Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Breakpoint :: 09 :: Thoughtful

09 • Thoughtful

“Father, I think . . . you may be disappointed in me, but, I’m not sure I can bear the idea of attending the annual ball. They’ll be there. I don’t . . . think I can face them just yet.”

Lucius had almost been expecting this. “Draco, being a Slytherin, or even a Malfoy, does not mean that you must be heartless and cold. On the surface . . . perhaps. It seems that this is a lesson you have still to learn. No, I am not disappointed in you, but brows will rise should you not be there. Let me think a moment.”

After several minutes of silent contemplation he gazed across the room and waited for an opportune moment, then signaled to gain Saiph’s attention. Saiph wandered over with a questioning look on his face and took a seat.

“I have a situation to present to you, and perhaps a favor to ask.”

Saiph perched his elbows on his knees and cradled his face with both hands.

“As you know the Malfoy family holds an annual Christmas ball and that is nearly upon us. I was wondering how you might feel about the idea of attending, but not as yourself.”

Saiph’s gaze flicked sideways toward Draco for a moment. “I understand. What sort of . . . character . . . would I need to play?”

“Draco, perhaps you could explain?” Lucius thought his son looked almost embarrassed at that.

“Pure-blood and proud of it. A sense of superiority, even over peers. Marked dislike of anything not pure and not afraid to say so. I suppose that’s how I usually come across to people.”

Saiph rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling and appeared to consider that, then sat up properly and closed them. A minute later he opened his eyes, a sneer already disfiguring his mouth, and then said in a somewhat affected, snooty, disparaging tone, “I can’t believe what they allow out in public these days. Filthy little mudbloods, disgusting muggle lovers, and werewolves! Have I told you? We actually had to endure one teaching at the school for a year. It was absolutely outrageous, a disgrace. I vow, the board of governors should do something about Dumbledore, what with him hiring on all manner of inferior dross.”

Then Saiph relaxed. “Am I in the ballpark?”

Draco was looking at Saiph in disbelief, so Lucius took it upon himself to say, “Fairly, yes.”

Saiph blinked slowly and stretched his jaw. “My goodness, that sneering thing is a bit of a trial. I don’t know how people practically plaster one on for ages at a time.”

“Er, you should probably toss in a bit about ‘my father’ every so often,” Draco said with a faint grimace.

“So noted. Now, call me paranoid, but does this ball include a sit down dinner?”

“Yes, but your meal can be prepared by your own house-elf, or you can eat beforehand and pretend during the meal that it just doesn’t meet with your approval.”

“What of Mrs Malfoy?” Saiph glanced over at Draco again.

“Mother usually leaves me alone at these, unless she wants to show up some other woman with how much better looking I am over their child.”

Saiph nodded and resumed his earlier position, staring down at the floor for a bit. “You realize I wouldn’t know or recognize anyone. I’m concerned that I’d give up the game on that alone.”

“You would stay by my side, Saiph. Draco will be seventeen in June, which means it would not be out of the ordinary for him to shadow me at social functions in order to more closely familiarize himself with people he will need to know later on.”

“Okay. Then I guess what I’m wondering is what, if anything, you plan to do about the, er, students involved. I’m assuming that they’ll be in attendance, otherwise I’m not sure of why I’d need to sub in.”

“Poker game,” Draco said. “In the antechamber on the east side, behind the statue of Cassius Malfoy.”

“Yes, the poker game I allegedly know nothing about,” Lucius said dryly.

*

‘Oh dear,’ Saiph thought. ‘Lucius has his arm around me again and I’m supposed to be his son right now. It’s got to be so wrong for me to be thinking what I’m thinking.’ He interrupted his musings to give a bare incline of his head to someone he had just been introduced to, and assure himself that his ‘I’m a superior being’ look was still fixed on his face.

He suffered through another half hour of mingling, absently noticing that Lucius had adroitly steered them near the statue Draco had mentioned. A few minutes later they had slipped into the antechamber to find four students playing poker, three of whom were their targets.

