Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Sons of July
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Severus/Narcissa, Lucius/Tonks, Lucius/Narcissa Friendship
Spoilers/Timeframe: First and second war, alt-universe from the Battle of Astronomy Tower.
Summary: Narcissa and Lucius found friendship in their arranged marriage, and love outside it with Severus and Tonks - spies with divided loyalties, both. Their secret loves and loyalties would, quite by accident, add the final layer to the force that might bring down the Dark Lord once and for all. Canon compliant-ish to Astronomy Tower (liberties taken, especially with dates). Told in three acts:
Act 1: The Hidden Third. Narcissa's pregnancy leads to soul searching - about the dilution of a Pureblood family, the extinction of the Houses of Malfoy and Black, and the triple defiance of the three in concealing their child's nature from their own Dark master. |Act One|
Act 2: Maîtresse-en-titre. After years of indulging Narcissa and Severus, oblivious to the mastery of romantic love, Lucius learns first-hand about the craziness and folly of loving the wrong person. This one is Nymphadora Tonks, the spy sent to betray him. |Act 2|
Act 3: The Sons Of July. Severus hears a new prophecy, and learns of a fourth Son of July. In the final battle, Nymphadora, Lucius, Severus and Narcissa are reunited - but none have the full picture, and sacrifices will be needed along the way. |Act 3|
Length: Novella length (35,000).
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
Feedback: Please. deslea at deslea dot com.
The Sons Of July
Sons of July, at last they meet!
Of light, of dark, great danger they greet!
-- Sybill Trelawney, 30 July 1997
[30 JULY 1997: SEVERUS]
He would think later that it was meant to be. That he, like all of them, moved in concert with the forces that rise out of the very earth against darkness.
How else did one explain him being alone with Sybill Trelawney?
Oh, there was signs of a prophecy coming, he supposed later. There were documented indicators. Headaches. Vagueness. Malaise. Had some quiet part of him seen the signs, and prompted him to stay close to her?
Whatever the reason, he was there and she was there, alone in the staffroom, reading in silence. Sybill had bustled in a few minutes ago, muttering about something about Potter and the Room of Requirement, but since then, she had been quiet. Sybill rarely spoke to him, and he was grateful for it. She was one of the few women, in his experience, who did not feel it necessary to fill every moment with speech.
Abruptly, Sybill stood up. Her book fell to the floor with a thud, as though she had forgotten it was there. It was a heavy tome, some horrid thing by her own ancestor Cassandra Trelawney, and the sound jolted him to his feet.
"Sybill," he said, "what-"
And then he stopped. He knew it now, the glazed expression, the vacant eyes. Sybill was Elsewhere. And then she was back, and she was awake. Not just seeing, he thought, but seeing him. Had she, too, been prompted to stay close?
"Do you have something to - to tell me, Sybill?" he said cautiously.
"Severus Snape," she said, in a curious voice that reminded him oddly of Luna Lovegood. "Almost always, the message is for you. Why is that, do you think?"
"I dare say I'm the only one quiet enough to listen," he said dryly. "And you're not normally...chatty."
Sybill's mouth spread into an unconcerned smile. "It is, I fancy, the last time we will meet. I thought it fitting."
"I'm soon to die, then," he said. It wasn't a question, nor a surprise either. Had he not been tempting fate his whole adult life?
"That's not for you to know, Severus, nor me either. Have you not learned the folly of trying to change the future?"
In spades, he thought, but said only, "Why tell me the future, Sybill, if I'm not to try to change it?"
"You still don't understand, then. It isn't for you to change the future. It is for you to recognise the moment when it comes."
Severus frowned. "What moment?"
Her voice rose then, and became that of a little girl, singing in rhyme.
A couple pure, brave and best
Separate from all the rest
Light so bright, conviction deep
Spent their life in waking sleep
Leaving a Son of July
A man of light and features dark
And Lady Black, his counterpart
Form a bloc with her spouse
Alliance within the Dark Lord's house
To hide a Son of July
Misguided plan of light man dark
His once-held love becomes its mark
Her sacrifice begins the fall
Of the One who started it all
By way of the Sons of July
A folly'd love begun with lies
Finds its truth in sacrifice
Her only kill, in being kind
Will the bloc to herself bind
To save the Sons of July
Sons of July, at last they meet!
Of light, of dark, great danger they greet!
One pure light, brave and strong
One light but marked, spell gone wrong
One cloaked in dark in the Dark Lord's nest
One sown beneath his mother's breast
These four will rise or fall together!
Behold the Sons of July!
Severus stared at her. Thunderstruck.
"Four?" he shouted, grasping her by the shoulders. "There are four?"
This seemed to rouse Sybill from her trance. Her eyes were alive with horror. She was neither quite the Seer, nor quite herself either. "Severus," she said, eyes widening, "I see it. I see it all. Oh, Merlin, I see it all!"
"All?" he demanded. "What does that mean?"
"Everything that will be, everything that might be, everything that could be if I said just the right things to just the right people - Circe! The arrogance of it all! No wonder-"
"No wonder what? What do you see?" Draco, his mind jangled, what about Draco?
She gave a little gasp. Said abruptly, "Severus, did you know that Seers, if not killed by others, usually kill themselves?"
This derailed him. "What? What are you talking about, woman?"
"It isn't right for a human being to have such power."
"I don't understand -"
"No," she said gently. "But you will."
She said, more normally but still strangely urgent, "Time is like the stars, Severus. There is a natural order. Constellations that are meant to be. But even a star can be knocked off course, if a force is big enough. The Dark Lord is one such force. In your own way, you have been one too. It could have ended before, perhaps, if you'd left it alone. The forces that protect your family are strong. If he had come after your Draco back then..."
He stared at her. "Merlin. You really do know." He let go of her arms.
She touched his face with gentle fingertips. Her voice was grave. "Know the moment when it comes, Severus. That's your part in it, nothing more."
With that, she passed out of the room.
It only took five seconds for him to put it together. Ten at most. But he was too late.
By the time he clattered up the stairs to Astronomy Tower, she was sailing serenely off the top, her skirts around her, a cushion of lace and gauze.
She landed with an echoing thud, but he didn't look down. He looked up.
At the stars.
[30 JULY 1997: TONKS]
Her body was aching.
Part of it was the good ache of lovemaking, of abandon, of release. A bigger part was the agony of separation and the tears that had followed. And then she'd had to come to the school and patrol like nothing had happened, like her world hadn't fallen apart.
At least she wasn't partnered with Remus, she thought, taking a mouthful of Firewhisky from the flask at her hip and shuddering as it went down. His werewolf senses were bloody uncanny sometimes. He knew when she was sick, he knew when she was on the rag, and she wouldn't put it past him to know when she'd had sex, either. And then he'd want to know if it was the unknown man, and really, Tonks, this isn't good for you, anyone can see it, you have to let go. She rather liked him as a person, but she felt too wrung out to cope with him today. His kindness was something she felt like stinging lashes salted with fire.
But then, she didn't think there was much kindness in the world at all for her. Not today.
Familiar, striding footsteps behind her. She moved casually into shadows. "Hello, Severus," she murmured in a noncommittal voice that did not encourage discussion.
Severus didn't return the greeting. Instead, he said abruptly, "Sybill's dead."
Tonks gasped, jolted from her own troubles for the moment. "What? How?"
He said briefly, "Suicide. Fortunately, it was dinner. No witnesses. Dumbledore is missing in action, but we have to move the body to the infirmary. If the Dark Lord hears of it, he may think there was another prophecy to prompt it. The school is a target already, but I don't want him to target the students."
"Of course. Why did she do it, do you think?" she wondered.
Was there the faintest hesitation in Severus' voice before he answered?
"I think a Seer's life is a very stressful and frightening one. She told me once that they often take their own lives."
Nodding, she followed him down the stone walkway towards the ground beneath Astronomy Tower, and swallowed hard when she spotted the woman's body at the foot. From here, she could be just a pile of clothes.
By unspoken agreement, Severus moved closer. "Mobicorpus," he said (rather kindly, she thought). Sybill's body rose gently to waist height. He cast a Disillusioning charm over her and himself, and they disappeared from sight.
"I'll go ahead, make sure we're not running into traffic," Tonks said.
Severus cleared his throat, removing his charm again. "Nymphadora."
She turned to look at him. "What?"
The moon cast a thin light over his face. "I know Narcissa Malfoy very well," he said tightly. "I know where you've been today, and I wasn't happy about it. It was too risky, for both of you." Her mouth dropped open, forming a little O. "And even if I didn't, I'm a housemaster to fifty teenagers. I know what sex smells like, and liquor too. Regrettably, I need your assistance right now, but afterwards, you need to go and get yourself together."
Tonks stepped back involuntarily. Like he'd slapped her in the face. "You bastard."
"If you say so," he said mirthlessly. "But do you know where our fearless leader is right now, instead of presiding over Sybill's body? Heading off in search of another Horcrux with Potter, if I'm not mistaken." He went on cryptically, "When the time comes, you're probably the only one of us who can sway the boy. Because you know first-hand what it is to be one of his pawns." He said more kindly, "We need you, Nymphadora. And the time is close. Tell me you can still do it."
She snapped, "Of course I bloody well can. I'm miserable, not inept."
At this, Severus's mouth settled into a thin smile. "Good."
He resumed his Disillusioning charm, and they went on together.
They parted ways at the infirmary.
After Severus returned to his rooms, Tonks went and showered in the infirmary bathroom, cursing him for making her feel like a schoolgirl again. She fibbed that she had come straight to Hogwarts from an Auror's pursuit, but Poppy was too upset to pay much attention anyway.
She stayed a little while after that, to comfort the older woman. Wondered briefly why this loyal and devoted woman was not part of the Order. Merlin knew, they could use a resident Healer. She stayed long enough to help her lay out the oils and flowers in preparation to tend to Sybill's body, soothing smells and gentleness, and somehow she felt it heal a little part of her, too.
