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It's Not Easy Being Lucius

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           Lucius Malfoy was having an awful day.

           First, the Malfoy family solicitor had been three minutes late to their standing monthly appointment, giving some excuse about a sick daughter or some such nonsense. Good grief, the girl was in St. Mungo’s, right? That’s what the Healers were for. No need for the man to be sitting around his daughter’s bed moping when he was supposed to be working. Then the man had reported that once again, the Malfoy vaults were showing a net loss, once again due to his son’s little hobby of giving away the family gold to orphans and widows and other layabouts.

           “It’s the right thing to do,” Draco had argued.

           “Donate your own galleons, then.”

           “I have, Father. I am. But a lot of these children are orphans because of us. If you ever want to show your face in polite society after your house arrest is up, I suggest you agree.”

           Lucius had grudgingly agreed, for two reasons: one, he really did enjoy society and was looking forward to the day when he would once again be able to attend all the best galas. Two, to get Narcissa, who highly approved of Draco’s plan, off his back. Honestly, the woman was so weird about their son. She had been delighted when he’d pursued being a potions master (instead of going into politics like he was supposed to), thrilled when he got his first job after apprenticeship, supported all his plans to – quote - “never live in this insane murder house again as long as I live,” and had fully endorsed this whole “helping others” thing the boy had gotten mixed up into. It was as if she was proud of the boy no matter what he did. Draco could probably marry Harry Sodding Potter (ha! That would be the day!) and his wife would still approve.

           And then Draco hadn’t shown himself for the meeting, which was just plain rude. The boy was going to be twenty-four next month. He needed to get serious about managing his responsibilities as a Malfoy and begin searching for a suitable wife. (The day Draco had sat down with his parents at tea and informed them – in no uncertain terms – he had no intention of marrying Astoria Greengrass, that when and if he married, it would be for – of all things – love...well, poor Lucius nearly had a heart attack. Of course Narcissa thought her son was brilliant and he definitely should marry for love, he deserved it after everything.)

           Now the meeting was finishing up and Lucius had to dismiss the nervous little man with an impatient wave of his hand, rather than turning him into a goat, which is what the man should have had coming to him for his tardiness. But of course, he wasn’t allowed to do that anymore. No, Narcissa had forbidden him from turning any more employees into farm animals after they lost their second gardener. It was like she had no sense of humor after the war. Pity, really.

           When the solicitor left, Lucius was forced to sit behind his desk for nearly ten minutes, trying to breathe deeply and focus on his calming images, an exercise his quack of a mind healer had insisted he try.

           “Visualize yourself as some kind of animal,” she’d said in her dreamy voice. “Something positive, something you feel good about. Imagine you are that creature. Step away from the difficulties of being Lucius Malfoy. Be the animal. Focus on your environment. Focus on feeling free of burdens and center your mind on being your animal, completely at peace with the world.”

           It was all a lot of woo-woo bollocks, Lucius had told her. And he continued to tell her that at every single one of his mandated weekly appointments. She had always just smiled and left Lucius privately wondering if she had once mentally pretended to be a loon and had never quite recovered.

* * *

           Lucius found his way to the veranda where his wife sat, sipping tea, watching the peacocks in the gardens below. His chosen animal for calming himself was a peacock. Beautiful, regal, intimidating.

           “Your son missed the monthly accounts meeting again. I heard the Floo alarm go off an hour ago. Merlin knows what he’s doing up there, faffing about. Probably wasting his education inventing some sort of face cream.”

           “He’ll be down for lunch, darling. He did say he had good news. You can discuss it with him then. Besides, that under eye cream he invented is brilliant.” She tilted her head up and pointed at the space just below her eye. “Look how firm. It’s going to be a huge seller. The witches in my book club all love it!”

           Lucius glowered. “My son is not going to spend his life making cosmetics. He needs to get some discipline. Grow up and be a man. He needs to stop-”

           Narcissa cut him off, placing a gentle hand over her husband’s. “Darling, you’re getting worked up. Have you been doing your calming exercises?”

           Lucius crossed his arms across his chest. “Just did some when the bloody solicitor left. The nerve of that man.”

           Narcissa took a sip of her tea. She spoke carefully. “Perhaps you should do another round of your visualizations? Lunch isn’t for another twenty minutes, and you know Healer Lovegood’s work is part of what keeps you out of...that place.”

           Oh yes. He knew all right. After the war, Saint Bloody Potter had spoken for Draco and Narcissa, leaving them with only probation. But he’d had nothing to say for the elder Malfoy, who had wound up with an Azkaban sentence so long, he hadn’t expected to ever leave the island.

