This fanfic was written in response to a conversation I was having with
Monica and Priscellie, who were saying that they wanted to see a really
well-done post-war story with all kinds of angst. I am nothing if not
obliging.

Thanks to my betas: Mon and Pris, Jen, Yap, Allison, and Tien, who help
me fix things like Draco's eye colour and encourage me shamelessly.

This is a really depressingly angstful story. Caveat Lector (Let Hannibal
Beware).

Most of the characters contained herein belong to J.K. Rowling and her
publishers and I'm sure she'd be shocked at what I've done to them, but
no copyright infringement is intended so I'm okay, and you're okay.

THE CHILDREN

We too, we too descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off --- Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine ---
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain --
--Archibald MacLeish

"We're heroes, Draco. We have to at least play the part."

Draco Malfoy had no right to sneer, Hermione thought, not when he was so
perfectly formed, not when his face and body were still entirely
unblemished, unscarred. But he did sneer, most often at her, because she
most often told him the things he didn't want to know.

"I thought being a hero meant you got a modicum of respect, now and then,"
he answered, returning to his book.

Draco had grown from the half-sized little twerp of their school days into a
graceful, panther-like man; he cultivated the image, growing his hair long
and letting it hang in pale strands around his face. Or perhaps he simply
couldn't be bothered slicking it back anymore. If asked, that would almost
certainly be his reason.

He propped the book on his legs, which were sprawled on a convenient coffee
table near the chair he sat in. His hands flicked a page over, and he
continued reading.

"Now you know how Harry felt," Hermione said quietly. Draco went very still.

"That was unnecessary, you know," he finally announced. He snapped the book
shut and laid it, respectfully, on the table next to the chair. "We're
supposed to fight, Hermione, it's what we do. You'll be reasonable, and I'll be
insufferable, and eventually you'll win. It's not fair, bringing Harry into
it."

"Life's not fair," Hermione said bluntly. His hands went to take the book
again and she caught one wrist. He started, and she instantly regretted it.
You didn't touch Draco without warning. He hated that.

"Ron will be there," she said. "And Ginny, and Sirius. They're saying Snape
might even come."

"What about Cho?" Draco asked, with another nose-wrinkling sneer.

"You know they won't let her out," Hermione said. She was very proud of the
fact that her voice barely trembled.

"Hah, no. Cho Chang, the great traitor. Saved from a life in Azkaban by one
final selfless deed, so instead they lock her up in a Muggle jail for the
rest of her life."

"She was a Death Eater, Draco. She tried to kill Harry."

"Might've been better all round if she had, eh?" Draco turned away, pulling
his wrist out of her hand more gently than she expected. "I wish she'd
killed me, too."

"You don't mean that."

"Oh no?"

"You've no right to be bitter about what was done to you. No right at all.
Ginny and I took worse than you did -- "

"But you're still wizards," Draco murmured.

"You could be too."

"Ah yes. Ginny's great plan to print the books of the Wizarding World in
Braille. How kind of her," Draco said. "I don't want Weasley's pity, thanks
ever so much."

"Come, or don't come," Hermione said, turning to leave. "I just thought you
might consider Ginny and Sirius for once in your life. It doesn't matter at
all to /me/."

She was at the door of Draco's library before he spoke again.

"It does matter to you," he said. He stood, one hand resting on the wing
of the chair. For the first time since she'd come, he faced her, his grey
eyes -- once so keen for details, the better to mock and insult -- now empty.
As though the blast which robbed him of his sight had also robbed him of his
emotion. As if the eyes really were the window to the soul, and his was
tucked away forever behind them.

As if his beautiful unscarred face was a porcelain mask.

"If we're all there, maybe nobody will notice you. That's why you're always
/with/ one of us, isn't it? You can't bear to walk a street alone and think
that the looks and the whispers and the horrible silences are about you. If
you're with Ginny or me, you can pretend they're talking about us," Draco
said, with a surprising gentleness.

"That's not -- "

"Fair?" he asked, one eyebrow raising.

"I'm alone all the time."

"Yes, I suspect you are." His hand tapped on the chair, as if he was
considering things. "Fine. Ginny can come get me. Tell Sirius if he tries to
be my friend I'll take a swing at him. And he doesn't want that, because a
blind man in a fistfight is a depressing thing."

"Thank you, Draco," Hermione said. She let the door click behind her, so
that he'd know she was gone.

