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Chapter 51 : One Will in Everything
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‘Lillian Rourke,’ said Draco Malfoy, sipping from his refilled teacup, ‘backed the Council of Thorns since the earliest days. She used her influence as Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation to secretly funnel them resources. She wasn’t in charge, of course, because even she would not have signed off on something as desperate and deadly as the Phlegethon outbreak in Hogwarts, not in her own front yard and risking her own daughter. No, back then, Krauser and Horn and the others were all still calling the shots, and even if she propped them up, there was only so far she could steer them.’
‘What?’ Albus looked bewildered. ‘Why?’
Scorpius swallowed, throat dry. ‘Because the world panicked at the idea of an international cabal of dark wizards. And when someone suggested a strong alliance to oppose them -’
‘Everyone fell into step.’ Draco frowned. ‘Eventually. Over time. You remember how much bickering and in-fighting the IMC had in its early days. It’s why you went after Prometheus Thane; the IMC was too busy arguing about the sovereignty of the member nations to get together and hunt him down. That wasn’t even Lillian Rourke trying to protect him. That was exactly the sort of idiocy Rourke has despised.’
Scorpius leaned forwards. ‘Lillian Rourke supported the Council of Thorns so she could get rid of bureaucracy?’
‘You’d have to ask her. The fact remains that as the Council grew more powerful, so did Lillian. She tried to stop you going after Thane. But at that juncture, neither Thane nor Raskoph knew of her involvement in the Council of Thorns; only the upper echelons were aware. So her daughter was as valid a target as anyone else in Kythos, in the eyes of Joachim Raskoph. This did, however, prompt a change in Lillian: she approached Prometheus Thane directly.’
‘By the time you’d acquired the Chalice, yes. Which I didn’t know until after I received your letter, until after I told her the five of you had the Chalice of Emrys and would be back after an overnight stop in Venice.’ Draco’s lips thinned as he pushed his teacup back. ‘Granger never told us a thing she didn’t have to, not after Kythos. She didn’t trust me, and I think she didn’t trust Lillian’s staff. We both knew the other had ties to the Council by then, but I thought she was exploiting the situation, not driving it. I didn’t think she’d be mad enough to hurl her own daughter into the firing line. But as it turned out, she had Thane under her control by then. And Thane could give her both things she wanted: assurances her daughter would remain unharmed, and Lethe unleashed, in the world, and in the hands of Raskoph.’
‘Why,’ said Rose, ‘would she want it in Raskoph’s hands?’
‘I’ll get to that,’ Draco assured her. ‘Because it didn’t work. Scorpius died, and he took the Chalice and Lethe with him. You remember the last two and a half years; the Council’s been reduced by in-fighting and a lack of resources and been slowly strangled. Until the fresh outbreak of Lethe, it dwindled into nothing, and the IMC dwindled into a group of busybodies tidying up their mess.’
‘So she was insane enough to want the Council back to consolidate her power?’ she scowled.
‘I can only theorise as to her reasons.’ Draco shrugged. ‘What I know for sure is that she recruited Nathalie Lockett to Project Osiris, though I only found out about it later. I thought I’d lost my son to a bitter cause that had fallen out of my control. I truly knew nothing until Lillian Rourke contacted me in January, informing me that Scorpius was alive, that Lethe and the Chalice had been recovered, and that the plan was resuming.’
‘Why did Thane break me out, then?’ said Scorpius, brow furrowed.
‘Thane was, is, Lillian’s creature, but Raskoph didn’t know that. Raskoph had no reason to keep you alive once he had the Chalice and Lethe. Thane breaking you out and going rogue served several purposes. The first was to keep you safe. The second was to keep you in Lillian’s clutches, at Lillian and Thane’s mercy, so I would do exactly what they wanted.’
‘Help them ship Lethe abroad and into every major magical nation.’ Draco shrugged as if this were a favour akin to trimming the garden hedge. ‘Which I did, because I knew, by then, Lillian wouldn’t hesitate to destroy you. To keep you alive, I had to remain cooperative and valuable.’
‘Okay.’ Scorpius wrung his hands together. ‘That makes sense. But then why was Thane attacking the Council of - oh.’
Rose looked at him. ‘Oh?’
