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16 February 2014 @ 02:17 am
Fic: A Young Radical's Guide to Love part 2  
Part one
Potter took his time returning to the Ministry.

Draco followed instructions and went straight to the Auror Department, where he was left to sit on a hard bench outside Potter’s office. One of the junior Aurors took pity and brought him a cup of tea and a copy of the Which Broom racing bristles special.

And most of the senior Aurors were out patrolling airports and railway stations, which meant that those remaining were his age, or only a little older, so there was only one glare and even that came with a countering mutter of ‘Let it go, he’s not worth making a fuss about’ from behind the open-plan desks nearby.

Draco wasn’t reassured.

He had spent too much time here in the first weeks after the war, telling the same stories again and again. He had done what he could without lying to protect people. Gregory had always been beyond his help.

Every time he had been asked to come in, his Mother had looked as though he was being taken to execution. Every time he came home, it had felt like a reprieve.

And then Potter’s letters in the Prophet had come like an indulgence, absolving all sins, and the next time the Aurors had had questions, they had sent a letter to the manor, asking for an appointment, and arrived with apologies and courtesy.

It occurred to him that he had just voluntarily delivered himself into Auror custody. And Pansy into Granger’s, which was possibly worse.

After forty minutes, he was about to run back to Grimmauld Place and see if he could break out Pansy, when the main doors slammed open and Potter walked in.

“Malfoy!” he exclaimed. “So pleased you could make it. Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m sure you’re brimming with ideas for our project. In my office, shall we?”

Draco looked at him blankly. Only Potter could be conjuring up fresh hells at a moment like this.

“Malfoy? Office? Meeting? Sorry I kept you waiting.”

There was a final second when he could have fled, but Draco nodded instead. “It’s all right. Auror Armitage was very kind.”

The young Auror who had brought him tea offered a conspiratorial wink, and Draco favoured her with a half-smile as he followed Potter through the door. Potter shut it behind them and quickly muttered “Muffliato.”

Draco didn’t wait for him to start talking. “What the hell is going on, Potter? I had a lovely simple day planned, starting with a nice breakfast and then your red-robed bastards came barrelling up Pansy’s front path and how the hell did you know we were catching a train? How do you ruin everything I touch, every time?

Potter stayed calm. “Did Pansy get to my house safely?”

“Yes, she’s with Granger.”

“Good. Did you go into the house?”

“Just the entrance hall.”

“Ah.”

“What?”

Potter walked over to his desk and sat down. “Nothing. You’ll see when we go back there.”

Draco dropped onto the chair opposite him. “Just tell me.”

“What were you doing at Waterloo?” Potter didn’t answer him.

“Rescuing Pansy.”

Potter rolled his eyes very slightly, but enough for Draco to see. “I meant, why were you waiting for a Muggle train?”

“Because I didn’t think your lot would think my lot would catch a train.”

Potter shook his head. “Sorry,” he said.

“Why are you sorry?” Draco snapped. It wasn’t bad enough that Potter had pulled him out of the fire again – less literally this time – now he was being polite about it.

“Searching the train queues was my idea. I thought Pansy was most likely to be with you, and assumed you’d either try to hide her in England or else use a magical means of transport to get her out. I was trying to keep my lot busy without getting in your way.”

“I knew it! You have a unique habit of riding roughshod over me every time you decide to save the day. And every single time the universe bends over backwards to work out for you while fucking me over. Never mind that my plans involve thinking while yours involve luck and half-arsedry.”

“I really didn’t think you’d choose Muggle.”

“I’ve learned that the Muggle world is very useful for not … for not being the Wizarding world.”

Potter smiled at that, and it was an understanding smile, which lessened Draco’s anger a little.

“It would have worked,” Draco said.

“It would have,” Potter agreed. “I’m sorry I fouled things up for you. But I do have a plan that should keep her safe here.”

“Of course you do. Merlin forbid we do anything that doesn’t revolve around you, Potter. What’s your plan, then? Are we deposing Percy Weasley as head of MLE and sending him on a one-way trip to Ulan Bator? Because that’s what it’s going to take.”

Potter looked as surprised by Draco’s bitterness as Draco was. But they hadn’t needed his help, and him trying to help had buggered everything, and Draco was a bit too bloody tired after spending the last eight hours with his heart in his mouth to be fair about this sort of thing right now.

A sharp knock on the door made them both jump, and Potter swore as he lifted the muffling charm. “Come in,” he called out.

Speak of the devil, and he will appear, thought Draco, as Percy Weasley strode in. He frowned for a second, then his eyes slid over Draco and he addressed himself to Potter.

“Glad I caught you, Harry,” he said. “Any progress on that case from this morning?”

“Pansy Parkinson?” Draco interjected.

Weasley ignored him.

“No further developments, Percy,” Potter replied, also ignoring Draco, but less maliciously, Draco thought. “Either she’s gone away for a bit and will turn up eventually, or she’s taken flight at the sight of us.”

“I told you she was guilty,” Weasley said. “Innocent people don’t run.”

“Yes they do,” said Potter, before Draco could get his voice to move past his outrage. “They run all the time if they’re frightened, and we are frightening. She’s not a threat, Percy, she’s not even a source of information about actual threats. You know I disagree with this policy and I don’t see the benefit in it.”

Weasley’s face took on the benevolent smile of a politician, despot or lunatic – and Draco was happy to mark him down as all three. “Harry, I know, but it’s for the benefit of everyone that they see justice being done. There were too many combatants left at liberty after the war. There is a strong will amongst the people that those who caused all this damage be made to pay.”

“Parkinson didn’t cause any damage, she was a frightened schoolgirl,” Potter pointed out, and it didn’t sound as though it was for the first time.

