Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of Crimes of Passion. Thank you for reading, and especially for your patience in waiting for the last chapter.
Part VI. As It Will Be.
"We need a survival strategy."
Harry was the first who spoke, out of a long silence. Draco had sat up, cleaned them both off, and found his robes, then summoned any food that Harry might have in this pitiful hovel. It turned out to be better than he'd thought: chicken salad sandwiches clearly prepared by a house-elf, long and clean pickles, succulent slices of tomato. Draco had shared them, of course, but Harry had eaten without speaking, his eyes shut as if he thought that would somehow allow him to hide from what needed to be done.
Now, Draco was ashamed for thinking that. He had been away from Harry for years, yes, but not long enough—surely not long enough—to forget that when he closed his eyes like that, he was thinking.
"Survival," Draco said blankly, wanting to give Harry the chance to explain.
Harry put down his sandwich and showed Draco a faint smile, his eyes becoming bright with appreciation as they slid down Draco's body. Draco drew his robe a little closer around him, then realized how ridiculous that was and let it dangle loose again. God, being without Harry had messed up all his reflexes, he thought in some irritation; it was as though he was partially a teenager again.
The way he had felt when Harry had first become his lover, as a matter of fact. Well, that wasn't odd, when they were reconciling again after a division that had been, in some ways, deeper and more painful than the history that had kept them apart at first.
"Yes." Harry's smile melted, and he looked as solemn as though he was about to begin hunting down a criminal. Well, that wasn't odd, either, Draco thought, fighting his instincts to look away. Scorpius was a criminal. Draco still didn't know whether Harry intended to legally punish him, but whatever happened, it would have to involve treating him like what it was. "He'll know what you know soon. I don't think you could go back to being around him and not tell him with your gestures, your words, your eyes."
Draco had started to bristle, but he leaned back in relief when Harry spoke the last words. Of course he should know that Draco would never betray him willingly, but even Draco could admit that Scorpius was better at reading body language than he was, more like his father.
More like my father in every way, as a matter of fact. Maybe he should have been Lucius's son.
Draco sighed out. He recognized the thought as an artifact of his old way of thinking. He had always thought that Scorpius was better than he was, more a real Malfoy, more the kind of heir that Lucius and his ancestors would have wanted. He had to stop thinking that way now, though. None of them would want a madman.
"All right," he said. "And that means that we have to decide whether we're going to take him to the Aurors or not."
"No." Harry leaned forwards and squeezed Draco's hand. "You need to be the one to make that decision, Draco. I won't condemn him, and I won't leave him as he is, except on your say-so. I spent four years—longer than that, if you think back to the time that I first recognized him for what he is—trying to decide on my own what to do about him. It's not right. You should be the one to make that choice."
Draco shook his head, his mouth dry in a way it hadn't been when he contemplated Harry working with him to possibly end the Malfoy line. "No, I can't," he whispered. "It's cruel of you to try and force me to make the decision by myself."
Reluctantly, Draco dragged his eyes away from their joined hands to meet Harry's eyes. They were as he remembered, infinitely deep with compassion, but there was a hard spark in the center of them, too.
"He's your son," Harry said. "He's family. And you've known and loved him longer than me, in the end, even if you did decide that you would rather listen to me." There was still wonder in his voice as he spoke about that, but he went on before Draco could find distraction or solace in arguing that of course he had believed Harry, and Harry had been stupid to think that he might not. "I'll help you with whatever you decide, but I can't just—I can't just make the choice. You still have to."
Draco bowed his head. "You said that you'd seen people like him before, and that was how you recognized him," he whispered. "What's the proper treatment for someone like that?"
Harry hesitated so long that Draco thought even that part would be up to him. Then Harry answered quietly, "I think he's a sadist. But he doesn't seem as insane as some of the ones I've—met—in the past. He can control his urges. He didn't kill you for the past four years even though his letter implies that he would have liked to. I don't think he's had any other human victims, or I would have heard about them and recognized the signs. I wish I could give you a definite answer instead of negatives, Draco, but that's it. There it is."
"You do think that he's—ill, though."
"Well," Harry said, reluctance riding every word. "Not normal. I don't know how ill. Like I said, if he's insane, he manages to control and hide it well. But there were people who thought Voldemort was sane, too."
Draco wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. So many decisions to make, and it seemed as though the first one would only lay more at his feet. He could see them, if he looked, an endless linked chain of choices, stretching so long that he wanted to be sick thinking of it.
But only for a moment. He loved Scorpius, and he might be the only one in the world who did. As Harry said, he was the one who should make the choice, because he was the only one who cared enough to do what was right for his son.
"I need to speak with him," he said, not something he liked to say, but the only true words that would come to him right then. "I won't know how ill he is until I talk to him with full knowledge of what he is."
"Who he is," Harry said.
"That, too." Draco forced his eyes open and smiled at Harry, who sat back on his pallet and looked pale. "Yes, this is something I have to do, Harry. You didn't take this choice away from me, so that leaves it up to me. What I'm going to trust you to do is prepare a plan for us that will ensure I can survive this. And you, too, of course," he added, though he didn't know if Harry had any intention of showing himself to Scorpius. Draco wouldn't blame him at all for wanting to stay out of sight.
Harry at once relaxed, and a healthy flush came back into his cheeks. Draco hid his own smirk. That had been the plan from the beginning. Give Harry something else to do, something that would occupy his mind and give him the chance to take care of Draco, and he wouldn't fuss about Draco being the one to talk to Scorpius.
"All right," he said. "And what are you going to do?"
