[personal profile] lrthunder82 posting in [community profile] hp_mhealthfest

She’s still the same lanky, airy creature, and there’s a strange… wispy quality about her, as if she barely exists in this reality, and she’s somehow a part of dreams. Her big blue eyes, slightly bulging, haven’t aged a bit, and she barely looks touched by time.

Hugo has moved to the back of the room, but even though he’s at the very edge of my sight, I can feel his warming presence. He’s here to ground me, hold me, protect me – and it is because of him that I’m willing to push myself through this. I can’t let him – and myself – down. I have to at least try. Just one, he said. This one. Luna.

She floats into the room, all long robes, fluid and aerial, as if she’s walking on a cloud, and her long blond hair, full of rose petals, flows behind her, making her look like a magical spirit of old.

“Hello, Draco,” she says with that gentle, chime-like voice of hers. “You don’t look too good. Hugo says you wanted to speak to me… about the war.”

I still hear her voice ringing in my ears some days, floating up the stairs from the basement they locked her in, barely more than a melodious whisper: “Have you got something to eat? We’re hungry down here. And thirsty. Mr Ollivander is very weak. He might not make it. Please… anyone?”

I managed to smuggle some bread and water in there once – but it was just once, and she was locked up for days!

“I’m sorry,” flies out of me before I can form my turbulent thoughts into a proper apology. “I’m so, so very sorry, Luna. I never told you… but I should have. I should have asked your forgiveness years ago. I heard you that time in the manor, during the war… I heard you many times… begging for food and water… and I didn’t… I couldn’t… just once… Merlin, I’m so sorry…”

She is just one… just one person I hurt… or didn’t stop from hurting… but it still feels as if my legs are barely holding me, as the whole foundation of my fragile world is trembling. There were so many more… so many I hurt so much worse…

Her walk is so light I barely know when she crosses the room and puts her thin arms around me.

“There, there… Don’t cry, Draco. What could you have done? You were trapped in there, just like I was. You might have heard me… but I also heard you. I’ve heard what they made you do, and I quite clearly remember hearing you say “Not that again… please…”, over and over again. I remember thinking how broken you sounded. I’ve always thought you had it worse than I, you know. At least I had nothing left to lose. Besides – how could I blame you? My own father had called the Death Eaters on Harry, Hermione and Ron when he was desperate to save my life. I know very well what love for one’s family will make one do – and I’ve always considered myself very fortunate that it wasn’t me who had to make that decision. I couldn’t possibly blame you, dear. No one in their right mind could.”

Perhaps it’s her gentle melodic voice or her sweet manner that make me wrap my arms around her and cry like there’s no tomorrow. Bless her, bless the lovely, silly girl. She didn’t blame me… she never blamed me. And I feel as if a thin poisonous blade was pulled out of my chest, and some of the pain and shame went out with it. Hugo was right. It was easier to breathe. My Hugo… when this is all over, I’m going to worship my lovely redheaded angel to the end of my days. He was a true blessing in my life. God’s grace at last.

Luna’s thin fingers stroke through my hair, she whispers “there, there” every once in a while, and in the end when my sobbing subsides, she hums me a song. And that’s so… Luna, that it makes me smile through my tears. God, she’s mad. But I’m ready to love her quirkiness to bits. She’s seven kinds of precious.

“You look better,” she declares happily, when I finally manage to spell the embarrassing proof of my meltdown away. “You’re so… clean now. All the wrackspurts left you. And you smell nice… of Hugo. You two should come around sometimes. You make a lovely couple, and my husband bakes a pie that makes all the wrackspurts run off.”

Oh, Merlin… so she knows. I manage a sheepish look at Hugo, but he’s all one big, brilliant smile, and doesn’t feel at all put out, or even surprised. He seems to be glowing with happiness and pride.

“We’ll do that,” I manage, and she gives me one last hug before she floats away in her flowing robes. Hugo’s arms are around me before the door even clicks behind her.

“So, so brave of you, love. I can’t believe how well you’ve managed,” he whispers into my hair, and I allow myself the small comfort of closing my eyes in his warm embrace and promise myself to literally settle in here, when this is all over, when I’ve earned it. Because I’m not done here yet, no. I’ve started this, and now I want to do it good and proper.

I press a small kiss into his broad chest, inhale the divine scent of his silken hair, and wipe the last traces of tears off my cheeks.

“Could you bring in another person, please? I want to do this right. If I’m going to be a part of your family now, there can’t be any unspoken resentments between us, and I’ve got a lot of people to give my apologies to.”

The deep, delicious, hungry kiss he gives me leaves me breathless and kind of happily dizzy.

