Not a Goodbye
And here is the next chapter for you guys here :)
Only five more to go after this one.
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Orion had heard the whispers over the years from those that labelled him 'the quiet Black' and even 'the spineless brother'. They had mocked and ridiculed him, though never to his face, and he often laughed about the irony of the latter of the gifted monikers.
Quiet he may be, but he was not spineless. Having grown with Cygnus and the rest of his extrovert family, he had learned to pick his battles, choose when to exert himself to maximum effect.
He tended to get his way from this approach.
Cygnus had always been the brashest of the two, outspoken with his views and keen to voice his opinions. Orion was not of such a disposition. Speaking one's mind only gave them knowledge of you and the kind of person you were. It served no purpose other than to provide ammunition to people who may one day be enemies.
The elder of the brothers had learnt from a young age that was never a good thing.
He may never have grown to be as intimidating as his father nor so sharp with his tongue, but he had been raised by Arcturus Black, had listened to the lessons and wisdom bestowed upon him. As such, he had learned a thing or two about deception.
His wife was practicing her devious side, believing him to be none the wiser to what she was doing.
She was wrong.
Walburga hadn't always been such an abrasive and confrontational woman. When he had first courted her, she had been rather quiet and sweet. She had a keen mind and the two often spent hours discussing what most would deem to be inane topics in depth.
Those days had long passed, along with the conservative woman he had married.
She had assumed that Orion would one day take the mantle of Lord Black, and her the Lady of the prestigious family, but it was not to be. Orion had accepted that he would be passed over for one of his sons, and in truth, the revelation had come as a relief.
His nature was not suited to the position, his observant and reserved ways would only make him seem to be weak, and though he was far from it, what the other lords thought of you counted.
No, he had not been disappointed when he'd shared that fateful conversation with his father, and he had even agreed that Sirius should be next in line for the Headship.
Orion's eldest son was strong, outspoken and gifted enough to dirty his hands if needed. He had not submitted to the embittered Walburga, and, according to Charlus, only grew stronger with age.
Although Orion did not have a desirable relationship with Sirius, he was proud of the man he was becoming.
It had been shortly after the conversation with his own father that Walburga learned of Arcturus's intentions, and she had not taken the news well.
From there, she had become the nagging, miserable, and irksome woman she was. Her and Orion had grown apart over the years since, and in truth, he had spent his days avoiding her company where possible. He had grown to despise her, and were it not for the sons they shared, he would have removed her from the house before Regulus started Hogwarts.
Perhaps he should have. Sirius may still be home and Regulus wouldn't be fearful of provoking his mother's ire.
Orion shook his head.
He should have been rid of Walburga long before now, but it appeared his opportunity to do so had arrived.
He watched as she relieved the familiar owl of its missive, and she hurriedly sent it on its way before taking a seat behind the desk in the drawing room and lit the tip of her wand to read it.
Orion knew that owl. He had seen it come and go many times over the years and it belonged to his niece Bellatrix.
Why she was writing to Walburga was a mystery, but his wife acting in such a clandestine way to receive the letters only raised suspicion.
She knew that Bellatrix was no longer a member of the family and was aware that she should not be communicating with her. Doing so could lead to her own expulsion, not that Walburga believed that would happen to her.
Arcturus had threatened such action many times but had been reluctant to follow through for the same reasons Orion allowed the woman to remain.
Now, however, even thoughts of Sirius and Regulus would not prevent what was coming.
Carefully, so not to alert her to his presence, he emerged from the shadows of the room under a disillusionment charm and stunned her.
She slumped forward over the desk with a thud and Orion pried the piece of parchment from between her fingers and read.
Grandfather has been cavorting with mudbloods and filth. They must have addled his mind, and he will not listen to reason.
If we are to preserve our once great family, he needs to go.
Regulus will soon be old enough to take the Lordship, but you can run it in his stead.
Say nothing more and I will be in touch again soon.
It was not often that Orion was shocked, nor had he ever been quick to anger, but reading the missive and learning of the plotting between his wife and Bellatrix immediately made his blood boil.
He was of a mind to simply kill the stunned woman before him, but his thoughtful and calm nature won out.
Taking a few breaths to centre himself, he pondered his predicament.
It took only a moment for him to come to a decision of what he should do, and though he would sooner be rid of Walburga as of this moment, he needed to discuss this discovery with his father.
Arcturus would want to know and would act accordingly, but one thing was for certain; Walburga Black had all but sealed her own fate.
Having finished with the morning edition of The Daily Prophet, James pushed the newspaper away from him and morosely took a bite of his toast. He didn't know why he did it to himself each day, but he was compelled to read of the horrors of what was happening outside the safety of Hogwarts. With his final school year coming to an end, it could no longer be ignored.
Soon enough, he and his friends would be out there amongst the chaos, living in the hell the world had become.
For him, little would likely change. His family home was an old one. Protected by wards and many other things that would prevent the Potters being attacked, but even there the safety of him and his parents was not guaranteed.
He need only look to Marlene and what had happened to her father to be reminded of that.
Still, he and Sirius would be safer than most, a thought that offered little comfort.
He squeezed Lily's hand reassuringly under the table when she gave him a look of concern.
It was her he worried for most of all.
