Chapter 6 - Grasp the Nettle
Severus has been feeling out of sorts since last night. Actually, since the night of the Dark Lord’s resurrection. Ever since he caught the Lily Potter’s shadow protecting her son that night in the graveyard, Severus has felt like he took a bludger to the solar plexus; since that night, he has felt like the bludgers have not stopped coming for him.
His first meeting with his daughter did not go according to plan, he thinks, dropping the towel from his waist at the foot of his bed.
Holly categorically refuses to look at him, let alone accept or talk to him. The whole car and carriage ride was spent in awkward silence. Even Narcissa spoke to him the bare minimum after Holly’s first disastrous words.
“I don’t know who my dad is. My mum was just a bed-hopping slut.”
Severus had always felt that all his relationships ended in anger and harshness. Every time he parts from visiting his father, his last words to his mother, that one harsh word that drove Lily away forever and no amount of imploring made up for it.
Severus’ breakup with Jasmine was worse than any other. After getting the letter from his father, he had borrowed Albus’ Pensieve and looked through his memories of Jasmine, managing to find out the exact date of Holly’s conception. The one time he did not use a Contraception Charm to protect himself.
Before the Pensieve, he barely remembered that night, but he couldn’t forget it after viewing it. The whole time Severus had babbled about Lily. He still remembers what drove him to drink that night, almost to the point of oblivion. He wanted to forget, and so he sought out Jasmine. Their drunken fumbling that night was nothing remarkable, but it had shamed him at the time – Ashamed because he had realised he was trying to replace Lily with a substitute. Jasmine could never replace Lily, and so his attraction to her had left him cold.
He had only spent one more night with her after his regretful drunken night and then avoided her for weeks using Hogwarts as an excuse. The next night they had met up; after several weeks, she had practically thrown herself at him, and Severus had decided to indulge one more time. The last time. He didn’t know how to gracefully back out of a relationship.
“I think I’m falling in love with you, Severus,” Jasmine says to him, reaching out to embrace him.
Severus feels panic at the words. Jasmine is just fooling herself. He only ever wanted the love of one person. She was dead.
“What would a bed-hopping slut like you know of love?” Severus sneers cruelly.
If Severus had slapped her, Jasmine could not have looked more shocked.
They argue for several minutes, as Severus is desperate to leave whilst Jasmine franticly tries to convince him that she wants to be with him.
“But I’m pregnant, Severus. Are you really going to leave me?”
He laughs. Harshly. In her face. Her tears do not sway him. They must be fake.
“A liar’s last little ploy,” Severus throws at her. “I could never love you, and you could never be pregnant with my child. Are you trying to pawn someone else’s bastard off on me?”
Severus apparates away after delivering that line. He has had enough.
What else had Jasmine told his daughter? he thinks as he buttons up his shirt.
Now Narcissa is angry with him, and no doubt he has Lucius’ censure as well. Last night, Severus was only trying to help when he had added Milk Thistle to Holly’s juice. He can tell that Holly has not slept in a while. Narcissa was right to reprimand him, though he resents that she accused him of wanting to use Compulsion Potions to make her like him.
Severus finishes dressing quickly, making his way to Holly's room. Narcissa has already beaten him there, standing inside Holly’s room and helping her select an outfit from her meagre choice of garments.
There will be a shopping spree at some point today, he is sure. Severus lingers outside Holly’s bedroom, waiting for Narcissa to come out with his daughter.
Holly sees him standing there as she steps out of her room and pauses long enough to cast a hard look that makes his heart sink, though he keeps his expression neutral.
Still, he offers a “Good Morning,” though it is ignored as expected.
Narcissa follows Holly straight out and pauses like her, giving him a nod.
“Morning, Severus,” Narcissa greets him.
Severus is relieved to find Narcissa has calmed down since his gaffe last night. She might not have forgiven him, but she is willing to move on. Lucius has done an excellent job in soothing his wife.
As they enter the Dining Room again, Severus sees Draco in the same seat as last night and decides to sit next to him so that Narcissa and Holly can sit together.
It is as awkward a breakfast as last night’s dinner. For Holly's sake, everyone is overly bright and energetic, who stares blankly at them before turning back to her plate after taking her seat.
Narcissa dishes up some scrambled eggs for her while everyone else begins to serve themselves.
