Chapter 4 : Eros's Return
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“You know I never quite understood your fascination with horses,” said Faye.
“No matter,” said Psyche. She moved to another stall, where a palomino winged-horse nickered as she approached. “This is Auden. We rescued him from a slaughterhouse in Scotland. Bloody no-good barbarians.”
“Indeed,” said Psyche, scowling. “I recently became acquainted with Hyperius Vanderbilt, however, and I—”
“Vanderbilt?” Faye interrupted.
“Yes,” Psyche said, raising an eyebrow. “I take it you know of them?”
“There’s a Jon Vanderbilt who—”
“Ah,” said Psyche, brightening at the name, “yes, that would be Hyperius’ younger brother. Half-brother, if I’m correct. Doesn’t he work for the Beauxbatons Headmistress—Madam Maxime?”
Faye nodded. “But how did you know?”
“Hyperius speaks of him often, and I know their sister Marlene, she’s a McKinnon now, is in touch with him. They are rather loyal to each other. So tell me, sister: Is Jon as handsome as his siblings are?”
Blushing—though she didn’t know why—, Faye said, “Very.”
Psyche smiled. “A little lust stirring in you, my dear baby sister?”
“Keep your hair on,” Psyche said, laughing. “It was a question. I’m afraid there are hard times approaching for the Vanderbilt family,” she added, suddenly serious. “Their father was found drowned not far from their home. Though I don’t believe his children miss him.”
“Jon has even more siblings?”
“Hmmm,” said Psyche, pursing her lips thoughtfully, “Hyperius is the eldest, then Marianna—I’ve not met her yet, but from all reports she’s a bit odd—then Charity, Marlene and finally Jon. A thirteen-year age difference between Hyperius and Jon.”
“What do you mean, Marianna is…odd?”
“Just strange. There’s no love lost between her and Marlene. I don’t know the details. But the family’s fabulously wealthy, has been around for one or two millennia, and they’ve all a few traits equal to them, and them alone: Every member has brilliant blue eyes, and they are all left-handed. Quite skilled in Occlumency as well.”
Faye thought. Then she said, curiously, “Shouldn’t those traits have vanished if they’ve existed for so long?”
“Ah well, you’re missing the key point: they interbred to keep the lines pure. This is the only true pureblooded family in all of Wizarding history. Cousins marrying cousins, fathers with daughters, uncles with nieces—I think Marlene said a relative had a relationship with her half-brother—and we thought our family was horrid.”
Faye was beginning to feel a touch ill. “That’s utterly barbaric!”
Psyche shrugged. “Marlene is married to Owen McKinnon, the tradition is fading.”
“There’s a McKinnon in one of my classes.”
“Owen’s brother Kellan. He’ll be joining the Order as soon as he’s finished Hogwarts. A gifted bloke. Decent-looking as well.” Psyche winked, and fed Auden a bit of carrot she had in her pocket. “So what’s this Jon Vanderbilt like, personality-wise?”
“Close-mouthed,” said Faye. “Very…informed, I think. He knows more than he lets on.”
“That’s to be expected,” said Psyche, “what with Hyperius and Marlene and Charity in the Order. There’s a bond between them that we Blacks never had.”
“He’s going to be giving me Occlumency lessons.”
Psyche raised an eyebrow speculatively. “Ah. It should be expected. They’re quite skilled in that area.”
“Who in what?” came a voice from the front of the stable, and Psyche broke into a huge smile and turned round. Her husband, Eros Malfoy, was leaning lazily against the door, munching on an apple.
They were very suited for one another, Faye reflected, watching her sister and brother-in-law embrace and share a long kiss. Tall, their skin tones golden with hours spent in the sun, white-blond hair. And a passion for horses, of course.
“You’re late,” scolded Psyche, running her fingers through his hair. “And you’ve cut your hair. You know how I like it long.”
“The occasion called for it. You didn’t tell me Faye was here,” said Eros, embracing Faye as well, then studying her critically. “Aren’t you supposed to be at school, sister-in-law?”
“She’s come for a visit,” said Psyche, smiling innocently at him, “it being the holidays and all. What’s the news?”
Eros stiffened, his smile fading. He looked at Faye, and Psyche said,
“She can hear it, Eros. She’s under Dumbledore’s wing this year.”
“All right,” said Eros uncomfortably. “Well—I was later than expected because Dumbledore requested I be with him. One of our members…he died…in the most horrid of ways.”
“What d’you mean?” said Psyche, her brow furrowing.
“He went off a cliff—Widow’s Peak. I was in charge of bringing his body up.” Eros swallowed. “Actually, he didn’t go off the cliff as much as jump from it.”
“Suicide?” whispered Psyche. “But why? Who would have done such a thing?”
“Yes—and I don’t know, really. No one knows why.”
“Who was it?” said Psyche. “Eros—who was it?”
Faye inhaled sharply. “No!” she said, and both Eros and Psyche stared at her. “But I saw him last night, and he was fine.”
“How would you have seen him?” said Eros.
“I was—I was with his son. Fabian. I went home with him for the holidays.”
Eros’ grey eyes widened in surprise. “Well. That is a twist on the story. His wife never mentioned you.”
“I left,” Faye muttered. “But it’s none of your concern why.”
Eros shared a look with Psyche. “Did he appear depressed?”
“Melancholy would be the word,” said Faye.
“Hmmm,” said Eros, frowning thoughtfully. “Interesting. It’s not every day a prominent Order member kills himself. We suspected foul play at first, but there wasn’t a Dark Mark present at the scene, or anything even remotely suggesting that Death Eaters might have been involved.” He shook his head. “Sad, really. I feel sorry for his sons—they’re going to be inducted quite soon, after they’ve graduated. It’s just to take their father’s place, though, mark my words.”
“Roselle will never go for that,” said Psyche.
“She was against it,” said Faye, “that was one of the things she and Mr Prewett fought about, I heard them arguing when I was there. It was quite…tense.”
“Let’s go into the house,” said Psyche, “and you can tell us more.”
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