Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Breakpoint :: 11 :: Encounter

11 • Encounter

They were a good two staircases away from the Black suite before Draco spoke up. “You kissed him.”

“Yes, briefly.”

“Three times,” Draco corrected.

“This upsets you?” Lucius sincerely hoped his son would not become difficult, but he supposed he would understand if he did.

“I don’t know.” Draco sighed, a put upon sound, then said, “He makes you happy. Even I can see that. You actually smile and laugh. You even look younger.”

“You also make me smile,” he pointed out. “And I have never been more proud of you as I have been since you came home for the holiday this year. You’ve been growing up before my very eyes.”

Draco stopped and turned to stare at him. “Proud? All I’ve done is admit I’ve been scared. Scared to go back to Hogwarts, scared to go to that ball, scared of what people might say.”

“Draco, only an idiot feels no fear. And it takes courage to admit when you’re afraid. That you can confide such to me says that I have not lost my son.”

“You were worried . . . about losing me?” Draco sounded quite incredulous, but began walking again when Lucius did.

“Yes. It is a rite of passage for every child to assert their independence, but you remained distant. And now I seem to have you back. Draco, you might worry whether or not I will have time for you, but I have held that worry for some time regarding you. This is not a case in which I will fail to understand your feelings. You may not always have acted in a manner I approved of, but that has not and will not change how I feel about you. As for all you’ve done? I think you fail to see where you have begun to actually think about what goes on around you.”

“You mean stuff like questioning what I’ve accepted as a given until now?”

“Yes. What I care about, Draco, is that you think, that you reason. You are so close to being a man, and whether you like it or not, you are growing into that. It’s confusing, and frustrating, but worth it, because you can look at yourself in the mirror each morning and know you made your own decisions, not just blindly followed what others thought was right.”

“And if I disagree with the things you believe?”

“If you can present me with a valid, reasoned argument, then we would simply have to agree to disagree, son. But if all you could say on an issue is something to the effect of ‘everybody knows’ or ‘it’s just obvious,’ then I will most probably scold you as though you were a child.”

There was silence again until they reached the door to Draco’s suite, at which point his son said, “Stay with me a bit?”

Lucius nodded and followed Draco in, then took a seat on the sofa, easily slipping an arm around his son’s shoulders when Draco pressed up against his side.

“So you kissed him.”

Lucius chuckled. “Yes, thrice. I informed Saiph I wished to court him, and he is allowing it. And that reminds me, in an oblique way. . . .”

“Of?”

“He asked me about my hobbies, and I mentioned the stable and dueling room. As you will be tutored here at home, I’ll be opening up that room for your use with Remus, as it is the safest place for that type of activity. I will have to find out exactly how much skill Lupin has with mediwizardry before he begins your lessons. If necessary, I will have him schedule certain of those during hours when I am readily available, in case I am needed as a healer.”

Draco nodded and changed the subject back again. “You’re not going to wait out a mourning period?”

He shook his head. “Society would deem it proper, but no. I did as my father demanded and married the woman he picked. And true, I cannot entirely regret that because I have you, but I am not inclined to wait like a proper gentleman, after almost twenty years of looking the other way as a proper gentleman should.”

“Huh? I don’t understand, father. Are you talking about how mother was, er, involved with Snape?”

“Exactly. Draco, I could have divorced your mother the very first time I had evidence of her infidelity.”

Draco pulled away and shifted his position, sitting sideways with one leg folded on the sofa cushion. “Why didn’t you?”

Lucius also shifted, then shrugged. “What would be the point? It would have sullied the family name, for one thing. For another, there was no one I held any interest in. So long as Narcissa remained discreet and accompanied me to social functions as necessary, I saw no pressing reason to change things. Then, she went too far, past the point even I could tolerate.”

“The . . . contract?”

“Correct. Do you wish to know what it was you were made to sign?”

Draco made a face and shuddered slightly, then nodded.

Lucius took a deep breath before saying, “You became Severus’s property with your mother’s consent, with no reprieve aside from your death or his. The moment he dies you become your own man again. Well, under my supervision, as you are not yet of age.”

Draco went white on hearing it said so bluntly. “I was really stupid,” he whispered.

“And in the future you will not let admiration be cause for willful blindness. The point is, Draco, that while I am a patient man, I can only be pushed so far. Narcissa finally crossed the line, and had she not died, then yes, I would have devised a way to deal with her treachery. And no, I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“I wonder, sometimes, if I should be planning revenge on Zabini. A part of me says it’s the correct thing to do. He tortured me. He enjoyed it. Same with Nott. Maybe even Parkinson.”

