Disclaimer: Based on the works (as of 2004) of J.K. Rowling.
Time: Set several many years after the end of book
seven. Please note that the characters
might reference a common ‘past’ that the reader has not been party to…and
neither has this author. Nobody wants to
talk about some things, darn it!
Additional Disclaimer: The title comes from a poem of the
same name by Wilfred Owen, as does the story summary. Certainly worthwhile.
Dedication: To all the CCS writers who threw up their hands
at me and asked me to come back.
Harry felt sick. He sat
down on the grimy sidewalk, head and hands dangling over the gutter, and
wondered why he didn’t just Apparate home. He wondered why he was sitting in the
smog-tainted sunlight of London staring at his own shoes. He rubbed at the scar on his forehead until
it stung, hoping that maybe he just needed the bracing snap of wind to clear
his head before he went home. Behind him
he heard the sound of an ancient lift rumbling and the dull clattering of a
glass door as it opened.
“Chang’s ruling bothering you, Scar-head?” The door rattled shut.
He didn’t look up. “Karel,” he corrected.
“That’s right; she
married that Dutchman, didn’t she?”
Draco’s voice was oozing with false emotion and Harry heard the sounds
of somebody settling into place. “Maybe
that’s why she’s Chief Warlock. I mean,
her sister-in-law was a Death Eater,
wasn’t she? Pity about that, that the International Council put the girl to death, isn’t it?”
“Leave Noach and his sister out of
this,” Harry said warningly as the wind picked up.
Draco ignored him, continuing on
as though Harry hadn’t spoken. “Maybe
they thought she’d go hard on the
Death Eaters because of her poor, poor husband and his poor, poor family? Tragic mistake. Really.”
“Screw you, Malfoy,” said Harry. He thought about going for his wand, but
didn’t. “I don’t care what you have to
say about anything,” he glanced over his shoulder to where Malfoy leaned
against a decrepit, red telephone box with his hands in his pockets, untouched
by the swirling drafts, “so just sod off.”
As Harry watched, Draco’s shoulder lifted and fell in a lazy
shrug. “Quite charitable, aren’t you,
Potter? Cha—so sorry—Karel’s
ruling isn’t too lenient for you, then?
Not bothering you at all? No
lifetime in Azkaban for the last convicted Death Eater? The last Death Eater on the Auror master-list, the last to be caught and convicted…and
she gets a nice, long stay at a high security facility with nary a Dementor in sight.”
“Sometimes charity and decency are enough. Sometimes it means pity, Malfoy, pity.”
He looked away.
“Oh, perhaps,” Draco said with a mirthless laugh, “but don’t
lie to yourself, Potter; that ruling wasn’t meant as a slap in the face. The decision doesn’t strike either of us as
fair, you know,” he continued conversationally.
“I abhor stupidity. Karel’s one, tragic flaw is the same as that of any other
altruistic idiot: compassion. A harsher
sentence would serve your type better in the long view of things, but I suppose
most people feel that that would be
one step too close to the side of Dark magic.
Not you, however. You’re special,
Potter. You’re different. You understand ruthlessness. You’ve been
it. You don’t pity me. You hate me.”
“Malfoy,” Harry sighed. It was terrible that he and Draco could understand each other so well. Draco wasn’t wrong
about him; he could be ruthless and Cho’s ruling
wasn’t sitting well with him. He was too
drained to argue about it or deny it. “Malfoy, I’m tired.”
A rustle of fabric and then Draco was at his shoulder not
looking at him, but out into the streets of Muggle London. “So am I, Potter.”
Harry looked at the shabby pub across the way and watched as
a discarded hamburger wrapper reeled by in the wind near the entrance. For a moment he wondered what he and Malfoy
must look like to the Muggles within; it had been so
long since he’d been one that he had to think hard. Formal robes in front of a graffiti-covered
wall, Draco’s expensive and exquisitely severe and his own of good quality and
charmingly serviceable. Both of them
with dark deeds to their names and accomplished in the pursuit of divergent
ethics. But really,
what could Muggles see of that?
“I tried like hell to bring you in.”
“Oh, I was aware. I
tried to have you killed.”
