There was no Daily Prophet by his bed when Blaise awoke; his curtains remained closed, as well.
Perhaps I'm up early, he thought, rising and going to the window.
Snow covered everything, and the fall of flakes showed no signs of letting up; it was impossible to judge the time of day, but a glance at the clock told Blaise that it was just past two in the afternoon. He decided that a bath would be just the thing on such a "morning." Turning around, he was pleased to see a tray hovering by his bed, complete with breakfast and the Prophet—and he could hear the sound of running water issuing from the dressing room, which had been converted into a small bath.
"Impressive, Tippy. Thank you."
She didn't reply, but then, there had been no reason for her to; house elves tended to find thanks insulting.
It's a shame that Severus hates this place so much, Blaise thought, pulling off his dressing gown and making for the bath. The service here is better than at most posh hotels.
He was just sinking into the water when he heard the now-familiar spin of the Scroll, followed by a whoosh!
The smell of burning parchment met his nose almost immediately, and Blaise understood exactly what that meant: with no further need of the Scroll of Eligibles, it had destroyed itself.
Right, I'll go down as having been the least effective Advocate ever, with the shortest record of service, Blaise thought, his mind spinning with the ramifications of Severus and Harry's impatient act while considering just what he'd have to do to contain any damage to Severus' reputation.
He could just hear Shrewsbury's complaints and read Tattle's column excoriating Severus for making a mockery of the Old Ways. Tattle would definitely write one, and it would mean that he would have to, at the very least, write a strongly worded letter the Prophet's editor demanding a public apology from Tattle. His only consolation was that a true magic-fasting was a rare thing; the general public, which already adored Harry and was increasingly disposed to like Severus, would find the story of their joining most romantic, indeed.
This shouldn't really harm Severus' reputation in Parliament, at least, I hope it won't. No, I will manage this situation, Blaise resolved. Someone has to save that idiot from himself.
Nevertheless annoyed with his second cousin, Blaise decided to make his bath a long one.
Severus found Harry laughing when he emerged from the bathroom. The sound was so full of carefree joy that he had to smile at it.
The gift of their Knowing—how had he been granted that? It was beyond anything he'd dared hope, in spite of his efforts to win Harry. But even with so many things still uncertain, he couldn't doubt Harry's love; that was the best part of all of it. Harry loved him. Harry wanted him. Harry trusted him. Harry was his.
Harry stretched, the sheet pulling taut across his body, and Severus found that he wanted to be Harry's in a way that he'd never truly wanted to be another's. But he wouldn't think of the past, of the betraying lovers who'd used and left him, of the painful mistakes he'd made to ease his loneliness and fear.
Pain had no place in this room, not with Harry, even if so much of their future remained uncertain. It was time to allow himself to accept that joy which Harry so lovingly shared; in spite of everything, Severus knew it would be the saving of him.
I trust you, he thought, meaning for Harry to hear him in his mind as he approached the bed.
Harry stopped laughing and sat up, his eyes wide and locked on Severus' own.
I want you, Severus continued, moving to embrace Harry.
"You have me, always," Harry whispered into Severus' hair, as he pulled him close.
I love you.
Even in thought, Harry's voice was filled with wonder as Severus felt him begin to understand. They'd never discussed it—there had been so little time to discuss anything—but Severus hoped that Harry wouldn't press him, that Harry would just know.
I want, I need . . . .
Pulling out of their embrace to lay Severus on the bed, Harry whispered, "I know, I know what you need."
It was more a miracle than a moment, watching Severus go boneless beneath him, feeling Severus react to the slightest pressure of his fingertip, hearing Severus gasp with every flick of his tongue—Harry had never expected such lovely and unrestrained reactions, but he wasn't about to give them up.
God, that's hot, he thought, not knowing if Severus heard his thought or not as he slid one spit-wet thumb into Severus' arse.
He moved it in and out, in and around and out, slowly, so slowly, savouring the way Severus' muscles strained as he tried not to move.
Harry removed his thumb and said, "I don't mind if you move. I have you," before he shifted in order to push apart Severus' thighs and exhale hotly against his arse. Do you know what I'm going to do?
