Narcissa had always prided herself on being rather good at discerning the undercurrents in a room or conversation. Even as a child, she had been aware of the nuances in a person's tone of voice and the minute differences in a person's facial expression. That ability had only been honed during her marriage to Lucius and she was sure that, on occasion, it had even saved her life.
Looking around at the faces of the next generation, she saw there was tension of some kind amongst them, though trying to discern the source, was another matter entirely.
Draco kept shooting cautious glances at their new Lord, his mouth twitching unpleasantly whenever his gaze landed on Harry. Narcissa knew her son well, and knew that whatever it was that had upset him enough to show his emotions unconsciously, it was greatly disturbing to him.
Blaise was acting his usual jovial self, joking with Pansy and even the Weasley boy, but there was a tense set to his eyes that belied his true emotions when one knew to look for it.
The Granger girl had her nose buried in a book, this behaviour in and of itself was apparently not unusual for the intellectually voracious young woman, but what gave Narcissa pause was that her eyes could not focus on the title of said book. They kept skipping away whenever she tried to find out what the girl had thought interesting enough to bring to the dinner table.
Pansy was the epitome of table manners. Everything action perfectly displayed and every word carefully polished. Narcissa knew the girl well enough that such careful attention to her actions was not practised precision and ingrained behaviour as she would have everyone believe, but instead, it was her way of trying to indicate nothing was wrong.
Weasley was the most relaxed of them all, which surprised her, he was acting if nothing at all was out of the ordinary, like whatever had everyone else so upset was of no consequence, or as if it was an everyday occurrence. Narcissa had thought he might of been the easiest to access to gain information from, given his parents didn't hold to the more rigid of pureblood upbringings, but he seemed quite present in his conversation with Blaise and Draco. Not distracted at all, unless he was looking for another bread roll.
The Weasley girl had flooed home to her parents earlier that afternoon, leaving only one left for Narcissa to scrutinise. Her new Lord.
He sat at the head of the table, Pansy on his right, Weasley on his left, as he stared broodily at his plate, like it had committed some great offense upon his person. Occasionally, his eyes would lift from his plate and he would look upon those around the table with concern. As if some judgement awaited him. None whatsoever appeared as people conversed.
There was one particularly odd reaction of Harry's, Narcissa could not pin down. His gaze would flit to Blaise quite often, upon which a scowl would crease his face, followed by a shudder. Every time.
The few occurrences that Blaise caught him doing so, he would grin and then wink at Harry. Causing the scowl to linger as Harry stabbed at his meal with excess vigour.
Turning to converse with Remus Lupin, she caught his raised eyebrow. She simply rose one in return, it seemed the strange atmosphere at the table had not gone unnoticed by him either. Remus nodded in regard to her silent query. They would find out what happened between the children.
Narcissa set her dessert spoon aside. The Australian dessert had been delightful. Crisp and crunchy on the outside. The middle has been almost gooey in places, but light, fluffy and melting on the tongue in others. It had been decorated with fruit, cream and bits of shaved chocolate. Delicious.
She took a sip of the light white wine in front of her before giving voice to her thoughts.
"Would someone like to enlighten us unto what has you all in such tumultuous upheaval?"
The reactions she got where almost amusing, they were all set to deny it, but she looked her new lord straight in the eye as she waited.
His scowl grew more pronounced, but she could see it was not for her. He glanced at Granger, Weasley and then Pansy before settling on her and Lupin and seemingly coming to a decision.
"I'll tell you, but not here."
~*~*~*~*~ Harry&Pansy ~*~*~*~*~
Harry led everyone to the lounge, as he entered the fireplace roared into life. He quickly checked the floo connection, ensuring they were all shut down for the night before. He wasn't about to let anyone else eavesdrop on him. Blaise and Draco had been enough.
