DISCLAIMER This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling and her various publishers. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: The middle and surname of the charachter in this story (this is not a Mary Sue; we have been writing various other stories with this charachter outside the Harry Potter universe for decades) is actually a combination of family names. McAllanwyr is, from our research, one of the ancestral names in SisterSlytherin's family, and Rhiannon is the first name of SisterGryffins Great-great-great grandmother. And the first name is an extension of SisterGryffin's daughter's name.

Setting is 7th year, halfway through (winter break). The operation to safely extract Harry from Privet Drive was a success and there was no attack on the wedding at the Burrow. Voldemort has remained in hiding, and Horcruxes are not an issue. Into this alternate reality we go, to begin our tale…

-.

Draco sighed; he was completely and thoroughly bored. Christmas holidays lasted far too long this year, in his opinion. He was ready to go back to school but he couldn't find any excuse to leave his mother for the next three days. Immediately following Boxing Day, they had left the cold snow-covered environs of Malfoy Manor and come here to the summer cottage; a sprawling villa on the banks of the Mediterranean ocean to wrap up the holiday. It had been nice, hiking down the cliff side to get to the small private stretch of beach for a day or so, but when he was by himself it only made him feel lonely and a little depressed because it would make him think of what his future held for him. He was looking at a wedding to a girl he couldn't stand, following in the footsteps of a father he despised and feared, and watching the death of the one person he wished to live the rest of his life with. To say that his life was depressing was an understatement.

He leaned back in his overstuffed armchair with a book from school; his favorite subject of potions. Severus had assigned his class a rather challenging project for the Christmas holidays that involved both research and potions composition. The students had not been given the name of the potion but they had been instructed to research its name, find variations, and find if it had an antidote or if it was, in fact, an antidote. The potion was to be created, and then a three-foot scroll was to be written in essay form to explain the information researched and why the potions' composition must be precise and what deadly results would occur to the potion were they to fail in its proper creation.

The fact that the Potions Master had required such a complex assignment had actually come quite in handy over the holiday. He used his homework as a valid reason to avoid several meetings with his father and the Death Eaters, and his father had actually checked with Severus before allowing him to avoid any sort of meeting.

Father had finally left on Boxing Day. He had said that it was a business trip and no one had questioned him; in fact, Draco was quite happy to see the man go.

"Aunt Narcissa?" A voice Draco knew well but had hardly expected to hear came from the doorway. He looked up from his book, surprised. He hadn't seen her over two years.

"Devon..?" Narcissa asked, rising from her chair beside the fire. "Devon, is that you...?" her voice betrayed her slight unease at the re-appearance of her wayward niece.

Devon was, as far as anyone knew, the only living child of Regulus Black. She had been conceived in the short time between his graduation from Hogwarts and the time he was killed. Her conception may have been part of the reason he had attempted, unsuccessfully, to detach himself from the Death Eaters and his actions resulted in his gruesome death at the hands of Lord Voldemort himself. Having been quite close friends with the Malfoys, Lucius and Narcissa had been named the child's godparents the moment that Regulus was aware of the pregnancy. The woman who carried his child had been hand-chosen by the Dark Lord and given to him to produce his pureblood children to carry on the Black line. She was everything the Dark Lord wished required a woman to be; she was compliant, unquestioning, and beautiful with a strong wizard family background. She was also, unfortunately, highly dependent upon others for everything. She was so delicate that she could not even look after herself even with the aid of house elves.

Having been good friends with Regulus, Lucius moved the young woman into his home with himself and his young bride. She had to be constantly monitored throughout her pregnancy and she had become bedridden once she found that Regulus had been killed and she herself, as his mate, was in disfavor with the Dark Lord. In their home had been where the infant girl had been born, and her poor mother had never quite recovered from that birth. The young woman pleaded with them to be sent off to America to be with her distant family; Narcissa had arranged for her to go. That woman had been far too weak to care for an infant and as the godparents of a child with magical talent; there was no choice at the time but to shelter that infant girl in their home. Easily enough done, for at that time they had no children of their own.

The baby had grown older and learned to walk... and from the first moments that she was able to speak, Lucius had grown to despise the child. His anger toward her knew no reason yet his anger increased each passing day. His dislike and irritation with little Devon only grew when she began to show powers that he did not understand. Narcissa had been certain that when the girl was old enough her husband intended to present this little girl to the Dark Lord as a gift.

Still time passed, the girl grew, and Narcissa spent her time rearing the little girl as her own. When Draco came along the girl was delighted, not jealous, and she had some bit of help with the baby so Narcissa had felt her burden was lighter somehow. Lucius began to spend less and less time at home, using this excuse or that to avoid coming home. Devon began to display the fact that she did indeed inherit her father's magical talents and would one day become a member of the magical community. But it was much more than that; Devon had been a highly unusual child. That had been abundantly clear when she was two and things had hovered about the room at the girl's slightest whim. As Devon had grown and aged, she had developed a sort of control over more and more things. This ability to do instinctual magic did not impress Lucius at all; in fact, it outraged him. Each thing that the girl showed she could do angered him more until he felt the need to discipline the girl. His first attempt of discipline had forever cemented her hatred of him as well.

That is the time that the Dark Lord had been at his greatest power; Lucius had fancied himself to be the Dark Lord's strongest and most treasured supporter. He had come to spend less and less time at home, which had actually been a relief to both Narcissa and the children.

