I can't imagine that you were expecting any correspondence from me any more than I expected to ever write to you again. But here I am, penning a letter to a sister who I have not spoken to since we were at Hogwarts together. What year was that, Andromeda -- 1971, if I remember correctly? Merlin, has it almost been thirty years? There is not enough paper in the world to tell you what has transpired since then, but I do not write to you simply to catch up on old times. Instead, I write to you out of a situation of dire urgency and hope that you will listen -- or, to be more exact, that you will read my plea.
Yesterday, Lucius and I received a letter in the post summoning us to the Wizengamot in six days' time. The letter did not detail the reason behind the summons, but they did not have to. I suspect that they are going to question us about the Dark Lord's behavior then charge us as they see fit. They have already begun to send his followers and servants to Azkaban, which, without the Dementors, is not quite what it used to be, but imprisonment can never be pleasant. I write not because I wish for your pity and forgiveness -- rest assured that I desire neither -- but out of love and concern for my son. Draco has been badly scarred over these past three years. He has seen his father thrown into jail, he has been coerced to do the Dark Lord's bidding, and now, he is shunned and mistrusted by his peers. Thus, I entrust my son's welfare to you. You will look after him, your estranged nephew, when Lucius and I are locked away in Azkaban, yes?
(Assuming there is any gold remaining to our name when we are released, Lucius and I could compensate handsomely for your help.)
Draco is reading the Daily Prophet in the library when his mother approaches him.
"Could I trouble you for a moment?" she asks, sitting down next to him.
He shrugs. "Sure."
"Put the paper down, please."
"But, Mother, I'm reading it."
Sighing, he folds it and places it on the coffee table. "Happy?"
"There may come a time," she mutters, reaching for his hands, "when your father and I will not be here for you."
"What do you mean?"
"Your father and I are going to appear before the Wizengamot tomorrow. It is likely that -- " She takes a deep, shuddering breath " -- that we will not return."
He looks at the paper. The Prophet's front page is adorned with a photograph of two haggard wizards, their hands clapped in chains. Above them, the headline, "LIFE SENTENCES FOR THE LESTRANGE BROTHERS."
"They're going to
put you in Azkaban?"
"If I had to guess, yes, they will try."
understanding, but a useless hope tugs at his musing. "Mother,
what if they only want to question you? You didn't -- you didn't
follow him to the end -- "
A cruel laugh escapes her mouth. "Are you so naïve? Your father is a proven Death Eater, as is my sister Bellatrix. Do you really believe that I could escape with associations like that? They fear that we could come back and ruin things for them again."
"What's going to happen to me?" he stutters.
She turns her beautiful, mournful eyes to him. "Your name was not mentioned in the summons. Pack only the most important things -- clothes, books, anything -- and be prepared to leave for your Aunt Andromeda's at a moment's notice."
Silence, then Draco wrenches his hands away, exclaiming, "Aunt Andromeda? That blood traitor?"
--August 12, 1998
In response to your question, yes, it has been almost thirty years. For that period of time, you and your family have dismissed me as a blood traitor and erased the mere memory of my existence. Now you come to me on your proverbial hands and knees, begging me -- oh, you know that you're begging -- for my help. You have no idea how sweet it is, to hold such power over you, my prideful little sister. It is very, very sweet indeed.
I could let your precious Draco grow up all alone in this new world of ours -- I could ignore him as you ignored me. Revenge is a delightful prospect, I must admit, but if I am going to be honest with you and myself, I am in no position to lord my power over you. You are afraid for your son -- I have lost a husband, a daughter, and a son-in-law in a very short period of time. I have my grandson, Ted Remus Lupin, for company, and he is too young -- four months old and changing hair color by the day -- to listen to my troubles.
I would wish you the best of luck for your appearance at the Wizengamot, but I know that it is useless. I've been following the news quite closely, and the new Minister does not seem inclined to be merciful towards the defeated. Instead, I will reluctantly grant you your favor and take this boy into my care. I assume that the boy has his Apparating license? He can find his own way here.
"Hearing of the fifteenth of August into offenses committed by Lucius Malfoy, Death Eater, and his wife, Narcissa Malfoy, residents at Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, during the Second War."
Draco has seen many things, but sitting among the trial's spectators, he never expected to find his parents as prisoners of the Ministry.
"Interrogators: Kingsley Shacklebolt, interim Minister of Magic; Percy Ignatius Weasley, interim Senior Undersecretary to the Minister; Hermione Jane Granger; interim Court Scribe; and Harry James Potter, the Boy Who Lived."
The sympathetic crowd laughs quietly at the epithet; Draco sinks deeper into his seat. He watches Shacklebolt raise a sheet of parchment and clear his throat. "Are you Lucius Malfoy?"
"I am." Father's face is blank.
"Two years ago, were you charged with conspiring with Lord Voldemort and leading an attack on the Department of Mysteries?"
The audience cringes. Although the Dark Lord is dead and gone and the Ministry's Taboo lifted from his name, most are still too afraid to say it, though Ministry officials are encouraged to use it in public venues.
"Since then, have you continued in your service as a Death Eater?"
His face twitches. "When I wasn't incarcerated in Azkaban, yes."
"So you do not deny that you were a Death Eater until the very end?"
"I could deny it, but who would believe me?"
Shacklebolt looks down at the paper in his hand, his scowl becoming more pronounced by the second. "Your record, Mr. Malfoy, is not good. Various testimonies accuse you of bribery, blackmail, the use of an Unforgivable, attempted murder, Muggle torture, and collaboration with Lord Voldemort. And there are, of course, your previous charges under this court. Do you deny this?"
A pause. "No."
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy." Father nods stiffly as Shacklebolt turns his attention to his wife. "Are you Narcissa Malfoy?"
"You are charged with collaboration with Lord Voldemort. Did you give shelter to him and his followers during the summer of 1997?"
She blinks at him. "I did."
"For what purpose?"
"I was trying to keep my family safe," she says slowly, as if the answer were obvious to everyone.
"Beyond this, did you ever aid in his plans?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"She handed me over to her sister, Bellatrix Lestrange." Draco and the audience's collective eyes turn to a now standing woman on the bench. "She handed me over to her sister to be tortured. When she had Harry, Ron, and me imprisoned in her house, she summoned Voldemort to the manor."
