Summary: After the war, the survivors try to find a way to cope with the losses they have incurred and move into a future they have yet to create. As they try to find ways to save themselves, they realize that perhaps the best way is to save each other.
This story will eventually be Harry Draco Slash. It will probably take a while to get there from here. This chapter is rated for general audiences.
Again and still: thanks to ivyingarden for all the help making this a better fic! She patiently helps me brainstorm (with some great ideas to throw into the cauldron), is fabulous with canon, has a knack for language, and keeps at me to "write write write!"
Finally! We have some Draco in this Chapter, as well as a glimpse of what is going on at the Ministry. I still have several chapters in the hopper from NaNoWriMo that just need a beta read, some britpicking, and a touch of revising before I can post. Britpicking and comments and critique are more than welcome on this chapter as well.
Dinner at the Weasleys – Ministry Report
May 3, 1998
Ron was still gone when Harry got back in from the Garden. He and Percy had made quite a bit of headway, although there was still a lot to do. Still, it felt good to see the difference they made. It had been restful working alongside Percy. Harry would never have expected that.
They both went upstairs to get cleaned up, and then Percy retreated to his room, and Harry went downstairs, just in time to see Ron emerge from the floo.
Mrs Weasley began her dinner preparations, and soon spoons were stirring and knives chopping, as if it were a normal meal, despite the abundance of prepared food he had seen set aside with a preservation charm. She seemed happier this evening, but her face was not as expressive as Harry was used to seeing, an her gestures were subdued. These little things kept cropping up, the way Mrs Weasley would suddenly put her head on her arms, or look away. The way the Burrow devolved into silence when it never had before. All reminders of what—of who was missing.
She enlisted Ron and Ginny to help, much to Ron’s dismay. Harry tried to help, but Mrs Weasley insisted that he had done enough, and he should relax. He wasn’t sure if he should feel relieved or left out. He hoped she was talking about the gardening. He did not want the Weasleys to start treating him differently. He did not want to be given leeway at the Burrow just because he had mastered the wand that caused Voldemort’s death.
Weeding the garden had been restful, releasing some of the numbness he’d felt since that night. But now they were all back together, and with George sitting there, silent, one where there should have been two, the calm he had gained in the last few hours left. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling, but he kept wondering if he should be there while the Weasleys were mourning. They needed a time for family, and, much as the Weasleys had always done their best to make him welcome, he was very aware he was … something in between. Neither truly family, nor outsider. From the first Weasley sweater that first Christmas, he felt grateful for every gesture that welcomed him as family, every gift, every nag, every time Mrs Weasley had doled out task to them all indiscriminately, but nevertheless, Harry remained aware of the small differences.
As dinner got closer to being ready, Mrs Weasley allowed him to set the table. Harry was laying out the dinner plates when he heard the whoosh from the floo. His watch said it was around seven, and the Weasley clock listed all the Weasleys as being at home, except for Fred. Fred’s hand was still there, pointing between the home and in transit labels. Pointing at nothing. Harry’s throat felt suddenly tight.
Mr Weasley stepped through the green flames, followed by Hermione. They both dusted off the ash from the fireplace. Mr Weasley looked exhausted, but Hermione’s eyes were bright and excited.
“The Ministry is a madhouse.” Mr Weasley commented. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much activity there on a Sunday. So much to do, even more to undo.” He set his hat on the mantle, and kissed Mrs Weasley. “How have things been here?”
Harry tuned out as Mrs Weasley recounted the activity of the day, hearing vaguely as she mentioned both Ginny’s and Ron’s activities, getting ready for the funeral. He looked over to George, again sitting at the table. He sat down across from him, and George looked, actually looked at him.
“You alright?” Harry asked, immediately regretting it. Of course he was not alright. But George merely looked down at the table for a moment, then shook his head. Arthur turned a sad eye to his son, and gave him a squeeze on the shoulder. At first, George made no sign that he felt it. Harry felt just wretched.
But then, a minute later, George looked up at his father. Just briefly, but it was enough. It would take time, but now Harry knew that George would come back to them.
Mrs Weasley brought her husband a mug of chilled cider. “What’s been happening?” She asked. He sat at the table, and lifted the mug for a large swallow.
“Kingsley has made me his assistant for the time being. He needs someone he could trust in too many areas to count, and until the Ministry personnel have been screened, there are precious few of us.”
