DISCLAIMER: You know what's JKR's, though the history of House of Malfoy is, as far as I know, all mine. I know Malfoy is taking liberties with Muggle history. I'm the historian, he's not. If Bayard, Tertullian or the Commonwealth of Virginia wants their tags back they can stuff it. :-P
"My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, a toast. The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Toujours pur." The response rumbled back with a clinking of glasses and silence from the heirloom enchanted harpsichord, which had been playing a selection of classical music.
Toujours pur. Lucius Malfoy, sole heir to four centuries of tradition and the greatest fortune in the wizarding world, leaned back in his chair with a respectful expression on his cold features and a slight inward smile at the poor, ragged aristocrats, clinging to their traditions even though the House's glory stood three hundred years in the past. Now the Most Ancient House was reduced to marrying their daughters - and maybe yet their sons - into money they could no longer raise themselves. Tomorrow, he himself would join their ranks, the pick of their daughters the price to restore a shadow of the Black family's influence. Tomorrow, he would have his rightful place in the very top rank of society in return for supporting three aged Blacks and one child - two of them near death in their town house - and a promise to revive the House's titles with his second son, should neither of the Black boys live to inherit.
The round of toasts continued, names and mottoes to make even the Malfoy fortune seem very nouveau indeed. Rosier, Parkinson, Fudge, Crouch, Delacour, Ivanova, Scrimgeour, Zabini, Bragge, d'Umfraville, even the sadly reduced Prewett, round the table in no particular order save that the handful of guests from even lesser families merited none at all. After all, the Gringotts precedence would hardly do when the host was a mere Malfoy. A more pointed insult to the comparative youth of the family would have been hard to devise, and the Blacks had no interest in annoying their Portkey back to wealth and influence. Lucius returned his attention to the toasts.
"To Carrow. Fidelis sine dubio." Ever in command, Alecto gracefully nodded at the unexpected recognition of her family. Irish and pitifully poor, they had fallen even further than the Blacks and merited little respect even for their debased blood. A Carrow, though, had sent a young French wizard named Marc d'Osebert to 'liaise' with a Muggle revolutionary and the House of Malfoy owed everything to that reluctant order. Her brother barely looked up to acknowledge the toast. Lucius decided it was time for a toast of his own, to his oldest ally and confidant.
"I give you Lestrange. Sang pur." A tight, vicious grin spread across the face of Bellatrix Black. This was her sort of thing, a motto she might have been born to espouse. Again, the palatial dining room resounded with the toast, the occupants started out of their post-prandial lethargy by their host's low, cold voice. The tone of the response varied from bored formality to chilling enthusiasm.
"Sans remords." Pure blood and no mercy. Words to live by in the years to come. Not all present - not even most - approved of the shadowy presence of the Dark Lord, or of his tactics. None would dispute his goals. The cavilling cowards Fudge and Delacour might whinge about measured retrenchment and peaceful co-existence, but even they recognised that the 'reforms' of the last three decades had gone entirely too far. Lucius himself did not intend to allow the Dark Lord to rule the world for a thousand years; he was too dangerous to live long. In the meantime, supporting him behind the scenes was safe, productive and not a little enjoyable. When his fall came, the name 'Malfoy' would be remembered as leader of the Loyal Opposition and could settle into the role of grey eminence, whilst the chosen front man enjoyed only the eunuch's prerogative. Responsibility without power - all for which the cretin would be fit.
Daydreaming over, Lucius returned his attention to his party without ever having allowed his expression to flicker from one of attentive respect. The toasts were winding down; only a few names had yet to be called. At last, Rudolphus Lestrange raised the final toast.
"My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. A toast, if you will, to the man of the hour. The Heir of Malfoy: his family, his bride and his good fortune. Sic semper mundanis!"
"Sic semper mundanis." The voices rose for the last time. Thus always to Mudbloods, as the toast could safely and accurately be translated in this company. 'The mundane' didn't have the same ring to it. 'Muggles' suggested that he associated with them.
