Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Breakpoint :: 13 :: Oath

13 • Oath

The sight of Lucius’s brows starting to rise snapped him out of his pleasant haze. “That came out sort of weird, didn’t it.”

Lucius nodded and said, “Come. Sit with me?”

Saiph allowed himself to be drawn over to a bench and pulled down. He gave Lucius a crooked grin and shook his head. “Maybe someday I can learn to phrase things delicately like you do.”

Lucius smiled. “Though occasionally startling, I like how you are. Now, what did you mean?”

“Um, well, this is probably going to come out kind of jumbled, so bear with me. Back before, everything was terribly normal”—he made quotation marks in the air with his fingers—“and the way of it was the usual. Boys like girls, girls like boys, and all that. I think it was because I was required to have a date for the Yule Ball that one year that it ever crossed my mind to care. She said no, but she was interested my fifth year. And I did kind of have a crush on her, and I did kiss her once or twice, but it was . . . wet.”

On seeing Lucius’s brows threaten to skitter into his hairline Saiph hastened to clarify. “She cried a lot that year, because of Cedric. So things were wet. Anyway, then everything went all funny, and there was the ministry, and I started my new life. And there I was, with a new face and name, in a new country, feeling free for the first time in my life to be whoever I wanted to be, and most importantly, be me.

“All I had to worry about was meeting my financial commitments, like rent and utilities, and doing my school work. I didn’t feel the strain anymore of always knowing I was supposed to meet the expectations of others and squash myself into a particular image, and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not a killer was around the corner, you know?

“And I started to notice things, like how some boys liked boys, and that intrigued me. Of course, then I got caught out by that girl, so I’m not a virgin or anything, but I’m afraid I don’t remember much. It was all just a blur, really. Anyway, I thought about experimenting, maybe having a fling. I didn’t plan to be in the US for more than that year, so I didn’t want to get involved, you know? And I didn’t want to find out if I’d feel guilty for not telling someone about my past.

“And then she came back, which made everything go pear shaped again. I didn’t feel comfortable bringing anyone home, not with her living there, and I guess I still felt paranoid enough that I wasn’t keen on the idea of a lot of things. Once the twins came I had other things on my mind than to figure out why people seemed to think fooling around was so much fun.”

“It sounds to me,” Lucius said softly, “as though you bore too much of a mental and emotional burden to experience that fundamental aspect of growing up.”

He nodded. “Yeah. I mean, I know girls mature faster than boys, so maybe I was only just getting to that point anyway. I did a lot of reading on child development because, well, I was on my own, and wanted to be as prepared as possible, even though they were just babies. I think I was always so caught up in other stuff. It took me a while after the fact to realize that Ginny Weasley had a thing for me.”

Saiph shook his head and continued, “But when you look at me that way, it’s like I can’t breathe almost. And when you kiss me it’s like. . . . I don’t know how to describe that, but I like it. I think it helps, in a way, that you do know who I am. I don’t have to feel like I’m lying to you, or that you’re accepting someone who doesn’t exist except as a technicality. You know?”

Lucius arched a brow. “Hardly a technicality, but yes, I understand.” He reached over to take one of Saiph’s hands in his and said, “So, I make you breathless, hm?”

“Yes.” He rather wished Lucius would make him breathless all over again.

“Saiph,” Lucius said while stroking the back of his hand, “I feel compelled to point out that . . . desire . . . has an odd effect on you.”

He blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

“Your eyes,” Lucius said gently. “They turned true green.”

Saiph reached up with his free hand to touch his face, feeling somewhat horrified.

“An interesting quirk, I dare say. I shall have to be very careful in my courting of you, that’s all.”

Saiph worried his lower lip between his teeth, then nodded. He would hate to have to come up with an explanation should Draco notice the phenomenon. He blinked when Lucius laughed softly and cast an inquiring gaze at the man.

“Well, at least I can be sure when I’m having the right effect on you, Saiph.”

