Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Two of a Kind
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Lucius/Tonks (primary), Lucius/Narcissa, Remus/Tonks
Spoilers/Timeframe: War and postwar, goes alt-universe mid-battle.
Summary: The four stages of grief are shock, anger, denial and acceptance. Or: After the war, two unlikely widows find a way to keep standing. Novella length (35,000).
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
Feedback: Please. deslea at deslea dot com.
|SHOCK| |ANGER| |DENIAL: LUCIUS| |DENIAL: TONKS| |ACCEPTANCE| |YULETIDE INTERLUDE|
[SHOCK - TONKS]
There were two Doras.
There always had been, really. She was, after all, a halfblood, neither exactly Muggle nor exactly magical, but a strange creature in between.
Perhaps the two Doras reflected her twin natures.
It was a duality she lived like breathing. She functioned on two completely different planes of consciousness and motivation, both coexisting and one choosing dominance over the other as the situation demanded. One Dora was passionate and idealistic, the other practical and ruthless. One dreamed and intuited; the other observed and calculated. One walked with her head in the clouds and tripped over her own feet; the other duelled with grace and deadly accuracy. One soaked up everything in the world around her; the other filtered it out and saw things overlooked by others.
The two Doras worked as a team, mostly, together making up the person called Tonks. It was how a clumsy, awkward young woman made a damn fine Auror in a stinking man's world.
They were not working as a team now.
Passionate Dora was slumped over her husband, choking on her grief, clutching at her breast as a cold hand twisted around her heart. Practical Dora was on her feet, ruthlessly dismissing Remus as beyond help. Just a crumpled heap on the ground.
She had loved him - oh, how she had loved him - but she intended to live.
Practical Dora did not spare her husband a backward glance, nor a tear. Both could give another the advantage. There was a little box inside her for moments like this, and Remus was consigned there without ceremony, like flinging a body into water in secret. She would open the box at some time when her life was not at stake. Whether he would understand or forgive her disregard was irrelevant. He was dead; his anger could not hurt her.
She intended to live.
She ran, away from Dolohov, away from Bellatrix. Her hair flipped around her wildly as she glanced over her shoulder. It had turned dead white - Passionate Dora's grief, probably - and it was a fact she noted only to consider the implications. She could pass for pureblood; she might get past at least some of the Death Eaters, if there was any benefit in doing so. On the other hand, she might also be mistaken for one by those defending the castle. It could be to her benefit, or not.
She rounded the corner into the main courtyard. It was a bloody bloodbath out here. Bellatrix was on her tail, shrieking insanely about blood traitors or some such rot. Dora was not tempted to return her taunts, saving her breath for flight.
Bella was gaining, she thought; she could hear it in the tiny increase in volume of her clattering footsteps. It didn't matter that there were a thousand other sounds around her. Bella's insanity existed on a frequency of its own.
"Die, halfblood bitch!" Bella screamed, casting spells at her. She wasn't close enough for an Unforgivable, but she was close enough to do some harm and slow her down. Practical Dora kept running, looking over her shoulder, dodging and weaving, a feat Passionate Dora could never have managed.
Ahead of her, the archway out to the grass was blocked by fallen rubble - those wretched giants, she thought. Well shit. What now? She feinted to her right and ducked between the columns into the main courtyard. Bellatrix did the same, and now she was within killing distance. The first green flash missed her by a hair.
"Narcissa!" someone cried out, and then she was crashing to the ground, smothered in black fabric and blonde hair. Her hand was out and free, but she was looking out, side-on and couldn't get her aim. Her wand was plucked from her fingers and used on Bella. Not an Unforgivable, but bad, whatever it was. Bella was thrown back a good twenty feet.
"It isn't Narcissa, you idiot!" Bella screeched as she got to her feet. "Bloody look at her!"
The crushing weight on top of her lifted and her head was freed. Hard fingers took her chin and turned her to look up at the uncle she'd never properly met.
The look that came over Lucius Malfoy was not vicious, but shocked and grieving. Like someone had pulled all the hope out from under him. "Nymphadora Tonks?" he demanded in a low, rasping voice that sounded suspiciously like a sob.
Lupin, she almost corrected, then didn't. Dora Lupin was in the box along with Remus and she would just as soon she stayed there. She just nodded.
"Fucking perverted blood traitor!" Bellatrix shrieked. "Who the hell fucks a werewolf?"
At this, Fenrir Greyback, feasting nearby on the body of a student (Dora couldn't make out who), gave a snarl. It sounded wet and there was blood on his lips, and Dora shuddered. Greyback lunged for Bellatrix, who stared at him in horror for a moment before turning on her heel and fleeing.
Lucius was getting off her. He still held her wand, but he held out a hand to her. She hesitated, but then shrugged and took it. After all, he'd disarmed her, but didn't appear intent on killing her.
He helped her up, then held up her wand. He said in a low voice, "I won't hurt you. I just want my wife. Understood?"
