Actions

Work Header

The Phoenix Potion

Chapter Text

When Harry entered the kitchen of Grimmauld place, he saw Ron was already awake despite the early hour. He suppressed a curse. Their unexpected guest sat with his back to Harry and clung to the mug of coffee his sister had brewed for him. Apparently, he was not yet sober enough to work an anti-hangover spell. Harry felt for Ron and he would do his best to console his friend, whose wife had walked out, but he had estimated that Ron would still be asleep.

Harry pointed at his watch, hoping that Ginny would take the hint. “I really have to leave”, Harry mouthed to his wife, in the hope, that he could sneak out before Ron would realize he was gone. If Ron knew where he was going it would not help his mood.

Ginny gave a barely perceptible nod and Harry mouthed a thank you before he began tiptoeing out. He could count on getting coffee or tea later.

Somehow, even with a brain that probably was addled by grief, regret, anger, and a fair amount of firewhiskey, Ron noticed him and turned.

Harry felt caught, when Ron’s gaze fell on the coat and the case he had put under his arm, even though it was not unusual that he had early working hours.

He harrumphed. “I have a meeting at eight.”

“It’s the bloody holidays”, Ron said. “Who would set a meeting for eight.”

Harry felt his cheeks flushing. Even after all these years, he still had difficulties lying to his best friend. He cursed the timing of his friend’s recent reiteration of “irreconcilable differences” with wife number three.

He sighed.

“Narcissa Malfoy.”

“What?”

“She has been clearing the Manor of Dark Artefacts ever since Lucius died. It is my duty as head auror to collect them, once she has declared them safe. And destroy them.”

Ron frowned.

“Is this connected to your suspicion of new death eater activity?”

“Of course not. This is a regular appointment, Ron. Mrs. Malfoy has been nothing but helpful.” Ginny chimed in.

“Still, the aurors could observe some of the..,” Ron waved indistinctively with his hand, “… old bunch. That might give you a lead to the problem of these accidents you told me about.”

Harry sighed. “We actually discussed this in the department, and we might be desperate enough to try that.”

He was not surprised, when he saw a glint in Ron’s eye. He used to discuss everything with Ron, and it was a habit, that had proved to be hard to break. And talking about his work had distracted Ron from his own problems, when he had arrived late last night.

He shot his friend a warning look though, when he opened his mouth. Harry just knew who Ron would suggest for observation. And observing Draco Malfoy would land Harry in a real pickle.

“Pansy will be waiting, darling,” Ginny said.

Ron scoffed. “Pansy bloody Parkinson. Second to the Head Auror.”

“Pansy Longbottom, Ron, you know that. And she deserved the promotion. I should have done it years ago. I have to go.”

Since there was no point in sneaking out any longer, Harry went around the table and gave his wife a quick peck.

Their eyes met and Ginny nodded. She would take care of Ron.

Harry left the house and disapparated.

***

Pansy was already waiting, and they slowly went to the gate of the Manor side by side.

“Hi Harry,” she said. “Happy new year! Did you have a nice New Year’s Eve?”

“We went to the Burrow and it was the usual ruckus. And you?”

“Neville and I stayed with … friends.”

Harry was tempted to roll his eyes. As if he didn’t know.

“Did you celebrate your promotion?”

“You mean the long overdue promotion?”. Pansy grinned. “Neville’s words not mine.”

“I know, he happened to say that to my face as well.”

Pansy laughed. “I suspected as much. So, why do you bring me along? Does this meeting really need the head auror and the second?”

Harry shook his head. “No, it is more a favour to Mrs. Malfoy.”

Pansy arched an eyebrow. “How?”

“You are in a far better position to tell her what she really wants to know. You know about …. your friends…”

Harry’s hand hovered over the bars of the gate.

“Narcissa Malfoy hands objects of dark magic over to you of all people in return for information on Draco?”, Pansy asked.

“Shht.” Harry silenced her. “Don’t mention his name, not at all.”

“I don’t understand. She could just apparate there and ask him. Dr… I mean, he would be beside himself. He never wanted to fall out with his mother. He would probably sing with joy.”

“He sings? I can hardly believe that.”

“You’d be surprised.”

Harry made a face. “I try not to picture that. Anyway, I thought you knew? You being a pureblood and all that.”

“Know what?”

“Well, you know, he wasn’t just disowned… He was cut out?”

“Cut out as in cursed out? Lucius Malfoy went that far?” Pansy’s eyes had widened.

“To be fair, it is entirely possible, that he did it by accident. It is not easy to talk about it, because you never know how the magic of the curse might react. If I understood correctly, it was a matter of wording. Great- grandfather Sammael Malfoy went to great lengths to protect the Malfoy name and the purity of the line. And Lucius managed to use the exact wording necessary to trigger the cutting out curse, when he disowned …. him.”

Harry studied her face. Her surprise seemed genuine.

“I thought, you knew, I thought everybody knew.”

Pansy scoffed. “Well, everybody knows about the disinheritance. And obviously everybody knows about Sammael’s stupid house elf pact. Sammael Malfoy might never have been famous in his lifetime but certainly is now. But this is just… I don’t know what to say.”

“But you do see the problem now?”

Pansy grimaced. “As long as Lucius was alive, the Manor probably was under control. But now, there is no heir… Poor Narcissa, she probably can’t even leave the house.”

“No, she can’t.”

“And I’ve always thought … this was about … his … situation.” Pansy shook her head. “I should know better by now than just to presume. Does …. her son know?”

“Be careful. That expression makes a connection. Still too close for the magic. And obviously I have no fucking idea if he knows, Pansy, or if he thinks this is about him being basically a squib.”

His temper was on a short fuse today. Ron’s appearance had opened old wounds. “You know very well, that we are not exactly on speaking terms. I’ve made my choice, ages ago. You are his friend. You tell me.”

Pansy tapped her lips with her wand in an involuntary gesture Harry knew well enough from years of working with her. She gave the question some thought.

“Even if he would be able to talk about it, I doubt he would have told anyone but his wife. He can be a secretive arsehole.”

Harry scoffed. “Leave out the adjective. He can be an arsehole.”

What was wrong with him? He had not fought with Pansy over Draco Malfoy for years and now was not the moment to start it. Ron and his bloody fall out with his wife had gotten under his skin.

Pansy’s face distorted only shortly, but then her face smoothed again. She probably had decided to be mature about this.

“So, to sum up. I am supposed to give her information without triggering any nasty side effects of the curse.”

“Exactly.” Harry sighed. “I can tell you from experience, that that can be disagreeable. So, this is a social call, not business.”

“Should I just call him You-know-who, then?”

Harry laughed despite himself. “Don’t you dare!”

“Well, no names, got that, ring the bell then, boss.”

***

It took them a while to walk through the parc and they unanimously decided to talk about more neutral subjects and it was a testimony to Harry’s mood that he was relieved they were talking about the recent raise in what they unofficially called death eater return activities.

“I agree it is not a coincidence. I mapped these dangerous ‘accidents’ with Muggleborn children and there is a peak in Wiltshire which seems to exceed the usual statistic spike.” Pansy told him.

“We have no evidence for wizards of witches involved, though,” Harry argued.

“But there has been evidence of magic being wielded. And that really worries me. I suspect they use Muggle devices. Muggles have invented all kinds of things over the last decade.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know the exact name. But these things fly, and you can guide them with a smartphone, you know one of these portable devices. They would have to find a way to transport a curse. You know, encase it and apply it later.”

Pansy paused and gave him a side look from under her lashes. “If you want me to, I’ll look into that possibility.”

Harry grimaced. The idea made too much sense. “Yes, please do that, just in case.”

He knew where Pansy would get her information, and he disliked it. He did not want to be in anybody’s debt, least of all Draco’s. Years as an auror had taught him though, that he could not afford to be too picky. But he would have to be careful around Ron.

“If they indeed use muggle devices, are they just bloody hypocrites or does this mean they have connection to muggles? And what kind of muggle would even collaborate with them?”

What kind of muggles, indeed. It frightened Harry. He probably should recruit someone with good knowledge about the Muggle world, a Squib maybe, or a Muggle who knew about the wizarding world. He knew that his own knowledge on Muggle things was far behind. He wondered if they were just lucky, that no Muggleborn had died yet.

“We’ll have to find that out. As for what kind of muggles, I’d say that there are idiots and villains in both worlds.”

“True enough.”

Narcissa Malfoy opened the door herself.

“Mr Potter and Mrs Longbottom, please come in and be my guest.”

She led them into a small parlour, where coffee and tea had been prepared. Harry had been right. He would get his coffee after all.

Chapter Text

Pansy knew that Harry was usually not a talker, but the small talk with Narcissa went smoothly as if Harry had long practice.

It was the usual pureblood gossip Pansy had embraced as a girl but now considered a nuisance. They talked about Theodore Nott, who had scandalized society by becoming a writer for children’s books, about his beautiful wife Daphne Greengrass, about their twins.

Pansy tried to channel her inner teenage girl and chimed in after a while. They talked about music, about quidditch. Ron Weasley was quite a prominent subject for a while, when they discussed how “Weasley is our king” keeper had saved the day for England in the recent Quidditch world cup.

“Still as quick as he was in his Hogwarts’ days playing for Gryffindor”, Pansy said. “The Weasleys have a knack for playing Quidditch, don’t they?”

Narcissa asked after Richard then, Ron’s son who was practically raised by Ginny and Harry, and this led to Hogwarts.

“How is your husband doing as a teacher, Pansy? He has started this school year, hasn’t he?”

“Yes, Neville finally had enough of auroring and field work. He always loved herbology and he wanted to work with children.”

“The students love him. He must be the most popular teacher ever, if you believe my children.”

“I can easily believe that. The dashing Gryffindor, ex- auror and war hero.” Pansy smiled. “I should know.”

“Do you want to see a picture?”, Harry asked. “I happen to have some in my case.”

“A picture of a dashing war hero? Why not?”

Harry took an envelope out of his case.

Narcissa opened the envelope. Her fingers were trembling.

“Taken with a muggle camera.”

Neville was indeed on the photo and Pansy herself. She remembered the day. They had made an outing to Lewes castle on a hot summer day, with Hermione’s parents and all the children. She shot a quick look to her boss, arching her eyebrow. She would have questions for him later.

“Ah! Look that’s me, not as dashing as Neville of course. And these are friends of ours.” She pointed at Draco as if Narcissa would not know him. Draco had little Robert riding on his shoulders. He was dressed in a green shirt, a white band over his left arm to cover the Dark Mark. Robert was his usual bubbly self. Pansy could almost hear his happy gurgling. She felt a pang.

Narcissa looked at her, a bare hunger in her eyes, eager and focused, as if she did not want to miss one piece of information.

Pansy continued, as if this was not of more consequence than the idle chatter, they had shared before. She randomly looked through the photos and talked a lot about the marvellous outing with her dashing husband. Occasionally she put in information about her ‘friends’.

“You could think they are trying to produce a Quidditch team on their own. They have many children”. That should be the right amount of gossipy. Harry laughed at that.

“There is the eldest daughter. She is in Slytherin, seeker for the team and head girl. She is responsible for Slytherin earning the house cup three times in a row.” Rina’s blond hair had caught the sunlight, and the similarity to her father was stunning. Narcissa hastily wiped her eyes.

“It’s nice to hear that Slytherin has capable students.”

“Here’s my godson. He is in Gryffindor, third year, if you can believe that.” Colin was a spitting image of his mother. Even with his hair cut short, the curls were still visible.

Pansy went on a detour about Neville as new head of Gryffindor house and managed to squeeze in information about Colin’s good grades.

“Ah, there are two more girls. This one is in Hufflepuff and the other one will start in Hogwarts this summer. If she won’t be sorted into Ravenclaw, I’ll eat the talking hat.” Pansy pointed to Lizzie and Meg who stood on a low wall. Hermione stood at the foot of the wall, waving at the girls.

“Four children in different houses, how unusual,” Narcissa commented.

“Yes, Neville says, it’s retribution for the parents being too much into the house rivalry, when they were at Hogwarts.”

“What about the fifth child?”

“Well, I always say, that they should just send him to another school, but he’s just two.” Pansy looked at Robert and felt the pang again. Draco and Hermione had not planned this child. Pansy remembered how difficult a time that had been for her and Neville.

“The House rivalry has improved considerably.” Harry chimed in.

“How about you, Pansy?” Narcissa Malfoy asked. “Wouldn’t you like some children of your own?”

Such a harmless question. Pansy drew a laboured breath and willed her tears away.

“I had a run-in with a very nasty curse, just when Neville and I had started dating. Thanks to Laurence Fishguard I’ll never get children of my own.”

Harry audibly sucked in a breath.

“Dangers of being an auror,” Pansy added.

Narcissa took her hand. “I am so sorry. I should not have asked. Life is not fair.”

Pansy closed her eyes for a short moment. “I’ve known for two years, enough time to come to terms with it. But this is actually the reason why Neville has started teaching.”

“And you, Pansy?”

“I’m a natural born auror, I couldn’t imagine doing something else. Just ask my boss here.”

“You are. I wouldn’t know what to do without your Slytherin cunning.”

“Is that a compliment, boss?”

“You know, it is.”

Narcissa deftly steered the conversation away from auroring and children and asked after Ginny’s career. Harry was happy to oblige.

The tea had long grown cold, when Narcissa finally thanked them for the visit.

“It was such a pleasure to have you. I must insist, that you do not leave without presents.”

She fetched a bag and gave it to Harry.

Pansy could practically feel the magic come alive. The air grew thick with tension. It was as if the walls of the manor suddenly came closer.

“Presents for guests have a long tradition in the Malfoy family and I, Narcissa Malfoy, am happy to honour this tradition.” Her voice had a strained hue to it, as if she was fighting to get the words out.

“Harry Potter and Pansy Longbottom deserve to get generous presents.”

Harry took the bag.

“Thank you, Mrs Malfoy for your hospitality and generosity.”

The tension in the air faded away.

Pansy shuddered.

“Could you leave me these photos? My sister Andromeda comes to visit this afternoon and I am sure she would not be averse to have a look at your dashing husband.”

“Of course,” Harry said. “Just give them back the next time.”

Narcissa accompanied them to the door.

“It was so nice to have real guests,” she said. “Sometimes there are adventurous teenagers who try to trespass and steal things. I suspect they are Gryffindors who have some kind of stupid dare.”

“What?” Harry asked.

Narcissa laid a hand on his arm.

“Nothing to be alarmed about, Mr Potter. I never let them steal anything dangerous. And it is not as if this house will be empty in the near future.”

Narcissa’s joke must have brushed the curse, because Pansy could feel her breath sticking in her lung for a heartbeat.

Narcissa winked and turned to Pansy and kissed her on the cheek and whispered a thank you in her ear.

They spent the way through the parc in silence. It was only after they had left the manor, that they both opened their mouth.

“You first,” Harry said.

“Fuck pureblood traditions,” Pansy answered.

Harry gave a shaky laugh.

“We’re really getting better at this. At our first meeting, the Manor kicked me out after five minutes. I should have taken you sooner.”

“I don’t know, if I should be mad at you or if I should praise your soft heart, Harry. Taking Muggle photos was a good idea. Interesting that they would not trigger the curse. And Draco is not visible on magic photos. It is a side effect of the scutum. And, however did you get hold of these photos?”

Harry gave her a lopsided grin. “My wife is in the habit of exchanging important information with Hermione.”

“No way!” Pansy shouted out. She studied her boss and thought.

“They ensure that you do not invite us at the same time? Neville and I wondered about that. Luna, of course says, that you must have made friends with some Knackles.”

“And that is usually all they do according to Ginny, just exchanging dates. She told me that Hermione sent the photos because Neville and you are in them.”

“Does Hermione know about the cut out curse? Or did she just think that Narcissa would like some photos? Do they know you see Narcissa?”

Harry shrugged. “Well, you didn’t know about the cut out. She might just have attempted to get to Narcissa”.

“You could have told me.”

