Edit 7/22/07 - This story was completed before the release of Book Seven, and many details are no longer canonically accurate. As it is my belief that alteration can only weaken the story, these discrepancies, where they exist, remain.

Title: Lucifer in Starlight
Rating: PG for memories of some not-quite-in-wedlock activity
Disclaimer: All characters and places used herein are the exclusive right and literary property of JK Rowling and her executors, lawyers, etc. I am a Textual Poacher.

"Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reached a middle height; and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law."

-- George Meredith, from Lucifer in Starlight

The Forbidden Forest is always cold at night, as I learned myself from many years of gathering ingredients here. If tonight it seems colder, and darker, than usual, well -- foolish imagination, no doubt. Nothing more.

A hiding place further away from Hogwarts might have been better. But I dared not apparate too far away from Hogwarts' protective influence; the Dark Lord would have been quick to sense such a movement, and to send servants after us. But here, where the Forest's own magic mixes with the Castle's -- here, I think, we are safe for the night. The Order will not think to look so close, practically beneath the Castle's very walls. Certainly they will not look here tonight, and tomorrow the boy and I will be gone.

I gathered wood and started a fire the Muggle way, with sparks and tinder; a fire that will need tended all night to keep it from dying. No magic blazes tonight -- we can't afford the chance that something from the forest would sense it. The last thing we need is the Centaurs here. The boy said nothing after we apparated in the forest, only huddled at the firelight's edge and rubbed constantly at his left arm, glancing worriedly into the darkness for pursuers. It reminded me painfully of another boy, long years gone; and I was glad when the night's exhaustion finally overtook him. Now he sleeps fitfully by the fireside and I sit tending the flames, planning our next move.

The boy and I are refugees, now; there is no other word for it. I stare through the fire and try to think of any familiar place we might take refuge. There are eyes everywhere, both the Dark Lord's and the Order's. We cannot go to Hogsmeade, which is nearest. Neither Diagon nor Knockturn Alley will be safe, for there will be Ministry spies in the one and Death Eater spies in the other. And we certainly cannot go to Spinner's End; the Dark Lord's people will burn it to the ground before the week is out. I am sorry for the loss of my books -- but there is too much lost in this night to spend time regretting any of it.

Malfoy Manor is even more treacherous; Narcissa hadn't the courage to shield her son before he -- we -- disobeyed the Dark Lord, and she will not have it now. If anything she'll be desperate to deflect His wrath. Narcissa will offer me up without question, a substitute target for His displeasure; and if I fall, the boy will too. We are that joined in this.

Curse Narcissa and her pleading! She knew, somehow; knew, and turned it against me. She knew, did weeping, pleading, treacherous Narcissa; she knew I wouldn't refuse her, her and her Unbreakable Vows. Perhaps she brought Bellatrix along as precaution, reasoning that goading would work where pleading failed. But she didn't need Bella's help, not really; and she bloody well knew it.

I was a fool in this, of course. I acted the part neither of a wise spy nor of a proper Death Eater; I let myself be led by illogical emotion, by petty foolish weakness, by that most treacherous of all guides, my heart. I let Narcissa manipulate my most foolish, my most secret thoughts; I took the bait, and now the boy and I are well and truly trapped. I let her draw me into a pit, one I could not climb back out of; and it was Albus Dumbledore who died there.

Dumbledore. Oh, gods, Merlin, Morgana; Dumbledore. The one man in this world who might have been said to feel anything for me but a thinly veiled dislike or indifference. Aside from one long-vanished night when I wore someone else's face, Dumbledore was the only thing that ever made me feel . . . connected. Trusted. As if I had something besides myself.

And he is dead now at my hand for a thousand bad reasons, for a boy who is not my son, for an Unbreakable Vow I should have refused to make. Severus . . . please . . .

I'll be cursed if I know what he was asking me.

The boy cries out suddenly, flinging his arms out to protect himself from an unseen enemy. "Don't! Don't . . . Potter!" Malfoy's features twist, not in the familiar sneer but in fright; and then he subsides back into his fitful dreams.

Potter. Even now I can see his face twisted with hate, trying and failing to spit Unforgivables at me, raging and bleeding and grieving. And yet, somewhere, behind all those things, was triumph. He was right about me, he had always been right, and nobody had listened; that was what that triumphant look crowed, and it was that more than even the hatred that twisted his face to look like James'. James' face, James' hatred, James' words -- COWARD! -- and Lily's eyes. It was only Lily's eyes that kept me from hurting him tonight.

There were a thousand reasons I hated James Potter. Lily Evans was not the only one of them -- oh, but she was the greatest one of them. There was in her eyes some whisper of a ghost of what might have been, had James and I switched places, had I only had words and a way to say them. I hated and loved Lily for that whisper in her eyes. And it was my words in the Dark Lord's ear that silenced that whisper, closed those eyes forever. Forever, or so I thought.

But Fate has a cruel sense of irony; it put her eyes in James' face to mock me --forever -- with what I killed. Is it any wonder I couldn't bear to look at him? The Boy Who Lived. The living testament to my dead enemy, who had been and had everything I never could be or have. How could I help but loathe the sight of Potter, when Lily's beautiful lost eyes watched me from James' cursed face? And I did hate, not him but the sight of him; because it reminded me that James had held her, and that I never would have and never would. She would never have loved me, never looked at me as she did at him; but if only she had, if only . . . .