“My beautiful, brave man,” he whispers. “I saw your strength, your resilience the first day we met, regardless of how tired and lost you looked. And I’ve come to love you for it. I wish I could show you right now, right here, how you make me feel, how proud and happy I am that you chose me. What a man you’ve become, Draco Malfoy. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

My heart swells in my chest at his words. If I ever needed proof that I am doing the right thing, this was it. If it’s going to earn me love like this, it can’t be wrong.

“Bring in another one of your horde, Weasley,” I murmur, “before I change my mind, barricade myself in here and take you hostage.”

“I’d love nothing better,” he whispers, and the gentle kiss he presses just under my ear, makes my vision blur. “But I’ll have to show you my appreciation later, Mr. Malfoy. I don’t think we have enough time for what I’ve got in mind for us. Everyone would be long gone already.”

I can see the regret in his eyes when he pulls away, but a quiet promise in the sparkling blue is enough to give me the strength I need.

“Who did you have in mind next?” I sigh.

~

I end up apologising to everyone I can get to.

Neville Longbottom seems flabbergasted when I tell him how sorry I am to have bullied him back in school, that I never knew how bad it was with his parents, and how bloody brave I thought him when I found out. It’s like he can’t quite believe he ever lived to see this moment. He’s a quiet man who doesn’t say much, but the shy, forgiving half-smile he gives me at the end of my apology speaks volumes.

“Uhm, you didn’t do any permanent damage, I guess,” he shrugs. “It was that mad aunt of yours. And she got what was coming to her. You were just… if it wasn’t you, it would have been someone else. I was so clumsy back then. I couldn’t help but to hate myself a little.”

It’s still a bit awkward when he shakes my hand in the end, but he seems to walk a little taller, and something in his eyes seems a bit brighter when he turns to leave.

“I think you helped him as much as he helped you,” Hugo murmurs, when he hugs me from behind, and I can’t help but notice that he sounds a bit surprised. “I suppose there are some wounds only you can heal.”

George Weasley is next. I told Hugo I wanted to give my condolences to the Weasleys for the loss of their son – which I’d never done properly – and my heart sinks when I see him walk through the door. He paid the ultimate price, and his face is showing it. There’s a constant shadow at the bottom of his eyes, as if he’s haunted, and his smile is long gone. I tell him how much I’ve always admired him and his brother, how sorry I am that I contributed to that, and that I’m willing to go a long way to be on good terms with the Weasley family.

“You’re weird, Malfoy,” he mumbles when I finish. “You were a vile little fucker when you were a wee lad, but I suppose if that dark bastard had my balls in a vice, I’d help him, too. But you had nothing to do with my brother dying. If I thought you did, I would have found you 25 years ago, and I’d have made a short business out of it. But I suppose this, here, today, took balls,” he smirks, and there’s just a smidge of sincere recognition in his voice. “I didn’t think you had it in you. Is it because you’re banging this one?” he points to Hugo, and his smirk turns into a grimace that could almost be mistaken for a smile.

“Run, Uncle George,” Hugo says with a calm voice, laced with laughter. “While you still have that one ear.”

“Cheeky brat, threatening your poor crippled uncle like that,” the older Weasley murmurs. “Wait till your father finds out.”

I nearly choke on my own loud gulp of air, while he still howls with laughter walking through the door.

“Oh, my… we might have opened a proper can of worms with this relationship of ours,” Hugo murmurs, but I notice he doesn’t look sound too worried, more entertained. “I honestly think we just might have given his existence new purpose. Do not – and I repeat! – do not take anything from him for the next… well, on this side of never, if you value your life and your dignity,” he chuckles, but then adds as if he just realised I had no way of knowing this: “He’s taken you in, you know. You’re a part of us now. Or you will be, the first time he pranks you stupid.”

I can’t wait. Well… I might not be quite that eager.

I leave the trio for last. Hugo brings his mother in first. She insisted, he tells me. Her shrill cries from the time when my mad aunt tortured her still haunt me in my dreams all too often, but Hermione Granger Weasley has no need for my sympathy these days. The youngest Minister for Magic in the history of that institution, she stands proud and looks stern while she approaches me across the room.

“Draco?” she wants to know, her face frowning. “What is this all about? Hugo won’t tell me much, and it’s gotten Ron all worked up.”

“I…”

Merlin, I don’t even know where to begin.

“I’ve started this therapy with Hugo,” finally manage in a shaky, barely controlled voice. “About the war. It’s… I couldn’t manage on my own anymore. It all became too much. The nightmares were wearing me out… mostly, about my time in the manor… with those monsters around me. I was a part of them… only I wasn’t… I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be a part of them, but they were threatening to kill my parents, and I couldn’t… I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t help… And then they brought the three of you in… and the way you looked at me across the room when that mad cackling of my aunt’s started… I’ve got that helpless, pleading look imprinted on my retinas, because it might as well have been my own… And then you started to scream… Merlin… I couldn’t help you… I didn’t help you… and for that, I’m profoundly sorry, Hermione. For that, and for a lot of other things…”

I could see her expression visibly soften while I spoke, and by the time I say I’m sorry, she’s already got her arms around me.

