"Political Expediency"

Disclaimer: The author claims no intellectual property rights of any kind to characters, plot points, or other ideas appearing in this work which originated in the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. The author receives no financial benefit from the use of these ideas and has written this work for personal amusement only. A non-negligible portion of the text of this story is borrowed from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, either verbatim or slightly paraphrased.

Author's Note: I am not a particularly talented writer of fiction, and this is no great work of literature. It is merely an exploration of one of many plot points which severely irritated me in the canon. I hope the reader finds something to enjoy, and would appreciate any feedback.

Summary: AU, beginning late Book 4. Lord Voldemort has returned to life, and Lucius Malfoy is not happy. Lucius/Narcissa; Lucius/Severus friendship. (This chapter was originally a standalone one-shot).

"A politician will do anything to keep his job – even become a patriot."

William Randolph

The final task of the Triwizard Tournament had ended in confusion with the disappearance of Harry Potter; the Minister for Magic had vacated his seat in the stands next to Lucius Malfoy and descended to the pitch, where he was conferring with Dumbledore. Lucius had remained seated alongside his wife and several other notable members of Wizarding society when he felt a twinge in his arm, which quickly became a focused burning sensation in his Dark Mark. Oh, bugger. I knew this was coming, but the timing is horrendous.

He turned toward Narcissa and caught her eye, then glanced at his arm and grimaced. Her eyes widened slightly; after a moment, she nodded, but said nothing. The meaning was clear: do what you must; I'll understand.

"Make my excuses to Cornelius and the others, Narcissa," he said, rising to go. She nodded again, looking worried; Lucius couldn't blame her.

After leaving the pitch, Lucius made his way to the boundary of the castle wards so as to be able to Apparate. Before doing so, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and transfigured it into a reasonable facsimile of a hooded Death Eater cloak, then removed a ring from his finger, which likewise became a mask. Hopefully nobody will be foolish enough to cast Finite. I can't be the only one who didn't have them at hand. I'm not sure I even remember what I did with them…

Grimacing once more in recollection of the unpleasant memories he associated with this garb, Lucius removed his wand from its place in his cane, touched it to his arm, and Apparated in a way he'd hoped never to have to do again.

He found himself in a dark, mouldering graveyard amidst other cloaked figures, facing a Peter Pettigrew who was missing a hand and looked to have seen much better days (he's alive?), a bound Harry Potter, and a disfigured, reptilian figure who shared just enough features with the erstwhile Dark Lord to give away both his identity and the means of his resurrection. Bloody hell. I recognise the effects; I know this ritual. Regulus must have been right that he had Horcruxes, then. The diary must not have been the only one, Lucius mused. Planting that on the Weasleys wasn't one of my better ideas, I must admit; it was only supposed to discredit them and I was sure they'd have it destroyed, but instead the Chamber of Secrets opened and several students nearly died. Definitely not my finest moment.

After a few moments, the others began approaching the Dark Lord, and Lucius was forced to move forward as part of the group; he knew all too well the price of appearing reluctant or disloyal, and he would not do so if he could help it. It won't do to arouse any kind of suspicion.

And then one of them fell to his knees, crawled toward the Dark Lord, and kissed the hem of his robes.

"Master… Master…" he murmured. Amycus has always been an idiot.

Once one had done so, Lucius knew, they all would have to. And so they did: one by one, the Death Eaters knelt, approached the Dark Lord, and kissed his robes. Lucius positioned himself toward the middle of the group, neither first nor last; unpleasant as it was to bow before anybody, it was far better than the alternative. Was I really such a fool as a young man? Forty is far too old to be a member of a gang. Here I am, head of one of the oldest and most prominent Wizarding families, perhaps the most influential figure in Wizarding politics, and I am forced to bow down to a halfblooded megalomaniac; this is an absolute disgrace.

The Dark Lord looked about for a moment, then began to speak quietly.

"Welcome, Death Eaters. Thirteen years… thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it were yesterday… We are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"

Lucius smirked, thankful that the mask hid his expression. Melodramatic as ever, I see; well, perhaps what he doesn't know will hurt him.

