Disclaimer: I wish I owned Harry, Draco and all the rest; they'd do a lot more stuff than they do in the books and it'd all be rated R through X. Alas, however, I do not.
Other info: Draco-centric. Sequel to Oath Breaker. Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa/Severus
Summary: Harry learns to live with the Malfoys. The Malfoys learn to live with Harry. The rest of the world learns to deal.
Other Info: If attempting to find all chapters, please use the tags at the bottom of the page.
There was something satisfying about the way Rita Skeeter came into the school, all business with her quill and parchment in the crook of her arm, her other hand out to keep her balance. At first she kept her gaze on the stone steps so that she didn't catch a heel on the rough, rounded edges, but as she came to the top, as she took a breath and very naturally looked around herself...she froze. Took a slow, wandering step farther in, staring in wonder at the vast height of the First's Academy for the Dark Arts.
Shaped like a cathedral, the stained glass windows welcomed anyone who entered, drawing the eye inside and up. The ceiling soared four stories to a grand rose window framed by balconies and a bell tower, but the buttresses and the dark web of lattices and railings made it impossible to see further. A skeleton of wood and stone, it felt centuries old no matter that she knew it had only been built a few days ago.
Her gaze dropped back to the main hall, with tables and chairs instead of pews. What should have been an altar was instead a teacher's podium with the faculty table behind. The nod to Hogwarts left her a little more grounded, although she did not recognize any of the scenes in the stained glass windows around her, nor any of the statues placed in the alcoves. Numerous doors lead off to the side. What rooms lay beyond just out of sight, she imagined might be classrooms, but in a school run by dark wizards...
Unseen, Draco watched her from the far corner. Arms folded, one leg carelessly crossed over the other, he leaned against the wall and kept still in the deep shadow, judging her reaction. Surprise, of course, and some awe mixed in. But she narrowed her and peered toward the darker elements of the school, suspicious of this church turned school.
He frowned. Well, let them be suspicious. The school was not made for her or her kind.
"It draws your eye up, doesn't it?"
Rita startled back, finding Draco leaning against what looked suspiciously like a confessional. She had to make herself take cautious steps forward, uncomfortably aware of her heels on the stone floor, and struggle to pick his silhouette out of the shadows. His black cloak merged smoothly with the darkness, blending with the soft candlelight.
"Mr. Malfoy," she said, relieved when she saw that it was him. "How good of you to see me on such short notice."
"Not at all," he said, standing straight and coming toward her. "If you hadn't asked, I should have within the week."
As he came into the light streaming from the stained glass windows, he put one hand on the back of the chair and drew his fingers along the length of polished wood, staring at it as if amazed it was there at all. When he glanced around the vast chamber, he looked up at the windows as if staring at saints.
"Who are they?" Rita asked, nodding toward the stained glass. "I don't recognize these scenes."
"I'm sure you've guessed that they're dark," he said, and he pointed up at each as he described them. "There's Morgan le Fey at her sacred pool. Mordred at his throne after Arthur abandoned England. Agravaine accusing Lancelot. That window there shows the dark wizards fleeing to Europe, and that one has the Roman invasion."
Rita frowned, taking in their history through different eyes and adjusting to seeing the old heroes recast as villains. Merlin was there, but not the kindly wizard from her old trading cards. Here he stood in the center of one window, leading a handful of Arthur's knights, their swords drawn, toward the children cowering in the corner.
Anger surged in her. Merlin did not belong to these dark wizards. He was part of her culture. How dare they take him for their own. He had only defended her kind from the awful night rides of dark wizards. True, Draco claimed that those rides were a retaliation, that they saw Merlin as a monster.
And was this how the dark children felt when they had sat in Hogwarts, learning how to defend against themselves and watching their classmates trade cards of their killers?
"And the altar piece?" she managed to say evenly, pressing the back of her hand against her cheeks to cool them. "It's only a field and a black stone."
"The field underneath us," he said, coming to stand beside her. "The stone is still there under the altar."
"For sacrifices?" she murmured.
"Once upon a time, yes," he said, dropping his voice to a murmur. "But never again. Our first sacrifice was offered here, and so was the last. God willing, we will never have to die for each other again."
She glanced sideways at him, taking advantage of his obvious entrancement with his cathedral to study him. He whispered as if a ghost might wake up in that glass field, might climb into view from behind that stone. Though this cathedral was supposed to be a school, there was something sacred housed within, hiding in the shadows between far too few candles. A cathedral was meant to worship, to inspire and ultimately to entomb. Was he merely reverent of the dead here, or was he afraid?
"It's impressive," she said at last. "What you've accomplished in so short a time. The school. I mean, I assume this will be the school. Unless it is a...dark church?"
Draco chuckled at her hesitation. "Do you imagine midnight sabbaths and choirs of hooded monks?"
