Not in the Hands of Boys

Fourth Rose

Story Summary:
Once the final battle is won, life must go on, although it can be even harder to master than death. Back at Hogwarts for his final year of school, Harry tries to cope with everything he's been through. As the world around him struggles for a way back to normality, he is forced to realise that in the long run, living takes a lot more courage than dying.

Chapter 31 - Part 31

Author's Note:
Thanks to cloudlessnights for betaing!

"Hey, Malfoy!"

Draco had been about to follow Blaise Zabini down the staircase that led to the Slytherin dungeons, but he stopped and turned around when Harry called him. Zabini briefly glanced back over his shoulder and made a face; he seemed about to say something, but Draco shot him a glare that made him walk away with a barely noticeable shrug. Under different circumstances, Harry might have wondered what that exchange had been about, but right now he wanted to get this over with while he was alone with Draco in the corridor; it probably wouldn't take long until more Slytherin students started leaving the feast.

It was only when he opened his mouth to speak that he realised he hadn't really thought about what he was going to say. His hesitation wasn't lost on Draco, who raised an eyebrow and tapped his foot in an exaggerated show of impatience. "Was there anything you wanted from me, Potter?"

"Er, yes. I mean, no." Harry quickly gave up the attempt to come up with any kind of explanation. "I just wanted to give you this." He held out his hand, remembering a second too late that he'd forgotten to unwrap the bundle first.

Draco's face turned stony at the sight of one of Dudley's cast-off socks. "If that's supposed to be a joke, I'm not laughing. I'm not a house elf!"

"Oh, for -" Feeling extremely silly, Harry ripped the sock off. "Just take the damned thing, all right?"

Now that it was no longer hidden under a layer of threadbare wool, the Hawthorn wand felt surprisingly familiar in his hand, as if it hadn't been more than a year that he'd last used it. Again, Harry found himself remembering the flash of green coming towards him, yet never touching him, and for a split second he regretted his rash decision to let go of the wand that had served him so well against his greatest enemy.

Still, it was almost comical to watch how Draco's expression changed completely - his eyes went wide, his cheeks reddened, and for a moment he seemed uncertain how to react. His hand twitched, as if he wanted to reach for the wand, but he clenched it into a fist and kept it by his side.

"You're giving me back my wand? Why?"

"Why do you care?" Harry asked, a tad defensive. "It's yours, and you've been whining about it all year. Are you going to take it back now, or do you want me to keep it as a souvenir?"

He fully expected Draco to snatch the wand out of his hand at this, but Draco reached out slowly and took it with great care, as if he were afraid it might break if he grasped it too tightly. He merely held it for a moment, running his thumb over the smoothly polished wood of the handle with a small frown; then he gave it an experimental flick that left a trail of silver sparks in the air.

There was a strange edge to his voice when he finally said, "Seems you took reasonably good care of it."

Harry shrugged; as thanks went, this was already more than he'd expected. "Yeah, well, you're welcome."

"Am I?" Draco twirled the wand around his finger twice and then caught it deftly; it looked like a trick he'd practised hundreds of times to make it seem effortless. "I doubt you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart, Potter. What do you want in return?"

Harry frowned; this idea definitely hadn't occurred to him. The only thing he might have asked from Draco was to be well and truly gone from his life, but he'd long ago resigned himself to the fact that thanks to Lucius Malfoy's scheming, it would likely never happen. It had probably been Lucius too who had taught Draco to expect a price to come with every favour. "Is that how things are done in Slytherin?"

"No, it's how things are done all over the world," Draco shot back; it wasn't lost on Harry how he still wasn't pocketing the wand. "I repeat, what do you want from me? What could you possibly want, given that you've just demonstrated how you don't accept my help, even when I'm offering it?"

"Eh?" It took Harry a moment to understand what Draco was referring to. "Wait - you thought I didn't believe you when you tried to warn me about the ashwinder eggshells?"

"Yes, of course I - " Draco fell silent, his eyes widening for the second time this night. "Do you mean that you understood what I was trying to tell you? And that you knew I was right?"

"Of course I did." Harry realised that he no longer wanted to end this conversation as quickly as possible, now that he might get to the bottom of this; the question what Draco had been playing at had bothered him ever since the exam. "Are you going to tell me why you tried to help me?"

At long last, Draco made a great show of shoving the wand into his pocket; it seemed to Harry that he was stalling for time. When he looked up again, his expression was deadpan. "Only if you tell me first why you deliberately blew up your cauldron."

Harry crossed his arms over his chest and pressed his lips together. He was fine with Shacklebolt guessing at his reason for botching the exam, but there was no way he was ever going to share it with Draco. There was silence for a moment; then Draco said with a smirk that wasn't quite as venomous as his usual sneer, "Thought so."

