AN: I know I shouldn't be happy about this, but this is the end of the story, and I, for one, am relieved. I never thought I'd get through it. I wouldn't have if it hadn't been for Anne (whydoyouneedtoknow). More than half of this chapter was her doing, including some bits of, er, history from her Dangerverse (if you haven't read those stories, you really, really need to...) and the ending (which I thought was brilliantly done, personally). Anyway, thank you all for reading, and a huge thank you to Anne for everything. I owe you big time! Enjoy the last chapter, and as always, please review!
Sirius walked down the spiral staircase from Dumbledore's office shaking his head in confusion. Aletha and Danger had gone back to their private quarters with Remus and Draco while Sirius took Naomi and her black bag to the headmaster. Two hours later, the Head Auror had finally been dismissed. He'd heard Naomi's tale of becoming a Death Eater (to save Remus, she says), and how she'd done everything within her power to save Remus and Danger while they were locked in Malfoy's basement. He believed her on that, since he'd seen it, but he wasn't yet sure whether he believed her or not when she said she was never truly loyal to Voldemort (at which point she had glared down at her black bag and seemed to restrain herself from kicking it).
For Dumbledore's part, he patiently listened to her story and asked questions when they needed to be asked. By the end of it, Sirius was ready to slam his head against a wall just to make the world seem normal again. Thankfully, he was spared a concussion when Dumbledore said he wanted a few words alone with Naomi and sent Sirius off to be with his family. He made it to the private quarters without collapsing in the corridor and falling asleep, and muttered the password to the portrait of a giraffe while leaning on the opposite wall. The portrait swung open and he climbed through the hole.
Tiredness kept him from feeling more than mild surprise when he found his entire family, plus one, in the sitting room. Aletha and Danger looked over at him from the couch, Danger offering a little wave and Aletha a blown kiss, and Remus lifted his head from where it lay in Danger's lap and whuffed slightly. Sirius nodded to them all, and was about to fall into an armchair, but didn't since it was already occupied. A smile came to his face as he looked at the sleeping blond boy.
God, he's cute. There is no way Malfoy really realized what he had here, or he would have quit being a Death Eater, quit everything for this kid. And now he's ours… if I could have picked any way to get back at Lucius Malfoy, out of all the ways in the world, a most perfect revenge for what he did to Harry, I would never have thought of this – but I think this is it. A revenge of kindness…
Only when Aletha cleared her throat did Sirius realize he'd been staring for far too long. He crossed the room and sat down in the armchair that was empty. Danger and Aletha were on either side of Remus, Danger scratching his ears, Aletha massaging his shoulders. The werewolf was practically cross-eyed.
Sirius looked down at the floor, finally taking in what he'd been seeing in passing for the last few minutes – two twin mattresses side by side in the middle of the room, and six pairs of arms and legs atop them in a tangled mess, along with assorted other body parts and heads featuring two varieties of black hair and one of brown. "And why aren't they in their beds?" he asked.
"No idea," Aletha said quietly. "But they're perfectly happy, so why disturb them?"
Sirius shrugged. "Whatever keeps them quiet, I suppose," he said, massaging his temples. "So it's official: nothing surprises Albus Dumbledore."
When he finished his story, Danger looked at Remus for long moments. "He says Dumbledore probably had an idea about Naomi," she said, turning back to Sirius. "Any idea what was in her bag?"
Sirius' eyebrows climbed his forehead – he still hadn't gotten a direct answer about how Danger could talk to Remus, but he decided to save his questions for a bit. "No idea, but it smells like… well, it smells really bad," he said hastily when Aletha and Danger glared at him. "That's probably what she and Dumbledore are discussing now." He sighed. "Okay, we need to talk about this." He gestured at Draco.
"We've been talking about it," Aletha said. Nonetheless, she drew her wand and cast a privacy spell around the adults. "I don't know about those three, but Meghan has mastered the art of pretending to be asleep while actually listening to what's being said around her."
Sirius looked impressed. "At five years old, huh? That's my girl," he said proudly. His wife rolled her eyes. "Anyway, what have you three decided?"
