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The Last Man

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The Last Man

 

For a time, possibly months Lucius does nothing. His wand is broken, his anonymity part of his sentence, his own son could pass him on the street and not know him.

The little town of Stow-on-the-Wold is a tiny hamlet, and every move he makes is watched by Aurors. They might not know his identity, the name and face of Lucius Malfoy has been expunged from every wizarding document and history, but he is not allowed a mile past the town's wardstones. Nothing he has done for good or ill will be known until fifty years after the death of the last principal party.

It's not a Dementor's Kiss or the Killing Curse, but it's a type of death all the same.

He tries, once, to make an end of it. When he wakes in Saint Mungo's, Severus at his bedside, he resolves not to do anything like that again. Severus is the only one who knows him as who he is – and another loss for Severus would be another injustice on top of a heap of them.

 

The cottage has to be expanded to accommodate Severus' library and workroom. Lucius stays out in the garden when Severus is working magic, or walks the scant two acres of land that make up the 'grounds.'

"It's not the fall, but the sudden stop at the bottom," he mutters wryly, looking around the garden and small orchard run riot.

He misses his wand, misses magic with a pain like an amputated limb. It's there, the magic, he can feel it like an itch under his skin, but he can do nothing.

~

He stares out at the wreck of the garden, hating the disorder under winter snow. Knowing it's there, lurking.

~

At thaw, Severus is still at school, bitching like mad at the restrictions Poppy Pomfrey has placed upon him. Too many years exposed to hazardous materials, too many rounds of Cruciatus, too many wounds have conspired to hobble Severus badly. On the last mission he was allowed to undertake, Madam Pomfrey told Lucius that in all likelihood, Severus would not have half the lifespan of a normal wizard. If he made it to one-hundred-and-fifty, he'd be beating the odds.

The thought drives Lucius out of doors, where he stands in the raw March wind, shaking.

~

By the end of June, the front garden has been thoroughly seen to. Lucius is surprised that he's remembered that much herbology to tell cultivar from weed. The irises have been uprooted, broken up and relocated – this particular type is Italian, and noted for the fine essential oil. The tree peonies have been ruthlessly pruned. The morning glories are now tamed to trellises along with the formerly unruly climbing roses.

The herbal garden was pitiful, showing distinct lack of imagination, and Lucius has undertaken an expansion – owling Severus for this and for that. Medicinals, aromatics, and some of the more exotic flavorings now stand in neat rows.

This morning, he stands in the dooryard, a pair of large pruning shears on his shoulder, gloves tucked in his belt, preparing his assault on the hedgerows.

~

He's preparing an extraction when Severus arrives. The thin slices of the iris root are packed into glass jars, with pure water poured over to cover. It's a method only for the patient, but it yielded the purest and most potent of the oil.

For a moment, he feels defensive - angry at again not being able to do this with magic.

Then Severus' mouth is on his, those long fingers are tangled in his hair, and very little else matters.

~

By the end of the summer, he thinks he might well have found a way to work a little bit of wandless magic. It comes like sparks from the fire, bursting into being and fading out between one breath and the next.

~

Severus is preparing to return to school when the news comes that Albus Dumbledore is dead. He died peacefully in his sleep – unlike so many who followed him.

Lucius gravely thanks the boy who's brought the message, sees him out, and returns to Severus as he sits expressionlessly in front of the fire. For him, there is little that he ever liked about Albus Dumbledore – the man was prejudiced, manipulative, and possessed of enough hubris to match the late Dark Lord's.

But for Severus, who was both saved by and suffered so much from the man…

The explosion, when it comes, is equal parts of grief and long-suppressed rage. There is little in the house that is breakable, but the glazier will have to come out. After the initial storm has spent itself, Lucius sits on the floor in the middle of the destruction, Severus' head cradled against his chest, their arms around each other.

For the first time, Severus tells him everything.

And if the hell the Muggles believe in does indeed exist, Lucius wishes Albus Dumbledore to roast on a spit in the hottest part of it.

~

The first year after the end of the war sees many more funerals.

