Carston Adema spent the summer teaching the older Adema children everything he could. He taught them how to Disapparate while they were transformed, even if they were Apparating to or from Hogwarts. He explained that in their animal form, they were shielded from the protections that prevented others from Apparating in the great school. He taught them how they could become invisible in their animal forms, without a cloak or any spell.
He was surprised by how quickly all nine of them learned. Even the younger ones had soon mastered these skills. He was also shocked by his nephew James, who seemed to take the lead of the children. He had been sure that his own daughter Sofia would take charge of them all, but she had out distance between her cousins and herself all year. Only Marcus seemed to breach that distance, and even he was kept away by a fair amount.
Luke Wolfrick came to stay one weekend. Carston was unsure of how this made him feel. On one hand it pleased him to see how this boy managed to draw his daughter out if her solitude and make her smile like no one else could. On the other hand, Carston was a lion, and lions protected their cubs. He did not like the idea of a young man taking a liking to his daughter. To him, she was still the little girl who danced with her father and brothers at balls, built sandcastles on the beach, calling herself queen of Denmark. Allowing a young man into her life like this was accepting that this little girl was gone.
Late one evening Carston's tattoo began to burn. He Disapparated immediately and found himself standing outside the gates of the Malfoy Manor. He walked swiftly through the gates as though they were not there, and up the path through the gardens. The door flew open in front of him and he passed through before turning right and walking into the dark dinning room.
Death Eaters were gathered around the table. Voldemort was at the head, stroking his enormous snake. There was a large puddle of blood on the table, and Carston tried not to think about who that used to belong to.
"My Lord," Carston said, nodding with as much respect as he could manage.
"Welcome, Carston. It has been a long time, almost seventeen years since last we met, yet here you stand before me, just as faithfully as you did then."
There were snickers around the table, for all knew just how much Carston loathed Voldemort.
"Much has changed since then, My Lord. You are wiser and stronger than ever."
The false praise hurt Carston to give, but he knew his place.
"Ah, yes, much has changed," Voldemort said thoughtfully. "Like your family. When last we met, children were busy a distant dream for a young married couple. Now you have two fine young sons and an extraordinary daughter. Tell me, it was you who have her life last year when I almost killed her at the Ministry, was it not?"
"Yes, My Lord, it was."
"How," Voldemort asked with genuine curiosity. "What did you do to save her."
Carston hesitated even though he knew he would have to tell his master the truth. It would be a weapon that the Dark Lord could use against him, against his entire family.
"I-I gave her a piece of my own life," Carston said. "It was a piece that I had removed years ago and saved in case something like that ever happened."
Voldemort was silent for a moment. He stopped stroking his snake and pressed his fingers together thoughtfully.
"I am aware that you have reenrolled your son at Hogwarts along with all of your nieces and nephews that are of age. May I ask, why?"
"Their parents and I agreed that they should have a chance to interact with other young wizards and witches their own ages. As for why Hogwarts was the school we chose, we wanted to keep all of them together, and we did not wish to remove Sofia from the place she has known for three years."
"Are you not worried that they will be separated too much since they are not all in the same house. I mean, four Slytherin's in your family must be quite a shock."
Carston shook his head quickly.
"Slytherin is lucky to have them. The four of them are very cunning and fast thinkers. I am sure that none of them shall let something as simple as the House they are in damage the bonds they share."
Voldemort gave him a very long look before he spoke again.
"I should inform you that I have plans for Severus to take over as Headmaster of Hogwarts. Should I expect trouble from your children?"
Carston laughed lightly.
"Trouble, My Lord? They have been giving their parents and I trouble since the day the twins were born. Anytime you have the Adema children together, you can expect trouble. I mean, since they have arrived at the house I cannot tell you the number of times I have been awoken in the middle of the night by screaming because young Marcus decided to try out a new invention on his little sister."
There were chuckles around the table, until Voldemort raised his hand for silence.
"Very well, just see to it that they remember their places."
"Of course, My Lord," Carston said with a nod.
"Now," Voldemort said as he stood up and began to circle the table slowly. "I have a task for you. You see, I must have control of the ministry. We are beginning to get people in place, but when the time comes it will be your duty to kill the minister."
Voldemort was standing right in front of Carston when he said this. Carston was caught off guard by Voldemort's task for him. The Dark Lord had ordered him to attack and capture people often. He had asked him to find, create or destroy magical objects. He had made him be a spy against his enemies but never in Carston's forty two years of life had the Dark Lord asked him to kill.
Voldemort noticed his hesitation.
Carston wanted to argue, to protest, but he knew better. He knew that the Dark Lord would only threaten his family, a threat that he would not hesitate to act upon.
"As you wish," he said with a slight nod of the head.
"Good," Voldemort said with a cruel smile. "That concludes this meeting then."
The Dark Lord disappeared in a crack. Carston turned to leave before anyone could say anything to him. He was halfway to the front door when's gentle hand caught his arm. He turned around and was face to face with the blue eyes of Narcissa Malfoy.
"Narcissa," he said with a nod. "Have you been well? It has been a while since I have seen you."
Narcissa pulled Carston away from the entrance hall, which was now crowded with Death Eaters talking to each other, and into the kitchen.
"You know I have not been well," she said in a hushed tone. "But it matters not. Tell me, Carston, how do you survive when the Dark Lord threatens the ones you love?"
Her eyes were pained and dull. Looking at her, Carston realized how tired she looked. The once elegant young woman he had known so long ago was gone, and in her place was a frail, battered mother.
Carston grabbed her hand and allowed his warmth to flow into her heart. He saw the improvements immediately, as her eyes brightened a little.
"Narcissa, it is never easy, but I tell myself that by doing what he tells me, I keep my children alive, and by keeping my children alive, I give them a chance to stop him. I know that you and your husband have been some of his most faithful servants, but your loyalty to him broke when he placed your son in danger, did it not?"
Narcissa hesitated before she nodded.
"Just tell yourself that he is alive and well. Your husband is too. Whatever has happened is done, over. Your family can breathe again. Narcissa you are a strong woman. You always have been. You are the glue keeping your family together. Remember that."
Narcissa nodded again, her blue eyes relaxing even more. Carston wished he could say more to comfort her. He wished he could tell her how to make the fear and worry disappear. But the truth was, even he had not managed that.