"Well, we already signed that contract, so I guess we're his legal guardians," Danger said. "Except for Remus, that is. I don't know how magical contracts work…"
"It was signed in blood, so it's binding," Sirius said. "That's the gist of it, anyway, and I don't want to be the one to break a bond created by a Malfoy."
"Right," Aletha said. "And from what Danger has said, she and Remus have both been dreaming about him for months, as have I. I think you're the only one who hasn't been having these dreams…" She trailed off as Sirius shook his head.
"I have been having the dreams," he admitted. "For quite some time, actually – since the day Remus and Harry came home from the park after meeting Danger and Neenie. They're everything you lot have said they were."
Aletha let her eyes bore into Sirius. "And you've not told us this… why?"
"Because I wanted to make life difficult?" Sirius said innocently.
Aletha's lips twitched. "Okay, so we've all been having the dreams. What about the voice?"
"The almighty voice…" said Danger, and grinned suddenly. "I think I may have an idea of who it is, at least a name and a face, but not much more than that…"
"And?" Sirius prompted.
"He looks sort of like the pictures you've shown me of Harry's dad," Danger said, eyes closed in thought. "But I'm not sure that they're related… His name is Alex… Alexander something. It starts with S, and it's related to Hogwarts somehow."
"Not Slytherin?" Aletha inquired.
"Yes, actually, that was it."
Sirius choked. "I'm sorry, what?" he said. "We've been taking orders from a Slytherin?"
"All I know," Danger said hastily, sensing that Sirius was about to go over the edge, "is that he wasn't like his father or his brother."
"And who were his father and his brother that I should know them?"
"Well, his brother's name was Matthias, and his father's name was... Salazar."
"I told you, all I know is the name."
"Danger, Salazar Slytherin lived over a thousand years ago," said Aletha, since Sirius was momentarily unable to speak.
"I know that. But I think I may know what happened, at least sort of."
"Do enlighten us," said Aletha dryly.
"All right, so Salazar Slytherin was a Founder of Hogwarts, and really interested in blood purity, to the point where he was willing to kill Muggleborns."
"And how do you know that when thirty seconds ago you didn't even know his name?" Sirius asked.
"I'm tapping a larger database," said Danger, drumming her fingers on top of Remus' head until he lifted a paw and swatted at her hand. "But anyway, he had two sons. Matthias and Alexander. Matthias thought his father was right about everything. Alexander wasn't so sure. So when he died, he… tied himself to the world."
"So he's a ghost?" Aletha asked.
"Not quite." Danger seemed to be putting it together as she spoke. "He had, or he was given, or he found some kind of greater power, and he used it to make a place where he could watch the world and try to help things go right, and fix the damage Salazar did all that time ago."
"This just keeps getting better and better," Sirius muttered to no one in particular. "And why was he giving us orders?"
"Because if he didn't, the world wouldn't have worked out like it has," Danger went on. "He's the one who's been sending us the dreams – the one who got Aletha back here, the one who brought Remus and Harry, and Neenie and me to the park that day."
Sirius' head was spinning worse than it had been in Dumbledore's office. "So someone's been messing with our lives? Not that I'm complaining about anything that's happened, but doesn't anyone see something odd about that?"
"Sirius, this whole situation is odd," Aletha said. "But at least we've gotten out of it relatively sane." She smirked. "Not that you've ever been sane, but that's beside the point…"
"Thank you," Sirius said. "Next point." He pointed at Remus, then at Danger. "How?"
Danger laughed. "We're just meant to be, I guess. I have the power to keep him normal during a transformation; he can keep his mind with me around, like taking Wolfsbane, except I…" She squealed and slapped the top of Remus' head. "I'm not saying that!"
"May I?" said Sirius, snickering. "You taste better."
Aletha tapped her arm with her wand, making it grow to about twice its original length, and smacked him on the ear before restoring it.
"And as for how we can talk," Danger finished, "it's sort of a side-effect of the other thing, whatever we're going to call it. The normaling power or whatever."
