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Chapter Sixteen

A Diplomat’s Daughter

There was no escaping the roots of a childhood. A person might not always be as poor or as wealthy as they’d been as a child but the consequences of their circumstance during those young years somehow will follow them for the whole of their life. Perhaps that was why the purebloods hated the muggleborns so very much. They tainted the wizarding world with snatches of their upbringing amongst the non-magical ones.

Of course, it went deeper than that with every individual. It wasn’t merely whether you were born a muggle or a wizard. It was your family, the profile of it that counted. Remus had grown up a werewolf from the time he was very young, but his easygoing manners and personality were a reflection of his parents. He’d been loved as a child and it showed despite his being shunned by the larger part of the wizarding society.

Felicity thought of her own childhood in comparison to her beloved Remus as she watched her father pull on his Ambassadors red robe. Standing in the vestibule of the Wood manor, they readied to leave for the Malfoy’s Christmas Eve gala. Felicity was her father’s child whether she wanted to admit it or not. She had traveled the world, seen many diplomatic events, was essentially a global being and all because of whom he was.

“Father?” she asked him, while straightening the collar of his robe. “Why do we fight so much?” She was dressed in a gown of the finest green silk, which was embroidered with a darker green in the shape of a great dragon swirling about her to the low-neck line. It was her finest dress, made in Egypt, just before she had left at Albus Dumbledore’s request to go to Hogwarts.

Roland stopped and starred at her. She was magnificent to look at, his daughter, though he flinched at the dragon emblazoned on her like a muggle billboard. She had no shame of what she was. He sighed and missed his wife. She always knew what to say at times like this.

“Because you ask such inane questions,” he said, finally, “just before we have to go to an important public gathering where I have to concentrate on the balances of power. You’ve been taught not to disturb your father when he has important business and still you do precisely that, disturb your father.” He shook his head and helped her put on her winter wrap. “And, I might add that we are going to the house of your lover from years ago and my enemy, a man that you just had to sleep with in order to get back at your long suffering father. That is why we fight as much as we do.”

She stood looking at him with a crooked smile, waiting.

“You’re an infuriating daughter who reminds me of how much I miss your mother,” he said finally. It made him sad. “She could always deal with your weird impulses and I can’t.”

“Master Tong said that I must someday come to terms with being your daughter, dad,” she told him softly. “He said that what I am now, the human part, is because of what you are. That I am a diplomat’s daughter.”

Roland kissed his exasperating daughter on the cheek. She sometimes reminded him so much of his wife Rita that his heart actually ached. “Master Tong is a wise man,” he said hoarsely, the emotion welling up in him. “Except that he never warned me of the consequences of saving your life so many years ago,” he added dryly.

Felicity reached for her father’s hand. “You’re not sorry, really are you, daddy?” she asked weakly.

He put his hand to her cheek, thinking that perhaps Dumbledore was right after all to force them to make amends. “No, child,” he said.

He took out his wand ready to apparate to the Malfoy’s but she held onto his arm.

“Father?” she said urgently. “Tonight will be dangerous. All afternoon I’ve had images of Severus with Voldemort and Malfoy. Something is being planned. He is back, father and he is growing stronger with each passing day.”

Roland searched her face. It was hard to comprehend. Voldemort had killed so many, including more than of few of his own family. He couldn’t bear the return of such a horrible creature to his world. “I will be careful, Felicity,” he said finally. “I am always careful where Lucius Malfoy is concerned.”

Tonks watched from her perch in the tree above Malfoy Manor as everyone arrived for the event. She had a perfect view through the glass windowed back of the house. She sat hidden inside Mad-Eye’s invisibility cloak and was relatively comfortable except that she’d have to sit in the bloody tree for probably hours.

