Actions

Work Header

The Boy who had a Choice

Chapter Text

Warm arms around him, breath tickling his neck and Draco held her close, as if she was the last hope to hold on to. The familiar scent filled him and he didn’t want to let go, not ever. Don’t leave me , he wanted to say, tears threatening to spill over.

A beam of light hit his eyes. Not yet, I’m not done here, Draco felt like screaming, snuggling his head tight where her neck met her shoulder to keep the light from hitting his eyes, but it was too late - it always was, there was nothing to be done and he felt her body vanish to dust in his hands until nothing was left but the bittersweet memory of a body, once warm, in his hands.

Draco Malfoy blinked a few times, slowly registering the light that came in through the blinds. Another dream of Astoria, another useless dream followed up with more useless emotions.

She hadn’t quite left him, not even two decades after her death, he still had dreams of her even now. It was just like the way the Dark Lord had held his fingers around his neck, so to speak, although, this was another kind of pain. The one that lingers, with a faint touch of sweetness that made your eyes go wet even though the air was dry.

Draco stretched out on his bed, making the covers make soft sounds around his body.

He probably only had dreams of her again since Scorpius were staying over for the weekend. It was strange, having him over again. It had been several years since Scorpius had moved out, to move in at Potter’s.

Malfoy Manor had proven extremely lonely at times, the odd mixture of familiar and eerie. Draco hadn’t really wanted to move back in but he hadn’t felt as though there were any other option with his father being fed off by Dementors and his mother, though with a lighter sentence, locked up in Azkaban her as well. Thinking about it now, Draco knew he had had a choice, hadn’t he always? Yet he had from time to time gotten himself in situations where he hadn’t thought it possible to do it any differently, just another: “I have to do this!”

There were several reasons why he hadn’t wanted to stay at the manor, too many bad memories; rooms that had been misused by the Dark Lord during the war, several rooms that had either been painted with blood or crowded by Death Eaters; a numerous where he had been intimidated or spoiled - or both - by his parents, gardens where he had first pushed off the ground on a broomstick, full of joy. He had felt as though he had been born for this, even though it hadn’t gone all smooth from the start, his father making annoyed faces when he had tried again and again without any improved success at the five feet he managed to fly, but then he finally kicked off to circle all around the estate in an elegant move, it hadn’t even taken him all that long to get back, his mother clapping her hands enthusiastically, and Draco had thought that this was the happiest he could get. This was all he ever wanted. More memories in another part of the gardens; tea and small talk with mother, teaching him the traditions of the purebloods and father had filled in with whatever was missing at dinners. The manor was enormous, but what good was it - even though the facility was immense it didn’t hold much value. After the war no one would have wanted to set a foot in the place, let alone buy it. In the end, it would only have left Draco with less than he already had, and wasn’t that ironic, hadn’t it all been that: just another castle in the air.

When moving into the estate Draco had often, to his tenacious shame - that seemed to follow him wherever he went, found himself crying in the large empty rooms, holding his legs close to his body as he shook with every sob. It had been a relief to invite someone, fill the place with new furniture, a new life, and eventually, laughter and the soft thuds of children’s feet running on the floorboards, it was as though the original shell of a house had gotten a soul to it, a soul it had never quite had before. But then it had turned inevitably quiet again all too soon, so Draco had busied himself with work even more so now than ever. Father had never wanted him to do labor at all, he had thought it more suitable to stay and take over the good image of the family name and taken over the Malfoy Apothecary but Draco intended to do regain his status in the wizarding world in his own way and had instead taken a place at the Ministry of Magic. Ironically enough he had become an Unspeakable at the Department of Mysteries. The work had been a blessing, and Draco loved every minute of it. He didn’t have to bother with conversation regarding his occupation due to the security and secrecy regarding it, meaning people didn’t bother to talk much to him at all outside his team of coworkers. His task surrounded the Time Room and it was all a very captivating research to Draco, especially since all the Time-Turners had been destroyed during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries and the Unspeakables had turned to something new and possibly even more intriguing. Draco had often thought about that, what it had been like, six of his classmates and the Order of the Phoenix fighting against Voldemort and his followers, including his own father. It had felt like a start to redeem for his many wrongdoings. Maybe he could help the magical community to find something of importance, to be a part of something bigger, something good . But Draco had come to love his work. Recently they had found this several feet tall artifact. It hadn’t seemed like much to the eye - with it’s stonelike foundation of two circular surfaces, one floating just a few inches above the ground and the other several feet above, it didn’t seem to be support by another other than magic - until a grey, almost translucent dust had appeared at the bottom of the stonelike foundation of the monument. It had become even more compelling when the dust had started to move, battling gravity as the dust had moved upwards in spirals instead of the opposite. It was a truly beautiful construct, an hourglass, with no glass to keep it in place - nothing but magic.

Oh, shit, he had promised Scorpius breakfast - which included fried bacon and eggs with at least one toast. Draco got up from the warm bed, he had always liked early mornings anyhow so this really wasn’t that much of a bother. He actually kind of liked it, going back to his old habits.

Draco went to his dresser to carefully pick out his clothes for the day - as if he hadn’t already folded a neat stash in his second drawer for the two days ahead. It was only Friday, after all, and Scorpius had come late on Thursday night with a “ yes, dad, I’m one day early but rightly assumed that you had no company anyway” , his teasing was meant as being light, easy.

It shouldn’t have to be more difficult than that, just another son mocking his father for not having a date, but Draco still had dreams where he could hold her, where he could feel her close, where she was alive and well.

In response he had made himself laugh, not too hard so that it wouldn’t seem forced, but just enough to bring the edge off it. He didn’t want Scorpius to worry, that was all.

After having taken a cold shower, spelling some drying charms on his hair and then further spelling it to the right places and putting on his attentively chosen outfit that carried a lot of ivory black and royal blues and a few silver details, such as his cuffs and buttons, he was in the kitchen obsessively spelling away the steam reeking from the bacon - he wouldn’t dare ruining his perfectly ironed clothes and let the faint scent of cologne go wasted now, would he? Scorpius came stumbling down the stairs, he had taken his old room upstairs without having asked if Draco had changed the room or whatever, which of course he hadn’t, but it still bothered him slightly that Scorpius thought him sentimental enough to keep it all as it had been so many years ago - not using it as a workspace, for instance.

“Good morning,” he said, looking over his shoulder as he cracked the second egg into the pan, his son making some obnoxious noises that could possibly have been a very sleepy “morning” back at him.

Draco rolled his eyes, how had he managed to get himself a son like that? It must have been the influence of the Potters, for sure - and served his ill-bred son his promised breakfast, then putting the rest that was in the pan; leaving only one rather modest egg, to himself.

“Thanks, dad,” Scorpius muttered still half asleep by the sound of it, but his eyes were shining as though it was the most brilliant day of his life - only, he was too tired to truly enjoy the good fun of it.

“Don’t mention it,” Draco replied, a fond smile playing on his lips as he watched Scorpius pick up his cutlery - at least he had a bit of his Malfoy manners left.

When Scorpius had finished his second egg, he had started to shift on his seat, a nervous habit of his, but Draco didn’t want to push it, it would come out eventually anyway. After finishing the second toast he slowly began: “Dad?”

“Yes?”

“I was thinking, about dinner, tonight…”

“Go on?”

“I was thinking, that maybe Albus could come?”

Oh, was that all? Draco wasn’t really fond of having Potter at his house but what made his son happy made him happy, and he knew how much it meant to have someone you loved close by you, it was only natural - even though they already spent half of their time together, considering they actually did indeed live together.

“And possibly,” Scorpius continued, shifting on his seat again, “his dad as well.”

So that was why he had been nervous - but if Draco knew him well enough he would soon continue with…

“And, actually, I might already have invited them, the both of them, I mean.”

Just as Draco had thought. He pursed his lips, half considering to come up with a convincing excuse for wanting to spend time with his only child for just the two days they had in front of them, it seemed only reasonable - but he let it go rather quickly, not wanting to leave the silence hanging between them long enough for Scorpius to start wondering whether he had done something terribly wrong.

“No, no of course,” Draco said not missing a heartbeat, “I have bought food enough for a week anyhow, and it will be… good.”

The look on his son’s face showed that he hadn’t been able to convince him just yet, his lips parting slightly as a question was being composed in his head, slowly being formed on his tongue.

“I should get on better terms with Potter anyhow, seeing how well you two go along - it shouldn’t be too hard,” Draco smiled weakly, and that did the trick.

Scorpius smiled back.

“You better stop calling him Potter, dad, his name is Harry and there are several of them now and soon no one will be able to work out who you’re actually referring to.”

Draco shook his head, genuinely amused this time.

No, Harry would always be Potter to him.

* * *

The Potters had come exactly forty-three minutes too late, and even though mother had always told Draco of the importance of coming a bit late to dinners in order for the hosts to be all ready and set with food and all he still found himself rather in a bad mood when the two black mops of hair had walked past the threshold - or maybe it was just them, being Potters.

Actually Draco hadn’t bought food enough for a week’s ranson as he had told Scorpius but he hadn’t wanted to make him uncomfortable and had later that day ended up multiplying each article at least three times considering how much the Potters had eaten at that restaurant the last time they had met, which come to think of it, must have been the first and only time Draco had met the two of them together. Otherwise he had only met Scorpius with Albus a few times alone but not together with Potter . That time had been when they had broken the news of Scorpius and Albus Severus Potter dating, and Draco could still remember the joy on Potter’s face and then the suspicious look he had given Draco until he himself had realised that he hadn’t said anything for about five minutes only when Scorpius had started to give him some worried looks. It had all been a rather awkward evening and the Potters - especially Potter - had eaten every single scrap left on their plate, even going so far as to wet his finger to get the last crumbs from the lemon tart - and it had been five courses, five !

“Lovely place,” Potter had remarked when stepping into the dining room as if he hadn’t already been here many years ago when a bunch of Snatchers had caught him and his friends and Draco had been reminded of the fact that this was actually indeed the first time Potter had stepped his foot on these grounds since after the war, which had left another not too unfamiliar awkward silence until the other Potter had given Draco a handshake and said that he loved that smell, and what was it that he could smell? Garlic, butter? Wine? Oh, maybe just food in general? Draco felt like rolling his eyes but forced himself not to.

Now they were all seated around the round table Astoria had gotten Draco as a gift when moving in with him. Back then Draco hadn’t touched anything since his parents had left for Azkaban and it had been the first thing Astoria had transfigured into something else, something new, without the reminder almost as dark as the presence of the Dark Lord himself. Her magic was beautiful, it had left the long table’s dark old fashioned taste but with something a little brighter, a little more slender: the wood being a muted dark grey instead of the ebony colour, with flowery engravings, tangled legs and a simple smooth surface that felt almost as soft as fabric upon touching.

“So, Albus and I wanted to tell you something,” Scorpius started, fidgeting with his hands underneath the table, obvious considering the way his shoulders moved slightly and the way the younger Potter reached out with his own hand to still Scorpius’.

Potter stopped his all too hectic eating - he couldn’t possibly be enjoying the food if he continued eating in that speed - swallowed and took a sip of his wine as he looked over at his son, and then at Draco’s, and back to his son again, all the while not saying anything, just waiting for either of them to continue and Draco mimicked Potter, because it was the most logical thing to do, and looked over at his son. For a moment Draco almost thought they would say that someone was pregnant but that wouldn’t make any sense, they were both men after all, and it was only so much the male anatomy could accomplish.

Scorpius pursed his lips and looked over at younger Potter who nodded encouragingly, and he continued: “we’re getting married.”

It was their first meeting all over again and older Potter’s reply came a few seconds too late.

“That’s wonderful! I couldn’t be more happy for you! A summer wedding! Oh, my son’s getting married? I can’t believe it! How did you grow up so fast?” but his words came out genuine and the nervousness shown in younger Potter was replaced by relief and a mirroring happiness to his father.

“It’s the phenomenon of the earth traveling around the sun, if you’re familiar with any of that,” young Potter replied, a smile spreading wide on his face, eyes crinkling.

“Oh, shut up,” Potter replied, but his voice was soft, fond.

“Dad?”

Malfoy tore his gaze from the Potters to fully look at his son this time, and realised his face had gone rigid. He relaxed a fraction to give him a smile.

“I truly am happy for you, Scorpius, I truly am.”

The worried look only lasted a few more seconds and then they were all smiling, saying stupid things to each other and the Potters clinked their glasses together and Draco smiled even though he didn’t join in on their laughter and nonsensical sentiment.

How many times had he not wanted to be friends with Potter ? He had forced those feelings away when being rejected that time on the train, and had turned his ambition to befriend him into full hatred and spite. He remember his first reaction when hearing that Scorpius had become good friends with Potter’s son. What could he possibly have done that Draco couldn’t do to charm the Potters? What had he done to magically win him over to his side? It was all rather ironic, wasn’t it.

They finished their food eventually and only sat down for dessert and a cuppa, and then they finally left.

The weekend past way too quickly, they had easily fallen back to their old habits at the manor, Draco making Scorpius breakfast and Scorpius complaining about making lunch, playing several games of chess and Draco let Scorpius win at least half of the times by either giving him advice on how to make better moves or just letting him (most often he didn’t buy it anyway, but Scorpius was a lot better loser than Draco ever was and after Draco’s smug checkmate only gave him a pure, honest smile and teased Draco for letting him go all too lightly - he truly had gotten so much softer, kinder than Draco had ever been, all from his mother, of course), walking in the gardens talking about Scorpius latest mission as a certified Auror a few years ago that had led to be a complicated matter for the Wizengamot and Draco once again wondered what his life would have been like if he had become an Auror himself. The day continued with another game of chess and Scorpius teasing him about not being involved with any new Muggle technology which to his surprise was in fact rather interesting, more talking and a lot of Potter and Weasley-Granger gossip Draco rather lived without and a few theoretical wedding plans that weren’t so theoretical now to think of it, followed up by dinner and Draco swore to himself once again wondering why he had freed all the house elves when his parents left because sometimes it was truly just a lot of work and most often he ended up thinking about Astoria and a much younger Scorpius and how he had put a lot of importance in making the dinners very different to his own old family’s with several courses and no talking except for father’s few remarks on work or rules or traditions and mother nodding without saying much else and Draco sometimes rambling on about Harry Potter earning him a long intimidating stare from his father that left him quiet for several days on end. He had said goodbye to Scorpius without really looking up from the book on the dangers of infusion of wormwood as if it had just been another goodnight , but Scorpius had ended up promising to come back the next weekend, wanting to spend a lot of time with Draco before the marriage, and Draco had just nodded and hummed approvingly although he had felt truly content at the idea of seeing his son again so soon.

Back at work Draco relaxed again, surrounded by something important to do and leaving the darkness and loneliness of the rooms with feet upon feet from floor to roof out of his mind. Draco always stayed longer than he needed at his cubicle, writing on the reports for their research and sometimes going back to the Time Room to contemplate and plan for new experiments on the obscure dust for the next day.

A new Unspeakable had joined their research group recently and was all too eager to try everything fresh and exciting, but as it often were with the new ones, they had to stay back and to simply observe and leave the more advanced work to the older Unspeakables.

But this employee, who rather seemed still a trainee to Draco, were extremely thrilled with getting his hands involved with things that weren’t his to touch, and Draco had several times tried to reason with him on exactly why it was more secure for him to step down - and how his moment would come. Draco had himself enjoyed that time particularly, the way no one seemed to notice him, how he could just observe as the others did what they knew best. After getting out of his training and education and getting into his workspace it hadn’t mattered that much that he was a former Death Eater and that he still wore the Mark on his left forearm - although he always made sure that no one would see it, wearing his sleeves low, never rolling them up his elbows like the others did when performing an experiment.

Today they were executing some new investigation on the contents of the seven foot hourglass when this new fellow, Dunn whatever (possibly Christopher), walked up to Draco and truly he couldn’t have chosen a worse timing.

“What are you doing?” he had bent forward and was so close to Draco that he could literally feel his breath tingle at the back of his head.

“You are just to observe, remember?”

“How can I observe if I don’t know what you’re doing?”

Draco had a desire to roll his eyes at that but his gaze was fixed at the dust at the bottom that slightly moved when his college tapped the stonelike bottom ever so lightly.

“Just... don’t distract me.”

At another touch on the bottom the dust moved upwards again, fighting gravity to run from the bottom to the top, and then halted, to fall back down. Miller, a rather professional man Draco didn’t loath all that much, in truth, he rather liked him, as he was very serious with his work - compared to this Dunn fellow, who was standing on Draco’s left side, leaning over Miller who was taking out his wand to see if they could inspect the dust at a closer range.

What happened next was still kind of a blur to Draco, it had all happened rather quickly, it had all seemed perfectly fine and the next second the magical dust was thrown out into the room, reaching out - and oh, wasn’t that stupid, Dunn was standing closest and Draco realised to his unnerve that it would soon touch him and bloody hell if it wasn’t convenient that Draco should have been tougher on him, forbidding him to stand that close because they would all blame Draco afterwards, him being a goddamn former Death Eater and all - and without much more thought to it Draco had thrown himself at him, trying to push Dunn away from the dust’s reach, only to realise all too late that it had hit him instead. He should definitely have seen that one coming, or possibly he had, possibly he had made a better choice after all.

Then it was as if time stopped, the people who had tried their best to fly themselves out of the way had stopped, paused, still flying midair. Their expressions on their faces varied in a varying palette of worrisome faces. Draco wanted to take a look around but he wasn’t able to move his body, nor anything else. But then he took in the image before him, and he could see parts of himself. Specifically where the dust had hit, although it had not just hit him, but was running through him - actually still running, as if everything else had stopped but the contents of the hourglass hadn’t - or rather, into him, a stream of grey sparkling dust danced before his eyes in swirls of beautiful patterns, and then it all started again. Draco landed hard on the ground from the force of having shoved Dunn away. He could hear him complain from behind him and then the dust sped back to it’s place, leaving everyone marvelling at Draco and it all seemed just as it had been before. The dust was back at the bottom of the hourglass. People seemed to be able to move again, and so was Draco.

“You alright?” someone, probably Miller, panted and Draco nodded although he wasn’t entirely sure.

He didn’t feel dizzy, nor did he feel as if anything else was wrong with him, he felt... fine.

“I’m fine,” he said, surprised at how steady his voice sounded in his ears.

“You should probably head to St Mungo’s anyway, better safe than sorry.”

Draco didn’t complain and took the Portkey obediently, a small pocket watch, and then he was whisked away to stand on the fourth floor of St Mungo’s, jumping past the reception as was the routine when travelling to the hospital by Portkey from the Ministry, the smaller problems often didn’t need a Portkey and could travel by Floo or an Apparition.

A Mediwitch appeared looking over at Draco.

“You’re from the Ministry,” she stated, “what’s wrong?”

He had a first thought of replying “nothing”, but thought better.

“Actually, I’m not sure. I feel fine but I was hit by an unknown artifact of sorts, so possibly it be good if you could take a look, see that everything is intact and all.”

The check-up was rather quick, and they couldn’t find anything suspicious with him. His magic seemed fine, unaffected, and so did the rest of his body, reflexes working fine and everything seemed normal, “guess you were lucky,” they said when he got back to the Department of Mysteries. So Draco went back to work, filled out the report on the incident even though he himself couldn’t seem to recall everything. What had actually happened? Was he the cause, Dunn - or Miller? Or had it just been the dust acting out on it’s own?

Draco put down his quill and sipped at his tea, he would finish it up later. It was probably the shock of it all, he had to come back from it in order to retrieve all his memories or else he wouldn’t be able to fill the pages anyhow.

Draco sipped the tea again. He had bought this one just after the war, he could almost see the store in front of him. It had been a small tea shop, nothing special. He had just wanted something that tasted normal, nothing glorious or all too fancy like the ones the house elves prepared back at the manor, just something for himself - something to let his mind off things.

His parents were both being kept at the Ministry of Magic, awaiting their trial - Draco included, at the Wizengamot. They had let Draco go free for the moment, trusting him not to disappear on his own - their judgement were just right though, Draco wouldn’t do anything to leave, not now, especially considering that the sentence of both himself and his family would be much worse did he attempt to flee or do anything reckless.

Draco put down the box of tea he was currently holding to look at the further end of the shelf, he remembered that the package he wanted would be the last one he looked at. In the end he had chosen it because of a weird idea of that: well, wasn’t he too an outcast, soon to be forgotten? But the tea wouldn’t be forgotten, because Draco would buy it - but neither would he, people still gave him those stares in the street, at the pubs, just like the lady right now behind the counter.

