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Embers Rising

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Hermione groaned and her hands clutched her head when even that small noise reverberated in her skull like a gong. “What...” she stammered and stumbled to her feet. A wave of dizziness swept through her and she blinked, trying to clear her vision. Where was she? Some kind of den? She lumbered toward the vast bay window but the outside with its parade of oak and chestnut trees was as alien to her as the room.

“What happened?”                                         

Hermione spun around at the sound of an unfamiliar voice whose lilt struck a chord with her.

“Who...wait,” Hermione ambled to the blonde woman sitting up on a black leather couch. “Narcissa Malfoy! What have you done? Where are we?”

The other woman sat up straighter and raised her chin. Hermione doubted she’d ever seen the blonde witch this causal. Dressed in informal robes, her long hair fell loosely over her shoulders, her face make-up free, and a pair of glasses lay on the coffee table in front of them.

“Hermione Granger. What in Merlin’s name are you doing in...” Her gaze flitted across the room. “The den at Black manor? What have you done to this room?” She rushed up and swept through the room before halting in front of the window. “At least the outside is the same. More up-kept than I recall,” she muttered before turning and eyeing Hermione again.

“I have no idea how I got here, and I most certainly did nothing to your...manor. Let’s be honest here, you’ve probably kidnapped me. What are you playing at? I’d told Harry testifying on your behalf is—”

“Mr. Potter said he’d testify on my behalf?”

“That was the plan,” Hermione said and rolled back on her heels. “Doesn’t mean anything given that you’ve abducted me.”

“Why would I kidnap you?”

There it was. The haughty expression of Narcissa Malfoy she recalled from the few times she’d had the misfortune of running into the other witch. “Right. Why’d you bother with the mudblood your sister tortured in your drawing room,” Hermione snapped, her hand reaching for her arm.

Narcissa flinched.

Hermione frowned and pulled up the sleeve of her jumper. There was an odd black ink stain on her lower wrist, but her scar...not only was there no sting when she touched it, but...“What? I don’t...” she stuttered. What had happened to her scar? While still there, visible upon close inspection, it no longer resembled the angry, festering wound she remembered. It didn’t merely appear older than it should be, but also...healed.

Narcissa stepped closer. “Are you all right?”

Hermione stretched out her arm and she started when Narcissa’s fingers trailed over her skin and warmth spread through her. She couldn’t comprehend why she’d held out her arm in the first place, but it seemed like reflex.

“Fascinating,” Narcissa said. “This wound is healed and... I’m happy for you.”

“But?”

“I...I don’t understand how this is possible.”

“Because it shouldn’t look like this given it’s only been several weeks old?”

“That, but also...knowing my sister, I didn’t expect this to be an ordinary scar, and with Dumbledore gone...I cannot picture anyone on your side with the power to heal it.”

“My side,” Hermione said and rubbed her eyes. “I’m so sick of it.”

“Of what?”

“All of it. The war, the different sides, the animosity, the anger. I’m so exhausted.”

Narcissa scoffed. “You’re hardly one to talk. Your future is bright and open. Not only do you have your entire life ahead of you, but you’re a war hero, and I’m sure the wizarding world is more than ready to shower you with accolades.”

“I don’t want any of that! I...I need a break, away from it all. I want to decide for myself what to do with my life, and I want to earn what I get, not have people open doors for me because of the war. And what are you talking about? You act like you’re ancient and your life is over.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Narcissa said. “You’re free to leave. I prefer to be alone.”

“You don’t want to figure out how we got here or why this room doesn’t look like you expected?”

“I’m exhausted, Ms. Granger. And unlike you, my future is dismal and...far less promising than yours and I...” She pressed her lips together and held Hermione’s gaze.

“Right,” Hermione said. “I suppose...uh, can I apparate from here or are there any wards that will prevent that?”

“Wards rarely try to keep you inside,” Narcissa said. “Unless you’re underage,” she mumbled.

“What?”

