Author's Note 4/28/16- This fiction is divisive, with many people hating it. If you read for the destination and not the journey you will not like this. At all. This story started as a bunch of vignettes and grew into something more, but at its heart it remains a connected group of stories. There are large arcs, but they do not all resolve cleanly. - Tao
Draco Malfoy and the Practice of Rationality
Draco looked across the table at his mother, His Mother, and quietly sipped another spoon of Diricawl soup. Narcissa stared at her glass of wine, untouched in an ornate silver goblet engraved with three snakes poking their heads over the edge of the lip, as if drinking. The candles on the table burnt low, but had never (in all the years Draco had known) managed to finish that final inch of wax.
The chair at the head of the table sat empty.
"I'm sorry, my son. I don't know how to act. I remember you as a baby. And to find a decade gone? Lucius gone? Our house …. " Draco put down his spoon, his mind racing with lessons, but … lessons were not for family.
"Mother. I don't know, either." Draco pushed his chair back and the house elves immediately scurried in, heads down, and cleared the table. "I don't remember you." He saw her try to hide a pained look and grimaced "No, I mean, I have glimpses in my mind" that Harry said are just me remembering a daydream, not a real memory. He paused while the elves left, as noiselessly as they'd entered. "But, you … you were coo-ing at me. And I don't remember you being gone, your Death, I remember Father telling me the stories over and over. I was supposed to love you automatically, by being your child, and that has been taking away from us. But I do remember the coo-ing."
Narcissa smiled at that and finally picked up the glass of wine. "That could have been anyone. All the witches coo-ed at you, my beautiful boy." She drank.
Earlier, there had been the greeting, Draco's shock as Professor - no, Headmistress - McGonagall re-introduced him with his long dead mother. Her confusion as memory charms faded away, then more anguish at the lost years. There had been joy, but joy mixed with anger. McGonagall had quickly brought them back to Hogwarts, and then they'd taken the Floo network home.
"And now you are at Hogwarts...on your first great adventure. You must tell me everything, and quickly, because in three months I will lose you again." Narcissa saw Draco's control; there was no pained look. Lucius could hide his emotions from everyone but me. She looked around, reached into her robes (kept in her closet for years, unmoved except for a weekly cleaning) and drew out her wand.
"Lumos! Lumos! That's better" she said, putting her wand away. The pictures on the walls let out a small exclamation. Lord Montavian Malfoy, Father's Grandfather, who'd purchased the first insurance contract sold by Gringotts days before a group of Griffyindors slew his prized Hungarian Horntail, awoke with a snort. Draco looked around. He'd grown up in Malfoy Manor and the dining hall had always been cloaked in shadows, never bright. Noon outside meant dusk in the dining hall. He couldn't see the heraldry at night. Father always told him he needed darkness to plan carefully. But now …. he had so many secrets he wanted, he needed to share. And so does she.
"Tell me about Father." Draco pulled his knees up to his chest and clutched them to him with his hands.
"After you were born, your father's wand glowed silver for a month, and he seemed to fly up and down the stairs."
Day turned to evening, and evening to night and morning with stories traded between mother and son, as they talked of her husband and his father and discovered the truth that was somewhere between the two.
Draco opened the door and bowed low. "Madam Goyle. Madam Crabbe." He nodded at Gregory and Vincent, who stood slightly behind, and they nodded back. "Please, do come in." His mother's voice sang out from the dining room "Adrasteia! Tabitha! It has been so long!" Draco backed away and swept his arm low and across, gesturing for his friend's mothers to enter.
"Vincent, you should take lessons in manners from Lord Malfoy," said Madam Crabbe, her voice not steady. "Draco … you are becoming more and more like Lucius ..." she bowed her head and rushed past him, robes swishing noisily. Her voice brightened "Narcissa! When I heard …. I daren't hope it was true …." Madam Goyle was slightly past him when she stopped, turned back to him and squatted so that she's looking up to me, not down at me Draco thought automatically. "I am so sorry about your Father, Draco." He didn't try to stop the tears.
"We all lost someone, Madam Goyle, and I am the only one who gained." She hugged him quickly, wiped the single tear from his face, smiled, and then went inside. Draco paused, then stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
"Aren't we going inside?" Vincent asked.
Gregory leaned against the wall, shaking his head "Do you really want to?" He raised an eyebrow.
Draco gathered his robes carefully and sat down on the steps. "How are you two doing?" This had been the first time they'd been able to see each other, outside of funerals and wakes. Vincent shrugged, and sat down next to Draco.