           And then there was a miracle. One fine Tuesday, a guard had come in and wordlessly escorted him to the exit, into the legal custody of a Mr. Hugo Huggins, an annoyingly chipper parole officer who had no idea how Lucius had been released into parole a full four years before he was supposed to be eligible for a hearing.

           Of course, there were several stipulations to his release: Lucius had to stay on the Manor grounds. He could not apparate. He was not allowed to have house elves. He had to pay the servants. He wasn’t allowed to use any curses. (Turning them into animals not being a curse, he’d considered it a stroke of brilliance, until the bloody wife nipped that in the bud.) But perhaps the worst condition of his early parole was the required weekly appointment with a mind healer. He didn’t need a bloody mind healer. He needed to turn someone into a chicken.

           Lucius stared out at the peacocks, forcing himself to relax his mind and push out all the anger. I am calm, I am calm, I am calm, he repeated to himself. He closed his eyes and imagined himself as a peacock. If his Mind Healer’s cockamamie orders forced him to imagine himself as some kind of beast, well, what better than the Malfoy family mascot? I am a peacock. I am a peacock. I am a peacock. I am the king of my muster. I own all around me. I am calm. The sun shines on my feathers. I have no worries. The grass is soft beneath my feet. My son is being irresponsible. The pond is cool and refreshing. My feathers are brilliant. I am calm. The world fades away. I am at peace. I am a prince among my kind. I am angry. No, I am at peace. I am at peace.

           “Right,” Lucius said, standing. “I’m going to fetch Draco and we’re going to talk about his future once and for all.”

           He strode off, his robes billowing behind him. Narcissa sighed. Oh, she loved her husband, but he could be so dramatic about things sometimes.

           

* * *

           Lucius stood outside his son’s door. Silence. That was nothing new. Draco had been putting silencing and locking charms on his rooms since he was nine years old. But Draco hadn’t lived here since the end of his probation. Sometimes he would pop in and use the Manor library, or he’d use his private potions room for some of his more explosive experiments. He came for dinner or tea every couple weeks and would occasionally stay for a weekend visit. But in all that time, Draco hadn’t once bothered to ward his rooms. What could he be doing in there?

           Carefully, Lucius placed his palm flat against the door to Draco’s bedroom. The silencing charm fell (silently) away. He placed his ear against the door and heard Draco laugh.

           Laugh? Since when did his son laugh?

           More laughter from Draco. “You’re bloody amazing, love, you know that?”

           Oh! It hit Lucius like a stunner to the forehead. Draco had a girl in there! No wonder he hadn’t come down for the meeting! That must be Draco’s news! He’d found his wife-to-be! The poor girl was probably nervous about making a good impression. (Because who wouldn’t be nervous, knowing they would soon meet The One and Only Lucius Malfoy in person?) Well, if she was properly bred, there shouldn’t really be a problem, should there? Perhaps Lucius could take her by surprise before she got all her nerves too tangled up. It would help put her at ease. See, growth! Take that, Healer Lovegood!

           
Lucius waved his wand over the door and the locking charm came quietly undone. He smiled, thrilled that Draco finally seemed to be taking at least one of his responsibilities seriously.

           Lucius pushed the door gently open. “Draco, you didn’t come down – aaahhh!”

           Draco. His son. Snuggling. Harry Potter. Arms...around each other. Cuddling. Kissing.

           Lucius ran down the hall, clutching his heart.

* * *

           Draco and Harry both sat up, startled out of their mutual adoration. Harry gave Draco a mischievous smile. “That went well.”

* * *

           Lucius arrived at the veranda, gasping for breath. He’d run through the entire Manor, his heart racing like the Hogwarts Express, his brain a whirling storm of confusion even as he tried to do his calming visualizations.

           I am calm. I am calm. I am calm. I am walking in the grass. I am a peacock. I am the king of the muster. I am brilliant. The sun shines on my feathers. The pond is cool and refreshing. The grass is soft beneath my feet. I am a peacock. I have no worries. I am calm. I am calm. I have no burdens. Only the sun on my feathers. I am brilliant. I am calm.

           Narcissa stood. “Darling, what’s the matter? You look awful! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

           “Draco,” he breathed.

           “What’s wrong with Draco? Is he all right? What’s going on, Lucius?”

           “Potter,” was all he could manage before the world became blurry, and Lucius felt like he was shrinking in on himself. And then Lucius really did feel quite calm. He looked up at the sky. It really was a nice day. The sun was warm on his face.

* * *

           Draco and Harry walked hand-in-hand through the Manor, not in any particular hurry to find Lucius, wherever he had gone. But soon enough, they could hear an even bigger threat: Narcissa, her voice magnified with a sonorous so there was no way he wouldn’t hear, even several rooms away.

