LL Chapter 14

Break out the utensils, my lovelies, you’ve got lots to chew in this one ;)

and lots of…knocking…ahem…

Beta’d in parts by ManfromDenmark and Yiggersentia, you lovely ducks, you. All Mistakes are Mine, however, I do not own it. No money is made here. I be poor.

Chapter 13/2

Excerpts from The Daily Prophet

Severus Snape: Alive!

Hero or Horror? You Decide!

(press wand to your answer in the box below to reveal current poll numbers)

-Circumstances under which he was found, pg.1

-Abstract on his VWI conviction and VWII posthumous trial, pg.6

-Relative Timeline of Accused Incidents since Supposed Death, see chart below

Godric’s Golden Gorgon: Hermione Granger!

-Obsessive Maneater or Determined Criminal? Hermione the Heartbreaker Strikes Again! pg.2

-Harry Potter in Shock at Revelation of Granger’s Duplicity. pg.1

-Wizengamot to be convened to review charges against former War Veterans, pg.6

Werewolf & Wife Without Woe?

The Lupins and their remorseless role reintegrating Death Eaters to the British Wizarding World pg.3

-What exactly does the Potter Foundation do under the current Lupin regime?

-Amos Diggory speaks out on Werewolves and their precarious status under Shacklebolt’s Ministry.

Should they be treated as humans or magical creatures?, pg.7

Ginny shook her head at the printed page in her hands. This was going to be messy, and it wasn’t even fully filed, yet. After this, she’d better pop down to the clerk and register herself as representation for everyone so they wouldn’t bombard them all with interrogations at the same time. It would be best to try and keep these things as streamlined as possible. Reading between the Ministry-approved headlines, she could see loads of potential for a Wizengamot interrogation to turn into a civil suit, People v. Her Friends.

Merlin, what were they thinking, keeping Snape a secret like that?

She snorted. Then again, according to Remus, it wasn’t exactly like they’d had time to make heads or tails out of anything.

Stuffing her newspaper back into her satchel, she pushed back the thought that this turn of events will likely mean an indeterminate amount of time around Harry. They’d nearly made a breakthrough in their relationship when he’d come back from his last recovery mission, right before Ron forced his way into the situation.

Ugh. Brothers. That was one thing she had way too many of.

Now if she could only get Harry alone again, perhaps they could start back that conversation where he was about to ask her out. Again.

Lord, how many chances had she given him, now? She’d lost count after—

“Miss Weasley.”

Ah. That would be her cue to stop woolgathering. Mooning over her and Harry’s variable relationship wasn’t going to get her in to see the Squib held for questioning after the Bath incident. Not that the papers had anything to say about that.

She stood and smiled, small and quick, nodding to Auror Dawlish as he let her through the wood and glass door to their offices. “You said he’s in here?”

“That’s right.”

“Why’s he not on Five? This is listed as an international issue.”

Dawlish smirked. “Now, Miss Weasley, you’ve been known to dance circles around Mallowfoot. You tell me why.”

That was why I asked you the question, idiot. Ginny narrowed her blue eyes at the graying Auror, but relaxed her face quickly. That was rather rude to insult a respected member of the Wizarding Solicitor’s Association and her superior like that, especially right off the queue. What kind of game was he playing at? Was he thinking to try and up her ego? Huh. Weird. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Regardless, they had formally charged this Hestry fellow this morning at eight-thirty with a list long enough to make the best scribe’s hand cramp in the making, so what was with the power play?

The were on Two, the MLE. If Percy’s old office let this man go to another department, then the Aurors had a greater claim on him. Without speaking to Hermione, all she really knew for fact was that Professor Snape was alive, along with quite a few other individuals that had no filed claim to be in this country, and had been treated at a facility ran by the fellow through door number Eight. Tonks had floo’d her late last night with a request that she look into things, but with the paperwork filed this morning, it looked like she’d be pushing Maury to take this one over anyway. She really didn’t like anyone to malign him, but he honestly was a pushover.

And all this right when she thought she’d have at least a week’s break before diving headfirst in her new programme. As it was, she could foresee about seven interrogations, and at least two civil suits in the making before her very eyes.

Merlin, things never did come by halves, did they? She rolled her eyes at the Auror and nodded for him to lead her down the hall. They stopped in front of a poster…more like a shrine to the fallen heroes of the Voldemortian Wars. Charmed illustrations of Mad-Eye and Snape stood in the center, back to back, barely sneering at each other over their shoulders before casting hexes at something out of picture. “Constant Vigilance” smoked in neon yellow at the top, just below Dumbledore’s eyes. Frankly, the poster gave her the creeps, but there wasn’t a wizarding child alive that didn’t have some clip or copy of it.

Someone cleared their throat behind her and she swung around to take in the situation. Dawlish smirked as he held the door open wide for her to see the apparent Hestry sitting at a table, staring dully at her…

No…not at her…

At the poster.

She could see now as she moved into the room that he had a perfect view of the poster through the barred window if he sat just so. And something about Dawlish’s smirk told her that he wasn’t allowed to move from that seat. Fantastic. She suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Boys.

She set her leather case on the cold metal table top and sat in the wooden chair across from the defendant, addressing him carefully and respectfully, “Mister Hestry, I presume?”

The man drug his sleep-deprived eyes from the doorway that Dawlish closed behind them all and slid them to finally settle on Ginny. He did not answer.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, then, shall I?”

A slight nod. Well, at least he wasn’t rendered a complete vegetable. What had they done to him? Gods, did he have representation, yet? The man had been functioning as a Muggle until yesterday and surely he couldn’t use his current solicitor, here. Hmm.

Here’s where the old morality slips in. Should she try to question him before he has anyone around or try to gain his trust by ensuring he had someone, then make sure that particular someone is…useful? Maury Mallowfoot wouldn’t even have walked in the door without the other legal counsel present. Ginny was not so conscientious.

The question remained.

She thought a bit longer, then remembered Terry was apprenticing law under his father in his final year under Dibley, Boot and Wharton. There would be no love lost with the Snape issue, but he’d be fair…and…well, he’d been a fairly good looker last she’d checked. Might not be bad for a bit of a pushing point with Harry if she were to been seen with a successful, good-looking wizard their age.

Not that she would ever do anything to jeopardize the legality of a case. Hypotheticals only, obviously.

She sighed, internally, and looked to the haggard man before her. “Sir, I’m assuming your counsel hasn’t shown because they are Muggle. Have you, therefore, been assigned Wizarding legal representation?”

He stared at her as if she’d grown a second head. Apparently not. She ignored the movement from the Auror at the door, some slight shift in his stance that could signal affront or just discomfort. She did address Auror Dawlish, however, “Would you please contact Admin and have them send over the next available representation from D,B and W?”

There was some risk in making her request that way, but wording was sometimes everything. It was risky enough to request a specific firm. Dawlish glared at her a bit, but when she tilted her head into a smile, he nodded and sent a patronus ghosting through the barred window of the door. The detainee went rigid beside her, inhaling sharply. When she looked to him, he sat with his hands pressed against his eyes as if he were experiencing a headache.

She looked at him with sympathy, “Headache?”

“Lord, yes. There’s something like a high-pitched noise whenever you people do your magic that just…hurts. Drives me nutters.”

“Ooh. Sounds like an aura-migraine. Mum gets those sometimes. I can help with that, if you want.”

He peeked out from behind his fingers warily, “How?”

She held up her wand. He stared at it for about thirty seconds, then out the small window and Ginny assumed to the poster on the wall outside. That was doing exactly what the Aurors wanted it to do, impressing upon Hestry the weight of exactly who he’d been treating and possibly how much retribution they’d exact for it. Perhaps it was enough for him to start being cooperative.

