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The Heart Of A Dragon

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1998

 

Harry stepped out of the Ministry onto the streets of Muggle London and took a deep breath. Sitting in court hearings for days on end was certainly nobody's idea of a fun and relaxing summer, but what else was new. Defeating Voldemort should have finally given him some normalcy, but somehow it had turned out to be the kickstart to an entirely new type of madness Harry was still trying to catch up with months later.

The first thing Harry had insisted on after he had slept, eaten, slept some more and escaped Madame Pomfrey's care, was for him, Hermione and Ron to go to Gringotts and apologise for their actions and see about making amends for the damages they caused. Ron had been reluctant but had eventually given in and had allowed the other two to drag him along. The whole encounter had been astonishingly pain-free; something about the involvement of Griphook being a stain on the goblins' honour and the building's structure being self-repairing.

Instead of demands for huge reparations,  Harry had found himself presented with ledgers and two large keyrings representing the Potter and Black estate respectively. Bureaucracy took its time, even in the magical world, and apparently, by the time his inheritance had been fully processed after he came of age, Harry had already been on the run.

As it turned out the vault he’d been taken to on his eleventh birthday was merely the trust for his education and upbringing. The Dursleys should have been receiving payments from it for his care, but as practically nobody in the magical world knew where he was and Dumbledore hadn’t bothered, that hadn’t happened. Harry hadn’t been sure what to feel, anger, disappointment and hurt whirling inside him. Maybe his childhood would have been less terrible if his aunt and uncle hadn’t been taken advantage off, cause that’s certainly what it must have felt like to them if they knew even in the slightest how wealthy his dad’s family obviously had been. But as they hadn’t been hurting for money and still hadn’t even fed or treated him with any shred of decency, he sure wouldn’t be throwing money at them now.

The whole thing brought home yet again how utterly ill-fitted Hagrid had been to introduce him to the magical world and how little anyone had cared to check what he did and didn’t know about.

The Black estate surprised him. Yes, Dumbledore had told him he was Sirius’s heir, but with nobody to contest or confirm it, Harry had never been sure how legally binding that really was. Turned out, the Blacks were so focused on the male line that the godson of the patriarch had more claim than the son of a female cousin.

Speaking of Draco Malfoy, the pretty git was the last person Harry expected to find outside the Muggle world entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Draco and Narcissa had both been cleared of all criminal charges earlier that day, partially due to Harry’s testimony about their actions towards the end of the war, and because they had both spent the months since they’d been released from custody until their trial by volunteering, Narcissa at St. Mungos and Draco joining the repair work at Hogwarts.

“Malfoy,” he greeted with a polite nod. “I’m surprised to see you here.” He gestured vaguely at their surroundings.

Malfoy shrugged. “No matter what the court said, the magical community isn’t too happy to see a Malfoy at the moment, so I try to avoid public appearances. No need to rub it in.”

“Then what brought you here in the first place?” Harry wasn’t mentioning that he himself used this particular exit because the magical community was all too happy to see him.

“I wanted to thank you, personally, for what you said in court. You can expect a written note to the same effect from my mother within the next days. I’m pretty sure you hate the fact, but you have a lot of social and political power right now, and mother and I am grateful you used it in our favour when our family gave you little reason to.”

Harry wanted to brush it off, but Malfoy was so damn earnest. "I appreciate you coming here in person, and you're welcome. I didn't say anything that wasn't true. You may have been a spiteful git and bully most of our years at school, but I don't believe you ever wanted to fulfil Voldemort's orders. In hindsight, your attempts in sixth year speak more of desperation than of eagerness. We were both boys caught in a men's war. Let's just try and hope the rest of our lives turns out less complicated."

Draco snorted at the notion but nodded. "One can always hope. Having the current trials run by the Crown Prosecution Service is certainly an interesting start. I admit I was sceptical at first. Not that I expected much mercy from the Wizengamot, but at least I thought I knew what and who I was dealing with. And all of a sudden somebody sends an anonymous letter to the Muggles, and the Queen is all up in our business, investigating the Ministry and the Wizengamot and their involvement in the war. I have to say I'm impressed by the work the Muggles are putting in and the fairness they're displaying." The admission sounded less painful than Harry would have expected from a proud pureblood.

"Yeah, I'm quite relieved they stepped in. I was never comfortable with how the judicial system in magical Britain worked. It failed me more than once. And there was all this talk of giving me a seat on the Wizengamot by public declaration like I'm some ancient Roman barracks emperor, all so I could sit in judgement of the Death Eaters. As if I'd want to join those stuck up idiots and as if that would have been any kind of justice. The CPS declared me a victim and afflicted party in most cases and a witness in all the others after a single interview. I have no business sitting in judgement." He took a deep breath as the idea still made him incredibly mad. 