“… for calling you a Mudblood… that’s not even… I knew better… even my mother would have berated me for that…” I whisper miserably into her fuzzy hair, but she just pats me on my back, and murmurs something like: “Shhh, Draco, it doesn’t matter now, does it? We were children, and the way you were raised, you had no way of knowing any better. Don’t waste another breath on that nonsense; if anything, it’s made me stronger.”

“And I’m sorry for never telling you how brilliant I found you,” I tell her sincerely when she finally pulls away, and – well, I never thought I’d see the moment, but Hermione Granger Weasley goes beet red.

“Don’t be ridiculous… people just don’t say these things to each other. Even my husband doesn’t tell me that,” she chuckles, but it looks suspiciously as if she’s trying to mask how moved she is. “But he better well think it!” she laughs, and my relief is so great, a small sniffled chuckle escapes me as well.

Merlin’s dog… those Gryffindors… they cannot hold a grudge to save their lives. It just takes the tiniest, most botched apology, and they’re ready to hug you and practically adopt you. I’m willing to work to earn this kind of good grace. Minister Granger Weasley has just gained a staunch supporter to every one of her policies!

“Just make sure you treat my son right,” she says unexpectedly, and I’m shocked when she presses a small kiss onto my cheek and turns away.

“I never told her, I swear,” Hugo lifts his arms up as in defence, as soon as the door closes behind her. “I never got around to telling anyone to be exact, and with Mum always working, she’d be the last to find out. But I guess I didn’t have to. I knew she’d guess. She’s so bloody clever.”

And this time, I’d be surprised if the pride was missing from his voice. Hermione Granger Weasley is one parent to be damn proud of.

“Are you still up to this?” my lovely redhead wants to know as he approaches me from behind, rubbing my back in a most heavenly way.

I moan as the wonderful relief floods my muscles, and it isn’t until then that I notice how very stiff I’ve become. It’s like my effort is straining every muscle in my back to keep me straight – but I can’t quit now. I’m not quite ready to take on the two that are left, but it feels as if I have no choice. With every apology I’ve made, I feel a bit lighter, a bit calmer, as if I’m finally sorting through my sins and putting them where they belong: in the past. I can’t stop so close to the finish line.

“Bring in Potter… your Uncle Harry, please,” I tell him quietly. I need someone who will go easy on me… before I take on Ronald. And Potter doesn’t disappoint me; he never does.

He looks stern and tired, but not as suspicious as I feared. I start by telling him about the therapy, about the war and the nightmares, about the idiot I’ve been and how much I regretted it all later – but he doesn’t even let me go far. He visibly flinched at the mention of my nightmares.

“Don’t… just don’t, yeah?” he says quietly, and doesn’t even look me in the eye. “You saved me when you had a chance to give me up – and you didn’t. I never properly thanked you, either. They were all howling at you to confirm it was me under that disfigurement spell – and it would have been so easy for you to do so… but you didn’t. I could tell you recognised me, but you didn’t sell me out. You’d bought us time… enough time to escape and I…” his voice begins to shake, and then he goes silent.

“I’ve got them, too,” he finally blurts out. “The nightmares. About the people who died for me… all of them… a different one every night… and about him. That he’s alive and that Death couldn’t stop him. You have no idea… or perhaps… you do.”

He finally lifts his legendary green eyes to meet mine, and I nod with a knot in my throat.

“I do,” I whisper. “At least he hated you. He hated and feared you, and you destroyed him. He liked me – in an ideal world, he would have been me. He tried to get close to me, he bloody hugged me. Have you got any idea how dirty that made me feel? When he was near you, he tried to harm you – but at least you knew you were on opposite sides. He considered me his own, his godson – even if I never was! – a poster child for his new, terrifying future, a foundation he would build his regime on – but just being near him made me sick with repulsion. Do you still remember how he smelled? Of rot… and something long dead? Because I still wake up in the middle of the night with that ungodly stench in my nostrils, screaming my guts out. He got so close… too close to owning me… So, yes, Potter… Harry… I do know. Perhaps I’m the only one who does.”

His eyes are swimming, and his breathing is shallow, so this time, I make the move. I hug him, and he closes his arms around me as if he was drowning. If it wasn’t for Hugo, I would’ve never realised how much relief can come from simply being understood. And we understand each other. The fear, the guilt, the regrets. His demons are just a variation of my own, even if he was on the right side of the war and I was not. That bloody war… it has crippled every one of us in so many ways. But it was time for me to leave it behind. I would walk away, with scars, but walk.the hell.away. Alive.

