Author's Notes: Written for luciusbigbang on LiveJournal. The banner can be seen here: iDOTimgurDOTcom/5xiGRDOTjpg
I extend massive thanks, first to secretlypadfoot, for cheerleading me while I wrote this, and secondly, to l0stinl0ve, for a wonderful beta job. You've both been incredibly helpful.
Finally, I'd like to dedicate this story to Couture Girl, for her unending enthusiasm for all things Lucius/Alice, and for this story. I hope you like it, my darling.
There was a light burning in an upstairs window of the Longbottoms' home.
Lucius had been watching it for hours now, waiting for it to wink out, but it still glowed brightly, despite the lateness of the hour. Midnight was fast approaching and yet it still seemed that they hadn't gone to bed, and he couldn't do anything until Frank Longbottom was asleep.
He had been skulking up and down the street since sunset – no, since before sunset, since the moment he had been able to get away from the Ministry, and the evening was beginning to turn cold, and he was growing impatient.
But Lucius would not compromise his safety by making any sort of sudden move. He would not set a foot on the Longbottom property until he was positive that he was going to be seen by the right person.
He leaned against the wall of the house opposite the Longbottoms', tugging down the hood of his cloak so that his face was in shadow, then, thinking better of it, he pushed it back so that only his hair was obscured. The Longbottoms would surely become suspicious of a hooded figure skulking just outside their house.
Come to that, they would probably become suspicious of any figure skulking outside their house. Perhaps Frank had already caught sight of him and was going to keep the lights on until he left, just in case he meant them harm.
Lucius started down the street, wandering down the adjoining roads and keeping one eye on the Longbottoms' until he saw the light go out upstairs. The second the window was dark, he started back towards the house, his breath coming in quick, excited little gasps.
He flung the gate open, started down the little path through their gardens. Barely had he reached the door and had just raised his hand to knock when it swung open.
Alice was standing there, looking livid.
"Lucius," she said, her voice sharp and absolutely devoid of the tenderness that he so enjoyed hearing her speak with, "you need to leave right now. I've told you–"
"Spare me the lecture, Alice," he said, reaching out to grab her by her shoulder. He intended to pull her out of her house and into the dark with him, but she slapped his hand away irritably.
"You shouldn't be here, Lucius," she told him. She stepped swiftly outside and shut the door behind her, glancing back over her shoulder. Lucius followed her eyes. A light was just visible in the parlour behind her – a light that had been invisible to him when he was watching from outside.
"Is Frank still awake, then?" he asked in a low voice.
"Of course he is, you idiot," Alice hissed. "What did you expect? Do you think we're sleeping easily in times like these? Do you think any Auror is?"
"Don't you speak to me that way." Even to himself, Lucius's voice sounded petulant. He sounded like a child who had not gotten his way, and it frustrated him that Alice could so easily rob him of all his dignity.
"I will speak to you how I want when you come to my home at night," she shot back. "And at any other time, for that matter. I'm not afraid of you, Lucius, as you well know. – and don't even try to tell me that I should be. You aren't going to hurt me if I tell you to stay away from my house."
He had an urge to pull out his wand and aim it at her, show her how very wrong she was, but logic stopped him from doing that. If she screamed, Frank would come running and Lucius had not the faintest idea how he might explain his presence to him. He would probably take Lucius in, insisting that the fact that he was at his home at night was all the proof that the Ministry needed that Lucius was a Death Eater.
So he did not attack Alice. He reached out instead to lay a slender hand upon her shoulder and draw her closer to him. "It has been a terribly long time."
"It hasn't been very long," said Alice, but her voice softened a bit, and a smile twitched upon her lips, though she hid it quickly. "Besides, we've already talked about this… there's no point in us keeping this up. You know as well as I do that one of us is going to die before this war is over."
"No, we aren't," Lucius said firmly. He clenched his fists, glaring at Alice. "Neither of us is going to die. I've made sure that the Dark Lord thinks that you and your husband aren't a threat–"
"And what do you expect that to change, Lucius? Do you think that it's going to stop him? Were all those Muggles he killed a threat?"
