Black Knight, White Knight
The blond wizard fingers the white knight on the board, and moves it forward.
"A2-C3," he says, the shadow of a smile on his lips.
A classical overture for a man with classical tastes. A sound move, a prelude to ineluctable success.
Severus frowns and stares at the black pieces on the board. The little black knight twists to him and shouts-
"Bring me forward, wizard!"
Even the chess pieces expect him to replicate Lucius' moves. And he never disappoints, does he?
He moves the little creature forward, not bothering to say it aloud, and for a moment the board is the picture of symmetry.
Engaging and harmonious.
Just like Lucius' face.
Then Lucius moves a pawn, and all is distorted again.
They play, and Severus loses. He is distracted, it is the first time he gets to see Lucius since the war has ended, and of course he wants the blond to win. That way he'll come back.
"I have some brandy," he says as a white knight finally advances towards the black king and draws his sword.
"Die!" it shouts, thrusting its weapon through the vanquished king's heart.
"No thank you, Severus. Narcissa should return home soon, I would hate to keep her waiting. The match was lovely, do you care to visit the Manor sometime, to have your revenge?"
The chess pieces fly all around the board, magically re-assembling themselves, taking back their opening stances.
"I would love to. Friday evening, as we used to?"
"Friday it is, then. It was good to see you, Severus."
He comes closer, as if to shake Severus' hand, and suddenly turns it into an awkward embrace.
"I missed our games over there, you know."
Severus can only nod before the other wizard Apparates away.
The smell of his cologne lingers in the air.
Severus adjusts his robes and Apparates. The Manor looks different from last time – older, the stone is grimy and the flower patches in the front have disappeared.
The inside is colder too, and he waits to be shown into the study to take off his cloak.
Lucius has his back turned to him when he comes in, but he greets Severus as he always has, mask firmly in place, affable, calm.
"Why don't you begin, this time?"
"The white always begins, you know."
"Take the white, then."
Severus looks up. In the twenty years of their acquaintance, he has never begun a game of chess.
He does this one. Lucius never looks up; he replicates the other wizard's moves, and Severus feels out of place. His role usually is to follow, not to lead.
The game is slow, and silent. Severus feels hollow – but then he has long known that he likes the friendly banter more than the game itself.
He wins, but he feels none of the pleasure he expected from all these years where Lucius outdid him at chess, and at Quidditch, and at seduction, and at everything else that mattered. Lucius does not smile, does not talk to him, and Severus misses that more than he usually misses victory.
The white queens lifts her wand and the black king falls, clutching his crotch with a last desperate scream.
Lucius must be thinking of Narcissa to stay so silent, all evening long. When he does not pay attention to Severus, it means his thoughts are on her.
"I have to go," Severus says, standing up. Lucius looks at him and begins to answer with none of his usual aplomb; he mutters a vague excuse and leaves.
He does not see the wistful look in Lucius' eye, but he feels his own loneliness, and feels guilty for it. He should have got used to it – after all these years, it was illusory to think their respective situations would ever change.
He is back in Spinner's End, but the tiny house feels as cold as the decaying Manor.
"This situation could not go on, you know."
The short, plump witch nods silently. Her sister never was one to be interrupted.
"Not once, not once since he's come back from that place. And it is not like I didn't try. I spent a fortune on Aubades."
Andromeda tries to look sympathetic and fails. She's always been jealous of her sister's figure.
"There must be some other woman."
Narcissa sniffs in the air.
"A Mudblood, no doubt. You know what they say about middle-aged wizards – they want variety, and they pick it from the gutter. I'm not criticising you, of course, I am sure your husband satisfies you, but Lucius should know better. He's had me, after all."
Andromeda bites her lip. She doesn't wish for Bellatrix to be here very often, but this is one of those moments. The art of girly talk and thinly veiled insults has always eluded her. To be fair, the venom does not feel too poisonous this time round, though…
"So, what will you do now?"
"I'm leaving him, of course, I'm not waiting for him to take that step." She sniffs in the air again. "I still have prospects, you know, and one of us at least should show a good example to Draco. If he's not going to..."
Ted comes into the room and smiles to Narcissa.
"Hello there! Dora's owl has just arrived, she says she'll come by this week-end, have a look for yourself, dear."
He hands the parchment to Andromeda and walks to Narcissa; they shake hands.
"So, is everything well at Malfoy Manor?" he asks.
"Fine, just fine, but I have to go now."
Narcissa takes her leave, and Andromeda does not insist on having her stay longer.
