Chapter One: The Aftermath
He stood on a precipice, looking down and out, over everything. He was lost, for several long minutes he was lost in the world around him. But he was a part from it, like he was watching it all through another's eyes. Ash, rock, rubble, red… Blood stained everything around him. It was a mess, a disaster area. And turning, he saw only flashes, images of light and sound passing him by. It was over, they had won. But, at what cost, was it all really worth it, in the end? Yes, of course it was, it had to be. So, why did it feel like nothing that had happened even mattered?
"Harry, are you ok?" He blinked at the sound of his name and turned to look first at the hand touching his arm, lightly tanned, covered in dirt, blood, ash and bruises, up the arm, and to the body and face of the person. Hermione; she was standing there, her honey brown eyes full of concern for him. "You seem a million worlds away, are you ok?"
"I'm… taking it all in." Harry replied slowly as he sighed and turned to look at her and their friends, their family. Family… something was missing. Oh, right, Severus Prince Snape; possibly one of the best father figures he could have had, but circumstances would not permit. The bravest man he ever knew. Family… The Malfoy family; "Hermione, where is Draco Malfoy?"
"Um… Over there, by where the Slytherin table once was. They're in the corner. But, why do you want to know? The Aurors will be picking Lucius and Draco up soon." Hermione answered confusedly. But, he was already marching his way over to the three blondes. They didn't know yet, about Severus, and he had thanks to say… and a wand to return… and… and….
Everything was numb, his whole world had turned upside down, but for the first time in a year he could breathe. He didn't fear for once, in such a long time. And, he was home. He had his mum, and his dad, both here. And they were hugging each other… in public. Life was good, for a few more moments at least, until the Aurors came for them.
"Draco?" Draco looked up slowly at the sound of his name, said by a voice he hadn't heard except in his dreams for a year now. Harry James Potter, the Chosen One, the Gryffindor and his classmate. "Are you hurt? Are you ok?"
"I…" He is so shocked that he's asking about his well being that at first he has absolutely no reply to give him. "I am… whole, bodily at least." He finally replies, earning a smile from the boy standing in front of him, towering over him as he stands just a few feet away, looking down at his sitting form.
"Good, I am glad. I was worried… I…" Harry starts to say and then stops, sighing as he kneels down to their level. Causing both his mum and dad to look up at the boy as well. "This is not what I came over for. I came over to see if you were alright yes, but I came over to thank you."
"Thank us for what Potter?" Draco's father, Lucius asks him. His voice is a harsh whisper, a faint echo of the power it once contained. "What is there you have to thank us for?"
"Well, for one, at your Manor, not a single one of you confirmed I was myself. And you Lucius, as well as Draco knew bloody well who I was. But you didn't tell. And I know you knew. I know because you are… was Severus Snape's best friend, and probably a brother to him, and I have my mother's eyes. You knew my mother. She was four years younger than you, but you knew her. And Draco, all the times that we got into fights, you knew the moment we walked in who I was. But you said nothing. And thank you for that. You helped me live; you helped end his reign of terror." Draco watched as Harry paused to take a breath, and then as he turned to look at his mum. "And thank you Narcissa. A mother's love… Did you know that it was my mother's love for me that has kept me alive all these years? I did not fault you for simply asking where Draco was, I expected it. Thank you, Narcissa, for saving my life. For lying to Riddle that I was dead. I owe you a life debt, I truly do."
"Potter…" Draco watched as his mum sighed and smiled at the teen across from them. "Potter, I…"
"I will use that life debt that I owe you to keep Lucius and Draco out of Azkaban. You do not need to ask. I had already planned to do so. The moment you lied, I decided that if I lived, I would keep your family whole." Draco couldn't keep his jaw from dropping as the words left Harry's lips. And he couldn't help but to flush blood red when Harry's hand reached out and gently shut his mouth for him. "You'll catch flies like that."
"Potter… Why do you want to do this? Why keep us out of Azkaban? Do you even think you have that much money, that much power?" Lucius asked, near demanded of the boy.
