- Rough Draft
- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Domestic Violence
- Discussion - Rape
- Discussion - Sexual Abuse
- Discussion - Torture
- Hate Crimes
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- First Time
- Fix It
May 1st, 1981
The wards shuddered in protest as the Malfoy Patriarch returned to Malfoy Manor.
Up in the nursery tucked away on the third floor of the east wing, Narcissa Malfoy froze. Born of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, she had been bound by the most ancient and powerful magical contract marriages to the House of Malfoy. She could feel the almost sentient Family magic come close to repelling Lucius Malfoy when he apparated directly into the Manor after a night spent celebrating the Beltane in the company of people Narcissa had done her very best to avoid even meeting for most of her life.
Her loyalty to the House of Malfoy was absolute, even if neither she nor Lucius had any desire to marry anyone, let alone each other. Narcissa rose gracefully to her feet, a trained dancer and gymnast, calmly observing the sudden expressions of disgust and horror on the faces of the house elves that always seemed to congregate in the nursery.
She would deal with that in a moment. Her first priority was and would always be her son Draco, who had begun to fret and whimper, clearly disturbed by what he sensed of his father’s return through the blood wards.
“Tilly, take our young lord down to the downstairs playroom,” Narcissa instructed Draco’s nanny elf calmly.
Tilly instantly popped away, taking Draco down to the heavily warded playroom Narcissa had created immediately adjacent to the rune stone that formed the anchor for the family magic. She had begun constructing the magical safe room the day Abraxas Malfoy had triumphantly performed the ritual binding Narcissa directly to the wards of the Malfoy family magic.
The magical safe room would protect Draco, even from his sire.
She freshened her robes with a swift wandless charm, restoring her appearance to its usual exquisite Pureblood perfection. “Kiki and Dobby, please welcome our Patriarch home. Do try to achieve elegance.”
Kikki and Dobby popped out right after Tilly and Draco. “Flora, please take the others and prepare to offer Lord Malfoy breakfast in the Conservatory,” Narcissa instructed, her voice unhurried and musical. She then composed herself and apparated directly to the Conservatory, one of the areas she had unfettered access to.
A nod to one of the waiting house elves resulted in a cup of her favorite blend of herbal tea. Narcissa looked up with an expression of serene enquiry as Lucius Malfoy joined her in the beautiful conservatory.
“Ah, Narcissa,” Lucius drawled as he sauntered into the room, his boot heels ringing against the marble floor. “Beautiful as ever,” Lucius continued, taking the coffee one of the elves offered him on an ornately chased silver tray. “I see you’re in day robes, French no doubt,” he teased idly. “Let me guess, off for tea with the ladies?”
Narcissa offered him the thinnest of smiles, precisely calculated and honed to the sharpest degree by a lifetime spent immersed in pureblood politics. “Of course, my lord. Women gossip, which I have always found to be a valuable source of political intelligence as you very well know.”
Lucius chuckled in an equally calculated display of indulgent condescension.
Narcissa gestured gracefully towards the elegant buffet breakfast the house elves had arranged. “Would you care for refreshment after your night out, my lord?”
“Mmm, perhaps. It was an eventful night.” Lucius strolled over to the sideboard, indicating his choices with a nod to the waiting house elves. The plate instantly filled itself and appeared opposite Narcissa on the delicate crystal table. “I must say, I have begun to appreciate my father’s determination for a House marriage. I do enjoy sharing my adventures with you,” he mocked.
Narcissa serenely took a gracious sip of tea, nothing of her roiling disgust and hatred appearing on her face. She knew better than to have anything in her stomach the morning after any night of power. Lucius had ritually sacrificed his own father at the Winter Solstice.
The Beltane had long been associated with sex magic. Narcissa most emphatically did not want to know what Lucius Malfoy and his fellow Death Eaters might get up to in the service of this so called Lord Voldemort.
Lucius Malfoy was an arrogant asshole. And a braggart. He loved an audience, and Narcissa was bound by the most powerful of magics to the Malfoy family magic. She could not betray him by thought, word or deed, even if it meant her own death. He was perfectly safe telling her every act of dark and evil magic he engaged in, gleeful in his own corruption in a way that horrified Narcissa.
She had already been convinced that he was mad, but whatever Lucius had done since leaving to celebrate the Beltane had the wards singing in protest, a vibration that had settled in her very bones.
It was powerful, and so dark that had she been capable of it, Narcissa knew she might have betrayed her terror. A lifetime spent subjected to increasingly powerful deportment and etiquette charms meant that she presented only the most pleasant and serene expression as she inclined her head in the smallest of bows.
“I am, of course, honoured by your confidence in me.”
Lucius smirked, and Narcissa’s skin crawled. “Death and sex magic is most invigorating,” Lord Malfoy began airily. “I’ll spare the delicate sensibilities of a pureblood witch and refrain from sharing the details, but she was a muggleborn witch, untrained but very powerful. Once again, the Dark Lord succeeded in creating a Horcrux, this time in a living creature!”
He took a swallow of coffee, apparently oblivious to the way the blood wards of Malfoy Manor were singing up and down Narcissa’s spine. “Lord Voldemort will bring unprecedented honour to our House and Name,” Lucius predicted grandly. “Having perfected the art of creating a horcrux in his familiar, Nagini, the Dark Lord will make the heir to the House of Malfoy the most powerful wizard among his followers.”
Narcissa listened with an expression of polite interest as Lucius waxed eloquent about Voldemort’s plans, revealing horror after horror. She waited patiently until Lord Malfoy indicated that he had finished speaking.
“What say you, Lady Malfoy?” he said at last, glancing up from his breakfast plate, fluffy scrambled eggs balanced on his fork as he gestured expansively, entirely unsuspecting, confident in his power.
There was only one possible response to that.
Narcissa smiled sweetly. “Obliviate.”
Lord Malfoy froze, fork suspended in midair.
“Protego!” Narcissa cast the powerful shield charm directly at Lucius right arm, where whatever it was setting off the wards was focused. A bracelet? Some sort of spell anchored on his person? Whatever it was, Narcissa didn’t want to have it interact with the family magic any more than necessary.
Another delicate wand movement banished the sleeve of Lucius’ robes, revealing a dark mark, a skull with a snake winding its way out the mouth and through the eye sockets. Narcissa closed her eyes in mute protest, the only sign of distress the multitude of charms on her person allowed.
But there was no time to waste.
“You never told me this,” Narcissa said calmly, her mind whirling. “We had breakfast and you teased me about tea with the ladies. You think the time I spend with them is worthwhile, given the Dark Lord’s interest in the Potter heir. You will continue to have confidence in my loyalty, and no interest at all in your heir, certain that he is healthy and powerful and a fitting heir to your House. You will continue to have no sexual interest in me,” she added hastily. “I am the mother of your heir, and therefore worthy of the protections due the Lady Malfoy.”
Lucius had never touched her, a situation Narcissa was quite content with. Ritual conception meant a more powerful offspring, and Abraxas Malfoy took no chances. He had known exactly how dark his son and heir had become, and had moved to ensure the future of his House.
“You are tired after the eventful night. We ate breakfast and you will now retire and rest, completely confident in my loyalty. In fact, you are so pleased with me that you will send me to the Paris townhouse,” Narcissa continued thoughtfully, “Draco and I will enjoy a few days shopping for our spring wardrobes.”
A consummate Slytherin, Narcissa swiftly took a few more precautions to ensure Lucius’ cooperation before repairing his robes to their previous state of fashionable refinement and ending the memory charm.
Lord Malfoy blinked and took a gracious bite of eggs, frowning slightly at their temperature. Swallowing, he dabbed politely at his mouth with the snow white linen napkin, before rising to his feet to offer Narcissa a mocking bow.
“Surely the heir to the House of Malfoy deserves a new wardrobe in honour of his first birthday. Why don’t you and the boy spend a few days at the Paris townhouse,” Lucius suggested, completely oblivious to the precision memory charms Narcissa had woven over him. “I’ll send word to Gringott’s Paris branch to provide you with twenty thousand galleons to ensure your wardrobes are as fashionable as a Lady of such exquisite taste deserves.”
Narcissa inclined her head in a gracious nod. “Thank you, my lord. You are most generous.”
Lucius offered her a perfunctory smile of dismissal, instructing the nearest house elf to bring the great grey owl he used for his personal correspondence to his study before he turned and abandoned the Conservatory.
Narcissa waited until the sound of his boot heels ringing against the marble floors faded out before she rose and moved swiftly through the Manor, all but flying down the stairs to the second sub-basement and the ritual room that housed the rune stone of the House of Malfoy.
Tilly looked up as Narcissa hastened in, worry wrinkling her adorably ugly little face.
Draco was sleeping peacefully, an enchanted teething ring in his mouth and his favorite toy dragon snuggled tight in his arms. “If anything goes wrong, take him to his godmother and protect him with your life,” Narcissa said urgently.
“Yous a good mum,” Tilly said stoutly. “House elves trust Lady Malfoy. Magic knows.”
Grateful as she might be for the vote of confidence, Narcissa was entirely too well educated to underestimate the risks. The ward stone that anchored the family magic of the House of Malfoy predated the manor by some centuries, older than even Hogwarts. Like Hogwarts, it was semi-sentient and all but feral as it tried to reject the dark magic slowly corrupting its Patriarch. But it was her only hope, the only chance of safety for her child.
And that was worth any risk.
Her wand slipped smoothly into her hand, released from the holster she wore discreetly concealed by the sleeve of her robe. It wasn’t a complicated spell. Narcissa simply cut her hand, took a deep breath and planted her bleeding hand on the ward stone.
“Regens Domini Mater Heredi!”
The world went white.
Narcissa heard the familiar sound of Draco’s delighted giggles, only then realizing that she was lying on something hard. Disoriented, she opened her eyes to swirling streams of white spinning around her as she lay sprawled over the enormous ward stone, the runes etched in its surface glowing so brightly that they sent sparkles into the air to dance around Draco’s tiny body.
“Merlin’s pants!” Narcissa blurted as she sat bolt upright, then gasped and clapped her hands over her own mouth in shock, bracing herself for the pain that should follow such an undignified expression. It had been more than a decade since she’d had the ability to even say such a thing.
More giggles followed, this time from what appeared to be every single house elf bound to the Malfoy family magic, all of whom were beaming at Narcissa with more approval than she’d encountered since she’d been young enough to have been attended by a nanny elf of her own.
“Magic knows,” Tilly reminded her, almost singing the words in her joy. “Yous a good mum. Magic gets all those nasty hexes gone so yous be free.”
“I’m just glad I survived,” Narcissa managed after another moment, watching the ward stone slowly settle back to dormancy. “It was the only thing I could think of to save Draco.”
“And that is precisely the reason you were successful.”
Narcissa went rigid at the cool, unfamiliar voice. She was moving before she could even think, scrambling gracelessly off the ward stone to swing Draco up into the safety of her arms. He squealed happily, thinking it all a great game even as Narcissa drew her wand, prepared to defend her child.
The house elves giggled even as Tilly hastened to reassure her. “No dangers. Yous do special mama’s magic and that makes the Grey Lady wake up. She be advisor, give magics a voice to teach you.”
Narcissa came close to blurting out something even more indiscreet than ‘Merlin’s pants’.
The Grey Lady was the only portrait in the ward room, and according to Malfoy family legend, she had never spoken, despite her portrait being powered by the ward stone itself. Her name was lost to time, although Abraxas Malfoy had claimed that the Grey Lady had been the one to set the runes to anchor the Malfoy family magic all those centuries ago.
With her knees feeling decidedly wobbly, Narcissa cautiously approached the portrait, shifting Draco to one hip, automatically rocking a little, swaying side to side to sooth him as he snuggled close with a happy little sigh.
The portrait was of a woman well beyond the first flush of youth, stern and beautiful, with the fair skin, pale hair and crystalline eyes that the Malfoy line was famous for. Instead of the expected robes, the Grey Lady wore the armor of a warrior, the muted grey unmistakably that of goblin forged mithril and dragon hide, as starkly beautiful as the woman herself.
Narcissa had been fascinated by the portrait since her first visit to the ritual space under the manor, intrigued by a woman who had clearly gone to war for her House, just as the legends promised.
