The war was over, but he would never come knocking.
Draco Malfoy chucked another item from a half-unpacked box to the rubbish bin in his dusty, decrepit new flat. One would think he could have gotten better for himself, he thought sourly, even with what little he could scrape together from purloined magical items and the paltry sum he'd gotten from Malfoy Manor. Those names that had been associated with the Dark Lord, however, carried little currency these days.
It was a well-known fact across the world that Harry Potter, the Boy Who Won, had vanquished Lord Vold -- He-Who-Must- bugger it, Voldemort -- whilst in his seventh year at Hogwarts. The defeat had been so abrupt, so spectacular, so public -- and how very like Potter, Malfoy thought nastily -- that there was no doubt. Voldemort was dead as yesterday's doornails, and not coming back.
Most other Slytherin graduates had accepted this with Slytherin shrugs and moved on. They had managed to insinuate themselves into respectable wizarding occupations with an oily unctuousness, determined to survive. It was the Slytherin nature. But Draco Malfoy, top Prefect of his class, was still too proud and not quite poor enough to do so.
And so here he was, unpacking himself into a shoddy Weasley-worthy flat. He was left behind in the wake of such tremendous victory, Malfoy name in the dust, sorting the items and heirlooms he could sell from those he dared not.
"The war is over, and he will never come knocking," Draco muttered, handling an obliviate-charmed letter opener with tongs and chucking it toward the rubbish bin.
He dwelled on the immutability of that word. 'Never.' It was like taking a draught of Insensible Potion, from which there was no waking.
"And you're better off for it," said the querulous voice of Narcissa Malfoy, issuing muffled from beneath the lid of the silver locket in which her portrait lay.
Annoyed, Draco set his next item, a cleverly-fashioned, ornate pewter serpent onto the chipped end-table, knocking the locket onto the couch beside it. The dragon had sparkling emerald eyes, and when its left ear was pressed, it breathed gouts of fire. When the right one was pressed, it snapped and bit. Draco's locket slithered over the arm of the couch and lodged between the couch and a dust-clogged throw pillow. "I know, Mum," he said between his teeth.
Narcissa had known of the affair -- one had to call it that, of course, because they hadn't exactly been dating -- as it had run its course. She had, by turns, expressed a frigid disapproval or cajoled him to pump Potter for information that might benefit the Dea--his father's organisation.
At the time, breaking it off had seemed the honourable thing to do.
Draco sneered at his younger self, at the naivete, at his bitterness now. It had been a very Slytherin thing to do, hadn't it? Committing to neither side, then losing the respect or advantages of either. The Slytherin defeat was not nearly so impressive as the Slytherin victory.
He looked up above the mantel. Lucius, his back turned to the frame, was silent and unmoving as ever. Disapproving of the entire situation even in portrait.
The war was over, but he would never come knocking.
Draco dreamed, oftimes, in full color and motion like a gloriously living scrapbook of someone else's life, his life perhaps if he had been born into another world. There, the Malfoy estate bordered the Potter state in serene neighborliness, wizarding families living side by side in friendship and at least occasional harmony.
Potter's father and his father apparated, mornings, into the Ministry where they worked in the Department of Mysteries. Potter's mother and his mother had tea while dissecting the Daily Prophet. Draco walloped Potter himself at Wizard's Chess and they tried out their new brooms on the backyard pitch outside.
On holidays, Potter's friends formed uneasy truces with his friends, to be broken and reformed and broken again. Weasel and Crabbe trounced one another at Exploding Snap. Goyle outdid Granger for marks in Potions.
Draco told his parents that he wanted no alliance with the Parkinsons; he wanted Potter instead. And his father smiled...
Then he woke.
There would be no more silly dreams, Draco resolved, running through the ingredients for a Dreamless Draught. He finished sorting the box, pulled his wand from his filthy, half-frayed Muggle jeans, and tapped it to make it disappear. Draco frowned. He needed a pinch of powdered dragon fang for the draught, and that was far too expensive for his current means.
He stood, sticking his wand in his waistband, ignoring the furtive snicker of a portrait from the far wall that suggested he'd blow his balls off and never notice the difference. Hands on his hips, Draco surveyed the fusty, disordered flat. He hated the mess, hated the drear and peeling paper on the walls, hated the cramped little rooms and the welter of unpacked or half-empty boxes scattered throughout.