Shacklebolt grimaces. "Do you deny this?"
"I do not."
Draco notices Harry leaning towards Shacklebolt, whispering something in his ear. Shacklebolt nods. "I see. The Wizengamot shall now adjourn for further discussion. This hearing will resume in five minutes."
Around him, the audience relaxes into whisper and gossip. Draco finds that his hands are shaking, and he squeezes them between his knees. His shoulder registers a tap -- his neighbor, it seems, is trying to attract his attention.
"So," he begins, "those Malfoys. Interesting folk, aren't they?"
Draco averts his gaze slightly. Having this stranger recognize the resemblance between him and his father might not in his best interests. "Yes, very interesting."
"They're not going to get away with it this time." He slams a fist down into his open palm. "Convinced us they had a change of heart the first time You-Know-Who was defeated, and off they go without a stain on them. It's different now -- they're going to pay. Just wish that their son were there on the stand with them. Oh, I'd love to see all three of them in Azkaban."
"But -- but don't you think that it might be unfair," Draco stammers, "for them to be treated like this?"
The stranger's eyes narrow. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean, they're already defeated, aren't they? The Dark -- You-Know-Who is gone, and -- and everyone knows that they worked for him. Isn't that already punishment?"
"Of course not, they need to be locked away for life, I say! For life! That's the only way we'll be able to get rid of this filth -- "
"This hearing recommences." Shacklebolt's voice silences the man and those around him. Draco, for one, is relieved to return to the silence. Silence, at least, cannot rant and rave at him. "Mr. Potter would like to speak on the defendants' behalf."
Draco's neighbor whispers furiously, but "Harry Potter speaking on their behalf?" is as far as he gets before others hush him. Draco leans forward, eyeing the black-haired boy as he rises and hoping to never have to see him again.
"I don't have many nice things to say about the Malfoys, but I think that I probably owe Mrs. Malfoy a favor. It doesn't matter why she did it, but she saved my life."
The audience and much of the Wizengamot gasp. The reporter from the Prophet, distinguished by his own private box in the courtroom, bends down and begins scribbling furiously. Draco, who was previously examining his shoelaces, snaps his head upright, puzzled. She saved my life, Potter had said, and Draco is quite sure that he heard correctly. Mother herself remains unfazed.
"The details are unimportant, but without Mrs. Malfoy, I don't think that I would be standing here right now. She and her husband can't be entirely forgiven for what they've done and should still go to Azkaban, but maybe just not for life."
"Hear, hear!" someone from the audience calls. Shacklebolt holds up a hand.
"Order, please. The Wizengamot shall vote on their imprisonment first before approaching the question of the length of their sentence. Those in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?"
Not a single hand is raised.
"Those in favor of imprisoning the accused in Azkaban?"
All hands rise. Draco bows his head; he is now, in effect, an orphan.
"During the recess, it was agreed that the shorted sentence would be ten years in Azkaban. Those in favor of the commuted sentence?"
Draco's eyes move from Wizengamot member to Wizengamot member. More than half the hands are in the air, he realizes, slumping into the bench.
"Those in favor of the life sentence?"
The minority seems to sigh audibly; Hermione Granger is one of them.
"Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy have been charged thusly and will be sent to Azkaban for ten years. They will now be escorted away for further questioning. This hearing is closed."
chatting, the audience stands and readies to leave, but Draco cannot
leave -- not yet. What is this nonsense about Mother saving Potter's
life, and if it is true, why has she never told him? He pushes
through a multitude of bodies until he finds an open aisle. He runs
to the railing separating the raised benches from the court floor.
Arching his neck forward, he calls out after the receding figures.
Father seems determined to not look at him, this heir from whom he has been sundered, but Narcissa turns the gracious arc of her chin towards him, a sweetly sad smile upon her face.
"Just go, Draco," she says.
He can barely discern her words over the din, and then they are gone.
--August 16, 1998
I suppose that I have very little to complain about. Azkaban is much cleaner than I thought it would be. Most of the Dementors have been driven off to some far corner of the world, though it is an on-going process; human guards now stand watch. They are, I would think, much kinder than the Dementors would have been. We have been promised sporadic access to quill and paper so long as we remain obedient and well behaved prisoners. You know that I shall write as often as possible, although all incoming and outgoing letters are screened for security purposes. The food they serve is tolerable enough to swallow. That is more than I can ask for.
Azkaban, however, is still Azkaban, situated in the far reaches of the north. It has a madness all its own, and I am afraid of the impending night. I will face it alone, shut in this square of concrete. I do not even have the privilege of knowing that Lucius is near me. They could have thrown him into the water and I would not know. Perhaps that frightens me above all, that I truly am isolated from everyone and everything.
But I do have this last connection between the world and me. I hope that Draco is safely with you now and that you will write of him later.
Draco sits at the dining table, an empty plate before him. His trunk is packed. The manor is empty.
Yesterday's Prophet is today's company. His parents peer mournfully at him through their photographic limits, but he has turned that side of the paper towards the table. He cannot bear to think about them, let alone take in those features that have always shown so clearly in his own face.
He should leave. He had promised Mother so. But he wants just one more night -- here, in his rightful home.
--August 18, 1998
Draco is still not here. Should I be worried now?
He is still re-reading the little bit of parchment, where Mother had scrawled her sister's address, and praying that he Apparated to the correct house when Aunt Andromeda opens the door.
"You must be Draco, Narcissa's son," she says.
So this is the face of a blood traitor. It is a little worn and taut around the edges, but it is nonetheless welcoming. She does not look anything like the Weasleys. He thinks he can see a bit of Mother in the sharply defined features, but he sees Aunt Bellatrix most of all in those dark eyes, trained upon him.
"Please, come in. I can help you with your things."
Her house is small -- nothing like the manor, naturally -- but it is elegantly, though simply, decorated. Photographs line the fireplace mantle, and in spite of himself, he wanders towards them.
"Oh, looking at the pictures, are you?" Andromeda moves to a spot behind him, her hands perched on her hips. "That first one is of me and Ted on our wedding day."
"He's the Mudblood?"
