1. The Reasons Why
Arthur Weasley had a headache. Mostly to do with his boss.
“Arthur, he has to see... We’re stretched thin as it is,” Viola Gilweather said, gesticulating in the air before her. Arthur wanted to tell her to stop the gestures - they were getting on his nerves. “We’ve got thirty Aurors doing the work of nearly twice that. And that’s including Mad-Eye - who should have retired decades ago - and the students he’s tutored.”
“I know the situation, Viola,” he said calmly, wishing he had Molly here to rub his temples. “It’s my job to know the situation.”
“It’s also your job to keep Fudge off our backs,” Viola retorted, without any particular venom, but still with considerable passion. “There were Dark wizards out there before V...Vol... before You-Know-Who.”
Viola flinched, and Arthur felt petty. He had learned not to shudder back from speaking the name of evil - even an evil that had touched his family more times than he cared to remember, but many witches and wizards still struggled with the taboo.
“There were Dark wizards out there before You-Know-Who came along,” Viola repeated, taking a deep breath and plunging on. “There’ll be Dark wizards long after you and I are dead. Why is it so important for Fudge to have every last one hunted down and tagged?”
There were several answers to that question. Most of them would take more time than Arthur had to answer. “The Minister is concerned for the wizarding world, Viola. You know that. And we’re not just hunting any old dark wizards - we’re hunting down Death Eaters. More than any other wizards in the world, we can’t afford to let these ones run free. The minister - and more than just the minister - wants to see them all safely in Azkaban.”
“Arthur,” Viola said, her voice rising and her gestures becoming broader, “You-Know-Who is dead thanks to the work of Harry Potter and your son. These people are fighting a crusade without any soul to it. Yes, they’re dangerous, but the man’s obsessed...”
“With reason.” Privately, Arthur agreed with his colleague. Fudge was obsessed with the Death Eaters and had been from the moment he admitted Voldemort was back.
“Not with reason, Arthur!” Viola cried, tugging at the long braid she wore down her back. “It’s not ‘with reason’ when we’re hunting down every single lead we’re given. Fudge has us chasing shadows and jinxing phantoms! The Muggles have a term for this, you know. It’s called ‘overkill’ and it’s wearing us down, and you know it!”
Arthur knew it. He knew it only too well as the Head of the Auror Division at the Ministry of Magic. He knew it only too well as he saw the tiredness in the eyes of the Aurors as they came in. He could see it in their expressions as they came in to give their reports, read it in the reports they wrote up for him about each raid, each hunt, each capture. He could feel it with every memo that landed on his desk from Fudge’s office, asking about the latest reports on the locations of the two-dozen or so Death Eaters still known to be at liberty in the world.
But Arthur Weasley couldn’t do anything about it. He wasn’t an Auror, and he wasn’t the Minister of Magic. He was just the Head of the Auror Division. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I know it, Viola,” he said, quietly. “But I’m not in a position to give Fudge advice.”
“You mean Fudge isn’t in a place where he’ll take advice from you,” Viola said. The anger seemed to have drained from her voice. She was a volatile personality, with flash-fiery moments of fury that vanished as easily as they flared up.
Cornelius Fudge was the Minister of Magic. Arthur Weasley was merely the Head of the Auror Division. Of course Fudge wasn’t in a place where he’d take advice from Arthur - even about the running of Arthur’s Division. “I mean I’m not in a position...”
“Arthur, how long are you going to kid yourself about this?” Her blunt question caught him unawares.
“Everyone knows you’re the popular choice for the next Minister of Magic. People have been nervous about Fudge for years - ever since it came clear that he hid the information about Voldemort’s return for a whole year before he let the public know. He’s due to go sometime, and you’re fingered as the next Minister. Everyone knows Albus Dumbledore thinks the world of you and Molly, Arthur. Your family has been instrumental in the build-up against and defeat of him. Your youngest son was one of the two who faced You-Know-Who down...”
“My youngest son,” Arthur said tiredly, “is out there every day hunting down the same Death Eaters you are. My youngest son who is not yet twenty.” He wasn’t going to address the matter of the promotion. He knew of the support for his running for Minister - that wasn’t important to him. As the Head of the Auror Divison he was doing good work. He just wished he could help his people more. Abruptly he felt the burden of two worlds - father and superior - settle upon his shoulders with painful weight. “I know what you’re going through, Viola. I’m not blind. But there is truly nothing I can do. Yes, Cornelius is obsessed with finding those wizards...”