"Wotcher," she said in a reasonable imitation of good humour as she emerged from the infirmary a quarter hour later. Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna were hurrying past, towards Severus' rooms. A chorus of half-hearted hellos passed her like a freight train. Shaking her head in wry amusement, she went back to her patrol.
She had washed away Lucius from her body, she reflected as she paced in the comforting dark, though not from her heart. But she was still a strong woman, strong enough to do what must be done, and while his loss tore at her, it would not break her. Not now. Not ever.
She would see it through to the end.
[30 JULY 1997: SEVERUS]
Draco. My Draco.
He thought this as he mounted the stairs of Astronomy Tower. This would be the second time he would see death here this day, and he was exhausted by death, exhausted by its chill and its smell and the way it seeped into his bones.
His heart broke a little at the sight of his son, trembling in the moonlight as he held Dumbledore at wandpoint, faced with the Dark Lord's cruel, impossible mission. It had been breaking all year, really, as Draco shrank from him, mistrusted him, folding over on himself and trusting only his mother. It was completely understandable and right that Draco should do so, but it had hit him in the pit of his stomach, every time.
He remembered Draco on a bathroom floor not so long ago, butchered with his own misfired spell. He had wept slow, leaking tears that day, watched them meld with the water and the steam around them as he healed the boy. Singing to him as he had sung to him as an infant, watching blood of his blood seep away.
The Dark Lord would do this, or worse, if Draco failed.
Bellatrix glared at the boy. They were waiting, all of them, and oh, Draco, I could have helped you.
His heart was breaking, not for his rather poisonous friend, but for his son.
"No," he said, emerging from the shadows. Came past Draco and trained his wand on Dumbledore.
"Severus," Dumbledore said quietly. "Please."
For my son, he thought. Made no effort to conceal his thoughts from the old man before him; he would acknowledge Draco at last to one of the few people who mattered. The slightest flicker of recognition came into his eyes as Severus said:
They clattered their way back down the stairs, Draco's shuddering breaths echoing in his ears.
[31 JULY 1997: TONKS]
Harry's voice was raw with horror and outrage. As well he might, Tonks thought; the man he believed to be their betrayer was sitting there right along with the rest of the Order at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
"Petrificus Totalis," Molly said quickly, freezing him to the spot. Remus, behind him, quickly caught him and lowered him into a chair before he could fall and crack his head. She hastened to add in her most motherly tone, "I'm so sorry, dear, but we can't have you doing anything rash. You see, none of this is what it seems. Not even what happened to Professor Dumbledore." She turned her eyes on the others who had been brought to the house with them; Hermione, Ron, and Neville. "Now, will you sit and listen, or do we need to bind you, too?"
The three looked mistrustful, but against the combined force that was Remus, Tonks, Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Mad-Eye, and Kingsley, they exchanged glances, and nodded. They took up seats at the long kitchen table, flanking Harry protectively.
Remus spoke first. "To clear up a few things, yes, Harry did see Severus kill Dumbledore. That fact is not in dispute." Severus' face was paler than ever, if possible, but impassive. The children's eyes grew wide. He hastened on, "What he didn't know - what none of you knew - was that Dumbledore was dying. It was agreed between them that should the situation require it, Severus would kill Dumbledore rather than forfeit his position within the Dark Lord's ranks. Dumbledore confided this plan to all of us last year. In acting when he did, Severus saved Dumbledore from a far worse death, and saved the life of Draco Malfoy in the process."
Kingsley spoke. "Harry, every adult here can vouch for the story Remus has just told. I understand that what happened in the Tower was extremely traumatic, but we need you to believe and trust us now. Can you do that?"
Severus spoke for the first time. His tone was gentler than Tonks had ever heard it before. "I would be willing to provide a Pensieve memory of my discussion with Albus, if it helps, Mr Potter."
Harry's eyes were wide and strained, like he wanted to speak. Molly shot a glance at Severus, and said, "Finite Incantatem."
Harry said in a low, even voice, "You handed on the prophecy in the first place. You let us all in for this. How can I trust a word you say?" Tonks bit back a sound of surprise; she was not aware of this part of the story.
Severus grimaced. "It was a mistake, Potter, nothing more. Both your parents and the Longbottoms concealed their pregnancies. As far as I knew, the prophecy was just an intriguing bit of gossip spoken by a lunatic. I passed on what I heard to the Dark Lord out of an adolescent desire for approval, but I had no idea it would lead to anyone at all. I was horrified when I learned that it had. I defected to the Order the same day."
Harry insisted, "Dumbledore pleaded for his life."
Severus said calmly, "Dumbledore pleaded for me to keep my promise."
"Enough," Hermione said fiercely. "Let's hear him out. Why tell us now, Professor Snape? Why, after keeping everything to yourself and letting us suspect you all these years?"
Severus countered, "Because the Dark Lord had access to Potter's mind, through the scar he sustained during their first encounter when he was an infant. We could not risk the Dark Lord learning of my allegiances through him."
Ron said suspiciously, "And what's changed?"
Severus exchanged glances with Tonks and Kingsley, and Kingsley stepped forward. He said:
"What's changed is, the four of you are staying at Number Twelve until the end of the war."
The room was in uproar.
"We're ruddy well not!" Ron was saying in outrage.
"I have parents!" Hermione said in fury. "Muggle parents! How will you explain me just not coming home?"
Harry had drawn his wand. "I don't know how you've convinced them all to keep me prisoner, Snape, but I'll get out of here if it's the last thing I do!"
Tonks stepped forward and banged the table, hard, over and over again. "Oi! Shut it, the lot of you!"
They did. Harry's wand was poised mid-air, and Molly deftly lifted it from his fingers.
Tonks' hand hurt.
"What do you have to say about it, Neville?" she said kindly. The Longbottom boy was still sitting, quite unruffled by the whole outburst.
Neville said reasonably, "I'm not one of the Golden Trio, but I am an alternative candidate for the prophecy. Which makes me think there might be another reason for keeping us here, besides keeping Harry out of trouble."
Tonks glared at him, and said to Neville, "Severus heard another prophecy from Sybill before she died. She didn't say much, I understand, but she did indicate that you, too, would play an important part in the Dark Lord's downfall."
"Indeed," Severus echoed, and she glanced at him, keeping her expression free of guile. She wondered, not for the first time, whether Severus had really told all he knew about that night.
She went on, "Mind you, keeping Harry out of trouble is certainly a big part of it as well." She turned her attention to Harry, and said gently, "We're aware of the Horcruxes."
Harry stared up at her. Dropped down into the chair in front of her. He suddenly looked very young.
"Horcruxes?" Neville queried. He was alone in his confusion; clearly, Ron and Hermione already knew about them.
"Portions of the Dark Lord's soul, implanted into objects to tether him to the world and protect him from death," Kingsley explained. "Only when they are all destroyed can he be finally killed."
"Severus was the one who told us about them," Tonks said. "If he were on the Dark Lord's side, he would not have done that."
Harry flared, "That was supposed to be a secret. If Snape was really Dumbledore's man, he wouldn't have broken his confidence."
"I'm not Dumbledore's," Severus said gravely. "I'm the Order's. There's a difference."
"The Order was Dumbledore's army!" Ron protested.
Kingsley spoke. "The Order exists to bring down the Dark Lord and to serve the light. Dumbledore made mistakes that caused a lot of unnecessary harm. We didn't turn against him, but we were concerned enough that we began to serve the light in our own ways as well as his." Tonks felt sudden warmth; each of them had their own tipping point, and she knew that for Kingsley, it was learning what Dumbledore had done to her. It was Kingsley, in fact, who had first voiced what many of them had been thinking.
"If you need an example, consider the task of destroying the Horcruxes. It's unconscionable that Dumbledore gave such a task to a fifteen year old to do alone," Arthur said, taking up the thread.
"Sixteen today," Harry said mechanically. Had a certain, slumping relief come into his shoulders?
"So," Tonks said, "we've been killing them."
At this, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all stared up at her.
"It's true," Kingsley said. "We got Rowena Ravenclaw's tiara, Helga Hufflepuff's goblet, and Salazar Slytherin's locket. The ring and the diary were already gone. So that's five. We believe the sixth is Nagini, the Dark Lord's snake. That will be, we think, the hardest to get."
"And the seventh?" Hermione wondered. Her eyes were grave, and Tonks thought she already knew.
"The seventh," Tonks said, "we believe, is Harry - or rather, his scar." She went on more softly, "We believe Dumbledore intended you to perceive and make peace with your coming death while destroying the others."
Harry's chin was trembling. He was very white.
"It needn't come to that," Remus said. "Your age is in your favour. Certain protections, Harry, will not leave you until you come of age next year." He came around the table and sat next to the boy. "If we're a mutiny, Harry, we're a mutiny dedicated to keeping you alive. To taking some of the burdens from your shoulders."
Tonks sat, too. She said gently, "Harry, Dumbledore meant well, and he did great things. But he also did wrong things. He groomed you to die when he should have let us help you. He was a great strategist, but he also believed in sacrifice for the greater good."
"And you don't?" Harry demanded hollowly.
"Necessary sacrifice is a noble thing," she said, "but unnecessary suffering is stupid. And Dumbledore, in his manoeuvring, has put more than one of us though an unnecessary share of suffering."
"And what was yours?" Hermione demanded. Well, Sirius had called her the smartest witch of her age; Tonks was rather inclined to agree.
She decided it couldn't hurt. And it might help.
"A man," she said evenly. "I was sent to betray him. I fell in love with him. And I betrayed him anyway."
Harry demanded, "Dumbledore had you do that? Had you - seduce some Death Eater?" He was appalled.
