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[personal profile] thornyrose42
Title: The Grand Plan

Disclaimer: Characters owned by J.K. Rowling.

Summary: Narcissa's world has shrunk.

Spoiler: For all books.

Characters: Narcissa, Scorpius, Asteria, Draco

Rating: PG.

Beta: Many thanks [livejournal.com profile] softly_me  and Diu Lin
 
The Grand Plan

The sun set behind a bank of low dark clouds. Then the rain came down, suddenly, as if it had been waiting for a cue. Down below the small gaggle of staff, researchers and Ministry personnel heading for the main gates contracted into a smaller group and sped up. She fancied that she could hear their gasps of alarm, frantic muttered Impervius’ and exasperated swearing but, really, she was too far away, and besides, the angry drumming of raindrops on the window filled her ears to the brim. Still, she watched. Viewed through a film of water and glass, they were mere smears of colour on a dank landscape. They reached the Gate and dispersed. Some smears winked out altogether, a bright purple blur appeared to gather others, the rest mounted slivers of twigs and were whisked up in to the greater canvas of the glowering sky. A lone speck of colour was left to close the gates and trudge back to the warmth of the Manor’s kitchen fire. 

Narcissa ran one of the curtain’s faded silk tassels through her fingers as Draco rescued a rather bedraggled, mud-stained peacock from the pathetic shelter offered by a dripping Flitterbloom. It was only when he passed out of sight, presumably heading towards the bird’s home around in the back gardens, that she finally drew the curtains.

Abruptly she found herself in darkness. She stood still and blinked slightly; waiting for her eyes to adjust before she moved. Eventually she could see enough to be able to skirt the old school room globe and make her way through the piles of parchment dotting the floor to the sturdy shadow of her desk. She picked her wand off the slightly wobbly stand that Scorpius had made her and shot sparks at the fireplace. The damp wood hissed and let out a cloud of black smoke that thankfully went up the chimney. A second handful of brighter sparks shot out in frustration made the fire crackle to life. Narcissa sighed as she set herself to lighting the lamps, yet another expense to add to the ever growing list... unless she could convince the Ministry bureaucrats that the chimneys were part of the roof and thus it was their responsibility to maintain the water proofing charms. Surely having taken control of the Manor they were responsible for its upkeep? She cautiously marked that down as “Unlikely but possible” on her list of things to bring up with Miss Bones at their next meeting and sat down at her desk.

The Wisengamot order confiscating Malfoy Manor, always ready to hand, was once again brought out to be examined. She had gone over it many times with a fine-toothed comb and had been able to recite it at the slightest provocation within six months of it being issued. It was sensible to refresh her memory, however, as one could never be too careful. After all, Miss Bones knew the document almost as well as she did…

Narcissa frowned. Miss Bones had been the source of much frustration over the years. To think that she had been relieved when the Ministry had sent her, a slip of a girl at the time, to be their warder. She hadn’t been thinking clearly. It was obvious with hindsight that only someone who was completely free of the taint of complicity could “supervise” Malfoy Manor and who better than Susan Bones: niece of Amelia Bones, friend of Harry Potter, a founding member of Dumbledore’s Army and an integral part of the resistance to the Carrow regime. The Prophet had been in favour; she certainly wasn’t going to be seduced by the lure of Dark Magic. 

Nobody had anticipated the end result. Both the Ministry and Narcissa had hoped for a pawn but from the outset Miss Bones had shown a depressing tendency to play her own game. She might hate the Malfoys - her family had died in the war - but the Ministry wanted to bury her loved ones in an unmarked grave and move on as if nothing had happened. The New Ministry was much the same as the Old Ministry in that respect. So she had taken the empty post given to her and turned it into a weapon. Through subterfuge and sweat she had gathered together all the material relating to the recent conflict: records of trials, bloodline investigations, the diary of Old Nott, evidence of guilt, proof of the horrors that had happened. Draco had been recruited. There were no other jobs available to him.

At first the Ministry had not quite realized what she had done. The Manor had seemed a convenient, out of the way place to dump the refuse it had accumulated during that year. Then Miss Bones opened the Manor to the public. Two months later Dennis Creevey published a damning article in the Quibbler based on research he had conducted at the Manor. The Prophet exploded with outrage; it was “disrespectful to our noble dead”, “an affront to those who had tried to heal the country” and “scratching open old wounds.” So of course the book sold and people flocked to the Manor. The first skirmish was won.

