Thanks so much to ginnyfan4life for the wonderful chapter image!
Severus Snape thought he had heard footsteps. His eyes widened in panic. The sound of someone approaching grew louder, the Dark Lord's lot, no doubt. He would Apparate out but, what to do with her body? Then he thought, that was it, her estranged sister Andromeda! She would know what to do.
The new-comer came within his range of vision.
"Draco? What are you doing here?" he whispered, dragging him by the arm, his eyes denoting panic, fearful still of possible intruders.
Draco looked at the body resting over the bed. He stared at Snape intensely, his muscles tensed. He couldn't say the words.
"She is dead, Draco. I was too late. I couldn't save her," Snape explained withdrawing his gaze.
"Snape, YOU ARE CRYING!" Draco shook his head in disbelief.
Severus ignored this remark. "We need to get out of here quickly. The Dark Lord is behind this. I'll explain later, we haven't the time," he urged.
Draco was oblivious to these words; he was clutching his mother's body, wondering how on earth she had lost so much blood, his heart beating so hard that he was having palpitations, tears of both anger and sadness flowing very fast.
"HOW THE HELL?" he yelled, his gaze fixed on his former Professor. "But you said you'd protect us?" continued Draco throwing daggers at Snape with his eyes.
"I couldn't foresee this," said Snape defensively. "Merlin only knows where she got the idea from!" Well, he wondered, he had always suspected Bella having done something like that in her youth, before Azkaban, but of course, he realised, the Dark Lord's soul was so fragmented he doubted he was even able to father a child; he wasn't a man any longer, well, not by any standard definition of "man." Severus began to feel sick at the thought.
"Explain yourself, Snape, what the hell did she do? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?" cried Draco.
"We have to go now. I'll tell you all about it later, and we need to take her body, I don't think the Dark Lord would allow..."
"Her body?" Draco frowned trying to take this in. "She must be buried here, this is ... was," he corrected, "- ... her home! This is nonsense!"
"Draco, the Dark Lord is trailing me, I know that, and so is your aunt Bella. We received some orders but it's too long a story, WE HAVE TO GO! We'll take her with us. I think your best bet is to go to your aunt Andromeda. She won't be too harsh; she'll take pity on you and will understand how this has come about, I think. I killed Dumbledore so I can't exactly help you much in certain quarters, but I think Potter will probably forgive you, eventually. The 40 days are over, Draco. The protection has weakened but I would still keep in touch with the priest. I just think it will help," Severus said sternly.
"What about you, sir? Will you go back to him?" he pronounced the word "him" with pure and utter hatred.
"What do you think?" Snape scoffed. "I think I may go to the priest, with another cover, for 40 days again... You got on well, did you not?"
Draco vaguely nodded.
"You'll have a hard time trying to pass for a Muggle priest!" Draco said smirking.
"I can always be a parishioner. Now, son, more action, less talk. Let's get the hell out of here, or it will not only be your mother who is dead!" he said in a non-negotiable tone.
"Stay there for a minute!" commanded Severus, suddenly thinking of something.
He walked back to the drawing room where it all had happened and with a flick of his wand he cleared all evidence of the ritual performed. Then he shouted "Accio" and took the book with him, the God forsaken book that had caused all that mess.
As quickly and silently as he could manage, he returned to the bedroom and, without a further word to Draco tried to do what he had in fact not attempted for a good number of years. He needed a memory, a very happy memory; he had never been very good with this, in fact, he did have very few happy thoughts...
Draco looked at Snape and glanced again towards his mother's body.
A few minutes later, a slivery thread started to emerge, forming what looked a bit like a giant spider, the shape wasn't too clear.
This should do the job, thought Snape.
Andromeda Tonks was working in the garden of her idyllic Lake District cottage. It was now almost getting dark. It had been a lovely day, though, bright and sunny, perfect for picking up the ingredients for her potions and perfumes. She loved making perfumes and scented candles; it was like encapsulating the freshness of summer to enjoy it during the coming winter months. Ted was indoors working on a book about Muggles, so she had time for herself. She bent down to pick up her last leaves of the day and, before she got up, she saw from a corner of her eye, what she didn't think could be. A Patronus in the shape of a spider! She stood up and shook her head and there he was, the man himself who had killed Dumbledore!
"To what do I owe this surprise visit?" she enquired her eyes looking somewhere between shocked and horrified.
"I come in peace, Andromeda. Narcissa is dead, that's why I'm here," he said trying to sound composed, actually dignified.
"Narcissa!" How?" This news took Andromeda's mind away from what this man had done. She looked deeply into his eyes, as if hoping to hear that that had been a joke.
"The Dark Lord did it. The ins and outs I don't really think you truly want to know," he replied.
"And Draco, where is Draco?" she sounded a bit panicky.
"As you can see, I have compromised my safety by coming here to tell you. I hope you'll be more honourable than to turn the boy in, he's your nephew after all."
