The end of the beginning
With a flash, Anna and Winky found themselves in front of a large door, which stood open, light spilling out onto the stone terrace. Fawkes gave a cry and disappeared.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Gwen exclaimed as she came into the hall and spotted Anna at the door. "Anna!"
Putting Winky down, Anna walked through the open door and straight into Gwen's arms.
"Sorry I'm late."
"Actually, we weren't expecting you until about midnight," said Narcissa, as she emerged from the parlor and gave Anna a hug, after Gwen had released her.
"Quick, someone get a camera; we need a picture of Anna by the clock!"
"Oh, stop." They all laughed.
Dobby came running in just then and he hugged Winky and they started chattering away, walking off to the back of the house, arms around each other, oblivious to the three women who were watching them with amusement.
"Ah, young love." Anna sighed.
"So." Narcissa crossed her arms. "Are we where I think we are?"
"Yes, this is Nottinghamshire."
"Don't be coy. Is this Severus' old home? Where he grew up?"
"Yes, it is. It wasn't in too bad shape and I figured, why not, it wasn't being used and I'll have lots of time to get it fixed up before I drag him back here to live."
"Ah, drag being the operative word." Narcissa frowned, shaking her head. She looked at Anna with one eyebrow raised. "You /do /know how he feels about this place, don't you?"
"Yes, I do; but when I get finished with it, he'll hardly recognize it. At least, I hope he'll give it a chance. We'll see when we get to that point."
"Speaking of getting to the point," Gwen asked, as they walked through to the kitchen. "Did you tell him you're pregnant?"
"Yes and then he insisted we get married, which we did!"
"WHAT?" squealed Gwen.
"There is a God!" Narcissa threw her arms around Anna and hugged her. "I'm so happy for you two."
Gwen pried Cissa off of Anna. "Hey, family first!"
Narcissa laughed, and then threw her arms around both of them for a group hug.
"Come and sit and tell us all about it." Narcissa pulled Anna over to a chair and pushed her down, while Gwen grabbed two more chairs and put them facing Anna for her and Cissa to sit on. They settled themselves, arms crossed, waiting to hear the whole story.
"Details, we want details."
"All of them. Every...last...one."
"Oh, dear, where do I start..."
"Thank you, Winky," whispered Anna, as she accepted the mug of hot chocolate. "Why don't you get some sleep?"
"You should sleep, too, Missy Anna," scolded Winky. "Missy Cissa and Missy Gwen is asleep already."
"I will, in a bit; I have to unwind a little first. I'm just going out and sit in the garden and then I'll lie down, I promise."
"Yes, Missy Anna."
Anna wandered down the gravel path in the riotously overgrown flower garden. Even in the moonlight she could see the buds and blooms would be bursting open in the early morning sun. Finding an old stone bench, she sat down and put her mug beside her. She rubbed her neck and stretched out some kinks.
"Why are you here?"
Anna froze, and then slowly turned to look and see who had spoken to her. The ghost of a slender woman was standing, gazing intently at her.
"We're in hiding. Voldemort wants Narcissa and me dead. Gwen is my stepdaughter, so she's in jeopardy, also."
The ghost hung her head and sighed. Then she looked up again.
"Anna Twigg-Jones. No, wait; I almost forgot," she corrected herself, shaking her head. "I'm Anna Snape, now. I was married late yesterday afternoon."
"You married Severus?"
"You know...oh my God... are you Severus' Mother?"
"Yes. Are you Anna Twigg, his friend at Hogwarts?"
"Yes. He told you about me?"
"Many, many years ago, but if Voldemort lives...and you married Severus...that means he's not a Death Eater....oh, /please/, tell me he's not a Death Eater," she pleaded.
Anna took a deep breath, picked up her mug and patted the bench next to her.
"Sit down, why don't you? This is going to take a while; you've been out of the loop for twenty years. There's a fair bit of catching up to do."
The white figure came over and sat next to Anna. They regarded each other for a few moments.
"This is a bit odd, isn't it?" Eileen Snape smiled.
