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, with the exception of one word that one should not say in front of teachers. The situation called for it.
Posted so far: 16 Chapters / 93,315 words.
Thanks to my beta rosskpr .Her suggestions and comments have made each chapter better, bringing to my attention all kinds of little and big details I missed.
Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling. I play here.
The last scene in this chapter was one of the first scenes I wrote, written well before chapters 7-15 were fleshed out, or in some cases even anticipated. A lot has changed about the story since I first wrote that scene, and editing it to comply with some of the new plot threads was challenging. I asked myself how these events came about, and the many Malfoy interactions evolved. Some of Harry's interactions evolved out of a scene a few chapters down the pike. Real soon now, I'll be able to start writing this story forwards, instead of trying to develop the motivations for scenes I've written.
My beta asked about the Slytherin Rules mentioned in this and previous chapters, asking if I was basing it on other Slytherin rules that other authors have come up with. Nope. These were based on the culture I'm developing, and my sense of what it actually means to be Slytherin.
I hope you enjoy!
As always, reviews and critiques keep the creativity flowing! Let me know what you think!
On to the Chapter
Aftermath – Hermione Granger
Hermione sat in a room piled with scrolls and bound volumes. Dusty light came in through one window. Why did rooms that housed books and parchment always end up being so dusty? The records in the room had been frequently accessed and modified throughout the previous year; dust should not have had the chance to accumulate.
She reviewed the book in front of her, which contained extensive information about Muggleborn witches and wizards and their families. Some of it was from the previous ministry, originally collected with the intent to track them down and imprison them, or worse. This information was mostly written in a small, cramped hand, categorizing them by myriad different qualities. Some made sense, considering the values—and bigotry—of those keeping the records. Hogwarts house, wand wood and core, number and description of family members, all were useful in tracking down those they deemed unworthy of magic. She didn’t know what the individual’s robe size had to do with their magical ability, but she supposed it, too, might be useful in finding a fugitive.
Other records had been gathered from Muggleborns and mixed-blood witches and wizards who had begun to appear at the ministry requesting assistance in finding their lost relatives. These were often scrawled hastily, the handwriting wobbly with emotion. They were hard to read. Each and every one of them carried someone’s dreams and fears.
She knew that her own parents would not be listed among the pleas from family members. She didn’t dare submit an official request for assistance, not wanting even to think of what the Ministry would make of her actions, no matter the motivation, in modifying her parents’ memories. To her relief (and dismay), there was no mention of Wendell and Monica Wilkins in the records of the corrupt Ministry. The records did mention her, of course, as an undesirable and prime target, but Ethan and Rosalie Granger were listed as missing—unavailable for questioning. If all had gone according to plan, they were somewhere in Australia. Would they have followed her strongly implanted suggestion to move there?
She would go to them, but first she had to find them. Their dental practice had been sold, and their house stood empty, although Hermione had not been ready to look inside for longer than it took to verify that they’d moved. Wherever they’d moved to, they had not been there long enough for their address to be listed in one of the directories at the British Library, and she did not have the connections to send inquiries directly. The Ministry, as chaotic as it was, would have the necessary resources as soon as it got itself back into some semblance of order. Surely they would have enough access to the Muggle world for her search.
She needed to help the Ministry get back to a point where it could help her. In the meantime, organizing these records would help many other people who were in her position, or worse.
The Ministry was not at all what Hermione had expected. She supposed she should have realized that Voldemort’s adherents would have destroyed things, making access as difficult as possible to those who came after. How had they had time to cause such destruction when they fled the building, upon realizing they had lost the war? Regardless of the cause, she never expected such – disregard for efficiency within a workplace.
She had never expected to see a place of government in rubble. She should have done. She had seen pictures of Berlin in school as a child, when they were studying history. She had been to museums on her trip to France that one summer. But it was one thing to see pictures of wars past. History always happened to other people. Somehow, despite all that she had done with Harry, despite being on the run from a corrupt government for a year, she still hadn’t realized that she had been living history.
She had even seen the destroyed fountain in a photograph in the Prophet after that awful debacle at the end of their fifth year, and knew that it had been destroyed while she was in the building, and as a result of a battle in which she had taken part.
It hadn’t occurred to her that she had been part of a battle that would become history. Harry was part of history. She was… Harry’s friend.
The battle hadn’t made it real. Fighting was part of being Harry’s friend. But coming to work in a destroyed building, one that should be the core of the wizarding world, one that was supposed to be part of making that world function, somehow made it real that she was living part of history. She was helping rebuild the government, even in her own small way.
She had those thoughts every time she passed by the atrium on her way to her small workspace on level two.
Her workspace felt like the tables she had taken over in the Hogwarts library when studying for her OWLs. Littered with books and documents, her workspace was a place of research. She could focus, if she could only read the illegible scrawls of some of the ministry clerks. They had enchanted quills! What excuse was there for this atrocious handwriting? Parts were smudged, and most were written so small she had to cast magnifying spells.
She matched the names of Muggleborns and their Muggle families from the book maintained by the Death Eater-led Ministry, listing who was to be rounded up, with those same names, if she could find them, among the lists of confirmed dead or missing. She matched them with wanted lists. She matched them with the heartbreaking messages from those hoping to reunite with their families. She sent for Muggle phone directories, despite the fact that they would be out of date, despite the fact that the names might have changed, just to get a starting place.
