Chapter 20 Malfoy Family Plots

May 18, 1998

When the Auror brought Draco back to their cell that evening, Draco turned to speak before the man could close the door. "I've heard that the decontamination of the castle from dark residue is holding up the rest of the work."

The Auror shrugged.

"I think I can help make it faster. But I need to talk to Filch."

"Filch?" The Auror raised his eyebrows.

"He is coordinating the volunteers."

"You're not exactly a volunteer."

"I was given a choice," Draco said, his tone haughty. "I chose to help."

The Auror looked at him disdainfully.

"Fine, Filch is coordinating the volunteers and conscripts. I still need to speak with him."

"I'll make a note in the daily report. Whether they see fit to pass it on, is up to them."

"Make sure you tell them it's for the sake of efficiency."

The Auror floated a scroll toward himself and made an exaggerated note on it. It must have had some sort stiffening charm on it, since the Auror did not lean it against a wall or any solid object. He gave Draco a smirk. "Satisfied, conscript?"

Draco ignored him and strode through the door and let the Auror close it behind him, pretending for a moment that he was still at the Manor with house elves to clean and flunkies to open and close doors for them, allowing them to focus on important things.

He hoped his father was alert. They had a lot to discuss.

Lucius glanced up as Draco entered. Good. "Father, I have a plan."

His father's eyes focused on him, and Draco felt a thrill. They had done this before: planning for Slytherin Quidditch wins, planning for one success after another. He ignored the fact that so many of those ended with his father being disappointed in him, usually due to Harry bloody Potter and the know-it-all Mudblood.

By the time Draco needed plans for something bigger than schoolboy victories, his father had already been lost to him, his spirit broken and his mind distracted. This time his father was paying attention to him, and the plan was for their family's success. This time, he would win.

"Harry Potter was put on our work crew today."

"They risked put their precious Golden Boy by putting him on a cleansing crew?" Lucius' voice rose in disbelief.

"I don't think McGonagall knows. But Filch never liked Potter, and he is running the assignments. Potter knows nothing. He can't draw the runes—he never took any more classes than he absolutely had to—and he hadn't a clue of how to go about it. He almost went into the room with his wand."

"You should get him taken off the team." His mother insisted, speaking from their cramped bedroom. "Inform McGonagall, she'll take care of it. If not, I'll talk to her."

"I believe he was just there to substitute, but I don't think that would suit my needs. I want Potter on my crew."

"Whatever for?" The incredulous question brought Draco's mother out from the bedroom. This was a conversation that needed all three of them paying full attention. Draco knew it, and he suspected his mother was becoming aware of it. "Draco, you know it's dangerous to have someone who doesn't know what they're doing assisting in the work. One false move…"

"He will need to be taught. I will graciously teach him." His father let out a most un-Malfoy-like snort.

"I will teach him magical theory."

"Draco, no! You will not teach that… boy our—" Draco's mother stopped, the distaste in her voice giving way to understanding. She had showed the Malfoy Book to McGonagall. She understood necessity.

"I will teach him everything. The theory of magic. The necessary precautions. The workings that are needed to maintain the balance. The ways to protect the blood…"

As he spoke, his father's face cleared, and by the end of it, he started to chuckle.

"I will teach him the beauty of magic. I will teach him life."

"You have never impressed me quite as much as right now, son."

Draco smiled. His father saw it too.

"What do you need?"

"Well, first, I need to talk to Filch. I suspect he still does not like Potter. I think I can convince him to keep sending Potter to our work crew."

Lucius nodded. "I think, even from here that can be arranged."

"McGonagall may be a problem, if she finds out where he is working." Draco did not think the old cat would tolerate her Golden Boy working in an environment that not only risked Potter's magic and his life, but also risked his chance at fatherhood. "She does not have respect for the magic, so she fears the dangers."

Lucius gave a disgusted snort. "She would have you all work in ignorance of the dangers, limiting you to only one type of magic, as if the others did not exist."

"What will her coddled students do when their own magic turns to bite them?" His mother asked.

"I don't think she believes it ever will. 'The pure magic taught at Hogwarts could never possibly harm them like our evil dark magic can.'" Draco inflected the words with disgusted sarcasm.

"How are you going to convince Potter to learn from you?"

"So far he seems resistant. He only wanted to learn exactly as much as he thinks he needed to do the cleansing."

"Might I suggest… a practical demonstration?" Lucius enquired, his voice regaining that sly tone that Draco had missed.

"I don't understand. We already have a practical reason for him to learn, but that has not influenced him."

"Potter does not seem to recognize the danger of dealing with ungrounded magic. Perhaps he could have… a little accident?"

"I need him alive."

"Nothing life-threatening, son. Nothing even threatening his magic. I only suggest that it is possible for him to have a small accident that demonstrates to him that the dangers are real, and that precautions might be necessary. He has been our enemy for a long time. I think Potter might ignore a recommendation for safety, if it were phrased in a particular way."

"And then I can chastise him for ignoring me." Draco grinned at the thought.

"No. Then you rescue him from his own incompetence, full of concern."

"I don't think he'd be convinced of any concern I might have for him."

"If Potter were hurt on your watch, you would be punished for his idiocy. I think even Potter might recognize that as a valid fear on your part."

"And being the noble Gryffindor he is…"

"… He will learn it for your sake, lest he put you at risk. That would not be in keeping with his righteous self-image."

Draco gave his father a smirk. This was the father he respected so very much—the man who could always manage to find a way through the labyrinth, not stopping until he succeeded. This was the father that Voldemort had nearly crushed. It seemed that Voldemort had not succeeded.

"Once I get him learning the theory of what we are doing—if I can get him to appreciate what is behind the magic he casts without understanding it—I'll need to entice him toward learning more. He will probably have to visit me here, as I cannot imagine I'd be allowed to teach him to that extent while we are working."