The war might be over, but he, Draco, would never go knocking.
It had been an accident more than anything that had begun the beginning of the end. Potter's clumsy accident, he recalled with a faint curl of his lip, then a rightfully-administered detention and docking of House points, and then a headlock.
To be more precise, Potter had put him in a headlock, making Draco realize with dizzying speed just how much the other boy had grown, lithe and strong over the summer, and how much Draco had not. Draco was slender, all angles and hollow hipbones like, as his father had been wont to say with a sneer, the female side of the Malfoys. Potter had grown weedy and strong and under his ridiculous thick sweater he had muscles, compact and firm.
Draco, prepared for magical retaliation, had not expected a physical assault.
"But I'm a Prefect!" Draco had protested angrily while Potter snipped something at him about having no thick bodyguards watching his back.
That had been shortly before Potter kissed him. Draco believed to that very day it had been more to shut him up while his hands were occupied than any other reason. It was a very Potterish thing to do, and the boy had no inspiration of his own in that regard.
Draco rubbed a thumb over his lips absently, remembering that kiss and others that had followed. He had hated Potter, still hated him perhaps with a hate that twisted him up inside so intensely and passionately that at some point, it became something else. Everything they had done had been clandestine until Potter could take it no more.
Them or me.
Everything was simple in Potter's world, he supposed. Absolutes were defined in clear white and black columns and right from wrong was the easiest thing in the world to distinguish. The Slytherins were dark wizards or evil pawns in training. Draco's parents were allies of Voldemort, and therefore every bit as bad. Snape was a nasty, greasy bastard and Draco himself was a pale, weak-minded prat.
Only it wasn't that simple, was it, Draco thought fiercely in the direction of Potter and his friends. Maybe one day they would grow up and realise. The Slytherins had their strengths just as the Gryffindors did, which Potter of all people should recognise...Draco remembered the day Potter had told him the Sorting Hat had wanted him in Slytherin.
Wasn't a witch or wizard that went bad as wasn't in Slytherin, someone had told him, and Draco protested. Any accomplishments of those successful witches and wizards that had come from Slytherin were forever in the shadow of that pervasive rumour.
His protests, as usual, had been silenced by the most expedient method.
Draco remembered the clumsy lover who'd first taken him to bed, Potter's endearingly childish kisses, his fumbling caresses. He remembered the exploration that felt as if he'd found the most soaring, looping way to fly of all. And he remembered all of it had been in cobwebby, deserted corners of Hogwarts.
"They wouldn't understand," had been the reasoning put forth by both of them.
In the end, Draco thought, it had been they themselves who did not understand.
The war was over, and he would never come knocking.
And why should he? Draco thought bitterly, shut up in a dusty flat in the hidden wizarding tenements of London. Besides, the place was simply not suitable to entertain.
They had graduated. Hogwarts was behind them. Yet even if the delineation of Gryffindor and Slytherin no longer separated them, Harry Potter was young, triumphant, and entertained a slew of offers from Auror to Zenith Seeker at Quidditch. Draco Malfoy was the scion of a defeated family, and had not even applied for such paltry positions as might keep him in shabby genteel until the notoriety had faded somewhat.
Looking about the cluttered front room of the flat, Draco entertained a brief notion of banishing all of the boxes, unpacked or no. At least he wouldn't be left with the dreary task of sorting them.
"Perhaps I'll get rid of the portraits as well," Draco mused aloud, eyeing one from the corner of his eye with a particular malicious delight. That had been the one to imply his balls were useless ornaments.
A chorus of protests rattled through the flat from portraits hung or stacked haphazardly five-deep against the walls. Dust sifted in the air. Draco sighed.
He was the last Malfoy, and as such felt a certain obligation. Even so, he wished he had some convenient cellar to store them all away.
In his frame, Lucius remained rigid and unmoved by the threat.
After a moment, Draco turned away as well. At the very least, he supposed, he should clear a path to the bedroom and lose himself in sleep for a few hours, even if he didn't like the dreams.
No, it wasn't the dreams. It was waking from them that he disliked.
