DISCLAIMER: I solemnly swear I am up to no stealing. I only borrowed some characters from Jo Rowling. The story is out of my thinking.


-Chapter Thirty-One-

The Aftermath


Draco was tearing past the Hogsmeade shops. He was vaguely aware of people staring at him, pointing at him, and he knew they were looking at a convicted deatheater, but he just couldn't care. All he wanted was to get into Hogwarts, to find Harry, Ron, Hermione and help them if he could. He could not guess how much damage had been done by Pettigrew's unexpected entry into the scene, and the consequent delay in the killing of Nagini, but he fervently hoped things had not gone too wrong. The gates of Hogwarts were wide open. He had ran out of these very gates a little less than a year ago, pursued by Harry Potter. Now he was running back into Hogwarts again, through those same gates, this time to look for Harry. He did not need to search. The violent green light near the Great Lake showed him his way. He knew Harry or his friends would not use the killing curse. He could only hope that whoever had used it had missed his target. He increased his speed.

Harry was lying still at the feet of a white tomb. Draco knew whose tomb it was. He had never been there before, but he had seen the photograph in the Prophet the day following his funeral. He touched the cold white marble with his palm, and a drop of red trickled from his palm and smeared the white stone. He pulled back his hand and observed it. It was just a small cut, must have happened during the scuffle with Pettigrew. He hadn't noticed. He wiped the blood from the marble with his robe sleeve. He could have done it with the wand he had snatched from Giddens, of course, but he did not want to. He did not know why. He knelt quietly beside Harry.

"I am so sorry…" he whispered, "I am really very sorry."

There were footsteps behind him. He rose, gripped his wand and turned back. He knew he was not the Chosen One, but he was not going to let them go without a fight.

"Draco! What are you doing here? Did you see Harry?"

She hadn't noticed Harry lying on the grass, because Draco was standing in front of him.

"Hermione? You are all right? Where are the deatheat-?"

But Hermione was not paying attention to Draco. She was staring at something on the ground beyond Draco and Harry. He turned back too, following her gaze. And then he saw him, lying spread-eagled on his back. His scarlet eyes were bulging out with fear and hatred, and the blood that had gushed out of his snake-like mouth was drying up.

"Is he dead? Is he really dead for good?" Ron asked, in a voice of wonder and disbelief.

Draco knelt down beside Harry again and looked into his face. He appeared to be sleeping. His expression was peaceful, and there was a hint of a smile at the corner of his lips. Not trusting himself to hope, Draco reached for his wrist. Somebody grabbed his shoulder painfully. He turned back. It was Ginny. Her face was white and her eyes were full of anguished questions. Draco could not reassure her.

"I feel a pulse. But it is very faint."


He didn't know where he was. The place was flooded with light, but he could not see anything. He was feeling light, painless. There were blurry shapes of people moving around him, but he could not see who they were. Suddenly, a few shapes started coming closer. He strained his eyes to see their faces, but the were not clear enough. Something gold glinted before his vision. Then he saw what it was- a pair of golden spectacles.

"I knew you would do it, Harry. I knew you could do it." Dumbledore told him, his eyes twinkling behind those half-moon shaped spectacles.

"Well, sir…" Harry stammered, "You helped us a lot. You told me about the horcruxes and we just had to find them."

"But finding them was not easy, Harry." Sirius barked joyously, "And nobody was there to help you at the last battle, when he possessed you. It was your own power and strength that won it for you."

His parents were beaming, looking both happy and proud.

"No, Sirius. I wasn't alone. You all were there for me. All of you. It was you who gave me strength."

Lily ruffled his hair.

"We will always be there with you, Harry." She said, smiling.

Harry looked into her eyes, so like his own.

"Really, Mum? Do you promise?" he asked softly.

It was James who answered.

"Of course we promise, Harry. All you need to do is remember that we are there. Know that we live through you, and we do."

"Then I shall never lose." Harry whispered.

"Ah, Harry! I told you there was no power greater than the power of love." Dumbledore chuckled.

"You were right, sir. I shall never forget."

"No, you shouldn't. Nor should you forget those that love you. Goodbye, Harry."

"You are going? So soon?" Harry asked, dismayed.

Dumbledore smiled, "No, Harry, you are going."

The lights disappeared; it was total darkness. A sudden gale swept him off his feet. He was flying but he did not know in which direction. Harry was feeling afraid.