Her family were muggles and had no protection against the Death Eaters. Knowing the girl was vulnerable to what was happening did not sit well with him.
He had been at a loss as to what to do, and through his concern had reached out to his parents for help.
He was awaiting their reply, but their assistance could not come soon enough.
In three days' time, there would be no more safety behind the gates of Hogwarts, and those within would be thrown into war.
"Anything positive in there?" Remus asked, nodding towards the discarded newspaper.
James shook his head.
"The usual," he muttered.
The werewolf was another worry for James. Many times, Remus had assured him he would be fine, that his family had taken steps to ensure they would be safe.
James, however, couldn't help but think there was nothing anyone could do that would promise safety. If this Dark Lord wanted to get you, he would find a way.
He had even managed to get to Peverell's wife and daughter.
Thoughts of what had befallen the man filled him with sorrow.
James had never been close to Narcissa in any way, but he had grown to respect and even like the ominous lord. What had happened to him had been nothing more than a disgusting act of cowardice on the Dark Lord's part.
Most of those at Hogwarts had been saddened by the news they'd received about him, and those that dared even show any amount of glee had been dealt with swiftly by Dumbledore himself.
They may have been silenced, but the intentions of these students were clear.
The moment they were released from Hogwarts, they would look to throw their lot in with the Death Eaters, adding to the growing numbers of Voldemort's followers.
"Stadium?" Sirius asked, breaking into his thoughts.
The others agreed and James nodded.
Their group had taken to the pitch more recently now that their NEWTs were over. They no longer had lessons to attend and spending their days in the grounds of the school had become a regular thing.
It was certainly preferable to being around the sneering Slytherins that James knew would count themselves amongst those loyal to the Dark Lord in the coming days.
As such, they left the great hall, only for Sirius to stiffen as he was approached by his younger brother.
The two had not shared a conversation for years, so his appearance was not a welcome one.
"What do you want?" the elder Black asked.
"I need to speak with you, alone," Regulus replied, shooting a look of disgust towards the other Gryffindor students.
"Piss off, Reg," Sirius replied. "If you have anything to say, it can be said in front of them."
The other boy huffed in annoyance.
"Fine," he agreed reluctantly, "but not here."
"Then walk with us if you want. I won't be going anywhere you and your Death Eater friends can trap us."
Regulus looked almost offended by the words of his brother but did not comment on them. Instead, he fell into step with the group and headed towards the Quidditch stadium.
The silence that fell was awkward and uncomfortable as the younger Black seemingly searched for the words to speak his mind. Eventually, he settled on a cautious approach.
"Did grandfather or father write to you?" he asked.
Sirius shrugged carelessly.
"Probably, but I don't open letters from any of them."
Regulus shook his head frustratedly.
"Well, if you did, you would know that Bella has been expelled from the family."
Sirius paused, a deep frown marring his features.
"Bollocks," he declared.
"She has!" Regulus insisted, removing a piece of parchment from within his pocket and handing it to Sirius who held it as though it was cursed as he read.
"Bloody hell," he chuckled, "I didn't think grandfather had it in him."
Regulus nodded his agreement.
"She deserves it," he grumbled. "What she did to Cissy was wrong."
Sirius raised a questioning eyebrow at his brother.
"What? It was," Regulus huffed. "You don't kill your kin."
"Ah, so I don't have to worry about you trying to kill me then?" Sirius returned.
Regulus was visibly stricken by the words of his brother.
"You're my brother, Siri. I would never…"
Sirius waved him off impatiently.
"Don't say things you don't mean, Reg. We both know that mother wants you to be the head of the family, and if she told you to off me for that to happen, you would."
"I would not!" Regulus denied. "Despite what you think of me, I don't want to be the head of the family. You're the only one suited to that, and besides, after the letter I received from father this morning, that won't happen. I'm sure he would have sent the same to you."
He had received a letter from Orion but had not even opened it.
"And what did this one say?"
Regulus did not respond but handed Sirius his copy of the missive received from their father.
Sirius read the letter, this one ominous in nature that only raised many questions.
I hope this finds you well, my son.
Although I cannot go into details in writing, things are becoming dangerous and unpleasant things are happening.
As such, when you leave Hogwarts for the summer, you will be greeted by your grandparents when you depart the Hogwarts express. You will be spending your holiday with them this year.
This is not a punishment, but an opportunity for you to grow under the guidance of your grandfather, away from the influence of your mother.
It is time for you to become your own man, Regulus, with your own views of the world. Being smothered by Walburga will not aide you in this, and it is my hope that you see the world is much bigger than her bigoted and cruel ways.
I can only assume that your grandfather has already informed you of Bellatrix's expulsion and what it would mean if you were to follow in her footsteps. None that carry the name Black are to lend themselves to the Dark Lord, nor claim him as their master.
We are Blacks, and we submit to none.
I hope you heed these words, my son, for there will be nothing for you to gain from such a venture. You will lose your place amongst us and become an outcast like your cousin.
I do not wish that for you.
Orion Arcturus Black
"Is this real?" Sirius asked.
"Grandfather has picked a side," he confirmed. "He had to really with what Bella did."
"So, he will fight against the Dark Lord?"
"I don't know, Siri, but he has made it clear that none of us are to ally ourselves to him."
