Thoughts of Pudding 2012

Chapter 26: Black Heart

Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.

Chapter 26: Black Heart.

Saturday 29th June, 1996.

Narcissa Malfoy stared at the letter she'd just finished reading, her face blank and her half-eaten breakfast ignored.

The owl that had delivered it was now long gone, as it had no interest in staying to observe her reactions. If it had, it might have wondered why the woman didn't start sobbing with grief or yelling in anger. It may even have thought that the lack of emotion displayed meant that the woman didn't care that much about the demands made in the letter.

It would have been surprised to learn that Narcissa was just far too shocked to be able to react with either tears or rage.

By the time she had recovered a little, she still didn't give in to the sobs she felt bubbling in her chest, or the screams she heard in the back of her mind, urging her to give them voice.

But she couldn't afford the luxury of giving in to her feelings. She didn't have the time to waste.

~o~

Back at Näshultasjön, another mother also ignored her breakfast.

Somehow Dumbledore's acceptance and forgiveness of her actions made Emma feel worse, rather than better. Logically, she could easily agree with the arguments that she had done what she needed to do, but her heart still hadn't accepted it yet.

She looked up as she noticed the two girls leaving the tent, and her heart fell a little more as she saw that Hermione was having trouble meeting her gaze.

~o~

Hermione felt herself being dragged straight back into the tent she'd just left a moment ago, and looked into the stern visage of her friend.

"I thought you understood after we talked about Harry last night! Don't you think that you should support the people you love whether you believe they've made a mistake or not? Don't you realise how much your mother must love you if she would attack a powerful wizard like Dumbledore to protect you? Your mother is hurting right now, Hermione, and you're making it even worse for her. She doesn't need your judgement, she needs your–"

As Luna was speaking, Hermione's expression shifted from shame to chagrin, until she became completely distraught. She broke free of Luna's grip and rushed out of the tent and into her mother's arms.

Luna smiled as she watched mother and daughter reconcile. She sensed her father walk up behind her, and she turned as he wrapped her in his arms. "You are so very special, my Luna, and I love you so very much."

"I love you too, Daddy."

~o~

It was a slightly annoyed group of travellers that walked into the camp later that morning, and Luna and Hermione didn't take long to greet the youngest of the three. Luna did manage to run faster than Hermione, but restrained herself to a kiss on the cheek along with her tight hug and greeting. She released him into Hermione's arms, and the girl followed Luna's example of just kissing his cheek since everyone else was watching them.

Once they'd all sat down, Minerva explained what had happened the previous evening fairly completely, though she didn't identify which curse Harry had cast at Snape. In turn, Remus, with frequent interruptions from Moody, described the events of their evening at the camp.

"So how did you get back?" Remus asked, once the stories had been told.

"We can't tell you," Tonks grumpily replied.

"Let's just say that we talked to some extremely short and gold-obsessed people who don't want their customers talking about what they can or can't do with their many doors, and are prepared to make their vault-holders swear oaths about it if you can finally convince them to help." Harry said.

Tonks looked at Harry with an expression of wry amusement.

"What? I didn't tell them how we got back."

"No, but you led them along the path to working it out."

"And your point is?"

"Just be careful you don't end up losing your magic someday while trying to outsmart an oath, that's all. If you start feeling a pressure building in your chest, stop talking immediately, alright?"

Harry nodded, then after a few moments he withdrew a small box from his pocket and placed it on the table the group was sitting around. After enlarging it, he removed the shrunken Pensieve and enlarged that as well after placing it on the table.

"On the plus side, we now have a Pensieve full of memories, as well as another bunch of memories in the vials in this box. I'm not sure how to use it yet though," he admitted.

"I can help you with that, Harry," Minerva said. "It's a fairly straightforward process to deposit and retrieve memories. Although now that I think on it, I'm not sure how we go about sorting through multiple memories that have been deposited in the Pensieve, when you don't know what those memories are."

"Are there any instructions in the box?" Hermione asked.

Harry looked inside, and found some folded parchment tucked in behind the vials. After skimming through it briefly, he grinned and nodded as he handed the parchment to her, knowing that she would demand it if he didn't.

"We really should have picked up some more of those glass vials while we were in Västerlånggatan," Harry mused. "It would be good to get all those memories sorted out and be able to add some more, like those lessons Vanir promised."

"Yeah, well it isn't as though we didn't think about it, is it? But it seems that someone was more interested in getting back to camp to make sure certain people were okay instead."

"Yeah, alright, it's my own fault, Tonks. But we still need the vials and I can't ask Fawkes to take me to the apothecary."