She makes an abrupt gesture, as if she were trying to grip something. "No, he's actually my husband. He is also dead -- killed by your people, I might add."
"I had nothing to do with it," he retorts under his breath. His aunt appears to not have heard him.
"And that is Nymphadora, my daughter and your first cousin. Oh, I do hate it when she turns her hair blue in that one."
"Is she -- is she also dead?" he ventures.
"Curiously enough, she is. Dead by my dear sister's hand, I've been told."
"You mean Aunt Bellatrix?"
"Oh, yes. Bella would have loved to be the one to kill the blood traitor's daughter -- Bellatrix and her prodigious dueling skills." There is something vague in her voice that makes Draco falter. "Even when we were at Hogwarts, it was obvious that Bella had inherited the family's magical talent. You know, you look nothing like us."
"Like, um, like who?"
"Like Bella and me. You look much more like Cissy -- and your father, if I remember his looks correctly. He was a year below me at Hogwarts. Anyway, that's not important. Next to that picture is Nymphadora in front of the Hogwarts Express, about to leave for her first year at Hogwarts. And that is our family on the day she officially became an Auror. She told me that it was the happiest day in her life. Of course, when she got married, she had a slightly different response. You do know that she was married?"
He thinks of Professor Burbage revolving above him, the thud of snake-on-wood, the Dark Lord's sneer. "I knew."
"Remus Lupin." She gestures to the next picture: Lupin is resting a hand on her shoulder, a deliberate expression of serenity upon his face, and his wife is giggling into the bouquet. "A terrible loss."
Draco cannot look at that picture, so he continues down the row of photographs. "And what about that one?"
"That?" She picks up the framed photograph. Within its borders, an infant is squalling. Each successive cry turns his hair more and more orange. Draco examines him and frowns. "That is my grandson, Teddy -- Nymphadora and Remus's little boy, you know."
"He's living with you?" he exclaims.
She bites her lip, her brow furrowing. "Where else would he live? Mother dead, father dead -- Harry Potter is his godfather, but of course, no one is going to ask him to watch over an orphan." Her face adopts a look of slight bitterness, but it is gone almost instantly. "But you're not here to learn about my family. Let me show you to your room."
There is nothing fancy about his new surroundings. His bed is compact and is bordered by a desk and wardrobe of plain wood. On the opposite wall hangs a mirror. Andromeda deposits his trunk at the foot of the bed and dusts off her hands. "Well, here you are. It isn't much -- " There isn't much at all, he corrects silently " -- but it will do. If you don't have enough clothes, I put some of -- some of Ted's old things in the closet. You're welcome to wear them."
He gives her a stiff nod.
"How much money do you have?"
He glances at his trunk, where a heavy bag of gold hides among his robes. "Some."
"My sister would never put her son out into the world without first arming him with all the world's riches," she sighs. "I'm not asking you to tell me, but I would think that you have more money in there than Ted and I have ever had in our Gringotts vault."
"That would depend on what you do for a living," he says defensively.
She laughs. "Oh, you would taunt me if I told you, but since you are my nephew…I run a used bookstore."
"Oh." The syllable falls from his lips.
"To be more precise, I ran a used bookstore. A friend is taking care of it for me now, though I would like to go back to it one day."
"Why aren't you currently running it?"
A wail pierces the house's quiet. "Well, I'm busy, aren't I?"
--Oh, Merlin. Is Draco with you now and is he safe?
To be stripped of one's prestige, to be alone, to be grafted onto a stranger's world -- these are hardships Draco has always associated with those less fortunate than he. After all, did he not spend his years at Hogwarts making fun of Weasley for having no money, Potter for being an orphan, and Granger for sticking her nose where it did not belong? His place in the world has ever been cemented: he would spend his younger years infiltrating the highest ranks of wizarding society, drinking and partying like all good pureblood sons, and then when his father passed away, he would inherit the family fortune and continue to maintain those Malfoy connections to politics and industry.
Never did he believe that he would be here, a tainted man, a guest of his blood traitor aunt, his existence forgotten by those beyond these four walls.
His life becomes an exercise in ennui. He wakes up late, eats whatever is on the table; Andromeda is already upstairs, tending to her charge. He reads the Prophet -- these days, an interminable account of the Death Eater hearings -- usually twice, three times if he is really bored. Then it is time for lunch. Seated on opposite sides of the table, he and his aunt take this meal together without speaking. She then leaves for her afternoon nap, during which he has been expressly forbidden to disturb her (though it isn't as if he would talk to her in the first place), and he retires to the library. Naturally, Andromeda has accumulated a rather large collection of books over the years, especially when considered in relation to the size of her house. Draco combs the shelves, day after day, desperately searching for any form of diversion. He wishes that he could be like that Granger girl -- or, more specifically, that he could content himself with any manifestation of the written word and proceed to lose himself in it for entire afternoons.
Dinner, without a doubt, is the worst time of day. Sulky with boredom, he does not want to make small talk, and his aunt has learned not to trouble him. When the ordeal over, he can retire to his room at last and fiddle with Exploding Snap cards or play wizard's chess against himself.
He suspects that he should be thankful that he has not been thrown into Azkaban with the lot of them. It is not only the Death Eaters that are being incarcerated but a wide range of ex-Ministry officials and private citizens, even those who claim to have been placed under the Imperius Curse. The new order, it seems, is not taking any chances. The possibility of a resurgence of the Dark Lord's movement must be snuffed out entirely. The Prophet extols Kingsley Shacklebolt's time in office as an era of progressive reform and greater tolerance, but Draco knows too well that tolerance can only extend so far.
--September 14, 1998
Your last letter (no doubt written in a hurry) was not dated. I received it roughly a week ago, and provided that the owls servicing Azkaban can do their job well, I would guess that you wrote it sometime in early September. Your worry is touching but unnecessary: Draco arrived, quite whole, on my doorstep the day after I sent you that last letter. Perhaps we both spoke too soon.
Cissy, I must say that your son is a very reclusive person. I would have thought that he would be more sociable, especially after being brought up in Lucius Malfoy's household, but apparently not. His first day here aside, he and I have hardly spoken. Admittedly, there is not much we can talk about -- I had not met him until recently, and I am sure that you've told your darling son all about my traitorous ways. It is no wonder he can hardly look me in the eye. "Oh, that my Black relatives should have produced such an abomination!" he must think to himself as he turns away from my shame.