"I can put up with his presence," his father said with distaste, "but I can't see him wanting to spend any time with us, not voluntarily."

"I just have to find the right lure. The problem is, if he doesn't know something he tends to go to that Mudblood friend of his to do his research for him."

Lucius thought for a moment. "I can think of something she can't find, no matter how much she researches."

Draco stared at his father.

"You want me to share Malfoy family traditions? With Potter?"

His father gazed calmly at him.

"I won't be able to bind the knowledge. None of us have our wands." Potter still had Draco's.

"You will have to bind it the old way."

Draco stared at his father, stunned. To enter into that type of relationship with Potter… To have that kind of connection... Of course, he already had a slight connection. Potter was Head of the Black family, after all. He remembered the feel of the link, made stronger as they both were standing on Black land. It had faded, once he paid the necessary respect. If he worked at it, he could feel a slight twinge of the connection, but that was all. This, however... This was stronger, and permanent.

"How serious are you, Draco, about seeing your plan through? Potter has won. He is in a position of power. You can help him keep it, value it, use it."

"He doesn't know how to value it. The git uses his fame to preen for his audience; he never accomplishes anything worthwhile."

"He won." Lucius' voice was odd. The note of finality was marred by pure disbelief.

"If I bind him the old way, I'll be bound to him as well. I am not ready for an apprentice, let alone a brother in Magic. Let alone with him."

Lucius remained silent. Draco wanted to hate it that he did that. The silence spoke louder than any words his father could have said to him. It spoke of respect, of trust, of waiting for Draco to bow to necessity. His father knew he would do it. Because he was Malfoy. Because he would win.

He turned to his father. "Would you at least do it with me? Both of you? Just in case…"

Lucius closed his eyes, hiding the pain. Draco knew it would be there, but he let his father have that privacy. If his father did not consent to this ceremony, Draco doubted that they would ever have a chance again. They had not had a chance since before The Dark—curse it! Voldemort began to use Malfoy Manor. The last time they had connected as a family was before his father had been imprisoned in Azkaban two years before.

Before they did what was necessary, Draco wanted to feel the Magic of his father and his mother wrapping around him, to feel the strength, the cunning, the intelligence and caring; to feel what it meant to be Malfoy.

Lucius spoke softly. "I believe Mr Potter will more easily accept the ceremony if you were to approach him about it alone. I cannot imagine him willingly entering into such familiarity with me."

At that moment, Draco hated Potter more than he ever had in his life. More than when Potter had snubbed him in their first year. More than any of the Quidditch victories that Potter snatched out from under him. More than when he got his father imprisoned in Azkaban. Draco knew his father was right. This was one more joy that Potter would snatch from Draco.

The Unity of Family Rite was held once a year, at midwinter. Draco had gone home for it each year, after starting Hogwarts. It could also be held to bind a new person to the family. Draco would have done that willingly, even with Potter, if it meant that he could bring Potter to his senses, if he could get Potter to see what the Wizarding World was throwing away. The blood traitors had abandoned this rite, one of the deepest joys Draco knew, because it involved a drop, a single drop, of blood from each family member. And blood was sometimes used in dark magic. Blood was Life. Magic was Soul. Each year, he had been bound, blood and bone and breath to Malfoy Family, and they had been bound to him.

In the winter of his sixth year, his father had been in Azkaban. And in the winter of his seventh, Voldemort was already using the Manor as a regular base of operations. The Rite of Family Unity was done without outsiders. Draco wondered how he never realized what it meant that Voldemort did not respect the rite. And this year, his father would be in Azkaban again, and Draco would never again be able to celebrate it with him.

Some part of Draco was amazed at the extent he was willing to go to achieve this victory. Now that he was on the verge of losing everything, all the debris in his life fell away, and he saw what was important. He was losing his father. He might lose his mother. They had lost the hope that Voldemort had held out in front of them like the lure in a fox hunt.

The knowledge of what mattered sharpened in his mind, glittering like crystal. Family. Heritage. Their culture. Voldemort would never have given that to him, and in his excesses, had robbed his followers, and the Wizarding World, of the very thing they thought he would bring them.

But he would not be accepting Potter as a member of the Malfoy family. He would use the alternate, for close allies of the family. He would use this lesser form partially because it could be done at other times of year, but mostly because, as much as he needed Potter for his plan, the Gryffindor was not, and never would be, part of the Malfoy family.

Doing the lesser form with its more flexible timing meant he could have felt his father's magic one last time before his father was locked away, if he were doing the ceremony with almost anyone but Potter. Potter would never complete the rite if his father were part of it. Draco knew that with absolute certainty. He wondered if he ever again would be able to enact the Rite of Family Unity. If he ever again would be able to feel his father and mother in his magic, in his soul.

The Plan Commences

May 19, 1998

The next afternoon, they were almost back to the full, regular team. Draco had been correct—Potter had not returned.

Adrien was again at the cauldron, and Daphne and Theo worked by his side. Pansy was not there that day, as her father's trial had been at the end of the previous day, and he was scheduled to be sentenced today. Her mother's trial was likely to be tomorrow—they seemed to be working their way through the Death Eaters who were actually in the battle quickly. Draco thought this probably meant that the trials were going as expected for the winners, and convictions were raining down like confetti.

