Come stop your crying, it'll be all right
Just take my hand, and hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don't you cry
- Phil Collins, You'll be in my Heart
To the Muggles who lived a short distance away, Castle LeStrange was a museum... or at least, was going to be. For about forty years now, there'd been a peeling notice board in place proclaiming that the 'Edwardus LeStrange Museum of Medieval Art' would soon be restored and opened with the help of a benefactor of that name, but somehow or other, it had just never happened. The castle itself was slowly falling apart, and when people thought about it at all, they considered it a health hazard. Several times now the town council, unable to locate an actual owner for the property, had called in demolition engineers to tear it down... but for one reason or another, they never showed up.
Mostly, the place was just ignored.
The real reason behind all this was, of course, the Muggle-repellant charms and disguise spells layered on to shelter the castle from prying eyes. They'd been in place for centuries, making the castle take whatever shape would put people off from visiting it, and worked remarkably well... and Narcissa Malfoy found herself silently cursing them as she looked out the window of her tiny tower room. She could see the lights of the Muggle city from here... maybe if not for those spells, they would come and investigate. Maybe enough of them could have overwhelmed the guards and the Death Eaters and set her free.
She must really be desperate, she thought miserably, if she was willing to fantasize about help from Muggles.
Tears welled in her eyes as she left the window and sat back down on the bed, her hands on her heavily pregnant belly. The room she was in was full of fine furniture and hung with tapestries - entirely fit for the wife of the last scion of one of Britain's oldest wizarding families - but it was still a prison, one for a woman whose only crime was inaction. She hadn't supported the Death Eaters, but she hadn't worked against them, either. When Lucius betrayed himself for the sake of the Dark Lord and was taken to Azkaban, he'd made Narcissa promise that she'd finally take the Dark Mark, but she hadn't yet. She didn't want to commit to a side in this. She just wanted to live in peace with her husband and her child, but that only looked more and more hopeless as the days went by.
She'd gone to her sister, Bellatrix LeStrange, hoping for sanctuary, only to find that Castle LeStrange was really nothing less than Death Eater headquarters. Narcissa hadn't even seen Bella since she'd arrived... she'd just been escorted to this room and locked up, and given ever more terrible threats for what would be done to her if she didn't take the mark and swear loyalty to Voldemort. They'd avoided mentioning the baby so far, but she could tell they were thinking about it. Soon, she knew, they'd make her choose between her neutrality and her unborn child, and she didn't know which she was going to pick.
As if somebody outside had just been waiting for the worst possible moment to intrude, just then there was a knock on the door. Narcissa looked up, expecting to see yet another party of Death Eaters or minions here to interrogate and threaten her... but instead, she was surprised and delighted to see her sister, Bellatrix.
"Bella!" She rose to her feet and held out her arms. "Where have you been? I've been asking for you again and again. How did..." but she stopped when she saw the look on her sister's face. There was no warmth there, no relief at finding Narcissa safe. "Bella?" she asked.
"Zabini was in here last night," said Bellatrix. "Wasn't he?"
"Yes," said Narcissa, raising a hand to her face. There was no mirror in the room, but she suspected that she'd gotten a bruise where Xavier Zabini had struck her. "I told him I still needed time to think."
"You're out of thinking time, Narse." Bellatrix pointed her wand at Narcissa's belly and recited a complicated string of Latin words.
Pain racked Narcissa's body. Her vision blanked out to white, and the roar of her blood in her veins filled her ears. She might have screamed, but couldn't tell. What WAS this, some new variation on the Cruciatus Curse? When her senses cleared and the pain ebbed, she found herself on her hands and knees on the floor, gasping for breath. Tears of pain and confusion filled her eyes as she looked up at Bellatrix.
Bella's face remained cold. "Do you love your baby, Narcissa?"
"Yes." Narcissa's hands went quickly to her belly, but the full curve of eight months of pregnancy was still present, and she felt the baby kick. A dozen horrible possibilities passed through her mind. "What did you do?"
"The Dark Lord himself invented the spell." Bellatrix smiled. "He's very proud of it... everyone kept telling him it couldn't be done, and he wanted you to be the first it was tested on."
"What did you do?" Narcissa pleaded.
"There is still a child in your womb," said Bellatrix, "but it is not yours. I traded it for the one belonging to a pair of Muggles who got lost around here yesterday afternoon. I wonder what Lucius will say," she mused, "when he gets out of prison... just in time to be there as you give birth to a child that will not only grow up to be a squib, but is quite obviously not his. Do you think he'll believe it when you try to tell him that I used a spell that's supposed to be impossible, or do you think he'll choose the simpler explanation and decide that you're an adulteress and a Muggle-lover?"