That was good enough for Harry. Pushing the backs of Severus' thighs up and willing him to hold them there, he moved his tongue to explore the contours of Severus' arse.
Smiling, Harry placed sucking kisses around the rim of straining flesh and was rewarded with a heel to the head. He moved to again push up Severus' legs and began plunging more deeply inside of him until Severus was shaking and swearing incoherently, his inner muscles grasping for something more fulfilling than a tongue.
Drunk on Severus' scent and so hard he felt lightheaded, Harry shifted onto his knees, pushing a thumb inside Severus' arse once more while gesturing with his free hand for Severus to place his legs over his shoulders. "I want to use a spell. I don't want to wait."
"Don't . . . don't wait. . . . Spell."
Fluid flowed warmly around Harry's thumb as he withdrew it to press his prick against Severus. "Open your eyes. I want to watch you watching me as I fuck you."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, gasping as he felt himself sink into the hot, slickly welcoming body beneath him. Feel me. Feel me fucking you.
"Feel me . . . feeling you . . . fucking me."
And gods, Harry did, and it was so much more sensation than he thought he could bear. Without knowing how he did it, without giving a damn why he could, he fed his own sensations back to Severus until his every nerve sang with need, his and Severus' own. The world shrank into a tight coil of shared pleasure that spun for what felt like hours before unravelling unexpectedly in a twin exclamation of relieved, near-violent happiness, an eternity of seconds so intense that Harry didn't hear himself screaming as he came.
His mind was too filled with the sound of Severus' voice chanting his name.
Tears. So happy. Harry.
All Severus could do was bear Harry's weight as he collapsed atop him, breathing heavily in his exhaustion. He could feel his heartbeat as if pulsating freely in the room, Harrys', too, feel everything as it faded into a memory that would never, that could never, leave him.
For a moment, Severus didn't know whose they were, but there was no shame to be felt at the thought that they might be his own.
In the next moment, however, as his breathing settled along with Harry's weight, Severus rolled over and sat up, shaking, staring at Harry in amazement before tentatively touching his own eyes.
He'd never liked the concept of tears of happiness, at least, not if he was to be crying them. The thought that their joining had brought Harry, his Harry, to tears was, however, quite another thing entirely.
He kissed them away from Harry's lashes before enfolding him in his arms and Summoning the duvet.
Happy. Harry. His.
He couldn't remember ever having felt such happiness; he had to speak of it. If he spoke of it, he'd know. He'd know it was real.
"Happy. I'm . . . happy."
Well, Harry's teasing voice flowed into his mind, sweet as chocolate, perhaps just gruntled.
And Severus laughed.
Tippy had never been so angry before. She didn't like it. She couldn't help it, though, because the Greer's friend smelt of Harry Potter and house elf magic. Someone had stolen master Aries! Someone had used house elf magic on him! That someone was not, however, a house elf. It was bad enough that the wards had been changed by that witch, who also had smelt of house elf magic, but so faintly that Tippy had assumed it was because of her own charms clinging to the witch's clothing. Now, however, she suspected differently.
This is being very wrong.
Wizards and witches had no business using house elf magic; no proper house elf would teach it to them. That was a Rule. It was fortunate for the stealing wizard that he'd not been present when Tippy had gone to the Greer. "Protection" took many forms, and Tippy knew them all even though she'd never had to employ any of the stronger ones.
But Tippy kept her ears still and curled as she washed behind the little master's—oh, yes, Master Severus and his Harry had finally done what was right between them; Tippy had felt that, too, upon returning to the Household—and did not let Harry Potter's Aries know that she was upset.
He is being scared enough. "You is being all clean and warm now?" Tippy asked Aries, as she finished scrubbing behind his ears.
"Yes, that will be all," Aries said.
Tippy's ears shot up. "No, that is not being all, master Aries," she said, conscious of the fact that the little wizard was struggling not to appear afraid and no doubt behaving as he'd seen adult wizards do. "I is going to tell your father you is here, and you is to be eating."
"May I have ice cream?"
"No, you is having chicken and peas and carrots and bread and butter and pumpkin juice."
