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Never Grow A Wishbone

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It’s early summer and he’s just returned from an extended business trip to Germany. So when there’s a guest at the manor door he’s expecting it to be any number of acquaintances wanting a piece of his time, but instead one of his house elves – Milly, he believes – pops into his rooms and says, “Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to see you, Master Draco.”

He stares at her for a moment. McGonagall in his house can’t be anything good. He’s just grateful his parents are in France. “Show her to the sitting room.” He’s twenty four years old and it’s absolutely ridiculous of him, but he still checks his hair and appearance before going out to meet her. He’s stopped wearing black robes since the war, so the dark green will have to do, regardless of the pointed comments it gets about his house allegiance.

He steps into the sitting room, and she looks the same as ever – all thirteen years he’s known her and she hasn’t changed at all. “Mr. Malfoy,” she greets, inclining her head.

“Headmistress,” he returns, crossing the room to stand in front of her. Neither of them move to sit, and he doesn’t suggest it. “To what do I owe the pleasure? I usually just get an owl when it’s time for alumni donations.” 

She almost smiles, and true alarm starts to build in his chest. “I’m afraid I’m not here for something so small. Professor Roberts has resigned.”

A no name halfblood who had been five years ahead of Draco in school. He can’t say he’s surprised – the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position may have died along with Voldemort, but keeping the potions position filled has been almost as difficult ever since. “Good,” he says honestly, “he was hardly qualified, either as a Potions master or as head of house. I’m not sure what exactly that has to do with me.” She’s just staring at him. He raises an eyebrow, “Would you like a list of suitable alternatives? I know a number of competent potions masters abroad, but then of course you’d have to hire another teacher to act as the Slytherin head. I’m afraid you’ve dried up all the half decent Slytherin Potions masters.”

“Not all of them,” she says quietly.

He blinks. She can’t be serious. “You can’t be serious.”

“Gravely,” she says, “Mr. Malfoy, I am not above begging.”

What the bloody fuck. “I don’t even like potions!” If he was going to take any position, he’d much prefer it be Flitwick’s.

“That didn’t stop you from getting formerly recognized as a Potions master,” she says, “nor listing it on your letter head.”

“My family deals with plant trading,” he snarls, “Since I wasn’t about to start giving a fuck about herbology, I needed to be a potions master! Considering I’ll be lucky if I get a seat in government by the time I’m forty, and the war did a nice job of putting a significant dent in the fortune my family has been building for hundreds of years, I’m not about to leave it to the heads we’ve had running it before. Not to mention half the morons running our stocks and business trades got themselves killed in the war, so I’ve spent the past seven years managing the Malfoy estates on my own.” He glares, “So I really, truly don’t have time to play teacher at Hogwarts.”

She hasn’t looked away this whole time, still with that same unnervingly even gaze. “This past year we only had four first year Slytherins. If something is not done soon, I’m afraid that number will go down to zero. I don’t just need a Potions master, Mr. Malfoy. I need – I need a Slytherin. A real Slytherin.”

“There hasn’t been a Slytherin head of house born from a Slytherin family in over fifty years,” he tosses back, even though his heart is thudding in his chest. Only four first years? “Slughorn was fine, but he didn’t come from an old family. He faked it well enough, and he did his job, but he wasn’t one of us. Snape wasn’t either, of course, and he was only barely serviceable. Nothing need to be said of the string of disasters you’ve hired since. You lot have done this to yourselves.”

“I know,” she says, and for the first time since he’s known her she looks older, “I know. Draco, you were a leader at school and a leader during the war,” that’s a generous description for what he was during the war, “and I need you to be a leader with this. They need you, don’t abandon them now.”

“I fought on the other side of the war in case you’ve forgotten,” he says acidly, “I’ve spent the years since the war returning my family’s reputation to what it once was, and abroad the Malfoys are what they’ve always been. I don’t think anyone in Britain will be thrilled with my appointment.”

“I don’t care,” she says, “I do not care. No one else can do this, and it needs to be done. Please.”

Draco only barely keeps himself from sneering, “Headmistress, the war may be over but if something isn’t done there will be another one. When this war ended it was somehow about torture and power and killing one annoyingly unkillable boy. But it’s not how it began.”

“The Blood Laws,” she says, and surprise colors her voice. “You support them?”

“Don’t you?” he throws back, “If they’d been passed, Voldemort not only wouldn’t have come to power – he wouldn’t even exist. But thanks to this fucking war, no one can touch the Blood Laws without getting the accusation of Death Eater hurled at them, and it will do what it always does, building and getting worse until someone snaps and then we’ll have another war.” He sighs, and feels so much older than he is, “I’ve have enough of war, Headmistress.”

“And you think you can stop it?” she asks, and she’s looking at him differently, like he’s not what she expected. Which is her own fault, really – Draco’s always considered himself to be rather transparent, unfortunately.

He shrugs, “I think I’m the only one who can. Old blood will follow old blood, and who else is going to do it? Those of us who survived the war are still bleeding, and aren’t exactly eager to fight again. And those of us on your side won’t risk their position by trying to reintroduce the legislation in an environment where they know it won’t pass anyway. I’m going to spend the rest of my bloody life trying to get a seat in government, one that without the war I would already have had by now. So, once again, I really do not have the time to play teacher at Hogwarts.”

He expects that to be the end of it, that McGonagall will write him off for a lost cause like she always has and Draco can go back to the exhausting work of trying to singlehandedly restore his family’s position. Instead she nods once, in that sharp, exact manner she has, and says, “Very well, Mr. Malfoy. I will make you a deal – if you accept my offer and become head of Slytherin house and Potions master, I will personally recommend you for a seat at the Wizengamot this time next year.”

Draco’s eyes widen. If she supports him, if the purebloods in power and the moderates who stand for what he stands for know that they won’t be demonized for confirming his seat, then it’s almost certain he will get it. “You – you’re serious?”

“I’ll take an Unbreakable Vow,” she says, and this is possibly the strangest day of Draco’s life. “Accept my offer, Mr. Malfoy.”

He runs a hand through his hair, messing it up thoroughly. Being a professor at Hogwarts is a prestigious, sought after position, and it will do more to repair his reputation than all the last seven years combined. But it’s also going to be difficult and miserable, and he doesn’t actually like children. “Fine,” he bites out, “on one condition.”

“I’ve already talked to Filius,” she says promptly, “he’ll be delighted to take you on as an apprentice.”

He blinks. “Is the all knowing thing something that gets passed on when you become head of Hogwarts?”

She smiles, and he hadn’t noticed the tension in her frame until it was gone. “It’s always been your favorite subject, and you’ve registered over a dozen new charms with the patent office over the years.” She hesitates, but says, “During the Triwizard Tournament, those dreadful buttons you made had Filius nearly floating he was so excited. He said it was the best charms work he’d seen from a fourteen year old since he himself was that age. When I say he’ll be delighted to take you on, that is in fact a direct quote.”

Draco sighs and resists the urge to rub at his temples. At least it won’t be a total loss. He really does love charms. Besides, he would endure much worse for a Wizengamot seat. “Very well, Headmistress. Consider me hired.”

“Please,” she says, “call me Minerva. We are colleagues after all.”

~

Because McGonagall is far more cunning than she seems, the very next day the Prophet runs a press release about his upcoming appointment as Potions master and the head of Slytherin house. If he truly is to do this properly, he’s going to have to thoroughly attend the party circuit this summer, and not just hit the usual ones. Pansy will be delighted, at least.

“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR BLOODY MIND?” Pansy screeches.

Pippy discreetly appears at his elbow and hands him four fingers of Scotch. Maybe all these blasted house elves are good for something. “Not exactly, no.”

Blaise is standing at the other end of the room, the coward. “She’s got a point.”

“I thought you liked our arrangement,” he complains, “twice the parties and dinners means twice the amount of stupidly expensive dresses I pay for.”

Pansy crosses her arms and scowls, “While being your marriage deterrent is in fact one of the highlights of my social excursions, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to send you off like a lamb to the slaughter.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a touch dramatic?” he asks, “Just a smidge?”

“No,” she says, “I’m really, really not. You’ll be the only Slytherin professor, and everyone knows what you did during the last war. You won’t have your business contacts, your international friends, even your damn money won’t do you any good in those halls. They’ll tear you apart.”

“Well, I can’t have that,” he downs half his glass in one go, “There were only four Slytherin first years.”

“Total?” Blaise cuts in. Pansy’s mouth is parted in surprise.

“Total,” he confirms, and the weight of the bloody mess he’s signed on to clean up nearly makes him want to say fuck it and hide in France with his parents. “I’m a Malfoy and a Black, and I have a duty to fulfill to my blood. I will fulfill it. The only question here is,” he addresses the both of them, “are you going to help me or not?”

Blaise sighs, “Of course we are, don’t be daft. Are you really sure you want the goblins running your businesses and stocks again? They’ll take a fortune in fees.”

“I can afford it,” he says dryly. That he’d ended up the heir to a half dozen dark families had been surprising, but it shouldn’t have been. They’re all related somehow, and leaving it to the Malfoys, a family that has weathered the brunt of over a dozen wars, must have made sense to them. “Besides, it’s worth it to know my business isn’t being mishandled in my absence.”

Pansy runs a hand through her hair, forgetting she’s braided it and halving to yank it out halfway down. “Fine. You’ve clearly already made up your mind.”

Blaise smiles the beautiful, empty smile that he learned from his mother, “Let’s go to the ball.”

~

Draco attends every dinner and dance he’s invited to, with either Pansy or Blaise on his arm. If he’d had any doubts about his decision before, he doesn’t now. Families who’d been downtrodden by the war speak to him with gleams in their eyes and a centuries old confidence falling over their shoulders once more. He’s introduced to a number of his future students, and they’re all wary of him. For some he’s the third head of house they’ve been introduced to.

What sticks out to him, what really sticks out to him, is meeting young Raina Lestrange. He’d inherited a Lestrange manor from Bellatrix and a couple of house elves. He’d offered the lot back to the head of the family, the ancient Lady Rosamond, but she’d refused.

She hadn’t been the only one to refuse. Smart families didn’t want properties that had belonged to infamous death eaters. If they’d been ancestral homes that would have been different, but no one was foolish enough to leave Draco any of those properties, thank god.

It’s a garden party taking place at the Lestange Castle, old and well maintained. War or no war, the Malfoys and Letranges had been allies since before their families moved to Britain, and Draco always accepts any invitation from the Lestranges if he’s in the country. It wouldn’t do any good to allow the war to break family ties that had been in place for over a dozen generations. Pansy is busy so Blaise is his date to this event, in pale lilac robes that are a stark contrast to his dark skin, and Draco cannot pull off pastels with his complexion, so he he’s in navy robes that offset the light purple perfectly. Every eye in the room is drawn to them, Blaise especially, and Draco can’t blame them.

He mixes and mingles, and these sorts of parties are casual and exclusive enough that he doesn’t have to always be on his guard, he can actually enjoy the good food and wine and conversation. “Draco,” a smoke rattled voice says, and his smile is entirely genuine when he turns to face Rosamond Lestrange.

“My lady,” he greets, inclining his head. “A delight, as always. I trust you know my companion, Blaise Zabini?”

Blaise, the dramatic flirt, beams and takes Rosamund’s to kiss the back of it. Rosamund’s too smart for that to work, but she is amused by him, so Draco supposed she’s charmed either way. This is why he brings Blaise places.

“Of course,” she says, and the woman’s older than Dumbledore but there’s nothing but a razor sharp intelligence in her eyes, “I just wanted to say how absolutely delighted we all are with your recent career move, Draco.” Before he has the chance to thank her, she pushes a small, pale girl with inky black hair in front of him. “This is my grand nephew’s daughter, Raina. She’ll be a third year.”

Draco is not good with children, but he’s not a barbarian, so he smiles and drops on a bended knee so he can look the little girl in the eyes. She looks afraid of all things, and he’s so taken aback by it that he forgets to say anything. But she swallows and says, “Hello Lord Malfoy. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“You as well,” he says, recovering and making his smile gentle and leaving his hands crossed over his knee where she can keep an easy eye on them. “There’s no need to call me Lord Malfoy, however, I must insist on Draco. Although I suppose once the school year starts it’ll have to be Professor.” He winks at her and her lips turn up into something that’s almost a smile.

“So it’s really true then?” she takes a step closer to him, “You really are coming back to Hogwarts? Even though – with – with everyone else that’s there?”

He knows who she’s referring to. “It’s hard to fear someone when you’ve seen them at eleven falling off their broom,” he says dryly, and it’s a lie, but it’s an important one. “Yes, of course I’m returning to Hogwarts. It’s time someone of merit was in the position, don’t you think?”

“Yes!” she says, so excitedly he’s surprised by it. She’s beaming at him, a very different little girl than the one he met a few moments ago. “I’ll study very hard for the rest of the summer, and I’ll be your best Potions student!” she promises, and something hard settles at the base of his throat at the simple adoration he sees in her eyes.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says, and he knew what he was, a direct line from Black and Malfoy and old blood, Slytherins for generations, and he’d known what that would mean to everyone else, but he hadn’t considered what it would mean to the children.

She curtsies at him and her aunt, and then scampers away back over to her parents, talking quickly and pointing over to him. “You understand?” Rosamond asks, looking at him intently.

“Yes,” he answers, and he doesn’t resent her for this. It was a necessary lesson, delivered in the kindest and most effective way she could, “Thank you.”

The rest of party moves quickly after that, adults and cautious children alike coming up to congratulate him on his appointment, Blaise a charming and supportive presence at his elbow.

“I can’t just quit after a year or two,” he says grimly to Blaise at the end of the night, a proprietary hand at the small of his back, “If I’m going to actually make real change, I’m going to have stick around. Damnit.”

There are still people watching them, so Blaise leans against his side and kisses his cheek before allowing Draco to help him into the carriage, “Looks like you’re fucked, mate.”

Draco restrains himself from bursting out laughing before following Blaise into the carriage, but only barely.

~

Draco has spent all day arranging his accounts and signing them over to the goblins. He’d also finally popped back over to France the day before to inform his parents of what was happening. His father was doing better, but hadn’t really understood.

His mother hadn’t said anything. The war had stolen something from all of them, but sometimes Draco feels like it’s his mother who lost more than his father. Narcissa had been the youngest of the indomitable Black sisters, was gorgeous and educated and had married the heir to the Malfoy family, a man who’d been handsome and powerful and had treated her with a kindness that their marriage had not required he provide. With Bellatrix in Azkaban and Andromeda married to a muggle, she must have felt like she’d escaped some terrible fate. A society queen, every bit as cunning and intelligent as Lucius, and ferociously in love with her life, a perfect wife and doting mother.

She did everything right, and fought to keep her family safe throughout it all, and she wasn’t unhappy in France with his father, but she wasn’t happy either, and she refused to return to Britain, refused to run the Malfoy Manor as would be her right until he married.

So between that visit and the goblins, he’s beyond exhausted and just wants to collapse into bed when Milly appears besides him and says, “Excusing me, Master Draco, but you have a visitor.”

“It’s nearly midnight!” he snaps, and Milly’s ears droop. “Who is it?”

“It is Mistress Lovegood, Master Draco.”

Of course it’s Loony. Who else would come knocking at his door in the middle of the night without a care in the world? “Let her in,” he says tiredly, and he’s not going to bother making himself presentable for her. She had attended family dinners until her mother died after all. It’s not like she was going to care if his robes were ruffled or his hair mussed.

By the time he walks into the sitting room, Luna is sitting upside-down on the couch with her legs thrown over the back and her long blonde hair piled on the floor. A cup of tea floats besides her, still faintly sparking with elf magic. “Cousin!” she greets, beaming at him.

She’d stopped calling him that before their Hogwarts years and had only started again after the war. He wishes she’d stop. “Sit like an adult,” he says, too tired to sound more than vaguely disapproving. “What are you doing here?” A hopeful thought occurs to him. “Do you want your mother’s house back? The house elves have been taking care of it. And, I must reiterate, I truly have no use for a house in Japan.”

“Oh, no, you can keep it. Sell it if you don’t want it,” she somersaults over the edge of the couch so she’s standing in front of him. “McGonagall told me that you’re going to be the Potions professor! Why did you tell me?”

“I can’t sell the house,” he says, offended on behalf of Pandora, a woman he honestly hadn’t even liked all that much alive. He has no idea why she’d left it to the Malfoy family and not – well no, he doesn’t suppose he’d trust Xeno with a family home either. “Four generations of your mother’s family lived in that house, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Fine, keep the house,” she shrugs, “Cousin, you’re coming to Hogwarts! We’ll be able to see each other every day!”

Oh god, he regrets this decision. “I suppose,” he says, “Also, McGonagall released an official notice of my appointment to The Daily Prophet over a month ago. It hasn’t exactly been a secret.”

“You know I don’t read the Prophet,” she says reproachfully. “You should have owled me!”

“Luna,” he can already feel a headache building behind his eyes. She has, for the record, always been this exasperating. “Is there a reason you came here? Some duty as head of the family you need me to perform? I can’t imagine any of your friends are happy that you’re here. Would you like a house in Britain? I have enough of them.”

She goes quiet, her dark blue eyes going soft with hurt. Talking to her has always been a minefield – she hadn’t been hurt when he’d teased her all through Hogwarts, not really, but here they are having a perfectly normal adult conversation and now she’s upset. Honestly. “We are family, aren’t we?” she asks quietly, “It shouldn’t matter what my friends think.”

“Your father can’t like it either,” he says, feeling quite out of his depth. He really doesn’t understand why she bothers talking to him. Her father had been quite content to pretend his mother hadn’t been born a Malfoy. She keeps staring at him, the air tinged with sadness, and he rolls his eyes. “Yes, Luna, we’re family. I’d hardly let anyone else into the manor uninvited and unexpected, now would I?”

She smiles at him, too large and ridiculous, and he quirks his lips back in return. Because she is ridiculous and crazy, but she’s also his cousin and in between all the crazy she’s almost nice to be around. “Do you want to hear about the interesting students?” she offers, “Since they’ll be your students too.”

He is exhausted and he’s sure all of Luna’s information will be spectacularly unhelpful, like what their favorite colors are and which ones are being stalked by creatures he doesn’t believe exist. “I’d be delighted,” he says, snapping his fingers. The next moment there’s a cup of steaming tea in his hands, and he kicks off his shoes to curl up at the end of the couch. Luna follows suit, tea still floating besides her while she gesticulated wildly and begins a story about what sounds like a very strange Hufflepuff fifth year.

~

It’s two weeks before term, and he’s ordered the elves to pack and deliver his belongings to his rooms. “Excuse me, Master,” Bip says, ears and eyes downcast, and these are good elves, they never speak without being spoke to. Especially Bip – he was one of the Lestrange elves Draco had inherited.

“Yes?” he looks down at the elf, “What is it?”

“We was just wondering,” he keeps his eyes lowered, “if there will be anything you’ll be needing us elves to do while you’re gone? Anything at all?”

