Last chapter, including the epilogue. Hope you enjoy! :D

When the Songbird Stopped Singing

The next day, Potter acted as if nothing happened. To Draco, it might have come as a relief—that way they could still practice like usual and converse and snipe insults at each other. But it wasn't a lie, too, that he actually wanted to break everything apart. Was he really that unimportant? Was he really that expendable that Potter could easily ignore what he had said? Draco wanted to scream and kick at every moving thing, including Potter. Yet he buried them inside, focusing himself on N.E.W.T.s and his daily meditation.

Potter didn't bring Girl Weasley to the empty classroom anymore, but Draco sometimes still saw him talking with her in the corridor. When that happened, Draco would shuffle away, opting to go back to his books and chant potions ingredients. N.E.W.T.s were coming up, his nervousness was showing in full force, and none of his study was really helpful. He was counting down to doomsday with the air of someone waiting on their deathbed. Before he was ready, though, lessons had ended, homework had been collected, and the N.E.W.T.s would start the very next day.

Draco desperately wanted to hang himself.

He was settling his breathing in the empty classroom, urging away the slight tremor in his body and the signs of a panic attack that had been teasing the rim of his sanity, when Potter came in. Sitting on the floor before him, Potter took his hand and rubbed his thumb in circular motions.

"Are you all right?"

"You're not creative, Potter," Draco wheezed, attempting a smirk to no avail. "Always the same question."

"Because I'm worried," Potter said, smiling.

"I'm fine. Just a moment. It'll pass." Draco closed his eyes, concentrating on his breathing again.

Potter complied. He waited in silence, his thumb never ceasing to rub Draco's knuckle gently. It helped, giving Draco something he could think of aside from his breathing, and gradually his nerves calmed down. Opening his eyes, he clutched Potter's hand back.

"Thanks," he whispered.

"I'm nervous, too," Potter said tensely. "Watching you calm yourself down helped me."

"What are you taking?"

"Only the required five for Auror training. Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Pity we're not in the same class for Herbology."

Potter scowled. "Sometimes, Malfoy, I don't know when you're joking and when you're not."

Draco laughed in dismissal. "You're nervous about Potions, I'll wager." Potter's cheeks grew pinker. Draco felt a slight tug of pity. "It's all right, our N.E.W.T. project should get a high mark. It'll help you."

"I owe you, then." Potter grinned.

"As you should." Draco grinned back.

"You know . . . ." Potter said tentatively, his eyes trained on his hand in Draco's. "I want to give you something."

"Mm?" Draco raised his eyebrows. Disentangling his hand from Draco's, Potter shuffled inside his bag, then scooped out a rectangular box, cocooned in red linen. He opened the linen, revealing a black mahogany box, and he motioned for Draco to open the lid. Suspicion crept inside Draco.

"No," Draco said. "You can't be serious."

"Oh, I am." Potter smirked. Draco was certain his eyes were so big now.

Nervously his hand hovered above the lid, before he slowly opened the lid up to unveil ten inches of slick, black wand. Draco held his breath. "It's my Hawthorn."

"Yeah, you can take it."

Instead of doing just that, though, Draco frowned at Potter. "I can't, Potter. This is not my wand anymore."

"How about you try it?"

"Potter, I haven't won anything from you—"

"Just try it."

Blinking in question, Draco couldn't help but let his curiosity get the better of him. As far as he knew, he hadn't even once beat Potter in their duels. What the bloody hell was Potter thinking?

"Fine, if you insist," said Draco suspiciously.

He cautiously seized the wand from its box, and savoured the sensation as his fingers touched its coolness. It felt right in his hand—he had no idea how he had missed it until now. But it still wasn't his wand . . . .

"Wingardium Leviosa," he cast at Potter's bag, and was instantly stunned by how easy and light it was to Levitate it. He gaped, looked at Potter, and found Potter grinning like an idiot.

"See? I told you it'd work," he said excitedly.

"How?" Draco was speechless, mouth gaping like a fish. He put Potter's bag down to cast Stupefy to the empty place before him, watching in astonishment as the beam flared so easily. He whirled around to see Potter still grinning ear to ear. "Explain," he said breathlessly.

"There's nothing to explain aside from the fact that you've won something of me." Potter shrugged wickedly. Draco frowned for a long while, the wheels in his mind reeling fast as he tried to remember exactly when he had won anything from Potter—especially not Quidditch. Never Quidditchand why in seven hells did Potter look so smug for someone who had lost something?

Until it hit him that Potter said Draco had won something of him—not from him.

Then he started to laugh aloud.

"Merlin, Potter!" He laughed and laughed, basking in the overwhelming new knowledge as Potter walked over. Once he was near enough, Draco pocketed his wand and pulled Potter close, his arms locked around Potter's waist in a painful embrace. He was still laughing, but somehow, the sounds came out shaky. Potter's hands slid up Draco's back and stayed.

"You chose me," Draco whispered, tightening his embrace. He could feel Potter nod, his mouth warm against the side of Draco's neck. "Don't regret it. Please don't regret it."

"I won't. Someone taught me to stop thinking about the choices I made. I just have to live with them, so there'll be no regrets."

"That someone must be really brilliant."

Potter chuckled. "Oh, he is."