Aries laughed. "You didn't take a breath!"
"Tippy is having enough breath to be speaking of your lunch," she said, as the aforementioned meal appeared on the nursery table.
"Will Father be mad?"
Tippy knew that master Aries didn't mean Harry Potter, but she didn't know how to answer a question about an unknown, kin-stealing wizard, not even to reassure a child. There was a Rule against lying that could only be broken if a Master or Mistress said it was to be so. Because master Aries needed an answer, Tippy replied based on her knowledge of Harry Potter, who was good and had played with the little ghost wizard in the chapel.
"No, Tippy is thinking not."
If Harry Potter didn't want his Aries, well, Tippy thought that this would mean clothes. Her ears drooped as she considered the pressed green pillowcase she wore, which she loved.
You is maybe not being a good house elf, Tippy. You is maybe deserving clothes.
It was a sad thing to contemplate, but Family and Household were one, and Tippy couldn't have left master Aries at the Home.
The Hog's Head was in an uproar. Master Moody was surrounded by a ring of gnomes, each oozing some sort of sentient, misty goo that wreathed the Auror in shrieking circles. Any other patrons who might have been present before their arrival, save one hooded figure standing in the back of the establishment, had fled, and Aberforth and Morgan Moody were unsuccessfully and haphazardly casting spells to try and contain what Hermione surmised, based on her experience with Harry at Snape Manor, was disorganised spectral energy.
"Stop!" she ordered. "Put your wands down! You're not helping!"
Master Moody growled and swiped at the energy trails. "Damned things are burning cold! Do something!"
"Neville, I think," Hermione began to say, only to realise that he'd disappeared.
Gnomes weren't by nature hostile creatures, and Neville knew at once that whatever they were doing, they wouldn't stop until someone got down to the reason behind why they were doing it—so he got down to their level by casting a shrinking charm on himself and approaching the tallest gnome, whom he knew would most likely be the watch gnome, and thus, in charge.
"Well met, gnome friend! I am Neville Longbottom. May I know your name?"
The gnome blinked in surprise. "You look me in the eye, Neville Longbottom. You know our ways."
"And I'd know your name so that we might speak as equals."
"I am Gnourl of the Green Hat Clan. Speak, friend."
"What harm has this wizard done to you, Gnourl of the Green Hat Clan?"
"He has killed one of my clansman!"
"What?" Neville exclaimed, remembering his gnomish etiquette quickly enough to add, so that he could avoid compounding any offence that he may have inadvertently given by seeming to doubt the word of a friendly gnome, "How so?"
It didn't take long to convince Gnourl that it was the goat that had killed his clansman, and that Master Moody had tried, in his "stupid wizarding way," to end the gnome's suffering.
In the resultant, immediate silence, a familiar voice echoed throughout the pub: "Well, you'd think an Auror would have known how to manage so small a problem!"
That's Mrs Parkinson! Hermione thought, as Master Moody, breathing heavily, dropped like a stone.
Morgan Moody was by his grandfather's side in an instant. "Aberforth, water."
The publican Summoned a bucket and would have poured it over Master Moody if not for Evessa's interference.
"Idiot! Give that to me and fetch a cloth—a clean one."
"Just you get these beasties out o' my pub!" Aberforth grumbled in Neville's direction, as he unceremoniously tossed the tap rag into Evessa's lap and disappeared into the back, grumbling about "nosy womenfolk."
"Neville, what did you do?" Hermione asked, watching in amusement as Master Moody flushed under Evessa's attentions.
Even with the glamour the older witch was employing, there could be no doubt as to who she was; her voice and manner were too distinctive.
"They think Mad Eye, I mean, Auror Moody, killed one of their clansman, but—"
"It was Aberforth's damned, murderous goat!"
"There now, don't take on," Evessa ordered, pulling Master Moody back to lean against her chest.
To Hermione's amused horror, he smiled and snuggled in more deeply while Evessa rapped him lightly on the shoulder.
He won't like that bosom half so well once he knows to whom it belongs. Turning to Neville, she said, "Well, how were they able to—"
"Did you know that gnomes eat ghosts?" Neville asked. "Well, not eat so much as absorb their energy. That's why there aren't any gnomes at Hogwarts."
