When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor E. Frankl
10 May 1998
Draco Malfoy watched his foot tapping on the black tiled ground, his mother and father sitting on either side of him. He tried not to think about his magically bound wrists or the charmed wall that could be seen through on one side.
Merlin, what was taking so long? After being rushed into the Ministry and thrown into an interrogation room, Draco had expected an Auror to come in as soon as they were seated, but instead, they had been left alone.
“They can’t keep us waiting here forever,” Father muttered, but, Draco thought, what authority did he have to complain anymore?
The room was bare. No clock or window to mark the passing of time. All they had were the table and the chairs and a pitcher of water none of them could pour into cups. Draco felt that he would go mad if they made them wait any longer. Perhaps that was the point.
The door creaked open. Draco wanted to say that it was about time, but his voice died in his throat as he recognized the tall black man that walked into the room.
“Minister!” Father exclaimed in surprise. He regained composure and set his mouth back into a straight line. He continued in a smooth voice, “Have we really been accused of some action so dark that the Minister of Magic himself must address it?”
“It is not what you have done that brings me here,” Minister Shacklebolt said, taking the chair across the table and setting down a slim pile of parchment. “It is who spoke on your behalf that interests me most.”
“And who would speak in our favor?” Father growled.
“We will get to that soon enough,” Shacklebolt said, straightening the papers and glancing down at the first page. “There are a few formalities that we must follow. Now, the charges against the accused—“
“Is this our trial?” Father scoffed. “In an interrogation room? With you as our only judge? By law, we have a right to trial by the Wizengamot.” He pounded both of his fists on the table, shaking the rickety thing.
Shacklebolt raised his hand towards Father. “If you would let me explain.” Father glared at the Minister but sat back in his seat to let Shacklebolt go on. “Because of the number of Death Eaters currently in custody, it would take far too long for each and every one to stand before the entire Wizengamot, and frankly, we haven’t enough space for all of them here with Azkaban being… refurbished. We’ve dealt with the most severe cases first—”
“Severe cases?” Father said. “And we didn’t count amongst those?” Draco could tell his father was trying not to sound hopeful, but the prospect of not going to Azkaban was too great to hide.
“Obviously not,” Shacklebolt said. “Though we have kept an eye on your Manor this past week in case you tried to flee.”
“And we didn’t,” Father said. Of course, the family had noticed the Aurors walking around their property—they hadn’t really been subtle about the watch—but Draco suspected that his father was pleading for their lives, making it sound like the Malfoys had waited patiently for the Aurors to come rather than cowered inside the Manor.
“Considering none of you are in possession of wands at the moment, I think it would have been miraculous if you fled,” Shacklebolt said. Father refused to look dispirited, but Draco could see it in his eyes.
“The Wizengamot,” the minister continued, “is also much smaller than it used to be. We had to dismiss many corrupt members.” His dark eyes glared at Father. “Only high profile cases go before the entire Wizengamot, but for charges such as these, seven members will observe.”
“Only seven?” Father scoffed.
“Nearly half of the entire Wizengamot, yes,” Shacklebolt said pointedly.
Draco couldn’t stop his eyes from bulging in surprise at the information. Nearly half? That meant there were only about twenty members, at most. What had happened to the other thirty-some?
“Very well then,” Father said. “Carry on.”
Shacklebolt glared at Father, not liking him trying to shift the power dynamic, but picked up the parchment in front of him and said in a deep, clear voice, “Draco Malfoy.”
Draco’s heart sank to his feet. Mother’s hands shot out of her lap and gripped the sleeve of Draco’s shirt. “Must the boy be first?” Father asked, trying to assert his authority, but his tone held a hint of pleading.
“I believe it best,” Kingsly said. “Now, Draco Malfoy, you have been accused of being a Death Eater. We can clear up this charge quickly if you will roll up the sleeve of your left arm, but know that you are free to refuse.”
“The Dark Lord is dead,” Father cut in. “The Dark Marks disappeared with him.”