"I didn't mean to offend," she said too quickly.
Still chuckling, he waved away her worry.
"No, don't apologize," he said. "We'll never get anywhere if we're always apologizing."
He continued walking by her, motioning for her to follow, and he led her at a slow, casual pace toward the altar, speaking as he walked. Though his voice was soft, the echo carried along the walls and surrounded her, lingering in the air even if he only whispered.
"I believe I told you before that Morgan le Fey was educated in a convent. The dark community owes much of its survival to the early church. We were two unlikely allies against most of the rest of England, and later on, they hid us from your burnings in the same bolt holes as their priests."
"The church was behind that as well," she reminded him.
"Ah, but it was those pesky Reformers who I see so often in my dreams," he said, turning and leaning against the podium, one arm draped possessively over the top. "But we could argue history all day. Suffice to say, the First's Academy simply takes the shape of this cathedral to honor the memory of our history with the early church."
"Then this is not a religious school?" she asked, tilting her head as she drew out her quill and parchment.
"Not at all," he said. "Insomuch as students don't have to be of one creed. Most of the dark children were raised traditionally, but while there will be classes on religion and history, nothing will require belief."
"History?" She looked up even as her hand continued moving, taking down in shorthand what she'd already heard. "And what other subjects will be on the curriculum? I mean, if you've already decided so early."
"For the most part," he nodded. "My handpicked faculty have already begun drawing up a list. I'll have them owl you later. I know she wants history and religion, something called humanities, muggle maths and sciences, along with some of the staples from Hogwarts-the herbology, dark magic..."
"'Maths and sciences'?" Rita echoed.
"...something about Divination being an after-school club only..."
"Wait, please," Rita said, "a moment. What is this muggle maths and sciences?"
"You'll have to get her to explain it," Draco said with an air of being as lost as she was.
"'Her'?" Rita asked.
"Miss Hermione Granger," Draco said, and he prided himself on how faint and unassuming he kept his smile. "I believe you know her?"
Rita's lips pursed and her quill halted for an instant before she took down the name.
"...yes, after a fashion," she said, not looking at him. "Why her?"
Under his breath, he murmured "I ask myself that every time I deal with her."
Loud enough for Rita to hear, however, he answered as if he had no qualms with dealing with Granger.
"Because I agree with her-we cannot afford to fall behind that ver...very dangerous society of muggles
around us, and we may be losing out on innovations in magic and spellcraft."
He took a deep breath. His luck with avoiding gaffes still held. He'd nearly called muggles 'that vermin,' and he did not tell Rita about the shouting match between himself and Hermione about including muggle studies beyond ways of killing the lot of them. But Harry had backed her, and then Severus of all people had said that her ideas held some merit, and Draco couldn't argue so well against all three of them.
He'd put his foot down at field trips into the wasteland of muggle society, however.
"I look forward to hearing from her," Rita said drily, scratching down her notes. "And I heard you correctly? It will be a class on Dark Arts, not...defense."
"Of course," he said. "Much still needs to be hammered out, but that is certain. As is the tuition."
"Tuition?" she said in surprise. "Hogwarts was free."
"That's debatable," he muttered, with a memory of his father's ranting about taxes and unfair laws. "But yes, while the First's Academy will offer some scholarships and waive the fees of some students, by and large we will require a stipend to defray some of the cost of attendance. This will actually be less about money and more about sacrifice."
The flatness of his tone, the matter of fact way he said it, that it was already set in stone and damn her opinion, dragged the worst from her imagination.
"'Sacrifice'?" she gasped. "But you just said-? You must be mad. The slaughter in Hogwarts was not known-you simply cannot do the same here. It's unconscionable."
"Our cultures have very different ideas of what is conscionable," he said mercilessly. "And you wrong us. We would not sacrifice children."
Even if they are mudbloods, he thought.
"We will, however, require a sacrifice of blood," he said. "At the start of each year, with a knife charmed not to hurt."
She looked past him at what she had first thought was a baptismal font, now looming much more sinister before her. She imagined the tables full of new students, each of them nervously filing past the basin, taking the knife to their own hand or arm and watching their own blood flow. They would not be paying the school. They would be feeding it.
"Families will not send their children here," she said, raising her head. "It's too much."
"Very well. No one is forcing them," Draco said. "Let them find their own tutors. My community has already sown whole generations of ourselves here. A little blood now and then seems a small payment indeed."
"But that isn't fair," she protested. "A tutor can't match a school of magic. There are no other schools the children can go to. Nothing like Hogwarts. Nothing like this place will be."
"I agree," he said. "That much magic requires blood."
Something in his voice made her look up, pulled out of one train of thought to another.
"What do you mean?" she asked. She frowned in thought, thinking of how earlier he seemed to blend
too well with the shadows. Of how he moved with perfect ease here, like a living extension of the school itself. "How much magic is here?"
