Although the Harry Potter universe is expanding, a lot of the new stuff, unfortunately, has seemed pretty questionable. J.K. Rowling’s problems with diversity, intersectionality, and colonialist narratives put me off re-visiting the Harry Potter fandom for quite some time, despite my love of Harry Potter fanfiction. However, eventually, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check out some of the older fics. And that turned out to be a good decision.
Earthbound Spook is set in the trio’s seventh year, in a world where Harry, Ron, and Hermione chose to stay at a Death Eater-free Hogwarts while hunting for the Horcruxes. McGonagall is Headmistress, and Draco Malfoy was reported killed over the summer. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Ron and Harry find the supposedly-dead Malfoy tangled up in ivy on the Hogwarts grounds.
This fic pulls off a lot of interesting ideas in one cohesive package. It soon turns out that the new Draco is from an alternate universe where, surprisingly, he’d been Sorted into Gryffindor and was friends with Harry and Ron. (Not an April Fool’s.) This is an idea I’d never considered before—most Harry Potter AU fics go with Sorting Harry into Slytherin—and at first, I found it hard to believe. But author cest_what explains their idea in such a way that it’s not only believable, but inspiring, and after finishing the fic I was bitterly disappointed that AO3 didn’t seem to have any other Gryffindor!Draco stories of note.
“I think I can see how he could have been a Gryffindor, actually.” Hermione sat down on Harry’s bed. (She never sat on Ron’s, and Ron always looked the tiniest bit disappointed about it. Harry privately thought that the omission meant a lot more than the fact that she was comfortable with Harry’s bed did.) She tapped her lip, thoughtful, and tucked one leg up underneath her. “He’s not — I mean he doesn’t, you know, seem to believe in bravery just for bravery’s sake — he’s too Slytherin for that. But he has got nerve, you know. Sometimes he’s really stupid with it.”
Ron opened and shut his mouth. He was obviously torn between denying that Malfoy had any Gryffindor qualities, and denying that ‘stupid’ was one of those qualities. “When?” he managed finally. “When has he had nerve?”
Hermione clasped her hands around the knee of the leg still touching the floor. “Every time he picks a fight, for one,” she said. “He walks around with Crabbe and Goyle like bodyguards, but he always ends up fighting too, and he always loses; but it’s like when he gets worked up he can’t even think about that. He’s completely reckless when he’s worked up, and that’s very Gryffindor.”
Ron looked pained. “But it’s not the same. It’s not like — being brave about things because they’re the right thing to do.”
“There’s more than one kind of courage, Ron,” Hermione said quietly. Her mouth made a funny, reluctant shape. “Also, the Sorting Hat song has never actually said anything about principles.”
Harry hadn’t even considered it, but he supposed that Malfoy did have a reckless courage, sometimes, even though other times he weighed up his options and ran away with his tail between his legs. But whenever it was something he cared about, Hermione was right: he was stupid brave. Mouthing off about Cedric Diggory in front of a carriage full of Hufflepuffs, right after he died — that had been horrible, but also ridiculously fearless. Insulting an enormous Hippogriff, too, just because Harry was showing him up — then facing Dumbledore, agreeing to kill possibly the most powerful wizard in the world …
“That’s only one bit, anyway,” Ron said. “‘Their daring, nerve and chivalry’, the hat said. You didn’t mention chivalry.”
Hermione wrinkled her nose. “Name for me one time you’ve been chivalrous, Ronald Weasley.”
Even though we see very little of Draco’s alternate universe, the ways in which it’s discussed—and the differences that we find out about—all seem very plausible, in ways that you probably wouldn’t have thought of. It’s an intricate bit of worldbuilding: Draco has to learn how to readjust to this universe’s Draco’s friends in Slytherin, and the trio reluctantly incorporates Draco into their Horcrux hunt and gradually learns to be friends with him as well. It is a Harry/Draco fic, but that only happens after a good deal of character development. Even the fact of Draco’s existence in the trio’s universe is delved into; cest_what explains the magical accident that must have led to the dimension hopping and the trio carefully researches what spells would successfully keep Draco in their universe. Its magical explanation is on par with anything in the Harry Potter books.
If you’re looking for a fic to remind you how fun the classic Harry Potter series was, Earthbound Spook is is the fic to read! You can check it out here on the AO3.