**For Eena's Birthday - Happy 21st, Chica**
She felt warm arms surround her the second the nauseating pull of the portkey dissipated. Holding her, pulling her in and smothering her in that kind of warmth that comes, not from body heat, but from love and caring. It was an odd thing, to feel that kind of emotion from anyone, even a parent. Her father wasn’t the type to offer more than just the briefest of hugs. Lizzie pulled back, fighting not to cry as she saw her mother for the first time outside of a picture. She looked just as beautiful as she had in Ariana’s photographs, though. The red hair had a few strands of grey, but otherwise time had been kind to the now middle-aged witch.
“Hi, mom,” she managed around the lump of happy-pain in her throat. She wouldn’t cry. Malfoys didn’t cry, for Merlin’s sake!
“Oh, sweetie. I’ve missed you.”
Lizzie sniffled, realizing belatedly that her admonition to herself not to cry had gone unheeded by her body. Warm, wet tears slipped down her cheeks as her mother pulled back to look at her, one hand on either cheek. Her thumbs brushed at the tears, wiping them gently away. Lizzie licked her lips, knowing she had to say something even though nothing seemed appropriate enough at that very moment. In hindsight, the plan seemed ridiculous. Now that she had met her mother there were so many things she wanted to say and ask. Instead she settled for, “I missed you, too,”
Her mother smiled. “Buffy and Xander will be here soon for a little welcome back dinner. That’s okay, right? Unless you’re tired. Are you? How was camp?”
Lizzie laughed. “I’m fine, mom.” Mom, not mum, she reminded herself as she avoided the narrow slip of the tongue. The truth of course was that she was tired, but she didn’t plan on letting her mother know that. She wanted to spend as much time with her, and her ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as was possible before the inevitable day came when she had to return home to Malfoy Manor. That was when she could sleep – when this adventure was said and done. Until that time she had too much to take in, to absorb. Like the way her mother moved and talked, touched and held. She saw now where Ariana got the babbling from, though; it was a trait that their mother appeared to have perfected right to the point of hardly needing to breathe. “I’m not tired. Camp was fine. Great, even.”
“Really? Oh, that’s good,” her mother practically bounced up and down as she rocked back and forth from her heels to her toes and then back again. “You’ll have to tell me all about it. You took pictures, right?”
Lizzie thought of the Muggle-style camera her sister had tossed into the suitcase that was coming back to the States, and nodded. They’d been very careful to make sure that none of the photos that were taken had any images of the two of them together.
Though she was pretty sure that there was at least one of herself, Annabella and Eric. Her mother would never realize that she wasn’t looking at Ariana in the photo. With her hair back they looked just as identical as always. And there was no way she’d be able to pinpoint Eric as Potter’s son, even if she did know the Boy-Who-Lived back when she’d been married to her father. Dark hair and green eyes weren’t a tell tale give away, right?
Well, here was to hoping, anyway.
The portkey set her down just outside of the gates of the Manor, exactly as Lizzie had told her it would. Ariana swallowed hard, looking up the walk, past the wrought black iron of the gate, to the outlandishly large old-fashioned mansion that was her father’s, and she supposed her, ancestral home. Jaysen and Diane would have a fit if they saw this, she laughed nervously, silently.
Her feet led her up the walk before she ever made a decision that she was ready to go. Her subconscious, it seemed, was eager to see her father, even if she was having second thoughts about the sanity of this entire plan.
Scratch that. Not second thoughts. Third or fourth, at the very least. Had a single day gone by since they decided to do this that she hadn’t debated not going through with it?
But it was too late now. Lizzie had taken the portkey back to –her- home, and Ariana had taken the one to Malfoy Manor. There was no going back. No getting around it unless she wanted to fess up the moment that the she saw her father.
She didn’t want to do that, she told herself. Getting to know him was priority number one. Figuring out why he’d left her mother was priority number two. And then fixing everything was the last mission they, she and Lizzie, had to accomplish this summer.
And they had to do it before school started three weeks from now.
Ariana felt the magnitude of the tasks weigh heavily on her shoulders, her spirits bolstered only by the knowledge that she was going to get to see her father –
Right now, apparently.
The door to the Manor was opening, and she was still a good fifty yards away, a head of familiar blonde hair appearing in the space the door left. She forced a smile to her lips. This was Draco Malfoy. This was her father. Tossing her hair so that it fell more firmly in front of her ears, hiding the earrings that she wasn’t quite ready to deal with him seeing yet, she broke out into a job, meeting him halfway.
“Did you enjoy yourself, Elizabeth?”
Brief hug, she told herself, grabbing onto him for a quick squeeze before letting go again, just as Lizzie had warned her would be alright to do. He didn’t like overly emotional moments, something about being a Malfoy and Malfoys hiding what they felt. That was fine. Just being here, with him, was good enough for her. She had her mother for hugs and kisses, and her father for –
Well, she’d have to figure that out now, wouldn’t she? She gave him a smile that was only slightly cooler than she would have liked, hoping it wasn’t over the top for Lizzie’s normal set of expressions. Try as she might, it was hard to keep herself in check. Here he was – her father. Standing in front of her without a care in the world, completely unaware of the fact that his ‘long lost’ daughter was right there, awestruck over the sight of him.
“It was perfect, father,” she managed without sounding too enthusiastic, falling into step next to him as they began their slow way back to the Manor.
“I’m glad you had fun,” he offered her a tight smile. Oh, right, he hadn’t really wanted Lizzie to go to camp, had he? “Your grandmother is waiting for you in the parlor.”
Grandmother Narcissa, or Grandma Narci as Lizzie called her. The matriarch of the Malfoy family and an all around wicked woman, both in mind and action, according to the tales her sister had told her. Not an evil kind of wicked, but the type that meant lots of good times and devious fun.
She could handle that.
“And then, later, you and I are going to dinner with Anise.”
“Anise?” Ariana choked out, her mind whirling. That was the woman that Lizzie said their father had dated most recently. But, supposedly… “I thought you and she decided to call things off?”
He shrugged, a light smile playing at his lips. “We’re giving it another try.”
Fuck, Ariana groaned. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. This messed all of their plans up. How could they even begin to get their parents back together if their father had started dating someone? How quickly her dream reunion with her father had turned to misery.
”Fuck,” she whispered aloud, unintentionally.
“What was that?”
She glanced sideways at her father, shaking her head to clear it. This called for an emergency conference with her sister. They couldn’t afford to let things slip through their fingers – not when they were so close to getting both of their lives back on track. “Nothing. Dinner sounds…great.”