Title: Spies, Lies, and Innocent Lives

Author: Perse

Rating: PG

Category: Drama, Angst

Summary: Voldemort has made his attempt on baby Harry, failed, and disappeared. Behind closed doors Lucius Malfoy fumes, and Severus Snape holds his old friend's toddler son and ponders his own view of the events.

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.

Author's Note: This is just a short little thing that came to me after I wrote "Penance." Thanks to all of you who reviewed! I'm thinking of doing some more little one-shots about Snape's relationship with the Malfoys throughout Draco's childhood. Let me know what you think!

.......................

November 1, 1981

Lucius Malfoy was turning an odd shade of purple. His lips were pressed together in a thin line and he was hardly breathing with the effort to hold in his anger until they had reached the security of Malfoy Manor.

Severus Snape trailed him closely, trying to keep up appearances. When he had first heard the news that the Dark Lord had been defeated, he'd felt shock and disbelief. But as the reports got stronger and more concrete, he'd begun to feel a wash of relief. Now, it was taking every ounce of control he had to keep the mask of a loyal death eater in place.

Needless to say, Lucius did not share this relief. The blond man led the way into his house and then slammed the door shut behind Severus.

The sound reverberated throughout the large old house and promptly triggered another sound—the cries of Lucius' young son. Severus shut his eyes briefly, knowing that Lucius hated the crying on a good day. At this point it would probably make him snap.

Sure enough, there was now a vaguely murderous glint in his already angry eyes. "Narcissa! Can't you do anything about that boy?!" he roared.

Being as it was just after 4 am, Severus doubted that Narcissa was even awake. He knew that she too tended to do badly with Draco's crying, and she routinely used a spell to soundproof the master bedroom at night. It was usually only the house elves that responded to the toddler's nocturnal cries, if anyone came at all. If Severus dared to express his opinion on the matter, he would suggest that this was a big part of why Draco was such an unhappy child around his parents.

The cries continued. Lucius had thrown his cloak onto a couch in the drawing room and was now changing course towards the nursery, murderous look still present. Severus cut off his path. "You should break the news to Narcissa. Let me get him for you," he offered, trying to seem as calm and non-threatening as possible.

Lucius glanced from Severus to the direction of the crying and back again. He visibly regained a bit of control. "Yes, thank you Severus. I do have other things to attend to."

He turned away. Severus watched him go, presumably to wake Narcissa, as he headed towards the other wing where their bedroom was located.

Snape shook his head, still shocked that they'd practically given the 15-month old his own wing so far from them. He expected that had backfired a bit when they had found out just how much noise echoed in this old house. Still, he had no doubt that the boy would grow up as master of that wing. He had Lucius to train him after all.

That was not a comforting thought.

With a sigh, Severus returned to the front hall to hang up his own cloak and then headed up the stairs. He was still reeling from the night's events and hadn't really had a chance to process things yet, but step one had to be calming Draco. He didn't want the boy to become the target of Lucius' plentiful rage.

He soon entered the dark nursery and murmured a soft "Lumos." As a soft light illuminated the room he easily made out the crib and headed for it. Little fingers were closed around the edge and a blonde head poked up as Draco stood on the mattress, trying to see who had come for him. He was still crying. When he recognized Severus he released the crib, lost his balance and toddled back a few steps, arms held out in the universal sign for "hold me."

Severus had never seen him hold his arms out for Lucius.

Severus reached for him, lifting him and settling him on his hip. Draco latched onto him automatically, little fists grasping the neck of his robes. Severus cradled him close. The cries instantly eased, though it still took a few minutes for him to calm down.

He really didn't need to do anything except hold him. Draco was quite attached to him and almost always responded to his affection.

The feeling was mutual. He had become very attached to Draco as well. He wasn't the type to be good with children; he'd never thought that he would be. But he cared a great deal for this one, more than he would have dreamed possible before he'd met him.

He still wasn't exactly sure how it had happened. But once he'd turned to the light, he'd struggled with his emotions even as he hid them at all costs. Immersing himself in the darkness had left him dealing with constant temptations to turn back and made his soul incredibly heavy. But he'd continued to spend a great deal of time with the Malfoys, and eventually he'd realized that the presence of the child gave him hope. This innocent little boy reminded him that there was good outside these walls and that it was worth his efforts to help it.

When the cries had almost stopped, Draco stuffed his thumb into his mouth. As the boy snuggled against his shoulder, still sniffling softly, Severus heard Narcissa's voice join Lucius' below. He drifted towards the nursery door so he could better hear his two old friends.

"Must you do that now?"

"Yes, Narcissa! Things will move very quickly now. The bloody idiots at the Ministry will scramble for the control they lost and come looking for anyone they can pin blame upon!"

