Link Part Three
Draco was alone in the dungeons when he awoke, but he was instantly aware, his head pounding. He knew with certainty after just a moment of cognizant thinking that he was going to come face-to-face with the Dark Lord.
He was going to die.
The thought of it wasn’t as dire as Draco would have expected. Carefully, calmly, he settled himself more firmly against the stone wall and began to think about anything and everything he’d learned that would help the Dark Lord defeat Potter. And then with equal determination, he began to mentally build a wall around it, brick by brick. He would be damned if he gave the Dark Lord that information only to die afterwards. Draco was going to go out with some dignity.
He didn’t know how long he was down there, fortifying his mind, when he heard the creak of the door upstairs, accompanied by a sudden rush of terror. He’d never been so close to the Dark Lord, and certainly never alone with him, but he knew that was who was descending the stairs.
“Draco,” he said, coming into the light. “Oh, Draco, you are in trouble.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Draco said tonelessly. “Thought this was a party.” In person, the Dark Lord was terrifying, tall and thin, no nose, red eyes. He exuded a presence that drew the hairs on Draco’s neck up, made him shiver. The fear was impossible to hide.
“Such a Slytherin,” the Dark Lord said smoothly. “Such a silver tongue. It’s unfortunate that you went the wrong way, Draco. You would have made a good soldier.”
“It’s the tattoo,” Draco said. “I’m just not ready for that kind of lifelong commitment.”
“But you will regret forsaking me,” the Dark Lord said sibilantly. “That I do promise.” He did not give Draco a moment for a dead-pan answer (though, honestly, Draco had already gotten the sense that he’d passed a line) and instead, without anger or any real emotion, casted, “Crucio!”
The pain was instantaneous and all-encompassing, seizing through his muscles as he jerked with it. There was no other thing to concentrate on but how much it hurt, how he felt as though his bones were buckling and cracking, as though his blood was searing its way through his skin.
When Voldemort let the spell fade away, Draco was on the ground, gasping, shaking. There were no words to be had, nor any dignity on the dirty ground as Voldemort stood over him, a triumphant look on his face. “You defied me,” he said. “That does not come without consequence. But if you give me information, if you give me something I can use to lure Potter to me, I will be forgiving, Draco.”
Draco would be lying if he said he didn’t consider it, but the second he entertained the thought of spilling his guts, of talking about the locket and the sword and Potter’s secret crusade, he saw Potter on the ground, after the snake had attacked him. When Draco had almost believed him dead. It was enough of a deterrent for Draco to curl his lip and say, “I wasn’t stupid enough to snoop into what he was doing. In fact, I was quite happy with him keeping all of that a secret. I don’t know anything you’d want. So you can take your offer and shove it.”
The last bit was perhaps a bad idea, and Voldemort’s eyes narrowed as soon as it left Draco’s mouth. “Legilimens!”
The sense of Voldemort entering his mind was more invasive than the Cruciatus curse, and Draco had to struggle to keep his mind blank. It didn’t matter in any case; Voldemort rifled through his brain as though it was a book, forcing his way back in every time Draco was able to throw him out, and by the time he’d gotten his fill, Draco was dry-heaving, his eyes burning. He had no idea if his wall had held up, but Voldemort’s eyes were pleased.
“You were very meticulous in keeping yourself away from any action,” Voldemort said, “but you forgot one thing. Potter loves being a hero, and he is particularly interested in saving the people he loves. And you have made him love you.”
That was enough to make Draco laugh, a dry sound that echoed throughout the dungeon. “Potter doesn’t love me,” he spat.
“I think we’ll be the judge of that,” Voldemort said. “I’m going to send you back to Hogwarts. The quickest way to show my prowess is to invade the most heavily defended school in Britain and kill their savior while I do it. You’ll go to school, and I will wait for Potter to find you.”
“It’ll never work,” Draco said. “Potter’s not that stupid.” But even as he was saying it, he knew it wasn’t true; Potter was that stupid. Potter would almost definitely walk into that trap.
“And then I’ll make him believe that you’ve betrayed him. Told me all his little secrets,” Voldemort continued. “And when he is broken, I will kill him and parade him in front of all those who believe him to be my downfall.”
“Melodramatic much?” Draco muttered, but Voldemort did not hear.
“And I can’t do it without you, Draco. But please don’t worry. I will kill you once Potter is dead. Slowly and with great relish.”
As quickly as he’d descended on the dungeon, Voldemort was gone, his purpose complete. But he was kind enough to send Bellatrix down with strict orders to keep Draco in good mental function and alive. Which was no relief at all.
