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Chapter 1: Good Night, Good Luck
11th February 1973
The sky grew dark quickly during this time of year, casting a shadow over everything that roamed the earth. The sky darkened over the garden of the Manor, dimming the startling brightness of the flowers that winter had chosen to spare. Black and intimidating clouds gathered now, threatening to burst.
At one of the windows, a curtain moved. Behind it, the Master of the Manor eyed the gardens with a frown. The stone benches on the ground were glazed with ice. Around them the vines escaped from their stronghold of a nearby fence, and encircled the rest of the chairs. The gardener had given up trying to trim them; every time he did they would grow thicker than before.
His grey eyes shifted from the wild garden to the sky where the clouds had broken, and unleashed their assault on the ground below. He watched the rain drops strike the glass panes of the windows one by one until they all became merged, and water streamed down the pane.
It was hard to believe that this house had been in his family for centuries. Now they were in his hands, and part of him thought it was too much for a young man of nineteen.
He turned away, allowing the heavy, dark curtains to fall back across the window. On the settee across the room sat two women conducting a conversation they had no qualms about anyone overhearing. Both had a similar shade of blonde hair, one whiter than the other, and they were pale with pointed faces. The younger of the two smiled at the young man and beckoned him over.
He bowed his head as he approached them. It was an old-fashioned gesture, but none of them would have it any other way. “I didn’t think you were coming to dinner tonight, Livia. Where’s your husband?”
The woman known as Livia sniffed and smoothed the invisible wrinkles on her pale blue robes. She fixed her younger brother with a cool glare, and in spite of herself, she answered his question. “I wasn’t intending to, but Caelum thought it might be best. His father isn’t well, so he’s gone over to see him.”
“Yes,” the elder of the two women added. “Besides, it’s not right for a lady to be in a house riddled with death.”
The young man screwed up his face in confusion; his thoughts took him back in the past where a vision of his mother flitted about the house screeching for the nurse. “Really, Mama? I recall you never left Father’s side.”
The old woman’s expression became pinched and she began to tap her heeled foot on the ancient rub beneath it. “Don’t be cheeky, Lucius, those were different circumstances.”
The young man took another sip, hiding his smile behind the glass. “Of course.”
“Anyway, your sister was just telling me about old Cygnus’s will,” she continued, shooting her son a furtive glance from behind her spectacles. She leaned forward with a wicked smile. “Druella and her girls don’t get much, if anything at all.”
Livia lifted her chin and tossed her white blonde hair over her shoulder. “I was surprised when Caelum told me, I don’t know what they’ll do if Cygnus passes.”
“You sound a bit too cheerful about your prospects, Livia,” Lucius sat across from them in an armchair, his upper lip curled. “Why was he telling you about this anyway?”
“Don’t be daft, brother. He tells me everything.” She rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. “Why?”
“Usually men don’t tell their wives about money, that’s all.”
“Yes, well you could remind me about that when you actually have a wife,” she bit back with nostrils flared.
Lucius resisted the urge to smile, he sat back in his chair instead, pleased that he could still get away with baiting his sister. She and his mother turned away from him, continuing their conversation about the state of her father – in – law’s affairs, no doubt. At twenty – three years old, Livia Malfoy – Black had earned a name for herself in society. Most of the time it ended with the word ‘pariah’, but he wasn’t about to tell her that.
He shifted his attention to the newspaper someone left on the table between them. The headline announced another murder. Lucius scanned the article silently, and the crease in his brow deepened with every line. Below the headline was the image of a skull floating above a small house with a snake protruding from the vast emptiness of its mouth. The mark had been gracing the front page of the newspaper occasionally, but its appearance had grown in frequency over the past few months.
It was obvious whose sign it belonged to by now. He heard of it whispered in the dark of his dormitory at Hogwarts, and even at the Ministry which surprised him. But in his time there, he discovered that everyone wore a different face for every occasion; so did he. Even his brother talked about it – this man whose name no one dared to utter, a man who could make anyone disappear.
“Master Malfoy,” a small house-elf appeared at his side, pulling him back to the drawing room. “Dinner is ready, sir.”
Lucius nodded and the elf disappeared. He folded the paper, and replaced it on the table. He would read it later. Gesturing to his mother and sister, he rose from his chair. “Shall we?”
On the way out he met a pair of grey eyes hardened by life and its never ending troubles. He turned away as quickly as he glanced at them, ignoring the overwhelming feeling of unease which had settled in his stomach. He squeezed his eyes shut allowing the wave to pass before accompanying the others down a dimly-lit corridor and into a room with a high ceiling.
Cabinets filled with centuries-old china lined the walls, hiding the ugly old stone wall from sight. Old portraits sat on the walls, a morbid continuation of the lines of relatives who occupied the main hall. In the centre of this room was a long dining table. Lucius remembered his parents having grand parties here in the 60s, but that was a different time. Things were less complicated back then.
