This is for pushdragon, who always wants the backstory. The title and cut quote are from White's The Once and Future King
He can never remember most of the night his mother died. Obliviate is a difficult spell to master; more difficult still to use on a child. He is lucky there was not more damage done. He cannot remember going to sleep, but he can remember his father shaking him awake and helping him dress. He can remember his father's impatience with the buttons on his shirt, the clasp of his cloak.
He can remember his father telling him that his mother is dead. And being told to kiss her goodbye. She is lying on the rug in the drawing room, her red-gold hair loose around her, bruises darkening the creamy skin of her throat. She is beautiful still: Pyrite Malfoy, who was the most beautiful woman in Britain-- but Lucius does not want to touch her. “Mama?” he asks tentatively. “Mama?” Her eyes are closed and her neck is broken. His father pushes him down.
He cannot remember anything then until they are outside in the dark, on an unfamiliar street. His father bangs on a door he does not recognize, until a lady comes to open it. “Abraxas,” she says when she sees them. “What is it? What's wrong?”
He is in his father's arms, though at six he is too old to be carried properly, but he can see her face. She is plain and dark and her eyes are sharp. “You'd better come in,” she says, and steps back out of the doorway. “Tobias is asleep. He won't wake 'til morning.”
Lucius's father sets him down inside her kitchen, and he looks around, half-asleep but curious. He has never been in a Muggle house before-- and rarely in a kitchen-- and he cannot help touching the bright plates stacked in the hutch, the rough woven place mats, the smooth red apples in their bowl.
The two adults ignore him. “Eileen,” his father says heavily. He is old, Lucius knows, far older than Mama; far older than this lady is. Tonight he looks it. “Pyrite is dead.”
“No,” she says. “No, Abraxas.”
“I'll have to leave the country,” he says. Lucius crawls under the table and leans against his legs. He is rarely so close to his father for so long. Mama told him once that Papa does not like small children to be noisy or fussy, and so he stays quiet and still until the adults forget about him. Their words wash over him: death, adultery, Europe, criminal conversion.
He falls asleep where he is, and wakes when his father scoops him up. “Where do you want him?”
“Oh,” the lady says. “He can go in Severus's bed for tonight, and I'll take Severus in with me. Bring him upstairs, will you?”
“We won't wake your husband?”
The lady frowns. “Merlin couldn't wake him tonight, with all he's had.”
“Why do you stay with him, then, Eileen?” his father demands. “Their laws aren't ours. You never bothered to marry him properly.”
“Perhaps I love him, though,” she says. “He's a good man, Abraxas. He wasn't always like this. The war was hard on him.”
“Wars always are hard,” his father says. “Otherwise there would be no incentive not to have them.” But he does not sound sarcastic. Lucius knows he is thinking of his other sons, the ones he loved best: Philip who died in the war and Cas who ran away.
“Papa?” he says, but it's muffled by his father's cloak, and Abraxas does not hear him. He carries Lucius up the stairs and puts him on the cot while the lady carries her baby into the room. “Papa?” Lucius says again, and this time his father looks down at him. “You're going away, Papa?”
“Yes,” his father says. “To France, Lucius, for a little while. But Cousin Eileen will look after you.”
“Is it because Mama is dead?” Lucius asks.
His father sighs. “Yes, because of that. I don't know how long I'll be away, or what will happen when I come back.” He does not believe in lying to children, which makes him terrifying. He pushes Lucius's hair back from his face. “I want your word as a Malfoy that you'll behave.”
“Yes, Papa. Did it hurt, what happened to Mama?”
Something changes in his father's face. “Almost certainly.” But then the lady comes back in, and his father smiles at her. “He's yours, Eileen. I owled Gringotts before I left the Manor and told them to arrange things however they think is best. If the worst happens, there's no sense in having the money go to the Wizengamot-- or worse yet, to the Ministry.”
“Of course,” the lady says, and kisses him on the cheek. “I am sorry about Pyrite-- and everything. Take care of yourself.”
After that Lucius goes to sleep again. This time when he wakes it's morning, and he can hear a baby crying, and he doesn't know where he is. “Mama?” he calls. But that isn't right. Mama is dead. He's staying with Papa's cousin, and she doesn't have any house elves, which is why there isn't anyone here to open the curtains or bring him chocolate. Before he can decide what to do about that, though, the lady comes back in. Cousin Eileen.