It might have been my face with Lily's eyes, mine instead of my buried enemy's. Potter might have had my face.

Malfoy might have had my eyes.

The boy whimpers and stirs in his sleep and his hair falls across his forehead. Lucius' hair, Lucius' forehead; his hands, his face, his sneer, and curse you, Severus, you fool, for ever imagining they were anything else. The boy is like Lucius, not just in form but in feature; too like to be anything but blood, as I well knew when I first set eyes on him. And yet . . . strike me blind for a fool, and yet . . . .

It had been simple enough, the Polyjuice Potion; it was the dark days at the first war's end and I was often a guest at Malfoy Manor. Lucius' "friend", Dumbledore's spy, already walking the razor-edge of betrayal; it was no great effort to take the draught on a night when Lucius was quietly and suddenly called away. One night, one, only once, wearing Lucius' face, his body; not because I loved her but because I coveted her, because for only a single night I wanted to feel what it was like to be Lucius. To be someone besides myself, to have someone besides myself, for one night.

And months, nearly a year, later, at the christening; looking into the infant's face, for a moment -- Severus, you idiot -- I imagined I saw my own eyes, fleeting, there. Not long enough to matter; and next moment they were Lucius' eyes again. But part of me wished, wished though the timing was impossible, wished though the infant became a boy who was Lucius in miniature.

This is what Narcissa knew, or sensed; that I though more of this boy than I let on. This is what she used to lure me to the path that killed Dumbledore. And Narcissa knew this was one lure I would not, could not, refuse. Coward she may be, but stupid? No. Couched cleverly in terms of friendship, Narcissa struck deep at my wish, my hope, my stupidity. And I -- fool that I was -- I let her strike. Because I know the boy is not mine.

Sometimes, sometimes, fools that we are, we will fight harder for what we wish was ours that for what is.

I set myself to protect Malfoy because I wished he were my son; I set myself against Potter because I knew he never could be. The gods I don't believe in have a delicious flair for ironic justice. Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter are not my sons. They will never know it, but it makes them brothers.

They will be the death of me, these two boys who are not my sons. If the one does not lead me to my death the other will kill me for my hand in tonight's events; and like as not they will kill each other, too. Certainly they will always hate one another, divided as James Potter and I were divided; never dreaming, either one of them, how closely they are bound in spite of and because of that hatred.

I wonder, when Potter finds me -- and sooner or later, find me he will -- if he will wait for an explanation. I wonder if he will use Cruciatus to rip me apart, fueled by rage that will by then have had time to simmer. I wonder if he will simply cast the Killing Curse, the one I cast tonight.

I wonder if in those moments before he kills me I will have time to explain what I have done. What I have chosen. What I have felt.

I wonder. But Potter will go after the Dark Lord, first; and the time when he comes for me is in the future still. Perhaps not far; but farther than tonight and tomorrow. Farther than this cold forest and the boy asleep besides the dying fire. And if Potter is to have the chance at killing me, I first must keep myself -- and the boy, too -- out of the Dark Lord's grasp.

I have blackened myself in the Dark Lord's eyes; I usurped the task He set for another servant. I have seen Death Eaters die for such usurpations, and those of far lesser tasks than the death of Albus Dumbledore. I killed a man He wanted Malfoy to kill, and if He catches us we will both die for our crimes. I for my disobedience, Malfoy for his failure: and neither will be an easy death. And so He must not catch us; nor must the Ministry, nor the Order, nor Potter if I can help it. We must outrun them all.

Us, we, our. Words that I, in a long life lived mostly alone, have rarely had use for. Signs of a solidarity I never thought to share with the boy who sleeps on the other side of the fire.

I took the Unbreakable Vow that doomed us because for years I have wished secretly and foolishly that Malfoy were bound to me. It seems -- ironically, tragically -- to have finally come true. For the boy is bound to me now, and I to him -- not by the now-broken Unbreakable Vow, not by the nonexistent strain of secret blood, but by something much deeper.

We are not Death Eaters, not anymore; cast from the light, barred from the black, banished to the razor-edged gray area in between, Malfoy -- Draco -- and I are bound most simply by the fact that we have no one else. I pity him, this fatherless boy -- for he has always been fatherless, not just since Lucius was imprisoned. I pity him that the only other person in his world should be me. I am no excuse for a father, and would not have been even if he were my son. But I am all he has, now, to stand between him and the Dark Lord's wrath, between him and the Order's terribly blind justice.

Potter has his friends: Granger with her absurd store of knowledge, Weasley with his unshakeable, pigheaded loyalty, even Longbottom with his fumbling, unconscious, ridiculously deep-seated courage. Draco Malfoy has only me.

Though I will never teach again, he is still my student; and Albus Dumbledore died for that dissolved Unbreakable Vow. If anything, that makes it permanently binding. I swore to protect him, and I must see it through. The boy is mine, now, as surely as if he had been conceived on that one night when I wore Lucius' face. He is mine to shelter, if I can; to save, if I can, from the darkness he almost gave himself to. Against all laws of reason and nature, that same capricious Fate that put Lily's eyes in James' face has struck me again. It has made Draco Malfoy my son.

Merlin now help me to keep him.

The End