Final Disclaimer - I don't own Harry Potter. I don't own the ardeur. I don't own the concept of the 'tai-pan'. I don't own dranath. I do own all the original characters. Don't sue me.
CHAPTER 20 - RESOLUTIONS
He remembered his eleventh birthday - an eventful, fateful day that had, for better or for worse, shaped the rest of his life. His first trip to Diagon Alley, his first venture out of the High Clan and into the 'real' world...the first time he had ever made a friend - although, in truth, it was more of a forced alliance. His father had been quick to take advantage of the opportunity fate and a little manipulation had handed him on a silver platter, had seized the chance to make allies, albeit reluctant ones, out of the two Malfoy brothers.
Intense, charismatic, powerful Lucius who would one day be a great Clan Lord, and patient, elusive Lucien, who, unbound by any convention or tradition, all but burned with the force of his personality...and of his ambition. And then there was Severus himself - awkward among people he did not know, with a pronounced tendency for his own company and a fully developed, acerbic tongue and intellect - who had never before had a companion he could trust and rely on. He wasn't sure that he could trust and rely on these two, either, but their company was amusing and they could keep up with his thoughts. It was enough, for now.
As they grew older they grew closer in friendship and banter, but further apart in trust, as their fathers circled closer and closer to the confrontation they all knew would come, eventually. Their paths diverted somewhat, as Lucius learned more of his eventual role of Clan Lord and Luc, wrapped up in Kate, shaped himself into an acceptable candidate for the seat of tai-pan. Severus, eldest son of the Lord of Clan Snape, had nevertheless never been trained to be Clan Lord - he had been reared carefully to become the Dark Lord's perfect weapon - silent, subtle, and deadly, and utterly, totally loyal. The Brothers Malfoy would never be completely loyal to the Dark Lord alone - they would always be, first and foremost, children of Clan Malfoy.
But the friendship remained, and was deepened by sex and blood and magic into an unbreakable bond, tested by Kate's death, by their fathers' deaths, by their years in the Death Eaters, by Severus' treachery, by all their lies, and by the long, long years since...tested, but never broken.
They had always been three, even among the rest of their peers. Luc and Lucius and Severus, a smaller group within the larger group of High Clan boys they had all grown up and gone to school with. Unsure first years, ambitious second years, dominant third years; from fourth year onwards Luc and Lucius and Severus, along with Rayden Lestrange and Brandon Avery, Shan Andahni and Dirk Courtney had called themselves the Lords of Slytherin and had controlled their House with an iron fist.
Little had changed since then. In the dark, shadowed years when they'd been Death Eaters, they had been a trio - Lucius the strategist, the guiding hand, Luc the assassin, the killing blade, and Snape, the Potions Master, the subtle, poisoned, shadowy Inquisitor...
Afterwards they covered for each other - lying, denying any connection to or any knowledge of Death Eater activity - showing the blank faces of High Clan silence...and suffering for it, in Snape's case. Luc and Lucius had gone on to better things, to more money and power and respect, and Snape had remained teaching at Hogwarts, locked in the dungeons with his own guilt and self-disgust, which not even his two companions had ever managed to dispel. He didn't resent them. He had never wanted power, had never wanted money, respect or love. He had only ever hungered for knowledge - he hadn't been raised to be Clan Lord.
And that was the fundamental difference between he and his two companions. That was why he hadn't been able to kill Lucius.
He didn't believe in the greater good, if it meant that Lucius had to die. In his years as a spy he had had to make many terrible decisions, most of them between two evils, but he had never gotten used to the feeling, had never calmly accepted the outcome, or the price. Every single decision he had had to make weighed on his conscience. Every night he remembered their faces, their names, in a kind of self-imposed penance - as if he had to remember, because they had died for him, because of him.
He knew he would see Lucius' face until he died, see the desperation in the eyes that had always been calm and confident, hear the helpless rage and the cry in his voice, relive time and time again the terrible moment when he realized that his cowardice had forced Draco to patricide...and know with awful certainty that, given the choice again, he would still refuse to lift his hand against his oldest friend... Inconceivable sins, both of the alternatives. In the end, he had chosen the road he thought to be the lesser of two evils, and in considering not the consequences but the action itself, he thought as an individual man, not as the Clan Lord he had never been trained to be.