The Dark Lord straightened and sniffed, his distorted nostrils widening inhumanly. "I smell guilt," he said. "There is a stench of guilt in the air."

Lucius could see the nervous reactions of many of his comrades, and many looked as if they wished to step back or even to flee; he was certain he was not the only one whose enthusiasm was decidedly lacking. They all had known the Dark Lord well enough to predict how he would react, and he very much doubted anyone would be eager to experience the Cruciatus again.

"I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact – such prompt appearances! – and I ask myself… why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?"

No one spoke. Lucius mentally formed the replies he wished he could make, but he knew better than to say anything aloud. Stop grandstanding, old man; it's not as if you should have expected otherwise. But then, you never did understand politics. Disgraceful, really, for a Slytherin to so completely lack subtlety.

"And I answer myself," he continued in a whisper, "they must have believed me broken; they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment…" Of course we did. Politics, remember.

"And then I ask myself, how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death?" Regulus knew. He told me, and he told Severus, but we never quite believed him until I found the diary; I don't think any of the others had the slightest clue. And I suspect we all (except perhaps Bella) hoped that you would fail, never mind what we believed. You served your purpose; did you really think we would follow you forever? "They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living?"

"And I answer myself: perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort… perhaps they now pay allegiance to another… perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?" Idiot. What is the purpose of such empty taunting? There are always more than two sides; the enemy of an enemy is not necessarily a friend.

"It is a disappointment to me… I confess myself disappointed…"

One of the men suddenly flung himself forward, breaking the circle. Trembling from head to foot, he collapsed at the Dark Lord's feet.

"Master!" he shrieked, "Master, forgive me! Forgive us all!" Avery, by the voice. Another with far too little sense; did none of these men remember what it was to be Slytherin? Lucius' lips twisted into a grimace again. Does nobody have a functioning brain any more?

The Dark Lord laughed, and cast the Cruciatus, to predictable effect. Avery convulsed and screamed, while the others looked on impassively; Lucius was vaguely amused to note the horrified expression on Potter's face. Yes, Potter, we are also human. If you curse us, do we not scream? Lucius grimaced. Merlin, Severus has corrupted me; now I'm quoting Muggle plays.

"Get up, Avery," said the Dark Lord softly. "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years… I want thirteen years' repayment before I forgive you. Wormtail here has paid some of his debt already, have you not, Wormtail?" Why is he calling Pettigrew by that stupid nickname? Then again, perhaps he just wants to fit in better; 'Lord Voldemort' is just as ridiculous.

The Dark Lord looked down at Pettigrew, who had not ceased snivelling.

"You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain, Wormtail. You know that, don't you?" He does, but not for the reason you think, thought Lucius. Nonetheless, I shall be sure to describe it to Severus in detail.

"Yes, Master," he moaned in reply. Pathetic. "Please, Master… please…"

Apparently this was what the Dark Lord had wanted to hear, because he proceeded to acknowledge Pettigrew's assistance and grant him a reward. A quick wand gesture conjured a silver mist, which congealed into a hand and attached itself to Pettigrew's wrist in lieu of his missing one. Pettigrew appeared suitably grateful, falling at the Dark Lord's feet to kiss his robes; irrespective of anything else, Lucius couldn't fault him that, as he suspected he'd feel similarly were he in the other man's shoes.

"May your loyalty never waver again, Wormtail," said the Dark Lord.

"No, my Lord… never, my Lord…" came Pettigrew's simpering reply. Lucius wanted to vomit. Overdoing it much, aren't you?

Pettigrew rose and moved to join the circle directly to Lucius' left, seemingly unable to look anywhere but at his silvery prosthesis. The Dark Lord approached, and turned to face him; Lucius tightened his Occlumentic shields.