She has her fat, ugly baby on her hip. She smiles at Lucius, and touches his cheek, and says, “Good morning, sunshine. What would you like for breakfast? You can have anything you like, as long as it's oatmeal.”
“Is my father back yet?” Lucius asks.
Her mouth twists. “No,” she says. “He may be some time, Lucius.”
“Or never. I know that,” he says impatiently.
“Yes,” she says, “I expect you do. Now, the toilet's next door. Get dressed and come downstairs. It's a beautiful day.”
He watches her go, before he puts on the clothes he wore the night before. The bathroom is cold and small and untidy, but otherwise the same as the one at home. He opens the cupboard and touches the folded towels, examines the bottles and jars in the medicine cabinet. Eileen hasn't got nearly as much makeup as Mama did.
There are three doors in the hallway. One is to the room he slept in. One is to the bath. The third door is closed. Very quietly, Lucius opens it, but it's only another bedroom, with a bigger bed and a sleeping man with black hair. Lucius can see one of his feet, and it looks like an ordinary person's, with five toes just as Lucius's has. He's disappointed. If he didn't know Eileen's husband was a Muggle he wouldn't be able to tell by looking at him.
He goes downstairs and eats Eileen's horrid porridge while she feeds the baby. “Is it a boy or a girl?” he asks her, finally.
“He's a boy,” she says. “His name is Severus, after my father. After breakfast, Lucius, we can go to the park. There's a lovely little playground. And we can go to the library and get some books to read.”
Lucius puts down his spoon. “Haven't you got any books in your house?” he demands, even though he knows it's rude, even though he knows Eileen must be poor or she wouldn't live this way. “At home we have rooms and rooms of them.”
“Well,” Eileen says, and smiles at him. “We have a few books, too. But they're all baby books or grownup ones, nothing for a boy your age.”
“Oh,” Lucius says. And then, because he can't help himself, “Did you know my Mama?”
“Yes,” Eileen says, putting down the spoon. She has baby food in her hair, and on the collar of her dress, but Lucius doesn't tell her. “She and your brother Cassius and I went to school together, at Hogwarts. Some day you and Severus will go there, too.”
Lucius is momentarily diverted. “Do you think he'll be magic? What if he isn't?”
Eileen piles the dishes into the sink. “He will be,” she says. “Nearly all children are, if they have one parent who is. It isn't like being good at drawing or music. Magic wants to be passed on.”
It seems like a good explanation to Lucius, but he can't quite let it go. “But if he isn't magic? Will you send him back?”
This time she turns to look at him: “It doesn't work that way. I couldn't send him back even if I wanted to. But I wouldn't.”
“Were you friends with her? With Mama?”
Lucius recognizes the expression on her face, because he's seen it so often on Papa's. She's tired of his questions. Good. In his experience, the more annoyed grownups are, the more they interesting the things they say to him are. “No,” Eileen says shortly. “We weren't really friends. We weren't in the same House.”
“Why? Weren't you in Slytherin?”
“I was,” she says. “Your brother and I both were. But your mother was a Gryffindor, and they didn't mix with us very much.”
“Mama was in Gryffindor?” This is something Lucius has never heard before. “But—I thought the Malfoys were always in Slytherin!”
“They are. But she wasn't a Malfoy by birth, silly, she was a Prewett. Don't worry. I'm sure you'll be Slytherin. You're very like your brother.”
“I'm not!” This, he is very sure of, although he doesn't quite understand what it is Cassius is supposed to have done that was so terrible Papa had to send him away. “I'm not anything like him. I'm like Philip. Some day I'll be a soldier, too.”
“Of course you will,” Eileen says patronizingly. “Now come on, let's go to the park before you wake your Uncle Tobias up and he eats you alive.”
“He's not my uncle,” Lucius says, but he goes anyway.
There is a pond at the park, with ducks in it. Lucius is impressed, despite himself. And he likes the library, too, except that the pictures in the books don't move. He is less thrilled with his cousin Severus, who has sticky fingers and a taste for earthworms.
When they go home to have lunch Tobias Snape is awake, and sitting at the table in the kitchen. He is a big man, with black hair and black eyes rimmed with red, and the same nose as his son. Lucius is half afraid and half fascinated by him. He sits down across from him, but he keeps his eyes on the table top while Eileen makes sandwiches and heats soup.
