by Ishafel

Before the war, Harry Potter was the hero of the wizarding world, but after, it was Draco Malfoy they turned to. Harry had been everything Dumbledore stood for: brave and good and true and blunt and honest and not, perhaps, overly bright; in fact, a posterchild for Gryffindor. And Draco, of course, was his opposite, was selfish and sneaky and cunning and self-serving and twisted and vile. They were like rivals in an old-fashioned romance novel: dark and fair, bright and shadow, rising sun and setting sun. While Harry's star had fallen Draco's had risen and Draco had laughed when they gave Harry the Kiss.

Nothing had changed since the war had been won and lost -- nothing and everything. Most of the horrors that had been foretold (or threatened, or promised) had failed in the end to materialize, or after all had been less horrible than tedious. Voldemort in the end was nothing but a petty tyrant, a broken king, a blind mad old fool, a latter-day Caligula. Only, it was not a horse Voldemort appointed to the Senate, but a traitor to the Ministry.

Draco Malfoy, who all his life had run with the hares as well as hunted with the hounds; Draco who had spied for the Opposition and fought for the Death Eaters and risen through the ranks of both armies. When the war was over and the dust and smoke had blown away and the wreckage of England -- of their world -- lay all about them, and they knew, finally, what it was they had lost for foolish pride, it was Draco who stepped into the breach. Somehow he cast off the names they called him; somehow in his presence words, magic, thought, all lost their power. Traitor, Judas, Serpent: to a Slytherin this was virtue. In Voldemort's England to betray was to serve.

And so, somehow, Draco had united all the wizarding world beneath his banner and thrust Voldemort aside. It was Draco who set policy, who ran the government, who ratified laws and constitutions and presided over executions. It was hard to tell, now, when Dumbledore was dead and Voldemort dying, what it was Draco served unless it was that he served himself alone.

Draco Malfoy, Minister of Magic and Protector of England, Draco with his narrow, pointed face, his pale cat's eyes, his hair silver-gilt against the ascetic's black of his robes. Draco was good at everything he did: at Quidditch, at schoolwork, at war, at government; he might have been born to play this role. Somehow he had become a hero, the sole victor of an unwinnable fight. No one remembered, now, that he had once been Dumbledore's most reliable source of information; no one remembered the Death Eaters he had betrayed.

Still the people were not free: they chafed even under Draco's light hand. There was talk, on occasion, of rebellion. Since Voldemort had come to power the land itself seemed restless. Winter roared and summer burned and no rain fell on the hard cracked earth. The trees began to die, and the winds blew as they had not blown since the Conqueror had come. There was talk, on occasion, of the need for a sacrifice: it was said that only the blood of a king would set the world to rights.

On the winter solstice a small group of pureblood wizards took what remained of Harry Potter to a grove that once had been sacred, and there they slit its throat. That was when the rains began; it rained for weeks on end, a month, a year, and the water ran off the fields into the sea and plagues troubled the cities. They knew, then, what it was the land wanted.

And yet -- it seemed Draco would be equal to this challenge, too. He found ways to import food and medicine. He kept the economy stable. He made alliances and signed treaties; he made promises and kept them. He did it all in Voldemort's name, but no one believed he followed Voldemort's orders. They loved him; everyone loved him, and why would they not?

Draco had reformed the Ministry, had unified the people, had reforged all England into something finer and stronger, and he had done it all in Voldemort's name; he had done it under Voldemort's very nose. One final effort would set the country free forever, would grind the Death Eaters into dust and begin a new era of peace and prosperity. All that was needed was a symbol, a call to arms.

Dumbledore's death had begun the war and Draco Malfoy's would end it. Death was a powerful magic, in and of itself. Draco's death would be enough to rally the people. Draco's death would bring the last and final battle, drive Voldemort to his knees, set the wizarding world free once more. Draco's death -- the death of the king- in-all-but-name -- would be enough to heal the land. Draco's blood on the sacred soil would stop the rains, cure the plague, fertilize the crops, reunite the people. Draco was of the old line, a wizard whose blood had run true for a thousand years. There were no Squibs born to the House of Malfait.

Only, who would dare to kill such a paragon of virtue? Draco was loved, Draco was feared; there was no one in the wizarding world that would approach him, no one whose hands were clean enough to wield the blade. It would have to be a woman, because men did not get close to Draco these days. It would have to be someone who idolized him, who saw in this an opportunity for immortality. Someone who wanted sainthood for Draco, someone who wanted to save their world -- it would have to be a pureblood someone, to understand the repercussions.

Draco had, of course, picked her out carefully and long before he ever began the plan. He did not want to die at the hands of a stranger and risk losing that perfect moment when the blade slides smoothly up into the cradle of his ribs, that moment of perfect clarity just before his heart gives out. He needs to die publicly and he needs to die well. There can be no ragged wounds, no being left to hover on the edge of life for days, no miraculous recoveries. He must die, and he must be killed by a Death Eater, in Voldemort's name.

Pansy is, of course, the perfect candidate. She is pretty enough that she will catch and hold Voldemort's eye afterward. She is political enough to be a believable assassin, innocent enough to be allowed past his bodyguards, and mad enough to go through with it. She spent the war in France, America, Venezuela, Nigeria; she was not there to fight because she was trying to raise allies for Voldemort's cause. Alone of them all, of everyone in England, her hands are clean.

Were clean; soon they will be stained with Draco's blood. Soon Pansy will be a murderer and Draco will be a corpse and Voldemort will be a lousy memory and England will be a democracy. They are waiting now for the precise moment. It is important that there be enough press present, that Voldemort is not near by, that the sun is at the exact correct angle. In truth, Pansy does not know what they are waiting for. She stands quietly and submissively behind Draco, head down, concentrating on the knife in her sleeve that presses against the veins of her wrist.

She is little more than a tool in this, a weapon, and the last weapon Draco Malfoy will wield in his personal crusade against the Dark Lord. She is Arthur to his Merlin. She waits for his signal, watches as he moves as if by instinct to stand so that the light turns his hair into a silver halo. He is too perfect to look at; he is so perfect that just looking at him can blind you. He is everything that she ever wanted to be, and more: the pride of the wizarding world, in all his strength and glory; he is the sun itself.

When she kills him he is smiling. This is everything he could wish for. There is nothing Draco Malfoy likes more than an audience. As the first drops of his blood soak into the mud the wind dies down and the world goes still. At the very edge of her vision Voldemort rises, an old man but not quite broken, not yet. He levels his wand and his lips move but before he can cast the spell the crowd is on her. It is everything Draco wished for.


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