"God." Draco released Potter's waist, hands cupping Potter's cheeks, while he searched for whatever he could find in Potter's eyes. Thumbs tracing Potter's cheekbones, Draco pulled him closer until their lips met.

This time, Draco smelled the scent of musk and sweat, mingled into one intoxicating Harry Potter. The chapped soft skin of Potter's lips had the faint taste of sweet pumpkin juice, underlying the sweeter taste of chocolate frogs. Draco vaguely wondered if Potter tasted the caramel pudding from supper on Draco's lips. It was almost dizzying to even think about it, let alone to believe that he really was kissing Potter.

The sensation of Potter's glasses digging into his skin made him almost whimper. Sucking on Potter's lower lip, he alternately let his teeth nip at it. Potter returned by opening his mouth, tongue lapping over Draco's upper lip, and they both moaned. As Draco opened his mouth to taste Potter's tongue with his own, he jerked his hips forward, swallowing Potter's gasp that sounded too delicious. The friction continued—Potter thrust forward in answer to Draco's eager movements, their hands wandering on every surface they could touch, as everything turned into heat, moans and sweat.

Then Draco's lips trailed along Potter's jaw, tracing the contour between his neck and shoulder, licking, sucking and biting it hard.

"Fuck, Malfoy!" Potter scrambled away, a hand instantly cupping his neck. "What was that for?"

Upon no answer from Draco, Potter's glazed eyes cleared up, his expression struck with dread.

"No," he said in panic. "No, don't tell me you're going to end this again. Like—like on Valentine's—"

"What? No," Draco said, still breathless. He smirked, and was sure Potter saw something in his eyes that made him petrified.

"What. What are you planning?"

"Well, Potter, I know this is kind of overwhelming, but we do still have N.E.W.T.s tomorrow." Draco came close again, hands tangling in Potter's surprisingly soft hair. He kissed Potter lightly on the mouth, barely brushing, as he said, "But we can do more after that."

Potter gasped. ". . . promise?"

"Two weeks. Can you wait?"

"Two weeks," Potter echoed.

"Until then, let us concentrate. No meetings, no rendezvous."

Potter whimpered.

"Thank you." Draco kissed him again, smirking against the soft lips, then he let go. "For the wand."

"Er." Swallowing, Potter forced a casual smile. "Yeah, anytime."

"Now I want to bond with it again," Draco said, grinning as he produced his wand from his pocket.

He laughed madly, conjuring clouds and rainbows and shooting colourful lights across the room. He transfigured the tiny chairs in the corner to bunnies and frogs, catching Potter off-guard once in a while as he suddenly cast Impedimenta and Tarantallegra. Potter retaliated with a few jinxes and hexes, as they laughed and yelled despite the late hour.

Only when Pansy slammed the door open to glare at Draco and remind him that it was past midnight did Draco stop playing, but the grin never faltered. Potter, too, was panting and beaming.

Temporarily Draco forgot that tomorrow was doomsday.

. .

. .

N.E.W.T.s were hell, that was definite. Not that Draco believed in the afterlife aside from being transparent and floating in the air to annoy the living, but the mere existence of N.E.W.T.s were enough to assure Draco of Hell's existence. Particularly Muggle Studies N.E.W.T.

Draco nibbled on his quill, resisting the palpable urge to blow up the whole class with wild magic. It was even more irritating to see the Know-It-All-Granger sitting right before him, filling in all answers leisurely. What was she doing, taking up Muggle Studies, anyway? It wasn't like she needed the knowledge. Draco chewed the quill savagely.

Unfortunately, in a depressing state like this, hours and days always went by painfully slowly. The only thing that made him smile was the short note from Potter he received early morning on his birthday. But as he buried himself deeper under the piles of books, plant samples and potions ingredients, eventually two weeks passed, and N.E.W.T.s were over. Thank Merlin Draco was too nervous to actually remember any of his answers. If he had, he would have immediately looked up the right answers, which would prove bloody depressing if he had made a lot of mistakes.

Though, when he promised Potter that they could do more after two weeks suffering from N.E.W.T.s torture, he didn't mean anything like this. The plan was involving an empty classroom, oh yes. But they clearly didn't need any Know-It-All, Weasel or Weaslette watching.

Naughty, kinky Potter.

"Harry, do you mind?" Granger asked, exasperated. "I know that you've been a bit obsessed with him lately, but I thought it was just a phase."

Draco snorted, crossing one of his legs above the other. He had placed his chair as far as possible from them, but even then he could still hear what they said too clearly for his liking.

"You're not barmy, are you, mate?" Weasel looked like he had just seen Moaning Myrtle batting her eyelashes at his naked arse. Weaslette shifted uncomfortably by his side.

Potter, the dolt, shrugged one shoulder shamelessly. "Look, I thought it'd be better if I just talked with you all now. I don't plan to keep it a secret, and I don't want to, okay?"

"But I'd appreciate it if you told me about your coming out plan first, Potter. After all, I'm supposed to be the other party in this plan," Draco drawled indignantly.

"Er." Potter deflated. "Sorry, I didn't mean to . . . . Do you mind?"

Draco studied the three pinched faces, and decided he liked the misery reflected there. "Not really."

"Okay, then." Potter went back facing the three. "So that's what happened."

Weaslette flattened her lips. "I knew something was going on. And I knew it was him when you said you wanted to be with someone else."