"Handy side-effect," Sirius said, watching Remus look up adoringly at Danger. "Last point of discussion before I fall into one of these mattresses: living arrangements… We've all got custody of Draco…"
Danger looked down at Remus, then back up at Sirius, who stared. Her normally brown eyes had just a hint of blue in them now, the same blue as Remus' eyes… "Remus says, if it's okay with everyone, that we should just stick with living together to make it easier."
"Fine by me," Sirius said. "I was going to suggest that, but I didn't want to speak for Remus, since it's his house. It'll be a little cramped, though."
"We're witches and wizards," Aletha said patiently. "We can make adjustments where adjustments need to be made."
Sirius nodded in agreement. "Well, since that's settled…" He slipped off the armchair and crawled over to the mattresses, lying down beside Meghan and obscurely flattered that she only stirred a bit before settling again. "Now all we need to do is introduce these three beasts to Draco."
"I don't think we'll have too much of a problem," Aletha said, yawning. She stood from the sofa and curled up beside Sirius. "There's room for two more," she added to Danger and Remus.
The werewolf jumped off the sofa and padded to the mattress, where he lay down next to Neenie, Danger fitting herself around the curve of his back. "Draco?" she said suddenly, lifting her head.
"He's good where he is," said Sirius, craning his neck to see the boy again. "Don't think he'd really want to be moved right now."
"Till tomorrow, then," Aletha said, waving her wand to turn down the lights.
Albus Dumbledore led Naomi Watts down the grounds of Hogwarts, carrying a black bag. The wizard had insisted he could complete the task on his own, and while Naomi was certain he could, she argued that she needed to be there. Dumbledore decided not to deny her this chance to rectify her past mistakes.
The thing within the bag was officially dead, and neither Naomi nor Dumbledore had done the actual killing – apparently without the nourishment of a certain potion, the thing could not live beyond a few hours. It saved Dumbledore a lot of trouble that would surely have come otherwise, since the thing within the bag seemed unlikely to come back to power at any point in the near future. What really surprised Dumbledore was the fact that it'd been this easy – he'd had numerous late nights trying to devise plans on how the Dark Lord would be defeated, and none of them involved suffocation in a bag carried by one of his former students.
The pair made it to the edge of the forest, far from the prying eyes of any onlookers who might be awake and glancing out the window. Dumbledore sat the bag on the ground, backed up a few steps with Naomi, pointed his wand at the bag, and quietly said, "Incendio." Naomi cast a Bubble-head Charm at the first whiff of the foul smoke, and Dumbledore quickly followed her lead. They watched the bag burn for nearly an hour until the fire went out on its own, signaling the destruction of what had once been the most feared Dark Lord in history.
"Who d'you think he is?"
"Dunno, but he looks familiar. Think I've seen him somewhere."
"Yeah, me too. Think we should wake him up?"
"Nah, let'm sleep. But I do think we should wake up Sirius and Remus."
"Because it'll be fun."
A pair of light grey eyes opened and watched three blurs moving around two lumps. The largest of the blurs stood over the lump with a top of black while the smaller two blurs stood on either side of the lump with a lighter top. He blinked several times and rubbed his eyes to clear them, finally resolving the blurs into two kids about his own age and one a bit younger. He sat up slightly, not wanting to draw attention to himself – he'd become quite schooled in not drawing attention – but wanting to see what the kids were about to do. He realized just a little too late that they were about to jump on the lumps – and that the lumps were people, adult people -
The lumps made strange strangled noises as though the wind had been knocked out of them – which was quite possible since the kids had jumped on their chests – and the one with black hair said words that would have made pale eyebrows rise appreciatively if their owner hadn't been certain that the kids had just earned themselves severe punishment, which would probably include him, simply because he was there…
"What in the name of Merlin are you three doing?" the light-haired man asked, sitting up with the two girls in his lap.
"Waking you up," said the boy with messy black hair. "Did it work?"
