Author's Notes: I'm so glad Narcissa isn't going to become a key character. The woman steals the spotlight -I just can't get her to shut up. :makes a face:
Well, my computer died. I had to rewrite this chapter, which should explain why it's taken me so long to update. :sheepish grin: If it makes any of you feel any better about the unfortunate wait, the original chapter was really crappy. I like this version much better than the dead one.
(On the downside, still a little irritated that everything in HPatFH I had written in advance went up in smokes. I had a really good lead in-scene to the plot set out and everything. :pouts:)
Anyway, thanks for being patient with me. Thanks to all my reviewers, and I'd also like to thank the several people who sent me really extensive feedback. Things like that inspire a lot of mojo for the author. Teheh. :silly grin:
Second Note: Um... :is sheepish: Several chapters ago, my good pal Jojo (FranceGamble) helped me correct some conflicts in the letter Heero wrote Dumbledore. And I'm a horrible, horrible girl for forgetting not once, but multiple times, to accredit her with that. :sob: Sorry, Jojo!
Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 8
The morning after the trial came a lot earlier than any of the residence of Black Manor originally intended. In fact, the sun had yet to rise when the Floo alarm sounded off, followed immediately by a cacophony of loud, boisterous barking and several hapless pieces of furniture falling pray to a large, overenthusiastic dog doing victory laps in the living room.
Draco's groan of frustration could be heard throughout the second floor of the manor. From his crouched, tense position in the hallway, Heero rolled his eyes and motioned the others to put away their weapons as he took a moment to switch the safety on his own firearm before holstering it in the waistband of his pajamas.
Draco and Harry soon joined them on the landing, all seven boys watching the Grim-like dog hit the marble floor of the foyer at a dead run, skidding passed the base of the stairs in an uncontrollable tailspin. Undaunted, the dog swiftly corrected himself before bounding up the winding staircase in a proud strut, a newspaper trapped between the animal's large teeth.
Padfoot, commonly known as Snuffles, happily dropped the paper and transformed. Grinning wildly, Sirius Black swooped down and grabbed the paper, unfurling its pages and proudly displaying the front page. There, in bold black and white, was the official declaration of Sirius Black's innocence. Included with the headline were no less than three exclamation marks.
"You boys are looking at a free man," Sirius said boastfully, preening. "Read it and weep!"
"Not a bad option," Draco muttered sourly, giving the Daily Prophet a shrewd inspection. "... The ink is smeared on that paper."
"I hadn't noticed," Sirius said innocently.
"I bet you didn't," Draco retorted darkly, crossing his arms and giving his cousin an evil glare. "It's five in the morning. That paper is fresh off the presses."
Obviously, the man needed it spelled out for him. "Your visit couldn't have waited until a decent hour?"
Sirius, smirking lazily, replied, "In some time zones, this is a decent hour."
"Not. This. One," the blond responded haltingly through gritted teeth.
To which Sirius shrugged nonchalantly and responded airily, "Hey, it's not my fault you live in a crappy time zone."
Draco stared at him in silence for a moment before saying monotonously, "Your logical reasoning skills need work."
"Aw, you sound like Moony," Sirius said before abruptly brushing the boy off with a fond smile directed at his grinning godson. "I just wanted to spend my first morning as a free man with my godson. And what kind of ungrateful burk would I be if I didn't come to thank my defenders personally?"
"The sleeping kind? Ow! Harry!" Scandalized, the former Malfoy heir rubbed his upper arm petulantly, sending his boyfriend an indignant glare. "Did you just hit me?"
"Don't spoil his mood, Draco," Harry said, still grinning in a rather star-struck manner. Apparently, the green-eyed Gryffindor was just as happy to see the front page of the Daily Prophet as his excitable godfather was.
"Et tu, Brute?" the blond grumbled sullenly. "You just wanted an excuse to hit me."
"Did not," Harry parried calmly.
"Pfft!" was the sound of Draco's measure of credibility in Harry's self-defense tactic.
Sirius, eyebrows raised in faint amusement, turned to give the snickering American Gryffindor a knowing grin. "That happen a lot with these two?"
"Honestly? I can't believe Harry's a Fire sign," Duo replied dryly; his comment was obviously inspired by his recent research on his report of the Zodiac for his Astronomy summer work. "A Leo, even. Boggles the mind. Must be the influence of his ascending sign."
