Once upon a time.
That is how the story begins, although perhaps not in the way anyone would imagine. There is no black-white-red, no holy trinity, only this: a wife, a woman, with a lifeless womb and the need, the demand, for quickening. Her husband, a man of good breeding, her own blood and flesh as pure as any, and yet they could not conceive. Year after year, cycle after cycle, and she bore him no child. They traveled, sought out men of knowledge, wise women of power, and returned home again with no answers and no child.
It was in the seventh year of their marriage that her husband finally made the decision to seek the answer on the Darker side of magic. The sorrow of his wife had become unbearable, the empty hollow of her belly an overwhelming presence in their life. He was determined to find the answer, any answer that lay within the realm of possibility, and he did.
She spent the bitter cold of the year confined, ankles swollen, belly growing round as though she had swallowed the moon, and he brought her anything she wanted. Cherries, dusky and delicious, melons ripe and full on her tongue, and tart, sweet fruits that burst crisp and bright in her mouth.
In the hot month of the summer solstice, all of their efforts came to fruition. A boy was born, winter pale and hungry, and the milk in her grew poorly. For days, he cried, loud and fulsome, until finally her husband brought home a specialist, someone with strange and non-magical notions who suckled the child from a glass bottle filled with milk that tasted of apples.
Naming day brought a surfeit of joy and gifts, and he was called Draco, after the never-setting blue-black constellation sprawling in the night sky. His father hoped for the strength of dragons, and his mother desired that her child have all the loyalty and tenacity of Ladon, the hundred-headed guard who defended the golden apples of the Hesperides. Each person who came to the naming ceremony wished good things for Draco, and granted their possibility with the wave of a wand; all save the last, and it was then that his mother came to know what her husband had done, all for the sake of a child.
It was no surprise, her husband's affiliations; she was neither ignorant nor blind. The promises he had made, the bargains he had struck, however, and the sight of her husband's Dark Lord lingering over the crib of her son and announcing the dim future ahead when she had thought it so bright nearly shattered her heart in her breast. For days afterwards, she mourned, holding her babe close, only reluctantly allowing him out of her grasp to be fed, and then returned.
For years, she watched him carefully, kept him close. Her husband was a good father, overindulgent to make up for the thing he had promised in order to have a child at all. As she kept watch, he sought out ways to break the curse he had visited upon his son, and time passed on swift feet.
Draco was five, and then ten, and then fifteen, still winter pale with grey eyes and pink lips and an enviable elegance. To a mother's affectionate glance, he was as beautiful as his father had been at the same age, and pride and fear mingled equally, because time was growing short, and options were becoming few.
Of all the people who had attended the naming ceremony of her child, only one had not granted him a gift specific to that moment. Only one had indulged him, held him, fed him when she could not, and in the end, she knew that there was only one man who might protect her son when she could not. In desperation, she went to him, and a pact was made, solemn and unbreakable.
She could only hope that it would be enough to counteract the covenant her husband had made before his birth. It was the best she could do, the best either of them could, and so when the time came, she took him herself and put him safely on the train, wand in hand, and she did not look back.
"I don't need your assistance!"
Except, of course, that the damned fool did. He needed it more than he knew, and Severus Snape was bound and determined to provide it. He'd watched over his children for years, even protected James Potter's bloody get, and he was done having his efforts rejected.
He was done with Draco Malfoy's little protests, and his complete inability to admit that he needed help.
"You need my aid and you will take it, Mr. Malfoy, or so help me...."
"So help you what?" The furious color in his face wasn't completely from anger. Merlin knew how he'd even managed to get that much of a flush together, as he was undoubtedly severely anemic from Potter's efforts to kill him earlier in the week. "You'll hold me down and make me?"
The concept had certainly crossed his mind, more than once. He could see from the way the boy looked away from him, embarrassed, that it had likely crossed his mind before now as well. "Draco. If you do not take my offer, you cannot imagine the horrors that await you."
A summer spent with the threat of his seventeenth birthday and the plans the Dark Lord had for him had likely given him a very good idea of exactly what lay in store for him if he failed. If Severus made it appear that he had died in the attempt, however, then the Dark Lord would undoubtedly be pleased to have punished Lucius and Narcissa both, and the dual purpose of saving his life would have been accomplished.
