The History goes like this:
Sixty years ago the Wizarding War spilled over into the Muggle world, killing a significant portion of the population. The one they called Voldemort was vanquished, as was the one who felled him, Harry Potter. But afterwards, Voldemort’s followers, called Death Eaters, scattered and continued their reign of terror. In a desperate effort to quell the destruction, some resourceful, clever Muggles found a weakness in the magical folk they could exploit: a powerful, charged electromagnetic field that pulsed around them. A device was soon developed that dampened the electromagnetic field surrounding such beings, nullifying their magical powers. The Lorentz-Force Inhibitor, a collar placed around the neck of the subject, produced an almost immediate cessation of the flow of magical energy.
This led to the Purge, a world-wide decimation of the magical community. Wizard or witch, adult or child, it made no difference. They were dispatched with lightning efficiency for fear of another conflict that would arise and cost lives. A few wizards and witches escaped, of course, but they went deep into hiding, rarely showing themselves. And if one was found or suspected, a Mage Hunter was sent to retrieve them and turn them over to the Mage Unit for neutralization. The Muggle world could not afford another assault.
At least, that’s the history that Draco Malfoy has been told.
Their society, the one Draco is a part of, is fairly stable. He is unsure how things are run in other parts of the world, but in Anglia there are strict rules in place to prevent another war from happening. Curfews, restricted areas, banned materials, forbidden items - all of these are a normal part of his life. There is a committee that deems what is acceptable - in behaviour, in career, in professional life and personal. Go against what has been set down, and one is dealt with swiftly and quietly. There is no margin of error, for that way lie the seeds of destruction. Question the establishment, and one finds themselves removed from society so that dissension cannot spread.
There are agencies that enforce the dictates, of course, and Draco is a part of one of these: the Mage Hunters, the Special Forces that are the first line of defence against what’s left of the wizarding world.
As a Mage Hunter, Draco has followed orders for decades, never questioning what happens to those he brings before the ancient head of the Mage Unit, Severus Snape. A weathered rail of a man, Snape has overseen the operations of the Mage Unit from the beginning. His gaze misses nothing. Draco feels there is much more to his boss, but he’s been conditioned not to ask for particulars; do your job, get paid, avoid pissing off the Central Committee, rinse, repeat.
Draco has never asked how Snape deals with a witch or wizard remanded to his custody. All he knows is that he is given a target (or occasionally comes across one on his own), acquires said target and then turns them over to Snape. There are several other Mage Hunters that are his contemporaries, but he has never known their names. They work other sectors and rarely overlap territory. Draco has never questioned the necessity of capturing the magical threat.
Draco doesn’t remember his parents. Are they still alive, or did they die before the event that changed everything? Does he have siblings? His past is a muddle, like trying to see through dense, impenetrable fog. The first thing Draco Malfoy does remember is the Purge. How the world almost exploded overnight, the rampant paranoia about whether another person was a witch or wizard. How the Thames practically evaporated within a couple of weeks, leaving a sludge surrounding crumbling structures beneath what used to be a busy waterway. How he was sat down in an uncomfortable chair, in front of Snape (who was much younger at the time) and a cuff fixed to his left forearm that ran from wrist to elbow. How he was taught to tell the difference between a Muggle and a Mage, of how it was drilled into his psyche like a blunt force object.
In his confusion, Draco accepted Snape’s tutelage, his demands that he become a Mage Hunter. You are uniquely qualified to ferret out wizards and witches, Snape had said. Draco had no clue what was meant by such a statement, but the tension that vibrated throughout his body eased whenever he was around Snape, so, like a good Muggle, he didn’t question it. He has assessment meetings with Snape once a month; these are tedious, with fine-tuning of his cuff and physical evaluations. Sometimes he has headaches afterwards, but they usually disappear after an hour.
His training began in earnest and he absorbed the information like a sponge. The most important was that, unlike Muggles, wizard and witches ‘shimmer’. Be it their eyes, their hair, or even their skin, something on such a being is luminescent. Not everyone could see the shimmer, so Mage Hunters were outfitted with a hood with specialised eye pieces that could detect minute traces of electromagnetic current.
Draco’s hood was a heavy shroud with arcane runes etched on the forehead. He had no idea what they meant; Snape had once told him they were for protection, and he assumed that’s what they were. His cuff had the same runes embossed all the way around the silver metal and leather; he was instructed never to remove it.
He sleeps, eats and hunts. Occasionally, he dreams - of ancient castles on high hillsides, of a vast lake, surrounded by thick forests. Of flashes of green and blue light, of fire so intense he rouses with sweat dotting his forehead. Once he awakens, though, everything disappears and he is left feeling empty. He refuses to indulge in self-reflection - the problem with introspection is that it has no end, and he desperately wants to turn off his mind when he closes his eyes.
