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1) A man appears at the gates of Malfoy Manor.

He is tall and blond and pale and… sharp. Thin and long-limbed and young and all sharp edges. When he removes a silver pocket-watch from the breast of his dark blue and silver robes, which are of fine material but slightly dusty at the ends, the flick of his gloved wrist as he opens it is sharp too. The quick glance of his pale blue eyes at the device? Sharp. The snap of the watch as it’s closed and pocketed? Sharp.

The expression as he looks up at the tall and unbreached gates of Malfoy Manor? That’s the face of man who’s been on the wrong edge of sharpness too many times, rubbed so raw that there’s nothing left but sharp edges in turn. And the expression that replaces it far too quickly? Sharp – sharp and cold.

He draws a wand from the sleeve of his slightly dusty robes, and this is the one thing done softly. It is done gently, with every piece of care that a too-sharp young man can muster. Odd, because drawing a wand is rarely done softly – often firmly, warily, quickly, carelessly, absently – and it is curious, because he draws this wand as though it is the most delicate thing in the world. Not drawn as an extension of himself, his magic, his soul, but as something precious, something fine, something borrowed.

The wand is too small for him, one would notice if they cared to observe, too short and too thin. It is an instrument of magic made for smaller hands, slender and soft, and not for the long-fingered, callused, faintly scarred ones that hold it. The wand reaches out, singing a grieving song to the hands that hold it so carefully, which it did not first choose and do not answer save to hold it more tightly.

The man waves his borrowed wand over the gates of Malfoy Manor, and they swing open without a creak. The wards buzz in faint confusion, but they soon settle back into place as the familiar stranger walks down the gravel drive, up towards the grand manor house.

He’s unfamiliar yet not, unknown but not, and he reeks of danger and the dust of sharp, golden sand. But… his every footstep is like a reassuring order to hush. They don’t know him… not quite… but he knows them… he knows them well… and that’s more than enough to be a little afraid.

The man strides straight up to the grand manor house, up the marble front staircase two stairs at a time, and then directly, confidently, apparently thoughtlessly, through the front doors, which open immediately for him. The portraits and paintings of the Great Hall whisper as he passes through, his footsteps carelessly echoing, not giving the gallery a single glance.

His eyes are fixed and his stride is steady, and the man soon steps through the gleaming glass doors of the back. He finally stops at the top of the stairs. The man looks out towards the ornate wrought iron dining table, meticulously set with decorative china and yellow flowers, and the three chairs surrounding it – and, of course, to the waiting wardmaster of Malfoy Manor, seated at one end.

Narcissa Malfoy carefully closes her newspaper and looks up at the man. Her striking grey eyes are cold and suspicious – they widen slightly, at the strange man’s familiar appearance, but any surprise disappears quickly. Her wand is already in one slender hand, resting very deliberately in view.

The intruder stares back for a moment, then his shoulders loosen and he steps down towards her. His borrowed wand is twirled lightly between his fingers, also very deliberately in view. It is also, to the discerning eye – which Narcissa Malfoy has never been without – apparently identical to the wand in her hand. From the tip to the handle, she would know it anywhere; the intruder is holding the wand that chose her as its witch.

It is surprising enough that she allows the intruder to approach the dining table. The man gently places the copy of her wand on the surface and gracefully takes the seat in the middle of the table, facing the wide gardens of the estate. She finds her eyes narrowing as the man takes her son’s seat, because she has quite the discerning eye and…

“Hello, Mother,” the man says.

 

2) They take tea on the terrace, as sensible and civilized individuals do, and discuss the terrible future ahead: the Second and Third Wizarding Wars.

“Horcruxes,” Draco Malfoy says, a foul twist to his grown-up face. “It all comes down to the Horcruxes, in the end. It was thought that all had been destroyed by the end of the second war, but… well… it appears that there is more than one way to make an accidental Horcrux.”

“An eighth Horcrux?” Narcissa says casually.

She is not one to show the absolute horror growing in her chest, which seems to have settled in permanently since this adult version of her son rolled up his sleeve to show her the Dark Mark. He hid the blood red mark quickly enough, but she cannot quite forget it – it is so much darker than the faded mark on her husband’s forearm, barely there and even then painful enough to look at – it is so much more recent and so violently vivid. The sight of it felt like a curse to her lungs.

She is very glad now that Lucius and her Draco, who only days ago celebrated his eleventh birthday, are off at a Quidditch match together. She does not expect them home for hours, which leaves plenty of time for her to figure out what is to be done with such a familiar stranger and intruder.

“Mm, yes, it was the diary’s doing,” Draco says. “I mentioned that the Dark Lord had entrusted his diary Horcrux to Father for safe-keeping before it was eventually destroyed? The Dark Lord also entreated Father to return it to Hogwarts, if ever the need be dire, to rid the school of Muggleborns and seize the school from the inside.”

“I assume this is how the diary came to be destroyed,” Narcissa says. It seems a dangerous thing to send such an important and vulnerable piece of self into the territory of the school’s Headmaster – the ancient wizard may keep a lax hand with his positions, but he is still powerful.

Draco nods, swirling his tea around absentmindedly. “Yes,” he says, then snorts and adds with a wry grin, “by a twelve-year-old Harry Potter, no less. With a fang from a Basilisk that he slew with the Sword of Gryffindor, all down in Salazar Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets.”

Narcissa stares for several seconds, then says, “Really now, Draco?”

“I wish I were joking, Mother, but I’m not.”

Narcissa raises her eyes to the sky for a moment, sighs silently, and then collect herself. “I will suspend disbelief for the moment,” she says archly. “So, tell me how this ridiculousness relates to the accidental eighth Horcrux.”

Draco smiles at her, fondly enough to break her heart, and does. “Father returned the diary to Hogwarts in the possession of Ginny Weasley,” he says. “Yes, the seventh child and only daughter of the Weasley Family, who was slowly bewitched by the soul fragment and then possessed. It used her to open the Chamber of Secrets and was in the process of draining her life force to give itself corporeal form. If it had succeeded, I believe there might have been two Dark Lords.”

“…I cannot imagine they would get along very well,” Narcissa says distantly, before taking another sip of her tea. Truly, she cannot imagine that scenario going well at all, to say the least.

Draco laughs, a faintly hollow sound. “No, neither can I,” he admits, then says, “Near the end of the 1992-1993 school-year, the diary took possession of her and took her down to the Chamber of Secrets to finish the process. As a friend of the family and school hero, as well as the nemesis of the Dark Lord, Potter went down to save her and destroyed the diary by – in his own words – ‘sheer dumb luck’.

“However,” Draco continues, smile turning solemn, “the diary was destroyed while it was in the process of draining Ginny Weasley of her life force, while a connection was still open between them. A single fragment of the breaking soul stayed behind and took shelter… and that was it: another accidental, living Horcrux.”

After several seconds, Narcissa takes a shuddering breath to calm herself.

“And the girl had no idea?” she asks, still trying to reconcile the idea of living Horcruxes.

The idea is disgusting, even more so than Horcruxes are already foul, and it seems incredulous that even Light wizards could not notice such a thing in their own selves and companions. But… then again… the Weasley girl and the Boy-Who-Lived were both children. It is the adults that Narcissa condemns, for not thinking to examine and interrogate Dark artifacts and dangerous mysteries, especially ones that pose such serious risk to children in their care.

“None,” Draco confirms, expression sharp with very raw pain. “It was a very small fragment and Ginny Weasley is… well… a strong-minded witch. No one knew, not even the Dark Lord, until the Dark Lord resurrected himself again and we needed an answer as to how.”

Draco’s expression somehow manages to twist even darker… even sharper. “But, by then… the Dark Lord had secured his immortality again himself and the destruction of the eighth Horcrux did little against him. The Dark Lord took no chances… and no mercy as he waged his third war.”

There is silence on the terrace for a long moment, as the two of them sit, overlooking the proud and vast grounds of Malfoy Manor. It is a warm spring day, the very best of late June, and the bright skies and sweet breeze drift comfortably on by as the two of them sit and sip at their tea. Calm and collected, peaceful and proper, as though horror and tragedy are not at all their subject of conversation.

It is an excellent day for a Quidditch match, Narcissa notes.

“So you have come to see to it that there is no third war… or second war,” Narcissa says, rather primly. “I will not ask how, but… forgive me for asking… why?”

She does not entirely agree with the Dark Lord’s methods, but the Malfoys and the Blacks were once the most steadfast supporters of his cause. Are still, really, even if it is unsafe to act openly at the moment.

