The grounds of Hogwarts stood bleak on that particular Saturday on a snowy December. The sky, a mirky, ugly grey peeked into the eighth year common room windows, not minding any of its business as the forty-something students lounged around, doing absolutely nothing. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan sat in one corner, swigging from a shared bottle of contraband firewhisky. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger coddled each other, hands entwined. While the bushy-haired nineteen-year-old aimlessly stared into the fire, her counterpart supported her weight, looking just as crestfallen. The few Slytherins that dare returned sat amongst themselves and those who were forced back under punishment, such as Draco Malfoy and Gregory Goyle, stood aside, separate from everyone else.
The eighth years were in a particularly sour mood, except for Draco Malfoy, who’d been that way for quite some time.
Since those who fought in the war returned to Hogwarts eighth year under official Ministry instruction, Draco stood aside as someone who no longer withheld his typical spunk and flare. He answered particularly tricky questions in class if he rose his hand before Hermione Granger and no longer had access to studying Defence Against Dark Arts. Draco was bricked up in a sturdy cell of his school, his sentence for making the idiotic decision to step into his father’s shoes. Though he walked free like the others who were instructed to return, there remained a heavy restraint that pinned him to the ground by his shoulders, and he didn’t enjoy it one bit.
No one associated themselves with him either. The mere mention of hanging out with a Death Eater would’ve sent rumours, quite literally, flying around the school. The victim would’ve been prosecuted at the hands of the patriotic students of Hogwarts, the teachers standing aside because they took a disliking to Malfoy and anyone who would lessen themselves to his liking.
Even Goyle, Draco’s once best friend, wouldn’t get too close to him. Given, the past few months had been entirely rocky, but Gregory wouldn’t even glance in his direction any further.
Because of this, because of the war he fought on the wrong side of, Draco remained completely friendless.
Sometimes, when the loneliness became all too overwhelming, he would visit Moaning Myrtle. For some odd reason or another, she still greeted him with a high-pitched giggle and a kiss to each of his gaunt cheeks.
Other times, he would venture off to the kitchen, where the house elves aimed to please. He would sit in there, hours at a time, doing his work, taste testing new sweets the house elves concocted. Remaining in the kitchen became a win-win situation. They fed him while he studied.
Despite the few instances of kindness, he received anything but in the common room. Angry sneers and glowers shot his way from time to time and nothing else. There wasn’t any intention to prove himself, either. Not that he didn’t want to, but he hadn’t any idea where to start. No matter what, he’d be painted as a villain and the good that he did do disappeared with Harry Potter.
Suddenly, a wail disrupted the bothersome silence collected in the common room. The first two to stand were Weasley and Granger, followed by all of the Gryffindors who returned. Draco stood as well, pulled from his stupor. Rubbing his eyes with the heel of his left hand, he could more clearly see Ginevra Weasley clutching a Daily Prophet to her chest. Tears strew down her cheeks, relentless to fall. Stumbling towards Ronald, she shoved the paper into her older brother’s arms and collapsed at the feet of Granger. Obviously startled and sympathetic towards the seventh year, she crouched down, scooping the mess of a teenager into her arms.
“What does it say, Ron?” Granger asked, voice trembling.
Draco hadn’t realized it, but he was gripping onto the back of the chair he stumbled towards quite ferociously. Observing the freckle-faced man clutching the paper, Malfoy held his breath. Many thoughts shot through his mind, but they all fell on one person: Harry Potter.
Terror whiplashed itself across Weasley’s face. Dropping the Prophet, he sat down and buried his face in his hands, looking as if he would have to accept what the newspaper had told him.
Groping for the paper that fell out of Weasley’s hands, Granger fetched the Prophet and opened it, flashing the article that shot grief through both Ronald and Ginevra Weasley.
The Boy Who Lived, Found Dead?
A whir in Draco’s stomach surged a sense of nausea through him at the thought of Harry Potter found dead somewhere, and who knew where? Even his cronies hadn’t any idea where the boy had gone, and they had searched everywhere they could think of. He was to return to Hogwarts or start training as an Auror. When he hadn’t returned to do either, people grew worried.
Now, no one knew where he was and was presumed dead at this point.
But Harry Potter couldn’t be dead! He was the Boy Who Lived, after all. He wasn’t allowed to die, not yet.
Surprised and upset, Draco wiped the tears in his eyes away, not wanting to make a spectacle of himself.
“Oi, Malfoy, why are you crying?”
Trying to withhold a sense of entitlement and dignity, he jutted his chin upward just slightly but allowed the tears to roll down his cheeks. “I’m merely sick of Potter playing hide and seek. We know he can’t be dead.”
“He’s dead, Malfoy!” Ginevra Weasley bawled but was hushed by Granger.
“According to the Prophet,” she said, folding the paper and setting it aside. For once, and without malice, Granger glanced his way. “Both you and I know that it is not entirely reliable.”
The inevitable wave of sorrow in the common room filtrated slightly.
“But we can’t listen to the wireless on school grounds!” Weasley unintentionally yelled, then shrunk when he caught himself. “Sorry, ‘Mione,” he said, voice cracking. “It’s just, you know…”
“Come on, now, you lot!” Seamus Finnigan said suddenly, standing from his chair. He thrust the bottle of firewhisky into Dean Thomas’ hand. “Think. We’re eighth years! We have full access to Hogsmeade before sunset!”
“Yeah, that’s right!” Thomas cheered, standing up next to his fellow Gryffindor. “Potterwatch!”
Potterwatch? That term was new to Malfoy, but he knew already that it had to be invented during the war while the trio was in hiding.
The dampness collected in the room began to dry as the morale lifted slightly.
“Who wants to come?! We just need to let McGonagall know and we’ll be on our way!” Finnigan said, a little too happily as he sauntered towards the exit of the common room.
In side conversation, Draco heard the younger Weasley ask her brother if she could come along, only to be denied for obvious reasons.