Her brows knit together in utmost surprise. Lucius, of all people, was indifferent to the battle? And then she got a closer look, saw the weatherbeaten face and the tired eyes, and suddenly she wasn't surprised at all.
"On your honour, as an Auror. You'll let me go if I give this back?"
She stared at him. Suddenly realised he didn't have a wand of his own.
"Y-yes," she stammered. Practical Dora was trying to find a practical explanation and could find none.
He handed it to her, and, cautiously, she took it. Watched as he went to the body of the child abandoned by Greyback. He grimaced and took the girl's wand from her mutilated fingers.
It dawned on her that he had not wanted her to be without her own wand, the wand that would best defend her in battle.
"Lucius-" she began, but then suddenly her head was pounding and the blood roaring in her ears and Voldemort's awful voice was echoing in there. Lucius was cringing and clasping his hands to his ears, and scanning around her, she saw that everyone else was, too.
She groped for meaning. A ceasefire. Bury the dead. Harry was to surrender himself. The battle would resume if he did not. Everything else was lost in ugly, echoing, clanging noise.
Bury the dead, she thought. Somewhere inside her, Dora Lupin was beating her fists on the lid of the box, demanding to be let out.
"I'll help you look," she said abruptly. This, at least, was something she could do. Something practical.
Lucius stared at her.
"She's blood," she said sharply. Then, with no idea of whether it was true, she added, "Mum would want me to help."
Lucius hesitated, his eyes flitting over her face, as though looking for an ulterior motive and finding none. Finally, he gave a single, gruff nod of his head.
They picked their way through the rubble together.
"Merlin," Lucius rasped.
The Great Hall was a disaster area. People were sobbing and bleeding and broken. Dora picked her way carefully around the dead and injured. Lucius seemed to be bowed more and more with every step. A few people shot them curious glances, but no one challenged them. Either Lucius was considered trusted because he was with her, or they were just too exhausted to care about anyone who was not attacking them personally.
"Don't you need to look for people? Your husband?" he said conventionally, as though politely concerned that he might have been monopolising her, like she was a hostess at some insufferable pureblood party.
"No," she said sharply.
"Oh," he said, coming up short. Realisation flooded over his tired features. He said, more gently, "I'm sorry."
She thought he really was, that was the problem. She could hear it in his voice. If she hadn't, she'd have just told him to stick his Death Eater platitudes where the sun didn't shine, but to her horror, she could feel heat and salt rising up in her face.
"Let's look outside," she said raggedly.
So they went outside, and they picked through bodies, but none of them were Remus, so Practical Dora didn't mind. Passionate Dora might have, but Passionate Dora could go fuck herself as far as Practical Dora was concerned.
None of them were Narcissa, either.
They made their way back indoors, and Dora watched as the Weasleys comforted one another over the body of one of the twins - she wasn't sure which. How sad, she thought with a mild feeling that vaguely resembled pity.
Passionate Dora gave a mocking laugh. Sad, is it? Don't have a heart or anything there. You might strain something.
Oh, shut up, she thought. This heartless bitch keeps your sorry over-emotional ass alive, so just cut me some fucking slack, all right?
To this, Passionate Dora apparently had no reply, because she fell silent.
"Draco!" Lucius cried out, breaking away from her. Draco - her cousin, she realised with a jolt, having never quite connected him mentally as family - was standing there, dirty with dust and ash, visible for only a second before Lucius clutched him into his arms.
"What happened to you?" he rasped.
"Crabbe...Fiendfyre," Draco choked out. "Potter got me out."
"Potter?" Lucius said in astonishment, pulling back to look at him.
"I think it was because I didn't give him up to Bellatrix. That time at the Manor."
Dora's brow knit together as she absorbed this. Clearly, the Malfoys had had mixed loyalties for some time. She didn't think they were necessarily on the Order's side, but at a minimum, they were not actively committed to the Dark Lord's.
Curiouser and curiouser.
"Crabbe's dead," Draco whispered. "Stupid, vicious little asshole was my friend."
"I told you not to trust him," Lucius said, but as I-told-you-sos went, it was a gentle one.
"Where's Mum?" Draco said, looking around them.
Lucius let him go. His shoulders dropped. "I lost her," he said in a low voice. "Nymphadora - your...aunt - has been helping me look."
Dora almost corrected him, then didn't. In the old families, aunt could apply to any older female relative, but that was not the case in her own. Andromeda had many reasons to encourage distance rather than closeness with the Blacks.
Draco shot Dora only the briefest of questioning looks. She supposed that his non-reaction made sense; if there was one thing she knew about the Malfoys, it was that - unlike the Blacks - blood was their first loyalty.
His curiosity was quickly replaced with fear. "Could she be out there?" he said, grasping his father's cloak. "With them?"
