Out of Azkaban (ishafel) wrote,
Out of Azkaban
ishafel

HP Backstory fic: "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," Abraxas Malfoy, Eileen Snape/ OC, PG13

The Backstory-Verse
How the Malfoy Wealth Was Won (London, 1860)
The Greatest Treason (Wales, 1913)
When I Ruled the World (France, 1917)
Portent (London, 1943)
The Greatest Generation (London, 1945)
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (New York, 1959)
The Ill-Made Knight (Yorkshire, 1960)
The Setting Sun (Surrey, 1963)
Conviction (London, 1974)
Charm (London, 1978)
(Baby Don't) Fear the Reaper (London, 1979)
Shadow of the Day (Spinner's End, 1979)
A Woman's Place (Surrey, 1979)
Chronology (Surrey, 1980)
Destiny's Child (London, 1980)
Spy Games (London, 1981)
Shadow of the Day (Surrey, 1982)
Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War (Surrey, 1982)
A Prophet In His Own Country (Surrey, 1984)
A Handful of Dust (Surrey, 1994)





His father had said to him once, "'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'"

He had been thirteen, and in his third year at Hogwarts, home for the holidays. He had meant to talk to Philip about it, and had lost his nerve. He couldn't bear the thought of disappointing Flip, who was eighteen and grown up and brave. But his father was always disappointed, anyway.

Cash told Abraxas about little Tom Riddle, with his black eyes and white face, and Dumbledore asking for something Tom didn't have to give. It had begun over such a stupid thing, a stolen watch, the kind of thing Slughorn would have beaten both Riddle and Crowley for wasting his time with, and dismissed out of hand.

Only, Slughorn had been away, and Crowley had gone to Dumbledore, who had held a sort of mock-trial in the Slytherin common room. And Crowley had accused Tom, who was a halfblood and an orphan, and Dumbledore had been all too happy to believe him. Had said, "The truth, Thomas!" just before he cast Veritas on the boy.

By the time Dumbledore had finished with him, the only secret left was the secret of where Crowley's watch had gone. Which was not, properly, a secret at all, since Cash and most of Slytherin House had known. Crowley was a Muggleborn, an arrogant little swot who hadn't been able to resist showing off his flash new watch to everyone in the house. Cash hadn't taken it, but he knew who had. He could have said. He could have stopped Dumbledore, and he hadn't.

It was years later that he learned the source of the quote: Die Zukunft prophezeiend , written by Gellert Grindelwald. But by then it had become something he lived by. He was many things, and perhaps most of all, a fool, but he never again stood by and watched as something happened.

In the end it got him nowhere. He protested against the war. He stopped fights, and duels, sometimes by taking a punch or a hex. He wrote letters, and he marched with signboards; he gave up his family, his country, because he would not look the other way. He was not a martyr, or even a good man. He was relentless and difficult and he had a terrible temper, and often he was these things in the face of logic and morality.

He was far from home when he died, not yet thirty-five years old, with no family but his wife, and a father he never spoke to and a half-brother he'd never seen. He had meant to do a thousand things in his life, and accomplished none of them.

He never knew that Abraxas had meant the words for a joke. He hadn't had much of a sense of humor, not as a child or as a man. He'd taken everything too seriously, always. Philip had been the same way.

Abraxas had buried one son during the war. He knew, when the Locater Charm in his cufflink failed during a Cabinet meeting, that a second was dead. He had three hours of excruciating boredom to think about it.

He took two weeks leave and Flooed to America, to New York. He stood on the doorstep of Cash's last known address, in a depressingly ordinary neighborhood in Brooklyn, and banged on the door.

Eileen Prince opened it. Abraxas' first thought was that she was even plainer than he remembered: her face was swollen and her eyes small and angry, and she was big with child. His second was that she was armed, heavily--her wand in her right hand and a gun in her left. There was a man behind her, in the shadowy hallway, and he too had a gun.

Abraxas raised his empty hands. Slowly. "I am unarmed," he said mildly. "I've come to claim my son's body."