"Mum? Dad?" he cried out, "Where are you? Where am I going?"

Nobody answered.

The wind was getting stronger and stronger. Harry shut his eyes and waited for the crash. It did not come. But the wind stopped suddenly, and Harry opened his eyes again. He was lying somewhere. He stood up. It was still dark and he could not see anything. He almost felt that he himself had turned blind. And all of a sudden, he was aware of tremendous, excruciating pain all over his body. He thought the pain would kill him; it was so unbearable. And then, just at the moment when the pain became the most intense, there was a momentary flash of light, like a flash of lightening, and he thought he saw a gently swaying veil in that darkness before he passed out.

Something brushed over his face. Something soft.

He opened his eyes.

It was a curtain. He was lying on a bed by a window and the curtain was gently swaying with the breeze. There was a table beside the head. He reached his hand and put on his glasses. He could see the Quidditch stadium through the window. So he was at the Hospital wing. The movement alerted the people sitting on the other side of the face.

"Harry, thank God you are okay!" cried Ginny.

Harry turned and looked. Her hair was all messy, her face pale and her eyes red from weeping. And there were others in that room, others looking equally disheveled and worried. Remus, Hagrid, Neville and a sobbing Mrs.Weasley.

The curtain brushed against the side of his head. He turned to look at it, and then stretched his hand to catch it. He missed. The breeze snatched it out of his hand.

"Harry, shall I tie up the curtain?" Ginny asked, "Madame Pomfrey said you needed fresh air so we got you a bed by the window."

"It's okay. Don't tie the curtain."

Mrs.Weasley let out a loud sob.

"Harry, oh, Harry! How could you just do this without telling us? If anything had happened to you…" She was caressing his forehead, brushing back the hair from his forehead.

"I am all right, Mrs.Weasley. I am perfectly all right."

Mrs.Weasley continued to weep softly. Harry turned his eyes to the people sitting by him again. Neville had a bandaged head, and Ginny had some orange ointment dabbed around her nose and lips. Remus also had a few scars.

"Why did you scream, Ginny, back in the maze?"

"I saw Voldemort." She replied, "Well, actually, they saw us first. We were out of our hiding place to look for you and Hermione and we were searching all the passages, and they were doing the same. Then they saw us, and a curse came flying, which hit me on the nose. Then I saw Voldemort, and I had no idea he looked that horrible, I just panicked…I am sorry, Harry, I know it was because of me you and Hermione came out to look for us. And it was my fault that we were out looking for you, Ron had wanted us to stay hidden, but when you two did not turn up, I got scared and ran out to look for you. They had to come with me to not leave me alone. I am really sorry."

"No, don't be, Ginny." Harry told her, "Sooner or later they would have found us. But I was really scared when I heard you scream. That spell, it wasn't too serious, was it?"

"No, Madame Pomfrey has treated it. She says the cut will heal within a week, but the scars will remain for sometime. She is now treating Luna."

"What happened to Luna? How is she?" Harry asked.

"A spell hit her and she is unconscious." Neville replied, "But Madame Pomfrey says she is going to be okay."

"You don't look good either." Harry said, looking at his head.

"I am all right. I am just waiting for Gran to know." He smiled happily.

"I am sure your grandmother will be very proud of you, Neville." Remus said smiling.

Neville murmured something indistinct.

"We are all very proud of all of you." Lupin finished, looking straight at Harry.

Hagrid blew his nose loudly.

"Not I." He declared, "I am ne'er goin' to talk ter yeh again, Harry!" He said angrily, "Yeh lot made a fool outta' me, making me sit and wait at that house fer nothin' and no one when yeh could have all died here at Hogwarts…" he broke down into violent sobs.

"Hagrid, I…" Harry began awkwardly.

"Don't talk ter me! Yeh were a little baby when I got you out of your parents broken house and brought you to them Dursleys, and then I got yeh your school-letter…"

"Hagrid-"

"Yeh could have died! And I gave the keys to yeah lot an' yeh let him in to get yerselves killed!"

"Hagrid, try and understand." Ginny tried to reason, "Harry had promised Dumbledore not to speak about the horcruxes to anyone except Ron and Hermione, so how could he explain anything to you?"

Something clicked at the back of Harry's mind. He sat up very suddenly.

"Harry, dear, don't get up." Mrs.Weasley tried to push him back to bed, "You are supposed to be resting. Do you need something?"

