After last week’s Special from Astoria’s POV on ‘The Art of Temptation’ we return to the Dark Lord and the audience with his Right and Left Hand. That Special is the last in quite a while so we will be able to concentrate on the main story for the coming months.
Chapter beta: Livy
Chapter translator: Aivy
Still sitting in my drawing room after Severus had stormed out, pondering the day and the night before, I remembered what happened after the Dark Lord had ordered us into his chambers and Draco had left happily.
It had grown late. The Dark Lord, Severus, and I had retired to the rear drawing room, which was furnished in the same dark, cool colours as the rest of the mansion.
Black and dark green tones dominated the room, but in contrast to the throne room, a warm fire crackled in the really large marble fireplace, spreading a pleasant warmth. The cold floor slabs were covered with extremely huge and very thick soft carpets with allegorical depictions of snake stories, into which the feet sank deeply. The cold stone walls were decorated with tapestries and gobelins, which gave the whole place a more cosy touch than the otherwise accessible parts of the manor. Apart from that, the room was minimalist, simple and very straightforward, like everything else.
Severus was immersed in his usual brooding and there was, if anything at all, a small grunt from his direction every now and then. Other than that, he just sat on his wide armchair with a gloomy expression on his face and left it to me to entertain the Dark Lord.
It was the eternally same arrangements about how the Death Eaters were to be led, which was mostly up to me, since HE did not want to deal with the common folk too often. When I thought about the idiots, I understood his attitude to only appear and show himself on special occasions only too well.
This way, the effect was always much more impressive when he demonstrated his power than it would be if he showed up all the time and was constantly present. He did not need to do that. What else were we for, me and the Inner Circle?
In fact, I did not really bother with the lower-ranking Death Eaters myself. For what did I, in turn, have the Circle, namely the Lestranges - excluding Bella - and Nott and what were their names?
I used them to maintain order in the ranks, which I had created in a similar way to a military organization, otherwise everyone here would do whatever they wanted, which was not feasible among the madmen here. Everyone listened to my command and I... well, unfortunately, I listened to the Dark Lord's order, but well, that was the only downer.
We talked about the Order and its increased activity in searching, the reason for which we had not yet been able to find out. Severus did not say anything either, kept a low profile, so we did not ask. There was no point, the Dark Lord knew that as well as I did. If he had something important to report, he would tell us. Right now, he would only say that the old man probably did not even know himself what he was looking for.
But then, I knew what they, the Order, had lost. I hoped that they would soon stop this amateurish, sensational search for Potter, otherwise I would have to reveal my secret, which I did not want. I rolled my eyes inwardly. Did the Order consist of amateurs who thought the Dark Lord and his followers were blind, deaf and mentally deficient?
This time the harsh order to find out the reason for the unusual activity was given to Severus, which he accepted sullenly and announced that he would tackle it at the next Order meeting. It was too glorious how cleverly he hid his knowledge, but so did I. Soon afterwards, we were allowed to retreat, leaving the dark and cold estate with billowing robes and the masks back in place.
We apparated directly back to my manor, went purposefully to my salon and there Severus took off, quite thoroughly.
That he always had to throw my expensive crystal glasses at me! I frowned in annoyance. He never hit me. All right, he probably did not want to hit either, or he found the effect of the smashing crystal more satisfying when it shattered loudly against the wall.
I did not understand that. Nothing else disturbed him, he was calm and collected during fights and battles, but here with me the objects were always flying around. I was not that obnoxious! I took offense at the thought when he rushed off like the god of revenge himself and I only saw black. And then he tells me that we Malfoys are dramatic. Well, what was he?
Apparently he could not deny his relationship to us either, and this thought amused me greatly.
So why was he making such a fuss?
Just because he did not like the idea that Hermione would not remain a secret. But seriously, how long could we have kept her hidden from the Dark Lord? Present as she was? And did I even want that?
Hide her, I mean! No, I was far too proud of my new jewel. I wanted her to take charge, to show herself, not disappear behind the thick walls of the manor.
So how long could we have hidden her from the Lord's all-seeing eyes?
Strange that Severus, who was otherwise so incisively analyzing, did not see or want to see that himself. Not long would we have been able to hide her without getting into trouble, and I could not use mistrust from this extremely dangerous side. No, she would have to live through it whether she wanted to or not and so would we! Damn it!
But what did she have us for?
I would do a lot to make sure nothing happened to her. She was not supposed to join our ranks, no, I did not want that and I never intended to. There were few women active in the ranks of the Dark Lord, mostly raving lunatics. The majority of the wives of the Dark Lord's followers, however, were only sympathizers, like Narcissa, and such a role Hermione should and would play as well. That was what I demanded and expected.
