Disclaimer: Nope. Still not mine.
A/N: So despite a return of my writer's block, albeit this time for much more interesting reasons, I've got another one done. It might be awhile before anything else gets updated, though. For some reason, I can't seem to think about anything else while I'm expecting. But we'll see. For now, enjoy.
When her aunt and uncle led the five of them to the doorway opposite from the one through which they’d entered, Calypso hesitated. Looking over her shoulder, she paused. Harry stopped, and gave her a questioning look.
“What is it, luv?”
Glancing briefly at him, she turned her eyes back to the portrait of her grandparents, and replied softly, “I feel like I need to talk with them. Father hasn’t been here at all since last year, and they deserve to know what’s been happening.”
Harry nodded in understanding. “Do you want me to stay?”
“No. I think I need to do this alone. I’ll find you when I’m done, alright?”
“Alright. Take your time, this is a big place.” He raised her fingers to his mouth, placing a light kiss on her knuckles before releasing her hand and turning to follow the rest of the family from the hall.
After he vanished around the corner, Calypso closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath. Then, she turned and walked back to stand before her grandparents.
Abraxas gave her a measuring look, and then smiled slightly. “You look like your father used to, just before he confessed to some mischief that got out of his hands.”
Calypso returned his smile, though hers was dimmed by the pain and guilt in her eyes. “Mischief might be a bit of an understatement, grandfather.”
His smile turned gentle, and he nodded. “It usually was.” He paused, then added, “Tell us what is on your mind. It might weigh less heavily once you’ve shared it.”
Ermingard offered Calypso an encouraging nod. “What troubles you, Calypso?”
Taking a breath, she straightened her spine and asked, “What has Father told you of his activities since you died?”
Her grandfather studied her for just a moment, and replied, “Lucius was always a private person. He kept his own counsel unless he needed our help. His governess once described him as ten going on forty. Beyond the family business interests, about which he consulted with me often, he didn’t talk at length with us. Over the years, he grew more withdrawn, only truly coming to life when he told us about his family. The loss of Amelia struck him a terrible blow, but when he found your mother, he found new joy. We were thrilled the day he told us they were expecting, and when you two were born, he brought you both to see us. You and your sister were the light of his life. For the first five years, he brought you both here for a short holiday every summer. Watching the two of you play with Jocey’s girls was a treat. Then, you all stopped coming. Lucius told us that Celia had died, and he stopped bringing you to visit.” Abraxas sighed. “That was twelve years ago, and he has only ever come back since to renew the wards and to oversee the maintenance of the property.”
Calypso nodded. “Do you know how you died?”
Ermingard frowned. “He said once that we’d gone to London to avoid Dragonpox, but then contracted it and died anyway.”
Calypso sighed. “I thought he might have. You have to understand, we only just learned the truth this spring. The reason father has changed so much from the man he used to be is because he witnessed your deaths.” She averted her eyes for an instant before swallowing hard and continuing. “You went to an opera – The Ring – at the Royal Opera House. You two were standing at the corner, waiting to cross the road when he stepped outside. It happened so quickly, he didn’t even have a chance to cry a warning. I don’t think either of you were ever even aware of the car. A Muggle, driving drunk, ran up the kerb and hit you both at high speed. Grandfather, you were dead before you fell, but he made it to your side, Grandmother, in time to see the light fade from your eyes.” She swallowed again, fighting a lump that had risen in her throat. “It was such a traumatic experience that he never spoke of it, even to Aunt Joyce. From that day on, Father hated Muggles. He blamed them all for the one that killed you and managed to get away with it, but for some reason, eventually he forgot how you died, and just hated Muggles.”
Abraxas frowned. “He forgot?”
Calypso nodded. “Aunt Joyce said he probably repressed the trauma in order to cope with the loss.”
Abraxas exchanged a look with his wife. There was more to the matter, but they would discuss it later. He nodded to his grandchild. “I see. Continue.”
Hesitating for a moment, Calypso eyed her grandfather. “I had a long talk with Aunt Joyce about you two a couple of months ago, and she said that if you were still around, you’d have horsewhipped Father for what he’s gotten up to since you died.”