"You knew?" Weasel yelped incredulously. He flinched afterward, and Draco saw Granger's hand had disappeared beneath the desk. "Uh. I guess you two didn't work out then. Since when?"

"A little more than two weeks ago." Weaslette shrugged.

"I'm sorry, Ginny," said Potter softly. Even Draco could see her attempt to resist the tears, and felt a slight bit of pity. He changed back to calling her Girl Weasley in his head.

"But, Harry!" Weasel stood up. "I could understand if you were gay or bi or whatever. But why the ferret?"

"Shut up, Weasel," Draco snarled.

"See? He's a slimy git, his father was a Death Eater, he was a Death Eater!"

"Oh, that's rich, because if you attacked me first, it wouldn't make you the git," Draco hissed.

Potter's hands came up to Weasley's arm. "Ron, don't—"

"Oh, yeah? Bet you'd scram and wail to Daddy now. But he doesn't have the power to help you anymore, does he?"

Draco clenched his fists. "Leave Father out of this," he snarled, spitting each word with contempt. Weasel smirked spitefully.

"How does it feel, Malfoy? How does it feel to be lower than those you mocked? You can't say anything about my family again because your—"

"Ron, no, he's still recovering!" Potter grabbed both of Weasel's shoulders, shaking them hard. Weasel gaped and still had the grace to look hurt.

"Harry, he deserves it. He's a nasty git!"

"Was," Potter corrected. "He was a nasty git. I was a nasty git. You were, too. Are now."

Weasel spluttered incoherently. Potter left him, hurrying to Draco's side as Draco tried hard to breathe. His face was hot, like he had been standing burning under the sun for hours, but he blinked his eyes, willing all the waves of anger go away.

"Are you all right?" Potter asked as he dropped on his knees beside Draco's chair.

"I told you you're so uncreative," Draco said shallowly.

"Harry, what do you mean he's still recovering?" Now it was Granger's turn to ask, her eyes wide with curiosity. But Potter only stared at her, and she instantly put two and two together. That smart-arsed bint. "It was about him, right? All those questions?"

Potter nodded. Weasel let out a strangled noise. "What questions, Hermione?"

"Oh shut up, Ron. You're not like this. Just calm down." She pushed Weasel's shoulders down so he plopped down the chair again, then she sat back. "Harry, you shouldn't do this to yourself. Or to him."

Potter perked up, his expression grew darker. "What? What shouldn't I do to myself and him?"

"This," she said. "You've done enough for all of us. You don't have to still live helping people."

Fuck, Draco hissed inside. That fucking stung.

"Is that why you chose him, Harry?" Weasel's face dawned with comprehension. "You want to help him? Blimey, Harry, there are plenty good Witches or Wizards that still need your help if that's what you—"

"Is it really hard to believe that I chose him simply because I want him?"

Draco was too busy settling his breathing and tuning out every painful word so that it took several seconds for him to understand Potter's words. Blinking, he turned to Potter, watching him pleading with his eyes, needing understanding.

Then Draco thought of his wand, and what he had won from Potter, and everything was right again.

"I want to try walking on the path I chose myself, okay? I still don't know how, but I want to try, Malfoy wants to try, and I think the first step is just to follow what I want, not what everybody else wants," Potter said, standing up with hands moving wildly while he was explaining, his eyes alight with excitement and something other—something that made Draco remember how alive Potter was.

"Harry . . . ." Granger said, shaking her head. Weasel was getting paler by the second.

"I think I need time," he croaked. "Sorry, Harry, but . . . blimey . . . ."

"I know, Ron," said Potter. "I trust you as my best friend, though."

Weasel frowned. "You know that's unfair."

"I still trust you."

Weasel was silent, then nodded slowly. As soon as he did, every eye shifted towards Girl Weasley, who was wearing a carefully blank expression all the while.

"Ginny?" Potter asked hesitantly.

She was jerked to earth, curling her fingers on the desk. She blinked several times, taking a few deep breaths. Finally she pressed a small smile. "I'd lie if I said it doesn't hurt, Harry."

"I know . . . ."

"But it's not really my place to say anything, is it? We've tried twice, and we still couldn't work out. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do aside from admitting that we just can't be together," she said dryly. "I really appreciate that you told me this, though. I'd hate it if you keep it a secret or if you stay away from me because we can't be together." She laughed shakily. Potter smiled back.

"No, I would never—"

"I know, Harry. Thank you," she said, then to Draco's chagrin, she added, "It doesn't mean I like who you chose, though."

"How can you be so calm?" Weasel asked disbelievingly, his nose scrunched up. Girl Weasley fumed and jabbed a finger at Weasel's chest.

"If I can look so calm, then you'd better too, Ronald. I'm the one who was dumped after all," she snarled. Weasel whimpered and Potter choked. She smiled at Potter innocently. "Oh, please don't mind us, Harry. Sibling quarrels and all, you know."

"Um." Potter pleaded to Granger for help, at which Granger merely faked a cough and looked away. "Right, it's okay," said Potter resignedly.

But Draco hated this. It was as if he was watching a cheap Wizarding theatre show, where he could only watch and watch and watch silently, trying to involve himself in the play but couldn't because he simply wasn't in the play. Was it really necessary for all Gryffindors to shed tears dramatically while declaring their love for each other?

