Actions

Work Header

A Light To Call Home

Work Text:

It’s over. It’s finally over. The words echo unceasingly in Draco’s head. It’s over. They’re free. They’re finally free of the madman who has been terrorizing their lives for the past four years. It seems too good to be true. It seems like a dream Draco has had many times before. Potter swoops in and saves the day. Saves them all. Saves him . And he did. This time he actually did. This isn’t a desperate hope or a daydream. This is real. This is true. The Dark Lord is dead. For good this time. Now the Mark on his arm is only a tattoo. A dead reminder of what he was forced into.

He wanders the halls in a daze. They should be a familiar sight. He has spent the last six years walking them. But they aren’t. It is as if he is seeing them for the first time. They should be a comforting sight. But they aren’t that either. They are a reminder instead. A reminder that everything he onced loved and cherished is gone. Tarnished. Ruined. Nothing will be the same again. Any innocence he had left has been ruthlessly stripped away these last two years. Childhood has been left behind. Tossed away. Gone, never to return. These halls remind him of that. He has lost something precious and he is never getting it back.

All around him is chaos. Witches and wizards celebrating, morning, crying, clinging to friends and family members still alive. He had done the same with his parents. Unable to believe all three of them were alive and uninjured. It seemed like another dream of his. But as relieved as he was, he couldn’t stay still. He couldn’t continue hugging them in what was left of the Great Hall. He had to move. It was as if Hogwarts herself was calling him to witness her destruction. Her wounds. The visible wounds of the castle seemed to reflect the invisible ones inside of him. The cuts of terror. The scars of hopelessness and despair. The burns of death. All those things Draco carries inside of him - forced to witness and do in the name of survival.

Most pass by without truly seeing him. Those that do sneer and spit and hate. He is honestly surprised he doesn’t find himself at the end of a wand. It’s not as if he has his own to defend himself. Potter took it and he gave Mother’s back to her. She and Father needed it more than he did. Besides, doesn’t he deserve it, if he did? Wasn’t he part of the group that caused such death and devastation? He isn’t a Gryffindor. He doesn’t have the courage to stand up for what is right. What is just. He is a Slytherin. That means survival. That means waiting for the right moment to strike. It means self preservation and protecting one’s family. He is a snake. He was never meant to be brave.

The more he sees, the more nauseous he feels. This isn’t what he wanted. This was never what he wanted. The first time he saw the Dark Lord, he was filled with a sense of horror and fear. That was not the man he was taught who would give power and glory back to the Purebloods. That was a monster. They should not be kneeling to it, but burn it. Destroy it. Be disgusted by its very presence. He knew that instantly. But it was too late. It was too late to do anything but follow since the first moment that it was resurrected. His path was set.

What could he do? Run? He would be branded the traitor that he was and killed. His parents would share his fate. Hide? Not for long. Spy? He was not that smart nor that believable. The Malfoy Mask he wore was one thing. It was enough to fool classmates. Friends. Occasionally family. It was another thing entirely to have the bollocks to lie to the Dark Lord’s face. He never would have survived the first time he tried.

Potter mentioned that Snape had been a spy. He always knew his Godfather had balls of steel.

His eyes brun and his muscles ache, but still he walks. Potter. If there was one word, one person, that could always draw a reaction from him, it was Potter. When he was younger, all he wanted was to be his friend. When he turned Draco down, he reacted badly. Merlin he was a prat. He can see that now. No wonder Potter didn’t want to shake his hand. But from the first moment he saw him, he wanted him. Even when he didn’t know who he was, he wanted him. He vividly remembers seeing him in the robe shop - bright green eyes, too big clothes, wary expression. He had been beautiful. To find out who he was just made it even better. The beautiful boy was the boy he wanted to be friends with already. But he didn’t want Draco.

The boy he had been dreaming about for a month. The one he had been waiting a young lifetime for. He didn’t want him. Chose another over him. Someone unworthy. It was a stab to his heart. How could he? How could he break his heart like that? His behavior may have been poor, but his intentions had been pure. And it had been crushed that day. Smashed. Tossed to the ground and discarded without a thought. Is is any wonder he turned into a rival to stay in his life? Too keep those gorgeous eyes on him. He had been a prat. But he had been a prat with a purpose.

It seems so childish now. But he still believes those eyes are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. When the Dark Lord declared Potter dead, Draco thought he was too. When he saw that unmoving body carried in the half-breed, no Hagrid's, arms, he felt his heart break for the second time in his life. When he saw Potter move, Potter breathe, Potter fight , it was like coming back to life. There was still hope and light inside of him as long as those green eyes had life within them. Still goodness in the world. Still a reason to carry on.

