Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Breakpoint :: 08 :: Decisions

08 • Decisions

Saiph’s hair was moving as though teased by the wind, and the air in the room felt heavy and ominous. It reminded Lucius of a time in his youth when he had been outside during a storm, and had very nearly been struck by lightning. “Saiph?” he said cautiously.

In contrast, Saiph spoke almost casually. “He will die, you know.”

Lucius slowly walked over and took a seat on the facing sofa. “Severus?”

“Yeah. But I think cruciatus is too simple for him, don’t you? I think it would be nice if he became the temporary plaything for some of your master’s more excitable people, hm? All dosed up? Helplessly submitting, of course, to their every whim, and unable to protest when they maim him beyond repair. You know, sort of like he might have done to me!”

Lucius blinked and glanced around warily as the walls began to discolour, as though black flames were reaching up to consume them, and was faintly relieved when Sirius popped out of the twins’ room.

Of course, Saiph chose that moment to roar, “HE WILL DIE!”

“Oh, shit,” said Sirius, and lunged for Saiph like the Gryffindor he was, pulling him into a hug with no regard for his own safety. “C’mon, kiddo, you need to calm down. Lucius, what the hell is going on?”

“Er, perhaps that should wait until Saiph has control of his temper?” he said, once again eyeing the walls, which appeared to be halfway consumed with darkness.

Sirius followed his gaze, gaped, then said, “C’mon, Saiph, snap out of it. You don’t want to kill anyone, remember? Those are your own words. Lucius, get your ass over here and help me.”

He got up and switched seats, somewhat reluctantly, and helped Sirius to sandwich Saiph between them. “Saiph,” he said soothingly, “your father is correct. And I have already asked my master for Snape’s death and I hope he will grant me that.”

“He—but—” Saiph uttered a frustrated cry of anger, then said in a suspiciously calm voice, “That man would have done to me what he did to Draco. I’m sorry, because torture and murder isn’t right, but it’s no less than Snape deserves.”

Lucius was torn between deeper concern given that the ceiling was now engulfed in black, and pleasure in being so intoxicatingly close to Saiph. “Saiph, you should not become intimately involved in this. Your time at the school is the past, another life.”

“I agree,” Sirius said. “And besides, you can’t kill a man for what he might have done, only what he has, or has not.”

Saiph slumped between them and dropped his head back against the couch. “Okay,” he said softly. “I know you’re right, both of you. It’s just . . . he abused me for so long in various ways. He might have helped to save my life a time or two, but that never stopped him from delighting in my misery, or causing it. Just the idea of what might have happened. . . . And, what he has done to Draco.” He took a deep breath before saying, “Would you like us to host him, then, for a while? I heard what he said about your wife.”

“He would be safe here. If you can bear it, yes. I will have to finally do something about Narcissa, though. She has gone too far.”

“It’s fine. It’s nice that I can finally do something to help you, Lucius. And Draco doesn’t know—” Saiph groaned and covered his face with both hands. “Please tell me I didn’t wake him up?”

“He fell asleep easily so I very much doubt it. I can go check if you wish.”

Sirius nodded, so Lucius carefully got up and crossed to the bedroom door, easing it open and slipping within. A quick check showed that Draco was still unconscious, and Lucius returned to the sitting room and shook his head, taking a seat again next to Saiph when Sirius gave him an expectant look.

“So, now that we’re all nice and calmed down, maybe someone would like to clue me in?” Sirius asked, then glanced at the walls. “Well, kind of.”

“Huh?” Sirius nudged Saiph and pointed, at which point Saiph said, “Um, perhaps if we ignore that, it’ll go away?”

Lucius took a deep, calming breath and began to relate what he knew, both from his master and his son. And for a while there it looked as though Sirius would go off half-cocked given what he was muttering under his breath, but he shut up when Saiph laid a hand on his arm and said, “Dad? That’s not going to help, any more than my little tantrum did.”

A short time later Saiph said, “Well, we’re going to have to figure out sleeping arrangements. I suppose I could bring the twins in with me. Draco can’t very well sleep on a sofa.”