"Yes," Wufei responded flatly, translating early-morning Duobabble effortlessly. "It happens often."
"Which is good for the bratling," cam a new, femininely cynical voice that made the tiny hairs on the back of Sirius Black's neck stand straight on end. Draco dropped his head in defeat, a pained wince cracking his "Malfoy" face.
Narcissa Black, bundled baby in arms, had apparently made herself comfortable outside of Sirius and Draco's sphere of awareness. She certainly hadn't escaped the renegade soldiers' attentions, and Harry had been in the position to see the woman arrive. With only a short pause for effect, she added slyly, "No other person could put up with him on such an intimate level, no matter how good he is in the sack."
Harry appeared as if he wanted to drop dead, if only long enough to regain some of his dignity. Draco, a little more vocal about his humiliation, puled an indignant, "Mother..."
"Don't be a crybaby about it, darling," Narcissa said offhandedly. "First rule of life: truth hurts."
"Second rule of life," Sirius mimicked, "life's not fair. Bloody hell, you haven't changed a bit, Cissy."
Narcissa visibly twitched at the nickname. It was a dangerous sort of twitch; one that implied that the only thing holding her back from conjuring a Beater's bat and proceeding to wail on Sirius was the fragile human being in her arms, and she was really starting to regret bringing the kid with her.
She recovered admirably when she addressed her next statement to her son. "Draco, darling, I know you've always wanted a dog... but did you honestly have to have the mangy, flea-infested cur?"
Sirius flinched. He'd been secretly hoping that Narcissa hadn't seen his Animagus form, though he'd known it was a pointless wish. Even if she hadn't seen Padfoot, she certainly would have reason to suspect something of that nature after the ruckus he'd made when he launched through the Floo.
To be fair Sirius had not expected his cousin to be there.
"He gets bonus points for fetching the paper," Narcissa said slyly, triumphant that she was winning the battle. "Does he bring you your slippers, too?"
"You're such a bitch, Cissa," Sirius said wearily, admitting defeat... for this round.
"Explains your animal form. Must run in the family." Narcissa was relentless in her pursuit of absolute victory.
Speaking of family... Sirius narrowed his eyes on the bundle of soft blankets in her arms, just barely able to see tiny little knuckles extend from the bundle. "Oh, spirits, you spawned again."
"Sirius!" Harry said in admonishment, pointedly looking at Draco, who appeared highly offended by Sirius' verb choice. Apparently Harry wasn't too keen on hearing his boyfriend rant indignantly about being referred to as "spawn".
Sirius, indulging his godson, said obligingly, "No offense, Draco."
"Kneel, boy," Narcissa murmured in amusement. "Good doggy."
The situation probably would have gone down hill from there had it not been for the sound of the Floo alarm. Heero just managed to restrain himself from drawing his gun; his soldier paranoia, however, demanded that he at least draw his wand.
Sirius grinned sheepishly. "Moony's here."
"He didn't come with you?" Harry asked, giving his boyfriend a reproving glance when Draco made a sour face. Unbeknownst to the Gryffindor, Draco had noticed his mother's face light up in obvious glee.
"Nah, he said he'd be here in ten minutes. He was nattering about avoiding the crossfire," Sirius replied, waving off his friend's obviously superior survival instincts. "Whatever that means."
Moments later, Remus Lupin peered cautiously around the corner of the entrance to the living room, his amber eyes immediately seeking out the congregation at the top of the stairs. "Oh, thank the Fates. A mediwizard doesn't have to be called," he said heavily, evidently relieved about the lack of bloodshed.
Sirius opened his mouth to respond, but he was shoved out of the way by an overeager woman who then squealed and waved down at the former DADA professor. "Remy-luv!" she said sweetly, sounding sincerely pleased to see the werewolf. "It's been so long! You simply must stay for breakfast -I won't take no for an answer!"
Harry blinked. Draco, taking pity on his clueless boyfriend, muttered bitterly, "Lupin was Mum's schoolgirl crush. She used to ramble for hours about how absolutely amazing and perfect he is. It drove me an Da-Lucius insane."
Well... Harry certainly hadn't expected that.
Remus, in fact, seemed genuinely pleased by Narcissa's unexpected presence, and he easily accepted her invitation to breakfast. With a sly, cutting remark on how animals usually ate their table scraps outside, "but for you, dear cousin, I'll make an exception," she herded the group out onto the patio. The weather was pleasantly cool and muggy; perhaps not the best conditions for a newborn, but the woman cast several warming charms over her infant son and the bassinet she had a house elf bring down before she laid the napping baby safely in a nest of blankets.