He had wanted to be mad at the two of them, but there were a few things that stopped him from being so. The first, he really should have put up secrecy spells. Hermione was sure to know some. Probably Pansy too. Second, Draco and Blaise were both sworn to him. They couldn't tell anyone, even if they wanted and Harry, strangely enough, trusted that they didn't. Third, well, he would be a huge hypocrite. Had he been in their position, he would have done exactly the same thing. Hell, he had. He didn't think he could count how many times he had eavesdropped upon people.
Wizarding and muggle alike.
So with that, he let the matter slide. It wasn't as if he didn't have plenty of other things to worry about. Or to be mad at Blaise for. Merlin's balls the whole Being-Blaise's-Mum-Thing was enough.
He scowled into the flames at the thought, he honestly didn't know what to think about all that. He shook the thoughts from his head, he wouldn't come up with answers now. Besides, Narcissa and Remus would be waiting for him to tell them about being a Horcrux.
He still felt sick inside every time he thought the word. Shuddering internally, the word gave him the same sick, scared feeling that Voldemort did for the general wizarding populace, he turned to face the so called music.
Everyone had come and they were spread about the room in their own fashion. Blaise leant, arms folded, upon the back of the loveseat Pansy had chosen. Ron was sprawled in armchair, one leg dangling over the side. Hermione had burrowed into a corner of the long couch, a lap rug already pulled about her legs and cushions underneath her side, one finger marking her place in the book she had brought to dinner.
Narcissa and Remus had taken to another loveseat, both seemingly comfortable sitting so close to one another.
Draco sat on the couch with Hermione, one leg drawn up, his ankle resting upon his other knee.
Harry drew a deep breath, and began. As he talked, Dobby and Tibsy appeared, placing little tea services within easy reach of people. Harry wondered if Pansy had arranged for them. As he finished his tale with the events of that afternoon, Dobby softly touched his elbow to offer him his own cup of tea.
Thanking Dobby in a quiet tone but declining it for right now, Harry waited for someone to say something.
He was suddenly engulfed within two strong arms. Remus had moved before he could even blink and pulled him into a demanding hug. Harry wrapped his own arms and Remus and patted him on the back.
"Fucking hell, Harry," he breathed quietly.
Harry froze and then started to chuckle. The normally mild mannered wolf's crass language and understatement finally overwhelming him and sending him into a round of unstoppable mirth.
He broke apart from Remus as Ron started to guffaw. He looked over at his friends and saw Hermione fighting to hold back her own giggles. His grin only grew as their laughter fed each other. Hermione's giggles escaping into full bouts of laughter as Ron slipped out of his chair and Harry grasped at his stomach, a stitch forming in his side.
Remus rolled his eyes even as he let out his own snort, whilst the newest members of Harry's family looked upon them in utter confusion.
"How is this funny?" demanded Draco. His tone of voice indicating that he had thought they had all rather gone round the twist.
"Yeah lads, share the joke." Blaise conjoled.
Harry wiped a few stray tears from his eyes before he collapsed onto the floor. Legs spread out in front of him as he leant back on his hands.
"Merlin, I needed that," he sighed.
Ron snorted as he pulled himself back into his chair.
Eventually, everyone was settled and sipping tea in quiet calm, waiting for someone else to break the silence and warm glow left over by the sudden laughter.
"So, what's the plan then, Harry?" Remus finally asked.
Harry sighed and set his half-finished tea aside.
"Find some way to get this thing out of me that doesn't involve my death. We've just started to look ourselves. The goblins don't seem to be trying all too hard."
This statement was met with derisive snorts from almost every person in the room, only a sarcastic 'really?' from Pansy and Hermione punctuating the sounds.
"Well," said Narcissa, "I certainly didn't envision anything like this when I asked after what was going on with you all. But you will have my help and support in this as well, Harry. It is the very least I could do."
Harry looked about to protest when he caught himself with a small shake of his head.
"Thank you, Narcissa."
"And you will have me," Remus added, "We have got most of the property folders into a semblance of order, they are not as urgent now as this matter is. It will go much better if we all work together. Now, bring us up to speed."
