Disclaimer – I don't own Harry Potter. I got the idea of Aurors in navy robes from Lady Erised. The de Sauvigny are mine, and so is Luc.

CHAPTER 1 - THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS


Platform 9¾, in September 1995, Harry Potter's fifth year, was just as crowded, just as busy as it had been in former years - only, after the events of last year's Triwizard Tournament, it was a little more subdued, the gaiety a little forced, and navy blue robes showed where aurors patrolled the crowds, on the alert for any signs of trouble or Death Eaters.

He'd come with the Weasleys again, after spending the long, guilt-wracked summer with them, struggling to understand that it hadn't been his fault Cedric had died, that the blame lay entirely at Voldemort's feet, and nowhere else. Intellectually, he could accept that now - but in his heart, he still felt responsible. He doubted that would ever change - he would carry Cedric's ghost around with him for the rest of his life.

But Harry deliberately shook his head, took a deep breath, and willed the phantoms away. He was going back to Hogwarts, and he was not going to let Voldemort ruin his life.

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There were many familiar faces on the train now, as well as the new, innocent faces of this year's First year students - as Harry, Ron and Hermione made their way through the corridors, making for an empty compartment, they greeted their old acquaintances warmly. There were no empty compartments, because they had been too busy talking to rush to find one, so they settled on a compartment occupied by Nick de Sauvigny, a Slytherin boy in their year who had never really caused them much trouble.

He was playing wizarding chess with another person - a man, in his thirties, wearing expensive black robes with careless style, who looked up at their entry. On first glance, the resemblance between Nick and the stranger was startling - both were black haired, with grey eyes, but the man's eyes were almost silver, and Nick's were blue-grey. The resemblance was in their features; in the way they held their heads, in the shape of their eyes.

Nick took in their hesitation, smiled crookedly and carelessly waved his hand. "Potter. Weasley. Granger." He nodded at them absently, and then indicated the man. "My elder brother, Luc. He's the tai-pan, the lord of the de Sauvigny." Amused grey eyes assessed them, and the man nodded in greeting. Well trained and mannered, the trio nodded in return, murmuring "Sir."

They came in and sat down, then watched as Nick got trounced mercilessly at chess. With a sigh, he conceded the game, and then tipped his king over, ignoring the defeated looks on his chess pieces. Ron, who had been holding his surprise back ever since he sat down, finally couldn't contain himself any longer. "What's going on, de Sauvigny?" Nick looked over at him, eyebrow raised. The man - Luc - also turned his head, his face impassive. Ron continued. "Aren't you supposed to be terrorizing the first years?"

Nick was Draco's chief lieutenant - not a bodyguard, like Crabbe and Goyle, but his right hand, a partner in crime and plotting. The fact that he was more approachable than most of the other Slytherins, mainly because his cousin Marc was in Gryffindor, didn't stop him from being a diabolical schemer.

Nick smiled in amusement. "Draco can handle himself well enough without me for this journey," he said. "At the moment, I'm looking after Luc."

The man himself smiled sardonically. Harry could follow the joke - he didn't look like he needed help from anybody. In fact, he looked like he could take on anything the world threw at him, and come out perfectly composed and groomed, with robes still perfectly arranged. The man reminded him of the muggle spy, James Bond - he had the same cool sangfroid.

"Don't worry about Draco coming after Nick, Mr. Weasley. You're all safe here, with me." Luc's voice was smooth, confident and rich with old money, upper class and power.

"You don't like Malfoy, sir?" Hermione spoke up earnestly, eager to gain an ally against their nemesis.

He didn't get a chance to answer, because just then the door slid open and Marc de Sauvigny, Nick's Gryffindor cousin entered. He was in their year, and a Chaser on the Quidditch team, and a good companion, but he was not as close to them as the other Gryffindor boys were - in fact, there were times he seemed to be closer to Malfoy and his cousin than he was to his own Housemates.

But then he was High Clan - and they tended to stick together.

Flopping down on the seat, Marc avoided Luc's mildly disapproving eye and smiled brilliantly at everyone in the compartment. When he chose to exert it, Marc had a warm, compelling charisma - others wanted to be the focus of that warm smile, to see approval in those dark blue eyes. It had no discernable effect on his cousins. Oblivious, he only made himself comfortable and looked limpidly at Luc. "Malfoy is behaving himself. I wanted to know why - what was going on that he thought it necessary to contain himself to glares only."