Draco felt surprised at himself, he hadn’t thought he’d be able to remember her face quite that well. All grey hair except for that one lock of complete black. Those horrendous glasses in similar style to the ones Potter wore, those staring all too bright eyes. He wasn’t sure if she was judging him, or just inspecting his very image.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

When she kept staring at him when he didn’t reply he felt an urge to point stupidly at himself, asking “me?”, fortunately he caught himself before he did any such thing.

“No, thank you. I’ll just take this one,” he said, standing on his toes to reach the small all black container spare the light blue details on the front, at the far corner of the shelf.

He paid for the tea and went outside. The weather was mild, a tiny breeze shifting his hair so it parted slightly differently than he had forced it to and Draco reached out to pet his hair back to it’s usual way. It wasn’t really warm just yet, but mild enough to not be wearing a winter coat. He looked down at himself, wearing his all black jacket with a matching black shirt and tie, black trousers and pointy black shoes. He had really loved those shoes, but they had been worn out and in the end he hadn’t been able to get them back after someone had secretly stolen them and then put them back to place. Draco should have thought better of it before he had put his feet back inside, turned out someone had not just borrowed them for a walk but hexed them with curses that hurt his legs to that extent that he had feared losing them all together, and he had ended up at St Mungo’s ground floor and fortunately gotten out quickly afterwards. The perpetrator had turned out to be one of the other trainees back when he had studied to become an Unspeakable. The boy hadn’t been admitted back afterwards, at least that was some sort of revenge and for the first time since the trial of himself and his parents, Draco had thought that maybe the law didn’t look at him all that differently from everyone else after all. Still, he had missed those shoes terribly.

Draco shrugged, the weather was all too mild, but then again, that was right; the Second Wizarding War had ended in the beginning of May.

He blinked a few times and looked back into his cup of tea. It had been a long time since he last had such a vivid flashback.

Draco shrugged again, he wasn’t all too happy about feeling nostalgic and didn’t want it becoming a new habit of his.

Chapter Text

Soft lips were smiling at him and he couldn’t do much else but smile back. A soothing feeling spread over him, wrapping around him like a cashmere blanket and he could feel those lips teasing his earlobe and he smiled again.

“Darling, it will be alright,” she whispered and he held her close, closer than he ever remembered holding her.

And then she vanished again, all too quickly, and Draco was back in his bed, alone.

He felt cold, odd in the faint sunlight and he took a deep breath to help him come back from his dream, back to reality. A reality where Astoria was gone, and he wasn’t. He swallowed hard. It was a weekday, and this was hardly the time for pointless sentimentality.

Draco put his feet on the cold floorboards that expanded in a flood of dark ebony and stepped out of bed to take one of his customary cold showers to clear his head and then pick out his clothes for the day: a dark striped suit with a matching waistcoat and a tie in such a dark green colour it seemed almost black - even though it wasn’t quite Slytherin green it reminded him faintly of it, forever the proud Slytherin.

For a moment he found himself swept away by the memory of being back at the Manor, looking into his wardrobe as he was to sort out all unnecessary garments. At the moment he was staring at his Hogwarts robes, the silver and green accompanied the black beautifully. He had always loved that combination.

Draco had ended up throwing it all away, the ties, the silly jumpers, the hats, even his quidditch robes - especially his quidditch robes; they only further reminded him of his own failure, the first times he had been able to fly and how he had for a moment let himself dream and fully believed he could make a living out of it, and what of it. Potter had beaten him every single time, it hadn’t seem to matter that he was able to win over all other teams, because Potter always beat him. In the end Draco wasn’t meant to be a seeker after all. He was just a fraud, just another failure.

He had been so thorough with his sanitation of sorts that he had ended up Vanishing away all of his pins, even his Prefect badge.

Draco reached out to trace his fingers on the green and silver lines on the end of the sleeves, the touch familiar to his fingers, then he had opened the drawer where he remembered he had stored his pins, the Slytherin snake and the ugly purple Inquisitorial Squad badge he had been so proud of back then, and sure enough, they were all still there. All shiny and new again. He picked out one specifically and placed the badge in his palm. He had been so proud of that one. He still remembered it, how pleased he had been after being selected to be a prefect, just like his father. Proof of his success, one of the few successes he had achieved though, wasn’t it? He closed his fist and hold the badge tightly in his hand.

He had regretted throwing them away by late, and didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

Draco swallowed and took a deep breath, remembering that he shouldn’t be late to work - he never was, and got himself out of the memory to cover himself with the Ministry robes.

Back at his cubicle he looked down at the parchments on his desk, the unfinished report of his - should he say accident? Maybe it wouldn’t be needed, he was after all just fine and there was nothing the DMLE could do anyhow. No, it wasn’t necessary. He put the documents into a file and placed it in a drawer under his desk.

Miller walked up to him, nodding in wordless greeting, starting directly on business rather than making small talk, something Draco greatly appreciated about him.

“Seems you made it out alive after all,” he pointed out raising an eyebrow at Draco.

“Yes, seems most like it indeed.”

Draco could hear the underlying message, most had probably thought the dust would either have incapacitated him in some inexplicable way or have him running off like a scaredy-cat, back into the shadows again.

“Christian is off today, my bet is that he blames himself,” Miller continued, starting for the door - Draco followed promptly.

Christian, so that was his name. Not Christopher then.

“Dunn? Wasn’t quite his fault, was it? Have we gotten any ideas what caused the incident?”

Miller made a grimace.

“Not really, no, I regret that I might have been the cause of it. Trying to levitate some of the dust out of it’s spiral. We have not dared try it again, but we’re currently trying out several different detecting spells to see what caused it, or to be frank, what it actually is . Seems it’s all rather mysterious.”

“Wouldn’t make much sense otherwise, would it? We work at the Department of Mysteries after all, it’s all rather mysterious ,” Draco said.

Miller chuckled and Draco let himself bathe in the short moment of satisfaction, he loved it when people had sense enough to appreciate his humour.

“Better get to it then,” Miller continued, ending their conversation as they entered the Time Room.

The room was ornated with clocks of all kinds, varying in size and shape. Some didn’t even seem to be showing the time, either lacking content entirely or only showing a numerous amount of indecipherable characters and symbols (another team had spent eight years and a quarter trying to understand what one specific clock showed and now they had announced that they were finally onto something). Even the floor and ceiling was partially covered with clocks and watches.

Draco spent the rest of the day trying to pick up anything he could from the Unspeakables who had been present during the incident - but with not much luck. No one could recall having noticed anything different and all said more or less the same thing, it had all happened rather quickly and no, they hadn’t seen anything weird or yes now come to think of it, didn’t something happen to you Mr. Malfoy? No one had experienced the time pausing, stopping entirely. In truth, no one truly seemed to know what had happened at all.

* * *

It was dark outside when Draco finally got himself home; he had stayed late at work again, although that had been his own choice. A light summer rain was mildly pouring down from the sky, slowly soaking him. He wasn’t thoroughly cold but a warm cuppa couldn’t make it any worse.

Draco closed the door behind him, stepping into the large entrance hall, taking off his outerwear to hang it up, taking out his wand to spell some drying charms over it before continuing, heading towards the bathroom.

The water was cold, harsher on his skin than the rain had been, but Draco never took hot showers, not since the war had begun. It had started as a way to keep himself alert, attentive, aware, in case something were to happen - or so he had told himself. Possibly it was rather to keep that crawling anxiety at bay, make his skin so numb that he couldn’t feel the dark magic pulsing on his arm, wrapping him up and gripping him tightly, keeping him in place. It had soon turned into a habit; eventually he hadn’t even dared trying otherwise, it felt only right, maybe this was all he was worth: a cold shower, to keep himself on his toes and a reminder to himself that he had to do better next time.

Stepping out of the shower he wrapped a towel around his waist to pick out a clean pyjamas. Just as he was to open the drawer to take out his favourite set of dark green and black, he stopped, hesitating for a moment. It was stupid, wasn’t it? Draco knew that he had thrown away all of his Hogwarts related apparel, and yet he had the urge to look in the space he had kept them during the end of the war. His fingers, exceptionally white in contrast to the dark wood of his cabinet, reaching out to trace the outline of the drawer. Gently he opened it, the wood making a muffled creaking sound at the motion.

The drawer was empty, not much of a surprise really, however Draco found himself exhaling with the faint whisper of inexplicable disappointment. Really, what had he expected?

He closed his eyes, shook his head slightly at himself.

Curse it, he had to be completely gormless, but Draco still reached down, searching with his hand through the obviously empty space of the drawer. Only, there was something. It had a smooth surface, cold in his hand and most certainly made of some sort of metal. He closed his fingers around the object, pulling it out he pursed his lips in confusion. He couldn’t remember having neither forgotten to empty it when cleaning it all out, nor having placed anything in that drawer ever again.

He opened his hand, letting his finger unclench one by one, and Draco was staring down on a badge with a green base, a fancy label stretched out over it, the writing reading “Prefect” in proud letters. He blinked a few times, stupidly trying to make sure that it wouldn’t just disappear if he stopped looking at it for half a second or so.

His first thought was that he must have forgotten to throw it away after all, but then it hit him, an odd realisation that no, he had not forgotten about it. He had chosen to keep it, he had wanted to keep it. Why was that now?

Draco took a deep breath, trying to clear his head. He was being stupid. He still remembered holding the pin that day, he had held it tightly in his hand, clinging to it as if it was more important than anything else.

He closed the drawer, looking up he was met by his old Hogwarts robes hanging right in front of his face. That was weird, wasn’t it? It was the day he had decided to get rid of them all over again. He stepped back a few steps, placing the small badge in his right pocket and turned around - and was faced with a tall narrow mirror. The one Astoria later had transfigured to a well-rounded one, placing small engravings around the edge of the mirror - she had said that each carving symbolised something important to her, but she hadn’t told Draco about them all yet, she had promised to explain the meaning behind them every 5 years or so (a stupid idea he had thought at the time but hadn’t dared say anything about it) and there were still about five that Draco had no idea what they actually meant. He regretted it terribly, not having pushed her about it, asking about every detail of herself and her past.

The reflection in the mirror was not unfamiliar, it was Draco alright, still the same platinum colour staring dominantly back at him, the same rather large round cold eyes and his trademark adamant expression rooted on his face. But his body was more slender than he remembered, thinner, making his sharp edges look even more prominent, leaving only his lips as his exclusively soft feature. He was wearing an all black attire, one of his favourite black jackets and those pointy black shoes.

This wasn’t a regular flashback. This was something else.

A thrill went through Draco’s body and he could momentarily feel his hair rising at the prospect of what it could all mean. If this wasn’t a flashback, it had to be real, and that thought alone made Draco feel uneasy. He had to check it, he couldn’t possibly jump to conclusions without any evidence.

Draco steeled himself, putting his feet together and taking a deep breath. If he truly was here , in 1998 - no, he needed proof first.

Draco spent almost two hours searching through the Manor, all looked as it had before Astoria, no memories of the two of them was anywhere to be found, and it hurt, that he couldn’t find any traces of her, as if she had never existed in the first place - at least not in his life.

The shame and guilt hit him unexpectedly. The memory of his turmoil of emotions from the year after the war - even though he had thought he could remember them vividly, now faced with the real thing  again, the memory was nothing compared to how bad it all hurt now .

It came as a shock, hitting him hard in the guts, so hard that he physically bent over and Draco weakly put his arms around himself, shaking as the memories came pouring down all over him again, fresh as if they truly had happened just a few months ago. He felt like screaming, but all that came out was meek noise as if all his energy had gone out of him.

He was weak, pathetic even. Everything he had once resented, every trait he had so harshly judged when seen in others, he could now see in himself. He had had them all this time, wearing them like his Prefect badge for everyone to see. He had been a liar, a liar to himself.

Here he was, whimpering on the steps of the elaborate staircase in the entrance hall. Filled with guilt, and shame. Guilt over everything he had done wrong - when he had thought he was the one who was absolutely right, guilt over the numerous of people he had been awful to, and most importantly the way he hadn’t dared to do anything right. He had jumped on a train, telling himself that the only thing he could do was to go along with it, travel wherever it went, but he could have chosen a different path, leaving the train at the right platform but no, Draco hadn’t done any of that. He had just stayed put, reminding himself that someone else was in charge - because yes, that helped didn’t it? In that way he wasn’t to blame. He was just a child, after all. A childish boy in man’s clothes. A boy with no choice.

And then there was the shame; slithering itself in between his bones, wrapping itself around his ribcage, draping him like a cloak - always there, ever so present.

He was completely, and utterly pathetic.

His breath came out raggedly, and he reached for his wand - only to be reminded that he didn’t have it, in fact, he had no idea where it was. Last time he had seen it, it had been clutched tightly, together with several other in Potter’s hands. It had happened right here, in this very hall, just down below.

Draco raised his head slightly and peeked down over his shoulder, down on the very floor where his aunt Bellatrix had Cruciated Hermione Granger. Draco had thought he had, for once in his miserable pathetic little life, chosen to walk on the right path, chosen not to identify Potter and his friends, but no. It hadn’t been enough, it had never been enough. Because there his aunt had been, kneeling over Hermione bloody Granger and there was a knife, and there was blood, and Bellatrix had carved something into Granger’s arm. For a second Draco had expected to see the Mark, but no. No, no, fuck , it wasn’t the Mark and it wasn’t a snake, not even some normal brutal horizontal cuttings, no, it said mudblood . But her blood was not dirty, not filthy, and held no similarity to mud at all - it was red, so, so red. Just like his.

Draco had wanted to flee, he had wanted to turn and run as far away as he possibly could because he couldn’t stand it: Granger on the floor, with the word, screaming loud and clear, a word he had used to call her, cut into her very, very real arm.

It felt surreal, thinking about what had taken place right here, in this very hall - in his hall. It didn’t feel like it had been two decades ago, it felt like it had happened now, just yesterday, and Draco tightened his grip around his legs even further when he realised he was shaking.

Nausea hit him hard and he felt like vomiting - and wouldn’t that have been pathetic. Suitable for a weak boy like he had been, like he still was.

Draco leaned over, his body wrenching as it tried to turn his stomach inside out, but nothing came up. Just the taste of bile on his tongue and more of this suffocating shame soaking him all the way down to his very core.

He only realised he had been sitting on the steps for hours when it had started to darken outside and Draco took a deep breath. All the water had seemed to have spilled out of him, leaving him dry and empty. Eventually the trembling had stopped together with the pathetic tears. He really had got caught up in the moment, hadn’t he? After all, this wasn’t truly where he was, was it? In fact, he was still in his room, several years from now, still clutching that metal pin between his fingers - and yes, there it was, the cold feeling of a small weight in his palm. With another inhale Draco closed his eyes to open them again.

It was absurd, the way he was standing in the middle of his room again, facing the mirror and back stared the eyes of a man Draco knew very well. He was back. About 20 years from then.

He stepped forward, reaching out with his free hand to trace the carvings around the mirror. There were 9 of them, each placed with a little space between them. Draco started from the left side of the cheval glass: a peony, an hourglass, a snake, a raven; those were the ones Draco knew the meanings behind. The line of woodcuts ended with a small Antipodean Opaleye dragon followed by a small scorpion. “Why an Opaleye?” Draco remembered having asked Astoria after inspecting every little engraving in detail. She had just smiled at him as if it was obvious and turned on her heel to leave him to his own thoughts.

Draco took a deep breath. He was done with maudlin thoughts for today, for the rest of his life if he had any say in it - but apparently his mind always seemed to travel back to those things anyhow.

After having put on the kettle and prepared his tea he started pondering over what had actually happened just there. What he had experienced up in his room. Whatever it was, it was not just a flashback. It was something else. No, he had been there. Draco had experienced it all over again, the guilt, the anxiety, the fear, it had all been real. After having checked the time he had been sure that no time had actually past even though he had been sure of seeing the day pass from early morning to evening in his flashback-so-to-speak.

Sipping at his tea Draco had reasoned enough with himself to conclude, once again that what he had experienced was definitely and unequivocally not a flashback, and the only logical explanation behind what was happening to him must have had something to do with the hourglass, specifically the unidentified dust that had ended up touching him, actually flooding him, running straight into him. He considered whether or not it was possibly more sensible to tell the other Unspeakables about what he was going through - maybe they could help him, only, Draco didn’t want any help, not really.

The idea had hit him when he had stopped his melancholy thinking and actually contemplated what it all meant. This could be a chance for him, maybe this wasn’t a curse - yes, he had to experience all of his most pitiful moments again, but this gave him an opportunity. An opportunity to make things right. Maybe this was exactly what he needed - maybe, this was a blessing after all he had been through: a second chance.

It wasn’t as if he wouldn’t be doing his job properly or anything - this was research. Extensive, important research. In fact, after it all was done, maybe they could use this new piece of information to do something of importance with the contents of the hourglass, help the wizarding community in some way. He could fully justify taking his time off to do this: he would go to work - no, this would be his work, and especially since it didn’t seem to affect his, this time noticeably, or even at all. This was important, he had to do this .

If this thing was what Draco believed it to be, he would be able to modify time. He wouldn’t do anything that would affect the larger picture significantly, just a few adjustments, to make right after everything he had done wrong. Amend his mistakes.

He could get his mother out of Azkaban, and that was making up for at least some of his many wrongdoings. Draco would go back in time; he would talk Potter into helping him, emphasise the fact that Narcissa had saved his life - he had to help her, he had no choice. Potter had a life debt to pay, and even though perhaps that was the reason to why he had been there at the hearing in the first place Potter could have helped her, he had to help her, and even though she hadn’t paid with her life such as Draco’s father had (with his soul), Potter owed her. Even considering all the poor choices and bad things Narcissa had done she didn’t deserve Azkaban.

* * *

Draco had realised that things that reminded him of the time back in 1998 was what had him going back there, trying to imagine what it was like he soon found himself back at the empty Manor, just like he remembered it, the dust on the floor and even the bloodstains on some of the walls that even the Vanishing spell hadn’t been able to fully cease from existence - rooms which Draco rarely visited and often consciously avoided (they had all been renovated after Astoria had come to his life, meaning they were still evidently real back then, haunting him), although it wasn’t just as he remembered it, it was there, just in front of him, every time. It was real.

He had started to use the Prefect badge to get himself back there, and soon he had found he couldn’t really go anywhere without it, always resting inside the safety of his pocket, never leaving it behind.

Draco had started wandering around the gardens, the weather was beautiful and the flowers bloomed. He had forgotten that back in this time, he still hadn’t freed the house elves from their tasks yet - and this time he was happy about it; leaving a garden overflowing with colours and life, in contrast to what was always roaring inside him. The darkness not even leaving when the Dark Lord had. It still choked him through night and day, fear and guilt blending into a never ending tunnel of wearying black. Though outside, he could for a moment forget about it, breathe the spring air and listen to the birds singing.

In the end he had started to plan on how to get to Potter, he couldn’t just show up on his doorstep and demand his presence and participation and cooperation at his own trial. Potter would dismiss him before he would even be able to spit his name at him. He had to be clever, make a move to steer Potter in the right direction. Draco had to make Potter want to help him. It shouldn’t be that hard, considering Potter was the ever self-sacrificing saint but Draco had to earn it. He probably hated him at the moment anyhow, or Merlin forbid: pitying him. Potter’s pity was the last thing he wanted. Draco just wanted him to see reason, to help his mother.

Eventually he had settled with an idea that left him almost as satisfied as after having parceled out his Potter Stinks! buttons. Draco would start Auror training, he would apply today, and then he could meet Potter, talk it over. It was the best plan he had been able to come up with, the rest containing befriending Potter’s friends and whatnot and that was a clear and absolute no.

Draco had realised that his best chances at making Potter want to help him, was by apologising. It was an embarrassment to his character, a humiliation to his pride at its best. He would talk to the Ministry of Magic into letting him start his new education at the beginning of next term, after summer holidays. It would look good. He would work for the right side of society, against people like he himself had been, like his father - and the best part was: initially he had wanted to become an Auror, but his fear and hatred towards himself had gotten the better of him, and he had chosen not to. Instead he had gone into hiding, and had become an Unspeakable, lurking in the shadows, not been able to tell anyone of what he was doing - once again.