Draco tilted his head, staring around the room once. "Hm. Well, Severus and I tried to figure it, but to put it in less abstract terms...if I spent a hundred years pouring out magic, I might spend the tiniest sliver of magic available here."
She stared at him, trying to imagine the wisp of a boy he'd been long ago when she first interviewed him, afraid of the other students and terrified of the Ministry. Now he stood straight, head raised and eyes clear, his mouth turned in the slightest of smiles.
"And it's all mine," he said softly. "Tied to my blood."
"How is that even possible?" she whispered.
"Well," he laughed, "I just had to nearly die twice, avert all out war and establish a safe town for my dark wizards. Easy, really."
He turned, waving her to follow, and led her back to the doors. Framed by the gray sunlight, he looked like such a slender, frail dark lord, his cloak swallowing him up in its draped folds. When he put the hood up, shielding his eyes from the light and cutting a little of the evening breeze, he was the very picture of Dark Wizard in a bestiary of dangerous creatures, the cruel monster in human guise hungry for the blood of children.
"I'll show you around the town," he offered. "I'm afraid it's still a bit empty, but they're coming every day, claiming homes and setting up shop. We'll head to the The Crier, I think, and then circle around the other side to the gardens. More than enough of a walk."
"You're really going to demand blood?" she asked again, holding her parchment and quill tight. "Of children?"
He faced her, lighting a green flame in one hand to serve as a light as the sun continued to sink.
"You used to demand our deaths," he said. "Or is it better when only dark children have to bleed?"
"No one should have to bleed," she whispered. "If you have so much power, you should let them come for free."
"If there's no cost..." Chuckling, he shook his head slowly, once. "Then there's no appreciation. I will not see our sacrifices, the First's sacrifice, treated so casually."
Again, he beckoned her, and this time she came, if with dragging steps.
Despite its muggle origins, the dark witches had turned Givry into a kind of expanded Knockturn Alley, altering nearly everything they had salvaged. The roads, once covered with what Hermione called pavement, were now made of proper cobblestone. Weak buildings with facades of crumbling wood and paper were stripped down and properly shored up in stone and heavy wood beams, with empty signs waiting for shop keepers to claim.
Draco had no idea how the Children of Samhain had worked so fast. Crafting homes out of the muggle ruin was no small thing, hearth magic that they had kept secret even from the rest of the community, and he personally saw to it that each of his mother's witches had first pick of the homes they had brought back from the mud.
It was an impressive sight, even to him. To Rita, perhaps it was a city rising out of her worst nightmares. The dark wizards had come out of hiding, no longer a lone monster in the night but a whole parade of demons right in the heart of England. It didn't matter that some of her own neighbors were newly revealed to be dark wizards. Who knew what terrible going-ons would happen here with no aurors to enforce law and order?
With the stars coming out and a full moon bathing the whole town, Draco took her up the stairs against the outer wall, one of the higher points of the town. From here, he gestured at the barricade the dark wizards had worked to raise around the inner half of the town.
"Only part of the town will be for our use," he said. "Refurbished and used for shops and homes. Anything outside the wall will be allowed to crumble and grow over naturally, to better keep out the muggles. We might have a few explorers come wandering through, but they'll be warded away, thinking the ground is unstable."
"Even so," she said, standing stiffly though she followed his look. "Much of the town will be empty. You told Lupin that few of you dark wizards remain in England."
"No," he said, wondering what had been said in her earlier interview with Lupin. "I told him that none of us remained. Fudge sacked and burned our homes, and he destroyed Knockturn Alley. But this town will be our new home. My dark wizards are settling in with more arriving from the Continent and Roanoke every day."
"So Givry-on-Avon-," she said.
"Gorre-on-Avon," he corrected her. "Not the prettiest name, I know, but it's tradition."
"What do you mean?" she asked. "Blood and gore, is that it?"
"No, Gorre, two r's." He leaned fully on the ledge, arms resting against stone, and took a deep breath of the cool breeze. "Morgan le Fey's lands. It's probably not her old kingdom, but we can name it after her all the same."
"I'm surprised," she said. "I thought you would have named this place after yourself. New Malfoy or something."
He went still, and his smile faded to nothing.
Perhaps that had gone too far, she realized. He might retaliate. She clutched her quill and parchment a little tighter, stood stiff against the wind and shivered slightly. Her shoulders flexed as if she might shift her shape and wing away suddenly.
Instead Draco leaned against the wall, hands dangling over the edge, as he faced the approaching night. The breeze blew fitfully through his hair, and his eyes half closed, staring not at the town below but at some distant memory only he could see.
"She died for us," he said finally. "They all died for us. The least we could do is remember them."
