Toward End Game


By Libertine


After leaving a smirking Ron in the hallway, Harry stomped up the stairs to his and Draco's room. After slamming the door and going through a litany of creative insults aimed at Draco, Harry finally threw himself on the canopied bed and plunged into despair. Lying on his back and staring at the ceiling, he began replaying the past few days over in his mind, and single- mindedly obsessing about Draco clinging to Ron when the final showdown with Voldemort arrived. It was almost the ultimate betrayal. Harry grimaced and curled up against a pillow.

Of all the people in the world, and it had to be Ron, didn't it. He wondered if it was some sort of cosmic poetic justice. Ron became the independent, desirable man who saved the whole damn world and became Draco's new flavor of the moment. He wasn't in Harry Potter's shadow anymore. He was just Ron fucking Weasley, Prick Extraordinaire.

He didn't know if he should be angrier with Draco or with Ron. No, he did know. Draco was not very dependable, and he certainly wasn't one who validated any sort of emotional bonds of any type. Harry expected Draco to be flaky. Draco could only do what was in his nature to do.

But Ron. Ron should have been different. Ron, who had always been there for him. Ron, who broke him out of the Dursleys when they were half starving him to death. Ron, who sacrificed himself so that Harry could get through to face Quirrel. Ron, who stood by him when confronting Sirius Black, whom Harry thought murdered his parents. Ron, who intended to rescue Harry from the Malfoys' dungeon. Ron should have been a friend.

Harry's thoughts turned bitter. Ron, who had always been jealous, angry and resentful. Ron, who had turned his back during fourth year when Harry's name was put in the Goblet of Fire. Ron, who didn't appreciate the family he had, didn't appreciate that unconditional love and acceptance. Ron, who didn't appreciate anything he had. He's always had it easy. The biggest personal crisis Ron ever had was the Dress Robe Incident in fourth year.

Harry frowned, grasping on an idea. 'Ron's just like Draco'. Draco didn't appreciate his family, he didn't appreciate anything he ever had. Draco, who took his perfect little charmed world for granted. He's always had it easy. Yes, besides the differences on the surface, Draco and Ron really were alike. Harry sneered, taking malicious pleasure at the memory of a whining Ron crying for his mother and needing a change of trousers, the so-called savior of the world. He and Draco deserved each other.

He wondered if there was any one thing he could have done differently. It couldn't be traced to one thing that screwed everything up and it wouldn't be just one thing that could make everything better. There was no simplistic answer that Harry could see. He laughed wearily. Absently playing with the patterns on the bed coverings, he thought about his affair with Draco. For it was an affair, built on a very shaky and doubtful foundation. Things had never been easy with Draco. Their entire relationship was founded on a game. The same never- ending game of one-upmanship. Was there ever a time that he was allowed to feel tired of the whole damn thing? Just when the hell did his life go suddenly out of control? When did he completely lose it?

He rose from the bed and padded his way to the window that overlooked the grounds. He rolled his eyes at the scene below: Draco and Ron stood next to a dragon. Harry watched as Draco and Ron clasped hands. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he watched as a brief light flashed and surrounded the two men below. He gripped the edge of the window, feeling as if his legs might give out. Gulping down the misery that threatened to escape, he shut his eyes tightly, feeling an all too familiar stinging in his eyes. He took a deep breath and exhaled with a hiss. Well, that was providence or something wasn't it? Maybe those two WERE meant for each other.

Turning suddenly from the window, he began making frantic plans to Get the Hell Away from Malfoy Manor. He walked briskly to the closet, nearly yanked the door off its hinges, and started ripping his clothes out and throwing them to the middle of the floor, desperation making his hands shake. He only knew that he had to get out, had to be away before Draco came sauntering in their room looking as if there was nothing amiss.

After shoving everything in the pile into his bottomless backpack, he turned to look upon the only home he had known since graduation. This wasn't like his professor's quarters at Hogwarts. This had been his *home*. Lucius and Narcissa had been good to him in their own way. They had certainly been better 'parents' than the Dursleys ever had been.

Harry hesitated. He knew he was procrastinating. Knew that once he left, he couldn't go back. Could he really do it? Could he actually *leave* Draco? Draco was a part of him…to leave him would be to cut off his own arm. He inhaled deeply, trying to gather the strength to finally leave when he heard a throat clearing behind him. Harry slowly turned to find Lucius leaning against the doorframe.

"Going on vacation?" Lucius drawled.

Harry shrugged, his lips upturned in an ironic smile, "Got it in one. How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," Lucius pushed himself away from the door and strode into the room. "You don't have to go, Harry. In fact, we'd rather you didn't."

Harry, taken off-guard, narrowed his eyes in suspicion, "Since when do you call me Harry? And who is 'we'?"

Lucius raised an eyebrow while shaking his head, "You're a Malfoy now. I can't very well wander about the halls referring to you as 'Malfoy' now, can I? Half of the paintings would think I'm talking to them. Could cause mass confusion. As for your other question, I'm referring to Narcissa and myself, of course. We'd like you to stay."