His Vow would be unbroken. Draco would be alive. He could continue in his efforts to save his own bloody life without continuously trying to pull Draco out of the fire and back into the proverbial frying pan.
The words, when the boy finally spoke, were hard, cold; a man's statement from between lips far too young to voice them. "He'll kill Father if I fail." And undoubtedly do worse to his mother, yes, Severus was fully aware of everything that might mean.
"He'll kill your father if you succeed. Your penance won't solve your father's misfortune." He would try logic, and then he would use cunning, first one then the other, because Draco would succumb to one.
Such venom, welling up behind those eyes. He remembered a time when there wasn't, and for a moment, Severus wanted more than anything to return to those moments. "But it might solve Mother's. She didn't do anything to ask for this."
"No, she didn't." Severus was perhaps most sympathetic to Narcissa. She was the reason he'd agreed to the oath in the first place, because she was frantic to save Draco. Not desperate to protect herself. "Sit down."
The seconds drew out between them, long and thick with tension, before finally Draco did as he was told. He could remember himself, desperate and angry, and then later on just desperate, and he wished for once that Slytherins were as simple as Gryffindors; that he could offer chocolate and a pat on the head and everything in the world would right itself. It never worked, though, and Draco sat stiff and distrustful two feet away.
He remained standing, because it made it easier, palming the apple from his desk drawer with a careful motion before passing it to Draco. "Since you're missing dinner right now, eat this. I will provide you with what necessary aid this will require."
It was always possible that Draco would refuse; that he'd declare he wasn't hungry or that he didn't want to be coddled. Severus knew him, though, knew that despite the circles under his eyes, the weight he could ill-afford to lose and yet had, he would eat the apple. After all, he'd been the one to hold a Muggle bottle to his lips full of milk that tasted of fresh, sweet fruit.
Slim fingers folded around it and he brought it to his mouth automatically, taking a bite that sounded loud and crisp. He chewed it, and Severus held his breath, wondering if he'd brewed poorly for the first time in his life. Draco swallowed, and then glanced down at the apple, betrayal in that look, and then up at Severus. His fingers clenched, and his breath hitched, and the apple fell to the floor.
Severus caught him before he could follow it.
That was the easy part, he supposed. Tricking a boy he already knew like the back of his hand, even if it was for his own safety, was the easy part. Lifting him, tucking Draco into his arms and carrying him to the bedroom to lay him at rest was also the easy part. Keep Draco safe, and finish his task.
Finishing his task was going to ruin Severus.
He'd have to speak to her, of course. Time was running short, but then, it was always insufficient now. The date was set in stone, irreversible, and he had made his bargain. He'd stick to it, but still. There was time for this.
Time for one last thing before the world went to hell.
He could tell she was startled to see him from the rumpled look about her, the way she seemed to have been caught in action, caught in the act of grading no doubt, pushing stray strands of hair out of her eyes when she answered the door.
"Undoubtedly you've something of grave importance to tell me, being out and about when I know you've been spending so much time with Albus." And trying to keep the Malfoy boy out of trouble, she didn't say, but she might as well have. Her eyes certainly did, and after so many years, he could read the words she kept silent as well as the ones she spoke.
"I need to speak to you about the matter with Albus. If you have a moment." He was far enough into her doorway that she would have little option but to let him in by then.
Stepping back, Minerva pulled the door the rest of the way open and allowed him past, shutting it behind him. There were no portraits in her office -- not even cats, thank Merlin. If he ever again saw another damned kitten on a dish, he might blast it from the wall, damn that Umbridge bitch. "Is Albus worse?" She looked grim in the candlelight, fatigued and stretched thin. Then again, they both were, and had been for some time.
"There isn't a cure." He and Albus had known that for a long time, but he was still unsure of Minerva had been brought into the fold. "And my ability to forestall it has ended."
"Oh, dear heavens." She stepped back and sat down a bit heavily, her hands on her knees. "And still he hasn't said a word, not breathed a whisper. I'd throttle him if...." Well. Yes.
"His arm has mummified up past his elbow. It's a matter of a week, I suspect. Perhaps two." He made an attempt to soften the blow before he detailed what else he had worked out with the Headmaster, if she wasn't already aware.
Minerva nodded and let out a heavy sigh. "Aye, and I suppose that young Mr. Malfoy's plan will be executed in short order." Well, she wasn't stupid. Anyone could plainly see that Draco had something on his mind, and as much as he hadn't wanted to tell her anything, Severus had told her the parts he felt he must. "I don't doubt that Albus has asked you to do something entirely ill-advised in order to save the boy at your own expense."