"All I need to say is "I have a life debt" to all three of you, and no one will be able to say anything against it. I'll pull my name and title if I have to though. I'm more than willing and capable to do so. And why I want to do this?" Draco moved slightly out of his parent's embrace as he watched Harry's emerald eyes fill up with tears.
"Potter…? Harry...?" Draco hesitantly started as he gently cupped Harry's face in his battered hands.
"Severus… He…" At Harry's sobbed attempt at a sentence, Draco knew exactly why Harry didn't want them in Azkaban. Severus was dead, and for some reason Harry cared which meant that to the boy in front of him, Lucius was the last direct line to not only Severus, but to Harry's parents. "He was killed, by Voldemort's snake Nagini. She ripped his throat out. He… the Astronomy Tower, it was all preplanned by Dumbledore, to keep you from becoming a murderer. To keep Severus on Voldemort's good side, to put him in his inner circle. It was all a plan from the beginning. Dumbledore… he, he wanted to keep us safe and whole. Children for at least another year, he didn't want any of us to lose any pieces of our souls."
"Harry, how do you know all this?" Draco questioned as Harry moved and sat in between Lucius and Narcissa, next to Draco. "Were you told all this? How do you know?"
"Severus, he gave me his memories to put into a Pensive. So I could see everything, so I could know the truth of it all." Harry answered as he took a deep calming breath and wiped at his tears.
"I always knew he would always love your mother. I knew he kept an eye on you as a secret promise to her. He saw more of your mother in you than your father, he told me that once. 'He's so much like Lily, Lucius. He… He not only has her eyes, he has her soul.' I knew then, without him really saying it that he was true to Lily, to you, to Dumbledore. But, you are right, he was my brother. So I locked away the memory, and I said nothing. He was as proud of you as he was of Draco. Potter, you are truly something else. And… thank you, for what you wish to do. You can try to keep me out of Azkaban, but, Draco really doesn't belong there. For years I followed him blindly. Lied, killed, and conned my way out of trouble year after year. I have more blood on my hands than I care to admit. And despite the public opinion of me, I love my wife, I love my son. I loved Severus as my brother. Family is everything to me, Potter. And I never wanted Draco to follow him. I kept the Death Eaters out of it, in his childhood I would constantly check to make sure the Mark did not resurface. I am a blood purist yes, but it is a fear of our safety, our magic dying out. I see now that it was a very poor way in going about it, and I see that a few of my beliefs are completely baseless and are now shattered. Your young friend, Miss Granger is a piece of work. I hope if I do go back to Azkaban, that I live long enough to follow her rise in our world through reading the Quibbler and the Prophet. If I am spared a second journey into the hellhole, I hope I can see all of you grow into powerful witches and wizards. I want nothing more than to see the world rebuilt."
"Lucius, you will see the world rebuilt with your own eyes, outside of the walls and hell of Azkaban. I promise. I will keep you and Draco out of there." Harry stated as he stood and motioned to Granger and Weasley to wait, as they were walking over to them. "I'll keep you all safe. It's the least I can do for your help in the War. And please, don't look at your actions as being traitorous. You are not, you are true to family, and love, and heart."
Draco watched as Harry stood up and walked back to his friends. Granger and Weasley were frowning in confusion at him; he could see their lips moving, asking what was up. And Draco felt his heart ache as he saw the two of them look over at him and smile, and a slight wave… Standing up, he made his way over to them, stopping just a few feet away from Harry. Holding out his hand, he held his breath, trying not to remember the last time he did this.
Hermione frowned as she looked up to see Harry sitting with the Malfoys, and Lucius Malfoy talking to him. Saying something, and then look up over at her. She wasn't mad, just confused and curious.
"You know as well as I do that Harry is going to get them out of a life sentence at Azkaban. They lied, they knew who he was, and Narcissa lied to Voldemort himself about Harry being dead." Ron said to her as he came to stand by her side. Nodding, she agreed. Yes, she knows what Harry is going to try to do. But what she doesn't know, what she's curious to know is what Lucius is saying to him.
