Disclaimer: All Harry Potter related characters, places and themes belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury and Scholastic.
(PLEASE READ) A/N: Thank you, everyone, for the support this story has received! I enjoyed writing it so much, and I have all of you to thank for that! I'm sad to see this story come to an end.
Also, an additional note. Portsmouth is located on Portsea Island. Portsmouth is not the actual island.
The movement of the rubber ball going up and falling back down to the bed was damn near hypnotizing. Zane Malfoy watched from his place on the floor as his best mate since childhood, Wolfgang Lupin, threw and caught the rubber ball while lying on Zane's bed.
"I'm bored," Wolf yawned as he caught the ball and threw it back up into the air. "We haven't been graduates of Hogwarts for a full day yet and I'm already bored out of my bloody arse."
"My mum said you can't keep cursing around here. Blake is starting to pick up words, and she said if his first word is 'bloody,' 'shit,' 'bugger,' or 'arse' then she's going to kill you," Zane replied, pulling at a loose string from his sock.
Wolf laughed and threw the rubber ball at Zane. "Aunt Hermione wouldn't harm a hair on my head. She loves me too much."
"Nah, mate, I'm pretty sure she only just tolerates your presence for my sake," Zane said.
"I'm not lying," Zane said with an innocent smile.
"AUNT HERMIONE!" Wolf yelled.
They heard Hermione's footsteps coming down the long hallway and watched her poke her head into the room. "Why are you screaming?"
"Tell Zane that you love me completely, and that you wish I was your son instead of him," Wolf said from the bed.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I really have no idea when the two of you are going to grow up. Dinner is almost ready, by the way. Wash up, please, and can you make sure your siblings are washed up, too, Zane?"
Zane nodded and watched her leave the room. "I told you she only tolerated you," he said to Wolf.
"Wanker," Wolf laughed and threw a pillow at his friend.
"You also can't say 'wanker,' you wanker," Zane said, getting another pillow thrown at him for good measure.
Zane knocked on Deena's door and opened it when she told him to come in. He found his eight-year-old sister sitting on the floor with a large pile of dolls surrounding her.
"Hi, Zane!" she said with a bright smile on her face. "You wanna play with me?"
Zane looked at the dolls with something a little less harsh than horror. "Ah, no thank you. It's almost time for dinner. Mum said to wash your hands."
"But my hands are clean," she said, making two of her two dolls smash into each other. "Lex's hands are dirty, though. Go tell him to wash up."
"Someone's extremely bossy today, aren't we?" Zane teased.
Deena smiled widely at him, displaying three missing baby teeth. "Daddy says I'm perfect."
"Yeah, well Daddy also spoils you to the point of nausea," he muttered.
"But I'm his little Duchess Deena!" she said proudly, with all the hauteur of a Malfoy.
"Of course you are," Zane said. "Now, go wash your hands."
He watched her scramble out of the pile of dolls and run to the bathroom connected to her room, her curly, blonde hair streaming behind her. She looked so much like Hermione that Zane had no trouble understanding why his father spoiled her so much. The trademark Malfoy hair color only made Deena that much more adorable. The baby fat and the missing teeth and the light brown eyes always made any male who talked to her a complete sucker, ready to do whatever she wanted. She had all of her male relatives wrapped around her chubby, little finger.
He left her room to check on Lex, his twelve-year-old brother. Zane and Lex were quite close despite being five years apart in age.
The door to Lex's room was open and the young, blond boy sat on his bed with his headphones, a gift from their maternal grandparents, stuck in his ears as he browsed through a Potions magazine. Yeah, they actually had magazines devoted to potions. Lex was the brainiac of the family, taking after his mother. All the Malfoy children were blondes, but their personalities usually took after Hermione, something she constantly liked to remind Draco about and thank the Gods for.
Zane walked over to his brother's bed and snatched the magazine out of his hands.
"Hey!" Lex said in his pubescent, cracking voice, his dark brown eyes narrowing at his older brother. "I was reading that."
"Mum says to wash up for dinner," Zane said, throwing the magazine back onto the bed.
"My hands are clean," Lex said with a roll of his eyes.
"Just wash them," Zane said on his way out of the room, listening to his brother grumble behind him.
He walked back to his own room where Wolf was still on the bed, except now he was sleeping. Zane shook his head at his friend who always liked to fall asleep when he was bored, usually on any flat surface he could find. Zane crept back out of the room and closed the door behind him.
