Title: For Their Unconquerable Souls
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa (past Harry/others).
Warnings: DH Spoilers, but ignores epilogue. Profanity, slash and het sex, blood, and angst.
Summary: Having Harry Potter assigned as the mediwizard for his father when Lucius is hit with a mysterious Dark curse is not something Draco ever thought he would encounter. And then Potter spoke rudely to him! And had the gall to be attractive! And to have past lovers! It was a wonder that Draco could tolerate him. Not to mention his parents' opinions of the situation.
Author's Notes: This fic is dedicated to duchessa, who made a generous donation to the livelongnmarry LJ community to support equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. She requested the Malfoy POV on various scenes from my novel-length story Bloody But Unbowed, which is Harry's perspective on the situation that makes him Lucius Malfoy's mediwizard. Therefore, this story won't make much sense if you haven't read Bloody But Unbowed, and will tend to skip some chunks of time, as well as include scenes that weren't in the original, taking place when Harry was asleep or elsewhere. Like Bloody But Unbowed, this story is titled, with a slight twist, after a line from William Ernest Henley's poem "Invictus": "I give thanks to whatever gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul."
For Their Unconquerable Souls
Chapter One—Survival Comes First
"How deep are the wounds?" Narcissa's words were mild, cold, patient, the way they always were when they were outside the walls of Malfoy Manor and needed to beware the presence of other people. But her fingers against his wrist were damp and tight. Lucius focused his mind on the sensation of his wife's hand so that he could reply rationally.
"Getting deeper each time."
He glanced up when Narcissa didn't reply at once, to see her eyes shut and her face furrow as she bowed it, the long blonde hair falling gracefully to her shoulders. Someone else might have thought she was trying to keep tears back. But Lucius knew that look. His wife was meditating vengeance against the madman who had cast this curse on him.
Madman indeed! Of all the things Lucius had not expected yesterday, being assaulted by someone who spat at him as he cast an unknown Dark curse which caused increasingly deeper wounds to open and then close themselves throughout Lucius's body had been near the top of a very long list.
"It does not seem right," Narcissa observed remotely, "that we should have to come here for treatment, instead of having it occur safely in our own home." Though Lucius had his own eyes shut now, struggling to recall the attack exactly as it had happened, he could imagine his wife scowling at the walls of the St. Mungo's hospital room.
"It does not seem right," Lucius agreed, and moved his hand slowly up and down the inside of her elbow. He would not grunt as the injury in his chest worked itself slowly open, rather like someone slitting the belly of a pig. Even if his enemy, now in Auror custody, never knew of his indignity, Lucius and Narcissa shared a bed some nights, and the memory of his weakness would linger between them. Besides, lowering one's emotional defenses for a sign of pain outside the home could lead to lowering them again later, for a worse reason. Lucius would never allow himself to become so careless.
Survival comes first, said the list of rules that Lucius's father Abraxas had made him memorize when he was a child. And being cold and closed-off everywhere but the home meant showing no vulnerabilities to anyone, and that meant increasing the family's chances of survival by convincing their enemies they were too strong to attack.
He did not enjoy coming to this cold place, where enemies disgusted by his activities during the war waited—some of them angry that he had been part of the group that cursed their relatives, some convinced he had not remained loyal enough to the Dark Lord—and where others were in charge who had the power to hurt him because he had withdrawn his power to help them. But here were Healers who had access to healing spells he had no command of and no time to learn. He would do worse things than the merely distasteful to ensure he lived.
His life, of course, might depend on the Healer they assigned him. When the door opened, in the middle of one of Narcissa's speculations on what the Aurors might find out about their prisoner and the feasibility of using Draco to sneak in Veritaserum, Lucius looked around, expecting to recognize a face that resembled one of his victims during the war.
