Time slowed to an almost impossible level as Narcissa watched them lead Lucius away. He didn’t shout and scramble as so many others had done.
No, he stood tall, his face a solid mask as he was led away. Only once did that mask flicker, and that was as he met her eyes. His gaze straying down to the toddler on her lap.
That flicker was all she needed to see.
She bit the inside of her cheek so hard that she tasted blood. He’d promised that he would never leave her. Told her that his loyalty towards the Dark Lord would never stop him from being there for her.
But today he’d broken that promise.
And now she was alone.
No, she wasn’t alone, the small body squirming on her lap reminded her. She was a mother. She would never be alone as long as Draco needed her.
And she needed to turn all of her attention to him.
Taking a deep breath, keeping her mask in place, she stood up and shifted Draco to rest comfortably on her hip. Like the wonderful child he was, he had sat quietly through the entire trial.
Confidently, her head held high as she fell back on every bit of training she had, she walked out of that courtroom. Flooing back to the Manor before the Ministry employees could arrive.
They’d be tearing this place apart, but that was fine. It had always been Lucius’ home. Too many Malfoys had left an impression. She’d never been able to sink her own magic into the place.
They’d be much happier in her dower house.
Much, much happier.
The childish shout made her look up from her book and Narcissa couldn’t help but smile as Draco ran over to her.
“Yes, my dragon?”
He held up a stick, gripping it tightly with his chubby little hands.
“I’m looking, darling.”
He grinned and gave the stick a twist. As she watched the bark rippled and shimmied down the length of the stick. A moment later it was as smooth as marble and a brilliant orange.
“That’s so lovely! How did you learn to do that?” she asked, letting her voice tell him just how proud she was. Doing accidental magic at three! And transfiguration to boot! Oh, if only Lucius could…
She wouldn’t go there.
He’d chosen his path. And now he was paying for it. Sweet Nimue, he’d even made her pay for it. She loved her little home, not much more than a cottage, but she missed the life she had lost.
Going to Diagon Alley, or any other wizarding place in the British Isles, was an absolute nightmare. She’d only made the mistake of taking Draco there once, but that had been more than enough. He was now extremely wary of strangers. It made her heart hurt, to see him with no playmates his own age. Even the Death Eaters, or Death Eater sympathizers that had escaped persecution never returned her owls. She could only assume they were trying to protect their own families, which she could understand.
She just didn’t like it.
And she doubted she ever would.
A little bell chimed and Narcissa looked up from the bookkeeping she’d been doing, a small frown marring her elegant brow.
Who could it be?
It had been almost five years now since Lucius had been incarcerated, and in that time they’d only had three visits at her cottage.
All three of them had been from the Ministry. Of course, they’d just been making sure she was ‘safe’.
But the last one had been over two years before.
She could hear Dobby answer the door, a quiet murmur of voices, and then he appeared in her small little office. His bright red tea-towel clashing with her decor, but she didn’t mind. It made Dobby easy to spot.
She didn’t like having an unseen house elf around the place, it made her feel insecure. Something she really didn’t want to dwell on.
“Mistress has a visitor.”
“And who is that visitor?”
“A Miss Tonks, Mistress.”
Narcissa frowned. Tonks? Andromeda had married a Ted Tonks, but they hadn’t spoken in years. Who could this be? A daughter? Perhaps. Well, only one way to find out.
“Thank you, Dobby, please bring her here. And prepare tea in the sitting room.”
Dobby gave a bow and left silently, making Narcissa smile. She’d always hated Dobby, he’d been such a terrible house elf, but that had all changed after they’d arrived at the cottage. She didn’t quite know why, or, rather, she didn’t want to dwell on the likely reasons.
Narcissa wasn’t quite sure what she’d expected, but it certainly hadn’t been the girl that appeared in the doorway to her sunny little office.
Miss Tonks had the most outrageously colored hair in a ponytail that could never, in a million years, be called centered. It was a bright green that put limes to shame. And, while the girl appeared to be of Hogwarts age, she was certainly not dressed in robes like a proper young witch. No, she was wearing those muggle blue trousers made of a rather sturdy fabric. But it was her top that made Narcissa want to go find her sister and give her a scolding. How could she let her daughter wear a top that was practically falling off of her? And what was the ridiculous strip of fuzzy cloth around the girl’s wrist?
The girl waited rather nervously in the door and Narcissa stood, gliding across the room and holding her empty wand hand out.
“Hello Miss Tonks, I’m Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy. What may I do for you?