I did not want her in the front line. It was too dangerous and even if I was surprised to see how good and experienced she was in combat, or, to put it more precisely, how cold, calculating and devious the good witch was, I still wanted to protect her.
Not only from the Dark Lord, but also from his crazed followers who would go after such a pretty, young Mudblood. But if they knew who she belonged to, if they saw me, who would dare touch her?
At the same time, I realised how well she would fit into our ranks. She fitted not only very well among the Death Eaters, but also within my own plans, because one thing was clear by now: she was working deliberately in the interest of the family, and the more people I had who I could fully rely on, the better.
I would be a fool not to use her as I pleased. One thing I had to give Draco credit for: he had found himself a brilliant and very unique woman whom he dared to bring into the family and make irrevocably one of us. For that, I could not and would not be angry with him any longer; I was actually rather grateful.
Perhaps also slightly envious, because I had been too slow. I now stared angrily into the blazing flames and frowned thoughtfully while I thought of Severus.
Severus had raged and clamoured. He had hissed bitterly at me that I would now drive her also into the greedy hands of the Dark Lord. I had endured this astonishingly indifferently, because it did not quite suit me either that this should happen so quickly now.
If at all, when the sudden inspiration had flashed through my mind, I had considered presenting her sometime in the far future - as a small trump card, so to speak!
There were many reasons that spoke for her. Nobody would assume that Hermione Granger was so close to me, Lucius Malfoy, and obeyed me. All right, had to obey me, I thought with a wicked grin on my face. Alas, now her introduction would come swiftly, unfortunately. As I said, it could not be helped. I shrugged my shoulders in resignation.
The good thing was that, unlike most people thought, the Dark Lord was not an insane, mindlessly raging madman. Oh, he could behave like one when the rage seized him, but even there a core of remarkably unemotional, cold self-control remained, and that was my, or rather Hermione's, good fortune. Even though it may not be to his liking, he would always and at any time be accessible to the sensible and undeniable positive reasons and aspects that spoke for Hermione, which I was willing to shamelessly exploit to make her palatable to him.
The exhilarating thing was, I was pretty sure that I would not have to. In his undeniable genius, he would see her potential for himself.
Raising my glass to the flames, I drank and let the burning, sharp, gold-coloured liquid run down my throat and enjoyed its heavy, peaty taste. With closed eyes, I laid my head back and savoured it, while I pictured her in my mind's eye.
Now it was late and tomorrow the first people would appear who would express their insincere condolences to me, but who would be merely bursting with curiosity. In turn, I would pretend that I was abysmally sad about the loss. It would be a memorable spectacle.
The next morning I was dressed elegantly all in black, befitting the occasion, of course. Trousers, vest, frock coat, shirt... Only the grey plastron, which was artfully draped around my neck, gave a dab of colour and the pin holding the silky cloth was made from fine silver and showed the family signet in the form of a stylised 'M'.
The mourning ensemble was rounded off by a soft-falling, shimmering black silk coat. I seemed aloof, aristocratic and very stately.
I had also ordered mourning décor for the manor, so the mirrors were generously covered with drapes of black silk. Because of the summer, black curtains had also been placed on the large window fronts by the eager house elves to shut out the bright summer sun; after all, this was a place of mourning.
Yes, I plead guilty, I love the spectacle, the drama, the staging of a moment.
Gentle harp sounds drafted softly through the manor and underlined the sombre mood. Torches and candles spread an atmospheric light.
All those who felt obliged to personally express their condolences to me after the publication of today's article in the Daily Prophet had been led into the black and white salon, which was of medium size.
The salon had been specially prepared for this purpose. At ten sharp, I entered the room with Draco. We could see that it was already well filled with everyone of rank and name. The atmosphere seemed classy and was subdued; everyone talked, if at all, in quiet murmurs. Whispering echoed from the wall covered with white silk wallpaper.
When we entered together as a dark, closed, imposing front, the conversations stopped abruptly and everyone turned to us with worried and grieving faces.
I saw Skeeter standing in a corner. She was wearing black, like everyone else here today, only her costume creation could probably be termed abstract. It was asymmetrical and it looked more like a sack on her. Still, she could write; this morning's article was excellent and exactly what would win over the public for me.
Hermione had not promised too much and Draco had in fact informed me this very morning, while I was reading the article, how, what and why this gaudy lady belonged to Hermione more or less with skin and hair. I must say, I was completely delighted again. After all, I liked and appreciated very much when people were capable of such thoughtful accomplishments in such a short time.