Crap. He hadn’t thought about the elves. The Malfoys had employed about a dozen elves to manage their properties, but after the war he’d inherited about fifty more. Granted they also came with numerous properties, but one elf per property was more than enough if it wasn’t being used. To be honest, it was overkill. One skilled elf could easily maintain five out of use properties with time to spare. There was enough latent magic around the manor and some other homes he’d inherited that they weren’t in any danger of starving, but they needed something to do. Something around people –

Or children. Messy, demanding, hungry children.

“Bip, gather all the elves that can be spared from general duties,” he commands, “You’re all coming with me to Hogwarts.”

The poor thing looks so excited Draco’s almost worried he’s going faint. “Yes Master Draco! Right away Master Draco!”

He sighs and goes to go draft a letter to Minerva. He’s sure there were going to be plenty of parents pissed about this latest decision, but he really can’t find it in himself to care. The only thing worse than a happy elf was a morose one – he had met Kreacher, after all, and that was the saddest excuse for a house elf he’d seen since they’d employed Dobby.

~

He trusts the elves to make his rooms livable, so he’s currently going through the potions classroom. He sure there are a few of them familiar enough with the art that they could clean it without killing themselves, but he’s not willing to risk it. It’s one thing to hit an elf for failing it’s duty, and quite another for one to die for following orders while under his employ.

If he wasn’t convinced that the previous potions professors had been worthless before, trying to get the classroom in order would have done it. The ingredients were stored in completely the wrong sequence – what moron kept lion’s mane next to murtlap essence, if something spilled the whole thing would explode. Before he can even begin to deal with that mess, he’s got to clean the whole classroom. There are numerous potions stains, and if he knew what they were then he could use magic to get rid of them, but he doesn’t. It’s not like he can leave them there – all it takes is another potion spilling on the stains, and the wrong combination will end in an explosion. People truly underestimate how often potions end in explosions. So unless he wants to risk blowing himself up, he’s going to have to do it by hand like a peasant. He snaps, and Milly appears in front of him. “A pail of water, boiling hot. Another pail, and at least three dozen rags.” She nods and his requested items appear besides him. “Very good. Dismissed.” She disappears, leaving him alone to his work.

He rolls up his sleeves and resigns himself to burning these trousers. With a swish and a flick, all the desks and chairs in the room rise to the ceiling. The water’s temperature never falls below steaming, even hours later. He’s completed about two thirds of the classroom, his hands have turned some horrid yellow color, and he’s identified at least seven of the failed potions on the ground. Lovely.

“Draco,” an amused voice says behind him, “I hope we’re not interrupting.”

He doesn’t look up from his scrubbing, “You are actually, Minerva. What kind of morons did you have in here? Or are all the students as competent as Longbottom? It’s truly the only explanation for how the floor is this much of disaster.” He pauses. She’d said ‘I hope we’re not interrupting.’

He looks up, hoping it’ll be Flitwick. He’s not nearly so lucky. “Harry was quite insistent he greet you as soon as you arrived,” McGonagall says dryly. She hadn’t told Draco about the meltdown Potter had had on hearing of his post, but Draco is confident he had one.

Harry is staring at him like he’s never seen him before. He looks good, the bastard. Gorgeous copper skin the darkest it’s ever been a lovely contrast to his bright green eyes, and his stupid muggle clothes doing nothing to hide he’s just as trim as back when they were on the quidditch pitch. Not that Draco isn’t, but he’s also on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor and absolutely filthy. “Potter,” he says, raising an eyebrow, “While I’m touched that your heart’s all a flutter over my presence, I am quite busy at the moment.”

“Uh,” he coughs, then flushes. “I – yes, I – sorry,” he finishes with before turning on his heel and – Draco cannot believe this – running away.

He stares and then slides his gaze over to Minerva. “What the hell?”

 “That went quite well, I think,” she says.

He points an accusing finger at her, filthy rag still clenched in his fist. “Don’t you start scheming too. If that’s a tradition, it’s one you should break.”

She just smiles at him. It’s a new expression, and he’s still getting used to it. Draco doesn’t think she’d ever smiled at him before this whole mess began. “You know, heavier objects are harder to levitate, especially over time.”

He stares, “Yes Minerva, I did pass my first year charms class. There’s a reason children start out with a feather.”

She looks up at the ceiling, “How long have those been up there?”

He follows her gaze. All of the room’s furniture is still hovering toward the ceiling. “I don’t know, however long I’ve been imitating a house elf. A couple of hours?” He scowls, “I am actually an accomplished wizard, in case you’ve forgotten. My brain didn’t disappear along with the dark lord.”

Draco expects her to snap at him for his attitude, but she just keeps smiling. “I haven’t forgotten,” she promises before leaving him to his classroom.

What the fuck.

He finishes cleaning the floor and walls of suspicious stains. He lowers the furniture and intends to get started on them, but after a thorough once over he’s not sure if it’s worth it. The tables are stained and scratched, with burn marks and strange splotches. The chairs aren’t much better.

He taps his wand against his chin. He’s a fair hand at transfiguration, although it’s not his specialty. He could always call Pansy, who does rather have knack for it. But he’s also one of the richest wizards in the world, and half the reason he’s in this dreadful place is to make a statement. So he’ll make a statement. He snaps twice, and two of his house elves appear before him. “Get rid of it,” he says pointing to the furniture that his magic has neatly stacked against the wall. “Burn it, give it away, dump it in the ocean for all I care. But get it out of here.”

“Yes Master,” they say as one, and in the next instant his classroom is bare. He’ll deal with that tomorrow. For now he tackles the storage cupboard and that takes up nearly as much time as cleaning the bloody floor did. He has to entirely reorganize it, and half the ingredients are expired. No wonder there were so many potions stains – it’s a miracle any of them managed to make a complete potion if this is what they were working with. At the end of it his classroom is clean, and the potions ingredients that are worth keeping are organized in a way that won’t kill anyone. It’s also nearly dinner time, so he goes to his own rooms next to the Slytherin dorms.

He steps inside and can feel the tension that had built up in his back loosening. It’s decked out just like home with smooth, ancient lines and a surprisingly pleasing palate of silver and deep purple. A house elf appears at his side, and he looks down and realized it’s Bip. “Very good,” he says, and the little thing puffs up in pride. “The potions classroom should be safe now. Give it a thorough cleaning, but if you see anything unusual get me immediately.”

“Yes Master Draco!” he squeaks before disappearing. The hearth is crackling pleasantly, casting a warm, cheery glow over the rooms. It’s not his country manor or his townhouse in France, but it’s not a bad place to call home.

The shower feels luxurious after the day cleaning. He steps out from under the warm spray of water and dries himself with a flick of his wand. He steps in front of the wardrobe, tapping his wand against his arm. Well, the elves did decorate his quarters in purple. Might as well keep with the theme. He slashes his wand forward, then pulls it quickly back. His wardrobe opens, revolving sets of clothes twirling past. He chooses what he wants with quick flicks of his wand, and when he leaves for the great hall he’s in a robe of the deepest purple and soft grey trousers.

He takes a deep breath before entering the great hall. Into the lion’s den he goes.

“Draco,” McGonagall says as soon as he enters, “You’re looking much better.”

“Well it would be difficult for me to look worse,” he answers. “By the way, I got rid of all the furniture from the Potions room, I couldn’t possibly work with something that – boorish. I’ll arrange for replacements tomorrow.”

She raises an eyebrow, “Very well. It is your classroom.”

Draco nods his thanks and lets his eyes glide over the table. Potter, Granger, and Luna he expected, but not the man avoiding his eyes next to Pomona. “Longbottom,” he greets, gracefully taking his seat next to Filius, who winks at him. He hates himself for finding it comforting. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“He’s my apprentice!” Sprout says cheerfully, “He’s just finished his studies with the McCains, and came seeking an apprenticeship. How could I refuse?”

Draco wrinkles his nose, unable to stop himself. Granger pounces on him instantly, all bushy brown hair and dark brown skin and flashing brown eyes. “Something to say, Malfoy?”

“The McCains are morons,” he says readily, addressing Longbottom instead of Granger. The other man won’t meet his gaze, it’s like he’s talking to a house elf. “I’d do my best to forget whatever they taught you and just go by Sprout’s word.”

“They were a great help during the war,” Granger says archly, like that has any bearing at all on the conversation.

“That’s nice,” he says blandly, “Their gardens refuse to be tended by them anymore, so it’s only a matter of time before they go out of business. If they’re smart they’ll sell to someone who can salvage it before they become destitute.” He pauses, thinking for a moment, and then addresses Longbottom, “Given your well known proclivity for the subject I assume they were all too eager to throw you at the problem. Much like smacking a bandaid on a stab wound.”

Granger’s red in the face, all ready to defend a family he’s sure she’s never had more than a quick conversation with. He fatalistically braces himself for impact, but instead of Granger’s yelling Longbottom finally deigns to speak. “Well,” he says, almost smiling, “I did learn a lot.”

"That’s a fair point,” Draco says after a moment's consideration, “Did you end up setting the singing tulips on fire? That’s what I recommended when they came to me.”

“Why would the McCains go to you?” Granger asks. On one hand he appreciates the older professors letting them have their little dick measuring contest without interfering, but on the other he’s hungry and this is boring.

“They tried to sell their estate to me,” he says, “Unfortunately, I mostly deal abroad and have neither the time nor the inclination to maintain a greenhouse domestically. Too much fussy temperature work when you can just grow the stuff locally and smack a preservation charm on it.”

“Preservation charms still aren’t as good as fresh product,” Longbottom says, and at least the man is actually looking at him.

“No, of course not, but the difference is negligible most of the time. When it isn’t, people can always pay for a portkey transfer.” Longbottom winces. Portkey shipments don’t come cheap, since the charm is such a pain to apply.

Granger inserts herself in the conversation. Again. “What about people that can’t afford the portkey fee?”

He raises an eyebrow and drawls, “Well, if they can’t afford the portkey transfer then they certainly wouldn’t be able to afford the giant markup on product I’d have to make in order to maintain profits if I was also staffing enough herbologists to keep a tropical greenhouse in the middle of winter.” She opens her mouth to say something else irrelevant to the conversation, he’s sure, so he says, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one am starving.” He snaps his fingers rapidly, five times a row, and by the time he’s done the food is set out steaming in front of them.

Minerva takes a quick sip from her goblet to hide her laughter. Draco pointedly ignores everyone but Flitwork for the remainder of the meal. Luckily, the man is more than willing to be dragged into a conversation about the minutia and limitations of the portkey charm.

He feels the weight of someone’s gaze on him the entire time. He’s assuming it’s Granger, but when he looks up she’s deep in conversation with Longbottom.

However, out of the corner of his eye he does see Potter jerk his head down so he’s staring at his plate.

Interesting.

Chapter Text

Diagon Alley is a step away from becoming muggle London at this point, so the next morning Draco doesn’t even bother. He takes the Floo in his quarters straight to Borgin and Burkes, his highest quality robes sitting perfectly on his shoulders – a blue as dark as the night sky and the buttons all up the front charmed to give a subtle twinkle. If one looked closely, different constellations could be seen chasing each other on the robe’s hem. It has been his mother’s, a family heirloom passed onto her from Great Aunt Walburga on her wedding day. His name was written in the stars like all the other Blacks, and he has as much of a right to wear this robe as any of his ancestors.

Also, his mother now rarely wore anything but black. He’d appropriated her wardrobe not long after the war ended, and she hadn’t said a word. He’s yet to be able to gather to courage and ask what, exactly, she was mourning.

“Lord Malfoy,” Borgin says, a steeped old man who’s eyes look too big behind his glasses. Draco reaches inside his cloak, fingers brushing against his wand so he can banish the ash from the soles of his shoes.

“Borgin,” he greets, and the little old man unbends himself just a little, stands that much straighter as he blinks up at Draco. “I need some custom work done. I’m sure you can oblige? I’ll need Burkes’s expertise as well.” They may run an antique shop, but the couple also had a talent for magical craftsmanship. You couldn’t make a living off that, however, as even most noble families bought things that were made the muggle way and then just charmed the finished product. It was exponentially cheaper, although the quality of course just wasn’t the same. Borgin did the actual material shaping, while his husband was particularly skilled at seamless integration of opposing materials and locking and protection spells.

Draco pulls out his wand and summons the plans from his rooms at Hogwarts – unnecessary and a waste of magic, but it wasn’t enough to just display his family and his wealth. Power was important as well. Borgin glances through the schematics, eyebrows rising to his hairline. “Of course, Lord Malfoy. It will be quite costly, however.”

“As superior arts should be,” he sniffs, and the sudden wash of pride looks good on Borgin, makes him look like what he is – a powerful and respectable pureblood. “I need sixteen of them, and they must be delivered to me at Hogwarts by the end of the month at the absolute latest.”

Borgin blinks, and Draco raises an eyebrow. The end of the month is ten days away, and to get sixteen of the desk done Borgin and Burkes will have to close the shop and work straight through. Draco estimates the whole thing will cost more than all the Weasleys make in a year, combined. Good. “Absolutely, Lord Malfoy!” he says, displaying an enthusiasm that Draco doesn’t remember seeing in him since he was a child. “We’ll get started on this right away!”

“Excellent,” he says. “The goblins are handling my accounts now,” another way to display his wealth, since few people have the money to hire the operators of Gringotts. Fools, in Draco’s opinion. They were goblins, and somehow always managed to almost double his profits even after taking out their monstrous fee. “Send the bill their way at your convenience.”

“Thank you, Lord Malfoy,” he says, and it’s a touch too sincere to just be about Draco placing a large order.

Draco tucks his wand back in his robes, “Believe me, Borgin, the pleasure is mine,” and apparates out of there before the man can do something horrid, like smile at him.

He may be rich, but he’s not insane, so he orders the stools from a reputable craftsman in the upper alleys – hand made, but not magic made, and set to be delivered to his classroom in three days. He’s just considering if he should put in an appearance somewhere for lunch or head back to Hogwarts when an excited voice calls out, “Cousin! – Ow, Mom, I mean Lord Malfoy!”

“Draco is fine,” he says dryly, turning on his heel to see Diane Goyle with a long suffering look on her face surrounded by four children. Diane is his great aunt’s youngest daughter on his father’s side, if he’s not mistaken. Not that it matters – after a certain point, everyone just gets relegated to cousin to avoid the headache, and the only time anyone bothers to get specific is when arranging a marriage. “Diane, a pleasure.”

“Lord Draco,” she smirks, going into a neat curtsey that the children – including the boys – attempt to copy with varying levels of success.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” he says, because Diane is a brat. Lucius had complained more than once that she and Draco were too similar for their own good. “School shopping?”

“Cousin!” He looks down, and Diane’s son Markel grabs his hand, tugging it until he obligingly bends enough to look him in the eye. “You’re going to be my head of house, that’s so cool!”

Draco frowns, “You’re not old enough for Hogwarts.”

Markel scowls and pokes Draco in the side with his very bony fingers, and Diane laughs because she’s a traitor. “I’m eleven!”

“Since when?” he demands.

“You were out of the country at the time,” Diane says, amused. “In Russia, I believe.”

“Oh, yes, that,” he says. A patch of Devil’s Snare had become temperamental and started attacking its herbologists, which honestly is only what they’d deserved for putting Devil’s Snare in the same plot as the gillyweed marshes. It had taken him two weeks to sort that mess out and hire a whole new team of herbologists that weren’t going to make his plants revolt on him. He says to Markel, “You better be on your best behavior. You’ll be representing both the Malfoy and Goyle families.”

“Marilyn can represent the Goyles,” he scoffs, “I’ll take the Malfoys.”

A tall girl that Draco knows to be the Goyle heir smacks Markel upside the head. It doesn’t faze him, so Draco assumes it’s a common occurrence. “You’re a disgrace to both families,” she tells him, “You’re lucky Uncle Warren doesn’t lock you in the basement like a squib.”

“Dad would never,” Markel declares, “I’m his only son! His precious child! The light of his life!” The boy Draco is pretty sure is Luca Greengrass raises both his eyebrows, and he has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling.

“Didn’t he threaten to attach you to the ceiling with a permanent sticking charm if you didn’t stop flying your broom into the rose bushes last week?” asks a girl Draco doesn’t recognize, although based on the stormy grey-blue eyes alone he assumes she’s an Ollivander.

“Listen,” Markel says passionately, “there is no reason for us to have ten foot tall rose bushes. None at all. They’re eyesores, just – just a blight on our good name. I was doing him a favor, honestly.”

Draco’s almost certain he made that very same argument to his mother after one (or three, or four) too many run ins with the weeping willows on the property, which unlike muggle ones actually did weep, and did so extremely loudly after Draco would fly into them and get caught in the branches. He trades a look with Diane, because she was a beater during school and he would be shocked if she didn’t have a similar story, and then they have to quickly look away from each other before they burst out laughing.

“I was just heading out to lunch,” he says, interrupting them before a full scale argument can break out. “Won’t you join me?”

The children turn their faces up at him, like sunflowers. As one, they turn to Diane, who’s back to looking long suffering. “We’d be delighted,” she answers. Draco intends to offer her his arm, but instead Markel and Marilyn each grab one of his hands as they begin walking. Markel launches into a story about his latest flying excursion, and Marilyn rolls her eyes. Luca interjects whenever he feels Markel is stretching the truth too much, but the Ollivander girl doesn’t say anything. She just keeps glancing at him with those oddly piercing eyes her family has.

Of course, as soon as they step out of Knockturn Alley Diane’s face smooths out to ice, no long his older, mischievous cousin but Mrs. Goyle, a woman who may not have served Voldemort directly but certainly knew people who did, who did nothing to stop them.  The kids’ smiles slip from their faces and they let go of his hands, falling silent as they rearrange themselves so they’re walking a half step behind the adults.

Draco did the same as a kid, remembers clearing his face of emotions and walking in between and just behind his parents whenever they were out in public. But Draco did it out of a place of arrogance, was more than happy to stand there looking down at people older and taller and more powerful than him because he was the Malfoy heir.

It’s not the same.

~

He means to part ways after lunch, but somehow ends up getting dragged around the rest of the day helping with the kids’ school shopping. They do it all in Diagon Alley, and Diane doesn’t say anything, but Draco is sure before they bumped into each other she was planning to do her shopping in Knockturn.

He doesn’t return to the castle until the moon is high in the sky. The robe is most beautiful at night, the constellations that sparkle along the hem during the day aren’t so confined under moonlight, dancing and twirling gorgeously across the rich blue fabric, and Draco is sure he looks like an idiot standing in front of the castle looking at his robe, but he can’t find it in himself to care. It’s one of the most impressive charms he’s ever come in contact with, the work of Aquila Black over three hundred years ago. She’d spun the thread herself, and she’d made the dye from burning tulips harvested on a three quarters moon. She’d woven the robe as a single garment from that thread, there wasn’t a single seam or stitch on it. It had over a hundred interlocking charms on it, so perfectly merged that even after three centuries not a bit of the spellwork had started to erode or fade. It was honestly easier to make an invisibility cloak than this robe.