"You know you are always welcome here, if you do…"
Something flickers on Narcissa's face, and she nods stiffly. She takes one last look at the embracing couple, Ted's arm wrapped around her sister's thicker waist, her hand still clutching their daughter's letter; she takes some Floo powder, and disappears.
Andromeda turns back to her husband and whispers into his neck,
"You will never leave me, will you."
It is a statement.
"Don't let this upset you, dear. Something has always been amiss between those two; they are too perfect to be true. Don't worry for them, they'll be all right, they have Draco – and we have Dora. What do you want to do next week-end?"
His wife looks up to him and smiles. Dinner is ready, she can smell it; Ted loves her, she can feel it; Dora will be there soon, and all is well.
They walk to the kitchen, hand in hand.
Lucius does not want to lose, his brow is clenched and he does not speak. Severus sits back and watches him, watches how he tucks back an errant lock behind his ear and how he purses his lips in concentration.
They exchange bishops in a quick exchange of hexes, leaving little green streaks on the board, and the game begins for good. The two queens hover across each other, dominating the play as rooks and pawns disappear one after the other. Severus leads in position, but Lucius manages to trap the black queen, and Severus must sacrifice his last pawn to get his.
The board is empty but for a white knight, a black knight, and the kings. It is a draw.
"We've never had this before," Severus says.
"It is not the only thing we've never had before," Lucius replies, and his face has a strange expression.
"Narcissa left me this morning."
"You mean she left the Manor?"
"Yes, not to come back. She thinks I have a Mudblood lover hidden somewhere."
"Do you?" Severus cannot help but ask.
"If I had one, would I be coming here every evening?" Lucius says, but his question isn't really one.
Severus puts the game away and there is silence. He pours some more brandy and they drink in front of the fireplace.
"You could come to the Manor more often now. If you care for my company, that is."
Was that hesitation in his tone? Severus ignores it.
"Of course I do – we can't stay on a draw, can we?"
Lucius goes soon after that, but Severus will come to the Manor next evening, and Lucius to Spinner's End the day after.
That thought warms both of them up for what is left of the evening.
"Let's not play chess today," Lucius announces.
Lucius never asks, he announces and states and decrees. They are in Spinner's End, but the blond wizard speaks and acts as if he were the master of the house – he does that everywhere. Severus doesn't look at him in the eye. Is this the end, then? If Lucius doesn't want to play, what has he to do in Severus' miserable little house?
Lucius looks at him and Severus knows that his train of thought is no secret from his game partner, Occlumency or not.
"Why don't you have a higher opinion of yourself, Severus?"
"I am Dark and you know it."
"You spied for the Order for years, I only defaulted the other side at the last minute. I should be the dark one."
"And yet you aren't." Severus is calm, but his tone is firm.
"Are you saying we will always remain opposites?"
Severus nods, feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps not opposites, but certainly emanations of different realities. Tall, blond, rich, well-adjusted pure-bloods did not mix with the likes of him, not any more than they need to get what they want from him. His own desires and longings are irrelevant.
"I have obeyed first my father and then Voldemort for most of my life, Severus. It landed me in Azkaban. Now I am my own master. Free to do as I please, with those I choose. If they choose to be with me."
There is a pregnant pause. Lucius looks as close to being awkward as a Malfoy possibly can, and Severus puts all his might in keeping a poker face, the same face that helped him survive his years as a double agent.
"Isn't it time that we played together, then, instead of against each other?" Lucius whispers in the air, to no one in peculiar.
Severus wants to process the thought, to revel in the strong, deep warmth that floods through him at the realisation that Lucius likes him, really likes him, enjoys his company and not only the chess games.
Lucius gives him no time. He sits down at his side and his embrace is not one of a friend anymore. His face angles towards Severus' mouth, and their lips brush.
One of them – does it matter which? – opens up, a fraction of an inch, and the kiss grows deeper. Lucius' tongue darts up towards the uneven teeth and caresses the inside of his upper lip and Severus feels his own blood thumping against his temples, every nerve in his body overly sensitive to the other wizard's touch.
Black and white do make a nice couple, he thinks before closing his eyes and losing himself to the sensations. The dream of his life is coming true for one short moment, and he does not want to lose a second of it.
Lucius feels the abandon and inches his hand up the other's thigh, caressing and pressing.
There will be no stopping tonight; they both know it and they both want more, more and more still.
They both get it.
Draco stands in the study as if it were his and not his father's. His fists are balled in fury and his voice is low and barely controlled.
