Who: Lucius Malfoy, NPC [closed narrative] What: Spontaneously lending a hand to the Muggleborn Registration Commission Where: Ministry of Magic and Roughtalley's Wood, Epping When: This evening Rating/Warnings: R - Torture, NPC death, general dark!ness
It was getting easier these days to drum up the seven votes required for Board decisions of any import; all the same, Lucius had always felt it was foolish to wait for meetings to begin swaying hearts and minds. The Ministry made for a decent place to start - no small number of his colleagues had offices here, even if they rarely occupied them. It was never a wasted trip.
And yet today, even after a successful visit, he was leaving unsatisfied. The work he was doing could hardly be described as his own, and the only real pleasure he'd felt had come from hearing the increasingly cowed responses that even a subtle threat could gain from a man who knew you had a license to kill. (More or less.) Lining up a victory for someone else always made him feel more a bulldog than a man. He pressed through the crowd in one of the deeper hallways leading away from the Department of Mysteries, trying not to think on the fact that little better awaited him at home. He elbowed his way past an anxious-looking group waiting just opposite the courtroom’s door - the Commission was in full swing even now, half past five and the sun gone for an hour - ignoring the worried whispers and desperate sounds coming from within.
Low voices drew his attention, and then a terribly familiar, seeping cold.
"... Said she was for Azkaban."
Two hunched, bored-looking men in slightly battered-looking robes were arguing quietly in a side corridor; a small woman, perhaps thirty years old, cowered in the corner, looking dazed as an elderly man was shepherded out of sight by a pair of Dementors. The chill eased a little, but not enough.
"And then he told me not to bother - said this one we could take care of without handing her over to the guards."
"I don't see why we should -"
"It don't matter what you see. Won't take you but a minute, anyway, and I've got to get home."
Lucius realized the woman had raised her eyes to him; he had stopped, his curiosity roused. He hadn’t seen a disappearance brokered in quite a few years. It was good to see the informal economy of the Ministry's back halls was still alive and well, even if his role was diminished.
And why should it be? The biting sense of dread he knew so well from his term in Azkaban was reminder enough that it paid to make oneself useful in every possible way.
He stepped forward, earning himself a startled, suspicious glance from the more reluctant of the two. "I'll take care of it," he said. It had been rather a long time since he'd done any real public service.
"And who the - ow!" The man's partner stepped heavily on his foot.
"Fine by us," he said, tucking his wand into his robes. "We take 'em to -"
"I'll manage, thank you," Lucius cut across him. He had no desire at all to learn where the bulk of this dirty work took place.
"Of course, Mr. Malfoy." He gave his partner an elbow to the ribs, and they both hurried gladly back toward the courtroom.
Lucius looked down to the woman in the corner; she looked something like a huddled animal. "Come along, then," he said. But she kept still, aside from a marked tremor. He could tell by the way her eyes were fixed warily on his face that she had heard his name, and recognized it. "Now."
He turned on his heel and took a few paces down the corridor, towards the Apparition point. When he heard nothing behind him, he turned - she hadn't moved except to look back at the crowded benches outside the courtroom, her face uncertain. "It's alright," he said impatiently. Ridiculous, to have to coax someone along like a reluctant dog. "They've just said, you're not bound for prison. Now follow me." When she finally came to his side, he continued briskly down the hall. At the end of the corridor, he took hold of her arm.
She recoiled. "Where are we going?"
"Yours is a special case, it seems." He had no idea why, but he knew well enough what it meant to take care of someone in lieu of shipping them off to Azkaban, and at the moment was uninterested in details. "I think it would be better discussed privately - away from my colleagues on the Commission. Unless you would prefer to include them?" That seemed to make her hesitate; he kept his grip easily. She shook her head cautiously, and a small measure of hope loosened the fear that had been tight across her face.
One long and uncomfortable moment later, he was finding his balance on a darkened trail in the middle of a dense, bare wood. She had stumbled into a tree. He let go of her to straighten his robes, and watched as she looked about her once again with growing disquiet. She didn’t seem to have a wand. He drew his, and kicked at a fallen log just beyond the path. It felt stable enough. “Sit.”
She sat reluctantly, her arms crossed tightly across her chest. He wondered what, exactly, she expected from him. Strange, what a person would put her trust in when there was no other option.
“What’s your name?” he asked, leaning carelessly against the nearest steady trunk.
She shrank further into herself, and didn’t answer.
“Your husband’s name, then.” He could see the ring on her finger, until she thrust her hand silently beneath her other arm. She had already been convicted and sentenced – there was only one reason for such reserve. “Do you have any children?”
Her face went nearly white, clear and stark in the darkness. “No.” She shifted, not looking at him. “I’ve already told them all of this – ”
“It doesn’t seem to have impressed them.” He brushed a fallen leaf away from his arm, inspecting his sleeve in the starlight that filtered through the naked branches. “Whatever you have told them, in fact, seems to have set you quite apart. Why is it -?” But she had leapt up and made a dash for the forest – he shot off a stunning spell, which glanced across her shoulder and dropped her to the ground, half-conscious. Lucius tromped gingerly through the frosted, matted leaves and seized her up by the back of her shirt to drag her moaning form once again to the middle of the trail. She was not, at least, an irredeemably stupid creature. He straightened, a little exhilarated from the unexpected physical exertion, and pointed his wand at her again.
The piercing shrieks that ripped through the deserted wood were interrupted every few minutes to make way for choked, urgent words. Within the hour she was answering every question he fed to her. He presented them calmly, patiently, over and over, if necessary. It was interesting to hear the answers come faster and faster, as though each little betrayal weighed her down just so much more - until there was no point at all in withholding the truth. Two children, Jonathan and Chelsea. Eight and five years old; the girl hadn’t shown her magic yet, if she had it. Both very fond of drawing. Favorite foods chocolate frogs and toasted cheese, respectively. Both very well behaved, with brown eyes, sandy hair. Yes, she loved them very much. Of course she did. Yes, she’d have done anything for them, anything at all. They were both staying with their grandmother, a Muggle widow with a flat in Lambeth. Yes, she did love them. The address was 2 Baytree Road, flat 4B. She was sobbing too hard to be intelligible; she repeated the address on request.
For a minute, he let himself indulge in thoughts of bringing the boy to her, of finishing him before carrying out her sentence. But that would have been – silly, self-indulgent. This, of course, was business. He aimed at her throat. "Opprimo."
He watched with a casual interest as she gasped for air, and set to vanishing the body when she stopped moving. Once the magic had gone out of it, it wasn’t hard to make it disappear. He stayed a moment to enjoy the silence, and felt somehow cleaner than when he had arrived, as though he had purged himself of something that had been haunting him. He held his shoulders straighter, breathed more easily. With half a smile he shut his eyes and focused on the image of his house, and Disapparated.