"I knew that gnomes and ghosts didn't do well together, but not why."
"It seems that when they're angry, the gnomes can use this energy, er, as we witnessed."
"Poxy creatures! I ought to—"
"None of that!" Evessa exclaimed. "They're just ani—they were just defending themselves. Certainly you can understand that?"
"They're a menace, woman."
"They're not to be harmed."
Even though Hermione found it odd that Evessa should defend the gnomes, she had to giggle, but as Master Moody glared at her, she asked Neville, "Will you take them away?"
"We will not be taken!" several of the gnomes cried, indignant.
"I decide!" the tallest gnome declared, and the others fell silent.
"I didn't kill your friend," Master Moody said.
"But you lot can't stay here!"
"Yes, Aberforth, I know," Neville called into the kitchen, before addressing the watch gnome. "Look, I've got a business—weed-pulling, statue-destroying—do those sorts of things interest you? You'd be welcomed by the gnomes of the Red Hat Clan if you came to work for me."
"Yes, are there women?"
"Er, well, they've got their lady gnomes hidden somewhere, but there are lots of sons if you've—"
"Daughters, we have, wizard," Gnourl said, following the gnomish convention of not speaking Neville's name among people who might not know it.
It had taken Neville a long time to figure out the gnomes' name-related rules, but it seemed as though the effort to learn them was going to pay off as Gnourl and his fellow gnomes agreed to take the matter of moving home-hole up with their female kin.
"Hermione, do look after this Auror," the lady, whom Neville was certain he knew, ordered, moving to speak to him.
Yep, he thought, as Hermione whispered the witch's name to him, of course she's Snape's sister.
"Your grandfather appears taken with that lady," Hermione said, once Master Moody had ordered her not to make a report to the Creatures Unit and stormed into the back of the pub after Aberforth.
Morgan snorted. "Grandfather's a bit of a hound, I'm afraid, but what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the Convivium?"
"My aunt—my Muggle aunt—fell ill, and I was, er, at Neville's looking for a particular herb that he grows when the call came about the gnomes. I don't know if you've heard, but Bellatrix Lestrange was captured, and," Hermione continued, whispering, "that's Neville Longbottom. He was a bit shaken by the news, so I thought I'd come with him."
Morgan's eyes widened. "Really? Wow, no wonder—and I'm sorry to hear that your aunt's unwell."
"Thank you. And you?"
"I'm perfectly we—oh, how stupid of me. You mean why I'm here. It's our day to drink, er, that is, I meet my grandfather on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a pint. I was late today, and you know the rest."
"Well, I'm sorry about the misunderstanding with the gnomes. I hope that Master Moody won't hurt them."
"I doubt he will, as distracted as he is," Morgan replied, nodding at the tap.
Evessa and Master Moody were now drinking in companionable silence, and Neville was rounding up the gnomes—and making them hand back the cutlery they'd apparently found the time to nick.
"Listen, thanks for your help."
"It was Neville's doing."
"Sure, but you came with him. That was nice. I'd best say goodbye to Grandfather. I've a friend I need to see."
"And I'd best speak to Aberforth about his goats. He's got into trouble over them before."
"It wasn't like that," Hermione insisted.
"So, what did Mrs Parkinson want?" Hermione asked Neville, after she'd fussed at Aberforth to be more careful and turned down his offer of stew upon realising just how he'd dealt with his difficult animal.
Now that she and Neville had got his new gnomes settled at Longbottom House, she couldn't contain her curiosity any longer.
"That's not the name she gave Mad Eye, you know."
"And it's no wonder. But what did she want?"
"She thinks that Snape Manor would make a good home for any gnomes I can't use. I tried to explain to her that clans don't tend to split up, but she insisted, and the watch gnome agreed to send some of his clansman with her to see the place."
"That makes sense, really, given the spectre issue there."
"I can't think that Snape will approve of her meddling, is all, even if she did take charge of the renovations. Still, the little buggers should choose their own home-hole, and I already know of several other clans which might require relocation."
"Right, I remember that from the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Garden Gnomes meeting that I attended just after Harry's Christmas party."