As Narcissa reaches for the pumpkin juice, Holly speaks up, “Water, please. The juice tastes weird. Like grass.”
The Malfoy matriarch shoots a knowing look towards Severus, who suppresses a sigh. It seems like Lucius will have to work hard to soothe Narcissa again today.
Holly only takes a few bites of her eggs and nibbles on her toast, but it’s still enough for Severus to be relieved to see her eating. He knows he is not the only one keeping an eye on her eating habits – Narcissa is making sure she is eating well, ready to fill her glass or plate again, and Lucius, too, is watching her, though, like Severus, he is not obvious about it.
Lucius hides behind his copy of the Daily Prophet after clearing his plate and sips his morning coffee whilst everyone else is still eating. Contrarily, Severus prefers to read the newspaper in the privacy of his own room. Having already moved on from the night’s events, Draco reaches for his third helping of bacon rashers and fried eggs.
Severus notices Holly watching the front page of the Daily Prophet with curiosity.
“Have you ever seen the Daily Prophet before?” he asks, attempting to make conversation.
Holly darts a quick startled glance at him but returns her attention to her plate.
Severus finds himself frustrated by her lack of engagement. Everyone else at the table politely ignores him, though he sees the newspaper twitch slightly.
Lucius is still reading when Artemis, his owl, flies in and drops off a bundle of letters. Artemis hoots impatiently at Lucius until he lowers the paper and unties the letters from familiar.
“Blasted owl,” he scowls. “Behave.”
“What’s her name?” Holly asks, looking at the owl in fascination and trepidation.
“His,” Lucius corrects, glaring at his owl. “Artemis.”
“He’s beautiful. Can- can I pet him?” Holly asks hesitantly.
“Artemis is very territorial,” he answers. “He only lets me near, and even then, he can be very irritable. I should have turned your egg into an omelette when I had the chance, owl.”
Very few people know that Lucius has an ongoing feud with his owl. He was initially bought for Draco when he was due to leave for Hogwarts. He is a sensitive bird – Severus has scars from where Artemis scratched him for whatever he did to offend the owl... Lucius kept the bird for himself, seeing he was the only one Artemis would tolerate.
As if to purposely prove Lucius wrong, his familiar rises, spreads his wings, deliberately hits him in the face and flies over to Holly, who raptly follows his movements. Landing in front of her, Artemis gives off a little squawk and stares intently at the little girl, who cautiously reaches a hand to pet the dark feathered owl. Everyone is frozen, waiting to intervene in case Artemis loses his temper.
They all exchange looks of astonishment as Artemis allows Holly to stroke him carefully. The dark owl has never been this docile, even with Lucius, to whom he belongs.
Holly ignores her food to devote her attention to the owl, but Severus sees her filch a piece of bacon from Narcissa’s plate (which the witch pointedly ignores, though she continually admonishes anyone else who does it) and feeds Artemis little bites.
“Don’t overfeed the ball of fluff, child. He’ll get fat,” Lucius says, clearing his throat, but he is taken aback when Artemis turns and glares at him before carefully turning back and nuzzling Holly’s now empty hand. He flies out with an uncharacteristically friendly peck, but not before spilling the last of Lucius’ coffee.
Holly watches Artemis fly away before turning back to her plate. It doesn’t escape anyone’s notice that she has started eating more.
“Once we’re finished with breakfast, we’ll take a walk around the Manor to show you around,” Narcissa informs Holly.
They have yet to introduce her to the House-Elves. Though she has accepted everything with more aplomb than expected, seeing a House-Elf for the first time will be jarring.
Severus feels like a third wheel as he trails along with Narcissa and Holly, who barely acknowledges his presence. They only bring one House-Elf, to begin with. Holly startles a little when Roker appears, but she nods and moves on after studying the creature in silent contemplation.
Severus is surprised at how unresponsive Holly is to magic. She was only four when Jasmine died, and Iris, her grandmother, took over custody: How Severus wishes he had known about her then. Perhaps he might have been able to make up for the damage Jasmine had done. Had Iris continued to speak ill of Severus after Jasmine? She was her mother, so of course, she would take Jasmine’s side.
Jasmine would have told her mother all about magic, and Holly seems to know more than Severus and the Malfoys expected, which was good for not having to deal with a hysterical child thrust into a completely new world after the death of her last remaining family.
After a tour of the Manor and Severus’ apartment's main areas, Lucius leaves, heading straight for his study, and Draco drifts back to his room.