Then the stranger had come. She was an oddly tall, eerily quiet and incredibly pale woman whose talk with Narcissa, in retrospect, was as vague and confused now as it had been immediately after the discussion. The visitor had told her that Devon's training could not be properly done at Hogwarts, and it should not wait until she was grown. Her training must begin, and it must begin immediately. When the odd woman had left, she had spirited Devon away with her. The house had been so quiet; she had put all her heart and soul into raising Draco to be the best wizard he could be.

Narcissa pulled herself back to the moment to find Devon smirking at her. "And who else would be calling you Auntie?" She asked sarcastically, moving to the older slim witch and placing a light kiss on her cheek. "He's not here, is he...?" she asked, glancing toward the door.

Narcissa knew who 'he' was; she meant her husband. "No, Lucius is not home right now; he did not tell me when he will be returning."

"Good." she said quietly. "Aunt Cissy, I need your help." Devon said softly.

Narcissa studied her young niece, just over twenty or so years at the moment. She drew a long breath before she answered in carefully measured words. "If it is within my power, I will help you Devon. You know I would never turn you away." she said cautiously. "Tell me, what trouble have you gotten yourself into...?"

"Trouble...? Me?" She asked with her eyes wide in mock-innocence.

"Don't you give me that, you little hellion!" Narcissa couldn't help but laugh at her play of innocence. "You forget I was there the day that you were born! You came out backwards and a full month early. No one believed you would make it through the day except your poor mother..." she shook her head.

"You did all you could for her, Aunt. You were little more than a child yourself then and I don't blame you at all." Devon gave her a soft smile. "So don't go blaming yourself either."

Narcissa smiled up at the young woman. "So what is it you need of me?"

"I need a place to hide a young friend. There are forces that threaten her at our school right now."

"Forces... you cannot protect her? With all of your powers and training...?"

"I'm working in it, but I'm concerned someone might get to her while I'm tied up with something else. I can't have her in the way if I am to do what needs to be done."

Draco, still sitting in his favorite chair, was listening in silence, absorbing the information.

Narcissa bit her lip nervously, looking worried and thoughtful. "Is she pure blood...?" she asked softly. "You know how your uncle is..."

"Auntie, she's not even from this world...! Her powers aren't quite like ours; she doesn't need a wand at all. Her healing abilities are like none I have ever seen...!" she began, and then scowled. "Pure blood!" she spat the words. "Hells fire!" She stalked over to the bar and snatched up a bottle, fixing herself a drink. "I don't think Uncle Lucius has to worry about pure blood...!" she snarled, then glared at her aunt. "Look, if you won't help me just say so and I'll find another way to protect her!"

Narcissa did not flinch under that glare, only meeting it calmly. "I never said I wouldn't help you, did I Devon? But you do know how your uncle is."

Devon sighed, her anger draining away like so much water through a sieve. "Yeah, I know..." she grumbled.

"How old is this young lady?" she asked.

Devon glanced over at her younger cousin Draco, seated in one of the squishy armchairs near the window. "About Draco's age, I believe; nearly seventeen."

Narcissa paced over to the window, deep in thought. Perhaps she could manage this, perhaps... Devon stated this girl was not of this world... she was from the school Devon had been gone to for so many years. She would have to see the girl before she agreed to anything.

Draco cleared his throat to get the attention of both women. "You know, she doesn't have to stay here, mum." He said, straightening up as he set his book aside. "She won't be in father's way at all if she comes to school with me. I don't mind cutting my holiday short and spending the rest of it at school. That way I have a couple of days to show her around the castle before classes start next week. And I know she's had to leave her school; this way she can continue with some sort of studies. She'll have to use a wand, of course, but I doubt the Headmaster would object; he's always meddling in people's lives and loves to feel he's helping charity cases." he snorted wryly. "We could just tell everyone she is an exchange student from some private school or something from out of the country."

Devon eyed her cousin. He had certainly done a lot of growing in the last two years since she had seen him; he had filled out and shot up in height and he had turned into quite a handsome young man. He was every bit as handsome as his aristocratic father. She gave him a grateful grin for his suggestion. "You know, that just might work."

Draco gave her a small smile in return, enjoying the recognition from her. He had always admired Devon; she had been so incredibly powerful that she had to be taken away for training. He was rather proud of himself to come up with a suggestion that pleased her.

"Let me discuss this with Severus." Narcissa smiled, finding that she rather liked the idea as well. It would solve the dilemma she faced involving her husband in the whole situation. She quickly moved out of the room to the floo room in order to do exactly that.

Devon turned her attention back to her young cousin. "So, Draco; tell me how are your studies coming? You had better be top of your class."

"In some classes, yes... I am tops in potions, naturally, and doing quite well in Defense Against the Dark Arts..." Draco nodded. "How about you? I wish you'd been able to attend Hogwarts me; that would have been great..."

Devon couldn't help but laugh at that statement. "Me? At Hogwarts?" she chortled. "I would scandalize that school; they'd have me out on my ass in the first week."

"Well then you could have gone to Durmstrang..."

"Nah. It wouldn't have worked out for me there either. Besides, if I hadn't gone off for schooling, I would never have met Sharlis, would I? And then where would I be...?" Devon poured herself a refill and strolled over to sit on the arm of Draco's chair.

"When are you going to bring her home to meet us, anyway?" he asked, smiling up at her disarmingly while his hand slipped over the glass and lifted it out of her hand as if to set it on the side table. He did no such thing; instead he brought it to his lips and sipped the brandy.

"Give me that, you imp!" she chuckled, taking her goblet back from him. "Maybe someday I will bring her here to meet you... and why would you care, hmm?"

