Summary: Believing isn't everything.
Warnings: Noncon, violence. Set pre-series.
“It is one thing for Thomas Riddle to rebel,” his father says. “He is a half-blood, and a bastard besides. He has nothing to lose but his life, and even that--.” He shrugs, as if to say how little that is worth.
Lucius slouches in his chair. He has three cracked ribs, and he is lucky not to have more, but it is hard to think of it as luck, to be alive to hear his father lecture.
“You, I almost admire,” his father says, selecting a quill from the stand on the corner of his desk. “You are young, yes, and not clever, but you were my heir, and had reasonable expectations.” He signs each sheet of parchment with a flourish, disinheriting Lucius and redistributing his property. “You are braver than I thought, and even more foolish.”
“The Dark Lord will provide for me,” Lucius says, and he almost believes it. Would believe it, except that he does not think there will be anything left when the war is over.
Abraxes Malfoy is not troubled by doubt. He is not a Death Eater and he is not a blood traitor. If there is anything at all he believes, it is that idealism is for Muggleborns and children. “If your Lord Voldemort does not win--.”
“I am hardly likely to outlive him,” Lucius says.
His father smiles. “Such bravado. You are a fool. But I find that I should miss you, if you were to die. Sons are so expensive to raise, and so time-consuming. Do endeavor not to be killed.”
When Lucius was five his mother ran away with a Mudblood. When he was seven his father found her and brought her back. “He's not wrong,” Lucius says tiredly, leaning back in his chair. “You believe the same things He does.”
“Yes,” his father says. “But I'm not willing to die for them. I wonder if you truly are.”
Lucius stands up, stiffly. “Would you like me better if I were?”
“No,” his father says. “You know how I feel about fanaticism. I'd like you better if you were more biddable, perhaps, if you married a nice girl and settled down. We are Purebloods, Lucius. Time is on our side, as it is not on Riddle's. In a hundred years, he will be dead, these Muggles will be dead; the world will move on. It always does.”
It is nothing Lucius has not heard him say before. It is nothing Lucius has not thought himself. “We cannot outwait everything,” he says, which is the Dark Lord's argument, old and familiar and comfortable as his wand, made for his hand.
“Of course not,” his father says affably. “Do you know, I can see your lips move, but those are Thomas's words coming out. Are you incapable of thinking for yourself, or merely unwilling?”
“Neither,” Lucius says, and sighs. “You want to know what I think? I think that at least Riddle is doing something. 'There is no action so deadly as inaction,' isn't that what Grindelwald wrote? Remind me, Papa, which of us was it that fought in that war?”
“I chose to fight with Grindelwald,” his father says, “and I chose to walk away from him. One takes up a sword knowing it can be put down when its purpose is served.”
“The greater good?” Lucius smiles, though there is nothing amusing about it. “How was that served?”
“You parrot your master exquisitely,” his father says. “A pity that you do not mean a word of it.”
“Very well,” Lucius says. He limps to his father's desk, and drops his signet ring on a pile of letters. “I took Lord Voldemort's mark to make you angry. I stay with him merely to spite you. I should rather serve in hell than inherit heaven.”
His father laughs. “Finally, something I can believe,” he says, and Lucius turns away. He is trading one master for another, and he is not so sure it is a wise choice.
Afterward he goes to a pub in Knockturn Alley and leans up against the bar because he is too sore to sit down, and drinks himself blind. He is still there when Severus and Rastaban come for him. The Lord's left and right hands: they are not masked, but they do not need to be. There is no one in England that does not know what they are.
Severus has a black eye extending into a bruise that runs the length of his face, and Rastaban's shoulder is strapped. They look tired, and more than that they look beaten. Unlike Lucius, they believe in the cause they serve. His father would despise them for it; Lucius admires them. It has been a long time since he was able to look at Lord Voldemort and see him for what he wants to be and not for what he is. It is easier to fight for love than for greed.
He goes with them. He is not strong enough to resist Imperius, not if it is Severus who casts it, and maybe he is tired of fighting and losing. He staggers when they step from the dark building into the sunlit street, and Severus catches him and wedges a shoulder under his arm. Rastaban does not try to touch him.
“He's angry,” Severus says. “Lucius, why did you not come when He summoned you—-it is bad enough we have failed him, but to add disobedience--.”
“My father threw me out,” Lucius says. It isn't entirely true, but Snape doesn't know that, and the Dark Lord won't appreciate the distinction. He is not sure there is anything Lord Voldemort can do to him that Abraxes Malfoy has not already tried, and the thought gives him courage.
