A/N I got a very whiney PM earlier this week threatening not to read any of my stories until I was going to continue writing. It amused me greatly. I have been writing little bits occasionally, though not much. Actually, I was kind of planning to return to writing at some point, but Real Life has been taking up a lot of my time. It happens!
Draco was having a very good time. Although at first he secretly resented the thought of being tutored, he soon found he was turoring as much as he was receiving help. When it was found he was a decent dueller and had excellent knowledge of Defense, he was assigned his own small group of younger students to help with homework. He and Harry soon had a great time with History of Magic, and it was there that Draco was learning the most about the different ways magicals in other countries had solved their Muggleborn 'problem'.
By teaching them, from early on, the culture and traditions of the magical world, the Muggleborn in Italy were less at a loss when going to school for the first time, understood where the wizards were coming from and why they did things as they did. However, and this Draco found most interesting, the constant influx of Muggleborn in turn prevented stagnation in the magical society that was, after all, far smaller than its non-magical counterpart. Also, it provided economical opportunities.
Furthermore, he learned, it wasn't as if Muggleborn had any sort of choice. They were simply born with magic, they didn't choose or acquire it in some way. Life was made easier for Squibs, as well, since there were any number of Muggle and Muggleborn families that could teach them the ways of the Muggle world, and help them find education and employment there. Many Italian magical families did still think of producing a Squib as a matter of deep shame, but it was lessened by the thought that their child could still be succesful (and add to the family fortune) from another walk of life.
Research had indicated that a marriage between a magical person and a Squib did not result in an increased chance of the children being Squibs as well, and several of the newer families (those a mere 500 or so years old) had taken advantage of that by deliberately marrying their wizard offspring to succesful Squibs, and gain a foothold for the family in both worlds.
"How would we introduce that idea in Britain, though?" he asked Harry, "this whole battle between Purebloods and Mud...I mean, Muggleborn goes back quite a long time...where Italy, and other countries with similar systems have been doing things this way for hundreds of years. I don't think it's possible to change society overnight."
"No," Harry agreed, "but if the younger generation, like you and me, can learn to get along better and be open to the example of other countries, we can make a start. We cannot and must not want to copy Italy in everything – as you said, the history of this country is very different. But look, you are Pureblood and I'm not, and we get along just fine. That group of firsties you tutor, you don't even know which ones come from magical families and which ones don't. You can no longer tell the difference."
"My father..." Draco hesitated. "My fathers' ideas have been...changing, lately," he cautiously proceeded, "his views used to be those of the older Pureblood families. I mean, that's how he was raised. But now, I'm not sure his views have changed entirely yet, but he seems to be changing his mind about the methods to accomplish his goals. I think he's discovering the same thing, that there are better, less brutal ways, to deal with a problem."
Harry nodded. "I'm not denying that it is a problem, in Britain," he said, "Muggleborn who know nothing of the magical world, suddenly thrust into it, with no understand and no education on culture...that's just asking for trouble. But that's hardly the fault of eleven-year-old children. Dudley's friend Hermione – she's my friend too by now – she is Muggleborn and a pretty outspoken one at that, but Uncle Sev explained all this to her and now she's really reading up on history and culture and doing her best to understand. Maybe when you go to Hogwarts in the fall, you should befriend her; you and her could have some very good talks about this, I think."
"I think," Draco said slowly, trying to formulate a though that only recently had been nagging him, "I think, it's not a matter of who is right in this...I think that we were all afraid of what we didn't know or understand...we of Muggleborn, Muggleborn of us...and we attack what we fear. If we can learn to understand, we will be less afraid, and less inclined to destroy..."
Dudley found himself sulking a bit after Harry had gone back to Italy. It had been fun having him over.
Harry wrote that since so many foreign students wanted to study at the Institutio, but the Institutio couldn't take them all as full-time students, that the Headmaster and staff had come up with the idea of summer courses – two one week 'summer camps' at the Institutio, one at the beginning and one towards the end of summer, when the regular students had gone home and the room was available, for those students wanting some intense training in a specific subject. If there were places left open, the regular Institutio students could apply for one of the camps as well, and Harry excitedly told Dudley he had applied for a place at the end of summer.
Dudley was not at all surprised that Hermione received an invitation from the Institutio to one of the camps, but he WAS surprised to get one as well.
"But I'm not good enough for the Institutio," he said to Uncle Sev on the Floo.