Kicking the desk until it screeched towards the three yelping idiots, Draco rushed from the suffocating classroom. It wasn't his business if those three wanted to hate him. Wasn't his business if they wanted to hug and sing love songs together. So he left, gritting his teeth when he heard Weasel curse how much of a git he was for acting this way.

But Potter was chasing him. He pulled Draco's arm, gently sliding his fingers and locking them between Draco's own. "Hey," he said. "That wasn't so bad, was it? It could be worse."

"Wasn't so bad, Potter? It was so touching I wanted to puke," Draco said through clenched teeth.

"All right, it's my fault for forcing you to come. But you said you didn't mind."

"Well, I changed my mind. There."

Potter sighed. "That's selfish, Malfoy."

"So?" Draco whirled around. "I'm selfish, you knew that eight years ago. You're selfish, I knew that a month and a half ago. How does it become a problem now?"

"It's not a problem." Potter grinned. "I think it's hot."

"Excuse me?" Draco made a face. "Bloody hell, you're a nutter."

"Shut up, Malfoy." Potter laughed, pushing Draco against the wall with a palm on Draco's chest. "Kiss me now."

Draco thought of different reasons to walk away and escape from this kinky prat that wore horrid glasses. But against his better judgement, he curled his fingers on the back of Potter's neck, capturing his lips in an open mouthed kiss.

"Now who's the slimy git?" Draco whispered between the kisses.

Potter only laughed.

. .

. .

The Great Hall was washed by rounds of applause as McGonagall finished her speech. The House Cup had been bestowed upon the house that had most points, and unsurprisingly, it was Ravenclaw. With the war ended, Potter and his two minions couldn't sneak any points off their heroic adventures, while Slytherin was lacking in members. Without Quidditch games this last year, the points mostly came from class interactions. Of course Ravenclaw beat all the houses when it came to studying. Hufflepuff simply didn't stand a chance.

Seventh and eighth year students cheered for their graduation, though a few were crying as they talked to each other about the events they had lived through since the first time they boarded the Hogwarts Express. Everyone purposefully avoided any topics connected to the war, oddly determined to maintain the peaceful atmosphere on their last Hogwarts day. Even the professors and staff were smiling contentedly at the High Table.

"To us!" Zabini brought up his goblet of pumpkin juice, and everyone mirrored the action. They all sipped from their goblets quietly. "This is only the beginning, don't forget that, you lot."

"Thank you for the marvellous speech, Blaise, but you're not our leader, you know," Pansy said sweetly, her fingers tracing her goblet aimlessly. Zabini smirked slyly.

"I'd love to make you my leader, Pansy," he coaxed, wiggling his eyebrows. Pansy slapped his forehead as she laughed.

"He's right, though. This is only the beginning," said Draco. "We shouldn't forget that whatever happens."

All seventh and eighth years nodded at him, knowing what that meant for them, Slytherins. It would be a difficult beginning once they stepped out of Hogwarts, but still a beginning nonetheless. What happened next would be up to them, and they shouldn't give up until they found the ending they wanted.

"Nice one, Malfoy," Daphne smiled at him, and soon Zabini was all over her, wailing that it was originally his line. Draco only smirked smugly.

When the Feast was over, students filed out of the Great Hall in random groups. Draco strode alone, observing all the portraits lining the corridors and greeting some ghosts for the last time. Astoria called to him then, skipping lightly and still managing to look poised unlike Pansy.

"Here." She handed him a rectangular silver frame, no bigger than the size of an ordinary text book. The metalwork was delicately done, showing an embossed silver snake baring its teeth at a small jade in one corner, but it was empty. Draco stared at her questioningly.

"Look," she said as she pulled her wand and tapped lightly on the frame. "Specialis Revelio." The black emptiness inside the frame distorted into a grey mist, before appearing to be a black and white portrait of Hogwarts castle. The picture then changed to show other parts of it—the Entrance Hall, the Quidditch pitch, the Great Hall, the Slytherin common room, the classrooms and possibly many other areas in both old and new versions. Draco nearly gawked at Astoria as she tapped it again, "Finite."

"This is for me?" Draco asked, astounded.

"I think you need it. Daphne helped me with the charm, of course. And I still haven't sketched a lot of other places, but I think most of the commonly visited ones are there."

"God," Draco laughed, crushing Astoria into a hug. "That was brilliant. That was—thank you. Really, thank you."

"You're welcome." Astoria patted his back gently. "Don't ever forget your past."

"I won't." Draco nodded into her hair. Drawing back, he caught her smiling widely, and swore he had never seen her this carefree.

"Good luck." She patted Draco's hair, and he couldn't help but kiss her forehead in an overwhelming appreciation.

"Thank you. I'm sorry. For everything."

She nodded, staring at Draco's eyes, her fingers lingering in his hair for a fraction longer. Then she left.

Draco caressed the frame, knowing for sure that the Astronomy Tower must have been there. And he wondered if the Room of Requirement would be there, too. He could do this, though. He knew he could, even if it wasn't now.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, he turned around, only to see Potter standing right before him.

"Bloody hell, what're you doing?" he asked, aghast.

"Scared, Malfoy?" Potter smirked

"Hardly! Why can't you stop doing that?"

