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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 46 : Mothers And Aunts
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Remus yawned and rolled over, blinking himself awake. He was immediately aware that he wasn’t in his own bed and started to panic, at least until he placed the scent of the room. Dora. She wasn’t in the room with him, but she was the one who’d brought him here, he remembered. She’d brought him back to her – well, her parents’ – house last night, and Andromeda had fed both of them and sent them straight to bed.

Remus had been too tired to argue and so had allowed Dora to show him to the spare bedroom. He remembered sitting down on the bed, and then nothing. He must have fallen asleep – or passed out from exhaustion – as soon as he touched the mattress.

A small clock on the bedside table said it was just after nine and Remus sighed; half the morning was gone and he still had so much to do; he had to tell Matt about Greyback, he had to meet Dumbledore to discuss something about Harry, he had to see Harry – who was safe but worried out of his mind for Sirius – he had to see Sirius because Sirius – unlike Harry - was not safe but certainly hadn’t appeared worried at all. Remus would try to give him information on Harry again – he knew Sirius would want it – and hopefully he’d be able to do so without having to shout to allay Dumbledore’s suspicions.

So much to do... Remus thought miserably, not wanting to move from his warm bed, but he knew he’d have to. Before he could do anything, he’d have to go home and change robes; he’d been wearing the pair he was in for two days now.

He sighed and threw his feet over the side of the bed. And then, something small and reddish-brown dove out from under the bed and latched onto his ankle with sharp teeth and sharper claws. He threw himself back onto the bed, tucking his feet under the covers for protection. His assailant fled the room with a hiss.

I think I’ve just met Dora’s cat, he thought, dazed, as he inspected the tooth-marks on his ankle.

Remus heard footsteps – broken, amusingly, by the thump of a hand on a wall that he suspected was indication that Dora had tripped – and then there was a knock on the door. Before he could even answer, however, the door opened to admit Andromeda, not Dora. Andy – who must have been the one that tripped - was holding a pile of clothes and looked surprised that he was awake.

“Oh,” she said. “You’re up.”

“Morning,” he said, smiling at her. She smiled back and deposited the bundle of clothes on the end of his bed and passed him an envelope. “Thank you?” he said, arching an eyebrow.

“That’ll explain things better than I can, I expect,” Andy said briskly, nodding at the envelope. He turned it over and saw that it had Dora’s handwriting on the front. “I’d offer you breakfast, too, but I’m not allowed to, apparently.”

“I- what?”

“I have no idea, but it’s probably explained,” she sighed, waving at the letter. She turned as if to leave and then stopped and looked at Remus again. Her scent was nervous all of a sudden. “Remus,” she said hesitantly. “I- you were at the Ministry yesterday, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I saw Sirius,” he said, guessing her next question. Andy’s eyes – grey, just like Sirius’ – filled with tears.

“I know you probably- I shouldn’t be asking- you understand, though, don’t you? You knew him too- better than I did, probably. But- can you tell me- Was he- has he- changed?” she asked.

“Not at all,” Remus said gently.

Andy closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and opened them again. She looked... determined and Remus found himself remembering that while Andy had a softer side to her than he’d ever seen Narcissa or Bellatrix show, she was still a Black, still a Slytherin and still a formidable woman in her own right.

“Thank you,” she said. She gave him a faint smile and left. Bewildered, Remus tore open the envelope.

Remus, said the letter inside.

If you haven’t already realised, I’ve gone to work. I’ve sent a letter to Matt – you’ve arranged to meet him for breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron at nine-thirty. Hopefully Mum’s woken you up in time and brought you a change of clothes.

Dumbledore also stopped by. He needs you at the Ministry by twelve to meet with Petunia – I don’t know her last name, he didn’t say it, but he said you’d know who he was talking about.

I’ll be at the Ministry until about one, so if you’re done with your meeting, we could meet for lunch? Let Mum know – I’ll be seeing her later this morning, apparently – and she can pass the message on to me.

Dora.

Several things made a lot more sense now than they had a few minutes ago. Remus glanced at the clock on the bedside table – it was twenty past, which still gave him plenty of time – and dug through the clothes Andy had left him.

There was a pair of baggy jeans that must have belonged to Ted years ago – the man he’d seen briefly last night was a little too round around the middle to fit these anymore – and there was a faded pair of navy robes that were probably Ted’s as well. The last item was a t-shirt and it had a note pinned to it.

Remus,

I’d meant to give this to you for your birthday but I misplaced it. Personally, Remus thought that the new robes and the pillow-sized slab of chocolate had been more than enough for his birthday last month – her presents and those from Sirius and Harry were more than Remus had received for all of his birthdays combined since his parents’ deaths. Better late than never, though, eh?

With a growing sense of trepidation, Remus unfolded it.

*                           *                           *

There were a few streaks of grey in her mousy hair, but otherwise, Andy hadn’t changed at all. She was still tall and she still had the same high cheekbones, and the same grey eyes.