The gun wavered in Eileen's hand, steadied. It would be heavier than she was used to, but she was a strong woman, and in a righteous rage. Like a badger. He suspected she would be vicious, if she were pressed.

"Miss Prince, please," he tried.

"Eileen," the man behind her said. "He's the right." His voice was British, but his accent was rough, unfamiliar. Not a pureblood, then.

"It's Mrs. Malfoy," but she lowered the gun. "It might not have been a legal marriage in the eyes of your Ministry-- but Cash and I were married, all the same." Abraxas brushed by her, ignoring her words.

"And you?" he asked the other man, when he was inside.

"Tobias Snape." He didn't offer a hand, but his back straightened, in response to Abraxas's tone. He'd been a soldier, perhaps, in one war or another.

"Abraxas Malfoy." The house was much larger on the inside, of course, and cool despite the heat. Abraxas found the parlor and went in. It was comfortably shabby, and very clean. The coffin took up one corner. Cassius had been laid out properly, his hands folded on his chest, his wand beneath them. He looked older than Abraxas knew he was, and tired, and no more peaceful than he ever had. There was a bullet hole in his temple.

Suicide, Abraxas might have believed. Accident, perhaps. But no man was capable of shooting himself from that angle. "Murder," he said. "You know who did it?"

They were behind him, waiting. "No," Eileen answered reluctantly. "But this was in his mouth." A scrap of parchment.

Abraxas took it. "All paths lead to the Greater Good." The words had been written by hand, with an ordinary quill, in ordinary ink. "Is this a joke?"

"You would know," Eileen snarled. "You were his lieutenant, weren't you? The Butcher of Britain?"

"You think Grindelwald killed him? He's been in Nurmengard since '45."

She shrugged. "Maybe not Grindelwald himself--."

"Whatever else he might have done, vengeance was not in Gellert's repertoire. Anyway, Cassius opposed British involvement in the war. If Grindelwald owed him anything, it was a medal, not a bullet. Knowing my son, I think it is fair to assume there were plenty of Americans glad of an opportunity to shoot him in the head."

Neither of them protested this. "You don't know who he was involved with? There would have been a cause, surely. Cash always had a cause."

Tobias sighed. "There were a lot of causes," he admitted. "Cash was a Red, which most people don't like, but I don't know that they would have done this. And the note-- whoever wrote that was one of you, right? Far as I know, the Reds don't know you people exist."

"I should hope not,” Abraxas agreed. He had never met a Muggle socially before, and was wondering why there was one in his son's house. Even if Cash had had egalitarian ideals-- if he had, he'd been a terrible bigot as a boy-- Abraxas found it difficult to imagine any granddaughter of old Patrick Prince's having them. “It seems it would be most efficient to cast a tracking spell and see if we can't narrow the field a bit. There are a few things I'll need--.”

“Which spell did you have in mind?” Eileen interrupted. “The Americans are quite strict about dark magic, you know.”

“My dear. It's a simple Compass Charm. A bowl of water and an iron nail will be sufficient.” Although he'd spoken to her, it was Tobias who went, silently and quickly, confident in a dead man's house. Abraxas watched him out of sight, and then turned to Eileen. “That is my son's child you bear?”

Her hand flew to her stomach, in a gesture he recognized. In Emily it had filled him with tenderness, and in Pyrite contempt; watching Eileen he felt hope, a thousand times more terrible.

“No,” she said at once, “it's Tobias's. Cash and I, we agreed it was safer. Being cousins--.”

“Of course,” Abraxas agreed. And knew that she was lying. She was not what he would have chosen for his son, but her blood was pure enough and her magic untainted. Let her believe that he believed her, let her think he thought he had no claim on her baby. There would be time enough, later, if the child proved worth claiming.

Tobias came back with the water and the nail, and held them out. He seemed clever enough for a Muggle, but Abraxas didn't trust him. He was too quiet, and there was a hint of something about him-- a man who had done dark magic, and recently, Abraxas would have thought, if Tobias weren't Muggle. Someone else's dark magic, then. Someone familiar-- Cassius. But there would be time enough for that later.

