Disclaimer: If I were JK Rowling, I would (a) be living in Britain instead of the Midwestern US and (b) be making millions off the HP deal!
A flapping of wings was the first thing Lucia heard as she awoke. When she opened her eyes, she saw a tawny barn owl swoop over her and land on the bedpost just above her head. She sat bolt upright as her father’s owl hooted joyfully from his perch. Apollo had been missing for the weeks since her father’s death, and Lucia was glad to see the family owl home once more.
“Hey, there,” she said to the owl, who hooted again. “Where have you been hiding these last few weeks?”
The owl took flight and soared out the door in response. Lucia leapt out of bed and followed Apollo into the kitchen—to find an imposing pile of mail on the counter by the sink. On top of the pile was this morning’s Daily Prophet, and the glaring headline on the front page made Lucia freeze in her tracks.
MALFOY MANOR TARGET OF DEATH EATER ATTACK, the paper read. Beneath the title was a picture of the Dark Mark, a green skull glimmering luridly in the black night sky, presumably over the mansion Lucia had just visited the night before.
She picked up the paper and continued to read, her hand shaking. According to the article, a mob of Death Eaters had come to the mansion late the previous night, apparently looking for Narcissa and Draco Malfoy; and upon discovering that both were not there, the group had taken their anger out on the house. By the time the Ministry’s Aurors had arrived on the scene, the interior of the Malfoy Manor was in shambles. The Death Eaters had Disapparated before they could be arrested; Lucia mentally cursed the incompetence of the Ministry. The article ended with a short sentence saying that Lucius Malfoy was unavailable for comment, seeing as he was currently locked up in Azkaban; but the article never mentioned where the two remaining residents of the estate had been at the time of the attack.
Lucia set the paper aside and noticed a letter, marked URGENT in broad black strokes, on the top of the pile. When she read the name of the sender, she immediately grabbed the letter and broke open the strange-looking magical seal on the other side.
I’ve closed this letter with a seal so that only you can open it—necessary for security, you understand. We’re heading out to Godric’s Hollow tomorrow morning to start searching for what I told you about last night. Please meet us at Headquarters by 8 AM latest. I’m not sure what we’d be up against, but bring anything you think would be useful. See you tomorrow!
P.S. Please burn this note after reading.
After throwing the letter into the stove, Lucia began making breakfast for one—no, four people. This was one of the many mornings when she wished that her father had a house-elf, like any other respectable pureblood family. At least, the time it took for the coffee to boil and the bread to toast gave her enough time to reflect on the last twenty-four hours. And Merlin, wasn’t there a lot to think about.
Once the breakfast was ready, Lucia heaped plates of buttered toast, assorted spreads, and mugs of steaming black coffee onto the largest tray she could find. She staggered underneath its weight to the spare bedroom and paused outside. Through the door, she could make out two voices conversing; the words ‘Dark Lord,’ ‘Dumbledore,’ and ‘promises’ were just barely audible. As she couldn’t very well knock at the moment, she called out softly, “Good morning! Could someone let me in, please? I can’t open the door.”
There was a pause; one of the voices muttered incoherently, and a half-minute later Asher opened the door. His sleep-filled eyes widened at the sight of all the food on Lucia’s tray. Behind him, Draco was propped up in his bed with his jaw dropped and the same bug-eyed expression on his face as his nephew. Mrs. Malfoy was sitting on the edge of her bed, still wearing a traveling robe and looking as if she’d had very little chance to sleep that night. Two large and ornate trunks were now in the back corner, presumably brought there by Mrs. Malfoy. As Lucia placed the tray on a small table near the window, she noticed a half-folded copy of the day’s Daily Prophet on the edge of Draco’s bed. So, they knew about the attack already.
“Miss Ignatius.” Lucia turned to Mrs. Malfoy, who was looking at her with blood-shot eyes. “I—I don’t know what I can do to thank you. You’ve done so much more than even my own blood kin would ever have done for us.” She bowed her head. “We are deeply indebted to you for your help.”
“Mrs. Malfoy, I’m just glad to do anything to help anyone in need,” Lucia replied softly. “Truly, it’s not at all a problem. Frankly, before I found Draco and Asher, I was beginning to get rather lonely living here all by myself. My home is yours to use as long as necessary.” Lucia smiled, and then added, “Under one condition, however—please call me Lucia. If we’re to be living together, ‘Miss Ignatius’ is far too formal for my taste.”
