Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of this fic, and of the Narcissa series. Thank you for reading along.
"And is the Dark Lord really dead?"
Narcissa smiled tolerantly. Lucius had asked the question four times now, and Narcissa was patient with him as she would not be with someone else. She held up her hand and smoothed it gently across his lips, palm first. "Can you taste the magic on my skin?"
Lucius's tongue darted out for one moment. Narcissa glared at him mock-sternly, although they were alone in her quarters and no one could see him. "No," he said after a moment.
Narcissa nodded. "I wouldn't expect it, given that I was merely in the room with Voldemort and the Resurrection Stone and cast no spells of my own."
Lucius stepped back and glared at her. His long, shining hair dangled over his shoulders, and Narcissa wanted to reach up and play with it, but Lucius had other things on his mind, unfortunately. "Then why speak as though I could taste the magic on your palm?"
"I wanted you to taste salt and skin and realize that I am alive, Lucius." Narcissa reached out and knotted her fingers in his hair for a moment, letting the strands slide along her hand. "That was the kind of battle that only one of us would walk away from. Since I am alive, that means Voldemort is dead."
Lucius huffed out a sweet breath and stepped forwards to lean his head on her shoulder for a moment. "I'm sorry for doubting you," he murmured. "Only it seemed impossible that the man who has haunted our world for so long is—gone."
"Well, I've hardly the made the official announcement yet." Narcissa kissed his forehead and drew back far enough to kiss him on the lips. "I've held off on doing so for only one reason."
"What?" Lucius followed the movement of her tongue as it darted out to touch her lips, which made Narcissa excuse him for not being intelligent enough to have guessed the reason already.
"I know you had something to do with this."
Narcissa smiled a little at Miss Abbott as she marched up and stood in front of Narcissa, staring at her. "Yes, of course I did. As I just announced, Miss Abbott."
The girl blushed for a second, but then put her head up. It took some doing to ignore the Aurors swarming around the Great Hall, and the reporters who had followed them, and the gaggle of people hunched around the Pensieve that Narcissa had placed Voldemort's last memories in, but she managed it. Narcissa let her smile widen a touch. The girl had been silly to make the accusation like this and in public when Narcissa would never have denied it anyway, but she had potential, and Narcissa didn't find that many people with potential.
"You executed him, essentially. It was cruel. It was unjust."
"He destroyed his own soul-pieces, after having created multiple Horcruxes. That was only justice, Miss Abbott."
"He should have had a trial," the girl continued, undaunted. "He should have stood up in front of a courtroom and heard the accusations and had the chance to respond to them."
"And do you think he would have received a fair trial from anyone involved?" Narcissa eyed the girl skeptically. "Could we have found anyone who would try to put aside their objections to him, or their disappointment that he had failed, and tried him neutrally?"
Abbott blinked several times. Then she said, "You think there are so many people in the Ministry who are that biased?"
Potential, but she needs to attain a little more cynicism before she can apply it. Narcissa nodded. "Yes, my dear. There are people in the Ministry who hated him, those who would have been glad enough to go along with him if he had won, and everyone in between. A fair trial for him was never in the cards."
Abbott considered that, looking around between the hushed and chattering clumps of people and then the ones who were already cheering and passing what Narcissa was sure were glamoured bottles of Firewhisky back and forth. "I—it shouldn't be that way."
"I agree, actually." Narcissa would have preferred it if Voldemort had undergone the humiliation of a trial. "But that's the way it is."
"If the world could be different…"
"That sounds like a worthy project to me, Miss Abbott."
"You're only trying to make me become a politician like you," said Abbott, but her eyes weren't narrow enough to hide the gleam of interest that Narcissa saw surface in them.
"Do please think about it, and suit yourself," Narcissa said, and turned around to walk back through the Great Hall to where Draco and Harry stood with their arms around each other's waists. The Aurors had tried to interview Harry, apparently assuming that if Voldemort was defeated, there must be a way that he had something to do with it. Harry had taken great delight in giving them honest answers.
"What do you think of your foster mother's claim that You-Know-Who had multiple soul-pieces?" one of the Aurors was asking as Narcissa came up behind him.
Harry smiled pleasantly at the man, but Narcissa knew most of the smile was meant for her and Draco, who had leaned his head on Harry's shoulder. "I think that it's true. Did you see the Pensieve memories? You can clearly observe it happening."
"I think that the claim someone can cut multiple pieces from his soul is simply absurd."
This is what comes of denying children education in the Dark Arts, Narcissa thought. They don't recognize a Horcrux when they see one.
"Then how do you explain the multiple shades of Voldemort coming out of his throat?" Harry asked. The Auror flinched when he spoke, and Harry fixed him with a patient look. "Think about it. They can't be ghosts, because he was still alive when it was happening. But if you want to deny the most reasonable explanation, I suppose I can't stop you."
"I—I haven't seen the Pensieve memories yet," the Auror mumbled.