"You have nothing to do here. You are an interloper."
Severus crosses his arms on his chest, right hand reaching for the dissimulated wand.
"I was invited, and I shall stay until Lucius tells me to leave."
"You are the reason my mother left, you know. She thought it was a filthy Mudblood, but it was you, you!"
Draco's face is red now.
"Where is your father?"
"He's gone to Diagon Alley. I told him you wouldn't come, that I had seen you earlier tonight and that you had told me you had changed your plans."
"There is no point on my waiting for him, then. Calm yourself down, Draco, good night."
Draco marches towards him, looking more furious than ever, and Severus draws his wand, but it is too late, he is knocked in two by Draco's punch and keels over to the side, like a demented chess pawn that is meeting its untimely demise.
"I thought I could trust you, you Mudblood scum!"
The kick lands squarely in his ribs, and Severus throws up, it tastes of blood and bile. The next blow sends him over to unconsciousness.
He wakes up to see Lucius kneeling over him, touching his skull, massaging an ointment across his temple. It smells of the Infirmary ward and Severus is brought back to his least pleasant memories. He closes his eyes, concentrates on Spinner's End, on the small, rickety couch that served them so well not too long ago, and Apparates.
Lucius doesn't follow him, he notes thankfully as he crumbles down in front of the familiar hearth, nursing his hurt and humiliation, as he has done all his life.
I am alone in the Manor, Draco left right after I came back.
I apologise on his behalf, Severus. He is very close to his mother, and I have failed him as a father since I was thrown in Azkaban. It is no excuse for what he is and what he did, but it is reason enough for me not to chastise him as much as he deserves. Well, that, and the fact that I cannot very well kill my own son and heir, it would be considered unseemly.
If you come back to me, Severus, this is the one and only thing I cannot promise you – my son, my family obligations will always be my first priority, it is my duty as a Malfoy.
But the rest of me is there for you to claim. My house, my bed, my person all belong to you if you wish to take them. We have known each other for what seems forever, and have we not desired each other all this time? Is it not a safe bet to think we can make it together, as a couple this time, for the rest of eternity?
This is not the best love letter I have ever written, Severus, but it is by far the most sincere. Please come back to me, for now and ever.
There are two sets of chess pieces in the Manor.
One stands proudly on the Malfoy ancestral board: white pieces carved in ivory, black ebony figurines, all charmed and re-charmed throughout the centuries by the best craftsmen of the wizarding world, finely attuned to the lord of the manor's touch.
This is the board everyone sees, and few dare comment on the state of the game – for it is always left mid-move, Lucius insists on starting another game right after the last one is finished.
One day it will be Draco's.
And there is a second set, a Muggle one once charmed by a witch down on her luck. The plastic was cheap but the magic etched on them is strong, and they respond to their present owner with as much vivacity as ever. The board faded away long ago, and the wizard has discarded it; but the other wizard, the blond, still takes the pieces out sometimes.
He likes the white king best. It is not so much a king as the strictest symbol of one, a stylistic crown resting on just enough plastic to stand above the other figurines.
"Let's go wake him up," he whispers to the little crown, and he walks to the bed, still holding the box and the king. Severus lies there, snoring loudly, until Lucius begins to dispose the figurines across his chest.
"What are you doing?" he groans. "Aren't you too old to play like that?"
"This is not a game," Lucius answers, "it is a form of interaction symbolising war, strategy and reflexion. It is the epitome of civilisation as we know it."
"Mmmh coffee?" Severus replies, still hopeful.
Lucius instructs the white pieces to march forward, and they tumble and crawl towards Severus' nipples and sternum.
"Merlin, Lucius, stop! Must you be such a child… and with my own pieces too! Won't you keep your pawns off my chest!" He waves his wand and the black pieces stagger and fight back an instant before they all hover back towards their box in a messy cluster.
"You're the one who keeps them in the bedroom, you know."
Severus frowns and brings the coverlet up to his chin.
Lucius smirks and disappears under the covers.
Severus' frown disappears too, and he sighs. And then groans.
Two knights, a black and a white, have fallen on the blankets, and they stare at the wizards with what could pass as a bemused look were their appearance less sketchy.
It is difficult for chess pieces to fathom that white and black do not always clash in reality – that their matching grey hair means harmony rather than wariness.
The forgotten knights slowly make their way back to the discarded box.
The one thing they do understand is that the white and the black cannot exist without each other; and that sometimes, they must be left alone together.