"We're alone," said Vincent. "I mean, it's not like before school. You had friends and family. Now we've lost family and all of our friends are avoiding us, because we lost our fathers. When I went to Diagon Alley last week …. it's like we weren't there."
"It's hard" said Gregory. "I get sad, and then angry." He picked up some pebbles and started throwing them down the path. "I wake up and I feel normal for a second, happy, and then I remember and I'm angry at myself." Vincent took out his wand and started casting at each passing pebble, Ma-ha-su, mostly missing but barely. Draco was impressed, given the size and speed, but just nodded. Gregory picked up another handful of rocks and continued "Some days I think I'm not mad enough. I'm just kind of drifting along. Should I be sadder? Happier?"
"I know," Draco replied as a sharp Ping Sent a pebble veering off into the nearby trees. "Nice. I'm used to having a mask, like Father taught. But I can't tell if I'm wearing it enough, or too much." Laughter came from inside the house. After a moment, Gregory continued lazily throwing.
"Does it bother you?" Gregory asked. Draco gave him a look. "That they are laughing?"
Draco thought about it. "A bit. But it's like you said. You should be sadder, but sometimes you aren't. So I can't really get angry." He shrugged. What had it been called? Right. The Fundamental Attribution Error. "They're reuniting. It's happy. We can't be what the world expects to see all the time. Why expect our Mothers to be? They need a break as much as we do."
"Yes," said Vincent as his latest spell passed just behind the last rock. "We do." He sat down on the other side of Draco, crossed his left leg over his right. He scratched his neck with his wand before it disappeared back inside his robe. "Any plans for the rest of the summer?"
"I have to go through Father's papers." Gregory shot Vincent a surprised look. Lord Malfoy kept notes? "Nothing like that. Formal contracts, business arrangements. Its tedious. And studying. I've got to be ready for Defence this year. I've been reading about Wars."
"Grindelwald, or older stuff?"
"Muggle wars, mainly."
Vincent had, by this point, laid down completely and was staring at the sky. A passing cloud, shaped like a sneering hippogriff, hinted of rainfall in the near future. "Why muggle wars? I mean, Dragon Army could probably defeat most muggle armies. And if not now, in a few years."
Draco nodded. He'd been thinking that, too. As he read about Thermopylae, Jutland, The Tet Offensive, Bunker Hill, Iwo Jima. "Why could we defeat them, Vince?" Gregory stopped in mid throw.
"Magic" they said together.
Draco shook his head. "I don't think so." He raised his hands in surrender. "Yes. But not just that. If we fought a muggle army, they wouldn't know what we could do. We could apparate and disapparate. Adults could anyway. We could confound them, stupefy them. We'd have broomsticks. It would be a rout." Draco got up and started pacing. "But it's not the magic that makes it the rout. Look at what happened in all of our battles. Each armies magic is roughly the same." Vincent started to say something and Draco waved a hand, "with the houses split up we all had mudbloods" No point opening that can of worms just yet "and strong wizards and witches. We're better at Magic than Potter, even Granger is; but Potter won more often. Why?"
"Because nobody has any idea what he's going to do" muttered Gregory. Vincent nodded.
"Right!" said Draco. "Two muggle armies know what they can do to each other. But if they face Wizards … they don't know! Every battle last year - every single one - was won or lost by surprise. Granger's army played dead in the first battle, Potter surprised them with that sunlight potion that decimated Sunshine Regiment, but we out-surprised him then. We knew what was coming," Gregory looked at him sharply and Draco smiled. "Well, we knew enough. So, no surprise. Our gloves. That potion of liquid night during the broomstick fight. The suits of armor. Everything in the lake with all those stupid plots... "
"Not all the battles, Boss" said Vincent. "Diggory's victory in the Great Hall?"
Draco considered it. "OK, that's the exception that proves the rule. And sometimes history works that way too. Sometimes you get generals who just plod along, and then the better army wins. You can win by just being better and out preparing them. But it's safer to surprise them. Even V..." Draco's voice dropped. "Even You-Know-Who got tricked. Professor Quirrell was good, and maybe could have won if he was healthy. But something surprised Voldemort," Vincent flinched slightly, Draco pretended not to notice, "something got him. He went through our fathers, all of the Death Eaters without a scratch. Even Quirrell died. But something surprised him, and he lost too."
Draco kept pacing. Once you say it out loud its obvious. But what could surprise him? Maybe Quirrell set a trap and his entire attack was a distraction … Draco frowned, then shook his head. He remembered a lesson from his father. He could even hear it in his Father's voice Speculating when you do not have any information is a child's game, my son.