So many missing. So many displaced.
Worse were the lists of Muggleborn dispatched, and their wands “reclaimed” to return to their “rightful owners,” if they should ever be found.
The wands were listed lovingly, carefully, marking length and wood and core, as well as any distinctive markings.
The witches and wizards were merely categorized. Female. Male. Muggleborn.
Their weight and height was listed, and their hair colour, and how they had died. If they died from the torture, they were merely listed as cursed, or sometimes which curse they had died from. Some were listed as Kissed. Each Muggleborn was catalogued to ensure none fell through the cracks to breed with their precious purebloods.
During the lunch break, Hermione got out into the sunshine as much as possible. She ate sometimes at Muggle eateries, getting away from the sight of wizards and witches. There were moments when the sight of the sight of a wand made her wonder what magic had run through it, whether it had carried a curse to kill any of those named in the books on her table.
She ate fish and chips, just to remind herself where she came from. Even though her parents had not bought those on a regular basis, it was prosaic, and that calmed her.
Other times, she ate in places in and around Diagon Alley, looking out at the witches and wizards reclaiming their lives, glad she had played a part in giving those lives back to them.
She watched people go by, wondering for each of them what their story had been. Had they killed? Had they had a friend or family member killed? What did they do to get through the past year? She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
Her face was not as recognizable as Harry’s. People didn’t fawn over her. She had found a wanted poster of herself, not the full sized ones for “undesirable number one”, but batched with several others on a single parchment. Her image was partially obscured, and kept turning away. She recognized that it had been taken at Hogwarts, and probably during her sixth year, but she couldn’t figure out when it had been taken, or by whom.
She was still no closer to finding her own parents. But, she hoped, they were doing well. She hoped they had set themselves up well in Australia. But part of her hoped they had not succeeded. Would they even want to return? Would they even want to see her again? She searched and matched and marked names, and reunited other families, all the while harbouring a fear that her own would want nothing to do with her ever again.
The dust in the air made her sneeze when she worked. She frequently cast a charm she had read about—one that could be used in libraries—that removed the dust without harming parchment. Each cleaning charm had its strengths, and each had its weaknesses. Some were too vigorous. Some added water and scrubbed, such as the one used by Mrs Weasley with the dishes. Some, however, were designed for archival environments, and would not damage fresh parchment or tear age-brittle volumes.
There was not, however, a single charm that would cleanse the mess that had been made of the wizarding world. For that, they would need time, hard work, and resolve.
May 8, 1998
“I have no idea where to put them!” Poppy’s exasperated exclamation rang out.
“What are the requirements again?” Minerva looked up from her tea to observe the woman who paced the length of the faculty room. The Headmistress had finally taken a moment to relax in a soft chair, her hands wrapped around her teacup, soaking in the warmth in the cool of the castle, but it seemed a moment was all she would be allowed.
“A non-magical location. It has to be large enough to house all sixteen patients, preferably larger in case there are more cases. Several smaller sites would also work, but not be optimal. A home would be best, but Muggles live in such small houses.”
“I’m sure I could convince Kingsley to have the Ministry rent or purchase one. There may be a house we could use from one or more of those who fled the wizarding world.” She put her teacup down and sat upright, regretfully giving up her plans for a bit of rest. Poppy’s agitation was not conducive to relaxation.
“No, the Malfoy book said it can’t have had any magical person living there recently.”
“Weren’t there homes left behind, when the parents of Muggleborns fled in fear of You Know Who?”
Poppy started to reply, but then stopped to think about it. “There may have been. Their magical relative must not have resided there recently. I’d have to check with that department. But who will take care of them? Anyone I send will be at risk of infection.”
Minerva thought back to the pages she had read, before turning Narcissa Malfoy’s book over to the Mediwitch. Although the book didn’t say anything about transference of the taint from one person to another, the risks were too high to take chances. She shuddered to think of all the people that had been through the infirmary during the past week. Poppy herself had cast spells on the afflicted! “Poppy, how are you doing?”
“I do not seem to be affected.” The mediwitch paused. “After reading what we are allowed to see of Narcissa Malfoy’s book, I’ve made it a practice that all those working in the hospital wing be tested before leaving for the day. Those who come into contact with the volunteers are tested after each patient. The volunteers themselves are tested as well, of course. Each new case... It is so frustrating, Minerva. The quarantine was a better choice than I knew.”
The silence after her words weighed on both of them.
“We need to check with the Muggleborn re-connection office.” Minerva said, suddenly. She stood, banished her teacup to the kitchens, and settled her robes into place. She was through the door and on her way to her office, Poppy matching her step for step. It was good to have competent associates, and even better to have good friends.
They used the Floo in her office. The Ministry atrium was busy, and still damaged. Minerva was dismayed at how much one band of bigots could destroy. The only thing still in one piece was the horrendous statue that had been built to replace the one destroyed a few years ago. There were purple caution markers ringing around it. She shook her head. It symbolized everything He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named stood for: the ego of pure-blood wizards and the oppression of everyone else.
“Why hasn’t that thing been demolished?” Poppy spoke the words she had been thinking.
One of the passing workers spoke up. “We’ve tried! It’s protected with more layers of curses than the Minister’s office was. Even trying to move it sent three of my workers to St Mungo’s. One of the Unspeakables tried to destroy it. I hear she is still in critical condition… she almost died.” His tone made it clear that he took personal affront that the Unspeakable had not succeeded.