Saiph took care of stunning two while Lucius took the others, and as the blond approached Parkinson, Saiph secured the entrance to the room. Fifteen minutes later all four students had been obliviated of the event and Lucius and Saiph were well away from the scene of the crime.

The time for dinner finally arrived, which Saiph was incredibly grateful for, his patience for social maneuvering and the like having been severely tested. Thankfully Narcissa was seated clear at the other end of the table. And even though he knew that his own elf had prepared his meal (to match what everyone else was having) and had supplied the wine, Saiph still discreetly checked every course for anything abnormal.

He was halfway through his beef tenderloin and honey glazed carrots when a disturbance arose; Narcissa had risen from her seat quite abruptly and was clutching at her face. Those seated at her end of the table had stopped eating and appeared to be morbidly fascinated by whatever was going on, which Saiph could not see clearly at that distance.

And then she started shrieking and collapsed to the floor, causing Lucius to push back his chair and rise, then stride quickly toward her. Saiph followed, naturally, and was surprised to note when he arrived that Mrs Malfoy, one of the great beauties of her generation, currently looked like an elderly woman. It did not stop, and she continued to shriek, her face and body aging rapidly, until at last she simply went silent and still.

Lucius headed for one of the windows and severed a curtain with his wand, then used it to wrap around his wife like a blanket. After picking her up he turned to the guests and announced, “Dinner is over.” He then turned to Saiph. “Draco, please make sure our guests find their way out. I shall be at St Mungo’s.”

Saiph rather felt like having a panic attack, but instead said, “Yes, father.” He waited until Lucius had departed before turning to the guests, which numbered approximately one hundred, all while desperately trying to decide how Draco himself would have handled things. Eventually he just decided to bull his way through and said, “I apologize for such an abrupt ending to the evening. If you would all be so kind, allow me to escort you out.”

As they were setting aside their napkins and rising Saiph summoned Phobos and said quietly, but so that the people nearest could hear him, “You will secure the remainder of my mother’s meal. Something has happened and we might need to have it tested for any tampering, and that includes the plate and cutlery, her glass, and what’s left of her wine. Allow no one near it until my father is able to instruct you further. St Mungo’s may have need of it.”

“Yes, master,” the elf said and immediately took care of it.

It took a good twenty minutes for him to see everyone out, and at that he had the help of several house-elves. The second it was safe to Saiph sprinted for his suite (though he did think to order a nearby elf to see to clearing up the formal dining room). Inside he slumped onto a couch and tipped his head back.

“You’re early,” Sirius commented. “You okay? You don’t look so good.”

“Not really,” he said, then summoned one of his own elves. “I could really go for some tea,” he told it. “Draco, I’ve got good news and bad news, and since my nerves are a bit shattered, I’ll give you the good. Those three students were under an oath.

“And they’re under a new oath, given to Lucius, since I expect the original ones will be voided once Snape meets his end. Of course, none of them remember that they gave it, but that won’t interfere with the fact that they’re still bound by it.”

“That’s a relief.”

Saiph nodded. “You shan’t need to worry about them talking.”

“What about the bad?”

He shook his head and pounced on the newly arrived tea; fixing a cup was imperative. After drinking half of it he said, “No. I don’t know what I should do here. I don’t know if I should say or not. It might be better to wait for Lucius.”

His father twisted sideways and rested a hand on Saiph’s knee briefly. “Finish that tea first.” When he had Sirius pulled him up and said, “Time for you to change,” then led him off into the bedroom.

It did not escape Saiph’s notice that his father had slapped up a few privacy wards. As he began to change both clothes and appearance he said, “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Narcissa is dead.”

“What!? How?”

“I don’t know, actually. She got up in the middle of the main course, started shrieking. . . . When I got over there she had aged horribly. I think she aged straight into death. Lucius took her to St Mungo’s. I had Phobos gather up what was left of her meal and keep it safe, mostly for show, but still. As soon as all the guests had left I came here straight away. I don’t know what to do, dad, about Draco.”