Because this reality is unfamiliar to him. When he closes his eyes, he recalls a life lived long before, one of sights, sounds and smells well beyond a Muggle’s comprehension. When he awakens from these vision-like dreams, his senses feel muted, dull. Some days he doesn't know if he is still asleep or trudging his way through a morass not of his own making.
He will soon learn that reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Draco opens his eyes, blinking rapidly. He glances to the right, focusing on the computer screen near his bed. “What is it, Luna?”
A light voice filters throughout the room. “Snape has a new assignment for you. It sounds really dangerous!”
“Everything I do is dangerous. What makes this especially so?” Draco rolls to the side and sits up, rubbing his face.
“They want you to go to Kent, to the Dering Woods.”
Draco raises a brow at the request. “The Screaming Woods? What for?”
He gets to his feet and Luna’s voice follows him around his flat as he attends to his ablutions. “Snape thinks they’re called the Screaming Woods because a group of wizards and witches are using it as a front to keep Muggles away from the area. He wants you at Unit headquarters in twenty minutes.”
Hopping on one foot to don his sock, Draco snarls, “Shit! Why do they wait to tell me these things? It takes at least thirty minutes to get there!”
“Well, the transmission came earlier, but you were having a dream and I didn’t want to wake you,” Luna admits from the far side of the room. “You seemed happy.”
Draco barely remembers the dream, so he can’t say for sure whether he was or not. “Doesn’t matter. I just won’t have time to shave.” He rummages through his laundry to find something clean to wear, spots a green shirt that has seen better days.
“I think you looking dashing with a five-o’clock shadow,” Luna muses. “Like a pirate of olden days.”
Draco snorts and runs his fingers through his shoulder-length pale blond hair. “I hate rum.” He shrugs on his long leather coat. “Can you scrub the interface while I’m gone? I keep hearing unintelligible gibberish at odd times, like an unknown source is trying to contact me in a foreign language.”
Luna hesitates before replying, but Draco is too harried to comment on it. “I will see what I can do,” she responds. “A hover car is waiting for you downstairs.”
“Good, see you later!” He snags his hood and leaves in a rush.
“Yes you will, Draco Malfoy,” Luna sing-songs.
Draco pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. “Blame my PA module. She accepted the message and didn’t bother to wake me up until just before I needed to be here.”
Snape, silver hair flowing over his shoulders, gives him a droll look, as if he’s heard these excuses before. “Automated PA modules are not sentient beings, Malfoy. Therefore, they cannot take the blame for your tardiness.”
“Luna is hardly a standard PA module,” Draco retorts.
“You’ve named your PA module?”
Draco narrows his gaze. “She announced herself as Luna upon startup. Isn’t that standard programing?”
Snape rubs his temples and mutters, “Lovegood.”
“Nothing.” Snape slides a small fob across the desk to Draco. “The details are on the drive. Assess the situation in the Dering Woods to see if it truly is witches and wizards creating the racket. Take multiple L-Force collars, just in case.”
Draco slips the fob into his portable computer tablet and reads over the information. “Are you expecting more than one or two?”
Snape steeples his fingers. “I believe this may be the last hold-out of what is left of the original wizarding folk. I am unsure how many may be hiding within the area. Use extreme caution.”
It’s on the tip of Draco’s tongue to ask what he’ll do for a job afterwards, if this is truly the last of the people he’s been tasked to hunt down all these years. But Snape’s look of foreboding curtails his impulse, so he nods and stands. “Report back here as usual once I’ve contained them?”
For a moment Snape doesn’t answer, merely stares at something in the distance as if mulling over some matter of great importance. He closes his eyes and nods. “Discreet, as always.”
Draco collects the extra L-Force collars and stows them in special holsters on either side of his hips for quick retrieval. He’s only once made the mistake of not carrying them on his person; a thin, jagged scar on the left side of his neck is a reminder that those with magical powers will not think twice about killing someone in their attempt to escape. He has other scars on his torso, but he doesn’t recall how he got them. He’s dreamed about a cold tile floor, slashing wounds, a musical chant that heals them, but when he awakes, the memories disperse like mist...or like blood in the water.
Maybe afterwards, if this is really the last of his magical quarry, he can stop and breathe for a moment, try and centre his thoughts. Hopefully then he can focus on what his mind is so desperately trying to tell him in his sleep.
Draco manoeuvres the hover car to a secluded car park just outside the Dering Woods, near the village of Pluckley. It’s raining, which should muffle any sounds he makes once he begins exploring the paths that lead into the dense forest. He sits in the car for a moment, adjusting the settings on his hood to allow for maximum sensitivity since it’s dark, and checks to see if his arm cuff is on its highest setting. It feels strange; a deep ache that makes his whole arm throb, and when he adjusts the settings, the pain intensifies. Though this has happened before, it’s never been this severe. He dismisses it as a result of increased magical power in the vicinity. Snape was right, it appears.
