A/N- Updates will continue being a bit sporadic between now and June 1- I've been assigned a 24/7 project that has all but consumed my life which will not end till then. Regular posting will continue once I have my life back! Also- if anyone wants to read more about the history of wands referenced in this chapter, check out 'A Brief History of Magical Wands' on History Daily.
January 12, 1982
Dennin Road, Hampstead Village
Helen Granger grinned widely as she offered her daughter another bite of rich chocolate ice cream. "It's good stuff, isn't it little lamb?"
"Don't worry- we've half the pint to go. Mummy's turn for a bite."
Helen closed her eyes as she closed her own lips around the spoon, savoring the rare treat. Moments like these, cuddled up in matching fluffy robes on the living room floor with the radio playing and a tub of ice cream in hand, were one of her favorite things about parenting. She and Daniel had agreed on the importance of both family and one-on-one bonding time while they were still trying for Hermione- and being the meticulous planners they were, they had made sure to schedule such events into their weekly calendars.
Once a week, Daniel joined his friends to play Dungeons and Dragons while Hermione and Helen had ice cream picnics. Once a week, Helen went to her book club while Hermione and Daniel completed miniature science experiments (such as making edible playdough). At least once a week, usually on the weekends, all three visited the park, or local museums, or popup exhibits as a family. And nearly every Sunday, Helen or Daniel's parents took Hermione out while the two had a proper date with one another (or a nap, depending on the week).
"For our next picnic, I absolutely have to introduce you to strawberry bubblegum- to keep you from it any longer would be a tragedy," Helen mused as she popped another bite into Hermione's small mouth.
"Personally, I prefer a standard mint chip- have you tried dwarven ice cream yet though?"
Helen shrieked, the ice cream falling from her hands and splattering across the floor. "Cassiopeia! What on earth are you doing here? How did you-"
"What a mess, darling- no need to carry on, I can clean it right up." Cassiopeia slashed her wand through the air, and both the mess and the remaining ice cream vanished.
"M… more?" Hermione asked uncertainly, lower lip trembling perilously, and Helen groaned.
"That was our dinner."
"No worries, darling, we can always get more- Pip!"
Eyes firmly shut as she steeled herself against the inevitable barrage of questions, requests, and information that came with any visit from her husband's aunt, Helen missed Pip's suspicious expression as the little elf appeared in a sharp crack of magic.
"Missy Cassiopeia cannot be popping off in the middle of dinner time just because she has a new idea," Pip grumbled quietly, "Pip is scheduling no visits between now and bedtime, but her mistress is sneaking off anyways."
"Inspiration struck. Pip?"
"Yes, Missy Cassiopeia?"
"Find my small Heir and my fellow researcher more ice cream at once. They made a terrible mess with the original stuff."
Helen's left eye twitched.
"Yes, Missy Cassiopeia." Pip raised one thin hand and snapped- and Helen almost instantly forgot her irritation.
Across a newly conjured table sat at least two dozen different bowls of ice cream in colors and flavors that Helen had never even considered- what was that particularly lavender flavor? That cinnamon scent? That extra chunky chocolate?
"More," Hemione whispered reverently, and Helen was quite inclined to agree.
For a dentist, she was rather shockingly easily appeased with sweets.
"Any specific reason for the late visit?"
Cassiopeia surveyed the furniture options in the room thoughtfully before settling onto the Granger's fluffiest arm chair. "You're going to the Magical Children's Museum of London tomorrow are you not?"
"Yes- Andromeda arranged it, and I believe that Elvira- or her mother- have already taken pains to ensure we are photographed there since the Longbottom's are attending." Helen paused to take a rather large bite of something that tasted like pumpkin pie. "Should I not be?"
"Deny a fellow researcher their chance to explore new topics? I could never, darling. It goes against my very nature. However, I will request you accept one additional member for your outing." Cassiopeia paused to rummage through one deep robe pocket. "Have you seen today's paper?"
"Certainly- and I spoke with Agnes about her plans to represent Sirius Black at trial just this morning. She's ridiculously excited about the whole thing, you know. Hasn't had the chance to absolutely destroy someone in court in years now."
