Who: Les Malfoys What: The aftermath of the final battle When: Early February 2019 (before the funeral on the 8th) Where: Grounds of Malfoy Manor Warnings: Planning to manipulate and gaslight but only emotional violence.
Lucius stared out over the manicured lawn towards the river. The river flowed placidly past the bend that marked the southern end of the lands, and a line of ancient trees protected the path to the boat house. A bridge, visible only to those who knew how to look for it magically, kept the manor from having unannounced guests, and the wards took care of other unwanted visitors.
He wasn't beaten. Far from it, Lucius was likely to benefit from the distance he'd maintained between himself and the Dark Lord. It was a matter of waiting and choosing the right time and action to benefit themselves.
The tray of wine and cheese arrived first, courtesy of Dobby, and Narcissa followed on, down the lawn from the house, surveying the grounds. "Well, the last of them are gone. We're on our own again, and most of the arrangements for the Lestrange funeral are made. I am owed a glass of wine or three." She sat down next to her husband and waited for him to pour a glass for her.
Lucius smiled at the thought and began to pour. The ceremony of opening the wine, pouring and tasting it, and approving the vintage were soothing mechanical tasks. Soon they each had a glass of the deep red Malfoy Bordeaux Carménère. "No one more deserving, my darling. Just keeping your mother from visiting your sister was a masterwork of diplomacy. How are my in-laws anyway? No one plotting anything too rash, are they?"
"Thank you, darling." Narcissa took the wine with only the slightest shudder at the very idea of her mother visiting Bella just now. "There's something going on with Rodolphus and Rabastan that I can't put my finger on just yet. Whatever it is, they're keeping it from Bella, and she's too distracted with other tasks to notice. Rabastan has promised to turn up on time, properly dressed, and relatively sober to the funeral. And Rodolphus is always a delight, even under these circumstances. He has kept his mother busy and allowed me to arrange everything as needed. So they are allowed to keep their secrets for the nonce."
Lucius nodded and held his wine, admiring the color and the nose. The work of his ancestors and their servants were making profits for him today, as his efforts would benefit Draco and his sons in the future. Wizarding vinecraft was a discipline for the optimistic. 'We plant grapes that our children can make wine that sustains our grandchildren'. Of all the diverse and well-hidden ways the House of Malfoy was embedded in Wizarding society, the Apothecary was Lucius' favorite.
"I'm hoping that between you and Rodolphus, she can be made to understand the importance of protecting ourselves now. Do you think she can be restrained?"
"She can be distracted, which is what Rodolphus and I have done. The theory is that the Dark Lord must be in hiding and will require Bellatrix to find him. After all, she is his most devoted." Narcissa's impatience with that particular relationship edged her tone. "We can do what needs to be done while she works her way to the realisation that they're really gone. I'd kill him myself if I thought he was going to get her killed after what happened to our uncle. And Evan."
"I sometimes thought the Dark Lord merely tolerated us for the sake of Bella. He did understand and reward loyalty, as long as it was coupled with success." Lucius was well aware that he would need to speak to Bella about the Dark Lord as if he were alive, but he didn't feel that need with Narcissa.
"It's not a bad story for any of us. On the surface, all good citizens should be aware that the war is over and thankful that the Dark Wizard has been put down. That is the public story. To those who cleave to the Dark Lord, this is a ploy to allow us to marshall our strength while the Ministry and Dumbledore's lackeys stand down. We work to create a 'new traditionalism' or some such term to preserve all the good of the wizarding world from the systemic onslaught of the incessant mudblood tide. Except we call them something else, I suppose, and pretend we don't hate them." Lucius frowned and sipped his wine. "I'll need some practice. I'm not that good at lying."
Narcissa laughed. "You're joking, of course. You lie perfectly well when you want to. You just haven't had a reason to bother until now."
He smirked. She was right. "Not getting ourselves and all our friends killed is a valiant cause, and worth the effort. It's a challenge, though. We're provisionally lying to everyone, since if the Dark Lord does return, we have been doing exactly what was needed to prepare for him, and if he doesn't, we have been doing exactly what was needed to prepare for our post-Dark Lord ascendency. And if the Ministry asks, we're doing exactly what is required to heal the wounds of our fractured society and move on from this terrible, terrible time." He pauses. "They should put up statues to us."
"I'm sure they will," Narcissa replied with a smile of her own, for ladies did not smirk. Oh, all right, maybe it was a smirk. "Or at least portraits. I shall expect them to paint my good side."
"You have two good sides, and you know it. If I were a portraitist, I'd paint no one but you, in a doomed but noble search to capture radiance on canvas." Being with Narcissa always helped him clear his head and set the right course of action. He wondered again how his father could possibly have done him such a good turn. It surely couldn't have been intentional on the old goat's part. "How open is Rodolphus to opportunities?"
"You'll need to speak to him yourself to be sure, but I believe that he will at least give you a hearing. He doesn't like the old men any better than we do. If it were Rabastan, we could be certain." That Rabastan despised his father and all that circle was evident to Narcissa; as a child who had come from a family with an appalling father and domineering mother, she recognised the symptoms, even if Rabastan's sex gave him different options for dealing with the malady. "Rodolphus has ambitions," she added, though this was of course the basic measure of a gentleman. "The question is merely how high they go."
"Ambitions?" Lucius asked, unconsciously steepling his fingers. "It will be a few years before we can arrange for him to be elected Minister, but I see no reason not to put him in the slot, if it makes him happy. Ministers serve at the fickle whim of the people, and soon, even a war hero Minister will enact unpopular policy and be voted out." Lucius never wanted to be Minister. He'd be happy enough to become Chief Warlock, but he wasn't putting himself forward at the tender age of 27. Lucius would let his brother-in-law burn bright but briefly, if that was his desire.
"He's not ready yet, but he'll be ripe in, what, ten years? And by then we'll have built a party behind the two of you to make matters work. Who cares what Edward Nott and Arlo Mulciber do now? They're sentimentally attached to a dead man." Narcissa sighed. "And so is my sister. We'll just have to find someone else to scratch that particular itch for her."
Lucius reached out and stroked her arm, as much to comfort himself as her. "She does have her romantic streak. Practically gothic, really. Do you have someone in mind?"
"Not yet." Narcissa tilted her head toward Lucius and, added, "But we'll have time to find someone."