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The Last Man Standing by _Lady Marauder_
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: The Ball
A/N: I wrote this story for taylorj828's Writing Slash Challenge.
One Year After the End of the Second Wizarding War
Harry looked at himself in the mirror with blank eyes. There was no expression on his face; his mind dwelt on nothing in particular. He blandly took in his elegant dress robes and his hair that refused to be gelled back into a presentable fashion. I look good, he thought. Even his inner monologue was a dull monotone. Despite how he tried, Harry could not bring himself to care about tonight. In fact, Harry could not bring himself to care about much at all anymore. Not after the war.
The orange glow off the walls cast a haunted glare on Harry’s gaunt cheeks. They made his dull eyes even more emotionless. Usually, the sight of Ron’s Chudley Cannon’s room whipped Harry into a Quidditch frenzy. But even he hardly expected that to be the case…not anymore.
Harry stood unmoving until a knock came from the door. “Harry?” A tinkling voice called from outside: Ginny. Harry didn’t answer. Ginny came through the door hesitantly. “Harry,” she said again. “We have to go, we’ll miss the beginning.”
Harry surveyed her with the same indifference that he did everything else these days. She looks nice, he thought with the same monotone with which he thought about his appearance. Ginny was wearing a glittering emerald green gown that fell down to just above her knees.
Harry sighed and looked away. “Yes,” he said aloud. It always surprised him how—normal—his voice sounded. It was as if nothing had changed, when Harry knew that in fact, everything had changed. He turned toward the door. “Let’s just go,” he said solemnly.
Ginny took his arm and linked her fingers through his. Harry jumped and looked down at their hands. While hers looked soft, elegant, and ladylike, his own looked like he had stolen them off of a skeleton. Harry quickly withdrew his hand from hers and buried it under his armpit to keep it out of the radius of her grasp. Ginny looked down at the ground, but didn’t say anything. She never spoke up at times like these.
Harry walked out of the room, his pace slow, sullen, and unmotivated. He looked around the Burrow, at the walls he knew and loved so well, and decided he wanted to either vomit or bury his head under the dirt. But both of those took too much energy. He heard Ginny walking behind him. “Let’s just get this over with,” he said. He thought he heard her sigh despairingly, but he couldn’t be sure.
Once they were outside, Harry immediately turned on his axis and popped back into existence at Hogsmeade Station. A second later, Ginny Apparated at his side. “Thanks for waiting,” she mumbled sarcastically. Harry did not grace her with an answer, but began to walk to the carriages. As they neared them, Ginny gasped in horror. Harry immediately knew why: they no longer pulled themselves, as they had used to for her. She now saw the thestrals—as did all of the other people around them. All the students who had been present for the war saw the thestrals; they were a grim reminder of the everlasting horror of that time. Harry turned away from the beasts. If he hadn’t been so dead to the world, tears might have appeared in his eyes. As it was, they were bone dry.
They sat in the carriage; another couple, looking uncomfortable, entered after them. “Thank you for coming with me Harry,” Ginny said softly, trying to take his hand again. Harry, not too subtly, made sure she didn’t touch it. “It means a lot to me, that you came out for it.”
Harry looked up at the ceiling. It was a stupid idea, agreeing to be Ginny’s date for the graduation ball. She had passed her N.E.W.T.s with flying colors, and all of the Hogwarts graduates attended a ball in the castle to commemorate their achievements. Usually, it was something never talked about, and blown off by half the students anyways. But this year was the first class to graduate after the demise of Voldemort. Everyone was desperate to prove that life was getting back to normal. Like it could ever be normal again, Harry thought bitterly. He had been pushed over the deep end. His whole life he had had to deal with shit from the people around him, over the silliest and most menial things. He had seen more horrors than some people could even dream about. And he had lived with it all those years. But there was a different factor amidst the horror of the Second War that took away something from him that he feared he would never get back. So much had happened, so much was lost. What was the point of feeling anything ever again if it would only be ripped abruptly from your fingers just when you thought you might be able to hold onto it forever? There was no point, or at least that was Harry’s reckoning.
As they approached the castle, Harry became increasingly glum. He had hoped that after the end of the war, he would never have to see this place again, and yet here he was. They got out of the carriage and, along with the other couples, made their way to the castle doors. The doors swung open for them, and Harry entered. He looked toward the Great Hall, which was still set up with the tables for the students. He was puzzled. The Yule Ball had been held there, and he had figured this one would be too. But seeing as the crowd was moving up the stairs he figured it must be somewhere else.
