Chapter Rating: PG
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein Professor McGonagall is efficient, Draco faces off against the other Slytherins, Pansy continues to be a Mean Girl, there is chocolate cake, Millicent surprises everyone, and honours are bestowed upon those who deserve them.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 1 - Everybody's Got a Story
The silence only lasted a few seconds.
"You can't do that!"
Draco rose a little in his seat to see who had spoken. It was one of the first-years: a dark-haired, pink-faced boy. He gestured at the Sorting Hat. "My father says it's a thousand-year-old tradition! You can't just refuse--"
"That's enough," said McGonagall. The boy seemed to shrink under her withering stare. Draco couldn't help but feel somewhat sympathetic; he remembered his sixth year detentions all too well.
McGonagall turned to the High Table and gestured to Filch, who nodded and bustled out through the side entrance, Mrs Norris at his heels. Probably gone to the kitchens to tell the house-elves about the change of plans. One could only hope McGonagall would uphold the fine tradition of saving the speeches until after the food. McGonagall turned back to the students. "The staff will need to consult with the Board of Governors regarding this. In the meantime, the Feast will proceed as usual."
Within less than ten minutes, students at the house tables had made room for the first-years, whom Moody separated into groups. As soon as everyone settled, McGonagall called for silence once more. She'd gone back to her seat and was now surveying the Great Hall with a look of disapproval.
Draco turned away and frowned at the empty golden plate in front of him. No more Sorting? Was this really happening, or...?
"Before we begin, I would like to call for a moment of silence," McGonagall said. "To remember those who had died in the war, those who once called Hogwarts home. Sirius Black. Albus Dumbledore. Severus Snape. Hermione Granger..."
Draco put his hands over his ears and stared at his plate. He could still hear her, but the words were indistinct, thankfully. He didn't want to think about any of those people, didn't want to remember them. The dead served no purpose but to fill the living with guilt.
He looked up and saw Pansy leaning towards Zabini and saying something. Zabini smiled unpleasantly as he cast a glance at Draco. When he saw that Draco was looking at him, his smile faltered a bit. Draco mustered up his nastiest sneer. Zabini rolled his eyes and said something to Pansy, who laughed and covered her mouth, eyes darting towards Draco.
Just wait, Draco thought, looking away, towards the Gryffindor table. Ginny Weasley's head was bent low and propped up on her hands. Potter stared blankly in front of himself, seeming even paler than usual. He didn't appear to be listening, either. His hand rested around Ginny's shoulders, but he looked uncomfortable.
"That looks uncomfortable."
Potter shrugged. "It's not bad. I'm too drunk to care, I think."
Draco took a step towards the sofa and felt the room tilt. "Well, I'm too drunk to walk," he declared, sitting down on the floor. "I win."
"You're a bit obsessed with winning, aren't you?" Potter slid off the sofa, crawled towards Draco on all fours, and collapsed.
Draco looked down at him. Potter's face was upside down from this angle; it looked bizarre. "'Obsessed with' is a bit strong. I prefer 'driven by'."
Potter struggled up into a sitting position and faced Draco. "That's good," he said. "So am I."
Loud conversation jolted Draco back to the present. It was just as well. Remembering that night shouldn't have been on the menu in the first place.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw food appear on Pansy's plate. The moment of silence -- or, in Pansy and Zabini's case, the moment of gossip -- was over. Draco suddenly realised he'd lost his appetite. He picked listlessly at his Yorkshire pudding and listened with one ear to the chatter around him.
Pansy was regaling the other girls with tales of her fabulous summer in Venice. Tracey and Daphne provided the oohs and aahs at the appropriate moments; Millicent seemed utterly disinterested as usual. Zabini and Nott were talking about the goblin riots in Eastern Europe. It was as though Draco didn't even exist.
The oddest thing was that this didn't faze him in the slightest. He really could do without all this, without these people and their mindless nattering. They were acting as though it were just another year at Hogwarts. As though there had been no war. Did they seriously not realise what they'd been saved from? Draco threw his fork down with a clatter.
"What's the matter, Draco?" Pansy asked. "Not feeling left out, are you?" Draco opened his mouth to respond, but Pansy didn't give him a chance to say a word. "You should have thought about that when you decided to throw your lot in with the blood-traitors."
Next to her, Zabini murmured something vaguely like "Hear, hear."