A rally of voices echoed through the common room, which disoriented the intoxicated Seamus.
“Okay, who is not coming?”
Only one hand stood in the air, and it was that of Gregory Goyle. Obviously surprised that he was the only one to raise his hand, his eyes finally landed on Draco.
“You’re not staying behind, Draco?” Goyle said with a rich amount of indignance. “It’s Potter!”
“And?” Draco cocked a brow, stepping towards the crowd gathering at the exit. “I’m tired of being an enemy. War is over. There are no longer sides to pick.” And if there were, he would pick Potter’s side on any given day.
Draco Malfoy did not want to be his parents, not any longer.
“What would your father say of this?” Goyle laughed, which only provoked Draco.
Cheeks flushing, the room falling silent as he inched closer to Goyle, Malfoy could feel rage course through his veins. “He’s in Azkaban. Besides that, I really don’t give a hippogriff’s arse about what my father would think. He’s a criminal that deserves to rot in prison.”
This surprised Draco himself, but after all of those years of attempting to live up to his father’s expectations, he discovered just how much he loathed the man. Not only was he a coward, but he was also a cheat. Draco knew he had to be accountable for his actions, and he didn’t want to conform to some rogue agenda that would kill others off. Draco finally knew who hewas. Nothing like his father.
“Like you didn’t do anything, Saint Malfoy,” Goyle spat, stepping up, their puffed chests nearly brushing.
“I know I did wrong, Goyle! I am not innocent! I know that! But you know what?” Draco said sharply, leaning in. “I am not going to let my past skew my future. I asked for forgiveness. I may not receive it, but I made my peace. I don’t want to be a monster like my father.”
Turning on his heel, Draco found himself staring back at the forty-something eyes of the other eighth years and Ginevra Weasley. Surprise, shock, and confusion reflected back at him, and if he were in any one of their shoes, he’d certainly peer at himself the same way.
But enough of that, they had “Potterwatching” to do.
“So? Shall we ask the Headmistress if we can commence?” Draco looked at his fellow classmates, disregarding their blank stares and gaping mouths shot in his direction.
Stepping up, he headed straight to the exit until a sturdy hand wrapped around his twig of a bicep. Attempting to pull it from the person’s grasp, he turned around to face Weasley.
“What’s it to you, Malfoy?” he asked, flustered, blue eyes blazing intensely back at him. “What’s Harry’s status got to do with anything that pleases you? Why do you care?”
“I prefer to keep my intentions between me, myself, and I, Weasley. Now, if we could, let’s see if the Prophet holds any truth.”
For all Potterwatch knew, it didn’t and after that, no one ever questioned Draco’s motives. The team of eighth years, at least those who were interested, asked on the next several Saturdays at precisely two o’three if they could run into Hogsmeade to listen to Potterwatch. The Prophet, like several had detected, was nothing but a phoney. That didn’t ensure anyone that he was safe either. Now, all Potter was a guessing game, a myth, a legend. Despite the fact that Harry Potter disappeared just as fast as the war ceased and had to be long gone from the Wizarding World, Draco continued to find himself attending the weekly ritual of sitting around an old, dusty wireless, hoping, and almost praying for some sort of news on his existence to ricochet off the walls of Hog’s Head Inn.
As the weeks passed, no longer were only students attending Hog’s Head religiously, but the entire proffessor-body of Hogwarts and those who had permission into Hogsmeade. While Filch remained at the castle to watch those under third year, students streamed along, wanting to know where the Chosen One was and if he was, indeed, alive, but as those weeks came and went, the high morale settled into something of a limbo. Some, Draco included, maintained hope while others weren’t too sure if Potter could’ve done as much as move a finger without being noticed. Though true, Potter had that invisibility Cloak Draco had used against him in sixth year. Whilst those who doted on Potter lamented over him, he always remembered to bring it up.
“There’s no way he can still be alive,” little Weasley had moaned as they tuned out of a Potterwatch for the day the weekend the Hogwarts students were to return for their studies. It was a nippy, frozen afternoon with an overcast sky and loads of snow blanketing the ground. Whilst the most logical of the Hogwarts students remained in the castle, the Weasleys, Granger, Malfoy, and the oaf of a Gamekeeper meandered into Hogsmeade, finding themselves in the Inn. Aberforth Dumbledore, though busy, had tuned in with them, and said his peace already: “The Prophet’s calling it suicide, but he has a head on his shoulders. He’s smart. If he were dead, they would’ve found him already.”
At first, Draco agreed with this statement. If the world-famed Harry Potter was, indeed, dead, they would’ve found him somewhere, someplace, keeled off. But then again—and this was when Draco grew nervous—what if he was killed, only to be covered by his own protection: the Cloak?
Malfoy didn’t know he was displaying any sign of conflict until he was nudged by Ronald Weasley.
The last few weeks proved themselves to be monumental, as the eighth years actually began to hold simple conversation with him. Though he wasn’t on a first name basis with anyone quite yet, he was acknowledged and accepted as an individual for once, and the compliments were enjoyable. Hogwarts felt less and less like a prison and more like a home, which was a new and enticing feeling evoked while thinking of his school. Never quite feeling accepted because of his parents, Draco finally had a taste of freedom and it was there, in the walls of his very confinement.
Some days, Draco would browse the libraries and study with Granger. Others, he would visit the pitch and play some Quidditch with little Weasley. She was a helluva Seeker, but nothing compared to Potter.
Ronald Weasley, however, was notorious for grudges. No one had any idea when he’d come around, and Draco didn’t expect him to. He didn’t need to be forgiven, though his hand was out if Weasley ever wanted to shake it.
However, in times of crisis, such as now, all grudges were set aside and anyone who attended the Potterwatches was treated as a friend.
“What if…What if Potter was covered with the Cloak? What if he did die and was covered by the Invisibility Cloak?” Draco said, voice deceiving him with a crack. “What if Potter’s dead?”