It wasn’t until the third floor that he realized where they must be going. Of course they would have it in the Room of Requirement. The Room was now something like an everlasting symbol of the Resistance. It had been the center of operations for all those who stood against Voldemort last year, and it was a symbol of the victory they achieved. Besides that glaring fact, it was the mode that could create the means of the grandest ballroom ever. When Harry stepped into the Room, he saw that he wasn’t disappointed. The Room was decorated as magnificently as he could imagine. There was even a balcony overlooking the grounds, though Harry couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he’d never seen it from the outside (not that he cared to think too hard about it). Perhaps it appeared out of the wall when you called upon it, just as the door did.
There were already a good amount of people dancing. Harry scanned the room for someone he knew. Across the room, he saw the back of a luminescent blonde head. The wavy curls fell down to her waist, and as she turned around, Harry could see that Luna was glowing in the light of the party. She had her hand held fast with a man who Harry could not identify from behind. He, too, had pale hair, like Luna herself. He was built well, and held his shoulders with dignity. Harry frowned. Who was it?
Ginny touched his shoulder. “Dance with me, Harry.” It was not a request. Harry figured that since he had dragged himself here for her, the least he could do was give her a few dances. He led her out to the floor, just as a slow waltz was starting up.
Over her shoulder, Harry peeked at Luna. The identity of her partner was really irking him. He still hadn’t seen his face, but Harry figured that he should know who this man was. When he turned around to lead Luna to the dance floor, Harry was so shocked he forgot how to move his feet. Malfoy?
Ginny looked around to see why Harry had stopped moving. She saw Malfoy, his hands low on Luna’s waist, and sighed. “They’ve been together this whole year Harry. Honestly, you are so immature. Get over your stupid boyish feud. I mean, I know it was like, a big deal when you were...what? Thirteen? But it’s about time to let it go.”
Harry was appalled at her. He hadn’t said anything at all, and she immediately began chewing him out! He dropped his hands from where they had rested on her waist—much higher than where Malfoy’s were on Luna—and didn’t spare her a word before he walked out onto the balcony. He heard her call his name, but wasn’t fazed. It took an awful lot to get him fazed nowadays. He doubted if it ever would happen again.
Harry sat down on the stone bench outside the Room. Silently, he stared up at the stars, wishing everything could be different. After a few minutes, he felt someone come and sit next to him. On instinct, he knew it was not Ginny.
“Ginny says you never look at the stars anymore, Harry,” Luna said dreamily. “It’s a pity. They’re like the jewelry of the sky.” She stared off into space for a few moments. “You know, Harry,” she started again. “It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to still hurt for Fred, and Lupin, and Tonks and everybody. You have done so much, Harry; for me, and for everyone else. You killed the most evil wizard to have ever lived.”
“Don’t,” Harry growled warningly. “Don’t talk about that to me.”
“Whatever you say Harry,” Luna said compliantly.
It had been a long time since Harry attempted small talk, but there was something on his mind. “So, Luna,” he said, biting back anger. “You and Malfoy? What the hell is that about?”
“Oh yes, Draco is such a sweetie,” Luna crowed. “Give him a chance Harry. He really is much more amiable then you always made him out to be.”
“Yeah, right,” he said skeptically. “About as friendly as a hungry lion.”
“Why don’t you believe me Harry? When have I ever lied to you?”
Harry looked up, startled. “You haven’t,” he told her truthfully.
Luna nodded matter-of-factly. She got up on her feet, but Harry stayed where he was. “You should look at the moon and stars more often, Harry,” she advised him, putting her hand on his shoulder in a sisterly fashion. “I think it does you good.” Just as she was about to leave, she added, “Just not the full moon. That’s when the Wrackspurts come out, you know.” And with that she walked away, as if her last statement had been completely normal.
Harry shook his head and looked back at the stars. Maybe Luna was right, maybe this was doing him some good. He felt more fired up than he ever had in the past year—though that might have been the thought of Malfoy laying his slimy hands on Luna.
Just as that thought popped into his head, Malfoy himself loped out of the door and up to the bench. He looked at Harry warily. Normally, Harry would have assumed battle stance, but he couldn’t find the will to hate Malfoy anymore—well maybe just a tiny bit, but that would have been directed at anyone who was with Luna. She was the only sister he would ever know, and he was fiercely protective of her.
