"I've purchased us some butterbeers," Astoria murmured as she slid into the booth.
Draco wrinkled his nose. "Butterbeer?"
"Yes, butterbeer. Since I'm still technically underage, and you're too scared to go up and order from Rosmerta."
Draco sputtered and looked away. "I am not scared of Rosmerta. She accepted my apology and let me back in here, did she not?"
Astoria smiled indulgently. "Yes, but she didn't seem all that happy about it."
Draco returned her smile with a small, tight-lipped one of his one. "Yes, well, one can hardly blame her. They are called Unforgivables for a reason."
Astoria took a delicate sip of her butterbeer, and Draco followed suite. There wasn't much one could say in response to that.
"Let's talk about something else, shall we?" Astoria murmured after a few silent moments. Draco felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. Astoria had proven herself to be a remarkably intuitive young woman. He was lucky to have her as a friend.
"How are your classes?" he asked.
Astoria went off about a Transfigurations project she was working on, and Draco nodded along. He let her comforting chatter wash over him and was surprised to find himself feeling almost...content.
The past few months had been difficult for Draco. After the horrifying trials, which Draco had escaped from relatively unscathed but for the grace of Merlin—or more accurately, Potter—Draco had been required to attend Hogwarts to make up his final year. Stuck in a castle recently destroyed by the madman his family had chosen to support was not exactly Draco's idea of a good time. Especially given that none of his fellow Slytherin friends decided to join him.
So far, eighth year had turned out almost as depressing as expected. In fact, if it weren't for two shining spots in his life, Draco wasn't sure he would have been able to last the year.
The first good thing was Quidditch. Thankfully, there were few enough eighth year students that they were allowed to participate on the regular house Quidditch teams. With the lack of upper year Slytherins, the captaincy had gone to Draco. Not that he hadn't earned it—he was a damned good flyer—but Draco was relatively sure they would not have awarded him the position if there had been even a single other marginally qualified candidate. There was not, and Draco had taken to the position like a giant squid to water, if he did say so himself.
The Slytherin team had been undefeated thus far. Without Potter driving him to distraction and showing him up at every opportunity, Draco had managed to actually focus on the game and lead his team to victory. There had been some very attentive scouts at their last game, and Puddlemere United had mentioned an interest in Draco playing for their team. Draco was seriously considering it. His father would lose his marbles if he found out Draco was thinking of going into professional Quidditch, but Draco knew that it could do wonders for their family name. More than that, playing Quidditch was just about the only time Draco felt truly free, and after the war, Draco knew how precious that was. He was well aware of his familial obligations, but that didn't mean he had to be miserable, did it?
The second bright spot in Draco's life was Astoria. Despite being in the same year, Draco and Daphne Greengrass had never been close at Hogwarts, so he'd hardly had any reason to pay much attention to her younger sister. With a considerably smaller and more ostracised Slytherin house this year, there were fewer inter-house cliques, and new friendships and connections were forged. In Draco and Astoria's case, their friendship was forged when Astoria managed to walk right into Draco while coming out of the common room. She was one of the clumsiest people Draco had ever met, but she was brilliant. Astoria was smart and clever, with a sharp wit to match Draco's own, and a surprising openness that both astounded and charmed Draco. It took him awhile to see that she was not like that with everyone she met, and he felt warmed at the show of trust. Draco would never admit it, but with all of his friends out of reach, he had been rather lonely. He had lucked out with Astoria.
He had been worried, at first, that with all of their time spent together, she would start to get the wrong idea. Draco knew he would have to marry a woman some day, but he cared about Astoria far too much to do that to her. He would never be able to love her like she deserved. Luckily, Astoria was clever, and it did not take long for her to realise that Draco's tastes ran towards the masculine. She was the only one at Hogwarts who knew his secret, and the fact that it did not matter to her one bit made him almost wish he really could fall in love with her.
A raucous round of laughter from across the pub threw Astoria out of her story. They both turned to look. Gryffindors, of course. But not just any Gryffindors. Draco immediately recognised the sea of ginger and the embarrassingly familiar head of messy black hair.
"What is Potter doing here?"
"Probably visiting his friends. You know Granger came back to finish her last year."
"Right. And his girlfriend is still here as well, isn't she. Maybe he's here consoling her on last night's loss." Draco grinned. Slytherin's defeat of Gryffindor had been most satisfying. The littlest Weasley could definitely fly, but she had quite the temper.
"Oh, they're not dating anymore," Astoria said, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
"Yes. I overheard her and Granger talking about it in the girl's lavatory. Apparently, they both decided to take a break for awhile. I guess she's been dating different blokes, trying to see if any of them light her fire better than Potter did."
Draco snorted. "Well they certainly seem quite cosy for an ex-couple." They were squeezed together tightly in a corner booth, exchanging sunny, too-wide smiles.
Astoria shrugged. "Gryffindors."
She picked up where her story left off, but Draco continued watching the group. Potter twirled his wand in his hand, and Draco's own hand instinctively went to his wand holster, his chest tightening. He had gotten a new wand after the war, but it had never felt quite the same as the one he had received when he was eleven. Draco supposed Potter still had it, somewhere. Part of Draco wanted to march over there and demand it back. Even he knew that was madness.
Draco took a deep breath and counted to three, focusing on letting it all go. He was a different person than he was a year ago, and he did not have the time or energy to worry about old grudges. Potter and that rivalry were part of Draco's past. It was time for him to focus on the future.