"Doing what?"

"Stalking me, sneaking up on me! You don't have to do that again, you can approach me straight ahead now."

Potter chuckled but his eyes didn't participate. "Old habits die hard, I guess."

Squinting, Draco cocked his head to the side. Potter was radiating that restless air again, his jaw tensed and shoulders slumped. He appeared to be thinking hard, but trying not to look like thinking at the same time. Once it all clicked, it was all Draco could do not to laugh in glee.

"Come here." He tugged Potter's wrist, ignoring the slight protest that came with it. As they stepped into the usual unused classroom, Draco locked the door, faced Potter, and announced cheerfully, "You're jealous!"

There was a slight pink flush crawling up Potter's neck. "I'm not," he mumbled stubbornly.

"Yes, yes, you are. Although why you're always jealous of Astoria is beyond me." Draco grinned.

"Really? Maybe because you two always act like there isn't anyone else in the world?" Potter said sarcastically.

"Is that what someone who isn't jealous would say?"

"I was just saying hypothetically." Potter glared childishly. Draco was certain his laughter would reach the Great Hall if he didn't bite his tongue.

"No, really." He cleared his throat. "I've never really been with Astoria. I just can't understand why you're not jealous of Pansy instead."

"Malfoy, Parkinson is your friend!"

"So is Astoria," Draco pointed out. "And I was with Pansy for more than two years."

Potter seemed to be mulling over this new fact, and he peered cautiously at Draco. "Is there any other reason for me to be jealous of Parkinson, then?"

"No, there isn't! God, Potter, stop being a jealous git." Laughing, Draco put his frame on the floor, then pushed Potter so he backtracked until the small of his back hit the desk from their last meeting with Weasel and the others. "Now, I think we should do a lot of things before we leave Hogwarts tomorrow. Less talk, more action, Potter."

"More action? Of what kind?" Potter asked innocently, his arms circled around Draco's neck. Draco chuckled against the side of his jaw.

"The door. Stronger spell, Potter."

"Mm." Potter carelessly waved his wand in the general direction of the door, muttering the spell as his other hand slid down Draco's chest and fumbled with Draco's robes. Once he had pried open the few buttons of Draco's robes and shirt, he frowned. "What's this?"

Gasping, Draco caught Potter's hand on his bare chest. He swallowed. "Leave it."

"What? But—it's a Glamour . . . ." Potter froze, then he looked up at Draco. "God, I'm so—"

"Leave it, Potter," Draco warned. Potter gulped, his eyes wavered. But he nodded and kissed Draco slowly, desperately. He didn't say anything close to an apology again, thankfully, but his caresses and kisses spoke more than that. Draco relaxed again, letting out a contented sigh into Potter's mouth.

"Can I fuck you?" Potter asked.

Draco raised his eyebrows. "Can I fuck you next?"

"God, yes." Potter laughed, breathless. Draco opened his mouth and sucked on the sensitive skin behind Potter's earlobe, earning a delightful moan.

"Deal," he said.

. .

. .

"What're you planning next?" Potter asked, catching his breath as he rolled onto his side on the floor. Draco was frowning at the mesh of wrinkled robes they had used as a makeshift carpet, hands zipping his trousers.

"The Manor has been sold. I'm going to my parents' new house until I find my own flat." He walked to a corner, took a tiny chair and walked back to where Potter was sprawling lazily in his trousers. "It's in Surrey."

"The Manor's been sold?" Potter gasped. "Wait, you're going to live alone?"

"Mm, that's what I'm planning to do." Draco swished his wand and the tiny chair metamorphosed into a grand king-sized bed. He touched his chin in contemplation, before adding green sheets and blankets. "What my parents want is a different matter. I'm nineteen though, I can decide this much by myself at least."

"I still can't believe they'd sell the Manor," Potter said warily.

"Well, it wasn't an easy choice, Father kept justifying his decision by telling me how the ancestors would be proud, that as long as we survive, the Malfoy line would regain its eminence again."

"Er. To continue the Malfoy line . . . ." Potter sat up, rubbing his left arm uneasily, and for some reason reminding Draco of his own faded Dark Mark. Draco smiled sourly.

"My parents will persuade me to marry, Potter. I expect it'd take years to convince them otherwise, but if you want to try—"

"Of course I do, you git," Potter snapped, frowning. Draco couldn't help but laugh. "But you know, about your father . . . ."

"He's not the best person—"

"That's an understatement."

"—but he's a good father. At least to me," Draco finished.

Potter looked like he wanted to counter, perhaps with something like no good father would make his son a Death Eater, but he seemed to think better of it. After all, no matter how flawed Draco's father was, he was still his father—and Draco wouldn't stay silent if Potter said anything revolting against him. So Draco continued to add the canopy for the four poster bed, secretly grateful for Potter's silence.

"I'm pretty sure I can't work in Wizarding society for now," Draco said after a while. "Besides, I want to continue my studies. I need money for my flat and school. I'll have to work before I apply anywhere, though."

Potter perked up. "Where do you want to work then? What do you want to study?"

"I don't know, anything that can make me more skilful. Ordinary skills wouldn't work for me. I have to have a great proposition, or no one would employ me. I'm thinking to save up some money in the Muggle world first."

"Muggle?" Potter gawked.