‘We attacked the Council of Thorns. We helped kill Krauser, Horn, all the others. It’s like Castagnary said.’ Scorpius’ lips twisted. ‘We wiped out the leadership of the Council of Thorns, but the one man we couldn’t take down was Raskoph. I thought that was just a misstep, that we got unlucky, but what if it wasn’t? I’d thought we’d been crippling the Council, but all we did was remove the dissenting voices, wasn’t it? All we did was eradicate Raskoph’s rivals.’
‘Even Raskoph didn’t know that Thane, by taking you and going rogue and working for Lillian, was doing him the greatest favour possible,’ said Draco dryly. ‘Yes, Lillian backstabbed Raskoph by stealing you. But then she propped him up and made damned sure that he would be the last man standing, with the whole Council of Thorns behind him and Lethe under his control, poised to be used against the whole world.’
Albus raised an eyebrow. ‘Why?’
Draco’s lips twisted just as dryly as his son’s. ‘Because Horn and Krauser were vicious men, but they preferred the Stygian Plagues as threats. Phlegethon was a clumsy virus, but it only claimed two lives and still struck terror into the hearts of the world. Eridanos was used on isolated locations, again to invoke fear. If the Council had claimed Lethe in Ager Sanguinis as planned, maybe they could have maintained this restraint. But the Council had been nothing for eighteen months by the time Lethe fell back into their hands. To be a real danger to the world, big enough to catapult the IMC back into the limelight, they needed to be huge. Monstrous. And the biggest monster amongst them was, and always has been, Joachim Raskoph.’
‘So the world united behind her.’ Scorpius rumbled, hoarse and tense. ‘Against him.’
‘Raskoph is very smart in some ways, and very foolish in others,’ said Draco. ‘He’s known, since Thane absconded with you, that Thane works for Lillian and that Lillian double-crossed him. They spent long months appearing to cooperate, because Lillian still helped him get Lethe into place. Hostilities only formally opened between them on the night of the Lethe outbreaks, because that was when Raskoph moved against Lillian for the first time.’
‘That’s why he abducted Selena!’ said Rose.
‘Oh,’ said Scorpius, more sickened. ‘That’s why we were in Hogsmeade. Thane made sure I heard the Council’s plan. He knew I’d want to save Selena, so he let me think it was my idea, my operation. But it wasn’t; we were trying to save Selena for Lillian Rourke.’
Draco inclines his head. ‘Very likely.’
‘That’s why he agreed to cooperate in Rotterdam.’ Scorpius pressed his hands to his temples. ‘Especially with a lead not just on Raskoph, but the Chalice. I wondered why he was being so bloody altruistic as to risk his freedom for Selena and the Chalice of Emrys, but he wasn’t being altruistic, was he?’
‘No,’ said Draco. ‘I expect Raskoph trying to abduct Selena made it clear to Lillian that she couldn’t keep on playing him. She had to go full offensive, and that meant she needed her daughter safe and she needed the Chalice of Emrys if she didn’t want Lethe taking over the whole world.’
‘Thane did almost get away in Saint Annard,’ Rose pointed out. ‘He couldn’t have anticipated he’d be incapacitated as badly as he was, or that I’d Stun you both.’
‘But he and Lillian were ready for the possibility he’d be brought in,’ sighed Albus. ‘Because what happened when he was interrogated? He was given Veritaserum - Veritaserum brewed by Nathalie Lockett, who had every bloody reason to feed him a duff batch, else her involvement would come out. He could feed us what lies suited him, suited them all.’
‘I dare say that was why I warned by my contacts in the British Ministry that Scorpius and Thane had been brought into DMLE custody,’ said Draco wryly. ‘They needed someone to take the fall for everything, like the betrayal at Venice. But I had no reason to keep my mouth shut about Lillian. So they made sure I was warned, and I ran, like they wanted me to.’ He shrugged. ‘I couldn’t win. Either I protected them by protecting myself, or I condemned them by condemning myself. This was better.’
‘So at that point,’ said Rose, ‘Lillian had a Council of Thorns at the height of its vicious power, killing hundreds of people and seizing magical governments, and the International Magical Convocation rallying behind her to oppose them. But she also had the Chalice of Emrys in the hands of Lockett, of my mother.’
‘She presumably hoped that you could do exactly what you did: cure Lethe, but not so quickly that the IMC wasn’t giving her every iota of power it could scrabble. And I dare say you kept to schedule, considering she managed to seize power in Britain before the end. I assume you haven’t heard the news, seeing as you spent last night halfway up a mountain?’ They shook their heads, and Draco sighed. ‘Lillian declared the IMC will not be disbanded. It will continue, the magical governments of the world forever cooperating, united. You know, under her. She’s done it. She’s won.’