He walked to the kitchen where Hermione sat at the table, trying to get Blake to eat his crackers. Blake was Zane's youngest sibling at only ten months old. Everyone knew that Draco and Hermione had planned to stop having kids after Deena, but then Blake had come along eight years later as a complete and utter surprise. Zane liked to call him Blake the Accident Baby.
With a mop of pale, blond hair, Blake was a lively babe with pudgy cheeks and bright blue eyes he inherited directly from his grandmother, Narcissa. He also couldn't talk, which made him Zane's favorite sibling.
"Sweetheart, could you hand me that towel over there?" Hermione asked.
Zane picked up the towel draped over the counter and sat down at the table next to his brother's high chair. Blake immediately reached out to cover Zane's face in soggy cracker crumbs. Great.
"Oh, Blakey, don't make a mess," Hermione sighed, handing Zane the towel. "Did Lex and Deena wash up?"
"Where did you leave Wolf?" she asked, ducking as Blake swung his tiny fist in many directions.
"He's sleeping," Zane shrugged.
Hermione smiled at that. "Your father is down in the cellar organizing the boxes. I swear, anytime I ask him to do something he complains more than an old hag."
"I do not complain like an old hag," Draco said from the doorway, wiping his hands on his pants. "If you would let me use my wand, I wouldn't say anything." He leaned down to ruffle Blake's hair and kiss his head. "Give your mother hell for me, kid."
"Really, Draco, what did I say about cursing?" Hermione asked with a frown.
"Hell is not a curse word. It's a place some muggles believe in," he argued, winking at Zane. "Places can't be curses."
She rolled her eyes. "Did you finish down in the cellar?"
Draco snorted. "No. There're too many boxes. How on earth do you expect me to finish without a wand?"
"Would you stop with the wand?" Hermione snapped. "It really wouldn't help you in organizing anything. All it can do is probably lift the heavy stuff. Are you saying that your arms are too weak to lift anything?"
"Shut it," Draco mumbled as he grabbed a glass of water and glared at his wife over the rim.
Zane pressed his hand to his mouth to keep from laughing. His parents' fights never ceased to amuse him. He stopped laughing when Hermione spoke again.
"Maybe Zane can help you," she said.
"Are you busy, Z? I could use your help," Draco said.
"Uh," Zane sighed. "Yeah, okay, I can help. Wolf won't be up for a while."
"I swear that boy takes more naps than Blake," Hermione said, making a silly face for her baby. "Doesn't he, Blakey?"
Zane and Draco grimaced. Neither one of them could stomach the baby-talk, but Hermione loved all of her children so much she really couldn't help it.
Coughing strongly as a layer of dust scattered from an old box, Zane waved away the dust and moved the box with his foot. "What's in this one?"
Draco looked up from his spot across the cellar. "Is it labeled?"
Zane shook his head and knelt down to try and open the box. "There's nothing written on it."
"It might be your old toys. Your mum said if we found them to bring them upstairs to give to Deena and Blake."
He carefully opened the box, trying not to spread the dust around too much, and reached inside. The cellar of the house wasn't too brightly lit, but he could still make out the shapes of all his old toys in the box.
He picked up the first two items at the top and stared at them with his mouth slightly hung open. His two favorite toys, the two things he had never let out of his sight: Rosie and Posey the dinosaurs. It had been ages since he'd seen them. On his ninth birthday, Draco and Hermione had convinced him to give them up, and he had done it reluctantly.
Looking at the green dinosaur, Posey, his mind was suddenly filled with the reason he had it. He looked up at his father, who was rifling through another box.
"Whatever happened to Pansy?"
Draco's movements stopped and he lifted his head to meet his son's gaze. "Pansy?"
"You never talk about her, except for that time when Lex was six and he drew a picture of a monkey, and Donny said it looked just like Pansy…"
"I haven't heard from her or heard anything about her," Draco shrugged.
"Is she still married to that guy?"
Draco shrugged again. "Why all the questions?"
"I don't know, I'm just curious. She is my mother after all…"
"Hermione is your mother," Draco said sharply.
"Dad, I know that," Zane said patiently. "But it doesn't stop me from wondering. It's not like I can completely ignore who she is."
"I don't know what's happened to her, Z, and I really don't care."
"Does mum know about her?"
"No, and I don't want you asking her," Draco explained.
"Okay," Zane said quietly, putting the two dinosaurs back into the box.
