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If you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through
almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where
there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections
are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the
wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.
- Garrick Ollivander, Shell Cottage, March 1998

 

*~~*~~*

Draco was fast asleep when the call came.

He thought, at first, it might be his office, but his eyelids were leaden under the weight of last night’s whisky, and since the odds of his feeling beholden to scheduling reminders were slim on the best of days… well. He wasn’t especially moved.

Except it went on another minute, and another.

He thought of Chloé next, and winced. He’d left her in charge of three of his doctoral students, all of them elbow deep in dragon heartstring, wood samples, and anatomy models. She was the type to get so excited about a breakthrough that she’d eventually come through unannounced. Last time she’d had Luc in tow. They’d found Draco fast asleep halfway under a snoring Frenchman, and it still hadn’t stopped her from reporting her latest findings.

There weren’t many things he missed about England, but a firm sense of propriety about the hours at which one could use the Floo was among them.

It hadn’t been too terribly awkward—they were more amused than anything else—but the prospect of a repeat moved Draco towards wakefulness. Until he remembered that he’d left last night’s dance partner sticky-fingered in a bathroom cubicle, and there was nothing to walk in on. Draco congratulated himself on his foresight and pulled a pillow over his head.

Draco was determined to go back to sleep on that note. Except the sound of the Floo was bloody irritating. And sort of…off.

His eyes shot open when he recognised it as the crackling buzz of an international Floo call.

It wouldn’t be Mother, who had just returned from a fortnight in Tuscany, or Father, who had gone seven years with nothing more than a terse missive in the beak of his Siberian crane and showed no signs of changing course. Pansy and Greg didn’t pay their own rent, let alone make international calls, and Blaise and Millie only called when they were already in town.

It could be an unknown caller, he reasoned. Someone with the wrong Floo coordinates.

But calls from other parts of the continent didn’t crackle quite like that, and even after a decade the prospect of an unknown British caller didn’t do much to assuage Draco’s sudden-onset nerves.

Draco’s stomach turned, and he stretched to peer into the leaping flames. He couldn’t see anything clearly, but whoever it was didn’t show any signs of going away.

He grabbed his wand from the night stand drawer and his dressing gown from a chair, stuffing the former into the sleeve of the latter before crossing the room to crouch on the hearth.

A moment later, Millie’s features emerged from the flames. Draco’s stomach convulsed. On the one hand, it was Millie. On the other, it was Millie looking more severe, and more nervous, than he’d seen her since seventh year. On a third, he’d had much too much whisky, but he didn’t think that could account for Millie’s demeanour. It had to be an emergency.

“Doctor Malfoy,” she began.

Draco’s headache was so acute that he could feel his brow furrow. She went on before he could ask about her formality.

“We apologise for interrupting you at home.”

“We? Mill, what—”

She shook her head so minutely that Draco barely caught it. “However, the Minister needs to speak with you at your earliest possible convenience and directed his office to make contact by any means necessary. Will you meet with him?”

“Wh—?” Draco stopped short at another almost imperceptible shake of her head. He shook his own head in a tremendously counterproductive attempt to clear it. The Hangover Potion in the bedside drawer, he really needed to—

“Doctor Malfoy?”

He cleared his throat and glanced down at his bare chest, hoping it would be enough hint for Millie. “I am not able to speak to the Minister at present. May I ask what this concerns?”

“We are not at liberty to discuss the matter over unsecured communication channels.”

The cold of the hearthstone shot through Draco’s every bone. He couldn’t think of anything that would be so urgent and secretive without being a sign of trouble. He gripped the jamb for support, suddenly lightheaded as the blood drained from his face.

Millie’s eyes widened and Draco could see the wheels turning. She thinned her lips and spoke carefully. “I do believe I am at liberty to assure you that the matter does not concern…” she paused, frowned. “That the matter is not of any personal concern.”

Draco hesitated, trying to read between the lines without much success. He wouldn’t have had those last two drinks if he’d known he’d be solving puzzles first thing. “But you can’t tell me what this does concern?”

“No, Doctor Malfoy. Will you meet with the Minister?”

“I haven’t set foot on British soil in almost a decade. I don’t mean to start now.”

“Yes, Doctor Malfoy. The Minister is aware that you are living abroad. I am authorised to arrange his travel to Paris if you are willing to meet with him.”

Draco’s eyebrows shot up. Had it been anyone else on the line he would’ve tried for thoughtful, but Millie would recognise “dumbfounded” through his best attempts, so he didn’t make any.