Any doubts Dora had about the Malfoys disappeared in that moment. Whatever might have motivated them in the past, they were now there only out of fear. It was etched clearly in father's and son's matching features.
She spoke up. "Is she armed?" Lucius had been disarmed; it was not impossible that Voldemort had disarmed them all. Especially if the family had done something as reckless as allowing Harry to escape from their home. "Did the Dark Lord take her wand?"
Draco shook his head. "Hers was the only one we had left. She gave it to me." There was a flicker in his lower jaw, barely perceptible if you weren't looking for it. "She's defenceless."
Lucius swallowed, but said only, "Wandless, maybe. Defenceless, no. She's a Malfoy."
"And a Black," she added. Placed a tentative hand on his elbow. "Come on. Let's keep looking."
Narcissa was not in the castle.
They had been everywhere - everywhere, that is, except the small stretch of walkway where Remus had died. She had hung back while Lucius and Draco checked there, and when they had returned, she'd fixed Lucius with a cold stare before he could speak.
He'd given a slight nod, his eyes gray with a compassion that surprised her, but said only, "Let's check somewhere else."
"Please," she had said, and turned on her heel and walked away.
Now, they stood in the courtyard, the truth settling over them like a cloud as the dawn began to stretch its fingers across the sky.
"She's out there," Draco whispered.
"Well, maybe she is, but the hour's up," Dora said briskly. "One way or another, they'll be here soon. To end it. That's your chance. You can't be seen. If Voldemort sees you here, he'll kill her." Assuming he hasn't already, she thought, but she doubted it. Either he believed Narcissa was loyal, or he would wait to kill her until Lucius and Draco were there to watch. "It would be safest if we could indicate to her that you're here. Are either of you skilled in Legilimency?"
Lucius nodded. "Severus taught us. Occulumency, too. I can't say we're very good at it, but he got us to a point where we could...withstand...the Dark Lord for short periods."
Dora arched an eyebrow. "Severus? Well, the plot thickens."
"He made an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa to protect Draco when Draco was threatened with harm to us. That's why he killed Dumbledore, you know. Poor bastard didn't have a choice."
"Dad!" Draco burst out.
"Oh, come, Draco. Do you really think it matters anymore? I'd like to think we can save him and you from Azkaban, if any of us survive at all." Lucius pinned Dora with his gaze. "I'd like you to see to it, Nymphadora. Would you do me the favour of looking into my mind? Take any evidence that might help, so you can testify after the war."
Dora said curiously, "I'd be happy to, Lucius, but you do realise that what I see may damn you as much as it saves Draco and Severus? Not to mention the very interesting fact that you seem to view our victory as a foregone conclusion."
Lucius gave a mirthless laugh. "I doubt there's much hope for me either way. As such, I will hold back nothing, but let you search at will. As for the other, there is a Muggle poem with the line, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. That's the Dark Lord, Nymphadora. Has been for some time."
She wanted to correct him, to tell him to call her Tonks, but that would have made them friends of a sort, and she wasn't going to do that. Instead, she said, "Muggle poetry? Seriously?"
"Don't get excited, Nymphadora. It was quoted in the Daily Prophet a year ago - in an article submitted, no doubt, by a Muggle-born. I was, for my own reasons, rather taken with the imagery. It had become...rather prophetic."
Frowning, she nodded. "All right. Let's begin. We don't have much time. I'd like to see your memories, too, Draco, if you don't mind."
Draco looked horrified, a flush of shame rising in his cheeks, but Lucius placed a stilling hand on his shoulder. "Do it, son. Please. It's important. I want you to survive it. So does your mother." He didn't wait for an answer, only turned back to Dora. "Begin."
She stepped closer, and touched her fingers to his temples. Not strictly necessary, but it helped. "Legilimens."
There were no doorways or walls or passages, just a flood of images. She had never entered such an uncontrolled mind, one so consciously, deliberately naked and open, and she rocked on her heels. It was like swooning, all colour and swirling around her.
A young Lucius, looking down adoringly on his bride in the sun. It was an arranged marriage, Dora realised, but he found Narcissa pleasing. He was willing to love her, was halfway there already, and Narcissa looked like she loved him just as much. A little later, looking down on a blonde-haired baby, then, frowning, at the Dark Mark on his arm, thinking, What have I done? Clutching at a young Narcissa, saying over and over, Thank Merlin it's over, a newspaper on the couch beside them, headlines screaming, Dark Lord Falls. An older Lucius, expression wrinkled with distaste on Platform 9 3/4, watching children jostle against Draco as he set off for Hogwarts. Ugly thoughts came from him. Halfbloods, Mudbloods, I should never have let Narcissa talk me into this. Durmstrang would have been so much better.