He paused at the head of the table. It was brief, but when he looked up, he met his mother’s questioning gaze and shook his head. He continued down the long line of chairs to where the table was set at the far end, closer to the kitchen. The elves made roast tonight – prime beef cooked to perfection – with those garlic potatoes he liked, but the only scent that filled his nostrils was decay. A rotting carcass filled his mind and next to it was the body of his old classmate; suddenly he didn’t feel hungry anymore.
His mother and sister chatted about the latest fashions from London and various other things that failed to catch his interest. It wasn’t until he heard the door open again that he was relieved for the interruption; at least he’d have some company now.
Felix Malfoy strode into the dining room with his travelling cloak tucked over his arm. His lips were curved into a smirk, matching the one their sister usually wore whenever she got the better of someone.
“How nice of you to join us,” Livia commented as her mother clucked her tongue in disapproval.
“Good evening, Mother.” The youngest Malfoy sibling placed a chaste kiss on his mother’s cheek and rolled his eyes at his sister. “What are you doing here, Livia? Don’t you have a husband?”
Livia scoffed. “You and Lucius are exactly the same, it’s no wonder you’re not married yet.”
Lucius winked at his brother. Livia had been making comments about his single status since before he’d left Hogwarts, all of which he chose to ignore.
Felix collapsed next to his brother and grinned at their sister’s reddening face. Lucius was often mistaken for his brother, even when they were much younger – they shared the characteristic pointed face of the Malfoy men and white blond hair which was cut to the same length each time. As far as similarities went, it ended at appearances. Felix enjoyed the luxuries granted to a young man from such a family – he didn’t have to meet with attorneys every other week or control the running of the estate. He was free.
Lucius rubbed his temple as his brother chatted away about his newest purchase – a flying carpet.
“It’s a classic,” Felix grinned, taking in his mother’s wide eyes. “I’ll take you up for a spin, Mama.”
Lucius ran a hand through his hair and groaned. “How much did it cost?”
“Look at you, always about the money.” He glared at his older brother, his fingers drummed impatiently on the smooth mahogany table.
“How much?” Lucius pressed. He was half-afraid to hear the price.
“One hundred Galleons.”
Lucius looked down at his empty glass; he would need a lot more to drink tonight. As if reading his thoughts, one of the elves appeared with a decanter and poured a generous helping of his poison into the glass.
“No wine for you then?” His mother nodded to the amber liquid in the tumbler.
Lucius shook his head. “No, I guess not.”
She made a noise he would consider disapproving, but he ignored it, feigning interest at the food which had appeared in front of them. For the most part the conversation dwindled and the family ate in silence, which wasn’t out of the ordinary; not since the late master died - the true master of the manor.
Lucius kept his head down for most of it, chasing down his peas with his fork even though his mother had told him never to play with his food.
“Lucius.” His brother leaned in close. Lucius raised his head by an inch, never letting his eyes leave his plate. Time had taught him to avoid his parents’ attention when trying to speak to his brother in secret at the dinner table.
“Have you heard about Benjy Fenwick?” Felix asked.
“It’s in the newspaper,” Lucius whispered back. He’d never brought this sort of thing up before. Why now? “What’s wrong with you?”
Felix’s voice grew roughened, as if he could barely force the words out. “It’s just that he used to mess around with us, you know? One of the few Gryffindors who never judged us.”
Lucius nodded slowly. Of course he knew. He understood the strange choking feeling whenever someone he knew was killed. It was strange: most people never thought he cared, but he did. There was a dull ache in his chest as he remembered the pep talks after bullying, and standing with the rest of the Slytherins against anyone who dared threaten their first years. He also remembered Benjy, the lion who shook hands and partnered with the snake. It’s a hell of a time trying to put the pieces in place when someone who you knew for the past seven years is on the front page of the paper because someone blew him to bits.
When he glanced at his brother’s plate he realised Felix hadn’t been very hungry either. He pushed his chair away from the table, and stood up slowly.
“Are you all right, Lucius?” his sister asked, her brows furrowing in confusion.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he glanced at his mother, and repeated his hollow words for the sake of her reassurance. “I’m not particularly hungry this evening, that’s all.”
He backed away from the table, and made for the door. Any protests they made fell on deaf ears as his pace quickened. He paused at the drawing room, feeling the skin at the back of his neck prickle. He strode across the room, closing the gap between him and the small table where he left his newspaper earlier. Benjy Fenwick’s fate glowered up at him in black and white, and he suddenly got the feeling that this was only the beginning.
Author's Note: This chapter was thoroughly edited and critiqued by Branwen/Beeezie, to whom I am very grateful. Please note that I've altered the timeline to make it flow more with canon - we start in 1973 instead of 1977.
Also note character name changes: Orion Black --> Caelum Black.