“I am sorry. I am just on a short fuse. Ron arrived on our doorstep yesterday.”

Pansy groaned. “Oh no, don’t tell me he’s got another divorce on his hands.”

Harry’s grimace was all the answer Pansy needed. At least it was not summer. Draco would not need galleons before September. There was a chance that Ron Weasley would not be at the centre of attention by the time Draco and Hermione needed to go shopping for school stuff.

“We should apparate to the office and check the bag.”

“I can drop this off at Destruction,” Harry said. “Narcissa usually labels meticulously.”

Harry laid a hand on her arm.

“Pansy, I am so sorry about Laurence Fishguard. I didn’t know…. If I had arrived earlier…”

“Harry, this is not your fault, you bloody idiot. Just don’t pity me, or I’ll cry. Neville and I have a bunch of godchildren. We’re good.”

She wiped at her eyes angrily.

“It will never not hurt, to be quite honest, but we manage. Let’s concentrate on these bastards who target children, o.k.?”

Just before they disapparated, a thought struck Pansy.

“What was this about the Gryffindors stealing from the Manor? Do you think, she wanted me to tell Neville? Is this a way to get rid of the unimportant stuff or does she want it to stop?”

“It’s not easy reading into her vague wording, but I suspect the latter. Even I as a former Gryffindor can see, that trespassing into a Manor where the last heir has been cut out is not the best idea.”

“Colin hasn’t mentioned anything about such a dare, but he is such a rule abiding student, he probably wouldn’t know. Do you know anything about this? I mean you know so many Gryffindor children.”

Harry shook his head. “Teddy Lupin was a rascal, and I suspect my own James and Ron’s Richard are not better. And teenagers tend to not tell their parents the really important stuff.”

Pansy cursed. “Did I mention that I hate pureblood traditions?”

“Repeatedly,” Harry answered.

Chapter Text

It was a fine day for April, and Hermione was not in a rush for once. Harry was with Professor Dumbledore, looking at the memory he finally had retrieved from Slughorn. He and Hermione had agreed to meet at the lake. Hermione had saved some muffins from tea, just in case Harry was hungry after his lesson.

When she arrived at the lake, she sat down on the blanket she had brought, tugged her feet under her legs and opened her book. For once she was not after information about horcruxes. She had brought a novel and was soon involved in the plot so much, that she forgot about her surroundings.

She had reached an exciting scene where the hero of the book had to escape a roaring fire, when her brain registered a sound, that did not fit, splashes, but only as if from small pebbles. She raised her head and saw a lone tall figure standing at the shore of the lake. There was no way she could mistake his light hair.

Draco Malfoy let flat stones skip across the water, and they made the light splashes she heard. He bent down and picked up a stone, let it fly, watched it and bent down again. He came closer.

Hermione watched him approach with caution and put her wand within her reach. It was better to be safe than sorry with the ferret.

But for once, Malfoy was not intent on throwing insults or hexes. He seemed to be deep in thought, distracted and his shadow darkened her book before he looked up and saw her.

“Granger”, he said, his voice for once devoid of the usual sneer.

Hermione only gave a slight nod, bracing herself for the insult that would certainly come.

“it doesn’t make sense, does it? It looks like magic, but anyone can do it”, Malfoy said.

Hermione was tempted to scoff, but something in Malfoy’s eyes made her stop. A lingering sadness or maybe resignation. Close up, she saw circles under his eyes, his cheeks were hollow, as if he had not eaten enough in weeks or maybe not slept enough.

“It’s just physics.”

“Physics?”

“Yes, physics, the torque is the key, I think.”

“Torque?”, Malfoy asked. He bit his lip, as if he restrained himself from making a cutting remark about the weird words, Hermione used.

“You spin the stone, don’t you? The spinning and the forward movement keep it up in the air, if I remember correctly. Actually, it works on any flat surface for a while, but best on water.”

“So, a spinning moment lets it look like magic. I could easily do it with magic of course.”

He picked up another stone and raised his wand and let the stone dance above the water. The growing circles of ripples on the lake formed a glittering pattern.

Malfoy picked up another stone and threw it. It bounced seven times, before it sank.

He looked at the place where the stone had sunk, as if he had lost something. He lowered his head and burrowed his fingers in his hair.

“It is all wrong, the whole world is wrong,” he suddenly burst out.

He sounded desperate, defeated even, and Hermione was confused.

“Don’t be overdramatic, Malfoy. Muggles work with physics all the time to do things, we can do with magic. There is nothing wrong about that.”

Malfoy looked at her, the raw pain in his face almost scary.

“That is not what I meant,” he whispered.

“What do you mean then?” Hermione asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. She could not remember ever having talked so long with Malfoy without screaming insults. It was almost as if they had an actual conversation, even if it was a bit weird.

He chuckled, although he did not sound amused at all.

“It took me years to discover a logical fallacy, and now that I have finally understood that, I ….”. His grey eyes met hers again and the intensity made Hermione shiver with a feeling she could not pin down.

“What is this wisdom you found?”, she asked, seeking refuge in taunting him.

Abruptly, Malfoy let himself fall to sit at her side. He broke eye contact and gazed out on the lake.

“War. People fight wars, for… “ he stopped “let’s say some reason. They are convinced that they have to protect their own…”

Did Malfoy think that Voldemort wanted to protect wizards and witches? Hermione felt her mouth open in utter disbelief.

“But then suddenly it is not about protection any longer, or about a certain way of living or convictions. It becomes a question of winning.”

He moved his head suddenly again and sought an answer in her gaze. Hermione found herself unable not tear her eyes away.

“And then they have to sacrifice lives for winning. Sure, they talk about killing the enemy, but it’s not just enemy lives that are on the line. It’s the life of their own people as well. What do people do to ensure they win? Threaten their own, if they do not get involved?”

Hermione could have sworn she could see his eyes glittering.

“And in the end, it just means that more people are dead than would have been dead without the war.”

“I am not sure, I follow you, apart from the fact, that it should be obvious that dead people are bad news.” Hermione said cautiously.

“In the end it comes down to what a life is worth. One life against another, maybe one life against two, against ten? The life of a loved one against someone you hate? Your own life against the life of a stranger? Where is the line? And if there is a line, how would you decide?”

Hermione’s heart beat fast in anxiety. Where had Malfoy’s mind wandered? Was he talking about Voldemort? Was he a death eater as Harry claimed?

She looked deep into his eyes and saw uncertainty, worry, desperation. She struggled for words.

“A life is a life,” she finally said. “I do not think that you can weigh one against another.” She stuck her chin out defiantly. “The life of a muggle is as precious as a wizard’s or witch’s life. Or a house elf’s.”

Malfoy closed his eyes and inhaled. “Told you I discovered the logical fallacy.”

His breathing sounded laboured.

“Either pureblood lives are more important than …” he hesitated. “… the lives of Muggles and Muggleborns or they are not. If they are more important, why risk them at all, if not, why make a difference?”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. Had she just witnessed Malfoy of all people dismantling his prejudice? Had she heard the word Muggleborn?

Malfoy stood again. “As I said. It is all wrong, and I just wish…”

He did not finish the sentence. He picked up another stone and let it skip across the water.

He stepped away, but Hermione called him.

“Hey, Malfoy,”

He turned again.

“You know, starving yourself is not a solution, whatever troubles you.”

She took one of the muffins she had brought with her and threw it at him.

“Here, catch”.

He had the reflexes of a seeker after all. The muffin landed safely in his hand.

He nodded in thanks, gave her another intense gaze, before he abruptly turned and went away.

Hermione did not tell Harry about this encounter. She barely knew what to make of it.

Chapter Text

Ever since she had talked with Malfoy by the lake, his defeated and desperate eyes had haunted her. Often in class or in the Great Hall she would think about their talk and almost every time she looked up and sought him with her eyes, his eyes were already on her. It unsettled her, but she had not told anyone about the strange encounter. She did not want Harry to continue with his obsession with Malfoy. She told him that it would not lead to anything good. When her predictions came true, she was horrified.

Harry had been white as a sheet. He had tailed Malfoy and had hit him with a terrible curse. It was little consolation that she had been right about that blasted book from the Half Blood Prince. Surely, someone who invented a spell, that would lead to the opponent just bleeding his life out, must have been a dark wizard.

Harry had been extremely vague on his encounter with Malfoy. Hermione suspected that he had a bad conscience because he repeatedly told her that he had no idea what sectumsempra would do, and at the same time he was very vague about what Malfoy actually had done, when Harry had entered the bathroom.

She would get no rest, until she knew more, or at least if Malfoy was better. She decided that she would try and sneak into the hospital wing after curfew.

It was not difficult, really, to get hold of Harry’s invisibility cloak. Her friend was far too careless. She set a buzzing alarm with her wand and shortly after midnight, she got up and sneaked through the castle.

Once she had entered the hospital wing, she took off the cloak. Malfoy would not talk with thin air, if he would talk at all. He was the only student in the hospital wing.

He lay very still, but he was breathing at least, if in an uneasy and heavy rhythm. The moon gave a silvery shimmer to his hair and immersed the room in an almost ethereal light.

Carefully, Hermione approached his bed. His eyes opened almost immediately and the desperation in them made Hermione feel a strange tug at her heart.

“Want to finish Potter’s job?”, he asked her in a low voice.

She shook her head. “If you thought that, you would have screamed.”

“Maybe, I think it would be a good idea.”

Hermione decided to not let herself be distracted. “I want to know what happened.”

“Potter caught me in a bad moment, we hexed each other, he was faster than me. There is nothing more to know. It should not surprise you. Our fighting was bound to escalate at some time.”

“Harry did not know that the spell was so dangerous.”

Malfoy scoffed and then shrugged. “Could be. And I was not picky either. He was just faster. Afraid, I’ll accuse Potter? Don’t be. I won’t tell he used a dark curse on me. I don’t need anyone looking over my shoulder.”

“That is not…,” she protested and then stopped herself feeling caught out. She blushed. “That is not the only reason I am here.”

Malfoy arched an eyebrow. He seemed amused. “Is this your Gryffindor honesty talking?”

“Stuff it, Malfoy. I really want to know how you are.”

“Why do you care?” His eyes bored into her. “You hate me.”

“That I dislike you, does not mean, that I want you hurt. You could have died.”

She studied his face. His eyes were difficult to read in the moonlight.

“You know, after all you said at the lake….”, she inhaled deeply. “For what it’s worth. Harry should not have cursed you. It doesn’t matter that you hate each other. Nobody should use this curse. And I am sorry.”

“Why are you sorry, for something you didn’t even do?”

“Maybe I am sorry, because … Harry got that spell from a strange potions book with notes. And it said ‘against enemies’. I’ve told him so many times, he should not trust that book. I am sorry for not stealing that blasted book from him or telling on him to be honest.”

“Maybe I am Potter’s enemy.”

“And maybe you are not.”, she contradicted.

She edged closer to his bed. “I can’t forget what you told me at the lake. What made you question the whole purebloods are better ideas?”

She was startled, when he suddenly sat up.

His voice was soft. “Maybe I dream, and this isn’t even happening. Do you really want to know?”

She felt that strange tug again.

“You do not dream.”

He chuckled. “Let’s pretend, I dream, Granger. Let’s pretend you dream, and we met by chance. It must be a dream, because otherwise I couldn’t tell you anything. I said too much already.”

“Come closer”, he said. “Even in dreams there are unfriendly ears.”

Despite herself Hermione sat down on the edge of his bed. Malfoy was right. It somehow felt like a dream. Maybe she was lying in her own bed and the silvery moon spun tales in her mind.

“Do you love your mother, Granger?”

Hermione closed her eyes and pictured her parents. Her heart tightened, when she thought about her plan to obliviate them for their own safety. She had not told anybody about it yet and this plan was like a stone on her heart, causing it to make heavy thumps against her breastbone, when she allowed herself to feel the enormity of her plan.

“My parents don’t understand my world, but they have always supported me. Yes, I love them. And I fear for them. They are in danger simply because of who I am.” It felt good to say this aloud, even to Malfoy, of all people.

“He has my mother.”

“Who? Volde….”

Hastily, Malfoy put a finger to her lips. His finger was strangely cool on her warm lips and made her shiver.

“She is the leverage to push me. He’s all about how we purebloods should rule the world, but then he casually threatens to kill her.”

All of a sudden, Hermione was overwhelmed by the rush of pity that engulfed her. It was her nightmare, her parents in the hands of someone like Voldemort. “But, why?”

“Because he is a tyrant, and lives mean nothing to him, not just the life of a muggle or a muggleborn, anybody’s life but his own.”

He pressed his fingers at his temples. “For years, I was taught that he would care for wizards and witches to get their rightful place in the world, that we are better. But he does not care, not really.”

Hermione could not hold her tongue. “Could have told you that.”

He chuckled again. “And how are the chances that I would have believed you? Granger know-it-all?”

She opened her mouth to protest, but he held up a hand. “Don’t tell me off. I feel incredibly stupid already.”

Hermione had to smile. “Well, you worked it out. I could give you house points.”

“House points”. He waved dismissively.

Hermione’s smile cracked. “What happened to the Draco Malfoy who wanted to win the house cup? The Slytherin seeker who wanted nothing more than to best Gryffindor?”, she asked. Suddenly it made sense, Malfoy’s withdrawal from Quidditch, his lapse in classes. She dreaded his answer.

“I desperately wish this was all I would care about. But that Draco Malfoy is dead.” His voice sounded so strange and detached as if it cost him much to speak them out loud. “I cannot care about these things. I wish I could. But I cannot turn the time, and I cannot be oblivious again.”

Hermione felt that strange tug again. “What does he push you to do? For your mother’s life?”

On instinct, she laid her hand on his arm, his left arm, that lay on the cover of his bed. He gave a start and flinched.

“Don’t”, he said. “Don’t”. Hermione shrank back.

With a sudden movement he pushed his sleeve up and pointed his wand at his arm. For a moment, her vision quavered and then she saw it. The dark mark. It didn’t surprise her, not after everything he had said, even though she had defended Malfoy against Harry’s suspicions.

“Why would you show me that?”

“You need to understand. If you want to survive, you need to know what he does. How he rules with fear and coercion, how he sets traps for each and every one,” he whispered. “How he exploits even our best traits. How he twists it all. Pride, confidence, love. He uses them and then he turns them to bitterness and dust.”

He shook his head. “To think that I was stupid enough to be proud to get this ….”

Hermione felt tears welling up in her eyes. “You are not even an adult yet. He should not use children.”

“He should not, but he does, and so does your side. Don’t tell me Dumbledore does not use Harry.”

Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but then she nodded.

“What does he want you to do?”, she asked.

“It is not important, not really.” Malfoy’s voice sounded rough. “I came to the conclusion, that he expects me to fail. And he already put someone else in place, just in case….”

His eyes had a strange shimmer to them. Tears, maybe?

“All I can do, is to make enough of an effort, so that my mother is not killed. I tried to take detours.” He grimaced. “They didn’t work and I almost k…”, he stopped himself.

Hermione wanted to cry, but the tears stuck in her throat. “You could defect.”

He shook. “I told you, I love my mother. She’d be dead the hour, he learns about my defection.”

The sentence “he might kill her anyway” lay on the tip of her tongue, but she bit her tongue.

“Look, I do not think I will survive this, but my mother might.”

“I could just tell on you,” Hermione said.

“Oh, but this is a dream, is it not?”

“I didn’t know it was.”

“You talk to me, it must be a dream.” His smile was surprisingly soft.

When his right hand edged closer to her hand, and he took it in a sudden move, Hermione wondered if he was right. Malfoy taking her hand must be a dream. An event in some alternative reality. Her skin tingled.

He held the knuckles of her fingers in a feathery touch. Hermione could have withdrawn her hand any time, but she stayed still and was painfully aware of her erratically beating heart.

“It is so strange,” he whispered. “Do you know what I realised?”

Hermione looked into his eyes and gave a tiny shake of her head.

