|Celandine's Chronicle (celandineb) wrote in cels_fic_haven,|
@ 2007-08-08 22:06:00
|Entry tags:||coauthor: cruisedirector, hp fic admittance, hp fic draco/harry/severus|
HP fic: Admittance, ch. 15: Endgame [Snape/Draco/Harry, adult]
Chapter 15, "Endgame"
Authors: celandineb and cruisedirector
Warnings: a little dirty talk
Summary: Snape and Harry know that Draco will never be free until he confronts Lucius.
"What is the meaning of this?" demanded Lucius Malfoy when Harry strode unannounced into his office at the Ministry of Magic. Harry did not reply at once, instead taking a moment to glance around. Though Lucius rarely put in a full day's work at the Ministry, he had a palatial workplace, with thick burgundy draperies framing the windows and a richly patterned rug beneath a wide, ornately carved mahogany desk.
Taking a seat without an invitation, Harry faced Lucius and said, "I had a few questions about pureblood inheritance and wizarding law, and I thought you might be just the person to help me." He smiled, trying to keep any appearance of triumph from his face. He knew that even as he was speaking to Lucius, Draco was compiling a list of illegal cursed items from the Malfoys' secret dungeon to be presented to Arthur Weasley if necessary. Finally, thought Harry, they had Lucius where they wanted him.
"What is this about, Potter?" Lucius had narrowed his eyes even further.
Smiling again, as benevolently as possible, Harry explained, "It's about a will that I saw." Lucius sat motionless, but his face grew increasingly pale as Harry spoke. "There was a strange provision in it. The heir could be required to be tested for purity of wizarding blood in order to inherit the estates, and if the tests indicated an unacceptably high level of Muggle ancestry, then the next in line might inherit instead, if that person proved to have suitably pure blood. A bit like the Muggle strategy of entailment to ensure that property remains in the family, except that 'family' is defined by purity of blood rather than by name or supposed descent."
"Supposed descent?" Lucius pounced on the phrase, as Harry had expected. "Surely you're not suggesting that the beneficiary of this will was actually illegitimate and not the true heir at all?"
"I really couldn't say." Harry leaned back, crossing his legs. "I only wanted your opinion on whether such a provision was legal, under wizarding law."
"If the will was properly executed and witnessed," said Lucius slowly, his gaze fixed on Harry, "there is nothing to prevent a wizard from making any stipulations he likes about who should inherit his property upon his death."
"Even if the property had been in a single family for many generations?"
For a moment Lucius looked feral. "It's the only reason that wretched criminal Sirius Black was able to leave an estate including many treasured family heirlooms to you, a half-blood distant cousin, instead of to a suitable close family member..."
"Like your wife," Harry finished for him, refusing to rise to the bait of either the comment about Sirius or the reference to his own bloodline. Harry had been granted undisputed ownership of Grimmauld Place and had been able to make use of the house to protect the Order throughout the war, which he knew had rankled Lucius and Narcissa.
"Well," he added guilelessly. "How do you suppose one would go about testing for such purity? Could one put a spell on family property so that only the true heir could claim it...a spell that would get rid of anyone else who tried?"
"Certainly a wizard is allowed under our laws to protect his own property," Lucius replied, his inflections just as innocent. "If someone else trespassed, any injury sustained would be his own responsibility." He paused. "And Potter, if I were to discover that you had been trespassing on Malfoy property..." He let the words hang menacingly.
"I assure you that I have never set foot in Malfoy Manor uninvited." Harry smiled. "The question about blood purity wasn't the only one I had for you, though. If you don't mind?" Lucius nodded coldly. "As I understand it, a wizard's will has to have a minimum of five witnesses as signatories, and be sealed and filed with the Wizengamot, with a copy to be retained by the testator. What happens if the testator wishes to change some provision of his will? Say he wants to ensure that a particular heir receives something, who otherwise might be ineligible? Does he need to rewrite the entire will, or would a codicil be sufficient -- and if a codicil is enough, what about witnesses for that?"
"It would depend on how extensive the changes were." Lucius' breath had quickened, and Harry could see the slightest gleam at his temples, as if he were sweating. "For a simple change, a codicil would suffice, with three witnesses. If the testator wished to alter many of the will's provisions, it might be ruled necessary to start afresh."
"But in any case it would be illegal to use a potion or a spell to wipe out a sentence or two and substitute something different, without having the change properly witnessed." This was the crucial point. "Wouldn't it?"
"It would not be illegal so much as unacceptably irregular." Lucius forced a very unpleasant smile to his face. "Do you know, I can't think of a single instance where such a case has come before the Wizengamot. I imagine that it might take many years to settle, while whatever fortune the family possessed was spent on legal research, court costs, and the like. It seems to me that it would be detrimental to everyone involved to file such a challenge."
Though Lucius was still wearing the smile, he was indeed sweating now, and he looked ready to murder someone. "Do you know, Narcissa and I have been meaning to invite you and Draco to the house," he said, changing the subject with a curt wave of his hand. "Bring Severus if you like. Would this evening serve?"
Harry hesitated for only an instant. "Draco, not me, is staying with Severus. You'd have to ask Draco to ask him. But I would be happy to join you; I'll let Ron and Hermione know that I won't be home for dinner." There, that would warn Lucius that any disappearance, or even delay in returning, would not go unnoticed. It seemed safest to get this settled tonight, before Lucius had time to try to figure out a way to wriggle free. "Shall I meet you here at the end of the day? I ought to be finished by half-past five." He kept a pleasant expression on his face, as if this were an invitation he were delighted to accept, and met Lucius' eyes squarely.
"Very well. Harry." Lucius added his name in an irritated tone, grudgingly acknowledging by the decision to call him "Harry" that he had been bested... for the moment, at any rate. "I shall owl my son and Severus."
As soon as Harry was outside the door, he drew a deep breath and went to find Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Do me a favor, Kingsley?"
The tall man looked up from the stack of parchment on his desk. "Only if you'll stay on the job. No, Harry, I'm having you on. What favor do you need?"