"And why should that surprise you, Harry?" Remus said gently. "Severus has scars all over his body from his years of infiltration. He's suffered the Crucio more times than you can count. And it isn't just Severus. Why, when you were twelve years old, Dumbledore had you clambering down Devil's Snare and playing Wizard Chess to protect the Philosopher's Stone, when he could have just agreed with Nicolas Flamel to destroy it as soon as it was threatened!"
Tonks said kindly, "We know you cared for him. We all did. But what he did, leaving it all up to you, was wrong. A situation we mean to remedy."
Harry was shivering, and the others had gathered closer to him, as though prompted by protective instinct. He seemed completely, utterly torn, and Tonks understood that. Torn between the destiny he'd been assured was his, his good opinion of Dumbledore, and his instinctive understanding of Dumbledore's manipulative nature. Relief that he might not have to go it alone.
He closed his eyes for a long moment. Swallowed hard. Regained control of himself.
Finally, he said steadily, "All right. What's the plan?"
[AUGUST 1997: LUCIUS]
"Darling," Narcissa said warmly. "It's good to have you home."
She rose, and approached him regally, as though she were still the Lady of the Manor and not effectively a feudal ward of it. As though Nagini were not slithering casually around her feet as though it owned the bloody place. She placed an affectionate kiss on his cheek as though he were not filthy with Azkaban's grime and dirt, as though he were not exhausted and very nearly broken. She was beautiful and strong and proud, and in that moment, were it not for Nymphadora, he thought he could have loved her. Completely.
He whispered, "Thank you, Narcissa." He didn't only mean for her welcome. Nymphadora's visit to Azkaban, only days before, was still fresh in his mind. It had hurt him, in some ways, disrupted his equilibrium by reminding him of what he'd lost, but it had been a talisman against the darkness, as well.
"My Lord," Narcissa said over his shoulder, and it gave him chills. He didn't think she'd ever addressed the Dark Lord directly in his presence before. It was one more reminder of how far they had fallen, how little protection they had left. "I'm sure you have business, but can you spare my husband for an hour to clean up and spend a little time with us? I would be most grateful." She smiled prettily at him, her eyes wide and her jaw dipped, just a little, in supplication.
Lucius was both appalled and impressed. Was this how she had survived the invasion of their home by murderers and psychopaths?
Voldemort gave a disinterested wave of his hand. "Yes, yes. We won't see Travers and Yaxley for a little while anyway."
Lucius said hurriedly, "Thank you, my Lord." The weakness in his voice was both real and exaggerated for effect; Voldemort had left him there for over a year to suffer. He would not like it if Lucius appeared not to have suffered enough.
They passed out of the dining room, arm in arm, up into his chambers. For once, Narcissa accompanied him.
Once they passed through Lucius' wards, Narcissa let go of his arm and tugged him against her instead. "Lucius," she said, holding him tightly, and he held on, too.
Pulling back, he could see tears in her eyes. He was rather touched.
"Go and clean up," she said kindly. "I'll get Draco." She began to detach herself from his arms.
He grabbed onto her hand. "Narcissa. Bellatrix told me about Draco. The way he was threatened. What they tried to make him do."
Narcissa flashed him a grim smile. "Just couldn't wait to rub it in your face, could she?"
"I'm so sorry, Narcissa. If I hadn't failed-"
She shushed him. "You couldn't kill children, Lucius. It isn't in you. There were only two ways you were getting out of the Department of Mysteries – dead or captured. I'm glad it was captured."
He swallowed hard. She'd always had faith in him - more than he'd had himself. "So what happened?"
"Severus did it for him. I dragged Bellatrix out to Spinner's End and had her hold him to an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco. I had to convince her it was her idea, but that wasn't difficult. This way, it looks like he did it to save his own life, not to protect Draco."
Lucius nodded. "Good thinking."
A wan smile passed over her face. "It was, wasn't it?" Her smile faded, and she whispered, "He took the Mark, Lucius."
It hit him like a punch in the stomach. Not Draco. He was so damned young. To his mortification, he felt tears spring into his eyes. "No."
Tears spilled over her lovely cheeks.
"Dad?" Draco said from the doorway. His voice was tentative.
Narcissa dragged back her tears and blew her nose into her handkerchief indelicately. Lucius crossed the room to the boy and wrapped his arms around his thin shoulders. Draco clung on for dear life.
"Severus stopped me from completing my mission," he said bitterly. "He took all the credit for himself. If he hadn't, maybe we'd all be forgiven by now." Lucius winced; caught Narcissa's eye across the room, and her chin was trembling.
Lucius shook his head, pulling away from him. "Severus did what we wanted him to do. He protected you." He took the boy's forearm in his hand. Stared down at the fresh, black brand there. "Oh, Draco."
Draco was trembling. "I thought you'd be proud."
Lucius looked on him, this boy he had loved and raised. This boy for whom he would one day forfeit his own life. "I'm always proud of you, Draco. But I never wanted this for you. Any of it." He smiled wanly down on the offending Mark. "You're too good for this. One day, it will end, and you'll be there to see it."
There was something hopeless about the way Draco cast down his gaze at that. It troubled him. "How can you be so sure?" he mumbled.
Lucius tugged him close once more.
"Because there are things you are meant to do. And I mean to make sure you live to do them." Draco held him back, shivering as Narcissa joined them, cradling them both.
They stood there, reunited, huddled and clinging to one another in the light of the setting sun.
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: TONKS]
The Manor was in uproar.
Killing the snake was the easy part, surprisingly so. The problem with a living creature, one that Voldemort had never considered, was its need to sleep. And in the cool early autumn of September in Wiltshire, Nagini had begun to enter periods of hibernation, first short ones, then progressively longer. All it had taken was waiting the summer out.
It would have been safer to wait until winter proper, but none of them would consider that. The children were going stir-crazy at Grimmauld Place. Worse, the blood protection over Harry, legacy of his mother's self-sacrifice, was running out. He had made one, guarded visit to his loveless home in Little Whinging to maintain it (Tonks, who had met Lily as a child, was as appalled by her sister Petunia as she was impressed by her fastidious housekeeping), but the clock was ticking down by the day.
So they had risked an attempt on the snake, and killed it without incident. But Voldemort had felt the damned thing die, and summoned his army. And now they were engaged in all-out war.
They'd brought the children, against her better judgment. Just in case, Severus had said. Just in case the moment presents itself. She had no idea how he thought that might happen, but she had gone along with it. They all had.
So far, Tonks had managed to avoid most of the skirmishes. She had the four of them with her, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville, Disillusioned, and the others in the Order guarded them. It appeared, to their Dark counterparts, that the Order was simply engaged in a little bit of chivalry on her account, even at this late date.
They were in the front parlour, the five of them, covered by Kingsley and Remus, when Alecto, Amycus, and Travers strode in - with Lucius.
Lucius turned on her, wand outstretched. "I've got business with this one. Bitch put me in Azkaban. You go ahead."
Travers rolled his eyes. "Just don't take too long. His Scaly Nibs out there won't like it." He and the Carrows were already passing out the other door.
Lucius whirled his wand to pass over both doors and lock them - just enough to buy them seconds - and, lowering his wand, crossed the rest of the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
Kingsley had already lowered his wand, but Remus had jolted to attention as Lucius advanced on her. Now, his eyes grew wide as he peered at them over the bridge of his nose. Appalled, he queried, "Him?"
"Shut up, Remus," Tonks said over Lucius' shoulder.
"Have you seen Draco?" Lucius said urgently into her hair.
She shook her head. "I'm sorry."
He pulled away from her. "We got separated - I have to -"
He grasped his signet ring with his hand and pulled it from his finger. He'd worn it since he was seventeen, she knew; he had to yank it brutally, so hard that she flinched. He pressed it into her hand. "With this, my wards will recognise you. Use it to get out if you need to."
Her fingers closed around his, and she nodded. Please don't let this be goodbye, she thought. Please don't let this be the last time I see him.
"I love you," she whispered. Something rarely said between them. They lied so often that to say it was to call it into doubt.
"Same." He planted a hasty kiss on her mouth, and then he left them.
The dining room was a bloodbath.
Just for a moment, Tonks allowed herself to remember this room when it was bright and clean and drenched with sun. When he had swept everything aside and made love to her on white silk and damask.
Now, there was blood spatter on the walls, old and new. The furniture was gone. All the better to slaughter you with, my dear. It was sad and dark, chipped glasses on the mantle. Narcissa's beautiful drapes were in tatters.
The Malfoys' way of life was not beautiful to everyone, she knew, but it was beautiful to them, and she mourned for it on their behalf.
Lucius had been drawn into fighting alongside his precious bloody overlord, but he did so without conviction. His spells formed a predictable pattern, and none inflicted serious injury (although he did manage to take a chunk out of Remus' shoulder; she would have to have words with him for that).
This Lucius was reduced. Not a ruin of a man, even now, but he looked like one to the untrained eye. He appeared, not subversive, but simply inept. However, if the Order won, he could plausibly - and probably truthfully - claim to be there under duress.
Good old Lucius, she thought warmly, still hedging his bets even now.
Tonks, for her part, fought on the fringes, the teenagers still Disillusioned behind her. Her part was to stay safe and keep them safe; on standby only for if the perfect moment arose.
The moment that Draco entered the fray was the moment she knew. Lucius lowered his wand for a split second and reached for the boy, but Voldemort got there first, pulling him none-too-gently to his other side. Father and son would be held against each other til the end, til one or both were killed - by the Order, or by their own.
Voldemort nodded towards her. He hissed, "Draco. Your filthy blood traitor aunt. Finish her."
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: SEVERUS]
Draco stood there, his wand perfectly poised, trained on Tonks and - unknown to him - Neville and Harry. Three Sons of July, in perfect concert, for the very first time.
Severus watched the scene unfold before him. Clawing anxiously over the prophecy. Wracking his brain for understanding.