He wasn't surprised. He wished he had a newspaper, even the Prophet, to see what was happening. The Aurors told them little, unless they thought it would demoralize them, and the news he got from his crew was limited to what they could glean from their guards or from their days at trials or funerals. Theo had been a wealth of information that morning. Most of those at his father's funeral were likewise incarcerated, allowed bereavement leave just long enough to mourn before being shuttled back to their various cells. The sheer number of restraining bracelets and anklets needed for a funeral of one of the Dark Lord's followers was staggering. Theo had said there were at least ten Aurors for the funeral. It could not be held on Nott land. Draco grieved for Theo at that sign of disrespect. They used the proper herbs, and Theo sang the chants as he was now Head of his family, although he had not had the chance to accept it with all due ceremony. Draco trusted that would be enough. Theo could not be sure. Without having accepted the family as its head, he could not feel it as fully as he should. Theo didn't say much more, only that he had been allowed to bring his father to be interred on Nott land. One of the Aurors had Nott blood from several generations back—from an ancestor who had married out—was able to accompany him else he might not have been allowed that much. He had not been allowed to use his wand, so he carried his father in his arms to the crypt, following the oldest traditions.

Despite all of that, Theo worked with them as if it was any other day—as if he hadn't just said goodbye to his father, on land not his own, and with outsiders present. Draco knew his own face would be just as cold as Theo's, and knew it didn't mean what outsiders thought it meant. Such emotions were not to be shared.

They continued to work. It was difficult with three instead of four inside the room, especially once they got further in their room of the day and there was more space to cover, but Draco would not begrudge any of them a chance to see their families, in whatever circumstances they could contrive.

Filch stopped by their worksite, just as they were clearing up. Draco looked up from the cauldron he'd been cleaning for the next day, relieved. He didn't like Filch, but the man could be used.

Theo took over at the cauldron, with Daphne seeing to the brushes and protective clothing. He could trust them to put them into the carry box so that they would be ready to use the next day. They could not risk holes or contamination, especially with their makeshift materials.

"Someone said you wanted to talk to me." Filch said.

"You put Potter on our crew yesterday."

"I did. I'd do it again. Thinks he's above the rules. He and that friend of his were acting like none of this mattered. I caught them, fair to rights."

"But why our crew?"

"Th' Headmistress says you lot have to finish your work before the rest of it gets done. Said it's dangerous, that I should keep others away from you all. Not sure what painting a room with water has to do with anything, waste of time if you ask me. But she said to leave you all alone, let you get to it, so it would be safe for others."


"There was a day when we could hang up troublemakers in irons. I figure troublemakers ought to be set to take the risks, especially when they made the mess in the first place. I figure, I can put Potter in a spot where he can't make trouble for hardworking people. I see what you're doing. How hard can it be? But th' Headmistress says it's dangerous. That you lot have to be careful, and the rest of us should stay away. Potter can take his chances with the rest of the troublemakers."

Filch couldn't seem to decide whether the work Draco and his friends were doing was dangerous or useless. In turn, Draco didn't know whether to be pleased or offended. McGonagall had to know that what they were doing was important, necessary, and dangerous, but she clearly didn't explain it very well to Filch. And Filch was acting as if Potter and Draco were equally to blame for the damage. He cringed inwardly. Still, the man could be persuaded.

"Yes, our work is dangerous. And it is necessary, as the headmistress said. Is our group the only one doing it?"

"The Headmistress said you lot are the only ones what knows how. Said you could put some of your skills to good use." Draco heard the 'for once' in that comment.

"With just our group, it must be causing delays for you."

Filch nodded. "Had to send some of the volunteers away. No sense in having them here getting in the way if there's not work for them to do."

Draco could see the Auror who guarded them shift uneasily. Theo, Adrien and Daphne had slowed down to give him the time he needed. It was so good to be among people who understood, who could act on subtle cues. Still, he'd have to convince Filch quickly.

"Pansy is out today. It takes a bit longer when we are missing someone. Some days we can do two rooms, when we have all of us."

"The other teams are waiting on you. There're only so many places they can work. Bunch of Aurors and Ministry brains came and put warnings all over. They've made her a bloody maze to get around in."

It took a scant moment for Draco to realize Filch meant the castle. "How many d'you need?" The caretaker asked.

"It would be good if we always had five."

"I could send someone to fill in when they take one of you lot away."

"It needs to be someone who knows what they're doing. I spent too much time training Potter yesterday, before he finally got it."

A gleam sparked in Filch's eyes. "He knows it now?" he asked.

"He does. But it takes practice. It's not enough just to do it sometimes." The lure was set.

"So, I should add someone to your team regular. Someone that knows the work?"

"Yes. Someone who can do it."

"Potter worked out yesterday, you said?"

"Much as I hate the git, he could be made to understand, so long as I gave him thorough instruction. With only a bit more coaching, all he would need is practice."

"I can make sure he gets lots of practice."

Draco repressed a grin. "That would certainly help us do our work faster. It would be a shame if it weren't ready by September."

Filch grimaced, likely at the thought of the throngs of students filling the halls. Draco had heard too many of the caretaker's grumbles, especially when he was part of the Inquisitorial Squad in his fifth year, not to have gotten the measure of the man.

"One more thing: Potter did the easiest task last time. I'll probably need to spend a bit more time training him if we want him to carry his weight."

The grin on Filch's face was frightening, wider than it should be, showing all of his crooked, yellowing teeth, making him look quite demented. "I'll arrange for the two of you to have some time at the beginning of your shift for further training. I trust you to be thorough?"

"Oh, yes. I will make sure he learns everything he needs to know."

Filch nodded and walked away, mumbling.

"What was that all about, Draco? Theo asked quietly. "Surely you don't want Potter on our crew."

"Oh, I think I do." The look on Theo's face was priceless. "I have my reasons. Potter is ignorant, but what if he weren't?"

Theo looked at him. "Never mind." He looked over at the Aurors. "There's a reason for everything. And Theo? Rule Sixteen." Theo looked mutinous for a moment, then nodded. Slytherins supported each other, unless there was a reason not to.

"All right, Draco. But this better be good."

The Auror gestured them to pick up the carry box and follow him. Draco nodded to Theo. Without magic, it made the most sense for the taller, stronger man to carry it. Draco knew his strengths, and did not need to lower himself to manual labour. Theo picked it up and they set off. Halfway, they stashed the carry box in a room well away from the tainted areas, and sealed the door.