“Thank you,” he says unexpectedly. “Thank you for making the effort… coming over, saying the words – remembering… It can’t have been easy.”

“I came to apologise,” I mumble. “Say I was sorry. You didn’t even let me. Stop undermining me.”

That finally makes him laugh through his tears.

“I’m sorry,” I say as clearly as my heavy heart would let me. “For everything. For pestering and taunting you, for slandering you and trying to get you expelled. Oh, and for trying to make friends with you in the first place – I would have made a terrible friend; a dork though he is, Weasley – Ronald – was a much better choice… And for the time when I could have told the world the truth, but I kept silent... he already had his dirty fists around my parents by then, but still… I could have confided in someone, I suppose. Let the rumours out, if nothing else. But I didn’t. I was a terrible coward back then… and I reckon I’m not much better these days. But I’m working on that.”

“With Hugo?” he wants to know, and I only nod sheepishly. I don’t have a clue how much he’s guessed and I don’t want to incriminate myself. Once a coward…

“Bloody hell, Ron will have a nice hefty litter of furry kneazles,” he sighs. “I better fire-call The Three Brooms and ask them to send all their heaviest stock over. And I might have to hide Ron’s wand.”

How come everybody in this bloody family knows about Hugo and I?!

“Take good care of Hugh, yeah?” he says pointedly. “He’s kind of, uhm, maybe a little bit my favourite – and I’ll find out if you don’t!”

“Mother of God… Potter threatening me over a freckly Weasley… now, why does that sound familiar?” I mumble sulkily: “Don’t worry – I wouldn’t dare. That boy knows all my secrets. And there’s that little thing of me being bonkers about him…”

“Yeah… there’s that,” he chuckles, and for the first time in my life, Harry Potter holds out his hand to me, and the look in his eyes is friendly.

“I waited over three decades for that,” I mumble while I shake his hand, but he merely shrugs and smiles in reply:

“The way I figure, you’ll need every ally you can get when Ron finds out about...” he points at Hugo, but my pretty redhead only smiles beatifically in reply:

“But everybody knows already,” he says innocently. “How could dad possibly miss it?”

I sure as hell hope you’re right, gorgeous. Because it’s time for the worst task ever. I think I might have it worse than the Triwizard Tournament contestants with the job that’s ahead of me. Ronald Weasley happily hates my guts, and how I am to reach any kind of truce with him is beyond me… but I have to try. My peace of mind is worth it; my Hugo is worth it. And should I fail, at least I’d know I gave it a shot.

“Have you thought it all through well, Hugh? I mean he’s… Draco. He’s Scorpius’s father. Are you sure he’s the one for you?” I hear Potter interrogate the pretty redhead behind my back quietly, and I try to stifle my annoyance. Bloody Potter, always so protective. But Hugo’s reaction makes my heart leap into my throat.

“One and only, Uncle Harry,” he chuckles sweetly. “You told me yourself this morning that I was glowing. I just know, all right? And I think you do, too. Are you sure this isn’t more about trying to protect Dad from the shock of a lifetime than it is about me?”

“Freckly little scoundrel you are,” Harry Potter mumbles, but there’s so much affection in his voice that I can’t help but forgive him for his meddling. “You were always too smart for your own good. I’ll get Ron, then. Don’t forget to call, uhm, reinforcements, if he gets a bit, er, carried away. You know your dad’s temper.”

“I have my dad’s temper,” Hugo says pointedly. “It might not always show, but I’m a Weasley through and through. Just remember when I was five and you, fools, tried to take my favourite toy away? You know – for that super important press conference when Mum was made Minister and we all had to attend? Some rot about it being too chewed up. But it was my favourite toy.”

“Ugh… point made,” Potter growls, and I can tell from his grimace that that must have been some nasty business. “I think that room you threw a tantrum in is still sealed. People think it’s haunted. I’ve seen an Erumpent’s horn with less explosive power.”

“Well, just remember – he’s my favourite – and I’m no longer only five,” Hugo smiles sweetly, his eyes lit up like two blue fires, and it has Potter backing towards the door.

“Yeah, yeah… I recognise a threat when I see one. Spoiled brat, intimidating your poor aging uncle like this…” he mumbles to himself, but not really looking too miffed. “I’m going to get your dad now – and make a call to St. Mungo’s just in case.”

The door barely closes behind him when Hugo’s arms close around me from behind.