Little Weasley paled at the mere mention, despite always groaning over his possible demise. “W-what if…”
“That is always a possibility,” Aberforth said, looking downcast at Draco’s revelation, “but we don’t know. As far as we know, he’s simply blending in with muggles at this point.”
The lot left Hog’s Head Inn that day, feeling as gloomy as the wintery day before them.
The powdery poof of snow that accumulated over the winter began to melt away as buds began to blossom. Spring brought a plethora of hope, promising chances of crystal-clear skies and bright, sunny days.
A perfect evening presented itself to the quartet of the newly acclaimed “Potterheads”. A slight breeze rolled through the courtyard as they wandered towards the newly erected rose garden herbology students have been magically accumulating. Red roses were to bloom any time of year with special enchantments and were closed off to everyone but eighth years and the students creating the garden.
Although Ginny technically was not allowed in the garden, the four Potterheads ventured to the garden every day to discuss their shared favourite subject: The Boy Who Lived. Ever since the garden was put in place, the Weasleys, Granger, and Malfoy would recollect every night, discussing ways they could try and find Potter themselves. When Potterwatch failed them, when Aberforth said that Potter would’ve been found by now, when Hagrid stopped visiting Hog’s Head altogether, the four of them decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. At that moment, only the four of them still sought the truth, but that would change if any of them could help it.
“Remind me again, Malfoy, why you’re even here,” Weasley said when Draco sat in the circle they formed on that particular evening. Granger, attached to her red-headed git of a boyfriend, held a piece of aged parchment, practically inked from end to end. At first glance, Draco thought it to be homework, but upon further inspection, the writing was far too infrequent for it to be anything for her required classes. (From what he’d learned about her, she wanted to work for the ministry—of course she wanted to.) Little Weasley sat, dejected and on her own, knees hugged tightly to her chest. Malfoy ignored this and turned to her brother. He went to open his mouth, but before he could answer, Granger spoke for him.
“Can’t you tell that Draco loves him?” she said, everyone but her freezing at the statement. Straightening her posture slightly, she looked around, surprised, continuing, “What? Has no one noticed how he looks when anyone mentions Harry’s name?”
Draco’s brow furrowed. Was he really that bad at disguising his inner monologue?
“Please tell me she’s joking, Malfoy,” Weasley groaned, taking his girlfriend’s hand into his. “Please don’t like my best mate—”
“And my boyfriend!” Ginny whimpered, jealousy sharpening the blow of her words.
Draco shrunk slightly at the angry siblings as they berated his affections towards Potter. He never asked to be interested in blokes, or that one in particular. Everyone knew Harry Potter wouldn’t go after a former Death Eater, after all, or a boy for that matter. Draco called it wishful thinking.
After a moment of sitting there, staring around at the two gawking faces that peered back at him, he said, shifting slightly in his seat, “It’s not like anything would come from it. First off, he’s probably dead somewhere and who would love a Death Eater?” Tugging his robes around his slender body, his eyes diverted to the grass-clad dirt. He carded his fingers through the green blades, not wanting to speak any further of this…crush he developed on Potter. Like he said, nothing would ever come of it, and it was stupid for him to have a crush on that bloke anyway. Though their perspectives no longer opposed, necessarily, his parents’ did.
Then again, he stopped caring about what they thought months ago.
“Former Death Eater, Draco. That much is clear,” Granger said, breaking the moment of silence.
And for some reason, white heat coursed itself right through Draco’s body. Brow furrowed, bottom lip jutted out, his attention turned to her. “Why, out of all people, have you forgiven me?” Without much thought, he thrust himself from the ground. “I’ve hexed you, I’ve thrown several slurs in your direction…I…I almost killed Dumbledore and you forgive me first out of every one of the eighth years?!” At this, Draco began to pace, wringing his hands together anxiously, insecurely.
How could such deplorable sins be forgiven by a Muggle-born, his main victim? How could Hermione Granger ever forgive such terrible actions?
“Draco!” Granger screamed, snapping him out of his dread-ridden thoughts. From what was evident, Granger must’ve been beckoning him for quite some time. Standing, fists balled at his side, she stared at him with an intimidating amount of intensity.
Hoping he didn’t appear too ruffled, he smoothed at his robes and crossed his arms, jutting his chin up as he typically did. “Granger.”
With a disdainful look, she said, “That’s who you used to be. It’s clear that you’ve changed…” Sighing heftily, she took a seat. “Now, sit down. We have actual business to attend to.”
Draco sat without argument, smoothing his robes out against the grass so it fell in a graceful way. Then, he turned his eyes upward towards his counterparts. “Is that a list, Granger?” He nodded towards the parchment now on the ground with his chin.
“Yes, actually,” she replied, holding it out for the Slytherin to take. Snatching it, he gazed over the signatures as she said, “those are the people who want us to find out where in the world Harry is.”
Several slanted signatures glared back at him, including Longbottom’s, Lovegood’s, and everyone, as far as he knew, was once in Dumbledore’s army. No professors were listed; this militia was entirely student-made.
“Are you going to sign this, Malfoy?” Weasley asked, nudging an inked quill towards him.
“Of course, am I not a part of the Potterhead committee?” Draco said indignantly, grabbing the quill with haste. He signed with a large, scripted hand and handed the quill and parchment to Granger. “Now, is this all?”
Without a word, the parchment was passed to Little Weasley, who took out her wand and tapped it against the signature page. For just a second, the paper shimmered, golden flecks radiating off the ambient light of the garden’s torches.
“Just a jinx. Makes sure no one can betray the others without consequence,” the Weasley sister informed her, placing her wand back in its pocket.
Not that Draco didn’t expect it, but there always came disappointment with not being trustworthy. “Is it the same jinx Miss Granger used on Marietta Edgecombe? Bit juvenile if you ask me,” Draco noted.
“Far worse, trust me,” Little Weasley replied darkly, handing the parchment to Granger. “You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this jinx.”