Finally Tobias sighs and says, “What have I told you about bringing home strays, Ei?”
“I'm not a stray,” Lucius says indignantly, before he can help himself. Tobias's voice is unexpectedly deep and kind, rougher than Papa's, with an odd slurring accent. “I'm Lucius Malfoy.”
“He's my cousin Abraxas Malfoy's son.” Eileen sets the plates out. “I'm sure you remember Abraxas. His mum's just died and his da's had to leave the country unexpectedly, so I said we'd have him for a few days. He came last night while you were sleeping.”
“Aye, I remember him, all right,” Tobias mutters. “He was a right prick, and about a hundred years too old to have a lad this one's age.”
“He was married twice.” But Eileen doesn't look at any of them when she says it. “Lucius's mum was in my year at school. You know the rules are different for wizards.”
“Yeah,” Tobias says. “There aren't any. Your lot do as you like, and damn the consequences. For all you know, darling Cousin Abraxas murdered his child bride.”
“It was an accident,” Lucius says, reaching for crackers to put in his soup. “He didn't mean to do it.”
Both of the adults turn to look at him, and he knocks over the bowl. Soup goes on Tobias, but he doesn't seem to notice. “Ei? What does he mean?”
“I'm sure he doesn't mean what you think he means,” she says, mopping up the mess with a towel. “Don't worry about it, Lucius. Sev does worse on a daily basis. What did you mean about your da?”
Lucius isn't worried about it. He's already decided Eileen and Tobias are more like house elves than they are Mama and Papa. “I don't remember.” He can remember Mama screaming and screaming, and Papa's hands on her; he can remember Mama dead on the blue carpet. He cannot remember anything in between, but if he closes his eyes he can almost hear Papa, saying that he never meant for it to end this way and yet it is for the best.
“Someone's worked a Memory Charm on him,” Eileen says, reaching out to touch Lucius's forehead. Lucius, startled, leans back, but she catches his chin and holds it, her eyes on his. “Be still, Lucius. Be still.”
Lucius is trapped, frozen in the chair, waiting for her to hit him or pull his hair or kiss him. But she is not Mama. She touches his mind, feather-light, and lets him go. “He's been Obliviated,” she says. “It wasn't entirely effective. It rarely is, with children this young. But it was enough to hide whatever happened. He really doesn't remember.”
“But he was there.” Tobias's voice is heavy, disgusted. “When his father murdered his mother. Jesus wept, Eileen, what kind of fucking man is this cousin of yours?” But he seems to think it is only to be expected, after all. He is not surprised by this.
For a moment Lucius thinks Eileen will go after him, curse the smirk from his face, the gloating edge from his words. Mama would have. Mama hated to be laughed at. Eileen only smiles. It is a terrible smile, and a familiar one; he has seen it on his father, in photographs of his brother Cassius.
“Darling,” she says, and her voice is bright and her eyes are cruel, and Lucius is not Petrified any longer but he does not dare even breathe under that basilisk's glare. “She was sleeping with a Muggleborn. An animal. Living in filth. Abraxas went after her and brought her home, of course. She was still his wife. And divorces are so time consuming and expensive. The Ministry has to approve them, you know. Who can blame him if he lost his temper?”
“Christ.” Tobias stands up, shoving his chair back with unnecessary force. “You call us animals. But I wouldn't treat a dog that way.”
Eileen turns away from him to feed the baby, and Tobias stomps out, heavy-footed, wronged, reprieved from certain death. When he is sure Eileen isn't looking, Lucius slides down in his chair and ducks under the table and crawls out into the hall. He can feel the prickles of temper and magic on his skin, making the hair on his arms stand up.
There are only two rooms on the lower floor: the big, sunny kitchen, and a smaller sitting room, with book lined walls. Lucius sits behind the sofa, in a shadowy cave made for a six year old. He has an apple and an orange from the bowl in the kitchen, and a table knife. He only has to wait until Papa comes back—and he will come, because he said he would.
It is warm and dark in his cave, and he has to work to stay awake. He cannot keep from thinking of Mama, and from wondering why it doesn't hurt to think of her: like finding a bruise on your arm you never knew you had, and pressing on it, wanting it to be sore. His mother was frequently puzzling and occasionally terrifying, but she smelled like roses and spells and she always kissed him goodnight if she was home, and sometimes she curled up in the bed with him and slept there all night to keep him safe from dragons. He loved her, he wants to miss her, and instead he feels as though he lost her long ago.
