Draco sighed, plopping down ungracefully, un-Malfoy-like, into the all too familiar leather chaise. He shifted around for a moment until he deemed himself comfortable enough before lolling his head over to the side to look at Clara who was gazing at him with her typical, bemused expression. He smiled at her tiredly, even he could feel that it didn’t quite reach his eyes, but at least he was trying.
“Hello, Draco,” Clara said after a moment “nice to see that you’re punctual as always. You look a bit tired, still having trouble sleeping?”
Draco nodded, locks of hair falling over his eyes. “Another nightmare, some days I feel like they’re getting out of control since I stopped taking the Dreamless Sleep.”
Clara nodded, jotting the information down in a small leather bound pad she kept practically glued to her lap. “Would you like to talk about the nightmare? Was it about the war again, or your father?”
Lucius. Draco could appreciate that Clara never said his name anymore. It brought Draco too many emotions to keep under control. Ever since the war had ended, Draco’s relationship with his father had been non-existent. It was his father’s fault that he and his mother had gotten dragged into the whole ‘serving the Dark Lord’ nonsense. It had been his father’s fault that they’d had to house a blood-thirsty lunatic in their home. Draco’s stomach began to churn just thinking of all the things he’d born witness to while the Dark Lord haunted the halls of Malfoy Manor. To make matters worse, Draco and his mother had nearly been carted off to Azkaban thanks to trying to keep their heads above water in the situation his father had put them in. If it hadn’t been for Potter...Draco was afraid to think what would have happened if it hadn’t been for Potter…
“Draco?” Clara’s voice pulled Draco out of his thoughts. He did that a lot now. Spaced out. Got inside of his head and drifted away from the outside world. It was something he and Clara were trying to work on. Seeing a Mind Healer was part of the terms and conditions involved that kept him and his mother out of Azkaban. One of many conditions.
“It was about my father,” Draco sighed, running a shaky hand through his hair. He’d cut it when his father -ragged and screaming like a raving lunatic- denounced both he and his mother as he was carted off to Azakan with a life-long sentence. It had started with the left side, then the right. Now he’d taken to keeping the sides shaved, the middle long -down to his jaw- and streaked with various shades of light blue. His father had a conniption the first time he saw it. It was so feminine, so queer, so very un-Malfoy. Draco loved it and he loved how much his father hated it.
“What about your father?” Clara had such a soothing voice. Draco loved it. He confessed after a few months of seeing her that her voice reminded him of his mother. Clara was gentle and patient and seemed genuinely concerned about his welfare. The wizarding world spit upon the name Malfoy, it was nice to feel cared for.
“I came out to him. It was such an odd dream. We were in a muggle coffee shop, of all places, my father hates both coffee and muggles so it all seemed surreal and out of place. I sat down in front of my father and watched him sneer at my hair and my clothes and my coffee and I just sort of blurted it out…” Draco fidgeted with the hem of his shirt, frowning.
“You can say it Draco. This is a safe space. I think it would be healthy for you to be able to say the words aloud. They aren’t bad words, you just have a negative association to them because that’s what you were raised to think. Your father raised you to believe they’re something to be ashamed of, Draco, but we’ve talked about this. You don’t have to live your life by his definitions anymore, you’re free to live life on your own terms.” Clara stared at him, her yellow eyes watching him carefully like a hawk. Draco was vaguely reminded of Madam Hooch, her eyes trained to the sky, protective and alert, making sure to catch any of the first years should they fall off their broom. There was a safety in that, something rooted so deeply in Draco that he barely understood it. It made him feel safe, brought him back to a point in his life before his world got blown apart.
“I told my father I’m gay,” he whispered. If he weren’t so bloody tired he most likely would have cringed at how small and insignificant he sounded. He sounded like a child sharing a secret that, well..wasn’t a secret. Pretty much everyone knew. His father certainly knew long before Draco did. His father had always done his best to snuff out that side of him.
A black wardrobe. No color. No life. No expression. End of story.
A lack of affection from his father. No love. No smiles. No hugs. No warmth between men because that would be wrong. End of story.
His father drove him to quidditch. A manly sport. Something physical because he’d kill them both before he had a dancer for a son. If Narcissa took Draco to one more ballet, he was shipping Draco off to Durmstrang. End of story.
His father had taken control of his narrative, at least that’s how Clara put it. Draco quite liked that analogy. He liked reading, liked thinking about his life as a book that wasn’t quite finished yet. His father had written the first half but Draco, well, he could write the second half however he wanted. He liked that.
“What happened after that? How did your father react?”
“E-Excuse me?” Clara leaned forward a little, making sure she heard Draco correctly.