“Father?” All three of them turned toward the voice; Draco was lurking in the doorway, squinting against the light. “You’re here. I didn’t dream it? Where am I?”

Lucius shot to his feet and went over to his son, then drew him over to the other couch and pulled him down to sit with him. “Draco, I think some introductions are in order. Before you are, well, your cousins, I suppose. Sirius Black and his son Saiph.”

Sirius got that ‘thinking’ look on his face again, then said, “It’s either second cousin, or maybe first cousin once removed, or. . . .”

Saiph shot a sidelong look at his father, then focused on Draco and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Don’t mind dad, he’s a bit touched in the head.”

Sirius gasped in outrage and poked Saiph in the ribs.

Draco frowned in confusion, but said politely enough, “I . . . I’m happy to make your acquaintance.”

“As to where you are, Draco, this is a suite within the manor. My master has set up very specific, secure warding.”

“Should I not be asking why?”

“Probably not,” Lucius said rather firmly. “The point is, Severus and Narcissa cannot get at you here, so you will be safe while they’re being dealt with. Saiph and Sirius are happy to host you for the time being, so I hope you will do your best to get along with them. Now, if you think you can handle it, I have a question for you.”

Draco looked nervously at the Blacks, prompting Lucius to add, “They are both trustworthy men and will not betray your secrets.” When his son nodded hesitantly he said, “I wish to know about that apprentice contract.”

“Sev said that he would offer me one, and I would be his”—Draco’s voice dropped to a whisper—“slave.” In a more normal tone he continued, “I couldn’t very well protest at the time. And then mother showed up, I’m not totally sure why. They negotiated the terms, but I don’t have any idea what they were, as I wasn’t allowed to read the contract. Mother kept a copy, though. He did the same thing to Theo, but he’s already turned seventeen. And. . . .”

“Yes?” he prompted.

“I don’t have any idea if he was under an oath to start with. Or Pansy or Blaise. What if . . . they talk?”

“I very much doubt Severus would leave that to chance, but I will find out. If any of the three are a danger to this family’s reputation, I shall simply have to find a way to deal with them.”

“I’m so sorry, father. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you. I—”

“Draco. I believe you to be sincere, and I accept your apology. You need not keep on so. I would be pleased, however, if you learned something from this whole mess. And no, that is not for you to decide that I am infallible, because I’m not. Hopefully you will have learned that while it is not a sin to admire another person for some quality they hold, that is not reason to blithely hand over blind trust. Having a hero is one thing, but to worship him is a mistake.”

Draco nodded thoughtfully at that. “The Dark Lord . . . wasn’t quite what I expected.”

Saiph laughed softly. “You’re not the only one to have thought that.”

Sirius nodded in agreement, then looked over his shoulder at the twins’ door. “Should we. . . ?”

“What do you think, Lucius?”

“If you wish. Draco will need to properly meet them eventually.”

“Them?”

Saiph looked to Draco and smiled. “My twins. Hang on, okay?” He got up and headed for the door, his father following, and they returned shortly plus two. “Draco, these are my little monsters. I have Adhara and dad has Altair. Twins, I want you to meet your cousin Draco; Lucius is his father. And you’re going to be on your best behavior around him, right?”

“We always good, daddy,” they chorused.

“Sure you are. Well, Draco will be staying with us for a while, so you’ll see lots of him.”

“Can he be a doggy like Snuffles?”

Saiph blinked. “I doubt it, sweetpea, but I don’t know.”

“You . . . don’t look old enough to be a father.”

Saiph smiled mischievously and said, “I’ve aged well, haven’t I.”

Lucius was feeling a great deal better about things given their interaction so far, and was confident that if problems arose, they would not have been instigated by the Black men.

“Oh,” Saiph said suddenly. “It’s coming up on time for dinner. Today is Japanese day, and we had planned on sesame chicken. But I can change that.” He shot a wide-eyed look at Lucius and Draco.

“Do you do a different culture each day?” Draco asked curiously.

“Yes. It was French yesterday, tomorrow is Thai, Italian after that, um. . . .”