Or perhaps Dumbledore's Gryffindoric thinking was rubbing off on him.
He knelt, meditating, on the stone cold floor of the Great Hall in the Castle, head bowed and hand resting on Lucius' cold, lifeless one, and thought of what he could have done differently the day before. Pragmatic Slytherin thought dictated that what was done was done, all that remained were the consequences. But private, personal grief and guilt couldn't be dismissed so practically.
He spoke, his velvet voice soft and quiet, little more than a deep murmur of sound to the silent observer watching from the doorway. A prayer. A last farewell. A plea for forgiveness. Luc couldn't tell - but he had the feeling it had been private, and meant for no ears but Snape's and Lucius', and perhaps the Lady's. And then Snape turned around, and all sense of prayer, of respect was gone. Only wariness remained - and an overwhelming fatigue and grief that mirrored Luc's own emotions exactly.
Luc was too tired to be Clan Lord right now...and Snape was too heartsore to even try to mask his emotional turmoil. Luc would see it, no matter how impassive he kept his face and voice.
Luc sighed. "What would you have me say, Sev? I am not Dumbledore, to have comforting words for every occasion...I don't believe in redemption or in second chances. I'm a Slytherin, an assassin, a murderer and a kinslayer...and what's done is done."
Snape closed his eyes, in denial, or perhaps in desperate tiredness. What's done is done, and nothing can change it - so ride out the consequences as best you can...
"And what do we have left, now that Lucius is gone? Twisted intimacy? Shared experiences and companionship? Old memories of campaigns long forgotten..." Luc's voice, hollow with fatigue, still managed to cut in its bitter mockery. "It sufficed us before, but now the memory of what we once had is no longer enough..."
"We shall have to find something new," Snape said, eyes still closed, still kneeling.
Luc only laughed bitterly. "I don't know that I have the patience anymore. Or even the will...I'm so tired, Sev - so tired of being invulnerable...so tired of carrying it all on my own."
Severus smiled, a smile full of laughing mockery and sardonic amusement, as he had once smiled before all their lives had taken such dark turns. It was no more than a ghost of what it had once been, but at least it was genuine...and so few things in this life were genuine anymore.
"I don't think you'll have to walk alone anymore,
Luc..." Luc looked at him blandly, and Snape's lips curved even further.
"If you play your cards right..." he raised a significant eyebrow.
Luc waved his hand lazily, dismissing the notion. "Her whole world is centred in her son, and he dislikes me enough already. When he finds out about Greyson..."
"He is Slytherin, underneath all his father's foolishness. He will understand one day, and if he doesn't, Draco will enlighten him."
Luc turned the subject, unwilling to think of Kate right now. "And speaking of Draco..." he looked at Snape enquiringly.
"He is upset," mused Snape, "And understandably so. But he is resilient - he'll survive, and even grow stronger..."
"He understands the necessity," Luc came further into the room and sat down next to the other man. "In his head, in his mind he understands. But in his heart...?" He looked somewhat blankly at Lucius' bier, at the man Draco would one day almost mirror. "In his heart he thinks it patricide."
Snape let out his breath in a long, hissing sigh. "That is something only he can overcome. We can provide support, but ultimately, he must forgive himself."
"Perhaps," said Luc, "perhaps revenge would give him some peace?"
Snape chose not to misunderstand. "Dumbledore will welcome him into the Order." Luc looked distinctly cynical, and Snape smiled sourly. "We need all the help we can get, even if it is from a Malfoy..." He looked speculatively at Luc.
Luc didn't even blink an eye. "No."
Snape laughed. "I didn't think so..." His laughter drew an answering, almost reluctant smile from Luc, who allowed himself, finally, to relax for the first time in an age. "But I had to try."
