A/N: I have not died! As you can tell from this update.
Thank you to those who continue to check on this story and remind me that it needs finishing.
Harry fiddles with the serpent brooch pinned to his blazer. Absently, he thinks that if Lucius doesn't wake up soon, he is going to worry a hole in his lapel. Evan had made him shower and shave and Harry had spent half an hour staring into a wardrobe, not really seeing anything before James had come to his rescue and pulled out something for Harry to put on. Michael had fussed over his hair, or rather had fussed at Harry's hair as Harry made absent attempts to comb it, and then lost patience and cast a spell that fixed Harry's hair for the both of them.
Harry had stared at the brooch in the box for a long time before deciding to wear it.
He had not recognized himself in the mirror. He felt as though he was looking at an old wizarding family portrait. His hair and his clothing, combined with the brooch, had made him look rather stately, though with his coloring, he looked more like a member of the Black Family than a member of the Mafoy family. He looked like a real wizard, he thought. Of course, he had always been a real wizard, but he had never thought of himself as a Wizard. He had only ever thought of himself as "just Harry." However, as Draco had tried to tell him so many times, he had never really been "just Harry," had he? Harry had sighed and looked at his reflection again. Harry the Wizard may have been impressive-looking if he didn't also look like a man going to his execution.
It isn't that Harry doesn't want Lucius to wake up. Harry's hands are shaking and his heart is nearly bursting with the desire to see Lucius awake and well. It's the moment after Lucius wakes up—the moment that Lucius' eyes land on Harry and his expression hardens and the corner of his mouth turns up in disdain and whatever hope Harry has of Lucius being glad to see him dies—that Harry dreads.
He fiddles with the brooch some more and repeats in his head the things he is supposed to say to Lucius. He needs to get it right. It isn't as though one little speech can erase all of Harry's past blunders with Lucius, but maybe he can begin to make amends. No, there is no maybe, Harry decides. He will have to make amends today starting with the moment Lucius woke up. If he waits longer than that, things will only be harder. Harry can't afford to let that happen. If only Lucius will allow him the chance to apologize…
Harry starts when a hand on his shoulder interrupts his anxious thoughts. Harry looks up to see Gabriel smiling at him. The young doctor looks a million times better than Harry feels. "This will work," Gabriel says gently, mistaking the reason for Harry's glum look. Harry smiles weakly and Gabriel gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Harry feels as though he is going to be sick with anxiety and anticipation. He is glad he didn't have breakfast. He is sure that already the house elves would be cleaning it off Lucius' very expensive rugs, if he had. He allows himself a small groan of misery, his lips silently forming the words he wanted to say to Lucius, but eventually he was too worked up even for that.
Sebastian slips his warm hand into Harry's clammy one and says nothing. Harry is beyond being grateful for the contact, at first, but the tightest knots in his stomach slowly loosen and his breathing, which had become erratic, slows down. Harry feels himself relaxing as Sebastian's breathing quickens. It is a moment before Harry realizes what Sebastian is doing and yanks his hand away as if he had been burned. Sebastian looks startled for a moment, then he smiles sheepishly. "You were about to give yourself an anxiety attack," he explains.
"I didn't know you could do that!" Harry hisses, feeling oddly betrayed somehow. It isn't that he wants to feel this miserable, but his misery is his own, damn it! He doesn't want someone meddling with it. Sebastian shrugs.
"Empathy is a lot more complicated than people tend to think. It's a whole branch of magic that deals with sensing and manipulating feelings. In the hands of a stable empath, it's very--" Sebastian pauses, pursing his lips for a moment as he thinks of the right word. "Useful, shall we say?"
"I'll bet," Harry mutters. He glances at Rosier, who winces at Harry in a gesture of sympathy. Suddenly, Harry thinks he is beginning to understand why Rosier is afraid of Sebastian. The two haven't exchanged more than two words in public, though Harry doesn't know if they have exchanged any words at all in private. Harry wonders if it would be appropriate to ask Evan about it, or if that would be prying.