“He’s nearly as bad as Barty Crouch was.”
“...but he has reason. And I do my best to ease the load wherever I can.” It wasn’t enough, and he knew that she knew he knew, but still... “I just wish...” He shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. “The Muggles have a saying, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’”
She cracked him a slight smile. “Still into all things Muggle, Arthur?”
A new voice interrupted from the door. “Dad’ll be dead and buried before he stops being interested in the Muggle world, Viola.”
The newcomer was tall and definitely a Weasley. Pale, freckled, and red-headed, with his wand casually sticking out of his back pocket in a way that would have given Moody a heart-attack, Ron regarded his father with something approaching a challenge.
Arthur regarded his youngest son with exasperation. “Your mother and I taught you better manners than that, Ron.”
His son’s mouth quirked, and he reached out and rapped sharply against the door. “Hey Dad, you wanted to see me?”
“I wanted you to wait until I was finished with Viola.”
“You said two o’clock,” Ron indicated the clock on the wall. “It’s five past now.”
“It’s already...?” Viola turned sharply, her braid lashing out like a whip as she stared in horror at the Muggle clock face. “Oh bother. I was supposed to meet Moody at two...”
“Better hurry then,” Ron advised, a small smile on his lips. “Or he’ll think you’ve been attacked by Dark Wizards. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” The bellow was remarkably Moody-like - certainly it made both adults jump.
“Thank you for that, Ronald,” Arthur said dryly, telling his heart to calm down. Children. Five thousand grey hairs for each one. No wonder he was going bald.
“You’re welcome, Dad.” ‘Ronald’ plonked himself down into the chair next to the one Viola was vacating, all arms and legs and red hair. “See ya, Viola. Are you on the Bristol bust on Friday?”
“No. I’m out tomorrow night. It’s the wild moors and the Scottish heath that’s a-callin’ me!” Her attempt at a Scottish accent was terrible, but both Weasleys grinned nevertheless.
“Good luck with the raid, Viola.”
“Good luck with the paperwork, Arthur,” she responded immediately. Her dark eyes twinkled merrily at him and then she was gone, the door shutting firmly behind her, leaving the two Weasleys alone together.
Not for the first time, Arthur met his son’s deep blue stare with the feeling that he didn’t know this man who carried the face of his youngest boy. There was no trace of the uncertain child Ron had been, afraid of not being able to live up to the various standards set by his five older brothers. Instead, the mature angles of Ron’s face held confidence, assurance, and something that marked him apart with the set of the mouth, the expression in his eyes.
At the tender age of twenty, Ron Weasley was more jaded than many witches and wizards were at three times that age.
Was it any wonder? At eleven, Ron had become a partisan in the Second War against Voldemort through his friendship with Harry Potter. At sixteen, he’d fought Death Eaters and survived. At the age of eighteen, he’d pointed his wand at the feared and hated Dark Lord and incanted a spell to protect Harry while his friend destroyed the most infamous wizard of all time.
Sometimes it ached in Arthur that Ron hadn’t been allowed a childhood the way he and Molly had; the chance to be young and reckless and wild and free.
They’d tried to protect their brood, tried to keep them from joining in a fight they were surely to young to understand, too young to be involved in. One by one, they’d lost their children to the War.
Oh, six of their seven children were still alive and well, but all of them had been involved in the fight against Voldemort. Even Percy had returned to his family bosom in the end - over a year after he’d left it. All of them had paid a price to be involved. And, Arthur knew that if he asked any of them if they regretted it, each would answer with a single, fervent word: No.
How strange it was to realise that his youngest son had been the first child they lost - lost from the moment Ron and Harry became friends.
“So,” Ron asked, regarding his father with a quizzical gaze. “Was there anything you particularly wanted to say, Dad? Or were we going to hold the annual inter-generational Weasley staring competitions early this year?”
Arthur was abruptly recalled back to the matter he’d called his son in to discuss. “Actually, I have a request from your mother.”
“Wait, let me guess...” Ron put his hands to his temples and narrowed his eyes. “Dinner. Saturday night. Bring Harry.”
