Cassia Malfoy tiptoed through the dark halls of Malfoy Manor, listening out for the noise of approaching footsteps. She pressed herself against a tapestry when she thought she heard a door creak around the corner. If Death Eaters were approaching, their heavy boots on the hardwood floor would certainly give them away. Cassia stayed motionless for several seconds. She could hear nothing but a soft snuffling sound. A house-elf perhaps? She crouched down low; a man might miss something so small, and a house elf could be persuaded to keep silent. Slowly, she peered around the corner and found herself looking directly into a pair of sleepy gray eyes. She sighed, exasperated.
"Go back to sleep, Draco."
"But Cassia, I'm thirsty. I need a glass of water."
"I said go back to sleep."
"And I said I'm thirsty."
Silently cursing all stubborn, spoiled five-year-olds who would never listen, even to someone seven years their senior, she hissed, "Have Mipsy or Dobby to get it for you. No buts," she cut him off when he tried to say something. "Back to bed or the very minute Aunt Cissy gets back from London, I'll tell her about those cookies you stole."
Faced with this dire threat, the child mournfully slunk back to bed, leaving Cassia to her task. She crept down to the drawing room and pulled back the carpet under the stairs. Though the complex locking charms that kept the trapdoor locked and concealed would not be taught until next year, her Uncle Lucius had trained her so thoroughly that she easily surpassed all the other Second Years in Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts. She pulled out her wand and muttered several charms in quick succession, slipped as silently as a shadow though the trapdoor, and closed it behind her. She stepped in front of a chest full of files and began to comb through it, trying to find her blood traitor father's whereabouts a few weeks previously, March 28, 1985 to be specific. She knew that her Uncle Lucius kept careful records of the man's comings and goings, especially on nights when she may have need of an alibi—since the two sisters looked so much alike. Cassia knew that if she could figure out where her father was the night her uncle had gone to interrogate the Boneses, Lucius could be proven innocent, assuming that he could manage to get a trial. If her father had been seen by someone on that night, Lucius could claim that she had been in that place at that time; her father would finally be of some use to her family. Cassia felt a familiar frustration fill her as she was reminded of the day nine years ago when her twin brothers had been killed in a forest at the age of two by Muggles hunting deer, while her father, who was supposed to be watching them had been cavorting about in some restaurant with his Muggle-born second wife. Though her mum had loved Marcus so much that she took him back after things didn't work out with the Muggle-born, Cassia was never able to forgive him for abandoning and shaming her family. Now it was just Cassia and her parents left. Unable to face the rest of the family after that incident, they had moved to India where her parents continued their work as magizoologists. When Cassia turned eleven, she convinced her parents to send her back to Britain where she lived with her aunt and uncle during the Christmas and Easter breaks, allowing her to attend Hogwarts and show some family loyalty. With her aunt in London and none of the resident Death Eaters aware of her uncle's files, it was up to her alone to save Lucius from the dementors.
Cassia tried to separate the damp papers that filled the chest. She had figured out that they were sorted by date and was now searching for the current year. 1965. 1968. 1976. The name "Julius" caught her attention. One of the little brothesr who had been killed by Muggles. She pulled out the sheet of parchment.
November 8, 1976
Name: Julius Ramsey
Lineage: Unknown Muggle-born mother. Father is
Pureblood Marcus Malfoy.
No wonder Uncle Lucius and Aunt Cissa never wanted Dad in the house, Cassia thought. He had children with that Muggle-born he divorced! Cassia skimmed through attack plans detailing a kidnapping from a camping trip on November 12. At the bottom of the page she found the words, "Status: Eliminated." She nearly dropped the parchment. They killed my brother. It wasn't Muggles. They killed my brother. But he was a half-blood, so it's not that bad. But he was only two. No two-year-old could ever possibly deserve this. How could they do that to family? She sat in silence for several moments, then heard heavy footsteps above her head. They must have been preparing to change the guard around the house. Nott would be here soon, and he was far more likely to discover her and the hidden room than that idiot man Goyle. Cassia quickly resumed her mission and flipped though the last sheets of parchment, looking for her mother's name. 1977 Gideon and Fabian Prewett. 1981 Harry Potter. 1982 Horace Bones. 1985 Sandra Malfoy. What was her mother doing in Uncle Lucius' files?
December 16, 1985
Name: Sandra Malfoy, suspected Auror
Cassia's heart leapt into her throat. Hands shaking, she sped through the rest of the report.
Mission: On the evening of December 29 search her home for records concerning husband Marcus'. . .
My mother is a Pureblood. And that's tonight! If they think she's Muggle-born. . . Cassia skipped to the bottom of the page and felt some of the tension in her body release when she found the words "Status: Living." I have to warn her, she thought, snatching up an Invisibility Cloak from a nearby shelf and throwing it over her shoulders. The paper still clutched in her fist heated up as if it had sensed her malignant thoughts. She threw it down, not knowing where she could run if it were cursed; the footsteps upstairs had not yet ceased. But nothing happened: no sparks, no explosions. Warily, Cassia leaned forward to get a better look at the paper lying on the floor. One word was twisting and morphing. The ink that had shaped the word "Living" now spelled out "Eliminated."