"Then I would go look at them, if I were you," Draco said, abruptly lifting his head from Harry's shoulder. The Auror jumped and gave him a wary look. Did he assume my son was merely ornamental? Narcissa thought, with a silent chuckle. "The signs of such Dark Arts are unmistakable once you know about them."
The Auror seemed to struggle to recover his poise. "And why do you know so much about them, Mr. Malfoy? When they're illegal, even?"
"I know them because of my affinity for them, which isn't illegal," Draco said. "And I sometimes dream up new spells. It's a very rare talent, but it does manifest in my mother's family line, sometimes. For example, I can imagine a spell that would separate your viscera from your abdominal cavity and fill it with ash instead."
The Auror hastily excused himself. Harry tipped Draco's head back for a kiss, and Narcissa heard him murmur, "You have something to learn about subtlety, Draco."
He did, in Narcissa's opinion. But then, life was a learning process. For example, she had never thought to see such an example of rampant stupidity as Voldemort had showed her in that last battle, but one learned new things constantly.
She let her sons see her smile, and then she turned around to answer yet another question.
"I would appreciate it if you would stop sending Aurors to interview my professors, yes."
Narcissa paused at the top of the steps and raised her eyebrows. She hadn't thought she would hear Minerva speaking those words, let alone in a spiky tone that would have made Narcissa herself consider backing down. She leaned slowly around the corner and saw Minerva standing with her arms folded and her gaze fastened on the scarlet-robed Aurors in front of her.
"I believe everything that happened, Professor Malfoy has shown you in the Pensieve," Minerva added, after a moment of stalemate.
"I have," Narcissa added, and stepped around the corner. She enjoyed the flinch and jump from the Aurors, although she ignored the narrow-eyed glare Minerva shot her. "So you don't have to scramble to cover your arses. Voldemort is dead and gone." Hilariously, most of them still flinched when she said that name.
Minerva turned to her with a stiffness that seemed more the result of offense than anything else. "As you can see, Professor Malfoy, you aren't in danger of being brought up on charges of attempted murder."
"I should hope not, when I would call it assisted suicide."
"It's just—you can't blame us for not believing it," said a tall man apparently quicker to recover than the rest of them. "It sounds so unbelievable. And we never thought anyone would be able to defeat You-Know-Who without turning to Dark Arts."
His eyes and silence seemed to be saying that of course a Malfoy would use Dark Arts just to do so. Narcissa smiled at him. "How is it Dark to stand by while a man with a splintered soul destroys himself?"
"That was the Resurrection Stone, that artifact?" asked someone else. Narcissa disliked intelligence in her enemies, but she forced herself to smile.
"Yes, it was. It couldn't have affected the pieces of Voldemort's soul otherwise." Again they jumped, and someone behind most of the others, on the stairs leading down, tumbled at least one step before she caught herself.
"Then you should turn it over to the Department of Mysteries. They would be the best guardians of the Hallows."
"Why?" The Auror sounded genuinely astonished. "Because they keep dangerous artifacts like that safe for the benefit of all wizardkind!"'
"No, for the benefit of their own research," Narcissa corrected him. He sounded like a genuine naïve soul, not someone who was cynically exploiting the propaganda of the Unspeakables to part her from the Resurrection Stone. "And anyway, I don't have it to hand over to you. I already got rid of it."
"There is no way yu can get rid of the Resurrection Stone, though," protested one of the Aurors. "They always find their way back to their original owner. Er, that's a thing I remember my mother telling me about the Hallows," she added, wilting in the face of all the eyes glaring at her.
Narcissa smiled. "I don't know if it's ever had to cope with being thrown into an ocean from Land's End before, though. If it comes back after that, I'll be impressed, but I have to admit that I'll also just find a cliff over the Pacific."
Silence. A ring of staring eyes. Narcissa enjoyed it. It wasn't as though she got this kind of attention as an assassin, after all, unless something had gone badly wrong.
Minerva was the one to interrupt. "Since you can see that Professor Malfoy has done nothing wrong, and you would have to ask permission for a formal questioning from the Ministry anyway, can I ask that you leave my school?" she demanded loudly.
The Aurors shuffled off slowly, muttering and casting Narcissa glances over their shoulders that seemed to silently accuse her of cheating them. Narcissa beamed at them and then turned to Minerva.
"Thank you for standing up for me," she said.
Minerva sighed. "You're still one of my professors, for as much as I wish you weren't. And not for much longer, I suspect. You're only staying until the end of the year to watch your sons get their NEWTS, aren't you?"
"I'm afraid so. Then you'll have to find a new Astronomy professor. And a new Defense professor, of course, although I think the curse has probably been broken by Voldemort's death."
Narcissa had to give Minerva credit for the fact that she hadn't flinched, as stupid as it should be to give someone credit for any of that. She nodded gloomily. "Very well. Thank you for informing me ahead of time. Although Merlin knows where we're going to find someone as skilled in Astronomy as you have been…it almost makes me wish Aurora were back…"
Narcissa smiled at Minerva's back, and took herself away while there were still good relations between them.