Sirius looked a bit flummoxed. “I don’t think you should say anything yet to Draco. I think Lucius should be here in case Draco breaks down. Now, do you need to rest? If you want to lie down for a bit, I can wake you if Lucius shows up.”

“If I did that then you’d have to deal with Draco alone.”

Sirius shook his head again and pushed Saiph at the bed. “Go ahead. I can handle him.”

So he did, falling asleep quickly despite a repeating scene in his mind of Narcissa transforming. He was shocked to find himself suddenly staring into the slit-pupiled eyes of the Dark Lord, and blinked a few times and squinted.

“My young friend, while I am not angry about this rather insistent intrusion into my mind, I must wonder why it is that I keep seeing a shrieking Narcissa shrivel up and die.”

Saiph rubbed his forehead with the back of one hand before answering. “I’m sorry. I was trying to take a nap. She did die, during dinner. Never did get to the dancing part of the evening, which is probably good, since I can’t dance for toffee. Lucius took her to St Mungo’s.” He rambled on for another minute, explaining what little he knew.

Voldemort let out a slight sigh. “Saiph, try to sleep more normally and forget for a time what you had to witness. I am sure that Lucius will—”

He was all at once wide awake, his hand halfway to his wand when he realized what had disturbed him. “Saiph, it’s just me. I promised I would wake you when Lucius showed up. But you can go back to sleep as he only stayed a minute, muttering something about a calendar, then went straight on to see Voldemort.”

“Okay, dad,” he mumbled and fell backward.

When he awoke the next time his father was there telling him that Lucius had returned. Saiph found the man seated next to his son, and took a spot on the facing sofa, Sirius beside him, and tried to shake the sleep from his system. Draco looked like he might lose his composure, so Saiph could only figure that Lucius had broken the news.

Then Lucius switched focus, though he had pulled his son into a sideways embrace. “Apparently Narcissa was not the only one to suffer so. Two other women were brought in earlier today, one being Yseult Zabini, the other Elspeth Sheridan.

“I searched Narcissa’s things and found references in her social engagement calendar to Severus and dosages; my master questioned him. It appears that he had created a set of potions, one to remove the ravages of time due to aging and another to maintain the results. In exchange for various forms of payment he shared this with the affected women.”

“Mother always was vain,” Draco muttered, then turned and pressed his face against Lucius’s chest.

“Doses were administered on a monthly basis. With Severus called to my master’s service for the entire holiday, and then disgraced, the women were unable to receive this month’s. They had been taking it for quite some time. And obviously. . . . An elf was sent to fetch Severus’s remaining supply, plus his research journals, and I took a sample to St Mungo’s just a short while ago.”

“Lucius,” Saiph said rather tiredly, “did you tell the people at St Mungo’s how you got the sample, or where it came from? I don’t mean to imply anything, but I can’t help but think that your lord might become vexed if Snape’s involvement was known.”

Lucius shook his head, but his answer was not negative. “It mattered not to him, as Severus will never again see freedom. People may assume, once the scandal breaks, that he fled to avoid being questioned, and possibly brought up on charges of some kind. In any case, they believe I found the sample among her things.”

“I’m surprised that Snivellus isn’t already enjoying his new life,” Sirius said.

“My master wished to see if the presumable final version of that potion worked correctly. After providing a batch to my lord and explaining the usage, my master used it on him and has been testing it. I believe he means to turn Severus over to his new playmates soon.”

“Wish I could see that,” Sirius said under his breath.

Saiph shot his father a dark look, but said nothing; he knew how completely Sirius despised Snape. To Lucius he said, “I hope I did everything okay, getting those people out of the house. And I had Phobos secure. . . .” He glanced at Draco, who still had his face hidden against his father’s chest. “I asked an elf to take care of cleaning up.”

He thought, after some contemplation, that Lucius looked almost relieved, and had to wonder if it was due to the man having inadvertently become a widower. At least with the similar deaths of others it was unlikely that the DMLE would seek to investigate Lucius specifically for any possible wrongdoing.

It made him wonder, though, knowing that Narcissa and Snape had been lovers, just how many women the man had been enjoying. Surely one was enough?