“She tried to hand you over to Voldemort.”

“Not even that. She was all for someone else doing it if it meant she never had to have anything to do with Voldemort, ever.”

“But that’s not what the people believe, Harry.”

Which was true enough at the moment. The last few issues of the Prophet had featured Rita Skeeter’s series on The War Criminals Amongst Us. And for all that she had featured Thorfinn Rowle and Walden Macnair, she had liberally slandered at least two dozen other names, including Draco’s classmates. And then, to add a squeeze of acid to the wound, she’d made a point of praising Horace Slughorn, and Narcissa and Draco Malfoy, who had all provided such sterling examples of how past mistakes could be overcome.

“And I cannot blame them for wanting stability and certainty, which is why my department will continue to hunt down these vestiges of the enemy until Wizarding Britain is safe. I expect you to deploy your Aurors accordingly until Robards returns, Harry.”

Weasley was still smiling his supercilious smile, though it slipped as Potter didn’t answer immediately. “Harry?”

“You’re the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and the Auror Department reports to you,” Harry said, evenly. “We uphold the law, Percy, even when we don’t agree with it.”

“Good. Good. Well, I hope you have a result soon, then.” He turned to leave, and let his gaze fall on Draco for the first time. “Mr Malfoy. Good afternoon to you,” he said, and walked briskly out through the door.

Potter got up from his desk and closed the door again, reinstating the muffling charm as he did. He flopped down into his chair and ran his hands through his hair, restoring the disorder there that Draco was used to. That was less strange, Draco thought. Well-groomed Potter was entirely wrong.

“Ulan Bator,” Draco repeated.

“It’s not that simple.”

“Yes it is. He’ll be coming for me next.”

“No he won’t.”

“Yes he will. The man can barely stand to look at me.”

Potter shook his head. “He’s too clever to get rid of you. While your family is free, he can point to you as proof that there is no policy of profiling, and say that every case is judged on its merits.”

Draco considered this. Sadly, Potter appeared to be right. “But he does hate me.”

“Oh yes. He hates you.”

“Because of his brother.”

“Because of himself,” Potter corrected. “Remember, Percy stayed with the Ministry through most of the war. He didn’t support the Muggleborn Registration Committee, but he didn’t quit in protest, either. Half of this is about him seeing Death Eaters behind every corner, the other half is about him taking the firm stance that he should have taken years ago.”

“Yeah, well that might have been fair enough when he was rounding up Snatchers, even though some of them were just stupid kids, and maybe even the Ministry people he’s brought in. But Pansy? And Blaise and Theo? I’m not going to feel any sympathy for him.”

“I’m not asking you to, I’m asking you to see that there is an explanation for his actions. Knowing what motivates people like him gives us strength.”

“Strength to remove him, so that people like him aren’t running Ministry policy,” Draco insisted.

“Ultimately, yes.”

And Draco let his breath out at that, because he hadn’t really dared hope that Potter would be up for another revolution barely two years since the last one.

“All right, then. So, you have a plan.”

Potter raised his eyebrows at Draco’s conciliatory tone, but didn’t comment on it. “I do. And it will all be quickly explained back at Grimmauld Place. So now all I need is a reason for you coming home with me.”

Draco couldn’t help it. He began to laugh.

Potter frowned. “What’s so …?”

“It’s just the absurdity of it all,” Draco managed to get out. He took a deep breath and tried to still the humour that was bubbling up through his chest before Potter wrote him off as hysterical. “We spend years at each other’s throats, and now it’s all ‘Oh, Potter, would you be able to give a little help to this rather serious problem?’ ‘Why certainly, Malfoy, let us discuss it over tea at my abode.’ Seriously, can you imagine us sitting here three or four years ago?”

“Merlin, no,” Potter said, trying very hard not to smile. Draco liked him a bit for that. “But neither of us was at our best when we were sixteen.”

“You were hideous,” Draco agreed.

“So were you. But we were both being lied to in fairly extreme circumstances, so I don’t think we should judge ourselves too harshly.”

Draco sobered up entirely. “That’s why Pansy trusts you. I suppose, if I’m being honest, it’s why I trust you, too. Because you’re basically a better person than Percy Weasley.”

Potter looked away, shaking his head. “Not better,” he said. “Maybe a little bit more reconciled to my past mistakes.”

“Fine. You’re slightly less appalling than Percy Weasley.”

“Flatterer. Anyway, this isn’t helping us to solve the immediate problem. There has to be some rational reason why you and I would seek out each other’s company.”

“Duelling club,” Draco suggested. “We let them know Granger’s there to ship the loser of to St Mungo’s.”

“They’d arrest me before I could legally kill you,” Potter said, sounding regretful.

Draco didn’t want to ask which part of that he regretted, and besides, he had just had the perfect idea.

“You still have my wand.”

Potter blinked slowly.

Draco wondered whether he had presumed too much.

“I meant to give that back to you,” Potter said. “I really did. I just … never actually did it.”

He looked so uncomfortable that Draco began to apologise. “Forget about it, Potter. Obviously you’ve been very busy and I hadn’t really given the matter much thought before now.”

“That’s surprisingly kind of you, but I had given it thought and just failed to follow through on it. Which is a bit rubbish of me, really, I know what it’s like to lose your wand. Did you end up buying a new one?”

“No.” Draco thought about the last weeks of the war when he had blamed his mother’s wand for everything that had not quite worked. And then as soon as the war was over, it had been perfect. Every bit as good as his own, but somehow warmer and more concerned for him – the only time it had failed him was when he decided that he may as well brew up that hemlock potion. He had been wrong when he had thought it didn’t understand him. Like his mother, it had understood him better than he had understood himself.