           “Draco Lucius Malfoy!”

           They made their way to a large, open, sitting room with sunlight pouring in through the windows. For some reason there was a black peacock sitting in the middle of the room. His mother and her eccentricities. She did love those bloody peacocks.

           “Hello, Mother.” He smiled. “You know Harry Potter, right?”

           Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t you ‘you know Harry Potter’ me, young man! You’ve turned your father into a peacock!”

           “I did not!”

           “Then how do you explain this?” She gestured to the black peacock, which finally turned around and faced them.

           The bird was all black except for the small feathery crown on the top of its head, which was a bright gold. Steel grey eyes turned to Harry and the bird released a mighty squawk before fanning all its feathers out and fluffing them aggressively toward him. On each individual feather, where normally there would be an eye of sorts, the Lucius-peacock had a pattern of dark grey skulls. It was actually rather pretty (even if a bit creepy), Harry mused, before the bird began moving closer, fluffing itself even more.

           Draco looked at the bird, then to Harry, then back to the bird, which looked like it wanted to murder Harry.

           “Oh yeah, that’s Father all right. What happened?”

           The Lucius bird was giving Harry the evil eye.

           “I was hoping to ask you that, Draco.”

           “I didn’t do anything!”

           Lucius bird made a noise and advanced toward Harry. Narcissa put her hand out toward the peacock. “Lucius,” she cooed. “I understand you’re upset, but you simply cannot attack the Potter boy.”

           Lucius looked up at her and relaxed his feathers a bit. Narcissa stroked his crown, which the Lucius bird seemed to like rather a lot.

           “Although,” she said pointedly. “That does bring us to the question of exactly what Harry Potter is doing in our home?”

           Draco took in a deep breath and reached for Harry’s hand. “This isn’t how I wanted to tell you both, but Mother, Father, Harry and I are in love.”

           “Squawk!”

           Narcissa pressed a pale hand to her chest. “Oh, Draco! I’m so happy for you!” She glanced at Harry, then at the Lucius-peacock and pursed her lips. “Though I rather think your father is less pleased.”

           The peacock seemed to do some kind of angry dance, stomping around and shuddering his shoulders, his head bobbing forward and back. The black feathers with the skull looking eyes were at attention; so stiff and full Draco didn’t think he’d ever seen a peacock so riled up and attempting to display dominance.

           Harry took a few steps backward. “Er, is there someone we should call?”

           “Who would you suggest? It’s not as if this has happened before.”

           “How about Luna? She’s his mind healer, right? That’s probably a good place to start.”

           Narcissa’s eyes widened, her mouth forming an ‘O’ of shock. The Lucius-Bird was doing a series of quick up-and-down jumps, bobbing its head around, reminding Harry of boxing matches Dudley had watched during summers home.

           “You?” Narcissa asked. “You’re the one who arranged his early parole?”

           Draco winced and leaned over to Potter. “We weren’t going to tell them, remember?”

           Harry shrugged. “Well I guess the cat – er, the peacock – is out of the bag.”

           Narcissa turned on her son. “You knew?”
           Draco looked a bit contrite. “Yes, Mother. Um, perhaps we should discuss this over lunch? I think I hear the bell.”

           Narcissa inhaled deeply. “Yes. Lunch. Of course. Follow your father closely, Draco. Make sure he doesn’t wander off.”

* * *

           Lunch was an odd affair. Harry had shot off his Patronus to find Luna with a message about an emergency regarding Lucius Malfoy. Even in his peacock form, Lucius sat at the head of the table. One of the new housekeepers had been sent off to find something suitable for the feathered Head of the House to sit on, and even with his feathers now relaxed, it had been a challenge. In the end, they’d had to transfigure another dining chair into a large, cushioned stool. Narcissa had also instructed the cook to put lunch under warming charms until another housekeeper could finish collecting enough food from the grounds for Lucius. (None of this really bothered the staff; they had all seen weirder things in their days.)

           “We’re all eating together,” Narcissa said stiffly, her chin in the air. “Even if we’re not all human at the moment.”

           And they all waited in a stiff silence, Lucius-Peacock glaring at Harry the entire time.

           At last the cook served lunch; soup and finger sandwiches for three, and in an elegant soup bowl for Lucius, a collection of seeds, bits of grass, and some bugs.

           “So, Mr. Potter,” Narcissa started. “Would you care to inform us of what exactly possessed you to aid my husband in such a way? Not that we are not grateful for your assistance with his...situation. But surely you didn’t do this out of the goodness of your heart, so I must ask, what is it you want?”

           “Er, nothing.”