"Mm, we can exchange Muggle money into Galleons at Gringotts, didn't you know that?"

"I'm not asking about that," Potter said, scandalised. "I mean, Muggle world?"

Draco sighed. "I can't work in the Wizarding world until I increase my bargaining power, Potter, remember? I've been prepared for this ever since I decided to take Muggle Studies for my N.E.W.T.s."


"I know that it's not enough knowledge for me to chance living in the Muggle world, but I have to try because what else can I do? I also want to go into therapies because I'm sick of Pomfrey's potions. I can't imagine drinking another batch of them, and for that I need money," Draco said sullenly. "I have so many plans, you know."

Potter didn't say anything for a few minutes while Draco continued to add four fluffy pillows in green and silver patterns.

"Okay, it's just too much information at once, I guess," Potter finally said.

"What are you planning aside from signing up for Auror training?

"Just—I think I have to take care of Grimmauld Place. That house needs something more—cheerful. Or something."

"Grimmauld Place?" Draco raised an eyebrow.

"The Black House. Sirius—your mother's cousin gave it to me . . . ."

"Ah," Draco said. "I know the story. From my mother. You're living there, then?"


They were silent again, but this time it felt more peaceful rather than awkward. Draco added a final red touch on the bed's curtains, and then he preened. "I'm so generous, I allow a Gryffindor colour in my creation."

"I'm touched," said Potter, rolling his eyes. Yet he made his way towards the bed. "What's it for?"

"Again, I transfigured a bed because I'm so generous I don't want you to have a back cramp. The floor was horrible." Draco rubbed the back of his waist scornfully. Upon Potter's laughter, he sneered and climbed onto the bed. "Come here," he said, tugging Potter's arm.

Potter complied, lying on his back when Draco leisurely ran his fingers over Potter's collar bone. "So, Muggle world, huh. Must be interesting. You and Muggle, bonding," said Potter with a wide grin.

"I'm expecting a lot of tears and surprises, but I'll manage." Draco shrugged a shoulder, circling Potter's nipples with his fingers, inviting a suppressed gasp. "You'll help me, won't you?"

"I thought you don't want my help."

"I want it now." Draco's fingers went lower, teasing Potter's navel and the fine hair leading down the waistband of his trousers. Potter stifled a moan.

"That's selfish," he whispered. "But I like it."

Humming, Draco bent down, claiming Potter's lips in slow, teasing kisses. Potter responded impatiently, wanting to take the lead, but Draco pushed him down, shaking his head. "My hero," he said and kissed Potter again.

Draco felt alive.

. .

. .


19 Hartfield Road, London

31 July, 2001

Dear Headmistress Minerva McGonagall,

Draco paused on his letter as several clanking sounds reverberated from his kitchen. Sighing, he put down his quill, scrolling the parchment and hiding it inside his drawer. Straightening his shirt, he checked for any ink smudges and was satisfied that it was still a flawless light blue. He ran his fingers through his loose fringe, walking out of his study to catch the culprit attempting to break his kitchen.

"What are you doing, really?"

"Er. Sorry, I didn't know you mistook this cocktail bowl for a cauldron," said Potter cynically. He grumbled as he cast Reparo on the shattered glass all over the tiles. Draco clucked his tongue.

"Just Vanish it, I won't be able to use the cauldron anymore. Magical influence is bad for potions, don't you remember what Professor Snape kindly, repeatedly, reminded you, Potter?"

"No, because I don't care," Potter said. "I need this cocktail bowl because I bought it and I want to use it."

"Fine, what're you making?" Draco asked, sitting at the edge of the pantry. He saw Potter had set up the dining table with seven sets of silver cutlery just like Draco always taught him. "Aside from the chicken," he added. The aroma of roast chicken made his mouth water.

"Barley and honey roast pumpkin salad. Should we spike the Butterbeer?" Potter asked as he poured the Butterbeer into the cocktail bowl.

"We're not in school, why not just serve Firewhiskey?" Draco whined.

"This is for the girls. Hermione doesn't like Firewhiskey."

"Then don't spike it." Draco rolled his eyes. His door bell rang, and Draco jumped to his feet. "Must be Weasley and Granger."

Opening the door, he took in the view of Weasley's old car, Ford something, looking dangerously battered before it vanished as Weasley closed the door. Granger waved a hand before him, snapping his attention to her. "Hello, Granger."

"Good, I thought you'd never see me," she said. She sniffed around and frowned. "Did you make the birthday boy cook?"

"He always cooks," said Draco, stepping aside so Granger and Weasley could come in. "And he's a man."

"Boys will always be boys." Granger huffed, briskly heading in the kitchen's direction. Weasley made a face, saying, "You're lucky Harry never has a period."

"I can hear that Ronald Weasley," Granger yelled from the kitchen and Draco laughed.

Closing the door, Draco sauntered to the armchair, turning on the telly. Weasley joined in as Draco animatedly pointed out various products in the commercials which he had tried himself, preening every so often as Weasley said, Wicked, and watched in awe. By five o'clock his fireplace flared, as Pansy materialised from it.

"Merlin, Draco, when was the last time you got your Floo cleaned?" She wrinkled her nose in disgust, dusting off her beige, fitted robes.

