Notes: Thanks to rosskpr for beta reading and giving good suggestions. She has been very patient with me. Thanks to my readers for their patience, too! To reward you for this patience, this time there will be TWO chapters posted today!
Comments and questions are always welcome. I find they inspire me to write further, knowing someone else cares about the story.
On to the Chapter:
May 13, 1998
Harry stumbled down to breakfast, glad of the slightly extended hours for the volunteers. The Great Hall looked so much like it did during the school year it triggered a bout of nostalgia.
Today, Dean Thomas was at the Gryffindor Table, along with Eddie Charmichael, a Ravenclaw Harry remembered as being a year ahead of them. Harry wandered over to sit with them. As more students were volunteering, the food was becoming more like Hogwarts fare. Harry grabbed some eggs and toast, and a few grilled tomatoes from the platters.
The owl that descended toward him landed on the plate for the empty seat next to him, talons curved around its edge. It extended its leg, and gave Harry an imperious stare. Harry quickly untied the scroll tied to its foot.
I believe it would be a good time to commence our lessons on the Black Family magics. Would this coming Sunday work for you? Please confirm by return owl.
A small slip of parchment fell out of the scroll, ready for Harry to confirm the meeting. According to the note, all Harry had to do was lay his wand on the parchment, and say either yes or no, and it would complete the reply for him.
He had avoided thinking about the voices he’d heard in the back of his mind while on the Black Estate. They had diminished since he had left there, but every once in a while, there came a wry comment that was not something he would think, or a suggestion to do something. It was usually a good suggestion, but he’d really had enough of voices in his mind.
Still, it would be wrong to avoid Andromeda, and even worse to avoid Teddy, out of fear or discomfort. It still startled him that he had a godson, a child that should be his responsibility. He was grateful that Andromeda was taking on the role for her grandson, but sometimes Harry felt like he wasn’t doing his part. Harry really needed to make sure to spend time with his godson on a regular basis. He would make sure that Teddy knew he was loved, Harry promised himself. Teddy would not grow up like he had.
* * *
It seemed to be a day for correspondence, for another owl reached him toward the end of the morning, as he was levitating the last stone—now cleaned and somewhat smoothed—onto the top of the pile, ready to be replaced and balanced into the wall and the castle’s wards. The corridor was now cleaned of rubble. Harry looked at it with a certain satisfaction.
It was good to be part of rebuilding, good to see the destruction reversed. Without Ron volunteering beside him, the work was not as much fun, but it was very satisfying. He brushed the dust off of his hands and clothes, and reached to remove the scroll from the extended leg of the school owl.
Please come to my office. Password has not changed.
Giving the cleaned hallway one last look, Harry made his way to the Headmaster’s office. He felt better about the password this time. “Victory.” Being part of the rebuilding had made it easier to say. Easier to believe.
Minerva McGonagall sat behind her desk, a tidy pile of scrolls to one side, and with a few scattered in front of her. A picture of a man in a kilt graced the sideboard. Her tartan cloak hung from the cloak-rack by the door. Looking around, he realized he’d have to get used to calling it the Headmistress’ office. It had remained Dumbledore’s in his mind, from its rounded walls to the shining, whirring silver instruments that had cluttered the shelves. It had been transfigured when he wasn’t paying attention from Dumbledore’s office to McGonagall’s. The change left him with a feeling that swirled around his belly. Nostalgia, perhaps, and sorrow, and hope. It was a sign of change, and of things lost, and possibilities.
It was this change that made Harry realize that Snape had barely altered it at all, from what he’d seen. He could not imagine Snape working in a room with all of Dumbledore’s trinkets, but he had not noticed their absence. He remembered being able to enter the Headmaster’s office with the word “Dumbledore”. Having seen the memories, he could not help but see this in a different light. What torture it must have been for Snape, entering the office with the name of the man he had killed, surrounded by Dumbledore’s artefacts, day after day. Harry shook his head. Perhaps he was not remembering accurately. He’d had other things on his mind that day, rushing up with a bottle of Snape’s memories clutched in his hand.
“Ah, Mr Potter. Thank you for coming so promptly.”