***

In the end, it was Ginny and Ron who came for him, with a Muggle driver, in
a big black Bentley. Not that Draco could tell any of this, but he made it a
point to ask about things.

It made sense, after all. You didn't apparate in a blind man's home, though
of course the up-side of that was that you always knew where the furniture
was going to be. You couldn't use floo powder when you couldn't see where
the gratings were. And broomsticks? Strictly for the birds.

Ginny couldn't apparate anyhow, she still hadn't passed her test. And Ron
was more comfortable riding; the Ministry of Magic never quibbled when he
asked for a car. Enough photos had appeared in the Prophet, right after
Voldemort's death, of Ron in the horrible Muggle contraption, the Wheel
Chair. These days, in the boots specially made for him by Dumbledore, he
could walk, at least, but it was tiring.

"We're to meet Sirius at the Leaky Cauldron," Ginny said, prattling on about
something or other. Ginny never, ever, shut up. It was like having a
permanent radio switched on. Draco detested her, with the formal detestation
he reserved for all Weasleys and the talkative ones in particular. That
having been said, her idle chatter was a relief. Otherwise it would have
been the blind man and the cripple sitting in silence.

Draco didn't need to talk to Ron. The pair of them had said everything they
needed to say a long time ago, after the last battle. Plenty of people
thought they disliked each other. Truth was, they were too close, now, to
ever say how close they were.

"And Hermione?" Draco asked.

"Oh, she's there, with Sirius. Professor Snape's come too. You should see
him, Draco, he looks so dashing. All the girls at school -- "

"Are we speaking," Draco said slowly, ignoring Ginny's sudden 'eep!' when
she realised what she'd said, "of the same Severus Snape?"

"Well, he spent that summer down in Wales, and I do think the recuperation
did him wonders -- "

"Sometimes," Draco remarked idly to Ron, "I really wish I'd run off to
Canada like I promised I was going to."

"You wouldn't like it. Everybody's nice there," Ron replied.

"Sounds like Hogwarts, only with hockey."

"We're here!" Ginny squeaked, and Draco heard car doors opening. There was a
brief second of sun on his face, before someone's shadow blocked it.

"Good morning, Draco," a deep voice said. Colin Creevy, Draco thought. They
really are dragging out all the war-horses. "Help you out?"

"Thank you," Draco said, putting a hand on Colin's outstretched arm. He
stepped out of the car, and into the warm sunlight. "Hermione didn't tell me
you were coming."

"Last-minute thing. I didn't hear about it -- I was in Africa, working with
Charlie Weasley. Documentary about dragons, don't you know."

"How alliterative," Draco murmured. Colin ignored him.

"When I finally did, you can bet I hitched a broomstick, and did a little
apparating. I just got in yesterday evening. I must say, time hasn't dimmed
the memory much, has it? I was nearly mobbed."

"Lucky you."

Colin, alone among them, was the golden boy, the untouched; he hadn't been
blinded, or crippled, or scarred, or any of it. Wizard historians still
weren't sure why. Draco always thought, privately, that it had something to
do with young Polaris. That had been Colin and Ginny's job, protecting the
child, and then Ginny had gone to fight, and Colin'd had to stand alone,
until the others arrived.

As if on cue, Colin stopped. "There's Sirius," he said. "Ron and Ginny are
saying hello. Hermione's holding Polaris."

"Boy can't walk on his own yet?" Draco grumbled, but he heard Polaris laugh,
and had a difficult time keeping from smiling.

"Good morning, Draco," came Sirius' voice. "You're looking well."

"I wish I could say the same," Draco replied. Utter silence. "That was a
joke, you know," he added.

"Try smiling next time," said Hermione. "Here, Draco, you take the boy,
would you?"

Draco felt a heavy weight placed in his arms, and shifted the child to his
hip. Polaris must be nearly four, now. Small arms wrapped around his neck.

"Hallo, Pol," he said softly.

"Draco!" Polaris squealed. "Hi hi, Draco. I'm waving at you."

Polaris always explained what he was doing. It was a childish respect that
endeared him to Draco. He held the lad with one arm, while Colin led
him forward again, into the Leaky Cauldron. Noise everywhere stopped. He
ought to be used to it by now, but he never was.

Now you know how Harry felt...

Then there was a roar of applause, and Pol hid his face in Draco's shirt.

"I know, little one," he murmured. "I'm scared too."