A humorless laugh escapes his lips. Merlin, he sounds like a lovesick teen pining from afar. Which is exactly what he is. A child no longer, but pining? He has long resigned himself to the fact that he was hopelessly in love with a boy he can never have. First it was because of the boy himself. Then it was because what was expected of him. Then his duty. Finally his survival. It was as if the world moved to place obstacles in his way. Everything against him and nothing for him. Destined to be on different sides. Born into their place in the war that dictated their lives. What chance did he actually have? Maybe if things were different. Maybe if there ad been no war. But as is? No. Never.

He knows his friends are sick of hearing him rant about Potter. He is sure is parents are as well. They may even assume it is a crush rather than an obsession. But he knows none of them have guessed what he truly feels. None know his greatest secret - that he is deeply in love with Harry Potter. And they never will. What is the point? Nothing will ever come of it. He has resigned himself to it long ago. But the battle has brought these thoughts to the surface again. The end of the war has thrown his emotions into chaos. Thoughts circle and chase themselves around his head as if his occlumency shields are nothing. They are enough to protect his mind, to guard it against the Dark Lord. But it cannot stop the flood of thoughts that are overtaking his mind.

He is jolted out of his thoughts when he finds himself at the foot of the Astronomy Tower. A place he never thought he would go again. Panic floods his veins simply thinking about it. He remembers the choking fear of failure and terrible determination he felt that night. He knew what he had to do. He had to kill Dumbledore to ensure his own survival. And his parents. All three of them would die if he failed to complete his mission. Getting Death Eaters into the school was not enough. He had to kill the Headmaster. Only he couldn’t. In this, as in everything else, he had been a coward. His Godfather had been the only reason he lived through the Dark Lord’s displeasure.

His Aunt told him he had to feel it. He had to feel that hate. Feel the absolute desire to kill. To end a life. But he couldn’t. Staring at Dumbledore, he couldn’t feel the hate necessary to do it. He could barely feel it at all. All he could feel was terror. He had long known that he didn’t have what it took to be a Death Eater. That night simply emphasized that fact. He took the Mark for one reason and one reason only. Family. The Malfoy motto was Family First. It was the first thing he had been taught as a child. How could he turn his back on that?

Seemingly without making a conscious decision, his feet begin to take him up the stairs. His stomach heaves and his limbs tremble, but his feet are steady upon the steps. It is almost as if he is under the imperius curse, because he has no desire to be here. But still he climbs. When he reaches the top, he realizes it is no curse that has brought him here, but another draw. One just as impossible to resist. Potter is leaning against one of the pillars, staring out onto the grounds. All the air leaves Draco in an instant. Potter. He is the last person he was expecting to see here. The desire to flee suddenly overtakes him, but he can’t. He can’t move. It is as if he is frozen to the spot. He can’t even twitch. Not that he is surprised. Potter always did have this kind of effect on him.

But he must have had some sort of sound because Potter turns and looks at him. At first Draco is afraid he is about to get cursed. And with his own wand no less. But all Potter does is stare at him with those eyes of his. Those haunting green eyes. Time seems to freeze before Potter nods to him and goes back to surveying the grounds. His feet obviously take that as permission to join him because soon he is leaning against the pillar next to Potter, taking in the same view. The grounds are as much of a mess as the castle itself. It seems impossible that it will heal. That things can move on from this one life changing moment. But then again, they already have, haven’t they? It’s beginning already.

Malfoy,” Potter greets, still not looking at him.

Potter,” he returns. He doesn’t know what to say. What is there to say? They are usually fighting by now. But Draco doesn’t want to fight. He is so tired of fighting. Al he wants right now is peace. “I thought you would be with Weasley and Granger,” he finally settles for.

They needed some alone time.”

Oh. And what about Wease- Ginevra?” he corrects.

She’s with Neville.”

Draco... isn’t quite sure what to say to that either. He had thought he heard talk of kissing on the steps. But maybe it is just that. Talk. He knows if he heard the same sentence last year, he would have laughed and made some snide remark. Last year he had been filled with fear. Filled with bitterness. He felt that if anyone stared at him too long, he would break apart. Now, this year, he did break. Or that's how it felt to him. After all he has endured, how could he not? He's not the strong one. He's never been the strong one.

I was half expecting it,” Potter continues after a long pause, “I mean, not Neville, I didn't see that coming. But her moving on? I never believed she would wait for me. Not really. I didn’t want her to. Ginny is so strong, but some things she shouldn't have to do. And wait for me? When there was a big chance I would be dead by the end of this?” he shakes his head. “She deserves so much more. Besides,” he let's out a self deprecating laugh, “who would wait for me?”