The Minister was willing to travel to Paris. Specifically to meet with him. About something so top secret it couldn’t be discussed over the Ministry’s most secure Floos.

He was curious.

“Doctor Malfoy?” His curiosity must’ve shown, if Millie’s hint of a smile was anything to go by.

He cleared his throat and rolled his eyes at it. “My schedule is booked today and I am overseeing a surgery on Wednesday. Is the Minister available Thursday at half noon?”

Millie was unimpressed. “If you’re certain that you don’t have any earlier availability.”

“I am.”

“Very well. The Minister will see you then. I will send an owl with details.”

“I will expect it.”

“Good day, Doctor Malfoy.”

The fire died down as soon as Millie ended the call. Draco stood and surveyed the room. He’d thrown back the sheets in his rush to the Floo and bed called out to him, but he knew he had no hope of falling back to sleep.

* * *

Draco’s distraction stayed with him all day. Instead of taking notes during Chloé’s morning update he scrawled a quick “M: Call me tonight. – D” on spare parchment and had one of his graduate students take it to the central Owlery. And that was before he dropped three different sample implants and walked into a lab bench.

It followed him home, too. He didn't stop for a drink. He barely ate. He nearly stubbed a toe pacing in front of the hearth and was moments away from calling Millie and demanding answers when his fireplace leapt to life.

He was on the hearth and answering the call within seconds. She hadn’t even come wholly into focus before he opened with a sharp, “What the fuck, Mill?”

She cringed. “I know, I know. But I really can’t tell you anything yet.”

“Still?” He sat back, torn between shock and annoyance. “Even without the precious Minister standing over your shoulder.”

“He was in his office, one. Two, fuck off. Three, no. It’s confidential for good reason, and this connection is even less secure than the other.”

“You really aren’t going to tell me anything?”

“Nothing I haven’t already told you.”

“That, what, it’s ‘not of any personal concern’? What does that mean, exactly?”

She sighed. “You’re not going to Azkaban. Your mother isn’t going to Azkaban. Even if anyone could find your father he wouldn’t be going to Azkaban. No one is trying to send any of you to Azkaban, or put you on probation, or house arrest, or levy any more fines, or make you testify in any trials. None of you are in any legal trouble.”

“And non-legal trouble?”

“Draco.” Millie’s voice softened. “It’s not as though Shacklebolt can give you detention. He wants to meet with you. He has good reasons. Reasons that might be of interest to you. That’s all I can say.”

“What kind of reasons?”

“Oh, well now you’ve asked a dozenth time, I can tell you everything. Got a quill?”

He ignored her attempt at humour. “Mill, I’ve been gone ten years and all of a sudden the Minister wants to arrange a short-notice international Portkey to have lunch with me. Wouldn’t you be concerned?”

She sighed again. “Knowing what you know, and don’t know, yes. Knowing what I know, no. I realise it’s not your forte, but you’ll just have to trust me.”

Draco managed a half-hearted scowl for old time’s sake. “Some help you are.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m arranging the schedule so I’m the assistant travelling with him.”

Draco crossed his arms. “Stop trying to appease me.”

“Then I won’t tell you where lunch is, either.” Millie grinned. “See you Thursday.”

The Floo died down again and, with an eye towards bed, Draco decided it was best to end the day sooner than later.

* * *

Thursday was cold and spitting down with rain. Draco took a perverse satisfaction in bringing Britain’s Minister for Magic to Paris at the only time of year when it was less than compelling. Perhaps he’d decide they got enough of that at home and leave Paris, and Draco, alone forever.

Though maybe he’d think Paris in November was perfectly lovely or, coming from London, at least very normal.

Either way, the rain kept Draco from walking the ten minutes to Sola. He had been relying on the walk for a chance to clear his head, but at least—thanks in no small part to generations of Malfoys past—there wasn’t a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris that didn’t have an Apparition point.

It didn’t mean he had to Apparate on time. He had things to do in the office. And points to prove.

Five minutes after he was meant to arrive, the maitre’d led Draco downstairs. It was quickly apparent that he needn’t have shown Draco to the table. The entire downstairs was conspicuously empty, with Shacklebolt’s shining head straight in front of him. To his left, Millicent’s blunt bob. To his right, with hair that was still unmistakeable on such a humid day, Granger, whose presence was almost enough to make Draco turn tail, if only because he was loathe to join any sort of team that thought Granger might be persuasive.

