Within the span of a few months, it seemed every witch or wizard in Europe had flooded into London, bringing streamers and alcohol in abundance. Draco had long since given up going to the pubs in the evening– there was never anywhere to sit, and very rarely anywhere to stand. Even the streets were never free of their endless celebrations. The whole country of twits was unified, crying out their idiotic praises to Harry Potter.
If Draco hadn’t known Harry, he might have expected him to take the opportunity and step up as the Minister. He could, Draco mused bitterly. He could have the whole of London dancing ‘round in their knickers if he wanted them to. Instead he stood solemnly and gracefully before them, posing for their photographs and giving one word replies during interviews.
The young man clenched his lukewarm cup of coffee tightly between his two hands, as if he were trying to soak up every last bit of warmth that he could. Harry Potter was being praised as a hero for nothing more than circumstance, while on the other end, Draco’s world was being torn to shreds by the dozens of people who milled about outside. Worst of all, Draco was indebted to the man of the moment.
All Ministry operations had been put aside in a mad struggle to cleanse any remaining Death Eaters out of the system. Anyone with damning affiliations had been contacted within the month after the Dark Lord’s final defeat, and instructed to report to the Ministry for a hearing. Evasion was pointless. Anyone with a reason to worry wouldn’t find refuge, and those who had once graced the inner circle of the Dark Lord’s army were now pacing back and forth in makeshift cells, deep below the Ministry, having been arrested even before all the casualties of war had been taken care of.
Draco’s father had been one of those, snatched from he and his mother before the initial shock of the war’s end had hit them. A few weeks later, they’d both received their formal Ministry letters, and a week after that, they’d been sent another. The second instructed them to disregard the first.
They’d been pardoned. Pardoned because Draco had been too weak and his mother had been too grateful. Pardoned because Harry Potter pitied them, forgave them and spoke for them. Draco had never been more furious and ashamed.
If he could have, he might have sat and steamed over the situation for the entire day, sitting hunched over at a grungy table in the back corner of the café. It was probably the only café that had retained some level of its privacy, being grimy enough and small enough to repel the majority of passers-by. There were rumours circulating that the owner had been sympathetic to the Death Eaters– a reputation that drove potential patrons away by the dozen.
It had become an unofficial meetinghouse for the condemned, and when a sharp tinkling of bells interrupted his silence, Draco assumed that another cloaked, shady individual would be slipping in past the hissing crowd. Instead, he recognized Pansy, and immediately stood so that she would see him. The gesture was fairly pointless– other than a toothless hag at the bar, he was alone.
“Are you all right?” she asked immediately, brushing her fingers through a thick shock of brown hair near her eyes. “I was nearly trampled trying to get here. A group of sodding supporters with flags.”
He kissed her briefly, slipping his hand below her elbow and squeezing it affectionately. Wordlessly, she pulled a second chair to his table, placing it as close to his as she could. They huddled together, masking their hushed conversation to the outside world as nothing more than an intimate meeting. Their exchange was a series of rapid-fire questions and answers.
“No one new. Your father?”
“Life, I expect,” Draco sighed, leaning back in his chair with his hand resting upon Pansy’s back. He kneaded softly at the base of her shoulder blade for a moment, but she shook him off. From his vantage point, he saw that her hair wasn’t combed properly, and that the modest black dress that she had covered by her robes when she walked in was wrinkled. Drumming her fingers nervously against the table, she mumbled something incoherent.
“What was that?” He leaned back to where he had rested just a moment ago, and pressed his head against hers so that he could hear her better.
“My hearing is going to start soon.”
“Don’t be nervous.” His attempt at reassurance was met with a cold glare.
“Don’t be nervous?” She hissed incredulously, snatching his hand and digging her manicured nails into his palm. “Don’t be bloody nervous?”
“What the hell was I supposed to say?” he snapped, trying to wrench away from her. Her grip was surprisingly strong.
“I don’t know, Draco,” she growled. “Perhaps you explain to me how you managed to avoid this whole sodding mess. Tell me who I’m supposed to suck up to in order to get off as well.”
“I’ll probably never see my father again,” Draco protested, his voice rising. “How the fuck is that avoiding the mess?”
“You selfish little–”
“Besides, you’ll never be given time in jail. You weren’t even–”
“Stop shouting,” she said lowly, looking down at him emphatically. Glancing over her shoulder, Draco saw that the owner of the café had come out from the back room and was polishing glasses, looking over at them warily.
“You weren’t a Death Eater,” he whispered. She rolled her eyes at him, and her grip on his hand relaxed until she was merely holding it.
“But I knew people,” she looked down at her knees, avoiding him. “I knew people who were, and I was affiliated with them. In their eyes, I’m guilty.”
There was no arguing that. Draco knew that just for being married to a Death Eater, his mother would have earned herself years of restrictions, ten times as limiting as the ones that they were already under. Now that the Dark Lord was gone, the wizarding world struck out against every trace of him with as much ferocity as they could muster. It had been so for the last four months, and Draco expected that it would continue. With the Ministry in its current state, they needed to drum up as much support from the masses as possible. The best way was to give them what they wanted– dozens of intense, public trials of the once rich and powerful.
“Do you still want me to come?” he asked, trying to be sympathetic. He sounded impatient, which earned him another small dig from Pansy. She nodded, regardless, and the two young wizards left without a word, throwing their bodies out the door and into the crowd. With their Apparation licenses revoked, they had a long way to walk in nervous silence.
A/N: Thank you for reading. I wasn't too sure about the length of this chapter, but I thought that a decent prologue was needed, just so that the time and mood could be set. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a review.