"Tell me it isn't true." said Professor McGonagall quietly. "Tell me it isn't true, Severus, tell me we never did this!" Her voice grew louder and more frantic as she continued to speak. "Tell me we didn't curse an entire House to a life in the shadows, tell me we didn't take futures away from children the second they were Sorted! Tell me it isn't true!" Tears were rolling down her aged, wrinkled face now, and she wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. Severus Snape sighed. Covered in bandages, leaning heavily on a cane with one arm in a sling, the Head of Slytherin House was a sorry sight.
"It is true, Minerva. It has always been true. Every Headmaster or Headmistress of Hogwarts has lived with it since Edessa Sakndenberg. Why do you think the Head of Slytherin House has always been one who was in Slytherin themselves? It was to prevent more people than necessary from knowing. Eldritch Diggory came up with the idea, way, way back in the fifteenth century. He convinced Edessa, and from then on, it has remained. Traditions are hard to break. Not even Septimus Malfoy could convince the Ministry to stop. But it needs to go. Towards the end, over half of Voldemort's followers were made from Slytherins who had fallen. There are stone tablets in the common room, with the names of those who have died for the cause and those who have fallen. Salazar Slytherin never wanted this. Those children never asked for this, I never asked for this, none of us did! All we ever wanted was to be allowed to be proud of our House, to be proud of the strength and the comradeship it inspires. You are aware of who we will have among our first-years, come September, and there is no doubt that she will become a Slytherin. Cassiopeia Lestrange will not allow herself to be Sorted into any other House." Severus sagged slightly after this outburst, turning away from the window he had been stood at and lowering himself carefully into a chair.
"I-I will talk to the Ministry. Severus, you must know that there is only so far I can go. Not even Kingsley will allow this much shame to fall onto the Ministry. I will stop the curse, but Slytherin House may have to pull itself out of the shadows." said Minerva strongly. "Can they do that?"
"They could." said Severus. "If they had the right leader. Have you received a list of the students returning to redo their seventh year yet?"
"Yes. It's here." said Minerva. She stepped around her desk and handed the list to Severus, who scanned it carefully.
"Malfoy, Zabini, Parkinson, Greengrass and Nott. And I see the Golden Trio will return. Very good. Who will you name as Head Boy and Girl? Surely not Potter and Granger."
"No. I have spoken to them already. They do not want it. I have a few people in mind for Head Girl. Luna Lovegood, perhaps, or Ginny Weasley. They will both be in seventh year this year, along with those from the year above who are coming back." said Minerva thoughtfully.
"The Weasley girl would be a good Head Girl. As for Head Boy, why not Draco?" suggested Severus. "He is a good leader."
"Draco?" exclaimed Minerva. "Severus, you can't be serious! The boy is spiteful, deceitful and cunning. Not only that but the students will never stand for it! They all saw him change sides during the battle!" Severus stood up suddenly, banging his cane on the floor.
"He did what he had to in order to do his duty. Draco never fell, never wavered. The boy you saw is not the real Draco Malfoy." he thundered. He reached into his cloak and pulled out a vial of silvery memories, before casting it into the Pensieve, which stood in a corner of the office. He limped over to it, Minerva following him and they both plunged their heads into the swirling water.
Blaise Zabini was curled up in a corner of the Room of Requirement, sobbing. Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, Astoria Greengrass and Draco Malfoy were sitting with him. Draco was rubbing Blaise's back soothingly as he sobbed.
"H-He screamed, he screamed so much, and the look on his face, Draco, he was so young," sobbed Blaise.
"I know, I know," whispered Draco soothingly. "Deep breaths Blaise, come on. We can't be in here for too long, the Carrows will only spend so long beating Longbottom."
"We can't do this any more, Draco." said Pansy tearfully. "The Cruciatus Curse on first-years, what next? They will stop at nothing. Perhaps...perhaps the Dark Lord is right. Perhaps we should join him."
"He's terrifying," whispered Astoria. "He's bound to realise we aren't really on his side, and then we will die."
"No." said Draco calmly. "We are stronger than him. He leads through fear. You have all seen your parents. Remember the crushing pain when their names were written on that tablet, and you know that the people who had raised you, who had loved you, the people you had called 'Mummy' and 'Daddy', that they were gone. Think of the younger children. The first-years. Could they deal with that pain, of watching us five become twisted? They are Slytherin, and as such we have a duty to them and to ourselves. Remember those days when we were children? Quidditch in the meadows, screaming with delight when a single spell was cast? Keep those memories in your hearts. Treasure them, and when it seems that all is lost, remember them. We may die, it is true. But we will die with honour in our hearts, and we will die knowing that we did not fall. Not truly." Draco looked at each of them in turn as he spoke, looking deep into their eyes, urging them to remember, and to stay true. Each of them nodded as he spoke, fresh conviction in their eyes. Blaise suddenly hugged Draco, who wrapped his arms around his best friend and held him tightly. The others joined in, until there was simply a pile of teenage Slytherins, bodies shaking from silent tears, but knowing that they would die for each other, for their House, and that they would stay true to the very end.
Minerva staggered back from the Pensieve, holding onto the edge of her desk for support.
"Now do you see?" asked Severus wearily. "They are strong enough. Draco is a born leader. Give him an opportunity to prove himself not just to you, but to the world. I treasure that memory, which he gave me as a sign of trust. He is ready." Minerva nodded.
"Yes. It is decided then. Draco Malfoy, as Head Boy, shall lead Slytherin House out of the shadows. So be it."