"What's it to you?" Harry hadn't meant to sound so belligerent, but Draco didn't take the bait anyway; he merely shrugged.

"I couldn't care less. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get my trunk, I'm leaving in less than an hour."

"Oh." Harry had no idea why his stomach gave a strange lurch at this; it looked like he hadn't noticed just how used he'd got to the constant irritation of Draco's presence throughout the school year. "McGonagall said you already accepted a job offer."

Draco cocked his head. "Gossiping with the Headmistress about me, Potter?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "She just mentioned it, she didn't tell me any details."

Draco shrugged again. "It's hardly a secret. I'll start working as a curse breaker for Gringotts, and they want me to begin my apprenticeship right away." He grinned, but it turned out a bit lopsided. "The Minister had a hand in this; I suppose he thought that given who I am, I'd be less trouble working for the goblins. Seems my new fame as Greyback's killer will only get me so far among wizards."

Harry bit back the question whether Draco knew that one of his future colleagues was a man who was disfigured for life because Draco had let Greyback into the school. Perhaps it would count for something that Bill Weasley too believed that it had been Draco who had finished Greyback in the end.

"I suppose you're well qualified to work with cursed objects." He had meant it as a neutral observation, since he'd witnessed Draco's familiarity with the Dark Arts firsthand during the school year; only when Draco stiffened did he realise how his remark had come out. An image of a screaming Katie Bell suspended in mid-air flashed through his mind, but the sudden spike of resentment quickly faded at the memory of Draco's terrified expression when he'd faced Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower. Draco was a nasty piece of work, but Dumbledore had been right that he was not a killer, and after everything that had happened during the last months, Harry was only too aware that he of all people had lost the right to judge his former arch-enemy for the mistakes he'd made.

Draco, of course, had no way of knowing what went through Harry's mind, and from his expression, it was obvious that the supposed jab had hit right home. "Well, forgive me if I, unlike you, have to settle for a job I'm qualified for. Do they even make you go through Auror training first, Potter, or will they just hand you the whole Department tomorrow?"

Back when Ron had made a remark in the same vein, Harry had found it disturbing, but hearing it out of Draco's mouth now just made him angry.

"You saw me fail my Potions NEWT, Malfoy, so you bloody well know I can't be an Auror."

Draco's face twisted as if he'd bitten into something sour. "You want me to believe they're not bending the rules for the Chosen One? Pull the other one."

"They're not," Harry stated flatly. Not for a lack of trying, his traitorous mind added, but of course he didn't say that. "If you absolutely have to know, Malfoy, I'm going to teach Defence at Hogwarts next year."

Draco's jaw dropped at this, but it was nothing compared to Harry's own surprise at hearing the words coming out of his mouth. He still had no idea whether he even wanted the position, so what had come over him to tell Draco of all people that he was going to accept it?

"Oh my God." Draco seemed torn between indignation and laughter. "I had no idea that things were this desperate at Hogwarts. Potter, you're good at throwing hexes, but you don't know the first thing about Dark Magic!"

There was no denying that, so Harry did his best to appear blasé about it. "So what? I'm capable of learning, and Snape has agreed to tutor me in the beginning."

"Snape?" Now Draco was laughing in Harry's face. "Before or after that pig flew by his portrait?"

"Sod off, Malfoy." Harry's anger evaporated, leaving only the all-too familiar feeling of exhaustion behind. "I'm not sure you've noticed, but a lot of things have changed."

"Really." Draco had grown serious again; there was a calculating expression on his face that made Harry slightly uneasy. "In that case, have a nice life, Potter."

Harry stared at the hand that Draco was holding out towards him; the challenge couldn't have been clearer. For a moment, he was tempted to cross his arms over his chest, but then he squared his shoulders, clenched his teeth and took Draco's hand, squeezing it as firmly as possible. "You too, Malfoy."

Draco inclined his head, his eyes never leaving Harry; then he quickly let go, turned on his heel and disappeared down the stairs to the dungeons.

Harry stood motionless and stared after him until the sound of Draco's footsteps had faded in the distance. His mind was strangely blank, and he only snapped out of it when he heard a group of younger Slytherins approaching from the Great Hall. He had no wish to be seen hanging around the entrance to the dungeons, but he didn't feel like returning to his packing either, so he finally set out towards the Ravenclaw Tower to check whether Luna had already come back from the Leaving Feast.

* * *

Harry was startled awake by a loud bang, as if someone had dropped something heavy right next to his bed. The room seemed to tilt sideways when he sat up too quickly, and it took him a moment until his head stopped spinning.

"Are you all right, Harry?" He hadn't noticed Luna before, but now she was by his side and put a cool hand on his bare shoulder. "I didn't want to wake you before it was necessary, but I'm about to leave now."