"I don't recall having given you permission to speak to me, Parkinson," said Draco, smiling slightly. Pansy's eyes widened and she opened her mouth to say something, but Draco cut her off. "Here and now, you're one of the traitors. Do keep that in mind, won't you?"
"How dare you," Zabini growled. "You little--"
""Tell me, Zabini, where is your father these days?" Draco asked loudly enough to talk over him. "Oh, right. You don't even know who he was. If I were you, I wouldn't be so cocky."
Zabini's eyes bulged out, making him look like an overgrown lizard. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing special," Draco said, smiling pleasantly. "Only did you know that Voldemort's dad was a Muggle?" There was a gasp from Daphne and Tracey. Draco ignored them and tried not to dwell on the twinge of fear he'd felt at saying the Dark Lord's name. "Oh yeah, and so was Snape's. You just never know these days."
"Oh, please," Pansy said. "Don't even listen to him, Blaise." She turned to Draco. "Your idiot father is in Azkaban, is he not?"
"Funny you should say that, considering that your idiot father might end up in the same place if you don't mind your tongue." Draco kept his voice low and narrowed his eyes. Pansy Parkinson wasn't the only one with secrets to share. Draco knew what Carl Parkinson had done for the Dark Lord.
Pansy paled. "You wouldn't dare."
Draco leant back a bit, grinning. "Wouldn't I?"
Pansy glared at him but said nothing. In Zabini's dark eyes, there was murder. Nott, Draco was pleased to see, was vainly trying to stifle a smirk. He had to admit that he liked this a lot better than being ignored. He absolutely could not wait for the end of the Feast now. He picked his fork back up, thinking about attempting to eat again, but the food disappeared from under his nose, and the large serving trays were replaced with puddings. Typical.
Draco helped himself to two large pieces of chocolate cake and ignored Pansy's discontented whispers for the next little while. It wasn't real food, but it would do until he could sneak down to the kitchen. Maybe he'd even let Pansy fetch some food for him.
There was a commotion at the Great Hall entrance, sending a fresh wave of excited murmurs through the house tables. Draco looked up and saw that the Ministry people had arrived for the awards ceremony. Four witches and four wizards marched up to the High Table, followed closely by a photographer and a blonde, smug-looking woman -- Rita Skeeter.
"What's going on?" Pansy's neck was stretched so far out that she looked like she was in pain.
"You'll see," muttered Draco and smirked down at his cake.
"Never mind, I don't want to know," Pansy said in an airy voice. "It obviously has to do with the blood traitors and their so-called victory."
"So-called?" Millicent Bulstrode asked. "He's dead, ain't he?"
"Big deal," Pansy said, giving her an incredulous look. "There will be others."
"I nominate Parkinson," drawled Draco, turning to Millicent. "I think it's about time there was a Dark Lady who appreciated the colour pink."
Millicent snorted without looking up at him. Pansy appeared to be impersonating a goldfish, her mouth opening soundlessly.
At the High Table, the Ministry officials were taking their seats. Rita Skeeter's photographer was mounting his camera on a tripod behind Filch. Rita herself was standing off to the side, acid-green quill tucked behind her ear. She was staring at the Sorting Hat, which was still perched atop its stool, evidently forgotten. Draco wondered if anyone had told Rita what had happened at Sorting.
Moments later, the plates vanished from the tables and McGonagall stood up. The Great Hall grew quiet.
"The war is over," McGonagall said. "And another year at Hogwarts is about to begin. Due to the unexpected delay of Sorting, start-of-term notices will be postponed until the Board of Governors has had a chance to review the situation and reach a decision. Until then, you are all expected to behave as you would during normal school weekends." Draco watched Rita Skeeter pull her quill down and begin scribbling furiously in a notebook fastened to her wide belt. "Madam Pomfrey has arranged for the first-years to sleep in the hospital wing during the wait. The rest of you may go back to your usual dormitories."
A few older Ravenclaws rose from their seats.
"However," McGonagall said, not seeming to notice them. "I would like you to join me in welcoming Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be replacing Rubeus Hagrid as gamekeeper."
Draco hadn't noticed Grubbly-Plank before, even though she'd been sitting in Hagrid's usual spot. The teacher gave a curt nod; there were a few cheers and a smattering of polite applause.
"Also joining the staff this year is Professor Rudolph Hagen, who will teach Transfiguration."
