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The Pure and Simple Truth

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At the pub, Greg tried to buy Ginny a drink.

“Thanks,” Ginny said, “but Dean’s getting it.”

“Thomas?” Greg snorted. “Hey, so Weasley―”



Ginny smiled. “It’s Ginny. There are too many Weasleys.”

Greg snorted again. “Right. So. Ginny. You’re really sort of athletic, and I gotta say even with all those freckles, you’re not half bad looking.”

Ginny’s smile grew wider. “Thanks, Greg.”

“Will you stop interrupting?” Greg grunted. “What I gotta say, is―”

“Hey Ginny.” Coming up with her drink, Dean put it in front of her, then leaned in, kissing her temple.

“—You’re going out with him?” Greg said. Dean looked surprised, but Greg didn’t wait for an answer. “What’s he have that I don’t have?”

There were a whole lot of things that Ginny could have said right then, but smiling rather gently, she only said, “Well, Dean’s an artist. I like artists. Plus, he knows lots of Muggle things, and I think Muggle things are interesting. Also, he’s got sort of crazy hair, and I love sort of crazy hair.”

“My hair could be crazy,” Greg muttered.

“That’s cool,” said Ginny. “Why don’t you go for a Mohican?”

“Because that would be dumb.”

Ginny shrugged. “Dean’s gonna get dreads.”

“I am?” said Dean.

Ginny turned to him, her lips twitching. “It’d be pretty hot.”

“I’m getting dreads,” Dean told Greg.

“Whatever,” said Greg. “You’re a pissant. Bloody women.” He stalked off.

“You didn’t tell him we have a history,” Dean pointed out.

Ginny raised a brow. “We have a history?”

“So.” Dean put his arms around her. “We’re going out?”

Rolling her eyes, Ginny said, “Is that your way of asking me?”

Dean shrugged, arms still around her. “I just do what you tell me.”

“We’re going out.” Ginny tilted her head back to kiss him.

“Come along,” Blaise told Greg, dragging him along the bar. “We know when we’re not wanted.”

“Bloody women,” Greg said again.

Blaise waved his hand grandly. “Let us drown our sorrows. Bartender, pip pip!”

“I don’t ever even know what you’re saying,” Greg grouched.

“I try not to think about it,” Blaise said.

A large part of the group that had fought the hydra had come to the pub, at least for a little while. They got a rather large table, which was actually two or three tables pushed together. For the most part, they were the only ones really at the pub, as it was later than the general meal hour, and just a Wednesday night. It was almost this big, weird Gryffindor and Slytherin reunion, with a smattering of Ravenclaw thrown in.

They basically had to get an entire vat of the spinach dip.

Malfoy spent a lot of the evening telling almost anyone who would listen that he’d been almost mortally wounded, and had only survived through sheer force of will. Harry spent a lot of the evening telling almost anyone who would listen that Malfoy’s Patronus was a goat.

“I like goats,” said Luna.

“Aberforth says the same thing,” George said, leering.

“They’re very friendly,” Luna said.

“I said,” said George, “Aberforth says the same thing.”

Busy with her spinach, Luna was ignoring him. “And they get along great with other animals.”

George rolled his eyes. “This is just too easy.”

“What’s your Patronus?” Malfoy asked George, probably to get off the subject of goats and Aberforth's preferences.

George frowned down at the table. Angelina put her hand on his arm. “It’s a baboon,” she said.

Malfoy had no way of knowing why it made George sad that his Patronus was a baboon, but from the look on his face, he probably guessed. “You should see Pansy’s,” he said, in a light way, obviously giving George a change of subject.

Pansy, however, was not amused. “He should not.”

Malfoy looked extremely smug and happy, the way he’d looked all evening. “Yes, he should.”

“What’s your Patronus, Pansy?” Harry asked.

“I know what it is,” said Ron. Hermione looked at him in surprise, and then tried to hide it. Ron just grinned at her. “It’s a ferret!”

“That’s―” Harry swallowed, glancing quickly at Malfoy. “That’s not a bad Patronus. I think ferrets are . . .” He didn’t steal a glance at Malfoy, that time. “―They’re quite cute, actually.”

“Of course they’re cute.” Malfoy preened.

Pansy looked exceedingly bored with everyone. “It’s not a ferret.”

Malfoy preened some more. “It's much better.”