"Zane," Draco sighed, "don't be upset."
Zane looked up and shook his head, forcing a smile onto his face. "I'm not upset, Dad, honestly. I'm just curious. It's not like I've had a void in my life where a mother should have been. I promise."
Draco looked at his son for a long moment and then smiled softly. "Okay, help me with those boxes and we'll be done for today."
Dinner was normal: loud babbles coming from Blake, Deena trying to avoid getting food thrown at her by Blake, and Lex getting chastised for bringing books to the dinner table. Zane watched all of this with a heavy heart and after dinner, he snuck up to his room to find Wolf still asleep. He grabbed his wand and stuck it in his pocket before leaving the room.
He paused by the living room where Draco and Hermione sat with Deena and Blake.
"I'm going out for a few hours," Zane said.
Draco looked up from bouncing Blake on his knee. "Where are you going?"
"Just out," Zane said with a shrug. "Wolf's sleeping, and I'll be back before midnight."
"Do you have your wand?" Hermione asked. When Zane nodded, she smiled. "Have fun, sweetheart."
Zane grabbed his cloak, but then stuck it back on the coat rack. It was too hot for a cloak; his jeans and shirt would be enough. As he left the house, he took a deep breath of the salty air around him.
After Lex had been born, his parents had decided that the flat they lived in was too small to raise a family, so they had packed up and moved to a fairly quiet area in Portsmouth. Portsmouth was actually located on an island with a small channel separating the island from England. Several bridges connected the island to the mainland, but transportation was really never a problem with Apparition and floo.
Zane walked down to the docks and let the slight wind ruffle his hair. Hermione was always urging him to get it cut, but he never even noticed it. It curled annoyingly, always causing Draco to wonder where he got the curls and waves from. Hermione liked to tell him that the milkman was really Zane's father.
The tips of his hair brushed against the collar of his shirt and curled over his ears, but he usually just pushed it away with his hand. With age, the dark blond had mixed with lighter shades, leaving him with a mess of dark and pale strands.
He really preferred not think about his hair. It only made him stress.
He stuck his hands into his pockets and finally reached his destination, an area below the docks where he could apparate in private. With all the concentration he could muster, he went over the rules of international Apparition and left the humid air of the beach behind him.
After getting the address from a directory and getting directions from a café owner, Zane made his way up the long path to the chateau he vaguely remembered from childhood.
He really didn't understand his reasons for being where he was. There was a part of him that really just wanted to know what Pansy was up to. There was also a tiny part of him, a vengeful part of him (no doubt the Malfoy part of him) that wanted her to regret not loving her son.
He strode to the door and knocked quickly, stepping back and running a single hand through his hair. He counted to ten as he waited for the door to open.
He wasn't surprised when a house-elf opened the door and stared at him quizzically. "May I help you, sir?"
"Yes, uh… is Pansy here?"
"My mistress is home, yes!" the house-elf squeaked. "Who may I tell her is visiting?"
"Um, tell her it's Zane Malfoy," he said nervously.
"Master Zane!" the house-elf squealed. "My, but you have grown so big! I remember you when you were just a babe and then when you were with us when you were such a small child!"
"Oh, thanks, I guess," he said. "I'm sorry, but I don't remember your name. It's been a long time."
"I'm honored that you'd like to know my name at all, sir! I'm Sicily."
"Hi, Sicily," he said.
"You must come inside, sir, hurry now," she said quickly. "Follow me and I'll take you to my mistress!"
Zane stepped into the grand house and followed the house-elf as she scurried to what he assumed was a sitting room.
"Mistress Pansy, young Master Zane is here to visit!" Sicily said excitedly.
Zane stood in the doorway and watched the dark-haired woman facing away from him turn around and stare at him in surprise. She had been sitting with a book in her hands, enjoying the warmth from the fireplace.
She stared at her son for a long while, looking into his eyes and then looking him up and down, not quite believing who stood there before her.
"Hi," Zane said quietly, looking away from his birthmother and staring at his shoes.
"What are you doing here?" she asked slowly.
It had been a mistake. He shouldn't have come. He had a perfectly fine family back home who loved him with all of their beings, and he had come for no reason other than to satiate his stupid curiosity.
"You look so much like your father," she said. "I can't believe it's you."
He looked up at her and shrugged. "I just came by to, uh, see what had happened to you. I saw something today and it reminded me of you."
"Really? What was that?"
"I found that dinosaur you had made for me when I was here," he explained, realizing how dumb he sounded.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember," she said.