When they looked into each other's eyes for the first time that night, echoes of the past and images of the present merged in their memories, in their hearts. It could never be the same - but perhaps, without the secrets, with all the shadows laid out in the open where both could see, it could be better.
The Slytherin common room was shadowed and mysterious, richly and elegantly furnished, every surface and texture designed to please the senses of aristocratic, jaded connoisseurs...it was also, at the moment, a council chamber for the students whose relatives had been so efficiently eliminated last night. There were at least ten main participants - others, of lower position in the Clan or Slytherin hierarchy, had brought their grievances to a higher ranked representative, who would present it with their own. It was rare to see so many Clans banded together in a common cause - that is, a common enemy - but all agreed that these were extraordinary circumstances, calling for extraordinary actions.
The Malfoy had gone too far, this time, and had acted too publicly against too many Clans. It was a breathtaking show of arrogance, and it was the first warning that Luc Malfoy, as proxy for his newly elevated nephew, meant business. The High Clan Slytherin students, and those from other Houses who were involved in this mess, were split into two camps - for and against the Malfoy. There was no middle ground, not in this. Luc had forced the issue into the light, where it could not be ignored, and had created a situation almost alien to most Slytherins.
There were only two sides - black, and white. No neutrality, no hedging of bets. It struck too close to the heart of everything the High Clan was, and everything it could be in the future. The destruction of House Malfoy. Yes, or no. It was as simple as that.
They had all gotten word from home, after the extraordinary events of last night had raced through the High Clan grapevine, letters containing guidance, advice or orders about how to deal with the situation - how to act towards Draco, how to react to their relatives' deaths... And it had come to this. A council, as their parents and elders held a council, to determine whether or not to declare vendetta against House Malfoy. Draco had given them a graceful out with his declaration of amnesty, that vengeance had only been taken against the individual, not the Clan...but the vengeance in itself had been a massive insult and loss of face.
In the end, rather than personal feelings, it would come down to calculation, as everything always did...how strong were the Malfoy, and how strong were the Clans who would declare vendetta against them. (Who would declare vendetta?)
Houses Crabbe, Goyle, Parkinson, Wilkes, Nott, Bulstrode, McNair, Flint and some four others had lost relatives to Luc's vengeance. Every single one of them was joined in some form of allegiance or treaty or blood to other Houses, who were in turn tied to more...combined, they amassed a considerable amount of money and power. Besides, they had the Dark Lord on their side.
Ranged with the Malfoy were the de Sauvigny, Houses Avery and Andahni and Courtney and Lestrange, and all their various subsidiaries and connections...
It would tear the High Clan apart.
Diabolical Voldemort, to create a plan with such poisonous side-effects even though the original goal had not been met...they thought that he didn't completely understand the High Clan - Blaise Zabini thought that the Dark Lord understood them only too well. He was a younger son, himself, and glad of it - he didn't have to face the monumental decision the others did. No one in his family had been killed - but that only meant his father had had the sense not to move openly against the Malfoy, or that he had been detained by his job in the Ministry.
But Vincent and Gregory, Pansy and Millicent, all the others who had lost blood relatives - they would have to decide how to react towards the Malfoy now...how to treat him at school, whether or not to accept his justice and his amnesty. They weren't thinking of Draco, of the boy they had all more or less grown up with, they were thinking of the Malfoy. No one knew Draco. They knew Lucius' son, the Heir, and they knew him now as the Malfoy...but no one knew the individual, except perhaps Nick de Sauvigny, or his cousin Marc. They were part of the very, very private inner circle that Draco had guarded jealously all his life - not even Crabbe or Goyle, his bodyguards, his watchdogs, or Pansy Parkinson, his...occasional sleeping partner...had ever managed to see the real Draco.
Blaise made no claims to knowing him, either. Thus it was easy to classify him as a Clan, as an entity, as an institution rather than an individual.
"So," said Pansy, who was far more intelligent than most people thought, "what have we decided? Do we take the amnesty and lose all further chance for vengeance, or do we declare against the Malfoy?"
