Title: Children of the Light
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione
Warnings: Angst, violence, present tense, future-fic with intertwined timelines, OC point-of-view in one timeline.
Summary: Wizarding children of the future learn about the Dark Lords that led up to the Great Dark Lord. They learn about the House-Elf War that was fought against the Great Dark Lord and almost destroyed the foundations of society, but ended with freedom and peace and an escape to the stars. But they don't learn about Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter. Those names have been expunged from the record.
Author's Notes: This fic jumps back and forth between past and future, but only in different scenes, so hopefully it should be easy to keep track of what is happening when.
Children of the Light
The history books are beautifully bound, beautifully preserved. The children, Sarra and Kenyon and Peridot and the rest of them somewhere outside their Crèche, know that these aren't the real history books, not the originals, the ones that survived the House-Elf War. They are only copies. Even with Preservation Charms, books fall to pieces in five hundred years.
But the beauty of the books they do have makes up for it. These books shimmer in their brown leather covers, and the thick creamy pages bear the words in trailing golden letters. The illustrations look real enough to leap off the paper.
Peridot's favorite picture is of Hogwarts Risen, the great building soaring into the air and leaving the ashes of the Last Battle far behind. Kenyon will spend hours staring at the picture of the Dark Lord Voldemort. No one is afraid to see his name now, but when you look at that narrow, noseless face, and the red eyes, and touch the curling, gold-inscribed runes of Parseltongue trailing out of his mouth, you can see why they were.
Sarra keeps saying she doesn't have a favorite picture, but the others notice that the Book of the House-Elf War keeps falling open at the picture of the Great Dark Lord. Of course, that picture is more speculative than the rest. He always appeared in public wearing a glamour, so no one knows what he really looked like. But in this picture, he has coal-black hair, done so vividly that it seems to gleam around him like a puddle of spilled ink, and he has white, white teeth, whiter than the paper they're imprinted on, and he has silver, silver eyes.
Sarra will admit, when the lights are out and they're lying in the narrow little cots that are all they need in the Crèche at their age, that it's the eyes that haunt her the most. There's no one alive now who has eyes like that. What if he was the last one? Did all the other people who had those eyes die? Was he lonely?
Kenyon never fails to point out that he was the Great Dark Lord, and how could he be lonely? He wasn't even human anymore.
But still Sarra lies awake and wonders, looking up at the pattern of stars on the ceiling, stars that echo the slim band of galaxy that the wizards started out in. It's not home anymore; they have so much space beyond that, endless space, free from the threat of Muggles.
Sarra has never told anyone how special she still feels the stars of the White Way are. That's the kind of thing that only first-years say, and Sarra is a third-year, safely seven castle-cycles old, with her wild magic under control, the time when she might have Changed and become horrible and Dark past, too.
But she lies there and thinks about it, anyway.
"What will your friends say about this?"
"I don't care."
And Harry means it here, as he lies in Draco's embrace on the top of the Astronomy Tower, the sweat drying on their bodies from their latest fuck. It's two months they've been fucking like this—exactly two months, Draco realizes, as he looks up and sees the full moon of December shining down on them. Who would have thought that Potter returning his wand and talking to him about being bored with all the funerals and endless, endless celebrations would have turned into this?
Well, honestly, it probably wouldn't have, if Draco hadn't pinned Potter against the wall one day when he came up to whine about how there were no mysteries to solve in Hogwarts anymore and kissed him breathless. Then again, Potter had kissed him breathless back, so it was both their faults.
Draco closes his eyes, and feels Harry's breath on his face, Harry's sharp hipbones brushing his, Harry's hair, looser and longer than before, draped across his shoulders.
The trouble is, Draco thinks, as he rubs his hand up and down Harry's back, that Harry means it here and now, when the pleasure between them is fading but still remembered, and the blankets thick with Warming Charms are draped over them. But it's a different matter when they part and Harry goes down the stairs to Gryffindor Tower, where they're still pretending he belongs.
Then, when Harry gets there, he shrinks into someone who plays Exploding Snap with Longbottom and laughs about terrible articles in the Daily Prophet with Finnegan and pretends to anyone who asks that he's still dating Girl-Weasley. And also tries desperately to pretend, mostly to himself, that he's still as close to Granger and Weasley as he used to be.
Draco saw them snogging all over the castle after the Battle of Hogwarts, and it wasn't a surprise to him when they returned for their last year, needed to qualify for the NEWTS, with their arms still wrapped around each other's waists. But in welding into a single unit, they've disrupted whatever delicate balance kept them as close with Harry. A table can stand with three legs, Draco thinks sometimes, whenever Harry has babbled on longer than usual about tripods and three being the sturdiest shape, but it won't be the same table if you try to make it stand on two.
He doesn't think they mean to leave Harry out; he really doesn't. The problem is that Harry does feel left out, and when that happens, he withdraws from the people in question. Weasley and Granger haven't noticed, yet, how often Harry leaves them alone and tiptoes around while they're snogging, but Draco thinks they will someday.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Harry's going to tell them who he's snogging instead.
"I don't want to talk about my friends right now," Harry says, and rolls over to stare up at Draco, his hands reaching out as though he would grasp the back of his neck and pull him down. Draco bends and kisses him before he can try that. Harry gasps a little, but accepts the change of pace, even rocking his hips when Draco tries to back off. "I'll talk to them and about them later."
Draco doesn't think it'll happen, but he's more than willing to bend down and kiss Harry and ignore the future for right now. The moonlight paints them, and it's brilliant, and the kissing is a different kind of brilliant.
All Draco wants, now and here.
"Who do you think the Great Dark Lord really is?"
Peridot looks up. She's been floating blocks into place on top of each other. Sarra can't do that as well yet. Peridot blinks and chews her lip. "What do you mean? He isn't someone anymore. He's dead. And you know no one uses his name."
Sarra sits back on her heels and pushes her hair behind her ears. "I don't know," she says, and feels a dull flush touch her cheeks. "I reckon—I don't know. Something made me speak like he was still alive." She shakes her head to clear it.
Peridot smiles and comes over to hug her. Sarra relaxes. They're together in the Crèche because their magic is compatible, and someday they may even fly a castle together. "I know. It doesn't matter. It's natural to wonder about that, I think. Did they leave his name out of the history books because everyone was afraid of it? Or because they didn't know what it was? Or because he was dead and they didn't see any point in keeping him alive in their memories?"
Sarra nods. Different people in the castle, their teachers and caretakers, have different theories about all the history that they learn, and it's not unusual to hear them arguing about them. Arguing about this is something Sarra can do, and it'll make it less awful to think about those unexpected thoughts that sometimes plague her in the dark of night, like what the Great Dark Lord thought about the Light.
"I think it was because they were afraid of him," she says, looking at her own stack of blocks and concentrating. Her magic ripples around her, and she floats three into a triangle. Sarra grins. It's less than what Peridot can do, but more than she usually does. "They had to know who he was. He didn't just come out of nowhere."
