Chapter 12: Subterfuge

~Seeking Truths in the Valley of Lies~

[Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, England; August 28st 1996, 12:15 PM]

Lunch at Malfoy Manor the day after Harry and Lucius's sweet reconciliation, as Harry will continue to call it until the warm butterflies no longer swarm in his stomach at the thought of that moment when they had settled into something that felt right and almost familiar, was an awkward occasion indeed.

Draco was back, preparing for a trip to Diagon Alley for last minute school shopping, which had Harry biting his lip in agitation. There was a question burning to be asked, but he was afraid that it would ruin whatever peace seemed to settle between himself and Lucius. For all his protesting against this 'thing' seemingly between them he'd really hate to go back to avoiding the man when his body wanted nothing less than constant contact, which he wasn't comfortable to admit or give in to… yet…

He wanted to go back to school… He knew that the Un-Harry would be there, but still, he wanted… And a part of him knew that Lucius wouldn't be receptive to such a request, not now, maybe not for a while yet, but he still felt the urge to just ask the question sitting on the tip of his tongue waiting for the most inopportune moment to make itself known.

In addition, Snape had stopped by with any information he had found on who Harry might really be, which was nothing more than they already had, leaving them still with nothing but more questions. Harry tried to keep a neutral face as the Potions Master reported before surprisingly turning to him with an apology for the lack of answers, something that Harry could have never imagined happening before he had been made aware of this man's particular caring side that was present only around Narcissa. Harry found himself thanking the man, and meaning it, although they were no further than they had been when this had all started.

Snape was promptly invited to join them by an ever placid Lucius, but Harry caught the worry in those silver eyes as they turned to regard him when the older man thought he wasn't looking. It was odd being the recipient of such treatment, but Harry pretended he hadn't noticed and forced down any disappointment he felt on the lack of information.

As the house elves set the table for lunch they all took their seats, Lucius at his rightful seat at the head of the table with Harry at his right and Draco to his left. Narcissa sat next to Harry, with Severus across the table next to Draco. Severus, Draco and Lucius had just fallen into a conversation about the start of the new school year and how Dumbledore had still yet to hire replacements for a few courses when Mitty, the house elf that normally served Narcissa and Harry breakfast in the mornings, appeared in the space next to Lucius' chair with a soft pop. Words were exchanged between master and servant, too quiet for any to hear before Lucius rose from his chair smoothly excusing himself and Severus from the table before the two left the room in the direction of the foyer.

"Do you think they've finally found something?" Draco asked, being the first to break the silence that had settled on the room, all three of them undoubtedly curious.

"Perhaps, but I don't know…" Narcissa said, brows drawing together slightly as she reached under the table for Harry's hand almost without thought.

Harry had seen the look on Lucius' face when he'd received whatever message Mitty

had delivered, and it hadn't been a pleasant one. Nerves settled low in Harry's stomach like a heavy stone but he kept his mouth shut least he let them here his doubts. Whatever was going on, it didn't seem good.

~ LM/HP ~

[The Burrow, Devon, England; August 28st 1996, 12:15 PM]

The next day found Hermione silently sitting in the Weasley's study with a worn copy of a birth registry of some sort laid out in her lap as she curiously study each page before flipping to the next. This is how Bill found her three hours later.

"What's got you so interested all of a sudden? I've watched you listlessly turning the pages of that old bestiary for the last several days and here you are looking brighter than I've seen you since you've gotten here," Bill said as he flopped down on the old dusty study sofa next to her.

"I don't know; I just feel like I'm finally getting somewhere. I don't know how to explain it, but I think that this book has the answers," Hermione replied without even looking up from the pages, causing Bill to lean in closer to inspect this tome that held so many answers to her secrets.

"That's the birth registry…" Bill murmured softly, before slowly prying it from her fingers and turning it over cautiously to study the cover as if hoping he were mistaken.

"Is it really?" Hermione asked, looking as if she were about to protest his commandeering of her book. "It's a very odd birth registry," she said hoping he would indulge her with an answer as to why it were so different from any birth registry she'd come across till now.

"Yes, odd…" he said distractedly, before turning stern brown eyes on her. "Where did you find this, Hermione?"

"On that shelf over there next to the window... Bill…?" Hermione tried to wait patiently for him to explain why his family had such an odd registry, but it was getting very difficult. She felt as if she tittered on the edge of the truth, and it was hard not pushing herself over that edge. Bill had her answers, all this time. Could he tell her if she asked, or would he avoid any questions she tried asking?

"I… This…" He tried, staring at the old leather covering of the book dating back many years with detailed and informative recordings of births going back many centuries. The exceptional part of this was that they were all to a race of avian like fai.

"Bill… I know about… them…" Hermione spoke slowly, hoping this would get the ball rolling on a hopefully inevitable conversation.

"You… you know? How?" Bill questioned, turning wide eyes back on her.

"I said my summer was eventful," Hermione said, refusing to give more until she knew for certain that she was right, and Bill had something to do with these avian like she suspected.

"Yes, you did say that," Bill's eyes narrowed slightly as a small smile tilted his lips almost like he was pleased by her words. "I really shouldn't be surprised that you would gain knowledge of this. It's a well-kept secret, or well, it was."

~To Be Continued~

Word Count: 1148