“You have been judged and found worthy,” the Grey Lady told her with brutal frankness. “All that you know is now known to me. Regens Domini Mater Heredi was designed for situations like this, where there is a threat to the Heir and the family magic. Simple though the incantation may be, maternal regency is a powerful rite.”
“I’m not a particularly powerful witch,” Narcissa confessed. It was not the Slytherin way to betray a weakness, but she trusted the way the wards felt. She smiled at the house elves who were perched all over the ward room. “I’m going to need help from all of you if we want to pull this off.”
Dozens of little chests puffed up with pride, broad smiles on their ugly little faces, ears twitching happily. “Bad Master sleeps,” Flora reported. “House elf magic makes sure he stays sleeping.”
Narcissa smiled fondly at the tiny creature. Most of the love and kindness she had known in her life had come from house elves. “The family magic won’t expose my memory work?” The Malfoy Patriarch should have been protected from such interference.
“Yous Regent now,” Tilly reminded her. “Mr. Lucius still thinks he’s Patriarch but family magics listens to you.”
“You are effectively the Patriarch by right of conquest,” the Grey Lady confirmed. “The wards will hide your work from Lucius Malfoy indefinitely. Even the most powerful diagnostic charms will not reveal the memory work, and the house elves are protected by the family magic. They can’t be forced to reveal your secrets.”
Narcissa took a slow, steadying breath. She was, after all, not entirely unprepared. She slid a measuring look at the portrait. “I suspect you know what I want to do first. Will it work without the family ring?”
The Grey Lady’s mouth twitched with amusement. “The ward stone is far more powerful than the Malfoy ring,” she pointed out dryly.
With a brisk nod, Narcissa returned to the ward stone, settling Draco on her lap. “Tilly, please come here. I have a favour I must beg of you.”
Draco’s nanny elf scampered forward, cooing and flapping her ears to make Draco giggle.
“Tilly, you helped me when Draco was born, and you’ve been the very best nanny elf any little lord could ever have,” Narcissa began.
Tilly’s ears flapped again as she turned an endearing shade of pink. “Draco be the best baby. Tilly do whatever yous need. Yous Regent.”
Narcissa offered the elf a dazzling smile. “As Draco’s regent, I would ask that you consider accepting the role of vassal to the Heir of our House.”
Tilly’s mouth dropped open in shock. “I’s just a nanny elf!”
Narcissa patted her little hand where it rested on Draco’s knee. “My nanny elf saved my life more times than I can count. She kept me alive despite the best efforts of my sister Bellatrix until I was old enough to escape to Hogwarts. Had I been able to offer her the position of vassal, she would still be alive today.
“You delivered my baby, Tilly. I know how ferociously devoted a nanny elf is, and I trust you to help keep Draco safe and teach him just as you taught your Dobby when he was a baby, just as my nanny elf taught me.”
Tears welled up in Tilly’s enormous eyes, her smile wobbly but brilliant. “House Elf mama magics is strong,” she admitted. “We keeps him safe together.”
“Thank you,” Narcissa said fervently, and carefully organized matters so that she and Tilly were both touching Draco and the ward stone. “On the magic of your Ancestors and mine as Regent for the Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy, I grant you the place of vassal.”
The wards sang in triumph and Draco squealed with glee, feeling the surge in the family magic. Tilly was suddenly clad in a crisp little tunic and leggings fashioned of the finest Egyptian cotton pillowcases, entirely practical for chasing after an energetic toddler.
Narcissa checked the time with a quick Tempus charm, then offered the portrait of the Grey Lady a respectful bow. “I trust you’ll forgive my hasty departure. I know I have much to learn, but I have things I must do in Paris.”
The Grey Lady looked amused once more. “Lucius Malfoy underestimates you badly. From what I have learned of you and your friends, tea with the ladies seems little different than the strategy meeting of warriors planning their campaign.”
The fierce, predator’s smile Narcissa flashed her had very little in common with the precisely calculated smiles of a very proper pureblood witch. “I think it’s time the tea ladies had a chance to kick a little righteous ass.”
The Head Girls of Hogwarts were never less than extraordinary individuals. Each succeeding generation mentored the next in an unbroken chain of witches that led back to the female Founders of Hogwarts. Potentials were identified as early as First Year, carefully groomed and nurtured until the very best were chosen to serve as Head Girl. While their tenure as Head Girl generally ran one or two years, each young witch forged lifelong alliances with their counterparts in the other Houses. It was a quiet conspiracy of remarkable women, working around, under and sometimes straight through the middle of the obstacles placed in their way by wizarding society.
Narcissa Black had been impressed by the three girls she identified has having the highest potential in the other houses. She had actively courted their friendship, her political acumen and knowledge of wizard culture, history and law a valuable contribution to her alliance with Lily Evans of Gryffindor, Rowena Ollivander of Ravenclaw and the irrepressible Helena Diggory of Hufflepuff.
They were her first friends, aside from the house elves. They had cried just as bitterly as Narcissa when she’d learned that the Malfoys were still pursuing a contract alliance between their houses despite Andromeda’s elopement and Bellatrix’s murderous insanity. All four girls had engaged in desperate research, studying historical precedent, chasing legends and pouring over volumes of wizard law books, searching for a way out for Narcissa.
As the years wore on, that search had become a race to find ways to work around the constraints her parents laid on her. Their ideas about dark magic, pureblood power and politics had driven their eldest daughter quite mad before she was even old enough to attend Hogwarts. Andromeda had been a dutiful daughter until her seventeenth birthday, when she abruptly eloped with a muggle and was promptly disowned, escaping her parents and the archaic marriage contract that promised a daughter of the House of Black to the House of Malfoy.
The Blacks took no chances with Narcissa. They expected pureblood perfection and cared little for what it cost their last daughter.
When she returned to school for her sixth year – perfectly poised and exquisitely polite – Lily, Hannah and Rowena had welcomed her with grim determination. They might not have been able to overpower the magical constraints set upon her by her Patriarch, but between them, the four girls found ways to moderate the effects and a variety of strategies to work around the web of compulsions, hexes and charms that controlled Narcissa’s behavior.
Every afternoon for their seven years at Hogwarts, the four girls had met for afternoon tea to discuss the business of their respective Houses, make plans for the future and dream about how they would change things when they reached the age of majority.
All four of them were now married and had become mothers within months of each other. They still met for tea several times a week.
Tea with the Ladies, Lucius called it mockingly, utterly blind to the sheer magnitude of their combined intelligence and magical power. Tea was the very last things on their minds when the former Head Girls met.
Paris was a favorite destination for afternoon tea, easily within reach by floo, apparition or even international port key, as had been the case while they had all powered through muggle university degrees. Helena attended muggle medical school at Stanford University in California. Rowena had a degree in Organic Chemistry from Harvard in Boston Massachusetts. She’d simultaneously achieved her Potions Mastery through the Salem School. Lily had attended Oxford, studying muggle economics and law while she honed her dueling skills for the war effort. Even Narcissa had quietly managed to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science while pursuing her Mastery in Charms.
She had sold the idea to Abraxas Malfoy as a way to ensure the future prosperity of the Malfoy name. Lucius, of course, was entirely uninterested in the matter, and had simply been relieved that the contract marriage had been deferred while Narcissa completed her education. He knew nothing of her muggle education, convinced she was busy with her studies with Professor Flitwick.
Madame Sabine’s was an institution in Europe, with private dining and meeting rooms where the elite clientele could meet to discuss business, assured of the establishment’s discretion. They also had the snottiest little house elves Narcissa had ever encountered, exquisitely rude as only Parisians can be, always stylishly clad in beautiful house elf livery.
As soon as the doors to the private dining room were closed, four wands moved in well-practiced unison, raising privacy wards, augmenting the salon’s security spells and counter-surveillance spells.
Only then did Narcissa smile down at Tilly. “I’m sure Draco would like to play with his friends.”
Tilly laughed and gently woke the toddler from the charmed sleep that ensured his safety during international travel. He rubbed his eyes with tiny fists, offered his mother a sweet smile and then uttered a squeal of delight that could have cut crystal.
“Hawwy!” Draco wriggled energetically, impatient to reach his favorite person in the world. “Down, peas,” he begged Tilly. “Hawwy!”
Only a few months younger than Draco, the dark haired toddler was just rousing from his own charmed sleep. “Dray! Dray!” He made grabby hands at the tiny blond toddling as fast as his little legs could carry him over to where young Harry was trying to squirm free of his own nanny elf. “Down, peas!” the Potter heir echoed, remembering his manners.
“What do you say?” Lily prompted gently as Tavi set Harry down.
“Tankoo Tavi!” Harry parroted obediently, and opened his arms in anticipation of Draco’s hug.
“Tankoo Tilly!” Draco chimed in, eyes closed in bliss as they cuddled close. “My Hawwy,” he sighed happily, petting Harry’s wild mop of hair with tiny fingers.
The two boys plopped down on their well-padded bottoms and began to babble away, Draco evidently telling Harry all about the day’s adventures, his little hands waving for emphasis. Although all four children were fast friends, Draco had a special bond with Harry that had been evident from the very first time they met, only days after Harry’s birth.
Hannah and Luna soon toddled over to join the fun. Confident that the nanny elves had all four children well in hand, the women turned their attention to Narcissa.
She didn’t even flinch as all three of them turned their wands on her. She was used to it.
Diagnostic spells and healing charms flew. Narcissa’s well-bred smile widened into a wolfish grin. “I’m back,” she promised them.
Helena Diggory Abbot squealed, still a Hufflepuff at heart despite the horrors she regularly faced on behalf of her patients. She was a gifted and powerful mind healer, having been inspired to that field of study by seeing the damage Narcissa’s parents had inflicted. “It’s all gone!” she crowed triumphantly. “No behavior hexes, no compulsions, Merlin’s pants! Even the binding on your magic is gone! What happened?!”
Rowena Ollivander Lovegood had performed her own diagnostics, turning to her bag to retrieve several vials. A genius level Potions Master, she had been equally inspired by Narcissa’s troubles in their Hogwarts days. Narcissa downed the potions without question, one after the other. “No curse damage this time. Your core has expanded violently. You should probably be in a coma,” Rowena observed absently. “The usual nutrition and stabilizing portions. Your channels have been blasted open. It’s like you’re going through another magical maturation.”
Lily Evans Potter, always more martial in her approach than the others, lowered her wand after performing the usual checks for mental tampering, loyalty potions, polyjuice, disillusionment charms or evidence of the Imperius curse. “You did it,” she breathed, green eyes widening in shock. “You really did it!”
Narcissa was not the slightest bit surprised that Lily figured it out first.
“Did what?” Helena demanded eagerly and then gasped in sudden realization, whirling to face Narcissa once more. “Oh, Cissy, that’s so dangerous! Are you okay?” Her wand flew as she fired another barrage of healing and diagnostic charms at Narcissa.
Rowena huffed. “Merlin’s hairy bollocks, it’s a damned good thing that I’m perpetually paranoid.” She rummaged in her bag again, grumbling under her breath. “This is the latest version,” she told Narcissa, passing her the potion.
“This will change things,” Lily said slowly, the light of battle in eyes.
Narcissa knocked back Rowena’s final potion with a shudder then flung herself on the chaise lounge, sprawling comfortably as she had been unable to do for at least eight years.
“This will change everything,” Rowena snarked. “Is he dead yet?”
Helena snorted. “Blood thirsty wench.”
“Common sense!” Rowena shot back. “You know Narcissa would never have survived an attempt at Regens Domini unless the situation was dire. Mortal threat to the heir, remember?”
Lily raised her eyebrows. “Well? Did Malfoy survive the Beltane?”
Narcissa shuddered, remembering the sensation of the wards protesting as Lucius had returned to the Manor. “He’s still alive, but I’m quite sure he’s insane at this point.”
She told them everything.
The Aurors and the Wizengamot could have learned valuable lessons from the interrogation that followed. Lily, Rowena and Helena listened in growing horror as Narcissa relayed all that she had been unable to confide in them over the last eight years.
Lily cried out in protest when Narcissa revealed what Lucius had told her of Voldemort’s plans. “He wants to sacrifice my child and make a horcrux?!”
“That’s only the beginning,” Narcissa warned her. “He wants to plant that horcrux in Draco.”
Lily shuddered, revulsion twisting her pretty face. “That’s beyond mad.”
“That’s definitely a mortal threat,” Rowena agreed with a shudder of her own.