Shacklebolt stood and extended a hand. “Mister Malfoy.”

Draco took it and met his eye. “Doctor Malfoy.”

“Of course. Will you join us, Doctor Malfoy?”

Half a dozen quips hit the back of his teeth, and Draco barely ignored the urge to run. With a curt nod, he took the proffered seat.

“You know Ms Bulstrode, I believe? And Ms Granger?”

“I do.” He nodded to them each in turn. “Ms Bulstrode, Granger.”

Shacklebolt continued before his companions had a chance to speak, though Granger certainly looked eager. “Thank you for joining us.”

“I was given to believe it was of some importance.”

“It is.”

“Well, then?”

Shacklebolt folded his hands on the edge of the table. Granger coughed.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “The miso-lacquered foie gras is superb, but I don’t expect your British palates have come for the food.”

Millie kicked him under the table. He was almost certain he didn’t flinch.

“No, Dr Malfoy.” Shacklebolt flexed his fingers and knitted them back together. “We have not.”

“In which case I assume there is some business so pressing that it required an international Portkey for three.”

“There is, yes, and we’ve arranged lunch service for four, if I might have a moment to explain?”

Draco leaned back in his seat and gestured Shacklebolt onwards.

“We have been following your work,”

Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Ms Granger, if you would?”

Draco raised the other.

Granger cleared her throat. “You’re aware, I’m sure, of the Department of Mysteries.”

Draco could practically see her biting back a comment about how he would’ve known, and how she would’ve known that he knew. It was a very good, if wholly unneeded, reminder of why he’d left England in the first place.

“We in the Department undertake a number of magical research projects as, again, you may be aware.”

Draco offered a slight nod.

“These run the gamut from relatively simple experiments with known charms to more complex and unusual subjects. It is an expansive research programme, bringing together many of the best magical researchers in Britain.”

Granger fell silent as footsteps echoed down the stairs. Neither Millie nor Shacklebolt uttered a peep until the waitstaff cleared the room.

If not for Millie’s presence, and his certainty that she had forgiven him the less tactful parts of his early adolescence, Draco might’ve begun to suspect a high-level assassination.

Granger picked up as though they hadn’t spent the better part of three very long minutes in an awkwardly shared silence. “We have not yet, however, branched into your particular field.”

“I can see where that would be difficult when there aren’t any biomagicologists in the UK.”

“Indeed.” Granger pursed her lips. “And yet we have a project—a rather urgent project—that would benefit a great deal from exactly that expertise.”

“Oh?”

“Dr Malfoy,” Shacklebolt interjected, “before we continue, we must make you aware that this project is highly sensitive and requires the utmost secrecy. Absolute discretion is essential.”

Draco looked around the empty room. “The lunch arrangements did that job for you, I’d say.”

“No, Dr Malfoy. Publicly sharing the details of the case would put the lives of high-ranking Ministry officials at risk and create panic in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, you may not be able to fully grasp the gravity of the situation, or the importance of the project, without letting Ms Granger explain the specifics. I’m afraid we need to ask you to make an Unbreakable Vow.”

“Absolutely not.” Draco pushed back from the table, heart pounding.

Granger blanched. “Malfoy—”

“No. Never. No project could be interesting enough to justify that.”

Granger leaned forward urgently. “We can offer you resources, assistance, access to magical artefacts that—”

“Was there any ambiguity whatsoever in ‘No. Never.’? Need I repeat myself?”

“You don’t know what’s at stake!”

“No.” Draco stood. “But you do. You know whatever it is that’s at stake and you’ve already made clear that you have no way to address it. If you did, you certainly wouldn’t be here, would you?”

“Draco,” Millie said softly.

He turned to her with a curt bow. “Lovely to see you as always, Ms Bulstrode. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Draco,” she tried again, only to be interrupted.

“Mill, no.” Draco was rapidly losing what remained of his temper. “Absolutely not. You know why and you know better.”

“Exactly!” Granger interrupted, pushing up out of her seat. “She knows why and she knows what’s at stake and she came here with us!”

“Granger did leave out the bit about the Vow.” Millie shrugged at Draco.

He rolled his eyes.

Shacklebolt stood next. “Dr Malfoy, please understand—”

Minister,” Draco bit out, ”I think I understand perfectly. You’re here because you need me, because I have an expertise that no one on your team has, and you need it badly enough that you were willing to come here and, not insignificantly, at least for Granger here, swallow your pride and ask me for something. If my observations are correct—and, Minister, they almost always are—you need me more than I need you.”