“No, I still have my mother’s, and she’s still using her old student one. She says it’s friendly and reminds her of evenings spent brewing cocoa.”

“It’s very hard to imagine your mother brewing cocoa.”

“I know.”

“All right. Well, I think anyone would agree that your wand is a perfectly valid reason to come to my house. Just try not to annoy my house-elf while you’re there, and if any of the portraits start asking you to kill me, do your best to ignore them.”

“Is that likely to happen?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“All right. When should we go?”

Potter looked at his watch. “Now would be fine.”

“Now?”

“Any reason why not?”

And since Draco couldn’t say that walking out of the Ministry with Harry Potter to head off on a casual visit was a concept he felt should require if not a little getting used to then at least a stiff drink beforehand, he stood up instead. “None at all. Off we go. Should I mention the wand as we walk outside so your minions don’t worry I’ve Imperiused you or that you’re holding me under threat?”

“Not a bad idea.”

Draco lost count of the number of times he said “Wand” on the way out of the Ministry. He may have come across as a trifle deranged, but at least the surprised looks that preceded the pair of them quickly disappeared. And Potter kept a straight face all the way through the lobby, which was more than Draco had expected. They stepped into the Floo and emerged a stretched and smoky moment later in the fireplace of a large drawing room filled with bright light and people drinking tea.

“Draco!” Pansy leapt up from one of the sofas and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Everything all right?” he asked.

“Perfectly fine. Tea, and reading what Granger informs me are trashy fash mags.”

Draco had no idea what she was talking about, so he hugged her again.

“Hello, Malfoy,” said a voice from behind them.

Draco looked over Pansy’s head. “Theo!” He pushed past Pansy and went to embrace Nott, too, but lowered the setting of his smile and settled for a handshake and manly shoulder slapping when Nott took a half-step backwards.

“Steady on,” said Nott. “I’ve just been hiding out for a few days, not gone for years.”

“We were worried about you. You disappeared. We didn’t know where you were, how you were …”

“He’s been here,” Potter said. “Sit down, we’ll explain it all.”

Draco looked around. There were no other old friends of his lurking in the corners, but there was Granger and Ron Weasley, as well as Lovegood and Longbottom. Luna smiled and waved at him, Longbottom looked patient, while Weasley and Granger looked as though they had agreed they would try their best.

“Here,” said Pansy. “Sit with me and drink this tea and listen. It’s all really rather clever.”

Granger began the story. “When I started work with the Ministry, I was keen on Magical Law Enforcement. So I went to talk to Percy and see what he had available. He’d just taken over the Department then and was happy to chat with me about all of his plans. I kept a smile on my face, nodded a lot, frowned a few times and asked him if he was sure that was the wisest policy, then ran away as fast as I could and took up a job in Magical Creatures.”

“Where you immediately repealed the Pureblood distinction laws,” Nott commented.

“Exactly. Hired two werewolves the first month. I also let Harry know what Percy was planning. We kept it to ourselves at first, because we didn’t want to believe he’d get anywhere with it. The first anniversary of the War had just happened, and there was a public mood for healing and moving on.”

“Most of the public,” Weasley interjected.

Draco was trying to keep up. “You mean you started all this … whatever it is you lot have been doing?”

“I was the one who raised the issue of what was happening, then everyone else came on board to help solve the actual problem as it emerged,” Granger corrected him.

Draco nodded. It was an improvement, he didn’t mind being out-thought by Granger half so much as by Potter.

“But then the Aurors still hadn’t caught Rowle or Macnair,” Longbottom added. “And the Prophet started asking why not.”

“And Kingsley wanted to give us free rein to pursue them both,” Potter took up the story. “But he was voted down by most of the Department Heads, at Budget, and rather than give us the funds we needed to get that job done, they decided the public needed a distraction. Goyle had the very bad luck to have his final appeal being held just as all of this was coming to a head.”

Draco bit his lip. He could still remember Gregory shouting Malfoy, do something! as the sentence of ten years was read out. “He was an active combatant. Theo, Pansy and Blaise weren’t,” he said, as evenly as he could.

“Exactly. And at first, all of the people they sent us after were more or less active participants. Snatchers, Death Eater hangers-on, the men who shipped those Giants into Britain. But we started to ask questions when the order came in for Albert Runcorn. He was a prize twat, but that was just him, he wasn’t Voldemort’s prize twat. And for all that we brought him in, we couldn’t see how he was in the same category as Mulciber, despite what his arrest warrant said. Neither was Mrs Goyle. So when Percy gave us orders to arrest her, Robards knocked on the front door and politely asked her if she would mind accompanying us to the Ministry and did nothing when she Apparated away.”

“Which is why he’s been on sick leave for three months?” Draco guessed.

Potter nodded. “Percy used the opportunity provided by the public support for Goyle’s sentence to argue that many of the so-called low-level Death Eaters had been allowed to get away with their alleged war crimes.”

“Except that he didn’t say alleged, and he made it clear that his use of ‘so-called’ was ironic,” Granger muttered.

“True. Anyway, we all know what happened after that, and it’s been escalating stupidity since then. Ron was able to get to Nott before I had to lead my team in, and we’ve had him sitting here for the last few weeks waiting for a safe house to be ready. I instructed my Aurors to come in through the front door at Pansy’s this morning, thinking she’d notice and expecting her to run to you, Malfoy, but I had a backup plan to get her out of the Ministry if that didn’t work.”

“And Blaise?” Draco asked, hoping.

“Already out. He made an unprecedented ‘escape’ last week, we’ve kept it out of the papers so far.”

“So he’s fine?”

“Absolutely.”