"No problem, Harry. I can just pop over and pick some up if you've got some galleons handy. Want me to see Vanir while I'm out?"

Harry shook his head. "There's no rush. We don't even know what we've got in here yet, so let's clean up the Pensieve before we worry about adding anything else. Besides, I don't want you going anywhere. You should rest after taking that curse last night."

"Oi! Big, tough Auror here. I don't need a nursemaid, or to be treated like I'm fragile, alright?"

"Stow it, Tonks," Moody said, joining the argument. "Taking it easy for a day to recover some more won't kill you. You know that if the situation was reversed you wouldn't let Potter even take a piss without someone to hold his hand, so don't be such a hypocrite."

He stared expectantly at Tonks until she gave a reluctant grunt and half shrug of acknowledgement of his point before he turned to Harry. "Give me your galleons, Potter, and I'll do your shopping for you."

After taking Harry's money bag, he sent a significant look at Minerva before disapparating.

The look didn't go unnoticed by Dan. "What was that all about?"

"It's just Alastor being himself. That look means he expects me to ensure everyone stays safe while he's not here, or I'll be answering to him when he gets back." Minerva replied.

Dan shook his head in bemusement. "I don't really understand him at all. Last night he was driving us all crazy because you three weren't back here on time, and this morning he's popped off to do some shopping. I'd have thought he'd want to stay here, especially since Dumbledore's been around. He just seems a little inconsistent if you ask me."

"I can see where you're coming from, but Moody follows his own logic," Remus said, joining the discussion. "For one thing, he wouldn't trust anyone but himself to leave the camp by themselves, and he also believes in the 'safety in numbers' approach, which means the more people here & not shopping, then the safer we are. Besides, we obliviated Dumbledore's memory before he woke up, so he shouldn't be able to find us again."

"Doesn't that assume he didn't do his mind reading trick to learn our location again before he left?" Dan asked.

Remus gave him an approving nod. "Good point, though I don't think he had much opportunity since he was involved in conversation most of the time, and not to mention he would have been suffering an extremely painful headache. I don't think even he could have focussed enough to perform wandless Legilimency under those circumstances; though we shouldn't rule it out."

"Hey, do you think we can carry this conversation on after we get some food? I don't know about you lot, but we left Hogwarts before breakfast, and I'm not going to be doing much recovering if I'm too busy starving to death, now am I? How about it, Three? Feel up to feeding your gorgeous cousin before she wastes away to nothing?"

Harry smiled at her. "Yeah, no worries, Tonks. Double serve of bacon and eggs coming right up."

After he left for the tent, Hermione rounded on Tonks. "He's not your House-Elf, Tonks. You shouldn't take advantage of Harry like that!"

"Relax, Hermione, I know what I'm doing. I don't need to use Legilimency to know that he feels guilty about the fact that I got hurt last night. Just use a little Harry-logic for a minute. If he hadn't insisted on going along to confront Dumbledore, then I wouldn't have been there as his bodyguard. And if I wasn't there, then I wouldn't have been cursed by Snape. Therefore, to his way of thinking, it's entirely his fault that I was cursed. You follow?"

Hermione nodded her agreement, looking embarrassed at not having considered those points herself.

"So, I can either talk to him about it until I'm blue in the face, and he'll just nod along and still feel guilty. Or… I can give him a bunch of things to do for me that will help him feel like he's making things right, and which will actually make him feel better. Personally I think it's a win, win situation! I've always wanted to be pampered by a cute cabana boy, and now's my chance! Don't mess it up for me, Herms, alright?"

As Hermione opened her mouth to respond, Tonks just winked cheekily at her. Closing her mouth, the girl just shook her head and left whatever she was going to say unsaid.

"Fine! Well, I'll just go see if I can help him, even if it's just making something for him to eat!" She stalked off towards the tent Harry had entered before she stopped and turned to Minerva. "Umm, sorry, can I get you anything?"

Minerva smiled and walked over to her student, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Come along, Hermione. We can both help."

Tonks watched them walk off and turned to Remus. "Hey, Wolfie, I don't suppose you have any massage oil packed away do you?" At his blank expression, she gave an exaggerated sigh. "Well, you're no use then are you? Can you at least think of a reason to send Moody back out again to pick some up once he gets back?"

Remus chuckled and stood up. "You're on your own, Tonks. I think I'll go see if they need any help making some tea."