From the other room, Eileen calls his name. He hears her heavy feet on the stairs, slow going up and quick going down, and the rising panic in her voice makes him savagely glad. He does not like her any more. He is tired and afraid, and he wants very much to go home. She searches for him, and he watches her ankles go by. He has a little wandless magic, enough to keep her charm from tracking him if he lies very still.
After a while she goes out through the front door, with her baby in its carriage. When he is sure she's gone Lucius goes upstairs to use the toilet, and to the kitchen to get water and biscuits, and upstairs again for a blanket and pillow. He's curled up, half awake, when Eileen and Tobias come in.
He listens, drowsily, as they shout for him, and at each other. Eileen is crying, and Severus is screaming. Tobias crosses the room and back, desperate and angry. Lucius thinks that, had he wanted to come out, the two of them would be enough to drive him back.
He eats the orange, and half the apple. It is growing dark, and the Snapes are outside, beating the bushes like Papa's gamekeeper at a shoot. He begins to wonder what will happen if Papa doesn't come.
There is a strange, sharp smell, and Tobias saying, “...smoke the little bastard out, if he's in the house.” Eileen's voice, indistinct, unhappy. And then smoke, billowing into every corner of the room.
Lucius's leg is full of pins and needles. He gets up, stumbling. Falls. The smoke makes his eyes tear, makes him cough and choke. The world is full of shadows and smoke, and he cannot find his way out.
His brother Philip died in Russia, in the snow. His father told him how it was, because he asked, because his father never lies. It must have felt like this.
There is a hand, rough and strong, on his arm, and then he is outside retching in the cool grass. He can taste the smoke in his mouth, but he cannot smell it, and he knows that it was an illusion. There never was a fire. He cries, because he is furious and relieved both, and because he suspects that he is going to be punished.
Tobias shakes him, and Lucius goes limp. He doesn't mind being hit so much, but he knows the things Eileen can do are far more painful. At least she might be afraid enough of Papa to do anything permanent—turn him into a house cat or a teapot, or cast Unforgivable Curses on him until he goes mad.
But-- “I should beat you,” Tobias grits out. “Do you know how long we spent looking for you, you little beast? What did you think you were doing?”
“I hate you,” Lucius sobs. “I hate you both. I want to go home!”
Tobias lets go of him. “Christ--.”
“He's overtired,” Eileen says coolly. “Put him to bed, Toby, while I get Severus fed and find something for our supper.”
Tobias looks at her dubiously, but he does what she says. He picks Lucius up easily enough, and Lucius presses his face into the rough wool of his shirt. He is beyond fear, beyond embarrassment; he wants Mama's hand on his forehead, Mama's lips on his cheek, and his own bed in his own room at home. His throat hurts from the smoke, his eyes burn and his head aches.
He lets Tobias take him up, lets himself be undressed and tucked under the sheets. Tobias's hands are surprisingly sure, surprisingly gentle. Unlike Papa, he seems to know what he is doing. But he is a Muggle, and they are bred for service. “I want to go home,” Lucius says again, but the pillow is cool under his cheek, and he's already almost asleep.
“Be a good soldier, there's the lad,” he thinks he hears Tobias say, but his eyelids are too heavy to open.
He dreams that Papa is shouting at Mama, that he's angry, again, that she went away with Lord Robert and would not come back. But in the dream she has come back, back for Lucius, and he buries his face in her skirts and will not look at Papa.
In the morning Eileen has a bruise darkening one eye and the side of her face, but she dishes his oatmeal as efficiently as ever. “I hate this,” Lucius says, scooping up a spoonful and letting it fall back into the bowl. He missed most of dinner yesterday and all of tea, and he is very hungry—but he has his principles.
“Me too,” Tobias mutters from behind his paper.
This makes Lucius bolder. “I want a boiled egg,” he says, “and toast soldiers, and chocolate to dip them in. And I want--.”
Eileen smiles widely at him as she takes his bowl and drops it in the sink. “I am not your servant, Master Lucius. You need not have any breakfast at all.” And she turns away from him to pick up Severus.