She gestured to the seats facing her desk. They were soft and comfortable, but still firm enough to sit upright and high enough to look at her directly. Harry remembered the seats that were here when Dumbledore was Headmaster – squashy, brightly-coloured chairs one could get lost in. He always felt a little out of control in those chairs. It felt different to sit eye to eye with the new Headmistress. He was not sure if he felt empowered or daunted by the expectations of equality that implied. It was a lot to live up to.
Professor McGonagall called for a tea service, and poured each of them a cup. She looked down at the tea tray for a moment. It had been Dumbledore’s. “It’s been a tradition for so long, it would feel wrong to go without.”
Harry sipped his tea, remembering those times he’d done so with Dumbledore on the other side of the desk. The Headmistress seemed lost in her own memories for a moment, but then she set her teacup down and cast her gaze on Harry. Her expression was searching, as if she were trying to discern something important. After a moment, she spoke. “I have not announced this publicly yet, but in order for us to have this discussion, you must know that I am inviting all students back to retake the year that they would have taken last year.”
Harry sat up straighter, relief washing through him. He’d be able to have one more year at Hogwarts. He’d have time to think, before having to decide anything.
“I have discussed it with the Board of Governors, and we feel that it is important for all students to have a fair chance at their NEWTs, considering how important those are for starting out well in our world, once school is completed. The NEWTs have been delayed this year, due to the turmoil that exists both at Hogwarts and at the Ministry.”
Harry nodded, thinking of both the madness that Hermione described at the Ministry, and the rubble he was clearing at Hogwarts. Yes, they would not be able to hold something as ordinary as NEWTs anytime soon.
“Each student who has completed a seventh year at Hogwarts may decide to take their NEWTs at the end of June of this year,” McGonagall continued, “at a testing site at the Ministry, in which case their schooling at Hogwarts will be complete. There are, however, students such as yourself, who, for reasons of safety, or,” and here Professor McGonagall’s mouth quirked as she continued with a dry tone, “saving the Wizarding world, who were not able to complete their final year at Hogwarts. In addition, although it pains me to have to say it, conditions at Hogwarts last year did not lend themselves to learning. It is in consideration of the students who did not have a chance, last year, to complete their Hogwarts education properly, that we are making this offer.”
“What about students in other years? What about the OWL students?”
“Tests are being devised for each class and year. Students who wish to continue to the next year may sit those tests, and with passing marks and, in the case of underage students, parental approval, may move on to the next year. For this reason, space has been allocated at the ministry, not only for OWL and NEWT testing, but also for placement testing for the other years.”
Harry realized what this meant for younger years: if they wanted to move on to the next year, they would have to study for a test, over the summer! He thought of Ginny and Luna and grinned. If they passed, they would all be in the same year. Ron would go spare!
“That wasn’t the reason I wanted to talk with you, however. I wanted you to be aware that a seventh year at Hogwarts would be an option for you, should you desire it. You do not have to make a decision now, of course—”
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do, Professor,” Harry interrupted.
“Be that as it may, you have until the deadline to sign up for NEWTs. The deadline will be on June first, and the NEWTs will be held four weeks later, starting Monday, June twenty-ninth. Testing for advancement will commence the following week.
“Now that you have that information, Mr Potter, I wanted to talk with you about what you want to do with your life.”
Harry lowered his gaze, suddenly focusing on the hole in his trainers. It was right at the big toe, and had loose threads crossing over it. An old pair of socks poked through, and from the colour (orange and green wool, knitted together) they were part of the Weasley collection.
“I did not mean you had to decide this minute, Mr Potter.” He caught her wry smile as he looked up. Harry doubted he had ever seen McGonagall be this—this friendly, with him. “I do not only mean what you mean to do as a job, although that is certainly a consideration. The last time we spoke of this, in your fifth year, you wanted to be an Auror. Is that still the case?”
Harry considered it. It would not all be like the last year. As an Auror, he would not be in hiding, and he would be ridding the world of dark wizards. But... “No. I’m sorry, I know you worked to make that possible for me, but... it’s like Aurors work to destroy what’s bad. But they don’t create anything good.” Harry paused, struggling to find the right words. “Helping clean up Hogwarts these past few days, even if it’s just moving rubble, that’s felt satisfying. I look back after cleaning a room, or a hall, and it’s improved, and I know that I did the work to make it that way. Every time I fought against Death Eaters, against Voldemort, it was something I had to do, but it didn’t feel good afterward. It just felt done. And it always felt like I lost more than I won.”
