Draco shook his head as he gazed at the picture of Lady MacNair being arrested in front of her home. The frail looking woman was clearly frightened, but the Aurors around her appeared unmoved. Of course, they probably thought she was a Death Eater as her husband was firmly in Voldemort’s camp. Little did they know that Walden protected her from the darker side of his ‘political’ life. MacNair had once confessed to Draco during one of his parents’ numerous pre-war parties that he couldn’t believe he had found someone so kind to love him. And despite his belief in Voldemort’s cause, he was continually sending her on ‘errands,’ making sure she was always out of the country before Voldemort could request her presence. Draco wondered if her innocence would actually keep her out of Azkaban.
According to the Daily Prophet, the Aurors were systematically tracking down all remaining Death Eaters, starting with the ones who participated in the battle of Hogwarts. He was actually surprised that they hadn’t come looking for Lucius yet. Or him for that matter. But as the Malfoy clan had refrained from the final battle, the Aurors probably considered them low priority. That or they knew his parents had already fled the country.
“Master Draco, sir. Please. Flower needs help, sir.”
With the war won, one would think the news would be happier, but it wasn’t, especially for those who had been on the losing side of the war or even vaguely associated with them.
He folded the paper and set it on the table beside his chair, then focused on the house elf trembling in front of him, happy for the distraction, even if it meant dealing with whatever ‘emergency’ his staff had for him.
He was surprised to see Binky trembling. While Lucius went out of his way to instill fear in his house elves, Draco could not abide any display of fear, especially not after having trembled in front of Voldemort himself. Since his parents had left England hours after the final battle, no doubt to escape the Death Eater trials the wizarding community was demanding, Draco’s only companions had been the estate’s elves. And truth be told, he was rather fond of them. There were days when he believed they were the only thing keeping him from becoming as loony as the Lovegoods. He had taken the time to explain that he didn’t want their fear and had seen significant progress in their behavior, so he was more than a tad irritated by Binky’s regression.
“In which garden?”
“No, sir. Please forgive, Binky. Flower’s not a plant. Flower’s an elf like Binky, sir.”
Draco frowned momentarily, but quickly schooled his features when he realized the elf’s shaking had increased. “We don’t have a Flower on staff, do we?”
“No, sir. Flower belonged to the Goyle household. But when the Aurors came, they forced Flower to accept clothing and broke her binding to the family.”
“Flower has nowhere to go and no one to take care of. Flower is withering away. Binky is afraid Flower will die.”
House elves were dramatic in normal situations, so Draco wasn’t too worried about Binky’s proclamation, but as he had nothing better to do he decided to indulge his major domo.
“Where is she?”
Binky scrambled to his feet, then disappeared, only to reappear a second later with a dangerously frail creature in his arms. Draco was horrified by how emaciated the tiny female elf was. Kneeling beside Binky, he gently took her from his elf’s arms and ran a quick diagnostic spell over the creature. Physically, she was fine, but Draco understood all too well that if the spirit suffered, so would the body. Draco closed his eyes as he desperately tried to recall all he knew about house elves.
He remembered an occasion when his mother had been in an uncharacteristically melancholy mood and had told him that the source of the house elves magic was love. Once, centuries before, a group of wizards had saved a small village of elves from a rampaging troll. In gratitude, the elves had sworn to serve the wizards. For years, it had been a symbiotic relationship, but over the last few centuries wizards had started taking the elves service for granted. Unfortunately for the elves, over the same time period, they’d forgotten that they were more than mere servants and truly believed they had to serve in order to live. The Aurors, no doubt being heavily influenced by Granger and her S.P.E.W. philosophy, were ripping that purpose away from the elves, who had little or no time to prepare for the consequences of freedom and no capital with which to find new lodgings.
As Draco studied the frail creature, a fierce protectiveness engulfed him. After everything he’d been through, he couldn’t bear the thought of another death, not even that of a house elf who didn’t belong to him, and swore to himself that he would do everything in his power to save her. Voldemort had destroyed so much of their world; however, in their frenzy to scrub the dark stain from their community, the surviving wizards were destroying even more, with little thought to the consequences of their actions.
Draco stood, careful not to jar the little body in his arms, and carried Flower into the ballroom, which housed the cornerstone of Malfoy Manor. Kneeling beside the stone, he looked at the elf in his arms. “I don’t wish to cause you any pain, Flower, but this might sting a bit.”
The little elf merely shrugged.
Draco tapped the tip of her finger with his wand and whispered the appropriate words. A tiny drop of blood bubbled brightly against her dull gray skin.
“It won’t be long until the Aurors come for me as well, Flower, but I would be honored to have you serve me until they arrive. Are you willing to do my bidding in whatever manner I deem appropriate in the time that I have left?”
Flower’s brown eyes widened in surprise, but she weakly nodded her head.
“Very well. I, Draco Malfoy, Lord of Malfoy Manor, do hereby accept Flower’s voluntary subjugation.” With that, Draco guided Flower’s hand to the cornerstone and watched in fascination as the stone absorbed her blood.
Happy wailing filled the room and Draco turned in astonishment to find the rest of the manor’s elves clapping and jumping up and down, hugging themselves and each other. Each elf scrambled forward one at a time and kissed Draco’s hand.
“Yes, er, well…quite.” Draco looked down at Flower, only to find her smiling at him and whispering. He leaned forward to catch her words.
“Thank you. Thank you, Master Draco. Flower will serve Master Draco until she no longer has breath in her body.”
“In that case, Merlin willing,” he said, trying to sound stern and bored, but failing miserably, “I expect you to be serving me for a very long time.”
Flower smiled brilliantly at him.
As gently as he could, Draco handed Flower back to Binky. “Make sure she’s fed. Once she’s feeling better, we’ll find something for her to do.”
“Yes, Master Draco.” Binky bowed deeply, despite his precious cargo. “Thank you, sir. Thank you for your kindness.”
“Master Draco, sir.”
Draco looked up from the latest edition of The Prophet to find Binky standing in front of him, wringing his hands.
“Yes, Binky. What is it?”
Binky slowly turned his head and Draco followed his line of sight until he found two more frail elves standing just inside the doorway.
And he knew, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he accepted the voluntary ‘subjugation’ of these elves that even more would come. But what was that in comparison to how much misery he and his father had caused under Voldermort’s reign of terror? In the time he had left before the Aurors came, he would grant sanctuary to any elf who appeared on his doorstep and allow them the time and space they needed to recover from their loss of purpose. With that resolution set, he led the newest arrivals into the dining hall to repeat the process that had started with Flower.
Every morning while he read the paper, more and more elves would appear seeking sanctuary. He hadn’t given much thought to the numbers until two weeks later when he came across a dozen elves dressed in tattered pillowcases fighting in the main hall.
“What is the meaning of this?” he shouted.
All of the elves immediately prostrated themselves and started weeping.
The house elf appeared immediately at his side.
Draco pointed to the quivering mass in front of him. “What is the meaning of this?”
Binky frowned at the weeping elves and shook his head in disgust. “They is fighting to see who has the honor of cleaning the great hall, sir.”
Draco slapped a hand over his face. Of course, with the manor’s elf population growing in leaps and bounds, the work traditionally completed by a small staff would have to be re-examined.
“All right. I want to see everybody, and I mean everyone, in the dining hall in one hour. And the next elf I find fighting, will receive clothing. Do I make myself clear?”
All the elves cried out in horror, but nodded their acceptance.
An hour later, Draco strode into the dining hall, but stumbled to a stop when he realized there were nearly two hundred elves wringing their hands in fear. Had he really subjugated that many elves or were they subjugating themselves when he wasn’t looking? Clearing his throat, he moved with purpose to the center of the room and placed his papers on the shiny surface of the table before he turned to face the masses.
“First, I must apologize--”
The hall erupted with shouts of “No!”
Draco raised a hand and the elves immediately fell silent.
“Yes. For while I’ve taken the matter of your ‘subjugation’ seriously, I will admit I haven’t given much thought about the bigger picture. However, I will rectify that situation now. Who here enjoys gardening?”
Every single elf in the room raised their hand.
Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. Pulling a chair from the table, he turned it to face the elves and sat, leaning slightly forward. “Other than Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, I don’t believe there’s ever been so many house elves living in one place at the same time, which means we’re going to have to learn how to do things a bit differently.”
The room was silent.
“So let me explain. We will, of course, need elves to clean the house, and while the original staff has always done a brilliant job,” Draco ignored the burst of happy crying from the middle of the crowd, “we can probably use a few more elves to help lighten their load. So what I propose is this: we break into groups. One group will be in charge of the exterior of the manor. They will make sure it is constantly clean and in good repair.
“Another group will be in charge of the gardens. Malfoy Manor has always had world class flower gardens and I’d like that tradition to continue. However, I’d also like for us to be self-sufficient as well, which means we’ll need to grow our own food and potion ingredients. I’d like several groups to be in charge of those tasks. And, of course, we’ll need a team to cook for everyone else.
“The Malfoy family has made enemies on both sides of this latest war, so I’d like to have a team in charge of the wards to make sure we are all as protected as possible. I’ll need a team to convert the top floor of the manor into dormitories. I don’t even want to think about where you all have been sleeping. Families, of course, can have their own room.”
Draco looked around the room and frowned. “Where are the children?”
The elves began to shake in earnest.
“Somebody, tell me where the children are!” he demanded.
Blinky bravely stepped forward, even though his trembling was quite pronounced. “When the Aurors gave them clothing, sir, they only gave it to the adults.”
Fear and anger warred within Draco. Except for elves who acted as majordomos, wizards rarely realized when their elves had children because the sign of a good elf was to never be seen while carrying out its duties. As his anger dissipated, fear roiled over him at the thought of elvish children alone and hungry in the homes of wizards who probably didn’t even know they existed.
Pushing himself to his feet, he addressed the crowd in a quiet, but deliberate voice. “When I accepted your subjugation, I accepted it for all of your heirs as well. Children aren’t bound to their masters until they reach majority, which means when you were released, they released your children as well. So, I am only going to say this once. Bring them to me. NOW!”
Draco didn’t have a clue if there was even a kernel of truth in what he’d just announced, but hoped the elves didn’t know either…or particularly care to correct him if he was wrong.