“Could it at least be covered?”
“Tried that too. Not a good idea.”
They had their wands measured, weighed and registered; got directions from the Auror standing guard; and took the elevators up to level two.
The constricted hallways of level 2 seemed even more crowded than the atrium, due both to the smaller space and the volume of people. Aurors, witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, and various Ministry employees hurried to their various tasks. Members of the wizarding public were recognisable as such by the slightly lost expressions on their faces as they made their way to one of the offices of Auror headquarters that had not been damaged, or to departments of Wizengamot administration. The two witches navigated their way through the stream of people, intent on their own business. Finally, toward the back, they found the small, out-of-the-way rooms that had been the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office where Arthur had worked. They now housed the Muggleborn reconnection office.
Tables with stacks of scrolls lined the walls, in between tall wooden shelves divided into pigeonholes, also overflowing with curled scrolls. More tables layered with piles of parchment had been placed throughout the room, forming a maze of narrow paths between them. The top of a head of bushy brown hair could be seen peeking over the piles on a table toward the back, and Poppy and Minerva wound through the tables toward the person working there. When she raised her head, Minerva smiled.
“Miss Granger! What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been volunteering, helping gather the information so we can find the Muggles and Muggleborn that have fled. They put us on level two, because all the records were here. Apparently, Muggles and Muggleborn were a law enforcement issue.” Her words were sharp with indignation.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. I’m sure you’ll do a wonderful job. At the moment, you’re just the right person to help us. Has anyone told you about the people getting sick at Hogwarts?”
“Arthur mentioned it. What is wrong with them?” Hermione asked, concerned.
Poppy described the symptoms, and what Narcissa Malfoy had told them. Hermione’s eyes grew wide at the mention of the poison to drain their magic, and she was clearly shaken by the rest of the necessary cure.
“Are any students from last year among the ill? It seems that they would be at risk as well.”
“Mrs Malfoy said that the battle was probably what finally turned the magical field toxic. So, it is only people living and working there now.” Minerva replied.
“Is Harry ok?” Minerva had no difficulty tracking Miss Granger’s thinking. It would be just like him, to be one of those who came down with some deathly illness. Fate seemed to follow him, and now that he was free of one burden… She shook her head.
“He’s fine. He’s been volunteering, yes, but is not among the afflicted. We hope there will be no more volunteers infected. We’ve set up a team to cleanse the Castle using an old tradition.”
“Are they sure it will work? I know how risky it can be, using an old method learnt out of a book.”
Minerva gave Hermione a stern look. “Do I want to ask how you know of these dangers, Miss Granger?”
“In this case,” Minerva continued, “we have people who have performed the cleansing before. Apparently, the purebloods, especially those who use dark magic,” Minerva’s face twisted a bit when she said that, “have been doing this to their estates every turn of the season. Several of the Slytherin and Ravenclaw students know how to do this, as do their parents. Unfortunately, most of their parents—“
“If they’re that used to dark magic, they’d be downstairs in cells right now, waiting for trial, I expect, or on the run.” Hermione smiled darkly. Minerva recalled that the trio had been on the run for over a year. Perhaps she was entitled to a touch of Schadenfreude at the reversed circumstances. “Can you trust the students?” Hermione asked. “Wouldn’t they believe as their parents?”
“I doubt they are entirely trustworthy. But we are taking precautions, at least until they are cleared or convicted.”
Hermione straightened the parchments on the table in front of her. “So, you need a building, somewhere in a Muggle area, to house at least sixteen wizards?
“And we need at least one Muggle to take care of them while they are being drained of their magic.” Minerva wondered that the words came out so calmly. “We need someone who knows about the magical world, but is not magical themselves. Preferably someone who knows of medicine. I understand that this office is tracking down Muggles connected with the magical world to make sure they are all right?”
“Yes, and to return them to their homes or help them find new ones. Many of them had their homes or livelihoods destroyed.” She paused looking at the scrolls lining the walls as if searching for an answer. “That might work!”
They waited while Hermione rifled through a stack of parchment.
“Here! Dr Marcus Renier has a daughter who would have been in her fifth year at Hogwarts. He and his wife ran a small doctor’s office, until their daughter was identified and had to flee for fear they’d take her wand and imprison her. They just returned the day before yesterday, to find that their home and office were both destroyed. We suspect Death Eaters had tracked them down and destroyed the buildings when they couldn’t find the family. If they could stay with the patients while they recover, it would give them a place to stay—once we find one. Could they be paid, do you think? He is a Doctor.”
“I think we can arrange that. I’ll talk with Kingsley.”
“Actually, talk with Arthur Weasley. He is helping Kingsley.”
Minerva had had no doubt that Hermione would find her place at the Ministry, but she was amazed at how quickly the girl had grown into her role.
“I’d have to meet with the Reniers first. If they work out, it would be best that they meet with Narcissa Malfoy as well, so they’d have a chance to get answers to any questions they may have.”
“Do you think that wise?” Poppy objected. “Mrs Malfoy has never been very tolerant toward Muggles.”
“I think it necessary.”
Poppy nodded. “What about their daughter? She would not be able to stay with them. It wouldn’t be safe for her.”
Minerva tried to remember the girl from her student files. “What was her name?”