Abraxas raised an eyebrow. “Do go on.”
She ducked her head a little, and then explained. “Aunt Joyce said that you despised the Dark – V-voldemort, Grandfather. But after you died he… well, er… he was so angry, and the D- V-vol… er, well, you know. Anyway, he found Father, and convinced him that he would help him avenge you if Father would … follow him.” Peeking at her grandparents through her lashes, she flinched at the thunderous expression on her grandfather’s face, and the shocked dismay on her grandmother’s.
Before they could speak, she continued in a rush. “Father joined the Death Eaters, and eventually Uncle Sev followed him. Aunt Joyce had to go into hiding because she lost her magic and somehow, Mother never even knew that Aunt Joyce didn’t die of Djinni fever. Then there was the first war, and Father was accused of being a Death Eater, but he bought off the Minister, and kept on being The Malfoy after the Dark Lord was defeated by one year old Harry, right after he killed Harry’s parents. That’s complicated, but life went on, and Father taught me that Muggles were lower than non-magical rats.” She took a breath and avoided looking at her grandparents as she went on. “Eventually, I was old enough to start school, and the day Mother took me shopping for my school supplies, I met Harry for the first time. He was wearing horribly worn, oversize clothes, and I thought he was a Mud- er… Muggleborn. I didn’t treat him very well. The next time I met him, I knew who he was, and I tried to win him over, but it was already too late. He hated me, and we became instant enemies, because he was constantly showing me up and protecting the riffraff.”
Calypso paused, and then straightened. Meeting her grandparent’s eyes, she went on. “I was a bully, and a generally spoilt git. I delighted in others’ pain, and took every opportunity to make everyone I considered beneath me miserable. Then, in my fourth year, Voldemort returned, and Father started serving him again. I didn’t know it at the time, but he used my mother to keep Father in line. If he resisted, she was tortured. I never knew. This year, things got so much worse, because Harry started outperforming me in Potions. It was the one class where I always got the highest marks, because I loved it. I didn’t know Professor Snape was my uncle, but he was the head of Slytherin House, and I loved excelling in his class. Which brings me to how I became Calypso.”
She looked embarrassed as she explained. “Early in November, I decided I’d had enough, and one evening, while the Professors were all in a meeting, I sneaked into the Potions stores and stole a random lump of something out of a jar. The next day in Potions, I planned to toss it into Potter’s cauldron, but Professor Slughorn – who had taken over potions this year when Professor Snape was finally given the Defence Against the Dark Arts position – bumped into me and the lump fell into MY cauldron. It was supposed to be a simple skin revitalising potion, but it turned from the perfect shade of blue to an eye-searing pink, and exploded. When I woke up in hospital, I was a girl. So much has happened since then.”
Abraxas frowned. “So it appears. You said you were making a skin revitalising potion. Sixth year, so... was it Lady Ambrosia’s repairing rejuvenation formula?”
Calypso blinked. “Yes. Does that matter?”
Ermingard gasped. “Oh my.”
Abraxas’ frown deepened. “What, exactly, did you drop in your potion, young lady?”
Calypso cringed slightly, and responded, “Purified cordate sirene...”
Abraxas cocked his head. “And that turned you female, and now you’re planning to marry the man you hated so completely?”
She wrapped her arms around herself. “That’s complicated.”
Abraxas smirked. “I’d imagine so. If you don’t mind my saying so, it seems to me that you were harbouring a secret need to prove yourself to him. A desire for his approval, or at least his attention.”
Calypso looked sceptical. “But I loathed Potter for years! How can you say I wanted his approval? That makes no sense!”
Abraxas smiled slightly. “You told us yourself, you became enemies after he spurned your attempt to befriend him. If you’re anything like your father, you don’t seek out friendship with people you don’t know well. Why would you have put yourself in a position to be rejected, and then used that rejection to pit yourself against him for years, if he didn’t matter to you? Only someone you love or value dearly in some other way can cause that kind of pain. A person can claim your heart without your mind ever knowing it, and if they do not accept you, it hurts. It doesn’t even have to be a person, for that matter. There have even been Malfoys who transformed into other kinds of magical beings. One of our long ago ancestors had a sister who turned herself into a dragon.”