Lucius took a deep breath, calming himself before he spoke next so that he would not shout. "They were not. We both know that, Alice. But he does not like to spill Wizarding blood without cause–"
"But he will! And his followers? Do you think they'd hesitate to spill as much blood as they wanted? I know that you have all sorts of high-minded ideals, but not all of them do…"
"They will not waste their time on you!" Lucius paused, pondering if he should finish his thought, then added, in a slow, sombre voice, "and they don't have very much time left to do it, in any case."
"What?" Alice looked immediately alarmed and alert. "Don't they? Is there something that's going to change?" Then, as though she hardly dared hope, "Have you heard news… is the war ending, do you think, Lucius?"
"Yes." He dropped his voice even lower. "And if you tell anyone about this, I'll be killed, so don't breathe a word, but yes."
"What news?" she asked breathlessly.
"There is… there was… a prophecy…" he said slowly, unsure of how much he could give away. "The Dark Lord heard of it, and it… said…" He took a deep breath. "It said that there was a boy, born at the end of July, who could bring the Dark Lord's downfall."
Alice's face had gone white.
"A boy… born at the end of July?"
"Yes." Lucius closed his eyes and recited an undertone what he had overheard Severus telling the Dark Lord. "Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies."
"Merlin." Alice pressed a hand over her mouth and stepped back, grasping the door frame and swaying. "Oh… Merlin, Lucius."
"Alice?" He put out his hands to catch her while she swayed, for she looked so terrible, as though she were about to faint, but she slapped his hands away while clinging to the door for support.
"Alice, what is it?"
"Neville," she whispered. Her voice came out as a weak and tremulous croak. "My Neville… born at the end of July… to parents- who fought You-Know-Who three times… oh, Merlin…"
Blood drained from Lucius's face, more out of fear that Alice might die on the spot than fear that her child might be in danger. He grasped her firmly by her shoulders, pushing her down to the ground so that she did not fall.
"I need to tell Albus," Alice whispered, still ashen-faced. "I need to protect Neville- my son–"
"Think a moment, Alice!" Lucius told her, and even considering the state she was in, he could not help being frustrated by her. "Do you hear yourself? What would you tell Albus? Would you tell him that you just knew that the Dark Lord would be coming for your child? How would you explain what you knew?"
"It doesn't matter!" she cried, almost hysterically. "I need my son to be safe!" She was struggling against his grip now. "I need to tell Frank!"
Lucius drew back his hand and slapped her hard across her face.
"Stop that!" he ordered her. "You will not be telling Frank anything. Now be quiet and breathe deeply and listen to me."
Alice fell silent, eyeing him warily, and he took a moment to formulate what he would say next.
"Do not tell Frank anything," he said at last. "Do not tell Albus anything. Let me talk to the Dark Lord. I'll convince him that there's some other boy – any other boy, it doesn't matter who – who fits the description in the prophecy. I can do that, you know, Alice. I'll keep you safe."
"Keep Neville safe."
"Yes, yes!" he snapped. "You and him both. But Alice…"
If it was cruel to take advantage in this situation, Lucius didn't care. He leaned forward, so he was breathing right in her ear, and said, very quietly, "If I do this, then after the war is over, you will leave Frank, and marry me… yes?"
Alice let out a tiny whimper, but as Lucius drew back, he saw a grim sort of desperate determination in her eyes.
"You'll leave Narcissa for me?"
"Yes." He didn't take even a moment to hesitate.
"Then yes, Lucius," she told him. "Of course."
Lucius nodded, stepping away from Alice. She clung to the doorframe, staring after him with wide and teary eyes, and he managed a small smile.
"The war's almost over," he told her, almost as much for his own sake as hers. "You'll be safe soon."
"I hope so," Alice whispered, and as Lucius turned and strode away, the same sentiment echoed in his mind.
I hope so.