McGonagall nodded. “Well, you have some time to figure things out. But I had a reason for bringing this up. Several in fact.”
“I know you are not particularly fond of the press—” she paused to acknowledge the emphatic shake of his head. “Have you seen the papers lately?”
“I’ve been avoiding them.”
The Headmistress passed a small pile over her desk, and gazed at him expectantly. He didn’t think she’d let him get away with avoiding them. He sighed and picked up the top one. There was a picture of one of the many impromptu celebrations that had taken place immediately after the battle. This one was in Diagon Alley, with grinning and shouting people toasting each other against the backdrop of boarded-up shops. Every issue had pictures of him. Most of the pictures were old, one had clearly been reused from the “undesirable number one” posters. Below the fold were also pictures of Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Neville, and many others. There were articles about the rebuilding of the Ministry, and the rebuilding of Diagon Alley, and of Hogwarts. Suddenly he noticed something.
“There aren’t any pictures of Hogwarts. Not as it is now, I mean.”
“That’s part of what I wanted to talk with you about. Have you noticed that there have been no reporters at Hogwarts these past two weeks?”
“No, I guess I hadn’t.”
“I wanted to give those who fought, but especially you, some breathing room after —” Professor McGonagall paused as if trying to find the right word to encompass it all “—after the year you’ve had. I know the battle was only the culmination of all you’ve done.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“All we’ve done. Me, Hermione, Ron, Neville, you, the house elves, even Trelawney had a part. Even Peeves.”
“I fully acknowledge that. Without you, however, the battle would have gone quite differently.”
Harry looked off to the side, not wanting to see what was in her eyes. “It took everyone.” He could hear the flat tone in his voice, a tone he had never taken with McGonagall before, but he would not allow McGonagall to put him above the others. It was wrong. It ignored everyone who fought alongside him, everyone who died.
McGonagall nodded. “Of course, you’re right. As I was about to say, although the castle wards are not fully active yet, I have raised some protective wards around the perimeter. One of them specifically blocks reporters. I would like to lift that block.”
Harry’s gaze darted back to the Headmistress. “Why?”
“I believe people need to see the damage that was done here. The picture of Hogwarts at her strength,” McGonagall gestured to one of the images in the Daily Prophet, “gives people safe illusions. Eventually they will tell themselves that we were never in that great a danger. They will convince themselves that they don’t need to be vigilant, that they can forget.”
Harry saw the sense of that.
“You will be the most affected by this decision. They will want to talk with you.”
“I don’t have to talk to them, though.”
“That is the rest of what I wanted you to consider.”
“I know it would not be your first choice. However, I want you to consider some things.”
“What?” His voice was flat, unyielding.
“What is the state of the Wizarding World?”
Harry looked down to see the boarded up shops on Diagon Alley in the newspaper photograph. Hogwarts was torn up, as was the Ministry, based on reports from Hermione and Mr Weasley.
“It’s a bit torn up, but with all the volunteers—“
“The physical damage is only part of it. Assume all the repairs have been made, all the shops in that picture are again open for business. Is this a Wizarding world you can be proud of?”
“I love the Wizarding world!”
“That’s not what I asked. Do you want to see another dark lord in another twenty to thirty years?
Harry was about to reply, then stopped.
“Has anything really changed?” McGonagall continued. “How many people supported He Who Must Not Be Named without carrying his mark on their arms? How many of them will retreat for a while, waiting for their next chance? I trust Kingsley, but what of the next Minister for Magic? How many in the Wizengamot want things to go back to the way they were? I will tell you that I never again want to witness the atrocities I saw last year.
“You have the ability to make a difference, Harry. People in our world are looking to see what you will do next. Whether you want them to or not, they will take their cue from you. If you want to see changes in our world, now is the time to start them. Speaking with the reporters allows you to have your voice heard now, when people are clamouring to hear what you will say.”
“What if all I want is to be left alone?”
“Then the world will continue on its way without your input.”
The bare statement hung there, as McGonagall replenished their tea.
“I received a note from Kingsley Shacklebolt. You may have heard he is Interim Minister of Magic?”