"Quite well, kid," the black-haired man said, rubbing his chest. "You've got some bony knees." The boy grinned. "Why didn't you wake up Letha and Danger like that?"
"Because Danger would have been mad," the bushy-haired girl said, getting comfortable in the light-haired man's lap. "And she's always grumpy in the mornings anyway."
"I would be too if that's the way you wake her up," the black-haired man grumbled, though he really didn't look all that angry. He adjusted the boy in his lap and glanced over to the armchair. His eyes widened a little. "Well, good morning."
Draco Malfoy gulped and shrank back into his chair. "G'morning," he mumbled.
"Sirius," the boy whispered in the man's ear. "Who is he?"
"His name is Draco, Harry, and it's rude to whisper," the light-haired man said. "I don't think we were properly introduced last night, Draco. My name is Remus, and this is Sirius." Sirius waved. "And these three are Meghan, Neenie, and Harry."
"Hi," the three children said in almost perfect unison.
Another form rose from the mess of bed sheets and blankets – it was a dark-skinned woman, rubbing her eyes. "Wha's goin' on?"
"Good morning, love," Sirius said, cheerfully. "And how did you sleep?"
"Shut it," the woman groaned. "Why are you all awake?"
"Because the kids thought it would be amusing to jump on our chests," Remus said. "Besides, we've got another one awake now."
The woman looked over towards Draco and smiled at him. "I see," she said. "Who are we voting to wake Danger so we can have breakfast?"
"I think Moony should do it," Sirius said. "He's less likely to get slapped."
Draco wasn't sure who Moony was, but Remus chuckled and bent over another bushy head. Moments later, the woman who he'd met last night was awake and looking around curiously. "Oh, hello," she said tiredly, spotting Draco. "Is it morning already?"
"Yes, and it's quite time for breakfast," Remus said.
"Agreed," the woman yawned.
Draco stayed in his chair as all the people, kids and all, got up from the floor. The adults vanished the mattresses and blankets, and conjured a table big enough for them all to sit at. Remus came over to Draco's armchair and knelt down in front of him. "Would you like to come sit with us?"
Draco gave a half-shrug, but slowly slid out of the chair and followed the man to the table, where he sat between Harry and Neenie. "Hi," Harry said, sticking out a hand.
"Hi," Draco said shyly, taking the hand and shaking it like his father had shown him. "Where are we?"
"Hogwarts," Harry answered. "We come here every month."
Harry hesitated and glanced at Remus, who was watching him with a small smile. "It's fine, Harry, Draco already knows."
"He does?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Yes, he does," Sirius said. "And if it's alright with you, we're not going to discuss it right now. Okay?"
"Okay," Harry said.
Remus went over to the fireplace. Moments later, Draco jumped in surprise when a house-elf popped into the room. It wasn't really the sound that startled him, but the house-elf itself.
"Master Draco!" Dobby said excitedly, hugging the boy. "Dobby is wondering where Master Draco had gone. Mistress Narcissa freed Dobby after Master Draco is leaving. Mistress said to go to Hogwarts, and Professor Dumbledore sent Dobby to the kitchens."
"Oh," Draco said, confused. Why would his mother free the house-elf?
"Dobby, we were hoping for some breakfast," Remus said kindly.
Dobby bowed deeply. "Of course, sir," he said. "Dobby is at your service."
Draco shook his head. This was shaping up to be a very odd day.
Later in the afternoon, once the kids got used to having a fourth member of their group and when Draco decided to leave the sanctuary of his armchair, the adults led them all out onto the sunny grounds. Most of the Hogwarts students were in classes, but those who weren't paid no attention to the pack of people who'd walked out to the Quidditch pitch. The adults sat in the stands while Harry instigated a game of tag with Meghan, who immediately tagged Neenie. After a few moments of watching them chase each other around laughing and poking each other's shoulders, Draco decided to join in.
"He's shy of us," Aletha said, watching the blond boy skid into the dirt to avoid being tagged by Harry. "But he's warming up to the kids without much of a problem."
