Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Breakpoint :: 14 :: Family

14 • Family

What she really wanted to do was go to her parents’ house, settle in with a nice cup of tea, and delicately (how she hated that word) edge around the restrictions of her oath in order to tell her mother about her encounter. However, she had an obligation as a member of the Order to report in to Dumbledore. Tonks headed to the school instead, taking on the guise of a student as she neared so as blend in better, and walked with a sort of calculated laziness to his office on the second floor.

The gargoyle was easily enough dealt with, and she was shortly spiraling her way upward. Her knock was answered immediately, so Tonks entered, closed the door behind her, and took a seat.

“Ah, Tonks, how nice to see you,” Dumbledore said genially. “What brings you here today?”

“Hello, sir,” she said, absently strengthening her defense against any mental intrusions. “I did some skulking around during the week, when I was able to.”

“And what have you been able to discover?”

She took a deep breath and frowned slightly. “I ran into Black in London. He was with Lucius and Draco, having come out of Twillfit & Tatting’s in the alley. They headed out, so I followed. Ended up having lunch with them, actually. From that and another brief encounter earlier today, I only learned a couple of things.”

“And those are?” Dumbledore asked. His gentle smile seemed to fracture slightly, but that might have been her imagination.

“He’s adamantly neutral, sir. He basically told me if I was there to give him a recruitment speech to save my breath, as he had no intention of getting involved, on either side. Aside from that he was courteous and friendly. He seemed at ease with Lucius and Draco, and neither of them interfered with our discussion. Never did catch his name, as nobody ever said it.”

“You couldn’t simply ask?”

Tonks shrugged. “I did, today. He refused to tell me. I do know he’s been out of the country for at least the past several years. There’s a slight flattening of his accent that supports it, though I couldn’t say for sure where he might have been based on it. He thinks I’m spying on him for you, sir.”

Dumbledore heaved a gentle sigh and nodded. “I see. I had hoped the family connection would have counted for something. What is your opinion of his appearance and bearing?”

“Um, he looks a lot like Sirius. I don’t remember Regulus well enough to judge for that. He dresses well, like a pure-blood would, with quiet, understated elegance. Either he was raised in the ways, or had a very good teacher. He appears to be a couple of years younger than me.”

“Miss Granger mentioned a pendant of some kind.”

She nodded. “Silver and emerald from what I could see. I’d think that’d mean Slytherin, but it’s not like he went to school here, so he might just like the colours, or it might have been a gift.”

Dumbledore steepled his hands on his desk and leaned forward. “If that is what I think it is, it’s more than mere jewelry.”

“Eh?”

He shook his head, almost regretfully. “Continue to keep an eye out for him. You are likely to be the only one able to get through to him.”

Tonks nodded, but felt rather annoyed at her question being brushed aside, and resolved to ask Saiph the next time she saw him in person. “What about Remus?”

Dumbledore shook his head again. “Without knowing who the boy’s father is. . . . He could do more harm than good. Did you speak with him?”

“All right, sir, and yes, but he knew nothing.” When he nodded a dismissal Tonks got up and left. Not so long later she was settled in with that cup of tea across from her mother.

“Well, it’s been a weird day. I got caught lurking about.”

Andromeda arched a brow and chuckled. “Stealth was never your forte, dear.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “Still surprised at times that I made it through the auror program. Anyway, I got caught. It didn’t go so bad, though. I actually got to see the inside of Malfoy Manor. Parts of it, at least. Had some tea, a chat. I think . . . that Black is quite a powerful wizard.”

“Wait, wait, back up. You had tea with him? And Lucius?”

She nodded.

“They just . . . invited you in once they realized you were around?”

Tonks fidgeted. “Something like that, yeah.”

Her mother stared at her in a way that suggested severe pain if she did not elaborate.

She shook her head. “I can’t. I was treated well, mum, I swear. In fact, Uncle Lucius said he’d be happy to receive you for a social call.”

Andromeda frowned and whipped out her wand. “Uh huh. You just sit right there, dear, while I check a few things.”