“He’s impossible.” Pansy looked around apathetically at everyone. “You all do realize what you’ve done? You’ve gone and made him impossible.”

“I’ve always been impossible.” Malfoy couldn’t possibly preen more. “Your Patronus has been the same since fifth year.”

“What’s your Patronus, Pansy?” Harry asked again.

Slowly, she turned her eerie eyes on him. “It’s a dragon. If you must know.”

“Draco is a constellation, Potter.” Malfoy turned to him excitedly. “It’s the dragon constellation. It’s circumpolar. That means it’s visible all year round. In China, they have a different zodiac than the Greek one, you know; it’s not based on the constellations, but every year they celebrate a different animal and―and you know all this. Don’t you.”

“Yeah, Malfoy.” Harry knew he was smiling, but he couldn’t really help it. “But you can tell me anyway.”

Malfoy scowled. “How am I supposed to know when you actually paid attention in class?”

“When it was easy,” Harry said easily. He glanced at Pansy. “Anyway, you could cast a Patronus fifth year?”

Malfoy looked disgruntled. “Of course, you would call a Patronus easy.”

“I just meant,” Harry began.

“You just meant you thought you and your little fan club were the only ones learning advanced charms in fifth year,” Pansy said.

“What?” George said. “Did Umbridge have special classes for special stooges?”

Harry stiffened a moment after Malfoy did, beside him, but Pansy just said in her easy, lethargic way, “No, Draco did.”

Harry turned to him. “You taught people to do Patronus charms?”

“No.” Malfoy looked uncomfortable. “Snape tried to teach me, and―”

“And he whinged so much about it,” Pansy said. “I had to help him.”

Why did you whinge, Harry desperately wanted to ask him, because he was almost certain Malfoy hadn’t been able to cast one at that age, which was why he didn’t ask.

So George asked, “Why’d he whinge? Couldn’t cast one?”

Pansy turned her cool, sharp gaze on him again. “Snape was the one whinging,” was all she said.

“No, he wasn’t.”

Harry wished everyone would just shut up; couldn’t they see they’d made Malfoy unhappy, and Malfoy wasn’t supposed to be unhappy this evening. He had finally won―

But Malfoy just forged on, “Snape was the best teacher at Hogwarts.”

George snorted. “Bullfeathers. Lupin was the best professor. Everyone knows that.”

“No,” said Hermione, because talk about school was just about the only thing that probably could have made her surface from excessively snogging Ron, “everyone knows it was McGonagall.”

“Don’t even get me started on Hooch,” said Ginny.

“Start in on Hooch, baby,” Dean told her.

“What?” Ginny looked at him, surprised. “Why?”

Dean winked. His arms were still around her. “You’re cute when you rant and rave.”

“So, Hooch,” Ginny said. “I grant you, fantastic flier. And great hair, now that I think about it. But what is even the system for Quidditch at Hogwarts? On what plane does that make sense? Has she ever heard of, I don’t know, something called a coach? And how is it all right that team captains can just pick whoever they choose? Plus, the inequality in terms of equipment.”

She kept talking, mostly to Dean, though Cho and Padma were at her end of the table. Cho nodded along, because apparently she had opinions about the fairness of Quidditch at Hogwarts too, though Padma was mostly just polite. Dean said, “Yes,” a lot, and “you’re right, that’s so wrong,” and, “whatever you say, baby.”

Malfoy frowned around at everyone. “Snape was the best professor.”

“Snape was a greasy git,” George said. For once, it didn’t sound unkind.

“But,” said Malfoy. “But he was a hero. He was involved in―in espionage.”

“Watch out,” Pansy said, smirking, “Draco isn’t cute when he rants and raves.”

Harry had a decidedly different opinion about that, but figured this wasn’t the place to voice it.

“Pansy,” Malfoy said, “You tell them.”

Pansy sipped her drink. “I can’t tell them.”

Malfoy looked utterly betrayed. “But,” he said again, “but, Snape was our head of House!”

“He was bad at that,” said Pansy. “And Weasley is right; he was a greasy git. If we’re going to pick a great professor, we may as well pick a hot one.”

Ron scratched the back of his neck. “We had hot professors?”

