Lucius had been watching the two duel for some time, not really absorbing any new spells, but just observing their movements. Dueling was ever so graceful. Tom could certainly use a bit of that.
The Dark Lord caught his eye and he saw the man nearly collapse onto the floor had not the sofa been there to catch him. It was a slow, terrible collapse and Lucius found himself rushing forward, catching Tom before the boy touched the ground.
"Tom?" In his time in Voldemort's employ, Lucius had never known the older wizard to be sick, let alone display any major weaknesses. Fainting was a major no if a Dark Wizard wished to live a long life. Had Lucius been a lesser man, or perhaps a smarter man, he would've taken advantage of the situation.
His instincts, however, took priority and for some reason, they were verging on the paternal.
"Tom? Tom, are you all right?" Stupid question. "Here." Lucius gently picked Tom up and brought him over to the sofa, which was long enough to accomodate both the boy and the Dark Lord. He laid him down and brushed Tom's hair away from his eyes, checking Tom's pupils.
"How late did you stay up last night?"
Tom's eyes flickered opened slowly and he looked around, disoriented. Everything looked blurry, and he was burning up one second and freezing the next. Who was there? Lucius? And...
That was it. He'd been trying to cast the spell, he remembered, curling up on the sofa and closing his eyes again to stop the world from spinning.
It didn't take Voldemort long to sit up again. Had he actually fainted? The Dark Lord frowned, slowly turning his head towards Lucius. Ugh. How dreadfully embarrassing...
"Lucius," Voldemort said after a pause, his voice strangely weak, "what is the matter with the boy? He was not ill before." The Dark Lord took a deep breath and carefully got to his feet, determined to stay strong. Fainting like that had been bad enough. There was no way he was going to go pieces because of a headache and a fever...
...still, Voldemort pulled his cloak closer about his shoulders, leaning back against the wall. Stupid boy. He had not been this ill in years.
Tom was extremely pale. Had he been feeling like this for awhile or was this some strange seizure? "I'm here, Tom."
Lucius looked over at the Dark Lord. "I haven't a clue, my Lord. I can send for a private, personal mediwizard for him. One who won't ask questions for the right price." Of course, the mediwizard in question hadn't really practised anything even remotely medical since he lost his license in '42. He now sold hotdogs on the corner by the Ministry. All the same, he was damn good at what he did and getting him was much less hazardous than taking Tom to Mungo's or seeing a licensed mediwizard. They tended to inquire far too much.
Lucius transfigured one of the couch's pillows into a blanket and covered Tom with it. "Stay warm." If this was a fever, it would be best for the boy to sweat it out.
"Forgive me if I'm being too personal, my Lord, but when you were young, did you ever suffer any illnesses? Anything like this?"
"No." Of course not. He was the Dark Lord. He had never fallen ill. Well...
"Actually, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration. When I was young I did tend to fall ill. Influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia...orphanage was full of sick kids. Disgusting place." Voldemort stepped back towards the sofa and sat down again, shivering. Keeping his thoughts straight was becoming more difficult than anticipated and---
---had he just said orphanage?
ARG! NOBODY WAS SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT! NOT LUCIUS! NOBODY!
"As I was possessed by demons, the nuns did not especially like taking care of me. So they let me alone. To their dismay, I still survived."
WHAT WAS HE SAYING?
Voldemort closed his eyes and then opened them again with difficulty.
"And no Mediwizard," he added. "We shall be fine. That is, he shall be fine." What was the matter with him, anyway? Probably just a flu. That's right. He'd be fine soon...
Orphanage. Abused. Possessed. Oh, do go on, my Lord, Lucius thought privately.
"This doesn't seem like the flu. Flus don't just suddenly come on in the middle of a duel. He was fine last night and this morning. He's not coughing, not sneezing, no labored breathing. Pupils aren't even dilated. He just seems to have..." What the hell was that word? Hot spots? "Heat flashes and cold..whatever since he keeps shivering. Is your throat feeling strange?"