Lucius heaved a mental sigh. “You could. What would you do? Would it be acceptable for risk versus reward? Would it require you to sneak onto the grounds of Hogwarts, or wait until summer? I suggest you give it a great deal of thought, and if you decide you would like to retaliate, come to me and explain your ideas.”

It was not that he was against the idea in and of itself. Lucius simply wished for his son to step away from knee-jerk reactions and badly thought out plans. Slytherins had a certain reputation for a reason, and it was not because they excelled at sneering and looking down on others.

“All right,” Draco said softly. “You kissed him.”

He rolled his eyes openly. “You seem to be a bit stuck on that. Yes, Draco, I kissed him, and I enjoyed it. In fact, I should like to kiss him again. I will court him, and eventually, hopefully, marry him.”

Draco sighed and nodded, then changed the subject again. “I got a letter back from a girl at school, a Ravenclaw. We had been assigned to a project together and I wrote her as soon as I knew you’d withdrawn me from Hogwarts.”

“That was polite of you,” he commented, somewhat surprised that his son had shown such unprompted thoughtfulness.

Draco shrugged. “Well, I don’t dislike her. Looking back on things, I might actually have grown to like her. Er, though, I guess maybe not, if things hadn’t gone the way they did.”

“What did she say?” he prompted, wondering why his son had even brought the girl up. Perhaps. . . ?

“She thanked me for letting her know I’d not be back, and for sending her what I’d done so far.”

“Perhaps now you have the opportunity for a friend your own age, removed as you are from the school.”

“Maybe.” Draco yawned and shook his head. “I guess I’ll go to bed now, father. I’m glad you stayed to talk to me.”

*

“Might I borrow you for a while?” Lucius asked, his face revealing nothing.

Saiph eyed him curiously for a moment. “For? Not a lesson, surely.”

Lucius shook his head. “Not until after the normal holiday period. No, I would like you to come with me to Diagon Alley.”

“We’ll watch the squirts,” his father said.

“Okay,” he said agreeably. “Let me get changed, all right?” Saiph was back shortly after changing into less casual clothing, and finding a nice jacket that would suit either muggle or wizard areas. He paused on seeing that his father, Remus, and Lucius were in a sort of huddle, but that broke up a few seconds later, with his father looking particularly satisfied.

“I’m ready, Lucius. Are we apparating or using the floo?”

Shortly thereafter they were strolling down the alley, most people giving them wide berth, presumably due to his companion. “So why are we here?” he asked.

Lucius looked at him briefly and said, “We are a bit early, but you’ll see. Perhaps we can step into Flourish & Blotts to see if anything interesting has come in. Indeed, I have noticed the books you have for the twins are muggle in nature, so you might consider looking at the wizard equivalents.”

Saiph smiled in pleasant frustration at his question being evaded, and allowed himself to be guided into the book shop. It wasn’t but a minute later that he was perusing the shelves and stacks to see what the children might enjoy which was not simply a slightly revised version of what they already had. He had picked out several thin volumes when speech gained his attention rather rudely.

“Looks about your speed,” said a very familiar voice nastily.

Saiph looked over as Hermione said tersely, “He’s done nothing to you, Ron. Let’s go.”

“No. Stupid Slytherins. Just look at him! Flaunting it in public, probably thinking he’s better than everyone else.”

Saiph reached up to scratch the side of his face, considering how to respond as Hermione urged Ron once again to walk away, then said, “I’m sorry, but have we met? I mean, is it your habit to accost random shoppers and toss about specious accusations?”

Ron snarled and leaned in closer. “It’s people like you that saw my best mate dead.”

Saiph blinked; well, technically, he’d had a hand in that. But he was quickly distracted when a shadow fell across them. He looked over, then . . . up. The man bore a startling resemblance to Gregory Goyle, so Saiph assumed this was the boy’s father, or at least a relative.

“These kids giving you trouble?” the presumable Mr Goyle asked gruffly.

“Ah, I think I have it under control,” Saiph said, only just realizing that he had put on his pendant without thinking while dressing, and it really did afford him protection. “But thank you for inquiring.”

Goyle cracked his knuckles in a brutishly intimidating way, then nodded, leaving only after shooting a dark look at Ron and Hermione.

Saiph blinked again, then murmured, “Whoever you are.”