After donning the hood, he exits the hover car and makes his way towards the gate that keeps the public out during restricted hours. He ducks underneath and starts walking the edge of the muddy path. His hood’s optics adjust for the minimal light as his boots squelch in the muck. Though it is lightly raining, he hears no other night sounds - no fox cries, no rustling of branches or shuffle of wet leaf litter. His cuff feels as if it’s getting smaller, constricting the movement of his left arm. He pulls a collar from his holster and arms it, the lights indicating the whir of the dampener brought to life.
He’s gone several yards when he hears a high-pitched wail, long and then with short bursts. It emanates from deep within the trees. His grip on the collar tightens as he takes a few more steps. He sees a slight mist start to form at the crossroads up ahead, but before he can determine what it really is, his feet are pulled out from under him.
The collar goes flying into the underbrush and he lands face-first in the mud. He tries to scramble away, but someone very tangible is sitting on his lower back, something sharp pressing at the base of his skull.
“You’re sloppy.” It’s a female, her voice low and mocking. “Are you a novice?”
Draco doesn’t answer; he’s been trained not to answer.
“Ah, the quiet type. No matter.” The pressure on his back lifts and in a moment he’s face-to-face with leather boots that are quite worn. “Get up… slowly.”
He unglues himself from the clinging muck and rises to his knees, then to his feet. His hood is still on, and what he sees through the optics is overwhelming. The shimmer on this woman has an electromagnification so intense it doesn’t even register properly. No wonder they were able to obfuscate their presence in the woods for so long; nothing would have registered to any Mage Hunter in the vicinity. It would have been seen as nothing more than an anomaly, a thermal draft of hot air that occasionally permeated the forest. But this close, he can actually feel how powerful she is.
She cocks her head, grabs the edge of his hood and lifts it away. The sudden removal blinds him briefly, but when his eyes adjust, he sees hers are wide with shock and her mouth is open, staring at him as if she’s seen a ghost.
“Draco Malfoy,” she whispers.
He frowns. How does this witch know who he is? He doesn’t recognize her, with her bushy mane, her purple scarf wrapped around her neck and shoulders. She looks about the same age as him, so maybe she’s seen him while he was on other missions? Before he can ask her about it, she inhales sharply, raises her wand and steps back.
Draco smiles to himself as multiple lengths of rope shoot out of her wand only to land limply at his feet. She may be a powerful witch, but the cuff he wears negates most spells thrown at him. She clearly doesn’t like what’s happened, and in that moment of confusion Draco snags a collar, arms it to maximum containment, and loops it around her neck, locking it into place.
She jerks back and immediately pulls at the collar, trying desperately to pry it off, and what little colour he can see in the low light starts to drain from her face. She makes gagging noises, as if the collar is choking her. That’s not happened before, and Draco moves towards her to decrease the field to moderate.
Before he can do so, a sharp pain in the back of his head steals his breath and then everything goes black.
When he comes to, he is bound tightly to a chair in the corner of a massive tent. He squints, trying to focus against the unusual light emanating from strategically placed bell jars around the tent. Several sets of bunk beds are littered throughout the space, some in a state of dishabille, others neatly made. A T-intersect leads, he presumes, to another area of the living quarters, but he can’t see around the canvas corner.
Without looking down, Draco can tell he’s been relieved of his collars, of his communicator, of anything of that might be used to contact Snape to let him know of his predicament. He is also missing his arm cuff. How they got it off him he has no idea, as it requires a key that only Snape possesses. He feels strange, vulnerable. He’s also irritated at his own carelessness: he hadn’t checked for other wizarding folk in the vicinity. He was too preoccupied with how the witch knew who he was, and whether he was killing her with the L-Force collar. He’s cautiously optimistic, though; if the witch had wanted him dead, he would be lying amongst the decaying bramble, never to be seen again. The sharp pain on the back of his neck reminds him that she probably had help disarming him, for while the cuff protects him from magical attacks, it’s shite at physical ones. He rolls his shoulders to ease some of the tension but stops the moment a woman pokes her head around the corner.
“Good, you’re awake!”
She’s not the same witch that he encountered earlier – she’s thinner and blonder – but something about her is familiar. “Release me,” Draco demands.
The waif comes closer, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. It wouldn’t be prudent, at least not yet.” She withdraws a stick from her sleeve. “I can, however, heal your wound.”
Draco backs away as much as he can. “Don’t touch me!”
She rolls her eyes, points her wand at him, and says, “Episkey!”
Mid-yell, Draco feels a coolness sluice over him, relieving all the aches and pains that have riddled his body for years. He tenses, waiting for something drastic to happen, like his face melting off, but nothing does. He blinks rapidly and studies the length of his body. Nothing hurts anymore. He sits straighter and is about to ask the blonde witch what she’s done to him when he spies his metal and leather cuff on the table behind her.
“What… what have you…”
She reaches out and pats him on the arm. “It’s okay, Draco. You’re safe here.”
He frowns at her in disgust. “What are you talking about? Who are you, how do you know me?” He shakes his head. “Why do you sound familiar?”
She smiles mischievously. “Incoming transmission.”
