Chapter 2: Conversations
~~~Chapter 2: Conversations~~~
“What now, Lilah?” Angel didn’t even look up as the brunette leaned in his doorway. There were mounds of paperwork piled on his desk, some coming in, some going out, and he fiddled with a pencil, occasionally stabbing it into the leather blotter. There were patches of small holes toward the right side of the mat and it was obvious that Angel had never found paperwork to be particularly exciting.
He hadn’t counted on this aspect of running Wolfram and Hart when he took over. He expected to still be out there night after night, saving the innocent and righting wrongs like the superhero so many people liked to compare him to. He wasn’t though, and it was driving him slowly mad.
The others seemed happy. Fred and her instruments, Lorne and his clients, Wes and his books, and even Gunn and the whatever it was he did all day. Angel still hadn’t figured that one out. Everyone but Cordy, who was still asleep; a Sleeping Beauty that couldn’t be helped by a kiss.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“So touchy these days, Angel. Is the daylight depressing you?” Her lips curved up into what could only be a serpentine grin, which widened as he finally met her eyes.
“Not that the sunshine in the morning isn’t nice, but what do you want?”
“Tut tut, where are your manners?”
She waved her hand and slid into the armchair in front of the desk. “Fine. I’ll just go say my piece and go see if Wesley wants to play. He always was more interesting than you anyway. Such hidden talents.” She shivered and ran a perfectly manicured nail in a bright shade of candied apple up her thigh.
Angel arched an eyebrow and crossed his arms. “I’m losing patience, Lilah.”
“OK, Boss Man, you’ve made your point. I just thought you’d like a private briefing on the special project we began when you took over the firm.”
Now she had his attention, and he sat up straight, leaning slightly forward. It looked as if he tried to keep it in, but he couldn’t help the slightly breathy, “Connor.”
Eyes glittering, Lilah placed a file on the desk. “The project was a complete success. He is well integrated both at home and at school. He’s one of the more popular students on his house team, a game similar to lacrosse with more obstacles, and he’ll be graduating at the end of the year. He has one younger brother and his parents are still happily married. In all likelihood, he’ll go into the family business after college. He’s not currently romantically attached, but he does have prospects; it remains to be seen.”
Angel reached for the file, hesitantly, as if it would bite. His chocolate colored eyes flickered her way for a moment and he sighed, grasping the folder and pulling it close. “Lilah?”
She stood gracefully, smoothing her suit. “Yes.”
She nodded and left Angel in his office. The halls were painted a soothing shade of off white, decorated with those ridiculous paintings of the English hunt that were so popular in lawyer’s offices. She’d hated those walls, the kitchyness of it all, and reminded herself to see how the re-decorating was coming. Lorne was supposed to have met with the design department earlier that morning, and she hoped to high hell that he’d be better than the last sod that redid things. Even if it was in lurid nightclub colors, it had to be better than what they had now. Lorne had even reopened a version of Caritas in the lobby; it was a huge hit with the after work crowd.
Shaking herself she reached into her pocket, pulling out a small phone. The elevator opened and closed, leaving her alone in the softly lit interior. A quick dial and she was speaking softly. “Kaspar? Yes, he has the file. How’re the other requests going? Ah, good. I’ll let him know at the board meeting on Friday.” She laughed. “No, I don’t think it will cause many problems. You flatter me. I’ve cleared this with the Senior Partners ahead of time, so now we just need to get the interdimensional paperwork filed.” She checked her teeth in the mirrored wall. “Yeah, do that. If you don’t, you lose a finger. Right. Okay then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Humming lightly to herself, she adjusted the scarf around her neck and stepped out into the lobby. “Ah, Alice. Could we have a word?” Alice, a sandy haired older woman in a slightly frumpy, summer weight sweater, flashed a glance of pure fear and slowed to a stop. Lilah smiled. She truly loved her job.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Connor couldn’t decide to be pissed, scared, or annoyed, so he settled on surly. Surly was a good all purpose mood for a teenager. He hadn’t employed it in years, but he honestly felt the current circumstances demanded it.
After her pronouncement and subsequent faint to the bookstore floor, the young wizard stood there as other patrons helped the divination teacher to her feet and installed her in an overstuffed armchair decorated with authentic smelling zinnias in the fabric. They made him want to sneeze.
He watched the fuss and concern on their faces with nothing more than dread, and when she finally opened bug like eyes and blinked coquettishly, he wanted to reach over and smash the glasses right from her face. The only thing that stopped him was her weakly whispered, “I’m sorry, did I faint? I must have stumbled on something.”
He loomed over her then, a strange light in his bright blue eyes and ground out, “You remember nothing?”
“No, no, why? Oh my, my head’s whirling around like a fly in a teakettle. Could someone bring me a glass of water?” He didn’t move a muscle until she drank a ridiculously dainty sip and sat the glass down. “Young man, what on earth are you doing?”
He took a deep breath then and stepped back, his hands clenched at his side. He didn’t know where this rage came from, the flaming anger to rip and to tear, to scream that he did belong, he was important, this was his place. But he didn’t.
One look at his brother’s face was enough to convince him that he needed to stay calm, to embrace that legendary Malfoy coldness and send the silly woman on her way as if nothing had happened. Draco was standing stiffly to one side, that look from the ice cream parlor on his face, apprehensive, suspicious. He wanted it gone.