She didn't answer, gazing disaffectedly over the town. Moonlight began to outline the clouds, and with it came lumos charms and spelled candles at doorways and street corners. Gorre took on a soft glow as the fog settled over the cobblestones and sidewalks, with tiny flashes of colored light as wizards and witches cast spells under its cover. Rita frowned, leaning faintly to one side as if a few inches would help her see what they were casting.
Out of the shop just across the street came a familiar bob of blonde hair jogging up the steps toward them. Her face was lowered as she watched her step, but there was no mistaking the way her robe was inside out and her jewelry all made of corks. Rita had pieced together from sources which of Harry's friends had become part of Draco's small circle of associates, and Luna Lovegood showed up as often as Hermione Granger.
"I thought I saw you up here!" Luna cried, joining them with a smile. "Have you got it yet?"
"Not yet," Draco answered with a faintly exasperated sigh. "We ordered it yesterday. It won't be ready for another week."
"But printing is ever so much more difficult without it." She glanced at Rita, giving her a quick nod and then looking back at Draco. "Still, I promise I'll have that first edition out tomorrow morning. It won't be pretty, though."
"Pretty doesn't matter," Draco said firmly. "Quick and accurate, that's all I care about."
"I'm sorry," Rita said, blinking rapidly as she guessed at Luna's phrasing. "What exactly do you mean 'first edition'?"
"Oh, right," Luna said, turning to face her properly, and now Rita saw the smudges of ink across her nose and cheek, caught the whiff of hot paper and telltale stamp of letters across her fingers.
"Draco's let me open up a little printing shop," Luna said. "That's what the press he ordered me is for. It's so much easier when the letters arrange themselves when I talk."
"A print shop," Rita echoed, feeling her stomach sink. Did her editor know about this? "For what?"
"Oh, anything," Luna said in breathless excitement. "The possibilities are endless. Dark spells and potions, of course, but there's cookbooks and medicine and history-oh, the histories I can put down. And of course they know all sorts of different magical creatures than we do."
"Tell her about the Caterwaul," Draco said, folding his arms as he watched them, Luna's innocent enthusiasm and Rita's mounting horror.
"The...'Caterwaul'?" Rita said, not sure if she'd heard that correctly.
"An inset to the Quibbler," Luna said. "Father said it was high time I start making my own way in the world, and this was a great opportunity. Well, technically speaking, the Caterwaul is Gorre-on-Avon's newspaper, but I don't even have any reporters yet. It's all very ground floor."
"Right now," Draco said, taking over when Rita still seemed flummoxed, "it's only the important things. What shops have moved in, family members trying to find each other-"
"Hermione put in some things about the school and town council," Luna said. "Oh, that reminds me, Draco. I got a message by bat that the vampires don't want to send a representative. They're happy as long as no one bothers them outside."
"Like hell," Draco frowned. "Lazy bastards-if I have to sit through boring meetings, they damn well do, too."
"'Vampires'?" Rita said, looking between both of them as if they were joking. "In a town council?"
"If I have anything to say about," Draco nodded firmly.
Luna laughed. "You're so funny when you try to be serious. Will you come by to see the finished product? It should be ready at about five."
Draco shook his head with a wary smile. "Unless you mean five p.m. tomorrow, not on your life. I refuse to wake before the crack of noon."
The mention of time set Rita on edge. The "edition" Luna had spoken of before was the very first issue of her Caterwaul. Luna didn't just mean to compete with the Prophet. She meant to go to war with it. If Rita wanted to get her interview out in time to fight, she had to warn her editor and somehow slide it into print in record time.
"Well," Rita said, turning and giving him a faint nod. "Thank you for your tour, Mr. Malfoy. I won't take up any more of your time. You may look for the article in tomorrow's Prophet."
"I look forward to it," he said, facing her with half a smile. "I believe Ms. Lovegood's inset will be out tomorrow as well. I'm sure both will be fascinating reads."
Cold desperation welled in Rita's stomach. Light wizards would devour any shred of information about dark wizards out of fear or abject curiosity, and the Prophet simply could not keep up with a newspaper based inside Gorre itself. Scoops would be impossible; she could only repackage what Luna reported. And with so much chaos confusing what the homeless Ministry might be trying to do...
Rita became a beetle and flew away, buzzing her wings like a haughty sniff.
"Should conjure up ravens to eat her," Malfoy muttered. He watched her wheel away, satisfied only when she vanished out of sight.
"Don't be so cross," Luna said, tugging on his sleeve. "Come get an apple tart with me."
"I thought you had a paper to print," he argued, but he followed her down anyway, escorting her through the street.
"Hard work's done," she said over her shoulder. "Got all the letters into the forms. Now it's all pressing away, but it'll be hours before it's finished."
