Title: The Domestication and Training of Serpents
Author: Nimori
Pairings: LM/HP, may be others later
Rating: R
Disclaimer: See that lady over there? Hers, not mine. See all the money? Same deal.
Archive: Beloved Enemies, my site, others on request
Feedback: is a wonderful thing. nimorii@yahoo.ca
Summary: An unexpected owl turns everyone's lives up-side-down. For Harry,
Lucius, Severus, and Draco, the world will never be the same.

AN: This answers a whole bunch of challenges from the Harry X Lucius ML. I don't like to post WIPs to places where large amounts of people will read it, but a couple of people have asked to read this without having to hunt through hundreds of messages, and I'm too lazy to code this for my website right now. Standard WIP warnings apply (i.e., author reserves the right to make sudden changes and massive rewrites, or to bugger off and never finish).

Warnings: In case you didn't notice: SLASH AHOY! I'm not sure if other warnings will apply to later chapters.

* * * * *

The Domestication and Training of Serpents
by Nimori


*25th July*

The smoke-grey owl swooped in the open window, and landed politely on the perch
reserved for incoming messages. She had a black and gold crest spelled onto her
chest-feathers, and Lucius Malfoy noted the device with annoyance. Owls could
be intercepted, and he had long ago made arrangements with Gringott's to do
business by fire -- though that did not quite excuse his rough handling of the
owl, which glared balefully enough to stir his slumbering conscience. That the
owl refrained from screeching or biting as Lucius brusquely divested her of the
message only irritated him further.

"Don't be a martyr," he said. The owl ignored him.

His irritation fled quickly enough, for the message was from Gringott's
Notarization Office, which Lucius corresponded with regularly, but specifically
the Department of Domestic Forms and Contracts, which he hadn't heard from
since registering Draco as a pureblood.

Puzzled, Lucius broke the seal and scanned the page. His initial bark of
laughter died swiftly, and he spent the next few moments alternately flushing
and turning whiter than the parchment clutched in his hands, interspersing
these states with bouts of swearing. He finished off with another round of
laughter.

"Wait for reply," he told the bird, then went to the fireplace, drew his wand,
and muttered over the flames. They turned green-gold and stilled, allowing him
to reach in and pull out a sheaf of his most important documents. He riffled
through them until he found the one he needed, already filled out and only
requiring his signature.

He remedied that lack, dashed a calculated reply to the notary public, and gave
both documents to the grey owl. With a self-important flutter, she swept from
the room to glide away into the summer night.

* * * * *

*31st July*

Supper for the last week had noticeably consisted of food Harry detested, and
he expected it to do so for at least another week as Aunt Petunia continued to
go out of her way to avoid accidentally being nice to him on or around his
birthday. Harry picked at his food to the point that Petunia and Vernon started
a conversation on ungrateful relatives who didn't appreciate what they were
given, though Harry well knew if he showed any sign of enjoying his meal they
would switch to complaining about how much he ate.

How much space he took up. How much air he breathed.

He ate silently, and tried not to smell Dudley's hamburger and chips (for
Dudley didn't like cabbage rolls any more than Harry), and when he had cleaned
every disgusting bite from his plate, excused himself to start the dishes. He
had just filled the sink when the doorbell rang.

"Boy! Go answer that," Vernon said, even though he had finished eating and
would pass through the foyer on his way to the living room anyway.

Grumbling, Harry threw the tea towel over his shoulder, and went to get the
door. The bell rang again, the same note somehow conveying more impatience.
"I'm coming," Harry said, not daring to yell it as he wanted, just in case it
was someone his aunt and uncle considered important. He opened the heavy door,
and stared dumfounded at the imposing, impeccably dressed figure of Lucius
Malfoy.

Reflex jerked him into motion, and he slammed the door, only to have it bounce
off Malfoy's creepy, snake-headed stick.

"Manners, Mr Potter," Malfoy said, sweeping into the foyer. With rising panic,
Harry saw two ministry officers follow, a surly-looking goblin trailing them.
"It's not polite to shut the door in a caller's face."

Malfoy's cold eyes catalogued Harry as he spoke, and Harry was suddenly very
conscious of the tea towel on his shoulder, the soap suds and tomato paste from
handling the dirty pots on his hands, the over-sized shirt and jeans he wore --
knees stained from a day of gardening -- and the split lip he'd sported since
Dudley shoved him into the banister that morning. He reflexively pulled himself
up to his full, and unimpressive, height.

