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     The day of the meeting, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny gathered what they thought they would need, and apparated to just outside Malfoy Manor.  Looking cautiously around, they noted the general neglect that had come over the grounds, from the gates which stood slightly open, to the hedges which were becoming slightly overgrown.  No wizards were in sight, no magic or traps could be detected by their sweeps of the area.  After several minutes of checking, they cautiously made their way through the open gates and up the drive. 

Ron jumped at a noise in the bushes, which proved to be a rather thin Peacock, pecking randomly in a search for food amongst the greenery.

"Poor thing looks half starved." commented Hermione quietly.

"Let's just keep moving, shall we?" muttered Ron, Ginny following close behind, wand drawn, Harry in the lead.

Just short of the front door, they all stopped, and looked around and at the windows of the Manor, waiting for any surprises that may suddenly come upon them.  Nothing did happen however, the only sounds were occasional bird song.  Harry handed Hermione his cloak, in which Ginny stood under with Hermione, stooping slightly so their feet were covered.  Ron found a nearby bush to hide behind, wand at the ready, while Harry proceeded to the front door.

Before he could reach to use the knocker, the door opened.  No one stood behind it to greet him.  Cautiously, Harry peered inside.

"Ah, Mr. Potter, please, come in, and welcome to Malfoy Manor."

Stepping inside, wand drawn, Harry's eyes adjusted to the slightly dimmer interior of the posh mansion.  In a chair by the large fireplace sat Narcissa Malfoy, smiling and looking as if Harry was an old friend come to visit.

 "Please, do come in.  You may put your wand away, I assure you, there is no danger to you here.  Please have your friends join us as well, it will help make my case."

Case?  Harry thought, perplexed about Narcissa' statement.  What case is she talking about?  Harry proceeded in, his wand now lowered to his side, but kept in out.  He was still waiting for an ambush.
 
 "What case are you referring to?" asked Harry.

"I will elaborate once you and your friends have joined me.  Care for a drink?" 

Harry proceeded back to the door, and after a moment, came back with the others following, all looking perplexed, but still cautious.

"Please, have a seat everyone, and I shall get to the reason I have asked Harry here.  I must say, I did expect Harry would not come alone, and find it a noble gesture that you are willing to stand by him.  Your friendships I think are one of the reasons the Dark Lord is no more.  I am not sorry he is gone, for I and the others are free of his tyranny, but I will be freer still, once you learn my reasons for you being here today." 

Everyone sat down, looking at Narcissa, whose manner was pleasant, without the least bit of deception that anyone could detect.  After drinks were handed out, Narcissa took a drink from her glass poured from the same pitcher on a table by her chair as a show of trust that is was not poisoned.  This made everyone feel a bit easier, and more curious as to what she was going to tell them.

Through the doorway into the next room came the sound of a door closely softly, and seconds later, came Draco, dressed rather well, and looking pleasantly at everyone. 

"Hello Harry, everyone, thank you for coming today." said Draco.

"I don't know if I can take much more of this." muttered Ron to Hermione, who sat very close to Ron, clutching his hand with her own.  Hermione nodded ever so slightly in agreement. 

Narcissa smiled, and went on.  "I invited Harry, may I call you Harry?" asked Narcissa, directing her question with a pleasant tone that made things more puzzling to Harry and the others.

Harry nodded, not able to speak.  Throat suddenly dry, Harry took a sip from his glass absentmindedly.  This made Ginny, who was also sitting very close to Harry and clutching his hand, tense up, but then relaxed as much as she could.

"Thank you, Harry, for coming, as well as the three of you.  I admire your courage in keeping Harry safe, but can assure you, this is no trap.  I am asking instead, if Harry and all of you will help Draco and I, get our lives back, that have been stolen from us for quite some time now."

"Stolen?' enquired Hermione.  "How so?"

Laughing to herself, Narcissa, took a small sip, and placed her glass on the side table, rose from her chair, and walked over the fireplace.  From on the mantle, she retrieved what appeared to be a metal object that had seen better days.  It's slightly blackened surface and twisted shape was apparent to all when Narcissa took it from it's resting place on the mantle.

Walking back over, she handed to object to Harry, who upon seeing it, recognized it for what it used to be, but was now in a twisted ruin.  It was the cane topper of Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa' evil husband, and father to Draco.  From the other room, came a loud squawk and metallic bang. 

Narcissa turned to the doorway, and without looking at him, asked, "Draco, would you be a dear and take care of that for us?" 

Without a word, Draco walked through the doorway.  Seconds later, a loud pop, and an anguished cry could be heard, then Draco came back through the doorway to stand by Narcissa, who was now seated again.

"As you may have noticed, as well as many in the wizard world, that Lucius has seemingly disappeared.  I have heard speculation that he was 'done away with', so to speak.  Well, in a sense, he is not the same Lucius you knew.  That object you hold Harry, is Lucius' cane topper, and the source of imprisonment of Draco and I for far too long." said Narcissa, motioning to the topper in Harry's hand. 

"I cannot say who created it, or when, but it was dark and vial magic.  You see, it 'controlled' us through some sort of imperious spell, always keeping us doing Lucius' bidding, playing the dutiful wife and son of a Death Eater.  But once the Dark Lord took Lucius' wand, removed that topper from it, something about that broke the spell it had over us, and you see what is left.  As for Lucius himself, if you will follow me, and that will be answered as well."

Getting up again, Narcissa proceeded gracefully through the doorway Draco and emerged from, and the direction of the squawk they heard minutes ago.  Cautiously, everyone got up, and followed Narcissa into what was their formal diningroom, with it's long table and posh décor.  In the back corner stood a large cage, with what appeared to be a very ugly, and large bird which sat dazed on a perch inside, it's eyes glowering at each of them as they approached.

"This, is Lucius Malfoy, as he is now, and if I had my way, will remain for the rest of his life." stated Narcissa, a cold note of venom in her voice.

No one could believe what they were seeing, or being told.  The ugly, glowering bird was Lucius Malfoy?!  How?

"What, about the Aurors?  Why not just hand him over to them?" asked Ron.

"Oh I intend to Mr. Weasley, but only after my story, the truth of it, has been presented to the wizard world and Draco and I have our names cleared.  That is why you are all here, to help us clear our names, and get our lives back.  Draco and I have not been welcome, nor are we pleased with what we have done, but are willing to make amends in any way possible.

I merely wish to be able to have acceptance in the community, and have everyone understand that our deeds were not of our choosing.  With you and your friends standing in the wizard world, that should help us to secure closure and understanding, or so I can hope.  So I beg of you, will you help us?" pleaded Narcissa, her voice cracking on the last statement, tears welling up in her tired eyes.




 
 
 
 
 
 

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