But I cannot imagine that you sent Draco here so that we could become the best of friends. There is quite a bit of bad blood between us, sister, and you would not want him to be corrupted by my hideous Muggle ways. No, you are simply using me as you have so deftly used many others, and I have agreed to it.
One night, there is a knock on Draco's door. It can only be one person. "Come in."
"I hope I am not disturbing any top secret operations?" Andromeda asks, poking her head past the door.
Draco shuffles his Exploding Snap cards and sets them on the desk. "Not at all."
"I brought a visitor, if you wouldn't mind." As she walks into his room, she is carrying a small bundle of blankets. That, Draco realizes, is the infant he has been avoiding all this time. "I thought it was time for a proper introduction."
The little boy's face is round, as all babies' faces are wont to be, and his outstretched thumb is hovering near his mouth. The most striking thing about the child is the color of his hair. Most children, Draco thinks, content themselves with brown or black or blond; this one seems intent on acid green.
"Draco, this is Teddy Remus Lupin, your first cousin once removed, if my genealogy is correct."
"Right, he's -- he's very cute," he says quickly as she sets him on the bed.
Andromeda smiles. "I've noticed that you have developed a habit of running away from me whenever I bring Teddy into the room. Do you find the hair a little off-putting?"
"Oh, n-no, it isn't that."
Draco does not loathe the infant -- he has merely objected to him since he gazed upon little Teddy's photograph. It is an irrational reaction, he knows, but all the same, he cannot shake it. The baby, he thinks, is too cheerful -- his vocabulary is just beginning to include actual words, and he delights in shouting them throughout the day. His troubles are evanescent, silenced by a bottle of milk or a soft lullaby. He never appears bothered by his lack of parents, the ongoing Death Eater hearings, or the general upheaval surrounding the rebirth of a new wizarding Britain.
Perhaps it is true, what Draco has been unwilling to admit to himself. Perhaps he truly is jealous of this little boy, born during the violent death of one era but raised for what the Prophet has termed a "new dawn" for this world, for their world. His deceased parents are heroes and will be remembered as such. His grandmother will undoubtedly be painted as the singular decent individual sired by the disgraced Black family. Worst of all, his godfather is Saint Potter himself. And as for Draco -- his parents are traitors, and in the eyes of many, he himself is no better.
Lost among his own thoughts, he does not realize that his aunt's eyes are fixed squarely upon him. He starts, frightened, to find her looking at him so intently.
"No one is asking you to like him," she says.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to -- " he begins, but she holds up a hand.
"Draco, you've just endured a terrible loss. Losing -- losing family members is difficult, no matter how old you are."
He stares at her. "But yours are lost forever."
"That is true." She gnaws on her lower lip, staring at the wall beyond him.
"You do that a lot," he notes.
"What do I do?"
"Bite your lip."
"Oh." She immediately desists. "That habit. Ted was always telling me to stop."
"You only seem to do whenever you mention your, um, your family."
"Yeah, you do."
"I'll try to stop, then, if it bothers you."
The silence between them is filled with Teddy's squeal as he crawls towards Draco's pillow. Toying with her fingers, Andromeda looks at the child. "Adopting Teddy was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, you know. He reminds me so much of Nymphadora." Tears form at the creases of her eyes. "She was twenty-five years old when she died. Nobody that young should have to…and her husband. I don't think Remus was ever very fond of me -- perhaps my last name scared him away -- but he made Nymphadora so happy.
"Sometimes, I can't even stand to look at him. Why should he have a godfather and a grandmother when I've lost everyone, I think? It isn't fair in the least bit, but I will raise him in my daughter's memory."
Draco considers his fingernails. "You haven't lost everyone yet."
"Well, you still have -- you still have my mother and me."
"Ah. Well, I suppose I do."
Andromeda picks up the baby and departs; Draco is left with the ugly taste of sarcasm in his mouth.
September 31, 1998
I apologize for the inconsistency of my responses, though I doubt that you miss them. It seems that the guards at Azkaban change very often -- to prevent them from falling into insanity, I would guess -- and not all of them are so eager to indulge in a mother's plea for writing materials.
It brings me great relief to know that Draco is with you. I can think of no safer place for him to be. I am, however, puzzled by your assessment of him as "reclusive." This is very out of character for Draco, if you are providing the environment he needs. Perhaps you should engage him more, Andromeda. Contrary to what the world would like you to think, my son is not some twisted evil creature. Certainly, he has his prejudices -- who does not? -- but please try harder. He is going to be living with you for the next ten years. Perhaps you could tell him stories. Merlin knows we have plenty of them from our childhood. Anything to make him feel more at ease.
Trapped in concrete, I miss him more than I can possibly express. I send him all of my love and more and pray that you relay it to him.
They are eating dinner, the only sound in the kitchen the clinking of silverware, when Draco sets his fork and knife down.
"Is my roast beef not up to par?" Andromeda asks, doing the same.
"It isn't that. I was just thinking -- thinking that, all this time, I had an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, and no one ever told me about them. Mother only mentioned your name a few times at home."
"That is because I didn't exist."
"But -- but you do exist," he says rather stupidly.
"Let's see, what did darling Narcissa tell you about me? That I ran away with a filthy Mudblood after Hogwarts without any prior warning and was never again in contact with my immediate family and relatives?"
Draco looks down at his lap. "Something like that."
His aunt folds her hands and sets them on the table. "It is true, the story, even if it was told from a slightly biased perspective. Ted Tonks was a Muggle-born sorted into Hufflepuff -- "
"Hufflepuff," Draco says, frowning.
She looks affectionately at her nephew. "I never did understand the animosity most Slytherins display towards that House."
"Were you in Hufflepuff too?"
"Oh, no. No, I was raised a good pureblood daughter and was sorted into Slytherin, just like every preceding Black before me."
"Then how did you -- " He gestures meekly at the house around them.
"How was I disowned by my family?" She shrugs. "It was a gradual process, as most things are. As a child, it is simple and natural to accept what you are taught as golden fact. I never questioned the belief that Muggles were inferior to us wizards, that certain wizards were better than other wizards, that I was one of those certain wizards. Do you think you're one of them, Draco?"
