A/N: Long, long, long wait. Thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed this. Will try my best to finish.

Chapter 25: My Father

There was a renewed vigour in the castle in the days following Lucius' unexpected arrival.

There seemed to be a whisper in the air. We have a chance. We can make this right.

Draco wasn't so sure, but he kept silent. Hermione was full of confidence and plans, and this was when he loved her best. He couldn't stop staring at her flushed cheeks, her shining eyes, couldn't help admiring her bossy demeanor and intelligent, sometimes downright wicked ideas.

True, they now had many advantages that Voldemort did not know about. They had a way into Ginny's mind and a way to know what the old bastard was up to. They knew where he was holed up in and now they knew all the secret entrances to the Malfoy Mansion; entrances, if Lucius were to be trusted, he doubted even Voldemort knew.

The problem was, he did not trust Lucius one bit.

If he were Lucius, he would have flown away from the British Isles the moment he got out of Azkaban. There was nowhere he was welcome. Not with his former Lord and Master, and certainly not with the Order. He had done too much, had hurt too many people.

Even if they did win, he would probably be thrown back into Azkaban for his past crimes. Was he hoping for a pardon? But then why would he place his bet on them? Despite their gains, the tide was still in Voldemort's favour. More importantly, Draco knew for a fact that Lucius despised the Order and all that it believed in. He had worked his whole life to overturn the peace that Potter had helped give them as a baby. He had been loyal to Voldemort right up to the day he was thrown into Azkaban for his crimes and left there to rot by his Master for his incompetence.

There was something else going on, some other game that Lucius was playing, and Draco was determined to find out what it was.

He strode into the Library while Hermione was at a training session with Neville and dismissed the two younger students who had been assigned as Lucius' guards. He sneered as they scampered away. The fact that Lucius was still here was not to their credit. Rather, it was a sign that he still wanted to be here. Of course, Hermione guessed this as well.

The library was silent and empty save for Lucius who was snoozing comfortably in a fat armchair. The sight of one of the most wanted criminals in Wizarding Britain almost drooling onto the upholstery cover might have been incongruous to some, but this was his father. The man he knew best.

He coughed discreetly, and it was all he needed to do for Lucius to open his eyes and jump out of the chair.

The first thing Lucius Malfoy did when he saw his son was to rush forward and embrace him. As he was enveloped into his father's arms, Draco was shocked to realize that all he felt was relief. Not anger, nor fear, nor suspicion. He was in his father's arms, and he knew that he was safe and loved.

He was equally shocked to realize that Lucius' once broad frame had wasted away. He felt uncomfortably bony, and smelt worse than he looked. His father had always smelled faintly of expensive cologne. His father was not a bag of skin and bones. His father's long hair had always been carefully combed by the house elves and perfumed. It was not tangled and dirty and sprinkled with nits.

'My boy…' Lucius murmured. 'My boy, my boy! What have they done to you? Are you well? If that Mudblood has hurt you in any way…'

At the word 'Mudblood' Draco pushed him gently away. A lot of things had changed since he last saw Lucius. He had always known that Lucius was a ruthless, cruel man, but he also knew that Lucius loved him. There were some things he needed Lucius to understand, and to accept.

'Hermione has not hurt me, Father. On the contrary, she has saved me many times. Father, I need you to think about her differently…'

'What do you mean?' Lucius asked suspiciously.

'I mean…I love her, Father. And she loves me. Please, please I need you to understand…'

But with every word, Lucius' expression just grew more and more outraged.

"Understand? You want me to understand? I escaped Azkaban and came all the way here to get you out of this place and now you ask me to understand? I can't believe you betrayed me like this. I thought it was a foolish crush you'd get over in time! You and your obsession with that Mudblood Granger!"

"Don't…!" Draco tried to calm himself down. He breathed slowly, but his heart was hammering. "Please don't call her that, Father. She is the woman I love."

"The woman you…" Lucius' face contorted into one of great rage, a terrible visage Draco had never before seen directed at him in his life.

"What do you know of love?' he hissed, 'You're nineteen! You're a child! I am your father! I will tell you whom you can and cannot love!'

Draco's patience had run out. The old angers came rushing back. Where were you Father, when Voldemort roasted Mother from the inside out? Where were you when Voldemort tortured me? His inability to change, to grow, even after all that had happened was astounding and yet predictable. When would he see that he had gone so wrong? Or was it a case of going all in, and refusing to see the light, lest he realize that the last forty years of his life were a waste?

'What do you know of love?' Draco said bitterly. 'You chose to follow a monster. You followed him and look where that got us? Look where that got Mother? If you knew what love was you would have protected us! You would have put our safety above your loyalty to a crazy demon!'

'How dare you!' Lucius thundered. 'How dare you say that! I loved your mother! I love you! Do you think I wouldn't have done something, if I were there? Your new friends got me into Azkaban! They are the ones responsible for your mother dying!'

'They are responsible? They are? And not Voldemort?'

At that Lucius seemed to deflate. He sat down shakily, and hid his head in his hands. And Draco should have felt vindicated. Everything that Draco ever wanted to say to Lucius had come tumbling out like vomit from a drunkard. And that should have made him feel better. But seeing Lucius so defeated just made him feel tired and sad.

'You don't think I haven't thought about it?' Lucius croaked. 'You don't think I don't hate him for it? I don't hate myself for it? I hate myself the most. I hate myself the most.'

'Then what do you want! Why are you here?'

Lucius looked so tired, so old. 'I came here to take you away. I came here to save you! Draco, please…please listen to me…'

His father was crying. His father was actually crying. 'Draco, I want you to leave with me.'

Draco felt his face twist. 'I won't leave Father! I can't leave! Don't you care about the Wizarding World? Even if you didn't care one bit for the people here, don't you care about what he did to Mother?'

'Of course, I care!' Lucius burst out angrily. 'You don't think I haven't thought about it? You don't think I hate him for it? How could you think me depraved enough to go crawling back to him? To ask for his pardon and offer my assistance after he killed the love of my life?'

'No, I'm asking you to leave with me because I know what you plan. And I know it will fail.'