Being back at Hogwarts after being so long away from it was bizarre. His mother had healed him enough from Bellatrix’s ministrations so it wasn’t obvious that he’d been beaten, but it was hard to walk without a limp; Bellatrix had taken some pleasure in twisting the meat of his thigh with an invisible corkscrew.
Snape had clearly gotten instructions from Voldemort to perpetuate the lie of Draco being a turncoat, and he was taken in front of the Great Hall to be praised for his allegiance to the Dark Lord. The looks from the sparsely populated Gryffindor table were sharp enough to cut, and Draco wanted to shout that he’d been too bloody devoted to give up anything resembling a secret, that he hated Voldemort as much as they did. But he wasn’t quite that stupid yet, especially not with the Carrows smirking from the back of the room.
He took his place at the Slytherin table, head held high as if his skin wasn’t crawling to be there. Nott gave him a dirty look that promised trouble later, which wasn’t too encouraging. Draco wondered if he’d even be alive by the time Potter made his way back to Hogwarts.
Snape was smart enough to personally escort Draco to the Slytherin common room and issued thinly-veiled threats to ensure Draco’s fellow Slytherins didn’t use their own brand of torture to test the theory of Draco as a spy for Voldemort, praising him like a particularly proud uncle, one hand clasped tightly on Draco’s shoulder. Draco quite wondered if Snape was using his lies to fuel his dislike for Draco, only to unleash it at a later, more private date. With one last admonition, Snape left Draco to the snakes, his parting gift being a handprint-shaped bruise on the delicate skin of Draco’s arm and shaky protection from his fellow classmates.
Draco swept through them with all the fake-confidence he could muster, but he was waylaid by Nott at the foot of the stairs leading to the bedrooms. He was flanked by Crabbe and Goyle and looked particularly incensed, and he crossed his arms and said, “You must be a better actor than I thought, Malfoy.”
“Not all of us can be so obvious,” Draco replied. “You know, subterfuge does have its uses. As the Dark Lord found out.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see if you don’t double-cross again,” Nott said. “I haven’t forgotten about my wand, by the way. I want it back.”
“I have no idea what I did with that piece of trash,” Draco said flippantly. “Good finding it in the kindling the house elves use to keep the castle warm.”
Crabbe cracked his knuckles viciously, and Draco feigned utter boredom, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll be watching you,” Nott promised, his face contorted meanly.
“I look forward to it,” Draco said. “Now get out of the way. Some of us are tired from actually being of use to the Dark Lord instead of hiding at school.”
Nott looked murderous, but he parted way all the same, ushering Draco up the stairs with a dramatic hand flourish. Draco was quick getting to an abandoned bed, protecting it with the varied charms he picked up while on the lam with Potter, but it did no use. Two hours later he was roused by one of the Carrows, and they had a particularly fun time using their baser forms of magic to show Draco just how mistaken he was if he’d thought he was going to escape his betrayal of Voldemort that easily.
The next couple of weeks passed in a haze of pain and exhaustion. Draco was lucky if he got more than four hours of sleep any given day, and he ached all over from his nightly appointments with the Carrows. In fact, he was pretty sure that if this treatment continued, he’d be insane within a week--it was getting harder and harder to hold on to reality while he was being played with as if he was a mouse caught in a vicious trap.
Classes were surreal caught in the cycle that Draco found himself in. He skived off Transfiguration, because if there was ever a better reason to avoid McGonagall, Draco hadn’t yet found it, but he still had to suffer through Potions and Defense, among the others. All of the Gryffindors that hadn’t made their way into hiding were particularly nasty, tripping Draco, catching him with errant curses, and the Slytherins were hardly better.
It was hell, to put it frankly.
And, irony of all ironies, when Potter finally did make it back to Hogwarts, causing an almighty scene as he did so, Draco was firmly sequestered in the bowels of the castle, asleep. There was less of a chance of the Carrows rousing him for another fun time in their office if they couldn’t find him, so Draco had taken solace under a desk in a rarely-used study room to try and get at least a couple of hours of rest. Any chaos upstairs was completely undetectable this far underground, so Draco was afforded a few hours of peace and quiet...until the gates of hell really broke loose.
Having Voldemort’s voice in your head was undoubtedly the worst wake-up call ever, but it was what roused Draco, clear as a bell. “I know you are preparing to fight,” he said, calm as ever in that high-pitched voice, so clear that Draco sat straight up, expecting to see Voldemort kneeling over him. “That would be folly. You cannot defeat me. I do not want to kill you. I know the value of magical blood, and I do not wish to spill it needlessly.
Draco gaped, uncomprehending at the onslaught of information, none of which made sense. “Give me Harry Potter,” Voldemort continued. “Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and you shall be rewarded. I will give a reprieve until midnight.”