When Lucius' eyes open, it is sudden. Gabriel is at his side instantly. Lucius pushes him away and sits up on his own slowly. His gaze momentarily locks on Harry, who finds his breathing suddenly arrested. Lucius' gaze moves on. Sebastian squeezing his hand serves as a reminder to Harry to breathe again. He feels a crushing sense of disappointment, but it disappears before it shows on his face, courtesy of Sebastian. Instead, Harry feels a grim spark of hope. Lucius had said nothing. Maybe that was better than open contempt? Or perhaps he had settled on ignoring Harry? It doesn't matter, Harry tells himself. Harry is going to say his piece whether Lucius wants to hear it or not. Once he has said it, he will be happy to let Lucius decide how to respond, but not until then.
Lucius gives perfunctory answers to Gabriel's questions about his current state of health. His voice is low, but steady. Lucius murmurs thanks to the various well wishes of the others and not wanting to tire him, the others slip out of the room, leaving Harry and Gabriel, who glances from Lucius to Harry and mutters something about seeing that the house elves prepare a suitable meal for Lucius before skedaddling out of the room and shutting the door behind him.
At the sound of the bedroom door closing, a stone settles in Harry's stomach. "You don't look well, Mr. Potter," Lucius says, at length. "Have you been ill?" Harry dares to look up to find Lucius' facial expression to be carefully neutral. His illness has paled his skin and hollowed his cheeks a little, but far from subtracting from Lucius' appeal, these things only added a vulnerable edge to his beauty. How unfair, Harry thinks. Trust Lucius to come out of being poisoned into a coma looking good.
"No, I have not been ill; only worried," Harry replies, matching Lucius' courteous and distant tone.
"Worried?" Lucius echoes, raising an eyebrow. It seems as though he is daring Harry to explain.
"I was concerned for your health, Mr. Malfoy," Harry says, as coolly as possible, resisting the urge to pull his own hair out. Lucius allows his brow to wrinkle slightly and purses his lips a bit.
"Concern for my health has been causing you this much distress? But why, Mr. Potter? What am I to you that you should care?"
"You are… family," Harry replies. The word tastes strange in mouth. He has never said that word without a bitter sense of loss and regret, but this time it feels different. This time there is hope in his uttering. It is a fragile hope, but it is there. Lucius' eyes narrow.
"Come here," he says. Harry rises and walks to Lucius' bedside. He takes the seat Gabriel has stationed there.
"You're wearing the brooch," Lucius says quietly. He reaches for it. Harry does not say anything. He cannot say anything. Cannot seem to make his body obey his command. Talk! Lucius hand brushes Harry's lapel, traces the silver serpent lazily with one finger. Harry can feel the heat of Lucius' skin through the fine cotton of his shirt, and that momentary contact is enough to break his paralysis.
"Yes, I am. I want to apologize for our last conversation." The words come out in a rush of breath. "Our last few conversations," Harry adds. Lucius's brows knit together, as if he is trying to remember what Harry is referring to. His brow smoothes suddenly as he recalls. He leans back amongst the pillows. The movement is graceful, even though Harry knows the exertion must have been great for Lucius.
"Ah, yes, those conversations," he says, dreamily, regretfully. Harry winces.
"I said horrible, hurtful things. Things that I didn't mean—"
"That's enough, Mr. Potter," Lucius says, cutting him off. His face hardens. Suddenly he is cold and remote. Harry feels his heart sinking. Is Lucius so upset that he won't even let Harry apologize, won't even listen?
"It's not enough," Harry continues. "I told one awful lie, in particular—"
"That's enough!" Lucius insists. He looks pained for one fleeting second, and Harry understands. Lucius doesn't even want to think about their last conversations. Even thinking of them for the time it would take Harry to apologize is hurting Lucius. Harry puts his head in his hands. He has not considered that possibility. He is at a loss as to how to proceed.
"You aren't doing this out of some misplaced guilt over a poorly timed accident, are you?" The cold courtesy is gone from Lucius' voice. Lucius voice is tentative, soft. Harry looks up from behind the shield of his hands.
"Your poisoning was an accident?" Harry asks. Lucius gives a slightly sheepish smile that Harry finds annoyingly charming, as everything about Lucius is annoyingly charming to Harry right now. He wonders if that's because he is just so grateful that Lucius is alive and awake or if he has simply forgotten how charming Lucius could be.
