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To Stopper Death

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To Stopper Death

 

To: Regarde
From: Your Secret Santa

 

Colline des Bâtards
Champagne, France
19 November, 1999

He stood on the hill overlooking vineyards and bare-branched orchards beset by an untimely snow, the black and white of the land against the threatening grey of the sky well suited to his mood. There was nothing of Severus here, and at times Lucius could be of two minds as to that being a good thing. This exile, taken in place of a term in Azkaban, had been his sacrifice to assure his son's future - but it was a bitter, bitter thing. The chateau, once a mark of émigré Malfoy affluence - and to a certain extent pissing on the graves of Robespierre and his fellow hyenas - had become his life-long prison. The clockwork men handled the various chores of operating the demesne, as mute as fenceposts and utterly without sentient thought. There was not even a house-elf to heed him.

For the first time in his life, Lucius was alone.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this." Why, why in the name of God had he kept on with it? Pride? Vanity? Regulus' death so badly explained should have warned him, but had he been so caught in the fairy-ring of promises that he refused to see?

Even in solitude on this hill, perhaps he could not precisely say that he was alone. When he closed his eyes, he could see their faces. In his dreams, they still spoke to him as if continuing an interrupted conversation. There were even times in which he could feel them; skin on skin and heartbeat to heartbeat before opening his eyes. Even lacking the state of sleep, there were always memories both bitter and sweet to offer comfort or torment. Lucius turned back to the house with equal parts determination and desperation. There were racks upon racks of intoxicants in the cellar and enough of the familial-label wine to float a fleet. Surely there had to be enough to quiet the memories of the dead.

~

Hogwarts School
14 September, 1971

It was the habit of most old-line purebloods to refer to halfbloods by the wizarding parent's surname - as if bastardies were a lesser sin than exogamy. He supposed that in certain cases it might be, but young Prince had certainly been given a most Slytherin upbringing and education. If only the boy were not feral and so firmly under the influence of a mudblood, things might be a little easier - and not just on Lucius' status as next year's likely Head Boy.

"Ten points, Severus."

No response as the boy stared at his scuffed black brogans. The cane had brought nothing from Severus but more of the same intransigence. Perhaps a more subtle and nuanced approach would yield better results. Instead of dire threats, Lucius pushed towards him a tin of Florentine biscuits - fragrant with spices, orange peel and chocolate.

"I've never seen a hex like that one - it looked to be worth every point. Why don't you tell me how you did it?"

~

Colline des Bâtards
10 November, 1999

Some days later, Lucius came to the conclusion that trying to drink oneself to death was a starry-eyed invention not unlike those benighted romances wherein the consumptive never hacked up a bloody lung. First and foremost, drinking oneself to death presumed a level of alcohol consumption sufficient to keeping on in a state of perpetual intoxication. It did not, however, presume sleep or the subsequent veisalgia severe enough to prevent one from doing anything but huddling miserably on the floor of the loo for three days. It was as he was brewing a batch of Purifica that one of the wholly objectionable and fully interchangeable Weasleys arrived. There was not even pretence of a knock, and Lucius vented his curses inwardly as he was caught reeking of alcohol, copiously bruised from some unremembered mishap and huddling by the fire. Worse was the pity in the pup's eyes as he stared at what could only be taken for a chimney corner drunk.

"What do you want?" Lucius gave rudeness for rudeness, mustering a smooth arrogance that made the youth twitch and flush, then scowl. A petty revenge, but it was one of the few left to him, and satisfying out of all proportion to the act.

"From Rookwood, Rosier & Rowling - you're to sign." He tossed a sealed parchment onto the kitchen table.

Pulling the kettle from the flame, Lucius fished in his robe pocket for his spectacles. For the first time in six months, he could feel a kindling of interest even before he broke the red wax seal. The letter's contents, however, required an attentive reading. The Weasley - Charles, the dragoneer - nodded when Lucius looked up at him.

"You're very sure?" Lucius asked, annoyed at the brittleness in his tone.

"We're sure."

Severus, please, please forgive me. You saved my son...

"I saw no body. I was given to understand that none was recovered."

Charles shook his head, a furtive expression of guilt lurking at the corners of his mouth. "We looked everywhere - even into places in the Forbidden Forest where time has gone strange. Professor Snape was declared dead a week ago, and his vault unsealed."

Lucius read the parchment again, summoning a small knife and a fountain pen. "I will not be allowed to attend to this in person, I assume?" A quick flick of the knife against the pad of his ring finger brought sufficient blood to complete the required signature.

It was an admission and a defeat - and probably no less bitter for Narcissa and Draco than for himself. Severus, who assured his students that he could stopper death, had seemingly left his own not provided for beyond this spare and opaquely worded document.

I, Severus O. Snape, being a wizard of sound mind and free of coercion, do hereby give and bequeath to Lucius Draconis Malfoy the contents of vault #573 - without exception or reservation - to be conveyed to him immediately upon confirmation of my death.
"Upon confirmation," Lucius muttered. "It's taken this long?"

"Harry had some doubts, so did Ron and Hermione." Charles' tone made it clear that those doubts had been the root of some disagreement. "That and it took a while for the goblins to be convinced."

His blood sank into the parchment, drying to familiar red-brown on contact with the binding charm. Folding it, Lucius turned it over in his hands, delaying to seal it - at least the Weasley whelp kept his own counsel until he did. Lucius pressed his mark into black wax, surprised as he did so at the pang the act brought to his heart. A pain very much corporeal and one unexpected, as he'd always derided the very idea of heartbreak as twee drivel for the weak-minded. The tightening verged on pain, and Lucius clenched the seal in his hand, white-knuckled until it could pass.

Charles held out his hand, as cautious as he might have been around one of his creatures.

First pity, now concern.

From a Weasley.

It was not to be borne.

With a sneer, Lucius slapped the sealed parchment back into the boy's outstretched hand. "Be gone with you."

It took him some time after the boy left to get out of the chair and find his long-ignored medicines. Perhaps he was not so keen to die this week.

~

Hogwarts School
1 September, 1972

"Bailey, Nostradamus."

"Hufflepuff!"

"Beade, Veronica."

"Ravenclaw!"

"Binch, Fidelia."

"Ravenclaw!"

"Black, Regulus."

Across from Lucius, Narcissa could be heard muttering encouragement. Heaven knew the family was due for some luck, what with her eldest sister's miscarriage and Andromeda's disgraceful half-blood child.

The Sorting Hat barely touched the boy's black hair.

"Slytherin!"

There was no mistaking the look of hauteur the boy gave Gryffindors' table, nor the pride in his walk as he came to join his rightful House. He took his seat next to Severus, offering his hand.

"You must be Snape. I'm Reg - and that unprintable censored over there is my brother. He's told me all about you - won't shut up, actually - just not your first name."

Severus' lips twitched into a fleeting smile, then a scowl in his tormentor's direction. "It's Severus, and if he's told you all about me, why are you shaking my hand?"

"Because I think everything he's told me is marvellous."

~

Colline des Bâtards
15 November, 1999

The clockwork man stood patiently in the forecourt, a battered trunk in his arms. It was irksome that the clockwork men could stand no other way but for patiently, say nothing to fruitlessly vented spleen, do nothing more than bow as Lucius blasted one to gears and springs in a rage, only to have another exactly alike in every way take its place. Lucius gestured curtly for the thing to bring its cargo inside; he'd stopped destroying them months ago. It was wholly unsatisfying that they were unable to scream.

"Leave it on the table and then go." The thing bowed and of course, as ever, ad nauseam obeyed. He'd like to catch the sly prick who'd programmed that bow and break his back, but instead poured himself a glass of an excellent 1986 Bandol.

So this was what Severus saw fit to keep in a level five vault - his old school trunk?

It had not been new, even when it was new to Severus, but it looked exactly as it had when last Lucius saw it. It had been opened, of course, and likely on Ministry orders. Lucius sneered at it over the rim of his glass, and then began to carefully parse the trunk for himself; he was all too aware that many thought he'd been let off too easily. The faint webs of Severus' magic lingered even now as Lucius brushed his fingers over them, blaming his stinging eyes on the dust the thing had likely brought in. Numbly, he brought the glass to his lips as the fingers of his other hand followed those faint traces over and over.

~

Malfoy Manor
December 31, 1972
New Year's Ball

Narcissa floated through the turns of the waltz as lightly as a bird on the wing. They had each agreed when much younger that neither would abide to be wed to someone who could not dance and just this evening, they had learned only an hour ago from his father and Narcissa's parents that they would not need to worry about such things any longer. The match would be announced next autumn, after Narcissa was out of school and Lucius suitably embarked upon his reading of law. He signalled a turn with the slightest movement of his shoulder and she glided right into it. The period dress that appeared contrived and awkward on many of the other attendees looked fresh and delightful on her, his gloved hand resting at her waist and feeling the light boning of a corset through the green silk taffeta. It was a deeper thrill than he'd imagined.

As the music ended, they separated into their bow and curtsey. Perhaps a little vain about the picture they made as he escorted her to the punch bowl, but surely it could be allowed.

"Lucius?" Rodolphus Lestrange's hand rested briefly on his shoulder. "You father asked that you join us in his study. I'd be happy to have a quadrille with my dear sister-in-law while she awaits your return."

Summons to the study did not come lightly, and especially not in light of the company. Mr. Avery, Mr. Lestrange, Mr. Mulciber, Mr. Nott and Mr. Rosier were all men of matters, not to mention the fathers of some of his schoolmates. Securing Narcissa's forgiveness, he left the bright gathering in the ballroom and took to the dark-panelled corridors of the family wing. Tapping lightly at the age-dark walnut door, he felt the wards part to let him pass. The study smelt of warm brandy and pipe smoke, and an oak log burned in the grate. The flames made the shadows dance, but for one shadow more solid than others from which a pale hand cradled a snifter of brandy.