Draco looks at her, cool and achingly sharp, and says, “Because in the name of the greatness of magic and pure blood, the Dark Lord destroys almost everything. Because I have met mudbloods who make better witches than I ever will a wizard, and better people, too. Because all it takes is one mistake for our family to slip from his favour and be on the wrong end of his wand.

Because, Mother, I am able to change things and things must be changed for all our sakes.”

Narcissa stares at her grown son, who looks steadily back at her, sharp and grieving and without an indication of regret. Her grown son, who defies the Dark Lord’s vision, which is still lauded today as just and genius among their acquaintances. Her grown son, who defends mudbloods with vitriol in the same breath that he defends their family, as though they are equals – and not just under the Dark Lord’s wand.

As they stare at each other, Draco softens and says, “Mother, you know the truth. You know the damage that murderer does, you know he has no loyalty to anyone, and whether or not you accept it, you know that blood can’t be pure. I know that you do; you’re the smartest witch that I know.

“Just look, Mother, at what he’s done in the name of magical greatness and the purity of blood. And whether or not you ever come to share my beliefs on Muggleborns being equal to us, just…”

Draco sighs, heavily. “I have grown up all my life hearing the words ‘Sanctimonia Vincet Semper’ and ‘Toujours Pur’, and it has been hell to learn how badly those words are wrong. My arrogance and ignorance humbles me – every damn day – as I strive to unlearn them. But… I still believe in the words you always told me second… the ones you always called the unofficial motto of the Blacks…”

“...’Family First’,” Narcissa murmurs, despite herself.

“Yes,” Draco says. “‘Family First’. I know, Mother, that… you do not yet truly understanding all that I have told you… or all that is at stake. I know, Mother, that… you may never agree with me. But the Dark Lord and his beliefs, they’ve cost you both your sisters -”

Narcissa takes in a sharp breath, because they do not speak of her sisters in this house.

“- and I know you regret that. I know because you told me, once upon the future, how dearly you missed them. Even after you were reunited, you missed them. Aunt Bellatrix is in Azkaban now and she won’t be the same sister you knew, if she escapes again.”

She was not the same sister I knew when she went, Narcissa does not say.

“And even when you and Aunt Andromeda came to an understanding, after the second war, there was too much between you.” A sharp slash of pain crossed Draco’s already raw expression. “Cousin Nymphadora died in the second war, along with her and Aunt Andromeda’s husbands. Aunt Andromeda did not like exposing her grandson to Death Eaters and supporters of the Dark Lord.”

Narcissa does not dare to ask if he thinks there is still enough of a bridge between them now for things to change. She does not dare to spend hope on such things, as tempting as the possibilities are. Andromeda made her filthy choice; it was not Narcissa who forsook everything for a mudblood man.

“If you will not believe me or help me for the world’s sake,” Draco says, sharp and raw and concerned enough to break her heart over and over again, “then do it for the sake of our family.

“I promise you, Mother,” he says, tracing a hand over his left sleeve, “He will cost you your husband and son too, in the end.”

Silence descends on the manor terrace once more. Draco, grown and almost entirely sharp edges, sits back in his seat and stares out towards the grounds and the gardens – grieving and hurting and letting her think over such horror and tragedy again. But this time, Narcissa does not follow his gaze and keeps her stare fixed on him – the man her son could be.

No, she does not truly understand what is happening or what is at stake. She should, therefore, take the time to think everything over in careful detail before proceeding with all the grace expected of her. Narcissa always waits, always watches, always weighs and rarely acts.

That is the sort of witch that she is: a cunning one, a clever one, a cautious one.

One of the first lessons that Narcissa learned at Druella Rosier’s knee was to always stay silent and subtle and cautious. She learned an unwillingness to act, a desire not to press, and a tendency not to venture. It was a dangerous world out there, after all, even for a witch. Sometimes especially for a witch.

But… while Narcissa is a Rosier and a Malfoy… she is also a Black. She was a Black first, actually, before her mother noticed the youngest sister was a quiet little lady – a little Rosier lady – and before she married Lucius and became Mrs. Malfoy. Black witches are well known for… acting out... for being loud... for getting angry. All wild grace and fierce pride and sharp, deadly daring.

Family First, Narcissa remembers reciting with her favourite cousin, young and naïve and convinced nothing would ever tear their family apart. Back when there was still a Noble and Most Ancient House of Black left to belong to, really, and not one that is slowly and shamefully dying.

Family First, she thinks now, unwilling to lose anything more because of her own fear and uncertainty. She does not care about mudbloods; she does not care about the world; she does not and she never will. She herself has lamented the defeat of the Dark Lord, admired the worth of his preachings, but if the man will only take and take, returning nothing, much less loyalty…

The man her son could be looks out on the grounds and gardens, a distant nostalgia in his eyes, as though he has not seen their peace in many years. His wand – her wand – rests by his arm, ignored in favour of lightly tracing shapes over his left sleeve.

This is the cost of your caution, Narcissa Black, the sweet spring breeze whispers. This was the cost of your lost family’s compliance.

Do you keep your passive hesitance? Do you keep your silence?

“…I trust,” Narcissa says casually, “that you have a way of disposing of this diary?”

Draco turns to look at her, his sliding glance sharp and cunning, his expression indecipherable and his gaze piercing. Surprised? Maybe. Proud? Possibly. Whatever thoughts and judgements cross his mind, briefly flickering over his face, they are soon dismissed.

He smiles then – a sharp and victorious smile.

 

3) It takes no more than an hour to root the diary from its safe place.

There are few secrets that can be successfully kept from Narcissa in her own home. She has won over every portrait and statue; she knows every door and secret passageway. She is the wardmaster of Malfoy Manor, like the last lady of the house before her, and there are only so many places such Dark magic could be kept in this house.

The diary is Dark, this much is obvious the moment Narcissa picks it up. Dark objects in dormancy have always fascinated her, but the sudden stirring of the diary is frightening. More than any artifact Narcissa has ever encountered, the Horcrux feels both conscious and alive. The low hum of its magic goes deep and Dark, so much so that Narcissa is certain she is only picking up on its topmost levels of its Dark thrum, and that its call reaches to depths that even she does not know of.

Draco quickly takes it from her and they exit Malfoy Manor’s deepest and most secret vault. As they walk, Narcissa resists the urge to scrub her hands clean – she can feel the buzz of an unknowable horror on her skin, still. It is unpleasant. Worse still, it is unnerving.

Suddenly she understands why Draco put on gloves before they left.

She is broken from her contemplation, however, from sheer surprise as her grown son drops the diary to the floor. It gives a soft thump as it lands – a soulpiece of the Dark Lord just… dropped. That is doesn’t react and sits there like any other book is a surprise as well.

But none of this is half so surprising as how her grown son then reaches into his sleeve and pulls. There is a blinding flash off long sharp edges – a brilliant gleam of blood red and bright silver – and under the hilt, the name Godric Gryffindor glints sharply off the blade in Draco’s careful grip. He holds it matter-of-factly, but warily, and there is something very dangerous about the way it allows itself to be held.

If she had known the circumstances of him having it, Narcissa perhaps would have observed that neither the enchanted blade nor the sharp-eyed wizard were particularly happy about its being entrusting to him. They were putting up with each other only temporarily – for the sake of someone else – the both of them borrowing the other.

If she were asked to picture how the destruction of a Horcrux was done, Narcissa might have imagined Draco carefully positioning the sword above the diary. He would take a deep breath to collect himself at the monumental deed, as she likely would, and his hands might give away the barest hint of a tremble. There are Dark magics and momentous deeds afoot, after all, and neither are to be taken lightly – or Lightly, for that matter – or without significant caution.

However, as soon as Narcissa’s eyes widen at the gleaming name on the blade, Draco twists the terribly brilliant blade in a sharp, fluid turn, and plunges the venomous silver into the diary. He does not wait a single second to even savor the moment.

And as soon as the sword pieces the diary, the Horcrux gives off a terrible shriek. Bright white light breaks out of sudden cracks, which rip across the leather of the book, and then greenish grey mist seeps from the thing as its broken black cover starts to bubble and churn. All as it screams and screams and screams. High-pitched and breathlessly long and terribly inhuman. The diary’s shrieks echo off the trembling walls, pushing against the sword that Draco is straining to keep embedded.

But as long as the diary’s dying scream is, its death goes by far too quickly – barely a blink and the horrifying moment has passed. The diary’s scream fades and chokes and with one last throaty gurgle... ends on a hiss, which dissipates into nothingness along with the mist and the light.