"Dumbledore?" said Vincent, not caring if Draco was annoyed. "He was crazy, but even You Know Who was scared of him." Draco started pacing again, unable to shake a feeling in his gut. It was Potter. I don't know how, but...
Ludicrous said his inner Lucius. The boy is a mad genius, but that is too much. You underestimate Voldemort.
"Nah," said Gregory, "Dumbledore was dead. Probably the same time as Flamel. Draco's right. Quirrell gave some trap to Granger. She hit him with it once they both came back..."
Look at the actual results and see who benefits, Draco thought.
Lucius got quiet. You may be right, my son. But we have no way to know.
Vincent shook his head. "The Professor was a Slytherin's Slytherin, sure. But he wouldn't do that."
"Sure he would, she was a General. Killing her was a personal insult" replied Gregory.
Draco sighed. "In ANY case," he said. "If I read Muggle History that Potter's already studied, he'll have less to surprise me with this year. There are a ton of good ideas. Muggles may not know much, but they fought a lot of wars. And you notice patterns: How important it is to be able to communicate during a fight, to have good information, to have troops trained to work together. We learned all of that, even in a few battles, but if you start to look at hundreds of them you see lots of tricks. I don't want to have to discover everything ourselves. There's not enough time."
Draco paused for breath, "So even if Potter manages to, I don't know, Imperius the Giant Squid or something" That's actually a good idea, and forgivable too, I think "we'll at least smash Sunshine Regiment."
Vincent and Gregory froze, all camaraderie gone, rigidly formal. Draco saw the shift from relaxed friends to minions. Anxious minions. Draco glanced back and forth between them.
"What?" he said, his voice steady. Just then the head elf, a good hand taller than all of the other elves in Malfoy Manor, appeared with a poof and bowed to Draco.
"Mistress says that Young Lord and guests should come in for dinner." The elf didn't stand up from his bow, but shot a glance at Draco as he stood, frozen.
"What?" Draco said louder, voice preternaturally steady, lest it crack.
"Not you!" he snapped. The elf, still bowed, disappeared with the sound of wet lightning.
Gregory took a deep breath. "You haven't been following the Prophet?" Draco shook his head. There had been too many funerals, and the aftermath of Voldemort's death and business papers and days and days lost where he hadn't gotten out of bed at all. Those were past, but he hadn't caught up and the Prophet could run itself for a while.
Vincent looked him in the eye. "Granger sacked Azkaban."
Dinner had been a slow, loud affair. As a child dinner parties bored Draco. Father had great plots, but Draco hadn't been involved, except in minor ways, plots he recognized now as disposable training devices. Still, Draco's education had been exhaustive from as soon as he could walk and talk and the more details he remembered and recited at breakfast, the better his chances for ice cream. At parties, Draco's boredom never dulled his eyesight. His attention. He'd mingle, chatting some but listening always. Once, when he was six, he'd discovered an elderly french witch in a closet with Olivander's assistant. That earned him ice cream for a week; although he hadn't understood why until last October.
"Tabitha," said Mother, "Draco tells me that Gregory is the best flyer in the year." Dinner had been a decidedly simple affair, roast beast with plain gravy, steamed vegetables, wine (butterbeer for the boys), and bread.
Madam Goyle smiled broadly, but no teeth showed. Her hair, which had been done up in a tightly wrapped braid under her hat, now had one loose black hair hanging slightly out to the side. "Oh, yes, we'd heard. We were quite sure he was going to make the Quidditch team..."
Madam Crabbe nodded "I don't agree with a lot of what passes for education these days, but those armies are much better than that silly game anyway, isn't that right boys?" They all quickly agreed. "Gregory's stories about the battles are quite exciting, fighting in Draco's army."
"Well," Narcissa replied quickly, "Draco had good help."
"Oh no, that Professor mixed the houses up even made that mudblood girl a general," replied Madam Crabbe.
"Standards have fallen" sniffed Madam Goyle, and all the ladies nodded.
Draco listened to the conversation, getting considerably more confused, boredom forgotten. This conversation felt different. There was the game of names, of course, subtle shifts of politeness. But there was something more, something he'd never seen at Father's parties. This is the strangest conversation I've ever seen. The chit-chat continued, each woman pleading how difficult things had been for her, or her son, and praising the other two families. Draco mulled it over, answering questions politely when asked, no different from Gregory or Vincent, in this situation. Just a boy at Mother's side.
He listened for several more minutes, after Tabitha implored Gregory to "tell how Draco outwitted the Boy-Who-Lived in that battle in the woods" when Draco put words to his feelings. It's a dominance contest, but in reverse. They are all humbling themselves … as a sign of friendship. He thought about it and it explained everything. Father had said women play the Game differently. Draco relaxed. There would be times he'd have to fight, to maintain the position of House Malfoy.