Lucius locks himself in his study, leaving Narcissa and Severus to look after Holly. They will be going off to Diagon Alley soon to buy everything they need to for the girl, without her for the time being. He is unsure if Draco will follow them or go off and do his own thing, but Lucius is now doing what he should have done when he had heard about Holly and her mother.
Lucius has not needed to look through these files for years, but he meticulously manages them. After securing his study door, he uses his wand to open the trapdoor to a hidden room under his floor.
Lighting it up, he strides to the back corner where he stores all the things related to Severus, not that the wizard is aware of them.
It does not take him long to find what he is looking for. First, he locates the investigations regarding Severus’ girlfriends, if they can be called that: more like companions, although even that sounds like a kind word. Bed warmers, more like.
Then he locates Jasmine Pierce’s folder.
Lucius debates going up and reading it in the comfort of his study but then decides to conjure himself a chair and read it whilst still in the secret room. There is a reason he has kept these things from Severus, and even Narcissa doesn’t know that he is keeping tabs on Severus and his bed warmers.
Settling into his chair, he flips the folder open from the beginning, carefully reading through each page, patiently committing it to memory, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
He has been using his investigator for years. Though Lucius himself very rarely ventures out to the muggle world, his PI can navigate between both worlds without issue. She is a well-kept secret and knows how to ferret out information - for the right price.
His PI has found a copy of Jasmine’s birth certificate and muggle school records. The only child of Owen and Jasmine Pierce – bright by all means: there are even accounts of Jasmine’s accidental magic. Lucius is, as always, impressed by his PI’s thoroughness as he reads through all of it.
He reads with interest the concise summary of Jasmine’s years at Hogwarts. According to the death certificate in his hand, the passing of her father, Owen Pierce, during her fourth year at Hogwarts: Cause of death was pneumonia. He also has copies of her OWL and NEWT scores, all previous addresses at which she had lived, the jobs she held in various Ministry departments until she settled in the Department of International Magical Co-operation. Her last known residence before she was in a relationship with Severus.
Lucius almost misses it, dismissing her father’s death certificate that he has already seen before, taking a good look and reading with more interest he has given the rest of the file.
The Death Certificate does not belong to Owen Pierce. On the contrary, it belongs to Iris Pierce. According to the piece of paper Lucius is holding, Iris Pierce died of something called diabetes-related complications. In 1984. Almost a year before Jasmine and Severus got together.
That begs the question: Who is this Iris Pierce who had taken care of Severus’ daughter all these years?
“Come on, Harry,” Ron cajoles. “Mum’s getting worried. You’ve not been eating properly. She’s ready to tie you down and spoon-feed you.”
Harry sighs and nods, giving in and follows Ron and Neville back to the kitchen. He still doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite. He knows his friends have been worried about him because he has been quiet since arriving at Grimmauld Place. There is not much to do.
Mrs Weasley spends most of the day in the kitchen, keeping a supply of food and snacks ready for the steady stream of Order members coming in and out of Headquarters.
Harry spends most of his time in his bedroom with Ron and Neville. To distract himself, he has thrown himself into his summer homework – to Hermione’s delight and Ron’s dismay. Harry may not enjoy homework, but he enjoys learning about magic. Iris has always taught him to put every effort into his studies.
Currently, homework is a distraction from his worries about Holly. Harry had sent two more letters since his first successful attempt almost a week ago. Each time, Hedwig comes back with his letter unopened. Harry is worried about what this means: Is Hedwig unable to deliver the letters because Holly is not alone? He doesn’t know.
When Regulus told him that Dumbledore had agreed to bring Holly to Headquarters, Harry was deliriously happy, though it was tempered by the knowledge that Snape was also looking for Holly and, if he had found her first, then there was nothing he could have done. Harry’s trying not to think what Snape would do if he found Holly already in Headquarters and took her away. He feels terrible that he wishes Snape didn’t want anything to do with his daughter so that Harry can have Holly all to himself: he only hopes that she doesn’t forget him or hate him if Snape makes her hate Harry as he does. It is a big fear if he is honest. It is one more thing to worry about. He does not want to lose Holly. Especially not to Snape.
Regulus has spent the whole week trying to find Holly, alongside Snape. Every day, when Regulus comes home without her, Harry’s heart sinks in deeper.