Lucius summoned in a House Elf and bid it go fetch the thermometer. The appliance as placed in Tom's ear and quickly flashed the temperature.
"Normal. Well, as normal as I think you're supposed to be." And now Lucius was completely in the dark.
"Tom? Tom, I need you to look at me. Blink once for yes, twice for no. Okay? Has this ever happened to you before?" If this was comparable to a childhood illness, then Lucius would have to get the medication himself without bringing the mediwizard to Tom. Lucius certainly didn't want to just leave the boy like this.
Tom looked up wearily. Had this ever happened before? Sure, he'd been ill...
...not quite like this, though.
Tom watched Lucius carefully. It was somewhat hard to see; everything was getting very blurry. Strange shapes were fading in and out, but that wasn't unusual. At least they were leaving him alone.
"Not...really," Tom replied slowly. "Not...this." Then the boy closed his eyes again, curling up under the blanket.
"Lucius. No need to fuss. Let him sleep. We shall discuss plans." They'd survive. He'd been through worse.
"Is the flu, anyway. My temperature is five degrees lower than the normal. This is not normal for me. Hence the shivering and such." Voldemort took a deep breath. "Strange that he should be so dizzy, however." He paused again, looking longingly at the blanket. No. That was for Tom. He didn't need it.
"Should you have a cup of tea, I would most appreciate it," he added. "Then...we shall...discuss."
Lucius looked sheepish when Voldemort told him of his temperature. So much for normal. But now Tom was shivering, had a fever and...and..
There was something wrong with his eyes. They seemed to be losing their natural redness and turning...gray? What was this? One's eye colour didn't just change! Well, not unless one was a massive freak of nature. And Tom wasn't a massive freak of nature.
On the other hand, the Dark Lord was telling him to forget it. And the Dark Lord knew himself.
But on the other hand, Tom looked like hell and so did the Dark Lord for that matter.
On the other hand, the Dark Lord knew his own limitations and no one knew Tom better than himself.
On the other hand, no one was perfect and it'd been a long time since the Dark Lord was last ten.
On the other hand, the Dark Lord was very good at cursing those that did not obey.
On the other hand, Tom was sick.
On the other...
There WAS no other hand!
Lucius ordered a cup of tea from the Elf.
"With all due respect, my Lord, I think this situation warrants a bit more seriousness than we're giving it. Tom's eyes are changing colours. I simply don't feel proper discussing certain important matters concerning our winning the war with Tom like this. He was placed in my care, after all."
With that, Lucius knew he was sealing his fate. No one had ever really disobeyed the Dark Lord and not suffered terribly for it. And Lucius had practically told the older wizard that he'd not say a damned thing until Tom was better.
The boy lay still for a few seconds and then finally stirred, coughing. Lucius was near him and Tom almost wanted to cling to him, if only to get away from the freezing cold and odd visions that kept flashing through his mind. Colors were changing, shifting throughout the room and---
The boy stirred again, a bit more of his strength returning to him. He still couldn't see straight and the world was still spinning but at least he could keep his eyes open.
Tom was still pale but his eyes had gone back to their familiar shade and he was now awake and talking once again. Thoughts of failure fled Lucius' mind and he gently picked Tom up and held him close.
"I'll keep you warm."
As a general rule, Malfoys never hugged. They were all bones and angles and embraces were normally awkward, especially when someone got an elbow in the ribs or a dagger in the back. Lucius, however, somehow made an embrace work between himself and Tom.
"I'm here for you. I won't let you go. You're safe now, Tom." Soft, soothing words designed to comfort. But, for once, Lucius wasn't sure whether they were directed to Tom or to himself. He wrapped the boy in his own cloak and placed a small heating charm on him. "It's all right. You'll feel better soon."
A hug. To his surprise, Tom did not fight against it. It wasn't only that he didn't have the strength. It just...
The warmth was comforting, and having Lucius' arms about him helped keep the visions at bay. Tom took a deep breath and relaxed as best he could, snuggling up under the warmth of the cloak. He still felt feverish, but at least he no longer felt like he was about to fade away. That had been frightening.