Mrs. Malfoy laughed wearily, and returned, “And please call me Narcissa. My mother-in-law is the real Mrs. Malfoy, and I would prefer not to be confused with her yet.”
“Of course.” Lucia turned to Draco. “And how are you feeling today, sir? Better than yesterday, I hope?”
Draco nodded. “You worked wonders last night, thanks,” he said. He took a deep breath before continuing. “I think I owe you an explanation of what happened before you found me. I’m assuming you’ve been wondering…?”
“You’ve assumed correctly, but I know better than to nose into other people’s business.”
“A true Slytherin at heart,” Narcissa murmured to no one in particular.
Draco ignored her. “It’s a long story, and I haven’t even told Mother everything yet,” he said. “But it might be easier to tell it now, when everyone’s here, so I don’t have to repeat the whole thing over again.”
“Uncle,” Asher had come to Draco’s side and laid a hand on his uncle’s blanket. “May I be excused, please? I—I’d rather not—” Draco nodded before Asher could say more, and the boy ran off, looking relieved. Lucia had no time to wonder what the exchange had been about before Draco continued.
“As I’m sure you know already, the Dark Lord assigned me the task of murdering Dumbledore. And as I found out, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill someone who had been my role model for the last six years. I gave the impression of trying, of course—if I didn’t, I’d be dead before a week was up; but I never really had my heart in it. If it weren’t for Professor Snape, Dumbledore probably wouldn’t have died that night because I wouldn’t have been able to kill him.
“The Dark Lord was far from pleased when we returned after the battle. He—he tortured all of us, but especially me. He ranted about how I had ruined everything by forcing Professor to reveal his true colors and thereby losing one of our most valuable spies, how I had disgraced my father’s name, and how my family would pay for my cowardice. I was too much in pain to understand the last part until—until it was too late.” Draco took a shuddering breath, and Narcissa reached out to touch his hand comfortingly.
“I went home to recover and didn’t give it a second thought until yesterday morning. That’s when Tory paid me a frantic half-visit through the Floo. She only had time to beg me for help before she was pulled back to her side of the fireplace, and I jumped in after her. When I came out of the fire, I found five Death Eaters torturing my brother-in-law, Jacob Fenwick, in his own living room. They invited me to join them before telling me that Tory had been taken to the bedroom with Asher to be ‘finished off properly.’ I didn’t even wait to see them murder Jake; I knew I had to try to save Tory first. I didn’t know what they had been planning to do with Asher, but I had a very bad feeling about it. When the Dark Lord asks for someone to be ‘finished off,’ it can’t be good.
“I got to the bedroom, and I found my sister on her knees before a single Death Eater. Asher was trying to hide behind her. Tory was pleading, not for her life, but for Asher’s. She begged him to do anything with her, as long as they left Asher alone. But he just laughed in her face, and then—” Draco let out a dry sob, the tears rolling freely down his pale face. He stared out into the sunshine just beyond the bedroom window, his eyes fixated on a far-distant point. “He killed her. Just like that. I could only stand there, I watched the curse hit her, I saw the light leave her eyes as she fell.”
He stopped, his voice shaking beyond control. Narcissa had already buried her face in her hands, her shoulders trembling with silent crying. Lucia herself was having difficulty seeing through her own tears. No wonder Asher wanted to leave…poor boy, he had to watch his own mother die in front of his eyes! She reached out and took Draco’s hand, much like Narcissa had done moments earlier, and gave it a tight squeeze.
“I couldn’t—I couldn’t do anything to save my own sister,” Draco finally continued, the pain in his voice evident. “But I’d be damned if I let him kill Asher, too. He was crying over his mother’s body when that—that murderer raised his wand on him, too. I—I don’t know what got into me then, but I jumped in front of Asher and refused to move. When the Death Eater tried to get me out of the way, I told him that both he and the Dark Lord could go to hell for killing innocent women and children and that I wouldn’t be a part of it any longer.
“This didn’t go over very well with him, naturally, and he started cursing me with a lot of different things—I can’t even remember all of them, except that everything hurt like hell. I was beginning to black out when I heard him cast the Avada Kedavra. I grabbed Asher’s hand and Disapparated out of there before the curse could hit either of us, and then I must have passed out.” He sighed and glanced at Lucia. “The next thing I remember, I was in this bed and I could’ve sworn an angel who looked like Tory was standing over me. I thought I had died and gone on to the next world or something.”