“Ron, we should go!” Hermione urged. “This is senseless.”

Ron looked like he was about to protest, but no actual sound issued from his open mouth, which rather puzzled Saiph until he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard, “Miss Granger. Mr Weasley.”

The hand slipped away as Lucius spoke to him directly. “We will need to go if we are not to be late. Madam Rastrick does not like to be kept waiting.”

“Oh.” He recognized that name, he was sure of it. “I just need to pay for these, then.” Saiph looked at his erstwhile friends and furrowed his brow. “It was . . . strange,” he said, then headed for the clerk. Lucius stepped up next to him as he handed the books over, so he said jokingly, “What an interesting trip so far.”

Lucius sneered, which Saiph found amusing. “At least now I know where we’re going. What are you up to?” he asked as he handed over several galleons and took back both change and a bag.

The blond shook his head and smirked. “You’ll simply have to wait a few more minutes.”

“He looks like Sirius!” was hissed somewhere behind them, causing Saiph to stiffen almost imperceptibly.

“If I must,” he said with a smile that was only slightly strained, then began to head for the door, away from the two students obviously lurking about. “You’re taking advantage of my patient nature,” he accused lightly, and smiled for real when Lucius chuckled softly and held the door for him.

Five minutes along saw them inside Twillfit & Tatting’s, with Saiph still mystified as to why, but his ignorance was soon alleviated.

“Lucius, darling!” said Madam Rastrick. “Is this your friend, then?” She gazed at Saiph, narrowed her eyes, then said with an upward jerk of her chin, “Less than a year ago!”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said softly. “You made my present wardrobe for me. It’s served me very well.”

She shot a smile his way and nodded several times. “That is excellent workmanship for you, and I recognize what you’re got on as my wares. Now, what is on the agenda for today?”

Lucius responded, “I should like for you to fit Saiph for riding clothes. I will be teaching him soon.”

Rastrick made a happy noise and slipped in between the two of them, linked an arm with each, then guided them off to a small lounge and to a sofa. A snap of her fingers saw refreshments delivered, as well as a set of books. An hour later (after decisions had been made as to colour, cut, fabric, and any number of fiddly details) saw them leaving the shop, much to Saiph’s relief.

“I am reminded of just how exhausting shopping can be,” he said wryly.

“Ah, but as she pointed out, and you already know, if you take your business to a quality clothing establishment, one only needs to suffer infrequently.”

“Thankfully.”

“Would you care to have lunch while we’re here, or return?”

Saiph almost elected to stay, then remembered what had happened at the book shop and shook his head. “Return, please.” And so they did, though he was not escorted back to his suite, but rather to one he had not seen before. “Yours?”

“Yes.”

Saiph took the seat he was gestured to and frowned slightly, but waited until after Lucius had summoned a house-elf to order a meal to speak. “I don’t know if I ought to be concerned or not. I certainly never expected to be pounced on by Ron in public. Does my appearance scream Slytherin or something?”

“Your appearance says, in a quiet and understated manner, wealthy pure-blood.”

“You know, I wish he’d get over that, but maybe that’s too much to hope for. Arthur always seemed so happy with his job, but Ron and Percy always looked down on him for it, like it was shameful, and cruel or something that their dad didn’t bring home loads of money. I mean, I never looked down on Draco because he was wealthy. I disliked him because of his unmistakable sense of entitlement, not to mention his bigotry.

“I actually considered leaving Ron money as Harry, but I couldn’t decide if it would piss him off or make him happy, so I just didn’t. It’s like, I could see him, on the one hand, getting all puffed up over it and flaunting that he had money, but on the other hand, I could see him upset because he still didn’t have the kind of money that a Malfoy does, or that Zabini kid.

“In a way, it makes me so glad you’ve been teaching me about estate management, even if I don’t think I’m all that good with figures. At least I know where my money is coming from, and how much I can reasonably spend to indulge myself, rather than just buying things recklessly because I can, and ending up with a lot of essentially useless stuff and no capital.

“And now I have to wonder if he and Hermione are going to relate their little encounter with me to people on Saxeten’s side, or even straight to Saxeten himself once they’re back at school.”

Lucius sighed softly. “It might have been better had I waited a few days, but there is every possibility that it would have happened anyway. It might have been an Order member.” He reached out to flick open a napkin and drape it over his lap as the food appeared.