"She's got to be really something to wrap someone like you around her finger so completely; I'd love to meet her and see just what she's like." he grinned at her. "There isn't anyone like that anywhere around here."

Devon laughed, running her fingers through her cousin's soft blonde hair. "You know, you've got some gorgeous hair, little cousin. I love your hair. You ought to let it grow, Draco."

"You're one to talk, Devon. Your hair is shorter than mine; way too short for a woman. Why do you keep it so short?"

"It gets in my way." Devon shrugged. "I don't like to mess with doing my hair. Besides, keeping my hair this short really pisses your dad off." she smirked at him and he laughed. "So tell me, how many of your little school mates does my handsome cousin have wrapped around his little finger?"

Draco sighed heavily, slumping back in his chair in clear dejection. "None I really care to have wrapped about any part of me." he grumbled, his mind going as it invariably did to the one person he should have no feelings for at all. Dark hair and stunning green eyes... his mind always wandered there when he thought of romance and his future... and he knew it must never be.

"No?" Devon looked down at her cousin. "There's someone you fancy though... I can see him in your thoughts, clear as day."

Draco immediately focused his mind on the slim pert heart-shaped face of Pansy Parkinson framed by her straight blonde hair, frowning up at Devon. "Hey, don't you go poking about in my mind."

"You're the one projecting the pictures to all who possess the ability to See them, little love. And thinking about that prudish looking yellow-haired twit isn't helping, I already Saw that young man." she scolded gently. "What did I tell you last time? You must shield your thoughts so that others can't read you so easily."

"Easier said than done." he answered with a sigh. "It doesn't matter how much you explain it, that shielding stuff doesn't really make any sense to me. Don't get me wrong; I've tried at least a dozen times, it just never works." He shrugged. "I'm quite good at occlumency; it's good enough for the people we have around here."

"Huh. You just try to get into my mind." Devon challenged, grinning at the young man.

"Occlumency isn't to get INTO people's minds, it's to keep them OUT...!" he laughed, playfully shoving at her. "Besides, if I managed to I'd probably see things that would leave me scarred me for life!"

Narcissa returned to the room. "Severus has consented to come and speak with us; he will be here in a few moments."

"Good. The sooner Arian is out of danger the better." Devon sighed gratefully.

Narcissa returned to her chair and sank into it gracefully. "Her name is Arian...? We'll need to know her background, her origins..."

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." Devon shrugged. "Just make some kind of shit up..."

"Just 'making some kind of shit up' as you so delicately put it, will likely end up causing her to be in more trouble than you claim that she is currently in." Severus said distastefully. He had arrived with nearly no sound whatsoever, his voice slow, calculated and heavy with sarcasm that always sounded ultimately irritated. He was brushing dust from the fireplace off his crisp black robes, the fabric snapping as he moved forward. He was tall, slim, and sallow-faced; his black hair appeared to be slightly oily with a hint of wave and unbound. "A made-up story will fall apart under any sort of close scrutiny, which I am sure that she will be subjected to by the students alone, not to mention the staff at the school."

"Then give her my story." Devon returned. "I'm only a few years her elder and not many know me by my name anyway."

He raised an eyebrow at her, thoughtful but still scowling. "That... could work..." he said.

"When will she be here?" Draco asked.

Devon rose, handing the brandy glass to Draco. "Be right back." she said, and then vanished before their eyes without a sound.

Snape scowled, sighing. "She will never change, will she?"

"Did you truly expect her to?" Narcissa asked, her words drifting off as she noticed that her son was tipping the brandy glass up to take a drink. "Draco!" she scolded.

"Just teasing, mother..." he said as he looked at her. He gave her a smile of sweet innocence as he set the glass down on the table.

"Right." Snape said in a tone that clearly conveyed his sarcastic disbelief. "So tell me, Draco; have you been keeping up with your schoolwork? That was an important assignment I gave your class just before the holiday; and you do know that it is due upon your return..." he drawled, seeing the schoolbook on the side table beside the goblet.

"Oh, he finished that work the first few days of holiday, Severus." Narcissa said with clear pride. "He has never been one to leave his assignments until the last minute, especially not if it is for potions class."

"Is that so?" Severus raised an eyebrow.

Draco grinned and shrugged, then looked toward the door. "Devon's back." he announced.

Devon walked back through the doorway into the room, leading a girl who was much smaller in stature with very long dark hair. She didn't look to be sixteen; in fact she looked like she could pass for pre-teen. She had a very pretty face with high cheekbones and large dark eyes that would clearly express her emotions, they showed unease at the moment. She wore a simple white tunic of silk in a style that Draco had only seen in old textbooks of the Roman period, bound at the waist with a belt of plain silver. The tunic's pure whiteness stood in stark contrast to her caramel colored skin. Her hair was braided down her back, the thick plait held by a silver clasp as well. Draco found his eyes drifting over her appreciatively; she as quite beautiful in his opinion and a relief to the eye when surrounded by blonde women all the time. His mother was blonde, and everyone his father considered to be a possible match for him was blonde as well. He was heartily sick of looking at blondes!

"She does have the proper look for a Black." Severus mused.

"So I see, Draco." Narcissa said, looking at the girl. "Your name is Arian...?" she asked the girl.

"Yes, my lady..." she said softly, shyly meeting Narcissa's gaze. "I am called Arian..."

"Is that your full name? And how old are you, child?"

"My given name is Arianrhod Rhiannon McAllanwyr." she answered. "And I am sixteen, my lady." her eyes drifted to Draco to meet his gaze. She smiled at him a bit shyly, and he smiled back with a warm smile that he intended to reassure her; he was happy to see that it seemed to work and she relaxed somewhat.

