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Tea and No Sympathy

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Draco lurches awake with a jolt, a mouth that tastes as if a dog's pissed in it, and a banging headache right between the eyes.

For a brief, unpleasant moment, he wonders if he's going to be sick, but he swallows hard and it passes, leaving only the taste, the headache, and his utter conviction that he's made a massive, unspeakable cock of himself – though he can't for the life of him remember how.

Clearly, alcohol was involved. Although whether that was the screw up, or whether he'd drunk it in an unfortunate attempt at self-Obliviation, he has no idea.

He squints through half-closed lashes to guard against the blinding – albeit weak – early summer sun filtering through roughly-drawn curtains, surveying his bedroom. But – thank fuck – there isn't anything obvious amiss. No green-faced stranger in his bed, or dubious trophy of a drunken evening pinched from the Ministry, or even spilled drinks or piles of discarded clothing. All is neat and innocuous.

He relaxes slightly, but the dread remains, and suddenly it dawns on him. It's my birthday. And with that – with a rush that has his cheeks flaming and his toes curling up with the burning shame of it – he remembers.

He jumps up from the bed, running a hand through his hair. He looks like shite – he knows he does, still dressed in yesterday's robes, his chin unshaven and his blood ninety percent whiskey – but who fucking cares? He's trembling, he can't control it, and suddenly the thing he spent all evening yesterday trying to stop himself from doing – the worse fucking idea in the world – doesn't seem so stupid any more.

He can't bear it. That life should contain so many small humilations – humiliation heaped on humiliation – and that he should have to keep on permitting them.

This morning, it's his arsing birthday, his nineteenth, and Draco Malfoy has officially had enough.

Despite this, he pauses when he reaches his desk, on the far side of his bedroom.

A small voice in his head whispers, Don't do it, you dickhead.

But it sounds a bit too much like Potter for Draco's tastes, so, heart fluttering like a snitch's wings, he picks up the battered time-turner he's been working on, a tiny complicated mess of metal and – if he looks too close, so he tries not to – sparks and colours that set his teeth on edge.

And he spins it.

***

Yesterday morning

Draco lurks nervously in the Peers Lobby. He looks around to see if anyone's watching, but the majority of the guests – the crème of wizarding and Muggle society – have already passed through the brass gates and are ensconced in the Chamber of the House of Lords, so he takes the opportunity to wipe his sweaty palms on his dark-green formal robes and run his fingers over already-neat hair. Where the fuck is his father? If he leaves it much longer he'll be officially late, and although in wizarding society it's considered a faux pas to arrive on time, it seems in Muggle political circles if you don't arrive early enough to lick at least five arses then you're doing it wrong.

Not that Draco gives a flying fuck about Muggle society – political or otherwise – but since he and his father have spent months organising this event, it would be supremely typical of life if it all went to pot at the last moment.

He fumbles in his robe pocket for his notes, and his fingers curl protectively over the stiffened parchment rectangles. Magic is forbidden in the Muggle parliament building, and so Draco has fallen back on pen and ink for his aide-memoir for his speech. He's spent hours in front of the mirror practising the thing – and further hours in front of his father, who wrote it – but he still keeps waking up in a cold sweat at the thought of stalling midway through. The notes give him a confidence that practice hasn't managed to instil in him.

He tries not to flinch when his father sweeps into the Lobby, formal heeled shoes echoing on the marble floor. For once, though, his father doesn't look cross. He smiles proudly at Draco, and Draco feels a swell of emotion, as if someone's inflating a balloon inside his chest.

His father reaches over and squeezes his shoulder. "Ready, son?"

Draco's mouth suddenly feels thick with nerves, so he nods carefully, so as not to disarrange his hair.

His father's eyes narrow, but he nods sharply in return and starts off towards the Chamber, leaving Draco no choice but to follow in his wake, trying to look confident and unruffled, while all the while thinking shit shit shit.

Today is Friday, and the House of Lords doesn't sit on Fridays, which makes it the perfect venue for the Malfoys' official relaunch into the upper echelons of wizarding society – carefully concealed, of course, as an event promoting Muggle and wizard unity. Draco remains unsure that wizards and Muggles need to be united, while his father is privately vehemently against the notion, despite everything. Nevertheless, even his father has had to admit that there are levels of Muggles – and some of them even seem to value tradition and family in a way that feels a natural fit with pureblood ideals. They even have a queen: an unelected head, given her power and authority by blood and god. Draco can't help but think that if his mother were queen of wizarding Britain, then things would be run a lot better than they are now.

