For as unthreatening as Harry Potter usually looked, Narcissa marveled at how intimidating he could be when he wanted.
The two dark haired men stood nearly nose to nose, glaring at each other. Theo’s chest heaved as he gulped in angry breaths, while Harry seethed in a much more controlled-and slightly worrying-way.
“Now, gentlemen,” Narcissa’s calm voice floated over the two, drawing their attention away from the simmering confrontation. “Let’s all act calmly and rationally about this. After all, we all only want what’s best for Hermione.”
“Hermione?” Theo’s eyes widened as his mouth dropped open in astonishment.
Harry cast a wary eye toward the former Slytherin as Narcissa wrapped an arm comfortingly around his shoulder, then spun on his heels to stalk back toward Draco and Hermione.
He was pleased to see his best friend laid out in a much more comfortable manner on the cushioned bench while Draco sat on the flagstones near her waist. His hands played with one of hers, loosely entwining their fingers and unraveling them over and over again.
It was such an…intimate picture, Harry thought.
“Malfoy.” The blond turned his head, his eyes surprisingly red rimmed as he caught Harry’s.
“What do you want, Potter? Why is Theo here screaming?”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up, disappearing under the fringe hanging over his forehead. Had he not heard the commotion?
As if reading his thoughts, Draco smiled wryly. “I cast a Muffilato. No use aggravating the headache she’s sure to have when she wakes up.”
“Ah.” Harry nodded and accio’d a chair to sit beside the bench. “Well, it seems as if Hermione is somehow…Nott’s sister.”
Grey eyes blinked up at him owlishly and for a moment, Harry was positive that Draco had gone into some kind of shock. Then his head slowly turned back toward Hermione, his fingers once again resuming their soft movements.
“Uh, Malfoy did you hear-”
“I heard you, Harry.” The Boy-Who-Lived nearly choked on his saliva at the sound of his first name falling from his former enemies lips.
Sure, they’d developed a somewhat tentative friendship over the last few years. Working within the confines of Hogwarts with a limited number of available people with whom to have social interaction will do that. But they’d always called each other by their surnames, more out of habit than anything else.
Yet, today he’d heard Draco refer to Hermione and himself with their given names. What in Merlin’s name was going on?
x . x . x . x . x
“You need to calm down, Theodore.”
Theo scowled at Narcissa, unwilling to submit to the woman who was like a second mother to him, especially since his own mother’s death.
“Don’t tell me to calm down! You summon me saying my sister is here and then try to tell me Granger is her? Is this some kind of sick joke?”
“Theodore Graham Nott! You will sit down this instant and listen to what I have to tell you!”
His arms crossed over his chest, the young man threw himself back into a padded deck chair, his lower lip pushed out into a pout. Narcissa rolled her eyes and sat primly in the chair opposite him. Only the slight tremor of her hands gave away her nerves.
“Well, then. Where to start-”
“Have you thought about what you’ll do after?”
Isabelle sighed as she set her quill down, closing her journal around the handsome eagle feather. Her hand unconsciously went to her stomach, cradling the small bump protectively.
“She’ll need to be hidden. I was going to have Twinkie take her to a Muggle orphanage. I trust her to keep-to keep her safe.”
Narcissa bit back the well of emotion threatening to overwhelm her at her best friend’s sadness. She needed to be strong.
“And after that?”
Isabelle visibly deflated even more, curling herself protectively around her baby bump. “I’ll do my duty to my father and my house. I’ll marry that bastard and…and try…”
She choked on a sob, her hand flying up to cover her mouth. She knew Narcissa would never judge her for such a display of emotion, but the ingrained behaviors of the aristocracy were nearly impossible to overthrow.
Without hesitation, Narcissa crossed the bedroom and sank to her knees in front of her friend.
“Oh, Isabelle.” Her thin arms wound around the brunette’s shoulder as her best friend cried into her neck. “Everything will be alright.”
