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Chapter Fifty-Six—The Malfoys, Day Four

"I want to talk to you."

Harry refrained from smiling. Draco would take that the wrong way. But this was so much better than the shut door and silence of yesterday, even when he could feel the emotions raging through Draco's side of the bond, and they were bright, high, clear, curling waves. "Of course," he said, and spent a moment brushing soot off his cloak so he wouldn't scatter it throughout the house.

"Now," Draco snapped, and turned away to lead Harry to whatever place he had found in the house that was comfortable for him.

Hermione, Pansy, and Kreacher all opened their mouths at the same time, and those were only the ones Harry could see. He passed around a glare that he hoped would quiet all of them, then followed Draco.

Draco didn't actually lead Harry far away, the way Harry had thought he would. Instead, he seized Harry's arm and whirled him into a room that had been filled with half-emptied boxes and crates when they arrived here. Harry thought it had been intended as a storage room, but the last of the Blacks to use it had changed their mind and moved some things out again.

Never mind. It had a door Draco could close and a bit of empty wall that he could press Harry up against, and he drew near with murder in his eyes.

"How could you do that?" Draco whispered. "How could you support a punishment that was so humiliating for me, when you knew it was so humiliating for me?"

"I thought it was better for you than going to prison," Harry said. It was so simple to him, that reason, it was a little strange to watch Draco's eyes widen. Well, and a little comical. He had to bite his lip so he wouldn't smile. "That's the only reason. I would have asked for the same punishment for you Pansy and I got, but there were circumstances like the fact that you're a Marked Death Eater that made it impossible."

Draco's hand tightened in his shirt. "If you think I wanted that…"

"I'm talking about what other people believed, not what I believe or what's true," Harry interrupted. "Listen, will you? I think you would have been unhappy and upset in prison. You were panicked over the thought of being Kissed, but you were also panicked over the thought of going to Azkaban. If it makes you feel better, you still might go to prison when you're legally adult again. They left that open as an option."

Draco closed his eyes. "Why wouldn't anyone let me take responsibility for what I did when they were trying me based on that idea?" he whispered. "I don't understand."

"Because they don't care about you, they only care about their vengeance or their boredom," Harry said quietly. Even Madam Mollevron wasn't an ally of his, only someone who had made the situation more bearable for Harry. "And what I care about is you maintaining some degree of freedom."

"You think this does it?" Draco's eyes were wide open, and nearly hysterical.

"Yes," said Harry firmly. "The same way that house arrest still gives me a degree of freedom. Not much, and what I can do is really restricted. But still some. Still better than the term in Azkaban they used to give people who used the Unforgivable Curses."

"What if I went back to them and said that I wanted to go to Azkaban, that I think Ollondors's vengeance would be better than your bloody protectiveness?" Draco snapped, but he sounded as if he was choking.

Harry sighed and reached out to place his hands on Draco's shoulders. "They wouldn't listen to you. They would ask me or Auror Stone if we thought you were ready. She might give her consent, but I wouldn't."

Draco broke away from him and launched a violent kick against the other wall. Harry winced as he heard something shatter. At least he thought it was slats in a crate and not Draco's foot. He would have felt a lot more pain through the bond if it was that, he thought.

"Why do you think the Stripping of the Wand is so much better for me?" Draco whispered, back still turned. "If you could feel my emotions through the bond, you should know better than anyone what I really wanted."

"Yes," Harry said. "And I know that the thought of being Kissed or even going to Azkaban for only eighteen months left you in this state of blind, unreasoning panic. Shock, maybe. Now I know you're feeling anger, and that you want your desires respected. But rage is better than shock."

Draco turned around, his eyes a bit wild. "I understand now. It's all about you, isn't it? It's all about what will make you uncomfortable and comfortable! You don't want me in Azkaban because you could feel what I feel, and that would upset you!"

"I can feel what you feel either way," Harry said steadily. "I really do think that this is better for you, Draco. You wouldn't be able to use magic or go anywhere without supervision in Azkaban either, you know. And I don't think most of the Auror guards or whoever else works there would really respect you."

Draco looked away from him and said something in so deep and vicious a tone that Harry wasn't sure what it was. Then he clenched his fingers down into his hands and said, "I think that you should have let me be an adult."

"I didn't tell Greg it was a good idea," said Harry. He did find a bit of bitter irony in the fact that Severus had so badly wanted for him to sacrifice Greg to save Draco. Did them both getting the same treatment satisfy him now? "Why is it such a good thing for him to be treated as someone dependent but not for you?"

Draco didn't even need to search his mind for the answer to that question. It was right there, pounding along at the forefront of his brain and throat with his heart and all the feelings that Harry should be able to sense and figure out.

"Because I'm different than Greg," he blurted out. "Because he wanted a Lord but I didn't, and I want to be independent and stand on my own someday."