"Yes." He cocked an eyebrow at her, and added, "However, I have added an extra layer of assurance to the plan. I've placed Draco into a spelled sleep to explain his absence from a number of things." His marking, his taking, a laundry list of the horrors that went along with being a Death Eater, that were no doubt to come even if he didn't cast the Killing Curse.
"Severus! Surely not Draught of Living Death!" It was unoriginal, desperately so, but it was the best he was able to do with time in such short supply. There had been revisions, of course, and the potion itself was now accompanied by a vicious curse that he'd carefully threaded through each step. "Oh, dear. Where have you left him?"
"My quarters. I suspect I will be pursued after this." And she would need to handle it, or need to know to have it handled, though he last thing the wanted was for Draco's body to find its way home somehow. The Dark Lord would undoubtedly realize what had been done, and he'd likely die for the doing of it.
Minerva removed her glasses and leaned against her writing desk thoughtfully. "I presume that Bellatrix will be one of the ones coming." She couldn't hide her dislike, and Severus could in no way blame her. She'd been a vicious bitch before Azkaban. She certainly hadn't been improved by the experience.
"Why, of course." She would expect a certain participation after the event, and no doubt Severus would need to go into hiding. Albus approved of the entire plan, of course.
He had been behind a great deal, in the end. And would continue to be.
"Then before I find somewhere safe to tuck him away, I believe we should allow her to see him. Don't you? Otherwise, it might cause her to doubt your word." Minerva shrugged. "All things considered, I fear we're in trouble enough."
Severus considered that for a moment, mulling it over quickly. "Yes, I can arrange something. I just wanted you to be aware."
"Of course. I'll find somewhere suitable to store the boy until.... well. I promise I shall keep him safe. Knowing you, I'd say it would be too easy for Wiggenweld to be an adequate reviver. I can't imagine that you'd make it that easy." She licked her lips. "I don't suppose you'd be likely to leave some sort of key. In case...."
"In case of my untimely demise?" Severus drawled, arching an eyebrow at her.
Minerva didn't bristle, just gave him that look, the one she'd had since she began teaching early on, early enough that he remembered being on the receiving end of it before he'd been out of school. "Well, Severus, it's that or leave a well-preserved corpse of Mr. Malfoy lying about in the dungeons."
"I'll see what I can manage." He'd leave his notes, though it was unlikely to be reversed without his presence. That would have to be enough to satisfy Minerva.
She seemed to know that was what he was doing and so she sighed and nodded her head. "I won't tell you where I plan to leave him. It's for the best, I think."
"Given the circumstances, yes." He turned, moved to let himself out, to tie up those last few things before the night truly began in the astronomy tower.
"And Severus." Minerva drew in a deep breath. "I promise you. I'll keep the boy safe."
"Thank you." It was all he could expect, so much and so very little at the same time.
She'd known before Bellatrix, the bitch, had even opened her mouth. She'd seen it on Severus's face, as much as he would have rather given her hope, it was better that she didn't know.
He wished that he didn't.
"No." It was hardly more than a whisper, hoarse and croaking. "No. No, Severus, no, Severus, NO!"
"Narcissa, he's not." Not dead, not dead dead, because the fact that he was alive was proof enough of that, but the misery in her voice threatened to crack him in half.
Bellatrix laughed and laughed. "You see? You see, useless to trust him, useless, useless, useless! He's dead, so very dead, thanks to Dumbledore, sprawled at the top step of the astronomy tower. I nearly tripped over him, Cissy, ohhh, so pale and pretty."
"Dumbledore didn't kill him, you daft bint, he cursed him!" Hexed, cursed, but not killed, it wasn't something Albus would have been capable of except by accident. Even if it hadn't been a story.
Narcissa gave a terrible sound, and folded in on herself, pale and sick. "Severus. Severus, you made the Vow. You swore."
"Pfft. I know dead. If there's anything I know, it's dead, Severus, and dear nephew Draco wasn't breathing! Wasn't moving. Wasn't cursed. And to think, Lucius Malfoy did so much to have him made for you, all so that he could die at Hogwarts when Severus! Severus, who was supposed to protect him!"
