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Draco Malfoy paused at the door of his mother's room. He had made this journey countless times in past weeks. At twenty-one years of age, Draco had never assumed that he'd have buried both of his parents, but surely, it wouldn't be long for his mother now. The young man collected himself before the house-elf opened the large ebony double doors and let him enter the room.
The navy blue shears were drawn across the majestic four-poster bed."Mistress has been waiting for you a long time. Mistress might be sleeping now," the house-elf turned to him and spoke in a squeaky voice.
"I'm not sleeping," said a weak voice from behind the dark gauzy curtains. Even on death's door, Narcissa Malfoy managed to project an air of authority and a hint of annoyance. Draco smirked in spite of himself.
"Where have you been, Draco?" she demanded.
Several wizard healers had been in to examine and share their expertise regarding Narcissa's declining health in the recent past. None of them had been able to offer her or Draco one word of advice on what was wrong, or how to cure it.
"Working," Draco answered his mother tersely. Even after all this time, he couldn't help but sound like a petulant child when his mother quizzed him.
"What have you been working– " she tried to sound like her old self, but instead her sentence turned into a coughing fit.
It had never been in Draco's nature to care for others, especially whilst they were ill. But it was such a shock to see his otherwise impeccable mother so out-of-sorts that he could not help himself as he rushed to her side to make certain she was all right.
"I know it might be a stretch, Mother, but it's okay if you try and conserve your strength."
"Conserve it? For what? More coughing?"
In exasperation, Draco said, "No, conserve your strength to tell me what it really is you wanted me to be here for."
Narcissa laid back in her bed, looking spent, drawn, and old. Even when she was sleeping, it looked like she was in pain.
"So you haven't forgotten that, have you?" she hedged.
"Mother...don't test me."
"Very well, Draco." She paused for such a long time, that Draco was certain she'd fallen asleep again. "What I need to tell you is that you have a sister."
For a moment, Draco was sure that his mother was joking. A sister? How could she have ever kept that a secret from Lucius? Unless this sister had died during or shortly after birth. That made the most sense.
"Is she dead?" Draco asked tentatively.
"No, she is very much alive."
This news sent Draco's mind reeling. "Mother, how did you ever manage to keep this from Father? And why would you want to, unless..." he paused for a moment, "she had a different father?"
Certain that he had figured out the depth of his mother's secret, he looked at her in a mixture of hurt and betrayal. "With whom did you cheat on Father?"
"I was afraid of this..." whispered Narcissa, who looked and sounded more frail than ever.
"It wasn't like that. This happened before we were married."
Relief washed over Draco. He didn't know why the thought of his mother's supposed infidelity bothered him so much, but bother him it did.
"How old is she?"
"She would be twenty-five years old now."
"Why did you wait so long to tell me?" Then Draco answered his own question. "Because of Father."
"Good thing he's gone now, so you can tell me."
Draco had been an only child his whole life; the sudden prospect that he had an elder sister was instantly frightening and appealing to him. He wanted to know everything about her.
"Where is she now?"
"I really don't know."
"How can you not know?"
Narcissa ran a hand over her eyes. "Draco, once you give up a child for adoption, the records are sealed and you aren't allowed to contact the child without the adoptive parents' expressed permission. You sign over your rights."
"Oh," Draco said, a bit disappointed. "Can you tell me what she looks like, her name, anything?"
"The only stipulation I had for the adoptive parents was that they keep her first name–Arachne. As far as what she looks like? I have no idea other than she was born with black hair. I haven't seen her since she was three days old. But now...I'd like for you to find her, as quickly as possible."
"Just answer me one more question. Who is the father?"
Up until now, Narcissa had been nothing short of open, if not blunt, about Draco's sister. But now she looked away and could not meet Draco's eyes.
"I can't tell you."
His jaw hardening, Draco said, "You can't, or you won't?"
Narcissa met her son's eyes again and said, "They are the same. But please find her so I can say goodbye...before it's too late."
Harry Potter sat in a chair and sifted though what was left of Severus Snape's life. Snape's flat in Spinner's End had been condemned, and nobody had bothered to touch anything the man had left behind after he had died in the war with Voldemort several years earlier.
The entire building had sat empty, no one quite getting around to remodeling or razing the thing. Hermione Granger overheard some officials speaking about having passed an ordinance that the building should be demolished as soon as possible. She had thereby let Harry know that was about to happen. And Harry, knowing that Snape had no living relatives, had decided to take it upon himself to go through what possessions had belonged to the man. At the time, Harry figured he owed it to Snape to do that much. However, after spending several days at the task, he was almost beginning to wish that he hadn't volunteered.
Snape's hovel was in such a state of disarray that Harry couldn't understand how anybody could have lived there. Beneath years of dust and cobwebs lay piles and piles of old potion manuals, books about everything from the magical properties of parsnips to Dark Arts, parchment notes, broken quills, broken furniture, empty ink bottles, cauldrons, phials of ingredients, and who knew what else.
As Harry sorted through stuff on top of an old desk in a corner, he came to learn that Snape didn't typically have things so untidy. Hermione was gracious enough to join Harry in his clean-up, and it was because of her powers of observation that he now knew that somebody had ransacked the place. Whether it was by someone looking for something specific, or by vandals, Hermione couldn't tell. It was also possible that somebody had gone through the stuff more than once.
Harry picked up an old yellowed parchment envelope, dusted it off, and saw Snape's name written across the back in bold frilly script. He turned it over and saw a symbol etched in the wax seal. He wasn't entirely certain, but it looked like the Black family crest. Instantly, Harry's curiosity got the better of him. Who in the Black family would have sent a letter to Snape? He caught himself wondering just how old the letter was. Upon closer examination, the wax seal on the envelope didn't even look disturbed. Why would Snape keep an unopened letter? More to the point, why would he have left it unopened?
The more Harry thought about it, the more he yearned to know what was inside of the envelope. But he felt like it was breaking into Snape's privacy by reading such a missive. If it was still sealed shut, there was probably a very good reason.
"Hermione," said Harry, "I found this envelope over here." He walked over to his bushy-haired best friend and handed her the letter.
"The Black family crest," she mused, as she examined it. "I wonder why they would've sent Snape a letter?" She looked at it closer. "It doesn't even look like it's been opened."
Hermione went to tear open the wax seal and Harry stopped her, saying, "Do you really think that's a good idea? I mean, it could be private."
Hermione rolled her eyes and replied, "Harry, we've been tearing through Snape's things for the past week and a half. Surely he won't mind now–he's dead."
Still feeling as if they were disturbing something which shouldn't be disturbed, Harry gave Hermione the okay to open the letter.
Inside was a very cryptic message in the same bold script which adored the back of the envelope:
It is done. She is safe.
In actuality, Harry and Hermione could not tell if the first letter was an P, H, R, or B because the ink had smeared across the parchment.
"Oh great," lamented Harry, "not again."
"What do you mean?" asked Hermione.
"What is it with the Black family and signing their initials? First, it's 'R.A.B', now it's 'H.A.B.' or whatever. Not only that, but what the heck is 'She is safe' supposed to mean?"
"It obviously means that someone Snape cares or cared about was brought to safety."
"Obviously," Harry answered sarcastically, as if the writer of the letter had intentionally been cryptic simply to spite him. If there was one thing Harry couldn't stand, it was an unsolved mystery.
"Clearly, some research needs to be done," Hermione mused, getting a certain glint in her eye.