She still carried herself like a pureblood- and when she tripped over the doorway, Narcissa saw she was just as clumsy as ever. The only new thing about her, in fact, were the faint laugh lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth. She didn’t look in Narcissa’s direction once, though Narcissa knew Andy must know she was there.

A young woman - her daughter Nymphadora, if Narcissa was correct – followed her in. She looked a lot like Andy, with her grey eyes and heart shaped face, but her hair was fair like Narcissa remembered Ted’s being and Nymphadora didn’t seem to have inherited Andy’s height. Just as Andy had, Nymphadora stumbled on her way inside.

“And yet they’ll swear until they’re blue in the face that they’re nothing like each other,” remarked Ted Tonks as he strode through the door – without tripping – after his wife and daughter. His belly was rounder than it had been when Narcissa last saw him and his hair was a bit thinner but his mellow voice and awful dress sense was the same; he was wearing a yellow and black spotted tie and blue and white striped work shirt and maroon pants. His daughter seemed to have inherited his dress sense; she was wearing a red tartan skirt, black stockings, high boots covered in heavy buckles and a bright yellow t-shirt with a pink giraffe on it.

“Blue in the face, eh?” Nymphadora asked, smirking at her father. “Like this-?”

“Nymphadora, no!” Andy snapped, rounding on the pair of them. Ted and Nymphadora exchanged looks and – wisely, in Narcissa’s opinion – didn’t argue and didn’t do whatever they’d been planning. “Madam Umbridge,” Andy said, giving the Umbridge woman a friendly smile. She offered her hand. “Andromeda Tonks. This is my husband Ted and my daughter-”

“Tonks,” Nymphadora said, beating her mother to it.

“-Nymphadora,” Andy sighed and Narcissa wasn’t sure whether she was finishing the introduction or addressing her daughter.

“Wonderful,” Umbridge said in her girlish voice. “Take a seat please, Mrs Tonks.” To Narcissa’s complete and utter shock, Andy sat down next to her instead of in any of the other ten seats that were available.

“Narcissa,” Andy said, politely. “Lucius.” Lucius - two seats away from Narcissa, next to Hydrus – nodded stiffly in her direction. “And how are you, boys?” Hydrus curled his lip and looked at his father, who was wearing the exact same expression. Draco’s face matched their, at least until Narcissa nudged him and gave him a pointed look. The malice slipped off easily and – apparently realising he was allowed to look at a blood traitor without being disgusted – Draco replaced it with a thoughtful look.

“Well, thank you,” he said in a cool but polite voice.

“We’re what?!” Nymphadora exclaimed on Andy’s other side. Ted said something to her in a low voice but Narcissa distinctly heard the words ‘adopt’ and ‘Potter’. Umbridge gave them both disparaging looks and straightened her pink robes.

Augusta Longbottom arrived shortly after and sat down on Ted’s other side with a cheerful greeting. She a very tall woman and bony, but by no means frail. She had worse taste than Ted and Nymphadora, with her vulture hat and glossy red handbag. Her grandson, a chubby, round faced boy with large brown eyes and blond hair shuffled in after her.

Neville was his name – Narcissa couldn’t forget it if she tried, not when that little boy was the one her sister had more or less orphaned. Augusta hadn’t forgotten either; while she spoke to Ted and Nymphadora, she completely ignored Andy, and she didn’t even glance in Narcissa’s direction. Narcissa couldn’t really blame her.

“Mother, I’m bored,” Draco said, nudging her.

“It’s not proper to say that,” Hydrus hissed and Draco glanced at him.

“I wasn’t talking to you, so why don’t you mind-”

“-Auror like my Frank!” Augusta said loudly. “You must be bright, then, my dear!”

“Er...” Nymphadora stammered, at little Neville gasped as her hair turned a bright pink. “I do all right, I s’pose-”

“Tonks?” A young man carrying a tea tray paused and stared at Nymphadora, though all three Tonkses had turned around.

“Wotcher, Alfred,” Nymphadora said nervously. The man – Alfred – set the tea tray down next to Umbridge and scooped Nymphadora into a tight hug. “How are you?”

“Really good, thanks,” Alfred said enthusiastically. “You?”

“Hem hem,” Umbridge said, and Alfred grimaced and went to stand beside her. Umbridge scribbled something onto a piece of parchment on a clipboard and Alfred flushed.

“There you are, my dear,” Dumbledore said, escorting a hunched, old woman into the room. Narcissa had never seen the woman before, but she thought she was about ninety. The woman looked at the empty seat next to Neville, and the empty seat beside Lucius. Then, she sat down beside Lucius, looking self-important.

Amelia Bones, Rufus Scrimgeour and Thomas Rattler made their way inside too, and sat down; Bones claimed the seat next to Neville, with Rattler beside her, while Scrimgeour joined Dumbledore on the old woman’s other side.