He rested his elbows on the table and rubbed his eyes again, raking his fingers up to his hairline to try and press some of the pounding blood out of his scalp, then tentatively nodded. She smiled, performed the spell quickly and tilted her head to him, “Any better?”

He’d blinked hard through the application of magic and sat, a little bit stunned. She waited for his reaction and was a little disappointed when all she got was a tiny nod as he stared at his bound hands.

Well, it was a start, at least.

They sat awkwardly for some minutes in silence before Ginny had another idea and conjured a pitcher of water and two glasses, purposefully leaving Dawlish out of it. Hestry nearly gagged at the sight and leaned as far back in his chair as possible.

She blinked and slowly reached for one tumbler and the pitcher, carefully pouring the first glass, then the second. She set the second glass down on the table closer to his reach and the pitcher was vanished with a flick of her wand.

Ginny took a sip of her water, the first glass poured, with a steady gaze on Hestry. When she drank a healthy gulp and set the water back down on the table, and only after several moments of a soft smile of understanding at his apparent need to wait her out, he finally reached for his tumbler with both hands and drank down the entire contents with one greedy gulp.

He set the glass down rather hard on the table and stared at her, obviously wanting and not wanting to thank her. She smiled again and vanished the glasses before he got any ideas. His hands vibrated away from the now empty space the glass had occupied and he slowly sat back in his wooden chair, watching her in confusion.

There was a small whirling-pop noise outside that sounded like someone using a portkey. Must be Terry.

Dawlish double checked and let him in.

She stood to greet him with grace, ignoring the frozen Muggle beside her for the moment. “Terry! I’m so glad to see you! Don’t tell me your Dad lets you work alone, now?”

“Ha ha, very cute. As if you didn’t know, this will be my last case before clearing my apprenticeship.”

“I thought I’d heard you were up for that.”

“Seriously. I need to speak with my now-client, so shut it for a sec, will you?”

“Would I interrupt you?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

She smirked at him and walked over to lean against the wall with Dawlish as Terry set up a silencing spell around him and his client for them to become acquainted.

“Didn’t you two go to school together?”

Ginny looked up at the man beside her, wondering why he cared. “He graduated a year ahead of me, why?”

He snorted and sneered. “Typical Ministry. If I didn’t know your reputation as well as I do, I’d say they set up a few war heroes to lose an open and shut case where a Squib clearly ruined a man’s life, simply by sending the most inexperienced and inappropriate pair of attorneys they could find.”

By the end of his statement, Ginny’s face was flaming hot. “First off, Auror Dawlish, if you have a problem with someone assigned to this case, you take it up with your head of department. Second, you keep your opinions in your head, not out in the open where they can influence a criminal investigation. Third, you’ve been an Auror nearly as long as I’ve been alive and you should know better than to make snap judgments on something you don’t have all the facts on. That’s why we’re here, to gather information. Obviously, you’ve gotten enough against him to formally charge him but until he’s proven guilty, we have to assume we don’t know everything there is to know. Am I clear, Auror Dawlish?”

His face was like granite, hard and ugly. “I get it, Weasley. Just you remember, I have been doing this almost as long as you’ve been alive. What this man’s done, what we’ve already gotten evidence of, is enough to tell me he’s stolen years away from one of ours. Not only one of ours, but THE one, the one that had already lost so much time, according to your precious Potter—“

“He’s not my—“

“and regardless of what your case record is or what procedure is, I know bad when I see it. I don’t care what the circumstances were, he knows he did it and that’s what really matters.”

Now she wished she’d been on the defense, just to be able to prove Dawlish wrong. As it was, she had to prove him right or some of her best friends and mentors would be in deep shit regardless of sides. There had to be some kind of angle that could rub this in his face.

She stared down Dawlish mulishly. “We’ll see.”

He shook his head disbelievingly, crossing his arms over his chest to end the conversation and she looked over to Terry and Hestry.

Honestly? The man didn’t look like someone who could have captured and subdued the great Severus Snape, much less force him to take some kind of potion or medication that stripped his magic. Initial reports from St. Mungos stated a severe magical and physical atrophy accompanied by traces of an unidentified drug. They had kept Snape and others—ten others—strapped down and stripped of their magic.

A Squib couldn’t do that without help and even if Hestry was a Wizard, he looked so…weak.

That was it: there had to be at least one more person, if not a team of others. Who supplied the medications they used? Who supported them financially? How did they get the land they were on if it wasn’t listed with the Ministry as magical real estate and had no Muggle Proximity Permit?

With a wave of his wand, Terry canceled the silencing spell around him and his client, then stood and arranged himself on the same side of the table. They both looked to Ginny expectantly.

She smiled and flicked her wand to “record” their conversation as she sat down to the table across from them.

“Today is October Sixteenth, Two-Thousand, at half-ten. Good morning, my name is Ginevra Weasley, of Mallowfoot and Meeks. Council representing the defendant is Terrence Boot of Dibley, Boot and Wharton. Depositor is listed as Mister Stanley Hestry, recently of Tennet Hall of Bath, is that correct, Mister Hestry?”

He nodded. Idiot. It nearly spoiled her fabricated, pleasant tone. “Mister Hestry, I will have to ask you to please verbalize all your responses clearly for the recording. Now, you are Mister Stanley Hestry, recently of Tennet Hall of Bath?

“Yes.”

“Thank you. I’m going to ask you a few questions that will clarify a few points before we begin, is that all right with you?”

“Fine.”

“Have you ever had your deposition taken before?”

“No.”

She smiled to try and warm him up, “Good for you, now, as you are a Squib and used to operating as a non-wizarding British citizen, I cannot put you under wand-oath, but can you attest that everything you say in this deposition will be the complete truth to the best of your abilities?”

“Don’t you people have some sort of impartial court clerk for this?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but your case is a special one. Wand-oaths are unbreakable and we rely on them heavily in our judicial system. Special considerations must be made for the handicapped, but there is no court clerk required to be here today.”

He looked shocked and angry at her description of him as handicapped, but it couldn’t be helped. She bit back a smile and asked again, “Can you attest that everything you say in this deposition will be the complete truth to the best of your abilities?”

“…yes.”

“Thank you, Mister Hestry. Do you understand that means your answers have the same force and effect as if we were in a courtroom with a judge and a jury?”

Um…” He looked to Terry, who looked on, impassively. Terry had done this more than she had and knew to keep his face. Hestry eventually answered, “I suppose so.”

I require a yes or no answer to that question, sir. Do you understand that means your answers have the same force and effect as if we were in a courtroom with a judge and jury, Yes or No?”

Yes.”

Ah, this question might send him off. She glanced at Terry as a warning. He looked to Hestry, “Are you taking any medications or suffering from any illness that will prevent you from understanding my questions or answering them fully?”

I most certainly am not.”

Ginny sat back in her chair, slowly. That was a full sentence! They were making progress. “If you don’t understand one of my questions, will you let me know?”

Yes.” Oh, he bit that one out.

And if you need a break, let me know that as well, okay?”

Right.”

Good. I think we’re ready to begin. The usual stipulations, Terry?”

I think that will work for today. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to begin.”

Fine. Proceed.”

Terry slid her a look she wasn’t quite clear on. It either spoke of her getting on his nerves or he was about to lay into Hestry on something. Huh.

She broke out a quill and parchment from her case as he started his line of questioning.

According to our previous interview, Mister Hestry, you stated you are a medical doctor in psychology, is that correct?”

Yes.”

