Social Gatherings

Draco looked across the table at his mother, _His Mother, _and quietly sippedanother spoon of Diricawl soup. Narcissa stared at her glass of wine,untouched in an ornate silver goblet engraved with three snakes poking theirheads over the edge of the lip, as if drinking. The candles on the table burntlow, but had never (in all the years Draco had known) managed to finish thatfinal 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 tofind a decade gone? Lucius gone? Our house …. ” Draco put down his spoon, hismind racing with lessons, but … lessons were not for family.

“Mother. I don’t know, either.” Draco pushed his chair back and the houseelves immediately scurried in, heads down, and cleared the table. “I don’tremember 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 adaydream, not a real memory. He paused while the elves left, as noiselesslyas they’d entered. “But, you … you were coo-ing at me. And I don’t rememberyou being gone, your Death, I remember Father telling me the stories over andover. I was supposed to love you automatically, by being your child, and thathas been taking away from us. But I do remember the the coo-ing.”

Narcissa smiled at that and finally picked up the glass of wine. “That couldhave 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, noHeadmistress McGonagall re-introduced him with his long dead mother. Herconfusion as memory charms faded away, then more anguish at the lost years.There had been joy, but joy mixed with anger. McGonagall had quickly broughtthem 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 meeverything, and quickly, because in three months I will lose you again.”Narcissa saw Draco’s control; there was no pained look. _Lucius could hide hisemotions from everyone but me. _She looked around, reached into her robes(kept in her closet for years, unmoved except for a weekly cleaning) and drewout her wand.

Lumos! Lumos! _That’s better” she said, putting her wand away. Thepictures on the walls let out a small exclamation. Lord Montavian Malfoy,Father’s Grandfather, who’d purchased the first insurance contract sold byGringotts days before a group of Griffyindors slew his prized HungarianHorntail, awoke with a snort. Draco looked around. He’d grown up in MalfoyManor 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 atnight. 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 clutchedthem to him with his hands.

“After you were born, your father’s wand glowed silver for a month, and heseemed to fly up and down the stairs.”

Day turned to evening, and evening to night and morning with stories tradedbetween mother and son, as they talked of her husband and his father anddiscovered the truth that was somewhere between the two.

June 26th

Draco opened the door and bowed low. “Madam Goyle. Madam Crabbe.” He nodded atGregory 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 andacross, gesturing for his friend’s mothers to enter.

“Vincent, you should take lessons in manners from Lord Malfoy,” said MadamCrabbe, her voice not steady. “Draco … you are becoming more and more likeLucius …” she bowed her head and rushed past him, robes swishing noisily. Hervoice 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 andsquatted so that she’s looking up to me, not down at me Draco thoughtautomatically. “I am so sorry about your Father, Draco.” He didn’t try to stopthe tears.

“We all lost someone, Madam Goyle, and I am the only one who gained.” Shehugged him quickly, wiped the single tear from his face, smiled, and then wentinside. 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?” Heraised an eyebrow.

Draco gathered his robes carefully and sat down on the steps. “How are you twodoing?” 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 hadfriends and family. Now we’ve lost family and all of our friends are avoidingus, because we lost our fathers. When I went to Diagon Alley last week …. it’slike we weren’t there.”

“It’s hard” said Gregory. “I get sad, and then angry.” He picked up somepebbles and started throwing them down the path. “I wake up and I feel normalfor a second, happy, and then I remember and I’m angry at myself.” Vincenttook 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, butjust nodded. Gregory picked up another handful of rocks and continued “Somedays I think I’m not mad enough. I’m just kind of drifting along. Should I besadder? Happier?”

“I know,” Draco replied as a sharp Ping Sent a pebble veering off into thenearby trees. “Nice. I’m used to having a mask, like Father taught. But Ican’t tell if I’m wearing it enough, or too much.” Laughter came from insidethe house. After a moment, Gregory continued lazily throwing.

“Does it bother you?” Gregory asked. Draco gave him a look. “That they arelaughing?”

