Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling. The Musketeers belong to themselves. This story was written for fun, not profit.

Author's Note: Thanks to my beta-reader Haggridd for awesome help with Dobbyspeak. If anyone actually wants updates on this thing, I send out notices from a Yahoo group:

As Thick As Blood
Chapter One: A Slip of the Tongue

Rory Malfoy remembered her father as a slight, sad-eyed man who nevertheless commanded attention whenever he chose. Her mother, as she had repeatedly been told, had been a woman with no qualms about taking her fiancé's money and leaving him to raise an infant alone. She didn't consider those two figures parents so much as symbols, since neither one had played much part in her life. One had fallen victim to an Unforgivable Curse – revenge for his part in You-Know-Who's downfall – while the other had simply vanished into the murky underworld, never to be seen again. Her grandparents had raised her from the age of two, and were the only guardians she had ever known, even if she did hate their guts.

She grew to be the embodiment of her father's family in every physical sense: white-blond hair, delicate features, a slender build, pale skin, and cool gray eyes. Her tutors pronounced her gifted in basic magical skills, especially in matters like defense and countercurses, and declared that she had a singular talent for inventing elaborate plots, particularly when dodging homework was involved. She was quick to come up with questions her grandparents didn't want answered, and quicker to deduce answers to questions no one else had thought of asking. It was her mother's influence, her two guardians muttered when they thought she couldn't hear. Bad blood. But blood was surely not the be-all and end-all in this strangest of granddaughters. She knew better than to ask an unpleasant question twice. While she clearly didn't love Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, she at least treated them with slightly more than basic civility.

Her real problem only became apparent when she was invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and first put the enormous Sorting Hat on her head.

"Hm," it said in her ear, its voice contemplative. "You're a bit of a jumble, aren't you? The cunning's there, but oh my, so is a great deal of intelligence. You're a quick-witted one. Ravenclaw or Slytherin? Either one would suit you nicely."

Eleven-year-old Rory clenched her hands in her lap, squeezed her eyes shut, and desperately thought, Don't make me like my grandparents.

This apparently came as a surprise to the hat. "Didn't see that there," it said softly, almost to itself. "Don't know how I missed it. Very important part of you." And then, louder, "You're sure about this?"

I'm sure.

"All right, then. Off you go to GRYFFINDOR!"

Her new house cheered as she staggered to her seat. No one else so much as clapped. They were too busy gaping.

Only later did she learn that no one in her father's family had ever been Sorted into any House except Slytherin, much less into hated Gryffindor. Whatever else her mother had done, she had passed something special to her abandoned daughter that made her different indeed from her Malfoy ancestors – not in most ways, but in some tiny, unknown piece of her that the hat had almost missed.

Rory felt at home among her housemates in a way that she never had with her grandparents, and before she knew it, she was an integral participant in the daily war with the Slytherins. The now famous Potions Incident and the Impolite Snake were both her brainchildren and quickly became legend among the younger Gryffindors. She formed close friendships with her fellow students, especially shameless prankster Maureen Wood, brilliant bookworm Brian Weasley, and a very kind boy named Jim Chang-Potter, who was incredibly good at delicate spells when he set his mind to it.

By the time they were second-years, everyone had taken to calling the inseparable quartet the Four Musketeers. There was much rejoicing on the day they realized that old Argus Filch had an entire file drawer devoted exclusively to them, a feat previously managed only by Brian's twin uncles. It wasn't that the Musketeers were bad students – on the contrary, Brian was well on his way to becoming Head Boy and Rory herself was a prefect – but they had a tendency to view rules as something that happened to other people and to aggravate certain professors almost to the point of violence.

None of this sat well with Rory's grandparents, of course. The idea that their only heiress was blatantly behind any number of stunts was repugnant to them and they attempted to hammer some sense into her every summer. She was a disgrace to her father's memory, they pointed out. She was already consorting with a halfblood and a Weasley and a Potter, for Merlin's sake, with who knew what just around the corner. She was going to turn out like her mother, and everyone knew how that woman had come to a sticky end.

It took her five summers of this grief to realize that her grandparents had unwittingly given away a precious bit of information.

"You know what happened to my mother?" she asked one August evening over supper, interrupting the latest variation of this diatribe.

Her grandparents exchanged looks, as if unsure of what to do about her newest question.

"How should I know?" her grandfather said finally, sounding more than a little irritated. "It's not my job to keep an eye on people like that."

"She abandoned you," her grandmother added. "It would be for the best if you just forgot about her."

That was when Rory understood that, in one way or another, she was being lied to.

