Disclaimer: Unfortunately, the only thing that belongs to me is the plot, the rest is the property of J.K. Rowling - a shame but there you go!
Authors Note: Kurbs-Blood is a disease, which I have made up, although its genetic basis is realistic enough, in that it is similar to Haemophilia. Please review and let me know what you think!
It was a typical cold November evening. Lucius Malfoy stifled a yawn as he listened to the wind howling mournfully around the house, causing drafts and currents of cold air to seep through his thick wool cloak. He always hated such evenings, and thought longingly of the roaring fire that would no doubt be ablaze in the half of his comfortable study, in Malfoy manor. He had been standing in the drafty, high-ceilinged room of Voldemort's home in the heart of the Albanian forest - at least that was where Lucius thought the house was situated, for the greater part of two hours, listening to Voldemort expounding on the theme of the purity of Blood. This being a subject close to Lucius' own heart, he had at first paid close attention to what Voldemort had been saying, but as the litany went on and on, along its usual lines of getting rid of muggles and all they represented, his mind had drifted to other matters requiring his attention. The most urgent of these was the problem of his son Draco.
As an old pureblood family, who had traditions and standards to maintain within wizarding society, it was essential that Lucius find Draco a suitable bride soon - preferably before the end of Draco's graduation from Hogwarts, which was less than a year away. He reviewed in his mind the likely candidates, matching them against his own requirements. The problem was that none seemed to match them. In frustration he frowned, wishing for the tenth time that this meeting would be over, so he could go home, and think about this problem without being disturbed. He wondered idly how many arguments he and Narcissa had had on this subject - too many to keep count, he thought disparagingly. She just could not see things his way, preferring to do what was easiest, but as the head of the Malfoy family, it was his responsibility to ensure the bloodline continued no matter what.
A rustling of clothing around him brought Lucius' attention sharply back to his surroundings. Glancing about him, he saw the gathered Death Eaters hastily preparing to depart back to their own homes. The meeting had obviously come to an end. Trying to hide his relief, he too went to move away from the circle of people surrounding Lord Voldemort, but a cold, all-too-familiar voice stopped him.
"One moment, Lucius my friend." Lucius' heart sank at these words, although he showed no outward sign of fear. He turned back to the tall skeletally thin figure now standing alone in the centre of the room. The Dark Lord smiled, gesturing for Lucius to follow him. Wordlessly, Lucius followed him out of the room and into another, which looked very comfortable. Motioning him to be seated, Voldemort called for a house-elf. A thin-faced elf, wearing what looked like a rag wrapped around its skinny body, appeared in the room with a faint pop, carrying a tray of drinks.
Lucius frowned at this. It seemed that The Dark Lord had planned this discussion before the start of the meeting - he hoped this was a good indication, thinking it unlikely that he was to be rebuked for his lack of attention during the meeting. He wondered uneasily what this discussion was going to be about. Normally, if The Dark Lord wished to chastise someone, he would not take the trouble of taking him or her to his private study and offering them a drink. On the contrary, he would want to ensure that the person was as uncomfortable as possible, preferably cowering at his feet on a hard stone floor.
"What will you have Lucius?" Voldemort asked in a hissing voice guaranteed to send shivers up the spine.
Without any hesitation, Lucius nodded towards the brandy decanter, thinking he would probably need the stiff drink to give him Dutch courage, if nothing else. Immediately, the nervous looking house-elf poured him a glass of the amber coloured liquid, and then hastily departed the room.
Once the house-elf had gone, Voldemort smiled his lipless smile and said, "Well my faithful friend, it is nice to sit here and have a drink, don't you think?"
Lucius forced a smile in response to this, and the reptilian figure carried on talking. "I won't beat about the bush" (no doubt a muggle expression, Lucius thought) "But I noticed the other day something rather strange! I was sitting here working out my next campaign for getting rid of muggle filth, when I happened to notice this book sitting on my shelf." He handed Lucius an old, shabby looking book, which looked as though one tug would rip it in to shreds. The faded title on the cover read "Blood: Magical properties and Differences within Different Types of Blood" by Professor Gilf Hinder. Lucius turned the book over in his hands, trying to decide where this conversation was leading.