“Why does she stare up at the sky all the time?” Draco asks his mother.
Holly has been keeping away from them all. Narcissa wants to spend as much time with Holly as possible but is wary of smothering her. Severus often can be found flouncing away in frustration: The little girl knows how to give everyone the silent treatment. Draco can catch a glimpse of life in the girl when Lucius’ owl flies in every morning to visit Holly, even when he does not have any post to deliver.
“The woman at the care home said it’s because she’s staring at her grandmother in the sky,” Narcissa admits. They are watching Holly from the window overlooking their vast garden. Holly barely speaks to them and, when she does, she is polite except when she speaks to Severus: Then she is cold, bordering on rude.
Draco is impressed that Severus has managed to keep his temper so far. He has a bet with his father that he will explode at any time.
“Do you believe that?”
Draco is about to turn away when he sees his father crossing the expanse of the garden. He is surprised when he sees Lucius lower himself to the ground, sitting cross-legged next to Holly. Looking at his mother, he sees she is frowning in puzzlement at Lucius’ behaviour. For the first part of the week, Lucius has barely left his study, unless for meals. Then, for the last two days, he has been out of the house all day, returning only late in the evening.
“I’m not sure,” Narcissa finally answers as she watches Lucius engage Holly in some way. “She is certainly looking for something.”
Hedwig. Holly is looking for Hedwig. She has not seen her since Harry’s last letter. She knows Harry hasn’t forgotten her already. Not after a week. Maybe she is impatient. After all, It’s only been a week.
Holly hopes Harry’s relatives haven’t hurt him again. There’s no Oma anymore to help him heal– what if he’s so badly hurt that he can’t even send Hedwig anymore? What if they have locked him and Hedwig up again like they did last time?
Holly has no way of knowing. She misses Harry so much. He said Hedwig will always try to deliver his letters when she is alone, so Holly tries to spend as much time alone as possible.
Over the last week, she has spent more time in her bedroom reading all the letters Harry has sent to her and Oma since his first year at Hogwarts. She had found them already in her bag as if Oma had hidden them there. Holly is glad that she has them; she also made sure to get her photo album. Harry sent it for her birthday a few years ago: It has some photos of Harry and his friends, though there are more from his second onwards because Colin Creevey, a boy in Harry’s house, started then, and he liked to take pictures all the time. Harry wanted her to have a family album as he did of her parents. But this was just for Holly, Oma and Harry.
Holly did not have many clothes. She did not care about them as much as she did about Harry and Oma’s presents.
Rereading Harry’s letters, Holly realises precisely where she is and with whom: Draco is the boy who always tried to bully Harry and make him feel bad; Mr Snape (she refuses to call her his dad) is even worse. They are very rarely mentioned, but when they are, none of the news is good. Harry does not allude to Lucius or Narcissa at all. Holly feels very trapped.
In his letters, Harry compares Draco to Dudley, back when he was a bully. Holly even misses Dudley.
She hears footsteps approaching her and stiffens as a tall figure puts down a cloak like a picnic blanket and then lowers himself next to her. It is Mr Malfoy. He looks up at the sky with her.
“Enjoying the sun, child?” Mr Malfoy asks.
Holly looks at him briefly and then back at the sky. She is not alone. Hedwig won’t come now.
“We’ve been very remiss in our attentions to you, darling,” Mr Malfoy says softly when Holly doesn’t answer.
She takes her eyes off from the sky and stares into the distance instead.
“We’ve all been so happy to find you that we forgot about the circumstances that brought you to our attention in the first place. Allow me to correct that now. Please, accept my condolences on your grandmother’s passing,” Mr Malfoy continues. He is observing Holly. “Will you tell me about her?”
Holly can feel her eyes about to water and looks away.
“Oma- ” is the best she can manage before her voice breaks. “She was my Oma.”
Holly wipes her tears with her fingers, rubbing her eyes in a futile effort to stop more. A white handkerchief is dangled in front of her. Startled, she looks hesitantly at Mr Malfoy before reaching out to take it.
It takes some time for Holly to stop, though she cannot stem the odd sniffle.
“Tell me about your house,” Lucius prompts.
“It was home,” Holly answers. “Oma filled it with pictures of us.”