Where was the fourth?
The whole room seemed to have frozen, or at least fallen into slow motion. Draco was sweating. Lucius was ghastly, pasty-white in horror.
Sons of July, at last they meet!
Of light, of dark, great danger they greet!
One pure light, brave and strong - that was Longbottom
One light but marked, spell gone wrong - Potter, no ambiguity there
One cloaked in dark in the Dark Lord's nest - Draco, his Draco
One sown beneath his mother's breast -
THINK, damn it! Who is it? Who?
One sown beneath his mother's breast. What did that mean? A toddler in arms? An unweaned infant?
Only there was no one like that in the Manor. Severus knew this house, and he was sure of it. He and Lucius and Narcissa had warded it together. There was only the Dark Lord and some of his army, the Order, and Potter and a handful of his friends.
He ticked over the one unsolved stanza of the poem. The others related to the parents of the Sons; it stood to reason that this one did, too.
A folly'd love begun with lies
Finds its truth in sacrifice
Her only kill, in being kind
Will the bloc to herself bind
To save the Sons of July
The bloc. That was him and Lucius and Narcissa. The woman - the mother - would bind herself to them. But what woman-
Patrol the night of Astronomy Tower. Nymphadora, reeking of misery and alcohol and sex. The conjugal visit, over which he and Narcissa had rowed - needless risk, he'd said - and oh! The chamber itself, heavy with shadows, centuries of fertility ritual and desperate, urgent lovers.
And it had been Harry's birthday. And Neville's. And Draco's.
The thought flooded into him, flooded through him, so fast and loud that he couldn't stop it.
Voldemort looked up, looked unerringly at Severus, as though he'd said it right out loud.
Know the moment when it comes, Severus. That's your part in it, nothing more.
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: TONKS]
Voldemort was laughing.
It was a sudden sound, dreadful with dark hilarity. He pressed Draco's wand down and aimed his own. Let it drift to point straight at her belly. Tonks stared at him in confusion.
"This is too, too delicious. You're with child, Auror," he said with unmistakable satisfaction.
Tonks felt her mouth drop open into a little O. "I'm not-"
The image sprang into her mind, front and centre, kissing Lucius desperately in Azkaban that last day, choking out a charm she didn't mean. Oh god am I? I said Repello, but I didn't want to let him go-
Voldemort turned his wand with precision, and she felt it then, felt the life in her flinch away, felt it curl protectively over onto itself. Backing away, she knew that it was true. Knew, too, that if she'd ever had any idea of his real power she'd never have dared defy him at all.
I'm sorry I would never have come here if I'd known
But she hadn't known, and now all of them looked like paying the price.
"Lucius," Voldemort hissed with sudden, malicious humour, thrusting out his arm unerringly, closing it around his lieutenant's throat. "Did you do this?"
Lucius gave only a hoarse little sound of grief. He was staring at her with a look of agony on his face.
Voldemort tugged him closer still, in a deadly armhold, his elbow tight against his neck. "Because I'm not angry. It just proves my point. It isn't enough to live and let live. These filthy, common women are just too seductive for that." Voldemort turned his wand again. "I suppose, Lucius, that you think you love her? That's usually how our blood gets tainted. For all that boy's eulogising about the power of love, haven't you noticed that people who love end up weakened or dead?"
"Legilimens," he hissed against Lucius' temple. "Oh, Lucius, see what a number she did on you? I could forgive that, you know. Better men than you have fallen. Even my Severus loved a Mudblood once. But the tainting of the Malfoy line - that, Lucius, I cannot forgive. Extinction would be better." He was still aiming his wand squarely at Tonks' belly, and Lucius flinched.
And then something in Voldemort's expression changed. The pseudo-hilarity in his voice died.
"You have another secret, Lucius. One deeper even than your infatuation with the Auror." With an air of concentration, he said seductively, "Tell me, Lucius. Give me your secret and I'll let you live."
Tonks locked eyes on Lucius. His face was frozen, dead white in a rictus of horror.
A fragment. That moment when he thought she was Narcissa. If you came to guard your secret from my likely descent into madness, you needn't worry. The strongholds around you and Draco will be the last part of me to go.
"My love," Lucius rasped, "you can end it."
Tonks dragged in her breath in horror. "Lucius-"
"Yield," Voldemort hissed into Lucius' ear. "Show me."
"Do it," Lucius said urgently.
Voldemort gave a roar. "SHOW ME!"
It was that roar that did it. She screamed, "Avada Kedavra ohgodLuciusno," and whirled around, clutching his ring and stretching out her hand.
The children slammed theirs on top so hard that it hurt, and they Apparated away before Lucius' body hit the ground.
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: NARCISSA]
Narcissa dragged in her breath as the green light of Nymphadora's Killing Curse faded away. It came as a hoarse sound into her hands pressed hard in horror against her mouth.
The room was in uproar. Voldemort had given a ferocious yelp of outrage at being thwarted, and people on both sides had scattered.
She raced through the chaos in rapid strides. Cast the Petrificus Totalus as soon as she was in wand range. Summoned Pinky with a snap of her fingers.
"Madam Malfoy," the elf said, trembling, "Pinky is not meaning to be difficult, but-"
"I know how it works," she said briskly. "This is a request, not an order, and it's in accordance, I can safely say, with the wishes of everyone concerned. Would you please take the Master's body to a place of safety. St Teneu's will do. When this is over, we will see to him decently."
Pinky's brow furrowed, but she nodded. "Pinky will cast the Petrificus to prevent decay."
"I've already done it, but thank you." She turned to Severus, who had just arrived at her side. To her relief, Draco was with him. "Thank Merlin," she whispered, grasping his sleeve. "Severus-"
"I know," Severus said. "We have to find Nymphadora. Now."
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: TONKS]
They Apparated in a tumble in Lucius' bedchamber.
Tonks fell against the bedpost, sinking to the floor as sobs overtook her. They came in gasping, heaving breaths, and shudders that rippled right through her chest. The children were staring at her and she knew she had to stop and plan but she couldn't do it. Couldn't even begin to fathom a world where Lucius was gone and she'd been the one to do it, where she would have to tell their child one day what she had done.
There was a pop, and she flicked her wand to attention, but lowered it when Severus and Narcissa and Draco appeared.
"Narcissa-" she said brokenly, and then the older woman was on her knees beside her, helping her up, sitting her on the bed.
"You need to ward the room, and the house," Severus said urgently. "Lucius' wards died with him."
This penetrated the horror and the grief in Tonks' brain more than anything so far. She stared up at him, uncomprehending.
"Only you can do it," Narcissa prompted. "You're Lady of the Manor now."
Tonks stared at her. "How - I don't -"
"We'll explain. But right now you have to set the wards. Contain the Manor. Protect the children." Narcissa said this pointedly, glancing meaningfully at her belly. "Come on. There's lots to tell, and very little time."
Gulping down tears, she nodded. This was action. She could do this.
Quickly, she cast the wards. Felt the magic of the earth itself rise up and respond to her. Ancient magic. The Malfoys, Lucius had told her, had been on this land for over a thousand years. Grimly, she set about harnessing it. Felt a kernel of determination and used it to get command of herself once more.
When it was done, she sat down on the bed again. She was very quiet and still for a long, long moment, but finally, she looked up, from Narcissa to Severus. The children were sitting on Transfigured chairs behind them. They were watching her expectantly. All of them. Even Draco.
She said clearly, "I want to know Lucius' secret, and I want to know why I'm the Lady of the Manor. And I want to know right now."
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: NARCISSA]
Narcissa set her mouth in a grim line, as though preparing for an unpleasant task, but then she nodded.
"You're the Lady of the Manor because you're carrying Lucius' heir. You will remain so until the child comes of age."
"But Draco-" Nymphadora stopped, and her mouth fell open, just a little. "Oh!"
"Draco is Lucius' heir," Narcissa said quickly. "There was a ritual. The adoption is binding. But as a Malfoy by blood, your child is higher in the order of precedence."
"Adoption?" Draco echoed in a low voice, and Narcissa's gaze fell on him, her heart twisting at the rising disillusion in his eyes. "Adoption? Mother, who is my father?"
Severus said gently, "Draco-"
Draco's gaze dragged from her to Severus, and he rasped, "Him? Him?"
At this, Narcissa launched herself off the bed and sank to her knees before him. "No, no, no, it isn't like that. Your father - Lucius - he knew about Severus before we married. He was under the same pressure to marry as I was, and my family would never have agreed to me marrying a half-blood. Or a man of little means. I'm not sure which would have been worse, really."
Severus spoke from behind them. "Lucius was a great friend to us, Draco. You don't know how much. And he couldn't have loved you more if you'd been his by birth."
Nymphadora, behind them, spoke. "Narcissa, there was a time in Azkaban when Lucius thought I was you. He reassured me that even if his mind broke, his protections around you and Draco would be the last part of him to go. Is this was he meant?"
She'd been strong until then, but that did it, lanced an arrow of hurt into her heart. It was like him reaching out one more time to place a familiar hand on her shoulder. She closed her eyes for a long, long moment. "Merlin. Yes. Yes, it would have been that. You saw - you saw how the Dark Lord feels about tainting the bloodlines -" she couldn't finish, her eyes filling with tears, and she could see through filmy vision that Draco's face had gone very soft and his jaw trembled. She latched onto his hand, and he tried to pull away, but she only gripped tighter. After a long, long moment of hostility and standoff, he yielded. Let her comfort him and squeezed back.
Severus' voice rose up behind them. He said reluctantly, "Actually, there was more to it than that. That is, I never told Lucius there was more, but I think he guessed. At least part of it."
Narcissa knew a moment of supreme surprise. Slowly, she turned from her crouching position by Draco to stare up at him. He was standing, leaning against the mantle, as he so often did when something grave was being discussed.