The Horcrux is dead.

Draco removes the sword and all that is left is a malformed book on the stone corridor’s floor, silent and mutilated and lifeless. It sits there with the distinct air – and slight smell – of a corpse.

Draco looks down at it with an expression of surprised disgust – his disdain and hatred for the thing clear on his sharp face. He strikes a dizzying picture, her grown son, standing over the destroyed vessel of such foul magic – her borrowed wand in one hand and a blade of goblin silver in the other. He looks absolutely nothing like the eleven-year-old boy that Narcissa saw off this morning.

He does not look like Lucius either, though of course they share a great many features. No, there is something about Draco’s style and stance and stare – something achingly familiar. There is someone else that Draco looks like at the moment… though she cannot quite put her finger on the name, which seems to sit just on the tip of her tongue.

“One down, five to go,” Draco says quietly, very surely but carefully sheathing the sword back up his sleeve. He bends down and gingerly picks up the malformed book, then stands and studies the wound through the middle before dismissing it with sharp disinterest.

He looks up at her, which, considering that he is a grown man, really means he is looking down at her.

“Mother, if you are able and willing, I would ask your assistance in the others,” he says politely. “I could do it myself but… it would be much easier to end the Dark Lord with your help.”

To end the Dark Lord.

It’s a dangerous statement and a surprisingly tempting one.

Narcissa does not bear and will never bear any love for Muggles or Muggleborns, half-bloods or bloodtraitors – not beyond Andromeda, but… Andromeda doesn’t count.

But after ten years of peace and prosperity and happiness, the thought of a second and third war is unbearable. Narcissa does not want to sit on the sidelines of another war and watch that sort of chaos befall them – either the chaos of actual war or the uncertainty of its sudden fallout. She does not want to relive such fearful times again.

The Dark Lord has taken one sister, put the treacherous other on the other side of a war, and will without regret cost her a husband and a son if they bow to his service one again. Her eleven-year-old son, who bounced around the entrance hall this morning because his father was taking him to a Quidditch match, will be Marked without choice. Her eleven-year-old boy will be yet another young wizard, bound to service, and sent off to be another casualty of war.

Family First, Narcissa remembers whispering, hidden under a table, her tiny fingers intertwined with those of a little black-haired boy with striking grey eyes.

They were the quiet children, the curious but cautious younger siblings - loyal and gullible and obedient. Each other’s favourite cousins. Because they understood each other – understood family, no matter how hard it got – even, eventually, to the point of sacrifice.

It got so hard, near the end of the war. But… Family First, they told each other, and themselves as war yawned distance between them. Family First, they said, like they were still young and naïve and convinced nothing would ever tear their prestigious and noble family apart. Like they were still full of hope; like they were still ignorant of the deaths and loss facing them.

Narcissa’s eyes widen, looking into Draco’s sharp eyes.

Oh, she realizes. That’s who he looks like.

Draco looks like Regulus.

 

4) Arrangements are swiftly made and any arguments are even more swiftly dismissed.

“What Lucius does not know, will not hurt him,” Draco’s mother pronounces, without room for debate and with an expression that says very firmly that she will be making sure of this. The stubborn line of her posture suggests that this is not the first time she has hidden something quite grave from her husband, in the way that also suggests there are perhaps a few graves hidden in the Malfoy gardens.

Draco, despite being an adult and only a handful of years younger than his mother – and it’s quite odd, being closer in age to his thirty-six-year-old mother than his eleven-year-old self – does not put much effort into arguing with her. And not just because she’s technically his mother and he’s aware of a few graves in the gardens that aren’t there yet. But because Narcissa Malfoy is simply a terribly difficult person to argue with, especially in her own home.

And also partly because he is so utterly relieved that she believes and supports him. He knows his mother well, but… well… Draco is not proud of his family’s history anymore, recent or otherwise. She was never Marked, never a Death Eater, but she agrees with their preaching, more often than not. Draco loves them, his parents, but he is not proud. Not anymore.

Narcissa Malfoy is a good mother, but she is not a good person.

It has been a painful and humbling hell to come to realizations like that, Draco knows personally and intimately. And worse, it never stops being painful and humbling to realize just how arrogant and ignorant and hatefully hateful he and his family are, knowingly enjoying their supposedly and false superiority. 

Draco is simply very well aware that if he were less competent and capable at proving himself to her – and if he didn’t bother to fight back, which he absolutely would have – he too could have ended up in an unmarked grave in the Malfoy Manor gardens. Dead and buried, without even a patch of freshly-turned dirt as evidence, before anyone else came home or to call. Some unimportant impostor come to turn her against the great Dark Lord.

Good mother? Yes. Good person? No.

Destroying all five of the remaining Horcruxes is going to take more than a single afternoon, so Narcissa sets Draco up in one of the guest bedrooms. In the farthest wing from her and Father, and his younger self. He’s to stay with them for the foreseeable future, to rest and relax and plan. When Narcissa has the time and can free herself from her husband and her son, she will accompany him and they will end the Dark Lord together.

On one hand, it’s absolutely ridiculous to think that Narcissa will be able to hide a strange man from her husband and son in their own house. But, on the other hand, the portraits and statues won’t tell, the servants won’t tell, and Draco knows that his father pays no attention whatsoever to matters of the house unless he’s accidentally misplaced something he wants to wear that day. And the younger Draco barely bothers to remember guests when he’s told about them, so… on that other hand, it’s actually and unfortunately not that ridiculous at all.

They’ll figure out what to tell Lucius and Draco’s younger self after all the Horcruxes have been destroyed and the Dark Lord is dead for good. What will happen then, Draco isn’t quite sure. He doesn’t actually have much of a plan for his life in the past, not past preventing two wars and a horrifying amount of death and destruction.

It’s very strange, walking through the halls of Malfoy Manor, all gleaming and bright and untouched by war and the Dark Lord’s presence. The Second Wizarding War still haunts him sometimes and Draco half-expects to hear the scream of a prisoner, the skittering lurking of Pettigrew, and the drunken laughter of Death Eaters using his ancestral home as a stopping place. Or perhaps to turn a corner and come face to face with Aunt Bellatrix. Uncle Rodolphus or Uncle Rabastan if he was lucky.

The Third Wizarding War? Well, suffice to say, it’s odd seeing Malfoy Manor whole.

The Dark Lord was not pleased with Narcissa Malfoy when he returned.

Draco watches green fire flash in the entrance hall from the landing above, hidden under a Disillusionment Charm.

Merlin, how it’s strange to watch a small blond boy leap out of the fireplace, flying into his waiting mother’s arms.

How it’s so very strange to watch a tall man follow, striding out the flames to kiss his wife on the cheek, the both of them younger and happier and whole – all proud and soft and bright, as they smile down at the young boy they both dote on.

There’s no indication of the faded Dark Mark that Draco knows is burned into his father’s arm. A knowing prickle runs up Draco’s left sleeve, where his own, more recent, more vivid Dark Mark is forever burned into his skin. No indication of the brand that shows their true colours. Not a single sign that Lucius Malfoy is a murderer, proud to serve an unreasonable megalomaniac for no other reason than pure, cruel, irrational hatred and a deep-rooted sense of superiority. None at all.

The happy family quickly moves off towards the dining room, for supper, and Draco stays even after they’ve gone. Even after the embers are orange and dying in the entrance hall fireplace below.

It’s strange, seeing where he came from, after everywhere he’s been. It’s strange, seeing how far he’s come, after so long of only being able to see how far he had to go.

I’d be careful if I were you, Potter, an old memory dredges up for him, spat with all the sureness and spite of a spoiled little boy. Unless you’re a bit politer, you’ll go the same way as your parents. They didn’t know what was good for them either.

Draco scoffs at the memory, accidentally frightening a nearby portrait of Seccundus Malfoy due to his Disillusionment. Honestly, what kind of ironic prophecy? He can’t even remember being that young and foolish, really, even though the embarrassing memories never seem to leave him.

He sighs tiredly, then turns on his heel and makes for his guest bedroom.

 

5) FIVE

The next Horcrux they go after is the easiest to reach. At least, it is for them. The task would have been much harder for someone who was not a daughter of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black or her son. Number Twelve Grimmauld Place is a fortress of Dark magic, a hidden and viciously protective refuge, and it’s truly ironic that this place became the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.