“The Ministry is planning a celebration to honour those who fought against You- against Voldemort,” McGonagall corrected herself upon seeing Harry’s grimace. “Minister Shacklebolt would like you to speak at the event.”
Harry tensed, his shoulders pulling up. “Is this what it will always be like?” he asked.
McGonagall looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“Voldemort’s dead. I did what the prophecy required, what everyone required. Can’t I have my own life now?” He knew he sounded petulant, but he didn’t care.
“Harry, the Wizarding World owes you a great debt. But they can’t give you your own life. That is something you will have to find, and create, for yourself.
“You are in a unique position, Harry. You are in everyone’s minds. You have succeeded in doing something that great wizards have failed at, and in the process, saved us from great horror. At this point in time, you could probably get just about anything you asked for.”
“But not to be left alone,” Harry said softly.
“No. You could retreat, you could hide away, and eventually other news would take the front page of the Prophet. But the wizarding world will not forget. You will always be famous, Harry. Your only choice is what you do with that.”
He wiggled his toe against the hole in his trainer, watching the remaining threads strain as he pressed his toe against them.
“Harry, I want you to think about something. Currently, the Ministry is in flux. They are intent on cleaning out the influences that made You-Know—Voldemort’s take-over possible.”
“I know that.” Harry commented. “Hermione has been working there, and she told us some of what is going on.”
“At this point, you have the good will of the wizarding world. I want you to think about what you would like to see happen. Not necessarily the details, but the basic idea. You, more than anyone, have felt the effects of a society and government that has been ... distorted. Harry, I know you have a good heart. I can’t help but believe that you would like to see some changes.”
“Right now, while the wizarding world is clamouring for you, you have the power to influence what changes are made.”
Harry rocked back in his chair. He never thought he’d hear McGonagall recommend such things. It seemed so... Slytherin. “Do you have changes you want to see happen?” Harry asked her.
“Of course I do. Everyone you meet will have an agenda, but you have to consider what you want. Not what I or anyone else might want, but what you want. Only when you are clear on your own desires, can you aim for those goals without being distracted by the desires of those around you, some of whom are people you care about and want to see happy.
“Every one of us will be working toward our own goals.” McGonagall paused and waited. Harry met her gaze. “Harry, it is only right that you work for the vision you have. You have done our society a great service, Harry. You have earned the right to influence what direction our world goes in. Don’t waste that opportunity, and certainly don’t cede it to others.
“Right now, Harry, you have three choices: To try to hide, which will most likely fail. To be buffeted by the will of those close to you, each wanting to use your influence for their own desires. Your friends may not even be aware they are doing this. After all, we all have the same aims, don’t we?” She waited while Harry thought about that.
Of course his friends and he wanted similar things. But Harry thought of what was important to him. He wasn’t sure of the details, but he could imagine a wizarding world he would like to be part of. He could almost see Snape sneering at that. It was sheer ego, to think he had the right to force his will on everyone else. Still, the image was so sharp in his mind, now that McGonagall brought it up. The problem was that he had no idea how to get from here to there, nor even the specifics of what he wanted. Without specifics, it would be way too easy to let someone like Hermione shape his vision. He trusted her, but he was sure her details were different than his. Freeing house elves was less important to him than ... And that was the problem. He had a general sense of protecting those who needed it. Sirius should have had a trial. No other wizarding child should have to go through his childhood. It was just that he had no idea how to accomplish it.
“The third option is to consider what you would like, and to work toward that. Right now, you have more ability to influence the future than almost anyone else. Harry, if you don’t shape the future, or at least work toward a future you can believe in, then other people will work toward their best version of the future without you. If you don’t participate, than your unique experiences and the dreams that come out of them will all be lost. I think that would be unfortunate.”
He remembered how frustrating it had been when Dumbledore, his teachers, his friends and their parents were all so intent on protecting him. He also thought of how horrible it had been to have no guidance but their own guesses and cryptic remarks, in the search for the Horcruxes. He didn’t want to be controlled, but he also didn’t want to be in charge, and that is what McGonagall seemed to be recommending.
“Promise me... no, promise yourself that you will take some time to envision what you want. Focus on the image first, then hone in on the details. You may find that the good will of the wizarding world will be useful in reaching your goals. In the mean time, by talking to the press, and going to the Ministry’s celebration and accepting the honours you have earned, you will be retaining that influence in case you decide you have a use for it.”