"My options are limited." Draco leaned back against the wall and stretched. His knees ached, and he sighed. I really am getting too old for some things. Then he sneaked a glance at the smile on Harry's lips and changed his opinion. For some things. "If I think that I can't treat him but a Mind-Healer can, then I'll insist he go to one. If I think that he's only criminal and not insane, then…" He paused. "Do you think I can let him go, Harry?"
Harry paused, looking away. When he turned back, it was an Auror with green eyes who met Draco's gaze, and not his familiar Harry. He had met this man a few times during the years he was Harry Potter's lover, and his appearance almost always portended bad news. "Only if you can find some way to keep him from hurting anyone else, Draco," he said evenly. "I know that he's your son, that you love him, that you want him free. That was the reason I didn't report him in the first place."
"But," Draco prompted.
"I tried that, and it didn't work." Harry ran a finger up the side of his ribs as if tracing where the Carver's Curse had cut him open. "He's getting more violent lately, I think, including the threat he made against you in the letter, not less. So we have to find some way to ensure that he doesn't hurt anyone else. I can't—let that happen. Not even for your peace of mind."
Draco nodded. He could accuse Harry of caring less about family than about the lives of innocents, but, well, they were the lives of innocents, first of all, and second, he knew that Harry would have arrested even one of his own children if that child had been preying on others. It was a long time since Scorpius had been a baby, incapable of hurting anyone.
"All right," he said. "Then we need a plan to survive initial contact with him, and we'll need one to capture him and hand him over to the Mind-Healers—or the Aurors. How much information will you need?"
"That depends on where you'll meet him, and what defenses you think he has." Harry leaned forwards, intent. "I thought that he had been getting into more powerful Dark magic lately, even with as few seconds as I had to read his aura before he started casting at me. Could he have acquired an artifact or something, something that would give him a lot of power in a very short time?"
Draco sighed as he remembered Scorpius walking through the house, concentrating on the parchment in his hand. "He has a friend who often creates or modifies spells. Yes, I'm afraid that he may have greater abilities than we know about."
Harry frowned. "Is there any chance that we could find out what he may have learned without alerting his friend, or him, of what we're looking for?"
Draco started to shake his head, then paused. He really should hate the smile that curled around his lips, he knew, but on the other hand, Scorpius had spent far too much time lying to him and outsmarting him. It was oddly gratifying to know that there might be a hole in his defenses which Draco could exploit.
"He often punishes the house-elves, even now," he said softly. "He was doing it only the other day. That particular one might have interrupted one of his plans, or walked in on them, at least. I could potentially order the elf to report to me, as Lord of the Manor. I still have more control over them than Scorpius does."
Harry smiled. It had a dark edge to it that Draco suspected echoed his own, although when he asked, Harry shook his head and said, "I was only thinking how smug Hermione will be, once she learns that house-elves played some part in pinning down a person she's always thought I was a fool to protect."
"That's another advantage," Draco said, and tried his best to ignore the looming dark wall in front of him, the one he would have to think about, sooner or later.
The end of the Malfoy family line.
It took Draco no time at all to summon three of his elves from the Manor, the one who had been punished by Scorpius a few days ago and two others whom he thought more observant than most. They obeyed the summons, eyes wide with awe as they stared around Harry's wizardspace. Harry backed away a reasonable distance, as though he suspected that his presence might intimidate them. Draco appreciated it. They were more than half intimidated by everything already, on the verge of weeping.
He knew how to fix that, luckily. He stood in front of them and gathered their eyes with no more than a subtle motion of his own. The nearest one stood up at once, and then nudged the others as they went on crying. One of them sniffled and wiped her eyes, but the other one curled up around its fists.
"I command you as Lord Malfoy."
It was strange to utter words he hadn't ever spoken outside his dreams. The two recovering elves snapped up and quivered like dogs trained to the sound of a voice, and even the weeping one dropped its hands and stared up at him in awe.
"I command you—" Draco was tempted to repeat the same words, but it would probably sound, to himself if no one else in the audience, that he was losing confidence, and one didn't command house-elves like this with hesitation. "As the head of my line, as the one who has the right to call himself that by blood." He knew that a lot of oaths or pronouncements added "by achievement" in there, but while he was striving to be better and more responsible than he had been, he still didn't feel he had done enough to qualify for that. "All earlier commands from my son are forgotten. Future commands from my son are to be followed only if they concern his immediate comfort." He thought that ought to be enough to keep Scorpius from noticing anything for the moment, because most of the orders he gave were like that. "Should he ask for something else, you will bow and vanish, and then not return to his presence for more than a day. Show me that you understand."
All the house-elves were standing upright now, staring at him, and one by one, they nodded, the motion rippling up and down their line like wind in summer grasses. Draco swallowed, glad the first test was past.
"You are to tell me how he commanded you," he said. "And you are to tell me why he punished you."
The weakest one promptly crumpled again, sobbing and wailing as though it had a broken heart. Draco didn't know if that was possible for house-elves, but put the irrelevant thought aside before it could become distracting.
"Tell me what happened," he said, turning to face that one.
The house-elf shrank away from him in terror, gnawing its fingers with sharp teeth. It still hadn't said a word. Draco narrowed his eyes. No elf was supposed to respond that way to a command from a Malfoy speaking as head of the line, no matter who else of the blood had given it an order.
"Harry," he said softly.
Harry had already risen and waved his wand in a gesture Draco didn't know, one that looked like a figure eight redoubled back on itself and then grew more complex before he lost track of it altogether. When Harry finished, he paused and tilted his head down, eyes shut as he seemed to listen.