The stocky wizard Draco had noticed earlier smiled at McGonagall and then at the students. His hair was distinctly greenish; that hadn't been a trick of the light. Draco had to wonder why McGonagall had hired someone who couldn't transfigure his own hair properly. He got even less applause than Grubbly-Plank; everyone was probably still in shock over Sorting.
"Last, but not least, we are glad to once again welcome Professor Alastor Moody. Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Deputy Headmaster."
Moody was sitting next to her, his freakish magical eye in a state of constant rotation; Draco wondered if it made him dizzy. Moody raised his right hand and gave a half-hearted wave. He wasn't smiling. The seventh-year Gryffindors applauded the loudest.
"What?" Pansy sounded furious. "He's a nutter!"
"Everyone's a nutter with you," Millicent remarked.
Draco sneaked a glance at her. What was with her tonight? She didn't usually talk this much.
"Professor Moody is also here in an official Ministry capacity," McGonagall continued. Maybe it was Draco's imagination, but he thought he detected a hint of resentment in her voice. "The war saw the Ministry's Auror Department cut down by more than half. As a result, Head Auror Gawain Robards has received permission from the Hogwarts Board of Governors to institute an experimental training programme for N.E.W.T. students eligible to become Aurors. Professor Moody has agreed to oversee this training. More information will be available to eligible students only when class schedules are handed out."
"Aurors? Hah." Pansy flipped her hair to one side and rolled her eyes. "Serves them right."
Draco dearly wished he still had some chocolate cake. It would look ever so precious splattered across Pansy's smug face. She was still a stupid little girl who didn't know anything. Then again, he supposed that Pansy would be less than impressed that Aurors had saved Draco's mother from a certain death last year.
As the excited whispering died down, McGonagall spoke again. Her voice was solemn once more and Draco wondered, with some trepidation, if she would begin to recite the names of the dead again. "We have honoured our fallen. Now it is time to honour those who survived. Over hundreds of years, Hogwarts has turned out many exceptional people, but this year is different. This year, for the first time in recorded history, we count no fewer than eight Order of Merlin recipients amongst our current students."
The whispering began as though on cue.
"Who are they? Where are they?"
"Potter's got to be one, but who are the others?"
All in all, McGonagall appeared the least impressed. In fact, she seemed downright disapproving. "Minister Scrimgeour has insisted that the recipients of the award be honoured on this day, inside the castle."
Draco suddenly understood why McGonagall seemed as though she were having her teeth pulled rather than delivering a speech. Between the Auror thing and this, it certainly looked like the Ministry had control over what happened at Hogwarts. Dumbledore would've been furious...
Draco shook his head forcefully. He was not going to think about the dead. He looked up at Pansy, who was studying the Gryffindor table with a sceptical look. "All eight are Gryffindors, I don't doubt. Just look at them. The Order of Merlin for blood traitors. Merlin's turning in his grave--"
"Stop it, Pansy," Nott muttered. "I'm trying to listen." He looked thoughtful.
Draco couldn't blame him. The words "Order of Merlin", regardless of class, opened many doors in the wizarding world. Originally, the award had been created for those especially devoted to living in harmony with Muggles or some rot like that, but that meaning was adhered to only by the very pedantic. Quite simply, it was the highest honour known to wizardkind, and recipients of the award were entitled to respect. That meant power.
The doors to the Great Hall banged open once more and McGonagall sat down.
Rufus Scrimgeour loped inside. In front of him floated a rectangular black box that looked a bit like a miniature coffin. The camera behind Filch whirred loudly and flashed, causing Mrs Norris to yowl and scamper out the side door. No one but Draco and a few younger Hufflepuffs -- who tittered -- seemed to notice, though. All eyes were on Scrimgeour.
The box floated gently towards the High Table, and a low podium rose out of the floor to meet it as it began to float downwards. The Sorting Hat still lay abandoned on its stool right next to the podium. Scrimgeour stopped in front of the Hat and turned to face the students.
"Greetings," he said stiffly.
Draco almost chuckled. Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister for Magic and former Head Auror, appeared to have no idea about how to address a crowd of teenagers.
"I am here tonight on behalf of the Ministry of Magic, to honour eight outstanding students without whom you would not be here today, anticipating a new and safe school year."
"I'd rather be in Venice," Pansy groused. Daphne elbowed her in the ribs. Draco approved.
The Ministry people rose from their seats at the edges of the High Table and approached Scrimgeour from both sides, lining up behind him. The Minister raised his wand and the cover of the coffin-shaped box opened.