It was worse, or better, or perhaps this was simply the way that fate laughed at him. Facing him was Harry Potter, clutching a file and staring at him with an expression that could be taken for anger or wonder in his eyes. His face was pale and the lightning bolt scar looked like a streak of blood. Lucius would have snorted if he had the courage. Did Potter expect to face a proud Death Eater, intent on denigrating him for his impure blood? Lucius would not do such a thing to anyone who held his life in his hands, no matter how much he might privately think it. The Potters had been one of the families once considered worthy of intermarrying with the Malfoys. That they could have disgraced themselves with a Mudblood marriage was hardly to be borne.
But that was more than twenty years in the past, and the man in front of him at the moment was the one Lucius needed to think of, rather than the James who had been wasteful of his pure seed.
"Mr. Malfoy?" Potter's voice held a tinge of nervousness that Lucius knew he did not imagine. Perhaps he did fear curses after all, from Narcissa if not Lucius. Lucius made some effort to lie more still than he was doing right now. That might convince Potter he was no threat. "I'm the mediwizard assigned to your case. Harry Potter."
"Mr. Potter." Lucius summoned a faint smile that Potter would take for sincere. He laid pain behind it, too. The better the part he could play, the sooner Potter would apply his utmost effort to the case. Perhaps having him here would prove to be more useful than not, after all. He might retain that heroic complex Lucius had always heard attributed to him and try to materially heal a Malfoy. Or he might see the usefulness of acting quickly so that they would not have to endure each other's company for long. "We are together under more—auspicious circumstances than last time."
"Yes, we are." Potter's eyes were raking over him, Lucius noted with approval that had grown faint through the pain. Though the boy did not have a Healer's rank and thus not a Healer's training, at least he was observant.
Of course, observation was not enough, and so the boy cast a spell that sent a series of small silver frogs leaping at Lucius. Lucius raised an eyebrow at the choice of the shape, not least because they sank into his body with a rippling of cold. If the boy had selected a phoenix, as would fit from his having been the protégé of Albus Dumbledore, at least Lucius might have felt some warmth.
"What is the curse? Do you know who cast it, and do you know what must be done to reverse it?" Potter asked the questions as if he didn't know the Malfoys would be at home with a private Healer or their own spellbooks if that were the case. Lucius regretfully adjusted his opinion of the boy's intelligence. Observation sometimes went with intelligence, yes, but not always. If it affected his treatment, then Lucius might need to ask Draco to spend some time with Potter and drag the useful information out of him, so the Malfoys could put it together on their own.
"Obviously we do not know the latter, or we would not have bothered coming here," said Narcissa.
Potter looked at her as though he assumed Narcissa were always ruffled up like a cat, and not because of a stupid question. "I meant no insult to your spellcasting skills," he said. Lucius would have laughed were the situation less serious. The idiot was using a gentle voice. Does he speak the same way to the kittens he undoubtedly rescues? "Sometimes the patient does know the cure for his condition, but is prevented from using it himself thanks to a lack of power or ingredients for a potion—"
"In this case, we don't know," Lucius said. He thought it wise to take over. This was a greater strain for Narcissa than for himself; she had been sure they would find some cure in the Manor, whilst Lucius had suspected from the first that they must venture into the wilds of St. Mungo's. "We do know who cast the curse, and he is now in Auror custody. But he destroyed the book from which he took the spell, and he cannot be legally forced to take Veritaserum, so he yet retains the secret to the cure. If he knows of it, which I doubt." He raised his hand from his chest. "As to the spell's effects, see for yourself."
Potter's eyes widened at the sight of his wound, and then narrowed in a motion which surprised Lucius. He asked, "They open throughout your body?" more quickly than Lucius would have suspected the question to arise.
Lucius could not respond at once, because the diagnostic spell leaped back out of him, coalescing into a great frog that landed on Potter's palm. Potter promptly closed his eyes and stood in a listening attitude. Lucius frowned inwardly, though he knew his face remained blank. Fancy having to wait a moment to report on his own symptoms because a spell was doing the same thing!