“Are we all here?” Umbridge asked, smiling around at them all.

“... stupid. It’s not like they can say anything if they’re not,” Draco muttered, and Narcissa gave him a warning look. Thankfully, however, Umbridge didn’t seem to have heard, though Nymphadora sniggered on Andy’s other side.

“We are missing one-” Dumbledore began, but Umbridge cut him off with a prim, “Good. Let’s start, then. Mrs Pettigrew, your case?”

Surely not... Narcissa took another look at the alleged Mrs Pettigrew. With her pale, beady eyes and pointy nose she could be Peter Pettigrew’s mother... but Pettigrew’s mother was younger than Narcissa’s mother - who’d turned sixty late last year - and the woman before her looked ninety.

“What?” the woman – Mrs Pettigrew said in a squeaky voice, lifting a clawed hand to her ear. “Speak up, woman!”

“I invited you to present your case,” Umbridge said, sending Pettigrew a look of dislike.

“Oh,” Mrs Pettigrew said, getting to her feet again. “Well, I’m sure you all remember that I lost my Peter-” So it was her. Peter Pettigrew’s mother. Narcissa thought her grief for ‘losing’ her son must have caused her to age so badly. Lucius would say it was bad genetics – she was muggleborn, if Narcissa remembered correctly. As if on cue, Lucius caught Narcissa’s eye. “-to that monster, Sirius Black. I think it seems fair that I get his son, to replace the one he stole from me.”

Lucius coughed and Narcissa rolled her eyes at him, but she too was finding it difficult to keep an impassive expression on her face. She had little patience for dramatics as it was, and even littler patience for those that she knew to be falsely grounded.

“My apologies,” Lucius said, when everyone – except for Pettigrew, who had ploughed right ahead with her speech – turned to look at him. “I swallowed something.”

Yes, Narcissa thought. A laugh. Despite not knowing what his father had found amusing, Hydrus recognised the slightly mocking undertone to his father’s drawl, and sniggered.

“-no doubt of my parenting abilities,” Mrs Pettigrew said, sniffing. “My Peter is a testament to my ability as a mother-” This time, Narcissa snorted; it seemed, then, that Mrs Pettigrew was a rather awful mother. She’d managed to raise a son who’d got two of his friends killed, framed a third, orphaned a toddler and plotted to kill the fourth. He’d also faked his own death, spent years living as a Weasley pet – the thought of the Weasleys wasn’t quite as malicious as it might have been, now that Draco would probably end up living with them himself – only to run away from them and come to hide as a pet in Narcissa’s own home.

She’d be a hypocrite if she judged Pettigrew for playing both sides until he was confident that he’d survive – she was doing, or planning to do the same thing now – but she, at least, had her family in mind. Pettigrew had thought only of himself, and quite frankly, she didn’t think he was worth more than the Potters and Sirius had been.

She didn’t care much for Lupin – something about him had always seemed off to her, but James Potter had been an Auror and possessed no small amount of magical talent, even if he was a bloodtraitor. And, as filthy as her blood had been, Lily Potter had known how to heal and that was an admirable skill, no matter who possessed it; it was possible that Narcissa found it even more admirable because she herself possessed so little skill in that area.

Sirius, of course, was a blood traitor – and had betrayed her own family – but he, like James, had been an Auror and a rather gifted wizard. If Bella had succeeded in ‘pruning the family tree’, as she’d so loved to put it, Narcissa could have accepted that. Encouraged it, even, at least until recently – her opinions of Sirius were rather mixed at the moment, particularly because he was (or had been) the guardian of the boy that so many of her hopes rested on. Family problems should stay in - and be dealt with by - the family. And Pettigrew, no matter how close he’d been with Sirius, was not family. He had no right to frame a Black.

“-brave Gryffindor!” Mrs Pettigrew let out a loud sob and a sombre Dumbledore rubbed her shoulder when she sat down. Narcissa rolled her eyes.

*                    *                    *

Tonks checked her Sidekick and groaned; they’d only been in this stuffy little office for twenty minutes and it already felt like twenty hours. After Mrs Pettigrew had said her part, the Malfoys had stood. Lucius had prattled on about good bloodlines and how he and his wife would provide Harry with a proper upbringing. Narcissa had brought up the money side of things. Tonks thought it sounded awfully like she was trying to bribe Umbridge, and the sour looks on Scrimgeour and Bones’ faces told Tonks they thought the same. Tonks was relieved at that; if Scrimgeour and Bones didn’t like the Malfoys, it was unlikely Harry would end up with them.

Then it had been Mum’s turn and she and Dad had talked briefly about being able to provide a loving home for Harry and start to set right some of the things Mum’s estranged cousin had done. Tonks had just been glad they didn’t want her to talk; she’d only just heard about this mental adoption plan of Mum’s and was still trying to process it. Augusta Longbottom was the fourth and final one; she said something about strong wards and having both Harry and Neville in the same place, a strong family history and little Neville had said he’d like a friend.