With a few brief words of thanks, Lucius dismissed the assembled guests - among them representatives of almost all those families that kept to the old ways - until the morrow. He looked forward to an hour trading news and opinions with Rudolphus. Formal dinners were all very well, but his rare evenings with Rudy were among the few things he genuinely enjoyed. Unfortunately, his enjoyable chat was not to be. As the last few guests filed out, Bellatrix Black peeled off from the three Scrimgeours and stood by Lucius' chair, waiting. Taking the hint from a glare that could surely kill Basilisks, Rudolphus quietly left to wait in the billiard room.
"Lucius, how are you?" He was, in truth, somewhat surprised at Bella's circumlocution. There was a wedding reception the next day for the Black family to mouth polite nothings at their saviour. Bellatrix Black didn't do that sort of thing, anyway. Even for her, staring down older and richer wizards was not something done for no reason. Slightly piqued, he decided that a dismissive reply should suffice. After all, what couldn't wait until tomorrow?
"Blooming, Miss Black, though rather tired. I should be off; tomorrow will arrive soon enough." Irritation flashed in those slate-grey eyes for a split second, but when Bellatrix spoke again it was in artfully light and curious tones.
"I just wanted to know something - perhaps it would be useful for my speech tomorrow."
"Anything to oblige a lady. Ask away."
"Why are you House Faithless, exactly? An odd name to wear with such pride. Lucius smiled urbanely. He knew the House tale was not much to tell next to the roll call of great Blacks, and was somewhat flattered to be asked. A tiny Howler screeched at the back of his mind that Bellatrix Black, whom he had first noticed as a tiny second year with absolutely no fear and a Chimaera's temper, simply did not ask idle questions. Alone amongst the 'acceptable' Blacks, she had no love of Society. Even now, she was in the service of the Dark Lord, perhaps higher in his ranks than any other of their generation. The Howler went unopened, smoking away to crash in on his consciousness another time.
"Not at all. In the 1640s, Chief Councillor Algernon Carrow, who led the least unstable faction of the old Council in those days, decided - almost disastrously for our world and very fortunately for me - to become involved in one of the Muggle conflicts of the day. Court wizards were still common then, and he thought he could keep a foot in each camp, as it were. The revolutionaries, a strange and fanatical lot, looked very unlikely to win, so he didn't bother to send them anyone qualified.
"Instead, he sent a very young French wizard named Marc Osebert, who was practically unknown. Osebert did a quite acceptable job, never revealing much about us even to Cornwell - he was the Muggle leader, and quite perceptive for what he was. After a few years, Cornwell won his war and Osebert was suddenly liaison to the legitimate Muggle government, a considerable promotion. As Protector of England, Cornwell was entitled to know about our people, but when Osebert told him, he lost what little mind he had. We were an 'abomination unto God,' and he vowed to exterminate every last wizard if it took a thousand years and a million lives." At this, Bellatrix gave a snort.
"Hah. Let him try." Lucius did not have much patience with this slight upon his ancestor's achievements.
"We were weak and divided. It could have done no good. Fortunately, the old King's son came back. His house had always been friendly to us, but the Council, more or less unified for a change under the second Alois d'Umfraville, said he had no chance of winning. Marc changed sides on his own authority, just in time for old Cornwell to die and his son to give in completely. The new King was so grateful he gave my illustrious ancestor a Muggle title - Lord Roxbury - and the nickname 'notre fidele seigneur de la mal foi' - our faithful traitor.
"Once Osebert died, his son, Marius, was kept out of his father's profitable dalliance in Muggle politics by the Statute of Secrecy. He lost the title Roxbury, though my sources tell me the Muggles consider it merely dormant, and hated the name Osebert so much that he adopted his father's nickname and became Marius Malfoy. Malfoy Manor was built on the Roxbury estate by his son, Julius."
"Fascinating. I never knew all that money came from Muggles." Bellatrix forestalled an icy glare by smiling twistedly. "I always knew they had some use other than target practice." Taking care to appear appropriately mollified, Lucius decided to take advantage of Bella's desire to share old war-stories. There was a lot the Blacks weren't telling him and nobody caught Lucius Malfoy napping.