"Lucius, come in, son. I have some gentlemen with whom you should soon be upon more familiar terms."

~

Colline des Bâtards
17 November, 1999

It was daunting, and though Lucius had been able to unpack and sort the contents of the trunk, he'd been too wine-soaked to do anything about them. This morning he'd moved the contents of the trunk to the library, setting them out on the black marble of the main reading table for more purposeful viewing. It was - to say the least - an eclectic assemblage.

One pensieve made of a perfect nautilus shell with a goblin silver lid that was warded on tightly.

One Fabergé egg of green enamel with platinum, pearls and diamonds.

One Snitch, in a box marked "House Cup to Slytherin - 1975."

One copy of 'Isles Beyond the Night-Dark Sea: Necromancy and Funereal Imagery' marked as being checked out from the Restricted Section on 9 January, 1943.

One cheap composition book, bound with a rubber band.

Two small quartz crystal phials of shimmering liquid - each sealed with transparent resin and one long black hair.

The magic was again familiar, and for the first time in decades the savour of Regulus Black - who had made his mark on so little - hummed against Lucius' fingers.

~

Malfoy Manor
29 December, 1977

"Severus, I'm so pleased you could come." And Lucius was - it had not been a good year at all. Directing the elf to take Severus' bags, he escorted the young man up the stairs. "Narcissa's waiting inside. She's... feeling much better."

Severus gripped his arm, expression concerned. "We heard. Lucius, I'm so sorry."

He'd kept up contact with Severus after leaving school. His father's approval had been keen - even though the boy was a half-blood, he had an intuitive and effortless grasp of magic that had not been seen in the Prince line for generations. It had been rather intriguing to shepherd Severus and his little coterie though ups and downs he remembered quite well himself, and on one memorable Hogsmeade weekend to initiate Severus into the fleshly pleasures. The thin-lipped mouth that cast curses so ably proved more than amenable and capable of delights from kissing to cocksucking, and Lucius had revelations for him as well. Severus had firmly entrenched himself as being uninterested in girls, though Lucius thought it was more a reaction to Lily Evans' attachment at the genitals to James Potter.

"Thank you. We'd hoped... I'm just glad she... she's going to be all right." In the few years of their marriage, Narcissa had become his 'other half' in truth - there was nothing they did not share. "I meant to write and thank you for remembering Father so kindly, I know he thought very well of you. Things just happened so quickly after that."

Severus nodded in sympathy, obviously striving not to look about the manor like a country cousin. "Not to worry. I've some research, when you're both in the mood to hear it."

Narcissa awaited them in the conservatory with her mother and cousin Regulus, bundled up in her wraps on the fainting couch. She was pale but gamely smiling and determined not to let anything get in the way of the party. "Out with the annus horribilus and in with annus mirabilis. Severus, you already know my cousin Regulus - may I introduce my mother, Druella Rosier-Black?"

Lucius did not miss the looks exchanged between Severus and Regulus. It took years of practice to give a clandestine look and have it work - these two were simply brilliant novices.

He exchanged a clandestine look of his own with Narcissa. The holidays had just become far more interesting.

~

Colline des Bâtards
21 November, 1999

The journal begun in the cheap composition book was not Severus', but had originated in the mind of Regulus Black. He had seen clearly for one his age, and had seen clearly where others' visions had failed. The words left a bitter taste in Lucius' mouth. Regulus had been a boy, a year younger than Severus, and yet he had seen more clearly than any of the Death Eaters that Voldemort was not their salvation but their most dire enemy. Somewhere on his way from being Head Boy Tom Riddle of Slytherin, the Dark Lord had decided to remake the wizarding world in his own image.

4 January, 1978 It makes little difference that Kreacher is just an elf, he is our elf and no one outside the family should have taken liberties. He trusted me, and one thing that everyone with the sense God gave a puffskein knows is that you never break trust with a house elf. They know your secrets, and they will tell. I knew he'd come home; I just had no idea of what he'd have to manage to do it. I think he's going to be all right, but the things he's told me... the things he's told me, I can't tell anyone.
6 January, 1978 It's monstrous, and there's no other way. There isn't. I've looked and looked in every book and scroll and I can't...

IT'S NOT FAIR! IT'S NOT FAIR!

I tried to reach Sirius and tell him, that fucking berk I hope he rots BEFORE he goes to hell and rots after, too. Listen? Who, him? That muggle-banging whore is still licking James Potter's tight little arse. Well, if I die, and it looks likely, I go to the grave having WIPED MY SLYTHERIN PURE-BLOODED ARSEHOLE with Potter's record as a Seeker. Take that and stuff it, Sirius, you misbegotten better part of an abortion.

8 January, 1978 I don't think I've covered everything. I know I haven't. I just hope I've covered enough to throw a spanner into the works. Severus, if you ever read this, please understand or try to after you finish cursing my shade.

I love you.

Regulus Arcturus Black - Toujours Pur, d'habitude Stupide

Lucius reached for the wine, jaw clenched. Would he have listened - or would he have killed his wife's favourite kinsman for even thinking such things? He'd certainly killed others for less, far less, than Regulus carried about with him in the last year of his short life. The hard part was that he'd never be able to know. He was not the man he'd been in 1977, or in 1980, or 1991, or even in 1996 - three scant years ago. He sat with the book in his lap, paging back and forth, marking in his own hand the most salient points. The light changed from the bright of noon, deepening to a swift twilight as the level in the wine bottle dropped with the sun.

He closed the book as the candles in the chandelier sprang to life, a clockwork man's tread audible on the carpet behind him.

"I will take dinner here in one hour - chateaubriand, pommes Anna, whatever greens are available. Wine, a good red - Premier cru, not Grand cru. Pommard will do." The clockwork man bowed as Lucius rose. "I will be in the music room, find me when dinner is ready."

~

Malfoy Manor
29 December, 1977

The main body of guests was not to arrive until the night before the ball; the days previous were for special guests to whom Lucius wished to provide special attention or watch especially closely. The combination of the two with which Severus and Regulus provided him was an unlooked-for gift. The manor was a typical English country place when the Malfoys had arrived, stung deeply at the loss of their demesne. In time, the passages, the hiding places, the discreet methods of watching one's guests had been built from modest starts. Now the master of the house could watch every room in the house, and Lucius was watching quite intently as Severus had his way with a very willing Regulus.

Severus' trousers went down, Regulus' robes went up, and the pair of them went rutting away in the guest wing linen closet as if in a Peachbottom Lane alleyway. To all of this, Lucius had quite an excellent view of their admittedly fine bottoms - Severus' high and tight, Regulus with such a tempting roundness that it was a wonder he didn't spend his life bent over for friends, relatives, schoolmates, and passing strangers.

"Ahhh..."

"Fuck... tight as a Gringotts' vault..."

Oh, indeed? Lucius would have to remember that - as he was related by marriage instead of blood, screwing Regulus would not be legally incestuous. Fingers busy at his own placket, Lucius took himself in hand with a sigh as he watched through the little eyehole hidden in the shadows of a shelf. Yes, he was being prurient. No, he did not care, and furthermore, he'd be telling Narcissa all about it tonight. And what things he could tell her - the flushed cheeks, the panting, Regulus' pretty rosy-headed prick bouncing as Severus gave him a well-received buggering. Would she wriggle when Lucius told her the type of cry Regulus gave just before Severus reared back, pulling Regulus with him, driving himself in to his root and causing Regulus to besmirch the carefully folded sheets with his come?

He would definitely tell her how they kissed after, as eagerly as if they were about to rather than if they just had.

Closing the spy hole, Lucius took to his own pleasure in earnest. He was too pent up to take his time, rutting into his spit-slicked hand as if he were yet a randy schoolboy, himself. Oh, Narcissa would just love it...

~

Colline des Bâtards
22 November, 1999

He missed Narcissa. Unlike many of his peers, he loved his wife very much; she was indeed his better half and, as it had turned out, of far more a pragmatic mind than he. During the interregnum following Voldemort's 'death', Narcissa's most canny instincts rose to the fore and until Severus passed them word of his suspicions concerning Quirrrel, they'd been quite sure that dead was dead and likely to stay that way. How terribly so many of them had underestimated Voldemort's will to escape death and the consequences of their less than perfect faith. To have his only heir and delight of his heart be tasked with something certain to bring about his death had taken Lucius' imperfect faith and amputated it neatly.

To the better families, not often abundantly blessed with children, an heir was sacred. You could kill your rival, but to go after the lives of his juvenile children would see you cut down by your own allies. It was a peculiarity of Voldemort's that many had been deeply uneasy over - though at first there were...reasons for the first fatalities. An ashwinder egg resulting from an unattended fire, or a miscast spell, or the child getting in the way, or some of their more unsavoury associates having been sneaky and doing away with the poor unfortunate child. Then there was the fear it caused, and the tool that fear became to them - what parents would not want to protect their own precious child?

And then, the entire Potter mess along with that everlastingly buggered and misbegotten prophecy and the delusions...

They had been winning before that misbegotten prophecy. Not neatly and cleanly, no, but time would have smoothed that over as Lucius and his faction made changes in the Ministry and Wizengamot. They had the money and the connections of blood or blackmail to sustain them, and many more who were genuinely persuaded by the vision of a wizarding return to a rightful place in the world. How completely buggered they had been upon their Lord's return to find that the madness he'd shown before had worsened, and worse, that Bellatrix had not died during her incarceration and was possibly more insane than their Lord.

Narcissa's wit and solid instinct was the only reason that the Malfoy name would have a future, and for that he loved her most of all.

He raised his glass to her portrait, echoing the words on his family's coat of arms. "La seule défaite est la tombe."

~

Malfoy Manor
30 December, 1977

Moonlight reflecting on snow gave light bright enough to read by, illuminating the silver grey silk of the coverlet and Severus' pale skin under his hands.