"The Malfoy have already shown their hand," said Quintus Nott. "They defied the Dark Lord - if we support the Malfoy, we too stand against Voldemort."
A soft shudder ran through the room - no one there wished to openly defy the Dark Lord...although no doubt there were more than a few who wished they could do it secretly, without fear of risk. Now that the Malfoy and the de Sauvigny had thrown their weight against them...it just might tip the balance.
Blaise spoke up. "Accepting the amnesty doesn't mean we support them. It just means that we acknowledge he had the right to his vengeance."
"There is no vengeance available to sons of traitors." Goyle snarled dangerously - his and Crabbe's association with the Malfoy could have pulled them down with Lucius, if their parents hadn't been so enthusiastic in denouncing him.
'Traitors against whom?" dared Alcott, whose family had never actually made a commitment to Voldemort. "Is Voldemort the king, to hold such absolute power?" Blaise concealed a wince - words like that could mark a whole family for destruction.
But he did have a point. "Can we succeed if we do move against them? The financial and political power behind the Malfoy is...formidable..." Pansy always asked the practical questions.
"Combined, we have power too," said Crabbe, who would do everything he could, supported or not, to bring Draco down.
"But is it enough?" asked Millicent doubtfully. "They've joined with the Ministry and Dumbledore, and while the Ministry may be incompetent, you may be sure the Malfoy are not. They could revitalize the resistance, make it into a truly dangerous weapon."
"They've joined with the Ministry anyway, Millicent," Blaise said softly. "Nothing will change that. But if we don't take this amnesty, they will come after us personally...and they will destroy us. One by one..."
Pansy looked thoughtful. "Are you saying take the amnesty now, and go after them anyway?" There was an almost stunned silence. Go back on a vow of amnesty?
"We will have to come against them anyway," he spoke, his words dropping into the silence like stones into a pond. "They oppose our Lord, and so must be destroyed - but if we accept the amnesty, we will be free to give everything we have to the Dark Lord, rather than divert resources towards protecting ourselves..."
"That means they, too, will not have to divide their resources - it will bring their undivided attention down on the Cause." Flint was a hardcore, fanatical supporter of the Cause. Blaise didn't understand how he could be so naïve.
"Better they destroy the Cause than us. If they come after us, we will all die. At least some of us may survive if the Lord should fall." And that was very close to treason - but they all had priorities. And as much as he believed in the Cause, he believed even more in House Zabini.
There was much more debate, especially because of Crabbe and Goyle's hotheaded hatred, because the Malfoy were so hated, but so feared - they were the First, the very Highest of the High Clan...it was hard, almost unthinkable, to even imagine a world where the Malfoy didn't dominate. But that was what they were thinking now. Eventually, cooler thought and cold-blooded reason prevailed, and they reached a consensus. Accept the amnesty now, and do the best they could to destroy the Malfoy through the Cause. That way, they could bring their combined strength to bear - and they could do it under the anonymity of Death Eater cloaks and masks.
Wait, watch, and be patient. Their time would come.
Luc found Draco outside, watching the preparations for Lucius' funeral pyre, which would be held in the Grove later that night. There was no indication at all that Draco was upset in any way, or any hint of the mixture of guilt, pain, grief and hatred that was seething just below the surface of his composure. He was utterly impassive - his movements normal, his eyes clear and unshadowed, his posture as unconsciously arrogant as always, with a hint of the strength he was only just beginning to find within himself.
Luc felt a fierce pang of pride. This, this was a Lord worth following.
Draco looked at him then, and smiled faintly. "Uncle. Have you come to check on me?"
Luc only smiled. "Was it necessary?"
"No," he said, confidently with no defiance or sullenness. "Everything is under control." A slight trace of bitterness, there - but Luc had expected it. Soon the shock and the numbness would pass, and Draco would look for someone to blame, someone to lash out at. Luc would prefer Draco to direct that anger towards Voldemort, but he knew there was a very good chance the new Lord would blame Luc himself. After all, he was a safe target, accessible, and Draco knew exactly how and where to draw blood. It was going to be a difficult time, until his nephew learned to forgive himself and understand his actions. Hence the reason for his coming out here.