"I -- I guess…maybe. Yes?"
"Hogwarts, really, was the first time both of my sisters and I were exposed to a wider selection of wizarding society. Bellatrix and Narcissa didn't like what they saw, so they only consorted with their own kind. They turned inward while I turned outward."
Draco blinks, attempting to imagine himself marrying a Mudblood (Muggle-born, he corrects) and rejecting all that he has ever known.
"Was it that simple?" he asks.
She pauses, thinking. "Realizing that my parents and sisters were the most awful bigots I could ever meet? Yes, that was the comparatively easier thing to do. Actually leaving them -- that is always harder, isn't it?"
"But you did."
The two words fall upon his ears like iron, and Draco takes refuge in the remnants of his dinner. They finish the meal in silence, and he wonders if his life would have been any different had this aunt not been condemned to nonexistence.
October 20, 1998
I dislike your tone immensely. "If you are providing the environment he needs"? You are fortunate enough that I pitied your situation and took him into my household (and, yes, Cissy, I do remember how you dislike pity; I am sending a lot of it in your direction). He is well fed, well clothed, and if he lacks any friends -- well, you and your husband should have thought of that long before you became tangled with You-Know-Who. I do not want to hear any protests on that point: Draco does not need to believe that you are a common criminal. The Wizengamot has already confirmed that (the transcript of your hearing was printed in the Prophet the day after).
I think you might be right, however, vis-à-vis "engaging" Draco, as you stated it. He is a prejudiced boy, having kindly referred to my husband as "the Mudblood" on his arrival. You and Bella have poisoned him long enough with your anachronistic, elitist blather about blood purity and status. I find that it is my obligation to tell him the other side of the story, as it were.
Perhaps you should have considered that before you sent your darling little boy to me.
Little Teddy is on the floor, tentatively supporting the whole of his weight on his arms and legs. On all fours, he begins his exploration of the living room, gazing at the moving figures on the paintings adorning the walls, groping at the legs of Draco's chair. Some minutes pass before he has a secure hold on one of them. His baby face twisted with concentration, he pulls himself to his feet, his body swaying as he suddenly finds himself to be much taller than before.
As he tries to take a step forward, however, he falls backwards, an irritated "Ow!" shooting from his mouth. Draco laughs. He has been spending more time around the infant as of late; his ritual Prophet reading had grown tedious. The baby, at least, is a little more surprising, a little more spontaneous. It is difficult, sometimes, to believe that this boy is related to him -- he cannot imagine that anyone related to his mother ever gave birth to someone this joyful and temperamental.
"Oh, dear." Andromeda appears in the room, wiping her hands on a dishrag. "Is he trying to walk again?"
"He almost stood up by himself," Draco reports with a judicious nod. Teddy himself rolls over to blink at his grandmother.
"Ah, he's been trying that for a week now."
"Maybe he'll finally do it today."
"Do you think so?"
Teddy is now on his back, sucking his thumb. "Yeah."
Andromeda shakes her head. "From my experiences with raising Nymphadora, I think that it's still a little too early for him. Perhaps in another month or two."
"What if it isn't too early?"
"There is always that possibility, of course. Well, I will be in the library if you need me."
Draco checks once, twice to make sure that his aunt has closed the door and left the room. In the silence, he considers the boy -- before his hair can change from pink to a more normal shade of brown, Draco is kneeling on the floor, a half-smile twisting his mouth.
"We're going to prove her wrong, all right?" Draco holds out his hands with Teddy's reach. "Here, I'll help you and -- and we'll walk to your grandmother and show her that you can do it."
Bewildered, Teddy regards this blond man who is both stranger and family. His brain struggles to process the offer that has just been extended to him -- what exactly is he himself supposed to do? Haltingly, his miniscule fingers search the air until they find support. Grasping at the hands, he finds himself rising through the air. The sudden ascent elicits from him a bubbly laugh, and Draco says to him, "Well done, Teddy. You're standing now. You think that -- that, if I hold you, that you can walk?"
Teddy regards the floor, his weight shifting perilously from foot to foot. Then he raises one of them, suspending it in the air as he searches for a spot where it can land. It stomps down on the carpet with an infant's defiance. Draco issues a steady run of encouragement and praise, but he is more muttering to himself now as this newfound mobility emboldens his cousin. Together, they maneuver through the hallway, avoiding Andromeda's precious vases and paintings, until they are before a closed door. Draco pries one hand away from Teddy and knocks it.
"Come in," says a voice from within.
Draco pushes the door open with his free hand. His aunt is sitting cross-legged on a armchair. Silver-framed reading spectacles balance upon the bridge of her nose, and she sets down her book to observe them.
"You're cheating," she notes.
He looks down at Teddy. "Well, we Slytherins don't play fair, do we?"
--December 5, 1998
Oh, how I wish I could get out of this place, find you, then curse you for being the little traitor you are. You dare to turn my son away from me? Preposterous. Draco knows very well where his true loyalties lie -- they most certainly do not belong to you, a relative who, I might mention, he did not even meet until very recently. If you fancy yourself a better mother to him than I, I who raised and suckled him for all of his life, I would ask that you stop now. Do not lambaste him with your ridiculous rhetoric. My son has endured enough.
As the winter holidays approach, Draco finds Aunt Andromeda's doorbell ringing quite often. For a woman discarded by her family as one might toss out an expired potion, she receives many visitors. Ultimately, he is not surprised: her daughter and son-in-law are feted as the newlyweds who met their tragic end together, and Andromeda herself played a supporting role in the Order's last operations.
Draco has made it a point to hide in his bedroom -- sometimes with Teddy as company -- when these visitors show up. Andromeda does not mind, as it spares her the need to explain his presence and spares him the embarrassment of being revealed as the son of that Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy. When seclusion has lost its fun, he tiptoes downstairs to peek at whoever might be visiting. Sometimes, he recognizes the person, but usually, he does not.
On Christmas Eve, however, a particular visitor deigns to make an entrance into Andromeda's household. Draco identifies the voice almost immediately.
His aunt's firm greeting floats up to the second floor. "Hello, Harry."