Draco had spent a week arguing with the Ministry, to that extent that by the end of the day it left him with a terrible headache, again and again, but finally when the second weekend - since he had repeatedly gone back in time, his fingers clutched around the Prefect barge - had started to approach it had finally earned him a gratifying “yes” . Draco would become an Auror.

So by the third week he had found himself at the doorsteps of - Salazar save him - the Burrow. He had never thought he would ever be looking for the Weasel but the search of Potter had been seemingly futile. He wasn’t to be found anywhere, and Draco had turned to the next person he could be looking for in order to find Potter.

The door was opened by one of the many gingers and eventually he was presented by the actual Weasel.

“What do you want, Malfoy?” he said, “better be quick about it or I’ll Colloportus the door, it might even hit your nose when closing if I’m lucky.”

What had he expected? It wasn’t as if they would all be happy to see him and invite him in for tea and biscuits. Instead of making a remark on the Weasel’s poor comment he decided against it, going straight at it.

“I’m looking for Potter.”

“Then why are you talking to me?”

“Turned out he was hard to find, I wouldn’t be standing here otherwise,” he sneered.

Draco knew he possibly should have cut off the last part, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Maybe he doesn’t want to see you, mate, or are you too thick to take a hint? If that’s all I’ll be going inside now, have a few things to do actually.”

Weasley turned and started to close the door, so Draco acted promptly, stopping the door from closing with his pointed black shoe, the slam was painful, but this might be his only chance.

“Really?” Weasley said, opening the door just an inch to let Draco pull back his foot - he didn’t though, in case the Weasel would attempt closing the door in his face once again.

“Yes, really,” Draco took a breath before continuing, steading his voice and making it sound as genuine as possible, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important, and…” he began, not able to finish the sentence.

He hadn’t thought he would say anything else but the word had just come out of him, he knew he would be obliged to continue, and it better be good or else this might be his last shot, and Draco had already gotten himself to the bloody Weasleys, next he would end up at Granger’s and honestly, he wasn’t sure he would be able to face her, ever again.

“And?” Weasley prompted.

“And,” he repeated, taking another pause, gathering up the little courage he had in him, “I wanted to apologise, to you too. I want to meet Potter so I can apologise to him, but you deserve it too. I’ve been a complete git sometimes,” he rambled looking down at his feet.

“Most times.”

“Yeah, that’s probably true. No, it is true. And I wanted to apologise for all… that I’ve caused.”

“Are you sure you’re Malfoy? Because you sure don’t sound like him,” Weasley sounded unsure.

Draco hadn’t dared to look up from his foot and he drew it back from the door, swallowed. He hated himself so much he could feel his guts squeezing, or possibly it was just his empty stomach. When was the last time he had had a proper meal anyway?

“I am indeed, at least last time I checked.”

It was followed by a silence, awkward as it already was it lasted for possibly even a few minutes, at the very least - in truth it felt like hours.

Draco had been standing with his head turned down so long he hadn’t even noticed the Weasel snucking inside, he realised though when a piece of paper was shoved in his face and he was forced to look up.

“There you go, mate. I really don’t want to see you, I think, ever again, not after…” and they both knew exactly what he was thinking about.

Granger.

Weasley cleared his throat and continued: “Your apology has been heard, I’m not sure I can forgive you, but I heard you. Harry might be kinder, he always is, but don’t beat him to it. You don’t deserve it,” he sighed, “in truth I can’t say it was good to see you, but yeah, eh… don’t tell him I told you that, okay?” he nodded towards the small wrinkled parchments now in Draco’s hand.

“Sure,” he replied.

“Cheers,” Weasley gave him a faint smile, and closed the door.

Draco unfolded the paper to look at the flawed scribbles, for a moment he thought he would be given an address to Potter’s residence but instead it read:

“The grave of James and Lily Potter, the graveyard of Godric’s Hollow” in large wobbly letters.

Draco swallowed, neatly folded the paper again and placed it in his pocket, to rest together with his Prefect badge.

Chapter Text

Draco had felt like an intruder the first time he had visited St Jerome’s graveyard in Godric’s Hollow, and the distress hadn’t gotten any easier when he had found the spot where James and Lily Potter were resting - it unnerved him to say the very least. Even after finding the tombstone Draco hadn’t walked fully up to it, he didn’t think he would be welcomed - not by any of the Potters, dead or alive.

He had started to make a habit out of sitting at one of the corners of the graveyard, hiding in case Potter would show up - and eventually, he did. Potter came once a day, not making an exception even for the weekend - and Draco was there every single time. He had thought he would walk straight up to him, starting a conversation and making small talk and start talking about Auror training and whatnot, but upon seeing him: Potter’s thin frame, walking with his head held low and his hands inside that Muggle garment exhibiting a ridiculous large pocket at its front, Draco hadn’t felt like pestering him. Not here. Still, Draco hadn’t been able to stop visiting the graveyard.

Potter always came late, around 9 or 10 in the evening, sometimes even later than that - so Draco always came a bit earlier. Settling down at his usual spot he had the perfect view of the white marble stone which underneath the Potters were buried, yet hidden by the many other tombstones in different shapes and colours.

He had stopped counting how many times he had been there and not done so much as to even try to argue himself into approaching Potter - he would do it, just not now.

Potter arrived unusually late, soon passing midnight. He came as he always did, head bent low and with a terrible posture. He sat down in front of his parents, the stone shining light in the darkness surrounding it. Potter didn’t say anything, or Draco didn’t think so - he had never heard him say anything however.

Draco studied Potter’s back, he wore one of his usual Muggle attires, the one with a large front pocket - this one in complete black. It made it hard to distinguish where his hair ended and where the clothes began. Draco had always hated that hair, that black mop of his. It always looked as if Potter had just woken up after a rough game of Quidditch, curls going in all directions, not even putting one single shred of effort into doing something to make it look at least a little bit respectable.

Those locks moved, and then Draco realised: Potter had turned around, and he was fully staring at Draco now. He had thought he was well hidden behind all the other stones, but only if he was cautious - if he could see Potter, Potter could definitely see him. And he was staring at him, right now. Draco swallowed, quickly getting himself on his feet and straightened out his jacket, brushing off some imagined dust from his legs and then looked up. Potter was still looking at him.

“You going to stand there every single time I come here and not say “hello”, not even once?” Potter said without moving, he didn’t look embarrassed about Draco seeing him here, nor did he seem disappointed about the fact that Draco hadn’t come to greet him any of the previous times he had been here before either - and he wondered for a second when Potter had started to notice him hiding.

Draco took a few unsure steps forward, after making sure that his balance was still working as it should he started to quickly head over to Potter.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be here.”

“No,” Potter replied hastily, his eyebrows just barely showing a slight twitch of annoyance,” so why are you here, Malfoy?”

Draco looked from Potter to the grave of his parents and back to Potter again. He seemed lonely, left by his parents all too early. Two of many lives the Dark Lord had stolen that could never be taken back, never be replaced.

The memory of father’s harsh words and mother’s cold stare was familiar to Draco, still, he had had parents. He had had a father who had given him everything he could ever have wanted and more, and a mother who loved him above all else. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t been physically close, because Draco knew that they were. At his heart he knew they loved him - and now, he was left alone without them. Potter had never had his parents there for him, he had never had a father who taught him how to cast a spell, how to act in the world, how to think, he had never known a mother who loved him so much that she sacrificed everything to be back with her son, even lying to possibly the greatest Legilimens in the world. What had he known? A father who from what Draco had heard was a complete fool and as arrogant as the saviour himself and a mother of similar kind. But possibly Draco’s judgement wasn’t exclusively his own but his father’s. If he remembered it correctly Lily Potter had been Muggle-born, and maybe what he had been told wasn’t all true after all - maybe, it was just more of his own father’s words coming out of his own mouth. Regardless, they had left Potter alone, and Draco wondered whether Potter had felt the way he himself did now, lonely, left for the rest of the world to pry on.

Draco reached out with his hand - in the corner of his eye Potter wore a perplexed expression - fingers pointing towards the tombstone and in a quick motion Draco drew a smooth circle and thought to himself: “orchideous.”

A bouquet consisting only of a scarce handful of flowers poured down from the tip of his finger and down to the ground, settling gracefully together just in front of the white marble. Five delicate black flowers bloomed in front of them and Draco watched as Potter turned around, looking down at them, his mouth opened slightly and Draco wondered if Potter were to comment on his non-verbal magic but he didn’t.

“Lilies,” Potter said instead, his voice soft, quiet.

Draco took the last remaining steps for him the be in line with Potter, they would be standing shoulder to shoulder if not for the almost awkward space between them, but Draco dared not stand any closer. He wasn’t even sure he would have wanted to himself.

“I miss them,” Potter continued, his head still low and his gaze still on the flowers.

Potter had been a baby when his parents had died at the Dark Lord’s hands, there was not possible for him to have any memories of them, yet however illogical it seemed, Draco felt as though he understood. It was not the people Potter missed, but the idea of them, the idea which Draco had had, and had lost. He must remember though, he hadn’t lost them yet, there was still time, if only he could get Potter to listen. He had to try.

“I understand,” Draco replied, his voice barely a whisper.

Potter finally moved, turning his head slowly to face Draco’s and Draco did the same, meeting those exceptionally green eyes with his cold blue.

“How can you?” Potter countered, disbelieving.

Draco licked his lips, suddenly feeling unsure.

“It’s not easy,” he said eventually, making a vague gesture in the air, “being… alone.”

“You’ve never been alone, Malfoy,” Potter’s eyebrows drew closer and closer in a frown, “it’s always been easy for you. Don’t come and think you can talk about what’s easy with me.”

“You think it’s been easy for me?” Draco inhaled, he had spoken without thinking it through first, it happened all too often, he had to learn how to shut it every now and then.

Draco wanted control, he needed it, he craved it, and yet it always managed to spill out of him anyway. Potter had always been able to do that with him; peel off every layer he had built around him, in ways not even the Dark Lord had managed.

“Do you? You think it was easy, tiptoeing around the Dark Lord? You think it was easy all that time, not knowing if I would live or die? Even now, people hissing at me on the streets, talking behind my back, throwing things at me, food, garbage, you think that’s easy? People casting hexes at me? You think it was easy on me, to know that if I failed the mission I was being tasked with, my parents would die?!” Draco had not realised when he had started to raise his voice, the words coming out in a mixture of a wheeze and a high pitched scream.

He wasn’t sure if he was on the verge of crying - already, he was so weak, what a pathetic excuse for a man - or Potter had opened a door to all his anger and frustration that now came rushing out of him like a fire breathing dragon, full force. Draco wasn’t sure.

“At least you still have parents!” Potter replied at the top of his lungs, all too loud for the emptiness of the graveyard.

The words hit him like a Bludger, hard into his guts and he felt like stumbling down the ground but was relieved not to do no such thing, his feet still remaining solidly on the grass.

About 20 years from now, he wouldn’t have his parents with him anymore. They would both be gone, his father not any more alive than Potter’s where they were laying beneath them, and his mother locked away not to be seen again.

In the beginning Narcissa had been allowed visits from her son, he had come every single time and he had cried knowing they would never be able to hold each other again. He had lost her, just as he would lose Astoria. Never to be touched again. Later it was decided that she was too dangerous, being a former Death Eater there was no reason to trust her. I don’t fully understand , Draco had said upon hearing it. He had been a Death Eater too, but apparently that hadn’t mattered to the Wizengamot. She’s a bad influence , they would say, but Draco knew how that sentence was supposed to end: she’s a bad influence on you .

“Not for much longer,” Draco heard himself say, his voice sounding weak to his ears.

“What’s that?”

Draco noticed he was looking down at his feet - when had that happened?

“Nothing.”

“No, not nothing . What did you mean by “not for much longer”?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

It felt stupid now, he didn’t need Potter for this. He would manage on his own, he always did.

A silence grew between them, but Draco didn’t find it being awkward. He just didn’t feel like saying anything, and neither did Potter for quite some time - then he ended the quiet between them.

“It’s funny you know,” Potter started, sounding almost unsure of himself and Draco tore his eyes off the engravings on the stone to look at him as he spoke, Potter’s eyes on the black lilies, “the last time someone conjured an Orchideous for my parents’ grave was on Christmas Eve last year. Hermione cast it, a wreath,” Draco looked down at the lilies as well, not daring to look at Potter any longer, “it was the first time I visited again, after they died.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I don’t know.”

They were quiet again for a while, until Potter took a deep breath and squared his shoulders as if going into battle all over again.

“Take care, Malfoy,” he said, and turned his back to walk away.

“Wait!” Draco said, sounding almost desperate in his own ears.

Potter looked back over his shoulder.

“I… I wanted to apologise,” when Potter didn’t reply Draco continued, his voice almost shaking, “for all that I’ve done.”

“Then we might as well be standing here for the next decade,” Potter scuffed and Draco felt simultaneously like punching Potter hard in the face and drowning in his own guilt.

“No, but I mean it.”

“You have a lot to make up for.”

“I know,” Draco said, “that’s why I’ve decided to become an Auror.”

* * *

“Incoming news,” Miller told him, raising an eyebrow at his inbox on his desk and nodded towards Draco, “reckon you might have gotten one of these as well?” he picked up the parchment and waved with it.

Draco picked up the paper that had indeed appeared in his inbox as well just now.

“All participators in research programs concerning the Hourglass that were present in the Time Room on the 25th of July are to file a report on the incident, you may include any details however small that you can remember, everything is of absolute interest.

Please submit your report as soon as possible.”

Signed by Head Unspeakable Mr. Anthony Goldstein.

“You know what this means?” Miller asked, pursing his lips.

Draco knew what it meant. Due to their high level of secrecy the Unspeakables couldn’t even turn to the Minister for Magic when something happened, they had to work it out themselves. After their education the green Unspeakables got to choose which subject they would like to study and after having made their choice and practising as a trainee they got placed into groups, assigned to do research in different fields and topics so that in most cases they wouldn’t know much about what the other groups were working on anyhow, leaving the need for reports close to nonexistent. Problems and issues that came up would be taken care of immediately by the unit one worked with, and the line ended there, only at exiguous occasions when something extraordinarily enigmatical came up would the group turn to the Head Unspeakable and their crew for help.

If the Head Unspeakable wanted every single one who had been present at the day of the 25th to file in a report, they could expect something disquieting coming up.

“We only send in reports when something out of the ordinary has happened, most often something dangerous that we can’t handle on our own,” Draco said, giving Miller a swift look only to see that the man was already observing him gingerly.

“Yes, indeed,” Miller’s voice was even, but his face wary and Draco wondered whether he was thinking about his or his own involvement in the matter - or possibly, both.

Miller picked up his quill, probably already starting on the report and Draco pulled out his drawer and reached for the folder where he placed the parchments he had already started on himself.

As he read through what he had written so far Draco felt less and less inclined to finish it. No, he still had work to do, research, important tasks to do. The report could wait. All he needed was a bit of time.

Draco had went back to the summer of 1998 several times a day since he had first realised what was happening to him, and ever since he was now carrying his Prefect badge in his pocket wherever he went.

It had taken some time, learning how to get back to the exact moment where he had last left, but eventually he had gotten a hang of it; remembering the last thought he had had before leaving to come back to the so called “now”, the smells and scents of a place he had just been at, the people he had talked to or the colours of a room he might still be standing in. It was rather tedious, the work and thought he had to get himself into in order to make it work - but then it had gotten easier and easier, and by the end of the first week he had only needed the badge to get him back exactly where he last took off, paused to be played again whenever he wanted to. He needed only to hold it in his hand, really feel it, and he would be back, not a second wrong.

Still in bed at Saturday morning Draco took the badge between his fingers as it reflected the light back into his eyes, blinding him for a short moment as he folded his fingers around the metal: and he was back, once again, Potter standing in front of him surrounded by blue darkness beside his parents grave.

He remembered the last words he had spoken. Draco had told Potter about his decision to become an Auror and he watched as disbelief was spreading over Potter’s face, but then it changed, Potter’s face slowly settling for a blank expression that he couldn’t quite read.

“I want to change,” Draco continued.

Potter replied, his voice calm, totally in control compared to the agitation bottling underneath Draco’s own skin, using only one syllable which seemed to say so much more than what came out of his mouth: “good,” he said.

Draco nodded, more to himself than to Potter and cast his eyes down at the space between them. Good , he had said, good .

“I want to be, one day,” Draco looked up, meeting those strikingly green eyes once again and Potter nodded in return, noticeably swallowing before replying.

“You might,” he said eventually and Draco inhaled harshly, air filling his lungs a bit too quickly, making a wobbly sound in the quiet summer night.

He spoke before he realised he had made up his mind: “I want you to help me with that.”

Potter blinked at him a few times and Draco felt just as baffled at his own words as Potter seemed to be.

“Why would I help you, Malfoy?” Potter sounded cynical in a way Draco had rarely heard him, and yet he had to fight the urge to roll his eyes; Potter always helped, he always put others before himself (well, perhaps he was right, perhaps he would never help a Malfoy - but a Black on the other hand, a Black he might want to help), “have you forgotten about everything, everything you put me and my friends through? Have you any idea-”

“I do have an idea”, Draco cut him off before he could finish the sentence, the reminder of his own guilt waiting for him like a lover behind a closed door, “and I still want you to help me. You have no choice. I want you to testify.”

The silence expended over them once again, taking up every space it could find like a toxic gas. Potter shuffled a bit, squaring his shoulders once again in a way that made his frame look exceptionally quadratic.

“I don’t want you to testify on my behalf but on my mother’s,” Draco clarified, holding his breath as he waited on Potter’s reply in anticipation.

“Remind me, why would I do that?” Potter finally answered, seeming almost as if he was actively biting back a multitude of unspoken words, more or less nasty in it’s intent.

Draco swallowed, taking a deep breath so to not go headfirst without knowing what he was doing. He had to choose his words deliberately or else this could go thoroughly wrong and he would never, possibly ever, get a chance at it again; not like this, this might be his only shot.

“My mother lied about your unsuccessful death to the Dark Lord, she lied when she didn’t have to.”

“Because she coward her way out.”

“No,” Draco countered, not missing a heartbeat, “she was never a coward - she was brave, braver than I’ve ever been, I regret to admit,” Draco inhaled as he heard himself say it, but he had to continue, and he had to keep his voice as even as possibly - Potter would never listen to him if he started screaming, crying or losing his control all together, he had to keep it together, he had to try - so he continued, only a second later: “she knew what would happen if the Dark Lord won, she choose to put an end to that.”

“I ended Voldemort, together with my friends ,” Potter said, the words coming out through his teeth.

“But Narcissa choose to make that happen, and don’t try to tell me otherwise - I know she lied about your death, it’s not that hard to believe that if she hadn’t, you wouldn’t be standing here today, you’d be dead, you’d be buried in the earth together with your precious mother and father,” Draco regretted it as soon as the words left his mouth, and yet he continued, making sure not to let in any space for Potter to take over and steer the conversation out of it’s direction, “but because of her you’re still not gone, the Dark Lord is. Because of what she did for you, you owe her. You’re in her debt, Potter, whether you like it or not.”

Realisation daunted on Potter’s face and Draco knew he had won, finally letting himself pause and wait for a reaction.

“A life debt,” Potter said, his face unreadable once again and Draco could do nothing but nod in reply.

“What about your father?” Potter asked after a short moment.

“Just my mother,” Draco said, when noticing that his hands were clenched into fists he unclenced them before he continued, “father doesn’t deserve it, not after everything he’s done - and there’s nothing you can do for him, you’re not in his debt anyhow.”

Potter nodded: “just her,” he said, “I can’t know what will happen to any of you - but I will try my best to help her.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t, it’s not for you.”

“I know, still; thank you.”

Draco sighed, a sigh of relief as the air left his lungs together with the dread that had kept him in a downward spiral of not knowing if he would succeed in his potentially only chance at getting his mother out of locked doors and an inhuman way of living. He gave Potter a short polite nod in thanks as he walked past him and started to head out from St Jerome’s graveyard when Potter cleared his throat.

“Malfoy,” he said, voice sharp in the mild summer air and Draco turned around to look at him, “she must love you very much - you should be very happy about that.”

“I am very grateful, and however incapable of love you find me and my family, Potter, we care for each other an awfully lot, and I do love her... deeply, in return.”

His hand slipped into his right pocket and Draco was back in bed again, the light shining at him, making his skin dissolve into the whiteness of his covers and felt most lighthearted and cheerful. The relief of having been able to make Potter help him was settling like warm tea in his belly. Draco would be able to see Narcissa again, and very soon at that.