Tonks laughed weakly. “And you were the one saying that he might not be such a bad guy? Mum, I’m not under any spells.”

“Then you won’t mind that I’m going to check, will you.” The wand came up and her mother began casting a series of detection spells. It was a good ten minutes before Andromeda relaxed, though her brow was furrowed. “All right, then there’s only one explanation. You’ve been placed under an oath, most likely by Lord Black. There’s no evidence of any spells used on you today which would account for coercion, so you must have done it willingly, or been scared into it. And I know you, dear. You’d have fought if it was a threat.”

Andromeda eyed her speculatively. “So, either an oath of secrecy, or a familial one. Given that you’ve said Lucius has more or less invited me over, I’m going to place my bet on a familial one. What can you tell me about your visit with them today?”

Tonks was mentally in awe of her mother’s deductive reasoning skills. She exhaled audibly and gulped down some tea first. “Black is very serious about being neutral, and he’s suspicious of Dumbledore. He also seems to be quite good friends with Uncle Lucius. I think he relies on him for advice or counsel. I made Black pretty mad, and something really strange happened, but Lucius whispered something and Black calmed down. The way it went made me think Black trusts him. It’s weird, but maybe you’re right when you speculate that Lucius isn’t exactly what he appears to be.

“Actually. . . . I went to see Dumbledore before I came here. He seemed disappointed, but told me to keep watching Black. The thing is, he asked me about something Hermione had mentioned, a pendant. He was really interested in it, but wouldn’t explain why.”

“A pendant? What of it?”

Tonks shrugged and tilted her head. “It looked like a simple enough thing. A silver oval, or some silvery metal. It had the letter S on it and was decorated a bit with emeralds. I didn’t even give that much of a description to Dumbledore, but he seemed to recognize it.”

Her mother sat back with a huff. “I think I can understand why. If I’m right, our Lord Black is under the personal protection of Voldemort. No, not as a Death Eater. That pendant marks him as a protected party from the depredations of any persons allied with Voldemort. I overheard the adults talking about them once, when I was in my teens. I was eavesdropping.”

“Mum, how very naughty of you,” she said with a laugh.

Her mother stared at her, then continued, “I think I believe that Black is neutral, just on that alone. If what I heard was valid there can’t be more than a half dozen in existence, if that. Lucius must be his . . . liaison? That would certainly explain part of why they seem to be friendly. Still, it leaves so many questions unanswered.”

“So,” she said slowly, “that would explain why Hermione said that Goyle showed up to be threatening that day in Flourish & Blotts?”

“Yes. What of Remus?”

“He didn’t know anything. Seemed a bit miffed, actually. But that reminds me. I guess Uncle Lucius really did withdraw Draco from Hogwarts. It was one thing to have seen him out and about after the new term had started, but while I was there a note was delivered, from Draco’s tutor.”

“On a Saturday?”

“That was my question. Lucius just sneered at me. Maybe the guy is living there?”

Andromeda pursed her lips, then shook her head. “It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. In any case, I think I will send a note along. It’s time I went to pay my condolences in person about my sister’s death.”

*

“Tomorrow,” he said. “I shall receive her in my study.”

“And is Tonks coming along?” asked Sirius.

Lucius shrugged. “One might imagine so, but Andromeda did not specify.”

“I’ll watch over the twins by myself if necessary,” Remus volunteered.

Draco said, “I can help. I don’t mind.”

Saiph cast them each a grateful smile. “Thanks. I really appreciate it. Ouzo is fantastic with them, but. . . .”

“Well,” Draco said slowly, “it’s almost like having younger siblings.” A furtive look was cast at his father.

Lucius remained blank of face, but was inwardly pleased. Perhaps his son was beginning to see the positive aspects of family, but only time would tell. Draco could be contrary enough at times that he would not be surprised if a rebellion was staged at some point.

Remus coughed and said, “Lessons begin in ten minutes, the Green Room,” then rose and left the room, presumably to prepare.