"And you will listen?"
"Of course," Regulus confirmed. "I won't allow myself to be cast out. Bugger to what mother wants."
Sirius nodded appreciatively, a grin tugging at his lips.
"Well, I didn't know you had it in you."
Regulus deflated as he eyed his brother.
"Not all of us are as strong as you, Siri," he murmured. "I saw what mother did to you when we were growing up, and I was scared she'd do the same to me. Call me a coward if you will, but I did what was needed to survive."
Sirius's jaw tightened at the reminder of the treatment he'd received at the hands of Walburga.
"She's a hag," he spat. "If she ever thinks of raising her wand to me again, I will kill the bitch. I don't care if I'm cast out of the family."
"Grandfather would probably thank you for it," Regulus grinned. "That would only make him want you as the head more."
"That's not me, Reg," Sirius muttered.
"Bullshit," Regulus declared. "You're everything that the head of our family should be. You're strong, stubborn and don't give a shit about anyone else and what they think. You were born to be the next Lord Black."
Sirius frowned as even James nodded his agreement.
"Well, if Walburga gets her way, that won't happen anyway."
"Like mother will get her way. Grandfather has already told her that if he catches her plotting against his wishes for you to take over, he will cast her out."
"Grandfather said that?"
"Grandfather has been fighting your corner for years, Siri. You just didn't want to see it," Regulus huffed.
"Come off it, Reg, you know what he's like."
"Strong, stubborn, and doesn't give a shit about what anyone else thinks? You're just like him, Siri," Regulus chuckled as he took his leave of the group, leaving a gaping Sirius in his wake.
"You know he's right, Pads," James guffawed.
"Shut up," Sirius grumbled. "Oi, where's Wormy?"
The rotund boy had not spent as much time with them recently and had barely left the common room. He had always been of a nervous disposition, but with the war in full swing, it had only gotten worse.
For some reason, he believed he would be attacked around every corner of the castle and had opted to stay out of sight.
"Probably in the tower," Remus broke in. "You know what he's like."
"Well, stuff him then," Sirius declared, "let's get some flying in."
There was something very unnerving about a healer with a grudge to bear. Harry had never envisioned Narcissa as someone who had taken to duelling much during her life, but he had been quite wrong. She was well-versed in the Black family magic, but it was not her use of it that had surprised him. It was her creativity with the intricate magic she had perfected during her years in training to undo magical damage done to people.
Her knowledge of the magic coupled with her in depth familiarity of the human anatomy was a very dangerous combination to be on the wrong side of.
It seemed as though she had found an alternate use for most of the spells in her repertoire. Harry learned that a simple charm to stem the flow of a nosebleed could be used to coagulate the blood in the veins, and that a commonly used spell to work the lungs could be used to rupture them through over-inflation.
It was quite the disconcerting thing to see, and Harry suspected that he had truly seen nothing.
His wife may be a quiet, dry-humoured, and peaceful woman at heart, but he could not deny that there was a vindictiveness within her, a side that emerged when someone pushed her too far.
Bellatrix had done that, and he found no sympathy for the woman.
Still, he knew that his siter-in-law was a dangerous woman herself, and he would not allow Narcissa to underestimate Bellatrix. That was why he was in the basement with her, coaching her and teaching her spells that would be of use.
He hadn't been able to deter her from the fight she sought, so he'd had to compromise and was doing all he could to ensure she was ready.
If she were to die again, even he would be unable to bring her back.
"Good," he praised as Narcissa cast a rather unpleasant severing curse that would sear the flesh around the wound it created. "Let's take a break and have some lunch," he suggested.
Narcissa nodded and wiped her perspiring brow with a towel.
After only a few days under his tutelage and putting into practice her own creations, she was making astounding progress, but she was not ready yet. The day would come when she would be, but that wasn't today, nor would it come as soon as she hoped.
There was much work to do be done, and she needed to be reminded of that often.
"That is quite a handy spell," she commented as they ascended the stairs that led into the kitchen. "Where did you learn it?"
"I honestly don't remember," Harry replied. "Probably from an old book I read."
"Do you have more like it?"
"A few," Harry answered with a chuckle, "and you have plenty of time to learn them."
Narcissa huffed before nodding and frowned as they entered the kitchen.
"Are you expecting an owl from a Malfoy?" she asked.
Harry scowled at the regal bird that was perched on the windowsill, waiting for permission to enter.
"Unless it's news that Lucius is dead, I'm not interested," he muttered as he untied the missive attached to the owl's leg.
With its duty carried out, the bird left immediately, and Harry unfurled the piece of parchment.
Dear Lord Peverell,
I would like to begin by offering my condolences for what happened to your wife. Although the way in which my own was taken from me was different, I understand what it is like to adjust to living with the void they leave behind.
Truly, I am sorry for your loss.
Were it only this that compelled me to write, I would leave it here for I know you are not a man that appreciate platitudes of word, so I will get to the point.
I believe I have happened upon an item that you will be most interested in acquiring that poses quite the Riddle, and due to its nature, I will not disclose anything further. Just know that I believe a meeting with me would be worth your time and that I am willing to negotiate a fair price for it in the hope that we can both benefit from the transaction.
I will be at my son's side at St Mungo's this evening and hope you will join me there.