"Hi, Mrs. Tonks."
"I suppose you're here to see Teddy?"
A chuckle. "I guess so."
"Draco -- " He collapses onto the bed at the sound of his name " -- could you bring Teddy down?"
Harry is still talking, but Draco is doing his best to block his voice out as he carries Teddy down the stairs. Afraid that he still looks quite flushed, he stalks away immediately once he hands the boy to Andromeda.
"Draco, you and
Harry were in the same year, weren't you?" his aunt calls out,
perhaps the slightest touch of impatience in her voice.
Draco remains focused on the wall in front of him. "Erm, we were."
"Surely it would be impolite to not say hello to an old schoolmate."
Scowling, Draco turns on his heels. Before him is the reason for his lack of social status, home, and family -- before him is Potter.
"Hi," Draco mumbles.
Harry does not say anything and merely nods. Andromeda stares at the chasm between the two boys before abruptly rearranging her posture and informing them, "I'll go and make some tea, shall I? Harry, I -- and Teddy -- will meet you in the drawing room."
"Okay, Mrs. Tonks."
Passing him on her way to the kitchen, Andromeda gives Draco a significant glance. He retorts with a silent glare, only to find himself alone with Potter.
"I didn't know you lived here," he says.
"For now," Draco sneers.
"You mean for ten years, Draco?"
Draco's fingers curl into fists crammed deep in his pockets. He cannot remember if Potter has ever addressed him by his first name. "Don't talk to me about my parents, Potter. You put them in Azkaban."
"Please, I'm trying to -- "
"Trying to what?"
Potter shrugs. "I had no choice."
"You're the Boy Who Lived!"
"But I don't -- it's more than just what I want. Can't you understand that?"
"What -- " he begins, his tongue seared with oppressed fury, but he falters, realizing that he does not understand. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that Voldemort did some serious damage to the wizarding world. The only way it could ever heal -- well, that's the thing, isn't it? It can't heal, so it has to be built again."
Suddenly, Mother's words return to him: they fear that we could come back and ruin things for them again.
"Draco," Harry says, much softer now, "you have to know that -- that I would have let your mother go free, at least. I didn't lie when I said that she saved my life. But what would it have looked like to everyone else if I let someone like her to escape without punishment?"
Religiously schooled in the importance of appearances, Draco nods. "They would have thought the new Ministry were weak."
"I lost too many friends to let what they fought for die."
Potter, Draco thinks, hasn't changed at all. He is still an unobtrusive figure but for the green of his eyes and the marking on his forehead; he is still damnably loyal. Searching for something witty and scathing to say, Draco merely stands, mouth slack and shoulders sagging.
"Right," he says.
"Well, I should -- Mrs. Tonks is waiting for me. She's your aunt, isn't she?"
"On my mother's side."
"So my godson is your -- first cousin?"
Able to correct Harry, Draco permits himself a small smirk. "First cousin once removed."
They consider one another, though their gazes are directed elsewhere. "Teddy is -- Teddy is fun," Draco finishes, hanging his head.
"You think so?"
Potter leaves for the drawing room, and his and Andromeda's voices soon intermingle with languid ease. Draco lingers by the stairs. How could he have forgotten? Andromeda had told him on his first day here that Potter is Teddy's godfather, and Teddy has almost become a younger brother to Draco. Abruptly, Draco remembers being a seven-year-old sitting at Father's feet as the older man explained the various ties that bound the Malfoys to the rest of pureblood wizarding Britain. Father had summarized all of the relationships with perfect competence, but Draco thinks that even he would have difficulty finding a term to describe what has just occurred.
--January 15, 1999
A belated happy Christmas and New Year to you, although I can't imagine that the festivities at Azkaban were at all cheerful. My house has been frighteningly busy: that never-ending stream of well-wishers seemed to double as the holidays approached, and a party of sorts was hosted here. A lot of Draco's classmates were here -- he did not seem particularly enthusiastic about seeing them all again, nor did they seem exactly keen on speaking to him, but he at least mingled among them for the night. Truth be told, he spent more time with Teddy than anyone else. Your son is strangely comfortable with the boy, but that is bad news for you, isn't it?
At last, matters have quieted down, the house has returned to its usual state, and Draco appears to be in a much better mood now that the visitors are gone. It has been so busy lately that I have forgotten even to be angry with you, Cissy. Perhaps you want me to relate to you what has been happening in the wizarding world, though I doubt it would make you happy in any way. Other than that, there does not seem to be much more I can write.
A word that may or may not have sounded like Draco's name explodes from Teddy's mouth as he toddles over to where the older boy is seated in the library.
Draco reaches down for the boy and places him on his lap. Teddy has recently grown fond of sitting on people -- an unfortunate occurrence, really, as he is gaining both weight and height quickly. "Hi, Teddy. Did Grandmother cook you something good for breakfast?"
Understanding the mind of a child is a challenge, particularly when the child is not yet able to express himself in coherent terms. Today, Teddy is generous with his smiles and applause and demonstrates his glee in such language.
"Well, that's good," Draco replies. "Do you want to fly today?"
"All right. Hold on to your broomstick!" His hands secured around Teddy's waist, Draco lifts the boy into the air, who screams with delight. Suspending him some feet above the ground, Draco continues, "Look, it's a lovely view, isn't it? Do you want to come down now?"
Teddy nods, and Draco slowly returns him to his lap, adding a whoosh noise for accompaniment.
"Be careful with him, Draco."
Looking up, he is startled to find Andromeda leaning against the doorframe, where, just earlier, there was certainly no one there. "Oh, erm, sorry. I won't do that again."
"Why not? Teddy seemed to enjoy it."
Draco blushed. "Well,
um, I think my father did that to me when I was younger. But that
was a long time ago, so maybe I'm making that up."
"Always possible." Andromeda nods. "Teddy likes you a lot."
Draco blinks. "Really?"
"You spend hours with him everyday, and you haven't noticed?"
