The sky grew dark quickly during this time of year, casting a shadow over everything that walked or roamed the earth. On this particular evening, it darkened the garden over the Manor, dimming the startled brightness of the flowers that winter chose to spare. In its wake, the clouds gathered instead – black, and intimidating – threatening to burst, releasing their contents over anything that moved.
At one of the windows, a curtain moved. Behind it, the Master of the Manor shifted on his feet, eyeing the dying sun with a frown as it fled, leaving the darkness behind. On the ground were stone benches glazed with ice, around them the vines escaped from their stronghold of a nearby fence, and encircled the rest of the furniture. The gardener had given up trying to trim them; every time he did they would grow thicker than before.
His grey eyes shifted their gaze 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 as a whole. He took a sip from his tumbler, absently swirling its contents as he looked out at his now waterlogged property.
This house, these grounds, it was hard to believe that they’ve been in his family for centuries, passed from one Malfoy heir to the other. Now they were in his hands, his responsibility, and part of him thought it was a bit too much for a young man of twenty – three.
He turned away from the window, allowing the curtain to block out the rain even though he could still hear it hit the roof. 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, they were pale, with pointed faces which tried to hide the strains of age. 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 It was an old-fashioned gesture, outdated, but none of them would have it any other way. “I didn’t think you were coming to dinner tonight, Livia.” He paused, “Where’s your husband?”
The woman known as Livia sniffed, smoothing the invisible wrinkles on her pale blue robes. “I wasn’t intending to, but Orion 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 chimed in. “Besides, it’s not right for a lady to be in a house riddled with death.”
The young man raised a pale eyebrow. “Really, Mama? I recall you never left Father’s side.”
The old woman narrowed her eyes. “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’ will,” she continued, shooting her son a furtive glance from behind her spectacles. She leaned forward with a coy smile. “Druella and her girls don’t get much, if anything at all.”
Livia shook her head. “I was surprised when Orion 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, tugging at his collar. “Why was he telling you about this anyway?”
“Don’t be daft, brother, of course he told me. He tells me everything.” She gave him an odd look. “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.
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 – seven years old, Livia Malfoy – Black had amounted 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. He slid the paper off the table and into his awaiting hand. Lucius’ eyes 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. It was one of many that he’d seen gracing the front pages of the newspaper for the past few years; however its appearance had grown in frequency over the past six months.
Lucius had been around long enough to know who this sign belonged to, and what it all meant. He heard 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, and he’s proven it several times.
“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 his eyes met a similar pair of grey eyes hardened by life and its never ending troubles. He turned away as quickly as he glanced at it, 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 in 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 still enough time had passed for someone to notice. Lucius 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, but 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 confidently into the dining room with his robes tucked smartly over his arm. His lips were curved into a smirk, matching the one his sister usually wore whenever she got the better of someone.
“How nice of you to join us,” Livia commented drily while 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. “You should be thankful Mama got you carted off as quickly as possible.”
Felix sat next to his brother and grinned at their sister’s reddening face. Their faces were almost identical, with their hair cut the same length though Lucius was prone to wear his longer. Their two year age difference was the only thing that stopped people from thinking they were a twin. But as far as appearances went, that’s where all similarities ended. 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 gave his brother a sideways glance, and listened as the younger man chatted away about his newest purchase – a flying carpet.
“It’s a classic,” Felix grinned broadly at the approving look on his mother’s face, “I’ll take you up for a spin, Mama.”
Lucius rolled his eyes. “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 of dinner, 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 told him never to play with his food.
“Lucius,” his brother leaned close to him, his voice in a low whisper. Lucius raised his head by an inch, never letting his eyes leave his plate. Time 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 quietly.
“It’s in the newspaper,” Lucius whispered back, eyeing his brother carefully. He’s never brought this sort of thing up before. Why now? “What’s wrong with you?”
Felix shrugged. “It’s just that he was in my year, you know?”
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. 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.
With a glance 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 were to 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: I'm very nervous about this story, I got a difficult pairing for this challenge, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope that it works out. I hope you enjoy reading this!
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