Narcissa didn't know what to say. This couldn't be happening, could it? Bellatrix must be bluffing. "What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Pledge your loyalty to the Master and recieve the Dark Mark, of course," said Bella. "Do that, and we might just feel nice enough to give you your baby back. Otherwise, Lucius can throw you out and you can try to make your own way in the world, raising an apparently fatherless squib while your husband thinks you betrayed him and your family disowns you. It's up to you."
"Bella..." Narcissa covered her face.
"Don't plead, Narcissa," said Bellatrix coldly. "Don't lower yourself. You and Andromeda both... you're fools who don't appreciate your families, don't appreciate your worth. I thought there might be hope for you when you married a Malfoy, but it looks as if you're just like her after all. I can hardly believe I shared mother's womb with you two. Do you want your baby back, Narcissa? Do you want the life you don't seem to realize you have?"
"How can you do this?" asked Narcissa. "I'm your sister, Bella!"
"And what about it?" said Bellatrix. "Andromeda was my sister, too. I killed one sister, and I can certainly break another."
Narcissa felt she was choking. "You're lying!"
"I'm not," Bellatrix said firmly. "She was a traitor to the family. I remember you wondering how the murderer could have vanished without a trace... who would suspect her own sister?" She stepped back. "You have twenty-four hours, Narcissa. You can have your baby back, or lose it and any remaining shreds of dignity you might have clung to. It's entirely up to you." She stepped out and shut the door, leaving Narcissa alone and sobbing in the room.
Twenty-four hours later, the Dark Lord was dead.
It was a long time before Narcissa heard a good explanation of why, and long time before she was told and really understood the tale of Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, and what it might mean for the remaining Death Eaters. All she knew for the moment was that suddenly aurors were raiding Castle LeStrange, Muggle prisoners were being healed, obliviated, and released, and she was being wrapped in blankets and reassured and flown to St. Mungo's. There, the mediwizards assured her that she and the baby were going to be just fine... and she didn't know if that made her glad or sorry.
She wanted to tell them that it wasn't really her baby. She wanted to say something about the pregnant woman they'd found in the dungeons, and ask for their help. But Lucius, claiming he'd been under the Imperius Curse, had secured his own release from Azkaban and had come to see her... and the first question he asked once they were alone together was:
"Did you take the Mark?" His voice was low and urgent.
"Yes," lied Narcissa. Without the Dark Lord to make it burn, how would he ever know.
Lucius nodded, and reached to touch the bruised skin around her left eye, the bruise Zabini had given her. "Where did you get that?"
"Self-inflicted," she said quietly. "If they hadn't thought I'd been locked up and tortured, they'd have sent me to prison."
He kissed her forehead. "Well. All's well that ends well, isn't it? As long as they think we're both innocent, we'll be just fine."
Narcissa nodded. She'd married Lucius because, whatever else he was, he was strong and charming and she loved him. If they had a chance now for life without worrying about what the Dark Lord ordered, the life Narcissa had wanted in the first place, she wasn't going to let it slip through her fingers. After a few days, they went home together.
But there was still the baby. It was due in three weeks, so whatever she was going to do about it had to be done fast. Narcissa knew that the spell Bellatrix had used would have established a connection between the two infants. Perhaps she could use that to find her own... and she could. She made an excuse to Lucius and went into the city in disguise, and watched the woman and her husband laughing over dinner in a restaurant... but she couldn't trade the babies back. She didn't begin to know how.
But she could use the connection for other things. If Narcissa couldn't have her own baby back, she could make this one hers. She could borrow a little of her own child's essense, and protect both herself and the baby in her womb... and that poor Muggle woman, whoever she was. If the glamour charm Narcissa improvised - and she'd always been very good at glamour charms - worked as she hoped, neither she nor that other victim would have to be condemned as adulteresses. Neither would have to explain a baby that didn't resemble its father... and Narcissa felt all the sorrier for the woman when she noted that if worst came to worst, Narcissa at least HAD an explantion. The Muggle would have no idea.
The fact that the child was unlikely to be magical... well, she'd just have to deal with that when it came up. Fortunately, she did have eleven years to think about it.
So when Narcissa gave birth, it was to a healthy boy with feathery blond hair, a shade between Lucius' platinum and Narcissa's own burnished gold, and the Malfoy gray eyes. Lucius was delighted, praised her to no end - he so seldom praised her - and wasn't even too upset when the midwife told him that due to unexplained scarring in Narcissa's womb, she would not be able to have any more children.
Narcissa herself was simply relieved... and looking at the lost little baby in her arms, found herself unexpectedly falling in love with it. Perhaps this boy wasn't hers, not exactly, but he was all she had... and she was all he had, either. The Muggle woman would never know, would raise Narcissa's child as her own... and Narcissa herself could hardly do less for this tiny miracle.
"You're my son," she whispered in the boys' tiny ear. "Maybe not the way I planned, but you're still my son, and I promise... Draco, Mummie promises, I will always, always love you."