[Note: This is a revised and generally cleaned-up version of the original fic. My apologies for the complete lack of new material, but there were a few inconsistencies in the fic I felt needed to be addressed.]

+Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus+


Draco Malfoy eyed the large white owl suspiciously. The owl, unperturbed by the fixity of Draco's stare, fluttered over to him and presented him with the parchment envelope clutched in its beak. Reluctantly, Draco took the envelope from the owl, which immediately turned and flew out the open window.

Seeing the seal of the Hogwarts crest stamped into the red wax only put Draco more on his guard. He had the sense of enchantments worked into the envelope, set to trigger an unpleasant and possibly painful reaction should the wrong person open it -- a simple, modified incendius spell, most likely, but painful nonetheless. Flipping it over, he saw that the letter, as improbable as perhaps it was, was addressed to him by name and painfully accurate location; he was in the winter sitting room of Malfoy Manor, exactly as the envelope said. Stepping to the window, Draco peered about the grounds, but saw nothing. /Not,/ he thought irritably, /that I expected to./

Wondering what the old bat of a Headmistress wanted with him, Draco cracked the wax seal with a sharp twist of his wrist and pulled the letter out. Surprise jolted through him, a rare and unwelcome experience, as he saw that it wasn't Minerva McGonagall howling at him for something -- on the contrary, Draco suspected that this letter had been written entirely without her knowledge. The next surprise came a moment later, as he realized who had sent it. Fighting disbelief, he read and re-read the contents of the letter, although no amount of repetition would ever get him reconciled to the words:

I know it's been a while, but I'm writing to ask you to come to Hogwarts. You don't have any reason to, but we need you here. I can't discuss the reasons why, but I give you a promise of safe conduct and amnesty while you're at the school, should you decide to come. Send your reply back by express owl; the courier owl should have left straight away. Answer ASAP. Thanks.

Ronald Weasley
Auror, Dept. of Mysteries
Order of Merlin, First Class
Defense Against Dark Arts League
/What the hell does he want?/ Draco scowled at the letter and slammed it down on an end table. The letter, not liking its treatment, went up in a blaze of fire that scorched the mahogany tabletop. /If you think that list of titles is impressing me, Weasley, you're wrong./ The Order of Merlin thing was new, but Draco supposed that someone who had engineered the final, decisive tactical strike against Voldemort's army would have gotten something for his trouble. Weasley had come out of it considerably better off than a lot of people, Draco thought bitterly, once more becoming aware of the vast, gaping emptiness of the manor around him.

Crabbe and Goyle, who had usually haunted these rooms with him, were gone. Draco wasn't sure whether or not he truly missed them; they'd become friends, after a fashion, over the course of seven years, but it was difficult for him to relate to people who found ogling Saucy Sorceress magazines intellectually stimulating.

Both his parents were gone, and that stung far more deeply than he liked to think. Lucius Malfoy, patriarch, had been killed in that last battle although Draco hadn't seen it happen (privately, he was relieved that he hadn't.) Narcissa Malfoy, alma mater, had died. Worse, she had died needlessly. Worst of all, she'd died because of him. Draco glared fiercely at the pile of ash that had been the letter. /You bastards, I should just let you suffer. I got my mother *killed* for you, and it's not damn enough./

It had been in a fit of conscience that he'd done it, and looking back on it, Draco had decided that it proved irrevocably that no good deed goes unpunished. He'd had Harry Potter dead to rights, 'avada kedavra' burning a hole in his mouth just waiting to be spoken, when he'd simply stared hard into Harry Potter's eyes, read the defiance there, decided he couldn't live without that defiance in his life, and let him go.

His punishment for that had been mild by Death Eater standards: a few sessions under the Cruciatus curse, Voldemort deciding that if Draco Malfoy loved his enemies so much, he wouldn't mind if a few of his close friends and family died -- after all, the Dark Lord had said with a sneer, friends help each other out. His mother had died screaming shortly after that, and Draco had seen every second of it.