They went their separate ways within minutes, Lucius once again tending to his master’s business. He had managed to lure two people into position that week, and hoped for at least as many the following week; the sooner he could subvert the chosen ones the better. A part of him prayed, to whatever deities might exist, that Severus had actually done his job correctly.

Otherwise, Lucius was well aware he would either end up in hiding from the DMLE, or wasting away in Azkaban until his master could rescue him. At least the dementors were gone from that wretched place, though in truth, he had no idea where his lord had stashed them. If he did end up in prison, he would not be facing the Dementor’s Kiss as a punishment. That said nothing for zealous aurors, however.

It would become easier as time went on; the more officials he had in his control, the more people he had to help him maneuver others on the list into his clutches, and some could be subverted simply for the purpose of getting to a specific person, such as with his plans for obtaining a keeper.

By the time dinner rolled around he was glad to be done for the day, having mapped out how to approach and ensnare his next victims. It was Indian night, apparently, and something called butter chicken was being served. Lucius was beginning to enjoy never knowing what might appear each evening, and the elves always cooked something known to be acceptable as a backup for each new unveiling, just in case it was not well received.

He was brought out of his musings by the sound of Saiph’s voice, and realized he had eaten most of his meal already and enjoyed it.

“What time is she supposed to arrive?”

“Around ten,” he replied.

“Well, I know she’s supposedly coming to pay her condolences, but if you don’t mind, I’ll just wait in your study?”

He nodded. “Certainly. And we can even see how well she displays her surprise at seeing you there so unexpectedly, when naturally, meeting Lord Black was the furthest thing from her mind. Sirius, assuming things go well, we will send an elf to you.”

“Thanks.”

Draco dabbed at his mouth with a napkin, then set it on the table next to his plate. “I have a letter to write, so. . . .” He pushed back his chair and stood, then paused. “Er, father?”

“Yes?”

“Do you think we can go riding tomorrow afternoon?” His son looked faintly anxious.

“Of course. Shall we say . . . two?” He wondered if Draco wished for it to be time just for them, but said nothing. There could be a number of motivations behind that request, but he was not quite ready to assume his son did not want Saiph along so as not to discourage him via a comparison of a tyro to two experienced riders.

“Thank you, father,” Draco said, then nodded to everyone and left.

“Well,” Saiph said with a slight smile. “Does that mean your evening is open, Lucius?”

“Why yes, I do believe it is. Whatever shall I do?”

Sirius rolled his eyes and snorted, dumped his own napkin on the table, and got up. A second later he was taking Altair from Saiph’s lap. “I’m going to steal your squirts from you, and Remus is going to help me,” he declared, then broke out into a wide grin.

“Snuffles be a doggy?” Adhara asked from Remus’s lap.

“Er, maybe?”

Lucius shook his head in amusement and finished off the last few bites on his plate, then drained what remained of his wine. And once the two men were out of easy hearing range he said, “I am yours to command, Saiph.”

Saiph grinned. “I don’t know about that. Can we go to your suite, maybe settle in in front of a nice fire?”

That suited him just fine. Strolls around the property were pleasant, and a good way to spend time together without much pressure, but it was cold, and personal warming charms, however useful, always made him feel a bit peculiar. “Shall we?” he invited, then rose and rounded the table. He took the hand offered him and walked with Saiph to his suite.

Inside he waved Saiph to a seat, but disappeared briefly himself. Lucius returned with a tray, which he set on the table between the chairs before taking a seat himself. Wine was poured, after which he picked up the simple box also brought out and extended it toward his companion. “A gift.”

Saiph looked startled, but he took it, and cautiously worked open the top, then blinked. “You weren’t kidding.”

“I was not,” he agreed. “It is in stasis, to preserve its beauty.”

A slow smile corrupted Saiph’s mouth, resulting in a full-fledged grin, as he reached in to carefully remove the contents. The box was set aside and Saiph turned the vase this way and that, examining the flower. “Thank you. What is it?” he asked, glancing over at Lucius.