"But maybe he did," Peridot says. "Maybe he really did rise out of nowhere, and they didn't know who he was. Voldemort did that. The Books say so. There were some people who knew his old name, but not very many. Most people just thought he was a powerful Dark Lord they could follow."
Sarra nods. "But someone could trace it back with him. Why didn't someone trace it back for the Great Dark Lord?"
Peridot looks hard at her. "Because there was a war happening?"
Sarra blushes. Sometimes it seems as though she'll keep all the history straight in her head. She can remember the names of stars in the White Way better than she can remember that the House-Elf War and the Great Dark Lord happened at the same time, it seems. "Oh. Right."
Peridot tugs on her hand. "Come on, let's practice with the blocks some more. I can't fly a castle with you someday if you don't have enough magic."
Sarra smiles, and lets Peridot pull her. It's nice to know that someone else cares about her magic more than her theories.
"I can't believe they did that."
Draco winces and sits back on the couch in Harry's flat, the one that he and Harry spend a lot of time snogging on. He watches Harry pacing back and forth in front of him for several minutes, but Harry doesn't stop and doesn't slow down. His visit to his friends' house went even worse than he expected, then.
Draco gently clears his throat.
Harry turns around and glares at him. "What?"
"You still haven't told me what they did," Draco points out.
Harry stares at him, and then sinks down in the middle of the floor and puts his hands over his eyes. Draco abandons the couch to sit beside him. His place will always be where Harry is, and at this moment in time, more than ever.
"I told them about us," Harry mutters, turning his head into Draco's shoulder. Only long experience with him over the past two years tells Draco what he's saying, enables him to translate from mumbling and the cloth obstructing Harry's lips. "I thought—but I told them before. They knew I was dating you five months ago! I just didn't tell them before how long it had been."
Another mistake, Draco thinks. Gryffindors should be honest with each other from the beginning. But he didn't want to convince Harry to do otherwise, not enough to speak up about it. He doesn't really care if Weasley and Granger accept him or not, as long as they stay Harry's friends. They can have their own private parties and meetings, and he won't resent it.
"What did they do when you told them tonight?" he prompts, as Harry's voice trails off into silence again.
Harry laughs unhappily and sits back to look up into Draco's face. Draco won't let Harry completely leave the circle of his arms, though. That would be an unacceptable retreat.
"Ron said I must be turning Dark," Harry muttered. "Because of what you've been studying."
That surprises a snort out of Draco, when he really thought that no one could surprise him anymore. "What? But wandless magic isn't Dark. The ones who wrote the books I'm studying are Light wizards."
"I told him that." Harry flops back into Draco's shoulder, hiding his eyes. Draco lets him, rubbing Harry's back and shaking his head. If Harry's friends accused him of being Dark, then they're far blinder than Draco thought. And stupider. It doesn't take much for him to malign Weasley's intelligence, of course, but Draco really did think better of Granger.
"What did he say when you told him that?" Draco asks, because Harry's fallen silent again.
Harry sighs. "He says that it's Dark because you're studying it. And if I'm helping out with whatever you do, then I'm Dark, too."
"And Granger?" Draco's hands have stopped stroking, but he can't help that. He's still embracing Harry, and that's the important thing.
A swallow. "She agreed with Ron."
"I just can't believe it," Draco mutters, more agitated than he'd like to admit. If Granger thinks that, that means the perception is out there in wider wizarding society, too. Granger likes to think of herself as opposite the popular opinion in most things, but Draco has noticed that she's really extraordinarily sensitive to what other wizards like and disapprove of. Must come from being a Muggleborn, and knowing that she's less secure around some people, simply because they'll automatically dislike her. "Granger thinks some things are wrong, but she doesn't throw the word Dark around like that."
Harry shudders in his arms. "She—she's getting more serious about house-elves, Draco. She says that the only wizards in Britain who still own them are wizards who are Dark in some way. And since there aren't many families left who have them anymore and almost all those families were on Voldemort's side of the war…"
"How does she explain Hogwarts, then?" Draco snaps.
"Collective ownership is okay, according to her." Harry tries to move away again, and again Draco stops him. Draco raises an eyebrow in an unimpressed way when Harry glares at him. Harry looks at the carpet. Then he picks at it. Draco reaches out and puts a hand over Harry's. "I don't know. I don't understand it. Just that she thinks house-elf ownership is evil, and I still have Kreacher work for me sometimes, and you still have yours. I think she doesn't really believe the same shit about wandless magic that Ron does, but it's easier for her to go along with it when she thinks you're Dark for other reasons."
"What that what made you upset enough to come back here early?" Draco asks quietly. Harry usually spends a few hours with his friends every Saturday. Draco only spent an hour this afternoon reading before Harry stormed through the front door, though.
"No." Harry sits there, his head dangling.
Draco, very gently, holds out two fingers, and very gently, Harry puts his chin on them. Draco raises his head. Harry's gaze meets his, and Draco's stomach drops a little when he sees that Harry is shivering, his eyes full of tears.
"What is it?" Draco asks, as softly as he can.
"Ron said…he said that you must have corrupted me already, somehow. That they've felt me growing more and more distant from them. And it has nothing to do with them wanting time alone, and them expecting a baby, and them expecting me to marry Ginny," Harry says with sudden savagery, leaning in to Draco as if he could defend Harry against what his friends said somehow. "No, nothing's been their fault! They want to know why I'm not normal. Which is settling down and getting ready to have a baby and going into Auror training."
Draco goes very still. He thinks of things he could do to Weasley, who knows about Harry being called a freak by his relatives and how sensitive he is to any insinuation that he's not normal and still went ahead and said he wasn't normal anyway.
With regret, he finally recalls that he's not skilled enough in wandless magic yet to do anything that would make Weasley really pay, and they could trace his wand. Since the war, all former Death Eater wands are registered with the Ministry, and every spell that one of them performs appears on a piece of parchment that's checked daily. It's one reason, although not the biggest one, that Draco has turned to study of wandless magic.
"I see why you came home," he says instead.
Harry swallows, then leans on Draco's shoulder. "I do want kids someday," he says wearily. "Maybe I even want to be an Auror someday. But I also want to party and muck around and do all the other things that normal people get to do when they're teenagers. Is that so much to ask?"
Draco touches his shoulder. Harry closes his eyes, and his cheek lolls against Draco as Draco starts massaging the nape of his neck.
"You are normal," Draco says. "It's the sort of thing that people expect you to do that isn't. Defeat a Dark Lord, and defeat a basilisk, and live through the deaths of your parents and your godfather and your mentor as though nothing ever happened. They want you to be heroic and ordinary at the same time, heroic because they needed you to save them and ordinary because otherwise they might have to start thinking about what being a savior cost you. It's noise. Nothing but nonsense and noise. If they knew…"
His words soothe Harry, as they usually do, and after another half-an-hour like that, they're able to stand and go about their business. Harry smiles and talks as cheerfully as usual.