Draco allowed himself the fantasy of telling that to Ron Weasley. /So you'll forgive me if I don't come, seeing as I got my mother killed for you and all. I figure I've done enough./

Weasley had suffered, too, though -- everyone had, at some point or another. His sister had been killed in a Death Eater uprising in Devon, and one of his several brothers had died when the Ministry of Magic building exploded. Many of his idiot Gryffindor housemates had been killed or badly hurt in the attack Weasley himself had set up. He probably still thought about that, and dreamt about it at night. Draco fervently hoped that was the case.

Intriguing, though, the mention of Harry... If it were anyone other than Weasley who'd sent the letter, Draco would have said it was deliberate.

Shaking himself, Draco strode down the echoing manor hallways, hearing his bare feet slap on the tile. Most of the rugs had gone and other heirlooms, too, confiscated by the Ministry after Voldemort's defeat. They'd left him with a bare minimum in his family Gringotts vaults (not counting, of course, the vast private stashes the Malfoys had always kept against such circumstances.) It was enough to keep the place, because the few house-elves who had flatly refused to leave still worked for free, and he didn't particularly want much. Not that he'd eschewed materialism -- perish the thought -- but there were more important things to do than buy more rugs and vases.

Just before entering his study, Draco reflexively paused at the doorway. It had been his father's place, heavily warded against intrusion -- even the intrusion of a boy. He'd have to ask if he could come in, then wait for his father to dismantle the spells that kept the room safe, or else wait for his father to refuse. There weren't any more wards now, of course, as Draco hadn't seen the need of putting some up again... it was just reflex, although for a moment, he pictured his father sitting behind the vast ebony desk, poring over parchments and ledgers.

His desk now, though, and Draco stepped behind it with a derisive snort at his nostalgia. /Good lord, you'd think you haven't had five years to get used to this/ he told himself sarcastically. He almost fell into the deep, soft embrace of the chair, sighing as it adjusted itself to his form. That was the last comfort he had, though, as he reached for pen and parchment, and wondered what in the world he was going to write.

/Screw off/ sprang to mind, and Draco wrote it down with a flourish, staring at the ornate calligraphy and the vaguely crude message. /Maybe 'screw' isn't strong enough,/ he thought. /Bugger, maybe. Fuck. Yes, fuck./ He wrote that down as well and smiled with satisfaction.

His pleasure dwindled as he considered the possibility that his answer, brief and unambiguous as it was, would probably not suffice. Weasley was the kind of person who, once he got an issue in his teeth, never let go of it, like a grindylow with someone's arm clamped in its jaws. Sighing, Draco resigned himself to most likely having to go in any event -- either Weasley or a lackey would be along to drag him to Hogwarts, under coercion most likely, force if necessary. He was still on the Ministry watch list of former Death Eaters, excused from trial because of Harry Bloody Potter's testimony, of all people.

That was the message in the preciseness of the address; Weasley had gotten a bit subtler over time, as unlikely as that was. /We know where you are/ it said, clear as crystal. /We know right where you are./

A sigh creaked from Draco's lips as he picked up his quill again and began to draft a somewhat more diplomatic reply, something along the lines of 'Oh, *fine*, Weasley, 'if you insist', with just enough huff in it to show the necessary independence. He summoned a post-owl, a black and evil-looking thing that had done courier work in the war (not a wise statement on his part, but it was the fastest he had), gave it the letter, and watched it fly away.

* * *

Two weeks later, he met Ron Weasley in Hogsmeade, along with a cadre of Aurors, all eyeing him suspiciously. Only Weasley seemed to be unaffected by the presence of a former Death Eater as he strode forward and offered his hand, a hand that Draco didn't take. Weasley's expression didn't change, but something -- contempt, maybe, or grim satisfaction -- flickered through hazel eyes that had grown a lot harder over ten years' time.

"Draco, thank you for coming," the man had the nerve to say.

"My pleasure," Draco bit out. /As if I had a bloody choice, Auror./ He flicked a glance in the direction of the waiting Aurors, who stared at him like a hungry pack of wolves. "I was under the impression I was granted safe passage and amnesty, Weasley."

"Hm?" Weasley turned around and blinked, as if genuinely startled to find six special agents behind him. "Oh, they're your safe escort, Draco," he said calmly, face absolutely expressionless. "And you don't have to worry about them -- it's everyone else you have to worry about."

