into his eyes as if the truth was there.
"Fine," Harry said, "come on in."
He held the door open for her, and had to wait an extra moment for Draco, as he was being quite slow to walk up the stairs and come in; he was carrying a long rectangular box. Draco nodded once to him, and Harry noticed he'd grown taller. He was pale as ever, blue eyes quite light, and his shirt was open a few buttons down his front. Harry shut the door and the last breeze from outside carried itself through all the rooms of the house before settling. Pages stopped fluttering and cabinets stopped creaking. It was a nice place – dark wood – a picture frame with a newspaper cut-out of a family on the mantle.
Narcissa had overseen the purchase of the property, so had been here before, but this was Draco's first time. He looked about, and then turned to Harry and held out the box.
"Happy birthday…Harry," Draco said.
Harry thought he knew Draco Malfoy, but now he obviously had to get to know him again.
"Open it," Narcissa said.
Happy to at last have visitors after four months, Harry did as told. He set the box on the dining table nearby and opened it. Inside, he found a broom – a Firebolt, in fact. For the Malfoy's, and as it wasn't a completely new broom anymore, buying something like this might not have been such a financial strain, but it was still a very rich gift. Harry ran his fingers down the stem of it, but didn't feel his usual excitement as he had the last few times he'd received such a gift.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"Don't get overjoyed or anything," Draco said unkindly, though gently.
Narcissa stepped forward and lifted the box, pressing the whole thing against Harry's chest and forcing him to hold it near. Harry looked into her eyes.
"We got this so you would feel free to leave the house when you wanted. I'll teach you to hide your face – no one will know you – but you aren't to feel trapped, understand? You're free. Nothing less."
"Free?" Harry asked now, and he looked at Draco. "How free?"
Narcissa put her hands on his shoulders. "Free to live a new life," she clutched his chin and brought his face away from her son's – her son, who was looking more distraught by the second. Harry still found Draco quite handsome, but as ever, he held no answers for him. Narcissa, however, was intent, and he found himself drawn to her. She had very pale eyelashes.
She said, "You're seventeen today. You can get a new wand and it won't be tracked by any Ministry. You can do magic, and it won't be monitored. You can fly, and so long as you're careful about staying hidden, you won't be stopped by any regulators."
She let him go, and her words made him feel freer than he might have liked. It was nice in this house; no one around, no reminders of the past but a picture. He lowered his eyes to the broom and gave it a new sort of look.
"Draco wants to talk to you alone," Narcissa said then, which was quite surprising to Harry. He wasn't exactly expecting much a birthday visit, but three minutes seemed a bit short. She looked at her son and then went to the door, stopping only to give Harry and Draco a last look before she left.
"Will she come back?" Harry asked.
"No. She's gone home."
For a long time Harry stood in the silence of the room, and it felt like a thousand mouths were eating the noise away around him, because it was getting quieter; the wind must have been dying down. Draco was the brightest thing in there – all the light on his blond hair and pale clothes.
He stepped forward slowly, stopping only when he was within reach of Harry, and he took his Firebolt and set it gently on the table. Harry could see him breathing, and found himself a little unnerved about Draco's proximity; he took a step back and leaned against the table.
All this time Draco was silent was beginning to make Harry suspect that maybe what Draco wanted to talk about was bad news. He was stuck with this family, though; stuck with Draco.
"I really need to say this," Draco said at last, brave enough to look Harry in the eyes. Harry nodded him on.
A brief hesitation, hands wiped subtly against his hips, and Draco said, "I told Mother this first, because I knew she would understand…"
Harry let him take his time. Finally, Draco found Harry's eyes again and continued.
"The way you kept looking at me…at Hogwarts…" Draco said quietly, "is the same way I would look at you."
They were words Harry almost didn't understand. He brow furrowed in concentration.
"For all the years we were there…I watched you…but you never saw me."
What was happening?
Harry's shoulders stiffened. "What are you saying?"
"I looked at you from across the room. It wasn't allowed for me to do anything else."
Anything else? What else would he have done?
Harry stood up from the table and his body was becoming numb. Draco looked tortured – all around his eyes were dark shadows but his blue eyes were bright with new moisture.
"I'm sorry," he said painfully to Harry.
The shaking in Harry's hands was fierce. There was ringing in his ears from the pressure of his blood. He felt weightless. It was Draco. It really was.