Lucius kicks the table leg as hard as he can, and filches an apple from the big bowl on the counter. “I'm going home to Malfoy Manor,” he says fiercely. “When my father comes back you can tell him where I went.”
But as he crosses the kitchen, Tobias catches his arm. “Not today, boyo. Today you're mine.” He never looks up the whole time; Lucius is impressed despite himself. He sits at Tobias's feet as he sat at Papa's, and eats his apple sullenly and loudly.
Tobias drinks his tea slowly, the way grown ups do. Lucius stares at the pegged floor and hates him for it. He is a Malfoy, and Tobias Snape is a Muggle who does not seem to understand the difference between them. “Were you in the war?” he asks Tobias when he cannot sit still any longer.
Across the table, Eileen breathes in sharply and drops her spoon, and Severus makes an ugly squalling noise. But Tobias only says, “Aye, I was.”
“Was she in the war?” Lucius asks, looking over at his cousin.
“Yes,” Tobias says. “Not in the same war, though.”
“My brother was in it, too,” Lucius says. “Philip. He was very brave, but now he's dead.”
“Well, that happens, in wars.”
“Are you almost done with your breakfast?”
Tobias sighs, but he drops the paper on the table and stands up. “Come on, then.”
Lucius bounces after him. He rarely gets so much as a glance from Papa, unless he's being punished, and even Mama has not had much time for him lately. It is nice to have someone listen and answer his questions, even if it's only a Muggle.
“Where are we going?” he demands, as Tobias starts down the street, limping a little but moving fast.
“Pub,” Tobias says briefly. “Not too far.”
“I've never been in a pub before--.”
“Shut up,” Tobias says, “or you won't be in this one either.”
No one has ever dared to speak to Lucius this way before. He rather likes it. “Sorry,” he says, chastened, and walks slowly and politely behind Tobias for a half a dozen strides, until he can't stand it and has to run to catch up.
“My father would never take me to a pub.”
“No. He doesn't sound like the pub sort. I reckon he's a right bastard, your father.”
Lucius is not sure if this is meant to be a question or an insult, so he ignores it. If Papa were here, it would be different-- but Lucius's loyalty is fleeting at best. He finds Tobias fascinating, and far less intimidating than Papa.
The pub is every bit as exotic as he hopes: dark, empty, and smelling strongly of beer and tobacco despite the earliness of the hour. Tobias fills a bucket with hot, soapy water and wipes down the polished wood of the bar, then the handful of tables and chairs, before he starts on the floor.
Lucius, left to his own device, throws darts at the board until Tobias's back is turned. He slips behind the bar, then, and touches the rows of bottles with their paper labels and unfamiliar names. There are more kinds of firewhiskey than he ever knew existed. And on the floor, in the narrow space between the shelves and the planks, there is a gun.
Lucius slides it carefully out. It is heavy in his hand, too big to hold comfortably. It is very like the one Martin the Mad Muggle carries. He checks to make sure Tobias still isn't looking before he leaps up and pretends to shoot him. He is practicing drawing from the hip, the way Martin does, when the door opens and someone comes in. There isn't time to get the gun down.
“Jesus God, Tobias!” the man in the doorway cries out, and dives across the room and knocks Tobias down. Lucius looks at the two men lying on the floor in a puddle of foam, and ducks down to slide the gun back under the bar.
“What're you doing?” he asks, as innocently as he can, coming around so that they can see his hands are empty. “Do you need help?”
Tobias grunts, winded. The other man gets up more quickly. “He had a gun,” he says wildly. “He was going to shoot you in the back!” But he doesn't look as if he believes it. His hands are shaking and his face is pale. For a moment, Lucius thinks it's going to be okay.
But-- “He's disarmed now, Mark,” Tobias says, standing up. He limps rapidly across to the bar and disappears. Lucius knows what he's after. He comes up with the gun in his hand, and despite himself Lucius shivers. He knows Tobias is going to be cross, knows how cross Papa would be under the circumstances. He has, after all, borrowed both Papa's wand and his racing broom. At least Tobias can't use Unforgivable Curses.
The other man sits down abruptly in the nearest chair. “Jesus,” he says again, more softly.
Tobias shrugs, looking almost embarrassed. “It's German,” he says apologetically. “A souvenir. The missus wouldn't let me keep it in the house. But it isn't loaded. Not that I don't appreciate the effort.”
