Author's note: chapter re-uploaded with minor corrections.
Children must be indulged; only then they grow up to be true rascals.
~ E. Schwarz
Prologue. The worse it is, the better it gets
"Good news, Mr. Malfoy."
"I'm all ears, Mr. McPherson."
"The boy is, indeed, mistreated. I've heard and seen enough for a solid court case… had the Social Services been doing their job, that is."
"Have you been there?"
"Of course. A plumber, a gasman, a taxman — there are many perfectly respectable ways to examine a house. It is a standard procedure used to catch out unscrupulous guardians or discover cases of home abuse. The results are right here." A black leather folder appeared on the table in front of Malfoy.
"Hmm… Let me see…" Lucius looked through the Social Services report. The longer he read, the more he frowned, and at one point he even cursed under his breath.
"Is this true?" he asked, jabbing a finger into the last page of the report.
"Of course." McPherson nodded. "I can assure you that with this evidence the Ministry will approve the decision to take the boy away from his relatives as soon as a suitable guardian is found."
"Tell me, Mr. McPherson," Lucius said slowly, "what should I do to become that guardian?"
The Ministry official thought for a moment.
"Well, let us see. Nothing terribly complicated. You would have to submit an application and fill out several forms. Also, we shall need several requests from people who have no intention of adopting the boy, since, according to the law, there should be an applicants' competition — it will be easy to set it up. But the final decision is… mine."
"Leave it to me to make your decision…" Lucius snorted, "... easier. How much time do you need?"
"A week. Ten days at most."
"Very well. I would like to keep this confidential until the papers are signed. No information leaks."
"I understand." McPherson nodded. After a short silence he added, "May I ask you a question, Mr. Malfoy?"
"You are welcome to try," Lucius smirked.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Are you questioning my desire to take care of the child?" A wry smile appeared on the handsome face. "Or my concern for the future of our community?"
McPherson decided that it was wiser to say nothing.
"Anyway," Lucius continued, "that is none of your business. Your only concern should be the documents and your…" he chuckled, "decision."
"Very well, Mr Malfoy. Let us meet in a week. Good day."
"Good day, Mr McPherson."
Part 1: The Boy Who Lived in a Cupboard
Chapter 1: Are You Going to Be My Dad?
Lucius Aurelius Malfoy Apparated right to the front door of Number Four Privet Drive in the late evening of July 30, 1985. A dark blue-and-silver robe made him almost invisible in the deep twilight of a summer evening, but, in fact, he did not give a damn if Muggles saw him.
Despite the late hour, the windows of the cottage were open and brightly lit. Voices came from the inside: a deep male and a shrill female one. The couple was arguing about something, but the words were unintelligible because a high-pitched child's wail drowned almost all other sounds:
"I don't wanna! A-a-a-a! I wanna! I don't wanna go to bed!"
Lucius made a face. What kind of parents were they, if they could not cope with a five-year-old? Muggles, there was no better word for it.
He stepped onto the porch and firmly pressed the doorbell.
"Who could it be, Vernon? We aren't expecting anyone." The woman sounded displeased.
"Don't worry, dear," Vernon answered. "I'll get the door."
There were some footsteps, the door opened a little, and a tall, rather young (probably Lucius's age, but already plump and balding) man appeared before the wizard. He was dressed in a shabby crimson dressing gown and a pair of worn-out, once-fluffy slippers with bunny ears. Lucius could not suppress a grimace of disgust.
In his turn, Vernon tried to close the door in the visitor's face, once he realized there was a wizard in front of him. Lucius did not let him, though.
"Vernon Dursley, I presume?" He stepped forward and jabbed his wand into Vernon's neck in a nonchalant gesture.
"Yes," came a choked reply. Dursley did not know exactly what harm to expect, but the expression on the face of the stranger did not bode well.
"I came on business," Malfoy said coldly. "Will you be so kind to let me in? I am not accustomed to talking on the doorstep."
"Yes — yes, of course." The fat man hurried along, showing the unexpected visitor the way.
Holding his wand at the ready, Lucius followed him to the living room, where a skinny and unpleasant woman in a dressing gown (this one was pink) was trying to calm down a fat and loud boy, obviously the Dursleys' own son. Seeing Lucius, the woman shrieked and the boy gaped.
