Chapter 18

The endless work finally ended. When they arrived home, the sky had turned a fainter shade of night so that a painful gray glare cut through the windows and set Draco shivering more than the breeze over his wet robes. Weariness set in, dragging at him and tempting him to fall asleep on the hard wood floor.

A heavy blanket fell on his shoulders, soft and warm, and a chair appeared behind him into which he sank with a groan borne of a weariness he hadn't realized he felt. The dinner table appeared in front of him, and he only meant to rest his arms on it before his shoulders, then his head, sank down. He knew Harry had directed him here, but in his exhaustion, the dining room simply seemed to materialize around him. His eyes closed and the room began to fade.

"Oh no you don't," Severus warned him, setting a hot cup of tea in front of Draco with a clank. "No rest for stupid children who forget the plan and send a flood crashing down on their own side."

"It worked," Draco grumbled, too used to Severus' scoldings to react.

"Wake up before you're wearing that tea," Severus snapped, sitting down too close and leaning forward at him. "I don't care what the headmaster and the others think. You'd better have a damn good explanation-"

Narcissa, holding her own cup of tea in her hands, came from the kitchen and put her hand on her husband's shoulder, forcing Severus to sit straight. As she moved around her husband, she kept her hand there and sat beside him, tightening her grip so that he didn't try to loom over Draco again.

"I'm sure he does," Narcissa said, speaking over him with a grace borne of long practice. "But we must let him speak if we want to hear it."

"And I do want to hear it," Lucius said as he sat on Draco's other side. "About the flood, and what you meant about a school, and what those things were in the street."

His mention of the ghosts made Draco shift in his seat, momentarily energized.

"So you did see them?" He blinked rapidly, fighting sleep. "All the dead wizards? I wasn't just imagining it?"

"Hundreds, maybe thousands of witches and wizards," Lucius nodded. "I couldn't see the end of them, and they just stood there bleeding out."

"And the rain," Draco said, leaning forward so that he threatened to knock over the tea. "That wasn't rain, right?"

"Careful," Harry murmured, pulling him back and pushing the cup a few inches away so he didn't scald himself. "And I told you already. We all saw it."

"But..." Draco shook his head and stared at the woodgrain of the table. "I-and it was all so strange at the start. The first sacrifice-Morgan, did you see her? The field?"

Their blank looks were answer enough. Narcissa looked between her husbands and her sons, furrowing her brow, and considered her next words carefully. Severus drummed his fingers on the table, fidgeting as he waited, and across from them, Lucius stared at Draco as if he might be sick, going so far as to touch his son's forehead and startled at the wisp of dark magic stuck to his fingertips.

"Are you—?" Lucius started, glancing at him in shock.

"It's not hurting me," Draco said impatiently. "I'm fine. It was worse before."

His parents didn't seem reassured, glancing at each other as if one of them might have an idea of what to do. But potions and politics and motherly insight wouldn't give them any help. Lucius met their looks and gave a helpless sort of shrug. All his family history had nothing to offer—the only thing close to this build up of dark magic was Voldemort himself, and that didn't seem quite the same.

"Why don't you tell us what happened?" Narcissa said softly. "How did you summon the rain?"

"It..." Draco tried to answer, frowned and glanced sideways, shifting in his seat as if that would help. His answer came in broken pieces.

"I don't—I mean, I'm not sure. The theater collapsed and vanished—"

"Was washed away," Severus muttered.

"And Harry and I went down to the water—"

"The bloody uncalled-for flood." Severus would've added more, but Narcissa kicked him under the table.

"And then the water was gone," Draco said, not noticing either of them. He stared inward, remembering the vast field of dry dust and the coffin rock. "It was the place. Where we killed the first sacrifice. She's still there. So was Morgan and Mordred and, well, everyone. All of us."

"What do you mean?" Lucius asked. "That you were taken back in time, like a time turner?"

"Couldn't be," Harry said. "He was with me the whole time. He stopped and went real still, and then a couple seconds later, he went backwards into the water and I had to find him."

"It felt like I was there," Draco said, confused but sure of what he'd experienced. "And it felt like that field's been there forever. I don't care what the muggles put over it. It's been there forever. She's been there forever."

"So you were caught up in her magic," Severus said as if it should be obvious, glaring at Narcissa as if to dare her to strike again. "The spell she cast called centuries worth of power to that spot. It isn't any wonder you saw something."

