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Chapter 12 : An Uncomfortable Admission
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Chapter 12: An Uncomfortable Admission
Hermione opened her eyes and sighed in contentment. She had had a truly lovely dream. It had been so vivid! She and Annie had gone to England, and Draco had met them there, alive and well…
Wait a minute.
Hermione suddenly realized she was lying on the floor of a very posh sitting room, with only a man’s dress shirt draped over her otherwise naked form. She gasped, and looked over at the sleeping blonde to her left.
His arm was clutching her to his side protectively, as if Draco were afraid she would be stolen from his grasp.
Her head was spinning. Did this really happen? Am I here, with Annie’s father, in England again? Her heart broke at the next thought. Is Harry really to blame for all of mine and Annie’s suffering?
She honestly did not know what to make of the past 48 hours. What she did know, however, was that she needed to get home for a bit. She had responsibilities, and it was high time she remembered that.
She moved Draco’s arm carefully, so as not to wake him. Sleeping Beauty, she thought with a wistful smile. His platinum hair looked perfectly kempt, even after the previous night’s… activities (she blushed). His eyelashes were as long and full as she remembered them being. His features were aristocratic, that too had not changed.
Merlin, I adore this stubborn, foolish, arse of a man.
She stood from the oriental rug and silently gathered her clothes. After dressing quietly behind the velvet settee, Hermione summoned her patronus to relay a message to Ginny and Annie about her plans for the day.
As the grey whisp took on its corporeal form, she was so startled she nearly let out a shriek and dropped her wand to the floor.
Of course, she had not used this particular charm in well over a decade. She should not have been shocked by what she saw, but shocked was an understatement. Her patronus had changed. Where there once had been a bounding, playful otter, now there was a fierce creature with great wings.
A dragon. Hermione’s patronus was now a dragon.
Gathering her wits about her, Hermione relayed her message to the dragon and watched it soar through the walls in search of Ginny. She blinked, took a deep breath, and bent down to kiss a still-slumbering Draco on the cheek.
“Goodbye, Love,” she whispered, “I shall return shortly.”
And with those words, Hermione stepped into the Potters’ floo and threw down some powder, shouting “Hobart Cottage!”
She spun for what seemed like an indescribably long time, finally reaching the fire grate at her small Oregon cottage. Stepping into the small kitchen, she reached for the telephone that hung on the wall and quickly dialed a familiar number.
“West Hills Advanced Academy,” the cheery receptionist answered on the second ring. Hermione took a deep breath and then spoke in a firm voice, “Darla. This is Hermione. Might I have a word with Micah?”
“Sure thing, Ms. Hobart! We’ve been wondering when you would call. I really hope everything is alright with your family. Oh! Here he is; talk to you later!” Darla replied, passing the phone to Hermione’s Vice Principal, Micah Appleton.
“Hello?” Micah’s rich baritone voice answered.
“Micah. It’s Hermione. Look, I will make this short, I know how busy running that school is keeping you,” she said with a laugh, “I just wanted to let you know that I have decided to take that leave of absence that the board so kindly offered the other day. It seems I will be tied up in this family situation for the foreseeable future. I actually need to head back to England for a bit, and I will be taking Anneliese with me. I will enroll her in the private boarding school I attended as a child, I assure you she will be well taken care of.” At this, Hermione paused.
“Hermione,” he replied with a hint of sadness and concern coloring his words, “are you sure everything is alright with you?”
“Yes, of course, Micah. We are going to be fine, there is just something I need to take care of in England and hopefully Annie and I will be back in California before the new school year. There is no reason to worry. Please,” Hermione stated.
He lowered his voice and Hermione could hear him shutting the door (presumably to his office), “I can petition for a leave as well, if you would like? I could come with you. To England, I mean. I can help you through this, whatever it is.” Hermione heard the urgency in his next phrase, “I don’t want to lose you.”
She spoke softly as well, trying to convey her every emotion in her words. “Micah. We will have time to talk. I promise you. But later. Now, I need to get going, I have much to take care of before returning to Britain. I trust you will keep the school in good working order while I am away.”
Not waiting for him to say goodbye, Hermione hung up the phone and sat on a tall stool near the kitchen counter, sighing. That was uncomfortable.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a rough voice from behind her, “Granger, my Dear. Who exactly is this Micah?”
*** Malfoy Manor ***
Lady Narcissa Black Malfoy anxiously watched the clock that chimed ever-so-cheerfully in the manor’s entrance hall. It had been one hour exactly since she had received his message, and she was (as usual) becoming rather impatient.
She had things to do. She did not like to be kept waiting.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the manor’s heavy stone front door. A house elf appeared with a pop, having been trained to never keep guests waiting, and made to open the door. Narcissa stopped the little elf, placing a firm hand on the creature’s shoulder.
“I will get it, Parsnip. Run along to the kitchens, my guest and I shall be taking tea in the private sitting room off of my husband’s den. We will call for you if we are in need of anything else. Now, go!” Narcissa spoke to the young elf in a firm but soft voice.
“Yes, Mistress Cissa.” And with that, the elf disappeared with another soft pop.
Narcissa turned back toward the door, opening it to reveal the last man she had ever thought would willingly step foot into her family’s home. True, things had significantly calmed between them since the war had ended, but she knew that the horrors that this young man had faced would never truly allow him to feel comfortable in her presence.
“Mr. Potter. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me here. I know how difficult this must be for you, but I just do not find myself going out into London much these days,” Narcissa said softly, closing the heavy door behind him and bidding the man to follow her as she began walking down the elegant marble hall.