What Harry didn't say was that he knew very well who the anonymous letter had come from. Hermione had been enraged how the Ministry and the Wizengamot had started to whitewash their own role in the war before the battleground at Hogwarts was even cleared of all the dead. And unlike Harry, she had known whom to go to. 

"I didn't even know that magical Britain was still under the authority of the crown. Thinking about it and the governing system at the time the Statute of Secrecy came about, it makes sense. I guess I just assumed Magicals had outgrown the monarchy as much as the Muggles."

"I sort of knew from certain mentions in our family history but never drew the connections what that meant for our daily politics either," Draco admitted. "Goes to show how useless the History of Magic classes Binns does are."

"A lot of our education is woefully inadequate, especially for Muggle-raised students. But I think in this particular case, the Ministry might have made a concentrated effort over decades if not centuries to make the public forget who was really in charge. It gave them and the Wizengamot an awful lot of power and liberty to do as they pleased."

"You could be right there." Draco gave him an assessing look. "I'm not quite used to this kind of insight from you, Potter. You always seemed to take things at face value."

“Even a Gryffindor can learn,” Harry quipped back.

“So it seems. Do you think the old system will survive this mess?”

“I don’t know. The rumours in the papers make it sound unlikely, but I don’t know anything more than that either.”

"Maybe it is time," Draco said thoughtfully. "Maybe our society would be less prone to Dark Lords and their aspirations with a different system of government in place. Anyway, I should get home to Mother. Father is up for sentencing tomorrow, and it has her a little agitated, even though we both are rather certain of and, frankly, relieved about the likely outcome." He gave Harry a courteous nod and apparated away, leaving Harry somewhat surprised. 

He’d always thought that despite his public disposition and troublesome company, Lucius Malfoy had been an indulgent father and husband at home. If his wife and son were relieved to see him locked up in Azkaban, that couldn’t have held true, at least not for the last years. Filing that bit of information away for his future interactions with Malfoy, Harry apparated home as well.

 


 

 

One day, about two weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts, Andromeda Tonks had just shown up at the little cottage in Wales, Harry had found amongst the Black estate and claimed for his sanctuary. She'd put baby Teddy into Harry's arms, allowing no protest, and had introduced him to his godson. Yet another thing to get used to, along with being taken seriously and having everyone he came across thank him.

"I'm happy to care for him until your life has settled down some and you know what you want to do with your future," she'd told him. "But I'm not young anymore, and I'm getting tired. Teddy needs a dad to raise him and keep up with him. The job of a grandmother is to spoil the boy rotten every now and then."

Harry had heard the fatigue in her voice and seen it in the lines on her face. He didn't know by how much she was older than her sisters, but he felt certain that her losses and grief were ageing her before her time.

Looking down on the rosy baby in his arms, Harry felt overwhelmed. Teddy was in the same terrible situation as Harry had been, having lost both his parents to the fight against the monster that was Voldemort. Only Teddy was even younger. But he still had people in his life who loved him, people who cared for his well-being. And Harry swore in that very moment that he would do his very best to give Teddy the childhood he deserved, that the legacy of this war would not include yet another innocent child robbed of its happiness.

Harry would learn all he needed to know to fulfil that promise.

From then on, Harry had split the time his presence wasn’t required in court between repairing Hogwarts and spending time with Teddy. There was only a little bit of summer left when all the clean up was done, both the legal and the physical one; a short while for Harry to breath and sort out his thoughts and plans.

It was already mid-August when Harry came into his kitchen one morning and found Hedwig staring down one of the Hogwarts owls that was perched precariously on the windowsill just on the inside of the window pane charmed to let owls through. Harry had been beyond relieved when his beautiful girl had returned to him as soon as he claimed this house as a residence. Sending her away into hiding before he ever left Privet Drive had been one of the hardest but also best decisions he could have made. But their separation had made her oddly territorial about him, and he was still trying to break her of that behaviour before their return to school.

He brushed down the feathers on her head in passing. “Settle down, girl, he’s just doing his job.” He fished a treat out of the jar and gave it to the tawny owl as he accepted his Hogwarts letter, the truly last he’d ever get.

When Hedwig didn’t complain loudly, just ruffled her feathers as the other owl left, Harry gave her a treat as well; it was progress after all.