But Draco is thinking that, although he's soothed Harry past bouts of melancholy before, none of them have ever involved his friends.
Something's changed, and Draco can feel the winds of greater changes coming.
The wind of Angela's voice sweeps over them and around them, and Sarra's not sure if she's hearing it in her mind or not. Probably not. Hearing voices in their minds comes later for most of the children, when they've mastered their magic and sometimes even when they're close to flying their castles.
Sarra stretches her hands out in front of her when Angela tells her what to do, and moves her fingers up and down in the precise pattern that Angela showed them yesterday. Angela is always slow. She wouldn't let them move their fingers in that pattern then. They could only practice in their heads until today.
But now they can move their magic with their fingers, and Sarra feels a short, sharp, cold tingle making its way down her spine as she does it. Back and forth, up and down, and the tingle grows and strikes to the base of her spine. Sarra gasps, and her eyes fly open. She sees the small fire sparking in front of her, burning on nothing.
"Very good!" Angela bends down, studying the fire, and then lifts her head up and smiles at her. "That's very good, Sarra. I didn't think you would get to Incineration so quickly."
Sarra smiles at her. It's true that she's only done Motion Magic so far, like the kind that piles up blocks and summons objects from across the room. And that's useful, and it's the kind of power that flies the castles, but it's basic magic, too. No one can be a good wizard who can only master Motion Magic.
Kenyon whoops beside her as his magic starts a fire burning on small scraps of paper. Peridot is still concentrating, her green eyes wide and her tongue sticking out between her lips, and then she closes her eyes and moves her fingers harder. Another fire leaps up from the pile of kindling that Angela provided for her.
"Good," Angela says, and claps her hands. Sarra can feel her magic swirling out like a rush of cold water, until it falls on the fires and damps them. Kenyon whines a little. Even Sarra can't help pouting. They were just getting good at Incineration, and now Angela wants to take it away from them?
But Angela looks solemnly around and captures everybody's eyes, and Sarra finds herself standing up and breathing in a bit more deeply.
"I made your fires die down because you aren't ready to handle them for long periods of time yet," Angela says. "If they get out of control, they could hurt other people, or the History Books, or other things in the castle. That would make you Dark. You must always keep control of your magic, and tame it to obey you. Do you understand?"
Sarra nods. She knows there have been cases of Dark wizards in the past, and not just the ones who Changed when they were three or four castle-cycles old. There were wizards who hurt other people, who tortured them, who dropped the castles out of the stars and onto planets and destroyed them. There are lots of wizards now, but every castle is a loss. No one wants to be Dark, except people who don't control their magic.
"Good." Angela touches Sarra's hair. "Now, come with me. I think you all deserve some chocolate for getting this far."
Sarra runs excitedly to the door. Chocolate is pretty rare; it's hard to conjure, and there just aren't a lot of planets where it grows. Sarra's only tasted it twice this castle-cycle, and she wants to feel it melt in her mouth again.
"There's going to be another war."
Draco watches Harry's eyes close in denial, or attempted denial, of what he's saying. Then Harry looks up from his mug of Firewhisky—something he only started drinking in the last year, after more than half a decade of butterbeer—and raises his voice just enough for Draco to hear him over the din that occupies the Leaky Cauldron. "What about?"
"Can you ask?" Draco leans back and runs his hand through his hair. His muscles ache. That always happens when he uses lots of wandless magic in one day. He's much, much better at it than he used to be, but he's still used a wand for more of his life, and he wasn't born to the art. He almost envies his future children—well, future children of someone—whom he'll teach to use it, because they'll know it from the beginning of their lives. "Over house-elves, and magical creatures, and Muggles. Granger is heading up the faction that says we need to break all the ties and restrictions that impinge on the freedom of magical creatures. Other people are more determined than ever to expose our world to Muggles."
Harry shook his head. "I heard the rumors, but I thought…"
Draco nods. "I know." Harry hears rumors and not much more than that, working at Hogwarts as a Defense professor and under a glamoured disguise as he does. Children don't tend to care about the same things as their parents, and for shorter periods of time. Even Draco, who considered himself well-read for an eleven-year-old when he went to Hogwarts, cringes as he remembers what absolute rubbish flowed through his head and out his mouth then.
"They don't think they'd be in danger if they exposed us all at once?" Harry asked quietly. "Or do they think they would escape somehow?"
"It's mostly Muggleborns," Draco says. He knows that Harry's convinced and in agreement when he doesn't scold Draco for the bitterness like ashes in his voice. "Or other people who have Muggle family and lovers and friends, and are convinced that it wouldn't do any harm to show magic to them." Draco takes a long drink and bangs his mug down. "I sympathize with them, feeling caught between worlds, but no one made them associate with Muggles all their lives."
Harry stares at him. "The ones who have Muggle families don't have a choice."
"Fine, fine," Draco says, feeling caught and tricked in the complexities of the situation. He takes another long swig, wondering if Harry will argue against him and join the other side.
But, no, Draco decides, the longer he thinks about it. If Harry had any sympathy with the people who want to completely upend the wizarding world, take over the Ministry because "no laws can be just that are made by the same people who enslave house-elves," and reveal them all to Muggles because "the Muggles I know are nice," he would have abandoned Draco when his friends started pressuring him to. As it is, Harry doesn't associate with Muggles, doesn't make friends of them, never talks about the family he grew up with, and still has Kreacher tend to him. Draco thinks that it's unlikely he'll change his mind now.
Harry smiles softly at him and puts down his mug. "There's something I wanted to show you," he says, and crooks his hand in front of him.
Draco watches curiously. He knows Harry has been secretive about something for the past month, shutting the door of his own room in their house and putting books away under concealment spells that Draco can't break. Of course, Draco did try to break them; he is himself, and still sneaky and underhanded. But he didn't try as hard as he would have if Harry was someone other than his lover.
Harry turns his fingers outwards and takes a breath so slow that Draco fears it's bad news, despite his smile. Then he turns his fingers back in towards his palm and blows on them.
A flame springs to life, dancing, in his palm. Harry spreads his fingers wide, and it flies up and mingles with the candle flame.
Draco knows his jaw is hanging, but he can't help himself. Harry laughs and leans across the table to kiss him. Draco permits it, ignoring the stares. Most of the people—sans Harry's friends—who still stare and murmur about them being together after seven years aren't the sort that they want to impress anyway.
"Not only wandless, but nonverbal," Draco pulls away to murmur. "Trust you to master more than I could on the first go."
"It's been hard slogging the past month, especially when I couldn't consult with you." Harry grins as he stands up and reaches for Draco's empty mug. "But I mastered it at last."
Draco reaches up and catches hold of Harry's wrist, turning it over, before Harry can go and get more drinks. Harry raises his eyebrows and waits.
