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.
Author's Note: I have decided this story is compelling enough to continue, so I am doing so (it's certainly taken me long enough!). I'm not entirely sure where it's going at the moment or how long the final version will be, but I do not anticipate it becoming a novel-length epic. This is not the final chapter, however; I expect to need at least two more. [Please note a minor retcon: I have changed which Death Eaters Lucius suspected would be unlikely to cooperate because most of the ones I'd chosen when I originally wrote this story would have been in Azkaban at the time. Oops.]
Summary: AU, beginning late Book 4. Lord Voldemort has returned to life, and Lucius Malfoy is not happy. Lucius/Narcissa; Lucius/Severus friendship.
After the other Death Eaters had dispersed, Lucius restored the mask and robe to their original forms and slipped his ring back on; Narcissa would never have forgiven him had he forgotten. He surveyed the area, noticing now that the snake had been killed, probably while he'd been dealing with Pettigrew. Good work, Macnair, he thought grimly. I'd forgotten all about it, and it may have been dangerous. The Dark Lord's body lay motionless, as did Pettigrew, still bound and Stunned.
Lucius transfigured the handkerchief which had previously been his robe into a sack, then levitated the Dark Lord's head into it. He paused for a moment, then carefully and deliberately incinerated the Dark Lord's body using Fiendfyre. The head he would need as evidence, but it was best to be safe; a sufficiently skilled Healer might otherwise have been able to reattach it, at which point the body could again be viable for the soul to inhabit. Horcruxes were tricky things, and it was best not to take any chances.
"Jeeves?" he called, summoning his current primary house-elf, who appeared immediately. A few years back, Severus had gifted him with the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse, and unfortunately the young elf had gotten into them; ever since, that was the only name to which he'd respond. Why is it all of my elves are insane? At least Jeeves is competent, I suppose. I should really get around to reading those books myself one of these days, but there's never time…
"Prepare one of the cells in the Manor dungeons and secure that man there," he said, indicating Pettigrew. "He is Stunned, but you will watch him at all times or have another elf do so; if he somehow escapes, use whatever means necessary to prevent it even if it means his death. Do you understand, Jeeves?"
"Of course, sir. It will be no trouble at all. Was there anything else?" Cheeky little bugger. At least he speaks proper English; that's probably why I like him best.
"Yes. Jeeves, take this sack and store it someplace safe. Once you've done the rest, if you would decant a bottle of claret – I think the 'eighty-three Chateau Mouton-Rothschild will do nicely – and have it waiting in the drawing room with three glasses when I return – that will do." I definitely need a drink.
"Very well, sir."
"Get to it," Lucius said, gesturing briefly with his cane, and the elf Disapparated with Pettigrew and the Dark Lord's head. What on earth am I thinking? I almost thanked him. Then again, he does do good work, even if he is an elf; whatever would I do without them? After a moment, he too Disapparated.
When Lucius returned to Hogwarts, he found it in chaos. Amos Diggory was causing a panic, understandably so, over the death of his son Cedric; Lucius was sure he'd have behaved similarly himself had it been Draco. No parent deserves that; I would have prevented it if I could, but he was dead before I arrived. Neither Dumbledore nor Potter was in sight; Cornelius appeared to be trying to do as much damage control as possible, but he looked flustered and didn't seem to be having much effect. Severus was nowhere to be seen either, but that was only to be expected; he was most likely with Dumbledore, wherever he was.
Lucius' mind raced, plans forming; there might be a great deal of potential if he were to bide his time for a bit, so he was disinclined to approach the field and provide any input. He sought out Narcissa among the throng, and walked in her direction; he could see the relief on her face when she saw he was unharmed, but as always she was subtle enough that he suspected nobody else would have seen it.
"What happened, Lucius?" she asked quietly, eyes questioning.
"Not here," he replied. "We'll discuss it at home. Where is Draco?"
Narcissa turned and inclined her head; Lucius followed her gaze and saw him still in the stands with his friends, looking largely unconcerned. That was a bit worrying – if nothing else, Draco should have long since learnt that the ability to feign concern was a valuable political skill – but that could be dealt with later.