Lucius held him close, lapsing into silence for a few minutes before answering Tom's question. "I'm not completely sure, Tom. I was hoping you'd be able to tell me, actually. Your older self figured that whatever was going on was an effect from a spell. But it had been a spell cast on you and not on him. I guessed that the spell was the one placed on you when you were brought into being since that's the only thing I know of. Fortunately, we were able to make the potion in time to attack the side effect. We've still got the antidote in the lab just in case this ever happens again."
And Lucius would be damned sure to have plenty of the potion around the Manor. He wouldn't take a chance. Not on something so important as this.
"How do you feel? We can talk more about this when you're back to normal."
Too tired to lie, Tom paused for a moment and then began.
"Not good." The boy rubbed his eyes. "Cold and hot and very tired. But not like before. It is better now."
Tom's gaze brightened; the boy had suddenly remembered something.
"Severus...Severus said before...I felt the same way but not as much...and he also gave me a potion and I was better. So...it follows...that you were correct." Tom peered out into an empty space before him and shuddered. "I see him, the boy with the green eyes." He looked towards Lucius nervously, and then shut his eyes again.
The boy with the green eyes? Many kids had green eyes. Lucius hadn't a clue what Tom was on about but he let it go for now as Tom clearly wasn't in the right form of mind.
"I'm going to put your older self to bed now, Tom. Then I intend to do the same with you as you look like you need a rest." The boy could recover fully then now that Lucius was certain that he'd be waking up as well.
Still holding onto Tom, Lucius picked him up off the couch and went over to the chair where his Lord still sat, still asleep thankfully. Placing his hand on Voldemort's shoulder, Lucius apparated all three of them to one of his guest bedrooms which looked as lavish as the others. The Dark Lord had been in the Manor before and knew the basic layout of the place. So when he awoke, there wouldn't be any difficulties.
Feeling like a good host, Lucius tucked his Lord in, turning off the lights and only leaving the window drapings open a bit to allow in some sunlight. It wasn't easy to do so with one hand but Lucius managed. He had no desire to let Tom go. The boy seemed as though he needed something stable to hang onto.
Lucius made his way to his own bedroom where he tended to feel safest within the Manor. "My room is warmer than the others and it has its own fireplace. I think you'll do better in there," he explained as he opened his bedroom door.
A fire lit itself up within the fireplace, an iron grate blocking any wood from falling out. Lucius lay Tom down onto his bed and tucked him in gently. He then went to the adjoining bathroom and soon came back with a wet washcloth.
"Hold still, little one." Lucius carefully wiped away the sweat from off Tom's forehead, his paternal instincts acting up yet again. Part of him despised this apparent weakness he was showing while the other part felt it to be only natural. He dried off Tom's forehead. "Go ahead and rest. I'll be right here for you."
Tom lay back limply, allowing Lucius to tend to him. The boy with the green eyes stood in the corner, watching. Tom wanted to reach out towards him, but couldn't muster the energy to move. Instead, he tugged at Lucius' cloak and pointed towards him.
"The boy with the green eyes." Tom yawned. "He is not mad at me this time. Usually he is." Tom stirred, huddling under the blankets. "I do hope...Voldemort...will not be angry. Is he ill too?"
"Not as ill as you are, mon petit. And he knows that this is not your fault. If he is angry, I'll deal with it." Not Tom. Lucius wasn't sure why he was being so protective.
"If the boy with the green eyes is mad at you, Tom, and seeks to hurt you," Lucius' eyes found Tom's, "then I will run him through."
The Malfoy never enjoyed murder. Killing someone meant that he'd be one step closer to living by the sword and that was not his way. However, should a threat show itself to those he cared about, then Lucius wouldn't hesitate in his actions.
"You're safe here. The Manor will protect you as well."
A few hours later the Dark Lord stirred, opened his eyes, and sat up slowly. Hm. Malfoy Manor. In a flash, the events of the previous night came flooding back to him and he frowned, sighing heavily before tentatively making his way out of bed and getting to his feet.