"Oh no, I know that look. To the library?" he asked.
"In this case, no. We need to check out the Black family tapestry on the wall of 12 Grimmauld Place."
Draco hadn't the first clue about where to go about investigating the whereabouts of his sister. One couldn't very well go off gallivanting around the English countryside without any idea of where to start.
He had decided to head to the Ministry building in London. Certainly, the people at the Ministry of Adoption could see his reason for needing the information he required. Using the techniques that Lucius had always showed him had proven dismally ineffective, however.
After trying for several minutes to bully the officials into giving him the information he wanted, he turned to bribery. When that failed to work, he had even tried flirting with the ugly woman in front of him. She should feel grateful that someone as good-looking as me would do this, Draco thought to himself. But she didn't even blink when he sent her his most affective smoldering smile. Instead, she glared at him and told him to go away or she would call a guard to have him escorted off the premises. The nerve of that woman! Draco was incensed. How dare she treat a man of his position that way!
"I'm just trying to find my sister!" Draco shouted in desperation.
Relenting somewhat, the adoption official said, "Look, even if we did have the information you want, we couldn't give it to you. The birth mother takes an Unbreakable Vow together never to reveal the existence of her child to anyone else ever again. This is believed to have saved many people a lot of heartache in trying to trace their roots. The Ministry is of the mind that the records should only be disturbed in case of a broken law or an emergency."
Suddenly, a sickening realisation hit Draco in the stomach. His mother's sudden and inexplicable illness...was it because she had broken the Vow by telling Draco about Arachne?
No, that didn't make sense, she had been ill for weeks...the answer came to him. Lucius. Narcissa had told her husband on his deathbed about her illegitimate daughter. A noble confession, if a bit misplaced. Now she was dying as a result.
"But this is an emergency! My mother–she broke her Vow by telling my father and I about the existence of my sister. Now she's dying! Is there anything you can do?"
Wide-eyed, the woman looked at him and said, "The only thing that can save her is if the adoptee chooses to release her from the Vow. In that sense, it's not a true Unbreakable Vow...but it's close enough."
His mind whirling, Draco ran a hand over his forehead. "If I can prove to you that my mother is dying, will you give me the information I need?"
"Yes, but we need documented proof."
"You'll have it within the hour."
Draco went directly to St. Mungo's, asking for papers which documented his mother's illness.
As promised, he had returned to the Ministry of Adoption in a record forty-seven minutes.
The female official perused the documentation, and handed Draco a precious copy of the adoption documents.
It turns out that not only had his mother taken the Vow never to reveal her daughter's name, but the Vow included a stipulation that she would never reveal the name of Arachne's father as well. Harsh, Draco thought, but extremely effective. It had kept Narcissa silent for years. Apparently, motherhood or conscience had got the best of her and she could no longer keep her secret.
Arachne had been adopted by a German couple whose names were Annika and Rolfort Schwartz twenty-five years ago. According to sealed record, her last official residence had been in Munich as of the time she was eleven years old. It wasn't much to go on, but it was a start.
Draco was impatient to get back to Malfoy Manor and grill his mother about her illness. Surely she had known why her health was in such decline. Why had she never told him? Why the endless parade of healers?
The young man didn't even wait for the house-elf to answer the door before he barged into his mother's room because he was so furious.
"Wake her," Draco demanded of the house-elf once he stood by his mother's bedside.
The little elf looked up at him with huge tear-filled eyes. "Mistress has not awoken today. This elf cannot wake her."
At that, Draco hovered over his mother, trying and trying to get her to awaken, but it was no use. Yet another healer had arrived only to tell him, "She's in a coma."
Draco had no doubt his mother was in such a state because she had chosen to speak with him about Arachne the night before. It also explained why she had not revealed the name of Arachne's father. If she had, it surely would have finished her off.
The clock was ticking and Draco knew it. Narcissa had days, if not hours left. While Draco was no idiot, he still came to the realisation that he needed help and he needed it as soon as possible. And he knew just where to get it. That bleeding heart Gryffindor would be certain to help me, Draco thought with satisfaction. And she knows how to keep her mouth shut. Yes, it's time to contact that mudblood, Hermione Granger.
It had been a long time since Harry had seen Rubeus Hagrid. He still lived on the Hogwarts grounds in his hut. And the man had aged quite a bit in the past four years. As with many people, the war had taken its toll on the half-giant and it manifested itself in the silver streaks in his hair. It was only then that Harry realised Hagrid's true age.
If Hagrid had been twelve at the time Tom Riddle had framed him for releasing the monster from the Chamber of Secrets, that had to mean the half-giant was now pushing seventy years of age. Hagrid didn't really show any signs of aging except in his hair, however. He was still just as cheerful and pleasant as he usually was.
"I've healed 'er up, good as new, Harry," Hagrid said. "Think she just got 'er a bad batch of mice."
Not long after Harry defeated Voldemort, Hagrid had gifted him with another owl. "A victory gift", Hagrid had said. At first, Harry had felt betrayed instead of grateful, as if he were replacing Hedwig instead of just getting another courier. Harry hadn't even given her a name at first. But the little female owl had grown on him until he at last felt like accepting her as a friend. Nike was tiny and better-suited to carrying letters instead of anything else, but Harry loved her. She was a little spitfire of a bird and loved to be right about everything. It was that reason along with the fact she was a victory gift that Harry had given her a name like "Nike". Nike was the Greek goddess of victory.
Nike had taken ill for some mysterious reason and Harry knew that if anybody could help his little northern saw-whet owl, it would be Hagrid. So Harry contacted his old friend and the half-giant had boarded and made certain Nike was again the very picture of health. Harry stroked Nike's head as she blinked and hooted contently. She had missed him as much as he'd missed her. Harry went to pay Hagrid for his services, but the half-giant would hear none of it.
"Tell yeh what, Harry. If yeh stay wi' me an' talk 'bout old times over a pint, that'll be payment enough for me. I've missed yeh, kid." And Hagrid went to ruffle Harry's hair affectionately, but nearly wound up giving the young man a neck ache instead.
Hagrid poured Harry a generous mug of mead, which Harry sipped at. In contrast, Hagrid poured himself flagon after flagon as he and Harry sat and talked.
"So, I hear yeh've been ou' at Snape's ol' place," said Hagrid a bit too loudly.
"Yes, Hermione and I have been cleaning out the old flat at Spinner's End," Harry confirmed. "Let me tell you, it has been a nightmare. Hermione says the place had been ransacked, and probably more than once in the years it sat empty."
"Looters. They're a slimy lot, aye," Hagrid said.
"We found a very cryptic letter. It didn't even look like it had been opened by Snape." And Harry told Hagrid about the Black family crest in the wax seal and about the note inside. "That's all it said," lamented Harry. "We don't know anything else."
"Well, it could be from anyone, yeh know," said Hagrid, taking another drink of mead.
"So you see my problem then," Harry replied. "I have no idea who H.A.B is. But at least Hermione's doing some research for me about it. Right as we speak, as a matter of fact."
"Jus' because the letter had the Black family crest doesn't mean it has ter be from somebody in the Black family."
Harry looked at Hagrid oddly. "How do you mean?"
"Could ha' been someone borrowing the stamp," said Hagrid reasonably.
Just perfect, thought Harry. Right when Hermione and I thought we had this narrowed down...
"You're right," Harry said in concern.