“It drives the house-elves a bit crazy,” Sirius said, “but I think they secretly like the challenge. I’ve caught them lurking in corners reading cookbooks.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Lucius said.

Quite a while later, after much carefully polite conversation, it came to a point where people really ought to be seeking a bed. Sirius made the supreme sacrifice and said, “Draco can have my bed. I’ll share with Saiph.”

“That’s fine, dad. I just hope you don’t snore.”

Draco turned to him and said slowly, “Father, will you. . . ?”

Lucius arched a brow. “If you would like me to stay with you tonight, I will.”

“Yes.”

The next morning Lucius verified that his wife was out of the manor before heading for her suite to begin a search. One of his personal elves had been set to inform him should she return early, so he was confident he could get through the distasteful effort without being caught. Granted, it was his own home, but he would prefer not to alert her, and in consequence, possibly Severus.

He found the contract in a drawer of her escritoire, and promptly made a copy to take away with him. And then he left the house to seek audience with his master.

*

“I’m not sure,” Draco was saying, “that I want to return to Hogwarts.”

“I suppose I can understand that,” Saiph said. “It must now hold many painful memories for you. Do you think another school, then?”

“I don’t know. Where did you go? I don’t actually ever remember hearing of you before.”

He smiled and shook his head. “I sat my OWLs and NEWTs in America. I suppose you could say that a lot of my education was self study, though I did spend what would have been my final year in a formal setting.”

“Self study? And how did you do on the exams?”

“Quite well. I got Outstandings on everything I took except Arithmancy, and that was an Exceeds Expectations. I don’t think I’m all that clever when it comes to numbers, but I did try.”

Draco nodded. “I could go to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, but I don’t think they take students mid-year. I’m not sure what father will say, either.”

“I expect you’ll find out when you ask him.” Saiph thought that Draco looked uncertain about that and continued, “I’ve found that Lucius is quite a patient man, given to thought before action. I’ve asked him any number of questions I was worried were impertinent. I’m quite grateful to Lucius for all his help, and for opening his home to me and my family.”

Draco frowned a bit. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I find that a bit strange. You seem to be so at ease with father.”

Saiph thought about that, and said, “I consider your father a friend, and I believe he considers me one. He is one of the very few people I trust.”

“I’m also a bit surprised that. . . . Well, I thought that your father was one of Dumbledore’s men.”

“He was. I’m afraid, though, that questions like that edge into territory I’m not really free to discuss, I’m sorry. It isn’t that I wish to be secretive for the sake of it, but I have made some promises I have no intent to break. I hope you will understand.” Saiph looked over at the fireplace as it flared to life.

Remus stepped through and stopped short on seeing Draco, then recovered and came to take a seat. “Good morning, Saiph. Mr Malfoy. I don’t suppose Sirius is awake yet?”

“Not yet. He’s in my room, though, and if you do go roust him out, be sure to leave the door open so we can hear him scream.”

Remus grinned and nodded. “Of course. It’s always more fun with an audience.” He got back up and strolled off, whistling cheerfully, and disappeared into the bedroom.

Draco leaned in and whispered, “You do know that man is a werewolf?”

“Yes. I’ve known that for years. I find him to be very pleasant company, and he’s quite smart.” He paused to grin in delight when a loud yell issued from his bedroom. “And he’s ever so much fun.”

Draco looked a touch nonplussed, then quite thoughtful. He still hadn’t spoken again by the time Remus reappeared, followed by a bleary-eyed Sirius.

“Thank you for the entertainment, Remus. I give that yell a seven.”

“A seven!? Surely it was better than that,” Remus protested.

“Dad, come sit down before you fall down. How you can be woken up by Moony and still not actually be awake is totally beyond me.”

“Eh, you know dogs,” Remus teased. “Always ready for another nap.”

Sirius glared at him and slumped onto the couch. “Speak for yourself, furball. I don’t have to take this kind of abuse, you know. I could go back to bed.”

“Aw, poor Padfoot,” Remus crooned. “Shall I get you some coffee?”

Sirius perked up and nodded; Saiph rolled his eyes. Draco, on the other hand, just looked . . . thoughtful.