"This is my son, Draco Malfoy." Narcissa introduced. "And I am Narcissa Malfoy."

"I'll be seventeen this year." Draco said, tossing his head to send a stray strand of white-blonde hair out of his eyes and it fell perfectly back into place.

"I am happy to make your acquaintance, Draco and Lady Narcissa..." Ari looked up at Snape. "And your name, my Lord…?"

Severus snorted at the question. "I am no one's Lord. I am simply Professor Severus Snape." his voice was harshly correcting, cold and distance. "I teach at the school where you will be hidden."

"Forgive me, Professor." she said, giving him a respectful small bow, hands clasped before her. "May I ask, sir, what is it that you teach?"

"Potions." he said the word bluntly.

"Truly?" her eyes lit up with hope. "Oh, that is wonderful... perhaps you could help me, please? I have a class in potions at my school and this potion is causing me so much trouble; I can't seem to master it at all." although she spoke no word at all nor even make any gesture other than extending her hands outward, a book appeared in her hands and she opened it to a page. The potion on that page was very complex and one that the Potions Master had never seen. "Truthfully, it isn't the spell itself that troubles me, it is the meaning of the terms involved and the interpretation of these runes and symbols..." she looked up at him with expectant hope.

He hesitated, then reached out and took the book from her, turning it so that he could study it for a moment or two in silence. His eyes ran over the words and runes; he would love to try this out and see exactly what its effects were. "I have not seen this potion before. I know these runes and symbols, though, for the most part. I may be able to tell you, but it will not be today. It will take much study and research." his eyes returned to her and she could see that he wished to not only read this book but to study and copy its contents. He sighed softly. "There is nothing we can do if you cannot understand the importance of your cover story. You must understand this most clearly of all of us; it is life or death for you. If we are to be able to pull any of this farce off with any semblance of success, you must never do anything as you just did in summoning this book. Magic of that sort is not done here." He turned his eyes to Devon. "Did you tell this girl nothing?"

"I didn't have time." Devon shrugged, clearly unconcerned, lounging comfortably on the couch, Draco's book in her hands, nonchalant and relaxed. "Don't worry so much. Draco will help her and I'll stick the basics into her pretty little head before I go."

Severus frowned at her bland lack of concern for the gravity of the potential situation. "It is highly important that she NEVER slip. She will be under intense scrutiny, starting school in the final year, in the middle of the school year; everyone will be wondering and asking about her. The only way that I can see to ensure that Draco and I are there to help her is to see that she is placed in Slytherin house."

"I don't know about that." Devon started, frowning slightly now as she sat up halfway. "Slytherin House may not be the best idea; it'll be uncomfortable for her at best. It doesn't suit her personality..."

"I'd make sure no one bothers her." Draco volunteered firmly.

"Draco, darling, why don't you take our young guest out to the gardens?" Narcissa suggested, feeling the adults needed the time to discuss things a bit more openly without the children involved getting in the way. "I will have a house elf bring you both lunch out there."

"Of course, mother." Draco said, rising to his feet gracefully and approaching Arian. He bowed and offered her his arm. "I would be quite pleased to escort you to the gardens." he smiled. When she took the proffered arm, he led her out to the gardens and out of earshot.

Narcissa sighed and watched them leave; Draco closed the door behind them as they left. Once they were gone she finally spoke. "I can see why the girl must be hidden, Devon; I may not have your power or your talent, but even I can see that she almost glows with the strength of her power..."

"She may lack the disposition to be in my house, Narcissa, but her placement elsewhere could be greatly problematic." Snape said quietly.

"She'd never make it in Slytherin; she's far too trusting a soul." Devon shook her head. "She would get into more trouble if she was in Slytherin than if she was off by herself in Gryffindor. Isn't there anyone that you can trust in that house?"

Snape frowned, mulling over the possibilities. "Of course there is; the heads of house can be trusted with anything, though I would not recommend divulging all the information we have to any of them." he said thoughtfully. "I will have to discuss this with the headmaster. And although I believe the heads of house can be trusted, the students are a far different matter. The girl does show the proper intelligence required for Ravenclaw, but I don't think that she would be well suited there. Those students are too bright and would easily find the flaws in her story and notice anything she was likely to do. I don't believe she is suited for Hufflepuff at all. Gryffindor house students are far too bold and arrogant..."

"And they would protect her with their life, if they considered her to be family." Devon added with a smirk.

"Hm." Snape agreed vaguely, tone sour. "They also don't know when to simply keep to themselves and stay out of trouble."

"Nevertheless, we must still contact the headmaster." Narcissa said, rising. "He will have the final say on what is done with the girl, if she is even able to attend his school at all..."

"He does have the final say." Severus agreed.

-.

Ari moved to the rail overlooking the sea, waves crashing against the rocks far below. "Oh, Draco; it's all so beautiful..." she sighed, eyes shining.

Draco stood with his back on the rail, elbows resting on it, studying the girl. He could really examine her now without his mother telling him he was staring or being overly bold. His first impression was right: she was small for her age: he never would have guessed that she was sixteen. More like fourteen, rather than nearly seventeen as he was. She was slender and her braided hair would likely go down past her knees if she let it down, he was sure of that. "Have you known my cousin long?" Draco asked conversationally.

"A little over two years now..." Ari responded with a fond smile as she thought of her friend and all the protection and help she had been. "She has helped me so much at school."

She seems fond of you Draco nodded. "She gets protective of her friends sometimes."