Draco goes to his classroom, a reignited determination inside him. History is important, family is important, and he’s not about to let a few pointless wars get in the way of over a thousand years of tradition.

~

There’s a soft chiming that wakes Draco up, low enough not to be jarring but persistent enough that he can’t ignore it and go back to bed. “Milly,” he groans, flinging an arm over his eyes, “I told you not to wake me up today.”

“I is very sorry, Master Draco,” his house elf whispers, and he forces his irritation down because one of the worst ways to start a day is with a crying house elf. “But Headmistress McGonagall sent a message. You be having a meeting, Master Draco?”

“Not until eleven,” he says, and he wants to snap but doesn’t. Maybe he should start having Bip wake him up, the older house elf wasn’t as nice about it but he also didn’t get upset over Draco’s morning attitude.

“It is eleven fifteen,” Milly says.

Draco throws his comforter off and grabs his wand, cursing. “Milly! You should have said that in the first place!” She looks at him with big liquid eyes and twists her ears back in her hand, and Draco wishes not for the first time that it was possible to use magic on your own elves as he slaps her hands away. “Stop that. Make my bed and prepare my robes.” Milly could complete both of those tasks with a single snap of her fingers, but she does it by hand while he quickly applies charms to his face and hair so he doesn’t look like a barbarian. He almost yells at her for that too before remembering she had been one of the Flint elves, and they were rather – harsh, with their elves. There was a reason most of the creatures refused to work for the family anymore. She lays out his silk Slytherin green robes, which are probably overkill for a staff meeting but everything he does is overkill so Milly probably has the right idea. “Very good,” he tells her before running out the door, and he sees her wilt in relief out of the corner of his eye. Good.

He bursts into the meeting twenty five minutes late, robes billowing behind him. “How nice of you to join us,” Minerva says, and before he would have taken it as a slight and said something acidic in return, but at the moment he’s very aware that she’s laughing at him.

“Don’t you start,” he says crossly, taking the empty seat between Filius and Luna, “I’ve been up all the past two nights gathering mourning thistles.”

Pomona raises an eyebrow and Longbottom gives him an odd look, “It’s the new moon.”

“Yes, that’s the point,” he huffs, snapping his fingers. A steaming cup of tea appears in front of him and Granger throws him a disgusted look.

“Mourning thistles become poisonous when picked during the new moon,” Longbottom continues, like Draco is a simpleton. “That’s why they’re called mourning thistles. If you prick yourself on them, you’ll die.”

“Well, unfortunately for you lot, I’m not planning on it,” he says, “Dried mourning thistles picked on the new moon can then be crushed into powder. Which when left in a golden bowl covered in an unbroken spider web under direct sunlight for thirteen days becomes –”

“Poor Man’s Faerie Dust,” Longbottom finishes. “Merlin, that’s a lot of effort to go to. Doesn’t your family sell the stuff? For that matter, I know the Malfoy land has faeries on. You could gather the real stuff easily enough.”

Granger’s looking back and forth between them so quickly he’s surprised she hasn’t given herself whiplash. Potter just looks confused. “If by easily enough you mean by trading my weight in blood for it, maybe.” Didn’t Longbottom get on with the half-giant oaf? No way Hagrid would have ever have suggested someone gather faerie dust alo – then again he did smuggle a dragon onto the grounds and the acromantulas, so maybe he did. “Believe me, I would love nothing more than to sign a great big check on behalf of Hogwarts to myself for potions ingredients, but I’d be slapped with a lawsuit before the ink was dry. It’s a toss up whether it’d be for extortion or money laundering.”

“Why don’t you just continue buying them from wherever Hogwarts usually gets their ingredients?” Potter asks.

Draco sniffs, but before he can say anything Pomona interjects, “And sign a check to his competition instead? I think not, Mr. Potter.” She looks to Draco in interest, “Are you planning on growing all your own ingredients?”

“All the ones I can,” he says, doing his best not to let his surprise show, “I don’t sell frog livers or unicorn hairs and the ilk myself, so I have no problem buying them. There’ll be a few ingredients I’ll have to buy outright simply because of time constraints, but I’ve already created an account with a supplier in Japan.”

“Why Japan?” Granger asks, and at the very least she doesn’t look like she has plans to murder him in his sleep anymore.

“Because I don’t sell in Japan, so at least I’m not giving money to my competition,” he says, “I can see the headlines now – ‘Malfoy Doesn’t Use His Own Product – What Dark Secrets Are His Peach Trees Hiding?’ It would be a nightmare.”

Someone snorts a laugh at that, and Draco is almost impressed when he sees it’s Longbottom. When he realizes everyone’s staring at him his ears go red, “It – peach trees, get it? Because peach pit paste is the binding agent in the potion that – that sneakascopes get soaked in?” Longbottom looks at Draco, “That was the joke, right?”

“Yes, Longbottom, that was the joke,” Luna is looking at the both of them and beaming. He wishes they were still kids so he could just steal her shoes whenever she got annoying.

Actually – he casually touches his hand to the wand hidden in his sleeve, and this charm is tricky to pull off without the wand movements, but – almost – and with a pop of magic Luna’s big eyes blink and she lets out a pleased laugh while Flitwick claps his hands, “Very well done, Mr. Malfoy!”

“What did he do?” Granger asks.

Luna twists herself in an improbable position so her feet are high in the air, “He vanished my shoes!”

Malfoy,” Potter hisses, a glare replacing his look of confusion, which at the very least makes him look more like a proper pureblood and less like a dunderhead. “Can you try not to be a jerk for five minutes?”

He’s not about to justify or explain his relationship with his cousin to anybody, least of all Saint Potter. “Well I could try,” he drawls in the most obnoxious way possible. He addresses Minerva before anyone else has a chance to start yelling at him, “I submitted my lesson plans last week, have you had a chance to go over them?”

“They’re perfectly acceptable,” she says, “Although – weren’t you planning to make the sixth years make the Poor Man’s Faerie Dust next month?”

“I was,” he says, “but I couldn’t be sure some of them wouldn’t poison themselves on purpose out of spite. They’ll get the boring potions until I’m sure they’re not willing to maim themselves.”

She gets a pinched look on her face, and he knows she wants to say that he’s being ridiculous, but he’s really not. He’s certain there’s a Gryffindor stupid enough to risk their own life if they think it’ll get him sacked, and he’s not eager to give them the opportunity. Before the silence can become awkward Pomona pipes in with, “Well, I think growing and harvesting the ingredient yourself is a lovely idea! It’ll give the students a real sense of responsibility. We should partner up, see if the herbology classes can grow some of those for you,” she turns to Longbottom, “Neville dear, do sit down with Draco and figure out a schedule for what he needs when.”

Longbottom looks like he’s being sent to the gallows, and Draco finds himself more amused than disgusted.

~

Draco is seated in front his vanity with his lesson plans spread all around him and Theodore Nott glaring at him from his mirror. “I really don’t see what the problem is,” Draco says, and his mother would be appalled if he could see the state of his hair, but Theo’s seen him scrambling to get ready for class in his underwear, so that air of mystery has been gone for about a decade.

“The problem,” Daphne says, pushing Theo out of the way so she takes up the majority of the mirror, “is that you didn’t tell us.” Honestly, the oddest relationship to come out of the war had been those two. Theo was the son of a sadistic deatheater and Daphne was a Greengrass. So strange.

“I don’t see why I would,” he answers, “Do you care if I spend my days teaching snot nosed children how to make pepper up potion?”

“My family still has a Wizenmagot seat,” she glares, “if you’re preparing to take office you should have told me! We can start softening up the other members for you.”

Daphne had always been able to see through all his bullshit. It’s one of the reasons he’d purposely not hung out with her much in school. “Why go through the effort? Neither the Greengrass nor the Nott families have an alliance with the Malfoys.”

“It’s not the twelfth century anymore Draco,” she rolls her eyes, “not everything is down to alliances signed in blood and life debts.”

“Well, what is it down to then?” he demands, absently switching a couple lessons to give the herbology students some room for error.

“Blood,” she says, and Draco looks up sharply, because those are dangerous words without any context. “You do support the Blood Laws, don’t you?”

“Obviously,” he says.

She shrugs, “Good, Great Aunt Eliza does too.” Lady Eliza Greengrass was beautiful and scary – her and Rosamund had gone to Hogwarts at the same time, about thirty or so years before Albus Dumbledore. “Draco, give it fifty years and no one will care about this silly war. But you are Lord Malfoy, and with that titles comes a reputation and power that my family simply doesn’t have.”

“Greengrass has been a part of the House of Lords and Ladies far longer than the Malfoys,” he says but when she simply raises an eyebrow at him he almost grins, “All right, I understand, I’m just saying.”

Theo squeezes back into the mirror to say, “Look, it’s not like anyone cares where you come from or when your family came over from France. You’re the son of Malfoy and Black, and when you speak people will listen. We did.”

“We were children, and I was an obnoxious pain in the ass,” he throws back, “Flattery doesn’t work when your target knows you’re lying.”

“You were an asshole,” Daphne agrees, and Draco rolls his eyes. “But you were fun, too. You were clever and ridiculous and charming and powerful. That’s more than enough reason for people to follow you.”

Draco stares at her for a long moment. Daphne has always been able to see through all his bullshit. He hadn’t expected her opinion to be anything close to positive. “Okay,” he says, and has to clear his throat before he can continue, “flattery does work sometimes.”

Daphne’s grin is wicked – underneath all the lace and manners, she is one of them after all. “Now, we obviously can’t push for the Blood Laws immediately –”

Pip appears next to him with a quiet crack. “Master Draco,” she whispers, “Professor Potter is here for you.”

He sighs deeply. “Getting abandoned for Potter,” Theo says, “I really do feel like we’re back in school now.”

“Sod off,” he says, “We’ll talk later.”

“Looking forward to it!” Daphne says cheerfully before dragging Theo out of the frame of the mirror. Draco cancels the two-way charm and summons a sheet over the mirror for good measure before going to answer his door, charming his hair smooth as he goes.

He’s not sure what he’s expecting, exactly. Accusations of being an evil, a curse to the face, or even a punch. What he’s definitely not expecting is Potter awkwardly shuffling outside his door and fiddling with his shirt cuffs. “Hey, Malfoy,” he says, smiling automatically before remembering they don’t smile at each other and forcing his face quickly into an exaggerated frown. “I mean Draco – I mean – Professor?”

Honestly.

“Don’t hurt yourself Potter,” he drawls, leaning against the door frame. “Call me whatever you like. You’ve never needed permission before.”

“Right,” he runs his hand through his hair. Has he never heard of a grooming charm? Granger at least always manages to look respectable and she has enough hair to make sweaters for several small impoverished countries. “I have a question.”

Draco waits. Potter continues standing there looking like he’d rather be anywhere else. "Yes?"

Harry rubs the back of his neck and won’t meet his eyes. “I wasn’t trying to see – it’s just, when you were cleaning floor, you had your – your sleeves were rolled up.”

Draco stares. Is Potter trying to tell him he’s aroused by his forearms?

“I saw your arm. There’s – are you using a charm to hide it?” Draco keeps staring. Harry gives an embarrassed shrug, “I didn’t think you could cover it is all.”

“Potter,” he says finally, “would you like to try that again, in English? Or French, or German, or Latin. My Japanese is pretty rusty, but we can get Luna in here if it’ll make you start making sense.”

“Your Dark Mark,” Potter snaps, flushing, and merlin, why couldn’t he have started out with that in the first place?

Draco sighs and neatly rolls up the sleeve of his left arm to his elbow, “Satisfied?”

Potter’s mouth parts in surprise, and he absently takes Draco’s wrist in one hand, pulling him closer so he can raise Draco’s arm up to where he can see it better. He runs careful fingers over his unblemished skin, and Draco doesn’t consider himself to be overly pale, but it’s such a stark contrast to see his colorless skin next to Potter’s.  “I saw it,” he says quietly, more to himself than Draco.

“It was just a muggle tattoo,” he says, and Potter’s eyes finally flicker up to his. They are standing far too close for propriety. “Just a needle and ink. My mother convinced Voldemort that it would be too much of a risk during our sixth year for his magic to be on me, and then he just – forgot, I don’t know.”

“Did it hurt?” Potter asks.

He’s probably asking about getting it, but he says, “I cut it out myself with a silver dagger as soon as we got home, because I’m an idiot. My parents aren’t well versed in healing spells, so I ended up brewing a healing potion myself that night. Dax was pissed.”

They are undoubtedly standing too close. “Dax?” And all it once it crashes down on Draco that this is Harry Potter so of course he doesn’t know the name of the elf that’s served Malfoy Manor for three generations. He doesn’t know anything, he’s a selfish, pathetic excuse for a pureblood and the last thing Draco needs to do is forget that even if they’re not enemies they’ve certainly never been friends.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says, stepping back with his head tilted up just enough that he has to look down at Potter. “Is your curiosity satisfied? May I return to my work?”

“Oh,” he blinks, hastily stepping back as well, “Yes, of course. Sorry.”

Draco slams the door shut with an imperious eye roll, then leans back against it.

Must not forget that for all his other virtues, Potter is still a blood traitor. Must not forget.

~

It’s the day before the students are set to arrive when Milly pops in front of him and says, “Misters Borgin and Burkes for you in the Great Hall, Master Draco.”

“Excellent,” he says, grateful to shove the giant tome on spell theory Flitwick has assigned him aside. If he has to read another sentence about how wand movements correlated to voice volume, he's going to gouge his eyes out.

He sweeps into the Great Hall and pauses at the entrance way. Borgin and Burkes are standing there in their best robes, spines straight and sneers on their lips as they should be. But that certainly doesn’t explain why every other professor is standing there as well. “Did any of you need anything?” he says, and everyone’s eyes land on him.

“You didn’t say you were getting the desks from them,” Minerva says, and he can tell she’s two seconds away from throwing up her hands and walking out. This is her own fault, she knew exactly how he was when she hired him.

“You got desks from an antique shop?” Granger questions.

Longbottom starts, “Oh, Hermione, no –”

“My husband and I,” Burkes says, glaring dark eyes down at her, “are makers of magical objects, which is the service Lord Malfoy has employed us for.”

“This is brilliant!” Pomona beams, “What a wonderful addition to the castle.”

Borgin and Burkes soften slightly. Pomona has that effect on people, and Draco doesn't think she even does it on purpose.

Draco is about to tell them all to scram, but – Borgin and Burkes could use an audience. It’s been too long since they’ve had one. “Very well,” he turns on his heel, “We best get started.”

He doesn’t look behind him, but he knows they’re all following him. He opens the door to potions classroom with a swish.

He’s spent the better part of the past week getting it ready, and the looks of surprise and admiration on everyone’s faces are certainly worth it. The stones have been scrubbed until they gleamed, and the floor is covered with a thin layer of magic to protect the castle’s stonework from absorbing any more spilled potions. It had taken Draco and Filius that better part of three days to work out the correct incantations, and every couple minutes the floor would spark and glitter with their magic. He’d banished all the candles and sconces – which had always been completely inefficient at providing enough light to work by anyway. Instead scattered across the ceiling were glass orbs containing suspended lumos charms, so a steady soft light filled the room. He’d sacrificed the entire left wall for a glass storage case for all the dry ingredients, while the wet ones were kept in cabinets of darkly polished wood. The right wall was a series of intricate shelves that contained everything from the gold cauldrons needed for advanced potions to motar and pestles to different stirring spoons and vials needed for varying potions. Draco had shoved all the unused books in the old storage closet and installed a safe in the very back for the truly dangerous ingredients, something he wouldn’t have thought to do if he hadn’t remembered the ridiculous polyjuice situation that Granger had gotten involved in during their second year.

He’d turned the dark and dank room into something bright and beautiful and glittering. Even Pansy had been impressed when he’d taken her mirror around. “Everyone up against the wall,” he commands, “Give them some room.” He temporarily cancels his and Filius’s charm on the floor. They can recast it once this is over.

Everyone shuffles against the wall at the front of the classroom, doubling up when they run out of room. Borgin goes to one end of the room, and Burkes to the other. Burkes removes a stack of papers from inside his robe, and with a dramatic twirl of his wand all sixteen of them are arranged in neat rows on the ground. He raises his wand, “On my count. One, two –”

“Three,” Borgin finishes, and as one they move their wands in a complicated design, golden fire trailing from their wands. Each one of them is sketching one half of a celtic knot, and once it’s complete they fling their wands forward and back like fishing poles so the designs collide into each other, the force of their combined magic so powerful that the castle shakes. The papers burn and expand, twisting until they become perfectly polished rectangles of obsidian. The sparks lengthen and grow until delicate threads of polished iron curl under the blocks of obsidian and raise them from the ground, legs growing from the dainty iron. Once they stop growing the last sparks dance along the legs and sides of the desk top, inscribing runes into the surface.

Draco walks down the center aisle, running critical eyes over the desks. They are more beautiful than he imagined. He looks to the craftsmen and says, “Excellent work. As I expected.”

They give him shallow bows, “Thank you, Lord Malfoy. It’s always an honor to service the Malfoy family.”

“As it is our honor to be so serviced by those of unparalleled skill,” he returns. He casts a wordless summoning charm, and the matching stools he’d commissioned appear alongside the desks. Perfect.

“Wonderful,” Pomona says, “Absolutely wonderful! Come on boys, I’ll show you two out.”

They leave with Sprout, the older woman still heaping compliments on them. “That was amazing,” Longbottom says, and Draco decides to stop being surprised by Longbottom. At this rate it can only become exhausting. “My gran has a china cabinet that’s magic made, a few other things. But sixteen desks! Incredible.”

“They’ll probably outlive all of us,” Draco agrees, “At least we won’t have any more life threatening potions accidents.”

“What do you mean?” Granger butts in, her fingers twitching like she wants nothing more than to run her hands over the desks. “What are those runes?”

“Protection,” Minerva says, and she’s looking at Draco like he’s not what she expected again. “The obsidian and iron absorb excess magic to prevent it from affecting the potion, as well as acting like a low level cleansing charm so objects or ingredients that have been tampered with won’t be affected. The runes are for neutrality and protection – should a potion explode, the magic of the explosion will be contained by the desks themselves.”

“But not the potion itself,” Draco says, “Pomfrey will still be healing burns every week.”

“That’s really impressive,” Potter says. Granger elbows him in the side, and he winces but doesn’t look at her.

Filius pats Draco on the arm – the highest part he can reach. “Truly a work of art, Draco. The students will be thrilled.”

The students. Who are arriving tomorrow.

Right, brilliant. Draco can do this. He can handle a few hundred children.

It’s going to be fine.

Chapter Text

Draco wears the silk Slytherin green robes to the sorting. He knows the kind of attention it’ll draw, but he’s not ashamed of who he is and he won’t allow his students to be either.

“This is my favorite part,” Filius says, straining to get a better look at the line of first years nervously walking into the Great Hall, “I love beginnings!”