Miss Tonks - she really should know her own niece’s name - stared at the hand and then took it tentatively. The girl’s grip was loose at first, but after the first shake grew much firmer and, as Narcissa watched, her hair went from bright green to a more calming turquoise.
Well, that was a fact she hadn’t known.
Narcissa’s heart gave a twinge and she felt hurt, remembering how close she and Andy had been as children. How could they have grown so far apart?
She’d chosen to trust her husband. Follow the path her family wanted. And look just where that had led her?
“Uh, well, hello,” Miss Tonks said, pulling her hand back and looking around the room.
“Well, would you like some tea while we discuss the reason for your visit?” Narcissa asked kindly, her heart tugging at how much strength of character it must’ve taken her niece to come here.
“Oh, yes, thank you. I’m famished. Mum thinks I’m with Charlie for lunch. Took me forever to fly here. I really misjudged the distance.” Miss Tonks said in a rush of words.
“Well, then we shall just have to have some cake, as well as biscuits. Follow me.” Narcissa moved past the girl and led the way to the sitting room.
The sitting room was nothing like any of the ones she’d had at Malfoy Manor, but Narcissa was rather glad of it. The room was small, with only one conversation circle. One part of it was centered on the fireplace that they enjoyed using all winter long, while the other end contained two french doors that were currently thrown open to let in the warm summer breeze coming in from the garden.
Where, if Narcissa craned her head just right, she could see Draco playing with his toys. She’d never been able to go shopping in Diagon Alley with him, but she had taken him to a muggle toy store a few miles away for his last birthday. There he’d selected a magnificent dragon, several knights, wizards, and one poor princess that was constantly being rescued from the dragon.
Dobby was just laying out a tea service as they walked in and Narcissa cast him a grateful glance when she saw it not only contained cake and biscuits, but several little sandwiches.
Miss Tonks took a seat on the settee and Narcissa chose to sit opposite her, on her favorite chair.
“How do you like your tea?”
The question made Miss Tonks jump. The girl had been looking around the small room with awe, taking in every detail. Narcissa knew it wasn’t a very splendid room, not like her old sitting rooms, but then, she doubted Andy had anything this splendid. She’d been denied her dower house when she ran off with a muggleborn.
“Uh, sugar please. Lots. Oh. And no milk,” Miss Tonks answered.
“Here you are.” Narcissa passed her a dainty cup on a saucer. “And, please, help yourself to the food.”
Narcissa sipped slowly at her own tea as the girl grabbed a sandwich and hastily devoured it, showing none of the grace her mother had been famous for. Silently, she studied the girl’s features, searching for any sign of her sister. There wasn’t much, likely Miss Tonks morphed any features she didn’t care for, but there, in the tilt of an eyebrow, was a bit of her Black heritage.
After a few minutes the girl slowed down on her eating and Narcissa smiled nicely at her, “So, my dear, to what do I owe your visit?”
Miss Tonks jerked at the question, dropping her teacup on the ground and spilling tea everywhere.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! Here, let me-” Miss Tonks grabbed a snow white cloth napkin and started to bend down to sop up the tea, but her head hit the tray and sent it all tumbling down off the table. Narcissa could do no more than stare for a moment as her niece’s turquoise hair flashed to a bright red that matched her cheeks as she sat on the edge of the settee, her clothes covered in tea, cakes, and little bits of cucumber and ham.
She looked about to cry.
Narcissa quickly collected herself. Maybe treating Miss Tonks like the visitors she’d once entertained wasn’t the way to go. No, perhaps it was better to address the girl in the same manner that she used with her son.
With that settled she pulled out her wand. “Don’t worry about it. Accidents happen. Besides, I have a young son, you think I own anything that can’t be easily repaired?”
The girl didn’t respond, just looked more shamefaced and her eyes began to fill with tears.
Narcissa gave her wand a quick wave, sending the remnants of the tea service to the kitchen where Dobby could deal with it. Another wave eliminated the spilled tea and left Miss Tonks sitting there quite dry.
Sadly, that didn’t change the girl’s expression as tears began to leak out of her eyes she let out a loud, painful sob.
Narcissa stood and moved to the settee, sitting wrapping her arm around the girl’s thin shoulders.
“It was just a tea service. It will be alright.”
The girl let out another sob. “I’m sorry! I-I just wanted to make a good impression! But I always muck things up when it matters!”
Now Narcissa was a bit confused. “I wouldn’t say you mucked anything up. It was just an accident. Besides, we’re family.”