"So you stand with me, after all," Draco says at last, more quietly than he meant to. He's started teaching wandless magic to some of his friends, even some of Harry's, who are less convinced that anyone who owns house-elves is Dark and evil. But other people have refused to learn it, especially Muggleborns, who see it as one more thing that would separate them from all the "nice Muggles" in their lives.
Like it or not, wandless magic is becoming a sort of dividing line in their community, something that people practice who have house-elves, or no Muggle relatives, or intend to spend all their lives in the wizarding world. Draco has always thought that's another reason Harry hasn't wanted to learn it.
"I do," Harry says softly, with a nod of his head so slow that someone watching from a distance might not know it's a nod.
He bends down and kisses Draco, and Draco can hear the words that he doesn't speak ringing in the air between them, sliding between their lips.
If the war comes, I'm on your side.
"You're going to be learning about the history that we didn't dare teach you before today."
Sarra swallows. Angela stands up in front of them and spreads her hands. A muffling ward falls on the classroom, and Sarra sees Kenyon start and look around them. He's always been more sensitive to that kind of magic than anyone else in their Crèche. Sarra feels her own hair tremble and prickle on the back of her neck. If Kenyon reacts like that, this is a serious ward, and that means serious business.
Angela paces back and forth in front of them for a moment. She is a young woman, but also a small one, with long dark hair that has a single silver streak down the side. She's told Sarra it's a scar, from where she fell from a height before she mastered Air Magic. She wears the black robes with the old symbol of a silver lightning bolt on the front that all the teachers wear.
At last she turns around and faces them, and Sarra gets the distinct feeling that she wasn't hesitating because she thinks they might still be too young to know the truth; instead, she was trying to come up with the right words. She speaks now, slowly but with determination, as if she was hammering every word into being on a forge.
"The matter of Dark and Light isn't as simple as you've always been told. Sometimes Dark wizards don't hurt people. Sometimes Light wizards do. We haven't told you before now because we think children should grow up in simplicity and not to have to worry about things like this while they're still too young to do anything about them."
Kenyon and Peridot nod as though they understand, but Sarra's head is whirling, and not even the familiar stone walls and the flaring wooden torches and the rooted desks of the classroom can make her feel better. This is more confusing than if they had told them the truth from the beginning, she thinks. Never mind that they're fifth-years and nine or ten now (she and Peridot are ten, Kenyon is nine). Why would they leave the truth hidden? What makes everything so different now? It's not like any of them just gained a castle-cycle or displayed a hidden talent. Angela keeps reassuring them that everything they're doing and showing is perfectly normal for a group this many castle-cycles old. So why choose now to tell them?
Sarra folds her hands into her sleeves, and shivers.
"Sometimes Light wizards hurt people," Angela repeats, as if the truth is so strange that she needs to say it more than once to reassure herself. "That's what happened in the House-Elf War. We don't tell you that. We just tell you about the dangerous and desperate things that the Great Dark Lord did when he couldn't convince people to follow him. Blowing up Muggle homes. Destroying Hogsmeade. Destroying helpless Muggle children who sat inside their homes and didn't know anything about the war."
Sarra shivers again. Angela's eyes are on the wall over her head, and she looks as though she was actually there, in that war, and saw the horrible things she was talking about. Sarra isn't sure that she wants to know any more, even though she's always loved history.
"But you should know," Angela says, bringing her head down, "that the Great Dark Lord also helped people. He charmed magical snakes to free wizards whom Muggles were holding captive. He kept Muggles from destroying a few of the magical creature sanctuaries until they could get into Hogwarts and keep safe that way." She hesitates.
Sarra lifts her head. She feels like the air is changing around them, the way it does every quarter-day when Air Magic flushes out the old and used breathing-space and brings in new oxygen for everybody.
"What I'm about to say," Angela says solemnly, "is spoken aloud only once. That means you must not ever talk of it outside your Crèche." She looks around at the three of them. "Understand?"
Sarra sees Peridot and Kenyon nod from the corner of her eye, but her heart is pounding so hard that she can't speak, the way she would like to. She just nods, too. It feels like her eardrums are going to burst.
"Some people," Angela says, "think that there is some evidence that the Great Dark Lord invented the means of raising Hogwarts to the stars. And all the castles that came after it."
Kenyon is the first one who slams his hands down on the table and stands up. He's shaking all over. "You can't say that," he begins, and then he starts to shriek—quiet Kenyon, the one that Angela always says is the least trouble, and is the quickest one to make his magic behave even if he struggles with learning new things. "You can't! The Great Dark Lord was evil! No one evil can ever discover anything good!"
Angela stands watching him with a faint frown. But she doesn't get upset the way that she usually does when one of them loses control, Sarra thinks in confusion, remembering all the warnings about what they might do with Incineration or Water Magic or even Motion Magic if they don't keep it under control.
Then Kenyon does try to call fire, and Angela moves her hand a little. The muffling ward increases, and suddenly Sarra knows that no matter what she did, the fire wouldn't light. The ward presses on her skin like cold water. Sarra shivers and wraps her arms around herself, while Kenyon stares back and forth from Angela to the place he tried to light the fire, his mouth open.
"I can't let you do that," Angela says quietly. "Control is always the most important thing to remember, Kenyon, and it doesn't matter what someone tells you. I only said that some people believe that the Great Dark Lord was responsible for Hogwarts Risen. Not everyone believes that. If you think everyone should believe the same thing, then you are less mature than I thought, and I shall use Memory Magic on you and wait another castle-cycle to tell you the rest of this history." She's watching Kenyon keenly, with no sign of reluctance.
Kenyon clenches his fists. Sarra sucks in her breath, because she can think of few worse threats than being subject to Memory Magic, but she knows Angela could do it with a wave of her hand. And Kenyon still looks like he's thinking of going against it, maybe lighting another fire, maybe attacking Angela and trying to get out of the muffling ward.
But in the end, he slumps back down into his chair and leans his head on his hands. "I don't like this history," he murmurs.
Angela nods. "I know. I'm sorry. Perhaps I should have waited another castle-cycle after all to tell you this." She looks at Sarra and Peridot as if wondering whether she'll have to take the knowledge away from them, too.
Sarra sits up. She knows she can't do all that much if Angela attacks her, because she's still young and not as strong. Angela is at least in her thirtieth castle-cycle or so, which means that she left her fourteenth year behind her long ago. Sarra thinks she's good at control, but she doesn't know a lot of magic yet.
"Please don't take it away," Peridot says, her eyes shining. "Or maybe you could take it away from Kenyon, if he wants you to, and just tell me and Sarra."
But Angela twitches her head, smiling, and says, "I couldn't do that. You must be able to trust all members of your Crèche, at all times, and what one knows, the others have to know." She looks from face to face, and then says, "Do you want me to tell you what the evidence is for the Great Dark Lord inventing star-flight?"
"Yes," Sarra says, and she can't disguise the quickness in her voice.