"Professor Snape will make you an offer, afterwards," he said neutrally, looking at the workmen, not at Draco.
He could feel Draco's quizzical eyes on him. "The Order of the Phoenix? Officially sanctioned revenge?"
Luc turned to look back at him, and nodded.
"Would you have accepted that offer, when it was made to you?"
Luc smiled ruefully. "No. But I was seventeen, and I thought I knew everything. I thought I could handle it all on my own, without any self- righteous interference from Gryffindors and the fools who followed them."
Luc sighed and closed his eyes. "If I could do it all again...I wouldn't change anything." He paused and looked at Draco, dropping all the masks and defences. "I would have done anything, Draco. Anything. I killed my own flesh and blood, my cousins, my stepfather...my half-brother. And I did it, not for any sacred, justifiable motive like the good of the Clan - I did it all out of ambition and my hunger for power."
"I won't join with a sacred Order like the Phoenix with a blemish like that on my soul." He smiled almost gently.
"Snape is part of it," Draco pointed out reasonably.
"Snape regrets everything he did. I don't." He fixed his eyes on Draco's. "My actions, my choices, are nothing at all like yours. I voluntarily chose my path, accepted the price I would pay, and I will live with it all my life. But you...Lucius' death was thrust upon you, and you had no choice. No choice at all, and the most sacred of reasons." He put his hand on Draco's shoulder and squeezed. "There was no sin in your actions, Draco. No sin, and no blame. If you would blame anyone at all, blame Voldemort."
"So you are pushing me into revenge, to make me feel better. Into the Order of the Phoenix, to improve my public image."
"And into action, so that we can finish this once and for all." He smiled, a small, feral smile. "You do know that once the Clans have accepted your amnesty, and they will, if they have any brains, they will throw everything they have against us?"
"Then we must be prepared, yes? We will need all the friends we can get."
Draco looked at him expressionlessly for a long, long time, and then grinned suddenly, gloriously. "Very well, then," he laughed. "I'll do it. I'll even shake hands with Potter, if I have to." He held up a warning hand. "On one condition."
Luc raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"If I have to make friends with Potter," Draco said mock-seriously, "you have to resolve this situation with Kate."
Luc's face blanked.
"Seriously, uncle, you have not even looked at her once. You have to come to some sort of conclusion, otherwise you will be distracted, and then you will make mistakes. And I can't afford to have a chief advisor who makes mistakes." He laughed into Luc's carefully neutral eyes. "And while you're at it, try to find some common ground with Brandon, before he kills you, hmmm?"
"Because you can't afford to have a dead chief advisor?" Luc's voice was acidic, but he was amused. He knew Draco was right - he just didn't like it.
"Exactly." He waved an imperious hand. "Now go."
Luc's grey eyes looked limpidly at the Lord of High Clan Malfoy. Then, solemnly, he put his hand on his heart and bowed, a younger scion to his Lord.
"As you will it, Lord, so shall it be." And then he walked away, aware that behind him, Draco was smiling for the first time in what seemed like an age.
She saw him coming. She would recognize him anywhere, by the confidence in his walk, by the instinctive knowledge that still survived, deep in the depths of her soul, a primitive recognition of her mate, of the only one who would ever match her in every way. And she knew why he was coming, too. A necessary confrontation, yes, but one that she would much rather have avoided right now...or ever. She didn't want to look at him, to talk to him, to be close to him, and know that he was a murderer and an assassin and everything else she had been raised to despise, and that he didn't regret a thing.
She wanted him to remain, in her mind, the youth on the threshold of manhood, who could still have turned away from the dark, and who had burned with such unrestrained light. But that was impossible now. And she would just have to face him, just as he would have to face her. She knew they were both equally reluctant, and most probably for the exact same reason. They were afraid of what they might find. They were afraid the attraction, the passion, the bond, would be just as strong as it had ever been...only now they were old enough and experienced enough to know just how badly it could hurt them. They couldn't stay together, and they couldn't walk away. No wonder the old Malfoy had tried their hardest to avoid soul bonds.