"He's fine, Lucius. We shouldn't disturb him at school. Shall we go?"
Lucius nodded and took her arm. On their way out, he ensured they passed by the Minister.
"Lucius – " Fudge began; Lucius interrupted him, but spoke quietly.
"Cornelius, we need to talk. I expect you have lunch free tomorrow?" Lucius' tone made it clear this was not a question, and Fudge nodded dumbly. "Very good. The usual spot?" Another nod. "Good evening, Cornelius," he said, turning to go.
"Minister," Narcissa murmured, inclining her head briefly before following.
Back at the Manor, as they settled into the drawing room, Jeeves popped in to deposit the decanter and three fine crystal goblets on the table.
"As you requested earlier, sir," said the elf.
"Very good. Now begone. I will call if you are needed again," Lucius replied in dismissal; the elf Apparated away.
Narcissa looked at him quizzically, raising an eyebrow. "Three glasses, Lucius?"
He laughed. "Did you think I intended one for Jeeves?" After a moment, he continued more seriously. "If you don't object, I'd like to owl Severus – it's imperative that I speak with him as soon as possible."
She chuckled softly. "Not at all. Go send your owl. We see so little of him these days as is; I shan't complain."
It was only the work of a moment to pen a brief note ("Severus – urgent we speak concerning a grave matter. Please come to the manor by the usual method. – Lucius") and send a Disillusioned owl on its way (it wouldn't do to interrupt if others were present, and he suspected Severus might be busy with Dumbledore), then return to Narcissa in the drawing room.
"I've kept you waiting long enough, Narcissa," Lucius began, pouring himself a glass while Narcissa sipped from hers. "There is good news, and bad. Where shall I start?"
"Is he back, Lucius? The Dark Lord?" The rapidity of her speech betrayed her anxiety.
"He was, briefly. Pettigrew's doing; apparently he was still alive all these years. The good news is that I had an opportunity to intervene; neither of them will be a problem, and most of the old guard were no happier about it than I was."
"Don't tell me the details, only – it's really over? Draco will be safe? You will be safe?"
"From the Dark Lord, yes; he is, once again, quite dead. There are a few loyalists who'll need to be dealt with, but fewer than I expected; it shouldn't be any trouble."
She sighed in relief, leaning back on her chaise; Lucius could see her tension draining away. "I was so worried, Lucius – "
"I know. We both know what could have happened. It won't do to dwell on it…" he trailed off, and they lapsed into companionable silence.
After a moment, Lucius sighed, then closed his eyes and spoke slowly, almost as if in a trance.
"I killed him, Narcissa. The Dark Lord. I never thought I'd be the one to do it; I'd planned for almost every other eventuality – ways to undermine him and to minimise the damage until he could be dealt with – probably by Dumbledore, I hate to admit – but I never thought this was how it'd go…
"I don't know how to feel about it. I'm glad he's dead; of course I am. And you know I always planned to betray him, even back then… but despite all that, and all his insanity, I suppose I respected him, or at least who he used to be. Whatever else he was, he was a brilliant wizard… and he's dead at my hand."
"And now, of course, comes the difficult part. I have no plan, Narcissa – I have no plan! – and I will need to act quickly – there's too much to be done, and nobody else who can do it…"
"Oh, Lucius. You'll think of something; you always do."
It was more than an hour before the fireplace finally flared green and Severus stepped out of it. Despite the late hour, he was still wearing his usual teaching robes.
"Severus, it's lovely to see you," Narcissa said, approaching him and embracing him briefly; as always, Severus stiffened before awkwardly returning the gesture.
"Narcissa. Lucius," he said, nodding in his direction.
"Severus. Make yourself comfortable, have a glass of wine – we have a great deal to discuss."
"I imagine we do, Lucius… a certain grave matter perhaps?" he replied snidely. "That was surprisingly direct, for you." Severus poured himself a glass, then gave it a brief swirl and raised it to his nose. "Excellent choice, Lucius; don't tell me what it cost," he said, then drank briefly, closing his eyes; when he lowered the glass, Lucius could see the barest hint of a smile.