I would, Draco thinks. He would wait for Potter through the end of the world, if he could. Hell, he has, if this war counts for anything. He waited for the Saviour to once again come to the rescue. He waited for the boy with a too big destiny save the world from themselves. He would wait for Potter through death and beyond if he thought he would have a chance.

Who would wait for Potter? A better question is who would wait for Draco? No one. His parent, maybe, but that isn’t the same. He doesn’t have any friends. Not close ones. He was the Prince of Slytherin. The ruler. Rulers don’t have close friends. They are destined to be alone. The only thing for him to look forward to is an arranged marriage with an appropriate Pureblood girl. Or it was. Is there anyone who would be willing to marry him now? Draco is the parasite here, not Potter. Potter is the hero.

The sad thing is, I dreamed for so long for this to be over, but I didn’t really believe it. I wanted a future, but I didn’t think I would get one. I thought I would die, trying to defeat Voldemort. I did die.”

That makes Draco start, but Potter doesn’t notice.

I came back though. Obviously,” he runs a hand through messy hair. “I came back to finish it for once and for all. Because that was what was expected of me, isn’t it? Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One, the Saviour of the Wizarding World.”

His tone is so bitter Draco feels ashamed of himself of thinking just that. Because that was what he thought of Potter. Because this last year, that was what he clung to. But no. That’s not all he saw. While others only saw the Saviour, he had always seen the boy underneath. He hasn’t always been impressed with the boy but he always saw him.

I came back. But now I’m wondering if I should have. Neville killed the snake. Someone else could have killed Voldemort. My part had already been played. I’m not needed anymore,” a bitter laugh escapes him, “Turns out all I ever needed to do was die at the right time. Who needs the lamb now that everything is done?”

Don’t be such an idiot Potter,” Draco can’t keep from snapping. Because he can’t stand here and silence to this anymore. Can’t listen to Potter disregard his own life so much. “What would your adoring fans do without you?”

Find someone new to worship?” Potter asks dryly, a tone Draco has never heard him use before.

What about Weasley and Granger? Are you trying to tell me that they don’t want you around anymore? The three of you have a permanent sticking charm cast on you.”

They have each other now,” he insists stubbornly, “Not that they don’t care about me anymore. But they are moving on with their lives. And they should. Everyone should. But I’ve fought so long. I should be relieved that it’s over. Instead, I feel empty.”

Draco knows the feeling. The feeling of being carved out with a dull spoon. All the emotions, all the thoughts have been drained out of you and nothing is left. Your body is an empty echo of what you use to be. Nothing real. Nothing touches you because nothing truly exists. Not even yourself. “Carry on my wayward son,” he mutters, more to himself than the other boy.

What?”

But apparently he didn’t say it soft enough.

Potter turns to look at him. “Malfoy did you just quote a Muggle song?”

It was Derek’s favorite song,” he answers without explanation. Fourteen year old Derek Richards, a Muggleborn Slytherin who is now dead. Who was killed in front of Draco. While he watched helplessly. While he did nothing. Derek, who couldn’t sing worth a damn, but that didn’t stop him. Derek, who never stopped singing until his voice was silenced forever.

Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done. Lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more.

That song haunts Draco’s sleep.

He wraps arms around himself, to stop himself from shivering. Guilt rips through him and suddenly he is angry. Furious. Derek is dead. One of his Slytherins is dead, tortured to death because of a fluke of birth, and Potter stands before him alive and mourning the fact. “Don’t be such a prat,” he yells, “How can you say that? Do you know how many are dead? Do you know how many have suffered? And you are whining because you are one of the lucky ones? Because you survived?”

Don’t talk to me about death and suffering Malfoy,” Potter snaps back, eyes alight, “I was right in the middle of it. I know. I saw. I was surrounded by it. Don’t you think I know how many died and hurt while I had to run and hide while we tried to find a way to kill him? How many died before I could finally finish it? How many would still be alive if only I was faster?”

Oh fuck you Potter. It’s not all about you. You aren’t the bloody center of the world. Not everything happened because of you. They died because Voldemort was an evil, crazy, sadistic bastard.” It feels good to say ‘Voldemort’ without fear. It makes something in him crack and fly free. Something screamed victory in his core. He can do this now. He can say it because he is alive and Voldemort is dead.

Voldemort killed them. Voldemort tortured them. Voldemort collected followers to do it for him. He didn’t do it because of you. He didn’t start this war because of you. You may have been the end, but you aren’t the beginning. Voldemort is the cause of all of this, not you. Fuck you Potter, others fought and won and died without you. Just because the Wizarding World are sheep, doesn’t mean you have to lead them. Some fucker taught you that, but it isn’t true. So fuck off because you are still alive. Deal with it, you arse.” He is breathing hard, angrier than he has felt in forever, glaring hatefully at the teen beside him. And he feels wonderful for it.