Severus gritted his teeth, focusing on Narcissa. "He's still alive, and if I ever return to Hogwarts I can get him back. I know what Dumbledore did." He wasn't going to volunteer pieces of his reality yet, but he needed to look Narcissa in the eyes and know she understood. "I'm still alive, Narcissa. I took the Vow for your son."
Yes, he'd taken the Vow, and he thought that would be enough to give her some sort of relief, but the tears dripping down her face didn't stop. "You swore. To protect him. To. To finish the task if it seemed he couldn't. I. Oh. Severus. I know. I believe you did your best, or... or the Vow...."
"Oh, yes." Bellatrix was such a smug bitch. He was going to kill her one die, find her at the top of a flight of stairs and push her down it just to hear her neck snap. "Yes, he certainly did his best. And he did, after all, commit the act your brat didn't have the stomach to complete."
"It was an impossible task for him; pitting a boy who could hardly Apparate against one of the most powerful wizards of our age." Severus clenched his teeth. "I'm sorry, Narcissa. I will find a way to bring him back to you."
Somehow, he hoped to make her believe. At least a little, but her head was bowed, her face in her hands, and he wasn't sure that she did. That she could with Bellatrix there, spewing poison and hatefulness word after word.
"Or at least his corpse."
"Shut up," he hissed at her, dropping his wand from his sleeve. "I don't have time for your insanity." Her own wand flicked into her hand, and she hissed, practically spitting when she did it, her mad, wild eyes lighting up. Christ, the bitch, he'd kill her here and now, only....
"Severus." Narcissa's hand was on his own, damp. "Severus. Don't. Don't."
"I'll stay my hand for you." He still had his wand at the ready, though, while Bellatrix tilted her head and cackled as crookedly as her head sat. He was going to kill her before it was all said and done.
She'd stepped on Draco's chest when she'd climbed to the top of the tower.
"Thank you." It made him hate himself, worse than he did before. "I know. I know you did your best, or you'd be dead as well."
"Narcissa..." But there would be no talking sense into her. He'd just have to let it prove itself out in time.
All the gods willing, it would be possible to do exactly that.
He'd been lying at the head of the stairs when she'd gone up, just waiting for someone to find him.
It had taken quite some time. She'd had to deal with the students, and with Albus's body, and Harry, the Weasleys, dear stars. There had been so much to do, and there was still so much remaining, but she had a promise to keep.
She levitated his body, the boy surprisingly light to her magic, just a puff of rage and fear and uncertainty. Severus had solved it all by taking his choices out of his hands. Poor boy, and perhaps she ought to feel a little more sympathy for him. Perhaps, but Albus was dead, and Severus was in more danger than he'd ever been, and somehow all she could find in her was a hard knot of sorrow and anger.
Minerva gently steered him down the stairs, Disillusion charm wrapped firmly about them both. There was only one place to put him now, one place to hide him. She headed steadily towards the corridor for the Room of Requirement, each step tapping out solidly against the stones. Draco would remain there until someone needed him. Hopefully that would be sooner rather than later, and things would have worked out for the best. The outlook was grim, but there should always be hope.
She passed no one on her way to the Room; unsurprising, because everyone was in mourning, and one always wanted familiar surroundings in poor circumstances. Even Harry would be firmly tucked into Gryffindor tower, or she hoped as much. It was best if he didn't see this, because he would ask questions, and Minerva didn't have any good answers for him.
Three times she paced the hall, image held tightly in her mind, and when she passed the third time, the door appeared. She opened it slowly, and floated Mr. Malfoy inside.
Strange, what the Room sometimes wrought to satisfy a person's need.
Perhaps she'd been thinking of the story inspired by the Draught, or perhaps the Room had somehow sensed the potion lingering in Draco Malfoy's body. No matter. The Room had created a place for him, and there he would lie until Severus Snape returned and decided where the boy should be placed until he could be made safe from himself.
The bed was ridiculous; nothing like the sturdy poster beds from the dormitories, but wrought with roses highlighted by sturdy diamond thorns in the midst of vines that left the posts glimmering in the faint candlelight that had sparked into life when she stepped foot inside. Carefully, Minerva maneuvered the boy's body, reaching with her free hand to tug down the deep green velvet of the coverlet. She settled him so that he seemed to be resting comfortably and then reached down to remove his shoes. Those, she left tucked under the edge of the bed, and then covered him before stepping back and looking at the room in its entirety.