“I thought I hated you, but I never did. I hated that I could not make sense of you, that you defied what I had learned to be the way of the world. I hated you for scratching at my set beliefs by your very existence. If I would have been able to see that, I might have realised many things sooner.”

His eyes were a fathomless depth, that pulled her in. His voice had become a ghost of a whisper.

“I am so sorry, that you had to suffer for my stupidity and conceit. I wish I could unsay every insult I ever threw at you.”

Hermione felt like falling. Her head swam. She tried to anchor herself, to get a hold on reality in this strange dreamlike landscape she was in. She gripped his hands hard.

“Malfoy, you do realise that it is very strange to apologize for years of insulting me, just after you showed me that mark.”

“I fear I won’t get a chance again to say that I’m sorry, but I can stop apologizing, if you want me to.”

“You’ve completely called me of guard,” Hermione admitted. “I probably should answer something…”

He smiled. “You could always tell me, that I was wrong, and you were right.” His voice took on a different hue, as if he was imitating her, but Hermione heard no mockery in his voice, just amusement. “’Malfoy, you could have tried it with simple logic.’”

She wondered if he knew her better than she would have suspected. She could not help herself. She had to laugh.

She had long known that the world was not black and white, but suddenly her heart ached with the pain of it all. Draco Malfoy was a death eater, a death eater! Harry had almost killed him by accident, and some might even say, that would have been better. But he did not believe in Voldemort and he had apologised. And then she began to cry because she just couldn’t take it any longer.

Somehow, he had taken her in his arms and in this dreamlike world, illuminated by the moon, there was nothing strange about it. She cried into his pyjama until she could feel the wetness of her tears that had soaked the fabric on her cheeks.

“Hermione?”. His lips were so very close to her ears.

Hermione raised her head. Her eyes felt swollen from crying. In Draco’s eyes she still saw the desperation, but also a bittersweet sadness.

“I wish this dream would never end,” he said. He raised his hands and framed her face, and lowered his face to hers. They closed their eyes at the same time, and Hermione felt his lips on hers, neither desperate nor passionate, but warm and soft and tender, melting into her. He kissed her until she was not sure, she knew where her lips ended and his started. She felt strangely detached from the world. If she had opened her eyes and had found them floating in nothing she would not have been surprised.

But when Draco finally loosened his hold on her face, the hospital room was the same it had been. Her lips burned and her heart fluttered.

“I know that Dumbledore plans something. I guess you are involved. I just want to say, that I wish you all the luck in the world.”

Hermione did never remember how she had returned to the Gryffindor tower nor if she had slept at all. She must have taken the invisibility cloak, because Harry did not complain about it missing, but her memories were a hazy as if she had indeed dreamt, but when she closed her eyes, she could feel his lips on her, and found herself fervently wishing that he was wrong. That he would survive.

Chapter Text

„Colin has to get a new wand before school starts again,” Rina said at breakfast. Colin had almost forgotten that she knew about his wand.

Colin could have strangled his sister. She was far too observant. He didn’t really want to be reminded of school, not now, when they were all together and happy. He had put it off for too long, he knew, but he would have rather told his parents on his own terms.

He shot her an angry look, but Rina held his gaze. And mum and dad looked at him as well.

Now, in early January, the Christmas tree did not look that fresh anymore despite the charms mum had placed on the tree. But it still smelled like Christmas, home and family. In a few days, when school started again, they would dispose of the tree. School meant arithmancy, ancient runes and potions, but it also meant his classmates.

Colin didn’t usually mind that his only friends at Hogwarts were an old house elf and a very dreamy girl from Ravenclaw, but his broken wand reminded him, that he did not always succeed in evading notice.

“I don’t need a new wand, it is not really broken.”

His mum was not prone to let that pass and neither was his sister. “I certainly would like to know, how Colin managed to break it in the first place”, she said.

Colin flushed. “I told you, Rina, I forgot I had it in the back pocket of my jeans and slipped on the ice. It was slippery as the skin of the giant kraken.”

Rina just raised an eyebrow and stared at him challengingly. Colin was well aware that she did not believe it.

“Nobody intended for my wand to break,” he shouted.

His father who was busy cutting small pieces of toast for Robert, the baby, gave him a quick glance. His eyes flickered ever so shortly.

“Rina, there is no use to pester Colin about a mishap,” mum said. “I still want to see that wand, though.”

Colin cringed inwardly. Now, he was sure both his parents knew, that slippery ice was not to blame.

Under their scrutinizing eyes he produced his wand.

“It happened on the last Hogsmeade weekend, just before the Christmas break.”

“Not really broken…” his dad said. He took the wand with two fingers and brought the lower half into a swing. The grip of the wand slowly circled just above Colin’s nose

“Colin, you should have told us.”

Colin sunk his head. “Wands are expensive,” he muttered. “And with Christmas and all the new books, I wanted to read, I forgot it. I really forgot it. I was so caught up in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”

‘The Lord of the Rings’ had been a present by his parents, and Colin had read it in one go, ears burning with excitement.

Mum sighed. “We need to go to Ollivander’s.”

“I could go”, Rina said. “You give me money, and I do it. I am an adult now. If I can get hold of the assistant, she might even be persuaded not to charge the double price.”

“Rina!”, mum said.

“What? You know, they have charged each of us doubly for wands.”

“Hardly, they demand about a third more than from others in my estimation,” dad said.

He sighed deeply. “Ollivander is not the problem anyway. He’ll sell us a wand. The problem is that I have to go to Gringott’s first to change pounds into galleons. Unless you latest client happened to pay on time, Granger?”

“I gave Terry an extension,” mom said apologetically. “I could hardly know that we would need galleons in January.”

Dad grimaced. “Time for my favourite pastime then.”

Colin fought tears. They all knew, safe little Robert perhaps, that dad hated the trip to Gringott’s. But usually he only had to go once a year just before they had to buy all the school stuff. When Lizzie had entered Hogwarts last summer, it had been a real stretch, Colin knew, although Mom and Dad had pretended to be all sanguine about three children in Hogwarts.

“Love, you know, Blaise or Pansy would…”

“And they’d probably be hexed for trying. There are just not that many people who need to exchange pounds to galleons. We’ve talked about this a dozen times. You know I must do it or it will be even worse.”

He stood up. “Might as well get it over with.”

As always when he came to a decision, he was quick about it.

“I’ll text you, when I’m done. I’ll take the tube.” He went around the baby’s stool and stood close to her.

Colin could see the concern in his mother’s eyes, but when his father bent down to her to give her a kiss, she masked it quickly and smiled.

“I’ll ask Neville for help. I’m sure he’ll take Colin to Flourish and Blotts, and you can pick him up there, once you’ve got hold of enough galleons.”

“Can I come, too? Neville is my uncle as well,” his little sister Lizzie chimed in.

“Me, too”, Meg cried. “Want to see Neville”.

“We’ll see what Neville has to say to that.”

Uncle Neville would gladly take them all, Colin knew. He would probably get them hot chocolate and spoil them. If Colin was lucky, Neville would buy him a book. His mood lifted, even though he suspected that both his parents would revisit the question of his broken wand.

Mum waved her wand, and a silver otter appeared.

“Ask Neville, if he is free today to take Colin, Lizzie and Meg on a stroll. I have to watch Robert and Draco has business.”

The otter ran, leaving small silver sparks in the air.

“Could you go with Colin, if Neville is not free?” mom asked Rina.

Rina scowled. “I want to go with Dad.”

“Rina, this is definitely not a good idea,” dad said.

“I am an adult now. You told me, that you won’t interfere with my decisions.”

“We didn’t promise not to give you advice, though, Rina,” dad said. He put a coat over his arm and now picked up his phone from the table at the door.

“My difficulties in Gringott’s are my problem, and mine alone. This shouldn’t be perpetuated to the next generation.”

He ruffled the baby’s hair.

He pointed at the coat.

“Granger, could you give the sleeves the look of being just this side of threadbare?”

Mum raised her eyebrows, questioningly, but waved her wand.

“Thanks, Granger. You know I’ll get the money easier, when I give the impression of being already thoroughly humiliated and wounded in my pride.”

Dad kissed her again.

Mom shook her head.

“Give them a nice act, Malfoy.”

"Last time I was finished by noon."

A silver mongoose appeared just when dad had opened the door to leave.

“I can pick up the children. Lower the wards at about eleven.”

Chapter Text

Malfoy had been released from the hospital wing, although he looked as if he should have stayed on another week at least. His presence unnerved Hermione. She still was not entirely sure, if her moon lit visit in the hospital wing had been a dream. How real could it be? Malfoy showing her his mark, apologising and that kiss. She was just grateful that Harry was very preoccupied with Ginny, his girlfriend of a few weeks or he might have begun tailing Malfoy again.

The memory of his kiss was tucked away in a corner of her mind, a treasure that gave off a shine in the night, when light fell on it. When she thought about it, her lips burned, she felt that strange tug in her heart. Sometimes she wondered if he had put a spell on her, that she even let him kiss her or if it had been some strange place fallen out of time, where things were just different than they were supposed to be. A place where Draco Malfoy apologised to her as if he had meant it. But also a place where he was trapped on the path his father and his upbringing had set him on.

During potions she had felt her shoulder blades itching with the sensation that he was watching her, but she resisted the temptation to turn. Slughorn was hovering over Harry’s potion and grimacing, muttering something about young love confusing an otherwise brilliant mind. Hermione felt a bit smug about that. Ever since he had lost the Prince’s book, Harry’s gift for potions had vanished. It was only when Professor Slughorn was checking her own progress, that she dared to look up from her cauldron. Her eyes met with Malfoy’s. It was as if his gaze was waiting for her, definitely not unfriendly, but of smouldering intensity.

She was so flustered, that she forgot one of her books after the lesson. When she ran back, she saw that Malfoy had lingered after the other students. His hand was on one of the pillars and he seemed to try to catch his breath. She hesitated and came to a halt, a few strides in front of him. His head snapped up.

Their eyes locked again, and Hermione could feel a blush creeping into her cheeks, the memory of their kiss vivid in her mind. Despite her doubts about that night, she reached out with her hand and touched his arm and they stood like that for a long moment. His breathing sounded laboured in her ears.

She had only a moment’s warning of a very light step, that came up behind her. He broke away from the pillar, straightened up and broke eye contact with her. His mien had changed completely, his upper lips twisted as if in disgust.

“Watch where you’re going, mudblood,” he said, just as Goyle rounded the corner.

The insult did not reach her heart. It stuck somewhere in the air between them, as if a shield prevented it from hurting her. And yet, Hermione did not even hesitate. She copied his gesture of disgust. “What did I just witness? A talking ferret?” She tsked. “Strange, that a ferret would imitate prejudiced purebloods of all people.”

“Need help with hexing Granger, Draco?” Goyle asked.

Malfoy waved his hand dismissively. “She’s not worth the trouble.”

Hermione let Goyle pass her, a scowl plastered on her face, her wand on the ready. Malfoy took Goyle’s arm and pulled him along, as if in great haste. When they had reached the next stairs, he turned his head, just a tiny fraction. Hermione tapped her lips with her index finger and winked. A sudden flush darkened his pale face. She had not dreamed after all. He had not meant the insult, but he did not trust Goyle. Hermione’s heart thumped hard in her chest. The realisation that he wanted to protect her felt like an ice block near to her heart and like a fire that warmed her.

She fetched her book and decided to skip her next lesson. She needed to talk with someone, but Harry or Ron were out of the question.

***

She was lucky. The password to the headmaster’s office was not that difficult to guess and Professor Dumbledore was in his office. He did not look well, but a smile brightened his face, when she entered.

“Miss Granger, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Professor Dumbledore.” She would have to be careful of her wording. “My question is very hypothetical.”

The headmaster raised his eyebrows.

“I was wondering. We all assume that Voldemort’s followers join his cause either willingly or because of the imperius curse.”

She took a deep breath. “And wizards and witches who were under the imperius got a pardon the last time Voldemort was at large, didn’t they?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, someone under the imperius was not considered to be responsible for his or her actions.”

“What about people who were coerced or blackmailed. Let’s say Voldemort had a leverage over them?”

“That would depend on the circumstances. You know, Miss Granger, in a way, even under pressure, we might have a choice.”

“It might be only poor choices though. Let’s say, someone is a death eater.” She closed her eyes for a moment and swallowed. “But he gets misgivings? Or, even though he should be loyal, Voldemort still puts pressure on him?”

Dumbledore did not answer, but nodded shortly.

“Something like that must have happened with Professor Snape. I mean, he did not start as a double agent, did he?”

“Indeed, he did not.”

She licked her lips. “What made him defect?”

“This is between Professor Snape and me, Miss Granger.”

“I don’t want any details, just a general idea,” Hermione snapped. She took a deep breath.

“Professor Snape ran out of options, to be quite honest. He wanted someone to live and was intelligent enough to realise, that Voldemort’s promise in that regard meant nothing.”

“So, he decided to trust your promise. Why?”

“I have been careful to uphold my reputation of being a man of my word. And I just promised him to try.”

“You did not succeed,” Hermione stated.

Dumbledore shook his head.

“So, you could not in all honesty promise our hypothetical death eater that you would save the person he wants to live.”

He shook his head again, his eyes glittering.

Hermione rubbed her eyes, and wiped a single tear from her cheek. Her mood had plummeted.

“So, the difference between Voldemort and you is, that he might spare someone, if he is not in the mood to kill, while you do your best.”

“As sad as it is, this is a quite accurate observation, Miss Granger.”

Hermione hung her head.

“This very hypothetical death eater you talk about, Miss Granger. Did he confide in you?”

Hermione took a sharp breath. She tried to shake her head, but it became a mixture between a nod and headshake.

“I thought we had established, that I am aware of some of Voldemort’s plans. You do not need to fret that you betray a confidence.”

“I don’t know what he is supposed to do, do you?” she whispered.

“I have a general idea.” His eyes bore into hers.

“He expects to fail, I think”, she licked her lips. “He expects to fail and die.”

“But he’ll still try, so that Voldemort will not let someone else pay.”

Hermione nodded.

Her voice sounded shaken in her own ears. “He said that Voldemort takes good things like love, pride and confidence, and turns them to bitterness and dust.”

Dumbledore arched an eyebrow. “Your hypothetical death eater seems to have gained some insight.”

Hermione could not help herself. She cried. “If only he understood that earlier. Before he…” She felt that strange tug at her heart again. Was it pity? Or something akin to pity? Her lips began burning again in memory of their kiss.

“There, there Miss Granger. Understanding might not be too late. He hasn’t actually done anything yet.”

“I shouldn’t even worry about him. I should be worried about my NEWTs. I should be worried about who I would like to kiss!”, she cried. She felt herself blushing furiously.

“He said, that there is another in place if he fails. Is that Professor Snape?”

Dumbledore nodded.

Hermione felt herself sag with relief. “So, I don’t need to try to get him to tell me the plan.”

“Rest assured, Miss Granger. I am well prepared to thwart Voldemort’s plans, in a way that he will not foresee.” He patted her hand, if a bit awkwardly. “You know, your death eater is quite right. Tom Riddle destroys love, loyalty, trust, confidence, because he wants to destroy what he does not understand to prove to himself, that it is meaningless. That everything is meaningless but his own raw power.”

Hermione took a tissue and blew her nose. A sudden thought came to her and chilled her.

“Professor Dumbledore?”, she asked.

“Yes, Miss Granger.”

“What do you do with love and friendship and loyalty?”

Suddenly he looked grey and old, his mouth slacked downwards.

“I sincerely hope, I do not destroy them, Miss Granger. I do, however, take advantage of them and use them, count on them, even. I am sure you know that, or you would not have asked this question.”

Hermione thought about what Malfoy had said, about what wanting to win a war meant.

“I see. And you can count on me. I will help Harry.”

“I don’t know, if it is any consolation, Miss Granger, but believe me, that I really would want for you to not have other problems but your NEWTs and a possible crush.”