"But-"

"Shhhh..." Lucius hushed him, letting his hair fall like a curtain, blocking Severus' view.

"It's... indecent, Lucius." The last of that whispered protest trailed off in an almost Parseltongued sibilance. For a man whose decency was in the process of being outraged, Lucius thought that Severus was maintaining quite an emphatic erection. Not wanting to answer such tosh, Lucius simply kissed him. Some men prided themselves on never kissing their male paramours, but Lucius savoured the eroticism and intimacy - the passion so different from that of a woman. Not less hungry, nor delivered with any less heat, yet somehow wilder - as much of testing as ardour.

His hands glided over Severus' whippet-slender frame as they kissed: lips and tongues teasing, pressing, then trying to devour, only to return to an almost delicate teasing yet again. His fingers curled loosely around Severus' sex and tightened, stroking with a practiced twist that made Severus quite forget his objections.

"Wicked..." Severus moaned on a panting breath.

Lucius only hummed, trailing kisses down the sharpness of his jawline to his neck, across the bas-relief of Severus' collarbone and then down further still - pausing only to outrage Severus' navel with his tongue until he fairly quivered.

"I'm going to suck your cock, Severus."

That brought his eyes springing open and send his gaze rolling to the left side of the bed. "You can't do that!" he blurted.

"Of course I can. I've done it plenty of times." It was so much fun to play with him. He glanced over at Narcissa in her chair, one hand discreetly under her peignoir and a smile on her face.

"Please, Severus? Do let him."

Bless her, it gave him time to get Severus in his mouth as he tried to formulate some sort of reply around the shortage of blood to the brain. Any objections to follow were forestalled as Lucius made a feast of him. Fellatio, cocksucking, whatever one called it was an art for the connoisseur. Anyone could give or get a sloppy sucking; the penis was usually pleased to co-operate with anything warm, wet and fricative. However, to reduce a paramour to a state of addled lust and frantic acquiescence to one's desires was more satisfying than any amount of productive rutting. To sit across from them at dinner, or a desk, or even simply to offer a smile in passing could make them distracted, and rather pliable - as in a slicked finger nudging a spot behind Severus' balls, then trailing to his deliciously clenched orifice.

"But-!"

"But you like it?" Narcissa's voice, just slightly breathy as her fingers made the silk covering her ripple.

Severus could not tear his eyes away. "I."

Narcissa smiled. "I see." Standing, she untied the belt of her dressing gown, letting it slip from her shoulders with a shrug - leaving her standing in a translucent skim of silk and lace as she brought the green silk belt to her eyes and blindfolded herself before she sat once more. "Is this better?"

Severus' moan was not for Lucius' finger alone, the sight of her was magnificent.

"I want you to do everything you like to do together," she said, taking a provocative pose, fingers creeping under her hem once more. "But I want to hear you."

Severus was the first to reach for the bottle of oil, and Lucius fast to flip him. The winner in their little contests took his victory on top, which made losing as pleasurable as winning, but pleasure was the very point of the endeavour. No holds were barred, and one was expected to cheat. Lucius made a great deal of advantage with his fingers, actually gaining custody of the bottle with his feet whilst Narcissa listened, her expression equal parts of arousal and 'oh-you-silly-boys.'

It was silly, but deliciously arousing as Severus struggled, then pressed against Lucius - urging him with little restraint to mount. Lucius sank into Severus' tight heat with a groan, clutching convulsively at the flange of his hipbone as they moved together. Oh, he wished to make it as sensual as their kissing, but Narcissa's own little noises of delight served to spur them both on. Severus' fingers twined with Lucius' on his sex, stroking in cadence with Lucius' thrusts.

"Yes, you like it show me you like it..."

"Bastard, fuck me harder..."

Lucius adjusted his angle and Severus' arm went out from under him, pushing his buttocks higher.

"There right there ffffuck!" Severus' bottom tightened around him, pulling him into a desperate, pounding ride to the finish - slicking Lucius' hand with a bucking shout. For his pride, Lucius managed to hold himself back for a scant dozen thrusts, his passion overtaking him with such force that they ended up on the floor at Narcissa's feet in a muddle of bedclothes and one of the curtains.

She smiled down at them, erstwhile blindfold over the arm of her chair and a flushed, dreamily satisfied expression on her face as she bent to kiss them both.

~

Colline des Bâtards
26 November, 1999

The nautilus pensieve proved to be well warded, but the pass code could only have been intended for Lucius. After trying everything he could think of and at the end of his wits, he murmured to himself as much as to Severus.

"Perhaps you thought too well of me. I'm sorry, dear friend, that I was wrong."

The lid opened with a soft snick of a latch, the luminescence of the memories lighting the shell until it glowed from within. With his wand, Lucius slowly lifted one out, sampling it as he might a new and unknown wine. The memory was not one of Severus', but it was of a symposium that he attended in Edinburgh not long after the events of October 1981. The subject, depressingly enough, was death. In the seats, Lucius could see a younger Severus taking notes - eyes sunken and fingers almost skeletal in their thinness. They had met but little in those tense days, afraid of incriminating themselves or each other and Lucius was shocked to see how haggard his friend had been. The lector had a deep Russian accent, but a certain word caught his ear and attention.

"... a transition and nothing more than a transition. Death, gentlemen, is no more the end of our being than eating the last candy in a box is the end of all sweets. We know from ghosts that there is more beyond that veil than a ceasing to be..."

Lucius sat in an empty chair next to Severus-that-was and listened.

~

Malfoy Manor
10 January, 1978

She didn't need this, not now. Lucius took Narcissa's hands in his, trying to calm her. "He's probably at Severus', having some rebellion and annoying the neighbours by both of them slamming the headboard into the wall."

Through hiccoughing sobs, she informed him that this was not so. "Th-the dates. Aunt Walburga said. Oh, L-Lucius he... the tapestry, oh GOD!"

His father's portrait looked on soberly.

"Dates? On the tapestry? He's only eigh-" Lucius stopped, the breath leaving him as if from a punch to the solar plexus. The dates on the tapestry represented only two events. "Walburga's sure?"

Narcissa wept into his shoulder, nodding. "And Mama, and Uncle Cygnus. And n-nobody knows a-anything or h-how and h-h-e can't be dead oh God he can't be dead!"

Stunned, Lucius could only hold her close, and found that there was simply no comfort to give.

~

Colline des Bâtards
28 November, 1999

Lucius immersed himself in the nautilus shell's captive memories, picking up the book and reading the notes therein, and writing his own. The Snitch and the egg had not yet given up their secrets, but Lucius had the feeling they would not until he had delved the memories in the shell for the proper key. They were from varied sources, some going as far back as his father's schooling, but all held one thing in common. He perused his notes, rubbing absently at his chest, where heartburn was gathering after two days of little sleep, food, or attention for anything else other than the puzzle - he was only one man, not the Department of Mysteries.

The pain caught him by surprise, growing from the vague thought that he had eaten something that did not agree to the impression that some force was attempting to make his spine and sternum meet at some midpoint in his chest. His gaze jerked to his medicines, trying to remember when he'd taken them last, the pain making his thoughts skitter randomly. A pill. He should take a-

~

L'hôpital de Lesmes de Saint l'Amputé
Paris, France
29 November, 1999

Noémi Tournier was ridiculously young for a healer and Lucius could not shake the idea that she should be wearing a Beauxbatons jumper

"It is, Monsieur Malfoy, worse than we thought."

Lucius sighed, "It generally is, Madame. Please continue."

"As you know, the use of Cruciatus has many varied sequelae, and it is not predictable how these will manifest after the curse itself has dissipated. In your case, the coronary plexus has sustained lasting damage from the Darkest of curses - and because of that, the damage cannot be repaired by magical means. The damage has been mitigated and controlled but not reversed via use of medicines. Even with such therapies there is still a chance of further arrhythmia events as the organ fails."

Lucius pursed his lips. "How long might I have?"

"I do not know, Monsieur." She held out a handful of brochures. "There are new treatments to be tried, yet. I ask that you do not give up hope."

He took the colourful images of happy outcomes from her, leafing through them unseeing.

~

Colline des Bâtards
6 December, 1999

Narcissa's letters to him spoke of obtaining his release on humanitarian grounds. With his condition so dire, surely he would be granted a reprieve for treatment - she'd go to Potter himself if she must. In the privacy of his thoughts, he knew that Potter would not deny her should she ask. Narcissa was, however, fully mindful of their son's precarious future and the sacrifice Lucius had made to assure that Draco was not attainted for his father's failings.

The steps of a clockwork man reminded him of the time. Upon his return, Lucius had issued new orders to his servants - wherever he was, whatever he was doing, at the appointed hours, his medicines should be brought to him and the clockwork men should stay until he had taken all doses. Lucius eyed the tray with distaste. Some were Muggle-made chemicals that acted to effect the electrical impulses, others solidly made Wizarding apothecary of such things as aconite, hawthorn, mistletoe, skullcap and valerian. He refused to die before the puzzle Severus had provided him was complete. He was certain that Severus had found a way to stopper death, or at the very least to return from the veiled lands. One tablet under the tongue, another packet of something greenish washed down with his wine. The Muggle pills went down in haste, the smell awful and the flush as his blood vessels opened an irritation and distraction.

He set the green-enamelled Fabergé egg and the Snitch in front of him.

"I was misled, and I believed." And how eager had he been to be misled. How eager to believe not only what turned out to be the delusions of a liar and a lunatic, but to have his own place at the head of the ranks. How he had coveted the attentions of his father's circle and believed himself a man of matters for their attentions. "I am sorry."

The Snitch's wings fluttered once, feebly, and then it snicked open with a terminal sigh. Inside rested a small alabaster container, and inside that, the glowing silver of memory. With his wand, Lucius caught up a bright strand of memory and braced himself, touching a finger to it and then falling into the mists.

