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You Can't Win the Battle and the War - Chapter 8/12
Illyria, AtS
Chapter 8 - Draco: Forgiving

Harry entered the Great Hall to find the enchanted ceiling shining intense blue, bathing the entire hall in light except for the very edges, the corners which remained hidden in shadow. He scanned the hall, taking care to look in the shadowy corners, the corners he had ignored before. Most were empty, but in the far corner of what had always been the Slytherin table, he saw three people, two standing by the wall, one sitting on the bench away from them. Looking closer, Harry realized with a jolt that the sitting figure was Draco Malfoy. Before he could think about what he was doing, he found himself walking steadily toward Malfoy’s hunched profile. When he reached him, he did not even hesitate as he slid into the seat beside him.

Malfoy looked up at Harry, his face haunted and lost as he looked straight into Harry’s eyes. His face did not fill with the hostility Harry had grown so used to seeing, that he had always assumed was instinct to Malfoy as it had been to him. Now, his face was soft and confused, utterly open in a way Harry had never seen it before.

“Potter,” he said, his voice hoarse. “You did it.” His eyes were wide and his tone was very different from that of the others who had said the exact same words. He sounded surprised, shaky, and somewhat sad. The way he spoke scared Harry a little. “You did it,” he repeated, his voice cracking a bit.

“Draco,” Harry said without thinking. Malfoy’s head turned toward him involuntarily, surprise apparent on his face. Malfoy’s given name sounded strange in his mouth, a foreign feeling in the one place he had been certain he was familiar with. He pressed on in spite of the unfamiliarity. However, before he could say another word, Malfoy cut in.

“Don’t,” he said harshly, his voice coming out a growl. “Don’t – don’t do that.”

Harry looked at him questioningly, trying to keep his expression gentle.

“Don’t – be the bigger person. Don’t treat me like I’m…” he trailed off.

“Draco,” Harry replied, and saw Malfoy flinch at the word. “I’m not being a bigger person.”

“You won,” Draco told him, as though he thought Harry didn’t know. “You won, and I lost. I chose the wrong side.”

Harry shook his head. “You didn’t choose any side,” he affirmed.

“Of course I did!” Malfoy cried, his voice on the edge of desperation, all sharp edges and harsh burning. “I gave everything to this war, to the wrong side! I gave up everything. I gave up myself. And it was all for the wrong side.”

“You never had any sort of a choice,” Harry clarified. “And don’t even try to tell me you were doing anything for Voldemort.”

“I didn’t –” his voice cracked again, all force gone from his voice, leaving it uncertain.

“Draco,” Harry said, sliding off the bench to kneel in front of Malfoy and again ignoring Malfoy’s slight flinch at the sound of his own name. “Maybe you didn’t make the best choices during the war. But you’re here now, and you’re alive, and you’ve got the chance to fix all of that.”

“Don’t do that!” Malfoy shouted, a hint of his old fire back in his voice and his eyes. “Don’t treat me like I’m good, don’t forgive me!” And the fire was gone as quickly as it had appeared, flickering out as if tired.

“I don’t deserve to be forgiven,” he added quietly, his voice full of pain and desolation.

“Oh, of course you do, Malfoy!” Harry responded, reminded of how much the blonde-haired boy could annoy him. He paused to regain calmness. “There is nothing you have done that can’t be forgiven. You’re allowed to make mistakes, Draco. Merlin knows I have…” he added more softly, a hint of his own turmoil sneaking into his speech.

Malfoy, however, scoffed. “You don’t even know what a mistake is,” he replied, his voice tinged with that familiar hostility and disdain. “You, the Chosen One, the perfect boy, don’t tell me you’ve made mistakes.”

“Of course I have,” Harry contradicted. “You think, with all that up to me, I could get through the war without making any mistakes? But people forgave me. They’ll forgive you too.”

Malfoy shook his head, his expression lost in sadness. “Everything I’ve ever done was a mistake, and now Crabbe is dead and it’s all my fault,” he said.

Harry’s stomach twisted as he saw a tear slide down the bridge of Malfoy’s nose, cutting a track of darkness on his pale skin. He struggled to think of the words that would ease Malfoy’s pain, that would stop that single tear and any that might follow it. He thought of nothing.

“I just wish I could undo it all,” Malfoy finished, his voice broken. Harry looked up at him, into those grey eyes now shining with tears.

“You can’t,” he said, knowing that this was the opposite of what he was trying to accomplish but unable to stop the words coming out of his mouth. “The mistakes you’ve made, they’re made. They’re done, whether it was your fault or not. And you can’t ever change that. But you can do so much now. You’ve got the whole world in front of you, and I know you; you can do so much with it. Please, just step into it. Let the world forgive you.” Malfoy looked down at him, his expression confused and surprised, hopeful and grateful, filled with something Harry couldn’t quite place. When he said nothing, Harry spoke again.

“I have.” And with that, he stood slowly, directly in front of the other boy. Bending down, he placed a hand on the back of Malfoy’s neck and pressed his lips very gently against his forehead. His eyes closed, Harry held the kiss on Draco’s forehead a moment longer, then straightened and barely hesitated before he turned around and walked across the hall, away from his sworn enemy.

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