His echo hadn’t even finished bouncing off the walls before a fourth of the elves disappeared.
Seconds later little pops sounded as the elves returned with their children.
“We…” Draco cleared his throat again, overwhelmed by the relief he felt when he saw all the tiny chubby elf children blinking curiously at him. They all appeared healthy, which meant that while their parents hadn’t fared so well, the children had never been forgotten nor totally abandoned by their parents.
He sat back in his chair, surprised by how wobbly his legs felt. “We’ll need a team to look after the children during the day while their parents are going about their duties. In fact, I think we’ll need a team to build a play area for the children. Perhaps we can convert the fountain for them as well.”
Another thought seeped slowly into his brain and it was all he could do not to bury his face in his hands and scream. He pushed himself to his feet and looked over the crowd as he forced himself to sneer. “I want your elderly as well. I don’t care how old or frail they are, I want them all!”
Only ten percent of the elves disappeared this time. When they returned seconds later, their neighbors shuffled closer to help their venerable elders.
Draco nodded once in satisfaction. “Would someone be so kind as to bring some chairs in? There’s no reason the elderly need to stand. I’ll try to wrap this meeting up as quickly as I can. Binky, remind me that I’ll need to subjugate the elders as soon as we’re finished.”
A moment later, several large chairs appeared around the room.
He studied the crowd before him. “Is anyone else missing? Crazy aunts? Black sheep no one wants to talk about. Slow elves? Crippled elves? Because if there are, I want them as well. I want everyone, no exceptions.”
This time there was only a single pop.
Draco nodded once in satisfaction, then turned back to his papers. “As I was saying, we’ll need a team to raise chickens and a team to be in charge of our herds. We’ll need a team to work the orchards and to grow vegetables.
“While I have so many willing workers, I’d like to take the opportunity to restore the manor. Voldemort may have done his best to rip the my home to shreds, but I’d like to try to restore it to its former glory.
“In addition, we’ll also need a team to find and dispose of all the dark magic items in the manor and on the grounds. The Aurors will undoubtedly come calling soon and I don’t want them to find anything that could put us in danger. We’ll also need elves to look after the elderly and our special elf as well.”
He looked at the sea of faces staring at him in adoration. “So once again I ask, who here enjoys gardening?”
With his teams of elves firmly in place, Draco was in awe at how efficiently everything ran. The Manor had never shone so brightly before, inside or out. All traces that Voldemort had ever set foot on the estate had vanished. Gauzy curtains billowed softly, filling the various rooms with light and spring air.
Family portraits were returned to their rightful places. And while the Malfoy clan had never been known for being jovial, the portraits were so happy to be brought out of hiding that they smiled and praised Draco whenever he walked by.
Heirlooms and fixtures were polished so brightly that they increased the light in the mansion threefold.
The floor in the dining hall had been waxed so well that it was impossible to stand upright. He couldn’t bring himself to chastise the overly enthusiastic workers, so simply designated it as a play room for the children and soon elf children were sliding around the room squealing in delight.
Draco rarely left the manor’s grounds, especially after Binky convinced him that the elves could shop on his behalf, which was probably for the best considering the reception he’d received the few times he’d attempted to go to Diagon Alley. After all, shopkeepers were used to dealing with house elves and as long as they had coin in hand they didn’t particularly care who the elves were representing. He still occasionally ordered supplies by owl, but tended to shop from stores on the Continent where the name Malfoy was practically unknown.
Two weeks had passed since the first organizational meeting and the Manor practically glowed. Draco realized that given the number of elves on the estate, not every elf could be working every hour of every day, so he called another meeting in the main hall. He sat on the stairs, wondering if he should ask the elves to make the dining hall a little less dangerous to walk upon, but decided against it as he enjoyed sliding around the room as much as the children did.
“So I’m thinking maybe you could work in shifts.”
“Why?” Doober, one of the garden elves asked.
Draco crossed his legs as he looked over the crowd. He shook his head in amusement when he realized the little buggers really were subjugating themselves as there appeared to be nearly three hundred elves in the hall. “Because, as of this moment, Malfoy Manor is the best kept manor in England.”
The elves clapped their hands together and their happily cries echoed around the room.
It was all he could do not to roll his eyes. “Yes. Yes.” He waved them silent. “But don’t you want to spend some time with your families?”
Peoni stepped forward, shaking slightly as she did so. “We spend time with them now.”
“While you’re working.”
Draco desperately wanted to frown, but didn’t dare, knowing that the majority of elves would throw themselves on the floor if he did. “What about hobbies?”
Fane, a ward elf, cocked his head to his side. “Hobbies?”
“Like reading or playing music.” He deliberately didn’t suggest singing because he wasn’t sure his nerves could take three hundred querulous voices singing around the manor.
“Lazy time.” Abra, a house elf, said with distain. The rest of the elves nodded in agreement.
“Well, maybe you can do something productive?” The room stared at him politely. “Err. How about sewing. Maybe we could make sure everyone has quilts.”
The elves frowned at him.
“Maybe we can make better outfits for everyone.”
The hall exploded with cries of denial and sobbing. “No. No clothes!”
“Master Draco is unhappy with us,” Violet wailed. “He wants us gone.”
“I do not.”
Walby, one of the animal keepers started bashing his head against the floor. “What has we done wrong? What has we done?”
Draco stood quickly. “Enough!” he shouted.
The hall instantly became silent, although lower lips continued to wobble around the room.
“Look, sewing can be a hobby and it can be useful. Everyone could have a quilt and sleep in warm beds and be dressed in items other than dirty rags and mismatched socks.”
“Is quilts considered clothing?” Ivy, a flower garden elf asked Binky.
The major domo frowned. “No family has ever given an elf a quilt.”
“See,” Draco said triumphantly and sat back on the stairs. “There’s no reason we can’t have quilts. When winter comes everyone will be able to snuggle all nice and toasty in their beds.”
Several elves smiled at the thought.
Draco decided to breach the subject of clothing again. “You realize that each and every one of you has voluntarily pledged your service to Malfoy Manor, which means that accepting clothing cannot break our bond. As such, I expect each and every one of you to hold yourself with a certain amount of pride and decorum. Uniforms would be brilliant.” He looked hopefully around the room. “Do we have any volunteers?”
Every last elf shook their head.
“Bugger.” He thought for a moment. “Couldn’t you at least wear nicer pillow cases?”
Little bat-like ears stood at attention all over the room.
“Master Draco is trying to frees us,” Rigby wailed.
“I am not trying to free you,” Draco shouted.
“Master Draco wants to give us clothes,” Rigby cried again.
“I want you to have pride in your appearance.”
“He’s trying to release us like our families did,” Gerda, a kitchen elf sobbed.
“Where will we go,” Toobie cried.
Ivy wailed. “Where will we go!”
“I will never release you!” he shouted. Standing, he pointed his finger angrily around the hallway. “Each and every one of you belongs to me. Your elderly belong to me. Your children belong to me. I fully intend to subjugate your children’s children as well. You don’t serve me because of a spell that can be broken by fickled outsiders, you serve by your own choice and that choice makes our bond unbreakable. I don’t care if every Auror in England storms the manor, bearing socks. You will accept them, thank them, then return to your duties. Mere clothing will not break our bond. But, by Merlin, you will have warm beds to sleep in and cleaner cast offs to wear. And I demand matching socks as well, damn it!”
With that he sank back onto the steps, truly mortified by his tantrum.
The elves, however, smiled dreamily at him for days afterward. And slowly but surely over the next few weeks, dirty pillow cases were replaced by stretchy shirts that fell to their knees. He desperately wanted to introduce the concept of pants, but decided to stop while he was ahead.
Draco started holding meetings every Sunday afternoon because it was easier to make sure everyone understood what he expected of them. He had discovered rather quickly that the house elf version of ‘fire calls’ lead to some rather bizarre distillations of his original message. He also wanted to keep an eye on how fast the colony was growing, although he was fairly certain there were no longer any privately owned house elves in all of England, and he was starting to suspect that elves were defecting from Hogwarts and the Ministry as well.
He decided to take a much more cautious approach to the concept arts and crafts. “If the tchatchkes are good enough, I’ll find a place to sell them and we can put the money in a fund so you can eventually buy things for yourselves.”
The group looked at him blankly.
“Isn’t there anything you’d like to have?”
“We could buy more plants and animals.”
The ears on the outside teams perked up.
“We could expand the playground to include tree houses and slides for the children.”
Apparently, that was the right incentive and before he knew it the elves were spending a majority of their free time making the most beautiful magical toys he’d ever seen.
He arranged for a store in Germany to sell the toys and soon the demand for them skyrocketed. After a few weeks, he had to upgrade the elves vault at Gringotts to a larger one in order to hold all their profits.
The south lawn slowly transformed into a huge play area and Draco often found himself outside playing with the children. After all, there was no point in not using it. It had been his idea after all.
When Draco wasn’t supervising the elves or playing with the children, he spent his time perfecting his potion skills and studying house elf physiology. With a growing colony of elves on his property, he wanted to make sure he had adequate potions for whatever contingency might arise as he wasn’t sure if healers at St. Mungos even knew how to deal with injured house elves. When he realized that he had enough potions to last them through another war, he found a shop in France to sell off his excess.
One night as he sat by the fire, he realized that for the first time in a very long time, he was happy, truly happy.
While pure-blood wizards prided themselves on their lineage, complex as it sometimes was, it was nothing compared to elvish lineage. Draco quickly discovered that every elf, to some extent or another, was related to every other elf, and could explain the relationship in detail when asked. But unlike their wizard counterparts, elves were very serious about looking after one another. After all, they were family.
Take, for instance, Rock. Rock had been the solitary pop when Draco had demanded the black sheep, cripples and crazy elves. Rock, while not a child, appeared to be fairly young; although he was the largest house-elf Draco had ever seen. In fact, upon first glance, he might pass for a goblin. But upon talking to Rock, it quickly became apparent that he would never be confused as a goblin. Rock wasn’t nearly as smart as his fellow elves, who were viewed by the general populace as fairly silly creatures. But despite his obvious deficiency, Rock had an incredibly sweet disposition and spent most of his time looking after the children.