“Professor Trelawney, you seemed to have stumbled as you came over to address Potter, Weasley, Draco and myself. We’re sorry for any discomfort.” She blinked again, confused, and nodded slowly. “Can we get you anything?”
She shook her head now, just as slowly. “No, no. I think I’ll be fine.” She rummaged around in her bag for a moment, dumping books, quills, extra glasses and a multitude of other unrecognizable objects out into her lap. “Just a bit of chocolate. That’s what I need.” She found what she was looking for and popped a small square in her mouth, large grey eyes watching him carefully.
He made a small bow like movement. “Draco, come. We’ll finish our errands and be on our way. See you at school Professor. Potter, Weasley.”
He turned, younger brother in tow, and caught the looks of utter disbelief on the Gryffindors' faces. He narrowed his eyes over Draco’s head, and something in his look spooked the younger boys. Both turned white and spun around, busily browsing the section on how to bespell objects for lawn maintenance.
The two Malfoys picked out their school books, paid for them at the counter, and strode out into the street in complete silence. Connor was still fuming and he tried to figure out where it came from, these new feelings of helpless rage. He jumped when Draco laid a hand on his arm.
“What?” He snarled, spinning around. He softened his features when the white haired boy flinched. “Sorry, Drac... Just a bit… well… unnerved.”
“But you always said she’s a fraud, didn’t you?”
“Did I? Yeah, she is. All that teacup and star chart nonsense.” He tilted his head and thought for a moment. “Never did like those classes. That’s why I stopped them before last year.”
“Then what’s wrong. This isn’t like you.”
Connor slowed to a stop, letting the busy crowd flow around them. No one was stupid enough to bump into a pair of Malfoys, particularly ones giving off vibes to take out a hippogriff at fifty paces. He took a deep breath and shifted the packages around.
“I can’t explain it, Drac. I’m just a bit wound about this being my last year. What’s next and all that.”
His younger brother nodded and turned to keep walking. Connor sighed. He knew it wasn’t enough of an explanation, but it was the best he could do now. The double vision, or whatever it was, seemed to have gone completely away for now, and he was beyond grateful. He honestly didn’t mean to take it out on his brother, but sometimes he was just too close a target.
Which was usually his father’s excuse. Poor little Draco never seemed to get things right. Too slow, too careless, too stupid. He wasn’t, really, but he was being judged against an older brother who had many more years of practice. It wasn’t fair to hold them to the same standard, but Lucius did it anyway. Fairness wasn’t part of the Malfoy way of life.
He trailed along after the bundle of packages and white hair bobbing in and out of the crowd. They threaded their way into the carriage house and stepped inside as Androculus brought around the sleek, black Malfoy family carriage. It was pulled by a pair of stunning silver horses and had the Malfoy crest of twinning snakes and a beech tree emblazoned on the door.
His father always said that all the horses in the Malfoy stable were to be silver, like the hair of all the Malfoy men. All the Malfoy men for centuries had had the same silver blonde hair except Connor. He tried not to let it bother him. After all, some of his mother’s relatives were darker.
This was same thing he’d thought to himself that morning, and the thought comforted him as little now as it did then. Maybe it was because of Trelawney’s ridiculous pronouncement. No one could take her seriously. He’d never even heard of her giving a correct prediction for anything, not even the color of Dumbledore’s holiday robes, a subject much bet upon each Yule season.
But that didn’t stop the feeling of weight, of importance, that her words had struck in him. Spoken aloud, they caused shivers of electricity up and down his spine and his fingertips to tingle unpleasantly. But there was nothing there, he reassured himself. Nothing at all...
The carriage rolled along in silence, both brothers staring out of the windows. Nothing much passed them on the Old Road. Witches had used the Old Roads for centuries to move around undetected by Muggles. No one knew their origin, some suggested fairy folk or the Old Ones, magical beings that pre-dated the rise of mankind and magical folk. No one knew for sure, however, and the speculation outside of Magical History departments was limited to the occasional cocktail party rumination.
Only the magical folk could feel them, these rivers of invisible power, snaking their way across the country sides, and as soon as they stepped foot onto them, they became invisible to Muggles. It had saved numerous witches and wizards from death in the old days of witch hunting, but now the travel was regulated to those who had permits, mostly wealthy families that could pay for the privilege from the Ministry.
Connor was just glad he didn’t have to take the floo network like the horrible Weasleys. They showed up everywhere covered in a puff of soot and smudged faces. It must be embarrassing, but they never seemed to mind. He was irritated at himself for wondering why.
Now, however, he wished he could go for the instant transportation. The silence in the carriage was becoming painful, and Connor finally decided enough was enough.
“So, Drac, what are you planning to do this semester for your elective? Muggle Studies?”
Draco blinked, choked, and burst out laughing. “Oh, Con, that was too funny. Can’t you just see me now, doing some presentation on those Muggle transportation things, what are they?”
“Cars,” Connor answered without thinking. He shrugged when Draco gave him a sharp look. “We all saw one last year when Weasel and Pothead crashed one into the Whomping Willow, remember?”
Draco nodded, “Right. Anyway. Me. Up in the front of class. Going on about the wonders of Muggle transportation. Or maybe Muggle efficiency!” He let out a peal of laughter and proceeded to expound on all the other wonderful Muggle things he could present.
Connor had heard almost all of them before from his father, but he was grateful for the noise. He leaned back and crossed his arms tightly, as slight grin on his face. He remembered when being so excited was common. Now… well, he wasn’t going to think about now. He was just going to listen and watch the road go by.