A/N:Love to Reviewers
Part of a huge anthology. Seriously, this is going to make no sense unless you've read the others.
As I figure it, this story ( and the one that proceeded it, 'I would be that Cloud') takes place eighteen months after Bellatrix's death. Purebloods believe the spirits of the dead can see and hear everyone, so if Pyxis seems to be speaking about her in present tense, that's why.
Title is a reference to Robert Frost
Pyxis Malfoy was troubled. It was winter break, a few days before Christmas, and she had to speak to Grandfather alone. Grandfather could always make a problem seem silly, and Pyxis badly wanted this problem to seem silly. She walked to the morning salon, spied Grandfather and said, a bit timidly "May I ask you something?"
Grandfather put his crossword down and smiled. "Of course, darling. What's on your mind?" Pyxis looked carefully around. Seeing no annoying siblings, she came to Grandfather's side and sat, snuggling against him for a long moment. His arms wrapped around her and he said gently "Pixie, love, has something happened?"
"Grandfather, someone said the other day that Mother is a mudblood. It isn't true, is it?"
Lucius was prepared for anything but that. He took a deep breath and smiled, perhaps a bit more tightly than usual. " Who told you that, Pyxis?"
Pyxis looked away. "Someone."
"I rather inferred, dearest. Which someone was it?"
His eyes widened. "You had a conversation with Weasley's ghost?"
"I didn't mean to, he talked to me first."
"I'm not angry, Pixie, just surprised. He doesn't say very much. He told you your Mother was a mudblood?"
"He said her parents were muggles. That makes her a mudblood, doesn't it?"
Lucius nodded slowly. "Well, that's what we call people like that sometimes. But now, we usually call them 'wards' in public, because when a mudblood is born, we take it and give it to a nice Pureblood couple, to make sure it gets the kind of care it needs."
"Daddy always said Mother's parents died when she was very small, and Grandmama and Grandpapa took care of her, so she was really their little girl. And that's why we don't ask Mother about them, because she doesn't remember very much and it would hurt Grandmama and Grandpapa if they thought we didn't think they're really her mother and father."
Lucius was torn between the urge to strangle the ghost (anatomically impossible, sadly) and strangle his son (possible but messy, and might cause some awkwardness at supper and such). He understood why Draco had told the children that when they were small, but surely he'd thought ahead to when they were older…evidentially not.
"Your father is quite right that you shouldn't ask. It was very hard for her, at first. Grandmama and Grandpapa had to be quite strict to help her get over all the bad behavior she'd learned from the muggles. I think your mother gets very sad when she remembers the first few months with your grandparents."
Pyxis asked what seemed to her the obvious question. " Why would she be sad? Grandpapa always says Mother is his best girl."
"It took your mother a little time to see what Grandmama and Grandpapa were doing was good for her. Muggles are much different with their children than we are."
Lucius held the girl a bit tighter. "Your mother had never gotten a smacking, for one."
Pyxis' eyes went wide. "Never?"
"Never. And her muggle parents didn't make her go to bed, or take potions to keep her well. So when Grandmama and Grandpapa showed how much they loved her by doing those things, she didn't like it at first."
Pyxis didn't quite get it, but she knew if she asked, Grandfather would tell her she'd understand when she was older. "So they're her parents because they took proper care of her?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Is that why Mother doesn't call Grandpapa 'Daddy'?"
"Shouldn't she, though? Since they're really her parents?"
Lucius would kill the boy for this. Yes, and then he'd find a way to get the ghost somehow. He resolved to find a suitable revenge and then tried to explain this to his granddaughter. It was slightly eerie, seeing Hermione's big, dark eyes in Narcissa's face.
"Darling, your mother was a little older than most children are when they get reassigned."
"Then she does remember them? Daddy said she was so small she didn't can't recall anything about them very clearly."
"She remembers a little more than your father let on, I daresay. Right after she went to live with your grandparents, something very bad happened to the muggles, and it…do you know what 'speculation' means?"
"Very good, that's just right. I think—I speculate-- it made your mother feel like she couldn't call your grandparents 'Mother' and 'Father', because she felt so terribly sad about what had happened to her muggle parents. And your grandparents tolerated it because they wanted her to feel safe, and it might not have helped her feel safe if she was reminded too much of the muggles."
"What happened to them?"
"Nothing for you to trouble yourself with." Pyxis nodded obediently, deciding to ask Aulus. Sometimes he would tell, but ever since he'd become Father's apprentice, he'd been different. Perhaps Percy would know.