Arthur supposed it wasn’t a difficult thing to guess. Molly enjoyed having the children around her - and it got harder and harder as they spread out across the country.
“And, this time, it would be appreciated if you actually turned up,” he said, a little more harshly than he’d intended.
“Dad, it wasn’t like I set out to avoid it last time!” Ron protested. “We got stuck in Llangellyn arguing with this stupid old geezer about the rigidity of Harry’s wand...” He spotted his father’s inexorable face and threw up his hands. “It was not deliberate - as I told Mum for weeks afterwards. I mean, do you think I like Harry’s cooking?” He made a face.
It would have been easier to converse with his son if the son in question hadn’t been so intent on making light of everything. “So that is a ‘yes’, then?”
“Can’t speak for Harry, but unless the bust in Bristol goes bad, we’re there. Hey,” he added, looking hopefully at his father, “any chance Mum could make bread-and-butter pudding? It’s been ages since I had bread-and-butter pudding...”
Arthur had a momentary memory of his tiny, redheaded son, bouncing excitedly at the prospect of his eighth birthday dinner. The twins had ended up wrecking that one with one of their pranks, and Ron had been so upset he hexed the pair of them without a wand. “I’ll ask,” he said, his voice softening a little. “Although if you came home more often you’d increase your chances of having your mum cook for you. And please turn up this time, Ron. Ginny’s due back from China...”
“It’s been four months.”
“No way!” Ron shook his head in disbelief. “It’s been...a week. Maybe two. A month at most.”
Arthur resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “She left in June. What month is it now?”
“Nearly October. Wow, four months...” There was mischief in the blue eyes as he remarked, “Maybe she should stay away longer. Absence and the heart growing fonder and all that ...”
“Ron...” No matter that his son was joking and that Arthur was glad of the teasing, a part of him couldn’t be ‘unwired’ from the father chiding his son for teasing his younger sister.
“Kidding, Dad! Merlin! Anyway, what were you talking to Viola about?” How swiftly Ron changed from the cheerful young man to a somber-faced Auror! The change only heightened his father’s awareness that the son was no longer a child but a working adult, well aware of the issues plaguing his department.
There was a second when Arthur considered lying to Ron, or dismissing the topic out of hand. But he saw the brief, mutinous set of the face, and knew that he would tell Ron the truth. “The undersupply of Aurors for the work we have.”
“You mean the way Fudge has us checking out every mousehole in the country and continent?” At his father’s expression, Ron threw out his hands, exasperated. “Oh, come on, Dad! It’s common knowledge that Fudge is mad to get the Death Eaters in. If he could make up a spell for it, he’d have done it years ago.”
“Ron, Fudge has good reason...”
“No,” Ron contradicted him, growing irritated with his father’s explanations. “He doesn’t. His reasons for hunting them down are entirely to do with the idiot he was made to look after Malfoy Senior was soul-sucked. Dumbledore was right when he said Fudge had his head stuck up his arse for the sake of his position as Minister of Magic. And don’t give me lectures on what I can and can’t say!” The glance Ron gave him showed he’d seen Arthur’s reprimand coming.
“He is your boss and, as such, deserves your professional respect.” Never mind that Arthur privately agreed with his son’s estimate of Cornelius Fudge.
“Respect is earned,” Ron told him, angrily. “He hasn’t done a thing to earn mine. And he’d have to do a bloody lot to gain it!”
His son was about to launch into a diatribe against Fudge, and Arthur looked for a way to head it off. Of all his children, Ron could be the most volatile, switching from a laconic, easy-going bystander to a furiously passionate defender in the blink of an eye.
Of all his children, Ron had the greatest personal reasons to dislike Fudge.
The knock on the door of his office proved a timely interruption.
The young man who opened the door, however, was the last person Arthur wanted to see while Ron was here.
Why add oil to tinder brush?
“You wanted the reports on the leads through Europe, Arthur?” There was no conciliation in the tone of voice as he addressed the older man. “I can come back later if you prefer.”
Arthur didn’t look at Ron, sitting, bristling in his chair like a porcupine ready to fling quills. “No, now will be fine, Mr. Malfoy.”
He got a raised eyebrow from the young man as the door opened more fully and he saw who else sat in the room with his superior. But Draco Malfoy didn’t ask if he was sure. He simply took his seat, casually fastidious in comparison with Ron’s languid pose. No greetings were exchanged between the two of them, just a look of intense loathing.