"I would have been lost without her." She agreed.

"So, tell me... what's it like...?" he let his question drift off as a house elf caught his attention. Ari looked down at it curiously; its grey skin, huge bat-like ears and tamp-like eyes were different than any creature she had ever seen.

"Lunch is prepared, Master Malfoy." ft squeaked.

"Great, I'm starving." He smiled, glancing at her. "Hungry, Ari?"

"Perhaps a little hungry, yes." She agreed

He offered his arm again and the two strolled over to where lunch had been served. The table was on the northern balcony with a dear view of the ocean, beneath a blossoming cherry tree. The house elf followed in case anything else was needed.

"Our house elves make rather good food..."

"House elf...?" Ari asked, gazing at the little creature. It gazed back with huge eyes, bat like ears half down, trembling ever so slightly, its hands clasped before it in a very subservient manner.

"Yes, house elf. We have three here: they do the cooking and the cleaning, mostly around inside the house, but our third elf does gardening as well. Au pure-blooded wizarding families have some of them to help out, if they can afford them. You've never seen a house elf…?" He asked.

"No, we don't have them." Ari smiled at the elf and its eyes seemed to widen at her attention to it. "Thank you for fixing us lunch. It smells and looks wonderful."

"You don't have to thank them." Malfoy laughed.

The elf bowed, its big nose touching the cool flagstones of the veranda, it is being my duty, mistress and guest of the great house of Malfoy..."

Draco held the chair for Ari as she sat down, and then took his own. "The cook always makes my favorites when I'm home." He smiled as he sat down, looking at the appetizing meal set before them. The house elf vanished from sight with a soft pouf of smoke.

-.

"I really do have to get going..." Devon said, setting the glass aside now empty. All that could have been said had been said. "Thanks, Aunt Sissy: I owe you one." She moved over and gave her aunt a quick kiss. "I'll be back tomorrow to take Ari shopping for what she needs..." She turned to Severus, giving him a wink, noting that he was studying the runes on the cover. "Severus, take your time and enjoy that book. There are some killer spells in there."

"I shall." He assured, holding the book as if it was a holy grail.

"Do take care of yourself, young Devon..." Narcissa said softly.

"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself." Devon grinned, and then vanished.

"Would you like some lunch, Severus?" Narcissa asked graciously, rising to her feet. I'm sure there will be something to your taste."

"Yes, I do believe I could take a bite or two..." he said distractedly, much more interested in diving into the book that he held, studying its cover. "This book truly intrigues me..."

"Truly...? Does it have potions that you don't know...?" Narcissa asked as they moved out to the gardens to join the youngsters for lunch.

"l must admit the spell she showed me was unfamiliar to me... of course I would never attempt any potion until I understood its true purpose and use..." he murmured, the book open in his hands as he walked, slowly falling behind.

Draco rose as his mother moved over, pulling out a chair for her. "Thank you." She smiled, gracefully taking a seat.

"So, we need to get our stories straight young lady, about your history and background." Snape said as he sat also in one smooth motion.

"I will say whatever you wish of me." Ari said softly.

Snape sat back, leaning the book on the table, giving her a dark scowl. "No, girl…!" he said, irritated. "You cannot say 'whatever'...! You will be the one who will have to explain your history and background to many people. They will want to know why you are showing up in the middle of the school year, the final year. They will want to know where you are from. And why you have not been attending until this year, why you are without your parents and who they were, where you were born and what the circumstances were. There are many different things that you must have clearly in your mind so you do not make mistakes!"

Draco spoke up at that moment. "Tell them that she's been living across the ocean in America, and that she has been taught what she knows by private tutors."

"The family she was living with has perished. After all, we did send Devon's mother off to her American cousins…" Narcissa added, taking a sip of her tea. "So she has come to stay with her cousin Draco…"

Snape nodded thoughtfully. "That story is plausible: it could work if she does not make mistakes with the tale..." He agreed.

"Devon can plant the story into her mind so she won't forget or stumble." Narcissa said confidently, smiling. "She's quite skilled at giving new identities to others..."

"Devon is good at many things..." Ari smiled shyly.

"I'll speak with the Headmaster this evening. He'll probably come meet her himself, if he is able..." Snape said thoughtfully.

"I hope he lets me stay..." Ari said softly, eyes showing her worry.

Draco put his hand over hers comfortingly, giving her a charming and reassuring smile. "Don't worry. It'll work out."

"Promise…?" She asked softly.

"Yes, I promise. Now eat. You've barely touched your lunch."

Snape sat silent, eating, his eyes lingering on the young girl. He'd always been intrigued by how Devon had used her powers without her wand... this could be his chance to figure out exactly how she was able to do that. And this slip of a gill was his key to finally understanding.

Ari looked up at him, smiling softly, sipping her tea. To his surprise her voice sounded within the confines of his mind. *A silver for your thoughts…* the communication was not verbal at all, strictly mental.

His eyes narrowed at her action; he did not look upon her speaking in his mind as a private conversation; he considered it an invasion of his privacy. *So. You can read thoughts…* was all she picked up before she felt herself unceremoniously rebuffed out of contact with him. "Only those who wish to TAKE information do that here, girl." He growled verbally.

*No, I would never pry… that would be most unforgiveable. I wish just to speak in private, nothing more…* she continued in a purely mental tone.

*And how is one who does not know you supposed to know that little detail?* he asked, frowning. *We do not speak in this manner in the wizarding world.*

*Why? You can…* she asked innocently.

*It is not a common thing within our world; it is NOT done!* he repeated.