Draco can almost admire Sirius Black’s sense of humor in making such a thing possible. In his opinion, despite the man rather infamously being a Gryffindor, that’s a very Slytherin way of getting back at someone you despised. Or very Hufflepuff, depending on your point of view.

After the diary being hidden at Malfoy Manor, Narcissa does not appear surprised to hear that another Horcrux was entrusted to a Dark family. The Blacks are infamously Dark, after all. She is, therefore, surprised to learn that Slytherin’s locket is not supposed to be hidden with the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. It surprised Draco too, to learn that it was there because it was secretly stolen during the First Wizarding War.

Draco tells her the story as it was told to him – the secret treachery of his first-cousin-once-removed. It’s a story that’s missing all the details – all the whys and the hows – and all there is are only the bare bones of what happened. But it’s still enough to have stunned tears down his mother’s face.

Narcissa does not sob or bawl, she just… has tears running down her cheeks… as she stares with wide eyes and appears otherwise unaffected. It’s extremely alarming and Draco has no idea how to comfort her. He didn’t remember that Sirius Black even had a brother until someone told him this story; he had no idea that the late and largely forgotten Regulus Black, traitorous Death Eater and Horcrux discoverer and thief, actually meant something to his mother.

They sit in silence in the Grimmauld Place parlour for a while. Narcissa repeatedly brushes away the constantly streaming tears with her handkerchief. Draco cautiously accepts a drink from the ancient house elf that is beyond delighted to see them and also extremely emotional over Draco’s late cousin. There are probably elf tears in the drink, which Draco pretends to drink and quickly sets aside.

Eventually, though, Narcissa demands that the elf fetch the locket. The house elf does, sobbing and ecstatic, and a dormant artifact of Dark magic is soon set on the parlour carpet. Then Narcissa, red-eyed and grim-faced, holds an expectant hand out to Draco.

Draco stares warily at it. She looks angry. He did not expect her to be angry.

“The sword,” Narcissa demands.

The Sword of Gryffindor was entrusted to Draco purely for this mission. He has been very careful not to abuse it or show it off or act as though it is doing anything in his presence but doing him an enormous favour. Because if it decides to disappear on him, he’s kind of buggered. He refuses to have anything to do with Fiendfyre and he’s not about to go slay a Basilisk, and the other Sword of Gryffindor isn’t imbued with venom, so he needs this one.

But Narcissa Malfoy looks really, really angry, so Draco pulls the Sword of Gryffindor from his sleeve and hands it carefully over to his mother. Then he sits back on a dusty sofa as Narcissa takes the sword and… well… destroys a Horcrux.

Very vehemently and with no care for the noxious mist or strangled screams or the white light scorching marks into the floorboards.

There is a little too much vicious twisting happening there, honestly.

When the scream finally dies with its soulpiece, Narcissa straightens and takes a deep breath. She pushes a disheveled lock of hair back behind her ear, then she leans the sword against Draco’s sofa and sits back down in her ancient armchair. There is a deeply satisfied glint to her grey eyes, as she looks towards the absolutely mangled historical artifact on the parlour floor.

As Draco carefully takes the sword back, he gets a couple of impressions from it. The first is that the Sword of Gryffindor isn’t at all happy at being handed around like some second-hand quill. The second, however, is a very reluctant feeling of approval and a lot wistful nostalgia at such bloody vengeance. Draco immediately resolves that he does not want to know about that and that – considering the handful of Gryffindors in his acquaintance – he really isn’t as surprised as he would have thought he’d be.

Narcissa keeps taking deep, calming breaths. Draco carefully sheathes the sharp blade. The house elf, bawling uncontrollably again, offers Narcissa a drink. Unlike Draco, she takes it and immediately downs the whole glass of sherry all at once.

Once she’s finished, she hands it back to the elf, looks at Draco and says rather collectedly, “I need to be meeting Lucius for lunch in about two hours or so.” Her eyes are still red and her face is pale and her hands tremble in her lap, but her voice stays smooth and steady. “Is that all there is to be done here? If so, I’d like to return to the house now.”

 

6) FOUR

The fortunate thing is that Draco no longer has to worry about his mother having a lacking conviction in destroying Horcruxes and killing the Dark Lord. The unfortunate thing is that Draco now has to worry about his mother having a little too much conviction. He’s afraid that either he won’t be able to keep up or that Lucius and the younger Draco are going to notice something’s a little off about Narcissa.

Family First, he told his mother, very much meaning it. But it is clear that Draco does not mean it half as much as his mother does. Narcissa Malfoy is a very selfish person who, unlike her grown son, does not care at all about what being a good person might entail. A good mother? Yes. A good cousin? Yes. A good person? No, family comes first, last, and always.

Draco sends a heartfelt thanks to his late, treacherous cousin. Thank Merlin for Regulus Black, really.

The other thing that Draco gets out the locket’s destruction is a house elf. He has no love or fond memories for the elf, but some tiny part of his mind reminded him that it would be a bit cruel to leave Kreacher all alone in Grimmauld Place. So he took the broken locket off the floor, gave it to the bawling elf, and now he has a very loyal personal servant in Malfoy Manor.

Narcissa was not impressed, but she agreed that it wouldn’t do to leave Regulus’ faithful servant in that abandoned mausoleum. This way, there’s less interaction between Draco and the household servants, and him having his own house elf will be useful for any errands he has to run.

The next week or so is relatively peaceful. Narcissa and Draco discuss the issue of the remaining Horcruxes in detail, then Narcissa leaves Draco to most of the plans while she takes care of her estate and family affairs. They also arrange for Draco to have his own, properly tailored robes. After all, Draco can’t keep on borrowing his father’s clothing or Lucius actually will notice something is wrong when he can’t find a certain favourite shirt.

They decide to go after the Gaunt ring next. Ravenclaw’s diadem would be considerably easier but Hogwarts is still a very public place, even in early July, and neither of them wishes to tread into Albus Dumbledore’s territory any earlier than necessary. Hufflepuff’s cup will be difficult as well, being in such a protected and public place as Gringotts Bank, but unlike the diadem and the cup, the protections of the Gaunt shack are entirely unknown. Draco only knows that under no conditions can the ring be worn, unless he wishes to go the same way as the Hogwarts Headmaster. Beyond that, the ring is a mystery. Mysteries and the unknown, however, are still less dangerous in their eyes than the chance of being discovered by any Dark wizards or Albus Dumbledore.

So… the Gaunt ring it is.

Having visited Little Hangleton earlier that week after Draco finally found the isolated place, Narcissa Apparates there with Draco on her arm. Neither the adult nor the younger Draco Malfoy have an Apparition License, after all. Draco is well-used to Side-Along Apparition and disinclined towards getting arrested from something so pathetically inconsequential.

They appear on a grey stretch of countryside, where the dirt road becomes little more than a dusty beaten path. It appears as though it is beginning to rain, so Draco quickly conjures a large black umbrella to raise over their heads. Narcissa casts an Impervius Charm on the object for good measure, then they set off, arm in arm, towards the Gaunt shack. Wizards and witches do not walk when travelling places, but they do not wish to set off any defenses by appearing too close to the Horcrux’s hiding place.

It is almost a nostalgic experience, really; Draco and his other mother took many a turn around the Malfoy Manor grounds together.

By the time they finally reach the small, beaten shack, it is raining heavily. Under the umbrella, Narcissa grimaces at the skeleton of a snake nailed the front door and Draco stares at the shack belonging to the fallen Gaunt family. Gambling debts, poor investments, wasteful spending, and a lot scandalous crime are only some of the reasons the Gaunts ended up here, according to footnotes in books here and there. It seems to be completely overgrown, falling apart, and rotting into a pile of wood and moss.

A part of him did not truly believe that the Dark Lord had been born of a Muggle father and a barely magical witch until just now. It’s a rather tragic and comic irony, actually.

Narcissa flicks her wand at the umbrella, so it floats above them unheld. Draco draws the Sword of Gryffindor from the sheath up his sleeve – he has found that there are no enchantments that can stand for long against it, especially when imbued with Basilisk venom. Then they raise their identical wands and step forward, towards the ominously quiet front door.

The shack contains nothing less than a dozen deathly curses, several trick floorboards, an intricately woven magical maze, and an unspeakable sort and number of snakes. It’s all very frightening, but against two Malfoys, matching wands, and the Sword of Gryffindor, it all stands no chance.

Draco stabs the sword into the ring’s heart, pressing until it breaks and screams itself to death. Then, for good measure and on good advice, he uses the happy sword to shatter the thing into pieces. He and Narcissa leave it broken on the shack floor.