Draco expected the children to taunt him mercilessly, as wizards often tormented squibs and their families. But once again the elves surprised him. Rock was treasured. The elves were incredibly patient with him, never considering him underfoot or unworthy of their attention.
One sunny afternoon as he sat beneath a large tree beside the playground, Draco watched the children as they tried to teach Rock how to use his magic. Elves didn’t use spells like wizards did, but there was a certain amount of concentration required in order to access their magic. No matter how many times he tried and failed, they always smiled and encouraged him. When he succeeded, everyone would clap their hands and praise him.
Draco found himself following their lessons and was surprised when he produced a small ball of light without the use of his wand.
“Binky.” Draco never had to raise his voice to summon his major domo as Binky always seemed to be near enough to hear him.
When the house elf appeared, Draco simply showed him the ball of light.
“Very good, Master Draco.”
“How? How am I able to do this?”
The house elf tilted its head and looked at him curiously. “You is a wizard, Master Draco.”
“But I just performed wandless magic.”
Binky shook his head sadly. “Wizards rely too much on their wands.”
Draco blinked. “I beg your pardon.”
“Before Master Draco went to Hogwarts, he performed a lot of wandless magic.”
Binky nodded. “Yes. Most wizarding children do. But their magic is unstable and sometimes dangerous, which is why wizards learned how to use their wands to focus their abilities.”
“But wizards forget that they do not needs their wands to perform magic.”
Draco leaned back as he absorbed that bit of knowledge.
“After a while, wizards believe they cannot perform magic if their wands break, when really all wizards need to do is concentrate.”
Binky nodded again.
“And wandless magic is just as powerful as wand magic?”
“Of course. Wands help focus magic, but they cannot create it. How is Master Draco’s fingers any different from a wand?”
Draco shook his head and began to laugh when he thought of the implications of what Binky had just told him and the past war. If Voldemort had…If Potter had…
He looked over at the children, who were doing a bad job of pretending they weren’t listening to his conversation. “I think I’d like to be taught, like Rock.”
The children and Rock squealed in delight as they crowded around him, each wanting to teach him something.
The hardest tradition for the older elves to break was the practice of punishing themselves.
Draco looked around the ever growing crowd one Sunday in July. “I absolutely forbid it.”
The elves blinked at him in consternation.
“But…but…” Gerda stuttered.
Draco shook his head. “No matter what I say, no matter what any wizard says to you, you are forbidden to punish yourselves.”
“But…but…” Fane took up where Gerda had stopped.
“Do you punish your children?”
The whole room gasped.
“Exactly. So why should you be any different?”
“But…but…” Peoni said.
“Unless you like pain.”
Four hundred and fifty pair of eyes blinked at him.
“Because if that’s your kink…”
The eyes blinked at him again.
“If I or anyone else tells you to punish yourselves, you simply say, “No, sir. I will not.”
The room blinked at him again.
“Anyone caught punishing themselves will be relieved of their duties for a day.” He ignored the collective gasp that filled the room. “If caught a second time, it will be a week. A third time and you won’t work for a month.”
The room gasped again.
“I’ll be testing you, so prepare yourselves.”
The elves looked at each other in confusion.
Well, it was a start.
Draco discovered it was much easier to teach the children how he wanted them to behave. One of the byproducts of focusing a lot of his attention on the younger set was that their nervous parents had a tendency to listen to Draco’s lessons as a way to make sure their kids didn’t cross any lines that would get them expelled from their sanctuary. By learning that it was acceptable for the children to act a certain way, the adults slowly realized that they didn’t have to follow the old rules either. Of course, understanding and implementation were two entirely different beasts. Draco realized that while it might well take decades for certain lessons to stick, other lessons were being learned at a much quicker pace.
One fear Draco was determined to break the elves of was their stark terror over receiving clothing. The children showed absolutely no nervousness about wearing clothes. In fact, a majority of them wore shirts with pictures on them, and a boy, Cyril, actually wore pants. Draco lavished such praise on Cyril that the child decided to wear the pants all the time, even though his elders had a tendency to frown at him.
Draco quickly discovered that elvish children were actually quite witty and enjoyed puns. They didn’t tremble or cower in his presence, which made him happier than he ever dreamed possible. And while they did take on their parents’ tendency to mother them, he found he adored their sassiness, even if it made their parents weak in the knees.
While wizards lived long lives, he hoped he would live long enough to see the elves truly independent. He desperately wanted that to be his legacy. Due to the actions of his family during the war, he knew the Malfoy name would never hold the same prestige as it once had, but as he watched the children play, he truly believed that one day elves would no longer cower in front of wizards and if he could help make that happen then his life would have some meaning.
“Yes, Binky.” Draco didn’t look up from the salamander’s tail he was carefully dicing.
“There is an Auror at the gatehouse.”
Carefully, but deliberately, Draco laid his knife on the work table. He had been expecting a visit from the Aurors for several months, but he also knew that politics was a tricky thing and the hold his father had on some members of the Wizengot was something they still feared; however, those now in charge of the Ministry probably felt secure enough in their power to start freeing themselves from their previous political shackles.
“Please have the Auror taken to the drawing room and prepare some light refreshments.”
“Yes, Master Draco.”
Draco thought briefly about changing into a more formal outfit, but decided against it. He was the lord of Malfoy Manor now and he had not requested guests, therefore, he would not go out of his way to dress up. With that decision made, he headed toward the study.
Malfoy Manor was unplottable, but the family had always kept a gatehouse in Gatehouse Alley for those who were not family or friends. For the first time in a long time, Draco appreciated that fact. Even if someone had been to the manor before, the wards would no longer allow them to return without permission. He had also gone so far as to triple seal all the floos. He suspected it was one of the reasons the manor hadn’t been overrun like the Goyle household had been. If the Aurors wanted him, they would have to be brought in one at a time or have a house elf apparate them in, and knowing what he now knew about house elves and their view of family, knew that wouldn’t happen anytime in the near future.
He arrived in the drawing room at the same time Jorrie, his gate elf, appeared with the Auror in tow.
“Good day, Auror…”
‘Elphick. Eduardus Elphick.” The balding man sneered absently at him as he scrutinized the room.
“Auror Elphick. What may I do for you today?” Draco made no attempt to shake the man’s hand.
The little man puffed himself up importantly. “I’m here to inspect the premises for dark artifacts.”
“I received no such request from the ministry.”
“It’s a spot inspection. Can’t have you hiding artifacts before we get here, now can we?” The sneer was in full force.
“I can assure you Auror Elphick, there are no dark artifacts on the premises.”
“As if I would believe you. ‘arry Potter himself told us that Voldemort resided here during the war.”
Draco briefly closed his eyes and counted to ten. It would do no good to argue with the fool. Elphick’s mind was already made up. “Where would you like to start?”
Dear Editor of the Daily Prophet:
(cc: Minister of Magic; Head of the Aurors, MLE)
Before the Aurors execute a full-scale attack on my home, I would like to address your most recent issue, whose headline screamed, “Malfoy Heir Attacks Auror.” Please rest assured that I did no such thing.
Auror Elphick arrived at my home unannounced looking for dark artifacts. As a law abiding citizen, I, of course, granted him access to my home even though his attitude was less than cordial.
I was most interested in Auror Elphick’s strategy as he cast no spells, but seemed to rely on visual detection and deemed it necessary, or so he told me, to view every room of the manor. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he decided he must start in dining hall. I tried to warn him that my staff had been a little over-enthusiastic in their waxing duties, but he ignored me and stormed into the hall anyway. If it’s any consolation to the Auror, he managed to reach the far wall in one attempt which is something I have yet to achieve, despite my numerous attempts. However, in matter of style, he gained no points as his screams upset many of the family portraits.
Auror Elphick then, without explanation, took a set of my mother’s silver. While there can be no denying that Voldemort took over my family’s home during the war, I cannot recall actually seeing him use utensils as he prefer ripping things apart with his bare hands. However, if Elphick felt the silver needed testing, I have no qualms with his taking the set. Since my parents have retired to the continent, I have not been in the mood for entertaining. Although after witnessing Auror Elphick’s attempt to maintain his balance in the dining hall, I may change my mind on that matter.
However, when he pocketed a silver spoon given to my family by the late Cornielus Fudge on the day of my birth, then made a reference about my lineage which I shall not repeat here, my major domo lost his temper and sent Auror Elphick back to gatehouse. At no point in time was Auror Elphick harmed by myself or my staff.
While I appreciate the Aurors wanting to make sure that no dark artifacts remain, please rest assured that I will not stand idly by and watch them pillage my family’s ancestral home as they have done to so many families who ended up on the wrong side of the war. If something is deemed to be dark, I will, of course, submit it for testing. If the Wizengot deems that financial restitution needs to be paid, it will be paid, not to individuals taking items from my home, but properly and through channels.
I invite the Aurors to come back to my home, if they feel they must. However, I have conditions. I understand that William Weasley has quite the reputation as a curse breaker, and no doubt has the ability to search for dark items. While he is not an Auror, I am willing to pay for his time to act as a consultant. He would, of course, be supervised by whoever the Aurors deem appropriate.
Lord of Malfoy Manor
“There are Aurors at the gatehouse.”
Draco closed his eyes, bracing himself. “How many?”
He opened his eyes in surprise. “Only two?”
“Yes, sir. A William Weasley and Harry Potter.”
Of course Potter would come. He was, after all, the Auror’s media darling. But he was surprised by Weasley’s presence, though pleased.
Draco took a moment to think about the situation. “Have them taken to the parlor. Tell everyone that all duties are suspended until they leave. I want everyone out of sight, except for the interior elves, tell them it’s business as usual. Activate all ward teams. I don’t think the Aurors will try to overrun us, but I’d like to be sure. Also, I want two elves watching each of them at all times. Have them make note of what they looked at and touched…and make sure they leave nothing behind.”
Draco took and released several deep breaths. Once he had reached a sufficient level of calm, he proceeded to the parlor.
He heard low voices as he approached the room.
“Here, take it.” Potter, clearly.