"Such a gorgeous view of the sunrise from here, don't you think, Remy-luv?"
"View's better from the East Tower," Draco murmured, spreading a layer of cream cheese on his toasted bagel.
"Nobody asked you," Narcissa said, a hint of bite lingering under her falsely sweet tone. Draco smirked smugly, remaining silent as he took a healthy bite out of his bagel.
Remus smiled in amusement. "You are exactly the parent I expected you to be, Cissa. This one, though," he added, glancing at the baby at her side fondly, "is a new development."
"Oh, this one?" Narcissa said, laughing pleasantly. "He arrived yesterday afternoon. Trowa-darling helped deliver him."
"Me and Quatre stood uselessly on the sidelines offering as much encouragement as we could," Duo said sheepishly, grinning at Narcissa apologetically. "Then we got yelled at for making a woman laugh in the throes of labor."
"Say what you will," Narcissa said haughtily, "no pregnant woman expects to hear all the gory details of the birthing process delivered via the point of view of two teenaged boys. It was either laugh at the absurdity of it or throttle the both of you with my umbilical cord."
Harry cringed. Graphic...
"You seem to be recovering from child-baring remarkably well," Remus noted sincerely. "Then again, you've always been a very driven woman, Cissa."
Narcissa preened. It was obvious then why the woman held so much affection for her schoolgirl crush; anyone that would willingly stroke her ego would certain hold a very high status in her books.
"You always encourage her," Sirius muttered sullenly.
Without missing a beat, the woman drawled mockingly, "Fetch the sausage, puppy!" She threw a link of sausage off of the patio, cooing, "Go get it, boy!"
Remus snorted wryly before responding sagely, "The same could be said for you, Padfoot."
"His problem is that he has to have the last word," Narcissa said cattily, smirking, "which is very common for losers like him."
"I don't know if you've noticed, cousin-dear, but you have that very same problem," Sirius pointed out bitingly, a hint of growl under his tone.
"Perhaps," his cousin conceded serenely, smiling as she demurely sipped from her tea cup before adding, "but I'm not a loser like you."
"See?" Sirius barked. "Case proven!"
"Same to you, dog boy," Narcissa parried smoothly.
"Neither one of you knows how to shut up," Wufei said crabbily, aggravated that he had to put up with childish bickering before his second cup of coffee.
Narcissa narrowed her eyes shrewdly at the Chinese youth. "Which one are you again?"
Wufei, bristling warily, responded tightly, "Chang Wufei."
"Ah. Chang Wufei," the woman repeated with a regal nod of her head. "You're on my list."
And, for a single moment, Wufei felt as if his fate had been tightly sealed by those four simple words. If he were to ask Draco, the blond would have told him that he should have been a lot more worried about anything his mother could do to people who were unfortunate enough to make it on her list. As it stood, the former Malfoy heir was seasoned enough to bow his head and remain silent. His mother would include him in exacting vengeance if he spoiled her element of surprise.
Duo smirked wickedly. "You're so screwed, Wuffie."
"Go easy on him," Sirius said with a sympathetic glance. "He made me a free man."
Narcissa was merciless. "He must learn," she responded gravely.
Wufei almost -almost!- broke into a nervous sweat, immediately finding that his appetite had long deserted him. Christ...
Duo, a little sympathetic to Wufei's plight, did a bait and switch as he brightly gushed, "So Ms. Black, what do you think of the garden? Tro and Quat are doing a good job, doncha think?"
"I completely agree with the removal of the daffodils," Narcissa said passionately. "Those flowers were atrocious."
"A bit too strong for a garden made up of lilies, forget-me-nots, yellow and white roses, and bluebells," Quatre agreed calmly behind the rim of his tea cup.
"Carnations are a nice replacement," the woman said thoughtfully. "I like carnations. They've always made Lucy so intolerable though. He's allergic."
"I'm surprised that stopped you," Sirius said snidely.
"It didn't," her son replied flatly, remembering just how miserable his father would be when carnations were in season. His mother would decorate the entire manor, top to bottom, with carnations -floral arrangements were covertly put on every table in every hallway and room. Lucius would be utterly miserable until Narcissa thought her husband had been punished enough; and she always found a reason to bring in carnations when they were in season. Always.