There was no table in the room. Abraxas set the bowl on his son's chest. “Acuto,” he said to the nail, and when he was satisfied he scored his palm with it and let the blood drip into the water. He bound the slash with his handkerchief and dropped the nail into the bowl.

He thought of Cassius at six, on his round white pony, jumping the hedge at the end of the village quidditch field and spoiling the tenants' game. Cassius at eleven, terrified he wouldn't sort Slytherin. Cassius at fourteen, quiet and sullen at the funerals of his mother and beloved elder brother. Cassius at sixteen, defiant, and at nineteen, resigned. “Point me,” he said, and the nail spun crazily in the water and pointed north and west, toward Tobias, and the window behind him, and the tangled city beyond it.

“Blood magic?” Eileen asked. “I thought--.”

Abraxas readjusted his shirt cuffs and checked to make sure his hand had stopped bleeding. “Blood magic is the oldest magic there is, and the most powerful. My father used this spell to find his glasses. Simply put, the social mores have changed.”

He recognized the look on Eileen's face. Hunger for knowledge-- the more obscure and dangerous the better-- was a Malfoy trait. “Another time, perhaps.” It had been because of Grindelwald that the more complex and arcane forms of magic had fallen out of favor. Ignorance made people less difficult to control, but Abraxas had never believed that it made them less dangerous.

If Eileen was interested in the theory, her paramour was intent on the practicalities. “This compass is pointing at whoever killed Cash?” He'd holstered the service revolver he'd been carrying when he'd answered the door, but his pale eyes were as fierce and eager as a hunting hawk's. Whoever he was, whatever he was, he had loved Abraxas' son.

Because of that, Abraxas said gently, “To the place where the murder was done. This is the sort of thing that is better for the cover of darkness. And there are certain-- preparations I should make, as well.”

“We're coming with you,” Eileen said, “so you had better tell us. 'One prepares one's allies as well as one's weapons,' correct?”

“Don't quote Slytherin at me, child. There are things I will tell you and things you are better for not knowing.” Portia had been Abraxas's favorite cousin. She'd run away with Hal Prince while Abraxas was in France, on the bank of a bleeding river, in the rain-- and been dead in childbirth before he came home. Eileen had nothing of her mother's beauty, or her charm, but she had that steel will. Abraxas liked her the better for it.

He relented, at least a little, in the face of it. There was a parchment in his coat pocket. He moved away from Cassius's body, and unrolled it on the sideboard. It was an Arithmantical chart, not merely a Divining but a map. It was dark magic as the charm had not been, runes drawn in blood on human skin: it was a narrowing of possible futures, to one point sharp as a dagger.

“Three sons,” he said to her, to Portia's daughter, last but one of the Princes. “One for the glory of the Malfoy name, and one for power, and the third as a sacrifice. Two of them--,” he traced the equations with a fingertip-- “two of them dead in my lifetime, and only one carrying on my line.” He looked up at her, but Eileen's face was blank. “Three sons, but he could not or would not tell me which was which, and I was too young and foolish to think it mattered. I have been trying, ever since, to make sense of it. From the moment Philip was born I laid cards and traced the stars, and now I have two dead sons and an heir who is barely out of swaddling clothes, and I still do not know.”

“You might have tried loving them for themselves,” Eileen said, and Abraxas knew she had missed the import entirely.

“If I knew which Cash was, I would know why they killed him.”

But she only shook her head. “Your Philip. He might have been either of them, the sacrifice, the redemption-- even the kingmaker. You could say the same for Cash, for your littlest boy-- I've forgotten his name. He told you what you wanted to hear, Abraxas Malfoy, is what it is.”

“And maybe that was the same as the truth.” Abraxas rolled his parchment up, thinking of Gellert's cool, precise English: “Such sons you will have, my Malfoy, one brave and one true and one good, and all of them strong and straight as Englishmen ever were.”

“Sometimes,” he said, “it seemed as if anything he said was reasonable, and went on being reasonable, long after you were out of his presence and should have known better. And sometimes, of course, that was because he was an Arithmancer of such power he could make the things he said come true.” He had almost forgotten. Grindelwald was only an old man in grainy photographs, just as the Somme was only a river. “I'll call for you just after dark. Be ready.”