"Lessee," Hagrid continued on, "who in the Black family? Regulus, Sirius–can't see him writing ter Snape, can yeh, Harry? Andromeda, Bellatrix, and Narcissa, their folks, an' a few more."
None of those fit the "H.A.B." initials for which Harry and Hermione had been looking. Perhaps Hagrid was right and somebody else had signed the letter and 'borrowed' the wax stamp. Perhaps it was a clever nickname they had shortened into three letters.
"Yeh know that yer father an' Sirius were quite terrible to Snape during their Hogwarts years."
Harry smiled wanly and said, "Yes, I'm quite well aware of that."
"I wonder what James'd say if he knew you were cleaning ou' Snape's ol' flat."
"He'd probably turn in his grave," Harry said, smirking.
"Yeh," Hagrid sloshed down another flagon of mead, "those Marauders had quite the reputation. James an' Sirius developed a taste for older women who were 'dangerous'. I know fer a fact Sirius had several partners. James, too."
Harry's eyebrows shot straight up. His first inclination was to demand why Hagrid was speaking so ill of the dead, but it was simply the truth that Hagrid was saying. It was no secret that James and Sirius were cads in their youth. It was also no secret that Hagrid had a rather loose tongue which only became more loose the more alcohol he drank, and right now, he was on his sixth flagon of mead.
By then, Harry had heard all he'd wished to hear and suddenly had felt a very strong urge to leave.
He made up some lame excuse to leave Hagrid, same as always, but Hagrid never seemed to mind.
"Don' be a stranger! Visit more often."
It was the same thing he always said. But this time, Harry had an intuitive feeling he might be seeing more of Hogwarts or his old friends in the coming days.
Draco impatiently tapped his foot whilst waiting for Granger. It had been over three hours and she had yet to come back to her office in the Ministry building. He had asked the wizard officious assistants outside of Granger's door at least a half a dozen times when she was coming back, but all they would tell Draco was that "Miss Granger is on personal business and will return when she is finished."
Ever since the fall of Lord Voldemort, the Ministry folk had not even considered accepting a single bribe from Draco or his mother. It was maddening. Things were certainly much easier when a Malfoy could sell a little heirloom here and do a little blackmail there and accomplish what needed to be done.
Draco had all but given up and walked away in disgust. He was marching down the stairs when he noticed his quarry on the flight below him. She wears glasses now, he noticed. They suited her quite well.
It would have been perfectly sensible to wait for Hermione to reach him, but he called out, "Granger!" before he could stop himself.
Instead of looking up, the girl froze as if she could not believe her ears. A few seconds ticked by and then she raised her head, saying, "Draco Malfoy, is that really you?"
Trust the mudblood to remember what I sound like, Draco smirked inwardly.
Having Lord Voldemort use their manor as a safe house had changed the Malfoy family drastically, but none more than Lucius himself. He had gone from intimidating and overbearing to old and frail in a matter of months following the fall of the Dark Lord. Almost losing his family had shattered him and the man had wasted away to nothing in the four years after the war. As such, Narcissa had been attempting to educate Draco on other ways of getting what one wants, such as clever lies, subtlety, and tact. Most of the lessons still had yet to sink in, however.
"None other," he replied, folding his arms. He had to bite back a "mudblood" as he spoke. He highly doubted such a term would gain him favour with Granger. Old habits die hard. "You're just the person I wish to see."
The girl walked up the stairs, joining him on the landing. She eyed him warily, and said, "I am? To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Well, I'm definitely not going to let you punch me in the face again, so don't get your hopes up," he quipped.
Granger was caught so off-guard by his reply that she laughed, and she laughed hard. Draco smiled with her. Mother was right, Draco realised, a little self-deprecation goes a long way. It had completely disarmed the girl.
"Don't worry," she told him, smiling, "I won't. Unless you give me a good reason." She gave him a mockingly hard look.
Draco held up his hands, "I will endeavour to do all I can not to provoke your ire," he promised. A tall order, but Draco really didn't have any time to waste considering his mother's current condition.
"So why are you here, Draco?" Granger sounded completely mystified, as if she couldn't think of a single reason why Draco would be there. He really couldn't blame her for thinking that way–he'd never given her a reason to believe that contacting her was ever an agreeable event. And while Draco was grateful Hermione was being civil to him, he was still a bit angry with her for making him wait more than four hours. Not that she knew he was there, of course.
"Well," Draco began in a hushed tone, "do you have a place that's more private?"
"Of course!" exclaimed Granger, "we'll go to my office at once."
The girl walked back up the stairs, Draco in tow, and greeted her head assistant, "Hello, Vespa. I apologise for being late today. Please see to it that Mr. Malfoy and I are not disturbed."
She walked passed Vespa's desk and unlocked the door to her office. It was small but well-furnished. Granger had a mahogany desk with a matching chair with two guests seats in front of it. She gestured Draco to one of these. He couldn't stop himself from looking around; Granger had obviously done quite well for herself in the years after the war. In all honestly, she probably deserved every bit of what she had earned. After all, Draco mused, she did help win the war and defeat the Dark Lord. It was also a little-known fact the girl had gone back to Hogwarts after the war and graduated with fourteen "Exceeds Expectations" grades on her N.E.W.T.s. Quite impressive for a–mud– no. Draco told himself firmly, you need to stop thinking of her that way for now.
Granger, having sensed the gravity of Draco's current situation, cut to the chase. "Draco, what is wrong? I know that something serious has to be up for you to come to me, of all people. So I highly doubt this is a social call."
Draco pursed his lips, considering the girl in front of him, "Right you are, Granger."
"I have a name, you know," she said softly, removing her glasses and looking him straight in the eye. "It's Hermione."
Draco did not know why, but he could not hold her gaze. He looked down and replied, "All right...Hermione." And with that, words began tumbling out of his mouth. Although he couldn't help to explain it, for some reason Draco felt like he could trust her. He told her about
everything from his mother dying to the reason why, how he felt odd about suddenly having an elder sister, and how he worried over whether or not Arachne would even feel inclined to release Narcissa from her Vow, especially considering her own mother had given her up, and why would Arachne listen to Draco of all people, when he lived the life that she was meant to, and on and on...
Through it all, Hermione just sat there, listening, adding minimal contributions to the conversation. She even gasped and grabbed his hand as he spoke about Narcissa being in a coma.
"I realise it might be asking the impossible, but could you help me find this Arachne? I don't know who else to ask. And you are the cleverest witch of our age..."
Hermione rolled her eyes at the compliment but smiled all the same. "Draco, if your mother is dying, then we must go find Arachne as soon as possible. I would be happy to help you."
In spite of Draco's pureblood Slytherin heart, he breathed a genuine sigh of relief. He had guessed all along that Hermione would help him, but it was another thing entirely to hear her say that she would.
"And I know that I'm asking you a lot, but I was wondering if you could also...erm..."
"Fine out who Arachne's father is?"
"Yes. How did you know?" Draco asked, astonished.
Hermione smiled again and said, "Simple. It's because it's what I'd want to know too." Then Hermione considered Draco for a moment. "Would you answer me a question now?"
"Does your mother have a middle name?"
"Yes. It's Alethia."
A/N: To those who are reading: I won't tell you whether or not Draco and Hermione end up together, but I will tell you that I don't write 'ship-central works, unless it's for a specific challenge. Sorry to disappoint you if you are looking for a good Dramione fic. Any relationships in this work will be incidental only. =]
PS: Thank you to my lovely, lovely reviewers! I love writing this story just as much as you love reading it! That's why I've been writing and posting a chapter a day, despite working a full time job! =] Hope you enjoyed this chapter as well!