He smiled. “Believe it or not, but that is the flower of a cactus plant.”

“It’s gorgeous. And from a cactus? Is there some hidden meaning in this?” Saiph asked almost teasingly.

“No, but I suppose if you looked hard enough, you could find one. I chose it because of the contrast between the harshness of the plant it derives from and its beauty.”

“That could be a metaphor for life.”

“Perhaps. I am glad you like it.”

“I do.” Saiph set the vase carefully on the table and turned a brilliant smile on him. “It’s frivolous! It’s unexpected, even though you said you might.”

Lucius was rather surprised when Saiph got up and approached him, the two bare steps that it took, then dropped down to straddle his lap. And then he was being kissed, and surprise quickly gave way to desire; his hands moved on their own to press against Saiph’s back.

Several minutes later Saiph pulled away, his eyes once again a true green. “Thank you.”

“You already said that,” Lucius pointed out with a smirk, “but you’re welcome.”

Saiph bit his lip and cocked his head to one side, a faint flush reddening his skin. “Er, how soon is . . . too soon?”

“I’m sorry?”

Saiph laughed softly, obviously uncomfortable. “Sometimes I’m too impulsive? I think I understand why teenagers get into so much trouble,” he said.

“Ah.” It was an interesting question. He had already told his son that he would not wait on courting Saiph, but how soon was too soon to take larger steps? How soon was too soon to indulge in deeper desires? Lucius slid a hand up Saiph’s back to tease at the young man’s hair. “I suppose that’s up to us. To be depressingly blunt, that would depend in part on what exactly you’re after, would it not?”

Saiph crinkled his brow in confusion and began nibbling his lip again.

“Saiph, I’m fairly certain I could seduce you right now, take you to my bed, and show you exactly why sex is such a favored activity. However, I am a gentleman, and that means not taking advantage of a situation like this to indulge base desire simply because I could. And, to be extraordinarily blunt, are you after love or sex?”

Saiph blushed; it was rather endearing. “There is that. It’s funny, I guess. They say that women give sex for love, while men give love for sex. I don’t necessarily agree with that. If I did, I’d be the girly one here. I mean, I never really saw you in that light until after I got to know you better. Well, and after I realized what was there back when you first hosted me. I showed some of my memories to dad, to help him understand things from my perspective, and he pointed it out.”

Lucius arched a brow, but given things he had overheard he was not surprised, though it was interesting that Saiph was speaking so plainly. It was, in a way, heartening. That Saiph could do so, despite his discomfort, meant that he trusted Lucius with his thoughts.

“But what I really meant was that you’re barely a widower. I know you didn’t love her, or even like her. I know that you’ve asked to court me despite how little time has passed since her death. I just wonder. . . .”

Lucius exerted pressure on the back of Saiph’s head to bring him closer, and kissed him softly before easing up. “I care for you. I might even love you. It’s difficult to say given that my experience with that particular emotion is limited to the familial.”

“Like Draco and Voldemort?”

“Yes. I’ve had my share of flings, Saiph, and sex can be wonderful. I’ll even prove that to you if you wish.” And oh, how he wished. “I would simply prefer there be no regrets on your part.”

“Not yours?”

“I know exactly what I want. My regrets would center around not getting that.”

Saiph tilted his head to the side and smiled. “Marriage?”

“How very bold of you,” Lucius said with a laugh. “Yes.”

“I might be inexperienced, but I don’t think I’m completely dense. You know, I really like how you are with my kids, and that they like you. I might have thought I’d be jealous, but I’m not.”

“I treat them as I would my own, Saiph. And I admit, it felt good when your Adhara defended me that day.”

Saiph laughed. “Poor Draco, he looked so surprised. But, enough about them.” Saiph leaned in a bit and said breathily, “Teach me something I don’t know, Lucius.”

He licked his lips at the blatant invitation and nodded, gently withdrawing his hands. “As you wish. And if you would, please stand, and we will move to the sofa.”