"Well, of course not," she promised. "Where is he?"
"At present at Malfoy Manor," Snape said matter-of-factly. "Can I tell him to Apparate here? Will he be safe here?" Severus fixed his gaze on her eyes as he asked.
"Well..." Andromeda hesitated. "He's compromising us by coming here, but I suppose, he's just lost his mother... I wouldn't have the heart to turn him in, although he's a Death Eater, is he not?"
"Was a Death Eater I believe is more accurate." Snape sighed.
"So, was it Volde... who did this to her? Because of Draco?" she asked looking scared.
"Yes, in essence, but believe me, it's not anywhere near that simple."
"Ted!" she shouted by the back door.
"I'm coming" Andromeda's husband lazily replied.
"Oh, my...!" Ted's eyes opened up, questioning Snape suspiciously. "Whatever the devil...?"
"Narcissa is dead. Well, it seems Voldemort has killed her," interrupted Andromeda trying to prevent her husband from exploding.
"How do we know this is true? That it's not a trap?"
'Good point, thought Severus trying to think of a way to make them believe him.
"Would you believe me if I brought you the body?" Snape asked showing no emotion.
"Have you lost your mind!" exclaimed Ted.
"I haven't in fact. Andromeda, you'll have to give her a burial. She must have a proper burial. Malfoy Manor isn't safe." His voice sounded grave, preoccupied.
Andromeda closed her eyes, it was as if the heavens had opened and fallen on her.
"I suppose..." she conceded glancing towards Ted for approval.
Ted wasn't too convinced. Admitting Snape into their home could very easily get them in trouble with the Order and, well, if the Malfoys were on such bad terms with You-Know-Who, protecting Draco didn't bode well either.
"Well, don't stand out there. Come in, Severus," Andromeda said at once.
"I have to tell Draco, he is in great danger where he is. The Dark Lord's lot will probably arrive there any time now. I have to go. I'll be back with him and ...well..."
Snape Apparated back to Malfoy Manor. He found Draco Malfoy in a state of obvious agitation.
"Come with me!" he commanded. "Yes, we need to take her too."
"Where are we...?"
"To Andromeda's. Hold on tight. I see you managed to put some clothes on her. I should have done that myself, I suppose, had I not been in such a deal of hurry."
Suddenly, they found themselves in the Tonks' back garden. Draco was almost scared. He had never actually got to meet his aunt, who had been labelled by all his family as a blood-traitor before he was born. He would have called her such names also, well before any of the events at the Astronomy Tower... because now, well, if she was prepared to help, he would have to leave his prejudice aside.
"Well, come in then," said Andromeda to both of them.
"For heaven on earth, Snape, what happened to her?" she yelled looking at her sister’s incredibly pale body. "How long’s she been dead? Andromeda had a terrified expression in her eyes.
"I would like to ask that myself," said Draco throwing Snape an extremely hard look.
"There it is!" Snape shouted throwing to Draco the book that he had rescued from the drawing room.
Draco got hold of it but didn’t dare open it, didn't dare find out. Let’s get this out of the way first, he thought.
They laid Narcissa’s body to rest on top of one of the beds, for lack of better ideas.
"Ted, fetch us some wine, will you? I think we all bloody need something!" decided Andromeda.
"You could well say that," agreed Severus.
Draco was staring at the floor. He didn’t have a clue as to how to communicate with a woman who was his mother’s sister and whom he hadn’t met before.
"So, you are Draco then? Look, I don’t bear you ill feeling. It must be hard for you. That, I understand. I wished we had made up though, before all this. Now, it’s too late! Damn it, my little sister Cissy..." Her eyes were now humid. "It was your side of the family, Draco, that cut me off, I didn’t want it this way!" she protested feeling the need to explain.
Draco remained silent.
"You must be Ted Tonks," he said staring into the glass of red wine he was now accepting from his host.
Ted frown. "Look, Malfoy, we’re not going to poison you or anything but you must understand you can’t be with us long. Your presence is endangering us, as you can probably gather."
"Don’t worry, I didn’t want to come here in the first place," Draco replied dryly, almost arrogantly.
Draco felt that he had now, give or take a few details, landed himself in a position not that dissimilar to Potter having gone to live with the Muggles. But he was of age, he didn’t need a guardian. He had his own mansion, his father was alive, only in prison, and he was on the run...If he had been able to kill Dumbledore, none of this would have happened, or perhaps, even, if he had accepted Dumbledore’s offer of protection. It was all his fault but he was not going to let the Muggle lovers know about these feelings.
"I think you better try and put your case to the Order. They are not like Voldemort, some of us have compassion," stated Andromeda trying to find him a way to safety.
"Now," Snape opened the topic, "the burial, Andromeda, what are we to do?"
"You said Malfoy Manor isn’t safe..." she asked looking for confirmation.