He began to push his way through the room, nudging boxes with his feet, and something began to rattle at him. No, he realized after a moment, it was a rapping.
Someone was knocking on the door.
Steeling himself for another argument with the cheeky gent who kept trying to sell him a subscription to the Daily Prophet, Draco moved for the front stoop. Who wanted to read the Daily Prophet when all that its pages yielded to him were nasty, backbiting comments about the miserable existences of those who had fallen along with Voldemort? The victors, he had long since decided, were quite the poor winners.
As he squeezed past his eagle owl's roosting post the creature huffed its feathers up and hooted indignantly at him, peering at him with one golden eye. This was one remnant of the past he refused to sell, no matter how destitute he became.
Draco opened the door.
"Hullo, Draco," said Harry Potter, and stood awkwardly on the stoop as Draco gaped at him, frozen as effectively as if Potter had hit him with an Immobulus spell. He craned his head over Draco's shoulder. "Your flat looks as if it's in about same shape mine is."
Draco blinked. "I -- I'm not inviting you in," he said, trying for sharp, sounding rather breathless. Potter was wearing black robes edged in bottle-green that matched his eyes. Draco thought, impossibly, that he might be taller.
The war was over, something in his voice shrilled, and Potter should not be knocking; he won, he should be gloating with the rest of those nasty winners, those smug, self-righteous...
If it was one thing Draco knew for sure, it was that Harry had always questioned his place, and the right to do things that others had given over to him so effortlessly.
"'Course not," Harry said quietly, and Draco felt something in his heart thunk, something he thought he'd killed messily and painfully. "But I thought...maybe..." He stopped and flushed.
"You thought, perhaps, that the war was over and you could come knocking at old Draco's door, and lift the broken-winged, sole Malfoy survivor out of the ruins of his old life?" Draco drawled. He turned his words over in his head, admiring the turns of phrase.
"You stubborn prat," Harry said, and Draco watched with fascination as the red crept from his face down his neck. "Maybe I shouldn't apologise, after all."
Draco crossed his arms, lifting a fine blond brow. "Apologise? Winners don't."
"You're not going to make this easy, are you," Harry muttered. It wasn't a question. He squared his shoulders, and lifted those poison-green eyes. They had always riveted Draco; now was no exception.
"I'm sorry," he said clearly, "for asking you to choose."
Whatever manner of apology Draco had expected, that hadn't been it. The words struck him like a blow.
"A little late now, isn't it, though?" he said shakily, taking a step back. Behind him, he could hear generations of Malfoy portraits beginning to mutter.
The Lucius one, as ever, was silent as it had been since the original Lucius had turned his back.
"Maybe." Harry lowered his head. Slowly, moving as if he was unwilling to do so, he took a step forward. "I was hoping, maybe not."
"Don't be ridiculous," Draco said flatly. The look he gave him now was hard as gray slate. "There is no happily ever after, especially not for me."
Harry examined his shoes. They were just visible below the cuff of his robes and, Draco realized, they were a quite common pair of Muggle sneakers. "About that," he began. "Why don't we rewrite the ending?"
Draco stared at him.
Then, acting to pre-empt laughter or perhaps the shutting of the door in his face, Harry moved forward.
"Don't you dare," Draco said angrily, putting up both hands to fend him off.
Harry caught one, then the other, then ignored Draco's struggles. As he began to protest once more, Harry cut him off with a kiss.
"That doesn't solve anything," Draco observed, twined against Harry and amazed to find himself still breathing once Harry let him up for air.
"No," Harry agreed, "but it certainly opens up room for discussion."
"We'll work it out."
"I hate you," Draco said, pulling his trump card. He caught his breath.
Harry simply looked at him. "Me, too," he replied.
Then Draco realized that he understood.
They stood for a moment on the stoop, Harry chewing his lip in the fashion that made Draco want to gnaw on it, Draco listening to the increasing rustle and mutter of protest from the Malfoys behind him. Making his mind up in one fell swoop, he pushed Harry out the door and dragged it shut behind them.
Together they blinked in the sunlight. Harry looked at him with uncertainty.
"If I said I wanted to go along with you and," Draco paused, made a face, "rewrite the ending, so to speak...where does it start?"
Harry held out his hand.