Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing/Characters: Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy, Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger
Disclaimer: Fun, not profit
Notes: Thanks to parenthetical for her awesome beta help, and to heidi8 for being so kind as to let me remix her story :D
Wordcount: c. 2,250
Original story: A Day for Consideration by heidi8.
Summary: The crisp green lines of ink glisten brightly, promising a new life.
The letter comes to Lucius himself. It's a thrill, seeing the owl swoop majestically down to perch at his elbow, head cocked expectantly as Lucius carefully takes the parchment from it. Letters in their house are usually accepted by the house-elves and brought directly to Abraxas, to be disbursed to the rest of the household as he sees fit. But the Hogwarts letter is addressed to Lucius, and it's customary for it to be delivered directly to the recipient.
Lucius' fingers itch to tear open the envelope, but instead he lays it neatly by the side of his plate, waiting for permission. His father doesn't spare him more than a glance, all his attention apparently focused on his own correspondence. After all, everyone at the table knows what the letter says. Generations of Malfoys have received it before him, the summons to Hogwarts all but guaranteed to those of pure wizarding blood. (There have been those for whom the summons never came, Lucius knows: the aberrations. But such aberrations seldom occur, and are even more seldom spoken of.)
Finally Abraxas sets his tea cup down and looks over at Lucius. 'Mendy,' he says commandingly, and a house-elf pops smartly into view. 'Master Lucius requires my paper knife.'
Mendy bobs in assent and takes the heavy silver knife from the table, bearing it carefully over to Lucius. Lucius is almost afraid to accept it: the memory of childhood injunctions against interfering with his father's things still raw and fresh in his mind. He's not a child any longer, though - in September he'll be at Hogwarts, responsible for representing the name of Malfoy in the outside world. The knife signals his father's recognition of this; it shows that Lucius' restraint in handling the letter did not go unnoticed.
Lucius slits the envelope open carefully. Green ink glistens up from the thick, creamy parchment, emerald lines of instruction that remind Lucius where the real power lies in the wizarding world. Slytherin's power still runs through Hogwarts, despite the efforts of the weak to suggest otherwise.
'I've been awarded a place at Hogwarts,' Lucius tells his family formally. 'If you are agreeable, they wish me to start in September.' Malfoys accept such invitations because they wish to, not because they must.
'You'll be Sorted into Slytherin,' his father says.
Lucius folds the letter carefully, smoothing the parchment. 'Of course.'
Narcissa awaits the letter with an anxiety she knows better than to reveal.
It's boring at home, lonelier than ever since Bellatrix left for Hogwarts. There are weekly lessons with Amycus and Theodora, of course, and regular visits to other families. But in between the days stretch out, long and airless, filled with appropriate things to do. Sometimes there are children in the park opposite their house, playing their own private games. Andromeda yearns to join them, and even Narcissa sometimes looks wistfully out of the window. But those are Muggle children: it wouldn't be appropriate, of course.
Bellatrix brings life to the house when she returns from school, full of proud tales about Hogwarts and the following she's already gained there. It's no surprise to Narcissa that Bella clearly already dominates most of the girls in Slytherin. It's the Black way, after all, and of the three of them Bella has always been the most vibrant, the leader.
Bella likes to tell stories when their parents aren't listening: bloodcurdling tales of Blacks past that she's found in the old family records or heard from Aunt Walburga. Mother doesn't think it appropriate to discuss adult affairs with children, but Aunt Walburga is always happy to talk of the achievements of Great-Aunt Belvina - part of Grindelwald's inner circle - and Aunt Cassiopeia, who lives in Russia, where she isn't plagued by what she calls 'the ridiculous red tape these Muggle protectionists create'.
'And then there's Cassiopeia's brother,' Bellatrix whispers dramatically.
'Uncle Pollux?' Narcissa asks. She can't really imagine stolid, self-satisfied Pollux doing anything exciting, even if he is an important man in the Ministry of Magic.
'No.' Bellatrix leans in towards Narcissa, lowering her voice further. 'Marius.'