Calypso’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Abraxas nodded. “Truly. She was the first sentient Dragon, and the first one to bequeath her heartstrings and certain other parts of her body in a Will. The Malfoy Wand has one of those heartstrings at its core. It passed down through her husband’s family for a few centuries before one of his descendents married another of our ancestors, and the Wand was bonded to the Lord of our line.”
Calypso frowned. “I guess it would belong to Harry, now.”
Abraxas looked startled. “What do you mean?”
She blushed, shifting on her feet, and replied very quietly, “Because he bought a contract of forfeiture for me.”
“WHAT?!?!” Abraxas roared.
“My potions accident. The Ministry had it investigated, and charged me with making a Partum Anima potion without a permit. Father was in Azkaban because he was caught fighting alongside other Death Eaters last May, so he couldn’t pay the fines. They forced my inheritance, and sold it, part and parcel, to Harry. They gave him first refusal, and he agreed to buy it because if he hadn’t, they’d have thrown it open to bidding, and I would have most likely ended up enslaved to the... to Voldemort.” Her eyes were swimming when she met her grandfather’s stare. “He saved my life, but the cost to the family was everything.”
Abraxas’ infuriated eyes narrowed. “You said your father was in Azkaban. Where is he now?”
She flinched. “Buffy had him broken out. She’s the Slayer, so she technically has the authority, although she did it because he’s family.”
Ermingard choked. “A Slayer...” Calypso nodded, and her grandmother turned into her husband’s arms, crying. “Oh, Abrax!”
Abraxas gave her a gentle hug. “She’ll be fine, Ermy. She’s a Malfoy, and she’s got the whole family to help her.”
“Not to mention Zabini,” Calypso smirked.
“Zabini? That boy who came in with you? He’s a Zabini?”
Calypso nodded. “Blaise Zabini. He was my best mate until I had my accident and got re-Sorted. When I changed from Draco to Calypso, the Headmaster said that I had to be re-Sorted, and the bloody hat tossed me into Gryffindor with Potter and his friends.” She made a sour face. “It seemed to think I couldn’t take care of myself in Slytherin anymore.”
“I see,” Abraxas commented, his vaguely bewildered expression belying his words. “Why did they decide to re-Sort you?”
“I asked that very same question, and Professor McGonagall said it had to do with legal protections. Of course, once Harry started digging into the history behind Hogwarts’ founding and the Council of Twelve, it made more sense, and considering that Voldemort is the last scion of the line of Slytherin, they may have had a point, though I doubt they knew that at the time.”
“WHAT!!!!?” Abraxas bellowed, his face turning nearly violet.
Calypso cocked her head. “Erm... you do know what his real name is, don’t you? He would have been in school right around the time you were, wouldn’t he?”
Abraxas scowled. “Yes, actually. Tom Riddle was a fourth year my first year. He finished Hogwarts – as Head Boy, no less – the year before your grandmother started.”
Ermingard shuddered. “A fact for which I’m unendingly grateful. Just the stories of that boy were enough to give me nightmares. Everyone in school knew that Riddle was the most charming boy alive, so long as you didn’t get on his bad side. If you ever made him angry, he would do horrible things. One of the senior prefects the year I started told us that Riddle had killed nearly a tenth of the pets in the school one year, by poisoning the supply of treats provided to the dormitories, purely to punish one girl who refused his advances. He thought if he could court the daughter of one of the High Noble families, he would have more influence, but her father refused his petition.”
Calypso blinked. “Who?”
Abraxas squeezed his wife comfortingly and replied, “Annika Carrow. Her parents were powerful. Her father was the Chief Warlock before me. He retired five years after I finished Hogwarts.”
Calypso’s mouth dropped open then she shook her head and said, “I need to tell Harry about that. It might be important.”
“What? Why?” Abraxas called as she hurried away.
“Because Alecto Carrow is carrying Riddle’s child.” Calypso called over her shoulder. The couple in the portrait looked after her in shock as she ran from the room.