He had taken the first warm shower since forever and Draco felt as though it was the first time it had ever happened, warming his body and soul in a way he didn’t know a shower could do. He had then gotten dressed all rather quickly, choosing his favourite set of clothes.

It had become something of a habit for Scorpius to come over to spend Saturdays at his father’s and Draco was practically singing when he opened the door to let his son in.

He hadn’t even told him “no” when being asked if the Potters could come join them for dinner. Draco had just nodded, thought it nice to show the Potter his thankfulness even though the request had taken place many years ago - it would work as a personal thank you for Draco anyhow.

“You’re exceptionally joyous today, dad,” Scorpius said over dinner.

Draco shrugged, giving Scorpius a short smile.

“Well, are you going to tell me about it?”

“I’m just happy, is all,” Draco replied, “I thought I would invite grandmother for dinner some time soon.”

Scorpius face changed into something that looked remarkably similar to a scowl. Oh shit, of course it would seem odd, Draco being so enthusiastic over something that shouldn’t be any different now anyway and continued hurriedly: “I just thought it would be nice, when you’re all coming over so often now, to have a family dinner, all of us,” he finished, looking from one face to another.

The Potters both looked as though there was something seriously wrong with him and for a wild moment Draco thought he had gotten mad and chosen to wear one of Great Aunt Walburga’s horrendous hats to dinner.

“Dad.”

Draco felt his eyebrows furrow when seeing his son’s aporetic expression.

“Are you alright?”

“Wasn’t it you who personally pointed out how exceptionally joyous I am?” Draco gave Scorpius a questioning smile.

“Dad,” he was basically sighing by now.

“What?”

“You know very well that grandma can’t join us for dinner, you know that Narcissa is at Azkaban,” when Draco didn’t give him any reply Scorpius continued, “you do know that - right, dad?”

Draco closed his eyes. This wasn’t happening. After everything he had done, everything he had said to Potter - did this mean it had all been for nothing? He had told him about things he would never have dreamt of doing in any other situation. He had said things, personal things.

The rest of the dinner had gone awfully slow and at the end of it older Potter was looking oddly at him.

“Can I have a word?” he asked and Draco realised he hadn’t noticed their sons leaving, when Scorpius and younger Potter was off doing - Merlin forbid, what were they doing - where even were they?

“Of course,” he replied, perplexed.

“I know that you wanted me to help, and I tried, I really did. You ended up alright though.”

“That’s not enough.”

“Yeah, right, because it’ll never be enough, huh? You should be lucky I got you off the hook at least or else we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.”

Or else our sons wouldn’t be off doing whatever they were doing, Draco wanted to say but didn’t.

He felt awful, had in fact felt so ever since realisation had hit him at the table. For a moment there he had fully believed that his unsuccessful try at changing the past hadn’t actually taken place at all - but what Potter had just said to him told him otherwise. Fuck. Draco had truly thought that he would be able to come off lightly with this one, it had been difficult enough to live through it all again and talk Potter into helping him. He had thought that was all he had to do, he had thought that was enough - but he wasn’t finished, not even close. But he did know more now than before, Draco knew he could change time. Potter was living proof of it; the conversation they had back then truly had taken place.

It was further proven when he got back to work and was still assigned as an Unspeakable. After some digging around he realised that he had indeed applied to become an Auror but in the end he had bailed out of it by some unknown reason - Draco had a feeling that the answer was all but pretty, that he had ended up talking himself out of it, deciding that he was still the pathetic wraith of a poor sod, he had never been good enough for it, he still wasn’t.

Upon learning how it had all played out Draco could feel the memories of a different reality slipping away from underneath him. It left him with an odd tingling sensation that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, and at the end of the day, he couldn’t even remember what he was puzzled about. He had wanted to start training as an Auror, always had, but never done so - and that was it. What was all this fuss about? It was all facts, facts about his past, that was all it ever was.

Still confused he decided to talk to Miller about it, not explicitly in case he would start asking questions. Draco couldn’t have anyone knowing about what he was able to do; no one could know that he was meddling with time, so Draco had assured Miller that, no, this was all for a current theory and research he was working on , and yes, since it was all just a theory he didn’t want to share it just yet, and of course it was not like he had found an actual Time-Turner - that would have been absurd. He would have handed it in immediately. Draco lived by the law and rules as if his life depended on them (which they often did, many were after all created for the safety and insurance of his own wellbeing), rules were made to be kept and not to be broken. Yet he found himself asking Miller questions, not filling in his report with the information he should be giving the Head Unspeakable - but this was research, this was his work, and it was important. He couldn’t give up on it now, and wasn’t it true, it was all just a rather modest theory on how time worked and he had to look into it further more before jumping to conclusions. He needed to test it before knowing how it worked.

“Hypothetically, as I was saying,” Draco continued, looking over at Miller - with his dark hair slicked back and black suit (he had hung his Ministry robes at the side of his cubicle).

“Hypothetically, yes. You can change time but you would have to see it through - I reckon you would know how the typical Time-Turners worked?”

“The number of times one turns the hourglass corresponds to the number of hours one travels back in time,” Draco recited.

“Exactly. So you go back in time, you could then change what you need to change, but you’d have to wait and get back where you last left off. It is not possible to turn the hourglasses in the other direction.”

“It’s not possible to go to the future.”

“Precisely, meaning that: yes, you do have to see it through, you cannot leave it hanging. Time is linear and will always try to get back to its original form. It doesn’t want to get meddled with, it’s not in its nature. If you however insist on changing it, you can’t rely on only one impact to do the job, you would need to see it through, I can’t see that there’s any other way.”

Draco nodded. This meant that he couldn’t just go back and talk Potter into testifying and hoping that that would be all it took. He would have to go back, he couldn’t expect time to change on its own - because it wouldn’t. It would always find its way back to how it was first meant to be. Draco would have to make sure that the change happened, that it stayed, he would have to live it.

Chapter Text

The summer past dreadfully slow and not even the blooming flowers could supply Draco any comfort - they kept reminding him of how far he still was from sitting with mother for tea and biscuits, and that was a reality he still could only dream of.

In the first reality though, the one where Draco worked at the Ministry they kept looking for clues and answers regarding the Hourglass and its content. Head Unspeakable Mr. Goldstein had called them in for a brief meeting, he had talked about the potential dangers surrounding the object and how they were all to be very cautious when handling it - although there had been no further investigations since Miller, Dunn and Draco’s unsuccessful attempt to inspect it in detail, new detecting spells were continuously being casted and the observation and an out of the ordinary additional supervision had been installed. It was as if they were all afraid that the artifact would make an unannounced attack against them even though no proof had been given that any kind of jeopardy had taken place. Although it was now known that Draco had been touched by the dust, no one actually knew the effects it had had, and definitely, and absolutely no one knew the way it helped him alter his own timeline - which meant that Draco was still free to carry on with his so called research without any dispute with the Department of Mysteries, though the work itself had not proceeded without difficulty.

Since Draco had started to use the prefect badge to get himself back in time it had slowly but surely also settled to always let him visit the exact second where he had last left off, but after some time he had realised that it was not longer possible for him to jump in time as it had the first few times it had happened. When the “flashbacks” had started Draco had been thrown back in time more or less at random, not being able to choose where to go but it was as if after making up his mind, time itself had done the very same as well, not allowing him either to live anything more than twice nor escape a few months of vile anxiety; so now Draco was forced to experience the cruelty of the summer of 1998, for the second time.

He had been exceptionally lonely, more so than he had ever remembered being, the ghostly shell of a house he liked to call “home” was even more disheartening than it had been even after Astoria had perished from his life - he had still had Scorpius at the time, but here, with his parents being kept at the Ministry (so close to his own work, he was practically spending most of his time in the same building as them - and wasn’t that an awfully merry thought), he had no one.

Whilst the going-back-in-time didn’t actually drain him of any physical energy - him still having technically having had 6 hours of sleep and both breakfast and lunch - his 18 years old self’s pathetic suffering still left him exhausted and eventually it started to affect his work; Miller giving him weird looks and one day even Dunn gave him a worried comment asking if something was bothering him (which had only earned him a surly stare and a fitting sneer back from Draco). It didn’t get much better when Scorpius eventually felt like stating his opinion on the matter, wondering what was wrong - apparently jumping to the wrong conclusion that it was his and younger Potter’s marriage that made Draco feel so uneasy (which Draco had anxiously tried to reassure him that it wasn’t - even though the Potters still bore no euphoria from Draco’s part he was still more than delighted for his son’s happiness).

Compelled to change his habits of using every spare minute to slip his hand into his right pocket and curl his fingers around the metal pin, Draco had reluctantly constructed a well composed schedule of when and where he was allowed to go back in time, making sure he got enough mental rest to be able to proceed with their ongoing enquiries together with his unit without letting his own personal research affect his other work.

So after having endured the pitiful agony that pestered him throughout the entirety of the summer holidays it came as an utter relief to finally, finally start Auror training in September.

Even though Draco had yearned to get to work with making sure Potter would go through with the testimony he was not so happy to learn that they wouldn’t be able to choose their training partners themselves but would get paired at random - and wasn’t it just his dumb luck that he was to be paired up with Harry bloody Potter on his very first day.

Being faced with the real deal of having to spend days with Potter and not just sharing a pint after lectures to keep him in check made Draco physically having to fight the urge to roll his eyes just at the very sight of Potter making his way to Draco through the small crowd of trainees that had just like the two of them been given the name of their said partners and schedules for the first week - though apparently he hadn’t done an especially good job at keeping his discontent hidden when Potter snapped: “well I’m glad to see you’re still you, you almost had me worried after the last time we met.”

“I’ve always been me, thanks for pointing that out, Potter. I almost feared you were suffering from memory loss if you had truly thought something else of me - needless to say I do hope your absent-mindedness hasn’t affected our agreement?”

Potter gave him a churlish look before he replied with a short nod.

“No, Malfoy, I have not forgotten about it.”

Draco took a deep breath to steady himself. This was not the moment to go back to their childish bickering. Draco wanted anything but make Potter feel like regretting his promise to help his mother.

The first weeks went surprisingly smooth. No talking was needed during their lectures - which throughout the first week only consisted of jurisprudence and included homework that involved reading the literally 20 pounds of paper that was the jurisprudence book and Draco was sure it was only this heavy to persist the importance of the subject (in the end he had used a feather-light charm on it, because honestly why would anyone want to even try pick it up, let alone read a book this heavy? It seemed almost as if so their original idea was to emphasise the gravity of the law, the outcome would be the opposite) - and it meant that neither Potter nor Draco was given the opportunity to do much but snort at each other, though it left more time for more developed disputes when they were given their first trivial tasks.

It had started with Potter apparently finally having built up the courage to confront Draco about the fact that his parents were being held at the Ministry of Magic and yet he was allowed outside training to become an Auror ?

“Don’t think that this came to me on a silver plate, Potter, believe it or not I actually had to work my arse off to get myself here,” and Potter had just looked at him disbelievingly but finally settled with that being the truth - which it were.

The Wizengamot took their bloody time on getting everything ready for the trial of he himself and his parents. They needed time, they said. Bloody ironic. But there was nothing else to do but wait them out. Apparently they were collecting as much evidence as possible to hold against the Malfoys and considering their prolonged process Draco was afraid Potter’s words wouldn’t do them much good anyhow (he had to systematically remind himself of the fact that the court had taken their time on their case and the trial would be held in the autumn which he knew for certain - considering having already lived it once - and Draco would walk out liberated of the threat of being locked up in Azkaban). It would just take time, but it was also something that could work to Draco’s advantage considering he was actually spending it in a much better way than last time - having instead spent it with more lonesome guilt in a house all too big for one person alone.

Right now Potter was interrogating some Muggles who had caught a glimpse of a harmless magical artifact that had gotten in the wrong hands and Draco wondered when they would be allowed in on more heavy cases, ones that preferably didn’t have to do with talking to Muggles . Even though Draco held no deep grudges against non-magic people anymore it was rather the reminder of all that he had done or said to Muggle-borns that made him feel almost sick to his stomach when having to be this close to them, but of course Potter had to get the wrong idea, so after having finished up with a few Confundus Charms and getting the Muggles out of the way Potter closed the door behind them and turned to Draco.

“Can you at least try and pretend to treat them equally?” Potter said, face stern.

“I wasn’t…” Draco began but Potter was quicker.

“No, no, you were. You kept standing in that blasted corner the whole time. Is this how it’ll be working with you? You’ll have me do everything that involves Muggles, will you? I thought you wanted to change, Malfoy? Clearly I was wrong to think you could ever change, Merlin, you know what? Maybe I should go to Shacklebolt and tell him that they’ve made a huge mistake when judging your character.”

Draco felt simultaneously like rolling his eyes at the stupidity that kept flowing out of Potter and fall to his knees in overwhelming shame and self-hatred. He had thought that if he was able to stay away from anything that had something to do with Muggles, maybe time could make him feel easier about them. That maybe in this way he could get rid of all his father’s toxic beliefs and be able to come to term with his own thoughts on the matter. Because being close to Muggles as they had been just now, it was all a faint, but distinct reminder of his own misconduct, of the way Granger’s blood hadn’t been muddy, of how it had had the exact same colour as his own.

But Draco had just proven that he had been a poor judge once again, choosing the simple path rather than the strenuous one. Always preferring to turn his back and run away if a choice was given.

“I do want to change, I am… changing.”

“You’re making a terribly convincing impression that you’re not,” Potter wore one of his most skeptical faces.

“I am.”

“Yeah, you told me,” Potter sighed, “you know what, just try to prove it next time, alright?”

Draco nodded, anxious to be done with the conversation and if not, at least a change of topics.

Luckily they just continued to work through the place, carefully putting the artifacts in boxes and sealing them with a quick movement of their wands.

Draco had been allowed a borrowed wand from the Ministry of Magic, it wasn’t at all like his own, nor like his mother’s. The wand stretched only 7 inches in his hand and was made out of Poplar wood - and if that wasn’t an indication of what the Ministry thought of him he didn’t know what was. But at least in that way maybe he could prove that he was capable of change, that he was not the same boy who had stood on the Dark Lord’s side through the war.

“Isn’t this work for the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office?” Draco asked, perhaps a bit too pointedly and he regretted the comment right after it left his mouth.

“Which is affiliated with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Potter ended, eyes on the report he was currently filling in, to finish their work before heading back to the Ministry, his voice in a similar sharp tone as Draco’s.

“I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

“I know exactly what it sounded like, I just heard you say it. Look, if you don’t like what we do, the door’s that way, if you can compel yourself to touch the lever that is - mind you, it might have come in contact with Muggles from time to time.”

“You know, I’m actually not proud of what my family have caused-”

“I would very much hope so.”

“No, but I’m not! Regardless of what you think, Potter, I’m not proud of it! I’ve done awful things, my parents did worse but it doesn’t erase the fact that I was there, helping them. I’ve seen people gotten murdered right in front of me and I did nothing! I was weak, always turned my back when I feared I might be in danger!” Draco’s composed demeanor snapped, and he was the exact same boy he had promised he would never be again; with the familiar uncontrolled outbursts of emotions, his lack of better judgement and forever playing the victim card (he should be ashamed of himself - no, he was ashamed of himself).

“Because you’re a bully, Malfoy, and like any other bully there has ever been you’re a coward and you run and you hide, that’s what you do!”

“Yes, I know what I am, and I hate it! I don’t want to be all that anymore and perhaps I can’t change the past but what I can change I want to, at least try to - because I can’t go on like this! I know I’m the one to blame and I know what I’ve done cannot be forgiven, but I can’t stand living with myself like this so I have to try, do you see now? I have to, I have to do better this time!”

At least Potter was smart enough not to reply to that, Draco feared he would have no control whatsoever of what would come out of him after that, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to live with himself at all had he said much more (not that he would actually be capable to off himself, once again, he was too much of a coward to do that). He had already accidentally told Potter way more about his true feelings regarding what had happened, and even if they were honest and Potter would probably find him more bearable to be around it still knowing his real thoughts on the matter, it made him seem even weaker than before - but that wasn’t right, not really, for he already was: weak, so awfully weak and pathetic.

Therefore it came as a surprise when Potter had stopped him and invited him to follow him to the pub (together with the bloody Weasel) after their first introduction to their course in Concealment and Disguise; apparently half of the studies in the subject at hand surrounding lessons in how to best hide one’s own identity, followed up with extensive training in Occlumency - something that had gotten Draco spiralling down a number of unpleasant memories of forced training with aunt Bellatrix, the other half being how to dismantle other people’s maskings and disguises and what to look for.

First he had wanted to decline Potter’s offer but then he had thought better of it, realising that this might be a good way to make up for his childlike behaviour and act like the mature man he liked to think he had grown to be (not to mention that most of the times Draco found himself spitting nasty commentary at Potter it was actually Potter’s fault, being the insufferable crude prat he was - it wasn’t all Draco).

So there he was, lingering in front of the door to the pub - the Muggle pub - Potter had so blissfully dragged him to.

“Going to stand there all evening, Malfoy?” he remarked, a smug look playing on his face that Draco thought suited himself better than Potter - it only made him seem even thicker than he usually did with his old black spectacles (had he not had those through all of his life?), hair like a bird’s nest and his hand stuffed into that Muggle garment he apparently liked to wear a bit too often for Draco’s preference (it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he did so purposely knowing how it annoyed Draco).

Draco bit down on his lower lip, shaking his head in a short motion and walked past Potter into the humid heat and buzz of people already having had a few drinks too many. Draco went for the table farthest to the left - still close to the exit and yet offering a good view of the entire area. Draco choose the seat on the edge of the table and stared back at Potter as he settled on the one with his back to the wall.

“I was only going if you were buying me drinks, remember?” Draco scoffed.

Even though he had thought this an opportunity to - if at all possible - mend everything that was so utterly broken about his and Potter’s relationship, Draco was on nerve at this Muggle place, he just couldn’t help if he was a bit on the edge and Potter would have to survive his snarling - after all, he was basically asking for it having forced him here in the first place.

“I will,” Potter said, a bit too cheerfully his eyes fixed somewhere in the distance and Draco followed his gaze, only to realise rather who Potter was looking at.

“Feared I wouldn’t find you there for a minute, great to see you, mate!” Ron Weasley said as he was making his way to their table and Draco felt like dissolving into a puddle on the ground, preferably to soak all the way through the floor and be able to escape this madness that was being shoved in his face.

Potter laughed in return and then he was on his feet, hugging the Weasel awkwardly over the table.

“Hermione coming soon, yeah?”

Hermione? Not Hermione as in Hermione Granger? That just couldn’t be it. Draco felt a threatening nausea clawing its way up from the pit of his stomach, all too soon considering he hadn’t even had one drink yet.

“Yeah, yeah, she was lucky that no one came with another request this evening, they never seem to leave her alone!” Weasley continued, then he turned, realisation hitting him as he laid his eyes on Draco and Draco stared back at Weasley’s stupid face that looked just as if someone had actually used a Confundus on him, “oh, no, Harry…” he trailed off, not caring to hide his displeased tone the slightest, “you can’t expect Hermione to come when he is here?” the Weasel continued as if Draco wasn’t sitting just beside them - but Draco didn’t mind all that much, too occupied with the idea that Granger would come (as if it wasn’t bad enough to spend an evening with these two in a Muggle pub!) and almost felt inclined to nod in agreement.

“I’m spending so much time with Malfoy now anyway, and he’s said he’s trying to change,” Potter gave him a meaning look, “I thought this would be good for him, he could start proving that his good will is also to be carried out, not just a bunch of big empty words, you know?”

To Draco’s dismay the Weasel moved his head in a few disordered nods.

“Might as well,” Weasley said almost to himself and Potter patted his back.

“I’ll go buy us some pints, would you mind spelling some Muggle-Repelling charms, might not want anyone overhearing us?”

So now Draco was placed with a ginger in an almost as repulsive taste in clothes as his parents obviously had had when they had chosen his bad fitted hand-me-downs, who waved his wand in sloppy motion underneath the table, whispering: “repello muggletum.”

The distress was wearing at Draco in a way that made him almost believe for real that he would make a run of it when the Weasel was still occupied and Potter still paying for their drinks, when she walked in: hair moving sinuously around her in a way that almost reminded Draco of Potter’s own black mess.