I was more than satisfied and so I would not have these journalists chucked out on their ears but would tolerate them in my home. Normally, I detested the press, however, now it was of use to me and therefore acceptable. Meanwhile, I wondered whether Hermione ultimately deserved a reward for the huge coup she had landed for me without my having ordered or suggested it.
My eyes wandered over the crowd. I saw all of them, the snakes, the unknown Death Eaters that were not wanted by the Ministry, who looked at me almost fearfully and paid their respects, and their children, who regarded Draco just as cautiously as their parents did with me. What was Draco doing to these children, I dared to ask amusedly.
Then many ministry officials and business partners who cultivated contact with me. Of course, Fudge and his wife did not miss the opportunity to honour me with their presence.
But the most surprising factor were the three people in the farthest corner, in the back of the salon. Two of them dressed in darkest black and thus appropriate for the occasion, one would have said, if one did not know that the two of them always preferred this style, or at least almost always and thus had not really had to jump over their shadow.
The only blob of colour in this otherwise so coordinated, white-black room with the black-clothed people was the third person. Dumbledore, as he lived and breathed, in his opinion probably well-adapted in plain, dove-grey wizard's robes, stood out strongly. He was flanked by Severus and McGonagall.
I stepped forward now, sensing Draco in my back, and looked at the expectant faces as I addressed the audience.
"My dear friends, acquaintances, relatives and business partners! Dear Minister! As you know, a cruel fate befell us yesterday, and so we, the Malfoy family, now also have to mourn the first casualty in a time of great turmoil that is only just beginning."
I had raised both of my arms and folded them now as if in prayer. In the background, Skeeter's Quick-Quotes Quill scribbled excitedly on the parchment she had floating in the air. After a moment of silence, I let my full-sounding voice ring out again over the devoutly listening crowd.
"Not only I... have lost my beloved wife, but our son Draco has lost his loving mother. You see, the loss to the Malfoy family is immense! I ask you to respect, as this cruel act came so unexpectedly, that we are still very much beside ourselves and not yet fully comprehending the extent of our sudden loss," I paused dramatically and placed a hand on my heart. With cold calculation, I had foregone my cane.
Today, in this exceptional situation, I had to perform differently than usual and put my other hand on Draco's shoulder, visibly giving him support. He had lowered his head slightly and looked down at the floor. I thought we made a good, solemn picture.
"On behalf of my family, I thank you for all your sympathy... profoundly! To see this solidarity, this support, in this time that is so difficult for us... THANK YOU," I said theatrically, gazing emotionally into the gathered crowd. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Severus pulling his mouth into a contemptuous grimace in the face of my dramatic performance which had made some of the ladies present pull out their lace handkerchiefs and dab their watery eyes! He looked as if he had bitten into something sour.
Please, I was just playing my part and I was very good as usual! But now my son caught me by surprise when he took a step forward, causing my hand to slip from his shoulder. He straightened up and lifted his head. Like an aristocrat he looked around and took the floor.
"As my father said, we... I am deeply grateful for your being here to offer us your condolences... I also want to thank you! Furthermore, I would like to express here publicly that this cowardly attack will NOT go unpunished," he said harshly and I heard the crowd gasping in shock. My eyebrow also arched up questioningly. "...for the Ministry will bring those responsible to justice..." My son's voice broke with emotion in the end.
As I noticed in surprise, I had unintentionally played along nicely, because I had underlined my astonishment about Draco's emotional outburst with my facial expressions and had reacted surprised.
Draco's action was well received. That he had shown his feelings so intensely moved the crowd and they could forgive him his youthful impetuosity, which I knew was faked. On the other hand, he had openly sided with the Ministry and that was, thanks to the emotions, much more credible than if I had said so. Thus, I stepped forward and again laid my hand on my son's shoulder, ready to help and support him.
"Please forgive us, but my son is still beside himself," I asked politely for understanding and now I pulled him back so that we could face the stream of those present who still wanted to personally convey their words of comfort to us.
It dragged on forever! At the beginning. I had not thought that there could be so many, but it never stopped! Oh, I felt so sorry for myself. If only I had my cane to play with... This was too boring.
Fudge had bended my ears talking about what the Ministry was doing. How it could not go on like that. People had to be safe everywhere, especially in Diagon Alley. Blah, blah, blah. Then he kept going on about the same thing, again and again. His wife was no better. I had always found her unbearable. Currently, she was blubbering to me about my wife and what a good person had left us in such a cruel way.