 

Dear Mr Potter,

We would like to invite you to return to Hogwarts to finish your schooling and partake in next years regularly scheduled Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests. Students returning for an extra year will be housed in double rooms in one of the visitor wings, regardless of house affiliation. Should you have preferences as to your roommate, please mention them in your acceptance letter.

We are also obliged to inform you, that should you feel sufficiently prepared for your NEWTs already, you may take them at the Ministry from the 12th to 16th October. Further information can be found in the included leaflet.

The school year begins as per usual on the 1st of September.

Filius Flitwick

Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

Harry had already known the details of what would happen to the year their generation had basically lost. Minerva McGonagall had been made headmistress and spent long discussions with the board of governors and the examination committee in charge of OWLs and NEWTs to find a workable compromise, that had then been announced in the papers.

Last year's fifth-year students would be revising necessary material along with progressing into sixth year's curriculum already and sit their exams in December; that way, they didn't have to lose a whole year. The expectations for DADA would be adjusted once the new teacher taking over had a chance to determine what the average skill level was after the mess that the subject had been for years and the abomination it had been turned into the last one.

There would also be a mix of students being held back if they missed too much material last year due to the circumstances, or being tested before continuing on with their age group if they had studied independently.

Harry was happy to spend another year at school, one without a Dark Lord out to get him. It would give him a reprieve of having to deal with the realities of adult life and the expectations everyone and their brother was heaping upon him. And as much as he’d learned over the last year, mostly thanks to Hermione, he felt in no way prepared to sit his NEWTs. Hermione probably could have but would never willingly give up an opportunity for education.

Unlike any of their classmates Harry had talked to, Ron had considered choosing the third option, the one not mentioned in Flitwick’s letter, leaving Hogwarts without NEWTs. The twins had given him an example of how you could do so and still turn out quite successful after all. But that idea had survived exactly as long as it took Molly Weasley to hear of it. The twins had already been too financially independent at the time for her to pressure them back to school, but she’d be damned if another one of her children didn’t take their NEWTs. 

Ron’s hopes that the Golden Trio would be accepted into Auror training based on their experiences despite their missing formal qualifications was nipped in the bud, when Harry declared very publicly that he considered that a supremely bad idea, and that he had no intention to ever again rely on dumb luck to protect his own life or that of others. The ministry had backed down with its plans after that, but Harry had no illusions that they would try again after he finished his schooling. He didn’t fancy the idea of becoming an Auror, let alone working for the ministry anymore, but why bring that battle upon himself now, when it would keep for later. All said and done, Ron had given into everybody’s more or less gentle pressure and agreed to return to Hogwarts and give his NEWTs a shot.

And here it was, still in emerald green ink on heavy parchment, just like his very first letter, only the difference in penmanship signifying all the changes time had brought upon them, his entrance back into what was hopefully the normal rest of his life.

Harry put the letter on the counter out of the way and put the kettle on to contemplate his breakfast options. He decided it was an occasion worthy of some celebration and put together rich French toast with fresh fruits and syrup. He took his food and pot of tea under a warming charm outside onto the patio to indulge in the kind of breakfast he thought holidays should be filled with - lazy, sunny and still in his PJs.

Hedwig joined him for a while to accept bits of his food in between nibbling his ear and grooming his hair before she retired to her perch to sleep the morning away after a night of successful hunting.

Over his last cup of tea, Harry contemplated whether he'd stick to his plans to work on the garden that had grown wild a bit beyond what could be called charming, or if he'd be better off doing his school shopping today before everyone descended on Diagon Alley in the next few days. Two weeks was not long for all the families to get sorted. Or he could avoid the crazy altogether, use the pretence of needing some privacy, and treat Hermione to a thank-you-for-keeping-my-stupid-butt-alive shopping trip in Paris and just order his books via owl. That option actually held the most appeal.

 


 

 

1999

 

Draco strolled through the empty hallways of Hogwarts until he ended up on one of the battlements high up above the sprawling castle. Down below, he could see the golden light of the Great Hall from where the wind carried up the sounds of chatter and laughter every so often. Everyone was still enjoying the end of year feast, the first truly happy and carefree one any of them had experienced in all their Hogwarts years.

He’d felt out of place among the joyful crowd, so he’d left as soon as he’d eaten enough to satisfy his hunger. Nobody had paid him any mind and wasn’t that a perfect description of this weird eighth year of his schooling. Draco had returned, determined to earn his NEWTs and with them the right to have a proper career, become a respected member of society in the years to come.