“In the flesh,” she quips. “I figured a friendly voice would help you transition better.” She leans in and says in a conspiratorial tone, “How did you like my Kneazle mating calls? That’s what you followed into the woods.”
The hair-raising screams were produced by this woman? Draco can’t wrap his head around it. “How…” He curses his tongue for refusing to form words.
“She hacked into the Mage Hunters’ central computer,” a hard voice says from just beyond the T-juncture. The witch he battled earlier steps around the corner, slowly approaches and stands behind Luna. She’s got the L-Force collar off, he notes. “Once she did that, it was easy to alter the PA module programme. Apparently,” she adds, glaring at Luna, “she’s been doing this for some time.”
Draco is confused. “Didn’t you know about it?”
“No. If I had, I would’ve made her cease immediately. Too much exposure, too vulnerable.”
Luna gave the other witch an exasperated look. “We needed to keep tabs on where all the Mage Hunters were being dispatched.” She turns back to Draco. “You were my favourite.”
“Do you mean you knew where all of us were being sent?”
The bushy-haired witch snorts. “How do you think we’ve evaded you for so long? I thought Luna truly had the gift of Divination, but no, it turned out that she and George Weasley got hold of an old Muggle computer and started hacking away without telling anyone.”
Draco swallows, refocusing on the table behind them. “How did you get my cuff off?”
Both witches study him, then the taller one speaks. “It’s a Prohibere Cuff. They prevent magic from hitting its target.”
“I know. That’s why your spell didn’t-”
“It also prevents magic from escaping,” she says pointedly, glancing at his arm. “If a witch or wizard wears one, it inhibits their magic to a debilitating degree. George disabled the clasp with one of his inventions. The question is, Draco, why are you wearing one and why are you hunting your own kind?”
White noise fills Draco’s ears and his vision starts to tunnel. His own kind… “What?”
“Hermione, I think you should untie him now. He looks like he’s about to faint.”
“Not yet, I want to know why…”
But Draco doesn’t hear anything else as his mind, once again, slides into darkness.
When he awakens next, he is lying down on the bottom bunk of one of the beds, his hands free. He feels groggy, as if he has been working for days straight without a respite. He raises his left arm and gasps at the sight of the black tattoo embedded in his flesh. He traces the snake and skull with his fingers, noticing the ache that usually accompanies him is gone.
“It’s called the Dark Mark.”
Draco shifts his startled gaze to the witch seated next to the bed. “How do you know what it is?”
She narrows her eyes at him. “What do you remember?”
She withdraws her wand from her pocket and runs it over him. “Hmm.” She chews on her bottom lip in contemplation. “My name is Hermione Granger. Does that mean anything to you?”
He frowns, trying to dredge up any memories surrounding that name, but nothing comes forth. “No. Should it?”
“You hated me for a good portion of our school life.”
This is news to him. “We went to school together?” He rubs his temples in a vain effort to ease the impending headache. “When? I don’t recall anyone like you.”
“Hogwarts,” she says wistfully. “It was a wizarding school.”
Draco swallows heavily. Magic. He went to a magic school. Or so she says. “Prove it.”
Granger huffs. “It’s a good thing I have Harry’s old Pensieve. But I warn you, this isn’t going to be pleasant.” She gets up and goes to a cabinet, withdrawing a stone bowl with a silvery liquid in it. “Sit up; you’ll need to dunk your head beneath the surface.”
“And let you drown me? No.”
“Do you want me to prove everything to you, or not? You’re going to have to trust me, Malfoy.”
He watches her closely, his scrutiny turning to astonishment as Granger points her wand at her own head. She starts pulling wispy strands from her temple and dumping them into the bowl. After a couple minutes of this, she steps away, looking tired. “Go ahead, dip in.”
“What will happen?”
“Ever see a Muggle movie?” At his nod, she goes on. “It’s like that, except more fragmented. It’s flashbacks, in essence.”
Hesitantly, Draco gets up from the bed and lowers his face beneath the liquid and is assaulted with Granger’s memories.
~ No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood.
Saint Potter, the Mudbloods’ friend. He’s another one with no proper wizard feeling, or he wouldn’t go around with that jumped-up Granger Mudblood.
I’m surprised all the Mudbloods haven’t packed their bags by now. Bet you five Galleons the next one dies. Pity it wasn’t Granger.
I’m dying! I’m dying, look at me! It’s killed me!
Look at him blubber! Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic? And he’s supposed to be our teacher!
Granger, they’re after Muggles. D’ you want to be showing off your knickers in mid-air? Because if you do, hang around … they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.
Keep that big bushy head down, Granger.
Twitchy little ferret, aren’t you Malfoy?
And what is all this noise about? Explain.
Potter attacked me, sir –
We attacked each other at the same time! And he hit Goyle – look!
Hospital wing, Goyle.
Malfoy got Hermione! Look!
I see no difference.