A year or two later. Narcissa yelling at him. How could you do something so stupid? Yelling back, He never said what it was! I just thought it would stir up trouble. Give Slytherin an advantage. With that idiot Dumbledore favouring Gryffindor at every turn, those poor kids need every bit of help they can get. Narcissa pushing him, hard. Yes, because an artefact of the Dark Lord's was sure to be harmless, she said scathingly. You put that awful thing in a school full of children, including our own. For a stupid competition. You stupid, stupid - and then he was on her, kissing her, hard. Love you - sorry - don't be angry, my love - and Narcissa clutching at him, Damn you, love you, damn you, somehow gentle and urgent at the same time.
A little later. Lucius and Snape, drinking from big brandy snifters. Perhaps it would be helpful if you would teach us Legilimency and Occulumency. All three of us. To help the Dark Lord, of course. A flash of distaste on Snape's angular features in the firelight. I assure you, Lucius, I wish to be no closer to Bellatrix's mind than absolutely necessary. Lucius swirling his drink in his glass. You misunderstand me. I mean myself, Narcissa, and Draco. Naked shock on Snape's face, just for a moment, then a carefully neutral expression. I should be happy to help you, Lucius. For the Dark Lord, of course.
The Department of Mysteries. Lucius advancing on Harry and his friends. Sizing them up. Potter, the halfblood, exceptional only because of his mother's sacrifice. The powerful Mudblood, Granger, probably the most dangerous of them all (and here, Dora realised with a jolt that Lucius admired strong magic of any origin). The Weasley blood traitors, the boy common and weak like his father, the girl powerful like all the Prewett women. Longbottom and Lovegood, purebloods both, with little or no inbreeding. They were less seasoned, but their magic could prove unexpectedly strong. Children, all of them, he thought as he spoke in silky tones to Potter, and he didn't want to kill children, but so help him, he would if he had to. Narcissa and Draco were waiting at home, and if he didn't come back, then Voldemort would turn up on the doorstep in his stead. She watched the prophecy break and felt something inside him break along with it, images of Voldemort's retribution on them tumbling through his mind.
A broken Lucius in Azkaban. Broken, but holding onto his mind while all around were losing theirs. Chanting in his head all day, every day, in time with his footsteps as he paced in his cell. Narcissa. Draco. Narcissa. Draco. NarcissaDracoNarcissaDracoNarcissaDraco. Pouring over every good memory of them he could find. Passing the time by reliving his life.
A weatherbeaten Lucius, shaking a tearful Narcissa, sputtering. Severus - Unbreakable Vow - Merlin, how could you do that! You've got to be smarter than that! Kissing her tears away. Stupid brave woman. You saved our son. You saved our son. Sinking to the floor in the light of the fire. Dora turned away.
Lucius hours ago. Running hand in hand with Narcissa, running for the castle. DracoDracoDraco. A green flash of light shooting between them, no idea who cast it. Linked hands letting go. Trying to find their way back, but Narcissa had been drawn into fighting alongside Dolohov. She protested that she had no wand, but he wouldn't be moved. If she didn't stay and fight with him, he would kill her. Narcissa screamed in his mind, Go! Find Draco! Then, later, running through the castle. Desperate. NarcissaDracoNarcissaDraco. Ignoring Order members and children. Dodging curses with no thought of returning them. NarcissaNarcissaNarcissa. Felt his one shining moment of relief when he'd spotted Dora from behind and thought he'd found her, then the realisation of his mistake like a crushing blow.
Dora pulled out of Lucius' mind. Let her fingers linger on his face. "Lucius," she whispered. Passionate Dora was perilously close to the surface. Lucius' red-rimmed eyes looked unspeakably old. To her horror, there were tears in her own.
"My turn," Draco muttered. "Come on, aunt, before I change my mind."
Dora could have blessed him. "Watch it," she said mildly, turning to face him. Leaned forward and touched his temples. "Legilimens."
She spent less time in Draco's memories. Long enough to see him tasked with killing Dumbledore, under threat to his parents' lives. Saw him rejecting Snape's help, combination of mistrust and childish ego. Saw his despair, saw him weeping in the bathroom, saw his inability to complete his mission. Saw Snape step forward in response to things spoken and unspoken by Dumbledore. Saw him let opportunities to betray Harry pass him by.
"Thank you," she said gently as she withdrew.
Draco gave a curt, autocratic nod.
Lucius' hand was on her arm. "They're coming," he whispered, and then she heard it, footsteps. Lots of them. Laughter and jeering. Figures emerged from the morning fog as they drew back, ducking between the columns onto the walkway. Concealed by the pillars.
The first recognisable figure was Hagrid, looking hopeless, carrying a bundle in his arms. Then Voldemort himself, his enchanted snake, and Bellatrix, damn her, dancing around him like a demented faerie. Then a large group of Death Eaters, Narcissa in the middle. Narcissa's gaze slid idly to the side, where they were concealed, and she took a deliberately casual sideways step in the other direction.
"You got through to her?" Dora whispered. Voldemort was speaking as they entered the courtyard. She ignored him.
Lucius nodded, watching Narcissa with a puckered brow. "She says she...did something. She says it isn't over yet."