He’d earned his NEWTs, that much had worked out. He had done quite well, not as well as Granger, but he hadn’t expected to and he could easily acknowledge that between her intellect and work ethics, the girl had more than earned to come up on top of their class. Beyond the academics, he wasn’t sure what to make of this year.

He had basically no friends left. Those of his fellow Slytherins who had dared to return to Hogwarts had carefully stayed away from him, worried they might get tarnished by the general disdain the Malfoys were regarded with at the moment. And unsurprisingly, nobody else had had much interest in becoming friends with him.

Things could have been much more nasty if it hadn't been for Potter and his gang treating him decidedly civil. Their year group had been assigned double rooms in one of the guest wings, and Draco wasn't sure what conversations had happened beforehand, but he had ended up sharing a room with Longbottom. It had been an astonishingly pleasant cohabitation, and Draco thought the two might have a chance at an actual friendship in the future. 

He, for his part, was determined to try and not lose contact with Neville as their lives took different paths into adulthood. He could only hope these attempts were welcome.

Potter and Granger had made it a point to exchange polite greetings with Draco and pair up with him for classwork every so often. At first, it had been a bit awkward and stilted, but they'd found they worked astonishingly well together. Draco didn't think he could call them friends, but friendly acquaintances was already much more than he would have ever thought possible. Not even Weasley's continued and vocal antipathy had put a stop to this development when Draco had absolutely expected it to. It was almost funny to watch how Weasley alienated his two best friends more and more with his refusal to grow up and move forward. It was a miracle that Granger hadn't dumped the boy yet and if Draco had someone to bet with, he'd put a nice sum on them not making it another three months.

But he had no one to bet with.

Three former rivals and victims of his more stupid younger years were the closest to friendly company he’d had all year.

There had been no offers to date, let alone offers of betrothal contracts that were so typical in their social circles at this point in life.

Draco wasn’t keen on marriage. He wasn’t even all that keen on the companionship of a witch, so he was relieved about this development on a personal level. It was the general principle of the fact that no Malfoy heir had ever garnered that little social interest. It was also a dreadful indicator of his overall prospects going on from here.

He turned his eyes away from the feast below and up to the night sky. The metaphorical parallel there should be that his life and future lay ahead of him as wide, open and full of opportunities as the star littered sky. Instead, it was the cold emptiness of space.

A mirthless snort escaped him. Or maybe it was a badly concealed sob, but which 19-year-old worth their salt would admit to that.

Before that train of thought could take him down any further, he heard the door to the stairs behind him groan on its hinges, making him turn around.

“Potter,” he said surprised. “I would have thought you were still enjoying dessert.”

Potter shrugged awkwardly, looking nothing like the hero everybody saw in him. The hero he was, but so clearly didn't want to be. "It was getting a bit much. Sorry to interrupt your solitude. I can go somewhere else." He turned to leave, and for a moment, Draco was all for letting him go. He didn't actually want to be alone, though.

“You can stay. I don’t mind.” He hoped the words didn’t sound as desperate as they felt.

"If you're sure?" Potter asked, already stepping out of the shadows. "I'm pretty knackered and just wanted to catch a bit of fresh air and enjoy the view before going to bed. Don't really fancy trotting all over the castle to find a different spot."

“You’re pretty far away from our quarters for someone looking forward to his bed.”

“Ah, well…” Potter scratched the back of his head in that way that made his hair stand up even more messily than normal. “There’s a little known shortcut just one flight of steps down from here that ends around the corner from the wing they put us in. Don’t tell anyone.” The last was said in a bad imitation of a conspiratorial whisper.

"Not like I have many people to tell things to these days. And we're leaving tomorrow for good anyway, so I can't even really use this knowledge to my own advantage anymore." Draco tried to make light of it, but he felt rather melancholic about it all. "How do you know so many more passages through the castle? I swear the only ones who compare were the Weasley twins and Dumbledore."

"That's a family secret, sorry. But you're not wrong that I had an advantage of sorts if that is any consolation to you."

“Maybe it is. It became rather intimidating to stand beside you and try to measure up over the years. It’s reassuring that it’s not all due to the ineptness of us mere mortals.” Draco could see that the subject made Potter uncomfortable, but he thought he should probably hear it from someone who wasn’t just fawning over him, but meant it in all honesty - if hidden behind a dash of sarcasm.

“Yeah, well, I needed all the help I could get to even survive this far. I really wish people would stop treating me like some sort of messiah because I managed to survive despite all odds. It’s obscene.” 