Helena looked anxiously at her friends. “We’re going to stop him, right? We’ll have to deal with the horcrux issue as soon as we get rid of Voldemort, but there’s no way we’re going to let him kill Harry or do something so incredibly vile to Draco. No wonder the family magic accepted you! What kind of man thinks planting a horcrux in a baby is a good idea?”
Rowena snorted impatiently. “The whole system is corrupt. Look at what happened to Narcissa! Her own family did that to her!”
“It’s not just us,” Lily pointed out. “Let’s not be delicate. The Death Eaters are raping and killing muggleborn witches. We have to protect our babies, and we’re going to have to do something to protect witches in general. This is going to take more than the scholarships and the Underground Railroad.”
Narcissa smiled slowly. “Remember Plan C?”
Helena laughed and poured herself another cup of tea. “Of course we remember Plan C. I love Plan C.”
Rowena bared her teeth in a predator’s smile. “We all love Plan C. How to take over the wizarding world in our lifetimes.”
Lily snorted and took another sip of tea. “So, the agenda is stop Voldemort, save our babies, protect witches and get rid of the horcruxes.”
“And rewrite the law books to include women as a sentient species,” Rowena added dryly. “Wizarding Britain is stuck in the Dark Ages.”
“Women, house elves, goblins, Veela, werewolves, the merpeople, squibs, the muggleborn,” Helena ticked them off on her fingers. “I’m forgetting someone – oh! The centaurs!” She flapped a dismissive hand in the general direction of Britain. “Women and non-humans.”
Rowena made a rude noise. “We pissed off the Fae centuries ago, but yeah, let’s just say women and the non-human races. Huh. We’re going to have to educate the public. I’ll point Xeno in that direction.”
All four women smiled reflexively. Xenophilius Lovegood was a very good man, a powerful wizard madly in love with his wife and completely enamored by the idea of muggle investigative journalism.
“We should do consciousness raising sessions!” Helena suggested brightly. “We’ll have to teach British witches about female empowerment. Julian was totally blown away by what he learned while I was at Stanford. He’ll help with the younger wizards.”
“He wants to be the wizarding world’s answer to Alan Alda,” Lily reminded them with a grin, having made certain that her friends were well acquainted with muggle pop culture. Helena’s husband had taken to feminism with all the fervor of the converted. He was a staunch advocate of equal rights for witches and regularly wrote impassioned letters to the Prophet and the Quibbler on the topic.
“We’re on a short clock. Lucius said Samhain.” Narcissa caught Lily’s eyes. “Voldemort’s a monster, but he understands power. He’s been using the major fire festivals.”
Lily snorted. “Well, just to make things interesting, my bestest buddy convinced James to move us out of Potter Manor and into the cottage at Godric’s Hollow. Dumbles plans to put it under Fidelis and make one of the boys the secret keeper.”
“Because leaving a manor with defensive fortifications and a ward stone the size of this room makes so much sense,” Rowena bitched. “And call me narrow minded, but I still don’t trust Pettigrew. He’s a bloody rat animagus. That’s magic trying to tell us something.”
“Have I ever mentioned that the way you hold a grudge is truly awe inspiring?” Narcissa toasted Lily with her tea cup. “Seriously. You should be a Slytherin with that attitude.”
Lily huffed. “Dumbledore sat on his ass and let half the school bully Severus. He did nothing to stop it, so I did. And when we found out about what was happening to Sev at home, Dumbledore had the unmitigated gall to tell me he could do nothing. Nothing! He might be a great wizard but he’s a piss poor excuse for a man. I wasn’t even twelve years old but I fixed that too. It only took a little documentation and a few phone calls and guess what? Tobias Snape gets locked up in muggle prison for child abuse. Problem sorted!”
James Potter vowed that he’d fallen in love with Lily Evans the day she bloodied his nose for bullying Severus Snape. She’d kicked Narcissa’s cousin Sirius right in the balls, swore she’d put a muzzle on Remus and threatened to feed Peter Pettigrew to a passing snake. As far as Lily was concerned, Severus Snape was her baby brother, despite only a few weeks difference in their ages. She’d adopted him and that was that. She protected him with all the ferocity of a momma bear defending one cub.
“James trusts him, like most of the wizards in Britain,” Lily continued in disgust. “I’ve never quite understood the phenomenon, but I can’t help but recognize the effect he has on Britain. But I’m not going to trust the safety of my child to Dumbledore’s manipulations and notions about the greater good,” she vowed, making mocking quote marks in the air. “Not after the bullshit with emotionally blackmailing Sev into that scene with James when we got engaged.”
“Because that was so believable – Severus Snape, secretly in love with you?” Rowena scoffed. “First of all, the boy likes wizards, not witches. Seriously. You’re his sister in every way that counts. And who came up with the line ‘mudblood whore’?” She shook her head in disbelief over the entire drama. “It’s like something out of a trashy romance novel.”
Helena rolled her eyes. “Yeah, from two centuries ago.”
“He wanted Sev to become a Death Eater!” Lily still couldn’t believe that little piece of insanity. “Severus Snape is the last of his line. The only thing he should be worried about is potions research and courting a good wizard, not spying on a lunatic. Merlin’s pants, it’s a damned good thing you told him about that position in Toronto, Rowena.”
“It was the least I could do,” Rowena said with a warm smile. She was fond of Severus, as they all were. “He’s a very gifted and creative potions researcher, and there’s a thriving community of gay wizards there, especially with the university.”
“And it keeps him out of Dumbledore’s clutches,” Lily agreed fervently.
There were nods and murmurs of agreement. Left in Dumbledore’s care, Severus would have grown up bitter and untrusting. Instead he was a brilliant, snarky bastard who had received all the love and care he needed to overcome the traumas of his childhood. Helena’s early research into mind healing had been invaluable with Severus as well as Narcissa. Lily had made certain that he’d seen mind healers as well as both muggle doctors and wizard healers.
All four women adored him, and drove him spare with their efforts to introduce him to a nice young wizard who would love him with all the passion and devotion they were sure Sev deserved.
Narcisssa was still troubled by the thought of the Potters at Godric’s Hollow. It just didn’t make sense. “There’s something more to this,” she said after another sip of tea. “Why move you out of the manor?”
“Yeah, that’s tripping my wards too,” Rowena agreed thoughtfully. “Dumbledore’s a fool, but he’s clearly making the potion with different ingredients than we are. What does he know that we don’t?”
Lily huffed. “I think I’m going to make a little visit to Potter Manor to have a chat with my mother-in-law and the Potter ward stone. Dorea and Charlus introduced me when James proposed, and I followed your example and made sure Harry was born there.” She smirked. “Of course, I didn’t have to hide out with only a house elf to deliver him. I made sure James suffered every bit as much as I did. That childbirth hex was inspired, Helena. The midwife loved it, and I swear, Dorea giggled every time James and I had a contraction together.”
Helena laughed. “Isn’t it awesome? I’m rather proud of that one.” She beamed at Narcissa. “I followed your example, too. Dumbledore swears all blood magic is dark, but the birthing rites are gorgeous. Julian said that if there were less danger, he’d want me as maternal regent too. Anything we can do to make Hannah safer is a good thing.”
All eyes turned to Rowena, who smirked at them. “Do you even need to ask? Of course we did the birthing rites. Xeno is practically feral on the topic of Luna’s safety.”
“If Voldemort’s willing to sacrifice one child in order to create a Horcrux, what is there to say that he won’t simply choose another child? I can’t even begin to tell you how corrupted Lucius’ magic is by this Dark Mark the Death Eaters are now sporting,” Narcissa pointed out.
Helena hummed thoughtfully. “We’re going to have to expand this. Protect all the babies. Protect all the witches. Deal with Voldemort and the horcruxes. Protect British wizards from themselves and straighten out the Ministry and the Wizengamot. That’s going to take a lot of galleons.”
“Safe houses,” Lily mused. “Just like we did for the Underground Railroad.”
“Money won’t be a problem,” Narcissa assured them with a wicked grin. “My next stop is Gringotts. There are something like fifteen generations of bride prices and dowries held in trust. It’s still a matter of ego and male pride among pureblood families, even if it’s entailed by the marriage contract.”
Lily stared at her in awe. “You’re going to claim the war vaults of the Malfoy Regency trust.”
“The goblins will love it,” Narcissa predicted comfortably. “I am indeed the maternal regent. And that is what the vaults are there for.”
“Far out!” Helena crowed triumphantly. “We’re going to kick more ass than Charlie’s Angels!”
Rowena groaned. “Honestly, Helena. California ruined you. Far out? What the hell does that even mean?”
Narcissa couldn’t help it. She laughed.
No one particularly wanted to do it.
Narcissa’s respect for the house elves had only grown deeper when she realized how adept they were at spying. Their preparations were well in hand when one of the Malfoy house elves confirmed what they had all suspected – Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater.
It had been one of the Potter elves who brought them the news about the prophecy. That had been early on, and they’d had months to incorporate that little gem into their plans, knowing that Dumbledore was likely planning to use the Potter heir as a stalking goat, no doubt hoping to sweep in like the conquering hero.
Lily, once she’d calmed down from her initial fury, had immediately seen the strategic advantage to leaving both Pettigrew and Dumbledore alive, at least for the moment. It meant that they knew exactly where and when Voldemort would attempt to murder Harry. Of course, Harry would be safely out of reach of Voldemort on Samhain, but none of them wanted to waste years chasing the evil bastard down.
They war-gamed the battle a hundred different ways, aided and abetted by their allies and advisors. But no matter how they strategized, it was clear that they would have to tell James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Julian Abbott and Xeno Lovegood.
Julian and Xeno were actually quite helpful, ably assisting the campaign to educate and mobilize the wizarding public even if they were blissfully unaware of what their wives were up to. But James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were running around with a Death Eater, utterly confident – and stupidly trusting – in their friendship with that rat, Peter Pettigrew.
It was the extremely blunt advice from the Grey Lady that finally decided the issue. So one month before Samhain, the ladies met for tea and decided that Rowena and Helena would break the news to their husbands while Lily dealt with the Marauders. After the worst of the fireworks, they would give the boys a small glimpse of what ‘tea with the ladies’ was really all about.
~ * ~
James, Sirius and Remus were always happy to visit Potter Manor. After Sirius had been disowned by his parents for being sorted to Gryffindor, Dorea Black Potter had made it quite clear that her nephew should consider Potter Manor his home. His Aunt Dorea scared the pants off him, but Sirius never doubted that she loved him.
James’ mum hadn’t even blinked at the news that Remus Lupin was a werewolf, making him feel welcome as no one else had managed, before or since. Even his parents had been somewhat scared of him, but Remus’ wolf respected Dorea Potter as if she were a thoroughly magnificent alpha bitch. Remus adored her, despite, or maybe even because of the fact that she was entirely capable of intimidating all three young men to obedience with a single, very speaking glance.
Curious, but not the least bit alarmed, the three men settled down to tea with Lily and Dorea. Eyebrows rose when Lily asked them to vow on their magic never to reveal what she was about to tell them, until and unless they were granted explicit and detailed permission from Lily Evans Potter, Narcissa Black Malfoy, Helena Diggory Abbott and Rowena Ollivander Lovegood.
Sirius hooted with laughter. “Do you solemnly swear the tea ladies are up to no good?”
James smirked. “Please. The Head Girls into mischief? Never! They’re all far too good for the likes of us, and rule followers, one and all.”
Remus huffed. “Until you piss them off,” he pointed out, reasonably enough. “The last time we tried to argue with Lily, you with ended up with a bloody nose – and Siri, I suspect you would prefer that your bollocks remain in their current condition. I’d really rather not find out if Lily can put a muzzle on me.” He offered Lily a fond smile, lifted his wand and made his oath.
Siri flinched at Lily’s glare and held up his hands in surrender. “You’re terrible and terrifying woman, Lily Potter. I love you to death, but the thought of you in a temper makes my bollocks want to crawl right back up inside my body.” He lifted his wand and obediently offered his oath.
Lily folded her arms and stared at her husband, one eyebrow winging up in imperious enquiry.
James beamed at her. “You are far too good for me, Lily, and you have a punch that literally knocked me on my ass. I adore you, and Siri’s going to tease me about being whipped until I smack him around a little, but yeah, whatever you want, darling.” He lifted his wand and offered up his oath.