About fifteen minutes after her great-grandmother had walked out of the surgery, Charlie woke up. Blinking his eyes against the sunlight streaming in the high window, he croaked, “Where are we?”
Filling a small cup with water, Jess put a bent straw into it and held it to his mouth as she answered him. “We’re at Malboral. It’s my mother’s original family home. Master Brown sent you with me when my father asked for me to come home. How are you feeling?”
Releasing the straw and watching as Jess put the now empty cup aside, he smiled. “Much better. How long has it been since my accident?”
“Three days. I need you to perform a few simple range of motion tests. Slowly raise your right arm toward the ceiling, then your left.”
As he obeyed, has frowned. “It’s only been three days? I’ve never been healed that fast before. How is that possible?”
Jess smiled. “Because I can repair even severe tissue damage by touching it and focussing my magic through my fingertips.” Placing her hands against his palms, she instructed, “Now push against my hands.” After a moment, she nodded. “Good. Put your arms back down, and turn your head, first to the right as far as you can, then to the left.” He did so, and she frowned slightly. His neck was stiff when he turned to the left – that could mean deeper scarring. “Well, your shoulder joints seem to be in functional condition, but I think I need to examine your neck toward the back. Please turn onto your stomach.”
When he did, her mouth dropped open slightly. Now that the burns were mostly healed, she discovered a much older injury. Putting her hand on his shoulder, she measured the width and depth of the gouge in the muscle and asked him, “What is this, Mr. Weasley?”
Twisting slightly so he could look at her, his blue eyes dancing with mischief, he replied, “A lovebite.”
Jess frowned. “From what?”
“A juvenile Norwegian Ridgeback named Norberta.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Sounds like there’s a story there.” She could feel the muscle shifting and spasming slightly under her fingers as it rebuilt itself.
He winced as the spasms intensified, and replied. “There is. Would you like to hear it?”
Jess nodded. “If you’d like to tell me.”
Harry and the other teens were following Joyce across the carefully manicured park behind the Keep to the private Quidditch Pitch to get some flying in when Calypso came racing out of the back doors. She was sweating and panting for breath when she skidded to a stop in the grass. While she drew harsh gasping breaths, the family waited for her to catch her breath. “Harry... I... need ...to... tell... you... something. The... Dark Lord... didn’t... choose Alecto... Carrow... by chance.”
Harry blinked. “What?” Calypso held up one finger in a ‘wait a minute’ gesture and kept heaving oxygen into her lungs. While they waited for her to compose herself, a strident screech caught everyone’s attention. A large black owl was winging its way across the park toward them. When it reached them, it back winged in front of Harry, proffering a leg with a parchment envelope tied to it. Harry untied the string and claimed the envelope, and the bird flew away immediately. By the time he’d taken a look at the seal on the back of the missive, Calypso was standing straight, and breathing more normally.
She gave him a sour look and asked, “By the way, Potter, why are you lot half a kilometre from the back of the building? I thought you were still doing a tour.”
Harry shrugged. “Joyce offered to show us the Pitch. She pointed out all the important rooms on the first floor, and said it was too fine a day to spend the afternoon exploring dusty old houses.”
“Right.” She looked at her aunt and uncle. “Do either of you know who Annika Carrow is or was?”
Joyce raised an eyebrow. “Annika Carrow? I think she went to school with my parents. Why?”
“Well, according to your dad, Riddle tried to contract for her and her father turned him down flat. It can’t be coincidence that Alecto’s carrying his child now.”
Severus frowned. “I wouldn’t think so. Amycus and Alecto are the children of Annika’s brother, Andur. It could be simply that he chose to use Alecto to spite her family, however.”
“A dish best served cold, Sev?”
Severus nodded. “It might be prudent to look into the Carrow Family’s history, however. There may be a clue, there.”
“How are we going to do that?” Calypso asked.
Blaise cleared his throat. “I may have a solution.” When every eye turned to him, he explained, “The Carrows have long been allies of House Zabini, and my mother is friends with Andur and his wife Mirrielle. She could get access to their family library.”
