A/N: This story would never have been written if it wasn't for Dynonugget. She leant her amazing beta-ing skills to my Knickers series. And when I offered to write her a oneshot, presumably to be a part of the series, she asked if I would write her something else. Of course, I said. This story is the result of her plot bunny. I will never find enough words to thank her for her friendship, support and guidance. Raaawwrrr, babe!
I cannot imagine this story ever seeing the light of day if it weren't for my amazing friends and betas, Sc010f and Wildcatcdc. Thank you for your patience and ideas and friendship. To Wildcat, for the most awesome suggestions and Scoffy, for stopping me from writing Lucius as a porn star. Love and Kisses to you both!
And finally! As you read this final chapter, you just might come across a line that sounds awfully familiar. Well, it will be familiar if you've read Care of Magical Creatures, written by the stunningly talented Mia Madwyn. I've borrowed her line, "As the Malfoys go, so goes Slytherin," with a slight addition to the end. Thanks aren't enough, Mia, but I'll say thank you, just the same :)
Not waiting for an answer, he disappears in the green flames, leaving me to stare at the empty fireplace before slowly turning and entering my office once more.
We just finished our meal at the new restaurant in Knightsbridge Draco had recommended. After settling the bill, Hermione and I leave the establishment, ready to return home, intent on spending the weekend at the penthouse, naked and satisfied.
The curse comes from nowhere; the all-too-familiar green blast narrowly misses Hermione only because she paused while I adjusted her shawl about her shoulders. I look around wildly, scanning the nameless faces, looking for some recognizable feature. I see Severus running north along the wide street. Pushing Hermione into the limousine and tersely ordering the driver to take her home, I take off, quickly Apparating alongside my friend.
With a grim smile, he points his beaked nose at someone ahead. At first I am not able to discern whom Severus could be chasing, but soon it becomes apparent that someone is concealed by an Invisibility Cloak; only trainers are visible as the would-be killer makes his way down the sidewalk. I return Severus' smile. I had been expecting an attack of some kind, had known Hermione and I were being followed. Several days ago I'd owled Severus, not wanting the MLE or PW Investigations involved. Up ahead, the trainers round the corner; Severus shoves me hard into a dank alley. Immediately Apparating to its end, I take off again. Severus and I now run parallel, and we each round the corner. Spotting Hermione's attacker, Severus and I capture him between us, and in a flash we are gone.
We Apparate to Severus' home.
I draw my wand, my fingers itching to kill the man who would take my witch away from me. As of yet, I don't know if the Avada was meant for Hermione or me, but I will soon enough. I barely control my anger, my need to hurt him as viciously as he has hurt me, as he has scared me, is boiling in my veins. For now, he is sitting in the middle of Severus' sitting room on a kitchen chair, his arms and legs bound. The as-yet nameless attacker's wand crackles merrily in the fireplace, emitting yellow puffs of smoke as the unicorn hair core ignites. The man whimpers. Severus is off in his lab procuring Veritaserum, intent on uncovering the whole sorry mess. I am impatient, and knowing I have to wait to kill this insect does nothing for my disposition. In my frustration, I execute a neat roundhouse, landing my Italian-shod foot solidly in his face. He and the chair crash onto the floor. I look on dispassionately; it appears his cheek is broken, as well as his nose.
Severus enters the room and sniffs disdainfully at the unconscious wizard on the floor. With a quick Evanesco, the blood is cleaned up, and he quickly sets the bones to heal.
"If you had shown the slightest bit of restraint, he would be awake and suffering. As it is, he is unconscious and free of any discomfort," Severus comments drolly, and I cannot help but laugh.
"Quite right, brother. Ennervate," I say quietly. I am going to enjoy this.
The wizard's name is Bugger. I smirk at the name, thinking he certainly was, and even Severus snorts. I leave Severus to the questioning, for he never killed anyone in his quest for information. It is always a near thing when I handle a situation like this. I will admit it is perhaps best suited for someone with more patience than I posses at the present time.
It takes over an hour, but the full story has been drawn. My ex-fucking wife. I knew it.
As much as it pains me, I Floo Misters Potter and Weasley. We've an appointment for Monday, but under the circumstances, I believe it is best to learn what they have uncovered before confronting Narcissa. Severus is not pleased with the idea of having the men in his house, so we've agreed to meet at my office downtown, instead. I Floo Draco, telling him to meet us there. I ask Severus if he would like to sit in on the meeting, but he has voiced his displeasure of being involved in any intrigue. I smile softly to my friend and nod my understanding. He has not asked after Hermione, and I know now that he will not. He has put their time together behind him as has Hermione, and while I am sure my friend is waiting for me to broach the topic of the memory I witnessed, I will not. There will be no looking back. With a nod to the now unconscious Bugger, Severus answers my silent question with a nod, reassuring me he will take care of the vermin. I am not sure what his plans are, but I will not question Severus. Death Eaters do not speak of such inconsequential matters, after all. I bid him a goodnight then throw powder into the fireplace. I call out my destination and step into the green flames.