“Potter,” Draco mouthed, scrambling to his feet. He did not know what he expected, but as full awareness came back to him, he began to think, to suspect that Voldemort’s plan had worked. Potter had been lured to Hogwarts, was perhaps at this very moment being schooled by the Gryffindors about Draco’s supposed betrayal. And there was no way, not with the remaining allies in the school, that Potter was going to surrender so easily. So there was, as the last remaining conclusion, about to be a battle, between Hogwarts and Death Eaters, and Draco was in the fray without either side to depend on.
As such, that gave Draco two solid options: stay hidden in the room he was in at the moment or join the fight. His Slytherin senses were screaming at him to tuck himself away, Disillusioned against the wall, but he couldn’t make his head work well enough to do that simple action. So he took the opposite into account and stole out the door, creeping his way slowly and carefully towards the room where the house elves hid the laundered robes, the din of the approaching battle growing louder with every step.
The laundry rogom was abandoned, but there were enough clean robes that Draco was able to steal a Gryffindor one and make his way to a bathroom without detection. He changed quickly and glamoured his hair in the mirror to a dark, murky brown. As far as disguises went, it was pathetic at best, but it kept him from being a beacon for attacking Order members, no bright blond hair or Slytherin colors to give him away.
And then, against all better judgement, he began to make his way upstairs. He kept expecting to see Potter around every corner, especially as he insinuated himself into a throng of students heading towards the Great Hall instead of away, but he wasn’t there, nor Granger or Weasley. Draco detoured to the Room of Hidden Things, desperate to find a familiar face to explain what had happened to him, but he only saw a handful of people, all too hostile to reveal himself to. All the while, explosions had started, with screams and the stinging, ozone smell of wandwork. Draco was about to head back down, join the fighting as safely as possible to prove his case, when someone rounded the corner, distracted enough to not see Draco lurking in the shadows. He was prepared to stay still and not draw attention when he recognized who it was.
“What are you doing?” Draco demanded, stepping forward without thinking, and he was lucky he didn’t get a Killing Curse to the chest as his cousin whipped around.
“What on--” she exclaimed, and then her face hardened as she recognized Draco in turn. “Draco.”
“Yes, here I am, scourge of the Order,” Draco said bitterly. “And here you are, recently pregnant and about to join a fight when you’re obviously not at your best.” Draco had heard Lupin’s squawking to Potter back when they’d been at Grimmauld Place, and he could see the deflated paunch of Tonks’ stomach now. She looked unsteady on her feet but determined.
“So you’re the expert now at combat?” Tonks asked deprecatingly, but she lowered her wand.
“I know you’re just going to get people killed. Like that werewolf of yours. He doesn’t seem like he’d keep a cool head after Bellatrix knocks you down.”
“You have a high opinion of her if you think that will happen,” Tonks said. “Why do you even care?”
“Or a low opinion of you,” Draco pointed out. “And, honestly, I don’t know. Stupefy!”
It was a testament to how off her game Tonks was that the Stunning spell took her off guard. She fell heavily enough to make Draco wince, and then he had to levitate her to a safe place where she wasn’t likely to be discovered. The borrowed wand he was using kept giving out and dumping her on the floor, but Draco got her stashed away, making a mental note to come back and awaken her if he made it through the night.
By the time that chore was done, the battle had been raging for some time. Draco could smell smoke on the air, see through the ramparts the chaos that had been unleashed outside, with giants and all manners of magical beasts. It was enough to deter Draco from venturing further into the fray, but he did anyway, brandishing his next-to-useless wand and making his way to the front of the castle where the action had settled.
To say it was a melee would be a gross understatement, with the haphazard crossing of spellwork in the air, people running, fighting, dying. He saw the body of one of the Indian twins that had been in his year, glassy-eyed and gray, and Death Eaters were swarming the edges of the lawn, pressed flush against the parts of the protecting wards that remained. The supernatural creatures had broken through though, giant bloody spiders swarming off with victims, giants hurling blocks of stone at the higher towers of Hogwarts. It was too crazy to even find an ally; faces were blurring in front of him, and Draco’s throat was stickily sweet with fear. He was whipping spells without even thinking of it, didn’t know he had joined the battle until he was in the thick of it, swept off into the grounds. He was aiming at the masked Death Eaters, but there was no way to say if he was actually succeeding in anything--he could very well have been hitting those on his side without meaning to do it.
He was so caught up in the fight that he didn’t notice he’d been pushed to the edge where the giants had congregated. One was sweeping up people left and right, flinging them to the ground when they didn’t meet his fancy, and though Draco tried to run, tried to shove his way through the throng, he was unsuccessful. When the giant’s hand wrapped around him, it squeezed hard enough to suck the air from Draco’s lungs. He heard the audible crack of what he assumed to be a breaking rib, and the pain was nauseating, crashing over him, causing him to lose control of his glamour. His head lolled as the giant brought him to eye level, and he was preparing himself to be hurled back to the ground when the giant cocked it’s head, grinned with its boulder teeth, and started to edge its way towards the forest, Draco still in hand.
