Chapter 1

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“Master?”

Draco groaned as the ancient looking elf cowered in front of him. “Yes, Stitch?”

“I is sorry for botherings you. Stitch told her Mistress was aways, but she no listen to Stitch!”

“Okay, slow down. What happened?”

Draco rounded his desk and crouched down in front of the tiny elf. The creature’s bat like ears flapped as he trembled and shook. “There bes a young miss at the door. She won’t comes in, but demands to see Mistress.”

“It’s alright, Stitch. I’ll take care of it. Have Dippy get you a cup of brandy, alright?”

Draco left the room as the house elf popped away. He noted the rain sheeting against the windows as he strode down the hall and wondered what imbecile was waiting for him outside.

He finally made it to the front door, his ire growing with every step. How dare someone come to his home and then refuse to be shown in! How dare someone demand an audience without the courtesy of making an appointment first!

Magic crackled around his fingertips as he reached out to pull the door open, though he pulled up short a moment later.

There, standing on his front steps, looking very much like a drowned rat, was-

“Granger?”

Her eyes shot daggers laced with betrayal as she stared at him. This couldn’t be good for the friendship they’d slowly been developing.

“Did you know?!?!”

Draco raised an eyebrow at the slightly mad way she waved her arms, her delicate features crumpled with misery.

“I have no idea what you seem to be asking, but I insist you come in before you catch your death. I can just imagine how Potter would spin that into my fault.”

He stepped forward, his arm outstretched to usher her inside, but she shrieked and stumbled backward.

Draco gasped and lunged forward, his fingers grasping for purchase on the soaked fabric of her shirt, trying to stop her from falling backwards. She shrieked once more and tore herself from his grip, her arms flailing wildly as she toppled back.

The rain dampened the sound of her spine connecting with the solid stone steps, but Draco’s eyes widened at the sight. The harsh ‘twack’ of her skull connecting with the ground seemed strangely amplified as he darted forward to help.

“No! Stop! Tell me! Tell me you didn’t know!”

The blond knelt beside his childhood enemy as he tried to assess her injuries. “Stop squirming! I don’t need you killing yourself on my steps!”

“I don’t fucking care! I need to know!”

Know what?!

“Draco.”

The breath whooshed out of him at the muted voice behind him. He spun, his grey eyes meeting his mother’s bright blue ones as he sighed in relief.

“Mother! I don’t know what happened! She just showed up here and she won’t come in and-”

“Well of course she won’t come in. I don’t blame her one bit after what Bella did to her.” To his extreme disbelief, Narcissa stepped sedately outside, uncaring of the pouring rain, and crouched beside the distraught young woman. “Come now, dear. Let’s get you somewhere safe so we can get you dry.”

“Mother, wha-”

“Be a dear, Draco, and inform Mr. Potter of his friend’s whereabouts. She’s going to need someone to support her.”

Snarling out an expletive under his breath, Draco retreated back to the warmth of his study. He ignored the water puddling around his feet as he strode quickly toward the fireplace.

He tossed a handful of floo powder into the fireplace and waited as emerald flames burst to life. He stuck his head in the fire. “Grimmauld Place!”

He cast an eye around the barren kitchen and sighed in frustration. “Potter!”

A sharp crash echoed in another room and Draco sighed again as a head of jet black hair popped around the corner. “Oh, Draco! What are you doing in Harry’s fireplace?”

The man in question appeared a moment later, buttoning his shirt hurriedly as he placed a quick kiss on Pansy’s forehead. “Give us a minute, Pans.”

She scowled theatrically before tugging the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Annoy back toward her for another kiss.

“Oi, you two! Get a room!”

“We had one until you shouted from the fireplace. Thanks Drake!”

“Ah, sarcasm becomes you, my darling. However, I have a message for you ScarHead.” Harry cocked an eyebrow as he crossed the kitchen to crouch beside the fireplace. “Hermione showed up at the Manor. My mother’s calming her down from her hysterics as we speak.”

“What?”

“What part of this is complicated? Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age and the reason you survived the bloody war, is currently with my mother, at the Manor and is losing her bloody mind. Clear enough for you?”

“Pansy, I’ll be back! Step aside, Malfoy.”

Draco withdrew gratefully from the fireplace and waited for Harry to step out of the floo.

“Where is she?! And…why are you all wet?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Contrary to popular belief, I’m not as vain as people think. It’s raining and she wouldn’t come inside. And I have no idea where she is at the moment. Let’s go look, shall we?”

The false enthusiasm rankled Harry’s already stretched nerves and his fingers twitched toward his wand. “Cut the shite, Malfoy. You came to get me, remember?”

“Very well then. Let’s go find Mother.”

The two men trooped through the deserted hallways, skirting carefully around the closed door of another study.