A second later, he turned and cast another spell, one that froze both of the other elves inside a block of ice. Draco half-thought Harry might do the same thing to him, as he spun to face him, but Harry shook his head, blinked with a lot of effort, and dropped his wand with an effort, sighing.
"No more keeping you safe against your will," he muttered. "Not to mention that you're the only one who can get the creature to talk. Right."
"What was it?" Draco asked softly. He knew Scorpius had put a spell of some sort on the elf, but Harry's reaction told him that it wouldn't be something as simple as a Silencing Charm, or even an order reinforced with Imperius.
"A spell that will destroy anyone who listens to him recite anything about Scorpius's orders," Harry said grimly. "Other elves, at least. I had to prevent them from hearing, and that seemed the simplest method."
"Or one could use a sleeping charm, like normal people," Draco suggested, unable to help himself.
Harry caught his lip between his teeth, as if he was about to start scolding himself, and then grinned. "Right. Well, normal isn't what I am."
Draco smiled at him, one shared moment, before he turned to the sobbing house-elf. "How do we get rid of the spell?"
"It's new," Harry said. "I can tell what it does, but not where it comes from, or what spell it was based off of. Here." He dropped to one knee beside the elf and turned it to face him. His face was gentle, but Draco still had to nod before the elf would stop trembling and stand still enough for Harry to look into its eyes.
Harry cast a few more spells. Draco simply watched him, glad beyond all words that Harry was back by his side. He didn't know how he would have begun to handle this one on his own.
Harry snorted a moment later. "I bet he thought that would never happen," he muttered, and rose to his feet, grimacing when something in his leg popped.
Draco stepped towards him. "What?"
"You have to give him the command and not care about his life," Harry said, glancing at him, his eyes very bright. "Not care about his life, not think about what it would mean if your words destroy him, even. Scorpius thought there was no way you'd muster the will to do something like that, so it's a very effective counter."
Draco swallowed for a moment, tongue dry against the roof of his mouth. "Harry…"
"It's not something I ever want Hermione to know about," Harry said, giving him a smile as warm as fire, "but you can do this."
Draco closed his eyes and drew strength into himself, slowly, thinking about the smile and the urgency that had cut through his haze of frustration and indifference when he first heard Harry was hanging about the Manor. He was not the helpless old man he had slid into picturing himself as, and whom Scorpius thought he also knew. He was stronger.
He was a Malfoy, still.
He turned and faced the third, cringing elf. "Tell me what Scorpius's orders to you were," he said, and there was nothing soft or gentle in his voice. He was remembering the pride his father had drilled into him, or attempted to drill, the desperate need to save his parents when the Dark Lord threatened them, the assurance he had carried with him into Hogwarts the first day that he mattered because of who his father was. He had learned better on the score of some of those feelings; he had never realized that he would need them again.
The elf wailed, a thin, high sound that seemed to move farther off the longer it went on. At the end, he was kneeling on the floor with his mouth open and his eyes staring into glassy distance. Draco stood with his hands in his pockets, making no move to comfort the elf, even when the moments stretched and he thought it would fall forwards dead.
Then the elf burst into tears and grabbed his leg. "Master Malfoy is so good, so strong!" it cried out. "Iri will never, never, never, never-"
"I know," Draco said, and hoped that he was hiding his impatience as he reached down and pushed Iri's head back. He kept his fingers tight beneath the elf's chin, although the urge was there to hold him more gently or at least let him go and wipe his hand. "What did my son command you to do?"
"To fetch him dark things," Iri whispered. Its hands remained tight on Draco's leg, but at least the tears had stopped. "Raven feathers. Pieces of obsidian. Withered roses. Ebony. Abandoned Muggle metal."
Draco frowned at the elf, and then at Harry. Harry had rocked back on his heels and was staring at the ceiling. Draco had seen him do that before, when he struggled to recall certain cases from the deposit of memories decades of Auror work had left him with.
Perhaps it meant nothing-but no, Draco was used to excusing his son like that. It had mattered enough for Scorpius to guard it with a lethal spell. He stared at Iri again. "How many did you bring him?" he asked.
"Two hundred," Iri sniffled, wiping at its eyes with one hand. It let go of Draco and stood back again. "Iri is bringing two hundred, and Muki is bringing two hundred, and Kesa is bringing two hundred."
Draco waited to see if there would be any more names in the list, then nodded and faced Harry. Harry had brought his head down again, and his brow was wrinkled, but he nodded and spoke in a slow, clear voice.
"Like a case that led me to Manchester a few-ten years ago. We thought it was Dark Arts, and it was. But it sounded childish. A ritual that needed black ribbons and scraps of cloth from Muggle girls' dresses? Not dangerous at all.
"But it was a belief spell. A will spell. The people who cast it associated black with moral darkness, and moral darkness with Dark Arts. They had to collect those objects because they needed to trick themselves into believing that they had the right, the ability, to raise that kind of power."
Draco frowned. "But Scorpius has known what Dark Arts mean for years," he said, "what spells fit the parameters and which didn't."
"Rational knowledge doesn't always have anything to do with belief," Harry said, one corner of his mouth curling up in an unhappy smile as he stared at Draco. "A fact I've used to my advantage more than once."
Draco nodded curtly, not interested in tracking back down the paths of self-recrimination he'd traversed that morning, and turned to the elf. "When did you start gathering these things for him?"
"T-two months," Iri said, sniffling still.
Harry swore. "The time he sent me the letter," he explained, when Draco glanced at him. "He's been planning this at least this long, then. Or, more likely, he's intended to do it for a long time, but this was when he decided how to do it and started gathering the items he would need to make it happen."