This is in a non-wizarding capacity?”

Hold that answer, Mister Hestry. Mister Boot, could you please be more specific than the term ‘non-wizarding’?”

Noted, Miss Weasley. Strike that question. Let’s start again, shall we, Mister Hestry?”

Um…All right.”

Have you ever used or performed magic, magical treatments, magical devices or magical implements of any kind upon a person in the history of your medical tenure?”

Um…”

His eyes kept going down to the table as if he were trying to find a way through this statement. Ginny thought a little careful direction was needed, so she kicked Terry under the table. He responded with a glare and, “Mister Hestry, I’d like to remind you your statements are to be completely true.”

I…I think I want the question in smaller bits.”

Her eyebrows shot up at that and her eyes locked with Terry’s. This man had used magic in some capacity, but how?

That’s perfectly all right, Mister Hestry. Have you ever performed magic?”

No.”

Have you ever used or performed magical treatments on a patient?”

No.”

Have you ever used magical devices or implements on a patient?”

This was where he started to look a little more gray around the eyes. He opened his mouth a little, “C-could you define those, please?”

Ginny waited for Terry to reply. He sat back in his chair and thought about what he was going to say, then leaned forward, “A magical device or implement would be something made by or containing magic or a magical ingredient. Something you can’t get outside this community. Does that clarification suffice?”

I think so, yes.”

Okay. So, Mister Hestry, have you ever used magical devices or implements on a patient?”

Hestry looked from Terry to Ginny, to Dawlish scowling in the corner, then out to the poster on the wall outside the cell. “Yes.”

Terry inhaled and Ginny didn’t blame him. His job just got harder.

Did you use these devices or implements of your own free will?”

Hestry’s eyes locked onto Boots like a lifeline. “NO.”

Ginny ground her back teeth. That was deliberately leading his client, the bastard. She wrote down the word impeachment and underlined it twice, referring to this part of the recording, then shot Terry another glare. He ignored her and continued, “Did someone coerce you?”

Yes.”

Great job of asking open ended questions, Terry. She withheld from rolling her eyes, just barely.

Do you know the identities of the person or persons that coerced you into performing this act?”

Yes.”

Oh, Merlin, that’s it. “Mister Boot, I would like to object to what seems to be a leading series of questions with no actual beneficial end.”

He narrowed his eyes at her and tapped his quill on his own parchment, spelled so she couldn’t read what it said across such close quarters. “Mister Hestry, please state for the record the identities of those persons.”

Priscilla Sweep, head of the pharmaceutical research division at Sweep Industries, United States.”

Was this the only person involved?”

There was another, but she was local money and didn’t want to be known, so I never knew her name.”

Did you ever meet with this other, local woman?”

Once. Not exactly a meeting, mind you, more of a nod down her nose as she toured the facility.”

Ginny got a shiver up her neck. He couldn’t mean…

Can you describe her, then?”

Blonde. Cold, blue eyes. Looks down her nose like you’ve stepped in something.”

And you say she was financially involved with your research and coerced you into using these magical devices on your patients?”

Oh, yes. She even brought me one of them.”

One of what?”

One of the patients.”

Who? Who did she bring?”

He looked once again outside the cell, then pointed his bound hands, index finger foremost. “Him. The one with the big nose all in black.”

After Ginny and Terry recovered from their shock at him identifying so easily the culprits to their case, Terry stated, “For the record, I’d like to state that Mister Hestry is indicating a nearby image of Mister Severus Snape, who was previously considered deceased until last night.”

Terry looked about as ashen as their despondent. He looked to Ginny, “I have no further questions at this time, but would like to retain the right to redirect.”

Of course.” She was shocked, surely. Who else could he be describing but Narcissa Malfoy? That meant that Narcissa took Snape to this place to…to do what? How did Narcissa get a hold of Snape in the first place? Did she save him from the Shrieking Shack? Ginny blinked and tried to reign in her thoughts to what this man could answer, specifically.

Mister Hestry, how long has your establishment been in practice?”

I’ve been in practice for fifteen years. Tennet Hall has been established for three.”

Under what circumstances did you open Tennet Hall?”

I applied for and was given a grant by the University of Bath, underwritten by Sweep Industries, to create a facility to expand their psychological pharmaceutical research.”

Did you understand at the time of receiving this grant that it entailed working with the magical world?”

No.”

At what point did you realize this?”

Once we set up the facilities, we advised the university it was ready to receive patients. After three weeks of no response, we received a…visitor. Miss Sweep, herself. She explained the real purpose of our research.”

And what was that?”

To…to treat and prevent magical growth in humans. To find a…cure…for magic.”

Hestry looked around the room as he said this, then to each of them and she was sure their fully shocked faces. Ginny recovered, “Why?”

It is ou—their belief that magical beings pose a threat to humanity that needs to be contained, and they were exploring the possibility of cutting off one’s magical ability through the combination of traditional and magical pharmaceuticals. Studies have shown that when introducing certain magical ingredients to traditional binder and filler ingredients, their magical chemistry changes. In some instances, that magical chemistry can be provoked into attacking the locations in our brains that control and direct magical energy. Shall I go on?”

N-no. That’s enough for now, thank you. We shall most likely revisit the subject in the future.”

Merlin and the Lady, what has gotten into people that they want to kill magic?

Tell us about when Mister Snape, the man you pointed at on the poster, came to your facility.”

That was about two years ago. The blonde woman had some kind of short creature bring him to me. I think you call them elves, but I’ve never seen any story with an elf like that. It was sort of gray-green with big, buggy eyes…It-Its name was Dimity! I remember that because my grandmother used make it in a shop.” He looked at her funny, but continued, “I thought it was odd, to name something after a piece of cloth, but then, everything about you people–”

Mister Hestry, I’d advise you to hold your personal opinions, please.”

Leading, Terry.”

Protecting, Ginny.”

Fine.” She looked down at her copious and frenzied notes, looking for anything she could exploit or follow…

Who owns Tennet Hall?”

Sweep does.”

Miss Sweep, or Sweep Industries?”

Industries, I think.”

Mm.” She looked over her notes again. Ah. “What happened three, no, four days ago?”

You’re referring to the abduction of that beaky fellow, eh?”

I am referring to the removal of Mister Severus Snape from your facility. Please tell us what you can of the occurrence.”

/

Testing Halted on Potion/Pill Combination

-Authorities unsure of validity for human testing, “Further Safety Testing Required”

-Sweep Industries, USA in talks with St. Mungo’s Research Dept on joint venture

-Longbottom expresses doubts, stock trade drops on futures for Wizarding Pharmaceuticals

-Explosion in Bath shuts down U.B. Experimental Facility, Statute of Secrecy invoked

Narcissa stared. She stared with cold, blue eyes from the shifting, gut-twisting news in the Prophet to the shell of her once-powerful husband and took a deep, rib-shaking breath. This was it, then. Their last hope was gone.

Wasted, like three-hundred-year-old elf-made champagne on a party of cardigan-wearing halfbloods. Opportunistic cretins.

Not that she belittled their opportunism. She actually admired that. No, what she despised was the ham-fisted manner in which they barreled through her carefully wrought existence, all her family’s aeons of planned perfection. What had been left of her proper acquaintances after the eradication of the Dark Lord had long ago fled to the continent, been imprisoned, or worse, stripped of their privileges in society.

She sniffed and tilted her chin up a fraction, looking away from…Lucius…to a Malfoy family crest that had been crafted into the stained glass window. They would have suffered the same fate as the worst of the lot if she hadn’t taken desperate measures and approached the enemy looking for…she blinked and sighed. Because of that one action, Potter stood up for them and they had been able to keep their lands, their position in society. One may not be caught dead speaking to a Malfoy, but one would certainly still take their Galleons. At least they still had their money.