The two young men fought on the same side. That didn’t make them friends, anymore than Sirius Black and Severus Snape had been friends while working for the Order of the Phoenix. They tolerated each other, that was all.
For Arthur’s part, he treated Draco Malfoy with all the respect that the young man had earned in his time working at the Ministry. He could pity Malfoy as his son could not; the boy had lost far more than just his family standing - and he knew it.
“You started in Romania?”
“In Romania, down to the Czech Republic, and across to Turkey,” Malfoy stated, his words crisp and precise. “The lead we had was tenuous at best, the witch in question had a puffball addiction. She could barely remember her own name, let alone identify the faces I showed her.” His lip curled in contempt. “But I checked through the villages she could name. There wasn’t much to begin with, in the smaller towns, they notice strangers.”
“Ever heard of Polyjuice?” Ron asked, scorn tinting his voice.
Malfoy barely glanced at him, “Strange behaviour is noticed, too,” he said, obliquely answering the criticism. “These people have lived with each other for decades. They know routines and habits, and any deviations are gossip fodder for the whole village.” The pale, pointed face smiled thinly, “My presence in several of these villages should provide gossip for the next few years, anyway.”
“I guess it’s not every day you see a talking ferret, after all,” Ron remarked, airily.
Arthur resisted the urge to smack his son, but his angry, “Ron...” was overtaken by Draco’s incisive retort.
“Weasley, you make an ass of yourself every time you open your mouth.”
“Better an ass than a traitor.”
“Oh? And you’d have preferred me to stick with the Dark Lord, then?” Malfoy asked, ice seeping through his voice. “You’d have lost your precious war without my help, Weasley. Potter or not.”
Ron snorted, “I’d prefer to see you stuck behind a desk where Moody can keep an eye on you rather than have you running around with your old Death Eater pals.”
It was clear that a nerve had been scraped, because Malfoy’s answer held more than a touch of venom. “My ‘old Death Eater pals,’ as you so name them, are gradually being rounded up and sent to Azkaban.”
“Not enough of them.” The snap made it clear that Ron considered that Malfoy should be among those sent to the wizarding prison.
“Gentlemen!” Arthur attempted intervention.
They were too angry to notice his interruption, or care about it.
“More than you’d have without me,” Malfoy hissed, pale eyes narrowed to ice-grey chips.
“But not the inner circle,” Ron retorted, blue eyes spitting fire.
“That’s not my problem.”
“Are you implying it’s mine?”
“And here I thought we were saving the hatred for the people who deserved it,” said a new voice, clear and bright and cool.
Arthur met the sardonic dark gaze of Nymphadora Tonks where she stood in the open doorway. Over her shoulder, the gleam of glasses under messy black hair indicated that Harry was with her.
He wasn’t sure whether to sigh in relief at the interruption or groan at the prospect of a third party to the argument between the two young men. He chose, instead, to address Tonks. “Does anyone happen to knock these days? Or has that become outdated, too?”
She grinned easily, “Actually, we did knock. Looks like you missed it amidst all the...er...excitement.” She turned her gaze more coolly on Ron and Draco. “Stow the argument, boys. However hard you might find it to believe, we are all on the same side.”
“Sometimes, I confess to being amazed that you actually won,” Draco remarked, acidly. “Saint Potter notwithstanding.”
“You’ve got a smart mouth on you, Malfoy,” Ron retorted. “Want me to shut it for you?”
“As if you could!”
“You were right, you know, Tonks,” Harry interrupted them both with the dry sardonicism that seemed to be his most-common attitude lately. “It’s amazing that either of them are let out of sight of the Ministry.”
These days, Arthur reflected, it was touch and go as to whether Harry would join in baiting Malfoy, or stand back and rein Ron in. Today, it looked like it was stand back and balance Ron out. Thank Merlin.
“Vote of confidence, there, Harry.”
“That’s what your mates are for.” The two friends exchanged dry half-smiles.
“Oh, if this gets any more saccharine, I’m going to spew,” Malfoy snapped. “Is there any chance of getting rid of these two and giving my report? Or should I just come back in an hour and hope that they haven’t started The Mutual Club For Back-Patting Losers in this office?”