"Ron and Hermione? Mrs.Weasley, what happened to Ron and Hermione? Why are they not here? What happened to them? They are all right, aren't they? Ginny, I saw Ron falling down back at the Room of Requirement, why did he fall? He-"

"Harry, don't talk so much. You need rest." Remus said, firmly gripping his shoulder and pushing him down again. "Ron was just stunned. They are both perfectly all right."

"Where are they?"

"They have gone to the Ministry to testify."

"Testify?"

"Er…no, not exactly. They have just gone to make a report, sort of, about Voldemort's death. Now that Voldemort is dead, the Ministry needs to record everything about how he died, you understand, don't you? Don't worry, Arthur, Minerva and Nymphadora are with them. They will be all right."

"Okay." Harry said. He looked around again. Hagrid had stopped weeping. Ginny was patting him on the arm.

"Hagrid," he asked tentatively, "when you left headquarters, had Draco returned?"

To his surprise Hagrid looked startled rather than hurt or angry.

"Draco Malfoy?" He asked, "No, Harry. He hadn't returned."

"Well, have anyone of you been to the Headquarters afterwards. Draco was supposed to return to headquarters after killing Nagini. I want to know if he is all right."

"He is all right, Harry. Don't worry." Remus said quietly.

"Why are all of you looking at each other?" Harry asked, "What happened to Draco? Tell me, or I go check at headquarters myself." He sat up again, and snatched his wand from the bedside table.

"Harry, Harry lie down." Remus tried to push him back again; "You will not find him there. Draco is not at headquarters. He did not go back to headquarters."

"Why?"

"Well, after he killed the snake, or should I say Peter killed the snake-"

"Peter Pettigrew?" Harry asked, astounded.

"Yes, him. Apparently, he turned up there just when Draco was about to kill the snake. He disarmed him, they exchanged words and blows, and then when Draco told him that Nagini was going to report Peter to Voldemort, the idiot killed the snake and stood laughing there. Well, I am not sorry. He would have died long back if you did not stop us, Harry."

"Dumbledore told me I had done the right thing in stopping you." Harry said thoughtfully, "Anyway," he sighed, "what happened to Draco?"

"He came running here. He wanted to help you. But by the time he arrived, the battle was already over. We had got your patronus signal and had arrived at the Room of Requirement as soon as we could. We even used portkeys to save time. If we had apparated we would have to cross the grounds, and then I suppose we would have seen you and Voldemort. Anyway, your friends were doing well enough, and obviously the deatheaters had not expected us to turn up, and were fairly outnumbered. When we were busy arresting them Neville carried Luna to Madame Pomfrey and Ron, Hermione and Ginny ran out to look for you in the grounds. They met Draco there, standing by you. He was with them when they brought you here."

"So where is he now?" Harry asked. "He brought me here, but he is not here. And you say he is not at Grimmauld Place, either. Then where has he gone? Is someone going to tell me? He couldn't have melted into air, could he?"

"Harry, you are not supposed to get excited-" Neville began.

"Out with it, will you?"

"He is at the Ministry." Remus said quietly. "Some villagers at Hogsmeade recognized him, and informed the aurors. They came and arrested him. But don't worry, Ron and Hermione are there as witnesses, as well as Arthur, Min- Harry, where are you going?"

"To that damned Ministry." Harry replied from the door of the ward.

"Harry, wait. You need rest. You are not strong enough to apparate." Remus had run behind him to the grounds.

A soft musical note wavered in the air. Fawkes was waiting before him.

"I wouldn't need to apparate, Remus." Said Harry smiling. He reached out and touched the tail, and a burst of scarlet later he was gone.


"He's looking bad." Ron whispered to Hermione.

"No, he's not." She snapped back. "They can't convict him. He hasn't done anything."

"Haven't you been listening, Hermione? They all reckon he was responsible for Dumbledore's death. He was the one who had disarmed him."

"Shh! Why don't you shut up and listen, Ron?"

Tonks was speaking.

"Minister, I am witness to this boy's innocence. I have seen him turn against the deatheaters and help the Order."

"And I believe this boy is your cousin, Nymphadora?" asked Dolores Umbridge.

"Tonks, if you please. And although we are cousins, our families have not met for several years so-"

"Still, they say blood runs thicker than-"

"What are you trying to say?" Tonks interrupted her furiously.