Looking around the village, Draco saw that Ron was right; quite a few of the inhabitants remembered him, or recognized him from pictures or his resemblance to his father: tall, pale skin, silvery-blond hair and flinty grey eyes... /Yes, that, ladies and gentlemen, is a captive Malfoy./ The inimical glares and whispers -- some whispers were designed to be overheard by the entire street -- told Draco all he needed to know: the Aurors were the only people keeping the village from taking the law into its own hands.

"Shall we go?" Weasley asked, motioning to his fellow Aurors -- subordinates, Draco realized dully, too stunned to make some snarky comment about how Weasel had come up in the world -- to follow him. They neatly fell into formation around Draco, a wall of nondescript black robes. A young witch with long brown hair stalked along next to him, eyes fixed determinedly forward, as if looking to the side would make her lose control. Hostility throbbed all around Draco, who felt the atypical but reflexive urge to shrink from it.

The hike up to Hogwarts, something that had been truly fun a decade or so back, was interminable and Draco had begun to sweat (not wholly from exertion) by the time they crested the hill to Hogwarts and saw the castle.

It was unchanged, which was a tremendous relief to Draco, even though he couldn't say why. The Quidditch pitch was still there, with its pristine banners and six goal hoops. The lake was still black and drank all the light of the midday sun, and above the lake the castle rose, vast and ancient, staring down over the landscape from its turrets, as if it had never seen bloodshed or death, or the greatest battle in modern wizarding history.

/Maybe everything will be fine/ he thought as they entered by one of the side doors. His footsteps sounded louder on the flagstones, the echoes deeper, not like the quick tap-tapping of school kids' feet. All the tapestries were there, the paintings still moved to stare curiously at them as they walked past. There'd be a secret passage just up this way, Draco knew, next to a suit of Renaissance armor. It led directly to the Slytherin dormitories, assuming one knew the passwords to trigger the proper doors. Otherwise, it led the hapless soul in endless circles. He wondered what the passwords were now, and if the armor still worked properly to open the first doorway.

But there was little time for nostalgia as Weasley had brought his team, and Draco by default, to a grinding halt just outside a fairly nondescript wooden door. Weasley rapped out a few short, mysterious orders that dispersed the six Aurors to parts unknown, leaving him alone with Draco, who stared at him suspiciously.

"Wanted to get me alone, Weasel?" Draco asked.

Weasley just grinned. "You have no idea how long I've waited for that, *Draco*," he said, carefully emphasizing Draco's first name. "But unfortunately, it's not your lucky day... It's just that what I'm about to reveal to you is classified information."

Curious but not wanting to show it, Draco managed to disguise his interest behind a smirk. "Is that what they're calling it nowadays? 'Classified information'?"

"You're not really in a position to make innuendo," Weasley answered, voice absolutely flat. "I'm serious Draco, and you can take my word for it that I would never voluntarily have anything to do with you if it wasn't important."

Draco just nodded, sensing that a smart remark would be brushed off and leave Weasley up a few more points in the perpetual battle that had just resumed after a decade's interference. And there was an unwonted seriousness in Weasley's voice that made him balk from making his typical snarky retort. "Well, what is it then?" he asked. "Lead on."

Shrugging and muttering something about washing his hands of the situation -- Draco grinned at this, as he apparently hadn't lost his touch -- Ron pulled out his wand and reeled off an incredibly fast and complex pass code while quickly tapping the wand against the door at certain points. The door, after a moment's thought, swung open with a harsh grating sound and an unnatural echo.

Weasley offered no explanation for this, but stepped directly inside. Draco followed him into a sparely furnished and windowless office that reminded him suddenly of Snape's, with the exception of the current lack of pickled animal parts and potion bases. He stood next to a chair, feeling a bit awkward and resenting it, as Ron knelt down by a trunk, fiddled with its locks, opened it, and extracted a large book which he dropped on the empty desktop. Dust billowed out from between the pages of it.

"Have a seat," Weasley mumbled. He took his own advice and almost fell into his chair. Draco, with a bit more decorum, sat down and arranged his robes around him.