Draco inclined his head, breathing shallowly. The thought of his son preparing to cast a Dark spell of such a magnitude that he would need to gather props, or creating a ritual in the first place, made his skin itch and his skull ache as if there was pressure against it from the inside.
"Draco," Harry whispered. "I think I know what it is."
Draco turned to face him. Harry rose to his feet and came over to touch Draco's arm and then his face. His eyes were wide with revelation, his tongue fumbling and tripping as he tried to turn that thought into words.
"It's like-it's what he i-intended with Herrington and Colnbrook, I think. I think. Like I said, I thought it was for revenge. Could have been. He could have chosen them for that reason. But the wounds-they're too specific. And he was carrying ashes on him. I remember that now. Why ashes? They're grey. They're from fire. Either of those symbolic aspects could have been important. They-yes, I think so. I understand. He wanted to keep me from telling you the truth, he tried to kill me, but he could have killed you, too. I think he didn't want to. I think he was waiting. Tell me, if a Malfoy son murders a Malfoy father, what happens?"
Draco reached out and put his hands on Harry's shoulders, trying to ground him, to keep him from chattering along as obliviously as he was right now. He could feel an ache starting at the bottom of his throat, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to know what Harry was talking about-
At the same time that he knew he had to know.
"He would go to Azkaban, of course," Draco said. "Do you think that the other members of the family would allow him to remain free of a murder charge? And many in the Ministry, even among the more traditional pure-bloods, do not look lightly on patricide-"
"No, no," Harry said, his voice slower now and his eyes bright as bonfires. "Not what I meant. What would the Malfoy magic do to a son who killed his father?'
Draco licked his lips. Of course. "The elves would refuse to obey him. He would be unable to touch the artifacts that must be passed on by bloodline inheritance. The goblins would receive warning and refuse to let him access the vaults. I don't know how or why, on that last," he added, in case Harry thought Scorpius's motivation was money. "So I don't know how we could duplicate it, or stop it."
Harry shook his head. "Does anything else happen? What about the Manor?"
"It would seal off certain wings, and if he left, the house would seal itself against him," Draco said slowly. "But why would he want to kill me? If what you're saying is true, then he's held off for years. Whatever urges he may have, they are not unconquerable." That made it hurt worse, to think that Scorpius was sane and merely a murderer, but he quieted the idea and waited for Harry to make it make sense.
"I think he's seeking a way of killing you that won't result in all those consequences," Harry said. "Something powerful and Dark enough to require all the preparation that Iri talked about." He glanced down at the elf, who was still sobbing and squirming next to Draco's feet, but at least had let his legs go. "One where you put yourself to death, maybe. I assume the Manor won't seal itself against an heir whose predecessor commits suicide?"
Draco licked his lips. "No. But you have no proof of that."
Harry, surprisingly, didn't berate him for stupidity. He just shook his head. "No, I don't, but it makes the most sense with everything we've seen so far. He cast a spell on the house-elves, or at least on Iri, that specifically plays on your weaknesses. He's left you alive, but threatened you in the letters to me. He tried to kill me, even though the letter seemed to have been sent to lure me back. He wants to cause you pain, Draco. He wanted me out of the way because I was the one who might have betrayed his plans to you if he did enough of the Dark magic in my presence, but you were the target. You were always the motivation." Harry's eyes were dimmer now, but still steady.
Draco swallowed. His voice was softer than it should have been, as had been the case since Harry started reciting all the plans that Scorpius probably had in motion. "What have I done that irritates him so much?"
Harry bowed his head and said nothing. Draco took that as an admission that he didn't know at first, and then got suspicious. Harry wouldn't have had a problem admitting ignorance.
"Tell me," he said.
Harry looked up at him, and his smile was helpless. "Nothing that you could have helped," he whispered. "Nothing that you could have got away with giving to him, or denying. You were the Malfoy in front of him, that's all. You have more power over the house-elves and the family's reputation, the house and the artifacts. If he wanted them, then he had to go through you. You didn't recognize his superiority and hand those things over to him immediately, the same way that Herrington and Colnbrook dared to do better than he did in school or insult him."
"You don't know that," Draco said, seizing on a desperate certainty. "Not for sure."
Harry nodded. "That's true. I'm guessing, the way that I do with the motivations of a criminal I'm tracking. But I can be fairly sure what one of them's doing a lot of the time, and this is another case where I've spent years, not just hours, learning what he does and how he acts. I think I'm right."
Draco had to turn his back. He wasn't sure if this was worse or better than the news that he might have raised a psychopathic sadist without ever noticing.
Scorpius had been the child Draco always wanted, the child Lucius would have wanted, the clever boy, the talented adolescent, the young man who was bursting and breathing with potential. Draco had been surprised at first when he stayed in the Manor after he left Hogwarts, but he knew that Scorpius had many directions he could go in, many dreams to pursue. He had thought it only natural that Scorpius should want to stay, rest, and have the resources and times to follow those dreams.
At least when he thought it through.
When had he started thinking that? Had Scorpius suggested that interpretation? Draco couldn't actually remember.
"I'm sorry, Draco." Harry stepped up beside him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, supporting him as if he thought he would faint.
Draco blew his breath out until his body felt empty and leaned briefly against Harry, then straightened up again. "Let's assume that you're right," he said. "Because it gives me a third option, without having to give him over to the Mind-Healers-who will be useless if he's sane-or the Aurors-which I don't want to do."