“Be well, Ms. Granger. I hope you can reach your goals on your own merits.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said with a small frown. Why was the other witch being friendly? Why did she feel reluctant to leave, and instead, everything within her called to comfort the blonde woman? Her solemn mood almost seemed to bleed into Hermione. “Goodbye, then. I hope your life will be less gloomy than you fear,” she said and Narcissa’s eyes widened before she offered a slight nod.

“Goodbye,” she said, sitting back down.

Hermione pictured her flat and apparated, or at least she thought she did, but she remained right where she was, standing in the den at Black manor across from Narcissa Malfoy who gazed expectantly at her.

Hermione concentrated and once more tried to apparate, but nothing. Maybe the destination was the problem? But why shouldn’t she be able to return to her own flat? She concentrated on Diagon Alley instead only to encounter the same issue.

“Did you forget how to apparate?” Narcissa drawled.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “I did not. Something’s wrong, obviously. I tried my flat and Diagon Alley, and neither worked.”

Narcissa sighed and rose, strolling toward Hermione who worried about getting whiplash from the simultaneous impulses to draw closer and retreat from the blonde witch.

“May I?” Narcissa said.

“What?”

“Side-along apparation?”

“My magic is fine, here,” Hermione pulled out her wand and floated the cushions off the couch.

Narcissa scoffed. “Any first-year at Hogwarts can cast that spell. Did you believe this will impress or reassure me, given that you clearly struggle to apparate?”

“Hey! Stop insulting me. Go ahead then, try it,” Hermione huffed.

Narcissa linked their arms and once more warmth flooded Hermione. Someone must have hexed her. That would explain a lot.

“What if someone jinxed me?”

“To take away your ability to apparate?”

“Not just that, but...remember, we woke up here and neither of us recalled how we even got here.”

“Ms. Granger, I’ve already stated—”

“Yes, yes. You have no interest in solving this mystery. Fine. Apparate away.”

“I hope you don’t get nauseous from apparating with others. If so, please don’t vomit on me,” she said and patted Hermione’s hand who glared at her but remained silent.

Nothing. They just stood there and after a minute of silence, a grin spread across Hermione’s face.

“I seem to not be the only one who lost her touch, huh,” she said.

Narcissa cleared her throat and unlinked their arms. She stepped back to the couch before changing her mind and pacing. “This makes no sense. We should be able to apparate.” She halted putting her arms on her hips, and called, “Dolly!”

Nothing.

“Dolly!” She tried again.

Silence.

“Who’s Dolly?”

“The house elf overseeing Black manor,” Narcissa said. “She’d never ignore my call. Something is wrong.”

Hermione sighed. “You don’t say.”

***

Narcissa’s head pounded and nausea drummed in her stomach. She wanted to lie down and sleep this off. She had been holed up at Malfoy Manor since the war ended, waiting for a gaggle of Aurors to storm the mansion and drag her to Azkaban. That didn’t happen. Instead, they’d set a date for the hearing, which was supposed to start in two weeks.

Lucius had been placed under house arrest pending trial. They’d hardly been speaking. She’d spent most of her days brewing potions or reading, at least when she wasn’t attempting to coax Draco out of his maudlin mood. How did she end up at Black manor? She hadn’t visited the estate in years.

Now she seemed stuck here, with Hermione Granger of all people. Naturally, the dark-haired witch would assume that Narcissa had abducted her. Please. As if she had the energy for that. It also made no sense. She didn’t want to go to Azkaban, and she already considered her chances of avoiding such a sentence abysmal. Kidnapping a member of the Golden Trio? That wouldn’t endear the Wizengamot to her. Narcissa sneered. She could imagine the headline.

“What was that for?” Hermione interrupted her thoughts.

“Nothing,” she said. “Let’s leave the manor. There should still be a few broomsticks in the shed outside.”

“Lead the way,” Hermione said and followed Narcissa outside.

The hallways of the manor were much brighter, and the oppressive veil that usually draped itself over her, weighing her down, whenever she set foot in this place, remained absent. What happened to Black manor?

They marched across the courtyard and after a few minutes arrived at a shed the size of a small house.

“That’s a shed?”

“What else would it be?” Narcissa asked and opened the door. Of all the people to be stuck with, it had to be her. She grabbed two broomsticks and handed one to Hermione who hesitated before accepting the item. “They’re not hexed,” Narcissa snapped.