"Lucius, my slippery friend, I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face. You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle torture, I believe? Yet you never tried to find me, Lucius…"

Of course I didn't, and you'd have been a fool to expect otherwise. You were a convenient avenue to power and nothing more; that you fail to understand this still astounds me. And I only took the lead at the World Cup because Macnair suggested the idea and I had to stay in control, although I think we were all feeling nostalgic, as well as rather inebriated. Now, what to say…

The Dark Lord was still speaking. "Your exploits at the Quidditch World Cup were fun, I daresay, but might not your energies have been better directed toward finding and aiding your master?" He paused, awaiting a reply.

"My Lord, I was constantly on the alert," Lucius said urbanely. I know what he wants to hear; this shouldn't be hard to talk my way out of. "Had there been any sign from you, any whisper of your whereabouts, I would have been at your side immediately; nothing could have prevented me –"

The Dark Lord cut him off. "And yet you ran from my Mark, when a faithful Death Eater sent it into the sky last summer?" It's called subtlety, idiot. Not to mention there's no point going down with a sinking ship; it would have been political suicide to come forward and you know it. "Yes, I know all about that, Lucius. You have disappointed me. I expect more faithful service in the future." Does he really think I care a whit for his disappointment? Then again, I suppose it's best he does. If he thinks it sufficient punishment, he may not use the Cruciatus.

"Of course, my Lord, of course. You are merciful, thank you." The sycophantic words left a horrid taste in his mouth, but Lucius knew they were what the Dark Lord would want to hear and there was no point antagonising him unnecessarily.

The Dark Lord then launched into an elaborate paean for the Lestranges, lamenting their arrest, and mentioning briefly his plans to break them out of Azkaban while co-opting the allegiance of the dementors. Lucius grimaced; uncontrollable allies could be almost as bad as enemies, and he had no particular desire to see his sister-in-law again, nor did he want her at large with the potential to influence Draco. I always hoped she'd die in Azkaban. If she does escape, I'll have to ensure she suffers an accident. I doubt Narcissa will mourn.

The Dark Lord continued to walk, stopping now and then to speak to a few of the Death Eaters. To Macnair the sadist he offered new victims, never realising he actually preferred non-human animals most of the time; Crabbe and Goyle he chastised and entreated to "do better" this time. Those two are mine, not yours; of course you're disappointed. When he extended that chastisement to Nott, Nott decided to make an absolute idiot of himself:

"My Lord, I prostrate myself before you; I am your most faithful –"

"That will do," the Dark Lord interrupted him. Lucius wanted to laugh, but checked the impulse. Apparently it's possible to be too servile even for the Dark Lord; that's a surprise.

"And here we have six missing Death Eaters," said the Dark Lord. "Three, dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return: he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever – he will be killed, of course – and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already reentered my service." I hope none of those is Severus; I know he's not the third, and I don't think he's here yet – we discussed this eventuality, and he planned to go to Dumbledore first to be in a better position to play double agent for both sides again.

"He is at Hogwarts, that faithful servant, and it was through his efforts that our young friend arrived here tonight… Yes, Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. One might go so far as to call him my guest of honour."

Lucius, still without a concrete plan, decided to buy some time and asked the Dark Lord to explain his return. I may as well confirm my theories.

"Master, we crave to know… we beg you to tell us how you have achieved this miracle, how you managed to return to us," Lucius said. He glanced around at the others; he could tell by their reactions that Crabbe and Goyle at least, and many of the others, gave him barely perceptible nods of acknowledgment. They knew what he was doing.

"Ah, what a story it is, Lucius," said the Dark Lord. "And it begins – and ends – with my young friend here." The Dark Lord launched into a long speech; he'd always enjoyed the sound of his own voice, and Lucius supposed that it wasn't unreasonable for him to want to indulge himself after so many years. At least he'd taken the bait.

Lucius noted a few key points of the speech confirmed his theories: the Dark Lord's body had been destroyed, but he remained "less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost, but alive"; he claimed to have gone "further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality", which all but confirmed that he'd made multiple Horcruxes – how many?

The story went on and on; Lucius paid close attention, in case any detail were to be significant. The Dark Lord mentioned Bertha Jorkins; Lucius would have to tell Cornelius about that, so that the investigation could be closed.