The sound of crying snapped him back to attention; Lucius was just then helping Draco up. Saiph watched as the man led his son off to Sirius’s room and disappeared within.

“It doesn’t sound to me like you managed to finish your dinner,” his father said. “Do you want anything?”

*

Christmas was rather subdued. The twins helped to lighten the mood, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Saiph thought that Draco seemed quiet, but had earlier broken down more due to the stress and suddenness of the situation rather than pure grief over his mother’s death. He thought it might be likely that Draco was having difficulty reconciling his conflicting thoughts and emotions.

He recalled from his own years at Hogwarts that Draco had received regular packages from home, from his mother, and it was she who indulged him in certain things such as the brooms purchased for the Slytherin team (and not, as implied, his father). In some respects Saiph was glad that Draco would not be returning to Hogwarts, as he held every expectation that people like Ron would have attempted to move in for the kill.

That wasn’t to say that he actually liked Draco. He was, however, keeping an open mind, and Draco had been showing any number of signs that he was capable of more tolerance and less bigotry, among other things.

Lucius, on the other hand, showed nothing of uncertainty, but that wasn’t really a surprise to Saiph. It had been clear that even years of marriage had not inclined the man to any particular sense of closeness to a wife brought about by arrangement. He had, though, been able to pass on that Bellatrix was also affected.

She had taken her sister’s advice and sought out Snape to reverse the aesthetic damage of years in Azkaban, then saw him monthly for maintenance. Bellatrix wasn’t dead, but she had suffered backlash, and according to Lucius presently appeared a good thirty years older.

Saiph rather thought that would make her even more vicious when it came to tormenting Snape. He did not really wish to dwell on such thoughts, though, especially given that with it being Christmas day, he knew some of Voldemort’s gifts were edged; even as he sat there, Snape was receiving the ‘gift’ of a new life. Instead he looked to more pleasant things, like the twins, who were very happy little monsters.

Lucius had gifted them with a selection of colouring books, which they immediately wanted to colour in, but the twins were easily distracted when Draco had also offered a present. When the wrappings were off the twins squealed in delight over having plush Padfoot toys, and after squeezing them happily had trundled over to pile on Draco and burden him with hugs and kisses. The blond had looked pleased in an embarrassed sort of way.

The children also received more muggle games, some of which were designed to sneakily get them learning while still having fun. Saiph and his father had spent a fair amount of time picking them out during one trip that saw the twins at home being monitored by the elves, and Sirius wearing a glamour.

Saiph fetched out a present and handed it to Draco saying, “You may or may not get immediate use out of this, but I hope you’ll like it.” He waited until the wrappings were off, revealing a ornately carved wooden lap desk, then said, “I thought that since you’ll be tutored at home you might occasionally prefer to have lessons in a more informal setting, such as a sitting room or outdoors, and this would be handy. Also, inside are some muggle notebooks and writing implements from dad, but we’ll understand if you don’t much care for those.”

Draco shook his head and smiled as he opened the top, then closed it again. “It’s very nice, thank you. And maybe there is something to be said for not having to mess about with quill and ink.”

His gift to Lucius provoked a thoughtful look and the comment, “I have never heard of this game before, but it looks intriguing. Perhaps you will learn it with me?”

Saiph nodded, then accepted a package from his father. He descended into laughter a minute later as he took in the words on the t-shirt: Come to the dark side, we have cookies... — V. “Dad, please tell me you weren’t planning to catch a picture of me wearing this and have Lucius give it to his lord?”

As he turned the shirt around and held it up for the Malfoys, Sirius said, “You know, that’s an excellent idea.”

Lucius was given to smile slightly, whereas Draco seemed to be torn between shock and amusement. Saiph rolled his eyes and folded the shirt, setting it to one side, then smiled and accepted a package from Lucius. Inside was a sampler box of chocolates from around the world. “You remembered,” he said happily. “Thank you so much.”

They took a break when the fire flared up and Remus arrived with his own stack of presents to distribute. Saiph had an elf provide refreshments and set the twins up with their new books and crayons to keep them out of mischief.