Another Auror met them there, and the two cast a few spells on their controllers, to transfer control of three of the minders to the second device. The second guard guided the other three Slytherins to the Dungeons, and the first brought Draco back to his own rooms.

Once the door was closed behind him, he gave his father a nod. The first phase was completed.

When he sat down, it hit him. He would have to put up with Potter, every day, for the foreseeable future. He groaned and dropped his head in his arms.

"Draco, what is it?" His father asked.

"Don't ask," he mumbled into his arms.

The Light of Learning

May 20, 1998

When Harry reported to Filch that morning, the old caretaker sent him up to a room on the third floor. When he got there, he saw the cauldron he had guarded a few days ago and the Auror standing guard over it. He groaned.

It couldn't be. Filch wouldn't do that to him again, would he? Of course he would. It wasn't that the work was difficult, he thought. How hard could it be to keep dust out of a cauldron? The company left something to be desired, however. He already knew that Filch hated him. He didn't know why he expected that to have changed.

Sure enough, another Auror came up, with Draco Malfoy in tow. "Potter! Good, you're here."

Harry stared at Malfoy. The git actually seemed pleased to see him. He was beginning to get a really bad feeling. Anytime Malfoy was happy, something bad was about to happen.

"Since the others aren't here yet, you get to help me set up."

Harry moved toward the carry box, when Draco interrupted him. "Wand to the nice Auror, Potter." Harry glared at the blond, but handed over his holly wand, glad he had found a protected spot to store the other two wands. He had felt exposed, carrying the Elder wand around with him, but while Dumbledore's tomb was the right place for it to go, he wasn't sure if it was secure there. It needed to be so hidden that it would be lost to time, like the resurrection stone.

"First, Potter, since it seems you just can't stay away from our group, I guess you'd better learn how to control your magical field. Keeping your attention away from it will work while guarding the cauldron, but not if you are to be of use in the room. And I guess I'll be stuck as the one to teach you."

"I don't think I'll be on this team much longer. There's no need to exert yourself."

"Too good to do the work you were assigned to do, Potter?"

Harry felt his blood heat up. He had not shirked his duty when it most mattered. This wasn't a duty. It wasn't a task prophesied for him. Helping rebuild the castle was something he'd volunteered to do.

"Potter, I know you have a tendency to get into danger, but I don't think you are at imminent risk of death. I think we'll be stuck with you for a little longer at least."

"I meant that I don't think they'll keep assigning me to your group. I can talk to McGonagall..."

"Yes, do exert your special privilege. What are they calling you now? Saviour of the Wizarding World? Why are you working at all? Surely you could be out with your fans bowing before you! The Great Slayer of the Dark Lord! Oh, wait, what is it... The Slayer of You Know Who! Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?"

Harry's anger rose further, as Malfoy kept needling him. "I'm here to work. But I'm sure there are jobs I can do where I would not be stuck with your company."

"Sure. Potter gets to cherry-pick the jobs. Unlike the rest of the volunteers who go where they are needed. Run along to McGonagall, tell her you are too good for the job you were assigned."

"Never mind, Malfoy. Let's just get on with this. What do I need to do?"

Malfoy's smirk was unsettling. It was the same smirk he gave every time Harry rose to his bait. "Can you sense your own magical field? Or is that something you never bothered to learn?"

Harry tried to remember a lesson in which that was taught. Charms, perhaps? Defence? He couldn't remember mention of it. The closest he came was the sense he got when he was at the Black estate, but he was not about to talk to Malfoy about that.

"I can tell from your gormless look that you haven't an idea what I'm talking about."

"Just explain it, Malfoy. Or are you taking a leaf from the Snape School of Instructing through Insults?"

Sudden fury burst onto Malfoy's face. "Leave Professor Snape out of this, Potter. Just..." Harry watched, fascinated, as Malfoy took a breath and composed himself. Why was he making the attempt? Why wasn't he throwing a fit? Malfoy was certainly angry enough. It felt so familiar, baiting Malfoy, but he wasn't rising to the occasion. For just a moment, Harry had felt thoroughly alive.

The moment passed, and the world faded.

How had he not noticed? He had been drifting through this colourless world for weeks, with only a few bright spots – playing with Ron the other day, and flying as fast as the school brooms would let him the night before. If one of the few things that really made him feel alive was fighting with Malfoy, that wasn't much of a life.

"Never mind. What do I need to do?"

"Come over here." Malfoy moved further from the door to the contaminated room they likely had to cleanse that day. Harry followed. "Close your eyes." Malfoy commanded.

"You've got to be kidding. I'm not closing my eyes with you around."

"Fine, Potter. If the presence of an Auror with his wand, drawn and ready, and the fact that I don't have a wand isn't enough to make you feel safe in the presence of the big bad Slytherin, I give you my word that I will not attack you while you are learning what you need to learn here."

Harry just stared. The word of a Malfoy. Sure. But a faint tug inside him, that he was beginning to recognize as the Black family magic, stopped him from saying that aloud.

"My word, as a scion of Black."

The tug became definite. That was something he could no longer ignore. He could feel it all the way down. It told him there was no way one of Black would violate that word to the head of Black. Not even Malfoy. It made no sense, and went against any instinct of self preservation he had, but Harry closed his eyes.

Malfoy's voice went soft. "Imagine you were casting a spell. Don't do it, but imagine. Feel your wand hand. Point your hand as if you had a wand in it, as if you were about to cast Lumos. Not that direction!" Malfoy's voice grew sharp, and Harry's eyes flew open. He had pointed his imaginary wand directly at the open door of the room. Oops. He dropped his arm.