***

The wonderful thing about Diagon Alley was its somewhat malleable magical
nature; the streets had been widened, temporarily, to allow the parade to
pass through. The celebration each year to mark the end of the war and the
defeat of the Dark Lord was better -- so Colin said, and he would know --
than Mardi Gras. Draco hated being put on show, but he did it anyway, both
last year and this, because Hermione asked him. And he got to see -- hah! --
Polaris, and Ron, and Sirius.

And, as it turned out this year, Severus Snape.

Neither he nor Hermione had seen the Potions master since the last battle.
First they weren't allowed to; he'd been too ill. Then he'd been recovering
in Wales, and hadn't wanted company.

But Draco could tell there were changes; Hermione's gasp of surprise
confirmed them, as did the firm grip of Snape's deft fingers when they shook
hands.

"Rumour says your hair's gone white," Draco said, after the greetings were
done and they were settled into the magical car that would lead the
procession. Hermione and Sirius across from them, Ron and Ginny up front,
and he, and Snape, and Colin, sharing one broad bench seat, facing backwards,
with Polaris on Draco's lap.

"Trust you, Mr. Malfoy, to remark upon it, even without seeing it," Snape
replied. Not much change there, then.

"It probably suits you."

"I couldn't say."

"You two are going to drive me mad," Colin said.

"You wouldn't," Draco said delicately, "be the first."

There was a long pause.

"How is Fleur?" Colin asked. Draco turned his head, toyed with Polaris'
hair. He'd actually /seen/ the child only once, and that had not been under
ideal circumstances, but he was assured that the boy had black hair, Harry's
hair.

"The same," Draco replied tightly. "Hermione visits her on Tuesdays. I go on
Thursdays. I think Ron sometimes visits too, but he can't keep a schedule to
save his life."

"She frightens him."

"She frightens me."

"Do you think they can cure her?"

"No. She's like all the rest he drove mad. There's no cure for Fleur. Death
would be preferable, but I can't figure out how to do it without getting
caught."

There was another silence, and he smiled. One never knew, with Draco Malfoy,
when he was serious about that sort of thing, did one?

The car jerked to life, then, and the parade began. There was a lot of
cheering. Colin said people were taking pictures. Draco was glad that he had
the child to look after, and didn't have to wave.

"Oh dear," Colin breathed. "Draco, I'm going to swap with Hermione. She
wants to face backwards, I think."

"Hermione's a diva."

"Have a little pity? Don't be cruel," Colin said, and Draco felt the
cushions shift as he stood. A second later, he smelled Hermione's perfume.

"How are you faring, Hermione?" he asked.

"Shut up, Draco."

"I didn't mean it like that."

They rode on in silence for a while, until his curiosity overtook him.
"What's Snape doing?"

"Scowling, mostly. He looks very dignified. Sirius too. Ginny and Colin seem
to be enjoying themselves, and Ron."

"Unencumbered by a sense of dignity."

"Unencumbered by a lot of things," Hermione said, a trifle bitterly.

"Do you know what they call us?" Draco asked. "I expect you do, you're out
in the world more often than I am -- "

"Call us?"

"Yes. Their name for us. Like the Boy who Lived. The Dark Lord. People
always have to /name/ things."

He could sense her surprise. "No, I didn't know we...had a name."

"They call us the Children. Because we're still only kids, don't you see.
The Children who fought Voldemort and won."

"I don't know if I want to be a child the rest of my life," Hermione said
thoughtfully.

"That's the wonderful irony, Hermione. We none of us are children, except
perhaps Polaris."

The boy twisted in his lap, and he stroked his shoulder, soothingly.

"Children, of course, are clean beings. Blank slates. Adults have...battle
scars. We just happen to wear ours on the outside."

"Stop it, Draco."

"After all, I am the blind prophet, am I not? Ron, with his magical shoes
that let the cripple walk. And dear Ginny, I never did get to see the scars
on her back."

"Don't say this in front of -- "

"And Severus Snape and Sirius Black. They were touching Harry, weren't they?
When he died? I hear Snape's left arm is gone below the elbow. Just as well.
No more inconvenient tattoo. Sirius was lucky to lose just the hand. And
you, my dear Hermione..."

"Don't!"

"To me, you're still seventeen, you know," he continued relentlessly. "I can
still see you crystal clear. Uncommonly beautiful. In my memory, none of you
are hurt. None of you are missing limbs because of the monstrosity my father
helped to bring to power, and no-one is dead."