"Well, if what Narcissa said was true, and he was having these same dreams as the rest of us, he knows them already," Sirius said. "Kids relate better with other kids than they do with adults. Once he sees the others' attitudes with us, I think he'll warm up."
"Ah, yes, Sirius Black, master of child psychology," Remus grinned, his arm slipping around Danger's waist. "He is right, though. Draco will come around. We just need to be extra cautious with him. He's grown up in a much different environment than Harry, Meghan, and Neenie, and it's not going to be easy to get him used to a whole new set of rules and surroundings."
"I don't regret it," Danger said quietly. "It was a split-second decision, but I don't think I'll ever regret agreeing to take him from that place and that father of his."
"Yes, well, that's another thing," Sirius said. "My Aurors hauled Lucius off to Azkaban this morning. Apparently he's none too happy with whatever it was Naomi did to him last night."
"What did she do to him?" Remus asked.
"I can't tell you everything," said a voice behind them, "but it involved a Confundus Charm and a kiss I don't even want to think about…"
The adults spun around in the stands to find Naomi standing there looking very awkward. "Please excuse me, but I was just getting ready to leave for home – Dumbledore let me stay the night – and I wanted to say goodbye properly." She was looking mostly to Sirius and Remus.
"Have a seat," Danger said, despite Remus' mental glare.
Naomi hesitated, watching Sirius' wand arm warily.
"If he hexes you, I'll hex him back," Aletha promised, scooting aside for the other witch to sit. "We owe you a thank you."
Naomi shook her head. "You owe me nothing," she said quietly. "None of you, you don't owe me anything. I'm just glad you all made it out of there."
"Well, you did take Lucius down for us, and let these two nuts out of their shell," Sirius said, nodding towards Remus and Danger. "Not to mention you saved us all from what would have been some nasty times." They'd been told by Dumbledore earlier in the day about what was in Naomi's bag.
Danger shivered. "Did you really have to touch that thing?"
"I tried levitating it, but it didn't work," Naomi said, shivering herself at the thought. "Look, I owe you all an apology. If it hadn't been for me–"
"We never would have gotten out of there," Remus said quietly, not looking at Naomi. "Even I will admit that you helped us a great deal last night, Naomi, and…" He sighed. "Taking into account everything that's happened between us… I think we're even."
Naomi bit her lip and nodded. "Okay, then," she said, standing. "I guess I'll see you lot around. Danger, it was nice meeting you. You'll be very happy with Remus. I was," she added under her breath.
"Naomi, wait," said Danger as the other woman turned to go. "Why don't you come by the cottage sometime?"
Remus looked at her in surprise. What are you doing?
You said you were even. Why can't you be friends?
He sighed. It's not that easy.
Says the man who isn't even trying. Watch. "We've all decided we're going to live together," said Danger, waving to herself, Remus, Aletha, Sirius, and out to the pitch where the kids were now playing leap frog. "It wouldn't be such a bad thing to have a friend come by every so often."
"I'm not sure I should," Naomi said, glancing at Sirius and Remus.
"They have no choice in the matter," Aletha said decisively. "This is a direct invite from myself and Danger. Personally, I wouldn't mind having you around again. It's been a while…"
"We have no choice?" Sirius asked, looking over at his wife.
"Nope," she said lightly, smiling innocently. "What d'you say, Naomi?"
Naomi smiled at the indignant looks on Sirius' and Remus' faces. "Sure. Send an owl sometime, I'll be around."
"Good," Aletha said. "Now unless you have to be somewhere right now, sit. Danger and I need to be able to outnumber these two goons."
"Who're you calling a goon, woman?" Sirius asked.
"Who're you calling woman, goon?" Aletha retorted.
Sirius sighed heavily. "Moony, we're in a lot of trouble."
"You didn't know that already?"
Four years later:
Lucius Malfoy came awake with a wild start, pressing a hand to his chest.
A dream. It was all a dream. Not the Dark Lord's fall, but the rest of it. He took deep, slow breaths, calming himself. I was never hounded from my home like a criminal, I never had to sneak back in under cover of darkness… everything that was mine still is mine.