"Close your eyes again." Harry did. "Now—no, I'll do it." Harry felt a hand lifting his arm and directing it. With his eyes closed, the touch of the hand startled him. He drew a breath to relax. The hand was still on his arm. It was soft, gentle even. He couldn't believe it belonged to Malfoy. He was about to open his eyes to check, when Malfoy continued. "Now, hold your hand as if you were pointing your wand in this direction." Harry felt his muscles moving in response, holding his wand arm out. His muscles remembered the position instinctively.

"Now, think of the spell. Think of the incantation, Lumos." Harry thought the word, remembering the first time he had cast it. He remembered how it felt to see his wand light up.

"Feel the wrist of your wand hand. I want you to feel the magic, ready for use, waiting for you."

The area in front of Harry's closed eyes grew brighter.

A muffled gasp. "Very good, Potter," Malfoy said dryly. "As usual, you learned the wrong lesson."

Harry opened his eyes again. His hand was grasping around an imaginary wand, and light was spilling out from his palm and between his fingers, as if he were holding something bright. It wasn't as bright as his usual Lumos, but he had done it without his wand!

"I'm not sure if that will make this easier or more difficult," Malfoy said. "Clearly you don't need your wand to use your magic. Harry Potter is, of course, one of the select few." His voice was bitter. "In your case, this is unfortunate. You have no choice now but to learn this. The need for a wand prevents accidents. Now that you seem to have awakened your ability to use wandless magic, you'll have to find a way to control your magical field, or you'll be casting accidental magic like a child." The sneer could be heard in that last word, leaving Harry no doubt about how Malfoy felt about that.

"Now, try again."

"Where are the others?"

"I arranged for them to come a bit later. Filch was quite accommodating." Harry could hear the annoying smirk in Malfoy's voice. "There's no reason for them to wait out here in the corridor while you learn what any pure-blood wizard should have learnt within a year of getting his wand, if not earlier. Now close your eyes."

Harry rolled his eyes, then closed them. "Wand hand out—this way." Again that soft hand guided his arm to point somewhere safe, Harry hoped. "Now, imagine yourself holding your wand. Yes, like that. Now, imagine casting Lumos. Feel the energy in your hand, but hold it there. If you must, imagine you've got hold of it in your fist." Draco's voice got oddly distant. "Good. Now, wait until after I've described what I want. Don't do anything yet. Keep your awareness on the magic waiting to be used, the magic you are holding back. Now, in a moment, I want you to release it, but not outward. Imagine water spilling back into a carafe."

Harry imagined the crystal carafe at the Dursleys. They had bought it one year during a weeklong vacation in Ireland. Uncle Vernon spent the next week complaining about the wild Irish, and Petunia chipped in about their poor manners. But apparently, they made excellent crystal in Waterford. Harry, of course, had spent the entire week of their absence with Mrs Figg in her cat-infested home.

"Imagine that the magic you prepared for the spell is no longer needed. You are going to let it spill back into you. Follow it inward as you do. Now, release." Harry imagined the brightness in his hand that he assumed was his magic flowing back down his arm, and watched it as it flowed. He loved how bright it was. He'd never thought of magic as something bright. He saw the colours of powerful spells, but never considered that magic itself was anything until it was cast. He watched the brightness of the potential for magic flowing down, through his wrist and arm and into his body, imagining his body as a carafe to accept it all. Suddenly the image of the Dursley Waterford carafe intruded, and he was suddenly seeing the warm light of his magic spilling over the angles of the cut crystal as if from a demented chandelier.

"You're hopeless." Malfoy commented, sounding slightly strangled.

Harry opened his eyes, and there was light shining out from him at all angles like refracted rays, from his wrists and neck and spilling through his robes and... he looked down at a particularly bright beam of light, erect and golden, and flushed a deep red. Nox!


The guard had turned away, and seemed to be shaking.

"Potter, have you never had to control yourself at all?"

Harry thought about years at the Dursleys, having to keep silent or he would be punished, having to restrain comments he so wanted to make when Vernon Dursley was yelling at him. There had been a freedom at Hogwarts, despite the rules, because the most he had to fear were detentions and loss of house points, instead of being hit with Petunia's cast iron frying pan, or loss of access to food.

He never wanted to feel as helpless as he did at the Dursleys, when he was not allowed to use magic, and when that was the only thing he had that was more powerful than they were. He imagined how he would restrain his magic if he were there. He imagined his dingy room, and imagined magic as if it were sound that he could not let the Dursleys hear. He could do it then. He could do it now.

He held out his hand in a direction away from the contaminated room, wrapped his fingers around an imaginary wand, and closed his eyes. Once again, he could see the line of bright fire extending through his outstretched arm, pooling a little in his hand as if waiting to be released. He followed the bright line of magic back into himself, and found a cluster of it so bright he almost had to turn his attention away.

He returned his attention to his hand, and allowed the brightness there to return, flowing back down his arm, rejoining with the bright blob of light in the middle. As he watched, he breathed deeply, feeling to the edges of it. He breathed again, trying to relax, and let it calm. He didn't need it right now. He needed it calm, like a pool, waiting. He felt it calm, dimming, as if it were turning from sun to moon. When it had reached the soft glow of the moon, he pulled it into himself, so it was completely inside his skin, contained.

He opened his eyes.

Malfoy was staring at him as if he were something he'd never seen before.

"Not bad, Potter. There seems to be hope for you after all."

Harry grinned.

The other Slytherins arrived just then, so further practice was delayed in favour of doing the actual work. Harry was again relegated to keeping the contents of the cauldron from getting contaminated.

The day passed without incident. After they had packed their tools back up and were about to leave, Malfoy called, "Potter!"

Harry turned.

"When you come tomorrow, I'll start teaching you the runes."

Harry didn't understand. Why was Malfoy doing this?

Dinner at the Burrow

May 20, 1998

Harry couldn't believe it had been a week since he had seen Hermione or the Weasleys. He could have Apparated over to the Burrow at any time, but he had stayed at Hogwarts, working, repairing, exploring.

