"What did you miss the flowered bonnet at Christmas? I thought the high heeled boots gave it away." Neville responded amused.
Ron blinked. Hermione nodded. Neville went on.
"Also Fawkes is pretty flaming you have to admit" He finished solemnly.
Ron's lips twisted upwards a few millimeters. Harry crossed his eyes and the redhead burst out laughing. Hermione and Draco breathed a sigh of relief and joined him.
When the laughter finally died out the wizards noticed that Neville looked like he'd been in losing fight with Hungarian Horntail.
"Neville, what's happened to you?" asked Hermione.
"What? This?" Neville dismissed his injuries with a shake of his head. "Never mind this. What I want to know if it's true that you guys broke into Gringotts and escaped on a dragon. Terry Boot says you did."
"It's true," said Harry.
Neville slapped on the back in appreciation.
"I knew it. But what were you doing? You must have gone there for a reason."
"It's complicated Neville. By the way let me introduce you to Draco."
"Hullo Draco." Neville said extending his hand. "I'm Neville Longbottom."
"Nice to meet you." Draco said softly while taking the Gryffindor's large, warm hand in his pale, slim one.
"Draco is- he is very important to me" Harry said as he glanced at the blond with eyes that were intensely green.
All were silent. Draco blushed deeply and averted his face.
Neville cleared his throat loudly as to shift the conversation to the matter at hand. He eagerly related the situation at Hogwarts from the Death Eater abuse to the student rebellion that had sprung among those loyal to Dumbledore and Harry. Harry listened intently and gauged his next move. The last Horcrux was at Death Eater-ridden Hogwarts and they needed to go there.
Draco's first impression of Hogwarts was one of confusion, colored hangings, maps and many faces. He stood back shyly as Harry, Ron and Hermione were embraced by a multitude of allies and looked anxiously about the cavernous room. Hogwarts. He and Dobby had dreamed about Hogwarts. For them it had been a wondrous place full of possibility where the stairs shifted and the ceiling was peppered with stars. It was the enchanted castle in all his storybooks. When he was little he had thought that he would go there and cried when Dobby gently revealed that for him there would never be a letter. Even so he had taken care to stay close to a window on the day he turned eleven. His eyes had scanned the cloudy sky until it turned dark and he had to go to bed. And now he was here.
The hanging at the center of the room bore a golden lion emblazoned on scarlet. He recognized the Gryffindor lion from one of Harry's letters. Draco looked for the Hufflepuff badger and the Ravenclaw eagle. He had a feeling that he would not find the Slytherin snake anywhere among Harry's friends.
At last Harry was free from the throng and he quickly introduced Draco who he knew would be feeling a bit out of place. The wizards welcomed the squib warmly and Draco tried to keep their names straight but after a while Corners, Patils, Boots and Goldsteins all blended into an indiscernible mass of people. Draco was shaking yet another hand when from the corner of his eye he saw a flash of red tackle Harry onto the floor. He turned quickly and saw that the tackler was actually a tall girl with long auburn hair who was holding on to Harry and crying at the same time.
His confusion must have reflected in his eyes for the boy who may have been named Seamus said evenly "That's Ginny Weasley. Harry's girlfriend."
He was so stupid. He'd believed that someone could find something to love in him. Why couldn't he learn that love wasn't something that someone like him could aspire to? The only people who truly loved him had been Dobby and his mother and they were gone.
As for Harry... well he must have felt pity for him because he'd found him so alone and lost. He probably wanted to give Draco something to hold on so that grief would not consume him but now in front of his actual love he could not continue with his kindness.
Kindness. Pity. Charity. It seemed to him that he'd lived on that his entire life.
Draco had excused himself and gone to the bathroom that the Room of Requirement had provided for its occupants. He had washed his face and now stood in front of the mirror. His hands were clasped to the rim of the sink. His grip was tight on the cold porcelain and his gaze was fixed on his reflection.
His eyes burned with the tears that were threatening to defeat him. He struggled to hold them back because he had to be strong. For once in his life he needed to be strong. There was one last thing he had to do before he could finally let go.
The door opened and Draco turned to see Harry shuffle inside. Draco turned back to the mirror and watched as the wizard approached him.
"I want to explain." He began warily.
Draco shook his head. "No. It's alright. I understand." He turned from the mirror. "I understand perfectly."
"What do you mean?"
"This is a very difficult time for you. You've got the Dark Lord threatening you and your friends and then what happened at the manor and at Gringotts. Nobody expects you to take me on as well but you tried anyway. I get it."
"I don't think you do."
"You don't want me to feel bad. You want to protect me from the truth. It's alright…." He said sounding suffocated. "I know what I am … and what I can never be."
"Draco don't" The boy-who-lived took him into his arms and he let his pain and uncertainty out. Any semblance of strength had abandoned him and he sobbed like a young boy. Harry was wiping his tears away while murmuring reassurances. He waited patiently for the blond to calm down and spoke when only a few sniffles were left.
"Please don't doubt what I feel for you because it is so new and wonderful. I've believed for a long time that I would not see you again and your absence was something excruciating. I didn't know where you were and after a while I convinced myself that you had found happiness so that I could go on. Eventually it got a little easier and I resigned myself to memories. I allowed myself to find new attachments and one of them was Ginny Weasley."
Draco buried his face in Harry's shirt.
"Don't—it's not like that I didn't stop caring for you because of Ginny—I care for you- I more than care for you but now it's not the time. There are things I have to do before I can have my life but I promise you that it will include you."
Draco nodded but knew inside the impossibility of this. "It's okay Harry" he reassured the Griffindor. Harry smiled at him and drew him even closer. After a few more moments of shared comfort Draco pulled away to wash his face and straighten his disheveled appearance. Harry waited and together they went back to the fray.
Ginny knew that something was wrong when neither her brother nor Hermione would look at her directly. The youngest Weasley was also the brightest so it took very little for her to realize it had something to do with Harry's squib friend.
Before this present strife had begun she and Harry had gotten very close. She'd been led to believe that once Harry ended the Voldemort threat she would be by his side. But now things were not so certain.
As Harry asked the assembled Ravenclaws about Rowena's diadem she focused her attention on Draco. There was nothing special about the boy. He was skinny and carried himself rather unassumingly. He was wearing her brother Bill's castoffs but the metallic grey jumper brought out the silver in his eyes. She supposed his face would be attractive if it wasn't so thin it looked pointy. The blond, almost white, shaggy hair got on her nerves. But what made him so unsuitable for the soon to be savior of the wizarding world (she had no doubt of that) was the fact that he was a squib and did not belong among wizards of Harry's caliber.
She remember from the time he'd come to the burrow for Christmas dinner. He was polite enough if a little shy. It had not bothered her then although she'd been unhappy when they'd caught the snitch at the same time and a very odd look had passed between them. She was young enough to tell herself that it had been nothing and that Harry would be hers someday. Ginny figured that someday would be soon.
No. She would not let this boy take away what she had earned She'd been patient through Harry's infatuation with Cho. She needed to get him away from Harry, that much was certain.