"What is the third option?" Harry looked at him worriedly, running one hand up and down Draco's arm. Draco didn't know if that was an effective way of diagnosing spiritual trouble, but it felt too good for him to tell Harry to stop. "I have to be honest, Draco. I don't see any way that you can do anything else. The Aurors would at least stop him from killing again. The Mind-Healers might be able to help him control his impulses. What options are there other than that?"
Draco leaned over to put his mouth close to Harry's ear, so that he could whisper. No one would hear this whom he didn't choose to have hear.
When he was finished, Harry closed his eyes and held Draco for a long time. Draco let his head rest on Harry's shoulder and smoothed his hands up and down Harry's back, feeling the warm weight there, the solidity of a body that Harry had used as a human shield more than once, as a shield for the whole world at least once (and perhaps more than that if some of the things he had hinted about his early cases were true).
"If you're sure," Harry whispered. "I'm worried about how much this'll hurt you."
"Not as much as allowing Scorpius to remain the way he is," Draco said. "And if my solution works, then I have the ability to make more choices after that-especially considering his likely reaction."
It didn't take Harry long to work that reaction out. After all, in some ways he had watched Scorpius longer than Draco had and knew him better. "He'll have to see you as more powerful than he is, then," he whispered. "And he'll have to placate you instead of attacking you." He chuckled, but weakly. "Do you know how much he'll hate that?"
"I think I need to learn."
Harry sobered up again and nodded. "All right. Tell me what you need to confront him, and I'll get started making it."
Draco let his hand fall to rest on Harry's where Harry's arm went around his waist. He squeezed once, hard enough to leave a bruise when he pulled back. Harry turned his head and kissed Draco's cheek in response.
They understood each other.
"Scorpius?" Draco called as he stepped through the front doors of Malfoy Manor, shaking out his cloak and setting it on the peg beside the door. No house-elves came to welcome him. Draco had already ordered them to stay out of the way. He wanted no witnesses other than Harry, and no chance for Scorpius to command the elves to turn against him. Draco knew, now, that he was the Malfoy in power, in control, but he didn't know what other spells Scorpius might have placed against just this eventuality.
Scorpius appeared at the top of the stairs, gracing Draco with a charming smile. Draco felt his heart thump once, hard enough to make his vision blur, and for a moment he wondered wildly if Harry could have been wrong. If Scorpius really was the child he had seemed all along, the Malfoy child who had triumphed where Draco had failed, the one who-
And then Draco reined himself back in. He trusted Harry. He knew Harry. Even if Harry had been mistaken about Scorpius's true motives, Harry's frenzy to keep the news from Draco indicated that it wasn't a con game. He hadn't changed the handwriting in the letter to a kind that Draco would recognize as Scorpius's, either.
"I didn't know where you were," Scorpius chattered as he descended towards him. "I knew that you had a Potions meeting the other week, but I didn't think you had one today. I couldn't find you, I didn't hear from you, and, well, I got concerned." He stopped in front of Draco and reached out to put his hands on his shoulders, giving him a worried little shake. "Where did you go?"
Draco swallowed, and reminded himself, again, that Scorpius was like a Lucius who had learned to use charms instead of threats to get his way, and that Harry had cast a spell on him that would keep him from flushing, looking away to the side, or betraying other telltales of a lie to Scorpius.
"I did set out to attend a meeting, Scorpius," he said. "But I was warned away at the last minute by someone whom I don't want to name."
Scorpius narrowed his eyes, but his smile was still blinding enough that Draco knew he would have been looking at it in besotted, fatherly admiration if not for Harry's warning. "What was the warning, Father?"
"It was about Potter," Draco said, and he didn't have to feign the emotions that made him close his eyes and turn his head away, although they weren't the emotions that Scorpius was probably imagining. "I didn't-Scorpius, I never knew that he could have betrayed me that way."
"What way?" Scorpius's voice was thick. His hands clenched down until Draco could imagine him leaving bruises on his shoulders the way that Draco had left bruises on Harry's hand a short time ago.
"He spread rumors about me before he went," Draco whispered. "Rumors that said I was a poor lover, a worse wizard, and incapable of deserving someone like him. But that's nothing. I could have put up with that, after it was revealed that he was a torturer and an attempted murderer. Who would believe the word of someone who had done that? But he spread rumors about you, too."
Three hours ago, three days ago, Draco would have listened only to the earnest tone on the surface of Scorpius's voice and not the steel beneath. But his eyes had been opened, and he would not close them again. He nodded to his son and reached out to scrabble in his robes, fisting them and dragging him close.
"I have an idea for how to stop him," he whispered. "I can close the Manor against him. But I need your help."
"Yes, of course," Scorpius said, and his voice was heavier now, his hands on his father steady. "Yes, I can do that."
Draco turned and led him out of the Manor without faltering, without looking back. He had always despised his own acting skills-he hadn't been able to fool even the sixteen-year-old schoolboy that Harry had been, when he had to conceal the fact that he was working on a way to end the threat to his family-but this time, it would be easier with Harry's spell and the fact that Scorpius couldn't see his face.
Part of Draco remained in thrall to the feeling that Scorpius was still the ultimate Malfoy, the real one, the one that Lucius would have wanted. He had to hold those feelings firmly at bay as he led Scorpius over the grass towards the baited trap that Harry had already set up, with his help: an anti-ritual, a circle drawn in the grass with their wands and infused with the spell Harry thought necessary to stop Scorpius. He would have to have all his confidence in place in a few moments, and feeding his inferiority complex was not the way to do that.