Panic started to crawl along his body, piercing him and tangling itself with his organs, creating knots around his lungs in a way that had Draco fear he would not be able to breathe ever again.

Granger came to an alarming halt as her eyes fixed upon Draco and just then Potter came wandering into his view and nudged her gently, leaning in to say something that Draco couldn’t hear over the droning sound surrounding them. Apparently she made up her mind and followed Potter to their table, her gaze not seeming any less distressed.

“Malfoy,” she said, her voice all too courteous to fit her face.

“Granger,” he said in reply as she sat down on the seat in between Potter and Weasley (meaning farthest away from him, Potter on his left side and the Weasel diagonally across from him since the table was located in a corner).

Potter didn’t seem bothered at all as he clumsily placed the pints between them, some spilling over a bit on the table and Potter moved his hand discreetly in a graceful movement as his nonverbal magic made the spilled liquor vanish from existence.

“So how’s the deal going, Hermione?”

Evidently Granger was working on a champaign to make the Ministry take notice to the inequality of the treatments of Squibs, apparently her most recent obsession, and Draco truly couldn’t care any less but after some time Draco surprisingly found himself remarkably invested in a discussion on the exact rights and conditions circling Squibs and at the end of it Draco couldn’t really see any reason at all to why anyone would rather live as a Muggle and be Obliviated to forget everything about the world he himself treasured so dearly, if getting to choose between that or continue living with - even if it was - little to no magic or none whatsoever, it wasn’t really a choice for Draco and the injustice of having someone else make that choice for him was absurd.

“Exactly what I’ve been saying!” Granger continued, hands gesturing in the air as their discussion came to an end.

Potter was grinning beside him as he gulped down the last inches of his pint.

“Who else wants another?” he asked, getting himself on his feet for possibly the fourth time this evening and got a grateful nod from Weasley.

“No, thanks,” Granger said and Draco echoed her, his own pint still almost untouched.

Draco went up as well, excusing himself as he headed towards the bathroom but bumped into Potter instead.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” he blurted out, feeling a little lightheaded even though he wasn’t even close to getting drunk yet.

“Nah, I’m the one who’s sorry,” Potter replied, turning around to look at him, and he was looking at him in a way Draco hadn’t seen him do ever before - he seemed calmer, kinder, in a way - it made Draco feel wrong-footed.

“I’m happy you’re getting along so well with Hermione,” he continued and Draco felt the corner of his mouth giving a slight twitch.

He didn’t really know why, but it seemed important. He needed Potter to see him in a better manner if he wanted him to start approving of him, and beginning with getting on better terms with Granger didn’t seem to be so bad after all. It made him feel like maybe, just maybe, some of the awful things he had done could possibly be forgiven one day, that maybe the looks the older Potter still gave him - in what now seemed like a far away memory - would not last forever.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, it’s my pleasure, anyhow, she has some substantial arguments and points, really,” Draco heard himself answer in wonder.

“Yeah, she does, always been the most clever of us,” Potter went on.

Draco tugged on his lower lip, unsure how to continue the conversation, maybe he should just head for the restroom before it would turn awkward.

“I know I’ve treated you poorly as well, I mean, I know it’s not all on you.”

That came as a surprise to Draco, and the amazement didn’t subside when Potter continued: “I’ve been a pain in the arse too, I’m aware. In sixth year I was all but a little obsessed with you actually, it was pretty weird I have to say.”

Draco looked up at that, not having realised when he had cast his eyes down towards the ground and now saw Potter who was seemingly inspecting something very interesting on the floor as well.

“I’m sorry, what?” he replied stupidly and at least Potter had the grace to look a little bit abashed.

“I must be very drunk, right?” he said, almost to himself and Draco gave out a short quiet chuckle that almost sounded fond - Potter probably didn’t even notice, the noise being too loud around them anyhow.

“Must be,” Draco replied then and Potter looked up to meet his eyes.

“You’re not though, are you? Why are you not drunk, Malfoy? Isn’t that the whole intention of going to a pub at a Friday night?” Potter gave him a smile, and it looked almost shy for a second, making something inside Draco flutter to life again that he hadn’t even known existed and he quickly shushed it back to the shadows, composing himself.

“Thought I would visit the loo, if you’ll excuse me,” he said hurriedly and turned around, but Potter got a hand around his arm before he got away, he gripped tightly, possibly a bit too tight and Draco wasn’t sure if that was all Potter or if it was the alcohol clouding his better judgement.

Potter tugged at his arm and Draco wasn’t sure what it meant but suddenly it didn’t matter, because Potter’s hand was around his wrist, his left wrist and it was so close, so close to the Mark and Draco couldn’t bear it any longer. The air having seemed to disappear altogether for the second time this evening and the terror was at him again, encircling him in a heavy smoke of panic and anxiety.

Draco tore himself out of Potter’s grasp and he only got a glimpse of his perplexed expression before he escaped to the lavatory. He quickly cast a Colloportus at the door just to make sure it would keep any Muggles away from the booth altogether.

He collapsed in a heap on the dirty floor, all sticky and still wet from stains of urine, a stale smell enveloping him, but it didn’t matter, because nothing was more disgusting than he himself was.

It had been several days since his last breakdown and Draco hadn’t thought it would ever happen in a public space, he had thought himself capable of at least having disciplined that much control - previous to this episode only having happened behind the safety of the Manor’s walls and the house-elves had been kind enough to leave him alone, only to show up once it was over with a hot cuppa and without asking any questions.

Potter hadn’t even said anything that was related to the Mark, as a matter of fact he had seemed completely oblivious to its existence and yet here Draco was, his body failing him once again. He always liked to tell himself that he was in control, that he was all flat faces and composed body language but he had never been that. There had always been the times when the turmoils of emotions that bottled underneath his skin forced itself up to the surface, bursting in unrestrained fervor. Draco had always been like that, all heightened emotions and intense feelings, whether it was happiness or sadness, fury or excitement, he felt it all so very strongly. It always came a moment when he couldn’t keep it all in check, when his cool behaviour abandoned him and the chaos hit him, very much unasked for.

Draco pulled at his shirt-sleeves, pulled them up to his elbows in a way he never wore a shirt.

The Dark Mark looked like coal on his otherwise porcelain looking skin, it didn’t belong there, it never had - and yet Draco had been so proud after the ceremony. He had finally been one of them, it wasn’t just a game anymore and that had felt exhilarating at the time - only to be smashed into pieces as he would realise just how real it all was, it had been too real, because it wasn’t a game and it wasn’t just words and the idea of power, but actual, sheer horrid dominance that would rule all of their lives. The Dark Lord had stayed in their home, had killed people in their home, had intimidated them in their own home, and Draco had been so, so very scared.

Draco looked down the ugly mark that was proof of perhaps his biggest mistake up to date and he shivered at the thought of his aunt licking her own, how had she been able to worship the Dark Lord to that extent? It had seemed possible to Draco when it had still been all good fun, just a bad joke, but with the facts now in hand he only felt sick to his stomach at the thought.

Draco inhaled sharply as he dug his nails deep into his skin, the pain giving him something physical to focus on, distracting him for a moment from the many thoughts that otherwise drowned him until he literally couldn’t breathe anymore.

A hard knock came sounding through the door and Draco turned around, suddenly nervous and acutely ashamed that he was sprawled out on in the grossness that stuck his garments to the floor, fluids soiling his expensive clothing even further - but he was too tired to get up, and too tired to even try to hide himself as the door flung open and Draco weakly looked up to see a familiar face stare down at him, eyebrows drawn tightly together, lower lip being continuously worried at.

“Malfoy…” Potter’s voice came out softer than Draco had expected - softer than he deserved, and Potter closed the door as he took a step forward, moving carefully he slowly approached Draco, not letting his eyes leave his, “come, let’s get you home,” he said, his voice even and Draco felt relieved to not hear any pity Potter most so certainly feel towards him, or any other feelings regarding now being faced with the living proof of the pathetic man Draco had grown to be - he wasn’t mature at all, he was still just a child, a child with a naivety to play a man. He had played for far too long, and he had never been very good at it.

Draco nodded as Potter crouched down beside him, offering Draco his hand.

“Yes,” he replied weakly, “thank you,” and Draco could feel tears streaming hotly down his face but he was too tired to be ashamed as he placed his hand in Potter’s.

Chapter Text

As Draco had put his hand in Potter’s he had immediately felt his stomach clench in that familarily agonizing way as the surrounding had turned temporarily pitch black and Draco could feel himself being pushed with such a force he lost his ability to breathe altogether. When his vision came back, Draco was laying on the floor in a much similar position as he had been from where they had last left off.

“You just side-alonged me,” Draco said out of breath, the cheer surprise of it all having slightly lifted the weight that had previously pressed down so hard on his chest, “you thought I was in a fit state to just... Apparate me home?” he continued baffled, his voice lacking its usual vitriol.

“You seemed to have managed it just fine,” Potter replied calmly, but his eyes wasn’t on Draco anymore, not in the way they had been fixed on him when Potter had forced the door open and had entered the restroom, his green ones never leaving Draco’s as if in fear of Draco vanishing in front of him.

Instead Potter seemed to be examining some imaginary ghosts in the way his eyes skittered around and across the entrance hall, and then it hit him. There were no ghosts, but there could well have been - Draco saw them too every so often, the past playing out in the hall over and over again: Potter and his friends entering with the snatchers, his father’s voice hissing in his ear, Bellatrix hovering over Granger, threats, screams and blood, blood, not muddy, just blood.

“You can leave, I’m fine,” Draco said hurriedly, not wanting to cause Potter more distress than he had already done having him Apparated to the Manor.

He felt if possible even more disgusting than before, but in another kind of way; now he was exhausted, the anxiety-mixed-panic had drained him of every shred of energy he had and he was left with the palpable reality: Draco was reeking of a repugnant concoction of dung, urine and possibly other bodily fluids and odors, and Potter was standing in the entrance hall of Malfoy Manor for the first time since after he had escaped the skirmish and Disapparated together with the Malfoy’s former house-elf.

Draco could have sworn Potter would never again put his foot back on their grounds but he had been wrong, both in this and the latter part of the timeline and Draco was momentarily stuck in the prospects of how important of a change this could be for the older Potter, who back then had only first came back at the invitation of his own son.

“You don’t look like you’re fine,” Potter said, absent-mindedly.

“You said it yourself just a few moments ago,” Draco drawled but he wasn’t really sure what he was going at and stopped himself before he could continue.

“Did not,” Potter answered, finally moving his gaze over to Draco again and Draco inhaled harshly, feeling as though he had held his breath all along and Potter had finally giving him permission to consume the air around them again.

“Anyway, you look like you could need a hand,” and Potter held out his hand to Draco for the second time this evening, but this time Draco didn’t take it - instead fighting to push himself off the ground but failing helplessly as his legs gave way underneath the weight of his body and Draco felt Potter’s arm around his waist just before he dropped stupidly to the ground together with his pride.

“One would think you’re the one who had a few more drinks than what’s advocate,” Potter commented, but his voice was soft, kind almost, and Draco leaned into his arm.

“Bet I smell like it too,” he replied, trying to keep himself from collapsing once again as they staggered their way down the hall and Draco pointed them in the direction of the bathroom, all too eager to get out of this awful stench.

As Potter helped Draco on his way through the door he hesitated, pausing awkwardly and Draco almost fell over again but managed to steady himself before he could embarrass himself any further.

“I’ll just… wait?” Potter’s eyes flickered over Draco for a moment.

A hint of a dark shade of pink was spreading up his neck in a way Draco didn’t think was possible considering Potter’s face was already wearing the colour of a man who had had a few drinks too many.

“Oh, go away,” Draco found himself saying as he shut the door in Potter’s face with a force he didn’t think he was currently capable of.

* * *

Draco lazily wrapped the white fluffy towel around his waist that he had used to dry himself after another cold shower - which Draco had thought would actually do him more good than harm this time and hopefully leaving him more attentive than he had felt earlier on, but to no use, instead the colder it got the more it had continued being a steady reminder of his pathetic existence and in the end he felt if possible even more fatigued than before.

Potter was still standing outside the bathroom when Draco got out and he shuffled his feet looking rather sheepish.

“I wasn’t sure where your-” he started, stopping mid-sentence as his eyes fell upon Draco’s towel and he looked away like a shy school girl - surely that reaction only happened under the influence of alcohol and wasn’t just Potter… being Potter?

Draco didn’t feel like saying anything, the exhaustion wearing at him in a way that made it feel impossible to give even the slightest sneer in reply, and just walked past Potter to get to his room - he needed to put himself in a horizontal position or else he feared his legs would not be able to bear it much longer.

Draco dropped the towel on the ebony floor as he dressed in a completely black silk pyjamas, just as he was on his way towards the bed he hesitated for a moment and turned around to pick up the towel (otherwise he feared he would have to deal with a damp demolition in the floorboards when he woke tomorrow and he would have to sit a few extra minutes working on it with a wand that only felt like teaming with him on special occasions - which Draco hadn’t been able to figure out the exact details on), when his eyes was being met by exceedingly green ones - what the fuck, had Potter been staring at him this whole time? At least Draco had kept his back to the door while dressing and the mirror wasn’t truly facing him anyhow, there was no way that Potter could have actually seen more than his arse - which possibly, come to think of it, was bad enough, especially considering the way Potter was standing aghast in the doorway.

“That bad?” Draco managed before slipping under the safety of his covers, white duvets embracing him.

Potter cast his eyes down at the floor and Draco caught himself wondering what Potter was still doing here, hadn’t Draco told him he was free to go? He had already done more than enough.

“I know it’s not been easy on you,” Potter started, pushing at something with his shoe in a way that looked similar to a nervous tic of some sort, “what Voldemort did, to all of us,” and Draco shivered as Potter said the Dark Lord’s name - Potter had always been able to do that, speak it as if there was nothing to fear from it.

Draco looked over at Potter who shuffled forward a bit, entering his room hesitantly, as if Draco would burst out of bed and shout at him until he left - as if he would have the energy for such a childish tantrum after everything that had already happened tonight.

“I understand that you want to help your mother,” he continued, Potter’s gaze still held low, “but why not your father?”

Potter finally met his eyes again and Draco opened his mouth, but no words came forth, as if they had all gotten lost on their way up his throat and were retreating back to the shadows, he closed his mouth again, unsure.

“I know you said he doesn’t deserve it,” Potter continued anyhow, seeming almost as if he had sobered up on the spot, “but if I could help him, would you want me to?”

There was something in his eyes that seemed like Arithmancy to Draco, as if whatever he was going to reply would settle something deep and important between the two of them, as if Potter was truly considering letting something in that could change his entire worldview - or he was drunker than Draco thought he was and only had trouble focusing, but then again it didn’t quite seem that way, or else Potter wouldn’t have been able to Apparate them to the Manor in the first place. No, there was definitely something, and that something was important, Draco just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“We both know you can’t…” Draco trailed off, acutely aware of exactly how the trial would play out, and not even Potter’s words would be able to save father - Draco wasn’t sure if anything could.

“How do you know? Well, anyway… would you? Would you want me to try?”

Was this some kind of test? Because if it was, Draco had a vague feeling that Potter would not like his reply.

“You want me to be honest?”

“Yes.”

Draco took a deep breath, shaking his head slightly at Potter.

“You don’t? But he’s your father?”

“Of course I do,” Draco confessed, his eyes on Potter whose face was still as unreadable as before.

“I don’t understand.”

“Is it really that difficult?” Draco sighed, no trace of annoyance, just common weariness was all, he was way too tired to be having this conversation, yet Potter kept looking at him intently and Draco felt inclined to continue, “I told you I do care for my family, and whilst I do not like to think of father at the hands of dementors, I really can’t see any other way,” not to mention it was the truth he had been living with the last two decades, “he’s done enough damage, and I understand why they would want to lock him up for good... getting rid of him - but if I got to choose, of course I would want him to be back at home. I wouldn’t want to wish anyone a fate like that… I would want him back home, for my mother,” he finally settled and when he continued Draco wasn’t even fully aware of it himself, his voice having gone extremely small, barely a whisper - but in the quiet of the room Potter would be sure to hear it: “even though we would probably be better off without him…”

Potter took the last steps that separated him from the bed and then Draco could feel a weight dropping down close to his feet and he realised he had stopped looking at Potter at some point, Potter was looking at him though, and their eyes met before Potter casted his green gaze down low, away from Draco.

“Because he was a bad influence on you?” the question came following up on Draco’s last statement, the volume of his voice mirroring Draco’s.

Draco scoffed at that, his eyelids suddenly heavy and he let himself close them a bit.

“He was, but that’s just not it,” Draco began, thinking about how often he had gotten intimidated due to all kinds of reasons but decided against telling Potter any of that, instead he tried to clarify himself: “father was never physically vicious with us,” he continued but just as he said it a numerous of occasions when Draco had almost gotten hit by his father’s cane came rushing through him and Draco swallowed - something that didn’t go unnoticed by Potter who put his hand tentatively over Draco’s ankle through the duvets and their eyes met again.

Fuck,” Draco exclaimed but his voice was weak and he lifted both his hands to cover his face, he couldn’t stand looking at Potter any longer and he feared the tears that were threatening behind his closed eyelids would betray him and trickle down his cheeks - and then he would be crying in the presence of Potter once again, one time was more than enough for today - for a lifetime, really.

Draco was sure he would soon be hearing Potter starting a diverse range of apologies but what came instead surprised him.

“I was forced to live under the stairs, in a cupboard, for 10 years,” Potter said, making a sound that could either have been a short laugh or a whimper but Draco didn’t dare move his hands to look at him, still caught up in his own memories.

“I lived with my aunt and her family after my parents died. They always told me that I should have been more grateful for all that they did for me, but it still hurt, the way Dudley - my cousin,” he explained, “always woke me up by jumping up and down the stairs, pushing me into walls, hitting me whenever he got the opportunity, the way I always had to cook for them, and if I didn’t behave, I would not get to eat anything for weeks and yet I was forced to watch them eat, dessert and everything. Sometimes I would get so hungry I would even steal things from the rubbish bin, searching for anything edible,” he gave out another sound and this time it was definitely a laugh, but it sounded all but cheerful and Draco let his elbows fall back onto the bed, too tired to support them in the air, yet he didn’t remove his hands from his face in in case Potter would stop talking if he did.

“I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this,” Potter huffed out an almost soundless laugh again and there was a rustle of the covers moving and that was when Draco finally moved his hands to look at Potter, who was now standing up, his back turned to Draco as he was starting to make his way towards the door.

“Wait!” Draco heard himself say and Potter turned around.

“I really should be going, Malfoy,” he said.

“Why?” it was childish of him, to want Potter, Potter, to stay.

Draco wasn’t even sure why himself, what difference would it make? But this seemed important, no, it was important, whatever was happening he didn’t want it to end, not yet.

Potter didn’t reply to Draco’s question, but he had stopped on his way towards the door and that felt like a small victory to Draco.

“I haven’t even told Ron or Hermione about that,” Potter blinked a few times and seemed to be looking anywhere but Draco.

“Stay,” Draco blurted, and as the word left his mouth and made its way out in the space between them a silence settled between them and Draco wasn’t even sure what he was expressing, what he was feeling.

He should definitely feel regret, but in a way he didn’t, because after having had a panic attack which Potter had been witness to and having heard things about him not even Potter’s closest friends knew, it just didn’t feel right to let him go, and anyhow, Draco didn’t want to be alone anymore, he wasn’t sure he could take another night alone by himself - and for maybe the hundred time he wished he could just skip a minute of it all and move further into the future.

It came as a shock when Draco saw Potter nod, just the smallest of movements but yet visible if you looked for it - and Draco was watching attentively.

“I won’t be staying all night though,” Potter continued his voice timid and face slightly flustered.

Potter gave Draco a questioning look and Draco nodded as Potter hesitantly put his legs up on the bed again, and then Draco was laying top and tail with Potter as he settled atop the duvets.

When Draco closed his eyes he wasn’t tortured by insomnia like he had been all the previous nights for many, many years now, but fell asleep almost immediately in a way he hadn’t done since he was a baby.

* * *

He tangled his fingers with hers and she lifted their shared hands to her lips and pressed soft kisses against his knuckles. Draco drew her in close, releasing a breath he didn’t know he had been holding and her free hand moved in consoling circles on the small of his back.