"We do have an alternative reason for coming here," Remus admitted, pulling out a stack of thick envelopes from the inside of his robes. "Sirius wanted to deliver your Hogwarts letters personally. We couldn't guarantee he wouldn't tamper with the contents, though, so I decided it would be best if I did the actual delivering."
Judging by Sirius' disappointed sigh, chances were that he had been planning something nefarious that required several minutes alone with the letters, and his more responsible friend was spoiling everything from him -as usual.
The letters were passed around; Duo wasn't the only one who noticed that most of the envelopes contained something quite a bit thicker than a few sheets of parchment. Meanwhile, his and Trowa's seemed quite a bit less weighty. He realized the significance of it when Harry, a suspicious glint in his eyes, upended his envelope. A shiny golden badge with a P on it fell into his palm. "Oh, God, they made me prefect," Harry murmured faintly, sounding almost... ill.
"This could be to our advantage," Quatre mused, inspecting his own shiny badge. Heero made a noncommital noise before placing his badge on the table. He turned his attention to his OWLs scores, nodding in silent approval when he saw a straight row of Os. Wufei, not even sparing a glance for his badge, was likewise pleased with his OWLs results.
Draco, contrary to his boyfriend's displeasure, crowed triumphantly as he boasted a badge that was slightly different than the others. "I made Head Boy!"
Narcissa smirked lewdly, praising her son with thinly veiled amusement by saying casually, "I have such a talented son."
Draco refused to acknowledge his mother's lecherous nature in favor of grinning at his Head Boy badge in pride. Nothing his mother could say could possibly spoil his moment. Nothing.
Narcissa, not to be outdone, added sweetly, "Who would know better than Harry. Right, Harry-darling?"
... Except maybe that. "Mother, please. He blushes easily."
"He's so cute when he blushes," Narcissa mused laughingly, grinning at the blushing Boy Who Lived. "He reminds me of a puppy -you know, darling, of the more attractive breeds?" She directed a catty smirk at Sirius. "The kind you can't scold, even if he did piddle on our expensive Persian rug."
"Okay?..." The Gryffindor murmured uncertainly, not quite sure how he should take the puppy comparison. Draco patted his boyfriend's knee under the table, silently assuring Harry that this was a good thing. Harry would be spared from Narcissa's scorn because she thought he was adorable enough to get away with almost everything, as long as he allowed her to make raunchy observations about her son's sex life -without much protest. She obviously enjoyed making the Boy Who Lived as a bonus.
"Let's go today," Sirius said giddily, his dark eyes lit with an unholy gleam. "Right now."
"Best idea I've heard all morning," Draco agreed vehemently. "I need to get out of this house before I get cranky."
"God forbid," the American muttered sardonically, "he get any crankier than usual."
Harry, however, wasn't so enthused about the idea. "It's just that Hermione, Ron, and I had made plans to meet in Diagon Alley next week. It's a tradition with us."
"You're going to make me endure a day with Granger and the Weasel?" Draco cried, aghast. "Harry, that's such a bloody terrible idea! I mean, there are so many buttons to push with Weasley, and they're all too tempting to resist..."
"Well, I'm not changing my plans with Mione and Ron," Harry said evenly. Narcissa tilted her head to the side, giving the green-eyed boy a thorough once-over. When she noted the Boy Who Lived's unyielding posture and point-blank honesty, she nodded curtly in satisfaction. No matter how adorable she found him, no son of hers was going to have a pushover for a lover. The bratling needed someone to challenge him on matters of importance.
Narcissa smirked faintly when the perfect solution came to her. "Here's an idea," she said casually, leaning down to pick up her hungry son, awake from his short nap. She had a house elf bring her a bottle before she continued, "Why don't you just tag along while Draco buys his school things, Harry-luv? You can also spend time with the mutt, as long as his keeper keeps a close eye on him." She flickered a meaningful glance toward Remus, who smiled slightly and nodded in affirmation.
"I resent the implication that I need a keeper," Sirius protested gravely.
"Doesn't make it any less true, Padfoot," Remus murmured teasingly.
"It would be wise for at least one or two of us to take care of school shopping today," Quatre said thoughtfully. "That way, someone can stay behind to take care of the fort while the rest of us take care of our needs next week."
As one, Wufei's comrade's turned hopeful, expectant looks toward him. Of course, it would make sense if the two couples could at least pretend the necessary outing was something like a date. Wufei, being the only one not attached at the hip, was the logical choice.