He is alive.

Potter is staring at him, eyes wide. He opens his mouth and then closes it again. He has made him speechless. He has actually made Potter speechless. He never thought he would see the day. But today, nothing is as it should be, so why not break all the rules?

Finally Potter nods. “Thanks Malfoy,” he says. He reaches inside of his pocket and pulls a wand out. “Here,” he hands it to Draco, “thanks for the loan. I couldn’t have won without it.”

Draco gingerly takes it, cradling it to his chest carefully.

Potter gives him a final nod and walks away, leaving him standing alone at the spot Dumbledore was last alive.

Draco watches him go before staring out at the grounds. A bubble of laughter rises within him and he can’t stop it. He doesn’t even try. He laughs and laughs until his sides are sore and he can’t breathe properly. He leans against the pillar and laughs as tears run down his cheeks and his stomach aches. He stands there and just laughs. Why?

He is alive.

:::

Draco walks through the halls, shoulders hunched. He keeps his eyes down, not looking up even as a group of third year Ravenclaws pass him and laugh. Not as a group of sixth year Gryffindors hex him as they walk by. Not as a group of first year Hufflepuffs cower away from him. He ignores it all and walks on. It’s the only thing he can do.

Carry on.

He has been sent back to Hogwarts as part of his sentence. After Potter had testified on his behalf, he had been cleared, for the most part. He still had to finish his Hogwarts education. And he was to be watched for the next five years. But compared to some? It was the blessing of Merlin himself. The Wizarding World had come down hard on those on the wrong side. Father was back in Azkaban. He wasn’t sure if he would ever see him again. Something inside his Father had broke. He wasn’t sure he would survive another twenty years in that nightmare.

So many had been sent to Azkaban. So many had huge fines draining their vaults. So many were now outcasts in a society where they were once on top. From the highest to the low, all are treated as scum of the earth. There are whispers of poetic justice. They, who were so mighty and looked down as those they thought as lesser, were now scorned and ridiculed. Personally, Draco calls it reverse discrimination, but he keeps that thought to himself. It was not any different for him after all. None want to hear it.

They avoid him like a parasite. No one wants to even look at him, lat alone talk to him. The only interaction he gets are the hexes and curses cast his way. It reminds him that they blame him. They don’t want him here. Personally, he doesn’t want to be here either. If it were up to him, he would have stayed at the stripped Manor. Join his Mother in house arrest. Not that the Manor is much better. It is tainted by the Dark Lord’s presence for those long months. Hogwarts is tainted too. But he has to be here. So he endures.

He endures the isolation and the hate. He endures the curses and the taunts. He endures everything without complaint. What other choice does he have? None. He didn’t have a choice when that ugly tattoo was branded on his arm. He most certainly doesn’t have one now. All he wants to do is survive the year. After that? Merlin only knows. It’s not as if anyone is going to want him - for anything. Maybe he should make it simpler and just end it all. But he can’t. He has always been too much of a coward. Now is no exception.

He thinks back on that conversation with Potter all those months ago. It seems like a dream now. Something his mind conjured up to give him hope. He remembers how free he felt that day. How he laughed. How he felt invincible and incredible and unstoppable. How he felt he could fly without a broom, for those brief, happy moments of insane laughter.

He hasn't laughed since. Hasn’t smiled. Hasn’t felt free or alive at all. He only feels dead inside now. Nothing matters and nothing changes. He is alone and unwanted and he always will be. He remembers when he yelled at Potter for mourning that fact that he was alive. Now it is the opposite. Now Draco mourns. But he yelled at Potter because people wanted him. Of course they do, he is the hero. He is loved and beloved of the Wizarding World.

Draco? No one would miss him. His Father is broken. He will most likely be dead before he is released. His Mother? His Mother is a shell of her former self. The horrors of the war have sunken deep within her skin. The humiliation of the trials and the searching and stripping of the Manor only added to it. His Mother may have been strong enough to lie to the Dark Lord - as he found out - but even she has her limits. And they have been reached. There is no one else. No friends. No fellow Slytherins. No one. Only his cowardness and guilt.

Still, he is still here and so he keeps his head down, counting the days until he can escape on hell for another. When he was a child, he had the world at his feet. Now he is almost an adult and his life feels over. It’s bloody depressing. As other talk excitedly about what they will do next, what offers they have received, he is left standing alone and forgotten. This world will move on without him and there isn’t anything he can do to stop it. Already, he is a relic of a past best forgotten. What else is he to do but stand in the shadows and watch?