*

“My lord.”

Voldemort nodded at a chair and said, “I trust you are feeling less excitable today.”

Lucius nodded and pulled out a sheaf of parchment. “I have not yet read this, my lord. After Draco told me that Narcissa had a copy of that apprentice contract, I searched it out and made my own. I confess, I fear that reading it will . . . cause me to behave unpleasantly again.”

Voldemort’s lips twisted in amusement and he extended his hand, accepting the contract and taking the time to read it through. “No less than I would expect,” he commented, and set the papers on his side table. “Now, as I said, I am inclined to grant your plea with regard to Severus. I am seriously annoyed that he would dare ruin those who might potentially enter my service. But what is your heart’s desire today, hm? Shall Severus suffer the killing curse at your hand, or would a spot of torture be in order prior to his death?”

Lucius hesitated before answering. “My lord, I feel I should share an incident from last night. Draco said something that . . . set Saiph off. It might be wise were I to offer my memory of the event, as seeing is believing.”

Voldemort arched a brow. “Now I am curious.” His wand appeared, and Lucius was quickly a willing captive of his master’s gaze. A short time later he said, “Yes, very curious, that bizarre display of power given his loss of control, and his sentiments with regard to Severus. Tell me, Lucius, your thoughts on what happened.”

“My lord, the display made me quite nervous, though there was no actual damage caused. I tend to think, given the last time I am aware of that Saiph lost control he resorted to an unforgivable, his extra years have tempered him. As to Severus, his words were a strange mirror to my own in my distress.

“I allow, I am sorely tempted by the idea of Severus being made to test his own work, that being at the least the permanent version of the obedience potion, and given over to the care of people like the Lestranges, or McNair, as they take as much delight in the downfall of one in service to you as dealing with one of your enemies.

“I expect they would do their utmost to break his spirit, such a gift further endearing you to them, and possibly bring him to the point of a desire for suicide. The idea of Severus having to submit to anything, and being made to claim he liked it, as he forced my son to do. . . .”

Voldemort nodded. “That contract has no date or terms of termination. It essentially makes Severus into Draco’s owner.”

Lucius closed his eyes and concentrated on remaining calm.

“You will, Lucius, hold off on any retaliation with regard to your wife, until I have had the chance to interrogate Severus and instruct him on his new role in life. I am granting your plea.”

“Thank you, my lord,” he said and opened his eyes. “I am most grateful. How may I be worthy of this boon?”

“If Severus’s little potion appears to work as designed, you will be the person who holds the reins of those ministry officials.”

For a moment Lucius could not believe the price would be so little, but then realized he would be responsible for putting each target into a position to be dosed and instructed, all without raising suspicions. “Yes, my lord. I am happy to be of service.”

“I know you are, Lucius. I know. You may go.”

He did depart, thinking his master’s tone strange. It had sounded almost affectionate.

On arrival at the manor he was admitted to the Black suite by Sirius, and was interested to note that the family had been joined by Lupin, and they were all clustered around another of those muggle children’s games, his son included, which was rather a shock.

“Father,” Draco said, clearly happy to see him, and yet a bit nervous.

“Draco,” he acknowledged. “And what is this game you’re all enjoying?”

Altair beamed him a smile and said, “Candy Land! Come see?”

“Certainly,” he said smoothly and found a place for himself on a sofa. He spent the next few minutes listening to Altair babble away about the game, with Adhara interjecting. Eventually he was able to say, “You both seem very good at it.”

“Yup!” Altair said proudly, puffing out his little chest.

Naturally, it was hardly the time to discuss business, so he suffered through the game to its conclusion, finding some pleasure in how much the twins enjoyed it, then heaved a mental sigh when they were hauled off giggling and squealing by Sirius and Remus for a different activity. And that left him with Saiph and Draco.

“My master has decided. Severus will pay for his actions. And, I believe, that does mean both punishment and death.”

Saiph sat back and closed his eyes for a moment, then exhaled audibly. “As much as it goes against the things I believe, I must say I’m happy about that.”

Draco shot Saiph a puzzled look. “I don’t mean to be rude, but why would you care?”