He sighed mentally, praying silently to Nataku for the strength and resolve to put up with Sirius Black for most of the day; he also tacked on a request for divine forgiveness for inflicting the man in question on the general public.
"I'll go," Wufei agreed, much to the relief of the others.
Wufei did not, however, have the same opportunity Draco happened to catch a glimpse of the triumphant gleam in his mother's icy blue eyes. In any case, he decided to make himself scarce next week anyway; perhaps even make plans with Blaise and Pansy. He certainly didn't want to stick around and witness the result of his mother's ire.
When breakfast was over and pajamas were exchanged for more appropriate clothing, the group of five Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron, leaving the four ex-terrorists to bare witness to Narcissa's pleased smile and saucily murmured, "That went better than expected..." Then she flounced back to her suite with a skip to her step, clearly and precisely informing her infant son that he would be her evil minion, and he was going to be damn happy with the purpose she'd found for him.
The four pilots remained in the living room, silent.
"Poor Wufei," Quatre finally murmured with the upmost sincerity.
"This is beyond cosmic cruelty," Duo agreed. "I'd be more inclined to feel sorry for him if I didn't find it so funny."
"And, according to Wufei's honor code, he deserves whatever is coming to him," Trowa pointed out logically. "He did insult our hostess, after all."
"We should all be careful not to make the same mistake," Heero said monotonously, appearing a little uneasy. "There's something about that woman that makes the Perfect Soldier... a little wary."
"She sets my teeth on edge," Quatre said with absolute honesty.
"I kind of like her," Duo said brightly, adding casually, "Then again, Shinigami gets really twitchy under the surface when I'm alone with her."
"She's definitely one that fights for dominance," Trowa said. "And this is her territory. It's only fair to allow her a reasonable amount of authority."
They were decided. Narcissa Black was not a woman to cross, and Wufei was about to find out exactly why that was so.
Exactly one week later, Diagon Alley was experiencing a pleasantly slow business day. Whatever customers the storeowners did encounter came in large, organized groups, usually in accompaniment of at least one Auror that happened to be a friend of the family, or, in some cases, families. It was almost one of many helpful suggestions from the Order of the Phoenix that made it into a Ministry-approved pamphlet that was delivered throughout wizarding Britain.
Accepting the advice of the legendary Order was actually a brilliant move on the part of the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour. The Order had been aware of the return of the Dark Lord for quite some time, after all; the organization had plenty of time to prepare for the moment the public became aware of the truth. Wizards and witches everywhere seemed to feel a little safer, seeing as their Ministry actually seemed to function appropriately for once.
It was strictly encouraged that muggleborns leave their muggle families home while the pamphlet suggested alternatives, such as tagging along with a friend or house mate's family and Auror accompaniment. Hermione Granger didn't mind that one bit; the last thing she wanted to do was make her parents an irresistible target for a Death Eater attack. Though the Dark Lord and his followers had yet to return to their old tricks, they were infamous during Voldemort's first attempted coupe for attacking wizarding London when they knew muggles were going to be around.
Hermione, along with four members of the Weasley Family and Auror Tonks, were sitting around two tables that were close enough together to keep a steady stream of casual conversation going between Hermione, Ron, and Ginny (sitting as a group at one table) and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, and Tonks (the last of whom was sporting a glowing orange, short-cropped hairstyle and dark brown eyes). Hermione suspected the seating arrangement was positioned in such a way so that Molly Weasley could easily scold her son every time he brought up the subject of visiting Weasley Wizard Wheezes after they were finished shopping for, as Ron put it, "junk for school."
"Why is she yelling at me again?" Ron hissed to his sister, obviously baffled.
"I don't know, Ron," Ginny said calmly, rolling her eyes in exasperation when her brother wasn't looking at her. "Have you tried not bringing up the twins' shop every ten minutes? I bet if you do, you'll see a marked improvement in Mum's temperament."
"Why does she yell at me when she's mad at the twins?"
Ron was such a... a man, sometimes. Not in a negative way, though; he just didn't know how to look at a situation from a woman's point of view. Ron thought his mother was yelling at him because of something the twins had down to make her angry. The real reason was because Molly was secretly afraid that the twins would influence her youngest son into dropping out of school, and to a woman like Molly, education was everything.
"Just try it," Ginny said encouragingly. "You'll be surprised with how well it'll work."
