Out of Azkaban (ishafel) wrote,
Out of Azkaban

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HP fic: "A Prophet In His Own Country," Lucius, Severus, Abraxas; Gen; PG13

Summary: The past is horrifying and the future is worse.
The Backstory-Verse
How the Malfoy Wealth Was Won (London, 1860)
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)
(Baby Don't) Fear the Reaper (London, 1979)
A Woman's Place (Surrey, 1979)
Chronology (Surrey, 1980)
Spy Games (London, 1981)
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)

There is a photograph on Abraxas Malfoy's wall of his first family, the wife and sons the war took away from him. She is the sort of woman who might charitably be called handsome; the older boy looks vacuous and the younger, sullen. They are very like their father, in all the ways that bright and careless Lucius is not, and Severus has always been curious about them.

The way Abraxas speaks of them, they might almost be plaster saints-- Philip the dutiful and Cassius the conscientious-- except that there has never been a Malfoy born that deserved sainthood. If they had lived they would be nearly sixty, as old as his own father would be, or Tom Riddle. So many dead men, fallen in so many wars.

It is ten o'clock in the morning, and Severus is twenty-four years old, and he is still drunk from the night before. Lucius is worse, and it shows in the straightness of his spine, the tilt of his head, the very fact that he is sitting still for his father's lecture. Last night they began in London, at a club in Knockturn Alley, and drank their way north to Hogsmeade, where they tore apart a pub in Hexham Street.

The Aurors hadn't sent for the old man until after they were back in London, because the Malfoy name had a certain amount of cachet still. Abraxas had been in the Cabinet of a half-dozen Ministers of Magic, and instrumental in the rise and later defeat of Grindelwald. They probably wouldn't have been arrested at all, not for a fight in a shabby bar, that they hadn't even started.

The Ministry has never taken much of an interest, not when they burned churches and raped Muggle girls, and Voldemort's Morsmorde darkened the sky: not now, when they drink to forget the things they did then, and end the nights sleeping in nameless streets. They might have gotten a fine, or a sternly worded letter, or nothing at all.

But in London they met Crouch in the street near the Ministry-- Crouch who sent his only son to Azkaban and the Dementors. He believes every Death Eater with a Mark should be in prison, and that Abraxas had cheated and bribed and lied to keep his son and his cousin's son free. He is not far wrong, where Lucius is concerned.

What Crouch is doing in the dark early hours of the morning, accompanied by half a dozen Aurors, is a matter for speculation at a later time. Crouch being the bad-tempered bastard he is, the first thing he says is, “Lucius Malfoy. Gentlemen-- the most gifted magician in Britain. He's managed to obliviate not only the Wizengamot but all of the wizarding world. A mighty feat indeed, to make crimes like that disappear. And this is the serpent in Lord Voldemort's garden, Professor Severus Snape. He murdered children in the Dark Lord's service, of course, but it was all in a good cause.”

Lucius was closer. The Aurors would have had him if he'd tried for his wand, but they weren't fast enough to keep his hands off Crouch's throat. It took three of them to pull him away, and when they had him on the ground and began kicking him, Severus took advantage of the opportunity and cast Sectumsempra on Crouch.

It was beautiful, what he got to see of it. There was a great deal of blood, glistening wetly in the torchlight, and a great deal of screaming. Lucius got up again, somehow, and he and Severus fought back to back for awhile, until the sheer weight of numbers broke them. He had forgotten how much he'd loved it, before he'd learned to hate it.

Peace felt wrong to him: he'd come of age during the war, spent most of his life fighting it. He could not get used to stillness, to quiet, could not get out of the habit of expecting a curse or a blow. He could not get used to using words where once he would have used a curse or blow. He was a soldier, not a teacher.

The Aurors got both of them face down on the cobblestones eventually, and even though Severus was Petrified one of them still insisted on kneeling on his back. He could see the pool of Crouch's blood, spreading slowly toward his outstretched hand, but his fingers belonged to someone else.

They took them to the Ministry, to one of the bare, dimly lit cells in the basement, and one of them said to Severus, “I know it's not Azkaban, but I think you'll feel at home here.” When they were gone and he could move again, Severus rolled Lucius onto his side and sat on the concrete beside him. It was nothing like Azkaban, except for the dimness. He could hear voices outside in the street, and ordinary office noises, even so early in the morning. In Azkaban there had been nothing but the sound of the sea, breaking against the very walls of the prison, and the endless screaming.

Azkaban had been only another part of the war, as this was a part of the peace. After a while Lucius came around and sat up, grumbling about the cold and the damp and the blood in his hair, and then it was dawn, and someone came and set them free.

They had Flooed to Surrey, and Abraxas had been waiting for them, behind his big desk and in front of the fireplace and the portrait of his ugly first wife and ugly children. Philip catches Severus looking and smirks, no doubt glad he is not the subject of his father's lecture. Severus salutes him with two fingers, held low in his lap so the old man can't see him.

Abraxas' lectures generally take one of two forms. Sometimes he is angry, righteously so-- how dare they cross him? Don't they know what he's done for the family? Sometimes he is disappointed. The only really significant difference is the tone in which the words are delivered. Before the war Lucius shouted back at the first and laughed at the second, but lately he is more likely to really lose his temper.

One Malfoy in a rage is more than Severus likes when he is coming off a night like the last one. Two is a great deal too many. And he has a presentiment that this morning is going to be particularly bad. “That you would shame me in front of Bartemius Crouch, of all people,” Abraxas is saying mournfully. “My foremost political rival, the man who ruined my career--.” Never mind that Abraxas has fifty years on Crouch, or that he retired from the Cabinet voluntarily and went home to wait for an offer of the Ministry, which never came.