"Coward!" Tonks called after him, making him laugh again. She looked over at the Grangers and noticed that Emma was smiling now, and beckoned the woman over to the seat next to her. "C'mon Em, how about sharing some ideas on how I can take advantage of this situation? I'm sure you've got some useful tips to pass on that you've tested on your fella over there."

Emma grinned. "Sorry, Tonks. Any ideas I could share would count as; 'contributing to the delinquency of a minor'."

Tonks smirked back at her. "I can't say I'm not disappointed that you won't share now, but we are definitely going to have to talk sometime! Oh well, guess I'll just have to put my thinking cap on. This is going to be a great day!"

~o~

Amelia Bones appeared in her office in the DMLE, and was relieved to find only Kingsley present, as previously arranged. She turned to the House-Elf that had brought her. "Thank you, Kreacher. Please return to the house and look after Susan now. I will call you when I am ready to return."

"Kreacher is sorry, but he isn't a young elf and may not be able to obey Amelia Bones."

"Why not?"

"If Kreacher goes back to the house now, then he will need to rest for a while before he will be strong enough to come back and then take Amelia Bones to the house again. Taking people to places is hard for old Kreacher. Kreacher is sorry."

"I wish you had told me this before, Kreacher"

"Kreacher didn't know that Amelia Bones wanted Kreacher to go back to the house before bringing her back as well. If Kreacher stays here then he will be strong enough to take Amelia Bones back to the house soon."

"Very well. You will hide in this office unseen until I return here or call for you. I assume that you can pop to wherever I am in this building and then take us back to the house if necessary?"

"Yes, Kreacher can do that."

Amelia nodded at him and then waved him away in dismissal. While she wasn't comfortable with Susan being alone in that rotten old house, it didn't seem like she had much choice in the matter. The Floo had been locked down, so Kreacher was the only way in or out, unless she planned on apparating to the street and walking in the front door, and that was just asking for trouble. If there weren't Death Eaters staking that place out, she'd eat Fudge's hat. Constant Vigilance, and all that.

"Alright, Kingsley. The Wizengamot meeting should be starting soon to elect the new Minister now that they've accepted that idiot's resignation. I don't need to tell you to keep your eyes open, do I? There's no telling how many Death Eaters or sympathisers Malfoy's managed to have installed here thanks to Fudge's greed."

"Don't worry, Director. I'll be keeping my eyes open and my wand ready."

"Good. So how are things at the PM's office? Any problems getting the day off?"

"Not at all. In the Muggle world, secretaries get the weekend off, even the PM's unless there is a crisis. Perhaps I should be asking for time and a half for working today?"

"How about you take that suggestion up with the new Minister," Amelia replied, with some amusement.

"I'll send you a memo on Monday then."

"We'll see," Amelia said, drawing her wand and holding it close to the tip with just the sides of her index and middle fingers. With most of her wand up her sleeve and her hand flat, most people wouldn't even notice she held it. More of that Constant Vigilance Moody had drummed into her as a trainee Auror. Others might treat his favourite saying as a joke, but the first time it had saved her life she'd adopted it as her motto, and would have snogged the irascible old bugger in thanks if she didn't think he'd assume it was an attack.

"I'm ready. Let's go."

~o~

Andromeda Tonks was enjoying a break from her cooking and was relaxing with a good book, when two people exited her Floo unexpectedly.

"Narcissa? And Draco, what a surprise. I wasn't expecting you until this evening, sister dear," she said, while they cleaned themselves up.

"I'm sorry, Andi, but thanks to a letter I received this morning I couldn't wait. Perhaps we should sit and I can show it to you?"

A few minutes later, and Andromeda was frowning over the letter. She looked over at Draco for his reaction, but the boy's expression remained as neutral as it had been since he arrived.

"I haven't told Draco yet," Narcissa said, noticing her glance.

"What are you planning to do?"

"I'll go with her myself, and see if I can't negotiate a different arrangement."

"You're a fool, Narcissa. There will be no negotiation. You'll just be killed."

"Perhaps, perhaps not. But I have to try."

"No! There is no 'perhaps not', about it, and you know it!"

"And what would you do in my place? What if you were ordered to hand over Nymphadora for the cause?"

Andromeda stared at her sister for a while before she spoke again. "What is it you are planning?"

"I want to make you Draco's guardian. As his Aunt we can make it magically binding and–"

"No, Narcissa, I can't do it."