New York in the morning had been warm and alive; at noon it was hot and half dead. Abraxas's admirably efficient secretary at the Ministry had found him a hotel room in midtown before he left. He drew the portkey from his pocket and disappeared from Brooklyn. Stood, in his cool and quiet hotel room, with its view of a forest that no longer existed. And thought of his son, lying dead in that shabby house with only ugly, angry Eileen Prince to keep the vigil.

Abraxas had a wife in England. He did not love her, and she hated him, but she would come if he asked it of her. He should ask. Unhappy young wives were prone to making trouble. Pyrite was young and unhappy, and clever and ruthless and far better versed in dark magic than most witches of her generation.

Instead of unpacking, instead of writing to his wife and living son, he went back down to the lobby. The young lady at the front desk was able to furnish him with directions, and he made his way through the sunlight to a bookshop she recommended, on a side street.

They had Grindelwald's book on the shelf, all three editions. Abraxas, who loved books, ran his fingers over the spines. It was banned in Britain, still-- as if ideas were as dangerous as gunpowder, as contagious as disease. There was the original, which Gellert had written himself, in German. The English translation, which Abraxas and Juniper Greengrass had done, bound in brown leather stamped with gold. And the cheap, mass-produced English translation sold between the wars, with Abraxas's name nowhere in it.

Abraxas drew out that last, and flipped through it. All paths lead to the Greater Good, indeed. But in the older version, it had read, There are many doors that open on the Greater Good. Abraxas could remember how he and Juniper had argued over every word on every page; she had wanted to use floos and not doors.

Whoever had done this was young, young enough not to have read the original translation. As young, probably, as Cassius had been. Abraxas had killed children before. He could do it again. He might even enjoy it.

He had a copy of the book at home-- his own English translation signed by Grindelwald. But he brought this copy to the clerk. “Unusual,” he said to him, “to find all three versions in a single shop, these days. Do you sell many copies of Grindelwald's works?”

The boy flushed, and then blanched, and looked down at the counter instead of meeting Abraxas's eyes. “Not too many, sir,” he said carefully, “but a few-- to scholars and other interested parties, mostly. One or two a month, maybe.”

Abraxas smiled, and tried to make it sincere. “I am a scholar myself,” he said, “and forgot my own copy in London. I should be curious to meet these like-minded gentlemen and ladies if they were available.”

He was not sure what he was expecting-- a confession, perhaps? An invitation to a meeting of murderous philosphers? But the boy would not be drawn, and Abraxas could hardly use force, and still less magic, in broad daylight.

He made his way back to the hotel on foot, without haste. In his rooms, he unwrapped the book and placed the scrap of paper Eileen had given him inside it. He found the deck of cards in his briefcase and laid them out in a circle around it, one card at each quarter and a fifth on top of the book. The first card he turned over-- the one at the center-- was the Knight of Swords, and it made his throat tighten, because it was the card he always thought of as Cash's, the way he'd thought of the Knight of Cups as Philip's.

Once upon a time Abraxas Malfoy had two sons, and then he sent them to their deaths. He had one son left, small blond Lucius, and he would not make that mistake a third time. But he could not shake the feeling that it no longer mattered.

He shuffled the other cards back into the deck, and for a moment he let his head rest in his hands. A moment, only. He had not got to where he was by giving up. And there were other, more precise methods of Divination than the cards. He rang the concierge and asked for a map of New York. When it came he spread it out on the desk and looked. It was not a proper wizarding map, of course. It would be easier to map the stars than a city of this size. But it had the wizarding districts and houses marked, as well as the Muggle boroughs.

He took off his signet and held it loosely in his wand hand, while he opened Grindelwald to the page with the quote, cracking the book's spine to make it stay open. Then he stared at the page until the words began to blur, thinking not very hard of not very much. And he threw the ring onto the map, and watched as it rolled and then settled into place. That would be where Cash had died.

He found Eileen's neighborhood on the map, and traced a path back to the city block encircled in his ring. North and west. He rang for dinner and ate it without tasting it, and just at dark he Apparated across the city.