Saiph did the same and picked up his utensils so he could slice free a portion of chicken, saying, “At least they don’t know my name.” After several bites and a sip of wine he said, “This token does more than I expected!”

“Even had it not been time for us to move on, I would have appeared anyway. It did not escape my notice that Goyle approached you to render his version of assistance.”

He laughed softly and shook his head. “I think he was offering to pound them into the floor for me. Oh, do I dare ask what you and dad and Moony were up to earlier?”

Lucius gazed at him over the rim of his wine glass, then sipped and set it aside. “You might. They were curious about Severus.”

Saiph grimaced and looked away briefly. “Enough said. So how hard is it, really, to learn to ride?” And that carried them through the remainder of lunch.

“Would you like to see the stable?” Lucius asked.

“So I can see the creature that will soon enough be tossing me to the ground? Sure.” Saiph smiled and got up, then reached for his jacket. He soon found out that they were out of sight of the house, screened by a line of thick evergreens; ahead was the stable and a fenced field.

“I shall start you on Tempest, who, despite the name, is a fairly placid beast,” Lucius said as they entered the building. “I’ve three horses, and I don’t suppose they ever get enough exercise, so if your father or Remus is interested in riding, I’m sure they could also enjoy themselves.”

Saiph was shortly being introduced to a chestnut-coated horse, and smiled when it snuffled his hand as though looking for a treat. He only briefly stopped to see the other two, then wandered back outside and leaned against the fence.

Lucius came to stand next to him and pointed. “The trail begins over there.”

He looked where indicated, but wasn’t really interested in that yet. “Should we be worried?” he asked. “If I know Hermione she’s going to talk, and she’s going to start wondering how to figure out who I am. And you, Lucius, are the first person in line with information.”

“We shall simply have to deal with what comes, Saiph. And yes, I will be informing my lord of what happened earlier so he is not unaware.”

“Okay. I’m tempted to apologize, as I know this is probably going to cause you grief,” he said and pushed away from the fence. “But. . . .” Saiph smiled and tilted his head to the side. “You’re going to brush it aside, should I do so, aren’t you?”

Lucius smirked and inclined his head. “To accept such an apology would be to imply I find you a burden, and that is most assuredly not the case.”

He nodded and stamped his feet, as his toes were getting cold. “Either I need to warm up, or we need to go back,” he said, then damn near blushed when he realized that sounded almost like an invitation.

As it was, Lucius gave him a slight bow and extended a gloved hand, which Saiph took, and they began the walk back to the house. Just as they were about to emerge from behind the tree line Lucius stopped and turned to face him, letting his eyes wander over Saiph’s face and making him shiver from something other than the cold.

“Are you going to kiss me?” he whispered, not caring how bold it was of him. The man had asked to court him, after all, and he’d be damned if he would pretend not to want it, or that he had no backbone.

Lucius released his hand and stepped closer, then settled his hands on Saiph’s shoulders and leaned in. “Yes,” he whispered, just before their lips touched.

Saiph felt like melting, so he did, closing his eyes and pressing closer to Lucius, then parting his lips in invitation. A second later he could feel a warm wash of breath, then a gorgeously soft tongue invaded his mouth, sliding in like a serpent to explore. Nothing thus far in his life came close to matching how Lucius made him feel with such a simple action. And then it was over, all too quickly, that silken tongue gone, and Saiph opened his eyes to stare into ones that showed dilated pupils. “That was nice,” he said softly, then winced at how inane he sounded.

Lucius chuckled and released him only to take his hand again. “I like that you say what you mean. Though, I think nice is not strong enough of a term. Let’s head in, before warming charms are a necessity and not just a pleasant idea.”

Saiph was glad to be back inside, and looking forward to the idea of sitting in front of a fire. But when they entered his suite it was to find Sirius and Remus puzzling over an envelope sitting on the table. “Is something wrong?” he asked as he removed his jacket and draped it over one arm.

His father looked up, curiosity plainly written on his face. “I don’t know. But we are wondering just what happened while you two were out. This letter here, it’s addressed to you, we think.”

“But—” He shot a quick look at Lucius and surged forward, laying his jacket over the back of the sofa, then taking a seat. The envelope, on closer inspection, was addressed to:

Unknown Man Encountered in Flourish & Blotts
c/o Lord Lucius Malfoy
Malfoy Manor
Wiltshire, England

“Oh dear. I’m—” He stopped and shook his head; he would not apologize. Instead he said, “Okay, the betting is now open that this is from”—he paused a second, wondering where Draco was—“Miss Granger.”

