Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Okay, so I feel I owe everyone an explanation as to why this is four months late in getting out to you all. RL sucks bigtime. Computers randomly eating files sucks more. Losing nearly three months worth of work sucks the most. This isn't as good as it was the first time I wrote it, but it follows the same feel, so I guess I have to be happy with it. Sigh.
Raising Harry, Part Two
Book Five: La Vida Hogwarts
Year Four: International Magical Cooperation
Chapter One: Luc, Artie, and Molly Anne
Ron was sitting under a large oak tree in the front yard of the Burrow, working on finishing up his summer Charms essay, while Ginny and the twins finished up their chores. After that, the four youngest Weasleys were planning on wasting the rest of the afternoon in the pond. Pausing for a moment, Ron looked up from his homework and caught sight of one of the two people he never expected to see walking up the road to the Burrow. "What the…"
"Better not let Mum catch you trying to say that," Ginny said from right behind him. "I think you've been spending too much time with Harry."
Ron ignored her teasing and gestured towards the man striding up the drive, "Am I seeing who I think I'm seeing?"
Ginny nodded, "I would imagine so. Didn't you believe Harry?"
Ron shook his head, "No… I didn't."
"You should know better," Ginny grinned.
Ron shrugged, "Wonder why he's here, though."
"I have no idea… Want to go get Fred and George? I heard they're working on perfecting an eavesdropping device…"
Ron mirrored Ginny's earlier grin, "Sure."
Unfortunately, by the time Ginny and Ron got the attention of the twins, Lucius Malfoy had already disappeared into the house. Their mother met them at the back door and didn't have to say anything – the look on her face was more than enough to warn them that whatever was going on in the kitchen wasn't their business, regardless of how curious they were, and if they pressed too hard, they'd likely find themselves with additional chores for the night. However, they did linger in the vicinity long enough to find that Molly had charmed the windows and doors against eavesdropping.
"Rotten luck, that," Fred said.
"Too true, twin o'mine," George commiserated. "Did we ever figure out if adding taffy to the mix would be enough to keep the listening spells from degrading?"
The twins quickly devolved into a discussion on their experimental 'Extendible Ears' and returned to de-gnoming the garden. Ron headed back to the tree to retrieve his book and Ginny took the opportunity to hurry up to her room, which, as luck would have it, was directly over the kitchen. There was a small vent in the floor that looked down over the kitchen table and her parents didn't seem to know that it was there; neither her mum nor her dad had ever warded it. She'd learned a lot listening in at that vent. She'd learned that using a couple of small mirrors from her play make-up case could afford her with a complete view of the kitchen. Though she now had a real make-up case, she had kept the smaller mirrors from her old toy and often put them to good use. As she watched, she found herself, not for the first time, admiring how noble and honorable Harry was. She only hoped that someday he would see her as something other than Ron's little sister.
Tucking her wand back into her pocket, Molly turned to take a good look at her one-time friend and lover. "Lucius," was all she said, though her tone was somewhat difficult to describe. Somehow, she managed to stuff those two small syllables with all the anger, sadness, and accusation she hadn't been able to express to the man for over thirty years.
Lucius looked… rather different than his usual, impeccable self. In all honesty, he more resembled who he had been as a sixteen year-old than the man she recalled seeing at Flourish and Blott's two summers prior. He was wearing his normal clothing – opulent robes, today's were a dark navy color with silver edging – but there was something undeniably unpolished about him. It might have been the fact that his hair was hanging loose, or the fact that he wasn't carrying that idiotically ornate cane, or that his boots were covered in the dust from the dirt track outside. He certainly didn't look like the same man who had caused her and Arthur so much heartache.
"Molly Anne?" Molly tore her gaze from Lucius' clothes and took a long look at the man, himself. Despite the many long years since their falling-out, he still looked like the boy she'd known. That's it! she thought. He looks more like my Lucius than he has since the summer before seventh year! It wasn't anything she could really put her finger on, but she could see echoes of the teenaged insecurities lurking behind his eyes, pooled with new shadows – something else that hadn't been there the last time she looked.
