A/N: As some of you may have noticed this is my second HP story. I was working on the One Appointment we all Must keep with a young woman who used to babysit my daughters, but she has had some severe medical issues that took her out of state. This week she was informed that she would be able to return home from the Cleveland Clinic around March after her treatments end. So to get back into the swing of things writing wise and because I had to swear on her stack of HP books that I wouldn't post updates to that story until she returned.
Society of the Vesta Accolates
Narcissa Malfoy was eating breakfast with her husband when saw the rather large owl flying in through the open French doors and landing in front of her at the breakfast table. She gently reached over to remove the letter before watching it fly off rather curious how it had gotten through their tight wards. Breaking the dark purple outer seal she didn't recognize, she opened the letter and gasped in shock at what it contained inside. Her hand at her chest, barely believing what she was reading, she felt tears coming to the corner of her eyes.
"My dear, is something wrong?" She rather felt than saw Lucius stand and walk her way from the other end of the family breakfast table. When she didn't answer, he moved to kneel next to her. "Cissa?"
She smiled through her tears and handed him the small dove gray invitation with the dark purple script and a second inner seal also dark gray but with two wolf cubs on it.
Lucius read what it said out loud. "Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, we, the Accolades of the Vesta invite you to interview as a possible captio. If you wish to accede to this request place your right hand on the seal at the bottom of this missive and your name will be entered into the rolls."
Lucius dropped the small card and looked at his wife, awestruck at the idea of her finally achieving her lifelong dream to follow in her Grandmother's societal path. The Black family had been blackballed after her aunt and mother had been kicked out of the membership in spite of having been legacy members for following the beliefs of the dark lord. None of the younger generations had even been invited to interview, including Narcissa's disowned sister Andromeda.
Narcissa had longed for years to join but they had believed that the Black family name, having Bellatrix for a sister and Sirius for a cousin as well as Lucius' own notoriety had ruined any chance of her being asked to join let alone passing the required interview. With shaking hands, she lifted the card and placed her right hand on the seal. The dark gray wax glowed for a moment and then more dark purple words appeared informing her of the time of the meeting and that the card would act as a portkey to take her to a secret location.
Narcissa read the card and then gently placed it on the table before reaching out to her husband and in spite of his still kneeling next to her, threw herself into his arms. When her trembling stopped, she tilted her head so that she could look into his eyes. He leaned down to press a quick kiss to her lips before swearing he would always think before acting so that she could retain the honor she so desperately wanted in honor of the woman who had helped him protect Narcissa.
Two days later after a trip that morning to purchase what she needed, Narcissa dressed in a rather plain gown descended the staircase to join her husband in his study wearing her hair in the requisite braids. She saw her son was sitting in a nearby chair, pouting as he reread his Transfiguration textbook. Lucius had been less than pleased by Draco's grades and as punishment was requiring him to redo each assignment from the school year.
"Narcissa, you look lovely," Lucius said and he heard his son scoff as he took in the A-line soft gray linen dress that came to her knees and the soft leather flats she had on her feet that were a requirement of the upcoming interview. Her only decorative piece was the necklace she had inherited from her maternal grandmother, which was the symbol of Demeter, the lead demigod of the Vesta order.
"Thank you." She replied before taking a deep breath and reaching out for the card portkey. Softly saying portis, she felt the familiar tug at her stomach and was swiftly brought to a large room with no windows.
Looking around, rather curious about what it would look like after being told by her grandmother many, many years ago that no one was allowed to inform those not initiate what the room looked like, she saw to her surprise the extensive white and dark gray marble with white veins throughout the room, the ebony wood flooring and at the center of the room, a large round table with no chairs but an eternal flame in a center pit.
"Narcissa Black Malfoy, please be seated." A chair appeared and Narcissa did as requested and felt her heart sink at the cold tone of the voice. "You are here to be judged as a potential member of the Vesta. Only truth shall be spoken in this room. Place your wand on the table in front of you."
Narcissa felt her hands shaking as she obeyed the order. Sitting back, she heard the voice chanting and a soft mist surrounding her before the questioning began. Twelve questions later, Narcissa was told she could pick up her wand and to use the portkey to return to her home. Stumbling a bit as she returned to the study, she saw Lucius was pacing back and forth while Draco was staring out the window clearly bored.