Draco slowed to a stop and rested one hand against the wall. He nervously worried his lower lip as he waited to see if his lessons about not fearing clothing had taken deep enough root to stand in the face of illustrious Harry Potter.
“Where’s the other one?” Jorrie asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, sir, one sock won’t do me much good, now will it?”
Draco covered his mouth with his free hand to keep from cheering out loud. Taking a second to compose himself, he straightened, then cleared his throat before he entered the parlor, giving his guests time to arrange themselves. “That will be all, Jorrie. Thank you.”
Potter blushed a little as he casually stuffed the sock into his pocket, which Draco pretended not to see.
“I assume you gentlemen are here to continue Auror Elphick’s inspection?” he asked pleasantly.
“Yes,” Potter said simply. “But first, on behalf of the ministry, I’d like to apologize for Auror Elphick’s behavior during the last inspection.”
Draco inclined his head in acknowledgment. He surprised himself by not wanting to take a pound of flesh out of Potter for Elphick’s actions.
His lack of harsh words appeared to surprise Potter as well, who shuffled briefly then handed him his mother’s silver box. “It’s all there.”
Something very primal within him wanted to rip the box open to verify Potter’s statement, but instead of acting on his whim like he would have done a year before, he simply nodded again. He supposed his ability to remain calm had a lot to do with the fact that he never really expected to see the silver again. Or perhaps he’d finally grown up. Besides, if Potter said all the silver was there, it probably was. Despite his childhood rivalry with Potter, he knew the Gryffindork made it a practice to always do the right thing. “Thank you. I assume Mr. Wesley is here to look for dark artifacts?”
Potter blinked in surprised, and Draco realized that he’d been expecting a snide comment from Draco. “Yes. We’d appreciate your taking us to the manor as soon as possible.”
Draco tilted his head in confusion. “You’re in the manor, Potter.”
Potter frowned. “This is not Malfoy Manor.”
“It most certainly is. Where else would I be living?”
“I’ve been to Malfoy Manor before, Malfoy. This is not it.”
Understanding dawned and Draco had to fight the smile he felt from showing on his face. “Actually, it is. You see, Voldemort took great pleasure in humiliating my father. He thought my father was weak because he was surrounded by opulence, so he had the manor stripped down to its stone frame. It was his intention to live here after he won the war and he wanted to rebuild it in his own style, which probably would have consisted of something dank and damp; but who knows, he was becoming more and more like Nagini as time went by, so maybe he would have imported sand from the Sahara. But be that as it may, I assure you, this is Malfoy Manor.”
Potter looked surprised, but didn’t seem to have anything more to add.
“Do you need to inspect each room as Auror Elphick intended to do or do you simply need a work space in order to cast your spells?” Draco looked at Weasley as he spoke.
Bill took a step forward. “While I’ll need to move around outdoors, I think if we can find a central location on each floor, I can start from there.”
“His spells can detect any concealing spells,” Potter added, his voice tinged with warning.
“Would the central hall work for your purposes?” Draco asked the tall red-head, essentially ignoring Potter’s statement. When Weasley nodded, Draco headed for the door. “Follow me, please.”
“What do you mean there’s nothing here?”
Bill smiled and shook his head ruefully. “I mean, Harry, there isn’t a single dark object on the premises of Malfoy Manor.”
“How is that even possible? Voldemort resided here for months.”
“Yes, but it’s been nearly seven months since you defeated him. If I was the scion of the Dark Lord’s right-hand man, I’d do everything in my power to get rid of anything that might land me in Azkaban.”
“Could he be hiding them?”
“No, the spell I’m using would detect a concealment enchantment, no matter how strong or subtle.”
“So there’s nothing of power on the premises?”
“I didn’t say that. Just nothing dark, not even a smidgen dark.”
Harry noticed the strange look on his friend’s face. “What?”
Bill chuckled. “It’s nothing really. I’m just curious as to why Malfoy would have built such a large playground on his property. It doesn’t seem like a very Death Eater-like thing to do.”
Draco entered his study and found his guests waiting for him. “Are you done with your survey?”
“I am,” Bill answered.
“And I assume everything is satisfactory?”
“Congratulations on removing Voldemort’s stain from your home, Malfoy,” Harry said neutrally. “I would never have believed it possible.”
Draco inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Will you be needing to inspect anything else?”
“Not at this time, but the Ministry may want to talk to you about your involvement with the Death Eaters.”
Nodding, Draco made it a point not to swallow hard. “I am willing to appear at their convenience. Jorrie!”
The house elf appeared by his side. “Yes, Master Draco.”
“Would you kindly see our guests back to the gate house?”
“Of course, sir.” The elf looked at Harry and Bill and reached a hand toward both of them. “Gentlemen.”
Before Harry could form his farewell, Jorrie had transported them to the gatehouse.
Harry pulled the sock from his pockets once again. “Are you sure you don’t want the sock?”
Jorrie smiled brilliantly at him. “I would love to have a pair of toe socks, Harry Potter, the ones that have different colored toes.”
Harry’s eyes widened in surprise, but he quickly recovered from his shock. “I’ll…uh…well, I’ll see what I can do.”
“I look forward to seeing you again, sir.” The elf escorted them to the door. “Oh, by the way, sir. You left these behind.” Jorrie held out his hand and placed several small items in the palm of Harry’s hand.
“Er. Thank you, Jorrie.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” And with that, the door to the gatehouse closed behind them.
Bill looked at the items in Harry’s hands. “Are those your tracers?”
“Yes. Every last one of them.” Harry frowned, then looked back at the closed door. “What do you suppose Malfoy is hiding?”
“What makes you think he’s hiding anything?”
Bill frowned. “You shouldn’t let your history with Malfoy color your judgment, Harry.”
“I’m not,” Harry protested guiltily.
“I thought he was rather civil the whole time we were there. Considering that we were basically invading his home, he was much more cordial than I was expecting.”
“Maybe.” Harry clenched his hand around the tracers.
“I’m sure that after Elphick inspection fiasco, Malfoy’s staff just wants to make sure there aren’t any further misunderstandings.”
Harry nodded, but wasn’t convinced.
“It’ll be happening soon,” Draco told the small contingency of elves gathered around him.
“Are you sure, Master Draco?” Binky asked solemnly.
Draco nodded. “The items your teams found were tracers, a way for Potter to find his way back to the Manor, which means the eyes of the Wizengot will be turning my way sooner rather than late. The fact that Potter felt he needed to plant tracers is an indication that their minds have probably already been made up regarding my fate.”
“But we found all of them,” Binky said, confused.
“You did, but this inspection was only round one. I have no doubt there’ll be more rounds.” Draco rubbed his forehead, suddenly feeling very old and very tired. “What I need to know is if you feel confident enough in your abilities to run the Manor with your teams if I should be…detained for any length of time?”
Binky looked around at his team leaders, who all nodded back. “Yes, sir. We will make you proud.”
“You already do, Binky. You already do.”
Draco moved toward the doorway. “I’ll be in the rose garden. Let me know if you need me for anything.”
The elves inclined their head respectfully as he left, then turned to face Binky.
“Is everything in place?” Binky asked.
“Yes,” Fern said quietly.
“Master Draco will be safe,” Toobie said with fierce conviction.
Walking down Gatehouse Alley, Harry was amazed to realize that with the exception of the gatehouse belonging to Malfoy, all the others were boarded up. He wasn’t surprised that the gatehouses owned by death eaters had been abandoned, but he was surprised that many of the pureblood families had closed theirs as well. He wasn’t sure if they were simply abandoning the practice or if it was a safety issue.
He knocked at the ornate oak door with the Malfoy crest on it and entered. A house elf looked at him from behind a rather officially looking desk. “Jorrie, isn’t it?”
“Harry Potter!” The house elf graced him with a huge smile. “Are you here to see Master Draco again?”
“No, actually, I’m here to see you.”
The elf grabbed the front of his shirt and let out a squeak of excitement. “Harry Potter has come to see Jorrie?”
“Yes. I have the toe socks you asked for.” Harry removed a pair of multi-colored toe socks from his bag. “In fact, I have several pairs. You know, if you’d like to share them with your friends.”
“Harry Potter is too kind.”
“Do you have any friends you’d like to share these socks with?”
“Of course!” He knocked once on his desk. “Maisy, come quick.”
A moment later a female house elf appeared. She cocked a curious eyebrow at Jorrie. Her eyes widened when she turned and noticed Harry. “Maisy, Harry Potter has brought Jorrie the toe socks he asked for. He wants to give you a pair as well.”
But instead of being excited, the female elf frowned. “Why would Harry Potter want to give you toe socks?”
“Because the last time Harry Potter was here he tried to give Jorrie a single white sock. Jorrie told Harry Potter that one sock wouldn’t do him much good, but if he wanted to bring toe socks, Jorrie would be more than happy to accept them.”
Maisy’s face transformed from mildly curious to angry. Before Harry could even register her change of emotions, she whacked Jorrie on the back of the head. “Harry Potter is trying to break Jorrie’s bond with Master Draco.”
“But he can’t because--”
“But Harry Potter doesn’t know that. Harry Potter thinks he can! Harry Potter was the wizard who gave Flower a sock and broke her bond with the Goyles.” She turned, her hands on her hips as she glared at Harry. “Harry Potter is a bad man.”
Harry gulped in surprise and took a step back. “I…that is…”
“But Harry Potter was Dobbie’s friend,” Jorrie protested.
“Dobbie has been dead for a long time, Jorrie.” Maisy stared at Harry. “Since the war has ended, how many elves has Harry Potter forced socks upon?”
“I…I don’t rightly know.”
“Did Harry Potter ask any of the elves he gave socks to if they wanted to be free?”
“But you’ve been enslaved. No one wants to be a slave. Do they?”
“Now, Harry Potter is asking the question he should have been asking for months.” Maisy shook her head and put her hands on her hips. “Harry Potter has deliberately and knowingly caused trouble. Harry Potter should mind his own business. Harry Potter is no longer welcomed at Malfoy Manor. Harry Potter will leave now.”
In all his interactions with house elves, Harry had never seen a house elf quite so mad. He had seen them somber, hysterical, defiant, happy and confused, but never angry. Instead of pushing the issue, he put the socks back into his bag and left. The door slammed hard behind him. When he turned, the door was boarded up like the rest of the gatehouses in the alley.