"That's not true, Dudley," the Potions Master said, "The regular curriculum is challenging, I grant you, and you would overwork yourself trying to keep up in your weaker subjects. But your ability for hard work and perseverence is exactly the reason you got this invitation. This is a chance for you to improve a great deal on subjects you excel in, studying under the Masters the Headmaster has engaged to teach those weeks. Succes doesn't rely just on magical power, but equally, or more, on hard work and focussing on your strengths, and you outdo almost every Institutio student – in fact, almost every wizard – that I know in those."
Vernon and Petunia wrote back almost instantly, granting their permission for both boys to attend the August camp, but Petunia also insisted that they go on holiday for the remaining two weeks after that, and no tutoring or homework was allowed those last two weeks; relaxation and fun would be mandatory after such hard work. Severus smiled at her tone and agreed wholeheartedly.
Little did he know that his aunts were conspiring with Petunia to send him along with them for equally mandatory fun.
Meanwhile, Lucius Malfoy sat facing Amelia Bones.
"My first inclination, of course, Mr Malfoy, is to clip you in irons and ship you off to Azkaban," she said, her face grim.
Lucius bowed his head. "I would not fight that," he softly admitted, "but I would beg your indulgence to make certain my wife and son, who are innocent of any wrongdoing, are provided for, and my sons inheritance safe for when he comes of age."
The witch stared long and hard at him.
"Potions Master Snape spoke for you, and assured me of your sincerity," she finally said, "I place high value on his word. That is the main reason I agreed to hear you. That you admit your guilt and show remorse is a point in your favour. I have authority to create a plea bargain with you, and have it ratified by a Wizegamot member or the Minister, quietly, without anyone being the wiser. You will have to provide me with a damn good proposal, though, and some very sound assurances for the future."
Lucius felt a slight ray of hope. "I...Severus made some suggestions..." he began.
Narcissa, who had been nervously pacing the livingroom the whole afternoon, awaiting a message of Lucius' arrest or, as she secretly feared, a notification of the Kiss being applied, felt her blood drain from her face when the Floo flared.
Dizzy with relief, she sank down on the sofa when she saw Lucius emerge from it, alone.
"Cissy," he said, sitting down next to her, drawing her into his embrace and hiding his own face in her shoulder.
"Luc," she said, "you are alright..."
She draw back a little to look at him, fear returning. "What happened?"
Lucius smiled sadly. "I made a plea bargain. I have Severus to thank for Bones' indulgence, I believe. I...had to share all information I had on the Dark Lord, his followers, his hiding places...everything, Cissy...everything, including..."
Narcissa looked sad. "My sister is already in Azkaban, Luc. You cannot have made her case any worse."
"I gave enough evidence for the Kiss," Lucius whispered, his voice tight, "And Bones, I think, will use all information she can to have as many Kissed as possible. If only to prevent a possible break-out attempt, should the Dark Lord ever return."
Narcissa digested this. "From her point of view, it makes sense," she then said, "but it would antagonize many old families."
"An argument I put forth, and that will stay her hand for a little while, possibly," Lucius said, "at any rate, I used Blacks case to plead with her to make certain that those who have the Kiss applied, will be guilty beyond all doubt."
"That won't help Bellatrix, who is guilty a hundred times over," Narcissa said, her voice holding a little steel, "she is my sister, and as such the thought of having the Kiss applied to that little girl I taught how to ride her first broom sickens me, but the woman who expounded to me at length about the honour of sacrificing our children to the Dark Lord – and I think she might not have been talking metaphorically – should never see the light of day again. You said that the Dark Lord may have demanded our son. If we had refused, Bella would have taken him from us to let him be slain. Such is the woman my little sister became...I mourn her, whether she lives or dies, Luc...do not feel guilty on her account."
She took a deep breath. "What else?"
Lucius looked down. "I pledged that, should my opinion or insights into the Dark Lords organisation be required in the future, that I would give it. I also have to pay almost 10 percent of our estate in fines. I am no longer the Head of the House of Malfoy, but its Regent only until Draco comes of age; then the Headship passes to our son. I may move unrestricted while on our own estates, in Diagon Alley, and Hogsmeade, but must make a report of my movements if I go anywhere else. I am banned from ever entering Knockturn Alley, and inquiries can be made if you or Draco are seen going there. If I go abroad, I need to request permission well beforehand and explain the reason why."