Andromeda Tonks's home was beautiful, friendly, and cozy. It was so unlike anything of her sisters that Harry couldn't hardly believe she was related to either Bellatrix or Narcissa. Teddy Lupin, Harry's godson, was busy laughing like a little elf , flying around on a toy broomstick, and making a general nuisance of himself. And Harry was loving every minute of it.
Although Harry supposed he should stop Teddy and tell him to fly elsewhere, the Tonks's lounge was where the little boy was currently content to play. Teddy Lupin essentially had two grandmothers; Molly Weasley and Andromeda Tonks positively doted on him. Harry also spoiled him rotten. It was impossible not to–Remus and Nymphadora's son was so wonderful with his cherub cheeks, infectious laughter, large eyes, and kaleidoscope hair that nearly everybody who came in contact with Teddy adored him. Everybody except Draco Malfoy.
Upon hearing about Narcissa's daughter, Hermione had practically insisted that she and Draco go over to his aunt's house to ask if Andromeda knew anything about Arachne or her where she was. "It is a good place to start," she had said.
Draco had not been too keen on visiting his estranged aunt. However, desperate times called for desperate measures, so he swallowed some more of his pride once Hermione agreed to do most of the talking, especially if Andromeda threatened to throw Draco out of her house.
Little did Draco know, Harry Potter just happened to be at the house with Teddy Lupin when Hermione and Draco showed up. The awkward pause which happened when Harry answered the door with Teddy in tow stretched on into interminable silence. Not even Hermione could think of a way to rescue the situation. Everybody was simply speechless. Everybody except Teddy Lupin.
"Nana! There's a strange man at the door!" Teddy called out to Andromeda.
The little boy's grandmother came running and said, "What's the ma–Draco!" when she saw her nephew from halfway across the room. Although Andromeda was no Molly Weasley, she ran to Draco and tentatively embraced him. The blonde young man was shocked beyond belief–even more shocked than he was to see Harry–but he returned the embrace in spite of himself.
Andromeda spoke, "I'm so sorry about your father." Draco winced as if she had just slapped him. "I hear your mother's taken a turn for the worse, too." His aunt embraced him again.
Draco swallowed several times passed the lump in his throat and thanked his aunt, despite all the people looking on. Then he said, "You have no reason to be kind to me. Why are you doing this?"
"Nonsense!" clipped Andromeda, all at once reminding Draco of his mother. "You are family, and I can be nice to you if I wish, regardless of anything that has happened in the past. Now stop standing in the doorway and come sit down." She gestured him over the threshold and he followed her into the house to the lounge.
Teddy kept staring at him. "He's tall, Nana."
"Yes he is, Teddy."
"His hair is almost white."
"Yes it is, Teddy.
"And he doesn't smile much." Draco stared back at the little boy with blue hair.
"He has a lot to think about, Teddy."
"Are you a Meh-la-may-gus, like me?"
"No, Teddy. I don't think he is." Andromeda answered for her nephew.
"Why is he talking to me?" asked Draco, half in panic.
Andromeda looked at Draco kindly, "Because he is a very curious little boy who is very curious about meeting new people. And while it might be odd for you to consider, you are his cousin."
"Lookit what I can do!" Teddy exclaimed, as he turned his bright blue hair into a shade which perfectly matched Draco's hair. Rather than impressing Draco, he stared at the little boy even more. The young man just did not know what to make of his little cousin.
At last, Harry seemed to have found his manners and offered to take little Teddy out of the room and to entertain him outside. The little boy dodged Harry and persisted in talking to Draco.
"I'm this many," Teddy said, holding up four fingers, "but soon, I'll be this many!" Then he held up all five fingers of his little hand. "And you can even come to my birthday party!"
"C'mere, little guy!" Harry said.
Harry finally caught up to Teddy and hauled him away, Teddy squealing and protesting all the while. Hermione shot Harry a grateful look as he exited the room. It was not lost on Draco that Hermione and Harry would doubtless talk later about Draco's ensuing conversation.
Andromeda graciously invited Hermione and Draco to sit in her lounge. "What brings you here, Draco?"
Draco looked helplessly at Hermione. She took his cue, smiling a little awkwardly, "Well, where do we start?" Then she looked back at Draco and encouraged him, "You can do it, just tell her what you told me."
The young man thought it would be nearly impossible to talk to his aunt, but as he'd already explained everything to Hermione a few hours previously, it came far easier the second time.
Draco's aunt sat there, shaking her head in disbelief. "I always suspected something was up when Narcissa went away that time before she married Lucius. She was gone for nearly a year. Now I know why."
His heart sinking, Draco said, "So you've no idea who Arachne's father could be?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Andromeda said mysteriously.
"Then who might it be?" Hermione asked.
Andromeda looked to the side, as if slightly embarrassed to reveal what she suspected. "Well, you mentioned Arachne was born with black hair. The only man I know of that Narcissa was interested in approximately twenty-five years ago was Igor Karkaroff."
Draco's jaw hit the floor. He turned to Hermione who was mirroring his look. Igor Karkaroff, former headmaster of Durmstrang, Death Eater, who also happened to have black hair. It all fit. He'd always assumed his mother had far more impeccable taste in men, but that was before he found out he had a sister. By now, Draco wouldn't be surprised if Narcissa had a lovechild with James Potter.
"Well, at least we don't have to inform the father," Hermione said weakly, obviously trying to find a bright side to the situation. Draco rolled his eyes. Sometimes Hermione was so tragically Gryffindor.
"Where are you going from here?" Andromeda asked her nephew.
"The only place we can go. We're headed to Munich."
A/N: Yay, thank you for your reviews! It's lovely getting feedback for my story. And I wish you luck in your grad school endeavours! ;)
Hermione, Harry, and Ron Weasley lived at the same collection of flats in a section of wizarding London. Hermione stopped in to pack her belongings on the way to Malfoy Manor. Before she left, she stopped in at Ron's flat to tell him where she would be headed during the next few days.
Ron was absolutely beside himself when he discovered Hermione was about to go on a trip to Germany with Draco Malfoy. He had insisted on travelling with them. However, Ron's behaviour was so abominable during the first few minutes of contact with Draco that Hermione would hear none of it.
"You're going to let that pureblood ass take you to Munich and have his way with you?"
If looks could kill, Ron would have been mortally wounded, and it was because of the look Hermione gave him following that comment.
Hermione quickly reached Harry via fireplace message back at Andromeda's place and Harry found out he too would be travelling to Germany with Draco and Hermione. It was only then that Ron finally calmed down enough to let Hermione and Draco leave.
"I swear, sometimes that man will cause me to go prematurely grey," mumbled Hermione.
"Ever consider telling him to take a long flight off a short broom?" Draco asked.
Hermione burst out with a snigger and replied, "Only everyday."
"What do you see in him, Grang...uh...Hermione?" It was still quite difficult to call the girl by her first name.
Hermione went to answer, but nothing came out of her mouth until she said, "Well, it's complicated, you see."
"Ah. And this entire time, I thought he was quite simple."
Again, Hermione laughed in spite of herself.
"He is that, yes. It's probably the reason why he thinks it's a better idea for me to travel with two men instead of one. Figure that one out." Draco and Hermione shared a smirk at Ron's expense.