Luc gazed back just as limpidly. "I told him to act like the High Clan aristocrat I knew him to be - at least while I was around." Looking at his face, at the aristocratic, elegant features and the cool silver eyes, Harry suddenly realized that Luc looked far more like Malfoy than Nick, only the different colouring had thrown him off.

He had just opened his mouth to blurt out something no doubt stupid, when the door opened again, and Draco Malfoy himself came in - not hesitantly, like Marc, but with a careless confidence that bordered on arrogance. With him came the ever-present Crabbe and Goyle, looming behind him like sentinels, but their bravado wilted a little when Luc's mild silver eyes drifted over them. Draco held it confidently, without any insolence or defiance, but even he seemed to shift a little under that gaze.

"Hello Draco, Vincent, Gregory. Please, do come in and sit down." Luc's voice was soft, but held a commanding edge - the three boys came in, and sat down.

Harry thought of once again asking Luc's relationship to Draco, but thought it wouldn't be too tactful, just now. Instead, he settled further into his seat and tried to ignore Crabbe and Goyle's stares.

Draco was talking with Luc. "There are Aurors on the train," said the blonde haired boy. Luc only raised an eyebrow, indicating that he already knew that. Draco continued. "But their faces are shadowed by their hoods," he said softly, intently, "and they have stationed themselves at every exit on every carriage."

Luc's face didn't change, but there was an air of...alertness to him now, of readiness. Nick and Marc, alerted by some instinct, had leaned forward and watching him intently. Crabbe and Goyle, picking up on the tension although Draco and Luc hadn't done anything yet, leaned forward too. Hermione was watching them, frowning with narrowed eyes, obviously thinking hard. Ron just looked puzzled, but he knew something was wrong - and Harry suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.

"How many of them are there?" Luc's voice had gone soft, implacable and his eyes were cold, flat, and ruthless.

"Twenty - two on every carriage, one at the front and the other at the end."

Harry's breath hissed in shock - Death Eaters, on the Hogwarts Express. There was supposed to be an auror escort - they had all known that, it had been widely publicized the previous week - but evidently, others had known that, and had taken advantage of it. Harry spared a thought for the twenty dead Aurors, but he was more interested in how they were going to get out of this alive.

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Lucien Malfoy, this year's DADA teacher, cursed viciously in his head.

Death Eaters on the Hogwarts Express - eight hundred students, ranging from eleven to seventeen, most of them innocent and unprepared for any violence or attacks. Their Defense classes had been woefully inadequate - most of them would have no idea how to defend themselves against any kind of magic at all, let alone Death Eaters intent on massacre.

And he was the only thing that stood between them and the Death Eaters.

Adrenaline had always done curious things to his mind - slowing it down, sheathing his thought processes with cold logic, allowing him to think clearly in incredibly tense situations. It had been a gift, in his younger days, when he'd needed it - it had kept him alive more than once, and earned him the reputation of having ice water in his veins, instead of blood. He'd thought, after Voldemort was defeated, that he would be able to put away that part of his personality - until last year, when he'd been confronted with absolute proof of the Dark Lord's return.

His Dark Mark had started to burn.

At the time, he'd thought he had plenty of time to decide whether to return to the Dark Lord with all the power and resources of the House, one of the largest trading houses in the wizarding world, under his control, or to refuse the call and to put his whole family and everything he'd worked for since childhood at risk.

But now it seemed that his hand had been forced.

The students, or his own safety?

There was no question, really, not with Nick, Marc and Draco on board the train - Nick and Marc were his wards, he'd been their legal guardian since he'd taken over the House and gotten rid of their parents in the process. And Draco - Draco was his nephew, his brother Lucius' son, and the next Lord Malfoy - and as such, considering Narcissa's barrenness, he was irreplaceable. After all the effort Luc had put into trying to keep him away from Voldemort and the Dark side, he was not going to lose him now.

It seemed he had no choice - he would have to fight.

Twenty Death Eaters against himself and any help he might get from the students. It was a good thing that once a Slytherin decided, after exhausting all other options, to do something foolish, impulsive and insanely reckless, they didn't let anything, not even overwhelming odds, stand in their way. Otherwise Luc might have been worried.

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A/N – To those who have read "The Stolen Generation" and "The Witch Hunt", this story is set in a different timeline – ie, Luc is the same age as Lucius, and consequently made different life choices.