"Well, my dear," said Umbridge smiling, "you do have an odd taste in dangerous dark art creatures, half-breed mut-"

"Shut up!" said Hermione, standing up. Everybody turned to look at her.

"You will be given your turn to speak, Ms. Granger," said Percy Weasley from the front row, "please sit down now. You are breaking the decorum and honour of the court."

"You shouldn't be talking about decorum and honour, Mr.Weasley. You know nothing about either. As for you, Ms Umbridge, Remus Lupin may be a dangeroushalf-breed, but at least he never made students cut open their arms and write with their own blood on the pretext of detention, like you did!"

There was a flurry of whispers and startled glances throughout the courtroom.

"You are making a serious accusation, young lady." Said Tiberius Ogden. "Do you have any proofs for your charge?"

"Of course she is lying." Umbridge said, still smiling, "Surely the Wizengamot is not going to believe the words of an upstart girl against a senior Ministry official of my reputation?"

"Everyone is equal before the law." Said Griselda Marchbanks. "If Ms Granger can prove her charges-"

"Ask Harry Potter." Spoke up Ron, "I saw his arm right after he returned from her office on his first week of detentions with her, and she made him do it throughout the year. Ask my brothers Fred and George. Ask Lee Jordan. Ask the students who had seen the scars on Harry's arm even last year."

There was another outbreak of angry whisperings throughout the benches. The Minister raised his hand and the murmurings subsided.

"The object of this court," said Rufus Scrimegeour solemnly, "is not to discuss the complaints of school children, but to analyze the very serious crimes of Draco Malfoy who has been accused of-"

"Oh, we are analyzing his crimes, are we?" asked McGonnagall. "I was under the impression that the charges needed to be proved first."

"What is there to be proved? This boy is a known deatheater. He was an accomplice to Dumbledore's death."

"He was not."

Everybody turned towards the door to see the person who had spoken.

"Harry Potter?"

"I have come to stand witness for Draco Malfoy, Minister; if the Wizengamot allows me."

"Minerva, what is Harry doing here? Poppy said he was to have no excitement, he needs rest!" Tonks whispered, alarmed.

"Well, I knew he was going to turn up here." Minerva McGonagall replied in a resigned tone.

The Wizengamot was looking at Harry with gratitude and respect. He was the hero who had just delivered them from the most powerful dark wizard of the century. They looked with wonder at his disheveled hair and robes, the dried blood on his scar, the wand gripped in his palm and the beautiful phoenix sitting on his shoulder.

"What have you got to say, Harry Potter?" a middle-aged witch from the second row asked.

"I was present with Dumbledore when he died. No one saw me because I was under my invisibility cloak. We had gone out of school for some work and when we came back, we saw the Dark Mark over the Astronomy tower. We borrowed broomsticks from Madame Rosmerta and flew straight to the tower. As soon as we landed we heard footsteps, and Dumbledore put me under the total body-bind so that I wouldn't reveal myself. When he was immobilizing me Draco came and disarmed him."

"See! What were we saying?" asked Scrimegeour triumphantly.

"I said he disarmed Dumbledore. I never said he had killed him. Surely, Minister, expelliurmus is not an unforgivable curse? Besides, after he had disarmed Dumbledore, he had enough time to kill Dumbledore before Snape came with the other deatheaters but he didn't do it. He told Dumbledore Voldemort had ordered him to kill him or his family would be killed, but Dumbledore convinced him to come over to our side and he lowered his wand. That was when the others turned up and Snape came and killed him. Voldemort then sent him to us to act as our spy, but he told us everything worked with us. He warned us when Voldemort was about to attack the Weasleys at The Burrow one morning, (Harry saw Percy start at this) and later that evening, he led Voldemort there when the Order was prepared for them. You must remember, Minister, on the evening of 31st July last year, a large number of deatheaters was arrested from The Burrow? It wouldn't have been possible without his prior information. What is more, he has saved Lupin's life once, my life twice, and he fought with us today at Hogwarts against Voldemort and his men. Draco Malfoy is no deatheater."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Potter, this boy has a family history of people claiming to be innocent and then turning out to be criminals. His father- for instance…"

"All of you were happy enough to trust Lucius Malfoy three years ago when I was shouting myself hoarse saying that Voldemort was back. You called me a liar then, and when it was proved I was right you came running to me so I would stand by the Ministry and tell the world you were doing the right things. You sacked Dumbledore from the Wizengamot for telling the world that Voldemort had returned, and now the Wizengamot sits to convict a boy for his murder when he hadn't done it. You let off genuine deatheaters when they have gold enough to donate to your charities and you send innocent people like Sirius Black and Stan Shunpike to Azkaban. And you call this mockery a trial!"