"I must admit that when I first came across this book, it didn't seem particularly interesting." Voldemort went on. "How wrong I was! I decided to skim through it, and it taught me a lot about blood, and more especially its magical properties. Lucius, do you know why you are a pureblood?" Lucius smiled at this.
"Certainly I know, my lord. It is because no member of my family is or ever has been related to muggles. Our bloodlines have no muggle genes in them." This answer seemed to amuse The Dark Lord rather than please him as such.
"I'm surprised that you know so much about it, Lucius. I wouldn't have thought that someone such as you knows what genes are. After all, it is not something which is taught at Hogwarts." He leaned back in his winged chair thoughtfully regarding the whisky glass held in his bony right hand.
"Well, I decided to do a bit of background reading, which has proved invaluable especially as Draco is beginning to ask questions about such matters as blood." As soon as he mentioned Draco's name, Lucius wished he hadn't. This was a sure way of annoying Voldemort, as Draco for some reason Lucius hadn't yet worked out, had refused to join the Death Eaters. But this evening, The Dark Lord simply smiled.
"So do you think that all muggle genes are filth then Lucius?" Voldemort asked in an amused drawl.
"Why yes, my Lord, there is nothing their genes have that ours do not."
"Tell me, how many children has Narcissa borne now?"
Lucius bit his lip at this sudden change in the direction of the conversation, but did not dare show his displeasure too openly. Grudgingly, he answered, "She's borne six children, out of whom only Draco survived. According to the medi-wizards at St Mungo's, Narcissa isn't particularly good at bearing children, although I am assured this is no fault of hers. Apparently, some women are just made like that." He trailed off under Voldemort's knife-like gaze.
"I've had a look at the Malfoy records, they say nothing about Narcissa's unsuitability to bear children," the other wizard contradicted softly, "they made for an interesting read, I can tell you. Having perused them, I began to think seriously, and that is where this book came in handy," He jerked his head at the book, resting on the coffee table beside Lucius' chair. "According to the records, five out of six of your children died of a disease which affects only children born to pureblood parents. The disease is called Kurb-Skalator and is more commonly known as Kurbs-blood."
Lucius felt as though the ground had been yanked from beneath him. He was of course, only too aware of the reason why five of his children had died, and had forbidden any of the medi-wizards or witches attending Narcissa to breath a word about it. Kurbs-blood was becoming a common killer of infants born to pureblood parents, and it seemed there was very little that could be done about it. Maybe The Dark Lord had managed to think of a cure for it, but even as the idea entered Lucius' head, he laughed at the notion. The day Voldemort invented something to help rather than destroy people, would be the day that Albus Dumbledore went over to the dark side. Voldemort's voice pulled him from his reverie with a start.
"This book has thrown some light on the make-up of people, and has suggested that Kurbs-blood may have a genetic basis. As you know, before the age of eleven, I was brought up in a muggle orphanage, in which I was expected to attend school. We were taught all about the different royal families within Europe, and all the inter-marrying that took place between them, to ensure that royal blood stayed within these families, as well as strengthening ties between their respective countries. In the last few centuries, people from such families which had been interbreeding for as long as anyone could remember, began to develop illnesses such as Haemophilia, which curtailed life expectancy dramatically. It's strange, but I thought I had forgotten all this muggle history, but it all came back to me while I was reading your family birth records. Anyway, the reason such diseases were manifesting themselves, was to do with the genetic make-up of the parents of the children. People had too many, let's say faulty genes, which were being passed down to their children, who died as a result of these faulty genes. According to your records as well as those of other pureblood families, the same problem is at fault within your own bloodline - am I not right?"
"Well, I suppose so, but there is nothing that anyone can do about it. What I mean is, according to the medi-wizards there's no cure for Kurbs-blood." Lucius responded trying not to sound defensive.
