Title: Pyrrhic
Archiving: just ask.
Rating: PG
Date: April 2004.
Summary: Draco finally wins. Or something.
To K.T. and Michelle, because, somewhere, it counts and I'm sorry. I wish I could redeem your family for both of you. But I can only redeem Draco. So here.

The summer Draco's father was released from Azkaban he practiced every day, for hours, catching the Snitch.

In later years he would look back and realise that both his father and Harry Potter were too preoccupied to show up in the first Quidditch game against Gryffindor the following fall, and that the mental absence of the latter made the physical absence of the former easier to pardon.

But at the time, when Draco's fingers finally beat Potter's to the Snitch for the first time in his life, it only mattered that his father had not bothered to be there watching him.

Part of Draco wanted to scream that his father had refused to come to his Quidditch match and demand that attention be paid to him, the attention he should have had, deserved to have, from his own family. The rest of him wondered if maybe his father had forgotten about it. The rest of him stared at the "Head boy" badge on his robes as he dressed in the locker room and swallowed as hard as he could.

When Draco was younger, his father had sent him to eat scraps with the house elves on a regular basis. Draco would sit in the kitchen, directly below the dining room where his father and mother ate sumptuous feasts, and fight the younger house elves for the largest pieces of chicken, until the older house elves made the younger ones give way to the master's son.

Later, when Draco was staring at the horde of candy he had collected from Weasley and Potter on the train to Hogwarts, he would remember the kitchen elves scolding their sons and daughters for his sake, and he would flinch.

The moment Draco realised his father was not there in the audience, the nagging, vague confusion that had always been there, ever since that moment on the train, suddenly sharpened and punched through the mortar of his loyalty.

Later on, it took Draco forty-five minutes to compose the words, I beat Gryffindor, to his father. Two hours later an indifferent owl returned with the words, Then perhaps now you can turn your attention to surpassing Granger as first in your class. It took another hour and a half for Draco to decide whether he should crumple the parchment and throw it away, or place it in his special box with the collection of family owls he had received over the years.

Six months later, it was Potter who walked up to Draco, a considering look on his face, and said, "I'm sorry your parents weren't at the Leaving Feast, Malfoy."

Draco, who had been standing by himself on the lawn overlooking the pitch, turned halfway round and held out his hand. Potter didn't ask what was in it, and after a moment the Snitch he had caught six months earlier stretched its wings out slowly and cautiously skittered to the edge of Draco's palm.

"You don't want to keep it?" Potter asked him guardedly.

Draco nudged the Snitch with the tips of his fingers and watched as it found its instincts and suddenly skittered away from them, straight up over the pitch. Suppressing the urge to go after it, Draco made himself turn and face Potter.

"There was never anything to keep."

When Potter, looking as if he were fighting hard to swallow himself, put his hand on Draco's shoulder, Draco had to suppress the urge to skitter away like the Snitch. But he didn't--not so much because he had decided against it, as because it didn't seem like there was much point--not considering that Potter could catch him just as easily.

His hand still on Draco's arm, Potter looked at Draco and said firmly, "Someday there will be."

Draco didn't look at him, nor did he look back at the lights of the castle, where the feast was still going on. It was more convenient to look past both things, out over the dark still lake and the hilltops beyond Hogwarts. Draco had never flown over those hilltops. His stomach tightened suddenly at the knowledge that, after tomorrow, he could.

"Someday there will be," he echoed, and did not wait for Potter's lead to turn and begin the slow climb back towards Hogwarts.

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