"Wormtail was able to follow the instructions I gave him, which would return me to a rudimentary, weak body of my own, a body I would be able to inhabit while awaiting the essential ingredients for true rebirth…" Well, that's rather euphemistic; I'm surprised he's being so squeamish. What he means is that Pettigrew raped and impregnated her so he could possess the baby before it developed its own soul. It's probably for the best that they killed her; nobody deserves to live with that memory.

Immediately after he'd finished telling the story, the Dark Lord turned and cast the Cruciatus on Potter, who screamed and convulsed against his bindings.

"You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could have ever been stronger than me," said the Dark Lord. "But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger. Just a little longer, Nagini," he whispered to his snake familiar. Nagini? What a terrible name. "Now untie him, Wormtail, and give him back his wand."

Lucius smirked to himself; the Dark Lord was foolishly grandstanding again, which always seemed to preclude clear thinking. Why he insisted on letting the situation out of his control and introducing unpredictable elements was beyond Lucius' comprehension, but the Dark Lord's arrogance could be used against him, so Lucius was not inclined to question it very far.

Pettigrew unbound Potter, went to retrieve his wand and shoved it into his hand, then returned to his place in the circle.

"You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?" said the Dark Lord mockingly; Lucius wondered why he was putting on such a show. I never realised he was so insecure.

"We bow to each other, Harry," the Dark Lord continued, bending very slightly. "Come, the niceties must be observed. Dumbledore would like you to show manners; bow to death, Harry…"

Lucius gave in to the impulse to laugh, as did several of the others. He was sure Potter and the Dark Lord both thought it was Potter's humiliation they found funny, but really the situation was so ludicrous that they had to laugh at the Dark Lord's hyperbole.

"I said, bow," continued the Dark Lord, who raised his wand and forced Potter to bend. It was just too funny that he was wasting his time on such theatrical trivialities; once again, it was too funny not to laugh, and it took a real effort to regain control. Luckily, the Dark Lord will never even consider that we're laughing at him.

"Very good," said the Dark Lord, ending the spell. "And now you face me, like a man; straight-backed and proud, the way your father died… and now, we duel."

The Dark Lord immediately cast the Cruciatus on Potter, with a very similar result to the previous time he had done so. Lucius gripped the top of his cane, twisting it to disengage the latch so that his wand could be drawn quickly; one of the advantages of carrying his wand there was that it looked very natural to be holding it, making it much easier to draw quickly. If the Dark Lord gave him an opening, he didn't want to waste it.

The Dark Lord was playing with Potter, that much was obvious: taunting him, using the Imperius, throwing curses at him while he ran and hid; lucky for Potter, Lucius supposed, that he wanted to play, but it was ridiculously stupid not to have killed him immediately if that were his goal. Lucius didn't care much for Potter, but keeping him alive was good for morale, and his death would complicate things unnecessarily… Plus, he's done me a favour, much as I hate to admit it; I really ought to have rewarded him for taking that ridiculous elf off my hands.

It wasn't long before the Dark Lord seemed to tire of games, and cast the Killing Curse; Potter cast Expelliarmus and the spells collided. The result was something Lucius would not have predicted: golden spell-light joined the two wands, both of them lifted into the air, then many beams split off from the main one to form a golden sphere surrounding them. Lucius drew closer, looking for an opportunity, and noticed many other Death Eaters doing the same. He wracked his brain, trying to recall whether he'd read anything about a similar situation before, but nothing came to mind.

Then there was a sound, some kind of song; Lucius did not recognise it. Something was changing about the spell-light as well: larger beads of light formed and slid back and forth between the two wands; Lucius was reminded of a silly video game he'd seen Muggles playing in a pub Severus had dragged him to once, where two players each competed to press a button more rapidly than the other; it had had very similar visuals. I wonder where they got the inspiration for that; this has to be a very obscure magical effect if I've never heard of it, so how would Muggles know?

Eventually one of the beads struck the Dark Lord's wand, and smoky images started emerging from it and forming into people, interrupted by sounds of screaming; Lucius could not recognise them, but he suspected the effect was similar to the Priori Incantatem spell, and that the images represented people who had been killed with Avada Kedavra.