With a snort of pure amusement Harry looked up at
Draco. “You’re such an ass.” Draco regarded him with a haughty look and
Harry sighed. “What do we do now?” He gestured for his nemesis to have a seat
It wasn’t a surprise when Draco remained standing. “I’m appalled at your self-indulgent
blubbering. You’ve won; the world is
Harry didn’t respond, merely propped his elbows on his
still-knobby knees and folded his arms against his chest. Beside him Draco made an abortive sound of
“You can’t expect me to believe you haven’t thought of this,
Potter. We’re both of us well aware of
what the future will bring. Pragmatists
like us know that there won’t be another Dark rising within the next hundred
years and even if somebody was stupid enough to try, they’d fail
miserably. Within mere
days.” Harry glanced up to find
Draco looking down at him, bitterness evident and cloak snapping out at him as
another gust kicked up. “Once the memory
of defeat is placed soundly in history, however…”
“We’ll see,” he agreed.
“But I won’t let them forget, Malfoy,” he said fiercely. “If you’re thinking that your children are
going to escape knowing what I know about you and your type, you’re wrong. I’d come back from the dead to see it
Venmous cold hardened Malfoy’s face. “Come
near my daughters and you will pay, Potter.
You’ll learn the truest meaning of the word suffering if you dare try
“There isn’t enough of the Malfoy fortune left to send them
away for schooling.” Harry uncrossed his
arms and leaned idly back.
“Hogwarts,” Draco spat.
“Hogwarts,” he confirmed, “Defense Against
the Dark Arts.”
“Oh, really?” Malfoy sneered. “And
where is Severus Snape,
then?” He didn’t wait for a reply,
though Harry would have dearly liked to give him one; comprehension was dawning
in his pale eyes and Harry felt a hot stab of anger as Malfoy threw back his
head and laughed. “Headmaster! So she did
die. Shame. I always appreciated her formidability. You’re the new head of Gryffindor, I take?”
Harry didn’t need to rise to make Draco step off, although
he did. His voice was dangerously calm
and his eyes were stone-set and steady.
The wind shoved at his back but he didn’t notice it and it didn’t move
him. “Don’t forget that Snape fought for the Order.”
“That means something to you? Are you mad?
Or did you forget that Snape is just like
us? He knows the value of choosing sides
once the outcome is clear. He knows how
and where to choose his allies.”
Rage twisted like a dragon in Harry’s mind; some things that
he’d wondered about were now sharp and clear.
“It was you.”
Smug self-satisfaction colored Draco’s smile as he stepped
forward, toe to toe. “Let’s just say
that I’ve earned the new Headmaster’s trust.”
Tension tainted the air like a foul potion left to brew, and
Harry knew that it would be only moments before the first spell was
hurled. A patrol car turned onto the
drive and slowed as it approached. Harry
stepped back. Draco must have recognized
the car for what it was; he stepped back as well.
“Leave, Malfoy, or one of us is going to have a tremendous
amount of explaining to do.” A sweet smile thinly veiled the clenched teeth as
Harry eyed the policeman without seeming to.
Draco’s own smile was handsome and carefree and seething
with leashed anger that was probably not visible to the Muggle officer, still
driving slowly past. “You
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?” The car had stopped and the officer was
approaching, the wind nearly taking his hat.
Harry gestured at his billowing cloak and robes. “None at all.
I felt a bit dizzy and sat down.
Got my…costume…stained. My
acquaintance is a dry-cleaner and was offering to help.”
“I see,” the officer didn’t sound convinced. “Sir,” he started to turn to Malfoy, but
dropped to the ground in mid-motion. The
officer’s hat flipped and the wind caught it and rolled it away. Harry looked pointedly at Draco’s wand.
“A dry-cleaner? As if
a Malfoy would be so menial,” Draco rolled his eyes and flicked his wand idly
at the tumbling hat. “Still, I wouldn’t
mind having a go at you. ‘Harry Potter Dies in Cleaning Charm
“No.” The wand slid
smoothly out of sight. “Sadly, Potter,
this is over.”
“As over as it’s ever going to be,” Harry said, nudging the
wayward hat beneath the officer’s arm and out of the wind’s way. He looked up at Draco,
who acknowledged the truth of those words with a slight incline of his head;
Harry nodded, too. They both took one
more step away from each other. Apparating
Harry offered out his hand across the distance and Draco
took it. They shook.
“Good-bye, Potter. Be
fair to my children and nobody is going to have any worries,” Malfoy said, dropping hands.
“You will,” Harry told him, “if it breaks your hold over
them. See you around, Malfoy.”
They Disapparated as the wind
murmured mournfully around the rusting dumpster, tipping things out that should
have stayed in.