She slowly begins to talk about life with Oma, being careful not to mention Harry. From his letters, he talked about perils at school and the presence of dangerous people. She knew Harry always talked to Oma about some stuff that they didn’t tell her. She didn’t mind. She knew that she would figure it out for herself when she was old enough to go to Hogwarts.
“You’ve impressed us with your reaction to magic,” Mr Malfoy comments.
“Oma already told me about it. After…” Holly almost says after Harry got his letter. She trails off and instead says, “She said I would get a letter like Mamma did. When I turn eleven.”
“Do you remember your first accidental magic?”.
Holly has to think about it, looking down at her wrist.
“I hurt my wrist,” she states, holding it out as if Mr Malfoy could see where she hurt it. Mamma had pulled her too hard. It was scary when she did that. Holly remembers a window breaking at the same time she screamed when Mamma did it. It was an accident. Holly knew her Mamma didn’t mean it. It was the first and only time Mamma had ever done anything like that: Even she had been shocked by what she had done. All Holly wanted to do was go back to Oma’s house and spend time with her and Harry. She had refused to get out of the car, not wanting to go to Creepy Carl’s house. Holly is unaware of the haunted look she is wearing and how much this alarms Mr Malfoy.
“Holly?” he prompts carefully.
“I broke a window when it happened,” she finishes in a whisper. She had to wear a cast for six weeks. It itched. Oma made her take some yucky medicine, though she now knows it was Potions of some sort. It helped her with the pain.
“I know it’s a difficult period for you. We can’t replace your … Oma or bring her back. I know you must miss your home, your friends, your neighbours, your whole life where you were before. But… This is your home now. We want you to be comfortable here. We can be your new family.”
“I just miss my brother,” Holly lets slip out before she realises. She bites her lip and looks away, playing with the handkerchief in her hands.
“Your brother?” Mr Malfoy is startled. Then, in an amused voice, “I wasn’t aware Severus had more than one child.”
Holly sneaks a peek at Mr Malfoy. He is smirking. She doesn’t know what he finds hilarious about that.
“You don’t have to be related to be family,” Holly says more sharply than she intends.
“No. You’re right, child,” Mr Malfoy agrees solemnly. “Tell me about your brother.”
“He’ll come for me one day,” Holly announces abruptly. She cranes her head to look towards the windows as if she can see through them. “He’ll take me away from here. Away from him.”
There’s a funny look in Mr Malfoy’s eyes when she says that.
“He’s your father, child,” he chides softly.
Holly gets up to her feet.
“He’s not my father,” she shouts, suddenly furious. “He didn’t want me. He called Mamma a liar and told her to leave. He called her mean names and yelled at her. Because of him, she didn’t want me. He’s not my father! He wasn’t there. Ever. Oma was there. And H-”
She chokes back the name before saying out loud. Turning around to face the Manor, she begins to scream.
“I hate you! You’re not my father. You’ll never be my father! I hate this place! I hate you!”
Holly begins to feel warm. Like the sun is shining too brightly. She wants to scream again, but her throat hurts, and there’s a burning smell, and why is it so hot?
“Holly! Watch out!”
Mr Malfoy grabs her, pulling her away from the fire into his arms, holding her close to his chest. She throws her arms around his neck as he picks her up, gasping and heaving for breath.
Lucius picks Holly up, holding her tightly with one arm, and with the other hand pulls out his wand to extinguish the fire.
His fishing expedition indeed yielded some results. He is impressed by the strength of the girl’s emotions and the bright fire burning Narcissa’s roses. Holly is gasping against his neck: once the fire is out, Lucius uses both hands to hold to him, comforting her by stroking the back of her head. He is not angry with the child. She didn’t do it on purpose.
After finding out everything he had over the past week, he came out to coax some information from the young girl. He didn’t get as much as he would have liked, but he got more out of her than expected.
“Are you hurt, darling?” Lucius asks, pulling back so he can see her properly. Her face is streaked with tears, snot dripping from her nose. He fishes another handkerchief from his pocket and calmly wipes her face.
At the same moment, Narcissa and Severus run out of the Manor: Lucius knows they were watching.
Holly shakes her head and hiccoughs out, “I’m sorry.”
Wiping her face gently, he says, trying to comfort her, “I know, darling, I know. I am not angry with you.”
In fact, he cannot help but be proud of her accidental magic, as if she were his daughter, not Severus’.