Suddenly the golden light vanished and the singing noise ceased; the shadowy images converged on the Dark Lord, and Potter fled while the Dark Lord flailed about in confusion. He recovered quickly, however, and ordered them to Stun Potter. Several of the Death Eaters complied, but shot far too wide of the mark to be aiming to hit.

"Stand aside! I will kill him! He is mine!" shouted the Dark Lord, and Lucius saw his opportunity. His back was to him, and his neck was exposed. To kill a wizard supported by Horcruxes, the body must be damaged sufficiently that it will not function if the soul returns.

Potter shouted a Summoning charm, and the Triwizard Cup flew toward him; as his hand gripped the handle and activated the Portkey, Lucius whipped his wand free, pointed it at the Dark Lord's neck, and cast Sectumsempra with as much force as he could muster. It was as if an invisible sword had struck, and the Dark Lord's outraged scream was cut off quickly as his head was separated from his shoulders. Almost immediately, Lucius felt an excruciating pain in his arm, and distantly heard several of the others scream; he at least had been expecting it. Once that sound had faded, all was silent, and the others seemed paralysed by shock. The Dark Lord's headless body lay motionless on the ground, the head cleanly severed and resting nearby.

It was Lucius who was the first to move, spinning toward Pettigrew and nonverbally Stunning him; he then immediately began to speak, in order to preempt any response.

"Listen to me, all of you!" Enough of servility, I'm done playing a role, he thought, pulling off his mask, lowering his hood and shaking his hair free. "My friends, we've been free for thirteen years; do any of you wish for a return to slavery?"

There was a bit of muttering, but nobody else spoke; Lucius hadn't expected them to. He continued.

"Remember how it was, when the Dark Lord ruled. He brought us power, yes, but think back to when he fell: who brought you power then? Who was it that kept us out of Azkaban? Who is it you've served since then? Remember how it was when you served the Dark Lord, and remember how it was when you served me. Which do you prefer? The Cruciatus, or power?

"The Dark Lord does not understand politics; he never did, as well you know. Most of us were Slytherin; what a shame it is that so few seem to remember what that means. It's a subtler kind of power I want, and a subtler kind of power I offer you; you all know that.

"Think also of your children. Tell me honestly. Do you want your sons to live the kind of lives we led? Or would you prefer a better world for them, the kind of world where we'd all prefer to live? Think about it.

"Stay or go, I care not, but do not interfere with me and do not seek out the Dark Lord again, or I will see you dead. Except for Pettigrew here; I owe Severus a gift, although I think it's only proper to wrap it… Incarcerous." His wand ejected a spray of ropes, which bound the fallen man thoroughly. I suppose I have a bit of a taste for unnecessary theatrics also.

"What say you?"

Lucius paused and looked about him; none of the others were going for wands, which was always a good sign. Then Crabbe stepped forward, gave a respectful nod, and spoke.

"We're with you, Lucius."

Most of the others stepped forward in assent. Lucius took note of those who hesitated; he'd have them hunted down later. Jugson. Rowle. Gibbon. The Carrows. And whoever the Dark Lord had said was "his most faithful servant" at Hogwarts, he too would have to die. They wouldn't be terribly missed.

"Excellent. I am pleased to have your support. We shall meet soon to discuss what is to be done; I shall send word. Now, I must return to Hogwarts…"

I'll need to bring the body as proof, or at least the head. Who shall we involve in the search for the remaining Horcruxes? They must all be destroyed, to prevent this happening again. Cornelius, certainly, will need to be told… I'm afraid, though, that we may not be able to find them all without involving Dumbledore. Severus can get me a meeting with him; I shall just have to hope that I don't give him too much leverage over me by doing so…

I daresay it'll be worth it just to see the look on the old man's face.

Author's Note: In case you're wondering, the prophecy still works here. The "power the Dark Lord knows not" is Harry's ability to provoke him to irrational behaviour. One could easily argue that's what brought him down the first time, as well. Whatever you say about my hypothesis, it makes more sense than love…

I may continue this later; I haven't decided.