Shacklebolt shot him a withering look. “We’ve seen enough Death Eaters this week to know that,” he said. “But we’ve also found that the mark leaves behind a distinctive scar. Now, Draco, if you please.”
Draco set his hands on the table and mumbled, “I can’t. They’re still bound.”
“Of course,” Shacklebolt said, waving his wand over Draco’s wrists. The constricting feeling disappeared, leaving Draco’s hands tingling but free.
He couldn’t relish in the freedom for long. He looked up and saw Shacklebolt staring down at him with a gaze that was not to be kept waiting. Draco laid his left arm across the table, palm up, and rolled the sleeve with his right hand. A thin bandage was wrapped around his forearm and, as he unraveled it, he had the fleeting hope that the scar would be gone.
But the bandage fell away and it was still there.
Along the skin where the Dark Mark had once been, there was a bright pink scar. Even though he didn’t look at it, Draco knew the lightning bolt could be seen clearly against his pale skin
When Shacklebolt nodded, Draco rushed to cover it back up with his bandage.
“I think that’s all the evidence we need,” Shacklebolt said, clearing his throat. “Next is a charge for smuggling convicted Death Eaters into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 1997. Do you confess to having done this?”
Before he could answer, his father cut in again. “Is anyone writing this down? Where is the scribe? If I find reason to have this case reviewed and there is no scribe—"
“The scribe is with the Wizengamot members,” Shacklebolt said impatiently. “Draco, yes or no, did you help convicted Death Eaters into Hogwarts?”
“Draco,” his father hissed. “Never admit to anything.”
He ignored his father and continued looking at Shacklebolt, preparing himself for the next accusation.
“Did you attempt to murder Albus Dumbledore, late Headmaster of Hogwarts, three times, unsuccessfully, leading to the use of the Imperius Curse on Christina Rosmerta, the cursing of Katherine Bell, and the poisoning of Ronald Weasley?” Shacklebolt asked.
“Do not answer,” Father muttered under his breathe. Draco would have given him a scathing look since no matter how low he whispered, Shacklebolt would hear, but it was Father. He couldn’t.
“Yes,” he answered.
“And,” Shacklebolt continued, “did you use the Cruciatus Curse on convicted Death Eater Thorfinn Rowle.”
“Yes,” Draco said before his father could speak.
“Draco, what are you doing?” Father growled. “You might as well be signing your lifelong sentence to Azkaban yourself.”
“He wouldn’t ask if didn’t already know the answer,” Draco muttered back without looking at his father. Shacklebolt shrugged at the comment, not saying anything more about it, but Draco’s defiant words were enough to silence Father.
“Just one last question,” Shacklebolt said. “What do you know about the death of Vincent Crabbe?”
“Crabbe?” Draco asked in surprise, not expecting his death to be blamed on him as well. “What do you need know about him?”
“You were friends at school, yes?” Shacklebolt asked, and Draco nodded, though ‘friend’ wouldn’t have been the word he would use. Crabbe and Goyle had been helpful to him, yes, but never quite ‘friends.’ Now that he thought of it, Draco wasn’t sure he had any friends.
“His father is a Death Eater,” Shacklebolt stated. “And witnesses at the Battle of Hogwarts say you and your family were… not as committed to fighting with the Death Eaters as you once were. Is that a true statement?”
Draco thought back on the chaos of the final battle, of trying to stay in the other Death Eater’s good graces but being shoved out of the way and left behind. “Yes, you could say that,” he said.
“He died in a Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement. Who cast the spell that started the fire?” Shacklebolt asked.
Draco would have thought Potter or Weasley would have cleared this up by now, being Aurors and all, with a front page in the Daily Prophet to prove it. They knew, didn’t they? Perhaps, for once, someone wasn’t taking Potter on his word and wanted Draco to confirm it.
And to lie? To make Potter seem the fool, for once in his blasted life?
“Crabbe did it,” Draco said after a long, silent minute. As much as he would love to counter Potter’s word, he saw where lying and manipulating got you. He’d watched where it took Father.