She hides her face in his neck as she sees Severus approaching, clinging to him tighter as he tries to take her from Lucius, who shakes his head at him when he tries again. He sees the hurt frown that Severus attempts to hide when Holly lets Narcissa touch her instead.
Lucius carries Holly back to her room, passing a concerned Draco who is still inside, leaving Severus and Narcissa to follow but wait outside as Holly falls asleep before he has even laid her down.
“One day, Holly, you’ll realise how much you truly mean to Severus,” Lucius whispers, stroking her hair as she snuggles in deeper. “And how hard he is trying for you.”
Later, the Malfoys and Severus are sitting in the Family room. Or rather, the Malfoys are sitting, and Severus is pacing on the rug.
He cannot deny the feeling of jealousy that has kept bubbling since the moment he saw Lucius sit next to Holly in the garden. It was the last sight he had expected to see when he arrived behind Draco and Narcissa as they stared out the window.
Then, even from a distance, he had seen Holly actively engage with Lucius, cling to him after her bout of accidental magic. Refuse to let go of him as he took her upstairs to her bedroom, hiding from Severus, not even willing to look at him.
Yet, at that moment, Severus hates how Lucius can charm his daughter. His daughter. He knows that Lucius is hiding something: just by looking at him, he can tell that he is strengthening his Occlumency shields.
“What else did she tell you?” Severus snarls as he whirls around to loom over Lucius.
Lucius knows his tricks too well and refuses to be intimidated.
“More than I am going to tell you, Severus,” Lucius sighs. “You want to know what she said? Go earn her trust and inveigle it out of her yourself.”
“And how do I do that, pray tell, after all the vitriol Jasmine has spewed?”
“Is there anything about what she reported to Holly that isn’t true?” Narcissa enquires in a calm voice that does not fool Severus: she has never approved of the way he has ended any of his relationships.
Severus can feel the same ugly flush crawl up his neck that he had when they had picked Holly from the Care home.
“No,” the word reluctantly leaves Severus’ lips. He turns around and steps to the empty armchair, falling into it in a way he would never do in front of anyone else. He lets his head fall into his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. “I treated Jasmine abominably at the end, and she took all that anger out on my child. But what kind of person treats a child in such a way? What kind of person misplaces their resentment on an undeserving target?”
It angers him that Jasmine treated an innocent child like that. Did she look at Holly and see Severus? Did she want revenge on him and, in his absence, used Holly as her target instead?
Severus looks up from his hands to see Lucius observing him with a curious twist of the lips. Not quite a smirk, not quite a smile.
“Does my situation amuse you?” Severus snaps.
Just like him, Lucius is slouched in a way that he will never do in front of anyone but his family – Leaning back in his chair, legs stretched out, and ankles crossed. One elbow is on the armrest, his temple resting on his fist, whilst the fingers of his other hand drum absently on the opposite armrest.
“You are so blind right now, Severus,” Lucius says indolently. “It is almost humorous how you don’t understand what is happening. Perhaps, when you do, you will remember your words from today.”
Narcissa gives Lucius a puzzled look.
“I am not in the mood for riddles. Will you speak clearly?” Severus bites out.
“You are my entertainment, my friend.”
Before Severus can retort to that, not that he knows how, Lucius stands up and says, “I’ll be in my study. I’ll be down for dinner later, Narcissa darling. Hopefully, Holly will feel well enough to join us.”
He walks away without waiting for an answer.
Draco, who has been sitting there silently, pretending to read his book, follows his father out with his eyes while Severus swings his gaze back to Narcissa.
“What is that about?” he demands.
Narcissa stares at the chair Lucius has vacated and absently replies, “Lucius does not share everything with me, Severus. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.”
He lets out a frustrated breath.
“How am I supposed to bond with my daughter?”
Narcissa’s eyes are sympathetic as she finally looks at Severus.
“Show her she is wanted. Be patient with her, Severus. She has lost her mother, grandmother, and home, and she has lost her peace with it. She has spent three weeks getting bounced from one house to another until we found her. Then, she is confronted with the man who did not want her in the first place, as far as she knows.
“Lucius is right, Severus. Look at what we’ve done. We have forgotten about her loss and tried to have her fit right with us as if nothing had happened. We were too busy congratulating ourselves on finding her and her knowledge of magic that it did not even occur to any of us that she is still grieving.”
Severus looks down, ashamed. They have done that. Narcissa is usually much better at these things than him, yet, even she treated Holly’s loss as if it was of no consequence.