Eileen and her Muggle paramour were ready for him, dressed in plain dark clothing and clearly armed to the teeth. The bowl he had used to create the Compass Charm was still in the front room, untouched. Abraxas fished out the nail and held it in the palm of his wounded hand. “Point Me,” he told it, and it did.

“Compass Charms aren't supposed to work that way,” Eileen breathed.

“How very odd,” Abraxas said mildly, and stepped outside and flagged down a taxicab.

The others piled in after him. “You didn't use magic for that?” Eileen asked.

“No.”

“Cash never needed to, either. There was always a cab there when he wanted one.”

There was a sort of magic to it, perhaps, in believing that the world was a dog that would come to heel when you whistled. Abraxas had been brought up to it, and brought his own sons up that same way. Automobiles stopped, and thestraals bowed their heads, and raindrops fell elsewhere.

He gave the driver the address he'd located earlier, and they rode in silence across the darkening city. When they were so near that the nail vibrated in his palm, Abraxas paid the fare and left Tobias Snape to haul Eileen out of the taxicab.

In the bad old days when he stood at Gellert Grindelwald's right hand, they had called Abraxas Malfoy the Butcher of Britain, and even the righteous had gone in fear of him. Or so Abraxas had fancied. He was an old man and his hunting days were behind him, but he had never forgotten the lure of shadows or the reek of blood or the pull of forbidden magic.

Now he waited, patient as a hound, hungry as a lion, for the needle in his hand to settle. And he cast a single, small spell that Grindelwald had invented, and Juniper Greengrass perfected: an Oblivious spell, that made husbands overlook the odd love bite, and sentries the odd intruder. He led his unlikely hunting party down the sidewalk, to the building the compass indicated. It was old, ill-kept, and very tall, and the front door had a most impressive lock.

There were spells for that, but he did not need to use them. He set his hand to the latch, and the door fell open as if the house wanted them to enter. Maybe it did. Houses built with magic were like that, sometimes.

There was a stairway in the rear of the lobby. The nail in Abraxas' hand drew him up, blood drawn to blood shed. At the landing to the third floor it spun wildly in his hand, and then settled. Right. There were three doors on one side of the right hand passage, and two on the left. Rooms, not flats, and at least one of them was likely a bath.

The compass pointed right, but it wouldn't be capable of greater accuracy at such close range. Abraxas dropped it in his pocket and looked over his shoulder. Tobias and Eileen waited on the second floor landing. He signaled for them to join him.

“Which room?”, Eileen demanded, her knuckles white on her wand. There was no fear in her, and no gentleness. She had loved Cash, who had not believed in killing; she was eager to avenge him by committing murder.

“I don't know,” Abraxas said. “I think a bit of reconaissance is required.” He drew out his watch. There was a Charm hanging on the chain, a small golden spider. He unfastened it, cupping it carefully in the palm of his hand, and blew across its back. The cool metal weight of it changed first, into something lighter and warmer and more fragile.

Eileen gasped, watching, as the color leached away and Abraxas was left holding a living spider. Abraxas raised an eyebrow at her. “It's quite real, I assure you.” He set the spider on the floor. “Good hunting, little one.”

“Gold is inert,” Eileen said, watching as the spider crossed the hallway. “How did you--?”.

Abraxas watched the spider scuttle under the first door. “She wasn't always a spider, my dear. Or golden.”

The spider came out again, and went to the second door.

“You're not very like him-- Cash,” Eileen said, and Abraxas watched the way her hand hovered over her stomach. Tobias's eyes were on her, too, cool and dark, assessing.

“No,” he said to Eileen. “Cash took after his mother.”

“And that bitch Pyrite Prewett?”, Eileen asked. “Who does her son resemble? You, or William Devereux?

Abraxas didn't flinch. “Who will your son resemble, darling?”

That was enough to anger Tobias, and as temper flared in his eyes Abraxas smelled it again. This time he was sure: dark magic, old and dangerous and forbidden. Whatever he was pretending to be, he was no Muggle soldier.

This time when the spider emerged it came to him. He knelt and put out his hand and it climbed back up his arm to his watch- chain and went still again.