Shacklebolt nodded, returning his gaze to the parchment. “It seems that’s everything, but before I ask the Wizengamot to make a decision on whether the charges should stand as you’ve confessed to them, I have a written statement from an influential someone who has chosen to speak for you.” He extracted a piece of parchment from the bottom of the pile, folded and sealed with wax. With a flick of his wand, the seal broke and the parchment straightened, floating above the table on its own.
Then a familiar voice echoed through the room, a voice that caused Draco’s lip to curl in an automatic response but also caused his chest to tighten and his stomach to grow nauseous.
“I, Harry Potter, propose that all charges against Malfoy be… oh, right… against Draco Malfoy be dropped.” It was odd hearing the forced formality in Potter’s voice but satisfying to hear him stumble on it. “He was only involved with the Death Eaters because of his dad and… oh, uh, his dad, Lucius Malfoy. He also had been threatened directly by Voldemort, er, otherwise known as Tom Riddle. I believe he did what he had to do to survive, nothing more, and does not deserve to be sent to Azkaban.”
Draco didn’t think he could sink any farther in his seat, but thankfully that was the end of it. The paper folded itself back on the table, the wax re-sealing as if it had never been broken.
The silence laid over them in a tense fog. Draco glanced at his father, saw his jaw quivering, and looked toward his mother. Her thin lips were no longer shaking and she seemed calm, like the proud mother who had raised Draco.
“What now?” Draco asked, breaking through the quiet.
“Would you like anyone else to speak for you?” Shacklebolt asked.
“No,” Draco said with a shake of his head, though not because he didn’t want someone else to but because no one else would.
“Then the Wizengamot will vote on their decisions,” Shacklebolt said. “All in favor of dropping all charges against Draco Malfoy?” He addressed the question to the parchment in his hands, not giving away which wall the Wizengamot members stood behind.
Draco waited for Shacklebolt to say or do something more, but the Minster also seemed to be waiting for something. He understood that whatever they were waiting for would determine Draco’s fate, and he was torn between wanting the Wizengamot to hurry up with their decision and to take all the time in the world.
When he felt he couldn’t take the tension any long, someone knocked on the door. Shacklebolt stood and opened it. Draco couldn’t see who it was, but he watched a hand give Shacklebolt a piece of parchment, one that seemed to bear all seven of their signatures. Shacklebolt thanked the person, closed the door, and returned to his seat.
“Draco Malfoy,” Shacklebolt said as he read the words on the parchment, “all changes against you have been dropped.”
Draco sat up, his hands, though no longer bound, glued to the table as he restrained himself from grabbing the parchment to read it for himself. He was no longer a criminal. He wouldn’t go to Azkaban. He was a free man.
Without a pause, Shacklebolt placed the parchment to the side and turned his attention to Mother. “Narcissa Malfoy, the charges against you are as followes—“
“Wait,” Draco interrupted. “That’s it?”
“Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” Shacklebolt said tersely. “That is all. You are free to go, if you wish.”
“But what am I supposed to do now?” Draco didn’t know why he was asking the Minister of Magic this question, but all of his ambitions had been tied in with Voldemort and being a Death Eater. Now that was gone.
“I suggest taking your N.E.W.T. exams. I believe they have been rescheduled for August. That gives you over three months to revise on your school subjects. After that, take whatever opportunity comes your way,” Kingsly said with a stern glare. Draco nodded, his mind looking into the future but still having trouble visualizing this new world without the Dark Mark, without the Dark Lord, without fear, but also without power.
“Now, Mrs. Malfoy,” Shacklebolt said as if Draco hadn’t interrupted at all, “did you shelter convicted Death Eaters in your home known as Malfoy Manor when Charity Burbage was murdered and Hermione Granger was tortured?”
Mother swallowed loudly before opening her mouth, seeming to fight against everything she had once believed in to cooperate with the Minister. “Yes, I did.” Father didn’t say anything, but he sighed as if the sound could make his wife stop talking. She ignored him.