It crashed through the trees without regard, a slow, even gait through the thicket. The giant was not quite tall enough to be above the tree line, so Draco kept getting hit with stray branches, heavy enough to draw blood. And then the giant stalled, set Draco down, and sat itself, looking blankly ahead. Draco was about to rejoice his sudden turn of luck when he discovered what he’d been taken to.
“Welcome, Draco,” Voldemort said. He was in a clearing with his followers: Draco’s parents among them. Nott was lying in the center, dead as a doornail, his mouth gaping comically. He waved his wand, and Draco could feel his vocal cords seize up tightly enough that he couldn’t voice his note of surprise as he was levitated and deposited next to his mother, tethered by some invisible force to stand stock still.
“Even after everything, you’re still fighting against me, Draco,” Voldemort said, almost lazily. “I have command of the Elder Wand now, and soon enough Harry Potter will be dead.”
A million retorts went through Draco’s head, but he couldn’t say any of them. His side was aching horribly, his head muzzy and floating. He felt like he was about to lose consciousness at any moment, but something unmercifully kept him awake, just barely cognizant. Time slipped by, and it was too hard for Draco to grasp anything. At some point, in what seemed like the space it had taken Draco to blink, Potter’s half-giant friend had appeared, tied to a tree with actual ropes.
And then, like a badly timed nightmare, Potter was stepping into the thicket and something snapped back to life in Draco’s head at the sight of him. He was dirty and...resigned, his eyes catching on Draco’s and holding them for a long moment. Draco, of course, couldn’t yell at him, couldn’t warn him, and Voldemort was sweeping his arm in a grand gesture. The half-giant was yelling, telling Potter to run, asking Potter what he was doing, but there was no answer, and he was silenced in a second. It was just Potter and Voldemort, staring at each other, facing off.
“Harry Potter,” Voldemort said. “My near downfall. The Boy Who Lived.”
It was like he was moving in slow motion, and Potter was just standing there, not raising his arm or showing any sign of defending himself. When the Killing Curse spilled from Voldemort’s mouth, Potter only flinched, just a slight movement before he was crumpling to the ground.
Draco made a noise so desperate, so terrifyingly real, that it partially burst through the spell that had silenced him. He struggled against his bonds, trying to get to Potter, to make sure that he was alright. No one was paying attention to him, too focused on Voldemort, who had somehow fallen, but the spell was too strong, and Draco could only feebly struggle. Tears were spilling down his face without him realizing it, hot and wet and stinging. His shock was so great that he felt he could die with it, despair seeping into every empty space within his body.
“My Lord, are you okay?” demanded Bellatrix, helping Voldemort to his feet.
“That will do,” Voldemort said coldly.
“I can help,” she said. “Let me--”
“I said, that will do, Bellatrix,” Voldemort replied. “The boy--is the boy dead?”
No one answered, and Draco wanted to scream, to swear at him. Of course Potter was dead--he’d just been hit with an Avada Kedavra. He was lying on the ground, as still as stone.
“Narcissa,” Voldemort said sharply. “Go check the boy. Make sure he really is gone.”
Draco’s mother crept forward, little by little, and in that moment, Draco hated her. She was about to confirm that Draco’s whole world was upended, about to be snuffed out, and she would be happy about it. She knelt next to Potter, putting one delicate hand on his neck.
“Dead, my Lord,” she said reedily, and Draco cried out again, louder this time through his magical gag.
Voldemort’s resultant laugh was chilling enough to raise the hairs on the back of Draco’s head. “The Boy who Died,” he crowed. “He was never strong enough to face me, to claim to be my defeater. I have killed him! Crucio!”
Potter’s body flopped like a rag doll, but there was no sound. It was grotesque, seeing him jerk like that without reaction, and Draco tasted bile at the back of his throat.
“Let’s take him to the castle,” Voldemort declared. “Show everyone what’s become of their hero. Have the half-breed carry him.”
The processional through the Forbidden Forest was surreal. Draco was given back the use of his legs and his voice, but every step was agony. He tried not to look at Potter, but he couldn’t help himself. He kept concentrating on Potter’s blank face, taking step after step as if he could get close to him, bring him back to life.