"Can you get Lucius Malfoy trapped in a meeting all afternoon today? Anything to make sure he can't leave the Ministry offices before I do. It's important."
"We can call him in for a consultation on the cursed letter-opener that Tonks found in the Rookwood vault last week. Opens letters, all right, but the user starts opening his own veins afterward." Kingsley squinted at Harry, then shook his head. "I don't want to know why, do I?"
"No," Harry grinned at him. "But if I disappear suddenly, check the Malfoy dungeon."
"I'll see what I can do, but remember, I'll soon be short-staffed," Kingsley replied, returning the grin. Harry thanked him and went off to send owls to Snape and Draco -- he wanted to be certain that they knew he was going to the Malfoy home and that they would be there too.
Hermione was in the building, working on a resolution about magical creature reclassifications. When Harry went to find her, he was delighted to find Remus Lupin in the office. They exchanged warm greetings and Remus said, "Wonderful news about your appointment at Hogwarts. I feel certain you'll make an excellent teacher."
"Thank you. Most of what I know about it I learned from you." He hesitated; he had never been certain that Remus wholeheartedly approved of his relationship with a Malfoy, and now there was Snape, too...
But Remus was beaming at him. "I'm sure you will be very happy to be back in Hogsmeade and able to spend so much time flying. I hope that Draco finds it pleasant to be there too."
Whenever Harry had told Remus of his plans after the war, Remus had only ever wished him happiness. "You'll visit?" he asked.
"When he's back from America," Hermione interrupted. "Remus is visiting the Ministry there -- werewolves have always been classified differently by the tribal councils."
"Not that they're considered social equals any more than werewolves in Europe, but their rights aren't restricted in quite the same ways. Don't worry. The visit is carefully timed; I'm leaving just after the next full moon and will be back before the one that follows. No one brews the Wolfsbane Potion as well as Severus and I wouldn't risk going without." Remus glanced at Hermione. "I gather that he'll be returning to Hogwarts as well?"
"Yes. The Headmistress was very anxious to have him back on staff, when Draco and I talked to her about working there. You know that Draco and Snape have always been close," Harry said cautiously.
"So he persuaded his old Head of House? I'm astonished, actually. I wouldn't have thought that anything would convince him to go back to teaching. Although he was always one of the best instructors there, despite your opinion of him." Remus shook his head. "He has his limitations, but no one can drill the subtleties of potion-making into careless students the way Severus can. I've been quite shocked at the gaps in knowledge demonstrated by the last several years' graduates."
Harry stared at Remus for a moment. No one had been angrier with Snape after Dumbledore's death. Harry had thought Remus might still hold the same historic grudges against Snape that Snape had held against Remus for so long, particularly since Remus depended on Snape for Wolfsbane. The ups and downs of his relationship with Tonks had evidently made Remus more charitable. Maybe it wouldn't be so awful if... no, when he found out about Harry and Snape.
Indeed, Remus was peering at him curiously. "When I get back, we should have dinner. It's been much too long." That was true, Harry knew, and flushed guiltily. He and Remus always promised to owl each other and see each other soon, but their lives kept taking them in different directions. "You'll have to tell me how you and Severus finally made peace. Perhaps I can learn something from you."
"I will," Harry promised, and turned to Hermione. "Speaking of dinner. I'll be dining at Malfoy Manor with Draco and Snape. I think this is supposed to be Lucius' idea of a congratulatory celebration."
Both Hermione and Remus had stopped smiling. "You mean don't mean that Lucius has finally come around?" Hermione asked cautiously.
"That isn't how I'd put it," Harry grinned mirthlessly. "But he does seem to realize that Draco's not going to let his parents dictate the entire course of his life without fighting back."
"So the... information I found," Hermione darted a quick look at Remus, "is going to be useful?"
"Oh yes. With a bit more documentation. But exactly because of that, I don't trust Lucius further than I can throw him, so I did want to make sure that you knew where we all were, just in case. Not that I think he would expect to be able to get away with murder; given that I am who I am, people would notice if I disappeared, but there are more subtle possibilities." Shrugging, Harry added, "He's cornered, so he's bound to be angry, but we're prepared for that."
Remus raised his eyebrows. "We definitely must have dinner when I'm back. Maybe then you can explain all of this a little more; you've piqued my interest. I'm especially curious about the connection with Severus. He always seemed more inclined to take Lucius' part than Draco's."
"Of course Harry will explain when he can," Hermione said. "But Harry, Remus and I have to go through decades of international werewolf legislation this afternoon. Do you mind?"
"No, quite all right," said Harry hastily, rising to go. "I should think I'll be back late tonight. I'll let you or Ron know if not."
Kingsley was as good as his word, and Harry was on his way out at the end of the day when he saw a very cross Lucius striding purposefully across the long, splendid hall with the fountain and its golden statues. Ever since the war, the house-elf and goblin had been spitting at one another and the centaur occasionally pawed the water so hard that anyone nearby was spattered, so people generally tried to avoid walking too close.
"Mister Malfoy!" called Harry loudly, stopping Lucius in his tracks just as the house-elf sent a jet of water at the goblin. It missed entirely and sprayed the blond wizard instead. Harry had to hide a smirk behind a hand as Lucius spluttered furiously. "Oh, no -- let me help you with that." Before Lucius had time to take out his wand, Harry was already drying his elegant robes with a spell.
Lucius glared daggers, but he could hardly hex Harry in the Ministry of Magic. "Since I've found you, perhaps we should travel together," Harry said politely. In the messages he had owled to both Snape and Draco, he had advised that they should Floo together, and if possible arrive before himself and Lucius in case Narcissa was planning to try anything. "It's our last opportunity, you know -- this is my last week of work here."
"Yes, such a shame that we never worked together more closely." Lucius' voice was pure hissed loathing. "I'm certain that there's so much we could have taught one another." He gestured toward one of the fireplaces on the right-hand side. "I'm afraid that we must use the Floo Network. Do you have everything you need?" He looked pointedly at Harry's pockets as if he could see the copy of his father's will hidden safely inside.