There’s something unearthly tugging at the back of Draco’s mind as they go, telling him to take the pieces of the inset stone with him, but Draco stubbornly ignores it. By all accounts and advice, that ring will kill him in one way or another, and he did not come all this way to die in a place like this. He has all manner of blood and filth on his shoes, thank you, and he wants to go home.

They step out of the creaking shack and back into the heavy rain. Draco unfurls the umbrella for them both and Narcissa closes the rotting door with the nailed snake skeleton, then she fixes her own gloves, takes his arm, and then they stride towards the gate at the end of the overgrown garden.

“One moment, please, Draco,” Narcissa says, halfway down the path, pulling gently on his arm.

Draco obediently stops for her, holding the umbrella and watching curiously as Narcissa turns around to face the shack. He startles slightly, when his mother points her wand at the door and it explodes. The door is blasted off its hinges with a bang of Dark cursefire – disappearing into the dark of the shack, taking the ghastly nailed snake skeleton with it, trailing smoke and violent sizzling.

“…Really now, Mother?” Draco asks, amused.

Narcissa takes a deep breath, then turns determinedly around. Her bloody and filthy skirts swish rather pointedly as she does and her elbow is sharp as she takes his arm again.

“Yes, really, Draco,” she says. “Let us leave now. I find myself in want of a bath and never seeing another snake – alive or dead – so long as I live.”

“Well, if you insist.”

 

7) THREE

On a warm night in the middle of July, Draco escorts his mother to Hogsmeade.

His new clothing fits and suits him perfectly and mother looks splendid in her new dress – which she bought to replace the one she burned after visiting the shack; Draco just gave his robes to Kreacher to wash, but Narcissa felt the need for drastic measures. They even have matching gloves now, for dealing with Horcruxes and a blade imbued with Basilisk venom. They would make for quite a handsome pair on a post-midnight stroll through the village, if they were not hidden underneath thick, hooded cloaks.

It’s an excellent night to be out and a perfect night for a burglary within a burglary.

Almost all of the teachers are gone for the summer – Minerva McGonagall is at her brother’s farm; Pomona Sprout is on a nature hike somewhere in Brazil; Severus Snape has retreated to his home on Spinner’s End – and even esteemed Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump Albus Dumbledore is away. He is currently attending a very important conference of the International Confederation of Wizards in New Zealand and will not be back in the country until sometime late next week.

According to the Daily Prophet, the Wizengamot isn’t pleased about this interruption to their scheduled summer sessions. Lucius Malfoy, the entire Malfoy household knows well, is making a motion to dismiss the old Headmaster due to the severe neglect of his too many responsibilities and the conflicts of interest that come with having three nationally and internationally influential positions.

Draco has already unhappily informed his mother that the motion will fall through. Narcissa looked so dismayed that one might think he’d told her that the Weasleys were coming over for supper. The sulking and ranting that will follow… well… suffice to say, Draco is rather glad that they haven’t yet informed his father or his younger self that he exists yet. Narcissa will never admit that she’s envious of his non-existence, but he knows his mother and his father better than that – she’s very, very envious.

They appear at the back door of Honeydukes Sweet Shop, just as the village church finishing very gently tolling one in the morning. The manager opens the door, their eyes glazed with a carefully planted compulsion, and Draco follows his mother into the currently defenseless shop.

As soon as the door clicks shut, Draco flicks his wand at the manager and sends them into an enchanted sleep among crates of Icy Liquorice Liquor and Babbity Blueberry Rabbities. Just like the Flumes, the owners who live upstairs, who are busy dreaming sweet, enchanted dreams under another carefully planted compulsion.

Narcissa leads the way into the back room, from there into the cellar, and then takes two clicking strides to reach the right floor tile. A flick of her wand for a bit of levitation and the secret passageway into Hogwarts castle is revealed. It makes all of Draco’s months with Vanishing Cabinets look embarrassingly ridiculous, honestly.

They climb down into the floor and then follow along the passageway. At the end, Draco knocks on a certain stone brick to have the statue move out of their way, and then helps his mother up. They silently slip into the corridors of the castle, empty except for the snores of sleeping paintings and creaking suits of armor. Draco and Narcissa have a sensible number of enchantments upon them, to borrow shadows and inattention, but they move quickly and do not speak – Hogwarts has far too many witnesses.

From the third floor all the way up to the seventh, they sneak. Until they are finally standing in front of the hidden Room of Hidden Things. Draco walks quickly past three times, turning sharply, keeping his thoughts perfectly clear – it’s somewhat nostalgic, actually.

“…Oh my,” Narcissa says while lowering her hood, after the door clicks shut behind them.

In retrospect, Draco supposes that the towering piles of abandoned objects are somewhat of a sight. Most of it is worthless, but there are some powerful, albeit broken, magical artifacts and genuine treasures among the rubbish. The sheer amount of it all, too, is overwhelming at first.

Unfortunately, Draco has, at best, only vague directions towards the area where the diadem may be located. An hour later and they’re still looking for the diadem and its hum of Dark magic, even after they’ve located the general area. Draco has enlisted the assistance of a very bored Sword of Gryffindor to look for the Horcrux and to fight off any more defective and territorial magical artifacts, and Narcissa has long since opened her purse to collect anything of interest.

Despite it being two in the morning, she looks like she’s having a rather good time shopping.

A thought occurs to Draco. “Mother?”

“Hmm…?” Narcissa says, inspecting a hand-mirror inset with emeralds that is, without a doubt, horribly cursed. Or at the very least jinxed. She looks to be picturing how it might look on her vanity.

“Where did you tell Father you were going?” Draco asks, because it’s two in the morning and Lucius Malfoy isn’t so oblivious not to notice that his wife went missing for several hours during the night. At least, Draco is fairly certain that his father would notice his fully dressed wife leaving in the middle of the night, clearly with witching business to attend to. He hopes so, at least, very dearly.

Narcissa slips the hand-mirror into her purse, where it joins, from what Draco’s caught, at least a pair of earrings, another purse, an ottoman, and a stuffed and mounted peacock. Draco hasn’t the faintest what she plans to do with any of that, but he’s quite sure that he doesn’t want to know. Especially since Lucius will most likely take exception to the peacock.

“Potentilla Parkinson is holding a meeting for our coven,” Narcissa answers.

Draco almost drops someone’s outdated Herbology textbook. “Mother, you have a coven?”

“Of course I do. Normally we just take tea, but occasionally we have midnight meetings, and they’re perfectly understanding about nightly business that the husband need not know about. Frankly, darling, you would not believe the things that Delphine Travers gets up to in the witching hours.”

Draco is rather busy readjusting his entire worldview, but manages to say, “Frankly, Mother, I am sure I wouldn’t and that I really do not want to know.”

Narcissa, oddly enough, looks slightly disappointed. “Oh… well… it’s very scandalous.”

“I’m sure,” Draco says agreeably.

On one hand, he’s interested in anything scandalous. On the other hand, Draco will pay good money to never ever learn about what his mother and her friends get up to in their spare time that the husband need not know about.

“Although, it’s nothing, of course, compared to what the likes of Benedetta Zabini get up to.”

From what Draco remembers of Blaise and what little Blaise implied of his mother, Draco isn’t surprised. He is surprised, however, that the likes of Benedetta Zabini would do anything so compromising as joining his mother’s coven. He says as much.

“Oh, she’s not a part of my coven, but news does get around. She’s neutral, but she isn’t at all subtle. Delphine made such a witty comment about it – what was it? Ah yes, that the only reason she got away with her fifth husband’s death was because it was too obviously her.”

Draco snorts. “That sums it up well. Who didn’t hear about that one?”

“Exactly! I said that part of the reason she had a child was for a permanent alibi!”

“That would be a very Zabini thing to do,” Draco agrees, going through the drawers of a badly dented dresser for the Horcrux. “I have no doubt her and Blaise adore each other, and I’m sure he’d be an excellent father, but honestly.

“Oh, you knew the boy?”

“Roommates, actually, at Hogwarts. He takes after his mother with pride.

“That sounds like the voice of experience talking,” Narcissa says slyly, peering at him from around a bookshelf and fluttering a decorative hand-fan over her lips.

Draco laughs. “It could have been, but you raised me better than that,” he informs her, then laughs again at her overdramatically disappointed expression. “It’s the voice of someone who had to share a space with the personification of charm and dodge the tears of desolated exes.”

“That sounds exhausting.”