It was good to see Hogwarts slowly returning to its former self, and good to participate in creating that, even if it was less fun now that Ron had been disinvited as a volunteer. Still, it was rewarding. He'd rather go back to his old task, though – he preferred the hands-on work to whatever Malfoy was having him do. Perhaps he should talk with McGonagall about it.

That evening, after Harry had cleaned up from the work with Malfoy's team, he Apparated to the Burrow for dinner. For the summer, he was not a student, he was one of the volunteers, and an adult, and could go where he wanted.

Ron was outside and they had set up a table in the garden. It was a pleasant evening, not too hot, with a clear sky and occasional clouds.


Ron looked up at his greeting.

"Harry, glad you're here! Here, help me with this, would you?" Harry hefted one of the two boxes in Ron's arms, and set it on the bench next to the table. He looked at Ron, who looked back at him with a bit of challenge in his eyes. They both got out their wands and flicked the tablecloth over the table, and then flicked each dish, cup, and fork to its place. Harry grinned. It was good to use magic for something so normal. This time, there was no Filch to catch them.

"Ron Weasley, what are you doing?"

Oops. There was no Filch, but Mrs Weasley was certainly present, and was bearing down on them with a glare on her face that would do Snape proud.

Ron shrugged. "Setting the table?"

"I asked you to set the table, not juggle my dishes."

"Nothing broke." Ron protested. "It's all fine."

"It's good to see you, Harry." Mrs Weasley turned to him as if he had not likewise been using magic to toss her dishes about. "Go on inside, Harry dear. Ron will be in as soon as he's finished. Without magic!" With a final emphasis on her last words, she turned and re-entered the house. Harry shrugged at Ron apologetically, and followed her in.

They were adults! How was it that Mrs Weasley could still make him feel as if he were eight years old?

Hermione was already in the house, sitting at the table, conversing with Mrs Weasley as she finished preparing the last touches of their meal. Even though it was a weekday, Mrs Weasley had made a roast, with some potatoes and vegetables nestled around it. It looked delicious.

He sat next to Hermione, sharing the long wooden bench. "She won't let me help," she whispered to him.

They settled into a conversation about her work and his volunteering. Both were working to rebuild, to reconnect. Harry felt a stronger connection with her than he had in a while. It was more than her staying with him through the Horcrux hunt. Hermione had been there throughout, never failing. Beyond that, however, when it was all over, she still wanted to help. She didn't sit back and say "done." It was part of what he liked about the volunteers at Hogwarts.

He didn't tell her immediately about working with Malfoy.

Malfoy's offer had confused him. Why would the Slytherin want to teach him to draw runes? Why would he want to teach him magical theory, or to see that amazing brightness that was his magic? It made no sense.

Of course, the way Malfoy said it, it was not so much an offer as a command. Where did Malfoy get off trying to order him around? Harry had checked with McGonagall. Malfoy was one of the prisoners who had volunteered to help with the repairs, rather than sit in their cells all day. That alone was out of character. Since when did Malfoy volunteer for anything if there wasn't something in it for him?

That meant there was something in it for him.

It was funny, he had barely thought of Malfoy all last year, and now that he was back at Hogwarts, as soon as he saw the git, he could not get the Slytherin off his mind. What was in it for Malfoy?

After dinner, Harry, Hermione and Ron went to sit in the back garden. They took off their shoes, and curled their toes around the cool blades of grass.

They sat in silence, listening to the breezes and pulling the occasional blade of grass.

"I saw Draco Malfoy today." Harry broke the silence.

Hermione turned to him. "Isn't he imprisoned?"

"McGonagall says yes. He's on this crew, all Slytherin captives, volunteering to fix some magical contamination at Hogwarts, from the final battle. There are guards watching over them."

"Magical contamination? Is it safe for you to stay there?"

"They have the dangerous areas marked off. They wouldn't let me stay there if it was dangerous."

Hermione's face looked doubtful. Harry continued on, wanting to get to his point.

"Filch put me on Malfoy's crew. Malfoy said he wants to teach me how to draw runes tomorrow."

"But you never took runes." Hermione objected.

He explained more about the task they were assigned to, and who was on the crew with Malfoy, and what they were supposedly doing. At Hermione's request, he tried to explain the sigils he'd seen them draw and the idea of residue from dark magic. From Hermione's frustrated expression, he knew she'd be looking it all up.

"Are you sure the evil git isn't just spreading it around? Leaving little traps for the rest of us? It would be just like him."

"Ron, I don't think that's likely." Hermione chipped in. "Besides, wouldn't the Auror have noticed something, if he were doing it wrong? But, Harry, what can they do without their wands? That's what I don't understand."

"Malfoy says it is dangerous to have wands near the dark magic stuff." Harry answered.

"Sure." Ron snorted. "I bet his dad always put his wand away before doing any dark magic." He huffed. "They just don't want you to have a wand when they don't."

"They're doing the rune work 'cause apparently you can't use magic in those areas without something bad happening."

"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed. "That makes sense. Runes are passive magic."

"I don't really know. It was just strange. Malfoy kept going on about teaching me stuff—runes, controlling my magic, magical theory."

"He did what?" Hermione choked.

"He said he wants to teach me Magical theory. Didn't we learn theory at Hogwarts? All those essays we had to write…"

"Well, we learned the theory behind the specific spells we were being taught, or behind the ingredients we used in potions. Those of us who read the additional readings learned it." Hermione gave Ron and Harry a pointed glare. But I don't think that is quite the same thing. There is something mentioned in a lot of the texts I've read… kind of a unified theory of how magic works. If he's talking about that, Harry, do you know how rare that is?"

"I'm not sure I understand."