'We don't have an Uncle Marius,' Narcissa says uncertainly.
'That's the point, we don't any more,' Bellatrix says with relish. 'It's a sad story, really. When he was born, everyone thought he was perfectly normal. But as he got older, he just didn't develop right, and when the letter from Hogwarts never came, that's when they knew for certain.'
'Knew what?' Narcissa asks.
'That he was a Squib,' Bellatrix hisses, eyes darting towards the door as if she's afraid that someone will overhear them.
Narcissa feels her eyes go wide. She's heard of Squibs before, of course, but she hadn't thought that there could be any in a family like theirs. The Blacks are purebloods with a line stretching back for generations. 'What happened to him?'
Bella makes a terrible face. 'Just look at the family tree, the next time we visit Aunt Walburga. Gone.'
Bellatrix sweeps out of the room before Narcissa can ask any more questions, pausing only to say ominously, 'Once in a while, Cissy, even the best bloodlines produce a sport.'
Later, in bed, Narcissa whispers to Andromeda, 'What if you turned out to be a Squib? What would you do?'
'You'd have to become a Muggle, I s'pose,' Andromeda says practically. 'Live in their world.'
Narcissa shudders. She knows she has no real need to worry: she's already performed a couple of small charms, even managed to turn Andromeda's ears green. But she can't quite shake the image of the pale, mewling thing born in Argos' last litter. Their mother had curled her lip in disgust and ordered the house-elves to dispose of it. Is that what happened to Uncle Marius, too? Or was he just kept somewhere, hidden away while his brothers and sisters went away to Hogwarts and then out into the real world?
Narcissa has nightmares for a week, dreaming of her mother's pale, disgusted face and the sensation of walls closing in.
Her Hogwarts letter arrives, of course, just as it did for Bella before her. The crisp green lines of ink glisten brightly, promising a new life, the one Narcissa was born to. For the rest of the summer, her dreams are of the friends she'll make at Hogwarts; the wide, open halls filled with new people to meet.
When she makes the walk from the dais to the Slytherin table - conscious of Bella's bright, exultant gaze - it's even more exhilarating than she'd dreamed. Narcissa takes her seat among her new housemates, under the house banners. Their shining green and silver recalls the promise of the letter: growth and strength and vitality. It feels right, like stepping into a robe made especially for her.
It's not until much later that Narcissa realises she was actually stepping into a trap.
Surprisingly, it's not Draco's father who first tells him about the Hogwarts letters. It's Theodore Nott.
They're both seven years old, crouched in a hidden corner of the gardens which Draco considers his own. It's tucked away behind the folly, a little patch filled with wild-looking ferns and towering shrubs perfect for hiding in. Draco supposes the house-elves go there sometimes - although it's wild, it's an intentional sort of wildness - but they don't count.
'Everyone who can do magic gets a letter,' Theodore tells him. 'And then on the first day, they sort you into your houses.'
'Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff,' Draco says. He already knows all about the houses, and the stories of their founders. 'Slytherin is the best. He was the most powerful of all the Founders.'
Theodore looks thoughtful. 'I don't know. Slytherin was powerful, but he was on his own in the end. I wouldn't mind being in Ravenclaw: they're the cleverest house. Besides, you can't be sure where the Hat will put you.'
'All the Malfoys have been Slytherins,' Draco insists. He doesn't like the way Theodore sometimes makes him feel: shaky and off balance, like all the things he knows might not be true.
'All the Blacks were, too, until your cousin Sirius,' Theodore points out.
Draco squirms a little. They don't talk about Sirius. Even if he did (Draco's father says) finally behave like a Black and get rid of the Potters, that was also the night that the Dark Lord disappeared. Besides, everyone knows Sirius is insane.
'I bet you can't beat me in a race,' Draco says instead, and jumps to his feet, determined to get to the best broom before Theodore.
He puts the conversation out of his mind, and it's not until his Hogwarts letter arrives that he thinks of it again. He tears open the letter and waves it excitedly at his parents. 'It's here! I'm going to Hogwarts!'