"Do I need to tell you how very unhappy I will be if you prove to lack discretion in this matter?" He gave her a hard look that set Pyxis squirming. It was a look that promised a long 'discussion' in the study if she should disobey.
"I won't say anything, I promise."
Lucius nodded and stroked her hair. "That's my good girl."
"Is it all right for me to do something nice for Mother, though? As long as I don't mention the muggles?"
Grandfather smiled. "Of course, Pixie."
Pyxis kissed Grandfather's cheek and set off to do something to make Mother feel all better. She'd inherited Draco's talent for art, and she settled on a pencil sketch of Bellatrix and Rudolphus, in part because she wanted semi-consciously to reassure Mother she was loved. Just because her birth parents were filthy muggles didn't mean anything had changed, after all. Grandmama and Grandpapa loved her dearly, and so did Pixie.
Hermione had taken a nap, trying to calm a persistent migraine. It didn't work, but when she woke she was surprised to find a sealed piece of parchment had been slid under her door. Opening it, she was confronted with a rather good rendering of Bellatrix and Rudolphus, clearly taken from a photograph in the album.
A thin, looping hand had inscribed it. "For Mother, Love Pixie." Hermione smiled. What a sweet girl! Donning her outer robes, Hermione went to find Pyxis. "Good afternoon, sweet."
"Good afternoon, Mother. Did you like the picture?" Pyxis moved so her mother could sit beside her on the little divan, where she was attempting to sketch the wall sconce.
"Very much. It was thoughtful of you, to help me feel better this way." Pyxis, who'd had no idea Hermione had a migraine, made the logical jump.
"Then Grandfather told you?"
"Told me what, sweet?"
"About our talk."
"About your parents. It's all right, Mother, no one minds."
"Minds what, Pyxis?" Hermione's instincts told her something had happened. Pyxis, happily oblivious, gave her mother a reassuring hug.
"That your birth parents were muggles. He said Grandmama and Grandpapa were your true parents, and so it isn't like you're really a mudblood, not like Puling Percy said."
Hermione had gone very still. "Lucius told you this? What else did he tell you?"
Pyxis' voice lost its bubbly cheerfulness. "He said something bad happened, and so it made you sad and we mustn't…mustn't mention…" Having realized she'd made a terrible error, Pyxis went even stiller than Hermione. Then, knowing Grandfather would be livid and Mother was very upset, she did the other logical thing and burst into tears.
Lucius, hearing a commotion, walked into the room to find his daughter in law, white as paper, clutching Pyxis, sobbing like her heart was broken. He almost walked out again, but since they'd seen him, he made himself finish what he'd started.
"Hermione? Love, are you all right?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm fine."
"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to! Thought she knew, and now Grandfather's angry with me!" Pyxis ran to Lucius and buried her head in his waistcoat.
"Angry about what, Pixie? Shhhh, it can't be as bad as all that, can it?"
"Yes, it is! All my fault!" Hermione stood and went to her child. "Pyxis, calm down. You didn't know Grandfather hadn't told me about your talk."
Lucius raised an eyebrow. "She was not to tell you."
"I made some comments that she misinterpreted, that's all. I didn't expect to hear about…those issues. It was my fault, Lucius, not hers." He nodded and led his granddaughter to the divan.
"All right, hush. Shhhh, it was an honest mistakes, and you're never in trouble for a mistake, are you?" Just as Aulus was Hermione's and Segitta was the child of Draco's heart, Lucius had always loved Pyxis best. Within two minutes she'd calm down completely, sniffling but otherwise no worse for wear.
"Pyxis, I'd like a word with Grandfather. Why don't you go and read in your room?" Taking the hint, Pyxis made her way upstairs. Hermione took a deep breath and faced her father in law.
"What brought this on?"
Lucius summarized the events as best he could. Hermione nodded. "That's as good a way to explain as any, I suppose."
"Did you never broach the topic before with them, Hermione?"
"Only with Aulus. Draco thinks we should leave things alone, in regards to…before."
"I quite agree, but she was very disturbed and I thought to comfort her. I never intended to cause you distress." For Lucius Malfoy, this was almost an apology.
"She wants to know why you never call Rudolphus 'Father'."
Hermione nodded. "It didn't seem right, and anyway I was so old by then…" She shook her head.
" Of course." Lucius rose to go and Hermione rose as well. Everything was normal until that evening, when it became necessary for Hermione to Floo to Cardiff, because Rudolphus Lestrange was dying.