“Uh, I’m not worried about that,” Hermione said, still frowning at the broom in her hands.

“Then what’s the problem?” Narcissa refrained from tapping her foot on the floor.

“I just...I don’t enjoy flying.”

“Do you prefer to stay here?”

“Right,” Hermione said and straightened. “Let’s do this.”

They mounted their brooms but much like when they tried to apparate at the manor, nothing happened.

“It’s not working either,” Hermione said.

“I can see that,” Narcissa grumbled.

“Look, it’s not like I enjoy this anymore than you do. And we’re on your hometurf!”

“Black manor is no home to me,” Narcissa said, avoiding Hermione’s gaze.

“All right then, if magic won’t work, let’s try it the Muggle way.”

Narcissa raised her eyebrows. “And what would that be, Ms. Granger?”

“We walk.”

Narcissa balked. “That’s not the Muggle way. Wizards walk, too.”

“Let’s go then,” Hermione said and charged ahead, striding down the winding pathway to the black iron gates.

Against her will, Narcissa released a deep chuckle and followed the other witch.

“Is this locked?” Hermione asked and pulled at the gate.

“You are a witch, aren’t you?”

“Because magic has been so successful for us so far,” Hermione snarked.

Narcissa aimed her wand at the gate and said, “alohomora,” but much like she feared, nothing happened.

“This is ridiculous,” Hermione said and stepped closer to the masonry wall connected to the gate. “I can climb this. Then I can get help and get you.”

“Why would you?”

“It’s not that high and—”

“No, why would you send help for me?”

“Why wouldn’t I? You’re stuck here, too.”

Narcissa remained silent but her gaze followed Hermione as she attempted to climb the wall. When she’d reached the top, she swung a leg over it, or tried to? She was flung back down and landed with an “ompf,” on the floor, dust scattering in the air all around her.

“Are you all right?” Narcissa rushed to kneel next to Hermione, unable to understand why her heart was racing or why fear had gripped her at the sight of the dark-haired witch tumbling down. What was happening to her?

“I’m fine,” Hermione said and brushed herself off.

Both witches rose to their feet.

“We can’t leave, either by magic or physically get off the property.”

“So it seems,” Narcissa said and her gaze tracked the setting sun. “We should get inside. There are no owls here, and mine is still at Malfoy Manor, but there’s a fireplace that’s connected to the floo network. We might as well try and fail at using that.”

“Well, even if we cannot leave with it, we might be able to send a message or notify someone about this situation.”

“True,” Narcissa said, and this time, she led them back inside the mansion and into the library.

“Wow, this is amazing!” Hermione said upon entering the enormous library.

Narcissa chuckled. “You might get to spend more time here than you wish, if the floo doesn’t work either.”

“There are worse places,” Hermione said, her gaze still trailing from shelf to shelf. “Ohh, that seat over there is perfect. It looks super comfortable,” she said and pointed at a large, maroon sofa in the corner by the window.

“That is new, too.”

“Huh. So not only are we trapped at a place neither one of us lives in, but someone’s also redecorated. Not a bad look, and definitely better than Goldilock.”

Narcissa cocked her head. “Excuse me?”

“Never mind,” Hermione said and waved her off. “Let’s try the floo.”

Both women stepped up to the fireplace. Narcissa lit the fire before adding green floo powder. She heaved a heavy sigh when once more nothing happened. “I don’t know why I’m even disappointed,” Narcissa said.

“It was our last hope to leave or at least communicate with someone else,” Hermione said.

“I suppose you shall have a shot at solving this riddle after all, Ms. Granger.”

“This will get old quickly,” Hermione said. “We are not the best of friends,” she said and glared at Narcissa who hadn’t been able to suppress a soft scoff at that statement. “However, since we are stuck here for the foreseeable future, we should...I don’t know...”

“Try not to kill each other?”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “That’s not...that wasn’t on my mind. We could try to be nice to each other and maybe call each other by our first names? It’s like I’m back at Hogwarts with you constantly calling me by my last name.”

“I thought you liked it there.”