He pushed her back, just a little bit, his arms still around her, keeping her close but with just the short distance to be able to see her face and it crinkled up as she smiled at him. Her hair was swirling as the wind took hold of it and gave her a brown aura that fit the colours around them and she tugged at their shared hands, leading him and as she turned around her lips parted and Draco was dying to hear her voice again - and then it all dissolved around them, darkness swallowing her bright smile and the warmth of her hand and Draco couldn’t see her anymore, he felt like screaming, and then he woke, startled, with a shock so strong he got himself to a sitting position and then he had to blink several times as his vision cleared.

Potter was sitting next to him, a bit too close, his arm outstretched, hand curled around Draco’s shoulder, carrying a worried face and Draco realised Potter must have deliberately woken him up from his dream that was now starting to fully slip away.

“What are you doing?!” Draco screamed in pure outrage, too rattled to even be surprised at the strength he was able to generate after having just been plucked up from sleep.

“I thought you were having a bad dream…”

“No, you just can’t! You can’t just wake me up like that!”

Fury was blending with grief and Draco wasn’t even sure what he was saying anymore, but it didn’t matter, all that mattered was that she wasn’t here anymore, he couldn’t hold her, he couldn’t say anything to her.

For a while Draco had thought the dreams of her had stopped again, and for a while he had lived as if she had never been in his life and it had been a bliss, and wasn’t that just awful? Trying to live as if he had nothing to be guilty about.

“I only see her in my dreams, when I’m asleep, you can’t just… wake me up,” the intensity completely left him and all he could feel was an endless emptiness, and then the weight of what he had just said hit him.

They were quiet for a little while until Potter broke the silence.

“Your mum?”

Draco really felt like lying, cover the truth with whatever he could find but he was too tangled with the memory of Astoria and he couldn’t make himself lie, and in the end he didn’t really want to.

“No,” he said.

Potter was quiet for another moment until he decided to speak again: “who is she?”

“Someone important.”

“Your girlfriend?”

Draco almost startled at that. His girlfriend? She wasn’t though was she? Not yet at least, but in a later part of his life she was, and she was much more than that. She had been a friend, the person who had taken care of his broken pieces, helped him gather them from the floor and mend what could be mended. She had been there at a time when he had needed someone the most - the way Potter was here now, with his hand still on Draco’s shoulder, soothingly. But she wasn’t here, not then and not now, and for the first time Draco thought that maybe this was for the better. He had felt guilty in many ways after she had past away. The way he hadn’t been what she had wanted, the way she deserved better than him. They had never been very physically close, his dreams were a modified construction that had never taken place in real life. They had been close, just like he had been with his parents, but never touching - and maybe that was why it happened so often in his dreams, he could do all the things he had never done in reality, show her exactly how much she had meant to him, how much he needed her.

“She was someone,” Draco shrugged, that being the understatement of the year, “another whom I once had, and lost,” he kept his gaze in the far distance.

“I understand.”

Draco looked back at Potter.

“Can you really? Aren’t you currently dating Ginny Weasley?”

Potter pulled back his hand and it left Draco’s shoulder cold, and he felt smaller, lonely although Potter was sitting right there, next to him.

“I think so…”

“You think?”

“You know,” Potter shuffled on the bed, the covers making soft sounds around him as he moved, “we’ve both been pretty occupied with mourning our lost ones,” and Draco couldn’t say much in reply to that, he knew very well what he meant - if someone could understand what it was like to be enveloped in grief and possibly guilt it would be Potter, he had lost so much more than Draco ever had.

“I’m sorry,” Draco whispered, head held low.

“It’s alright, I know what you meant.”

The quiet settled around them once again. It was Potter who spoke first this time as well, his voice sounding a little strained.

“So you’re not gay then, are you?” a short teasing laugh made its way out through his throat and Draco looked up, feeling slightly disoriented at the change of topics.

“I beg your pardon?”

“That someone,” Potter said, meaningly, one eyebrow quirking, obviously trying to lighten the mood, “was a she?”

“Well, yes of course?” Draco said almost defensively and he regretted it as soon as the words were out in the open.

Sexuality was something Draco hadn’t let himself think of until way later in life, and mentally he was now a confusing mix of the grown man he was and his teenage self he was currently living as, his juvenile part apparently having taken the better of him and didn’t mind the way it had just made him blurt out something that could very well be misinterpreted.

“Right,” Potter said, the teasing in his voice completely gone and instead replaced with withdrawal and possibly disappointment, and he laughed, once again sounding anything but joyous, “for a moment there I almost believed you had changed, you know? But I shouldn’t have hoped for that much.”

Draco had never liked to use labels on himself, there were too many bad ones that seemed to follow him wherever he went, “Death Eater” being the most terrifying of them all, but therefore he had never before chosen to use that word for himself. Draco had long known that he was not often attracted to women, he had seen that his hypothesis had indeed proved to be correct when he had married Astoria and not having taken much liking to going to bed with her - not that she wasn’t pretty, she was very, very beautiful - another thing Draco felt guilty about. He should have let her go before she had done so on her own, then maybe she could have lived a life with a man who would have treated her in the way she deserved to be treated. Draco had liked her, he had even admitted to having loved her, but attraction was a fickle thing that Draco had never truly understood.

“Do you think my father would have allowed me to wed a man? I have to continue the family line, you think it was a choice for me? I never had a choice!” Draco said exasperated, “it was difficult enough that she-” he forcibly cut himself off, this was slowly and steadily going in the wrong direction and if not Draco could have spilled a few things that Potter should definitely not be hearing - he could not know about the time travel, he just couldn’t.

“Slow down,” Potter said, his hands outstretched as if trying to calm a wild animal - and in this case, Draco thought it was fairly fitting - Draco could see how Potter tried to process what he had just been told, “and I was thinking you would have thought better than to listen to your father…” he contemplated.

“If you had let me finish,” Draco said regardless of his first thought, yet he took a deep breath before he continued to gather up as much control as he could muster, “I was going to say that he didn’t approve of her view of Muggles and Muggle-borns…”

Potter blinked a few times, as if it was too much to take in.

“Who is she?” he asked eventually and something inside Draco tightened, as if something was missing and for a moment Draco didn’t understand the question - who was Potter talking about? But then it all came back to him, panic started overflowing him again as he realised the memory of her had for a moment completely slipped through his fingers like sand, and Draco had been so close to not be able to pick it all up again.

Who is she? She was Astoria, his wife, the love of his life. She was Astoria Malfoy, and they had chosen each other, chosen to share his last name. How could he ever forget?

That was when realisation hit him, Draco hadn’t been back to the “other reality” so to speak, for quite some time now - what if that meant that eventually he would not be able to go back at all, similar to the way time was now rewriting itself, what if his memories would fade and never come back?

In a nervous rush Draco got to his feet, fumbled his way through the dark room, ignoring whatever Potter might be calling after him and out of the door until he was able to find his trousers - still leisurely discarded on the tile floor in a heap of his other foul smelling garments from yesterday, and he searched his pockets until he found the prefect badge. The tightness that had held his heart in an iron grip was slowly fading and Draco drew a deep breath as he curled his fingers around the cold metal.

Finally back, he was now seated at a dining table, and he was not alone - fuck, he had not followed his schedule, why? Draco couldn’t even remember.

This was why he had made a strict schedule in the first place, to be discharged of all possible embarrassment and risk of having to spill the truth to the people around him. He had gone back in time when he was still having dinner (or possibly even lunch?) with someone, and he couldn’t even remember what the last thing that had happened here was, or what someone, anyone of them might have said - the only thing that played over and over was his conversation with Potter and the question being asked on repeat: who is she?

“Astoria…” Draco said faintly.

“Malfoy, are you quite alright?” came a familiar voice and Draco realised who was sitting right across from him.

Potter. Harry fucking Potter. Would he always be haunting him?

“I’m sorry,” Draco blurted, anxious to get that out of the way as soon as possibly, “you were saying?”

Potter cleared his throat, looking more than a little uncomfortable.

“I know this is not very pleasant for any of us, and we would both have preferred to have as little interaction with each other as possible.”

Draco rolled his eyes.

“Hey, I’m trying?” Potter hissed quietly over the table and Draco had to vigorously fight the urge to roll his eyes once more.

“Yes, go on.”

“I promised Albus to be more… open, with you,” he cleared his throat for the second time, “to try to make it work.”

Draco quirked an eyebrow at him. It turned out that Potter had indeed made a promise to try to get on better terms with Draco but as he put it, Draco would have to “do his part” as well, or else this would fail miserably - as if it wasn’t the most awkward conversation Draco had had in his life already. The lunch - apparently - didn’t last very long, especially considering the way Potter heaved his food into his mouth seeming to swallow without chewing, as if he was afraid it would be Vanished right then and there, and then Draco remembered what Potter had told him: about how he had been treated throughout his childhood, and how he hadn’t gotten much to eat - and maybe this was just a bad habit of his, eating as fast as he possibly could to make sure he would have gotten at least some of it into his stomach in case someone actually was to steal his plate right in front of his nose.

When Draco finally stepped past the familiar gate to Malfoy Manor alone he felt possibly more exhausted than he had had in many years. He was just about to take off his jacket - it was too hot to be wearing one, especially inside - when he could hear footsteps at the far end of the corridor and Draco swallowed hard. Torn between whether to call out and ask who’s there and hide in a cupboard like Potter had done his entire childhood - although not out of his own choice, he finally settled with starting to approach the sound, facing whatever was coming like the grown man he was.

His hair was standing on its end when he realised that the sounds were coming from his own bedroom, and Draco pushed the door open with a smooth cautious move.

In front of him stood a man, still in his youth, wearing a nice fitted suit, his fingers tracing the outlines of the mirror standing in the farther end of the room. The cheval glass was faced in a way that made it possible for Draco to make out the face of the intruder, delicate brown hair, rather sharp facial features that wore a stern expression with way too big heterochromatic eyes for his pointed face - and suddenly realisation daunted on Draco in a way that made his stomach flip upside down and momentarily he was afraid he would not be able to maintain whatever meal he had just consumed back at his lunch with Potter.

It was Scorpius.

How could he have forgotten? How on Earth could one forget their own son?

Chapter Text

Scorpius fingers moved over the different engravings on the mirror and Draco cleared his throat.

“For a moment there I thought you were… someone else,” he managed without sounding too uptight.

Draco looked at his son, all grown up himself, soon to be married to a Potter. His hair moved elegantly as he let his fingers trace over another carving on the wood. Draco had been so pleased when he had first laid his eyes on his son, odd and warm and completely newborn, but he had brown hair, so much was obvious, not the platinum colour the Malfoy’s had had for centuries. It was brown, like his mother’s. In a way it felt like a comeback at his father’s proud talk about the family line and family name and how Draco was the one to pass it on, him being an only child and all. In this way, it almost seemed as if Draco was able to pass on the Greengrass line instead, that whatever was left of the Malfoy’s would die with Draco - considering his son had also inherited his mother’s mixed brown and green eyes. He was proud of that, that wherever he looked the only reminder of his own failures would only be seen in mirror, in a photograph - but not in his son. He was his own, unlike Draco, he could make his own choices.

“Sorry,” Scorpius replied, “I snuck in without telling you, I thought it would be okay.”

“Of course it is, as you said, I just wasn’t expecting you is all.”

Scorpius nodded.

“Tell me about them,” he said after a while, breaking the silence that had settled comfortably between them, “tell me what they mean.”

“I only know the meaning behind the first four,” Draco confessed.

“Tell me anyway.”

Draco looked at the peony, the very first in the row of engravings.

“The flower was meant to symbolise the way she grew up, running around the gardens with her sister, it points to the wealth of her family, the simple things she learned back then.”

“Before she learnt she had been cursed,” Scorpius continued, his voice quiet.

“The snake is Slytherin’s emblem, but it’s meant as a mockering to the idea that her maiden name, Greengrass, would come from snake in the grass which refers to a person who’s deceitful or treacherous - things Astoria was not, nor did she approve of any of those traits. As you know, Daphne was sorted into Slytherin, just like all the Greengrass before her, but-”

“Mum was not.”

“No, she wasn’t. Therefore-”

“The raven,” Scorpius cut him off once more, “she was sorted into Ravenclaw.”

“Just like you.”

Draco had been so proud to hear his son had gone to Ravenclaw, unlike any of the Malfoy family or the Greengrass, except for Astoria. The two of them had been different - unlike Draco, they had chosen their own paths.

“It ends with a scorpion,” Draco pointed out, “she never told me because she knew I knew what it meant, that the last and most important part of her life was having you.”

“And there’s a dragon,” Scorpius turned then, his eyes that were so much his mother’s met Draco’s.

“Why an Opaleye?” Draco whispered, echoing the question he had asked Astoria many years ago.

“Isn’t it obvious, dad?”

Draco shook his head, blinking back tears that were threatening to come trailing down either side of his face. He would not be weak in front of his son, he wouldn’t be weak ever again.

“The Opaleye is one of the few dragons that only kill when they have to, they’re not aggressive,” Scorpius face was sympathetic and Draco could almost hear everything else this sentence was bearing, what it was saying about him, what Astoria had thought of him, “it is also known to be the most beautiful breed, with pearly scales covering its body, shimmering multi-coloured eyes with no pupils. Everything about it is white and grey, its eggs as well, everything except the fire within.”

Draco knew that, he remembered having read about them once in the Care of Magical Creatures class he had taken in third year at Hogwarts, he only remembered it due to a very captivating picture with a caption reading: its flame was vivid red.

* * *

Back in 1998 the Auror training continued and when the field work was kicking in and they were assigned to go on missions together with the graduated Aurors Draco learned that Potter wasn’t actually all that insufferable anymore. They still kept a fair distance from each other, not bothering another if it wasn’t absolutely essential or generally work related.

Potter was impatient though, sometimes even careless when it came to how to pursue a task or chase after a criminal. When the older Aurors stopped and waited, Potter ran straight into the midst of it. It frustrated Draco, it was as if Potter didn’t have a care in the world if he would live or die, and the worst thing was: this kind of endeavor often left them with success, which further helped them get assigned more advanced cases. For the moment they were stuck working on something Draco thought no other first years would ever get to do, this wasn’t something for trainees, it was something for someone who had studied and practised and trained for possibly even more than the three mandatory years of education that it took to become a proper Auror, it was certainly not something for the the two of them - and it wasn’t that Draco didn’t liked the field work, because he did, but it also drove him mad, seeing the faces of the other much older Aurors as Potter managed to pull off the impossible, saving the day once again - but it wasn’t so much Potter, but the way the others reacted, as if this was all Potter was good for, as if they wanted him to continue sacrificing everything for them, as if he hadn’t done enough.

Working with Potter had Draco realise that they complemented each other. Where Potter was brave, fearless to the extent of stupidity, Draco was planning, calculating, and after a few weeks they started to fall in phase with another. Draco screamed at Potter where and when was the moment to retreat, or run, and Potter, much to Draco’s dismay, had him pushing his limits, being able to do more than he thought he was capable of. Sometimes, but not often, Draco would get invited to follow Potter to the pub, most often he declined but a few times he would go, sit in the very same corner as he had the first time and made small talk, sometimes even with Granger, which he realised, had a similar interest in potions as himself, and Potter would give him a few lingering looks, a smile teasing at the corner of his lips and Draco would feel warm inside in a way he had forgotten he could. Sometimes he would look at Potter as well, and for maybe the second time - possibly the 10th by now - Draco wondered if they could have been alright if it all hadn’t started out so wrong - maybe if he hadn’t been brought up believing unquestionably in the ideology of pure-blood supremacy, maybe if he hadn’t been a complete prick all the time, then maybe, just maybe it could have been different.

They still bickered on about nonsense, but as soon as either of them would come across something delicate they would stop and Draco would make a laugh out of something Potter had just done or throw in a joke about their most recent case or how the supposedly better and graduated Aurors acted like children most times and if they could just hire people like himself things would go much easier.

But mostly, it all seemed rather fine, it was fun even.

Until the trial closed up on them, and suddenly Draco was standing in front of his mirror. He looked presentable at least, having gone so far as to having ordered a new tailor-made robes from Twilfitt and Tattings. Draco had dreaded which shop he should have gone to, in fear of what his family versus the high court would think of him. He had been standing in front of Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions for more than 30 minutes in case that would give a message about him trying to change, but in the end tradition got the better of him and he had settled with his usual clothing shop at the South Side of Diagon Alley. At least he would be able to fit his parents this way, he thought warily.

Then he was there, being faced with his parents again after so many years of not having seen them (even though here it wasn’t all that long ago) it almost made Draco crumble to the ground and he had to forcibly make himself continue to walk in a normal pace as he was slowly but steadily approaching them - and as he could make out their choice of clothes Draco felt as though he had made the right choice himself after all, he did fit them perfectly, with their complete unrelieved black attire (spare a few silver details on Narcissa’s dress).

“Draco,” he heard Narcissa whisper to him as they were reunited and Draco felt like dropping to his knees and cry in front of them right then and there, letting mother pat his hair but he did no such thing, instead he stood upright and nodded courtly to them both.

They looked weary, his father’s eyes even more reddened than Draco could remember having seen them before and his mother with bags under her eyes and wearing a worn-out look that made her look at least 5 years older than she actually was - come to think of it, they looked exactly like Draco remembered them on this very day two decades - and even so they both held their heads high, their backs straight, not even letting the Ministry affect their dignity and for a brief moment Draco felt as proud to be their son as he had been when he had first set his foot at Hogwarts; he was a Malfoy.

Without sharing any more words they walked down the corridor, four men walking beside them - guards probably, in case any of them would get the imbecilic idea to make a run out of it - and then they stepped through the doors and into the courtroom and Draco almost got blinded by the whitening flashes that came instantly into his eyes as the press captured the moment and gathered the gossip for possibly tomorrow’s front page of Daily Prophet.

They had all been told where to get seated: Lucius at the farther end, then Narcissa and lastly Draco.

“Disciplinary hearing of the 3rd of November into offenses of Lucius Abraxas-” and so it started, the interrogators calling out Narcissa’s and Draco’s full names as well, then continuing with the charges which listed everything from the smallest kinds of assaults, and insults, to much more severe violations such as misconducts, criminality and murder.

For such serious offenses the trial itself was said to be as brief and concise as the Wizengamot was famous for but even so Draco felt as though it lasted several days, possibly months, years even and Draco felt on the verge of vertigo. The feeling didn’t subside when witnesses and counsel for the prosecution entered the room and he were forced to listen to the many deeds they were being indicted for, most dreadfully true - the Wizengamot truly had done their job well this time.

Then the doors opened again and he was there, and it wasn’t all talk (of course it wasn’t, he had been there at the hearing all those years ago too) and Draco stared in wonder as the figure of Harry Potter himself came up to the aisle, a few gasps audible even though they probably all knew he was going to be there. He had put on an effort - Draco knew he would but found himself surprised nonetheless, his hair neatly managed, somehow staying in place in a way Draco had otherwise never seen it. Potter wore a suit that shouldn’t fit him, the jacket being too loose and trousers in a marginally different colour - definitely not tailored for him, with a shirt that slightly reminded Draco of the Gryffindor colours had it not been a much darker shade that bore a higher resemblance to Malfoy Apothecary’s own vintage Superior Red.

“Witness for the defense: Harry James Potter,” Potter’s voice came out clear and steady.

“You’re a witness for the prosecution, you cannot-”

“I will testify for both.”

This was it. Fear knocked behind Draco’s mental walls and he wrung his hands in his lap, forcing it away. This was it, this was it.

“Narcissa Malfoy saved my life,” it was followed by a murmur.

“Can you describe the event?”

“In the forbidden forest Voldemort hit me with an Unforgivable: the Killing Curse.”

“And this took place-”

“In May, this year.”

“But the curse was unsuccessful.”

Obviously, Draco felt like adding.

“Yes, but-”

“And how come Narcissa Malfoy saved your life exactly?”

“I was coming to that,” Potter said, his controlled demeanour starting to crack and Draco could see the impatient man he had now worked with these last months, “when Voldemort asked if I was dead, Mrs. Malfoy lied when she didn’t have to, she told him that I was. If it weren’t for her, I most certainly would be.”

Draco released a breath he didn’t know he had been holding in. This would be okay, it would all be alright. They would have dinners together again, she would be there, she would live to see Scorpius grow up, she would see both of them getting married, she had never been proud of Draco before but she could be, after seeing that he could make a life for himself. Even if he had chosen a woman with another worldview than theirs, mother would understand. She had always been more prone to changing, not like father. She would understand, and she would be there.