“Parker Renier. She’s in Hufflepuff.” Hermione ran her finger down the parchment, reading the details. “Sometimes there is information in these about ‘known associations’, but she apparently was not an active threat, as far as those idiots were concerned.”
“I’ll ask Professor Sprout.” Minerva gave a firm nod. “Perhaps she will know somewhere Miss Renier could stay. We are, of course, ahead of ourselves. We don’t know yet if Dr and Mrs Renier will take on the task. After losing their home and livelihood, they may want to wash their hands of our world.”
“They can’t, can they?” Hermione asked. “Wouldn’t their daughter need to finish at Hogwarts?”
“Family ties can be stronger than ties to our world. She would not be the first Muggleborn student to leave the Wizarding World.”
Hermione shivered. Minerva thought of what the girl had risked for the wizarding world, knowing that she probably only knew a small part of it. Hermione Granger was one Muggleborn student she had no fear would leave the wizarding world.
“We are still left in need of a place to house my patients.” Poppy interrupted Minerva’s thoughts.
Hermione went to the shelves along one wall, scrolls curling in pigeonholes from floor to ceiling. She pulled out one, unrolled it partway, then let it curl back up and replaced it, repeating her action several more times.
“Why didn’t I think of that right away?” Hermione exclaimed. “Here!” She finished unrolling the scroll she had just pulled, tapping her index finger down onto it in triumph. “Justin Finch-Fletchley!”
Minerva came around the table to read the parchment. Hermione pointed to an entry half way down.
“When it became clear that Muggleborn students would not be welcomed back to Hogwarts, his parents took him to Greece for the year. They have a house there. That would mean their house here would probably have been empty for the last year.
“Justin once told me about how he grew up, before attending Hogwarts. He was all set to attend Eton in a few years when his Hogwarts letter caused his family to change their plans—Eton’s a well-respected Muggle school.” Hermione added, seeing Poppy’s momentary look of confusion. “He lived in a manor house in Banbury. He said it was large. If they’re in Greece, they won’t need to use it, will they?”
“But surely they’d want to return, now that You Know Who has been defeated, and things are returning to normal,” Minerva commented, “especially if Mr Finch-Fletchley chooses to return to Hogwarts and finish his education.”
“How long will the space be needed?” Hermione asked.
“According to our information, it will take several weeks for the potion to completely drain the patient’s magic.” Poppy answered. “Longer for those with particularly strong magic. After that, they will need time to recuperate, and for their magic to replenish itself.”
Minerva noticed Poppy did not even mention the possibility that the patients might never regain their magic. Even so, Hermione’s face went white at the Mediwitch’s words.
“Yes, this is serious.” Minerva said gently. “But we will do everything we can for those afflicted.”
Hermione drew a deep breath, and then nodded. “I’ll continue to search. It can’t hurt to ask Justin’s parents, though, could it? They might well want to stay in Greece through the summer. Wouldn’t that be enough time?”
Poppy nodded. “If all goes as described in the book we have, yes. I would not want to move them before they are fully cured, however.”
Minerva felt something in her relax. It seemed they had options. “We will contact Justin’s parents, but it cannot hurt to have an alternate plan. Thank you, Miss Granger. You have been most helpful. Do let us know if you find any other suitable places in your research.”
Temporary Employment -- Draco
May 9, 1998
The perfunctory knock on the door was followed by the usual series of murmured unlocking spells, and then the door opened. Two Aurors and Professor McGonagall were framed by the doorway. Not waiting for an invitation, one of the Aurors came in, took in the room, and made a few checks with his wand. They did this every time. Did the Aurors think he and his mother could lay traps or curses without their wands? They had such high opinions of his family.
At one time, that opinion would have been justifiable. Draco thought of his father, still in the hospital wing. He had once been so strong, so decisive. When had he lost his direction? Draco forced his mind away from the images of his father over the last year. Malfoys were still a force to be reckoned with. When he was through, everyone would know it, he promised himself.
The Auror nodded and McGonagall entered as well. The other Auror took a stance out in the hallway.
Draco hoped the Headmistress was there to talk with him, finally. His mother had said it was likely that he would be asked to assist, but not guaranteed. McGonagall may need convincing. He rose to meet her.
“I understand you wish to assist in the reconstruction of the castle.” Her voice was cold, her expression showed disbelief. “Your letters were quite persistent.”
“Yes, Professor. I see all the work being done. It’s not right that we are just sitting here, not contributing, especially when we are uniquely suited to assist you.”
“Don’t try that earnest innocence with me, Mr Malfoy. I am not so easily deceived. I have known you, and—” she nodded at Narcissa, sitting quietly at the table, “your parents, since each of you started Hogwarts. I know much of what you have done, and I am all too familiar with your beliefs. I am neither stupid nor blind. Do not treat me as such.”
Draco assumed his best respectful voice. This one would take careful balancing. They would not get out of this without acknowledging some responsibility, some wrongdoing. But he would not give up his pride. “Professor McGonagall, I know that my family and I have made… unfortunate choices. And we have seen the results. Malfoys have never aimed at destruction as an end result. It is now clear that that was the Dark—Voldemort’s goal.”
He paused, but McGonagall didn’t reply.
“My mother and I also discussed the situation in the castle. Did you get our notes on your list of possible volunteers? We identified those most familiar with the process, to the best of our knowledge.”