Shacklebolt nodded and ruffled through his papers to find one that looked identical to the folded parchment that had spoken in Potter's voice. “Someone has spoken for you as well, Mrs. Malfoy,” Shacklebolt said. He tapped the parchment with his wand so it opened as neatly as the last, and Draco held in a groan when the voice was again Potter’s.
“During the Battle of Hogwarts on May 2nd 1998, I, Harry Potter, had been cursed by Tom Riddle with a spell meant to kill me.” Potter sounded much more confident speaking up for Mother than for Draco, and he tried not to let that bother him. “When Tom Riddle asked Narcissa Malfoy to check if I was dead, she lied and told him that I was. I propose all charges against her be lifted. If she had not covered for me, I would not be alive.”
“And Lord Voldemort would be,” Shacklebolt added. If that last part was so important, why hadn’t Potter said it himself, Draco wondered. Oh, that’s right, he’d forgotten how Potter posed as a humble, selfless Gryffindor. Merlin forbid he take credit for the one thing he was good for. No, he had to make it sound like his little friends would have finished the job if he died along the way. Git.
He heard a sniffling next to him, and Draco glanced as inconspicuously as possible to see a few tears falling down his mother’s face. She refused to wipe them away and ignored them as they dripped off her chin.
Draco didn't know what to do. He hadn’t seen his mother cry since she sent him off to Hogwarts his first year. What was the proper thing to do when one’s mother was in tears? Make whatever was upsetting her go away?
“Can we move on?” he said, but Mother took one of his hands in both of her bound ones.
With a deep breath, she looked back at Shacklebolt and said in a clear voice that hid her crying well, “Why did the Potter boy speak for us? Did he tell you? We’ve a right to know his motives.”
“Motives?” Shacklebolt said with an incredulous look. “I think Harry Potter simply didn’t think you two deserve to be imprisoned for the rest of your lives.”
“Two?” Father asked, the smallest hint of fear in his question. “Do you not mean three?”
“I meant two,” Shacklebolt said. “Harry only spoke for your wife and son, not for you.” Father’s gaze dropped, the first time since they had been thrown into the interrogation room. “But,” Shacklebolt continued, “he did suggest that, out of all the Death Eaters, you might be the one most willing to talk.”
“Talk? And what makes you think I know anything?” Father said, trying to regain control. “I wasn’t exactly the Dark Lord’s favorite by the end of the war.”
“I suggest you hope you know more than your think,” Shacklebolt warned, “or you could be spending your next two lifetimes in Azkaban.”
That was enough to wipe the smug grin off Father’s face.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like the Wizengamot to make their decision. All in favor of dropping the charges against Narcissa Malfoy?”
Again they waited for a member of the Wizengamot to come to the door, parchment in hand. Shacklebolt summoned it this time, his patience obviously spent after spending so much time with Father. He glanced down at the ink writing and said, “Mrs. Malfoy, all charges against you have been dropped.”
Mother did not show any sign of surprise or gratitude this time. Instead she nodded as if that were the answer she had been expecting. Shacklebolt vanished the magical bounds around her wrists, and she stretched out her long fingers. “May my son and I leave now?” she asked.
“Leave?” Father shouted. “Do you really dare leave me behind? After all I did to protect our family?”
“And you did a marvelous job protecting us,” Mother said, not looking at her raging husband. “Going to Azkaban, being the reason the Dark Lord wanted our son dead, giving him free reign in our home—"
“Would you have liked me to have said no?” Father scoffed. “We all would have been dead within the hour if I had denied the Dark Lord. Our family survived, didn’t we?”
“Not all of us,” Mother said under her breath. Draco barely heard the words, and he wondered if he had been meant to hear them. He doubted Father or Shacklebolt had heard them at all. He thought about what she said, though, trying to figure out who she meant.
She couldn’t possibly mean Andromeda’s husband or daughter, could she? As far as Draco knew, she’d never even met them.
Did she mean Bellatrix… her sister? Since he was little, he’d been unable to connect Bellatrix Lestrange as belonging to his family, being his mother’s sister, being the ‘Auntie Bella’ that his mother referenced in stories of the past.