"You said you saw Morgan," Lucius said, tapping his finger on the table. "What happened?"

"She killed herself, you know," Draco said suddenly, looking up. "For us. She didn't disappear. She died."

His parents didn't speak. Severus looked like he might comment, then thought better of it. As Draco continued, revealing that he'd dreamed of drinking the first sacrifice's blood and then how she'd offered him the knife, Narcissa closed her eyes and looked away, tensing and relaxing as Severus touched her arm. Her breath came easy again when Draco mentioned breaking the knife.

"And then I was back," Draco finished. "And...well, you saw everything after that."

"Zombies in the streets," Harry said, "and blood. What was that?"

"I might hazard a guess," Severus said softly. "It had to do with breaking the knife, I think."

Draco nodded once, a little more confident now that Severus echoed his own thoughts.

"She expected me to die," he said. "I already nearly died twice, and this time I was supposed to kill myself. Just like Morgan did."

"Very similar circumstances," Lucius agreed. "If not quite as dramatic as the two vast armies of Arthur and Mordred."

"But you broke the blade," Narcissa murmured, breathing out in relief. Then she paused. "You broke it?"

"Therein lies the crux of everything," Severus said, puzzling it out loud. "The knife acted as a focus, much like a wand. Break the wand and you break the spell. But more importantly, he broke the promise."

"What promise?" Harry asked.

"I believe we've already established," Lucius started with an aggravated sigh, "that dark wizards die so that their children may live. Likewise, the dark community has its champions. Perhaps better termed sacrifices."

"Morgan is only the most famous," Narcissa said. "Ancestors who died for us, and who we're supposed to follow. I wonder if..."

Her voice trailed off, and they all glanced her way to see if she would finish her thought. She grew increasingly pale and put her hand on Severus' arm, twisting his sleeve in her fingers. She stared at the table as she considered it.

"What if she set it up?" Narcissa said, looking at them each as if they would know the answer or could reassure her fears. "What if we kill ourselves because the first sacrifice killed herself? Some kind of recursive spell and we don't have a choice?"

"That's couldn't be," Harry whispered. "Sacrifice doesn't work like that."

"Potter—" Severus sighed, settling in his seat as if he'd have to scold Harry like a student again.

"No, this is something I do know about," Harry said over him. "You know I do. My mother died for me. That magic...that kind of magic is protective, it's good, it's—I don't have to kill myself for my own kids because of it. That'd be sick."

"Your mother's was a sacrifice borne of love," Severus clarified. "That isn't what we're talking about here. Dark wizards—yes, it's based on the same idea as your lot. Morgan was educated in a convent, after all. But our sacrifice is different. It's about..."

Severus paused, not sure of how to put his idea into words. Across from him, Lucius half-shrugged, more used to explaining after teaching dark magic to his husband.

"It's about survival," Lucius said. "We're not God. If we sacrifice ourselves, we can keep our world going for another generation. And then they have the same price to pay. It's cruel, but we survive. Magic is still unleashed, just like your mother, only—"

Lucius sat up straight, a new thought suddenly occurring to him, and he looked at Draco. "Wait a moment. All this time, our blood has been accumulating there? In that field you saw?"

"Centuries," Severus whispered, catching on. "Of blood magic."

Draco looked at each of them, but his parents began whispering, ignoring him as they spoke. In his exhaustion, he caught only a few words, something about the school and the muggle town and dark magic. His head dipped lower and lower, sinking toward the table, and he slumped further into his chair.

When he looked up again, he found himself sitting on the edge of his bed, and Harry in front of him unlacing his robes. Draco mumbled, too tired to wonder how he'd gone from the dining room to the bedroom.

"Go to sleep," Harry said, undoing Draco's tunic. "You look like you'll knock out before you even lie down."

Draco blinked, taking a moment to recognize what Harry had said.

"Can't," he groaned. "Too much to ..."

The room swayed around him, and Harry's hands were all that kept him from collapsing off the bed. Then his pants were gone and he was being guided back onto the pillow, with Harry holding him close. He heard his husband murmur something in his ear, something that he couldn't puzzle together, but it didn't matter. Harry's kiss to his forehead was clear enough, and then he was fast asleep.

Seemingly only seconds later, Draco awoke with the headline Ministry Destroyed! throbbing on his face and a photo of the ministry in flames, with sepia-toned wizards and witches running in and out of the frame as they watched their water spells turn to useless steam against the inferno. Several of them hung back around the edges, absorbed with concealing the smoke and heat from muggle eyes.