Enough was quite enough.
Even as Ron drew breath to deliver a blistering retort, Arthur stepped in with a warning. “Mr. Malfoy,” he said, formally, “Your point about the interruption of your report is valid. Your attitude is not. As Tonks has indicated, lose the argumentativeness. Ron, your behaviour towards Draco was unacceptable, both as my son and as an Auror-in-training. You will apologise to him...”
“When hell freezes over!” Ron snapped. His expression made the point exceedingly clear, even without the very apt Muggle phrase or the fury in his voice. “Sorry to shame the family name, Dad, but...”
“...but if you want to be in on the Bristol job this Friday,” Tonks interposed smoothly, glancing at Arthur to let him know she had this situation under control, “You will apologise to Draco. And he will apologise back if he knows what’s good for him.”
The disapproval of a distinctive and respected woman did more to cow the pair of them than anything Arthur could have said. And it might have ended there, if Draco hadn’t given his two knuts’ worth.
“You’re assuming I did anything to ‘shame the family name,’ Tonks.”
“As though the Malfoys could get any lower...”
“Weasley, shut your mouth...”
“You’ve already said that once, Malfoy. Running out of threats?”
“BOYS!” Arthur’s furious roar shut them both up. He’d fathered six noisy, boisterous boys and parented them as well. He knew how to make himself heard above a cacophony, even if he didn’t always like using it. “You will apologise to each other! Now!”
The apologies were muttered and made without eye contact. Neither was sincere, but it would have to do. As Viola had pointed out, the Auror Division was short-staffed, and they couldn’t afford to have even Aurors-in-Training sitting on the sidelines for disciplinary situations.
“Now,” he said grimly, knuckles on the desk, “Ron and Harry, I believe that you have somewhere to be.” When Ron opened his mouth to protest, Arthur added, “Somewhere that is not here.” He looked pointedly towards the door.
Harry chuckled, breaking the tension. At least someone was amused by the conflict. “We’re due to check in with Moody anyway. Make sure we haven’t lost our buttocks in a wand accident or something.”
Ron rolled his eyes as he circumnavigated Malfoy’s chair like someone avoiding a venomous snake. “Because, yeah, Moody cares so much about our buttocks.”
“Enough! Out!” Tonks stood aside and gave Ron an ungentle nudge into the corridor. Her expression held both exasperation and affection for the two young Aurors-in-training. “Bristol, Friday, sunset. If you’re late, you’ll be on watch duty.”
“Aw, Tonks!” They chorused, expression horrified.
“So, don’t be late,” she said.
“And I’ll see you two at dinner on Saturday,” Arthur added as they slipped out the door. He would have liked to sit Ron down and get a talk in about behaviour before superiors and with fellow Ministry employees, but that would have to wait until later.
Too many things to do, not enough time. The story of Arthur Weasley’s life.
The door clicked shut behind Ron and Harry. “Tonks,” he indicated the chair his son had vacated. “If you would take a seat.”
“Sure thing, Arthur.” By some feat of amazing grace, she managed not to knock anything over before she flopped down in the leather-backed chair, arms and legs akimbo. “The report from Eastern Europe?” She looked inquiringly towards Draco.
“Yes.” Now that Ron was no longer needling him, Draco seemed considerably less mordant. Which was a relief. One angry young man was more than enough for Arthur to handle.
“So, what did you find?”
Draco Malfoy was well aware of the irony of his situation.
The son of one of Voldemort’s most well-known supporters; he worked with the people who had worked to bring down the Dark Lord. A fierce proponent of pureblood superiority; he interacted daily with Muggle-lovers and Muggleborns. A one-time Death Eater, he tracked them down one by one and had them sent to Azkaban.
Ten years ago, if a seer had told him his future, he’d firstly have hexed the life out of her, then laughed all the way home.
Life, Draco had learned, rarely turned out the way one expected.
“You’re sure about this?”
“As sure as I can be without walking up and knocking on doors,” Draco replied. He kept the edge out of his voice. The older man was doing his job, which was to be sure before he sent the Aurors in to check out the leads Draco provided. A part of him still resented the questioning of his skills, his abilities, his loyalties.