"I know you've got other things on your mind just now, but it would be great if you became a regular member. Lavender, the others, and I need all the help we can get. . . . It's not good, breaking up families, even if they are 'just' gnome ones."
"Are you all right?"
"Not really, no."
"At least they've caught her now. That's something."
"It's just that I wish she were . . . ."
"I suppose that's understandable. I wanted . . . I wanted Malfoy dead."
"Wanting someone dead isn't quite the same as wanting to be the one to kill that person, is it?"
Hermione sighed. "No, it isn't. Just be glad that you won't have to do it."
"That's my point. I wish it were up to me."
"Trust me, Neville. That feeling . . . you shouldn't . . . just let it pass."
Neville looked sharply at her. "Oh, Hermione, you didn't."
"No, I didn't."
"Just don't tell Blaise that you 'didn't', all right? That's the last thing—"
"I think I know what Blaise needs, Neville."
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Hermione said, "Promise me that you won't go to St Mungo's until after Lestrange has been moved."
"These will all have to be removed," the Italian Enforcer said to his team, "but take care not to open or read anything. Understood?"
Justice is never so silent or swift as when money's involved, he thought, as his men acknowledged their orders and got to work removing Lestrange's effects from her residence on the Parkinson estate.
The call about the missing child had come in early, but upon arrival, his team had been kept waiting while the wards were taken down. While waiting, new orders had come in, and two back-up teams had arrived with them. The missing child was actually a stolen one to begin with, and now the Enforcer was "investigating" that. He suspected that the third team, a group of grim-looking British Aurors, were placing John Parkinson under arrest even now—they'd get the glory; his men would get the actual "work" of looking as if something were being done on the Italian side, and no one would ever know that some rich man's bastard was, or so he assumed, another, richer man's bastard.
It was funny that old Parkinson hadn't been able to keep his mistress entertained enough to avoid even a buried kin-stealing charge, but the Enforcer didn't allow his amusement to distract him; experience had taught him caution.
Messy, this sort of thing—a man could lose his livelihood over it if he were to give offence.
About the time that Harry and Severus elected to leave their bed to inform Blaise that he was out of a job, the evening edition of the Daily Prophet had arrived. It was full of news: Bellatrix Lestrange had been captured and was being held at St Mungo's; Artemis Twist had been forcibly placed under a Healer's care for odd behaviour that was being blamed on "exhaustion"—several members of Magical Parliament were demanding an investigation into this action, citing interference with Parliamentary duties as the true cause of it; several arrests had been made among the Magical Wizarding Peers of Britain, Italy, and Germany's Parliaments—and a wizard, thought to be responsible for the disappearances that had plagued Anegada for so long had been arrested and charged for violations of various statutes against the transportation of and experimentation with dangerous creatures.
"Merlin," Harry said. "That's clearly a cover story. In fact, a lot of these articles read like cover stories. What the hell's been happening?"
"Tippy is needing to speak to Master Harry," the house elf, who'd been hovering about and fussing over Harry and Severus since they'd come down to dinner, said.
"Not now, Tippy," Severus said. "Take a tray to Miss Lovegood, but don't allow her to leave her room."
"Yes, Master Severus."
"Yes, Albus. Who else? Who's been arrested?"
"Shouldn't we tell her?" Harry asked, in turn.
He didn't want to answer Severus' question.
"She called you 'Master'. She knows, Harry," Severus replied, smiling slightly.
The warmth of that smile made it a little easier to tell Severus his news. "Your cousin, I mean, your bro—I mean, Michael Parkinson is one of them," Harry said, feeling foolish and a bit chilled by the turn of Severus' expression. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—"
"Does it say why they arrested Michael?"
Still as disgruntled as ever, Harry thought, not really minding. He's mine to gruntle now.
Harry grinned. "Unlawful Interference with Governance. Bribery. Further investigation warranted."
"And who arrested Lestrange?"
"Shacklebolt, at the Ministry," Harry answered, looking up in surprise.
"No doubt she returned there looking for her Lethifolds—and my . . . and Pansy. Is Narcissa's name listed among those of the arrested?"