"I think so." Harry kept a tight hold of his wand. He might be safe at the Ministry, but once they arrived at the Manor... well, Lucius hadn't risen through the ranks of Death Eaters by being generous. "Shall I go through first?"
"You are my guest." Lucius gave the slightest of bows and stepped back to let Harry stand in front of the fireplace.
For all that he had used the network to travel hundreds of times, Harry still found it disconcerting to see the dozens of wizarding grates rushing past before he reached his destination and stepped out, a little shaken, into Malfoy Manor. Narcissa was waiting in the grand parlor. She said, "So good of you to come at such short notice, Harry. I can't imagine why we'd neglected to invite you earlier." Her tone could have sufficed to freeze over the Hogwarts lake.
"My pleasure, ma'am." Harry put his heels together and bowed, glad to see both Draco and Snape standing behind her. A bow was respectful, but it was also a way to avoid having to touch someone he disliked so intensely as Draco's mother. Draco smirked and Snape lifted his eyebrows as Harry straightened and moved away from the fireplace just in time to let Lucius step out.
He and Narcissa exchanged significant looks, then Lucius said, "Why don't we have a drink in the library until supper is on the table?" Harry wondered whether Narcissa ever did any cooking or left it all to the house-elves. It was little wonder that Draco enjoyed cooking more than he did; Harry associated it with being treated as a slave by the Dursleys, whereas Draco had probably rarely seen his kitchen in use as a child.
Glancing at Snape, who nodded fractionally, Harry thanked Lucius and followed him into the room ringed high with leather-bound books. The library was furnished with large sofas and tables topped with lamps whose light could be raised and lowered with a simple gesture of one's hand. It was not necessary to fetch books for oneself, Harry knew; if one spoke a title into the silver funnel at the corner of each table, the book would be brought on a pair of magical wings. However, Harry had the impression that the Malfoys rarely read the volumes in their vast library. The sort of information that interested Lucius was rarely found in tomes left out in the open.
"Harry and I had an interesting discussion this morning," Lucius said in a calm and pleasant voice as he lifted a decanter of liquor and began to pour for everyone present. When he glanced up, he did not look at Harry, but at Snape. "Since we have been friends for a very long time, Severus, and since you have enjoyed my hospitality many times over the years, I thought you might have an opinion on the questions he put to me."
"Harry is so fond of questions," Narcissa added in a voice that did not disguise her dislike nearly as well as her husband's did. "Are you aware of his little investigative project, Draco?"
"Which investigative project would that be?" drawled Draco. Harry was almost surprised that Narcissa didn't slap him for the insolence of his tone, but physical violence was not her style. "If it's the one I think you're talking about, then yes, I'm quite aware of it."
"If you don't mind, Narcissa." Lucius and his wife traded angry glares. "I was asking Severus for his opinion."
"What questions did Harry have?" Of them all, Snape was perhaps the most relaxed, at least to Harry's eye. He leaned back against the pale brocaded upholstery of his chair, his dark robes in stark contrast, and swirled his drink gently in the glass, sniffing at it before taking an appreciative sip. If Snape was drinking, it must be safe; Harry raised his own glass to his lips and saw Draco doing the same. They moved together to the sofa closest to Snape and sat down.
"Among other things, he was curious about how one might go about testing for blood purity, if -- as a hypothetical instance -- the provisions of a will required the heir to have no greater than a given degree of Muggle blood," said Lucius.
"Confirmatio Genus is one possibility, of course, and Sanguis Caeruleus, if you are thinking of spells, but I am most familiar with the Cognitor Cordial." Snape took another sip. "It is not easy to brew, even more difficult than the Wolfsbane Potion. But I have produced it."
"There have been problems in the past with Confirmatio Genus, have there not?" Lucius still looked unruffled, even smug. "I believe there was a case where Polyjuice enabled a half-blood to petition successfully for ownership of one of the Rosier estates before his ruse was discovered. The Wizengamot has not been sympathetic to cases built entirely upon magical testing."
"But there is really no choice, if a suit claims an illicit connection." Snape was just as calm as Lucius. "Which I imagine is why such suits are so rare among purebloods. When family ties are reduced to purity of bloodline, rather than the social connections between parents and their children, it puts so many other traditions at risk..."
"Dinner is served," said Narcissa in the same icy voice as before, indicating the doorway. Harry wondered whether she had received a signal from a house-elf or had ordered that the food be on the table at some precise moment which had now arrived. "Why don't we postpone this conversation until after we eat?"
"Yes, I'm famished." Draco looked sidelong at Narcissa. "I had a bit of a problem the other day, Mother -- someone tried to poison me. I haven't quite recovered."
"Poison you!" Narcissa's horror was unfeigned. "Draco, what happened?" She glared at Severus, as if it should have been his responsibility to keep her son safe, even now. "Who would have done such a thing?"
"Can't imagine." Draco shrugged, glancing at Lucius, who was watching with his lips pressed tightly together. "I stopped by the house to pick up a few things, and when I awoke I found myself at Snape's -- he and Harry had saved me. Father, can you think why anyone would have wanted to keep me out of my own home?"
"You've made it quite clear that this isn't your home, since you're unwilling to undertake the responsibilities that go along with the benefits of the Malfoy name," snapped Lucius, his facade of self-possession finally breaking down. "Furthermore, you must have been intruding upon something that was not yours to meddle with. There is nothing in any public place in this house that would cause you harm."
"Lucius, you would risk your son?" Narcissa's voice spiraled upward and her face was pale. A house-elf scurried to the corner of the room as she reached for her wand.
Snape stepped in between the two elder Malfoys and seized Narcissa's wrist. "No. Your son is safe. Sit down." She sank reluctantly into her chair at one end of the long table, and Lucius sat at the far end. "It is time to stop all of this equivocation," Snape continued. "Lucius, you have left Draco no choice but to intrude in his own home if he is to be true to himself. I might remind you also that without your son's choices several years ago, both you and Narcissa would be dead or permanently incarcerated in Azkaban now."