Sooner than Draco would have anticipated, they were back at the edge of the grounds, coming up on the resistance. The Death Eaters fanned out, Hagrid, Draco, and Voldemort in the middle of their unbreakable line, Potter still hanging limp from Hagrid’s arms. Once the attention had focused on them, the reaction was instantaneous and horrible. McGonagall’s loud NO was an awful thing to hear--Draco had never seen her become so unhinged. It preempted a cacophony of denial from which Draco could pick out Granger’s voice, among others.
“Quiet,” ordered Voldemort, his cold, high voice just loud enough to carry. “He is dead. I have won. Giant, lie him at my feet, in his proper position.”
Hagrid hesitated, but he lowered Potter all the same, his body flopped at Voldemort’s feet like a discarded toy. “You see?” Voldemort cried. “I have killed him. Your hero is nothing. You have sacrificed for him, fought for him, and for nothing. He was never going to defeat me.”
“He did!” Weasley yelled, his face twisted and red. “He did beat you!” Those around him raised their voices in agreement, as though they couldn’t see Potter dead in the grass.
“He ran!” Voldemort snapped. “We caught him trying to escape through the Forbidden Forest as you all fought for him. He was nothing but a coward, trying to save himself!”
This was apparently too much for the crowd, and an unlikely hero darted forward, Longbottom, acting as though he could beat Voldemort alone. The resultant bang threw Longbottom off his feet, restoring a quiet so still that everyone heard Draco’s snort of disbelief.
Voldemort turned slowly, his face expressionless. “My dear Draco,” he said, the lie slipping easily from his tongue. “Have you something to say? You were, after all, instrumental in drawing Potter to me, in showing him that the only logical course was to run. If not for you, I may not have had the chance to kill him.”
“I’m laughing,” Draco said, his voice strong, “because you think that all these people are actually going to believe that Potter ran from you. That is the worst story I think I’ve ever heard.”
Draco didn’t know where this was coming from, the unwavering defiance. He knew, of course, that he wasn’t likely to last the night, and seeing Potter dead was enough: he needed to provoke Voldemort into a quick death. He was so tired, so sick of it all, and this was the way to do it: humiliate Voldemort in front of everyone.
The shock was almost funny in the way it rippled through everyone. Voldemort hid it well, but Draco could see he was incensed. “Turning sides again, Draco?” he asked. “After I’ve already won?”
“I wouldn’t be on your side if you paid me,” Draco said. “You’re pathetic. You’re pleased about being able to kill a boy who never finished school after he walked right up to you and let you do it without raising his wand. There was a reason for it, but you’re too thick to see. He’s beat you, like Weasley said.”
“You aim to be an example?” Voldemort asked. “So be it.”
Draco expects the Killing Curse to be fast, to snuff him out before he knows it, bring him to darkness, but Voldemort was not merciful enough for that. The flaming hex he sent Draco’s way engulfed him, fastened him to the spot he was on in the ground so everyone could see him burn. Funnily enough, it didn’t hurt as it grew around him. Vaguely, through the flames and the surprising calm of his mind, he could see a manner of creatures break free from the forest, forcing their way through the throng of Death Eaters. The noise was enormous, enough to break through the crackling of flames around him, and with a sudden crescendo, Draco felt something within him push and he was free from the fire, standing unharmed in the middle of the grounds.
“HARRY!” Hagrid shouted. “WHERE DID HARRY GO?”
It was if someone had set off an exploding hex. People were scrambling everywhere, giants were underfoot, centaurs were stampeding, and Draco was standing shell-shocked in the middle of it all. Potter was gone disappeared as surely as anything, and everyone was moving around him, pushing him back towards the castle as fighting restarted. Voldemort had joined in, felling people left and right, but the defenders of the castle were equally vicious. Draco had no wand, but it was easy enough to scoop a rolling one off the floor, abandoned by a dead owner. Lupin was right next to him, prevented a Killing curse from felling Draco with a whip of his hand, but they had no time for words as spells continued to fly. Draco took up his strategy of blindly firing off hexes, though with somewhat better aim, and he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Bellatrix killed by McGonagall, who looked wild with her hair out of place.
Voldemort had seen too, and his face was pure fury as he aimed his wand at McGonagall’s face, and then...and then, someone yelled, “Protego” clear as a bell, and the Shield Charm expanded around them with great force, blowing Draco’s hair from his face. Potter was there in an instant, standing in the middle of the hall looking serious and angry, Draco’s wand held aloft in his hand. Again, it was an explosion of sound as everyone realized that Potter wasn’t dead, but Draco wasn’t among them, shocked into silence, relieved as he’d ever been. Potter and Voldemort began a slow circle around each other, Potter’s face completely calm while Voldemort’s teemed with fury.
“I don’t want anyone else to help me,” Potter said loudly, his wand pointed directly at Voldemort’s heart. “It’s got to be like this. It’s got to be only me.”
