Author's Note: (I know I meant for Penitence Part Two to be my 100th fic, but I got sidetracked signing up for ALL THE FESTS - you know how I am - and then I finished this and it posted and I felt it was more than worthy to be my epic 100, so HERE IT IS. I'll be posting it in several parts over the next few days, since it's 85,000 words in total. In my bid to take on all fandom cliches, here is my Deathfic, heavily influenced by Faithwood *hearts to her forever and ever and ever*)
Harry's return to Hogwarts was quiet and anti-climactic, just as he preferred. He unpacked his trunk and looked around the room that was to be his new home. It was cosy and warm with a blazing fire illuminating the dark wood and rich fabrics. Most of the colours were Gryffindor red, making him feel that he had, once again, come home.
He touched the bed curtains and sank down onto the mattress before giving it an experimental bounce. It was exactly as he liked it—the magic of Hogwarts was as strong as ever. With a sigh, he felt a weight lift that he hadn't realized he'd been carrying. Despite his friends' assurances, Harry had not been certain that leaving Auror training to become the DADA instructor at Hogwarts was the best decision, but being in the comforting, familiar surroundings of the school made it seem right.
Ron strolled into the room and dropped a satchel on the floor as he looked around and nodded. "Nice quarters, mate. Now I know why Snape wanted the job so bad." Ron sprawled in an upholstered chair and wiped the back of his hand across his brow.
"Yeah, much better than the dungeons." Harry grinned at him. "You look terrible. You carried one satchel up two flights of stairs. Hard workout, that."
Ron flipped him an obscene gesture. "I was dodging spells all day yesterday! I'm knackered."
Harry's grin faded. Ron was still training to be an Auror. Harry wasn't sure if Ron resented Harry for dropping out, or was pleased that he had done so. Probably a bit of both. Ron had tried to talk him out of it, of course, but Harry had not enjoyed Auror training at all. Abandoning it still felt like a relief. Secretly, he hoped it would give Ron a chance to shine on his own and stop lingering in the shadow of Harry's fame, whether real or imagined.
They had missed the Sorting Ceremony—mainly because Harry had not wanted the attention—and it was getting late. "You hungry?" Harry asked. "Up for a trip to the kitchens?"
"You're staff now. Don't you just have to snap your fingers and ask for food?"
"Where's the fun in that?"
Ron snorted a laugh. "I wonder if teachers can get expelled?"
"No, just fired. Come on; let's see if they have treacle tart." He pulled Ron to his feet and they set out for the kitchens.
Once Ron had left the school and Harry had assured McGonagall he was settled and ready for classes the next morning, he crawled into bed with a thick book Hermione had given him as congratulations on his new position. He was actually looking forward to reading it, since it was fiction and he'd had little time to do anything as relaxing as reading a book in a very long while.
He was barely four pages into the volume when a shocked-sounding "Potter?" rang through his room. He jerked his head up, not having heard the door open. The reason was instantly obvious—his visitor was a ghost. And not just any ghost.
They stared at each other wordlessly. Harry remembered hearing the news about Draco Malfoy's death, not long after the battle of Hogwarts. Harry had sent a sympathy card to Narcissa Malfoy and remembered feeling a pang of regret. Narcissa Malfoy had betrayed Voldemort in order to reach her son; Harry had saved his life twice, and for what? Malfoy had survived the war to be snuffed out just when the danger seemed to be past. It seemed a senseless waste, even though Harry had had little hope of Malfoy ever turning into a model citizen. Now he could not even remember the details of Malfoy's death. He had been busy with Auror exams at the time, and it had happened two… maybe three years ago?
"What are you doing here?" Malfoy asked, gliding forward.
Harry pursed his lips. Draco Malfoy as a human being had been difficult enough; Harry had never anticipated dealing with him as a ghost.
"Considering I am in the quarters of the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, I would think that would be obvious."
Malfoy glared malevolently. "What happened to Fairwood?"
Harry shrugged. "Moved to the Continent." Fairwood had lasted three years as Hogwarts DADA professor, proving that the curse on the position had died with Voldemort.
"I thought you would end up an Elite Auror and Minister for Magic," Malfoy said and Harry noted that the sneering tone had not changed at all.
"You thought wrong," Harry replied, hoping his antagonistic words would persuade Malfoy to leave.
Malfoy's face ricked into a nasty grin. His features were plainly visible, if amorphous. "They boot you out?"
"No, they did not boot me out. Isn't there someone else you can haunt?" As soon as Harry asked the question, he wished he hadn't.
Malfoy threw his head back and laughed. "Actually, no, there is not. I can't think of a single person I would rather haunt other than you, Potter." Malfoy strode across the room, looking thoughtful, and Harry cocked his head in puzzlement, wondering why Malfoy did not just glide. It seemed to take extra effort to move his legs in a semblance of walking, especially when his feet did not quite touch the floor. Malfoy continued, "So many possibilities…"
Harry's eyes narrowed when Malfoy turned and snapped his fingers, although the gesture made no sound. "I've got it!" He turned and "walked" to the chair nearest the bed and rose into the air before settling into it in a cross-legged pose. Affecting a serious mien, Malfoy said, "Abas. Also known as the guava tree, the leaves and bark are effective against dysentery, vomiting, and nausea. Finely ground it is a useful remedy for vertigo. Young leaves are also used as a preventative for bleeding gums and is a little-known ingredient in Droobles Best Blowing Gum for that very reason. It is also a prime component of Hangover Potions and is quite useful in toning up the vaginal walls after childbirth."
Harry stared at him in horror.
Malfoy smirked and went on. "Abas flowers are used in the treatment of conjunctivitis, eye injuries, and sun-strain. The fruit is edible, of course, but the seeds are a useful element in pain unctions and poultices against haemorrhaging."
"What are you doing?" Harry demanded.
"Don't interrupt, Potter. You might learn something. The unripe fruits, of course, are used to arrest gastroenteritis, dysentery and diarrhoea owing to their astringent features."
"No, what are you doing?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "I am listing every potion ingredient I know, of course. A well-rounded education is useful for every member of the Hogwarts' staff. Your knowledge of potions is abysmal, as I recall, so I am simply trying to help you."
Harry glared. "Are you? Can't you help me in the daytime?"
Malfoy's stare was merciless. "Certainly not. Now, where was I? Oh yes, an infusion prepared with abas leaves may treat cerebral disorders, cachexia and nephritis. I'm sure you know what those are, don't you, Potter? Since you are so smart, and all. I am positive you know that an extract of guava leaves can assist in treating certain epilepsies and chorea."
Malfoy droned on even when the book Harry threw plunged through his midsection to land harmlessly on the seat of the chair. Malfoy only gave him a withering look and spoke louder.
Silencing Spells had no effect, nor did any of a number of hexes and charms Harry tried. Malfoy simply moved to the bed and sprawled at the foot of it with his arms crossed behind his head as he floated a couple of inches above the blankets. Despite the pillow clamped to Harry's head, it was long into the night before he fell asleep to the sound of Malfoy's voice endlessly listing the properties of aluka and alumroot.