McGonagall levelled a suspicious gaze at him. After a few moments, she nodded to herself and continued. “I would not even be considering this, if we did not need assistance. Your mother explained to me the danger we are in, with Hogwarts contaminated by dark magic as it is.”
Draco repressed a sneer. Contamination indeed. His mother had told him, with appropriate disgust, that they had not bothered cleansing Hogwarts for decades, perhaps longer. Draco had always assumed that it would at least have been cleansed in the summer holidays. Why else were the students forbidden from staying over the summer? It wasn’t as often as Malfoy Manor was cleansed, but there was a different type of magic cast there. Still, with students casting, and worse, miscasting spells all year, it was no wonder that Hogwarts was as odd as it was.
“According to what your mother said, some of the spells cast in the final battle have … tainted areas of the castle, and they need to be cleansed before any magic can be cast there, lest the magic cast add its power to the taint, causing it to spread.”
Draco nodded his agreement, even though the Headmistress still laid the blame on dark magic itself, instead of the combination of circumstances his mother had described, to Draco’s horror, when she returned on Thursday evening. He had grown up with dark magic. There were ways of handling it, of containing it or removing the residue. Spring cleaning at the Manor was not performed solely by house elves. Draco remembered the feeling of the Manor becoming less heavy, brighter even, after the spring cleaning. He had helped from the time he was seven. Still, to blame a few dark spells for the mess that Hogwarts was in seemed wilfully ignorant. Apparently those in charge of Hogwarts kept to their preconceptions. He was dismayed to realise that, especially after his mother had showed her the Malfoy book, revealing Malfoy secrets, McGonagall still did not truly understand. He wondered how long it had been since Magical theory was taught at Hogwarts. Had it ever been? Or had it only been passed down through the generations of pure-blood families?
“With some help from the Department of Mysteries and the Auror Department,” McGonagall continued, “we have scanned the areas of the castle where people are working and living, and identified which are contaminated. As many people as are volunteering to help, we daren’t let work resume in those areas until they are made safe. We have identified several individuals from your mother’s notes who would be capable of this work, you among them.”
“Which others?” Draco wanted to know, hoping McGonagall had taken his and his mother’s suggestions. There were some they had added to the list as tentative possibilities, which McGonagall may have chosen due to their more acceptable house affiliation.
“Several of the Slytherin students living in the castle.” Draco mentally translated that to imprisoned. That told him almost nothing except that they were probably on the preferred list. At least he could work with most of the Slytherins, especially now the Dar—Voldemort was dead.
“I am sure your mother has discussed this with you, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention that some of our volunteers have become ill from working in these locations.”
Draco repressed a sneer. Idiots. Didn’t they take any precautions? So they wait until people had their magic at risk before realizing that something needed to be done? This was a perfect example of what was wrong at Hogwarts. He knew of very few students, outside those in Slytherin, and a few Ravenclaws, that knew how to handle dark magic residue. Even if they never used dark magic themselves, it was pure ignorance not to know how to deal with it when encountering it, yet it had not been covered in any of his classes, with the possible exception of potions. Professor Snape made sure his students knew the risks and the precautions for each potion they brewed. Of course only a small portion of the class paid attention, and they never specifically covered dark potions.
Draco forced the thoughts away, schooling his face into a quietly receptive mask.
McGonagall looked at him for a few moments, before giving a decisive nod. She reached into a pocket, and pulled a metal anklet from it, similar to the wristlet he and his mother had worn the day before. Draco had the suspicion he would quickly become very familiar with such devices. “If you choose to help, you will need to wear this. It will be tracked at all times. Should you leave the defined area we set, or come too close to the controlling device that has been linked with it, or come into contact with a wand, it is spelled to introduce a sedative. It cannot be removed except by those who know the charm.”
Did they have to recite the same information each time they locked them in one of their little minders? Draco picked up the anklet, eyeing it distastefully. It was a band, three inches wide of solid metal, shimmering like oil on water in a colour that combined silver, gold, and bronze without blending them. There was a hinge on one side and a clasp on the other. It was ugly compared to the one his mother had worn, even compared to the one they had worn yesterday, yet a sedative was perhaps better than a stunning hex. A mobile prison was certainly better than this room. Certainly it was much better than Azkaban. And wearing this was the first step on avoiding the wizarding prison.
It was a chance to show the faculty what they should have been teaching.
McGonagall pulled something else out of her pocket, and Draco nearly laughed, but restrained himself. It was a dark magic detector. As if he, or any of his friends, wouldn’t be able to sense it without resorting such trinkets. “That won’t be necessary, Professor.”
McGonagall looked as if she would protest. “You may not trust me,” Draco commented quietly, “but trust that I know how to find and cleanse such … taint, as you say, without resorting to using one of those toys.”
“You misunderstand me, Mr Malfoy. Your mother requested that we find some other way to verify your work than for you to risk your magic with an oath. These instruments were found and tuned yesterday to be able to identify the magical residue that you will be cleaning. They were used over the past day and a half to identify which areas need to be cleansed.”
“Wait. You can’t mean for us to cleanse only the areas currently infected?”
McGonagall paused at his interruption. “Why would we need to cleanse—“
He turned to his mother. “Surely you explained this to her?”