“He mutated, the dreamscape changed and suddenly I wasn’t in a muggle cafe with my father anymore, I was in the Hogwarts Great Hall surrounded by the rest of my ‘peers’ and they were...being very vocal about my new appearance,” Draco gestured down to his outfit; black wingtips, tailored, royal purple pants with a matching button down, a grey marled sweater vest, and plum, purple, grey, and black, paisley bow tie.
“So they resorted to name-calling?” Clara raised an eyebrow at him, an expectant, maternal look on her face. She was a stickler for not allowing Draco to get away with vague answers.
“Draco,” Clara sighed ever so quietly, glancing at the clock “it’s your hour, Draco, and I understand these things are hard to talk about. Examining our emotions and coming to terms with things that go against what we’ve known and been taught our entire lives is no easy feat. However, you’ve been making such tremendous progress lately, you honestly have, if you’d rather table this discussion for the moment and move on to something else, I support that decision but with you leaving for Hogwarts in a few days, I think this is something we should try to tackle. I’m going to go put the kettle on, would you like a cup of tea?”
“Sure,” Draco murmured, nodded absently. He was already lost in thought by the time Clara left the room. He knew she was right, not that he particularly wanted to admit it. She was so like his mother in that way, speaking logic and reasoning into him even when it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Draco was afraid to go back to Hogwarts. He didn’t want to admit that either. They all hated him and rightfully so. What was the point of going back? It wasn’t like anyone in the wizarding world would higher him all because he sat for his N.E.W.T.S. He was still a Malfoy, for now anyhow, until his father found out he wouldn’t be carrying on the Malfoy name. Not with a woman at least. He sighed, sinking further into the chaise. He didn’t hear Clara come back into the room until the familiar chink of china on wood snapped him back into reality.
“Thank you,” he sat up just enough to take his cup, running a finger over the rim “I’m…” he refused to say scared. “I’m worried about returning to Hogwarts, worried that they’ll all see how much I’ve changed, worried they’ll be able to tell that I’m...gay.” He took a careful, steady sip from his tea, staring down into the cup to avoid Clara. He didn’t want anyone at Hogwarts to know he was gay. They knew too much about him already. Draco sodding Malfoy, ex-death eater, co-conspirator to the death of Dumbledore, prime suspect of the near-deaths of Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley, pompous git, Slytherin Ice King, and the cold-hearted carbon copy of ruthless murder Lucius Malfoy. Parents were already complaining as it. Death Eater children back roaming the halls of Hogwarts? Preposterous! It was bad enough the Ministry was forcing them back to Hogwarts as part of their ‘rehabilitation’ into society, Draco could only imagine what the parents would do if they found out a queer ex-death eater was in their mists.
“I don’t think it would be so bad if they saw you’ve changed, Draco,” Clara took a sip of her tea, giving him that maternal, expectant stare as if he were a small child struggling to discern that two plus two does indeed equal four.
“Wasn’t it you who said, and I quote ‘changing into the man I’ve always felt I should be without my father lurking over every decision I make is one of the best things to ever happen to me?’ or do you no longer feel that way?” Clara continued to stare over the rim of her cup.
Draco remembered that session. Vividly. It was shortly after he had dyed his hair, not too long after his breakdown that had landed him in Mungos for two weeks. Draco learned the hard way that slicing your Dark Mark off landed you in a very cozy room in St.Mungos that just so happened to have white padded walls. “I did say that,” Draco murmured, glancing down at his arm.
“You have changed so much, Draco, made so much progress and have blossomed into a completely different person than the young man I met nine months ago. I think there can be some symbolism in that, nine months, women carry their children to term for nine months and then they birth a new life into the world. You, Draco, carried your trauma for the past nine months and you birthed a new version of yourself into the world. Going back to Hogwarts is your opportunity to foster that new life. It doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”
“You look dashing, sweetheart,” Narcissa smiled sweetly, coming over to Draco and running her fingers through his hair, mussing it up a tiny bit.
“Thank you, mother,” Draco tried to smile but only managed a twitch of the lips. He bent down to grab his school trunk. He’d have to carry it as he wasn’t allowed a wand again until he was on school property. His mother had been kind enough to cast a wandless lightening charming on it.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you, Draco? Between the reporters, the students, the other students, I-” Draco held up a hand to stop her.
“I know you’re worried, mother, but I’ll be fine. They don’t need to put us both in the paper. I’ll write the moment I’m able and at least once a week after. Clara has spoken to Headmistress McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey and its been arranged for me to have my sessions at Hogwarts each week. I’ll…”he kissed her forehead tenderly “I’ll be alright, mother.”
Narcissa nodded, blonde curls bobbing softly. She stared at him, long and imploringly, her blue eyes searching for something. What, Draco wasn’t entirely sure, but he felt small and incredibly young under her gaze. “I love you so,” she whispered, clasping onto his arm, over the spot where his Dark Mark once stood “if you need anything, anything at all, just write home and I’ll come running.” She pulled him into a nearly bone crushing hug, kissing his cheek before letting him leave out the door.