Yours in good faith,
Lord Abraxus Malfoy
Narcissa took the note as Harry pondered the words of the man. He had capitalised the word 'Riddle' and used it purposely instead of a flowery alternative.
The only thing that Harry could think Abraxus could have come across would be the very diary Lucius had planted on Ginny Weasley during the summer before his second year of Hogwarts.
He released a deep breath.
To put an end to Tom, he would need that diary and would need to meet the man.
"Are you going to go?"
"If he has what I think he has, I'm best to. I cannot allow it to fall into the wrong hands or for Voldemort to discover that Abraxus has it. The bloody idiot doesn't know how much danger he is in."
"Well, it is in St Mungo's," Narcissa reminded him, "and Abraxus is not like Lucius. He would not attempt to harm you, not unless he was certain of his success."
"I know," Harry agreed. "Honestly, Abraxus has been respectful towards me for the most part. I don't suspect any foul-play from him."
"Not until you've helped me some more," Narcissa insisted as she tied her hair up.
"Not until you've eaten," Harry countered. "I won't need to be there until this evening, so you have time to eat."
"Fine," Narcissa agreed as she headed towards the stairs, "but you're cooking whilst I shower."
"Or I could shower too?"
Narcissa paused and raised an eyebrow at him as she turned.
"You're ready for another baby?" she asked as the sound of Helena fussing to be fed could be heard.
"Maybe when she's a little older," Harry chuckled.
"That's what I thought," Narcissa snorted, "but I don't suppose there's any harm in a little practice," she added as she removed her robes and gave him a sultry smirk.
Harry could only watch as she continued walking away from him, her hips swaying exaggeratedly.
"Aren't you coming?" she called.
"What about Helena?"
"Do you hear her crying? Dobby is with her."
That was all the reasoning Harry needed to follow his wife.
It was not often, if ever, that Orion had requested a formal meeting with Arcturus, and the elder Black's curiosity had certainly been piqued. His son seldom involved himself in family matters, choosing to only do so when it was all but thrust upon him or he happened to be present when an issue arose.
Over the years, Orion had offered some rather insightful moments of wisdom, but Arcturus had the feeling that what he wished to discuss today was far from him seizing an opportunity to demonstrate one of these bouts of brilliance.
The Black patriarch frowned as a very grim Orion entered his study followed by Cygnus who appeared to be confused by the uncommon assembly.
"Father," the former greeted him with a slight bow.
"What's troubling you, Orion?" Arcturus asked, gesturing for the two men to take a seat.
Orion released a tired breath as he reached into his robes and removed a piece of parchment. With a shake of his head, he placed it on the desk and slid it to him.
Arcturus's felt his infamous temper flare as he read the contents of the note.
"That is a letter that Walburga received from Bellatrix," Orion explained. "I can only assume that my wife wrote to inform her of her expulsion."
"What does it say?" Cygnus interjected.
Arcturus handed the letter to his youngest son.
"The scheming little…"
Arcturus held up a hand to silence him before turning his attention back to the other man.
"I have made many allowances for her over the years."
"Too many," Orion agreed.
"What have you done about this?"
"I wiped the memory of me catching her. I wanted to discuss it with you before I take any further action, but I have activated a few additional wards around the home. Walburga will not be able to sneeze without me knowing about it."
"Good," Arcturus praised. "Now, the question is, what do we do about it?"
"What do we do about it?" Cygnus growled. "She has to be cast out!"
"At the very least," Orion added with a sigh. "I have been reluctant to curb her ways over the years. I did not want Sirius and Regulus to grow without a mother, but my reticence has allowed her madness to flourish. There is no going back for her, and she must be dealt with."
"What would you suggest?" Arcturus ask curiously.
"I do not think it wise to merely expel her from the family. She knows too much and will only join the Dark Lord."
Arcturus nodded his agreement.
"She should be expelled and contained. Do we still have the belt in the vault?" Orion questioned.
Arcturus was taken aback by the lengths his son was willing to go, but this was not a simple transgression against the family.
"Then she will be cast out, her magic bound and imprisoned for what she has done. She can live out the rest of her years that way."
"Why don't we just kill her?" Cygnus broke in.
"Because despite everything, she is still the mother of my children," Orion returned. "I will not have them think of me as the one who murdered or allowed the murder of her."
Cygnus scowled but nodded his understanding.
"Father?" he pressed.
"I agree, but it will not be so easy."
"No," Orion conceded, "but I will take the necessary steps to ensure it is done. Kreacher is loyal to her and will have to be handled. I will kill the elf myself."
"What about Regulus?" Arcturus asked.
"He will be coming here when the school term finishes. I have already written to him and knew that you would have no objections."
"Of course, Melania will be delighted too. And Sirius?"
"I have failed him," he muttered. "I wrote to him but have heard nothing back. I can only be grateful that he has been with Charlus and Dorea, away from any of this."
"I imagine he will be elated at what will become of Walburga. The boy despises her," Cygnus pointed out.
"And with good reason," Orion acknowledged. "He has taken the brunt of her madness over the years. I can only hope that some kind of forgiveness can be found."
Orion had not been the best father where Sirius was concerned, a fact the man himself was aware of.