Scorpius slammed his hands on the desk. ‘You have to come back with us. You have to tell -’
‘My story?’ Draco scoffed. ‘You think I stand the remotest chance of surviving long enough in Britain? All I can do is tell people. Yes, there are financial records and paper trails, but those will take time to unravel.’
‘We bring you to my mother,’ said Rose, jaw tight. ‘And to Harry. And by the IMC’s own laws, we can implicate Lillian and subject her to Veritaserum, to Legilimency -’
‘After we’re confirming to the world that one batch of Veritaserum was faked, there are going to be a lot of questions asked about how viable such evidence is.’ Draco shook his head. ‘Trusting your parents to be neutral arbiters is a delightful idea, except I know how Lillian will turn it on its head. Do you think she has a single rival as dangerous as your mother? Do you think she will even hesitate to suggest this is all a ploy for Hermione Granger to undermine and replace her, and while the world dithers over believing Rourke or Granger, Malfoy or Thane, she will continue to destroy all tangible evidence.’
‘Maybe we seize Raskoph, too,’ said Albus.
Draco gave a bark of humourless laughter. ‘And the world will rush to believe Joachim Raskoph. Why do you think he never tried to publicly out Lillian? Even a madman like him knows it would get him nowhere. Especially as he had very few direct dealings with her. She didn’t just kill the rest of the Council of Thorns’ leadership to raise Raskoph as a perfect, hissable villain; she killed them because they knew about her. She had Thane kill them to tidy loose ends.’
‘I don’t care,’ snapped Scorpius. ‘She did this, she made this happen. We’d have made it home with the Chalice if it weren’t for her. Lethe wouldn’t have been unleashed without her; she needs to be stopped -’
‘You need to prove it, Scorpius,’ said Draco. ‘And maybe I could try to unravel everything, but…’
‘But what? Why won’t you even try?’
Draco drew a deep breath, and looked his son in the eye. ‘Because my father died in prison,’ he said in a slow, measured voice. ‘And that’s a family tradition I’d rather both of us were spared.’
Scorpius slumped back, and it was Albus who straightened, Albus who spoke in that firm, reassuring voice which could make anyone do what he wanted because they didn’t dare risk disappointing him. ‘Mister Malfoy, this is different. You’ve not been personally murdering people. If the worst you did for the Council of Thorns was under threat of your son’s murder, then that will be taken into account. The world is smart enough and kind enough to understand.’
Draco narrowed his eyes. ‘You and I, Potter, have a very different idea of the world and its kindness.’
‘I have one more question,’ said Rose, brow furrowed. ‘Cassian Malfoy?’
Draco sighed. ‘I had occasional interactions with Raskoph. Not many. It became apparent that he hated me, and I honestly had no idea why. I’m normally so very charming.’
Scorpius had to roll his eyes. ‘But it was because of Cassian, wasn’t it. That’s why he wanted to create Lethe in me; some last, petty vengeance.’
His father shrugged. ‘I wanted any possible upper hand I could find. So I began researching Raskoph’s history, his work for Grindelwald. It was long and arduous and very difficult to find anything specific. The information was out there, the Magical Alliance had him very well assessed, but I was not exactly the man they would release information to. The only thing I could find was a mention in some old Russian magical archives; a mission report from an agent of theirs in the Grindelwald war who fought Raskoph with the aid of an Alliance agent referred to only as Malfoy.’
‘So you didn’t know for sure,’ said Scorpius.
‘I knew it wasn’t my grandfather,’ said Draco. ‘He was never involved. The only other candidate was Cassian. I found this not very long before the Lethe attack, so I was still gathering information at the time. Cassian’s personal effects in storage, I even visited his so-called sarcophagus at the family tomb; he wasn’t buried there, of course, because we didn’t find a body, but I’d wondered if Abraxas had known something… there was nothing there, though.’
Rose frowned. ‘That’s what you were doing that day I ran into you at the graveyard. I thought you went in a different direction to Scorpius’ gravestone -’
‘I was investigating. I never found anything on him before I had to go -’
But before he could press on, a waiter appeared at the side of the screen, different to the one who’d brought them their tea and judiciously realised they wouldn’t want any actual lunch. He hurried to Draco’s side and leaned down to whisper in his ear. Draco, for his part, didn’t move, seeming unperturbed by this sudden familiarity - but his expression did tense, and he sat with a taut jaw until the waiter left.