“You could have said something,” Draco snapped, trying to keep a hold on his temper. “I was frantic down at the cells. They made it sound as though something appalling had happened and they wouldn’t tell me anything.”

“I’m sorry,” Potter said. “It genuinely didn’t occur to me that you’d be that worried.”

“No, of course not. He’s only one of my best friends, dragged out of his house without warning and suddenly lost to sight, like so many others. Why on earth would that worry me? It’s not as though I’m a person with feelings.”

Pansy’s hand stole into his, and Draco fell silent. He was perversely pleased to see the guilt on the others’ faces.

“I really am sorry,” Potter said. “I should have thought. We could have found a way to get a message to you if we’d tried. He is safe, though. He’s hiding with one of Finch-Fletchley’s cousins up North.”

“With Muggles?”

“Don’t sound so surprised, you and Pansy went straight to the Muggle world today and did very well.”

“It wasn’t his first time,” Pansy said.

Every set of eyes settled on Draco, Theo’s under particularly sceptical eyebrows. “If you were me, you might want to get away from everything occasionally, too,” Draco said, keeping his chin high.

“Good thinking,” said Weasley, unexpectedly. “There’s millions of them, and the Aurors are really restricted in what they can do when it’s all Muggles about. You can blend in easily, too. Surprised you thought of it, though.”

“So was I,” Draco admitted.

“Right.” Potter drew in a breath. “So, the short version of everything is, there are a number of us working to protect the more innocent victims of Percy’s campaign, most of the old Dumbledore’s Army. And, of necessity, you’re now one of us.”

“Just like that?”

“Well, it’s not as though we had any choice about involving you at this point, and you’re obviously not going to run off and betray any of us, since that’s entirely against your own self-interest.”

“And I would never act against that.”

Potter had the grace to look down. “That’s not what I meant. I mean that we have a common cause this time. So welcome to the team.”

“Thank you for the tea,” Draco said, with a small, polite smile for all the old Gryffindors in the room.

“You’ll never guess where they’re hiding me,” Pansy said, moving to lighten the tone.

“Where, Pans?”

“Granger’s parents!”

“Really?”

“Really,” said Granger, with the edges of a sigh. “We can’t send her to Justin’s cousin, it’s a working farm and she’s …”

“No good at working,” Pansy supplied brightly.

“Yes. So my parents have said they’d help us if we needed it because they want to be involved this time, and it’s going to be simplest to have her stay there and pretend she’s one of my friends from university, where all my Muggle friends think I’m studying. It’s only the first weeks of term, where there’s a lot of skiving, so it shouldn’t be too suspicious. We were thinking about dyeing her hair in case anyone from our world sees her, though the only person who’s ever visited me at home who’s not in this room is Ginny, and she’s not likely to.”

“You live with your parents, Granger?” Draco asked, surprised.

“So do you.”

“I’m not criticising, it’s just, you’re so … witchy. You’re always researching or brewing something. And you’ve got Weasley following you around all the time, I just assumed the two of you …”

“My parents are very understanding,” Hermione said.

“And I have a flat in London,” Weasley added, which made more sense to Draco.

“I think I should go blonde,” Pansy said. Draco shook his head. “Purple?” she tried again.

“Red,” said Luna. “Not like Ron’s, like Harry’s robes. Really, thoroughly red. Maybe with blue stripes.”

Pansy nodded contemplatively. “I like it.”

“It’s not going to solve the problem,” Draco said.

“Of course it is, darling! I’ll spell it a bit longer, too. Everyone thinks of me with black, bobbed hair. Take that away and people will walk straight past.”

“You’re not the problem, Pans.” Draco smiled and squeezed her hand. “Weasley is.”

“Percy Weasley,” Longbottom clarified.

“Yes. Sorry … other Weasley.”

And Ron Weasley looked grim, but he nodded. “He didn’t take Fred’s death well,” he said. “He thinks he could have prevented a lot of what happened if he’d acted earlier. That’s what he thinks he’s doing, you know, acting early enough this time.”

Draco had no words for that.

“Kingsley should step in,” Longbottom said, a touch of anger creeping into his voice. “He’s lost control of the Ministry, MLE are running their own game.”

“The Aurors are doing what they can,” Potter insisted.

“He’s tired. He wasn’t expecting this and it’s caught him on the back foot,” Granger said, and she sounded tired, too.

“Last year everything looked as though it was all going to be all right, and now … Anyway, it’s not just the Ministry, the Prophet has lost the plot again, too. It’s like the bad old days.”

“I’m trying to get the Quibbler up and running regularly again,” Luna said into the quietness that followed Hermione’s words. “But it takes time. Even writing all the copy can’t be done quickly now that Dad’s still resting at St Mungo’s.”

“I can write,” Nott offered.

Draco looked around at the surprise on the ex-Gryffindor’s faces. “Theo won two essay prizes at school,” he pointed out.

“I remember,” Luna said. “The one on contemporary lessons from the Goblin Wars was really quite good.”

Nott smiled at her. “So if I’m going to be sitting around hiding somewhere, I could help you write articles for the Quibbler, just tell me what you want me to write about, and how many words.”

“Well, definitely a piece on the mistakes of the current policy regime, but possibly with a pen name, and then …”

“Hang on,” Longbottom said, loudly. “We’re moving off into trivia. We need a plan to discuss Percy with Shacklebolt, and we need to do it soon. If the Minister isn’t able to stop or remove him, then we will have to come up with a strategy that will.”

Draco couldn’t even pretend to be polite. “What are you suggesting, Longbottom? Assassination?”

“Political action,” Longbottom replied, evenly. “Move him out of Magical Law Enforcement and replace him with someone who won’t do as much harm. And divide up the department, it’s outrageous that the legal arm and the law enforcement arm have no distance between them.”