Zane watched her as she gestured for him to take a seat. She had aged, lines marking the corners of her lips and eyes. She looked tired.
He took the chair across from where she was sitting and tapped his heel nervously. "How is your husband?"
Pansy stiffened and then looked at the fireplace, her eyes turning icy. "He passed away two years ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."
She shrugged and continued looking at the fireplace. "How is your father?"
"He's fine," he answered.
"And his wife?"
"Mum is fine, too," Zane said. He noticed her wince as he called Hermione his mum. He couldn't help it. It was the truth.
"I didn't have any children after you, Zane," she said suddenly. "Angelo couldn't have children. But I loved him, and I thought I didn't need any children in my life."
Ummm… ok, that's random, Pansy…
She turned to him and smiled slightly. "You've grown up so much. You're basically a man. I just… I just wish, I could have changed things a bit. Maybe I wouldn't be so lonely these days. I've had a lot of time to think about my life, and I know I made some mistakes, but I'm actually glad your father raised you. Lord only knows what could have happened if you had stayed with me."
Zane stayed quiet and felt awkward as he listened to Pansy's monologue.
"I'm happy you came to see me, Zane," she said softly. "You're a good boy and have been raised right. I don't deserve your kindness, but I thank you anyway."
"It's no problem," he mumbled.
"Do your parents know you're here?" she asked.
"Uh, not really. I don't think they would like it much to know that I'm here," he said.
"I know what they think of me," she said. "It's not like I like them very much either. But, you… you're a kind person, Zane. Would you… could you… tell me about you."
Zane blinked slowly and then cleared his throat, not really knowing what to say. Pansy urged him to tell her about his time at Hogwarts, his siblings and his plans. He spoke quietly, looking down at his knee or at the wall while he spoke. After nearly two hours, he finally stood up and ran a hand through his curls, a nervous habit he couldn't seem to get rid of.
"I should get going now…"
"Thank you for coming, Zane," Pansy said earnestly as she stood up next to him. "Would you… would it be a great bother for you to visit again? I mean, I enjoyed your company, and I… well, I don't get many visitors."
"Yeah, I could do it again," Zane shrugged. He paused for a moment and looked at her. He spoke before his mind had the chance to stop him. "Why didn't you love me when I was younger?"
Pansy's jaw slackened slightly.
"I wasn't a bad kid," he continued, looking down at his shoes. "I've always felt like I did something wrong, something to make the woman who was supposed to be my mother hate me. I tried to be good, I really did. I had a father who loved me unconditionally, grandparents who spoiled me to pieces and a mother who loved me fiercely, never letting me remember that my birthmother didn't want me. But I never forgot. It was always in the back of my mind. I love my family, and I am privileged to have them love me back."
His breathing was harsh now as he ran a hand through his hair again. He had never said any of these things out loud. He had never even thought so hard about them.
"But, it pissed me off that you didn't like me. I don't even know why I should care! It pisses me off even more that I do care. Maybe I'm selfish and I have this subconscious need for everyone to like me, or maybe I'm just stubborn like everyone else in my family and can't let things go… I don't know. I'm… I just… ugh, forget it. I'm sorry. I'll go."
He turned to leave and was stopped by the hand on his shoulder.
"I can't change the past, Zane," Pansy said in a near whisper. "I probably can't make things right between us, and I don't really know how to try. But, I can apologize for my past behavior. I can start a different relationship with you now. I can't be a mother to you since you have one that did such a wonderful job, loathe as I am to admit it. You're all I have left, Zane. I have no qualms with using guilt as a motivation; it's what made me a Slytherin… I don't think it's time for you to forgive me, but I do hope that you can give it a chance."
Zane nodded stiffly and then walked out of the sitting room.
As he reached the door in the front hall, he felt arms go around his waist and squeeze him tightly before releasing him quickly. He turned, surprised when he saw Pansy wiping at the corners of her eyes. "Go on home, Zane. I'm expecting you to come back. You still have to fill me in on oh so much."
He nodded again and then left the house, his head swimming with confusion and a bit of euphoria. He hadn't known what to expect apparating to France, but he was glad he did it. The relationship with his birthmother was not even close to being normal, but with time, maybe he could come to understand his motives for seeking her out.
For now, he had a family that wanted him back at home and that loved him more than anyone should love another human being. For now, that would be enough.
With a smile, he apparated back home to Portsmouth.