“You’re the best,” he presses a string of enthusiastic kisses into my hair. “You’re handling this like a boss. But are you sure you want to do this last one? My dad… I know you two don’t see eye to eye. I don’t want this to end on the wrong foot – you’re doing so well.”

I turn inside his arms and greedily take a small kiss for all my trouble from his soft mouth. And the way that those beautiful, lush lips open and welcome me melts my insides into a puddle. When he mewls deliciously, I literally have to pull myself away from him, or I might’ve thrown a Colloportus! at that door, and had my evil way with him. I’m so, so very tempted.

“God, Hugh…” I moan, somehow trying to figure out with my melted brain what the hell was I even doing here that didn’t involve debauching the most delectable Weasley on the planet… Weasley… oh, yeah… right… That other Weasley. Ronald. I needed to focus on Ronald. Bloody man always ruins my finest moments!

“Yeah, uhm… I’ll be all right… but I’ve got a bit of a request,” I start sort of awkwardly. “Would you mind leaving me alone with your father? It’s just that… he triggers the very worst in me, and I might not be on my best behaviour,” I say sheepishly. “I’ll do it… I’ll do my best to make a good job of my apology, I swear, but, uhm, if it doesn’t work… I’d rather not have you here.”

It might get ugly – but I can’t really tell him that. But my clever, intuitive redhead doesn’t argue at all. He simply nods and presses one last kiss on top of my nose. Oh, my… that one always gets me.

“Later, love,” he says, already moving for the door. “And Draco – keep it simple. Dad doesn’t like big words. And for god’s sakes don’t call him Ronald – no one does. Well, only Mum, and only when she’s really ticked off with him. Ronald… is for bad times. He’ll just think you’re mocking him, and he’ll hex you before you close your mouth. Just Ron will do.”

Well, that was comforting… not. Bloody Weasel… still barmy after all those years.

~

The first thing I notice when he enters is how handsome he still is after all this time – and how shockingly like Hugo. I confess, I never quite noticed his attractiveness before – I was always too busy being irritated by him, but right now, everything about him reminds me of Hugh. Well, everything but the frowning face and stormy blue eyes. He doesn’t look too happy. Merlin’s dead thestral, here goes nothing…

His arms are crossed against his chest and he’s looking at me with that mistrustful, sceptical expression on his face he always gets at the sight of me.

“What is this, Malfoy?” he growls instead of a “hello”. “My wife wouldn’t tell me anything other than to go easy on you, and Harry came out after he’d clearly been crying. What tricks are you up to now?”

Oh, damn… I knew why I left him for last…

“I… would like to apologise,” I tell him as calmly as I can, and clear my throat, determined to make a quick business of it. His face immediately turns suspicious and wary.

“Why?” he demands to know. “What did you do? Come on, spit it out! I told Harry something was going on underneath that “oh, I’m so decent now” act.”

“Nothing is going on, Weasley,” I say pointedly. God, why does that pig-headed fool always have to make it so hard?! We are three seconds into the conversation, and I already want to strangle him. “It’s about the past… about the war.” I have to bite my tongue not to add “you fool” . Salazar’s floppy ears, he riles me up so!

“Oh…” he mumbles, his voice a bit more subsided. “What about it, then? You were on the wrong side of it, what more is there to say?”

“That I’m sorry,” I say quietly. “I’ve been having therapy with your son lately. I had to… I nearly strangled my wife during one of my nightmares.”

For some reason, it’s really easy to be brutally honest with him. We’ve always been very direct, raw and in-your-face with each other, and I’m shocked to find out how easy I find it talking to him.

“Uhm… that’s… harsh,” he mumbles, looking surprisingly… ashamed?... for a moment, but it doesn’t really last long enough for me to be certain.

“Then why didn’t you say that right away?” he erupts again, sounding proper ticked off. “Waiting for me to make a fool of myself, were you? All, right – let’s hear it, then. But – wait! Does it even count if Hugo made you say it?”

“Hugo didn’t make me say anything, ” I struggle to swallow another “you dork” . “I’m doing this because I want to.” And because we’ll soon be related, I want to add, but I’d rather not poke at that sleeping dragon quite yet.

“Right,” he smiles a sly smirk that says “I don’t believe a word of that crap” and makes me want to punch his lights out. The things I’m doing for Hugo… seriously.

“All right, then. Spit it out so I can go back to the party,” he growls. “I have to find my wand. Some fool with a death wish nicked it. I’m suspecting Teddy’s little scoundrel. That kid is a proper Marauder in the making.”

Thank goodness for small favours. Potter – or Hugo? – clearly did his job well.

“Oh, shut up,” I finally lose my nerve. “This will be faster if you just shut up and hear me out.”