Draco could not contemplate long because his mother spoke again. “Minister Shacklebolt? Are my son and I free to leave?”
Shacklebolt nodded, his gaze still settled on Father, seeming to be waiting for the opportunity to petrify him. “Of course,” he said.
Mother rose from her chair, and Draco hastened to do the same, not wanting to be left behind with Father and Shacklebolt. He wasn’t sure which one scared him more. “We’’ll be waiting for you at home,” Mother said as she walked passed Father to the door. “Whenever you arrive,” she added as she strolled out.
Draco chanced a glance at Father, who glowered at him, a challenge in his eyes. How long would Shacklebolt keep his father under questioning? How much information would satisfy this new Minister? What wrath would he face when Father did eventually come back home?
He closed the door after himself, taking long strides to catch up to his mother.
They walked through a cramped dark corridor, not seeing any sign of the Wizengamot members, but there were a number of doors that they could’ve been behind. Mother glided across the floor as if she had been there a thousand times.
Draco began feeling that it really was over. Not just the war, but the fear and anxiety that came with it. For once in his life, he felt that he had nothing to prove.
That feeling lasted all of two seconds.
As Draco and his mother walked up five small steps and entered a better lit and wider corridor, Draco made the mistake of looking to his right. The wall along that side had one long window across it, just at eye level and only wide enough for him to see the far side of the room. But even that was too much.
Huddled around one desk, pouring over important looking notes, were the three newest Assistant Aurors.
Harry Potter looked up as if sensing his presence, a feeling Draco had had before. Potter always seemed to know when he was around and enjoyed poking his nose into his private business. But there was no suspicion or contempt in those green eyes now. Instead, he was reminded of a time seven years ago, when little naive eleven-year old Draco met not-yet-so-famous, not-yet-an-egocentric-arse Potter. Back then, Draco had thought he would graduate with money pouring from his pockets and take after his father, swaying the Minister to his will, and perhaps playing a bit of Quidditch on the side, letting the League teams fight over who would have the best Seeker in the country. Potter stole that future and took it as his own, except he turned down every team that approached him and worked alongside the new Minister and kept secret exactly how much money he had hidden in his Gringotts vault.
And here was Draco Malfoy, with absolutely no clue how to navigate this new world, same as eleven-year-old Harry Potter on his first day at Hogwarts. Draco had offered his hand to Potter then, and now, Potter raised a hand to him, a cordial wave across a room and behind a window, but a gesture of acknowledgement all the same.
It felt like a fresh start and repeating history at the same time.
Draco continued walking, ignoring Potter and his sidekicks, Weasley and Longbottom. What did Potter expect him to do? Grovel at his feet, thanking him for setting his mother and himself free? No, Potter wouldn’t expect that. He would expect Draco to ignore him, and if he weren’t so exhausted from the interrogation, he might’ve thought of something unexpected to do just to prove Potter wrong for once in his damned life.
Instead, he followed his mother out of the Auror department and into the lift.
The pair stood in the back, not looking at any of the Ministry workers crowded inside the space. Some of them stared, some looked away, but no one was unpleasant. If only the same could be said about entering the Atrium.
Draco felt every pair of eyes watching his mother and him march through the crowd and heard whisper after whisper.
”Are those the Malfoys?”
“Heard the Minister ‘imself brought ‘em in this mornin.’”
“He’s a Death Eater, you know.”
“It won’t be long till we see both of them in Azkaban.”
Draco whipped his head around to face the direction the last voice came from. “You have no idea what you’re talking about!” he yelled, not even sure if he was shouting at the right wizard.
Everyone in the Atrium stopped to stare at Draco, some with wide frightened eyes while others sniggered. He wanted to curse all of them, but he still didn’t have a wand. Why did he still not have a damn wand?
A hand gripped his arm and pulled him towards the Floo fireplaces. Draco surfaced from the fog of his rage long enough to see his mother lead him to the nearest fireplace and tug him inside the green flames. He muttered his home under his breath and shot up through the network. He stumbled out of the black marble fireplace at home, colliding with the dining room table. He righted himself, and the chair he tripped over, just as Mother stepped out of the green flames.