"Oh, many uses, dear Bellatrix. As long as they don't interfere in our world, they're very handy. Gullible, numerous and rich. Perfect, far easier than doing less than legitimate business with people you might need as allies one day." Lucius paused, aware that he was about to step onto dangerous ground. "Speaking of allies, would you by any chance know why your House is willing to accept becoming a lesser branch of mine in as little as a year's time? Your cousins are, as I recall, young and competent wizards, most unlikely to die young and without issue. Is there anything coming that I should know about? The Dark Lord's plans may be inscrutable, but being prepared is always wise."
Lucius had intended this as a gentle pry into the paranoia of House Black. He certainly had not expected Bellatrix to flush with anger and turn her glare on him full force. Despite himself, he quavered a little inside and hoped it didn't show. His icy demeanour had been learned when dealing with the approximately sane, and the middle Black sister was something different. Something even a Death Eater feared. His cold blood almost froze in the veins as he remembered two poor fools who had duelled her in a cold Scottish wood as four Death Eaters watched. The tattered remains of Aurors McCale and Lannon had been an interesting mystery for the Muggles who found them. She held the glare long enough to make his wand hand itch and reach unconsciously for his pocket, then spoke.
"Even if a Malfoy bears its titles, the House of Black will never be subordinate to you. You underestimate the power of House pride and foolish pretension. The House accepts you only because of the weakness of their sons and their conviction that I will not live long enough to bear children. Sirius" - she spat the name with venom - "is a traitor; best friend and catamite to that Mudblood-lover Potter. The entailment magic means that whatever my bastard cousin does, he cannot fail to inherit whilst he lives, but he must not inherit. I'm going to enjoy his death. The Killing Curse is so ... limited.
"And poor Regulus, the snivelling fool. A weak reed, Lucius. The Dark Lord does not tolerate weakness. If the boy cannot live at Hogwarts without protection from his elders and betters, what chance does he have in the Dark Lord's service? The service which he MUST join, whether his parents will it or not. A thousand years of Blacks will not end just as our dominion begins."
Lucius was not accustomed to people speaking their minds so openly. The only society he had ever known dealt in pleasantries, inferences and telling looks. This new directness was somewhat unnerving. He knew even as this crossed his mind that Bellatrix had some sort of ulterior motive. Why else would the most fanatical of Death Eaters start talking about history like some schoolgirl, almost lose her temper at a little moderate needling of the family she disdained, then restrain herself from a killing fury which could crack even the renowned Malfoy reserve? He decided that, in lieu of attempting to fathom the depths of Bellatrix's insanity, he should try a little plain speaking himself.
"Indeed, they will not. I trust I have some role to play in this matter, other than producing two children. After all, nobody would send you to order me to do precisely as I intended. As you are being somewhat subtle, I deduce you are not here on the Dark Lord's business." Her eyes flashed. "But wait, everything is his business. On his orders then."
"So quick, Lucius. Full marks. No, I am here with requests from my mother and aunt. And, of course, a little something extra." If he didn't know better he could have sworn she was being coquettish now. Alluring, but rather like a transformed Veela - potential rather outweighed by the fireballs and adamantine claws. Smouldering with something more than her usual anger, she continued. "They say that, on pain of death, Narcissa must be kept out of the Dark Lord's confidences. By all means, let her carry on with her social calender, but no orders, no meetings, and especially no Mark.
"It seems they expect to need her sons as heirs, and keeping her safe is your only priority. Preferably, she should know nothing of your allegiances beyond what is public knowledge. All on pain of death and dishonour and so on, Unbreakable Oath if she's willing, which she won't be." Her lip curling, Bellatrix finished her litany of instructions as if they were some particularly dull History of Magic notes. One word had Lucius twitching in anticipation. They say. Dissention in the ranks? This could be useful. He decided at once to listen very, very closely to whatever came next.
"And you, Bella? I take it from your tone that you don't agree with your dear aunt and parents."
