Chapter 2 : Death and All of His Friends
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The cold crept through the cracks of sealed windows, curling around his feet. Lazily, he pointed his wand at the dying fire, causing it to burst to life, but the cold did not ebb away. He turned away from the window and cast a pointed look at his untouched bed and then to the papers left on his desk. Shrugging out of his dressing gown, he slipped beneath the warmth of the covers and finally drifted off to sleep.
After what felt like a few minutes, the sound of paper rustling by his ear roused him from sleep. His family’s trusted house-elf scurried about the room pulling at the drapes. He sat up abruptly, allowing the sheets to fall to his bare waist. On his bedside table sat a pot of tea and a plate of muffins – cheese, his favourite. His hand reached over to pick up the Daily Prophet instead, which was tucked neatly next to the teapot . The morning’s headlines heralded the aftermath of the latest Death Eater attack, and all of Benjy Fenwick’s friends who had suddenly come out of the woodwork, and apparently had known him for years. Beneath all of the fanfare was a death notice tucked away in the corner – Cygnus Black passed away during the night after a brief illness.
Black-clad figures sat huddled in the drawing room with bowed heads. Among them, the blonde woman tried her best to silence the squirming child in her arms. Her male companion sat staring into the milky tea he’d been brought twenty minutes before. His red-rimmed eyes told the story of a sleepless night, much like those of his brother-in-law.
“Caelum, my dear boy,” the mistress of the house glided through the door- a vision in black lace. She extended her hand. “I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s passing.”
Caelum Black rose unsteadily in greeting and bowed his head. “Thank you, Adeline.”
“Good morning, Mama.” The blonde woman placed her son on the sofa cushion and stood next to her husband.
“Hello, Livia, my dear.”
Adeline Malfoy leaned in to accept a swift kiss on the cheek from her eldest child - an exact replica of herself at twenty three - and then settled herself on the chair opposite the couple and the squirming child. She frowned, raising her hand to smooth a stray strand of white.
“Janus,” she beckoned. “Come sit next to Granny, dear.”
The little boy paused, casting his grey eyes upon the elderly lady with the tiniest hint of disdain that a child of three could muster before shuffling off in her direction. He climbed up onto the chair and sat with his little legs dangling. His granny beamed with satisfaction.
“Now, Caelum, have you started to make any arrangements?” she asked, helping herself to a biscuit.
“Druella started to, but I really don’t think she’s up to it,” Caelum explained. “She’s in a right state, so her eldest – Narcissa – will take care of it with my help.”
“Yes,” the old woman nodded. “Of course.”
“And what of the will?” Livia Black asked her husband, “You never mentioned what the solicitor said.”
“For God’s sake, Livi, he hasn’t been dead twelve hours!”
“I’m afraid my sister never had much tact,” a voice tutted from the doorway.
The small party turned their heads to see Lucius standing before them wearing a set of black robes and a grim smile .
“Caelum,” the Malfoy heir stepped forward with an outstretched hand which his brother-in-law took, and grasped tightly. “I’m sorry to hear about your father. How are your sisters and mother?”
Caelum bowed his head once more. “They haven’t taken the news well, but in time I think they will be all right.”
Lucius glanced across to the two women sitting at the table just as he had found them the night before. His mother was sitting with her proud back barely touching the periwinkle blue of her chair. Her wrinkled, claw-like hand gripped the shoulder of the small boy seated next to her. Across from them sat his sister Livia ; her pale eyes never left his face even as she sipped her tea. He raised a questioning eyebrow, but she shook her head in response.
“Where’s Felix?” she asked him at last.
“I’ve no idea,” he muttered, “Maybe out on his flying carpet with his latest conquest,”
“His what?” Caelum’s head shot up, and he gaped at Lucius out of bewildered eyes.
Lucius’s face held a pinched expression. “He bought it last week.”
“Uncle Felix has a flying carpet?” Janus piped up, his legs swinging in excitement.
“Oh yes,” Lucius winked at his nephew , “if you’re good, he might let you have a ride.”
It was a bit out of the ordinary to see the boy here. Maybe he’d been sobered by the events of the past week. A single look at his face showed that he was overcome. Janus’ pale eyes, not unlike his mother’s were tired – dark circles clashing with pale skin. Lucius wondered if at five years of age, his nephew understood what happened. How would one go about explaining the concept of life and death to a child? How could they even think of explaining something they were not sure of themselves ? Lucius observed his brother – in – law with a frown. Maybe he could be of some help to him.
With an arm on Caelum’s shoulder, he offered an escape. “Come with me,” he beckoned to his nephew, “You too, Janus. We can leave your Mama and Granny to themselves.”
“Where are you going?” His mother and sister called out in unison to their retreating backs.