"Yes, well, my sister-in-law's delightfully blood thirsty ambitions aside, you may be able to imagine how breaking the news before it was intended is going over at the Ministry- Isla tells me that the Prime Minister herself is likely in quite the snippy mood." Cassiopeia's face brightened as she apparently found what she had been digging for, pulling out a short piece of parchment with the Ministry logo on the back. "You remember Amelia Bones?"
"Of course." As if Helen had been able to forget their first- or second- particularly dramatic meetings.
"She sent me a letter this morning, likely at Bagnold's bequest. Requested that Hermione and Susan have a playdate, and suggested that during it we can… 'potentially confer on the variety of issues that currently tie the Black family and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement together.'"
"Hermione, please don't try to use two spoons at once. What does Amelia Bones wanting to meet up for a playdate have to do with you, the Minister, and today's paper?"
"Oh, that's simple- I was, of course, the leak who paid Rita to print the right thing. It wouldn't have taken the Minister much digging to figure it out." Cassiopeia grimaced. "Honestly, the fortune I'm paying that woman to do her job honestly, and on top of the book deal she'll get when this project is complete!"
Helen's eyebrows furrowed together. "Wait- why did you leak the information if it was going to be announced anyways?"
"Simple darling- good public relations is getting ahead of the issue. We were very determined to ensure that the public's first thoughts on the matter were thoughts we had supplied them."
Helen didn't need to ask who 'we' was. "And Amelia's letter?"
Cassiopeia smiled benignly. "The owl who delivered it was coming from Minister Bagnold's personal residence. You'd be shocked by how simple reverse tracking spells are- hardly worth the effort that the British Ministry takes to call them morally questionable."
Watching as Hermione dug her fingers into a scoop of pastel blue ice cream to build a rather deformed snowman, Helen hummed noncommittally. If the owl's point of origin had not been clue enough that something was afoot, the request for a play date certainly was- Helen wasn't sure how she herself felt about pairing up the two little runaways again, and Amelia had had an equally poor reaction to the event.
Realization struck. "You aren't going to meet with Amelia yourself at all- just honor her request for a playdate by having her join me tomorrow."
Pleased, Cassiopeia nodded. "That's correct."
"And your goal?"
"I'd like her to trust us- the heads of the DMLE having a grudge against our family is not exactly good for our image, for starters, but she'll also make an ideal go between for myself and the Minister if this goes well. The Minister's reputation couldn't handle being closely associated with us, now now- but if we can move her past this particularly unfortunate impression of us, she might be a strong ally in the coming months."
"For Sirius' trial?"
"And for Dorea's grandson's custody case."
Helen glanced at Hermione. "Well, little lamb, how about it? Do you want to see your friend again?"
January 13, 1982
Magical Children's Museum of London, London
For nearly a year, Amelia Bones had been haunted by recurring nightmares featuring Bellatrix No-Longer-A-Black. The rabid woman's shrieking laughter, her claw like fingers tracing over the cold faces of her siblings and parents, the swish of her dark, spell-proof cloak as she vanished into the night.
Amelia had woken up screaming almost every night, straining the sound proofing charms she laid around her bed to avoid disturbing little Susan.
It had been a relief when the nightmares finally started to fade.
No, not fade.
Though at least the nightmares caused by Cassiopeia Black played out in the real world, where Amelia had a ready supply of potions to negate the nagging pain at the base of her skull that the newest Black Matriarch seemed to always cause.
It really was a tragedy that Susan liked her Heir so much. Amelia would rather chew off her wand arm than have to schedule playdates that risked getting caught up in even more of this infernal family's drama.
Damn it, Bagnold.
"Madam Bones, a pleasure to see you again."
"You as well," Amelia murmured, only vaguely hopeful that she sounded earnest as she recalled both Helen's roaring argument regarding the right to a trial and their shared panic over their missing children. "Susan, don't run up the steps please, it isn't safe."
Though running with scissors is probably safer than consorting with this family.
"You've met my," Helen paused, expression momentarily blank, "my companions? Madams Narcissa Malfoy, Andromeda Tonks, and Elvira Zabini?"
Amelia resisted the nearly overpowering desire to hex the sisters of the woman who'd destroyed her family, nodding curtly instead. "In passing- we attended Hogwarts near the same time. Is Madam Black herself not here yet?"