"I'll leave you two to your conversation," Narcissa interjected, rising to go. Lucius wasn't surprised; she always tended to excuse herself from conversations pertaining to the Dark Lord where possible. "Don't be a stranger, Severus."
Once Narcissa had left the room, Severus immediately started in.
"What happened tonight, Lucius? Potter came back with a garbled story, and all we got out of Crouch was maniacal nonsense – "
"Yes, that's right, you wouldn't know about that… apparently whatever happened was orchestrated by Pettigrew in concert with Barty Crouch. Not the father, mind; the son – there was some kind of convoluted plot and he's been alive all along – "
"More dead people, Severus? When will it stop? First Pettigrew, now Crouch – next thing you know it'll be Potter senior back to make your life miserable again…"
"Because my life isn't miserable enough, Lucius?" He paused for a moment. "Don't answer that." Severus leaned forward and raised his glass to his lips again, hair falling forward to obscure his expression.
After a moment, he continued. "I don't know how much of his story to believe. Dumbledore had me administer Veritaserum, but you should know as well as I do that it can be unreliable – how many times have I told you now? – all it ever tells us is what the subject believes to be true. And Crouch definitely spent some time in Azkaban before his parents broke him out, so his memory may not be reliable. I am genuinely unsure whether his ability to masquerade as Alastor Moody for a year is evidence of sanity or of lack thereof –"
"So that's how they got to Potter. I'd wondered. The Dark Lord didn't say."
"Yes. Crouch told us he contrived a way to force Potter into the Triwizards, helped him cheat his way through all the tasks – how he knew Potter so well I've no idea; I certainly didn't tell him and none of the other teachers would have – and made the Triwizard Cup into a portkey. After that, all I have is a garbled account of Potter's testimony via Dumbledore. He said you were there. What happened, Lucius? Potter says the Dark Lord is back, and I felt a summons, but then the Mark died again; it was all I could do to block the pain so Dumbledore wouldn't suspect anything. He thinks I'm attending the Dark Lord now, incidentally."
"I'll show you the full memory later; trust me, you'll want to see," Lucius said, smirking. "The short version is that it sounds like Crouch's account was accurate as far as it went; the Dark Lord said Pettigrew conspired with someone at Hogwarts to set up the ritual. I think you know which one they used –"
"Pettigrew was able to manage the potion?" Severus looked openly shocked for a moment, something Lucius had seen before only rarely, before deliberately composing his face and sipping at his wine in feigned nonchalance.
"Apparently. Somehow. You're welcome to interrogate him about it later; I think I owe you a birthday gift. He's in the dungeons," Lucius replied, feigning indifference; his friend coughed, nearly choking on the wine. I really shouldn't surprise him like this, but it's too much fun to see his face, Lucius thought.
"How did you manage that?"
"I'm getting there; patience, my friend."
"Now you sound like Dumbledore," Severus sneered at him.
"That's cruel, Severus. It's no wonder your students hate you, if you say things like that."
"Enough! This is no game, as well you know. What happened, Lucius?" Severus snarled, gripping the stem of his glass and one of the chair arms so tightly his knuckles went white. I may have gone too far, Lucius conceded silently, sighing. Severus has such a short temper sometimes, not that I really blame him.
"After the Dark Lord was resurrected, he gave us one of those tiresome speeches he loves, then decided to play with Potter. It was a stupid thing to do, but I suppose he was showing off; I think he wanted to convince us Potter had had nothing to do with his death. In any event, as Potter was escaping from him, he turned his back to me and I – well, I decapitated him. With your spell, too, Severus; that slicing hex you invented in school –"
"I must see this," Severus interjected.
"Go ahead," said Lucius, consciously lowering his Occlumentic barriers and looking his friend in the eyes. This brought back memories of the first war; Legilimency had been their preferred method of communication back then. Spying was tricky work, especially when you were a triple or quadruple agent or whatever Severus was (I'm not so foolish as to think he doesn't have his own goals independent of mine), and this was the most thorough method of transmitting information they had had. Lucius forced himself to suppress his reminiscence and concentrate on that evening's events as Severus entered his mind and brought the memory forth.