The Leaky Cauldron's Floo came to life with a dancing green glame only moments before a family figure came tumbling out with a flawless tuck-roll-backwards hand-stand move that had him on his feet at a safe distance away from the fireplace before the familiar Menace of Gryffindor came skidding out of the network on his heels, right in the middle of a cry that had most likely been, "BONZAI!"
"That never gets old," Duo Maxwell said cheekily, grinning at the ever-reserved Trowa Barton just as the next to arrive through the network calmly stepped out and to the side, absently brushing a non-existent spect of ash on his (no doubt expensive) burgundy shirt.
Hermione didn't miss Ron's flinch of irritation, nor did she blame him. Even though he'd stopped calling her a mudblood whenever he felt like it, Draco Black's scathing sarcasm and slyly worded insults still inspired an urge to slap him on occasion.
"Looks like Harry disagrees," Trowa said mildly after Harry came stumbling from the Floo, coughing around a thick cloud of smokey ash that followed him from the grate.
Black rolled his eyes before tugging his boyfriend to prevent injury when the next person came out of the network. He quickly cast a cleaning charm that scrubbed the ash from Harry's skin and clothes. "You really need to learn how to apparate, Harry."
Harry shrugged it off. "I'll get around to it. The Floo Network just hates me." Her friend paused. "Portkeys really don't agree with me, either. Or the Knight Bus. Let's face it, the only form of travel I'm good at is flying, and even that's limited to broomsticks. I'll probably splinch myself trying to apparate."
"Oh, poor baby leads such a hard life," Black teased.
Harry didn't even bat an eyelid when he parried, "Says the Slytherin who claims his mother is out to ruin his life."
"I am out to ruin his life," a new woman with perfect blonde ringlets and sly, icy blue eyes murmured smugly. Hermione hadn't even noticed the woman's silent arrival, followed by Heero Yuy and Quatre Winner. Her one and only meeting of Narcissa hadn't been very memorable, but Hermione had no trouble putting a name with the face.
"Hah!" Black said triumphantly. "See? My bitching is justified."
Bill Weasley appeared just as surprised by Narcissa's presence as his mother and Tonks, if only for a different reason. "Cissa?..."
Narcissa Black's eyes met Bill's with instant recognition before a pleased smile bloomed on her painted lips. "William! Well, this is a surprise. I have seen you since I left Egypt."
"William?" Ron muttered softly, giving his oldest brother a suspicious glance.
"Do I want to know what you were doing in Egypt?" Black asked his mother sullenly, sounding as if he expected the worst.
Narcissa made a genuine effort to remember the event in question. "I remember... camels. Sand. Something to do with some old ruins..."
Upon receiving a scandalized glare from his mother, Bill explained hurriedly, "I found her exploring the Forbidden Ruins on the new moon, apparently looking for the same thing I was. And then she ran off with the artifact while I was busy dangling from the edge of a pit of vipers." He added the last bit with a stern frown towards the regal woman, who didn't appear the list bit reproached about what she had done.
"Finders keepers," she replied simply, smirking.
"Shouldn't count in this case, as I was under the impression that I'd have some stakes in the Eye of Ra if I helped you break all of those tricky ancient curses," Bill said boldly, toe-to-toe with Narcissa.
"You missed one," Narcissa pointed out silkily.
"Those vipers weren't woven into the spells," Bill said stubbornly, chin lifting in challenge. "I didn't miss anything."
The woman smiled in cow amusement. "That's what I like about you, William. You always stand your ground."
"I still want my chance to study that artifact, Cissa." Apparently, Bill wasn't going to be led into a false sense of security... again.
Narcissa chuckled huskily. "Tell you what, William. You escort me to Vertic Alley while these brats run off to do their business, and we'll... talk about it."
"Fine," Bill said firmly, politely offering the woman the crook of his elbow.
"Oh, for the sake of the spirits," Black mumbled darkly. "Weasley, I am not responsible for whatever state your brother turns in when my mother unlatches her claws."
"Shut up, you horrible little snot," Narcissa said evenly, not even sparing her son a glance when she slipped her hand through the crook of Bill's extended elbow.
"Er... Bill?" Tonks said hesitantly, pointedly motioning her head toward Molly Weasley. The Weasley matron was giving her son a hard, sobering stare.
"It's a really important artifact, Mum," Bill said defensively.