"I know Ron, I'm just curious to what Lucius is saying. He's been talking for some time now. Just curious is all." Hermione answered him as he wrapped an arm around her waist. And Harry was now walking towards them after saying one last parting thing to the three Malfoys.
"Hey, everything okay mate?" Ron asked as Harry reached them. "What did Lucius say to you?"
"Just that he hopes to see Hermione rise in this world as a top witch, that he always knew where Severus' heart lied and that… Severus told him once that he was as proud of me as he was of Draco." Harry answered, tearing up slightly. Causing Hermione to sniffle and smile. Ron smiled slightly and chuckled as they all turned to smile and slightly wave at Draco.
"Can you believe that we're 18? Or, close to all being 18?" Hermione questioned suddenly. She didn't know why exactly that one thing popped into her mind, but she smiled as her boys both started to chuckle. The laughing stopped though as Draco came to stand a few feet behind Harry… and held out his hand.
"The first time I did this, I was a brat. I…" Hermione smiled as Harry didn't let him finish his sentence, just took his hand, shook it, and then pulled him into a hug. Moving, Hermione put her hand on Draco's shoulder and pulled him into a hug.
"Thank you for lying and thank you for that numbing spell that you silently cast on me. I know your magic, and I saw you do it. I saw your lips move. So, thank you Draco. You've helped us so much. Forget the rest, we were children." Hermione stated as she pulled away from him, causing him to flush and smile again.
"Yeah, Malfoy, you actually helped us. More than you know." Ron stated as he put his arm around his shoulders. "And look, we've gotten through it all. What do you three say? Want to help with healing and such? Or…"
"We should go get Severus' body. He deserves a proper burial." Harry stated, making them all look at him and nod. "And here Draco, your wand, I meant to give it back to you. I'm not sure if it will still answer to you. It helped me a lot though; saved my life really."
Molly took a deep breath and sighed as she stood looking at Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy sitting alone in the far corner of the destroyed Great Hall. Harry, Ron and Hermione had explained to her and Arthur the role that the Malfoys ended up playing in the War, explained about Severus Snape acting on Dumbledore's orders, and they had explained to her about Harry wanting to keep them out of Azkaban. It was amazing really, how much the War caused people to change. But, she guessed that when it came down to it, the Malfoys really were no different than her and Arthur. Family comes first, always and forever. And so, taking another deep breath, she made her way over to the couple.
As she made her way past the rubble and carnage, for the first time in decades she saw memories of how she remembered Lucius and Narcissa in school. Lucius was four years younger than her, and Narcissa was five, but they were so bright. She could remember going back to the school to take her N.E.W.T.s and seeing a 16 year old Lucius with a 15 year old Narcissa helping a then 11 year old Severus with his homework down by the lake under the great oak tree. Even then, for some reason, she knew that Lucius and Narcissa would be great parents, and that Severus would always be like a brother to them both.
"Lucius, Narcissa..." She paused, giving them time to stop talking and look up at her. Lucius did look ragged, and extremely unhealthy, just like her children and Draco had said. And Narcissa looked so… frail and fragile. "Harry has told me of what your family did for us in the War, and has explained to me that all that Severus did was on Dumbledore's orders. He has always informed me of his wish to keep Lucius and Draco out of Azkaban. And, now that I'm looking at you up close Lucius, I more than agree with him. Now, we are distant cousins Narcissa, and I loved Severus as a brother as much as the two of you did, and I loved Sirius as a brother. And, Draco has been taken in by my son, Harry and Hermione, so we are family even more now I guess. So, let me help you. Please?"
Molly waited for a sneer, a scathing remark, an upturn of a nose, but she got nothing of the sort. Instead, she was shocked when Narcissa stood and embraced her, hugging her tightly. Smiling, Molly pulled gently out of Narcissa's embrace, and looking slightly up at the taller woman, turned to look at Lucius. "How about we help Lucius up and over to the family, we need to get him healthy, don't we?"