Abraxas touched it gently, and then he nodded to Eileen. “Cover the stairs,” he said. Tobias moved to flank him, gun barrel raised, as he put his hand on the door to the second room. It wasn't locked. He could feel, even through the heavy carved wood, that the room was empty, and that violence had been done there. It opened before he could reach for the latch, as if it were inviting justice. Cash had died here, and then his killer or killers had brought his body home.

The room-- flat, really-- was a big one, with a bed and desk and sofa and a small table and chairs near the fireplace. The blood had been spelled away, and the stain was so faint that it was almost invisible against the dark floorboards. Abraxas went and stood looking down at it. He had put the nail in waistcoat pocket; now he reached for it absentmindedly-- and fished out the charmed cufflinks he'd been wearing the night before.

He'd changed them before he Flooed, when he'd changed from his Ministry robes to a plain dark suit. The spell on them was an old one, and not entirely legal these days. The stones were garnets, sullen dark red that grew brighter as it grew closer to the life with which it was linked. The fire in one was dim, but steady-- small Lucius, at home in England. But the other-- the one that had been almost black the night before-- pulsed wildly, as if Cassius were in the room.

Abraxas was still looking down at it, when he heard the click of the gun being cocked behind him. He turned, slowly, hands out.

Tobias watched him steadily over the barrel of the gun. He was too close to miss, even if Abraxas could manage a wandless hex. And Cassius might not have been a crack shot, but Abraxas suspected the man whose body he wore had been. He held the weapon with the familiar, steady confidence that bespoke years of training.

“What have you done?”, Abraxas asked. “This is not-- this is bad.”

His son looked back at him through someone else's face. “They tried to kill me,” he said. “Not by magic; they don't believe in using magic for such things. But they had no trouble paying a Muggle to shoot me.”

“They?”

“The Children of Nurmengard, they called themselves, or at least I think that's what they meant to call themselves; their German was a bit ungrammatical. You know the sort-- robes and chanting and pentagrams. They meant to set Grindelwald free. And they were willing to kill for it, and like Grindelwald they did not much like having blood on their own hands.”

Abraxas sat down in the chair by the hearth, still looking at his cufflinks. Now that he had seen Cassius in the soldier's face he could not unsee him. It was disconcerting. He had never been overly fond of any of his offspring, and Cassius had always reminded of him of his own father, whom Abraxas had poisoned.

Still, in his own way he had loved his sons, and wanted them alive and happy and obedient; he did not care as much for the honor of the Malfoy name as John Malfoy had, but the continuation of his bloodline was a different matter. It was only through having children that a man truly achieved immortality. Grindelwald had promised him greatness, and more than that, power: he wanted what was his. Lucius was a child in diapers, and Philip was dead, and Cassius--.

Cassius was meant to be dead as well, and instead he was looking at Abraxas from another man's eyes. “This spell you have done-- it is dark, dark magic. Illegal, here and in Britain, and unstable besides, when it is done as you must have done it, without the proper-- preparations.”

Abraxas had dark hair and dark eyes, and his first two sons had inherited his coloring. Tobias Snape's eyes had been blue that morning, pale wolf-blue. Now they were a muddy hazel. “I know,” Cassius said. “I know. I didn't intend to do it. I have been living in New York as Cassius Prince, but they wrote a letter to me adressed to Cassius Malfoy. I was curious.”

“And what was it they wanted from you?”.

“They wanted me to join them. They knew that I had been against the war, and they assumed it was because I was your son, that I was one of them.”

Behind Abraxas the door opened and closed, and there were footsteps. He did not look away. One good, Grindelwald had written, pressing heavily with the quill, one true, one brave. Philip had died in Russia, at the hand of Grindelwald himself, in the snow outside Moscow. Lucius was his mother's son, with her beauty, her fair hair and silver eyes and fierce temper, the first Malfoy in six generations that had not bred plain and dark. He would be brave; Philip had been good. And Cassius had, by his own lights, always been true.

“And you said no, I presume.”

“Philip died fighting Grindelwald. I couldn't.”