She straightened, and said slowly, "Darling, do you have something you need to tell me?"
Severus grimaced. "Several things, actually, but the most important relates to the prophecy about young Mr Potter here." He nodded in Harry's direction.
Narcissa closed her eyes for a long moment. Potter again. For a moment, she wished the Dark Lord would just do away with the wretched boy and be done with it. Then she remembered she favoured neither a world under the Dark Lord's rule, nor the killing of children either, and she sighed and said, "Go on."
"As you all know, the substance of the prophecy was that a boy would be born at the end of the following July, to parents who had defied the Dark Lord three times, and he would be the one with the power to defeat him. What some of you don't know is that I was the one who reported the prophecy to the Dark Lord in the first place."
Narcissa stared at him. She could feel the blood draining from her face.
"I have no excuse for it. It was a foolish, dangerous thing to do," Severus went on. Looking suddenly rather embarrassed, he explained more quietly, "You and Lucius were on your honeymoon, and I didn't know him well. I didn't understand why he kept you away for so long. I think now that he was trying to distance himself from his father's death, but at the time, I mistrusted him. I had only his word for it that it would be a marriage only in name. I believed I would probably lose you, and I was looking, I suppose, for approval and belonging elsewhere."
"I had no idea," Narcissa said softly. She felt welling sadness, welling compassion for the misguided young man he had once been.
"I know. I came to realise that he was an honourable man, in his own rather odd and selective way, but I didn't know that then. And Sybill Trelawney was widely believed to be out of her mind, trading on her family name, and lacking any Seer ability of her own. It seemed harmless. Frankly, I assumed anyone in the business of defying the Dark Lord would have the sense not to have children at all." Harry and the Longbottom boy both looked outraged at that, but he went on, looking directly at Draco, "I was, of course, very young, and had not yet been in the situation of fathering an unwise, yet very loved and wanted child myself."
Draco blinked suddenly, and his Adam's apple bobbed, but he said nothing.
"Well. Then you came home, and then there was Draco. The three of us agreed that Lucius would acknowledge him. At that time, I knew of no one who might fit the prophecy. The Potters and the Longbottoms both hid their pregnancies." Narcissa put her hand to her mouth as it all fell into place. "I knew only that the three of us had defied him - once each, three times in total - and Draco was due at the end of July."
Draco said softly, "My birthday is the fifth of June."
Narcissa shook her head. "We - we back-dated you, you might say, to make it appear you were conceived on my honeymoon with Lucius."
Severus nodded. "It was my idea. I told Lucius it was to make your paternity seem air-tight. But I think, later, he figured out that there was more to it. He confronted me about the prophecy and your date of birth."
Harry spoke. "You're not saying that Draco is the Chosen One?"
"No," Severus said hurriedly. "The Dark Lord marked you as his equal, so you it remains. But Sybill made a final prophecy to me before she died, that there are three more Sons of July without whom you cannot succeed. The first is a son of parents who spend their lives in waking sleep - Longbottom here. The second is Draco."
Narcissa shook her head in horror. "No. No. No!"
Severus said gently, "Narcissa, we were referred to specifically. You were mentioned by name, and there was an alliance in the Dark Lord's house to hide a son. There can be no doubt."
"Who is the third?" Nymphadora demanded. There was a look of dread on her face.
Severus turned to face her fully. "The final Son is 'sown beneath his mother's breast.' I take that to refer to a younger child than the others, one still in the womb. The prophecy spoke of a woman who would kill to be kind, and in so doing, be bound to the alliance that is myself, Narcissa, and Lucius. I believe, Nymphadora, that the final Son is your child. Conceived, I think, on July thirtieth of this year, when you impersonated Narcissa and used her right to a conjugal visit to Azkaban?"
Nymphadora pressed her lips into a thin line, but said nothing. As if she had already guessed.
Narcissa closed her eyes. "Oh, dear Merlin."
"If it's any help, Narcissa," Severus said grimly, "Sybill told me before she died that there is a natural order. Maybe the earth itself moves against someone like the Dark Lord. Perhaps it was meant to happen."
"It doesn't help in the slightest," she said dryly.
Draco lifted his hand in the air, like he was in a schoolroom. "Excuse me, question from the illegitimate son here." There was a note of dry, slightly desperate humour in his voice. It heartened her to hear it.
Severus said gravely, "Legitimacy is a state of mind, Draco. You have a right to exist. You're acknowledged as having a place in the world by three parents who love you."
Draco mustered a mirthless smile. "You always did do a good pep talk." Harry and his friends were exchanging raised eyebrows, and it occurred to Narcissa with a muted kind of amusement that Severus was probably not always the supportive Housemaster she knew from Draco's version of events. She could well imagine that Gryffindors got under his skin. Especially these ones.
"Thank you, I think. In any event, you had a question. Ask it."
"I'm guessing from all this - Father -" he inserted this ironically "- that you're not on the side of all things Dark after all?"
Narcissa cocked an eyebrow. "I'm rather curious about that, too. And in particular when your allegiances changed."
Severus looked extremely uncomfortable, but he held her gaze. "It was when he went after Lily."
"Lily?" she echoed. It was like the bottom falling out of her heart, through her stomach like cold, hard lead. Tears sprung to her eyes. "Severus-"
"No," he insisted, crossing the gap between them and taking her hands in his. His eyes were terribly soft and concerned. "Not like that. I'd loved her as a boy, but that was long past. But I was horrified to have put her in danger. And I had a child myself by then. I knew what it was to fear for the world that child would inherit. I'd learned to look past myself. It wasn't about looking for a place to belong anymore. I had a place to belong, with you and Draco, and now it was about protecting it."
She swallowed hard. Nodded slowly. Considering this. "Then what?"
"I went to Dumbledore. I didn't trust him enough to tell him about you and Draco, so I told him I was still in love with Lily, and begged him to help her. It wasn't difficult to persuade him, even when he used Legilimency - I had years of feeling for her to draw on, and my conviction was genuine even if it came from a completely different place than he believed. The price was joining his side. I agreed. He didn't realise I'd have joined anyway."
"You never told him?"
"No. Like Lucius, that was one thing I never entrusted to anyone." He turned his gaze to Nymphadora. "I take it he told not even you?"
She shook her head. "No. Not even me." She turned her gaze on Narcissa. Her eyes glittering, she said in a low, hurting voice, "He was very loyal, you know."
Narcissa held her gaze and nodded, great compassion and understanding passing between them. "He was. And he loved you very much."
"And I killed him," Nymphadora whispered.
"To save his sons. Both of them," Severus said. "You loved him enough to do it at his command, whether you understood it or not, and you were strong enough to live with it after. He knew that. It's why he asked." Very gently, he went on, "He trusted you with it."
Tears slipped down Nymphadora's cheeks, and she looked away.
There was a moment of quiet, but then Harry said tentatively, "I have a question."
Severus said, "Go on."
"You never seemed to like me."
"I don't like you."
"No, but I mean - was that about - my Mum?"
"Not at all. You were more trouble than every other student I'd ever taught, combined. You made my life extremely difficult, caused trouble with and physical injury to my son - yes, I know he had a hand in it too - and in the process summoned some rather ugly memories of being bullied by your father. I resented the aggravation and the stress. It really wasn't any more complex, or serious, than that." Harry nodded, slowly. "But I had to exaggerate it. I had the Dark Lord and his followers, who had to believe I was just barely tolerating you in order to avenge him when the time came." Frowning, he went on, "Even worse, I had Dumbledore, who had to believe I was still motivated by being stuck in the throes of a teenage crush even in my thirties. Which, if you think about it, is really quite absurd. The only alternative would have been to have seemed extremely protective and fond of you - projecting my feelings for your mother rather than your father - but that would have tipped off the other side." Harry nodded, understanding. "So you see, I had to seem spiteful and jealous in the eyes of virtually everyone involved. I don't like you, but I don't hate you either. And much of what I dislike is not really of your doing."
Harry said in awe, "You sound like an adult."
"As opposed to a perpetually jealous and petty adolescent, unleashing childhood grudges on a little boy? Very much my point. I'm sure it was unpleasant for you, and I'm genuinely regretful for that, but I didn't have a lot of options."
Harry nodded again. Seeming to accept this. "All right."
This seemed to close the subject, and Severus turned his attention back to Narcissa. "There you have it, Narcissa. I never betrayed you, but I betrayed virtually everything else you held dear. What have you to say about it?"
She held his gaze. "The things I was born into are not the things I hold dear. The only side I'm on is yours. Whatever side that is. Don't you know that by now?"
A nerve in Severus' cheek seemed to flicker a moment, and then he nodded.
Harry said, "Draco? What about you? What side are you?"
Draco looked from him, to Severus, to her. Narcissa thought he looked very young.
Finally, he locked his gaze on her, and said, "My mother's. If hers is his, and his is yours, then I'm on yours."
Nymphadora spoke up, voice low and bruised with grief, but filled with resolve.
"Good," she said. "Because I have a plan."
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: TONKS]
"Be careful," she whispered into Neville's ear as they waited. "Of all of us, you're the most exposed."
Neville stared straight ahead. "If you could do what you had to do, then I can do this."
She almost lost it then. Almost.
"Yeah, I'm sorry, Tonks," Harry said awkwardly. "That was...awful."
She felt her chin quaver and stilled it. Nodded. "Thanks. If we live through this, I reckon I might have to call on you boys to play big brother to the poor little thing."
Hermione said, "He sounded so different when Professor Snape and Mrs Malfoy were talking about him. He sounded...good." There was a note of question in her voice.
Tonks felt salt rise in her throat and her heart grow tight in her chest. It took everything she had, but she dragged it back. There would be time for that later. "He was good. I know that's hard to understand. It wasn't your sort of good. It wasn't save-the-world good. He'd let the world go to hell to save his family. Maybe that's not the sort of good you need in a war, but it's a kind of good, just the same." She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, and said abruptly, "Can we not do this right now?"