“What happened?” Remus asked.

Saiph rolled his eyes as Lucius took a seat next to him, and produced his wand so he could check for anything nasty before he would even think of touching the envelope. He explained while he cast several spells, then put away his wand and picked up the envelope and opened it, pulled out a sheet of paper, and read it out loud.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Hermione Granger, and I am writing to you in order to apologize for the rude behavior of my friend, Ronald Weasley. I’m afraid that he has some issues, none of which were helped when a dear friend of ours was killed several months ago, and it seems I was unable to convince him that provoking a fight was unwise.

I realize that it’s not really my place to make this apology, but I could not let the situation stand. I would also like to express my admiration for how calm you remained after being attacked so suddenly and without warning.

And, while I have pen to paper, I hope you will not think it too rude for me to inquire further about you. You see, you so strongly resemble a man by the name of Sirius Black—you’ve probably read about him in the papers—that I must wonder if you are somehow related?

I suppose, if that is the case, I can understand why you might be acquainted with Lord Malfoy, as his late wife’s a Black, so you would technically be family. It makes me wonder if you are acquainted with Nymphadora Tonks, the daughter of Sirius’s cousin Andromeda? Either way, I hope you’ll forgive my curiosity. Sirius Black was a friend, and we miss him.

Sincerely,
Hermione Granger

“A friend!?” Sirius practically shouted. “She was nearly right behind Molly ranting about irresponsibility. Did you know? I overheard her once speculating on whether or not if I were to die—like if the ministry managed to catch me—if she’d get the Black library on the strength of me once telling her she was the smartest witch of her generation.”

Saiph was freshly outraged at the behavior of his erstwhile friends, but refused to comment, knowing it would be pointless to rehash old issues. He’d had five years to deal with his feelings about them, so while his father’s admission was a shock, it did not entirely surprise him, either.

“Settle down, Padfoot,” Remus said as he laid a hand on Sirius’s arm. “Of course she would say that. She’s just seen a young man who looks very much like you, and she wants a reply, and answers to her questions.”

“She’ll go straight to Dumbledore,” Sirius said.

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” replied Remus. “She looks up to him, and will probably be pleased to bring him this news, however vague it is.”

Saiph sat back and shot a sidelong look at Lucius, then said quietly, “She’s fast, I’ll give her that.”

“And this bit about technically being family,” Sirius said.

“She’s simply trying to voice a reasonable explanation in her mind as to why Lucius would have been there. After all, if this mystery man”—Remus flashed Saiph a grin—“is a Black, then maybe he could be convinced to gravitate toward the Light-oriented members of the family.”

They discussed for a good ten minutes more as Saiph sat there quietly, enjoying the simple pleasure of Lucius’s leg pressed against his own, then spoke when his father and Remus wound down. “Lucius, what do you think?”

“I think, if you reply to this, it should be as Lord Black, without specifying your actual name. As to the content of a reply, that is entirely up to you. It could be as simple as a short note acknowledging the apology, or something of more substance.

“Anything you say to her will likely get back to Saxeten, and he may attempt to recruit you, using her or others as agents of his aims. I would advise, regardless, a certain amount of delay time prior to any response.”

Saiph nodded. “If she gets one too quickly, I’ll come across as being eager.”

“Yes. It also comes to mind that you, Remus, may come in for interrogation over this.”

“Because naturally, I know everything about Sirius, so if anyone was aware of hidden family members, it would be me.”

“Which is crazy,” Saiph said, “but I can see it happening.”

“Er. . . .” Sirius made a face, then said, “D’you think I should make myself invisible to post owls, just in case? Long shot, I know, but. . . .”

“Perhaps,” Lucius offered. “Does the Order have other ways to contact members aside from the obvious methods?”

“Aside from using patroni as messengers?” Remus said. “Not that I’m aware of. Maybe you should, Padfoot. It’d be a desperate move on anyone’s part to attempt to send post to a known dead man, but. . . .”

“Well, if you do, can an exception be made for Hedwig?” Saiph asked. “And maybe. . . .” He looked over at Lucius and said, “I’m afraid I don’t know the name of your eagle owl.”

“Celsus.”

“Thanks. I mean, I don’t know that they’d ever need to find you, but just in case.”

“We’ll do that today,” Remus stated. “The exceptions can be added after the fact.”

“I believe this is a good time for me to seek an audience,” said Lucius, who then rose.