Arthur dies of the aftereffects of Nagini's poison. Neville Longbottom never wakes from his coma, but Susan Bones-Longbottom makes sure that she and their daughter are at his bedside every day. On the first anniversary of the Dark Lord's death, Bellatrix makes away with herself in her cell, and thus joins Narcissa and Andromeda in the Black family crypt.

~

The orchard needs a great deal of work, and it takes Lucius the larger part of autumn to do it all. There winds up being a great deal of wood stacked by the rear door.

However, he is pleased to find extensive numbers of sound trees. He can identify apple, apricot, cherry, crabapple, peach, pear, plum and quince.

He is less than pleased not to know of what type they all are.

~

Hermione Granger's face is solemn and a little frightened as she feels the magical bonds settle into her – and into the male child she will not deliver for another five months. It was a deal as calculated as any pureblood alliance marriage, but at least Severus knows his patrimony will be passed on and old promises kept.

~

The orchard is in full bloom, and the fragrance is heavenly.

"We're going to need another expansion, Lucius, I'm tripping over all of these damned agricultural books!"

~

Time passes. Severus is Deputy Headmaster. When Minerva McGonagall retires, the Board appoints him Headmaster and they drag Severus to investure kicking and screaming.

"They called it a reward!" Still in his dress robes, the mantle of Headmaster still on his shoulders, Severus looks at him in horror.

Lucius pats his lover's thin shoulder, shuddering in sympathy.

~

The bookshelves go up in the bedroom when a pile of reading material tips over on them in the heat of passion, giving Lucius a mild concussion.

~

Severus writes that he's appointed Hermione Granger as Deputy Headmaster and Head of Slytherin, reporting with relish that she threw things at him in ire whilst calling him foul names.

~

WIZARDING WORLD'S BIGGEST CATCH IS HOOKED!

Wiltshire – Draco Malfoy, age 47, son of the late Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black-Malfoy, has finally wed his assistant, Eugenie Weasley, age 22, daughter of William Weasley and Fleur Delacour-Weasley of Essex…

"He's married a Weasley!" Lucius throttles the Daily Prophet. Draco and… that… redheaded…

"At least they managed it before the baby was born."

~

Lucius cannot remember this kind of quiet. He had no idea that it even existed. There is nothing but the flow of day into night, season into season, year into year. His wandless magic improves, slowly, but is very basic – mostly limited to fetch-this-send-that.

He does, however, think that he managed a passable Avada Kedrava on the cutworms in his raspberries.

~

Hermione Granger steps out of the Floo, her face grim.

"Something's happened to Severus."

~

He's apprehensive at first, looking around and feeling like a target without his wand. Then he's disquieted at how few faces he recognizes, no Sprout, no Pomfrey, no Flitwick. None recognize him, either, or indeed really seem to see him at all.

Granger takes his arm, guiding him to the infirmary.

"I'm the only one who knows."

"Keep it that way."

"It dies with me."

~

Severus' face is pale and drawn, almost as white as the linen he is lying upon.

"Too many rounds of Cruciatus and other nasty hexes, too long in a laboratory – the effects are cumulative." Lucius tells him, as Granger and Madam Bones wait without the privacy curtain.

"So this is likely to continue?" Severus' voice is weak and colorless.

"And worsen."

~

The grape arbor is restored, but the old chestnut trees succumb to some new rot and die. Lucius replaces them with a newer, hardier breed.

~

Severus regains his strength over the summer as Lucius and Hermione engage in a sub rosa correspondence. There are ways to handle Severus, and Lucius wants their time together to be as long as possible. They discuss how to keep him from overwork, from doing to much, from having the Wizaengamot, the Board of Governors, and the Aurors hound him where they would not anyone else.

The girl… no, she's a grandmother and great-grandmother now… the woman should have been a Slytherin, Heaven knows most of her descendents are.

~

Potter dies quietly, alone in Italy, and is buried there as per his wishes.

~

After fifty years, Ginny Weasley retires from coaching the Holyhead Harpies, and takes up the task of teaching a new generation how to terrorize the skies. Madam Weasley, Severus tells him, is still hell on a broom – even at the age of one hundred.