Weasley glanced up at Draco with a bit of the trademark glitter in his hazel eyes, a sharp reminder of what had once been on the minds of several boys during seventh year. Draco scowled and motioned for him to get on with it. Fortunately, Weasley took the hint.

"We came across these when Hogsmeade was being rebuilt after the last battle here," Weasley began.

"'These'?" Draco asked, studying the large volume. "There's more?"

Frost iced over those warm eyes and Draco fell unwillingly silent. "No, there's just the one volume, but it's made up of many smaller books -- ledgers, really -- that we bound together. After we got everything organized and really started to look at them, we realized that these books, or whatever they are... are, well, not what they seem."

"It sounds like you need a codebreaker for that," Draco said, "and before you ask, I wasn't given access to any of Voldemort's codifying spells or counterspells -- you'll find that in my deposition, Weasley, if you ever do any research."

"We know that already," Weasley said patiently. "We tested the journals -- that's what we call them -- against every codifying charm we could think of and nothing worked. Hermione and the Arithmancy team have been over them too, and none of the standard equations worked out."

"Then I'm at a loss to see why you want my services, Weasley," Draco said. Then, unable to resist the dig: "If that jumped up Granger -- " something in Ron's face made him change his mind about that "-- arithimatician couldn't crack a code, I have no idea how you expect *me* to do it."

"The journals belonged to Severus Snape."

A long silence stretched out, stretched like a rubber band until it snapped and Draco found himself lurching to his feet, nearly knocking his chair over in his agitation. "You *bastard*," he hissed, "You absolute bloody... *bastard*."

For once, Weasley didn't say anything. He merely watched as Draco fumed and stormed, fury surging inside him. Draco ran through every bitter, hideous piece of invective he could think of, wishing all the while that he could either curse the man sitting across from him or punch him, and finally ran down into an exhausted, incoherent ramble.

"You bastard," he finished, dropping into his seat again. /When did you make it a practice of losing control, Draco?/ he asked himself through his exhaustion. /Good lord, you'll be crying like a baby next./

"I'm sorry," Weasley offered, making at least a passing effort to sound contrite. "Like I said, I wouldn't have called you in if it wasn't important, and this is -- and we think it involves you, specifically."

"D'you think?" Draco asked, almost too tired to dredge up a sneer. "The man was my mentor and my protector in the Death Eaters, so I'd say it involves me."

"Look, we're yanking straws here," Weasley said with some exasperation. The edge in his voice told Draco he was on the brink of losing his self-possession and spiraling into a famous Weasley temper tantrum. It was something that, any other day, Draco would have gone out of his way to encourage, but he found he couldn't deal with it at the moment. "Hermione believes they're diaries from the war years; six different volumes were found, and Severus... well, you know."

"Died six years in," Draco said tightly. "Yes, I know."

Weasley actually looked relieved at not having to say that. "As I was saying, we don't know what they contain -- but they might be of help to you in clearing your name of some of the charges made against you. Conceivably, if what Snape says can be verified, you could get some of your property back."

"I'll never get my father and mother back," Draco replied, "and I think at this point it doesn't matter if Merlin himself acquitted me -- people would still believe I did what they say I did. That's life, Weasley. Take of the goddamned rose-colored glasses and look at it."

A visible tightness in Weasley's jaw indicated that Draco was pressing the issue. /Don't lose it, Weasley/ he taunted silently. /It wouldn't do to kill a person you've promised amnesty, after all. I bet the Ministry would take an Auror up on charges over that, even if he did get rid of a confessed Death Eater./

"They've *been* off," was his answer, "and I think you know that. I wouldn't expect people to welcome you back with open arms -- I'm probably one of the last people who'd do that, anyway. But hey, if you don't want it... don't take it. We can ship you back to your little manor in Cumbria easily enough."

That, at least, was quite true. He *could* just go back to his manor and live out the rest of his life, all hundred-plus years of it, in seclusion and unspeakable boredom. He'd spent the past two years of post-war life like that, not counting the few months of depositions and Ministry court hearings to which he'd been subjected, and the prospect held little appeal. /Does it really matter what people think of you?/ he asked himself, and then decided that no, it didn't. He'd be legally clear, maybe, if those journals were what the Aurors thought. And that brought up something else.