“Lies,” Voldemort hissed. “Potter hasn’t lasted a moment in battle without having a human shield. Who will it be now, hmm?”
“No one else is dying tonight,” Potter said evenly. “I’m going to make sure of it. There are no Horcruxes left, and only one of us can survive.”
“One of us?” Voldemort sneered. “And you think it will be you? You, who lived only because your mother was fool enough to jump in front of my spell? You will die, just like she did.”
“But don’t you get it?” Potter asked. “I died for these people.”
“You didn’t,” Voldemort snarled.
“I meant to, and that’s all that counts. They’re protected from you, just like I was protected when my mum died. None of your spells are working; don’t you see? You never learn from your mistakes, Riddle.”
“How dare you?” Voldemort hissed.
“Of course I dare,” Potter challenged. I know things you don’t. Important things. Do you want to hear them?”
Voldemort did not respond, didn’t react with a spell either, looking at Potter warily. He was quiet for a while, still circling, then said, “Love, Potter? Is that what you wish to teach me? Is that your great weapon, what’s going to kill once and for all? Your naivete is almost amusing. You think Dumbledore has taught you what you need, but you forget--I brought about the death of Dumbledore!”
“You didn’t,” Potter said evenly. “He was dying before you ever hatched your plan. He allowed Snape to strike him down on the tower.”
“I does not matter!” Voldemort shouted. “Snape defeated Dumbledore, and I killed Snape I have control of the Elder Wand now!”
“You don’t,” Potter said. “You’re forgetting one thing. Nott disarmed Dumbledore before Snape got to him. Dumbledore wanted Snape to kill him--they had an agreement! And then Draco Disarmed Nott, took control of Nott’s wand--and Dumbledore’s. And now I have Draco’s wand, Draco’s power, and that means I control the Elder Wand.”
This was too much for Voldemort, an overload of information, and quick as a flash, he was raising Dumbledore’s wand, screaming, “Avada Kedavra!”
Draco was sure this was it--he was going to watch Potter die a second time, and there’d be no recovering from it now. He started forward, even as Potter yelled, “Expelliarmus!” but halted as the battle unfolded. Potter’s spell met Voldemort’s mid-air, crashing with an almighty bang, and then Voldemort’s wand was sailing through the sky, meeting Potter’s hand and Voldemort was falling, his face a shocked mask.
Voldemort crumbled, his body caving in on itself, his eyes becoming vacant, and things were so silent, the wind could be heard even with hundreds of people crammed into such a small space. The explosion of sound--the last of many that night-- was deafening as everyone realized that Voldemort was gone, and Potter was instantly engulfed in his supporters, a giant tidal wave pulling him down. People were crying, cheering, and Draco was numb. He didn’t know how long he stood there watching it all unfold, but he felt this need to get to Potter, to tell him what had happened, to hit him for being so reckless, to kiss him in front of everyone and stake his claim.
Draco, however, did none of this, choosing instead to turn and walk, ever-so-slowly, back into the bowels of the castle. He did not want to talk to Potter, didn’t want to see the suspicion in Potter’s eyes, hear what everyone was saying about him. He didn’t fit with Potter the Hero, the Gryffindor. He was an outsider, and his time with Potter was clearly at an end. He had no more to offer, no more reason to stick around.
Draco had half a mind to double back and walk the road to Hogsmeade, but he didn’t have the energy or strength. It nearly took everything out of him to find the room he deposited Tonks in, and once he’d released the Stunning spell and gotten out of her way, it was nearly impossible to walk. Through sheer willpower alone, he made it down to the Slytherin dormitories, woefully abandoned, and made his way to an empty bed. He didn’t even bother taking off his shoes before he collapsed onto it, and his last thought before falling asleep was whether someone would kill him before he woke again, a fitting end for a traitor.
Draco was not nearly ready to wake up when something disturbed him, a brush against his face. He ached all over, didn’t want to devote the brainpower to figure out what it was, but it was insistent, brushing his hair back, stroking his cheek until all he could do was wake up.
And there was Potter, looking at him in the dim light, his face still streaked with grime, his clothing dirty from his almost-death in the forest. The surprise was so great that Draco struggled upwards, regretting it almost instantly as his body cried out in pain. He had nothing to stay, couldn’t start the exchange, and just stared at Potter instead, willing him to break the silence.
When Potter did open his mouth, what came out wasn’t what Draco was expecting. “You’re such an idiot,” he said, all fond exasperation. Before Draco could respond, say anything to defend himself, Potter kissed him hard, holding onto Draco like if he let go Draco would disappear.