A part of him still resented being told off. Even if Weasley had received the same treatment from his Dad. Unlike Professor Snape, Arthur Weasley didn’t play favourites, even with his kids. It made working with him tolerable, if not pleasant.
“You know your work better than I, and I trust that.” Arthur said, almost as if he’d heard the silent protest. “That doesn’t stop me from requiring confirmation.”
Draco conceded the point. “Dolohov has certain patterns he adheres to,” he said, after a moment’s thought. “He has a fondness for adolescent girls. Preferably Muggles or Muggle-born. He likes them to have some power, but not too much. For him, the struggle is a challenge.” He saw the revulsion on the faces of the two adults before him and allowed himself a sour smile. “Several girls are missing from a Muggle village in the area. Recently taken. It’s being blamed on local political troubles and the presence of American Muggles in the region.”
He pulled his wand and, without asking for permission, waved it in the air over the table, “Cartografus!”
A miniature village appeared before them, stretching out over the paper-strewn surface.
Tonks gaped at the likeness, “Didn’t know you could do the cartographer’s casting,” she said, impressed.
Draco smirked a little, pleased by the implied compliment, but he didn’t respond directly to it. Instead, he began indicating the houses of the town, closely spaced together. “I went through the town - ostensibly on Muggle business. They’re used to foreigners - there’s an American military base a few miles out of town. A few sideways looks from the Muggles, but they were willing to accept my story. Mostly.”
“I had to obliviate one of them when he got nosey.”
He regarded Arthur with mild irritation. “It was that or have my cover blown. The idiot thought I was some kind of spy. He caught me charming my last correspondence, and it was act or be found out.” Draco folded his arms. “He woke up thinking he’d drunk too much the previous night.” It had been a singularly beautiful piece of work, if Draco said so himself.
“You know how the Association de Wizarde Internationalé feels...”
He didn’t disguise the noise of disgust that sprung from his lips. “If they want the Death Eaters brought in - and there are hardly any of them that don’t - then they have to allow for some unauthorised acts of wizardry to take place in their country.”
“Nevertheless...” Weasley’s Dad had a fondness for the rules. Bloody Gryffindors and their courage and honour crap. You did what you needed to do to survive. That was the Slytherin’s way, and Draco was a Slytherin to the core, even in this.
“Arthur,” Tonks spoke up, almost surprisingly.
“Tonks, he can’t just break the rules...”
“No, he can’t,” she answered. “The rules are there for a reason. But sometimes we have to break them in order to do what’s right.” Dark eyes fixed on Draco, gently warning. “Don’t go making it a habit, though!”
“You’d hex me long before I did,” he told her. In spite of her Muggleborn dad, Tonks was okay.
“Too right!” Tonks smirked. “And Mum would hang you up by your heels and send you to bed without any supper. Which reminds me; drop by the house before you go back out East. The parentals were nagging me for news of you and I couldn’t give them any. You might as well stop by and deliver it yourself.”
“I may not have time...”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Take the time,” he said simply. “And that’s an order.” When Tonks arched an eyebrow at him, he admitted, “Molly was saying the same thing about Ron and Harry the other day, so I know how it is.”
Which explained the ‘Saturday night dinner’ remark as Weasley and Potter had exited stage left.
But this was an unnecessary sidetrack. “If I may continue,” he said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He got a hard look for that, but Arthur waved at him to keep going.
He indicated the town, “Unlike the smaller mountain villages, this town is reasonably busy. There are enough new people coming and going that strangers aren’t commented on unless they’re distinctive.” Like Draco Malfoy. “It makes it a good place to hide out. Several of the local girls are missing, and with the assistance of a gentle recollection charm...”
“Their memories were the better for it after,” Draco pointed out, stemming the protest. “And I got the information I needed. With the assistance of the charm, a number of people remembered a man matching Dolohov’s description in the town. He stayed here,” he indicated one house with his wand, circling the tip in the air, “And was gone two days later. The girls started vanishing after he left, so they didn’t associate the two.”
“Do they know where he went?”
“He said he was headed up to Constantinople. But there’s a farmhouse out here...” Draco muttered the incantation to move the map over, and the perspective of the town changed and refocused on a large farmhouse some miles outside of the main cluster of buildings. “It’s been abandoned for years, they said. But when I went out to investigate, a simple Disilluri showed lights on in the house.”