Pansy and Hermione began with what they had been looking into so far. Listing the books and summoning the notes they had taken throughout the afternoon. Remus had looked interested in what they had found and had begun reading what they had put together already.
Draco took over then, detailing what he, Ron, and eventually Harry had been looking for. Essentially they had begun searching through the books Draco had taken from Malfoy Manor. Sorting them into different categories, Dobby and Bosto had helped, shelving the books that were not useful, not particularly Dark, and not cursed into the library. Other books had begun to be placed in piles for later inspection. One pile was for specifically Dark books, and another for Cursed books.
Harry was interested in having those curses removed at some point. Some of the curses made sense to a point, the material inside was sensitive. Others were just plain weird. For instance, why have a curse that would melt the flesh from your hands on a book about Flobberworm care? More bewildering to him though, was why have a book that thick on Flobberworm care at all?
~*~*~*~*~ Harry&Pansy ~*~*~*~*~
It was nearing midnight when Harry finally made the call to send everyone to bed. Yawns had started to punctuate the conversation more than well formed sentences and Ron was dangerously close to falling asleep in his tea.
Narcissa and Remus backed up his decision once they noticed the time and everyone agreed to resume their research in the morning.
They all ascended the stairs, with Blaise calling out a 'goodnight mum!' once he was out of Harry's reach.
Harry only scowled at his retreating back as Blaise jogged up the stairs with a laugh. Only Harry and Pansy were left in the second floor corridor.
They stared at each other for a moment, Harry shifting on his feet nervously, unsure how to part when Pansy spoke.
"Are you upset with Blaise for what he did?"
Harry gave the question some thought, not wanting to appear as though it was a trivial matter. "I don't know," he admitted finally.
"He didn't mean for that to happen."
He sighed, "I know, and I don't blame him for wanting to sever ties with her. I- I had a bit of a look through some of the books Draco brought, and I think that Blaise's magical signature will have changed. It will help him stay out of her reach. She won't be able to track him anymore."
Pansy's shoulders seemed to loosen at this.
"That's good, I'm relieved," she replied.
"Well, erm- we should probably get some rest," Harry said.
Pansy nodded, "Yes, um, we should. Good night, Harry," she said before quickly pressing a kiss to his cheek and slipping into her room.
"Good night," Harry replied quietly.
And holding a hand to his cheek, a small smile creeping over his face, he walked into his own bedroom.
~*~*~*~*~ Harry&Pansy ~*~*~*~*~
Harry woke gasping in sweaty sheets. The pleasant dreams of Pansy and he in their own sweaty-for-an-entirely-different-reason sheets, had given way to nightmares of possession and fear.
He scrabbled for his wand. Casting a lumos to dispel the lingering darkness, he tried to get his breathing back under control. He scrubbed at his eyes and then ran a hand through his hair.
Sighing he flung the covers back and stumbled into the bathroom, washing his face and the back of his neck to rid himself of the stickiness that came with bad dreams.
He cast a tempus spell, it was just after three in the morning. Harry sighed, he was too wired to go back to sleep now. Maybe a night fly would help settle him before he tried for a few more hours.
Decision made, he grabbed a pair of jeans and a jumper, pulling them on as he walked out the door. He paused in the hallway as he freed his head from the wool and hopped for a bit as he struggled to pull his trainers on properly. He headed for the stairs and let himself out of the back door before summoning his broom.
Catching it on hand, he mounted up and took off. Soaring up, up, up into the night sky. The cold air refreshing him and chasing away the cobwebs of his dreams in a way that nothing else had previously.
He drifted for a while, letting the light of the moon and quiet of the night fill him with a stillness not found anywhere else. He looked out of the silent moors and just breathed with the night.
Eventually spurring himself into action, as the cold started to seep into his bones, he began to fly. Lazy loops and graceful dives. Nothing fast, or particularly fancy. Just him and his broom, responding to any unconscious whim as he lost himself in the feeling of flight. Of total freedom.