Harry sat back. He didn’t like what she was telling him. It was like she wanted him to emulate Lockhart, or worse, Lucius Malfoy. He didn’t want to spend his time cultivating his fame like a plant.
“There’s no need to run out and do something immediately. You have time this summer and this coming year at Hogwarts to consider what you want, both for yourself and for the wizarding world. You can choose to work to bring about some changes, and you are more likely than others to see them accomplished. Until you know what you want, one way or another, do not squander the good will of the wizarding world.”
Harry sorted through what she had said. “So, you think I should go to the celebration.”
McGonagall sighed. “At the very least, Mister Potter. At the very least. The choice is, of course, up to you. You are an adult. I am not here to make those decisions for you, just to remind you that you have them to make.”
May 12, 1998
Narcissa had not been pleased to hear from her son about the state Lucius was in. She had also not been pleased that Draco had arranged to visit without her. She knew full well that it had not been an accident, although Draco had not yet told her the reason. She could be patient. She would find out eventually. Regardless of the reason for Draco’s visit, she was glad he had tended to Lucius. It was proper, even if it should not have been necessary. What was necessary was that she obtain regular visiting rights herself.
It had taken her a full day before her negotiations with the guard bore fruit, and Minerva McGonagall came to visit. The following afternoon saw her, under guard, guided to the hospital wing.
Madame Pomfrey awaited her in the mediwitch’s office.
“For people who are imprisoned, I seem to see members of your family quite frequently,” the mediwitch commented. “You do understand that for most people, imprisonment does not imply the freedom to wander around and visit.”
“Malfoys are not most people.” She paused. “My son informed me of the state in which he found my husband. This is not acceptable.”
Madame Pomfrey gazed at Narcissa without speaking. The silence accentuated her last comment, as if the mediwitch wished her to become aware that she had said something unreasonable. She had grown up with such games. The mediwitch was out of her class. Narcissa merely waited.
“Your husband is being taken care of to the best of the ability of the present hospital wing staff, given increased usage of the facility and the restrictions he has – quite vehemently – imposed.”
“It is clearly not enough.”
“Look. Even as we speak, arrangements are being made to transport the afflicted volunteers to a non-magical location, according to the instructions you have provided. By the end of the week, they will all have been relocated. At that point, the strain on our resources will be reduced, although there are still patients from the battle, and a small but regular stream of volunteers who have damaged themselves in the process of rebuilding the castle.
“The issue of your husband’s restrictions is another matter entirely. This facility cannot and will not pander to the prejudices that got us into the war. If the person who is currently able to tend to your husband is Muggleborn, that is the person we will send. If he refuses care under such circumstances, that is his choice. I will not subject the volunteer to his attacks – if he refuses care, the volunteer is authorized to leave him untended until such a time as someone he will accept becomes available, which may involve a significant delay.”
“I can care for him.”
“You are a prisoner, just as he is. Every time you go gallivanting through the castle, it is necessary to allocate Aurors to guard you. We do not have an unlimited supply of them, and your family has used up more than your share of their time.”
“Then let me bring him back to our ... rooms. I will take care of him there. Why is he even still here? You informed me that his illness was a common Muggle disease. Surely as a wizard, my husband’s magic would fend off such an infection.”
“Normally, yes. A wizard’s magic will normally make him immune to Muggle diseases, which only infect the body. It takes a disease that infects both body and magic to bring down a wizard. Because those diseases are magically caused, they can be treated directly in the witch or wizard’s magic, and can usually be cured quickly.
“Your husband, however, was severely run down. He has been subject to numerous curses, including the Cruciatus. His magic has not had a chance to heal him. In addition, he has not had his wand for an extended period of time. The wand helps shape the magical core, to give it focus. Once a witch or wizard has become attuned to a wand, to go without for too long a time is to allow one’s magic to start to ... fray at the edges. Thus weakened, I believe your husband was in the presence of Muggles who were likewise weakened, and thus susceptible to illness.