Obviously the Room or her subconscious had done a good job of making connections between that long-ago princess and this moment. The ridiculous thing was that the boy didn't seem out of place, and she shuddered before reaching into a pocket in her robes and withdrawing the instructions for reviving the boy.
She tucked them into a small drawer in the overwrought rose writing desk several steps from the bed, feeling ridiculous. It wasn't as if she believed that the instructions would, in fact, work. She wasn't stupid by any means, and Severus had been holding something back from her. Minerva knew the signs better than almost anyone; she simply didn't know what he was holding back. Clearly he didn't want anyone else to wake the boy, but if he died, if something were to happen to Severus...
There were too many other things to worry her at the moment for her to add one more. She'd simply have to put it on the list for when she did have time to worry about something, and that might not be for quite some time.
Feeling a tad foolish, she drew herself up and nodded. "Sleep well, Mr. Malfoy. I have no doubt you'll be angry when you awake, but I do hope you'll come to see that he was doing what he thought was best."
Minerva hoped they'd all see that, in the end.
His first act as Headmaster of Hogwarts was to remove Draco Malfoy's body from the Room of Requirement, and place it in a location that was more convenient for him to guard. At the start, he was tempted to wake Draco, to lift the spell's hold over him if only to release Narcissa from her intense mourning.
The realization struck him in short order that it would be stupid, dangerous, idiotic, hazardous, moronic, perilous, and utterly imbecilic. Draco would most likely come up from the ridiculous rose bed, fists swinging, so instead Severus had shrunk the bed and Draco, tucking both neatly into a wide glass globe. It gave him the opportunity to watch him, to be sure he was there and safe, and so he took him to the Headmaster's office and tucked him gently on a shelf within view. Not such a view that he'd bake to death in the sunlight, or end up carried off by some rough owl. That was simply Severus's luck, and he didn't have time to tend to the globe every waking hour, not with everything that was going on in the school.
He'd promised Albus that he would protect the children from Death Eaters, and it grew harder every day to keep that promise with the bloody Carrows present and accounted for. Much like Bellatrix, he'd like to shove them down several flights of stairs, or perhaps just off of one of the towers. Slipping a knife between their ribs wasn't out of the question, either, but the Dark Lord was angry enough that the boy he'd planned to possess as concubine was 'dead'. He didn't want to unbalance the crazy bastard any further, not when he was currently ahead of the game, or at least not behind.
There wasn't much difference between those two realities, when the end result was that he remained living. Still, at the end of the occasional night he managed to steal time in his study to himself, attempting to relax in a room that still seemed rightfully to belong to Albus.
"The Carrows are certainly sure of themselves, Severus. Neville Longbottom seems to have very few days that don't involve some form of torture." Albus's portrait was there, a smaller version of the one in the Headmaster's office. It did help keep the other portraits from eavesdropping on their conversations. "And how is Mr. Malfoy?"
"He sleeps." There was no torture in sleep, no Death Eaters. He half wondered if Draco would be angry for having slept away the war.
Albus settled in and gave a deep sigh, elbows on his chair arms, fingers steepled. "At least you've saved him from a fate worse than Mr. Longbottom's, by far." He seemed to ruminate steadily for a moment, watching Draco's globe across the way. "And have you heard anything from our other children?"
"I prefer ignorance, beyond what rumours I come across. They seem to be doing... successfully." He leaned back in his chair, levitating a bottle of wine towards him. It would take several bottles to relax him, to be honest about it, and he didn't truly have the opportunity for it.
Ignorance wasn't bliss, but it was the best defense he could hope to have.
"Sometimes, I believe that I have set too hard a task for them. For all of my children, including you, Severus." Albus gave him one of those twinkle-eyed looks that he had, the ones that always made Severus feel a bit sour. "I know you're suffering. I wish I could do something to help."
"I killed you." At his bidding, pre-agreed upon, but it didn't make the act any less horrible. "And I'm sure I'll displease our mad Dark Lord soon. I've failed to make the appropriately grandiose and disgusting gestures since then."
Yes. He'd expected that expression, the look on Albus's face. "Ah, Severus. I am so very sorry. I never wanted that to happen. I wish that you would accept my gratitude for what you did. Mine and, in the end, Mr. Malfoy's, no doubt. Or if not, then that of his mother." One day.