"One and a half years ago, when I first rented here," said Draco cheerfully. "I never use it, anyway. Living as a Muggle, remember?"

"But you have a Wizard boyfriend!"

"I can just Apparate after my training," said Potter leisurely as he Levitated the Butterbeer bowl onto the dining table. "Are Goyle and Astoria coming?"

Pansy sneered. "You invited Daphne's sister?"

Draco dismissed her. "Astoria owled me, her Mediwitch training will be until late, so she just sent her regards. Goyle's probably late like usual." As though hearing him, his fireplace flared once more, revealing a very dusty Goyle.

"Uh. Happy birthday, Potter," said Goyle with a forced smile that looked a lot like a grimace. Potter choked, but it had Draco clapping with glee.

Not so long after, they all sat at the dining table, with Draco in between Potter and Pansy, while Granger was squeezed across from them in between Weasley and Goyle. Draco flicked his wand to the Muggle radio, and began challenging the others to a game of song guessing.

"It's—uh—Nelly Furtado?" Weasley asked.

"Jennifer Lopez, 'Love Don't Cost a Thing'," Draco said smugly.

"This one is Christina Aguilera?" Granger wrinkled her forehead so deeply that it convinced Draco that it must have been hard for her to not know anything for once.

"'Don't Tell Me', by Madonna." Draco preened more.

"How about this one? Mozart?" asked Goyle uneasily.

"No, you imbecile, don't you know Aerosmith?" Draco feigned horror, as Pansy exclaimed that even she knew Mozart would never sing like this. Well, Mozart just didn't sing, period.

Potter was laughing so loud Draco was afraid he would lose his voice. But as they finished the dessert—slices of chocolate cake which Potter hid from Draco, lest it would vanish into Draco's stomach—Draco leaned back onto Potter's shoulder to relax. He had practically won the game by default, though Granger was looking slightly disgruntled.

Moving into the living room, Draco sat on the armchair facing the telly, with Potter curling on the carpet, his head resting on Draco's thigh. Granger was sharing the sofa with Weasley, and Pansy was taking the other armchair beside Draco's. Goyle had to drag a chair from the kitchen to sit. They each held a glass of Butterbeer, though Potter had added a bit of Firewhiskey for Draco, Goyle, Weasley and himself.

Granger was advancing her career in the Ministry in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, so she began to describe all the new laws and what effects they would have, but Weasley and Potter quickly diverted the topic to Weasley Wizard Wheezes' newest product and Girl Weasley's latest adventure in Romania. Pansy, as always, hated to be left behind, so she started to gossip about the Patil twins and their affair with the ever surprising Theodore Nott. And Pansy added that she just discovered her new fetish for men who couldn't really form a proper sentence.

"You know, Potter, sometimes I think you're very charming," she said, batting her eyelashes.

"Er," said Potter.

"That was so sexy, you know," she said again.


"Say that again?"

"Er. Um?"

"I still remember my promise to haunt you until you can't get a boyfriend, Pansy," said Draco, his arms curling protectively around Potter's neck. "Now, Potter. Be a good boy and sit here." He hauled Potter until he was squeezed in the tiny space that was left on the armchair. Draco leaned satisfyingly onto Potter's body heat.

"Possessiveness is plebeian, Draco," Pansy said with a bored face. Draco waved her off nonchalantly.

"Speaking of fetishes, Hermione likes it when I tie my hair back," Weasley said complacently, showing off his glaring ginger shoulder-length hair. Granger gasped in dread.

"Ronald Weasley! That's private!"

"I love elbows. Thin elbows," Goyle said helpfully, halting Granger's wrath. Potter snorted amusedly. Draco wondered if Goyle liked thin elbows because he couldn't see the sharp angled bones in his own elbows.

"Ron has a Mother Complex," said Potter to Granger's chagrin. Well, that explained why he was hypnotized by a Know-It-All mother hen like her.

"I wager you two have a last names fetish. Two years but still using last names, that's hardly normal," Weasley said, seemingly scared at his own idea.

Potter made a face. "No, that's only because we're used to using last names."

"Potter loves it when I'm being selfish and demanding," Draco said, kissing Potter lightly on the mouth. Potter grinned into the kiss, and Draco purposefully showed off his tongue lapping on Potter's upper lip when Weasley threw a cushion at them.

"How about you, then? What's your fetish?" asked Granger disapprovingly.

"I don't have one," said Draco haughtily. But Potter snickered, sitting straight and pointing his forefinger at his own face.

"Malfoy likes glasses. He loves it when I wear them in bed, it can make him lose control."

Draco tackled him onto the floor, and they were yelling, kicking and wrestling, as Weasley frantically howled that he didn't need that much information.

It was when Goyle announced that he had to have a second dinner that everyone got the cue to go home. They parted with a promise of having another meet up sometime in the next month, though Pansy and Goyle grimaced slightly at the idea. But all in all, the birthday party was quite a success. It could be worse, really.

After Potter spelled all the plates and cutlery so they could clean themselves, Draco sprawled on the sofa, his head on Potter's lap. Potter's fingers carded through Draco's hair, and sometimes Draco wondered if Pansy ever told him about Draco's unhealthy fondness for having his hair groomed.

"Mother owled me this morning," Draco said, closing his eyes to focus on Potter's gentle caresses. "She doesn't mention arranged marriages anymore. And Father hasn't commented on it since New Year."