Narcissa was glad for the chair behind her. She sat. The facts, laid out before her, were damning. The Dark Lord had taken Lucius’ wand. The Dark Lord had cursed both Lucius and herself. The Dark Lord had used Malfoy Manor as a prison, storing Muggles for later amusement, and Muggle-borns and Blood Traitors for leverage and information.
She closed her eyes. Never had she been so glad that she chose her family over the Dark Lord. She had lied to the Dark Lord, allowing Harry Potter his final chance. It had been a rare, unplanned decision. It had been clear that until Potter was dead, the Dark Lord would not advance on the castle where her son was. She had needed to see her son. Beyond that, she had suspected there was hope that Potter could free them from the servitude in which they had placed themselves.
He had done so. They now had a chance of freedom, whereas, with the Dark Lord, there had been none.
Which brought her back to the matter at hand.
Something was wrong with what the mediwitch had just said. Narcissa replayed the conversation in her mind. She opened her eyes.
“If my family is such a bother to you, why am I here?”
“I do understand your desire to spend time with your husband. We are willing to grant such privileges until he is fit to return to your quarters.”
“Ah. There is something you want in return.” Narcissa was not normally so forthright in her negotiations, but these were not Slytherins she was dealing with. They did not understand the beauty of subtlety. She wondered if Madame Pomfrey had gone to Hogwarts, and if so, what house she had been in.
“We have found a doctor, a Muggle Healer to watch over those afflicted with the taint to their magic.” Narcissa winced slightly at the phrase. It was not so much inaccurate as incomplete. It implied things that should not be implied. She was dealing with those who had set aside the old ways. Each conversation confirmed this.
“Dr Renier will have questions about their treatment, questions for which your answers will be more complete than mine.”
“The Malfoy book is not to be shared with Muggles.” On this, she could not bend. The very magic woven into the book would scream in protest. Of course, less pleasant things would happen as well, were the Muggle to touch it, let alone try to read it. Malfoys protected what was of Malfoy. The Black book had been the same, and perhaps even more merciless. Tojours Pur. She still wondered how Harry Potter had come to be accepted by the Black ancestors.
“I suspected that. Madame Pomfrey nodded. “Thus, it makes the most sense if you were to meet with Dr Renier, and be available to answer his questions.”
Narcissa digested that. It made sense in this world they were moving toward, where Muggles were given the same respect as purebloods. She had made this path possible. She would have to live with her choices, even if it meant politely conversing with a Muggle. The thought caused revulsion to wash through her, but she repressed the accompanying shudder. She needed to make the best of this, and to find a way to turn it to her own, and to the Malfoy family’s advantage. It was a disconcerting thought, however, talking to a Muggle about magic, worse yet about private rituals and methods passed down within the Malfoy family for generations. She had participated in the Black family traditions, but never been the keeper of the book. It was the Malfoy traditions that she had been charged to guard.
What would Lucius say? Family first. Necessity. What happened when family and necessity conflicted? When she had to go against family traditions for the good of the future of the family?
This further betrayal of her past was not in exchange for visiting Lucius, although she would allow the mediwitch to believe that. This was for the future of the Malfoy family. Every step, every minor betrayal, was in the service of long-term loyalty.
“You will allow me to visit my husband every day, and see to his needs,” Narcissa confirmed. “In exchange, I will meet with this Muggle, and answer his questions to the best of my ability.”
“I agree. So will it be done.” With the traditional words, she turned her face from tradition.
“So will it be done. We will send for you when the time is set.” Madame Pomfrey nodded toward the door. “And now, if you will come with me, I will show you to your husband.”
The Mediwitch gestured her through the door to her office, and followed behind her. The Auror flanked her on her other side. Narcissa allowed herself to observe the goings on in the hospital wing. Healers from St Mungo’s treated breaks and sprains from people mishandling the debris around the castle. One witch seemed to have a severe burn. Narcissa wondered what had caused that, but nothing related to the repair came to mind. A ward with purple warning stripes across the door let her know exactly where the volunteers whose magic had been touched by the residue from dark magic were housed.
It was useful knowledge, but unimportant at present except to note that that ward was not close to where her husband was being kept.
They arrived at the door to his room, complete with guard. Their Auror guide stationed himself on the other side of the doorway, and Narcissa and the mediwitch continued through it.