"The wounds have been appearing since yesterday," Lucius said, when a slight shift in Potter's face told him the man might be paying attention to the people in the room with him again instead of the spells. "On my chest and my legs so far. They have always healed without leaving more than a scar behind, and the scar itself heals within an hour." He had an idea as Potter opened his eyes again and touched the wound on his chest, swirling one finger along the line of the scar as if he were worried about that particular one. His idea worked; one hard-pressed corner of Potter's mouth relaxed. Perhaps that would induce him to be both kinder and more thorough in his treatments. Lucius did not mind showing vulnerability to someone not of the family if that vulnerability was feigned. "You understand my reluctance to allow the curse to continue when it may open a wound through my heart at any second."
Potter hummed for a moment under his breath, and then said, "Yes," and moved his wand in a motion far too quick for someone who had given Lucius no warning. "Defendo contra malitiam!"
Though Lucius could understand the Latin and knew that Potter was casting a protective spell on him instead of one that would hurt, he felt himself stiffen with outrage as the silver lump of light collapsed on him. Potter didn't actually seem to have proper control of it at first; that made Lucius wonder if the Healers had assigned Potter to him not because he was the only one who would care for a Malfoy but because they would find it amusing to see him die at the hands of an inexperienced mediwizard. But Potter cast more magic, and Lucius had to admit he could feel a small easing of tension in his chest, centered around the wound.
A slight shuffle to the side showed that Narcissa had drawn her wand. Lucius appreciated the gesture too much to reprimand her. Besides, it gave him a moment to relax and calm his tone so he would speak with something less than the outrage he felt. Potter did not deserve to know that much of his true feelings. "I am accustomed to having warning before foreign magic is cast at me. What was that?"
"The spell has a buried malice component." For the first time, Potter's voice took on the tone of a proper Healer or mediwizard; he sounded as if he might know something about the situation. And then he cast the spell again without asking for permission. Lucius held himself still; doubtless Potter, who had grown up so far from the closed and defended world of pure-blood households, would think it strange that he should have been expected to inquire. "It ensures that you'll go on getting sicker—in this case, the wounds will be worse than they would otherwise. It also picks up on your worst fear. Because you said the spell would open a cut through your heart eventually, it makes it all the more likely to happen."
"Ah," Lucius said, to cover the rapid gyrations his brain was currently traveling through. This was more than he expected the madman attacking him to be capable of. "That would make sense. This man believes I raped his daughter."
Lucius felt his startlement strike through him like a sluice of cold water. Narcissa spoke, scolding Potter, and again Lucius was grateful that she had taken the defense on her shoulders. He needed a moment to recover, and she must have seen that. Potter had asked the question with a tone of mild interest, as though he regularly tended patients who admitted such crimes.
It was the first thing about Potter that was eye-catching for itself, rather than for the fame that other people attributed to him or because he was in the position of perhaps saving Lucius's life. Lucius felt a quiver of anticipation in the back of his brain. People who drew attention to themselves in such a way inevitably turned out to be of use.
Of course, he would have to think about that later, because saving his life was the more important task, but he would remember.
Potter told them then, straight-out, that he was the only Healer or mediwizard likely to help Lucius. Lucius arched an eyebrow as he redirected his awareness to the conversation. Interesting that Potter felt confident enough in his precarious position to admit that. Or was it another case of damnable Gryffindor honesty, emerging no matter what the consideration for tact or danger? Just because someone had an unexpected quality like the touch of cold humor with which Potter addressed Lucius didn't mean he didn't have faults, too. Lucius would have to determine where along that spectrum of flaws Potter fell.
Lucius asked quietly why someone would refuse to treat him, and received a grin in return, along with a recital of the expected reasons: that Lucius had been a Death Eater and the hospital had treated many Death Eater victims, along with the idea that he had only donated in order to impress the public with his repentance. Potter also seemed unafraid to tell those reasons to a man who he might have known would resent the imputations, even if they were false. Was he politically unaware? Did he know his name might protect him against Lucius's reprisals? Or was he as Lucius was beginning to think he was, someone so focused on doing his job that outside considerations didn't matter to him?