She excused herself from the table as quickly as courtesy allowed and hurried up the winding stairs to her bedroom, which was off in its own corner of Malfoy Manor and not likely to be disturbed. Only when she was inside this questionable sanctuary and had the heavy door securely locked did she allow herself to sink to the cold stone floor, trying to make some sense of what she had heard.

They lied. That much was obvious, since they couldn't know about a sticky end and still be completely unaware of her mother's whereabouts. Maybe they had just made up the first part to scare her away from her friends. They were the type of people who would do things like that. Maybe that was all this was and she was just overreacting.

In her heart she knew that wasn't true. Her grandparents knew something about her mother – had known it for at least as long as she had been friends with the other Musketeers – and yet they had purposely misled her.

Maybe she was a Muggle. The thought was certainly entertaining, but highly unlikely. They would have drowned me if I were a halfblood, she decided with a bitter smile. Can't go polluting the family blood, now can I?

She made her way over to her desk and stared at the small mountain of homework she still had to do. Hidden under the notes for that most boring of subjects, History of Magic, were letters from her friends, carefully snuck in with the help of Icarus, her fluffy brown owl. She hadn't been able to answer them as often as she liked. Sometimes hearing about the activities her three friends did together made her more than a little jealous, but she was glad for the contact. It reminded her why she put up with her snobbish, stupid, shortsighted, deceitful grandparents all summer.

After a moment's thought she pulled out a blank sheet of parchment and dipped her quill in ink. It took less than a moment for Rory to decide to whom she wanted to vent.

Dear Jim,

I know you're probably busy with the Ministry internship, but I really need to talk to someone and the house-elves aren't the best of conversationalists. I think my grandparents lied to me about my mother. They said something about her coming to a sticky end and then when I asked them about it they said they didn't know where she was. I 'm in the mood to drop some Veritaserum in their wine. I would too, but I don't know how to make it.

You're lucky. I know it's not easy putting up with all the reporters, but at least no one looks at you as if they expec you to sprout another head. The next time Brian complains about his family, I'm going to hit him. Probably with Reen's broom. I'm assuming that she told you about it. We'll have to gag her just to shut her up. She's talking about being captain of the Quidditch team this year, but she would lose interest in five minutes. I'm afraid you're stuck with Anderson for the moment.

Thank you for the Chocolate Frogs, by the way. I don't know if your little brother is still collecting the cards, but I got one of your father and I heard that he's quite collectable.

I'll see you in a week.

Your friend,

She felt a little silly after she had written all that. Her grandparents withholding information about her mother sounded like something out of the Daily Prophet's gossip columns. Only they really had been lying about something. She knew that much. And Jim was an even closer friend than the other two Musketeers. As much as she cared for Brian and Maureen, she didn't need the one carefully analyzing things and the other showing up to beat the truth out.

Icarus came at her soft call. Rory folded up the letter and tied it to his leg, giving the patient owl her sternest look as she did so. "Jim Chang-Potter," she ordered. "Not Harry, not Cho, not Cedric, not Lily. Just Jim. Don't look at me like that," she added when Icarus hooted irritably. "You have a history." She waved her quill at the owl as she wiped off the extra ink. "I can understand messing up with the Weasleys, but it's not as if Jim's family is that hard to miss."

Icarus hooted and took off in a snit.

Stupid bird. Rory closed the filmy curtains – enchanted spiderlace, easily worth a hundred Galleons – and changed into the knee-length Chudley Cannons tee shirt Brian had given her for her last birthday. Her hair went up into a tangled bun as usual. A glance at her clock told her it really wasn't late enough for her to be in bed, but she didn't feel like venturing downstairs to the family room and listening to her grandparents again. Family time with the Malfoys was a bit of a joke – and a most unfunny one at that.


She sat on the edge of her enormous bed and tugged two photographs out from under one of the pillows. One was of the Musketeers last spring after Jim, Maureen, and the rest of the Gryffindor team had beaten the odds and won the Quidditch Cup. The other was much older and, in its own way, far more precious. It was the only picture of her father she had been able to get her hands on, and then only because one of the house-elves had found it while cleaning the library. She supposed it must have been taken not long before he died, because the little blond girl he was holding couldn't have been much younger than two.

"Aurora Malfoy shouldn't be having those pictures," someone said at her shoulder.

She didn't even turn around. "It's Rory," she corrected, just as she had every day for as long as she could remember. "And you're the one who got me these pictures, Dobby."

The house-elf looked at her with eyes as large as saucer-plates. He had been a sort of ally before she had come to Hogwarts and met the other Musketeers, probably because he wasn't like any of the Malfoy family's other servants. Dobby wore a sock with his pillowcase – he had found it, supposedly – and seemed able to defy her grandparents. He was the one who had helped her hide the picture after he had given it to her and sometimes he was the one who hid her letters when it seemed that her grandmother would find them.