Or so she had thought.

Now, Narcissa had not been bred to be the head of the family by any means. She’d been bred to be a showpiece, a glittering diamond, a cabochon, the crown jewel. Never the figurehead. When Lucius came back from Azkaban…well. Someone had to take things over.

He’d been…empty. Not ‘kissed’, surely, or he’d be as unresponsive as—

She choked back a quiet sob and swallowed down bitter realism. Long past was the time of their misspent youth, their carefree strength. Even when the Dark Lord had overrun their house, Narcissa had to push and pull the strings of her marionette of a husband to keep their family together. Gone was the vibrant peacock she’d married and in his place was something…less. Whispers of betrayal ate at her heart for even thinking such things, knowing they’d been forced into their parts and knowing that the only thing left for her to do was to carry on.

At least he still responded to her attempts at conversation, even if they were forced and stilted. His apparent depression had reached far enough to start affecting their businesses and when all of his partners were either imprisoned, deported or dead…Narcissa was left holding the quill. Lucius had been kind enough to discuss what investments were where and what speculations had been planned with the dividends, but he’d had to be prodded for the information persistently. Daily.

Finally, after almost a full quarter of the same repetitive inundation of questions, Narcissa realized she had a better grasp on their state of affairs than he did. She never looked back and Lucius disappeared into his study, probably to educate himself on the finer merits of their french faun-made cognac production.

One thing she had started taking a chance on, something Lucius hadn’t pressed into very much, was pharmaceuticals. Wizarding pharmaceutical research, to be exact, and there were only four facilities performing research, worldwide. It only made sense to continue their charitable donations to St. Mungo’s, that was obvious. The Longbottoms were family, of a sort, and regardless of what Bella had done to them, one took care of family.

And one never put all their eggs into one basket, that way led to disaster, of course.

That left Saudi Arabia, Japan, or America. After very little consideration, it was an easy choice to work with a company whose sister research facility was located in Bath, so America it was.

Was. Had been.

Damn that Sweep woman. She’d taken an awfully big risk on that venture…

She closed her eyes slowly and looked left to the presence that was never more than ten feet away from her. The Malfoy ivory hair no longer held its luster and his father’s gray eyes lay quietly half-lidded, staring lifelessly out the stained glass window before them. The Victorian wheelchair she’d brought in for him was polished to a high sheen and his clothes were immaculate, along with the warm woolen blanket tucked around his listless legs…his fine boned, waxy hands lay limp and still in his lap.

The sight was torture but it was hope. As long as he was alive, there was hope. A young man, once beautiful, once so brave and full of life and promise. A lovely young man, once so proud and arrogant, so expressive…

And now, Draco, her boy, her only joy in life, sat in his chair and stared, lost, out the stained glass window, slowly blinking at regular intervals.

That facility in Bath had been so close to finding a cure, they’d assured her. She’d banked on it.

And now it would be their downfall.

She sighed and rethought that statement. It wasn’t the money. There would always be money, even if they had to sell that gold and diamond bottle of cognac from some wizarding son of the Tudor family Lucius had made an investment in. No, this was worse than money. This had to do with Snape being found, being linked to Sweep, and Narcissa being linked to them both.

And then having to explain why.

The similarities between Severus and Draco’s states would be questioned…then someone would remember the odd occurrence with the Lupins in the Great Hall after the Battle of Hogwarts…

Someone would figure it out and that she was the only connection between all of them besides Potter’s little group.

There were certain things one just did not do and resurrecting four people with a broken resurrection stone-turned-horcrux of the Dark Lord was one of them.

And there was no conveniently indebted Potter to save them, this time.

It was then that the large brass door knocker dropped like a death knell.

Three times, it hit, ringing against its backplate embedded within the thick, ancient oak door. It reverberated through the household, calling to her like a Valkyrie in flight over battle.

She turned back to see Lucius slipping into his study, shutting the door behind him quietly, a soft counterpoint underlying the rude noise attacking them. Draco sat utterly unaffected.

She folded the newspaper and looked again in the general direction of the front of the house.

That was it then. Time to face things like a Black instead of a Malfoy. That was what her sister had been saying all along, wasn’t it? She closed the folded newspaper into the ledger book in front of her and stood with an inhalation, then called for her house elf,

“Dimity! Get the door.”

/

Hermione grew rather tired of Severus shifting the paper as she tapped her foot on the floor, watching ripples of orange-yellow swim outward. Her hands gripped the edge of the small, single mattress on its wooden frame and she sighed.

She watched the wall behind him swell from shades of cloudy gray to crimson, finally settling on a deep blood red.

This room was slowly driving her psychotic. Maybe if she could drive him into conversation, they could get on the same feelings and then it wouldn’t be so bad. Problem was, what in the name of Merlin were they to talk about?

Hermione thought to his surprisingly sexual attack only minutes before with a drop down deep in her belly that spun desire tripping along her veins. It rolled over her nerves with a sugary-electric headiness that kept revisiting her in pulsating waves and she fought to keep her expression and breathing under control…then she rolled her eyes at herself.

For starters, they could talk about this…his…

Sexy…

Um?

Dammit, why did he do that when he was the one who said he needed time?

She glared at the stupid newspaper in front of his face and gave up on waiting, “Well?”

She could have sworn he’d been still, but obviously not. Now, he was still. It was like he was holding his breath with the paper. Hermione was about to reach over and yank it away from him when he responded quietly,

“What.”

Her mouth opened in indignation. ‘What.’ What. That’s all he had to say? And in that tone! Oh, the nerve! Well, he couldn’t wriggle his way out of this one, “What was that all about?” She flung a hand out towards the wall next to the door to clarify in case he looked.

All she was met with was more silence behind the newspaper. Was he riling her up on purpose? Her fingers were literally claws before The Prophet the moment before he continued blandly, “I believe there is a readout of some sort displaying this room’s data. Mister Longbottom was once again displaying his ineptness with the art of timing.”

She huffed dejectedly and retracted her claws, folding her arms over her chest and shaking her head. “And before that?”

Holy Mother, the paper was shifting away—yes, she could see his face!

She was momentarily stunned for it was…almost…Oh, if only he had the hair! Her breath caught in her throat at the intelligence and knowledge shining in his eyes. “Are you really a gorgon, Hermione? A heartbreaker?”

She could literally feel her amazement fall off her face and into a sneer worthy of him at the mention of Skeeter’s article. “About as much as you were responsible for Bob Trowbridge’s house burning down last spring.”

There went the eyebrow. She stared at it in poorly hidden amazement as he snarked, “I never did like him. He was appalling with a cauldron.”

This was astonishing. He was…did it? “So you do remember things?”

His face dropped from the slight flirtation he’d been apparently attempting into a more business-like manner, “Obviously.”

She’d not even known he’d been doing it until it was gone, so subtle was the change. Her heartbeat increased. She vaguely noticed rose-imagery climbing up the walls, “More than you did yesterday?”

He apparently noticed it more than she did and looked about the room before he responded, “Much more.”

She ignored it and pushed, “All of it?”

His eyes snapped back to hers with an unreadable expression, “Most of it, I think.”

“And?”

He stared at her for a brief moment, then smirked. “I wasn’t the first to call you ‘Know-It-All’.”

Her giddiness caught in the back of her throat in choked laughter, “You were, too!”

He affected a sarcastic attitude, “I distinctly remember overhearing a rather large group of students calling you that behind your back. I would have assumed you had heard it before it came from me.”

