FIC: "Inauspicious" for janus Recipient:janus Author:luciusmistress Title: Inauspicious Rating: PG Pairings: heavily implied Regulus/Rabastan Word Count: ~1500 Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None.*. Summary: The Death Eaters celebrate the last Halloween before things start to go wrong. Author's Notes:janus, I'm very sorry I didn't manage a particularly happy ending. I guess I just don't have it in me. But to compensate, there's a kitten! :) A huge thank you to my betas! silent_cassia, thank you for taking me on on such a short notice! diabolica and ultrasonicbob, I really don't know where I would be without you guys! <3
Abraxas took a sip of mulled wine and looked around the hall. Everyone was there, of course. Everyone who was anyone attended the Malfoys' Halloween ball, a proud tradition that had existed for generations. There were masked faces everywhere, but for tonight they were not the white, expressionless things of the Knights of Walpurgis, or Death Eaters, as they were now commonly called. No, tonight there was black lace and red velvet, feathers and pearls and even some diamonds. Those Abraxas considered a bit too extravagant to be in good taste; a good family background was much more attractive than expensive trinkets.
Most of the excitement was already over, the foods served and games played. The children were gathered in one corner, drowsy from running around and eating too many apples and nuts. Mrs Avery was telling them a story, while the rest of the parents relaxed with cider and wine and polite, adult company. Abraxas sighed. He wished to see a child of his own lineage running around the Manor, a reassurance that whatever happened, the Malfoy name would go on. But it had been almost a year since Lucius married, and Narcissa still showed no signs of pregnancy. In these troubled times, when a buffet was preferred to a full dinner service because no one wanted to see the empty seats, it was a terrible thing to have but one offspring. If something happened to Lucius …
Abraxas forced the thought out of his mind. Lucius was fine. He was standing by the windows, regal in his midnight blue robes, talking to young Severus. The white robes of a young man did not suit Severus. Combined with his simple black mask and severe black ponytail, they made him look positively bloodless. A small smile curved Abraxas' lips. He did not need a mirror to realise where the unadorned look was copied from. It was good to see that his young protégé still looked up to him.
A loud giggle broke through the murmur of conversation. Abraxas sneered to himself. Bellatrix was at the door, flirting with a group of young men. He was happy that Lucius had chosen the younger Black girl, who knew how a lady was supposed to act. Just as tending to the house and children was best left to women, fighting for a better world was a job for men. There had been absolutely no reason for Bellatrix to be Marked, not when the Black family still had a man to join the ranks.
Well, a boy rather than a man, Abraxas had to admit as his eyes fell on Regulus Black. He was looking very young tonight in his feathered mask that was framed by untamed curls. Abraxas noticed that the boy was standing close enough to the children to hear the story but carefully keeping a distance that allowed him to pretend he wasn't listening. It was Regulus's big night; tonight, the Dark Lord would be asking for his allegiance. It seemed premature to Abraxas since the boy had yet to finish his last year of school. But if the boy was nervous, he was hiding it well. Clearly, Orion and Walburga had raised one proper pure-blood son.
Suddenly there was a commotion at the door. Regulus's face lit up as he hurried to welcome the new-comer, children's story quite forgotten. Not so very young after all, perhaps.
Abraxas frowned as Rabastan Lestrange stepped in. While it was, of course, commendable that he had come to support his young friend, he was so very late it bordered on rude. Inappropriately dressed, too. In his day, Abraxas would have expected men to wear white on Halloween until they were married, but Rabastan apparently considered himself old enough for black robes. Or maybe he hadn't considered the sort of statement his clothes were making about his willingness to marry. Either way, young Rabastan was inviting scandal to his name.
To make things worse, Rabastan's hand rested a second too long on Regulus's shoulder as the boy ushered him towards the fireplace. Abraxas drifted closer, ready to interfere before both boys' families had a full-blown scandal to deal with.
"Throw your stone in! All of ours are already there!" Regulus was saying. "If it goes black, a great misfortune shall befall you, or—" He stopped abruptly. Everyone knew what a cracked stone meant.