           “Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!” Lucius bobbed his head at Harry and fluffed his chest feathers up.

           “We can’t understand what you’re saying, Father.”

           Harry took a polite sip of his water. “Oh, I think I get the gist of it.”

           Lucius-bird made a huffing noise and settled into his seat.

           Narcissa took a deep breath and addressed her feathery husband. “Lucius, you may understand what we are saying, but none of us here can decipher your squawking. Just eat your bugs and be quiet.”            
           She turned to Harry. “Again, Mr. Potter. I must insist that you tell us what is is you’re looking to achieve in having arranged this for my husband.”

           “Er...nothing. Really.”

           Narcissa pursed her lips. Lucius-Peacock bobbed his head several times and made a loud noise.

           Draco reached over and took Harry’s hand, their fingers intertwined over the table.

           “He did it for me, Mother. And for you.”

           “I beg your pardon?”

           There was a brief chime and everyone at the table froze, even Lucius paused, a bug sticking halfway out of his beak.

           A moment later, one of the housekeepers appeared. “Mistress Malfoy, there is a Luna Lovegood here. She says she was summoned by Mr. Potter’s Patronus.”

           Narcissa nodded. “Thank you, Ophelia. Please send Healer Lovegood to the Blue Room. We will see her there shortly.”

           Ophelia bowed her head briefly and left.

           Narcissa looked pointedly at the two boys, as if they were naughty preschoolers, rather than two adult men with careers and homes of their own. “We will continue this discussion later.”
           

* * *

           Luna Lovegood smiled serenely as Narcissa sat on an ancient sofa across from her, Lucius-Peacock sitting next to her as the lady gently stroked her husband’s feathers.

           Harry gave Luna a hug and they exchanged pleasantries before he took a seat next to Draco.

           Luna tilted her head. “So what seems to be the problem?”

           “Squawk! Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!” His feathers ruffled.

           Luna clapped her hands together. “Well not everyone would assume it’s cause for alarm, Lucius. In fact, this is quite wonderful.”

           The peacock fluffed its feathers and bobbed its head, making snappish little noises all the while.

           “Now Lucius,” Luna said calmly, “What did we agree about name-calling?”

           He made a small noise.

           “Exactly.”

           Narcissa looked curiously at Luna. “How can you understand him?”

           “Oh, I speak eight different bird languages.”

           There was silence all around.

           “So, Mrs. Malfoy. Let’s start with you. Can you tell me, in your own words, what happened?”

           Narcissa recounted everything she could about the morning. Lucius being upset about the solicitor's visit and Draco’s absence, then his insistence on seeing Draco immediately and returning to her clutching his heart and then his stomach and eventually changing into the black peacock next to her.

           Luna considered. “So this definitely wasn’t an intentional transformation?”

           “Squawk!”

           “Brilliant!” Luna exclaimed. “Lucius, this is wonderful! I’m so proud of you!”

           Draco leaned over and whispered into Harry’s ear. “Still a bit of a loon, eh?”

           Harry smiled and leaned forward. “Er, excuse me, Luna – er, Healer Lovegood, but how is this wonderful?”

           “I’m glad you asked, Harry. This means that Lucius has been working very hard on his calming visualizations.” She smiled brightly at the peacock, who appeared very unhappy with all of this.

           “You’ve been working so hard, Lucius, that your brain eventually accepted the messages you sent it.”

           This statement was followed by Lucius jumping off the couch and displaying his gleaming black feathers wide, showing off the skull pattern that took up the eye area of the feathers. He squawked several times and turned his head to glare those deep grey eyes at Harry.

           Narcissa sighed. “Will he be like this forever, Healer Lovegood?”

           “Oh no. Not at all. Just until he calms down a bit, I’d say. Though it’s entirely possible he will transform again if he gets agitated, so it’ll be important for Lucius to remain calm.”

           Draco gave an undignified snort and tried to cover it with a cough. All eyes were suddenly on him.

           “Something to add, Draco?” Luna asked.

           He cleared his throat. “Just that Father is never calm.”

           The peacock gave a mighty jump and the loudest shriek so far. Draco moved aside to avoid taking a beak to his knee and looked pointedly at Luna.

           “See?”

           “Hmm, yes. I do see. Lucius, can you tell me about what happened today that caused this? Perhaps when we get to the root of your anger, we can address that.”

           The Lucius-bird let his feathers down and started pacing, dragging the long train of feathers behind him on the elegant rug beneath. He made noise after noise, the pitch of his bird voice changing, and occasionally would gesture with a wing toward where Harry and Draco sat, still holding hands.

           “Ah, yes,” Luna said. “I can see how that would be very upsetting for you.”