Draco rolls his eyes. Just because he likes the man and thinks he’s brilliant hasn’t changed his opinion that Flitwick is more than a bit odd. His eyes scan the students, and he has no problem picking out Markel, his cousin walking side by side next to Marilyn, their heads held high. They’ll go to his house, no doubt. Luca Greengrass and the Ollivander girl follow behind, and Luca will likely be Slytherin as well. There hasn’t been an Ollivander since Hogwarts’s founding that hasn’t gone to Ravenclaw, but that’s fine – their family is loyal to the magic, and it always had been. No matter what side of the war they fall on, they never forget their duty.

The Flint twins will be sorted into Slytherin, of course. They’re impeccably mannered vindictive little brats, if Draco’s memory serves him correctly. There’s a Patil down there, and they’re always a wild card. There are two Brown cousins, and they’ll go to Gryffindor of course. He goes through the rest of the children, mentally ticked off family ties and house allegiances as he goes.

There are six children he doesn’t know. Halfbloods then, or muggleborns. There’s a boy that reminds him strongly of Pansy, but he knows all the Parkinson children and he would have heard if one had gone rogue and shacked up with a muggle, so he dismisses that out of hand. However the Parkinsons and Carrows do share a common ancestor, and he wouldn’t be surprised at all if one of latter lost their marbles and got attached to a muggle.

“Pay attention,” Luna says, elbowing Draco as Pomona begins reading off the names.

There aren’t any surprises. The Patil goes to Hufflepuff, and Slytherin gets the Goyles, the Flints, Luca, plus three more children from respectable families and one of the kids he doesn’t recognize. Nine is a small class, but not reprehensible, he can work with nine – they’re only halfway through the sorting, but he’s not expecting any more. All the others are either allied directly against them, or too loyal to their family’s house to stray.

“Andrea Ollivander,” Pomona calls out, and Draco doesn’t even look up. She’ll provide a strong alliance for his snakes in Ravenclaw – she and Marilyn have been friends since they were toddlers, and it’s unlikely that either girl will throw away that friendship now.

“SLYTHERIN!” the hat call out.

Draco whips his head up. He’s not the only one to do so. The hall goes so silent you could hear a pin drop.

Andrea calmly takes off the hat and hands it to a wide eyed Pomona. She looks straight at Draco and inclines her head while going into a deep curtsey. Draco nods in return, mouth dry, and he cannot believe this is happening. This has never happened before – Ollivanders go to Ravenclaw, they always have. Marilyn shoves Markel down the bench to make room for Andrea, and at that the whole house comes alive, clapping to welcome to their new house mate. It sounds especially loud since no one in the halls is making even a whisper of noise.

“Holy shit,” Luna says, “Even I didn’t see that coming. And I’m the divinations professor.”

“Oh, knock it off,” Granger snaps, and Draco glances at her and Potter – neither of them understand what just happened, but it looks like at least they understand that they don’t understand. He’s not going to be the one to explain it to them – let Longbottom take care of that.

Luna raises a single eyebrow, “There are mystical forces beyond our control, Hermione. It does not do to be a disbeliever of the universe.”

The thing about Luna, even when she was a little kid, is that she can say the stupidest shit with a completely straight face. She’s not clinically insane like Xeno, so Draco doesn’t know how much of her crap she actually believes, but he does know his cousin well enough to know that she’s messing with Granger right now. Granger doesn’t though, which makes it extra hilarious.

The rest of the sorting doesn’t go as expected. He gets two more of the unknown students, and one of the Abbott cousins, which is a surprise. They’re more flexible with their house allegiances, but they almost always end up in either Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, bringing up the total of his first year class to twelve. That’s almost as many as they used to have before the first war.

Draco looks down the table at Minerva. She looks incredibly pleased with herself, and all the Slytherins keep glancing up at him like he’ll disappear if at least one of them isn’t looking directly at him.

Luna nudges him in the ribs and he almost smiles at her. It is, tentatively speaking, a massive success.

~

He strides into the Slytherin common room after the feast, and the seventy three students he’s now directly responsible for are assembled in neat rows, his twelve new first years in the front and a group of decidedly unimpressed seventh years in the back, including one girl who’s outright glowering at him. He can’t decide if he’s impressed or offended.

“Hello,” he says, placing his hands behind his back. None of them say anything back, but he hadn’t expected them to. “Everyone from a noble house, step to the other side of the room.”

There’s a moment of confused stillness, but then half of his students shuffle over to one side of the room. “Everyone who’s a pureblood, to the left wall.” Most of the rest walk over, leaving fourteen nervous children, including the three first years he hasn’t recognized. “Halfbloods to my left, muggleborns to my right.”

Six muggleborns, and eight halfbloods, but only four years shared between the muggleborns. He turns to address the halfblood group, “You will be judged for the actions of your parents. It’s unfortunate, but can’t be helped. But you are here now, and you are of magic. You were born to be right here, in this world and with these people.” He rubs the back of his neck, and it’s a sign of weakness, but it’s one that makes the kids instantly relax, which had been the whole point. “You know the line you walk better than most. Which is why it is your job to help your muggleborn classmates. They’re being thrown into this world blind, and it is you alone who can explain it to them, who know the world they came from and the world they’re now a part of.”

He looks to the noble children, and he knows all of them of course, knows their parents and their lords and ladies. “We must not allow our muggleborn and halfblood brethren to fall behind and disgrace our house. They must be educated, because Slytherins are educated, and they’re one of us now. I require four volunteers to give up two hours a day three times a week.”

“I’ll do it!” Raina Lestrange says, determined.

Markel and Marilyn share a considering glance before they both step forward. “We’ll help!”

“Me as well,” Liam Parkinson says, probably knowing full well that if he doesn’t his Aunt Pansy will kill him.

Draco inclines his head in thanks, then makes a sweeping gesture, “All of you back in one group.” They listen, mixing together once again, but more than a few of them are giving him strange looks. That’s fine. “Blood is important,” he says seriously, and the halfbloods and muggleborns flinch, “It is the very foundation of our society, the support structure to which our culture relies on.” He looks at each of them, those angry scared faces, and he aches to know that he was once that small, that young, that alone. “You are all here by right of blood. Magic runs through your veins, makes it home in your heart. Some of you answer to Lords and Ladies who guard your family’s magic, some of you are from families who’ve always fulfilled your duties, and some of you have no ancient blood in your veins, are new and alone, adrift at sea.” He makes certain to look every muggleborn in the eye, “You are magic’s gift to this world. You were born of it and you will die by it, and there will always be a place for you here. But magic doesn’t come free, it doesn’t come cheap. It will take, and you must be willing to give.”

The purebloods are looking at him, something solemn and ancient in these childs' faces because they have never forgotten their place in this world, their families know their debt. Marilyn, the heir to the Goyle family, looks like she’s a moment away from crying and Markel takes her hand.

Magic isn’t pretty. It’s isn’t nice, it isn’t easy. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying attention. The muggleborns and halfbloods don’t understand, not really, but that’s okay too.

They will learn. Draco has no more patience for blood traitors, for betrayers, for those who take and do not give. Slytherins have always guarded the ancient ways, and no matter what those muggle loving fools like to think, they are needed now more than ever.

~

“How’d it go?” Pansy demands, crowding into his mirror. Draco twitches because his back is to the mirror and he’s mostly naked. He’s certain he’d left a sheet over his mirror for this very reason. “Did Liam behave?”

Well, it’s not like Pansy hasn’t seen him naked before. “It went fine,” he sighs, turning around. He then freezes and glares, because Pansy isn’t alone in his mirror. “Hello Lord Parkinson.”

“Lord Malfoy,” William says. He’s Pansy’s cousin (great uncle once removed, technically), and the old man is so laughing at him right now. He tries to decide what would be less dignified – scrambling into some clothes or continuing this conversation in his underwear. “I trust the children are well?”

Whatever. He’s pretty sure Lord Parkinson had changed his diapers at some point anyway. “As well as can be expected, I suppose. We have twelve first years.”

Pansy beams and a slow look of surprise and pleasure comes over William’s face. Draco’s glad to see it – he was only a decade or so older than Lucius, but the cheerful man had begun to look – worn, since the war had ended. Things had gotten so much harder for them all after the war ended. “That is very good news.”

“We got an Ollivander,” he says, and laughs out loud when Pansy shoves her cousin up against the mirror in her excitement.

“You’re lying!” she accuses, but her face is as bright and happy as he’s seen it since they were children. Pansy is remarkably pretty when she smiles. “They always go to Ravenclaw!”

William carefully pushes himself away from the glass and throws Pansy a fondly exasperated look, “Who is it?”

“Andrea, the wandmaker’s niece if I’m not mistaken. She’s the, uh,” he frowns and looks to Pansy. She knows the Ravenclaw families better than he does.

“Third cousin twice removed from Lady Ollivander, and a second cousin once removed to Lord Brown,” she says promptly.

Both Draco and William stare at her. “The Ollivanders and Browns intermarried?”

“Third cousins, the youngest of their families at the time,” Pansy says dismissively, “Nothing to cause a scandal, unfortunately.” Pansy did love a good scandal. It’s probably why she's even better than Draco at tracking family lines. “Anyway, she’s not a prominent member of the Ollivander family, unless they plan to marry her to the son of the heir.”

“Oberon?” Draco says, raising an eyebrow. Future heir or not, Oberon was a funny looking kid. Nice, though, and he knew the Ollivanders were into that sort of thing.

Pansy must know what he’s thinking, because she smirks and says, “Now now, the Ollivanders are a wonderful, if strange looking, family.”

“Just the men,” William says dryly, “The women have always been quite lovely.” He gives Draco an appreciative once over, “We can’t all be Malfoys, after all.”

Draco does a little twirl, and Pansy dissolves into peals of laughter, “Being this pretty is a burden, but I suppose someone must bear it.”

William rolls his eyes, “Good night, Lord Malfoy.” He taps his wand to the glass and it shimmers like throwing a stone in a lake before it’s simply his mirror once more.

“Good night, Lord Parkinson,” he says, although the man is no longer able to hear it.

For the first time in a long time, things are looking up.

~

Draco can’t help but be smug when he swans in the next day and sees how exhausted the other heads of house look, and the students from the other houses in varied states of harried sleep deprivation. His snakes, on the other hand, look perfectly presentable.

“Why do you look so chipper?” Potter mutters, resting his chin on his hand in a horrible attempt to hide the fact that he’s moments away from falling asleep at the high table. “You must have been up half the night with your students. Or do Slytherins consider it beneath them to celebrate returning to school?”

His good mood is instantly halved, and he moves to take his traditional seat between Luna and Filius. “Most things are beneath us, or so I’m told.”

Potter’s too tired to do more than glare at him, but it’s not like he’s the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with. A strong hand grabs his wrist, and Draco’s eyebrows shoot to his forehead as Longbottom presses Draco’s hand to his face. “Neville!” Granger says, appalled.

He ignores her and looks up Draco accusingly, still holding his hand. “Cinnamon and mandrake! You rotten cheat!”

He smirks, “Oh is intelligence cheating now? I suppose that’s why you’ve always been so honest.”

Potter snarls, but Longbottom only holds out his other hand, “Malfoy, Lord or not, if you don’t share I will drag you onto the grounds and strangle you. Custom be damned.”

This is the best conversation he and Longbottom have ever had. He should make sure he’s sleep deprived more often, “Did the ickle Hufflepuffs keep you awake all night?” As Pomona’s apprentice, he had rooms right next to hers, and therefore right next to the Hufflepuff common room.

“They were bloody screaming until four in the morning,” he glares, “Hand it over!”

“Neville, what are you talking about?” Granger demands.

Luna leans her elbows on the table and shakes her hair over her shoulders to hide the fact she’s grinning, “Well, Draco is the Potions Master, isn’t he?”

“The bastard made pepper up potion for his house,” Longbottom says.

Draco scoffs, “Don’t be ridiculous – I had the fifth years do it. They were more than happy for a jump on their extra credit.”

Draco,” Longbottom says warningly.

He rolls his eyes, “All right, all right, there’s no need to be so dramatic.” Filius snorts and Minerva develops a sudden cough, which he manfully ignores. Draco reaches into his robs with the hand Longbottom isn’t currently keeping hostage, and with a twirl and pull of his wand the vial drops out of the air into Longbottom’s waiting hand.

He uncaps it and downs it in one go, and instantly looks refreshed. “That was three doses,” Draco says dryly.

Longbottom finally lets go of his hand and returns the vial which Draco vanishes back to his classroom. “Excellent. I might just make it to lunch now.”

“Sure Longbottom,” he says, finally taking his seat, “Just don’t come crying to me when you cough smoke for the next week.”

Longbottom frowns, and the man is well on his way to being a herbology master, he should be well aware of the effect of too much powdered bicorn horn. “Call me Neville,” he says, jutting up his chin like he’s daring Draco to refuse, “We’ll save the last names for when we’re serving in the House together.”

He stares, and it’s not like it’s a bad idea. Draco’s on a first name basis with the man’s grandmother after all, and despite appearances Augusta can’t actually live forever, so one day her grandson will take her place and become Lord Longbottom. But Augusta knows better than to let a war get in the way of tradition. Then again, there’s war and there’s years of petty bullying, and oddly Draco considers one harder to get over than the other. Look at Snape.

Actually, comparing him to Snape is a disservice to both of them so Draco puts the whole idea out his head and says, “Don’t be ridiculous, Neville. Augusta is going to outlive both of us.”

~

Draco arrives late to his first class of the day because he can, and to be honest he just wants to see what they’ll do when they’re left alone for fifteen minutes. It’s Gryffindor and Slytherin third years, so he’s half expecting his classroom to be destroyed when he walks inside.

Instead it’s dead silent. The houses appear to be having a staring contest, which while ridiculous is at least not destructive. “Gather your belongings and stand up,” he orders.

The Slytherins obey instantly. The Gyffindors take three times as long to do the same, but Draco doesn’t give them the satisfaction of repeating himself. “One Gryffindor and one Slytherin to a desk. You have thirty seconds to pick your seats before I pick them for you.”

There’s a moment of stunned silence from both sides. He raises an eyebrow. “Now you have twenty seconds.”

Raina runs to the middle desk in the front row, uncaring of who sits beside her. The rest of his Slytherins exchange quick glances, and they all take the left spot on the desk. The weakest of them sit in the front, and strongest to the back to keep an eye on the rest. There’s a reason Draco sat at the back of every class, and while he wishes this wasn’t something his students felt the need to do, he’s glad to see that they’re still looking out for each other. The Gryffindors, as expected, spend fifteen seconds looking indignant and then randomly throw themselves into whatever seat’s available at the last moment.

“Congratulations,” he says, “The person sitting beside you is your lab partner for the rest of the year.”

Raina looks horrified. She turns to glare at the cringing redheaded boy next to her, who is obviously a Weasley, and it would be completely unprofessional for Draco to laugh at her, but he’s sorely tempted.

“Now,” he claps his hands, “I’d introduce myself, but you all know who I am. To start – put your cauldrons away, and take out a notebook. Potions isn’t charms, or transfiguration. It’s dangerous and one wrong move could have you blowing up my classroom. I will be very cross if you blow up my classroom.”

The Gryffindors and Slytherins alike are glaring at him, so that’s a start. All except Raina, who sits with her quill poised and ready.

He’s sending Rosamund a fruit basket. Thank merlin for the Lestranges.

~

He has student schedules in front of him, trying to figure out a period of time that works for all of them. He considers adding in the halfbloods for a moment, but it’s not worth the effort. They grew up with it, at least in part. He’ll let them know they’re allowed to sit in on the lessons, but won’t require it. Once a week he’ll lead the lesson, and the other two sessions he’ll leave up to the purebloods to tell the muggleborns what they think they ought to know. Considering all the purebloods who volunteered are also from noble families, it’ll be a good test of their leadership skills.

He considers opening it the other houses, but decides against it. The Gryffindors will be sure sabotage it, and it’s not like he can allow everyone but them to join. He may recommend to Pomona and Filius that they start one, however – it’s foolish to think children will pick up on traditions and duty when there a plenty of adults that don’t follow them.

He’s still turning it over in his head when he heads out to lunch, and he leans around Luna to say to Minerva, “Are there any empty classrooms I can take over?” He doesn’t want to hold it in his potions classroom because they shouldn’t get used to doing non-potions work there, because then they’ll get careless during class. Being careless around potions ends in explosions.

She raises an eyebrow, “Any particular reason?”

He considers lying, not because he thinks Minerva will care but because he knows Granger’s going to kill him. Well, she had to find out about it eventually. “I’m holding classes for the muggleborns.” Granger manages to hold herself back, but they’re going to have this argument anyway so he tacks on, “They’ll never marry into good families if they stay ignorant.” Which isn’t untrue – the best thing a muggleborn can do is marry into a noble family. Back before these ridiculous wars that’s exactly what they did, and the families were more than delighted to accept new blood into the line. Fuck – it’s what Lily Evans did.

Excuse me?” Granger spits, and at least they’re having this argument where there are a couple hundred witnesses. She probably won’t Avada Kadavra him in the middle of lunch.

Neville is a future Lord, so Draco knows he understands the necessity of educating the muggleborns, but he slinks down in his seat anyway, shooting Draco an utterly betrayed look. Honestly, if he’d thought Draco had become any less of a asshole then that’s his own problem. “I won’t have uneducated children in my house,” he says firmly, “Their parents can’t teach them what they need to know. Besides,” he sniffs, “that’s what Muggle Studies actually was before Dumbledore made the brilliant decision to switch to it to being about teaching wizards about muggles, an utterly worthless pastime.”

“Knowing about muggles isn’t worthless!” she glares.

He raises an eyebrow, “Oh really? What can I, an adult wizard, learn from muggles?”

“Electricity!” she says, “Inventions, ingenuity, science – biology! Ooh, there’s so much wizards don’t know, and you stand there, so smug in your ignorance, and have the audacity to call us the uneducated ones!”

Luna and Neville won’t look at either of them, and Draco doesn’t blame them for it. Granger is their friend, but she’s also wrong. Surprisingly, it’s Pomona that says, “Marina de la Cruz froze a lightning bolt out of the sky and used it to develop the first stages of the lumos charm in the year three hundred forty five before common era.”

“The first complete mapping of the human body was done by a mediwizard in the year two hundred seventeen common era,” Fillius adds, a single bushy eyebrow raised, “What is it, exactly, that you believe your own kind to be lacking in?”

“Because just to be clear,” Draco cuts in firmly, “you are not a muggle. You’re a witch. In case you’ve forgotten.”

Granger’s gone from red faced to pale, and that can’t be healthy. Potter is looking between them, and by the look in his face this is all news to him too. Despicable. The son of James Potter doesn’t know anything about who he is, about his family and his world. This is precisely why they need the Blood Laws.

He takes a deep breath and gentles his voice, because for once he’s not actually trying to be cruel to her. “There’s a lot that you don’t know, Granger. Because no one thought to tell you. Sure – you read about the history of Hogwarts, were probably the only one to pay attention in history of magic. But goblin wars and the history of witch burnings – sure they’re interesting, important even if you’re planning to go into politics.” Which he’s fully aware Granger plans on doing, they’ll probably end up serving on Wizengamot together. “Do you know why your boyfriend and I never got along?”