His mother nodded. “Of course. I also gave her the book with the appropriate pages marked.” She turned and explained to the Headmistress, “If you don’t cleanse the whole castle, you risk the same contamination the next time magic is cast that leaves a dangerous residue. The magical cascade happened because of the battle, but it could not have occurred if the castle had not been primed by the excess of magical residue already present.”
McGonagall seemed reluctant. “Let’s just start with the areas currently tainted.” At the reluctant nod of the two Malfoys, she continued. “As I was saying, there will be an Auror present at all times, who will use one of these to ensure that the work is completed, as well as ensuring the safety of all involved.”
Ah, so it was yet another facet of their imprisonment. How degrading. “Your concern is touching,” he said, understanding it was not his safety that she was concerned about.
“Do you still wish to help, knowing the terms?”
As answer, Draco took the anklet and fastened it around his ankle, submitting to having McGonagall test it both physically and with her wand. After she pronounced it satisfactory, she opened the door to let him out.
“What about my parents? My father...”
“Madame Pomfrey is looking after your father. He is in his own room, and when he recovers he will be returned to you.” McGonagall turned to his mother. “All is as we have agreed.”
Draco could see his mother’s hand, subtly giving him support. Narcissa gave a regal nod to McGonagall, as if acknowledging that she had heard, and then turned to Draco. “We’ll be fine. Go. I’ll take care of your father, and you take care of our future.”
“Unless you’ve changed your mind,” McGonagall said brusquely, “come.”
Draco turned, lifted his head high, and swept past the old cat. They climbed down several flights of stairs, then up another flight, and met up with a group in a third floor corridor. There was an Auror there, and several other students from Slytherin, all but one people he had suggested: Daphne, Theodore, Pansy, and Adrien Broderick from sixth year. He knew Adrien, but could not definitively say he would be competent, just that he was pure-blood. As for the others... it was amazingly good to see them. Draco would have liked to ask them what had happened to them, and to others in their circle, but with the eager ears of the Auror nearby, he dared not. Not only was it beneath a Slytherin’s dignity to bring up personal topics in front of outsiders, but he knew that any information they discussed could be used against them, or their parents. He contented himself with an acknowledging nod at them, noting the bulge on Daphne’s left ankle matching his own, and after looking, noted the way each of their robes hung less than elegantly around their legs, indicating that they each had been so hobbled. Theodore saw the direction of his gaze and scowled briefly, shamed by the situation they found themselves in. Draco looked him in the eye. “There is no shame in finding a new path, Theo. Third rule.” Theo’s face cleared. Slytherin rule number three: if there is no winning path, make one.
The Auror indicated a room off the corridor, where the outer wall had been destroyed. The rubble was still there, unlike in the corridor, where it had been cleared away. One step into the room made it clear why. The miasma of ungrounded dark magic filled the room. This had been a battle, not a carefully controlled ritual, and there was residue. Draco was surprised that the volunteers had willingly gone into the room, if it was all this bad. Couldn’t they feel it?
“I understand you can clear this without your wands?” McGonagall asked.
Draco resisted the derisive glance he wanted to give her. “Any magical energy, even the magic in our wands, would only make it worse. These... contrivances are shielded?” He asked. If the people who made them were smart, they would be. If they were unshielded, they could be turned to another purpose by some enterprising prisoner. But he did not necessarily believe the fools that followed Dumbledore were smart. Just lucky. And Draco was not about to trust his life or his magic to luck, or to the faulty knowledge of dark magic of McGonagall and her ilk.
The Auror flicked his wand over them, and the shield glowed briefly, before hiding even that magical signature. “We have worked in tainted areas before.” The Auror spoke coldly. Draco wondered if they learned it in Auror training. They certainly didn’t learn it at Hogwarts. “We may not have the... comfort level, you all do,” the Auror continued, his tone indicating his distaste, “but we do know to shield the restraints.”
Draco nodded, instinctively taking command of the group. The others did not look ready to challenge him, now that they were not backed by Voldemort, and now that it was likely that all of their parents would end up in Azkaban. In such uncertainty, they fell back on old habits, and Draco made use of that. “We’ll need salt.” He reminded McGonagall. And cold water, not from a wand. And several brushes. Thestral tail by preference. I suppose you have pure silk robes to protect each of us?”
“This is not a pure-blood reception, Mr Malfoy.” McGonagall looked affronted. “Or a bastion of outdated superstition.”
“I thought you might have realized by now that what we are doing is neither superstition, nor outdated. My mother said you’d read the section from the Malfoy book. I assumed that meant you’d read it thoroughly.” Draco shuddered at her ignorance, especially as someone in the position to teach others. He glanced at the others. They all were wearing their Slytherin robes, and he knew that any Slytherin who had not been provided robes containing a healthy proportion of magically insulating silk in the fabric would have been taken aside by Snape for a bit of an education early in first year. No Slytherin would walk around without the protection that silk would offer.
“Then if you can at least find a few pairs of silk gloves, or dragonhide if you can’t find silk.” Werewolf hide would be better, not being merely magic resistant, but magically neutral, but he did not believe that the Dark-fearing professor or Auror would have such a thing. Given who’d been hired as a defence teacher in his third year, she might even take offense.
“I’ve made arrangements for some of the things you request, but the book didn’t mention the need for special robes or gloves.” Of course not, Draco thought. Why would it? Shielding yourself was not specific to cleansing, it was just common sense. When McGonagall went to fetch what she could find of the items requested, and the Auror went to stand guard by the wall, Draco turned to his friends. “You okay?”