The Malfoy’s ballroom opened onto a wide stone terrace that had been decorated and lit festively with floating candles. On the stonewall surround sat Minerva, transformed into her cat self, licking her paws and bored to tears. She never could abide such frivolous affairs. Her tail swished as she watched. Narcissa Malfoy stood with Lucius at the bottom of a wide stair greeting her guests as two young wizards dressed up like Indian Pashas complete with gaudy green turbans announced the guests from above as they arrived. It was a sinfully ridiculous show of wealth.

“The Ambassador Roland Simon Wood and his daughter Felicity Wood,” announced the barkers as they descended the stairs. She could feel both Lucius and Narcissa’s glare boring holes into her. She ignored them searching the room below filled with people for Severus Snape. He was easy to spot, standing in a swirl of color and people like a black beacon. He stared up at her from the far side of the room. She smiled broadly at his intense glare. He was seething again, she could feel it, but he was alive and that was all that mattered.

“How nice of you to come, Felicity,” Narcissa breathed, bringing her back to the matter at hand. Narcissa was such an excellent hostess that she could feign enjoyment in any situation. “Your dress is marvelous, and so appropriate,” she sneered. Felicity knew full well that she was commenting on the dragon motif. “Dressing in green with your father in his red robes was so clever and festive of you to think of.” Narcissa was an expert at the deceitfully subtle slight.

“Thank you so very much dearest Narcissa,” said Felicity forcing a smile. Though this beautiful woman hated her utterly, she had no cause to return her hate. Narcissa was merely jealous of an affair that was dead to her. She felt sad for the woman.

With a very slight sigh of reluctance Narcissa let go of Felicity’s hand to pass her on to Lucius whose cold gray eyes observed her with both lust and distain.

“How pleasant to see you, again,” he said bringing her hand to his lips. “You look lovely, as always.” He raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. There had been a time when she had thought him extremely handsome and powerful. He had been above any other man in her eyes when she was just sixteen. She’d been a foolish human girl. Now, she noticed the crow’s feet lines at his eyes and the strain of stress about his mouth. He was still a handsome man but he was showing the wear and tear of his hateful sensibilities about his edges. She disliked him. It was simply that, because of what he’d become. She was disappointed in him.

“I’m sure that this party will be so much more pleasant than our last meeting,” she said slyly.

He ignored her distasteful allusions to their conference with his Dark Lord. “May I present, the Minister of Magic, Mr. Cornelius Fudge, Miss Wood,” said Lucius presenting her to a short rather portly gentleman standing next to him. “Miss Wood is not only Ambassador Wood’s daughter, Cornelius but a professor at Hogwarts School.”

He smiled with an air of triumph as Cornelius Fudge puffed about Hogwarts and Dumbledore in particular. “I’ve been getting regular reports about the shenanigans going on up at that school, Miss Wood,” he said pompously. “We’re doing all we can to stop the ramble rousers and trouble makers up there.”

Felicity was aghast but stuffed her feelings down deep at the Minister of Magic’s blatant animosity toward the great wizard, Albus Dumbledore. She also wanted to wipe the smug look right off Lucius Malfoy’s face but kept that hidden, as well. “I’m sure that your High Inquisitor is doing a fine job, sir,” she said smiling sweetly, though her words regarding the pink toad tasted of muck on her tongue. “I myself am but a lowly first year professor in Ancient Runes and not one given to politics.”

Roland Wood disentangled himself from Narcissa’s hostess vice grip of inane chatter to get closer to Felicity struggling in the clutches of Lucius Malfoy. He could tell that the snake was up to something just from the caustic look on his face. “Cornelius, you old shark, how are you?” Roland said good-naturedly scooting his daughter out of the way and breaking her away from Malfoys plans. Roland was shaking the hand of the Minister with his arm around him and helping him greet the other many guests, as they filed past in two shakes of a Griffin’s tail. Roland was adept and ingratiating. He was a true master of his craft. Malfoy looked as if he’d be happy to eat him.

Felicity had been suddenly freed to find Severus, something she had wanted desperately to do. She glittered her eyes at her father in thanks but he pretended not to notice.