"Sorry," Hermione said hastily. She gripped Tonks' hand in hers.
They were interrupted (thank God!) by pounding footsteps.
"I don't know the Manor well enough to control it all yet," Draco was saying. "But I've closed off wings and rooms. Made a funnel. All we have to do is follow them, and we'll have them cornered."
"Good work, Draco," Voldemort said, clasping his hand down on the boy's shoulder. "Don't you think it's good work, Bellatrix? Your nephew might be worth something after all."
"I always said so, my Lord," Bella said breathlessly (and, Tonks assumed from the look on Narcissa's face, this was a blatant lie).
"Potter is singularly unimaginative, my Lord," Severus said, "and his faith in the Order will already be shaken by the discovery that one of its trusted lieutenants was sleeping with the enemy. As she now knows she is with child, she will undoubtedly abstain from the fight. We have warded off the parts of the Manor with the werewolf, the Berber, and the Weasleys. Unfortunately, we can let no more of our own inside either, but we still have them outnumbered. They are, after all, only children."
Voldemort nodded. "Very good."
Bellatrix was skipping ahead. "Where's Harry Potter?" she said singsong. "Where's that little rotter?"
Tonks gave a nod, and Neville bolted out of their hiding place. "Bellatrix Lestrange! I've got business with you!"
"Neville, don't!" Harry hissed theatrically, grabbing his arm. Then, as Voldemort locked eyes on him, he said, "Shit!" Tugging him by the arm, Harry raced down the hallway away from their pursuers, dodging curses as they went.
"Next phase," Tonks hissed to Hermione and the others. "Go now so I can close up the wards." She ran out into the open and called from behind Voldemort, "Harry! Portkey!" She waited for Voldemort to turn, and made a show of tossing a goblet over their heads. Harry caught it and it began to glow.
"My Lord," Severus said urgently as Voldemort prepared to strike out at her, "leave her. We have to get to the Portkey. She alone has the power to breach Draco's wards, through the life she carries. We'll lose them if we don't." He was already racing ahead with Draco. Draco got there first, landing his hand on Neville's wrist, and Severus latched onto Draco, holding out his hand to Voldemort.
Voldemort grabbed onto Severus just as the Portkey carried them away.
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: NARCISSA]
Bellatrix was swearing.
"Dammit. Dammit!" she screeched, stamping her feet. It was a childish display. It wasn't the first Narcissa had seen since they were adults. It wasn't even the first this week.
"Bella, don't," she said tiredly. "Please."
"We lost them! Don't you understand that, you stupid bint? And your idiot of a husband didn't fucking help. Just couldn't keep it in his breeches, could he?"
Narcissa steeled her jaw, fighting her grief down. "Forget Lucius," she said ruthlessly. "I have. The Dark Lord is with them. I'm sure he'll summon you when he needs you. So really, you can stop worrying."
She cast her eye around the room, quickly evaluating them. Pius Thicknesse was Imperiused, but without orders, he was harmless. Scabior was up for a fight for fun, but not one he might not win. Yaxley was fanatical, but obedient to the letter, while Rookwood lacked the initiative to kill without orders. She dismissed them.
McNair might be a problem; he liked to kill. Obedience was secondary. And Selwyn was paranoid. Then, of course, there was Bella.
She was not a skilled Occlumens. Nymphadora had set up a Portkey to use if suspicion fell on her, but then the others would be alerted to the trap. She had to time it just right.
Suddenly, she wished she had gone with the others to Little Whinging after all.
[30 SEPTEMBER 1997: TONKS]
Tonks closed the wards behind her, praying that Narcissa's luck would hold, and grasped a Portkey of her own. She should arrive only a minute or two after the rest of them; she would see if the illusion had held.
She arrived out on the front lawn of Number 4 Privet Drive, landing with a little huff of breath. Kingsley and Molly helped her to her feet. Standing a little way off were a tired old Muggle couple and a big hulking teenager, shivering in the cool night air. Remus was talking to them, the lines of his face gentle and soothing.
"Are those the Dursleys?" she said curiously. Petunia seemed...smaller...than she remembered.
Kingsley nodded. "They're none too happy, and fair enough. We've warded the whole property, though, so no matter what happens in there, the neighbours shouldn't see a thing. That's something."
"Thanks for getting this together so fast."
"It was the least we could do. Tonks, I'm so sorry-"
"Later," she said sharply, holding up her hand. It was trembling. She whispered, "I can't. Not now."
His eyes softened. "All right." He cleared his throat. "There's some impressive spellwork in there, if I do say so myself. Fortunately the downstairs rooms are just about the right size to double for the front reception rooms at the Manor. We didn't have time to do a full restructure. And fortunately those rooms have been used for fundraisers in the past. I was able to get the broad look from memory, and Lucius' elves added the detail. Ron and Hermione worked with them on that."
A vague memory rose up in her mind, Hermione talking heatedly about elf rights. A flicker of a smile passed over her features. "I'm sure she enjoyed that." Of course, Lucius' elves were her elves now, and again the fact of his death came pummelling down in her mind like a mortal blow. It was something she had to fight off like a crushing weight on her chest, her breaths quick and harsh.
Kingsley nodded. He was looking at her watchfully, eyes clouded with concern.
She went on hurriedly, "I want to go in. It won't blow the illusion - Severus made sure to mention that I could breach the wards."
Kingsley's brow was still furrowed, but he nodded. "Good. We need an adult in there besides Severus. I want his cover intact until the very last second."
Tonks nodded in understanding. "How do we do it?"
"We're going to put some people in the upstairs area, have them make some noise, so Draco has an excuse for the wards staying up. We didn't have time to do anything there. We'll have you come in with them, then jump the wards alone. You won't be able to get back out, though - they're really our wards, and there's no way we can give you an exit without giving the Dark Lord one as well." Kingsley locked eyes on her, and said, "Be careful, Tonks. You don't have the protections in there that you have in the Manor. Harry is protected because the power of Lily's sacrifice lingers in her sister's home, and Draco is protected because Lucius' sacrifice is so fresh. But you and Neville are exposed."
Tonks nodded. "I'll be careful. I won't let it have been for nothing."
Kingsley clapped a hand on her shoulder, and then he took her in.
When she arrived, she knew a moment of utter disorientation.
Kingsley was right, it was impressive. She felt like she was in the Manor. Felt like she could sit down and pick up Lucius' book and read his tiny annotations in the margins. A wave of grief swept over her, so hard and fast that it was like swooning, and she grasped onto the mantle for support.
"We're in luck, my Lord," Severus was saying, not far from where she stood, Disillusioned. "Nymphadora has deduced that she can open up warded parts of the Manor, but it has obviously not occurred to her that she could get them away altogether. Draco here still has almost total control."
"What good is that?" Voldemort snapped. "Half the Order are directly above us. We couldn't open anything up if we wanted to. Half my soldiers are stuck at the other end of the house."
"It matters not," Severus soothed. "Deal with the boy, and the rest will fall. He is their straw man."
A note of hilarity entered Voldemort's voice. "Do I detect a tone of blood lust there, Severus? I didn't think you had it in you."
"Didn't you? All those years, living under the same roof as him, not being able to touch him under Dumbledore's watch? After the way he left you, hurt, almost destroyed?" Severus' voice was needling now, coaxing, worrying at past failures. "My Lord, you can't imagine how I've wanted to see you finish him, once and for all. And here, in the Manor, under Draco's protection - he is loyal where his father was not - here, my Lord, it can be done."
Tonks almost gagged. How did the old bugger fall for this nauseating stuff? You'd think Severus had a bloody great crush on him.
"My good faithful Severus," Voldemort said in satisfaction, and Tonks shook her head. Never underestimate the power of a good sycophant, she supposed. She'd never learned to be one, herself.
Draco came racing into the room, gasping for breath. "Bloody arseholes managed to get halfway up the stairs to their little friends. I got them back down and shut it off." He held out his wand to Voldemort. "I know about the link between his wand and yours. It'd be my pleasure to see you off the little bastard with mine."
"Excellent," Voldemort said, taking it. "Let us destroy this enfant terrible once and for all."
There was something about cataclysmic showdowns that brought out the theatre in people, Tonks reflected.
Voldemort, however, did not quite fit the category of people anymore, and he didn't indulge in drama, either. No tortured explanations of how and why he was going to finish Harry. He simply strode in, aimed his wand, and cast the Avada Kedavra.
Tonks was unwillingly impressed.
The room went silent for a long, long moment as both Harry and Voldemort crumpled to the ground. She and Neville ran to Harry's side, checking. Feeling for a pulse. She looked up at Severus and gave a single, slow nod.
"Good," Severus said, the word a silent shape on his lips.
Both began to stir, and hurriedly, she and Neville got Harry to his feet. That meant showing herself, but it couldn't be helped.
Severus and Draco made a show of helping Voldemort. Voldemort grasped at them just long enough to steady himself, then shook them off.
"This is not Malfoy Manor," he growled. "Finite Incantatem!"
The illusion unravelled around them, stone floors replaced with awful Muggle carpet, books replaced by DVDs, candelabras replaced by fluorescent lights. As it did, Severus and Draco moved away from him, in opposite directions. Voldemort took a single step back.
"I've been betrayed," he hissed. "Very well; I'll deal with you both later. But first, Potter." He aimed Draco's wand at Harry.
"You'll have to wait a while," Draco said in sour humour. "This is Little Whinging."
Harry allowed himself a smirk. "Blood protection, remember that? You can cast the A-K at me as many times as you like, but you won't be able to kill me. Feel free to wear yourself out trying, though."
Voldemort gave an ugly, twisted smile. "Maybe I'll just kill all your friends, then take my time with you while you're in St Mungo's suffering traumatic shock."