No more dizziness. That was a plus. The potion must be doing its work. Voldemort sat back down. Tired, achy, and feverish. Now he really did feel like he had the flu. At least he wasn't about to fade away anymore. His recollections of the night before were blurry at best, but he couldn't help remembering the strange feeling of disorientation...
Voldemort paused for a moment, considering. He had planned to go off to Egypt, where he had some business to do. Appearing in this shape, however, might end up doing more harm than good. He could always spend some more time resting --- or he could read and work. He had a lot to catch up on in that respect. The Dark Lord got back up and pulled on his cloak, casting a few warming charms on it first. Yuck. It was definitely not the day to go anywhere at all.
Hopefully, Lucius wouldn't mind too much if he hung around for another day, he thought to himself, slipping out the door and stepping down the stairs into the main hall of the Manor. Tired again, he sat down on the sofa, conjuring up some blankets with a wave of the hand and huddling up under them. It was a moment of weakness, but it was of no consequence...
...after all, nobody was around to see it, Voldemort mused, lying down with his long black hair hiding his face.
The Manor informed Lucius that the Dark Lord was awake and walking about. Lucius hoped that Voldemort wouldn't mind his surroundings and wouldn't destroy anything in a fit of anger. He had no idea what Voldemort would be feeling concerning the events of the morning and the role he had played in them. He had seen the Dark Lord at his weakest. That alone could earn Lucius a death sentence so as to keep the information a secret.
Not that Lucius would tell anyone. It wasn't as though he conversed regularly with any other Death Eater save for Walden and Gabriel when he needed advice. And Lucius certainly wasn't about to go to the enemy and explain a damned thing.
He found Voldemort on the couch, huddled up. A pitiful sight, really, but Lucius made sure not to feel any pity. "Please tell me you're going to take the day off to recover, my Lord."
Voldemort sat up, his eyes narrowing and hair falling messily down over his shoulders. Lucius was supposed to have been at work! Lucius was NOT supposed to have snuck up on him and seen him lying under a blanket like a little child! Ugh!
The Dark Lord sighed, regaining his composure as best he could under the circumstances.
"Not entirely. But I shall not be going to Egypt as I had planned to. As you can no doubt see for yourself," he continued, shivering, "I am not exactly up to making a very impressive entrance at the moment. Unless you have any objection, therefore, I shall be staying here and working on my research. I have some problems to work out before I can proceed with the experimentation."
My, this was quite embarrassing indeed.
"I do very much apologize for my behavior, incidentially. And I do hope that you shall not mind it if I stay here for a while." He sighed. "For now, I suppose I shall be going to the library." Not to sleep. To work. That was right. Work.
"As you like, my Lord. Your visit is certainly no bother." Lucius paused, weighing his options and then continued. "I took off work today in order to make sure you and Tom were doing well. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."
Voldemort knew where the library was and Lucius figured the man would rather be alone to do his research then have some inquisitive blond hanging over his shoulder asking him about everything.
Though it was damned hard for Lucius to not ask if Voldemort intended on blowing up Muggles and Mudbloods with the atom bomb. "I'll turn up the heat in the Manor for you."
"Ah, thank you." He had taken his day off from work to watch over him and Tom? Voldemort frowned slightly and then sighed, his expression softening slightly. It was strange, the idea of being watched over, cared for. Not something he was used to. Not something he wanted, or needed, of course, being the Dark Lord. Still. There was something about the idea that was...
...Voldemort shook his head. Ugh. He really had to be feverish if he was thinking that way. He was the Dark Lord. Powerful. Strong. He didn't need anyone!
The Dark Lord's mind drifted back towards the events of the previous night once more. He could barely remember anything! Had he wished to, Lucius could have disposed of him and Tom together, once and for all. How had he been so stupid as to leave himself vulnerable to another like that? Whatever had happened to always being on his guard? Fuming, the Dark Lord carefully controlled his frustration. No. He would do the rational thing: be humble and thank Lucius. There wasn't much else he could do about it at this point.