Harry shook his head. "And neither is John Parkinson's, Severus, but if they got Michael . . . ."
"I imagine that you've Albus to thank for John's omission from the list, if indeed he was also taken into custody."
"You didn't ask about Evessa."
"No, I didn't."
Harry didn't know what to make of Severus' response, so he changed the subject. "Fancy going to Hogwarts? I'd like to speak to Minerva sooner rather than later."
"Minerva McGonagall is being here for you, Master Severus," Tippy said, "and Tippy is very much needing to speak to—"
"Not now, Tippy," Severus said, at the same time that Harry replied, "I'll come speak to you later, Tippy. I promise."
"Yes, Master Harry," Tippy said, before vanishing to reveal Minerva's presence.
"Well, there's a lot to tell you. Some of it isn't good."
When Draco had found her on his way to the Headmaster's office, all thoughts of Aries and his mother had fled; Pansy hadn't looked good, and her condition had worsened even in the short time it had taken him to rush her to the hospital wing. Now he was standing over her shuddering form on the cot, insisting to Madam Pomfrey that it was Amortentia withdrawal from which Pansy was suffering.
"Not the one with which I'm familiar. Now get out or make yourself useful," Madam Pomfrey insisted, casting yet another diagnostic charm. "Hold her up so that she doesn't fall into her own sick."
Draco moved at once to sit on the cot and clasp Pansy's shoulders while she vomited thick black ichor into a basin on the floor. He didn't find it particularly surprising, the idea that his Aunt Bellatrix had done something to the standard preparation of the love draught.
That sick bitch.
It was a surprise, however, that his mother had left Pansy alone in her condition.
What the hell are you doing? he wondered, now more than ever suspicious about his mother's motivation in going to rescue his girlfriend. He knew that she'd never liked Pansy.
"Merlin!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed, startling Draco out of his thoughts. "I know what's been done here. Mind her," she ordered, rushing off.
"S—sorry, I'm . . . . so . . . sorry," Pansy stuttered, in between retches. "But I couldn't . . . just leave . . . her. Nice . . . nice to me."
"Who was?" Draco asked, shifting so that he could wipe Pansy's mouth with a bit of sheet as Madam Pomfrey returned clutching a phial.
"Mary. . . . Always so . . . ni—oh! Draco, it . . . hurts. . . . Make it . . . stop! I have to . . . save—"
Without ceremony, Madam Pomfrey grabbed Pansy by the hair and pulled her head up, pouring the potion she'd brought down her throat. Pansy made to retch, but the nurse held her mouth shut until Pansy's tremors subsided and she went utterly still in Draco's arms.
"You've killed her!"
The sound of Madam Pomfrey's hand connecting with Draco's cheek echoed throughout the hospital wing.
"Hateful boy! You will never say such an awful thing to me again. Is that clear?"
"Not hateful," Pansy protested. "Must save Mary."
"Tell me where she is, dear, and I'll help her," Madam Pomfrey said softly, to Draco's further shock.
Draco felt Pansy shudder and go still as Madam Pomfrey rifled through Pansy's pockets, only to remove a tiny trunk and set it aside before turning her attention to her patient.
"Let's get her more comfortable, shall we?"
"Is . . . is she going to be all right?"
"I don't know, Mr Malfoy. If I'd been able to see to her sooner, I'd have told you yes, but there's damage been done. . . . I apologise for smacking you."
"Entirely my fault, of course. I am sorry, but what did you give her?"
Ignoring his question, Madam Pomfrey picked up the trunk and said, "Bathe her forehead with the water here," as a basin and flannel appeared on the table next to the bed. "She'll be running a fever for awhile, I'm afraid. I'll return in a moment."
Draco did as he was bid, listening to the sounds of his laboured breathing slow and Madam Pomfrey's retreating footsteps until things were quiet again. He'd almost completely relaxed enough to begin to worry about safely removing Pansy from Hogwarts when the scream reverberated from the direction in which Madam Pomfrey had gone.
"Go," Albus said, as Draco appeared by the privacy screen. "You don't need to see this."