“Luna said you wanted to talk with me?” Malfoy said. His usual drawl was absent, Harry noted with interest.
“No,” he answered quickly.
Malfoy didn’t seem convinced. “Can I sit?” He asked, nodding to the open area next to Harry. Harry said nothing, and Malfoy seemed to take it as an affirmative. “Luna mentioned something else,” he said slowly. “About you.”
“Why are you with Luna, anyways?” Harry snapped. “I know you’re only playing with her. Just leave her alone, she doesn’t know how to play your little games.”
Malfoy was not fazed. “Who said games Potter?”
“You would never be with Luna. It goes against your Death Eater code of conduct.”
Malfoy’s eyes lit up with a fire. “Don’t call me that.” Harry was surprised. “I thought we had this all sorted out Potter. I thought you knew that…that I wasn’t like that anymore. After the war, I had to change. My heart was never in what I was before, and no way was I going to subject myself to being an outcast forever.
“But no one accepted that I had changed. That I was…good. Except for her. Luna never questioned it, never. She just took me on my word, and never spoke of who I used to be again. She was kind of an avenging angel for me. She stood up for me when everyone else failed. I don’t think I would have changed for real if she hadn’t had that pure faith in me.”
Harry was impressed. Malfoy had just given him a speech on life. Go figure. “Yeah, sorry,” he said slowly. “It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around...you and Luna…she’s the only sister I know. I won’t let anything happen to her, not ever.”
Draco nodded. “I figured as much.” He was silent for a moment, but Harry noticed him staring at the side of his face under his eyelashes. “You look like hell done over easy, Harry,” he said. “But you know, you aren’t the only one who was scarred by the war. We’ve all been hurt.”
“You don’t have any idea,” Harry whispered fiercely.
“I think I do,” Malfoy retorted. “More than you know, anyways.” He laid a hand understandingly on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry withdrew as if touched by burning acid. “Don’t touch me,” he practically screamed.
Draco shook his head and scoffed. “And here I was, thinking she was exaggerating.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Malfoy?”
“Luna,” he said looking up at Harry. “She told me you can’t stand to be touched by anybody anymore. I thought she was lying. Guess not. She figures it’s a fear of affection. Whenever anyone who loves you tries to show their affection, you withdraw into some emo shell that you’ve built for yourself. That’s what Luna told me anyway.”
Harry thought about Malfoy’s hand on his shoulder. “Affection?” He tried not to look into Malfoy’s eyes.
Nevertheless he saw Malfoy frown. “Don’t be a pervert, Potter. I came out here because Luna asked me to. End of story. Don’t get any perverted misconceptions.” Harry looked down, fuming. Who did Malfoy think he was?
When Malfoy spoke again, his voice was softer. “Anyways, I suppose I was under some impression that we were…friends, now.” Harry looked over and was surprised to see that Malfoy looked uncomfortable.
“Sure, Malfoy,” Harry said. “I think we are.” Malfoy looked considerably relieved. He nodded his blonde head up and down. Harry noticed that ever since the end of the war, Malfoy had ceased to gel his hair back tightly. It swung freely around his face, grazing his high, defined cheekbones. Harry shook his head to clear it. Who was he to notice these things?
Malfoy stood up. “Well, I better get back; I told Luna I’d only be a minute.” Harry nodded, avoiding Malfoy’s gaze. He heard his steps fade away. At the last moment, Harry lifted his face. “Malfoy!” He called to the retreating figure. He turned around. “Do you—do you think that we could…meet in the Three Broomsticks tomorrow? To, you know, talk about…stuff?”
He saw Malfoy smile. “I’m glad I can go back to Luna with a ‘Mission Accomplished’ now, Potter.” Harry flushed. He hadn’t put it together that Luna sent Malfoy out as someone Harry could have a sob session with. Malfoy looked like he was about to walk away again, but he spoke. “I think friends call each other by their first name, Harry.”
This made Harry raise his eyebrows. He nodded, amazed by the civility circling the balcony. The other man was already walking away, when Harry whispered: “Whatever you say…Draco.”
A/N: Alright, the stage is set ^_^ I'd appriciate people's feedback on what they thought about this first chapter!