"As you have probably already guessed," Lucius said urbanely, "my business concerns your nephew. I am delighted to inform you that I intend to absolve you from the responsibility of caring for the boy. The Ministry of Magic has officially appointed me his guardian."
Vernon turned purple; he was so enraged that he forgot his fear. "Listen, you! I will not let you spoil the kid and make a freak of him! Before he started having those stupid fits of his, he was a normal child! I will knock the nonsense out of him, you'll see!"
"Fits?" Lucius thought. "Ah, maybe the boy has already had spontaneous bursts of magic… Très bien…"
"Let me assure you," he answered coldly, "that I was not going to ask your permission for anything. I am here merely to inform you."
The angry protests of the Muggles roused him no more than a sight of a raging monkey in a cage would trouble a zoo visitor, except that Lucius felt a natural desire to step away.
"How dare you...!" the woman screamed. "He's our nephew, we are responsible for him."
"Petunia, dear, calm down," Vernon quickly cut her off. "I'll deal with it."
"Oh, I don't think so. Actually, I believe it is my duty to stop you from doing anything at all…" Lucius smiled maliciously and waved his wand. "Petrificus Totalus!"
Stunned, Petunia fell on the sofa, while Vernon landed on the floor. Now they could only watch the wizard, and their eyes were full of fear and anger.
"Don't worry, it's only for a quarter of an hour," Lucius said mockingly, "though I would like nothing better than to leave you like this forever. I think fifteen minutes will be enough for me to take my charge away from here."
With this, he turned around and left the room.
He knew from McPherson's report that Harry Potter lived in a cupboard under the stairs. It was hard to say what infuriated him more: the fact that some Muggles dared to treat the Boy-Who-Lived like this, or that they were impudent enough to convince the boy that he was a … freak. The latter probably angered Lucius more than the former. Not that he felt any particular respect for the famous Harry Potter; it was another thing: they had insulted the Wizarding World as a whole. And he considered himself to be the personification of it.
It was easy to find the door to the cupboard. He opened it, vaguely surprised by the number of locks. Indeed, behind the door there was a tiny living space, barely five by six feet. The only furniture inside was a crude wooden bed. A small dark-haired boy sat on it, his knees pressed to his chest. He was wearing shabby pajamas, which were too big for him. The boy looked at the man with mild interest.
"Hello," Lucius said. He was surprised that the child was not afraid of him. Not knowing where to start, he asked the first question that came to mind:
"Why aren't you sleeping?"
"Hello," the boy answered. "I can't sleep when Dudley's bawling like that. Are you a wizard?"
Amazed, Lucius nodded.
"How did you know?"
"Well, you're wearing a robe. And you're holding a wand." The boy frowned a little. "But I thought that wizards' robes always had stars on them. And half-moons. And that all wizards had long white beards."
Lucius immediately thought of Dumbledore and pictured himself with a long white beard in a star-and-half-moon robe. He shuddered.
"Not necessarily. By the way, my name is Lucius," he said and put the wand into the pocket. "And you are Harry, aren't you?"
"My name is Harry James Potter," the boy answered confidently.
"So, Harry James Potter," Lucius could not help but smile. "I am here to take you away from this place."
Little Harry thought about this for a few minutes.
"Your parents were wizards, did you know that?"
Harry shook his head.
"Uncle and Aunt never tell me anything about my parents. They only yell at me."
"Now then, other wizards found out that you are not happy here and decided to remove you from this house," Lucius continued. "I proposed that you live with me. They have agreed, and here I am."
Harry thought again.
"Are you going to be my Dad?" he asked finally.
"Something like it," Lucius was somewhat taken aback by this description of his role. The idea that he was going to become Harry Potter's father seemed fantastic and absurd.
"I agree then," Harry said earnestly and stood up. The pajama bottoms were barely holding on him and were much longer than necessary.
"Quel petit gamin... He probably wears the castoff clothes of that fat slob," Lucius thought with disgust. He bent down to take Harry into his arms. The boy was surprisingly thin and light. "He is much smaller than Draco, even though he is not that much younger. They didn't starve him, did they?"
"I will use some magic now," he warned Harry, "and we'll be home. Hold on to me and don't be scared."
"I'm not scared of anything," Harry raised his chin proudly, but then added with embarrassment, "Apart from Dudley. He is always kicking me."
"So little and already a Gryffindor," Lucius smirked inwardly and left the cupboard with Harry. "And in Merlin's name, he is trusting like a Hufflepuff. We'll have to work on that."