It was his small smile at the end of his little speech that gave it away. She blinked and smiled in wonderment, “Are you trying to distract me?”

He peeked at her askant through his long, dark lashes, “Is it working?”

“No.” She laughed in disbelief and, after a brief moment of indecision, stood up, “What else do you remember?”

His eyes took their time from her flats, to her denims, to her jumper and looked her all the way up, which went a long way to warming her cold self, but said something shocking of his. He answered, “You had very large teeth.”

It took her a moment, but then she narrowed her eyes at him, “I thought you didn’t see any difference.”

He leaned a slight bit forward, dropping his leg where it was crossed on his knee as he went, as if imparting an important secret, “I lied.”

He lied.

That would normally have been a horrible thing to say, but that meant he was telling her he’d not been indifferent to her. That he’d seen her and remembered her, regardless that she was an annoying pain in his side and…and?

He still did that thing at the door knowing all that.

She was nearly drunk with happiness. Here he was, back to normal, and flirting with her. He said he’d not pursue her until he knew who he was…and now he knew who he was. But…it was all because of that incident at Hestry’s, wasn’t it? She looked to the paper with the awful headlines that promised inquisitions and polls, then back to his face, “Are you very cross with me?”

“Cross? For this?” He looked from her to the paper strangely, as if the two couldn’t possibly have anything in common. “Hardly. I would have rather reached this conclusion without the massive magical cleansing, as it were—”

She stepped a half-step closer and he craned his neck up at her. She pressed him for more, “What does that mean?”

He looked up at her like Crookshanks used to when she’d been scolding him, “Stop standing over me, woman, it’s uncomfortable.”

Her face twisted in an attempt to conceal her amusement. He was back. The man she’d fallen in love with was back, along with the man she’d been coming to know over the past few days. She was in heaven. And all he was asking of her was to stop standing over him.

Oh, she could think of many different ways she could do that right about now…his lap, for one. Although, he might not want her to be quite so aggressive. Hmm. The chair, then? Yes, that would probably do it. “Alright, how about this?”

With a grin and a nod, she very carefully widened the chair he was sitting in to where there was just enough room for two people to sit very close to each other. She sat next to him and looked up at him expectantly.

He seemed amused, but it was hard to tell. He quirked his lips at her, “I believe that will suffice, thank you.”

She smiled back, “Oh, I get a thank you out of him. What next?”

What next, indeed? Right as she was rolling her eyes and was properly distracted, he darted forward to kiss her rather soundly.

As soon as she was oriented, she inhaled against his mouth and brought her hands to his face to hold him in place, opening up to him as he brushed his lips across hers in a velvet dance of exploration. His hands were running up her sides again, one down to slip under her shirts and the other up and around her neck, into her hair.

She just kept holding on for dear life.

The hand traveling across her belly was soft and cool, but the strokes from each finger were confident, each one shooting sparks along her nerves and sensitizing her skin. It kept traveling up and up and she jerked in tiny convulsions against the overwhelming sensation of him touching her this way. She huffed into his mouth, licked his lower lip with the tip of her tongue, nibbled at his mouth and nuzzled at his nose when he started moving his lips away from hers.

Those lovely lips of his started a quest to meet his hand, down her neck in hot kisses and licks that sent her groaning. Her fingers finally gave up their hold on his face, only to dig themselves into the spiky depths of his short hair.

This would feel so good when his hair was long again, but what if he didn’t want his hair long? They’d have to talk about that…later…when he wasn’t stealing her breath away by kissing her collarbone and nuzzling the neck of her jumper.

She suddenly registered the unfamiliar weight of his hand on her brassier-clad breast and inhaled sharply, letting out a small sound of surprise and slipping one of her own hands down to meet his and hold it there.

He came up for air from her neck and after a moment, she caught her breath and opened her eyes to see his face… his glorious face wreathed in desire. His oubliette eyes were half-hidden by his heavy lids and somehow the arrogance of his nose made him look all the more sexy in her eyes. His breath was coming out in puffs against her face, meeting her own breathing and she could just see the edges of his teeth from between his open lips.

And oh, those lips.

Normally, they looked thin, pale, restricted, but not now. Kissed, they warmed up to a delicious shade of desire and filled out to perfection.

His lips were made to be loved by the one kissing him, which was such an amazing overture she had to kiss his mouth immediately.

And so she did, greedily, hungrily, as if she were dying and he was the only well left to drink.

He responded, participating in kind, much to her heart’s delight, and also by tightening his grip on her hair. Using that grip, his hold on her breast and their kiss, he guided them to a stand and over to the bed.

Her knees hit the mattress and she made a small noise. He turned them so he was backed up to the bed and sat, drawing her into his lap.

Oh, heaven.

She nearly died of happiness when she felt his arousal pulse against her heat. Her little noises increased and she just went crazy. How could anyone hold back at this? His hands had made it to her buttocks and pulled her in with a breath-stealing rhythm.

God, why did they still have clothes on?

She dropped her head from a keen of ecstasy back down to his mouth and devoured him.

She heard noises out in the hallway, but Severus tensed up underneath her and gave a helpless shout against her neck.

She got even hotter just thinking that he’d done that and kissed him thoroughly. The noises outside got a little louder, but Severus distracted her again by pushing a hand between them and a thumb down against that sweet spot, hard and sure. Her breath hitched, he dropped his head to bite her nipple through her jumper and she exploded in quiet stars, vibrant gold and white dancing about her vision until he took her mouth again.

She floated in bliss for a few moments more until she heard a familiar voice call from the other side of the door,

“Hermione, get your shirt on and come on out. Snape needs his check up and you’ve got an Auror in Neville’s office that’s been waiting for you.”

Oh, God, “Ronald, honestly…”

Severus nuzzled the side of her face and ran his hands over her back and buttocks, “What’s worse, that he knew or that him knowing made us off?”

Her eyes flared at that insinuation and her mouth opened in shock, “Severus! That’s…that’s dirty.”

He stared at her with lowered lids and a half-smile of knowledge, “It happened.”

Her mouth stayed open for a few moments more—

“Hermione, come on. You can snog him later.”

Her eyes flew back to the door in realization of what he was saying, “He’s really not bothered by this.”

“Considering previous examples, I can understand your shock.”

She looked back to Severus with confusion, “Um, okay? Won’t the nurses be mad?”

“About this?”

She nodded.

“I believe I can convince them of its healing properties enough not to worry about that.”

She felt a bit poleaxed about that. Her body was enjoying a fantastic aftermath of touching from his hands sliding everywhere and he was so calm…

Perhaps there were benefits, after all?

She dropped in to kiss him and clambered off his lap, adjusting everything back into place. As soon as she reached the door, she turned back to him and saw the evidence of his behavior in his lap, “Um…If you don’t mind?”

She pointed, he nodded. She zapped him with a good cleaning spell, blew him a kiss and knocked at the door for Ronald to let her out.

“Took you long enough.” He tried to peek in the room, but that just didn’t feel right.

She went for a good poke to distract him, “Some men take the time to get things right.”

“Ouch?”

She looked at her former boyfriend in confusion, who was looking back at her in confusion. They started down the hall to Neville’s office. “Why the question mark? You always sped through everything.”

“You never complained.”

“I was in love.”

“Yeah, Ouch.”

She huffed. “I don’t mean to carp. Did the Auror say why he was here?”

Ronald shook his head as they passed by the nurse with a trolley full of potions and scrolls, then turned a corner to a hallway of office doors. He opened the third one on the left and let Hermione in first.

“Thank you.”

“Mm.”