When his vision cleared or the mist thinned, he could not say which, Regulus stood before him and it was all Lucius could do to stop himself from reaching out. He knew the tale of course; Kreacher had repeated it for all to hear after the battle of Hogwarts - and Narcissa had been devastated, searching for her cousin's body among the downed Inferi.

"My name is Regulus Arcturus Black, son of the House of Black. When I was younger, I much admired the Dark Lord, who is the half-blood originally known as Tom Marvolo Riddle. When I was sixteen years of age, my parents permitted me to join the Death Eaters." Here, Regulus rolled up his sleeve, the Dark Mark livid on his flesh. "I was Marked and given my mask, but in the year since I have come to the conclusion that he is not the saviour of the pure-blooded, but the one who will ultimately destroy us all."

Lucius took a chair, staring as the slight-framed boy-who-was stood and paced, telling of his role in providing Kreacher to the Dark Lord and what had happened after that. He'd forgotten how intense Regulus could be, how animated in explaining his passions. Sirius had been the more handsome of the brothers, on that one could certainly agree, but Regulus had been blessed with charisma, intellect, and verve. What might he have become...

Regulus fell quiet. "I can't make a Horcrux to save myself. I don't know that I would, either. I can't stop him, but I know a time is coming when someone else will." He swallowed. "I... I don't want to die. I don't want to be Inferi, either. I just wish it had never happened, any of it, and that I hadn't done thing things that I did. I was misled, as have we all been, and-"

There he stopped, and reaching into his robe pulled out one of the same small phials Lucius had in his possession.

"It's not a Horcrux. It's essentia - a distillation of who I am, right at the very moment it was produced. I just hope-" The phial was slipped into a small, padded sack. "I just hope."

~

St. Mungo's Hospital
Maternity and Obstetrics
5 June, 1980
02.00 AM GMT

"Breathe..."

"Bugger off, I am breathing!" Lucius snapped.

Severus bestowed a Look. It was something in which he was attaining a degree of expertise, but Lucius did take an ostentatious breath. "See."

"Lucius, women do this all the time. Narcissa's even made it all the way to term - to the very day."

Lucius became aware he was pacing. Again.

He stopped. Again.

How cliché could one be?

"It's been hours, Severus, shouldn't have something happened by now?"

Severus did not even bother to look up from his book. "They'd tell you if something was wrong, Lucius. Rosier - a Healer, mind you - said that his was normal."

The double doors into the waiting room opened, and Helena Travers smiled at him as she came through - disconcertingly covered in blood and other fluids of which Lucius wished to know little. "Lucius, you have a healthy and lively son. Congratulations." There was something jarringly out of place with the sympathetic hand she placed on his arm as she continued. "But, I am afraid that I must tell you that it would be highly unsafe for Narcissa's health to bear another child. She's going to be with us for a few more days than we expected, to give her a chance to recover under observation, but she's going to be just fine."

Lucius closed his eyes. His wife was alive, his son was alive, even if things had not gone to plan, both would be coming home - he had plenty for which to be grateful.

~

Colline des Bâtards
9 December, 1999

Lucius set the Snitch aside, then stood, stretching. Severus, with his usual methodical mien and thoroughness had painstakingly documented Regulus' last year of life. The young man had wanted desperately to live, and perhaps had both Lucius and Severus not been so blind, he would be alive today. Remorse - genuine remorse - was much akin to drawing and quartering, without the possibility of death in sight.

Certain things, no, he did not regret. He hated the masquerade that denied Wizards a place in the larger world, and he hated the creeping Muggle-born infection that took centuries of tradition and cast it aside like rubbish. He could even feel some earned guilt for thinning an already sparse population of purebloods. However, his deepest and most heartfelt remorse was for being such a fool, for his lack of heed to and loss of Severus, for the grief of his family and his leading them into harm's way.

~

Ministry of Magic
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
20 November, 1980

"We can't turn him loose, for fuck's sake!"

"He says it was Imperius, Moody."

"I don't care if he claims it was a dancing pink acromantula - he's lying either way and you know it!"

"Look, there is some evidence of Imperius and even of Cruciatus, he claims they were set on him by Don't-You-Say-It. We can't prove it wasn't and unless we're going to call in every wand in the isles for Priori Incantatem..."

"You're turning a monster loose, Selwynn."

There was no reply save the footsteps down the detention block's hallway and the jingle of keys. Lucius composed himself; he'd half expected this to be his last stop before Azkaban.

The key shot the bolt back, and the door swung open. "Malfoy, you're free to go. Collect your clothes and belongings from the clerk."

~

Colline des Bâtards
13 December, 1999

It took him a few days to even look at Severus' enamelled egg pensieve. He had the feeling that what he would see in there might well change... well, everything. Severus' death had been almost as painstakingly planned as Dumbledore's had been and he'd had his own part in it. It was a hard thing, and the subject of an unintentional hard night's drinking.

Remorse, oh, here was remorse no less than the fires of Dis. Yet no words, nothing he said moved the pensieve to open for him - no amount of pleading, or contrition, or rage.

Vieux Cognac 1811 "La Comète" fuelled him though such outpourings of emotion he'd shunned for much of his life. Self-possession, élan, and control were things that alcohol stripped away, leaving only the brutish, raw ravings of a pickled brain. He could count on the fingers of one hand the occasions he'd been that drunk - after his father's burial, after the Dark Lord's first not-death, and after Potter finished the job.

And tonight.

Tonight he raged and used language suited to a stevedore, destroying his desk and ending on the carpet with a hammer in hand, smashing the green egg with all his strength - then snatching it up in horror, cradling it in his hands. Severus. Severus gave this to him, entrusted this to him and he...

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Severus, forgive me." How could he have done that? "Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I almost killed you both twice, oh God, forgive me..." Shaking, he pressed his lips to the smooth enamel, tasting the incongruous salt of drunken tears. Oh, but he was sorry and so-

There was a very small snick as the latch gave way.

Lucius was silent, breathless for a long moment, wiping his nose on his sleeve. "Bastard. All right. You've made your point." Standing up seemed entirely out of the question, so he shuffled on his knees to the sofa. "This is not redemption, Severus. However much you might think that it is, it isn't. Mine is a purely... local remorse." He put the egg carefully on the small octagonal table, then propping the lid open with a malachite-handled poignard. "I'm drunk, and... I'm drunk, and I can deal with this tomorrow. And I will." He managed to lever himself from floor to sofa, stretching out but loath to close his eyes. "Tomorrow. Can do it tomorrow. Promise."

~

The Coffin House
Knockturn Alley, London
17 August 1991

A small private room with a fine meal, a bed, and a bottle of excellent 1969 vintage Le Montrachet- the Coffin family had been providing such to those as might pay well since about 1698. Lucius' family were relative newcomers, but kept up with the tradition of gentlemen having a place to retire and refresh. Certainly when Severus had contacted him in their usual way, it was what he'd anticipated.

Instead the beef Wellington was clay in his mouth. He chewed, swallowed and washed it back with a long draught of the wine. "You're sure?"

Severus' thin lips pursed to near non-existence as he rolled up his sleeve.

~

Colline des Bâtards
15 December, 1999

It was, actually, the day after next that Lucius retuned to the pensieve. The hangover produced by the cognac was such that Purifica only damped the misery enough to allow him to take the medicines for his heart - which felt something like an agitated frog leaping about in his chest. It was entirely unpleasant and very unnerving to feel the damned thing alternately hammering and then forgetting to beat at all.

After breakfast, he returned to the library - the desk restored and the egg pensieve as he'd left it. To a certain extent, he was prepared for what he would see. Severus' loyalty and love for Lily Evans had trumped all in the end, but with both dead it did damned little good to them. Somehow the endings of those tragic wartime romances were never written, though Lucius could see the consequences for himself.

Severus was dead. Regulus was dead. Lily Evans was dead. A great many other people were dead. All to no use save that of the undertaker and the coffin maker.

Lucius propped his elbows on the desk, regarding the pensieve over the steeple of his fingers. He was not ready for this, but Severus and Regulus - despite preparation - had not been ready to die. Lucius touched a finger to the seething luminescence, his consciousness drawn in and falling through mists. Still, it was Severus' story to tell, and one to which he must listen lest some fine distinction elude his grasp.

Severus sat before him, composed and tranquil at the Headmaster's desk.

"Hello, Lucius. I do not have any precise idea of when or where you are viewing this. Indeed, I rather hope you do not, for I am not eager for the event that will cause you to do so." Night was falling, the eastern window darkening as Severus stood, coming around the desk. "You have read Regulus' journal, and observed his memories. You have studied - very carefully, I would hope - the assortment of memories compiled in the nautilus shell. You've come very far, but we have some further work yet ahead of us. In the book, you will find a better description of essentia than Regulus was able to give. It is not a Horcrux, but a distillation of the person who gave it forth - the flavour of them, not the actuality. There are many ways to use it, limited only by circumstances and your own will. Take this memory out and pensieve it, as you will need it for reference later."

~

Malfoy Manor
22 June, 1992

Draco was long since abed, excited for morning to come and his departure for three full weeks of eating, breathing, and sleeping Quidditch. There was a very good chance that he'd be chosen Seeker next year, and Narcissa was determined to see their son with every advantage. Lucius and Narcissa, however, had other things on their minds - and not just regaining their privacy.

Narcissa sprawled across him and Severus, wearing only her pearl and emerald necklace and a green silk sheet formerly on the bed; her expression was unwontedly grim.

"You seem certain, Severus."

"The unicorn blood, Narcissa."

That part of it chilled even Lucius' blood. There were certain things that were inviolate, that not even the most debased and bestial could contemplate, much less do. Yes, the blood of a unicorn could hold off death even a breath away, but at a cost more terrible than a Dementor's kiss. The grave itself was not so horrible a thought when one put the two side by side.