“Git,” he murmurs sulkily, but when he finally goes silent, his blue eyes are lit up and full of curiosity… a bit like Hugo’s, really, and that kind of makes my job a bit easier… kind of. I inhale deeply. I might as well…

“As I’ve already said – I’ve been having these… sessions with Hugo lately,” I hear my own voice, and it shocks me how tired I suddenly sound. “I’ve always had… issues since the war, but they’ve intensified since Scorpius moved out, and after that incident with my wife… ex-wife… I realised I needed help. Scorpius recommended your son, and we’ve been working through my problems since.”

I chance a look in his direction, but Ron Weasley is surprisingly silent and calm. Unnaturally so. I’m not used to seeing him this way. He looks somewhat paler, serious and composed, and I remind myself that he was the head of the strategic department of the Auror corps – his temperamental character aside, Ron Weasley clearly knew how to pay attention when he deemed it important. And for some reason, he really seems to be listening now. As if I wasn’t nervous enough...

I clear my throat once again and continue.

“I was especially troubled by the events that took place in my own home, occupied by the Death Eaters – and my role in them. Now, you have to understand… I know my father offered to host them, but he had to. His position was unstable as it was, and he couldn’t afford to fall out of the Dark – Voldemort’s – good graces completely. The consequences would have been devastating for our family… and we’re all there is left of the Malfoys. So, we were virtually hostages in our own home, and we had to play along. And I… found it extremely troublesome.”

I hate how my voice begins to shake again, but it seems I’m just too tired and too emotionally wrecked to talk of those wretched times with any sort of indifference.

“I, as you know, was forced to participate. They wouldn’t just let me sit behind the table with them and wear the same clothes, they wanted me to show my allegiance by…” I swallow, “… by hurting people. And sometimes I had to. It made me absolutely nauseous – I swear, I spent the first few weeks vomiting after every interrogation – but in the end… I had to comply… too many times. You know I was never the bravest one out there, and then there were my parents to consider… so I did it. I hurt people. If you were their captive long enough, you would have probably been one of my… victims. They probably would have thought it hilariously funny.”

I cast another brief look in his direction, but ashen as he is, he still hasn’t moved a muscle.

“So…”

My mouth is completely dry, and I no longer know how to continue. I have this silly, out-of-the-blue thought that if he’d gotten killed back then, there would be no Hugo, and my heart sinks completely.

“I’m sorry, yeah?” I blurt out, and my voice trembles terribly. “For not helping you and such, and for letting all those people suffer… and die. For being such a bloody coward all the time.”

“What the fuck are you on about, Malfoy?”

Uhm… That’s not exactly the reaction I was hoping for.

“Since when is being scared a crime, eh?” he wants to know, and glares at me across the room. “I was scared stupid in the bloody Spiderland Harry dragged me into! I still have nightmares, and I’m in my forties! I was half-mad with fear when we were on the run and all the bloody scum of the earth chased after us! I was bloody petrified during the Battle of Hogwarts! And not only for myself – for everyone! All the time! You can’t possibly be sorry for being scared?!”

Well…

“Unlike you, I let fear guide my actions,” I try to explain – but the bloody idiot won’t even let me be sorry properly! “You were scared – and still you did the right thing. I was scared – and I caved in!”

“Let me tell you what right thing I did,” he unexpectedly crosses the room in three long steps, stopping inches from me. God, he must have been a bloody horrifying Auror – there’s an angry, intimidating presence about him, the element of untamed unpredictability, that makes me very happy to know that he doesn’t have his wand on him.

“I abandoned them, that’s what I did,” he says through the gritted teeth. “I left them, my best mate and my future wife, because I was scared and desperate, and jealous. I was tired of running, worried sick for my family, and I wanted to go home really badly. That’s what I did, Malfoy. Not hurt some strangers to protect my family – but abandoned the two people I loved the most. Because of my bloody temper, my insecurities… for bloody comfort.”

Oh. I see. That’s… oh. I finally recognise the emotion in his eyes for what it is – not anger, but hurt, and shame. Just… like mine.

“If something would have happened to them because I left I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself,” he says quietly. “I found no comfort that day, and I cursed my bloody temper a million times. It took me weeks to find them again. Turns out it was that bloody medallion – a Horcrux – around my neck amplifying my insecurities and the darkness in me – but it didn’t create it. It was always there.”

“But you came back!” I tell the stubborn ox, frustration making my voice rise, because he refuses to get the point.

“But you saved Harry!” he returns with the same forceful passion. “If only by deception. The point is, you didn’t rat us out when we all expected you to, and when you stood only to gain from it. You could have stopped the war in that moment, Malfoy, do you realise that? They would have called He-Who… Voldemort, and he would have killed Harry, and everything else good in this world, and he would have won. Your family would have been prosperous, and you would have been a bloody hero. But you refused to identify Harry. You gave all that up because you knew Harry was doing the right thing, and you didn’t give into your fear. Not in that moment, you didn’t. And it was a crucial one. You’ve got shit to regret, Malfoy. If anything, you helped Harry win just like the rest of us did.”