He knew he was blushing when he felt his face heat up, and shot back with, “Well, you don’t know that for sure yet, do you.”

Lucius got that look on his face again, making Saiph shiver, and said, “Oh? Throwing down your gauntlet, Mr Black? That is a challenge I would be happy to take up.”

Saiph was very breathless a moment later when Lucius leaned in to claim his lips again.

*

“You got a letter?” Saiph asked.

“Yes,” Remus said as he fixed his plate. “Looks like it’s from Tonks. I expect she wants to meet to subtly pump me for information.”

“Subtle?” said Sirius with a bark of laughter. “Tonks?”

“You know what I mean,” Remus said patiently. “In any case, she’ll have to wait for an evening or the weekend.”

They didn’t hear anything further on that for several days. He contented himself with his lessons with Saiph and his work, spending hours planning out exactly who to subvert and how. As for his side project, he might need to work his way through several people before he could get his hands on one of the prophecy keepers, but patience was a virtue.

“I played dumb,” Remus informed them at breakfast Saturday morning. “Then she asked me out.”

“What!?” Sirius practically jumped up from the table. “And you didn’t mention that last night?”

“Settle down, Padfoot. I think she was hoping a bit of alcohol would loosen my tongue, that’s all. Anyway, she babbled on quite a bit about this mysterious Lord Black.” Remus turned to Lucius and said, “You might be interested to know that Andromeda questions whether or not you’re as evil as people make you out to be. She wonders if your father forced you into becoming a Death Eater, for one thing.”

Lucius snorted softly, but otherwise didn’t comment.

“She’s also a bit puzzled as to why Dumbledore would want Saiph as one of his own.”

Saiph furrowed his brow. “There’s nothing special about me. He can’t possibly have his eye on the Black fortune, can he?”

Lucius cleared his throat, catching everyone’s attention. “He might, in a roundabout sense. It isn’t exactly unknown that I have been rather generous with Malfoy funds in the past, gaining the assistance of certain people in furthering my master’s agenda. Or, so they assume. Dumbledore may think you will you use your fortune in much the same manner, and might wish for you to use it to his benefit instead.”

He paused when Draco’s expression betrayed his shock at those words, then said, “It would also be to his credit to have gained another ally from a previously dark family.”

“Ah, good for his reputation,” Saiph said with a slight snort of derision. “The redemption of the Blacks.”

“The Black name is far more respected, politics notwithstanding, than one like Weasley.” He ignored his son’s sudden sneer, resolving to take Draco aside at some point and explain better why their families were at odds. However, it was Saturday, he had worked hard all week, and what he really wanted to do was spend time with Saiph.

Draco wandered off a short time later without even a hint that he needed his father nearby, and Saiph turned to him and said, “The twins want to visit the park again. Would you like to accompany us?”

“Certainly.” And with that he helped Saiph to ready the twins, then carried Altair as they left the manor and walked without any particular haste to their destination. Why the twins wished to go such a distance when all they had needed to do was pass through a set of French doors was beyond him, but he was not about to question the thought processes of a child. Trying to get a coherent explanation would likely induce a headache.

They had been there for only a short while, the twins happily messing about, when he noticed Saiph go stiff. “What is it?”

“We’re being followed again,” Saiph said quietly. “And I’m feeling a touch irritated now.”

Lucius followed the line of Saiph’s gaze to see Tonks lurking not so far away; he sighed and narrowed his eyes. “Remain here.” Less than a minute later he was standing in front of her flashing a cold smile. “Tonks.”

“Oh, er, hi,” she said. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Lucius arched a brow in disbelief; she flushed. “Yes, quite a coincidence. Perhaps you should join us. I’m sure Lord Black would love to say hello again.” He turned and offered his arm, which she took after a moment of hesitation, then led her back to the family.

Saiph looked agitated. “So, Miss Tonks, how nice to see you again,” he said dryly.

She aimed a weak smile at him, then glanced at the twins. “What lovely children.” A second later she sagged, ending up in a heap on the frosty ground.