The force behind the statement surprised Draco. Yes, he’d noticed how uncomfortable Potter had been with all the praise and expectations heaped upon him. Once you stopped letting your own expectations and prejudices blind you, it was hard to miss. But he’d never been privy to Potter’s honest opinion before tonight.

“Sounds like I hit a sore spot, sorry about that.”

"No, I'm sorry. What you said wasn't even all that bad, the spot is just particularly sore because it was poked a lot tonight. That's why I'm up here in the first place." Potter let out a long-suffering sigh and dropped down on a bench someone had placed against the wall a long time ago but clearly not bothered enough about to cast the appropriate weather resistance charms on.

Draco hesitated a moment before he sat down beside him more gingerly. He’d never quite trusted the bloody thing, as many times as he’d come up here, but if it held up to Potter’s carelessness, surely it would carry him as well.

"Do you want to talk about it?" He felt awkward offering, but it seemed the thing to do.

“It’s just the same as ever. Everyone thinks I will join the Aurors, that it’s my destiny, my passion, and that I somehow owe magical Britain that kind of service. It’s annoying enough when strangers think and say so, but when your supposedly best friend continues to not catch a clue and shut up about it, that hurts.”

“Doesn’t Auror training require you to live in their facilities for most of the time?”

“Yeah.”

"Mother told me that Andromeda will hand Teddy over into your full-time care after we graduate. How would that even work?"

"It wouldn't. It's one of the less debatable reasons why Auror training isn't a good fit for me. I've made it a point to keep my personal circumstances and especially Teddy out of the press as much as possible, so I don't expect the public to see me as a single dad, but it's hardly a secret among my friends. Of course, Ginny is the loudest but hardly only one who thinks that I'm too young to take on that kind of responsibility and that I shouldn't allow it to keep me from living my life."

“Why can’t I shake the feeling that that life involves her and quite a bit of travelling the world.” Draco had watched from the sidelines how the youngest Weasley had played poorly at giving Potter space until he felt ready to resume their relationship. It was amusing how Potter hadn’t looked at all as if he was interested in such a thing.

"Yeah, that's about it. She'd actually prefer I play Quidditch professionally, at least for a few years, before settling into a proper career. I know she finds the publicity that would garner appealing when it is about the last thing I want. I'm also not all that keen on turning one of the few fun and relaxing things in my life into work."

“I think I can understand that. I mean, I grew up in a family that prided itself on their social standing and political power, and that people would flock towards us in the hopes of furthering themselves. My father made an art form out of using such people to his own advantage while giving them no more than breadcrumbs. For a long time, I admired him for it, thinking he was so very clever. It’s astonishing how much your perspective can shift in a short time.”

“It truly is. Have you ever wondered how things could have gone between us if we’d been raised differently?” Potter asked out of the blue.

“Yeah, more so over the last year or two.”  And he had wondered. Draco had thought an awful lot about the circumstances that had led his life to the mess it was. Along the way it had occurred to him that there had been many smaller side effects as well, the friendships he made and didn’t make among them.

“So just out of curiosity, what do you plan to do with your life if neither Auror nor Quidditch star is appealing? Somehow I can’t see you living off your inheritance forever.”

"No, that's not me at all. Don't get me wrong, it's comfortable to have and takes the pressure away. I haven't quite gotten used to the thought of the sheer size of my estate, but I'll take that one step at a time. I'm not opposed to taking a little while off to settle into life, finding a routine that works for Teddy and all that. I do love spending time with the little guy and watching him grow and learn. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with my life. I think I could enjoy creating things, so I might see about trying out different crafts and materials."

"Back to the roots, so to speak?" Draco asked in a teasing tone but then clarified at Potter's puzzled look, "It's not that nebulous what inspired your family name."

That made Potter laugh. "I never even thought about that, but I guess you're right. I'll give pottery a try on principal then. What's in your future?"

"I have no clue," Draco said on a sigh. "I thought I might go into potions making, get my mastery, focussing on medicinal potions to contribute to the betterment of our society and all that. I feel like our family truly has a duty there. Mother agrees and has thrown herself fully into charity work. It's actually a joy to see her flourish in that task. I never even knew how stifled she was in my parents' marriage. And going into potions would also honour Severus legacy. I know he was no saint, but he was my godfather, and I cared for him a great deal. He also never let me in any doubt that he cared for me, no matter how restraint his manner was."

"I didn't know about him being your godfather. I'm sorry you lost him like that. I can't say I don't have some deeply conflicted feelings about him and how he treated me over the years, but he was also instrumental in the eventual defeat of Voldemort, and I'll never forget that part."