All afternoon she’d received whispers of strain and agony from her dear professor. So much of it that she’d been sorely tempted to search for him. If he had not made her promise not to, she would have.

She filed through the thick crowd as fast as she could to where he stood waiting at an opening out to the balcony. His dark eyes followed her unflinchingly. Every part of him wanted to sweep her up and carry her away from this hateful mansion. At his meeting with the Dark Lord, Severus had suffered little physical torture. He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named had been strangely ebullient though mostly closed lipped about the future. Severus had gleaned only one choice bit of new information that must be gotten to Dumbledore forthwith. It had not been a difficult session but still, any meeting with the Dark Lord was a hell of evasion. He so hated placing himself in danger. He seethed at the injustice of his always being the one asked to consistently stick his neck out for the cause.

Felicity finally reached him after maneuvering through the crowds. She threw her arms around him hugging him fiercely. She was completely without decorum but he was glad of it and felt mollified somewhat by her obvious show of affection.

“I almost came to your rescue, Severus,” she whispered into his lips. “I was so worried.

“No WORDS, Felicity,” he whispered back glaring at her. He could feel the stares of both Narcissa and Lucius from a far. Their son Draco was hovering nearby, as well, and had, no doubt, been instructed to watch and listen.

Severus took her hand and led here out onto the terrace where it should have been chilly because of the December air but the Malfoys had magically warmed the area so that guests could wander about the gardens. “Read my thoughts, darling,” said Severus quietly as he did indeed sweep her into his arms to kiss her passionately. His arms enveloped her and he bent her back in his embrace.

Tonks just beyond them nearly fell out of her tree. “Bugger me,” she whispered before she caught herself. There were couples wandering about the garden and she hoped that none of them had heard her. Her thoughts were immediately of poor Remus Lupin as she watched in horror as his supposed darling Felicity let herself be ravaged by the bloody vampire Severus Snape. Ewww! She couldn’t help thinking. The very thought of kissing Snape was repulsive enough but having to watch him practically giving Lupin’s supposed girlfriend a muggle tonsillectomy was almost too much to stomach. Who would have thought that the Snapester had that much passion in him? She would definitely be taking a long hot bath when she got down out of the tree.

Minerva, meanwhile walked along the stonewall padding lightly toward the fervent couple. It was not unheard of for people to get carried away at a party but this was Severus Snape, the potion’s master at Hogwarts, who she had always thought had the passion of a Glumbumble. He seemed hardly the type to openly kiss the way he was kissing Miss Wood in public. She sat very close to them licking her paws and pretending to be disinterested but even she was getting a little hot under the kitty collar watching them.

Minerva was the only one unoccupied enough to notice Narcissa Malfoy glaring at the exhibitionist couple from the doorway. Minerva arched her back and hissed in warning, “yeowwwwww!” to alert the couple to danger before she jumped off the wall and ran out of sight.

Felicity felt Minerva’s familiar presence as she and Severus parted in alarm at the cat’s cry. Severus saw Narcissa immediately as she waited imperiously for him by the door. “I’ll come to you tonight,” whispered Severus before leaving her. He walked purposefully toward Narcissa and bowed silently to her. He was her guest and from the look on her face, his prisoner. He followed her dutifully back out into the main ballroom and the crowd without even a backward glance.

Felicity sat down on the stonewall in both despair and alarm. Severus had thrown images of his meeting with Voldemort at her in a tumultuous rush. But it was so much more that he had thrown at her. His kiss had been filled with an agonizing want and need of her. She was stunned. The Dark Lord had triggered a deep vein of despair in her Severus.

Voldemort, she growled inwardly. The Demon Dark Lord never ceased to amaze her. He was a force that must be stopped at all costs. She looked about for Minerva. She must warn Dumbledore. Her heart thumped violently. Remus also must be warned. She wandered off the terrace in the direction she had seen the cat run and found her calmly waiting by a tree.