“Oh, more entertaining than exhausting, really. And very informative.”

Narcissa drops the fan in her purse and disappears behind a divider. “Benedetta makes an excellent and charming guest for her gossip and intrigue – oh, the scandalous secrets she can imply over a single dinner are just divine for a host, if one can control the potential disaster – is her son the same?”

“Absolutely; I swear that I knew more about Professor Vector than the woman knew about herself by proxy. It was almost traumatizing, actually.” Especially after Blaise’s mother came for a parent-teacher conference and all evidence suggested not much discussion had gone on. Even Blaise looked vaguely disturbed. “You know, after years with him as a roommate, I actually learned that his father was one of her husbands?”

“Really? Which one?”

“The third.”

What comes next from his mother is not so much a response as… well… something unfit for all ears.

“Mother!”

“Sorry, darling, it’s just… I had good money on it being the fourth husband.”

“Good mo- pardon?”

“I owe Mathilde Bulstrode quite a bit of gold now.”

“…Mother,” Draco repeats, putting his head in his free hand. He cannot quite believe that his elegant mother would ever do anything so gauche as to bet on someone parentage. Except, after these past few weeks of knowing her as an adult of close age, he actually can. He's not sure which is worse.

“Oh, hush, Draco. It was all in good fun.”

“Like dragonshit it was.”

The next two hours are spent looking for the tiara. But since Draco and Narcissa are multitaskers, a great deal of discussion happens – especially as Narcissa realizes that Draco has about a decade and a half of gossip that hasn’t happened yet. Including Cuthbert Mockridge’s secret mistress, the Robards’ daughter stepping out with a Muggleborn witch, Gilbert Wimple accidentally opening a portal to another dimension twice, and Bartemius Crouch Sr. breaking his own son out of Azkaban.

The information about the Crouches quickly leads into other information about the events that went on during Draco’s time at Hogwarts, including many of Albus Dumbledore’s ridiculous failures as a Headmaster. Including but not limited to: failure to notice the Dark Lord possessing Quirrell, allowing students to take detention in the Dark Forest when unicorns were being slain, hiring the absolutely useless Lockhart, allowing Dementors on school grounds, failure to notice his good friend Alastor Moody was actually a Death Eater, and the entire ridiculous mess that was the Triwizard Tournament.

This soon leads into plots on how to get the esteemed Headmaster permanently fired from his position. Both Draco and Narcissa lean more towards the simple solution of murder – all of Draco’s youthful hesitation has vanished in the face of hindsight and Horcruxes – but they do manage to come up with some less murderous solutions. Emphasis on some. Murder is still very much the preferred solution.

By the time they finally find Ravenclaw’s lost diadem, it’s past four in the morning and Draco is wheezing with laughter against someone’s old trunk. He has to hand the extremely bored sword over to his mother, so she can destroy it, while she smiles smugly at him. Narcissa has just suggested that they just point Kreacher at the man, hand the elf the Sword of Gryffindor, and tell him it’s what Regulus Black would have wanted him to do. Which is probably true.

Narcissa efficiently ends the Horcrux and they leave the broken diadem on the floor. It has no use to either of them, and maybe some Ravenclaw will happen upon it someday.

Draco and Narcissa raise their hoods and exit the Room of Hidden Things, making more and more outlandish suggestions as to how to solve a problem like Albus Dumbledore. Draco has more practice as to plotting the murder of the man, but Narcissa is terribly creative.

“Who’s there? Who’s up at this hour?” a third floor portrait demands, grumpy and blinking blearily, after Draco accidentally makes his mother giggle a bit too loudly. “Go away! We’re trying to sleep here!” They roll over, pulling their hat down over their ears. “Damn children!”

Draco and Narcissa run, giggling madly, all the way to the statue of the One-Eyed Witch.

 

8) TWO

It is not as difficult to break into Gringotts as Draco thought it would be. He honestly thought this one was going to be the hardest to get his hands on, if not impossible, but there is no need to even consider the impossible task of enlisting the assistance of a Gringotts goblin, because he has already enlisted the assistance of Narcissa Malfoy.

The Lestranges are all in Azkaban at the moment and would never allow their worldly possessions to remain in the Ministry of Magic’s possession. Not only does Narcissa have possession of all the Lestrange wands, given to her after they were used as evidence in the Longbottom trials, but she actually has the Lestrange vault key. The Lestrange brothers have no close living relatives, so everything went to Bellatrix’s youngest – and only remaining, in Bellatrix’s eyes – sister.

They do not have any Polyjuice Potion – which is easy to buy, really, if one has the knowledge and the money – but they do not need any in the face of Narcissa’s considerable skill with magical and non-magical cosmetics. Draco need only sit back in his father’s dressing chair, dressed in his Uncle Rabastan’s clothes and a hooded cloak, and watch his mother at work at her vanity.

It’s a hot afternoon in late July. Lucius has business at the Ministry and Draco’s younger self is spending the afternoon with the Goyles, who are celebrating Gregory’s younger sister’s birthday. Narcissa and Draco have the house entirely to themselves and the afternoon for business.

When Narcissa finally turns around, Draco applauds at the vision before him. Without any Polyjuice or anything but the lightest enchantment, in front of him sits the perfect picture of Aunt Bellatrix – only much healthier, slightly younger, and generally saner than Draco ever saw her.

All his mother has to do is change her clothing and put on a hooded cloak, and they are perfectly ready to secretly rob one of the most viciously protected banks in the world.

“Thank you, Draco,” his mother says, breaking the illusion.

Narcissa stands to change and pull on her sneaking cloak, and her mannerisms are masterful. She moves almost exactly like Aunt Bellatrix, from the schoolgirlish skip in her walk to the predatory tilt to her head. The curl of her fingers and curve of her smile might as well be a reflection – an extremely, extremely eerie reflection.

But she does not sound like her sister at all, not in the least. Draco could tell that she was trying, but she didn’t quite manage a good impression, much less one that was perfect. Unless the Wizarding Academy of the Dramatic Arts and the wizarding art world moves fully into silent performance, his mother needs a great deal of practice if she wants a future there. Narcissa has never had a wide-ranging and deeply expressive voice.

As soon as Narcissa returns, wearing one of Bellatrix’s old dresses and clicking boots that make her slightly taller, along with her hooded cloak, Draco stands and draws his borrowed wand out of his sleeve sheath. Luckily, as with most things, there’s a spell for that.

“Mother, one moment,” Draco says, laying his wand against her throat, “Mimesis.

A temporary medical-based transfiguration, terribly difficult and requiring much skill and at least a NEWT-level education, along with a good memory and intense concentration. Draco has heard that some people are incapable perform this spell due to lack of imagination and recall, actually, but it’s one of his specialties.

It’s no trouble for him to remember the high-pitched coos and giggles of his Aunt Bellatrix’s “baby” voice, nor for him to recall the low-pitched hisses and snarls of her frequent “secret” arguments with her sister. Both equally dangerous, because with the first she was especially cruel and with the second she was especially vicious. He remembers everything: the long, raspy drawls, the shrieking cackles of laughter, the quiet whispers and rambling mumbles… Honestly, he wishes he could forget.

Family First, he said to his mother, meaning it completely, but… some people, he just doesn’t count as family. He’d probably be labeled a bloodtraitor if he talked about it more and his mother loved him less, but he doesn’t really care. Some deep, repressed part of him still wants to secretly send Molly Weasley a fruit basket for a death that hasn’t happened. It’s terrible and he’s guilty over it, but still, the feeling’s there.

“What’s this?” Narcissa says in her sister’s raspy drawl.

Draco almost flinches. He doesn’t, but it’s all he can do to keep in a painful wince.

“A mimicry spell,” he says. “Your impression needs work.”

Narcissa searches his face for a moment, before she raises her nose in imperial disdain. “Hmph, come on then,” she says. “We haven’t got all day, Draay-co.”

Draco is better prepared to repress his wince and she doesn’t catch him out. He raises his hood, sheathes his wand, and gives her a serene smile as he offers her his arm.

“Of course, Aunt Bellatrix.”

Narcissa takes his arm, a suspicious look to her changed eye, and they’re off.

They Apparate just outside Gringotts, in the designated area, and stride into the bank as two cloaked and hooded figures. They get a few odd looks, but not many, because Gringotts deals in all sorts of business, including the anonymous, shady, and outright illegal. Goblins don’t care much for the affairs of wizards and take great pleasure in thwarting the Ministry as often as possible.