Malfoy was being absolutely foul to a first-year back there. I swear I’m going to report him, he’s only had his badge three minutes and he’s using it to bully people worse than ever.
Lording it over all the other teachers, the stupid puffed-up, power-crazy old –
Now, do you really want to finish that sentence, Granger?
Hermione, have you ever heard of this spell, Sectumsempra?
I just think it’s very irresponsible to start performing spells when you don’t even know what they’re for, and stop talking about ‘the Prince’ as if it’s his title, I bet it’s just a stupid nickname, and it doesn’t seem as though he was a very nice person to me!
I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person!
It warns in this book how unstable you make the rest of your soul by ripping it, and that's just by making one Horcrux!
Actually, I’m highly logical, which allows me to look past extraneous details and perceive clearly, that which others overlook!
That sword is meant to be in my vault at Gringotts! How did you get it? Did you and your friends take it from my vault?
I didn’t take anything!
I don’t believe you! Cissy? Put the boys in the cellar. I’m going to have a conversation with this one, girl to girl!
Ahhhh! Goyle’s set the bloody place on fire!
Hermione, when have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, and all hell breaks loose!
No! They’re both gone! ~
When Draco withdraws his head from the bowl, he can barely move. So much information, too many emotions, not enough facts. Was everything he’d seen real? Was it true? He’d seen himself doing magic – how could that be? Or was it all a lie made up by Granger? But it hadn’t felt like lies. It had felt like truth. He drops back on the mattress. His hands are shaking, so he clasps them together to still them. “What… what happened? After those two dying?”
Granger’s eyes tear up. “With Harry gone, things just sort of fell apart. We tried to fight back, tried to reign in the remaining Death Eaters, but they started attacking Muggles instead, forcing us to reveal ourselves in order to protect them. In the end, it didn’t matter; Muggles saw all magical people as evil and believed we should be destroyed on sight”
“The Purge,” Draco whispers.
“Yes,” she affirms. “We tried everything: concealment charms, Notice-Me-Not charms, anything that would make the Muggles look elsewhere without hurting them. Eventually, they developed the collars and we had to... disappear.” She rubs her eyes. “I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve lost.”
Draco guesses quite a few. But what happened with himself? What became of his family, his… “Snape!” he remembers.
“What about him?”
His gaze darts around the tent. “Snape... I saw him in your memories, but he was much younger. He’s older now.”
“Older?” Granger stares at him. “He’s supposed to be dead.”
Draco snorts mirthlessly. “He was very much alive when I last saw him, and he’s the head of the Mage Retrieval Unit. Thought you folks kept tabs on that?”
She starts to pace. “We try. We had no idea who has been behind the Unit. All we knew was that they would dispatch Hunters with peculiar accuracy. This explains a lot.”
“He’s a right bastard, sometimes.”
“That sounds like the Professor.”
“Professor?” Draco groans. “Do you mean to tell me he was our professor at school?” At her nod, he scoffs. “This is just getting better and better.” Something is not adding up, though. “Wait, you’re in your thirties, right?”
She laughs incredulously. “It’s 2058, Draco. I just turned 80 a couple of months ago.”
He sits up abruptly. “That’s impossible! You don’t look a day over 35!” He realises suddenly what this must mean for himself and pats his face, which seems smoother than this morning. “What the hell?!”
“Wizards and witches age much more slowly than Muggles. Nicolas Flamel lived to be 665 and he didn’t look more than 70.” She let her gaze roam over him. “You look like a scruffy man in your thirties, even though you’re 79.”
“This can’t be happening,” Draco mutters. He tries to rise from the bed, but he feels discombobulated and staggers back. He glares at her. “You slapped me!”
She raises an eyebrow. “Out of everything that you saw, you focus on the fact I smacked you for being a loathsome cockroach?”
He rubs his cheek to smooth away the phantom pain. “I can see why I didn’t like you then. It’s not shaping up to be much better now.”
“You hurt my feelings,” she deadpans. “I guess I should be grateful you haven’t collared us all.” Her eyes widen and she smirks. “Oh, that’s right! You can’t because we destroyed them.”
Draco thinks about throttling her for waking him up to this nightmare, or for taking away what might be his only means of protection at this point. But the moment he rises, his whole body reminds him that only a few minutes ago his world drastically changed and he collapses on the bed.
Granger forces him to lie back. “You might want to take this slowly, Malfoy. You’ve had a bit of a shock.”
“A bit?” he snarls. “I’ve had a whole bloody paradigm shift!”
“Well, yes, but-”
“No!” he shouts, pushing her away and rising to stand on wobbly knees. He grips the metal bed frame and takes gulping breaths. “Everything I’ve known is a lie!” He leans his head against one of his hands. “I have no idea where I come from, where I’ve been, what I’m supposed to be! All I know is what Snape has told me.” He lets a sob escape. “I don’t even know what happened to my parents.”
He feels a hand squeeze his shoulder. “Malfoy, I can assure you that if your parents were alive, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do to find you.”
