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Understanding, Nothing More

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It’s not that Draco isn’t scared by the bloody writing on the wall, or the sight of Petrified Mrs. Norris. Honestly, he’s terrified. But falling back on bravado hasn’t let him down so far, so he puffs up like usual. “‘Enemies of the Heir, Beware!’ Well, looks like all the mudbloods better watch their backs.”

A teacher’s throat clears behind him, and Draco’s heart sinks.

“Detention, Mr. Malfoy,” Professor Blake says, “for inappropriate language in the hall. And before you give in to the temptation to write to your father about this, remember that I can and will get word to your mother first.”

He wants to ask what it is he even said that was inappropriate, but more than that, he doesn’t want this to become two detentions. He also can’t argue the second point; if Mother doesn’t send him a stern letter tomorrow, he’ll be very surprised. So he nods.

“Good. I’ll see you after classes on Tuesday, then.”

“But - but we have quidditch practice on Tuesday.”

Professor Blake shrugs, no sympathy on his face whatsoever. “You should have thought of that before running your mouth. I’m afraid you’ll have to make your excuses to your team captain.”


“Unless you’d like to make this a loss of House points as well?”

Draco sighs. Professor Blake never takes House points if he can help it; he gives them out, but says he doesn’t like punishing everyone for one person’s mistake unless it’s absolutely necessary. “No, Professor.”

“Then I’ll see you on Tuesday. Now get out of the crime scene and go to bed.”

Flint is, predictably, furious that Draco won’t be at practice, but at least he hasn’t been barred from the game next weekend - and the rest of the team is furious that they’ll have to have an extra practice to integrate the team’s new Seeker into the lineup. Fortunately, Mother doesn’t send him a Howler, but she might as well have; he can feel her icy anger leeching off the page.

When he’d realised there was family teaching at Hogwarts, and that family was close to Mother to boot, he hadn’t thought it would be like this.

After his last class on Tuesday, Draco reports to the History of Magic classroom (the older students still call it ‘the new classroom,’ since there’s apparently still a ghost lecturing on goblin rebellions in the old one) for his detention - and stops short in the doorway. “What on Earth is that noise?”

Professor Blake smirks, without looking away from the book he’s reading. “Funny, Mother said the same thing the first time she heard this. Come in and close the door, Draco.”

Draco does, and takes that tacit permission to drop the paper-thin veneer of his cousin’s alias as soon as the door latches. “Was this detention really necessary, Uncle Reggie?”

“Was using a slur in the hallway really necessary?”

“I didn’t use a slur.”

His uncle raises an eyebrow, stony-faced and clearly unimpressed. “You very much did, and you know it. If your father’s talking like that in public spaces, I’m sure Cissa would be very interested to know about it, since I know she taught you better manners than that.”

Draco flushes with embarrassment, mostly because he knows Uncle Reggie is right. Father never says ‘mudblood’ when Mother’s in the room, and while she’s not immune to complaining about people, she never does so outside of the family.

“I thought so.” Uncle Reggie gets up, goes to his turntable, and changes the record, putting on one with swirls of smoke on the cover. “Well, we might as well not waste any time while we’re here.”

“I… suppose not. What is it I’m meant to do in this detention?”

“Listen and think, hopefully. But for now? I haven’t had your class yet this week. Tell me what you know about the Chamber of Secrets, since you presented yourself as such an expert on Saturday. Wow me with your knowledge.”

“Well.” Draco hesitates. “I know Salazar Slytherin built it before he left the school, and that he left a monster down there. And - and one of his heirs can go and wake the monster up and have it eliminate undesirable elements from the school.”

“Ah. So you heard about it from your father, then. That explains a lot. What is it he meant by ‘undesirable elements’?”

You know what I mean!” But he’s getting the unimpressed face again. Draco sighs. “Slytherin didn’t like non-magical influence on Hogwarts, so obviously it’d be running out all the mud--” No. He’d better not say that, considering what led to this detention. “...Muggleborns?”

“Not much better, but one battle at a time. I find it interesting that you’re so certain of that when we don’t even know who the current Heir of Slytherin is. All you have to go on is a Petrified cat that most of the student body can’t stand, thanks to her role as a disciplinary enforcer.”