“Has he come out at all?” Harry asked in a low voice as they hastened their steps quietly.

“For meals. And sometimes I catch him skulking around in the potions lab we have in the dungeons. But otherwise no.”

Actively ignoring the reclusive older Malfoy’s presence the two young men wandered a bit more in silence. Eventually, though, Harry grew impatient and paused thoughtfully.

“Snitch?”

Draco groaned as the small elf popped into the hallway beside them, quivering with suppressed enthusiasm for the Boy Hero. It was karma, really, that his personal elf was so in love with his childhood enemy. His mumbled “Well, that’s two of my house elves that prefer Perfect Prat Potter…” went ignored, though Harry’s mouth did quirk up slightly.

“Mister Harry Potter calls for Snitch? Oh joyous day! What can Snitch do for Mister Harry Potter, sir?!”

“Uh, well-we’re looking for Mrs. Malfoy and Hermi-”

“Oh, young Missy and Mistress are on the terrace, near the white oak.” The tiny elf bowed low, her nose nearly touching the plush carpet under their feet as Harry shifted awkwardly. He glanced toward Draco, who was trying to hide his smirk.

“You called for her…”

The Boy-Who-Lived let out a put upon sigh as he cleared his throat. “Well…er, thanks, Snitch. That’s-uh…that’s all.”

The tiny house elf popped away and Draco pushed off the wall where he’d been leaning. “Well, come on Potter. Let’s not wait for the grass to grow.”

Mumbling incoherently the Boy Wonder followed the former Death Eater, their steps strangely in sync as they went to find the women.

x . x . x . x . x

“You have absolutely lost your senses!” Narcissa scoffed at her friend’s innocent expression. “Do not bat those big brown doe eyes at me, Isabelle Rowle! You are betrothed and there is not a single way that this could possibly end well!”

“Don’t you understand, Cissa? You love Lucius! You’ll never be starved for affection while I’ll be stuck with that…that…bastard!”

The young witch flailed her arms wildly as she paced in their deserted dorm room. Narcissa sat demurely as her friend tired herself out.

“And what happens when your father finds out? Because you know he will.”

Isabelle paused her frantic steps and breathed deeply for a moment. “The deed will be done and all he can do is disown me. All the better since the betrothal will be called off.”

“Theodore is not going to let you go that easily. You’re a prize, Isabelle, nothing more. At least make it easy on yourself and behave!”

“No!” The emphatic declaration was met with a stuttering heartbeat as Narcissa watched her friend’s countenance nearly implode inwards. “I need to do this! I need to know what it feels like to be loved. Just once.”

The two Slytherins faced each other stoically for a moment before Narcissa sighed. She stood up slowly and reached into the folds of her robes. The light glinted off the vial in her hand as she held it out to her closest friend in the world.

“Then go. I’ve already added the hair.”

Narcissa came back to the present as Hermione sniffled into her robes. She discreetly cast a tempus charm over the younger woman’s shoulder, her lips pursing as she saw how long they’d been sitting on the veranda.

As her hand softly stroked the girl’s wild hair, she tumbled back into her memories.

“Are you sure?”

The sheer panic in Isabelle’s voice spurred Narcissa on, her wand moving in a complicated pattern as she cast the spell for the fourth time. Unsurprisingly, the results were exactly the same.

“Honestly, Isabelle! What did you think was going to happen?!”

“I thought…or hoped…that things would work out. That maybe he would see through the potion, see me. And I hoped it would be enough.”

Narcissa ran her hand through her friend’s wild dark curls as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

“People like us-women like us, are only meant for one thing. And that is not to be loved. It’s to be used and used until there is nothing left. Until there’s nothing but the shell of who you once were, good for nothing except to be disposed of.”

Isabelle wept for the bleak future she didn’t want as Narcissa kept slowly stroking her hair. Somehow, someway, she was determined to make a better life; a better life for her and for the tiny life growing inside her.

“Shhh. Shhh. Hermione, you must pull yourself together. It’s going to be alright.”

Narcissa inhaled sharply as the young witch pushed her roughly away. “Excuse me? Alright?! Nothing is alright! Nothing will be alright! My entire life has been one lie after another! The parent’s who raised me are as good as gone, my mother is dead by her own husband’s hand,  that same husband who was apparently a Death Eater, I have no idea who my biological father is and I’m sitting outside the house where I was tortured in the pouring rain! How exactly is everything going to be alright?!!?”

“Hermione.” Narcissa grabbed the girl’s shoulders roughly and moved herself directly in front of her, her knees protesting against the feel of the hard pavers under them. But there was no easy way to say this and she needed the girl to listen. “Everything is most certainly not alright-now. But it will be.”

The young girl sniffled pathetically, her warm brown eyes boring into Narcissa’s soul. “How?”

