It only took Narcissa Malfoy a moment to realize it.
It's all over, she thought. We've lost.
There was a strange finality of this feeling sinking into her chest, for the fact was that Harry Potter remained The Boy Who Lived, even when he should have been lying dead in the grassy forest clearing. His heartbeat pulsed against her fingers; warm breath glanced off the tip of her nose.
It's over, she thought again, and she was relieved.
There had been no way out for her, no end in sight that would mean her troubles were over and her life could move ahead. The Dark Lord mistrusted and despised the Malfoys now, perhaps even more than Narcissa sometimes resented her husband. At the beginning, she had not batted an eye at the idea of supporting the Dark Lord, and had cultivated a kind of quiet pride in her husband's noble actions. But that had changed as Draco aged, for she then saw how he was seen as another able-bodied solider—first by Lucius, then by the Dark Lord himself.
But that had all gone wrong: Lucius' favour with the Dark Lord had crumbled and disappeared, and now he and his family had become all but the most expendable of his followers. Save for perhaps Wormtail, there were few of his own whom the Dark Lord would dispose of so quickly and callously as the Malfoys.
Of course, the alternative—which happened to be the heartbeat under Narcissa's hand at that very moment—was not much better. The Malfoys would be scorned for the rest of her own life, and perhaps for many generations henceforth. They would never be able to return to wizarding society and enjoy the power and respect they had once held, not if the Dark Lord were defeated.
There was little difference between the two outcomes, she knew. Either way, her family would find little respect or kindness from those around them. Except...
Her breath caught in her throat; little more than a second had passed in the time it took her to think all of these thoughts, to consider what was best for her to do in this crucial moment. And she looked down at The Boy Who Lived, for the first time observing how young he truly was—the same age as her Draco, who was much too young to die...
That, of course, was the difference. In a world without the Dark Lord, the Malfoys might never be able to count on kindness, but their lives would at least be theirs.
Narcissa had never been a very complicated woman. If her Draco was too young to die, and Harry Potter was his age, then surely, Harry Potter was also too young to die.
And so she let him live.
While cries of relief and triumph echoed in the forest clearing, Narcissa knew that it was over for the Dark Lord, as surely as she knew that Harry Potter was not dead. It comforted her, however, when she realized that while her master might be about to lose everything, Narcissa had only to gain.
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