Molly snorted derisively. "Somehow I doubt that, Bill."
Narcissa smiled coyly, "Why, William, I had no idea Mama Weasley is your mother! Then again, I shouldn't be too surprised -only Molly Weasley would raise such a strapping, strong-willed boy."
Oddly enough, Molly's face relaxed into a rueful smile as she shook her head in a motherly fashion. "One of these days, Narcissa Black, that draw-flies-with-honey act is going to fail."
"Hasn't yet," Narcissa replied impishly, tugging Bill toward the hidden entrance to Diagon Alley. "Ta, Mama Weasley."
"You really think Bill will be all right with her?" Tonks muttered shrewdly, watching the two of them leave with wary eyes.
"Narcissa will bring him back alive," Molly assured the young Auror warmly. "He'll, of course, have learned his lesson by then. That woman is never that complimentary unless she really wants something, mark my words."
"You two know each other?" Ron blurted out, gawking at his mother.
"I don't know if you've noticed, Ron," Duo said jovially, clapping the redhead on the back heartily, "but everyone knows Narcissa Black, and she knows everyone just as well. I'm pretty sure she has blackmail material on ex-Minister Fudge, but I haven't gotten it out of her yet."
"And you won't, unless he suddenly decides that paying her to keep her silence really isn't like having an employee who does absolutely nothing," Black said flatly.
Trowa hummed in agreement, going further to add, "She's Narcissa. She wouldn't be Narcissa if we knew what she is planning."
"You mean scheming," Heero corrected blandly, his fingers absently trailing down the back of Duo's braid.
"She happens to be quite good at that," Quatre said ruefully, a linger trace of admiration in his voice.
Hermione blinked, finally realizing that the group was missing one of its members. "Where's Wufei?"
The four colony-born students fell silent. Black pointedly became enamored with an amateur painting hanging above the fireplace mantle while Harry covered his amusement with a soft, forced cough.
"He's at home," Quatre replied slowly, a certain note of sympathy in his tone.
Hermione was instantly put on guard. "Something didn't happen, did it? He's not hurt?"
"He's fine," Trowa promised.
"Just learning his lesson," Heero murmured, obviously a little amused.
"Lesson?..." Ron prompted.
Duo snickered wickedly. "Yeah. He's learning why it's a really bad idea to end up on Narcissa's naughty list."
Babies, Wufei realized absently, were not cute. This was especially so for newborns, who all seemed to have something of a reptilian-slash-baby bird-esque quality to them. The one that was staring at him curiously from the safety of his bassinet held an uncanny resemblance to Yoda.
Babies. What the hell was he supposed to do with a baby?
"Babies," Narcissa had announced smugly from her seated position on the bed, keeping a close eye on Wufei as he had his first hands' on lesson in changing diapers, "only require three things. Sleep, food, and the occasional fresh nappy. Even a novice like you should be able to handle that for a few hours, Wufei-darling."
He really hated that woman. Gods, did he hate her. He couldn't describe the sense of overwhelming panic that overcame him when the woman announced, pretty as she pleased, that she was going out of a shopping trip the same time everyone else was scheduled to buy their school supplies, leaving Wufei the only one truly able to babysit for her. Draco, the coward, had made plans to visit Diagon Alley in the company of his friends.
The baby's face twisted into a grimace of displeasure. Wufei gulped, looking around the room frantically for some divine sign that would give him a better clue as to what to do before the little beast started squalling.
He understood that some form of penance was necessary; he had been out of line with his hostess, though he'd been more irritated with Sirius Black than the man's wily cousin.
He still hated that woman.
There was just no other word for it.
Heero was a little amazed that the day went by relatively well, considering the worst case scenario. The lack of pedestrians wandering the streets couldn't provide cover for any potential attackers; likewise, nothing suspicious triggered any of his soldier responses.
The only downside to escorting Draco and his two Slytherin friends to Vertic Alley (1) ("the snobby sister of Diagon," Duo had dubbed it) was his inevitable role as the elitist shopaholics' personal dress-up doll, courtesy Duo Maxwell's meddling. Aside from walking away from the incident with several new outfits that he hadn't intended on getting, he'd survived the invasion of his space relatively unscathed.
Pansy, Blaise, and Draco were not so lucky.
"Yuy's scary when he's fed up," Blaise whispered timidly, the three Slytherins huddled in a group that lagged behind their tense Japanese house mate at a safe distance.