“You all seem to be forgetting the fellow who was obviously our very best professor.” Blaise had pulled Greg over from their wallowing at the bar. Everyone looked up at him. “Best in every way,” Blaise went on. “Best dressed, best looking, best dental hygiene―”

“Oh, God,” said Hermione. “You don’t seriously mean―”

“I do,” Blaise said, with a flourish. “My fellow alumni, it hardly seems possible, and yet, woefully, it is so: you’ve forgotten Professor Gilderoy Lockhart.”

There was a collective groan, and Blaise toasted them all with his figtini.

“So that guy’s crazy,” said Angelina, turning to Pansy. “I want to know who you thought the hot professor was, because if it wasn’t Lupin―sorry, where were your eyes?”

“Hey,” George said, trying to look offended.

Angelina turned to him. “I thought that was why you liked him?”

“It was,” said George. “Lupin was just so―you know. So scruffy and unassuming. Scholarly, gentle, good-hearted, well-muscled―”

Angelina narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t get carried away, sweetie.”

“I just meant,” George went on, putting his arm around her and squeezing her, “you weren’t supposed to be into him.”

Rolling her eyes, Angelina pushed at him. “I was in my fifth year. Besides, I obviously don’t go for unassuming, well-muscled, gentle, good-hearted, scholarly―”

“Hey!” George said again. “I’m muscled perfectly!”

Pansy raised a brow. “Is there proof of this?”

“Girl,” Angelina said, laughing, “you’re quick!”

Pansy looked at her in her aloof, jaded way, which Harry had come to learn meant that she was rather interested. “I'm sorry I made fun of your hair at Hogwarts,” she said.

“I'm sorry I made fun of your face at Hogwarts,” Angelina said.

“Snape was an excellent teacher,” Malfoy went on. “He was incredibly intelligent, and even if―if his manner was gruff, he was―he was dedicated to imparting knowledge.”

“Snape was a great bloke,” Harry said. “I agree. Pants at teaching, though.”

“He might have had his favourites,” Malfoy said, pushing his hair back from his brow, “but he tried to teach everyone.” He pursed his lips at Harry. “Even those who never paid attention in class.”

Harry just shrugged. “You’re not teaching at all if you’re making people feel like crap,” he said. “Then they can’t learn anything. Hermione told me that when I first started teaching the DA.”

“Hermione,” Malfoy said, in an appealing way.

“Sorry, Draco.” Hermione twirled her hair around a finger. “Snape was really awful to me, even if he was one of the best at his subjects.”

Malfoy looked a little crestfallen.

For all that he was so . . . well, thoughtful, about the things he and his friends had done wrong, and about atonement, he seemed to have this huge mental block where Snape was concerned. That was all right.

Harry sort of thought that was cute, too.

“And umpiring!” Ginny was saying. “It’s bad enough professionally, but honestly, the violence Hooch allowed, and with school children, no less―”

“Hey,” said Hermione, “it’s like you’re speaking English.”

“I know, right?” said Ginny. “There should have been penalties for that shite. Slytherin should completely have lost to Ravenclaw in ’94, but who was umpire? Hooch. That was who, and when you think about that foul that Flint―”

“That was an awesome foul,” Greg said. He looked dreamy.

“This is why our love is doomed,” said Ginny. “Doomed!”

“You’re speaking another language again,” Hermione told her.

“Honestly, if you think Marcus should have been penalized for that foul, you can shag Thomas all you want,” Greg said.

“Hear that?” Dean said, leaning in toward Ginny’s ear. “You can shag me all you want.”

“But Hooch,” said Ginny.

“I liked Hagrid,” Greg said, turning back to the other end of the table.

Blaise looked sad. “You and I had such a rapport earlier this evening.”

“Hagrid didn’t have any rapports,” said Greg. “I don’t like rapports anyway.”

“Hagrid was an excellent teacher,” said Luna, “though I was disappointed in the scope of the curriculum.”

“Luna,” said George, “you were also disappointed the hydra had to die.”

“There will be a wake this Saturday,” said Luna.

Malfoy frowned. “What’s a wake?”

“It’s another Muggle ritual,” said Luna. “Don’t forget your pyjamas.”

“I like everyone here,” Harry announced. “But I want you all to know, Lupin was still the best professor.”

“It was Firenze,” Pansy told Angelina.

Angelina’s eyes widened in surprise, and then she began to grin. “Oh, yeah. You’re spot on, there.”

“What?” George asked.