Buffy frowned. “I have a question. What’s with all the names starting with A?”
Blaise smiled. “It’s a tradition in their family, kept in honour of a member of the family from long ago.” He held his hands up. “I don’t know more than that, mother just told me because I asked that very question once. She also said it used to be only the male children who carried the honorific, until a generation happened in which there were no sons born.”
“This is all very interesting, but for now all we have is speculation. At the moment, I’m more interested in that letter you just received, Harry. It bears the seal of the Ministry, are you going to open it?” Severus interjected, pointedly changing the subject.
Harry looked at the letter in his hand, sighed, and broke the seal. Reading the letter quickly, he snorted. “That’s rather short notice,” and handed the letter to Calypso, who passed it on to her aunt after skimming the contents. When Joyce took it from her niece, she read it, and then cleared her throat.
“The trial of Albus Dumbledore is scheduled for tomorrow. Harry is expected to be there. Who else is planning to go?” The four teens exchanged looks, and drew together in a tight knot. Joyce nodded, and raised her eyebrow at Severus, who nodded. “Good. I’ll stay here with Dawn, Jess, her patient, and Bonne Maman – assuming she decides not to go. I doubt we all need to be there.”
Xander staggered through the door of his house, completely worn out. For all that school had been out for nearly a week, he felt more mentally exhausted than he’d ever done at good ol’ Hellmouth High. Holding the rail for support, Xander made his way to his room. He stripped out of his training clothes, and grabbed a tank top, boxers, one of his myriad Hawaiian shirts, and some clean jean shorts. Carrying his fresh clothes to the basement bathroom, he dumped them on the counter and turned on the shower. When steam began rising from the cubicle, he stepped in and let the heat start taking some of the ache out of his muscles. While the shower did its work, he thought about the past several days, and the changes that had occurred.
The day after Faith had reported the dream that left a burn mark on her chest, Jacinthe had informed her and her watcher that they were moving into her house. Xander had helped his mother turn the spare bedroom and his room into space for their guests, and he’d moved into the room in the basement that had once been his father’s ‘trophy room’. Cleaning out the old high school football trophies, and the league bowling trophies from the early years of his parents’ marriage gave him mixed feelings. All Xander had ever known was the loud-mouthed, boorish drunk, but apparently, his father hadn’t always been a complete bastard, and he wished he could have known the man who’d been drowned in an alcoholic haze before he’d ever been born.
His mother had somehow managed to get him a wand, and she and Narcissa had started training him in its use. They’d had to go beyond the range of the Hellmouth to do any practical training, and Giles had suggested that they make him jog out to the training field they’d acquired. It was two miles past the City limits, which made for a ‘brisk’ five mile run each way. If he hadn’t kept up with the combat and strength training he’d begun doing with Buffy after the Halloween incident, he’d have been physically shredded the first time he’s gone to the training field. As it was, he was sweating hard, but alert and ready by the time he got there every morning. It wasn’t the running that wore him out. He was being trained in martial arts by a Master his mother had hired, who specialized in Aikido, judo, and kung-fu. So far, he’d taught Xander how to fall down without hurting himself, and how to redirect the force of a charging assailant so that THEY fell down. Faith was his primary sparring partner, so he got a lot more practise at the former, but he’d managed to throw her a few times. His teachers had also decided that one of the skills he needed was wand duelling, which involved a lot of shouting spells and using correct wand movements while ducking and dodging spells fired at him, and occasionally hard rubber balls thrown by Faith, who had been invited to help. He missed deflecting the rubber balls enough that he usually sported one or two round bruises from the impacts after every session. Fortunately, his mother knew how to make those disappear in minutes.
Willow was being taught wand magic as well, but they were working less on her reflexive casting and more on her focus and her understanding of the fundamentals. Lucius had said that she needed to learn not to cut corners. After hearing about the ensouling ritual, and Willow’s own comment about ‘adjusting’ spells, she was told that if any of their teachers found out she was playing with her wand without supervision, or practicing any kind of magic away from them, she would cease to get any training at all, her wand would be broken, and her magic bound. When she protested, Lucius pointed out that if she’d done the ensouling spell anywhere that Wizards could have sensed it, she’d have been burnt out on the spot. When she asked what that meant, the blond Wizard had told her that her magic would have been stripped from her, and her magical core burned away. The ritual required to do that was akin to having your entire body burned up from the inside, and the pain of having your magic burned out – though it might diminish over time – never fully faded. After that, Willow had meekly agreed not to experiment with magic without supervision.