“I’ve been saying that for years,” Granger agreed.

“Oh, obviously,” said Draco. “And now you’ve been working in Creatures for a year they’re bound to be ready to hand over a major department to you.”

Granger opened her mouth to reply, as did Weasley, but Potter beat them both to it. “There’s no need for sarcasm. As it happens, we do have a lot of well-connected people in this room. Luna has her own magazine, which still has a decent subscriber base if we can just publish it more than once every few months. I’m Acting Head of my sub-department, and I know that Robards holds no love for Percy, so even when he comes back, I think we can count on his support. Kingsley knows Ron and Hermione, and everyone knows Neville. We can talk to people, influence their opinions, go about it all through the proper channels.”

“And Weasley won’t do a thing to stop you using the mechanisms of the Ministry or public opinion against him?” asked Pansy. “Draco’s right, we need to physically remove him.” She held up a hand to stop Ron’s outrage from being more than just a sharply indrawn breath. “Obviously killing him is taking it too far, but some sort of jinx or curse. Something with boils, perhaps. He wouldn’t be in the paper half so often with a face covered in boils.”

“He’s still my brother,” Ron protested. Then he frowned and added, “And besides, if we physically attack him, he’ll just feel he’s being martyred and play the public sympathy card. We need to shift public opinion away from him instead, and erode his power base.”

“Because that won’t hurt him at all.”

“Less than boils!”

“I don’t think so.”

And Draco knew that Pansy was right on this one, because she had come with him to visit Greg before his trial and she had heard the accusations of disloyalty and betrayal Greg had levelled at him, and even received a handful of her own.

“What do you think, Harry?” Weasley asked.

“I think I should start with speaking to Kingsley tomorrow,” Harry answered. “As far as we can, I think we need to keep this all a matter of policy. There’s room for some quiet revolution, but no one has any spirit for the other sort. That’s why Percy’s been able to get this far, everyone’s too tired for conflict.”

“I want to come with you,” Draco said. If there was any chance for him to convince Shacklebolt that he needed to step in, it would be with Potter there arguing the case beside him.

“That might be for the best.”

“He has to,” Weasley said. Draco looked at him in surprise, and he went on, “We need to foreground Malfoy as a functional part of the Ministry team from now on. All that reconciliation rubbish the two of you did for the media, you need to get back to that. Because unless we keep him close, Percy’s not above a spot of revisionism.”

“He needs Malfoy free,” Potter argued. “Otherwise it’s too obvious that he’s running a campaign rather than ‘upholding justice’.”

“I’m not sure how long he’ll care about the distinction,” Weasley said, but he shrugged, and let the matter drop.

A loud beep sounded from the vicinity of Granger’s feet. “Sorry,” she said, bending over and rummaging in a bag. She pulled out a grey and silver device, about the size of a small box of Bott’s Beans. She pressed a few buttons, then nodded. “SMS from Seamus,” she said to Theo. “He’s organised a flat over in Swansea, says you’ll be house-sitting for one of his cousins and he hopes you like dogs, because there’s one that needs walking.”

“Perfect,” said Nott. “What’s an SMS?”

“Like an owl for Muggles,” she replied, which surprised Draco, because she hadn’t had to pay the little box and it wasn’t pecking her.

“I should get going,” said Nott. “I’ll finish packing my things.” He headed out of the room, presumably to do just that.

“And we should head off to your place,” Pansy said to Granger. “I’m starving, and in need of a bath and a good night’s sleep.” She stood up and set about gathering her own bags.

“I’ll come with you,” Weasley told Granger, which made it easier for Draco to decide he wouldn’t.

“Behave yourself, Pans,” he said with a half-smile. “I’ll come and see you as soon as I can.”

She smiled back, then dragged him over to the mirror above the mantel and tapped her head with her wand, flooding the natural black of her hair with scarlet and blue, and lengthening and curling it for good measure. She frowned, and then adjusted the length. “How does it look?”

“Brilliant.”

She hugged him briefly and kissed his cheek. “You take care, too, Draco. It won’t be long. Granger will bring you over on a visit. And you’ll have deposed Weasley before the week is out, so I’ll be home before Halloween.”

“Absolutely.”

She looked back at him once as Weasley and Granger led her outside. He smiled brightly. It may not have been the rescue he’d hoped for, but it was a rescue nonetheless, and he did trust Weasley and Granger, for all that he didn’t like them.

Longbottom and Lovegood were chatting over on their sofa, which left him and Potter pointedly not talking to each other.

“She’ll be fine,” Potter said after a minute.

“I know.” Draco held his smile, to show that he appreciated that Potter was making an effort. Maybe he really was starting to like Potter a bit. That could be an interesting change to loathing or indebtedness.

“I’m sorry about Nott,” Potter said, quietly.

“What do you mean?”

Potter looked uncomfortable. “Just … I saw the look on your face when you saw him, and the way that he stepped back. And then how you looked when he did … I had no idea, but … I just wanted to say sorry.”

Draco decided that he didn’t like Potter after all. “I don’t know what you think you saw. I was just carried away in the moment, while Theo wasn’t. Nothing to build any epic personal theories on. Next you’ll be telling everyone I’m the Heir of Slytherin again.”

“You were telling everyone it was me!”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You were the heir of a very bad hairstyle.”

And Potter grinned, which was a shame, because Draco had been working his way back to a perfectly good loathing.

“All right. I’m wrong, it was nothing, I’m not sorry.” Potter’s grin softened. “But if you want to get going before he comes back down, I’ll make your apologies.”