“Husband,” she corrects acidly, “Because you’re a self centered, cruel hearted bastard who cares for no one but himself?”

“Miss Granger!” Minerva says, appalled, but Draco raises a hand to silence her. Granger doesn’t know the insult she’s delivered, so he won’t hold it against her. Besides, Granger is vicious when she feels attacked. If she’d been marked as Voldemort’s nemesis the dark lord would have been dead by the time they took their OWLS.

He leans his elbow on the table and sets his chin on his hand, “We have a three centuries long blood feud. On top of that, the Weasleys are officially recognized as blood traitors.” He directs his next words to Neville, “I’m surprised Augusta allowed you to be friends.”

Neville glares at him, but Draco only raises an eyebrow. He’s going to be Lord Longbottom someday; he has to at least acknowledge his odd alliances. The House will eat him alive otherwise. “She said that we had more pressing concerns besides blood,” he says reluctantly, “and that they were still purebloods besides – it’s not like they married muggles or anything.” As soon as it comes out his mouth he goes red, “Hermione, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Don’t apologize,” Draco commands, “She’s not a muggle, why should she be offended?”

“My parents are muggles!” she says, standing with her grip on her wand. The students are going to start noticing if she doesn’t calm down. “There’s nothing wrong with being a muggle!”

“Of course not,” he says, and she’s so surprised by him that she actually sits down again. Good. “There’s nothing wrong with dogs being dogs, either, or dragons being dragons or centaurs being centaurs. But it is what they are. It’s the way they were born and the way they will die. And you, Granger, are no different. You were born a witch and you will die a witch and it’s high time you started acting like it.”

There’s a dead silence at the table, and everyone is looking at him. Bloody hell, he’d just wanted lunch. “Is there a classroom I can use?” he repeats, looking back at Minerva.

She hesitates, but nods, “There’s a spare room at the base of the East tower. Feel free to use that.”

“Thank you,” he looks down at his roasted duck, but they’re all still starring at him, and honestly he’s not even hungry anymore. “Excuse me,” he says, getting to his feet, “I have some concerns I need to attend to.”

He can feel their eyes on him as he walks away, and he can feel a headache building behind his eyes.

He needs a drink. Thank merlin it’s Friday.

~

He makes it through the rest of the day and as soon as his last class lets out he floos Blaise, who is his friend for a multitude of reason but mostly for the way he takes one looks at Draco’s face and says, “Get back,” before stepping through the flames.

“I just wanted to talk,” he says but Blaise steps up and pulls him into a tight hug. Shit. He must look miserable. “It’s not that bad.”

“Muggles got you in a moon?,” he asks, pressing a kiss to Draco’s temple, and he has to smile.

“It’s not the muggles,” he says, “If only.”

Blaise pulls back and throws another handful of powder in the fire, “Pansy Parkinson.”

“This really isn’t necessary,” he says, but he’s ignored.

Pansy’s head appears in the fire, and she gives them both a quick once over before informing them, “I expected this,” and stepping through his fire with two bottles of high quality firewhiskey in her hands.

“This really isn’t necessary,” he tries, but Pansy bites off the cork of one of the bottles and hands it to him while walking over to bounce onto his bed. The bottle is smoking. Blaise toes off his shoes and sheds his jacket before following her.

He can’t even track the days he spent lying around his rooms, both at the manor and Hogwarts, in a messy pile of limbs with Blaise and Pansy, and they haven’t done it in – a long time. So he puts aside any other protests he can drudge up and shoves Pansy over so he can fit onto his own bed.

He snaps his fingers and Milly appears in front of him. She smiles at the sight of them all before quickly schooling her face into a neutral expression. He won’t hold it against her; he’s aware they look ridiculous. “Yes Master Draco?”

“Two bottles from my private stock,” he orders in between swigs of the firewhiskey, “Dax will know the ones, he’ll show you.”

“Yes Master Draco,” she agrees before disappearing.

Pansy rolls over so she can hook her chin over his hip, “How’s your army of house elves?”

He groans and charms the firewhiskey out of the bottle so he doesn’t embarrass himself trying to drink from the bottle while lying down. Blaise pokes his side impatiently, so he directs the stream of smoking alcohol in his direction first. “Lovely, actually. Having seventy three spoiled, needy brats to care for is the best thing that’s ever happened to them.”

“I’m sure all the latent magic around here doesn’t hurt either,” Blaise says dryly, lifting his wand to direct the stream over to Pansy.

Draco pouts, but she only shifts enough to take two unreasonably large swallows of the firewhiskey before finally allowing Draco his turn. “Well, they certainly haven’t complained.

“They’re good elves,” Blaise says approvingly, “Very loyal, especially now that they have a Master worth being loyal too.”

Draco drinks instead of responding to that, and Blaise sighs but doesn’t push.

Especially since at that point Milly returns with two bottles of iceberry wine. “Nice,” Blaise snags both bottles. “Very good,” he says to Milly, who beams before vanishing.

“Have you been holding out on us?” Pansy demands, twisting herself upright so she can steal one of the bottles from Blaise, “I’ve been in your wine cellar, and I would have remembered these.”

“They’re from Russia,” he says, “They came highly recommended.”

She uncorks the bottle, and wine needs to settle they aren’t barbarians, except Pansy apparently is because she tips back the bottle and takes one long gulp. Draco’s appalled, but Blaise just looks impressed. “That’s delicious,” she declares, and snatches the other bottle away from Blaise, “These are mine now.”

Draco and Blaise catch each other’s eyes and grin. They discovered Pansy’s weakness at her seventh birthday party, and are fully prepared to take advantage of it to reclaim their wine.

They attack with tickling fingers, and she curses them out loudly enough that Draco’s grateful he thought to put silencing charms on his rooms.

~

It’s well past midnight and all three of them are thoroughly sloshed when Bip appears next to them and says, “You have a visitor at your door, Master Draco.”

“Is it a student?” he slurs, because he’s enjoying being drunk and he’s not going to cast a sobering charm if he doesn’t have to. Also he’s lost his shirt at some point during the night, and he’d have to try to find it if it’s a student.

Bip shakes his head.

“Excellent,” he continues, standing up and then grabbing onto the side of his bed for balance. Pansy laughs at him, and he ignores her. He’s assuming it’s Luna, because coming and irritating him in the middle of the night is her favorite pastime. It’s a good thing he doesn’t need a lot of sleep.

He flings the door open, “Luna, do you ever sl-”

It’s not Luna.

“Hello Draco,” Granger says stiffly, face flaring red. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to – to interrupt.”

He waves a hand and leans against the doorway, “Don’t worry about it. You didn’t interrupt anything.” He wonders if she can see Blaise and Pansy from the doorway, and if so how long it will take the rumors to start floating around again – well, no, again would imply that they ever really stopped. “What do you want?”

She swallows, clearly steeling herself for something, and dread pools in the bottom of Draco’s stomach. “I want to join your muggleborn classes.”

He blinks. That hadn’t been what he was expecting. “What?”

“You say I’m uneducated,” she bites out, “so educate me. I love learning, I’ll pick it up. Teach me.”

Of all the – “You love knowing, not learning, those are two different things,” he says, because he’s heard a hundred people say Granger should have been a Ravenclaw, and every time he’s thought that none of those people could have possibly met her. “Also, are you insane? I’m busy enough as it is. Have Neville teach you, he knows it all.”

He moves to close the door on her, and she shoves it back open. “Neville won’t do it! Or he will, but he’ll be too worried about hurting my feelings, and – and him and Ron are the same, they don’t know what I don’t know, what I’m missing, they just assume that I have all the same knowledge they do, but I don’t.”

“That was my point,” he says, and not for the first time he understands how this woman helped end the war. She’s terrifying. “No talking back to me in front of my Slytherins. If you think I’m being a bigoted prick, and I assure you that you will, you keep it to yourself until we’re alone. Understand?”

“Yes,” she says, and she looks so unbearably smug that Draco instantly regrets his decision. She turns on her heel and walks away without another word, head held high.

Draco sighs and closes the door. Blaise and Pansy are staring at him. “Making deals with the devil?” Blaise asks.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Draco grabs the nearest bottle and drains it, “The devil’s far more reasonable than Hermione Granger.”

“Amen,” Blaise mutters, and it’s so ridiculous, the words so foreign on his tongue and in the air that they all break down laughing.

It’s going to be fine. Everything will be fine. He survived Voldemort in his home, he can survive Hermione Granger.

Chapter Text

Draco would like to claim he’d seen this coming, but that would be a lie.

“What the hell is this?” he demands, looking at his sixth years with just enough despair that they shuffle and look at their feet. Liam doesn’t, but then again he had at least managed an Acceptable mark. “I know over half your families, and I know they’ve been training you in the dark arts – which certainly means they’ve trained you in the defense of it as well.” He’s a step away from channeling his mother and tapping his foot.

“None of do well in Defense, Professor,” Nikole says eventually, and he’d always been bull headedly stubborn enough that if his family line wasn’t so loyal to Slytherin he would certainly have been a Gryffindor. “Well, the mudbloods do all right, but the rest of us – not so much.”

“Language,” he says absently, because he’s an absolute moron, of course his snakes are failing Defence. He supposes he should count himself lucky that they’re not doing the same with Arithmancy. He crosses his arms and huffs, “This is unacceptable.”

“Yes,” they all say at once, because they know. The whole house knows, he figures, and this is really a conversation he should be having with all of them.

He considers talking to Potter about it for half a second, but dismisses the idea just as quickly. Self-centered, dunderhead Scar Head will only make matters worse. “Okay,” he says, breathing out. He can’t do this on his own, trying will cause some other part of his life to fall to pieces. But it has to be done. “I’ll figure something out,” he says. “Spread this to the other years – make sure one of you is an attendance at every class taking diligent notes, but beyond that I don’t care if you bother to attend any more. Make sure I receive a copy of all these notes immediately.”

“Yes sir,” Lucas says, and they’re all looking at him again, the way the old families have started looking at him, and it makes the back of his neck itch.

He gives a sharp nod and leaves, head spinning.

Given the choice, he’d get Millicent Bulstrode to do it. She’d always been right behind him in terms of marks, and was terrifying enough that none of his snakes would dare consider stepping out of line. But he doesn’t even want to think of the headache it would cause to set allowing her on the grounds without either Granger or Potter catching scent of it.

So instead he stomps his way down to the greenhouse, scowling. He bangs open the door and says, “I need a favor.”

Neville looks up at him and wilts. “I’m not going to like this, am I?”

“Well,” Draco considers, “It will give you more chances to ogle my cousin. Something I’ve been politely ignoring, by the way.”

Neville turns bright red and flings the Strangling Vine in his hands at Draco, who quickly ducks out of the way and out of the greenhouse.

He’ll take that as a tentative yes.

~

Maybe it’s a mistake to ask Neville to teach his Slytherins, but he doesn’t think so. Neville, like Potter, fought in the war and against many of the old families. Neville, unlike Potter, is a respected Heir who doesn’t give off the same razor sharp energy, the same – Potter probably likes to think he’s a pacifist, and he is, in a way. But the years he spent as an Auror are legendary, because he did everything with a single-minded intensity that was both impressive and terrifying, from all accounts.

So of course his snakes can’t concentrate in Defense, of course they check out and don’t pay attention and skip class. How many of them have family that died in the war, how many of them heard the rumors of how the Slytherins were treated, demonized, how many of them experience the brunt of that very same prejudice even now?

Draco knew Potter back when he was nothing more than a goody-two-shoes brat, he knows what he looks like spitting up pumpkin juice and after losing a match, remembers him with ink stains on his face from falling asleep on his assignments. He knows that Potter is, at his core, an annoyingly powerful wizard who means well but is ultimately a moron.

But the kids don’t know that. All they know is how they and their families have been treated, all they know is the stories they were told. So of course they don’t want to sit in a classroom and be taught defense by Potter – each of them believes the man would be equally willing to turn his wand on them as he was Voldemort. (Never mind that Potter was never all the eager to face Voldemort, all the way to the bitter end.)

They are children living scared on the belief that one of their professors not only cares nothing for them and perhaps even wants them dead. It certainly explains Raina’s reaction when he’d first met her at the party.

These children are under his protection now, so he has to fix it. He almost wishes Potter would take his title like a proper pureblood so he could challenge him to a duel and be done with it, but in lieu of that, there’s this.

Showing them that not all Gryffindors, not all war heroes, are Harry Potter.

If he could, he’d show them that Harry Potter himself isn’t even that terrible, that spiteful, but maybe he’s wrong. It’s been a long time since they shared a classroom, and people change.

Draco certainly did.

~

That night is the first muggleborn class, and he and Granger arrive at the classroom at the same time. He holds the door open for her, and she glares at him like it’s a trick.

It’s not. He’s just holding open a door, for merlin’s sake.

“After you,” he says pleasantly, “I insist.”

She rolls her eyes but steps inside. He just barely restrains himself from sighing.

“Children,” he greets. Liam snorts. His four purebloods and six muggleborns are already there. Excellent. “Professor Granger will be joining us for the foreseeable future. Please speak freely. While she is in these lessons with us, she will neither issue detention nor take away points. Isn’t that right, Professor?”

“Yes, Professor Malfoy,” she says, nose upturned just the slightest bit at him. It’s a pity she hates them all so much – she’d have fit in quite well with her attitude. “That is correct.”

“Excellent,” he says, and looks to the purebloods, “Now, which of you will be leading today’s lesson?” Markel and Marilyn blanch. Raina looks worried, and Liam slides down in his seat because he knows what’s coming. “Liam, thank you so much for volunteering.” That’s what the brat gets for showing him attitude. The kid was born when Draco was a first year, and he remembers the boy’s mother shoving the baby into his hands at one of Narcissa’s garden parties and then laughing at his panicked fumbling. Payback is sweet.

Liam drags himself to his feet, managing to give the impression of slouching even while his back remained perfectly straight. There’s a vague possibility that the kid picked that up from him, actually. “Where should I start, Professor?”

“Whatever you think is most relevant,” Draco says. Just because he’s an adult doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole.

Liam narrows his eyes like he agrees, then lets out a long sigh. The muggleborns look apprehensive, all except fifth year Georgiana. She looks like she wants to spit on him, which he approves of, theoretically. If she actually did it then that would be a different matter. “Very well then,” he says, “I don’t suppose anyone has any questions I can address?” Granger’s hand shoots into the air. Liam blinks, and Draco doesn’t laugh at him. “Uh, yes Professor?”

“What’s with this whole lord thing?” she demands, “I tried looking it up, but all I could find was that they were the heads of powerful families.”

“Well, that’s it really,” he blinks, “If you’re the head of a family that’s part of the House, then you’re a Lord. Or Lady.”

“House?” she asks, “Like Hogwarts house?”

Liam stares. “No. The House of Lords and Ladies. It’s uh,” he frowns, “it’s like Wizengamot if the Wizengamot fails, you know?”

Draco is so glad he never has to grade any of Liam’s essays.

“That’s a terrible way to put it!” Raina glares. “Before we had the Ministry, we had Lords and Ladies who cared for us – we pledged our allegiance to them, our land and our blood, and in return they gave us their protection.”

“So it’s an old government system?” Niles asks, a second year muggleborn who had the highest marks in Divination in his year. Draco doesn’t know if that’s because he actually has a talent for it or if it’s just because Luna like him.

Liam winces and Raina looks appalled. Draco decides to put them out their misery. “All right, sit down,” he says, rising to his feet and taking Liam’s place. He pulls his wand from his robes, “That was an excellent question, Professor Granger, and a solid place to start.” She glares. He isn’t being sarcastic. “The muggle world is a world based on a system of laws that are decided upon by muggles and then enforced by other muggles. As such, this system of laws and the manner in which they are decided varies by culture, time period, and place.” He drags his wand across the air and five small golden people appear. “The magical world has never functioned this way. We have different languages, different cultures, different spells, different values. But across the world our underlying political system has been the same.” He flicks his wand, and the five golden figure bow, “We all have a House of Lords and Ladies, although it goes by different names. Heads of noble families acted like the Wizengamot currently does – we convene to discuss issues, vote on laws and regulations, and try those who go against our ways. That changed a couple hundred years ago,” he doesn’t bother to keep the contempt out of his voice, “we were replaced by the Wizengamot. For a long time, all Lords and Ladies were guaranteed political seats, as is our due. Albus Dumbledore spearheaded and passed a law so that we would have to be voted into our positions, which was of course the beginning of our downfall.”

“What do you mean?” Granger demands, “Isn’t that a good thing? Why should people be given political positions just because they were born?”

“Most of the muggle world relied on a familial monarchy system for a few thousand years, if I’m not mistaken,” he says dryly, “but Lords and Ladies must do more than simply be born.”

She scoffs, “Like what? Bow all nice and pretty and not upset your parents, and you’ll get to be rich and successful?”

“You’re wrong,” Marilyn says, and Draco raises an eyebrow. The eleven year old is glaring at her, and Marilyn is fairly outspoken within the family, but not as much in front of strangers. “My father is Lord Goyle, and I am the Heir to our family, but I might not become Lady Goyle. That’s not something me or my parents get to decide.”

“Who decides then?” Granger asks, softening her voice.

Draco holds out his wand, “Did you choose your wand, Granger? Did you pick one up and declare that this was the one for you and take it home?”

“Of course not,” she snaps, “the wand chooses the wizard. Or witch.”

“Yes,” Markel says, and he’s speaking to her like she’s stupid which isn’t appropriate behavior but it is funny so Draco’s not going to call him on it, “exactly. The magic chooses you. Just like the magic chooses our Lords and Ladies.”

What? That doesn’t make any sense!”

The purebloods look at her then slowly slide their gazes to him, disbelief on their faces. “Be nice,” he admonishes, “they didn’t grow up like we did.” He turns to Granger, “My father is still alive, yet I am Lord Malfoy. Because the magic rejected him.” His father, the man who attended every meeting, who guarded their traditions, the man who taught Draco to ride a broom and read him bedtime stories – the magic declared him unworthy, and it’s not like he doesn’t understand why but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. “It chose me,” he says, and he knows this is hard for outsiders to understand, but it’s so simple to the rest of them. “The magic chose me, and here I am. Just as it chose James Potter, just as it chose Augusta Longbottom, just as I’m sure it will choose Neville to take her place. It’s extremely likely that Heirs will become Lords, but it’s not a guarantee. “

Granger is staring at him, but says nothing. Finally Niles asks, “But what does being a Lord mean?”

“Borrowed, not given. Earned, not taken,” Liam says, looking serious for the first time. “Magic isn’t nice. It’s dangerous, and people like to pretend that it’s only dark arts that lash out at you, but that’s not true. The root of all magic is the same, and it can all turn its back at you. If you – if any of you did something,” he looks to the muggleborns, “if you made the magic mad, summoned something that shouldn’t have been summoned, made an inadvisable oath – you would be the one who would suffer the consequences.”