Harry's eyes softened. He still didn't apologize, and Draco found that infuriating. If he could sense how badly Draco hated this, what reason could there be to keep him from apologizing?

"Someday," Harry said. "That won't be a problem. And I'll do all that I can to make sure I respect your decisions and what you want while you're my ward. And Auror Stone might not do exactly the same thing, but she won't be as mean as you're probably expecting. She does understand about the limits of a Lordship bond."

"I know that," Draco said, and his voice sounded grating and broken even in his own throat, which was annoying. He ought to be able to sound firm and confident while he faced the destroyer of his freedom, at least. "But I didn't want this."

Harry's hands tightened on him. "And you didn't want to be made into a torturer by the Dark Lord, either," he whispered. "I know, Draco. I'm sorry. And you didn't want to be a Death Eater after you found out what it really involved. I'm sorry. This is just the best solution I could think of."

Draco shut his eyes. "I could have endured Azkaban. I don't want anyone to think that I was trying to avoid it because of that, because I was weak."

"There are lots of people who don't want to go to Azkaban," said Harry, sounding blankly surprised. "Why wouldn't someone try and avoid it?"

Draco shook his head. "What matters is what people think of me. I don't want people thinking I'm weak. You should be able to see that. You should," he added, when he opened his eyes and found Harry still standing there with the blank expression on his face. "You of all people. You know how many lies the wizarding public likes to make up about you."

"And I'm learning that they don't matter," Harry said, as if he was explaining to an idiot. Draco opened his mouth to complain about being treated like that, but Harry had bulled on ahead. "They're calling me an evil and cruel Lord and saying that I must be raping the lot of you, did you read that? That's not the Prophet itself, that's some pamphlet that the Freedom Fighters probably published, but the Prophet is still reporting on it, and there's some people that won't make a difference to. But I'm not running around and saying they need to take all of you away from me in case some stupid people do think I'm hurting you. I'm ignoring it. Why can't you do the same?"

Draco tried to speak, to talk about all the ways that people had looked at him when he joined the Death Eaters, how Fenrir Greyback had laughed at him, how his parents had always taught him to be strong, how he needed to have some of his pride back.

But it was too much, and he choked on it. He shook his head. Finally he muttered, "Just accept that it's different for me than for you. I want to go to Azkaban and I want the respect of my enemies. Can you give me that, please? Please? Can you go back and tell them that the Stripping of the Wand is too harsh and you want me in prison instead?"

"Telling Ollondors that would just make her more likely to enforce the Stripping of the Wand," said Harry. "That's the way she works. She wanted the harsh punishment."

"Then tell her that you've changed your mind, and it's Azkaban that's harshest," Draco said. "Please."

And Harry changed in front of his eyes. The softness vanished from the corners of his face, and he drew himself upright and stared at Draco. Draco blinked. He didn't know what was going on, why Harry looked that way, but even the emotions flowing through the bond had changed. They were harsh and grinding now, like a huge glacier cutting down the front of a mountain.

"It's about time you grew up," Harry said. "Everyone's worked as hard as they can to make sure that you won't suffer too much—except the people who actually hate your family, like Ollondors, and we've tried to make sure they go along with it because it's best for you. And your parents are the ones who're facing their trial tomorrow. I'd think you'd care more about what they want and what they're going to suffer than your own pride."

Draco tried to say that he cared about both things at once, that it wasn't impossible the way Harry was making out, but the words stuck in his throat. In stunned silence, he watched as Harry opened the door.

"I'm trying to be sympathetic," Harry said over his shoulder. "I know that you want to be seen as an adult and not a child. But when you constantly act like a child, well, it gets hard not to see you that way."

He slipped out of the storage room. Draco stood there in silence, concentrating, reaching down the bond. It had stopped being a glacier, but it was still smooth and cold and not particularly welcoming.

Draco swallowed. He wanted to follow Harry and complain again, but he knew at least one thing was true. That wouldn't make Harry think better of him, or anyone else. He would probably end up being ignored again.

So he went to find his parents. At least he knew they would always care what happened to him.

"Look at Malfoy twisting his face up, the little git."

Harry just shrugged when Ron whispered the words into his ear. Today had been a long parade of witnesses, since Lucius and Narcissa weren't his vassals and the crimes they were charged with were rather different. Mostly it was people who had seen Lucius in his Death Eater guise, or suffered under his wand, or seen him baiting Muggles. Other people were volunteering information on how Narcissa had acted as hostess to the Dark Lord, including Ollivander.

Ollivander had just stepped down from the witnesses' stand, leaning on Luna's arm, when the summons Harry had been expecting came. Ollondors looked at him and beckoned directly into his face. "I understand that you have important information on Narcissa Malfoy to offer, Lord Potter."