Hermione stood up. “Do you know, what a consolation is, Professor? If Harry wins, if we manage to destroy the Horcruxes, other muggleborns like me have the chance to split their silly and frivolous heads on the question who they should date. Thank you for your time, I feel better now.”

If she had known, that she would never see him again, she might have stayed until he stopped laughing.

Chapter Text

Rina managed to corner Colin before uncle Neville arrived. She squared her arms and gave him her best head girl stare.

Nobody intended for my wand to break… sure, Colin.”

“It’s the truth.”

Rina scoffed. “Lying with the truth were you, eh?”

A tell-tale flush crept into Colin’s face.

“You know what dad always tells us. If you lie with the truth you have to be exceptionally cautious about your wording.”

Colin pressed his lips together.

Nobody intended clearly points towards the fact that more than one person was involved.”

Colin stubbornly remained silent.

Rina sighed. “You might as well admit it. These no good Potter - Weasley disaster twins were involved.“ James Potter and Richard Weasley were not really twins, but inseparable, and everybody called them the twins.

“We had a fight, a real fight with fists and all. They did not mean for my wand to break.”

“Two against one. They were lucky, I did not see anything, or I would have deduced house points so fast….”

“Rina,” Colin pleaded. “That would have made it worse! If you want to help me at all, just never deduce house point from Gryffindor for my sake.”

“I know that,” Rina sighed. “Still, if they were responsible for breaking your wand, they should contribute to a new wand.”

Colin rolled his eyes. “Listen to you, Rina. Ronald Weasley’s son should pay for the wand of Colin Granger-Malfoy. And to top it probably Hermione Granger should be the one to sue him for the money.”

They both had to laugh.

“What was the fight about, anyway?”, Rina asked.

Colin shrugged. “The usual… My father is a death eater, who has been feeding love potion to mum for years, this whole scutum business is just a scam to hide his nefarious actions, I am a swot and afraid of flying, and nobody knows why I am in Gryffindor.”

“The part about dad is mostly just a repetition of the insane gossip the Daily Prophet likes to talk about instead of informing the public on the really important stuff.”

“You sound like mum, when she goes on a rant.”

“You know, in my house they pester me about mum. You know, rights of magical creatures extremist… head on set upon disrupting any order… destroyer of pureblood traditions… And of course, she only married dad because she just happened to know that would start a house elf rebellion.”

Colin smiled at her. “That’s just our luck. Notorious parents instead of famous ones.”

Their little sister Lizzie had entered the corridor and had heard them.

“Mum and Dad are famous in Hufflepuff,” she said.

“How?”

“Star-crossed lovers and all that. His love for mum converted dad, so that he became a double agent and risked his life against Voldemort and mum defended him in court because she is the embodiment of fairness. And everybody agrees that they both should have been in Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff is all about tolerance, acceptance and reconciliation.”

Lizzie scrunched her nose. “And every time there is a new couple, they rate them on a scale of zero to Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger.”

“You’ve made that up!”, Rina exclaimed.

Lizzie bent her head to the side. “Anyway, the way Hufflepuffs talk about mum and dad is gross. When it is too much, I always tell them that mum and dad still call each other by their last names.”

“I wonder what the Ravenclaws say?” Colin asked

Lizzie shrugged. “Meg will tell us, once she goes to Hogwarts.”

“If she is sorted into Ravenclaw.”

Rina shook her head remembering when the hat had sat on her head. The thing had actually chuckled in her ear and asked about her siblings. Then he had said “I’ll start with Slytherin then.”

Lizzie chuckled. “Maybe he put me into Hufflepuff because he was all confused. Dad would like to believe that.”

They laughed, when they remembered the commotion at Lizzie’s sorting. One of the students, a Fawley of pureblood descent, had almost been forgotten, and the students had joked that the hat had been flustered for the first time in his long life.

“The hat told me at my sorting, that it would be Hufflepuff for you, Lizzie.” Colin said.

“Stupid old hat and his stupid decisions. The wizarding society and their stupid traditions,” Rina sighed. “I think you got it worst, Colin, but there is nothing to be done, is there?”

Colin shook his head. “Look, I might be the son of a death eater and a swot, but I won’t be a sneak, if I can avoid it.”

He put a hand on Rina’s arm. “I know you want to help, but you can’t. And it is far better than last year. Uncle Neville as new head of house makes such a difference!”

He grinned. “He gave us a prep speech about earning the house cup. And he showed us a chart of earned house points. As it happened, the chart showed that Gryffindor earned quite a lot of house points due to correct answers in class. Our prefect David Finnigan is so keen on getting the cup this year, that he has encouraged me to learn more.”

“Uncle Neville is the best.”

Colin nodded. “Will you come with us?”

Rina shook her head. “No, I’ll go with dad.”

“You know that mum has looked into this. They are obliged to do the exchange by law, but that’s about it. As long as they exchange within the day.”

“Still, dad might feel better, if he has support. The very least I can do is to talk to him, so he doesn’t die of boredom while they make him wait. And last time dad made it out of Gringotts by noon. It’s twenty years ago after all.”

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful day. The sun was glittering on the water of the lake and most of the students were outside, relishing the warmth and the nearing end of the school year. Most of the students outside meant only a handful in the building. It was not a bad day to die.

Draco knew he was stalling. His eyes were burning from the effort to make out individual students from the window he had chosen to get a last look. His heart was beating erratically, when he saw a girl that might be Granger. A small slither of hope, that must be enough.

He checked the coin, that allowed him to exchange messages with Rosmerta. Dumbledore had returned. A few quick strides took him to the room of requirement. Three times he ran back and forth, the ritual to open the room familiar by now, he entered, and went directly to the vanishing cabinet. He almost sung the incantation that would open the passage.

When he heard the voice of his aunt, he knew that his spell had succeeded. He could have cried. When she came out of the cabinet, he just gave her a curt nod, because he did not trust his voice. He turned on his heels and raced out of the room and up the astronomy tower. It felt strange to hasten towards his own death, but the sooner he confronted Dumbledore, the sooner the death eaters would be gone again.

The minutes after he had cast morsmordre were agony. He tried not to think about what might happen in the castle. He saw a speck in the sky and knew that Dumbledore came, just as he had expected.

He did not expect his expelliarmus to succeed when Dumbledore had entered the tower.

He stood wand in hand before the man he was supposed to kill. A drop of cold sweat slowly made its way between his shoulder blades and his skin was covered in goosebumps. He was not surprised to see his hand shaking.

Why didn’t Dumbledore do anything? The man was talking, talking! Talking about how he could help Draco, save his mother and him. He told Draco that he was not a murderer, when Draco was already painfully aware, that he did not want to cross that line. He never wanted to relive the night after he had thought that Katie Bell would not make it. And he hated Katie.

Draco tried to taunt him into attacking him. He sneered and bragged, and expected to be overrun by a wandless bout of magic any time. Surely even a wandless Dumbledore could take him out? The old man looked exhausted and drawn, but he should still be a match for Draco, a teenager who was overtired and hadn’t eaten enough in months.

The drop of cold sweat on his back had become a river. His hands had started to shake even more violently. He lowered his wand. He wondered, if this was some kind of test, and if he had failed or succeeded.

The other death eaters had made it to the top of the tower, and Draco knew that it was over. Now, they knew, his aunt knew, that he had failed, that he was not trustworthy, that it was not a question of Dumbledore being more powerful but of him being unable to kill. He would be branded as a coward. Maybe letting them into the castle would be enough to save his mother. Why had that old man not defended himself? He was supposed to defeat Draco.

Even now, he was talking, stalling perhaps? Severus Snape had reached the last stair to the tower, his presence commanding the room. Draco knew that the dark man would not hesitate.

Dumbledore seemed relieved to see him.

“Severus, please,” he said, as he had not pleaded with any of the others.

The green light made Draco flinch and he watched in horror as Dumbledore fell. He would have stood there, rooted to the ground, if Snape had not pulled him with them, when they fled.

“The task is done,” Snape had said, his voice devoid of any emotion.

Draco would only remember bits and pieces from their flight later. He was hit by a few insignificant curses but managed to run on. His brain was fuzzy and confused from the mere fact that he was alive. Somehow Potter had come out of nowhere and pursued them, screaming in rage at Snape. How had he even seen that Snape had been the one to kill Dumbledore?

Potter tried to crucio aunt Bellatrix, and she laughed her strangely unhinged, but chiming laughter.

“You have to mean it, Potter.”

The stupid Gryffindor hero would have died then, if Snape had not insisted that he was for the Dark Lord.

When they disapparated, Draco crumbled on the grass. His thoughts were running wild and in circles. He felt a hand that helped him up.

“Get a grip, Draco,” Snape told him. “The Dark Lord awaits.”

Draco was trembling with fear, when he was brought before the Dark Lord. He was lucky that the Dark Lord was gleeful about Dumblodore’s death. He only invaded his mind shortly, and Draco managed to push his fear to the front of his mind, his fear of the powerful wizard, his fear of failure, his fear for his mother. It was real enough and everybody could see him shivering in anxiety. The death eaters’ laughter over his cowardice washed over him, while his mother stood at his back, her hand an iron grip on his arm. Draco did not know if she wanted to keep him from crumbling or if she wanted to stop her own body from shaking.

He had to pay for his failure of course, but only with a couple of crucios, and at the end of the day his mother was still alive, but so was he. He wondered what strike of fate had prevented his solution, and he dreaded his next task. He had no doubt that the Dark Lord would come up with something.

Chapter Text

When Rina reached Gringotts she just saw her father climbing the steps in a determined stride. She ran to catch up with him.

He was not pleased. His grey eyes certainly had a frosty look to them.

“I see, you do not listen to advice.”

He had stopped in front of the great entrance.

“You might make yourself useful, if you insist on coming along. Give me your bag.”

She handed him her bag, and he opened his coat and took out a thick bundle of pounds and put it in her bag. “I sure hope that they won’t abolish cash before all of you have finished school. Trying to get Gringotts to accept credit cards will be a nightmare.”

He handed her the bag. “Now, place a scutum on it.”

Rina tapped her wand on the bag, swishing it just at the right angle. “Scutum”, she said, picturing the shield encasing the whole bag and then tying the spell off, with another swish. The moment, the scutum hit, her bag became heavier and almost slipped out of her hand, when the anti-gravity charm was cancelled.

“Why?”

Dad raised one of his eyebrows.

“Oh, when I started school. I remember. Somebody stole your pounds by magic?”

He nodded. “Yes, ‘somebody’. I usually place the money close enough to my body.”

They entered the bank together.

Rina had never been to Gringotts and she was very impressed with the sheer size. She knew that there was a Malfoy vault, but it could as well be on the moon for all the good it could do them.

Her dad went to the end of the queue that was at the left, where there was a sign that read “Exchange and others”. The queue was not that long, but Rina saw with worry, that one of the goblins had spotted her father. He stood up and went to the back and vanished.

Rina saw that there were some people who were welcomed at the door and led to the back. She assumed that they were important people with vaults.

She went to her dad.

“Dad,” she whispered. “Is the entrance to the vaults in the back?”

“You would have to ask your mother about that, but I suggest you’d better not mention her own excursion to Gringotts, while we are here.” He smirked.

“Have you never been to the vaults?”

“If I had known that I would never get a chance to see them, I might have begged my father to take me, when I was a child.”

He grinned at her. “When you think about the irony, it is really funny.”

“So, the important people with money are treated differently.”

Her dad shot her an astonished look. “Of course, Rina, this is a bank.”

She rolled her eyes. “How could I forget.”

“You know, what really is funny?”

“No?”

“When I go to Barclay’s, I am actually treated quite nicely. Not exceptional, but Fortescue and Miller make enough money for them to be accommodating.”

He winked at Rina. “Of course, they might just suspect me of laundering money with all the cash I withdraw from my account. And they treat me nicely because they think I am a criminal with connections.”

Rina chuckled despite herself. “If you think this is funny.”

“You know, this will probably really take some time.”

“Don’t start again, I’ll stay.”

“O.k. but don’t complain to me about being bored.”

***

Rina would never have admitted it, but when it was well into the afternoon, and they had moved about what felt like four inches at the most, she was bored. Several people had been picked out of the queue behind them and had been guided to the counter. Dad narrowed his eyes each time that happened, but apart from that, his face was a mask.

He had taken out his phone. He put the phone in his palm, so that the back was covered and typed with the other hand. Rina glanced at the display, and saw that he checked mails.

“How does that even work in here?”, she asked, curious.

Her father moved his fingers, so that only half of the phone’s back was covered, and the display changed to swirling colours as could be expected in a wizard building.

“My scutum does have the strangest side effects.”

He moved his fingers again and pointed at the display.

“Look, there is a request for next Christmas, almost a year in advance.” He shook his head. “Christmas gets worse every year.”

He pointed at another mail. “And that woman! I swear she writes a mail a day. She organises her cousin’s wedding in May, and she seems to think that it can only be a success if she mails Fortescue and Miller once a day. She’s already changed the menu a dozen times. She even wrote on Christmas eve.”

“Dad, people want their wedding to be the happiest day of their life.”

“Which is stupid. Imagine, your life only going downwards once you’re wed.”

“A hasty marriage on short notice with the registrar as witness is not to everybody’s taste.”

“It does ensure that you have better days ahead.”

“Only if you count house elves running rogue all over the country as better days.”

“That only happened afterwards, when our marriage was registered in the ministry of magic. And your mum counts that as an improvement on how things were before.”

“You don’t?”

Dad grinned. “It must be my greatest achievement. And it never ceases to amuse me. It is a pity Sammael Malfoy was not there to see the backlash of his pact.”

His grin faded so quickly, that Rina knew, that someone was behind them. She turned.

A goblin was standing just behind Rina.

“Squib, follow me!”

Well, that certainly didn’t start well.

Chapter Text

It was oddly calming to look at the little creek that ran through the small wilderness in the parc of Malfoy Manor. Draco had loved this place as a child, and so far, this place had not been compromised, not tainted by killing or torture. Listening to the burbling water was soothing.

Draco tried to gain control of his thoughts. He would have to become a better occlumens if he wanted any chance of survival at all. He had prided himself that he was good enough to shut out Dumbledore, but his certainty about his skills had wavered when he understood that Dumbledore must have known the whole time. When his mother had thanked Severus Snape for finishing the task that had been his, he had finally understood. Snape had told Dumbledore about his task, and Dumbledore had trusted Snape that he would prevent Draco from killing him. Only to be betrayed.

So, Draco did not know if his occlumency had really been enough to shut out Dumbledore. And it was just his luck that the person who had proven to be a better occlumens than Dumbledore was also the one person he couldn’t possibly ask to help him hone his skills. Draco had to scoff. It would certainly be not a good idea to ask Snape if he could teach him more occlumency so that the Dark Lord would not realise that Draco was not loyal, that he hated him.

For now, it was probably best not to shield his thoughts too obviously. A blank mind would be suspicious. He would have to concentrate on the thoughts that could not expose him. And he probably should practice his unspoken spells.

One of the bushes at the creek rustled. A small ferret sniffed at the air and descended to the creek. Draco went still and slowly directed his wand at the animal. It was time to test a theory. He hated ferrets anyway.

Draco remembered his fourth year and Alastair Moody who had introduced the unforgivable curses. “Each of you could yell the killing curse and nothing would happen.”

Avada kedavra”, he thought, and a green light shot from his wand and hit the ferret. The little animal fell into the creek with a splash.

Draco edged closer, when the ferret sprang up again, shook itself and ran.

“Looks like I don’t hate ferrets that much,” Draco muttered under his breath.

“What a strange pastime, Draco,” he heard a voice behind him. “Did you try to kill that poor ferret?”

It was Severus Snape. And there was no use denying anything. The green light of the killing curse was rather unique.

Draco shrugged. “Just practicing unspoken spells. They need some refining.” That was not a lie.

Severus Snape face was unreadable. “The Dark Lord awaits us in his dining room. He wants to sit in judgement amongst his loyal followers.”