Harry noticed only now that she was fully dressed. She wasn't wearing school robes any more; instead, she had put on a pair of faded jeans and the jumper that Mrs Weasley had made her for Christmas. Her hair was done up in a tight bun, and it struck Harry how grown-up she looked like this - a far cry from the schoolgirl who had been his almost-girlfriend all those past months. His stomach felt like lead when he leaned in to kiss her good morning, the memory of the way her skin had felt against his just a few hours ago still vivid in his mind. This, too, was over now - they'd always known it would end like this, but it was only now that he began to realise just how much he was going to miss her.

Luna pulled back after a moment and smiled at him. "See, all better now. When are Ron and Hermione leaving?"

Harry glanced at his watch on the bedside table. "Ten o'clock, there's still plenty of time. Are you sure you don't want me to accompany you to the carriage?"

"Yes, I'm sure." Luna scanned her room once again, checking whether she had missed any of her belongings. "You know, packing was so much easier this year when nobody was hiding my things any more."

"The perks of being Head Girl," Harry grinned, although he wasn't happy with the light-hearted tone of the conversation. There was a lot he still wanted to say to her, but somehow he couldn't find the words to express what was going through his mind. It had always been so easy to confide in her, why was he suddenly finding himself tongue-tied now?

The thought brought back memories of the day before. He'd had better things to do with Luna the previous evening than to discuss his career plans, but now he wanted her to be the first to know.

"It seems that I've agreed to accept the Defence post, by the way."

Luna beamed at him. "Oh, Harry, that's great! I so hoped you would - I'm sure you'll love being a teacher! McGonagall must be thrilled!"

"Um." Harry felt a blush creep up his cheeks. "She doesn't know yet, actually."

Luna's eyebrows shot up. "I don't think you can avoid telling her, you know. What did Ron and Hermione say?"

"They don't know yet either." Anticipating her next question, Harry quickly added, "I had a talk with Malfoy about it yesterday evening when I gave him back his wand."

Luna cocked her head to the side; it made her look a bit like a curious kitten. "That's an interesting way to go about it. I thought you weren't going to return his wand?"

Harry shrugged. "I reconsidered."

"I'm glad you did."

Luna didn't ask further, for which Harry was grateful; he would have been hard-pressed himself to say why he'd decided to let Draco have the Hawthorn wand again. It had certainly been the right thing to do - the wand wasn't his, and now that it had served its purpose, it wasn't as if he still had need of it. However, Harry was only too aware that doing the right thing hadn't always been his main concern when it came to Draco Malfoy. Perhaps, the rational part of his brain spoke up, it had been a smart decision from a purely selfish point of view: the likeliness of Draco ever finding himself in enough trouble to need Harry's help was probably smaller if the git had his own wand at his disposal.

He didn't want to waste any more time thinking about Draco now, though. Harry wound an arm around Luna's waist, inhaling the familiar scent of peppermint and patchouli with a pang of yearning as if she were already gone. "I'll miss you, you know."

"I'll miss you too," Luna replied earnestly, "but you know I won't be that far away, don't you? If you're going to stay at Hogwarts, we could meet at Hogsmeade for a drink every now and then."

"I'd like that." Harry reached out to brush a stray wisp of hair away from her face. "And I'm going to write." He meant it, too; he'd never been much of a letter writer, but he really wanted to stay in touch with Luna. It was a bit different with Ron and Hermione: these two were so clearly a part of his life that Harry couldn't fathom ever losing sight of them, no matter where their respective careers took them, but he wasn't as certain about Luna yet, and the thought that he might lose her completely one day was painful to contemplate.

"I'm sure we'll both have a lot to write about!" Luna sounded excited, and once more Harry found himself envying her for her enthusiasm. "I really must be leaving now, Harry, but I'll hear from you soon, won't I?"

"Yes, of course you will." Harry was glad that Luna wasn't the type of girl to go for a long, drawn-out farewell; she kissed him once more, then disentangled herself from his arms and got up from the bed.

"Alohomora, Locomotor trunk!"

Harry pulled his knees up to his chest and watched her wave her wand to direct her luggage through the open door and out into the corridor. Luna was about to step out of the room herself when he called out to her. "Luna?"

She turned around on the threshold with an expression that made it clear she'd been waiting for him to call her back. "Yes?"

Harry did his best to give her a carefree smile as he asked, "Friends?"

Luna's face lit up in a way that reminded him of the sun breaking through the clouds, and her eyes were shining when she answered simply, "Always."

Then she was gone, the heavy wooden door falling shut behind her. Harry closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in the lingering fragrance and trying to edge that last expression on her face into his memory. He still had a long day full of good-byes ahead of him before he got to face his own future, and right now he very much wished that he'd be able to muster up at least a little bit of Luna's enthusiasm for it.