"I saw the paper," Molly said at length.
"It's true," Lucius replied.
"So I assumed when I saw you standing on my front porch," Molly set to making tea.
"I know I'll never be able to really make it up to you and Artie, but… I am sorry."
Ginny winced a little, 'Artie'? she mouthed, her expression one of disgust. Dad hates it when people call him that.
Molly sighed and turned to face Lucius. "If the paper was right, you weren't at fault, Luc."
Again Ginny mouthed the nickname, her disgust-level rising a notch. She did notice that, apparently, the appropriate nickname for 'Lucius' was pronounced 'Luke' and not 'Loosh' as she had assumed. She'd known that Harry had been right about her parents once having been friends with Malfoy, but she hadn't really thought all that much about it. She was finding it almost as disturbing as Charlie's story of accidentally walking in on their parents one night when he'd been ten.
Lucius winced a little, "I let her get the best of me, Molly Anne. I let my guard down, because she was a third-year."
"Any reasonable person wouldn't have thought to guard against a thirteen year-old throwing around Unforgivables," Molly handed Lucius a mug of tea.
Ginny wondered what, exactly, they were talking about. She did recall that the Daily Prophet edition of three or four days ago had mysteriously disappeared before she could read the comics, and before Ron could check on the Cannon's standing, and even before the twins could lace the financial section with itching powder – Percy was the only member of the family who read that portion of the paper.
"Even so, I knew she was a Black. I knew what they taught their children, I knew what Bellatrix was like… I should have suspected, I should have bloody known!" His fist pounded the tabletop to accent the last word.
"Language, Luc. And you were sixteen; you were allowed to make silly mistakes."
Lucius closed his eyes, "A silly mistake is betting against the Falcons. A silly mistake is putting one's robes on inside-out. A silly mistake is not one that cost me my life."
"You're still alive," Molly, pragmatic as ever, pointed out.
Lucius looked up from his mug and met Molly's eyes, "I meant my life with you. I had promised you –"
Whoa, hang on a minute here! Were Mum and Malfoy… yuck, I can't believe I'm even thinking this… were they dating in school, and not just friends? Unknown to her, Ginny's mouth was doing a reasonable impression of a goldfish.
Molly held a hand over Lucius' mouth, "Stop right there, Luc. Yes, a mistake was made. Does that make you responsible for all the bad things that followed? No. Does that make you responsible for all the good things that followed? No. It just happened, and there's nothing we can do to change it at this time, so we'd best make the most of it."
"Ever the optimist, aren't you?" Lucius managed a small, bittersweet smile.
"It's better than being a pessimist," Molly retorted, falling easily into a trade of quips they'd gone through a thousand times before Narcissa changed everything.
Rather than follow Molly's lead, Lucius sighed and scrubbed a hand across his face. "Merlin, Molly Anne. Do you have any idea at all how hard this has been?"
Ginny wondered why Malfoy always addressed her mum with both her first and middle names, instead of just her first. Aren't nicknames supposed to be shorter than the whole thing?
Molly took a seat at the table next to Lucius and covered his hands with hers. "Luc… I don't know how difficult these past couple of weeks have been for you; in fact, I don't think I could even begin to imagine it. I don't know what to say to make it better for you, other than I will be here for you, though I can no longer be what we once hoped. I've grown from that girl, Luc. I still care for you, though. I never stopped caring, even when you hurt me and Arthur so horribly. My main regret is that neither of us considered the Imperius as a possibility."
Ginny, who may not have been quite at the same level as Harry at putting things together, was certainly no dunderhead – regardless of what Snape might have said that one time in class when she added too much powdered bicorn horn – and managed to put together part of the story. So Narcissa had Lucius under the Imperius since he was sixteen? It's a miracle he's still sane. He must have stopped fighting it rather quickly, or else not fought it at all. I wonder what Draco had to say about this?