For a moment, she said nothing, just looked down her sharp nose at him, a mixture of discipline and pity in her eyes. Draco hated both.
“Draco, we no longer have the luxury of respect,” she said in a quiet voice. “We must be very careful if we are ever going to be a respected name again.”
“It’s not fair,” Draco said, aware of the child-like whine to his voice that only fed his frustration. “We still have money, we’re still Purebloods, we shouldn’t have to pretend to go along with the Muggle-hugging.”
“The Wizarding World is changing,” Mother said. “We must change with it.” She touched her hand to his cheek, but Draco turned away. He stormed through room after room and out the back door. There was only one object that he felt as close to as his wand.
He flung open the doors of the garden shed, though it was less of a shed and more of a mausoleum, smooth and white and towering. Draco walked straight to the back wall where a dozen broom-sticks were lined up. He grabbed his old Nimbus 2001, the broom that had got him on the Quidditch team. Even though he’d only ridden it that year and bought a Nimbus 1500 the next year, he still felt more connected to this model than any other broom he owned.
Rushing out, he straddled the broom and kicked off, soaring into the bright afternoon sky.
The estate was large enough to keep Draco occupied for nearly an hour, but he found no matter how fast he flew or how many maneuvers he concentrated on, his mind kept returning to dread. How would he survive in a world that no longer wanted his money, no longer respected his name, no longer cared about his pure heritage?
He landed hard on the ground, not slowing his momentum until he slammed into the grass, banging his knees as they buckled. The end of his broomstick stuck in the ground and sent him catapulting into a berry bush. Something cracked.
Draco righted himself but stayed inside the bush, too frightened to come out and face what he had done. He squeezed his eyes closed so he couldn’t even see between the leaves.
Cursing himself for being such a child, he finally burst out of the twigs and snatched the two halves of the broom from the ground.
There were places he could take the broomstick to be fixed, but who the hell would help a Malfoy, no matter what price he offered to pay? Merlin, would he ever get used to people turning him away at his surname instead of tumbling over themselves to help him?
Covered in dirt, Draco marched into the house and up to his room, not thinking of the whereabouts of either of his parents. He slammed the door to his room and shoved the broken broom underneath his bed. He never wanted to see it again.
Alone in his confined space that once seemed so large, he looked around for something more to do, some other task to occupy his mind, something to set his ambition on, but there was nothing.
A tapping at the window sent relief through him, and Draco sprinted to open it and let in a little brown owl. The minuscule thing landed with a thud on the floor, unable to move any more with the package attached to its tiny foot. The creature was a sad excuse for an owl, though Draco felt a flicker of recognition that he couldn’t place.
He untied the package from the struggling bird, and it flew up to the ceiling as soon as it was free. Draco ignored the flighty thing as it zoomed out the window and searched the package for a note. He found one on its underside, but all it said was his name.
It was a suspicious circumstance to say the least, but what else did Draco have to lose?
The cheap packaging ripped off easily and drifted to the ground as he flung it away. The box was cardboard and painted black, nothing like the wood and velvet containers he was used to seeing. He ignored the cheapness and popped off the lid.
He stared in shock at what was inside the box. It couldn’t be real, couldn’t be what he thought it was.
His hand shook as Draco reached into the box and picked up his wand, gazing at the cream-colored wood and inspecting it for any nicks. After being in Potter’s possession, he expected it to be irreparably damaged, but the wand was just has he remembered it. It felt warm in his hand, but he feared it would never be the same, would never again be loyal to him. Then he spied another note tucked in the corner of the box. He unfolded the parchment and read the words that were better than any he had read or heard in days.
With my death, the wand is again loyal to its original owner. Apparently, wands don’t care if you come back to life. H.P.
Chapter Endnotes: Only one chapter left to go! I love hearing everyone's thoughts, so leave a review if you can :)