Draco received the condolences of the young generation at the other end of the room, all former classmates and current students of Hogwarts who knew Draco. What amazed me was that this was the case across the houses. Not only Slytherins, but also some pure-blooded Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs had come to express their condolences directly to Draco and again my son made me proud. Not only had his performance been brilliant earlier, but he was doing excellently now as well. He maintained just the right mixture of distance, coolness and sorrow. He was doing very well.
A short time later, Rufus Scrimgeour, the head of the Auror Office, stood in front of me and was throwing his weight around. He had a worn out face, marked by hard experiences, and his blond sideburns were streaked with a lot of grey. With a lot of actionism he told me how they would and should be able to prevent such a thing in the future and it annoyed me enormously.
So it was not surprising that my attention was strained by the rather boring facts about the fight the Aurors had fought in Knockturn Alley after the assault on Narcissa. Thanks to Hermione, I had a much more accurate picture and the shameful failure of the Aurors was clear in my mind, I thought sarcastically when he told me his view of events with so much energy.
Then I heard something that captivated and interested me much more and so I pricked up my ears. I had heard Severus' deep baritone behind me.
"Miss Granger will be able to take care of herself," he had grumbled, sounding terribly annoyed.
The mention of Hermione made me take notice. I was helped by the fact that McGonagall, the elderly Head of Gryffindor House, seemed to be upset and was getting louder than she wanted. So I could at least partly hear the following, while I pretended to pay attention to Scrimgeour, but in reality I did not even hear him anymore.
"...Poor girl, her parents are dead. She's alone. ... GONE! ... We should help her! How can you remain so indifferent, Severus," she sounded very agitated.
Hearing these words, I had to grin because we knew exactly where she was and that she was safer here, with us, than out there alone. Severus, of course, remained calm. He knew where she was even better than I did, but I continued to listen intently as the old hag kept on ranting quietly but shrilly.
"... Weasleys have informed us that they... Potter's girlfriend. ... Miss Granger and Mr. Potter, they are a couple, and Potter has disappeared, too!" At these words, I almost choked on my morning tea, which was laced with a sip of cognac to get me through this charade. She and Potter, a couple?! That could not be true!
What game was she playing now? Did Severus and Draco know about this? Nevermind, I needed to stay focused on the conversation.
Meanwhile, Scrimgeour before me was still explaining to me, with wide gestures and craving recognition for his Aurors, how great the superiority had been that they had encountered in the dark Alley. Yet his inept Aurors had simply let themselves be fooled by a schoolgirl, it occurred to me in contempt.
"That the Ministry of Magic," he thundered, "will work tirelessly to protect, secure and combat the black magical threat, that I promise you, Mr. Malfoy." I was close to stuffing his noisy organ, but just nodded instead.
The conversation behind me was more important. Now I heard Dumbledore's quiet, serene voice.
"Severus, surely you want to help us. They are your students, after all. Miss Granger may be in danger..."
I could hear Severus' deep growl and could imagine him - his arms crossed in front of his chest in a defensive manner - looking at the two of them surly and saying nothing...
"You cannot always control everything, Professor," he contradicted Dumbledore, surprisingly enough.
I could not get the matter with Potter out of my mind. I was sure she knew where Potter was. But that she and he should be together? Somehow, it did not seem right, and I did not like it. She belonged in my family, not with Potter. Without conscious thought, I clenched one hand into a painful fist.
I turned briefly to my conversation partner, trying to get rid of Scrimgeour as quickly as possible, and interrupted him apologetically.
"You will excuse me, I have to take care of the dear headmaster for a moment," I ditched him, placing my cup on the little table by my side. He seemed quite confused by my quick retreat, but I did not care. Turning around, I stepped straight to the small group that had been having such an interesting conversation in my back.
"I hope you will forgive my curiosity," I politely joined in and nodded to the professors," but I could not help overhearing your conversation. Is it true, a student has disappeared? Miss Granger? If I am not mistaken, she is one of Draco's classmates," I purred and watched old McGonagall tense up. Yes, it would be quite a pity if I had also overheard that they had lost Potter, too. I could really see her worrying that I might have done so. However, I only smiled jovially to distract from it, because I did not want the Dark Lord to find out about it.
Severus nodded, at the same time looking at me as if he had just bit into a lemon, going by the face he pulled. He did not seem to like my little games at all. I did not allow myself to be distracted, merely picked up his nod and turned back to the headmaster and McGonagall.
"You were saying, Headmaster, that her parents died, and she is now alone. How awful. How did they die?" I expressed my curiosity and the old woman seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when I left Potter out of the conversation.