One particularly big loop de loop differed. He was facing the manor as he brought himself back up and halted.
There was a light flickering in the owlery tower.
No, not the owlery tower he realised. That was on the opposite side of the manor. What was this tower? How had Harry not noticed it before? The manor was symmetrical but it had never occurred to him that there was only an entrance for one tower. Even Bosto had not mentioned it that day he had shown Harry around.
Where was the entrance? How did he get in?
He flew closer, but he couldn't see in through the windows. They seemed charmed for privacy. He could only see the soft, pulsing light coming out from the top of the tower, like a beacon just for him.
He started to circle the tower, starting at the top and flying lower on each pass. Needing to see where it began. It went a floor lower than the owlery, it started somewhere on the second floor. The windows on either side showed the library and his office. But there was nothing separating those rooms except a wall. Or so Harry had thought.
Unlocking his office window with his wand, Harry hoisted himself over the sill. He grabbed his broom before it could fall and the lights flickered on as he placed his feet on the floor.
He walked towards the wall he thought was originally shared with the library and started to inspect it. His Grandfather Charlus was asleep in his portrait as Harry looked over the wall with new inquisitive eyes.
"Please be a secret door, please be a secret door," he murmured softly under his breath.
There wasn't much there really, just stone, the portrait, a small glass fronted cabinet that held a decanter of scotch and some glasses, and an unlit wall sconce.
His eyes lit up and he reached for it. Tugging and then twisting it when it wouldn't budge. He huffed under his breath and stood back. Crossing his arms as he thought. He began to inspect the table, it was immensely heavy, but it pulled away entirely from the wall so he put it back.
He continued to look around once again, trying to spot any flaws or inconsistencies in the brick. Tapping random bricks with his fingers and then his wand. Finding nothing, he slumped into the comfortable chair at his desk.
Spinning idly as he mulled over the situation, he caught glimpses of his study. There was paperwork stacked on his desk it neat little files, some coloured the way Pansy had organised with Habrey to denote the urgency of maintenance tasks on the properties he owned.
Another stack he knew was from Remus, things he would need to look over and approve at some stage. He spun again, eyes on the walls, it was funny how the wall sconces flickered and danced while he spun…
Catching the edge of the desk, Harry brought himself to a stop. The lamp on that section of the wall wasn't lit. Standing up, he pulled his wand out again, casting a spell to light it as he approached. The sconce lit up, and this time when Harry pressed it, it moved.
His eyes lit up with success and he grinned gleefully to himself.
The floor beneath him also started to move, slowly turning and Harry's face lit with a grin. There was a secret room! He held onto the cabinet, and soon enough, the hidden door stopped spinning.
He was on the other side of the wall.
There was a long thin flight of stairs and as Harry stepped on the first step, lights illuminated to guide his way. There were a great many portraits on the walls, and his ancestors smiled down at him. Some waving madly, others merely nodding. None tried to halt him. Possibly understanding his innate curiosity, or maybe just knowing that there would be time enough for that later.
Eventually he came to a large wooden door. It was intricately carved with runes and pictograms. Unconsciously holding his breath, Harry turned the doorknob.
"Hello, Son. I've been wondering when you would find this place."
~*~*~*~*~ Harry&Pansy ~*~*~*~*~
The sun was coming up, Harry had first noticed it when the birds had started singing. But now, the first fingers of light were reaching through the windows. He placed a marker in the book that he had been reading and turned to face the only painting that hung in the circular room.
The room was set up similarly to the study downstairs, but had far more comfort in mind. There was a long curving couch underneath one window. A comfortable armchair that rocked next to that. There was a desk set at the other window, and a workbench built into the wall opposite. Lastly, there was another small staircase, almost like a ladder really, that led up to a skinny walkway that ran around the entire room a few feet above head height. The walls of that landing were filled with books on a very specific kind of magic.