The pair of them Apparated to Malfoy Manor together. The austere living quarters were more sparse than ever, given that Draco and his mother had to sell quite a few heirlooms and tapestries to keep up their living standard.
Hermione stood in the foyer, gawking around at everything, evidently recalling the last time she had been there. It had been a long time, but apparently the girl's memory of the place and events that had happened there had yet to fade. She was trying desperately to hide it, but it was obvious that Hermione was having a flashback about what Bellatrix Lestrange had done to her all those years ago.
This was not lost on Draco; he took her hand and quickly marched her through the foyer and into his parents' wing of the manor. They stopped in the corridor. Draco saw that she still had the "mudblood" scar on her arm that Bellatrix had given her.
Once Hermione was out of the foyer, she started breathing normally again. "Thank you," she said, "and I'm sorry."
"No need to apologise, Hermione. Believe me, there are things that I saw done in this house that I'd just as soon forget, too."
In spite of everything, Hermione gave him a small smile. "I will never forget that you saved Harry, though. It would have been so easy for you to just tell Bellatrix that you knew it was him..."
"Rubbish!" Draco protested. "Me? Save a Gryffindor? I simply couldn't recognise Potter without his glasses is all." He shuffled his feet and briefly looked away.
"All the same," Hermione said, "thank you for letting Harry come along."
Draco threw his hands up in the air, and replied in frustration, "It's not like I have much of a choice, is it?" Then he swallowed hard. "Besides, I want to save my mother."
Hermione closed the distance between the two of them and said softly, "Is it okay if I go and see her? Or would that make you too uncomfortable?"
Draco considered a moment and replied, "No, it wouldn't make me uncomfortable. In fact, it would be nice to have her seen by...a friend. I don't have too many of those." He turned and walked down the corridor. Hermione followed quite discreetly, casting glances about the place.
Narcissa's little elf was outside the door, and spoke wide-eyed to Draco, "Mistress is still asleep. She would not like it if she saw this one in the house," the little female elf pointed to Hermione.
Draco found himself wondering how all house elves seemed to know the origins of every wizard and witch in existence. Then he said, "Breezy, my mother might not have liked it in the past, but that was before. Besides, you are to do as I tell you. Open the door."
Hermione clucked her tongue disapprovingly, saying, "You still have house elves working for you?"
It was well known that Hermione Granger was a proprietor of house elf rights. She also didn't seem to recognise that not all house elves were as disobedient as Dobby had been. Draco harumphed and said, "Yes, we have house elves working for us. Shortly after the war ended, we were ordered to set them free, but they all whined and wailed and were so aggrieved that the Ministry agreed to let us keep them, as long as we paid them wages and gave them a decent place to sleep. We were also ordered to give them clothes, but they refused to take them." Draco shrugged.
"Well, as long as you're being fair..." Hermione considered.
Trust Granger to always be on the lookout for the lessers, Draco thought with annoyance. Here he was, inviting her into his home to see his mother, and she was worried about their house elves. How very aggravating.
Breezy opened the ebony double-doors and Hermione followed Draco inside. The girl tiptoed ever so quietly behind him. Draco smiled to himself. Only someone like Hermione would worry about being loud enough to wake a woman in a coma.
"Well," said Draco, "here she is."
Narcissa was as white as bedsheets. Her severe beauty was muted, considered her current health. She looked drawn and still had a very pinched look to her face.
Hermione walked up the opposite side of the bed which Draco was on and took Narcissa's hand. Draco looked at the girl oddly. Was she going to talk to his mother?
"Help is on the way, Mrs. Malfoy," she said. "Draco is here, too. He wishes that you could have told him about who Arachne's father was, but he understands why you couldn't. Hopefully, your daughter can release you from your Vow and you can heal enough to meet her again."
Draco watched, incredulous, as Hermione spoke to his comatose mother. Although he'd probably just imagined it, he would swear the look on Narcissa's face relaxed just a little bit.
As Hermione continued to talk to his mother, Draco walked over to Narcissa's nightstand. He'd never noticed it before, but there was a little black book sitting there. It had initials stamped in gold on the front and looked quite old. The gilding on the pages had faded and the parchment had yellowed. Judging by the dates inside the book, it was a journal from before the time Narcissa had married Lucius.
Draco heard a sharp gasp and looked toward Hermione and Narcissa. His mother's condition still hadn't changed, so he looked to Hermione.
"What is wrong?" he demanded.
"Nothing is wrong! In fact, something might be going right!" Hermione exclaimed. She walked over to him excitedly and asked to look at the journal.
"What sort of interest would you have in my mother's journal?"
"This!" Hermione said, "this is why!" She pointed to the front of the little black book to the initials "N. A. B." stamped in gold filigree across the front.
"So you see," Hermione explained to Harry and Draco, "it wasn't H.A.B on that note we found at Snape's place. It was N.A.B. I'm sure of it. The little swirl on the ends of the "s" are the same in the note and in the journal. Severus Snape is Arachne's father. It all makes perfect sense."
Draco knew much more about Snape's affinity for his mother than either Harry or Hermione. All of the stolen glances Snape had given Narcissa over the years, all of the nods of his head, all of the extra favours nobody thought anything about, all of the respect he paid to no one else except to Draco and his mother. And to think it was all due something that happened in the past. One very big something.
Suddenly, Snape's past paternal attitudes toward Draco made perfect sense as well. At the time, Draco had assumed Snape was trying to steal his glory from the damnable task the Dark Lord had given him of trying to kill Albus Dumbledore. What a prat I was, Draco thought, and Snape was just trying to be a surrogate father.
It definitely rang far more true than his mother being with Igor Karkaroff. Draco just had not quite been able to wrap his head around Narcissa Black being attracted to Karkaroff enough to have an affair with him.
Draco, Hermione, and Harry all Apparated to a certain wizard hub in Paris, and from there Apparated to a borough of Munich called "Schwabing".
Though Draco stood out a bit in his all-black suit, nobody took a second glance at him. Hermione explained this was an area where a lot of university students lived. Both Muggle and magic pupils loved the area, mostly because there were many places to hang out. There were also many schools in nearby Maxvorstadt, including Universität der Magie, the premiere German wizarding college.
Their surroundings were absolutely beautiful, and it was obvious the German citizens took great pride in their city. All the streets were clean and all of the lawns, flowers, and shrubs were perfectly immaculate. Everybody was polite, yet aloof, and a fair amount of the citizenry also spoke English. Draco, who had always been on the lookout for a place to move to get out from under his mother's thumb, found himself thinking, I could really get used to this.
After walking around for a bit in Schwabing, Draco, Hermione, and Harry had finally located the library which the official at the Ministry of Adoption had told them about. It too was perfectly well-kept and perfectly silent. The trio walked inside and all the way to the back of the library in a section marked, "alte Geschichte", or ancient history, and located a book on the shelves, which was entitled, "magischer Ort", or magic place. Draco tapped the book with his wand twice, and the three of them found themselves magically whisked away to the local "Jugendhaus", or youth home, from where Arachne had been transferred once she was adopted.
A woman who introduced herself as "Bianca" walked up to Draco, and said, "I was told to expect you." She was quite unlike the other Germans Draco had yet spoken with; she was warm, smiling, but instead of making him feel comfortable, Draco felt very out of place and again looked to Hermione for help. Why does everybody always have to smile at me? Draco thought. It's so odd.