“Hermione! Finally.” A look passed between Neville and Ronald that led her to believe they’d had a conversation about her earlier indiscretion with Severus. Fantastic.

Neville gestured to the other man in the room, a man that looked to be in his late twenties, with brassy hair and blue eyes. “Miss Hermione Jean Granger?”

She nodded. He was entirely too cheerful for her tastes but she waited patiently.

He continued, “You are hereby summoned to appear before the Wizengamot on the twenty-fifth of October, two-thousand at nine o’clock in the morning.”

He handed her a scroll which turned from orange to blue as soon as her hand touched it. He nodded in approval, “All the details are in there, I bid you good-day. Lots more of these to hand out, you know.”

At that, the red-robed man strode off with a nod to everyone and she blinked at her two old friends. “Well.” Curious, as ever, she opened the scroll and read the summons.

Halfway through, she let out a growl of outrage and dropped into a seat, followed by Neville and Ronald.

“What’s it say?”

She looked up, down at the paper in disbelief, then back up again, waving it at them. “Aiding and abetting in a fraudulent death. Aiding and abetting the movement of unregistered magical persons about Britain.” She looked again, “Failure to file immigration registration of unregistered magical person. Breaking and Entering Private Property.”

She wanted to crumble this thing in her hand but it probably had some kind of Imperturbable on it. “Violation of the Statute of Secrecy through numerous acts at Tennet Hall. Violation of the Statute of Secrecy by not reporting the explosion at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Destruction of Property at both Tennet Hall and Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Leaving the Scene of a crime…”

Her mouth dropped open in shock as the length of the list registered. “Is Umbridge still in the Ministry? Did I miss something? I mean, I knew this was going to be big, but, my God!”

Ronald was the first to speak, “Merlin, Hermione, this is…this is…”

She nodded with incredulity, “Yeah!”

He winced, “Have you talked to Ginny?”

She rolled up the summons and sat back in the chair, “No, but she’s talked to Remus and Tonks already.”

Neville spoke up, tentatively, “She flooed me about an hour ago, asking to have me on as a consultant. Sounds like she’s already got something set up.” His tentative smile was sweet, and she knew he meant to be encouraging, but if Ginny felt she needed Neville’s help, this she’d known it was going to get to that point. This was going past Inquisition, into a Trial, at least on some levels.

Shit.

Hermione nodded in shock. This was…Lord, no telling what they lined up at Remus’ door. The Ministry had been aching to find a way to take a bite out of his Werewolf-rights efforts, and this just might do it. “Listen, I’ve got to go. I want to find out if Remus got anything like this.” They nodded. “I hope not, but I want to know. Neville…um. Is it okay if I come back later?”

He looked up from a chart he’d been reading through, “Actually? Whatever you’re doing is helping him.”

She stared, open-mouthed. “E-excuse me?”

He gestured to the item in his hand, “His core magic readings spiked off the charts when you two…g-er-yeah-and it leveled out at a twenty percent higher rate afterwards.”

She cleared her throat and stared him down as his face grew beet red, “You’re serious?”

He may have been embarrassed, but he kept her stare, “As a Venomous Tentacula.”

She smiled, “Then I’ll be back later for…improvements.” At that, she swept out the door and headed home. Who knew how much better he’d get with full-on sex? The prospect was exciting.

/

Ron leveled a look at Neville. “Are you pulling my leg? Twenty percent, my arse. You’re just telling her that.”

His old roommate handed over his chart and showed Ron the data. “This is last night when he came in. Here and here are his nightmares. Woke up, saw Hermione, I caught them kissing or groping or whatever and then a wait period…and here. They get into it, he gets off, and look, it’s consistent.”

Ron looked up from where they’d been looking at the strategic points on the data chart. “Neville, if a bloke could get stronger magic just by having sex, we’d all be strong as hell.”

And damn if he didn’t make Neville blush. That was weird. Huh. He felt the need to say something conciliatory, “Well, maybe it’s just that we have to be with someone special?”

Neville nodded. “There have been cases where a couple’s magic can heal, or even cross over to level the other out.”

Ron’s brow furrowed, “Oh, wait, you mean, he’s stealing Hermione’s magic?”

Neville shook his head, “More like she’s making more for him. Or his body is reacting to the stimulus now that he’s fairly free of those magic inhibiting drugs that fellow had him on.”

“Actually, that last one makes sense.”

“Yeah. So, it’s okay for her to…you know. The healers won’t stop it.”

“Weird.”

They stood there for a moment in silence and Ron wondered…of all things…when Neville lost his overbite.

“Yeah. So, um, h-how’s Harry?”

“Harry? He’s fine. We just got back from this crap mission all over the continent where we had to go to all these bars. Someone threw a fish at us, can you believe that?”

He squinted his eyes and tilted his head a bit, “Um…why’d they throw a fish?”

Ron shrugged, “I dunno, I guess it was handy.”

Neville laughed. He actually laughed at his little joke, which was kind of nice. He smiled and snorted.

“How’s your mum? Your family?”

“They’re good. Fleur and Bill are coming for a visit next week, so if we can get Charlie at Halloween, we’ll have a full house. Mum’ll be nuts, but happy.”

“That’s nice.”

“You?”

“Me? Ugh. My Gran’s got either her bridge club coming over, or her mahjongg club. I think its about time I find a flat, actually, but she keeps railing at me about economy. I can see the sense, really, but I just want to be my own man, you know?”

And he did. Oddly enough, until Neville really said that, he’d forgotten, after settling down after the Battle, what it had been like to feel that restlessness. It had been itching at him again lately and Neville saying what he just did made it all gel in his head.

He nodded with a smile, “Yeah. Hey, you done?” He gestured to the desk. “You wanna grab a pint? I know it’s lunch, but…”

Neville looked down to the file in his hand and dropped it like a foreign object. “Yeah, I’d like that.” He came around the desk and Ron followed him out of the office.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done something this spontaneous, but it felt fun.

/

Dimity, being the obedient house elf that she was, lightly scratched on the library door where Narcissa was sitting with Draco, pulling her nervous and determined mind away from the face of her son. The beast’s timid little voice was quiet enough that one had to strain to hear her at times, but Narcissa rather preferred it that way, instead of that screeching, gibbering, nonsense that had come out of her predecessor’s mouth.

“Madam Malfoy, Dimity begs your pardon, but Miss Genevra Weasley wishes to speak with you. Dimity has placed her in the blue parlor.” Huge, wavering, yellow eyes glinted back and forth, waiting for her Mistress’ response.

Narcissa stared at the little beast in shock. Weasley? Here? Why—of course. Panic clawed at her heart for a brief moment but she shoved that ruthlessly aside. Her husband had tried to kill this girl eight years ago. She groaned and hoped this had nothing to do with that diary incident. Potter said that had been taken care of.

Honestly, that was the only reason she could fathom Miss Weasley coming to a Malfoy…unless…She’d read about her promotion in the paper last week in the exchange section. She could be here investigating this thing with Severus.

More panic seized her chest before she grappled it down under control. She had business to attend to. Business with a woman that her husband had given a horcrux to. Even she didn’t know if Lucius knew what the Dark Lord handed him, but she was fairly certain he’d not have handed a horcrux to a child. Even if it was a Weasley.

Perhaps this Genevra was here to bury the hatchet, so to speak. They were cousins, of a sort, after all.

Well. Prevaricating was getting her nowhere. She inhaled and smoothed her hands down her lap.

Again, like a Black, not a Malfoy. She stood again to her full height, pulling as much of her magic into her intimidating stature as she dared and looked down her nose at the house elf to inform it of her plans. “Bring some tea, I will see her. After that, you may come back here and watch over Master Draco.”