Ginny's attention was torn from her thoughts and back to her overhead view of her mum and the elder Malfoy by something she knew she had never heard before. While Ginny's thoughts had run off with her, Lucius was reacting to Molly's little monologue.
It had been a shock every morning to wake up and have complete control of himself. It had likewise been a shock every morning to see a man in the mirror that was rapidly approaching fifty and not the sixteen year-old reflection he wanted, no, expected to see.
Much of his life under Narcissa's curse had a vague, dreamlike quality to it. He could only remember a handful of events with any definitive clarity: The day he'd told Molly Anne and Artie that he didn't want to waste his time with blood-traitors any longer; he particularly remembered the pain on Molly Anne's face as she turned from him and ran down the hall towards her common room. The day Severus Snape broke his arm jumping horses on the Manor's estate; had he been in control of himself, he wouldn't have had Snape ride the thoroughbred, but a steadier quarter-horse instead. The day Narcissa ordered all his precious horses sold; that had been a mere week after Snape's accident. The day Draco had been born… and how he needed to talk with the boy, and soon.
The most recent thing he could remember clearly – before Narcissa's curse had been broken – had been the singular presence of an innocent mind in his own. The only other mind that had ever touched his had felt wrong and dark and his own consciousness had instinctively shied away from it. In contrast, the simple curiosity and clean honesty of Potter's mind had demanded his attention in a way that very little else had in the many long years he'd been under the curse. He tried to send a message to the presence he'd felt – at the time, he'd assumed it had been Dumbledore – and retreated, praying to any god that would listen that he'd been heard and understood.
His sense of time whilst under the curse was understandably skewed, and so what seemed to him to be a millennia of waiting later – long enough to lose hope that his message had been received – he suddenly came to himself in the middle of afternoon tea on the balcony of the Manor's master suite, Narcissa slumped in her seat, a broken teacup shattered on the hard stone next to her chair.
His head had reeled at the realization that Narcissa was likely dead for him to suddenly be freed of the curse, and then… He had laughed. He'd laughed like he never had before. He hadn't known if it had been murder or an unfulfilled Unbreakable Vow, or something else entirely; all he had known was that he was free. Completely, totally, and blessedly free. He'd been startled out of his laughter when the aurors had arrived, a mind-healer in turquoise robes accompanying them. The mind-healer had bustled him off to a different room – one of the guest suites – and proceeded to evaluate his physical and mental health. The two questions the healer had asked him that would haunt him for the rest of his life were 'What year is it?' and 'Do you know what happened to you?'
He'd tried to answer them to the best of his ability. 'The last date I recall clearly is the twenty-eighth of July, 1960, however I am sure that is quite wrong.' The healer had surprised him by chuckling a little at the comment before proceeding to tell him that it was more than thirty years since that day. The second question had left a bitter taste at the back of Lucius' throat. 'I know Narcissa hit me with the Imperius.' He'd answered it as succinctly as he was capable. The healer then went on to tell him that there was nothing wrong with him physically, informed him that Narcissa had been dosed with Draught of Living Death and would be taken to a Ministry holding cell pending trial, and that he should consider talking to a mind-healer on a semi-regular basis if he found that he was having problems coping. Lucius' inner sixteen year-old self balked at the thought of talking to a mind-healer – only crazy people did that! And so, Lucius had done the only thing he could think of when the reality of the situation finally crashed down on him. He'd run to his Molly Anne.
All this passed through Lucius' memory in a blink, and the sound Ginny'd never heard before was that of Lucius breaking down. A nearly-inaudible sob had escaped the man sitting with her mother at the kitchen table. Being only twelve, Ginny didn't have the life-experience to truly understand just what Lucius was going through. She knew, intellectually, that the man below her had lost more years of his life than she or any of her brothers had been alive, but there's a difference between knowing something with the head, and knowing it with the heart. She could tell that her mum understood, though. Even as Lucius broke down, Molly scooted her chair closer to his and pulled him into an awkward hug, much like she'd do for any of her children, patting his back and running a hand through his hair as his head rested on her shoulder. Ginny's only thought was that the scene below her was possibly the most surreal thing she'd ever seen.