"She wants to know how this Mary is. Did you find her? Why is Madam Pomfrey crying?"
Albus stepped outside of the screened area and drew Draco some ways away from the other patient. "You may tell Miss Parkinson that her friend is being looked after."
"Where's my mother?"
"I'll send her to you after I'm finished here. Now go back to Miss Parkinson. She needs you."
When the boy had gone, Albus returned to Poppy, laying a hand on her arm. "Is there anything to be done for her?"
"I've done what I can, Albus, but I'm afraid it may be too late. Who would do such a thing? Did she do it?"
"Miss Parkinson had no . . . active hand in this lady's condition, Poppy. More than that, I cannot say."
"Right," Poppy replied, wiping her eyes. "Doesn't pay to be curious, does it? I'll just check on Pansy. I'm not sure that Draco is in any fit state to manage her."
Albus looked at the near-skeletal body on the bed and sighed. "I'm so very sorry for your suffering, Mrs Millblossom." But I may be able to alleviate it.
It had taken her long enough to realise her own stupidity, but Evessa had finally realised just how to contact Narcissa. Finding the owlery had not been difficult, even if persuading the damned bird to carry a letter within the castle grounds had required a great lot of treats. It was imperative that she see Narcissa, and not because of the Millblossom woman. The full moon was approaching.
I suppose that was his plan, she thought. One last taste of what was his before he made a real meal out of her.
The vanity and controlling nature of men disgusted her.
And if I'm wrong, no harm done, she told herself, bribing another owl so that she could send her second letter.
It had been the buttons. Evessa had been so disturbed by the buttons that she'd taken refuge in that low establishment to steady her nerves.
Thank goodness for Mr Longbottom.
Thank goodness that Narcissa would never know.
In life, Lucius Malfoy had been noted for his patronage of the arts and educational establishments of Magical Britain—and his sense of style had received almost as much press as he and his philanthropic endeavours had. No one else had ever sported on his robes the silver, serpentine buttons in the style that Lucius always had. The snake motif of the dress of former Slytherins was not uncommon, but the hissing snake heads were all Lucius' own; Evessa had seen enough of the man at social gatherings at her husband's home, had read enough of Lucius' fashionable exploits, to know this.
There could be no reason in the world that Remus Lupin should outfit himself with such buttons. It would be too cruel, too stupid. No, somehow . . . .
She wasn't wrong. She couldn't be.
"It's beautiful, but . . . does it hurt? The pull, I mean?" Narcissa asked, turning from gazing at the moon to look at her lover, the letter she'd just received in her hand.
Remus smiled. "Not at all. Of course, I do feel the time drawing nearer, but it shouldn't worry you. My potion keeps me . . . human."
Narcissa leant up on tiptoe to kiss Remus' nose. "You're what keeps you human."
"Your confidence in . . . me amazes."
"Yes, well, if I'm to keep my son's confidence in me," Narcissa said, gesturing with the letter in hopes that Remus would assume that it was from Draco—she hadn't felt comfortable explaining Pansy or Millblossom to him and knew that Evessa most likely wished to discuss them with her—"I'd best speak to him. I don't know what to say, but Albus assures me that steps are being taken towards Aries' recovery."
"Good. I'm sure you'll think of something. Draco trusts you, does he not?"
"You haven't said anything about Harry."
"What's to say?"
"How am I to explain—"
"Narcissa," Remus said, enfolding her in his arms, "I promise you, you needn't worry about explaining anything to Harry."
"Thank you, Remus. I knew you'd help me," Narcissa said, feeling again how lovely it was to be able to rely on someone. How did I ever live any other way?
The note, which arrived shortly after Narcissa left him, was brief:
Young Mr Malfoy has learnt of his mother's involvement with you and has taken steps to poison your Wolfsbane. If you would be good enough to meet me in the groundskeeper's hut where we may speak privately about this matter, I'm certain that we can decide what to do about the young man's anger in a way that will not alienate him from his mother or put you in harm's way.The letterhead gave no doubt as to its origin, and it was just like Dumbledore to interfere in such a manner.
And that's all to the good, isn't it? My good.
With that cheering thought, Lucius took himself off to be "rescued."