McGonagall, probably confused by my sudden interest, frowned reluctantly.
"Since when are you interested in Muggleborns, Mr. Malfoy? But since they ask, they drove their car off a cliff and died instantly," she replied snidely.
I pretended to be shocked, opening my eyes wide and looking at her with regret.
"Poor girl," I continued quietly, "right now, after my own son just lost his beloved mother, I can relate very well to how this poor girl must feel, and then such a tragedy to lose both parents at once. I hope you find her quickly and can stand by her. She is really lucky that you care about her so much, Professor! If I can help you in any way, do not hesitate to approach me." I looked at the two professors one after the other and my gaze fell last on Dumbledore, who looked at me suspiciously with his pale-blue eyes.
Oh yes, he knew, or rather suspected, who I was - the Dark Lord's Right Hand - and did not buy my performance, but I did not care.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Gryffindor's Head of House responded coolly and very sharply, "we will find her. This is my job, after all, she is my student!" I nodded gallantly and turned back to the headmaster, who cleared his throat.
"The attack on your wife... were the Death Eaters responsible?" he asked doubtfully. I nodded slowly, never letting him out of my sight.
"Who else?" I answered just as calmly, tilting my head which made my long, open, fair hair fall over my shoulder.
He continued to measure me suspiciously. It was clear to him that there was no reason for my own people to dare to kill my wife. At this point, Severus interfered by waving his hand towards the room.
"You should also take care of your other guests Lucius," he said, wanting to get rid of me, and I knew I ought to give in as I should not show too much interest in her.
Eventually, I nodded to them and turned away and ran into the arms of the next pain in the neck. It annoyed me immensely that others thought our Hermione was with another. That was so out of the question!
She had not to look at other men, damn it! Meanwhile, I smiled at the pompous Scrimgeour who had forced himself on me again and yet I was thinking something completely different. But if Draco remained so calm, and Severus as well, then nothing happened. Should she dare... to even think about having fun somewhere else, she would get to know me.
In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that Draco would allow or accept such a thing, but I am only saying... If she did, she would get to know me from a side she would never want to get to know!
I had trouble controlling myself while listening to the pointless chatter.
After listening to all the mourners present and after they had finally said goodbye, assuring me that they understood that we had a lot to prepare now and that they wanted to give us the time for our mourning - too kind, too kind, I could only think spitefully - I caught hold of Severus.
I directed him to my little fireplace room to question him, which, as I knew only too well, he could not stand. Hence the aforementioned projectiles flew towards me, crashing loudly, while I pestered him about Potter.
He did not like to talk about Potter at all, but in connection with Hermione he seemed to really detest it. Nevertheless, at least I got to know what was going on at Hogwarts, and that Potter and she were pretending to have a relationship in order to have peace of mind. Nothing was going on between the two of them, because they were very intimately committed to each other as siblings; not my words, that was how Severus had phrased it contemptuously.
Interesting, very volatile and highly precarious, albeit good to know. I would keep the secret that they were so close in their feelings. If the Dark Lord knew this, no, that would not be good!
A romantic relationship could go to pieces, faked or not, but these intimate feelings, no, not that. Now I was sure that her reason for leaving the Manor had not only to do with the good reasons she had given, but that she also sought out Potter. The boy was hiding somewhere, as it seemed successfully and quite well, but with Hermione's help it was no wonder that nobody could find him. That was good. It was good to know that he truly could not be found.
I had been worried before. This way everything would likely go the way I wanted and Potter would be safe and sound on the Hogwarts Express on the first of September.
Please! Of course, I knew that if Draco spent the nights with the minx, he would have to see Potter too. I was surprised that Draco was shrugging off his animosity like that, as he was always saying how little he liked Potter, but if he did, it was for a reason. I trusted my son to know what he was doing. Still, it was too amusing to see that they all thought I did not know what they were hiding.
Of course, I did not know everything either. Nevertheless, I saw a lot behind the scenes and had always had a good instinct. Because of this, I seldom seemed surprised or blindsided, as I rarely was, but that is why I did not ask.
Only when I saw that things were going in the wrong direction, the one I did not want them to go, I intervened. I always loved to be here, because in this ancient, small room I often had the best ideas and thoughts while reflecting and reviewing the events and I saw so much more in hindsight.
When I had ordered Severus to make sure that Hermione kept her hands off other men, I had finally managed to drive Severus away. That had been the moment when he stormed off and loudly slammed the door behind him and I succumbed to my thoughts with a smirk...
The events were in motion... How and in what direction? We would see!
End of Lucius’ POV