Severus looked stunned after seeing it and slumped back in his chair, tension visibly leaving him. After a moment, he spoke quietly. "Well, that changes things."
"It does, doesn't it?"
"What gave you the nerve, Lucius? Not that I'm not appreciative, of course, but it isn't like you to be so direct…"
"I'm embarrassed to say I acted without thinking, but it's the truth. I'd been thinking all along what it would mean for the Dark Lord to be back, and it was such a transparent opportunity it'd have been idiotic not to take it. Not to mention I was concerned for you, after his talk of traitors…"
"I had a plan to talk my way back in, but it would have been risky; I'm not particularly upset not to have had to test it."
"You could just say thank you, Severus."
"What fun would that be?"
"True." Lucius grinned. It's strange how comforting honest conversation can be to those who engage in it so rarely. They both fell silent.
"I hate to burst your bubble, Lucius," Severus drawled after a moment, "but you know as well as I do that it isn't over. We'll have to kill some of them; the idiots. The Carrows, certainly. Rowle, Gibbon, Jugson. Selwyn, perhaps."
"Yes, of course. I was watching them. Although I think Selwyn might be reasonable if we talk to him, and he could be useful. I do have that much planned."
"The usual method?" Severus asked.
"Of course. That will probably be easiest. Do you think any of them will be suspicious, since we've done it before?" We Slytherins always expect a certain amount of paranoia, so it's easy to find an excuse to suggest one-on-one meetings and invite people to their own assassinations. It's always worked before, but that's the problem; it's too good an idea for us to be the only ones who've thought of it.
"Don't be ridiculous, Lucius. Selwyn might, perhaps, but the others are dense as bricks. I've wondered for some time if the Dark Lord tampered with the Sorting Hat, actually; those five definitely belonged in Gryffindor if you ask me."
"Regardless. And what of Crouch, Severus?"
"Your friend Fudge conveniently arranged a mishap with a Dementor. It's rather lucky we won't need to interrogate him; I didn't have the opportunity to use Legilimency before it happened. You should have a word with the Minister about destroying evidence; we don't want him getting in the habit."
"Well, that's one way to solve the problem, I suppose. I'll be meeting him for lunch tomorrow; I'll mention it. In the event any of the others run, do you suppose you can get Aurors involved? They'd take that request better from you, I think."
"Perhaps. Dumbledore has already started making noises about recalling the Order of the Phoenix," Severus said sneeringly. "I'll see what I can do."
"He is, is he? Hmm…"
"Lucius, that smile is decidedly evil. What are you planning?"
"How would you like to ruin him? After the way he's treated you all these years, I'd say he deserves it, and that's not to mention he's a danger to the students." Or your theory that he set Flamel up to die and committed the greatest crime to Alchemy in centuries, but let's not get started on that again. "I've laid quite a bit of groundwork for it already. Think about it: we and our allies are the only ones who know the Dark Lord actually returned at all; it'd be quite easy to make him look paranoid, and if he starts on with that private army business it'll be child's play to sway public opinion against him. Even moreso than it was two years ago, and after last year's werewolf incident and the Triwizard fiasco I think we'll be able to make it stick. How would you like to be Headmaster, Severus?"
"Leaving the position of Chief Warlock for you, Lucius?"
"Well. The pay's better, and if it'll get me out of the classroom and away from those idiotic students… and Minerva feels overworked as it is, I don't think she'll object to being passed over… hm, here's a problem. I'll need a replacement to teach Potions."
"There's always Horace, if you can't think of any former or current students who stood out…"
"How many years has it been now that you've listened to me talk about my students? Have I ever mentioned anyone who sounded like a plausible successor?"
"I assumed you didn't mention most of the competent ones; you so rarely do in anything else…"
"It's not about competence, Lucius; or not only, at least. You've seen what that looks like in a teacher, or close enough to make no difference. Don't waste your time or money finding a bribe big enough for Horace; the students deserve better than that."