“What I’m about to tell you will send you spare,” Lily predicted. “If you totally lose your minds, I can and will obliviate you, stun you and ship all three of you off to stay with Severus so he can sit on you until it’s all over. So mind your manners, boys.”
Then she told them about Peter and the prophecy.
Sirius, predictably enough, just about lost his mind. Dorea Potter simply rolled her eyes and efficiently cast a silencing charm on Sirius, then spelled all three men to their chairs as she had often done through the years whenever the Marauders finally pushed her past her patience with their mischief and mayhem.
James was shaking with rage. “Dumbledore knew about this prophecy and he didn’t tell us?!”
“Yes!” Lily plunked her hands on her hips and glared at her husband. “I know this is fucking with your minds, but this is only the beginning, James! Now calm the fuck down and listen to me.”
“Men,” Dorea Black Potter huffed, with a look that managed to make her son and nephew wince. Remus ducked his head in submission. She might be silver haired and fragile with age, still grieving after Death Eaters murdered her husband the previous year, but she was a truly formidable woman.
“The only reason we’re telling you hot heads is that we all knew you’d lose your minds, and I have no intention of letting any of you get yourselves fucking killed because you go off halfcocked in the middle of a fire fight,” Lily snapped. “There’s too much at stake here.”
“But…” James began, only to have his mother spell him to silence as she had Sirius.
“This is no time for ego, boys,” Dorea advised them in the frigid tones that made James feel like a naughty five year old again. She slid Remus a measuring look and quietly handed him a calming potion. “Breathe, dear,” she advised him once he’d knocked it back like a shot of fire whiskey, nodding approvingly when the yellow faded from his eyes as he regained control of his wolf.
“You told me when you proposed that you trusted me to go to war for your House,” Lily reminded James tartly. “Well, the Ministry for Magic and the bloody Wizengamot may not want to admit it, but we’re in the middle of a goddamn war right now, and the three of you are about to start fucking up our operations with your flailing about chasing after Death Eaters. Dumbledore is playing a deep game, you’ve been used like pawns and Siri, your family magic is so corrupted at this point that only the fact that you were disowned by your parents is keeping you sane.
“So you’re going to sit there and calm the fuck down and when I think you can behave like civilized adults instead of hot headed boys with more balls than brains, I’m going to take you on a little tour so you can see a bit of our preparations.”
~ * ~
Dorea and Lily took them by side along to an apparition point outside one of the new Witches Institutes that seemed to be springing up all over the country. With the very vocal support of notable witches and the glowing articles in the newspapers, the Institute was something of a phenomenon.
The cheerful sign offered a new mothers group, infant and toddler play groups and even etiquette classes for young witches and wizards not quite old enough to attend Hogwarts or one of the other magic schools.
“Aw, look! He’s got a little earring, like Harry!” James smiled indulgently at the toddler riding papoose style in one of those newfangled baby carriers that were all the rage among witches with young children.
Siri huffed. “Now I know why you had no interest in becoming an Auror,” he said under his breath. “You must be the most oblivious man in the country. I swear, half the kids in Britain have earrings these days.”
“And the ones who don’t have earrings have those little teething charms,” Remus added, waggling his fingers at another toddler grinning toothlessly at them from the security of a baby carrier as his mother carried him into the Witches Institute.
Once inside the doors, all three men stared wide eyed at the gleeful chaos. There was a child-friendly play room with dozens of house elves in crisp livery bearing the Women’s Institute emblem overseeing the mayhem as their young mothers relaxed with their peers and enjoyed a cup of tea. Other rooms held small groups of women who seemed to be learning how to use the popular baby carriers, or groups of very intense witches focused on maps and checklists, obviously planning some sort of charity event.
“Merlin’s pants!” Sirius looked around wildly as Lily led them deeper into the building and through a set of wards like none of them had ever encountered. Even Hogwarts’ wards didn’t make themselves felt as aggressively. “What the hell?”
“Perfect timing, Lily,” Rowena smirked and toasted Lily with her mug of tea. “We just arrived.”
James snorted, seeing the befuddled expressions on the faces of Xeno Lovegood and Julian Abbott. “I’m glad I’m not the only one looking utterly gobsmacked.”
Helena giggled. “How far did you get?”
Lily flapped a hand. “Peter, the prophecy, and the fact that they need to behave before they screw up our plans.”
Rowena hummed thoughtfully. “Okay, pay attention,” she instructed in the brisk tones that the Marauders had learned not to ignore well before Rowena had been named Head Girl of Ravenclaw. “We started funding scholarships for young witches before we even graduated from Hogwarts. It’s rather a tradition for Head Girls. I think you all know about that. What you probably don’t know is that we’ve also personally funded what Lily calls the Underground Railroad, which helps witches and their children escape abusive situations. We help them with new identities and get them settled into warded safe houses, mostly in the Americas.”
Julian Abbott beamed at his wife. “I’m so proud of you, Helena.”
“In May, we began to bankroll the Witches Institute,” Rowena continued. “Each Institute is built around what Narcissa calls a magical safe room, Fidelis protected, heavily warded space that is so shielded that Voldemort, all his Death Eaters, Dumbledore, and Gellert Grindelwald could decide to join forces and not make it inside.”
Lily smirked. “The new fashion for children’s jewelry is the next piece of the puzzle. Xeno’s fashion editors at the Quibbler did good work promoting them. Harry’s earring is actually a very fancy piece of magic, combining house elf magic, goblin intent wards, and an emergency portkey.” She shrugged. “There’s some fae enchantments worked into the mithral before the goblins do the metal work, too. Dark spells, hexes of any kind or even the presence of someone bearing the Dark Mark triggers a shield spell and transports the protected child to his or her designated safe room.”
Dorea Potter chuckled. “Close your mouths, gentlemen. You look ridiculous with your jaws hanging open like that.”
Helena laughed. “As of this morning, we have roughly 73% of magical children in Britain under the age of five protected by similar wards.”
“Spell work like that has to cost a fortune!” Julian Abbott exclaimed, shocked and admiring.
“How the hell did you convince the goblins and the bloody fae to help?” Xeno sputtered.
“The baby carriers that have become so fashionable are charmed to look like colorful fabric, but they’re all constructed of heavily charmed dragon hide,” Rowena went on, blithely ignoring their outbursts. “They’re essentially child sized body armor, with cushioning and shield charms.”
James Potter was staring at his wife in horror. “It’s more than Voldemort wanting to kill Harry.”
There was no way to break the news gently. “He’s making Horcruxes. He wants to make his next one by sacrificing Harry,” Lily said bluntly. “Then he wants to plant that Horcrux in Draco Malfoy. There’s no way in hell that Voldemort will be able to do either of those things, but we can’t take the chance that he or his Death Eaters will go after other children.”
“That’s death magic!” Sirius exploded. “My family is dark as hell, but death magic is insane!”
Helena rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, he’s a bad guy. You’re an Auror, Siri. This shouldn’t be news to you.”
James Potter stared at his wife in awe. “I don’t care if you bankrupt us, baby. This is amazing.”
Lily smirked. “Money is one thing we don’t have to worry about. The goblins were delighted to assist when Narcissa claimed the Malfoy Regency vaults.”
Five men stared at her in stunned silence.
It was several minutes before Xeno Lovegood cleared his throat. “They say the last witch to successfully perform the rite of maternal regency was Merlin’s granddaughter.”
Rowena smiled indulgently. “That’s what they say.”
“And it’s not like we haven’t had help,” Helena pointed out cheerfully. “What’s the count today, Dorea?”
“Fifty-two.” James Potter’s mother offered the smallest of smiles. “Your wives aren’t the only Hogwarts Head Girls to stay in touch. Witches do so enjoy having tea with the ladies,” she mocked gently.
Sirius was swearing, softly and reverently.
“That’s the power the dark lord knows not,” Remus managed at last. “The power of pissed off alpha bitch mamas protecting their cubs.”
Julian Abbott laughed. “I always said the witches of Britain were a sleeping giant. Voldemort and the Death Eaters are only the beginning.”
Rowena smiled, fierce and bright. “You haven’t even seen our secret weapon yet.”
James was flabbergasted. “There’s more?”
Helena’s smile was dangerous. “Oh, yeah.”
James was so entranced by the predator’s smile gracing Lily’s face that he had to resort to a spell that was the salvation of teenaged wizards everywhere.
Sirius huffed. “Stop being all scary and hot. You’re all like my sisters and it’s just weird. What’s this secret weapon?”
All four women replied with one voice.
Two hours later, Lily, Rowena and Helena regarded the men in their lives with almost identical expressions of impatience.
They were almost as terrifying as Dorea.
James squirmed uncomfortably on the delicate antique chair in the parlor at Potter Manor and dared a quick look at his wife, then flinched and hid in his tea cup again.
Remus was hunched with his shoulders almost up to his ears, eyes flickering yellow.
“We’re not asking permission,” Lily pointed out in scathing tones. “This is happening. Be glad we showed you the courtesy of letting you know our plans.”
Julian Abbott leaned forward in his seat. “Helena, you must know how deeply I respect you. You and your network of Head Girls have accomplished amazing things.”
Helena was entirely unimpressed. “What part of ‘this is happening’ do you not understand?”
“What you’ve done is revolutionary!” Xeno Lovegood flicked his wife a beseeching glance. “I think the entire lot of you should be up for the Order of Merlin at the very least. But this is combat with Death Eaters and a madman so far gone on black magic that he habitually rapes and murders witches for power.” He swallowed hard. “Please let us call in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I couldn’t bear to lose you, Rowena. Luna needs her mother. I need you.”
Rowena sighed, utterly out of patience. “I swear, someone needs to do research on selective hearing in wizards. Seriously.” She glared at her husband. “It’s like you’re not even processing language at this point.”
“We’re wasting our time.” Dorea set her tea cup down with a click of porcelain.
Sirius raked his hand through his already unruly hair and tried again. “I know you all had top scores in dueling at Hogwarts, but fighting Death Eaters is going to take more than a good bat bogey hex! Do you have any idea how many Aurors have been maimed or killed by Death Eaters? Narcissa’s my cousin, and I love her and I know how smart she is, but damn it, I’m having a hard time with the idea that she thinks she can take on Voldemort.” He slumped back in his chair and took a long swallow of tea. “Merlin’s pants, she may be a Slytherin to the bone, but she gets pissy if her robes get wrinkled. I can’t imagine her wading through the kind of carnage the Death Eaters deal in.”
Lily smirked. Rowena actually laughed.
Helena giggled and cast a quick Tempus charm. “She’s probably ready for a break.”
“Agreed,” Dorea said briskly. “They’re blinded by their own assumptions. While I hate to waste Narcissa’s time like this, perhaps a quick visit will put an end to this nonsense. Binky?”
The Potter house elf was duly dispatched to extend an invitation for Narcissa to enjoy afternoon tea with her godmother at Potter Manor. “Do apologize for the inconvenient timing,” Dorea instructed. “Please let her know that there is no need for her to change as I know she has further commitments. She’s welcome to come straight through.”
The house elf flashed a rather disconcerting grin and popped out.
Dorea’s lips twitched. “The child has always had an astonishing affinity for house elves. Did you know she’s actually learning their language?” She took a genteel sip of tea, ignoring the astonishment of the men. “They are remarkably poor linguists, for all their magical ability. Then again, English is hardly the most logical of languages.”
Before the men could process having yet another paradigm shattered for the day, Narcissa Black Malfoy apparated directly into the parlor. Instead of the fashionable robes the men were accustomed to seeing her in, Narcissa was clad in light armor – closely fitted trousers, boots and a tunic, the hilt of a sword visible over one shoulder. “Aunt Dorea, you’re a life saver,” she said easily, absently spinning one of the chairs around so she could straddle it.
“Hildr running you ragged?” Dorea poured her goddaughter a cup of tea. “You must be famished.”
Narcissa was already loading up a plate with a small mountain of dainty sandwiches. “The house elves love it,” she admitted with a wry grin. “I eat like a horse these days.”
James cleared his throat. “Did you just pop through the wards?” Potter Manor was unplottable and protected by some of the heaviest wards in magical Britain. He had become the family Patriarch after his father’s murder and the wards hadn’t even twitched when Narcissa apparated directly into the parlor.
“Mmm,” Narcissa confirmed with a nod, already engaged in wolfing down the first sandwich.