And there is no denying that the Palace of Westminster is a handsome building, and the Lords Chamber worthy of being graced by wizards of taste and refinement. Draco's been in the Chamber dozens of times over the past few months, sweet-talking officials, but even now the sheer scale and opulence of it strikes him all over again.

Right now the red leather benches are packed with wizards from across the globe in their finest colourful robes, like an explosion of tropical parrots, mixed with middle-aged Muggle men wearing sharp, dark suits and anxious expressions. Draco manages to hold it together until he reaches his own place and sits, only to look across the Chamber and spot Harry fucking Potter, the guest of bloody honour, wearing some sort of sloppy Muggle outfit and looking like he only deigned to get out of bed ten minutes ago.

He twitches, and his father mutters, through gritted teeth, "Pull yourself together, Draco."

Draco, his heart running a mile a minute, makes an attempt at doing just that and inclines his head graciously at Potter. But Potter – the fucking arsehole – isn't even looking in his direction. Instead, he's whispering something in Ronald Weasley's ear, and the ginger git is smirking, despite being dressed in something that looks suspiciously like his school robes spelled burgundy, and Draco feels a rage rise inside him that he hasn't felt for months.

It's been months since he's seen Potter and his little friends; it's unlikely it's coincidence.

Draco can feel his lips pulling into a scowl, but to his relief the Muggle prime minister rises – wearing, Draco is annoyed to see, a tie in Gryffindor colours – and gives an unctuous welcome speech, which everyone dutifully claps. This is followed by Minister for Magic Shacklebolt, whose speech is equally lengthy and tedious, but Draco can't concentrate, trying to run through the opening lines of his own speech in his head, but unable to stop himself from sneaking glances across the Chamber at Potter, who looks serious and rapt and nods enthusiastically at what Draco thinks are the more saccharine, Hufflepuffian points of Shacklebolt's speech. He knows what the Minister is going to say backwards – almost as well as his own speech – given that his father wrote it. A fact that the Minister is almost certainly unaware; his speechwriter proved remarkably easy to bribe.

Draco knows everything that's going to happen today backwards – from the welcoming speeches and informal lunch, to the afternoon discussions and semi-formal dinner. It takes a fuckload of work to make an event look this smooth and effortless, and the British Muggle government has proved to be, if anything, even more hidebound and inflexible than the Ministry, except with even less respect for the Malfoy name. Only hours of hard work and the utter determination of his father to pull this off have made today possible at all.

Draco jerks out of his thoughts as his father jabs him none too gently in the side, covering the movement with a flurry of enthusiastic applause, all elbows and swishing violent-green robes. His insides lurch as he realises Shacklebolt's speech is over and it's now his turn.

Once the applause dies down, he rises carefully and arranges his features into the sorrowful but optimistic expression that he's been practising. The words of the speech rise in his mind, and as he speaks the opening words, he relaxes into it, suddenly knowing it's all going to be fine.

"We all make mistakes," Draco says, in as genuine a manner as he can muster, and he bows his head briefly. A camera flashes, and another, and it's only long practice that stops him from reacting with a triumphant grin. "On behalf of all my family, I apologise, from the depths of my heart, for ours." They're weasel words, really; apologising for 'mistakes' but not saying which mistakes. He and his family are certainly heartily sorry they made the mistake of supporting the Dark Lord, because it made their lives extremely uncomfortable for what felt like an extremely long time – and they're still paying the price, even now.

Draco pauses – a practiced pause – and his eyes flicker across to Potter, across the Chamber, whose expression is inscrutable. "But, it is time to look to the future," he continues, "and the pain that the Malfoy family feels to have contributed to the hurts that both our communities still bear is outweighed by the pride we feel at being at the heart of the efforts to rebuild what was destroyed and to forge new links between the non-magical community and ours."

Draco smiles, and beside him his father leads the applause. It's the first genuine thing his father has done in months – applauding the fact that this bunch of idiots have allowed the Malfoys back into the heart of not only wizarding political life, but now Muggle political life too. Draco's impressed by his father's wiles. It might have taken half the family's Gringott's vault, but he doubts any other man could have gone from Death Eater under house arrest to respected, trusted political advisor in under twelve months.

"The Malfoy family helped win the war. We helped rebuild. And now—" A movement catches his eyes and he tries not to falter. "—we want the public to know that we are committed, at the highest level, to helping reshape the Ministry—"

He really does falter now. Because across the Chamber, right in front of him, Harry Potter, the saviour of the wizarding world, the boy who sodding lived, famous Harry Potter, has got to his feet and is sending Draco a look of . . .