“Purebloods are protected from that,” Raina says quietly, “we suffer magical injuries, of course, but – but nothing truly terrible, nothing that would curse our children, nothing that would mean the end to our lines, our land, or our blood.”

Georgianna throws up her hands, “Why?”

“Because Lords and Ladies paint great big targets on our backs,” Draco say, “we are the root of our family’s magic. Should someone under my protection, be it one that shares my noble blood or simply a member of a family who has sworn fealty to my family, incur the magic’s wrath I will be the one it attacks. I have the strength of my family’s magic, of generations of excellent breeding and tradition and sacrifice on my side, and it is likely that I will survive it while those under my protection would not. But surviving it remains my burden, and not theirs.”

“I’m a Goyle and a Malfoy,” Markel says quietly, eyes bright, “I’m doubly protected.”

He can see they still don’t understand, can see Granger thinks they’re off their rocker, so he says, “If Potter had had a Lord when Voldemort tried to kill him, he wouldn’t have gotten that cursed scar. James Potter would have gotten the backlash, and it probably would have killed him, but Harry wouldn’t have it, understand? Those types of curses are the things having a lord protects you against.” He considers this, and the prophecy has become common knowledge in the years since the war, so he doesn’t feel bad about adding, “That’s probably why Voldemort didn’t go after Neville, actually.”

Granger’s so frustrated she’s red. She stands and slams her hands on the counter, “What are you talking about?”

The children jump and Draco takes a deep breath and forces himself for once not to lose his temper at her at the earliest opportunity. “Voldemort,” Markel says, surprising him and speaking with a renewed urgency, “explain it to them using Voldemort.”

Marilyn stares. “Cousin?”

“Tell them what he wasn’t,” he says, “so they know what we are.”

Raina and Marilyn trade confused looks. “What are you talking about?”

He looks to Draco, who raises a hand, “No, I understand.” It’s not something they like to talk about, any of them, but Markel is right.

Lord Voldemort,” Granger says, considering, “Heir of Slytherin.”

Draco’s lips thin, but he nods, “Yes. Now – now okay,” he waves his wand and a dozen silver figures pour out from the end of it. “There is a connection, between lords and their vassals, okay?” Silver strings connect the silver figures to one of the gold figures. “It’s a one way connection. I know when they die, and it’s by this connection that my magic can protect them if and only if they do something to initiate the,” he pauses, because there has to be words for this, language for something that Draco has carried with him his entire life, but he can’t think of it.

“It’s like the protective wards around Hogwarts,” Liam says, “they’re always there but they’re inactive until something triggers them. A lord’s magic won’t affect anyone it’s connected too unless that person’s magic triggers it. Then all it does is protect that person. That’s how the connection between lords and vassals is supposed to work.”

Draco nods his thanks, “Yes, exactly. Voldemort was no lord. He did not serve in the House of Lords and Ladies, he had no vassals, and most importantly blood of Slytherin or not the magic didn’t choose him. So people could swear fealty to him from dawn to dusk and the magic wouldn’t take notice. So what he did was he created the dark mark – something that’s almost like the connection shared by lords and their people, except for all the ways in which it is nothing like it of course.”

“Voldemort wanted to be a lord really badly,” Raina says quietly, “but the magic knew, it knew better than all of us, and it was never going to recognize him.”

The muggleborns looks solemn and even Granger has gone contemplative rather than combative. “So what does being a lord really mean?” she asks, “Politically speaking.”

Oh, merlin. All the purebloods slump in their seats, and Draco points his wand at them. “Don’t even think about it, up you go. I’m not writing out the family trees and alliances of all the pureblood families on my own. Think of it like a pop quiz.”

The four of them glare as they drag themselves to their feet and begin drawing out the current blood maps. Draco could conjure the self-updating one he has in quarters, but the last thing he needs is a reputation of being nice.

It’s easier after that – explaining alliances and duties and blood feuds are something they’re all used to doing, concepts that change and have to be re-explained so at least there’s a language for it.

Granger doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the lesson, lets the muggleborn kids ask all the questions. She does keeps staring at him however, which is more than a little unnerving.

~

When he wakes up at three in morning to someone sitting on his legs, he doesn’t even have to open his eyes to check. He knows exactly who it is. “Luna,” he groans, arm thrown over his eyes, “couldn’t this have waited until dawn? At least?”

“Hermione came and told me about the lesson you gave,” she says, which means the answer to his question is a very firm no. “I’d never thought of it, before, but – my mom never declared fealty to your family, did she?”

He lowers his arm and opens his eyes. It’s too dark to see her face, and he can’t reach his wand without her getting off of him, which she clearly doesn’t plan on doing. “No,” he says, “she didn’t.”

“And she’d renounced her family in Japan,” she continues, and Draco really wishes he could see her face, “so she didn’t have a lord or lady, did she?”

“No,” he repeats, “she didn’t. But Luna, my father did consider her family, as did I. Just because she didn’t swear loyalty doesn’t mean she wasn’t one of us.”

“The magic didn’t though,” it’s hard to tell just from her legs on his legs but he thinks she might be shaking, “The magic didn’t think she belonged to anyone. Is that – is that why she,” Luna pauses and takes a deep breath, and when she speaks again she sounds like when she was four years old, back when they were kids and before the second war tore everyone apart all over again, “Do you think if she’d had a lord she still would have died?’

Draco closes his eyes. He wants to say yes, to say nothing on this earth could have spared her mother, wants to spare Luna the wondering and the wanting. “I don’t know,” he says, keeps his voice quiet and gentle in the darkness between them, “I don’t know what spell she used, if it was something that our family magic could have saved her from, or if it was just – just something small, something that was terrible enough to kill her but not something that would have triggered our protective magic.”

“Oh,” Luna says, then sniffs, and dear merlin he hates it when she cries.

He pushes himself up and pulls her into his chest, tries to hug her like his father used to hug him. Lucius was tall and strong and safe. For all his other faults his father loved him and protected him and maybe his home life wasn’t always easy but he never doubted he was loved. He tries to hug Luna like that, tries to let her know but his arm around her waist and hand cradling the back of her head that she’s not alone.

He doesn’t know if he’s successful, if that’s still something you can say with a hug when you’re not children anymore, but she clings to him even as her tears drip down his neck so she must get at least some of it.

~

It’s three in the afternoon on a Thursday, which means he should be using his free period to grade the truly awful potions essays his fourth year Ravenclaws had submitted.

(“They’re entirely accurate!” Byron had promised. They were also twice the length requirement and went into so many offshoot tangents that Draco wanted to rip his hair out. Only a Ravenclaw could start at the uses for dragon scales and end up at thirteenth century German immigration law.)

Instead Potter had just stormed into his office and knocked his inkwell to the ground, causing it to shatter rather dramatically, and then shouted, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re playing at Malfoy?!”

Of course it’s his luck that Potter finally goes off the deep end and knocks his inkwell off the desk instead of on it. If Potter had spilled ink all over those exhausting essays he may have just kissed him. “Good evening, Potter,” he considers the ink and broken glass on his floor. A repario and scourgify would take care of it, but honestly what’s the fun in that? “Nice weather we’re having.”

“Malfoy –” Potter thunders, but Draco holds up a hand to shut him up. Miraculously, the Gryffindork falls silent.

He’s just gone over this charm with Filius, and it was difficult and required too much energy, and wasting the magic on something so small would be just about be criminal. He pulls out his wand and waves it in quick, neat circle over the spill that leaves a trail of bright red sparks behind him. “Tempus!” he snaps, and the magic leaves him in a rush as the inkwell and ink come together again and fly back onto his desk. Before the spell can go any farther he shouts, “Finite!” and the spell comes to an end.

He slumps back into his chair, grinning. He should probably take a shot of pepper up if he doesn’t want to fall asleep in the middle of his five o’clock class, but that was awesome. “Are you crazy?” Potter demands, crouching down in front of his chair so he can look him in the eyes, “What spell was that?”

“Controlled time travel,” he yawns, “it’s the predecessor to the time turner. It’s an incredible waste of energy, and comparably quite ineffective since it’s impossible to cast on yourself.” He looks at the inkwell and smirks, “It’s bloody cool though.” Potter almost smiles at him. Draco doesn’t want to address that at all, so he says, “Didn’t you come here to yell at me for something?”

“Well, you were always excellent at ruining everything,” Potter says wryly. He’s about to respond with something caustic when Potter balances with one hand on Draco’s knee and presses his other hand against Draco’s forehead, “Are you sure you’re all right? It looks like that spell really tired you out, which isn’t an easy thing to do.”

Because Draco’s mind is a traitorous bastard, it conjures up a bunch of ways that Potter could tire him out. Since Draco is an adult, damnit, he pushes both those thoughts and Potter’s hand away, “I’m fine, it’s just an advanced spell. Not all of us have endless wells of magic like you.”

Potter’s hand is still on his knee. “I spoke to Hermione. And Luna, and Neville.”

“Okay?” he says, “I would assume you all speak fairly often, considering.”

Potter rolls his eyes, but it almost seems more fond than irritated, which is a terrifying thought. “I know about the defense classes Neville and Luna have been running, and the lessons you’ve been giving Hermione, and – and I wanted to be mad, I am mad, but Neville kind of explained it to me, and even Hermione said maybe I should listen to you.”

Draco stares. “What? Are you talking about the defense lessons? My kids are scared of you, I’m pretty sure if you made half of them face a bogart it would turn into you, how can anyone learn that way? Look at Neville – he’s not actually that horrible at Potions, it’s just Snape terrified him.” Potter’s paled, likely at the comparison to Snape, which was probably unfair of him, considering. “It’s not your fault, mostly,” he says, “they just can’t trust you, and they’re certainly never going to like you.”

“That’s not what I –” he pauses, “Wait, why can’t they trust me?”

Draco snaps his mouth closed. He doesn’t know how to say it without this ending in a duel or a punch to the face, how to tell Potter that he’s the worst kind of blood traitor when Draco’s half sure he doesn’t even know it. There was no reason to tell him as a kid, and after war he’d made it more than clear he had no plans to follow the ancient ways. “It’s complicated,” he says finally.

“Am I a lord?” he challenges, eyes sparking.

“You are not,” Draco hisses, standing so Potter’s hand finally slides off his knee, “you are barely an heir, at best.” Indignation wells up inside of him, he remembers Potter ignoring his outstretched hand at eleven because he was an ignorant excuse for a noble that knew nothing of their traditions. “You know what, Potter, what you are is a disgrace, do you think your family crossed the sea and settled here so you could turn your back on everything they bled and died for? Screw you, you shouldn’t even be able to call yourself a noble, you’ve honored no alliances,” he thinks back to that day and seethes, because Draco was a Malfoy and he was a Potter and even if they hadn’t been friends they weren’t supposed to have been enemies, not that, not in those peaceful years between the wars when alliances were supposed to matter, “You’re barely even a pureblood.”

“I’m not a pureblood,” he grits out, hand already reaching into his robes for his wand, probably unconsciously. “My mother was a muggleborn, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Oh merlin, please tell him that Potter isn’t basing the social status of his mother on an argument they got in as teenagers. “Lily Potter was also Lady Potter, your family’s preference for informality non withstanding, and she was a respectable witch who married into a noble family, and your assumption that her blood in your veins would make you anything less than pure is an insult to her memory and her sacrifice.” The first war had changed things, changed language and prejudices, but no war was powerful enough to change power and blood. He might not have understood that as a kid, but he certainly does now.

He walks away after that, furious at the both of them, and shockingly Potter lets him.

That was a stupid argument to get into, one he’s kept himself from having for years, and he’s absolutely certain he’s going to regret it.

He’s certain Potter is going to make him regret it.

Chapter Text

He’s woken up at one in the morning by a forceful knocking at his door. It’s the night after his explosive argument with Potter, so he’s expecting a lot of people. Luna, to sigh at him but call him cousin anyway. Neville, to come and look at him in a vaguely disapproving fashion. Granger, to rip the skin from his face and set him on fire.

What’s he’s not expecting is to open his door to find Ronald Weasley standing there with two bottles of firewhiskey.

“Those aren’t as flammable as you’d think,” he says immediately, “All commercially sold alcohol has fire dampening spells applied to it. Too many drunken accidents.”

Weasley blinks, “I wasn’t going – I’m not Hermione!” He looks down at the bottles, “Do they really?”

“My father spearheaded the legislation personally. Our family has had to rebuild more than one greenhouse because of it.”

Weasley stares, “Why didn’t you just tell your employees to stop getting drunk on the job?”

“What makes you think it was the employees?” he retorts, “By historical record, my great aunt Vela blew up one greenhouse and two potions labs. During her school years alone.”

“Huh,” Weasley says, and thrusts a bottle of firewhiskey at him. Draco stares at it uncomprehendingly. “Are you going to take it or not?”

“Why on earth would I?” he asks, but accepts the proffered bottle.

Weasley uncorks his bottle and takes a long pull, smoke oozing out of his ears. “Because we’re going to ignore the fact that our families have a three centuries long blood feud and have a frank, adult conversation with no cursing or malignant comments towards each other.”

“Merlin’s balls, Weasley,” Draco says faintly, uncorking his own bottle, “Why?”

He points his bottle at Draco, cheeks already flushed with alcohol, “Because Harry has been bloody moping all over our place, I’m having flashbacks to fifth year, and that’s just not on, do you hear me, Malfoy?” he pauses, considering, “I’m going to call you Draco. If we’re going to get smashed and discuss politics, we might as well be on a first name basis.”

“This is my worst nightmare,” Draco informs him, taking a large gulp of the burning liquid and thinking he’s going to need send an elf to his private stores by the time the night is through.  

Ron pushes past him and looks around his sleek and opulent living quarters with a faint look of disgust, “I understand completely.”

~

He and Ron are sitting on the floor, their backs braced against the couches and bottles littered on the table in front of them.

Draco has an intense urge to drink until he dies. “He can’t have no idea about his duties. He’s a Potter! The Potter Heir!”

“He’s the last Potter – who was going to teach him?” Ron asks, “Our family doesn’t do that stuff anymore. Honestly, I probably don’t even know half of it all.” Draco picks up on the trace of longing and is instantly intrigued. “I know it’s – whatever, to you lot. But the rest of us – we don’t,” he shrugs.

“You can’t feel the magic anymore,” Draco says, and his body has gone numb. He tries to keep the horror off his face, but by Ron’s grimace he’s not the successful. It makes sense, too much sense, all of the purebloods asking themselves what was wrong with the lot of them, and this was it.

Ron sighs and takes another long drink before saying, “I don’t even know what that means, Draco. So, no, I guess not.”

He’s still staring at Ron, and it’s probably gone past the point of rude into unsettling, but he can’t stop. He knows the weight and taste of his family’s magic, can sense a Lestrange at fifty paces, feels the ancient magics of the castle humming beneath his feet, the whole grounds nearly pulsing with the combined family magic that has been sunken into the earth generation after generation.

“Your family’s magic feels like fire,” he says, and he shouldn’t be saying this, alcohol non withstanding they still have a blood feud, and it’s considered rude regardless. So families say it’s the hair, the nose, the – whatever, that’s their defining characteristic. But the truth is it’s the weight and feel of magic in the air. “It’s – crackling, almost, like embers. Sparks. It feels like the color of your hair, and candle fire on your fingertips.” Ron is staring at him now, mouth open and firewhisky forgotten. “My great great grandfather once wrote that meeting the lord of the Weasley family was like stepping into an inferno.”

The empty bottle falls from Ron’s loose fingers and rolls across the floor. He clenches his hands and says, “What – why – do you know why our families have a blood feud?”

“Do you not?” he demands at once. That would certainly explain a lot, but how can a whole family just forget the start of a blood feud?

“Everything from that time was lost,” Ron says, “It’s in our old manor – supposedly.”

“The one none of you can enter,” he rubs at his temples, and shit like this is what happens when oaths don’t get honored and alliances are broken. “I’m impressed it’s still standing, honestly.” He pauses, “Has anyone tried to enter it?”

Ron scratches the back of his neck, “A great uncle, I think? But the wards killed him as soon as he stepped foot on the grounds, so no one was ever able to get his body.”

“What isn’t sacrificed willingly will be taken unwillingly,” Draco says grimly. Why does everyone think magic is all fun and games – it’s blood and pain, and anyone who thinks differently is an idiot.

Ron throws a cork at his head. “Saying vague and creepy stuff like that is why no one trusts you guys you know.”

“Oh is that all,” he flicks the cork back over and Ron catches it, “I thought it was the dark lords we kept following.”

“That didn’t help,” Ron concedes, “but it was mostly the ominous statements.”

He signs, “The Weasley line pre-dates the founders, Ron. It’s going to takes more than a handful of generations for the magic to forget you. It considers your debt overdue, and what you don’t give it will take. Your ancestors knew that when they broke their line. That’s why they closed up your manor to begin with.”

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Ron says, eyes intent, “Why do our families have a blood feud?”

It’s considered impolite to bring it up; if they’ve truly forgotten he should get an intermediary like Neville or Pansy to deliver the terms of their feud. But that’s a lot of pomp and circumstance that he doesn’t have the energy for. “Our families had been allies for a long time – never close, but amiable since we came over from France. A marriage contract was set up between my great grandfather and your great great aunt Rea, if I’m not mistaken. Days before the wedding your Lord announced he would no longer be following the old ways, that your family would live as simple witches and wizards forever more. To have a Lord marry your aunt regardless would have been an insult, so the engagement was annulled. Rea killed herself the next day. My great grandfather blamed your lord, your family blamed mine for annulling the engagement, we blamed you for entering into an engagement under false pretenses, you blamed us for being pompous, we called you arrogant, and then the next day my great grandfather – reportedly brokenhearted – enacted the blood feud.”

Ron continues staring at him for a long moment. “Bloody hell, what a mess. Why did we leave the House of Lords and Ladies so suddenly? It certainly doesn’t sound like we were planning on it.”

He points at Ron with his bottle, “That, I’m afraid, is a secret buried in your manor. No one knows, and the only way you’ll find out is by going there. But considering the magic is more interested in blood than playing nice, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“Bloody hell,” he repeated, more mournful this time, and continues drinking.

Draco pulls his leg to his chest and rests his chin on his knee. While they’re talking about uncomfortable subjects, he has another matter he wants to discuss, even if it gets him cursed. He’s not sure how to bring this up, because if he’s wrong it’s the equivalent to calling the man’s wife a simpleton. But he doesn’t think he’s wrong. So he sends a prayer to his ancestors and barrels forward. “You know Granger’s been coming to my muggleborn classes, and she’s been perfectly civil, and she’s quite smart, obviously, but I think – I think that she might not know what blood is.”

Ron rolls his eyes, “She obviously does, what are you talking about?”

“I’m serious,” he says, “I thought it was obvious, that I was just misunderstanding her, but I also thought all purebloods could feel magic, so I’m clearly capable of being wrong. It’s the way she keeps insisting she’s one of the muggles.”

“They did raise her,” Ron says.