“You simply believe it will be.” She moved back to the space beside Hermione on the bench and pulled her into another hug, letting the younger witch cry into her chest once again. “I promise you that I will help you however I can. I owe it to your mother.”

A pause followed the softly spoken words before Hermione sniffed lightly. “Could you…tell me? About her, I mean?”

x . x . x . x . x

It was a testament to how much things had changed that when the menfolk stumbled onto the secluded alcove where Hermione was bawling into Narcissa’s robes, Harry merely crossed the uneven flagstones to pull her into a hug.

Draco marveled at the lack of…accusations or screaming or hexes.

Instead, he found his mother murmuring quietly to the dark haired man over Hermione’s shoulder.

He approached slowly, unsure if his would be a welcome presence or not.

“Gra-” He paused, then dropped to his knees in front of the trio, his hands gathering one of his former enemy’s small ones between them. “Hermione. Whatever has happened, we’ll help you get through it. All of us.”

His eyes were steady on hers as he caught Harry’s cocked eyebrow out of his peripheral vision.

“Perhaps I can tell Draco a bit about the situation while Mr. Potter sits with you. Would that be acceptable, Hermione?”

The two Malfoy’s walked toward the rose garden at the far end of the terrace.

“Mother, what in Merlin’s name is going on?”

Narcissa’s lips pursed as she thought about what to tell her son, or indeed what she could tell her son.

“I don’t feel comfortable with this, Isabelle. What if…what if…”

“There are no what if’s, Cissa. I need you. And I need you to take the vow. No one can know!”

The two young women sat face to face on one of the unoccupied dorm beds, their hands clasped loosely between them.

“How is that going to work? We need a Bonder, who by definition, needs to know what’s going on.”

Isabelle’s dark chocolate eyes shot down to their entwined hands. “I…I may have already asked someone. And he’s already agreed.”

“What do you mean, he’s already agreed? Who the bloody hell did you ask?”

She’d been released from her vow as soon as Hermione had been visited by the solicitor. And yet, she’d kept this secret for so long, she wasn’t quite sure where to begin.

x . x . x . x . x

As Draco and Narcissa spoke in low voices, Harry rocked Hermione side to side as she sobbed.

“Hermione, I understand that you’re overwhelmed and I’ve only gotten the bare minimum from Narcissa. But I need you to calm down and talk to me.”

The soft movement of her best friend’s hand as he stroke her hair grounded her and Hermione sucked in a deep gulp of air.

“I don’t-” She hiccuped miserably and cleared her throat, determined that the tears were behind her. “-I don’t even know where to begin, honestly. This solicitor just showed up at Hogwarts and McGonagall called me into her office and he…he gave me this-” She nudged the wooden box she’d forgotten that she set by her feet. “-and a bundle of parchment about my…my…”

“Blood relatives?” Grateful brown eyes met Harry’s emerald green ones and he gave her a sad smile. “Your parents will always be your parents, Hermione. These new people are just…more family. And more family is never a bad thing.”

A sharp crack echoed on the stones of the terrace and Hermione jumped, burying her face further into Harry’s chest.

“I is apologizing for the intrusion, Mistress. But Mister Theo is arriving.”

The Boy Who Lived watched what little color remained in Hermione’s face drain away, her eyes wide with terror.

“What is it, Hermione?!”

“No! Why did you call him here?! He can’t-I can’t…this…we…”

“Bloody buggering fuck!”

Harry’s hands slipped ineffectively on the wet fabric of her blouse as Hermione crumpled over in a dead faint. Draco darted forward, wincing at the loud crack as her head hit the flagstones. Honestly, you’d think with that amount of hair there would be some cushioning!

“What the bloody hell, Potter?!”

The two boys bickered as the blond pulled the unconscious girl onto his lap, his arms banding tightly around her. Harry grumbled, but let it go as he stood up to confront Narcissa.

“Why did she faint?!” The bespectacled boy stalked over to the woman, the echo of his boots loud on the veranda. “And why is Nott here?”

“Theo deserves a chance to get to know his sister.”

Harry blanched. “His sister?!”

Narcissa sighed in exasperation. Dealing with these young people was going to be a trying experience. “Yes. He knew of her all his life, though he was told she was sent away because she had health issues. Obviously, his father lied to him and he’s slightly-”

“WHERE IS SHE?!”

“-angry.”

The pair turned toward the french doors where the dark haired former Slytherin stood, his chest heaving in anger and anxiety.

“Now, Theo-”

The angry dark haired man marched toward the Boy-Who-Lived and stuck his finger threateningly in his face. Narcissa suppressed the urge to giggle at the sight of Harry nearly going cross eyed.

“Don’t you ‘now Theo’ me, Potter! Where is my sister?!?”

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