Including his son. Lucius pondered Draco as he got dressed. The boy was eleven years old today, and would soon be receiving his Hogwarts letter. Perhaps a fatherly lecture on proper behavior and deportment would not go amiss today, along with some dignified congratulations on achieving such a lordly age. Accordingly, he summoned Dobby and sent the creature to fetch Draco.
Dobby seems happy this morning. How strange. Lucius made a mental note to punish the elf later that day as a knock sounded on the door of his dressing room. "Come in!"
Draco entered the room, dressed in neatly pressed green robes. Lucius noted with pleasure his son's upright posture, his straight shoulders, the way he lifted his chin ever so slightly to look his father in the eye. You were born to command, my son, and command you shall. All that you desire will be yours.
"Good morning, Draco," he said. "Many happy returns of the day."
"Thank you, sir." Draco dropped his eyes to examine the carpet. "You wanted to see me?"
"Merely to give you my felicitations, and to remind you of certain things which cannot be far off."
"Like my Hogwarts letter."
"Indeed. You may sit." Lucius watched as Draco found a chair. "Tell me, my son, where do you want to be Sorted?" It was a rhetorical question only, of course. For a Malfoy, there could be only one correct answer.
Draco lifted his gaze to his father's face again and took a breath to respond –
The door opened. Lucius turned his head sharply to face whoever was entering the room without his permission. "How dare you–" he began, then stopped in confusion. He had expected Narcissa, or perhaps Dobby, though the elf usually Apparated in (or whatever it was house-elves did). The person at the door was neither of these, though she was about Dobby's height. Her hair was brown and wavy, falling to her shoulders, and her eyes were blue and bright with mischief.
And fixed on his son. "D'aco!" she exclaimed, launching herself across the room. "Found you!"
Draco laughed and scooped the child into his arms. "Yes, you found me, Abby. You win. But I have to do some work here. Can you go find Marcus and play with him?"
"He's no fun," the girl stated, pouting. "He doesn't wanna play. Who's that?" She pointed at Lucius.
"That's my father."
"Ohhh." Abby looked at Lucius for a long moment, then slid off Draco's lap, walked over to Lucius, drew back a small foot, and kicked him in the shin.
Lucius inhaled sharply. Draco jumped to his feet and snatched the girl away just as Lucius made a grab for her. "Abby, that's not nice," he scolded, herding her to the door. "I'll tell your mummy if you do that again. Go on, shoo." He closed the door behind her and turned back to face Lucius. "Surprise," he said, coming back to sit down in his chair.
"Yes, I am," said Lucius, regaining his composure. "Who is she, and how do you come to know her?"
"Her name is Abigail Rose. I know her because she's my little sister, as far as that's possible."
Lucius frowned. "Are you feeling all right, Draco?"
"I could ask you the same question. Have you honestly forgotten everything that happened since I was little? Everything?"
Nagging doubts were beginning to creep into Lucius' mind. What if it wasn't a dream…? What if it was… "What do you mean?" he asked, banishing the doubts.
"I mean that this hasn't been your home for years. Not since I was a baby. Or not a baby, but about five or six. First you tried to bring Voldemort back and got caught–" Draco grinned lopsidedly as Lucius sat bolt upright. "Yeah, I say his name. Like I said, you got caught trying to help him come back. Or not caught, but seen. You were on the run for a while, and then you tried it again, and that time you did get caught. I was about seven then. Lucky for me, Mother saw which way things were heading, and arranged for me to be taken care of."
"And the child is from your foster family."
"That's right." Draco's grin broadened just a trifle. "Do you know who she is?"
"Of course not."
"Let me jog your memory, then. Follow me." Draco rose and opened the door. Baffled, Lucius followed his son down passages which seemed subtly different than he recalled. He glimpsed phantom forms in side hallways, but they darted out of sight when he turned his head to look. Through doors, down stairways, one more corridor –
"Here." Draco flicked on a light. Lucius looked around the plain room and felt a memory surfacing. He had stood here before, looked through that window, looked in at…
"Abby's parents, my foster parents, were right in there," Draco said, pointing at the window. "One set of my foster parents, anyway. The other set came in later. And you and Aunt Naomi were out here with me." He pulled a chair over to the window and climbed up on it. "Remember now?"