Understood, Draco thought.
“One more thing before we dismiss,” Granger said suddenly, catching him mid-stand. Taking a seat, he propped his chin in the palm of his hand.
“And that is?”
The muggle-born pulled out a Galleon, handing it to Draco first. “Faux Galleons. Protean charm, as you know.”
Turning the coin in his hand, Malfoy let out a low whistle. He never thought he’d use something connected to that certain charm again. “Why don’t we just gather? No one would stop us.”
“Makes things easier,” Hermione said plainly, standing. “I’ll let you know now that our first meeting is on Saturday, two-thirty.”
The meetings were as frequent as the Potterwatches. Every Saturday at two-thirty, one hundred an forty-two Hogwarts students of all Houses—Slytherins, not including Malfoy, included—meandered to the Room of Requirement to find themselves in a type of Potterwatch Headquarters. While some students brainstormed places to search, others plotted places already explored. Many kept in touch with those who had thought to see Potter and they had their outside sources as well, including Lee Jordan and George Weasley of the radio programme. Potterwatch had become a very sturdy system, Granger, Malfoy, and Weasley all at the head.
The next big project coursing through the Headquarters consisted of hefty, well thought out plans and possibly dangerous ventures. The Hogwarts students wanted to do the unthinkable: set out to a location in a different part of the British Isles. London, England to be exact. Several thought it would be a good place to look around. But Draco, Draco highly doubted that Potter—though thick at times—would be idiotic enough to find himself in the same Muggle city that hosted both Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic.
“It hasn’t been pinned off,” Ginny argued, gesturing to the map they had hung up on an empty wall in the room. While standing, other students sat in chairs in quasi-rooms, searching through Prophet articles, sorting through dates and places Potter was “spotted” or searched for. The two had been at it for a while, deciding whether checking London would be wise.
“Yes, but Potter isn’t a buffoon. He would’ve been spotted if he’s been in London this whole time, Muggle or otherwise,” Draco said shortly, placing a pin—a muggle invention—over London. “Case Closed.”
In retaliation, Ginevra Weasley tore the pin from the map. “No!”
“Put. It. Back.” Draco went to grab the pin from her, but before a squabble erupted, the elder Weasley took it and glared from his sister to Malfoy.
“We cannot mark it, but I think you’re onto something, Malfoy.” Handing the pin to Granger, who came up behind her boyfriend, he found Hogsmeade and pointed to the mountainous terrain surrounding the quaint village. “What do you think, ‘Mione?”
For a moment, her face scrunched up, brow furrowed and unsure until her eyes scanned over its surroundings. Like an epiphany rolled through her entire body and shoved her into motion, she jolted towards the map and circled Hogsmeade and the terrain surrounding it several times with something she introduced as a red marker—another muggle invention.
“Brilliant! That has to be it, Ron! It’s where Sirius camped in fourth year!” Capping the marker, Granger turned to Weasley and pressed a sickly-sweet kiss to his cheek. “Good eye.”
“That’s rather close,” Longbottom said suddenly. Draco turned slightly to find him standing awfully close. The git in Draco attempted to coerce him into shoving Longbottom away, but he refrained, maintaining his poise. Turning back to the map, he scanned the area to be searched.
“So,” he said, eye falling on the thick of the jagged lines imposed as “mountains”, “you think he is in the mountains somewhere.”
“One place in particular,” Granger explained, marking a particular region inside her vast circle. “A cave. I remember exactly where it is, too…” Almost bemused, she heaved a sigh and ran her fingers over the mark. “We’ll find you, Harry. We’ll find you.”
A hush rolled over the students. Nothing but the sound of the grandfather clock the room oddly provided ticked for the first time since Potterwatch at Hogwarts banded, and as it did, its face began to mutate.
“What in the—”
“Ron,” Granger said, “it looks like the clock at the Burrow.”
Gawking, Weasley walked up to the clock and ran his finger along the only hand on the face. “Almost just like it,” he confirmed. “It’s on travelling.”
“I didn’t think about it,” Granger said, a smile remaining on her face as she turned to the Weaslette. “Ginny?”
“I did… I’m surprised,” she said, eyeing the clock in amazement.
“Why? The Room of Requirement provides you with what you need, does it not?” Draco asked, walking up behind Weasley with his arms firmly crossed over his chest. Standing beside him, he gazed at the face of the clock. Intricate, yet plain to see, the lightning bolt-shaped hand with Harry’s scripted name carved into it rested on travelling.
“Ooh, how peculiar,” a new, but familiar voice dreamily gasped from the other side of Weasley. Loony Lovegood stepped into view, running her finger over the hand. “Where is home for Harry, you suppose?”
“Just something else we need to figure out, I guess,” Weasley replied, clapping his hand on the girl’s shoulder. “As for now, I think we should check the cave. He’s still alive, I think. Fred’s hand fell off after a while…Dad found it a couple of weeks ago, so if it runs the same way ours does—”
“Harry’s alive,” Draco said more to himself, but out loud. Warmth filled him with the thoughts, as the vivid daydreams of Potter being found, safe and out of harm’s way. Of course, he’d be peaky, as he always was at the start of the year, but he would be there, with them, and alive, so, so alive.
“You really care about him, don’cha?” Seamus Finnigan said from across the room. Silence engulfed the entire room, every last ear ready to hear the answer, to hear the former Death Eater’s position, why he was actually there, if you will.
Turning towards the sound of the Scottish man’s voice, Draco, for once, let those cold, steely walls of his collapse at his feet. Everything in this room was in confidence, after all.
“Yes, I do care about him,” Draco replied, voice cracking just enough to make him sound pathetic, but what was new?
“But you were a—”
“I know what I was,” Draco roared, shaking slightly. His hands found his way to his wand and began to wring it, trying to keep his sudden flare up at bay. “No need of reminding me of my regrettable mistakes!”
