Phew, what an emotional roller coaster! Find below Part III of this continuing saga.
~Harry Bailey, Managing Editor
Post-Apocalyptic Medieval Battle of Hogwarts and The Love of Maidens
Dumbledore received a letter early in the morning one hazy day in June.
“Dear Albus,” it read, “I am writing to you on behalf of my late grandfather’s great nephew, Draco Salazar Rodolpho Malfoy. I understand he is currently within your custody. I would be much obliged if you were to let him go, for the exchange of the enclosed amount of galleons. Yours sincerely, M Dolohov IV”
Albus tossed the letter into a burning bowl, including its silky envelope and the enclosed cheque. He didn’t even glance at it to see the amount it promised to pay. He wasn’t a man who was for sale.
Harry was starting to grow a beard and teased Draco about having a perfectly hairless baby face.
“Well, at least I don’t look like a werewolf,” said Draco.
“Too soon, Draco. Don’t you remember one of my closest friends and mentors was a werewolf?” said Harry.
This was only the latest in a series of petty disagreements and hurtful snide comments. Every meal time, they now sat quietly by their windows, looking down to the grounds in the hope of catching a glimpse of the fair maiden. They had now learned her name - Ginny - and had each decided that they were fated to be her husband.
“It’s obvious. I like her for her expertise in gardening. You’re just idealising her,” said Harry and slurped a spoonful of thin oat soup.
“No, I just think there’s something otherworldly about her. Something about her beauty. It’s like she’s not even touching the ground when she walks,” said Draco.
“But she does touch the ground. She stomps. She pats down the soil after planting a seedling. She probably has dirt under her fingernails. And I love that,” said Harry.
“That’s creepy,” said Draco.
They didn’t look at each other, but they knew this had created a rift between them. Sometimes, Harry would bring up a different topic, like the current Quidditch league, and they would talk about that for a while, but it would inevitably lead back to the same discussion: which one of them was more suitable to being this mysterious Ginny’s husband?
After a slow conversation about the exact number of battles they had fought alongside each other, Harry and Draco went to sleep. The tower was chilly at night, but they didn’t move their straw beds closer to each other.
Harry was fast asleep when Draco received a strange visit… a visit from a feathered friend.
A month later, Dumbledore also had a strange visitor. Sir Nicholas the Nearly-Headless had escorted him to Dumbledore’s beautiful office. When he appeared in the doorway, Dumbledore was taken aback by his appearance, even though he himself had seen many strange creatures in his lifetime: The man did not have any feathers. As a matter of fact, not only was he completely featherless, he was also completely hairless. His eyes had no lashes, his cheeks no whiskers, and his ears no little tufts. He was the epitome of baldness.
“Hello,” he said in a sweet voice.
“Who are you?” said Dumbledore. The old nightmares had plagued him again the night before. A green light. Nothingness. Breathing through densely packed soil. Earth worms.
“Oliver Home,” said the man.
“And how can I help?” said Dumbledore.
“I’m from the Ministry of Magic, Department of Imprisonment,” said the man. He pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at his hairless brow, even though it appeared to be completely dry.
“Right,” said Dumbledore.
“And I’m here to say that I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a filing error. Totally a mistake on our part, but, um, as it appears, one of your prisoners for life was actually not meant to be imprisoned for, um, life, as it were,” said Mr Home. His cloak, which was a uniform grey colour and had specks of silver all the way through it, billowed around him as he spoke, as though the act of breathing generated a breeze around his chest.
“Is that so?” said Dumbledore.
They sat down at Dumbledore’s desk, and to his surprise he saw that the papers all checked out. Mr H J Potter was indeed down for imprisonment for life, but Mr D S R Malfoy was meant to be in…
“What does that say? I’m afraid my eyes aren’t the youngest!” said Dumbledore and chuckled. This was one of his tricks: he pretended to be more elderly than he was, to not draw any attention to his recent rejuvenation and his general sprightliness now that he was Albus Dumbledore the White.
“It says Exile,” said Mr Home.
Dumbledore didn’t know what to say. Mr Home carried on talking, but even though he didn’t know Dumbledore at all he must have sensed that being spellbound isn’t one of his more common traits.
“Um, so, Mr Malfoy is actually sentenced to Exile and not a lifetime in prison.”
“But we didn’t go to court. Who filed these papers?”
Mr Home got really uncomfortable.
“You did, Sir, I’m afraid,” he said and pointed at the signature and the letterhead. Both were distinctly Dumbledore’s.
“Oh,” said Dumbledore. He whistled and has phoenix Fawkes appeared on his shoulder. “Please get Minerva,” he whispered to the beautiful bird. He promptly disappeared and left behind the smell of sulphur.
Harry and Draco were sitting munching on pumpkin bread with lemon marmalade when Professor McGonnagall arrived to see them through the hatch in the middle of their room.
“Professor!” both of them shouted in unison. They hadn’t had a chance to be alone with her since they arrived.
“It’s Her Majesty, actually,” said Minerva McGonnagall, but smiled sweetly so they boys would know she wasn’t serious.
“I’m delighted to share some good news. In his never-ending mercy, Albus has decided to let one of you go, provided you leave this place and never return. Your sentence has been amended to exile.”
Harry and Draco looked at each other. The arguments of the past weeks had made their friendship brittle, but still the promise of separation hurt.
“It’s Mr Malfoy. You must leave immediately.”
Draco’s heart ached in that moment, and not just for his friend. He knew that out in the world he wouldn’t get to see the beautiful girl anymore. The painful irony was that he was closer to her now, in the tower, than he would be in exile. He went to his bed, realised he had nothing to pack since he had no possessions, and returned back to McGonnagall and Harry.
Harry looked at Draco, and for a second it seemed like he wasn’t going to say anything.
“Good luck out there, mate,” he finally said in a small voice.
A second of silence. McGonnagall busied herself with straightening out her cloak so as to give the two friends some privacy.
“Thanks. You too,” said Draco.
Harry thought about all the places Draco would go.
And Draco thought that staying might have been the better punishment.
When they let go, the possibilities of their own fates had melted away and only the envy of the other person’s situation remained. Their gazes met as they said goodbye, but their eyes were hard.
“I’ll take you downstairs,” said Minerva.