Rabastan tried to refuse the offered stone. "Under the circumstances, that's a bit tasteless, Reg. I, for one, don't want to go begging for inauspicious omens."
"Nonsense!" Abraxas smirked when his sudden appearance made both young men jump. It would do them good to remember that someone was always watching. "No matter what goes on outside these walls, inside them all ancient customs will be honoured. Speaking of which," he continued, turning towards Rabastan just as he was about to spell his name onto the stone that Regulus was still holding. "This is a masked ball, as I am sure you are well aware, Mr Lestrange. So I would appreciate it if you were to wear this." He conjured a tasteful black mask.
Rabastan executed a flawless bow and donned the mask with a quick flick of his wand. "I do apologise, Mr Malfoy. How very thoughtless of me."
Abraxas inclined his head. At least the young man knew his manners, even if it took a little prodding. "I bid you welcome to my house, and I hope you enjoy your evening. And now that the formalities are out of the way, do put your stone in the fire before Regulus does it for you," he added with a smile.
Defeated, Rabastan dropped his stone in the fireplace. Just as Abraxas was about to turn away and go entertain some other guests, Regulus exclaimed, "What's that? Your pocket just moved!"
"It's probably just a giant centipede or a baby Acromantula," a voice drawled from just behind Abraxas. He almost jumped but managed to stop himself in time. It would not do for the youngsters to see that he, too, was capable of being startled.
"That would be the sort of thing you consider appropriate for Halloween, wouldn't it?" Rodolphus continued, walking around Abraxas to give his brother a playful push.
Regulus jumped backwards, narrowly missing falling into the fire. "I'm warning you, Rab. If it's something with more than four legs I'll never—" He shot a look at Abraxas and blushed, clearly just remembering where he was. "I'll never speak to you again," he finished lamely.
Oblivious to the three pairs of eyes following his movement, Rabastan reached into a pocket and pulled out a small black kitten. It yawned and made a half-hearted attempt to bite the man's thumb. Rabastan stroked it gently and it began to purr.
"I almost forgot about him." Rabastan looked up, only now realising that he was the centre of attention. "I found him wondering Knockturn Alley all by himself," he explained.
Abraxas sighed. It was useless to remind the young man how inappropriate it was to bring a stray animal to the Malfoys' very select Halloween party. Rabastan Lestrange had always cared for animals much more than he cared for humans. If Abraxas were to ask him to take the kitten outside, Rabastan would probably leave with it, without even realising how bad that would look. Not wanting to be accused of throwing a Lestrange out of his house, Abraxas left the young men to fuss over the probably flea-infested ball of fur and crossed the hall to exchange more adult pleasantries with the Dolohovs.
Shortly before sunrise, the Dark Lord made his appearance. To herald his arrival, all lights went out. Even the fire in the fireplace suddenly turned to black ashes. Abraxas did his best not to roll his eyes. Such theatrics would probably impress children, or Mudbloods, but a grown wizard really ought to know better. One of these years, the Dark Lord would probably have them build bonfires in the courtyard and dance around them like savages.
A single illuminated wand appeared in the doorway, casting an eerie glow over the hall. Abraxas hoped that he was the only one to see how Regulus untangled himself from Rabastan's embrace to follow the light. It wasn't exactly proper, but he did not begrudge the boy that bit of comfort. It had to be intimidating, for one so young, to take the Mark.
When Regulus stepped over the threshold, the light returned, but the fireplace remained black and cold. Abraxas went over to light the fire himself, like a good host. He lifted his wand, and stopped dead. One stone among the ashes had cracked in the middle, but the letters REG were still perfectly legible on the other half. Abraxas felt chilled to the bone; it was the worst possible omen.
Taking a quick look around to make sure no one else had noticed, Abraxas pointed his wand at the stone and muttered the incantation. The halves of the stone knitted together seamlessly, just as if it had never broken. There was no reason to spoil young Regulus's Halloween. Let the boy rejoin them, marked only by the Dark Lord, not death. After all, it was just an old superstition. Round stones in fireplaces were certainly not a valid form of Divination.
But somewhere deep in his soul, Abraxas had to admit that he was intensely relieved to see Lucius' stone intact, barely even blackened by the soot.