There was a slight pause and then Voldemort said, "We'll come back to that, but as I was saying before we started discussing your family, this book talks about the different magic in the blood of pureblood witches and wizards and those of muggle heritage. It reveals some very interesting facts, as I'm sure you will agree with me." He shot Lucius a penetrating look before explaining, "As you know, magic is something that resides in the blood. In purebloods, it is contained in a substance called haemoglobin, which resides in the red blood cells. In mudbloods, sorry – those of muggle descent, it is contained in the platelets. To simplify matters, if there is something wrong with the haemoglobin in purebloods, their magic is affected, resulting in squibs. The difference in the platelets of those muggles who have magic in them, and those who do not, is the shape of the platelets. It's thought, and I'm beginning to agree with this idea, that those people whose magic is most stable are those who have magic in both their haemoglobin and platelets – that is, someone with one pureblood parent and one mudblood parent."
This statement was met with silence from Lucius, who sat as though turned to stone. Was The Dark Lord serious? If Lucius had interpreted his meaning correctly, he was suggesting that Draco should marry a filthy mudblood. Lucius went cold with horror at this thought. No, surely he had read things wrongly, Voldemort would never tell him to do such an awful thing, after all, he was as keen as Lucius to preserve the Malfoy bloodline, wasn't he? Suddenly, Lucius didn't feel so sure. But of course, The Dark Lord thought the purity of blood to be important, or else why had he given the Death Eaters a long homily on the subject, lasting almost two hours ending only fifteen minutes ago? But then a nasty little voice in Lucius' head, spoke up saying, "But you weren't listening to what Voldemort was saying, remember? You were thinking about finding Draco a suitable wife, remember?" He scowled, trying to block out the intrusive voice, and once again turned his attention to Voldemort.
"Tell me Lucius, have you given any thought to your son's future; his marriage for example?" came the deceptively quiet question.
"Yes of course, only last night Narcissa and I were discussing possible matches." Lucius answered swiftly.
"There are a number of girls from suitable families such as the Parkinsons, the Bulstrodes, the Nantons, and the Ashworths. All these families have girls who are suitable, that is to say, they are purebloods and are from Slytherin, and not averse to the dark arts."
"But who look like trolls in Ms Bulstrode's case. Ms Ashworth is six years older than your son. Ms Nanton is as gormless as Crabbe and Goyle put together, and Ms Parkinson; well… nice looking is something she's not. Anyway, I believe that Kurbs-blood has reared its head in each of those families. There are of course other pureblood families who have girls you may consider. True, they are not Slytherins, but nevertheless people such as, oh...I don't know, the Forcettes, the Weasleys, the Purks, the Bones, the Abbots, the Brocklehursts, the Patils, the Hinshaws, the list is endless. Even if any of them did consent to allow their daughters to marry your son, which I doubt, being the Dumbledore lovers they are, there is still that other problem. I don't believe there is one pureblood family, who has not had Kurbs-blood visit it at some time in its history, making it highly likely that most purebloods are carriers of the gene. You cannot risk that, with things the way they are. It is probable that Draco carries the gene for Kurbs-blood, and it only needs the same gene in his wife, to ensure the child is born without any haemoglobin in its red blood cells, and consequently dead." A smug Voldemort informed Lucius silkily.
This of course, was the problem that had kept Lucius Malfoy awake for several nights now. He could not see a way out of this situation, no matter how much he racked his brains. The only solution was for him to have every single eligible, pureblood girl tested to see if she was a carrier of the gene, and find one who was not. He was well aware that this was an impractical, costly, time-consuming solution. Even if it did yield results, what was the likelihood the girl would consent to the marriage?
As though Voldemort was reading his thoughts he now said, "I suppose you could kidnap every eligible pureblood girl, have her tested, and if you find one who isn't a carrier, force her to marry your son. You know as well as I do, that is impractical and there is no guarantee there will be a positive outcome. For this reason I have done some thinking on your behalf: It is true I don't much like mudbloods, but they do have their uses, and this is something that we mustn't forget. Some of them are very powerful witches and wizards - look at Lily Potter. If she hadn't been such a powerful witch, there is no way she could have managed to protect that brat of hers against me - the most powerful wizard of all time. What you need, is a powerful muggle-born girl. Surely, such a girl can be found at Hogwarts?" He gave Lucius a lipless smile as he finished speaking.
