After the holidays, an official looking letter from the Wizengamot arrived at Narcissa's house. Breaking the wax seal, she already knew that bad things were to come. And indeed they were.
It was a letter cordially 'inviting' her to a hearing at the Ministry. A hearing, where custody of Draco would be decided. She'd always known this would happen, known that Lucius would fight to get his heir back once they came out of hiding. But she'd hoped for just a little more time.
Lucius had connections in the Ministry. Connections that would easily secure him anything he wished for. These corrupt higher-ups would stop at nothing to make Lord Malfoy a happy man. She highly doubted they would care for Draco's wishes.
No. If she was to win this – and Merlin take her if she didn't – she'd need to make use of her own connections, she'd need powerful people at her side.
"Mom!" Harry caught up to his mother as she was heading towards the castle gates.
"Harry," Narcissa smiled at her son, absent-mindedly casting a quick wandless "Reparo" at his glasses.
"What are you doing here?"
"I am happy to see you as well," Narcissa playfully glared at her youngest. "I had an appointment with Professor Dumbledore."
"Did something happ-"
"See, that is exactly the reason why I didn't inform you or Draco of my visit. You always worry too much. Things are well."
"But why would you-"
"I had to sign a few papers. Usually students your age aren't allowed to participate in the Quidditch house team," she lied with ease, having come up with an 'explanation' before heading to Hogwarts. She didn't want the boys to know about the upcoming hearing. It was bad enough that she was unable to sleep through the night. They didn't need to worry about this as well. Draco was her son. And he would stay at her side, no matter what. She'd make sure of it.
Talking to Dumbledore had just been one of many steps she'd already taken.
Harry excitedly beamed at his mother. "Will you come to my first game? We're playing against Slytherin!"
"Of course I will," Narcissa briefly brushed her knuckles against Harry's cheek as his eyes lit up. "Hermione's parents are actually thinking about coming as well. But don't tell her, they want to surprise her."
"Good. – Now, as much as it pains me, I already have to leave. I promised Andy I'd help her with getting Nymphadora into a dress. She has an interview at the Aurors' Office later today."
The bespectacled boy chuckled. His mother would have her work cut out for her... "Tell her 'good luck'. I'm sure she'll make it."
"I will. And I'll see you and your brother on Saturday." She leaned forward, kissed Harry's forehead and disappeared through the gates.
"So, how exactly are we traveling to Hogwarts?" William looked at the witch with curious glee. Hermione's father had turned out to be very much a young boy about all things magic. It could be somewhat annoying at times but mostly Narcissa found it to be rather endearing.
"I arranged for a portkey," Narcissa explained, taking a golden hand mirror out of her purse. "It works the same way as apparating does but is safer for it doesn't require the travelers' concentration. It usually also causes less sickness – which means it should be more comfortable for you, especially with you being Muggles."
"How do we activate it?" he wanted to know, staring at the mirror with clear interest.
"We don't. Portkeys are set on a distinct time; one merely has to make sure to touch it."
"Which time is it set on?" Diane asked, eying the mirror with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety. She was much more reserved about the magical world than her husband but tried to fit in and be open for it nonetheless. For Hermione.
"12:15," Narcissa said, checking her watch. "Two minutes from now. Is there anything you need to get before we leave?"
"No, we're all set."
"Well then," Narcissa held out the mirror and gestured for the Grangers to touch it. "Just make sure you're holding onto the mirror. And don't worry," she added with a glance at Diane. "Transportation via portkey is among the safest there is. Just do not let go until we're at Hogwarts."
Hesitantly, Diane Granger moved her hand to join her husband's on the mirror's handle. William gave her hand a short squeeze and mere moments later, the three disappeared from their spot in the Grangers' living room, reappearing right in front of the Quidditch pitch. Music and laughter could be heard and the stands were already packed with students and teachers alike
"Are you all right?" Narcissa asked, turning around to find Diane crouched on the ground, William's hand resting on her shoulder.
"Yes, just a little queasy."
William helped his wife to her feet and Narcissa nodded at the pair.
"Good. Let us find seats then."
They walked into the arena and quickly spotted Draco sitting amongst the Gryffindors, wearing a red scarf atop his Slytherin robes. Next to him was Hermione, whose eyes followed Draco's line of sight as she noticed him waving at someone.
Hermione grinned at recognizing her parents and Narcissa. The witch looked slightly out of sorts in her blood red dress and Hermione wondered how often she'd worn the color in her life up until now. Probably not even once.
Still, the color suited her. Well, in Hermione's opinion, pretty much everything suited the elegant woman.
Her gaze wandered to her parents and she chuckled as she saw the red and gold paint on her father's cheeks, the Gryffindor scarf around his shoulders. Her mother had opted for a red pullover instead and was wearing a pair of golden loop earrings. It was obvious that they'd made an effort to fit into the wizarding crowd, yet had utterly failed. They were Muggles through and through. But Hermione didn't mind. She was proud of her parents. They didn't need magic to be great.
"Draco," Narcissa was the first to reach them. Hermione watched as she pulled her son into her arms and smiled when she was engulfed in them a moment later.
Around them, students, parents and teachers alike were watching the Pureblood with curiosity, some even with open animosity.
"Hermione!" Diane finally pushed through the crowd and hugged her daughter, kissing both of her cheeks. William joined in just a second later.
"We missed you, Mione," her father said as everyone was sitting down.
"I missed you, too. I didn't know you were coming. How did you-"
"We took a portkey," Hermione's father excitedly said, his eyes gleaming. "What a marvelous-"
"Welcome to the first Quidditch match of the new school year!" Professor Hooch's magnified voice came from the field and everyone fell silent. "I want to see a fair game today! May the better team win. And now, without further ado, let us begin!"