Sirius was all but drooling over Narcissa’s body armor. “Basilisk hide? And is that mithral chain mail?” he demanded, his voice climbing the scale in his astonishment. “That’s fae work!”
“Mmmhmmm.” Narcissa was far more interested in her next sandwich. “Fae and goblin, mostly, except for the enchantments.”
Remus frowned, nostrils flaring. “You smell like blood and sweat. Are you injured?”
Narcissa swallowed. “Well, sorry about the sweat. I’ve spent the last twelve hours in weapons training and Hildr doesn’t believe in training with blunt weapons. She says it teaches bad habits. The enemy won’t give a damn if I’m injured. They heal me after each session, so don’t get your hackles up. It still hurts like hell, though.” She popped the rest of the sandwich in her mouth.
“Hildr?” Julian Abbott was fascinated.
“Goblin battle mistress,” Helena explained brightly. “They do this really cool time dilation magic. Cissy started training in May, but in real time, she’s had years of training now.”
James huffed. “You’ve been training with a goblin battle… mistress?” he repeated, evidently in shock. “The goblins don’t let their females out of the caves.”
Lily snorted. “Yeah, not so much. Goblin females have far less patience than the males, so they pretty much avoid humans.” She grinned. “Of course, Hildr is totally badass, and Ragnok doesn’t argue with his mum any more than you do.”
Sirius eeled out of his chair and around the table to grab his cousin’s hand, fingers gliding over her palm, finding the callouses earned through years of wielding a sword rather than the soft hands of a delicate pureblood witch. “Ragnok’s…mum?” he repeated. “You’re training with the Head of State for the Goblin Empire’s mother?”
Narcissa smirked at him and grabbed another sandwich with her free hand. “She’s our Secret Keeper. Of course, once she met my Lady,” Narcissa jerked her thumb towards the hilt of the sword riding on her back, “she said she needed to train me so I would be worthy of my weapon.” She took a big bite of sandwich, grateful that her godmother had a fondness for roast beef. The sandwiches were quite hearty, despite their delicate appearance.
Xeno cleared his throat. “About the sword…”
Narcissa cocked her head in silent enquiry, too busy eating to ask.
“He has Mage sight,” Rowena reminded her.
Narcissa nodded, swallowing, washing it down with another cup of tea. “She probably looks awesome to you.”
“She’s blinding, even in the scabbard,” Xeno admitted faintly.
“Cissy,” Sirius said helplessly, releasing her hand at last. “What the ever loving fuck?”
“Language, Sirius,” Dorea chided sternly. “There are ladies present.”
“Sorry, Auntie,” he apologized absently, grey eyes still focused on his cousin. “Do you really think Voldemort and his Death Eaters are going to stand around while you swing that big assed sword around? I’ll bet you look like some kind of Valkyrie but they’re wizards.”
Narcissa was studying the options on the pretty three tiered serving stand. “Oh, yum. Quiche!” She helped herself to several and smiled fondly at her crazy cousin. “Well, she’s a magic sword, if that makes you feel any better, Siri. Even with access to the Malfoy ward stone, I don’t have the kind of power a human needs to learn goblin battle magic – you pretty much need to be an archmagus to train as a war mage, but Hildr says the enchantments on my Lady help compensate.” She cast a quick Tempus charm. “Sorry, I have to dash. Grey gets bitchy if I’m late for training.”
“More training?” James wondered, watching Narcissa pile mini quiches and a generous selection of dainty meat pies into a napkin.
“Of course. Hildr for weapons work and battle strategy, Grey for dueling and whatever questions I have after the absorption stones she assigned me from the night before. I have assault team training with Lily, Helena and Rowena three days a week and melee training every other day.” Narcissa grinned. “The house elves have a blast helping me with the obstacle courses and general physical conditioning. Time dilation magic is awesome. The four of us get together with the kids every day too.” She dropped a kiss on top of Dorea’s head, ruffled Siri’s hair and smiled at her three best friends. “See you in the morning!”
She apparated away, leaving five stunned men in her wake.
There was a long silence.
“Wow.” James stared at his wife as if seeing her for the first time. “I almost feel sorry for the Death Eaters.”
Sirius huffed and caved completely. “Okay, so Narcissa’s going to kick Voldemort’s ass. You’re right, we’re wrong. I grovel. Tell us what you want us to do.”
The thirty-first of October 1981 dawned crisp and cold, the Wizarding Wireless predicting an early snow for the Samhain celebrations. The media for magical Britain was making a huge (and brilliantly planned) fuss over the inaugural Children’s Samhain Ball, sponsored by the new Witches Institute. While celebration of the pagan fire festivals had become less central to magical society in the last few thousand years, everyone was uniformly delighted by what the spokeswitch for the Witches Institute promised would become an annual event.
Millicent Selwyn Avery (Ravenclaw Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1912) was a pureblood witch of impeccable pedigree and reputation. Well known for her devotion to charitable causes, she was a gifted public speaker and writer, and handled the vast majority of the publicity campaign for the Witches Institute. Just her name in association with the organization had done much to increase both its reputation and acceptance among even the most hidebound of the pureblood families.
The Quibbler carried interviews with numerous notable witches, equally supportive of the idea of a Children’s Ball. Minerva Ross McGonagall (Gryffindor Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1927) spoke of the soiree in glowing terms, citing the advantages of giving young witches and wizards a chance to learn how to navigate polite society in such a safe and supportive environment. No less a personage than Lady Hepzibah Smith (Hufflepuff Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1893), a direct descendant of Helga Hufflepuff herself, had spent the last few months exhorting witches from all walks of life to bring their little ones to the Institute to celebrate Samhain, no matter what their pedigree or political aspirations.
The Prophet published a special fashion supplemental, detailing the latest in children’s formal wear, once again gushing in their support of the almost ubiquitous children’s jewelry – most commonly earrings, but also popular as bracelets, anklets and teething charms worn as necklaces. Witches Weekly featured a review of the latest designer ‘mother and child’ ensembles of matching robes, with coordinating baby carriers for those with very young children.
For the muggles of Godric’s Hollow, the day began with low level irritation. They had been informed by very official letters that all utilities would be cut off to the village while emergency repairs were conducted. Instead of the usual high handed announcements from the utility companies, most villagers were please to discover that they had been issued vouchers for accommodation at their choice of any number of very lovely hotels and inns. Because the vital repairs to the village’s infrastructure included work on the gas mains, the work was deemed as potentially dangerous, and even their beloved pets were being relocated for the duration.
There was a door to door campaign to make sure all the residents were safely out of the village before work began. Teams of fresh faced women with cheerful smiles (mostly Hufflepuff Head Girls from the early 70’s) equipped with clipboards and very efficient lists knocked on doors, issuing diplomatic apologies and warm thanks for the muggle families’ cooperation. Making sure that all the displaced villagers had their vouchers and all the necessary paperwork for their temporary relocation, they sent the muggles off with well provisioned hampers from Fortnum & Mason as well with complimentary carafes of tea for the journey to their individual destinations.
One elderly woman had outlived her two husbands and her children, bravely battling on with only a tiny pension. The Hufflepuffs were so enamored of her gumption and complete failure to feel sorry for herself that they adopted her on the spot. Mrs. Mary Jones would the first person to benefit from what would soon become the Hufflepuff sponsored ‘Adopt a Muggle!’ service program, targeting elderly women living alone in villages with mixed magical and muggle populations.
The construction and engineering crews waved cheerfully to the little muggle children peering with such fascination at the enormous backhoes and front end loaders brought in for the work. Sixteen Ravenclaw Head Girls from Hogwarts’ graduating classes of the 1940s and 50s were polyjuiced as construction workers, and having a wonderful time playing with the muggle heavy equipment.
Ignatia Wildsmith Edgecombe (Ravenclaw Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1939) was every bit as brilliant as her famous ancestress. She had discovered away to permit witches to shield their magical emanations to enable them to work Muggle equipment back in 1941, a skill she had put to good use during the last muggle World War. It was a skill set and a spell she had never shared with wizard society and the government. “Basic operational security, ladies!” Ignatia explained briskly when the Ravenclaw ladies had done their training on the equipment. “It’s Need To Know, and those daft bastards don’t need to know!”
In their planning, the Ravenclaws had indeed uncovered a fault in the main sewer line for the village, something they would magically repair as well as performing a variety much needed and long deferred routine maintenance on the village infrastructure. It was the least they could do after disrupting so many families and essentially evicting them from their homes for the next three days.
Of course, their investigations had actually been a cover for planting a variety of charms, spells, and magical surveillance equipment, much of which was based on the infant monitoring charms magical families used to ensure the safety of their smallest children. Sensitive to both sound, motion and magical disturbances, such devices normally transmitted information to small pocket sized scrying mirrors that would alert mothers in the event that their children needed them.
Instead of the scrying mirrors most young mothers carried when away from their children, the surveillance network fed directly to the war room at the Witches Institute in Wiltshire, not far from Malfoy Manor. There it would be recorded into secure Pensieves, a suggestion from Amelia Bones (Slytherin Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1972). She was an up and comer at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, with an already sterling reputation for unshakable integrity and devotion to the law.
The Ravenclaw engineering team also installed the vast network of tiny rune stones anchoring the elaborate illusion of the village undergoing a normal day and night. Very similar to the work that protected Hogwarts and other magical landmarks from curious muggles, it was enough to convince any Death Eater scouts that all was entirely normal and completely unexciting.
Professor Emeritus Bathilda Bagshot (Ravenclaw Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1863 – and author of the critically acclaimed ‘A History of Magic’ published by Little Red Books in 1947) had joyfully joined the conspiracy of remarkable women poised to change the history of the magical world. She had opened her home, modifying the wards and watching with interest as bright young things had spent the last few months quietly reinforcing what was once a modest retirement manor into a fortified position close to what would become what the young ones were calling ‘ground zero’.
By nine a.m., the scene was set.
~ * ~
With the Children’s Ball coming up that evening, no one even blinked at the hustle and bustle at the various Witches Institutes. While the vast majority of the witches were entirely innocent of what went on behind the scenes, in the central war room hidden beneath the magical safe room at the heart of the Wiltshire Witches Institute, the ladies assembled for an early afternoon tea.
“Let’s do this by the book,” Narcissa reminded them. “Rowena?”
Rowena rose and addressed the assembled Head Girls. “Bottoms up, ladies!” She led by example, knocking back the first of several vials lined up in front of each witch. “Felix Felices, core enhancement potions and nutritional support. The triage teams are each equipped with a full array of potions for medical emergencies. Most of you will be coordinating activities at the Institutes, but it never hurts to be well prepared.”
Helena regarded her medical teams sternly. “Documentation is vital so the legal teams have ammunition when we deal with the Wizengamot and the IWC. Medical stasis and blood identification for all incoming Death Eaters. Wands must be tested for spells and the results recorded. Don’t forget your duplication charms – six copies for everything you do. Everyone works in pairs, and remember that your every move will be recorded.”
“The defensive teams will move into position around the safe rooms at sundown.” Lily looked over the assembled Witches Institute house elves and frowned. “I know they taste nasty, but Rowena made potions for you lot too.”
“They’re designed for house elves,” Rowena promised them. “Come on, bottoms up.”
“You make potions for house elves?” Tears welled up in the eyes of the head elf for the Institute.
Rowena huffed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Keely. The Institute Elves are protecting our children. How could we fail to offer you potions support?”
Keely was sniffling, ears trembling. “Wizards don’t heals house elves.”
Rowena snorted. “Well, some wizards are stupid but I’m a Ravenclaw. I’m not stupid. Go on, drink up.”
Tilly, Draco Malfoy’s tiny vassal and nanny elf, knocked back her vial of potions like a shot of fire whiskey and shuddered. “Don’t be wet tea towel,” she scolded Keely briskly. “Potions taste like dirty socks but theys be goods for elves.”
As the Institute elves dutifully down their potions, Lily went over a few last minute instructions for the defensive teams. “Defensive teams will stay in contact with the war room. We don’t anticipate any evacuations tonight, but any casualties will be transported to Helena’s clinic via emergency port key. Strike teams, stay behind your fortifications and don’t forget your warming charms. You’ll be in place at sundown, but it will likely be some hours before we see action. Your only mission is to tag the bastards and come home safely. We want you back at your assigned Institutes to support the defensive teams the very minute we activate the tags.”