But it was hard to go against something he had believed for nearly half his life-longer than that, if he thought about his feeling of inadequacy before Scorpius was born. And now he had to face the fact that the one thing he thought he had done right, siring a good heir, was wrong, too. He would have to start over, at forty-seven.
He swallowed, and stepped within the circle. Scorpius followed him with a bright expression, looking around like a wolf who had smelled prey.
Harry stepped out of the shadows. Scorpius jerked back with a snarl, but still didn't turn on Draco. He held out his wand instead, and a power that Draco hadn't been looking for, one that seemed to be made of pure twilight, swirled around him. "Run, Father!" he called. "I can hold him off long enough for you to trigger the wards."
I'm sure you can, since you used the Carver's Curse on him, Draco thought grimly, but he wondered, a bit, how much of the bad results of that confrontation came from Harry being reluctant to use a spell on Scorpius. He would have to hope that Harry, too, was more committed to defeating Scorpius than he had seemed at first.
"I call upon the blood of Malfoys past," Draco said, turning around so that he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Harry.
Scorpius's eyes flashed to him, and he stood still for a moment, the twilight wings falling limp around him. That gave time for the first spell buried in the circle to activate, and a blue flame burst into life behind Scorpius. Harry was chanting frantically under his breath, the Latin blurring in his rush. Draco just had to hope that it wouldn't blur so badly as to make it useless.
"Father?" Scorpius whispered. "What are you doing?"
"I call upon the legacy of Malfoys past," Draco said, keeping his voice steady despite the death-pallor of Scorpius's face. "I call upon the traditions that link us, the blood that makes us pure, the magic that makes us what we are."
More flames unfolded behind Scorpius, winding up from the ground into shining spirals. Gold, white, yellow, orange. There was only one missing, only one gap left in the circle, and Scorpius was pressing forwards, his steps making the ground shake.
Draco gritted his teeth. Harry had said that he had to be strongest at this moment, because this was the one act of pure will in the spell, the change they had made to the ancient traditions that would punish a Malfoy heir who had killed his predecessor.
But as Scorpius came towards him, Draco could see Lucius in his face, and Abraxas, and other ancestors from the portraits. And the child he had loved, and the infant he had held, and the adolescent he had encouraged in his studies.
Draco clenched his fists. He wanted to fall to his knees. The power swirling around Scorpius's shoulders pressed on him, but he knew most of the pressure came from the inside, from the need to succumb to it to get away from this decision. It would be so much easier to say that he was too weak to do this, to betray his child or survive his child's betrayal, and who could blame him?
Harry's hand brushed the small of his back.
Draco looked up and spoke the last words. "I call on the past of the Malfoys to take his power from him."
The last flame sprang up to close the gap in the earth, scarlet and glaring, like the colors in the Gryffindor common room, like the Weasley jumpers that Harry had still insisted on wearing after they started dating, like the eyes of the Dark Lord. It flashed lurid brilliance through the night and touched the shadows around Scorpius.
They fell to nothing.
Only then did Draco know how fiercely he had meant it.
Scorpius screamed as the flames bowed inwards like claws and surrounded him. Draco remained steady and still, leaning back against Harry's hand when he had to. This wouldn't kill his son, he reminded himself, or render him insane-presuming he was still sane. This would only exact the punishment that Draco had determined as appropriate.
He tried to remember the last time he had punished Scorpius, and couldn't.
The flames twisted and fell in braided ropes around Scorpius. The ropes ran around his neck, beneath his robes, about his limbs. They sank into his skin and yanked, and flying skeins of color came out, twisted and tarnished and beautiful, fading as they flew.
Draco tried to swallow, and found his throat locked with disgust and terror. Harry turned his face into Draco's shoulder, murmuring words that Draco couldn't hear, but didn't need to, for them to be effective. He shuddered a little and kept his eyes fixed on the sight in front of him. He had assigned this punishment to Scorpius; it was only fair that he saw how Scorpius bore it.
Not at all well, that was how he bore it. Of course, Draco couldn't have expected to do better if it was him. Scorpius's hands scrambled around the air, then tore at his face, rending shreds of skin away beneath the fingernails. His scream was soundless after the first moments, but still twanged along the strings of Draco's heart.
"Almost over," Harry said, and Draco would have snapped at him about how he could know that-
Except he was right. The flames whirled away, and Scorpius knelt there in the middle of a circle of burned grass, his body still shaking as though he had frostbite, but no longer being plagued by the magical equivalent of a rack. Draco waited, waited for Scorpius to turn his head towards him and utter some tragic accusation, but it didn't happen. Scorpius stayed there, and Draco saw defeat in the way his shoulders set.
"Stay back from him," Harry murmured, with a hand on his arm, when Draco started to step closer. "He could still be dangerous physically, and he may be carrying a potion he prepared earlier."
Draco gritted his teeth, knowing it was good advice, and reminding himself that the young man who seemed so helpless now would have killed him, if he could, ten minutes earlier. He settled for moving to the side so he could see Scorpius's face if he raised it and calling his son's name.
Scorpius jumped when he heard it, as if he had assumed that Draco would leave him alone to suffer. That is a reasonable assumption, given the way I have treated him so far, Draco thought.
Scorpius stumbled up to his knees and turned around.
Draco tensed himself to bear it. He didn't know if he could have without Harry at his back. Scorpius's face was now utterly pale and blank, bereft of some gentle, living color it had always carried before.
"What did you do to me?" Scorpius whispered, as if the sense of loss that he must have experienced already hadn't told him.
"Took away your magic," Draco said. "The only thing I could think of to do when I suspected that you would kill me for the Malfoy legacy otherwise, but didn't know if you were sane, insane, or simply spoiled."