Lucius shot a questioning look at Saiph, then crouched down and brought Tonks upright, saying, “There now, just a dizzy spell. Let’s go over there, shall we?”

He began half dragging her over to the same tenuous privacy he had used before, between two hedges, and Saiph was right behind him with the twins.

“She will not take back this bit of news. My children will not be used against me,” Saiph said fiercely.

“Do you intend to obliviate her?”

Saiph frowned and drew his children close. “She’ll just try again, Lucius. Didn’t you mention something about oaths based on family?”

He nodded. “We need to see to her now, before someone here decides to come investigate.”

“Yeah, all right. How quietly can you apparate?”

“Quietly enough. I assume you wish to return to the house?” When Saiph nodded he said, “Take the twins. Have the elves return them to your suite. I will bring Tonks to my study.”

Saiph nodded, pulled his children to him tightly, then vanished.

Lucius apparated a few moments later, after a quick look around the area. On arrival he stunned Tonks for good measure and levitated her off to his study, and Saiph arrived a minute later. “What exactly did you hit her with, anyway?”

“Confusion and sleep. I didn’t want to give her a chance to disappear on us.”

Lucius nodded and summoned a house-elf. “Fetch me the book Familial Oaths and Bindings from the library.” It was back in several heartbeats, then popped back out only to return with refreshments before disappearing for real. He took a seat on the sofa and began flipping through the book.

“This will work, right? I mean, I am Lord Black.”

“Yes, it will,” he replied almost absently, then made a noise of satisfaction when he found the correct page. Lucius handed the book over and took a moment to glance at his niece; she looked almost normal. He spent the rest of the time that Saiph was reading double-checking the wards. Tonks would not be disapparating or portkeying out once freed from those spells.

“Okay,” Saiph said. “I just want to make sure she can’t bring back word about the twins. Now I’m afraid to even take them off the property. It was stupid of me not to expect something like this.”

Lucius reached over to lay a hand on Saiph’s arm. “Then I am just as stupid. Don’t obsess over it, Saiph, do something about it.”

“Right, you’re right. You’re better at this stuff than I am. Can you work out the wording, please?”

“Of course.” He rose and went to his desk to fetch supplies and began roughing out an oath, preferably one that would take a mastermind to wriggle around. A short time later he had a final copy, which he presented to Saiph, who read it over and nodded with a sigh of relief.

“Then I guess we wake her up, huh?” Saiph produced his wand and removed his spells, then furrowed his brow when she did not immediately open her eyes.

Lucius produced his own and removed the stunner, then sat back in a deceptively casual pose.

Tonks frowned before opening her eyes, reaching up to touch her head, then said, “What the hell?”

“I seem to recall telling you, Miss Tonks,” Saiph said stiffly, “that I don’t appreciate being spied on. Explain yourself.”

“Shit,” she muttered and sat up properly, then blinked and looked around the room. “Um. . . .”

“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t make sure you’re never heard from again,” Saiph said. “Are you here because of Dumbledore? Is that it? Here to yank on family ties or something, spin me a sob story, try to draw me into a conflict I have no desire to be involved in?”

Tonks just looked at him, her mouth slightly open, then said, “Just Tonks is fine.”

Lucius groaned softly as Saiph shot to his feet and black flames started creeping up the walls. He pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered just how much trouble he would be in if he had Sirius brought in to help. “Saiph, please,” he whispered.

Shockingly, Saiph spared him a look, then sat down abruptly. “Explain yourself,” he repeated.

“What the hell is going on with the walls?” she asked, obviously not aware of how much potential danger she was in.

Lucius reached over to lay a hand on Saiph’s arm again. “Tonks, I suggest you answer the question before Lord Black completely loses his temper.”

She looked back over and blinked, then shrank back slightly before straightening again. “Uh, right. Yeah, Dumbledore does want me to do that, but I don’t really understand why. Neither does mum. I followed you because . . . well, for my own reasons.”

“Which are?” Saiph bit out.