Before he left, he could hear Jorrie’s whine behind the door. “But they were toe socks, Maisy.”
“What do you mean you can’t reach the Malfoys?”
Auror Winkleberry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m sorry, sir. What I meant to say was that we know Lucius and Narcissa are somewhere on the continent, but we don’t know which country. Their estate is extensive, with property in several countries, but we’ve never had reason to try to track all their holdings before. They closed all their accounts with Gringotts British branches, probably to keep us from seizing their property; although I doubt we would have ever been able to attach them, Goblin banking laws being what they are.”
Robards, the head of the Auror unit, leaned back in his chair. “And junior?”
“We’ve been unable to reach him.”
Turning his chair slightly, Robards frowned at Harry. “I thought you said he was still at the Manor.”
“He was,” Harry said. “Or at least he was there a month ago.”
“So why hasn’t he been brought in for processing?”
Winkleberry tugged at his collar. “Like I’ve reported, sir, we have been unable to contact him. Malfoy Manor is unplottable. And while our owls should be able to reach him, they’ve all returned with their messages undelivered.”
Harry frowned. “Malfoy said he would present himself when requested.”
Savage smirked at the younger Aurors. “Well, if he can’t be reached, he doesn’t have to present himself, now does he?”
Robards frowned. “Has anyone tried using the front door?”
“Sir?” Ron asked in confusion.
“Has anyone tried the gatehouse?” Robards asked as if he was speaking to a group of particularly dimwitted children.
“It’s closed, sir.” Harry offered reluctantly.
Harry nodded, blushing slightly. “I…er…tried to offer Malfoy’s gatehouse elf a pair of socks. It…uh…didn’t go so well.”
Robards rubbed both hands over his face. “Has anyone tried putting an ad in the Prophet?”
Winkleberry cringed. “Malfoy no longer takes the paper, sir.”
“There has to be a way to get to the Manor!” Robards shouted in frustration.
“Wait, I know.” Ron turned excitedly toward Harry. “Remember, Harry? Dobbie got us through the wards. All we have to do is find a house elf and see if they can apparate us onto the property.”
“Make it happen, people!” Robards grumbled.
Robards glared around the table at his team of Aurors, who were currently refusing to make eye contact with him. “Does someone care to explain to me why we’ve been unable to bring Draco Malfoy in for questioning?”
“No one has been able to find a house elf, sir,” Savage reported.
“That’s not quite true,” Winkleberry said apologetically. “We had elves working in the cafeteria…”
Robards frowned. “Had?”
“Well, sir, when we first asked for their assistance, they seemed very eager to help us out. That is, until we told them what we wanted to do, and then…”
“And then what?” Robards growled.
“They quit en mass.”
Proudfoot nodded. “The same thing happened to us. Savage and I went so far as to go to Hogwarts in order to talk to the kitchen elves. At first, they were thrilled when we asked them for their assistance, but when we told them what we wanted, they just laid down their towels and utensils and popped out without another word. Headmaster McGonagall is extremely unhappy with us and will probably be filing a complaint with the Ministry before the end of the week.”
Robards shook his head. “Potter, you own a house elf, don’t you?”
“I did, sir. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep about a month after the final battle.”
“Are you all telling me there isn’t a single elf in the whole of England who’ll help us?” Robards asked incredulously.
“No, sir,” Ron said. “We’re saying there isn’t a single elf to be found. It’s like they’ve all vanished.”
“All of them?”
“Just how many socks did we hand out?”
“Not that many,” Winkleberry said. “I mean, yes, we handed them them out to the elves of death eaters, but that should have only accounted for a hundred or so. I spoke with several pureblood families that owned elves and they told me that their elves have gone missing. One day they were there and the next day they were gone, although they didn’t disappeared all at once. The Boot family told me that they had an elf until about three weeks ago. He apparently served them dinner, thanked them for their kindness and apologized for leaving them in a lurch. Before they could question him, he disappeared.”
“Okay, that’s all fine and good, but--”
“Yes, Potter,” gritted out in frustration.
“Is it really that important that we bring Malfoy in for questioning?”
Robards blinked at him.
“Yes, he let Death Eaters into Hogwarts, but in all our interrogations and interviews no one has ever accused him of any other war crimes. He did torture Rowle on Voldemort’s direct order, but any solicitor worth his salt will be able to prove that it was done under duress. His family changed allegiance at the end and didn’t even participate in the final battle. Narcissa saved my life in the forbidden forest and twice Draco had the opportunity to kill me or turn me in and didn’t.”
Ron sputtered in indignation. “But you saved him--”
“It’s not about keeping score, Ron. Yes, it’s frustrating not being able to talk to him, but before we start planning a full scale attack on Malfoy Manor, maybe we should consider if we need to. Bill didn’t find anything remotely dark on the property. All the Death Eaters we’ve question believe Malfoy’s on the continent with his parents. If he’s hermiting, who’s he hurting? He’ll eventually poke his head out and we can question him then. In the meantime, let’s focus on people we can find.”
The Aurors nervously looked back and forth between Harry and Robards.
After a moment, Robards finally nodded. “Very good points, Potter. Alright then, let’s focus on the Zabini family then.”
Harry glared balefully at the piles of paper on his desk. No matter how much time he spent writing reports, the piles never seemed to shrink. He had forced himself out of bed in order to get a jump on his paperwork, but now that he was at work, his motivation had evaporated.
Harry stifled a yawn and look up at the unit receptionist. “Yes, Elinor?”
“There’s a house elf by the name of Binky here to see you.”
Harry blinked as he reached for his coffee mug and missed. “A house elf?”
“To see me?”
Elinor grinned at him as he fumbled to be coherent. “Yes, sir. I’ve put him in conference room one. Once you’ve hooked up your caffeine drip, you might consider talking to him. Or,” and she looked serious, “I could suggest he come back at another time.”
Harry quickly shook his head. “No, that won’t be necessary.”
Her teasing grin returned. “Very well, sir.”
Binky. Harry stifled another yawn and racked his brains. He had definitely heard that name before. But where? He took a sip of his coffee and suddenly wondered if the hot liquid had actually freed up his brain cells as he remembered that Malfoy had a major domo named Binky.
Pulling a pair of toe socks from his desk, he stood and headed for the conference room.
Harry entered the room, unsure of the reception he would receive after his encounter with Maisy. “Good morning, Binky.”
The elf inclined his head respectfully. “Good morning, sir.”
“Elinor said you wished to speak with me?”
Pulling a chair from the table, Harry sat and gave the house elf his full attention. “What can I do for you? Are you here for your freedom?”
The elf shook his head. “Binky is already free.”
“Oh.” Harry blinked in surprise, not quite sure what to do with that information. “I was under the impression you worked for the Malfoy family.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Binky serves Master Draco, not because Binky is enslaved, but because Binky chooses to so.”
“I see. So you could leave any time you wanted?”
“Yes, but why would Binky want to leave his home?”
Harry shrugged. “Then I guess I’m not sure how I can help you?”
“Binky has been elected by the elves to speak to the wizards’ ministry. We wish all attempts to contact Master Draco to cease.”
Harry took a moment to dissect that sentence. “You’ve been elected.”
“By the elves at Malfoy Manor.”
Harry silently digested that information. On the surface, it seemed fairly straight forward, but there was something to Binky’s demeanor that made Harry feel like he was missing something. He was also surprised to learn that Malfoy still had house elves when all indications were that no one else in England had them. “Binky, I understand that you want to protect your master, but Malfoy did some very bad things during the war; and while it’s true they weren’t as bad as a lot of other Death Eaters he still needs to answer for his crimes.”
The house elf looked like he wanted to shout his protest, but Harry watched in fascination as Binky took a deep breath and slowly released it. “When Lord Malfoy was sent to the island prison, Lady Malfoy sent for her sister to help comfort her. She did not know that Lady Bellatrix would invite the Dark Lord and his nasty snake to Malfoy Manor. Lady Malfoy and Master Draco were prisoners in their own home. Whenever the Dark Lord got mad, he destroyed whatever was at hand. Master Draco was afraid that the Dark Lord would feed the staff to his snake so he sent us to their home in Greece.”
Harry was surprised by that fact. Given how unhappy Dobby had been with the Malfoys he was surprised that Draco would even bother with the elves’ safety.
“The Dark Lord wanted Lady Malfoy and Malfoy Manor, so he set a task for Master Draco. Binky heard the Dark Lord tell the rat man that once Master Draco failed he would kill Master Draco and Lord Malfoy and take Lady Malfoy as his own.”
“And how do you know that, Binky?”
“Because Binky didn’t feel right abandoning the family. Binky snuck back into the manor to visit Master Draco. At first, Master Draco was angry that Binky was endangering himself, but then he tasked Binky with taking as many of the family treasures to Greece as Binky could.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“The family portraits. The Dark Lord burned many paintings, but Master Draco managed to save most of the portraits by having them share backgrounds he hid in places the Dark Lord could not find.”
Harry knew that wizarding family put great stock in the magical portraits, so he wasn’t sure if he was impressed by Draco’s smuggling paintings out of the Manor under Voldemort’s lack of nose or not.
“The only way to save Lady Narcissa and Lord Malfoy was to succeed in his task.”
Harry nodded as he had pretty much figured out Draco’s motivation on his own. “He still needs to answer to the Wizengot.”
Binky shook his head. “No, sir. Wizards have taken everything away from us. We will not allow them to take Master Draco.”
Again, Harry frowned. “But the Aurors freed the elves.”
“But did they give us purpose? Did they help us find our way?” The little elf shook his head. “They tore us from our homes and did nothing to help us survive.”
“But you weren’t torn from your home, Binky.”
“Binky is not explaining this right. Harry Potter does not understand.” Binky released a disappointed sigh and for a moment Harry thought he would simply disappear. But instead, the house elf studied Harry’s face, as if trying to reach some sort of decision. “Would Harry Potter come with Binky so that Binky may show Harry Potter what he means?”
Harry considered the question for a moment before he nodded. “Sure, just let me tell my supervisor--”
But before he could finish, Binky had apparated them to Malfoy Manor.
