A/N – You may recognize this. I did have it up in Speculations, but I have decided to give it a separate home of its own. Just the first chapter is up – I'm not sure whether I should leave it as it as a oneshot, or continue and try to make a story out of it.
For all those who have never seen this before, Brandon Andenais is part of my own particular canon, the founder of High Clan Malfoy more than two and a half thousand years ago. This story blithely ignores any canon after OotP.
Disclaimer – I don't own HP, any of the canon characters or concepts. Don't sue. I do own Brandon Andenais. The idea of the Void I borrowed from David Gemmell. The idea of a line that would never die I borrowed from Tolkien.
Lucius Malfoy was dying. There was no mistake – the last vicious kick to the head had cracked his skull, and mounting cranial pressure and internal haemorrhaging would eventually ensure that he never opened his eyes again. It was an ignoble end for such a fastidiously elegant man as Lucius – beaten to death by the prison wardens of Azkaban, twisted, vicious wretches who reveled in crude, degrading brutality.
Still, there were worse ways to die, and in his time Lucius had ensured that many, many others experienced them firsthand. Perhaps it was only just. But looking down at him, at the bruised and battered face, at the dimmed and dampened flickering of his spirit, Madame Pomfrey found it hard to accept that view.
It would not be long now – what did he have to live for, anyway? His son was dead, and his wife with him, in the attack that had signaled the beginning of the Ministry's new campaign to push back at the Death Eaters. He had been imprisoned for the better part of a year in wretched conditions, and at the mercy of sadistic, vengeful gaolers.
Even if he survived this attack, there would be others, and others after that – he had a lifetime of such struggles to look forward to, and like all truly pureblooded wizards, his lifetime could stretch into a century and a half, or even more. So Madame Pomfrey found herself torn between two conflicting impulses – on the one hand, her vow as a mediwitch to preserve and prolong life as long as she could, and on the other the urge to merciful euthanasia.
She spared a moment to wish that this mess had never landed in her lap at all – a guilty thought, hastily suppressed – but the last six months had seen an intensification of hostilities and St. Mungo's was filled beyond its capacity. All other infirmaries and sickrooms that could possibly house patients were put to use, and it was only sheer bad luck that Fudge still valued Malfoy enough to insist that he be healed – no doubt so that he could divulge the location of all his hidden millions.
Unfortunately for Fudge, Lucius would not be divulging anything ever again.
"Well, Poppy?" Severus Snape asked quietly, his eyes on the broken and battered remnants of a once-proud man. "Can you heal him?"
Pomfrey shook her head. "No. The injuries are too severe; he will not wake again." She hesitated, and then said quietly, "I'm sorry. I know he was a friend…"
"A friend…?" Snape's mouth twisted wryly. "Not truly. Say rather an amusing companion – there was little enough trust between us at the best of times."
She put a hand on his arm, squeezed a little, and smiled when he ostentatiously ignored her. There had been a time, once, when he would have pulled away and given her a withering tongue-lashing for such presumption – but time and resignation had mellowed him to the point where he could tolerate affectionate gestures, if not acknowledge or return them.
"I'll leave you with him, then," she said, rising to her feet. "It won't be long, and Merlin knows there'll be no one else." She looked down at Malfoy's white, pale face, so empty of all the normal charisma and character, and sighed. "He was in his fifth year when I first took over the Infirmary at Hogwarts. It seems so long ago, now…"
Snape said nothing, so she left him with his silent vigil, waiting for Lucius Malfoy to die.
Here, in the intermediate place between life and death, in the Void that was the ultimate destination for those who believed in nothing but themselves, Brandon Andenais, called Faithless, called Unbeliever, watched and waited for another of his children to die.
It had been a very long time since he had walked the earth himself, since he had died of old age in his own bed, surrounded by his family and successors – one would think, from such a good death, that he had led a particularly virtuous life, but it was not so. He had burned and slaughtered and killed his way to land and power, and had bought that peaceful death with the blood of his enemies. He had no regrets – he had achieved what he had set out to achieve, and he had left behind him a strong successor to take on his responsibilities.
What more was asked of a man? He had never taken a woman by force, or slain a child, and only once in all his life had he ever broken his word. He had been called a butcher, a murderer, a tyrant and a demon, but he had never (besides that one, unforgivable broken vow) strayed beyond the bounds of his own code of honour. He had made his own rules and he had lived by them. But that had been, in the reckoning of mortal men, thousands of years ago – from what little he had seen of the world now, men had clouded the very few absolutes of life in qualifications, justifications, and a web of ultimately empty rhetoric…
This Lucius, the latest of his line, had chartered a notoriously erratic course through a life he had made impossibly complex – his thoughts ran with torturous twists through lies and deception, ambition and betrayal, and Brandon could only marvel at the convoluted labyrinth of his mind. In the very centre of the mental labyrinth, however, there was a tranquil, green land that he recognized as the valley he had taken for his own so many years ago, and a white haired boy lying twisted and shattered on the ground, his youth and potential forever silenced in a moment of utter foolishness. And if Brandon thought that the rest of Lucius' mind was too complex, too complicated, then at least he understood the image of the boy and the valley.
