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His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 2]

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Not Guilty as Charged

‘What’s he doing here?’ Draco and Sirius snarled at one another in unison.

‘Be quiet, Black,’ Severus snapped, closing his eyes briefly in the exasperation he’d been stifling and anticipating in equal measure.

‘Keep quiet, Draco,’ Lucius muttered, as he scanned the room as though to check no other immediate family members were lurking.

Snape tried to keep a lid on his fraying temper as he ushered Lucius and Draco inside. It had been a couple of hours since he’d spirited Lucius out of Azkaban, having left Draco under a charm in the forest next to the strait of water that separated the prison from the mainland. Father and son had been at one another’s throats ever since Severus had released Draco’s charm, and now he’d thrown them into the cauldron with Black.

He closed the door of the safe house behind him, not at all sure that he was shutting out more trouble than he was shutting in. Safe house indeed, he snorted to himself, as the latch clicked and the charm resealed itself. It hadn’t looked very safe to him when Dumbledore had brought him here a few months ago to help him set the charms and wards in place; in fact it had looked as though it was ready to collapse about their ruddy ears every time the door was closed … but they’d had to move Black, he couldn’t sit under a Concealment Charm forever.

The door had opened directly onto the large room which served as both kitchen and living area, fulfilling neither function particularly well. A table, a few odd chairs, a lumpy settee, a sink complete with a dripping tap: all the comforts of home, Severus thought sourly. If Spinner’s End hadn’t been much smaller and full of books, he’d have thought he’d gone there; it was nearly as ugly. The floorboards creaked, and the windows rattled so badly if more than one person crossed the room at a time that he suspected the only thing that held them in their frames were the ghastly curtains. He took a moment to compose himself, before turning to the hostility.

Malfoy had begun to take off his travelling cloak, the one Severus had not quite risked life and limb to go and collect. It hadn’t been easy to slip in and out of Malfoy Manor when Ministry men patrolled the grounds, presumably looking for the same Draco he had concealed with him as he walked past them. Not that Lucius cared; as long as someone fetched and carried for him he was remarkably unconcerned. Malfoy draped the cloak on a seat, as though he would either be donning it shortly, or someone else would put it away. He shook out his long blond hair, fretting at the bit at the front that had got damp. Snape hoped it would go frizzy; there were no house-elves here to straighten it with a flat iron. He let his first mental smirk of the day through. Lucius was in for a culture shock; the service in Azkaban wasn’t up to much, but it was better than the service here.

He watched Draco move to the fire and begin warming his slim hands. The boy looked so like his father, except for Malfoy senior’s impressive bulk; Snape smirked cynically to himself again, as he always did when he saw them together… Lucius must have managed to fuck Narcissa at least once after all.

He let his eyes slip at last to Black, where he sat with a disgusted scowl for company. Severus looked away quickly, stifling the warmth that always crept through him from the pit of his stomach when he saw him: fear of his own feelings, pain, whatever; it didn’t really matter, probably it never had. This wasn’t going to work; he just knew it.

He turned from the other three, leaving them to whatever bad job of reacquainting themselves they had in mind, and moved across to the sink. He ran water into a basin, splashing the water over his face as though it would wash some of the pain away. It didn’t work. He grabbed the damp, once white towel which Black had left crumpled in a ball again, in an attempt to dry his face, avoiding the accusing looks from Lucius and Sirius for as long as he could.

‘Well?’ Black demanded. ‘Is it done?’

‘Yes,’ Snape hissed back.

‘Fuck,’ Sirius muttered and ran a hand over his face. ‘And Harry?’

‘Oh, do not worry on that account, Black. Your precious godson is blissfully unaware of anything but what he assumes is his own private crusade to save wizardkind … although how he thinks he will achieve that by sticking poisoned darts into clay effigies of me, I am really not sure.’

‘I think that’s just a sideline. For some reason he doesn’t like you. Was he there?’

‘Considering his talent for always being where is he not supposed to be, I shall treat that as a rhetorical question.’

Lucius sat with a blank look on his face, looking at the two other men alternately as they spoke. When he was quite sure Snape had finished, he turned to Draco. ‘Did you know what any of that meant?’

‘Yes.’ Draco gave him a cool look back. It wasn’t quite a sneer, but it was certainly getting there.

*****

It took Sirius some time to come to terms with the fact that the Pride of Slytherin’s presence wasn’t a figment of his overtaxed imagination; they’d been there for an hour. He had almost reeled back in shock when Lucius had come in, not that he didn’t know he was coming, even though he’d tried gamely to talk himself out of it, but he had recoiled at the physical blow of the stench of Azkaban, from where it clung to Malfoy, and to Snape’s clothes to a lesser degree. Sirius was more sensitive to it than the others would be; they would not even notice it, he knew that, but his canine sense of hidden smells, and his own stark recollections, allowed it to pervade his senses. For a moment he almost felt sorry for the Slytherin thug who had invaded his wretched bit of space.