"I never knew you cared, Severus."
"If you tell anyone I said it, I'll kill you. Never mind all these years of friendship, I have a reputation to maintain." Severus smirked and raised his glass in a mock toast, then drank deeply; Lucius grinned again. "Stop smiling, Lucius. I mean it."
"Well, if not Horace, then who? There has to be somebody out there."
"I'm sure you have other plans for Draco…" Damned right I do, but he's nowhere near ready for them; he needs to outgrow his childishness first. At least this is some indication his grades might actually be honest; I had wondered, given how stupidly he behaves the rest of the time.
"Yes, but what about that Granger girl you're always going on about? Surely she'd do well enough in a few years, no? A Muggle-born candidate would be politically useful, too."
"Oh, if only there were Gryffindors here to hear you say that and die of apoplexy; or even Draco, for that matter." Severus smirked at him. "She would, but there's a twofold problem there. The first is that Septima Vector has already claimed her for the Arithmancy position, and she's getting quite eager to retire; I'd rather not step on toes if I can avoid it. The second is that Granger is far more passionate about Arithmancy than she could ever be about Potions. I've spent far too long in a job I hate to wish that fate on anyone." Severus sighed. "It should go without saying –"
"Yes, yes, if I let on to anybody you have a heart nobody will ever find my body," Lucius interrupted him. "You've known me long enough to know I'd have already done it if I were going to." Severus inclined his head briefly in acknowledgment. "You really can't think of anybody else?"
"Actually, hmm. What about Jason Greengrass?" Severus looked thoughtful as he continued. "He's been with the Potions department at St Mungo's a few years now, but if you can convince the Board to offer him a better salary, he might take it. If he's patient enough to deal with the usual craziness there, he might be able to survive the classroom… I can write to him."
"Let me feel him out first. Or Narcissa, rather; she's on good terms with his mother these days. I'll ask her to mention it their next shopping excursion."
"Can we trust the elder Greengrasses? They were never part of our circle; do you think they'll be suspicious of the offer?"
"It's a rather innocuous request, really – all we need say is that you're considering retirement and looking for a successor, after all. No need to mention Dumbledore. But the point is moot, Severus; Eirene Greengrass has been after Narcissa to arrange a marriage for Draco to one of her daughters for some time now…"
"Dear God. Please tell me she doesn't mean Daphne at least; that would be an absolute disaster. The girl loathes him and doesn't even try to hide it. As do many of his peers, incidentally; I despair of any of their ever learning subtlety. You'd think Draco at least would have picked up something over the years, with you for a father and me for a godfather."
"I'm working on it, Severus. Believe me, I've tried. But Narcissa spoils him endlessly and he's still very young…" At least Eirene was suggesting Asteria, even if she is far too young to be thinking about this sort of thing yet. For that matter, so is Draco.
"We weren't so foolish at his age, Lucius."
"No, we weren't. But at least he had the chance to have an actual childhood. I will never regret giving him that, no matter how many times we have this conversation."
"Fair enough. We've gone a bit afield, here, so back on topic – if Greengrass accepts, I say we do it. What say you to crashing an Order meeting to break the news, afterward? I want to see the look on Dumbledore's face, not to mention Potter's…"
"Oh yes. If you can get me in, certainly; I wouldn't miss that for the world." That might also be a good way to forcibly enlist Dumbledore and his Order in searching out Horcruxes; we have precious little information to work with, so they might be useful.
"It's settled, then. Now… Pettigrew?"
"Yes, yes. Come," Lucius said, rising. "Jeeves is keeping him on ice for us. I'll give you free rein. But do see if you can get anything about the other Horcruxes out of him; we ought to make sure this sort of thing can't happen again." Severus' answering smirk was oddly frightening, even to Lucius. Let's have some fun, my friend; it's not every day you have one of your oldest enemies at your mercy.
Author's Note/Postscript: To be continued. Sorry this chapter took so long; real life (Master's thesis, among other things) interrupted things and gave me a mental block that has been difficult to overcome. I'll try to be faster in future, but won't make any guarantees.