‘Well,’ he said at length in response to the curious stares. ‘I shouldn’t be surprised something like this has happened.’
‘Something like what?’
‘I have no doubt we’d learn this if we turned on the radio,’ sighed Draco, ‘as it seems to be hitting public knowledge. Niemandhorn Castle is under attack by the remains of the Council of Thorns. The entire place is on lockdown, and it’s impossible for reinforcements to get there in anything under a six-hour journey through the mountains.’ He slumped back on his chair. ‘I should have known Raskoph wouldn’t take defeat lightly. He’s lost, and he knows he’s lost, but…’
‘But why do this?’ Rose wrinkled her nose. ‘He wasn’t found, he could go into hiding.’
Scorpius scowled. ‘Except he did that once before, didn’t he. After Grindelwald lost. Maybe he doesn’t have it in him to do it again.’
‘Maybe he’d rather cause as much bloodshed before the end,’ said Albus, shoulders taut.
‘Not just bloodshed,’ said Draco Malfoy, brow furrowed. ‘He knows he’s lost. But there’s one last victory he can claim by attacking Niemandhorn, the IMC, Lillian Rourke. It’s simple, really: revenge.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Selena was babbling over and over, while everything was becoming very clear for Eva indeed.
‘There has to be something written here,’ she muttered as she rooted through Lillian Rourke’s desk. Lillian and Thane were gone and the sounds of fighting beyond the door were distant, muffled. The battle across Niemandhorn hadn’t yet reached this wing of the castle. It was likely the defenders were trying to protect their Chairman.
‘How can she be working with Thane? Why? Maybe she hired him, just to make an escape -’
‘That makes no sense.’ Eva looked up from the papers, none of which detailed diabolical plans of world domination or maps to secret escape routes from the castle. ‘What makes more sense is that Thane always talked about someone in the Council of Thorns he answered to who wasn’t Raskoph. Somebody ordered him to give over the Resurrection Stone at Hogwarts. And that Thane was following orders from someone else is far more believable than that he had a change of heart and went rogue to fight the Council. If he’d had a change of heart, he’d have disappeared.’
Selena stood in the middle of the office, wrung her hands together, and stared at Eva. ‘You’re saying my mother -’ Then she stopped and bit her lip. ‘But Thane was given Veritaserum -’
‘Brewed by Lockett, and he just implied they were in it together. It’s like I always said: the only way around Veritaserum is to not drink Veritaserum. So he drank a fake, pointed the finger at Draco Malfoy, and nobody had any reason to look for someone behind the curtain.’ Eva’s jaw set. ‘Someone who stood to emerge from this war as leader of the wizarding world.’
‘Shit.’ Selena drew a low, hissing breath. ‘She can’t be that mad - it’s not - shit -’
Eva watched her and wondered if this was the moment she was supposed to be sympathetic. It wasn’t that she was unmoved, but Eva had no idea how to relate to someone’s parental woes at the best of times. Saying, ‘Sorry your mother turned out to be head of a global murder conspiracy,’ would be apt, so these were not the best of times. ‘Only question now is what we do?’
‘Do? Why should we do -’ Selena stopped and stared at the door. ‘We left Matt. So we could get her safe.’
‘And now she’s gone on the run because it looks like Raskoph’s after her. She’s abandoned all of us. After betraying us. With Prometheus Thane.’
Eva knew what it was like when the world’s pains were so intense that the only option was to go away inside. She’d done it enough times. Watching Selena was the first time she saw someone else do it. Pretty features went slack and cold, slumped shoulders straightened, and her wand slid into a white-knuckled grip.
Selena Rourke looked to the door. ‘North Tower. Let’s get them.’
Eva shrugged and pulled her own wand. ‘When you say, “get”…’
‘Stop.’ A muscle twitched in the corner of Selena’s jaw. ‘Or, stop my mother. I don’t care what you do to Prometheus Thane, so long as he gets his as the end of the day.’
‘That much,’ sighed Eva, ‘I can agree with.’
The fighting was louder when they burst into the corridor. IMC defenders were being beaten, downtrodden under the onslaught from golems, who could take all their magics and still keep coming. So Eva used her best judgement in ducking from corridor to corridor, trying to compromise between speed and safety. Wide open spaces and chambers were a great way to get spotted. Narrow passageways were great places to get trapped like rats in a barrel.