Considering he had just spent a year in Azkaban, Malfoy was surprisingly well groomed though, even allowing for the hasty charms that he, or perhaps more likely Snape, had cast about him in an effort to hide the worse of the ravages. It helped when one knew just what palms to grease, Sirius thought wryly. He found himself wondering in sour jest if Snape had let Malfoy stop off to visit his tailor and his barber on the way.

Sirius found his eyes wandering to Snape and dragged them away again, comforting himself with the thought that there was at least some consolation in this god-awful mess they found themselves in. At least he had Severus under the same roof for the foreseeable future; he couldn’t run away from him now. He shot Snape another quick, almost furtive look, and found he was looking the other way, deliberately, Sirius suspected. He’d take his time; he’d find the right note to strike and begin the climb back, he hoped he wasn’t going to have to grovel too much. The black eyes had turned on him before he realised it, no help for him there; they were veiled with hostility, and something else Sirius couldn’t bear to read. He watched him look away again and felt the tug of regret, more than regret, he felt the tug of anguish; he didn’t know how to do this.

It took him a moment to realise Lucius was talking, but Sirius hadn’t a clue what he’d said. ‘How did you get out of Azkaban?’ he asked, failing to hide his disappointment, as he dragged himself into the conversation.

‘Suffice it to say that I did not have to stoop to changing into a mongrel to achieve my freedom.’ Lucius let his silver eyebrow rise in the superiority that made Sirius want to laugh in derision and punch his face in at the same time, and turned to Snape. ‘Severus persuaded the guards that I wasn’t with him when he passed them on the way out,’ Malfoy went on. ‘He’s really rather good at that.’

‘Fine, he can persuade me that you’re not really here too.’

Lucius looked down his nose at Sirius, and then scanned the room again with the air of a man who has swapped one prison for another and wishes he’d stayed put. ‘I’m quite sure the Ministry modelled Azkaban on this place. All things being equal, I’m not sure that the guards are worse cell mates than the one I appear to have now.’ He gave Sirius a look of hate that he’d diluted with a generous splash of contempt.

‘Button it, Shirley,’ Sirius spat back. ‘Who’s in your cell now, anyway?’

‘Dobby, of course.’ Lucius smiled his expensive smile for the first time; at least the warders hadn’t stolen his classy dental work. ‘The little fucker has a penance to pay for betraying me, and I intend to ensure he pays it in full. The charm he has will fool my visitors; they won’t notice.’ He flared his nostrils in satisfaction.

‘What visitors?’ Draco smirked from the end of table. ‘Although I think Mother went once to ask you how to lift the charm on the bullion vault, but she’s hardly likely to recognise you anyway, is she?’

‘Why have you brought him here?’ Lucius complained to Snape, after glaring at the only fruit of his loins.

‘For his own safety. I’m sure you’re as concerned about it as I am,’ Severus snapped back at him.

Sirius suspected it wasn’t Malfoy’s first whinge and was unlikely to be the last. He could see Severus was struggling in his role of being a three-way referee, and now he couldn’t even escape back to Hogwarts for a break. The thought of Hogwarts made him stop in his mental tracks. No matter what way he turned it, Snape had killed the man who Sirius knew had been his anchor, the man who had believed in him and had trusted in him so much that he knew that he would obey the ultimate order when the time came. Sirius knew how Snape would feel about that: isolated, alone, hurting badly. Sirius had been there too, done it all; he even wore the hair shirt. He let his eyes meet the dark angry pits; he knew he wouldn’t welcome sympathy.

‘Don’t dare start with the platitudes,’ Snape warned savagely, as though he’d plucked the very idea from Sirius’s head. ‘Don’t any of you come away with, “You knew you had to do it”, or any such shit.’

Sirius looked away. This wasn’t going to work; he just knew it.

*****

‘Don’t I get anything for my efforts?’ Mundungus asked as he looked up at his visitor. ‘I got a doing off Harry for nicking stuff from Grimmauld Place.’

‘Smokes.’ Lupin smiled as he held up the package. Fletcher held out his hand, but Lupin was taller. ‘But first, I need some information. Where’s the necklace?’

‘What do you need it for? What’s it worth?’ Fletcher squinted at him in suspicion. ‘It’s just a horrible old necklace. The case nearly bit my arm off when I opened it.’

‘Sentimental value,’ Lupin replied. ‘My father gave it to Sirius’s mother when they had an affair, and I’d like it back.’