Ginny, more than just a little unnerved by the scene she'd witnessed, put her mirrors away and sneaked back out to the front yard. She didn't want – or need – to see any more of what was going on in the kitchen. Not wanting to talk to Ron or the twins either, she headed for the small forest nearby; there was a perfect place to think along the banks of a merrily babbling brook that ran straight through the middle of it, complete with a soft, mossy bank.
Lucius wasn't sure how long Molly had been holding on to him as his emotions rolled merrily out of his control, but he did notice that once he'd managed to bring himself back under some semblance of control, the light had shifted to indicate late evening. "Feeling better?" Molly asked.
Lucius nodded, though the point was debatable. He still felt so many conflicting emotions that he was surprised he could think coherently enough to nod. "Sorry about that, Molly Anne."
Molly shook her head a little, "It was nothing, Luc. I'd do the same for anyone." She stood and retrieved a washcloth from a cupboard over the sink. She wetted it down under the hot-water tap and handed it to Lucius.
"Thanks," he replied, scrubbing the square of material across his gritty eyes and grimy-feeling cheeks.
"Won't you stay for supper?" Molly asked, taking the washcloth and tossing it into the sink.
"If it's not an imposition," Lucius responded. "I do still want to talk to Artie."
Molly narrowed her eyes at Lucius. "You're not going to do anything stupid, are you, Luc?"
Lucius' bittersweet smile returned, "No, Molly Anne. I promise. I know I missed my chance and that you and he are happy together. I'm not going to do anything stupid."
"In that case, do you remember that recipe for pot-roast I taught you in fifth year?"
Some of the bittersweet quality faded from Lucius' expression, and a more natural, happy expression shone through, "Of course, Molly Anne. It's probably weird, from your perspective, at least, but fifth year was only a year or so ago to me."
Not knowing what to say to that, Molly merely handed Lucius a pairing knife. "Would you peel the potatoes? I need to retrieve some herbs from the garden."
Lucius nodded and rolled his sleeves up while Molly dispelled the privacy charms on the kitchen. He'd just started on the potatoes when she stepped into the back yard, carrying a small basket.
Molly saw that the twins had done well in de-gnoming the garden, and found them leaning against the garden wall, talking about something that sounded suspiciously like 'ton-tongue toffee'. They hushed up when they caught sight of her, however. "Fred, George, come here a moment."
The twins glanced at each other, as though to say, 'What'd we do now?' and apprehensively approached their mother. Molly tucked an errant lock of her graying red hair behind an ear and said, "You did a good job with the garden today. Why don't you see if Mr. and Mrs. Jordan have any objections to you spending the weekend with Lee? Use the floo in the sitting room."
Unwilling to press their luck, the twins sprinted into the house. Two down, three to go, Molly thought. She hurriedly clipped the herbs she'd need for dinner. As she placed the sprig of rosemary in the basket, she shouted for Ron. He appeared in relatively short order, coming around the side of the house. "Yeah, Mum?"
"Go see if you can find Ginny for me, would you?"
"Sure thing. What's for supper?"
Molly smiled fondly at her youngest boy, "It's a surprise. Go find Ginny, please."
Ron took off at a lope, heading for the clearing that they used for flying. I think Aurilia would agree to looking after those two for the weekend… Now, for Percy. As much as I love the fact that he didn't immediately find a place of his own, I don't need him underfoot this weekend, either. She headed back into the kitchen and sat the herbs down on the counter. Lucius was nearly done with the potatoes, and so she retrieved the roast pan from its place on the over-the-stove rack. The meat was quickly thawed with a waive of her wand and sat in the pan. "When you're done with those, Luc, would you start on the onions? I need to make a floo call, but I'll be right back."
Lucius nodded to show he'd heard her and returned to finishing peeling the potatoes. Two redheaded boys had torn through the kitchen moments earlier, but hadn't noticed him on their way to the sitting room. "Mum!" one of them called out.