Umbridge was quiet for a bit – she was scribbling things down and Alfred was reading over her shoulder, looking thoughtful – and Scrimgeour and Dumbledore were talking quietly. Then, Umbridge looked up and announced it was question time, and things went rapidly downhill from there.

It started off innocently enough; Bones asked – and had to repeat her question twice – if Mrs Pettigrew honestly thought she could handle living with a young boy again.

“I’m be more concerned about her ability to financially support the boy,” Narcissa said. “And her motives, of course.”

“Oh, like yours are pure,” Mum muttered, and Tonks glanced at her, surprised.

“I want what’s best for the boy,” Narcissa said, arching an eyebrow, and oddly, Tonks believed her.

“He’d grow up in a safe environment,” Lucius hastened to add. “The Manor is secured against intruders-”

“It’s what’s inside the Manor that the boy would need protection from,” Augusta said. Unlike Mum, she didn’t bother to lower her voice.

“Are you suggesting we’d harm the boy?” Lucius asked silkily, while Narcissa bristled. “I’d be careful what you imply, Madam Longbottom, particularly when you were in St Mungo’s with your half-drowned grandson not three months ago...”

“You only know that because yours was sick too,” Augusta snapped. “Rita Skeeter wrote a rather excellent piece on possible causes-”

“I wouldn’t discriminate like these two-” Mrs Pettigrew pointed at both Lucius and Augusta, making Umbridge’s wide mouth stretch into a smile. Tonks wondered why she was letting this go on and reached the conclusion that either all of her questions were being answered in the bickering, or that it was like the Auror aptitude testing. “- if I raised the boy.”

“Implying that you do the rest of the time?” Narcissa was quick to ask, and Mrs Pettigrew blushed.

“Young Potter would have ready-made playmates in Hydrus and Draco,” Lucius added smoothly.

“Or in Neville,” Augusta said. Neville blushed.

“Nymphadora will make a wonderful older sister,” Mum said, and Tonks shot her a look; she was pretty sure she’d just beat him at chess and buy him sweets and teach him how to hex people he didn’t like.

“He’ll benefit more from the company of children his own age,” Lucius said, gesturing to Tonks’ cousins.

“And we’ll do our best not to play favourites,” Narcissa added. Scrimgeour and Bones both snorted at that – Rattler was frowning - and Lucius shot his wife a look. Tonks wondered if Narcissa realised that it was twice now she’d brought up things – money and favouritism – that were likely to turn Scrimgeour, Rattler and Bones against her.

“Every child needs a role model,” Dad said, surprising Dora; she’d imagined this was Mum’s idea, but maybe Dad wanted Harry too. He must have, otherwise he’d have left Mum to do the talking. “And who better than an Auror trainee?”

“Yes, encourage the boy to risk his life,” Lucius said scathingly. “There’s a good way to keep him safe.”

“And you think he’ll be safer with you-”

“Now, Andy,” Narcissa said, “you know those charges didn’t stick.” Tonks stared at her Aunt again; something was definitely up. She almost wondered if Narcissa didn’t want Harry, because she seemed to be reminding Bones, Rattler and Scrimgeour of a lot of reasons not to let Harry go to the Malfoys. That was stupid, though. According to Mum, Narcissa didn’t have an independent bone in her body, so if Lucius wanted Harry – which he certainly appeared to – then Narcissa would too. Maybe Mum had been wrong when she said Narcissa was smart.

“Doesn’t mean they weren’t true!” Augusta said. “Everyone here knows that you and your sister-”

“I want the boy!” Mrs Pettigrew said shrilly. “He’s mine by right – it’s only fair. I lost my son to Black and now he can lose his son to me-”

“It’s Harry Potter not Harry Black, you daft-” Mum began, but was cut off; the door opened to reveal two people, one of whom was the last person Tonks could have imagined showing up to show his interest in adopting Harry Potter.

It was Snape, her old Potions teacher. He looked exactly the same, down to the greasy hair, hooked nose, curled lip and look of complete and utter disdain. The woman with him was tall and thin and blond and Tonks was positive she’d never seen her before. Was she Snape’s wife, perhaps? Snape didn’t wear a wedding ring, but the woman did.

Snape’s wife... now there’s a disturbing thought. She wasn’t the only one confused by the woman’s presence; Alfred had a slightly sick expression on his face and Tonks wondered if he’d reached the wife conclusion too. Everyone else – except for Dumbledore - looked confused, but it was Lucius’ puzzled expression that really threw Tonks; the woman couldn’t be Snape’s wife, or Lucius would have recognised her. Narcissa just looked thoughtful.

“Ah!” Dumbledore said, looking delighted. “You didn’t encounter any difficulties getting here, I take it?”

“None,” Snape said, and glanced at the woman. “Sit.”