A gentle hand caressed Draco’s shoulder, motherly in its warmth and grip. He turned to look right into the vibrant eyes of Ginny Weasley, and for the first time ever, he felt that they could see eye to eye.
“Sit down,” she said, still rubbing his shoulder, “and I’ll get you a cup of tea.”
The table in the middle of the expansive room was occupied with those who searched for dates and places, and once the true six ringleaders of the operation approached the table, linked together in one way or another through touch, the students dispersed, allowing them to take a seat. Ginny sat next to Draco, holding a steaming cup of tea out for him to drink, and he gratefully took it, muttering a, “Thank you.”
“Now that we have a location,” Granger said, tapping the tips of her fingers together as she thought, “I say we go and search. We’re allowed out, the eighth years—sorry Luna, Ginny—and we can go searching—”
“I’m going to go and look for Harry,” Ginny spoke vivaciously, staring Granger down with her fists in a clutch. “Besides, Draco can’t even go! Parole, remember? He can’t go past Hogsmeade!”
“I’m going,” Draco said himself, an ample amount of stubbornness in his voice. “I can’t just sit back again. That’s all I ever do.”
“You could go to Azkaban, Draco,” Granger said, brow furrowing in concern as their gaze met. “He might not even be there and if you get caught—”
“Disillusionment charm, Granger. It’s not quite Potter’s magic Cloak, but if we keep to the shadows, I can sneak right past,” Draco said, determined. “Please, let me do something good.”
The entire table-full of people sighed.
“Say, what all comes with your parole?” Dean Thomas asked, leaning against the back of Longbottom’s chair. Finnigan plopped next to him, behind Granger.
“No magic outside of Hogwarts, no Defence Against Dark Arts—figured I might ‘gather some ideas’—completion of eighth year, O’s and E’s on my NEWT’s—more of my parents’ bidding—always being accompanied by an adult—which I believe every single one of the people on this mission are—I could inform you of all of the ins and outs of my probation, but I would rather not waste my breath for a nosy few.”
“We needed to know whether your risks are worth it and I think, with reason, one would understand if you snuck out with us. Maybe lose a few house points, a rather severe scolding, and we’d be on our way,” Granger said reasonably, surprising him with a congenial smile.
“When are we going?” Ginny asked, still plainly terse from the way her shoulders drew upwards.
“Wouldn’t today be as good as any other day?” Longbottom suggested, eyeing around for feedback.
“Might as well,” Weasley replied looking at Granger.
For a moment, she thought. Brows knit, she tapped her fingers together, nodding. “We’d have to leave right now.”
“Fine by me! Let’s go!” Ginny said, and stood up, jerking Draco upwards as well.
“Hold on, Ginny! We can’t leave just yet,” Ron stated, but stood up as well.
“Why can’t we?” Finnigan asked, which earned him a nudge in the ribs from his friend hanging off the other chair.
“We’re not going, are you barmy? Someone has to keep an eye on the clock,” Thomas said, nodding towards the clock. “Ginny is going whether Ron likes it or not and Luna, well….” Gesturing towards her, it was obvious that she was in another world. Eyes scanning the ceiling, she looked around, somewhat bobble-headed.
However, she glanced in the boys’ direction and smiled. “What about me?”
“Nevermind,” Thomas said, turning his eyes towards the ground.
“The key is to not look suspicious, Draco,” Granger spoke, nudging one of the boys off of the back of her chair. Standing, she allowed Finnigan to take a seat before she began to pace, and suddenly, a whiteboard appeared. With that red marker still in hand, she wrote:
“Planning never gets us anywhere, plus you just said we could leave now,” Weasley said, taking the marker from her clutch. “Might as well leave and return before nightfall.”
For a moment, an argumentative stance flared within the woman. Puffing her chest slightly, she seemed ready to fight, but as soon as Weasley cocked his head and rose a brow, she backed off. Everyone knew the two bickered; it was Draco’s first time to witness Granger back away from a squabble.
“Okay, fine. I just thought—”
“I know, you want to be thorough,” he simpered, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“On our way, then?” Draco asked, wrapping the newly thought of cloak around himself. “The sooner we search, the sooner we’ll confirm or deny his residence in that hell-hole the lot of you assume he’s located at.”
“It’s not a hell-hole,” Granger argued.
“Well, you’d think he’d have a little more dignity,” the Slytherin assumed out loud, sipping the tea Ginny produced for him.
“He’s in hiding.” Granger shot him a worn glare before pulling out her wand. “We better be on our way.”
With that, the elite team of five—Luna remained in the Room of Requirement—departed.
“How far up the mountain did you say this was again?” Draco asked, growing tired from walking so much, especially since he couldn’t properly see himself. At least thrice he ran into Granger, merely because he could just barely see the outline of his body that camouflaged against the greenery of the mountainside.
“You asked two minutes ago, Draco, and the answer is still ‘I don’t know’. Be patient,” Granger groaned, tromping on the first path they found, used by what seemed like animals.
Just before Draco could throw an arrogant retort in her direction, the lot stopped in front of an indent in the side of the mountain. A lopsided smile embraced Weasley, whilst Granger bounced on her toes. They were obviously in front of the place they needed to be, but weren’t doing much other than ogling the site. Growing tired of standing behind an overexcitable crowd, Malfoy walked around the lot and straight into the cavern….
Where he found nothing.
Just a dim light found its way into the cave which could support a few larger animals, and absolutely nothing was there. The floor barren, Draco found nothing of importance. But as the others spilt in, they began to investigate the walls.
Granger was the first to find something.
“Look here!” she said, waving the others over. Draco moved among them, peering at a few drawings, obviously Potter’s. They were fresh on the stone, and markings of things no one else would draw: an owl and a lightning bolt. Both appeared to be ingrained with wandwork, which hadn’t been weathered down. Though he wasn’t an expert at this sort of thing, he couldn’t deny that it was less than a month old.