Down the cobblestone street, up onto the sidewalk, not that they needed to worry about carriages or... Draco looked up at the fog rolling through his streets. The cobblestone was newly laid, waiting for horses and carriages that didn't quite touch the ground, and what else might tramble through his town? Magic carpets? The Ministry had banned them for ages. Or clockwork contraptions that they sometimes used in the deserts, a windup horse or bird-oh, creatures like gryphons carrying wizards and witches through the night!
"I really thought you might show her," Luna said suddenly.
Dragged away from his thoughts, he glanced at her as if she was batty, still adjusting to her rapid subject shifts.
"That's not for her to know," he said as if that were obvious. "Only people who live here."
"So if she lived here," Luna reasoned, "then she could know?"
For a moment he thought she was serious, and he began to question if she really was as sensible as Harry had sworn, despite all her eccentricities. Had he let a madwoman run his town's newspaper? But then a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, and she started giggling a second after.
"You are mental," Draco grumbled.
"Is Harry teaching you muggle'isms?" she asked, chuckling. "Oh, your face. Give me some credit. If you told that dreadful woman about the cemetery, I think she'd explode."
Refusing to play along, nevertheless he found the image enticing.
"I don't know," he said as if considering it. "If I thought she would explode, I would've included it on the tour."
Luna reached the bakery first, pushing the door open for him and smiling at the jangling bell that told the baker he had customers. The ovens burned red and the chefs bent over them like dark demons, and the woman in charge of them, what looked like a witch with red eyes and slightly pointed teeth, grinned and leaned on the counter, her cloak waving softly in the heat.
"Master Malfoy, Miss Lovegood," she said with an air of easy knowing. "I'd of sworn you'd just left."
"Can't keep me away," Luna said, bending and looking through the treats even though she knew them by heart. "So many good ones...two sugared roses, an apple tart and a jelly toadstool, please."
"Of course," the vampiress said, wrapping each one with a flourish and gently sliding them all into a neat white box, tied up with ribbon. "And my newest concoction on the house."
The vampiress slipped a little packet through the seam, then pushed the bundle over the counter.
"Newest one?" Luna said. "What is it?"
"A little pixie dust for your tea, but it's good with coffee if you go that way." She half-shrugged, no longer caring much which way mortals preferred to drink. "And for you, Master Malfoy? The usual?"
"Just an apple tart," Draco said, watching in satisfaction as she swept up one with several white blossoms growing on the top. "And a little politics."
"Oh, why must you bring up something rotten?" she sighed as she bagged up his tart. "It's that business with the council, isn't it?"
"If I send a bat," Draco pointed out, "the others will ignore it. They won't ignore you."
Her eyes flashed, and the cape rustled enough to show that it was not cloth but rather the thin stretch of her wings clasped at her throat. In the kitchen, her vampire assistants spotted her little flourish and worked harder as if that would make her ignore them.
"They know better than to try," she said darkly, giving her minions a look.
"Then forgive me for asking a favor," he said. "Tell them that if I don't have two vampires on the council, I'll allow every bit of anti-vampire legislation brought to the table."
Out of reflex, she hissed and dug her claws into the counter. Wood chipped under her nails.
"Oh please," he sighed, tilting his head. "You're hardly as scary as Magorian when I told him. At least he has big awful hooves to throw around."
"It isn't enough that we're living here?" she demanded. "That we lend you our support?"
"No," he said, leaning over the counter. "It isn't. If you want to keep living here, you'll have to sit through boring meetings, argue with everyone else and pay attention to the news, and there's no excuse for that last one. We have our own bloody paper just next door."
She narrowed her eyes. "And if we all refuse?"
He narrowed his. "I raise taxes."
"You aren't taking any right now!" she said, indignant.
"I'll start," he said. "If I have to care about politics, so do you."
This time she leaned back, smoothing out the jagged punctures to her counter. She didn't have an argument for that, but still...boring meetings.
"You could just be king," she offered. "Be easier for everyone."
"Except me," he grumbled. "Too much work."
She stared at him for a long moment, gauging how serious he was about taxes and anti-vampire laws, then sighed explosively and rang up his desert.
"Fine," she grumbled. "It's going to end up being me and one of my lazy minions here, you
realize? Everyone else is too in love with writing bad poetry and staring up at the moon."
"I can think of no one better for the job," he said with a tired smile. "I look forward to seeing you Monday. Say, sunset?"
"So early?" she sighed. "That's an indecent hour."
They left her muttering to herself and scolding her minions, leaving the warmth of the Devil's Delights as they came back to the fog. Luna smiled as she dug out her first sugared rose and nibbled at the tip as they walked.
"You didn't get a tea packet," she noticed.
"I'll be lucky if I didn't get poisoned," he sighed sadly, tapping the bag with his wand and made it vanish, to reappear again on his kitchen table. "I'll have to send Harry for all my treats from now on."
"Did you really have to threaten the centaurs?" she asked.