Angela looks at her as if she hears the quickness, but not as if she blames her for it, and Sarra relaxes a little in her chair and smiles at the teacher. Angela nods. "If you do not want to believe this, you do not have to," she tells Peridot and Kenyon, her voice solemn. "But I am going to tell Sarra."
Peridot leans forwards. "I want to hear it. I'm not afraid!"
Of course Kenyon has no choice but to sit down and look enthusiastic then, and Sarra tries not to wriggle in her seat as she watches Angela pace back and forth in front of them.
"All right," Angela whispers, as if even she has to steel herself to go against the usual, accepted history. "It is this: until the time when Hogwarts rose, all wizards used wands. Small sticks of wood with cores from magical creatures," she adds, because Kenyon has opened his mouth. "Those wands controlled and channeled their magic."
"But it would be—small," Sarra says, considering the idea. She knows the theory, that magic has to be strictly controlled because it pours through all the surfaces on a wizard's body, and that means that your hands or your eyes or your fingernails could emanate it. But if you only have the opening through a little stick of wood to funnel your magic, even with a magical creature's body part to help you, you wouldn't have access to anything but the smallest part of all that power. It's like forcing water through a tiny opening instead of a big one.
Maybe you would have greater control, but Sarra doubts that it would be worth the sacrifice of power.
Angela nods. "But that is what wizards wanted, at the time. They didn't want to be powerful. They only wanted to hide from Muggles and live ordinary lives on planets."
"But why would you, when you could have the stars?" Peridot's tone echoes the painful bewilderment that is welling up in the middle of Sarra's chest.
"They didn't know that they could have the stars, then." Angela makes a quick little motion with her hand, as though scrubbing off a window. "In fact, in this theory, Muggles were the first ones who went to the stars."
"How?" Even Kenyon appears interested in the story now, making his chair bounce a little. "They don't have magic."
Angela nods to his chair. "The same way you're moving it right now, with your legs. With the power of muscle and fire and air, but commanded by the laws of the natural world, the same laws that say that planets can only have a certain amount of gravity. They used that to break free of the planet when they could. It wasn't very often."
"No," Sarra says, horrified at the thought of how expensive it would be, how terribly costly, when they didn't have magic to help them. "It couldn't be."
Angela nods again. "But Muggles began to attack us," she says softly. "You already know what I told you about the Great Dark Lord supposedly rescuing wizards from Muggles, and of course all the ordinary histories tell you that the Great Dark Lord was on one side and the wizards who wanted to live in peace with Muggles were on the other. Well, the only reason that the Great Dark Lord could oppose Muggles and other wizards for so long was that he invented magic like the kind we have. He gave up his wand and used the power of his mind and his spirit instead, funneled directly through his body."
Sarra tries to imagine it, what it must have been like, to break free of the tyranny of wands and become able to use your whole mind and your whole body, the way she has been trained from the age of five to do. And though perhaps the answer should be different, because it would have scared people who were used to wands, the only idea that comes to her is:
"Someone else must have invented it, though," says Peridot uncertainly, fidgeting back and forth in her seat. Sarra can almost hear the old echoes of the lessons they have been taught filtering through Peridot's mind, making her eyes wider than ever. A single wizard can't fly a castle by herself. A single wizard can't investigate a planet and see if it would make a good home for a while, whether any Muggle species live there that might oppose them. No matter how powerful one single wizard is, they still need each other to fly the castles.
"I mean, someone must have helped," Peridot corrects herself a moment later. "A lot of people. Not the Great Dark Lord."
Angela shrugs and smiles at her. "That is one reason this theory is controversial," she says. "A lot of people feel the same way you do. No one, no matter how strong, could be that strong. But it is true that it was many, many people who made Hogwarts Risen. The Great Dark Lord was responsible for inventing the secret of starflight—perhaps, if we believe those old rumors—and teaching us to practice magic like we do, but it was Light wizards who flew us to safety, and Light wizards we remain."
Sarra stares at their teacher. Maybe it's just her imagination, but she thinks she catches something remote and secret in Angela's eyes as she speaks, something dim and distant. As if she wishes she could be alive in those days, maybe, to learn for herself who was really responsible for inventing the secret of wandless magic and flying castles.
Sarra would have liked to be, too.
"There's too many of them!"
The voices are shouting, loud and angry, from beyond the walls of the Three Broomsticks, where Draco and Harry have guided the latest lot of wizards forced from their homes. Muggles have followed them, though. Draco wonders for a moment if it was a wizard who betrayed them or Muggle technology that became powerful enough to see past the wards of Hogsmeade, and then decides that it doesn't matter. Nothing matters, except that he and Harry brought these families here, and they have to keep them safe.
He turns around and meets Harry's eyes. Harry inclines his head, bleakly. They both know what has to happen now. Hogwarts is the only place strong enough to hold up against the determined Muggle attack, and the only place big enough to shelter the people they've brought to Hogsmeade as well as the people who live there and will flee from it.
Harry reaches out and clasps Draco's hand. Draco holds so firm for a second that he cannot imagine letting Harry go. But Harry's command and control of wandless magic is as strong as his own, now, and peculiarly adapted to Defense, the way it has always been. Draco has to believe that he will see Harry again. He will let no other belief exist or influence him.
"Go," Draco says.
Harry nods, and reaches into himself to raise floating shields around the people they've herded into the pub. Then he steps out in front of the refugees and catches their eyes. They calm at once, Draco notices. That is something that Harry's scar and fame are good for: making people trust him and follow him where they need to go to be safe.
They weren't good enough to keep his friends with him or to stop this war, something Draco knows Harry blames himself for every day. But they might be good enough to keep part of the wizarding world alive.
"Come on!" Harry roars, magic aiding his voice, so that it travels to every corner of the room without echoing. "We need to get to Hogwarts."
And he encircles them with more floating shields and leads them out the door. He doesn't look back.
Not that Draco expected him to. He won't want to see what Draco is about to do.
If Harry's magic is made to shield, to defend, to protect and comfort, Draco's magic is made for killing. Ironic, Draco sometimes thinks, for the boy who could not lift his wand to commit murder.
But this is not magic controlled by a wand. It is pure lightning, sparking through him, and what Draco looks at it, it strikes.
Draco steps out of the Three Broomsticks and turns in the direction of the army rumbling up towards Hogsmeade.
There are wizards there, on flying carpets—the ones who decided that it was against human rights to use Memory Charms on Muggles, and then eventually decided that it was against human rights to keep any secrets from them, either. Draco curls his lip. He's read the pamphlets, the ones that talk about wizards having a duty to heal Muggle diseases, clean up after Muggle accidents, solve Muggles' problems with pollution and waste and all sorts of other things that Draco hasn't bothered to pay attention to. They're very earnest, full of rhetorical questions, and utterly oblivious of the fact that magic can't do everything and that not every wizard is good at the same things.
They never stood a chance of convincing Draco, but tellingly, they never convinced Harry either. Draco is prouder of that than he probably should be.