Now the Manor was Miss Bones’ dominion; an archive rather than a home. The ground floor was a maze of bookcases and filing cabinets. Little rooms were swathed in dust sheets or locked up. Neatly labelled glass cases held Dark Objects that glowered beneath the glimmer of protective spells. Technically it took three different forms that needed eighteen different signatures to access the Manor but in reality Miss Bones relied on her own discretion rather than paperwork. People infested Narcissa’s home. Academics rubbed shoulders with Auror apprentices who turned up in their droves to gather evidence for cases under the cautious gaze of their teacher. A young Creevey stared at her with bruised looking eyes when she walked past his desk. It was a relief to return to the kitchen and the little cluster of rooms she had been able to hang onto for the family. That was their home now. It was all they had and she would fight Miss Bones with every weapon she had to keep it from falling down around their ears.

Narcissa brought her spectacles, which were dangling on a chain about her neck, up to her eyes and squinted through them at the inconveniently small writing. She scanned the roll of parchment twice before finding the relevant clause nestled beneath the very long and much revised paragraph on the deeds to the Malfoy land. A tight smile graced her face for a moment, she had remembered rightly, that small victory over the ravages of age won the document was returned to the upper drawer of her desk.

Next on the agenda: their current precarious financial situation. Or rather she commented wryly to herself, their ongoing and indeed unending struggle against destitution. Of course things had considerably improved since the months after the Battle at Hogwarts. They were no longer camping out in the kitchen with Ministry Personnel raking the house from top to bottom. They had some of their furniture back. Lucius was no longer in prison. Asteria’s little farm was starting to pay for itself and people merely crossed the street to avoid them rather than throwing curses. And anything was an improvement on the Dark Lord taking full advantage of their hospitality. Even the full might of the Ministry hadn’t been able to get the stains out of the dinning room table.

All in all Narcissa had felt that she had pulled them through the worst of it but then Scorpius had received his Hogwarts’ letter.

Attached to the acceptance letter and the list of necessary items was a note to remind them that there was a bursary available for families who were unable to equip their children for school due to limited funds. What Narcissa found worrying was that, for an instant, she had almost considered accepting the offered money. In the end even Asteria, who had a very mercantile outlook on life, had agreed that it would be better to starve than to accept a donation from Hogwarts. Especially when the signature at the bottom was that of Neville Longbottom. In fact, taking that into account, it was obvious that Scorpius must have new robes fitted at Madam Malkins, an owl of his own and an Ollivander wand. There was simply no question of doing anything else.

In fact, after the initial anger had worn off and she had given the account books a first cursory glance, Narcissa had found herself wandering casually along to the tiny box room in the hope that at least some of the old school things they had reclaimed from the Ministry could be slipped discreetly into Scorpius’s trunk. The fact that she had found Draco and Asteria rummaging through boxes of tatty textbooks in the same frame of mind did not really reassure her.

They had not seemed to be having any luck anyway. She had watched discretely from the door as Astoria had set aside another box of books.

“Its not as if it would be even possible to give him our old books with new dust jackets; the set texts have completely changed!”

“What about the telescope?” Draco had consulted his copy of the supply list, “Surely we can get away with giving him an old one that’s been polished?”

“Umm… I may have accidently dropped mine onto Clarissa Burke from two flights up after she tied a Salamander to my cat. Its slightly… broken. You?”

“Ours are all still waiting to be tested.” His tone had been carefully neutral; as it so often was these days. Of course she was grateful for his restraint - after all they couldn't afford to provoke anyone - but never the less it was worrying. Her boy, the child she had raised, was fading away and she was afraid that the man that had emerged was broken.

“Oh! Of course they are! Leaving things in a locked room for nineteen years collecting dust is a really accurate test for Dark Magic. Scared of confronting some bed linen and a telescope, ridiculous!”

Draco's mask had cracked into a wry smile.

“Well, I think that at least one of the telescopes is cursed.”

“Really?”

“Sucked anyone who tried to look into it into the telescope and then spat them out again. Old Octavian’s idea of a joke I think. He used to aim it so they would end up in the lake.”

“Oh… how ingenious… but not actually Dark Magic… Misuse of Muggle Artefacts at most…. Oh, look Draco. Here’s an old cloak of yours, just the size for Scorpius….”

She had trailed off as they both examined the cloak. The protective charms woven into the cloth had obviously given way under the strain of years, the hem was frayed, the black had faded in patches to a worn grey and the once silver fastenings were tarnished.

“We can’t….”

“It would be like we’d become the Weasleys.” Draco's voice had held a trace of his old disgust.

“Have you seen how well that joke shop’s doing? The Weasley kids probably all have brand new brass scales that tell the time in Tokyo and enough crystal phials to make their own Moonshine.”