“As can be expected, Theodore said. “Father is dead.” He swallowed, then continued, “Pansy’s parents were both captured. Only Daphne still has a parent still free, and I’m not sure how long that will last.”
“They treating you okay?”
“Well enough. We aren’t important enough to interrogate, I suppose. So they just lock us away until they need something from us.” He gestured to the room. “As always. Ignore us unless we make a fuss or they need us.”
Draco nodded. He knew how those of the supposed “light” side treated those they deemed dark.
McGonagall came back about then with the salt, and a pail of clean, cold water. “I’ve sent someone to the dungeons to find some gloves.”
Draco sneered. Of course. Slytherins had the taste and good sense to wear silk gloves. The other houses... not necessarily. After she left, he carefully measured seven pinches of salt into the water. He couldn’t stir it with his hand, and he didn’t have a glass or gold stirring rod. Nothing magical would work. Daphne took out her silver hair pick. “Will this do?”
It shone, and there was no visible tarnish. “It’s as neutral a thing as we have. You’ve done no charms on it?” The look on Daphne’s face made it clear that for him even to need to ask that was an offence. Draco nodded. “I’ve been around idiots too long. My apologies.”
He took the ad hoc stirring rod and the silk handkerchief Theo offered. After wiping down the rod three times, he stirred the saltwater six careful stirs, widdershins. He wiped the rod again, and gave it back to Daphne, who twisted her hair back up and stuck the stick back in. Draco smirked at her. She quirked a lip back. It felt good to be back with people who understood. Somehow, the time with his parents was not quite the same. His father was just so... broken. Except for yesterday, his mother focussed her concern on his father, especially now that he was ill. Before that, he had spent too much time with the Dark Lord. Voldemort never seemed to appreciate the finer Dark Arts, just the result. Did it work or did it not. An appreciation of craft was rare. Daphne had more than that, she had good sense.
When someone came back with gloves, which Draco recognized as his own (of course), and another runner brought some old, somewhat ratty brushes, only two of which had Thestral hair, they each took a pair of the gloves and donned them. They were one pair short, so left-handed Theo took the left glove of one of the pairs, and Draco took the right. They each took a brush and dipped it in the salt water, and Theo carefully painted a containing rune in the doorway. No sense letting the residue spread into the corridor.
Draco dipped his brush into the water, and painted a cleansing rune on Theo’s forehead, and Theo returned the favour. It was always best to have someone else paint the runes, as they tended to distort when you painted them on yourself. Each then painted a protective rune on the other’s chest, opening robes and unbuttoning their shirts just enough for access. Finally, they each painted a second protective rune, placed to ensure that their families did not stop with them. The last was the trickiest, as they compromised and painted it on the somewhat bumpy cloth, but they had practice. It was not always necessary to paint on skin, and he was not about to strip down in front of the Aurors.
Pansy and Daphne did the same favour for each other, painting the chest rune higher than normal to maintain propriety, and then Theo painted Adrien’s protection. They ignored the sniggering Auror.
Draco shuddered to think of what some of the other houses would make of this protection, as it was usually done in the privacy of the home, where it was known that you did what needed to be done.
“Adrien, you stay to watch the cauldron.” Adrien nodded. Draco had worked with the other three before, but not with Adrien, and it was safer to have partners you could trust doing the actual cleansing. Draco nodded to each of the others, and as if choreographed, they each carefully moved into the room stepping on the side, carefully not touching the rune they had painted, and then fanned out into a semicircle, facing toward the room. Draco was on the left, Theo on the right, and Daphne and Pansy between them.
Draco made note of the places where fallen rock and rubble would impede their way, and out of the corner of his eyes, saw the others doing likewise. They would have to move carefully.
Starting with the walls, Draco painted first a protection, then a cleansing, then a banishing sigil on the wall to his left. He could sense Pansy and Daphne crouching to paint the floor, and Theo the wall on the other side of the doorway. They stepped another step in. Slow, meticulous, steady. No brash heroics that would let the residue through.
They each painted the next set of sigils. And the next. After each set of sigils, they returned to the corridor to re-wet their brushes, one at a time, in the salt water. There was no point risking contamination by reusing the water on the brushes, or by bringing the cauldron into the room.
On the next set, they were far enough in the room that Draco and Theo had to bend and paint a set on the floor as well as the ones on the wall. Theo had painted a cleansing rune on piece of stone that had been fractured off the side wall, and, although it wasn’t part of the cleansing, painted a stabilization rune immediately afterward. It would not do to stabilize it before cleansing it, trapping the taint in the stabilization. Draco nodded in approval.
Daphne and Pansy had to do three sets each on the floor (as they were down there already.) When they were done with that set, Theo turned to rewet his brush just as Pansy was getting up from the ground, and she collided with Theo’s knee. He grabbed to hold her as she started to fall, but missed, and she fell past the sigil she had just painted on the still contaminated floor.
Fuck. The hairs on his arms prickled as the magic residue in the room responded to Pansy’s magical field. He could almost hear the vibration of unbalanced magic, like a shriek. His nerves felt raw at the proximity to the building chaos. They should not have been doing this without full silk working robes, at the very least. Only her hands were fully shielded by the magic resistant silk. Draco noted that she had twisted to miss the sharp edge of a piece of broken stone, and he could see no cuts or scrapes. Her blood would at least not be adding its magic to the room. Just one drop... He shuddered to think what would have happened.