Ari looked confused, taking a sip of her tea. *Then how do you call for help if you're in trouble?*

"We use our wands. And we use our voices." He answered in a tone cold and irritated.

"But will a wand work for me? I was not born of this world..."

"Devon is capable of using a wand, she often does carry one when she is here. I am sure she will take you to the wand shop tomorrow." He scowled.

"But Devon is a Black, Professor, so a wand would naturally work. She's from our world; Ari is not..." Draco said. "She's right; it may not work for her."

"l AM aware of that. Draco." Snape said in a drolly sarcastic tone, leaning back in his seat; he gave his favorite student a glare. "And although Devon may be from our world, young Arian, are her powers so unlike yours...? She uses a wand, therefore you can as well."

"But my magic IS different, sir... can you create a living creature from; say... a rose petal...?" Ari asked softly, pulling a petal from a nearby flower, holding it in her hand "I can..."

Severus' glare intensified. "No, we cannot." He said, growing irritated. "I am ATTEMPTING to tell you girl, how you must behave in our world. We use wands and spoken incantations and potions..."

"You can always fake it if it doesn't work." Draco began, and then smiled as the yellow rose petal in Ari's hand curled up, wrapping about itself like a tiny cocoon. With a tiny burst of what seemed like sparks the cocoon unfolded, revealing a tiny fairy dressed in miniature rose petals, fanning butterfly wings as it gazed up at them, then fluttered from Ari's open hand.

Her display of power did not impress the professor as she had hoped it would. Snape scowled, shoving his chair back in a violent motion and standing up, slapping a hand down onto the table. "If you cannot follow simple instructions I will have no part of this farce!" He snapped angrily.

"Oh, Severus, she's just playing." Narcissa said soothingly. "Come now; think of all the things you may learn from her. And if she leaves, you'll have to return that book…"

He scowled at Narcissa, clearly not mollified in the least, and then turned his scowl at the young girl. "You will undoubtedly be a Gryffindor; I can see that quite clearly. Rules of life simply don't apply to you, do they?" He asked in a scathing tone. He glared at her, dropping the book he felt worth its weight in gold to the table. "Playing or not, Narcissa, she of all of us MUST be able to follow the rules that are set for her! One slip, one foolish mistake and that will undo everything we are attempting to do...! You will be in more danger here than you would have been where you came from, there are those here as well who hunger after and seek out sources of power and you, young woman, would be a MOST tempting target!"

"I'm sorry professor..." Ari started in a voice soft and meek.

"Sorry!" He repeated in a sneer. "Sorry won't keep you safe from those who are hunting you! You may have left those hunting you behind, but even your friend Devon knew you could still be in danger here! There are different people seeking here, but their methods are no less destructive and violent than the ones in your school! You may as well return to whence you came!" He snarled.

"Professor, please... before you go..." Ari picked up the book and opened it to a marked page. "Could you please tell me what this passage means...? It's all that's holding me back from making the Feigned Death potion. if I am forced to return to school, this potion may be the only thing that keeps me alive if they attack me again..."

His dark eyes flashed with anger even the request for assistance with a potion he did not know did not sway him or assuage his anger. "If you cannot follow simple directions on behavior here I don't see how I could possibly teach you anything out of such an advanced book." He said scathingly. "See if Narcissa can help you; she's not bad with potions. I've many things that require my attention and you're a clear waste of time and effort!" He growled. He stepped away from her and the book he longed to take with him, raised his wand, and spun away into nonexistence.

"I'm sorry..." Arian said softly, gazing at the spot he had just occupied, reluctantly closing her book. I really didn't mean to anger him..."

Narcissa laughed softly. "You truly are a Black, my dear. Just like our Devon. It doesn't matter what you do, you'll never have him happy with you."

"I get along well with him..." Draco volunteered with a half chuckle.

"I don't think he likes me much..." Ari said meekly.

"Of course not. You're a bloody Gryffindor!" Draco laughed.

Narcissa laughed as well, her laugh soft and lilting. "I'm sure you will be Gryffindor, young Arian. Come, finish your lunch and I will show you where you will sleep tonight..."

"Oh, I have had more than enough. Thank you..." she said, pushing her plate back and taking a final drink of her tea. "May I ask... are all the professors like Lord Snape...? If so, I may just as well give up..."

"No, they're all quite different. There are four houses... Snape is the head of Slytherin house, so you would only have contact with him a couple of times a week in Potions class with Draco..."

"And I get along with him so you'll be fine." Draco added reassuringly.

"Of course you will, son... but the other houses are Gryffindor..."

"Mostly they make Snape mad." Draco interjected with a smirk. "You heard his opinion of then already."

"And there is Ravenclaw..."

"Insufferable know-it-alls..." Draco chuckled.

"...and Hufflepuff." She concluded.

"Yes, the leftovers that no other self-respecting house would take in..."

"Are there many students...?"

"Hundreds." Draco nodded.

"Oh my. My school is very small, then..."

"Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is the best school for witchcraft and wizardry in the entire region. The school is housed in a very large castle, with lots of history and plenty to see." Draco said with dear pride.

Narcissa led them back into the mansion. "Arian, I will be giving you this first guest room."

"It's got a wonderful view of the ocean." Draco said with a smile, opening the door for her.

The room was quite plush, and easily four times the size of her room at her school. The room was decorated in white and delicate greens and silvers; a silver silk bedspread of down on the large bed. There was a sitting area and a set of French doors that opened onto a balcony, and a second door that was partially open revealing that it led to a private bathing room.