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 hadit 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 expectour 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. “Wedo.” He sat down on the other side of Draco, crossed his left leg over hisright. He scratched his neck with his wand before it disappeared back insidehis 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, businessarrangements. Its tedious. And studying. I’ve got to be ready for Defence thisyear. 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. Apassing cloud, shaped like a sneering hippogriff, hinted of rainfall in thenear future. “Why muggle wars? I mean, Dragon Army could probably defeat mostmuggle 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 whatwe could do. We could apparate and disapparate. Adults could anyway. Wecould 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 therout. Look at what happened in all of our battles. Each armies magic isroughly 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 ofworms just yet “and strong wizards and witches. We’re better at Magic thanPotter, even Granger is; but Potter won more often. Why?”

“Because nobody has any idea what he’s going to do” muttered Gregory. Vincentnodded.

“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 - everysingle one - was won or lost by surprise. Granger’s army played dead in thefirst battle, Potter surprised them with that sunlight potion that decimatedSunshine 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, nosurprise. 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 GreatHall?”

Draco considered it. “OK, that’s the exception that proves the rule. Andsometimes history works that way too. Sometimes you get generals who just plodalong, and then the better army wins. You can win by just being better andout preparing them. But it’s safer to surprise them. Even V…” Draco’s voicedropped. “Even You-Know-Who got tricked. Professor Quirrell was good, andmaybe 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. EvenQuirrell died. But something surprised him, and he lost too.”

Draco kept pacing. Once you say it out loud its obvious. But what couldsurprise him? Maybe Quirrell set a trap and his entire attack was adistraction … Draco frowned, then shook his head. He remembered a lesson fromhis father. He could even hear it in his Father’s voice Speculating when youdo 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, unableto shake a feeling in his gut. It was Potter. I don’t know how, but...

Ludicrous said his inner Lucius. T_he boy is a mad genius, but that is toomuch. 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 oncethey 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. Buthe wouldn’t do that.”

“Sure he would, she was a General. Killing her was a personal insult” repliedGregory.

Draco sighed. “In ANY case,” he said. “If I read the Muggle History thatPotter’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 alot of wars. And you notice patterns: How important it is to be able tocommunicate during a fight, to have good information, to have troops trainedto work together. We learned all of that, even in a few battles, but if youstart to look at hundreds of them you see lots of tricks. I don’t want to haveto discover everything ourselves. There’s not enough time.”

Draco paused for breath, “So even if Potter manages to, I don’t know, Imperiusthe Giant Squid or something” That’s actually a good idea, and forgivabletoo, I think “we’ll at least smash Sunshine Regiment.”

Vincent and Gregory froze, all camaraderie gone, rigidly formal. Draco saw theshift from relaxed friends to minions. Anxious minions. Draco glanced back andforth between them.

“What?” he said, his voice steady. Just then the head elf, a good hand tallerthan all of the other elves in Malfoy Manor, appeared with a poof and bowed toDraco.

“Mistress says that Young Lord and guests should come in for dinner.” The elfdidn’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.

“Mistress says…”

“Not you!” he snapped. The elf, still bowed, disappeared with the sound of wetlightning.

Gregory took a deep breath. “You haven’t been following the Prophet?” Dracoshook his head. There had been too many funerals, and the aftermath ofVoldemort’s death and business papers and days and days lost where he hadn’tgotten out of bed at all. Those were past, but he hadn’t caught up and theProphet 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’seducation had been exhaustive from as soon as he could walk and talk and themore details he remembered and recited at breakfast, the better his chancesfor ice cream. At parties, Draco’s boredom never dulled his eyesight. Hisattention. He’d mingle, chatting some but listening always. Once, when he wassix, he’d discovered an elderly french witch in a closet with Olivander’sassistant. That earned him ice cream for a week; although he hadn’t understoodwhy until last October.

“Tabitha,” said Mother, “Draco tells me that Gregory is the best flyer in theyear.” Dinner had been a decidedly simple affair, roast beast with plaingravy, steamed vegetables, wine (butterbeer for the boys), and bread.