What Draco does not say is that Teddy, having not yet celebrated his first birthday, is not old enough to judge him for what he truly is. All he knows is that there is a tall blond man who humors him. For an infant, this is enough. But in ten years -- in ten years, Draco will be twenty-eight years old and Teddy almost eleven, readying himself for his first year at Hogwarts in the fall. There -- and even before then -- the world will teach him places, battles, names. They will teach him that the Dark Lord was a bad, bad man. They will teach him that those who followed the Dark Lord were bad, bad people. There was Bellatrix Lestrange, whose thirst for cruelty was insatiable; Antonin Dolohov, to whom the concept of morality was a farce; and Lucius Malfoy, the once respectable patron of wizarding society revealed to be no more than a corrupt, unreformed Death Eater.
Will Teddy then remember that it was Draco who helped him to take his first steps?
"Well, maybe I have noticed, but -- but this isn't my home, not really."
"I know that it isn't. You still have your family to think of."
Draco frowns. "I'm sorry."
"Really, there's no need to apologize."
"Maybe -- maybe after my parents are released, you could become part of the family again."
Andromeda laughs. "And break thirty years of pretending otherwise?"
"It's already been broken," he says quietly. "I've seen the letters you've been writing to each other, you and Mother."
"Oh? You were reading my letters?"
"I -- I found them in the library one day. She's been writing to you since last summer, hasn't she?"
"She has." Slowly, Andromeda lowers herself into the chair adjacent to his. "Most unexpected bit of post I ever received."
"I hadn't realized that you were speaking to one another again. I thought that Mother always had your address and just gave it to me that one day."
"She did, actually. How else do you think she found me? I've been living in this house ever since I ran away; it belonged to Ted's parents, who were quite understanding of my situation. When I was preparing the invitations to our wedding, I sent one addressed specifically to your mother and Bellatrix. It would be hopeless, I thought, to convince our parents to attend, but perhaps my sisters, being of a younger generation, would understand. In retrospect, I see that it was stupid to expect that sisterly affection would overcome their conviction that I was a traitor of the worst sort, but -- " Andromeda shrugs, smiling slightly. "They were still my sisters, and when they did not come to my wedding, I knew that it was over."
"But Mother saved the address."
She pauses. "Yes, your mother apparently saved the address."
"She trusted you with my welfare."
"Those exact words," she whispers, closing her eyes.
"She still thinks you're a blood traitor."
"I would assume so."
"But she keeps on writing to you."
"For better or worse. It's only because I am taking care of you, Draco. You don't understand your mother at all, do you?"
"I know she can be a little overprotective, but -- "
"A little overprotective? Draco, your mother betrayed You-Know-Who for -- "
"I know, I know," he says, "she -- wait, what?"
Andromeda lays a hand on her nephew's shoulder. "She betrayed You-Know-Who," she repeats simply.
Suddenly, Draco remembers his parents' hearing. "Is this what Potter was talking about at their hearing?"
"Oh, did Harry mention it then?"
"He said something about -- " He struggles with the concept " -- Mother saving his life."
"That's hardly the full story."
"You know the full story?"
"I didn't, actually, until Harry visited me before Christmas and told it to me. What do you know already?"
"Erm," Draco begins, forcing himself to return to the Battle of Hogwarts. He is standing in the Great Hall as the Dark Lord enters… "The Dark Lord was in the Forbidden Forest, and he had Potter carried into the castle, but I think -- I think that Potter was only pretending to be dead."
"After, well, killing him the first time, You-Know-Who asked your mother to check to see if Harry really was dead."
Draco inhales sharply. "And he wasn't."
"No, he wasn't."
"And -- and Mother, she lied to the Dark Lord?"
"Your mother has her flaws, but she is not stupid. She wouldn't lie to You-Know-Who without a reason, and it had to be the most persuasive reason in the world. She asked Harry if you were still in the castle, alive. Harry said yes, so she turned to You-Know-Who and lied. She lied just so she could know that you were safe. I hardly believed Harry at first because, you see, I had never quite realized how dear you are to her, that she would go so far as to double-cross You-Know-Who -- of all people -- to protect you.
"You're very lucky to be her son, Draco. She loved you enough to entrust you to me, the family blood traitor, though, as you could probably tell from the letters, she isn't exactly pleased with the arrangement. But she cares for you above all else. Next to you, the notion of blood purity is practically irrelevant, and that's saying a lot."
He sits in the quiet, absorbing this last statement. Apparently impatient, Teddy squirms on his lap. Draco sets him down on the floor, where he ambles away. "What about you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you agree to, erm, take me in if you and Mother aren't on the best terms?"
He is ready to give Andromeda some time to think, but she does not seem to need it. Instead, she reaches for his hands, cradling them in hers, running her thumb across their bones and veins. For the first time, it truly strikes Draco that this woman is not merely some stranger who has grudgingly agreed to house and feed him: this woman is kin and as close to him as Aunt Bellatrix (and in his estimation, she is a damn sight kinder than Aunt Bellatrix ever was). A pureblood heir and a discarded daughter; their histories grow intertwined through war and peace.
"Sometimes, I like to pretend that you're my son, not Narcissa's, or that Nymphadora had a younger brother. I know that it's unfair to you and Narcissa to do that, but -- but it is difficult, learning to be alone, and I don't want to be alone, Draco. No one does. But I am alone now. I've lost everyone, and I can't very well march up to your mother and expect either of us to forgive the other. Then I thought that maybe you would be different, that you wouldn't be so rigid, that maybe we could make up for our lost years together. Tell me, Draco, was I right to hope for that?"
Does his aunt realize, he wonders, that she is not the only one who is alone? Ten years is a longer duration than he ever expected it to be. Already, he feels that something tingles in his skin; his old self does not fit so neatly around his joints and limbs. The wizarding world will ever question his loyalty -- his loyalty to this new world and to a dark lord now dead -- but, now, he finds himself doubting that which he had always considered absolute. When his parents return from Azkaban, will the Draco they encounter have changed beyond recognition? What if Mother, aged and haggard, will journey to her sister's home only to hear her son insist on remaining with Aunt Andromeda and Cousin Teddy?
He tries to imagine a life here. Certainly, suspicions might persist, but many worries, he thinks, would be alleviated if he aligned himself with this household. He could be a man redeemed from notoriety; his future would not be so trying. Andromeda would not be such an objectionable surrogate mother, and Teddy -- Draco smiles at the thought of Teddy growing up with him, knowing him to be a good man.