Lucia blushed as Narcissa peered at her through reddened eyes. “Why didn’t I notice it before,” Narcissa breathed. “You do look rather like Victoria…why, Merlin help us, you even have the Black family eyes! My dear, are you related to the Blacks, by any chance?”
Lucia really didn’t know the answer to that, as she never was fond of the bloodline and heritage business in the first place, and tried to shrug it off by muttering something about pureblood inbreeding. Draco waited for them to finish before continuing. “Before Dumbledore—died,” he stumbled on the last word, “he offered me the chance to redeem myself. He said that my family and I could receive the protection of the Order at any time if I chose not to kill him. Seeing as I didn’t kill him, and somehow I managed to stay alive, I was wondering if…” He trailed off and looked over to Lucia.
She understood his unfinished sentence. “If I can help you contact the Order?” she asked quietly. Draco nodded.
Lucia remained silent for a moment before answering slowly. “If you really want my advice, I’d have to say that trying to join the Order now might not be a good idea for any of us. For one thing, everyone is so angry about Snape’s betrayal that your arrival will probably end up being very ugly. For another, I’m just a newbie in the Order, and there’s not much of a chance that they would be swayed by my opinions. If I was Harry Potter, maybe it would be a different story.” Yeah, as in Harry would’ve left you for dead or, more likely, killed you outright.
Draco grimaced, as if he was thinking along the same lines—or perhaps it was just a twinge from one of his ribs. “The only thing I can do for you, however,” Lucia continued, looking back and forth between Draco and Narcissa, “is to let you stay here for as long as you wish…if both of you are willing to renounce being Death Eaters for good. Maybe, if we tried to get you into the Order at a better time, the fact that you have lived with me for so long and played traitor to Voldemort”—both mother and son winced—“will help my testimony on your behalf.” Or, it could totally backfire and make me look really, really bad for having harbored two wanted criminals in my own house.
A long moment passed in silence. When Narcissa finally spoke, her voice barely carried to Lucia’s ears. “Merlin knows how long I’ve wanted my husband and son out of the Dark Lord’s service,” she said softly. “And after what He has done to my family…” Narcissa’s voice rose, and she trembled with anger. “He left Lucius to rot in Azkaban, sent Draco on a suicidal mission, and now has Victoria murdered! What else can I say but—but good riddance to the lot of them! I would be more than willing to switch sides—to one that rewards loyalty with something better than death!”
“I agree completely,” Draco added. “And if you would like to test our loyalty to you, Lucia, I open myself to a dose of Veritaserum.” Narcissa nodded her agreement.
Lucia studied the two of them for a minute, the angry mother and the injured son. “No,” she said finally. “I don’t have access to any Veritaserum in any case; and besides, I trust my intuition, and right now it’s telling me to give you all a second chance. I don’t know why, but I feel I should give you the benefit of doubt before I pass any judgments on your character.” If only some other people would do the same. . . “Now, please, do have some breakfast, both of you—shall I go get Asher now?”
Draco nodded and sent her a look of pure gratitude as she turned to leave. Humph, she thought as she left. He’s actually rather good-looking when he takes that bloody sneer off his face.
Asher was reading in the living-room again, still poring over the same book he had found the night before. Lucia noticed that his eyes were a little redder than before; she suspected he’d been crying. “Asher, it’s time for breakfast,” she said softly.
The boy looked up at her, but he didn’t respond. Lucia came closer. “Do you like the book?” she asked.
He nodded slowly. “My—my mum had a copy of this,” he said brokenly. “It was her favorite.”
“Oh, Asher…” Suddenly, in a passion of sympathy, Lucia threw her arms around this fellow orphan. Asher hugged her tightly and began to sob into her shoulder.
“Shhhh…it’s alright, darling, it’s alright,” Lucia murmured into the little boy’s hair as he wept his heart out. Merlin, if only she could have a child of her own someday.
“I miss my mum,” Asher sobbed. “And my dad…”
“I know how it feels, darling.” Lucia pulled away from him to look him in the eyes. “My mother died when I was born, and I just lost my father a month ago.”
Asher’s eyes widened. “Then…we’re the same,” he whispered.
“Yes.” Lucia hugged him again. Indeed, we are.
A/N: Howdy! Sorry for taking so long to update. . . AP Exams, final exams, parents being titchy. . . yeah, doesn't really help. >.<
As always, let me know what could be better in that little box down there *points* and thank you for reading! Regina
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