Granger’s words didn’t betray panic, but her voice was choked with it. “You don’t know the resources we have to offer!”

“And?” Draco met her eyes. “I know that I have a state of the art magi-medical facility. I know that I have my pick of cases and a dozen research assistants vying to maintain stasis charms for hours every time I’m involved in a surgery. I know that the Panthéon-Magique will grant me access to any of its magical artefacts and texts. I know that I have a beautiful home, a choice of beautiful eating establishments, and my choice of beautiful shops and museums, all of which welcome me with open arms. And I know that no one will interrupt my day to make thinly veiled allusions about mistakes I made as sixteen-year-old boy. I may not know about your resources, but I find that neither my work nor my personal life suffers for that.”

He turned his gaze on Shacklebolt. “I have no interest in knowing, if these are the terms.”

Draco waited five counts before he nodded and stepped away.

He was halfway to the stairs when Granger’s voice stopped him mid-step.

“It’s about Harry,” she cried. “Potter,” she added, as if there could have been any confusion.

Draco paused. Set both feet on the floor, though he didn't turn around. He hadn’t thought much of Harry Potter in years. It explained Granger and Shacklebolt’s intensity about the whole affair, but not why Granger thought he should care. “And?”

“And?” Granger spluttered. “And you owe him! A life debt! He saved you, he saved all of us, and he needs—” She stopped abruptly.

“Potter discharged my life debt before the trials, in exchange for the one he owed my mother. Life debts all around, Granger. I don’t owe him a thing.”

“Dr Malfoy,” Shacklebolt interrupted, “perhaps now that Ms Granger has revealed that piece of information, you can understand our need for discretion.”

Draco turned, arms folded across his ribs. “I won’t work with anyone who doesn’t trust my judgement, including my ability to evaluate what parts of a case require discretion. If Ms Granger is suggesting that I would reveal information about a high-profile patient—about any patient—she knows less about my record than she might have suggested to you, Minister.”

“Ms Granger has not suggested that you have anything less than the most sterling reputation, professionally and ethically. I assure you, we would not be here if we did not have every confidence that you were particularly competent for the job and, for a number of reasons, extraordinarily well-suited.”

“I don’t deal in the kind of ‘trust’ that requires Unbreakable Vows. You trust me, and I hear you out and decide whether I’m interested in the case, or you don’t and we leave before the seared scallops.”

Draco watched Shacklebolt and Granger share an attempt at non-verbal communication, darting away just long enough to catch Millie’s very miniature nod of approval.

“Well?”

Granger gave Shacklebolt a look so pleading that Draco almost scoffed.

Shacklebolt nodded and turned from Granger back to Draco. “Absolute discretion, Dr Malfoy. On your word?”

“On my word.”

“Very well. Please have a seat.”

As if on cue, the waitstaff descended to clear their plates and deliver the next course. Draco settled himself slowly into his seat, holding Shacklebolt’s eye as the waitstaff worked around them.

The room remained silent for long seconds after the four of them were left alone.

“Whenever you’re ready, Minister.”

Granger snorted and muttered something under her breath. It was enough to break Shacklebolt’s concentration. He turned towards Granger and lifted an expectant brow.

She swallowed and nodded, turning to face Draco. “The Elder Wand. You’re familiar.”

“More than most.”

She quickly schooled the start of a grimace into a professional mask. “Exactly.” She waited.

“Biomagicology, Potter, and the Elder Wand. Afraid I’m going to need a few more words here, Granger.”

“Right.” Her voice cracked. Granger cleared her throat and tried again. “Right. Harry, the Elder Wand, and biomagicology.”

Draco had never had Sola’s private lunch service before. He’d been hearing about the Iberico pork and parmesan foam for ages, though.

After what Granger and Shacklebolt had to say, he found that he couldn’t remember a single bite.

* * *

By the good graces of the Minister, Draco had Millie waiting at home for him after work, along with a thin dossier outlining the details of the case. He had insisted—interestingly, to Granger’s seeming approval—that he couldn’t decide on the spot. They’d given him 24 hours for an indication, and 72 for a final decision. Six had passed and he still hadn’t entirely wrapped his head around the news.