Now that was worth waking up for.

Siting up on one elbow, he held the paper out and scanned the article, yawning and blinking several times to clear his eyes. Beside him, Ilmauzer hooted for his reward.

"Many injuries, few fatalities..." Draco murmured, his smile widening to a grin as he read. "Complete destruction...nothing left...and wild reports in London of centaurs and gryphons overhead."

Ilmauzer hooted again, flapping his wings awkwardly against the pillow. Draco glanced sideways at him even as he reached with one hand and slid open the drawer by his bed.

"Don't see why I should," he said, fishing out several treats in his fingers. "Since you dropped the bloody paper on my face."

"You are so mean to that bird."

At the doorway, there was a soft side and grumble. His husband watched disapprovingly, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall.

"It went and got the Prophet for you," Harry said. "From downstairs, true, but it still went."

"Owls that drop papers on my face shouldn't get treats," Draco said even as he held out his hand to Ilmauzer, a dozen niblets in his palm. "But for such good news, I'll overlook it."

No response. As his owl ate, clicking his beak and making small crooning sounds, Draco looked up at Harry, expecting the frown and downcast eyes. Easy to guess why. Harry hadn't wanted to kill anyone, and Draco hadn't even bothered to check if the dead were any of Harry's friends. Or a—

Draco caught his smile before it escaped. Or a Weasley, but that would've been too much unbelievable good news in one day.

"With any luck," Draco offered, doing his best to sound sincere, "they'll be the last ones hurt. The war is over."

Harry blinked. "What? How can it be over? Sure, we won a battle, but there are wizards who still hate you. So much of the wizarding world still thinks dark magic is evil, and a good part of that would drive you out if they could."

"I don't think so," Draco said, shaking his head once. "Not anymore. Not that they don't hate me, but I've beaten their aurors and destroyed the ministry."

"Centaurs did," Harry pointed out. "Don't steal Magorian's thunder. I don't think he'd like that."

"Mm, true," Draco mused. "He isn't the kind to want to hide it, either. And Sev' says Malfoys are splashy—Magorian certainly made sure everyone knew where the centaurs stand."

Harry nodded, watching Draco read the rest of the article. There was a little paragraph about the fight between the aurors led by Fudge and the joined forces of Dumbledore, Lupin and Malfoy, but even that was scant. Rita Skeeter had done her best to fill space with her own editorializing, but the lack of information so soon was obvious.

"So now what?"

Draco looked up in surprise. "Hm?"

"Now what?" Harry asked. He stood straight, folding his arms as he waited for an answer. "You've destroyed the ministry and a muggle town, and now you say the war is over. So now what?"

A sly grin spread over Draco's face, and he swung out of bed, conjuring robes and his cloak, pulling his hood down.

"Now we have an empty muggle town to look at," he said, stretching himself to the fullest—and then stumbling as his sore body wobbled and began to topple. His left knee buckled, his right ankle twisted under him, and he landed hard on his hip before Harry could reach him, groaning as he untangled his limbs.

"Ow..."

"Draco!" Harry knelt next to him, putting an arm around him to help him sit straight. "Are you all right?"

"I'm really sore," Draco said, surprised. "Everything hurts. Why does everything hurt?"

Harry looked at him as if he were stupid. "After last night? You're lucky you can stand. C'mon, back up and I'll bring you breakfast in bed."

Draco accepted Harry helping him up again, but he balked at taking a step toward the bed. He simply clung to Harry's side and found the belt loop in his jeans, leaning heavily against him.

"Breakfast in bed is tempting," Draco admitted, closing his eyes as his legs throbbed and the bruise spread over his side. "Very tempting, actually. But we don't have that kind of time. We need to go see that town now."

"Your parents have—"

"It has to be us," Draco said, stomping his foot to make the point and then regretting doing so. With a wince, he continued. "Fudge is still alive, and damn stupid Nymphadora for saving him. The wizards will be angry about the ministry. There needs to be something to focus them on before they try to fight again."

"You can't make them stop hating you, especially now, and—" Harry huffed and bent over, hooking an arm under Draco's knees and hauling him into the air. "Honestly, quit trying to stand. It's just pathetic now."

"It's not that bad," Draco muttered, but he didn't squirm and he didn't struggle. "All right. Can you take us to Givry?"

"No breakfast?" Harry asked with some surprise. "Really?"