“Sure, aside from a madman trying to murder my best friend every year, and the castle being the place of the final battle.”

“True,” Narcissa said, her gaze finding her feet. Those were indeed unpleasant memories. “Well, then, Hermione, let’s try to be...nice to each other.”

“Thank you, Narcissa,” she said and grinned.

Heat bloomed in Narcissa’s stomach at Hermione’s expression, and she contemplated brewing a diagnostic potion because the way her body reacted to Hermione’s grin could only mean she’d been poisoned.

“Wait! We could send out a patronus for help! You can send yours to Draco and...your husband. I’m sure they will worry soon, if they aren’t already worried. Harry goes crazy when I don’t show up for our lunches, so I should try to send him one.”

“I thought Mr. Potter was dating Ms. Weasley and that your interest runs toward Mr. Weasley.”

“Huh? What? No! We’re all just friends. Harry and Ginny are dating, but there’s nothing between Ron and I, nothing romantic,” Hermione said and frowned. “How do you know all this? I’m sure we’re not Draco’s favorite topic.”

Narcissa laughed. “No, not particularly. Though we worried he was in love with you, given how often he wrote about you in his letters.”

“We can’t have that, right? A Malfoy falling for a Muggle-born.”

Narcissa sighed. “Thank you for not using that other...term,” she sniffed. “And for your information, I have no preference for whom my son dates. His father might have divergent aspirations, though any parental influence will be moot once we’re in Azkaban.”

“They won’t throw you in prison. Your husband? Sure. But not you.”

“I wish I had your confidence,” she said. Her worries were mostly centered on Draco, both for now and the future. She hoped that whatever was going on here, her son was all right.

“Wait until Harry has his say.”

“Yet, you were not keen on him speaking in my favor,” Narcissa said, unsure why this hurt her feelings. What did she care what the other witch thought of her?

“What?”

“You said so, earlier. That you told Mr. Potter that testifying on my behalf is what? You never finished the thought, but your attitude was clear.”

“Oh, well,” Hermione said, and her cheeks turned crimson which both amused and thrilled Narcissa. This only confirmed her suspicions that something was seriously wrong with her.

“It’s all right, dear. You don’t owe me an explanation.”

“I don’t know you, OK? I...I may have let my animosity for your son and husband bleed into you, and that’s not fair. You’ve been kind so far, and you didn’t hex me or anything.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Be kind?” Hermione asked, but her eyes danced with mirth.

“You’re impossible,” Narcissa huffed.

“Anyway, let’s get back to the patronus charm.”

“I cannot cast it,” Narcissa said and braced herself, but what came next was disbelief, not ridicule.

Hermione’s eyes widened. “What? Why not?”

“Happy memories, Ms. Gran...Hermione. They are harder to come by for some than others. But by all means, cast a patronus and send it to Mr. Potter.”

“Right,” Hermione said, still holding Narcissa’s gaze.

“Go on,” she said.

Hermione pulled out her wand and called “Expecto Patronum!” Silver vapor shot out of her wand but before it could take shape, it disintegrated and slunk into the ground. “Damn.”

“Perhaps whatever binds us here, restricts our use of magic that could help us leave,” Narcissa said, unable to bear the downcast expression on Hermione’s face.

“Or my memories don’t work. I should have known,” she murmured.

“What’s wrong with them?”

Hermione sighed. “It’s...complicated, but in short, the memories I’ve been using in the past to conjure my patronus seem to be tainted.”

“I’m sorry,” Narcissa said.

“Not your fault.”

Narcissa tilted her head. “I have an idea, but I’m not sure it’ll work,” she said. “Let’s go back to the brooms. We can float them and then climb on and see if we can fly like that.”

“Like a jump-start! Great idea. Come on,” Hermione said and dashed ahead.

Narcissa followed along.

Back at the shed, they once more pulled out the broomsticks, and Narcissa cast wingardium leviosa on them.

Hermione cheered when the brooms rose into the air.

“Are you ready?” Narcissa asked and Hermione nodded. Both women clambered on their broomsticks that hovered but shot up with them once they grabbed the handle.