"I don't know, I suppose so, but she'll be a mudblood, she will pollute and taint our bloodline, which is one of the purest..." In his agitation, Lucius had risen to his feet, and began to pace the length of the study. "We are so proud of our bloodline, we are known for it. People revere the Malfoy name." Lucius's voice faltered at the expression on Voldemort's face.
"What's the point of a pure bloodline that's almost certainly going to die out, if not in your son's generation, then in the next one? Lucius, you need to learn to see the wood from the trees, it is better to have half-blood children, who will ensure the continuation of the Malfoy name, than no children at all to carry on the Malfoy line, don't you think?" He didn't wait for a reply but went on, "This way, you will have the best of both worlds, your grandchildren will be Kurbs-blood free, and their magic will be much more stable than that of purebloods - look at the Potter brat. If what Wormtail says is true, that brat was able to produce a decent patronus in his third year. That is highly advanced magic, and most adult wizards - no names mentioned, still have trouble with that charm." He smirked.
"I'm sure that is just luck on his part - there is nothing that brat can do that Draco cannot. Anyway, that mudblood Granger, that friend of Potter's- she's one of the most powerful witches of our time, more so than Potter, and she is a mudblood through and through as well as this year's head girl!"
Voldemort smirked at this, "Well, there you have it, your answer to the problem of Draco's bride. If all I hear is true, I don't think he will be averse to marrying her. As you say, she is a very powerful witch, and will pass that magic on to her children. Coupled with the Malfoy line of magic, your grandchildren will indeed be powerful in their own right."
"Yes, but no matter how powerful she is, the fact still remains she is a mudblood, and nothing can change that." Lucius argued stubbornly.
"No, I agree with you there, but she's powerful and that is all that matters – remember that, you need a powerfully magical girl to ensure the continuation of your own bloodline and this girl fits the bill, what more is there to say?"
Lucius scowled; The Dark Lord was of course right, there were no particularly talented pure blood girls he knew of, and those there were, all had the shadow of the dreaded Kurbs-blood hanging over them, so what alternative did he have? Lucius stopped pacing, and frowned at Voldemort. If truth be told, he had never allowed himself to dwell on the possibility that Draco may have to marry a mudblood - he supposed he should call them muggle-borns. However, the idea of Granger did indeed sound appealing. He was well aware that she was the cleverest witch at Hogwarts, and if the amount of time Draco spent complaining about her was any indication, Lucius guessed that Draco probably did have a crush on her, but due to his position as a Malfoy, could do nothing about it.
His mind went back to his last argument with Narcissa. Like The Dark Lord, she too, had suggested that Draco marry a muggle-born girl. True, at the time, Lucius had been absolutely furious that Narcissa would even dare suggest such a thing, but now that Lord Voldemort himself had suggested it, maybe it would not be too bad. After all, what other options did they have? He decided grudgingly that if Draco had to marry a mudblood, it would have to be the most powerful one available - only the best would ever do for the Malfoy family!
"Go home and discuss this with your wife. I think you'll find she'll agree with me. She is a sensible woman and is only too aware of the problems of Draco marrying a pureblood girl. She's as anxious as yourself that the family continue to exist." Voldemort smirked again knowing his work for the evening was accomplished.
With a faint pop, Lucius Apparated outside the gates of Malfoy manner. Above him, clouds scurried across the sky, obscuring the moon from sight. The night was chilly, and a cruel breeze, whipped around Lucius' face. Sighing, he began trudging up the long drive towards the manner where Narcissa was undoubtedly awaiting his return. He felt as though his whole world had turned upside-down, with no stable idea to which he could cling. It was one thing being told that the Malfoys would have to start marrying mudbloods in order to survive, by a mere medi-wizard, who could be shut up by one intimidating glance, but another if The Dark Lord himself said the same thing. The world had gone mad!
"Lucius, is that you?" Narcissa's voice rang out from the drawing room, as he entered the quiet hall.