"Isn't over?" she queried. "What does that mean?"
Just then, McGonagall emerged from the Great Hall, others hot on her heels, and gave a piteous cry. "Harry!"
Dora stared at McGonagall, then followed her line of vision to the bundle in Hagrid's arms. Suddenly understood. The knowledge hit her like a slap, and she rocked on her heels. Grasped Lucius by the arm. Draco, behind another column a few feet away, was dead white.
"Harry," she whispered. "He gave himself up. Oh, gods."
Sounds of grief and outrage broke out as Voldemort announced Harry's death, and then things happened very fast.
Neville rushed forward, but was quickly subdued. Voldemort invited him to join their forces, and retaliated from his predictable refusal. Mocked him with the Sorting Hat, and set it on fire. Behind them, Dora could hear galloping and thundering, but Voldemort carried on heedless.
And still Narcissa was inching her way towards the walkway opposite. Glancing warily from Hagrid to Voldemort and back.
Suddenly Dora understood. It all came together in a rush.
Harry wasn't dead.
And Narcissa was leading Voldemort's retribution away from Lucius and Draco.
"No," she whispered, and stepped forward.
Lucius dragged her back. "What the hell are you doing, woman?"
"Narcissa - she - Harry -" was all she could burst out, but then Neville suddenly emerged from the flames of the Sorting Hat with the Sword of Gryffindor, and cut the head off the snake. At the same moment, the centaurs burst into the courtyard, scattering people in all directions.
And Harry leaped down from Hagrid's arms.
Lucius gave a rasping sound as it all came together, but it was too late. Voldemort gave a terrifying roar of fury and turned unerringly on Narcissa. "You lied!" he hissed. "Avada Kedavra!"
The spell hit Narcissa in the stomach, and she fell back. Lucius gave a low, harsh, barking sound. Draco doubled over, as though he'd taken a kick to the stomach along with her, and slumped to the ground, head in his hands, his thin shoulders wracking with sobs. Lucius made a wild, uncontrolled move towards her, but Dora gripped him by the elbow, hard. "Don't," she hissed. "If you go, he'll kill you. And Draco."
It was the right thing - possibly the only thing she could possibly have said. He slumped against her as Death Eaters and centaurs spread out in all directions.
In a matter of seconds, punctuated by Lucius' hoarse, grieving rasps, the courtyard was empty. Those who were not fighting in the castle had run for their lives. Judging that it was safe - well, safer - she released her grip on Lucius' arm.
They walked towards Narcissa together, the three of them, footsteps thundering in her ears. Like a deathwalk to the gallows. Draco slipped to his knees at his mother's side, tears streaming down his cheeks. Lucius sank down beside him.
Narcissa was alive. Mortally wounded, but alive. It happened sometimes when it wasn't a clean hit. The Avada Kedavra wasn't an exact spell, and Voldemort had lashed out wildly in fury with only a sideways look for aim.
Lucius was stroking Narcissa's face. His face was hidden behind his hair, but his shoulders were shaking. "Quickly, Narcissa," he rasped, "any memories that might save Draco. Nymphadora, come."
Dora sank down opposite Lucius and Draco. Looked down at Narcissa, curiously, and recognised something of herself and their shared bloodline in her features. Narcissa looked at her appraisingly.
"Andromeda's daughter," she whispered.
She didn't linger in Narcissa's mind; the cloying, dragging feeling of death's approach was strong. Narcissa sent her a stream of images that largely echoed what she already knew. She saw Snape's Unbreakable Vow and the way Bellatrix had forced him into it; that might keep him out of Azkaban if he survived the war. She got additional verification that Lucius and Draco had been threatened with harm to the family. A few random snippets of words - Love you - we rise or fall together. And then, one snippet more, not a memory, but a message: Tell Andromeda I wished things were different.
Dora nodded as she withdrew. Sank back on her knees as Lucius leaned forward, murmuring against Narcissa's brow. Tears were streaming down his cheeks into her hair. Dora couldn't hear what they were saying, and didn't want to. She had no wish to witness their tearful goodbye.
She looked away, waiting for it to be over. Listening for sounds from the Great Hall. The cacophony of cracks and pops of spells had consolidated into a single exchange. The last stand, she thought. It will be over soon. One way or another. She wasn't sure whether she meant Narcissa or the war or both.
Lucius choked out a harsh sound, cry of a wounded animal. Narcissa was gone.
Just then, there was an enormous explosion. A moment of dead silence. Then cheers erupted from the Great Hall. Too many and too childish for Death Eaters.
Harry had won.
She turned to Lucius, hunched and weeping over his wife. Gently touched his arm. "Send a Patronus when they come for you and Draco," she said. "I'll come." She rose and walked away without awaiting a reply.
She had to make a deathwalk of her own.
Thudding, thundering footsteps, echoing down the walkway. A crumpled pile of clothes came into view.