The look of fear on Pansy’s face set Draco into motion. “Pansy, you need to pull in your magic!” He noted the shrill tone to his voice, and took a deep breath. If he had been the one to fall, he knew she would have found the calm to talk him through. It was why you never worked alone, always with someone you trusted. Lowering his voice with an effort, he continued. “You are already influencing the residue in the room. Don’t try to shield, just pull it in.” Draco tried to see if he could see the magical residue from the dark magic cast in this room, without invoking his own magic. He did not need to add yet more energy to the mix. Sometimes, if he could relax enough, he could catch glimpses of it. But this was not a situation conducive to relaxation. Finally, he felt, rather than saw, the vibration in the ambience of the room slow down.
“Stay there, Pansy. The protection runes will keep long enough, if you just stay where you are.” He went out into the hall, re-wet his brush, and motioned Daphne and Theo to do the same. Quickly, they painted the protection and then the banishing rune, repeating those two over and over, working their way into the room, around the spot where Pansy sat: protection runes close in, banishing on the outside. When he got to the debris that had nearly cut Pansy, Draco first cleansed it, and then stabilized it, using the same stabilization rune that Theo had used.
After they had separated her from the rest of the room, Draco got a fresh brush of saltwater, and painted the cleansing runes within the circle of protection they had drawn. Finally, he and Daphne painted the cleansing rune on her, one each on her heart and stomach (Daphne), neck and forehead (Draco) shoulders, arms, three down her spine. After having her stand up, they did the same to her legs and the bottoms of her feet. Wherever possible they did it on bare skin, but as her robes protected her a little, they would also soak in the protection of the cleansing.
They brought her back to the corridor, and caught the attention of the Auror. “Pansy, do you have a bath in your... room?” He avoided saying “cell”, although they all knew that that was what it was. He turned to the Auror. “She needs to go back to her room. She’ll need to take a salt water bath. She’ll tell you the herbs to she’ll need for it. No magic. Not even an Aguamenti for the water. After the bath, then she’ll need a cleansing potion. Exteritio Expurgum. Madame Pomfrey should have it by now, but if not, then... then come get me. I know where to find it in Professor Snape’s potions stores. Pansy, go. Take care of yourself.”
The Auror looked taken aback, perhaps not expecting to receive direction from those he was guarding. “I’m afraid she cannot leave the area without a guide.”
“Of all the—look, she has been contaminated. Without the bath and potion, right now, she could become one of Madame Pomfrey’s patients. This is serious. She is in your care. See to it.” Draco had heard his father use just such a voice when talking to simpletons and lackeys. He supposed mere students did not warrant a higher level guard, and was glad of it, for he seemed to waver.
The Auror looked around somewhat frantically, automatically responding to the command in Draco’s voice, and Draco inwardly smirked. He flagged a passing student, not a Slytherin, Draco noticed, and therefore running free, and murmured briefly to the student, who then trotted away.
Draco was beginning to get nervous, when another Auror came and exchanged a few words with their guard before he handed her the controller and she drew her wand, beckoning Pansy to follow her.
The rest of them were obviously expected to stay and complete the rest of the cleansing. It went well, even with Adrien filling in for Pansy and the unfortunate Auror tasked with keeping an eye on the Cauldron, not that they trusted him. Each time they re-wet their brushes, they scanned the water for impurities. A few hours later, when each of them reached out to sense the room (and the Auror scanned it with his toy), and all examinations came back clean, the Auror told them to pack up to be taken back to their … rooms.
The sun had sunk low enough to break through the clouds. Draco hadn’t even noticed the day was overcast until just then, as focussed as they had been. Now that they were done, the sun’s rays streamed through the jagged hole in the wall, and the room shone with its light.
Draco was exhausted. He could feel the sore muscles as he walked back with the others, slightly ahead of the Auror and his device. He would have to stretch when he was back in their rooms. Holding his magic back so it did not interact with the ambient magic of the environment, performing the small controlled movements to paint the sigils, standing, to paint the walls, reaching to mark the ceiling, crouching or kneeling to paint the floor, all together took a lot out of him, and he was ready to rest. At home there would be long soaks in hot swirling water, and a feast of simple foods afterward, Draco thought longingly. Here there would be a cell and his mother, and whatever the house elves sent.
He was, however, satisfied. It felt good to see the result of their work. Before, he had always worked at the direction of his parents, cleaning the areas of the Manor that had been used in such a way that there might be any dangerous residue. He had also cleaned up after himself, of course, when he had been learning magic.
This was different somehow. He was not sure what made the difference, whether it was working as a team with peers, or the way they had taken his direction, or the fact that they left behind a room ready for use (although it still needed physical repair), but he felt like he had accomplished something. He had not felt that in a long time.
“Let me know if you hear how Pansy is doing,” Draco told the others when they got to his and his parents’ rooms. “I expect we’ll be back at it on Monday, if not tomorrow.” Draco found he was looking forward to it. He was glad to be able to stay with his parents, especially considering what the others were going through, but he felt cut off from his friends. Theo and Daphne both nodded, and the Auror opened the door, and waited until Draco entered. He gave his friends a stiff nod just as the Auror closed the door between them.