Millie, bless her, was trying to ease the way with Scotch and the sort of concise briefing that got one promoted to an assistant to the Minister. Though after the third glass, he was no longer sure if the two were complementary or at cross purposes.

He shook his head. “I still fail to understand why they did it.”

“If you’re asking me to explain Gryffindor logic, we may be a while.”

“What does it say in the file? They can write things down, can’t they?”

“Yes, though understanding them is a different matter.”

“Mill,” Draco groaned. “Please. I don’t know if I’ve just been handed the maddest or the best case of my career, but I do know it’s among the most inexplicable. Can you please, please read me the file again?”

Millie sighed and opened the folder. “Subject: Harry James Potter, born July—”

“The interesting bits.”

“Merlin’s sake, Draco. I gave you the interesting bits already. Do you want the boring bits in a funny voice?”

He tilted his head and moved to open his mouth.

“That was not an offer.”

He closed it again and collapsed back onto the Chesterfield.

“You have the pertinent details.”

“Rita Skeeter wrote her post-war ‘tell-all.’”

“Yes.”

“Between all the witnesses to the final battle who saw the Wand and all the stories of Potter popping out from under an invisibility cloak over the years, she reported that the Deathly Hallows were involved.”

“A broken clock is right twice a day.”

Draco lifted his head. “The stone?”

“Yes. Not public knowledge, but it’s in the files. Potter had it from Dumbledore. Sixth year, that’s what made his hand all…”

“Ah.”

“Yes.”

“Right.” Draco pinched the bridge of his nose and laid back. “So there was public confirmation, of sorts, that the Elder Wand was real.”

“Indeed.”

“And someone stole it.”

“Tried to. McGonagall had Dumbledore’s tomb heavily warded after the trials.”

“Well then, problem solved.”

“They kept trying. There were so many attempts it got distracting. Alarms going off, teachers apprehending common criminals at all hours.”

“Not the ideal backdrop to teaching.”

“No. And apparently Binns asked for such a large pay rise on account of it that the governors got involved.”

“Binns?” Draco raised his head again. “A pay rise? What for?”

Millie shrugged. “Something about principles established in the 1634 Nundu Incident?”

Draco shook his head and smacked it back against the leather. “So they stuck it in the Department of Mysteries, because obviously if Death Eaters and school children could get in, that’s the safest place for it.”

“And they wanted to experiment on it.”

Draco made a noise of unconcealed frustration. “Have they completely forgotten the difference between being a researcher and a fool?”

“Is there one?”

Without looking up he chucked a pillow in her direction. He heard her catch it. “But… what? They had no idea what they were doing and blew something up?”

“Close. It blew something up. A lot of things.”

“It? What—this is where it gets confusing. What do you mean, it?”

“The Wand.”

“The Wand blew things up.”

“Sparked at them a bit. Some levitation. One or two small explosions.”

“It’s an inanimate object.”

“Yes. And as we know, those never have personalities, especially the really legendary ones.”

“Touché. What was its problem, exactly?”

“Granger suggested—well, as far as they could figure out, it sort of… missed Potter.”

“It missed him?”

“It wants to be with its master. Granger noticed—oh, don’t make that noise, she’s a lot cleverer than you like to admit.”

Draco waved her on with a hand.

“She is,” Mill insisted. “Wandlore is her speciality. She apprenticed with Ollivander, who tries to hire her away at least monthly. Plus she’s the Unspeakable most familiar with it. So of course she was on the team handling the Wand. And she noticed that it picked up… traces, if you will. It responded to Potter’s magical energy, even in minute amounts. It would behave differently before and after she had lunch with him, even, as though it could sense his magic on her robes, even just in tiny little—”

“Traces.”

“Yes. And then, if it didn’t feel Potter’s magic for a while, it would misbehave more and more dramatically.”

“Did they have a falling out?”

“Potter and Granger?”

“Mmm.”

“What does that matter?” Mill sounded confused.

“It doesn’t.” Draco crossed his arms behind his head. “Just wondering how Potter managed to pry himself away from her and Weasley long enough for the Wand to notice.”

“He was on a mission in Romania. Dragon egg smuggling. A month or so.”

“Dragons,” Draco scoffed. “Of course he was. How glamorous.”

Millie hummed. “You said it, not me.”

Draco pretended to ignore her. “But all was not well when he returned.”

“No. It kept behaving more dramatically when it was separated from him, and after shorter periods of time.”

“So they decided the next logical step was to—?”