Passionate Dora, Dora Lupin, was cracking open the box. Pushed the lid up, tentatively, looking around the rubble intently. She was covered in dirt and dust and her hair was white and she had aged a thousand years.
She walked closer.
The bundle of clothes came into view, and she saw that it wasn't a bundle of clothes at all. It was a man, with brown hair and a brown moustache and scars on his face. She tried and failed to reconcile the still figure before her, with the man who had smiled and laughed and touched her and held her and plunged into her in the dead of night.
She stood over him. Dora Lupin stood over him, too.
"Remus," she whispered, "oh, Remus."
She sank to her knees beside him with a terrible cry from her gut, and bent her head to his chest. Her cries were foreign to her own ears, animalistic and furious. She screamed out his name until she was hoarse. Wrenched her arms away from whoever it was that came to her.
"I know," someone was whispering, wrestling her against his chest, all black and blonde around her. "God, I know."
Tonks gave way then, and wept her soul out in Lucius Malfoy's arms.
[SHOCK - LUCIUS]
Draco. Draco. Draco.
He thought it with each step in his cell. It was the way he'd survived it last time, and the way he survived it now. But one of his two reasons was gone, and he felt it in the little arrhythmia of every second footstep, the one that was supposed to be for Narcissa.
Oh, not that Azkaban was as bad as his last stay there. Kingsley Shacklebolt had toured the Muggle prison system while working with the Muggle Prime Minister, and he had come back with some novel ideas. Words like rehabilitation, cruel and unusual, minimum and maximum security abounded. There were no Dementors, and even the most vile of offenders were treated reasonably well.
Lucius himself was in a civilised wing called Protective Custody. There were, after all, any number of Death Eaters here who would happily see him go the way of Narcissa. Lucius might not have minded all that much, but he had a son to consider.
Draco. Draco. Draco.
He had burned Narcissa, he remembered dimly, staring down at his hands. Narcissa had loved his hands, and he loved them because she did. They were well-manicured and precise, and when he thought of her, he thought of his hand on her cheek or her hip or her thigh. And in the end, he had sent her off into the dawn with a precise flick of his hand that he couldn't even see through tears, and a husky, "Incendio." It had been quick and unceremonious but he hadn't known how long it would be before they were seized, and he wouldn't leave her there alone. There were too many people in that castle who'd hated them all. He wouldn't see her strung up or mutilated or worse.
He'd gone to find Nymphadora because she had been kind to him and because he hadn't known what else to do. They were still there like that when the Aurors came, a pieta of two widows and a motherless son, and it had derailed them a little. Nymphadora was, of course, one of their number, Alastor Moody's protégé, no less.
It hadn't stopped them from throwing him into Azkaban. He hadn't thought it would.
Draco, at least, had been given some benefit of the doubt, largely thanks to Potter. He was under house arrest at the Manor. Lucius was glad. That was a stigma the boy didn't need; the Dark Mark on his arm was bad enough. He'd grieved in dry heaves behind closed doors about that. If he'd just been there, if he hadn't been in this wretched prison, maybe it wouldn't have happened.
Draco had the distinction of being the only surviving Death Eater never to set foot in Azkaban. Severus might have joined him, but Severus was dead. Lucius couldn't quite believe that the old bastard was gone; Severus had always seemed invincible. How very like him to play his own game, right to the very end. And the cost to Severus for protecting Draco, it had turned out, was very high.
Draco. Draco. DracoDracoDraco.
He spent a lot of time sleeping. His jailers were supposed to care about his welfare, and they cajoled him to come and get fresh air (what fresh air? It was the North fucking Sea), but he turned his face to the wall, back to his dreams of Narcissa.
He wasn't sure, strictly, if they were dreams or constructs of his own imagination. Surely dreams wouldn't be this clamouring, this demanding and incessant. Most likely they'd be less graphic, too. There was something vaguely indecent about having a hard-on for a dead woman, but they'd been lovers right up to the end, lost themselves in one another when there was no safety and no hope left, and it was a fucking hard habit to break. Especially when he only had himself and his hand and a dark room for company. He was desolate, shocked, and within striking distance of madness, and there in the dark, he could almost reach out and touch her. Like she was just on the other side of the bed.
"Fuck me, darling," she crooned in his mind (and of course Narcissa had never said anything of the sort; she was an adoring and energetic lover, but not a vocal one), "make me warm." And in the end he had made her warm, he'd burned her to a crisp, and he didn't know how to reconcile the living thing in his arms with the dead thing ablaze on the ground. Not without losing what was left of his mind.
And he had a son to consider.
Draco. DracoDraco. Draco, dammit, Draco!
His tenuous grip was slipping, he could feel it, and he screamed out. Clawed at the walls. Clawed out at his retreating mind.
Sanity fell and madness rose, and a quiet, serene part of his mind sat down like a king on his throne, next to the pile of ash that had been his wife, and waited for it to be over.