"Oh yes," he said. "It's their own fault, of course. If they're going to complain about the Ministry not caring about them, then they can't complain when I make them take a voice in my council."
"So that's the centaurs, vampires, dark wizards, and...?"
"Me," he muttered. "Granger wanted elves but I refused. She also wanted muggle borns but I told her if she's so keen on all of us being equal, then she can't separate out wizards like that."
"Hm, so that's why she's been sulky lately." Luna bit straight through the rose and crunched through the rest. "Set up house yet?"
"Almost," he said. "Harry's handling it. I want to get the town completely done first. It's almost there, but not yet."
As they came to her print shop, she nodded once and started to go in, then thought of something and turned to face him.
"If wizards are the same," she said around the end of a lollipop stick, "but there are two wizards in the council...what are you?"
He chuckled, reaching back to put his hood over himself again.
"You know, you're the first one to ask me that."
She moved the stick to the other side of her mouth, waiting.
Glancing around to make sure they were alone, Draco drew his wand and held the tip up for her to see.
"Lumos," he said.
Nothing happened. She frowned, unsure of what she was not seeing.
"Leohtia," he said, and this a small glow grew from the wand, not the cold light of a lumos spell but the warmth of flames crackling in the air.
Luna's eyes widened as she began to realize what he meant. Dark magic.
"You can't cast our magic anymore," she whispered.
"It seems not," he said softly. "Perhaps I'm too covered in darkness now?"
He put away his wand and shrugged.
"Oath breaker. I'm still figuring out what that means." He glanced up at the tower in the middle of town, a squat rook of a building meant to hold their council. "But at the very least, it means I'm not part of the Ministry's world anymore."
Leaving her to her work and wondering if that would end up in the newspaper or not, Draco wandered a little through his town. Even though he did not stand in his school, he still felt the power of the field beneath its stone floor and the coffin rock under the altar. The cathedral was the town's heart, but Gorre-on-Avon spread out to the very walls, breathing fog through the bones of her streets.
For all its muggle trappings, Gorre was an impressive feat of dark magic. It had taken days of hard work and a whole community of witches, but it felt like something ancient and permanent. Anyone who came here felt it—their awe was obvious when each wizard arrived. More than an escape, Gorre was a home, and as Draco walked along his streets, he nodded to the wizards who smiled and waved to him.
He passed through a grassy park, wandered by the many homes and spots perfect for shops. Here, the muggle high rise converted to a hospital, Saint Morrigan's, and there, a wide bridge that could still move to let ships sail in. Of course they'd had to improve on the muggle mechanism, but now his town could easily bring goods in and out through the river.
And then the cemetery.
How had Rita not noticed? Perhaps because the city was so new or simply because it wasn't something one thought of until needed. At the far end of town, nestled against the town wall and surrounded by a high gate, a broad expanse of empty field lay untouched, save for a lump of flat stone in the center.
Here he would lay the dead of Gorre and plant the seeds of the next broken promise.
Running his fingertips along the cold stone, he imagined it less like an altar and more like an empty box. The altar under his school was filled with murdered or sacrificed dark wizards. This time dark wizards would go willingly, peacefully, without a mob of muggles or light wizards setting them on fire.
"Thought I'd find you here."
The familiar voice warmed him against the chill. Draco smiled and closed his eyes, leaning back in absolute trust against his husband. Harry bent slightly to kiss his head, holding him close, then looked over his shoulder at the field.
"Do you really have to do it?" Harry asked softly. "It seems like...I dunno, like it means you don't believe in what you're doing."
"You mean it feels like a betrayal," Draco said. He stared at his field, an unassuming bit of land with weeds and brambles growing over it, imagining the gruesome fate in store for it.
"This will work," Harry insisted. "The city is good, the ministry's gone, the magic...God, the magic here. It'll work. Don't you believe it'll work?"
"I do," Draco said, turning to face him, putting his arms around Harry's neck. "I really do. Gorre will last for hundreds, maybe even a thousand years. Maybe more."
Every person who died in Gorre would be cremated and scattered here. It was part of the agreement anyone made upon calling it home. Even if they died elsewhere, their ashes would find their way back, even if they had to ride the nightwind to do it. And in time, the stone on which they built each pyre and the field surrounding it would become as powerful as the stone beneath the school.
"Because the world changes," Draco said. "And in a thousand years, maybe there'll be war, or maybe we'll all be wiped out, and one scared dark wizard or witch will dig down and find this place when they need it the most."
"Do you think that's what she had in mind?" Harry asked. "The First?"
Draco shook his head. "She forgot. She made her promise to last forever but she forgot that she was breaking someone else's promise. I don't know how it'll happen, but..."
"Someone will repeat history," Harry replied, filling in the rest.
"They'll break the oath," Draco nodded, looking around as if he could see the nameless wizard from the future leaning over the stone, spilling his or her blood. As if he could see Gorre coming apart already. "My city will crumble and...who knows? Maybe some scared little dark wizard will find this power waiting here for them."