           The peacock bobbed its head. Luna nodded. “Would you like to tell me more about that, Lucius?”

           Lucius fluffed his wings and tucked his head down.

           “That’s okay, we can save it for another time.” She glanced at Narcissa. “Now, Mrs. Malfoy, Lucius tells me that in addition to other upsetting factors, you have both just learned that it was Harry who arranged for Lucius to be on parole?”

           Narcissa nodded. “We have yet to determine what he wants in return.”

           Luna turned her head. “Harry?”

           “I don’t have an aim.”

           Narcissa’s lips were set into a thin line. “Yes, you said as much before. However, given your history with this family, my husband in particular, you can see how hard it is for me to just accept that you did this out of simple kindness.”

           Harry considered. Now all eyes were on him, but he tuned them all out, focusing on Narcissa.

           “Mrs. Malfoy, do you remember the forest? When you lied to Voldemort and saved my life?”

           She blanched, but nodded.

           Harry went on. “You did that for Draco.”

           She nodded.

           Harry shrugged. “I did what I did for Draco. He missed his father, and he was worried about you, how much you missed him. It upset him how unhappy you were. I’m not going to pretend I helped Lucius out of any personal affection for him, nor out of the goodness of my heart, as you put it. I got Lucius out on early parole for Draco, because what won’t we do for the ones we love?”

           Narcissa took a deep breath and held it. She let it out. Finally, she nodded. “I understand.”

           Luna beamed. “This has been wonderful progress, all of you!” She put a finger to her lips. “You know, I think I’d like to expand Lucius’ appointments into family healing as well. That’ll include you, Harry. Let’s see, my Thursday mornings are busy with the Wrackspurt Sufferers Support Group, but I have Thursday afternoons free. How does three sound?”

           Lucius made a series of squawking sounds.
           Luna smiled indulgently. “Yes, I do think it’s important, and of course Harry should be here.” She stood, signaling the end of the emergency session. “Now, I want you to continue your calming visualizations. Focus on your center, Lucius. On finding your inner joy.”

           Lucius let out a noisy shriek and gave a flap of his wings in a clear act of aggression. Luna smiled and patted his head, stroking his golden crown.

           “Yes, I know. I’ll see you on Tuesday for our regular session, Lucius. Try to relax. Stress can attract Wrackspurts, and we don’t want to add that to your concerns, do we?” She smiled. “See me out, Harry?”

           Harry nodded and gave a quick glance at Narcissa, before strolling (as slow as possible) with Luna to the door. He thanked her and they hugged, and she wished him luck.

           Harry took his sweet time in returning to the sitting room. Though the door was open, he gave a light knock before entering. Draco beamed and went to him, grabbed his hand. Narcissa was standing next to the window, staring out at the grounds. She turned when he entered. No sign of that bloody Lucius-bird.

           “Er...where’s Lucius?”

           Lucius Malfoy strolled into view from behind him. Harry guessed the peacock version of Lucius had calmed down enough in the past few minutes to return to being a man. He figured Lucius had stood in the corner behind the door in order to catch Harry off guard and perhaps retain some of the upper hand.
           Harry coughed. “Er...yeah. All better, then?”

           Lucius narrowed his eyes. “Yes,” he hissed.

           “Brilliant.”

           Draco smiled. “Mother, Father, I know this has been a horrible shock to you. It wasn’t at all how I wanted to tell you about us.”

           He grinned over at Harry, his eyes lighting up. “But we really are in love. In fact,” he looked from his mother to his father. “The reason I wanted to have this lunch with you both today is I’ve asked Harry to marry me. And he said yes.”

           The pair of men beamed.

           Lucius pinched the bridge of his nose. I am calm. I am calm. I am calm.

           Narcissa took a deep breath and smiled. “I can’t honestly say you are what I imagined for my Draco, Mr. Potter. But a small part of me is not entirely surprised. Draco has always had a bit of a preoccupation with you, even when he was a small boy.”

           Harry grinned, and Draco blushed.

           “However,” she continued, “You have helped this family a great deal by arranging early parole for Lucius, and evidently you make my son happy.”

           She looked to her son for confirmation. Draco smiled warmly, then gazed back at Harry. “I am happy, Mother. Happier than I’ve ever been.”

           She nodded and extended her hand. “Well, in that case, welcome to the family, Mr. Potter.”

           Harry took her hand and shook it, bowing his head a bit in deference to his future mother-in-law. “Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy.”

           Narcissa gave him a little smile. “You may call me Narcissa, Mr. Potter.” She paused. “Of course, Lucius and I will pay for your wedding, won’t we, Darling?”

           “Squawk!”