"A bit, but let me tell you, first and foremost, your son and I love each other very much, but there's a war going on and no-one knows we're married except Albus Dumbledore and Narcissa and Gwen. Oh, and Winky and Dobby, of course."
"So, that's Narcissa Black?"
"Well, Narcissa Black Malfoy, but she's recently widowed."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I saw she is pregnant; bit of a pity about the father."
"No pity should be expended on Lucius Malfoy; he was a vicious, nasty piece of work. One less Death Eater."
"How did he die?"
"I killed him."
"What? And she's here with you...willingly? And Voldemort wants her dead? I don't understand."
"Let me start at the beginning. I must go back, actually, to your death, if you don't mind."
"No, I don't mind; it's a faded memory, now. So," she sighed, folding her hands in her lap. "Let's hear the whole story."
"And then Winky and I arrived last night, a little after 10:15."
"Yes, I saw you. I'd been watching and listening since Narcissa and Gwen arrived in the Muggle vehicle. From a distance, of course, as I didn't quite know what to think, what with a Muggle in my house. And I wasn't sure how she'd react to me, although she seems to take magic in her stride, for the most part. Also, I heard them talk as if they were expecting someone to join them, so I stayed out of the way and waited."
"Yes, I imagine realizing she was a Muggle was a bit of a shock. She's learning about our world, on the fly, as it were. But, she's good at adapting and she's a doctor, healer, too, so we're covered in the baby department."
"Yes, Narcissa must be about five or six months, from the look of her. Is it her first?"
"No, she has a son, Draco, at Hogwarts. He just came of age and will be in his seventh year next term."
"Well, that's good; that she's not totally alone in the world, family wise, I mean."
"Actually, there's going to be two happy things to look forward to this school year. I'm pregnant, too. You're going to be a grandmother."
"Oh, my! Really?"
The ghost of Severus' mother threw her arms around Anna - as best she could. Anna laughed and put her arms around her mother-in-law and tried to give her a hug, too, but couldn't quite manage as her hands kept sinking into Eileen Snape's waist.
Winky was standing in the path, watching the ghost sitting next to her Mistress.
"Winky, come here, I want to introduce you to our hostess. This is Mrs. Snape."
"Eileen, please, it'll be too confusing, otherwise."
"Alright, then, Winky, this is Eileen, Professor Snape's mother and my new mother-in-law."
"But, Missy Anna, her is a ghost." Winky had sidled up to Anna's knee and was peeking around her at the white figure sharing the bench.
"So...she's still the Mistress of this house and my mother-in-law, ghost or not."
"Oh, no, Anna dear, you're the Mistress now. I'm just the resident ghost. No self respecting family should be without one, you know."
The two women looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"I can tell this is going to be a fun relationship, Eileen, you fit right in. We're a bunch of right nutters, we are."
"Good, I could use the laughs and the conversation after all these years of being alone. Why didn't Severus ever come back, do you think? Did my murder affect him that badly?"
"Yes, I think it did. Even when he learned the truth, he couldn't bring himself to come back, or he simply had pushed this place out of his mind by then. But I'm going to change that, just wait and see."
Ann smiled at her new friend.
"You is not doing anything, but going to bed, Missy Anna. It is very, very late and you is needing sleep, you is," scolded Winky. "Now you is coming inside and going to bed. You can be talking to Missy Eileen tomorrow, you can. Isn't that right, Missy Eileen?" Winky looked up at the ghost and nodded.
"That's right, Winky. Anna, I think you better listen to her, she sounds like she means business."
"You better believe it. Ok, ok, I'm coming." Anna stood and looked at the ghost sitting on the bench. "I'll see you tomorrow and introduce you to the girls and Dobby."
"That will be lovely. It was so nice talking with you and finding out what's been happening. I think I'll just sit here for a while and think things over. Goodnight, Anna dear."
"Good night, Eileen. I'll see you in the morning. But not too early, I'm not good with early."
"Me, either," whispered the ghost, confidentially, smiling and waving as Anna walked with Winky toward the house.
"Draco, where's your trunk?" Pansy looked around and then noticed Draco wasn't wearing his uniform either. "What's going on?"