Harry stood up and walked over, ignoring the way that curious and hopeful Malfoy eyes fastened on him from the left. He would tell exactly what he had seen, no more and no less. At this moment, he had no idea what the outcome of Lucius and Narcissa's trial was going to be. He was trying to smooth himself down into not caring, the way he had with the public reaction.

He only knew that Narcissa had saved his life, and he was going to talk about that.

"Incredible as it seems," Ollondors said when he was seated, "people are saying that Narcissa Malfoy lied to You-Know-Who to save your life. Is that true?"

"It's true," said Harry, and clasped his hands and gave Ollondors his calm, wide eyes. "Voldemort told some to make sure that I was dead. He could have done it to anyone, and if someone else, like Bellatrix Lestrange, had done it, I would have died in the next few seconds. But Narcissa walked over and put a hand on my chest and asked if Draco was alive. I told her that he was. She told Voldemort I was dead. He decided that I was and that he would have Hagrid carry me into Hogwarts."

Some of the Wizengamot stirred and murmured, but Harry didn't know if that was over his story or his use of Voldemort's name or something else. His gaze remained on Ollondors, who frowned, as if she hadn't anticipated that answer.

Surely you have spies, Harry thought towards her in contempt. Surely someone's told you by now what happened, and you could compare my story with theirs if you were really puzzled about it. Sometimes you don't act as if you were actually that smart.

"I find it hard to believe that You-Know-Who would be fooled by such a simple stratagem," said Ollondors. "Why didn't he check on you himself?"

Harry snorted and waved one hand. "Who can say? It might be because he was lazy, or because he knew that I'd survived a Killing Curse before and he was wary about coming too close to me. But he wasn't that bright in general, you know. He'd been insane for a long time." No force on earth except saving one of his friends or his vassals was going to make Harry talk too directly about the Horcruxes. "And he was surprised when he thought I'd come back to life and leaped out of Hagrid's arms. That was the only thing that mattered."

"And a few minutes later, your accidental bond happened," Ollondors muttered, peering over his shoulder as if she expected his vassals to tell her something.

Harry bit his lip so he wouldn't laugh in her face. Was she going to suggest some conspiracy theory related to that? "Yes," he replied, and made his eyes wide and innocent again, and his face as innocently puzzled. "I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, though."

"I simply wonder whether Narcissa Malfoy said something else to you," said Ollondors, and leaned forwards. "Something that related to her son. To the safety of her son. She was willing to lie to her own Lord for you, and that suggests that she must value the safety of her son very highly."

"She does," said Harry, without turning a hair. If he stuck to the truth, not even the Wizengamot would be able to find much in the way of material to condemn him.

"And she must have known, if she lived through the war and he did, too, that he would need someone to protect him from the scrutiny and the accusations to come," Ollondors persisted, her eyes bright. "I wonder if she arranged in some way for you to take that curse from You-Know-Who and transform it into the bond. I think it likely."

"How many more arguments and magical experts do we have to bring in to suggest to you that the bond was accidental?" Jenkyns sounded thin and exasperated. Harry saw Mollevron shut her jaw and nod firmly. She had been about to say something, he thought, but she didn't see the need to intervene if Jenkyns would say it for her. "There's no way that Mrs. Malfoy could have set up something so strange and unprecedented, merely to protect her son. I know that you think Malfoys are capable of anything, but this is the utter limit."

"She has done worse than that before," said Ollondors, her chin going up. "Why else would she be willing to take such a huge risk as to lie to her own Lord? She had to know that there was a reward waiting somewhere in the wings, and it made sense she would want to bargain with both sides. If Lord Potter won, then she would have her son as the vassal of the Savior of the Wizarding World." Harry frowned. He didn't dislike that name quite as much as everyone else seemed to dislike the name Voldemort, but it was up there. "If You-Know-Who won, then she would be rewarded for telling him about Lord Potter's death."

"But if he had won, it wouldn't have been because I lay there and played dead until I could escape or someone killed me on accident," Harry pointed out. He didn't think Ollondors was this stupid, really. It was her grudge against the Malfoys tricking or forcing her into groping for more and more outlandish theories. "I would have tried to kill him and been killed in turn. And he would have known that Mrs. Malfoy lied. So she could only gamble one way, and she chose to do it because I told her the truth about Draco. That's the real point. She loved her son, but she couldn't keep him absolutely safe all the time. She helped the person who told her that he was safe right now. That's it. That's the only truth."

"It makes sense to me," said Mollevron, not standing up this time but peering around the head of the person in front of her at Harry. "I'm glad that something does."

Ollondors spent a short time trading glares with Mollevron, but seemed to realize that was a contest she would never win, and turned back to Harry with a little sniff. "You can't prove that she didn't know the bond would form."

"I can say it's extremely unlikely," Harry countered. "And unless we're going to start that whole saga of proving the bond accidental all over again, then I think that it's a verdict you have to accept. Honorable Wizengamot Member," he added, and showed all his teeth when Ollondors looked as if she still might argue.