But she didn’t sit. Instead, she pulled a folded piece of paper out of her handbag and offered it to Dumbledore, who read it quickly and nodded before passing it onto Umbridge. Umbridge’s face slowly turned red, and Alfred backed away from her.

“What is this?!” Umbridge spat, looking furious.

“Those would be forms confirming my custody of the boy,” the woman said, pursing her lips. Tonks wondered exactly who this woman was. “I believe they’re all in order?”

“They’re muggle-”

“Dolores, you know as well as I that we respect muggle legalities in our own legal system,” Dumbledore said pleasantly. Amelia and Rattler both nodded – warily though, as if they weren’t sure what they were agreeing to - and Scrimgeour watched the proceedings with narrowed eyes.

“And you- you’re her?” Umbridge asked finally. She put the papers down on her desktop and smoothed out the creases with her stubby fingers. “You’re Petunia Dursel?”

“Dursley,” the woman replied stiffly. Tonks wondered if this was the woman that Remus was supposed to meet later.

“A muggle?” Lucius asked, his lip curling. The cousin sitting closest to him mimicked his expression, while Narcissa and Tonks’ other cousin looked impassive.

“So I’ve been told,” Mrs Dursley replied haughtily, and Dad grinned. Mrs Dursley seemed to think he was mocking her, however, and sent an angry, embarrassed look in his direction. Then, she turned her pale eyes back to Umbridge. “Do you have any other foolish questions, or can I see my nephew now?”

Dumbledore’s eyes glinted and he was definitely trying to hide a smile in his long beard. Umbridge read the paperwork again and then, with a look of loathing – which was returned – at Mrs Dursley, threw her hands up.

“Fine,” she said crossly. “This meeting is postponed until two o’clock.” She snatched up the document and passed it to a startled Rattler. “Check that this is all in order, won’t you? I’d hate for Mrs Dursley not to get her nephew back.”

Liar, Tonks thought. Umbridge probably wanted the documents to be checked to see if there was any way to stop Harry going back to Mrs Dursley. With a wide, toady smile at the woman in question, Umbridge flounced over to the door. “After you, dear.”

“Thank you,” Mrs Dursley replied, pursing her lips. Her narrowed eyes found Snape. “Snape, are you coming?”

And then, Tonks watched in complete bemusement and shock as Snape – a man who scared Hogwarts students for a living, and was friends with the likes of the Malfoys – stood and swept out after her - a middle aged muggle woman - with a look of utter loathing on his face.

What in the name of Merlin’s pointy purple hat just happened?

*                      *                       *

“Aunt Petunia?” Harry asked, his head snapping up so quickly that she thought his glasses might slip off. His expression went from shocked to confused to worried to blank before she could even begin to think why he'd looked that way. “What are you doing here?”

“Hello to you too,” she sniffed. He stood and offered her the chair he'd been sitting on, before dragging three other, smaller chairs over from the corner. She realised that Snape and the pink woman had come in with her.

“Hi,” he said, looking uncertain again.

“Potter,” Snape said and the pink woman said in synchronisation.

“Are you an Auror?” Harry asked, looking at Snape.

“You know who I am,” Snape snapped.

“I don't think we've met, sir,” Harry said earnestly, with a sideways look at the pink woman. “We don't get many visitors, you see, because we’ve been in hiding... Did we maybe meet when I was a baby...? Does that mean you knew my parents?” It was on the tip of Petunia's tongue to tell him not to ask so many questions, but then she remembered it wasn't her problem. She didn't have anything to hide - he probably knew more about his world and his parents than she did now - and his behaviour didn't reflect badly on her anymore. It was obviously puzzling Snape, but Petunia didn't care if the boy made him uncomfortable.

“He was a friend of your mother's,” Petunia said. She surprised herself by offering the information, but it felt better than she'd expected to share something like that with someone - Lily wasn't a tabooed topic here - and she enjoyed the way Snape's expression soured.

“Really?” Harry asked, holding Snape's gaze. Snape was the first to look away, and Petunia felt a stab of pity for the man; she'd never been able to look into those eyes for long either. Not without seeing Lily, and wondering if her little sister condemned her for the way she and Vernon had treated the boy. “You'll have to tell me about her sometime, sir.” Snape said nothing. Harry didn't look dissuaded by the lack of response, or the vicious glare he was receiving; if anything, he seemed amused.

He looked well, Petunia was upset to see. He was still thin but not unhealthily so, and he'd grown several inches. She thought he might be taller than Dudley now. It was upsetting because, in a year in the care of a man who was supposedly evil and murderous, he was looking a lot better than he'd ever looked when he'd been hers to care for. She knew she hadn't been the best guardian, hadn't fed him enough, loved him enough - at all, really - but seeing him like this... it was like having every mistake she’d ever made with him, thrown back in her face.

She and Vernon had done everything they could to make his life miserable and here he was, spiting them with his happiness. It annoyed Petunia a bit, but she also felt something suspiciously warm kindle in her chest.