"So, Walburga will be neutralised, something I think is best for everyone," he declared, "now, what about Bellatrix?"
His gaze shifted to Cygnus who became decidedly uncomfortable.
"What else can be done?" he huffed. "Already, she has more than crossed the line with what she did to Cissy. I think we should let her and Peverell know about this. We already knew he was going to kill her, this will change nothing where he is concerned."
"And you have no objections to this?"
Cygnus shook his head.
"How can I? There are no more excuses to offer for her behaviour. She has committed the worst of transgressions already and seeks to do more damage. She is no longer a Black and I can no longer see her as my daughter."
"Wait, Cissy is alive?" Orion asked.
"She is," Cygnus confirmed. "I don't know how he did it, but Peverell brought her back. We are keeping it all very quiet at the moment."
"O-of course," Orion replied.
There were many questions he wished to ask, but he chose not to. Instead, his look of disbelief remained in place as he pondered the revelation.
"Then I will discuss it with Peverell," Arcturus announced. "I will leave you to deal with your wife but keep me updated. I want her locked away as soon as possible. Any ideas where you will keep her?"
"I was thinking the house in Norway. It hasn't been used since Cassie passed away, and I doubt anyone in the family has any intention of doing so. I will find another elf to make sure she is fed, but that is all she will be afforded."
"That is the best she can hope for," Arcturus muttered. "Then it is settled. Unless there is anything else you wish to discuss?"
"Only Sirius," Orion replied. "He will be finishing school this year and I have no idea what he plans to do."
Arcturus nodded thoughtfully.
"I will arrange a meeting with him and Charlus when he returns there," he explained. "I will not try to force him into anything but will offer my assistance in any venture he wishes to undertake. I do not want him to view me or his duty as a burden, but I still hold hope that he will succeed me in the coming years."
"There is a lot of ground to make up," Orion pointed out.
"Indeed," Arcturus agreed, "but there is no need to rush. He will not appreciate being shepherded into the responsibility before he his ready and he should be allowed to enjoy his youth. I am not so old that he will be needed imminently, not unless Bellatrix has her way."
"She will not," Cygnus said firmly. "We will not allow it."
Arcturus offered his sons a rare smile.
At times, he wondered just how so unlike they were to him, but they were not so different when it mattered. They may have been spoiled and pampered as they grew, but the values and importance of family had been instilled within them.
Both needed to make difficult decisions in the coming days and weeks and Arcturus took comfort that they were both willing to do so.
The entrance to St Mungo's had been reinstalled, and the debris cleared. Were it not for the scorch marks that still adorned some of the brickwork and surrounding pavement, none would ever know that the attack had taken place.
Still, Harry would. He couldn't ever forget what transpired here the night that Narcissa had been taking from him, the image of her lifeless body on the floor of the reception area having been forever burned in his mind.
He pushed those haunting thoughts aside. He had a meeting with perhaps one of the most politically savvy people in wizarding Britain and he needed to focus on that. His own mind needed to be sharp whilst dealing with Abraxus Malfoy.
"I expected you would come," the man greeted him as he entered the Janice Thickey ward.
"Your letter was quite compelling, Lord Malfoy," Harry replied.
Abraxus nodded and gestured for Harry to follow him into one of the private waiting rooms.
He did so and closed the door behind him, giving a cursory glance to ensure there were no others within the vicinity.
"Come Peverell, you must not believe me to be so foolish as to attempt to harm you with violence? Your skill with a wand is already that of legend. No, there would be nothing for me to gain from that, and if truth be told, I do not wish you ill. We are two of the most prominent lords of the land. There is nothing for either of us to achieve from being at odds with one another."
"That is true," Harry acknowledged.
Malfoy offered him a respectful bow.
"I have come to admire you," he admitted. "We are so very different, but only wish the best for our families."
Harry sighed as the reason for the meeting became evident.
"I cannot help Lucius," he sighed. "I already told you what must be done for him to begin his recovery. I have nothing personal against you, Lord Malfoy, but your son is another matter entirely. Even if I could help him, I would be disinclined to."
"And the object I have acquired?" Abraxus asked irritably.
"Keep it if you like," Harry replied with a shrug, "but he will come looking for it eventually. Take it from me, you do not want his attention on you. He tends to get what he wants."
Abraxus chuckled and shook his head.
"No, your words do not speak your desire. You know what it is I have, of course you do, and you need it to ensure he does not return."
"And you need to be rid of it to ensure he does not come for you."
"Then we can be of use to one another," Abraxus said urgently. "You only need help Lucius, and it will be yours. No one need be any the wiser of the bargain struck between us."
Harry shook his head.
"I already told you, Lord Malfoy, I cannot help him. The magic plaguing him cannot be undone by me. It has to come from him."
Abraxus stared at him for a moment before accepting defeat with a nod.
"I feared as much," he muttered. "There is no progress with him, and I am told that my only option is to allow a mind art specialist to take over his care. Of course, I cannot allow that. Lucius knows too many of the family secrets, and of course, his transgressions would come to light."
"Something he only has himself to blame for," Harry pointed out.
"He is still my son, Lord Peverell. He is all I have left. Surely you can understand that. Our positions are not so dissimilar other than you are young enough to meet a new wife should you choose to."
Harry nodded his understanding.