"I can't," he replies, gently retracting his hands from her grasp. "I can't leave my mother now."
Andromeda buries her hands in her lap. "I understand."
From the general area of the kitchen emanates a crash and a frightened cry of "Dwaco!" Draco moves to stand up but thinks better of it. He looks at the soft, crinkled brown of his aunt's eyes and takes a deep breath.
"But maybe I could visit during the weekends and see you -- you and Teddy."
--April 2, 1999
There is little time to write, and I am surprised that I have even managed to get a hold of parchment and quill. The Prophet has yet to report on the event, though I expect that you'll read about it soon enough.
Two days ago, the Lestrange brothers escaped from Azkaban. The guards here were in an absolute uproar about it, interrogating all of us prisoners about it. A rather useless effort, I thought, as we are kept in isolation at all times. Of course, it was only after they finished questioning that they bothered to search their cells, where they found a stash of letters. These letters revealed that they had been conspiring with Augustus Rookwood, whom the Ministry has yet to catch (it is rumored that he fled the country, although if that were the case, you can be sure that the Ministry would be working with foreign governments to secure his extradition). No one here -- and trust me when I say that I have asked as many guards as possible -- is exactly sure what the details of the conspiracy were, but it is generally assumed that they included helping the Lestranges escape. What they were planning to do afterwards is uncertain.
The Ministry will not take any chances again; I expect that some officials from the Department of Magical Law will soon lose their jobs for having given us prisoners the privilege to write. No, the government will think that if the Lestranges were able to circumvent their inspection system, others will as well. Perhaps they are already beginning to suspect a larger conspiracy. As if it isn't already bad enough to be locked in this awful cell for years -- dear Merlin, it has not even been a year and I already cannot stand it! There is no diversion but your letters, Andromeda, and re-reading them until I can speak their sentences from memory. But parchment was not made to survive Azkaban. Already, the salt and grime have worn away the ink, and in your first letter, the words are becoming difficult to read. I press them to my lips as if they were the forehead of my son, and oh, I think I should go crazy if I could not write to you any more. This little room of stone is no company.
I can hear the guards approaching now. They will want their writing supplies back: the "no letters allowed" policy was instated yesterday, and it was only with the greatest persuasion that I could write this last letter to you. I do not know when or even if they will let this letter through. Though I may have limited sway over the guards, it is the warden who determines which letters are sent and which are not, and I have no influence there. For now, all I can ask is that you watch over Draco even as he grows older. I know that our relationship has been, at best, strained. There is so much I could say to you, Andromeda, but they will have to wait another nine years.
"Good morning, Aunt Andromeda," Draco intones as he sits down at the table.
"Good morning, Draco." She sets a few plates down in front of him: eggs, sausage, and a side of fruit.
"Are you going to the bookstore today?"
"Unfortunately, I will. That hapless boy I hired last week can't seem to grasp the idea of ordering by author's last name, so I'll have to fix that before we open today."
"Do you need me to help?"
"No, no, it's quite all right. Richard only botched one shipment of books. Just take care of Teddy, won't you?" Enraptured by the smooth scents of breakfast, Draco nods. Then she adds in a rather different voice, "You'll want to read today's Prophet."
He raises his head. "Anything interesting?" She pushes the paper towards him; he picks it up. Two contorted and laughing faces meet his. "The Lestrange brothers escaped from Azkaban?"
Andromeda's face is grave. "They arranged it through letters."
Draco does not need her to elaborate further. Her meaning is plain enough: any allowances the prisoners of Azkaban once enjoyed will cease. Mother's letters will end.
"I miss her more than I thought I would," he admits to his food.
Andromeda sighs. When he looks at her, he can see the weight of loss carved into the wrinkles of her face. "So do I, Draco."
--April 4, 1999
I do not know if you will ever receive this letter or if I am simply wasting my time, setting words onto paper that no one shall ever read. The Lestranges' disappearance was reported in yesterday's edition of the Prophet. The details of their escape are irrelevant to me -- as soon as I saw the headline, I knew that our correspondences must end here and now. I can only hope that the authorities will be slow in instituting their new policies and that this reaches you in time.
In all honesty, I cannot think of anything to write, but it comforts me just to address something to you, to you know that you are still alive, I think. Matters are proceeding much better than I could have ever expected them to. I've gone back to overseeing that little used bookstore I ran for many years. Draco is now responsible for watching Teddy while I am gone. Have I mentioned that your son was an invaluable addition to this household? He is doing quite well. Sometimes, he helps out at the store and brings Teddy along (the customers seem particularly fond of my grandson; no doubt his hair color is a persuasive marketing technique). I've also taught him to cook, though, alas, he remains mostly hopeless in the kitchen. He is still rather quiet, occasionally troubled, but perhaps this is what happens when one has been forced -- at least, I assume he was forced -- into You-Know-Who's service at such a young age. You were quite right: your son is not a bad man. He could have done well in a different time. He could still do well now.
He thinks of you very much, you know.
But I think I am only speaking to myself now, using the "Dear Narcissa" written at the top of this parchment merely as an excuse to do so. Business has been rather slow all afternoon, and I am quite bored. Your son is at home, preparing dishes for tonight's dinner. Harry Potter and some of his friends will be in attendance. I suspect this will anger you. Draco himself was not pleased when I asked him to help me with the cooking. I suspect that might anger you as well; am I correct to assume that there was some deep enmity between the two boys, or is he simply irritated that he must play cook to the man who sent his parents to Azkaban? Nevertheless, he grudgingly went to the kitchen. Hopefully, our guests will be satisfied with the meal, though I wouldn't put it past Draco to spit in Harry's plate -- unintentionally, of course.
Oh, Cissy, what am I to say to you now? For thirty years, we have maintained a perfect silence and did not object to it at all. Surely another decade's worth cannot be too unbearable? There is Teddy, and for now, there is Draco -- they will be my family. Yet I look at them each night, gathered around the dinner table like sons I will never have, and I feel that something is not quite right. In this little portrait of domestic contentment, something is missing. Now, as I learn that these shall be the last words I will ever write to you, that void grows more pronounced. I learn that what is missing is you, my sister.