Harry took off his glasses and pressed his fists against his closed eyes, "I…can't. I don't want to see him. Them." He gestured to the window, suddenly angry. "It gets better doesn't it? I mean, this aching goes away doesn't it? I know in my head that I'm not going to feel like this forever, but I really can't bear seeing them," he said with a plaintive look, "it's just too much. I just *can't*."

Lucius eyed him a moment before turning to the window. Walking over to the sill and watching over the grounds, slightly sneering when he saw Ron Weasley trip and fall on the front porch, "Harry, I need someone who's capable of running Malfoy business interests. Reluctantly," his hand indicated Draco outside below, "I have to admit that Draco's not ready to do that, and I can't be certain if he will ever be capable of assuming my responsibilities. I need to have that assurance that things continue to run the way they've always done. Things may be happening soon with some old colleagues of mine, and things could become - complicated. I need to be sure that my grandson will live in security. I need to be sure that *our*," he emphasized, indicating himself and Harry, "family will endure."

Harry watched as Lucius leaned against the windowsill. Even battered and missing an arm, Lucius still managed to maintain that quiet air of command that demanded respect. How the hell did he *do* that? Could *anything* confound the man? A sudden thought came to Harry, 'I want to be just like that.'

As if aware of what Harry was thinking, Lucius turned abruptly to face the other man. "I want you to do this for me, for our family. And in return, I can keep you busy…so busy that you'd hardly see Draco if that's what you want. I can send you out to personally oversee our interests so you wouldn't even be here during the day. I can give you so much work to do that you'll drop from sheer exhaustion every night, you won't even notice a ghost much less anything else."

Harry frowned, "What makes you think that I can do what you're asking me to do? How do you know if I'm capable of managing business? I've never been an academic type and I've never had to manage money." He shook his head, "I've never had to do anything but stay alive and fight Voldemort…and look how that turned out. I'm just not that useful."

Lucius smiled slightly, "Uh-uh…none of that, now. Harry, I know you're capable of these things because during the Game, you 'kept your cool' as they say. If you can face the end of the world and your own death so casually and without hesitation, you can certainly handle Malfoy accounts. You handled yourself about as well as any natural-born Malfoy." Lucius looked at Harry with a bit of surprised pride.

Stunned into silence, Harry contemplated the suggestion, putting his glasses back on. "Well, it *would* give me something to do with myself. But could I move to a different part of the manor? Away from *them*? I don't want to see them. I don't even want to be in the same wing."

Lucius nodded, "Yes, of course. You can have your pick if you'd like."

Harry looked down at the floor, turning the thought around in his head for a moment before looking up, "Alright. I'll do it. When do you want me to start?" He lifted his chin slightly.

Lucius smiled approvingly, "Right now, of course. Now let's go and pick out your new room. May I suggest you get one close to the Big Library?" He gestured to the door with his remaining arm.

Harry's eyes widened as he followed Lucius toward the hall, "You mean the Big Library that Draco's been trying to get into for ages?" He was almost giddy thinking about how jealous Draco was going to be when he found that Harry had access to Lucius' Dark Arts library.

Another smile, this one a bit wider, "The one in the same, Harry. Would you believe that all Draco had to do was to simply say 'Open Sesame'? Ridiculous phrase. Nonsense, really. He'd never guess that, would he?" He dismissed Harry's raised- eyebrow-look with a wave, " I don't necessarily approve of muggle things, but that doesn't mean that we don't hold muggle business interests. Lesson one; money spends the  same way in our world or the muggle world. Now, let's discuss the first order of business as we walk. Let's talk about Voldemort kicking the proverbial bucket at the hands of a one-armed man."

Harry's brow knit in understanding, "Nobody outside our little circle even knows what really happened. So nobody could ever find out about Weasley, could they? Well, it *was* you who knew how to win the Game, wasn't it? Ro-, I mean *Weasley* wouldn't have been able to figure that out by himself. I should know." He added with the beginning of a grin, "Perhaps an over-confident Voldemort trying to bully an upstanding member of the wizarding community?"

"Well, that's something we can work with. Of course, one of the cornerstones of All Things Slytherin is to Take the Spotlight Away from Your Rivals."

"Is it?" Harry chuckled lightly, finding the Slytherin Code of Ethics a bit wicked and liberating.

Lucius nodded, walking alongside Harry, "Oh yes, quite useful that one. It's up there with Never Let Relatives Sing at Any Special Occasions. You can't begin to imagine the horror of Narcissa's spinster aunt attempting Ave Maria at our wedding. It was enough that all plant life nearby turned a hideous puce and died. Narcissa was mortified for months." Lucius shivered involuntarily before continuing, "Anyway, we'll make a proper Slytherin of you yet."

Harry blinked his eyes, as if trying to clear his vision. "But I wasn't sorted into Slytherin." He followed Lucius down the hall feeling a bit shell-shocked. Lucius was talking to him as if he were an equal. It was almost unnerving.

Lucius shrugged as he walked beside Harry, leading him down the stairs toward his own floor, "No, but you nearly were, right? That's worthy enough. And Harry?" Lucius paused and turned to Harry with a conspiratorial smirk, "Another Slytherin rule...Revenge is Best Served Cold."

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