In my office, the Dynamic Duo confirm my suspicions; Hespion Warland and his Council have been hard at work. Mr. Potter has been gathering counter-intelligence, while Mister Weasley has put into place a strategy for bringing the Council to heel. It would appear having a brother working for Gringotts still opens doors, and I am pleased to know Mr. Weasley has learned to use all the weapons he has at his disposal. With the cooperation of several well-placed Wizard Financiers and some Ministry officials, plans are in motion for the expulsion of Hespion Warland from both the Head of the Warland Council and Member of the Hogwarts Educational Board.
I do not divulge what I have learned regarding my ex-wife. This is a family matter, best left for Draco and me to handle. Draco had Floo-ed his mother earlier, informing her of his impending arrival. Now that our meeting has ended, we Apparate to the Manor, where we drop the wards and enter. I am not sure what to expect from Narcissa. She is not expecting me, and I wait to see if she will put the events together and realize why we are here.
She descends the staircase, faltering slightly as her eyes fall upon me. But she smiles thinly and crosses the foyer to greet Draco, reaching for his hands as she leans in and kisses the air beside his cheek.
"Lucius, what brings you here? Surely that horrid elf of yours gathered all your belongings before leaving our home?" She sniffs disdainfully, still holding Draco's hand, his wand hand. I narrow my eyes slightly.
"Careful, Narcissa," I drawl, determined to keep my temper in check and get to the bottom of this fiasco. "As it is, I've learned some interesting news that I thought I'd share with you."
Narcissa is careful to maintain her composure, but there is a measure of apprehension in her eyes. She straightens her back and says, "Well, then, by all means, let us retire to the parlor." She takes hold of Draco's arm, leaving his wand hand useless. I wonder again what her intentions are. I must tread carefully.
Draco, too, senses his mother's imbalance; he maintains his composure, his demeanor somewhat gentle. "Come, Mother. Sit here by the fire, in your favorite chair. Father, please, sit in your chair as well. I'll pour us some drinks. Father, your Scotch? Mother?" I nod to my son, pleased that he has managed to extricate himself from his mother's grasp. I glance at Narcissa; her fingers are white as they grip the arm of her chair, even as a serene look settles on her face.
"Scotch, yes," I say agreeably. "Narcissa, something for you?"
Her eyes glide from Draco at the bar, the decanter in his hand and an expectant look on his face, to me in my usual seat with my legs crossed and cane settled against my thigh.
She looks at me, considering. "Yes, thank you, darling. Port, please." She releases her death grip on her chair, apparently satisfied that I am not going to draw my wand on her.
I smile slightly. Her son, at this moment, is dispensing three drops of Veritaserum into her port.
She asks after Draco, his fiancée and his restaurant. Draco answers pleasantly, and I sit back, watching a caricature of the normal Wizarding family play out before me. The interested, loving mother, the studious, affable son, the reserved, but affectionate father. It could not be further from the truth, of course. Draco's mother was never interested, much less loving towards Draco or myself. And for Draco's part, while he did pull down excellent grades in school, affable was far removed in any description heaped upon my son's head. And to call me reserved, let alone affectionate, was laughable in the extreme. But we play the game all the same.
"Mother," Draco begins, and I do my damnedest not to sit straighter in my chair. "Have you heard of Hespion Warland? He approached me the other evening, said he knows you and Father."
Narcissa looks as if she had just been hexed. "Hespion approached you? He…." She stops, her agile brain making connections. Suddenly, she jumps up, drawing her wand from beneath her sleeve. Draco and I are prepared, of course, and just as quick, three Malfoys are standing in the Manor's parlor, wands drawn on each other.
"You bastard," Narcissa spits. "You know! How? How did you find out? No, it doesn't matter, does it? Doesn't matter in the least. It is time for me to leave. Draco, come here." She waves her wand at him, believing I will not do anything to jeopardize my son by attacking her. She is wrong, of course.