"You can try," Severus said, "but almost everyone in this room is covered, to varying degrees, by some form of blood protection. If you go casting spells indiscriminately, you're going to find them repelling on you." He added ironically, "My Lord."
Voldemort turned on his lieutenant. "My my, Severus, you have come up in the world. But I have a secret, and that secret means I get to walk away, and you don't. If you tell me who's protected and who's not, maybe I'll just kill you instead of setting Bellatrix on you."
Tonks grabbed Neville by the hand and edged backwards, behind Harry. There was no point trying to hide; the fluorescent lights were too strong for that. The best they could do was try to get out of the line of fire.
Before, she thought would have hesitated to hide behind another, blood protection or not. But now, she felt a ruthlessness she'd never felt before. Lucius was dead (Avada Kedavra ohgodLuciusno), but their child would live.
"The Horcruxes?" Severus was saying. "We know about those. We've been killing them, in fact."
"And you think I don't know that?" Voldemort sneered. "There's still one, Severus. I've felt them die, but there's still one left."
"Are you so sure of that?" Severus taunted. "You didn't, for instance, feel it die when you struck Harry just now?"
Voldemort opened his mouth, and then shut it again. And then suddenly his face turned vicious.
"You! You did this! Lucius and Draco and all of it!" His wand was aimed at Severus' heart. "Avada Kedavra!"
Tonks gave a little scream, and Severus fell to the floor.
[1 OCTOBER 1997: NARCISSA]
Severus said this as he opened his eyes, then cringed and closed them again against the powerful Muggle street lights.
Narcissa, leaning over him, forced out a little smile, but it was a miserable effort, made through tears and trembling lips. "Lucius' sacrificial protection must have extended to you. He must have been thinking of you, as well as Draco and I when he did what he did." She stroked his face. "Oh, Severus."
Severus started to get up, then put his hand to the back of his head and winced. "What happened to my head?" he amended.
"You hit it on the Muggles' floor. Linoleum, Kingsley said. He says it's quite as hard as stone." She nodded across the lawn. "Everyone else is fine. The Longbottom boy is shaken up - adrenaline mostly, I think. He and Nymphadora were the only ones without protection in there, so they were particularly vulnerable."
Severus' expression was soft. "And Draco?" he said gently. His gaze had found their son, standing awkwardly a little distance off where she knelt with him in the grass. He held his arms stiffly across his body. Watching them, his face pale and pinched with fear.
"Draco's safe, but upset," she said. Added reproachfully, "He said Voldemort was supposed to go after him - that's why he gave Voldemort his own wand, to disarm himself."
Severus had the good grace to look sheepish. "I knew you wouldn't like that. But besides Potter, the sacrificial protection on him was strongest. We expected that Voldemort would try to kill him, and be killed by his own rebounding spell." He reached up and stroked her cheek. "He's nearly a man, darling, and a brave one, too. He offered, and I respected that."
Narcissa summoned a rather strained smile at that, and leaned into his hand, cradling it with hers. "Yes, so he said. He was horrified that Voldemort turned on you instead. None of us knew the blood protection was on you as well. He thought you were dead." She glanced up at Draco once more, thinking of the difficult days ahead, days of rebuilding bonds and families and lives. "Perhaps...it's a blessing in disguise."
She said with rather forced brightness, "The Order are rounding up the remaining Death Eaters. Half of them are at the Manor, and the rest should fall within days." One of those was her sister, and she felt a pang at that, but only a pang. Bella had made her own choices.
Suddenly, tears stung her eyes and slipped down her cheeks. They seemed to come from nowhere.
"Narcissa," he said gently. Groping for her hand.
"I want to go home," she whispered. "You and me and Draco and Nymphadora. I want to see to Lucius. Can we do that?"
With difficulty, Severus levered himself up to sit and draw her close.
"Yes, my love. We can. We must."
[1 OCTOBER 1997: TONKS]
She whispered this as she sank down to her knees beside his body, after Draco had said his goodbyes and moved away.
Pinky had laid him out on the Boleyn altar, with a bed of loose hay beneath his head. His hair was long and flowing and he was warm beneath her fingertips. Like he was only sleeping.
The tears she had been holding back all night spilled over as the light of the dawn lit on his features. She bent and kissed his brow. "Come back," she whispered uselessly into his hair as her tears slipped down her cheeks. "I wish you could come back." And then she sank her head to his chest as silent sobs wracked through her.
Narcissa was beside her, rubbing her back in small circles. "I know," she said gently. "We loved him, too."
That only made her weep harder.
Presently, she heard Narcissa say, "Severus."
Footsteps, as Severus came over. Rustling sounds as he sank down opposite.
Narcissa spoke once more. Said softly, "How?"
Tonks wiped her face with her hands, messily, like a little girl. "How what?"
Tentatively, Narcissa took her hand, and placed it on Lucius' chest.
Lucius was breathing.
[1 OCTOBER 1997: LUCIUS]
"So it was you."
He was with Muggle-Queen Anne - Lady Anne, he corrected, she preferred her title by birth - walking through the grounds of the Manor. The Chapel of St Teneu was visible in the distance. Through the west window, he could see Narcissa with her arm around Nymphadora's shoulder, while Draco sat huddled in the east window, hugging himself. Severus was looking on.
Lady Anne was smiling, her face turned up towards the sun. "Yes, it was me. You could say I had a special interest in your dilemma, Lucius."
He looked at her sidelong. "Explain."
"Do you know much of my story, Lucius?"
"Not a lot," he admitted. "I know you were married to a Muggle King, and that it ended badly."
The corners of her mouth turned upwards. "You could say that. The King was married to a very nice woman who had borne several stillborn children. They had a daughter only, and he was obsessed with getting a son to take the throne. For some...reason...he became fixated on me." She went on reflectively, "He wrote poems and songs and gave my family property and titles. It probably sounds very romantic, but it wasn't. I couldn't extricate myself. There came a point where my whole world was dominated by him. There was nowhere to go, except the wizarding world, but I had rejected Druidism. Rightly or wrongly, I didn't feel I could go there."
"How long did it go on?"
"Seven years, plus another three in marriage," she said mirthlessly. "I finally married him, had a daughter, and lost two more. By then he'd found another queen, and I was falsely accused, tried, and executed."
She tilted her head forward and brushed aside her dark hair. He could see the faintest hairline of a scar. It was a clean scar, a sword, he thought, not an axe.
"The irony is, my daughter went on to rule Muggle England for forty-four years. So you see, Lucius, I know what it is to feel pressure for an heir - and to find yourself with one that is not the one you imagined. And to know that the child you love dearly may one day cost you your life."
Lucius nodded slowly. St Teneu's was closer now; he could see Nymphadora, Narcissa, and Severus talking with animation. Their stance was far removed from the pieta of a few minutes ago.
"May?" he echoed, slowly. Wondering if he had understood correctly.
Anne gave a slow smile. "You have a choice to make, Lucius. Return, or join us."
He slowed to a stop. Gradually realised that he could feel cool grass beneath his feet; that his hair was damp with mist - and that Lady Anne's was not. He was closer to the world of the living than she.
"Why?" he asked. "Is it - because of what I did?"
Anne's laughter rang out, so clear and high and lovely that he thought Nymphadora and the others must be able to hear it. "Oh, heavens, no, Lucius. Plenty of people sacrificed themselves, better people than you, and were not given this choice."
That was true enough, he thought. "What, then?"
"Accident," she said simply. "It is pure accident that you are here, nothing more. You see, while you came close, you never completely died."
"I don't understand."
"No," she said, "and it doesn't matter. What matters is, you need to choose."
She turned from him then, and left him, and Lucius turned towards the chapel and chose.
[1 OCTOBER 1997: SEVERUS]
"I don't want you to get your hopes up."
Severus said this as he prepared his potions.
"Severus," Nymphadora said, "that's quite useless. My hopes are at least one hundred percent better than they were an hour ago." Her voice was mild and pleasant, a thin veneer over nervous hands clenching and unclenching as she paced the chapel.
"Well, just the same," he said. "The biological operation of the Avada Kedavra is really not understood. There are three dominant theories." He counted them on his fingers. "Firstly, that all cellular activity ceases; second, that all electrical activity ceases; and thirdly, that the soul is simply detached from the body and passes on."
Narcissa and Nymphadora were nodding. Draco was sitting in the window, silent and watchful.
He went on, "If it's the third, I can do nothing. Souls are not a matter for potions. It is possible he will be given some kind of choice, on the strength of his self-sacrifice, but it's nothing we can influence either way. Electrical cessation is not something we understand properly, either. But the elixir I'm preparing may be able to kick-start cellular activity. Resuscitate him, as Muggle medicine would say."
Nymphadora said nervously, "Severus, when a person has been dead for as long as Lucius, isn't there brain damage?"
"Yes, there is. But Lucius was down less than a minute before Narcissa cast the Petrificus. That would be enough to delay cellular death. It takes quite a while for a person to completely die, you know."
"The Killing Curse is normally immediate," Nymphadora protested. "You can't tell me something as simple as the Petrificus is a defence."
Severus allowed himself a small smile. "Remember first year Charms? You have to really mean it, Nymphadora. Ambivalence weakens a charm. I suspect that's why we have our son, and you have yours. You meant it enough to be able to start the process of dying, and I'm sure Lucius would still have died if Narcissa had not cast the Petrificus, but with it-"
Draco spoke up. "How long until we know?"
Severus said, "We give him the elixir, reverse the Petrificus, and then we wait."
[29 OCTOBER 1997: LUCIUS]
He was in his own bed.
He'd spent much of the last month drifting in a no-man's land between life and death. His semi-conscious moments had been punctuated with tears and smiles from Nymphadora and Narcissa and Draco and Severus (well, not so much with the tears and smiles from Severus), and his sleeping had been haunted by crazy technicolour dreams of Anne Boleyn. He could remember nothing coherent of the latter, but he supposed it might make a good dinner story later anyway.