"…said they don't mind having us over…"
"…and Mrs. Jordan said she still had some of our stuff…"
"…from the last time we visited…"
"…so we'll see you Monday?"
"Yes, dears," Lucius smiled a little at the exasperated tone in Molly's voice. "Behave, or you won't go back for the rest of the summer!"
The sound of the twin boys flooing to their friend's home was quickly followed by Molly's voice. "The Brewer Ranch."
Molly had to wait a moment before the floo was answered. Harry was standing on the other end, somewhat disheveled and sweaty. "Mrs. Weasley. What c'n I do ya for?"
"Hello, Harry. Is your mum around?"
Harry shook his head, "No… She an' Dad ran to Knoxville an' won't be back 'til four or five. Why? Whacha need?"
Molly frowned a bit. "Oh, I wanted to know if she'd watch Ron and Ginny for me for the weekend."
"I know she won't mind none, but iffen y'all c'n wait a mo, I'll ask Dave iffen he c'n do it for ya."
"Thank you, Harry. I'll wait."
While she was waiting, Percy had finally emerged from his room. "Ron and Ginny are going to see Harry?"
Molly jumped a little, she hadn't heard Percy come down the stairs. "If his uncle says he doesn't mind having them. Aurilia and Jim aren't available at the moment."
"Do you think they'd mind if I tagged along?" Molly had to pull her head out of the floo at the tone in Percy's voice. He had a strange expression on his face, one that she'd last seen on Charlie's the first time he'd gotten to see a dragon in person. Percy suddenly flushed and stammered, "I mean… I'd like to go, too. I don't start work at the Ministry until next Wednesday."
Molly recalled that Percy had been writing to one of Harry's Iowa friends. What was her name? A-something… Aurora! That's it. Molly gave her son a knowing smile, "I'm sure they won't mind, Percy. Why don't you run upstairs and get packed for the weekend? Pack a bag for Ginny and Ron, too."
Percy grinned and hurried up the stairs fast enough that Molly was sure he couldn't have reached his room faster if he'd apparated. "Mrs. Weasley?" Harry's voice sounded through the floo.
Molly replaced her face in the floo's flames. "Yes, dear. Sorry, Percy had a question for me."
"Uncle Dave said he didn't mind none, an' I asked 'bout Perce, too. Iffen he wants ta, he c'n come, too."
"I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that," Molly replied. "I'll send everyone through in an hour or so, all right?"
Harry nodded, "Sure thing. I'll make sure we got somethin' for 'em ta eat, too. Ain't it comin' on suppertime there?"
"That it is, though I'm sure Ron's excitement at visiting will temporarily override his hunger, at least until you are ready for dinner yourselves."
It took Ron nearly forty minutes to locate Ginny, but his irritation at the long search evaporated when he found out that he got to spend the weekend at Harry's. During that time, Lucius had managed to work his way through cutting the potatoes, carrots, and onions into chunks, and had also minced the majority of the herbs Molly'd picked from the garden. As her children disappeared through the floo, Molly wondered what Lucius did with Draco as the boy hadn't accompanied him to the Burrow.
Molly was pleasantly surprised at the amount of work Lucius had managed in her absence from the kitchen. She allowed him to continue on with the roast while she set to shelling peas. "Where is Draco, Luc?"
Lucius frowned, "At the Manor… He didn't react well when I spoke with him the night he got back from Hogwarts. I can tell he either doesn't believe, or doesn't want to believe what I told him." Lucius finished mincing the parsley and slid it to the side of the cutting board to mingle with the rosemary, garlic, thyme, and marjoram. He looked up at Molly. "He's… disappointing, Molly Anne, and I don't know what to do to fix it."
"Disappointing, Luc? How so?"
Lucius set to work on the last of the fresh herbs – a couple of bay leaves – with a will. "Suffice it to say that Narcissa raised him in 'proper pureblood tradition'. I'd always thought I would be rid of that nonsense after seventh year, but Narcissa… Damn it, why did she have to do it? Why me? I had things I wanted to do with my life, but none of it happened!"