Scorpius tried to stand upright, but he was trembling too badly. He shot a glance at Harry that made Draco fall back as if he could get in between his son and his lover now. "Is that what he told you?" he asked softly. "Making up lies to get back into your good graces? Or did he just fuck you into thinking nonsense? That would be like him. Like you."
Even now, this late, Draco felt the burn of doubt curling through his middle. Perhaps Harry had been wrong, and even if Scorpius had been dabbling in Dark magic, that didn't mean he had tortured Herrington and Colnbrook. It didn't mean that he had wanted to kill his father. It didn't mean-
It was the memory of the spell on Iri that saved him then. Scorpius could explain his other actions in different ways, perhaps, but using a spell that would destroy a house-elf if it attempted to remain loyal to its primary master had no excuse.
"Neither," Draco said. "He gave me reasonable suspicions, as did the letter in your handwriting. Now. If I'm wrong, I'm sure that you can prove it to me."
"You made me a Squib," Scorpius said, his voice heavy with horror.
"I did," Draco said, ignoring the way Harry shifted behind him at the pronoun. He was still the one who had made the decision to make his son less than a wizard, even if Harry had come up with the plan. "I suspected that you wanted to hurt me in such a way that I would give you the power over the Malfoy fortunes and properties of my own free will, so you could avoid the way the Manor would lock itself up if you simply murdered me. And I suspect that you used the Carver's Curse on Harry. Am I wrong? If I am, then you can work with me to find the real culprit. It shouldn't be hard."
Scorpius didn't respond-to Draco. He turned to Harry instead, and his gaze glittered like a diamond with hatred.
"You," he breathed. "You're the cause of it all. If not for you, then this wouldn't be happening."
"No," Draco said, so sharply that he startled himself. Scorpius looked back at him, and this time, Draco did step in between Scorpius and Harry, but, more to the point, up to his son. Scorpius studied him with open, icy scorn.
"I'm the one you disregarded," Draco hissed. The words emerged from the same part of himself that had closed the circle completely, the same part that had commanded Iri to speak, the same part that knew he and Harry were not wrong about Scorpius's crimes no matter how much he wanted them to be. "I'm the one you thought less than a real Malfoy. I know now why you didn't kill me earlier. It was because I wasn't worth your time, isn't it? You thought of me as so weak, so pathetic, that you believed I would be easy to defeat without Harry at my side. And you also thought me so weak that there was no chance I would seek Harry out when he returned to the wizarding world. I gave in tamely to his lies and yours when he disappeared, after all. Why would I find the strength to confront him when he came back? What strength? you would have thought."
"You don't have any." His son's eyes were fastened on him now, the way Draco had wanted them to be, but there was nothing but the edge of scorn in them that he had seen before. "He's the one who inspired you to do this, and if I'd killed him, then you would have folded up and collapsed like you always have."
Draco licked his lips. He had known that would happen, or at least was likely to happen, that Scorpius was capable of saying something like this.
To his amazement, having been prepared didn't actually make it hurt any less.
"You disregarded me," Draco repeated. "That much is true. But, even worse, you made me disregard myself, think that because I had failed at one thing I would always fail at the rest, and that you were the only chance I had to redeem myself. I would have gone to my death believing that. I owe Harry for telling me otherwise, but I'm the one who had to make the choice to believe it."
Scorpius said nothing this time. He only stared, his eyes moving slowly, bitterly, back and forth between Harry and Draco.
"What are you going to do with him?" Harry asked quietly. His hand brushed Draco's back again. Draco didn't lean into it, but only because he honestly didn't feel that he needed the strength this time. The truth had stiffened his spine.
"That's up to him," Draco said. "If he'll swear not to attack me and to leave the wizarding world for a certain number of years, then I'll think about restoring his magic. If he won't, then I'm going to Obliviate him and drop him into the Muggle world with an amount of money sufficient to enable him to survive."
Harry looked away and nodded. Draco reached up this time to touch his cheek and turn his head back. "You would prefer that I tried to do something else?" he asked. "I know that you spent a long time trying to protect him."
"It's nothing compared to the amount of time you spent suffering." Harry nuzzled his cheek against Draco's palm. "I was just thinking of Herrington and Colnbrook, and wondering whether he would attack someone else and make them into his innocent victims. Can you make him swear not to do that, either?"
"Yes." Draco smiled thinly and turned back to his son. "With his magic gone, he can't make an Unbreakable Vow, but there are artifacts we own that will keep even a Squib's oath if he swears on them."
Scorpius stood straighter. "You can't do this," he said. "I won't swear. And you wouldn't simply leave me to starve in the Muggle world, Father. What do you know about it? Not enough to make sure that I would be safe. And you would feel compelled to watch over me, while letting me keep my memory."
"He might not know enough about the Muggle world for that, no," Harry said, in the voice that Draco suspected he used when conducting arrests. "But I do."
Scorpius stared at Harry. His lips drew back from his teeth, and his hands reached out as if he would rend Harry into strips of flesh with nothing more than his nails. Draco tensed to jump. He was seeing his son's temper unleashed at last, and it made him look like a rabid animal.
But then Scorpius simply shuddered and turned his head away. "I'm the heir to the Malfoy line," he whispered. "You could never have another one like me."
"I would hope not to, yes," Draco said.
Scorpius shook once. Draco blinked. That mildly sarcastic comment seemed to have sunk deeper into Scorpius than all the words he had used so far. Perhaps Scorpius found it easier to endure almost anything else than evidence of disregard from someone whom he had, in turn, disregarded.