“Oh, thank you, Madam! Thank you!”

Her eyes flashed to ice at the house elf’s growing enthusiasm and warned quickly, “Remember to wash his face if he dribbles. I will not have my son sitting in such an ignominious fashion as I found him last time I trusted him to you.”

“Yes, Madam, of course, Madam! Thank you!”

These sick little enthusiasms turned her stomach. She waved at Dimity in dismissal, “Begone, you mad little thing and take tea to our guest.”

The mad little thing was overjoyed and snapped from the room with a squeak.

Narcissa brushed imaginary dirt from her sleeves and shivered. “Ugh, effacing little rodent. Sometimes I wonder at Molly’s decision to do without them.” She looked down at her polished nails and sighed, thinking of all the things she’d have to do on her own after a long day at the books. “Then again, not really.”

She took a calming breath and turned to her son, palming his head with one hand and sliding it down to his neck in affection. “I will find a way to fix you, dearest.” Her eyes burned a little, “If it takes every last resource we have, I promise you that. I will find a way.”

Gray eyes stared half-lidded out the window behind her, unmoving, slowly blinking.

Besides, the gods may actually be giving her a window to pry open now that the door’s been slammed in her face. The only way to find out would be to actually talk to the girl.

Her hand slid down to her son’s shoulder and made a slight squeeze before she took another breath and steeled herself to leave the room.

Walking through her house used to be a lovely affair, giving her such a feeling of superiority and accomplishment. She’d achieved exactly what her mother told her to exactly how she’d said to do it and no one ever questioned her place here. The Black family was old, tenaciously pure and somewhat well-off, but marrying into the Malfoys had been an exceptional coup for her and her mother. Especially after what happened with Andromeda and that Muggle.

Someone had to erase that particular event from relative recent memory and her marriage had done just the thing. She ran her fingers along a gilt picture frame and looked up to see a rather large depiction of their wedding day.

Narcissa sat, young, perfect, shades of ivory and white, in front of Lucius who stood behind her with his hand on her shoulder. His silver robes were immaculately cut, as well as his gorgeous hair.

No one knew little Draco was already there, deep inside his mother’s womb, formed from their one indiscretion before the wedding.

She sighed again, then turned away from the portrait, hands fisted, and stalked the rest of the way to the blue parlor.

Dimity was just setting the tray down when Narcissa sailed in the open doorway. It squeaked again and snapped out of the room.

The women took each others measure before stepping forward for pleasantries. After a brief moment of caution, Narcissa stepped into her role of hostess by reaching forward with her fingertips. “Miss Weasley, I can’t say I would be any more surprised by another’s presence in my house at this moment. How may I help you?”

The Weasley girl awkwardly grabbed her fingers in a sort of handshake that men were supposed to do and let go with a bit of a grin. “Missus Malfoy. Thank you for seeing me without notice. I understand you must be busy, so I’ll get right to the point.”

Interesting. There would be no dancing about with this one, apparently. That could be…refreshing. Speaking of refreshments, she motioned for them to sit and she poured the tea.

“I’m sure you’ve read this morning’s Prophet. I’m representing Mister Snape in the Wizengamot inquisition being arranged and in one of the preliminary depositions given regarding his reappearance into the Wizarding world, your description and that of your house elf, Dimity, was mentioned.”

Narcissa carefully placed the teapot back down to tray. Of all the things this girl could have come here for…

What did she want? What was she asking? A million questions were skipping around her head in a nervous staccato, striving to be heard, but she forced them all back. This had to be done correctly or it was all for naught. They straightened out the simplicities of making tea—milk, sugar, lemon, etcetera—before she answered Miss Weasley’s implied question.

She looked to her guest and stated, “What of it?”

They each eyed the other over the gold rim of their porcelain cups.

“It was implied that you may have more information on where he might have been before his term at Tennet Hall.”

Term. That was an interesting way of putting it. Either she knew so much more or so much less than she was letting on. “Implications are interesting things. They can mean so much and yet, so little.”

Miss Weasley gave her a hard look with a flattened brow and lips that spoke of either exasperation, impatience, or frustration. She sat her cup and saucer on the cherry and ebony inlaid table between them and leaned forward.

“Look. I’m not here, officially. You’re not being questioned, this hasn’t even gone before the Wizengamot yet, but no one even knows where Snape’s been for the past two years. Now, last night, he’s involved in an explosion in Bath and I’ve got to keep him from being eaten alive by the press and the Ministry from recanting their ruling on his now not-so-posthumous trial after VWII. Things will come back out in the open that were thought laid to rest, Missus Malfoy.”

As if Narcissa’s raised eyebrow wasn’t clarification of her understanding enough, Miss Weasley continued, “Actions taken and not taken by many people during the Battle of Hogwarts will be revisited and if I don’t nip this mess in the bud very quickly, I won’t be able to control where it goes.”

Both of her eyebrows shot up in significant meaning as her chin tilted downward and the girl couldn’t have been more blunt than a bludger.

Give up what she knew now, or she’d make sure the hounds went sniffing up Narcissa’s skirts if Snape’s posthumous trial gets rehashed.

Weasley, the girl may be, but that was an almost-Black move. She was almost proud of the girl, after a speech like that. Narcissa could also get the sense that Miss Weasley was offering protection if she was cooperative this early in the investigation.

How very interesting.

And tempting.

And terrifying.

Of course, the side door for family knocked at that time and completely threw off her concentration. Please don’t say Andromeda chose now to visit? Whoever it was knocked again.

Miss Weasley looked towards the parlor door and out into the hallway to see what she could see, which would be obviously nothing.

Except she could hear the tell-tale sounds of Dimity letting Andromeda in. Damn that over-achieving creature! She smiled tightly at Miss Weasley. “Excuse me. It seems I have another guest, but I shall be back momentarily. Please make yourself comfortable.”

There, that should leave her a pleasant impression while she went to deal with her meddlesome sister.

She slipped out into the hallway, pulled the door to the jamb and sighed just as her brunette sister came down the hall. It was so lovely to have a sister, again. Bellatrix was pitifully insane those last few…decades…and they’d all been forbidden to even talk to Andromeda. Bella was the last of the line alive to be able to enforce that rule, so, Narcissa, being bereft of so much family, immediately sought Andromeda out after the Battle of Hogwarts. After all, it was partly for her that she’d revived Nymphadora and Remus.

Their sisterhood took over any awkwardness and decades of abandonment was left ignored in favor of starting afresh.

She stepped towards Andromeda and whispered fiercely, “Eddy, now is not the time for visits.”

That drew her up. “Whyever not? I’m you’re only sister. It’s not like you have much company in the way of your lump of a husband.”

They both noticed the pregnant pause left without mentioning Draco, but Andromeda was always too keen for her own good. Her eyes slid to the mostly-closed parlor door like a gossipy old maid. “Oh, but you do have company. Dare I ask who? Cissy! Do you have a paramour! Great Lady, at last!”

Good gods, when would this old thing get it in her head about Fidelity Charms? “Oh, do shut up, it’s nothing like that. The Weasley girl is here and asking questions about Severus.”

“Uh-oh.” If it wasn’t so serious, Narcissa would be pleased to have brought Eddy up short twice in one conversation.

As it was…“Right. So now is not the time for visits, Andromeda.”

Oh no. No. She was getting that Look. It either meant someone was about to be eviscerated or brought into the fold. Andromeda was thinking up a plan awfully fast.

Her sister smiled, “Are you sure?”

She had enough guilt in her from abandoning her now-only sister for so many years that she just had to ask, “What are you thinking?”