Lucius remembered. "Are you telling me," he said slowly, feeling his chest fill with disbelieving rage, "that you have been fostered – that you have been touched by… by…"
"Remus Lupin?" Draco finished, jumping down from the chair. "Yes."
"Werewolf." The word sent bitterness through Lucius' mouth. "Less than human, less than animal, not even fit for a rug–"
He doubled over as Draco's foot hit him in the gut. "I always thought he made a pretty good dad myself," the boy said, looking coldly at him. "Unlike you. Would you care to come out of your fantasy world and see some reality for once?"
Lucius straightened painfully and looked down his nose at the traitorous brat. "Do what you like," he said haughtily.
Draco brightened. "Really? Great!" He raced out the door before Lucius could catch him, and a moment later everything blurred before Lucius' eyes, then reformed into new shapes. He stared around, aghast. What had been a perfectly good dungeon was now a room filled with assorted pieces of furniture, most of which seemed broken in some way, and none of which had ever been in his home at any time…
"We call this the Wreck Room," said Draco from the door. He was now wearing Muggle clothes, jeans and a tee shirt, Lucius noticed, and the shirt had something printed on it that he couldn't quite make out –
Draco glanced down. "Like the shirt?" he said. "It says, 'What're you looking at?'"
Lucius did not respond to what was obviously a calculated insult. "How did this happen?" he asked coolly.
"What, the invasion? Well, when somebody burned down Remus' old house, we had to live somewhere. All Sirius had was his flat in London–"
"Sirius? Sirius Black?"
"Unless you know another Sirius. He's my other foster dad. Anyway, Letha suggested–"
"Sirius' wife. My foster mum. Along with Danger. Remus' wife," Draco added before Lucius could ask. "You remember. The Muggle."
And Black's girlfriend was Muggleborn. Lucius was beginning to see the shape of what had happened to him, and overall he thought he liked the dream world better. "So you chose to come and live in my house," he said.
"Not yours anymore," said Draco airily. "You lost title to it when you went to Azkaban, and Mother renounced her claim. So it came to me, and since I obviously couldn't live there all by myself, no one saw any big problem with all of us moving in. Care to see what else we've done with the place?"
Lucius wrestled with himself and finally nodded. Better to know the worst than to live in ignorance.
"Right this way, then." Draco waved him out of the Wreck Room with a grand gesture.
Before too long, Lucius was questioning his decision. Ignorance might have been better than knowing that his gracious home had been redone in a style he could only describe as "primitive." Why, the place looked no different than the houses of the Muggles he'd seen when he'd been a Death Eater!
"Here we are," said Draco as they came to a wall of framed photographs. "Family portrait." He indicated one very large frame, which had ten people in it. "Oy, settle down in there," he said, pounding the corner of the frame with his fist. "Someone wants to look at you."
The photographic people grumbled silently but settled into place.
"You know Remus and Danger and Sirius and Letha," said Draco, pointing to each adult in turn. "And me, obviously. There's Hermione." The girl Lucius hadn't been able to find that night at the Muggle woman's home wiggled her fingers at him. "And Meghan and Marcus." A dark-skinned girl of about eight bounced a similarly colored two-year-old on her knees. "Sirius and Letha's," Draco added over his shoulder. "Abby's Remus and Danger's." The little girl who had kicked him nestled against her father's shoulder. "And, last but not least, Harry."
Lucius reflected for a moment on the total incongruity that Harry Potter's photograph should be hanging on the wall of his home. For that moment, he saw the situation in all its ridiculous glory, and was tempted to laugh it all off, to enjoy it for its peculiarities –
But then he recalled why, exactly, the photograph was hanging there, and what it meant, and a far more prudent feeling of rage overtook him. These people had stolen everything from him – his life, his home, his son –
"And in case you're still wondering," Draco said from the doorway of a room nearby. "Gryffindor."