"For the time being, we do nothing." Lucius spoke as the thought came to him. "None of us can do anything from Azkaban, and stampeding out with a banner but no sword - so to speak - could be the end of us all."

"Or nothing perceptible," Narcissa mused, her fingers coaxing a rise under the portion of sheet occupied by Severus. "We're not a pack of juniors, but people of position and consequence. We are in power this time."

Severus raised an eyebrow at her - the 'do not like girls' defence had fallen before Narcissa's frontal attack some hours before. "We are? It seems as if there are still significant blocs of opposition in place - well organized and almost universally opposed to any tint of Slytherin ascendancy."

Narcissa diverted one hand to Lucius' area of the sheet and set about wickedness. Honestly, at times she was a little girl taking delight in making her dolls do naughty things.

"Voyeuse," he chided fondly.

She blew him a kiss. "Libertine."

Severus rolled his eyes and then grunted at a firm squeeze. "You're both shameless hedonists."

"And with you in the same bed that would make you?" Narcissa uncovered Lucius' enthusiastic endorsement of the situation and waggled it at Severus.

"Corrupted." Severus leant over, brushing his lips over the glans, a scant wet slide of tongue causing Lucius' breath to quicken. Severus' mouth was thin-lipped and looked more likely to bite than kiss - though that could also be fun - but when he sucked a cock, you'd swear he was an angel, albeit of the fallen sort.

Narcissa moved back, her eyes alight as she watched Severus' gradual enclosure first of the head of Lucius' sex, the shaft. There were no words to describe the contrast of teeth and suction with the unsurpassable wet heat of tongue and cheek; he could only appreciate the sight of Severus and Narcissa each with their own methods of enjoyment. He brushed Severus' sex with his fingers, curling them around the shaft as Severus' moan vibrated to the very root of him. Narcissa leant elegantly against the footboard, making no secret of her enjoyment of them.

Lucius' eyes closed and his head tipped back as Severus pressed a finger behind Lucius' balls, sending rush of lust through him. Oh, where was that oil? He reached out, finding the usual place oddly empty and then opened his eyes to see the bottle in Severus' hand.

"Sly thing." He could hardly begrudge Severus his victory, and in truth it had been some time. An oiled finger breached him with a swift surety; they'd been doing this for some time and- "Oh fuck yes!" Something about Severus just turned him into an eager bottomed harlot. "Come on then, give me more than that-"

Two more fingers, added roughly and twisting. "Tart."

"Pot... there damn you, you cock-tease... calls the cauldron."

"Fussy tart, too." Severus raised up, moving forward and spreading Lucius' legs, pulling them up and rubbing himself against the slicked entrance. "Bossy on the bottom."

"Severus," Lucius moaned. "Just shut up and fffffuhhhh-" His body arched eagerly as Severus entered him with an inexorable push, their groans in harmony with Narcissa's lusty sigh. Delight was to be had in every thrust and reverse, bodies no longer in the youthful mad tear for climax, but moving with the stamina of experience. Narcissa urged them on - her moans sweeter as she chased her own release, cheeks flushed and fingers glistening. There was a moment when his lust spiked hard, tightening him around Severus' thrust at one crucial moment, and it was magic of the purest sort - drawing in and loosing all at once, the roiling heat in him turning to a hot spatter across his belly.

Severus, with the intensity with which he engaged every situation, held back - seemingly setting the details in his mind before allowing himself the release of orgasm. Now Lucius had the luxury of watching. The biting of the lip, the harsh breaths, and sibilant curses as Severus' rhythm grew ragged in pursuit of his pleasure, and finally the low, almost animal groan and ultimate thrust. Lucius pulled him down, tongue lashing into Severus' mouth hungrily as Severus shuddered against him. Narcissa lay beside them, hair loose and lips curved in a sated smile, embracing them both once breath and wits returned.

And after Severus had discreetly returned to his own room, Narcissa had a wonderful notion on just how to destroy one particularly pestiferous bloc. A dark artefact, planted on someone who would never in a thousand years be suspected of any tainted affiliations.

~

Colline des Bâtards
s22 December, 1999

He'd not felt this vital in a long time. Even facing memories that scalded and tore him to the very heart, there was progress distinct and measurable against the point where he would be able to use what Severus had left him. Oh, there were possibilities that could make one delirious should one think too long on them. He could bring them back, if things fell out right. His last letter to Narcissa, while seemingly talk of daily routine and a little naughtiness between husband and wife, had contained a single line of their private cipher in each paragraph.

So much hope, pinned on eight terse lines.

The waiting was heavy upon him, and his usual morning walk around the property became somewhat more hurried. It was difficult to be patient, to rest, even to eat, but to make haste could squander the most priceless of chances.

He returned to find Arthur Weasley on his freshly swept doorstep, face pale and mouth grim. "Lucius."

"Arthur." The man seemed to look everywhere except right at him, and the insult faded on Lucius' lips. A cold dread bloomed in his chest as Arthur held out a black-bordered parchment, sealed with black wax and ribbon.

"Lucius, Narcissa... she's dead. It... it happened last evening. We're still investigating." This time Arthur did look at him. "I'm so sorry, Lucius. I can't begin to tell you how much."

Lucius' hand closed around the parchment, staring at it dumbly. He'd misheard, surely. "E-excuse me?"

Arthur took a step towards him, and Lucius took a corresponding one back.

"Lucius." Arthur caught the sleeve of his coat. "Narcissa is dead, she was murdered yesterday evening. Don't shake your head at me - listen, man!"

Lucius could only stare at him. This had to be a mistake, some case of mistaken identity. "Narcissa." That was not his voice breaking. She was not dead; she could not possibly be dead. Not his Narcissa.

"Come inside, Lucius. I'll explain what I can, what little it is." Arthur tugged him toward the door and then inside. "I was about to send one of the and-roids to find you. Ah, here's one. You, get something with alcohol in it. Chop-chop!"

"Arthur, they're mechanicals, not Natives." Lucius' eyes rolled on pure reflex. Narcissa? No, he'd misheard.

Arthur glanced at the parchment in his hand. "You've not opened it."

"I will, when I have the chance."

The redheaded dolt had the temerity to mutter something about 'not a well man.'

"Where do you keep the brandy, Lucius?"

"The library. Arthur?"

"Yes?" The man turned, shrugging out of his coat.

"She can't be dead."

His shoulders slumped and he spoke very gently. "Lucius, there's no mistake. Andromeda identified her body, and their blood was even matched. Draco's in Vienna, we haven't found him yet but we're trying. Please, read the parchment."

Unbuttoning his coat and hanging it, Lucius pressed his thumbs against the seal, breaking the black wax neatly down the middle and unrolling the short length of parchment. It was Andromeda Elladora Black-Tonks' statement, identifying the body of her sister Narcissa Charis Black-Malfoy, the confirmation of the blood matching, and the announcement of inquest. The parchment crumpled in his hands.

"Who?" Lucius asked, his voice perfectly level, perfectly calm.

"We don't know - he looked like a vagrant from Torrmin Alley." Lucius could well understand Arthur's grimace of disgust. Torrmin Alley was the last stop in squalor before a pine box for the rock-bottom indigent, diseased in mind, or liquor-raddled. "He had no papers, not even the wand was his - it belonged to someone dead close to a century."

"You speak in past tense."

"Young Aurors are... excitable, and the man was little but skin over bone, a trio of Expelliarmus did for him." Arthur herded him to the library. "Male, anywhere from a hard-living forty to one-hundred, bald and brown eyes. Scars and tattoos galore. He also had a liver in the end stage of cirrhosis and renal failure, not to mention wet-brain. When he was hit with no less than three disarming charms, it threw him a good twenty feet - he died on impact."

"And... how?" He wanted to know. He needed to know how she had died.

"We think it was a robbery. We still don't know what he did with the purse." Arthur would not look at him.

"Arthur."

"Something akin to Sectumsempra."

Slowly Lucius bent his knees until he was sitting in his accustomed chair. He would not, ever, show the desperate grief that wanted to have him howling on the carpet. Not in front of Arthur Weasley. "More."

"Lucius-"

"She was - no - she is my wife of twenty-five years. God damn you, tell me how she died!" Narcissa, oh my dearest. How can you be dead?

Arthur took a breath, the kind one always takes before delivering bad news. "It was quick - she didn't even have time to draw her wand. The curse might have been intended just to hurt her, but it crossed her neck." It took a moment for the words to come. "It went very deep. It was quick, Lucius. Narcissa probably never knew what hit her."

He might believe that, for Lucius could not imagine Arthur Weasley having had a sister-in-law who had studied that very thing. As prideful as Lucius could be, the image of his darling, his Narcissa dying like a slaughtered... no, no, nonono. Not her. Not like that! Despite his intentions to hold fast, he buried his face in his hands - his chest unbearably tight with the effort of not wailing like a child. "I want. To see her."

There was a very awkward silence.

"She's my wife, Arthur. You cannot mean that I will not even be allowed to see her interred!" The outrage gave him something to hold close, keep the grief at arm's length. "I drew her blasted directives!"

"I do not have an quarrel with you going, nor does Molly, or Harry for that matter."

Lucius started to summon the brandy bottle, but crossed the room to pick it up instead, carefully palming the two tablets next to the base of the snifter. His medicines were no longer optional, or something he'd take if he remembered - the tightness in his chest was an ominous warning, now garlanded with a shortness of breath. The pills went down with a quick sip as he willed them to work quickly. "Others do?"

Arthur did not mince words. "It's said you got off too easy, despite Harry's claims for you and your family."

It went without saying that Arthur was likely among those saying, but that he would not gainsay Harry Potter. Lucius tried for a saunter as he returned to his chair. Blast it, but those pills needed to work! "Don't give me that look, Arthur," Lucius said crossly, when he caught the careful assessment. "You know damned good and well what Unforgivables can do."