“Draco,” Lucius admonished.

“It’s fine, Lucius, really. After all, you’ve been incredibly patient and understanding when I spring bizarre questions on you. The least I can do is the same for your son.” Saiph focused on Draco and said, “That requires a little history. As I understand it, my father attended Hogwarts at the same time as Snape, and they . . . really did not get on.

“And, one of my father’s dearest friends was a man named James Potter, who also didn’t get on with Snape. James had a son, who I believe was in your year, Draco. From what I’ve heard Snape utterly despised the kid, in large part because of who his father was, and given what you said. . . .

“Well, it just makes me think that had circumstances been different, and I’d actually been schooled at Hogwarts, I might have been in a similar position. Granted, I am older, so it’s not like he would have had access to his little potion. Still, considering who my dad is, and what might have been, I’ve managed to develop a healthy dislike for Snape on the available evidence.”

“Oh. That makes sense. So, er. . . .”

“You know,” said Saiph, “this might be a good time to ask that question, Draco. What we were discussing earlier?”

Draco looked very uncertain about that, whatever it was. “Father,” he said slowly, “I’m feeling kind of . . . diffident . . . about the whole idea of returning to Hogwarts after the holiday.”

Lucius arched a brow and regarded his son steadily. Even with Severus gone he would still not have an ally within the school, and he rather doubted his lord had a spare Potions Master up his sleeve for that sort of duty. “I see. Should you not return, Draco, you would need to be tutored for the remainder of the year. Are you willing to accept that necessity, and the knowledge that you would not be around people of your own age like at Hogwarts, nor be able to enjoy pursuits such as quidditch matches?”

Draco nodded without hesitation, which told him that his son was dead serious. “Then this is what we will do. Should you have any belongings still at the castle I will have an elf fetch them, and I will send notice to the headmaster informing him of your withdrawal. A tutor will be hired on to see to your education, and at the end of the year we will reevaluate. At that time, should you wish to seek a place at Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, I will look into it.”

“Thank you, father.”

“I wonder. . . .”

Lucius was not a stupid man. “I wonder as well. Do you suppose Lupin is seeking employment?”

Draco gaped, but quickly remembered himself. Lucius had to assume his son’s usual public persona had been knocked loose given recent events, which might explain his lapses.

“He might be,” Saiph said. “And didn’t he teach for a year?”

“Indeed. Draco, what do you think? Could you accept Mr Lupin as your tutor?”

“Uh. . . .”

“Draco?” he prompted gently.

“You . . . you would be all right with a. . . .”

“Werewolf?” Saiph supplied helpfully.

“Er, yes. You’re all right with that, father?”

“Draco, son, would I have posed the question otherwise?”

Draco shook his head absently, then glanced at Saiph, who was smiling, and then off to the side toward the foursome, where Sirius and Remus were sitting each with a twin on their laps. Something of his thoughts or perusal of the room seemed to stiffen his spine and bring Draco to a decision. “We could . . . give it a go, father.”

“Splendid. I shall inquire shortly.” He paused as a thought occurred to him, then said, “Saiph, once Narcissa is dealt with, it would be possible for your family to move into a suite in a more central part of the manor. You would then also be able to enjoy the grounds.”

“That would be wonderful. I mean, I quite like that little park you showed us, but sometimes it would be nicer to not have to go so far. But . . . what about your, er, associates?” He shot Lucius a wide-eyed, meaningful look.

“They are of no concern. Much like this suite has restricted access, so does most of the manor. My associates, as you call them, may only enjoy the ballroom, the formal dining room, and other such places. I do not make it a habit to entertain them, except when it is absolutely necessary. In a similar vein, the wards also restrict more normal visitors, such as during our annual Christmas ball, from wandering about and becoming excessively enamored of any small family heirlooms.”

Saiph laughed. “You always have such a delicate way of phrasing things, Lucius. I quite like it. And that does relieve my mind.”

Lucius inclined his head.

“But I shan’t say anything until that’s possible. I wouldn’t want any little monsters to become overly excited and pester the adults about it.”