Draco was light-headed when Potter pulled away, his eyes flitting over Draco’s face, his body, taking every detail in. Draco cleared his throat,and before he could think, he blurted, “Didn’t you hear? I betrayed you. Sold you out for Voldemort.”
“You’re saying his name now,” Potter said. “Doesn’t sound like a Death Eater.”
“I told him everything about you,” Draco lied. “Gave him all your secrets.”
“Didn’t help him find me any easier,” Potter replied. “And it’s not like you had very many secrets to tell.”
“I lured you here,” Draco continued.
“I was coming anyway,” said Potter easily. His hand had found its way to Draco’s cheek, cupping it in this odd sort of way.
“You died,” Draco said in a choked voice.
“I didn’t,” Potter said. “I thought I was going to, but I didn’t. I heard what you said when Voldemort was talking to everyone. I heard you scream when I fell.”
“You were dreaming,” said Draco thickly. “I didn’t care.”
“Stop lying to me,” Potter admonished lightly. “What did they do to you? I’m sorry. There was no way I could rescue you. You weren’t supposed to be left behind.” He looked so stricken, so guilty, that Draco couldn’t help but scoot closer so his knees were brushing Potter.
“I’m a Slytherin. I’m not supposed to be your ally,” Draco said miserably.
“Draco, what did they do to you?” Potter asked again.
“Nothing out of the ordinary for a blood traitor,” replied Draco. “Legilimency, Cruciatus, general torture. I think my ribs are broken.”
Potter looked awful, pale and shaking, and he immediately pushed off Draco’s robes and pulled up his jumper to reveal and ugly, purpling bruise running the length of Draco’s left side. “I never should have let you come with me,” Potter murmured, and then, more strongly, “We need to get you to Madame Pomfrey.”
“You telling me that Pomfrey doesn’t have more pressing things to heal?” Draco asked. “I’ve survived this long. I’ll be fine until later, if your fellow Gryffindors don’t get to me first.”
“They’ll know Voldemort was lying,” Potter said. “I’ll make sure of it--Hermione and Ron too. I don’t think I could have done it without you. You killed Nagini, you saved me from the river when I went after the sword...you don’t know how important you were.”
“I got caught,” Draco said. “I let Voldemort pick my brain, I didn’t do anything when he was going to kill you.”
“Could you have? Done something, I mean?” Potter asked.
“He stuck me to the ground,” Draco admitted. “I could’ve been stronger. I could have tried harder.”
“Hey,” Potter said. “I’m alive. I’m here. Voldemort is dead, and you didn’t do anything that would have stopped me from defeating them. You’re as much a hero as I am.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Draco argued.
“You don’t even know,” Potter said, kissing Draco. This lasted longer, long enough that Draco forgot about the ache in his ribs, how he was tired enough to collapse. Potter tasted sweet, like honey, and he made fire kindle in Draco’s belly, warming him.
“I’m not leaving you,” Potter said when he pulled away again. “It may be over, but I don’t think can get away from you.”
“I don’t have anyone else but you,” Draco said stupidly.
“Your mum lied to Voldemort for me,” Potter said softly. “She lied and said I was dead.”
“She’ll follow my dad before me,” Draco said. “And he hates me.”
“I don’t,” Potter said. “I think I love you.”
“Oh,” Draco said stupidly.
“Stop running,” Potter pleaded. “The war is done. I can finally be normal.”
“The great Harry Potter will never be normal,” Draco responded.
“I can try,” Potter said. “But you have to come with me. What am I going to do without you right next to me, being a giant prat, just like always.”
“Get yourself into more trouble than normal,” Draco murmured.
“You’ve got to come,” Potter replied.
“Okay, Harry,” Draco said. He was exhausted again, overloaded with information and emotion, and that was the most ready answer.
“Good,” Potter said with another kiss, soft, careful, and Draco let himself fall backwards into the pillows. Potter let himself lie down too, to the side of Draco instead of on top of him, and they kissed until Draco fell asleep.
Nineteen and a half years later
“Priya, it’s going to be okay,” Potter soothed. “Dad and I don’t care what house you’re sorted into.”
“Daddy,” Priya said, her lower lip wobbling, “are you sure you don’t care either?”
“Of course I don’t,” Draco said under the influence of Harry’s raised eyebrow. “It doesn’t matter which house you’re in.” Harry smiled happily, turning away to pick up Priya’s trunk, and Draco mouthed, Slytherin with a wink. He already had a reputation for being a Gryffindor-wannabe; he didn’t need his daughter to cement the story.
“You should go find Rose,” Harry said soothingly. “Hermione and Ron are here--I can see them.”
“Okay,” Priya said quietly. “But you’ll say goodbye to me, right?”
“Of course, bunny,” Draco said. “And if you don’t write me, I’ll send a snake after you.”