But not today.
He listened to Gregory's story, surprised at how a story he knew, he'd lived, could sound so different. Gregory's point of view didn't minimize Draco's importance, but he'd seen such a different aspect of it, scouting while Draco cast spell after spell, that some of the turns surprised him. The bitterness of his personal defeat (not mentioned at all, of course) felt easy to swallow months later, especially when Draco considered that he'd been vanquished by the Girl-Who-Revived, by the Girl with a Phoenix. He found himself laughing while following the story, as Vincent and Gregory argued about who really stunned Hannah Abbott, if Dean Thomas had really ridden a centaur to outflank his second squadron or just stumbled on them in surprise and a cross fire of useless Somnium spells. Draco relaxed and truly enjoyed the party, happy to be among friends for the first time in a month.
He'd deal with problems another day. Miss Granger wasn't his enemy. Not really. But she was certainly Draco's problem. Draco Malfoy could be content with second place.
Desert (pie and vanilla ice cream) had been brought out when there was a knock at the door. Draco got up and answered it. (The other two started to get up, but he just shook his head slightly). As the door opened Draco saw the uniform first, the person wearing it second. He nodded, smiled and bowed, a small delay to remember the names the Auror had, and which name was correct. He went by Li at Hogwarts...
"Auror Li. To what do I owe the pleasure?" A formulaic greeting he'd heard any number of times. Etiquette has many uses, Father said, but filling awkward silences and stalling are the two most important.
"Lord Malfoy." The Auror bowed, slightly compared to the formality of his words, "I am sorry, but there have been a bit too many instances of under-age magic detected here in the last hour."
Draco opened the door and beckoned Li in, "I apologize, sir. Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Goyle and myself were showing off for our mothers." He made sure that his words carried. "With all of the troubles of the last month, it just slipped our minds. I'm sure you understand." Draco followed the Auror into the dining room where Li bowed, deeply this time.
"Madam Malfoy. Forgive the intrusion. Boys?" he held out his hand. Draco quickly took out his wand and handed it over. Vincent and Gregory got up slowly and complied as well. Father bribed the Aurors to overlook this. All of his words about how Malfoy Manor was not subject to this law had been true of course; but Draco had never thought about why that had been true.
As Vincent placed the third wand in the Auror's hand, Li took out his own wand, pointed it a Vincent's.
"Prior Incantato," said Li. Draco's face fell into polite mask number one by the time the words were finished. Li looked at Vincent "I'm not familiar with that spell."
"Professor Quirrell taught it early in the year" said Gregory.
"For practicing aiming" said Vincent. The Auror nodded, and quickly cast again on the other two wands.
Mother saw it, the look on Auror Li's face when he examined Draco's wand. He paused. "I don't think I need to confiscate these. No harm in practicing, but …." he just placed the wands back on the table and bowed again. "My apologies for the intrusion, Lord Malfoy"
Everyone saw the look the Auror shot Draco when he walked by.
"Have a pleasant day, sir." Draco walked him back to the door, making sure he wasn't quite out of earshot when he said "I am sure we can continue my father's arrangement where I practice under strict supervision, if you can recommend a tutor..."
By the time he returned to the table, a minute later, the conversation had started back up again. Draco told and listened to stories, but now he was considering several problems, the least of which was how to get around the restrictions on underage magic for the rest of the summer. He idly played with his ice cream which he no longer desired as he had before Hogwarts. Now he had real problems, real goals. Draco still liked ice cream, but associated it with childish pursuits, and he couldn't enjoy it at the moment.
"Augusta" said Mother, as Madam Longbottom pushed past the startled waiter and sat down at the table. She snapped and pointed to the empty setting in front of her, and the waiter scurried to get fresh plates.
"Narcissa. Lord Malfoy. What are you wearing?" Narcissa was wearing a simple black robe with purple trim. Purple was the new rage, although this robe happened to be nearly fifteen years old. Draco wore a bespoke suit, charcoal with green tie kept neatly in place with a silver snake clip.
"Good afternoon, Madam Longbottom" said Draco politely. "It is a muggle outfit. I have business in London after lunch." He'd bought the suit several weeks ago, the better to blend in. He'd learned this outfit would blend perfectly in their world …. when he turned twenty. After that disastrous outing he'd taken to wearing blue jeans and an atrocious orange jacket with hood and pullstrings, which looked terrible but was the correct fashion for children in that strange world. Comfortable, though. Mother liked the suit though, so he wore that until he was alone. And, although he'd never admit it, he liked the suit as well.
