Chapter 3 : Gatecrashed!
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The Yule Ball at Malfoy Manor is naturally a white-tie event, with the men discarding robes for dark trousers and tailcoats, over white silk shirts, ties, and waistcoats, and the women garbed in a variety of sumptuous gowns. Lucius Malfoy is unmasked, being the host of the event. Most other attendees are wearing a variety of masks, of either the half or full-face variety. Of course no-one is so tasteless as to wear a Death Eater mask, since the attendees of the Malfoy Yule Ball have been exclusively upright, outstanding, citizens ever since the defeat of the Dark Lord at Godric’s Hollow in 1980 – and even though it’s been a couple of years since the last such occurrence, there is always the chance of a Ministry raid, just to check up that the Malfoys and their friends are keeping their noses at least officially clean.
House-elves are circulating with trays of mulled wine, a pleasant hubbub of conversation about how fortunate various attendees were to have been acting under the Imperius curse or duplicated by persons unknown using polyjuice during the great wizarding war, and all in all the event looks to be yet another perfect society function…
But then, with the knowledge of a practised host, Lucius senses that something has just gone almost catastrophically wrong. He’s already heading across the great hall for the main entrance, when a house-elf stumbles in and announces: “Lily Snape”.
The amiable buzz of conversation dies away at once, and the atmosphere freezes over, as all eyes turn towards the entrance, and the lone figure who has just entered behind the house elf.
She’s dressed in a black velvet gown, with matching elbow length gloves, and her long red hair falls in waves about her shoulders. She’s wearing a half-face mask of black feathers, and dangling from her waist by a golden cord is a wand with which Lucius is all too familiar. Coming close to her, Lucius can smell a bouquet which he’s scarcely caught since the fall of the Dark Lord – the scent of smoke and of plaster dust: the scent of a destroyed building. Lucius was vaguely aware of Lily Evans of Hogwarts, later Lily Potter, who lost her first husband and her first wand at Godric’s Hollow but slew the Dark Lord. Lucius knows that his wife’s cousin, Sirius Black, is occasionally in contact with her, and that she had taken as her consort the man, Severus Snape, who betrayed the Dark Lord, and has borne at least one child by him, but beyond that she has been a complete mystery. She vanished from the wizarding world after Godric’s Hollow, and right now Lucius is wishing that she had stayed vanished and not chosen to turn up at this party. This is almost certainly the Dingleberts’ fault. Former servants of the Dark Lord occasionally discussed going after her, but until the Dingleberts did so several months ago, nobody had actually quite worked up the nerve to activate any plots.
The Dingleberts had heard a rumour that she had relocated to an ostensibly vulnerable location in southern England and decided to move against her in the name of vengeance; Rupert Dinglebert, the active agent in their plot, botched it and ended up caught and sent to Azkaban – where influential former Death Eaters took steps to ensure he was quickly kissed by a dementor, before he could give testimony which might inconveniently embarrass anyone else. The aurors were nosing around Edgcumbe Manor, the Dinglebert ancestral seat, for a month afterwards, searching for any clues of a conspiracy, but the Dingleberts were too politically well connected for the investigation to make any headway…
“Pardon my gatecrashing.”, the unexpected guest murmurs to Lucius. “I stopped by Edgcumbe Manor on my way here, since Rupert Dinglebert delivered me an invitation back in the summer, but do you know, the party there was rather a blazing bore, so I thought I’d pop by here instead.”
And she flashes her teeth in a little smile.
Her green eyes glint, and Lucius notes the deliberate use of the word ‘blazing’.
The fingers of her gloved right hand aren’t exactly stroking the hilt of the yew wand which must have a phoenix feather core and used to belong to the Dark Lord, but they’re conveniently close to pluck it forth and slash it through the air if she feels inclined to unleash mayhem. Whatever Lily Evans/Potter was, in her half a decade away from the wizarding world Lily Snape has grown into something with the grace of a dangerous predator, and Lucius is certain she’s prepared to kill if she considers it necessary. Somehow, despite all the wards and protections around Malfoy Manor, she’s breezed in here without setting off so much as a single alarm as far as he’s aware…
“Ah, quite charmed.”, Lucius says, exerting all his charm and charisma to play the perfect host. He ducks his head to formally kiss her left hand, which she graciously lifts just a little to make it easier for him. He rises. “How are your husband and children?”
“Resting up, safe and sound for the big day tomorrow. Your own family are safe and well, I trust?”
Lucius doesn’t flinch at the subtext of this little exchange; she’s taken precautions to ensure her family are quite secure to her own mind before coming out, whilst if she chooses she could quite easily go after his, here and now.
“Oh, quite.”, Lucius says. “Let me introduce you to Narcissa.” And he turns, moving around to her left side, and offering her his right hand to lead her across the floor.