Her husband spun around when he felt her presence and reached out to steady her before he looked into her eyes and saw her blank expression. Pulling her close, he was vowing to fix this no matter what when she quietly said: "I am on probation as an initiate but I made it."
Lucius tightened his arms around her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. They were always politely distant in front of others including their own son, but he couldn't resist softly telling her that he loved her.
Draco just shrugged and said with a sneer "What right does anyone have to put a Malfoy on probation? They should be honored you even want to join their paltry little club."
Lucius had explained over and over again to their son about the honor of being a Vesta for his mother to her son but Draco's arrogance or maybe lack of understanding had made this a daunting task.
Narcissa looked at her son and said: "Lucius, I think that it is time to explain to our son exactly how the hierarchy of society works, not just pureblood society before he is a public embarrassment to us."
"I will add that to his summer lessons," Lucius stated glaring at his son who hadn't even congratulated his mother on her achievement. "Let's have dinner at Samuel's in celebration, my dear."
"I think that I should inform you about my first assignment as an initiate first," Narcissa said before suggesting that Draco go upstairs and change into dress robes. Once their son was gone, the witch looked at her husband and placed a silencing charm on the study doors.
"My dear?" He asked looking at the doors.
"Hearth, Home, and Family." She said with a bit of a grimace as she stated the Vesta motto. "I have to prove that I am capable of cooking a dinner without help and hosting a dinner party for the doubtful. I have been also been assigned an apprentice, my dear."
"I don't understand." He said leaning against his desk. "Why would you need to prove something like that?"
"It's a normal initiation. I was provided with a pensive memory of my grandmother Hestia's and it is rather simple." She answered smiling in spite of her own acknowledgment of her lack of cooking skills. "It's the apprentice that might be an issue."
Groaning, he began to understand. "Vesta treats all witches as equals. An apprentice is a totem, am I right? Proof that you honor this."
"My opposite who I am to mentor into the ways even as I am learning them," Narcissa admitted. "Vesta looks for potential young witches that will be future leaders in our society. Bright young women."
Lucius looked at his wife and said "Please tell me it's not the Weasley girl. I know that their family has been initiated in the past."
"Thankfully no. Muriel Prewett is, of course, a member of the Vesta if not on the council but no, it isn't the Weasley girl. I have been assigned a mudbl-er muggleborn, Lucius." Narcissa answered working on changing her own prejudices as she had been ordered to after her second question that day. "With our history, I should have expected it."
Lucius mentally went through the list of all possible third or second-year students and wincing realized who the Vesta would consider that was a muggleborn and said "Potter's friend. The girl Severus calls a know it all."
"Hermione Granger," Narcissa confirmed. "She was nominated by several different Vesta accolates. Of the nine remaining accolates, while they wait to elect a replacement for Giselda Marchbanks sister, she was nominated by five of them."
Lucius thought of the current Vestas and recited "McGonagall is a given, Longbottom most likely after that visit in Diagon Alley, who else?"
"Bones, her niece Susan speaks very well of Ms. Granger," Narcissa said. "Marchbanks herself, and Madam Pomfrey's aunt Boudica Pomfrey."
"Boudica is a pureblood like us. Strange that she would recommend a mudblood." Lucius replied wearing a frown. He didn't like it when he couldn't understand the motives behind someone's actions and there was a question he would have to be careful in looking for the answers to.
"I believed so at first, but when she was speaking to me, something she said has me wondering about Ms. Granger's bloodlines. Either way, I am afraid that we will have to change the wording, my dear." She gently chided. "It is not the way things are done."
Not happy at all, Lucius kept frowning as Narcissa continued to speak about her initiation assignment. "The home requirement was rather strange as well."
"Besides being assigned a mudb-" He saw her glare and altered his sentence to the muggleborn witch.
"Yes, I was given the key to my aunt's place at Grimmauld place. I had believed that it was under funeral seal after my aunt's death. It is to be my project to return it to a livable home to prove my affinity to home. I was given a rather extensive set of funds and a set of rules including that you are not to cross the threshold without the permission of the council." She said and saw him wince.