Giles had been given a choice. After Jacinthe heard about the Blood spell Giles had led to invade Lucius’ mind, she told him that he would accept training, or she would report the event to the Wizengamot and he, as a British national, would face Wizard justice. He chose to accept training, and spent a great deal of his time sitting beside Willow, studying the theory of magic books that had been sent with the three witches and the cadre of House Elves. They were also conscripted into helping Narcissa with the rehabilitation of Alecto Carrow and Bellatrix, both in the interest of impressing upon them just how damaging magical abuse can be, and to try to get the two damaged witches to start reacting to people outside of Narcissa and Drusilla. Caring for them also offered an opportunity to study magical medical practices, which fascinated Willow. She was always full of questions for her teachers. Xander smiled as he thought about Willow’s never ending curiosity. His red-haired best friend would never be satisfied with the simple answer. It just wasn’t in her nature.
Having Faith living under the same roof was a little awkward, but his mother said their house had some of the best wards in Sunnydale now that she was free to maintain them, and he believed her. He hadn’t had a single nightmare since the day after his father had died, for one thing. Usually, bad dreams had him waking up every couple of hours. Not anymore. He was sure he had his mother to thank for that.
After he had washed thoroughly and most of the residual aches were gone, he turned off the shower, dried himself with a towel, and got dressed. He had just about an hour before he was expected at the mansion for his Wizard history and political studies, and he wanted to get a decent lunch in first. Those lessons tended to run until early evening, and he was usually starving by the time they all went home. It was more interesting than the stuff they taught at Sunnydale High School, but there was just so much to take in, and he knew that he might be called upon to use it at a moment’s notice, so he didn’t complain. Much.
Cassius Flint looked up from his ledgers at the insistent tapping at his window. Waving his wand at the aperture, the sash rose, and the bird flew into his office. He took the tightly rolled missive from the brown and gold feathered messenger, and offered it a goblet of water and a few Owl Treats. He read the letter rapidly, and raised his eyebrows. Tucking it into his pocket, he banished his bookkeeping to its proper shelf and walked out of his office. Tossing some Floo powder into the fireplace, he stepped in and called out “Ministry of Magic!”
When he stopped spinning, he hurried to the office where his son was working. He was proud of Marcus. The boy had grown up a great deal since finishing Hogwarts, and he was currently working in the Office of International Affairs, as a junior liaison to the Eastern European Wizard Consul. Learning to handle the often belligerent and distrustful Wizards from the eastern side of the Continent was doing wonders for his son’s diplomatic skills. It was excellent training for the time when Cassius would pass the keeping of the House of Flint on to him.
Knocking lightly on Marcus’ office door, he waited. A call of “Enter” came from the other side of the door, and he walked in. He smiled as Marcus looked up from the pile of treaty proposals and international Wizard laws scattered in front of him.
Marcus returned his smile. “Dad! What brings you down here today?”
Cassius showed Marcus the rolled parchment and asked, “Have you got time to join me for lunch?”
Glancing at the clock on the wall, Marcus shoved back his chair and skirted around his desk. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Excellent. How do you feel about Greek today?”
“Sounds like just the thing.”
Cassius led Marcus back to the Floo, and when they were ready to travel, he called out, “Athens International Hub,” and spun away.
His hands were buried in the rich, fertile soil of his private greenhouse, and his mind was on the letter he’d recently received from his mother. For this reason, he felt he could be excused for not noticing the tawny owl immediately. When he did, however, Elphinstone Urquart Jr. stood and removed his gloves before opening the window. As soon as he’d removed the letter, the owl dove for a mouse scurrying in panic across the floor, then swooped back outside with its prize clutched in its talons. When he’d read through the missive twice, he sighed. He’d known this day would come eventually, it was inevitable. He put away his tools, changed out of his gardening coverall, and fetched his broom. Fortunately, his mother’s summer home wasn’t far from his own modest property.