"This is embarrassing to admit, Mr. Potter, but I became thoroughly drunk after our last conversation and in my impaired state of judgment failed to remember that fermented heartsease is poisonous. Most love potions simply lose effectiveness altogether after the brewer is dead."
"You knew the bottle was spiked, yet you still drank it?" Harry raises his eyebrows. It sounds like the sort of thing Draco would have condemned as "reckless Gryffindor stupidity." Oddly, it makes Harry angry.
"Impaired state of judgment," Lucius repeats firmly, but decidedly not looking at Harry, who suddenly feels very responsible for Lucius' impaired state of judgment, if despair can rightly be called an "impaired state of judgement."
"Why was your wife trying to slip you a love potion anyway?" Harry grumbles, irrationally angry at Narcissa. If the bottle hadn't been poisoned, Harry would not have had to suffer the pain of nearly losing Lucius or the newfound guilt of realizing he was the reason he had almost lost Lucius. Sebastian and Lestrange had been right about that. Harry had almost lost the last thing he had to his own cowardice. He can admit that now, but not without feeling his stomach churn with self-loathing.
"Narcissa's illness was a long and difficult one. She wanted to be sure that I would stay with her and love her until the end," Lucius says carefully. Harry is so startled that Lucius answered his question that it takes him a moment to respond.
"Yet you never drank the potion—while she was alive," he amends.
"I didn't need it," Lucius says evenly, meeting Harry's gaze. Harry allows himself a small nod of respect and understanding. Lucius raises an eyebrow ever so slightly.
They stare at each other for a moment. Lucius looks at Harry carefully, as if waiting for him to change his mind or pull away. Harry simply stares back, biting back the apology that Lucius does not seem to want to hear. He waits for Lucius to say something else. He does not have to wait long.
"Are you sure that you want to do this? It won't be easy and many people will not like you for it. You will be tied to my house until all records crumble. Everything that is ours will be yours: our titles, our properties, our sins. Your reputation may not be enough to protect you from public backlash." Lucius tone is sharp. Harry is stunned at the harshness of Lucius' voice, but only momentarily.
"My reputation has never been enough to protect me from public backlash," Harry says with a roll of his eyes. "Are you trying to make me change my mind? I thought you wanted me to do this."
"I want you to do this willingly, and with your eyes wide open. Don't think this is a mere trifle or a formality, and don't think it will be something you can back out of lightly once it is done," Lucius tone is still sharp. Harry feels the anger rising in him. He clenches his fists and looks away. How dare Lucius think that Harry wasn't taking this seriously? "Do not martyr yourself on my account, or Draco's, Mr. Potter. It's not something either of us want for you." Lucius voice is soft, but clear. Harry's anger fades and he nods once, before meeting Lucius' eyes.
"You understand the responsibilities and duties of the Malfoy heir?" Lucius asks.
"Yes," Harry replies, wincing slightly at the memory smacked in the head with the Codex Augustine.
"You accept these duties?" Lucius asks. There is a bare hint of suspicion in Lucius' voice. Harry allows himself a small grin of grim triumph. This part of the conversation he is prepared for.
"Yes, by right of choice and by right of blood—both the blood that Draco spilled on my behalf and the blood oath we've sworn to one another—I claim the position of Malfoy heir," Harry says smoothly. It is strange how suddenly his anxieties quiet after he says that last bit. I claim the position of Malfoy heir—and it is as if the world, which had been previously topsy-turvy, has righted itself again. No butterflies or stones in his stomach, no guilt or fear wreaking havoc in his head. Just a surprising calm and clarity.
"My word, you actually read the thing properly," Lucius says approvingly. Harry tries not to blush and rolls his eyes instead.
"I'm taking this very seriously and I'm trying to do it all properly," he says pointedly. Lucius nods.
"You will accept my instruction in this matter?"
"Yes, of course," Harry agrees readily.
"Then it is done," Lucius says, extending his hand. Harry takes it.
And nearly drops it in shock.
It burns, like a fever and it rushes through his veins swifter than any potion Harry's ever taken and it leaves him dizzy and breathless and aching for more—in short, it's everything Harry feels about Lucius condensed into one charged instant.