“We will find a way.” Their heads had turned to at Narcissa's words. She repeated them, standing back poker straight in the doorway. “We will find a way.”

And they had been able to make it work, Draco had put in massive amounts of overtime re-hauling the filing system in the Manor archives, the mare that was in foal had been sold, as had a set of chairs that a poker faced Miss Bones had released suspiciously close to the date when Scorpius was due to go school shopping.

Narcissa really couldn’t make up her mind about that girl. She was unyielding when it came to reparative payments, still insisted on reading all of their correspondence and sternly upheld every single part of the family’s sentence. She quite clearly despised Lucius and was mostly cold to the rest of the family and yet… and yet when it had been suggested that the Malfoys be evicted from the Manor she had fought ruthlessly to let them stay. She had given Draco a job and seemed to have a soft spot for Scops. Although in Narcissa’s personal opinion it was almost impossible not to have a soft spot for her grandson so perhaps that wasn’t so mystifying….

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

“Come in.”

The door opened with a slight creak and a blonde tuft of hair appeared followed by the rest of Scops.

“Mum said you wanted the receipts.”

“Scops! When did you get back?” 

“Just now.” He side-stepped a stack of files and placed a worryingly thick bundle of parchment on the desk, “Mum’s rubbing down Peggy but she said you should have these.”

“Hmm,” Narcissa began to untie the string holding the receipts together but stopped when she heard what sounded suspiciously like an almost stifled sigh from her grandson as he headed back towards the door, “Actually I’ll look at these later. Why don’t you tell me how your day went?”

“Nothing happened, Granny. We just shopped.” He peered at her through his fringe and, when she met his gaze steadily, he flopped defeated into one of the chairs by the fire.

“Something happened.” she said gently, removing her glasses and moving out from behind her desk to sit in the sofa opposite him, “You were so excited this morning.”

“Well… that was this morning.” He started to picked at a hole in the fabric of the chair, “It was just… everything cost such a lot and I know we can’t afford it, I’m not stupid, y’know, I do have ears and I wouldn’t have minded old robes and things so its just silly getting lots of new stuff.” He was now through to the stuffing and tiny goose feathers were caught in his sleeve.

It was, Narcissa thought, probably a good idea to skirt carefully around the truth here. “Well dear, with things like robes it is better to get them new so that the charms in the fabric are stronger and you never know what has been in a second hand cauldron. Besides it is so important that your first wand is a good fit for you.” Scorpius snorted and continued to attack the arm of his chair as if it had done him personal injury. “And what about your wand? Surely that must have been just the littlest bit interesting.”

“I guess.”

“Well, can I see it?” Evidently this conversation was going to be very similar to pulling teeth.

Scorpius gave another huff of a sigh and then pulled his wand out of his pocket as though it weighed a thousand tonnes.

“Its hazel and unicorn hair, seven inches exactly. Only took two tries.”

“An Ollivander wand. That’s wonderful Scops.” It was wonderful, it was, to be honest, surprising that they had been served at all. Sending Asteria had obviously been the right decision. “Did… did Ollivander serve you himself?”

“No Granny it was his niece.” He looked up in order to give her a look which she probably deserved. Scops, as he said, wasn’t stupid. “I think she was really glad that we didn’t have to stay long.”

“She was probably glad that she had found a good match so quickly.” The platitude tasted sour in her mouth and she could see that Scorpius didn’t believe her anyway.

“It wasn’t just her.” He muttered and then, as if he couldn’t contain it any longer, burst out: “It was everyone! The only people who were nice to us all day were Uncle Theo and Auntie Parvati.” 

“Oh Scops.” Maybe they shouldn’t have protected him so much but at first it had been actually dangerous to show their faces in public and later…. How did you explain the hatred of total strangers to a toddler? To a child?

“So I don’t see the point of buying new robes and scales and things because people will hate me whatever I’m wearing because Granddad was stupid…”

“Scorpius!”

“Well he was! I’ve read lots of stuff about the war and he was. Everyone was.” Narcissa stared at her grandson’s face, etched with defiance and hurt, and desperately hoped that he hadn’t understood half of the things he had read. Draco should have thought about this before he let his son wander round the Manor willy nilly. For goodness sake it was an archive about the war! “I just…” When Scops spoke again his voice was tinged with defeat. “I didn’t think it would matter so much now.”

“People can have very long memories when…” her voice trailed away but the words continued in her mind, when it comes to the deaths of their families. She thought briefly of Andromeda and how long it had taken to establish their current hesitant communication. 