"Harry, you shouldn't shout so much. Madame Pomfrey said you needed rest." Mr.Weasley whispered from his side.

Harry did not reply. He was staring hard at the members of the court.

"Well, we understand your feelings, Harry." Said Cornelius Fudge, "Black was your godfather, we are very sorry-"

"Too late, Mr. Fudge, he did not live for you to realize he was innocent. He had wanted to be a free man, cleared off all charges, but he had to prove it with his death. Your sorry comes too late, and is quite pointless too, for you are doing the same thing to another innocent person."

There was a long silence in the room. Finally, Scrimegeour cleared his voice.

"Those in favour of condemning the accused to a life-term in Azkaban?"

There were a very few hands- Scrimegeour himself, Umbridge, and a few others.

"Those in favour of acquitting the accused of all charges?"

There were more hands, many more hands this time- Ogden, Marchbanks, the woman who had asked Harry to speak, and to Harry's surprise, Percy Weasley and Cornelius Fudge.

"The accused, Draco Malfoy is absolved of all charges by this court."

Hermione jumped, hugged Ron, and then hugged Harry. When he had freed himself, Harry turned to watch Draco who was being helped out of the chains by Tonks. He looked up and saw Harry looking at him. Harry walked over to him.

"Thanks, Harry, and sorry for the delay in destroying the last…."

"Not here, Draco. And anyway, you should say neither thanks nor sorry. You did your best with Nagini and you have saved my life twice. You are an Order member and any Order member would want to save you from Azkaban. Chapter closed."


Epilogue


"Look, Harry, Lucius Malfoy has wormed his way out prison again." Said Ron.

"What?" Harry and Ginny looked up from their game of gobstones.

"Yeah, its in the paper. Apparently, Lucius Malfoy has convinced the Ministry that Voldemort had not saved him from Azkaban because he was working against him."

"Finally got around to saying his name, have you?" said Hermione in a bored voice, looking up from a very fat book.

"Hermione, what is that? " Ron demanded, "I thought we had destroyed all the horcruxes? What are you researching about now?"

"School work."

"What? You are studying, now? Just two days after our grand victory?"

"Seventh year is NEWT year, Ron. Our whole career depends on this."

"Harry, can you believe her?"

"Well, I can. It's typically Hermione Granger, Ms. Know-It-All behaviour."

"Shut up, Draco." Hermione said, without looking up from her book.

"Well, it would be nice if you looked up from your book, Ron from his newspaper, Harry and Ginny from your game, or from each other, and bid me goodbye."

Harry looked up so quickly all the gobstones dropped to the floor.

"You are going?" he asked.

"Yes, my parents are coming home, as Ron was just reporting, and I must go."

"What will your father say to you, Draco, for what you have done?"

"I don't know, Ginny. He won't be happy with my joining the Order perhaps, but I am on the dominant side now, and that's what matters to him most. My mother will support me, I hope. Anyway, I must go now. I shall see you on the train on the first of September."

"This place seems so empty now." Hermione said, "Neville and Luna have already gone home, and I suppose I will pack my bags sometime soon as well. So you are going back to school, are you?"

"Yes, I am. By the way, Harry, I forgot to tell you, McGonagall said last night I have been made Slytherin Quidditch captain. I hope I play Gryffindor in my first match."

"Why?" Harry laughed, "Do you want to start on a losing note?"

"Watch out, Harry. I shall win this time."
"You will lose, Draco, like always."

"I am going to knock you off your broomstick."

"We shall see who does that."

"Yeah, right. You keep a parachute handy, Draco, in case you slip and fall."

"You better watch your goals, Weasley-king!"

"Boys!" said Hermione, and went back to her book.


Author's Note: Do you think I did an overdose of sentiment with Draco there at the beginning? Or anywhere else? 2ndly, I am not good at writing Hagrid's dialect-speech, which is one of the reasons why I virtually ignored him throughout the story, but this chapter, I couldn't help it. Anyway, end of story, full stop, and good-bye.