"Cassia! Cassia!" Charlie called, shaking his wife first slowly, then more roughly.
Cassia gasped, grabbed him by his shoulders, flipped him onto his back, and thrust her wand into his throat as she crouched on top of him on the bed.
"Hey, hey, it's just me," he croaked, trying to push her wand away from his neck.
Cassia drew the wand back shakily, breathing hard. "I'm sorry," she said, rubbing her eyes. She plopped down onto the bed and rested his head on his shoulder. "I dreamt about the night my mother was killed." She gave a small attempt at a grin. "Talk about needing to re-evaluate your life. And I was only twelve."
Charlie quietly kissed her forehead and began running his fingers through her dark hair, allowing her to continue talking.
"Man I was such a brat of a kid. I mean, not in a prissy girly way, but in a stuck-up superior kind of way. And don't you say anything about understanding, because you don't!" she lectured her silent husband. "How could you know what it's like to find out you haven't got the pure blood that you prided yourself on and that you're next on the hit list on the people who you thought loved you? That your mother's dead and that the father you despised was a good man, far better than the ones you admired. I thought that when I was a baby he had been cheating on Mum with a Muggle-born, but they had just made up a woman because the Muggle-born the Death Eaters had found out about was Mum. She got away, but ten years later they realized that it had always been her and they killed her. My father and I had to go into hiding for two weeks until all the Death Eaters who knew about her were arrested. Dad even ventured into Malfoy Manor to destroy my uncle's records so that no one would know that I was a half-blood."
Charlie good-naturedly let her continue to rant on for several more minutes until she woke up completely and fully got out of her dream, becoming her usual cheerful self.
"So are you ready to go to your parents' house yet?" Cassia asked, fondly kissing his cheek. "You're so slow I fell asleep waiting for you."
"Just about. I've just got to pack up the presents," he said, getting up to pull the gifts out of the closet. "They're all in this closet, right? Mum and Dad," he muttered aloud putting their respective presents into the sack. "Fred and George. Ginny, Ron, Harry, Hermione. Percy, Penny, Brianna, Ryan. Bill, Zhara, Sagira. He looked at the tags on two of the gifts more closely. "These aren't the same size. Did you get Ryan and Brianna different toys?"
"Of course. Ryan's one and Brianna's three. They wouldn't like the same things anyway."
"Yeah, but then they'll be constantly fighting over whose is better."
"So what do you want me to do, run out and buy new gifts for Ryan, Brianna, and Sagira too while I'm at it?"
"No way. You'd spend half a lifetime trying to find the perfect toy that's good for all of them and we're already late."
"It's your fault we're late!" she exclaimed, getting up to lightly smack him on the back of the head. "I told you to be ready at two."
"Sorry. Both at home and on the dragon reserve, there will always be someone who's later than you."
"And how will you ever get anywhere if you all think that? Your problem is that there are just too many children in your family."
"You think so?" Charlie asked, wrapping his arms around her. "I was just thinking that there aren't enough. And it's our turn to provide the next one."
"We've been over this," Cassia responded, her voice losing its joking tone as she pulled away slightly. "I told you that I don't feel ready for a baby. You grew up with five little brothers and sisters. But I've been an only child since I was three, and I don't even know how to buy gifts for kids. What if I mess up and something happens to the baby?"
"Sweetie. You can't avoid love in fear that you'll lose it," Charlie told her, rubbing her back. "I know that what happened to your mum made you wary, but trust me. I'll take care of the both of you. And we can have lots of kids, so there will always be someone to love."
"You don't really think that we can replace them that easily do you?"
"Of course not. But I know how family can get you through tough times. When my parents and Uncle Fabian died, Mum and Dad adopted me and Bill and we never felt that we weren't loved. I still had my elder brother and gained a new little brother in Percy."
"You make it sound as if the loss of your parents never hurt."
"Are you joking? I threw all sorts of tantrums, screaming for Mum, you know, my aunt, to give me back to my parents and sometimes running away, hoping they'd find me." Charlie winced. "All that fussing couldn't have been good for Mum; she was several months pregnant with the twins at the time. But she never screamed back at me or let me spend too much time pitying myself. And the one time I managed to get myself good and lost in the woods by the Burrow and began starting to wonder if my parents would really be able to find me, it was Dad who discovered me crying at the base of a tree. I think it was then when I saw how worried they were that I realized that they actually cared."
"Your parents do love taking in their little lost sheep, don't they. First you and Bill, then Harry."
"Mm, I think Harry's taking quite a bit longer than I did to appreciate how much they love him. I guess it's because he was already twelve and in boarding school by the time he came to the Burrow, while I was only five, and Mum could spend all her free time with us kids," Charlie continued, not noticing how Cassia had smoothly managed to change the subject.