"What you need," Nymphadora said, "is to be out of this place."
"Really," Lucius drawled. It was a weak drawl, and he hated it, hated the pathetic sound of it, but he went on. "I really would never have guessed."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you," she said mildly. "A withering reference to my blood status, my unnatural marriage, or both - that's more your style."
"Consider yourself withered." He closed his eyes and turned back to face the wall.
He was in the hospital wing at Azkaban, he'd figured out that much for himself. What he hadn't worked out was why Nymphadora Tonks (or Lupin) was here by his side. Who on earth had owled her?
As if in answer to his question, she said, "Kingsley asked me to come. You're still notionally an employee of the Ministry, and since Draco is under house arrest and unable to see to you, he sent me in Draco's place." She added, "It isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Ministry aside, my mother and I are Draco's closest living relatives - yours too, legally at least, unless you have some blood relations I don't know about."
Lucius shook his head. He didn't. "Well, niece," he mocked, looking back at her, "you've done your duty."
"It isn't a social call," she said briskly. "I took the liberty of reminding Kingsley that you could have run, and didn't."
Frankly, it hadn't even occurred to him, in his confusion after Narcissa's death, and if it had, it would have been futile anyway. If he'd made it to France, maybe, but Apparating such a long way would have been beyond his reach at the best of times, let alone under conditions of trauma with Draco Side-A-Long. Just about the only wizard in the world who could have done it was Severus, and by then, as he'd found out later, Severus was dead.
But if that was seen as a point in his favour, who was he to argue? "I suppose."
"And he did agree that your imprisonment in the absence of a conviction so soon after losing Narcissa was, perhaps, unnecessarily harsh. Especially when there was evidence that it was doing you harm."
"It seems I should have succumbed to impending madness some time ago," he said dryly.
Nymphadora softened. Reached out and placed a cool hand on his brow. It was the first time he'd been touched in forever, and he felt something in him shatter, had to bite back a whimper (oh, the humiliation), sound of a drowning man clutching at salvation.
"You're not mad, Lucius. You're grieving." She went on more quietly, "I've been thinking of you. I would have liked to come sooner."
He said bitterly, "Of course you would."
"I'm your only witness," she said sharply. "Kingsley understands shades of gray, but not everyone on the Wizengamot does. As it is, they're making me testify under Veritaserum. Some didn't want me to testify at all." Merlin, he thought, he really was doomed. "It's best," she said carefully, "if our families remain at a distance. Understand?"
He nodded. He did.
"They'll let you go on the basis of an Unbreakable Vow that you'll submit willingly for trial. It's part of the Bail And Bond pilot program." Lucius nodded in recognition; another of Kingsley's Muggle-inspired innovations. It kept low-risk prisoners out of Azkaban pending trial; Draco was one of the first to be Bailed. "You'll have to pull yourself together enough to walk out. St Mungo's won't take you if you can't. They don't have room."
Lucius considered this. Ticking over what would need to be done. His mind was like an un-oiled machine; it took longer than it should. "I need to clean up," he said at last.
She nodded. "Of course. I brought you a change of clothes. They're over on the other chair. There's water there, too. They won't allow magic or potions in here, or let you near a razor, so you won't be able to shave. But they did let me bring in some Muggle products. Use the shampoo and conditioner, in that order, in place of hair potions. And soap is, well, soap. That one's universal."
He was rather touched. "Thank you," he said. The words sounded rusty and awkward on his lips.
She nodded, her lips pursed into a look that was both grim and kind, and she left him.
He wrestled with the task of making himself presentable. It was a slightly surreal thing to do. Partly because he did it without magic, and partly because it was so ordinary. His wife was dead, but he was sitting there getting knots out of his hair? It didn't seem right that something so shocking could coexist with something so mundane.
Finally, he was done.
They made the Vow, Bonded by one of his jailers, and he felt that same unsettling drowning feeling when they joined hands. Part of it - a big part - was completely impersonal, but part of it was her white-blonde hair like Narcissa's and part of it was those dark eyes, haunted by a grief that mirrored his own.
"The Chief Jailer has a Floo," she said when she released his hand. "You'll be taken there from here, and you can Floo straight home. You won't see me again 'til the trial."
He nodded. Said in that same rusty voice, "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," she said. Clearly, she shared his opinion of his chances before the Wizengamot. "But Lucius?"
He met her gaze. "Yes?"
"If I do get you out of this, you owe me dinner. Right there in your parlour, as good as any bloody pureblood."
If only you knew what that parlour had seen, he thought, but he didn't say so. He settled for a curt nod of his head.
Nymphadora frowned, and she left him there.
"Can you tell the Wizengamot about your relationship with Lucius Malfoy?"