Draco shook his head. “I’ll say goodbye. And then I’ll head home, I’m shattered after today, I think I’ve Apparated across the country three or four times. You still haven’t given me my wand, you know.”

“Oh, bloody hell!”

And Draco laughed at that. “It’s all right. Are you taking Theo to Swansea? Why don’t I come back tomorrow morning and we can come up with a strategy for talking to the Minister.”

“I’ll have Kreacher make breakfast.”

Draco blinked. “Yes. Good idea. No poison?”

“No poison. Nott, you ready to go?”

“All set,” Theo declared from the doorway.

“We’ll see you to Swansea, and then Neville, Luna and I will see what we can do about properly repairing the printing press charms at Luna’s.”

“And I’ll get word to you about stories,” Luna said.

“Sounds good,” said Nott. He looked over at Draco and made a move that might have resulted in a vague guilty hug.

Draco patted him on the shoulder before it could become any more embarrassing. “Take care of yourself, Theo. I’ll make sure they keep you up to date with what’s going on.”

“Cheers, Draco. Right. Do I need a disguise?”

Longbottom threw an old hat at him. “Pull this down over your eyes. If they can’t see all your face, you’re just yet another tall man with brown hair that Harry knows, and I think there are about thirty of us.”

“Thanks, Neville. OK, let’s go.”

Later, as he ignored the house-elves’ pleas for him to get out of the kitchen and let them make his toast, Draco tried to decide on the best edit of the day’s events to report to his mother. In the end, he gave up, leaving only a note to let her know he was home safely with all errands accomplished, and slipped quietly into an early bed instead.



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ii. Harry


It did not take long to settle Nott. Seamus was there to show him how the television worked and explain the basics of grocery shopping, while Mister Muffles, the dog of the house, was only too pleased to welcome someone who seemed predisposed to offer limitless tummy scratches and had no idea what constituted a rational portion of liver treats.

Luna’s house was a different story, and Harry and Neville spent several hours working at the charms on the printing presses that she had been lovingly restoring.

“Father did them originally, and I’ve never been able to make it all work as well as he could,” she confessed.

By the time they called it a night, the printing press was working smoothly and Luna was sketching out story ideas and page layouts. Harry left Neville behind – he didn’t want to pry as to why – and was in bed before midnight.

He woke early the next day, certain there was something he had forgotten, then jumped out of bed as he remembered what it was.

“Kreacher,” he called, stumbling into a pair of slippers and staggering down the stairs. “Guest for breakfast. Are you up? Should I cook?”

Loud grumbling from the kitchen informed Harry that Kreacher was indeed up, and that unless it was a dire emergency, Harry should never, ever cook, and that Kreacher had been listening last night for all that he had not been invited to join the conversation and so breakfast was already well underway.

A cup of tea and slice of toast later, Harry felt up to a wash and getting dressed, which meant that he was in surprisingly good form when Malfoy appeared at a quarter to eight.

Harry dismissed the shade of Albus Dumbledore on his way to open the door, but not quickly enough that Malfoy didn’t find a pile of dust collapsing in on itself as he entered.

“Sorry,” said Harry, noticing Malfoy’s slight shudder. “We’re so used to him that it’s become a bit of a joke, hence the passwords.”

“That’s not quite normal, you know,” Malfoy said, with an attempt at a smile.

Harry tried to remember how he had felt on first seeing Dumbledust. Probably not as guilty as Malfoy, he assumed. Though there was more than guilt there. He hadn’t paid attention yesterday, but in the cool morning light, Malfoy looked tired. Features he might charitably have described as fine now looked drawn, and his eyes had dark shadowing beneath them.

“I suppose it’s an effective deterrent to intruders,” Malfoy went on. “Certainly scared the willies out of me.”

Harry smiled in support of Malfoy’s Showing Willing. “Works every time. Breakfast?”

Malfoy straightened his shoulders. “Breakfast.”

“Walk quietly, you don’t want to wake the portrait up,” Harry said, pointing up at a square of bright green fabric Hermione had artfully draped over Walburga Black’s image. He led the way downstairs to the kitchen. “I didn’t think you’d want to breakfast in the dining room. We’re a bit informal here, and I’m not entirely certain we ever got rid of the last of the Doxies.”

“That’s all right. I even dressed casually. Thought Ministry robes would be out of place, since you live so close to Muggles. And I didn’t want to be too obvious if there was anyone watching the place.”

Harry shrugged. “No one seems to bother me at home,” he said, failing to mention the lies he had told about where he lived, and the nausea spells he had left lurking through the local environs that were designed to hurry on any uninvited witches and wizards. “Here we are.”

Kreacher had set the table with matching crockery and cutlery, since there was a guest, “who’s a Black, really, even if his father is one of those Malfoys”. An abundance of food was heaped onto plates, and it smelled like a holiday school breakfast with slightly more sophisticated condiments.

“Looks good,” Malfoy said. “I came here a few times when I was little and my Great-Aunt Walburga was still alive. The food was always excellent – she had this terrifying ancient house-elf …”

Harry’s eyes slid over to the corner where Kreacher was blending into the grey stone of the walls and Malfoy, to do him credit, hardly paused before continuing “… who was the most brilliant cook and really an all-round marvel. I remember her saying that she couldn’t possibly have managed without him and that he was the solace of her old age.”

Harry strongly doubted that Malfoy remembered any such thing, given he must have been about four at the time, but he appreciated it nonetheless, and the heartfelt sniff from the corner told him that Kreacher did, too. It was hard to predict Malfoy these days. Sometimes he seemed almost human.

“Let’s see what damage we can do to all this,” Harry said. “And then I suppose you should tell me what you and your mother have been up to. Because from the sound of things, we haven’t been the only ones plotting against Percy.”