There are Muggles with the wizards, too, in cars and in tanks and with other weapons that Draco knows wards can't stand up to. Neither can the wizards fleeing behind him, stampeding up the paths towards Hogwarts. They don't have the temperament or the power for it.
That doesn't matter. Draco has more than enough for all of them.
He half-closes his eyes and reaches out with his power, calling on fire first. Fires break out on the flying carpets, consuming the cloth, and the wizards veer madly around the sky, trying to find places to land, and means to put it out. They can't do the last, though. Draco just has to pour more magic on the flames, and they respond as if to air, rising and wavering back and forth, fast enough to burn wands before the flyers can lift them.
Then Draco turns towards the Muggles and reaches out a hand, whistling softly. There is fire among the Muggles, though it is tame and coiled, patient, potential fire rather than open flame. All Draco has to do is touch it and convince it that it wants to burn instead of serving.
Muggle weapons burst into flames as gunpowder combusts, as the weapons Draco has learned to call grenades blow up, as everything that can catch fire does. Muggles are dying in the midst of it. Draco doesn't care.
What he cares about is that Harry's shields cluster on the path towards Hogwarts, keeping Draco's flames from sweeping towards the castle or the people who are ducking and gibbering and cowering in flight.
Muggles pour out of the tanks and towards Draco, firing as they come—until Draco's sweeping hand destroys their guns and the hands that hold them at the same time, and until Draco glances up at the sky and lightning hurtles down from it, forking again and again to hit the Muggles that still remain. They dodge, or they try, but they cannot. Nothing is faster than lightning.
An enormous explosion, strong enough to rock even Harry's shields, erupts from the back of the line. Draco raises his eyebrows. So they brought along a bomb of some sort. Well, it is fitting that the bomb destroy its makers.
Draco's parents are dead, overwhelmed in one of the first rushes that eager Muggles made on wizards because they wanted them to cure cancer. Granger said, over and over again, that it was understandable, because grieving parents and families would want their loved ones to be well again more than anything else. More than other people's lives, Draco understands now. More than wizards remaining free. Even now, Granger and wizards on her side still make excuses for Muggles, talk about how fear is understandable, talk about how human rights have been ignored and abused long enough that wizards' rights should be abused in turn.
Draco's parents are gone. His friends are gone, seized and enslaved or dead or escaped from Britain. In the entire world, he has only Harry to love.
He lets his flames go, and watches them all burn.
"But what if it's not true?"
Sarra looks up from the quill that she's been making write on a piece of paper. She can't make recognizable letters yet from across the room, only scratches and slashes, but she's determined to master the art of writing with Air Magic. There are times everyone who flies a castle has to scribble down instructions with magic for other people to read, because the flyer can't leave her post. If Sarra can't do that, she'll only be able to help a little with flying the castle that she and Kenyon and Peridot will someday be assigned.
"I wasn't paying attention," Sarra says, when she realizes that Peridot is looking at her. "What if what's not true?"
Peridot sniffs, but doesn't say anything about Sarra's language, to Sarra's relief. She knows that Peridot speaks better than she does, and that's okay. She just doesn't like being called on it when they don't need precision of language to control their magic or accomplish some other task. "I said, what if the history that Angela taught us isn't true?"
"That part about the Great Dark Lord?" Sarra ignores the way that Peridot looks around the room. They're left alone more and more often now, to practice their magic. Angela teaches them history, and Azurite teaches them meditation, and they're learning how to cook from Phoenix, who likes to use physical means, but everyone knows that adults can't interfere too much with fifth-years and above, or they won't develop the special bond that they need to have to fly a castle. "Well, Angela did say that it might not be true. That lots of people thought it wasn't."
Peridot shakes her head, her face brooding. "What I mean is, what if the rest of it isn't true? We always learned that Light wizards invented starflight, working together. But if that could be a lie, what about the rest of it?"
Sarra pauses. She didn't think about that. But it chimes with the thoughts she sometimes has at night, lying awake under the stars of the White Way and thinking about the planet where it all began, the wizards' magic and their wariness of Muggle species that could hurt them. She wonders if the Great Dark Lord was lonely, what he was like, why teachers wear lightning bolts, why they chose to make Hogwarts fly and not some other place, and it doesn't seem like there will ever be answers to her questions.
"Well," she says at last, "you could ask Angela about that."
"I don't trust her enough, not when she admitted that what she said might not be right." Peridot leans closer, frowning at Sarra. "I'm asking you."
Sarra takes a long, deep breath. "I think it's fun to think about," she says. "But we'll probably never know the truth. Things might be different than we were told. We should always make sure that we ask the teachers and check the truth and don't believe things blindly. But we can't know for sure. So we should get used to living with uncertainty."
Peridot's face changes slowly, like the piles of ash that Sarra had to sort out with Air Magic the other day. "Wow," Peridot says at last. "So you think that everything we know might be a lie?"
"Not a lie," Sarra says. "Uncertainty." The more she thinks about this, the more convinced she is. "We can't go back in time and ask the Great Dark Lord and the rest of them about the truth. So we have to do the best guesses and the best thinking we can, and just live with not knowing the rest of the time."
"I wish someone had invented Time Magic," Peridot says, and sighs at her own paper. She's still trying to make the quill write something legible at a distance of half a classroom. Sarra can't help feeling a little smug that, for once, there's Air Magic that she's better at than Peridot is. "I wonder, if it's really Dark and dangerous, how do they know that? Is that another part of history that we aren't supposed to question?"
"I don't know," Sarra says, and goes back to writing her message. She's thinking of inventing a sort of code for her and Peridot and Kenyon to use when they fly their castle. It would be easier to write from a distance, and more distinct than all sorts of little letters, too, at least if they could convince their quills to write it larger across the paper.
She becomes so absorbed in ideas for the code that she doesn't think about the Great Dark Lord and history again until she's lying in her bed that night and watching shooting stars pass across the ceiling.
I bet that someone loved him, she thinks as sleep moves in like an eclipse's shadow. Everyone loves someone.
"I don't see any other choice."
Harry closes his eyes. That's all. He doesn't turn away or reach out and strike Draco. He just keeps facing the paper in front of him where Draco has written projections and ideas about the war, and closes his eyes.
It hurts like a slap anyway. Draco swallows several times, and then says, "You know there were always more Muggles than wizards, Harry. Hogwarts's wards can't hold forever, and now the Muggles have destroyed so many places, like Hogsmeade, that we counted on hiding. I don't think there are any free wizards left in Britain outside these walls." He gestures around what used to be the Charms classroom, and now is the strategy room, although only Harry and Draco ever use it. The rest of the adults in the castle are useless in various ways, too concerned with their families to care about anyone else or occupied with crowd control and assigning rations and having endless, circular discussions about how to come to peace with the wizards helping the Muggles.
"I just—to leave them behind forever," Harry whispers.