"Thank you once again for your assistance last night. I suspect that I may not have been entirely coherent. It speaks well of you that you did not take advantage of the situation." Trust. That was the word. Voldemort did not say it, but for once his usually blank eyes warmed slightly as they looked up towards Lucius. "In my experience there are not many people so inclined, at least as far as I am concerned."
Lucius hadn't been prepared for gratitude. He had been prepared for a simple nod and a 'by your leave' maybe if Voldemort wished to be polite. To show gratitude was strangely unsettling, but in a pleasant way to Lucius. It simply showed to him that Voldemort, despite his massive power and status, could still communicate not only his needs but also his appreciation, when few dark wizards would bother at all.
"I..." Should he dare tell his Lord why he did what he did? Perhaps it would be best to keep the information to himself rather than risk hurting either himself or the Dark Lord? But no. Voldemort had shown him gratitude so Lucius was inclined to give the man more leeway than he previously would have.
"Most of your followers see you as a god-like being, one that's infalliable and completely above and beyond humanity. This morning, I saw you being human, thus proving to me that you are falliable and that you still belong on this plane of existence of humanity. Truthfully, my Lord, I'd much rather follow a human than some god-like being who doesn't know what it feels like to be human and can simply cast away lives on a moment's notice. I saw your humanity and such a thing would be utterly shameful to exploit."
There were those morals and ethics again. Lucius was almost positive that they'd get him killed one of these days. "Rather, I saw it as something to protect."
Voldemort's gaze roamed the room, uncertainty flickering through his eyes. For once in his life, he wasn't entirely sure what to make of what he'd just heard. Part of him kept insisting that it was utter inanity, and that he for one would never act that way, yet...
...he liked the fact that Lucius was different. Of course, a nagging voice reminded him, Lucius was merely concerned for his own safety. He had exploited him in another way: using his emotions against him. Because now...
...he felt grateful.
It was merely another form of entrapment, another form of betrayal so much more subtle than mere brutality or force. Voldemort's eyes glinted sharply for a second and then dimmed. He didn't have the strength to be furious, really. Besides, he didn't even think he wanted to be. Or did he?
Ugh! Best not to think about any of it. There were more important matters to consider.
"Thank you," Voldemort repeated, his tone slightly distant, "I do appreciate that, Lucius." It wasn't just that he followed the Dark Lord the way moths fly towards the brightest flame. There was something about him, Lord Voldemort, that Lucius...liked? Strange concept, that. Of course, he was very charming, but he hadn't been yesterday. Who knows what he had even said? He couldn't remember. It hadn't been planned. It hadn't been a strategem. It hadn't even been a lie.
For a few moments, a very deep sadness settled over Voldemort's features, and the Dark Lord shuddered. No. No, no, no. He would not think on it. It was irrelevant. What was past was past and would always be. Everybody was truly alone in the end; that was fact. It was nothing to be bothered about. It was something to take advantage of, something to utilize in his quest for purity, perfection. That was what mattered. Nothing else.
So why was it that he suddenly wished to do something to make Lucius happy? The happiness of others had never mattered to him, not unless it directly concerned the accomplishment of his goals. And even if he tried, what did he know about that sort of thing? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Lucius mentally sighed in relief. He was still in one piece, despite his Lord recalling what had occured that morning and even after displaying his reasoning. That was quite enough for now.
"You're very welcome." Lucius glanced at the floor, unsure of what to say next. His Lord was giving off a peculiar aura, leaving Lucius feeling a bit confused.
"I guess you'd like to go to the library now. It's right at the top of the stairwell. Feel free to stay as long as you like and if you need any drinks, the Elves will, ah, provide. I should go check on Tom now. He was doing much better when he fell asleep so when he wakes, I think he'll be back to normal. Should be a relief on you."
Lucius felt as though he should say more, but he couldn't think of anything. So he bowed formally and started to head back to his bedroom.