“Is Padfoot- I mean, is he – Sirius - okay?”

“How am I supposed to know?” she asked.

“Dunno,” he muttered. “Sorry.” He stared at his hands for a long time, his face unreadable again. When he did look up, Petunia couldn’t meet his eyes properly; she kept her gaze fixed on his nose and hoped he wouldn’t notice. “So have you- I mean, are you here to take me away?” It didn’t escape her notice that the boy had said ‘away’ and not said ‘home’, or that his jaw was set, the way she’d seen his father’s set once.

“I think it’s best if I handle him alone,” Petunia said. The pink woman frowned, but didn’t argue. She marched out and Snape swept after her. The door closed, and Harry and Petunia sat in silence.

“Well?” Harry asked, not impolitely.

“No.”

“You- you aren’t-”

“I’m not taking you home with me,” Petunia told him, and Harry looked surprised, upset and relieved all at once. Relieved. Were we really that terrible to you? It wasn’t really a question that needed an answer.

Harry took another few moments to process her response and then said, “So why are you here?”

“It wasn’t a voluntary visit, I assure you,” she said. Some of her frustration with this whole custody mess - and Dumbledore and Snape’s need to involve her - leaked into her tone.

“Sorry,” Harry said, looking as if he genuinely meant it.

“It’s fine,” Petunia said, surprising herself. She didn’t entirely mean it – it wasn’t fine – and while she liked to blame the boy – and Lily – for this, it didn’t seem right now that Harry was apologising. He looked surprised that she’d said it too, and they lapsed into silence. “How have you... been?” she asked eventually.

She saw Harry’s eyes flash - the way Lily’s had used to before she said something scathing and sarcastic – and braced herself. She could almost see him swallowing whatever he’d been about to say and suspected it was something along the lines of ‘what do you think?’.

“Fine,” he said, a little stiffly.

“Really?” Petunia pressed, not sure why she was picking now to take an interest in her nephew’s feelings. Perhaps it was because, in only a few short hours, she’d never see him again. She’d be his aunt by blood and no more or less.

“Sure,” he said, as if daring her to challenge that. She supposed she’d given up the right to get honest answers to personal questions years ago, when she’d set him up to live in the cupboard under the stairs.

“Were you happy?” she asked.

“Where?” he asked cautiously. His eyes were wary, curious, but to Petunia they were a sentencing from Lily.

With us. That didn’t need answering either, and Petunia didn’t think she wanted to hear the answer he’d give. She hadn’t thought seeing the boy again would be this hard, would cause her to question herself. She’d thought she’d made her peace with her decisions long ago.

“With him. Your godfather.”

“Oh,” Harry said. One side of his mouth quirked up and his eyes darted around his comfortable little office-prison, but they weren’t really focusing on anything.

“Well?” she said, a little harshly. Harry actually smiled at that, seemingly comforted by the return to her usual, impatient, irritated attitude toward him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was happy.”

Petunia nodded and stood, clutching her handbag to her chest. She couldn’t secure her freedom from this mess until everyone agreed that the forms she’d passed in were legitimate. She had a few hours to kill, but she wasn’t going to do it here. She doubted Harry wanted her there and while she wasn’t openly hostile anymore, her mixed up feelings hadn’t magically changed to make her love him and want to protect him.

She took one last look at her sister’s son, and left.

*                     *                    *

Petunia Dursley’s handbag contained an embroidered handkerchief, perfume, a purse full of muggle money and cards, a copy of the paperwork she’d given to Umbridge earlier, a small mirror, a notepad, keys on a Grunnings keyring, a folded article from a gossip magazine and a pencil with the name ‘Dudley Dursley’ scratched into the wood.

“Your keys and the pencil have to stay here,” Rufus said.

“But-”

“They’re potential weapons, madam,” he said and she sighed but didn’t replace them in her handbag. “Professor Dumbledore will go in-”

“No,” she said. Albus wasn’t surprised. “I’ve had enough of your meddling. I’m going to go in alone, say my piece and then I’m going home.” Albus exchanged a look with Rufus who shrugged and pulled open the door.

“In you go, then. If he tries to kill you, call out.”

Petunia gave him a dirty look – she obviously didn’t appreciate his morbid humour – and strode into the cell, handbag in hand.

*                     *                     *

“I can’t find anything wrong with it,” Giovanna Zabini announced. She was Lucius’ solicitor and he’d insisted on inviting her in to read over Mrs Dursley’s forms with Bones and Rattler. Narcissa thought it was unnecessary, but then, she didn’t want the Potter boy, and she didn’t particularly like Zabini.

“Neither,” said Podmore, who’d been invited up by Bones. Narcissa wondered whether he’d actually read it; it seemed to her that he’d spent most of his time ogling Zabini, who couldn’t be described as anything less than stunning.