Narcissa squeezed her eyes closed tightly, a single tear escaping as she drew in a deep breath. Even she knew everything would most certainly not be alright.
Narcissa chuckled lowly as she gently pushed Theo’s jaw closed.
“I don’t…I don’t-”
“Understand?” Theo nodded silently as he stared across the veranda to where Draco and Harry were talking softly over Hermione’s still unconscious body. “It’s quite the tale. It will take awhile to give you the explanation you deserve. But Hermione deserves to hear it as well.”
Narcissa nodded her head decisively and stood abruptly. “Come on then. Let’s go introduce you to your sister.”
“Again, you mean? It’s not as if Granger and I are exactly strangers.”
The Lady of Malfoy Manor sighed as she tucked her arm around her son’s best friend’s. “And that, my dear, is exactly what I’m worried about.”
x . x . x . x . x
A groan from the bench drew both men’s attention.
Confused chocolate eyes blinked open at the sound of her name, seemingly being said in stereo.
“You uh, fainted.” Draco explained bashfully as he fought to untangle their fingers. Harry’s eyebrows knitted together as his best friend reflexively clutched tighter to Draco’s hand.
“Is he really here?” Her eyes were wide and frightened, as she glanced between the two men sitting beside her.
Harry nodded and glanced over his shoulder. At the sight of the slowly approaching duo, he turned back to his friend and stole her unoccupied hand, wrapping it tightly in his own.
“He just wants to meet you, ‘Mione. We’re here for you.” Draco nodded silently as he pulled her into a sitting position and wedged himself beside her. “Everything will be alright.”
Hermione glared at her best friend as she unconsciously leaned further into Draco, taking comfort from the contact as she grumbled. “I really wish people would quit saying that.”
As Narcissa and Theo approached the trio, Hermione sighed resignedly as she tugged Harry to sit on her other side.
“Hermione, dear, I would like to introduce you to someone extremely special. This is your brother-well, half brother-Theodore Graham Nott.” The older woman untucked her arm and gave Theo a small shove toward the chair Harry had just vacated. “And now, I’m going to leave you all to get to know each other a little better before we delve into the details of this…situation.”
And just like that, Narcissa twirled away in a swish of overly expensive, if somewhat still damp, robes.
x . x . x . x . x
“Come on, Isabelle! Push!”
Narcissa dabbed the sweat from her best friend’s brow, her nose scrunched in a grimace. Childbirth was not the wonderful, magical experience their elders had led them to believe.
As it turned out, it was a sweaty, messy, bloody, and if Isabelle’s screams and whimpers were anything to go by, extremely painful experience. Having just the week before found out that she herself was expecting, Narcissa was gulping back her own terror at the prospect of doing this herself.
“I can’t, Cissa! Please, you have to-Twinkie! Just get her out! Please!” Isabelle’s stuttered sobs echoed around the lavishely furnished guest room as the house elves quietly set up everything a new baby would need.
“Missy Izzy, just one mores! Then baby Missy will bes here!”
Narcissa glanced down the bed and peeked around the sheet Twinkie had helpfully draped across Isabelle’s legs.
“Oh, Gods, Isabelle! How are you doing this?!”
Growling with frustration and exhaustion, Isabelle clenched her fists around the silky sheets, cursing the Malfoy extravagance as her fingers slipped through the fabric.
“Lucius! I’m going to kill you!”
The door cracked open and a white blonde head of hair poked cautiously into the room. “Why is my imminent death being discussed?”
“Get the bloody fuck out!”
Narcissa giggled, slightly hysterical as her husband’s face morphed into a look of disgust, fear and took on a slight greenish tint as he caught sight of the mess Isabelle was.
“This is what you’ve doomed me to! Get ready, Mr, Malfoy!”
Her laughter and Isabelle’s chuckling sobs chased the Lord of the Manor from the room and the house elves fought to contain their mirth at the spectacle their Master and Mistress were making.
“Come on, Missy Izzy!”
