Liberation Day
by Ishafel

When Draco is seven, he gets caught stealing candy from the London branch of Honeydukes and he's terrified. He knows he's disgraced his family by being caught, and he knows he's going to be punished and his mother is holding him too tightly by the wrist, so tightly it hurts. She drags him into the fireplace and out into the hallway. She's never hit him before but he's never seen her so angry. She shoves him down into a chair and drops her shopping bags, and Draco closes his eyes and hopes it will be over soon.

She doesn't hit him. She throws her arms around him and hugs him as if she'll never let go, and then she straightens up and shakes him so hard he bites his tongue. It's February 29, six years to the day since the Death Eater trials began and half her family died-- Liberation Day. Her eyes fill up with tears as she tells him and after a minute Draco cries too. He doesn't understand why she's so upset, but he says over and over again how sorry he is until finally she stops. He never steals anything, not even hearts, not ever again.

When Draco is eleven, he puts out his hand to a boy on a train and the boy takes it. They're friends, even after they're Sorted into different Houses. He goes home with Harry for the Christmas holidays, and on Liberation Day when they have a Hogsmeade weekend Narcissa takes them both to lunch. When Draco makes the Quidditch team second year--the youngest Seeker in decades--Harry is jealous, but fiercely proud of him. Draco practices with him, and eventually Harry earns a spot on the Gryffindor team.

They're more alike than most people think they are: both of them intense, competitive, sometimes cruel. They quarrel often, and their quarrels are bitter, even vicious; their Houses, their other friends, wonder why it is they bother. Draco's father had killed Harry's, or so nearly as to make no difference. Everyone knows that he is a Death Eater in training; everyone knows that Harry is a hero. But their friendship helps to heal the rift between their Houses. Ambition and courage are not so very far apart. Not when it counts. Not so far apart as intelligence and loyalty, Draco's father said once, when he did not realize they could hear.

When Draco is fifteen, the Death Eaters take over London on Liberation Day. There is no siege, one day the city is there and the next it is Unplottable, gone. Off the map. Dumbledore summons Harry to his office to tell him, and Draco hears the news from Harry. That his parents and his best friend are going to war, and that he will have to choose his side. He remembers Harry, who took his hand when he didn't have to, and he remembers his mother's pale, set face as she told him Regulus and Bellatrix, her mother, the baby she lost the first night in Azkaban. The way that, for his father, everything comes back to Voldemort. He's being torn apart and he hates it.

Harry won't ask Draco to choose, not because he's afraid of what he'll choose--Draco always, always does the right thing--but because he shouldn't have to. It isn't his fight. So Harry waits, and in London people die. They die because Narcissa Malfoy passed her war on to her son, and they die because Harry Potter took Draco Malfoy's hand in friendship. And they die because neither boy was as ruthless as he should have been, hard enough to do what he had to.


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