He knew he was over the worst of it when he woke in his own bed, with Nymphadora asleep, curled up on top of the covers in the crook of his arm. From this, he deduced that he was now out of death's shadow, and merely recovering. Presumably she would not want to risk waking beside his corpse.
"Lucius?" she whispered, her eyes flying open, and he got a good look at her, at how drawn she was, dark eye sockets and pale features. It wasn't good for the-
And then he remembered.
"The baby?" he asked, with a slow, incredulous smile.
She nodded. Smiled too. Eyes gleaming as she drew his hand to touch her belly - to touch their child, for the first time. "Baby's okay."
His smile broadened, and he stroked back her hair, tucking it fondly behind her ear. "So what have I missed? Apart from Voldemort coming to a richly deserved demise, which I assume from the fact that we're all alive and the Manor is intact."
Nymphadora snorted. "That's a pretty amazing tale all on its own. But besides that, you've been granted parole from Azkaban." At his questioning look, she explained, "It seems that people think you knew more about Draco's future role in bringing down Voldemort than you really did. It looked like you asked me to kill you in order to ensure his downfall. We didn't disabuse them of that notion. It's only a suspended sentence, though. One foot wrong, of course-"
"And it's back to Azkaban. Of course." He added with a smirk, "Nymphadora Tonks, lying to the Ministry? I am a bad influence on you."
Her voice dropped a little. "I figured - with the war over - maybe I could stop fighting so much for ideas. Start fighting for the people I love. Like you and this baby. Hell, Narcissa and Severus and Draco, too, if they'll have me. Merlin knows no-one else is likely to want to know me." She said it complacently enough.
Lucius offered a faint smile. "Well, maybe I can learn to fight for ideas a bit, too. Maybe we can meet in the middle."
He said tentatively, "Nymphadora, can I tell you something?"
"There was a prophecy before Draco was born. One made just to me, on Samhain. I knew, when I acknowledged him, that one day I would have to die for him. It said that I would look on eyes that were kind, and I would know the moment and find courage when it came."
Nymphadora was suddenly very pale. Her jaw was trembling and her eyes were wet.
He went on more quietly, "What you did, was meant. You didn't do anything wrong. You did everything right."
Nymphadora was shivering, wounds sudden and still fresh, and he drew her close. Stroked her hair with little nonsense sounds as she wept hard against him, her face buried, her thin shoulders shuddering silently. "Oh, God, Lucius, that moment-"
"Don't," he murmured. "Don't."
She shook and sniffled a little, but at last, she settled. Tucked herself in tighter against him and fell still.
"Don't tell Draco," she said at last, muffled against his chest.
"Don't tell Draco," she repeated, looking up at him. "He needs to know you love him as a person, not just an obligation to his mother, or a prophecy. Let him think - it was because you love him."
"It was because I love him."
"I know. But trust me. I want him to - to still feel like he's yours."
Lucius quoted softly, "I will guard you and the things you hold dear."
She looked at him quizzically. "What?"
"It was one of my vows with Narcissa. The only one either of us meant. I guarded her and Severus and Draco. And she guarded you and me."
"Yes, she did," Nymphadora said, and for a moment, Lucius had a flash of half-remembered image in his mind, these two women he loved most, standing together comforting each other in the chapel in the light of the rising sun. He wondered if it had happened at all.
"Would you consider it - odd - if I asked if we could take that vow, too?"
She didn't comment on his implied proposal. Just shook her head. "No. I'd like that."
Just then, there was a tap on the door. Nymphadora extricated herself from him and moved into the chair beside the bed. "Come in," he called.
Draco hovered in the doorway a moment. "Hi Dad - Lucius -" he broke off. Uncertainty spreading over his face.
Lucius' heart twisted, and he held out his hand. "Son."
At this, all the tension seemed to go out of Draco. He crossed the room in three strides, sat down, and tucked his body in against Lucius like he was a child of three. They'd never been demonstrative, really - if anything, Lucius thought he'd probably been a rather hard father - but he found himself tugging the boy hard against him and holding him tight.
"Dad," Draco whispered.
Lucius murmured into Draco's hair. Things like we love you and we're family and everything's going to be all right.
Perhaps for the first time, he thought, catching Nymphadora's eye, all of it was completely and utterly true.
"I think we should end our marriage."
It was a strange tableau in which Narcissa said this, seated by his side, cradling his hand against her cheek, this woman he loved second only to one.
Lucius raised an eyebrow. "You're that anxious to be rid of me, then, Narcissa?" There was a gleam of good humour in his eye.
She released his hand. "I thought - with Nymphadora - and the baby - you'd want -"
"I do," he said shortly. "But what of you, Narcissa?"
"Severus has asked me to marry him. I said I wouldn't without your blessing."
Lucius gave a bark of laughter at that. "You're your own woman, Narcissa. You always have been."
Her voice was very serious. "I know. But we built this family together, and it's important to me."
He gave her a small nod of acknowledgement. "Then you shall have my every blessing."
Just then, Severus came into the room, shutting the door gently behind him. Oblivious to their exchange, he came around her and set down Lucius' potions on the bedside table. He laid a hand on her shoulder as he passed, and she took it, squeezing it for a second before letting go.
Lucius said approvingly, "You're finally holding hands. Good for you."
Narcissa said warmly. "It's a new world out there, Lucius."
"Not so new that you don't have room for a friendly ex-husband, I hope."
Narcissa's smile broadened. "Never," she said, leaning forward to kiss his brow. "I have every intention of us being the happiest divorced couple in the world."
Lucius looked up at Severus. "Severus? What say you?"
Severus said gravely, "I say that we choose our family, as we always have."
They had started out as a strange little family, Lucius reflected, and so it remained. And while they had accidentally changed the world and endangered the world and saved the world along the way, the family was what mattered.
And the family would endure.
See also Want You To Want Me, a standalone NC17 Lucius/Tonks missing scene.
1. This novella was based on my Lucius/Tonks vignette Kill To Be Kind, which includes many of the plot elements teased out here, although with a completely different Lucius/Tonks vibe.
2. Pennyroyal was a herb of choice for abortion in the Middle Ages.
3. St Teneu was a 6th century princess, and the mother of St Mungo. She became pregnant after either being raped or seduced, and was thrown off a cliff by her furious father, the King. She survived the fall and was sheltered with her baby in Culross. I chose her as the reference point for the chapel in Malfoy Manor, because of her connection with another saint recognised in the wizarding world, and due to her parallels with Narcissa, who was pregnant under dangerous circumstances and was sheltered in the Malfoy family.
4. In France, from medieval times, the maîtresse-en-titre was the King's official or favoured mistress. The maîtresse-en-titre was powerful and the position actively sought, by fair means or foul. However, her position was subject entirely to the strength and duration of the King's affections. The question for the maîtresse-en-titre was - how much mileage could she get from her attachment to the King, before her leverage ran out?
5. I massaged timeframes a lot, excusing my poetic licence on the basis that JK's own sense of time is dodgy. (See HP Wikia). My biggest piece of manipulation was pushing Harry and his Hogwart's cohort's birthdates into 1981, in order to make the Little Whinging plot twist work.
6. Another piece of tinkering: Narcissa was, according to OOTP family tree, born in 1955, a year after Lucius. Severus was born in 1961. However, it seems unlikely that the dutiful Narcissa (a) married young but then waited until she was 26 to have Draco, or (b) did not marry until her mid-twenties. So I made Narcissa's birthyear 1958, giving her a smaller age difference to Severus and a more likely timeframe for her marriage.
7. The Repello charm (literally, to ward off) is usually, I would like to think, at least as effective as Muggle birth control. However, in this universe, Narcissa's emotional state on her return from Venice, and her conscious desire to let Severus in completely, undid the charm. The same could apply in the case of Lucius and Tonks, and they believe it, but they forgot that magic was blocked on Azkaban. Also, as the conjugal suite was originally used for the continuation of magical bloodlines, there might be lingering, cumulative fertility magic in the environment.
8. Many social elements are historical. Wardship of a child of equal social standing as a means of getting an heir, and/or expanding an estate, was common throughout medieval England. (There were other types of adoption and wardship that were not as happy, including grooming of a girl as a wife for an older man). The Druid welcoming rite mentions the danger period - a child is only welcomed into the world once it is deemed likely to live. Later, announcements of the birth of royal babies were similarly delayed. Settlements paid by a man breaking an engagement are historical in Victorian England. The settlement recognises that the woman will probably never make a suitable marriage and must support herself. There are variations on this theme all over the world even today. In northern Morocco, a man pays his fiancée a dowry for this reason.
9. The details of Lucius' and Narcissa's Handfasting are drawn from Emma Restall Orr's wedding rite (on the Druid Network).
10. I was a little concerned about all this need-surrender stuff that seems to go through both relationships, because I don't like the idea of either Narcissa or Tonks as disempowered, but I felt there was enough of it on Severus' and Lucius' sides as well that it worked. And I felt that at least some of it was needed to hold the two couples, and the family, together against the odds.
11. Anne Boleyn (1501-1536), wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I, is recognised as a witch in HP, as seen in portraits at Hogwart's. (Anne was accused popularly of witchcraft as a form of anti-Protestant rhetoric). Her family had the earldom in Wiltshire, the home of Malfoy Manor. Some feminist historians have interpreted Henry VIII's long, aggressive, and often bizarre courtship of her as a campaign of sexual harassment that she resisted for many years - an interpretation I've followed in her explanation of herself to Lucius.
12. The style used here for the Samhain ritual - a veneration of ancestors in the Celtic, Druid, and Wiccan traditions - is a bastardised version of multiple variations of the rite, with a touch of detail from the equivalent Mexican celebration, Día de los Muertos.