Lucius appeared to be struggling with himself. "What is it you're saying, Severus? That I must accept Draco's refusal to marry, his throwing over of a perfectly good career at Gringotts to go into virtual exile in Hogsmeade?"
"Precisely, Father," Draco broke in. Harry's hand closed automatically over his wand -- he did not trust Lucius not to attack Draco, even if Snape did -- but it was not Draco at whom Lucius was glaring. His eyes were narrowed nearly as much as his lips as he faced Snape.
"Perhaps it is time that I told Draco and Harry the full extent of your connection with this family... precisely the sort of man whose advice they have been following."
Draco looked distinctly uncomfortable, but he spoke anyway. "If you're about to tell us that you shagged him, that's hardly a surprise at this point," he began, while Narcissa sucked in a hissing breath. "And if you're about to give us a list of his crimes as a Death Eater, it isn't as if..."
"Hush, Draco," Lucius said almost amiably, without taking his eyes off Snape. Harry was sorry to see that Draco ducked his head slightly and obeyed -- he knew how painful it was, even now, for Draco to disobey his parents, and he was facing a situation that might cut him off from them completely. "If the two of you knew enough to go hunting for your grandfather's will -- that is what you've done, yes? -- then I don't imagine that I need to tell you the circumstances under which it was altered. Are you aware of what will happen to this house and everything in it if you should choose to challenge me before the Wizengamot?"
Draco squirmed slightly. "Harry seemed to think it might go to the Weasleys," he muttered.
"That is one possible outcome. However, I doubt that the Ministry will choose to remove me from the property during my lifetime -- it is not, after all, any fault of mine if my parents were unable to conceive an heir without assistance. More likely it would be my heirs who would be disinherited." Narcissa's mouth had fallen open in a rather unbecoming manner, Harry noticed, but he couldn't tell whether she was shocked at what Lucius was implying or only that he would say such a thing in front of Harry and Draco.
Lucius, however, had still not taken his eyes off Snape. "Perhaps it would be of greater interest to the Ministry to learn that a recently exonerated murderer had once produced a deadly poison for the Malfoy family. Untraceable, he assured me, and guaranteed to protect the family's secrets."
"Severus?" Draco sounded shocked and rather frightened. "What does that mean? The snake in the dungeon was venomous..."
"That was not a real snake," Snape said, his voice regretful. "No venom exists in nature with the properties of that enchantment. I did brew several poisons for your father, knowing their intended use in the defenses of his... collections."
"You see? And this is the man you trust!"
Snape overrode Lucius' triumphant shout, however. "It was more than twenty years ago that I created those poisons, as you well know. And -- more to the point -- it was not I who sent a poisoned letter to Abraxas Malfoy the week before he died." Harry nearly cheered as he looked from Snape to Lucius, whose mouth had drawn into a thin line. "If you insist upon taking off your gloves, you must expect the same in return."
"What letter to Grandfather?" Draco asked. "What's he talking about, Father?"
"I did write the letter," the elder Malfoy answered in a quiet, almost conciliatory voice. "I borrowed the quill and ink from a friend... a friend who had designs not only upon myself, but upon my family's fortune. I could not guess that he would commit such an atrocity as to give me poison ink. He was such a skilled and subtle potion-maker that I had no way of knowing until it was too late. That is what I will tell the Ministry, Severus."
"You think anyone will believe you?" Harry burst in. "A Death Eater, who regained his freedom primarily because of the efforts of the people now sitting at this table?"
Lucius ignored Harry. "Which of us do you think will be believed, Severus? The man who already stood to inherit Abraxas Malfoy's fortune, who surely had no reason to wish his own father ill? Or the poor besotted half-blood, also a Death Eater, who went on to become Albus Dumbledore's killer?"
"Stop this!" Every head at the table turned at Narcissa's cry. "Severus saved Draco's life at Hogwarts! Draco owes him a life-debt..."
"Draco owes me nothing," Snape said, sounding more grieved than angry. "His only obligations are the ones he has chosen. He remains loyal to you. Do you really want to risk that, Lucius?"
Harry's eyes moved from Narcissa to Snape to Lucius to Draco. His lover's mouth was pinched and his forehead had furrowed in sorrow. "You actually killed your own father," Draco whispered. "Harry said... I didn't believe it. But you did kill him." His voice was higher than usual, almost childlike. "Severus isn't lying. You are."
"Draco." Lucius spoke urgently. "Listen to me."
It was too late for that, Harry could tell. Draco had the same expression he had had when some of the worst reports of the war had come in: not quite vacant, but withdrawn, as if some essential part of himself were curled up in the back of his own head. Snape's warning to Lucius had come too late. Draco pushed his chair back from the table, angling away from Lucius and towards Harry, who reached out to touch his shoulder.
"You'll listen to us, now." The words came out of Harry's mouth in a rush. "Veritaserum will prove who is lying and who is not. The Wizengamot has the authority to use that potion when necessary, and if they start asking questions, they might not stop with one suspicious matter. I don't think you want to risk it, do you? Face it, Lucius -- you've lost."
Finally, Lucius' attention had turned fully to Harry. "Do you fail to understand, Potter, that you have as many enemies as friends?" he sneered. "Not everyone sees you as a savior. There are many who believe that the Dark Lord picked you out as his adversary because he saw you as his nearest competitor..."
"Father." Draco's voice sounded the way it had that awful night on the Astronomy Tower, when he realized that he either had to kill Dumbledore or risk his family's lives. "I followed you into so many things... I thought you finally understood how wrong we were." Harry swallowed. He knew how hard this was for Draco. "You know that blood purity is shite -- Harry's a better wizard than I am, and the Weasleys might be purer of blood than we are! I understand what your father did to you, but I will never understand why you started to think the way he did! Why are you doing this to me?"