It's hard to know what the look is. Disgust? Disappointment? "—and, and we are committed, at the highest level," Draco says, losing his train of thought and scrabbling to catch it. "And – where are you going, Potter?" he snaps at Potter's back, feeling himself go red in the face, hot and cold shivers running down his spine as Potter walks quickly and purposefully past the huge, ornate gold throne at the end of the Chamber and out through the curved wooden arch to the left of it, vanishing from sight into the maze of corridors beyond.

Draco, stricken by horror – the guest of honour has fucking walked out halfway through his speech – wets his lips and starts determinedly back on his speech, although he can't entirely remember the words, his certainty stolen from him. "We are committed, at the highest level," he repeats for the third time, fumbling in his pocket for his notes, but no one's listening. Already, the Weasel and his fiancée have stood up and are following in Potter's footsteps, and once they've gone, it seems to start a mass exodus – a flood of witches and wizards trampling each other in their haste to not be the last one left, and the gutless Muggle bureaucrats vanishing almost as smoothly as if they could do magic themselves.

In less than a minute, Draco is alone in the Chamber, apart from his seething father, the Minister for Magic, who's collecting his papers with an unhurried air . . . and half a dozen wizard press photographers, snapping away with glee. It's not even midday; the event is over before it's barely started.

Draco blinks, blinded by the light, and when he blinks again he can see bright spots floating in his vision, as if the camera flashes are burned into his view forever.

***

Now

Draco feels like he's been stretched sideways and pummelled for good measure. He's momentarily disorientated, but one thing demands his attention: there's something burning in his hands.

He drops the time-turner with a stifled curse word, sucking his fingers and looking around his room. If everything's gone right, he should have turned time itself back twenty-four hours. Now he can . . . well, he hasn't exactly decided how to play things, but one thing is certain: the day is not going to end with him getting hammered on vintage Firewhisky pinched from his father's study, to blot out the thought that fucking Harry Potter only went and ruined his life all over again by walking out halfway through his speech in front of the serried ranks of all the world's media.

He still feels like he's been hit between the eyes with a bludger, but the room looks different, and he's relatively confident in his own skills. Fucking about with time travel is illegal, but Draco has a flexible attitude to illegality – all Malfoys do – and he had six months of house arrest before his trial late last year. Draco has never enjoyed boredom, and it had taken less than a week for him to realise he had to focus his attentions on something – something, that is, that wasn't Potter – or else go mad. His father was much the same. So while his father had spent his enforced time at home profitably, spending the Malfoy fortune on high-profile charitable works and bribing reporters left, right and centre to write hideous, fawning articles about how brave and reformed poor naïve Draco was, Draco himself had spent his time fixing things.

The Department of Mysteries had been trashed during the battle; it hadn't been difficult to bribe a friend of his father's, involved in the clean-up, to smuggle out a load of broken artefacts and then smuggle them back into the Manor.

A time-turner, seemingly broken and worthless, was amongst them.

It had seemed a good use of Draco's time to work on it. He'd fixed the Vanishing Cabinet at Hogwarts, hadn't he? Maybe, if he worked hard, he could fix this too. It would be useful, he'd thought, for the future. And once he'd started, it had seemed stupid to stop at simply fixing it – why pussyfoot about sending yourself back in time, where you had to creep about and make sure you didn't bump into your yesterday self and explode all of existence, when you could turn back time itself?

Looking at the time-turner now, Draco tries not to feel smug that he's apparently managed to do what scores of research wizards have failed to do before. He still isn't sure if it's worked, after all. And really, it was bloody stupid of him to try it out without proper testing. He could have killed himself or made the world go boom. Happily, though, he doesn't seem to be dead, and the world remains otherwise unexploded.

He tries to pick the time-turner up from his desk, presuming it's cooled down by now, but it seems to have fused itself into the wood, and although he tugs hard, he can't budge it. It doesn't seem wise to use his wand, and besides – either it's worked, or it hasn't. If it has, he won't need it again, and he can always replicate his work if there's a future need. He's kept thorough notes.

He tidies himself up and, heart pounding, goes downstairs to the dining room, where his mother is sitting reading the Daily Prophet. He freezes – he can't help himself – but he's not front-page news. Or, rather, he is, but the headline reads: MALFOY HEIR TO PROMOTE UNITY WITH MUGGLES.