The girl’s head jerked up and she yanked away from Narcissa’s embrace to stare in open-mouthed shock. Her hair was once again that shocking green color.
Narcissa frowned, “Why do you look so shocked? Don’t you know that your mother and I are sisters?”
“Well- I mean- Yes! I know! But mum said you HATED her! And that you’d NEVER say I was family. It’s why she always decided against going to visit you! I heard her tell Dad that she was just trying to protect me, by not mending bridges with you. That’s why I came here today! To show you I’m worthy of being a Black, at least enough for you to visit my mum and talk. But then I blew it by being my normal clumsy self! I’m so, so, sorry!”
She stared at this scared, brave little girl and felt something swell up inside of her. It took a moment for her to realize what it was.
She cracked a smile and yanked the girl into her embrace once more, hugging her tightly.
“You silly, brave, wonderful girl! I never approached your mother for fear of what she would say over my son!” She gave the girl a tight squeeze and then released her, pulling back to look down at the girl’s confused face. “How about I introduce you to your cousin? Then I’ll go pay a visit to my sister. You’re right. It’s time bridges were mended. What’s the name of your house?”
“Uh, Tonks Cottage,” Miss Tonks said, obviously confused by this reaction.
“Good. Here, follow me.”
Narcissa stood up and swept out of the sitting room and into the garden, trusting Miss Tonks - she really should ask the girl her first name - would follow her.
Draco was playing under a tree. He’d built a tower with some wooden blocks and the poor princess was perched on top. Standing before the tower was his dragon, facing off against a knight and a wizard.
“Draco!” Narcissa called.
He looked up and smiled, then frowned and shrank back a bit at the sight of Miss Tonks.
“Mummy?” Draco asked.
She hurried forward and swept him into her arms, something she very much doubted she’d be able to do in a few months. She was actually surprised she could still pick him up, what with him being six-years-old now.
“It’s alright, Draco. This is your cousin-” she stopped, remembering Miss Tonks had yet to share her first name.
“Oh, well, just call me Tonks, please.”
Narcissa raised an eyebrow, “Call you Tonks? What’s wrong with your given name?”
Miss Tonks flushed, “I hate my name.”
“That may be so, but you and Draco are family. He cannot call you by your last name. Now, what is your name?”
The girl wrinkled her nose and whispered something.
Narcissa sighed. “Louder please. I’m old. My hearing isn’t that good anymore.”
“Nymphadora,” Miss Tonks said more loudly, looking extremely put out.
“Well, that’s a very good name, though if you hate it, what about if he calls you Dora?” Narcissa suggested, trying to appease the girl. Really, it was a perfectly fine name. She was actually quite pleased that Andy had chosen such a good, traditional name.
The girl thought it over before giving a small nod, “I guess Dora’s fine. But just for Draco here. Anyone else calls me that and I’ll hex ‘em!”
Narcissa smiled and turned her attention back to Draco, setting him back down on the ground. “Can you say hello to your cousin Dora? Her mother and I are sisters.”
Draco stared at the girl, her hair once more back to turquoise. He pale grey eyes looking her up and down, judging her as only a Malfoy could.
“Why’re you dressed funny?”
“Draco!” Narcissa exclaimed, embarrassed that he dared ask such a question.
Miss Tonks didn’t seem at all embarrassed though, instead she smiled, “Because, this is what all the cool kids are wearing. But do you know what the coolest thing is?”
Narcissa had never actually taught Draco any slang, so he frowned, “Cool? You’re cold?”
She laughed, “No, silly, it means, like, nice or the best! Like, you’re my cousin, so you’re cool.”
He thought this over, before nodding very seriously. “I see. So what’s the coolest?”
She grinned, “This.” Her head turned a pale pink and then her face morphed so that she had a pig snout and big, round eyes.
Draco gaped in wonder and Narcissa couldn’t help but be impressed. She’d never actually met a metamorphmagus before, she didn’t realize they could take up non-human appearances.
“Draco, are you alright staying with Dora? I need to speak with my sister,” Narcissa said, taking a step back.
Draco didn’t look away from his cousin as he said, “Yes, Mummy.”
Miss Tonks proceeded to kneel down and begin morphing her face into different shapes, each one making Draco gasp and laugh in wonder.
Her son’s laughter followed her through the garden and into the house. There she grabbed a bit of floo powder and tossed it into the fire. Stepping into the fire she called out, “Tonks Cottage.”
Only then, as she was whisking through the floo network did she stop and wonder just what she was going to say to her sister.