And now Severus knew that Lucius must have opened the secret chamber beneath the drawing room floor. He was cleansing the house of anything incriminating. While he had plenty of power in the community, even he could not afford to be caught with dark arts paraphernalia right now. He was right; the Ministry would soon be out for blood.

Narcissa spoke again, seemingly still in shock about the situation. "So he killed both of the Potters, but then the boy..." she trailed off in disbelief.

"Yes. The prophecy wasn't complete, but this is ludicrous. How could he be defeated by a child? A stupid child, not even old enough to flick a wand at him?!"

Draco had begun to cry again in response to the anger in his father's loud voice. Severus hushed him softly and retreated into the room, closing the nursery door. With a bit of maneuvering he pulled out his wand and spelled the room such that they could no longer hear the raised voices below. He could have used a spell on the child as well, but he got the impression that that happened all too often around here. He replaced his wand and went back to comforting the boy, trying to soothe him back to sleep.

As he paced slowly back and forth, his thoughts drifted. He might not share Lucius' anger, but he certainly had a point. They were talking about a child, one a bit younger than the one he now held. How was it possible?

And yet it had apparently happened. A few moments alone with a toddler—the child of James Potter, no less—and Lord Voldemort might actually be gone. He would never have dared to hope that the escalating war would be so easily thwarted.

But the problems were far from over. Even if the Dark Lord was really gone, it would be very difficult to tell who had been on which side. He was fairly certain that even the innermost circle of death eaters did not know everyone who had been serving Voldemort.

Case in point: there was a traitor somewhere in the Order of the Phoenix. Someone who had fed the Dark Lord information on the Potters' whereabouts; someone Severus had not known about. But Dumbledore had known to take precautions with them—which suggested that the spy was someone very close to the Potters.

He defined "very close" in terms of the Potters by a small circle of four. When he thought of those men he could only see them as the cocky, cruel idiots he had known as students. The mental picture made him stiffen and Draco, who had been drifting back to sleep, awoke and whimpered as he sensed something wrong.

Severus instinctively forced himself to relax and softly soothed Draco once more. His thoughts, however, did not shift. Of the three survivors of that little gang, he tried to decide which was the most likely traitor. Despite his lycanthropy, Lupin lacked the cruel streak that the others possessed. Pettigrew was enthralled with the power they wielded, but he didn't have the spine or the intelligence to keep up that kind of act.

It had to be Black. While it was hard to imagine Black betraying Potter, there was no doubt that he was the most inclined towards darkness.

Severus wondered if Dumbledore would be willing or able to see the truth here. He'd always seemed to have a blind spot where those four were concerned.

Severus sighed. He'd been uncomfortable with this whole mess from the beginning. The mere thought of the superior James Potter still made his stomach turn, even now that the man was dead. He still hated those four, especially Potter and Black, with an intensity that unsettled him.

Draco whimpered again, and Severus abruptly realized that he had tightened his grip almost painfully. He quickly loosened it, adjusting his hold and rubbing the child's back in comfort. Draco shifted, nestling his head under Severus chin, yawning, and contentedly popping the thumb back in his mouth.

Severus remembered very distinctly when he'd first heard that Voldemort was concerned over a prophecy about a child. He'd thought about this child. Then he'd found it incredibly difficult to appear detached when they started discussing killing the subject of the prophecy before he was old enough to be a threat.

Then he'd found out that Voldemort had zeroed in on the Potter boy.

He'd struggled with what to do. Was it worth the risk to go to Dumbledore at the height of Voldemort's vigilant planning? Especially if Dumbledore had a spy in his own inner circle. The dark part of him that still felt that hatred had whispered that the Potters weren't worth it.

But there was a child at stake. A child no bigger than the one he now held. He'd eventually decided that no innocent young child deserved to die at Voldemort's hand, whomever his parents might be. So he'd warned Dumbledore.

For all the good it had done.

He shifted the boy in his arms so he could see his face. Draco's big gray eyes were closed, his breathing settling out evenly. With soft and careful motions, Severus went back to the crib and gently lowered the child back into it. He covered him with his blanket and kept a hand on him, patting his back until he was certain the boy was settled and would remain asleep.

His turn back to the light had marked great changes in him. But this child had done the impossible, and softened some part of his heart.

If Voldemort was really gone, if this was really over—he might finally be able to walk away from all of the death eaters and darkness. He might soon be able to stop pretending with Lucius Malfoy.

But he looked at the innocent little boy in the crib, thinking of how he would be raised by Lucius and Narcissa...Severus had once honestly called Lucius a friend, but even then he would never have trusted a child in his hands. He knew now that he would never be able to turn his back on the Malfoys. Some illusions, at least, would have to be kept.

He patted Draco one last time, murmured a soft "Nox," and slowly backed from the room. Then he headed back downstairs to continue acting concerned and angry over the fallen Dark Lord.

.........................