Somehow, stuck in his own thoughts of what the new future could hold Draco hadn’t heard what had been said next next. He only realised he had missed out on something, something very important, when Potter was stepping aside and retreating back from where he came from. Draco had given him a smile, a genuine, from-the-bottom-of-his-heart-kind of smile that he had never, ever believed he would be giving anyone, let alone Potter, but there he was, grinning like a fool - until he saw Potter’s face, strained and worried, and the look of pity in his eyes and everything faded, got blurry in the edges and Draco couldn’t breathe again. What had happened?

The rest of the hearing went on without Draco being able to pay attention. He couldn’t make himself concentrate or focus on what the rest of the witnesses said or didn’t say, he didn’t even hear it, just nodded, fear crowding him from every corner.

It should have been a relief when it was all finally over - but it wasn’t. Draco was basically trembling when they walked out of the courtroom, and it didn’t get any better when he turned around to his parents only to see them being dragged away from him, forced to look straight-ahead of them, and Draco felt lonelier than he could ever have remembered feeling, lonelier than he had been when being assigned the impossible task to kill, lonelier than he had been at the empty Manor, and much lonelier than after Astoria’s sudden death.

The worst part was that he couldn’t for his life remember what had happened in there, he had, once again, been too occupied with his own flood of emotions that he hadn’t paid attention? It was ridiculous, even for him - already being a pathetic mess. It would have been alright if this was the first time he experienced this, Draco vividly remembered having had almost the same reaction back then but he should be - and partly he was older now - he should be able to keep a hold of himself.

Then Potter was there, and Draco didn’t know where he had come from. He thought he would have left, just like the first time he had lived this, but no - he was still here, still displaying that concerned expression.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“No.”

“Yes, you have to believe me, I am.”

“No,” Draco shook his head, this wasn’t happening, this wasn’t happening, “no, I don’t understand.”

“What?”

“What happened in there?”

“Come, let’s get you home,” it was the second time he heard Potter say that.

“No, I-,I don’t know what happened,” Draco could feel his body failing him, the trembling accelerating into a full blown convulsion through his body.

Potter stretched out his arm nevertheless, giving Draco his hand once again.

“Come,” he said again, and Draco complied.

* * *

The late autumn brought a darkness that settled around him like a comforting blanket but Draco didn’t feel comfortable, and it wasn’t due to the fact that it was already November and bloody freezing, but because of what Potter had told him when they got back to the Manor.

Even though Potter had been absolutely truthfully with his testimony the Wizengamot hadn’t bought his arguments. They believed that if Potter hadn’t died at the first attempt, it could very well be likely that he would survive another Killing Curse thrown at him - meaning, they didn’t think Narcissa saved him at all. That it didn’t matter. In the end, she had been given the same sentence as father. They would both go to Azkaban, just like before - only, it wasn’t like before, because before mother wouldn’t have gotten the same sentence as father, she would serve her time at Azkaban, she would be alive, she wouldn’t be treated well but she would live, she would be alright, and that was better. Anything was better. Anything was better than the Dementor’s Kiss.

“I did everything I could, I told the truth!” Potter had screamed at him, his eyes looking desperate in a way Draco couldn’t quite understand why.

“It wasn’t enough!” he had replied, his voice high-pitched and a bit too weak to be a full scream, he sounded pathetic.

draco had then rambled on about nonsensical nonsense that wouldn’t change a thing, yet he couldn’t help himself as he continued: “I have to go back, I have to find a way, there must be a way, I can’t have this, I won’t have this - this is not real. I know what’s real.”

“Go back where?” Potter had asked and his voice was too soft, Draco didn’t need soft, he needed something hard, something solid to fight back against, something to throw his meaningless words and empty punches at.

“Time!” Draco had yelled back at him, not able to contain himself.

“It won’t change anything,” Potter had said and Draco had lost it - because it did change something, he had changed something, and that something wasn’t to the better: it was much, much worse.

Draco had then burst out in a violent fury through the gates, desperate for anything as tears came streaming down uncontrollably in rivulets.

Eventually he had placed himself on the grass in the garden, his arms clutching tightly around his legs until the tears eventually subsided and Draco thought he had completely emptied himself of all the 60% water or so that his body contained. He had sat there until it had gotten dark, until he was quivering due to the cold.

Draco wasn’t angry at Potter, and it was awful for had he been, it would all seem normal, but he couldn’t blame Potter for this because this was all him. Draco was the one who had thought he could go back in time and make a change, he thought he would be able to make it better. Instead he had destroyed it all, he himself was the reason his mother would suffer a fate worse than death. That was on him, not Potter - and what seemed so ironic was that in all of this, Draco found himself further upset with the Wizengamot because they genuinely believed that Potter could have survived another blast of the Killing Curse who no one else had ever survived before - but apparently they only saw the Boy Who Lived. As if that was the only thing he was to them, just like the Aurors, Albus Dumbledore, even his goddamn friends, they all asked too much of him. The Wizengamot hadn’t been an exception. To them, Potter was just the Saviour who couldn’t die, when he had been willing to sacrifice himself for them, for them all not just once, but several times over and over again - and this was how they thanked him? The worst thing was that Potter let them, he didn’t complain, he just let them use him as if he was just a toy, a plaything, another pawn in their game for their own survival.

Draco thought of Narcissa, of tea and way-too-sugary-biscuits in these gardens, of pushing off the ground on a broomstick for the very first time, of fancy tailor-made robes, of being given the silver ring on his 13th birthday that looked much like his father’s and Draco had been so, so proud (he still wore it, a constant companion on his right hand), of dinners discussing ideology and politics and even though his childhood bore a bitter taste to it, it was bittersweet. Sweet in a way that had Draco realise how little he had appreciated it back then. He had always put so much effort into making his parents proud that he had completely forgotten about all that he already had, all that Potter never had had. He had taken it all for granted.

With the memories printed behind his lids, Draco raised his wand, tears falling down his cheeks once again despite him already having drained himself of all the water he could possibly have in his body, and Draco stretched out his arm, pointing nowhere in particular as he started drawing his wand in small, delicate circles, as he could feel the power increase within him - his eyes still closed - he whispered: “Expecto Patronum.”

Draco could hear a sound of soft thuds coming through the grass and he opened his eyes, but just as he was to turn and see who it was his eyes caught up in something impossible.

A silver light shimmering faintly in blue was streaming out from the tip of his wand, it hadn’t taken any form, but it was there, blindingly light in the darkness of it all. Then it faded, so quickly Draco thought he might have imagined it altogether - until Potter was there, covering him with a blanket.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Potter said, his voice quiet but evidently astonished.

“Neither did I,” Draco confessed, “I didn’t know you were still here.”

“I didn’t think I would be.”

Draco nodded, feeling slightly dumbfounded.

“What were you thinking of?”

“Mother,” he swallowed hard.

It seemed ironic, that he had been able to fill himself with a happy memory of someone he had just sentenced to death.

Draco could feel Potter sitting down next to him, gently pushing at his side and Draco looked down at a cup of tea between the two of them.

“I failed her,” he continued and gratefully took the cup from Potter’s hands, their fingers brushing and Draco felt as though possibly they lingered there a bit too long for what was considered normal - maybe it was in some sort of sympathy from Potter’s side, he contemplated as he sipped the tea and then placed the cup beside him.

“It’s not your fault.”

“But it is,” Draco said, he sounded strained, “but I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve had a lot of practise at being a failure, I’ve always been a failure.”

“That’s not true.”

Draco was just about to protest, insist that he was indeed a failure when Potter’s mouth was suddenly covering his, blocking whatever words would otherwise have slipped out of him.

Draco went rigid at first, completely taken aback, but then he melted into the soft touch of Potter’s lips against his. Draco had thought of Potter before, in that way, so much was true, but never had he thought that it could happen, never had he thought that Potter wanted to. Back at school he had told himself it was just an obsession because Potter was his arch-enemy, his nemesis, he was an insufferable git who needed a reminder of it every so often, but as he had gotten older he hadn’t really been able to deny it anymore - but it was all a dream, nothing he could actually have, nothing he would be allowed to have in any way. If mother hadn’t been approving of Astoria, his parents would never have accepted that Draco might be more into males, and especially not the Chosen One.

This though, was happening, but it was nothing to what Draco had dreamt of back then. He had thought they would collide in a rush of heated snogging and frantic rutting and it would be over in a heartbeat, because that was who they were. Fighting, pushing each other to their limits. They were not soft closed mouthed kisses, small teasing nibbling at Draco’s lower lip - but then again, they hadn’t been all that they were these last couple of months back in school. It had been different, he had changed, and Potter had given him a chance at it.

Potter pushed back a little and Draco felt flustered even though they had only shared an innocent kiss, already missing the touch of Potter’s lips on his.

“Can I-” Potter started.

“Don’t stop.”

“Okay,” and Potter leaned in again, this time placing his hand at the back of Draco’s head and he melted once more into the touch, this time knowing what he was expecting.

Potter’s other hand came hesitantly up his arm, and around him. Draco could feel him shuffling a bit, hunching forward as to get closer and Draco let him. He let Potter place his steady arms around him, embracing him in a way Draco had never been hold before in his life - not by his parents, not by Astoria. This was new to him. Draco would have thought he would have felt disgusted by the idea of intimacy, getting this close to another human being, it should be revolting. It was against all that he had been brought up to honor. This was too close, he had never been close to anyone, not physically. It hadn’t mattered, this was just bodies, just a physical form and nothing more. It shouldn’t matter, yet Draco soon found himself pushing back into Potter’s touch, begging to be closer still.

It’s dangerous to be too close to people, they turn their back on you just like you could turn your back on them, it makes you vulnerable, always keep your distance, care for no one but yourself and your family, trust no one was all words Draco had learnt to live by, and here he was, basically clinging to Potter as for dear life, not wanting any space between them at all.

It must be the tension between them that had always been there, building up for several years, that now had them at each other’s throats - but in a completely different kind of way. That must be it, Draco thought as he claimed Potter’s lips a bit more eagerly and Potter opened his lips for him, letting Draco invade him with his tongue.

It was a bliss, utterly perfect, the way their tongues danced around each other, stroking languidly together, and Potter pressed his body flat against Draco - which had them stumbling down in a horizontal position with Potter on top of Draco and he could hear a faint rustling of the tea cup spilling out its content into the grass.

“Eager, are we?” Draco breathed against Potter’s lips as he could feel just exactly how eager Potter was.

“Haven’t we always been,” Potter replied, moving his hips slightly and Draco couldn’t deny it, his own hardening length matching Potter’s and it was exhilarating, feeling Potter, even if it was through layers of fabric.

“Good thing someone thought of taking care of it then,” Draco said and Potter huffed a laugh.

“Can I kiss you?” Draco asked, his voice low, yet possibly smaller than he would have thought it to be.

“You don’t need to ask,” and with no further encouragement Draco leaned up, tilting his head slightly as he traced the outlines of Potter’s lips, slowly pushing his tongue inside the heat of his mouth again.

Draco felt dizzy, the feel of Potter’s tongue against his, Potter’s cock against his thigh and Draco angled himself towards him, lining himself up so he could feel Potter’s hardness against his own and Potter’s hand started tracing down Draco’s throat and the arousal spiked higher still. Light fingers continued down his chest, down his hips, his legs, and then up again and Draco parted his legs slightly as Potter’s hand traced the underside of his thigh, up to cup his balls gently through his trousers, and continuing deliciously up to press against his most private part, and Draco eased into the touch and it was so much more than he had ever thought it could be.

But then shame hit him, it shouldn’t have though, Potter’s touch burning down to his very bones, giving out sparks that went straight to his cock still uncomfortably trapped inside his trousers, and Draco hadn’t known anything like it. Still guilt was pouring over him and Potter probably realised it too, withdrawing his hand from Draco’s slowly fading erection.

“What’s wrong?” Potter asked.

“It’s just…” he began not really sure what to say and Potter cast his eyes down, his long, long lashes batting in a confused manner and Draco realised to his horror that Potter was beautiful, he had always been attractive for sure - in that odd kind of way, with his black mop of hair and misfitting clothes, but right now he was beautiful.

“We can stop if you want to,” Potter said to the ground and Draco swallowed.

“It’s just…” he tried, once again, “you’re with Weasley,” he managed, finally.

As if that was all there was to it. It certainly wasn’t what had Draco drowning in shame. No, it was the fact that he had been married, he had a son, he had a life, and here he was, playing a much younger version of himself, letting Potter seduce him right after Draco had so brilliantly outdone himself in the Biggest Mistakes of My Life, and on top of that Potter did have a girlfriend, a girlfriend who would end up being his wife, whom he would have children with, children whom would later get married, one, even to his own son.

It didn’t matter that by some obscure reason Potter was able to make him feel things Draco had never done before in his life. It just wasn’t right.

“Ron, what - no, we’re just friends?” Potter continued to the ground, his eyebrows drawn tightly together in a perplexed expression.

“Oh, come off it, Potter - you’re not that thick,” Draco sneered, he didn’t know where disdain had come from, possibly as a desperate attempt at hiding his own insecurities.

“Oh,” Potter replied then, “you mean Ginny.”

“Who else would I be talking about?” Draco rolled his eyes, impossibly this was turning even more stupid by the minute.

“We…” Potter trailed off, pulling at the grass with his fingers, “I’ll break up with her.”

Draco laughed, it sounded horrible.

“You two were basically made for each other, she’s been trailing after you for years - and don’t tell me you don’t love her back. You can’t just go throwing such a relationship away at the mere thought of my cock, Potter, be a little responsible for once?” it came out harsher than Draco had intended, but it was out nonetheless, he couldn’t take it back now.

Potter looked hurt, and something about the sight of him made Draco’s heart clench.

“It’s not that I don’t love her,” Potter said eventually, “I do love her, but I’m expected to, am I not? Just like you said, I have to. I can’t throw it away, I can’t go do something just because I want, can I?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“No, but it is, isn’t it? It’s the way it’s always been. They all expect things of me, and I just go along with it, I never had a choice.”

I never had a choice. Draco felt like screaming, something, anything, telling Potter just how much of a choice he always had, that he wasn’t forced to become a Death Eater, that he wasn’t forced to have the Dark Lord living in his own private home, that he wasn’t forced to watch people die, that he wasn’t forced to commit to a task that was completely and utterly impossible, a task he was destined to fail and would leave him and his family dead - but he couldn’t bring himself to say any of those things, because Draco knew it was true as well, he had seen it too, just earlier today. The way people just expected Potter to save the day, to put his life at risk whenever it was convenient. Maybe he never had a choice either.

“You were just caught up in someone else’s war,” Draco’s voice was small and Potter looked up, meeting his eyes, still distinguishably green even in the dark.

When they met again it was impossibly softer, gentler, than Draco thought it could ever be, Potter’s lips pliant under his. Draco didn’t want it to end, he could stay like that forever, just breathing in the scent of Potter, tasting him over and over again. When he finally broke the kiss, Draco continued down Potter’s cheekbone, placing soft kisses everywhere he could reach, his earlobe, his jawline, down his throat and he sucked lightly at Potter’s Adam’s apple, earning him a quiet moan and Draco smiled faintly against Potter’s skin as he continued down, opening up Potter’s jacket, starting to unbutton his stupidly attractive Superior Red shirt and Potter visibly quivered underneath him - probably due to the cold air surrounding them and Draco hastily moved his hand in search for his wand, his mouth still on Potter’s skin he drew his it in a flourish wave. It didn’t take long until the Hot-Air charms enveloped them and Draco’s hand ghosted over Potter’s belt.

“Can I?”

Potter nodded and Draco did little work of it, pushing the trousers out of the way he nuzzled his nose against Potter’s groin, breathing him in, all musk and slightly earthy in a way. It was odd, being allowed to undress Potter, his own, Draco’s fingers putting further inches of skin on display.

This wasn’t happening, this wasn’t real.

“I…” Draco began, not really sure what he was saying, “I’ve never…”

“Neither have I,” Potter replied sounding out of breath, but Draco was pretty sure they were talking about completely different things.

Draco had never been with a man before, he had only dreamed of it, wet dreams that left him hard and throbbing back at his school days, all happening during the night since he never allowed himself to think much of it during the day. It was just a dream, after all, nothing more.

But Potter had probably thought he meant that he had never laid with anyone before, which obviously wasn’t true on his part (Draco had been with Astoria, but it hadn’t been the same. He had never felt so visceral, his arousal so out of control, his skin burning with need, it had been formal, strict, somehow distant even though their skin had touched). Though it thrilled him to know that he was Potter’s first, Potter hadn’t been with anyone before - Draco hadn’t either at the time, so in a way, he guessed it was true for both of them. He swallowed hard, pushing the thoughts of Astoria out of his mind.

“I’m not sure what I’m doing,” Draco admitted in wonder.

“I’m not sure this is real,” Potter’s voice was similar to his, doubting and yet low and husky with need.

Draco forced his gaze away from his cock and looked up at Potter’s face.

“Malfoy…” he said, his voice like silk, “we don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable-, oh… oh, God.”

Draco cut him off, taking Potter in his hand whilst lowering himself over him, face hovering barely an inch above, lips touching heated skin and eyes fixed on Potter whose own had shut tight, as if concentrating on not losing it then and there. Draco could taste bitterness on his tongue and moaned against the feel of Potter. He sounded pathetic, but it didn’t matter, because all he saw was Potter’s face, lost to the pleasure Draco was giving him, his hands in the grass, grasping for some kind of support and then one hand moved, fingers curling into Draco’s hair instead, pulling gently.

He took him in then, almost all the way to the hilt. It was a difficult thing but he soon got a hang of it - Draco had always been quick at learning, and he learnt mostly from the various expressions of lust and satisfaction on Potter’s face and the way his back arched in a bow when Draco twisted his tongue around him in specific ways - and soon he was writhing underneath him, Potter’s breath coming out in quick, shallow puffs and he was tugging at Draco’s hair.

“I’m going to-, fuck, I’m going to come,” but Draco didn’t stop, he didn’t think anything could make him stop, seeing the way he made Potter feel, he wanted to see him, taste him.

He placed his hand under his testicles, holding him gently and then Potter’s hips jerked, even though he evidently tried not to push into Draco’s face, but Draco didn’t mind, seeing Potter lose control, involuntarily move for more, more of Draco which only made him impossibly harder - and then Potter was coming, spurting bitterness down Draco’s throat and he swallowed quickly.

As Potter came down from the aftermath of it all Draco placed soft, tender kisses on his hip bone, up his stomach, his chest - and it was weird, but it wasn’t weird, although it should have been weird. Draco had never done it like this before, he had never been affectionate in this kind of way, he had never taken someone as if he couldn’t get enough of them, as if he wanted them close. Somehow, it didn’t feel weird at all, it felt perfect, as if he was made for this - it felt so, so normal, like it was only logical, something he had done all of his life.

“Malfoy…” Potter breathed, propping himself up on his elbows to get a better look at Draco and Draco kissed him then, because he couldn’t get enough, because he wanted him close.

When they finally parted Draco threw himself on Potter’s right side, and he couldn’t help but smile foolishly at him. Draco was a fool, an utter fool.

“You’re beautiful,” Potter said, reaching out with his hand to trace Draco’s jawline and Draco could do nothing but marvel back at him, “I once thought you were grey, translucent, but you’re not, you shine in every colour.”

“An Opaleye,” Draco said, his voice fond but his throat felt suddenly very tight, thick in an odd kind of way.

Chapter Text

Staring up at the ceiling Draco wondered why he had run away, it seemed to be his trademark, but he didn’t want it to be. He had left before Potter had been able to say anything else, running away like the coward Draco had always been, hand clutched tightly around the prefect badge.

Back where he belonged the weight of it all had hit him with full force and Draco had laid down in bed, feeling disoriented and rather weary. Draco Malfoy had just blown Harry bloody Potter - although it wasn’t just now, it had been 20 years ago or so, Merlin, it had happened - and soon the memory came flowing all over him, drowning him, making his most private parts throbbing for release and the distress only increased (which at least slightly eased his arousal back and he was able to breathe normally again). Draco wouldn’t be jerking off to some memory from several years ago, he would have more control over himself than to give in to something as superficial as that.