“So, so I don’t want to go to Hogwarts actually, I mean that’s all right isn’t it?” His face was suddenly hopeful. “We could write to Hogwarts and say we’ve changed our minds. You could teach me, you could all teach me and I could pass my exams that way. That would be okay, wouldn’t it? Granny?”

“Now Scops…”

“Or I could go to America.” There was a desperate edge to his voice now “I could go to America and study there and come home for the holidays. You’d see me just as much as if I went to Hogwarts. Come on Granny, I could. And if you tell mum and dad that’s what we need to do then I’m sure they’ll agree.”

“Scorpius listen to me.” She cut through his babbling with the ease of long practice. “What if we did home school you? Never mind the fact that we just don’t know enough to be able to train you in every aspect of magic. What about when you reach your majority? When you’ve done your N.E.W.T.s? What then? Are you going to hide away here for the rest of your life? Scared to go outside because people might be mean to you?”

“Why not? That’s what Dad and Granddad do!” He was suddenly standing and for a moment he reminded her very much of Reggie shouting after his brother’s retreating back, “And I don’t have to stay here.” He moved in front of the fire and he was her Scops again. “I could go to Australia and farm billywigs or something.”

Narcissa burst out laughing.

“What, I could!” At first he stood quivering with determination then his lips twitched and he joined her with his own sunny laughter.

“Of course you could, dear.” Narcissa reached out to him and with a roll of his eyes he came and allowed himself to be hugged. She sighed, stroked his hair and murmured: “You could do anything you want to.”

“Except not go to Hogwarts.” He pulled away.

“Except that.”

He flopped back  “But I’m just going to get Sorted into Slytherin and everyone is going to think that I’m evil or something.”

“If… if you don’t want to be in Slytherin, if you think that it would be easier for you if you weren’t, then you don’t have to be in Slytherin.”

“I don’t?” He turned towards her, eyes lighting up in a way that would have hurt a younger Narcissa, the Cissy who had worn her house colour in her hair and waved to the Giant Squid from her window every night. “But all Malfoys go to Slytherin.”

“That’s not strictly true dear.” She chose her next words with delicate precision. “Houses run in families but the Hat will listen to you if you want something different. My family, the Blacks, most of us were Slytherins but my cousin, Sirius, he… wanted something different. So he was Sorted into Gryffindor.”

“I don’t want to be in Gryffindor!” Scorpius looked horrified, “Mum always calls Gryffindors a bunch of reckless glory hounds. Besides, they wouldn’t want me.”

“Well, where would you want go?” He opened his mouth quickly but she held up a finger and added: “And you can’t say “Not at all.”” Scops made a noise of protest but closed his mouth and seemed to actually consider the problem for a few minutes.

“Hufflepuff.” He said eventually. “I’d be a Hufflepuff. Miss Bones was a Hufflepuff and she’s been telling me all about it. Its like a whole other family and you know that everyone’s got your back and no one gets left out and the common room is really near the kitchens so they have midnight feasts all the time and the first years get Shadows from the second years who make sure that you know where all the classes are and….”

“It sounds as if you like it.” Narcissa said, her voice sounding a lot more surprised then she would have liked.

“But, but wouldn’t you all be disappointed in me? If I wasn’t Sorted into Slytherin?”

“But we Slytherins are very ambitious and we… mine and your grandfather’s ambitions for this family backfired slightly so now… I think that the more we can distance ourselves from the past the better.” There, that was suitably vague, “As for your parents I happen to have it on very good authority that your father would be proud of you if became a Flobberworm breeder so I hardly think that being sorted into Hufflepuff will make him disown you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Scops smiled ruefully, “But…”

“I have many ambitions for you my owlet and in the current climate it would be foolish to cling on to old ideas and traditions.” She said firmly. “Slytherin today has… unfortunate associations that will only impend your ability to achieve them.”

“So...getting Sorted into Hufflepuff would be, like, part of your master plan?” He smiled up at her and Narcissa found herself momentarily caught off guard. He really was quite astute sometimes, she thought with a sense of shocked pride.

“Exactly.” She tapped him on his nose and he batted her hand away. “The second part involves you making as many friends as possible.”

“And is the hundredth step me becoming Minister of Magic? Because people would probably like me more if I was a Quidditch star or something.” He bounced slightly on the seat, all worries about his school mates reactions to him submerged for the moment by this new idea.

“True.”

“So this is our secret plan then.” He met her eyes with a sort of mock seriousness and held out his hand.

“This is our secret plan.”

They shook hands solemnly. Then the gong rang for supper and she sent Scops off to wash his hands.

Narcissa smiled quietly to herself. That had been easier than she’d thought. Satisfied, she extinguished the lights and headed downstairs to her family.

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