Madam Goyle smiled broadly, but no teeth showed. Her hair, which had been doneup in a tightly wrapped braid under her hat, now had one loose black hairhanging slightly out to the side. “Oh, yes, we’d heard. We were quite surehe was going to make the Quidditch team…”

Madam Crabbe nodded “I don’t agree with a lot of what passes for educationthese 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 thebattles 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 ageneral,” replied Madam Crabbe.

“Well, 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 ofnames, of course, subtle shifts of politeness. But there was something more,something he’d never seen at Father’s parties. This is the strangestconversation I’ve ever seen. The chit-chat continued, each woman pleading howdifficult things had been for her, or her son, and praising the other twofamilies. Draco mulled it over, answering questions politely when asked, nodifferent from Gregory or Vincent, in this situation. Just a boy at Mother’sside.

He listened for several more minutes, after Tabitha implored Gregory to “tellhow Draco outwitted the Boy-Who-Lived in that battle in the woods” when Dracoput words to his feelings. It’s a dominance contest, but in reverse. They areall humbling themselves … as a sign of friendship. _He thought about it and itexplained everything. Father _had said women play the Game differently. Dracorelaxed. There would be times he’d have to fight, to maintain the position ofHouse 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’simportance, but he’d seen such a different aspect of it, scouting while Dracocast spell after spell, that some of the turns surprised him. The bitternessof his personal defeat (not mentioned at all, of course) felt easy to swallowmonths later, especially when Draco considered that he’d been vanquished bythe Girl-Who-Revived, by the Girl with a Phoenix. He found himself laughingwhile following the story, as Vincent and Gregory argued about who reallystunned Hannah Abbott, if Dean Thomas had really ridden a centaur to outflankhis second squadron or just stumbled on them in surprise and a cross fire ofuseless Somnium spells. Draco relaxed and truly enjoyed the party, happy tobe among friends for the first time in a month.

He’d deal with problems another day. Miss Granger wasn’t his enemy. Notreally. But she was certainly Draco’s problem. Draco Malfoy could be contentwith second place.

Desert (pie and vanilla ice cream) had been brought out when there was a knockat 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 uniformfirst, the person wearing it second. He nodded, smiled and bowed, a smalldelay to remember the names the Auror had, and which name was correct. He wentby Li at Hogwarts…

“Auror Li. To what do I owe the pleasure?” A formulaic greeting he’d heard anynumber of times. Etiquette has many uses, Father said,_ but filling awkwardsilences and stalling are the two most important. _

“Lord Malfoy.” The Auror bowed, slightly compared to the formality of hiswords, “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 hiswords carried. “With all of the troubles of the last month, it just slippedour minds. I’m sure you understand.” Draco followed the Auror into the diningroom where Li bowed, deeply this time.

“Madam Malfoy. Forgive the intrusion. Boys?” he held out his hand. Dracoquickly took out his wand and handed it over. Vincent and Gregory got upslowly and complied as well. Father bribed the Aurors to overlook this. _Allof his words about how Malfoy Manor was not subject to this law had been trueof 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 ownwand, pointed it a Vincent’s.

Prior Incantato,” said Li. Draco’s face fell into polite mask number one bythe time the words were finished. Li looked at Vincent “I’m not familiar withthat spell.”

“Professor Quirrell taught it early in the year” said Gregory.

“For practicing aiming” said Vincent. The Auror nodded, and quickly cast againon the other two wands.

Mother saw it, the look on Auror Li’s face when he examined Draco’s wand. Hepaused. “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 apologiesfor 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 hewasn’t quite out of earshot when he said “I am sure we can continue myfather’s arrangement where I practice under strict supervision, if you canrecommend a tutor…”

By the time he returned to the table, a minute later, the conversation hadstarted back up again. Draco told and listened to stories, but now he wasconsidering several problems, the least of which was how to get around therestrictions on underage magic for the rest of the summer. He idly played withhis ice cream which he no longer desired as he had before Hogwarts. Now he hadreal problems, real goals. Draco still liked ice cream, but associated it withchildish pursuits, and he couldn’t enjoy it at the moment.