The shelves contained journals and notebooks, scrolls and tomes filled with the handwriting of Harry's ancestors. Their accounts were on beings, plants and phenomenoms they had encountered, potions they had created -or notes they were still yet to try- spells they had devised, from household to battlefield, it was incredible. It was mind boggling.
It was very, very, secret.
"I really can't tell anyone about this place?" he asked the tapestry.
He already knew the answer, but speaking to his father was worth repeating any question ten times over.
The painting rippled and Harry watched as the little figure of James Potter walked along the branch that stretched toward the viewer. Growing larger and larger until he was big enough to see. The smile on his face told Harry his dad had seen right through his question.
"If you use the old ceremonies to bond to your spouse, you can bring them, as well as any children of your blood. But other than that, no Harry. The family magic will stop you before you can even try. These are our secrets. Our family knowledge and the source of our wealth."
Harry nodded and moved closer to the painting, eyes roving over it and taking in all the details of his family tree. The majority of apples on the tree were gold. Signifying their blood relation to the Potter family. His family all waved down at him, all the way from Ignotus Peverell. Who sat right at the top of the tree.
Each blood member of the Potter line infused their magic with the tapestry when they came of age. Adding their magic to the portrait which served as the basis for the wards around the manor.
Harry sighed and his flicked to the silver apple that was joined with his fathers.
"I wish you had been able to convince mum to take the old vows."
His father's face twisted into a sad smile, "I do as well, I had hoped to talk her into using them and renewing our vows after we had you. But-" he broke off there.
"I'll find the portrait," Harry said decisively. "Are you sure you don't know where it is?"
James had told him of their wedding gift from the Longbottom's. Frank and Alice had paid for the best portrait artist at the time to paint them in their wedding finery. It had apparently hung in Godric's Hollow above the fireplace.
"I've been trying, Son. But I can't leave this frame at all."
Harry only nodded, his eyes still roving over the portrait and his father's face.
His eyes ran down the tree, taking in all of the Potter characteristics, seeing where the Gryffindor line had married in, those descendants taking on a red hue to their gold. Finally his eyes fell on his apple. Harry had been instructed how to add his own and now his apple portrait moved too. His painted self gaping at everyone around him and occasionally scowling down at the white apple that branched off from his own.
"Are you going to explain that?" His father asked.
Harry sighed and filled his Dad in about what had happened with Blaise the day previously.
"-And then the twat, he bloody well renounced his mum, and made me her instead!"
His father, and several other family members, were snickering at his retelling of events. Harry folded his arms crossly and waited for them to settle down.
"What's going to happen when I have my own kids?" he asked, wanting to needle them a little, as wasn't that stuff supposed to be important? "What happens to the line succession?"
James was still smiling as he answered, "You don't need to worry, Harry. You didn't blood adopt him. His apple is white. He's more like a step-son." James snorted again. "He won't interfere with your own kids. Why? Are you planning on some already? Is this Pansy that much of a looker is she?" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Harry blushed and stared at the carpet, "No!"
"That means yes!" cried out some great uncle, a few branches above James' perch.
"Is she ugly then?" asked another, who was promptly smacked by his wife.
"No!" Harry said again glaring up at them all, "She's... really pretty. But no, I'm not thinking about that stuff yet…" he trailed off and looked down at his shoes again.
"Harry, you're a bloke, is perfectly fine to entertain certain thoughts, or to have interesting dreams," James teased with a wink.
Harry cringed in embarrassment, he could feel his cheeks and neck burning with it. His dad couldn't know about that dream he had earlier. Could he? Although if his laugh was anything to go by. He did.
"Right, I'm heading down for breakfast!" Harry exclaimed, making his way to the door." He paused there, his hand on the handle and he looked back to see his dad, "You'll still be here, when I come back won't you?"
"Of course, Harry. I'll always be here for you."
Harry gave him a tremulous smile, and then hurried down the stairs.
Charlus was now awake and he ensured that the study was empty before Harry came through. Once he was safely through, Harry fell against the wall needing a moment to collect himself before he headed downstairs to join the others.