"What can I do for you, Mr Malfoy?" Harry asked in a poor imitation of the
older man's scathing tones.

Malfoy's mouth quirked in an aborted smile. "More than you realize, Mr
Potter... although I suppose I must call you Harry now."

Vernon's shout cut off Harry's spluttered objection. "Whoever it is, don't keep
them waiting in the hall, boy!"

"Yes, Harry, don't," Malfoy said, and pushed past Harry, heading for the living
room and Vernon's irate voice. Harry turned, fully intending to bolt out the
front door, but the ministry wizards blocked his escape. They herded him after
Malfoy.

In the living room, Malfoy had backed Petunia into a corner, and tilted her
chin up with the stick, the snake's silver fangs brushing her throat.

"You must be Harry's aunt. Pity you don't much resemble your late sister. She
was a lovely creature."

"You're... you're one of those hocus-pocus freaks," Vernon spluttered, and
Malfoy flushed a dark red and his nostrils flared once before he controlled his
expression. "Get out my house! I'll not have your kind here." Vernon batted the
stick away from Petunia, only to find it shoved shoved deep into the folds of
his own neck, pinning him to the mantle.

"I assure you, Mr Dursley, that I will be most happy to leave this... *quaint*
little dwelling you call a house, but I will not do so until I've collected
what's mine." Malfoy abruptly released Vernon, and spun around. He gave Harry
an odd glance before eyeing the armchair as though it was infested with vermin.
With a disdainful flick of his cloak, he sat down.

One of the ministry officials cleared his throat. "Ah, yes, Mr Potter. Er, very
pleased to meet you. I'm Bernard Crane, Wizard of the Peace, and I'll be
performing the ceremony."

Harry stepped back before the man could attempt to shake his hand. "What
ceremony? What are you all doing here?"

Crane flushed. "Mr Malfoy has elected to honour the contract made with your
father shortly after you were born. I believe Mr Rappelhorn notarized the
original documents?" A pleading note entering his voice as he turned to the
goblin.

The goblin stepped forward, drawing a shriek from Aunt Petunia, and handed a
scroll to Harry. He unrolled it, blinking confusion at the welter of legal
terms. It might as well have been Swahili for all he understood it.

"What is this?" he asked, but the goblin only stared unblinking, and Crane
stammered something unintelligible.

Malfoy smirked. "It is an unbreakable magical contract, notarized by
Gringott's." He sighed at Harry's blank expression. "If I must walk you through
it, it says your father betrothed his first born child to Lucius Malfoy --
that's me -- and that if I am unmarried on your sixteenth birthday -- that's
today -- I have the option of wedding you -- that means marriage. As in husband
and husband."

Silence fell over the room, even the Dursleys too shocked to speak.

"You have a wife," Harry whispered.

"Not anymore."

"You can't want to marry me."

"Oh, but I do. Which is precisely why I've spent the last week divorcing
Narcissa."

The air seemed too thick to breathe. "But I don't want to marry you."

"You don't have a choice, Harry," Malfoy all but purred.

Harry turned to the ministry wizards.

"Er, he is correct, Mr Potter," Crane said. "If your mother was alive she would
be able to contest the contract, seeing that she didn't sign it." Harry turned
instantly to his aunt and uncle, but Crane held up a hand. "And your father's
wishes take precedence over your current guardians'. I'm sorry, Mr Potter, but
while you are a minor you are subject to any contracts your parents made in
your name. When you turn eighteen you may file for an annulment," he added
soothingly.

Harry shot him a poisonous look. "I don't believe you. Why would my father
be--betroth me to a *Malfoy*?"

Malfoy brought the snake's head up to his lips; he seemed to be attempting to
conceal his amusement. "Oh, I offered him something he couldn't resist. A
rather rare antique book, as I recall. Bound in dragonhide, printed in
Vienna..."

Heat pounding across his cheeks, Harry unrolled the scroll, too impatient to
roll the other end up as he went. The parchment spilled across the Dursley's
rug.

Two signatures graced the bottom, right amove the notary's seal: Lucius
Malfoy's flamboyant scrawl, and a neat, precise hand Harry knew only too well,
for it generally decorated his exams in red ink.

*Severus Snape.*