“Not even to save your own life?”, Abraxas asked, genuinely curious. He was not, by nature, an idealist. He had fought under Grindelwald's banner and there had been a moment on the banks of the Somme where he had meant to die under it-- but only because there had been no other choice. He had let Philip go to Russia not because he believed Grindelwald needed to be stopped but because he knew if he kept his son out of the war he would never be Minister of Magic.

He was an old man, and sometimes he was a fool, but not such a fool he did not know there was no cause worth dying for. Flip had never had a chance to learn, but Cassius was old enough to know better.

His son turned to look at Eileen, and smiled. Abraxas wondered if it was for the woman or the child she carried. “As it turns out,” Cash admitted, “that was a mistake.”

“I shall take young Lucius in hand at once,” Abraxas said, “this propensity to self- sacrifice is troubling. So you changed your mind, but this man Snape shot you in the head before you could tell him so?”

“He wasn't one of them. They'd used Imperius, I think. I couldn't think what else to do, and it shouldn't have worked at all, without the preparations.”

“No,” Abraxas agreed. “Something to do with the Imperius, perhaps; dark spells and curses are not meant to be doubled in such a way. He was Muggle?”

“Yes,” Cassius said, looking at Abraxas. “He was Muggle, and he did not agree, and he wants his body back.” His right eye was almost entirely dark brown, his left eye pale blue ringed with brown at the edge of the iris. His nose was nearly Cassius's, but the rest of his face belonged to someone else.

“You can't go back,” Eileen said sharply. “Your body is dead!”

“You can't go back,” Abraxas echoed, “not even if you want to. It's gone too far. You will share that body until it dies, now. And he will fight you every step of it. You will dream his dreams, asleep and awake, until one day you are so mad you cannot tell the difference.” The other thing was worse still, and he said it carefully, like a man delivering a death blow. “The body you wear was born without magic, and if you live in it, you live as a Muggle.”

“I will see my child born,” Cassius said, and it was a promise, and for a moment there was nothing of Tobias Snape to him at all, and the air crackled with energy. But he had no magic; the words were only words.

“If you like,” Abraxas agreed. “I will do what I can to help. Unlesss you followed me here meaning to murder me and take my body?”

Something flickered on Eileen's face. Not guilt, but acknowledgement perhaps.

“It wouldn't work. Not without magic-- and Cassius hasn't got magic any longer.”

“We weren't planning to kill you,” Cassius said, and from him it was not even a lie. “Not for your body, anyway. We weren't entirely sure how you'd take it, and it was dark magic, after all. I wasn't expecting you to come at all, really, and certainly not so soon.”

“Well,” Abraxas slid the cufflinks back into his coat. “I had business in New York.” That was a lie, but Cassius would never have believed the truth. “I am hardly the man to judge you for performing dark magic. The question now is, what do you mean to do from here?”

They stared at him, wordless, mouths open. “You cannot stay in New York. They'll be tracing the spell already. Cassius can't go to England, at least not as Cassius Malfoy, not in that body. You haven't much money, I presume?” Cassius shook his head. “Very well.”

Abraxas steepled his fingers, considering. After a moment, he said, “I have a house in Yorkshire, you know, where my father kept his mistresses. It's neither large nor luxurious, but it is suitable for the daughter of my cousin, and her Muggle husband.”

Eileen opened her mouth. Abraxas forestalled her. “I shall make you an allowance as well. Are you not my son's widow? I'll see that your child receives a Hogwarts letter, and sorts Slytherin, and finds employment. And for your part, you will both leave as soon as it is light, for England and Spinners' End.”

“And what will you do?”, Eileen challenged him.

“Ah,” Abraxas said, and smiled. “I shall settle accounts with the Children of Nurmengard. Grindelwald had some fascinating ideas about justice, you know.”

Eileen touched her belly gently, thinking about it. Cassius reached over and took her free hand. “All right,” he said. “We'll go. Thank you, Papa.”

It was not very like him to surrender so easily. Perhaps that was Tobias Snape's influence. Still, Abraxas touched his son's shoulder as he went past. He had lost Phillip, and one day he would lose Cassius, too. But not tonight.
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