"A lot of that research was done in the early days, before the Ministry codified the rules defining what Dark Magic was. Because those texts examined the theory of both dark and light magic, they were considered questionable. Nothing from them would have been taught at Hogwarts. Most of those texts are hoarded in private libraries."

"So Malfoy wants to teach me something dark?"

"Well, he's not to be trusted, that is certain. But Harry, that knowledge has been the exclusive purview of pure-bloods!"

The sound of Hermione's frustration and longing made Harry want to laugh, but he knew she'd take it wrong. It was mixed in with caution and judgment. He remembered how much she had objected to using the Half Blood Prince's book, even if it helped him understand the potions better. He knew it was because she was cautious about the source of the knowledge, but suspected it was also because he was learning the results without learning all the reasons for them, which Hermione had emphasized frequently in their studying. Theory again.

"So, you saying you think I should do it?"

"It is not often someone who is not pure-blood gets access to those books. It's a rare opportunity."

"I don't know that Malfoy has access to the books either. All I know is that he offered to teach me – twice now. Besides, wouldn't I have access to books like that at one of the Black properties?"

"I suspect you would. Would you know how to find the information you wanted? I could help." Harry heard the longing in her voice.

"Hermione, until I figure out how the Black Estate understands your status, I'd rather you don't go there. It could be dangerous. The whole toujours pur thing."

Hermione frowned. Harry wasn't sure if it was knowledge she could not access or the pure-blood prejudices that caused the grimace, but he knew she was not happy.

She sighed. "Even if I could get access, you'd learn better from someone who already understood it. I've only glimpsed the edges."

Ron grinned. "There's something Hermione Granger doesn't know?" She swatted him on the back of the head.

"No one talks about theory. I looked for it all over the library. The only references to it were to various texts in some pure-blood's library. They don't talk about it to outsiders. I don't know if it is forbidden, or just not done. If you can get a pure-blood to teach you that..."

"But it would be Malfoy." Harry got up, too agitated to sit, and started to pace in the grass. "How would I know he was not lying to me? How would I know he was not setting me up in revenge for killing their Dark Lord?"

"Harry. Sit."

Harry looked at Hermione in surprise. The intensity of her voice stopped his pacing, and he figured since he had stopped, he might as well sit down. His restless hands started pulling up blades of grass.

"Harry, whenever I was researching magical spells, when we were looking for the Horcruxes, almost every single time, I ran into the same thing. There were assumptions made, no reason given. I just had to take those assumptions at face value. And sometimes, just sometimes, an author, always a pure-blood, would comment in such a way to indicate that the assumptions were based on something.

"Our entire time at Hogwarts, we learned what spells did. In potions, if you read the background reading and the extra assignments," Ron flushed at that pointed comment, and Harry found his own face grow warm as well, "if you read the material assigned, you would have learned how the various ingredients react with each other, based on magical and physical categories, but that is as close as we got. In ancient runes, again we learned categories of runes, and properties of each category, which runes will cleanse, which will empower, and what kind of spells the runes will interact with and how. What we didn't learn was why the runes were divided into those specific categories, instead of others.

"When I was taking Muggle studies, it was clear that wizards see the world differently than we do."

Harry snorted in agreement.

Ron looked between them. "What do you mean, Hermione?"

"That's exactly the point! I don't know what I mean! I can sense it, Harry and I both can sense it," Hermione included him, and he nodded, "but I don't know what the root of the difference is! I know there are lots of little things, and many of them vary from wizard to wizard, like the way your father is so fascinated by everyday Muggle stuff like plugs and radios, but you aren't. There is the way Wizards just can't seem to get the hang of Muggle fashion. I don't understand how they can see Muggles dressed as they are, and then come up with such outlandish costumes when trying to look 'Muggle'."

"Have you seen the way Muggles dress? There are so many variations! How are we supposed to figure out what goes with what?" Ron protested.

Hermione thought for a moment. "I suppose you could just match a given outfit. Or use catalogues. The people in catalogues are dressed in complete outfits, usually." She hoped no witch or wizard decided to use a lingerie catalogue as their guide. "But that's beside the point. I see so many things that witches and wizards take for granted, and there is a sense of a fundamental difference that is at the root of it all—and I can't put my finger on it."

"Ummm, Hermione. It's called magic."

"Argh!" Hermione shouted. "I know that. But while magic powers the wizarding world, that isn't what I'm talking about. That's like saying that electricity makes Muggles think like they do. It's like saying that the electrical power generator controls Muggle culture."

"No, wait. Hermione," Harry interrupted. Electricity can do a lot, but it isn't part of us like magic is." He thought of the call of the Black family. In some ways he felt like the Black family magic was compiling a to-do list for him... he could feel the demand growing in his mind. He needed to talk to Mrs Tonks again soon. He wanted to make sure that he would be the one in charge of his own direction.

He wondered if Malfoy's magical theory instruction would help him understand what was going on in his head, or in his magic, since he allowed himself to become Head of the Black Family. That was, of course, assuming he could even trust what Malfoy taught him.

"That's part of it. I don't know. But as long as whatever it is remains a mystery to us, we will remain outsiders to this world."

Harry nodded slowly. He had stumbled into cultural assumptions, and assumptions about the place of magic in their lives. He had slowly become used to cleaning charms, and charms to protect him from the rain. In some ways he was glad that he never really integrated with Muggle culture, and that Hogwarts took students at the age of eleven. He could not imagine entering into the Wizarding World at his current age, if he had never known magic. He could do magic, but he didn't automatically use it for everyday things. He was used to using a comb for his hair, and never really thought of warming charms when he was cold. Even after seven years, it wasn't automatic, perhaps because there had been so many places they weren't allowed to use their magic. Of course, he never learned the cooking charms Mrs Weasley used. Hogwarts didn't teach those, as far as he knew. Perhaps there were certain charms you learnt from your family?