"I'm not coming with you on the Express; I'm staying here at Hogwarts this summer."
"What? Why? Students don't stay here during the summer. I don't understand, Draco."
"Look Pansy, there's nothing waiting for me at the Manor; Father's dead and Mother is hiding from Voldemort." Pansy cringed when Draco mentioned the Dark Lord's name. "I'm just staying here, that's all."
There was a long, awkward pause, and then sudden understanding flashed in Pansy's eyes.
"You're not going to him, are you? You're not taking the mark? Oh, Draco. Draco? Is that it? But he'll ...he'll..."
"What? Come and get me? I don't think so. No, I've made up my mind, Pansy. I'm not going to him."
Draco gave Pansy a kiss and then a gentle shove toward the train.
"You'd better get onboard. I'll send you an owl and let you know how I'm doing."
"Draco...I don't understand..." Pansy was crying now, but she got on the train and watched as he turned and walked away. "Why, Draco, why?" she whispered, sobbing, thinking she'd never see him again, alive.
"Draco has lost his mind." Ginny sat there, listening to what Harry was relating to them about Draco and his decision to renounce Voldemort. "He's just put his neck on the chopping block...why?"
"He's got a lot of responsibilities, now that he's the head of his family. He doesn't want Voldemort telling him how to live his life, and that's the basic reason. There are a lot of other things involved, but that's the main one."
"This last term hasn't been easy for him has it?" Hermione shook her head. "First his father escapes Azkaban and then gets himself killed trying to kidnap Anna. He finds out that his father almost beat his mother to death, and his mother goes into hiding, leaving him all alone to fend for himself. I'm almost proud of him, actually, for having the guts to stand up and take command of his life like he did."
"But why stay at Hogwarts?" Luna asked
"Basic safety...so he can't be snatched and taken to Voldemort. He knows it makes him a bit of a prisoner, but he's dealing with that pretty well. I might even be going back early, after my birthday, to keep him company," Harry explained.
"What about Bill and Fleur's wedding in August?" Ginny asked.
"Oh, I'll be there, don't worry. But Dumbledore's protective spells, at my aunt and uncle's house, end when I come of age. I might spend some time at Grimmald Place, too; gotta think about it." Harry shrugged.
Ron was still shaking his head. "Draco Malfoy, on our side; I never thought I'd hear those words."
"And he and Anna talked, it seems, a lot, and she was going to teach him all of our D.A. stuff, too, until she had to go into hiding," Harry added. "I may work with him on that later this summer, also. He'll pick it up quickly enough, I think. Anna says he's good at targeting already, but needs focus."
"Well, that's something to do, so you two won't be bored, at least," Neville observed.
"I wonder where she's hiding?" Ginny shifted in her seat and leaned on Harry, who put his arm around her.
"Who? Anna? Knowing her, just about anywhere/, but the last place /we'd think of, that's for sure," Hermione acknowledged.
"I'm wondering who her secret keeper might be." Luna scratched behind her ear with her wand.
"Again, the last person we'd think of," responded Hermione, laughing.
"True. Wonder what Gwen thinks of all of this. Maybe I'll call her when I get to my aunt and uncle's."
Harry heaved a sigh and then suddenly gasped and sat up straight.
"Harry, what is it?" Ginny asked, concerned.
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook his head, grinning. "What do you want to bet; Gwen went into hiding, too. Anna wouldn't leave her out there, alone, vulnerable to Voldemort. My guess, we'll hear she's gone, too, once we get to London."
"You're right, Harry," agreed Neville, nodding. "Aunt Anna wouldn't leave her behind."
"This is shaping up to be one interesting summer." Ron stood up. "What do you say we go give out all that stuff Anna entrusted to us, to the rest of the D.A. We've got a lot of explaining to do and this train ride isn't that long."
"Good thinking, Ron," Harry agreed, helping him retrieve a box from the luggage rack. He gave out the packets Anna had prepared for the other D.A. members, and they set off down the train corridor to deliver them.