“Your father is an idiot,” Snape says tightly. Fathers, and failures, are sore subjects for him.
“Because only an idiot would not want me?” Lucius asks sweetly. He can remember the way his parents fought, and he remembers that in the end it made no difference. Hatred bound them as tightly as love or magic, and Abraxes hates Lucius as much or more. That he has set Lucius free is not a gift, but a move in a game for which Lucius does not even know the rules.
“You are both idiots,” Rastaban says gloomily. “We are all three of us idiots.” His face, in profile, is austere, lovely as a painted martyr's. Lucius loves him, loves them all: the men and women he fights beside, who are all of them braver and altogether better than he is, and far more likely to die in harness. But he is sorry for them, too. He has never loved anything or anyone enough to be blind to its faults. He does not think love will be enough to save them.
“We were outnumbered,” Severus says. “He understands that. We didn't fail him, not truly.”
“This isn't Hogwarts,” Rastaban says. “He isn't going to give us points for trying, Severus. He was furious this morning, and he'll be furious now. Especially given Lucius's---delinquency.”
“I am not delinquent,” Lucius says, pronouncing the words precisely to keep from slurring them. “It isn't every day a man gets disinherited.”
“No,” Severus says. “It took you more than twenty years to push your father into it, didn't it? And you did everything but set the Dark Lord on him.”
The words are only the truth, but hearing them, Lucius knows he is going to be sick. “He killed my mother,” he says thickly, and then he's on his knees in the gutter, vomiting up everything he's drunk. The pain in his side is like a knife, and if his eyes are suddenly full of tears his ribs are the reason why.
When he's sure that he's finished, Severus helps him to his feet. “You're soberer now, I hope,” he says, but his shoulder bumps Lucius's, and not by accident.
Lucius is so sober that it hurts. “Thank you, yes,” he says, and bumps Severus back. “Shall we go?”
“Please,” Rastaban says. “The only thing worse than punishment is anticipation.”
“We won't be punished,” Severus says, but his breath catches. Lucius knows it is a lie, and wonders who Severus thinks he's fooling.
They turn onto an empty side street and let their marks take them away. The Dark Lord is waiting for them. Rastaban, who disarmed and blinded the College's top Auror the night before, trembles. Even Severus, the Dark Lord's latest pet, hangs back. Only Lucius moves forward, to kneel at His feet. “My lord,” he says, and presses his lips to Lord Voldemort's mark.
It is not courage that drives him. Of all the Dark Lord's servants, Lucius is the least brave. He never fights when he can run, and he never runs when he can avoid going into danger at all. But today he is tired, and hurt. Today he has given up his father and what remains of his family to serve this man. Today he almost thinks that he is owed something.
“You are very late, my Lucius,” the Dark Lord says.
“I am sorry, my lord,” Lucius says, and he means it, if not in the way he intends Lord Voldemort to understand it.
“Good,” the Dark Lord says, without irony. “You have failed me. You have all failed me. Did I not send you after a single Mudblood whore? Is it possible she is more powerful than three of my Death Eaters?”
It is a question for which there is no correct answer: many of Lord Voldemort's questions are like that. “I'm sorry,” Lucius says, but he is still thinking that the Dark Lord is unfair. A single Mudblood whore, and a half-dozen Aurors, all of them heavily armed and prepared. Behind him he can actually feel Rastaban and Severus cringing. “I did not mean to fail you.”
“You never do,” Lord Voldemort says gently, and for a moment He sounds like Lucius's father. “What am I to do with you, my Lucius?” He runs a hand through Lucius's unbound hair, tilts Lucius's face to the light. “I forget sometimes, how young you are, and how foolish and proud. Truly, you are your father's son.”
“Not any longer,” Lucius says, and the Dark Lord's hand stills on his head.
“I cannot let this go,” He says. “Not this time.”
None of them object, which is perhaps folly, and perhaps wisdom. “Severus, Rastaban. You will punish Lucius. Be sure that the punishment exceeds the crime. There is mercy in justice done.”
The edge of His robe brushes Lucius's arm as he passes, but Lucius does not look up. He does not desire the Dark Lord's justice, but having granted the Dark Lord the power of judge, jury and executioner, he can hardly protest it. He knows that.
When He is gone, Rastaban and Severus come to stand on either side of him. “Get up,” Rastaban says wearily. “Now, Lucius, or it will be much the worse for you.” Lucius can tell by the rhythm of his words that he's quoting someone. His own father, maybe. They are all pretending to be men that they're not. That is what the masks are for. Lucius gets up, not overly quickly, more because his ribs ache than because he wants Rastaban to hit him.