Malfoy nodded and took a seat.

Harry wondered if he should start serving, but Malfoy helped himself as though they were back at Hogwarts, so Harry followed suit.

“Have you heard from Granger about Pansy?” Malfoy asked.

“Not yet, but I told her we’d see her straight after we see Kingsley.”

“OK. I’m surprised her parents let her bring in refugees. I would have thought that after the danger of the War, they’d want to stay clear of our lot.”

“They hid in Australia,” Harry answered, with edited honesty.

“Clever. Even if Voldemort had won, he was very focussed on Wizarding Britain, so they would probably have been safe for years. This kedgeree is very good.”

“Try some of the baked eggs. By the way, here’s your wand.” Harry slipped the box out of his pocket and slid it across the table, hoping to avoid discussion on the topic.

Malfoy put down his knife and fork and smiled as he lifted the box. “Do you mind?” he asked, thwarting Harry’s hopes.

“No, go ahead.”

And he watched as Malfoy opened the box as if it were a gift. Malfoy reached in, and wrapped his hand around the wand, his smile growing wider, and then he lifted it, and looked at it, and stopped smiling, and put the wand back into the box.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, trying to keep any note of annoyance from his voice.

Malfoy shook his head. “It’s nothing you’ve done. Well, that is to say, nothing you’ve done intentionally. I suddenly remembered that the last thing this wand was used for was to kill Voldemort.” He swallowed, and looked paler than usual. “I think I might stick with my mother’s. Maybe this one should go into some sort of museum, or something?”

Harry spoke without thinking. “That’s not true. That wand was used to disarm Voldemort, the Elder Wand killed him. And besides, I’ve …” Harry realised he should have stopped talking several words ago, “… used it a bit since then …”

Malfoy looked up at him sharply.

Harry wished he was better at mornings, or somewhat less honest. “Just for little things. You know how it is when you put your wand down and it’s a pain to go and get it …”

“So you used my wand to…?” Malfoy’s tone was brittle.

“Shoo cats from the garden,” Harry admitted. “Light the kitchen fire when Kreacher was busy. Accio my own wand.” He stopped, noticing that Malfoy had dropped his head into his hands. So much for that fragile detente. Ah well, they could rescue Old Slytherins without Malfoy, and he could go back to expressing faux amazement that Harry knew words like detente.

Malfoy lifted his face and dragged in a breath. He was laughing.

Harry waited to see if this was going to turn into some sort of evil cackle, but apparently not.

“Only you, Potter,” Malfoy said after a few minutes. “Anyone else would have made some huge production out of defeating the most dangerous wizard of our times with my wand and handed it over with enormous ceremony and some demented, portentous announcement about how it forged a bond between us, but not you. You try to sneak it past with the baked eggs at breakfast and use it to chase away wailing tom cats.”

“They were very loud,” Harry said.

Malfoy started to laugh again. He looked less tired, less old, more like a twenty-year-old man.

Harry sighed quietly with relief and helped himself to baked eggs.

“You wanted to discuss a strategy for talking to the Minister,” he said.

“I was planning to listen to yours – or Granger’s if she’s still doing your thinking for you – and offer insightful commentary,” Malfoy said, piling food onto his plate. “You know Shacklebolt well, I’ve spoken with him briefly three times.” He put on what was presumably a listening expression and began to eat.

Harry poked his eggs with his fork. “Hermione was right last night,” he said after a minute. “Kingsley is tired. It was a long war and he lost a lot of close friends. He didn’t want to be Minister, but there wasn’t anyone else who could both do the job and gather the support of the Department Heads. He started off as a reformer, and was promised support for his agenda, but as soon as he started implementing it, he was shut down by concerns about overspends and over-reach and as things stand, unless he’s willing to ride roughshod over the other Department Heads, he’s not only unable to carry out exactly the policies he came in proclaiming, he’s unable to stop the Ministry from moving in directions he doesn’t like.”

Malfoy swallowed. “That’s the part I don’t understand. Shacklebolt’s the Minister, why doesn’t he just shut Weasley down?”

“Because Percy has MLE. The other Department Heads are afraid of him. Remember, MLE was the power behind the Muggleborn Registration Committee. Witches and Wizards disappeared. Percy may not have been a part of any of that, but the mechanisms that let it happen are all still there under wizarding law.

“We haven’t revoked most of the Umbridge-era legislation yet, so Percy’s been able to have warrants signed with a much-lower burden of proof than he should need. And although one or two people have spoken out, most haven’t, because the last time people spoke out against the Ministry, it didn’t end well for them. And I’m not saying that Percy is Umbridge, because he has some limits, but I am saying that people are very nervous about making a fuss, even if they don’t agree. It’s all too fresh. People remember what it was like.”

“But he doesn’t have the Aurors. They’re loyal to Robards, and to you. And you’re both against this new policy.”

Harry looked down. “Not openly against it. Not yet. Until a short time ago, he was still targeting people with some level of legitimate culpability. It’s only since then … We’re still talking about a comparatively small number of innocent people – a number of whom we’ve managed to rescue anyway – I know this sounds horrible, but it’s not enough to split the department over, and I’d like to avoid fomenting open revolution if there’s a way we can deal with all of this quietly and effectively.

“And yes, before you say it, I completely agree that there is a qualitative difference between Ottilie Goyle and Gregory Goyle, which is why Mrs Goyle is not in custody. But Percy still holds control of the Wizengamot and they don’t seem to be as concerned as they ought to be with niceties such as actual guilt as opposed to the appearance of such.”

“Because it’s payback for all the fear they felt through the War,” Malfoy said, putting down his knife and fork.