Hermione stepped in smoothly to ask Bianca, "I assume they've brief you on everything?"
"Yes," the woman answered, "and I have a copy of Arachne Schwartz's file ready. I just need to see the documented proof of Narcissa's illness, please."
Draco reached into his suit coat and present Bianca with the requisite documentation.
Harry stood there awkwardly, not quite knowing what to do, and obviously feeling like a tagalong.
Now you know what it's like, Potter, Draco thought vindictively. Then Draco shook his head at himself. It was amazing how easy it was to revert back to his old ways of thinking. Although he and Potter would never be best friends, it was true that The-Boy-Who-Lived had prevented the entire Malfoy family from being hauled off to Azkaban after the war. Draco owed him that much.
Hermione, Draco, and Harry all sat down at a Muggle pub and sat down for a drink, and to discuss their findings. The barmaid had recommended kristallweizen, and they sat and sipped their beer together. Draco felt out of place, but Harry and Hermione discussed things as if it were second nature to them. Which it probably is, Draco thought with annoyance...and a little envy.
Harry looked over Hermione's shoulder as she studied the documents. "It says here that both of Arachne's adoptive parents were professors at Universität der Magie. They were both around forty years of age when they finally got Arachne. Wow. That's a long time to wait for a child."
"Yes, it is," agreed Harry. He paused for a bit before continuing, "And it says here Arachne's residence changed...because she went to Durmstrang."
The three of them shared a look together. Draco had assumed that Arachne couldn't possibly have lived a life as luxurious as he, but apparently luxury wasn't everything. For the second time in five minutes, Draco found himself feeling envious, but this time it was of his elder sister.
"Too bad her current whereabouts are unknown," Draco lamented.
"That might not be the case," Harry replied.
"Oh? And why not?"
"Because," interjected Hermione, "Bianca did us a favour in looking up all the known wizarding citizens by the name of Arachne who have lived in the area in the past twenty-five years. There are three: Arachne Beaumond, Arachne Fritz, and Arachne Schwartz. Furthermore, Arachne Schwartz's name changed to Arachne Krum approximately three years ago."
"What you wager that it's our old pal Viktor is the one who married her?" asked Harry with satisfaction.
"Viktor Krum is not my pal," Draco answered, frowning.
"He'd better become your best pal in the next while, if you know what's good for your mother," Hermione reminded. "Otherwise, something tells me Viktor won't let us come within ten feet of his wife."
Hermione did some quick sleuthing via the Ministry of Magic in London. After she discovered Viktor Krum's address, she, Harry, and Draco were off again. This time, it was to Romania.
Harry found his mind wandering yet again. Apparently, at one point in his life, Severus Snape had loved more than one woman. It was obvious which one he'd chosen; Lily was his devotion, yet the potions professor had to have attempted to mend his ways at some point. Otherwise, he never would have given Narcissa the time of day. Nor would Severus have cared so much about Draco.
The three of them had their own speculations, but Harry and Hermione mostly kept silent for Draco's sake. It was in poor taste to speak ill of a woman who lay in a coma, and in front of her son to boot.
Harry was still an avid Quidditch fan. Though little was said about Viktor Krum's wife in the media, if anything at all, one thing that Krum's fans knew was that he had purchased a small castle with his millions. Harry knew that with all of Viktor's hangers-on at Hogwarts all those years ago, that Viktor had never liked people, so he was now showing the world precisely what he thought of them by living in a fortified manor. Hermione and Harry simply gawked at the size of Krum Fortress; Draco snorted at them.
"The boy who defeated the Dark Lord, afraid of a castle?" he mocked.
Malfoy had kept his snarky comments to a minimum, mostly due the gravity of the situation his mother was in instead of any newfound sense of politeness. However, Harry and Hermione still saw glimpses of the old Draco. Never before had Harry been grateful to be insulted by a Malfoy, but in this case, it was a good thing–because it showed Draco was still fighting and had not given up.
Viktor Krum had sentinels pacing the dark walls of his castle. There was even a moat.
"I'm surprised he doesn't have a fire-breathing dragon," said Draco.
Suddenly, four sentinels pointed their wands at them and one of the sentinels yelled out something in a language Harry didn't understand.
"We don't know what you said!" Hermione yelled back..
"HALT, WHO GOES THERE?" the sentinel called out, this time in thickly accented English.
Harry looked at Hermione in exasperation.
"You didn't tell them we were coming?"
"Well, no, I didn't think of that..."
"Hermione, nobody just shows up at Viktor Krum's fortress unannounced and expects to simply waltz inside!"
"Honestly, don't any of you two think?" Draco asked in annoyance. "Surely they'd know who you are, Potter. You are a celebrity yourself." Then Draco shoved him forward just a bit.
Harry went to protest, but it looked like the sentinels were about to open fire until Harry called out, "I'm Harry Potter, and I have with me Hermione Granger...and Draco Malfoy!"
"Harry Potter?" the sentinel said. The man came down from his perch and took a good, long look at Harry. Harry almost sighed. If he had a Galleon for each time he'd been gawked at...
"It really is a pleasure to meet you, sir!" the sentinel said, quite obviously beside himself to be standing by Harry. Then he asked Harry for an autograph upon producing a worn out piece of paper. Harry decided to play his celebrity status to the hilt.
"Why, thank you, my good man," he said, shaking the sentinel's hand. Hermione, taking her cue, pulled a quill out of her small little bag and handed it to Harry. "To whom should I make this out?"
"To Skender Vasile," answered the sentinel.
"And how do you spell that?"
Hermione and Draco stood there impatiently, waiting while Harry got matey with the sentinel, Skender Vasile.
By the time all of the sentinels had gotten autographs from Harry, Draco was about to march away and find another way inside but decided against it when wands were again drawn by the sentinels.
"No sudden moves," they said.
"Fine, but can we go in now?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy, and I are here to discuss some urgent business with Mr. Krum and his wife."
After waiting another ten minutes, upon one of the sentinels presumably running to inform Viktor of his house guests, Harry, Hermione, and Draco were all allowed inside.
While the outside of Krum Fortess was anything but inviting, the interior was far more desirable. Tapestries and drapes and floor coverings of every size, shape, and hue adorned the manor. Little soft features such as flowers, knickknacks, and family pictures adorned the large room in which the three of them were taken to wait.
One of the largest photos on the wall was of a striking dark-haired woman in a white wedding gown; it was Arachne's bridal picture. She wasn't smiling, exactly; rather she had a playful look on her face that was very sly. Her hair was long and straight and flowing and it was so black that it had a blue sheen to it in the sunlight. Then the bride in the photo burst out laughing and said, "Viktor, are you going to come over here?"
"She is lovely, no?" quizzed the real Viktor, upon catching his house guests staring at the picture.
"She looks like my mother," Draco said, mesmerized, "only with black hair."
A woman who looked just like the photo stepped into the room behind Viktor.
"Hello," she greeted, I'm Arachne." Then she turned to her husband. "Aren't you going to introduce me, Viktor?"
"Of course, my dear. This is Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and...I'm sorry, I don't recall your name...?" Viktor was at a loss when it came to the blonde young man in the room.
But Draco stepped forward and introduced himself: "My name is Draco Malfoy, and I'm your half-brother."