Narcissa, Harry could see, was crying silently, casting imploring glances at Snape as if she believed he could save the situation. Though he hadn't forgotten any of her many cruelties, Harry felt suddenly sorry for her. She had done what was expected of her, and now she was powerless to halt events set in motion even before her marriage. But Narcissa was also a powerful witch and she was not afraid of Lucius. "I won't risk prison for you," she said in a voice thick with misery. "And I will not permit my name or Draco's to be besmirched! Whatever he chooses to do with his life, he is our son, Lucius. If you cannot accept your own son, how can you expect to end better than my miserable Black cousins whose name and House are gone?"
"The Malfoy name and House will be gone if Draco refuses to act as he should! I thought we were agreed that we must not permit that to happen." Lucius stared at Narcissa, whose face was set and who had once again pulled out her wand, pointing it at him. "But I see I was wrong, and that you are too weak to do what is right and necessary."
"No, Lucius. I was too weak before. I dislike Draco's choices as much as you do. Perhaps you could convince the Wizengamot to uphold the will, and of your innocence in Abraxas' death, but the cost would be so high that it would destroy everything we have and everything you might hope to achieve. Don't move!" she added sharply as Lucius made as if to reach for his own wand. "Severus? Please?"
Snape nodded and went to Lucius, taking the wand from his pocket. "I'm sorry," Harry heard Snape murmur, but Lucius jerked his head away, his eyes still locked on his wife's. Harry knew that even wandless, Lucius was capable of quite a bit of magic, but with a witch and three wizards prepared to stop him -- or perhaps only two wizards, since Draco might yet be reluctant -- he was unlikely to succeed.
"I have been loyal to you for nearly thirty years," said Narcissa, her wavering voice steadying as she went on. "I bore your son. I tried to bear more children for you and the House of Malfoy. Whatever support you asked me for, I gave. And all these years I have known that you did not love me. I thought you loved him." She nodded towards Snape. "But now I think I was wrong. You've never loved anyone but yourself and your precious family name."
Lucius spared her barely a single glance of contempt. "You have hardly been loyal to me," he spat. "You have been loyal to the same things that I have -- a past that is so much more significant than we are, and our child who is the culmination of the greatness of both our families! Do you think I did not realize that you married me for the name, the property, and the opportunity to enhance the dwindling Black fortunes -- your mad aunt with her two weak sons and your sister who married a Muggle? What will be left to you, Narcissa, if Draco does not produce an heir?"
"You'll both be alive," Harry cut in. "You'll both still have Draco." Draco had remained silent throughout this exchange -- Harry thought that perhaps he did not trust his voice. "Don't you realize that the only thing he wants is to be who he is without it costing him his family? Wouldn't you have done things differently, Lucius, if your own father hadn't been such a -- " Pausing, Harry tried to think of a word less significant than bastard. "If he hadn't been so obsessed with controlling you that he wrote a will to bind all future generations to the same outmoded ideas?"
"Outmoded?" Lucius slammed his fist down on the table, toppling one of the candles. A house-elf squeaked and jumped to put out the flame before fleeing back to the corner.
"Yes, outmoded!" That was Draco. "Father... the old families are dying out anyway. You know it. We're the last of the Malfoys. Most of the old pureblood lines are extinct. But the wizarding world is stronger than it has been in three generations, because of intermarriage with Muggle-borns. Harry's a perfect example of that, and Severus, too." He looked at Lucius, his expression somber but determined. "Whatever you've done in the past, I love you and Mother. But I will not let you control me, and if you make it necessary for me to expose publicly your doings, and grandfather's, then I will."
The words fell into a sudden silence. Lucius squinted at his son, assessing the depth of his resolve.
"Lucius." Snape's rumble made them all turn. "You're allowing him to win."
Harry didn't understand what Snape meant, and from his expression, neither did Lucius. "Severus, what are you talking about? Draco is clutching at..."
"Not Draco. Your father. You are conceding that Abraxas was right to bend you to his plans all those years ago -- that he was, as he always said, the better man after all."
Lucius turned an ugly mottled pink. "I am conceding no such thing! I loathed the man." He practically spat the words out.
"You are using Abraxas' logic against your own son. Thirty years after his death, you are still following his wishes. What hold does he have over you, if you do not admire him and his values?"
Harry had never before seen the silver-tongued Lucius Malfoy at such a loss for words. The irony was that every person at the table was aware of the secret Lucius wanted to hide. The picture that Harry had found in the dungeon room made it almost certain that Abraxas Malfoy had not fathered his wife's child.
"I did not think forcing you to live a lie made Abraxas a man in whose footsteps you would wish to follow." Snape's careful statement would let Lucius continue to conceal what he thought shameful, if he wished; Harry wasn't certain whether that was a good idea or not.
"You are asking me to face the death of the Malfoy line," Lucius said in a strained voice.
"The Malfoy line is already dead." Draco's voice was surprisingly flat. "It died with my gran... with Abraxas. We're arguing about his estate, not his bloodline, aren't we? Why should you let a dead man from a dead family continue to make the rules?"
"Because this is how things are DONE! For untold generations!" Lucius turned all his anger on Draco. "I must ask you what he asked me: by what right do you claim all the wealth and privilege you have always enjoyed if you refuse to be a link in that chain?"
"I've told you, you can keep your money. Take all the stuff that's mine in the flat, I don't care. I'm going to Hogwarts and I'll have enough. I just want my parents." Draco looked as defeated as Harry thought Lucius must have felt. "I just want my parents," he repeated dully.
A sob made Harry turn to look at Narcissa. Her wand had fallen to the table, and tears carried her mascara in black streaks down each cheek. Draco flinched under Harry's hand, but he kept staring at his father.
"You don't know what you're saying. You've been coddled and pampered all your life; without the wealth you have relied on, you will be nothing," said Lucius coldly.
Snape gave an ironic chuckle, and Harry said, "You're saying that because Severus works for his living, he's worthless? What a stupid idea. He's worth ten of you."