"What if that scared dark wizard is evil?" Harry asked.
Draco grinned. "I was."
"You know what I mean," Harry laughed, giving him a gentle shake. "Rotten dark wizard. What if they're evil? What if they're another Voldemort?"
Draco shrugged. "Then some heroic scar-head will fix everything. Honestly, we saved the present. The future can take care of itself."
Harry looked at the scraggly patch of land, more of a sandlot than a field, and then down at Draco, running a thumb over the dark circles of his eyes.
"You're exhausted," Harry said. "Come home."
"Tempting," Draco sighed, clutching him close. "So tempting."
His husband didn't let go for several seconds, holding him just as tight.
"Work isn't done," Draco murmured against his shoulder. "There's the celebration to plan. The whole riverside needs work before..."
Draco squeezed his eyes shut. "There's so much more work to do."
"It'll keep," Harry said. "Come home. I'll make tea."
Draco hesitated, stealing a glance at the the spot they called home. Harry called it a condominium, but to Draco, it looked like a glass and steel version of a castle tower. Impressive that muggles could build something so pretty, but then they went and ruined it with pipes, rusting bars and peeling plaster. The dark witches had salvaged it, shoring up the foundation where the flood had almost worn it away, then ripping out the muggle plumbing and wires and ugly fixtures. The tower wasn't finished yet-the ivy along the walls wouldn't reach the top for another few weeks and the gargoyle spouts still needed to be fixed onto the new stone rain gutters-but it was the highest point in town and the best place to see the entirety of Gorre.
Draco nuzzled Harry's robe again, then nodded. A moment later, they were inside their apartment.
Warm candle light. A fireplace crackling and coloring the room in gold. A soft breeze blowing in from the balcony, night wind carrying the warmth of summer and crickets chirping.
"Sit down," Harry said, gently pulling away. "I'll go put the kettle on."
Resigned to a husband that liked to act like a house elf, Draco let him go and gracefully sunk onto the larger of the two couches. Made of white leather, they were actually muggle in origin, coming from something Harry had called a 'maul'. The word conjured in Draco's imagination a mob of those magicless vermin beating each other senseless, and he'd refused to accompany Harry.
To his relief, there hadn't been a need. His husband had a decent design sense and hadn't let his dislike of finer things keep him from buying anything not patched, refurbished or recycled twice. Draco also had a sneaking suspicion that Harry had taken Hermione with him to help choose, which meant Luna might have gone with them, and at least Luna had pureblood refinement.
Draco had added a cleaning spell and a charm to coax the sofa's wood to sprout decorative leaves and blossoms, but otherwise? He lay his head down on the puffy cushion and kicked his shoes off, nestling up in a corner and seeming smaller for how large the couch was. Harry had good judgment. Usually. There was his messy hair and eternally rumpled clothes, and his occasional muggle habits, so Harry had bad judgment, too. But Harry had chosen him, so he couldn't criticize that judgment all that harshly.
"Do you have any preferences?" Harry called from the kitchen.
"Whatever you make," Draco said, adjusting so that one arm hung over the edge.
"Devil's Delight's is giving away specialty tea bags," Harry said. "I thought we might try them."
"Depends," Draco sighed, "did you get those bags before or after I visited her?"
"What?" Harry leaned backward in the doorway. "What was that?"
"I said that sounds good," Draco smiled, tilting his head up faintly.
Nestling back into the cushions, Draco had to consciously relax, forcing his shoulders to drop and allowing his arms to lie limp. Sore from being on his feet all day, meeting with Rita had sapped the last of his resolve. He thought about dragging himself to the bed, but his feet hurt and his shoulders ached and maybe Harry would carry him later.
But tomorrow would be no easier. He had an early meeting with the Children of Samhain to finish and list the homes, shops and apartments ready for use, because later he would be welcoming the first boat of dark wizards returning from Roanoke. Then he had to meet with the vampires who were already settling in the ruined portions of the muggle city outside the walls. The lazy layabouts might love lounging in crumbling homes, but if the light wizards tried to attack, the vampires would be their first line of defense.
He groaned and flopped on his back. Ending the war should have made things easier.
"That is the sound of a tired Malfoy."
The couch sank as Harry sat beside him, rubbing circles along his back. Draco murred, pleasant groans coming from him, and he glanced at his husband out of the corner of his eye.
Draco's look softened. Harry's pleasure made the war worth all the pain and fear and misery he'd felt. The Boy Who Lived often looked around the apartment in wonder, as if amazed that it belonged to him. Maybe Harry had grown up under a staircase with muggle worms for a family, but Draco could give him a whole town and a tower that touched the sky.
"You've been busy this whole week," Harry said sympathetically. "Usually I have to drag you out of bed."