"You must! As you said, I may not be successful and–"

"I didn't say I wouldn't, I said I can't. Have you forgotten the will reading a few days ago? I'm no longer Draco's Aunt, as he cast himself out of the Black family. He disowned himself, and therefore Magic will no longer recognise our relationship. Should you decide to take up Sirius' offer to become a Black again, you will no longer be his mother for the same reason. Legally, yes, I am still his Aunt, but we are magical creatures, Narcissa, as you are well aware, and magic can no longer bind Draco to me."

Narcissa started to panic. She had forgotten about Draco's stupid declaration, and now her plans – such as they were – were in tatters. Without the binding, Andi would not be able to enforce Draco's compliance with her directions, and he would be able to ignore her. She couldn't even order Draco to obey his Aunt, because those orders would no longer have any force if she died.

"What if Draco were to accept himself as a Black again?" she asked, knowing she was clutching at straws, as her tears started to fall and her composure fled her. She'd only been able to hold herself together with the thought that her sister could protect Draco while she tried to bargain for his life.

Andromeda moved to comfort her younger sister. "Cissy, you know that only Lord Black can accept Draco back into the family. You need to talk with Harry Potter. Go to Gringotts and see if they can get a message to him. Draco can stay here until you get back or…"

Narcissa nodded, and gave her sister a squeeze before letting go and wiping away her tears.

She turned to her son. "Draco, you will stay here and follow my sister's instructions until I return for you."

"And my wand?"

"I'll give it to your Aunt," she replied, matching word to deed as she handed his wand to her. She nodded to her sister and then Flooed out to Gringotts.

Andromeda regarded her nephew and he tried to return her stare for a while, but looked away first.

"I do not believe you to be completely stupid, Draco, and while you may not know the contents of the letter your mother received, I'm sure from our conversation you now have some idea of what it contained?

Draco tried to maintain his neutral mask. "I would assume that the Dark Lord has asked for me to join him, but my mother intends to try and convince him otherwise."

"A good guess, but not close enough. Your Dark Lord has essentially ordered your death – unless of course you are arrogant enough to believe that you can kill Albus Dumbledore? You are to be marked, and then ordered to kill him or die trying. Your mother will try to convince your Dark Lord to assign the task to another, but we all know that he expects you to fail, and that this is just punishment for your father's failure."

She watched as Draco's eyes widened, betraying the neutrality he was trying to display, and then delivered her final barb. "I believe your mother hopes that her death will suffice for his wrath, and that you will then be spared."

With that said she left her nephew and returned to the kitchen to continue preparing dinner. If it wouldn't devastate Narcissa, then she'd almost be willing to kill the arrogant little snot herself for his stupidity in following that psychopathic Half-Blood.

Of course, none of her annoyance with her nephew had anything to do with how he and his mother had interrupted her reading. She'd just have to wait until later to find out how Scarlett planned to avoid being seduced by the totally delicious Count Belgar, assuming the silly witch was going to try.

~o~

That afternoon, an owl flew swiftly back to Gringotts after delivering a letter to Harry Potter. There weren't enough owl treats in the world to convince it to ever return again. Not after some maniac had tried to blast it out of the sky just for doing its job.

Harry sighed as he finished reading the letter he'd received. It was too much to hope for that this was some bad joke.

Tonks twisted around from the chair in front of him with a scowl on her face. "Come on, Three, you've read your letter now so get back to work. My neck isn't going to rub itself you know, and you've barely started on my scalp. Chop-chop!"

He handed her the letter with a wry grin. "It's from your Aunt."

As Tonks read the letter, Harry took a seat himself and waited for her to finish. "I knew that stupid tosser would be nothing but trouble. Just let him burn, Harry. He's not worth the effort."

"You don't really mean that, Tonks, but I'll admit it is tempting."

"Spill it, Potter. What does the letter say?" Moody demanded, his limited patience having already expired. The day he couldn't even hit a bloody owl was the day he should turn his wand on himself.

"Just read it out, Tonks. Everyone's going to want to know what it says, so might as well save some time," Harry suggested.

Clearing her throat dramatically, Tonks began to speak in an overly posh tone, only slightly imitating Narcissa.

"Milord Potter,

I trust that this letter finds you well and in good spirits.

I have given careful consideration to the suggestions made by our dear and sadly departed cousin, and wish to have my marriage to Lucius Malfoy annulled if you would be willing to allow it to be so.

There is, however, another boon I would ask of you, my Lord. As my son foolishly and mistakenly disowned himself from the Black family, I am now only connected to him through my ties to the Malfoy name. Should I give that name up, I would have no further opportunity to moderate his behaviour.

I beg of you to accept him back into the Black family as my son, and then I can make some arrangements before accepting the annulment.