Mrs Weasley nodded as she brought out a tray of mugs for the others as well, with cider so cold that drops beaded on the outside of the thick earthenware mugs. “Good for him,” she said, with a marked degree of satisfaction.
“The holding cells are full.” Arthur continued, after taking another deep gulp of the cider. “We’ve even had to convert some offices into temporary cells, with appropriate warding. And there are some areas we still can’t access. Some of the questioning rooms feel so foul… I almost think you can still feel the presence of the Dementors in those areas. Or perhaps all the dark curses cast at prisoners have left their mark. Those rooms will have to be cleansed before they can be used, which makes it even more difficult to find space for detainees.
“They left behind traps and curse wards in the Minister’s office—thank Merlin that Windling was there and saw it before Kingsley went in. It took over an hour to dismantle it.” Harry doubted he had ever seen Mr Weasley so animated as he spoke of the actions taken at the Ministry, not even when Harry had given him a Muggle transistor radio. Apparently, repairing so much that was broken was enough of a challenge for the man to let go of his pain for a few moments. Harry understood what that was like.
“We’ve had to block reporters from entering the Ministry for the time being. The Prophet reporters in particular kept getting in the way. One is in St. Mungo’s after tripping one of the curse wards.”
Harry wondered briefly where Rita Skeeter was. He would bet she was in the thick of things, exactly where she could do the most damage.
As Mr Weasley spoke, Hermione nodded vigorously at each sentence, bouncing a bit on the balls of her feet when he mentioned becoming Shaklebolt’s assistant. By the end of Mr Weasley’s narrative, she looked like she was about to burst.
Mrs Weasley took pity on her. “And how did you find work at the Ministry, Hermione?”
“It was all so interesting! Ron, the whole Ministry is being re-formed. It’s amazing to be there right now, taking part in history being made. Arthur says I can intern there all summer!”
Arthur? Harry supposed it made sense, if they were going to be working together at the Ministry.
Ron suddenly looked glum. “All summer?”
“Such a clever idea, Muggles have.” Mr Weasley commented, taking a bit of the roast Mrs Weasley had just set out, before she could bat his fingers away. “They allow students to work in their chosen field before they leave school. Get the feel for it and all. Molly, Hermione says the Muggle internships are like apprenticeships, except the intern—is that the right word, Hermione?” She nodded. “The intern is not bound to a particular person, or even an institution like St Mungo’s, but offered a job with more careful – oversight. They are designed to be – what is the phrase? — a learning occasion.”
Mrs Weasley turned to Hermione. “And are you learning?”
“Yes! It’s ever so exciting! I never knew how the Ministry really functioned. Of course, today was not a good example of it functioning well – Harry, it’s completely disorganized, especially since they are testing everyone there for Death Eater loyalties. So what happened with Voldemort won’t happen again.”
Harry had not heard Hermione acting this enthusiastic since … well, since the beginning of each school year, when she would rattle on about what she would learn in her classes. He had missed it this past year, without even realizing what was different. But despite all that they had been through, Hermione had not let it change her. He remembered the sound of her screaming at Malfoy Manor, with Bellatrix shouting ‘Crucio’ again and again. They had been too frantic after that, running from Shell Cottage to Gringotts to Hogwarts to battle. None of what they had been through really had a chance to sink in. Yet here was Hermione, diving into the rebuilding efforts with the same drive she had put into her studies and into SPEW. He was glad to see Hermione babbling in enthusiasm again. It gave him hope that he could find his way back, but was not sure what he would find his way back to. What was Harry Potter, except for Voldemort’s adversary?
“They’ve caught a lot of them already.” Hermione’s words broke Harry out of his thoughts. “Of course, they’ve checked for marks, and anyone who came in marked is in a cell.” Hermione continued. “There were a lot of no-shows. People who were in the battle, either at Hogwarts or the Ministry, of course, but also people who decided it might not be safe to come in for work at the Ministry with a snake on their arm.”
Hermione ignored him. “And they’re going to use this device, like the magical equivalent of a lie detector, Harry, to sort out people’s loyalties. There’s not enough Veritaserum to use on everyone, and there’s rules about when the truth potion can be used, so everyone who works at the ministry will be asked four questions with the device checking for lies.”
“What are the questions?” Harry asked.