A corner before a stairway brought the sound of shattering masonry from ahead, and Eva grabbed Selena, slamming them both against the wall and into cover. ‘Let’s go another way,’ Eva muttered. ‘We can’t take a golem.’
‘Don’t you have Matt’s sword?’ Selena hissed.
‘Yeah - they totally let me go into my judicial hearing with a broadsword. It’s in his room. This isn’t even my wand.’ She’d taken it off a body, but Selena didn’t need to know that. Eva was used to going through wands.
‘Is there another stairway up?’
‘I don’t know…’ Eva looked back the way they’d come, just as Selena slipped past her to peer around the corner ahead. The sound of shattering stone was just fading, but they hadn’t heard heavy footsteps of a departing golem, and Eva was unsure how good the senses of those magical constructs were. Her knowledge extended as far as changing the writing on their paper for whose orders they followed. And the golems had all been still and inanimate in Ager Sanguinis before she’d deployed them as a distraction. And she’d only known that because she’d heard Raskoph’s preening about the constructs in Badenheim. Finer details were beyond her.
‘Oh!’ Eva spun at Selena’s startled exclamation, and her heart tried to punch out of her chest as she saw Selena round the corner into the open. But there came no stomping golem, and Selena wasn’t turned into paste. ‘Harley!’
Eva followed with a suspicious gaze to see the House Elf stood over the shattered remains of what had once been a golem, and decided she didn’t want to know.
Harley looked up, chest heaving. ‘What the bloody hell is going on?’
‘War,’ Selena said helpfully.
‘Council of Thorns,’ Eva added.
‘Right. I was up late. Only just heading for breakfast when this happened.’ Harley rubbed his forehead like he was nursing a hangover, though Eva noted he’d still donned a well-tailored suit. ‘What’re you doing here?’
Selena worked her jaw, so Eva stepped up. ‘Prometheus Thane’s taken Chairman Rourke and is trying to make a getaway at the North Tower. We’re in pursuit.’
‘Damn,’ decided Harley. ‘That shouldn’t -’ The spiral stairway behind him wound up and down, and he stopped as from below came the thudding, shuddering footsteps of rock on rock. He swore again. ‘More company. You better go get the Chairman. I’ve got this.’
Selena hopped from foot to foot. ‘Are you sure -’
‘He’s better at this than us,’ Eva said firmly, and once again grabbed Selena’s elbow. ‘We want to catch up with Thane and your Mum, we’d better move fast.’
The only good news was that Thane would probably also be targeted by the golems, and Selena Rourke certainly would. But Eva had no doubt he’d make it to his destination with himself and his charge in one piece; she had yet to see an enemy who could stop Prometheus Thane in his tracks.
And yet that was entirely what she was going to have to try to be.
The sun blazed down on the lawn in front of the Azure Skies Hotel, a bright Sri Lankan mid-afternoon with a warmth Scorpius couldn’t feel. Not when the far side of the world was burning. Not when Albus and Rose were embroiled in such agitated fear, frustration, and rage.
‘We cannot do nothing!’ snapped Albus, throwing his hands in the air. The news was filtering through the hotel by now. The four of them had left the dining room, because they weren’t having a quiet conversation about plots of world domination any more, but arguing about how to stop it. ‘Everyone is there, Rose! Maybe our parents, certainly Selena and Matt and Eva!’
‘I don’t see,’ said Scorpius unhappily, ‘what the hell we can do about it. We’re several hours’ hike back to magical civilisation -’
‘No,’ said Rose, pacing and chewing on her hair, a habit he hadn’t seen her descend to even in the depths of unravelling the ritual to destroy the Chalice. ‘The excess of magical energies make it unsafe to Apparate to these mountains; if I had a precise enough pin on an external location, I could get us back to Kandy in a heartbeat. It’s a long way away, but that’s not a problem; I’d be harnessing the magic energies here because I’d be next to them. They can augment an outgoing Apparition or Portkey, while they’d disrupt anything inbound -’
‘Great,’ said Scorpius, and bit his lip when Albus glared at him for the sarcasm. That was, perhaps, the moment he knew things were really serious. He lifted his hands. ‘But then we’re in Kandy and we’re still waiting on a Portkey to get us back to Europe, and we’re not going to be top of the priority list when the IMC is in turmoil! And that won’t be a direct Portkey to Switzerland, it’ll be to Britain or maybe Venice. What do we do then? Start flying or walking to Niemandhorn? It’s difficult as hell to get there except by train; that’s part of what makes it so defensible! Enemies aren’t supposed to get to there, which apparently makes getting reinforcements hell.’