Artemesia Tintwhistle (Hufflepuff Head Girl and Quidditch Captain, Class of 1942, who led Hufflepuff to victory in the Quidditch cup three years running, an event never duplicated in all of Hogwarts history) lifted her blow pipe merrily. “We’re armed and dangerous,” she promised. “We’ll take care of the riff raff while you lot deal with Moldy Shorts and the rat.”
There was muffled laughter that quieted as Narcissa stood and studied her army solemnly. “Thank you,” she said quietly. “We’ve come a long way in such a very short time. Voldemort and the Death Eaters are only the most obvious and immediate danger. Witches have little in the way of protection around much of the world, but tonight we’ll take the first steps towards autonomy, independence and equality.
“While magical society may have withdrawn from the world, there is still much we can learn from Muggles. In 1975 and 1976, thousands of young women in the Muggle cities of Philadelphia and Brussels took to the streets to protest sexual violence, determined to ‘take back the night’.
“We may not have thousands. There are fewer than 60 of us who are involved directly in the war effort, but I am confident of victory. As Margaret Mead, a brilliant Muggle scientist once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’”
~ * ~
By four o’clock, they were all in position. Draco, Harry, Hannah and Luna were safe in the magical safe room at Potter Manor, with their nanny elves in attendance.
The men had given up all protest, meekly joining Dorea and their children at Potter Manor. They didn’t even blink when Tilly appeared in a tiny set of light armor, looking quite ferocious for a being not much taller than her charge.
In the cottage at Godric’s Hollow, Narcissa regarded young Dobby solemnly. “Are you sure, Dobby? We can try an illusion or I can make a poppet.”
Dobby slid her a remarkably indulgent look. “I’s be sure, Mama Malfoy. I be the youngest Malfoy elf, and still kind of short. House elf magics makes me feels like a baby to mean wizards. They think I be baby Potter.” He patted the baby carrier. “We’s make magic space inside so I’s fits with no worries. House elves is strong, makes it hard for wizard magics to hurt house elves not bound to their magics.”
Narcissa gave him a long look and then sighed. “I still can’t believe Tilly came up with this,” she grumbled. “You’re her baby.”
Dobby’s ears dipped and he shuffled his feet. “Wells, my mum knows my magics. I be real good in getting out of trouble,” he admitted with a little smirk.
“Somehow I can believe that,” Narcissa replied wryly and held up an earring that matched the one worn by Harry Potter. “One condition. You wear an emergency port key. If you’re injured, you go straight to Helena for healing.”
Dobby sniffled and impulsively hugged her knees. “Yous be best Malfoy ever. I’s gots so much magics on me, this just be fun.” He grinned up at her. “I gets best seat to watch Moldy Shorts get his butt kicked. Potter and Malfoy and Abbott and Lovegood house elves all jealous.”
Rowena snickered, her body armor already charmed to look like a set of James Potter’s casual trousers and a woolly jumper. “He’s got a point. I’ve heard quite the list of reasons for why the Lovegood elves feel they should be here.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “The house elves all seem to think this is better than the Quidditch World Cup.” She wore her own sets of armor, transfigured to look like a set of muggle blue jeans and a green jumper. Smirking, she handed Rowena the vial of Polyjuice. “Come on, James,” she teased. “Down the hatch.”
Rowena wrinkled her nose and swallowed the potion she’d carefully brewed with a hair donated by James, paused for the space of one heartbeat then shuddered violently. “Bleaaargh!”
Narcissa laughed as she carefully numbed Dobbie’s ear and inserted the earring, drawing the single drop of blood that would tie the portkey to his magic. “You sound like a kneazle with a hairball.”
“Merlin’s hairy bollocks, that’s foul,” Rowena said, looking and sounding exactly like James Potter.
Dobbie giggled and clapped his hands, now looking exactly like Harry, down to his little blue shirt and adorable green eyes. “Oh, well done!” Lily said in admiring tones, swinging the house elf up in her arms. “You even weight the same.”
Harry’s mouth curved a tiny smirk. Lily dropped a kiss on top of his head and helped him wriggle into the armored baby carrier, the usual enchantments making it look like brightly colored cloth with golden snitches zooming about.
“Now comes the hard part,” Narcissa observed wryly, casting a disillusionment spell on herself. “We wait.”
~ * ~
Shortly after nine, the surveillance spells went off. “We’ve got movement!”
Witches scrambled into position, anxiously watching the activity on large viewing Pensieves mounted on the walls around the war room beneath the Wiltshire branch of the Witches Institute.
The masked Death Eaters apparated in silence to a point just outside the Potters’ cottage in twos and threes, milling about as they waited for their leader. Several of the masked figures darted away to carefully place small packages against the walls of the nearest muggle houses.
Back in the war room, cheers broke out as Artemesia Tintwhistle and her teams took aim and fired their enchanted blow pipes at the completely oblivious Death Eaters, tagging each one with tiny darts that would serve as port keys.
“There’s the rat,” Minerva McGonagall said in freezing tones, recognizing the way he moved. She was pleased to note that the strike teams took particular care to ensure that Pettigrew was well tagged. Eyes narrowed all over the war room as they watched Pettigrew use his wand to sever his own finger and toss it in the bushes.
“That has to be Malfoy,” Amelia Bones murmured, seeing a tall figure sporting a very distinctive mane of silver white hair tied back in a fashionable tail arrive with Voldemort. She smirked when he was immediately tagged by at least six tiny darts.
The strike team melted back into the shadows without the Death Eaters even noticing them. As the first explosions rocked the quite night, Tintwhistle started picking off Death Eaters from the back.
“Bastards,” a Hufflepuff watching in the war room hissed in outrage, seeing the damage to one of the nearby muggle homes. Had the ladies not taken the precaution of evacuating the village, the casualties would have been horrifying.
One by one, the ranks of the assembled Death Eaters were were thinned as the strike team fired their wands at their backs, setting off the portkeys and transporting Voldemort’s followers directly to secure holding cells where they were immediately hit from behind once more, this time by multiple stunners and medical stasis spells, exactly as planned. “You tag ‘em, we bag em!” Helena said cheerfully, briskly stunning yet another Death Eater.
One of the muggle born witches laughed. “This is more fun than Whac-A-Mole!” She stunned and bespelled another Death Eater, grinning ear to ear.
In the war room, attention was turning to the Pensieves showing activity from inside the cottage.
“That’s our cue,” Rowena said with a wolfish grin as she heard the explosions, the expression startling on James Potter’s features. She stood and drew her wand. “Lily, take Harry and go!” she cried out in James’ voice. “Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!”
Lily Potter snorted. “Drama queen.” But she obligingly thundered up the narrow stairs to the nursery, where Dobby was bundled into the cozy baby carrier, as innocent as a lamb. He blinked big green eyes at her and she stifled a giggle.
Downstairs, Rowena was entertaining herself by taking out months of frustration on the unfortunate Death Eaters first in the door. Neatly bottlenecked, they were easy targets as they tried to force their way in the house. She nearly laughed as she saw the rear guard steadily disappearing behind an arrogantly unmasked Voldemort, more and more Death Eaters being whisked away by portkey.
“Incoming!” Rowena bellowed as Voldemort slipped in while she was was busy cursing two more Death Eaters.
Back in the war room, Minerva McGonagall addressed the cheering witches. “Ladies, those of you with delicate stomachs may wish to retire,” she called out in her no nonsense voice. “This part may be a bit bloody!”
“No injuries!” Hortense Bassenthwaite (Slytherin Head Girl, Hogwarts Class of 1969) announced as everyone watched Lily Potter make faces at ‘Harry’. “The strike teams have all reported in from their secondary assignments!”
Voldemort seemed startled when Lily Potter didn’t seem afraid. “Run,” he taunted her. “Run and I may spare your life.”
Lily snorted and fired a powerful Reducto at him, sending the Dark Lord crashing back into the wall. “Not bloody likely,” she huffed, executing a perfect knee reversal hex. “Did you think I would stand by and let you kill my child? Protego!”
The witches in the war room cheered as Lily’s shield spell successfully deflected the Dark Lord’s snarled ‘Crucio!’
The duel was brutal. Several witches were amused to see Minerva McGonagall twisting and bobbing and ducking, fingers twitching as if restraining the urge to raise her wand and join the fight. An accomplished and celebrated dueler in her own right, she roared her approval as Lily cast Diffindo, the severing charm backed by enough power to slice through Voldemort’s robes, blood arcing up to spatter the wall behind him.
The Pensieves suddenly whited out as the sound of a thousand female voices raised in triumphant song spilled out of the monitors. “Go, Narcissa!” Minerva cried out, completely forgetting her dignity in the heat of the moment.
The eye searing brightness cleared and Voldemort was on the screens again, his arm thrown across his eyes. Snarling, Voldemort whirled and pointed his wand at the toddler watching the proceedings with fascination. “Avada Keda…”
Blood spattered in gruesome closeup across several of the Pensieve screens, followed by a heavy thump as Voldemort’s head sailed free of his shoulders and crashed against one wall.
Witches in the war room were cheering and laughing and crying and dancing around the war room as Narcissa and Lily smirked at each other back at Godric’s Hollow. The song from Narcissa’s sword was quieter having satisfied its thirst for righteous death.
“Okay, yeah, that’s disgusting,” Lily muttered, looking around at the mess. There was more laughter in the war room as Lily and Narcissa engaged in a small debate over who would pick up Voldemort’s head.
Dobby giggled. “House elves clean up messes,” he told them loftily and used his magic to move Voldemort’s head into the heavily charmed bag Narcissa gave him. It would preserve the gruesome trophy until she needed it.
Dobby peered over at the headless corpse making an even bigger mess on the floor and wrinkled his nose. “Dark magics.”
Narcissa and Lily both aimed their wands at the body and hit it with stunning and stasis spells.
“Somebody warn Helena,” Narcissa said calmly. She flicked her wand at the body and it disappeared, portkeyed to a specially warded space prepared just for the purpose of holding Voldemort’s corpse as Rowena poked her head around the corner and grimaced.
“The Potter elves are going to be pissed,” Rowena predicted cheerfully in James Potter’s light baritone. “Come on, let’s get back to the Institute. I want my own body back. There’s some distressing extra anatomy going on down there, and I really don’t need to know your husband that well, Lily.”
She heaved a martyred sigh and rolled her eyes when Narcissa and Lily immediately burst out laughing, amusement that was echoed in Wiltshire by the still avidly watching witches in the war room. “Yes, yes, make fun of the lady with the bollocks. Come on, people. Let’s get a move on. I’m dying for a cup of tea.”
As soon as word came that the battle at Godric’s Hollow had gone off as planned, Dorea had packedup the men and the children and relocated everyone to Malfoy Manor. With nor further need to hide her control of the wards, Narcissa had immediately opened the Manor to her extended family.
“It’s done,” Helena reported tiredly, flopping down on the sofa next to her husband Julian. “Be a darling and pour me a cup of tea,” she begged him. “Three days of processing evidence and I am beyond bored with Death Eaters.”
Rowena groaned and climbed to her feet from where she’d just collapsed on top of Xeno’s lap, blithely using his shoulder and then the top of his head to steady herself. “Merlin’s pants,” she groused as she rummaged in her bag, “if the ICW doesn’t do a proper job of this, we’re taking over the bloody world next.” She lobbed several vials into Helena’s lap. “Pepper-Up, core enhancements and nutritional support and after this I’m cutting you off. We all need sleep.”
Lily huffed from where she’d crawled on top of James as he lay stretched out on the chaise lounge. “The rest of the world can go hang,” she warned, her voice muffled against James’ chest. “I don’t have the patience to clean up after the entire planet. Britain is bad enough.”
Narcissa chuckled wearily from her place on the floor next to the children, who were gleefully climbing all over Remus under the watchful eyes of their nannies. “Millicent has been planning this for months,” she reminded them. “The first articles were released this morning. Publicity and legal have this under control, and they’re just as prepared as we were for Samhain. Even the Wizengamot can’t fuck this up, although the Ministry will probably never recover.”
Sirius made a rude noise. “This is not a bad thing. The Aurors will want to hold a parade in your honor if you get rid of the Ministry. Bones and her lot have done a brilliant job overhauling the Department of Magical Law Enforcement over the last few years but the Ministry is full of idiots. Hell, make her the new Minister,” he suggested. “At least we’d know there was someone in charge who could actually do the job.”