Mark's head drops into his hands. Now Lucius feels guilty as well as sorry he's been caught. It is a novel, and unpleasant, emotion. Tobias walks by him to stand by the other man. “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” he says, and the words are like a charm, the rhythm familiar to Lucius as the shape is strange.
Whatever they mean, they do not seem to work. “I'm sorry,” Lucius says into the silence. “I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to know how it felt.”
“Did you?” Tobias asks. “What you want, lad, is a beating. If I were your da--.”
“Toby, leave it,” the other man says, sounding tired. “What is he, five? You wouldn't have done the same at his age?”
“Six,” Lucius says, but so quietly that neither of them hear him.
Unexpectedly, Tobias grins. It changes his face tremendously. “The things we did do--” he begins.
Mark throws a hand up to stop him. “You'll give the boy ideas,” he protests, but Lucius can hear the smile in his voice.
Tobias turns to Lucius. “Consider yourself damn lucky Mark's heart is softer than mine,” he says. “Out in the alley with you, my boy. It's best you learn now this is not a toy.”
Mark sets up empty bottles in a row on the back wall, while Tobias digs a box of bullets out from behind the cash box and loads the gun. And then he takes it out and fires it, easily, almost without aiming it, and one by one the bottles shatter. Lucius lets out the breath he had not realised he was holding, his ears ringing. “You want a go?” Tobias asks, offering it butt first to his friend.
Mark shakes his head and his fair hair flops into his eyes. “No,” he says. “I was a piss poor soldier then and I'm a worse one now.”
“All right,” Tobias says. “Looks like you're up then, Private.” He shows Lucius how to reload, how to stand, how to hold his arms. It is like learning wand work or fencing, elegant and precise. When Mark has replaced the bottles, Lucius raises the gun. Tobias is kneeling behind him, his big hand over Lucius's, and Lucius wants desperately to impress him.
He pulls the trigger, and he feels the magic inside him well up and guide the bullet. The bottle explodes. Tobias lets go of him, and Lucius blows apart the others as easily as Tobias did. The kick from the gun makes his arm ache, but he doesn't have to look to know his aim was true.
He lowers the gun to his side, muzzle pointed down, as Tobias showed him.
“We could have used him in France,” Tobias says, but his voice is bleak.
“Aye,” Mark says, and if anything he sounds worse.
The silence that follows is familiar. None of the adults Lucius knows will talk about the war, except Papa, who was not in it. “Is it almost time for lunch?” he demands, as much to bring them back as because he is hungry.
“It's not even eleven,” Tobias says. “You should have eaten breakfast when you had the chance.”
Lucius scowls at him. But thankfully Mark interrupts. “There are some crisps inside, son. That will have to hold you.”
They give Lucius a packet of onion crisps and a tall glass of Coke, and show him how to play the pinball machine. Mark half-heartedly sets up the bar; Tobias sits at it and polishes glasses. Both of them drink. Lucius plays pinball and watches them. What he really wants is another chance with the gun, but he knows that isn't likely.
After a while he goes over and sits at the table closest to the bar, and listens to them talk about rugby. There's something about Tobias that reminds him of Mama's friend Lord Robert. He knows Papa hated Lord Robert, and he'd hate Tobias, too—but it's more than that. He closes his eyes, trying to remember. He only met Lord Robert once, when Mama went away with him, and they gave Lucius a toy Snitch as a going away present so he wasn't paying too much attention to anything else. But the Lord Robert in his head is not the big gruff man who shook his hand and promised to look after Mama. He is covered in blood, and unlike Mama's, his eyes are open.
Lucius opens his own eyes, blinking back tears, and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. Both men are looking at him. “Here now, boyo,” Tobias says. “What's wrong now?”
“My mother's dead,” Lucius says, and then he buries his face in Tobias's lap, and cries properly.
Neither Tobias nor Mark are much comfort. “His mum?” Marks asks.
“Couple of days ago,” Tobias says. “I dunno exactly.”
“What, in car crash or something?”
“No,” Lucius manages to say. “It was—she fell.” It comes out mostly gibberish, though. And it feels like a lie. He thinks of how angry Papa was, and the angle of Mama's neck, and the hour in between which he cannot remember at all. And he knows. It helps him stop, helps him catch his breath and rub his eyes on his sleeve. Because Papa will be coming back for him, and Papa believes that Malfoys don't cry, and Muggles aren't people. “It doesn't matter,” he says. “I hated her anyway.” And maybe it's a betrayal, but he thinks Mama would understand. She left Lucius when she went away, and now he's leaving her.