It's only gone and fucking worked. He's gone back in time! He can fix everything. The relief makes him sag, and he leans against the edge of the dining table for support.

"Good morning, dear," his mother says, setting the paper aside and looking at him with sympathy. "Are you nervous about your speech?"

Draco sits down and spreads a napkin on his knees, while his mother pours him a cup of tea and summons a house-elf. "No," he says – and means it. "Not at all."

He eats a hearty breakfast and spends the next hour or so ruthlessly cutting his speech to excise any suggestion that the Malfoys helped win the war. His father is a master at rewriting history, but it seems the whole thing was too much for Potter, and Draco can understand that. If it wasn't his family's reputation at stake, he would quite agree.

Later that morning, he gives his speech, and it is much, much shorter. He sits once he's done, too nervous to look over at his father and see the disappointment in his face, but his father simply squeezes his shoulder and rises, to give his own impromptu speech, which – surprise surprise – contains everything that Draco has intentionally left out. It seems his father believes Draco has simply been overcome by nerves and forgotten his words.

Draco can hardly bear to look over at Potter as his father speaks, but although Potter's face is red and angry, and he's twitching as if he can hardly keep himself in his seat, he suffers through it.

Draco manfully resists the urge to go over and punch him in the head. It's a strong urge. But his father sits down to polite, respectful applause, although Potter can't seem to bring himself to join in, and Draco grits his teeth and bangs his hands together so hard it hurts. The point of going back in time was to save face – not to maim Potter, no matter how much he deserves it.

Potter, Draco thinks sourly, quite obviously still hates him. And it will be revenge enough if Potter simply has to see the Malfoys rise inexorably to power again. He'll have to be content with that.

***

Draco snaps awake, feeling well rested and yet . . .

He frowns, disorientated. He's standing up, by his desk, rather than lying in bed – which would be the obvious place for him to wake up. Has he been sleepwalking? Has the stress of the last few days sent him round the bend? Or has something more sinister occurred? He tries not to panic, and the room blurs and spins until he gets himself back under control. Home hasn't been a place of safety since the Dark Lord moved in, and Draco suspects he'll never feel entirely safe here again.

Blinking hard, and forcing himself to breathe in and out slowly, his gaze falls on the desk in front of him. The time-turner is still there, and his heart unpleasantly skips a beat. Because – and there's no getting out of it – the thing is glowing, very, very faintly, but enough to make Draco reel. He reaches forward to try and pick it up, but his fingers don't even connect before there's a crack of magical charge that has him snatching his hand back. His fingers feel tender and burned, and he sucks them to try to cool them down, taking a step or two away from the desk.

He all but runs down the stairs towards the dining room, and . . . and . . . his mother is sitting there, reading the Daily Prophet. Except, that doesn't mean anything, does it? She often reads the papers in the morning. So he walks in, trying to shove down his mounting dread, and hopes very hard that the headline isn't what he thinks it's going to be.

It reads: MALFOY HEIR TO PROMOTE UNITY WITH MUGGLES.

The shock makes Draco sag, and he leans against the edge of the dining table for support.

"Good morning, dear," his mother says, setting the paper aside and looking at him with sympathy. "Are you nervous about your speech?"

Draco sits down and spreads a napkin on his knees, to conceal the way he's shaking, while his mother pours him a cup of tea and summons a house-elf. "No," he says – and means it. It's not the fucking speech he's nervous about. It's the fact he appears to have travelled back in time again, this time without wanting to. Is he stuck? What the fuck is he going to do? "Not at all."

By the time he has to give his speech, Draco's made his mind up. Altering the past evidently doesn't work, and however keen he is to not be splashed all over the papers looking like a fool, that's not at the expense of never having a future. He gives his original speech, trying his best to do and say exactly what he did and said the first time around. It's lucky, he thinks – hah! Lucky! – that he practised the speech so much; it comes like second nature. And just as the first time he gave it, Potter rises halfway through, pale with emotion, and walks out – abandoning Draco to the dubious attention of the press and the dubious comfort of the whisky bottle.

Before he goes to bed that night, he can't stop himself from looking at the time-turner, through a haze of drink. Even with the light off, he can see it, glowing faintly from his desk. He gets in bed and puts a pillow over his head to block out the light. Sodding thing. At least tomorrow morning it will all be over, he thinks.

But that night, Draco finds it hard to sleep, and even through the duck-feather pillow he thinks he can see the time-turner glowing.