"You can take me someplace afterward," Draco said, but as he thought about it, maybe there were no wizard places he could eat comfortably in. Knockturn Alley had been burned down, with its restaurants and bakery—oh, he'd miss the bakery. And he couldn't show his face in Diagon Alley, not yet.

"Someplace muggle, maybe," Draco muttered. "If it's acceptable."

"There's always the pizza place," Harry said. "That place's becoming popular in this family."

Harry turned, reshuffing Draco in his arms. At first Draco thought his husband was just getting him settled to apparate, but then Harry started out the door and carefully picked his way down the narrow flight of stairs to the main hall.

"What are you doing?" Draco whispered. "You'll wake my parents—"

"Your parents," came a peeved voice from around the corner, "are quite awake."

Draco winced. None of them were morning people, not unless Lucius had it in mind to be particularly annoying, but Severus seemed to find being up this close to sunrise as a personal insult. He hoped the elves had spread out an amazing breakfast so that none of them hurt each other.

"Were you planning on running off?" Narcissa demanded as they came in, but her anger faded when she saw how Harry was carrying him. "Oh my God, is he hurt? I knew we should've made him cleanse—"

"I'm fine," Draco groaned, hoping he wasn't turning as red as he suspected. "Harry's being overdramatic."

"Mm," Lucius said as if he was only half listening, rustling his own copy of the Daily Prophet as he skimmed the articles. "Then he's truly becoming part of the family."

"He isn't fine," Harry said, ignoring him. "He can't walk."

"I'm just really sore," Draco sighed, squirming to be let down, and he glared at Harry when he didn't. "Honestly, I'll be all right. I'd of stayed in bed if I could, but this needs to be done."

"What does?" Lucius asked.

"Seeing that the muggles really do get out of Givry," Draco said, hoping that his parents would go along with what seemed to him to be the only possible plan. "Setting up wards for the town. Demolishing whatever's left standing and starting to build."

None of them seemed moved. Narcissa took a refill of tea and Severus took the last sticky bun, which he had to settle for half of as Narcissa grabbed the other edge and tore it down the middle. Lucius at least put down the paper and steepled his fingers, fully paying attention to his son.

"And why would we do that?" he asked.

"So we have something over the rest of the wizards," Draco said, fidgeting in earnest and irritated when Harry put him down in a chair rather than just apparating them both away. Not that Draco couldn't apparate himself, but he wasn't about to go off without Harry.

"What do you mean?" Lucius asked.

"We need a place of our own," Draco said, exasperated with having to explain when time was so important. "So we don't have to live among other wizards. That doesn't work. We need a place that's dark, even if we have light wizards there."

"Like a Knockturn Alley?" Severus asked, then fell silent as Lucius held up a hand.

Draco paused. Lucius wasn't asking to annoy him for almost running off without leaving word again. His father had something in mind, leading the conversation to see if he liked the answers. Draco considered.

"No, not like Knockturn Alley," Draco said slowly, measuring his words. Although now that he thought about it, he realized that he hadn't thought this all the way through. The idea was there, a place of their own, a safe place, a school, but the details?

"A place," he started, sounding it out. "Where dark wizards can live. Safe. Practice our magic openly. Experiment again. Like a town, I think. With shops and things. But so that you know that it's dark—there's no mistaking that it's dark even when you just look at it. So that if there are light wizards there, they won't think it's like Diagon Alley where everyone was split up or just at each other's edges."

"And why," Narcissa asked, taking Severus' honey for her own tea, "would there be other wizards there? Not just us?"

"To lead them on," Draco said, but the explanation wasn't enough. He could see by her expression. He had to think for several seconds. "They have to have a school. They can't survive without one and Hogwarts is dead. But now they'll have to come to a school that we run, if they want to learn at all. We can't kill them. But we can be the ones in charge."

"A school that they could not control," Lucius said as if to clarify Draco's own thoughts. "If they kill us, they render the school useless."

"Yes," Draco said, surprised that his father could put into words what he hadn't understood of his own plan. "Obviously dark, since it's our blood in that field."

"So you'll need to start planning the town," Lucius said, counting off a list as he went. "You'll need the grounds cleared and the land safe for us to cast spells without muggles wandering in. You'll need the debris cleaned, and you'll need the ministry and Dumbledore and everyone else off your back while you do it. Yes?"

"Yes," Draco said, relieved at last that his father understood. "Before they try to do it first."