Looking nettled, Arthur came a little closer. "Yes, but I'd not seen you turn grey before. Have you spoken to the healers?"

"Ad nauseaum, yes. One actually proposed planting a clock in my chest to make the heart more regular, but it's Dark magic that caused the damage." Arthur was quiet, knowing damned well what that meant.

"I need to go back. I'll be in touch as soon as they've found Draco."

"Please do, Arthur. He could have been a wandering madman, but all the same..."

~

Malfoy Manor
9 August, 1993

She was pacing.

There were times, Lucius had learned in the course of his marriage, that he should sit still, shut up, and wait. Narcissa pacing over anything was a fine hallmark. She didn't have the madness of her eldest sister, or the impulsivity of Andromeda, but she did have a calculating and shrewd mind. Whatever was bothering her-

"What if he comes here?" she demanded of him.

Lucius shifted mental gears. Narcissa was in the habit of popping out of the blue with non-sequiturs that - to her - were continuations of previous conversations. 'He' could be just about any- "Sirius?"

"He's long said that he'd like to wipe out the entire line."

"Narcissa, Sirius couldn't wipe himself without James Potter holding his hand." Her lips did twitch at that and she slowed her pacing to look at him. "Just look at where he is now - and how he arrived there. Can you for even one second realistically entertain the thought?" Lucius held out his hand, beckoning her closer and drawing her into his arms. "Sirus, dearest, is not the one about whose return I worry."

"We have built our power, Lucius. Even if - yes, if - the Dark Lord should return, we are not callow and obedient youngsters." Narcissa had an eye to where a judicious application of galleons would do the most good. "We have influence in nearly ever branch of the Ministry, and our patronage is as sound a currency as our galleons."

"Bank on favours and you have only wind in a jar, Narcissa," Lucius warned.

Narcissa smiled sleekly and finished the saying. "Which is why extortion is so much more reliable."

~

St. James' Church
Avebury, Wiltshire
24 December, 1999

"Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis."

Lucius listened to the sung mass, the pews near empty - Narcissa had specified blood family and a few friends for mass and interment. Draco, her sister Andromeda, her mother Druella, and perhaps a dozen others sat in mourning. She had looked peaceful just before the lid was closed and a carpet of white roses and black crepe draped her coffin. Lucius could not say how glad he was for that peace.

She was no longer there; that was the hardest part, not this reverent treatment of her remains. He went through the motions of the requiem mass, though he and Narcissa had long ago ceased to believe it was a comfortable and acceptable habit of their set. Instead, he thought of her as she had been. His first sight of her as a small girl brought to gatherings, then as a first year clapping her hands as she was Sorted to Slytherin, as a Seeker with a snitch clutched and raised in triumph. She could dance all night, so light and vibrant in his arms and so lovely that he wanted to rest his gaze upon no other. And she had given him Draco - at no small risk to herself even with Severus' aid - and what a fierce mother she had been, what a fierce woman.

"Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis."

He could not imagine life without her.

~

Ministry of Magic
Magical Law Enforcement
Westminster, London
24 December, 1999

He was allowed some time alone with Draco, endorsing his return to Vienna for the time being. A fresh start in a new place, proving himself on his own would be a better thing for the family name. There were hints of 'a nice girl, from a good family' in their conversation and Lucius offered the best advice that he could.

"Look for someone your mother would have picked."

They both gave great study to the appalling wallpaper until the tightness in their throats had passed.

Draco cleared his throat, looking desperately young in his mourning attire. "Must you go so soon?"

"No, no. I'll be in London for a few days yet. Weasley has taken a concern in matters of my health and I'm to be submitted to the indignities that medical knowledge can devise." Lucius shifted, adding, "And your mother was very specific that there were certain matters I should handle in person. Potter seems willing to use his whip hand to bring it about."

Certain matters such as a last-minute codicil to her will, directing him to her vault and Grandmother Rosier's jewel box. And, while he was there, Lucius would ask to see the record of her last visit and try to ascertain how much gold she had been carrying when she was murdered. There were things that, to Lucius' mind, did not mesh at all and as little time as he might have left, he wished to tie off this loose end with certainty.

Draco's embrace was earnest, his promise to behave himself in Vienna sincere, and in doing so exchanged a silver flask in Lucius' waistcoat pocket for an identical one from his own. Lucius held him close, the tears he could feel rising were not for the parting - Draco had read Lucius' last letter to Narcissa and had understood the cipher.

Lucius kissed his cheek. "Your mother would be proud."

~

Malfoy Manor
26 June, 1995

Placing his mask deliberately in its case, Lucius stared at it for a long moment. This was the day many had held fond hopes that they would see, and at one point in his life, Lucius had held that hope dearly. Instead, the Dark Lord had returned with his madness not only intact, but also more grandiose than ever.

Had it been this bad before? Possibly.

Not even Death Eaters could trust their own. Certain deaths were too neat, too pat and there were always wands ready to turn where the Dark Lord gazed. Now the true danger began, and with it the most delicate balancing act Lucius would ever attempt.

~

Gringott's Bank
Vault #812
24 December, 1999

Narcissa had liked things tidy, even her vault bore the stamp of her personality. To the left, arms and armour in ranks, with the shelves of rare books just beyond that. Hides and furs were racked carefully in order of size - she'd always wanted to make something of that Swedish Short-Snout hide. Magical objects lined the walls to the right. There were ancestral wands, grimoires, and her great-grandfather's treasured silk stovepipe hat - the last left very specifically to Lucius. Her Grandmother Rosier's jewel case was right beside it, placed just so, and Lucius set them on the small, ornate desk.

She was not here either.

He was deeply grateful for the professionalism of the goblins. Vargot attended as Lucius packed up specific bequests to friends, family, and her favoured charities. Most would of course go to Draco, his future bride, and their children.

"Will there be anything else, Master Malfoy?"

Lucius took a last look around the vault. "No, Vargot, that will be all." With a stroke of the quill, Lucius signified that he had discharged his duties as executor and taken his own lawfully bequeathed items with him.

~

Malfoy Manor
22 June, 1997

"Lucius." Pause. Something warm on his face. A hand. "Lucius. Bella, what's-"

"Dementors, Cissy. He's gone inside his own mind to get away from him." A clink of glass on glass and the sound of something pouring.

"It happens sometimes, Narcissa. It can take a bit of time to come back to oneself." Footsteps, crossing wood and then carpet. "Never got the trick of it, myself, though Augie did."

The perception of something white passing through him was followed by a resounding slap. "You bitch! Don't you ever point a wand at him again!"

The silence was thick enough to slice, and Bella's voice spoke calmingly - possibly the exact wrong thing to do. "I was just trying to see if he had any consciousness at all, Cissy."

"With Cruciatus?" There was the sound of a scuffle, masculine cursing and feminine hissing to do credit to cobras.

"Narcissa. Narcissa. Calm down now. Come on. Don't bite, damn it!"

A howl of pain, identifiable as Rabastan. More cursing and a threat of Aguamentia from Rodolphus. It was some time before order was restored and Narcissa spoke again.

"I want Severus. I trust him."

"Why, Cissy, I'm starting to think that Severus stands higher in your estimation than our own Lord."

"He's a dear friend, and I trust him with more than my own life."

~

Saint Mungo's Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies
Fourth Floor: Spell Damage
26 December, 1999

Healers did not like to say, "I don't know."

Lucius had been portkeyed directly from Gringotts to a secure room in hospital, then required to endure poking, prodding, charms, spells, the ingestion of various foul potions, and - until midnight of last night - Christmas carols. Despite the poking, prodding et alia there was damned little in the way of useful news. One had to be patient with healers. They would not agree that B followed A much less that Z even existed before going through the entire damned alphabet.

"So, essentially, you're saying with the clockwork implant I might live another ten years or I could have a nocturnal erection and die in bed tomorrow night?" Well, so, he was out of patience. What was it with healers and inserting things into the hapless patient's rectum - professional perk?

"I wouldn't say that, Mr. Malfoy-"

"You wouldn't, but I wouldn't buy a tin cauldron with the guarantee you're offering."

Healer Augustine's lips pursed just slightly. "I would encourage you to at least consider the surgery. Our tests show multiple events that are going unnoticed because they are not causing perceptible symptoms. You'll hardly notice the implant - it's all goblin-made, mind you - and the winding feature is truly excellent."

~

Malfoy Manor
23 June, 1997

His perception faded in again, as it was wont to do. The sensation was akin to someone turning on the wireless and slowly increasing the volume.

"-think you could help, Severus?" Narcissa asked, her voice taut with worry.

"The principal problem is the disconnect, Narcissa. All we need do is give him sufficient sensation to motivate Lucius from his introspection."

There was a long pause before Narcissa spoke again. "Could we leave him with a stiffie until he wakes up?"

There came the sound of buttons being undone and cloth sliding on flesh. "Now, Narcissa-"

"Well, it is incentive."

Lucius' ears almost twitched at the sound of a spank and a soft squeal. "Behave."

The mattress under him moved, and Lucius found his thoughts engaged in trying to imagine just what was going on outside of his closed eyes. He'd love to see them. Narcissa and Severus were a lovely contrast when they were together. What on earth were they-

Oh.

OH.

He felt that! The two of them. Oh, Lord. Tongues softly licking, lips pressing against his sex, slow and teasing and oh just a little suck! Narcissa's mouth covered his glans almost delicately, Severus' tongue swirling wickedly over the shaft, fingers stroking and then pressing.

"Like this, Narcissa. Just right there-"

The exclamation rolled up from Lucius' chest as Narcissa's finger and mouth - he would speak to her about such Naughtiness later - brought a low exhalation, a flexing. Oh, sweet world that had such a thing as fellatio! He wanted to see it, open his eyes and fill his gaze with them. His pleasure built sweetly, slowly as he bestirred himself, one eye opening to gaze down at them - and what a wicked sight they gave him as they shared his sex between them!