“Did you tell Dumbledore you found her?” Narcissa asks after the silence continues.
“Why would you need to tell Dumbledore?” Draco speaks up, tired of being ignored.
“Because he was there when Severus got the letter and is probably wondering what’s happening,” his mother explains patiently.
“Why do you need to tell that crazy old fool? It’s none of his business,” Draco drawls.
Narcissa takes a deep long-suffering breath.
“It seems we have not explained the situation to you sufficiently, Draco,” Narcissa begins in an enduring voice. “Your father has denounced the Dark Lord’s services in such a way that it now means we are in danger. We have sided with Dumbledore. He might be a blood traitor, but remember, Draco, he is a powerful wizard beneath that doddering old fool act. He sees more than you’ll ever know, and he still has much influence.”
“Does that mean I have to play nice with Potter?” Draco mumbles resentfully.
Severus feels a familiar irritation that always arises at Potter’s name.
Narcissa surprises them both by snapping, “What is your obsession with that boy?”
“I’m not obsessed with him,” Draco protests hotly, earning a look of disbelief from his mother.
“When you go to school in September, Draco, remember to keep your head down. Whether you believe it or not, Harry Potter holds great power, and he is on Dumbledore’s side. War is brewing, despite what the majority of the Wizarding World believes. Your father is doing what is necessary to survive and see our family safe on the other side. If you cannot keep a civil tongue around Potter and his friends, then I suggest you stay away.”
Draco nods sullenly.
“In the meantime, try to engage with Holly. Try to talk to her about Hogwarts. I’m sure you’ll find a topic. She is part of our family now.”
Draco’s nod is a little less surly this time.
Lucius stares at the copies of the letters and photographs littering his desk, as he had been doing since he found them days ago. Whilst Holly had been distracted with Narcissa and Severus earlier in the week, Lucius had snuck into Holly’s room looking for her bag, finding it hidden under the bed. It only contained the letters and photos. Rather than risk being caught in the little girl’s room, he elected to make copies of everything and take them to his study to peruse at his leisure and with great privacy.
Lucius has never bothered about invading someone else’s privacy before: he is a man who coveted knowledge in the name of power — blackmail, extortion, bribery, corruption, coercion. Lucius has experience in all these. Knowledge is power. Malfoys have always held it in some way.
It began the same day when Lucius finished reading the file containing details about Jasmine’s life. And Iris’ death.
It was the only time he had ever felt regretful, guilty even, for invading someone’s privacy. She is just a child. Nine years old. He still feels like a creepy pervert when he thinks about how he rooted through her every drawer, including her underwear.
He convinces himself that he is doing to protect Severus, Holly, and his own family.
After reading the letters, there is a considerable part of Lucius that is satisfied. He has solved the puzzle. The real Iris Pierce died in 1984, before Holly was born. Before Jasmine and Severus even met.
Yet, in 1986, suddenly, there is a record of Iris Pierce again: Lucius’ PI has unearthed the address of where Iris has been these past nine years, pretty much since Holly was born.
From the second he sees the picture, he recognises her — Eileen Snape nee Prince. Eileen had disappeared when Severus was still in school. Suspicion had fallen on Tobias at the time, but without proof, nothing could be done. However, Lucius had been tempted to enact his own brand of revenge.
His father, Abraxas, had stopped him. Lucius thought he should have worked harder to convince his father to give Severus a place to stay. Instead, seeing Severus’ potential, he had taken the dark-haired wizard as his ward, helped him gain his Prince inheritance, got him a Master to complete his Potions’ apprenticeship with. He gave him independence, directed them both towards the Dark Lord. The last one turned out to be a mistake for both of them.
Back then, the Dark Lord had been more persuasive and charismatic. Towards the end of his reign, before he was defeated, he had become obsessed with immortality and news of his possible defeat after hearing some prophecy. Lucius wanted to eliminate mudbloods and blood traitors, yet even he had not expected the level of violence the Dark Lord inflicted. However, one does not walk away from the Dark Lord’s services. Not if one wants to live.
When the Dark Mark darkened over the past year, Lucius was gripped by the fear of having to prostrate himself before the Dark Lord once more. He was convinced there was no way out until Narcissa had convinced him that they would have to ally with Dumbledore – not a prospect Lucius was looking forward to.