Lucius ignored them both, and Draco replied to his father, "If I were to do what you want me to do -- marry a pureblood witch I don't love, sire children I don't want, take over an estate I have no interest in, all for the sake of a family that doesn't exist -- then I would be nothing." He wasn't arguing; he simply said it as a truth that could not be contradicted. Apparently Lucius realized that too. He sat silently, infuriated frustration painted on his face.
"Lucius," Snape said again. The Malfoys all turned to look at him. "You are more intelligent than your father -- you have stronger blood. You have accomplished much more than he did, and you have retained the loyalty of your child. It is you who are the better man."
"It's a bit late for flattery," Lucius snapped. "If there was one person whose loyalty I thought I could count on, Severus, it was yours."
"I have never been disloyal to you," Snape insisted. "I kept your secrets. I told Draco nothing, even though I knew it might put him in danger. What he and Harry know, they discovered on their own. I have no wish to see either you or your son hurt; I have only tried to protect you both."
"You made my son your lover to try to protect him?"
"It was my idea, not his!" contradicted Draco.
"You asked me yourself, years ago, to take care of him in every way as you had done for me. Can you be surprised that I grew to love him?"
Harry's jaw sagged open, but before he could speak, Draco said in a small voice, "You love me?"
"Of course I do, you ridiculous boy. Why do you think I have allowed myself to be caught in all this? But your father..." Snape's knuckles were white as they clenched around the two wands he still held. "I watched you walk away into your own destruction," he said to Lucius, so intensely that Harry felt almost embarrassed at hearing the words. "I could not bear to witness that again. Not even for you."
Lucius, however, did not embarrass so easily. "You walked that path with me," he said to Snape, and then turned to Narcissa. "So did you. We all understood what we were working for -- what we were fighting for. It was never about You-Know-Who." So even now Lucius was afraid to speak Voldemort's name aloud. "It was about protecting what mattered to us, as wizards, as the real heirs of Salazar Slytherin!"
"Then why did you invite a half-blood like Severus?" Harry asked. "Why is it so much worse for Draco to be with me than it was for you to be with him?"
"Because he always understood the limitations!" Lucius sagged slightly in his chair. His face looked battered. "Until recently." He glanced at Harry with disgust written all over his features. "Until you."
Harry wasn't entirely sure what Lucius meant by "limitations." That Snape understood he would always have to come second for Lucius, simply because his father was a Muggle? His stomach twisted at the idea. Much as he had once disliked Snape, that hostility had been based on Snape's behavior towards Harry, not on something completely beyond his control. Now that he understood why Snape had acted as he did, he felt quite differently. The idea that Lucius could have regarded Snape as undeserving of the same consideration as a pureblood wizard, and that Snape would have willingly accepted such treatment, made Harry outraged and heartsick in equal parts.
And what did Lucius mean when he said that Snape had changed for Harry? Snape had been working for Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix since the end of the first war against Voldemort, an Order full of half-bloods and Muggle-borns. Harry couldn't have been the one to make Snape change his opinion of Salazar Slytherin's ideas about who was worthy in the wizarding world. Was it just that Lucius resented that Snape was no longer his lover? But Harry had thought that affair had ended long before... surely Snape had implied as much. He shook his head, confused.
"For Merlin's sake!" Draco had had enough. There was a tone in his voice now like the one Harry had heard him use with Goyle when Goyle was being particularly dense, or with Harry's own friends when Draco had had enough of them. "Would you rather Voldemort had won the war? What do you think he would have done to our family and everything you own? He wasn't planning to share the secrets of his power with you! He had his own alternative to your desperation for a bloodline -- he just planned to live forever without a soul. You know this is wrong! And Harry and Severus have never even asked that you thank them for saving your life!"
Harry looked down at the food congealing on his plate. "I never wanted anyone to thank me," he muttered. "I just wanted things to be better. I lost my parents when I was a baby -- that shouldn't happen to anyone else. I can't believe anyone would choose to have his family torn apart like that." He and Snape might have been half-bloods, but Harry thought that in many ways they were more loyal to their own than the purebloods.
"I don't choose it." Narcissa's cheeks were still streaked with mascara and tears, but her voice was surprisingly steady. "I wish that Draco had not chosen this life, but I would prefer to have no grandchildren than no son. Perhaps you will change your mind, someday, and I suppose better Harry than some Muggle woman."
It's not a choice, I doubt he'll change his mind, and you're insulting my own relatives, Harry wanted to object, but he kept silent. This was better than he had hoped for.
"Thank you, Mother," said Draco, ignoring the second part of her remark. Then he waited. They all waited, as a variety of emotions rippled across Lucius' face.
Lucius remained silent for several moments, staring down at his plate. And then, as if it had been the only topic of conversation all evening, he snapped, "These greens are wilted and there is far too much onion in the dressing. What is the matter with those house-elves!"
Harry was astonished. Was Lucius simply going to leave the conversation there?
Apparently Lucius was. He glanced up at Severus, his face fixed into the polite, somewhat condescending mask with which Harry had seen him address everyone from the Minister of Magic to various Hogwarts professors. "I must apologize for the food," he said smoothly. "Ever since this nonsense began about house-elves unionizing, it is impossible to find proper servants."
A brief, barely noticeable flicker of pain crossed Severus' face. So many years of friendship with Lucius and he was now to be treated as someone to be politely dismissed... yet Harry felt sorrier for Lucius, who was turning to Draco with the same cold, superficial smile.
"If you wish to waste your talents teaching at Hogwarts, I suppose that in the end there is very little I can say to stop you. Just as there was little I could say when you decided to move in with Potter." Lucius did not even spare Harry a glance. "So we shall say no more about it."
"As you wish, Father." Draco's voice was thick but controlled, only a hint of the bitterness he must also be feeling coming through. He held onto Harry's hand, taking a bite of his now-cold fish awkwardly with the other.
Harry reached for the pepper. The parchment of Abraxas Malfoy's will crackled almost inaudibly under his robes as he began to eat, and he thought that tomorrow they should find someplace safe to put it. Just in case.