"Oh, Cassiopeia is unable to join us today." Helen, either blissfully or intentionally unaware of the tension in the air, nodded cheerfully. "Since you know these ladies, I'll only introduce the children. You know Hermione, of course, and this is Nymphadora-,"
("Don't call me that please!")
"-Draco, and Blaise. Everyone, this is Susan. I do believe that leaves us only waiting for one more."
Amelia's eyebrow twitched. "One more?"
"Yes, one more," Andromeda nodded, the smile on her face (a face disturbingly similar to Bellatrix's) firm. "I've been working closely with the Longbottoms, and thought it would be appropriate to invite them as well. Neville is the same age as the younger children."
A tiny portion of the tension in Amelia's shoulders evaporated. At least it isn't another Black.
It was another Black.
Callidora Black may have married into the Longbottom family, but Amelia was very well aware that she was not gaining the firm backbone and comradery that Augusta would have offered had she been the one to bring little Neville to the museum.
Settling onto a cushioned bench near the front of the Museum's small theater, Amelia once again cursed Bagnold.
With a smile so broad that Amelia wondered if the other woman could hear her thoughts, Helen scooted down the bench to sit beside her. "It's nice that they have a seperate seating section up close for the little ones."
"After the last time those girls were together? I'd feel better about it if we used sticking charms on them."
Helen snorted, motioning to the levitated puppets that were just beginning to talk about the famous fabled wands of the Greek gods Athena and Hermes. "If that doesn't stick them to their seats, nothing will. Besides, Draco is a tattle tale- he wouldn't let them run far without telling us."
Amelia hummed quietly, watching as the Athena puppet used her wand to transfigure the Odysseus puppet back and forth from a young man to a stooped old man. When the exasperated Odysseus puppet tried to protest the repeated transfigurations, the Athena puppet shushed him so she could continue 'talking to the audience' and the children burst into loud giggles.
"I was surprised that Madam Black herself wasn't joining us," Amelia said quietly, glancing at Helen from the corner of her eye to gauge the other woman's reaction.
She was not surprised by the quirked lips, only frustrated.
"Cassiopeia didn't have time today, but she did want to honor your request for a playdate as soon as possible."
(Neither Amelia or Helen would ever know it, but this was patently false- Cassiopeia's only obligation that day was a particularly long nap.)
"You seem so skeptical- is it not possible I wanted to continue fostering my niece's social skills?"
"Madam Bones, while I have the utmost respect for politicians, I am a dentist- if you would like to play games, I am happy to switch seats with Elvira."
"What on earth is a- Never mind. Don't switch, that woman and I haven't gotten along since I accused her of having something to do with her third husband's death." Amelia huffed.
"Did you?" Helen's tone was colored with delight, and she had to carefully lower her voice before continuing. "Oh, I'll have to remember that! Now, if you don't want me to switch, you may as well tell me what you wanted to tell Cassiopeia."
"It was a question- what the hell was she thinking, setting Rita Skeeter up to drop the news about the changing law? I know Lucius Malfoy pushed Bagnold to sign it, and Madam Malfoy's presence confirms that the Malfoy's are currently following Madam Black's lead. Who is she trying to hurt here?"
"Would you believe me if I told you no one?"
"Of course not."
"Then let me pose it to you like this: How much did we have to gain from letting the world's first taste of this legal change be flavored with our positive opinion?"
The women glanced at one another then, eyes meeting briefly before returning their gaze to the stage.
(On stage, a puppet was reading out of a replica of The Oathbound Book of Honorius. "Wand making is HARD! Gee whiz, couldn't Honorius have included pictures of each step?!")
"The Minister is facing backlash over the paper, over the law, and over Sirius Black still- though the last bit has been conveniently dumped onto Crouch and Fudge's head more so than hers."
"The Minister will be fine, so long as she supports the truth over the coming months."
"Sirius Black is innocent, and we intend to prove it. Once we do, there will be other truths to bring to light."
Amelia sighed. "You aren't going to tell me what's next, are you?"
"Cassiopeia asked me to tell you that these playdates are a great way for us to become… working friends."