It is supper time, but he doesn’t go to the Great Hall. He can’t. Being in the room makes him physically ill to his stomach. Too many memories. It’s not as if he has anyone to miss him in any case. There are so few Slytherins this year. Those first years Sorted into the House looked absolutely terrified when they were. The others avoid him, not wanting to be seen with him and risk the other Houses ire. It is a sad day when a House once known for it’s pride had none. But this is what the war has done to them. There had even been talk about getting rid of the House altogether, although nothing came of it.

Potter, surprisingly enough, had been one of those who spoke out against the action.

That is another reason he cannot enter the Hall. Potter. He can’t bare to look at him anymore. It hurts too much. He is always with friends, laughing and joking and smiling. Whatever issues he had that day are gone now. The Golden Trio is alive and well. Even the fact the Ginerva is now with Longbottom does not faze him. He is a shining presence to all who look at him. It hurts to look at the sun and know he will never feel it’s warmth. He may have resigned himself to that long ago, but recently it has been bothering him more than usual. Most likely it is because of his general mood. He is aware that he is slipping into a deep depression, but he has nothing to pull himself out of it.

Besides, he doesn’t have an appetite. Not much point going to meals if one doesn’t eat. Instead, he makes his way to the library, to complete his Charms essay. Not that it really matters. Even the Professor’s eyes have a way of slipping over him. Slughorn won’t even look at him anymore. He’s obviously not worth his time, the opposite of Slug Club material. Merlin, does he miss his Godfather. At these times, now more than ever. Snape wouldn’t have put up with this. He would have stood tall and proud by his students, supporting them any way he could. He would have never discarded a student, no matter what others thought.

It is only a month into the school year and already he can’t wait for graduation.

His eyes burn and he has to take a steadying breath to keep from crying. He has already shed enough tears these past months. Too many. They feel too near the surface, the opposite of his hollowness inside. Too emotional and too dead all at once. He is a mess.

When he reaches the library, he sits down at a table in the corner that no one ever uses. Too out of the way. He methodologically takes out his materials and begins to work, determinedly ignoring all the other thoughts in his head. What good would it do? All they do is scream.

:::

Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done.

The off tune voice makes Draco wake from his sleep, a cry on his lips. He runs a trembling hand through sweaty hair. A chill racks his body and he wraps an arm around himself. Stumbling out of bed, he gasps as his feet hit the cold floor. He is in a room by himself. None of the other Slytherins in his class returned. Even the cold can’t shake him from the dream. The nightmare. Derek’s hoarse voice echoes through his head.

Out of all the things he had seen and did, that one memory is the one that haunts him the most. Maybe because it was a fellow Slytherin, though one he never talked to. Maybe because he had been forced to watch to the bloody end. Maybe because of how innocent it should be, but how twisted it actually was. The worst part about it was that right before he died, he smiled. He looked Draco in the eyes and smiled. As if he was telling him it was alright. He understood.

As if he sung that cursed song for him. Regardless, Derek is one of the main ghosts that haunt his sleep. One of many. A sea of blood and screams flood his dreams, threatening to drown him. Hands reach to pull him down to their level, ready to tear him apart. Eyes watch him accusingly. Needless to say, he has not been sleeping well. Frankly, he can’t remember the last time he slept well. Before this entire mess started. So... the end of fourth year. Merlin, how sad is that?

He can never get to sleep after he has a nightmare, so he wraps his night gown around him and walks out of the common room, feet automatically going in the direction of the kitchen. This is another room he found accidentally. He had been following Potter, ironically enough. Everything in his life seems to lead back to Potter, ever since that first day. But he had been following him and wondered why in the hell he was tickling a pear. He found out soon enough. It’s enough to roll his eyes. Of course, only in Hogwarts, was the kitchen accessible via a ticklish pear. Bloody ridiculous school.

But he is thankful for the discovery now. It means he can eat at odd hours and have a place to retreat when everything is too much. There is something comforting about the kitchens. The house elves don’t mind him there. They serve him happily. The are probably the only ones who smile at him anymore. Merlin, his life is sad.

When he walks in, as if his thoughts had conjured him, Potter is already there, cup beside him, eating a plate of biscuits. Bloodly hell. His first instinct is to leave. Potter may not have given him any trouble in the halls or in class, but he doesn’t want to chance that now. Best to have a miserable night and leave him alone than lose the one sanctuary he has. He turns, but before he can get through the doorway, Potter notices him. It is like their meeting on the Astronomy Tower. Potter catches his eye, stares and then goes back to what he is doing.

You don’t have to leave,” he tells him.

It is a shock. This might be the first someone has actually talked to him, not hissed an insult or curse, since he got here. Draco shakes his head. “I won’t bother you,” he reassures and turns to leave again.

Malfoy, stay,” he calls slash orders.