Draco cocks his head. He sincerely doubts that Harry is talking about the Muggles, or the captured wizards, who even Harry acknowledges they have little hope of rescuing from across Muggle-occupied territory. Not without abandoning Hogwarts, not without taking their power to resist Muggle weapons away from helpless children and injured men and women.
"You still entertain some hope of reconciling with the Weasleys and Granger, don't you?" Draco asks. It's the only thing that can drive Harry now, and make him reluctant to flee the war. "Even though they've helped Muggles since the beginning, and even betrayed the location of Hogsmeade to them."
Harry licks his lips. "That might have been others, too."
Draco says nothing. As far as he's concerned, the owls that his storm intercepted bear all the evidence that's needed that Weasleys were instrumental in flinging the doors open to the Muggles. Probably taking down some of the anti-Muggle spells and Notice-Me-Not Charms, too.
"Arthur was always fascinated by Muggles," Harry is whispering, "and he never thought they would hurt his family."
Draco stirs impatiently. "Well, they haven't." So far, the Muggles seem to have kept faith with their wizarding allies, though Draco suspects that will last only so long as there are free rebel wizards around and the Weasleys and their followers can keep promising that someone who can cure cancer and environmental degradation is over the next hill. Or in the next castle, now.
"But they trusted them." Harry clenched his fists and bowed his head. "Maybe I can still reach out to Ron and Hermione…"
That's what he wishes, of course. He still mourns the loss of his friends, no matter how much he loves Draco.
And Draco understands, but he can't let Harry doom him—both of them—and a whole castle full of refugees on the off-chance that his friends will welcome him back.
He reaches out and puts his hand on Harry's wrist, waiting until Harry looks at him. It takes a long time.
"Muggle parents love their children," he says quietly. "That's the excuse that Granger keeps using for all the horrible things that Muggles have done to us. They love their children, and they want them free of diseases and unhappiness and who knows what else. But do you think wizarding parents love their children any less? Can you ask them to give up the last chance we have for freedom and a place of our own because you want your friends back?"
Harry's lips tremble for a second before he turns away and prevents Draco from seeing his face. But he doesn't try to take his hand out from under Draco's hand. "That was cruel," he whispers.
"I know," Draco says, and makes no apologies.
Yes, it was cruel. But he will do anything to prevent Harry from sacrificing himself in a useless bid for friendship. Granger chose her side from the moment that she decided to declare all wizarding families who still owned house-elves the enemy, and Weasley followed her like the besotted idiot he was. It's not Harry's fault that his friends were idiots, but it will be now, if he goes back to them and allows them access to the wards, or gets himself taken and tortured and weakens the wards that way. Draco can't hold them by himself.
Neither can he raise the castle by himself.
Harry finally takes a deep breath and turns back to Draco. "Tell me again about this mad plan you have of escaping to the stars."
"You have done very well."
Sarra puts her head back and smiles at Angela. She's a seventh-year now, twelve whole castle-cycles old, and for the first time, she's managed to aid the people who fly their castle in making it circle around a sun. She was only in control for a few seconds, while the Crèche in charge transferred the castle from one wizard's magic to another's and needed people to help support the immense burden of tons of stone hanging in space. More than anything, they needed people to make sure that the castle didn't fall into the sun or lose the position it has relative to one of the sun's planets. There's lots of sun and water there, lots of land too, and so far, magic probes have discovered no Muggle intelligent species who would attack wizards. It would be a good place to land and stretch their legs for a while, maybe even to settle.
Sarra already knows that she doesn't want to stay there, though. Her heart belongs to the stars and the castles that circle around them.
"Maybe tomorrow Peter will let you create some of the gravity in the corridors." Angela nods at her, then pauses before Sarra can stop basking in the pleasure of that compliment. Sarra looks up.
Angela is watching her narrowly. Sarra can't stop wishing that Peridot and Kenyon were here. Sometimes she gets impatient with them, and of course it's a great honor to be trusted to perform magic without the escort of her Crèche, but when she's all alone, she can't stop the feeling that she's personally at fault.
"What?" she whispers.
Angela bends near. "You were looking at that panel while you held the castle in its orbit," she says, and nods at a decorative panel that shows the Dark Lord Voldemort being defeated by the Light wizards Granger and Weasley. It's near the window that reflects the blazing sun. "And I heard you saying something."
Sarra blushes. They're supposed to be silent when they perform magic in the Great Hall, lest they distract the Crèche that flies the castle. "Sorry."
"That's not the problem," Angela says, so softly that Sarra finds it hard to hear her. She glances around once, then bends near. "You can hear me?" she whispers.
Sarra nods. "Yes, of course. You're right there."
"That's not the question I should have asked," Angela mutters, sounding disappointed in herself. "I meant, you can understand me?"
Sarra blinks at Angela. It looks as though she has her eyes focused past Sarra, on the same panel that Sarra was looking at when she flew the castle. The panel has lots of glittering glass, bright colors, showing the Dark Lord Voldemort and the snakes that swarm around him, Ashwinders and Runespoors and basilisks. "Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
Angela's hand rests on her shoulder, comforting and warm. "Because the language I just spoke in was Parseltongue," she says, her voice without inflection.
It takes long, long moments for Sarra to understand her. Completely understand her, not just hear the words she's saying.
Sarra tears herself away from Angela. Her tongue is stuck to the roof of her mouth, and she can't cry out. All she can do is stand there, shaking her head, and then shaking.
If she's a Parselmouth, then she's Dark. And Dark wizards are eliminated.
She tries to say something, but she's too close to crying. And Angela is reaching one hand out, her eyes wide.
That's probably only the final comfort before they kill her. Sarra breaks and runs.
"It's the best we can do."
Harry nods a few times. When it seems as though he'll go on nodding, long past the point where it's productive, Draco reaches out and takes his chin, gently stilling him. Harry lets loose a long sigh and glances sideways at Draco.
"You really think they can fly the castle?"
Draco smiles back at him and looks up at Hogwarts, all its windows ablaze with light, and the stones ablaze with wards. "I do. They're not nearly as powerful as we are, but desperation helps a lot with accessing wandless magic, and they still have a lot of children that can do accidental magic, too. They can only lift Hogwarts working all together, but like that? They can raise it."
Harry grasps Draco's hand, and squeezes hard enough to powder his bones. Draco squeezes back. He knows, from the sheen of tears that he can see in Harry's eyes, what Harry feared. That one of them would have to go with the castle to raise it, and one of them would have to stay behind to defend against the Muggles, keeping their weapons from shooting it down during those first uncertain moments as Hogwarts lifts.
Now, they can stay together.
"What do you think is going to happen?" Harry asks quietly, glancing over his shoulder, back towards Hogwarts.