Saiph slipped off his lap and went to take a seat on the couch. Lucius followed, sitting in the center, and slowly pressed Saiph back so he was supported by the sofa’s arm. “This could get a bit messy,” he whispered.

“I don’t care.”

“Then neither do I,” he replied and shifted so that his body covered Saiph’s. A moment later they were kissing again, his hands sliding around between the sofa and Saiph, his hips pressing downward and shifting restlessly, seeking that frictional contact.

Saiph let it be known he liked it, by utterance and deed, and Lucius used that to his advantage, of course. But, while being a patient man by nature, it was almost more than he could bear to slowly tease both himself and Saiph into an explosive culmination, one which left both of them gasping and twitching.

A couple of minutes later he collected his wits and placed a soft kiss on Saiph’s mouth.

Saiph, in his usual way of expressing what was on his mind, said, “I’ve definitely not done that before, but I liked it very much. And you’re right, it’s messy.”

Lucius laughed softly and began to pull away so he could reach his wand to cast the odd cleaning spell or two, though they were a poor substitute for taking an actual bath or shower, not to mention putting on fresh clothing.

“There’s something very scarily exciting about letting go that way with someone else,” Saiph added.

He definitely understood that sentiment, and nodded, then left the sofa for long enough to retrieve their wine, handing one glass to Saiph. “It’s different when you don’t care.”

Saiph shrugged and smiled. “I don’t think I want to find out. Besides, I’m feeling far too mellow at the moment to contemplate something that bloodless. Hm.” He had a sip of wine, then changed the subject. “Have you ever been to see a film?”

Lucius arched a brow. “I have not.”

“Maybe we could go see one together sometime? I rather miss having a television, and I don’t think you could make one work here, though that does make me wonder how it is that a wireless can function, since in the muggle world those run on electricity.”

He was forced to admit his ignorance on that subject, never having been curious to begin with.

“Might be nicer to just rent one, though. . . . Well, anyway. I wonder what you plan to teach me next.”

To his internal chagrin, Lucius honestly was unable to tell if Saiph was alluding to sex or not that time.

*

He reminded himself not to jitter as he waited. Lucius should be escorting Andromeda in at any moment, and it would not do for him to appear nervous. As it was, the door opened just then and Tonks appeared, closely followed by a lady Saiph assumed was Andromeda, and then Lucius. Tonks flopped into a chair without waiting for an invitation and cast a friendly smile at him, which he returned before looking again at the other woman.

“Lord Black, may I introduce Andromeda Tonks,” Lucius said.

Saiph stood up long enough to accord her a slight bow. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said before sitting down again.

She took at seat at Lucius’s gesture, then immediately showed she was not up for playing games that day. “I am pleased to meet you, cousin. I had expected you would be present,” she said to him, then turned to Lucius and said with a straight face, “I will, however, express my condolences for your loss.”

Lucius took a seat next to Saiph and replied, “Thank you, you have mine as well. And now that social niceties have been duly observed. . . ?”

Andromeda shot him a faint smile and nodded. “Yes. I am almost completely convinced that Dora is under a familial oath to you, Lord Black. May I see it?”

He produced the parchment and offered it up, only mildly surprised that she had come to such a conclusion.

She appeared to read it several times before looking at him again. “I see nothing particularly dangerous about this, which would explain why my Dora swore it. Therefore, with your permission, I will also do so.”

Saiph nodded, thinking that she was refreshingly different from Tonks, or even Lucius to some degree. And she did so swear, at which point Lucius called for refreshments.

Saiph shot Lucius a questioning look, to which he received a nod, so he summoned Ouzo. “The oath is sworn,” he told the elf, then watched as it popped away. To Andromeda he said, “My name is Lesath Saiph Black. However, I prefer to go by Saiph.”

She looked curious, but asked no questions. “You may certainly call me Andy.”

On the heels of that statement the door opened and Sirius stepped in. He kicked it shut, then bounded over to pull Andromeda out of her chair and hug her. Saiph was amused to note that Tonks was gaping like a fish. “Tonks,” he said, “it’s not like you’re seeing a ghost or anything.”