Draco is helpless to resist. He walks over and sits across from Potter. A house elf brings him a cup of tea and some sandwiches. He nibbles on one now and places the rest aside, to eat during the next day. Just because he doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t mean he isn’t. He knows he has to. He simply doesn’t enjoy it. It all tastes like ash in his mouth. Potter offers him a biscuit and he takes one, more to be polite than anything.

Neither of them say anything. The silence is restful, rather than tense. Draco takes this time to study Potter. Now that he is looking closely, he can see the dark shadows under his eyes. The twitch in his limbs. The darkness in his eyes. Obviously he is better at covering those signs than he first assumed. Potter isn’t fine. He is pretending for the masses. Here and now, this is the reall Potter. The one haunted by the war and still recovering. It makes Draco feel unspeakably better about himself.

Life bloody sucks,” Potter announces unexpectedly.

Draco nods in agreement.

People keep expecting me to be alright. As if I didn’t just fight in a war. As if a few months is enough time to heal. As if I shouldn’t have nightmares anymore. It’s bloody ridiculous. I’m seventeen and I feel seventy. Old souls, I think they’re called.”

Not exactly, but close enough. He knows what Potter means in any case. Too old before their time. “What do you expect from sheep?” he asks, the bitterness in his tone an old friend by now.

Potter tilts his head at him.

What?”

Malfoy... are you alright?”

Draco snorts. Any idiot can see the answer to that question. “Yes, Potter, I am a basket of unicorns and crup puppies,, thank you for asking.”

You look like shite,” he says bluntly.

You sure know how to flatter Potter. Practicing for the masses?”

I’m serious Malfoy.”

So am I.”

Potter huffs and goes back to staring.

Draco nibbles on his biscuit, not bothering to say anything else. Just because Potter is talking to him now without fighting, doesn’t mean this is going to last. He’ll either go back to hating him or ignoring him the next day. He hasn’t spoken to Draco in months. He didn’t bother at the trials and he didn’t bother when they started classes again. Why would he start now?

You haven’t been in the Great Hall either,” Potter continues to comment, “Actually, you haven’t been around anywhere much.”

Yes, well my social calendar is so full now, you see. Everyone wants a piece of me, there’s barely enough to go around.” He says that sarcastically, but he means it literally. Everyone wants a piece of him now. They usually rip it right out of his skin, too.

Potter narrows his eyes. “People haven’t been giving you too many problems, have they?”

No Potter,” he deadpans, “not at all.” Just how oblivious is he? He always knew it was bad, but this might be a new level, even for him.

We’ll see about that,” he says softly.

And Draco... well, he has no idea what to do about that. What, is Potter going to go on a crusade for him? Defend his honor? Be his knight in shining armour? Just the thought alone makes something in his stomach flutter. This is the first year he hasn’t had Potter in some part of his life. Is he going to get that back now? He hopes so. He misses the git, even if he’ll never admit it to anyone but himself.

He glances up to see a familiar light in those emerald eyes. The fire burns brightly just behind them, making them dance and flicker with life. It reminds him that this is the boy who took on the world and won. He fought against the Wizard grown Witches and Wizards ran from - and came out the victor each time. This is a warrior, tested and tried against the shadows other feared. This is the boy he fell in love with so long ago.

He looks back down so that he doesn’t get caught staring. If he isn’t careful, he can get lost in those eyes. It feels like another cliche, being able to get lost in Potter’s eyes. It makes him sound even more desperate and pathetic and lovesick than ever. And Merlin damn him if it isn’t true. If it isn’t bloody true every single time. It’s been true for so long, it’s become a part of him, like his blonde hair and silver eyes. Merlin damn him. Twice.

Potter doesn’t seem to notice him anymore, lost in thoughts of his own now. Good. He doesn’t want to be under that acute stare for too long. He might remember who he is actually talking to and stop. He doesn’t want Potter to stop. This situation makes him feel human, for a change. He doesn’t get that often anymore - read at all.

Carry on my wayward son.

A shudder shakes his frame as those lyrics come back to him in the quiet of the kitchen. No. No, not now. He came here to escape. They can’t keep following him everywhere he goes. He’ll never get any peace. He barely has any peace now. Not that he deserves peace frankly, but he’ll go mad if they do. And who wants to deal with the mad? It will just be an excuse to lock him up and throw away the key. Then he will be all alone. Just him and his demons. The idea horrifies him and another shudder rocks him in his seat. He clenches his teeth. Hard. No, not this either. Not now. Not in front of Potter. Especially not in front of Potter.

He starts when, suddenly, a hand reaches out across the table and takes his own into it. A glance tells him that, yes, Potter is holding his hand. He doesn’t say anything and neither does Draco. But neither does he let go for a long time. Long after Draco stops feeling so alone.