“The prat’s been in Hogsmeade, probably laughing at our misery!” Draco gasped, rushing up to run his hands over the stone. “He’s been here!”
A hushed sound of whispering emerged from the other four as Draco desperately groped at the stone, feeling its indent, feeling for any sort of warmth or life. Harry Potter had been there, a month or less ago. Where could he be now?
“Let’s go to Hog’s Head,” Ginny said after a moment, gripping Draco’s bicep. “We can discuss it with Aberforth, maybe he’d gather an idea of where he’d be.”
So the five of them ambled down the mountain and towards Hog’s Head Inn. By the time they approached the heart of Hogsmeade, Draco was no longer invisible. Not that anyone took much notice: he was allowed to remain within the boundaries of the village.
With the tinkling of bells, the front door of Hog’s Head burst open and the young adults filled with a newfound amount of vigour rushed in. Longbottom smiled sloppily, arm around Weasley, who held Hermione close. To them, it was a minuscule victory, something that could let them keep a close eye on the cave. Every day, Granger would check for any sign of life. They believed they were on to something.
But Draco, on the other hand, couldn’t quite believe that he would stay when he’d so easily be sought out.
“Mr Dumbledore!” Ginny gasped, rushing towards the Innkeeper behind the bar who was washing his butterbeer mugs.
“Aren’t you supposed to remain at Hogwarts, Miss Ginevra?” he asked, giving her a patronizing look. Then, his surly cornflower eyes shot in Draco’s direction. “What about your parole, boy?”
“We found where Harry was hiding out, Aberforth. They were only helping!” Longbottom added, which seemed to resonate with the old man. He softened, setting the glass mug aside.
“Let me guess: the same cave Sirius used as a hideout?” Aberforth said.
Weasley looked alarmed. “How did you—”
“I just do,” he answered, continuing with cleaning the mugs.
“Why?” Granger asked in a polite tone, leaning against the wood of the bar. “Did you know he was hiding out there?”
“I would think him a fool if he actually did. Maybe he did stay there. Maybe he knew you were wanting to find him. It happens that people who try to hide never want to be found. Now—”
A sudden thump from upstairs startled everyone, all nearly jumping out of their skin. Dumbledore, however, looked the most startled.
“What was that?” Ginny asked, clearly uneasy by the way she hugged herself in a sense of security.
“I hadn’t checked a room out to anyone—”
“Harry!” Granger cheered, then threw herself towards the stairwell, bolting up each step with increasing speed.
Weasley followed in tow, then Ginny, then Longbottom. Draco was last in line, other than Aberforth, who simply stumbled slowly behind them.
Granger flung open every door, finding nothing until she reached the last. She took a minute to compose herself, an inane smile on her face, but the minute she pushed the door open, the delighted visage slipped into a look of absolute terror. Before she realized it, she let out a scream so loud, the Inn practically shook with her sound waves.
Shocked, Weasley peered in, only to yell, “No!” just as loud if not louder than Granger. He ran in immediately, while Granger remained behind, slipping slowly down the painted room door. Ginny couldn’t look in. She hid in Longbottom.
And Draco…he stood frozen, too shocked to take anything in.
This much was obvious: Harry was in that room, dead. He had to be.
Walking towards the open door very slowly, Draco looked in to see a bloodied figure splayed across the floor. Dead, clearly, and with that mess of curled, raven-black hair. Glasses broken and on the other side of the room, the entire area was a mess, but a beautiful snow-white bird perched itself on Harry’s back, hooting quietly, sadly.
Finally, Draco took in what had really happened.
Harry Potter, the boy he loved so much, was dead, forever lost.
They said it was a suicide. He was cremated only a few minutes after he was pronounced dead, which took the Healers only a few minutes to confirm. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived was, indeed, found dead and lost in his mind. All the glory that came with the title had a cost.
And Draco thought he had it hard.
All through the year, he thought that having the world against him was so terrible, but really, when he thought about it, several people were on his side.
Granger, Weasley, Ginny, his parents. They were all alive, all well, all wanting him to prosper.
Not that Harry Potter didn’t have those people in his life, but several more died in his name.
Guilt, Draco guessed, lead him to a permanent state of dread that could only be cured with Death’s sweet kiss.
Draco didn’t want to romanticize anything so painful; no one could take the severity of the Boy Who Lived’s death lightly. The entire school was a wreck. Several little wizards and witches lost a hero. The Weasleys practically lost another son. And Draco, though it would always be unrequited, lost his first and only love.
A memorial for Harry Potter was approaching, and everyone was holding onto each other much tighter than ever. Just the other day, Ginny spent a good hour clinging to Draco, crying those dull but beautiful eyes out. She wasn’t the only one, he cried with her, and without her.
He no longer recognized what it was like not to cry. Tears were always in his eyes, spattered on his cheeks, drenching his uniform collar. He didn’t care what others thought.
Yes, he was crying about Potter.
No, he didn’t hate him.
Yes, if he could bring him back, he would.
And it was driving Draco mental, knowing that there wasn’t any way to bring him back. He was long gone by now, cremated and buried along with his parents.
If only he could’ve begun to experiment, to create some sort of potion that brought back the dead. Though Death was unbeatable, he would’ve done anything to best it, to spit in the face of such a cruel being. But there wasn’t any need, there wouldn’t be any need. Not any longer.
It was a cool, rainy day at Hogwarts, wind rolling through the lush courtyards and gardens of the grounds. A single paper flew through the air, spinning, falling, landing at the feet of Draco Malfoy, who was watching a statue of Harry being erected in the rose garden. He was just behind the bushes, seeing that silver boy sparkling in the sun that just barely peeked out from the dense thunderclouds, but the paper caught his attention. Reaching down, he took claim of the sodden newspaper and found that it was a Prophet. The head article said:
The Scandalous Life of Harry Potter: What He Didn’t Want You to Know
Rage struck him through like lightning, his heart pounding angrily against his ribcage. Who could sully Harry Potter’s name like that, especially after finding him in such a way?! How dare they?!