"And family? Is that the third part?" He inquired and saw her uneasy expression. Worried that it might involve the Blacks, knowing that other than her sisters his wife despised them all, he said: "Narcissa what is it."
Resizing the folder in her pocket, she silently handed it over to him. "This part I am allowed to request your help with."
Lucius looked at the files, there were no names but what was inside had him raging in anger. "According to this, there are wizards and witches aware of what is being done to this boy. Why hasn't it been stopped?"
Narcissa said "What is worse is that this boy is related to us or rather the Blacks by blood. Besides having to prove that my own family is worthy, my assignment is to rescue this boy by the end of July from this nightmare he has been living in."
"That shouldn't be that hard, after all with my ministry contacts and our wealth, we should be able to gain custody once we prove the abuse," Lucius said as he closed the folder sure of his own abilities. He was less sure of who the child was knowing that the Black family had illegitimate offspring in both the magical and muggle world thanks to their rather nasty habit of not using contraceptive charms while sleeping with their eclectic choice of mistresses. "We just ask Severus to use veritiaserum and have the guardians admit it themselves as well as those assigned to protect this child."
"I wish it were that simple, my dear." She said as she took the folder he offered back and then pulled out the picture she had been given. "If it were any other child, I would have no doubt as to our abilities to gain custody and protect this boy."
Lucius was a bit offended at his wife's lack of belief in his abilities until something tingled at the back of his brain and he looked at the writing on the back of the picture and began to swear. "Not possible, there is no way that that boy is being abused. There are too many protections in place and we both know... no, Narcissa I am rather sure that they are wrong."
With that, Narcissa turned over the magical photo and staring up at Lucius and wearing a sneer very similar to the one he himself was wearing was a thirteen-year-old boy with messy black hair and emerald green eyes behind a pair of round black glasses. "I wish they were. That file is about one, Harry James Potter. The person who keeps sending him back to his abusive family is his Headmaster who knows about every single incident of abuse. It was confirmed by a Vesta adviser who verbally assaulted Minerva McGonagall during our meeting."
"So let me see if I understand this," Lucius said trying to control his temper, desperately reminding himself how important this was to his wife. "First you have been assigned a muggleborn apprentice, Hermione Granger who less than a month ago broke our son's nose and gave him a black eye. Second, you have to go to the very house where I rescued you from almost sixteen years ago and turn that nightmare into a home and finally, you have to by some miracle gain custody of Harry Potter a boy who hates our son, hates me and thinks that the sun rises on the orders of the very person who forces him to live in an abused home.
"I have never doubted your ability to comprehend difficult subjects my dear and you are quite correct in your ruminations," she said trying to lighten the tone.
Lucius looked at his wife, thought about how important this was to her and swore silently as he thought about how difficult his life was about to become over the next thirty-two days. "July 31st is the deadline, correct?"
"Yes." she answered and she saw the resolute expression on his face and said, "Thank you, Lucius."
With a soft chuckle, the man pulled his wife into his arms and said: "Just so that you know, on August 1st, when this is complete, you and I are locking ourselves away in our bedroom for the whole week."
Narcissa blushed at what he was suggesting Lucius couldn't help laughing yet again at how his wife in spite of sixteen years of marriage still reacted that way even as he leaned down to kiss her. Pulling back so that his head rested on top of hers, he muttered "Merlin, someone up there has a strange sense of karma. Us, adopting Harry Potter. The boy is not going to be happy. Neither of them is."
Narcissa kept quiet as she had one secret that she couldn't tell her husband, about the visitation she had had during her last question and the promise she had made to the young woman who had appeared. Lily Potter had been a few years younger than she at Hogwarts, but she had known the fiery redhead due to her friendship with Severus Snape.
Lily's words had sent a chill down Narcissa's spine as she began to wonder just how one went about catching a rat masquerading as a rodent. Her view of the future wasn't one that Narcissa wanted to happen and she would do everything in her power to prevent it. Even if it meant taking on Dumbledore and Voldemort's wraith herself.