Spurred back into action, Narcissa dutifully gripped her friend’s hand as Isabelle bore down for one last push, anguished groans fighting their way from her throat.
Silence reigned for a moment as she flopped backward, her energy spent as darkness began to encroach on her vision. The blackness abruptly receded as Narcissa gasped in delight, her blue eyes no longer fixed on Isabelle’s face.
And the sound of her delighted giggled was drowned out by the sound of a baby’s cry.
Narcissa peeked her head around the door to his study and sighed as she caught sight of the disaster.
A disheveled blonde head slumped over the large ornate desk and she felt her heart stutter momentarily.
“Lucius?” Narcissa breathed a sigh of relief as his head shot up, ink smeared across his cheek. “Oh, Love.”
She stepped into his study and carefully picked her way through the piles of papers scattered over seemingly every surface. His grey eyes, bloodshot with lack of sleep and stress, blinked up at her as she approached. His aristocratic features crumpled, the lines on his skin harsh as he sighed.
“Cissa, I can’t-this is…is she still here?”
Narcissa cocked her head to the side, a silent question on her lips as his arms banded around her thighs. He pulled her toward him, his head resting against her hip.
“Isabelle’s daughter. Miss Granger, am I correct?” Narcissa gaped in a thoroughly unladylike fashion, though her husband just chuckled mildly. He gestured to the room at large. “It’s taken me quite awhile, but I managed to piece it together. I can’t believe it’s her…”
“Are you up for some company, Isabelle?”
The brunette glanced up from the small bundle in her arms and smiled at her host. “Of course, Lucius. You held vigil long enough. Come meet her.”
Lucius stepped into the room and carefully made his way toward the bed. He settled regally into the chair his wife had occupied most of the night, his back ramrod straight as he took in the fruits of his friend’s labor. He rested his cane on the arm of the chair before crossing his legs and steepling his fingers.
“How are you feeling, my dear?”
Isabelle giggled quietly. “Oh, there’s no need to be so formal, Lu. Indeed, after all you’ve seen of me, I believe we’re quite past the polite formalities.”
Incredibly, the older man’s face flushed a brilliant scarlet and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly. “Thank you so much for reminding me. I may need to be obliviated.”
Twinkie chuckled from across the room as Isabelle burst into a loud round of laughter. A small gurgle interrupted her moment of merriment and Lucius’s eyes widened comically as the tiny baby wiggled in her mother’s arms.
Seeing the look of abject terror on his face, Isabelle smiled and held the small bundle of blankets out. “Come on, Lucius. Hold your goddaughter.”
His grey eyes widened further as they shot up to her chocolate ones. “My what?!”
“Your goddaughter, of course.” Isabelle passed the baby over, showing him the correct way to support her head before leaning back into the pillows. “You’re my best friend’s husband and one of my closests friends besides. Who else would I give the honor to? Even if she’ll probably never know…”
“Oh, Isabelle.” He breathed a moment later as his finger traced lightly down the downy soft skin of the little girl’s cheek. “She’s precious. And I promise you, she will know. Maybe not as soon as we’d all like. But I swear to you, she will know us eventually.”
“I can’t believe how the world works, Cissa. How can it be her?”
Narcissa frowned at her husband, though his head was buried in her waist. “Lucius, I don’t understand why you’re so upset. Everything has been revealed and it will all be fine.”
“Has it? She knows everything now, is that correct?” Lucius pulled from her grasp and shot to his feet, stalking around his desk to pace in front of the darkened fireplace. “She knows who her father is? She knows the circumstances of her birth? She knows everything?”
Narcissa folded her arms across her chest as her frown deepened. “Lucius, you’re acting mad! What’s gotten into you?”
“I just…I’ve failed her! She’s my goddaughter! And I couldn’t…I didn’t…” Defeat rounded his shoulders as he braced his fists on the desk. “There are things even you don’t know, Narcissa. And when everything is eventually found out…no, nothing will be fine.”