Draco's mother smiles proudly, and even his father curls his lips briefly before saying repressively, 'That's enough, Draco.'
Draco remembers himself and calms down, studying the shining green script of the letter.
'I suppose you're right that it's politic to send him to Hogwarts,' Draco's father says to his mother. 'Although I still feel that Durmstrang has more to offer, in the current climate. However, circumspection is only wise.'
He turns to Draco. 'You'll be in Slytherin, of course.'
'Of course,' Draco agrees, but he bridles a little at the flat finality of his father's voice. Draco is used to having his own way in things. Besides, Theodore Nott's voice whispers at the back of his mind, you can't be sure where the Hat will put you.
He doesn't realise quite how true that is until the Sorting Hat is placed on his head and its whispery voice starts, 'Enough brains to be a Ravenclaw - '
'All the Malfoys have been Slytherins,' Draco thinks fiercely, and hears the last word echo around the Great Hall.
He collects himself and walks towards his house table, smiling triumphantly because Theodore was wrong. Malfoys know where they belong.
Years later, Draco looks out over a battlefield filled with fallen companions who the wizarding world won't bother to grieve, and remembers Theodore's other words. Slytherin was powerful, but he was on his own in the end. Even at the close, when they'd fought side-by-side with the rest of the Order, that had been true: Slytherins stood alone.
Draco wonders how many of his fellow Slytherins would have lived if the shining emerald of their Hogwarts letters had delivered all it promised.
Hermione reads and rereads her letter obsessively, learning every line by heart. She traces the unfamiliar words on the lists of information: Arithmancy; Transfiguration. She's not surprised, exactly - the letter's arrival had simply confirmed what she had already known: that she's different, special - but she can't quite believe that this exotic and amazing world is hers for the taking.
She consumes every book that she can find on Hogwarts and the wizarding world. It's clear that Hogwarts isn't going to be anything like the secondary school she was expecting to go to, a big, new City Technology College, all gleaming glass and new laboratories. Hogwarts sounds more like an exclusive, magical version of Eton or Malory Towers. Hermione imagines a close-knit group, with friendly rivalries and everyone pulling together for the school. She reads up on all the houses, determined to be well-informed. Ravenclaw sounds like the one she's most likely to be put in, but she likes the sound of Gryffindor: the ideal of courage and the bright red and gold colours somehow seem to embody the kind of school spirit she's read about in books. She can tell even from the limited materials she's able to get her hands on that Slytherin is the house to be avoided: all the books make it clear that Slytherin breeds cruelty and megalomania.
It's years before it occurs to Hermione to be angry about that.
Rowena is arguing with her brother when the owls arrive.
'I don't care,' Cygnus is saying. 'I don't want to be in Slytherin. Albus says hardly anyone really believes they've changed.'
'Daddy was a Slytherin,' Rowena begins, and then the first owl swoops in through the open window, the letter held carefully in its beak.
She accepts the envelope, but doesn't open it, staring down nervously at the emerald green script. Miss Rowena Malfoy.
At the other side of the table, her twin grabs his letter from the second owl and tears it open. 'We're really going,' he says excitedly.
'I suppose we'll just have to see where the Sorting Hat puts us,' Rowena says. She still hasn't opened the letter.
'No.' Her mother's voice is tight and angry, the same as when she talks about the people she lost in the war.
'Hermione,' their father says, reaching out to touch her arm.
'I said no, Draco,' she says, and reaches out to snatch the letter from Cygnus' hand. 'Give me that, Rowena.'
Rowena dumbly hands her letter over, too confused by their mother's behaviour to even think about resisting.
'I won't have it, Draco,' their mother is saying. 'Listen to them talk, even after everything we've taught them. Cygnus is right, nothing has changed. Is that really what you want for your children?'
'Hermione, they have to go to school,' their father says quietly.
'Then we'll find another way,' their mother snaps.
Fragments of green and cream drift to the floor as she tears the letters up.