“Well, the obvious one is ‘have you ever supported Voldemort?’ See they have to use a more specific name than just “You-Know-Who” so people can’t wiggle around it in their thinking. And whether they support any of Voldemort’s aims or goals. Whether they’ve taken bribes, or changed votes or actions based on outside influence. And whether they’ve done anything they know to be against Ministry law or ethics. The wording is critical, right Arthur?”
Mr Weasley nodded. “There was a committee of Aurors and a few Ministry employees working on the questions. Everyone from the committee had to volunteer to an extensive Veritaserum questioning, first, and then they worked on the questions for most of the morning. There are, you know, a fair number of purebloods who believed following him was the only way to protect traditional wizarding culture.”
“I heard that some of his early speeches were quite persuasive. Of course, they never made it to his inner circle, and we know who most of them are. They had to be fairly specific on the question regarding You-Know-Who’s aims and goals in order not to cast the spell too wide. The final version of the question was a bit of a compromise. Even so, it will flag some traditional wizarding culture purists, who may not have had anything to do with You-Know-Who’s criminal activities. We’ll have to follow up on a lot of people, I expect. We only got the questions approved by mid-afternoon.”
“So they’ve just started the questioning.” Hermione interjected. “And practically nothing can get accomplished until all the employees are checked. The ones that fail the test will get a more exhaustive set of questions, but will be detained until then. They are really trying to clean up the Ministry.”
Harry had mixed feelings about all the testing Hermione was describing. It spoke of a level of paranoia that made him nervous. On the one hand, it would have been useful to keep the corrupt wizards and witches out of the ministry in the first place. A more extensive use of magical checks would have certainly kept some of the worst injustices from happening (Sirius!), but he also had experience with the way the Ministry could go overboard in the name of ‘protecting the Wizarding World’. He and Molly Weasley, for example were guilty of casting Unforgivable curses - what would happen to them under Ministry questioning?
“So the Ministry is doing nothing other than check its employees for sympathizers?” He asked.
Hermione stammered for a moment, then looked at Mr Weasley.
“The departments were prioritised. Some were tested first, or authorized for volunteer Veritaserum testing so that critical and emergency work could get done.”
“Arthur, did you?” Molly came over and laid a hand on his back.
“Kingsley was able to get me questioned by some people he trusts to be discreet. Although You-Know-Who is dead,” Mr Weasley nodded a brief grin at Harry, the Order may need to stay secret a bit longer, at least until we are sure that the last Death Eaters have been captured. My department has been shut down for the time being, so Kingsley is having me coordinate with other departments in getting the Ministry back on its feet. You heard he is acting Minister, now?”
Mrs Weasley nodded.
“As Ministry workers are questioned, they’ll be released to other priorities. The Auror department is first, of course, and the Department of Magical Transportation, so the traps and tracking spells that You-Know-Who’s followers put in can be removed and the floo network brought back into full operation. Curse breakers are being brought in from all over. Bill might even be coming over from Gringotts to help out.” Mr Weasley grinned briefly.
“There are repair efforts everywhere. Shops in Diagon Alley have been neglected, boarded up, and some of them will never reopen.” Harry got suddenly very sad when he thought of the way the bustling magical street had looked the last time he was there: with furtive passers by, beggars, and so many shops boarded up.
“After the battle, Aurors and Ministry workers opposed to You-Know-Who went in that same day to secure the Ministry. We were lucky it was a Saturday, so we did not have the full staff to worry about, but even so, You-Know-Who’s Supporters in the Ministry did their level best to cause damage before leaving, sabotaging the areas they worked in, especially those who used tools that might have been used to track down the ones who escaped. Too many of them escaped before they got there. And of course Hogwarts...” Mr Weasley continued sadly. “The Ministry had to create a department specifically to direct volunteers to areas where they could be of use. Many of them are being sent to Hogwarts, as the battle did some serious damage to both its structure and its magic. There is some doubt whether it will be ready for the next school year.” The thought of September 1st coming without a trip on the Hogwarts Express, not just for him, but for anyone, shook Harry, but Arthur just kept on with his litany.
“A new Department is being created to reunite and assist families that have been affected by his laws against Muggleborns. Hermione here has already started helping there. The irony is that those that You-Know-Who’s ministry caught will be easier to help. There are records for them. The ones that evaded registration will be harder to find and help.” Hermione’s face went still at Mr Weasley’s last words. Harry suddenly remembered Hermione’s parents, in Austria or Australia or something like that, not even knowing they had a daughter. But she knew the names they went by. Surely she could find them.