He’s got a point, I know he does, and that bloody man has the same power over me as his son does: he’s making me feel better, even if that’s not his intention. But he’ll be gone, and my guilt will return… and I realise I’m not quite ready to give it up to someone who doesn’t.bloody.get it!.

“But all those people in the manor… dozens of them!” I howl at him. “You have no idea, you…”

I barely stop myself from calling him a moron again. I can’t fucking believe him! Everyone else has forgiven me, but the bloody pigheaded man was not willing to do the same – he was practically saying there was nothing to forgive! And there was! Tonnes! There were bodies, and screaming, and all that pleading – there was a proper hell, made of the horrors I saw and caused, stored in my brain. They held a trial for me – they must have thought I was guilty!

“… you weren’t there,” I finally squeeze through gritted teeth. “Not the whole time, you weren’t. Barely a couple of hours… I was there for weeks.”

“Oh, yeah… about that…”

His eyes are sparkling, and look genuinely angry now, and he seems to have grown in the last few moments. Freakishly tall… freak.

“I was with you in the same bloody place in my mind every moment I didn’t know where my family was, Malfoy,” he growls. “At least you were with them; you had a semblance of control. You were in it together. And I’d made my choice when I left with Harry and Hermione – but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t absolutely fucking tormented with visions of what could happen to my family. I thought about it all the time. I was glued to that bloody wireless, listening to the names of the dead and the missing, and I turned the same thought around in my mind over and over and over again until I was losing my mind with it: what would I do if they got to one of them – just one! – and told me to give myself up, or else…? It was my recurring nightmare. A never-ending one, it seems,” he spits out with a mixture of anger, frustration and sadness that makes my skin prickle, because I’ve felt the exact same thing countless times.

“That’s why I let my job at the Auror corps go to hell as soon as Hermione got pregnant: I wasn’t willing to lose a chance to be by my family, protecting them, caring for them. I knew what it meant to have your family worried sick about you, and I didn’t want to do that to my kids. So stuffing the shelves for George it was. He was generous enough to offer me a partnership, but I would have taken just a job,” he shrugs, and for the first time in my life, I feel unbidden, deep respect for Ron Weasley. Looks like the man wasn’t as shallow as I always took him for…

“It took some soul-searching, but I realised long before that what I would’ve done if I’d found myself in the same situation as you,” he speaks a bit more calmly, but there’s an eerie tone to his voice that makes the hairs on my neck rise:

“If I was you, in that manor – or anywhere else – Malfoy, and I had my family to protect, I would have hurt, hexed, and killed the fuck out of you… or any unfortunate soul they’d put in front of me. I would have done any bloody thing they asked of me. I was just lucky it didn’t come to that. There’s a million ways to break a man, Malfoy, and sadly, it doesn’t take much to break me. Just a person I love,” he says quietly, and finally I realise what makes me hate and despair of him so.

“We’re – ”

“Yes,” he says simply, reading my mind without any effort at all.

“ – very much alike.”

And we were. We were like two sides of the same coin. Never mind our differences – when it came to crucial things – core values, and instinctive responses – Ron Weasley and I, scarily, had a lot in common. Not only we were both pure-bloods raised in exclusively wizarding tradition and nearly completely unspoilt by the pulse of the Muggle world out there, we weren’t noble and self-sacrificing like Potter, or righteous and virtuous like Granger – we were deeply ridden with faults of our own, and we blundered all the time. But we were also ridiculously protective of our own; we were willing to be petty and ruthless if it got us what we wanted, we could be madly dedicated and passionate when we wanted something, and far from perfect as we were, we knew right from wrong and were willing to change if that’s what it took to take the right path in life. Ron Weasley was my mirror. A bit distorted, to be sure, but yes – much the same.

Now, that is a lot to take in. I take a deep breath – and realise that most of the weight in my chest is gone. I will never be able to take away what happened in the past – but if Ronald bloody Weasley could learn how to live with himself, goddammit, so could I. It wasn’t me being weak. It was love that made me so… and it took one Ronald Weasley to make me see that. That realisation melts the last traces of poison in my chest. I think… the impossible redheaded bastard just gave me much more than he was aware of.

“I still think you should apologise,” he says unexpectedly.

What?! But didn’t he just…? God, I hate that smirking face.

“I think you should apologise for every bloody time you mocked me for my poverty – like it was something I chose! – and you should apologise for trying to humiliate me with that stupid Quidditch song, and for every damn time you said anything bad about my family and my mother,” he says slyly, with a victorious smile nearly splitting that freckled face in two.