“Because it’s payback,” Harry agreed.

“So. What are you expecting? That Kingsley will step up and remove Weasley, thus solving all your problems?”

Harry shrugged. In truth, he was hoping for that, no matter how remote the possibility seemed at the moment.

“Because to me it doesn’t feel as though this is a one-man campaign,” Malfoy continued. “There’s a lot of anger out there. Ask Broderick Wellingham about my hate mail collection.”

“He’s already told me,” Harry confessed. “We scan your post for dangerous jinxes and toxins.”

Malfoy looked surprised. “Have you found any?”

“One or two minor hexes. Nothing worse than boils. We’d have put a detail on you if it had been serious.”

“I see.” Malfoy resumed eating for a few minutes. Harry followed suit, he may as well be fortified for what was shaping up to be a difficult day.

After an egg and a slice of toast, he decided to try to explain his position. “I just think that if Percy wasn’t there driving the campaign, there would be fewer column inches in the Prophet and less fuel to flame tensions. Because it wasn’t this bad straight after the war. People were looking for a way to just get on with things.”

“Maybe they were just waiting to get their second wind,” Malfoy suggested. “Maybe the nature of the wizarding world is that we’re a fractious mob who stop ourselves from becoming too powerful by our own impulses to self-destruction. I mean, think about it, how many old witches and wizards do you know?”

“Lots,” Harry started, then stopped. “A few,” he said.

“Fewer than there ought to be. Even in my family, not that many make it past eighty. If we’re not killing each other following crazed madmen, then we’re doing it experimenting or flying while under the influence. Too much power, not enough sense.”

“Are you sure you’re Draco Malfoy?” Harry asked, surprised.

“You’re one to talk. Long words and strategic thinking: just when I thought I could write you off as a duelling moron. I’m just saying that you may not be wise to base your strategy on an expectation of common sense or rationality.”

Harry nodded, recognising that behind Malfoy’s insults, there was truth. “Then I’ll throw in a good dose of celebrity influence and threats: Merlin knows the Prophet’s been badgering me for an interview for months and I have enough dirt on half the Ministry to see them all fleeing to Mallorca.”

“That,” said Malfoy, lifting a piece of toast, “might work.”

“What about you and your mother?” Harry asked.

“My mother has a secret genius for espionage,” Malfoy declared. “She actually has contacts who can produce an excellent Muggle passport and working cash machine cards in whatever name you want within twelve hours.”

Harry’s curiosity overrode his Aurorly responsibilities. “How? Do you think she knows Muggle criminals?”

Malfoy shook his head, looking down at his plate. “Squibs. It has to be. I know there have been a few on both sides of my family, for all that they’d both deny it. She started planning all of this during the war, to get us out. Get us away from …” he faltered on the name, but recovered quickly, “I’m guessing, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. She was so fast when Marcus came to us looking for help …”

So that’s where Flint had gone, Harry thought. He should have known.

“I think she meant to get Father and me out of England, except that Father wouldn’t leave, at first because he thought it would all end well, and then because he was too afraid …”

Malfoy paused, and Harry had no idea what to say. Malfoy looked up at him. “That has to be right, doesn’t it? Because the only other option is that she asked Muggles. And the only way she’d know how to get in touch with Muggles is though my Aunt Andromeda. And after everything that happened … my uncle … People don’t forgive that much, do they?”

“I think …” Harry frowned. Malfoy was trying to keep his face still, but there was need in his eyes. Harry remembered Dudley, and how a few words of concern had melted away years of resentment and anger. “I think they can,” he said. “If there’s a good reason to.”

“Really?” There was no sarcasm in Malfoy’s voice.

Harry nodded. “That’s been my experience.”

Malfoy looked thoughtful, and returned his attention to his toast. He looked very young, for a moment, like the boy Harry had first met.

After a minute, Kreacher silently brought a fresh pot of tea to the table, and Harry topped up both their cups.

“My strategy for speaking with Kingsley was that we’d turn up at his office and demand entry,” he said, returning to safer conversational ground. “Even if he feels he knows me well enough to tell me to bugger off, he’ll be surprised to see you there. Which should give us the entry we need. And once he realises he has support, I think he’ll feel reinvigorated and ready to come out fighting.”

“If we turn up at the Ministry together, Shacklebolt’s not going to be the only one surprised,” Malfoy said.

“No one’s going to think you were that grateful to get your wand back.”

Harry regretted his levity the second Malfoy began to choke on his toast. He had completely forgotten about Nott, and the look on Malfoy’s face last night, and oh bloody hell … “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that as any sort of insult or slur. I’m not a raving homophobe, not that you’re a … unless you are, which is also fine. Just, you know how every paper and magazine has me shagging everyone I’m ever seen with in public since I broke up with Ginny, and you’re probably the only person they wouldn’t think I was sleeping with, since there are books about how much we hate each other, and, Merlin, does any of that make sense? Can I stop apologising yet?”

Malfoy nodded, sipping at tea to stop his coughing. “It’s fine,” he said between sips. “I know that you were just being facetious. You weren’t accidentally offensive.”

Harry smiled with relief. “God forbid I ever accidentally offend you, Malfoy. I’d hate to lose my touch that much.”

Malfoy grinned at that. Strange bastard, Harry thought. He was still unpredictably prickly and difficult, but at least he seemed willing to make a genuine effort, if only for Pansy’s sake. Speaking of which … “If you’re done, we should probably head off if we want to catch the Minister first thing.”

Malfoy put his teacup down. “All done. Thank you, excellent breakfast. Good work, Kreacher,” he added, over his shoulder, without waiting for any comment from the elf before he looked away, so only Harry saw the beaming smile that came in reply.



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Part three