“You’re family,” she said. “Not crazy family, I mean. Aunt Bella, well, I shouldn’t like to meet her in a crowded room, never mind a dark alley. And I never did like Aunt Cissa. She was a cold fish.”

Lucius snorted, causing Tonks to look embarrassed and scared at the same time. He could only suppose that she did not feel especially confident on the odds what with facing two opponents, one purportedly a willing Death Eater.

“Is there a point to this?” Saiph asked with admirable patience.

Lucius kept a weather eye on the flames, hoping an intervention wouldn’t be needed.

“Oh, um, I’m curious. For myself, not for him. I really liked Sirius, not so much Regulus. But, I was pretty young then, about eight I think. Mum was Siri’s favorite cousin, so he spent a lot of time at the house when he could. I’m sort of hoping he’s your dad.”

“I see. And it never occurred to you that a letter asking for a meeting might have been appropriate, rather than stalking me?”

Tonks flushed, again, and dropped her gaze, then looked up with a puzzled expression. “Where’d the kids go? And what is with the walls?”

“It’s an odd little manifestation of my power, Tonks,” Saiph said. “And those children are no concern of yours at the moment. In fact, since you took it upon yourself to be pushy and rude, I think you’ll be swearing me an oath to keep your damn mouth shut.”

Lucius briefly arched a brow; he wasn’t sure he had ever heard Saiph swear before. Still, he seemed to be handling himself well enough, so Lucius remained silent.

“An oath? What for?”

“Call me paranoid. Colour me concerned that your little adventure today will make its way back to Dumbledore, my dear cousin. Think what you will, but I am not about to let you leave here without an oath ensuring your loyalty to me as Lord Black as concerns family matters.”

Tonks blinked at him. “Let me? I am an auror, you know.”

Saiph laughed. “Let me guess. You were a Gryffindor? I admire your courage, cousin, but are you certain you could win a fight against both me and Lucius? The fact that you seem adverse to giving me an oath on family matters makes me very suspicious of your motives today. It makes me think you’re lying to me, that you really do wish to skip back to the old man and fill him in on anything you’ve learned, so he can find a way to twist it for his use.”

She stared at him for a while, frowning, then said, “Oh, those kids are yours, aren’t they. You really are serious about being neutral. But, why? You must know that whichever one was your father, he was killed by Dark forces.”

“An oath.”

“Tonks,” Lucius said, “I should think you would realize you’ll get nothing without it. And if you persist along this course, you might just find yourself back in that park with no idea how you got there. The next time you encountered Lord Black, well. . . .”

She sighed and worried her lower lip between her teeth, which made Lucius think she truly was interested for personal reasons, and not as an agent of Saxeten. “And I suppose you’ve got one worked up? So I could look it over first before coming to a decision?”

Saiph handed over the parchment. She read it, read it again, then nodded and looked up. A second later her wand was in her hand, which occasioned a surprised look on her part, but she swore the oath with no further fuss.

Saiph exhaled and slouched back, so Lucius fixed a cup of tea and handed it over, getting a smile in return. He then fixed one for himself, absently pleased that the walls were returning to normal. “Help yourself,” he said.

Tonks took that offer, and even selected a pastry. “So, uh, can I finally know your name?”

Saiph chuckled and sat up properly. “Sure, since you can’t now pass it on. My name is Lesath, but I go by Saiph. And yes, the children are mine. And yes, I really do intend to remain neutral.”

“I don’t get it,” she said after nipping the corner off her pastry and chewing industriously. “And, Uncle Lucius, I’m not trying to be offensive here. Voldemort or one of his people killed both brothers. Why. . . ?”

“Tonks,” Saiph said quietly. “I have a family I need to take care of. I’m not going to rush around at the whims of some old man who once defeated a dark lord just because my father was killed by another. My kids come first. I worried, when I became Lord Black, about what might happen if I came to the attention of Dumbledore. And it seems I was right to.