He was about to use the Portkey when Vernon and Petunia appeared in the doorway of the living room. Lucius had talked with the boy longer than he had intended, and the Stunning Spell had worn off.
"Stop!" Petunia yelled. "Don't you dare! There will be a search for him! And what are we to tell the police?"
"That," Lucius smiled maliciously while activating the Portkey, "is entirely your problem."
X X X
The Portkey transported Lucius and Harry to Malfoy Manor's front gate.
"There now, we are almost home," Lucius announced, striding down the wide central alley to the front entrance of the Manor.
"Is all this your place?" Delighted, Harry craned his neck trying to see something, anything in the darkness of the park.
Lucius felt quite a bit flattered by this display of the naïve child's enthusiasm.
"It is yours now too," he smiled. "Draco will show you everything tomorrow."
"Who is Draco?"
"Draco is my son, he is about your age," Lucius answered and immediately felt Harry tense.
He continued, picking his words carefully:
"I think you will get along well. He has always dreamed of a brother. I would like the two of you to become friends."
"Only if he won't kick me," Harry scowled.
"What about you? Will you?" Lucius smiled.
Harry shook his head.
"Well, everything will be alright then," Lucius promised. "And you'll never be bored."
"I bet we won't be either," he thought, opening the door.
The spacious hall of the Manor was dimly lit — there were only three or four wall lamps on.
"I will call for someone," Lucius warned the boy. "Don't be surprised or afraid."
"I've told you already, I'm not scared," Harry protested.
Lucius nodded and snapped his fingers in a special way. A funny big-eared creature appeared right in front of him and devotedly looked at Malfoy with its huge round eyes.
"Dobby here Master!" it announced cheerfully.
"Harry, this is a house elf," Lucius explained to the boy, who was staring at the creature, his eyes big and round not unlike Dobby's. "He will serve you. It is a custom among the wizards. Do you hear me?" He was speaking to the elf now. "From now on you obey Harry."
"Dobby understand!" the elf nodded enthusiastically, and his ears flapped, touching his shoulders.
Harry began to giggle at the sight of Dobby's moving ears, but then could not help himself and yawned.
"Oh, you must be sleepy," Lucius noted. "Dobby, ask Narcissa to come. Harry and I are going upstairs, to the nursery."
The elf squeaked something in acknowledgment and disappeared. Harry yawned again, but this time he did not forget to cover his mouth with his hand. Drowsily he bent his head to Lucius's shoulder and closed his eyes.
"No wonder he is sleepy," Lucius thought. "It's past midnight. He should have fallen asleep in the park."
He went up the wide staircase to the first floor and turned left to the private quarters of the Malfoy family. His wife was waiting for him at the nursery door.
"He is asleep," Lucius said quietly, handing Harry to Narcissa.
She whispered back, "I'll put him to bed. Wait for me in the corner study, will you?"
Lucius nodded silently and left. With Harry in her arms, Narcissa walked quietly to the nursery, where since yesterday there were two beds instead of one. The one with blue bed curtains on the left was empty; Draco occupied the one with green curtains on the right. There was a small night lamp softly glowing with golden light on the dresser by the window.
Carefully, so as not to wake up Harry, Narcissa dressed him in fresh pajamas and put him to bed. She tucked the covers, sat down on the edge of the bed and pensively watched the boys for a long time.
At last, she seemed to shake off her stupor and tiptoed out of the room. Closing the door behind her, she snapped her fingers to call Dobby. He appeared immediately in front of her, staring at her questioningly.
"Tonight you will keep watch over Harry," she ordered him in a whisper. "If he wakes up or becomes frightened, or anything else happens, you will immediately wake up Lucius or me. Is that clear?"
Dobby nodded, tossing his ears vigorously, and disappeared. Narcissa went to the corner study. Lucius was sitting in one of the chairs near the fireplace with a glass in his hand, quietly watching the flames. Despite the warmth outside, by night the air in the Manor was cool. Many rooms in the house were spelled with heating charms, but Lucius always preferred the warmth and light of an open fire.
Narcissa sat down in a chair next to his, and without a word, Lucius handed her another glass.
"To the future," she said lifting her glass a little.
"To the prosperity of the Malfoys," echoed Lucius.
Très bien (Fr.) — Very good.
Quel petit gamin...(Fr.) — What a little urchin.