‘Your father had an affair with that old harpy?’ Fletcher narrowed his eyes again as he scratched his ample stomach

‘Yes.’ Lupin gave him another smile; he wished he hadn’t asked Sirius to make up his background story. He winced inwardly and took two backward steps, hoping nothing had jumped onto his cloak; Sirius had warned him about the Azkaban wildlife. ‘Now where is it? I need to get it. I’d like to have it before Dumbledore’s funeral.’

‘Why? Were you thinking of wearing it?’ Mundungus gave him another sceptical look as he scented something. ‘What’s so special about it? I couldn’t feel anything special about it.’

‘Oh well, I’ll not bother,’ Lupin said in the airy way he had practiced with Sirius. ‘I’ll bring the smokes back when you can remember where it is. It’s not that important. I’ll give this lot to Stan Shunpike.’

‘Okay, okay. It’s under the loose floorboard below the leg of my kitchen table, the one nearest the window.’

Lupin smiled his slow smile again and tossed Fletcher the cigarettes and two boxes of wooden matches; he’d kept a few packs aside for Stan anyway. He wanted to be away from this place where the walls wept despair all over him.

Fletcher lit one of the cigarettes. ‘Is it really true about Snape, Remus?’

‘Yes, yes I’m afraid it is.’ Lupin nodded as he turned to leave.

‘I never trusted him. Harry was right all along. Just goes to show you.’

*****

The mood assaulted Lupin the moment he opened the door; nobody was talking to anybody. Lucius sat at the table, seeming to manage to glare at Draco and Sirius at the same time; Draco sat blowing smoke rings as though daring his father to comment, Lupin thought the boy was playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship; Snape was reading a book at the miserable fire, and didn’t even look up; and Sirius was cleaning his fingernails with his flick knife, he could have cut the atmosphere with it.

Lupin resisted the urge to ask what Draco was doing there; surely Narcissa could have found somewhere safe for him. He suspected his presence was going to curtail any nefarious doings though; that was a pity, he hadn’t seen much of his Slytherin for a while.

‘Did you get it?’ Sirius asked with a parody of his usual grin.

Lupin sat down beside Lucius, and pulled the black box from inside his cloak, laying it on the table in front of him; he was glad to be rid of it. The big blond Slytherin looked slightly mollified for the moment, and the werewolf smiled to himself. It would have been nice to be alone, or even to throw him over the table and fuck him senseless in full view of everyone; he’d need that, after all that time locked away with nothing but his left hand for company. Lupin could scent the beginnings of Malfoy’s sexual arousal from where it sat below the stench of Azkaban, that particular odour which would take weeks to wash out of Lucius’s hair and forever to wash out of his nostrils, the little tang that would catch Malfoy unaware some days, if he turned too quickly, or heard something to remind him of it, the same way it haunted Sirius, like the reeking Doppelganger of those who at least managed to break away. Lupin was sensitive to smells too; he was a dog as well. He hoped they would all bed down early.

He watched as Draco looked from his father, to catch his eye, and back again; Lupin didn’t miss the insolence of that look. He didn’t care much for Malfoy junior, not when he was showing off, or playing to the gallery of those whom he thought would be impressed by a combination of bad manners and outright ignorance. And yet, Lupin had come across Draco Malfoy at other times, when he didn’t have an audience of toadies, or those upon whom he sought to make an impact. It was as though there were two different boys; he wasn’t sure whether this one was the real one, or the pleasantly mild-mannered, sometimes outrageously amusing boy he also knew.

‘I’m tired. What are the sleeping arrangements?’ Draco asked his father, with an all-knowing smirk.

Lucius gave him a cold look, without glancing in Lupin’s direction. ‘We haven’t worked it out yet, so you may sleep in the corner just now. We’ll wake you when it’s time for you to make dinner,’ he said, reaching out his hand and knocking the cigarette from the boy’s fingers. The action was so quick it reminded Lupin of a cobra striking. ‘And if I catch you smoking again,’ Lucius went on, ‘I shall disinherit you.’

‘I don’t really want to stay here at all,’ Draco replied in a bored tone; obviously he’d heard the threat before.

Lupin stifled a sigh as Sirius jumped to his feet and flung the door open. ‘Fine, fuck off then. You make up an odd number,’ Sirius snapped, looking away quickly as though he were wondering why he’d said that.

‘Just stop it, all of you.’ Snape slammed the door shut; it rattled the lintel alarmingly. ‘Draco, you will sleep down here in the room behind the kitchen. This house will always provide sufficient rooms for those who need to stay here … and you will keep your stupid mouth shut.’ He spun on Lucius and Sirius in turn, and let the long white finger he’d pointed at the boy encompass both men. ‘And so will you two.’

Lupin sighed to himself again; this wasn’t going to work … he just knew it.

*****

His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 2]

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