"I'd really rather-,"
"The children will appreciate it at least- this has been so, so good for them. Do you see how Draco is content sharing his cushion with Neville? He could barely share a room before. And Neville- I'm told he's normally so serious, so reserved- yet he's absolutely lost to laughter right now." Helen smiled as she gestured to each child, the expression marred by a shadow that passed over her face. "I hate what some of them have had to see. I literally can't imagine it- Hermione has never faced anything like what Neville and Susan have."
Amelia's eyes darted to Susan, who had one arm linked with Hermione's as she stared raptly at the stage.
She'd do anything for that child. Anything.
Even tolerate more of the Blacks.
"No child will ever have to experience what they have again if we do this right," Amelia said, voice soft but tone firm, and Helen nodded. "I want to squash the remnants of the Blood War so thoroughly that no one ever considers doing what those terrorists did again. The next generation deserves better."
Helen nodded thoughtfully. "Madam Bones, I hope you don't mind me saying so- but you deserved better, too."
Shocked, Amelia abandoned all pretense of watching the show to stare at the woman sharing a bench with her.
No one had said that before.
War was what it was.
You lived with it- or you didn't.
After a long moment, Amelia shook her head to clear the thoughts, gently elbowing Helen's arm. "Let me know when you'd want to get the kids together next week- I'm sure we'll have plenty to catch up on."
January 13, 1982
Magical Children's Museum of London, London
Arthur Weasley didn't need his wife's built in Twin Trouble alarm to realize that the weekend visit they'd planned for the older kids was going to result in chaos.
He just hadn't quite expected Fred and George's first burglary to take place before they'd learned how to spell 'petty theft' (or anything other than their own names).
"Mr. Weasley, that is an ancient artifact that they tried to knick!"
It was unfortunate that the security guards didn't see the irony in the situation.
"Do you even know how many curse breakers it took to pull this out of the tomb of Merenptah? He laid a LOT of dangerous traps!"
"Wicked," Bill murmured, peering out from behind Arthur's back with bright eyes.
"I do understand," Arthur said patiently. "And the boys are very, very sorry- isn't that right boys?"
Fred and George, dangling from across Arthur's forearms like laundry, exchanged a brief look before nodding vigorously. "Sorry Mister!"
The security guard groaned. "One of the curse breakers turned into a jackal trying to obtain this! Do you kids even have a clue what could have happened here?"
Entranced, Bill leaned closer to the small golden statue. "Did they ever turn back?"
"What? No! Of course not!"
"So then what happened to them?"
The security guard flushed about three shades redder, looking at the ceiling as if to find something there that could grant him the patience needed to deal with half the Weasley brood. "Well, they were a jackal by then, wasn't they? No good in bringing them back to Britain, was there? Besides, not a very good curse breaker if they're liable to get caught by a basic transfiguration curse."
Arthur quickly smacked Bill's hand away as he tried to reach for the increasingly problematic artifact. "No playing with curses till you're of age, please. Your mother wouldn't approve."
"Mr. Weasley, I'm not sure if you understand quite how serious-,"
Six redheads and one security guard turned in eerily perfect unison at the shout.
In the center of the grand entry hall (where Fred and George had been initially detained) a small horde of toddlers were gathered. The wailing, which had now progressed to what Arthur would consider a particularly monumental tantrum, seemed to be coming from a tow headed blonde in overpriced robes.
"Oh bloody hell," the security guard muttered. "More rugrats."
Arthur shot him a look around pierced lips, but other priorities won out- he'd spent too many years as a father to simply ignore a strange child in distress.
Upon closer glance, however, it seemed that at least two of the toddlers gathered were not strangers at all.
"If you'd like, I do know who at least two of them belong to," Arthur offered, smiling cheerfully at the security guard. Best agree, mate- if you yell at Amelia Bones' niece she might actually shred you into pieces.
The security guard, clearly torn between continuing to tear into the twins for their slick fingers and avoiding the now flailing child in the center of the room, finally shrugged. "Don't bring these kids back till they have proper respect, Mr. Weasley," he finally threatened, and walked away rapidly.
"Fred, George, do you remember our little friends from the Ministry? It appears they'll be in need of your pirating services once more." Dropping both boys on the ground, Arthur did a quick head count and then gestured his horde of boys over to the toddlers. "A good deed for the day then, chaps- lets see how we can help."
"Aw dad, why do we have to deal with little kids when we're out and about?" Bill groaned. "Isn't that why we left Ron and Ginny at home?"