"What in the name of all that is magic was that?" Lestrange asks as he and his cousins burst into the room. Harry jerks back his hand from Lucius. If he had not been seated, he probably would be on his knees, stunned into collapse by the rush of emotions that have just hit him.
"What?" Harry asks, flexing his hand and trying to get himself to breathe normally.
"That feeling. It felt like I narrowly missed getting struck by lightening. The hair on the back of my neck is still standing on end," Lestrange explains. His eyes dart from Harry to Lucius and back to Harry again, demanding an answer.
"Harry is the Malfoy heir," Sebastian says calmly. He smiles. "I can feel it. The house is pleased—very pleased. Why?"
"The house is sentient?" Rosier asks in surprise. Sebastian looks startled to be directly addressed by Evan. So, still not talking then, Harry thinks dryly.
"Er… sort of. The magic of the house has moods. It happens in places where a lot of magic is concentrated for a very long time," Sebastian explains. Lestrange rolls his eyes, clearly uninterested.
"Yeah, it's great that the house is happy. Would someone like to explain what just happened? Lucius?" Trust Michael to want to get straight to the point.
"Harry and I are magically sympathetic," Lucius announces. The "of course" is silent, unspoken, but evident from his tone. Smug git, Harry thinks, inwardly rolling his eyes.
"You're not serious!" Michael says, eyes wide with incredulity.
"I am very serious," Lucius replies with a smile.
"Draco and I were sympathetic, but…" Harry trials off, shaking his head.
"It didn't feel like that?" Lucius asks, still smiling, except this time he's smiling at Harry.
"No, it didn't," Harry replies, feeling oddly flustered to see Lucius smile at him in such a warm and open way. For a moment, Harry regrets even thinking that Lucius is a smug git. Surely smug gits can't smile like that, as if Harry has given Lucius the greatest gift ever?
"There are many theories on sympathetic magic. Some say that you can be partially sympathetic to people who are related to the one you are truly sympathetic. Others say that family members are naturally sympathetic to one another. Sympathetic heirs make the best choice even amongst family members. My guess is that, since Draco and I were largely sympathetic, you were somewhat sympathetic to him, but you're truly sympathetic to me."
"But when you and I have touched before, it's never felt like that."
"Well, your glamour would have altered your magical signature—changed you slightly. Did you notice any new talents as Scryer?"
"I wasn't as abysmal at divination," Harry says with a shrug. "But we touched before the glamour changed me, too."
"Sympathetic magic is meant to a binding force. When sympathetic partners are fighting one another—"
"The force is weakened, but the two partners are drawn together, even if in conflict," Harry says, quoting from Draco's favorite book, the one Harry had shared with Sebastian.
"The contact accompanying such confrontation being necessary to satisfy the magical forces at work," Lucius finishes the quote, continuing to smile generously at Harry.
Pieces of Harry's life seem to click into place almost audibly: his attraction to Draco and Lucius, his inability to resist being drawn into bickering matches with Draco, the deep satisfaction he got from negotiating with Lucius during the war, why Lucius pursued him so doggedly.
"This is the first time you and I have met without being at odds somehow," Harry says. Lucius nods.
No, they are not at odds anymore. He and Lucius are family now by some weird twist of magic and fate--and by choice, Harry reminds himself. He has chosen Lucius, just as Lucius and Draco had chosen him.
"This is wonderful!" Gabriel says, being the first to recover from the shock. He beams as if he truly can't imagine anything greater.
"Yes, it is," Rosier agrees, smiling warmly.
"Now we can have you cast all the healing charms on Lucius. Since you are magically sympathetic, they'll take better if you cast them," Gabriel says, collapsing into an available chair.
"You're just making that up," Harry accuses.
"What? You don't want to play nursemaid to Uncle Lucius?" Sebastian asks. Everyone turns to look at Harry with faces full of faux seriousness. Harry huffs in defeat.
"Fine," he says. "I'll cast the charms, but I draw the line at sponge baths."
"Sure, take all the fun out of being an invalid, why don't you?" Lucius says in a leisurely drawl. Harry glares at Lucius even as he feels a blush creep across his face. Lucius' expression is placid, giving away nothing. As usual, Harry can't tell whether or not Lucius is serious.
You know how it works, darlings. Read and review. Comments and criticisms welcome!