"Mm, is that a good sign?"

"Don't count on it. Malfoys have a lot of cunning ideas. Better be always prepared," said Draco, reaching up to hold the back of Potter's neck and pull him into a kiss. "But I have other news."

"Yeah?" Potter asked against his lips.

"You remember that I retook my Muggle Studies N.E.W.T. this year? Well, I passed with an O," Draco said. "Now I really have eight N.E.W.T.s. Though it's annoying to think that I need one and a half years living in the Muggle world to really pass the test, but at least it's over. I have the money and the qualifications, and my therapist said I only have to do checkups twice a year, so I think this is the right time to go to school again."

Potter sat back, raising his eyebrows. "You're going back to the Wizarding world?"

"Yes, I'll take a two year course. Then I can search for a job."

"You're not teaching French again?"

"No." Draco pouted. "I quite like my job here, and those children are all right, really. But in the end I'm still a Wizard and I want to go back."

"Fine," said Potter, smiling. "You'll find more challenge in the Wizarding world, though."

Draco laughed. "After living in the Muggle world—which I knew nothing about—for almost two years, I believe I can do anything now."

"That's the spirit." Potter stroked Draco's cheekbone affectionately. "What are you studying then?"

"I'll tell you later." Draco winked. "More importantly, isn't it about time you moved out from that creepy place?"

Potter frowned. "Grimmauld Place? Yeah, I've been planning to move out. I mean, I'm done tidying up the place of Dark Artefacts and all."

Sitting up, Draco bumped his shoulder against Potter's teasingly. "Then let's search for a new flat in a Wizarding area?"

Potter gaped. "Together?"

"Together. We can search for one that's not too far from the Ministry because you'll be an Auror, and not too far from my school as well."

Potter still gaped. "We're living together?"

"God, Potter—Harry! Snap out of it!" Laughing, Draco pushed Potter to lie on his back, and began kissing his lips, his nose, his jaw and neck. "Let's move in together," he said softly.

Potter didn't answer, instead he wrapped his arms around Draco, pulling him closer as he kissed Draco's mouth slowly, deeply, as though he wanted to say something but couldn't find the right word. Draco relented into the kiss, knowing what it meant, giving Potter what he always begged and pleaded for—understanding.

"I know. You don't have to say. I know," he whispered again and again, as Potter seemed unable to stop kissing him. Soon he began stripping Potter of his shirt, savouring the warmth that was radiating under his fingertips. He nipped at Potter's earlobe and whispered, "Bed." And that was all it took for Potter to Apparate them to the bedroom.

Later that night, when Potter was snoring softly, his flushed body cocooned under Draco's blankets, Draco sat in his study. He took the silver frame Astoria gave him, smiling at all the pictures, replaying them again and again until he felt his cheeks hurt. Opening his drawer, he fished out the unfinished letter and a quill, and began writing.

As he wrote, everything began to spin together inside Draco's head. All the memories he had with Potter from the moment they met, every embarrassing moment since before the war, and the appalling images of their altercations during the war, all leading to the after-events, when Potter stubbornly confronted him.

Then he thought about his hatred that had turned into something that was equally deep, only under a different name.

He was a coward back then, and perhaps he still was, but at least now he was brave enough to think that—maybe, no matter how horrible the things that could happen in his life, there were still other little things that would shine like gems if he just bothered to look. And thinking like that gave him hope, and strength, and courage.

It gave him life.

Scrolling up the letter, he walked towards the cage near the opened window. He tied the scroll to the eagle owl's leg, and then petted its beak lightly. "To Headmistress McGonagall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, boy," he said.

It flapped its wide wings, flying through the window and into the dark, starless night. He shut the window, stretching the muscles in his arms and relaxed. Heading back to the bedroom, he yawned contentedly.

Tomorrow would be another busy day.

. .

. .

19 Hartfield Road, London

31 July, 2001

Dear Headmistress Minerva McGonagall,

I wish I still had the charmed parchment so I could write to you without sending an owl. I also think that my task to send you bits about my future plans was not finished. So here I am sending you another one, in the hope that this will really be my last and final report as your (ex) student.

I have re-taken my Muggle Studies N.E.W.T. this year, and I am applying to the Wizarding Academy of Muggle Studies for a two year course. I have been living in the Muggle world for one and a half years, and every day is a new lesson. I want to research further, and find out if the many (surprisingly) useful Muggle goods could be mixed with our magical entities, and if they would create new, more valuable items. I want to know how Wizarding society views Muggles in their advanced studies, and I want to prove and explore it myself.

In my one and a half years of life as a Muggle, I have taught French to Muggle children. This brings me a new keenness for one of the things I never expected I would ever desire. I want to teach, Professor. I will complete my two year course and get a license to teach. Until then, Professor, please wait for my application with generous patience. I will, in two years time, apply as a Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts.

My position as a former Death Eater turned Muggle Lover might be quite constructive for educational purposes, and perhaps, for our future. I hope the late Professor Charity Burbage would be proud of me, if not forgive me. That, of course, is if you would allow me to teach, Professor. And with my knowledge and finesse, I assure you, I'm confident of getting the position.

Yours truly,

Draco Lucius Malfoy

. .

. . Fin . .

. .

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