"Oh my..." Ari murmured, moving into the room. "It's wonderful... thank you..."

Narcissa laughed softly. "Only the best for our guests..."

"It's easily as grand as my room in the palace..." Ari smiled.

Draco sauntered into the room and threw open the French doors, letting the gentle ocean breeze dance about the room. He was very glad they had chosen to come to their summer house out in the Mediterranean for the winter holiday; it certainly beat freezing his arse off every time he wanted a bit of fresh air. "You live in a palace? Draco asked.

Ari moved to join him, looking out the doors at the little sitting area there on the balcony. "Devon didn't tell you? My father is the lord of all his lands; our palace is up in the mountains, overlooking the sea... it's quite beautiful. Would you like to see it? I could show you through illusions. No one is here to see the magic if I do it..."

"We're not supposed to do magic outside school…" Draco began.

Narcissa chuckled softly. "That doesn't apply to her yet, son. She isn't yet a student of Hogwarts, and the ministry has no idea that she even exists…" Narcissa reminded.

"Oh... Can she show us, mother...? I'd love to see it..."

She considered a long moment, and then smiled. "Oh, go right ahead... I can't see it harming anyone, and I am most certainly allowed to use any magic I choose..."

Ari stepped back inside, sitting in one of the silver and satin chairs beside the door. She closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath as she gathered both thoughts and powers. When she lifted her hands, they were glowing; the glow rose from her hands and spread upward in a soft cloud. Upon that cloud formed a cliff face overlooking the sea; and upon that cliff a majestic castle made of white stone and marble. "This is my home." She said eyes opening, gazing at it.

"Oh my." Narcissa murmured, quite impressed by the magic involved arid the castle itself. "It's quite beautiful; very much old tradition..."

Draco stared, eyes wide. He had never seen such magic.

The image cleared and a strong warrior appeared; he was dressed in a tunic similar to what Arian wore but trimmed in gold, covered by armor of plate mail and leather. His face was slim and showed the classic Roman aquiline features of a strong chin arid nose, wearing only a beard but no moustache. He held a sword in either hand, long blades with a curved and wicked looking edge. "This is my father, Lord Donal. He is a master swordsman." Another image arose from the cloud, a woman just as powerful as the man, with brown hair and a keen eye, quite stunning in her armor. She bore a long heavy looking blade. Her image seemed to grin at them then lunged to begin to battle the image of Arian's father. "My love, Xal. They love to spar..." Ari smiled.

"Swords? Where is this, exactly...?" Draco asked.

"This world, but very long ago... Xal and I were in a battle..." The two sparring sank back down into the illusory fog and many figures arose, much smaller, depicting a fierce and bloody battle. Ari herself was there, looking younger, trapped in valley with figures dressed in what seemed to be furs coming at them from all sides as the battle raged off to the left of them. Draco could see arrows flying, tiny figures being cut down or smashed to the ground from flying stones flung by catapults. It was clear that the group they had been fighting for had no way of reaching them before they would be killed. "We were pursued; cut off from all support. I was always horrible at teleportation; I could never get it right. I felt it was our only hope of survival and used it; just as I was finishing the spell I was struck. Instead of distance, we fell through time..."

"Through time...?"

"That's incredible." Draco murmured, completely taken in by the illusion that Ari was showing.

Ari smiled softly and lowered her hands, the images sinking back into the cloud and the cloud of magic dissipating. "Hopefully soon I'll be able to go back. The spells for time travel are very difficult, but Xal needs to go back... Her skills are not in demand where she is. There is not much call for a mercenary or a battle mage here." She sighed.

"I'm sure father could find a job for you..."

"I don't believe she is looking for work, Draco." Narcissa corrected. "She is here for schooling, remember...?"

"Yes, I remember. But if she had a job, Arian could stay around longer..." he reasoned.

"I'll be around a while." Ari laughed. "But I really wish to go home soon. I miss Xal so much."

"Why can't you see her? Draco comes home for the holidays regularly..."

"My master will not allow it. But Devon sometimes sneaks her in to me. Devon gets very angry at Lady Athena... I worry for her."

"Why in the world are you forced to remain at school during holidays...?" Draco asked. "That's almost barbaric..."

"Devon said it is because I'm too strong and too trusting. I have got to learn to hide my powers or I may attract unwanted attention. I could easily be a target for someone who may know combat magic that I may not be able to counter. I was nearly killed once by an evil wizard who wished to steal my powers, but XaI found me and saved me. It was before I began my schooling..."

"When put that way, it makes sense." Narcissa mused thoughtfully.

"I just miss her so much." Ari sighed, rising to move to the doors, gazing out at the waves.

"I know it's hard, but it keeps your Xal safe too..." Narcissa said soothingly.

"True, but XaI is a warrior. She lives for trouble. And Crystal is with her so she'll be fine. After all, she has my powers. That'lI teach me to use my own blood to make her..."

"...make her..?" Draco asked.

"I think this is going into an area that we really shouldn't be asking, Draco..." Narcissa began.

"Wait, mother... what do you mean, made her...?"

Ari looked abashed; she had gone into an area she was not supposed to discuss again... oh this was going to be so hard! "Oh... um..." Ari murmured, and then decided to go ahead and divulge some... they knew so much anyway it couldn't hurt. "Devon's the one who showed me, at least the resurrection part. But Crystal had been dead many years and I had no part of her to use..."

"Resurrection...!" Draco murmured. "They sure don't teach that at Hogwarts; mother, why can't I go to her school...?"