A/N: Dear Reviewers, Thank you for your responses! Your encouragement helps me want to keep writing...so far I've written a chapter per night for 9 out of 10 nights! Woohoo! ~Rae Carson =]
Everybody except Hermione stared at Draco as the room filled with silence. Instead, Hermione shook her head in embarrassment at the blonde young man. "No, Draco!" she mouthed to him, as she soundlessly stamped her foot. Viktor and Arachne shared a look and Arachne shook her head in utter confusion. Viktor turned a bit cold.
"Vhat do you mean?" he demanded of Draco, his voice tinged with anger. Viktor stood in front of Arachne; he was obviously quite protective of his wife. But Arachne was no shrinking violet. She touched Viktor's arm and shook her head and he stepped back solemnly.
"Herr Draco Malfoy," Arachne began with respect,"I've always known I was adopted, but I never knew my birth mother," she addressed the blonde in front of her. "I've also led a very privileged life. Both of my parents are kind, intelligent, and magical. I went to Durmstrang and found Viktor, the love of my life. We have a son. I also went to the Universität der Magie. I have no reason to go digging back through my past. And now here you are, claiming to be my half-brother. Allow me to be blunt with you as you are with me,Halbbruder. Why are you here? After all this time, why have you decided to find me?"
Draco swallowed, partly with nervousness, partly with relief. Harry and Hermione stood there and held their breath. Draco was worried this Arachne might hide behind Viktor, but she was already reminding Draco even more of their mother. She was quiet yet strong and eager to get to the point. That last trait reminded Draco of himself.
"It's a long story," Draco replied. Where do I start? he thought, then decided to again stick to the point. "My–that is to say, our–mother revealed your existence to my father some weeks ago, as he was dying, and again to me two days ago. I wasn't aware at the time, but the next day, I came to find out that all birth mothers are required to take an Unbreakable Vow to never reveal the existence of their child once the child is given up for adoption."
Arachne's eyes flew open wide. "Ach, du meine Güte!" she exclaimed, holding a hand to her bosom. Clearly, she realised the implications of Narcissa's action of telling Lucius and Draco about her daughter. "So she broke the Vow..."
"Yes, she broke her Vow and is now in a coma as a result."
Viktor and Arachne again looked at each other, as Viktor said to her in German, "Aber was hat das mit dir zu tun?" To which she answered, "Ja, du hast Recht." She turned again to Draco.
"Why are you telling me this now, though? There is nothing I can do for her, nein?"
"Two reasons exist in my coming to you now: the first is that our mother wished to say goodbye to you one last time, but apparently she overestimated her longevity after breaking the Vow. The second reason would be as a favour to me–the Vow which Mother took can be broken by one person, and one person only. If the adoptee chooses, he or she may break it."
"Jetzt sehe ich," Arachne said in comprehension, "now I see." She covered her mouth with one hand, slowly walked over to one of the couches in the room, and sat down.
Hermione and Harry spoke to Viktor as Draco followed Arachne and sat down next to her.
"Is there any way we can just let them speak alone?" asked Hermione.
"Of course," Viktor said, as he gave them directions out of the manor and onto the grounds out back. Harry and Hermione made a discreet exit.
Viktor hovered in the background whilst Draco and Arachne talked to one another.
"So, tell me, bitte Schön. Does our mama have dark hair, like me?"
Draco shook his head and spoke softly. "You look almost exactly like her, except for your hair. Both of you have very blue eyes. Mother's hair is white-blonde, like mine. Your father's hair was black."
"Was black?" Arachne asked in dismay. "So my birth father no longer lives?"
Again, Draco shook his head. "He died during the war with the Dark Lord nearly five years ago. He helped to save Harry Potter's life many times."
With that, Arachne held her head high and replied, "Then my first papa was a hero?" she asked proudly.
"Yes, very much so."
"That is good to know," Arachne said, her voice tinged with sadness. "Now I regret not knowing them. I wonder why they gave me up?"
"I cannot tell you that, because I do not know."
"Perhaps they were both young and didn't know what to do...?"
"I don't dare speculate, Arachne. Your first parents are very complex people."
"As are you, Draco Malfoy. You hide your true feelings with a mask of arrogance. But you have a good heart. I can always tell with people."
Draco almost smiled. There was a time the arrogance wasn't always a mask. It had become a comfortable mask, though, so he preferred to wear it.
"What is our mother's name?"
"Her maiden name was Narcissa Black."
Arachne's jaw dropped. "My maiden name is a form of Black, too. Did you know that 'Schwartz' in German means 'black'?"
Now it was Draco's turn to be surprised. "No, I was not aware of that."
They sat in companionable silence for a time. Draco broke the silence, "Why do you wear a Gringott's vault key around your neck?"
"Is that what this is?" Arachne asked innocently, lifting the chain. "I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that an owl delivered it to me in about five years ago and it had a little note with it. It said, simply, 'From Severus Snape'."
Draco looked in shock at Arachne again.
"Severus Snape?" he repeated with excitement.
"Ja. Why? What is the significance of that name?"
"Arachne...Severus Snape is your birth father's name. That key might very well go to a vault of his in Gringott's bank. I wonder what he's left you!"
Putting a hand to her forehead, Arachne exclaimed, "Das ist zu viel! Draco, this is too much all at once! First, you tell me that I must help our mother...then you tell me my father has left me something...where do we go first? To this Gringotts as you say, or to Narcissa?"
Draco gasped in surprise. "So does that mean you'll help me?"
Shaking her head at him, Arachne said, "Du bist seltsam. You ask me to help, and are surprised when I say yes?"
"It's not that..." Draco hedged. He didn't know what to say next, because he wished to avoid offending her at all costs. It wasn't a feeling to which Draco was accustomed. "It's just that if I were you, and I found out the woman who gave me up needed help, I'm not so certain I would give it to her."
"Du hast Recht, Draco. You are right, it is complicated, these things I am feeling right now. However, if I do not help, this Narcissa will surely die, and I will not have a woman's death on my conscience, whether or not she originally gave me up for adoption. As mentioned, I have lived a very good life–one she might not have been able to give me."
Draco considered the woman in front of him and answered, "You are a good person, Arachne. And I'm proud–very proud–to call you my sister."
"You must be a good man, Herr Malfoy, otherwise you would not have been trying so hard to save our mother."
"Shall we go to her first, then?"
"Of course, Draco. She obviously needs me more than some cold bank vault does. It has been waiting five years and can wait a little longer. Narcissa cannot."
"Off to England we go, then."
Within two hours, Draco, Arachne, Harry, and Hermione all walked quietly into Narcissa's room at Malfoy Manor. If possible, Narcissa looked even more pale and further gone than the last time Draco had seen her. He closed his eyes as if in supplication and ran a hand over his face. Was his mother already past the brink of revival?
Arachne held her Gringotts key to her chest, whispered something in German, and stepped up behind Draco and took his hand. He opened his eyes and turned to look at Arachne. "I suppose now is the time. Arachne, if you please."
The dark-haired woman still held Draco's hand as she dropped the key, reached into her pocket, and retrieved her wand.
She held her hand aloft Narcissa's bed and called out very clearly in German, "Brechen diese Beschwörungsformel nun!"
A shower of silver sparks emitted from the tip of her wand which matched the small dome of sparks that burst from around Narcissa's head. Everybody stood and waited with bated breath...but nothing else happened.
Draco hadn't known exactly what to expect once the Vow was broken...perhaps Narcissa would open her eyes, perhaps she would sit up, perhaps she would breathe a little easier. He hoped it would be any of those things, but instead there was nothing. After approximately five minutes, Draco hung his head in sorrow.