:::

Potter is everywhere after that.

It begins when he takes a seat next to him in Potions. Slughorn’s prize student sitting next to his most undesirable one. The man doesn’t know where to look. If Draco were a more charitable person, he would feel sorry for the Wizard. As it is, he gets a quiet sort of glee out of his discomfort.

He can’t decide what’s worse - ignoring you and offending me or actually looking at you,” Potter rolls his eyes at their Professor.

It continues with each class they have together. Which turns out to be most of them. The only two that Draco has the Potter does not are Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, where Potter has Care of Magical Creatures. It makes for some interesting juggling because he insists on walking Draco to class.

I am not some damsel in distress. I’m not going to get lost. I can walk myself to class, thank you very much. Don’t you have a class of your own to go to?”

It’s just Hagrid. He won’t mind.”

It even extends to eating in the Great Hall. Either Potter won’t go and join him in the library with a snack - the house elves love Potter - or else Potter will drag him to the Gryffindor table to eat. Not that anyone but Potter is pleased with that move, but the boy has an infuriating habit of ignoring things he doesn’t want to hear. So he disregards his friends and classmates and housemates complaints about having a Death Eater sitting with them. Draco would leave, but Potter won’t let him, so all are stuck unhappily together. Bloody git.

You need to eat. And not just in the middle of the night.”

Says the bloody twig. Looked in the mirror lately?”

No one wants me there Potter.”

I do.”

That’s because you’re mental.”

I’ve heard that a few times lately, yeah.”

Still, he doesn’t expect it to last more than a couple of days. A week at the most. What he doesn’t take into account is just how bloody stubborn Potter is. The more the students protest, the more he digs his heels in. He practically sticks himself to Draco’s hip after an article from the Daily Prophet speculated over their ‘relationship’, wondering if ‘the young Death Eater is corrupting their Saviour’ or if ‘the Man-Who-Conquered is turning into the next Dark Lord’.

Since when do you listen to that crap anyways?”

Last time I provided inside comments on your wonderful self, actually.”

Prat.”

Where there was once a permanent sticking charm on the Golden Trio, now there is one on Draco and Potter. And it is all Potter’s doing. Draco can’t understand. Why is he doing this? Is it part of his hero complex? Is it pity? Charity? When is enough going to be enough? When is Potter going to stop talking to him again?

Although ‘talking’ might be a bit of an exaggeration on his part. They don’t exactly talk to each other. They do their homework. Draco attempts to teach him chess. They sit outside when the weather is nice and inside when it isn’t, sitting in silence. Occasionally, they’ll go flying together. There really isn’t much conversation involved in this... friendship? Can Draco call him and Potter friends now? He isn’t sure.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, are the nightmares. They still plague him each night. Sometimes he goes to the kitchen after he has had one. Sometimes he finds Potter already there. Sometimes he comes in after Draco. They never really talk during those times either. If they do, it is mainly Potter. He is always more open during the night, saying things he doesn’t like to admit during the day.

Everyone expects so much from me, it feels as if there isn’t anything of me left just for me .”

I dream of my parents sometimes. When I saw them... with the stone. They keep calling for me to join them.”

I always thought I wanted to be an Auror, but now I don’t know. I’m so tired of fighting.”

Nightmares bloody suck. I thought I was done with them after Snake Face was dead and out of my head.”

I found Snape’s portrait today. Turns out he has one after all. Hogwarts counts him as one of her Headmasters. Not that he wants to be in the Headmaster’s office with the other portraits, even if the Board of Governors wouldn’t throw a fit. We... talked. It was nice. He’s still a complete bastard, but it was nice. I’ll show you where he is tomorrow.”

I keep seeing the faces of the ones who died. They blame me.”

I love Ron and Hermione, but sometimes they drive me crazy.”

Slowly the school year progresses. It isn’t quite the hell it use to be, with Potter by his side. He doesn’t put up with the whispers and the hexes. They still happen when he isn’t around, but anything is an improvement at this point. And he still hasn’t shown any signs of being bored with him.

It makes Draco’s heart do funny things. He’s hopeful and skeptical all at once. Because Potter is still here. Potter is still paying attention to him. Potter is protective of him. Potter seems to care.

Potter can never care for him as much as Draco cares for Potter.

It is an odd mixture of exuberance and dread. His Godfather always rolls his eyes at him, when he brings it up. And that’s another thing Potter has given him back. His Godfather. He knew he missed the man, but he didn’t realize how much until he was able to talk to him again. It makes something in his chest ache. He is not alone. He still has someone who cares for him, even if that someone is a portrait. Does it make his life seem sad? Yes. Does he care at this point? No. No he does not. He has always loved his Godfather fiercely, even if, as Potter put it, he was a complete bastard.