"Heroes are not always those fighting battles," Scrimgeour said. "Oftentimes the most extraordinary acts of heroism happen away from the fighting. Tonight, the Ministry would like to recognise three exceptional students who were an example to many during the war. They held hands and wiped tears, they educated and they comforted, they went out of their way and often beyond their means to provide support to victims' families. They had touched more lives in a year than most people ever will in a lifetime. The Ministry would like to recognise the three founders of Tomorrow's Hope by awarding each of them with the Order of Merlin, Third Class. Would Colin Creevey, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley please come up to the podium."
There were some hushed whispers amongst the Ravenclaws as Luna climbed off her bench and almost floated to the front of the Great Hall, smiling dreamily as ever. Ginny and Colin Creevey walked together. As the trio stopped in front of Scrimgeour, Draco noted that Creevey seemed even more strung-out than usual and that Ginny looked positively sick. A wizard from Scrimgeour's left approached Creevey, while two witches from Scrimgeour's right approached the girls. Three Order of Merlin medals attached to white silk bands floated out of the coffin-box. The Ministry people affixed them to the recipients' chests.
As Ginny and Creevey turned around, both looking somewhat pinker than before, the Gryffindor table roared as one. Not to be outdone, the Ravenclaws gave Luna a deafening cheer.
"Hypocrites," muttered Draco. "You wouldn't even give her the time of day before." Loath as he was to admit it, he'd grown a bit fond of Luna during the war. She was barking mad, but at least she didn't try to hide it like most people did.
"You and Loony? Do tell, Draco. Do tell," Pansy drawled with a condescending smirk.
Fuck, he'd thought out loud again, hadn't he? Oh well. "What can I say?" Draco said, mimicking Pansy's tone. "Her company is vastly preferable to yours."
Nott and Daphne sniggered. Pansy's eyes began to narrow, but Scrimgeour was speaking again. Draco looked up and saw that Luna, Ginny, and Creevey were gone. Three down, five to go. His heart began doing a sort of two-step.
"...Voldemort threatened our families, our way of life. He struck out against innocent Muggles whose only crime was giving birth to witches and wizards. Luckily, some of those witches and wizards refused to bow to him. Tonight, the Ministry would like to recognise two outstanding young women who had saved countless Muggle-born lives through their work with the Ministry's safe-house network. They have both merited the Order of Merlin, Second Class, for the many months of their time and the many risks to their lives, devoted to keeping Muggle-born families safe. Would Hannah Abbott and Millicent Bulstrode please come up to the podium."
Draco turned to look at Millicent, astonished. He'd had no idea she'd even been involved in the war. To think he'd ever considered her too dumb to make up her mind. Fifty points to Slytherin.
Pansy, on the other hand, looked livid. "Millicent Bul--"
"My mum's a Muggle," Millicent said cheerfully, as she swung her legs over the bench and rose. "Didn't you know?" She winked at Draco and walked towards Scrimgeour. Draco grinned at her retreating back and then turned to Pansy, who looked fit to explode.
"I suggest drawing up a list of all the times you called her a fat cow," he said conversationally. "I'm thinking she'll want an individual apology for each of those before she considers you a human being." With that, he turned to watch Millicent receive her blue-ribbon medal from a Ministry witch and shake hands with Scrimgeour. Draco winced on the good Minister's behalf. Millicent's handshake was probably on par with Goyle's.
When Millicent returned to the table, Draco patted the bench next to himself. "The view's better from here," he said.
"I'll believe it when I see it," Millicent said gruffly, and sat down next to him.
Pansy, who'd been uncharacteristically quiet, turned to the side and leant back against Zabini.
"This war would never have been won without those on the enemy's side choosing to listen to their conscience," Scrimgeour said. Draco's stomach flipped, and he cursed himself for eating so much chocolate at once. Hopefully, he wouldn't throw up on the nice Ministry wizard. Or worse, on the Minister himself.
"It is not easy to renounce a belief. It's not easy to admit that you were wrong. It takes courage of a sort that few possess to act on this. Tonight, the Ministry would like to recognise a young man who had risked his life multiple times to deliver intelligence regarding Voldemort's movements. It is thanks in large part to his efforts and the efforts of the very few people like him that we are gathered here today. We want to recognise and commend these efforts by awarding him the Order of Merlin, First Class. Would Draco Malfoy please come up to the podium."
Draco blinked in astonishment as he rose. First Class?