The past months could only have been difficult for Abraxus Malfoy. He had lost his wife, his son had proven to be a bitter disappointment and he himself was in the latter part of midlife.
There was no silver lining for the man, and it was no complicated task to see that he had all but given up.
"Were you able to say goodbye to your wife?" he asked.
Abraxus was immediately affronted by the personal nature of the question, but when he realised there was no mockery and that the other lord was genuine with the sentiment, he deflated and shook his head.
"She was not in her right mind when she passed," he explained. "It was different for me than it was you, Peverell. My Ilse fell ill overnight and within days, she was no longer the woman I married. She did not even remember my name in her final hours. And then she was gone."
The man was fighting back tears, a loss and longing that Harry understood too well. In the short time he believed that Narcissa had passed, he had experienced the same warring thoughts and emotions.
He hadn't said goodbye to her, had not been given the chance to tell her just what she meant to him.
But he had been fortunate. Through fate or fortune, he had brought her back.
Lord Malfoy had not been granted such a reprieve and he undoubtedly carried those thoughts and feeling with him with each passing day.
"You married for love," Harry stated.
"We did," he confirmed. "We were young fools, but my own father understood. Ilse came from a much lesser family than my own but was a brighter star than those that wished to be the next Lady Malfoy. There was no woman that could compare to her."
"That I can believe," Harry replied with a grin. "My Cissy is the same."
Abraxus sobered at the mention of Narcissa.
"As a man who has lost the woman I loved, I am sorry for what happened to her. At the very least, I can say that I had many wonderful years I can look back on fondly. You had barely begun what you should have gotten to have, Peverell."
"But how it ended will always haunt you."
Abraxus swallowed deeply.
"It will, but I try not to dwell on it, and I would urge you to do the same. Remember the good times, Peverell because they are what will get you through the lonely nights and dark days."
It was odd being given advice from the father of one the most unpleasant people Harry had the displeasure of meeting. What was even more so was that Abraxus Malfoy truly meant what he said and was trying to help him.
"If I told you that there was a possibility that you could have the opportunity to say goodbye to her, would you take it?" he asked.
Abraxus frowned thoughtfully and snorted before nodding.
"If such a thing could be done, yes, I would. It is my only regret where my wife was concerned, and although I couldn't help it, I still feel guilty. Is that strange, Peverell?"
Harry shook his head.
"No, it's not strange. It's only natural that you would want the end to be as blissful and meaningful as the rest."
"You're very wise for one so young," he complimented.
"Not really," Harry disagreed. "I lost people that I didn't get to say goodbye to. Too many people."
"As is life," Abraxus sighed.
"It doesn't have to be that way."
"What are you getting at, Peverell?" Abraxus asked curiously.
"There is a chance for you to say goodbye to your wife, if you'd like me to try."
Abraxus eyed him as though he were looking for deception.
"I take back what I said about you being wise."
"It is an offer I will make only once," Harry replied, undeterred by the disbelief of the man.
"We both know you cannot bring back the dead. Not even you can do that."
"Not permanently, but I am capable of summoning the souls of those passed on for a short time. If they consent, of course."
Abraxus laughed, falling quiet when Harry did not join in the merriment.
"Come on, Peverell, you can't expect me to believe that."
"Just say the word, and I will try. If your lady wife accepts, she can be brought here."
Abraxus shook his head.
"And what would you ask in return of trying?" he asked, still showing no sign that he believed Harry could do what he claimed.
"Nothing," Harry answered simply. "This would be a favour from one man who knows what it is like to lose the one you love to another. Nothing more."
Abraxus was sceptical.
"You wouldn't demand the item I have?"
Harry shook his head.
"This isn't about that, Lord Malfoy," Harry assured him. "There's no promise that it will work. I am merely offering to try. If it does, then I would still ask for nothing."
Abraxus was suspicious. His years spent in the wizengamot and being surrounded by those with questionable intentions making him cautious.
"No, no," he chuckled humourlessly, "this is madness. It can't be done."
"There is nothing for you to lose," Harry pointed out. "At worst, I can try, and nothing will happen, but if it does work then you can have the farewell you should have had with her."
The Malfoy lord found what he was being told to be fantastical, but Harry had not flinched nor given any indication of attempting to mislead him.
"You really believe you can do it, don't you?" he murmured.
After a moment, Abraxus released a deep breath, almost as though he was preparing himself.
"This is no trick?"
"Think of me what you will, Lord Malfoy, but I would not be that cruel."
"Alright Peverell, if it can be done, then so be it," he said nervously. "Will it have any effect on her where she is?"
"No, I will ask for her to join us, if she consents to, she will be brought here and returned unharmed to peace."
"I don't suppose there is anything to lose."
Harry offered the man a comforting smile before closing his eyes, using the stone within his ring to reach for the essence of Lady Malfoy. He found her much quicker than expected and he smiled at her easy acceptance of his summoning.
"She will be here momentarily," he announced, his gaze meeting the now terrified one of the Malfoy lord. "For the magic to be maintained, I must be present but will give you as much privacy as possible."
Abraxus said nothing, his eyes having widened at the sight of the woman that had coalesced before them.
"Ilse?" he choked.
The smile he received in return was one of joy, unguarded and unburdened by her final, miserable days she had lived.