"Aurora Malfoy is missing her friends," he said finally.

"Aurora Malfoy wants to drop a hippogriff on her grandfather," Rory pointed out irritably.

"Can Aurora Malfoy be lifting a hippogriff?" Dobby asked dubiously.

"I can dream." Rory flopped back onto her coverlet and stared up at the bed's green canopy. She hated that color. "Dobby? Where did you find this picture again?"

"Dobby found the picture on the black bookcase in the library, Miss."

"What was up there before?"

The house-elf hung his head. "Dobby does not know, Miss."

"Damn." Rory rolled over and looked at the picture again. Her two-year-old self was waving wildly at the camera, completely oblivious to the fact that she was supposed to be dignified and proper. Her father wasn't bothering to restrain her, apparently content to hold her and give her a tiny smile. Although the family resemblance was obvious, the two of them looked completely different from the serious portraits hanging in the hallways. They might as well not have been Malfoys at all.

She squinted and scanned the picture again. There was no sign of any unusual feature in her two-year-old self's slightly pudgy face – nothing to indicate what her mother might have looked like.

"You is looking for something?" Dobby inquired.

"My mother. I want to know what she looked like."

Dobby tilted his head to one side. "Aurora Malfoy does not know?"

"No. She has no idea." She stuck both pictures back under her pillow. She gave the house-elf a long look and wondered, not for the first time, if he knew more than he was letting on. "Is there anything you want to add?"

"Dobby was not seeing Aurora Malfoy's mother. Dobby is telling you and telling you, but you is always asking."

"I know, I know." Rory sighed and rolled over, further snarling her hopeless hair. "Remind me to get you another sock one of these days."

Dobby's eyes went even wider. "If you is giving Dobby a sock – "

"Then Dobby is free and Dobby doesn't want that because Dobby's a bit thick." Rory smiled to take the sting out of her words. Maybe her grandparents didn't care how house-elves were treated, but she had been very careful not to be her grandparents. She had the suspicion that that single goal was the only reason why she hadn't been Sorted into Ravenclaw – or worse, Slytherin. "Fine. I'll just drop it on the floor and you can pick it up. How does that sound?"

"That is sounding good to Dobby, Miss."

She patted Dobby on his skinny little arm. "Shoo. Get some sleep."

The house-elf hesitated for a moment, his eyes searching her face as if looking for an answer there.

"Is something bothering you?" she asked around a yawn.

"Aurora Malfoy is...is looking for her mother in the wrong place."

Rory knew when to take a leaf from Maureen's book. Her hand darted out and grabbed Dobby's pillowcase quick enough to make any Seeker proud. One of the only useful things she had inherited from her grandfather was the ability to stare down a wall when she really wanted to. That was the look she fixed on her face now: the one that announced to the world that she was a Malfoy, and that she was entitled to whatever she damn well wanted. "What?"

"Aurora Malfoy is looking in the wrong place!" Dobby repeated anxiously. "Dobby cannot be telling more! Dobby promised!"

"You promised my grandparents not to tell me?" Rory drew the house-elf forward until he was an inch from her face.

"No!" he squeaked miserably. "Dobby was promising to your father!"

"My father? Dobby – "

But the house-elf had vanished. The only thing she was clutching was empty air.

Rory forced her hand to uncurl. My father? Why would my father do something like that? She shook the thought away. Grandfather probably made Dobby tell me that.

She wished she hadn't sent that letter to Jim. Better yet, she wished she had kept her mouth shut at supper. Life would have been so much simpler then. Or not. Nothing the Malfoy family did was ever simple. They were schemers and plotters.

And liars, she added firmly. Always liars.

As always, that was the heart of her problem. Her grandparents – particularly her grandfather – were about as trustworthy as the less reputable demons. From the gossip Rory had heard from Brian and his various cousins, there had been all sorts of rumors about Malfoy involvement in the Dark Arts back when their parents were students at Hogwarts. She didn't really think her grandfather actually had the guts to be quite that brazen, but she wouldn't put it past him to do something just as stupid and dishonest if he thought it would get him a little more power.

Rory Malfoy, she of the dysfunctional family. Smiling at her humor, she tucked herself under the light coverlet and closed her eyes. She would try tracking down Dobby in the morning, and hopefully by then Jim would have sent back an idea or two with Icarus. Whatever her grandparents had been lying about – and whatever Dobby was hiding from her – could wait until the morning.

Nonetheless, it was a long time before she finally drifted off to sleep.