Sirius released Andromeda, a huge smile on his face, then yanked Tonks out of her chair to hug her, too.

Andromeda sat back down, her brow furrowed even as a smile lit up her face. “I see you’re not concealing just your name, Saiph.”

“Er, no.”

Sirius finally dropped down next to Saiph on the sofa. “Before you ask, no, I can’t explain how it is that I’m alive, aside from saying that my son is to thank for it.”

Tonks opened her mouth, and was immediately cut off when Sirius said, “No, I can’t explain that, either, though I can say that my parents had no idea.”

Andromeda stared at him for a moment, then nodded. Turning to Saiph she said, “I can only assume, given what I’ve heard, that you are under the protection of Voldemort. That is to say, you wear his token.”

“Yes, I am. Or rather, we are. Voldemort’s protection extends over me, my dad, and my two children, whom you have yet to meet.”

“Where have you been?”

“Not in this country. I spent one year in the United States, and others in various places around the world. I only returned to England recently.”

“Because of your father,” Andromeda said.

Saiph nodded, but neglected to elaborate.

“But what about Remus?” Tonks asked.

“Unfortunately,” Sirius said, “he isn’t someone who can fall under or within a familial oath.”

Saiph rather thought his dad did an excellent job of evading the truth with that response.

“And why not an oath of secrecy?” Andromeda inquired.

Lucius decided to enter things by saying, “That would be possible, certainly, but for you all to be aware, you two would also have to take one regarding that aspect of things. Saiph is very protective of his family.”

“Because you dislike and distrust Dumbledore for some reason,” Andromeda said shrewdly.

Saiph smiled. “Lucius was right about you, I’m happy to say.”

“Mum, should we? It’s crazy that Remus doesn’t know his best friend is alive. I’ve only just found out and I feel horrible, like I’m lying to the man.”

Andromeda stared at her daughter for some time before sighing. “I suppose that depends on the actual oath.”

Saiph glanced at his dad, then over at Lucius, whose brow was furrowed in thought. “Lucius?” he asked softly. “What do you think? You are better at this sort of thing, after all.”

Lucius slowly turned his head to gaze at him. “I believe I could work something out, contingent on the oath already given.” He rose and went to his desk, absently retrieving the original oath parchment on the way, and was shortly immersed in the task.

“I won’t even ask how this came to pass, you being under protection,” Andromeda said, “as I sincerely doubt you’ll explain, though I must assume it was Voldemort who chose Lucius as your liaison.”

“Uh huh. And thanks to him we have a secure and comfortable place to live, generally away from prying eyes.” He glanced at Tonks, who had the grace to blush.

Andromeda shook her head and laughed softly, then changed the subject. “So, my favorite cousin is not only a father, but, a grandfather?”

“Sure am. It sorta makes up for the loss, in a way.”

“Loss? Of Harry?”

Sirius tilted his head to one side. “Sorta. It’s not as though I ever had the chance to be a real father to anyone until recently, and now there are these two squirts I can lavish attention on and enjoy.”

“But back to Harry,” she persisted.

“I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t in any shape to. I miss Harry as though he were my own child, and I will always regret the mistakes I made in my life, mistakes that he suffered for far more so than I did.”

“He was killed by Voldemort.”

“So they say,” Sirius replied.

Andromeda did not look satisfied, unsurprisingly, and turned her attention to Saiph. “You have met the man?”

“Yes.”

“Did he do it?”

Saiph raised his brows. “I suppose I could have asked, but I didn’t think it was any of my business. He may have given me protection from his people, but that hardly makes us bosom buddies.”

She pursed her lips. “Someone taught you well.”

Saiph pretended to not understand, displaying a faintly confused expression at her statement. The situation was rescued from outright lies and accusations when Lucius stood up, walked over, and reclaimed the spot next to Saiph. He then handed a parchment over to Andromeda.

A minute later she nodded. “This will do,” she said, then promptly swore the new oath. The parchment was handed to Tonks, who did likewise.