"Brax," she replied, her eyes filling with tears.
For Harry, it was odd to see a man such as Abraxus Malfoy as he was in this moment. Those that partook in politics were not so forthcoming in many ways, the nature of the position allowing for little emotional investment or projection.
The man he looked upon was as he would be within his own walls at home, a doting and loving husband that sorely missed the woman he loved.
"What am I to do, Ilse? Everything is falling apart."
Lady Malfoy nodded her understanding.
"It feels that way now, but the future is not as bleak as you believe, Brax. I can say no more, but you must trust me," she implored.
"Will be here waiting for you when your journey comes to an end," she assured her husband. "Mine is done, but not yours."
The words visibly hurt Abraxus.
"Always wanted what he could not have and more than he was given," Ilse said sadly. "We raised him well, Brax, but he was led astray. There may be little hope for him, and though I wish it wasn't true, I will not lie to you. Only Lucius can help himself, and even then, he would only reap what he has sown."
"So, I should give up on him?"
"No, he is still our son, and you will care for him because despite what he has done, you love him as his father and would not allow it to be any other way, but he did what he has. Despite all he had, Lucius wanted more."
Abraxus shook his head morosely.
"What do I do, Ilse?"
"You live, Brax. You do what is best for the family as you always have, and you live. When the time is right, you will join me having made your own father proud. I will be here waiting and then, peace."
"For us both, my husband," she promised. "Now, however, is not the time. Look to the future, Brax, the good things will come, but you must be patient. I know you can do it."
"You always knew what to say."
"I only every gave you the truth."
"You did," Abraxus agreed, "and you were always right."
"Some things never change."
"But others do," Abraxus said sadly.
Ilse nodded as she took his hand in her own, eliciting a shudder from the man.
"The next time we see each other, my touch won't be so cold. Have faith, Brax. The world isn't done with you yet."
"I miss you."
"And I you, but the years we must be apart will be but a blink of the eye for the eternity we will have when you're done."
"I love you," Abraxus whispered.
"You already know of the love I have for you, Abraxus Malfoy, and this is not goodbye, merely a farewell, for now."
"Then I bid you farewell and will take comfort knowing that I will see you again."
"As will I."
When the form of the woman faded, Abraxus stared at the hand his wife had grasped and was only pulled from his thoughts by the comforting hand of the Peverell lord.
"Was that real?" he asked hopefully, unable to believe what he had just experienced.
"Very much so," Harry confirmed. "Goodnight, Lord Malfoy."
With his parting words given, Harry took his leave of St Mungo's and apparated home, hoping that Abraxus would find a semblance of peace having been granted the goodbye he should have been given in the first place.
As far as Malfoys went, Abraxus was alright by him.
Once again, it was the early hours of the morning that Orion Black was disturbed by the actions of his wife. It mattered not to him as he had not been resting easily since he learned of her collusion with Bellatrix, but a small part of him held on to hope that Walburga would not be so foolish, that very same part that still held affection for her.
With a huff, he pushed himself out of the warmth of his bed, silenced his feet and cast a disillusionment charm. Already knowing where his wife would be, he headed in the direction of the drawing room on the second floor.
He felt no small amount of disappointment to see her leaning over the desk and poring over another missive she was attempting to conceal from him. From the small amount of light on the tip of her wand he could see her face fill with excitement, and it was enough to spur him into action.
As she had before, she slumped forward, this time her head thudding dully on the hard wood of the desk.
Not taking any chances that she may wake before he was ready, he placed her in the chair and bound her before turning his attention to the letter that was written in his niece's neat scrawl.
Dear Aunt Walburga,
Any action we take must be considered carefully. I have spoken to my lord, and he agrees that it is essential this is planned meticulously.
Should Grandfather fall, Regulus will be primed to take over when he comes of age and I have it on very good authority that he has done you proud, has made beneficial connections whilst at Hogwarts, and intends to join the ranks of my master when he graduates.
That is only a year away, so the wait before we act will be short.
Have patience, dear aunt, the reputation of the Blacks will be restored.
The Dark Lord also wishes to meet you and I will send another letter with more information when the time is right.
Orion scoffed at the flowery words, his lips pulled back over his teeth as his hands trembled with rage. Were it not for his sons, Walburga would not live to see the morning, but she could no longer be left unchecked nor allowed to meet Voldemort.
The time for him to act was now.
Taking a deep breath, he readied himself.
"Kreacher?" he called.
The elf appeared a moment later only to be stunned upon arrival. Without preamble, Orion removed his head with a severing curse, and the blood of the elf that was only loyal to his traitorous wife spilled across the carpet of the drawing room.
With Walburga's only means of assistance dealt with, Orion took a seat and aimed his wand at her.
Walburga's eyelids fluttered open, a look of confusion and then shock marring her features when she saw with clarity what had happened.
"Orion?" she questioned in disbelief.
The former heir of house Black nodded, his jaw clenched as he stared at the mother of his children.
"Did you truly think you could succeed and get away with it?" he seethed.
"Orion! Untie me," Walburga demanded. "I have no idea what you mean."
"DO NOT LIE TO ME!" Orion roared, slamming the latest letter Walburga had received on the desk. "You have been plotting with Bellatrix to murder my father. Was I to be next? Cygnus? Sirius?"