“I’ve been helping gather and sort through the records from the Muggleborn Registration.” Hermione added. “We have to find and free any Muggleborns and their families that have been held in Ministry cells first, but after that, we can start searching out and,” Hermione’s voice faltered for a moment, her eyes bright, “bringing home the ones who were sent away to safety.”
“You’ll find them, Hermione. I know you. You can find anything, when you set your mind to research. With your help, they can’t miss.”
Hermione sent him a grateful look, but Harry did not miss the anxiety that it covered.
Suddenly, Harry felt ashamed of his day of weeding. Hermione had gone on the same Horcrux hunt that he had, and fought at Hogwarts, and here she was volunteering, doing something useful. She was not even searching for her parents yet, she was helping set up the infrastructure that would help lots of people find loved ones. Arthur had lost a son, and was still working to repair the damage the war had caused. And he seemed thoroughly involved in what he was doing, not just going through the motions. Harry had never heard Mr Weasley say so much at once. He wondered if no one had ever challenged him. Coordinating the efforts the various departments sounded like a lot of work, and important work.
If everyone else could find ways to be of real use, so could Harry.
So the next morning, after breakfast, Harry returned to Hogwarts.
Going Crazy – Draco
May 2 – May 4, 1998
The three Malfoys had been taken out of the classroom and put into a sort of sleeping quarters. It had a small room with shower and WC, and a room with a table and chairs. There was only one bedroom with three student beds, but one of them went unused, and the typical bed curtains allowed Lucius and Narcissa some privacy. The room was plain, and the bedclothes and curtains were a neutral cotton, which was just as well for the summer. The rug was a Hufflepuff yellow, which had Draco wincing every time he glanced down. The furniture made no attempt to match.
The doors and windows had been warded and sealed, and only an Auror could unlock it. Their wands had of course not been returned. A set of toiletries had been provided, but without the aid of spells and the custom potions and salves they were used to, the three found it difficult to maintain the aristocratic presentation they were used to.
Food appeared three times a day, and while it was not as abundant or as diverse as the usual Hogwarts fare, it was of similar quality. The three soon learned to eat what was provided, as it would disappear if not eaten, and nothing would replace it until the next scheduled mealtime.
They had no parchment, no quills, not even a deck for exploding snap, much less a chess set. Draco would hear Lucius and Narcissa murmuring quietly to each other, hour after hour. More often, it was Narcissa murmuring to Lucius. More frequently, Draco’s father just sat and stared, not reacting to either wife or son.
Draco spent the first several days frustrated and angry. He was not sure who he was angry at. There were so many to choose from. Potter for winning, Voldemort for losing, and for not being all that he promised, the Aurors, sometimes even his father for bending his neck to the man who killed enemies and followers alike. His father who even now seemed to have given up. He was angry at the Muggles for – for existing. For all they had done to Wizardkind throughout history. At the wizarding world for letting mudbloods in, changing their culture, drawing it away from the pureblood culture he had grown up knowing. Each year, more of the traditions were neglected, or lost. Traditions he had cherished, overtaken by Muggle habits. Yule was becoming Christmas. When he was growing up even the Malfoy family, which more than most other families kept true to wizarding traditions, celebrated both holidays, but Wizarding institutions such as Hogwarts had given way and ignored Yule. His father had been livid in Draco’s first year, when the Hogwarts Express ran on the 21st, and they had to wait the evening ceremony until well after sunset that night. Just one more example of what they were losing.
The quieter magic of the Yule log, with its potential to evoke great change with small thoughts, was giving way to the flashy baubles on the Christmas tree. The Great Hunt that connected them to the magic of the land, allowing them to soak in the power of life and death, had been transformed by none other than Voldemort into Muggle slaughtering revels. Why had he not seen that Voldemort was destroying the old traditions like any other half-blood, ignorant of what they were destroying?
Draco threw his empty soup bowl across the room, taking satisfaction in the way it shattered and splattered on the opposite wall. The room was suddenly silent. The quiet murmur of his mother’s voice had stopped, and Father, for once, was looking straight at him.
“It was all a lie, wasn’t it?” Draco said into the silence.
His parents stared at him, waiting. Draco started pacing, his steps furious.