“One chance encounter in Diagon Alley and I’ve suddenly got the old man’s eye on me—as best he can, anyway—and relatives popping up like dandelions. Everyone wants to say hello, suspect motives a given. I’m not interested. And I know you’re wondering why on earth I’m sitting here with Lucius Malfoy of all people. Sure, he counted as family by marriage, and that’s not directly the case any longer.”

“Well, there’s Draco,” she said.

Saiph nodded. “Yeah.”

“Speaking of which, I heard you withdrew him from Hogwarts, Uncle Lucius. I suppose that’s why he was in Diagon Alley that day.”

Lucius cleared his throat and aimed a rather chilly look at her. “That, I’m afraid, is none of your business.”

She frowned and finished off her pastry. “I was just curious. He is family.”

Phobos popped into the room and handed a note over to Lucius with a little bow. He skimmed it, then set aside his cup in order that he might dash off a quick reply. Sirius and Remus wished to know if it was safe yet, having received only the barest of details via Ouzo. The note was folded and given back to the elf, which popped out directly. It was then that he paid attention to the look Saiph was giving him.

“Draco’s tutor was curious about something,” he said mildly.

“On a Saturday?”

Lucius sneered at her, though he admitted privately that she had a point.

“Look, let’s get back to today’s family get together,” Saiph said. “All you need to know is that I’m not interested in conflict. And no one, not even your mother, is to know my name or that I have children. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice lady, but unless she swears that same oath, I refuse to trust her with even that much.”

Tonks looked mildly annoyed. “And I suppose you won’t come over for tea if we invite you, huh?”

“Probably not. I’m not feeling all that keen to visit the family since I would have no idea of my reception or safety,” Saiph shot back.

“On the other hand,” Lucius said, not quite believing what he was about, “given your own experience here, I should think that if Andromeda would like to make a social call, she would be received with all due courtesy.”

“Minus being knocked out?”

Saiph laughed again. “I won’t apologize.” Then he sobered up and gazed at her intently. “Are we done, then? Because I’d really like to go reassure my children that everything is all right.”

“Okay, yeah.” She set down her nearly empty cup and stood up. “Can I write you directly, or. . . ?”

“Lord Black, in care of Lord Malfoy, here.”

*

He raced off to his suite, and entered to find the twins engrossed in a game. A sigh of relief escaped his lips that they seemed unaffected by having been so unceremoniously removed from the park and shunted back to the suite. He slid onto a spot on the couch and dropped a kiss on Adhara’s head, and reached over to tweak Altair’s nose.

“So,” said Sirius, looking mightily curious.

Saiph was through with his explanation when Lucius arrived, and gave the man a curious look as his father switched sofas to rather blatantly make room. “I was kind of surprised that you intimated that Andromeda could visit. Do you think she’s. . . ?”

Lucius cleared his throat softly. “Bella is insane, Narcissa was selfishly indifferent, but Andromeda might just be the only normal child of that union. She has not involved herself in the conflict.”

“And is this oath sufficient for me to be able to reunite with the only family I ever liked?” Sirius asked.

“The oath will cover that, yes,” Lucius said. “If you wish, should she come and swear it, I will inform you directly so that you can join us.”

“All right.” Sirius smiled, then immediately frowned. “Of course, that doesn’t exactly cover the fact that Remus is in the know.”

“It would if you two were married,” Saiph said casually.

Remus looked wistful. “It would register with the ministry, and we can’t risk that right now. I realize it’s a long shot, but someone might notice.”

“And I’d rather not propose or be proposed to simply for that,” Sirius added with his own wistful smile.

“I’m sorry, dad, Remus. I didn’t mean—”

“We know.”

“There has been no conflict, Remus, over your availability due to you having acquired work?” Lucius asked.

“No, not yet. But what do you think? Should he try to send me out of the country on some damn fool mission. . . .”

Lucius shook his head. “You know the truth, so you can make an informed decision about your personal future. If you choose to withdraw, Remus, you are welcome to make this your home.”