Narcissa gestured to a house-elf who came to remove her plate, replacing it with a fresh serving, but Harry shook his head when one appeared at his elbow to offer the same. Hot or cold, the food would be dust in his mouth. All he wanted was for this evening to be over quickly, for the three of them to be able to leave Lucius Malfoy to the estrangement he seemed to prefer. Only Snape and Narcissa responded naturally to Lucius' carefully casual comments about the weather, the Ministry, and the chances of the Falmouth Falcons that year. Harry managed an occasional remark, but Draco remained silent for the duration of the meal.
Harry tried to look on the bright side. It appeared that Lucius wasn't going to fight Draco any longer, and he was still speaking to him, no matter how cold and distant he seemed just then. He was even speaking to Snape. And he had never been more than superficially accepting of Harry, so little had changed there. Really, of the many possible outcomes for the evening, this was more than he had dared to expect.
But when he looked at Draco's pinched, unhappy face and the dour gloom that had settled over Severus as it had once seemed to emanate from him permanently, Harry couldn't feel pleased. There was nothing more he or anyone else could do, he suspected; either time, loneliness, and perhaps Narcissa's intervention would work on Lucius, or he would remain stubborn and self-righteous for the rest of his days. And no matter how much Harry wished that Draco could have had a good relationship with his father, he didn't want to see his lover emulate either of those qualities.
"Harry," Lucius said very pleasantly after dessert had been served, while Draco was working on excuses for leaving. "That little theoretical matter we discussed this morning at the Ministry? I trust that all your questions have been answered, and you won't need to bother anyone else with them during your last days there?"
"If the situation remains as it is, then I have more pressing things to worry about." Harry wondered whether it was, in fact, really finished -- would Lucius attempt to figure out if some loophole in the will might allow him to try to influence Draco once more? But now Lucius knew that he would risk exposing his entire family. Harry hoped the question meant that Lucius would stop his scheming if Harry and the others would remain silent.
"Come back with us," Draco said in a low voice as they were shuffling from the table. "You can owl Weasley and Granger from Snape's."
"Of course," murmured Harry. Hermione would want to be sure that nothing had happened to him at the Malfoys', and she deserved to know that all her efforts had been a great help, but there was no question but that Draco needed him tonight.
Snape, walking just in front of Draco, had heard. He nodded at Harry in approval, saying, "I appreciate your hospitality, Narcissa, but I fear that we must be on our way. A last-minute invitation -- there are other matters I must see to tonight as well. Certain important clients cannot be kept waiting, as you will understand. Lucius." He hesitated, then executed a small formal bow. "Keep well."
Harry knew that to put out a hand for Lucius to shake would be to invite a rebuff, so he did not bother, merely thanking the elder Malfoys for the meal as politely as he could manage.
Blinking rapidly, Draco gave his mother a brief and awkward embrace. When he moved towards his father, Lucius stiffened, saying, "Send an owl to let us know when you are settled in at Hogwarts."
"I will." Draco turned away, his shoulders sagging. "Come on, Harry. Severus."
How odd to think of Snape's dingy flat as a safe haven, Harry thought when they arrived, yet he associated being here with being comfortable, happy, and protected. Snape stood very close to Draco, not quite touching him but looking concerned.
"You understand that from your father, that was nearly complete concession? In the..."
"I don't want to talk about it." Draco's voice cut across Severus' words. "Let's just go to bed."
"Go on." Harry nudged Draco toward Snape until Snape reached out and steered the younger man with his hands. "I need to owl Hermione or she might send Aurors after me." He tried to speak lightly.
It took longer than Harry intended to write his note, in part because he wanted to repeat enough of Lucius' words that she might notice if there was a hidden agenda that Snape, Draco, and himself had been too emotionally involved to notice. By the time he arrived in the bedroom, Draco was mostly undressed and Snape was sitting behind him on the bed, legs wrapped over Draco's to hold him still, stroking over his body.
Harry kicked off his shoes, then glancing at Snape, picked them up and set them neatly side by side under the chair. He draped his shirt and trousers over the back of it, left his underwear and socks on the seat, and got onto the bed, the mattress dipping under his weight as he crawled up to sit close. Draco's head was bent forward and his eyes were closed as Snape's hands kneaded his shoulders, but he reached unerringly for Harry.
Leaning to kiss Draco, Harry felt the dampness that transferred itself from Draco's eyelashes to his own cheek, and stroked his thumbs across the line of Draco's jaw. Draco would hate it if Harry made any mention of his tears. He pulled back few inches and said, "Shall we just go to sleep? It's been a pretty exhausting evening."
"No." Draco drew him closer again. "I need you, both of you. Need you to love me."
"I do love you," Harry assured him, but he understood that Draco needed the physical confirmation of that too. For all that Draco talked about sex and love being separate things, he had admitted occasionally that he enjoyed sex more with Harry than he had done with any of his one-time partners in the past. "And Severus does too."
Instead of replying in words, Snape leaned forward and kissed along Draco's ear, which for him was a rather sentimental gesture. Draco's lips twitched as his face colored; he looked a bit embarrassed, but at least he was attempting to smile. "Tell us what you want," Harry whispered into his other ear.
"You on the bottom," Draco said. "And Severus on top."
"I think that can be arranged." Sliding down, he kissed the trail of fine hair below Draco's navel. Snape's fingers were stroking over Draco's collarbone and lower, and Draco moaned softly.
"Quiet," Snape ordered in his teaching voice. "You stay still for now. We know what you want."
Draco kept making small noises of pleasure as Harry nuzzled and licked his cock until it rose into his mouth, vaguely aware of Snape's hands above his head stroking across Draco's chest and rubbing his nipples. Draco wasn't often completely passive, and it was a kind of pleasure to arouse him slowly like this.