“It's past time to eat,” Tobias says finally. “You coming, Mark?” And Lucius blows his nose on the napkin Tobias gives him and follows them back to the house. Eileen sets a plate in front of him and he eats, but he is thinking of something else entirely. Still, he notices that the bruise on her face is entirely gone. He wonders if he imagined it.
Afterward he takes the ball Eileen gives him and goes out into the garden. He throws it against the fence until his arm aches. He pretends that it is the gun, instead. He will be a soldier when he is grown, the way Philip was, and Lord Robert: the way Tobias and Mark were. He will not be afraid of anyone, and least of all of Papa.
He stays outside until it is almost dark and Eileen calls him in for tea. Mark and Tobias have gone back to the pub, to work. He eats bread with dripping, and bread with jam, and biscuits, and reads his book from the library to Severus.
It is almost time for bed when someone bangs on the door. It is Papa, back from Europe, and cheerful with it. He kisses Eileen on the cheek and pats Lucius on the head, and admires the baby. “They've dropped the charges,” he tells Eileen. “Both sets. A bit of luck-- Dumbledore was out of the country, and Flannery Rosier is Acting Head. She was more than happy to push things through.”
“Trust a Malfoy to get away with murder,” Eileen says, but she's smiling. Lucius lies on the hearth rug, with his face to the fire, and hates her.
“Self defense,” his father corrects her, “in the one instance, and justifiable homicide in the other. She was an adulteress, after all.”
“He was a peer, wasn't he? Did they clear it with the Muggle authorities?”
Papa snorts. “Without a body, they hardly have a case,” he says. “Tell me, Eileen, were you at school with a boy named Thomas Riddle?”
“He was a Slytherin. A few years behind Cassius and I.” Lucius rolls over to look at her, but her face is tranquil.
“They are talking about him in Paris,” Papa says. “An English answer to Grindelwald, they say. He calls himself Lord Voldemort. He must be old Marvolo Gaunt's son.”
“Grandson, I think.”
“Yes, that as well. A dangerous bloodline. I remember the story-- the daughter claimed one of the local Muggle gentry fathered her baby, but it never rang true. One doesn't cross a thoroughbred with a pit pony and produce a race horse.” His eyes flick to Eileen's baby, and away, and Lucius wonders what it means.
“I can't see Tom Riddle taking an interest in the Greater Good,” Eileen says. “Unless it's for the greater good of Tom Riddle. He was-- disquieting, even as a child. If you're right about his parentage-- and yet, he was gifted, Abraxas. If he could be taken in hand...”
“It is an intriguing thought, is it not? But I am an old man, Eileen, too old for such thoughts. Too old for young wives, too. I shall retire from the Ministry and raise my son, and the country may keep itself or hang. Promise me you'll send me Severus, too, when he's older. It does children no good to be brought up alone.”
“I think Tobias might have something to say about that.”
His father moves away from Eileen. “Tobias,” he says, disgusted. “You mean to continue in this, then?”
“In my marriage? Yes. I love him, you see.”
“I don't,” Papa says, but he's looking at her again, and his eyes are kinder for her than they ever were for Mama.
“No,” she says. “I don't suppose you ever have seen. Take it on faith, then. I love him. Sometimes water is thicker than blood. Take your son home, Cousin. Teach him to be a Malfoy, and let me teach mine to be a Prince. And remember they may well grow up to live in Tom Riddle's Britain.”
Lucius yawns so hard that his jaw cracks, and both of the grown ups swing around to look at him. They'd forgotten him. It doesn't matter. He knows better than to expect anything more. “Can we go now, please?” he asks, and watches as Papa frowns. He hates it when Lucius whines. But Lucius is done with trying to please him.
“Get your things,” Eileen says. “Go on, Lucius.”
Lucius goes. His clothes are still mostly in the bag Papa packed for him. He takes it and his cloak, and ducks into the bathroom. He drops everything in the cabinet into the toilet, throws the towels into the tub and turns the water on.
He goes downstairs. Eileen and his father are waiting by the door. “I'm ready,” he says. “Goodbye.” He puts his hand in Papa's, and they go out into the darkness and Apparate home.