"Nnnaughty... oh just wicked, the pair of you." He almost didn't recognize the sound of his own voice, rough with more than desire as his hips bucked up. To be warm again, to feel again, to be alive - the only defeat was the grave, and while he might have one foot in it, he wasn't dead yet.

~

Saint Mungo's Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies
Fourth Floor: Spell Damage
26 December, 1999

The bottle was at the very bottom of the box, something a lady might hold as a keepsake, but Lucius knew better. The luminous liquid could possibly have been a rare perfume to be kept with her pretties and but for the resin seal and the single blond hair, it could well have been. It was essentia, left literally hours before her death for Lucius to find. There had always been a bit of seer's blood in the Rosier line, and somehow she had known. He slipped her bottle in with the other two he'd brought from France. Severus had said that his use of the essentia, was limited only by circumstances and his own will, but those circumstances were never more straitened than now. He had only one place he could go, and only two possible outcomes from that. There would be no opportunity to prevaricate, hedge, or play both ends - in this, Lucius was dealing with one of the great absolutes of existence, and it answered only in binary mode.

He wondered if this was how his ancestors, their own circumstances as stark as the edge of a blade, had felt those long centuries ago. Had it been as much dread as thrill? Comte Abelard de Malfois and his family had crossed the country in a hard winter, and then fled across the channel on brooms, carrying what portable wealth they could. Robespierre's dogs had stalked their every movement, even to mid-Channel and a battle that raged to the very shores of Dover. Abelard did not survive, but the Malfoy line had - and Draco was the future of the line.

This having nothing to lose was far more exciting than he'd ever considered possible.

~

Malfoy Manor
19 July, 1998

There were sacrifices to be made, and much like Abelard had known when to fly into a flung Sectumsempra, Lucius knew when his own time had come. It was voluntary only in the sense that he had a choice of where to spend his exile. The family had purchased their ancestral estate back from the French government shortly before Lucius had been born, and it had been the family's summer home when Lucius had been growing up. As imprisonment went, it was not as bad as it might be.

They had been given their last day together - time for family, for intimacy. He'd offered Narcissa the option of a tactical divorce and been vehemently, passionately refused. Perhaps in time she would be allowed to visit, that they might not suffer the days alone.

~

Saint Mungo's Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies
Fourth Floor: Spell Damage
31 December, 1999
20:30

Lucius sat at the desk, pince-nez glasses perched on his nose a concession to necessity, but also a visible reminder to his guards of his frailty. Various people had come to pay condolence calls over the last few days - Arthur, Potter, that annoying Granger - all of whom he'd received as graciously as possible under the circumstances. All of whom were about to help him more than they knew. Draco had been thorough - the polyjuice in the transferred flask was of the finest quality. He sealed the letter to his solicitors and set it aside - Potter would know what he had done after the fact.

He'd transferred items to the so-clever stovepipe hat - which had Narcissa's very best extension charm on it. He could hide a body or three in there, if needed. His wand, the bottles of essentia, the shrunken book in which he'd made his notes, and a deck of old and tattered tarot cards. Idly he shuffled them, laying out a symmetrical cross, and then a circle around it. The deck had belonged to Rookwood, who had found it quite useful and then passed it on to Lucius - not remembering after his escape from Azkaban that it had ever existed. There was only one card in which Lucius had interest.

He turned the next card and felt a rush of relief - the Fool crossed the Hanged Man. Quickly he laid out the cards in the four quarters. The Page of Wands in the north which was not ideal, but he could manage. The south held the Eight of Cups, which was a bit more positive, but it was east and west that had to concern him the most. The start and finish were there, and without an auspicious start...

The Magician.

He hid his relief, then paused, clearing his mind to concentrate on the next card.

The Tower.

This was it, then. One way or another, he was committed.

Night was falling, and seemingly all of London was winding up for 'the party of the Millennium' - he'd have plenty of cover. He was not even locked in his room, though he was guarded wherever he might go, so it was time to muddy the waters even now. Shift change was just starting, and he opened the door to his room looking about for Jasper Sykes - eager to sign off on his reports and get home before 'all the damned nonsense starts.'

"Excuse me, Auror Sykes, I have a letter to be taken to Mr. Potter... oh, blast. I forgot to seal it. A moment, please?" Lucius turned and walked back into the room, Auror Sykes following with a roll of his eyes and a grumble that he wasn't the bleeding postman, you know. Lucius rounded the desk, picking up the sealing wax and setting a hand on his wand to the right of the blotter.

Silencio. Stupefy. He was so familiar with the combination that he did not need to speak the words, and Sykes went to the floor like a felled ox. Lucius worked quickly, first exchanging their clothing with a revestio, then dropping a bit of his hair into a medicine cup and adding a bit of polyjuice, turning the stuff a bright emerald.

Ten minutes later, Jasper Sykes left for the evening so absorbed in the pages of Quidditch weekly, that he almost missed his elevator. From Saint Mungo's, he caught the bus for Westminster, and never got off. Arthur Weasley did, however, and made his way to the Ministry. Augustus Rookwood, like most rats, had liked to learn all possible ways in and out of the places he considered his territory - and where there were none, he'd taken care to have chewed his own.

The tarot deck came out of the hat, the key card's design seemingly innocuous, but when paired with a card from the major arcana, it would put one into various levels of the Ministry. Augie had always and ever loved card tricks as a prelude to picking up women, so it was not at all unusual to see him everywhere with his deck. It remained to be seen if the Aurors and Unspeakables had ever figured out that their security had more holes than a round of Swiss cheese.

Key card plus the Empress. No.

Key card plus the Hierophant. No.

Key card plus Temperance. No.

Key card plus Judgement. A click. An almost silent hum that vibrated his fingers as the world faded slowly around him, then slowly faded back in. The last time he'd seen this place, things had gone very badly. Lucius just hoped that his luck was in this time as he stepped toward the vestibule - and not only for his own sake.

~

Saint Mungo's Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies
Fourth Floor: Spell Damage
31 December, 1999
21:55

The art of keeping a lid on a given situation can succeed only as much as those whom it could embarrass (or worse) wish it to be known. Very few people wanted it known that former Death Eater Lucius Malfoy had knocked an experienced Auror colder than a haddock, changed clothing with him, and gone merrily skipping out the front door of Saint Mungo's. Certain parties were interested in the information for different reasons - mostly to conceal or make use of it, but in all cases they went looking for him in all the places he wasn't.

It was with great unease that Harry realized that Lucius Malfoy without a known agenda was vastly more dangerous than Lucius Malfoy with one. He was, however, very certain that the very last thing that Malfoy would want to do would be bringing back Voldemort - at least that part of his fears could be laid to rest.

"What the hell is he doing?"

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
22:35

"I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Potter - I didn't know it was you!"

Lucius strove to emulate Potter's earnest expression, setting the ridiculous glasses right and glad that this was not someone who knew the boy personally. "It's all right, Mr. Cutchings - and I'm sorry for the jelly-legs. I wasn't thinking."

Herbert Cutchings straightened his robes, testing his steps. "Oh, I'd suppose you're still fast on the old swish-and-flick, lad. No trouble at all. I'd've thought you'd be out with everyone else, raising Ned and whatnot."

"Ah. Well, I wanted to just see..." Lucius let Potter's voice falter, his expression become downcast.

"I shouldn't, but... look, just don't listen too hard to what comes from behind the veil," Cutchings warned. "Everyone hears something different. Some hear the voices of their loved ones, some their enemies, some voices of people they don't know at all." He raised a finger and shook it with each word. "But if you seem to be hearing everything you want to hear, you get up and get out - because that's when things get hinky and dangerous." Lucius did not have to feign his sober attention. If someone had given him that advice many years ago, he might not be standing here tonight. "We've set detection spells so that you can't be drawn in, but those who've touched that veil have never been right after."

"I will, Mr. Cutchings - thank you." He looked at the door that would take him to the Death Chamber. "I hope you have a very happy New Year's."

"Lad?" he said as Lucius set his hand on the knob.

A frisson went through Lucius at the inflection. "Yes, sir?"

"Do you know what you're doing?"

It took a moment for Lucius to answer, but when he did, the truth of it was painful. "No, sir. I just know that I have to do it."

Cutchings patted his shoulder. "I'm in the prophecy room if you need, and I'll check in on you - if you don't mind."

Lucius simply nodded.

"And," Cutchings continued, "mayhap there's a prophecy in there to help you along. I'll have a look."

"Thank you, sir." Lucius opened the door and then shut it behind him, quickly pressing his ear to the wood. Footsteps receding and a door closing allowed him to draw a long breath in relief. For a moment, he entertained the idea of sealing all the doors, but that would be as good as shouting his intentions to the world. He could not risk it, instead he set a small aversion charm on each door - the kind a boy uses to hide his treasures or naughty magazines. The person coming within range would simply have a reason occur to them that they had business to attend elsewhere.

"...think you did for me? You cowardly little bastard! I should have done for you and Narcissa, that traitorous cunt..."

The skin tried to crawl right off of him and he spun, dropping into a crouch with wand drawn.

"Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Are you there?"

"I've got you, don't worry."

"Hello. Hello. Is anyone there? I'm trying to find my way. Hello?"

"They killed me here. Watch they don't get you, too."

"There was this green flash, and then I was here - only I'm not sure where 'here' is. Can you hear me at all?"

"I love you. It's all I have here."

"Talk to me, oh please please please someone anyone oh please..."