Nymphadora could have given Narcissa a run for her money, Lucius thought, sitting there serenely with her chin lifted high. Not that there was much that was Narcissa-like about her, in her steampunk mix of witchly and Muggle clothes. If she had any brains at all, she had done it on purpose, but he suspected from his limited observations of her during his days working at the Ministry that she dressed like that all the time.
Despite her efforts, her Black bloodline was particularly striking today. It was there in her pale, heart-shaped face and the defiant fix of her jaw. He considered it a promising sign about his state of mind that he could notice it without dwelling on it.
"I wouldn't say there was a relationship at all, really," she said. "I had never even met him before the Battle of Hogwarts, and I've seen him only once, in a professional capacity, since. We're legally related, through his marriage to my maternal aunt, but my mother and my aunt became estranged before I was born."
"And why was that?" Kingsley asked.
"Both the Blacks and the Malfoys disapproved of my mother's choice of husband. He was a Muggle-born."
Lucius noted the tactic, turning it over in his mind and filing it away without much conscious thought. Nymphadora had already hinted that Kingsley was, to some degree, in their corner - out of some sort of sense of fair play, he supposed. They had clearly planned this line of questioning, to emphasise Nymphadora's estrangement to the maximum degree.
"On the other hand, he assisted you after your husband's death. What are your feelings about him now? Do they colour your testimony?"
"Under Veritaserum?" Nymphadora snorted. "I doubt it." She softened. "I feel an affinity with him, I suppose. We were both widowed that day. But then, many were."
"Madam Lupin, what is your opinion of Mr Malfoy's character?" asked Minerva McGonagall with interest. Much of the Wizengamot had been killed during the war; various esteemed surviving witches and wizards now took it in turns. How very like Minerva to focus on character. Clearly, she had little patience for Kingsley's tour through Nymphadora's feelings.
She said succinctly, "He's proud, strong, a bit pretentious, and harbours beliefs about Muggles and magical creatures that, as a halfblood and the wife of a werewolf, I find personally offensive. Fortunately, he is not on trial for his politics." Minerva moved to speak, but Nymphadora continued, "He is, however, also extremely loyal to the things he holds dear, devoted to family, and capable of great bravery in their defence."
Kingsley spoke. "Madam Lupin," he said, "it has never been disputed that Mr Malfoy was an associate of Lord Voldemort during both wars. He claimed to be under the Imperius Curse during the First War, and having been found innocent on those grounds, he cannot be tried again." Another Muggle innovation called double jeopardy, Lucius had learned. "However, his actions in the Second War appeared voluntary. Can you explain that?"
"Fear," she said simply. "I saw ample evidence in Lucius Malfoy's memories that he was solely motivated by fear for Narcissa and Draco." Lucius winced; it sounded weak. He knew it was ridiculous to be sensitive about something - anything - that could free him from a life in Azkaban, but he hated it anyway.
Arthur Weasley said scathingly, "Madam Lupin, I'm sure many Death Eaters could claim quite truthfully that they were terrified of Lord Voldemort. Fear was his stock in trade. What makes Malfoy so special?" There were nods all around; Lucius felt cold. He couldn't even begin to think of a reply in his own defence.
Nymphadora said clearly, "Firstly, Lucius Malfoy was with us that night. All three of the Malfoys defected from the Dark Lord, and importantly, they defected before the battle turned in our favour. Draco and Narcissa both saved Harry Potter, and Lucius saved me from Bellatrix Lestrange - his own sister-in-law, who had a personal grudge against me. He could just as easily have handed me over to her."
Lucius worked to keep his face free of expression, but he was intrigued. He knew her first sentence to be a lie, and he believed she did, too. He hadn't been actively against the Order, but with them? Certainly not. His only loyalty had been to his family.
Which raised the bloody fascinating question of how Nymphadora had tricked the Veritaserum. He could feel his mind working, turning it over, interested. It felt good to be interested in something again.
Nymphadora was still speaking. "Secondly, and I think this is crucial, Lucius Malfoy's fear was for his family, not himself. I think you'll find that was not the norm among the Death Eaters, who were well-known for turning on their own. As proof, I will remind you that he went unarmed into a castle full of people who would have seen him dead, in hopes of saving his wife and son. And thirdly, while he harboured offensive beliefs about Muggles, they did not motivate his actions while he was in the company of the Death Eaters. Those actions were motivated solely by his sense of duty as a husband and father."
Lucius felt a swell of admiration, and a muted sort of amusement (and that felt good, too, now that he thought about it). She'd played their sensibilities like a violin. If there was one thing the Wizengamot went for, it was the slightly old-fashioned masculine drive to provide and protect. The fact that it was true barely entered into his assessment; in his experience, people overlooked the most strategically helpful move for the move that made sense to them.
Even now, he could see the nods. He could almost feel the tide turning. Allowed himself to hope against hope that she'd actually done it, she'd pulled it off.
She had. Lucius was freed by a comfortable margin.
He looked for her when it was over, but she was gone.
GO TO PART 2: ANGER