“Oh,” said Hermione, also looking rather surprised. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right, Pansy. That’s true.”

“What?” Ron also asked.

“What did she say?” Padma called down, from the other end of the table.

“Firenze,” Angelina called back. “Hottest professor.”

“Oh,” said Cho. “Well, that’s true.”

“Pavarti hated him,” Padma said, “but he really was quite stunning, wasn’t he?”

“I’d tap that,” Ginny said, and threw back the rest of her pint.

“I don’t understand what’s happening,” said Ron.

“Let me explain it to you,” said Blaise. “Firenze was very well endowed.”

Angelina leered. “What was he hung like?”

Blaise regarded her blandly. “I was referring to his brain.”

“At least goats are friendly with humans.” George was kind of moaning. “Did you ladies learn nothing from the example of Aberforth?”

“You were good friends with him, Harry,” Blaise said. “Was he as . . . invigorating as we all imagine?”

Harry turned beet red. “We were friends.”

Blaise smiled in a kind, very encouraging way. “Sometimes friends can be very friendly.”

“I found him very invigorating,” said Luna. When everyone looked at her, she turned to Harry. “I told you primates aren’t always required. Could you please pass the spinach?”

The table roared, and another round of conversations started up again. The next time Harry got up to buy more drinks, Blaise snagged him.

“I've been thinking about what you said,” he said.

“Firenze and I had a relationship of mutual respect.” Harry tried to speak with dignity. He knew Firenze wasn't actually what Blaise was talking about.

Blaise smiled, a little ruefully. “I wonder what that's like.”

Harry dropped his teasing tone. “I respect you, Blaise.”

“Do you? I can't imagine why.”

Harry just shrugged. “You're never cruel.” He didn't feel it was necessary to add, 'any more'.

Inclining his head, Blaise looked at him thoughtfully for a little while. “When you said you wanted a good spin on your hydra incident, what did you mean?”

Harry thought about it. “Malfoy says he thinks it was former Death Eaters. I think he's probably on the right track―whether it's an actual follower of Voldemort or just some new fanatic, it's a nutter extremist, is what it is. They weren't trying to make some political statement about how the sanctuary is impractical for the wizarding world in the long run; they just trying to ruin the sanctuary, full stop.”

“All right.” Blaise nodded, glancing over at the bartender, who was busy getting drinks for Cho. “So, you don’t think it’s political, after all?”

Harry shook his head. “I didn't say that. Bertram Meagre―he's not a warmonger. Him and his kind, they'd never instigate something like this; they're just these narrow-minded idiots who don't want the world they know to change. But the dark wizards I put away―lunatics like Rabastan Lestrange―they just think they're doing what all the pure-bloods want. They think they're carrying out some kind of purist agenda. So, Malfoy's right, it's political. It's just not everyone's politics.”

Looking at him curiously, Blaise said, “What's your spin, then?”

Harry pushed his glasses up. “Well, the last thing someone like Meagre wants is to be associated with fanatics. Stinks of Voldemort. Makes him look bad.”

“Why, Harry. You deviant.” Blaise's mouth curved up into a smile. “You mean to hang the hydra on Meagre?”

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. “Not on him in particular. Just, work on associating Meagre's kind of thinking with things like the hydra. Because Meagre's kind of thinking can lead there, even though that's not where he's meaning to go.”

“Yes,” Blaise mused, “and meanwhile, make poor, civilian Hermione Granger look the victim of Death Eater violence, her and her poor, innocent dependants only just saved by the side of light and right―Harry Potter at the helm―swooping in to save the day.”

“That, basically,” Harry said. “Without the Harry Potter part.”

Blaise’s gaze had turned calculating. “Why don’t you spin it yourself?”

“What?” Harry pushed up his glasses. “Because, I’ve told you, I’m no good at―”

“Shite,” Blaise said quietly. “You know that’s shite. You were good at it. Just now.”

Harry shook his head. “That’s just not really my thing.”

Blaise raised a brow. “Fighting hydras is not my thing. Freelance PR is certainly not my career of choice. And yet, you seem to think these fitting tasks for me.”

Tugging his fringe, Harry began, “Because you could make a difference―”

Blaise’s brow remained raised. “You couldn't?”

No one had told Harry―at least, not in a long time―that what he was doing wasn't good enough. It took Harry by surprise.