“Nothing?” asked Umbridge sourly. Zabini shook her head looking apologetic, but Narcissa doubted it was sincere. Zabini had worked for – or with – Lucius for about ten years now and the only time Narcissa had ever known the woman to be sincere was when she was insulting someone, or citing a law.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore said jovially. “Shall I fetch Petunia?”

“Go,” Umbridge said, and Dumbledore stood up, beaming, and strode out.

“Let’s get the boys,” Lucius said, looking defeated. Narcissa took his hand and they followed Dumbledore out. “Where was your sister taking them?”

“To get lunch,” Narcissa said; both had held out until one, but then Draco had started to whine about being bored and hungry and Andy – who’d just stood up to get her own lunch – had offered to take them too. Narcissa rather wished she could have joined them; it certainly would have been more enjoyable than spending an extra hour in a room with Umbridge, while Zabini, Podmore and the D.M.L.E. staff bickered over laws.

“I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you, Lucius,” Zabini said, and Narcissa rolled her eyes as the other woman caught up. “Harry Potter would be lucky to live with you and your sons.”

“What would you know about children and their wellbeing?” Narcissa laughed.

“My son-”

You have a son?” Narcissa asked, shocked.

“Blaise. He’s a few months younger than your eldest,” Zabini said primly. “And I know enough about children to know that he’s better off with his father.”

“Impressive,” Narcissa said archly, and then blinked. Her own shock was mirrored on Lucius’ face, but he hid it better. “His father’s alive?”

“Obviously, or Blaise wouldn't be living with him, would he?”

“You know that's not what I meant,” Narcissa sighed.

“Do I?” Zabini drawled. “How fascinating; I was rather certain I had no idea at all.”

“Then perhaps you're not as clever as you like to think,” Narcissa said, pleased she'd managed to twist the conversation.

“No,” Zabini said. “I am.” Narcissa snorted but didn't say anything else; there was no safe reply to that statement, and she suspected Zabini knew it.

“Mother!” It was Hydrus and he sounded profoundly relieved. Andy and Ted both looked rather irate, and Narcissa suspected Hydrus had been throwing Lucius' insults at them over lunch. “Father!”

“I'll leave you to your children,” Zabini said, with a condescending smile; she’d made it clear to Narcissa on several occasions that she didn’t think mothering was a suitable way for a woman to spend her time. “I have to get back to my job.” And there it was. Narcissa shot a venomous look in the other woman's direction as she kissed Lucius on both cheeks and strode off, her heels clacking on the floor.

Hydrus was talking loudly to Lucius about what a horror lunch had been. Draco, though, wasn't with him; he was talking shyly but happily with Nymphadora and Lupin - who she suspected was here to help with Potter - about Merlin knew what. Perhaps it was Lupin's ridiculous t-shirt; Narcissa had only ever seen him in jumpers and shabby robes, so she couldn't for the life of her imagine what had possessed him to wear a 'Stumpp Silver' shirt.

It was a ghastly purple colour with a savage looking werewolf on the front and a list of concert dates and places - Stumpp Silver was a heavy metal band. Lupin appeared to be trying to hide it by pulling the sides of his robes together, but was having little luck. Narcissa’s lip curled.

“If you're out here,” Ted said, “then I take it Potter's going back to his aunt?”

“The muggle,” Lucius said disdainfully.

“I can think of worse places for him to go,” Nymhadora said, with a pointed glare at Lucius.

“As can I,” Lucius replied, looking at Lupin, who flushed and looked down. Narcissa thought that was odd; last time Lucius had insulted Lupin, the other man had been furious and caused quite a scene in the Leaky Cauldron. Lupin only looked resigned, however.

Nymphadora, on the other hand, swelled impressively - and literally. She grew several inches - Lucius was looking up at her - and her hair turned a bright, tomato red. Draco slipped away from her and to Narcissa's side and she put a hand on his shoulder and thought absently that she'd need to encourage bravery.

“How dare-” Nymphadora began loudly, despite Lupin's attempts to tell her it was fine.

“Nymphadora!” a voice shouted and it was too deep to be Andy and too gravelly to be Ted's; besides, both Tonkses had looked content to let Lucius be shouted at by their daughter. Narcissa supposed it was payback for Hydrus' behaviour at lunch.

“Wait, Mad-Eye,” she snapped, and Draco shrank back again as the old Auror limped around the corner. “I'm busy trying to beat manners into my idiotic, conceited git of an uncle. You,” she added, turning back to Lucius who didn't seem to know whether to be insulted or amused.

“I need you downstairs,” Moody said, grabbing her robes. “Now.” Narcissa didn't know Auror Moody well enough to tell his mood from his tone, but something made Nymphadora straighten.

“Fine,” she said, shrugging him off. Moody gestured for her to follow, but she didn't. Instead, she drew her wand and said, “Parva Digitum,” before any of them could respond. Lucius seemed unaffected. Then a funny expression crossed his face and he fell over. Hydrus and Draco gasped and glared at their cousin. Narcissa aimed her wand at her niece and Lupin’s was aimed – defensively – at Narcissa, because Nymphadora had lowered hers. Narcissa met Lupin’s eyes and they both lowered their wands.