Thinking quickly, Arthur reached out to ruffle his oldest son's hair. "Pretend they've been cursed, Bill my boy. You'll have to break the curse in order to make them behave."
Bill brightened instantly. "A curse!"
"Exactly so. Charlie can help you contain the beasts, and Percy can help you figure out the spell to break it." Pleased with the results of this little bit of imagination, Arthur hurried over to the still flailing little boy who was now being poked in the sides by Fred and George.
"Mama! Mama! Mama!"
"Why, Miss Hermione and Miss Susan, have you gone adventuring once again?"
Hermione and Susan, hands clasped as they eyed their companion's tantrum in disgust, nodded.
"Dino!" Hermione proclaimed importantly.
"Ah, is that what you're searching for?"
"What's a dino?" Charlie asked, blushing through his question.
Hermione and Susan exchanged a brief glance before holding their arms up menacingly and letting loose a synchronized, "ROAR!"
"Daddy, can we have a dino?" Charlie asked hopefully.
"'Fraid not, lad. Closest you can get to a dino- a dinosaur- these days is a dragon. Would you young ladies know what curse has befallen your fellow traveler?"
"It's sep-a-ation anxiety," Percy proclaimed from where he was bent over the still wailing Draco, fingers firmly in his ears. "Mum says that's why Ron cries for her just like that."
"Cursed with separation anxiety?" Bill mused, "I wonder if that's a standard curse on all babies?"
"Not a baby!" Susan insisted hotly, glaring intently at the older boy until he held up his hands placatingly.
"Good news kiddos, there is a cure for this curse." Arthur said solemnly, and pulled his wand from his back pocket. "All we have to do is find his mum, and he'll be cured like magic. What is your companion's name, ladies?"
Arthur's smile froze in place.
He knew of only one Draco in the wizarding world, though what that particular spawn would be doing with Amelia Bones' niece was hard to tell.
First the Blacks, now the Malfoys. No good deed goes unpunished.
"Right-o then. Percy, you'll enjoy this bit of magic. Watch closely now, all of you. You'll quite like it. Expecto Patronum."
A shining silver flow of magic spilled from the tip of his wand, swirling into the solid form of a weasel. The little creature twined between each of the children's legs, its innate joy and contentment brightening each of their young faces, before finally coming to rest before Arthur. It tilted its long head inquisitively, waiting for its orders.
"Please deliver the following message to Madam Bones: This is Arthur Weasley. I am in the entryway of the Magical Children's Museum of London with your niece, Hermione Black, and a highly distraught young man who I believe is one Draco Malfoy."
The weasel nodded sharply- a near salute, really- and scampered off, leaving a wake of positive emotion in its path.
"Draco, your mummy should be here very soon now," Arthur crouched low and promised the now sniffling little boy. "We'll protect you until she gets here. You're surrounded by brave pirates and adventurers, so you're perfectly safe now."
Seeing the still dangerously quivering lip, Arthur sighed and settled all the way onto the floor. "Would you like to sit on my lap while you wait?"
Draco, clearly recognizing that An Adult was taking over the Situation, promptly threw himself into Arthur's arms and burrowed his face into his father's arch nemesis' shoulder.
Susan snorted. "Baby."
January 13, 1982
Dennin Road, Hampstead Village
"These play dates are going to give me grey hair," Helen grumbled, tucked safely into bed with a glass of wine in one hand and a yet unopened book in the other.
Across the room, Daniel snorted as he slipped out of his trousers. "I have to admit, I never quite expected our daughter to be such a runaway."
"Or an instigator."
"At least all the children didn't run away with her."
"Only because Dora was helping Neville and Blaise get their free biscuits at the end of the show- and you cannot convince me that she didn't intentionally drag Draco along because she knows that he's usually the tattle tale of the group." Helen shook her head disbelievingly. "And do you know what she told me?"
"What did she tell you?"
"That she just absolutely had to learn more about the dinosaurs!" Helen sighed. "Honestly I dread what that child will get into for the sake of learning about something she's interested in."
Daniel snorted, sliding into bed beside his wife and patting her hand consolingly. "Unfortunate combination of us both, isn't she? I wouldn't trade her for anything."