The air was filled with a thick-scented perfume. From his position at the end of the pew, Lucius coughed – a low muffle amidst the overwhelming buzzing in the hive. He sat next to his restless mother who grumbled about their seating arrangements – an entire section behind the rest of the vast Black clan. Druella Black’s family had given her their full support, and as such the Rosiers came out in droves. Lucius spotted an old roommate from Hogwarts among the arriving group and nodded. He watched him walk slowly up the aisle, and slip into one of the pews with his parents.
“And where’s your brother?” His mother’s harsh tone broke through his thoughts and startled him. He shrugged half-heartedly and ignored her disapproving glare.
He wrinkled his nose at the intensity of the perfume and frowned as he sighted its source. An attendant walked in front of the altar, swinging a smoking thurible on a single chain and muttering to himself. Most of the congregation grew quiet, settling themselves down before the ceremony began. Lucius shuddered how could he forget that smell? It reminded him of the last time he’d been in this place, and how he swore he would never return. Yet here he was, preparing for another funeral, witnessing another loss. He was barely seventeen then, preparing for his exams when his mother sent for him.
Abraxas Malfoy had fallen ill suddenly. Dragon pox, the healers said. Lucius snorted in disbelief at their diagnosis. How could anyone over fifty have dragon pox? He was a bigger fool for daring to ask such a question.
He remembered the uncomfortable silence the house never quite recovered from. He remembered his mother with an apron fastened around her dress, a mask draped over her face. She stepped off her pedestal, if only to show her children that she actually cared for another human being. His sister, Livia, had come home too, but there was nothing she could do save watch her father slip away from the doorway, her tears hidden behind a white handkerchief. Felix had fled, seeking solace in his old nursery, never to be seen at all.
Lucius sought out solitude, and his feet took him along the lonely corridor to his father’s study. He’d set one foot in his family home and decided that there would be no more peace there. His father was dying, and despite his mother’s protests and weak attempts at saying otherwise, he knew how the dice would fall.
The old man called to him from his bed. Every breath he took came out as a wheeze and his face was contorted in pain. Lucius felt a hand between his shoulder blades pushing him forward. With a mask covering his face, he gazed down at the unfortunate creature with more pity than he deserved. His watery grey eyes narrowed as he glimpsed the sallow, yellowing skin covered with bright purple spots.
Lucius’ gaze never left his father’s face as he told him what he expected to hear. The cynic within him rose to his fullest height but did not lash out. His father deserved to say his piece, and Lucius knew that even if they never quite got on well.
A rustling beside him nudged him gently from the past and his head shot up. His mother was on her feet, as was everyone else. Lucius rose slowly and glanced about him. A firm hand dug into his shoulder as if trying to steady him. This hand, clad in black robes belonged to his brother, who stood expectantly at the end of the row. Lucius stepped back to let Felix enter, and occupy the growing space between him and his mother on the wooden bench.
A prickly feeling at the back of his neck made him shift uncomfortably. Behind him, muffled footsteps pounded into the faded red carpet on the floor as their hands rested uncomfortably on the gold-encrusted handles. At the head of the small procession was Caelum with his head bent. He gripped the hand of a small woman he could not identify – a thick veil covered her face, but he had no doubt that it was Druella Black.
Behind them were three girls, all with heavy lidded eyes which told the sad story of the past week. Each girl’s hair was a shade darker than the first, like a three colour palette – from tallest to shortest – blonde, brown and black. The blonde’s cool blue eyes met his for a split second before bowing her head as she moved past his pew. Something about the way she walked made him think she was the eldest of the three. It was the way her shoulders stooped – almost imperceptible to those who mattered, but obvious to others who understood. It was her eyes that struck him the most – as stunning as they were, he found in that brief moment that they were sad, and had been for a long time. She was just like him.
Lucius stood patiently in the middle of the path, watching the small procession from a distance. This part of the cemetery was filled with family crypts which dated back a few centuries. The Black Family crypt stood strong, but bore the brunt of age, and the harsh torments of nature. The site of it fixed between the tombs of Belby and Belfour made it appear terribly neglected. The stone pillars at the front of the structure were crumbling from the salty air . Grass sprouted from cracks in the wall and thick vines covered the sides. If Lucius had not known better, it would appear that the entire structure was consumed. Not that the Blacks minded – their family crest was etched into the cold iron of the little gate which permitted entry.
Toujours Pur was their boast for centuries and they fully intended to remain so. All their fortune was squandered away over the years not leaving them with much at all. There were debts, of course – the fallout from unfortunate election results, bribes – most paid off by the hawking of family heirlooms. The old Headmaster denied it until his last breath. His son Pollux tried his best to lift the family up to their former glory, but the Nineties were a thing of the past. Still, Caelum managed to provide a stable home for Livia and Janus from the money his mother left him when she died.