Draco did not comment on the fact that it was not actually the Dark Lord’s dining room. That the Dark Lord had taken over the manor as his residence was supposedly an honour. Draco did not doubt that the judgement would not be in favour of Hogwarts teacher Charity Burbage who was being held at the manor to await her fate.

The cold sweat that ran down his back as soon as he came into the Dark Lord’s presence had become oddly familiar. The Dark Lord’s eyes on him felt like a heavy burden. Draco pushed his fear into the forefront of his thoughts. Better to be thought a coward than a traitor.

The so-called judgement on Charity Burbage went as was to be expected. Bile rose in Draco’s throat when the Dark Lord killed her and fed her to Nagini. He tried to look elsewhere and concentrated on not throwing up. He barely registered that they made plans to hunt down Potter. He did not know if he should be relieved that he was not to be involved. It meant that he would not have to move against the one person who might have at least a chance to defeat the Dark Lord, but it also was clear that he was not trusted. And Draco was certain, that he would get another task to test him.

It was barely a surprise that his father had to give up his wand. The Dark Lord had no qualms about showing his distrust. Draco hated to see his father so subservient. It only reminded him that all the bravado and pride his father had expressed over the years had been a lie. It only reminded him that the man he thought would protect him at any cost was helpless in the face of the dark wizard who had occupied their house. That death might hit any time. Draco tried to bolt from the table as soon as the plan on how to catch Potter was agreed upon, but the Dark Lord called him back.

“Draco.” His eyes seemed to bore into Draco’s scull and Draco desperately pushed his fear in the front of his mind again. It was not difficult.

“I have a task for you, that should be easy enough.”

The other death eaters laughed. Draco could see his mother pressing her lips together.

“My Lord,” he answered.

“There is this mudblood, that hangs around with Harry Potter,” the Dark Lord said. “What is her name?”

Draco bowed for a moment, breaking eye contact. His fear threatened to overwhelm him. His thoughts whirled. When he looked up again and met the Dark Lord’s eyes again, the memory of Hermione punching him in the face in third year was the thought he pushed forward.

“Granger.”

The Dark Lord laughed. “You let that slip of a girl hit you.”

Draco blushed and held on to the memory of the punch. He felt the Dark Lord probing his mind further. “She bested me in every class but potions. She does not know her place. I’ve hated her for years.” Not a lie.

It was easy to string thoughts about her into a line for the Dark Lord to follow, thoughts about her besting him, about her getting points, about her waving her arm, when she wanted to answer a question. It was even easy to conjure up the feelings of hate and disgust he had felt once, his simmering sense of the unfairness of their teachers favouring her. Draco did not know if he imagined it, but he almost felt the Dark Lord picking up his thoughts and looking at them.

The Dark Lord smirked. “Then you should have no problem, getting your revenge by killing her and her parents.”

Draco should have expected it. It still felt like a punch, and he could feel the blood drain from his face. He pushed his fear, his hesitation, his cowardice in the front of his mind, in the hope, that his reluctance, his revulsion would stay hidden.

The man laughed. “You really are not the most strong-willed of my death eaters, are you?”

Draco felt more than he saw that his mother was about to step forward.

“My Lord,” she called out. “Let me do this!”

“Ah, Narcissa,” the Dark Lord said. “No, Draco shall do it. He must learn how to kill. We must root out pity in our followers. We have access to the ministry’s files on mudbloods and their parents. Minister Thickness will give you the address.”

The Dark Lord nodded to the heavily imperiussed minister who smiled blithely.

***

Draco kissed his mum on the cheek before he left. He did not dare to show more affection. It would not do that anybody would suspect that he had no intention to follow the Dark Lord’s order. He suspected his mother knew. She had volunteered to relieve him of his task, as if her killing for him would save him. As if it would make this any better. Deep in her eyes he saw her desperation. Not telling her anything was the only choice he had.

It was dark by the time he apparated to 7, Mayweed Grove. No lights burned in the house. He tested for wards and was surprised to find none. Either Granger had been so stupid as to feel safe or her wards were undetectable. He suspected the latter, but even running several detection spells produced nothing. Could the Grangers have left? Draco felt a flicker of hope. He might not have to fake a defeat after all.

He opened the door with an unspoken alohomora. He enlightened the house with his hand of glory and searched through the house. It was mostly empty, only odd pieces left, a shattered photo frame here, an abandoned stool there. The house still felt like it had been inhabited until recently, but the family had moved out. And although the move had been hasty, the lack of furniture told Draco that it had been planned. He left out a breath he did not know he had been holding. Although he knew he probably should report back, curiosity made him search all the rooms.

Draco decided that the room on the left with a blue carpet had been Hermione’s. He could smell the lingering smell of violets, persistent but unobtrusive. There was a note of cinnamon as well, a sharp refreshing lemony overtone and just a hint of fresh paper. The smell reminded him of something, but the memory eluded him for the moment.

He sighed in relief. She was gone. She and her parents had probably left the country. His lips burned with the memory of the kiss they had shared in the hospital wing on that moonlit night.

Before he left, he picked up the shattered photo frame that had stayed behind in what probably used to be the living room. A middle-aged couple about the age of his own parents, but with a look of normalcy about them smiled into the camera. They did not move. Draco shook the photo before he remembered that Muggle photos did not move. He recognised Hermione’s eyes in the face of the woman. She had obviously inherited her curls from her father though. Even with his hair cut short the curls were distinctive.

“I wonder how you would look with short hair,” he told an absent Hermione.

He was about to leave when something struck him as odd. The couple on the picture was not in the centre of the photo. Mr Granger had one arm around his wife, but the other lay on the back of the sofa. Draco could easily picture Hermione sitting next to her parents.

It hit him then. She had not left the country. He could hear his own ragged breath, when his knees gave way under him while he tried to fit the puzzle pieces. Her parents had left the country, but not her. She had tempered with their minds. A kind of memory charm, that had affected the photos. Wherever Mr and Mrs Granger were they probably had no idea they had owned this house or had a daughter. They were safe and could not be used as leverage against Hermione. Draco let out a wail of anguish. If he knew her at all she would be with Potter and in danger of getting into the ambush the Dark Lord planned.

There was a chance that she would be somewhere safe already, maybe with the Weasleys. Not a very comforting thought, but still better than in danger. Draco tried to make his mind work. He should return, that would be safer for his mother, but he also should probably hide what he had found out. He wondered if his method of pushing his fear at the front of this thoughts would be enough.

A shadow of a plan formed in his mind. He went into the former kitchen and looked for some glass that could serve his purpose. He found an empty bottle which would have to do. He transformed the bottle into a vial. Reluctantly, he pulled memories from his mind. Hermione at the Yule Ball, beautiful as a fay, Hermione flushed with excitement when she mastered a spell. Hermione’s eyes searching for him after he had been strong enough to go to classes again. Each memory that might betray him went into the vial. When he retrieved the memory of the moonlit night in the hospital wing, he almost cried. A faint smell of violets was in his nose. He corked the vial and slipped it into his pockets. He searched for the memory of their kiss and just found the certainty that it had happened, as if it was something that someone else had done. There would be nothing for the Dark Lord to find.

Afterwards he wreaked havoc on the house. He cast about every destructive spell he could think of, quickly and in short order, systematically reducing the house to shreds. He disapparated when the neighbours called the Muggle police.

“They have fled the country”, Draco told the Dark Lord. He could feel Severus Snape’s scrutinizing eyes on him. His mother’s face gave nothing away, not even a faint echo of the relief Draco knew she felt.

He let him pick his brain, led him on a short chase after his relief that he had not had to kill. He had his reputation as a coward to uphold after all.

“Your wand,” the Dark Lord said.

Draco handed over his wand. The Dark Lord cast a priori incantatem on it. Fortunately, he was bored by the destructive spells that the wand spouted long before the detraction of memories was shown.

“Why didn’t you just burn the house?”, the Dark Lord asked.

Draco shrugged. The vial felt like a block of ice against his leg, while cold sweat ran down his back.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to practice unspoken spells,” he answered. Not a lie.

Chapter Text

Rina followed the goblin and her dad with a sense of foreboding. They were led to a different area to a counter, that was clearly meant for potentially disreputable customers. Rina clutched her bag in one hand and gripped her wand in the other.

Behind the counter was a red-headed man in his middle ages, maybe slightly older than dad. He probably would have been handsome if not for his mien that spoke of an assiduous clerk, someone who met his superior’s expectation with avid punctuality.

The look he gave them was decidedly unfriendly. “You have a gall, Malfoy, to come here today of all days.”

Dad’s face gave nothing away and frightened Rina. He did not look like dad at all. “Mr. Weasley. I want to exchange British pounds into galleons. I am well within my rights. Last I checked that there are no days unsuitable for this endeavour as long as the bank is open.”

Mr. Weasley threw a paper on the counter. It was an extra afternoon edition of the Daily prophet.

‘It just didn’t work out’ was the headline and below was a photo of England’s famous quidditch keeper and a beautiful witch with dark curls. They seemed to scowl at each other.

Rina suppressed a groan. She had no difficulty to recognise Ron “Weasley is our king, he never lets the quaffle in”. It looked like he had ‘irreconcilable differences’.

“I do not see how a piece of gossip in the Prophet connects in any way to my wish to get galleons in exchange for pounds.” Dad’s mouth became a thin, almost invisible line.

“Don’t you?”

Mr. Weasley smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “It certainly does not interfere with your right to exchange. I can’t vouch for the time of negotiation or the rate of exchange. I suggest you return another day, when I am more in the mood.”

“I would prefer to purchase galleons today.”

“I guess, you’ll have to beg then, Malfoy. Or you could always negotiate with Mr Fawley, if you prefer that.”

Her dad bared his teeth. “Thank you, Mr Weasley, for the offer. I choose the begging, instead of Fawley’s method of negotiation. Shall we proceed, Mr Weasley? I’d like to have an official receipt for the pounds and then I’ll do all the begging you want me to.”

“Show me, what you brought.” Mr Weasley did not sound glad at dad’s insistence.

Dad opened her bag and took out the bundle of pounds and began to count the pounds on the counter.

“…800.” The count was finished.

“800, noted”. Mr Weasley took the notes. The moment he got hold of them, his face suddenly became even darker.

“What are you playing at, Malfoy? This is fucking muggle plastic.”

“Paper notes have been gradually exchanged for plastic notes for two years. This is valid Muggle money. You should ask someone who knows about this.”

Rina’s heart pounded wildly. The unfairness made her see red. Drawing her wand was a smooth motion, but the hex she sent, struck her dad’s hand who had been faster than her, anticipating her. It puffed away, harmlessly, with just the tiniest of sparks.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t see that,” Mr Weasley said, while dad gripped her arm and shook his head, vehemently.

“Is your daughter even of age? Or did I just witness her offending the law.”

“I am an adult,” Rina protested, blood racing to her face.

“Sadly, lacking decent upbringing and manners, I’d say. But what would you expect from a death eater’s daughter.”

“My father was acquitted. He was acquitted. And that was twenty years ago.” Rina clamped her teeth together.

“Your father was acquitted because of benefit of the doubt, Ms Malfoy.”

“It’s Ms Granger- Malfoy, certainly you would not forget who my mother is.” She narrowed her eyes. “You know, the witch without whom Harry Potter would have died a thousand times over.”

“I am quite certain, Rina, that Mr Weasley needs no reminder about the identity of your mother.” Dad’s face was still a mask, but his eyes clearly told her to shut up.

Mr Weasley scowled at her. “Your mother is also the witch that disrupted wizarding society and overthrew a perfectly capable minister of magic, all because she associated with a murderer.”

Rina opened her mouth, but her father’s hand descended on her arm again, and pressed it, hard.

“I beg to differ. First, I’d say that my wife did not overthrow your father. She just reminded him publicly of the fact that even the minister of magic must adhere to the law. Second, I did not kill anybody.”

“That has never been proven, Malfoy. There are plenty of people who doubt that.”

Rina felt tears spring to her eyes, but managed to hold on. It was all so unfair.

Her dad shrugged. “Be that as it may, any crimes would fall under the statute of limitation after two decades anyway.”

“You’ve really got nerve, Malfoy. Maybe I should just send you down to the Malfoy vault to get some galleons and see what happens.”

“I doubt, even a Weasley would do something as stupid as that. A clash between the protection on the vault and my scutum might blow this place up. So, shall we proceed with negotiations? Why don’t you have checked that the money is genuine?”

Mr Weasley narrowed his eyes. He waved to a Goblin and asked him to fetch Mr Fawley. Then he took a paper form, a quill, and sat down.

“What do you need the galleons for?”

Dad frowned. “That is nothing of your business.”

Mr Weasley’s face took on an ugly red colour. “You are difficult today, Malfoy. It’s a new ministry regulation against money laundering.”

“Which surely is against paragraph 32 of squib law that protects privacy.”

Mr Weasley smiled. “But you are not a squib, are you? So… you are obliged to tell me, as long as your wife does not hand in one of her remonstrations against wizarding law.”

He put down the quill. “That is, if you want to make an exchange. I’ve already told you, that it might be better to return another day.”

Dad pressed his lips together and stayed silent for a moment. Rina wondered if he was tempted to leave.

He drew a deep breath. “I need the galleons for the same purpose as usual. School equipment for my children.”

Mr Weasley’s quill still hovered over the parchment. “School starts in September, it’s January.”

“My son needs a new wand.”

The quill scribbled on the parchment.

“So, you would need about seven galleons? Given the usual price at Ollivander’s? I am surprised, Malfoy, you actually brought enough pounds to get the sum you need for once.”

Rina could not help herself. “The official exchange rate is five to one,” she protested. Ollivander would never sell them a wand for seven galleons.

Her dad scowled at her.

“You are quite right, Ms Malfoy, but that is only for muggles who need to buy at Diagon alley for their wizard or witch children. This is not the exchange we set for others. Galleons are partly gold, just in case you didn’t know, and we can’t have people take the galleons, melt them and make a fortune out of them in the Muggle world.”

“That would be illegal.”

“Which is why we have to prevent it happening.”

“Rina, I want you to wait outside, while I discuss this with Mr Weasley.” Dad’s eyes clearly told her that she did not improve the situation.

Rina fought tears and nodded. She clutched her bag and her wand and turned.

“Where are your manners?” she heard behind her back.

She felt the blood drain from her face.

“Good bye, Mr Weasley, have a nice evening,” she pressed out.

She managed to walk out with her head held high and tears held firmly in check. When she had reached the entrance, she risked a glance back and gasped when she saw that her father was on his knees.

She stumbled outside, sat on the stairs that led to the great entrance of the bank. ‘Beg, Malfoy’, he had said. It looked like Mr Weasley was true to his word. She was oblivious to the people around her and just let her tears fall.

Chapter Text

 

Draco Malfoy’s memories as retrieved on August 8, 2020

The ministry had fallen. Thickness was minister now, and Dolores Umbridge became the right hand of the minister again. Muggleborns were called to the ministry to register, on the pretence of researching why they had magic. Draco knew that their wands would be taken and broken.

There was still a semblance of order, as if the Dark Lord did not want to claim power in the wizarding world too brazenly, as if he did not want to just call himself the tyrant he was, for as long as Potter was alive and unaccounted for.

Draco dreaded the assemblies in the Manor’s dining room. He felt constantly under surveillance, the Dark Lord’s eyes probing his mind, ridiculing his fear. He became so accustomed to push his fear in the front of this thoughts, that he could barely let it go, even when he was alone, or just with his mother. Fear was his constant companion.

He spent a lot of time in the library, trying to find a way, how he could work around priori incantatem. He knew that the next order to kill someone would soon come, probably before school started. He briefly let himself hope, that school would be a relief, but that hope died the moment he learned that Carrow would be teaching “Defence against the Dark Arts”, “Dark Arts” more likely.

Draco flipped through a book on wands. It was a more recent book and had an index, but priori incantatem was not in it. Opening books on random pages would not get him very far. To find something like that, he would have to be very lucky. And luck had never been his. He wondered if he should ask Ollivander, who was currently held in their cellar. He immediately chided himself for that idea. Even if he tempered with Ollivander’s memory afterwards, it was too risky. He could trust nobody.