And then, there was Brandon. Idealistic, innocent Brandon, who had come up hard against reality this year...and had learned that the man responsible for his introduction to the dark side was in fact his real father. Quite a shock. Rather like that scene at the end of that muggle film the Empire Strikes Back...Kate only hoped Brandon wouldn't throw himself off the metaphorical gantry. Unlike Skywalker, there would be no one to rescue him when he came out the other end.
"Hello, Kate," came that voice again, familiar yet rich with experiences she hadn't shared, emotions she hadn't known with him.
She raised her green eyes, impassive, as he had taught her, to his grey ones. Neither could read the other now, she realized...and didn't know whether that was good or bad. "Why now, Luc?" Why have this discussion now, so soon after he had killer her husband, after he had lost his brother, after the world had shifted and had not yet been realigned.
He smiled, an empty smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I can't keep watching my back, waiting for Brandon to come after me...I was hoping you could talk to him."
Kate said nothing. That had not been the real reason.
Spurred by her silence, Luc continued on, still composed, still amused and mocking. "Draco asked for a good faith gesture before he agreed to shake hands with Harry Potter. This was what he asked for. I think he's matchmaking."
Still, she kept silent. They were getting closer, but it was
not the whole truth. For the first time, Luc became defensive.
"This...situation is hard on both of us. We must resolve it."
She raised an eyebrow.
He hissed, made a frustrated, instantly aborted chopping gesture. "Ach, Kate, what would you have me say? I can't sleep, I can't concentrate, I can't meditate because I can feel you all around me, hear your voice, smell your perfume, feel your touch? And it's still not enough, not nearly enough - there's an empty hole in my soul where you used to be, and it's killing me to have you near and not be able to touch you? Is that what you want? Is that what you wanted to hear?"
She blinked. "You know that I feel the same thing, Luc. But it can't be."
He snarled viciously, "Don't you think I don't know that?" and his hand swung out uncontrollably, knocking over a priceless Dresden vase, sending it to the ground with a damning, echoing crash. Abruptly, he flinched, ran a hand through his thick, black hair and visibly pulled himself back under control. "We can't go back to what we had. But can't we start again, and see what can be?"
She took her time answering, and saw his control actually waver, saw for the merest instant the naked frustration and desire in his eyes. And then he was impassive again. "I have a son," she said softly, calmly. "And he must come before everything else."
He nodded. "I have two nephews, both of them Clan Lords. The Malfoy, and the de Sauvigny, must come first."
"If Brandon doesn't accept you," she said implacably, "then it is over, Luc. No second chances."
He looked at her blankly, and then slid his eyes away. She stood up, slid a hand along his chin and turned his gaze back towards her. She sucked in a breath and almost flinched. Everything in his eyes when he looked at Draco, at Marc, was redoubled in his eyes as he thought of Brandon, his one and only begotten son...pride, pleased satisfaction, a fierce, fierce protectiveness...and a love so deep and so wide he pushed it so far down no one would ever, ever see it...he blinked, but when he opened his eyes again, it was still there. He didn't even try to hide it.
He opened his mouth, hesitated, then closed his eyes and said nothing. He looked at her again, so solemnly, so openly, and said, "So be it."
It was her time to hide her eyes. Then, taking her courage and her heart in both hands, she stood up on her tiptoes and laid a soft, chaste kiss on his cheek, breathing in the beloved familiar scent she had craved for so long. He made an inarticulate sound, and his arms came around her, hugging her almost too tightly, crushing her before he loosened his grip. He lay his cheek on the top of her head, closed his eyes, and felt her hug him back, as she had not done for twenty years and more, felt the old, old bonds begin to renew, felt the comfort flow from her to him and him to her.
And it was enough. For now, it was enough.