I hesitate to be so rude as to mention this, but due to circumstances outside of my control I am in desperate need of your agreement to this request at your earliest convenience. I am quite prepared to disclose these to you in person, but a letter is too insecure.

I am currently with my sister, Andromeda Tonks, and fervently hope that you will choose to meet me at her house, or any other location you advise me to attend you with my son.

I remain, your most humble and obedient servant.

Narcissa Malfoy"

As Tonks finished her recital, Moody stood up and started muttering curses as he paced around. "Alright, Potter, you and Tonks go and get changed into something a little more formal and I'll do the same. Be back in ten minutes and you can see if you can work your charms on the goblins again."

Everyone simply stared at him. "Are you feeling okay, Mad-Eye?" Tonks eventually asked him.

"Cut the shite, Tonks. You know there's no chance of Potter not going along with her request, so the best thing to do is make it as safe for him as possible. The two of us should be able to keep him out of trouble with a couple of precautions. Like a couple of extra Portkeys, and maybe a spare wand to tuck in his sock for just-in-case."

"You continue to surprise me, Alastor. And here I had thought that even you couldn't learn new tricks. Now if only we could teach you not to use double negatives…"

"Was that supposed to be humour, Minerva? Perhaps I'm not the only person to try something new this decade?" Moody snarked back.

"Oh, be off with you," Minerva said, her tone making it obvious she hadn't taken offense at his comment.

~o~

They weren't kept waiting long once they'd arrived at Gringotts.

"Ah, Griphook. Just the goblin I wanted to see. I wonder if I might be able to speak with–"

"Director Ragnok has already approved your request, Lord Potter. I took the liberty of informing him that Narcissa Malfoy had requested urgent contact with you, and we anticipated your likely need. The same oaths will be required as before, and we will arrange for your appropriate departure from Gringotts in both directions. Will there be anything else?

"Uh, no thank you."

"Then make your oaths and leave. When you have concluded your business in England, ask for me and I will facilitate your return to Sweden."

~o~

"Hello, Mum."

"Nymphadora! I'd hoped to see you again. Welcome, Mister Potter. Come in please. And you can only be Master Auror Moody. I'm pleased to meet you. Do be a dear and don't wave that at me if you can help it."

She led her guests into the sitting room where Narcissa and Draco waited, and they both stood up. "Right, here we are then. I'll just bring some refreshments. Can I encourage you to stay for dinner?"

"I'm afraid that won't be possible, Mrs Tonks, but thank you for the kind invitation," Moody replied politely. "We need to get Potter back as soon as possible."

Andromeda nodded as though expecting the answer, and left the room. As she did so, Narcissa walked over and curtsied formally to Harry. "Thank you for coming so promptly, Milord."

"Just call me Harry please, Mrs Malfoy."

"Perhaps once we have concluded our business, Milord. Shall we sit?" Narcissa waited until everyone but Moody had taken a seat. The old ex-Auror preferred to stand, and did so making sure his wand was trained on Draco, but easily able to target Narcissa, or anyone walking into the room.

"May I ask your decision regarding my requests?"

Harry took a moment before responding. This was his first official action as Lord Black, and he intended to do it without stuttering and stammering like a schoolkid. He glanced over at Malfoy and noted his poise and self-assuredness, and decided he should be able to match the ferret.

"Mrs Malfoy, I have given your request to have your son rejoin the Black family some thought, and I believe that to be possible with some conditions. He will need to make an unbreakable vow that he will not willingly bear Voldemort's Dark Mark, and will not willingly join his Death Eaters, nor knowingly support Voldemort or anyone he suspects to be one of Voldemort's followers. He will also need to vow not to betray any Black family members, which includes myself."

Narcissa wilted, wondering how she would be able to convince her son to make that vow. It would solve so many of her concerns if he would, but based on his reaction the previous day, it seemed quite unlikely.

"I would be happy to make that vow to you, Lord Black, providing that, in return, you make a vow to protect my mother to the best of your ability."

"No, Draco!" Narcissa said, shocked. "He can't do that."

"Your mother's right, laddie," Moody said, with grudging respect. "I will not allow Potter to make such a vow."

"That's my price. I know what my mother plans to do, and if I make that vow she will feel free to sacrifice herself to try and save me from the Dark Lord. I keep hearing that you've fought him, Potter, and whether I believe it or not, there is no denying that you are still here. In any case, if you wish to be respected as Lord Black, then you must accept the responsibilities that go with it, and that includes protecting Black family members.

"So what's it to be, Milord?"

~o~

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