A part of him wished, he could ask Granger. He pictured her giving him her most condescending look. Malfoy, I can’t believe you overlooked that. It was in the Charms book in third year. It felt odd to realise that he could still smile.

A distinct plop pulled him from his reverie, when a house elf apparated in the library. He had his wand out in the blink of an eye, and the elf squeaked.

“Prudy,” he shouted. “Do not apparate so close to me. You almost gave me a heart attack.” He shuddered. What if it had not been Prudy, but Snape. Snape who probably could read his thoughts within seconds.

The house elf bowed. “Sorry, Master Draco.” The little creature began to slap itself, after it had carefully laid the tray it carried on the floor.

Draco looked at the elf and was hit by an idea.

“Stop it,” he said absentmindedly. He pointed at the tray. “My mother told you to bring me something to eat?”

Prudy looked at him with large eyes. “Mistress said that Master Draco does not eat enough.”

That was true enough. Sometimes Draco wondered if ribs could be visible through wizard’s robes.

The creature’s eyes were pleading. “Please, Master Draco, eat.”

“I am not hungry.”

Prudy began whacking its ears, wailing.

“Stop it”, Draco said again. He took one of the sandwiches.

He waved his wand and put a silencing charm around them.

“I forbid you to speak to anyone about what I’ll ask you.”

Prudy nodded. It looked pointedly at the sandwich in Draco’s hand and he took a bite. The creature sighed in relief.

“I mean it,” he said. “No skirting around this. I order you to rather kill yourself than disclose any of this.”

Draco steeled himself to ignore the pleading in its eyes. He knew that house elves could find loopholes This was necessary. His eyes bore into the elf’s, until Prudy nodded.

“Is there a way to cheat on the priori incantatem spell?”

The little elf shuddered. “We are not allowed to temper with wizards’ and witches’ spells.”

“Say, your master is in mortal danger.”

Prudy’s eyes became as large as plates. “We can do much, if our masters are in danger or the order is strong enough.” It could have been the whimper of a mouse.

Draco bent down until his head was at the same level as the elf’s.

“When someone does priori incantatem on my wand, can you do an illusion so that it looks like I have done other spells?”

“Yes,” the creature whispered. “If you tell me, what you want to be seen.”

Relief flooded Draco until he almost laughed.

The little creature fidgeted. It probably was afraid, and Draco could not blame it.

“You will hold yourself ready. Stay as close to me as possible. I may need your skills any time.”

He wriggled the ring with the Malfoy crest from his left ring finger.

“Here, close your hands around it.”

Prudy did as told, and Draco took the ring back and placed several charms on it.

“Now, I can call you with this ring, when I tap my thumb and my index finger on it three times. When I do this, stay invisible and show the Dark Lord what he wants to see.”

He would just have to hope that circumstances would never prevent him using his hands. He couldn’t account for every possibility.

“I am going to remove this talk from my memory. I’ll just remember the gist of it, but no details.”

He put his wand at his temple and drew out a silver-white line. He took the vial from his pocket, added the memory, and corked it again.

He turned it in his hand for a few seconds, and then he gave it to Prudy.

“Guard these with your life.”

***

Court record of Draco Malfoy’s trial – Oktober 5, 2001

[Prosecution] “Mr Malfoy, report your dealings on August 21, 1997.”

[Accused] “Voldemort had given me the order to kill a random Muggle family. Severus Snape was to show me a house. He left me alone to ‘work up my courage’ as he put it. At that time, I was sure, he acted on Voldemort’s order to test my loyalty and make me overcome my weakness. I do think, he observed what I did.”

[Prosecution] “But you do not know, if Severus Snape observed you?”

[Accused] “No, if he did, he might have put this into his own memory stash.”

[Prosecution] “Which only you insist exists.”

[Defence] “Objection”

[Judge] “Sustained. Keep on track, Mr Sloane.”

[Prosecution] “What did you do then?”

[Accused] “I stunned and confounded the Muggles, tempered with their memories and portkeyed them away. Then I set fire to their house. I pulled parts of my memory and stored them away. I told Snape I had killed the family and made sure that I threw up by taking a throw-up drop, because he would never believe me to be sanguine about it.”

[Prosecution] “According to Selwyn’s statement which the jury may verify in the evidence folder, Voldemort not only questioned you about the killing, but he also read your mind and ran a priori incantatem which clearly showed four adava kedavra spells that killed Muggles in addition to the arson of their house. Do you truly want the jury to believe that you worked your way around all that?”

[Defence] “Objection”

[Judge] “Sustained. Mr Sloane, rephrase your question.”

[Prosecution] “Mr Malfoy, how did you manage to convince Voldemort you did the killing?”

[Accused] “I lied with the truth. I told him, that I had found it difficult to kill, and left out that I had not done it. When he read my mind, I pushed forward how I had burned the house and how I had thrown up afterwards, how Snape had watched me with contempt. When he ran priori incantatem, Prudy conjured up an illusion. He believed me then.”

[Prosecution] (to the jury) “Esteemed wizards and witches of the Wizenagamot, please note, that Mister Malfoy’s testimony cannot be verified. Severus Snape’s memories on Mister Malfoy, if they ever existed…”

[Defence] “Objection”

[Prosecution] “Severus Snape’s memories are not available, nor is this something he inserted into the memories his portrait holds. The accused himself claims he detracted his own memory, but this cannot be verified, because his memory vial is under a scutum that cannot be undone. Selwyn on the other hand, fully cooperated during his own trial. Mr Malfoy’s only witness is his own house elf.”

[Defence] “Objection”

[Judge] “What is it now, Miss Granger?”

[Defence] “The Prosecution insinuates that the house elf Prudy is still in the possession of Mister Malfoy, when she is a free elf currently working at Hogwarts for a salary.”

[Judge] (sighing) “Sustained”

[Prosecution] “I want it put to the record, that while the killing of the Muggle family cannot be proven right now, the accused just admitted that he committed arson.”

Chapter Text

Fawley had insisted on checking the pounds in a room which was far away from prying eyes. Percy Weasley had nodded his approval, as if going to a separate room was normal procedure. He handed over the pounds after turning them several times in his hands, as if he wanted to test the feeling. Draco had not held any hope for a swift exchange after he had seen the article in the Prophet, but he had hoped, that begging would prove to be enough. Not this time though. He would not get away lightly today.

Draco knew why Percy Weasley disliked him. He knew, why he had to prove, over and over again, that he stood firmly on the Weasleys side. Why he could not let it lie. An unaddressed bad conscience could lead to terrible results. It meant that the normally rule-abiding Percy Weasley pretended not to realise what ‘negotiating’ with Fawley meant. And Fawley made sure, that nothing would be seen at first glance.

Draco had no idea what made Fawley tick though. If you looked at the insults he threw at Draco, he either hated him for being a squib, which was technically untrue, or for marrying a muggleborn or for being responsible for rogue house elves or for leaking pureblood society secrets to a lawyer. Fawley just hated him. At least, after ‘negotiating’ for half an hour, Percy Weasley had knocked at the door. Half an hour was probably what his conscience allowed him, and Draco had gotten the signature that his 800 pounds were indeed genuine.

The irony that he got this signature from a wizard with thinly disguised pureblood prejudice was not lost on him, but laughing hurt. Draco wondered if his ribs were just bruised or if they might be cracked. He would have to see a doctor. Should he tell Hermione? She was away on an international conference from Thursday on, and he might be able to play over it. If he told her, she would cry, swear that her next case would be profitable, that he would never have to do the trip again. That she would sue Fawley and Gringotts to hell and back. He smiled wrily at the image of Hermione seething with anger.

A law suit against Fawley and Gringotts might even be winnable, especially if Hermione put her mind to it, but at the end of the day, they still needed school equipment, Hermione still would defend clients who had no knuckle to spare and with current Muggle politics changing pounds to euros and making an exchange somewhere on the continent was not an option. His bruises on the other hand would fade. A typical case of “solve one problem, get eight more”, or SOPGEM as he and Hermione liked to call it.

Draco gave his receipt to Percy Weasley. “The pounds are genuine. Can I get galleons now?”

The redhead nodded. Draco could see that he was a bit uneasy and he was not above exploiting Weasley’s bout of conscience.

“Could I have a glass of water, please?”, he asked.

There were glasses and water for customers and Weasley gestured silently to them. Draco poured himself and angled for aspirin in his pockets. He pressed two pills in his hand and downed them with the water.

“Muggle painkillers”, he explained, arching an eyebrow as if he let Weasley in on a secret.

Weasley’s cheeks became slightly redder than before, but he kept silent. Draco did not say anything more. It was important that the banker could pretend that nothing illegal had happened.

He shoved a paper form in Draco’s hand.

“Sign here, that you got the galleons.”

Draco’s eyes widened when he saw that Weasley had given him twelve galleons in exchange.

He signed the parchment and handed it over to Weasley.

On a whim he took a sheet of paper from his pocket and wrote down the signs he had seen on Fawley’s wrist.

IV * VII

“How is Gringotts’ policy on blood suprematists, Mr Weasley?” he asked.

“You know very well, Mr Malfoy, that this kind of people are not allowed in any position where their opinion could be harmful. I am quite astonished that you of all people would ask such a question.”

His scowl made Draco hastily bag the galleons, just in case.

“I saw this on Fawley’s arm, when he rolled up his sleeves. I’d bet all my money that this is a sign for the sacred 28 and you should probably look into it.”

“I have never seen anything like that, certainly not on Mr Fawley, I don’t know why I should believe you, and you shouldn’t bet money we both know you do not have, Mr Malfoy.” Percy Weasley looked down his nose.

“Just a manner of speaking, Mr Weasley.” Draco stood up. “Have a nice evening and be sure to tell your brother how I begged for money. I guess he needs all the uplifting entertainment he can get.”

He probably shouldn’t have said that, but his tongue sometimes had just a life of its own.

***

When he left Gringotts, galleons close to his body, just in case, he saw Rina standing on the stairs, a witch, Draco knew quite well at her side. It was Astoria Greengrass, the Charms professor at Hogwarts since Hermione had represented her in her case against her own father. If he had lived his life as the Malfoy heir, he would have probably married Astoria or her older sister. Considering where Astoria’s preferences ran that would have been a decidedly unhappy marriage. He could just picture himself with Astoria by his side, with the one and only son and heir, probably named after a star constellation in the Black tradition. He shuddered briefly.

Rina had a white handkerchief in her hands and blew her nose. Draco felt a sudden tug at his heart, as he always did, when he saw one of his children hurt and could do nothing about it.

“Good evening, Astoria,” he addressed the witch.

She gave him a curt nod. “Your daughter needed a tissue. I was about to go and offer her some tea.”

“Thank you, Professor” Rina sniffed. Her voice sounded small and subdued and Draco felt that tug again.

He smiled at Rina. “I got enough for a wand. Don’t you worry.” Close up, he could see that her eyes were still glittering with tears.

He placed his arm around her, and his daughter hugged him back. He tried to hide that the sudden impact on his ribs hurt him.

Draco took out his phone to text Hermione. He frowned at the crack on the screen. That must have been Fawley’s negotiating skills. Well, he would just have to change the screen protection.

Hermione had sent a rather frantic text. What happened? I had to get rid of five howlers already. Did you get in a fight with RW? Are you o.k.? Ily.

Howlers. He wondered why none had found him yet. Howlers got a bit confused around him, but if Hermione had gotten five, at least one should have found him. Gringotts probably had howler-repelling magic. No banking house worth its money would allow such a disturbance of paying customers.

Weasel apparently in irreconcilable differences (again). Special afternoon edition of the Prophet, just the usual garbage. Got the money, tell Colin to meet us at Ollivander’s, lyt. The rest would have to wait.

“I trust you are well?”, he asked Astoria. “I hear you are a good teacher.”

Astoria nodded. “Thank you. I like it. During the holidays I’m doing some research to give Headmaster Flitwick a helping hand. I’ve undertaken the task to look into the failure of the school’s wizarding register scroll.”

“Failure of the school scroll?”

“We told you about that, dad. At the sorting, last September? There was one girl who was not on the list, but she was sorted into Hufflepuff with Lizzie.”

Draco remembered. He had joked that the Sorting Hat must have gotten into his dotage.

Astoria grimaced. “The parents were livid. They even threatened to sue Hogwarts. It was an old wizarding family into the bargain.”

“If the school scroll fails, muggleborns might be overlooked,” Draco said.

“Exactly.”

Draco frowned. “The school scroll is very old magic. Are there other signs, it is failing? You’re searching for other cases?”

Astoria nodded. “I found three so far. Old wizarding families whose children were not in the school scroll but have magic.”

Draco tooted. “That is a potential disaster. Any unregistered muggleborns yet?”

She shook her head.

“You should have my wife have a look at the scroll.”

“I don’t doubt your wife’s competence, but that scroll was made by the founders themselves.”

Draco could not help himself. “And my wife has a very vivid imagination when it comes to transcend the boundaries of what can be done with magic.”

Astoria barked a laugh.

“You’re hardly looking for magical children at Gringotts though,” Draco said.

Her face closed, very suddenly.

Draco raised his hand. “I don’t want to pry. We’ll have to be off anyway before Ollivander shuts the doors on us.”

Astoria shook her head. “There is no reason you cannot know. You might even be interested.”

Draco raised his eyebrows and Astoria bit her lips as if she had to think what to say.

“Hogwarts has been given a very generous donation by an old family and I was given authority to collect the money.”

It was as if he had gotten another punch. Draco had not thought that ribs could hurt that much.

“Any conditions?”, he asked. “Rich people usually give money only under conditions.”

“Like buying brooms for the Quidditch team so that someone gets on the team?” Rina piped up.

Draco shot her a half-amused look. “For the last time. I did not become seeker for Slytherin through bribes. I came on the team after try outs.”

Rina giggled. “That’s what he always says. My mum doesn’t believe him.”

“It is one of the few things we fight about.” Draco admitted. In a way it was a ridiculous reason to fight, but most of their fights were laughable, at least after the fact.

“I am not sure, I believe you either, considering your behaviour in school.” Astoria said.

Draco huffed.

“Anyway, there are no conditions, no regulations on which house should benefit. It is just a huge sum for school equipment, books, potion kettles, anything.”

“How unusual,” Draco remarked. He tried not to sound too interested. His scutum should repel any side effects of the cut-out curse, but it was better to be safe than sorry. He probably imagined it, but he thought he could feel the tendrils of the malevolent magic trying to reach for him.

“In a way it is a tragic case. The heir of the family has … vanished, and now his mother wants to do as much as she can for …. “, she halted and looked pointedly at Rina.

Draco nodded, not trusting his voice. This was a day for old wounds to open, he thought. It hurt much more than the negotiation with Fawley.

“For what would be just considered the heir’s byblows in pureblood tradition.”

Draco licked his lips and scoffed shortly. “I see.”.

Rina’s eyes were full of questions, but Draco pressed his finger to her lips.

“Thank you,” he said and closed his eyes. “Do you happen to meet this very benevolent donator in the near future?”

“I might.”

“Could you do me a kindness, Astoria?”

“If I can.”

“Tell her, I know. Tell her, I’ve always known.”

Her eyes were full of understanding and pity. Draco resented the pity but reminded himself that Astoria had her own problems with her family. And Astoria did not deserve his resentment.

Rina and Draco bade her good evening.

Chapter Text

As soon as they were out of earshot, Rina opened her mouth.

“Was that about your mother?”

Draco shushed her. “You’d better not ask after details, Rina. And that is not a request, that is an order. Better you look it up. Look it up in the ‘Greengrass guide to pureblood boons and banes’, the book Astoria wrote after the Greengrass vs. Greengrass trial.”

The cut-out curse was mentioned in Astoria’s book, a book that had been such a scandal, that Astoria had been offered a job at Hogwarts to be safer. That had been still under McGonnagall.