"Calm down, Luc. Though I know you're angry, and rightfully so, I might add, it's not going to change anything. As to Draco… Well, I can only say that he'll either come to his senses or he won't. He's fourteen, right?" Lucius paused, thought for a moment, and then nodded. "That's more than old enough to start making his own decisions, and facing the consequences of those decisions. At this point, about the only thing you can do is talk to him, and talk to him again, and keep talking until he listens, and then keep on talking until he understands what happened."
Lucius' stiff posture melted a little, "You're right, Molly Anne. Gods above, we both know that I wish this had never happened, but I need to start dealing with it. I just don't really know where to begin. Merlin, I don't even know what-all Narcissa has had me do. I got a little information from the mind-healer that spoke to me when she was arrested, but the healer didn't know much. Maybe you and Artie can help me figure things out?"
"Of course, Luc," Molly replied, deftly splitting open the last of the peapods and emptying it into the waiting bowl.
Roughly an hour later, the roast nearing done – magic having sped the normal cooking time somewhat – and a pan of bread, the dough for which Molly had started that morning, were making the kitchen smell heavenly. Molly had managed to distract Lucius from his own troubles by telling him about her children. She was in the middle of telling him the story about how a twelve year-old Bill had managed to accidentally turn himself magenta trying to break into her old diary that had been stored in a box in the attic when Arthur arrived home. "It must be pot-roast," he said as he entered through the back door. As he was in the middle of removing his cloak, he hadn't noticed Lucius sitting at the kitchen table, listening to Molly's story. "Something simply must be done about –" he stopped short when he saw who was sitting at his table.
"Good evening, Arthur," Molly said, getting up and pressing a mug of tea into Arthur's hands even as she took his cloak from him. "The children are off visiting friends for the weekend, and, yes, we are having a roast for supper." Lucius had stood while Molly had been talking, and Arthur's gaze didn't move from him.
Arthur absently sat the mug Molly handed him on the counter. "Lucius Malfoy."
Lucius nodded, "Arthur."
With the unexpected swiftness of a lightning strike out of a clear blue sky, both men crossed the width of the smallish kitchen and before Molly could do so much as yell at them to 'take it outside!' blows had been exchanged, and both men were on the floor. Arthur had a split lip from Lucius' signet ring, and Lucius had the beginnings of a spectacular black eye. Both had grayed out momentarily after being hit, but were still conscious. Molly stomped the few feet to them and stood with her hands crossed over her chest. "Are the two of you quite done with your testosterone-induced male posturing?"
Neither man could help their response. They looked from Molly to each other and suddenly burst out laughing. Molly was beginning to get impatient. "I fail to see what's so funny."
This just sent them both into stronger gales of guffaws. "Merlin, Artie… It's just like that time…"
"…in fourth year, I know." Slowly, their laughter faded. Lucius got to his feet first and pulled Arthur up. Arthur looked over Lucius with a cockeyed grin. "You look like a little girl's dress-up dolly, Luc."
Lucius rolled his eyes, "I know. What do you think I was these past thirty years? I aim to rectify the situation sometime this week. Does Molly Anne still cut hair?"
Arthur nodded, "Yeah, she does." Arthur and Lucius both turned to face Molly, who hadn't budged from her disapproving stance. "I think we…"
"…upset her. I think you might be…"
"Right? Of course I am. Do you think this means I have to…"
"Sleep on the sofa tonight? Probably, but don't let it worry you. I've got plenty of empty sofas…
"…at the Manor. So I can crash…"
"…at my place tonight? I don't see…"
"…why not." By this time both Arthur and Lucius were grinning at Molly.
Molly threw her hands up in exasperation, "I give up! I knew Fred and George got that from you, Arthur!" She spun around and proceeded to retrieve the bread and roast from the oven. "Men! They never grow up… always little boys…" assorted other grumblings were heard from her as she transferred the roast to a serving tray, gravy into a boat, and sliced the bread.