"No worry of that," Lucius said, turning back to breakfast. "It's already done."

Draco couldn't say anything for several moments. He blinked stupidly a few times, staring at his father, then glancing at his mother and Severus. Neither of them contradicted Lucius. But Narcissa stifled a yawn and Severus was leaning on one arm, blinking too quickly.

"You haven't slept," Draco realized.

"Brilliant," Severus muttered. "We'll make a dark lord of him yet."

"I'm worried," Narcissa murmured back as if she didn't want to be heard yet loud enough that Draco could hear. "It took him that long. Are we sure he didn't hit his head?"

"Ignore them," Lucius said, sliding a plate of cold sandwiches and a slice of breakfast cake to his son. "They aren't used to working this early and it makes them disagreeable."

Narcissa was about to argue her injured sense of dignity when Lucius waved her down. She glowered but went back to her tea.

"You were right that time is of the essence," Lucius said. "But you were in no condition to do anything last night. Harry took care of you and then we took our forces back to Givry and began working."

"With the Knights?" Draco asked incredulously. "But they were all at the fight—wouldn't they be just as tired?"

"Not the Knights," Narcissa said softly, and this time Lucius did not stop her. She paused, wringing her napkin, then tossed it down on her plate. "It feels so wrong to say it out loud around you even now."

Quietly, without drawing attention to the motion, Severus reached across the space between them and put his hand on hers, calming her fidgeting fingers. She took a breath and stared at the plate, and just as quietly put her fingers through his.

"We're all breaking traditions left and right," Severus reassured her. "We just have to hope it's for the best."

"What's for the best?" Draco asked.

"The Children of Samhain," she said, facing him. "My version of the Knights. The wives and daughters, and some of the other men, too. We warded all of Givry—it's a small town and it emptied quickly. Harry conjured up something about a fire underground...I still don't quite understand that part."

"Just a thing I heard about somewhere else," Harry said. "A town with a mine underneath that caught fire, and the whole place had to be evacuated before everything collapsed. They carried it on the news and evacuated everyone. Officially the town has already partially collapsed in."

"In any case," Lucius said, taking up the thread again. "The women are salvaging what they can—honestly, Draco, demolish everything? Such a waste of time when the town is ours, and no one can get in."

"We're leaving the school for you to do," Narcissa added. "My girls won't go near that stone where the opera was, and I don't blame them. It's eerie."

Draco thought about what they had said, envisioning what they had done and how much work was already finished. He leaned back in his chair and felt like a mountain of work had been lifted from his shoulders and another mountain dropped on top of him, and he looked at them with a light head.

"I...how did you know?" he asked finally.

"You've done amazing things," Lucius conceded. "But you're young. We simply have more experience than you."

"You'd already said a lot of this after the fight," Narcissa said. "And you were saying things in your sleep when Harry took you up."

"Besides all that work last night when the rest of them were there," Severus said, chuckling despite his exhaustion. "And what a stroke of genius, having them help clean up before warding them out. Can't wait to see Lupin's face..."

"Schoolyard grudges aside," Lucius said over Severus. "You're right that you should go back and begin making real plans. There'll be enough of our people there to protect you even if the wards were somehow breached."

"Make sure you figure how large you want the school," Narcissa said. "Where shops and homes should lie."

"Escape routes when things go south," Severus said drily.

"Our own hospital," Lucius said. "No more of St. Mungo's."

"And rip out some of those roads," Narcissa added. "Muggles put their pavingment over everything."

Severus didn't correct her word. "You'll have to tear down all their electric wires. Perhaps pull out their water system as well."

Draco sat still for several seconds, staring at the breakfast that a house elf set before him. In the face of the work ahead of him, he'd lost his appetite. He'd known there would be a lot of things to accomplish, but the scope daunted him. Even if he had weeks, months to do everything...and he didn't have months. The dark community needed to move in within days.

"Can..." About to ask for a list of the biggest things to do first, he looked at them, saw how his mother's hand trembled on her tea cup, how Severus had one hand pressed against his head to stave off a headache. Even Lucius shook his head once to fight sleep. They were exhausted and in no shape to help him further.

Draco took Harry's hand. His husband was all he had to rely on now.

"Will we be able to do all that?" he whispered.

"That's the question," Snape said. "Isn't it?"

TBC...

Author's Note: I think there is only one more chapter to this. And once done, I can work on other stories I've had to let lie.