“I love you too, Mother. Everything will be fine,” Draco wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself. All he knew was the night he sliced the Dark Mark off his arm had left them both changed people. It was scary, leaving the comfort of their little bubble, but they would both be better for it. That’s what their Mind Healers kept telling them. By the time Draco came back at Christmas the Manor would be renovated, cleansed, completely different. He hoped he’d return in much the same condition; renovated, cleansed, different.
Kings Cross Station brought about everything Draco had been expecting. He’d been hexed...twice, booed at, spat at, and the vultures from the Daily Prophet had a field day with the drama his mere presence had caused. The only sanctuary he had within it all was that no one wanted to sit with him so he’d managed to find an empty compartment and settle into it. People glared and sneered as they passed by but once the train began moving he felt as though he was finally able to exhale. Pansy, Blaise, and Theo were all headed to Hogwarts by other means which meant he’d be alone the entire trip. Draco wasn’t sure whether to panic or find solace in that but he had to deal with it all the same. He set his robes on the seat next to him and pulled out a muggle book he’d begun reading and curled up in his seat, praying beyond hope that at least the train ride could be uneventful before he spent the next year surrounded by people who’d much prefer if he were dead.
“Malfoy,” Draco wanted to curse, recognizing the voice instantly. He slid his bookmark in to hold his place and looked up into shockingly bright emerald eyes.
“Potter,” he greeted, taking a concentrated effort to keep his voice low and level.
“Do you mind if I sit?” Potter gestured toward the empty seat across from him.
Draco eyed Potter, taking in his appearance. He’d changed in the past nine months. His hair had gotten longer, long enough to completely cover his scar and long enough for him to have a long, thick plait that sat over his shoulder. Apparently Potter had a sense of fashion now. Draco took note of the dragon hide boots and fitted black trousers, the leather jacket that seemed far too big for him but in a devil-may-care sort of way. He wasn’t wearing his glasses anymore either. “Suit yourself,” Draco couldn’t help but feel his curiosity being piqued by this Potter. There was something about him that Draco couldn’t place. An energy that seemed to crackle around him, pulling Draco in, and he felt helpless to stop it.
“I’ve a question for you, Malfoy, this thing that’s just burning in my mind for far too long.”
Draco quirked an eyebrow at him. Since when did Potter speak so openly with him? They had never been friendly. Draco had gone out of his way to make the other boy miserable for far too long. “So you get...clarity of some sort and I?” Draco trailed off, making a flippant gesture with his hand. Old habits died hard with Potter, apparently. However, much to Draco’s surprise, the git had the nerve to smile. Not just smile, but to throw his head back and laugh.
“I thought you might say that,” Potter grinned at him, eyes twinkling in a way that was insufferable reminiscent of Dumbledore. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out an incredibly thin, long box. It could only be one thing and Draco felt his heart clutch painfully in his chest. Potter still had his wand after all this time...He’d managed to convince himself that Potter must have thrown it out, broke it, set it on fire, the scenario was different in his head every time.
“What is it you want to know?” Draco’s voice came out in barely a whisper.
Potter held the box with both hands, leaning forward, whispering conspiratorially “You knew it was me. Why?”
Draco’s breath hitched in his throat. He never thought he’d be confronted with this. He never anticipated Potter wanting to know why. It was something he had only ever spoken to Clara about and even that hadn’t come easily. He swallowed thickly, staring at his wand in Potter’s hands. He was cradling it gently as if it were something precious. It was precious to Draco but he didn’t know if it was worth spilling one of his biggest secrets. He stared at Potter, into those same green eyes that had stopped him in his track that night. “Because I’m in love with you,” he whispered breathlessly, the words rushing out his mouth before he could think about how incredibly stupid it was to say so.
“Oh, bugger off, Malfoy,” Potter laughed, a big bark of a laugh that seemed to make the entire compartment brighter. He shook his head, his braid swinging on his shoulder. “Fine, don’t tell me, but I’m not letting this go.” Potter stood up, using the box containing Draco’s wand to give him a little salute before marching out the door.
Draco sat there in stunned silence. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, and then snapped it shut. He’d just told Potter he loved him. What in Merlin’s name was wrong with him? As if his life wasn’t difficult enough. He took a deep breath, trying to calm the erratic, hyperactive thump of his heart.
“Oh buggering fuck, kill me now,” Draco whispered to the empty compartment. He’d just confessed feelings he’d kept buried for four years and he hadn’t even gotten to Hogwarts yet. It was going to be an incredibly long year. A long year full of Potter and his nonsense and his...green eyes…”buggering fuck,” Draco groaned. It was going to be a long, long year.