Now there was silence, and he realised that everyone in the car had been
listening.

"In my head," he said slowly, "because I have nowhere else to see it. In my
head we're all still children, just like everyone calls us. Isn't that
interesting?"

"Do you see Harry?" Sirius asked softly.

"Of course I do," Draco said, and suddenly he felt tears on his cheeks.
"Hermione, can I borrow a handkerchief?"

"Here," said Snape's voice, and a bit of cloth was thrust into his hand. He
nodded his thanks, and tried to be covert about wiping his face.

"It's stupid," he said, as a hand took the kerchief back. The right hand, of
course. Snape didn't have a left hand anymore.

And Hermione Granger didn't have much of a face left. At least, that's what
he was told. The scars covered most of it. She'd said she'd face Voldemort,
see, so he removed it...just as Ron said he would stand with Harry, and
Draco said he wasn't blind anymore. Just as Snape and Sirius had said that
they were the men who would be the boy's hands. Just as Ginny'd said she had
his back, and Fleur promised to fight like a madwoman, and Colin had said
he'd go to the ends of the Earth -- because poor Colin can never, ever stop
running from the guilt at being the untouched one...

We are all punished by the words we speak.

Just as Harry'd said he would die before he'd let Voldemort win...or take
back Polaris.

As the cheers continued and the people waved and the cameras snapped, Draco
thought about Polaris.

It had been his job to steal the boy, because he was so used to the dark and
he knew all about Voldemort, when one was a Malfoy one simply /did/.
Creeping into Voldemort's stronghold with a false Mark, a little bit of
magic, and the biggest balls this side of the Atlantic ocean. Stealing
Polaris and an old Nimbus broomstick to escape on. He could still hear Cho's
enraged screams as he flew away, dodging curses left and right, Harry's son
in his arms.

All those hours of Quidditch paid off, even if I wasn't very good...

How did it come to this. How did it come to Harry and Cho's child, neither
old enough to have children in the first place. Harry and Cho's child the
ultimate point of the power struggle, because Cho was a Death Eater and
Harry was a...well, they didn't name the good guys, did they? They didn't
need names because nobody was afraid of them.

We name the things we fear.

And the wizarding world has named us.

He clutched Polaris tightly, suddenly. Yes, it was right and good that
Sirius had the raising of the boy, Sirius was older and wiser and could
/see/ when Polaris was about to walk off the end of the couch or drink drain
cleaner or what have you. Of /course/ Sirius should have the raising of the
boy. But Polaris belonged to him, to Draco Malfoy.

Harry was dead and Cho was in prison, only even alive because she'd betrayed
Voldemort at the last minute and only then because Harry had her child and
Voldemort was going to kill them all. Colin had protected the boy and Sirius
was raising him but Draco had been the first of them to set eyes on the
child, Draco was the one who risked his life to bring Harry's son into his
arms and by any god you cared to name, Polaris was all Draco Malfoy had.

It will never, ever be over for you. There will be the parades every year
and visiting Fleur in St. Mungo's on Thursdays and Ginny's constant,
endless, terrified prattling. And the knowledge that you have to hold out
your left hand when you meet Sirius because he hasn't got a right hand. And
Severus Snape's pale white hair. And your library full of books in Braille.

Draco had done a lot of reading, in the past few years, and he knew that
traditionally, blind men are prophets. That's deep magic. And yes, he had
seen things that had come to pass, and yes, occasionally he did send an owl
to Ron at the Ministry to let him know about these things, and no, Ron had
never broken his promise not to tell.

But he didn't need to be a prophet to see that his life was stretching out
before him in a series of yearly parades and weekly visits. He went nowhere,
he did nothing, he simply existed, representing the Children.

Perhaps I ought to visit Sirius and Polaris more often, he thought. Perhaps
I ought to tell Hermione that it would be a pretty good joke if the blind
man fell in love with the woman who's convinced she's too ugly to look at.
Maybe I ought to teach Ginny how to live with silence. I do enough of it,
after all. I could visit Harry's grave, if I wanted. Colin's always telling
me I ought to. Maybe if Colin came along, he could see that the rest of us
forgive him.

One big happy family.

Sure thing, Draco fucking Malfoy.

And the parade went on.

And Polaris, who was after all only a child, and did not really know that his
father was the Boy Who Died and his mother was a traitor, fell asleep in
Draco's arms.

END