Harry looked around and realized he was in Malfoy’s study. Binky stood in front of him looking serious.
“While Harry Potter can see and hear everything that is happening around him, Harry Potter will not be seen or heard by anyone but Binky while at the manor. He will be in Binky’s between space. Harry Potter is bound to Binky and will go wherever Binky goes. Harry Potter will not attempt to interfere with anything he sees. Does Harry Potter agree?”
While he had no idea what a between space was and was even more reluctant to agree to such a blanket statement, Harry decided he wouldn’t be able to learn why Malfoy had cut off all contact with the outside world or how to reach him unless he did. “Yes, I agree.”
Between one blink and another, Harry found himself standing at the end of Draco Malfoy’s bed. While it was probably physically impossible for Draco to look tan, he no longer seemed as pale as he had been while attending Hogwarts. His hair was definitely longer and the muscles in his arms were well defined. Harry was surprised to see that Draco wasn’t wearing some sort of fancy silk pajamas to bed. Instead he was wearing a tank top and sweat pants, making him look far more human than his normal aristocratic self.
Binky walked to the side of Draco’s bed and gently touched his arm. “Two minute warning, sir.”
Grinning, Binky walked to the nearest window and opened the curtains, which allowed sunbeams to dance into the room.
“There’s coffee waiting for you downstairs, sir.”
“I want you to know that you’ve always been my favorite, Binky.”
“I know, sir.”
Draco sat up in bed, yawning and rubbing his hands over his face. Harry thought if he felt as tired as Draco looked that he would simply lie back down. And while Draco did wobble a little, he somehow managed to stay upright.
“Thirty seconds, sir.”
Nodding, Draco swung his legs over the edge of the bed and grimaced when his feet touched the floor. With a careless wave of his hand toward the bed, the blankets formed in such a way as to make it look like he was still sleeping in the bed. He then stumbled toward one of the curtains and hid behind it.
Harry wasn’t sure which he found more alarming, Malfoy hiding behind a set of curtains or his casual use of wandless magic. But before he could pursue either thought, the room filled with a series of quiet pops. A dozen elven children appeared on the bed and started jumping up and down.
“It’s time to get up!”
“Get up, lazy bones.”
“Lazy bones?” Draco stepped out from behind the curtain, a look of mock indignation on his face.
The children shrieked with laughter when they saw him, dancing with anticipatory delight.
“Lazy bones?” Running forward, he leapt spread-eagle toward the bed. The children eeped as one and popped out of existence, only to pop back in as soon as he hit the bed. Their laughter rang around the room as he scrambled after each one of them, only to have them disappear whenever he got too close. “I’ll have you know I’ve been up for two full minutes.”
Draco managed to catch the smallest elf child and made a big production of squeezing it to his chest. The giggles went a long way to assure Harry that the child was in no physical danger. Draco then fell back against his pillows, pretending to snore, although he never released his victim.
“No, no, Master Draco, it’s time for breakfast!” a little female elf piped.
Draco reached out and snagged her as well, bringing her to his chest beside his other hostage. Her peals of laughter were incredibly infectious and Harry found himself grinning.
As the other children laughed at the girl’s predicament, Draco caught more and more of them, holding as many of them as he could in his arms.
“Rock! Save us, Rock! Rock!” the children shrieked over Draco’s maniacal laughter.
A second later, a louder pop echoed around the room and the largest house elf Harry had ever seen appeared beside the bed with a steaming mug of coffee.
“Master Dra-co, look what I brought you,” the elf said in a sing-songy voice.
“Mine!” Draco hugged the children closer to his chest.
“F,” a little voice supplied from the pile when the larger elf stumbled to a stop.
“Tea, why didn’t you say so?”
The children giggled like Draco was the most hysterical thing on the planet.
“No, no!” they cried. “Coffee!”
“Coffee?” Draco disappeared from under the pile of children only to appear next to the elf bearing the coffee. “Have I ever told you that you’re my favorite, Rock?”
Rock handed the mug to Draco. “You always say that when I have coffee, sir.”
Draco accepted the mug and grinned. “And it’s always true when you have coffee.”
Harry turned to Binky. “He apparated…wandlessly. How…how did he do that?”
“He’s a wizard, Harry Potter. Just like you are.”
As Harry sputtered, Draco pretended to lurch after the children as they danced in front of him toward the hallway.
Harry’s jaw dropped open in amazement as he and Binky arrived in what appeared to be a converted ballroom. Tables of all shapes and sizes filled the room and at least five hundred elves were eating their breakfast.
When Draco stepped into the dining hall, all faces turned toward him. “Good morning, Master Draco.”
“Good morning, my minions.”
The elves tittered then went back to their meals. Draco walked toward the far wall and to a series of tables that only came to his knees and peered down at the food.
“Eggs Benedict. Ohhh. That means Whimsey is cooking this morning. Whimsey,” he called out to the air, “you know you’re my--”
“Favorite,” the room sing-songed around him, then broke into another round of giggles.
Once Draco had selected his food, he straightened and moved to one of the tables. While all the tables were full, Harry noticed that each table had one chair that no one occupied.
Binky moved so that he and Harry were closer to the table.
“How are the vegetable gardens coming, Fern?”
“We’ll be harvesting tomatoes most of today, sir. The kitchen teams are already gearing up to start canning.”
“And the onions?”
“The green onions will come up today, but we’re going to give the sweet onions another week or two.”
Draco nodded as he began to eat. “And the greenhouses.”
“Harley and his team finished them yesterday.”
“Are they acceptable?”
A smile broke over Fern’s face. “They are spectacular, sir.”
The elf beside her blushed, but looked pleased.
“I’m having the apprentices mixing the soils today while we harvest, then tomorrow we’ll start planting the winter crops.”
“Excellent.” Draco took another sip of coffee. “Speaking of winter, how are we doing with the exterior?”
A thin elf leaned forward. “It could snow tomorrow and all would be well.”
Draco turned to the elf beside him. “Do we have any calves to report yet, Stockton?”
A stout elf shook his head. “Not yet. Hamish is with the heifers now. He thinks one or two of them will birth sometime today. The other two will probably wait until later in the week to drop.”
“Excellent. Harley, what project are you planning to start next?”
“I’d like to start working on the half floor on level three, sir. In fact, I want to have it finished before the outside teams are brought in for the winter.”
“I understand that, but how are the barns coming?”
“All done, sir.”
Draco looked surprised, but pleased. “And the tunnel out?”
“Was completed two days ago.”
The background chatter faded to silence, pulling Harry away from the conversation in front of him. He noticed that everyone seemed to be looking toward the doorway of the dining hall and turned to see what was happening.
Ten house elves of varying sizes and ages stood in the opening.
“Harley,” Draco said quietly.
“Permission granted.” With that, Draco gained his feet and moved toward the newcomers.
A large female elf stood slightly in front of her companions, non-verbally telling everyone in the room that she was in charge.
Draco stopped in front of her, then lowered himself to his knees and sat back on his heels, so that he was at eye level with her.
“I am Page,” the elf said succinctly.
“Welcome to Malfoy Manor, Page. I’m Draco Malfoy.” With that, Draco offered her his hand. The elves behind Page began whispering amongst themselves.
Page lifted her chin, then tentatively took his hand and shook it. A look of hopeful wonder passed over her face as she released his hand.
“We are from the Royal Conservatory Library in Edinburgh.”
Draco remained silent.
“For ten generations, we have worked in the wizarding section of the library. For ten generations, we have lived productive lives. But the head librarian told us we are no longer needed, that they have spells that work faster than we do.” Anger shook her voice. “We’ve heard rumors that you give elves back their purpose. Is that true?”
“Can you find a purpose for us?”
A beautiful smile blossomed over Draco’s face. “Yes, I can. But first, you must bring me your children, your elderly and anyone else you claim as family.”
An uneasy murmur went through the group behind Page, who turned toward her companions and shrugged. “We have nowhere else to go.”
The elves shuffled for a moment then nodded.
“Now, please,” Draco requested quietly.
Harry started as the entire group disappeared. However, they returned a heartbeat later with twice as many elves.
“Please follow me.” Draco got to his feet and walked to the corner of the room.
Harry couldn’t help but notice the looks of longing on the elves faces as they walked by the food tables.
When they reached the cornerstone, Draco again returned to his knees. “Would everyone be so kind as to hold out their hands?”
Harry watched in shock as Draco muttered a few words and tiny pricks of blood appeared at the tips of everyone’s fingers.
“It won’t be long before the Aurors come for me, but I would be honored to have each and every one of you serve me until they arrive and to hold down the fort while I am away. Are you willing to abide by the rules of the manor?”
“Yes, sir,” the group said as one.
“Very well. I, Draco Malfoy, Lord of Malfoy Manor, do hereby accept your voluntary subjugation. Please step forward and state your name then press your finger to the cornerstone.”
One by one the elves solemnly stepped forward and did as they had been instructed. Once they had completed the ritual, Draco shook each one of their hands, healing the wounds as he did so.
A robust little elf appeared at his side. “Yes, Master Draco?”
“Please see that this family is fed and take them through orientation.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Page, would you follow me?”
“Of course, sir.”
“With me please.”
Harry followed the little procession as they walked up to the second floor.
“Your arrival has eased my mind considerably, Page,” Draco told the elf.
Page blinked in shock and stumbled, but quickly regained her composure and returned to his side.
They wended their way through various armor-filled hallways until they came to a large set of double doors. Draco pushed them open, revealing one of the largest private libraries Harry had ever seen. Hermione would be green with envy.
“You see, I’ve been wanting to categorize this library forever, but I just haven’t had the time. In addition, it seems like I can never find anything quickly, which can be quite frustrating. I was wondering if I could turn it over to you and your family.”
Page stopped in the doorway, her eyes huge with stunned wonder. But instead of answering enthusiastically, as Harry expected she would, huge tears rolled down her face. Draco seemed to notice her distress and knelt by her side.
“You and your family haven’t lost your purpose, Page.”
Page nodded, then threw herself at Draco. Harry expected Draco to recoil, but instead he wrapped his arms around her and let her weep.
“You iz a good wizard, Master Draco. You iz a good wizard.”