Draco had been given an opportunity to do the impossible, to live something twice, a chance at changing his past, and yet all he had done was fail like all other times; Draco just tried, and tried, and tried, but it never seemed to matter, because it always ended in failure anyhow. He didn’t dare to go back already, even if he wanted so desperately to try again, to get back where it had all started, to do it again and again until he would get Narcissa out of Azkaban, until the Wizengamot believed Potter, but he didn’t dare to, because he feared he knew he wouldn’t like the answer to his unspoken question. It wouldn’t be possible to change it again, he had already tried jumping in time like the first few times he had been thrown back in time, and he knew what it would be like this time around as well: as soon as he would wrap his fingers around the metal pin, all he would see would be Potter’s face, smiling brilliantly at him in the dark, and Draco would feel… he didn’t even know what he would be feeling. What he had been with Potter that time, it wasn’t real - well, it had been real, but not really. It had happened, but it wasn’t real. What he had had with Astoria was real, what Potter still had with Ginny Weasley was real. But the two of them: Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter, that wasn’t real, it didn’t exist.

Still, as Draco moved on, trying to continue living his life: working at the Department of Mysteries, talking himself out of reporting anything to the Head Unspeakable, celebrating the wedding of Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy and Albus Severus Potter, Draco couldn’t help thinking about Potter, about his fingers on his skin, how it had made him feel in a way he had never before felt - and sometimes, just sometimes, Draco thought he could see older Potter looking at him, truly looking, his eyes lingering a bit too long, but it could all have been imaginary on his part.

He didn’t know why he cared though, he shouldn’t. Older Potter didn’t mean anything to him, he had his own life and so did Draco. He had never liked him before, so why had it felt so different back then? It couldn’t just be because Draco prefered men over women, could it?

The worst thing was that there was no reason for Draco to go back in time, ever again, he wouldn’t let Potter touch him again, he wouldn’t try to live the trial for the third time, Draco knew it was a lost cause.

Back at work he had been tempted to talk to Miller, hypothetically asking something like: “say, if something did get altered after the incident of the Hourglass, you think it would be possible for the same thing to happen again?”, but Draco knew the answer to that question as well.

Miller would have told him exactly what he already knew, that they still knew too little about the exact effects of the contents of the glassless Hourglass, that they didn’t know what had happened on the 25th of July and even if they did learn how it had affected Draco and what it had enabled him to do, it would be too risky trying to make something similar happen again, and even if they would succeed, and if Draco got the chance to do it all over again, he could fuck things up even further. He had already altered things once, it wasn’t as if he would start from the beginning because time had already changed once, it had been set, and there was no knowing how it would turn out the third time around. Needless to say, Draco might get thrown out of the Department, might be put up against the Wizengamot again due to breaking the law and not telling them about it all in the first place. Miller was a strict, formal man. He wouldn’t see past something like this, Draco wouldn’t have seen past something like this. He always went by the book, he cared what the rules said, he went by them, lived by them - or so he had thought.

Eventually he had had lunch with older Potter again, and it was excruciating. They hadn’t said much and impossibly it seemed even more awkward between the two of them.

Back before Draco had changed things, they still despised each other, and back as his for-the-second-time-lived-teenage self - honestly Draco truly had no clue what he had felt, but here, it was just awful, painful even.

Sometimes older Potter would clear his throat and Draco almost suspected he would say something, something about the two of them but he never did, and after some time Draco felt like Obliviating them both, pretending as if it had never happened - but then, how could he ever make himself forget? The face Potter had made when Draco had touched him, the way he had reacted against him - the way Draco had reacted against him, everything he had felt, thought. It didn’t matter that a Memory charm was the most reasonable thing to do, because he couldn’t give that up, he couldn't.

When autumn ended and Winter was about to take over, Draco sat in the gardens of Malfoy Manor, the ground cold beneath him, the stars shining faintly above and Draco had reached out with his hand, imagining that he could ghost his hand over a constellation named after his mother - but there were no star and no constellation named Narcissa. Only the rest of the Black family, them, and Draco. It wasn’t fair, he wasn’t a Black, Narcissa had been, but she was gone, just like in the starry sky, it seemed as if she had never been meant to shine in the first place. If only there had been something, anything, Draco might have been able to tell himself that she was alright, if he knew that her soul wasn’t trapped inside a Dementor (because Salazar who knew where the souls went? ), that she had simply disappeared, possibly found peace somewhere, but there was nothing.

“I knew you would be here tonight.”

Draco turned around, and there he was. Harry Potter, a few many years older than last time he had visited the Manor’s garden, yet he seemed almost indifferent, his hair still a complete mess, his clothes still misfitting.

He sat down beside Draco, took out his wand and casted a Hot-Air charm over them just like Draco had done all those years ago. Instead of tucking it away, he pointed his wand in front of them, drawing a gentle circle and a stream of green flourished down from the tip. When the spell was finished one single flower bloomed just a few feet away. It shouldn’t have fit the sparse grass underneath, the frigid weather that was England in November - but it did. The white colour of the flower petals somehow reminding him of snow that would soon cover the ground.

“A daffodil,” Draco said, his voice sounding monotone and possibly as dry as the air around them.

“A Narcissus,” Potter corrected him and Draco swallowed hard.

“There are no stars or constellations upon the sky named Narcissa,” Draco said faintly.

“No,” Potter agreed.

“It’s a flower,” Draco’s voice was small, the emotions threatening to spill over.

“Like my mother,” said Potter.

They were quiet for a moment, and for once, the silence wasn’t awkward, it felt comforting.

“My mother sacrificed herself so that I would live,” Potter said finally, a wind rustling the few leaves that were still able to hold on to the otherwise bare branches, “she put herself between me and Voldemort,” and even now, so many years after everything had ended, Draco shivered when hearing the name being spoken, “it’s why I survived all those times, it’s why I was stronger than Voldemort. Your mother was willing to sacrifice herself too. She didn’t just lie about my death because she wanted the war to end - maybe she did want that too, but she asked me something. She asked me a question, she said: ‘is Draco alive?’” Draco held his breath, all he could do was look at the pale flower, “only after I told her that you were, she lied to Voldemort. Your mother was willing to die if it meant she had a chance at being with you again, she wanted you to be safe, to be alive, and well. Both of our mother’s were named after flowers, both of them loved us more than anything, and neither of us could save them in return. You mustn't think it was your fault, Malfoy. It is not possible for stars to change everything, they’re beautiful, and they shine from far away and you might even wish you could reach them…”

Draco looked at Potter then, whose eyes were fixed somewhere far into the distance and Draco thought about their unspoken agreement of never mentioning what had happened between them, yet he let Potter continue: “and even if they will never know you existed, they might have affected you, because you see them, clear and bright, but then you forget, when the day comes, and you continue as if nothing happened, only to be reminded again as the darkness comes back, that you couldn’t forget.”

Draco couldn’t find any words to say, vaguely figuring Potter wasn’t really talking about stars at all, a single tear fell down his cheek and Draco didn’t brush it away. He wasn’t ashamed, he was proud and happy. Proud to be partly a Black, happy to be a star. Maybe this was all they would ever be, maybe they would always be looking at each other from a distance.

“I’ll go and make us some tea,” Potter said, standing, and he left at that leaving Draco to his thoughts again, a sole blooming flower being his only companion and Draco thought, really thought about what Potter had said, and a simultaneously frightening and intriguing idea emerged.

This didn’t have to be all it would be, Draco could get more, he had the answers inside the safety of his right pocket. He could go back to Potter, back to a time where it seemed as if things were slowly turning. Because even if it wasn’t the same, even if he had lost his believed cause - there was something else now. Because whatever it was, it had been real, once, for a short while, and Potter had said he was willing to give Ginny Weasley up, for him, for Draco Malfoy. It was pathetic to even think it, but as the thought popped up in his head, he couldn’t seem to get it out.

There was no limit to how long he could stay back then, Draco knew, and he knew now that he could make a choice to stay, forever. Draco never had to go back to a reality where he still hadn’t changed, where everything was the same. He could go back in time, not just for a second chance at saving his mother, but a second chance at himself. He could go back, and try, really try to be a better person. He could be with Potter, he could make right after everything he had done wrong, he could work as an Auror and fight for the greater good, not just hover in the shadows as an Unspeakable, he could be something, do something worthwhile - but then, would he ever meet Astoria, would they ever get married, would he ever have a son, would he ever have Scorpius? It shouldn’t even feel like a choice, but it did, and Draco felt overwhelmed by it, because it was a choice, and it was his choice, and he could make it right.

Draco picked up his prefect badge from his pocket, examining its emerald base colour.

He would go back, but only this once, just to see what could have happened if Potter hadn’t left him in the grass never to speak of it again. Draco had to see, he had to know - and he wrapped his fingers around the badge once more.

“What?” Potter asked, returning Draco’s smile.

“Someone once told me I resembled an Opaleye, the way you just described me, it had me thinking of that,” Draco said, making an attempt at swallowing though his throat was still way too dry.

Potter made a humming sound, contemplating: “yeah,” he said eventually, “that’s pretty clever,” before he got to continue Draco leaned in again, stealing another kiss, and then his hands were all over Potter, his body pressing against his, greedy for more.

Potter kissed him back, his own fingers roaming over Draco and then he was touching him, pressing against the length of him and Draco’s breath hitched.

It felt as if he had been flying way too fast on a broom and was crashing into something, a wall, possibly. Draco had not been ready for this, and he didn’t know if it was due to literally having jumped right into it again or because of the sweet slide of Potter’s fingers over his clothed hardness. A groan escaped Draco and he bit down on his lower lip to prevent another one from coming through and pressed himself into Potter’s touch, wanting more, needing more.

Potter’s hand got below his waistline, snuggling itself in under his trousers, his undergarment and upon finding what he was searching for he wrapped his fingers around the heated skin, the touch burning in a way that made Draco’s whole body seem to be on fire and he had no idea why he had thought they were in need of Hot-Air charms.

Draco opened his eyes, unsure when he had shut them tight and fumbled with his hands, pushing down his trousers to give Potter better access, and then Potter’s mouth was on his again, tongue exploring, as if thinking it could find some hidden part of Draco if he only searched long enough - and maybe that was exactly what Potter was doing to him, throwing something-since-long-buried up to the surface, something new and precious.

Still kissing, never parting, Draco could feel Potter’s hands over his shirt buttons, it didn’t seem important at the time because all he could think was more, more, more but when the shirt was halfway off Potter parted to look at him, his green eyes glittering, but then there was something else, and his hand faltered around Draco’s cock and it was pure agony.

“I’m sorry…” Potter began, the previous movement of his hand, the twirling around the head of his prick, completely stilled and Draco’s breath came out unsteady, ragged.

Slightly confused Draco followed Potter’s gaze and realisation came pouring over his head. The scars, of course, he should have thought about that. Fuck. Perhaps this was his only chance at beginning something new, and he had fucked it up.

Draco felt suddenly very exposed, naked, and felt like starting to button up his jet black shirt again.

“I’m so, so sorry…” still propped up on his other elbow, Potter’s hand let go of Draco’s length to travel up his abdomen instead, tracing the scars with his fingers that were still a slightly blushed colour on his otherwise alabaster skin, “I didn’t know it would scar… I’m sorry.”

For a moment Draco felt like snapping something back at him, anything, something like get on with it, will you? or what did you expect? but he did no such thing, settling for something else entirely.

“It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, whatever it is, Malfoy, this is not fine. I did this to you…” Potter said, though there was no strength behind his words, instead he sounded disbelieving, as if it was too much for him to take in.

“And I aimed an Unforgivable at you,” Draco breathed, caught up in a what-if image of Potter writhing in pain on the bathroom floor - it had been better this way, he had deserved it, at the time he had thought Potter did as well, but he hadn’t, Potter had always tried his best.

“I cut you open,” Potter countered, his voice impossibly smaller.

Draco closed his eyes for a moment, this was not what he had expected when going back in time again, he didn’t want to go back to the pathetic wreck he was, he didn’t want Potter to step away, creating further distance between them than there had ever been, he didn’t want to be just a star.

When opening his eyes again he reached out with his hand, up towards Potter’s face above him and touched his fingertips at the scar on his forehead, Potter shivered.

“We are more than our scars,” Draco said then, and a smile ghosted over Potter’s face.

Potter leaned down and put his lips softly against Draco’s, and they stayed like that, and Draco felt as though he was something valued, cherished under Potter’s soft, soft touch and then he could feel Potter’s fingers lacing together with his and Draco didn’t understand how Potter could make him feel so many things at once, they parted and Draco looked down at their shared hands, something he had never done before, something he had only dreamed of doing with Astoria, a dream that had never happened in real life because that would have been too much, and it would have been too close, but here, it wasn’t. It felt good, and Draco felt… loved.

When their lips met again it was heated like before, and Potter’s hand was around him again, tugging, sliding, twisting, and even though Draco had done similar things to himself before it felt nothing like it, it was different, because it wasn’t his hand but Potter’s, and it felt so, so very good.

His balls drawn tight to his body, his eyes shut equally tight, and Draco came, head pressed in the juncture of Potter’s neck and shoulder.

When he opened his eyes again Potter was laying beside him, his eyes never leaving Draco’s face.

I want this to last, Draco thought, swallowing at the meaning behind his words, and then he heard himself say it, incapable of keeping them at bay.

“I want this to last,” his voice betrayed him, echoing his very private thought.

“It can,” Potter replied to Draco’s horror and pushed the platinum hair away from his forehead.

Draco smiled weakly.

“Maybe it can,” he said in wonder, because in fact, it could, it could last.

Potter stayed over at the Manor for the second time that night, and in bed Potter touched him in ways Draco didn’t know was possible, not just with his fingers on his heated skin, but on his heart - something which Draco had disregarded long ago. He had thought he didn’t need it, that he didn’t want it, but he had been wrong, so very wrong, with Potter’s body close to his he felt safe, and strong, stronger than he had done ever before. Draco should have seen it before, even in school, and now in training, when working together: they had been two sides of the same coin, Potter had always done that to him, been able to bring out the very worst of him, but also it seemed, his very best.

That night he dreamed of brown hair, but it was long, and beautiful, of laughter and child feet thumping against wooden floorboards and Draco woke startled. Something wasn’t right. He pressed his hands hard against his face and there was a hand on his shoulder but it didn’t matter, nothing mattered because all Draco could think of was the dream, of how real it had seemed and yet, yet, he couldn’t remember their faces. The woman, the child.

“A nightmare?” Potter’s voice sounded comforting in the darkness of the room but it didn’t matter, because something wasn’t right, something was definitely, most certainly very, very wrong.

“No-, well yes, but no.”

Draco didn’t dare look at Potter, too afraid that the dream would disappear forever, never to return - he had to know what it mean, he had to know what he had forgotten because whatever it was, it was important, and it pained him, made something feel like it was physically breaking inside of him.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Draco didn’t want to talk about it, by some reason he felt like he couldn’t, like he shouldn’t. The dream felt precious, like something dear to him that he couldn’t lose. Maybe, if he said it out loud at least Potter could remind him of it later, so that it wouldn’t be gone, so that it would still be real.

“There was a woman,” Draco began, his voice was shaking, “and…” he couldn’t continue, tears tumbling down his cheeks and he didn’t even know why he was crying.

“It’s alright, it will be okay,” Potter said soothingly but it didn’t help, because Draco knew this wasn’t okay.

“Who is she?”

Who is she? It was as if everything came rushing back to him again, a wave casting itself at him at full force. Who is she? She was Astoria, his wife, the love of his life. She was Astoria Malfoy, and they had chosen each other, chosen to share his last name. How could he ever forget? And it was Scorpius. How could he have forgotten? How on Earth could one forget their own son?

Draco swallowed hard. The memory loss hadn’t affected him in quite some time now, and had it ever started to slip away from him Draco would get his hand around the prefect badge instantly.

Draco dropped his hands into his lap, looking over at Potter who was clearly trying hard to get himself in an awake state, his eyes still heavy with sleep.

“Tell me,” Potter prompted and Draco very much wanted to, he wanted to tell him about everything he had lost, everything he had gained, everything he could have with him, with Potter, and everything that was impossible.

“I want you,” Draco confessed, “but I can’t have you.”
“That’s not your choice to make.”

Draco smiled, because this time, it was his choice, and he wouldn’t fuck this up. He could chose this path, choosing to stay with Potter here and now and however long it would last, but that was also the simple way. But Draco was more than that. Staying with Potter meant that he would lose his memory of Astoria and Scorpius Malfoy, it meant that he would take away important parts of Potter’s life as well, and even though it was tempting, removing his guilt and grief he wouldn't run from this. This time, he wouldn’t be a coward.

Choosing to not report the affect the dust had had on him had been a choice, choosing to try to save his mother from Azkaban had been a choice, letting Potter touch his very core had been a choice. He couldn’t forget about that.

Draco lowered himself over Potter, kissing his scar on his forehead.

“I won’t forget,” he whispered, reaching for his trousers at the end of his bed Draco wrapped his hand around the badge one last time.

* * *

Potter came back with a cup in either hand, much like that time in November 1998, and Draco stood up then, taking out his wand and pointed it in front of him.

“Expecto Patronum.”

A silvery beam of light shot out from the tip of his wand and an animal emerged on the ground, hooves pushing against the faded grass and it surged up into the night sky, soaring seemingly in an ocean of stars.

It was a Thestral.

When it faded Draco looked over at Potter who was still staring into the empty air where the corporeal Patronus had recently been flying above them.

“I always thought I was too weak to produce a full bodied Patronus.”

“You’re not weak, Malfoy,” Potter said in wonder, and then he met Draco’s eyes, “I think the reason you couldn’t produce one before was because you believed you didn’t have any good, happy memories.”

“I was wrong,” Draco admitted.

“You were wrong about many things.”

“But so were you,” Draco pushed, “you resembled me to a star, Potter, I’m not a star. I’m more complicated than that, I’m a constellation.”

* * *

At work Draco finished his report and finally handed it in to Head Unspeakable Anthony Goldstein. Draco should have done so long ago, but back then he hadn’t been able to. He managed to not face the Wizengamot again, but not surprisingly he got sacked from his job instead, and was no longer an Unspeakable. They put him up for several diagnostics but couldn’t find anything wrong with him. He never told them about the prefect badge. Instead he had destroyed it himself, watching as the Incendio melted the solid metal to a small puddle on the ground, he had taken one last glance at it and casted the Vanishing spell. There was no turning back now.

Eventually he visited Potter at 12 Grimmauld Place and considering he was no longer an Unspeakable he spilled what he thought he was allowed, told Potter about the way the contents of an unknown magical artifact had flowed straight into him, about the way he had tried to save Narcissa, how he had failed, how he had lived it all again, how he had thought of staying with him, with Potter, how he had wanted to, but never did, how he had chosen Astoria and Scorpius instead.

“You’re the bravest man I’ve ever known,” Potter said after he had finished.

But Draco shook his head, he had still failed, he was still pathetic.

“I have something of yours,” Potter continued, disappearing from the room only to show up again, a thin wand in dark wood in hand.

It was Draco’s wand, the wand Potter had snatched from his hands at Malfoy Manor all those years ago. Draco hadn’t thought he would ever see the wand again.

Draco shook his head.

“I don’t deserve it.”

“But you do.”

“How do you know?”

“When I saw your corporeal Patronus, it’s a Thestral.”

“I have still done awful things, horrible things, things that are unforgivable, I-”

“You had no choice,” Potter said and Draco felt like cracking up like the child he had once been, crying in a heap on the floor, but he didn’t, “and despite that, you fought to make your own choices. You chose to lower your wand - yes, I was there when he died, but you were already lowering your wand. You couldn’t kill him. You chose to lie about my identity even though you knew it would have helped your family. You’re a great wizard, Malfoy, and not just a great one. You’re a good one.”

Draco didn’t know what to say, so all that came was: “I wanted to be good.”

“Hawthorn are chosen for those who have a complex and conflicted nature, I think you’ve made up your mind. I think you have made a choice. And needless to say, it’s always chosen by a witch or wizard of proven talent.”

Draco smiled, because there was nothing else he could do. Maybe Potter was right, maybe he wasn’t weak and pathetic anymore, maybe he wasn’t all bad, maybe he could be good.

“Thank you,” he said finally as Potter handed him his wand.

“Don’t mention it, Malfoy.”

“Draco,” Draco said.

“Draco,” Potter echoed, closing the space between them he reached up, putting his lips over Draco’s.

“What about Ginny Weasley?” Draco breathed against him, unable to help himself.

“That’s not your choice to make.”