He wants to believe Granger; after seeing everything in those memories, he’d like to think at least his family would search for him. But everything is at odds within him. From what he’s seen in the bowl, he can safely assume he was a high-society prat, full of himself, with a superiority complex and a racist bent.
God, he doesn’t want to know the extent of that sort of person, of what he was.
“How do you know?” he asks quietly.
Granger drops her hand, and it’s funny how he misses it. “The Malfoys had one saving grace: they loved one another, tremendously. Hagrid said that your mother was brave enough to defy the Dark Lord in order to make sure you were alive during the battle.”
Draco closes his eyes, tears edging his lashes. He can’t even recall what his mother looked like, save for the brief glimpses in Granger’s memories. It hurts that he can’t remember what she was like, that she loved him.
He’s about to ask another question, but a tall, lanky, red-headed man rushes in, followed by several others. “We need to leave,” he urges. The man points to Draco. “They put a tracker on his hover car and other Mage Hunters are coming.”
“Damn! George, you and Seamus round up anyone who’s wandered away from the camp and get them ready to go.”
As the two wizards depart, Granger starts pointing her wand at items in her vicinity, and Draco watches in fascination as they shrink to miniscule imitations, only to disappear into a purple beaded bag. The other witches and wizards follow suit until all the furnishings in the tent are gone, including the bunk beds. The only thing remaining is the canvas protecting them from the elements.
Draco wants to ask how they found out his car was tagged, or how they knew other hunters were coming, but in the flurry of activity no one pays him any attention. In truth, he could have slipped out during the scramble, with no one the wiser. But things have changed for him so much; his gut tells him he will be safer with this ragtag group than returning to the world he knew and being brought before the Central Committee.
As he watches the sections of the tent roll themselves up, he notices Granger digging around in her bag and withdrawing a black stick. She chews on her bottom lip and studies him. “Malfoy, if I give you a wand, do you promise not to hex me?”
“Considering I don’t even know how, I think you’re safe.”
“Oh, you’ll know how. It’s like riding a broom, you never forget.” She tentatively hands it to him. “You just swish and flick.”
He gives her a dubious look and plucks the stick from her grasp. The moment his fingers touch the wood, he knows. He knows! The power floods through him like a tsunami, washing over him in waves, filling all the dark recesses in his soul. The proverbial light has been switched on, the forbidden fruit consumed. Large gaps remain in his memories, but the more the power cycles through him, the more Draco remembers.
A tension builds in his frame, and he points the wand at the collapsing tent and says the first words that come to him. “Arresto Momentum!”
The flaps immediately come to a halt and drop into the mud. Draco is so pleased with himself that he doesn’t mind Granger complaining about the mess and the extra time it will take to get everything put away.
George, Seamus, Luna and a number of others return and gather in a huddle as Granger starts handing out tokens. Draco knows they are leaving… possibly without him. But he also knows that wherever they go, they’ll be hunted again and again. He can’t let that happen, not now that he knows he’s one of them.
“Wait!” he yells, just as she is about to hand out the last token. “They’ll find you again.”
Granger gives him an exasperated look. “Not for a long time. Then we’ll think of something else.”
“I can stop this,” Draco says with a confidence he doesn’t feel. “I know a place they won’t find.”
Everyone stares at him, some with thinly-disguised loathing.
“Why should we trust a Malfoy?” Seamus spits. “His da’s lot started this bloody war!”
Draco has an inkling it was more complicated than that. He recalls a grand house he’s been to before on hunts and, given the name, he knew it must have some link with his family. At the time, he was too busy to contemplate the connection, but he wonders, now, why the significance of the manse didn’t resonate with him. “You’ll do what it takes to survive, yes?” he asks Granger. At her hesitant nod, he rushes on, needing her to believe him. “You can hide at Malfoy Manor. It was swept long ago and no one goes there, not in decades.”
Voices rise in argument against the idea, pointing out that it would be the utmost folly to Apparate to the snake’s very den, regardless if it was abandoned. Draco’s not sure exactly what ‘Apparate’ means, but he knows, with conviction, that the property is empty. “No one goes there,” he assures them. “You can stay there, at least until you regroup and find somewhere else.”
Granger’s expression is dubious. “I thought you didn’t remember your previous life?”
Draco waves the wand. “This brought back some memories. Not all of them, but enough that I remember the Manor, at least.”
She is still sceptical, he can tell. And although the rest of them would like to hash it out even more, time is of the essence. Draco whispers urgently, “I trusted you, Granger. You’re going to have to trust me now.”
Her indecision is palpable, but after a minute she collects the tokens from everybody and hands them to Draco. “Create a Portkey with these.”
He stares at the old Tube coins. “Erm, how do I…”
She rolls her eyes. “I’d do it myself, but you’re the one that knows how to get there without Splinching. Just think of a particular room in the Manor and say, Portus. That will create the Portkey and we can all leave at once.”