“I'll have you stripped of you position in the Auror Program!” Lucius snarled, his face a mottled red. He tried to stand, failed, and gave up. Andy sniggered and Narcissa shot her an exasperated look. “'Family' or not, so help me-”

“Report me, then,” she snapped. “But it's my job to defend members of the public against assault - of the physical and verbal kind,” she added sharply. “So I think you'll find my actions are perfectly justified, if unorthodox.” Lucius opened his mouth. “I'd just shut up if I were you,” Nymphadora advised. “You've already threatened an Auror which is an offence I could arrest you for-”

“You're a trainee,” Lucius drawled from the floor. Narcissa wondered what it was her niece had done to him, but he didn't seem to be in pain. “You need another Auror present-”

“Convenient, aren't I?” Moody growled, making Narcissa jump; she'd forgotten about him. And, from the way Lucius paled, he had too. “The charges won't stick, laddie, but it'll be damned inconvenient for you and we are on our way down to the holding cells now...” Lucius shut his mouth, but his eyes were as sharp as swords. “That's what I thought. Lets go, Ny-”

“If you finish that, I'll hex you too,” Nymphadora warned. Moody chuckled and glanced at something golden before paling and jerking his head in the direction of the lift.

Lupin hesitated and then hurried after them with a worried, “Mad-Eye, did you say holding cells?!”

“How dare she hex Father!” Draco said angrily, glaring at his cousin’s back. Hydrus looked upset too, and was trying to help Lucius up, but Lucius just wobbled and sank back down again. “Stupid blood trai-”

“Don’t finish that sentence if you know what’s good for you,” Narcissa warned him and Draco gave her a sullen look. Uncomfortably aware of Andy’s stunned expression, Narcissa said, “It was a nasty thing to do, but it wasn’t because your aunt married a muggleborn.”

“You mean a mudblood,” Hydrus corrected, making Draco scowl.

“Why can he say mudblo-”

“We’ll discuss it at home,” Narcissa said, already dreading that particular conversation. Hydrus gave his brother a gleeful look and Draco glowered back. Ignoring her sister’s sniggers and the amused smile on Ted’s face, Narcissa turned her attention to her husband and joined his efforts in trying to undo whatever it was her wayward niece had done.

*                        *                      *

Tonks, Remus and Mad-Eye stepped out of the lift to the floor that contained the holding cells to find Scrimgeour, Shacklebolt, Ben, McDuff, Wright, Patel, Robards, McKinnon and a Healer in lime green crowding the hall. She could hear a man shouting, and a loud thumping noise. She could also feel the Dementors – and see them, hovering nearby – but she tried to ignore them.

“They’re all you could find?” Scrimgeour asked, either not realising or not caring that Remus wasn’t an Auror.

“They’re it,” Mad-Eye said.

“What’s going on?” Tonks asked, sidling over to McKinnon and Ben.

“Sirius has... well, we’re not sure,” McKinnon said, her eyes fixed on the door at the end of the corridor. “Gone mad, Scrimgeour thinks; he’s shouting for the Aurors and banging on the door. Has been for a few hours, apparently.” That certainly explained the noise.

“-sure what state he’s in,” Scrimgeour said, and Tonks started listening to him instead. “We didn’t want to risk rushing in, which is why you’ve all been called down here.” Wright and Patel exchanged nervous whispers but Tonks couldn’t hear words. “You’re not to attack Black unless he attacks you first.”

“Hear that?” Robards muttered, and McKinnon gave him a stony look. Tonks wondered what that was about.

“If he’s safe, then Shacklebolt, Moody and I will see what he wants... if not... Black is not, under any circumstances to leave that cell-”

“-want to talk!” Tonks heard Sirius shout. “I’m not going to bloody attack you, so just come here and-”

“We’ll go first,” Scrimgeour said, gesturing to himself, Shacklebolt, Mad-Eye and McDuff. “You can watch the trainees, keep them out of trouble.” Mad-Eye nodded. “Them too,” Scrimgeour added, nodding at Remus and the Healer.

They moved forward in a pack, wands drawn and ready, with three Dementors at the very front. Tonks had grown so that she could see over everyone’s shoulders. It made her a bit of a target, but at least she’d know what was going on.

“Step away from the door, Black,” Scrimgeour said, and through the small, barred window, Tonks saw Sirius move away. He was grinning like mad and she felt a prickle of unease. Scrimgeour tapped the door with his wand and opened it, and the other three Aurors filed in, forming a half circle around Sirius, who didn’t seem perturbed in the least. He looked like he might explode from happiness, which was odd, given his situation and the closeness of the Dementors.

“What do you want?” McDuff asked suspiciously.

Sirius just grinned and held up a piece of paper.


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