“A cat who belongs to a Squib,” Draco says, but Uncle Reggie ignores him, picking up his book again. He glances at a page, then bookmarks it.

“Merlin, this one’s depressing. Anyway. There’s only been the one attack, so you’ve got no way of knowing which of those factors was behind it. Unless, of course, you did it yourself, but I know enough about your family lines to say with certainty you’re not the Heir of Slytherin. The Malfoys never came into contact with that family - bloody Normans - and the Black family’s connection predates Hogwarts.”

“But - but obviously the Heir’s not going to be a Muggleborn.”

“Oh, you’ve personally tracked down the fate of everyone who was disowned from a magical family because they had no obvious magic to call their own? Very impressive, especially for your age. I haven’t even had time to do that for my own family.” Uncle Reggie folds his hands on his desk, watching Draco with what would be a very sincere expression if not for the biting sarcasm. “Enlighten me, then, what became of Marius Black?”

“I - but - that’s not what I said at all!”

“Perhaps not, but it’s still true. Obvious magic skips generations, sometimes several of them, and re-emerges when no one remembers to look for it anymore. For all you know, that’s what happened here.”

Draco looks down at the desk he’d sat at, wishing his uncle had just assigned him lines to write or something. Uncle Reggie goes back to his book, and they sit in silence, other than the record that’s still playing.

When the album side winds to a close, his uncle marks his place in his book (if it’s so depressing, why is he still reading it?) and says, “One more thing before you go.”


“Given that we don’t know who the Heir of Slytherin is, other than ‘not you,’ you ought to be taking every precaution. If it were, hypothetically, one of the Weasley family behind this, I can’t see you not topping the ‘enemies of the Heir’ list.”

Draco feels sick; he’d been trying very, very hard not to think about that possibility. “I - why did you do this? You have to know I’m not the only one talking about it.”

“Partly because you’re the one I overheard using inappropriate language. But other than that… it’s personal. I’m not fool enough to think I can save everyone from their own bullheadedness, but I will keep you from following the path I took, and I will drag you from it kicking and screaming if I must.”

Draco stares at him.

“Go on, you’re free to go. Have some dinner.”

And he does go to dinner, but his appetite has quite deserted him.

“How was your detention?” Moon says, sugary-sweet.

“Shut up.” Draco stirs his vegetables around his plate, then looks back up. “Wait, how’d you even know about it?”

“What, you thought you could upset the whole quidditch team and word wouldn’t get around?”

She’s got a point, and he can’t even deny it. “It was… weird. He just talked to me and played one of his records.”

That gets Blaise to lean over. “Which one? I’m planning on getting that extra credit he’s got on offer if we tell him how many magical groups are in his collection.”

“There were two. I think the one he switched to was the same group as the one times-of-day record? It sounded like them, anyway. But when I got there he was playing something awfully… clangy.”

“Clangy. What a helpful description.”

“Well, I don’t know what else to call it,” Draco says. “It’s not like what he normally listens to at all. There were a lot of those electrified guitars--”

“Electric,” Moon mutters, like he just committed a personal affront against her.

“Yes, that, whatever. It was… loud.” If anything, he’s a little disconcerted that he apparently shares a reaction to it with his great-aunt; Mother’s never made Great-Aunt Walburga out to be a pleasant person. But if it’s not to Uncle Reggie’s tastes, how did she ever hear it?

In any case, the real problem with his uncle’s record collection makes itself known as he gets ready for bed. His brain whisper-sings who’s the biggest fool of all? at him well past the time he should have gone to sleep; when it’s not doing that, it’s ever-so-helpfully reminding him of their discussion in detention, and making him paranoid about the Chamber of Secrets when he really can’t afford to be.

His lack of sleep is obvious in History the next morning, to the point where he has to comment on it just as class is meant to be starting, so that everyone else will drop it.

“Oh, I shouldn’t worry about it too much, Mr. Malfoy,” Professor Blake says - and then he smirks. “It happens to us all.”

And because it was a professor, Draco can’t even scream in frustration.