Narcissa let out a relieved breath. "That is...not too bad," she said, "Draco and I will not lose you, we can keep our family intact. All else we can deal with, Luc, and, let's face it, love, it is only right that the mistakes of the past are paid for."
Lucius nodded. "If I keep to the plea bargain, in five years, when Draco takes over the Headship, the restrictions on my movement will be evaluated and possibly eased. And should an emergency occur with Draco while he is underaged, I am allowed to travel to his side without first requesting permission, provided I notify Bones as soon as possible after the fact. All in all, it is better than I expected – or deserve."
Narcissa smiled. "Then I suppose I can now tell you the news..."
Lucius looked up at her. "News?" he repeated dumbly.
"I didn't want to say before, not knowing what would happen," Narcissa said, guiding his hand to rest on her stomach, "I know you hope for a daughter, but you'll be pleased if it is another boy, as well, won't you...?"
"You're so sure he will return, Severus," Ricardo said.
Severus nodded. "Lucius is...well, not entirely convinced, but he does know that Voldemort spent a lot of time finding ways to cheat death, and he was a powerful enough wizard to accomplish it. We know he is still alive, in some form. I witnessed that myself. I have my issues with Headmaster Dumbledore, but he does know what he is talking about in this case, and he is of the same opinion. Voldemort will continue his quest to regain a body. It we could find a way to destroy him before he does, that would be good. To do so, however, we need to know how he accomplished it in the first place. Lucius may be able to help. He may not know exactly how it was done, but perhaps we can get some clues from what he remembers."
"So Lucius Malfoy is an ally now?"
Severus smiled a little. "Yes. He finally discovered what is truly valuable. I am glad for it...we may not have seen eye to eye on many things in the past, but Lucius and his family have been kind to me when I was still in school. Even though they wished to gain my allegiance, I did consider Lucius something of a friend. And he makes a better ally than enemy."
He turned to his notebooks and cauldrons. "I am glad I am back here now. Amelia Bones is a capable woman, she has everything well under control. I can focus on my own work and the well-being of my wards. Yes, Harry has a role to play simply due to Voldemorts obsession with him, but he is a child and needs to be protected, and allowed to enjoy his childhood as much as he can. Madam Bones will investigate, and for now there's nothing else I need to do."
Albus Dumbledore had, through his connections, learned of the plea bargain Lucius Malfoy had made. After some careful consideration, he tentatively approved. While he would have preferred Malfoy to be beholden to him, personally, and in a position to spy should Voldemort return and revivie his organisation, this was the second best option.
He was only slightly surprised to find the son on the new students' list for the year. Of course Lucius would not, after what had happened, have left his son at Durmstrang. Young Draco would bear watching, then – and he would be watching, very carefully.
He had regained some respect with the Dursleys and Severus by not taking Sirius' stance on guardianship, but he did not have any illusions that real trust was an option. To his surprise, however, he had discovered through being forced to share information with people he did not control tightly, who made their own decisions, that cooperating in such a way yielded far better results.
No, not everything was under his control, but as it turned out, Severus, Amelia Bones, and many other children he remembered had turned out suddenly to be competent adults. He wasn't quite sure when that had happened, and how. He had tried to share his surprise with Minerva, but she simply laughed.
"Children grow up, Albus," she had said, "they don't stay eleven years old. We have to keep watching them, to keep up with their development. That's all you're discovering now – that they may have been eleven twenty or thirty years ago, but they grew up since then. As children are meant to do."
She had then smiled a bit. "Seeing Harry at that tournament, even if he's still a child, reminded me he's a student now, and a capable one, and no longer the baby I held when I went to visit Lily and James shortly after his birth."
This did not help Albus in the slightest, but only served to confuse him more.
Lucius Malfoy partook of a stiff drink in his study. His life had irrevocably changed now. There was no going back. He smiled to himself. Yes, he had lost a great deal, through his own stupidity. Yet the consequences now he didn't feel as loss. The restrictions were bound to be frustrating at times, but he would be here for his family. His children.
His eyes softened as they thought of the little one that was to be added to their household early in the new year.
Then his eye fell onto something. Something he'd been holding for a long time, without knowing exactly what it was. He walked over to the bookcase to pick it up, but thought better of it.
He put down his drink, and went to the Floo to throw in a handful of powder.
"Madam Bones? I have something for you here, that you may find interesting...but you may wish to bring an Unspeakable."