“It’s working!” Hermione shouted but right after, they both crashed into an invisible barrier in the air that bounced them back down onto the grass.

“Are you hurt?” Narcissa asked.

“No, though it cemented my dislike of flying. Are you OK?” Hermione said, rising and slapping grass off her pants.

“I’m fine, but I’m out of ideas, and this graceless landing didn’t improve my headache. May I suggest we retire for the evening? I’ll show you to the kitchen in case you’re getting hungry and then lead you to a guest room. Hopefully, the house-elves have kept the pantry stocked.”

Hermione frowned. “Why didn’t you say you had a headache? You could have laid down earlier.”

A small smile tugged at Narcissa’s lips. “Don’t look so affronted. It’s fine. Are you agreeable to my earlier suggestion?”

“Yes, of course. Thank you,” Hermione said and followed Narcissa back inside.

When they walked up the stairs, a ginger cat sauntered down the steps before rubbing against Narcissa’s legs. Before she could say anything, Hermione shrieked.

“Crookshanks, my boy! What are you doing here?” She bent down and snatched up the protesting cat. “You catnapp...” Her brows furrowed. “You kidnapped my cat, too? Why? What on earth is he doing here?” She held him closer, as if shielding him from Narcissa.

So much for a change in atmosphere. Narcissa frowned. “Why would I kidnap a cat?”

“I don’t know!” Hermione held him up and inspected him. “Are you OK, boy? Are you hurt?”

Narcissa placed her hands on her hips. “Do you honestly believe I’m in the habit of harming animals?”

“I don’t know you at all! I’ve spent six years harassed and bullied by members of your family which found its highlight in your sister torturing me, carving a vile slur into my arm while you stood there and watched!”

Crookshanks hissed and struggled in Hermione’s grasp until she set him back on the floor.

Narcissa grew rigid. “I see.”

“You see nothing! You expect me to what? To be OK with being trapped here with you, without knowing what you’ve done to—”

“I’ve done nothing! I haven’t set foot into this place in decades! This is as disorienting for me as it is for you. I cannot change what my family has done to you, what Bella...” She clenched her jaw. “You understand nothing. You have no idea what my life has been like, and what I had to do just to survive.”

“You weren’t the only one who had to make sacrifices! My parents...” Hermione’s hands balled into fists.

“Tell me, Miss Granger,” Narcissa said and her voice dropped a register while she stalked closer to Hermione. “Did you fear one misstep would get you tortured and killed in your own house, by your own sister or her deranged Lord? Did you fear what they’d do to your son? That they’d brutalize him for your transgression? Were you told by your sister she’d gut your son like a fish if you dared to step one toe out of line? Did you share your living quarters with an unhinged psychopath who could read your mind? Did you live like this for months, not knowing when it would end? With a husband too cowardly and traumatized to be of any use to help protect your child?” Her voice broke, and rage still crashed through her, but now it merged with frustration about having shared this much with a witch who hated her, who could see to it that she landed in Azkaban. Narcissa trembled and stumbled back, her breathing shallow.

Hermione stared at her with wide eyes, but she remained silent.

“Your room is the second one to the right,” Narcissa said before spinning around and marching away.  

***

Hermione couldn’t tell how long she’d sat immobile on her bed, but by the time a semblance of movement seemed doable, night had fallen long ago, and inky darkness drenched her room. What was happening to her?

Her emotions had never been that volatile, not even right after Malfoy manor. Now, she went from being OK to losing her mind in a second, and without warning. She had no idea why seeing Crookshanks at Black manor made her lose her composure. Hermione didn’t want to bring up that night at Malfoy manor, and she most definitely didn’t wish to revisit Narcissa’s role.

She still remembered the blonde witch’s eyes on her when she’d lain on the floor. Those eyes hadn’t been cold and unmoving. They’d seemed full of sorrow and pain, though Hermione wasn’t sure if she’d seen what she’d wanted to see back then, some human connection that saw her as more than an unavoidable casualty of the war.