"It was probably Draco's story about his newfound kink that set him off," Pansy snickered lowly, earning an irritated look from Draco. Honestly, the girl had practically pried the story in question from him after the former Malfoy heir made an offhand comment about Duo not being a bad belly dancer. The event leading up to the point where he found out this interesting bit of information was when he walked in on Duo giving his mother belly dancing lessons... in a wispy white skirt and a rather high-cut, constricting violet top.
When Duo had realized he'd been caught in a skirt (again), he pointed to Narcissa in horror and called her, "The Black Widow of Manipulation!" The woman's only comeback that she wasn't quite a widow, but she had the opportunity to inherit that status several times throughout her marriage to Lucius.
And then Heero had snapped out of whatever temporary shut down his mind had underwent before mechanically gliding forward, tossing his boyfriend over his shoulder and swiftly locking themselves away in a bedroom for three and a half hours with a pointed caution that they weren't to be disturbed for as long as the door was locked.
Afterwards, Duo hadn't seemed to mind one bit that Narcissa had conned him into a skirt. Again.
"Huh," Duo said brightly, spying the gaudy shop boasting the Weasley name further down the street. "Looks like we're here a little late."
"Hah! Like Heero wants to go in there," Draco muttered dryly. "All that popping and flashing and things that move.
Duo grinned mischievously. "His nerves are going to be shot to hell."
Heero, yards ahead of the lingering group of Slytherins plus one Gryffindor, stopped in front of the left-hand window display, one eyebrow lifted in amusement as he scanned the sign there. With a snort of wry amusement, the Japanese Slytherin calmly entered the establishment with some of the tension leaving his shoulders.
Draco could see why the moment the sign became visible to him.
WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT
YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT
THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION
THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION!
Duo choked on the laughter that suddenly bubbled up in his throat, his eyes watering with the effort not to lose it completely. "Colorful," he wheezed weakly.
"It's scandalous," Pansy said, awestruck. "It's a wonder they're getting away with it."
"It calmed Yuy down. Personally, I'm pretty happy about it," Blaise admitted.
When the group finally entered the store, they were treated with boisterous laughter from the Weasley twins, who both appeared to have just been introduced to Heero by Harry. "Maxwell's boyfriend?" one twin said, obviously find this amusing.
"The kid with the braid? We remember him mentioning you," said the other, a wicked gleam in his eyes. "Harry, why don't you go take him to see what's in the back? I'll bet he'll like those as much as you did. He can even have a discount."
"Nice to know you're treating my Hee-chan with respect," Duo said whimsically, sweeping forward into the shop as his eyes landed on a display that proudly held a sign that read EDIBLE DARK MARKS - THEY'LL MAKE ANYONE SICK! "Okay, I want a bag of these and one of whatever you have in the back. I don't care what it is."
Quatre grinned sheepishly, several large bags with the Weasley Wizard Wheezes logo printed on them resting at his feet. "I think we've almost cleaned the back out already..."
"Along with some of the more lighthearted merchandise," Trowa murmured, reading the ingredients label of a confection called a Canary Cream.
Any further debate about the merchandise was quickly forgotten when Harry, eyes cast to the front of the store just in time to see Narcissa sweep in with a nervous, twitchy Bill in tow. Bill looked as if he'd abruptly met the business end of a thestral-drawn carriage.
"What happened to you?" Harry asked incredulously, giving the oldest Weasley son a cautious glance.
Bill flinched violently. "I don't want to talk about it."
Narcissa smiled serenely.
Molly turned to Tonks smugly. "See? I told you Narcissa would bring him back alive."
"Of course, Mama Weasley," Narcissa said offhandedly, sweeping forward to glance over several items of curiosity. "I know you're perfectly capable of breaking my legs for hurting one of your young too badly. And he's a lovely lad, really -such an upstanding boy. You've done a very good job in raising him, Mama Weasley."
Bill's eyelid twitched. "I hate you, Cissa."
Duo's Black Widow of Manipulation smirked.
(1) Vertic Alley, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley -get where I'm going here? Vertically, diagonally, nocturnally... Yeah, I'm a dork.
Wanna know what happened between Bill and Narcissa? C'mon. You know you want to. :grins: Then check out the first ficlet chapter of Lingering Interludes; a collection of scenes that just didn't make it into the fic. But don't forget to review this one first! The author likes her reviewers. :sappy grin:
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