“I would like to visit my vault,” the hooded woman says to the goblin at the desk, sliding the Lestrange key across the marble. She raises her hood, ever so slightly, to show the sneer of her lips and the glare of her heavily-lidded eyes. “Immediately.”

The goblin behind the desk stares, their eyes widening in stifling fear and recognition. Thankfully, they nod stiffly and wave over another goblin. They press the key into the other’s palm and whisper something into the other’s ear before pulling away, and Draco has never seen a physical representation of this is your bloody problem now performed so vividly before.

The new goblin, who very, very stiffly introduces themselves as Hachetenu, quickly leads them away from the main operations and to a more private cart and track. They are loaded into the cart and hastily sent on their way by Hachetenu. Despite the long ride, no conversation is made whatsoever by any member of the cart, and the goblin does not take their eyes off the track ahead the entire time.

Draco remains physically relaxed and repeats a calming mantra in his mind. They are not stealing from the Lestrange vault, as Hufflepuff’s cup does not belong to the Lestranges or the Dark Lord. They are not stealing from Gringotts, they are saving the wizarding world from an immortal madman. Gringotts, if any part of it can read his thoughts, should be aware of this.

Besides, Narcissa is Bellatrix’s full-blood sister and the regent-guardian of all Lestrange affairs in their absence. She has the full right to go in and take Hufflepuff’s cup on their behalf, really.

They arrive without any trouble whatsoever and Draco quickly exits to help his mother out of the cart. Bellatrix Lestrange, however, only shoves him out of the way and steps out of the cart herself. She holds her infamous curved wand under his nose as she leans in close; the weapon drawn without warning.

“I don’t need your help, Rabastan,” she hisses.

Then she stalks after Hachetenu, who takes a visible gulp and quickly grabs a pair of clankers. Draco hurries after them, his shoulders hunched in apparent shame, and then gapes under his hood at the sight of an ancient and abused Ukranian Ironbelly dragon.

He heard as a boy, of course, that Aunt Bellatrix had one guarding her vault, but… dear Merlin, this explains the massive disaster that was left behind last time someone went after the cup. The infamous golden trio plus a dragon would certainly account for the massive hole in the Gringotts ceiling and the absolute nightmare it was to deal with the Goblin Nation after the Second Wizarding War.

Their group, however, gets past the dragon without any trouble. The key is handed over and Hachetenu scrambles to open the Lestrange vault for them, fumbling with the clankers and practically yanking the door open.

Well, at least Aunt Bellatrix is good for something, Draco supposes.

Narcissa strides into the vault, takes a good look around, then points her wand at Hufflepuff’s cup. “That’s the one,” she snaps. “Get it down for me.”

Hachetenu stares from the doorway, wide-eyed.

“I’m not clambering over gold to get it myself,” Narcissa practically snarls.

Since the curved wand is very clearly in view, the goblin does not argue and hurries into the vault. Since Draco is standing outside the vault, as though guarding it, he doesn’t see much of anything. He hears a bit of clinking though, which becomes a bit frantic after thirty seconds when his mother starts tapping her foot.

“Finally!” Narcissa sweeps out the vault, then spins only to snap, “Hurry up! We’re leaving!”

The goblin quickly exits and begins the process of shutting the Lestrange vault. Narcissa, meanwhile, dumps Hufflepuff’s cup in Draco’s hands and begins tapping her foot again.

“Hold on to that with your life,” she says coldly. “The Dark Lord is expecting us.”

Hachetenu is very quick to get them out of there, never once meeting their eyes. When they exit the cart onto Gringotts’ main floor once more, the goblins give them a wide berth all the way to the front doors. One manages to give them a quiet, “Pleasure doing business,” but that’s it.

Once they’re back at Malfoy Manor, they destroy the Horcrux in the same hallway where the diary was slain. Draco hands his mother the Sword of Gryffindor once more, and Narcissa Malfoy stabs into the thing wearing the vicious face of Bellatrix Lestrange.

She really didn’t need any enchantments to manage the disguise, Draco notes unhappily. But, he notes with a great deal of pleasure, there’s delicious irony here that’s definitely worth it.

Aunt Bellatrix would be so mad.

 

9) ONE

“I suppose I’ll be seeing you at Diagon Alley, today?” Narcissa says, on the bright morning of August 1st. Lucius is in the bath, the younger Draco is still abed, and it’s safe for the elder Draco to be having a small conversation with his mother in an upstairs hall.

The only danger he’s in is that of Miriam Abbott-Malfoy’s further disapproval - the leader of Malfoy Manor's paintings doesn't like him much. Unfortunately for Miriam, Draco doesn’t care much for his paternal grandmother’s portrait’s opinion usually and he especially doesn't care today.

“Perhaps,” Draco agrees. “Once I’ve finished business.”

“Are we still on for dinner tonight, darling? I can always tell Lucius that our guest cancelled.” Narcissa looks at him with no small deal of concern. “It’s quite fine if you decide you’d rather take some time to rest and recuperate, after all you’ve to do today.”

“No, we might as well,” Draco says. “Before we truly upset the paintings.”

Half of them are convinced that Narcissa is having an affair in her own home with her husband’s bastard younger brother. Most of them wouldn’t care if she was actually having an affair, it’s just that one doesn’t bring their mistress into the same residence as their spouse. That’s rude. Narcissa’s only saving grace in this whole matter is that Draco is a secret mistress and Lucius doesn’t know, except that’s also worse because how does Lucius not know.

“Ah, yes,” Narcissa agrees, her eyes sharp and uncomfortably knowing. “We mustn’t do that.”

Draco doesn’t dare show an expression and turns away, striding down the staircase and waving vaguely over his shoulder. “See you at dinner, Mother. Give my regards to Father and the young one on this momentous occasion, will you?”

“Of course. It’s not every day a young man goes shopping for his Hogwarts supplies, now, is it?” Narcissa says archly, before her footsteps move away from him. “Good luck, Draco," she calls softly, as she walks away.

Draco stops at the bottom of the stairs to take a deep breath, a final pause, then moves on.

“Good morning, darling!” His mother’s voice floats down the stairs, bright and cheerful. “Did you sleep well? Are you ready to visit Diagon Alley today?”

“Not hardly,” Draco mutters, letting the front door click quietly shut behind him.

 

“Might as well get yer uniform,” says Hagrid, nodding towards the neat sign of Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. Harry peers curiously inside, still vaguely confused by the long cloaks and sweeping robes that witches and wizards wear – they look like costumes to him.

“Listen, Harry, would yeh mind if I slipped off fer a pick-me-up in the Leaky Cauldron? I hate them Gringotts carts,” Hagrid mutters. The giant man does still look a bit sick, so Harry nods, despite not wanting to enter alone. Hagrid went through so much for him already and he can’t have Hagrid everywhere. Might as well get used to it.

Harry watches the giant man lumber off in the direction they first came from, then faces the fancy-looking shop with butterflies in his stomach. It looks like the sort of shop he’d get shooed out of, or told to wait outside of by Aunt Petunia, and he’s still dressed in Dudley’s old hand-me-downs. But he swallows his fear and steps inside away, alone, and feeling terribly nervous.

Madam Malkin is a squat, smiling witch dressed all in mauve. She looks very friendly and homely and generally magically odd; and her smile widens when she lays eyes on Harry. All at once, it's a little overwhelming, and Harry doesn’t know nearly enough about magic to recognize the faint haze of compulsion to her eyes.

“Hogwarts, dear?” she says, when Harry tries to speak. “We’ve got the lot here. There’s another young man being fitted up just now, in fact. Why don’t you join him in the back?”

Madam Malkin leads Harry through the shop and through a door that reads Employees Only. Harry has the passing thought that that’s a bit odd, as they go down a hallway and through another door, but he doesn’t know enough about shops or wizards to decide that’s wrong, and he doesn’t have the age or the incentive to act on what he doesn’t know. He can only be very confused as she leaves him on a small stool in what seems to be a storage room.

“An assistant will over shortly,” Madam Malkin promises with another wide smile. Then she disappears through the door and her leaving footsteps move down the hall.

Harry stares at the door for a few seconds, then down at the stool he’s standing on, and then around at the room. There’s not a mirror or anything in sight, just stacks and stacks, and rolls and rolls of fabric. He doesn’t see another boy or young man anywhere. He’s the only person in here.

He turns his head to look back at the door, considering peering into the hallway. Except… his head won’t turn. That’s really, really weird. And really, really alarming. Why won’t his head turn?

Actually, why won’t any part of his body move?