June 30th

“Augusta” said Mother, as Madam Longbottom pushed past a startled waiter andsat down at the table. She snapped and pointed to the empty setting in frontof her, and the waiter scurried to get fresh plates.

“Narcissa. Lord Malfoy. What are you wearing?” Narcissa was wearing a simpleblack robe with purple trim. Purple was the new rage, although this robehappened to be nearly fifteen years old. Draco wore a bespoke suit, charcoalwith green tie kept neatly in place with a silver snake clip.

“Good afternoon, Madam Longbottom” said Draco politely. “It is a muggleoutfit. I have business in London after lunch.” He’d bought the suit severalweeks ago, the better to blend in. He’d learned this outfit would blendperfectly in their world …. when he turned twenty. After that disastrousouting he’d taken to wearing blue jeans and an atrocious orange jacket withhood and pullstrings, which looked terrible but was the correct fashion forchildren in that strange world. Comfortable, though. Mother liked the suitthough, 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 andwhat 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 mehis whole life apart from his name? But we widows must stick together tosurvive. That bond I understand all too well.” By now some settings hadarrived 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 Ministryhaving discovered Merlin’s Chalice, I suppose it will happen more often.”

The Daily Prophet had been ablaze for the last several weeks starting with thestory of how Amelia Bones, the Director of Magical Law Enforcement haddiscovered Lord Voldemort’s notes detailing various artifacts that couldrestore him to full power. This explained how You-Know-Who had been defeatedso easily by a school girl, albeit “the most powerful witch her age anyteacher could recall” according to Headmistress McGonagall. Lord Voldemort hadreturned 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 piecedtogether the notes with cryptic clues and hints left by Dumbledore. Puttogether those led her to the resting place of the Chalice. The storydescribed how she and her Aurors had recovered it with minimal loss of limbsthat could now, thanks to the Chalice, be fully healed and restored.

A few days later the Prophet reported that a middle-aged DMLE Bones hadpresented the discovery (but not the Chalice itself) to the Wizengamot. Youcould still tell it was her in the pictures, although she was less angularthan her older self she gave no indication of softness. After the announcementthe Cures had started a trickle but now hundreds of people had been saved atHogwarts (technically the Peverell Hospital located adjacent to Hogwarts) byMerlin’s Chalice which reversed aging and healed the sick.

And the insane, apparently. Draco noticed that story confused him, butcontinued 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 livethrough days of wonder.”

“Indeed” said Augusta. “Once all the truly old people have gone through, Iexpect I’ll have a go.” She chuckled softly at something. “But I just sat downhere, 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 atHogwarts 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 upabout those armies. And if you have told your mother, Draco, I’d love to hearabout them. Someday. But in any case, Young General Malfoy earned quite a lotof 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 hewas still young.”

“As he is,” said Narcissa, “although not as young as I remember him.” Shesmiled.

“It was during this battle that your Father said the second truthful thing. Ithought 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 downher cup and stared at Draco, “‘He will be the greatest Lord Malfoy that everlived.’”

They all sat quietly.

“I know your anguish, Draco. I know your training was harsh; set to impossiblestandards, and now you’ve lost your Father.” She started to get up, andreached for her coat. “But know that, even if he didn’t show it, he loved youand was fiercely proud.”

“Thank you Madam Longbottom. I know he loved me; but … I’d never heard him sayit to anyone else.” Augusta put her hat back on her head, secured it with afirm pat, then took her leave.

Author’s note (5/5) – Thank you for the kind reviews. This update fixes a fewtypos. In particular I always that it was Diraclaw, not Diricawl. I thoughtabout 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 yourHPMOR needs.

Additionally, Thanks to the guest who pointed out that Augusta misrememberedthe quote by Lucius Malfoy in Chapter 78. (The original says “has yet lived”instead of “ever lived.”) I’ve decided to keep my (misremembered) wordingbecause a) people’s memories are not exact and b) it seems like the kind ofdetail that’s easy to get wrong. Since, you know, I got it wrong

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