“In shaping our own futures, we shape the future of the world,” Blaise said. “That’s what Draco says. What shape are you going to make it?”

Harry had heard Malfoy say that. He'd heard it now many times, and yet, he hadn't thought of it as applying to him specifically. He'd saved the world, hadn't he; he was catching dark wizards, wasn't he; he was doing what he knew how to do―and yet, he could be better. Malfoy thought he could be better, and when Harry thought of the better world he'd always wished existed, now he thought of Malfoy.

“Oh,” Harry said, and felt like everything had just snapped into aching focus.

“Yes,” Blaise said. “Oh.”

“I―” Harry's mouth was dry. “I hadn't thought about it that way.”

“Perhaps you should.” Blaise's smile was very understanding.

Harry licked his lips. “Do you think he . . .” He trailed off, because Blaise had already told him what Malfoy thought that he should do.


“Malfoy.” Harry swallowed hard. Malfoy was looking between him and Blaise uncertainly, and Harry had forgotten about the drinks. He glanced toward the bartender. “Sorry. I was going to get your fizzy water.”

“That’s okay.” Malfoy glanced between him and Blaise again. “Is―is everything okay?”

“We were just discussing politics,” Blaise said smoothly.


Harry knew Malfoy couldn’t help it. He didn’t mean to look hurt; he just did. He probably didn’t even know he did.

“Okay,” said Malfoy. “I can leave you alone.”

“That’s okay,” Harry said quickly.

“I just wanted Harry’s opinion,” Blaise said. “I’m trying to decide whether I should do something.”

“Oh,” Malfoy said again.

Blaise looked at him kindly. “The appropriate response, Draco, was, ‘you? Do something?’”


“Please don’t go,” Harry said to Malfoy.

“I’ve decided to ask Miss Chang about it also.” Blaise’s voice remained smooth. “Thanks, Harry. Have a good evening.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, and didn’t even really watch him leave. Malfoy was still standing uncertainly at the bar. “Er,” said Harry, trying to think of anything to say, anything at all that would convince Malfoy to look up at him. “Blaise was trying to convince me to go into politics.”

Malfoy didn’t look up. “You don’t have to listen to Blaise.”

“I know,” Harry said. “But maybe he’s right.”

Malfoy’s eyelashes were visible just above his cheeks, golden and some might have said they should have been darker, but Harry thought that they were perfect. The curve of Malfoy’s jaw, the slant of Malfoy’s throat, that was perfect, too. Malfoy looked up, licked his lips. “I thought you weren’t interested,” he said.

I’m interested! Harry wanted to say. I’m more than interested!, but he wouldn’t have been talking about politics. He swallowed hard. “I want to make a difference.”

Malfoy’s eyes drifted down again. This time, they definitely focused on Harry’s mouth.

This time, Harry was definitely going to do something about it.

“Malfoy,” he said, and came closer.

Malfoy stepped back. “Potter. Can I―can I talk to you?”

Harry made himself stand still. “You’re talking to me.”

Malfoy looked away, but then, as though drawn there, his eyes were back on Harry’s mouth. “Alone?”

“We’re alone,” Harry said, and this time did come closer.

Malfoy did a neat little side-step. “I mean, out―outside. Please.”

“Yes,” Harry said.

Malfoy turned, looking rigid and uncertain and very, very determined, and Harry’s chest was so tight, he could barely breathe. He knew what Malfoy wanted to talk about; he knew why they were going outside. He sort of wanted to do it right here, but he didn’t want to embarrass Malfoy that way, but still, Harry felt like rejoicing. He felt like dancing.

He felt like he’d won, and it had nothing at all to do with fighting or dying or the hydra; it just had to do with human beings, and life. Turning, he went to follow Malfoy out of the pub.

“Did you get the drinks?” Luna said.

“No.” Harry glanced at Malfoy going on ahead of him. “You get them.”

“Oh,” said Luna. “Where are you going?”

“I think Malfoy’s going to ask me if I want to have dessert with him,” Harry said.

“Oh.” Luna looked thoughtful. “Have you done with the in-between?”

“I hope so,” Harry said. “I’m going to say yes.”

“That’s very nice,” said Luna. “I think I might have the mousse.”

Harry laughed, and went outside.

Under the street-lamp, Harry thought that Draco Malfoy looked like the shape of his future.