She turned left near a stone bust of Lucius’ father, and opened the double glass doors in front of her. A tea tray with fresh, buttery scones and clotted cream greeted them from the elegant table in the center of the room.
Narcissa motioned that Harry should sit, and then closed and locked the doors before joining him. Folding her green skirts delicately under her as she slipped onto the velvet-covered seat, Narcissa looked expectantly at the wizened young man who sat across from her, pouring them each tea with a steady hand.
Harry Potter – was the boy still there somewhere inside this serious, stiff-backed man in Aurors’ robes? The scar was barely visable on his forehead under all of the deep black fringe; his wire-rimmed glasses were precariously perched on the edge of his nose. As he ran a calloused hand through his hair, he looked up from his tea. Narcissa saw it then, the determination in his eyes. He was no longer a boy. Like her little Dragon, he had grown up to become a man with a need to protect and defend those he cared about.
He spoke. “Mrs. Malfoy, how much do you know concerning the whereabouts of your husband as of late?”
Narcissa was startled, this was not at all what she had been expecting the young man to say. When she had received the ministry owl earlier in the afternoon, requesting an urgent meeting, she had feared that something had happened to Draco’s muggleborn girl, or, Merlin forbid, to Draco himself.
Narcissa spoke clearly, the sincerity evident in her voice. “Mr. Potter, I assure you, Lucius does not keep me informed at every turn as to his whereabouts or his various… activities. He owls merely every few days, and has not been home in a number of months. What I do know, however, is that he has found out something about Draco and his involvement with that young woman, Ms. Granger, and I fear that, while my husband may have good intentions, he will only cause my son more grief.”
Harry looked her directly in her eyes, and she felt the uncomfortable feeling of her mind being prodded. She allowed him entrance, pushing thoughts of her most recent conversation with Draco to the forefront. After a few moments of silence, he nodded and pulled back gently, “I see. Now, what if I were to tell you that your husband has been working with the Ministry on an urgent matter that he himself had brought to our attention a few weeks ago, in exchange for being granted full magical control?”
Narcissa was shocked, though her societal upbringing would not allow her to show it. “Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Potter, that my husband has been working with you and your Aurors on some mission concerning the woman my son loves, in order to regain his wand? Why was I not informed of this?”
Frankly, Narcissa was not sure if she was comfortable with this bit of news. While she loved her husband dearly, she knew he had still not entirely forgiven her for saving Potter’s life all those years ago. He was very powerful, even without magic. After he had served a mere 7 years chained in Azkaban for his actions as a Death Eater (a fate both Draco and Narcissa had been lucky to escape, thanks to Harry's testimony), he had returned home a broken but determined man. He had his freedom, but was to live the rest of his life without a wand, in essence sentenced to a Muggle existence.
“I assure you, we had no other choice in this matter. I will not allow Hermione to suffer any more than she already has. Lucius uncovered an interesting bit of information, information that may lead us not only to the capture of a group of renegade wizards determined to bring the collapse of the Ministry, but also to uncover a major breach in Ministry security.”
Narcissa nodded, the teacup shaking slightly in her delicate hand. She swallowed and then asked coolly, “And what is it, Mr. Potter, that you would like from me? I was not aware of Lucius’ discovery.”
Harry spoke softly, knowing that with Lucius again scouring the globe to meet with old contacts who may be willing to talk, Narcissa's cooperation with this matter was vital. "Are you aware that Hermione gave birth to a daughter about 16 years ago?"
Narcissa gasped and dropped the scone she had been about to enjoy. A daughter? Does he mean... my Draco... he is a father? I have a grandchild I have never met? Surely Draco would not have kept this from me...
"Is she... am I a grandmother?" Narcissa managed to ask, with as much dignity as she could gather.
Harry simply nodded. Narcissa knew then that she too would do anything to protect Hermione Granger. The girl was her son's family, her own family.
She asked with resolve, "Then what exactly can I help you with, please?"
“It seems that you may be aware of the location of a particular portrait once commissioned on Draco’s behalf? Of a dragon in flight, I believe? Draco mentioned to me that he has been searching for this particular painting for quite some time,” Harry asked as his green eyes once again met Narcissa’s own.
She knew he was again performing legilimency. She gave him what he was looking for. He gasped and pulled back.
“The Department of Mysteries? You gave the painting to the Unspeakables?”
“Yes, to one particular Unspeakable, Pansy Parkinson. It had been bewitched using ancient Dark Magic, as I am sure you are aware, and as such I was obligated to turn it in to Ministry custody. However, I was not going to entrust such an object to just anyone. You see, that painting is part of a twin set, one quite similar to a pair my husband had commissioned for myself many years ago. It can sense magical disturbances and… warn the one who commissioned the painting of any danger the recipient is in. It acts as a guardian of sorts, forming a barrier around the recipient until help can arrive."
“That must be very powerful magic. I have never heard of a portrait that has the ability to protect a witch or wizard,” Harry stated with a frown, leaning back in his chair.
Narcissa took a deep breath. She knew what she stated next could put her son and husband in grave danger. “That is just it, Mr. Potter. You see, the portrait itself… it is not entirely unlike an object with which I am certain you are familiar. Both the dragon painting and Lucius’ serpent portrait… they contain a bit of the Malfoy mens’ living souls.”
A/N: Dun-dun-dunnnnnn.... I know, I am evil to end it there. Not to worry, though, there are 3 more chapters left to this story (4 if I write an epilogue), and I will post them all as quickly as I can. Hope you enjoyed this! Happy reading, as always. :)
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