He exhaled, and poured himself a glass of wine. "One day, perhaps. One day, there is a good chance that this school won't be razed to the ground."
"I never doubted that you would keep the school and all of the children as safe as possible, Severus. Perhaps, early on, I had my moments. I was not always as kind to you as I might have been, and for that, I am deeply sorry." Albus reached for a bottle on one of the painted shelves. Severus never had to drink alone. "But you have been a good friend to Hogwarts, and to me. The best."
"I wish things had gone differently." He waited, waited for Albus to pour himself a glass, and raised it in a toast. "Things could be better next year."
Albus nodded, and glanced at the globe in which Draco remained still, dead, sleeping. "Yes," he said. "Perhaps they will be."
And perhaps then, when it was safe, weeks or months from then, he could take Draco out of that globe and set him free.
Exhausted, Minerva made her way up the last of the steps. They'd stopped moving, like so many of the others, the gargoyle fallen to the side, unable to care if anyone gave the correct password or not. Behind her came Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, both quiet and timid, seeming stricken by the battle so recently passed. Who wasn't?
She'd seen to the children, tried to do her job, and she was so tired. Drained to the very depths of her, and she had so much more to do. "Through here. Severus kept him close, guarded him very carefully. I thought you should know."
"He should have let him... alone." Lucius Malfoy sounded hesitant, however, and Minerva could not really recall a time the man had ever seemed that way, perhaps as if he didn't believe in what he was saying.
The statement still made her eyes cut hard and sharp, giving him a look that made him duck his head, made his wife reach to take his hand. "Severus guarded your son every moment he was here, Lucius Malfoy. What's been done has been to save him from whatever you'd brought upon him."
"Lucius." Narcissa's voice was soft, and it shook. "I asked him. Severus, he, he made the Unbreakable Vow, I told you, I...."
"You involved him when you should not have," Lucius admonished, the words quick but quiet while they followed after her. It was odd, to feel them quite so cowed, but the war was over. Lost to them, time to pick up the pieces for the whole of Wizarding England and a large chunk of the continent. "Did he leave reliable instructions, or was Severus as he always was?"
Minerva licked her lips. "There were instructions, of course. They were in a small desk in the Room of Requirement." She already knew that the Room was gone. "I don't believe they were a full set of instructions, for fear that He Who Must Not Be Named might find your son." She continued into the small sitting room, the Malfoys just behind her, and reached for Draco's globe, bringing it down from the shelf. "Here. The Disillusionment charm has gone, with Severus."
Narcissa half reached her hands out, as if to take it from Minerva, watching her. "Do you remember what it said...?"
Gently, she held the glass out to her, allowing her to hold her son in his bed, sleeping yet as good as dead. "Some of it. However...."
It was no surprise to see the woman's eyes begin to tear, her brows knitting. "However, Severus... was protecting him." Narcissa looked up at Lucius. "It's my fault. If I hadn't taken Bellatrix he might not have made the Vow. Draco might not...."
"Even be alive enough to be cast into a decorative snow globe for Severus's amusement." Lucius reached for it, and Minerva wondered what he'd do, her wand at the ready. "It's time to at least bring him to size."
"Wait." Her voice was sharper than it needed to be. "I think we should take him downstairs first."
They exchanged looks. "I don't think...."
"To the infirmary," Minerva suggested further, still firmly. "Perhaps Professor Slughorn will have a solution which is viable for waking your son."
They both looked even smaller somehow than they had when they'd come up the stairs, and Lucius's arm had slipped behind Narcissa's back. "He won't be able to do anything." Lucius spoke almost as if it was an abstract, but his eyes said it was anything but that. "Severus would have done something to make sure of it. He'd be the only one able to solve whatever riddle he's created."
And Severus Snape was dead. Minerva knew it, just as Narcissa and Lucius knew it, only none of them were saying a word. Harry Potter had watched him die from Nagini's bite, and though there had been no body to retrieve, dead was dead. Dead was particularly dead when Minerva weighed the number of magical beasts who were also scavengers who had been out and around at that time.
"We'll take him to the infirmary first. We'll do what we can, and I'll make sure that I tell Professor Slughorn everything that I remember from the parchment Severus left." There hadn't been much; just nontraditional elements for Wiggenweld, and mention of an apple. It had struck her at the time, given her an image that had to be a memory. Fifth year, it would have been, and young Mr. Malfoy had been standing at the teacher's table, speaking with Severus. He'd grinned, and crunched into an apple, only stopping to frown when she'd sent him back to Slytherin table.