“No. And if you’re to seriously consider this case you will have to get over assuming that everything they do is wholly idiotic.”

“Why? I’m never wrong.”

“You’ve got at least one tattoo that says otherwise.” She chucked the pillow back at him, and when it landed on his face he was happy enough to leave it there.

“Anyway,” he said, voice muffled.

“You will be wrong if you don’t reconsider.”

“Anyway,” he repeated.

“Anyway. They tried having him visit it every day, but it became more and more agitated each time he left.”

“What about changing masters? Surely someone in the Department would’ve punched him in the face without too much reservation.”

“Draco,” Millie warned.

“The question stands. Why not make Granger its master?”

Mille sighed, and Draco heard papers rustling and the dossier closing. “They tried. She felt awful about it, especially when… well. There were multiple attempts. He let her disarm him, then she legitimately disarmed him. She hexed him, jinxed him. You might be pleased to know that she did, in fact, punch him in the face.”

Draco jolted upright, sending the pillow to the floor. “She did?”

“Yes,” Millie snorted. “Will you reconsider now?”

Draco grabbed the pillow, laid down, and stuffed it back over his eyes. “It would seem the logical answer is to just give him the bloody Wand.”

“For someone else, maybe. For Harry Potter, hero of the war and Head of Auror Field Operations? Every criminally minded wizard in a thousand mile radius came to try and draw him into some trap or another. And word spread. They arrested half a dozen Yakuza and two New York Muggle mobsters, who tried just because they had heard something about an ultimate weapon. And once they were all in England, they didn’t exactly all sit around enjoying strawberries and clotted cream. Crime was up twenty percent in the second quarter of the year. Wizarding and Muggle.”

“Have you considered France?”

“I quite like strawberries and clotted cream.”

“Fine, fine. And if Potter left the Wand at home…?”

“Towards the end his house elf picked it up whilst cleaning, wound up Imperiusing himself and, essentially, the Wand made him bring Potter home. He was in the middle of a stakeout.”

“Problematic.”

“Rather.”

“So they needed to find a way to keep the Wand holstered on Potter at all times, without anyone knowing about it.”

“And while convincing them all that the Wand had been destroyed.”

“Is there a reason they didn’t actually destroy it?”

“Would you destroy the Elder Wand? One third of the Deathly Hallows, priceless artefact in the study of wandlore, potential key to understanding the interaction between wands and natural magic?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Is that your answer as a survivor of the Dark Lord, or as a scholar?”

Draco paused. “Two heartbeats.”

“He knew what it meant to Granger. Knew its potential usefulness.”

“So they destroyed a replica.”

“Yes. In the middle of a duel they had Weasley ‘trip’ into him. Potter pretended to fall with him and, voilà. Broken wand. Made sure the criminals they were chasing saw it and let word spread from there.”

“All’s well that ends well.”

“Crime is down 18%.”

“Thought it had been up 20.”

“The Yakuza invest heavily in Japanese whisky. Decided to try their hand at proper Scotch while they were in the neighbourhood. There are a few extracurriculars once in a while.”

“Cheers.” Draco raised his glass and waited for Millie to clink hers against it.

She didn’t. “Not quite.”

He lowered his glass. “Because Potter is an idiot.”

“Because they still had the Wand.”

“So they devised a brilliant solution.”

“They thought so at the time.”

“Merlin, Mill. Couldn’t have called me beforehand?”

“Wasn’t aware saving Harry Potter from himself was high on your to-do list.” She traced a fingertip around the edge of her glass. “And they only told me after the fact, once it became a problem. They really did think it would work.”

“But it didn’t.”

“No.”

“And now he’s a danger to himself and others.” He rested his glass against his forehead. “More of a danger to himself and others.”

“It sounds pretty terrible, honestly. And the whole thing is unprecedented. They’re out of options.”

“Except for me.”

“Except for you.”

Draco held out his glass again.

This time, Millie’s clink came, harder than he’d expected but all the more satisfying for the sound of crystal on crystal. “Cheers.”

* * *

Draco was both very, very over Scotch and a little bit under its thrall when he woke the next morning. A Hangover potion, a tall glass of water, and a cold shower did the trick. Trick enough for him to be dressed and on his way to the Floo while Millie still slept in the guest room.

Halfway through the living room he stopped, turned, and walked to the desk. He grabbed a piece of parchment and jotted a list of notes, affixing it to the mantel with a sticking charm.

At the top of the page, he’d written:

Conditions