Too angry to look at the words written on the front page, Draco wadded it up and threw it as far as he could, a choked out sob emitting from him with the throw. Knees buckling, suddenly weakening, Draco collapsed, helpless in any attempt to get up.
So, he lay there, sobbing until someone noticed his drenched, robe-clad figure lumped in the grass.
Gently, the person tugged on his arm and upon rolling onto his back, he looked into the eyes of Ginny.
Though red and puffy, those bright umber eyes of hers stared into his. Slowly, she crouched by his side, sniffing. “The article?”
“How dare they do that to him?!” Draco seethed, tears returning to his steely eyes. “The audacity!”
“If it makes you feel any better, Skeeter got sacked for writing it and the editor is apologizing profusely…”
“That’s not enough!” Draco boomed, standing up suddenly. “They can’t do that…t-they can’t—”
“Shh,” Ginny said, standing, pulling the taller boy into her arms. Propping her chin on his shoulder, she heaved an exhausted sigh. “Those who know realize that Harry was one of the best Wizards who ever lived.”
Shaking, crying, Draco nodded, burying his tearstained face into the mess of ginger hair.
For a while, they stood, embracing each other with the utmost intimacy a friendship could provide. She forgave him, all the Potterheads had, but a question burning a hole in Draco’s mind demanded to be asked.
“Ginny?” Draco said, breaking the silence.
She looked up, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. “Yes?”
“D-do you think Harry would ever forgive me if he hadn’t died?” The question set Draco in another set of hysterics; he nearly crumbled in Ginny’s grip. “I was such a terrible person, Ginny! How could anyone forgive a filthy Death Eater like me? How could anyone ever risk being seen around me? I should’ve died! Not him! Not Harry!”
Grief pulsed from Draco, drawing attention to himself unintentionally. Those in the outdoor corridors began to pool around the pillars, looking into the garden.
“Oh, Merlin! I should’ve died! I should’ve been the one!”
“Mr Malfoy?” A concerned voice from far off called, but he was too far away, too caught up in his dread to focus on anyone or thing.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Ginny said in a strained voice. “He’s grieving, but he’s speaking nonsense.”
“We’ll take him to the hospital wing, get his head on straight,” the voice said.
Pale blue was not supposed to be dull, but as thousands crowded the Great Hall, Draco wanted to do nothing but stare at the enchanted ceiling. It was a week after the mishap in the garden, and though the potions kept his hysterics at bay, it didn’t stop the brutal attack from making an impact on him. What was once a boy with a hope to find the emerald-eyed saviour of the Wizarding World, became one with a deteriorating heart and a bleak mind. Everything was dull, boring, useless. He thought sixth year was a dark time. Nothing compared to how his beating heart felt like it broke with each pulse. Nothing compared to waking up with nothing to look forward to. Draco was forlorn, heartbroken, and sick.
The room was moist with the tears of Potter’s thousands of followers. The grounds of Hogwarts were jam-packed with people who didn’t even know him, but admired what he’d done.
Everyone acted like a personal friend, like they had known him all his life. They hadn’t, and not that Draco did either, but he knew far more than they did.
It was all too much, hearing everyone chatter about Harry’s life, spewing factoids, discussing his legacy cut short. Draco needed an out, so he shoved himself out of his chair and attempted to search for a way to depart, but before he could step even a centimetre away from his chair, Luna’s hand found its way around his left wrist.
“It’s about to begin, Draco. Don’t you want to be here?” she asked lightly but clearly worried.
“I can’t,” he said, bloodshot eyes turning to the podium prepared for the memorial. “I can’t.”
Luna nodded, withdrawing her grasp from his wrist. “Be safe, Draco.”
People parted as he walked right through, but with all the congestion, it took Draco a fair amount of time to escape the castle. The halls and courtyards were stuffed to the brim as well, but one place that remained vacant was the gardens. Draco supposed that McGonagall didn’t want Harry’s memorial to be trampled and placed a shield charm on the location. However, he stepped in with the slightest of ease and found himself at the feet of the life-sized statue of Harry Potter.
Everything about it was surprisingly accurate. From the arrogant but lovable stance to the glint of mischief in his eyes, the sculpture simply looked like a silver-covered version of the man.
Draco ran a hand along the bottom of the trousers of the sculpture, murmuring, “I know you would never believe me, but I miss seeing you in class. I used to look over and notice you, being the repulsive git you were, chewing on the top of your bloody quills.”
Laughing at the memory, he sat down and continued, “Also, I think you always struggled with holding a quill. You were used to your muggle devices, weren’t you?”
Fingers tracing over the gold plaque on the platform of the statue, he smiled, looking up at the face of silver. “You were an amazing person. I’m sorry the horrors of war were too much for you…” A few tears slipped down his cheeks. “They’re beginning to become too much for me, too…”
As he cried, a familiar Snowy Owl soared into view. No note was attached to it, as it hovered towards Draco. He stuck his arm out as a landing and it perched there, very gently.
Eyes turning back to the statue, he commenced with his soliloquy. “You know, the minute I knew I loved you was when you collapsed over my bleeding body. You regretted it, I could tell, and you panicked, groping desperately for a way to keep me from dying. I knew then. I knew then that if I died, it would be enough to die in your arms but I didn’t. And when the snatchers brought you to my house…”
Draco gasped, trying to keep himself from breaking into sobs. “I couldn’t let them touch you. I could never let them kill you. I’m sorry you’re not here. These are the words I didn’t say when you were alive, but I should’ve. I bloody should’ve.”
Finally, he allowed himself to openly sob, and as he did, the owl departed from his arm.
Draco didn’t notice, but someone was watching.
Gently, they grasped his shoulder and Draco froze, kicking himself for being caught. He should’ve never admitted something so private in such a public area, but he had.