"Everyone understand their assignments?" Mad-Eye Moody's magical blue eye swiveled around, checking the group gathered in the Auror office at the Ministry of Magic. "We need to get in and out as quickly as possible, as there's no telling if the place is being watched, for young Malfoy's arrival. It seems they'll have a good long wait on their hands, though, come to that; as he's not on the Express."
"Does he know we're doing the raid today?" Tonks asked.
"No, but he's approved it, and that's what's important."
"Hard to believe," muttered Arthur Weasley, "that young Draco would decide to do this. But Albus says he's serious and so, I believe him."
"And if Albus Dumbledore has vouched for him, that's good enough for me, too. This is not a trap of Voldemort's, but we'll take no chances. Wands at the ready, keep your eyes and ears open and we'll get this over with as quick as we can."
Just then Bill Weasley came into the room.
"Sorry I'm late, but the elevators were jam packed. Miss anything?"
"No, son, just Mad-Eye's last minute instructions."
"Those...I know by heart. Well, this should be interesting. Not as much fun as breaking codes on ancient Egyptian tombs, but the 'treasure trove' should make up for that. Right, Mad-Eye?"
"Right you are, Bill, my boy!" Moody was in an almost jovial mood, which was slightly disconcerting for the group listening to him. But, he had waited years to get his hands on what Lucius had hidden in his Manor and now it was being given to the Aurors on a silver platter, by Draco and his mother. There'd be hell to pay later, when Voldemort finds out what had happened and how, but it would be worth it, in his mind. "Alright then, let's get going."
"/Who's there/?" The portrait of Lucius Malfoy shouted. He thought he had heard noises, but after that 'invasion' by the Goblins from Gringotts, every creak of wood or whisper of wind had had him jumping up, straining his ears. Now, though, he knew he heard voices. But who was it? Bella? Wormtail? The Dark Lord, himself?
Mad-Eye Moody entered the study and looked up at the painting of the late Death Eater, and 'thorn in his side' for over twenty years, with a sly grin on his face.
"Well, well, look who we have here; the late Lucius Malfoy. Can't say I'm any happier to see you now, than I ever was."
"Moody. Get out of my house."
"Not your house any more, though, is it?"
"Temper, temper. We won't be here long."
"Another one of your 'raids', you old /fool/?"
"Yes, actually; but this time we'll be leaving with what we've been looking for."
"I don't know what you think you'll find, Moody. You've always gone away empty handed and sad to say, disappointed/. This trip should be equally as futile as the last one.../and the one before that.../and/ the one... "
"Not this time, Malfoy. We've learned where it's hidden and we'll be taking it with us: all of it."
"I don't know what you're talking about...."
"I think you do. But seeing as you won't be needin' any of that stuff we just removed from the hidden storage vault under your dining room floor, I wouldn't lose too much sleep about it."
The painting of Lucius stood there, stunned. They'd found his vault/, /filled with all of the Dark magic objects that had been collected, so carefully and secretly over the years? How? No one knew....except...
"Draco's just signed his own death warrant. And Narcissa's."
"Tell my blood traitor son that I'll see him in hell!" Lucius spat, his eyes flashing. "Never mind, I'll tell him, myself, when he arrives home. Then I'll turn him over to the Dark Lord.....he's ... "
"At Hogwarts....safe...so, have fun explaining all of this to your Master. Wish I could stay to hear how he takes the news, but I'm going to go get some lunch. So long, /Malfoy/."
Moody turned and stumped out of the room, leaving a speechless Lucius, who slumped back into his chair and put his hands over his face. Then he balled up his fists, pounded on the arms of the chair and screamed his rage to the silent, empty house.
Draco entered the conference room, followed by Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape. His solicitors didn't look too pleased at the inclusion of these two Wizards at the private meeting they assumed they were to have with their client. Albus and Severus took seats behind Draco, against the wall of the room, as he seated himself at the round mahogany table.
"Good morning, Master Draco. Are we to assume Professors Dumbledore and Snape are going to stay for our private meeting?" inquired the eldest of the three solicitors, pointedly.