“I mean, what did you accomplish? You killed a bunch of Muggles and Mudbloods, so what? You didn’t even make a dent. The Ministry is in shambles, and we are not the ones rebuilding, reshaping what comes from this. Voldemort—yes, Voldemort!” Draco shouted as his father’s face took on that look Draco knew meant he would be corrected. After days of staring at the wall, the word Voldemort stirs Lucius to nothing more than Death Eater etiquette lessons? “He is not a Lord. He was never a Lord. He was some fucking half-blood, who got the whole lot of us kissing his hem and cowering from the threat of Cruciatus. And he left no plan of what to do next. Was he planning on living forever?” Draco was so angry he was shaking.
“Yes.” Lucius’ voice was quiet. He bowed his head.
Draco stopped pacing and turned to look at him, startled into silence. “Well, that didn’t work.” Draco drawled, regaining his composure.
“Malfoys have always planned for the long term, he continued. “You taught me that! When did we start bowing and scraping to someone, a half-blood no less, who couldn’t even make contingency plans in case of his own death? Who damned every pureblood family in the cause? You taught me about plausible deniability! When did you stop listening to your own teachings?”
Lucius lifted his eyes and stared at Draco. His passive gaze infuriated Draco.
You deluded fools! Did none of you have a backup plan? Of all the purebloods that followed him, followed you, not one of us can claim innocence!”
“This can’t be the end of it.” Draco paused his tirade, breathing as if he had just finished a Quidditch match. “I will not end my days locked up in some room with my parents, with the same food day after day and no wine and the world falling apart and being reshaped by other people who don’t know anything, and hair that I can’t even comb properly anymore!” Draco grabbed at his hair, no longer smooth and shiny, but roughly combed without the benefit of proper conditioning potions.
Lucius’ eyes had his soul behind them for the first time in days.
“What do you propose?” His father’s voice was low, but Draco rejoiced in the sound of it. It was the sound of his father, quizzing him on applications of dark curses, quizzing him on politics and intrigue and how he would Slytherin his way to a goal. This was his father before his year of cringing at the Dark— at Voldemort’s hem. This was the man he could rely on.
“We need to get out of here. We need to be the ones rebuilding.”
“Not we, Draco.” His father rebutted. “You. I doubt I can recover any influence in the climate that will be out there. Someone must pay, Draco, and I am the coin they will demand. ” Lucius paused, his voice losing its strength. If you can keep me out of Azkaban, I would appreciate it. But I cannot redeem this family.”
The words stabbed at Draco. His father was always the one that led, that negotiated and bribed and intimidated his way into positions of power, from which he pulled the strings, and turned things his way. Last year was… an aberration. Voldemort was dead, and his father was no longer the Dark Lord’s slave. He could rise back into his power. His father did not give up. That was not who he was. He was strong, motivated, conniving, driven. Not this empty-eyed, silent husk, speaking with a dead, defeated voice.
Draco considered the situation. He did not know which Death Eaters had survived the final battle. He doubted any of them would hesitate to kick his father when he was down, to describe his Death Eater activities in lurid detail. “You are not protected.” No, his father could no longer protect him. It was time for him to protect his father, as best he could. To protect what his father had taught him to value. Draco was in no position to bargain on behalf of his father now. Right now, his father was more damaging to the Malfoy family free than imprisoned. Draco flinched at the thought.
They could probably escape. They would have to live like refugees, exiled from the manor, from Wizarding Britain. If they did that, the chance that they could redeem the Malfoy name was minimal.
Or they could make a sacrifice. Lands? Influence? He was no longer sure they had either to spend. The knut dropped, and horrified reality set in. What he was considering was betrayal of the worst sort. That Lucius was a willing participant did nothing to assuage his guilt. Draco was in agony, but he met his father's eyes.
“I can do it father. But…”
Lucius saw the regret in his son’s eyes, and nodded. “Do what you must.”
He had doubtless lost his home, his fortune, his standing and his reputation, now he would have to lose his father. The wounds in Draco’s soul would have brought Dementors running, but his parents had raised him to know the future of the family came first. He could do this. He would, even if there was nothing left of him at the end.
He set himself to plan. First, he would need to be seen doing good. To be seen helping the winners. He would have to establish connections, especially with those on Potter’s side. He started out the window, watching people scurrying around the Hogwarts grounds. Draco knew his first step.
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AN: I'd love to know what you think. Please comment!