"I think they're going to make it," Draco says comfortably. "And they'll go beyond the earth, and the people we trained so hastily will find ways to make it work because they have to, and the students we had who are with them will help them. And they'll change, no matter what happens. They will change. History will be lost, or marked, or rubbed out, or told in different ways. Maybe they'll forget us. Maybe they'll tell tales of us, but under different names. Maybe all distinctions of pure-blood and Muggleborn will fade." It's Draco's private opinion that they'll have to. There are nearly a thousand wizards inside Hogwarts, but that's not a large enough community for everyone to split off and have their own private enclaves, especially when they need to work together to fly the castle.
Harry pokes him in the shoulder. "I didn't mean what would happen to them. I mean, what will happen to us."
Draco seizes Harry's shoulders and kisses him. Harry makes a surprised noise against his mouth, and then surrenders and kisses him strongly in return, nearly driving Draco off his feet as he leans in.
"We'll go and defend Hogwarts from the Muggles, so it can fly," Draco whispers into his mouth. He can feel Harry's heart beneath his hand, beating so strongly that it seems impossible death or grief or power or Muggle weapons could ever still it. "And we'll break through the Muggle lines when we're done, and go somewhere else." He pulls back so he can look into Harry's eyes. "We're not even thirty yet, and we've already fought in two wars. We deserve a holiday now, a home somewhere else where no one will ever look for us."
For a second, Draco thinks it's not going to work. Harry's hands tighten painfully on his wrists, and he looks for another second as though he might throw Draco aside and go in search of his friends.
But Draco can't confine him or hold him back. He can only trust to Harry's sense of the fitness of things, and the honor that burns in him like a flame, and the love that Harry bears him, to hold him still.
Then Harry gasps, "Yes," and by the lights in Hogwarts's windows, Draco sees the tears on his cheeks.
Draco cradles him close, and Harry whispers against his shoulder, murmurs, the words spilling from him like a river of oil.
"All my life, I wanted to have a home, I wanted to have someone to love me, I wanted to be normal. The first time I came to Hogwarts was the first time that I ever felt at home, but then people started trying to kill me, and now you tell me Hogwarts has to go away forever. And you love me, but we didn't get the chance to enjoy it for long before my friends were thinking that you corrupted me. And...I've done enough, for everybody. If I can go somewhere else and enjoy myself for once, in a little house, with you, and make other friends, and maybe have children, then I'll have everything I want. I think—I can finally think I deserve it."
Draco's hands slide down Harry's back, and he pulls Harry against him, kissing him so aggressively that Harry laughs in protest. But he doesn't pull away, and that means that Draco can keep kissing him, at once expressing and hiding the relief that pounds through him.
He has wanted Harry to come with him long before this. If Harry hadn't wanted to stay and defend people from Muggles, then Draco would already have left Britain. But he knew Harry wouldn't come, that he felt he owed other people something, and that his hero complex and his guilt wouldn't let him rest.
Now, it sounds as though the guilt has cracked and fallen from Harry's shoulders, and Draco knows they will have a life together, at last, at least, for always.
Harry finally breaks free of the kiss and looks up at the stars, and the castle. "I wonder what they'll think of us, later, when it's generations past and they're free among the stars?" he whispers.
Draco shakes his head. "Probably not the truth. Who cares? I'm happy to finish this last battle with the Muggles and then walk out of history. Forever."
Harry smiles as he takes his hand, and they walk into the darkness for the last time, towards the lines of Muggles who cannot, Draco thinks, kill them, beings of joy and power as they are.
The darkness closes around them, hiding them from all knowledge.
Sarra tenses when the door opens. For the first time in her life, she threw Peridot and Kenyon out of the room when she arrived, even though they wanted to hear all about her flying the castle. They're probably coming back in to ask again, and she'll have to sit up and smile and talk about it as though that still matters to her.
It can't matter to her. Nothing can, except what Angela told her recently, because pretty soon she won't have a life for it to matter in.
But it's Angela who comes into the room, and not with a Sword or some other weapon of elimination. She sits down at the end of Sarra's bed and watches her steadily.
"I thought you were smarter than this," she says.
Sarra bristles. "What do you mean? I should have been smart enough not to reveal that I'm Dark?" She closes her eyes and touches her hair for a second. It's brown and wild and curly and hangs down to below her waist. It makes her envy Peridot, whose hair is smooth and blond. Well, now she won't have to worry about cutting it. "But they tell us to report any Dark thing about ourselves as soon as we notice it."
Angela reaches out and takes her hands. Sarra stares at them, wondering when her skin will start burning and blackening.
"Listen," Angela whispers. "If every Parselmouth dies as soon as they're noticed, why do you think I'm still alive?"
Sarra opens her mouth. Closes it. Finally says, "Oh," and feels just as stupid as Angela said she was.
Angela shakes her hands a little. "You can survive," she whispers. "You'll have to keep it a secret from your Crèche, which I know is hard. Someone who's been picked as having the magic to fly a castle should always be able to trust the other wizards around her."
Sarra swallows and nods. If she had a simpler life, simpler magic, like the kind that Angela has, she could be a teacher or a caretaker or an artist and live without a Crèche. But she doesn't think it's impossible to keep secrets from Kenyon or Peridot. They don't know about all the things she thinks of during the nights, for example.
"It's hard," Angela says again, and touches her cheek. "But there are Dark wizards around still, Sarra. History that flourishes where it's not supposed to be seen. Gifts like Parseltongue that survive and are passed on because people who have them, like me, see the young ones who do and protect and mentor them, like you. Sometimes, even alternate books to the History Books." She smiles, probably because Sarra's eyes have widened. "Yes, I thought that would interest you."
"But how?" Sarra whispers. "How, when everyone hates the Dark?"
Angela grins at her. "Let's just say, not everyone who made Hogwarts rise agreed on everything. Now, most of us do, because it's been generations, but we have the freedom of the stars. We can go to a different castle if we need to, to spread the truth or be with people like us or keep from being discovered. If the Muggles couldn't cage us, how can other wizards hope to do so?"
Sarra just stares at her, and sees a new future opening out.
"It can be a hard life," Angela says. "A secretive one. We can't talk about what we know with everyone. But there's excitement and rewards in it, too, looking for the truth, trying to decipher what is real from what's known." She sits back and spreads her hands a little, and for a moment a silver shimmer appears between them, no magic that Sarra knows. "Maybe inventing Time Magic."
Sarra's heart is beating hard. She has never known how much she's wanted something like this, for all her noble words to Peridot about living with uncertainty. To figure things out, to do magic that isn't in the List of Nine Disciplines, to know…
"Do you think the Great Dark Lord invented starflight?" she whispers. "And the kind of magic we use?"
Angela smiles at her. "I do. And I think he was also two people, not one." The silver shimmer appears again. "Someday, I intend to go back and ask them."
Sarra shivers. It's dangerous, it's strange, it might change the life she leads, it's wonderful, it's the life she wants.
"Teach me," she whispers, stretching her hands out to Angela. "Please?"
Angela nods and takes her hands again. "We have our freedom," she repeats. Her eyes are shining, bright, wild. "We should use it."
And Sarra says, "Yes," and all the future is before her, flushed with starlight.