"Yes, I'm back," his reply was sullen, and without another thought he strode in to the drawing room, to find Narcissa reclining on a sofa, smiling at him.
"How did it go?" she asked. One arm was resting casually on the back of her sofa, while she toyed with the stem of a wine glass between the fingers of her other hand. The light from the overhead chandelier picked out the blonde of her hair, leaving the rest of her face in shadow. At his entrance, she rose gracefully to her feet and glided over to plant a kiss on the air beside his cheek. "These meetings of yours seem to be taking longer and longer. What it is that your Dark Lord finds to discuss all this time?"
"He is not 'my' Dark Lord', as you put it. If, like any other sensible person, you joined the Death Eaters, you would know what it is that we discuss in these meetings." He snapped irritably.
"Lucius darling, we have been over this time and again. You know I can't join, I mean the things they do there, well, they aren't exactly fit for a lady. Killing muggles isn't a past-time I care to indulge in, as you well know. Imagine, all that blood and gore, the mere thought of it makes me shudder." Gliding back to her seat, she fixed him with an intent gaze before saying, "So, what have you decided with regards our son's future? Who will be the fortunate lady who will have the task of carrying on our esteemed family name?" There was an underlying note of sarcasm in her voice as she said this. "You never know, maybe she will be lucky in having more than one child who will survive!" There was now a bitter tinge to her voice, which Lucius didn't fail to notice.
"Narcissa, please don't start on that again. I've had a gruelling few hours, and the last thing I need is for you to keep whining about this. Anyway, the Dark Lord himself bought the subject up this evening."
"Really? And pray tell, what did he have to say about it?" Narcissa asked sitting back and eyeing him keenly.
"He said that we've no option but to dilute our blood by allowing a piece of muggle filth into the family. Apparently, this is the only thing we can do to ensure our bloodline survives." Lucius told her in a flat voice, and then sounding more hopeful he went on, "If you ask me, he has an ulterior motive in mind, but what it is, I do not know."
There was a pause and then Narcissa asked carefully, "Did he suggest any candidates for the position? What I mean is, did he specify any criteria we had to take in to account, when selecting her?"
"He insisted that she had to be a powerful witch within her own right. He mentioned that this would be the only way our bloodline would retain its magical power." Lucius recited pouring himself a drink from the crystal brandy decanter sitting on a side table.
"For someone who is no relation of ours, he's taking a lot of interest in you, is he not? I wonder what it is he is really after. Maybe he is hoping that Draco, or his heir, will take over once he himself dies." Narcissa suggested thoughtfully.
"As far as I am aware, he's immortal. Although as you say, why take the sudden interest? What's in it for him?" Lucius sipped his drink sitting back on the sofa.
"Well, whatever it is, I'm sure he'll inform you when the time is right. Just imagine, the prestige the family will receive if he does decide to make Draco or his son his own heir! No one would then dare look down upon us because the child is not a pureblood!" There was a definite note of satisfaction in Narcissa's voice now. Smiling sweetly at her husband she went on, "I think I will enjoy looking over all the muggle-born witches that Hogwarts, or even Beauxbatons for that matter, can offer. Draco, I'm sure, will help me. After all, it is his bride for whom we are looking. Yes, he can take his pick of pretty girls; although this business about her being a powerful witch, how will we know how powerful she actually is?"
"I believe there are spells, dark of course, to determine such matters. I am sure our own library holds texts containing such spells." He glanced in the direction of the library before going on, "There is a girl that the Dark Lord suggested we look at, and I've a suspicion that Draco is not unaware of her either. Her name is Hermione Granger. I'm sure you remember Draco going on about her?"
"Hogwarts' current head girl? Is she not that friend of the Potters' brat? I vaguely remember her: lots of bushy hair and front teeth that resemble those of a rabbit. Was she not in our box at the last Quidditch World Cup?" She frowned in thought.
"Yes, that's the one. According to Draco, Victor Krum, the Bulgarian seeker, took her to the Yule Ball that year, so she can't be all that ugly. This is a matter we must discuss with Draco; he is coming home for Christmas, is he not? I'm sure he can tell us much more about her, and we can decide then whether she will be suitable or not!"