“Draco!” scolded Harry, scandalized.
“Will you really?” Priya asked, her eyes wide and excited.
“Priya, go,” Potter laughed. “We’ll find you in a minute.”
“Why are you always the practical one,” Draco grumbled.
“You’re going to scar her emotionally,” Harry said. “Did you see where Acanthus went?”
“Off with Lupin’s children,” Draco said. “Why you let him run off with them...”
“She’s your cousin,” Harry said. “You saved her at Hogwarts, and now you’re angry our son likes her children?”
“Shut up,” Draco said. “You’re insufferable.”
“I’m going to go over and talk to Ron,” said Harry. “Behave.”
“I always do,” Draco said. Once Potter had walked away, he leaned against one of the support beams and just watched, seeing classmates he hadn’t in a very long time mingle, some of them catching him in an informal greeting, others giving him a wide berth. It was odd how things had turned out, Draco thought; accepted in the Gryffindor crowd and ignored by the Slytherin one. Goyle was so keen to avoid Draco’s eye that he was doing a dance to get away from Draco’s side of the station without trampling on some first year.
And, honestly, Draco never thought he’d be here: husband to an Auror, a respected Potions Master for the Ministry, three children adopted from various orphan-causing accidents--Potter, always the hero. Draco sighed, thought of Honora, still too young to come along, at home, and wished Potter would return; he felt out of place here alone, but at the same time, he wasn’t in the mood to talk to Granger and Weasley.
“Draco Malfoy?” someone asked, coming in from Draco’s right flank.
“Yes,” Draco said formally, straightening up. He caught sight of someone who seemed vaguely familiar, but for the life of him, Draco couldn’t place him.
“Can I help you?” Draco asked slowly.
“You don’t remember me?” the stranger asked. “How fascinating. I’m Boone. I was a friend of your father’s.” He touched Draco’s forearm, and like a spell to the chest, Draco fell to his knees, his head splitting. He couldn’t comprehend things for a moment, an overflow attacking his brain, but when it subsided, Draco was very nearly sick. That was what happened when someone had two divergent timelines existing for his own life.
“What have you done?” Draco asked. Around him, everyone else was still, leaving only Draco and Boone animated to finish their conversation in peace.
“You’re angry?” Boone asked. “Why Draco, I gave you a second chance to turn things right! Though I’m very surprised as to how you’ve managed to do so.”
“You couldn’t,” Draco said, his head spinning. “Why...?” It was unreal, remembering Boone’s odd Time Turner, the travel back to his first year, Astoria, Scorpius, Potter, Priya...it was very nearly too much.
“I am smarter than you would give me credit for,” Boone said smugly. “And what better place to reveal myself than here? Somewhere you went in your other life at the exact same time in history as you did now.”
“What are you going to do?” Draco asked.
“That, dear Draco, is entirely up to you,” Boone said. “I can restore your old life, let you go back to the Manor with your son and wife...or you can stay in this new history you’ve created. Live with Harry Potter and your adopted children. I judge not.”
“You’re playing as a God,” Draco murmured.
“I am not quite that arrogant yet,” Boone said, smirking. “But I am busy, Draco. Please...your answer?”
If there was a crueler decision than this, Draco didn’t know it. He could remember Scorpius, his baby face so much like Draco’s, his mother and father with their unconditional love, unstrained as it was in his life with Potter. Astoria and her bright face whenever she was happy with something, the way he could conduct his business in private, go to Knockturn Alley without censure.
But then...then there was Harry. Harry with his unerring sense of right and wrong, their children, the eclectic house Harry had insisted in buying in Godric’s Hallow. The way Harry would wake up to his alarm and instantly burrow into Draco. The way Draco’s heart thrummed when Harry touched him just so, his smile, his eyes.
“I can’t,” Draco stammered.
“You must,” Boone replied implacably.
Draco couldn’t wrap his head around it, couldn’t think. He stood there for a second, scraping his hand against the brickwork until it bled, and when he spoke, the name torn from his mouth had not been thought about as it bubbled up, pure truth unsullied by over-thinking.
“Harry,” Draco said, and that was that. Boone gave a smile, and before Draco could amend anything, he let go, and things were falling away again.
Shaking his head, Draco straightened against the pillar he was situated against, watching Potter come closer, fighting his way through the crowds. He felt odd for some reason, as though he’d lost the last couple minutes of his day, though for the life of him, he couldn’t remember why.
“C’mon,” Potter said, holding out a hang. “Let’s go say goodbye to Priya.”
“Always the bossy one,” Draco muttered, but he took the proffered hand without hesitation and followed Potter to the train.
(if you've found any mistakes, please point them out :) thanks for reading!)