‘He’s right,’ said Draco. ‘You’d be expending enormous resources only to be stopped by the IMC personnel handling the reinforcements. They wouldn’t let you join them even if you were stood by them this moment, and you can’t get into Niemandhorn by yourselves.’
Albus clenched his hands into fists and glared at the horizon. ‘I refuse to stand here idly. There has to be something -’
‘There is.’ Rose had stopped, eyes widening, lock of hair falling. ‘There’s the ward stone I found on Cassian’s body. It’s an Alliance security ward stone; it allowed him, as an Alliance agent, to bypass the protective magics around headquarters and get there discreetly and safely. Alliance headquarters was Niemandhorn Castle!’
Albus straightened. ‘You could use it to Apparate us into the castle?’
‘It’s eighty years old,’ said Scorpius. ‘You’re assuming it still works and that the IMC haven’t, I don’t know, changed the locks -’
‘Why? The magics are old and powerful; I’m not sure the IMC could meddle. And it’s worth a try!’
Scorpius sagged. ‘I hate to be the naysayer for once, but we’re still banking on being able to Apparate to Kandy and then get a Portkey back to Europe. Getting out of Kandy alone could take us to the end of the day even under ideal circumstances; I bet there’ll be a transport lockdown in Europe!’
Draco let out a long, slow breath. ‘It’s possible,’ he said, ‘that I can help with that.’ All eyes turned on him, and he didn’t look directly at Scorpius as he said, ‘Miss Weasley is quite correct; the magic in these hilltops makes inbound magical travel very difficult, but it can augment outbound travel. It’s why I came here. Anyone would have difficulty reaching me, but I have in my possession a Portkey to make an emergency getaway. This Portkey could easily get me as far as Switzerland. Or get you as far as Switzerland.’
Albus rounded on him, six plus feet of solid muscle and anger. ‘Fetch it. Now.’
Draco didn’t falter, experienced at confronting a Potter’s anger. ‘By all means. And then you’ll be on your way.’
Scorpius’s head snapped up. ‘No way. You’re coming with us.’
Draco snorted faintly. ‘Why? Returning to Europe when Potter, Weasley and Granger will be racing to battle in Niemandhorn, or are already there and might not live to see the end of the day sounds like the worst time. The moment I show my face I will be thrown in a cell. You can’t protect me, and there is no guarantee they will be able to protect me before Lillian Rourke has me murdered before I can reveal her duplicity to the world. If I return with you in the present state of chaos, my death warrant is signed.’
‘Then wait here,’ said Albus. ‘And we’ll come back for you.’
Scorpius’s jaw tightened. ‘He won’t wait. The moment we go, he’ll just disappear again.’
‘I don’t care,’ snarled Albus. ‘We’ll hunt him down again -’
‘You are free,’ said Draco softly, ‘to try.’
‘No.’ Scorpius felt the bottom of his stomach drop out. ‘He’ll disappear even better. He’s getting really good at it.’ His wand slid from his sleeve into his hand, and before he knew what he was doing, he’d levelled it on his father. ‘Best thing to do is to Stun you, have Rose drag the location of the Portkey out of your mind, and bring you with us.’
Draco didn’t bat an eyelid as he looked down the length of the wand at his son. ‘My Occlumency is so proficient that even Severus Snape couldn’t break it. Do you really think nineteen years old Rose Weasley will be able to? And in time?’
Scorpius’ chest tightened. ‘She got through the Chief of Security of the Rabbit’s Foot -’
‘Over several hours,’ said Rose. ‘Scorpius, we have to fight this one another day -’
‘That’s easy for you to say!’ His own voice tore through him, shredding control and hope. ‘It’s not your father who’s just confirmed he was - was everything you were afraid he was, but wouldn’t even -’
The corners of Draco’s eyes crinkled. ‘You think I did this for myself, Scorpius? You think I wanted this?’
‘Of course you didn’t want to be cornered like this, but you still backed the Council, backed Lillian -’
‘My father turned the Malfoy name to mud!’ Draco snapped up straight like a reed in the wind, tall and quivering. ‘He helped Voldemort and he went to Azkaban and he died there, and all anyone in the world would think when they heard our name was of a family that achieved nothing, were merely given it and then turned that to darkness!’
‘So you helped more dark wizards! Great idea!’