"Yes, they are staying, at my invitation and it is Mister Malfoy. I'm the head of the family now, and expect to be treated as such. Don't think of patronizing me; today, or any other time."
"No, of course not. Sorry...old habit. Well, if we can get down to business. Griphook has prepared a roster of the businesses that your late father had inherited or acquired, which provide a majority of the family income, the monthly amounts are listed, plus the stocks and bonds held in the family name, which are now transferred to you. Also, the total of the amounts on hand, which are being held here at Gringotts in your vault."
Draco held up his hand for silence. The solicitors glanced at each other. As he scanned the list his eyebrows went up a few times, but mostly he remained impassive.
"Yes, ah, certainly. On this next page are the charitable organizations and trusts that your father supported or subscribed to. As you can see his philanthropic...."
"/What/?" The solicitor went pale. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"Cancel them; all of them. Not another sickle to any of them."
"But, your father..."
"Father is dead/, and with his death, all of his 'philanthropy' died also. If, in the future, I decide to give to certain /worthy causes, I will do so. But, as of this month, no more money will leave the family accounts, to be sent anywhere/, unless /I authorize it. Do I make myself clear, Griphook?" Draco was staring at the white faced, openmouthed solicitor, but then turned to the Head Goblin and raised his eyebrow. Griphook bowed, a smile playing across his face.
"Certainly, Mister Malfoy. We will hold your money in your accounts until such time as you have need of it."
"But, those charities count on your family's generosity...they ...you..."
"That's my final word on the subject. They can send letters, asking for donations and I'll consider their requests...at a later date...maybe. Oh...by the way, you're all fired."
"/Fired/?" The solicitors faces paled, as one.
"Yes. As in: fired, terminated, services no longer needed. You know: FIRED." Draco smiled.
"You can't fire us; we're the Malfoy family /solicitors/!" sputtered the old Wizard, indignantly.
"Were...you were the family solicitors. I've retained my own, thank you. Oh, and thank /you/, on behalf of Father, for all your years of service. I know you have the remainder of this year's retainer fee already in your own accounts. I won't ask for a refund. Consider it a severance payment. Good day, sirs."
Draco stood and put out his hand. The three solicitors also stood but marched out, Griphook holding the door, without a word or attempt at a handshake. The door was shut behind them and Draco swore he heard Griphook giggle. He looked over his shoulder at Dumbledore and Snape.
"At a point or two there, you sounded remarkably like Lucius. However/, that /wasn't such a bad thing, don't you agree, Severus?" Dumbledore replied straight-faced but then he winked at Draco.
"Indeed, it was positively...eerie," agreed Snape, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"Maybe I did sound a little like the old man, but /damn/, that felt good! Wonder how long it'll take the news to get back to Voldemort that the Malfoy family is now longer his cash cow?"
"As long as it takes to get to the Leaky Cauldron for a good stiff drink and a shot of courage, I would imagine. Best we should be moving on, I think. Thank you so much for your help, Griphook."
Dumbledore extended his hand and shook Griphook's.
"Yes," Draco concurred. "Thank you for your help and the owls you sent with the explanations of all of Father's accounts. That was quite useful in my decision making. And you've set up the new account for Mother and the trust for my sister?"
"Yes, Mister Malfoy, here is the paperwork for you to sign and then I will make sure the funds are transferred. And thank you for your confidence in myself and Gringotts."
The Goblin took back the papers after Draco signed them, shook hands with Draco and bowed out of the room.
"Well, it's been a busy day; shall we get back to Hogwarts? We'll just make tea, if we don't dawdle too much." Dumbledore led the way out of the room.
"Wake up, sleepy head, it's time for lunch." Narcissa poked at the lump in the middle of the bed.
The covers were flung back. Anna covered her eyes and moaned.
"I'm sleeping in. Go away."
"You've already slept in; now get up. It seems we have a resident ghost, of Severus' mum, no less.
And she's downstairs talking with Gwen. Also, Dobby has prepared the most scrumptious lunch for us."
Anna moaned and rolled over.
"Winky has made your favorite fresh brewed coffee."
