Safety First?

"We have to get out of here!" exclaimed Leea Lestrange urgently. She paced the narrow room in agitation. "We'll go back to France—no, your father will look for us there. How about Italy? I'm sure you'll love Rome—"

"Mother," interrupted Leo Lestrange. "I'm not leaving the country."

"What do you mean, darling?" demanded his mother. For such a diminutive person, Leea Lestrange had quite a commanding presence.

"I mean, I'm not leaving. I'm not going to run away from this fight."

"You're too young to know what you're talking about!" said Leea rather shrilly. "When I was your age, it was just the same—I had no thought for my own safety. My son, we must leave before the war starts!"

"The war's already started, Mother," Leo pointed out. "Ever since Voldemort—"

"The Dark Lord!" corrected Leea swiftly.

Leo rolled his eyes, but acquiesced to the change. Prudence, he knew, dictated that he speak of the Dark Lord with respect. At the moment, of course, he and his mother were perfectly safe. The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix left much to be desired—particularly in the matter of cleanliness—but the building was quite secure from Death Eater attack. Leo's mother was an adept at spells of concealment, and Leo doubted anyone (much less the brave, but foolish, members of the Order of the Phoenix) could approach them now without instantly revealing their presence.

Still, such comparable safety could not last forever. Leo had already been at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place for five weeks, and he wasn't sure how much longer he could stand it. The Weasleys had left before the end of term, and all outward signs of the Order had gone with them (something to do with property ownership). Apparently, Dumbledore and the rest of the Order believed Leo's Aunt Bellatrix might arrive any day to take possession. Personally, Leo rather doubted it. And although it would not suit his plans if Bellatrix were to find him here, he had faith in his ability to concoct a reasonable explanation before she cursed him.

Leea did not share his optimism concerning Bellatrix and reason, but she had no real wish to avoid a confrontation with her sister-in-law. If it came to a duel, she knew herself to be the more subtle. Bellatrix relied far too much upon grand gestures.

"Ever since the Dark Lord revealed himself to the public by waltzing into the Ministry of Magic—incidentally, since he did that anyway, he really should have just walked in and grabbed the Prophecy himself months ago—there have been more disappearances, more deaths. I have to help stop this."

"Why?" asked Leea. "Why do you insist on staying here? There's nothing you can do—already the Dark Lord's strength has grown, the Order has fled—"

"So do you think they'll lose?" asked Leo casually.

Leea was not deceived. She studied her son, her lips pursed. "I don't know," she said finally. "But even if they don't lose, can you really tell me you won't mind hiding in this dilapidated excuse for a town house? Or wherever they decide to hold meetings next—though it'll be hard to beat Black blood wards for protection, I expect. Not to mention the fact that, no matter what you do for them, they will never trust a Slytherin."

Leo looked at her shrewdly. "Don't be ridiculous, Mother. You've had them eating out of the palm of your hand for months."

"Nonsense. If I had, I would never have permitted that disaster in the Department of Mysteries."

Leo, noting the extra-sharp tone in her voice, frowned. "You cared for Sirius Black," he said slowly.

Leea didn't meet his eyes. This was, of course, tantamount to a confession. Leo felt conflicted. On the one hand, he was uncomfortable at the thought of his mother…caring for a man who wasn't his father. On the other hand, his father had been imprisoned for fourteen years for crimes he had definitely committed. And now he was in prison again, although neither Leo nor Leea was naïve enough to think that would last long. And, back on the first hand again, Leo now felt doubly angry at Sirius Black's death—it had not only brought Harry Potter pain, but his mother as well.

"So you're determined, then?" Leea asked wistfully. She was thinking of all her beautiful escape plans, going up in smoke.

Leo smiled. "You raised me to look out for myself: this war will hurt us all. Not to mention the inevitable moment when I meet Father again. I'm thinking long-term survival, here." He gave her the most Slytherin possible explanation of his conduct, but the truth was he knew he couldn't abandon the DA (much less Elle) to the Death Eaters. Nonetheless, he was far from believing Harry Potter, the Chosen One, to be the only hope for defeating the Dark Lord. It was going to take some ingenuity…and a whole lot of luck…

"Then," Leea said, expression unreadable, "I'm proud of you, Leo, my son."