Harry let his tongue trail down the back of Draco's cock to his balls, opening his lips to take the whole of Draco's scrotum into his mouth, suckling gently. When he heard Draco's breath quicken, he moved back and traced just the tip of his tongue along the slit, tasting the fluid welling there in bitter droplets.
A hand touched Harry's cheek, and he looked up to see Snape nodding at him and holding out a jar of his favorite lubricating salve. "While you're there?"
Unscrewing the lid, he dipped his fingers in, and returned to giving Draco quick short licks along the length of his prick as he teased just one finger into the tight pucker of his arse. Draco whimpered, hardly more than a sigh, when Harry brushed over his prostate.
"Shh. What did I say about being quiet?" Snape asked, but he sounded more soothing than stern, and by rolling his eyes up Harry could see that Snape was still playing with Draco's nipples, sweeping over them with the pads of his thumbs -- rough enough, given the damage years of potion-making had done to Snape's skin, to stimulate without any extra effort.
Draco wasn't doing a very good job of staying quiet even when words weren't coming out of his mouth; he was whimpering with increasing force, clutching his hands in Harry's hair. Harry took his mouth off Draco's cock and licked his thighs instead as he worked a second finger inside; he didn't want to make Draco come too soon.
"Enough," Draco finally moaned. "Harry, I don't want to hurt you, so get up here."
Rising, his knees grateful to have the weight of his body lifted, Harry stretched and crawled forward on the bed, feeling Draco shift behind him. Draco picked up the jar from where Harry had put it down and Harry could hear the moist sound of the potion being spread on his fingers.
Then Draco's hand was moving inside Harry's thigh, and he spread his legs as he heard Snape begin to smooth the slippery stuff on his own cock. Knowing that Snape was touching himself, and that he was going to fuck Draco, excited Harry, and he wriggled back against Draco's fingers. "Yeah -- do it!"
He didn't mind that Draco was less thorough and careful than usual; he wanted Draco's prick in him, wanted Draco to do whatever would make him feel as close to Harry as he needed to feel. When Draco nudged against him Harry spread himself as widely as he could and cried Draco's name into the muffling pillow.
"Oh fuck, Harry, oh please, yeah," Draco moaned in counterpoint, then his voice scaled up to shout, "Yes, Severus, I need you rough, now!" Harry was driven against the mattress by the force of Snape's and Draco's combined thrusts, and he was so busy trying to keep his balance that his cock throbbed unheeded against his belly until Draco's hand finally slipped around his hip and closed on it, the remnants of the salve slicking the skin.
"Want you to feel like I do, oh fuck, so hot, love your tight arse and your prick, love you, love you" -- Harry wasn't sure if Draco was talking to him, or to Snape, or to both of them, but it didn't matter really because it was the three of them together, and he couldn't imagine anything he wanted more.
He struggled to hold back, but Draco's hand was relentless and Snape was pounding Draco into him, just as hard as Draco had demanded. He knew that he was going to be sore after this, but Draco was going to be hurting more than he was. What an idiot Lucius Malfoy was to cling to a life he hadn't wanted and which brought him so little happiness... but Harry was glad in a way he had, or none of them would be here now.
"Love you too," he panted, rocking into Draco's hand, and when he heard Snape grunt, "And you, Severus." Draco let out a soft, keening cry, going still, and a moment later Harry felt the uneven pulsing thrusts that meant he was coming. Draco's breath escaped in grunts as Snape continued to thrust through his orgasm, pushing Draco into Harry, and as Draco's slippery fingers clenched around his cock, Harry felt his balls tightening.
"Draco... Harry," Snape groaned, and that was it, Harry was spurting over Draco's hand, falling onto the pillow as Snape propelled them both forward.
Long shuddering breaths from Draco made Harry wonder if the dampness on his back was only sweat, or if Draco had been crying. He wriggled a bit, feeling slightly squashed under the other two, and Snape rolled them all over. Once Draco's cock had softened and slipped from his arse, Harry turned around and kissed him, quick but deep, reaching with his free hand to Snape.
"All right?" he asked. Draco opened his eyes and looked at Harry.
"Yeah. I needed that."
"What you need now, though, is to rest," Snape said in almost his old teaching voice. It still made Harry quiver inside to hear that command, and Draco gave him the ghost of a grin.
Harry echoed, "Yes, sir," and then added, "Do you suppose you and I will ever get used to having students address us that way, Draco?"
"I don't know. Maybe we should have Severus call each of us 'sir' occasionally, so that we don't embarrass ourselves the first few times it happens at Hogwarts." The sound of a smacked bottom and an "OW!" made Harry grin. "Not fair. You're the one who always insists that we should practice things!" Draco complained.
"Then perhaps you and Harry should call one another 'sir' occasionally, and I will evaluate the propriety of your responses."
"I'll get hard if he calls me 'sir,'" Draco said plaintively, and then, "Oh. I guess it wouldn't be a good idea to associate being called that with having a stiffy. Is that why you always wear those heavy robes, Severus? Which reminds me, I had better go buy some teaching robes. Want to come shopping with me? You can help me pick something out with a few thousand buttons..."
There was another smack, a yelp and the bed heaved as Draco rolled over to wrestle with Snape, tickling him. "I'm practically your equal now! You need to start showing me the proper respect. Calling me 'sir' is just the start..."
Harry laughed, watching them, as Snape clamped his elbows against his sides so that Draco couldn't reach his armpits. "You are planning to teach children when you are practically a child yourself. What you need is regular discipline, bent over my knee. Every evening after classes, I expect to see you in my office on your knees..."
Draco was grinning broadly now despite the lingering redness around his eyes, and Harry caught and squeezed Snape's hand. Severus was right: Lucius had very nearly capitulated, he would probably come around eventually, and in the meantime they had plenty to look forward to at Hogwarts.
ch. 1 / ch. 2 / ch. 3 / ch. 4 / ch. 5 / ch. 6 / ch. 7 / ch. 8 / ch. 9 / ch. 10 / ch. 11 / ch. 12 / ch. 13 / ch. 14 / ch. 15 / ch. 16 / ch. 17