Oh, no… Petty little berk. I should have known better than to think he was going to let me off the hook so easily. But I owe the git, even if he doesn’t know it. And it’s going to make me look really cool and mature in front of Hugo later. I’m ready to go a long way for that.

“I apologise, Weasley, for every time I called you dirt-poor - though that didn’t seem to cause any lasting damage. And I apologise for the song that made you win that bloody game – and you got to rub it in for a long, long time. Oh, and I sincerely apologise for insulting your mother – I had no idea she was so formidable,” flies out of my mouth so smoothly, I can almost see the air getting sucked out of him. Ha, the ginger Neanderthal didn’t expect that! Just look at his blue eyes bulge in disbelief! It makes me feel smug how disappointed he looks that I handled it like a gentleman!

“Uhm… all right then…” he groans miserably. “I reckon that was a fair effort… for a Malfoy… Besides, Hermione will have my balls for a cake topper if she finds out I was being ungracious,” he mumbles to himself grudgingly.

“I guess that’s apology accepted,” he sighs, not yet quite at peace with the way things worked out. “But just because we’re soon going to be… ugh… seeing more of each other.”

“Yeah,” I say enthusiastically, pleasantly surprised that he came to terms with my relationship with his son so easily. “I’m fairly smitten with Hugo, and I’m happy to say that your son returns – ”

I stop, because his eyes look about ready to fall out of his head. Oops. Uhm… fuck? Just my luck. And I was doing so well.

“Hugo… and you?!” he says feebly, backing up to the nearest chair and collapsing on it like an empty sack of misery.

“Well...yes,” I say awkwardly. Looks like the rumours of his proverbial obliviousness weren’t quite so exaggerated. “I thought… you perhaps knew. Everyone else seemed to! And when you said we’d be seeing more of each other, I assumed…”

“I was talking about Scorpius and Rose having a baby, you… blasphemous, bleached pervert!! My son! Of all people! Oh, bloody hell on a pancake!!” he hollers like a wounded werewolf, looking completely flabbergasted and unable to catch his breath. “Get the fuck out of here! I can’t believe my ears! Did you hex him, then? I knew it would come to that! He was always mixing with the mad crowd! He must have caught some of the barminess! Where in seven hells is my wand when I need it?! Out, out, out with you! And get my wife! Or scratch that, I need a drink more… get me a drink! Call St. Mungo’s while you’re at it; there’s an alcohol poisoning coming their way tonight. Or a coronary. Harry!!! Haaaaarry!!!!”

I’m not ashamed to admit that I do a runner. I swear he’s turned, uhm, scarier over the years, and once a coward… you know. I send a frightened house-elf to find his wife and barely flatten myself against the wall when Potter barges past me with a bottle of sparkling amber liquid in his hands, clearly at the ready.

And I… I’m completely exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for a year. I need to find Hugo… and sleep for year. But, of course, he finds me. When those familiar strong arms close around me from behind, my knees stop taking my orders and simply give in. He’s carrying my full weight, and it feels so bloody right, I want to sob.

“Done?” he asks simply, and kisses the top of my ear.

“Done,” I confirm, and feel his embrace tighten around me.

“Good,” he whispers gently.

“Your father...”

“Never mind my dad,” he chuckles and presses another greedy kiss into my hair. “He’ll get over it. Or used to it. Or whatever. This our time - and you’ve kept me waiting long enough. Now, Mr. Malfoy… what do you say to making some nice, brand new memories?”

Oh, god, yes! I could totally use that. His wonderful, magical fingers are rubbing the tiredness out of the stiff muscles in my neck, and I can’t help but purr in delight:

“Darling… you always have the best ideas.”

Epilogue
hp-mhealthfest.dreamwidth.org/3715.html
 

Date: 2017-06-24 03:01 pm (UTC)
starstruck1986: (Default)
From: [personal profile] starstruck1986
Ah man. I was just hoping for a smidge of hidden repressed lust between Draco and Ron there. Dammit.

But still, their scene together was truly beautiful.

Date: 2017-07-01 04:48 pm (UTC)
my_thestral: (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_thestral
LOL, sorry for disappointing you, if I'd known that you'd be "yearning" for some Ron/Draco, I would have put a bit in just for you! ;)) I can always recommend plenty of my other work, LOL! *shit-eating grin*
Actually, I wanted Ron to be a bit mistrustful towards the ferret, but not entirely cruel - I can totally imagine he knew what he was doing when he disclosed his own weakness (and not his proudest moment) in front of Draco. No one ever gives his smartness a well-deserved credit! :)

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