Draco’s nostrils flared, then he settled himself and spoke in a low voice that still held more emotion than any of his calm retelling so far. ‘I turned to people who thought well of me for my name. And I made something of the family. I built a global business these past twenty-five years. I brought respectability back to the Malfoy name, and yes, I did it with the investment and political favour of the sort of people who backed the Council of Thorns, who became the Council of Thorns. They helped me turn the Malfoy name into something else, and so I had to help them when the time came! And by the time I realised just how much devastation they would wreak, it was too late!’
‘Yes,’ sneered Scorpius, not caring that with his lip curled they were like shattered reflections of one another. ‘Because better for you to make the world worse than suffer the consequences of your actions.’
‘I tried to stop! Why do you think so many of my businesses were shut down when Phlegethon ended? And when you died -’ Draco faltered only for a heartbeat, then drew a tense breath and discipline was back. ‘I removed myself from them. It only happened again because of Lillian, because of you; because she used you. You were my son and I had lost you and all it would take to get you back, all it would take to keep you safe, was to ship some wretched containers across the world and then not think too hard -’
Then he was stumbling back, turning away and lifting a hand to his temples, and Scorpius felt the wand hang heavy in his hand as he watched his father - always so austere, superior, detached - fight, struggle, and fail in the battle for composure.
It took a long time before either of them spoke again, and Draco’s voice only came out low, hoarse. ‘I wanted to bring you up in a world where the name Malfoy meant something. And then, when I lost you, I wanted nothing to do with the people who’d killed you. When I thought I could get you back, I - there was no price I wouldn’t pay, Scorpius.’
‘For me.’ The warm air was almost choking now, and Scorpius’s hand fell by his side. ‘Yeah. Everyone wants to do things for me. But they’re not so good at asking what I would want, are they?’ He couldn’t look at Rose because he knew he’d break, knew that if he saw her right now he would forever taint her with the same disgust he felt for his father, felt on some, detached level, for Nathalie Lockett. ‘I didn’t want you to build a family name for me, Father. I didn’t want you to work so hard to create this business, this reputation - not at what it cost -’
‘I know the Council was -’
‘I’m not talking about the Council! I’m talking about you! My whole life, you have been so obsessed with making the family name mean something that you never cared for the family! You didn’t just try to mould the Malfoy name into some ideal; you tried to mould me into some ideal, you tried to mould Mum into some ideal, and all you did was make her hate you so badly she couldn’t even risk being near me! All you did was destroy us!’
‘That’s not true.’ Draco whirled around at last, and for the first time Scorpius could see something other than superior control contort his father’s expression. It was, perhaps, the first time he’d seen his father as a man who could bleed and be hurt, but after all this time it stirred only the disgust in him, and not the pity. ‘I did this for you, even if it meant Lethe getting out -’
‘Maybe you had to do that.’ Scorpius’ jaw set. ‘Lillian might have killed me otherwise and, yes, she’d have probably just found another way if you refused her. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about you refusing to come forward since. I’m talking about you refusing to come forward before I died. You say this was for me; it wasn’t. This is about you, and you not standing how the family name’s been smeared, because you don’t understand it’s been smeared by our actions. The Malfoy name means what it does because of what Malfoys have done, and the only way I have been able to get away from the shadows cast by you, by Lucius, by Abraxas, by Brutus and Armand and Septimus and Nicholas and all of them has been to care nothing, nothing for you! But it doesn’t fucking work like that, does it!’ He’d thrown his wand on the floor by now, stalked over to his father. ‘We’re going to take that Portkey, and let you slither away, and you can go off and die or crawl into a corner and lick your wounds and fail to take responsibility for what you’ve done. And I -’ Scorpius’ chin jerked up a defiant half-inch, and he hated that he could feel Rose’s fire in him, then, because while he knew how she inspired him he didn’t want to even think about her right now. ‘And I’m going to go do the right thing. And I’m going to keep trying to do the right thing for the rest of my life, and if I have to burn down everything you and every Malfoy before you has done to achieve that, so be it!’
Draco stared at him, working his jaw for a long moment. ‘Scorpius -’
‘You get what you want. Go get the Portkey.’ Scorpius turned away and looked at Albus, not Rose. Albus, who stepped forward to clasp him on the shoulder, which blocked her from his view so he didn’t have to shy away from the sheer horror and guilt he could feel pouring off her. ‘And let’s go save the bloody day.’