Lucius looked better than Draco had described. She could see the signs of Draco’s care still. She reached forward to stroke his brow, testing the heat of his skin, and the spark of his magic against her own.
He opened his eyes, and she was gladdened to see Lucius behind his gaze. He looked at her. He had not looked at her with his full attention in way too long.
“Lucius, I am here.”
He nodded. “Narcissa.” The word was quiet, so soft that she doubted that Madame Pomfrey, still in the doorway, could hear. It was full of everything that he was, dry with humour, and yet imbued with longing. She took his hand.
“Lucius, they will allow me to come by every day to see to you. If I am not here, promise me you will allow those charged with your care to provide for you.”
His eyes sparked. She would not win this one. His pride was part of him, as much as his strength. She loved him, even when his strengths were difficult. It was not unreasonable to keep to traditions, to keep to what you knew. It was only difficult. The world she had allowed to come into being would not tolerate his ways. Despite all the compromises she was forced to make, she and Lucius were perhaps too set to bend. Draco was the one who would have to learn.
“I will come as often as I am allowed, until you return to us. Shall I get you some water?”
At his affirmative, she found the glass, filled it, and held it to him. She provided the care she had come to provide.
Slytherin Work Party
May 11 onward, 1998
Draco fell into a pattern over the next couple of weeks. He would get up and shower in the small bathroom off their rooms, try his best to make his hair behave with the stupid, ready-made cleaning potions that were available there. The Aurors had not taken the shackle off when he got back to the suite that first afternoon, nor had they removed it when he had been returned after visiting his father and Snape. Instead, his guard adjusted the charm so it limited him to their suite and adjusted it each day to allow him access to the area his crew were to cleanse. A red line of irritation had formed where it chafed against his skin. Draco scowled at it each morning, and tried to think of what he could use to heal the welt. He asked for a cream each time they brought him back in the evening, but no one ever brought anything for him.
After his morning ablutions, he would eat breakfast with his mother. Draco talked about his day with the Slytherins, and passed on whatever news there was about friends. The news was mostly convictions. Daphne’s mother was still eluding capture. Draco felt a most un-Slytherin joy in someone else’s good fortune, as if her success were a sign that he too could succeed in his plans.
At around 9:00, McGonagall or more frequently some other person would let him out of their room, after first testing the dratted shackle. It had never failed. Yet. Draco kept himself from thinking along those lines. After all, the point was not to escape, it was to find a way to restore the Malfoy family. To do that, they had to make nice with the winners.
So he would meet up with the other Slytherins. He did not know if they were the only team who had offered to work, or if they were the only ones that had been captured, or if they had selected just a few based on his and his mother’s recommendations, and the other captives were rotting in some cells somewhere, or if the other teams were doing something else. He suspected his was the only cleansing team, especially after comparing who was on their crew with the recommendations he and his mother had made.
The five of them had gotten very good at decontaminating areas from dark magic residue. Pansy had recovered quite nicely. She flushed when Theo had asked after her health, as well she should, having made such a beginner’s mistake.
They worked as a team. Even Adrien found his place in the group. Dip brush, bend, paint, reach, paint, repeat. Draco was beginning to feel he could make those sigils in his sleep. Spending all the time holding their magic under tight control was exhausting, but at the end of the day, Draco felt good. He was confident they would not let another accident happen, there would be no interaction between their magic and the residue. Even more than that, it felt good to see the castle returning to what it should be. He had felt shattered That Day, watching Bella and Greyback and the others destroy his school, knowing he was responsible for letting them in. If he hadn’t been so preoccupied, he would have felt even more torn apart by the destruction caused by the last battle. Hogwarts was one of the oldest still extant wizarding institutions, part of their heritage, something to protect. It was an icon, representing the future of their world. His father had railed against the damage it did, with Dumbledore shaping the ideals of wizarding youth, but they were supposed to reclaim it, not destroy it.
Draco smirked to himself. It especially felt good to be performing traditional Pureblood rites at Hogwarts, as if he were indeed reclaiming it from the decline of decades, perhaps centuries.
They took turns watching the cauldron. It was not that they expected anyone to sabotage it… necessarily. It would be an easy way to get rid of some pesky Slytherins, but the risk to the castle was too high. It was more that they did not trust those self-righteous Muggle-lovers to understand the necessity of keeping the saltwater pure.