To roaring applause, both teams flew into the arena. Hermione giggled when she noticed Narcissa jump from her seat at spotting Harry, waving and cheering for her son. It was truly out of character for the witch but then, Hermione thought, it also was not. There was nothing Narcissa Malfoy loved more than her sons.
"So, I take it you're not a fan of flying?"
Hermione looked up at Narcissa, surprised at her still being here.
"Your parents took the portkey. I have an appointment with Prof. Dumbledore in the afternoon. I was going to spend a few hours with Harry and Draco but they are chasing each other around the Quidditch pitch."
"Well – you didn't answer my question."
"Oh... no, I don't really care for flying. Or Quidditch." Hermione closed the book she'd been reading – a heavy tome on Advanced Potion-Making – and questioningly looked at Narcissa.
"Well, maybe you just haven't had the right teacher. Lily's always been squeamish about flying as well," There was a soft smile on the witch's features as she spoke about her late lover. Hermione hoped that one day, when she was older, she'd find someone that brought a smile to her face just like Lily Potter still did for Narcissa. "However," the blonde continued, waiting until Hermione's attention was back on her, "she came to quite enjoy our flights together. – Care to join me?" Narcissa nodded at the broom hovering just shy from her hand.
"I really don't–"
"I promise to land as soon as you give me the word."
"Well.. All right."
Narcissa smiled and pulled Hermione off the ground. She sat on the broom and patted the space behind her, raising a challenging eyebrow at the girl.
Sighing, Hermione swung her leg over the broom and moved her arms around the older witch's waist.
"Hold on tight," the blonde advised, pushing off the ground and slowly gaining height.
"Where are you taking me?" Hermione shouted over the wind, burying her cheek into Narcissa's back, her eyes closed shut.
"Well, I reckon you'd already know if you would open your eyes."
"How did you… Never mind." Hermione held tighter to the woman in front of her and cautiously opened one eye, then the other. They were flying only mere feet above the Dark Lake and Hermione could see their reflection in the surface of the water.
Narcissa looked so carefree and young with her cheeks flushed and her long hair fluttering in the wind, tickling Hermione's face.
"Not too bad, is it."
Hermione was about to reply, that yes, it was indeed bad. But then, she thought about her answer for a moment and found that it wasn't the truth.
They weren't flying very high and Narcissa's body in front of her made her feel safe and protected. This didn't feel so bad. No, not bad at all.
"Wait – did you read my mind?"
"No, I did not. Your silence was answer enough. – And the fact that you finally stopped digging your fingernails into my abdomen."
"Do not apologize."
Hermione nodded into the woman's back and enjoyed – actually enjoyed! – the rest of their flight.
Unfortunately, it soon was over.
"So, what is your verdict, Ms. Granger?" Narcissa smirked at Hermione once they'd gotten off the broom in front of the Quidditch pitch where Harry and Draco were still flying around, passing a quaffle between each other. "Care to come flying with me again?"
"Yes! I mean – it wasn't so bad with you doing all of the flying."
"Well, then I suppose we shall have to repeat this someday soon. For now though, I have a meeting I should really get to. Tell Draco and Harry to meet me in the entrance hall in an hour?"
"I will. Thank you. For taking me."
"The pleasure was all mine," Narcissa winked and started her trek up to the castle.
"Harry, Draco," Narcissa called out and smiled at her boys as she made her way down the stairs. They quickly met her at the bottom of the stairs, their cheeks still slightly reddened, indicating that they hadn't left the castle grounds long ago. "Walk with me?"
The blonde placed a hand on each of her boys' back, gently leading them back outside. They walked for a while, Harry and Draco remaining silent, sensing that their mother needed the time to find the words for whatever she clearly wanted to tell them.
"There is something I need to discuss with you," she finally began, coming to a halt at the edge of the Black Lake and staring out at the water. She turned around, her eyes finding Draco's. "There will be a hearing, regarding your custody. Your father-"
"He's not my father!" Draco interrupted, anger lacing his voice and fear visible in his eyes.
"Lucius," Narcissa corrected, placing a hand on Draco's shoulder, "wants full custody. But –" she tipped up her son's chin until his eyes once more met her own, "I will not let him take you from me. From us."
She placed her second hand on Harry's shoulder.
"You belong with me and your brother, Draco. I've been meeting up with Professor Dumbledore and he will be speaking up in front of the Wizengamot on your behalf. Professors McGonagall and Snape will do the same. Especially Professor Dumbledore is still widely honored amongst wizarding folk; his words do hold power. I am... confident that… I- I just felt you needed to know."
"Mom," Draco's voice was slightly quivering now. He knew that Lucius Malfoy was a man of power and wealth, a man most people wouldn't dare say 'no' to. And it was evident that his mother was frightened as well. Frightened, because the possibility that he'd be granted custody was definitely on the table. "I don't want to live with him."
"And you won't," Narcissa wiped a tear away that had left her eye without her permission. She'd wanted to be strong for her boys, for Draco. And now she was falling apart after all. "I promise. If… if he does win this, I promise I will find a way." Narcissa drew both of her sons into a quick but heartfelt embrace before she let go with an apologetic half-smile. "I uh, I have an appointment with my lawyer in half an hour. The hearing is tomorrow at noon… I love you both." The blonde witch pecked their cheeks and made her way back towards the castle and Severus Snape's office from where she would floo back to London. Before she stepped back into the castle, she looked over her shoulder and found her boys in the distance, Harry's arms wrapped around his brother. She was glad they had each other.
AN: Thank you to everyone who followed, favorited or even reviewed. I'll try to reply to all of your messages and reviews and am always happy to hear your thoughts on how things are progressing.
Happy Nikolaustag to all German readers as well as others who might be celebrating it :) Ich hoffe ihr hattet was Leckeres im Stiefel.