They were not blind: after all, Severus had lived with them for years. They knew he trusted Dumbledore, and no matter what he said about staying in his post because that is what the Dark Lord wanted: Severus was not loyal to the Dark Lord.
Lucius knew all too well of Severus’ loyalty to Lily. His lips twist into a grimace as the memory of her enters his mind: Severus and his senseless devotion to a dead woman.
He looks at the letters again. He already suspected Iris was Eileen and the photographs confirm that. What he did not expect to see in the photographs was Harry Potter. Then, reading through the letters, he now knows of the connection: the affection and attachment Potter has had with Holly and Eileen over the years.
His heart sinks a little when he sees mentions of Severus and Draco in his letters. Not many references, but enough for Holly to make the connection. Lucius wonders how much Severus’ bullying plays a part in Holly’s antipathy towards her father. Indeed, she wouldn’t be fond of a father she never knew when he tormented the brother she had admired since childhood. He wonders how they ever met.
He feels laughter bubbling inside him. Severus will not be happy when he finds out his daughter loves Harry Potter. Lucius picks up the latest letter from Potter, where he states that one day he will find her, and they will live together because that is what Eileen wanted.
Lucius finds he does not doubt Potter’s words. After witnessing how he has stood up to the Dark Lord in June past, he knows that Potter is the determined sort.
Lucius is now committed to Dumbledore. He has burned his bridges with the Dark Lord and all the Death Eaters on his side. Still, the Dark Lord has suffered a massive blow: he has lost not only Lucius but also Petrus Parkinson, Thadeus Nott, Titus Crabbe and Victor Goyle.
Crabbe and Goyle have already fled the country. Lucius is not surprised. Their children are not the smartest: like their fathers, they were nothing more than muscle, all brawn and no cunning. Salazar knows what ambitions those boys had besides filling their stomachs with as much food as possible.
Crouch Junior has been Kissed. He only has Macnair, Pettigrew and some of the less competent members who managed to escape incarceration. The Dark Lord was probably trying to find a way to recruit. No doubt he already has animals like Greyback on his side.
Closing his eyes, he presses his fingers to his forehead as he ruminates through it all. He does not regret breaking all ties with the Dark Lord, especially after witnessing how Potter held his own. At only fourteen years old. In the safe space of his Occluded mind, Lucius admits that even he could not stand up to the Dark Lord in such a way.
Severus does not recognise the irony of how he treats Harry Potter because of his father, James, compared to how Jasmine treated Holly because of him.
Severus is no less than a brother to Lucius. However, he needs to recognize that he must do everything he can to help his child survive. Lucius will protect Holly because she is Severus’ daughter. He will also protect her because she is crucial to Harry Potter. And Harry Potter is more powerful than Severus is willing to admit.
Lucius has not missed the mentions of Regulus Black in Potter’s letters.
All of this now begs the question: how much did Potter know about Iris? Does he know Severus is Holly’s father? Should Lucius tell him?
Pulling out a spare bit of parchment, he quills a quick note to Regulus. They have an overdue meeting.
“What are you hiding, Lucius?” Narcissa asks as they get ready for bed that night.
Lucius watches as she strips off her dress, pausing in the act of unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it out of his slacks.
“Something that will piss Severus off,” he admits.
Narcissa freezes, realising Lucius is serious.
“What is it?” She asks as she presses herself against Lucius so that he finds himself distracted by her body against his.
He pulls her close and presses a kiss to the top of her head.
“Let me keep this to myself, Cissa. Just for a little bit longer.”
Narcissa looks like she will argue but backs down as Lucius tightens his arm around her.
Regulus opens the letter that comes for him. He recognises Lucius’s temperamental owl, although he has rare occasions to exchange an owl with him. Though he supposes they are meant to be allies now, he must regularly exchange words with his cousin’s husband.
What Narcissa sees in Lucius goes beyond him.
I would be much obliged if you could meet me at Malfoy Manor at 11 am tomorrow. I have an urgent matter to discuss with you that is better resolved in person.
Regulus sighs and quickly replies his agreement. He does not know what Lucius wants to talk to him about, but it’s not like he’s having luck with his other task of finding Holly. He wonders how Severus is fairing. Regulus has not seen the other wizard since they were all summoned together after the Dementors attacked Harry. Maybe he could use this opportunity to talk to Lucius and see where Severus is in his quest.