That statement had the expected results. One eye opened slowly and swiveled to find and focus on Cissa.
"Yes, hot and strong, just for you."
"Ok, I'm up, I'm moving, I'll be down in a minute, I swear."
"I'll wait while you dress," replied Narcissa, making herself comfortable on the edge of the bed, as Anna rose and weaved into the adjacent bathroom. "Eileen introduced herself at breakfast. Gwen never batted an eye. She's quite different than your average Muggle, isn't she?"
"Takes after her father," came the reply. After a few minutes Anna emerged from the bathroom and walked over to the tall wardrobe, opened it wide, tilted her head and began the process of choosing a gown for the day. She made her decision, threw it over her head and wiggled it down over her hips. "That reminds me, Christopher will be popping in later. I told him I'd be sleeping in and not to expect to see me until mid-afternoon."
"Yes, I saw his portrait downstairs. By the way, that reminds me; Gwen and I have something to discuss with you."
"It'll wait until after we have lunch. Ready?"
"Yes, let's go."
Arm in arm, the two witches descended the stairs, to find Gwen and Eileen seated at the kitchen table, laughing like old friends.
"Good morning, slash, afternoon, Anna," Gwen greeted her, handing over a steaming mug of coffee.
"Greeting and salutations, oh bearer of the sacred drink," Anna replied, bowing and then taking a sip of her life's blood. "AHHHHH, nectar of the gods. Hello, Eileen, I see you've met Gwen."
"Yes, we've been having a lovely chat and she's certainly not what I'd expected, being a Muggle. No offense, dear."
"That's ok, as I could say the same about you; my first ghost."
"Good morning, Missy Anna." Winky appeared. "We is having lunch on the terrace. This way."
"Well." Narcissa waved her arm in the direction of the door. "Shall we, ladies?"
"But Dobby got in and out with no problems. Even though he did see Lucius' portrait in the study, he, that is Lucius, didn't wake, so no one is the wiser," Narcissa finished in a rush.
She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Gwen, who nodded, reassuringly. Anna was sitting there, mouth slightly open, looking back and forth between the two of them. Suddenly, Eileen started to giggle, then Gwen snorted and Narcissa clamped her hand over her mouth, but lost her fight for self-control and burst out laughing. Anna slowly shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"If anyone had told me, three months ago, that I'd be sitting here, with the three of you and all of this had happened, I'd have had them put into St. Mungo's, straight away!"
"Oh," gasped Narcissa. "You haven't heard the best of it! Since we made our little side trip to the Manor, Griphook and his crew have been there too and taken all of the valuables: the silver and paintings, family jewels, money and things and put them in storage for Draco. AND the Auror's office executed a raid, /this morning/, to empty Lucius' secret vault of all of his Dark Magic possessions and 'trophies'. Let his portrait explain THAT to Bella and his /Master/."
"You're...joking?" Anna looked stunned, but Cissa shook here head no, grinning. "You're not making this up?! Oh/.../my/.../God. Well, Harry won't have to worry about 'the Prophesy' any more; Voldemort's going to have a stroke when he hears that bit of news." Anna threw back her head and roared with laughter.
"So, you're not mad at us?" Gwen asked.
"I'm furious... but, you pulled it off, and I can see Cissa's reasons were valid, so, no harm done. I just hope you two realize how lucky you were to get away with a hare-brained scheme like that."
"Excuse me! /It was /not a hare-brained scheme. We just tried to think like you and made our plans accordingly." Cissa crossed her arms and lifted her chin, huffing. "I'm especially proud of thinking up the bit about hiding Dobby's footprints."
"That's right, you're just jealous you didn't think of it first and you didn't get to come with us," Gwen agreed. Leaning over to Eileen, she whispered, "She hates missing out on this kind of thing." Eileen nodded, solemnly.
"Why of all...I am not...you two...oh, sod it...we're safe....everything worked out for the best...so, let's just relax and enjoy this glorious weather. For the rest of today, I refuse to think about anything other than...well, anything. I've needed this kind of stress free environment for a long time."
"Winky...more coffee, please."
"Yes, Missy Anna."
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