Summary: The war has been over for quite some time now, but Harry Potter has only now managed to make it back to England. Too much grief and too much pain kept him away. Yet, now that Hogwarts is reopening, Harry finally comes home. Of course, nothing is what it seems at Hogwarts leaving Harry to face a few hard truths – not to mention the surprises the Death Eaters left behind during the occupation.
Warnings: slash, mentions of character deaths, torture
Sequel: No, but there is a sort of prequel about Neville and his entanglement with Severus Snape, written by Julad. One of the best N/S I have ever read, one of the best stories tout court. (see rec: Night-blooming Heartsease)
Rec Expl.: I reread this story every so often. I must have read it over a dozen times and it never fails to wreak havoc with my psyche. You’ll cry and laugh, smile and chuckle. You’ll feel sorry and hate. You go through the proverbial wringer and you’ll be glad that you did.
At midnight Malfoy, with more swirling of robes than could strictly be explained by physics, swept off up the wide staircase to his rooms. For a moment or two after he left, the common room was silent, and then Ron turned to Hermione and said, "If you were that hard up for friends, you could've owled me. I'd have dropped by for a visit." Harry snickered.
"Ron," she said.
"Fine, then, explain it to me, Hermione," Ron said irritably. "How'd you go from --" he stumbled slightly over the word -- "from 'Mudblood' to 'Mione' in such a short time?"
"It wasn't that short a time," she said. "We've been working together since not long after we left Hogwarts, when Draco contacted Professor Dumbledore from the Death Eater camp and offered his services as a spy. I had just worked out how to set up a Transauditum link, and since it doesn't require the person on the other end to do any magic, it was perfect for staying in touch with him without putting him at too much risk."
"Because heaven forbid Malfoy put himself at any risk," Harry said.
Hermione gave him a look of pure disgust, but didn't respond. "He fed us information for about a year -- he's the one who overheard the discussion about the Fratrium spell, Harry, the bit that got me started doing research on how to lock your wand up with Voldemort's."
Harry had known his duel with Voldemort was a group victory -- research from Hermione, the potion from Snape to keep him going despite his body's exhaustion, Ron and Sirius and Dumbledore all but holding him up at the end while everyone else held off the Dementors and the Death Eaters -- but it irked him that Malfoy had had a part in it. "I thought you came up with that on your own."
She shook her head. "Anyway, eventually he was discovered, and it wasn't safe for him to stay with them any more. This would have been shortly before your duel, Harry. So Minerva got him out of the camp somehow, and I got him at the other end and sent him right into the Wizard Protection Program."
Ron laughed out loud. "You didn't!" he said. "No wonder he's stopped all that 'Mudblood' nonsense!"
Hermione smiled. "Yes. Now he says we're --" she mimicked Malfoy's lazy drawl -- " 'no worse, on the whole, than most wizards. Though that's not saying much.' "
"What is the Wizard Protection Program?" Harry asked.
"You've never heard of it?" Ron said. "No, I suppose you haven't -- it isn't as though you grew up listening to 'Aloysius Grimble, the Scrying Eye.' Always reckoned it was just stories, though."
"No, it's real," Hermione said, "though it's a lot more difficult than it sounds in the wizard detective stories."
"What exactly is it?" Harry said again.
"Well, we made him into a Muggle temporarily."
Harry nearly spilled his tea. "You what?"
"It was the only way to protect him," she said earnestly. "Of course you knew that magic draws power, right, Harry? And the Dark Mark draws its power from the person who wears it, everyone knows that. So as long as Draco had magic, Voldemort could trace him magically everywhere he went. But if we used an Emagium curse to separate him from his magic, it was nothing but an ugly tattoo. He could hide out for as long as he needed to, until the Dementors were gone and we were fairly sure that the Death Eaters who were still around weren't a threat to him."
"But what did he do?" Harry tried to imagine Malfoy working in one of Uncle Vernon's drill factories or trimming Aunt Petunia's hedges.
Hermione grinned. "He was the worst office assistant my parents ever had." She shook her head. "You'd think any intelligent person could put paper in a file, wouldn't you? Just last week Father found Anson Durham filed under L, and when he posted to Draco to ask him why, Draco said, 'Isn't that where you put the loud ones?' "
"Are they all right?" Harry said. "Was he just awful to them?"
She frowned at him. "Surely after all this you're not still thinking he's evil, are you, Harry?"
"Maybe not, but he's still obnoxious." Harry liked the Grangers very much. "Hate to think of him ordering them about and calling them 'Mudblood.' "
"He calls Mother Prudence, actually," Hermione said, smiling. "Some joke between the two of them. They've never explained it to me."
"What does he call your father?"
"Papa," she said.
"Reckon that's what happens when you travel," Ron said later as he spread out a blanket on Harry's couch. "You lose track of your friends, and then they get involved with weirdos." Harry snickered and handed him a pillow. "Guess if I have to, I can be civil, even to Malfoy. But if he hurts her, I'm going to rip out his spinal column and strangle him with it."
Harry sat down beside him. "Er, I don't think you have to worry about that."
"I dunno. He may not be a traitor any more, but he's still a smug, selfish, good-for-nothing ferret."
"Of course he is," Harry said, "but he's -- I mean, they're just friends. I mean, he's a. He's not interested in girls." He was irritated to realize he was blushing.
"Oh. Oh. One of those Malfoys." Ron didn't look as surprised as Harry expected. "Should've guessed, only he made such a production of always having a girlfriend at school. Well, all right, then, I'll rip out his spine if he hurts you."