She was sure he'd used an apple as bait, probably woven through with the Draught. The question was, what other factors did that bring into the already atypical application of the Draught? Minerva was sure it brought something to it all, but she wasn't quite sure what. She was also sure that Severus had known exactly what he was doing and how that would change things.
"Thank you." Lucius seemed to accept that, for the moment, and as long as the Malfoys were compliant, Minerva had no problem with them being in Hogwarts. She'd heard Harry's story, how Narcissa Malfoy had lied to He Who Must Not Be Named and said that he had died. She had saved his life, whatever her reasons, and Minerva at least was inclined to take that as a repudiation of their Dark Lord.
"If only...." Mrs. Malfoy was in tears, holding the globe gently to her chest. "Oh, Lucius. If only...."
"I know." Minerva didn't, and she didn't want to, instead turning from the headmaster's quarters to lead the way back to the stairs, knowing the Malfoys would follow. Perhaps, if they were very lucky, Horace would be able to figure out precisely what Severus had done. Somehow, she didn't think that they would be.
She sincerely hoped no one dropped the globe on their way down the stairs.
They'd brought him back.
Three years and some odd months, and they'd brought him back to Hogwarts. Well. Minerva said they. What she meant more specifically was Lucius Malfoy, in fact. The boy was once again encased in the globe that Severus had used to shelter him for keeping in his sitting room.
He'd been different, then; not the same man, which was not unexpected. There had been hearing after hearing, and Harry Potter had testified that Narcissa Malfoy had helped him, kept him from truly dying at the hands of Tom Riddle. Between that and the terrible circumstances of their son, the Wizengamot had chosen not to punish the Malfoys beyond a few quite stringent fines.
The Malfoys had spent all of that time, every moment, seeking a cure for their only son. Horace Slughorn hadn't managed to create anything that would counteract what Severus had done. Half of the people hired to solve the problem had been cursed unto death as well, until finally no one would take on the challenge for fear of what might happen. None of that had surprised Minerva. Whatever he had done, he'd certainly done it up right and tight, and there was no undoing it with Severus dead and gone.
He was placed, at Lucius's suggestion, in the small shrine to Severus that had formed in the dungeon. Safe and in a place where Slytherin action was held in reverence, it was something of a museum, filled with small mementos and a handful of little letters. There were very few of them, to be honest, most of them from Harry Potter, arriving every Christmas. It would be disturbing if he hadn't married Ginny Weasley.
Still, there were stories, as there always were. Whispered words about the pale-faced boy on the bed, half-remembered and half-forgotten, only his name gotten right.
It grew, shifted, and there was very little to be done to control it. He aged, grew to be a man in a globe whose ultimate fate, as far as Minerva was concerned, was grim. She wished that Severus had considered this possibility, that he'd doomed Draco to death by not telling her everything. Then again, in the event that Voldemort had won, she supposed that it might have been the only solution available.
Surely even He Who Must Not Be Named wouldn't have been interested in using a dead body as his concubine.
Still, it weighed on her mind on the important anniversaries, and particularly as the weight of them began to fade, as she began to oversee the learning of students to whom The War was the stuff of history, and for whose parents it had been a thing of horror. It still was, in so many ways, the thing of nightmares. Things of which she dreamed, of which they all did, in the depths of the night, and often enough woke gasping or screaming. In the light of day, it never seemed so bad, but it was never light in the dungeons, in Severus's little shrine. No more light than the candles, and the soft reflected glow of them off of snow-white hair.
In another twenty years, Minerva supposed that Draco would still be laid in state, down in the Slytherin dungeons, and she would retire, pass the mantel of headmaster or headmistress on to someone else. There was the hope, of course, that Draco would simply die -- then it would at least release his ghost, and that was a modicum of hope. A mere drop in some impossible bucket, but if she didn't keep that, then she wasn't sure what she would do with him.
Brick him up, perhaps. Bury him behind stones, and let imaginations have free reign for what laid behind them. It was, oddly, something Albus would have done, and perhaps it was a sign that she had been headmistress for too many years as it was.
For too many years more, Draco Malfoy would sleep.
After all. What began with once upon a time did not always end with happily ever after.