A/N: Happy Friday Everyone! First I want to thank everyone who has commented in the last little while! You are wonderful and I love hearing from you and seeing just how concerned you are for poor little Draco! I have a plan for him, don't you worry. Also, I wasn't expecting to get this update done this week because a friend of mine is doing GISHWES and she needed help so I've been doing that but today (thursday) ended up being a rainy day so here I am getting this done for Friday!

Chapter 108: Far Too Close

The drive back was even more quiet than the first. Neither man having anything to say to the other after what they'd seen was understandable and both carried on in their own brooding until they were safely back within the boundaries of the great estate magic.

They arrived back at Willow House to an anxious gathering of friends and family as they walked in, having left the car in the garage and walked back up to the house together. On the short walk they talked of what needed to be done, both here at the house and down in the village after what had happened there and they entered in spirits that were not quite good but they weren't all together hopeless either. The family had seen them return but had waited for them to enter the house to make any inquiries.

"Where in God's name have you been? The drive to the gate does not take that long!" Lilina cried when they finally appeared and she rushed toward her eldest son.

"Mom, we're fine," George said with a shake of his head. "We're just fine and I have work to do," he added and walked away, wanting to continue his brooding alone.

"What's gotten into him? Where did you go?" Lilina asked in shock as she turned on Severus now.

"A great many things, I should think, but mostly what we've just seen and what needs to be done to set everything right. The aftermath of a great battle has left the Malfoy Manor in rubble, or less than that, and the earth is scorched and scared by the dark magic that happened there," Severus explained. "There were casualties on both side of the fray. The Braiths were among them and they are dead, and from that location devastation and debris reached almost all the way to the boundaries of this great estate. We are not as bad off as the neighbouring county but there is damage that needs to be repaired and people who need our help."

"What about Remus, was he there?" Gloria asked in shocked concern at what she was hearing and what she had been completely unaware of.

"I did not see him among the dead, nor was he with the Aurors still on the scene but the injured were rushed away for treatment. I'm sure Dumbledore will have more answers. Where is he, I want to be the first to interrogate him," Severus said as he looked around the gathering.

"He's gone," Cassandry stated. "He said he had other things to deal with through the ministry and whatnot and couldn't stay to await your return. He also said all the Malfoys were in custody, is this true?"

"Surely not the little boy," Carmen added.

"I believe that to be the truth, Lucius was taken into custody alive and Narcissa was taken to St. Mungos for treatment and later will find herself in Azkaban as well, should she recover. I do not know the extent of her injuries. Draco was taken away with Dumbledore, I know not where, and that is all I know, at this time, about the boy. But he is an innocent and I believe Dumbledore will do what is best for him. I'm sure that Dumbledore has a lot to answer to after today, and much more pressing things than my questions as we came through this ordeal relatively on scathed, though shaken by what has happened. I'm sure our other friends will bring us news when they are done dealing with the aftermath, which will take quite some time to tame the dark magic that has scorched the land. All I can say for certain is that the battle was won on our side, it was far too close to home, and now we are left, not quite as we were but left to move forward from here."

"Best clean up now that all is safe and the guests have gone," Lilina said to settle herself and her children. "The house is a fright after all those guests."

"Yes ma'am," the ladies of the Pairywhether family answered to calm their mother.

"Yes, very good idea, but when you are finished the village and our neighbours may need help with the damage that did reach us but it was not as bad as it could have been. If you have time, I have offered our assistance there and I hope to return myself to do what I can once things are settled here. But there is much to be done."

"Of course Professor," the Pairywhethers responded as one.

"May I borrow you for a moment?" Severus asked after Gloria before the whole family set off to their work.

"Of course," she said in response.

"I understand that there are a good many injured and Doctor Dillard is not yet here. I hate to ask you but there are magical injuries and though the severely injured have been removed from the county, some are still in the village and beyond. Can you help them?" He asked of her.

"We have a stock pile of curatives, and what not, to remove curses and heal wounds. I will prepare what I can and get them to Doctor Hammond," Gloria offered. "And I will show him how to administer them as best as he can, but I should be here at this house and not in the clinic."

"George will drive you to the village when you're ready and I'm going to send for Doctor Dillard ahead of schedule. I hope she can come almost immediately but we may need more potions, many more, and we are the best equipped at this time to be brewing. We will have to start brewing more than what we already have going," Severus said as they moved quickly toward his study. "I will write and see if Madame Pomfrey cannot come and lend a hand so that you may be in the lab."

"That would be wise, I think, and I'll start what I can before I leave," Gloria said hastily.

"I'll join you to relieve you but also I'm expecting to see Dumbledore again," Severus said. "I hope soon, but I truly know not when."

"I wouldn't hold my breath to see him, but I understand why you will not be able to join us directly in the village, nor should you, someone has to stay behind with Harry," she said with a smile and turned to leave.

"Gloria, they found Voldemort at the Malfoy Manor. He's been taken into the custody of the Dementors but we all know that is unlikely to hold him. He has swayed them before," he said as he reached out and took her hand before she could flee.

"That is far too close for comfort," She said visibly stricken as she inched her way into his arms. "Far too close, and for how long, do you think?"

"I couldn't say, he could have been watching our progress this whole time."

"But he could not reach us, not with the protection," She said anxiously. "Because of you."

"No, I don't believe so but my life here with Harry isn't exactly a secret anymore. He's in custody now, thank heavens, but I can't help but worry about what that means for you and for us."

"I have you to protect me, I'm safe," she said more calmly now. "And he is gone now and he cannot return to Malfoy if he does escape," she added. "He will have to find somewhere else to hide."

"But what is to keep him away?" Severus asked.

"Every ounce of protective magic we have here," she said and sighed.

"I'm sorry to bring you into this mess."

"Don't be, I've never been happier, or quite as useful," she said. "But I really must get to work."

"As should I. I'll join you in the lab as soon as I can."

"Don't rush, I'll be fine."