January 13, 1982
Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire
Lucius jumped as his wife glided into his office, spreading his arms out wide in front of his pet project. "Cissa, you can't come in without knocking or you'll ruin my surprise for you!"
Eyeing the miniature peacocks strutting around behind Lucius with mild exasperation, Narcissa obligingly closed her eyes to the entirety of the ridiculous scene. "Your son has earned us a debt to the Weasley's today."
Narcissa wasn't certain whether the distressed noises she heard belonged to the miniature peacocks or to her husband. It was a sign of how much she loved him that she didn't even peek through her eyelashes to determine who, precisely, was squawking.
"The Weasley family? But how?!"
"Draco, while socializing with the Black heir as we have instructed him, allowed himself to be carried away in a plot to go and see the ancient dragon exhibit. Unfortunately, it was Arthur Weasley who had to return him to me."
Another squawk of distress. "Weasleys and Malfoys do not save one another! We've been sworn enemies since that fiasco in Verona in 1392!"
"It still amazes me how obsessed the muggles are with that particularly pathetic display of emotion," Narcissa murmured. "Regardless, Lucius darling, we have a debt- and I would like our son to be raised to be honorable enough to repay his debts. At least in times like these, when doing such can be of benefit to us."
"Can be useful- Cissa, would you open your eyes please? This is serious!"
Narcissa arched one eyebrow, blinking slowly at her husband who missed the clear warning. "You do remember asking me not to look, do you not Lucius?"
"But Weasleys!" Lucius groaned, beginning to pace back and forth. "Couldn't it have been a Goyle? Or even the Parkinsons?"
Narcissa wrinkled her nose. "You did turn down their request for a cradle betrothal, right?"
Undeterred from his angst, Lucius tugged at the length of his white blonde ponytail and groaned. "Weasleys!"
Narcissa crossed the room, dropping delicately onto the top of her husband's desk and tilting her head. "Lucius, are you already forgetting that I just said 'benefit to us'?"
He watched her warily, the pacing finally stopping. "How?"
Narcissa smiled, the curve of her lips sharp as a knife, and beckoned him closer. "Allow me to explain…"
January 13, 1982
The Weasley Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole
"You did the right thing, Arthur my love."
Sipping from his oversized mug at the table, Arthur leaned his head onto his palm and watched as his wife magically set their kitchen to rights. "Are you sure you don't want a hand?"
Molly shook her head firmly. "As much as I appreciate your offer, you know how I feel about my kitchen."
This was true- Arthur was very well aware of how much time and magic Molly had channeled into the build out of their kitchen. Tending the space was practically a religious exercise for his wife, one that she had never allowed him to partake in.
The Prewett family's old magic had always invoked both hearth and home. Now, it protected Arthur and Molly's brood.
"You're still worried, aren't you?"
Arthur frowned, remembering Narcissa Malfoy's shining eyes as he handed her her only child earlier in the day. "I can't help but think that any debt repaid by that disgusting family is going to harm us- I don't know why that woman couldn't accept me offering to wave her debt completely in light of the child's age."
Molly frowned. "I wouldn't have waved it either- it is important for children to understand the consequences of their actions."
"A toddler, though? How much can be learned, really?"
"More than you think, I suspect."
"But the Malfoys!"
Sighing, Molly tucked her wand back into her apron pocket and settled into the seat beside her husband. Without even thinking about it, he wrapped an arm around her. "My mother used to wonder at the wisdom of continuing a feud that started in 1392."
"Too many actions have been taken between then and now to just forget- besides, that family is as Dark as it gets," Arthur muttered. "I don't know how that slimy creature wiggled out of a sentence to Azkaban for what he did, but-,"
"No use dwelling, my love. The paper reported just yesterday that the Malfoys are supporting muggle rights now- and Rita Skeeter is just such a thorough journalist I have a hard time disbelieving what she says. Her sources are always so well informed! Maybe they've turned out a new leaf."
Raising his brows doubtfully, Arthur shrugged. "If you insist, Molly-wobbles. I'm going to keep my eyes open though- I wouldn't trust a Malfoy to pour water on me if I was on fire."
"I do insist- you'll lose all of your hair if you don't stop stressing yourself out about what happened today. You did the right thing Arthur- and if they are anything less than honorable after this, we will pay them back tenfold."