Do spare me the teenage dramatics Draco. I have dealt with them enough when I was alive. I have no desire to listen to them now that I am dead.”

Potter has always been your weakness, so I am not sure why you are so upset about it now.”

For the love of Merlin, boy, pull yourself together!”

So things may not be great, but they aren’t as nearly bad as they could be either. But as the months go on and the holiday season comes closer, he can feel a deep melancholy come over him. He remembers this use to be a happy time for him. As a child, he would race around the Manor as the house elves decorated. He would demand this and that, confident that he would get all that he listed. He would yell and bounce and yelp for joy. When it snowed, he would race outside to play in it for hours.

He was a little terror this time of the year, but his parents never complained. Even after he came to Hogwarts, this time of the year always made him excited. He never did anything as undignified as went out to play of course - not where anyone could see him anyways. Alone, hidden from the others, he would run himself into exhaustion playing. And when he went home, the decorations and his parents would be waiting for him.

But this year? This year he has nothing to be excited for. No decorations. Not his at any rate. Yes, Hogwarts will be decorated, but it won’t be the same. No parents. His Mother has already written him, urging him to stay at school. She’ll send his present to him on the day. Not even the snow can cheer him up. He watches it fall with a sort of detached longing, but makes no move to go out in it.

Once, when he was younger, he made a comment about those who had to spend Christmas at school. He laughed about how unwanted they were. Of course the comment was directed at Potter. Merlin, was he a brat. But now this must be payback because he will be here, alone and Potter will be at the Weasleys. Karma does indeed exist.

But then he gets a shock when Potter tells him that, no, he isn’t going to the Weasleys. He is staying right here. With him.

He protests, of course, but that hardly matters. Potter has made up his mind. He is spending Christmas with Draco and that is that. Stubborn prat. Some part of Draco preens under the attention and care that implies, but he tries not to think on it much. It could mean a number of things. It doesn’t mean Potter suddenly loves him or anything. If Draco isn’t careful, he is going to get his heart broken again. And he is only going to have himself to blame.

Don’t be such a bloody git and go spend the holidays with them!”

You need me more.”

When break comes, they have the run of the school to themselves, practically. Everyone wants to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Potter drags Draco up to Gryffindor Tower, telling him he is moving in for the time. No one else is there, so it will be fine.

I am not spending Christmas in the lion’s den,” Draco sneers.

Why not? It’s warmer than the snake’s cave. And this way, we aren’t alone.”

Fine,” he huffs, “but I am not sleeping in Weasley's bed.”

If he isn’t careful? Ha. Clearly it is already too late. Draco is going to get his heart broken, no matter what he does. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Merlin, does there have to be so much red? I am going to go blind.”

Oh like Slytherin is any better with all of your green and silver.”

Just how do you know what our common room looks like, Potter?”

Potter laughs.

When it finally comes time for bed, he ends up in Potter’s while he moves to Weasley's. His scent surrounds him as he goes to sleep. It is as if he is drowning in Potter. It is the best nights sleep he has had in months.

It is Potter who has them running around the school, through the halls, in the snow, acting as if they are children. It makes something in Draco shout for joy. He feels free again. Free to act as he wants, watchers be damned. Free to shout and laugh and giggle and start a snowball fight. Free to run as far as his feet can take him and then farther yet. His heart soars.

It is Potter who finds the mistletoe. They had been running breathlessly up and down stairs and corridors and empty classrooms when they stop to lean against the wall, breathless with laughter. They are acting as if they are seven, not seventeen, but neither of them care. That is when Potter glances up and seems to freeze.

What?” Draco asks and then follows his gaze, “Oh,” he finishes lamely.

Potter looks at him, another glint in his eyes.

We don’t have to,” Draco reassures him, “It’s just a stupid tradition.” No need to ruin what they have. No need to break his heart again. He doesn’t think he can take it if they kiss and not mean it. Because he will. He will mean every second that it lasts. But Potter won’t. And Draco can’t bare that.

Bad luck to break tradition,” Potter murmurs, voice lower now, husky, and oh Merlin , what that does to Draco.

He shivers lightly. “Potter-” he starts, but doesn’t continue as a pair of chapped lips are on his. Potter kisses him softly. Gently. Lips on lips, he cups Draco’s cheek and kisses him as if he really does mean it.

Call me Harry,” Potter whispers before kissing him again.

Draco steps closer, pulling Potter - Harry - to him. He comes easily. Well then... maybe he won’t have his heart broken again after all. Not if the light in those green eyes mean what Draco thinks it does.