Again, he has to trust her, that she knows what she’s talking about. He takes five tokens at a time, imagines one of the chambers on the lower level of the Manor, and repeats the spell over and over. Once the tokens have been doled out, he looks to Granger for further instructions.
She turns to those gathered. “Remember, when you land, hide. We don’t know the condition of the Manor, nor if anyone is there. Should we become separated, wait until you can safely send out a Patronus, then one of us will come to you.” She searches their faces. “On my mark, press the head of Queen Elizabeth… and don’t hold your breath, Gilbert, you know it makes you sick afterwards.” She nods at Draco. “Three… two… one.”
Roughly thirty people, in various stages of motion sickness, are emerging from the shadows when Draco lands at the bottom of a grand staircase. Granger has arrived just before him and has started a fire in the massive hearth that takes up half the room. He drops down to sit on the step before he keels over. When he lifts his head, he notices ivy winding its way along the cracks in the stone pillars. The wrought-iron chandelier that used to hang in the middle of the ceiling now lies broken on the floor. The warmth that used to seep through this place is gone, just like his family.
He motions Granger over, and by the time she makes it to his side his stomach has stopped its roiling. “See? Safe.”
She sits next to him and studies the room. “For now.”
He agrees and that brings him to his next idea. “I need to get to Snape. He’s the only one that knows what happened to my family.”
“Draco, he’s also the one that dampened your magic and told you to hunt us. I don’t think he’s going to be very forthcoming about what happened to your parents.”
He looks around at the people milling about. They have an air of exhaustion that clings to them. “They need answers, Granger,” he mutters. “We all do. Snape is the key.” He looks her in the eye. “You can help me get those answers.”
“Me? Snape hated me. He’s not going to give me any sort of information,” she argues, but a mischievous light shines in her gaze. “Just what were you thinking of doing?”
“I can’t believe I let you do this to me,” Granger growls.
“You’re doing fine,” Draco tells her as he marches them into Mage Retrieval Unit headquarters. “Could be a new fashion statement.”
Granger is not amused. “Piss off!”
While Draco and Granger caught up on some much-needed sleep, George and Luna scraped together parts from the destroyed L-Force collars, enough to make a somewhat believable replica which is now around Granger’s neck. She doesn’t like it one bit, and has grumbled ever since leaving the Manor. Draco is wearing his arm cuff once again, though it isn’t activated and merely gives the illusion that he is still protected – and, as he now knows, that his magic is neutralized. The hood is gone, but it doesn’t matter. He has a capture, and Granger is his ticket into headquarters to confront Snape.
When they come to the first desk, Draco intones harshly, “Priority intake, Snape’s eyes only.”
The clerk, well aware of who Draco is, gives him a fearful nod. “He just arrived about an hour ago.” He waves them through, Granger struggling the entire time.
They climb the two main staircases to the third floor and enter a grand office. The secretary’s eyes widen in alarm at the sight of Draco’s prisoner.
“Oh, my god, you’re alive?”
Granger stares at the woman behind the desk. “Ginny?”
Draco has a moment of confusion before he hears a menacing voice from the inner chamber. “Malfoy, get in here!”
He drags Granger with him, even though she keeps looking at the other woman over her shoulder until the door slams shut and blocks her view.
Snape is seated at his mahogany desk, his jaw clenched, his left eye twitching. “You were followed.”
Draco pushes Granger into a seat and tilts his chin up in a show of defiance. “Why did you send the others?”
“I didn’t.” He turns to stare at Granger. “I knew you’d be near impossible to catch. You made contact with Potter extremely difficult during your time on the run.”
“Glad to put a hitch in your plans… Professor,” she retorts. “And just how did you escape the Purge, hm?”
“I didn’t,” Snape snarls. He pulls up his left sleeve and shows them his own version of a Prohibere Cuff. “I was able to don the apparatus just before I was discovered in France. After extensive healing, I insinuated myself into this position. I have been without my magic for decades.” He leans over the desk and shouts, “Decades!”
The glass in the window behind Snape is suddenly filled with cracks that spiderweb out to encompass the whole pane. Draco is now aware of just how much power Snape had hidden and wonders, if throughout the years, he has been a victim of Snape’s machinations.
Snape leans back and studies them both. “You are, no doubt, wondering what has happened to everyone we have… acquired.”
“Among other things,” Granger says. She gives him a hateful look. “Why are you hunting us? I thought you-”
“You know nothing of me, Miss Granger. Don’t ever assume that you do.”
Tears fill her eyes. “Harry said that you were Dumbledore’s man.”
“Sentiment,” Snape scoffs. He retrieves an old skeleton key, uses it on his arm cuff and releases the mechanism, ridding himself of the hateful item. “Dear Merlin, that feels bloody good.” He tosses it on the desk before he pulls open a drawer. He withdraws a Muggle pencil, which, when he whispers something under his breath, becomes a long, black wand. Snape smirks at their shocked expressions, stands and goes over to a file cabinet. He waves his wand over it, and after it opens, he pulls out a thick stack of folders. He throws them on the desk in front of them. “Here are your precious wizarding folk.”