Arthur pulled out his wand and glanced at Draco for permission before swirling his wand ‘into’ the map and muttering, “Reducto!” The map got smaller and smaller, and stopped when it was small enough to encompass the cluster of the town, the distant farmhouse, and the nearby Muggle base. “So close to both a Muggle town and the military base?”
“The town would provide the occasional victim,” Tonks offered. “And the base would provide cover. With so much activity happening in the area, nobody would notice what was happening on one isolated, apparently abandoned farmhouse...”
“You didn’t have time to check the farmhouse?”
“Not yet. I didn’t want someone to come looking for me at a bad time. I thought I’d leave a report, then head in to check it out.” Draco knew his smile was sour, “At least then I wouldn’t have Moody on my trail bellowing stuff about recklessness and inconsideration.” The crusty old Auror was okay, but Draco was never completely comfortable around him. The ferret incident during his fourth year at Hogwarts was too clearly emblazoned on his memory. The fact that it had been Barty Crouch, Jr. who actually cast the charm on Draco didn’t factor into his reactions. The very sight of that rolling glass eye glaring at him for whatever reason was enough to take Draco back to the humiliation of ‘Malfoy, the Amazing Bouncing Ferret.’
And Weasley never lost a chance to rub that one in, which only made it worse
“Good work,” Arthur said, nodding at him in approval, unaware of Draco’s memories. “Have you written up the report?”
“Not yet. I’ll do that before I leave.” At Tonks’ cough, he regarded her mildly. “And I’ll drop in on your parents.”
She grinned, her former anger with him gone as swiftly and cleanly as if she’d changed forms and left it behind. “I’d say ‘good boy’ but you’d probably hex me.” Her eyes twinkled at him.
Draco Malfoy didn’t let anyone in close. Since his father’s soul-sucking four years ago, he’d been pretty much alone and independent in the world. Family had not been something he desired. Friendship even less so. His father’s words still echoed in him with all the force of an Unforgiveable curse. No witch or wizard is your friend, Draco. They will either use you or be used by you.
But the precepts of his father were not a consideration when Andromeda Tonks neé Black came upon Draco visiting his mother two years ago, just after Voldemort’s defeat .
He remembered her brand of passion from another woman whose haggard face held hints of the wild beauty she’d once been. The years had been kinder to Andromeda than they’d been to Bellatrix, but the similarity of their blood could not be denied, not the least in his aunt’s insistence that Draco give some form to the ties of blood between them.
He wasn’t ‘close’ to the Tonks. But he was closer to them than he was to many others whom he saw far more often.
“Well, make sure the report is on my desk before you leave for Turkey, Draco.” Arthur was speaking again. “Leave a brief of what you plan to do - if there are any unexpected changes, owl me. And take one of the Floo Lighters with you when you go. I know they’re still experimental, but if you find anything important, we’ll need to know right away.” He scrubbed a hand through thinning and greying red hair. “It’s been three months since our last Death Eater arrest.”
“Fudge is getting antsy again, huh?” Tonks asked with a snort.
“You could say that.” Arthur sat back, his hair forgotten as he folded his hands on his stomach. “And he’s not the only one. The idea of Death Eaters still on the loose doesn’t do much for public confidence - especially when Muggles and Muggleborns are still targeted.”
“We’re not going to get them all, Arthur.”
“I know. And most of them aren’t too much of a danger as long as they’re isolated. It’s the ones who were Voldemort’s inner circle that have me most worried. Bellatrix Lestrange and Antonin Dolohov especially.”
For a moment, Draco was confused about why they were discussing this in front of him. He was one of the youngest Aurors working for the Ministry, and not fully trained at that. Then Arthur turned to him and the reasons became clear. “Do you have any insights into the situation of the Death Eaters now that Voldemort is gone, Draco?”
On his forearm, the invisible Dark Mark burned. Not with the agonising pain that meant the Dark Lord was calling on his chosen, but with the slow smoulder of Draco’s resentment.
“I spent one year in the Dark Lord’s service before I betrayed him,” he said, slowly, holding onto his anger. I am master of my temper, it does not master me. “And I was mostly at school during that time and the year after.” He met Arthur’s gaze steadily, not bothering to hide his offence at the question. “I didn’t get to know the other Death Eaters the way you seem to think I did.”