For a moment, despite his outward appearance of imperturbable calm, Lucius is as frightened as he’s been ever since he last stood in the presence of the Dark Lord as to what will happen next. Then, having taken long enough to signal that she’s made her own mind up about this rather than been rushed into it by her host, she raises her left hand and permits him to lead her across the floor of the hushed room to where his wife is standing.
Lucius inwardly relaxes, slightly. Apparently Lily Snape is satisfied that she has sufficiently made her point that attacks upon herself or her family will not be tolerated, and will not do anything further for now about former acquaintances of the Dingleberts.
“Lily, this is my wife, Narcissa.”, Lucius says as conversationally as he can manage. “Narcissa, this is Severus’ wife, Lily…”
A frantic ripple of speculation goes through the throng, who heard the announced name but not the quiet exchange by the entrance and can scarcely believe that they’re seeing Lucius introducing an uninvited muggleborn witch to his wife.
Lucius gives a number of them meaningful looks and murmurs of ‘later’ out of the corner of his mouth.
Several hours later, after the most nerve-wracking Yule Ball ever, Lucius is overseeing the house-elves’ clearing up operation. News arrived before the evening was over that in an attack of belated conscience, Rupert Dinglebert’s father and several of his house-elves were ‘voluntarily’ assisting the aurors with their enquiries into an attempt against Lily Snape and her family over the summer. The reasons for this change of mind were currently unknown to officialdom.
Lily Snape was polite, charming, and her right hand was never more than a couple of inches from her wand throughout her stay at the ball. She never actually spoke any direct threats. She didn’t need to do so.
Lucius has been unable to determine if she intends to ever make a bid for power in the wizarding world, but after tonight, he’s certain he doesn’t want to have her pointing that wand at him if he can conveniently avoid it.
Narcissa, once she realised what was going on, was absolutely terrified. The wards over the Manor intended to protect guests would have made any magical escapes impossible, and the Malfoy’s young son and heir, Draco, was asleep on the premises.
And once the guests grasped quite what was going on, the mood of the gathering never quite returned to its former air of bonhomie. Lucius was going to have to do his best, before holding any such future gatherings, to ascertain whether or not Lily Snape intended to attend, and in what capacity? She had killed the mood tonight far more effectively than the auror raids of other years.
I'm unclear whether 'white tie' would be a usual form of dress for a society event in the wizarding world, or if the Malfoys (in canon) would normally insist on it, but this is an alternate universe, and if it would be out of character by the normal conventions, they're trying it out this year as a form of 'fancy dress' for what amounts to their Christmas party. Also on the subject of the Malfoys, if Lucius' father Abraxas is still alive at this point, he's too ill/bedridden to host the event, leaving Lucius in charge.
The Dingleberts of Edgcumbe Manor are a pureblood family I have (as far as I know) invented, who happened to be Death Eaters. In the summer of 1986 the son and heir of the family, Rupert, tried to attack Lily but he severely underestimated how dangerous she was, and she easily incapacitated him and called Alastor Moody in to 'take him in'. A dementor 'accident' was arranged for himby his 'friends' whilst he was in Azkaban, and without any testimony from him the auror investigation hit a brick wall. Basically Lily has waited until it's practically Christmas to see if the aurors got any more breaks, before nudging things along a bit. (She's lived without being bothered by former Death Eaters for half a decade; she'd rather head any further attempts off as she's busy getting to grips with various mythos things such as shoggoths and various crazy cults on the Arabian peninsula that Vernon keeps running into whilst out book-collecting for her.)
As for Lily herself, at this point on the timeline, home is a caravan on the Hampshire Downs, whilst the permanent residence, Grassguards, is being built nearby. (The Dingleberts got news of the caravan, and mistakenly assumed she was vulnerable for this reason.) Severus is back home keeping Harry [Potter], Celia [Snape] and Laura [Snape] safe.
In the bigger picture, whilst the events of this particular Christmas Eve don't mean much to Lily personally (beyond ensuring she gets another long spell of not being bothered by hostile former Death Eaters) it has major repercussions for Lucius and the Malfoys, as Lucius has seen Lily up close and personal for the first time and been impreseed with just how dangerous she is. He starts trying to find out more about her, and to emphasise that he doesn't want to be her enemy (and would like to be an ally, or even a servant) whilst, suddenly horribly aware of just how easy it would be to wipe out the Malfoy line, looking to expand his own family.
As a final note, as of the time of first posting this in January 2012, I'm assembling a piece regarding events leading up to, concerning, and in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Godric's Hollow in 1980, and looking to post it at some point in the next month or so. It's mostly going to be about Severus (plus Lily and with some James) and probably going to be posted as a separate story in its own right, as I think I may need to give it a higher age rating. Working title is (currently) something along the lines of: 'Shadow of Three Bolts: Lily & Severus'
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