The voices seemed much more clear than his last time here, more compelling - but at that time, it had not been so very quiet. Lucius glanced at the veil, and indeed it moved as if in a breeze - or as if someone had just passed through it. Slipping his wand up his sleeve, he doffed his hat and reached in, descending the stairs with a measured pace. He would only get one chance. From his reading he knew the origin of the arch, built by the ancient wizard and necromancer Orpheus, brought to England as war booty from the siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean war. It had originally been in private hands, and then insistently donated to the British Museum, which (after the disappearance of an alarming number of docents) left it on the doorstep of the Ministry of Magic and fled into the night.

The arch was a doorway not only for the living, but under certain conditions, also for the dead. A horrid bit of business it had been when the then-Minister had been Visited by a highly irate predecessor - in all senses of the word. The Unspeakables, ever attempting to unscrew the inscrutable, had gleefully pirated it out of the Minister's office, down nine flights of stairs, and into total obscurity.

Only not.

The arch became, essentially, the Wizarding version of Tower Green. The rise of the Dark Lord had hardly been an isolated incident in Wizarding history; men and women with power and ambition were all through the timeline like sultanas in a Christmas pudding. Before Azkaban and its hideous guards became the 'humane' way to treat those adjudged, those convicted of the most serious crimes were brought here to have their penalty duly applied. The records from that time had been meticulously destroyed.

He reached the dais, finding himself hesitant to step up and chiding himself. They'd find Sykes eventually; he did not have much time.

~

Diagon Alley
31 December, 1999
23:15

"He didn't kill, Kinsgley." Harry scanned the crowd, most of who would not be conscious for the Millennium fireworks and if they were, would be unlikely to remember.

"He could have, Harry!"

"But he didn't!"

They had searched - the Aurors, the entire MLE, and even Dumbledore's Army had fanned out all over Wizarding Britain and were finding nothing. Lucius Malfoy might well have dropped off the face of the earth.

"He's not well, and he left his medicines. He won't- can't get too far."

"He could be anyone, and he could be anywhere." Kingsley stopped in his tracks. "And he doesn't have to get far, he just has to get far enough."

The thought dawned. "Ministry?" It made sense, and that was where any number of possibilities were open to a skilled, experienced wizard.

"He could turn back time, back to before the damage was done - desperate men resort to desperate actions."

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:25

The circle of symbols around the arch was drawn in his own blood, and a lot of work it had been, too. Interestingly, the arch was the same from the back as from the front, and the owners of the voices on the other side seemed to have some true perception of him.

"Oi. Come on, laddybuck. They're going to twig yer whereabouts sooner or later."

Lucius had to get his breath to answer. "I know. It just took more out of me than I'd thought it would."

And it had. With luck, once the way was opened, Severus would have some idea of how to keep him alive. Without luck...

He patted his waistcoat pocket, feeling by habit for his medicines.

But it wasn't his waistcoat pocket.

His waistcoat was on Sykes.

"Oh. BUGGER!"

~ Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:40

"What do you mean, 'Again'?" Kingsley asked, looming rather effectively at Herbert Cutchings.

"Well, Mr. Potter came in hours ago - wanting to have a listen in the arch room. I figured he'd stood up to You-Know-Who, but gave him the usual warnings." Cutchings brushed back a straying lock of grey-shot black hair. "I even said I'd have a look for a prophecy that might help."

"The Death Room - not the Time Room?" Harry was puzzled, he just couldn't see what- "Snape. Kingsley, he could be trying to bring back Snape!"

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:45

Only one way, now - and Lucius found to his shame that he was not prepared for the taking of it. He'd wanted to live. He'd wanted to bring them back. And now there was only one way before him and it required a leap of faith that he was not sure he had in him. If he were caught here he could not begin to imagine the consequences, but they would likely make Azkaban look like a holiday in Barbados. The essentia would have to take him the rest of the way. One by one, he broke the caps, leaving each hanging from its thread of hair, the scents rising up to him as he did so.

The smell of a city in the rain, the leather of a Seeker's Quidditch gear, the must of old books, and the scent of vetiver.

The smell of stone, copper and fire from Severus', incongruous with the scent of lilies.

From Narcissa's essentia, the perfume of white roses, the indefinable infant-sweetness of his son only a few hours old, over the hard scent of forged steel.

This was who they were, and at least two were counting on him. They had faith in him, and after a lifetime of almosts and not-quites-

After a lifetime.

Well.

That was rather the point, wasn't it?

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:45

The aversion charms were so well-made that it took ten minutes to remember that they were trying to break one. He and Kingsley had to take turns in unmaking the delicate webbing, one constantly reminding the other just why they were there and what they were doing. Otherwise they were likely to wander off to read about the new Thunderbolt Centurion, or go grab a sandwich and play a game of snooker. They managed to open one door, only to hear a sharp "Coloportus!" and have every last one of the damned things simultaneously squelch shut.

"Apparate?" he asked Kingsley.

Kingsley fingered his earring, considering. "Lucius Malfoy is not anyone you want to play silly bugger with, Harry. We don't know for sure just what he's doing in there."

"He hasn't killed anyone, Kingsley," Harry reminded him.

"That's hardly a recommendation of his character." Kingsley prodded at the door, the spell holding it tight. "I know, I know - they helped you, but they helped you for reasons of their own. They were Death Eaters, Harry!"

"I'll go in."

"You," Kingsley said sharply, "will do no such thing. I'm calling in some reinforcements; then we go in there and get him."

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:55

The bottles seemed to glow in his hands, the liquid within swirling with a life of its own, and in a way it was life. In the essentia were all the things they had been, their dreams, their beliefs, and their thoughts. What they had loved, or merely liked, what they had despised or things to which they'd been indifferent - from the trivial and day-to-day to the grand and overarching, it was all here.

"essentia potens, essentia verus, per vestri complexo plumbum mihi...."

A single silvery thread lifted, thickening to a translucent ribbon as he chanted, his heart skipping beats and chest tightening.

He stepped just inside the circle just as Potter, damn him, apparated in with half of the MLE and Kingsley Shacklebolt.

"Drop your wand, Malfoy!"

Dear Lord. Young Aurors. Was there no more pompous being on earth? Lucius kept on with his chanting, the ribbons of essentia twining around him, and had he closed his eyes Lucius might believe Regulus, Severus and Narcissa in the room with him. His breath hitched hard as the tightness in his chest budded to a pressure-filled ache, his concentration wavering. This was no warning that he'd missed a dose, no reminder of mortality, his heartbeat was thundering in his ears like the hoofbeats of the pale horse and his rider.

Ache flowered into pain radiating down his arms up his neck, the ribbons of essentia pulled into his lungs on a desperate breath as he tried to complete the spell.

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:56

Harry stopped - or was stopped - at the edge of the dais as surely as if he'd run into a wall. Lucius was... grey, one hand rising to press against his chest even as his lips still formed the words of the spell he was trying to work.

The other Aurors and Unspeakables were flooding into the room now, and he could hear them trying to counter the shield that Lucius had put up.

"Please, don't do this to Draco!" It was the only thing Harry could think of that might stop him.

Malfoy only smiled, shaking his head.

"Drop the fucking wand, Malfoy!" Harry didn't even turn to see who was shouting like the hero cop from a bad movie.

"Please." Harry held out his hand, the pain in Lucius' expression looked worse than Cruciatus. "Whatever you're trying to do, I can help you. If you want to bring Severus back, we can do that."

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:57

"Oh, Potter, you absolute Gryffindor." Oh, breath, just a little more. "Always seeing only what's in the foreground." An incandescent bolt of pain staggered him, sending dizzily spinning black dots before his eyes. "Help me? Oh, yes, you can help me more than I think you ever imagined." He couldn't finish it, not the way he wanted to, and something in Lucius simply refused to die on his knees.

"I can help you. Snape always said he could stopper death, I thought he must've... figured out a way to come back."

"Yes, I will need some help. And here is what you can do." He raised his wand, freezing Potter at the very end of it. "Ava-"

~

Department of Mysteries
31 December, 1999
23:59

Harry started to shake his head. "Don-"

"Avada Kedrava!"

A green flash and the sound of a great wind.

Lucius' wand dropped with a clatter to the dais, his expression smoothed, as if the agony had been lifted from him, and his eyes showed that brief moment of awareness. Then, just for a second, he smiled before death overtook him completely.

The bells all over London began to toll as the veil stirred, dropping across Lucius Malfoy like a shroud and when the bells stopped, there was nothing left of him in this world.

~

The Other Side
Elsewhere, Elsewhen
Outside of Time

Lucius checked his watch, purely of habit as time did not seem to exist here. The train was coming and his companions were here and there.

"We're going to miss the train!"

Narcissa and Regulus peered over the footbridge at him. Time was not the only thing odd here. As long as they'd been waiting they were sometimes younger and sometimes older. Lucius' clothing changed to his school robes with a prefect's pin on the lapel before he could stop it. Severus smirked at him from his seat on a baggage cart, book in hand.

"We won't miss it, Lucius," he said. "It's our train."

The rails hummed as Regulus and Narcissa came down the stairs and Lucius let his gaze linger on all three of them. Had he hoped for a different outcome? He thought that he might have, but was not sure - his memory was playing tricks on him and he could not be sure precisely how he had arrived here.

Narcissa took his arm and kissed his cheek. "Severus is right, dear; it is our train. We've been waiting some time for it."

Lucius patted her bottom. Of course, she was undoubtedly right.

Regulus hopped down onto the tracks and then up when all three squalled at him.

"I can see it! Do you think our baggage will get on all right?" The train was pulling in so that the last was shouted.

They must have already checked their bags, so Lucius simply nodded over the racket as the train rolled to a squealing stop.

"Now boarding at platform nine-and-nine-tenths, now boarding. All passengers, please board."

Lucius helped Narcissa up, then Severus, then Regulus and followed them into the carriage. He had no idea where they were going beyond the picking of their compartment, and supposed they'd know their destination when they arrived there. It did not bother him at all.

~

The End