“The summer after the Triwizard Tournament, he told me that he had chosen a wrong path in his youth and had come to deeply regret it. He wanted me to never even be faced with that choice but held out little hope with the Dark Lord having returned to power. Over the years he had tried to prepare me for the fact that my father’s worldview was rather ugly and his allegiances wouldn’t necessarily serve the betterment of our society the way he claimed. 

"I didn't fully understand just how different the two of them were in their regard for the Dark Lord until I witnessed their reactions to his return. And then he said something to me that I haven't forgotten. ‘You might not believe him capable, but for better or worse, Harry Potter is the only real chance our society has. So choose your allegiances wisely.' I ended up having my allegiances chosen for me, but it was his words echoing in my mind when I pretended not to recognise you. It felt so little, but I finally had a choice, and I wanted to make whatever good I could make of it. Not sure I ever said that, but I'm very glad you won and finished that monster off."

“Please, don’t thank me! I’m not sure I can take that.” Potter threw up his hands.

That made Draco laugh. “Okay then, no thanks for the saviour.”

Potter groaned and buried his face in his hands, making Draco chuckle again. At least his mood was a little less glum.

“Why won’t you get your mastery in Potions?” Potter asked him after a moment of silence. “You and Hermione tied for highest marks on that one.”

Draco let out a slow breath and looked out over the dark mountains. “Because grades don’t matter if your name is Malfoy and all the talk about healing the rifts the blood war has torn is nothing more than lip service. I applied to every Potions master and mistress in the British Isles, France and Switzerland, everywhere within Europe where I feel comfortable enough with the language. They all told me no, some of them very rudely so.”

“That sucks. And it feels like punishing you for the sins of your father, which isn’t fair. I think it’s great that your dream includes doing something good for society. Everyone seems so damn set to keep us all in our neat little boxes, even when it’s not a good box.”

Draco just shrugged. “Maybe I should take it as a sign. Yes, I would have liked to continue Severus’ work in his honour, and I know I would have been good at it. But I wouldn’t call brewing my passion, not like it was for him. There is an odd freedom in being the pariah, and maybe I should just say screw it and find out what I want when nobody is pushing expectations onto me.”

"That's certainly what I'm doing. One of the first decisions I made after the war ended, was to always be true to myself. Not to ignore the needs of others to any point of cruelty, but to consider my own first. Because nobody ever has. Magical Britain is selfish and fickle, no matter what you do, so you might as well do right by yourself."

“Sounds like a healthy attitude and a lot less Gryffindor than I would have expected from you.”

“I believe I told you a year ago that even a Gryffindor can learn.”

“Right, so you did.”

They fell silent, each staring into the night sky lost in their own thoughts.

“You know what sounds really tempting?” Draco asked eventually.

“What?”

"Just leaving. Going far away, where nobody knows me, and nobody cares. Someplace where I can start over."

“That thought has appeal. With our names that might require moving into the Muggle world, though. Even the American papers reported on the end of the war rather extensively.”

"You have an advantage there. I've learned to manoeuvre the Muggle world somewhat safely since last summer, but I'm not sure I could pull off living in it without drawing unwanted attention."

"Hmmm. Maybe ask Hermione. She has much broader knowledge and understanding of the Muggle world. And she's great at pulling solutions out of thin air."

Draco pondered the thought for a moment longer. “Do you think she would actually help me with something like that?”

“If you can convince her that you’re serious about it and not just pulling her leg… sure. Mione is all about good causes and everyone getting a fair chance. I’d help too for what it’s worth.”

“Thanks. I’m not sure I deserve your help after how big a git I was, and I sure didn’t expect it, but I’m truly thankful for it.”

“You’re welcome,” Potter answered with an awkward shrug that ended in a big yawn. “Okay, I think that’s it for me. I’m heading to bed. But it was nice chatting with you, Malfoy. And who would have thought I’d say that and mean it? See you around.”

As Potter got up, he slapped Draco good-naturedly on the shoulder. He was so baffled by that gesture, that he barely managed to call a ‘Good Night' after Potter before the door closed behind him.

Draco looked up at the stars again and somehow, they didn’t give him the same feeling of being lost as earlier.

A little over a year ago, he thought he would die. Last summer, he was convinced he would go to Azkaban. The whole of last year, he believed his life offered no prospects. But if he and Harry Potter could have a pleasant, personal conversation under the night sky, surely anything could happen. And maybe it would be good things for a change.