Draco Malfoy stretched languidly on his huge four-poster bed. Glancing around his room, his mind wandered back to the happenings of the last two days, since he had been home. It was the Christmas holidays, and he had decided to come home and spend the festive season with his parents. In his last letter, Lucius Malfoy, had indicated that there was a matter of urgency he wished to discuss with Draco, and what a matter it was too! Draco couldn't help grinning at his good fortune.
On his first evening home, his parents had sat him down and explained all about the problems they had been encountering with regards finding him a suitable wife. At this point in his musings, Draco's face darkened with pain. He had not been aware that his mother had given birth to five other children, all of whom had died. He had always assumed his parents hadn't wanted any more children, and had not pursued the matter, thinking it had nothing to do with him. Admittedly, he had wanted siblings, as being an only child could be very lonely. There was only so much that money could buy, a fact of which Draco Malfoy was only too aware. He had often envied those students who had siblings, and often wondered what that companionship would be like. Being the child of parents to whom social standing meant everything, his childhood had been isolated. He reflected dully that even his friends had been chosen according to their suitability as companions for him.
He was pulled out of his musings by a tapping on the window. Getting up, he went over and opened it, letting in a Screech owl with a letter tied to its leg. He recognised it immediately; it was Pansy Parkinson's owl. Untying the letter, he opened it and read:
I hope the holidays are going well. Isn't it nice being back home don't you think? I don't have much time but just had to ask, have your parents mentioned anything to you about a betrothal between us? I ask, because we were discussing it last night and according to Mother and Father, it won't be long until your parents ask for my hand. Is that not wonderful? I was thinking that maybe we could hold a huge party, you know, inviting the whole of Slytherin house.
Scowling, Draco folded up the letter, before tossing it on to his desk. He grinned to himself, imagining her waiting for his reply. It was just a shame he could not be there to witness Pansy's disappointment when she read it. Oh well, that couldn't be helped. He went back to thinking about his parents' suggestion of a bride - a mudblood of all people. He was aware of Kurbs-blood disease, everyone had heard of it - what he hadn't realised was how much it had effected his own family. He smiled, thinking of his Father's suggested bride, Granger! He allowed a broad grin to cross his face, at this delicious thought.
Ever since he had first met her on the train to Hogwarts, on that first day of their first year, he had been captivated by Hermione Granger's confident attitude towards life, although he had admitted this to no one. Over the years, his admiration of her talents had turned to undiluted frustration, as no matter how he tried, she always managed to beat him in every subject – his father's money and influence not withstanding. He was well aware she was the brains behind the 'Golden Trio's' escapades, or how else had that horrid hippogriff managed to escape execution back in their third year? He remembered all too clearly the events that had lead up to that night, especially when she had slapped him a few days before. Apart from stinging his cheek, the slap had taken him completely by surprise, as no one had ever dared do such a thing before. A girl hitting him! He had forbidden both Crabbe and Goyle to never mention it again, but rather than hating her for it, a burgeoning respect for her had been born on that day. It had been during the Yule Ball in their fourth year that his attention had been drawn to her physical beauty: those blue robes had shown off her clear skin to perfection, and as for her hair! That day, she had been unrecognisable – metamorphosing, from the bushy haired know-it-all he had come to grudgingly respect, into a beautiful and aloof stranger, whose poise and confidence had completely drawn him in. Since that night, he had stolen surreptitious glances at her during lessons, while her attention was elsewhere. She had grown a few inches in the last year, and he had spent a lot of time, especially during the last term, fantasising about the body beneath her school robes. Of course, those two oafs - Potter and Weasley - had not noticed her blossoming womanhood, but then they weren't the most observant people in the world.
He had stopped calling her 'mudblood' well over a year ago; the name seemed to have no effect on her, and the only person who got hurt was himself. As his parents had pointed out, she was one of the most powerful witches he had come across, and from what he had seen of her, one of the nicest people in their year. But how to capture her interest? That was the question he was now pondering. He supposed it was now time to make use of his status as a Malfoy, and start pulling a few strings!