Hopping on his broom, he flew off, wondering just how he was going to explain everything.
Lucius straightened in his chair, stretching his spine with a series of sharp cracking noises. He’d been working with Willow and Giles for several hours, studying the spell that had bound his daughter to Potter, and had done such damage to Bellatrix. The two had agreed readily enough to help him see if he could find a counter to the spell that wouldn’t be quite so damaging. Willow especially had been utterly appalled that his people even had such a spell, never mind that they’d used it as a judicial punishment. The feisty redhead had been disturbed by the news that House Elves were slaves as well... until she’d taken the time to talk with them. Talla and Ubbut had answered her myriad questions patiently, and eventually, she’d come to the conclusion that as beings that not only consented to their social state, but refused any other way of life, they were not precisely slaves. She hadn’t found a rational alternative to the offensive word, but she refused to give up. Lucius found her determination amusing, in light of her previous timidity. Her semi-permanent werewolf shadow was away for the moment, doing a ‘gig’ with his band in another city.
Willow looked up when she heard the popping of Lucius’ spine, and the soft groan of relief that escaped him. Blinking at the clock, she squeaked. “Oh! Oh no! Everyone’s going to be here in a few minutes, and this place is a mess! We need to clean up and get some lunch or we’re going to be completely starving by the time the afternoon lessons are over!” Suiting actions to words, she popped out of her seat and began bustling around, picking up books and papers and filing things away even as she continued to chatter. “And I meant to write a letter for Buffy today, too! We haven’t sent her any progress reports in a couple of weeks, and there’s so much to tell her, and I think you’ve made tremendous progress by the way, but we haven’t told her about it and now there’s no time to write a letter. And if we don’t keep her up to date on things then that might make her think that it wasn’t going well and then-“
Giles and Lucius exchanged indulgent glances as the budding witch gave vent to her thoughts. She was clearly nervous, and on edge. Without a word, the two men joined in the cleanup effort, and the one-time formal dining room turned research library in Angel’s home was rapidly restored to order. As it turned out, Ubbut had anticipated their need for sustenance, and no sooner were the books put away than a large platter of lovely sandwiches appeared on the main table, accompanied by a beautiful tea set that had once belonged to Lucius’ mother. The three tucked into the food, and once the sandwiches were gone, a basket of gently steaming scones and a dish of clotted cream took the place of the platter, just as Xander and Faith walked in with Jacinthe. Narcissa trailed behind them, pushing her sister in a wheelchair.
Lucius moved to his wife’s side. “How is she today?” he asked, solicitously.
Narcissa gave him a soft smile. “Mostly lucid, and interested in seeing what everyone is doing. Bella, you remember Lucius?”
Bellatrix turned her eyes on Lucius, and nodded. “Lord Malfoy. I trust you are well?”
Lucius hid his surprise, and nodded, bowing as his mother had long ago trained him. “Miss Black. It’s good to see you so improved. Would you care to join us for tea and scones?”
Bellatrix smiled like a girl, her eyes taking on a delighted light. “Oh, yes, please, my lord. It’s been a long time since I was allowed to have scones. Mother disapproved of them. She said they would make me fat.”
Gravely, though with twinkling eyes, Lucius took the handles of the chair from his wife, and pushed the wheelchair to the table. Carefully selecting two particularly lovely scones, he placed them on a plate and set it before Bellatrix. “Cream?” he offered. At her nod, he covered the scones with a generous layer of the clotted cream before helping Narcissa to a seat beside her sister. Narcissa smiled at him, slightly bemused, as he prepared an additional pair of scones exactly the way she liked them, and placed them before her. When he took her hand and dropped a kiss into her palm before returning to his own seat, she blushed.
Bellatrix leaned closer to her sister and said, not quite quietly, “I think he fancies you, Cissa.”
Narcissa’s blush deepened, as the assorted teenagers – and other adults – in the room smothered friendly chuckles. “So it would seem, Bella.”