The door slammed, and Lucius awoke. He lay on a pile of moldy straw in a cell in Azkaban. The noise of the door closing had been real. A small slab of wood and a crude cup sat on the floor. Lucius knew from experience that the slab contained coarse bread and something which might have at one time approximated cheese, and the cup liquid that could pass for water if one didn't look too closely. He also knew from experience that screaming would do nothing to alleviate his situation.
Nonetheless, it felt good.
Remus Lupin ran his hand over his wife's slightly protruding belly. We really shouldn't have done this, you know, he told her.
Oh, don't be such a worrywart, she retorted. Letha says he's normal, and you know the error margin on these tests is very small. Now would you mind getting your head out of worry-mode for a while?
"You've got that look on your face," Aletha said as Remus and Danger drew level with the Blacks. "He's saying 'Yes dear,' isn't he?"
"You know, this isn't fair," said Remus. "I always knew my own wife would be able to read me like a book, but having someone else's wife do it too is just a bit much."
"Your own fault for being predictable, Moony," said Sirius. "Do what I do. Never let them know what you're going to do next."
He pulled Aletha in for a kiss. She reached around behind him and knuckle-rubbed a certain spot, and he let her go with a yelp. "Sirius Black, you are as readable as a Daily Prophet headline from six inches away," she told him. "And just about as useful most of the time. Go amuse the children."
Sirius made a face, then dropped to all fours and bounded into the trees as Padfoot. Gleeful shouts greeted him – all six of the children adored the big black dog. Marcus had gone through a phase where he wouldn't go to sleep unless Padfoot was lying by his bed.
"We ought to have left someone inside," said Danger, glancing over her shoulder. "The guests will be here any minute…"
"Dobby can do it," said Aletha, setting down the box she'd carried out. "But I'm going to go find Sirius and the kids. You two need a bit of time alone, I think."
"Do we?" Remus asked Danger as Aletha headed into the woods.
She smiled and leaned forward.
Well, I guess we do.
A few minutes later, Danger was setting up the tables with her wand, while Remus unfolded eighteen chairs. Ten were for the inhabitants of the manor house –
Manor house. Who would ever have expected to see me living in a manor house? But a few full moons after the acquisition of Draco, Remus had awakened to the smell of smoke, and had barely managed to get Danger awake – a few more moments and they both would have died of smoke inhalation. Weak from the smoke they'd already breathed, all they could do was get out and watch as the cottage burned to the ground. It had been a clear case of arson, but no one had ever been charged, though Sirius had his suspicions about certain former Death Eaters.
Remus had spent several days trying to remember that all he'd lost were things, that it was people that mattered more than things. Danger's rather timely announcement of her pregnancy had snapped him out of that particular funk, but thrown him into a deeper one – he had nowhere for his child to live now, and what if the baby was a werewolf? Aletha had solved his problems by first performing a prenatal test which confirmed his daughter was normal, then reminding everyone that there was a large and currently uninhabited house which belonged to a member of their family. They'd moved into what had been Malfoy Manor within the week.
And pretty soon, we'll need eleven chairs for us. Remus smiled as he opened a chair for Naomi and one for her husband of a year, Kingsley Shacklebolt. And three for them in about a month… Three chairs for Weasleys – Ron and Ginny had been invited, and Molly would certainly want to stay a few minutes to chat; another for Luna Lovegood, who had been introduced to the children by Ginny, and whom Draco seemed rather taken with; and the last two for the Longbottoms, Augusta and her grandson Neville, who had returned Meghan when she had run away from Aletha at Diagon Alley one day, and who had immediately been voted a friend by the rambunctious crew of six.
Remus set the last chair on its legs and stretched his back. Our lives may be complicated, he thought. But I don't think I'd want it any other way.
Danger finished conjuring tablecloths and straightened up, smiling at him. He smiled back.
Check that. I know I wouldn't want it any other way.