Lucius did not know enough about Potter to predict which of those might be the truth, and so he did not want to remain silent too long, lest Potter decide that Lucius was taking too much time to consider words he must have expected. And yes, he probably was not intelligent enough to notice the pause, but Lucius still wouldn't take the chance. Survival in a world that wanted to slaughter pure-blood families didn't rest on chances. "Well, I can see the advantages of that perspective," he said. "What do you believe you will need to restore me to health?"
"As many details on the crime as you can give me." Potter tilted his head as if it took effort to summon the list of what he needed to the forefront of his brain. Lucius could well believe that. "The details the Aurors have collected from the prisoner will be useful as well, but I have contacts in the Ministry who can obtain them for me." And here he nodded wisely, as if he imagined that contacts in the Ministry—no doubt Weasleys—made him special. Lucius could see why his superiors in hospital had kept him about, even if they disliked him. He could be amusing. "Dark Arts references; those, I have."
Lucius swallowed a laugh as he thought of the thousands of Dark Arts books in the Manor. They had surrendered the most obvious choices to the Aurors after the war, and still had a library richer than any other in Britain, at least to Lucius's knowledge. Of course, Potter was probably so unaccustomed to true luxuries instead of their garish imitations that he would not even think to ask that.
He felt good enough to say, "I may be able to help you with yet more of them, Mr. Potter."
Of course Narcissa protested again, but Lucius was feeling confident enough to disregard her. If the hospital had given him a mediwizard only because doing nothing was more obvious than they could bring themselves to be, they had at least given him an entertaining one.
Potter, of course, asked if the books would be interdicted through owl post. That amused Lucius further. Draco had told him when he was younger and in the mood to complain because Potter had won yet another of their constant confrontations that Potter showed a fanatic regard for the rules on the surface whilst doing more than any other student to confound them in practice. It seemed that trait had persisted.
Perhaps that is another thing I owe Potter for, then. He taught my son about disappointment, and that in turn may have enabled him not to break under the trial of the Dark Lord.
Because he was curious and his thoughts had already turned in that direction, Lucius offered to let Narcissa or Draco carry the relevant Dark Arts books to Potter. How would he react when Draco was mentioned?
He smiled, and spoke some nonsense about a cubicle of his where he could receive them. Then he drew out a Replication Quill and the parchment that abounded in places like this one—frayed and tattering at the edges from being shoved into too many pockets—and asked Lucius for details of the case. Lucius told him most of what he felt it proper for Potter to know. Some information was, of course, reserved because it was private to the family, and some more because Lucius wanted to see what Potter would do if he was without it.
Now and then Narcissa squeezed his shoulder. She invariably did it during the omissions. Lucius would have raised an eyebrow at her if they were alone. Did she think Potter trustworthy enough already to be honored with confidences like this? Or maybe Lucius's danger—which she had never suffered as gracefully as Lucius suffered it himself—had convinced her that they could hold nothing relevant back, because they would really need Potter's help to let him recover.
Lucius ignored the squeezes for now. Narcissa had adapted wonderfully well to the code of laws that governed Malfoy life, because a code not unlike it had governed the Blacks. The survival of the family was paramount among them, too. But she was not a born Malfoy, and she could not often remember that, along with survival, one had to look for the advantage to be gained from any situation.
Potter wrote everything down, his head bowed and attentive, his eyes shadowed as he heard the bloodier details. Lucius was almost ready to call him what he appeared to be on the surface, honest and dedicated.
They had nearly come to the end of the questions that Lucius would have asked were he in Potter's position when the door burst open and admitted his son. Lucius felt a small relaxation of the muscles around his heart on seeing him. He had sent an owl to Draco before he went to hospital, but Draco was deep in a challenging part of his study for his Potions mastery and might not have responded. Now that they were together again, Lucius was as safe as he could be anywhere outside the guarded walls of the Manor.
And then he saw the way his son looked at Potter, and the way Potter pivoted towards Draco as if expecting a confrontation despite his smile earlier, and his amusement coalesced again. If fate had put him into an awkward and life-threatening position, it had at least arranged ample entertainments for him in recompense.