“I’m really not, but I’m trying.” He patted her back, but instead of trying to get her to release him, he simply lifted her into his arms and carried her toward a door about midway through the library.
When Draco opened the door, Harry could see a fairly large room cluttered with torn books and debris.
“Harley, how long will it take your team to convert this room into a living space for Page and her family?”
The elf in his arms started weeping harder, but Draco never took his eyes off the elf beside him.
“We can have it done by lunch, sir.”
“Excellent. While a part of me thinks we should make room for them up on the third floor, I suspect they won’t leave the library until it has been organized to their satisfaction. However,” Draco added, leaning back a bit to look Page in the face. “I do not want any one elf working around the clock. You may work in shifts if you must, but everyone must be allowed time to sleep. Not only that but downtime is required as well.”
Page looked at him curiously.
“Yes, lazy time. Flower will explain your options to you. But don’t worry, Page. The library isn’t going anywhere. It’s yours to do with as you and your family will.”
Page started bawling again and Draco shared a smile with Harley.
Harry swallowed hard, surprised by how much the scene in front of him affected him.
“All right now, let’s dry our eyes and go back down and get a proper breakfast. Whimsey made Eggs Benedict this morning and I guarantee you’ve never had better.”
Harry and Binky followed Draco around the Manor for the rest of the day as he checked in with each of his teams. What impressed Harry was not only the kindness Draco showed the elves, which was such a sharp contrast from the bully who used to make his life so miserable, but that Draco actually made very few decisions. He talked to the team leaders, asked them pertinent questions, guided them along certain paths of thought, but ultimately let them decide what needed to be done.
From time to time, the children would follow him around, asking him questions about what was being done and why. He was always patient with them and never seemed anywhere close to losing his temper. When one of the children got a splinter, Draco soothed his tears, then took the offending piece of wood out and placed a bandage on the boo-boo. Once the other children saw the brightly colored plaster, they each demanded one as well.
In the afternoon, Draco took over an hour to talk to Page and her family about the library. Like he had with the other team leaders, he guided her to make her own decision, basically letting her know that she really was in charge of the library.
He also spent some time in his lab, checking the progress of various potions. Harry was surprised to see that even in a place he would have considered Draco’s inner sanctum there were elves going about various tasks such as chopping ingredients, cleaning equipment and even creating potions.
Harry actually barked out in laughter once when he watched Draco and the children attempting to reach the far wall in the dining hall. Apparently, Draco’s letter to the Prophet hadn’t been exaggerating the slickness of the floor. Watching the children, he realized there appeared to be some unspoken rule that no magic was allowed in their attempts to reach the wall.
After Draco made his last run, he remained in a prone position and used his magic to propel himself around the room like a shark looking for prey. The children’s laughter was infectious as they used their own magic to stay just ahead out of his reach. Harry found himself laughing harder than he had in ages.
That evening, after he had finished his meal, Draco took a chair at the front of the ballroom. Harry ate from the plate Binky had given him as he watched Draco clear his throat. The chatter in the room ceased as all eyes turned toward Draco.
“First off, I want to take a moment to welcome Page and her family. I am looking forward to having a fully functioning library again.”
The elves clapped enthusiastically.
“Secondly, Hamish reports that two calves were birthed today and both are doing quite well.”
The elves all grinned and happily nodded their heads.
“A big round of applause should go out to Harley and his team for converting the extra room in the library as living quarters for Page and her family.”
Hoots and claps echoed around the room.
“And because she made Eggs Benedict this morning, would Whimsey please come forward?”
A thin elf wearing an apron and a chef’s hat came forward, blushing as the room exploded with applause.
“And what would Whimsey like as her reward for today’s excellent breakfast?”
“Another set a pot holders, please,” she responded without hesitation.
Draco nodded and reached into a bag until his entire arm disappeared. Harry realized that he must have placed an extendable charm on it just like Hermione had done with her beaded bag. With a great flourish, Draco presented a pair of pot holders to Whimsey.
“You know, you could have more if you fixed Eggs Benedict more?”
“But then Master Draco would get fat and have a bad heart,” she told him sassily. Then in a quieter voice, she added, “Whimsey expects to prepare Master Draco meals for a very long time to come.”
Leaning forward, Draco kissed the top of Whimsey’s head, causing her to blush. She then clutched her gifts to her chest and walked back to her seat.
“Would Harley and his team step forward?”
A group of ten elves moved to the front of the room.
“For quickly, but efficiently, converting the storage room for Page’s family, I present each of you with,” Draco dug into his bag and rummaged around a bit until he found what he was looking for and raised it for all to see, “new and improved tool belts.”
The room ‘ooohed’ and ‘ahhhhed.’
Harry noticed that the presentation of ‘cloth-like’ items continued until at least one elf from each team received special recognition. If Harry was a betting man, he would venture to guess that each and every elf got called forward over the course of a week.
At the end of the presentation, Harry watched as Draco started to pull the top of his sack closed, but stop when he noticed a female elf stand.
“While autumn is still a few weeks away, it’s been getting chillier in the morning.” She walked toward Draco’s chair as she spoke.
“Yes, it has.”
“And the tips of Fern’s ears have been getting cold.”
Harry noticed that Draco seemed to be getting excited, but couldn’t fathom why.
“Fern would like a cap, if Master Draco has one, to wear on chilly mornings.”
And then it hit Harry. Fern was ‘asking’ for clothes. Taking in the ceremony he’d just witnessed and the look on Draco’s face, Harry could tell that this was something that Draco had been working toward for a long time. He also realized why Jorrie wouldn’t accept a single sock, but instead wanted two. Draco had been working toward breaking centuries of conditioning. Even if the Aurors somehow found a way to storm the manor and force socks on each and every elf, the bond they had with Draco and the manor wouldn’t be broken.
Draco pulled out a handful of knitted caps. “Which color would you like, Fern?”
The elf studied the selection in front of her before she chose the gaudiest one. “Thank you, Master Draco.”
“No, thank you, Fern.”
Fern clutched her cap to her chest as she walked back to her seat, her head held high, ignoring the shocked whispers echoing around her.
“Anyone else?” Draco asked hopefully.
The rest of the room shifted nervously.
The stout male elf beside Fern sighed loudly before he pushed himself to his feet and trudged slowly to the front of the room.
Draco grinned at him. “You have a very smart missus, Stockton.”
“Aye, I know, sir.” Stockton sighed again. “And she has a point. Although while the garden teams will move into the greenhouses once winter comes, the livestock teams will still be outside a good portion of the time.”
“So, I best get me a cap as well.”
Draco appeared to be trying to control his grin but failed miserably. Once again he reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of knitted caps. But instead of picking a brightly colored one, Stockton picked a dark grey hat. Draco turned to put the remaining caps away and seemed surprised to see Stockton still standing in front of him.
“I’ll be needing a trainer as well, sir.”
Draco’s smile lit up the room as he plunged excitedly into the bag and pulled out several sweaters. Again, Stockton picked a neutral color.
“Do you need any help sizing it?” Draco asked.
Stockton shook his head and sighed again. “And pants, sir.”
The room gasped as one and Harry thought Draco might faint. But Draco dutifully pulled several pairs of pants out of the bag and watched quietly as Stockton carefully studied his choices. Again, he picked a subdued color, but Harry noticed that he picked a very practical pair of pants.
“Boots and socks would be helpful as well, sir.”
Harry watched the emotions flutter over Draco’s face and found his own eyes burning with tears, although he wasn’t quite sure why.
This time Draco took his time as he pulled items out of his bag, apparently making an effort to bring out items that matched the rest of Stockton’s outfit. Again, the elf took his time perusing the items before he made his selection.
When Stockton picked the items he wanted, Draco handed them to him solemnly. “Thank you, Stockton. Thank you.”
The elf raised his voice a little. “For what? Wanting to be warm?”
Draco grinned, though Harry could see that his eyes were shining with emotion. “For being my favorite.”
The elf nodded once, then turned and looked out over the elves who were watching him with interest. With his head held high, he walked solemnly back to his table. Fern rubbed his arm and smiled proudly at him while he sat.
“Anyone else?” Draco called out hopefully.
When no other elf came forward, Draco put the remaining items back in his sack.
He took a moment to collect himself, then raised his head again. “I was going to test you tonight, but I think I’ll give you a pass instead.”
Harry was surprised when Binky suddenly appeared by Draco’s side. “No, sir. You should administer the test as planned. We need the practice.”
Draco lowered his voice. “I’m not sure my heart’s in it tonight, Binky.”
“We have newcomers, sir,” the major domo quietly reminded Draco. While I doubt the librarians had such practices, the reminder that they don’t need to comply is an important one.”
Biting his lower lip, Draco looked out over the sea of elves, who all nodded encouragingly at him.
“Very well.” Draco got to his feet. “You all think you’re going to pass this time?”
“Yes, sir,” the crowd assured him as one.
“That remains to be seen. All right, everyone to their feet.”
The crowd climbed good naturedly to their feet.
Harry watched in fascination as Draco’s face morphed from being serene to sporting a hateful sneer.
“I want everyone in the room to march into the kitchen and iron their hands.”
Harry gasped in shock at the same time the room shouted. “No sir, I will not.”
Then as a group, they sat back in their seats – all but three.
“What’s wrong? Are you deaf? I gave you a direct order!” Draco shouted.
The lone female standing trembled so hard that her neighbors reached out to steady her. “No, sir, I will not,” she mumbled. She started to sit but Draco closed the distance between them.
Harry scrambled after him, prepared to break his cover if need be.
“I must not have heard you right, Violet. What did you say?” Draco’s voice was thick with derision.
Violet cleared her throat and shouted. “No, sir, I will not!” She plopped back into her seat, her trembling barely subsiding. Her companions rubbed her arms and back comfortingly.
Draco leaned downed and kissed the top of her head. “Good job, love,” he whispered to her.
Harry’s jaw dropped open in shock.
Draco then turned and faced the remaining two males.
The elf grinned cheekily at him. “No, sir, I will not.” He then promptly sat down.
“You really enjoy saying that, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir. I really do.” The elves at Fane’s table tittered with amusement.
Harry watched as Draco fought a smile before he turned toward the last remaining elf.