He shakes his head, “The Dursleys raised Potter – that doesn’t make them one of us. I think – I think Granger thinks she’s one of them because they raised her. I think she thinks our word for blood means the same as their word for it – like,” he stops, struggling, because he doesn’t have words for this, for something he didn’t think needed to be explained.

Ron frowns, “Oh – oh you mean – no, I mean – well, I can see how she’d be confused,” he says defensively. “She didn’t know she wasn’t theirs until she was eleven. And they did raise her Draco, they love her, they’re her parents even if they’re not her real parents.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Draco insists, “She doesn’t understand when we say blood we mean magic, because our magic is our blood, it’s family ties and alliances and literal blood soaked into the earth, bone buried in foundations. Blood isn’t blood. It’s magic. I’d bet she doesn’t know that most of the wizarding world wouldn’t consider her birth parents her real parents because they may share the muggle concept of blood, but they don’t share magic. And – and I think that she thinks that we don’t differentiate. She thinks that when I say blood I mean the same things muggles do, the stuff flowing in our veins and genetics and all that rot.”

“But you don’t,” Ron says, eyebrows dipped together, “Obviously, you don’t. You mean the lines of magic, family magic, all of it.” He leans forward and puts his head in his hands, “She’s going to be so mad when she finds out she didn’t know something!”

Draco pats him on the back sympathetically. An angry Hermione Granger isn’t a fate he wishes upon anyone. “You know you’re going to have to explain this to Potter too, right?”

“Harry doesn’t know either?” he asks, looking longingly toward one of the unopened bottles.

Draco hands it over. “If the cleverest witch of our generation hasn’t figured it out on her own, what makes you think Harry ‘Dunce’ Potter has?”

Ron slaps himself on the forehead and pulls out the cork with his teeth. It’s a good thing his wife’s parents are dentists.

~

He skips breakfast the next morning and drags himself to his first and favorite class of the day, banging open the door in a suitably dramatic fashion. His seventh year NEWTS class looks nearly as dead outside as he feels inside. “I am so hungover I want to die,” he announces briskly. “I’m going to sit at my desk and try not to vomit. The first team who brews me a successful hangover cure is exempt from homework for the rest of the semester.”

There’s a moment of complete stillness before they all start huddling together and flipping through their textbooks. Mariana, a Hufflepuff muggleborn who’s notorious for her late night parties and early morning study sessions, already has a flock of eager students surrounding her.

He’s a little disappointed someone didn’t just throw a bezor at his head and call it a day, but on the bright side they may actually learn something about designing potions from scratch.

~

He’s on his way to the kitchens for lunch in an honestly humiliating bid to avoid Potter and his posse for a few more hours when he’s cornered by three fourth year Ravenclaws girls. The manic look in all their eyes makes him slightly concerned for their wellbeing in addition to his own. “Ladies,” he greets, raising an eyebrow, “Is there something I can help you with?”

“We heard about what you did with the seventh years this morning,” she says, “We want to experiment making our own potions too!”

“What.”

Dacia Zabini pouts at him in a way she almost certainly learned from her aunt, “Could you start a potions club pretty please Lord Malfoy?”

“With all my spare time?” he snaps.

The girls are unfazed. “We’ll do all the work ourselves,” the first one continues, “we just need you to supervise us in the potions lab. You can do your grading while we work. Please Lord Malfoy?”

“It’s Professor Malfoy in these halls,” he corrects, and he can already tell he’s going to regret this decision. “Very well – on one condition. You must open your club to all years and houses. Understand?”

He’s going to take all the jumping around and their high pitched squealing as an affirmative.

~

Draco is in his quarters flung out on the couch while reading his first quarterly reports on his holdings from the goblins. It’s in very neat, small handwriting and so overly complicated he has the urge to call up Terry Boot and whine at him until he puts his arithmancy mastery to use and explains it to him.

But goblins are fickle, and proud, and a bunch of assholes. Draco can respect that. They’ll never take him seriously if he can’t understand his own accounts, regardless of how convoluted and unnecessarily detailed their reports are. Milly pops into existence next to him, “You is having a visitor at the door, Master Draco.”

“Who is it?” he asks, because if he stops in the middle of auditing the main business account he’ll have to start over again from the beginning, and it’s painful enough only doing it once.

“Heir Longbottom,” she says. “Shall I be telling him you is busy, Master?”

Bloody hell. Well, best to get it over with. “No, that will be all Milly. Very good.”

She gives him a pleased little bow and vanishes. He pushes himself up, and hopes that Neville won’t challenge him to a duel. The Longbottoms and the Potters have never held an official alliance, and since Neville is an Heir and Draco doesn’t currently have one of his own he’d have to fight Neville personally. He’ll never admit it, but that’s not a duel he’s confident he could win.

He opens the door, bracing himself. “Finally,” Neville sighs impatiently, “Can I catch a ride with you to the House? Gran’s finally taking me to one and she was supposed to pick me up in the carriage, but she got tied up in a meeting and told me to meet her there. But she gets irritable if I take the floo to official functions, and Merlin forbid I fly there like a commoner.”

Draco stares, “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”

“It’s the full moon?” Neville returns, eyebrow raised.

There’s a moment when they just stare at each other, and then Draco goes, “Fuck!” and slams the door in his face. He opens it again a moment later to add, “Yes, you’re welcome ride with me. I’ll meet you at the front of the castle in,” he checks the grandfather clock next to the fireplace, and at least Neville had come to ask early so he’s not completely screwed, “an hour.” He closes the door again, pauses, and opens it, “You’re not wearing that, are you?”

“No,” Neville says, lips twitching, “I am not wearing my teaching robes to a formal meeting.” Draco scowls at him and shuts the door a final time.

He cannot believe he forgot tonight was the full moon, and therefore the monthly meeting of the House of Lords and Ladies. This is what getting into fights with Potter and drinking with Weasleys does to him. He sends Bip to the manor to prep the carriage, and attends to the next order of business.

He already knows neither Pansy nor Blaise are free this evening, and likely each think the other is going to the meeting with him. He tells Milly to set out his robes – she has a good eye for it – and then goes striding to the professor’s common room. He doesn’t show up stag, as a rule, and he’s not about to start now. He bursts inside and commands, “Loony, attend the monthly congregation with me.”

There are only four people in the room. Luna blinks at him, blue eyes so dark they almost look black. “Don’t you usually go with Blaise?”

“He’s busy,” he says, unwilling to say he’s an idiot who forgot that it was today. By the way Flitwick and Minerva are studiously focused on their chess game, he bets they’ve both guessed that already. He thinks he liked it better when they couldn’t read him so easily.

Granger crosses her arms, “What are you on about? Also you could be nicer about asking Luna to do things! You can’t just go ordering people around!”

“He can, actually,” Luna says mildly, and Draco feels dread pool in his stomach when Luna gives an odd half smile. She looks like her mother when she does that and Pandora was, among many other things, a devious woman. “Of course, cousin. But perhaps you should take Hermione instead?”

Minerva’s head snaps up, staring at Luna in horror. Filius doesn’t look up from the board and moves a piece perilously close to her queen. “Why?” he and Granger demand at the same time.

“You keep saying the books and theory isn’t good enough,” Luna says to Hermione, “and this is a formal meeting of the House of Lords and Ladies. When will you ever get a chance to attend again?” She looks away from Granger to him and adds, “She might learn something.”

This is such a bad idea. This entire day is apparently dedicated to bad ideas. “Fine,” he snaps, then addresses Granger, “but if you want to walk among the natives, you best act like one. No arguing, no causing trouble. You can throw a fit about it all when we get back if you must, but while we’re there you treat it like the muggleborn classes. Understand?”

“I understand,” she says, glaring at him, and this is going to be such a miserable evening.

“You don’t have anything to wear,” he says.

“I have–” she begins.

He holds up his hand, “That wasn’t a question.” He snaps his fingers, and Milly appears besides him, “Professor Granger will be accompanying me this evening. Find something suitable in my mother’s closet, and help her get ready.”

“Yes, Master Draco,” Milly says, and disappears in the middle of her curtsy.

Granger is already purple in indignation. “Save it,” he says, “we work together, it’s not like you’re low on opportunities to yell at me. Luna, help her out,” he adds, and waits for his cousin to nod before sweeping out of there as suddenly as he’d came.

Why does he keep allowing these things to happen? Everything was so much easier when he and the Gryffindor crowd spent the years after the war pretending the other didn’t exist. This is exhausting.

~

When Draco descends the steps of Hogwarts, Granger is already there waiting for him. Her hair is shining and tumbling down around her, longer than he last saw it but it’s possible just an effect of her curls being looser. When he sees what Milly chose, he has to grin. “You look like a proper lady,” he greets.

She rolls her eyes, but not even her stubbornness can hide her own fascination with her dress. She’s wearing a fortune, a tight bright red acromantula silk gown and thin outer robe, clasped only right below her sternum to show off the dress with a solid gold broach. The outer robe is delicately crocheted and thin enough that its nearly transparent, though a powerful warming charm was integrated into the thread as it was spun, so that the wearer will remain pleasantly cozy no matter the weather. Walburga Black developed that particular spell herself.

“Sorry I’m late!” Neville yelps, running down the steps, “I was talking to Harry – wow,” he says, wide eyed, “Hermione, you look great! You’re going to give everyone a heart attack wearing that dress though,” he adds, though he sounds more approving than anything else.

Granger looks down, forehead wrinkling. “Why?”

“My mother wore that dress on only a few occasions,” Draco says, smiling, “It meant she was cross with someone in the House, and that she and my father were out for blood. I imagine Milly chose it so you’d feel more comfortable in your house colors, but some of the old crowd has very particular memories associated with that dress.”

Before Granger can do more than frown at him, Neville adds, “She’s missing something. Earrings?”

“What the point? They’ll get lost in her hair unless she puts it up,” he argues, but concedes Neville has a point. He touches his wand in his sleeve, and in the next moment he holds out a necklace of gold and polished obsidian. “This belonged to my great grandmother on my father’s side. It has a preservation and unbreakable charm on it, but be gentle none the less.”

“Thank you,” she says, taking it from him with cautious fingers and clasping it around her neck. “Luna said we were taking a carriage?”

“Status symbol,” he explains, because there’s no reason not to speak plainly and turn this into a learning experience for her. “It’s looked down upon to arrive in anything but a family carriage, because it implies there’s something shameful about the state of yours. The more impressive the carriage, the more impressive your family.”

“Is yours impressive?” she asks, but there’s no malice in the question, only curiosity.

Neville answers before he can, “Very.” He bounces on the balls of his feet and admits, “I could have hitched a ride with someone else, but I’ve been dying to ride in your carriage.”

Granger crosses her arms, “What’s so special about it?”

Draco raises his hand and snaps twice. Almost immediately the air is filled with the sounds of pounding hooves as his carriage rounds the corner and stops in front of them. It’s a very well crafted carriage, black stained mahogany, with the Malfoy family crest carved into the doors, and gold detailing spelled to shine even in the dimmest of lights. That’s not the interesting part though – that would be the creature pulling it.

The midnight black horse is normal enough looking, tall and strong with his dark coat that gleams almost blue. Except, of course, for the enormous wings protruding from his back. The pegasus tosses his head and stands even taller under their eyes. This is the first and only time he can honestly say he’s well and truly shocked Granger, her mouth open and eyes wide. He takes a moment to savor it before saying, “Meet Nox – not a terribly original name, I know, but I did name him when I was a child. He’s worked for my family for over twenty years.”

“Sections of the Malfoy land are preserved for pegasi mating and birthing grounds, and are warded off against poachers as well as some other unpleasant predators,” Neville explains, eagerly holding out a hand for Nox to inspect. After a moment of deliberation, he nudges his large head in Neville’s hand and allows the wizard to pet him.

“As such, one pegasus from each generation works for my family in exchange for this protection,” Draco finishes, “Their natural lifespans are about three times that of a witch or wizard, so they’re not separated from their flock forever, if you were worried about that.”

Granger closes her mouth. He doesn’t know if she was going to go on tirade about him enslaving creatures, but if so he didn’t want to hear it. Nox is an incredibly powerful and incredibly intelligent magical creature – if he didn’t want to be working for the Malfoy family, he would have flown off long ago. Honestly, that’s why he'd had such little patience and was such a brat when it came to care of magical creatures in school – he was accustomed to magical creatures that could take care of themselves.

“He’s beautiful,” she says softly, fingers twitching towards him.

Draco gives them both a couple more minutes to admire and pet Nox before clapping his hands and saying, “Come on. If we’re late Augusta will be cross with me, which is never pleasant.”

He helps Granger into the carriage first, then Neville, and climbs in after both of them. The door swings shut on its own. Nox takes off at a full gallop, knowing quite well where he needs to take Draco on a full moon.

“Wait a minute,” Granger says nervously, “If Nox has wings, does that mean–”

She doesn’t have the chance to finish that question before the carriage is lifting off the ground, Nox beating his powerful wings to propel them into the air. Neville squashes his face against the window while Granger stays determinedly in the center of the seat.

“Don’t worry,” he says, “once he’s gotten us high enough it’s a smoother ride than any carriage would be on land.”

“Delightful,” she says, and carefully edges her way to window to watch Hogwarts become smaller and smaller below them.

Draco hides a smile. Slowly, painfully slowly, he thinks she’s discovering that not all aspects of pureblood tradition are repugnant to her.

Of course, that’s likely to all be destroyed after a full night in the House, but he can enjoy it while it lasts.

Chapter Text

The flight is short – pegasi can only be reliable out-flown by dragons, after all, and Nox is talented enough that the carriage lands smoothly. Draco steps out first, then helps Neville out, then Granger. Nox gallops off into the air, likely back to his manor until he calls for him again.

“Stonehenge?” Granger asks, tilting her head to the side. The massive, ancient structure looks almost silver in the moonlight.

“Not quite,” Neville says, beaming. He claps Draco on the shoulder. “Thanks for letting me come with you. I’ll see you on the other side.” He heads around to the opposite curve of the circle, careful not to step too close until he finds the right spot.

“Where’s he going?” she frowns, “Where is everyone?”

He holds out his arm, and she takes, stepping up beside him. He leads her forward to the stone doorway in front of them, “Come now, Granger, haven’t you learned anything about our world yet? Nothing is as it seems.”

She opens her mouth, probably to yell at him, but they step into the stone doorway and a wall of black flames bursts to life behind them, and a wall of white flame surges up in front of them. They’re boxed in – stone on two sides, and flames on the others. “Malfoy?” she whispers, her grip becoming bruising. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t panic,” he says, “You’ve faced something like this before, haven’t you?”

She relaxes slightly. “In first year, it was Snape’s challenge. Do we have to solve a riddle?”

He shakes his head. “Snape had never been here of course, but he’s heard of it. Trying to recreate what he could never have. Pathetic.”

Draco leans his hand against the rough stone, feeling for a sharp edge. Once he finds one, he presses against it and slices open his palm. “Draco!”

“It’s fine,” he reaches forward and pushes his bloody hand through the fire. His blood slides from his skin into the flames, and the white fire turns red, spreading out from his hand until the whole of the flames are a bright, natural red shot through with orange. “There. It’s just a normal fire now. Would you like to take care of it? Or perhaps throw me into it?”

“Occidere!” she casts, rolling her eyes, and on one hand it’s over-kill to use the predecessor to the avada kedavra curse to put out a fire, but on the other hand it’s incredibly cool to watch the pale green smoke enfulge the flames and eventually dissipate. She slides her wand back into her sleeve and tosses her hair over her shoulder, giving him a look that puts her right at home with a bunch of snobbish purebloods.

“Excellent,” he grins and winks at her, and before she has a chance to respond to that he leads her through the entrance. He watches her face, and sees the moment she sees through the illusion.

The area within Stonehenge is much, much larger than it appears on the outside. It’s not abandoned dirt, but instead a gorgeous, manicured garden. They aren’t alone – couples are stepping through the stone doorways of Stonehenge. Lords, Ladies, and Heirs rubbing at their hands even though the magic heals them as soon as they step through. Neville is already at Augusta’s side, an attentive and handsome presence at her elbow as she leads them up the garden path.

“That’s a castle,” Grange says, looking up at the towering structure that the long stone paths leads to.

“A small one,” he agrees, “No one lives there, after all. It’s mostly just used for these meetings.”

She matches his pace as they walk towards it. “It looks old.”

“Helga Hufflepuff singlehandedly constructed this castle over a thousand years ago after the previous structure was destroyed in a magical backlash. It’s a little older than Hogwarts – she built this first, which is why she was the architect for the Hogwarts castle.” He nearly trips when Granger stops in her tracks, and he looks back to see her giving him the strangest look he’s ever seen. He hopes she’s not planning to set him on fire. He gently tugs her forward and attempts to push his smirk into a smile in case she curses him for it. “Not everything is in Hogwarts, A History. If you can go the whole evening without embarrassing me, I’ll show you the West Tower. That’s where the library is.”

“I’m holding you to that,” she says, carefully lifting her red silk gown to take the steps up the castle. “What happens tonight?”

He leads her past the great hall into a side chamber. This castle wasn’t built for beauty or splendor. It was built for practicality, it was built in need, in desperation, it was built singlehandedly by a young witch who had nothing but her name and refused to let it die.

The meeting room is the largest in the castle. In the center is a large oval table, large enough to sit five hundred people.

Of course, far less than that are here tonight.

“We’ll convene for our meeting here first. Once it’s in session, don’t speak. Only Lords and Ladies may speak – if an Heir has something to contribute, they may tell their Lord or Lady, and they will choose whether or not it needs to be said. But everyone else will simply listen. Understand?” Granger nods. He pulls out her chair for her, then sits beside her. No one says anything, quietly going to their seats. Draco may not be allies with all these people, but he knows them, of course. “After, there will be dancing and drinks. You may speak then, although I would strongly advise that you do not relax. The social aspect of these meetings is often more treacherous than the actual session.”

Lord Parkinson is the last to arrive, his daughter and Heir sitting down beside them. Paige Parkinson is like Pansy condensed – all the terrifying power and airheaded demeanor pushed into a razor sharp reputation. Paige reminds him of Blaise’s mother, and he adores her, but he also stays far, far away from her.

Rosamund stands. As the eldest Lady present, she begins and dismisses these sessions, and many people hate the Lestranges, but it’s one thing to hate someone in the privacy of your own mind and quite another to stand against a woman who was rumored to best Dumbledore in the ring until he refused to duel her any longer, back when they were very different people in a very different time.

“I, Lady Rosamund Lestrange, hereby call this meeting of the House of Lords and Ladies to session. All those in favor of continuing with these proceedings, say I.”

“I,” Draco and dozens of others say.

Rosamund lifts her wand, and with a flick all the torches along the walls glow a little brighter. A large scroll appears in front of her, and she unrolls it with an intimidating snap of the parchment.

“So mote it be. Let’s begin!”