Lucius sighs, as tired of this familiar litany as Severus is. “Perhaps,” he suggests, “you should have been kinder to him when you had the chance. He interned for you, did he not? I bet you were worse as a master than you were as a father.”

Abraxas, interrupted, stares coldly at his son. “Perhaps,” he says, “if I had had better material to work with, in both cases, I would not have needed to be so exacting a taskmaster.”

“It is a poor wizard who blames the wand.”

Severus can see the moment when Abraxas slips from irritation into rage. He is an old man, but he is still dangerous. When he fought under Grindelwald, he was called the Butcher of Britain. They forget, sometimes, when he lays out his star charts, when he talks the sort of politics that are not practicable any longer. But if Severus had to choose between Abraxas Malfoy and Lord Voldemort, he would choose to have the Dark Lord as his enemy.

He opens his mouth to tell Lucius to stand down.

Too late. “You are your mother's son, I'm afraid,” Abraxas says. “I am grateful for that. It is always best to have an heir that it is not so very clever.” Abraxas should know. Severus has heard it said-- though never very loudly, or in the old man's hearing-- that he had had his own father poisoned when John Malfoy had proved inconveniently long-lived.

“Such a family we are,” Lucius's words are light, lazy. Vicious. “Is it because she wasn't clever that you murdered her? Do you know, Severus, I don't think I've ever killed anyone with my bare hands before. Perhaps I'm not clever enough. Still, I notice Papa did have the blue carpet taken up-- a pity, since it was Aubusson and had been in the family for centuries-- so I suppose he is not immune to sentiment.”

Abraxas puts his hand into his desk drawer, and takes out a sheet of parchment. Lovely, Severus thought. We are going to have to hear about Saturn being in the third House on the day Lucius was born, again. It was preferable to bloodshed, though not by a great deal.

Lucius takes the parchment reluctantly. “Is this human skin?” he demands. “Papa?”

“Don't be ridiculous,” Abraxas says testily. “It's seventy years old. It's not as if it were someone you knew.”

Severus edges around until he is standing behind Lucius and can see over his shoulder. Not a star chart, but a series of Arithmantical equations, drawn in an exquisite, old-fashioned hand. Arithmancy is Lucius's field. Severus knows barely enough to know how much he doesn't know. But this sequence looks subtly different than the others he has seen. Even some of the symbols are unfamiliar.

“Who cast the runes for this? This is dark magic.” Lucius looks torn between disgust and envy. “Merlin, whoever wrote this spell was a master.”

Abraxas smiles proudly. “This, boys, is the future of the Malfoy family. He promised me three sons, you know. Each better than the last. Untold riches, power--.”

“Grindelwald,” Severus interrupts him. “Grindelwald cast this.” Of course he did. Who else would it have been, all those years ago. They had always known that Grindelwald had done something for Abraxas, to buy his loyalty in the first place.

Diviners can foretell the future. Arithmancers can influence it. Sometimes. It is a tricky thing and it requires a certain combination of ruthlessness and logic. Severus has always thought it was an utterly improbable field for Lucius Malfoy, who is not properly capable of either.

“Three sons,” Lucius says very softly, in the way that even the Dark Lord had learned to respect. “Such a glorious fate, to be sacrificed for the Malfoy name.” He stares down at the parchment, and Severus wonders what he is seeing. But Lucius is the one person on whom he never uses Legelimency.

“'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in ourselves but in our stars, that we are underlings.'” Lucius misquotes, and he suddenly crumples the parchment and throws it into the fire. It catches at once, and flares up brightly and is gone. The smoke reeks suddenly, of something familiar. A funeral pyre, Severus thinks, and swallows back bile. At Azkaban the dead went to the sea, but before that, in the war, he saw bodies burned-- and sometimes they were not entirely dead first.

“There,” Lucius says briskly, “thus endeth the future of the Malfoy family.” He smiles, and Abraxas and Severus both flinch. “And I mean that. If I hear you speak one word of this fucking destiny to my son, if you so much as lay the cards for him, the next thing I burn will be this fucking house, with you in it.”

He gets up and goes out. Severus counts to ten and goes after him. He has no wish to hear what Abraxas is going to say when he finally regains the power of speech. Sometimes he thinks that all of the Malfoys must be mad.

Lucius is waiting for him in the corridor, just out of sight. “You don't have to be back at Hogwarts until Monday, right?” he says. “Let's go out and do something really terrible. Like the bad old days.”

“Yeah,” Severus says. “Did you mean that, what you said back there? About the stars?”

For a moment, Lucius looks bleak. “No.” There are faint lines around his mouth and eyes that Severus has never noticed before. He looks tired, and more than that he looks defeated. “We did this to ourselves, Sev. You ought to know that as well as anyone.”

“I'd rather we hadn't,” Severus says, teetering on the edge of an awful admission. That he wishes they'd never taken the Mark, that he'd recanted long before the Dark Lord had died, that he is twenty-four years old, and cannot imagine spending another hundred years like this.

But Lucius doesn't have the answers, any more than Lord Voldemort did, or Grindelwald. Fate is a sheet of parchment, easily burned. “Let me get my cloak,” Severus says. “We'll go to America. They let you do anything there.”

“As long as we can blame it on the stars,” Lucius says, and smiles.
Tags: backstory, fanfic, hp
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