A voice rang out amidst the cold, heavy silence of the cemetery and wailing followed. Lucius’ head shot up, and he looked toward the open door of the mausoleum where the cries echoed. A young girl raced out of the rusted door which creaked loudly behind her and out across the gravelled path. He watched her wriggle between a loose panel of the wooden fence separating the rest of the cemetery from the tombs. Beyond the fence were hundreds of tombstones, centuries old and even older. He watched her until she disappeared behind one of the larger headstones upon which stood a sinister-looking angel with two pairs of wings. Its hands gripped the hilt, and the blade sank beneath the carved stone of his pedestal.
Behind him, the door creaked again and this time a girl stepped out wearing a slight frown. Her blonde hair was brushed into a tight bun at the back of her head. She stood at the top of the steps with her hands fixed on her hips, looking out across the darkening cemetery.
“Bellatrix!” she called, not at all bothered about the proceedings she left behind the door.
Lucius shifted on his feet and stepped closer to the gate. The blonde girl’s back straightened as she spotted him, and she looked him up and down.
“Looking for someone?” he asked with a small smile.
She gazed at him out of startling blue eyes and frowned. “Isn’t it obvious?”
Lucius chuckled. “Not really.”
“Have you been standing out here all this time?” She hurried down from the steps, and joined him on the narrow path.
“Yes, I have.” For a moment, Lucius couldn’t keep his eyes off of her face. She wasn’t the most attractive girl he’d ever seen, but she was certainly striking with high cheekbones; and rounded blue eyes.
The girl sighed, gesturing to the tomb behind her. “I’m looking for my sister, she ran out of there a while ago.”
Lucius glanced across to the sinister angel, looking for any sign of movement, and sure enough he spotted the edge of a black cloak whipping around the stone. With a finger to his lips, he gestured to the girl to follow him. He guided her around the fence being careful not to make a sound for fear that the young girl they sought might escape them. He paused before the looming statue whose size he sorely underestimated from a distance and pointed.
The girl crouched down in front of him, and reached out for the quivering mass of black cloth.
“There you are, Bella!” she called out, while the mass shrieked in response.
She pulled the girl to her feet. “What were you thinking, running off like that?”
“I couldn’t stay in there any longer, Cissy.” She wailed, burying her face in her sister’s robes.
Lucius watched the pair curiously; the elder girl stooped to her sister’s level and carefully ran her pale, thin fingers through the girl’s ebony curls. Cissy, he remembered now, was actually Narcissa – Cygnus’ eldest daughter. Caelum had mentioned her name a few times over the past week. Lucius quietly stepped away from them and turned his gaze towards the tomb where the small crowd assembled. There was something so delicate about the moment passing between the two sisters that made him feel as if he were intruding. Every now and then he glanced back at them, and jerked his head away quickly. Inwardly he berated himself for his awkward behaviour, and decided it would be best if he waited for them; the skies grew darker by the minute, and these days it wasn’t safe anywhere.
The wind rose about them. His scarf lifted in the biting breeze to tickle his face. Frowning, he tucked the loose end beneath the folds and crossed his arms tightly over his chest. In the distance, he spotted his mother emerging from the crowd, huddled against his brother’s shoulder. She suddenly looked much older than ever before, with her stooped shoulders and cloak bundled about her small body. It was so much unlike her that it scared him a little. They walked out of the little gate and turned right on the path. He didn’t have to guess where they were headed and why they never bothered to look for him. Perhaps his mother understood him better than he thought.
The light touch of a hand on his shoulder startled him, and he turned sharply only to find the two sisters staring at him – one in amusement and the other in slight concern.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” Narcissa said , but Lucius shrugged. “Thank you for helping me find Bella,”
“I never caught your name,” she prompted, gazing at him expectantly.
He nodded. “Lucius. Lucius Malfoy.”
“You’re Livia’s brother?” Bellatrix blurted out.
Narcissa’s eyes flashed in warning, but this went unnoticed by her sister who continued on.
“She’s bloody awful!”
Lucius blinked in surprise. “I-”
Narcissa clamped a hand on her sister’s mouth and smiled apologetically at Lucius. “I’m afraid the filter between Bella’s brain and her mouth never did work well; I’m a bit worried about what will happen later. She’s only fourteen.”
Lucius shook his head. “It’s quite all right, I’ve heard worse,”
Narcissa tried to hide her smile. “Well, thank you again for your help, I’m sure Livia will have you over at the house soon.”
“The house?” Lucius frowned in confusion.
“Oh, hasn’t she told you?” Narcissa asked drily, “My home is Caelum’s now, and they’re moving in.”
Author's Note: Beta'ed by the lovely SiriuslyPeeved!
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