Ollondors eyed him. Harry eyed her back.

Finally, Ollondors gave an explosive snort and waved her hand. "Fine. Mrs. Malfoy was never Marked, and she acted as a hostess to You-Know-Who in the sense that she was usually in the house with him." She looked at Narcissa, but Narcissa had only spoken in response to direct questions—the smartest thing she could have done, Harry thought—and didn't say anything now. Ollondors sighed longingly, but as Harry had thought was likely, she didn't hate someone born a Black as much as someone born a Malfoy. "We will now vote on the fates of the elder Malfoys."

Draco seemed to have stopped breathing. Harry tried to send strength and warmth flowing through the bond, picturing it as an open channel with water splashing through it. If Draco felt that, he didn't deign to give Harry any sign.

"I suppose no one can doubt that Mr. Lucius Malfoy escaped from Azkaban, was a Marked Death Eater, baited Muggles during the war, broke into the Department of Mysteries, attacked Hogwarts students, gave Ginny Weasley a diary that nearly consumed her soul, and tortured numerous wizards?" Ollondors was on her feet, turning in a slow circle to catch the eyes of everyone near her.

No one spoke up in response. Ollondors paused, then seemed to realize that had to do with her phrasing of her question. "Fine," she said. "Do we vote that he is guilty of these crimes and deserves at least the minimum sentence of thirty years in Azkaban?"

Harry blinked for a second, wondering why Ollondors wasn't going for more than that. But then he sighed. Right. This was only the Azkaban part of the sentencing. Ollondors probably knew it would hurt Lucius more if they also took his money and his family prestige, as much as that was possible, and so she was being comparatively lenient on the Azkaban sentence so she could take more vaults.

Hands went up all over the room. "Congratulations, sir," Mollevron called down to Lucius. "At least your crimes are more interesting than your son's."

There was no sign Lucius had heard. He sat still, and his eyes were fixed somewhere between Harry's face and Draco's. Harry half-snorted. If Ollondors was hoping for some sign of demonstrativeness from him as he was sentenced, she would have to wait all day. Fear for his fate was the last pleasure he could deny his enemies, and he would deny them all the pleasure he was capable of.

"Now," said Ollondors, and her voice was soft and she looked as though she was clasping her hands together like she was praying. Harry had to look away. Her face appeared very similar to Aunt Petunia's during times when she was gossiping about one of the neighbors. "We need to think about what sort of reparations we should demand from you, sir. To that end, I have asked one of the goblins of Gringotts to come here with a detailed accounting."

A goblin Harry hadn't seen before rose from a chair at the far end of the room. It had been sheltered behind Ollondors's, Harry realized, so that it was hard to see with a direct line of sight. He wondered if Ollondors had meant that to make it harder for Lucius, so he would blink or swallow or catch his breath or something.

But Lucius's gaze remained blank and fixed as the goblin began to read off numbers. Harry winced a little as he heard them. He knew that he had a lot in his own vault, the one his parents had left him, but this was incredibly more. It seemed Lucius had used those bribes and "donations" and inherited money and whatever else he had got well.

Draco was the one standing with bowed head and clenched fists by the time the goblin had finished. Ollondors gave him what for her was a friendly smile. "Excellent. Now, I think that the amount of trouble the Malfoys have caused the Ministry justifies seizing at least half of that, don't you?"

The bickering that broke out then astonished Harry. Most of the Wizengamot hadn't seemed that interested in the Malfoys' fate, following Ollondors's lead or just grateful they weren't the ones being called to account for what they had done when Death Eaters took over the Ministry. But when it came to money, they could be loud, and contentious.

Narcissa Malfoy leaned in and spoke one more time to Draco. This time, he turned his head, eyes bright and hopeless as they fastened on Harry.

Listen to me, Harry thought as strongly as he could, even though he knew he would have discovered by now if the bond could convey thoughts. He sent warmth down it instead. No matter what happens, you'll always have a home with me. You can stay in the bond as long as you like. I'll provide for you.

Draco blinked at him, but his eyes didn't show much recognition of what Harry was sending. Harry kept looking at him, though, even when the Wizengamot seemed to come to agreement about how much money they'd take from the Malfoys. It was a long time. That didn't matter. What mattered was Draco.

"So the Malfoys shall lose two-thirds of the wealth in their Gringotts vaults," said Ollondors, her voice like the purr of a pleased cat. "And Lucius Malfoy shall spend thirty years in Azkaban. We can settle the value of Malfoy Manor and certain other properties later." She paused so long that it became obvious what she was waiting for, and Harry turned away from Draco and focused on her with a little sigh.

Ollondors smiled at him. "Now," she said, "comes the sentencing of Narcissa Malfoy."