And instead, this week Draco had barely slept. First he'd spent most of the first night planning Gorre's layout and where he would put everything. As eager as he'd been to start working, time and effort had been saved by first thinking out where to put the wall, the school, the parks and other places a town needed. Then came tearing out the muggle pavement, destroying buildings too ruined to rebuild, widening roads and placing cobblestones. Then picking out shops from houses, creating a hospital from what Harry had called a muggle mall, overseeing the vampires moving in to their grungy hideouts. If Harry hadn't picked out their apartment and furnished and carried Draco home, Draco would have been sleeping wherever he dropped.
"At least it should start getting easier," Harry said, getting up to take care of the now-whistling kettle.
Except it wasn't going to get easier. Draco cringed, clutching a cushion to his head. There was the matter of the council and the day to day affairs of running a city. Preparing the school and its teachers. Staffing the hospital. Setting up returning refugees. Keeping the peace with the ministry, maintaining their alliance with Lupin and Dumbledore, building up their defenses.
Draco was doing all the work of five people, and he despaired of ever having a good night's sleep again.
A tapping came from the balcony. He looked up over the cushion at the glass doors, glaring daggers at his owl, but dutifully dragged himself to his feet and went over. Ilmauzer had a talonful of letters, which he dropped at Draco's feet before winging away to catch a mouse for dinner.
"Rotten owl," Draco sighed, scooping the mail up in one hand.
He would have gone back inside, but the night called out to his blood too strongly. The balcony was wide, more of a patio, broad and overhanging, with a curved railing and a view miles long, comfortable enough to relax on. A small table and chairs stood in the corner, and Draco sank down, spreading the letters out with a sigh.
Dumbledore. Lupin. The Prophet. Scrimgeour.
Almost a year ago, the dark community had been elated to receive a formal letter from the Ministry, a token of respect and deference. Now Draco despised seeing the golden edging along fine parchment and calligraphy. Each letter was another responsibility.
But the last letter brought a smile. Pansy. Even if it wasn't her name, he recognized her handwriting, the same girlish scrawl as her homework assignments.
If I had not seen the photos, I never would have believed it. No one did until the Roanoke representative handed us your letter. How on earth did you manage it? I hope you'll give me all the details when I arrive.
I wasn't able to convince everyone to come. They're too wary, of course—they want to see how it goes with us for the first few years, make sure the ministry really doesn't attack us. After what you've done, I daresay we could stop any attack.
You must be so changed. How have you managed so much in so little time?
Draco paused, leaned back in his chair, idly tapping the edge of the letter on the table. Time. Not including sleep, this was the first time he'd sat down in days, finally allowing Harry to tempt him to rest. He dropped Pansy's letter on the pile of other letters, shoving them away from himself.
She wasn't even here—how the hell was she so damn perceptive?
"Are you all right?" Harry asked, setting tea down for him. "Something bad?"
"Not really," Draco said, waving idly at the formal stationery with gold swirls. "The usual requests for information, formal visits. I can't keep putting them off forever but God, I don't want to talk to them."
"S'the price of being a hero," Harry said. "Everyone wants to talk to you."
Harry sat down beside him, putting his arm around his shoulders. Tempted to fall asleep there and make Harry carry him to bed, Draco turned his head and nestled against his husband, softly groaning as Harry rubbed his neck and back.
Couldn't the world spin without him for a few days? Didn't the ministry have its own problems to deal with? Why did Lupin and Dumbledore have to see him right then?
A faint pop and a heavy clunk on the table made him grumble. He didn't even have to look. By now, he knew the thump of Snape's ring and he already knew what message was rolled inside.
"Ohhh, damn it all," Draco muttered, pressing harder against Harry as if he could disappear inside of his robe. "Just tell him I can't—there's no time, I can't do it yet, a bloody baby will just have to wait."
Harry hugged him quietly as he unrolled the message. A moment later he chuckled.
"Actually," Harry said, "that's not what he wrote."
"Mmf." Draco looked up over Harry's arm, his eyes slitted over a scowl. By the silver ring, Severus' note lay unfurled with a short message instead of the usual reminder that he needed to begin brewing a child. Draco tilted his head only just enough to read it.
Need help yet?
Draco took several seconds to understand the question because he was so tired. That sheer exhaustion made him stare stupidly for so long, figuring out what Severus meant. And when he did realize what was meant, his eyes widened and he cursed himself for another moment.
He took the note, turned it over, and conjured a pen.
Sev...want to run a town?
Harry read the note over his hand and chuckled, rolling it up for him and sending it back in Severus' ring. Less than half a minute later, hardly long enough for Draco to begin sipping his tea, it reappeared.
We thought you'd never ask.
To Be Concluded...
Note: There is only one more chapter. God willing, it will be out before New Year's. Just loose ends to tie up.