"Correct. I wouldn’t put it past him to turn her into an Inferi or something of the kind. It’s most definitely not safe."
"But why, Snape, why my little sister?" Andromeda cried.
"Because I fucked up, that’s why!" Draco replied at once.
The others looked at him and looked at one another. That had been some statement.
"Well, what were you supposed to have done?" said Andromeda now feeling rather sorry for him. "You have to mean to kill, and, let’s be honest, I would be disgusted if you’d had it in you, already, at your age!"
"Well, I obviously didn’t!" Draco replied a little obnoxiously.
"Snape, what about Lucius?" asked Andromeda with a slight concern.
"What about him?"
"Well, he was married to her!"
Draco looked away. In a sense, he feared his father’s reaction. He was bound to blame him!
"Yes, Andromeda, he was married to her," replied Snape in a flat tone of voice. "He had left her though," he continued.
"Not another mess like my estrangement from her, please, no more of this nonsense!" .
"Don’t worry. I have a message, a last message, from her to him. I’ll deliver it." Snape said in a composed manner. "She forgave him," he added.
Draco sighed with relief.
"Did she mention me at all? You coming here... was this her idea?" Andromeda asked, hopeful.
"Sorry to say, no, she didn’t but I don’t think she did bear ill feeling for anyone in the end. I gather that you can relax on that one."
"Snape?" Ted had now joined the conversation. "What side are you on, or are you still playing both?"
Severus laughed out loud.
"I bloody wish I could! I killed Dumbledore, didn’t I?"
Ted Tonks looked startled when faced with this open admission.
"I think is safe to say," Snape continued "that the Order is not intending to use my services in present circumstances. As for the Death Eaters, well, Draco, sorry, now you are going to find out." He waited for a moment and then said, "The Dark Lord had instructed Bella (he said the name very quietly) and myself to find you, Draco, and his orders were for you to kill your own mother."
Draco was now enraged, his eyes sparkled with fury.
"WHAT?" exclaimed the young Malfoy. "That’s why you wrote that letter, isn’t it?"
Andromeda and Ted looked at each other completely horrified.
"Don’t stare at me like that, young man. I was protecting you all the way. I didn’t turn you in, did I now?"
"No, I guess not," Malfoy replied timidly.
"Why did you kill Dumbledore, though?" continued Ted.
"Because I had to, Ted, because I had to!" was Snape’s stern reply.
Draco looked at Snape with slight complicity thinking about the Vow.
"Earlier today, I went to try to help Narcissa. That’s when I found her dying. If the Dark Lord finds out, I’m not likely to survive and he will find out, don’t you worry. The Order wants my neck also... Satisfied?"
"So, you are on the run from both sides. Nice place to land yourself, Snape, nice." Ted looked flabbergasted.
"I couldn’t go back to the Dark Lord, not after what he planned anyway, never!" Snape sworn looking very deeply into Ted's eyes.
"Well, I think you are in a bit of a mess, to put it mildly. Why did Dumbledore trust you, though?" continued Tonks.
"Because he had good reason," Snape replied authoritatively.
"Whatever that might have been, you’ll never convince Potter."
Snape laughed again.
"Potter? Should I be worried about what Potter likes and dislikes, arrogant little brat!"
"Well, he may be just of age, but he’s highly influential," said Andromeda.
"Let me put it this way and I’m not talking out of arrogance here. That was more his own father’s style, let me tell you. If Potter doesn’t get my help, this time he is definitely dead and I know full well what I’m talking about. Sorry, I cannot expand. I’m not saying either that I have a fool-proof plan to help him, but I can try, only try." Snape’s gaze on Andromeda and Ted was now very intense. "Now, let’s get back to the burial. Draco, I know you are going to oppose this but..." he started.
"I think the most sensible thing is for her to be buried as a Muggle," Severus tried to reason.
"Never!" shouted Draco at the top of his voice kicking a nearby chair.
"Well, all I ask you is to take into account the risk."
"You’re trying to get into my mind!" protested Draco.
"Only because I need to."
Draco looked horrified. He could read Snape’s too. He had feared his mother hadn’t passed away properly, had unfinished business...
"We’ll sort that one out, don’t say anything," he communicated without saying the words.
"You must have a Muggle church, a cemetery, here in the village?" asked Snape.
"Well, naturally!" said Andromeda.
"You married a Muggleborn so, why do you look at me like that?" Severus retorted, noticing how Andromeda looked rather taken aback.
"Yes, but this is Narcissa we’re talking about..."
"Well, if Voldemort is ever defeated, we may be able to sort out something else. In the meantime, I’m afraid Muggle grave under a Muggle name. The Dark Lord was very angry with her indeed, she tried something very odd, and he knows it. Just trust me, nothing else is safe!" Snape concluded.
Draco closed his eyes momentarily but didn’t contest this anymore.
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