“Already in the works, dear,” Dorea assured her nephew blandly. “Samhain was only phase one of the operation.”
Dobby popped in, clearly stifling giggles. “Excuse to be interrupting, but Mr. Sev be shouting on the ‘floo and not making sense. Kiki ask please to talk to Mr. Sev before he shits kittens.”
Sirius cackled like a mad thing. “I love your elves, Cissy. Seriously. That is just awesome.”
Narcissa rolled her eyes. “Just tell him to come through. Or I can send one of you with a portkey for him if he doesn’t have an international floo line.”
Dobby smirked. “Kiki already tells him so but Mr. Sev flails with newpaper like so!” Dobby provided a hilarious rendition of Severus Snape Prince having a fit of epic proportions. “Mr. Sev also wants to be bringing his man,” he added meaningfully.
Four weary heads lifted alertly. “His man?” Lily repeated, scrambling off James, ignoring his grunt of protest.
“Oh, now that is just fascinating,” Narcissa purred, climbing to her feet.
Rowena and Helena looked at each other and grinned.
Even Dorea Potter set her tea cup down and sniffed. “Finally,” she said tartly. She rose to her feet and sailed toward the door of the nursery, a woman on a mission, the four younger women right behind her.
Bemused, the men exchanged glances. “Nooooooo,” Remus wailed comically, flopping over on his back as if mortally wounded. The children giggled and pounced on his chest. “Sirius, you know what that means.”
Sirius’ expression of wicked glee over Sev’s plight slid away, to be replaced by one of abject horror. “Merlin’s pants, they’ll be after us next.”
Julian, James and Xeno watched their antics with barely concealed amusement.
The nanny elves were entirely shameless. They were laughing.
“You’re not helping,” Remus accused mournfully, opening one eye to stare at Tilly upside down.
Dobby wandered over and patted Remus’ shoulder consolingly. “I’s teach big secret for mans to deal with witches. Mum teach me,” he said proudly. “Learn two words and gots no problems with witches,” he promised boldly.
Dobby nodded so hard his ears flapped. “Makes everything better. All house elves know,” he boasted.
The nanny elves were giggling furiously, leaning into each other and almost sobbing with laughter.
“So what are these two words?” Xeno prompted. He had a feeling he knew the answer. He’d been married for nearly five years.
Dobby’s little chest puffed up as he took a deep breath then carefully recited the two words. “Yes. Dear.” He gave another little nod for emphasis, quite pleased with himself, and popped out of the room.
The married men were laughing almost as hard as the elves. Remus exchanged mournful looks with Siri and sighed, resigned to his fate. “We’re doomed.”
~ * ~
Three days later, Narcissa Malfoy sauntered into the Wizengamot for a special session joint session with the ICW. The Ministry had successfully placed gag orders on the British magical media, but between the Wizarding Wireless and international postal owls, few people were ignorant of the fact that the ICW had announced Voldemort’s death and the capture of no less than 73 Death Eaters.
It had been a good three days, she mused, ignoring the shocked gasps and stares she left in her wake. It was certainly more fun getting to know Sev’s lover than it would be to sit through the insanity that would no doubt ensue as the ICW shared the details of Voldemort’s fall with the Wizengamot. She nearly chuckled, wondering what mischief Sev had up his sleeve. He kept smirking at her.
Isiah Greenwood was a parselmouth healer from Canada, with wizard, fae and what Sev called ‘First Nations’ in his heritage, with magical training from all three traditions. The wards had sung in welcome as he stepped through the ‘floo with Severus, evidently approving of his magic. He was beautiful, brilliant, and devoted to Severus, marrying the snarky Potions Master using both Parselmouth and traditional Cree rites.
Severus knew better than to consider a wizard wedding without his friends. He had planned to bring Isiah back to Britain for the winter holidays to properly introduce him to everyone but when he saw news in the papers, he’d demanded that they leave immediately.
The buzz of protest grew louder as Lily, Rowena and Hannah strolled in to join her at the far end of the chambers, their armor only somewhat camouflaged by their robes. It was still quite clear that they were dressed in trousers.
Narcissa wore her Lady riding high on her back as usual, the hilt readily accessible for the overhead draw Grey and Hildr had decided suited both the blade and Narcissa’s natural fighting style. It made the wearing of robes troublesome, and frankly, she was growing rather accustomed to the freedom of moving without swathes of fabric everywhere.
“This is an outrage!” An elderly wizard was red-faced with fury. “Remove yourselves at once! You insult Magic herself with your indecent apparel!”
Narcissa sighed. “We are at war, sir,” she said flatly. “I will not fail in my duty to my House in order to pander to your….delicate sensibilities.”
Minerva McGonagall, taking her place for the House of Ross, stared at the man over her glasses as if she wanted to give him detention for the next three decades. “Calm yourself, sir,” she said with withering scorn. “The ladies are here at the bequest of the ICW.”
The chains on the prisoner’s chair suddenly came to life, writhing and straining.
Rowena snorted, entirely underwhelmed. Helena folded her arms across her chest and stared at the Wizengamot as if they were naughty toddlers.
“Seriously?” Lily rolled her eyes. “Narcissa, do something about that, will you?”
Narcissa sighed again. “This is going to be a very long day,” she predicted grumpily, absently flicking her fingertips in the general direction of the chair. The chains fell to the floor with a clatter, and another shocked murmur swept through the assembly.
“That is entirely enough!” The chief of the ICW’s Judiciary Council swept into the chambers, her robes flaring dramatically, attendants scurrying in her wake. Madame Genevieve DuLac was tiny, more than six hundred years old and a force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the courtroom. She made nations tremble with her judgments, equally renowned for her integrity and her complete lack of patience with fools.
“I wanna be just like her when I grow up,” Helena whispered gleefully. Madame DuLac winked at her and whirled to face the Wizengamot.
“Dumbledore, we called this meeting as a courtesy to inform the British Wizengamot about our findings. If you cannot control your people, I am quite happy to go have a cup of tea and leave all of you to find out what happened from the international media.”
Dumbledore looked as if he’d swallowed something exceedingly unpleasant. “My apologies, Madame,” he said after a moment, visibly composing himself. “The Wizengamot is honored by your presence, and grateful for the gift of your wisdom during these trying times. The people of Britain are unaccustomed to seeing witches in such…unusual attire.” He shot a brief glare at the wizard in question. “We will endeavor to retain our sense of dignity and decorum during the proceedings.”
Madame DuLac sniffed and cast a gimlet eye over the assembly. “You will sit, you will listen and you will learn. I will accept questions solely at my discretion.” She eyed the chained chair with disfavor, and tossed a handful of galleons across the floor, briskly transfiguring them into a long table and five chairs.
One chair was clearly intended for the diminutive mage, complete with a small step, and one chair had no back in order to accommodate Narcissa’s sword. “Ladies,” Madame DuLac invited them cordially, gesturing to the seats she had provided.
House elves wearing the DuLac livery popped in, providing carafes of water, pots of tea and even a selection of dainty pastries. The ICW underlings scurried about, setting up viewing Pensieves and piling goblin certified documents on another low table. “Yes, yes, yes…” Madame said impatiently when an ICW official started rattling off her titles and honors. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Madame took a long swallow of tea, perusing the documents in front of her. “73 individuals were delivered to ICW custody with incontrovertible evidence of a very long list of crimes, including murder, attempted murder, attempted infanticide, rape, ritual sacrifice, acts of terror, the practice of death magic, black magic and generally being poor human beings. This evidence is beautifully documented, including secure pensieve recordings and medically supervised Veritaserum interrogations by a team of very talented witches from your own Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
“Based upon these findings, the ICW Judiciary moved forward with successful convictions for all 73 prisoners. It is noteworthy that not one prisoner showed signs of being hit with what your Ministry has judged ‘Unforgivable’ spells, tortured or in any way mistreated, which I must say is refreshing after what I’ve seen coming out of Britain over the last two hundred years. Dementors are unnatural creatures and deliberate exposure is considered cruel and unusual punishment by the civilized magical nations.” Madame DuLac turned a glare on the assembled wizards and witches, many of whom squirmed uncomfortably.
“Furthermore, the ICW Judiciary was presented with the body of one Tom Marvolo Riddle, who may be better known to the British magical community as Lord Voldemort…”
The chambers erupted in shock, excitement and in some cases, outright disbelief.
“Impossible!” The cry rose from several quarters. “The Dark Lord is immortal!”
Madame huffed and cast a powerful silencing charm over the entire Wizengamot.
“Riddle was guilty of numerous crimes against Magic, including the practice of death magic. He was powerful, insane and foolish enough to split his soul in an arcane black ritual, creating a classified number of horcruxes, but he was certainly not immortal.
“While there have been a number of prophecies on the matter, most of which are of dubious value at best given their doubtful origins, these are the facts,” Madame DuLac continued briskly. “Riddle is quite thoroughly dead. I have viewed the body and personally observed the ritual with which it was destroyed.
“ICW curse breaker teams are currently performing forensic magical examinations of the properties held by Riddle and the 73 so called ‘Death Munchers’ convicted thus far…”
Narcissa hid her grin behind her tea cup. Rowena snorted, while Lily and Helena’s shoulders were shaking suspiciously.
An ICW underling scurried over and whispered a discreet advisement in Madam DuLac’s ear. She flapped a dismissive hand at him. “Death Eater, Death Muncher,” Madame huffed. “The entire thing is ridiculous, grown men prancing around in masks like children at a fête. Our crisis response teams have already recovered four horcruxes,” she continued impatiently. “We have requested assistance from Master Ito as we will need a full conclave of Parselmouths to remove the fifth horcrux from the poor snake Riddle violated so foully. The snake known as Nagini is a protected magical species. We hope to heal her and return her to her homeland, where she may live the rest of her days in a warded preserve in the company of others of her kind.”
She sat back in her chair and glared at the Wizengamot. “Any questions?”
Wands were lit, as was both courteous and correct protocol, indicating that the witch or wizard was requesting permission to address the assembly. Madam DuLac acknowledged the first one with a flick of her wand.
“Parselmagic is black magic!” Lord Elphias Doge blustered.
“That is not a question,” Madame DuLac observed crisply. “Your statement is both absurd and just plain wrong. Parselmouths are uniquely powerful and a rare gift from Lady Magic herself. I find myself newly concerned about the fate of the British magical community when a member of this allegedly august body proves himself ignorant enough to make such an erroneous and quite frankly libelous statement. Next?”
Narcissa sighed and nibbled on a biscuit as various members of the Wizengamot proceeded to prove exactly how stupid they were. Movement from the corner of the room made her shift her gaze only to discover a rather remarkable sight.
Sprawled comfortably high atop one of the pillars towering over the Wizengamot members was an extraordinary woman entertaining herself by tossing kernels of popcorn in the air and catching them in her mouth. Narcissa blinked and dared a second glance.
The stranger was clad entirely in something that looked similar to her own basilisk hide body armor, albeit in black rather than the grey Narcissa and the other ladies wore. She had shed the armored tunic, wearing only the lightly reinforced undergarment, baring a rather lovely and well-toned set of shoulders, tattoos winding up both bared arms. The woman had a mane of wild black hair with a distinctive streak of white and an expression of acute amusement as she watched the members of the Wizengamot make fools of themselves.
As yet another wizard proceeded to prove that he was entirely too enamored of the sound of his own voice, Narcissa discreetly nudged Rowena’s booted foot with her own. Rowena’s eyes slid her way and then followed her gaze to the woman eating popcorn much the same way that the Marauders were notorious for doing in their school days at Hogwarts.
Rowena’s mouth twitched in a hastily suppressed smile. Narcissa shifted slightly, leaning back the smallest amount necessary to catch Lily’s eyes on the far side of Madame DuLac. Narcissa knew Lily would discreetly alert Helena. Within a few heartbeats, all four ladies were watching the stranger eat popcorn, her shoulders shaking in silent laughter whenever one of the Wizengamot said something particularly inane.
“Next?” Madam DuLac said briskly, clearly out of patience with the latest fool.
It only grew worse when Madame DuLac spelled the viewing Pensieve into life. The Wizengamot watched in varying degrees of astonishment, amazement, delight and outrage as the events of Samhain played out on the screen. And then the questions came hard and fast.
There was outrage over the fact that the strike teams had tagged and transported the Death Eaters from behind, which the wizard in question deemed cowardly and dishonorable behavior.