"But what does that have to do with magical theory?" Harry asked, getting back to the point. Ron looked as if he had wanted to ask the same question.

"The Wizarding World is based on magic. It is based on how magic works, what magic is, and yet, here we are, at the age when students typically have completed their Hogwarts education, and I still have no underlying understanding about how magic works. Do you?"

Harry slowly shook his head.

"When I was at the funerals," Hermione did not specify which ones, "they were beautiful, and moving, but there was so much that I did not understand. It did not seem like a good time to get into a conversation about comparative sociology-"

Harry snorted at the thought. He could have seen eleven year old Hermione doing just that. Over the years, she had acquired a sense that not everyone was willing to jump into an academic discussion at any time and place.

"-but the funerals emphasised that there were cultural differences, and that these cultural differences were based on lifetimes of interacting with magic. It is the first time I have gotten a sense of religion in the Wizarding World. I never saw sign of it at Hogwarts."

Ron started. "Why would it be at Hogwarts? Do Muggles celebrate their beliefs in front of outsiders?"

"See? That's what I mean. Harry, did you even know there were religious practices before the funerals?"

"I'm not sure I even thought of the funerals as religious occasions. The Dursleys did not give me anything to compare it to. Sure, the funeral for Colin was at a church, but that was a Muggle thing. But the funeral for Remus and Tonks... that was–" he struggled to say what he meant. Hermione thought of it as religious, but religion was about belief, not something that was real. Harry had felt Remus and Tonks joining that entity in the back of his mind, felt their personalities and their magic join with the family.

"So you never thought in that context. My parents went to church most Sundays. It was odd at Hogwarts not to go each week. It never occurred to me that they might practice religion in private."

"Not so much in private. And it's not so much religion. It is a family thing." Ron interjected.

"But Hermione, what does this have to do with whether I should let Malfoy teach me magical theory? What does that have to do with culture, or religion, or …" He trailed off. There was a glimpse of something.

"How did Voldemort come to power?" Hermione's abrupt change in subject threw him.

Harry stopped. "He got a bunch of bigoted pure-bloods into a murderous frenzy," he muttered.

"Yes, but how? What did he offer them?"

Ron took this one. "Ummm, the chance to kill people?"

"Ron, have you ever wanted to kill anyone?"

"Yeah. Snape. After he killed Dumbledore."

"He took away something, someone, you valued."

"Yeah, and I hated the evil git."

"Ron…" Harry started.

"I know. I know. You say he was good inside. But I can't just change what I think about him after six years of him tormenting us. That is not the sign of a good guy."

"Let's not get sidetracked." Hermione interrupted. "Harry, have you ever wanted to kill anyone? Besides Voldemort?"

"I never even wanted to kill him. I just wanted him gone. I wanted to kill Bellatrix, though."


They both looked at her.

"Do you think most people just decide one day that they want to kill someone?"

"But they were Slytherins, Hermione. Who knows how they think?" Ron protested.

"Exactly. Who knows? Everybody that joined Voldemort either wanted something or was afraid of something. When I was sorting papers at the Ministry, I came across an entire file of court records that were misfiled—from the first war. Death Eaters giving testimony. The rhetoric they spouted was fairly consistent. They were in it because they saw the Wizarding World as being in danger.

"Mental, the lot of them." Ron flopped down on the sofa with a huff.

"Well, if they weren't when they joined, Voldemort certainly made them so."

Ron looked at her as if she had flipped.

"Harry, you remember what Tom Riddle looked like when he was at Hogwarts?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Was he unattractive?"

Harry paused. "No."

"He was a powerful, not bad looking wizard, right?"

"Hermione, you're creeping me out." Ron said.

"What's your point, Hermione?"

"I have heard from some of the firsthand accounts that the early Voldemort was a charismatic wizard, who offered the pure-bloods something they wanted."

"What, a chance to go out and murder Muggles?"

"They never quite gave the details in the journals and reports I read. It was just assumed that the reader would know. But they were intent on 'protecting our way of life'. The Wizarding way of life. So, what is it that they were protecting?"

"I don't know!"

"Ron? Do you?"

"It's bollocks! There was nothing for them to protect, and no one for them to protect it from. I've grown up my entire life in the Wizarding World, and I haven't a clue what you're on about."

"Just bear with me. Harry, leaving aside the possibility of them all being power-hungry, sadistic psychopaths, they had to have thought they had a reason to join Voldemort. They thought they had something to protect. Something that you and I have never experienced. Something that even Ron, who has been part of the Wizarding World, has never experienced. But all these old books hint at something, something that seems to be assumed that you either know, or don't deserve to know.

"What if Voldemort had never gotten the followers he did? What if all those Wizards never felt that their world was turning its back on them? What if they never felt threatened?"

"What does all that have to do with Malfoy?"

"If I'm right—"

Ron snickered at that.

"If I'm right, wizarding culture is based on how magic works. If you understand that, there is a chance you can understand wizarding culture. And if we can understand that, then maybe we could recognize and prevent the rise of the next Dark Lord."

Harry stared at her.

Ron shook his head. "That makes no sense Hermione."

Hermione turned to Harry.

Behind her, Harry saw Mrs Weasley beckoning them in to dinner. He got to his feet, brushing the grass off his jeans. Hermione stayed where she was, following Harry with a challenging stare.

"I'm not sure. I'll think on it. I will!"

Notes: Thanks to rosskpr for beta reading this chapter and giving good suggestions. She has been very patient with me.

Comments, questions and constructive criticism are always welcome. I find they inspire me to write further, knowing someone else cares about the story.

For those who are wondering... here are the Slytherin Rules I have mentioned so far, and one I have not:

1 Family before all.

2 Do what is necessary.

3 If there is no winning path, make one.

8 There is always advantage.

16 Support each other. Unless there is a good reason not to.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling. I just play here.