~

Severus walks into the potting shed on a fine spring morning.

"I've quit and we'll be needing need more bookshelves." He turns and walks out again, leaving Lucius with a bare-root R. Phoenicia in hand and raised eyebrows.

~

Severus passes his hundred-and-sixtieth and Lucius celebrates with a glass of icewine. Every year he lives is one that none thought he would have, and Lucius is determined to have his Severus live as many of them as possible.

There is a noise of feminine amusement behind him, and he turns to raise his eyebrow in icy disdain at the new Minister of Magic.

"And what, Madam Granger, do you find so very amusing?"

Old as she was, she still had a girl's giggle, "Lucius Malfoy drinking homemade hooch."

~

Some of the restrictions ease over time, but never again will Lucius be allowed to carry a wand. Truth to tell, he is a little proud of his wandless magic, but sometimes dreams of his old wand. He can remember vividly the cool weight of ebony and silver, the effortless power – but he does not do so often.

~

There are good and bad days. When Severus is recuperating from another attack, he writes in bed – this being the only way to keep him occupied and Lucius sane.

~

He mourns Draco from a distance, with Severus and Hermione holding him up as his son's body is interred next to his own false monument. The mourners' hair blows in the wind, all winter-blond and copper-red.

~

He's been wondering for years, so with uncharacteristic bluntness, Lucius asks.

Hermione answers, "Yes, but not often."

He teases Severus mercilessly until Severus pounces – creakily, but they are one-seventy-five and one-seventy-nine, respectively - and shuts Lucius up in the best way.

~

They go to the Green, but seldom talk to the headstones any more. There is a sense of peace now that the names are matched to the bodies interred under them. Two more spaces have been freshly cleared and leveled, capped with two blank stones.

Severus looks at him, raising an eyebrow in question.

It's fitting, and Lucius nods.

~

He sits at Severus' bedside, the quiet bustle of the hospital all around them. Severus' iron-gray hair is spread untidily against the pillow, his skin almost jaundiced.

Not now. Soon.

But not yet.

~

The lacecap hydrangeas have come in superlatively well, and the gooseberries are nearly ripe. The strawberries are notably diminished – and though he's past one-hundred-and-eighty, Lucius is not senile.

"Severus!"

His only answer is a contented burp.

~

Another birthday, another glass raised. Hermione joins him as Severus makes 'Bah!' noises from his study.

Lucius wonders what he'll have to say about the birthday cake.

~

Spring comes, and in his bones, Lucius knows this may well be their last one together.

There was little winterkill, and the perennials are doing admirably. Perhaps – just this once – he'll let them carry the garden this year.

~

The books – Severus has been working on more than one, as it turns out – are done and sent off to the publisher. The potions and alchemical studies are published to great acclaim. The memoirs must wait to be published posthumously. Lucius is in them from front to back, with deeds black and bright. Everything in them is true, but for the story of his death.

~

Summer fades into fall, and once again, Lucius takes to abandoning produce on doorsteps in the dead of night. Even Hermione has enough to feed a brood of Weasleys.

There is, as usual, a shortage of the raspberries.

"Severus!"

~

The snows come early, and when Lucius and Hermione raise their glasses, there is four feet of it on the ground with fat, heavy flakes falling lazily from a grey sky.

Severus is sleeping, as he has come to do more and more.

As she sets her emptied glass on the table, Hermione begins to cry.

~

The morning sun lies in pale gold panes on the quilts that cover him. Severus sets his teacup back in the saucer and pushes the tray away.

Lucius sets down his book, stands and goes to him, surreptitiously studying the plate. Severus just smiles at him, and holds out his hand, drawing Lucius to sit on the bed.

"Are you done?" Lucius is surprised at the strength of the grip and the smile, Severus has been so weak for the past few days.

"Yes, I'm done." Severus takes a breath, looking as if he wants to say more, but nothing comes.

"Severus?" Lucius reaches out, touches his lover's face. "Severus…?"

~

End