So, he braced himself, turning around to face a presumably dead man.
Harry James Potter stood right in front of him, a sheepish smile on his face. His eyes turned to the statue, gazing over his silver imposter. “They did a really good job on that.”
Dumbfounded, Draco gawked at the man in front of him. He was barely recognizable, hidden behind long hair and a thick beard, but the blazing eyes and lightning scar were enough to chart him as Harry Potter.
“Y-You’re dead. I…” Was Draco going mad?
“Oh, no. I’m not,” Harry said, grasping Draco’s wrists. “That…was a friend of mine. I’d been following him around…terminally ill, coughing up blood. He was going to die, so he agreed to let me use Polyjuice on him. My secret would die with him, as would my identity. You’re the only one who knows I’m alive.”
“You’re absolutely mental,” Draco whispered, reaching out to touch Harry. He ran a hand across Harry’s face, fingers analyzing the scar on his forehead. “Why in Merlin’s beard would you do that?”
Was Draco dreaming?
With this, Harry became a bit uncomfortable. Eyes turning to the brilliant green grass in the garden, he said, “It would be better if the world thought I was dead.”
How could he think that? So many people depended on him, worshipped him, looked to be just like him. How could he just say that?
“No, it wouldn’t!” Draco snapped, anger flaring in his silver eyes. “Why would you say that?!”
“I…” Harry took a deep breath, as if he was counting to ten. “I found out… The Boy Who Lived… I can’t die.”
Draco cocked a brow. “Wait, you mean—”
“And you don’t want that?” Draco whispered, stepping closer.
“Of course I don’t!” Harry retorted. “If I stay, I watch everyone I love die. If I live apart, if I’m not ‘alive’, I’m not actively sought out and found and showered with affection.”
“You want to be miserable,” Draco said, crossing his arms.
“I mean, you’re not wrong. I have to live as a bloody owl for the rest of my life,” he replied.
Draco thought about it, about the situation in front of him. Harry Potter was alive and immortal.
“How…how did this happen?” Draco asked, hugging Harry all of a sudden, filled with utter relief. Potter was hesitant at first, twitching in the boy’s arms, but caved and hugged Draco.
“I killed Voldemort and sacrificed my own death.” Harry sighed. “I did what I had to do…and I do forgive you, Draco.”
Draco froze. “You heard..?”
“I’ve been acting as a second year’s owl for a while now.”
“But how?” Draco asked. “How could you forgive someone like me? I’m a bad person, Harry. I—”
“What do you think about your role in the war?” Harry asked, which hardly seemed to correlate with the subject. Through squinted eyes, Draco looked at Harry, saying, “I regretted everything I did to hurt—”
“Bad people don’t know how to regret, but good people who made terrible decisions do,” Harry said, cupping Draco’s pale, gaunt cheek.
“I almost killed Dumbledore, I’ve tortured countless people, I allowed people to get hurt, killed! I—”
“Draco,” Harry said, which silenced the boy. “You notice you’ve done something wrong. It torments you. You’re going to have to forgive yourself too. That’s the second step to redemption…if you could call it that, I guess.”
“And what’s the first?” Draco hadn’t realized, but he was entirely flushed. Cheeks red, eyes trained on Harry, who had those stubby hands on his face, he stared at the Boy Who Lived in amazement.
He felt so solid, so real, so alive and tangible.
“Knowing your faults,” he said. And then, he lessened the space between them, inching closer. “Draco?”
“Harry?” Draco whispered.
“I’ve been watching you—not just you, everyone that’s been looking for me—and I can just say that seeing you develop as your own person, well, has shown me who you really are and what intentions you have.” Gently, his free hand carded the silvery-blond strands of Draco’s hair out of his face.
“I’m not my parents,” he replied, voice rasping.
“Exactly. And, may I say, I think I’m attracted to the man you really are.” Harry smiled, genuinely, and rested his forehead on Draco’s. “I like you, and you love me. I think, if we can try, we can make something of this.”
“But Harry,” Draco whispered, dizzy and hypnotized by Potter’s mere touch, “I’ll die. I’ll have to be a vampire or something. I—”
Harry’s laughter dismissed him. “We’ll make it work. Vampire or not, we’ll make it work.” And then, Harry’s lips found Draco’s. For a split second, the world spun under his feet, the moment too surreal for it to be possible. But he opened his eyes and he stared right back at himself in the reflection of Harry’s glasses. This was happening, he was actually kissing Harry sodding Potter.
He dipped into the kiss, but before anything further could commence, Harry withdrew, looking around madly. “I heard something…I have to go.”
But before Harry could scamper off, Draco clutched his wrist. “So spontaneous…will you ever come back?”
“I’m here every day, you’ll just have to find me in the Owlery.” Smiling, he stepped back and transfigured into his animagus, that beautiful Snowy Owl, and took off, heading straight to his tower.
Draco noted a peculiarity in Potter’s animagus that mirrored his human self. A familiar lighting scar struck through his forehead, stark against his white feathering.
Draco watched Harry disappear, and as soon as he did, a bittersweet smile graced his lips. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived.
He would live forever.
Too bad the confrontation didn’t last longer, too bad he couldn’t ask any questions, but they kissed, they kissed! Absentmindedly, Draco ran his fingers along his chapped lips. Was this a chase? Did Draco have to find him?
He was right in the tower, he wasn’t too far.
Harry Potter was under their noses the whole time….
Satisfied, he turned towards the exit and found Ginny standing there, confused and tear stained. She didn’t know.
“Draco?” she said, wiping the large tears from her cheeks. He hadn’t any idea how far along the memorial was, but she was clearly shaken.
The man simply walked over, hugging his younger friend, saying, “Everything will be okay.”
“How do you know?” she whimpered.
Draco’s eyes fluttered to the Owlery tower, seeing a white speck perched on the edge of the arch owls flew from. Harry’d always be watching.
“I just do.”