During dinner, Arthur brought Lucius up to speed on what Narcissa had been doing – via Lucius, of course – at the Ministry. Needless to say, Lucius was not pleased. "Well, that's got to stop," he said, referring to his financial support of Fudge. "I remember that little moron from school. He was what, two years ahead of us?" Arthur nodded. "He trolled-out of both Arithmancy and Charms, too, didn't he?" Arthur repeated his nod. "Who's next in line if I can get him out of office?" Though Lucius couldn't remember most of the last thirty years, he had been raised to deal with politicians and politics.
"If it were brought to a vote tomorrow, I'd say it would be a toss-up between Amelia Bones and Rufus Scrimgeour," Arthur replied, then took another bite of roast.
"Bones… She was in our year, right? Gryffindor?"
"Yes, and now she's head of the MLE."
"I don't recognize the other. What can you tell me about him?"
Arthur took a swallow of his tea before replying. "He's older than we are by about ten years or so. He was Moody's first auror-apprentice. He's a lot like Moody, only without the paranoia and sense of humor."
Lucius nodded slowly, "And Bones? I would imagine she's not still the girl I remember from school."
Arthur laughed. "That she isn't, but she hasn't changed much. She's still more likely to follow what's right rather than what is and isn't against the law. Personally, I'd take her as Minister before I took Scrimgeour, but anyone would be better than Fudge."
"Hmm…" Lucius thought for a few moments. "I'll see about speaking to both of them privately in the next week or two."
The conversation turned from politics to quidditch, with Arthur filling Lucius in on all the World Cups he'd managed to 'sleep' through. Molly had a moment when Arthur told Lucius about the UK's hosting of that year's World Cup where she could clearly see the sixteen year-old Lucius once again. His grin wouldn't have looked out of place on either of the twins, nor would the sparkling excitement in his eyes.
After dinner was over with, Arthur and Lucius both headed into the sitting room while Molly cleaned up the dishes. Arthur retrieved a bottle of firewhiskey from its hiding place – glamoured to look like a particularly ugly vase on the mantle – and poured drinks for himself and Lucius. As he handed Lucius his drink, he answered the man's puzzled expression, "You try having six highly-inquisitive boys around, Luc. I found this was the safest place to hide it."
"In plain sight?"
Arthur shrugged, "How often do you think to examine the trinkets on the mantle for glamours?"
"Point," Lucius said, accepting the drink.
After a couple of minutes of somewhat awkward silence, Arthur finally said what he'd been thinking ever since he realized just who was in his kitchen. "You're not angry with me about Molly?"
Lucius sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "No, Artie. There's a lot I'm angry as hell about, but the fact that you and Molly Anne are together isn't one of them."
"Can I ask… Well, why?"
Lucius let out a mirthless chuckle. "How can I be angry at you for keeping your promise? You looked after her when I couldn't, and that means more to me than you will ever know." Lucius transferred his drink to his left hand and turned his palm up. A long, thin scar cut vertically across it, from just below his middle finger to the very edge of his palm. Spreading his fingers, he held his hand up and turned it so that Arthur could see the scar. "The best man truly won in this case, Artie."
Arthur looked to his own palm. In his case, the scar was on his left hand. He mimicked Lucius' stance, with his palm held up, facing Lucius, with the fingers spread. "Friends together?"
Lucius stepped closer and clasped Arthur's left hand with his right, "Friends forever."
A/N2: The updates on this book are going to run much slower than for the rest of my posted stories (I'd look for updates every other Sunday, if I were you), mainly because I'm having to recreate my original idea (since it was an unwilling sacrifice to the gods of temperamental computers) and my life has grown more hectic than I ever hoped. Just a friendly word of advice: Never, and I mean never, wish for your life to be more interesting.
Big thanks to my beta, Aurilia, without whom I would still be in a drunken stupor after realizing that three months of work had just gone down the proverbial drain. Bigger thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this nonsense. It means I'm not wasting my time.