All presents were out of the way by the time Arak announced that the turkey was ready. The twins shared plates with Saiph and Remus, and then were sent off for a nap with Ouzo to watch over them. It was during dessert that Lucius said, “I think that within the next week or so you can choose a new suite if you wish. Once the recent excitement has settled down a bit more, I will take you on a tour.

“And,” Lucius added, “should you find it more convenient, Remus, to stay here in your capacity as Draco’s tutor, that offer also includes you, though I admit, you would know best if that would cause issues with your present circumstances.”

“That is very generous of you,” Remus said, “thank you.”

*

Draco was thoughtful. True, he had been thoughtful for several months, but he was even more so of late. It was painful for him to realize he was as callow as his father had accused (though not so bluntly) him of being. It was confusing and disorienting to be thrust into a whole new setting, even in his own home, and make room within himself for family members he never knew existed.

And those family members were nothing like he might have imagined. Of course he had been scornful of Sirius Black; the man was a stooge of Dumbledore—or had been. Harry Potter’s godfather! Draco could only assume that the man’s defection had something to do with his son. And that raised more questions in his head.

How did Sirius have a son older than Draco himself? Was Saiph . . . an accident? Illegitimate? He shivered slightly at the thought. Had Sirius knocked up some poor girl in his youth all unaware? Or known, but paid her off? Draco had never heard any mention that Sirius had married prior to his stint in Azkaban.

For that matter, how was it that Saiph had two children of his own? Surely he could not be all that much older than himself. And again, there was absolutely no evidence of a wife. Either way, it was clear to Draco that Saiph must be the legitimate heir of his father, as it had not escaped his notice that Saiph wore the ring of Lord Black, just as his own father wore that of Lord Malfoy. Perhaps the mother of Saiph’s twins had died in childbirth?

He wanted very badly to ask, but used what was in his mind admirable restraint, managing to choke back the urge every time it surfaced. Saiph might not become upset at such indelicacy, but if his father were to hear of it. . . .

Sirius and Saiph also knew of his recent descent into horror, and neither had ever once mocked him over it. His own peers would have, given the chance. Theo had even after being made into an ‘apprentice’, subtle as it might have been. He just was not used to the idea that a potentially worthwhile person wasn’t necessarily manipulative and underhanded, making an association with them into a type of contest or game.

Draco also found the relationship between Sirius and Saiph to be a bit shocking in how terribly casual and open it was. The idea of teasing Lucius the way Saiph teased Sirius made Draco cringe. And yet, his father never once expressed disapproval, not even in a subtle manner.

And then there was the matter of the werewolf, now having been invited to keep a room in their home. Draco was forced to admit, were he being honest with himself, that Lupin was a very nice man, with a sense of humor and a lot of patience. And they all of them treated the man just like any other person; it was Draco in the minority for once, and he disliked that.

Well, he had been horribly wrong about Sev—Snape. Was he really that blinded by prevailing attitudes among his usual peer group? Was it they who were wrong? Draco was beginning to think that perhaps he knew much less than he had imagined about a number of things, and most especially about the conflict between the Dark Lord and Dumbledore.

He absolutely had been wrong about his father’s relationship with the Dark Lord if that one . . . visit . . . was anything to go by. Lucius might have abased himself and begged, but he had been overwrought, and on his behalf. The fact that the Dark Lord seemed happier when his father regained self-control said more than words could adequately express.

Draco didn’t even want to think about his mother. He sighed softly.

“Are you all right?” asked a quiet voice.

He looked up to see Saiph gazing at him curiously and nodded.

“Ate too much?” Saiph asked with a tilt of his head. “It was good.”

Draco thought it was polite of Saiph to ostensibly assume it had nothing to do with anything unpleasant that he had become so quiet. “I might have had a bit more than was wise,” he said agreeably enough. “I was just thinking that so many things have changed so quickly.”

“Change isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes. . . . Sometimes it’s liberating.” Saiph smiled at him, then wandered away.


Referenced game and t-shirt found at ThinkGeek.