With a flick and an Expelliarmus, her wand is gone. She lungs for Draco nonetheless, wrapping her arm around his neck, attempting to choke him. With two deft moves, he is free of his mother's grasp and flips her over his shoulder. Narcissa lies stunned on the floor, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. For his part, Draco looks appalled, but for the life of me, I don't know if it's because mother attacked him or he flipped her over his shoulder. I laugh.
In two minutes she is secured in her chair by the fire, and the whole sad mess is told between sobs and curses.
Hespion Warland approached her while I was on trial. In return for her help in recruiting me, she would be ensured her place in the new Wizarding world after the Council secured my services. As the Malfoys go, so goes Slytherin and, indeed, the rest of the Purebloods, so a witch named Ursula was once quoted as saying. Hespion was an astute businessman and wizard. He could not ensure an acquittal, but her efforts, should I regain my freedom, would be made worthwhile. With me firmly entrenched, he would soon have the cooperation of all Slytherin families, and most Pureblood families, as well.
So it began: her aloofness during the trial, her repeated attempts in the following years to draw me into her new circle, even Hespion's own efforts to lure me into his vision of the new world. As if I wouldn't be able to sniff out a plot to overthrow Muggles. I was an advisor to Voldemort, for gods' sake. While it would have been foolhardy to turn my back on the Council, I took advantage of the loopholes and escaped his net.
"I didn't want a divorce, you bastard!" she screams, beginning to sob hysterically. Draco and I are embarrassed by her awful display.
I do nothing but stand there, looking on dispassionately as she rants on and on, a small allergic reaction to the Veritaserum, it would seem: these emotions coming from the coldest woman I've ever known.
She cannot stop crying. "I didn't want a divorce! I wanted my life to go on as it was before the war, before Voldemort left. Life was good, there was power and prestige and influence. Now, now there is nothing! No place for our elite society, no place for Purebloods!" She twists and turns against the bonds holding her.
'What did Warland want you to do, after I refused?" I ask casually.
Narcissa sniffed indelicately. "Pretend to work with the Muggles, lure them into thinking all will be well if they participate in the program the Council set up. Show them what life among wizards would be like."
I nod slowly. "Why did you ask for the divorce?"
She looks up at me, no longer crying. She is once more under control, and her blue eyes are two shiny orbs and as hard as ice. "I wanted to force your hand. I knew you couldn't have feelings for that Mudblood girl. But she was exposing you to filth, to vermin of which we spent a lifetime trying to rid our world. That would could… could fraternize with them is just despicable!"
"Bugger." I say the name softly. Narcissa eyes glint, and she curls her lip in an evil smile.
"Did he kill her? I'm hoping that's what you've come to tell me. That the piece of trash I hired was able to do the one thing I asked of him. Is she dead, Lucius? Did I kill that dirty-blooded piece of …?" Her voice chokes as my hand wraps around her throat, squeezing ever so slowly. I look into her eyes, and fear finally replaces her hate and prejudice. She is unable to stop me, bound as she is, and it will be so very, very easy to do away with her once and for all.
A hand on my back stops me. "Don't, Father," Draco says softly. He hand squeezes my shoulder softly, and taking a deep breath, I slowly take a step back, releasing Narcissa's reddened neck. I turn to my son; his look is long and measuring.
"Thank you. I'll take care of this. She won't be bothering you or anyone else. I promise," Draco says with a small measure of urgency in his voice.
Draco allows a small smile to cross his face. "Diana's father is a major stockholder and Chairman of a large conglomerate of Muggle hospitals, including some psychiatric facilities. I'll have her admitted."
Relief floods my senses. I have raised a fine son, and I am once again amazed at how well he has risen to the occasion.
"I'll leave you to it, then." I turn to the witch sitting quietly in the chair, staring at the fire. I don't want to say good-bye, don't want to care about this woman with whom I've spent a better part of thirty years, don't want to admit my part in what drove her to this. Nodding once, I turn, intent on making my way back to the Penthouse and Hermione.
"Are you going to answer my question, Father?" I hear the amusement in Draco's voice. I know what he is asking, referring back to his question he'd asked weeks ago, on a night much like this.
With a soft smile, I say, "Yes," then open the door and cross to the Apparition point, intent on seeing my witch.
Ten minutes later, I quietly enter our home. It strikes me, then, how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time. I hear a soft click; Hermione must have heard me enter, for she runs down the hallway and leaps into my arms. I fold my arms around her, lifting her off the floor. With my future in my arms, I am reminded of my grand-mère, Raine Malfoy, who would say, "Ne regardez pas au passé; au lieu de cela, déplacez-vous avec le but dans le futur." Do not look to the past; instead, move with purpose into the future.
I intend to do just that, with Hermione.