“I always assumed that you fell out.” Rina’s voice dropped to a whisper. “That this was about your inability to do magic.”

“Yes, everyone assumes, and it is probably for the best.”

“Why?”

“At least she is safe from people who hate me.”

Rina stopped.

“But why, why do people hate you? That is not fair.”

“Life is not fair, Rina.”

“That is not a very satisfying answer.”

“I know, but it is a true answer. I’ll try to explain. For the traditional purebloods, I am a disgrace. They think I should have killed myself the moment the scutum made me unable to do magic. And even if they do not believe I defected during the war, I still married a muggleborn. I still told pureblood secrets to my wife, secrets they have kept to themselves for centuries. Secrets I can only freely talk about because of the scutum. Secrets that show just how hypocritical they are. Then there are the people who did not believe in Voldemort, but wriggled through during the war. They look at me and see that it was possible to do something. It is easy to respect Severus Snape for being a double agent and praise him as a hero. He is dead. I am alive.”

He sighed. “And then there are the heroes, who stood against Voldemort. In their world of black and white there is no place for someone like me. For Merlin’s sake, I myself do not remember half of what I did or didn’t do.”

He could see that Rina bit her lip. “But mum…. Mum was a heroine, wasn’t she?”

“Your mum chose me. That discredited her.”

“The man we met today, that’s one of Ron Weasley’s brothers? Why does he hate you? I mean, it was not him, who was engaged to mum.”

“Percy Weasley dislikes me for reasons that have nothing to do with the weasel.”

Rina frowned. “But the Prophet article?”

“Oh, I am sure, that he thinks he dislikes me because your mum left his brother, or because his other brother died in the war or even because your mum brought his father down – which is only true if you squint very hard, but I do think that in his deepest heart he is just ashamed and seeing me reminds him of that.”

“How so?”

“You know, Percy Weasley worked for the ministry during the war. Your mum says, he claimed that he was uneasy the whole time and knew that something was not right, the hunting of muggleborns only thinly disguised as registering them and all that. And just before the battle of Hogwarts he switched sides and stood with the Order.”

“Why would that make him dislike you? I mean you defected as well?”

“Not that anybody but a few believe that. Percy for sure doesn’t believe I defected. That might come into it as well. Because I know he is a liar. He was in Malfoy Manor, once, with the minister. He knew, he just knew that Voldemort was behind everything. And he knows I know, or rather he suspects I know. It is one of the few things I remember clearly, because there was no reason to temper with that memory.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“Every time he sees me, he has to prove that his loyalty is and was to his family.”

Rina’s face was pale, and Draco stopped and tried to hug her.

“I am sorry, dearest, I am sorry, that you have to live with the burden of my past, with the burden of my family’s past.”

“And yet you wanted him for the exchange. What does that say about the other people at Gringotts?”

“Percy Weasley has his flaws, but he has principles. He adheres to rules.” At least to a certain degree which included knocking after half an hour and enquiring if checking pounds really should take that long.

From the corner of his eyes, Draco saw a red folded paper approaching. About time, he thought. He pointed the howler out to Rina. Rina raised her wand and took aim, although that was not necessary, really. Her patronus burst out and the silver ferret shredded the howler apart, before the thing had even finished Draco’s name. Rina gave a satisfied nod.

She resumed walking. “Thank you, dad.”

“What for?”

Rina smiled. “For not lecturing me, saying ‘I told you so’. I guess I should have listened to your advice.”

Draco shook his head. “I am not sure about that.”

Rina looked at him questioningly.

“Look. I don’t want to you children to suffer for who your parents are, but not knowing might not help you either. People will assume things about you and if you walk blindly into that, that can’t be good either.” He sighed. “I just don’t know much about being a good dad.”

Rina looked at him, as if he had suddenly become a troll. “Dad, that is ridiculous. We all know you love us. And we love you. You’re a good dad.”

His heart lifted. “Still,” he said. “It’s so bloody complicated. I do not doubt that my father loved me, but he still was a rotten father,” he trailed off.

Rina scoffed. “If he had loved you, he would not have disowned you.”

“It is not as easy as that.”

When they rounded the corner to Ollivander, Draco had found his sense of humour again. “You know, on the other hand, I am reasonably certain, that your grandchildren will be allowed to buy at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.”

Rina laughed.

Colin awaited them, with Pansy, not Neville. Pansy had left work early and joined her godson.

The old Ollivander was not in, which was lucky. He had been old even in the war and it was high time he retired. Not seeing his face, was a blessing. Draco had enough of war reminders for a day.

Ollivander’s assistant, a young woman, did not take note of him at all, because she was fawning over Pansy, the famous auror. She helped them search for a wand, and Colin settled on cherry tree with occamy plume. The assistant assured them, that the plume had been taken under the law for magical creatures, from a living animal and without cruelty. Pansy let her show the certificate and shared a smile with Draco.

Because of the certificate and the rare component, the price was 10 galleons. Colin had a very worried look in his eyes, but Draco counted the galleons and made a joke about how it was a pity that the Granger law firm did not get shares. Sometimes Hermione was just not practical enough.

They left to join Neville, Lizzie and Meg at the café where Pansy had left them.

Chapter Text

Severus Snape’s memory (as retrieved September 2002)

The memory started with Severus Snape standing on platform 9 ¾. He went up and down the platform, his robes bellowing out, and scowling. It looked intimidating enough to scare off some of the children or their parents, even if every child was obliged to attend Hogwarts under the new minister.

His intimidating look was enough, that nobody dared to share a compartment with him. Snape settled down with the newest issue of ‘The Potionmaster’.

As soon as the train had departed, Death Eaters stopped the train and searched for Potter. Even in the lonely compartment Snape sat in, it was easy to hear Neville Longbottom shouting defiantly that Potter was not here and that they would not get him. Snape shook his head and mumbled: “Gryffindors just don’t know when to keep their heads down.”

When the death eaters had disapparated, Snape called a fifth year Slytherin and told him to bring Draco Malfoy to him to discuss duties.

Malfoy entered the compartment a short while after the summons. His face had a closed look to it, which might mean that he did his best to occlude his thoughts.

“Take a seat, Draco, we have to discuss some of your duties as an older Slytherin this year,” Snape told the young man who stood cross-armed before him.  

Malfoy let his arms fall to his side, although that did not make him seem more relaxed, and sat down.

“Tea, Draco?”, Snape asked.

“No, thanks. I’ve just had pumpkin juice,” Malfoy answered, his face still a mask.

Snape began to talk about how Malfoy should be an example of pureblood conduct to the younger students, how he should use the opportunity to refine his skills in the Dark arts, that were now taught almost openly at Hogwarts, what would be in the curriculum this year, and many more things. Just, when Malfoy’s face changed from wariness to boredom, Snape offered him a chocolate frog.

Malfoy inspected the closed package, thanked his teacher and ate the frog.

The corner of Snape’s mouth moved upward, just a tiny bit.

“Draco what did you learn about potions in first year?” he asked when his student had swallowed the frog.

“That potions usually are as potent as spells if you use the right potion. But I don’t see, what is the point of having me rehearse first year’s lessons.”

Snape smiled. “Don’t you?”

Malfoy’s eyes widened in understanding and he blanched.

“Now, tell me everything,” Snape ordered him after casting muffliato on the compartment. His smile was openly smug now.

Malfoy fought the pull of the veritasserum, he tried not to babble, and his brows were soon bathed in sweat. He even tried to find a loophole, by telling things that were true, random things, like what he had for breakfast, but in the end, the veritasserum was stronger. Malfoy finally began to stutter, and then words dropped from his mouth in alarming speed as if they had been penned up too long.

Snape listened in silence, while Malfoy confessed. That he had stopped believing in the Dark Lord and his cause, that he feared for his mother, that he had hidden the truth about Hermione Granger’s whereabouts, whom he suspected to be with Potter, that he had faked killing a Muggle family, that his house-elf had helped him.

Snape did not seem surprised, only when Malfoy mentioned Hermione, he raised an eyebrow, raising his wand at Malfoy who closed his eyes and tried to ward of the legilimens spell.

“You tempered with your own memory,” Severus observed.

“I don’t trust my occlumency enough,” Malfoy admitted, his voice hushed. “Not after I realised Dumblodore saw through me the whole time.”

For minutes his ragged breath was the only sound in the compartment.

“My mother doesn’t know. Nobody does, Professor. I guess I am lucky you are the one who found out. Could you do me a favour and kill me fast?”

He opened his eyes again and stared at Snape as if bracing himself. “Please. And please do not let my mother suffer for my disloyalty.”

“You expect me to kill you,” Snape said.

“Don’t prolong it,” Malfoy clenched through gritted teeth. “You were fast enough when you killed Dumbledore.”

“What exactly is your plan, Draco?” Snape asked.

“There is no plan. I just do not want to help him. I do not want to kill anyone. I just want this nightmare to stop. …  I would wish for my mother’s safety.“

He laid his hand on his forehead and battled his uneven breathing.

“I guess I hope that Harry Potter is really the chosen one and that he can kill him… ,” he finally added.

Malfoy began to laugh, a strange sound that held little humour. “Imagine that. I am hoping that Harry Potter will exactly do the hero things, I always despised. Harry Potter! My hope depends on Potter developing some brains. That should show you how fucked I am.”

Snape joined in his laughter. It took both a while to catch their breath.

“Maybe I can add to your hope, by confirming that Granger is indeed with Potter, so that we know at least that some brains are involved.”

Malfoy shed the final bouts of laughter and sobered up. “How do you know?”

“I’m not going to tell you that.”

“You know, where Potter and Granger are? And the Weasel, I suppose?” At the mention of Weasley’s name Malfoy’s face twitched.

Snape nodded.

“And you did not tell the Dark Lord?” Malfoy asked, staring. “You… “, his voice was a whisper. “Merlin, you must be such a powerful occlumens.”

Snape shrugged. “Welcome to the resistance against the Dark Lord, Draco”.

“There is a resistance? Who is in?” Malfoy’s eyes were wide.

Snape pointed at himself. “Me, now you, and possibly your house elf, although it didn’t have a say in joining, if I understood you correctly.”

Malfoy was shaken by bouts of laughter again. It did not really sound like he had fun, though. It sounded as if there were sobs in between.

“I do not apologise for using veritasserum on you. I had to be sure.”

Malfoy nodded.

“But why did you kill Dumbledore?”, he asked.

Snape arched an eyebrow. “You tell me.”

Malfoy swallowed. They were silent for a time and Snape drummed his fingers on his knee.

“Dumbledore knew. It was his plan, but why? So that the Dark Lord would trust you above everyone. So that you could be close to him. Dumbledore planned his own death to protect your cover?”

“That was one of the reasons. There were more, I think. One of them was that he did not want you to kill him. One of them was the fact, that he was dying anyway. When I killed him, he had two weeks left, maybe three.”

“His hand!”, Malfoy exclaimed. “That was a death curse?”

Snape nodded. “But Dumbledore did not put all his eggs in one basket. I don’t think he told me everything about the task he gave Potter.”

“What is your plan, Professor?”

“That the Dark Lord finds what he succeeded to avoid for decades.”

“His death,” Malfoy whispered. “I could get behind that plan.”

He bit his lip and thought for a while. “So, the plan is to help Potter although Dumbledore did not let you in on everything.”

Snape nodded. His face twitched shortly. “Unfortunately, I depend on Dumbledore’s portrait in this, although I do have an inkling.”

“I don’t understand why he wasn’t in Slytherin,” Malfoy remarked. “The best way to keep a secret is to tell nobody. That is such a Slytherin approach, isn’t it?”

Snape curled his lips into something approaching a smile.

Malfoy’s face relaxed a fraction. “It seems I have to follow your lead, then. In a way I am relieved.”

He grimaced. “I probably should store away our little talk away. What do I do, if someone else gives me veritasserum?”

Snape shrugged. “The Dark Lord mainly relies on curses and spells. And I doubt anybody could brew veritasserum as strong as I do. Your instinct was right anyway. You told me things that are true.”

He tsked. “The sweat gave you away, though, but there is a potion that would help with that. I suggest you take that every time you meet the Dark Lord.”

Malfoy winced. “I hope that I won’t see him until Christmas.”

“Practice until then. Practice. And I would advise you to take extra care, that you hide your feelings for Granger.”

Malfoy flushed furiously, but did not deny anything.

Snape shook his head. “I must admit I am curious, but I won’t ask.”

The young man let out a strained breath.

“Professor,” he asked after a while. “Do you have a plan B? I mean, in case Potter won’t succeed.”

“What do you think?”

Malfoy studied him. “I think you should have one.”

Snape pressed his lips together in thought. “I only have a vague idea. Lay aside your wand for a moment, Draco. This won’t take long.”

He did as he was told, and Snape drew his own wand and pointed it at him.

Scutum”, he said loudly and precisely. A white spark flew out of the tip of his wand. His face became concentrated and it looked like this was a spell that had to be maintained.

“Now, take your wand and try any spell.”

Malfoy took his wand and pointed it at the seat behind Severus. Nothing happened.

“What the hell?”, he said. He sounded shaken.

Snape still pointed his wand at Malfoy. “Now, give me your wand.”

There was a flicker of mistrust in his eyes. Cautiously, he handed over his wand.

Snape continued to hold his own wand and waved his left hand with the other.

“Imperius”, he said.

Malfoy scowled. “Hey,” he shouted. “I thought we were on a team.”

Then his mouth fell open, when he understood.

Severus dropped his own wand and massaged his right hand, as if the spell had been taxing. He returned the wand.

“Nothing in, nothing out,” he explained.

“Not even an unforgivable. Does it block the killing spell?”, Malfoy asked.

“I don’t know. And I didn’t want to risk killing the only person who might be an ally. Unlike yours, my killing curses actually do kill.”

Malfoy laughed uneasily.

“I haven’t worked out how to tie the spell off, yet. You have to hold it, and that is very exhausting.”

“So, if we do not manage to kill the Dark Lord, we just hold him behind a shield that renders him unable to do magic. It wouldn’t work without coming up with the right wand movement to tie it off.”

“That is the idea.”

“Or we could try to find the potion that has the same or a similar effect.”

“Exactly. That is there you come in. I am observed by too many people and I don’t have the time.”

Malfoy grinned. “I prefer this task to the one I had last year.”

There was something like affection in Snape’s eyes, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “You should go back, to your classmates, Draco,” he told him.

Malfoy nodded and stood up.

Snape’s face had become hard again. “Make no mistake, Draco. If it comes down to it, you or the mission, I will not hesitate to kill you. But apart from that, I will try to keep you alive and I will try to ensure that you do not have to kill. Dumbledore did not want you to become a killer after all. I make no promises though.”

“I did not expect you to, Professor. In these times promises are not easily kept.” Malfoy answered. He shortly tapped on his family ring with thumb and index finger, and a house elf appeared. Snape winced in surprise and almost shouted at the creature. The elf looked in panic at him.

“Prudy,” Malfoy told the elf. “You know Severus Snape. As unlikely as it may sound, you can trust him.”

He put his wand at his temple and drew out a thin greyish-white memory. The elf collected it in a vial it produced out of what looked like thin air.

Draco dismissed the elf with a wave of his hand and opened the door of the compartment.

“See you at school, professor.”

***

Excerpt from the protocol of the testimony of Prudy, the house elf (Malfoy trial)

[Witness] Master Draco summoned me with his ring. He told me that Severus Snape could be trusted and put another memory into the vial.

Chapter Text

When Neville had arrived to pick up the children, Hermione had offered him tea first. Hermione was careful about not betraying clients’ confidence, but Neville was sure, that the client she was talking about who had almost sabotaged three months of work was Terry Boots. He wondered if Hermione could guess who he talked about. He only ever talked about pupils, never letting slip their names. He had decided to keep this habit from his auror years. Yet, when he talked about a Hufflepuff who had managed to be bitten by mandrake roots into her neck and had been unable to perform any magic for days, Lizzie began to giggle. She had been there and knew who it was.