“Would she be here if she thought you had some nefarious hand in his incapacitation?”

Now that was a good point, and one she’d not had time to think up. “She’d probably have brought one of her brothers along with her if that were so. If not, your son-in-law.”

“Exactly. This may be your chance to set the board to your advantage before the game gets too far afoot.”

Board? Afoot? She sounded like a cross between Severus and Agatha Christie. “Are you sure we had the same mother?”

She glared back playfully. “I’m the only one that looks like her, you ninny. Now let me in there and let’s get started.”

Narcissa looked back over her shoulder to the door, still pulled-to. “Are you sure?”

“Well, she wouldn’t be expecting me, now would she? We could take advantage of her surprise and keep her off balance.”

Narcissa couldn’t help it. She snorted.

Andromeda gleamed. “Bet no one besides me has ever seen you do that.”

And, there went her brief bought of happiness. “No one alive and non-vegetative.”

Her sister’s face went immediately repentant and serious. “Oh, Cissy. It’ll be alright. There’s still Longbottom’s research at St. Mungo’s. And Sweep isn’t out of the picture, just their Bath facility. They still have all the research they did.”

“Yes, but they almost had it, they said so.”

There was a hesitation in Andromeda’s voice when she responded, “Are you sure…they’ve been…completely honest with you?”

“Excuse me?” Just thinking that they hadn’t was enough to send her into a panic.

Her sister saw this and put a hand on her arm in placation, but continued, “I just get the feeling that that Sweep woman had disgusting scruples and would just as easily double cross you as that Hestry fellow. And we know now she gypped him.”

Her language, sometimes! “Don’t be common, Eddy.”

She rolled her eyes, “Oh, come on. They blew up their entire facility and release every single patient and not one record was found. Don’t you think that was more than a little strange?”

“Surely Hestry hid the files…”

“And according to my good friend in the intensive care ward, all ten patients match Severus’ medical profile, if only to a lesser degree.”

“I’m not following you.”

“I’m only putting out the possibility that they were working on something other than a cure for Draco. High powered American companies don’t necessarily redirect an entire program of University funding just to save one young man.”

They were silent as Narcissa digested this painful bit of reality. She was right and this was something that had bothered her after reading those articles in the Prophet this morning. It just hadn’t clicked until her sister pointed it out to her…perhaps she’d just not wanted to see it. She looked sadly up to her sister’s eyes, “This has bothered you for a while, hasn’t it?”

A resigned face nodded, “Yes.”

“Why didn’t you say something before?”

“Honestly?”

She nodded in assent, afraid to say too much at this point.

“I didn’t want it to be possible. This morning’s paper and my little talk with Judy made it possible.”

Judy? “I’m still not following…”

Andromeda scowled at her, “Narcissa. Stop being thick and think about it. They obviously had at least one project running before you came along, right?”

“Right.”

“Would they have stopped whatever that was to focus solely on your problem?”

“Of course not.”

She rolled her eyes and flung out a hand, “Had they ever actually produced evidence of progress towards Draco’s solution?”

Narcissa crossed her arms and shifted her feet. “They said Severus was making breakthroughs with the medication they’d given him. They said they’d have a solution to all my problems by Halloween.”

Andromeda’s arched eyebrow spoke volumes of how suspicious she found that statement, “Did they say that before asking for a cheque?”

She grit her teeth, not wanting to respond in the affirmative. “It means nothing.”

Another, higher pitched, feminine voice spoke before either of them could continue,

“Except that’s not true. It means a great deal if we can prove Sweep’s been performing illegal activities within Wizarding society.”

Ginevra Weasley had poked her head through the doorway, shamelessly eavesdropping on her conversation.

Merlin, she’d not even thought to use a silencing spell. Her own home was making her soft.

Miss Weasley greeted her sister, “Hello, Andromeda.”

Her sister smiled back, “Ginny. It’s good to see you again.”

“How’s Teddy?”

“I left him with his mother, well-rested and ready for his supper.”

She laughed in response, “You’re cruel!”

In mock defense, she replied, “I’m not cruel, I’m a grandmother.”

Narcissa winced at that, not knowing if she’d ever be able to be one, now. At least she could live vicariously through her sister…when she could handle it…

Miss Weasley spoke directly to her in a sympathetic tone, “I’m sorry, it’s kind of an occupational habit to overhear conversations. Draco is ill?”

Narcissa blinked at this young woman and went over the options before her. Hmm. Well, there weren’t that many when she took her last promise to Draco into consideration, were there? She already knew something was up, and that she was involved. She also knew that Eddy knew, which meant that it might get back to Nymphadora and Remus, who, according to Eddy, were still in denial.

If she were ever going to control what would happen to her family, now would be the time to do it.

“I think we’d better sit down. Tea?”

/

End Chapter 13

Notes:

The newspaper clippings were a lot of fun to create. I hope they weren’t too weird or hard to follow. Hopefully it was easy to understand that VW stands for Voldemort wars and not Volkswagen ;)

I chose Godric’s Golden Gorgon for Skeeter’s story on Hermione because a: it alliterates and we all know how lovely alliteration is for newsprint and b: c’mon, it’s Skeeter.

Imagine that these newspaper articles are a bunch of hooey. It is, afterall, the Daily Prophet ;)

MLE, magical law enforcement. Yes, I looked up the ministry levels as best I could. Please suspend any critiquing of the legal section. It really is a hash of what I remember from my own deposition on a car accident case and what I could find for examples. I am not a student of American or British Law and therefore have made all sorts of mistakes. Then again, this is Wizarding Law, it has flaws too. JKR didnt’ take the time to write a Penal code, though by the time I’m through with this chapter, I’m pretty sure I did. ;)

The poster. Ah, the poster. That was a silly little idea I had and I’d love to find a way to make a real one, but I’m not that talented. Perhaps one of you are ;)

As for the little non-bombshell of the magi-kill pill, I am not a chemist, nor am I a potioneer. I would assume that muggle binders affect magical ingredients, however ;) let’s pretend, shall we?

Dimity the House Elf! It always struck me that Dobby was named as such. Dobby is a kind of fabric, so I kind of figured that Narcissa would name her elves after low-grade fabrics. There’s probably a Cambric and Gingham running around, too.

Ah, and now we have the big reveal! How many of you guessed it? Big bad American corporation taking advantage of poor Narcissa! O.o

Now, Narcissa. Ever since the woman was introduced to me on the page, I’ve seen Joanna Lumley. Always. It’s never failed me. So for her to have a sister she can call Eddy is hilarious to me. A million points to the house of your choosing if you know why. The gold and diamond bottle of cognac? Look it up, it’s real. It’s also worth about a million dollars!

As for the hotness? Severus’ accident sent a charge through his body that burned through any remaining drugs in his system. He’s been essentially force-detoxed. The drug was affecting the magical connection between his life and his memories. :) It’s alive! And hot for student! He wasn’t able to get an erection before…but in the previous chapter he sat down VERY QUICKLY as soon as it started showing interest. Then he thought, what the hell ;)

Now, if only we can just fix Draco…

Music:

Smoke and Mirrors by Gotye

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

Angels and Men by Juno Reactor

Metamorphosis Three by Philip Glass

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3 Responses to “LL Chapter 14”

  1. Anonymous October 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Plse finish this story? It’s awesome!!!

    • Dena Gray October 30, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      Thank you amazingly much for the encouragement! I am working on the story, never fear!

    • Anonymous October 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      I rec’d it here : https://www.facebook.com/groups/4106702206/. Plse join?
      I’m Hope Leslie hermnharry BTW

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