~

Granger listens with rapt attention, but most of the meeting must be boring, at least for her. It’s minutia about alliances, Rosamund pulling up a blood map and all the lords confirming their alliances have been maintained. A couple people have new alliances to add, but that’s not terribly surprising. The war pitted many people against each other, and after the dust settled contracts were drawn up and Lords and Ladies took on new families who wished to publicly associate themselves with more favorable nobles. Draco hadn’t had to deal with that, thank Merlin. He did quietly take a couple of families from the Notts, but the less said of that the better.

Next is the slate for the upcoming round of Wizengamot voting. Lady Eliza Greengrass rattles off a list of the upcoming bills, and gives a short summary of each. There’s heated debate over the newest wand tracking spell that’s being submitted as a required component of all future wands. Lord Ollivander is against it of course, although Lady Patil points out that it doesn’t do much more than the registration of magic required to get an appiration lesson. Ollivander nearly goes purple in the face at that, and he goes on a twenty minute rant that involves a lot of gesticulating. Draco has a sturdy grasp on advanced arithmancy – he has to, if he ever plans on taking the formal examinations to become a charms master – but everything Ollivander is saying is flying way over his head.

Granger is practically vibrating in her seat, biting at her lip. Draco shakes his head, and she relaxes, although the grip she has on the edge of the table is particularly concerning.

“Lord Ollivander,” he says, “I’m afraid most of us aren’t up to your level of mastery. Perhaps a simpler explanation would suffice?”

The old man turns his piercing blue eyes on him and cracks his aging face into a grin. “Ah, the young thief speaks.” Draco stiffens because he has no idea what he’s talking about, he’s never crossed the Ollivanders, their families have amiable for generations. “I do hope my niece is causing you as much trouble as she causes us.”

Oh. He’s talking about Markle’s friend, Andrea, the first ever Ollivander to be sorted in Slytherin.

His heart rate settles back to normal and he grins, “She’s a model student, I’m afraid. She clearly didn’t take after you.”

Ollivander barks out a laugh, “Oh give her time, give her time. She’ll be your worst nightmare before you know it.” The old man scratches at his beard and says, “All right, this new spell is a terrible bloody idea because it interferes with the wand’s natural magic, which is one thing when you’re our age and with our power, but for a kid? One just starting out? It will be a disaster. Additionally, I don’t care that the Ministry can track us anyway. They shouldn’t have a nice easy way to do it. If history has taught us anything, it’s that when evil comes knocking, the Ministry is the first to fall. They don’t need any help hunting people down the line when the next war comes.”

When the next war comes. Not if.

There will always be another war.

Sometimes it feels like being a Lord is just spending a lifetime preparing for a war you pray you won’t live long enough to see.

“Well, that’s very true,” Lady Nott says, the youngest in the room besides him. She’s still twice his age, but he likes her anyway. She was a second cousin to the Lord before the war. After the war, with Lord Nott dead, she was chosen as the next head of the family. Draco thoroughly approves. “Who is in favor of it? It sounds like a brilliant mix of stupid and unnecessary to me.”

“It’s well intentioned,” Augusta says, speaking for the first time. “Although horribly misguided. It’s meant as a safety measure against crime. Of course, that assumes that a criminal would be stupid enough to use their own wand, knowing it could be traced back to them by spell residue alone, even without this additional tracking in place.”

“Well, if Lady Longbottom is against it, I am too,” Lord Brown says, giving the woman a saucy wink. Augusta tilts her nose in the air. Neville looks very uncomfortable.

“Motion to stall and block the bill?” Rosamund asks. Everyone agrees, although some are more enthusiastic about it than others. “Excellent. Those of us with Wizengamot seats will vote against the bill, but if it passes the first level of votes we’ll set up a lobby system. Minister Shackbolt is so annoyingly straight laced – you can’t bribe that man! Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“Almost makes you miss Fudge,” Lady Abbot says wistfully. “He was a train wreck, but for the most part he was an easily contained train wreck. Besides, he responded particularly well to blackmail and bribery.”

Everyone grumbles in agreement, and Granger looks positively scandalized. He supposes she believed that the supposedly ‘good’ families like the Abbots and Longbottoms and the Browns wouldn’t do something like bribe and blackmail government officials.

He’s almost disappointed. She was willing to do all manner of horrible things to achieve her ideals, was ruthless in her goal of peace – why wouldn’t they be as well?

The rest of the meeting proceeds in a similar fashion, and once the list of upcoming bills has been exhausted, there’s talk of the new businesses that are being started and the ones that are, unfortunately, failing. Then the official business of the night ends as it always does. A silver dagger appears beside every Lord or Lady.

Draco remember suddenly that Granger has no idea what’s about to happen. “Don’t panic, and be silent about it if you must panic.”

The confusion leaves her eyes and is replaces by horror when he picks up the silver knife and drags it vertically down the length of his arm. He glares at her, shaking his head when she opens her mouth. His blood flows into the center of the table, and the table looks like it’s perfectly level but all their blood mingles and pools together until there’s a thin layer across the table. He’s just getting lightheaded at that point, and it wasn’t only like this. There was a time when each of them only had to give a few drops to fill this table, to keep the wards intact.

It was a time far in the past, but it existed. Now they all lose over a pint of blood each, Draco even more because he’s young and he can stand the loss. If things keep progressing as they are, they’re going to have to go back to ancient times and conclude every meeting with a human sacrifice.

The blood sinks into the table, and there’s a blinging flash of light as the wards are renewed and strengthened, as the magic takes what is given.

All else may fall, but the House of Lords and Ladies must stand. If every other bit of their culture and history is doomed to be overrun and forgotten, then this must remain.

This castle, this circle, this library, this magic. They give more blood than they can spare because the necessity of this place has never been more dire, because their history has never before been so close to being lost.

When the light dims, his arm is healed, not even a scar to show where he’d cut himself.

Scars are how the magic gives a warning. If anyone leave the House scarred, they would be smart to never return, lest they never leave it again.

They’re silent now, and Draco rolls his sleeve back down and offers his arm Granger. “To the garden,” he says, “and then you may speak.”

Heirs and wives and husbands pretend they’re not supporting the weight of the person they came with, pretend that this is normal when it is not. He won’t allow himself to lean against Granger, but as soon as they leave the castle he reaches into his sleeve and downs a blood replenishing potion.

“Do you have more of that?” Neville asks from right behind him, and Draco turns, cursing himself for not noticing.

“She won’t take it,” he warns, dropping a small vial in to his hand, “She never does.”

Neville shrugs, eyes pinched around the corners, “I might as well try. Thanks, Draco.”

He runs a hand through his hair then looks down at Granger, surprised at her continued silence. “You can speak now, you know.”

She’s staring him, lips pressed into a thin line and eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure where to begin,” she says finally, “I have no idea what just happened in there. I mean – the discussions I followed, more or less, and I had no idea you all kept such a close eye on everything. I’m shocked anything happens without you lot knowing about it.”

“It doesn’t, generally,” he says, and he can already see Lord Flint heading towards them. “Look, the social aspect is actually rather important. Can this wait until the dancing starts?”

Granger frowns, but gives a half-shrug that Draco is going to take as agreement. Lord Giles Flint comes up to them, a man who’s as large as his wife is tall. Draco has never likes him, ever since he was a small boy who was forced to be polite him at his parents’ parties. “What are you doing all the way over here in the corners, my boy? It’s quite unlike you,” he booms, looking only at him and not addressing Granger at all.

“My apologies, Lord Flint,” he forces himself to smile, “I had not intended to disappoint.”

“Can’t be helped, I suppose,” his wife says, her eyes barely flickering over Granger.

He wraps his arm around Granger’s waist and pulls her against his side, praying she doesn’t smack him for it. She doesn’t, instead leaning into him so Giles has no choice but to look at her or awkwardly turn his face halfway to the side, and Draco does his best to smother his amusement.

She really does fit in scarily well with his sort, with that reckless pride of hers.

Muggleborn, wife of a blood-traitor, and Gryffindor or not, Granger is still his guest. She’s on the arm of Lord Malfoy, and Draco isn’t going to let anyone get away with disrespecting her, mostly because that means they’re disrespecting him.

Giles curls his upper lip in disgust. Draco asks, “Is there something you wanted to discuss with me in particular, Lord Flint?”

 “Yes, unfortunately,” he says, “I was hoping to ask a favor of you?”

“Of course you may ask,” he says pleasantly, and if this was Rosamund or even Augusta he would agree without question, but this is neither. The Flints are a strong, pure family who have never wavered in their devotion to magic itself. That doesn’t mean the family isn’t bursting with the nastiest sort of people Draco has ever had the misfortune of dealing with, and Giles is as rotten as the rest of them.

“One of the lesser families pledged to me has a daughter who whelped a mudblood child,” he says. “The mother has died, unfortunately. It is, of course, my duty to raise the child in my own family. Perhaps you could offer such some advice? You have taken in several similarly tainted children, I understand.”

By some miracle, Granger keeps her mouth shut. “One must get new blood where one can,” he answers, “but then the Flints have been so fortunate as to not suffer low numbers, unlike my own family.”

He hates this, and he hates himself, but he wants the same thing Flint wants. The unfortunate thing is Flint knows he wants it, and will force him to practically beg to relieve him of a burden he doesn’t care for to begin with.

This is why wars are started, he thinks, there comes a point where no one can stand the bloody politics of it all anymore.

“The Malfoy clan is looking a little thin, isn’t it?” Giles asks, his smugness practically rolling off of him. Draco wants to strangle him.

His wife laughs and lays her hand on her husband’s shoulder like a pale, glittering spider. “Oh, but Lord Malfoy, surely you could take care of that problem with a well timed marriage? You are getting on in years after all.”

He is twenty four years old, and his parents may have gotten married the very summer after his mother graduated Hogwarts, but their marriage had been orchestrated by their parents, and besides that they’d actually liked each other. The only one of high enough standing he thinks he could tolerate being married to would be Pansy, and they’d figured out that was a horrible idea by the time they were fourteen. “Unfortunately, it’s not currently in the cards. It seems I must expand my family by more … unconventional means.”

Twenty minutes and seven more pointed remarks about his family line later, it’s decided that Draco will take charge of the toddler, and she will become a member of his House. He’s trying to figure out which cousin he can convince to take the child on when Granger stamps on his foot.

“Ow!” he hisses, “What was that for?”

“I would like some explanations now, please,” she glares. Light music fills the air, and there is a spaced cleared for dancing.

“You could have just asked, there was no need for violence,” he grumbles, leading Granger onto the dance floor in the middle of the garden. It’s early in the night, and there aren’t that many people out there, everyone instead sequestered in small groups with glinting glasses of wine in their hands. He feels a stab of envy, but he’s pretty sure if he doesn’t answer some of Granger’s questions soon he may just feel stabbed, period.

He’s pleasantly surprised to discover she knows the waltz. He wonders if she learned it for her wedding, since he can’t think of what other time she would have needed to know it for. She certainly hadn’t known how to dance when they were kids at the Yule Ball. “What was the bit in the end, with the – the blood and the light?”

“This is a sacred place, Granger,” he twirls her around. “Can’t you feel it? It’s been around for over five thousand years. This has been a place of magic and harmony and sacrifice for that long. It has been maintained as such because Lords and Ladies have given back what the magic has given us in the first place. We meet more often now, give more now because so much of us are afraid, but we truly only need to renew the wards once a year. Everything else is – extra. Insurance, if you will.”

“Barbaric insurance,” she mutters.

He grins, all teeth. “Of course it is, Granger. Magic is barbaric. Nothing so beautiful comes for free.”

She’s silent for a while after that, and Draco clocks everyone around them as he turns them across the dance floor. They have a few confused or surprised sets of eyes on them, but nothing truly hostile, which he’s grateful for. He doesn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to start a duel here, of all places, but he’s certainly not willing to find out.

Granger huffs, seemingly at herself, and says, “I don’t understand. Flint said one of the witches he protects had birthed a muggleborn. But that’s impossible – by definition, muggleborns are born of muggles, not witches.”

“Ah,” Draco spins her again, thinking. “Well, no that’s not what he said. He said she’d had a mudblood. Flint’s rather old, and he was around for Grindelwald’s war, and his vocabulary hasn’t ever really updated. Nowadays, ever since Voldemort’s initial rise to power, mudblood has been used as an insult against muggleborns. But that wasn’t always the case – up until then, mudblood was a slur not against muggleborns, but against magical children with a muggle parent and a magical parent.” She’s looking at him, brows furrowed in concentration, so he dips her while he thinks he can get away with it. “It makes more sense, I think, that way. Muggles dirtying the bloodlines, and all that, getting in the way of the magic. Muggleborns, on the other hand, are born of magic itself. Nothing dirty about that.”

“That’s not very nice to half-bloods,” Granger says, “I don’t think we should use it to refer to anyone.”

“I suppose not,” he grins, “but that is what Flint meant. Half-bloods are almost worse than squibs to the older generations. He may have made me grovel for the privilege of taking the child into my family, but the last thing he wants is a half-blood running around with the name Flint.”

“You’ve done this before?” she asks, “He said you had.”

Draco shrugs, uncomfortable with the way she’s staring at him. “Many people lost children in the war, my cousins included. When I show up with a child at their door, they’re amiable enough to raising them. I am their Lord, these are children, and the Malfoy line is rather on the small side, comparatively. Besides, one good thing about Voldemort’s rein is that I didn’t grow up with that particular prejudice. My parents were much more concerned with raising me to hate muggles and muggleborns than they were half-bloods.”

He expects her to yell at him for that remark, but instead Granger is still just starring at him in a way that makes his shoulder itch. He very much wishes she would stop.

“May we cut in?” a hoarse voice asks, and this isn’t quite the rescue he’d been hoping for, but he’ll take what he can get.

“Of course, Lady Longbottom,” he smiles, bowing to her.

Augusta ignores him completely and takes Granger’s arm, leading her to the other side of the dance floor. Draco blinks after their retreating backs, and barely catches sight of Lord Brown looking after Augusta longingly, likely because the old Lord is certifiably insane. Augusta Longbottom terrifies him. He has no idea how Lord Brown continues to nurse his frankly baffling crush on the woman. Then again, if Augusta was truly adverse to his advances, Draco figures she would have let Lord Brown know in some sort of suitably horrifying and painful way.

“Sorry about that,” Draco pulls his gaze to Neville who grins sheepishly and shrugs. “Want to dance?”

“Might as well,” he sighs, and he’s sure Neville was forced to attend all the same formal dancing lessons he was, so he’ll actually be able to do more than a half dozen steps with the man.

He loses track of Granger after that, and he’d be worried about it except that every time he catches a glimpse of her she’s at Augusta’s side. The rest of it is rather a blur, like it always is. He discusses the progress of over dozen children in his house with various Lords and Ladies, which is new, but the business talks and subtle interrogation over the state of everyone’s treasuries and family trees is old news. It’s nearing the end of the night when Augusta deposits Granger back at his side without saying a word. Granger looks rather dazed, which he thinks is only fair.

“Ready to go?” he asks. He’s already talked to everyone he needed to, and also he’s afraid that if they linger any longer someone will make a pointed comment about his guest, and then Granger will set something on fire.

“You promised me a library if I didn’t embarrass you, and I didn’t. I want to see the library,” she says crossly, but she’s also swaying on her feet so Draco figures there’s room for negotiation.

“If we can leave now, I will unleash you on the Malfoy family library and I promise to take you back here and leave you in the library at some point.”

She narrows her eyes at him. If she insists on the library, he supposes he can find a comfortable table to sleep on top of. “Very well,” she says, “I accept your terms.”

“Thank Merlin,” he sighs, and almost-smiles when she laughs at him.

The Longbottoms have already left, and Draco quickly says goodbye to everyone else of import before he and Granger step through the stone arch and come out the other side, this time without any fire. Granger turns to look behind them, but Draco doesn’t bother. He knows what she’ll see – an empty monument, the same as the muggles do, with no indication of what lays behind them. “Fascinating,” she breaths.

He raises his hand and snaps his fingers. Nox and his carriage lands mere moments later, and he barely has the presence of mind to help Granger into the carriage before following her in and collapsing on the seat. On the surface, spending an evening dancing and talking shouldn’t drain him this much, but he always leaves these things feeling exhausted. “Well? What did you think?”

She turns her head from the window, and he takes a small moment to feel gratified that she’s decided the carriage is safe enough that she can look out the window without fear. “I think I have more questions than ever, but that was quite … informative. Thank you for taking me.”

She seems earnest, so Draco smiles at her like he means it, like she’s his friend. “You’re welcome, Granger.”

“Oh, you might as well call me Hermione,” she says, “Everyone else does.”

“In that case, I don’t suppose I can stop you from calling me Draco, can I?” he asks, and this – is a much better outcome than he was expecting. Although it was probably exactly the outcome that Luna was hoping for, the meddlesome brat.

“No, I don’t suppose you can,” she says, satisfied.

They land on Hogwarts grounds, right in front of the castle. He’s just helped Hermione out of the carriage and Nox is already in the air back to the manor when he turns around and sees two people waiting for them on the palace steps.

Draco is instantly offended. “What, you didn’t think I would return her in one piece?”

“Don’t look at me,” Ron says, grinning. “This wasn’t my idea.” Draco glances at a glowering Harry Potter, then quickly looks away. Ron jumps down the steps and grabs his wife’s hand and twirls her around like a ballerina. “Look at you, done up all pretty. I’m jealous.”

Hermione looks to Harry then rolls her eyes. “As you should be,” she informs him, throwing herself at Draco so he has no choice but to wrap his arms around her or risk her falling to the ground, which he certainly isn’t going to allow while she’s wearing his mother’s dress. “I want a divorce – I’m in love with Draco, this one night has changed me forever. I’m sorry.”

“I understand,” Ron says easily, which at least makes one of them. “But consider this – we stay married, and instead we just share Draco?” He gives him an over exaggerated wink, and it’s physically painful for Draco not to roll his eyes at them. “I don’t normally go for blokes, but you’re so pretty that it doesn’t really count, does it?”

“It definitely counts,” he says, “Will you take your wife? What are you even doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Ron turns and yells up the steps, “Hey, Harry, what are we doing here?”

Potter is giving them the kind of scowl that makes it clear that not only did he kill a dark lord, but he spent years after the war hunting down the darkest and most dangerous of wizards from the darkest and most dangerous parts of the world. Draco is almost alarmed – Potter doesn’t actually think he’d do anything to Hermione, does he? Ron doesn’t seem worried, and he’s her husband.

“You,” Harry grounds out between clenched teeth, “are a couple of no good back stabbing traitors.”

He stomps away after that in a melodramatic fashion reminiscent of their Hogwarts days. Is this about the argument they had? Since no one else seemed upset at him, he’d assumed Potter wasn’t that upset either, but he must have been wrong.

Draco starts to ask about it, but Ron only claps him on the shoulder and says, “Don’t worry about it. He’s just cross because we’re doing what we told him not to do.”

“Which is?” he asks, blinking.

Hermione and Ron share a look that oddly reminds him of his parents and all the silent conversations they used to have. “Don’t worry about it,” Hermione says, echoing her husband.

He stares, completely unimpressed and just as confused as before.

Gryffindors. Honestly.