Harry knew the pain he saw. It was guilt. If Harry ever had the chance to apologize to his friends for letting them think he was dead all this time, he would probably say the same thing in the same way. And what was he supposed to do? Become angry? What was he supposed to say? I forgive you?
"Malfoy…" Harry whispered, afraid. "Are you…telling me…?"
Draco nodded fiercely suddenly, lowering his face and bringing his hands up to cover it.
"You said you could forgive me – if it was really me. Do you really forgive me?" He talked so quietly Harry could hardly hear him.
After four months living with being dead, and before that experiencing being chased through strange corridors by a snake screaming how it was going to kill him and being tortured by Voldemort, and on top of that sacrificing his control to free his best friend from death – Harry had found discovering who was in the hospital room behind the Slytherin Prefect badge almost trivial. It was Draco.
"Why'd you do it?" Harry asked first, before he'd answer Draco's question.
"I…" the words coming were brief – hesitant. Draco probably wasn't very good telling this sort of truth. He didn't look at Harry as he talked. "I watched you watching Weasley for years. I knew what it meant. The person watching never gets what he wants, and the person being watched doesn't even know. Weasley, just so you know, never even knew. And when I heard you kissed him and about the plant pollen I saw my chance. I thought you would forget it – blame it on the plant – but I didn't know I would hurt you so bad…or that it would lead to this."
Harry reached forward and tore Draco's hands away from his face, because he needed to see Draco's eyes. They were filled with tears and raw with emotion.
Draco said, "I didn't stand a chance with you. I should have forgotten you. I shouldn't have…tried so hard."
Harry was angry, horrified, and oddly relieved at the same time. He knew what it was like to want something. He'd done it so secretly before the plant toxics got to him, and once it did it was ecstasy so that he didn't know how he'd live beyond that moment. Years from then he might have been willing to do something like what Draco had done to him now, and maybe Ron wouldn't have forgiven him as he was about to forgive Draco.
He rested his hand over Draco's shoulder and squeezed it. Draco clamped his jaw shut.
If Draco had done it, then it was not Voldemort. It wasn't evil. It was just done wrongly.
"I'm glad you told me," Harry said, almost choking on his words.
Harry pulled away then and turned around. He lifted his gift off the table as he went and stopped by a window, looking out. In the distance he saw the Muggle town, but he didn't see Narcissa at all.
"I don't expect you to forgive me," Draco said.
"But I do!" Harry said sharply, turning his face to Draco and witnessing his inward battle.
"You could have just run off, you know. Not given me any clue," his voice was a lot stronger now. "But you let me know it was you, and that's what helped me. I forgave you a long time ago."
Draco nodded, trying still to accept the forgiveness.
Harry urged him on. "You could have done something a lot worse."
Draco frowned. "What could have been worse than what I did to you?"
"What your cousin did to me so Ron could be free…that was worse."
Harry knew Ron had told someone – Dumbledore, maybe. But Dumbledore had kept the first assault a secret; there was no reason for him to disclose the second.
Stopping his own turmoil for a moment, Draco pondered what Harry said. As the story everyone knew was, Ron and Harry were kidnapped from Hogwarts and taken to Malfoy Manor, then Clouse Malfoy found the room they were keeping Ron in – but couldn't find Harry – and so saved only Ron. Being involved at all set him a trial date, but as of two months ago the man was free. The article about it was in Harry's desk drawer.
Draco, nervously, walked forward to stand near Harry by the window. Harry met his eyes briefly, and then looked out.
He said, "Your mom is right; I'm seventeen now. I need to get a wand and do something with myself. I can't let any sacrifice go to waste." He looked at Draco and said seriously, "I'd do anything for my friends. No regrets. And now…I guess…since you're my friend…I'd do anything for you."
Harry leaned forward and – startling Draco – got within a millimeter of his space. This was something Harry was ready for again: people. He wasn't ready for much, but he could withstand their presence around him. Draco shook and heated up, but didn't move. Harry didn't touch him, but he enjoyed what he smelled and what he imagined doing.
He was confused and hesitant on whether he'd ever be ready for a relationship – friendship or otherwise. He might, but it would have to be with the right person. For now, all he wanted was to become someone new. If he could handle that, then he might be able to handle something along the lines of a kiss from a particularly out of the ordinary Slytherin.
Thank you for reading this~ Thanks all my reviewers, and thank you again uwishuwerecool for getting me to change the ending. I see in the future a sequel, because I left a few characters hanging without an ending. If you haven't reviewed yet, you might do that now, or just carry on to the next fanfic. Best~ Turise