Arthur looked back at him, calm in the face of Draco’s gathering anger. “I’m not questioning your loyalty, Draco. But you are in a unique position regarding insight into the people who chose to follow Voldemort - to serve him and kill in his name.”
Draco wasn’t entirely sure he believed him. But he had little choice. Not if he wanted the other Death Eaters hunted down. And he did. If nothing else, it was pure Slytherin practicality on Draco’s part. At the very least, Bellatrix would come after him - his Aunt was as single-minded about her hatreds as she was about her loves, and Draco was very fond of his skin. Too fond, as some people had accused in the past and would accuse in the future.
“Generally, they’re angry. Resentful. They backed the Dark Lord and he fell. Most of them have given up hope that he will come back a second time, but a few are still believers.” He got up from his chair, feeling a sudden need to stand, to talk to empty air and not be under the microscope of two of the most trusted people in his world.
The room was full of bookshelves, but other than a couple of rows of books, the shelves were taken up with other things. Muggle artefacts, oddities, peculiarities; the fruits of Arthur’s well-known and oft laughed-at preoccupation with any and all things Muggle.
He reached out and touched a ‘portable CD player’, popping open the lid without first asking permission. There wasn’t a ‘disc’ inside it, the flat, circular piece of ‘plastic’ which somehow played Muggle music when you pressed the right buttons on the player. Crazy Muggle stuff. Wizarding was so much better.
“Some really believed in him. They’ll be the most dangerous. Bellatrix Lestrange is the best example of this. She went to Azkaban for the Dark Lord, and everything she does is focused on him.” Draco snorted, remembering a long-ago overheard conversation between his parents. “Dad said it was a wonder she married at all given how passionate she was about the Dark Lord.” He shut the lid of the ‘player’ and turned, grimacing. “If she has any students, they’ll be dangerous too. Aunt Bella is charismatic in her own way.” He glanced at Tonks, “Kinda like your Mum. She says something and you’ll do it because she said you should.”
“It never worked on my room.”
His mouth quirked faintly at Tonks, before he turned his mind back to the question he’d been asked. They’d wanted his opinion, he was going to give it to them. “Dolohov was devoted to the Dark Lord because he saw the greatest advantage for his own ambitions. Oh, he believes firmly in wizarding purity, but it’s not a crusade for him. It’s...it’s a...” He struggled to remember the Muggle word for it. “It’s a sci-en-ti-fic interest. As though they’re all things to be picked over and picked apart until he finds out what makes them tick.”
A glance at Arthur showed the older man watching intently. “It’s like your love of Muggle things - only his is Muggles, and they can’t be put back together once he’s pulled them apart.”
He looked quickly away as something stung his eyes. Not tears, because a Malfoy didn’t weep. After two years of silence, the best for which he could hope was that death had been swift. His eyes rested briefly on the ring he word on his left second finger; the silver rune inlaid with green enamel. It gleamed up at him as his mind translated the rune, just as it had a thousand times before. Mine.
“There are others from the inner circle to watch out for,” Draco said, aware that his silence had stretched too long. His voice husked briefly before he controlled it. He was a Malfoy, they were masters of themselves as well as the masters of others. “Faghence wanted power, and the Dark Lord was his way to achieve it. He won’t go quietly - if he can’t have power, he’ll have infamy instead. De Vere believes in the superiority of purebloods...” The litany would go on and on. Draco ceased the recitation, shrugging. “Each of us had our own reasons to follow the Master.”
“The Master?” Arthur asked. His voice was quiet, but Draco could hear the question in it.
“He marked us as his own,” he said, harshly. “We belonged to him. We served him. We called him Master because that was what he was; he gave the orders, we obeyed. It was do what he said, or die.” A bitter smile curved his lip. “Even Dumbledore gave me the choice in betrayal.” The words were scarred into him. ‘I cannot make you do this, Mr. Malfoy. And I will not. It will be your own choice or not at all.’
And another voice in his memory said, ‘That is your future if you choose it, Draco. If you choose it.’
“We were all there for our own reasons, but he made them his and used us accordingly.”
He heard the soft scrape of Tonks’ chair against carpet as she made room for her legs to stretch out. “And you were there because...?”
Draco turned and met the black-eyed gaze of his cousin’s ‘natural’ form. “I was there for revenge.”