Hermione checked her phone before they finally left, but there was no message from Draco yet. The children bustled around him and begged him to go to a bookshop.

Colin wanted a muggle bookshop, because of a muggle author called Droll Queen if Neville understood correctly. After having left the wards of the house, they portkeyed into the middle of a London park and went to the next bookshop.

Colin was his usual holiday self which meant that he was talking about all the interesting stuff he had read almost constantly. That was how Neville had known his wife’s godson for years, until he had encountered quiet Colin in school. Lizzie and Meg took each other by the hand and tagged along, happy in each other’s company. They were the closest to each other in age after all, just a little more than a year apart.

“I got the ‘Lord of the Rings’ from mum and dad, and it is fantastic. It really gives you a whole new outlook on elves.”

“How?”

“The elves are magical beings, but they are majestic and wise, and they do really cool stuff against the Dark magic, or what could count as Dark magic in Middle Earth.”

Middle Earth? Neville felt a bit lost and made a non-verbal generally approving sound.

“I looked it up, and there are so many muggle books where elves are so different from our house elves. Do you have any idea, why muggles would have these ideas?”

Neville shook his head. “Muggles do have some strange ideas about magic.”

Colin nodded. “Yes, but some of their ideas are very close to the truth. I mean Muggles know about wands and spells and so on. Why would their ideas about elves be so weirdly off?”

“Shouldn’t you ask your mum? Hermione is the expert on house elves.”

“Mum is an expert on house elves rights, which is not the same as an expert on house elves mythology,” Meg chimed in.

Neville smiled. Leave it to Meg, his goddaughter, to be meticulous about wording.

They spent about two hours in the bookshop. Neville took the opportunity to study some books on Muggle herblore and found a book he liked. He bought the book with one of the Muggle plastic cards that were connected to his Muggle account that Hermione had helped him set up.

Lizzie and Meg had wandered off to a shelf with riddle books, while Colin was in the part of the bookshop where it read “Fantasy and Science Fiction”. He was looking at sketch books. When he saw Neville, he reluctantly returned one of the books back to the shelf.

Neville pulled the book out again. “So, these are Droll Queen’s elves?”, he asked looking at the pictures in the sketch book that were in between, probably to give an idea about what to draw.

Colin nodded. “Tolkien, Uncle Neville. The name is Tolkien. I want to draw something for Prudy and I wanted some ideas. I am sure, she’ll like that.”

Neville smiled and shook his head, just a tiny bit. Sometimes the way Draco and Hermione’s children were a mix of their parents was too funny. Colin liked to draw, and he liked to correct people.

“I’ll buy you that sketch book,” he said.

Colin flushed. “I didn’t want to….”

Neville patted him on the shoulder. “I can buy something for my wife’s godson any time I want.”

When they left the bookshop to get lunch, Neville had paid for his own book, two riddle books for the girls and Colin’s sketch book, and it was much cheaper than his excursions to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with Harry’s children.

They sat down in a Muggle restaurant and Neville conjured his patronus under the table and sent it to Hermione to ask if it was time to go to Ollivander’s yet, but Hermione had not heard from Draco. Neville wondered if he should perhaps buy one of these Muggle portable tellyphones, just so that he could contact Draco. Sending a patronus after Draco was close to useless, because nine out of ten times the patronus wouldn’t find him, and he couldn’t send one back anyway.

They walked around for a bit, although the sky was grey and the air humid. When it became dark, they went to a café on Diagon Alley, and played card games. Still no word of Draco, and Hermione’s patronus sounded a bit worried, when Neville asked her again. A portly man in his sixties frowned at them. Neville thought he recognized Rowan Greengrass, the man who had been humiliated very publicly when his own daughter had sued him with Hermione’s help.

Pansy joined them after work and was quickly persuaded to join the games. She was laughing, teasing the girls, ruffling Colin’s hair, but Neville knew something was off. When the children were preoccupied, Pansy showed him this afternoon’s special edition of the Prophet under the table and Neville supressed a groan.

She bent to his ear. “There is more, I’ll tell you later.”

Finally, just when the children exchanged worried looks more and more often, Hermione’s patronus arrived, and Pansy and Colin went off to Ollivander’s. Maybe it would be just an uneventful day with the Granger children after all.

***

Lizzie and Meg were eating soup, and solved riddles in an alarming speed that made Neville fear, that they would have finished the riddle books before the day was over, when the door opened and the Zabini family entered. Luna hugged them all, and Lizzie and Meg greeted the children with enthusiasm. Rachel was Colin’s year, but Pandora, called Penny, was Meg’s age. Lizzie and Meg looked with wide eyes at the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes bags, that Rachel and Penny had brought.

Luna and Blaise sat down and joined them, ordered food and drink. Luna told Neville about her newest project which was a revised edition of Newt Scamander’s “Fantastic Beasts”.

“When Penny is going to enter Hogwarts this summer, we’ll make a thorough survey in South America. We went to India over the Christmas holidays,” Luna told them.

She frowned. “The occamy population has dwindled since Scamander’s time and Scamander was already worried about them. I suspect fully grown specimen have been smuggled away.”

Neville saw Blaise smiling affectionally and a bit indulgently at his wife.

Luna slowly stirred her coffee. “I have to talk to Hermione about that. I don’t think that the certificate for responsible use of magical creature helps in the case of the occamies. And I have to talk to Harry if he can look into the smuggling.”

“You’d best not do that at the same time, though,” Blaise remarked.

Luna focused on her husband’s face and patted his hand “I do remember that, dear.”

She shook her head. “It’s such a nuisance, though.”

“Well, I couldn’t agree more,” Neville remarked. Sometimes he still wondered how he had ended being torn between Harry and Ron on one side and Hermione on the other.

“Did you see the special edition of the prophet?”, Blaise asked.

Neville nodded tersely.

“I think, Ron should just marry a Slytherin. I mean, that worked out for us”, Luna said.

“You’re welcome to suggest this to Ron, the next time we see him,” Blaise said.

“Don’t forget to mention, you know of a Gryffindor- Slytherin marriage that has miraculously worked for some time by now,” Neville hardly knew what had come over him. He wasn’t that sarcastic usually.

Luna blinked at him. “I don’t think Ron would like that example, although it is a good example generally speaking…,” she said with a serious face.

It was as if their talk had conjured him. The door of the café opened, and Ron and George Weasley entered, tailed by James, Richard and Lily, bags of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in their hands.

It was the first time, Neville wished that the Potter children would not great him quite that enthusiastically. The Granger girls looked up from their books, but Rachel and Penny waved happily to George and Ron.

“Hi Luna, hi Blaise, girls!”, Ron said, his gaze stopping at Meg and Lizzie, a puzzled look on his face. Lizzie’s smile froze in her face and Meg suddenly clutched Neville’s hand. Neville wished Ginny or Pansy were here. He had become quite adept at keeping the children apart at school, but here he was not a teacher.

Ron smiled his easy smile, the smile of the international Quidditch star. “Are you friends of Rachel and Penny?”

“Yes,”, Lizzie squeaked in a high voice, that did not sound like her at all.

Neville tried to gesture to George, but George seemed oblivious. It probably didn’t help that Lizzie and Meg did not resemble their parents as strikingly as Rina and Colin. Lizzie with her greyish blond hair that only had a few waves and Meg with her straight dark hair that was cut Pixie style. Ron would not make the connection and Neville doubted he had ever seen them.

James and Richard were fidgeting with their feet, while little Lily had joined Penny without ado. Blaise, that blasted Slytherin, leaned back in his chair as if he was looking forward to an entertaining exchange. To give him his due, Blaise did not know yet, that Draco and Pansy probably were on their way here.

“These are Lizzie and Meg,” Luna explained.

“Hi”, Ron said.

“Good evening, Mr Weasley,” Lizzie said, her voice not quite as squeaky as before.

“Oh, you know me!”

“You’re the famous keeper,” Meg stated in a flat voice.

Ron was flattered, but not surprised. Neville had been present multiple times when Ron was recognized, and the keeper had become quite good at pretending surprise. Almost twenty years of Quidditch fame on the top of the sport had made him sure about his fame in a disarming way. If Ron had looked at his son and his nephew, he might have realised, though, that something was off.

“What gave me away?”, he asked, the easy smile still in place.

“Richard talks about you.” Lizzie pointed at Ron’s son. “He’s a keeper as well.”

Luna chose this moment to intervene. “I am surprised that you are in such a good humour, Ron,” she said. “I see barely any wrackspurts around you despite what we read in the prophet.”

Ron gave a short laugh. “Let me just say, that I’ve known from the start, that I made a mistake. Remind me to never travel to Las Vegas again.”

Neville stood. “Lizzie, Meg,” he smiled at them. “We’ll best be off. Take your coats, I’ll pay, and we’ll leave.”

His eyes met Blaise’s. He raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve got it, Neville. Off with you.”

Neville exhaled slowly.

Lizzie and Meg did as they were told and collected their things.

“We just swap chairs, then,” George said and let himself fall into the chair Neville had vacated.

“Do you want an autograph?”, Ron asked.

The girls looked at him with wide eyes. Blaise choked on his tea and coughed violently.

Lizzie shook her head.

“No, thank you, Mr Weasley,” she said with a strained voice. “Our parents taught us not to take presents from strangers.”

“But you know me.”

“We know about you,” Meg clarified.

“Aren’t you a smart one?”, Ron remarked. The easy smile was replaced by a frown.

He turned to Neville. “See you around, Neville. I’ll stay with Harry for a while.”

Neville was about to usher the children out, when the door opened again.

“…. He threw that blasted special edition of the Prophet in my face, and it went downhill from then.”

Draco was talking over his shoulder to Pansy, as yet oblivious to the guests in the café.

Neville was tempted to groan in anticipation of a disaster. Could Draco not have dawdled at Ollivander’s for five more minutes?

Chapter Text

He would recognize that voice everywhere, even if he only saw him very occasionally, the intervals were never long enough for Ron’s taste. That voice, that made you practically hear the sneer, that despicable posh accent. Why was Malfoy here? Hadn’t his week been bad enough?

His hair was not as white as it had been when they were both boys at Hogwarts, but still blond. But you never saw grey hair with blondes, and he had no intention of getting close enough to check if Malfoy had grey in his hair.

“Look, who’s come. A ferret,” Ron could not help himself.

“The Weasel King,” Malfoy said. It sounded as if he meant something like ‘Dirty peasant.’ “You made it to the headlines of the Prophet again, I was given to understand.”

Ron scowled.

The ferret smirked. “You should think about giving your next spouse longer probation time than five years on average.”

Ron shrugged. “I guess that’s better than making them stay with Amortentia.”

“Ron,” he heard Neville plead, but he chose to ignore him.

Malfoy’s eyes were cold. “It is all part of my devious plan to undermine wizarding society. Granger’s brain is so addled by years of Amortentia, that she barely manages anything at all. Imagine what she could do, if she had all her brains.”

Ron bared his teeth. “Imagine, she could be minister of magic by now, if she hadn’t sided with a death eater.”

Malfoy’s mouth clapped shut. Ron could see that his jaw muscles worked.

“At least, this scum is dying out. I heard your father bit the dust last Autumn. Did you give him a funeral cortege? Must have been a short one.”

It seemed like he couldn’t stop himself. Ron had been taut since Christmas. A tiny part of him knew, that he should really rein himself in, but seeing Malfoy fuming spurred him on.

“Or didn’t you attend, and it was just your mother?”

Malfoy rounded on him and his left hand shot out to grab him and he buried his fist in Ron’s shirt. His face was flushed with anger, his teeth were visible, and his jaw jutted out. “You leave my mother out of this.”

Ron smiled. “Make me.”

The other man was taller, but Ron had confidence in his own fitness. Malfoy wouldn’t work out much in his business.

Malfoy took a deep breath and loosened his grip on Ron’s shirt. His lips worked.

Ron pushed up the sleeve of his opponent’s coat, until he saw what he knew was there, the Dark Mark.

The collective gasp in the café gave him a short-lived bout of satisfaction. Seeing it also made his anger boil up again. His anger at the Death Eaters, his anger that Malfoy was walking and alive, when Fred was dead, that Hermione had chosen him.

“Why is it still there, Malfoy, hmm?”, he hissed. “It has faded over the decades for everyone. I’ve seen some that are barely visible. While yours is as black and dark as the day you voluntarily decided to take it.”

“Clearly, today is not the day you are in possession of the single braincell of the Weasel family.” Malfoy let go of Ron’s shirt and shoved his sleeve over his arm again. “Nothing in, nothing out, Weasel. That is the way of a scutum. The magic of the Mark cannot fade out.”

“I see you did not forget to say your morning prayer today, Malfoy. ‘Do not let me be lost for a flimsy explanation today’,” Ron imitated Malfoy’s accent. “Another explanation could be that you do not regret anything.”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes and gave him a false smile. “Regarding you the only thing I regret is inventing that blasted ‘Weasley is our king’ song.”

“So, you admit, that the repentant death eater is just an act? I knew that anyway.” Ron wished so hard he could wipe that smile from Malfoy’s face.

“Pardon me, that I do not grovel before a man who stole two and a half years of my life.”

How did he dare bring that up! Ron shivered with anger. He was still claiming that he was framed with that cauldron. “You should be thankful you have a life. Not that you deserve it. You should be dead or in Azkaban.”

Malfoy did not answer, but his face was dark with the blood that had rushed to his cheeks.

Parkinson laid a hand on his arm. “Draco, let’s just leave.”

Ron flashed his teeth at her. “Leaving seems a good idea.”

Malfoy brushed imaginary dust flecks from his coat. “Children fetch your stuff. We’re leaving.”

He looked up again and his grey eyes met Ron’s.

“People getting what they deserve is such a strange concept, Weasel. What does this even mean? Everybody probably would agree that we both deserve everything we got. You got fame as a hero and as a keeper, more money than you can possibly spend, … popularity. I lost my magic and my family’s fortune.”

There was a cruel glint in his eyes, and he smiled. “Let me share a secret with you, Weasel. Something I learned decades ago. Neither fame, nor popularity nor money will ever make you a happy man. Am I right? Are you a happy man?”

That cut so close, that Ron reacted without thinking. His fist connected with Malfoy’s face, and the insufferable ferret went down.

Parkinson had drawn her wand. “Stop it, right now,” she shouted.

Malfoy grunted, Rina, the daughter with her white-blond curls, who had always looked so much like her father, and what must be the eldest son were at his side. He waved their hands away and picked himself up. Ron saw with satisfaction that he was bleeding from a cut lip.

“Bloody hell,” he said, when he looked down at his hands that were red, where he had wiped his face.

The café had become very silent. Ron could see that their fight had drawn everybody’s attention.

Parkinson stood alert, her wand pointed at Ron, her eyes flashing.

“Are you going to pull the auror on me, Pansy?,” Ron asked. “Over one punch?”

“I am pulling the auror,” she hissed. “You should be ashamed, both of you to make such a show in front of the children.”

Ron had forgotten about them. He saw that the little girls were upset and averted his eyes. His son and his nephew stared wide-eyed. His gaze met a young woman who edged closer. She drew one of these muggle devices out of her bag, and before he could protest, a flash had hit the scenario. The woman smiled.

What a nuisance. He would make the headlines again tomorrow.

Ron tried to get to the woman and almost ran into the silver otter that appeared out of nowhere, a sight that hurt more than Ron expected. The patronus carried a red letter, that looked like a howler and it headed not for any of them, but for the portly man in the back of the café.

The otter shredded the howler to pieces just above the head of the man, so that it looked like he was under his own personal cloud that snowed red flakes. Hermione’s voice was very clear. “Mr Greengrass, this is my last warning. My personal life isn’t any of your business and if you send even one more howler, I will sue you from here to the Antarctic for harassment. I suggest you get a life.”

Malfoy, holding an ice package to his face that someone must have conjured up for him, laughed loudly.

“My wife is just that bitch.” It did not sound like he wanted to insult her.