“Kitty, kitty,” whispered Felicity coming close. “Come here little Minerva so I might give you something.” She picked up the cat, petting it while rocking back and forth.

Tonks watched from above in her tree as Felicity pet Minerva and rocked. Whatever she was doing, it was out of the ordinary and it was scaring Tonks to death. Minerva as a cat was one thing but stroking her fur was disconcerting. She wasn’t sure what she should do so she sat tight. Mad-Eye had taught her that. If you’re not sure, don’t move unless someone’s about to kill you. She reminded herself that Felicity was one of them, a member of the Order. Dumbledore had taken her to Grimmauld Place where she had met Remus. Poor Remus. It was going to take a really long bath to wash the image of Snape snogging Felicity out of her brain.

Finally, Minerva jumped from Felicity’s lap and ran off into the dark. Felicity watched her go with one of the saddest of looks on her face that Tonks had ever seen. Tonks watched her, feeling stupid for not understanding, as Felicity slowly went back up the stone steps of the Terrace and into the house now swirling with music and people.

Minerva could barely catch her breath. She changed into her human form and stood panting beside the woman who had been waiting for her. “I ran all the way!” She gulped for air. “Goodness, but I’m getting too old for this.” Tomasina Tall, an Auror and a member of the Order of the Phoenix waited. They stood in a dark doorway about a block from the Malfoy’s at a rendezvous point.

“What happened?” asked Tomasina. “Is Tonks alone there?”

Minerva nodded. “You must get back to her.” She brought herself up straighter and pursed her lips. “I must get some information to the Headmaster, as soon as possible,” she said efficiently.

Tomasina took out her wand and changed into her animagus form, a large crow.

“Please make sure that neither you nor Miss Tonks speaks of anything that is seen tonight with any other member of the order until Headmaster Dumbledore decides what to do, Miss Tall,” she whispered to the crow.

It flew off into the night and Minerva disapparated to Hogwarts.

The Headmaster picked at his long white beard, tucked into his belt, and his robes swished quietly as he paced back and forth. “You say she gave you these images, just as you’ve said them?” he asked Minerva.

“Yes, Albus,” she said nervously. “It has been years.” She stumbled for the words. “I’ve not seen the Dark Lord in many years.” Tears of fear stung at her eyes and she wiped them away. “It was horrible. He’s no longer human.”

Dumbledore set the Pensieve on his desk as Minerva went to retrieve the memories with her wand. “Now, you might be more aware of just what dangers that our Potion’s Master faces in what he does for us Minerva.”

She nodded as she tipped the memories of Snape into the wide bowl of the Pensieve. “I don’t want them back,” she whispered.

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” said Dumbledore. He would keep them to himself then, for the Order, as he kept so much else.

“Should I return?” she asked.

Dumbledore sighed. “No, you must warn Remus Lupin of what is to come.”

“To come, sir?” asked Minerva. Her memory of what was coming was gone within the Pensieve.

“Minerva, my dear,” said Albus quietly. “I would like you to return this evening to Grimmauld Place without being seen by the Weasley children or Harry if that’s possible, to warn Remus Lupin of a danger to the Village of Wolvin that we’ve just discovered thanks to Professors Wood and Snape. Tell him that Voldemort intends to invade Wolvin once he’s released his followers from prison. That he and Felicity should go to Wolvin as they’d planned at the full moon to warn them.”

Minerva was aghast. She knew little or nothing of a village called Wolvin. “But why would He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named be interested in such a place?”

Dumbledore sighed audibly. He was sworn to keep so much within that sometimes even he felt the weight of it was all too much. “I cannot say, Minerva, my dear,” he said. “Simply tell Lupin that the magic of the place will be of interest to those who wish to hide. Remus will understand.”

She nodded, still nervous and turned to go.

“Minerva?” said Dumbledore sadly. The events of the night were sure to be painful for all involved. “Tell him that he must trust in Felicity, no matter what others may say.”

She nodded and walked out the door.

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