There was at least some honour left in him, then – honour, and a desperate knowledge that there was something left undone, something still to be achieved. His only son was dead, and there were no others of the blood; he could not die in this manner, leaving the vultures to gloat over the end of his House…
In the twilight between light and death, Brandon Andenais held some small power still. Reaching out to his descendant, to his child, no matter how distant, he extended a chance, an opportunity to see things set right before the end –
Eyes widening in awed recognition, Lucius (who was dying even now, his brain faltering and failing) took the proffered hand and accepted the exchange.
Lucius' heartbeat faltered even as Severus watched, his breath slowed and the dark, chill presence of death hovered above the bed, waiting to welcome the last Malfoy home. Forever afterwards, he would swear that Lucius' heart stopped, and the dark shadow engulfed him –
But then his eyes snapped open, and he sucked in a huge, gasping breath, muscles convulsing in shock. The strange seizure lasted a few seconds more, and then he collapsed back on the bed, breathing hoarsely.
In the course of his life, Severus had seen many strange things, both wondrous and horrible, but this time he was genuinely shocked. Lucius had died. He had seen and dealt enough death to recognize it, and there had been absolutely no doubt. But now…
He watched in fascination as Lucius forced himself to sit up – to sit up, when less than an hour before he had been smashed headfirst into a brick wall. And then he became aware of Severus' presence, and slowly turned his head to meet his eyes –
Malfoy silver, as they had always been. But Severus had known Lucius for more than forty years, and Lucius' eyes were cool, ironic and cynical, the eyes of a manipulator and a politician. These were not Lucius' eyes. Whoever – or whatever – inhabited that body, it was most definitely not Lucius.
Slowly, cautiously, he took several deep breaths and thought frantically, still caught by the spell of those eyes. Not-Lucius watched him just as intently, although with none of Severus' terror or shock. In fact, it seemed as though the other recognized him, however impossible that may be.
"Who are you?" he asked levelly, forcing himself to be as blasé as he could. "Where is Lucius?"
Not-Lucius watched him for a little longer, before inclining his head. He did not do it as Lucius had. He expressed himself differently to how Lucius had, and Severus found it hugely disconcerting. "It is fitting that you recognize the change," he said in the ancient tongue of the High Clan that was now spoken only by scholars and ghosts, "son of Sulan."
Sulan had been the name of the founder of House that had come to be called Snape.
"My father's name was Augustus," Severus replied in the same tongue, his voice faint, his accent very different to the other man's. "But don't you know? Can't you see…from his memories?"
Not-Lucius was growing more confident in his borrowed body, or else the flesh was accommodating itself to its new inhabitant. Where Lucius' mouth had always expressed irony so well, and the lines around his eyes had been of amusement, now that mobile mouth was slightly grim and the lines were crows-feet, born of squinting into the sun and of a hard, uncompromising life.
"Lucius is well and truly dead," he said quietly, his low, slightly rough voice unbelievably different to Lucius' smooth, flexible tones. "I have borrowed only his body; his memories have gone with him into the dark."
"Who are you?" Severus asked again. Who was this man who spoke only in the old tongue, and identified him not as Severus Snape, not as a Snape, but as 'son of Sulan'?
"My name is Brandon," Not-Lucius said. He smiled suddenly, in grim, bleak amusement. "I was born into House Andenais, but was cast off by them; when my enemies gave me another name I took it as my own and embraced it proudly. But I believe that they call my children by another name now…"
"Malfoy…" Severus breathed, half-shocked, half-accepting, as if he'd always suspected the truth. "You're Brandon Andenais. The Malfoy."
"Yes," he said solemnly. "Lucius did not want to die with so much left undone. He called out to me as he died, and our shared blood and Covenant allowed me access…" He shrugged. "He was the last of my line, but it was not supposed to be this way – the rules were relaxed, just this once."
Snape was still having trouble assimilating the fact that he was standing here talking to Brandon Andenais. Brandon Andenais. The great conqueror who had taken the isle of Alba for his own and established a dynasty that legend said would never die –
Except that it had. Draco had died, and Lucius too, and now there were no Malfoy left –none but the first, who had returned to the world two and a half thousand years after his death…