His panic only increases when he hears the whisper of fabric and the step of boot – he can see the dark edge of a cloak, just barely, out of the corner of his eye. There is someone behind him. He doesn’t remember seeing someone behind him when he’d first looked around the room, and he knows for a fact that the door hasn’t moved since Madam Malkin left.

The stranger behind him sighs heavily and something hard and thin pokes against the back of Harry’s head. It feels like the end of an umbrella or a pencil, and it stays there, resting in his untidy hair.

Then they speak, barely audible like they’re muttering it under their breath, their voice sounding male and tired and a little snobby. “You are such a git to have asked this of me, Potter,” they say.

Then, enunciated clearly, they say, “Avada Kedavra.

There’s a flash of green light, but only for the slightest of seconds. Then there’s nothing.

 

 

10) + ONE

The Leaky Cauldron is packed, as always. No one pays anyone else much mind, even strangers, because the entrance to Diagon Alley gets plenty of traffic from foreign wizards, for business or pleasure. So no one really notices when a brown-haired, middle-aged man with a handsome beard, wearing stylish blue robes, sidles up to the professor in the purple turban at the bar - a complete stranger.

“Quirinus Quirrell?” the bearded man says. “By Merlin, man, is that you?”

“P-p-pardon m-me?”

“Merlin, it is! It’s been forever, man! Don’t tell me you don’t remember me? What am I saying, of course you do! Let me buy you a drink to jog your memory!” The man waves at the bartender, Tom. “A pint for me and a pint for my friend here, Tom!”

Quirrell, all his attention on the stranger, pays no mind to the haze of compulsion in Tom’s eye as the barman prepares the drink. The professor has business to attend to and no time for overly friendly wizards.

“I b-b-beg y-your p-p-pardon, sir, b-but-”

“Oh, come on, Quirrell! Just one drink and I’ll be out of your hair – if you still have any under that new-fangled turban of yours, you handsome bastard.” The man leans in, smiling broadly. “You need to hear this tale I’ve heard about Gryffindor’s shield – some bloke’s found it in Ireland, of all places.”

Quirrell’s eyes light up with reluctant fascination. “W-w-well… I d-do sup-p-pose I could sp-spare a m-m-moment,” he says, taking the pint that the man hasn’t, gesturing over at a free table in the corner. “I’m t-t-terribly s-sorry, but your n-name, s-sir?”

Despite the offend, the man practically roars with laughter. “Great Merlin, your memory must be terrible, man! It’s Zacharius Smith, antique collector extraordinaire! I’m told I take after my Aunt Hepzibah – may her soul rest in peace – who managed to get Slytherin’s Locket for a while. It’s such a shame her part of Hufflepuff’s tea set was lost; the rest isn’t the same without it, really. Call me Zack, by the way, let’s not have any of the stuffiness from last time.”

The self-proclaimed Zack Smith sits back and takes a long sip of his pint. Quirrell’s eyes are all but literally glowing with interest, as he raises his own pint to take a sip.

“Hufflepuff’s t-tea set?”

Zack looks momentarily panicked. “Ah, well… don’t go spreading this around, Quirrell, man," he whispers, "but ol’ Aunt Hepzibah only had a piece of a set. It’s an heirloom that’s spread around the main Smith family. Comes together for family’s teas, all poetic like. But, ah, there’s a wondering if Aunt Heppy’s bragging was what really did her in, since no one’s been able to find her cup or Slytherin’s Locket since she died.”

“O-oh,” Quirrell says, looking terribly frightened. He takes a long sip of his pint as Zack does. “I d-d-definitely w-won’t go sp-spreading anything a-around. I’m s-s-sorry for y-your l-loss.”

Zack waves a dismissive hand. “Ah, thanks, Quirrell, man. It’s been decades, though. Gotta even wonder if the murdering thief is even still alive, if there even was one.”

“S-so, w-what w-w-was this ab-bout the Sh-shield of Gryffind-dor?”

“Oh, this is a good one, might finally be the real deal,” Zack says, taking a long swig before leaning forward in a conspiring manner. “So old man Burke hooked me up with this collector a couple years ago, who said they’d traced the Gryffindor tree down to a Squib. Can you believe that? The line of Gryffindor down to a Squib? Of course I said it was dragonshit.”

“Of c-course.”

“I told them to go hop a pot with that dragonshit, but they insisted. Now I’m eating those words, because they come by last week with the news that they’d traced the Squib’s line all the way down to a bunch of Muggles in Ireland. Seriously, Muggle Gryffindors in Ireland. And they tell me yesterday that they’re haggling to buy the shield off the muggles today!”

“H-how d-d-do they kn-know it’s g-genuine?” Quirrell asks, looking suspicious as he takes another sip of his pint. Zack picks up his own and gives it a swig, nodding with the intelligent question.

“Well, it’s genuine goblin silver, for one thing,” Zack answers. “And I do not like this bastard collector one bit, Quirrell, man, but I trust them to know goblin silver and real rubies when they see them. And how many shields do you know that are made of goblin silver and gems and are inscribed with Godric Gryffindor? What else can it be?”

“And the n-name of th-this col-collector?”

“Oh, give me a moment, it’s on the tip of my tongue. I think of him as ‘the bastard’, you see. First name is definitely Henry, but I can’t quite remember his family name. Might be Muggle, you see.”

Quirrell nods, grimacing, and then chokes all of a sudden on nothing. The ghastly sound is lost among the loudness of the Leaky Cauldron, along with the Muffling Charm that Zacharius Smith has just cast around them with the wand that hadn’t been drawn a second ago. Quirrell chokes again, and again, and no one in the pub pays them the slightest bit of attention. Not even as Quirrell has a paralyzing charm cast on him and a Notice-Me-Not is layered over the both of them.

“The name of that poison you’ve got there, Quirrell, man, is one that I do remember,” the self-proclaimed Zacharius Smith says casually. “However, I don’t think I’ll tell it to you. All you really need to know is that it creeps up slow, acts fast, and is incredibly, incredibly deadly.”

Zacharius Smith takes another sip of his pint, then there’s a blade stabbing into Quirrell’s middle, underneath the table. Nobody notices that either. Especially since Quirrell, paralyzed and silenced, cannot react to the Sword of Gryffindor being plunged into his stomach.

“I know this is really quite rude, but… you never know, you know?” Zack says and twists.

After a few seconds, the sword underneath the table is resheathed up his sleeve and Zack sits back. He takes another sip of his pint, then Vanishes both mugs on the table with a flick of his wand. He casts a few spells over the table as well, as though getting rid of every trace of his presence, and then he sits and waits for Quirrell to stop… well… living.

It’s not exactly a good moment, watching the light go out behind the eyes, but that’s probably exactly the sort of moment the victory of a war should be. At least by tradition.

After the moment’s passed, the self-proclaimed Zacharius Smith stands and takes Quirinus Quirrell by the arm. They Apparate away, in their corner of the Leaky Cauldron, and it’s enough to break through the Muffling and the Notice-Me-Not. The pub goes quiet.

Tom the barkeep, now with a mysterious headache that he can’t quite explain, shakes his head and makes a witty complaint about people ignoring the bar rules. People laugh and go back to their business, knowing those patrons will get quite a talking-to when they come back. Tom's quite serious about his rules.

The Leaky Cauldron is quickly bustling and chattering away once more. Tom Dodderidge goes back to talking with Rubeus Hagrid.

All is well.

 

In a random field in Wiltshire, a disguised Draco Malfoy sharply unsheathes the Sword of Gryffindor and beheads an already dead Quirinus Quirrell. Then he transfigures the head and turban into a dead snake, the dead man's body into a rock, and quickly buries each in opposite sides of the field. Just to be sure and safe.

Then he sighs heavily, removes the itching false beard and the awful brown-dye enchantment, and strides away from the scene of his crime. He’s very glad not to have to immediately worry about the Ministry anymore, although he’s now vaguely worried about just how easy it is for foreign wizards to get Temporary Apparition Licenses. Mostly it’s just a lot of lying, a handful of illegal spells, and an even larger handful of money – especially for the Side-Along Apparition Permit – as is everything, apparently. There's some terrible stuff that could be done with that; the only trouble is the month-long wait.

He’ll walk and Apparate a few times before he hops on a broomstick and heads home for dinner with the family. It’s sure to be an interesting evening, to say the least. He’s not sure which way it’ll go and how many secrets will come out, but he’s looking forward to it nevertheless.

He’s never had a younger brother before.