Draco sat at the edge of the castle. The walls crumbling behind him, people tending to the injured and dead inside. He'd never heard the grounds be so quiet. Suffocatingly silent. It had taken all his strength to move towards the forest. He made it outside at least. Maybe this was for the best. How fitting, once again Draco Malfoy was stuck -literally- in the middle of a war.
He sighed, letting his head fall in between his knees. He only stirred from his position at the crunch of trainers to wet grass.
Draco looked up, seeing nothing at first, then an odd shimmer near the ground and a light splatter of dirt moving in the air.
“What are you doing?” Draco jumped up. He was met with silence. "I know it's you, Potter. Stop taking the piss and reveal yourself."
Potter sighed, suddenly appearing before him, much closer than expected. Draco took a half step back.
"What are you doing?" He asked again.
"You know what I'm doing, Malfoy."
Draco shook his head, not wanting to believe it.
“You can’t do this to us, you’re supposed to be the only one who can stop this. You’re supposed to be the one who saves us. And you’re giving up?" Draco tried to look Potter in the eye, but he was focused on the grass beneath them. "If you can’t do this…. Who can?”
He said nothing for a moment. They could hear muffled cries behind them. Draco grimaced. Another injured must have died.
“Why are you here?” Potter was looking at him now.
“… I… I have to go to them. Find my parents, be on their side but-“
“No one said you had to be on their side, Draco.”
Draco took in a short breath at Potter using his name. He continued, “It was never said, but… it was also never a choice.”
“We always have a choice.”
“If that's the case, then don’t go." He grabbed Potter's shoulder. "Choose us.”
Potter looked pained for the first time. “I am.”
Draco stared at him, tears threatening to break through and stream down his face. He shook his head, willing them not to.
“I don’t understand.”
Potter laughed at that. “I don’t think I do either. I just know it’s right.”
Draco watched his feet, caked in the dirt beneath him, letting his arm fall dumbly at his side, “I guess you’d know.”
Potter was silent for a long moment, making Draco look up, worried he was gone. Potter looked thoughtfully into the Forrest. “If you could go back and change anything, what would you change?”
Draco blinked at that, “I… I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Potter nodded solemnly, and they didn’t speak for another beat, but it felt like days. Draco cleared his throat, “What would you do differently?”
Potter turned to him, a sad smile on his lips. “I’d shake your hand.”
Draco’s breath hitched, but before he could say anything, he was walking again. Draco wished he could stop him, grab him, anything. But all he could do was stare, watching the only light they had fade into the darkness of the forest.
The war was over. It had been for many years. They all finished their last year and moved on. Draco was working in a wizard shop part time as he studied as a Healer. He did mundane work, sweeping, working the register, all that. It never compared to his time at Hogwarts, but it was calm. And most days that was enough.
Draco was organizing a corner in the shop when the bell tinkled and a door shut.
“Be right with you!” Draco called, wiping his hands on his apron. He scurried around to greet the customer, stopping short when he saw Harry Potter.
Potter grinned sheepishly, “Hey. I, er, saw you in the shop and thought I’d say hi.”
Draco blinked before shaking himself back to the present. “Oh?”
He grinned, the rough stubble on his face moving to accommodate his singular dimple. His glasses were different. Still round, but bigger and silver. His hair was long and wavy, tied up in a messy bun. He was almost unrecognizable, except for his eyes. Bright and green and crinkled at the edges. A familiar warmth that Draco hadn't felt in years coursed through him.
He realized he was staring and frantically started to make an excuse, but stopped short once he realized Potter was doing the same.
"Well," Draco said, a sudden confidence washing over him, "Seems you're taking your second life in stride."
Potter blinked at him, seemingly coming back to the present, before laughing heartily. "You could say that, sure. What about you?"
"What about me?" Draco sniffed.
"You're taking your freedom in stride as well, yeah? I mean, studying for Healer can't be easy-"
"How do you know that?"
Potter's eyes widened, "Oh, er-"
"Have… Have you been following me, Potter?"
"No! No, no, no." His cheeks flushed as he pulled out his wallet and flashed an Auror ID at him. "I just happen to be at St. Mungo's a lot."
Draco took the wallet into his hands gently, looking over the badge. "Still saving the world then?"
Potter laughed. "Barely."
Draco glanced up at him, taking in his features again. He looked so different, but it was comforting to know he still acted the same. He was about to say something when Potter's badge started blinking in his hand.
"Shite, sorry. I didn't mean to…" He quickly thrust it back, but Potter merely shook his head and tapped it. The blinking stopped.
"Don't worry about it. Just means I have five minutes left to get back to the office."
Potter awkwardly took a step backward towards the door, nodding as if to say goodbye, but he stopped short. An odd glint sparked in his eyes and he stepped closer, extending his arm towards Draco, a hopeful smile barely visible in his expression.
“See you again?”
Draco stared at the hand, his heart pounding in his chest. He took it, looking up with mirrored hope, and shook.