She regretted her outburst, and the grief she’d seen in Narcissa’s eyes haunted her. She didn’t dare to sleep for fear of nightmares. There was too much fuel for horrible dreams, and she felt drained just contemplating it. She wondered what Narcissa was doing. Was she asleep? What did she dream about? Would she leave without telling Hermione? She rolled her eyes. As if that were possible, the leaving part, at least. Should she apologize to the blonde witch? But no. They weren’t friends, and they were at Black manor, Narcissa’s childhood home.

She was involved somehow, and she could be acting and all that self-righteous anger... Hermione closed her eyes and shuddered. She canted and laid on her side on the bed. The plush sheets smelled of lavender. The scent triggered a memory, but it was too fast and dissipated as soon as it rose. What was wrong with her? Why was everything so heavy?

***

Narcissa paced in her room. Even that guest room didn’t look right. Who had decorated Black manor? Why wasn’t she informed of it? Bella hadn’t been back, and neither had Andromeda. The wards would have alerted her to anyone, even a person belonging to the Black line, who had entered the property. She owned Black manor since her parents’ passing. Her father had left it to her. Why? She never found an answer, for rightfully, it should have been Bella’s. Even Andromeda would have inherited it before Narcissa, had she not been disinherited for marrying that Muggle-born wizard.

Perhaps her father had hoped to sow more strife and contention between the siblings if he went against Wizarding traditions and bequeathed the manor to his youngest child. None of this explained the current state of the manor. Some of what she’d seen felt familiar, it resonated with her and fit her tastes utterly. Other aspects seemed odd and out of place, yet charming.

Hermione Granger. Narcissa halted her pacing, and stood there, for a moment, with her hands on her hips and her head bowed down low. What had happened? How did they get here, and why did neither remember anything that could explain this scenario? Could this be a test? To see how she acted and treated an enemy to determine if she was worth saving or if it would be better to lock her up and throw away the key? Did they drug her and trap her here, and Hermione played the role of the victim but in reality, she was in on the entire con?

But the dark-haired witch wasn’t her enemy. She never considered any of them her enemies. Sure, she judged many of them to be beneath her for various reasons, though even that perspective had shifted slowly. It also seemed too sinister a move for the other side, and trickery had never been their forte. So if all of this was as it seemed, what did that imply?

What did the emotions that coursed through her like tidal waves mean, drowning her one moment, then soothing her, before once more dragging her under water? Where did they come from? Some were familiar, though they resembled ideas and longings she’d buried and suppressed decades ago. Dreams that would never come to pass and hope for them only bloomed misery, adding to the vast supply that already surrounded her. Others were foreign and of a nature Narcissa had never experienced. She had felt no presence in her mind, and she doubted the young Gryffindor had much experience with mind-magic.

Why did she have to be trapped at Black manor with the witch who reminded her of one of her greatest failures? Oh, how she’d wanted to stop Bella, how everything within her had screamed at her to intervene, to stop the torture and to heal the sobbing dark-haired witch. She remembered soulful dark eyes begging with her, but she couldn’t. She didn’t dare. Instead, she’d stood frozen, despairing her inactivity while knowing any move would get her son killed. Was this penance?

***

Hermione hadn’t slept all night. She’d drifted somewhere between sleep and wakefulness before she’d risen and grabbed something to eat from the kitchen. On her way back, she’d snatched Crookshanks and withdrew into her room. First, he was stalking through the room and sniffing every nook and cranny with great displeasure before jumping on her bed and curling up on her pillow.

She sighed and petted his orange fur. “Oh, Crookshanks. What are we going to do?”

He purred.

“At least I’m not without friends here,” she whispered before rising and gazing out of the window. In the yard, she could see Narcissa bending over a flower bed. Her blonde hair coiled in a neat bun and dressed in casual robes; the blonde witch was... Hermione tilted her head. She was pulling weeds. By hand. Huh. She observed Narcissa for a while longer until the woman rose, and her gaze shot up, straight to Hermione’s window which made her recoil and stumble before she landed on her butt on soft carpet. “That seems to be a theme,” she grumbled before jumping back to her feet.