"Why're you giving me this chance? Two years ago, you people were howling for blood."

Surprisingly, Weasley looked very uncomfortable and it appeared for a long moment that he wasn't going to answer. Draco stared at him, unwilling to let the issue die, and Weasley at length gave in, saying, "It was Harry, if you must know. He was the one who wanted to bring you out here in the first place."

The room was suddenly very warm. "Harry?" the word emerged as a sort of croak.

"Yes, Harry," Weasley said dryly. "You know, Harry Potter."

"I ruddy well know who he is," Draco snapped.

"Yeah, well, I don't know why he wanted you to come, of all people." Weasley unfolded his long limbs and stood up, stretching a bit. His eyes never left Draco, though, despite the casualness of the motion. "But he suggested it, and we didn't have any other leads, so I told him I'd contact you."

"Why didn't he contact me directly?"

Weasley smirked at that. "He's not a member of the Ministry, Draco. Technically, he's not even supposed to know about it, but he's the one who found the damn things, and I wasn't about to perform a memory charm on him."

"How were they discovered?" Draco stood as well and moved to pick up the volume, noting the huge, ornate lock upon it. He didn't attempt to open it, certain that it had been bespelled in some way he couldn't pick up immediately. "I can't imagine Severus would leave them lying around." /Even years later you can't talk of him without choking up. Someone would think you're bloody in love with him./

/I owe him a lot./ The notion of debt was utterly foreign to a Malfoy, but there it was; he had *owed* Severus Snape, and he'd let the man down.

"In the very back of Honeydukes', believe it or not," Weasley said, laughing a little. His laugh, Draco noticed abstractly, hadn't changed much since their school days. "They were tearing down a wall to expand it, and three of the books fell out of a hole. Two more were found just outside the Shrieking Shack, one in the cellar of the apothecary."

"That sounds like Severus," Draco said softly. He touched the shiny new leather of the book binding, so at odds with the crinkled and heat-abused parchment that had taken on the characteristic stains of something poorly taken care of.

"You're right," Weasley said. He stared pensively off into the distance for a moment and then shook himself. "I'll get Hermione to break the curses on this and have it sent up to you."

"Up?" Draco repeated. "I was under the impression I'll be staying in a dungeon."

"Why would you think that?" Weasley peered at him curiously. "I said amnesty, Draco, and I meant it. Quit looking the damned gift horse in the mouth and take it, will you?"

"Accepted," Draco muttered.

Relief flickered across the Auror's face. "Finally," he muttered. He stretched one more time and made for the exit, clearly expecting Draco to follow him, which Draco did. Weasley shut the door behind them, again with that strange scraping and thunderous echo -- were there wards up? Had to be, although Draco couldn't see Weasley doing anything to set them up again. They stood awkwardly in the hallway for a moment, before Draco finally said:

"So where am I staying?"

"Teachers' quarters," Weasley said, turning a bit red. "Between Flitwick and Harry, as it happens."

Draco wondered if the swift sideways glance Weasley favored him with was a coincidence; if this weren't the situation that it was, he would have said Weasley was trying, and failing, to be subtle about something. But the man standing before him bore very little resemblance to the gawky, mercurial boy Draco had known for seven years, with only flashes of humor and temper cropping up to remind him that this Ronald Weasley was indeed descended from the one Draco could remember. But then ten years and a war would change a person, if anything would.

How had *he* changed? A question for a late night, Draco decided as he trailed Ron down the hall. A few students studious enough to be inside on a glorious day like today gawked at them as they passed. They looked incredibly young, just out of the cradle, and disgustingly, nauseatingly innocent, with their wide eyes and curious whispers. The thought was creditably uncharitable, and Draco took some comfort in it. But then... /You know what remorse tastes like/ he thought, once more becoming aware of the book in his arms, the only relic he had of his former Potions professor, his mentor, and his friend. /And you know what loss is./

Restlessly, Draco's thoughts chased themselves through his brain, not letting up when Ron dropped him off in his quarters and explained that he'd be under strict watch and curfew. Draco was too distracted to put up the requisite fight, and by the time Ron excused himself and vanished to parts unknown, he was by himself.