Ari interrupted immediately; she would hate for this young boy to be trapped at that school as well. "I hate my school! I don't want to be there. I never wanted to go; only Shar and Dev keep me going..."

"Have you no friends other than Devon?" Narcissa asked tenderly stroking Ari's hair.

"I had one; she was very special to me..." Ari said softly, eyes lowered and misted with tears as she remembered. "Her name was Lou... she kept me happy and even went behind the Adept's back to bring my XaI to me the first time at school, but… she was killed."

"Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry..." Narcissa said sympathetically.

"It was horrible... the spell that killed her was woven out of dark spells and blood magic... she was literally torn inside out. That's how I learned the resurrection spells. Devon got permission to bring Lou back from the dead, and her body was so damaged that it had to be recreated. Devon isn't much of a healer at all; her talent lies in battle magic and offensive spells... so I was called in to work on Lou's body. I did not know the spells to create life before that, but I learned to bring my friend back; I am a natural healer. Because I did the work on her body, Devon didn't need to and she could use all her powers for the spells to return her soul to her body. She did let me stay, though, and that's all I needed to learn how to do the same..."

"And Lou is no longer at your school...?"

"They sent her away immediately... they did not wish her family to retaliate against the school if it were learned they left her in danger... and I am so alone at school now..." she brushed at her eyes and sighed. "That's how I found I learn so much easier if I am shown a spell than if I have to study it from a book..."

"Unfortunately, Arian, we do a lot of bookwork and written assignments at Hogwarts. But the teachers do show us the spells and in potions class we get a lot of practical applications..." Draco told her.

Ari gave Draco a wry smile. "I don't think Professor Snape will allow me in his class, let alone show me spells..."

Narcissa chuckled softly. "Severus has a temper, but he is not unreasonable... you must be careful what you say in his presence, that is all."

"He will allow you in his class if the Headmaster tells him he must. I can tell you for certain that he has several students in his classes he would rather NOT be there; he is the only potions teacher that Hogwarts School has..." Draco replied.

"Well, we'll find out soon enough." Narcissa said in a tone of finality. "No use wondering about it any further. I believe I shall pay a visit to the Headmaster myself and discuss the situation. Draco, take care of our guest while I am away."

"That will not be a problem, mother." Draco said charmingly.

"…and behave yourself." She added.

He sighed melodramatically. "But mother, being good is so boring...!"

"Try, love." Narcissa chuckled. "I may be back late so tend to things while I am gone."

"Now that I can do." He laughed, relaxing at Ari's side. Narcissa bent and gave Draco a motherly kiss on the cheek, then raised her wand and spun away from sight into nothingness as she disapparated from the room.

"I like your mother, Draco." Ari said softly.

He smiled at her, finding somehow he felt very relaxed around her as he had never felt around anyone that belonged in Gryffindor house. "She's a very good witch, and does all she can to take care of me and my needs. Father on the other hand… His mind closed against thoughts of his father besides the superficial. That was a subject he would rather not discuss at this time. "Father is... well... a little stricter."

"Is he as beautiful as you are? Ari asked with a teasing smile, brushing Draco's silky hair from his eyes in a tender caress.

"If you're into older men, I suppose?" he answered hesitantly. "I could show you a picture..."

"Sometimes older men can be fun." she teased.

"But he's over three times our age...!"

"Forty isn't all that old..." Ari laughed.

"Its old enough… are you serious?"

Ari gave him a sweet smile. "I'm teasing."

"You had me worried." He chuckled.

Ari noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She looked to see a painting of a young girl, probably Narcissa at age fourteen or so. She wore a very pretty dress of rich green velvet, embroidered all about the hem, sleeve cuffs and low-cut top with silver. She was seated in a chair much like the ones by the door, but with a much higher back, in what appeared to be a study with books lining the walls. At her feet was a fluffy little dog with two tails that appeared to be a puppy. As she watched, the dog gazed at her, wagged its two tails, then turned and leapt up into the girl's lap; the girl petted the dog tenderly as it lay down to sleep.

Ari's eyes widened as she moved over to watch. "How do you make this move, Draco...?" She asked, fascinated. The girt in the painting giggled faintly and waved at her.

"Its' a wizard painting; you don't do anything to make it move, it's the magic the artists put into it when it is being painted that make it able to do that. That's my mother when she was in her fifth year of school. All our paintings can move, and talk too." He shrugged, moving over to gaze up at it.

"All pictures...?" Arian asked in a soft voice.., she could see massive problems with having a house full of these paintings. "Isn't that dangerous...? If there was a war couldn't they be used as spies...?"

"Only paintings can move; wizarding photographs don't work like they do. But yes, that actually is how some paintings are used I understand. The images in the painting can go from one painting to another as Long as the paintings are of that particular wizard. There are three paintings of mother at this age in this house; this was her father's house and he left it to her when he passed away."

"I'm sure there are spells to guard against spies, though, right?"

"It's actually simpler than that. All you have to do is make sure there are no paintings of your enemies in your home." Draco shrugged. "Wait till you see Hogwarts; there are thousands of wizarding paintings there."

"It sounds wonderful." Ari smiled softly, though her mind was still on the painting and what it could be used for.

Draco soon had her distracted from that subject, though, and the two spent the rest of the evening together talking softly of friends and spell work, potions and other classes. They discussed methods of teaching in each of their schools, and Draco described some of the teachers and other students to her. Ari summoned some of her books to show him, and Draco brought her his books that he had brought home for his assignments. They moved to the bed and sprawled on it with their books and a plate of cookies, looking at each other's books.