"We were too late. All of this...for nothing." His jaw twitched and his eyes shone with tears of anger and hurt.
"How can you say that, Draco?" asked Arachne. "I now have a brother I did not have three hours ago. You now have a nephew you didn't have three hours ago. It wasn't for nothing, mein Bruder. You will see. Come with me to Gringotts now. There we will find what Severus Snape has left me."
After Harry and Hermione promised to Summon them if Narcissa's condition changed at all, Arachne and Draco headed off to Diagon Alley.
Draco was very heavy-hearted and didn't hold out much hope for his mother. It was not in his nature to be optimistic, but Arachne tried her best to bolster his spirits regardless. It was a very kind gesture, from a woman who had barely met him five hours ago.
Once the pair of them had entered through The Leaky Cauldron, they went straight to Gringotts Bank. They walked up to a teller window, and Draco recognised the goblin who greeted them. It was Griphook.
"Hello, Mr. Malfoy," he said. His eyes bored holes through Draco's, and Draco knew that Griphook had remembered all too well about what had happened to him in Malfoy Manor's dungeon six years previously. Draco shivered as a chill went down his spine. Arachne looked at Draco with a question in her eyes, but Draco simply shook his head.
"Greetings, Griphook," Draco answered.
"How may I help you today, Mr. Malfoy?"
"You may help me by assisting this young lady." Draco brought Arachne in front of him.
"Key, please," said Griphook.
Arachne removed the key from her neck and gave it to Griphook. "Drawer 9160, Pangton" he said.
Another goblin came from behind him, took the key, and walked around the teller's desk to guide Arachne and Draco to the right place.
"Drawer, and not vault?" asked Draco. He was disappointed. Riding on the rickety old rails was something he quite enjoyed when he went to Gringotts.
"No, Mr. Malfoy,"said Pangton. "Were you unaware that not every account-holder here at Gringotts possesses a vault?"
"I suppose it never occurred to me, is all," Draco said.
"I see," answered Pangton. Arachne and Draco followed the little goblin quite a long way. The bank's foyer was extraordinarily large, but they walked to the end of it and beyond to get to the "drawers" of which Pangton had spoken.
"Gringotts usually closes out drawers and vaults after the last known living relative of a certain wizard's line has died. However, we were sent a note after Severus Snape died five years ago and told to mail a key to one Arachne Schwartz, who is his daughter. Are you her?" Pangton address Arachne. She nodded and stepped forward boldly.
"Gringotts nearly always requires a Goblin's palm to open the higher security vaults and drawers. But this one requires your own palm, Ms. Schwartz. Only then will we know you are who you say you are."
Arachne held out her palm to the indicated place on the large drawer. It lighted up for a time and went dark. Then Pangton took the key, placed it in the slot, and it turned and opened with a loud "click!"
The three of them peered inside the drawer. Arachne reached inside and pulled out a dusty letter with her name on it and an old book marked, "Advanced Potion-Making."
"This is it?" whispered Arachne.
"I don't think so," said Draco. "Look further back in the drawer."
Arachne gasped as she pulled out the drawer. Fifty stacks of ten gold coins each lay in the back of it. Five hundred gold Galleons. Snape had to have saved his entire life to get that much money, cosidering he'd worked as a school professor.
"He saved everything for you," said Draco, putting a hand on his sister's shoulder. "Your father lived as a pauper his whole life, Arachne, when with this...he could have been a prince."
"Apparently, he was a prince," Arachne said, upon opening the cover of the old potions manual. "The Half-Blood Prince."
Narcissa leaned heavily on Draco as they moved through Andromeda's house. Draco's mother was still weak from her brush with death two weeks ago, but she was still very alert and was being quickly charmed by little one Karl Krum.
Teddy Lupin had been "positively insistent", Andromeda had said, about having Draco show up to his five-year-old birthday party. Although Draco was mystified, he didn't want to turn down the invitation. His aunt had been so kind. Draco also didn't want to be the only Malfoy amongst a herd of Weasleys and Harry Potter, so he practically begged his mother to come along. Both of them hadn't much of a clue of what they were getting into. But both of them were beginning to enjoy themselves despite the awkwardness of several families clashing in the same place.
About fifty people were in Andromeda's house and yard, including Viktor, Arachne, and their little boy, Karl. Viktor was not much for crowds of people, but he was enjoying showing off little Karl to everybody who would listen. And who wouldn't listen to Viktor Krum? thought Draco to himself.
He gave his mother's shoulder a little pat. Affection was never Draco's strong suit, but he was so grateful to have his mother back. This reminded him of Arachne and he searched the crowd until he found her. She looked at him and he gave her a smile and a nod. Arachne smiled softly back at him.
Arachne had been the talk of the party. Being Viktor Krum's wife, she had become quite accustomed to pleasantries and people. Nearly everyone present told her that she was a perfect foil for Viktor.
Although Narcissa and Draco had never been part of the "light" contingent before, Arachne had felt it her duty to get to know everybody else her father had had cause to be around. Even Arthur and Molly Weasley said it was good to have a "Snape" around again. It appeared that Arachne not only mirrored Severus in hair color, but in observance of people, too. She rarely missed anything and had a strong aptitude for potions...which is a big reason why she appreciated her father having given her his old advanced potions textbook. She thought of that book as a friend.
Every time somebody told her that something she did or said reminded them of Severus Snape, she treasured it up in her heart. Arachne felt that each little piece of everything "that might have been" was just one more way of completing the puzzle of her life.
In the week before Narcissa finally awoke from her coma, Draco and Arachne had gotten to know each other quite well. It was during that time that Arachne had taken to carrying around the letter that her father had left her...
When I found out your mother was pregnant with you, I was only eighteen years old. I was not ready to be a father and had far, far darker concerns on my mind at that time. One might even say I was in denial. She sent me a letter, I can only assume it was concerning you...a letter, which do this day, I have yet to open.
You see, I was in love with another woman. I will not make excuses for myself; that is something only the young and naive do.
Your birth mother, Narcissa Black, was told by her family to get rid of you at all costs and she feared for her life and yours if she did not.
Over the years, both she and I have come to know that family is not necessarily something to be feared or avoided. By way of her son, Draco, and her, and even Draco's father, I now realise that the bond between some families is so strong as to be unbreakable. In fact, I still had so much regard for your mother, that I took an Unbreakable Vow with her to save her son, Draco...your brother. I may only speak of it now because it has been fulfilled.
In so doing, I realised the true reason I wished so much to save Draco. It was because I had never saved you, Arachne. Your very name–Arachne–was in honour of myself and where I live. I live in a place called "Spinner's End." Do not try to come and find me, for the only reason this letter will have been sent is upon my death. The very reason I'm writing this now is because my time on this earth grows short, so I felt from within that I should write you this missive.
I will not tell you how I got all the Galleons you see before you. Suffice it to say that I earned every bit of them, one way or another.
Hopefully, one day, your birth mother will contact you. Until she does, this letter, this money, and this old potions manual will have to suffice. I know it's not enough, but they were all I possessed that were of any true value or meaning for me...
Sorry this fic came to an end so quickly, but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! I have never–repeat, never–written so much in such a short amount of time and got such a stellar amount of hits. Thank you so much for sticking with me til the end...and thanks so much to those of you who gave me reviews! If you so desire, feel free to read the other stories on my profile page. Thanks again!
Rae Carson ;)