Granger tries to lean forward but the collar prevents her. “Remove the collar, Malfoy,” Snape instructs.
Draco raises his brows. “Are you sure? She’s quite-”
“I know what her power is like. Do as I say.”
Draco shakes his head, but activates the latch that is holds the contraption together. It powers down and Granger takes in a deep breath. Draco separates the circlet and pulls it off.
Once free, Granger delves into the paperwork, sifting through pictures and files, sometimes crying, sometimes gasping.
“You can take that silly thing off, Malfoy. I know it’s not active.”
Draco looks to his arm cuff, unlatches the flimsy mechanism and lays it next to Snape’s. “How did you know?”
Snape snorts. “You’re a wizard; I can tell when your magic is not being restrained.” He studies Draco for a moment. “You have questions.”
Draco purses his lips. “Too many. Like why do I have so many gaps in my memory? Did you do something to me?”
“Legilimency and a frugal use of Obliviate. I removed memories that could cause problems and occluded ones that were too deeply ingrained in your psyche. The Prohibere Cuff prevented them from returning, as long as I occasionally adjusted the settings.”
“The monthly sessions. The dreams…”
“You had dreams?” Snape eyes him closely.
“Constantly. I’m guessing they were about the wizarding world, but I had no idea.”
Draco clenches his fists. His dreams of a world where magic reigned and spells flowed had been real, not a fevered fantasy. He inhales deeply and turns to watch Granger sort through everything. Photos pass through her hands, some of them familiar. When she reaches the photo of an older woman with white hair, he snatches it up to read the name at the bottom.
Narcissa Black Malfoy
Indescribable anger resonates through Draco. Did Snape kill his mother? What about his father? Without a thought to the consequences, Draco lunges across the desk and grabs Snape by the neck, squeezing his throat.
“Where. Is. My. Mother?” Draco grinds out against Snape’s cheek.
Snape’s hands clamp around his wrists, trying to make him let go. The pressure on his windpipe prevents him from speaking, but Draco doesn’t care. He shakes Snape for good measure. “Where are they?!”
Draco pays no attention to Granger. He squeezes until Snape is struggling for air, his face brick red.
“Draco! They’re safe!”
The red rage engulfing Draco eases. “What did you say?”
Granger pries his hands off Snape. “I said they’re safe!”
“I don’t understand.”
Granger searches for a file, opens it, then points to a location on a map. “They’re on an isolated island called Tristan Da Cunha.” She flips through more pages. “There are more than three hundred wizards and witches there.” She stares at Snape, realization dawning. “You’ve hidden them.”
Snape massages his abused throat and rasps, “Not that you’re grateful about it!”
Draco sits down before he falls. “Is my mother with them?” he whispers. “My father?”
“Your father was killed before the Purge, Malfoy,” Snape coughs out. “But I was able to save your mother.”
Draco covers his mouth before a sob escapes. He is not alone; he has family left, someone that cares for him. He doesn’t have all his memories back, but with time, he knows he will.
“Sir?” Ginny says as she pops her head in. “The Central Committee wishes to have an audience with you.”
Snape stands and shakes out his long coat. “Then I suggest, Ginevra, that we gather our things and leave.”
She nods grimly and disappears. Granger seems to understand what they’re talking about – she produces her wand and starts to send all the files into a box.
“What… what’s going on?” Draco manages.
Snape is aiding Granger in depositing items in the box. “As I said before, Malfoy, I did not send the other Mage Hunters after you. That was the Central Committee.” He gazes sombrely at Draco. “Unlike you, the other Hunters are not wizards in hiding. I saved those I could and hid the rest. They will not stop looking for us.”
Draco doesn’t know what to grab, so he lets Granger and Snape gather what they deem necessary. “Will we ever return to this place?”
“Someday, when Muggles can be reasoned with. When they don't lash out at what they don't understand.” Snape’s expression turns dark. “But not today."
Ginny returns with her own box of things. “I’m ready,” she says.
Granger runs to hug her. “I’ve missed you,” she says quietly. Ginny reciprocates the hug and sniffs.
“Enough, you’ll have time for a reunion on the island,” Snape grouses. He waves his wand, shrinking everything they’ve collected. “Quickly, now.”
Draco panics a bit. “What about the others? They’re still at the Manor.”
Snape pauses. “We must retrieve them, then. Granger, a Portkey, if you will.”
Granger looks to Draco, a bit of pride shining through in her gaze. “Draco can do it, now, sir. He brought us there safely.”
“Very well,” Snape grumbles. He hands Draco a map of Tristan da Cunha. “Get on with it.”
Draco holds the map in his hand and, as before, he imagines the chamber in the lower level of the Manor.
Granger, Snape and Ginny reach out to touch the map, and the four of them swirl away to a new destiny, one that is full of hope.