“Walby, why aren’t you in the kitchen doing what I told you?”
Walby shook, his eyes darting toward the door leading to the kitchen.
“You can do it, Walby,” the elf next to him whispered.
“Come on, Walby. Say it!” another one urged.
“Walby, I gave you a direct order. I expect you to obey me!” Draco stalked forward, his face red with rage.
“Stand fast, Walby!” someone from across the room shouted.
“Why are you still standing here? Are you a good elf or a bad elf?”
Harry heard dozens of elves gasp and realized the question still struck a nerve with many elves in the room. Looking at Walby, Harry was surprised the elf could still stand on his own; his shaking had reached palsied proportions.
“When I tell you to do something--”
Before Draco could finish his sentence, Walby broke and ran for the kitchen.
“Shite!” Draco exclaimed before disappearing from view.
Binky appeared by Harry side and grabbed his hand. A second later Harry found himself in the kitchens.
Draco was standing by a wall of irons, with one in his hand.
Walby appeared in the doorway and ran toward Draco, holding his hands out for the iron. Anger burned in Harry’s chest and he readied himself to interfere.
“Remember your promise, Harry Potter,” Binky warned him as if reading his mind.
Harry clenched his fists at his side even as he watched Draco shake his head.
“No, Walby, this is my iron. You’ll have to get your own.”
The elf looked surprised, but moved to the irons along the side of the wall. But as he picked up an iron, his movements slowed as he watched Draco put his left hand on an ironing board and raise the hand with the iron over it.
Walby gasped. “What iz Master Draco doing?”
Draco shrugged. “Preparing to iron my hands when you do.”
Walby staggered. “What?”
“Every time you punish yourself you hurt me, Walby. I’ve asked you to cease your need to punish yourself, but you persist. I can only presume you like pain, so I’ve decided to check it out for myself.”
“But…but…Master Draco, you can’t.”
“Sure I can. Watch me.” Draco started to lower the iron; however, Walby threw his iron to the floor and flung himself forward grabbing Draco’s arm and keeping the iron from touching his flesh.
“No, Master Draco, you can’t.”
“Why not? You do it.”
“But Walby must punish himself.”
“Why, Walby? Why must you punish yourself?”
“Because my master always demands it.”
“I thought I was your master once you spoke your vow to be loyal to me.”
Walby stopped and blinked in surprise. “You are.”
“Am I?” Draco raised one eyebrow. “Just what does my being your master mean to you, Walby?”
“It means I no longer serve my old master.”
“That’s right. And do you truly think I want you to harm yourself.”
Understanding dawned in Walby’s eyes. “No, sir.”
“That’s right. However, there’s a very good possibility that Aurors will one day come and demand that you leave Malfoy Manor. Will you comply simply because they tell you to leave? Because they forced you to accept socks?”
Walby gasped. “No, sir.”
“Because Malfoy Manor is Walby’s home.”
“That’s right. And can anyone take that away from you?”
“What if they burn the manor to the ground?”
“Even then, sir. For we will build it back up.”
“That’s right. So if I order you to lay your hand on top of mine what do you think you should say?”
Walby looked at Draco, then at the iron in his hand. His shaking ceased as he looked at Draco in wonder. “No, sir, I will not.”
“Very good, Walby. Very good.” Draco set the iron to one side. “Now go back to the dining hall and show everyone your hands.”
“Yes, sir.” Walby grinned, then ran out the door.
Draco stood perfectly still until he heard the roar of approval from the other room, then fell to his knees and cried.
Harry stood transfixed as Binky appeared next to Draco.
Draco wiped his eyes and gave an embarrassed laugh. “Yes, Binky.”
“Are you all right, sir?”
Draco nodded. “Yes, I think I finally am.”
“I’ve always worried about what would become of everyone once the Aurors demand my presence, but I just realized that you’ll be okay. Everyone will be okay.”
“Yes, sir. We will be okay. Thanks to you.”
Draco shook his head. “Not me. This is every elf’s doing. Every elf out there now believes that they are more than just things to be ordered about by wizards who don’t truly care about them.”
“Because of you, sir. Because you taught them that.”
“Thank you, Binky.” Climbing to his feet, Draco wiped his face one more time. “Look at me, turning into a big girl.”
“And what a pretty girl you are too, sir.”
Draco barked out laughing. “Oh, go iron your hands.”
“No, sir, Binky doesn’t think so.”
Reaching out, Draco rested his hand on Binky’s shoulder. “You really are my favorite. You know that, don’t you?”
Binky chuckled. “Of course, sir.”
Before Harry could blink, he found himself back at his desk at the MLE.
Two Months Later
When Harry had dreamed about becoming an Auror, not once did he think about the paperwork involved. Now, he sort of wished he had. Being an Auror was eighty percent paperwork, fifteen percent action and five percent heart-pounding terror. While he always thought he could probably do with less paperwork and more action, he could totally do without the terror portion of the job.
As he put the finishing touches on his report, he became aware of someone standing by his desk. Raising his head, he was surprised to find Malfoy standing beside his desk.
“What are you doing here, Draco?”
Draco raised an inquiring eyebrow and Harry silently berated himself. Binky’s tour of the Manor had gone a long way to change the way Harry felt about Draco, but, of course, Draco didn’t know that.
“I was under the impression the Aurors wanted to talk to me, Harry.” He used Harry’s name pointedly and it was all Harry could do not to laugh.
“Did you receive a summons?”
“That’s just it, I haven’t received anything. I’ve recently discovered that my staff has been…that is…I would like to get on with my life without this sword hanging over my head.”
Harry was desperately trying to come up with a way to send Draco home, when Robards walked by Harry’s desk and stopped dead in his tracks.
“You captured Malfoy, Potter?”
“No, sir. He voluntarily came in to answer questions.”
Robards’ eyebrows shot toward his forehead. “Very well, take him to interrogation room two.”
“Damn it,” Harry swore under his breath.
“What was that, Potter?”
“Nothing, sir.” He pushed himself away from his desk. “Come along, Malfoy.”
Draco dutifully answered questions for nine hours without a trace of sarcasm. Harry was impressed that no matter how much Robards poked or prodded, Draco never once lost his temper once. More than one pureblood with questionable ties had found themselves in lockup because they lost their cool under Robards scrutiny. But Draco remained calm, never once raising his voice. If Robards got too belligerent, Draco would simply take a deep breath, release it then answer the question.
At nine hours five minutes, Draco simply disappeared from the room.
Before either Harry or Robards could move, Draco was back in his seat, acting as if nothing was wrong. “As I was saying…”
And he was gone again.
“I could have sworn this room was warded,” Robards said wearily.
Draco reappeared. “My apologies, sir. As I was--”
And again he was gone.
“Wasn’t his wand confiscated?” Robards demanded.
“He didn’t have a wand on him, sir,” Harry explained.
A moment later, Binky appeared and glared at Robards. “Master Draco is done answering questions from nasty man.” He then turned his gaze toward Harry. “Harry Potter will fix this at once.”
Harry raised his hands in a placating gesture. “I will. I promise.”
The anger drained from the elf’s face. “Harry Potter is invited to tea tomorrow.”
“I’ll be there.”
Binky smiled at Harry, then frowned once again at Robards before he vanished into thin air.
“What in Merlin’s name?”
“I can explain, sir.”
“So the elves have elected Malfoy their king?” Robards massaged his forehead with all ten of his fingers.
“I don’t believe it’s anything that official, sir. As I stated before, he’s been taking them in after they’ve been released from their duties and giving them purpose. They’re just…I think it’s safe to say they’re very protective of him. Even if, let’s say for argument’s sake, the decision was made to put him in Azkaban, I don’t think they’d allow him to serve his sentence, no matter how light or short it might be.”
“And you’re saying these elves are not only self-sufficient but organized as well?”
“Yes, sir. Malfoy has done an excellent job in that regard. I think they view him as a venerable teacher. Even though they could run the manor on their own, it’s highly unlikely they’d ever set him aside as they had been.”
Robards rolled his head back onto his neck and stared at the ceiling.
“We’d already decided to leave him be,” Harry added when Robards remained silent. “He hasn’t been implicated for any other crimes by any of the Death Eaters we’ve interrogated.”
Robards sighed and looked Harry straight in the eye. “And what happened to the Auror who wanted payback on a school rival so badly that he tried to free Malfoy’s gatehouse elf, even though that was our most direct way of communicating with him.”
Harry bowed his head momentarily, then lifted his face toward his boss. “I was wrong, sir. I let his involvement in Dumbledore’s death color my perceptions. I truly believe there wasn’t any way he could redeem himself without serving time in Azkaban. But I was wrong. He has changed. He is trying to make amends. He could have fled to the continent with his parents, but he chose to stay behind and face this music. He’s not grudgingly fulfilling some Wizengot rehabilitation in order to remain free, but truly trying to show a race of creatures that they are capable of standing on their own. He found his own way to redemption.”
Robards snorted once at some private joke, then ruefully shook his head. “All right, I’ll report to my superiors that I have made the decision that no further prosecution will be necessary in Malfoy’s case. But I am holding you accountable for his future actions, Potter.”
Harry walked the solitary path through Gatehouse Alley. Even though his destination was boarded up, he still knocked on the door.
A pair of eyes peeked out at him from behind the curtain. “Yes.”
“Jorrie, I’ve been invited to tea.”
A moment later the boards in front of him disappeared and the door opened.
“We has been expecting Harry Potter, but Jorrie wasn’t sure he would come.”
Harry nodded. “I know I’ve disappointed you before, Jorrie, but I will endeavor not to do so anymore.”
“Very well.” The elf took a step closer.
“Wait. Before we go, I’d like to apologize to you for my earlier behavior.”
Jorrie blinked up at him in surprise. “Thank you, Harry Potter.”
Harry nodded, then pulled a pair of socks out of his robe’s pocket. “I’d also like to give you the socks I promised you…with no strings attached. I’m not trying to free you or anything.”
“Thank you again, Harry Potter.” Jorrie smiled at him. “So, you’re here to get to know Master Draco better?”
“Yes, Jorrie. I can honestly say that I’m very eager to get to know your Master Draco better.”