Hermione searched the room and eventually came across several sheets of empty parchment and a set of quills and ink in a box at the bottom of the closet. She couldn’t write any letters, well, she could, but what use would that be without the means to send them? However, she could write down everything she’d remembered before waking up at Black manor, and she could note her experiences since then, along with her impressions and feelings. Maybe seeing it on paper and reading through it would trigger some memories or it might allow her to see the bigger picture. Everything was better than another run-in with the blonde witch.

***

Narcissa had exhausted herself with yard work, hoping it would tire her out enough so she’d be able to sleep. She hadn’t seen Hermione all day and while that filled her with relief, there was also something else, an emotion she couldn’t fully grasp that burned dimly in the periphery of her awareness. It tasted almost...chalky.

She’d contemplated baking, but didn’t want to waste any supplies, given that they might be stuck here for a while, with no means of communication. Narcissa also tried to prevent herself from going insane with worry about her son. He was fine. He had to be. Lucius wasn’t the best of fathers when the Dark Lord was around, but with him vanquished, and now Narcissa unavailable, she was confident he’d step up and take care of their son. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t need to worry about Azkaban because Narcissa would murder him.

She’d taken a long bath and was surprised by the pleasant and relaxing scents of lavender and vanilla. Strangely enough, those two scents had been the only ones available in the bathroom. She couldn’t remember these aromas from her childhood growing up in the manor. Her parents have been big fans of sandalwood and moss. She wrinkled her nose. Maybe that’s why she hated those two scents.

Narcissa settled in her room after a quick run into the kitchen for a bite to eat and pulled out parchments and quill. She might as well write down everything she remembered. Should she suggest that to Hermione? That way, they could compare notes. Dread flooded Narcissa at the notion of approaching the dark-haired witch. She remembered the disdain that had shone in her dark eyes all too well and wasn’t keen on revisiting it. She couldn’t understand the ache that spread through her at the thought of the other witch hating her. She must be losing her mind.

***

Draco hammered on Harry and Ginny’s front door. “Open up! I know you’re home! This is all your fault!”

The door flung open. “What is it with you and knocking down our door?” Ginny hissed. “You’ve woken James!”

“Sorry,” Draco grumbled. “My mother is missing.”

“What?” Harry stepped to the door with a bawling James in his arms. “Come inside.”

They settled on the couch.

“What do you mean, Narcissa’s missing?”

“We had a lunch date and she never showed. She didn’t message me, and when I sent an owl, it came back with the message still attached to its legs.”

“Did you go to Black Manor?” Ginny asked.

“The floo didn’t work. Then I’ve tried to apparate there but that was a bust, too. Hermione had cast the same spell she had on her flat apparently, so it announces who is trying to join them and they can let you in. So you won’t get traumatized,” he added and shuddered. “But there was nothing when I tried to knock. I even flew there but the Manor is gone.”

“That can’t be. How can the entire property disappear?” Harry asked, finally having soothed James. “What’s there instead?”

“What do you think? It’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s just grass and trees.”

“Are you sure you were in the right place?” Harry asked.

Draco scoffed. “Of course. This is your fault!”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. “How?”

“Last time I checked, wherever any of you go, trouble follows.”

“That’s unfair. Harry didn’t choose to be hunted down by Voldemort, and you can’t fault Hermione and Ron for standing by their best friend,” Ginny said.

“Oh yeah? You do recall our school time. You missed the first year, Harry Potter and the troll in the dungeon followed by an impostor professor who could have killed us all. Then second year, Harry Potter and the big giant snake, and oh yes, the written threats in chicken blood, but you remember that, Ginny, since you’re the one who wrote them.”

“Come on, Draco, that’s not—”

“Oh, and what about third year, huh? Harry Potter saves the beast that delighted in mauling students and almost destroys the Womping Willow.”

“That was your own fault, Malfoy, and you know it,” Harry spat.

“Fourth year, Harry Potter and the infinite ways to get us all killed actually kills a student and frees the bloody Dark Lord all in one night!”

“Draco, that’s enough!” Ginny snapped.

He deflated. “I’m sorry. I just…I can’t lose mother,” he said and dropped his head.

“Let’s bring James to Molly and then we’ll all head over to Black manor. We’ll figure it out,” Harry said.