After a while, the work started to be ingrained enough that they could converse while they were doing it. The major focus was still on the work. They were not stupid Gryffindors to risk their hides out of carelessness, but the work alone would have bored them all into somnolence if they had not had another task to layer on top.
So they found ways to communicate without letting the guard know what they were talking about.
The Slytherins were being kept in rooms next to each other, two to a room. Theo had seen Blaise, but was not sure if he was likewise captured and working, or just working. Draco was the only one staying with his parents, but his parents were the only ones who had not been actively fighting in that last battle. Draco never thought he’d be grateful for his father’s change of circumstance. He was sure that his father’s fall from favour had been a key factor in his decision to search for family instead of fighting, as they had been ordered. It had become clear by then that Voldemort would not advance, or even protect and support, the Malfoy family.
When circumstances look bleak, look after family. When his father saw him after the battle, the brief expression on his face caused Draco to wonder if it had been pureblood values that influenced that decision, or the desperate emotions of the moment. There had been something so raw in his father’s face, before he schooled his features into something more fitting for public viewing. Regardless of the reason for it, he was glad of his parents’ presence.
Daphne did not know where her mother was. If she was free, she would not be able to come to see her, lest she be captured. She had been told that her father was captured. He hadn’t even been a follower, to the best of Draco’s knowledge. Certainly he had never been at the Manor except for the parties at Yule and Midsummer, nor been there any time Voldemort had called the full complement of Death Eaters. Daphne had been asked if she knew where her mother was, but she had not been forced to tell. If her mother were to be captured, it would shatter Daphne. Soon, his own family would have to face what the outcome of the war left for them.
Pansy had seen her parents captured. Theo had seen his father killed, but did not know where his mother was. Adrien’s parents were not core followers. Draco did not even know if they were marked. Adrien had chosen to receive the Mark. He had been close to the leader of the sixth year students, Reid Pucey, and had followed him into service like Crabbe and Goyle had followed Draco.
Draco wondered where Goyle was. He had not seen him since escaping the room of fire. He did know that both Crabbe’s and Goyle’s fathers were captured.
It was all so… pointless. Where was the glory? Where was the return of the wizarding world to its prime, where was the return to the ways of life they had been fighting for?
Somehow, cleaning the castle from dark residue was as close as Draco had come to a return to the old ways since Voldemort had returned to power. It was ironic that it only happened as a result of Voldemort’s defeat.
Bend. Paint. Reach. Paint.
“I won’t be here tomorrow.” Pansy’s comment came as she finished one wall. Draco finished his sigil set, then turned to quirk an eyebrow at her. “My parents have their trial tomorrow. I’m allowed to go. I still have to wear the minder, but…”
Draco nodded to her. There was almost no chance that they would escape Azkaban. At least they would not be kissed. Draco had overheard one of the Aurors talking about how the Dementors were no longer being used in Azkaban, and how only a few remained even if they wished to continue using them. Most of them had been destroyed. How does one destroy a Dementor? Draco wondered.
Was this what their life would be like? Working for the victors, and watching their family members be locked up in that hell hole out in the middle of the North Sea? Working, so they would not also be locked up? Draco knew that there was a chance he would not be able to escape that fate himself. The Dar- Voldemort had taken power right after Dumbledore’s death, or Draco was sure he would have been brought up on charges. Would it finally come back to haunt him?
Pansy was gone for the rest of the week. They kept at it, one short. Daphne found out that her parents really were missing—both of them. She was glad for them, but wished she could see them. They kept at it. Draco found out Theo would be allowed to go to his father’s funeral, under guard, and bound by the minder anklet.
Draco wondered how long they’d be allowed to continue working, how long they’d have a tiny bit of freedom each day. Once his father got back from the Hospital Wing, he had no other valid reason to leave that tiny set of rooms, and even visiting his father stretched it. He hadn’t seen Snape since that one visit. Soon, they each would have their own trials. Would their group dwindle to the point where they could not do the work? Perhaps they would delay the trials of the members of his crew just long enough? Draco wondered when his father’s trial would be, and his mother’s, and his own. Did he have time to acquire allies before then?
As it turned out, Theo’s absence on a day that Pansy was also gone provided just what Draco needed.