"Rumor has it that the Ministry is falling to pieces, Mother."
"Rumor might be correct," Narcissa said lazily, sitting swaddled in her nighttime robes as she stared at the Astronomy essays in front of her. Her mind wasn't on the essays at all, but on the morning she had shared with Lucius. But she made an attempt to put it aside. She should evaluate the essays with as fair and unbiased an eye as possible. That meant, among other things, that she shouldn't give them better marks than she deserved simply because she was so pleased.
"But what will that mean for our government and other things?"
Narcissa looked up. "Are you worried about that, Draco?"
"Yes," Draco said, avoiding her eyes. His tone was a little stiff, and he had turned so that he was lying on the couch with his back to her. "Of course I am. Ordinary people can't survive under that kind of chaos. And who will send out the Obliviators? Who will collect the taxes? Who will make sure—"
Narcissa choked back the laughter that would make Draco think she was mocking him, and said, "I have thought of that, dear. Competent candidates are waiting to take over the essential services and make sure they don't fail. It's really only the Wizengamot that is tearing itself to pieces, anyway, as people uncover more of the blackmail material that I left around for them to find."
She was glad that she hadn't laughed, because if there was something more adorable than Draco's social conscience, she didn't know what it was.
Draco frowned, but nodded. "And you don't think that this chaos is going to have that much impact on us, then?"
Narcissa shook her head and turned Mr. Macmillan's essay over to continue the comments that praised his grammar and recommended help with organization. "There are people who have been waiting on this day for a long time. They want the Ministry to survive in a way—but stripped of its core of greed and deference to the Wizengamot. They'll reorganize the departments and perhaps give them new names. In the end, what we have will be better."
"Then is this a revolution, Mother?"
"Say that I am providing others with the chance for their revolution," said Narcissa, and then smiled as an owl flew in holding a black letter. "Excuse me, Draco." She took the letter from the owl, paid the bird, and opened it to regard the writing, expensive white calligraphy on dark paper, with entire contentment.
"What's that, Mother?"
"Just taking care of someone who would have felt neglected if I didn't, Draco." Narcissa folded the letter carefully and put it away. Aurora Sinistra had not been one of the Death Eaters caught when Voldemort was defeated. Instead, she had gone on the run.
Then again, Narcissa had known that she would. And using some of the money in her vault from years of assassination to ensure that a vampire would stalk Aurora through other countries, always just on the edge of her sight, giving her the uneasy feeling of watching eyes, was worth it.
Eventually, Aurora would come back to Britain. And then Narcissa would exact her own payment for the crime of sending Harry to Voldemort with the Tri-Wizard cup.
In the meantime, Narcissa intended to enjoy her time with her children.
"I think I got all Outstanding on my NEWTS, Mother!"
Narcissa kissed Draco on the forehead as she watched Harry walk, in turn, in front of the Headmistress in his gold-trimmed graduation robes. "I wouldn't be at all surprised, darling."
"What about Harry, do you think?" Draco turned around in her arms, grinning. He was nearly as tall as she was now, and would probably be taller in a year, Narcissa thought wistfully. "Do you think he did as well?"
Harry caught Narcissa's eye and winked as he came off the platform that all of the graduates were using. Narcissa smiled at him and nodded to Draco. "I wouldn't be at all surprised at that, either, darling."
Harry came to a stop in front of her and looked at her without speaking for a second, then threw his arms around her. Narcissa hugged him back, one arm curved around Draco's shoulders as well.
"My life would have been so different if you hadn't fostered me," Harry whispered. "Hadn't taken me in. Thank you."
"You did a greater kindness by far for me when you agreed to become my son," Narcissa said softly, kissing his forehead. And Draco's protector, she thought, but she would not say that in front of Draco, who had become touchy about his ability to protect himself in the last few months.
Minerva opened her mouth to give a speech, and Harry and Draco both arranged their faces in polite looks. Narcissa saw the same kind of politeness on Hannah Abbott's face, and smiled. Yes, the girl was still talking to her and would make a more than interesting protégé.
Abruptly, a black-clad figure came springing across the Hogwarts grounds from the direction of the lake, waving its wand and shrieking. "Blood and death! Blood and vengeance for Lord Voldemort!"
Shrieks answered the figure. Narcissa sighed and tossed a small dart that she had carried in her clothes since the day Voldemort was defeated. The dart hit the figure in the leg, and the unknown witch—from the sound of her voice—only carried on for a few more words before collapsing.
Harry eased his hand back from his own blowgun and shook his head at her. Narcissa nodded. Yes, it was disgraceful for an assassin to work for free when it didn't involve protecting her own family, but some people were so helpless.
And she didn't really want her sons' graduation disrupted.
While Minerva bound the woman and sent a Patronus to someone who could be trusted to take care of it, Narcissa turned back towards the feast. Lucius was waiting to greet them with his own proud look in his eyes, and his arm and Draco's were both entirely bare of the Dark Mark, as Harry's forehead was of the scar.
Really, things had worked out the best way they could have.
I am pleased.