Walburga shook her head.
"No," she denied. "I would never… KREACHER!" she screamed.
When the elf did not appear, she tried to summon him again only for Orion to grin as he picked up and threw the decapitated head of the former servant to his house on the desk in front of her.
"Did you think me so foolish?" he asked.
Walburga could only stare into the lifeless eyes of Kreacher, her own wide in surprise.
"You killed him!" she gasped.
"I did, and you are fortunate that you are not to follow so soon. No, you will live, Walburga, but on my terms only. You will be banished from the family and spend the rest of your days in isolation."
"You cannot keep me prisoner!" Walburga spat.
"That is where you are wrong," Orion chuckled darkly. "You will be sent away, and you will wear this," he added, removing a cumbersome, metal belt.
"No, Regulus needs me. You cannot keep me from my son."
"Regulus is my son," Orion corrected. "Come the morning, you will no longer be a Black. You will never see either of my boys again you hateful, spiteful bitch!"
"You can't do this to me!"
"I already have," Orion returned bitterly as he fastened the belt around her waist and added a drop of his own blood to activate it.
Without his say so, Walburga would be unable to even use her wand, the Black relic a cruel but necessary measure. For all intents and purposes, she was nothing but a muggle with magical knowledge and would be held in a place that none could ever hope to find her.
Not that they would look.
"Orion, please," she pleaded.
"You have no right to ask me for anything," he bit back. "You acted as you did with the intent to usurp my father. I will never forgive you for the things you have done. Now, be gone and never darken my door again. Cleo?"
Another elf appeared, this one a young female.
"Master Orion called for Cleo?"
Orion greeted her with a smile before turning back to Walburga with a sneer.
"Cleo will ensure you are fed and will pass on any requests you have to me. She is loyal to house Black, aren't you Cleo?"
"Yes, Master Orion."
"I would not attempt to subvert her, she takes her duty very seriously."
"Cleo does," the elf clarified, nodding her head enthusiastically.
"Good, please take the former lady of the house to her new home Cleo, and then get some rest please. I imagine you will have a busy few days whilst she adjusts to her new life."
"Orion, no please don't do…"
Walburga was gone before she could finish her sentence and Orion set to work cleaning up the remains of Kreacher before sending a missive to his father.
Arcturus would arrive in the morning to remove Walburga from the family tapestry.
When he was done, Orion returned to his bed, but felt no better for what he had done.
He felt relieved that his father's life was no longer at risk from Walburga, but the threat remained in the form of his niece. The family would need to be vigilant to ensure Bellatrix did not come close to carrying out her plan.
With a shake of his head, he settled back into his pillows knowing that rest would not come, but there was nothing he wished to do to occupy his mind. He wanted nothing more than to mourn the loss of the woman he had once loved, who had given him his sons.
Walburga was no longer that woman, but she had been once upon a time, and that's whom he wanted to remember.
He would never forget what she had become nor what she had tried to do, but he couldn't forget the past two decades of his life.
He wouldn't wish to.
"Good news?" Narcissa asked as Harry read through the piece of parchment he had received from Titus Jones.
"They're looking to hold the last matches of the season abroad," he explained. "The Ministry won't clear them here, not with everything going on."
"Well, at least that is something," Narcissa offered as she bounced Helena on her knee.
The little girl giggled, and Harry tore his attention away from the letter to watch the two of them.
It warmed him to see the bond they shared, his beautiful daughter that looked so much like his wife that it was hard to see anything of himself in her. Only the eyes gave away that he was her father, the rest was Narcissa, and the bigger Helena grew, the more she resembled the woman.
Perhaps a son would look more like him?
He was pulled from his thoughts as he shuddered, something suddenly feeling very wrong around him.
"What is it?" Narcissa asked as he stood and drew his wand. "Dobby?"
The elf appeared and took Helena from her arms, and she followed suit, drawing her own and following Harry to the window.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief as a familiar owl landed on the windowsill and he relieved it of its burden.
It took flight immediately, seemingly wanting to be far away from whatever it had carried.
"Another letter from Abraxus?" Narcissa asked.
Harry nodded as enlarged the package.
Tearing the paper off, he looked upon the diary that had fallen out of the confines, his mind awash with memories of when he had seen it last.
He had been twelve, covered in his own blood and that of the basilisk. The same night he had learned who Tom Riddle was and ventured into the chamber of secrets.
He swallowed deeply and frowned in confusion as he opened the note attached to it before pocketing the horcrux.
He would deal with that shortly.
Dear Lord Peverell,
I cannot put into words the gratitude I feel for what you did for me and my wife.
Although a bargain could not be struck between us, you should have this.
I truly wish you luck in your efforts.
This was indeed an unexpected development. At no point did he believe that Abraxus would give him the diary, not without him helping Lucius first, but the man had proven to be better than Harry had given him credit for.
He had undoubtedly underestimated Abraxus Malfoy, and yet, even with the diary, there were still more Horcruxes out there, and he only knew where one other was.
He would retrieve it soon.
"Good news?" Narcissa asked.
"Good news," he confirmed, patting his pocket and taking his leave of the room.
There was no time like the present to rid himself of one of the things burdening him, after all.