Title: Talking To The Dead

She was at it again, and Draco was powerless to stop her.

His mother had locked herself in the study. Draco could see the smoke rising from the crack under the door, and he knew she had set the cauldrons simmering. Soon the whole house would be filled with the acrid smell of herbs and roots boiling, their essence strong in the air. She would keep this up all night. In the morning she would emerge, exhausted and haggard, ready to sleep all day.

Draco had indulged her at first. Narcissa had found the books in the library months earlier. The books had been in the Malfoy family possession for centuries, and documented the ancient ways. Magic that was old and seldom practiced. Magic that the Celts, the Druids, and the Priests of the Highlands all knew intimately, but few wizards of the present could comprehend.

Draco thought it would keep her mind busy. She would take the fragile texts out and pour over them for hours at a time. The pages were barely legible, but Narcissa refused to be denied the knowledge held there. She would hold candles close to read what little was left on each page. Her fingers would glide over each sentence as if she were coaxing the magic out word by word.

Narcissa's shopping trips began not long after that. Gone for days at a time, she would return with sacks of odd and strange roots, herbs, stems and berries. She stowed these items not in the pantry of the house but in the study which was now locked daily from not only the household staff but also from Draco.

When Professor Snape came to the house to tell Draco his mother had been by to see him, it came as a shock. Snape informed the young man that Narcissa had tried to obtain certain potion ingredients that were banned by the Ministry. She had begged Snape to get them for her. Snape did not want the wife of a mentor and the mother of one of his former students to get into trouble. He wanted Draco to handle it, discreetly of course.

When Draco did confront her, she became hysterical. Why was her son going to deny her this last chance at happiness? The manuals in the study had shown her how to be happy again, and, now, her own son was trying to prevent that.

He let it go. She was right. She seemed happier than she had been in months. What harm would it do to let her try what the books said? Everyone knew that most of it was rubbish anyway.

Narcissa got everything she needed somehow. Draco never asked, believing ignorance might be the best in this situation. With her potions ingredients complete, she started on the incantations. She never stopped.

Tonight would start the second week of these nightly rituals. The wretched stench from the cauldrons was premeating the house. He could hear her reciting the spells over and over. Sometimes the chanting would cease for a short time, and he would hear her weeping and begging for the answers to come.

Draco placed his ear to the door and listened. She was babbling incoherently. Draco could feel his mother's sanity slipping away. The woman who had nurtured and raised him was now a lunatic who was trying to talk to the dead. The books gave her both the idea and the hope that her lost loved ones would be able to talk to her again. Father. Her desire to hear his voice again had driven her insane.

Draco wondered if there was any way to keep her out of St. Mungo's, perhaps a private nurse of some sort. He would do anything to keep this quiet--to prevent her from going to that hellhole. He knew that he would have to destroy the books, locking her out of the study and breaking her spirit once again. The books had done this, given her this wild hope that the dead would speak again.

Draco could hear her voice. The chanting had stopped, and she was speaking in a soothing manner. It would not last long. He knew the crying would soon begin. He tried to hear what she was saying but could not make out the words. All he could hear was the soft feminine sounds of his mother's voice behind the door.

And the low sounds of a man's voice, distant and indistinct.