"Don't let me keep you, dears. I just wanted to say hello."
"Augusta." Mother looked around, but the restaurant was mostly empty and what few patrons were there were looking at the couple going into Mary's Room. "There is no need for false hospitality."
Madam Longbottom took off her hat, her hair a mess underneath. "I offer none. You know I loathed Lucius. Do you know he only ever said two true things to me his whole life apart from his name? But we widows must stick together to survive. That bond I understand all too well." By now some settings had arrived and she poured herself a glass of tea. "And as for Lord Malfoy and I, why we have an even rarer bond."
"We do?" Draco blurted out.
"We got someone back. That almost never happens. Now with the Ministry having discovered Merlin's Chalice, I suppose it will happen more often."
The Daily Prophet had been ablaze for the last several weeks starting with the story of how Amelia Bones, the Director of Magical Law Enforcement had discovered Lord Voldemort's notes detailing various artifacts that could restore him to full power. This explained how You-Know-Who had been defeated so easily by a school girl, albeit "the most powerful witch her age any teacher could recall" according to Headmistress McGonagall. Lord Voldemort had returned to life, but had just started his quest to return to his full power. The article went on to discuss how Director Bones had carefully pieced together the notes with cryptic clues and hints left by Dumbledore. Put together those led her to the resting place of the Chalice. The story described how she and her Aurors had recovered it with minimal loss of limbs that could now, thanks to the Chalice, be fully healed and restored.
A few days later the Prophet reported that a middle-aged DMLE Bones had presented the discovery (but not the Chalice itself) to the Wizengamot. You could still tell it was her in the pictures, although she was less angular than her older self she gave no indication of softness. After the announcement the Cures had started a trickle but now hundreds of people had been saved at Hogwarts (technically the Peverell Hospital located adjacent to Hogwarts) by Merlin's Chalice which reversed aging and healed the sick.
And the insane, apparently. Draco noticed that story confused him, but continued the conversation.
"Neville's parents are fine? I hadn't realized that the Chalice could cure ..." he stopped as Madam Longbottom nodded, blowing on her tea to cool it.
"We've lived through terrible days." said Narcissa, "I'm glad we can now live through days of wonder."
"Indeed" said Augusta. "Once all the truly old people have gone through, I expect I'll have a go." She chuckled softly at something. "But I just sat down here, forgive me, to offer my condolences and to tell Lord Malfoy something." Draco waited patiently.
Seeing no response, Augusta continued "You know, last year during the … confusion, some parents and members of the Board of Governors stopped in at Hogwarts and witnessed one of David Monroe's battles. Fought by first years, no less." She said, between sips of tea.
"It was fascinating, Narcissa. If Draco is shy, you must press him to open up about those armies. And if you have told your mother, Draco, I'd love to hear about them. Someday. But in any case, Young General Malfoy earned quite a lot of praise from David Monroe."
Draco blinked. Professor Quirrell had praised him? Publicly?
"Oh, he had criticism too, but said Draco's mistakes were merely signs that he was still young."
"As he is," said Narcissa, "although not as young as I remember him." She smiled.
"It was during this battle that your Father said the second truthful thing. I thought you'd like to hear it. Your army won the battle, but Lucius took your … personal defeat ... badly. So he probably didn't ever say it to you."
"What did he tell you, Madam Longbottom?"
"Oh, he didn't tell me. He told everyone. He said," and here she put down her cup and stared at Draco, "'He will be the greatest Lord Malfoy that ever lived.'"
They all sat quietly.
"I know your anguish, Draco. I know your training was harsh; set to impossible standards, and now you've lost your Father." She started to get up, and reached for her coat. "But know that, even if he didn't show it, he loved you and was fiercely proud."
"Thank you Madam Longbottom. I know he loved me; but … I'd never heard him say it to anyone else." Augusta put her hat back on her head, secured it with a firm pat, then took her leave.
Author's note (5/5/15) – This update fixes a few typos. In particular I always that it was Diraclaw, not Diricawl. I thought about leaving the typo and introducing a new creature, but for now I fixed it.
Also, thanks to Redditors at r/hpmor, for nitpicking. r/hpmor, for all your HPMOR needs.
Additionally, Thanks to the guest who pointed out that Augusta misremembered the quote by Lucius Malfoy in Chapter 78. (The original says "has yet lived" instead of "ever lived.") I've decided to keep my (misremembered) wording because a) people's memories are not exact and b) it seems like the kind of detail that's easy to get wrong. Since, you know, I got it wrong