"I still love you, Scorpius." A bitter, painful kind of love, Draco thought, but it was true nonetheless, or he wouldn't have said it. "I still want to have you here, fully restored, with your magic. But I am going to make sure that you won't be a danger to me, Harry, or the family legacy ever again. That means that you can swear and spend some time as a Squib to demonstrate good behavior, or I'll use the Memory Charm and see what you're like when you're stripped to your essential nature, without the Malfoy magic to serve as a stake. It's your choice. You won't get your magic back for years under the first set of conditions, but it's preferable to never getting it back at all."
Scorpius turned to him, pivoting smoothly on one heel as though someone had put him on a gate and pushed him. This time, his face revealed nothing. Draco had once envied him that control over his expressions, which he could never have attained.
This time, Draco knew better. He wouldn't have wanted to pay the price that that smooth face demanded from flesh and soul.
"I spent more than half my life believing you should have died and that I should have been the heir to the Malfoy fortune as soon as I was born," Scorpius said. His voice sounded muffled by something that Draco couldn't even imagine, but it was still struggling through. "I'm not going to swear to someone like you, someone I firmly believed was inferior."
"Believed," Harry murmured. "Does that mean that you still do? Even when he found out what you were doing in time to stop you?"
Scorpius might not have heard him. He just stared at Draco, and his breathing rushed faster and faster despite what Draco thought was a massive effort to control it. "Just remember," he said. "Someday, you're going to have to deal with me again."
Draco nodded. His stomach was full of curdled coldness, and he was already thinking of all the arrangements that he would have to make to get Galleons changed into Muggle money, and people contacted who wouldn't mind taking more money to watch over Scorpius, and safe places arranged if Scorpius couldn't find them on his own.
But he was not going to change his mind, or be less implacable when faced with the implacability in Scorpius's expression.
So he raised his wand and said very gently, "Obliviate."
"He'll be all right."
Draco leaned back from the table and nodded, putting a hand over his eyes to rest them. He and Harry had spent the past two days making sure that Scorpius would be safe, including locating the best place to put him when he woke from the gentle sleep that Draco had laid him into immediately following the Memory Charm and setting up a network of contacts who would watch and help Scorpius as necessary. Draco wanted to lie down in his bed and wait until the exhaustion went away.
Harry stepped into place behind him and started to massage his shoulders. Draco sighed and rolled his head towards him. "I still don't know if I did the right thing," he muttered.
"Welcome to my world," Harry said, with a tiny huff of a laugh into his ear. "I used to think the same thing every time I arrested someone who had been killing in vengeance, or using magic that was just a shade too Dark for the Ministry but would be a different spell with one word pronounced differently." He tightened his hold on Draco. "I thought it a lot right after I lied to you and fled the wizarding world."
"You shouldn't have," Draco said, reaching up and practically crushing his wrist. "You should have known that was wrong."
In the face of his gaze, Harry bowed his head. "I know," he whispered. "I'm sorry, again. But I still would have done anything to spare you this pain."
Draco nodded in silence. There was a raw, hurting place inside his soul where he had just scrubbed Scorpius out of his life. There was numb wonder that he had been able to make such a decision in the first place and make his son a Squib. He didn't know if most of his ancestors would have approved or been horrified, but he at least knew that he would have made an impression on them.
At the moment, though, they weren't the main ones he was worried about making an impression on.
He reached out, put a hand on Harry's shoulder, and used it to lever himself to his feet. Harry took a step back so he could rise, his eyes never moving from Draco's face.
"I wouldn't blame you if you wanted me to leave," Harry said, whispering as if that would let him avoid waking any more pain in Draco's soul. "I was the one whose arrival showed you all these things about Scorpius-"
"And the one who saved my life," Draco finished. "I would have ended up surrendering the Malfoy magic if not for you. Scorpius would have-persuaded me, and he wouldn't have wanted to leave me alive afterwards."
"You think he wasn't insane," Harry said tentatively.
Draco shook his head. "No. Simply arrogant, spoiled, and impatient with waiting for a prize that he thought should have been his. Very much a Malfoy's Malfoy. All things I never was," he couldn't help adding.
Harry's fingers tightened so harshly on him that Draco blinked in surprise. Then Harry ducked his head down so that he could peer into Draco's face, and it got worse.
"No," Harry said hoarsely. "You're more than that. Malfoy enough to be stern when you have to, Draco enough to feel bad about it. Someone who can endure years of suffering and then act decisively after it. Someone who can find the strength in his soul after decades of suppressing it and being told it doesn't exist." He leaned closer still. "The man I love," he murmured, and then kissed him.
Draco stood stiff and still for a moment. He wasn't sure that he deserved this, when he should have seen from the beginning what his son had been and done, when he was the one who had spoiled Scorpius to the point of ruining him and he hadn't dealt with that yet, when he had believed the lies that Harry was a murderer and a torturer...
And then he felt behind Harry's kiss how much that didn't matter to him, and Draco groaned and laid the burdens aside for one evening, digging his hands into Harry's robes and the flesh beneath.
Harry drew back, eyes bright, and pulled him towards the bedroom. Draco followed, one step after another, into a future that he couldn't define as yet, except that it would be touched by the past.
Tainted by the past. Tarnished by the past.
Tempered by the past.
There was love in Harry's eyes, and faith in his touch. And Draco had felt his own strength for himself when he stood there and called the scarlet flame to close the circle.
He was more than he had thought himself, more than even a Malfoy, which he had one thought the highest title he could aspire to.
He kissed Harry back and began to shrug off his robes.