“What are we going to do?” Severus asks, his voice uncertain. “Rastaban?” He is only seventeen, four months out of Hogwarts, the youngest of the Death Eaters.
“We're going to do what we were told, Severus. All of us. Let's take him upstairs.”
They are not expecting Lucius to fight. He can get free, if he tries hard enough. He can make them kill him, if he has to. There is nowhere in the world or out of it that he can run, where the Dark Lord will not find him. And Severus and Rastaban are his friends, and their lives are in his hands. He leads them up the stairs and into the empty room on the right.
He takes off his robe, and the breastplate he wears under it, and sets them in the corner, and his wand on the top. He stands, facing them, hands at his sides. Lord Voldemort is right about his pride, more right than even Lucius knew. “Well?” he asks. “Are you going to do it or not?”
Severus casts the Cruciatus on him, and holds it until Lucius screams. He opens his eyes to see them looking down at him, Severus blank, Rastaban excited. Today they are not his friends. They are men who mean to hurt him, and to enjoy it.
Severus hits him in the face over and over again, until his mouth is a bleeding ruin and his eyes are beginning to swell shut. Rastaban rolls him over with a toe and kicks him hard in the kidneys. They are scientific about it, which Lucius might be grateful for if he weren't in agony. Minimum permanent damage, maximum effect.
Eventually they run out of breath. “Is it enough?” Rastaban asks. “Do you think--.”
“No,” Severus says. “He's in pain, but he hasn't learned anything yet. He'll do it again, as soon as the bruises fade. We have to do something worse.”
“What did you have in mind?” Rastaban sounds curious. Lucius is curious, too.
“Help me get his clothes off,” Severus says.
They tear his shirt to pieces but resort to magic to get his trousers off. Lucius knows what's coming. He's been raped before, and it hasn't taught him to be respectful, or punctual, or whatever this is meant to be a lesson in. He knows better than to panic, and he's hurt too badly to want to resist.
Severus leans over and kisses him and Lucius swallows his own blood and starts to cough.
“You go first,” Rastaban says.
Severus bites his ear, so tenderly that Lucius shivers. He closes his eyes and turns his head to the side, and pretends he is somewhere else, with someone else: he pretends that it is a woman's mouth at his throat, a woman's hand between his legs. He endures, because there are worse things Severus could be doing to him, because he and Severus have done worse things to other people.
It is not painful. It is humiliating and terrible, and he hates Severus for doing it and Rastaban for watching-—but it is not nearly as bad as the beating was, or the Cruciatus curse. Severus shoves a finger into him, and Lucius shudders. But Severus is more careful than Abraxes Malfoy ever was. And, unbelievably, he feels his body stir, brought to life by that tenderness. He cries out, then, and Rastaban touches his face with his good hand.
“Almost, Lucius,” he says. “Almost enough.”
Severus pushes him onto his stomach and comes into him, and the floor is hard under his broken ribs, and there isn't enough lubrication, isn't enough room. Now it hurts. He's crying, without meaning to and without being able to stop it---not wrenching sobs but quiet tears. Severus rocks against him; Rastaban strokes the back of his neck. Lucius lies against the cool wood floor, and does not try to thrust. He is aware of the burning in his arm, but he cannot fathom what it means.
Above him, Severus gasps and climaxes, and roll away to lie on the floor beside Lucius, fully dressed except for his cock, flopping obscenely outside the laces of his trousers.
“He's coming,” Rastaban says.
Lucius stays where he is, which happens to be his plan for the next several weeks. He can hear the Dark Lord's feet, heavy on the uncarpeted stairs, and still he is not afraid. Lord Voldemort kneels beside him and touches his shoulder, and he can't keep from flinching. The Dark Lord's fingers are like ice, and He casts the spells to slow Lucius's bleeding, to clean him, to ease the tightness in Lucius's chest, without any delicacy.
Lucius welcomes that roughness. He is tired of being grateful. This is a sword that has served its purpose; this is a war he no longer wants to win. There must be a girl he can marry, there must be a house in the country where he can hide. He wants nothing more than to turn his back on Lord Voldemort, on this hopeless war, on the men who are his friends and who did not hesitate to hurt him.
The Dark Lord says, “I am sorry, my Lucius, that I let them take it so far,” and Lucius pretends not to hear him. He thinks that this, finally, might be something of which his father would be proud, and he is sorry for that.