Marc, Nick and Brandon were listening at the door, eavesdropping on Luc and Kate's discussion. Normally they wouldn't have dared eavesdrop on their uncle Luc, but this was such an important conversation...and Luc was so involved, and so confident of the security at the Castle, that he had forgotten to employ his usual security measures. They peeked through the keyhole, watching the two long lost lovers hug, and Nick and Marc exchanged a skeptical look. Brandon just looked stunned - that was his mother, for God's sake! What was she doing hugging Luc Malfoy? And so soon after his father's...no, her husband's death. The two de Sauvigny cousins had told him the story, but he still had trouble accepting it.
He just didn't like Luc. Part of that was suspicion, he'd heard so many stories about the tai-pan, about his ruthlessness, but another part was fear. His fat- no, Benjamin had been a genial man, amiable and friendly - Bran had been able to manipulate him quite easily. But Luc...Luc was the quintessential alpha male - dominant, always in control, and far too intelligent for Bran's comfort. Those sardonic eyes...they gave him the shivers. And he didn't like it.
Part of him was quite selfishly pleased that his mother had put him and his feelings first; the childish, self-indulgent part realized that if he chose, he could shatter their relationship, cause quite a lot of trouble......but an older, more mature Brandon, who had been formed in the time since he'd been living in Slytherin, had seen the pain it cost his mother (and yes, Luc too) to deny each other and the ties that bound them.
It was true that he didn't like Luc. But that didn't mean he couldn't see what they meant to each other. That didn't mean he wasn't a little in awe of Luc, or that he hadn't wished, on occasion, that Ben was a little bit more forceful, a little bit more aristocratic...a little bit more like Luc Malfoy. To tell the truth, he wouldn't mind the thought of learning all that he could from the tai-pan himself...or of actually being a Malfoy, and High Clan...
That would be cool. It would definitely be better than being Ben Greyson's son, the American stranger who should have been in Gryffindor. So perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing to see what would come of Luc and Kate's wary reunion. After all, it might not work out. They might decide to break up and go their different ways. It couldn't hurt to try, anyway.
He supposed he could give Luc a chance. Then, they would see what would happen.
Night came, falling over the Malfoy heartland and cloaking the land in mystery, in shadows and ambiguities. A flickering pyre still smouldered in the blackness of the Grove, illuminating the faces of all the people of the Malfoy, villagers and house elves and guests alike. Draco looked down at his right hand, at the ancient, heavy silver seal ring engraved with the three Scars of the Malfoy that Lucius had always worn, as long as he could remember. Now he wore it, the symbol of the Malfoy Lord...and it sank in for the first and last time that his father was dead, and he was never going to see him again.
The blame for that lay squarely at Voldemort's feet, just as Luc had said earlier that day. And just as his uncle had advised, he turned all the fierce, ice-cold rage and hatred in his heart towards the Dark Lord...and as the flames finally consumed his father's body, he thought of revenge. He had accepted Professor Snape's offer, because Dumbledore offered vengeance cloaked in official (or at least moral) sanction...and because he knew he would have to bring the Malfoy back into the light, back into their place at the forefront and the very centre of society and the High Clan.
The renewal - spiritual and social - would have to start with him. For the first time, he understood what his father had meant when he said Draco was unMarked. Draco was untouched by evil, or by society's condemnation and hatred...he could do what Lucius, or even Luc, could not - make amends. Heal any bonds of trust or tradition that their servitude under Voldemort had shattered....bring things full circle.
And the renewal would have to start now. Walking over to Harry Potter, he held out his hand, as he had once done so long ago on the Hogwarts Express, and asked for alliance, or at least a truce. They shook hands, as everything and everyone he had ever loved stood witness.
The Malfoy Lord threw his weight behind Dumbledore, and the battle lines were drawn in the sand.
Let Voldemort come. They would be ready.
A small, secretive smile played over Luc's lips as he felt a breath of wind tease his face, his hair, as Lucius had once done in bed. "Don't worry, brother", he whispered silently to the Wind, his eyes dark and unreadable, his face alternately shadowed and illuminated as the fire flickered, as he watched Draco come into his own. "By my blood and the blood of my ancestors...the Malfoy will prevail."