Narcissa rolled her eyes. “74 wizards apparated to Godric’s Hollow for the express purpose of murdering James and Lily Potter and their infant son. I find the deliberate murder of innocent families unacceptable. The sacrifice of an infant is abhorrent. If you are such a poor example of a human being that you will make war on a child, I will stop you any way that I can, even if that means that I take you from behind, in your sleep and in the dead of night.”
There was a great deal of bluster about the proper role of witches and accusations of vigilantism. The ladies were told that they should have let the appropriate authorities apprehend and prosecute Voldemort and his followers.
Rowena huffed impatiently. “Riddle has been preying upon the women and children of magical Britain for nearly fifty years. Countless Aurors have been killed and still more permanently maimed in an effort to even curtail his activities, despite being all but hamstrung by the Ministry of Magic. Riddle’s dead, his organization is in ruins and the ICW hit teams are on the trail of the remaining Death Eaters. Deal with it.”
“Narcissa Black betrayed her marriage vows,” one idiot accused furiously.
Madame DuLac silenced him and pinned him with a stare as cold and deadly as a naked blade. “Lady Malfoy did Britain a great service. I would caution you to address her properly.”
“Everybody knows Malfoy used the old magical contracts. The wench is probably a Death Eater herself. How else could she go up against the Dark Lord and survive?”
Another wizard took common cause. “Even Dumbledore didn’t dare and he took out Grindelwald! She should have been stripped of her magic for betraying Lucius Malfoy.”
“That sword of hers is a Dark Artifact! We can’t leave such a powerful tool in the hands of a witch disloyal enough to turn against her husband!”
The ravings of a certain wizards of the Wizengamot were abruptly silenced. “Domina,” a voice rippling with power corrected coldly. “Lady Malfoy should be addressed as Regens Domina.”
Heads all over the chamber turned to stare in astonishment at the woman perched on the pillar above them, only to swivel around as the stranger apparated to the floor.
Narcissa heard Madame DuLac suck in a quick breath of surprise before the one of the most highly ranked witches in the world rose from her seat and immediately dropped into a deep and profoundly respectful curtsy. “My lady,” she acknowledged softy, inclining her head in an almost reverential bow. “You honor us.”
Narcissa, Rowena, Helena and Lily swiftly rose and followed her example, minus the curtsy that had gone out of style several hundred years earlier. Narcissa never took her eyes off the woman, despite the deep bow. Hildr and Grey had educated her far better than that.
The stranger’s face softened as she regarded Madame DuLac. “There’s no need for such formality from you, child,” she said warmly. “You should know that you’ve always been one of my favorites.”
Sparkling blue eyes sought Narcissa’s, brilliant with power and fierce intelligence. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Narcissa.” Her lips curved in a mischievous smile as she looked at Rowena, Lily and Helena in turn. “I’ve heard quite a lot about all four of you, actually. But it’s been nearly fifteen hundred years since a mother has performed the rite of Maternal Regency, so I’ve been particularly anticipating meeting Narcissa.”
She turned a scornful glance at the Wizengamot. “Regens Domina Malfoy has been judged by Magic herself to have only the purest of purposes. Has Britain lost so much since the days of Avalon that wizards forget the ancient wisdom?” she challenged. “’Choose a woman you trust to go to war for your House‘,” she quoted mockingly. “Her vows were not to that foolish little man but to his House. Domina Malfoy has done nothing but protect her child and the Heir to the House of Malfoy.”
Albus Dumbledore cleared his throat hesitantly. “Might we know your name, my lady?”
The stranger’s gaze was distinctly cool as she turned her attention to the most celebrated wizard of modern times. “They used to call me the Morrigan,” she said dismissively before rounding on the Wizengamot once more. “And no, before you behave even more stupidly than you have thus far, I am not some sort of goddess. Humans are ridiculously inaccurate in their histories. I am merely very old and very powerful, but I am no more a goddess than Hiro Ito is a god, and he’s twice my age.”
She turned a far warmer look at Narcissa. “Go ahead and draw your weapon, Domina. Let her sing for them so they may know her glory.”
Narcissa didn’t even hesitate. She pulled her sword, eyes closed against the explosion of light that she knew would follow, the triumphant song of a host of female voices filling the air. When she opened them again, the Morrigan was beaming at her. “Isn’t she beautiful? The Sword of Light, they called her once.”
Minerva McGonagall was made of far sterner material than the rest of the Wizengamot. And her intellectual curiosity would not be curbed, even by such astonishing events.
“One of the four treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann, my lady?” she inquired with all due courtesy and respect, raising her voice to be heard over the jubilant caroling of the Sword of Light.
The Morrigan threw her head back and laughed. “And again, humans forget their own histories. But that’s close enough.” She flashed Narcissa a dazzling smile. “Go ahead and sheath your weapon, Domina.”
Narcissa hit the release on her weapons harness, the scabbard sliding around to her hip so she could slide the sword home. The Morrigan nodded approvingly but did not draw attention to the way Narcissa discreetly pricked her finger on the naked blade, the blood offering wooing the enchantments to sleep as Grey and Hildr had taught her. Such power came with a price. If Narcissa was unable to let her taste the righteous blood that was the sword’s legitimate prey, she offered a drop of her own, a tiny pain willingly suffered.
The Morrigan winked at her and then smiled at Madame DuLac. “Genevieve, I find myself bored with all this official fuss and bother. I say we leave your minions to make what they will of this, while you and I and these rather delightful young ladies retire. I’m dying for a cup of tea.”
Madame DuLac smirked. “As you wish, my lady.”
~ * ~
Narcissa blinked as they all were instantly transported to Malfoy Manor, arriving directly in the nursery and startling Sirius into spewing tea all over himself. The other men leapt to their feet, equally astonished by their sudden appearance, instinctively placing themselves in front of the children.
Isiah Greenwood gave a great shout of laughter. “Here comes trouble,” he teased merrily.
The Morrigan smirked. “Now is that any way to greet your great however many times great-grandmother?”
She reached out and ruffled Severus’ hair, laughing at the scowl he shot her as he flailed and spluttered and swatted at her hands as he would have if it had been one of his four self-appointed sisters. “I did tell you they would be fine,” the Morrigan pointed out playfully. “Although you do have a point about Britain. Honestly, Genevieve, what on earth have they been smoking?”
Rowena huffed, shoved Xeno back down in his chair and flopped down on top of him. Accustomed to this treatment, Xeno merely grunted at the impact then smiled and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist. “If you figure it out, do let us know,” Rowena grumbled. “Seriously, they’re all mad.”
Helena peeked over at the babies, and seeing them fast asleep, promptly snuggled down next to Julian on the sofa. “I don’t know how Minerva puts up with them all.”
Dorea Potter sighed. “What happened to your manners, children? Genevieve, it’s lovely to see you. Narcissa, please introduce me to your guest.”
“Sorry, Aunt Dorea. It’s been a rather peculiar day.” Narcissa waved a hand helplessly at the disconcertingly attractive witch that had her so thoroughly befuddled. “This is the Morrigan, yes, that one; no, she’s not a goddess.”
Lily snickered shamelessly as Narcissa gave up all attempts at propriety and simply rattled off everyone’s names, pointing at them one by one. Kiki and Flora soon popped in with tea and a casual meal suitable for consumption while everyone was draped over each other, various pieces of furniture and the floor, Narcissa gratefully accepting Tilly’s expert help to shed the weapons harness.
Genevieve DuLac and Dorea were thick as thieves, heads together at the table, the tiny judiciary expert laughing uproariously as Dorea caught her up on the events of the last few months.
Sev was laughing helplessly. James, Julian and Xeno were gleefully tormenting Remus and Sirius about settling down, making their respective wives laugh until they cried.
“Master Ito says she’s his favorite,” Isiah Greenwood told Narcissa with a smile. “She’s been driving him mad for nearly three thousand years. He calls her the daughter of his heart, the only female parselmouth he ever trained. You’ll probably meet him, sooner or later,” he predicted comfortably. “Especially with the two baby parselmouths over there.”
Narcissa looked over at the children and saw that Harry and Draco were awake, piled on top of each other like puppies and beaming at the Morrigan. Narcissa could just catch the edge of soft hissing, barely audible over the laughter and conversation filling the nursery, the Morrigan apparently speaking to the children in Parselmouth.
“Did you know they were soul mates?” Isiah wondered quietly.
“We suspected,” Narcissa admitted. “Even as newborns, they pined desperately for one another when separated.”
It was her cousin’s fault. Most things were.
“Cissy, make them stop,” Remus moaned pitifully.
Sirius looked over and smirked at her. “That’s who you should be fixing up, you rabid matchmakers. Narcissa’s never even had sex.”
Narcissa huffed. “I’m married,” she reminded him tartly.
Sirius wouldn’t let it go, boundaries not being something he was even distantly acquainted with. “Yeah, but Draco was a ritual conception and I never paid much attention in the History of Magic, but wasn’t your marriage to the House of Malfoy? Whatever you had with Lucius was annulled both legally and magically when you claimed the Regency. And I know damned well there was a virginity clause in the contract because Bellatrix and Andromeda both bitched about it endlessly.”
Genevieve DuLac huffed. “Well, there’s a reason to execute the bastard even if he wasn’t a Death Muncher,” she said stoutly.
James started giggling helplessly. “Death Muncher!” he squeaked.
Lily, Rowena and Helena were studying her with narrowed eyes.
“You should ask the Morrigan to teach you about sex magic,” Severus suggested, oh so innocently.
“Sex magic is awesome,” Rowena agreed enthusiastically.
Helena looked as if she might explode from sheer outrage. “You’ve never had an orgasm!”
Narcissa huffed. “Hello, remember the hexes, behavior charms and compulsions? I never even had a chance to have a sex drive, let alone do anything about it.”
Helena pointed at her sternly. “I have books for you to read,” she informed Narcissa fiercely. “Orgasms are a vital part of a woman’s mental, magical and physical health!”
“Hell, yeah,” Lily agreed fervently and poked her husband, who was still giggling weakly.
“Yes, dear,” James managed to gasp, which set the rest of the Marauders off.
Ignoring the suddenly hysterical men, Lily, Rowena and Helena continued to stare at her.
Narcissa flapped a hand at them. “Don’t give me that look,” she groused. “I’ve been busy! Time dilation magic, training with Hildr, lessons with Grey, the little matter of planning a war under the noses of the mad wizards allegedly running this country, Death Eaters and a Dark Lord to deal with. I haven’t had time.”
“Make time,” her godmother told her firmly.
“Aunt Dorea…..” Narcissa whined and glared at Sirius. “This is all your fault, Siri!”
“Probably,” Sirius admitted cheerfully, completely unrepentant.
Narcissa folded her arms across her chest and indulged in a truly righteous sulk until the Morrigan dropped down on the sofa beside her.
“So,” the Morrigan began conversationally. “Virgin birth?”
Narcissa glared at her.
“Yeah, ouch,” the Morrigan agreed. “I am actually kind of awesome, you know. Parselmouths are rather infamous for our sex magic – it’s part of the reason we have the reputation we do in places like Britain, although why anybody thinks sex is a bad thing is entirely beyond me.”
Narcissa bit her lip, feeling the heat creeping up her face as she blushed – a phenomenon that amused her horrible family considerably.
Growling, she grabbed a pillow and planted it over her own face. “I hate you all.”
The Morrigan chuckled, and a wicked, merry sound it was, too, making something low in Narcissa’s belly flip and turn like a playful dolphin.
“There’s no need to be shy,” the Morrigan continued placidly. “You’re terribly attractive, of course.”
Then Narcissa felt the weight and warmth and vibrant strength of the Morrigan’s lean body against hers as the older witch leaned close.
“I have toys,” the Morrigan purred, her breath warm and moist, lips just brushing Narcissa’s ear, sending shivers down her neck and tightening her nipples.
Narcissa moved the pillow a little until she could sneak a peek.
Three thousand years of wit and warmth and wicked sensuality gazed back at her, all raw power and fierce intelligence wrapped up in a far too distracting package.
The Morrigan’s answering smile was probably illegal somewhere.
Narcissa didn’t hesitate. She tossed the pillow aside to smirk at her ridiculous family, then wrapped an arm around the Morrigan and apparated them both to her bedroom.