"On the contrary, Lucius. Your lawful brainless beauty should be kept as far from the Dark Lord as possible. I won't say there is no room in his service for someone thicker than a troll, but at least Goyle is strong and loyal. My sister has just about enough room in her pretty little head for society matters and robes and how handsome you are. I won't have you swearing any Unbreakable Oaths, though. No faith is eternal save to the Dark Lord. On the other hand, my family offers no payment to you for years of dissembling." Quick and lithe, she flowed into the heavy wing chair with him. Surprisingly, she was warm and, if not soft, at least not as inhuman as one would expect of the Death Eater known only as 'Nundu' to the Auror Office. Iron-hard self-control and seven years of cold showers were all that let Lucius keep from showing any reaction.
"I think such aid should be rewarded. If ever you get tired of the perfect airhead, remember me. Soon, preferably." Interesting. Bellatrix still hadn't learned that not all men were completely at her mercy. Even as Lucius sneered inwardly, he was tempted. Even Malfoys had their weaknesses and the crackling blaze of passion and energy that surrounded Bellatrix was attractive. He was not, however, tempted enough to get any closer to her than necessary. Some forms of beauty were best admired from a distance, preferably with something handy to conceal him. Besides, he had Narcissa. The tiny risk that this was a test of his control, or fidelity, or something was still too much. So be it. He was no schoolboy unable to wait one more day to gratify himself.
"I shall certainly remember you, should I ever need anyone killed. I doubt Narcissa is a useful assassin. For the rest, I suggest that you stick to your areas of expertise. Murder, mayhem, extracting information, irritating your family and impressing the Dark Lord. Seduction is not connected to any of these. Take my advice and leave it to your inferiors." As Lucius said this, he laughed inwardly at the look of absolute shock that crossed Bellatrix's face. After twenty years, he had still not tired of playing the perfect verbal fencer, ready to cut down all comers so sharply that they felt it an honour to have been insulted by a maestro.
The slight pout that eventually found its way onto Bella's face looked quite out of place. Evidently, she had read about how to look seductive and sulky, possibly even seen it done, but had never actually tried it herself. The usual Black response to being turned down flat in anything was incredulity followed by rage.
"Very well, Lucius. If you're sure you can ... handle things, I'll leave now. A lady needs her beauty sleep."
"Indeed, Miss Black. Goodnight. If Rudolphus is still outside please ask him to join me." He rose to show her out, but Bellatrix did not look back as she left the dining room, undoubtedly fuming over Lucius' parting shot. There was little she could do, though. The Dark Lord would not concern himself with petty seductions and she could hardly tell her family what had happened. He sat down again, pulling another chair next to his for Rudolphus. Remembering one thing that had been omitted from the dinner, he raised his voice once more.
"Dobby." An ear-splitting crack resounded through the house. "Must you be so loud? The '37 Atlantean brandy, with two glasses." Three cracks sounded, about five seconds apart, and when Lucius next looked round from his contemplation of Romulus Malfoy's splendid portrait, the requested drinks stood neatly on the table.
After several minutes, Rudolphus strolled in, looking as much the dashing high-society ornament as ever. Few people outside the Dark Lord's forces recognised that under the wit and immaculate looks lay a tough fighter and the head of what passed for the Death Eaters' Intelligence organisation.
"Evening, Lucius. What did Miss Black have to say? I say, she didn't look too pleased with something. Nobody left to torture?" Lucius smiled thinly and replied in as cheerful a tone as he was capable,
"Somebody didn't want to 'torture' her. The Blacks don't take rejection well, even as miserable as they are now. Do you think I should watch my back?"
"Why on Earth wouldn't 'somebody' want Bellatrix Black? I can think of a few reasons why you would. More than a few."
"Splendid, Rudolphus. Did it never cross your mind that we are discussing the most feared of the Dark Lord's followers, not to mention Nundu, the killer of half the Sixth Aurors, and my fiancee's sister? All the same witch. Now can you see some reasons?" Lucius had known the Lestranges all his life, counted both among his closest friends and had stood beside Rudolphus when he took the Dark Mark, but the smaller man's preoccupation with the pleasures of the flesh could grow distinctly tiresome. Especially when he tried to give Lucius the benefit of his advice.
"Now that you put it that way, I think I may understand. There's an image: what does Bellatrix want in a man? Resistance to Cruciatus?" He shivered dramatically, and then changed the subject. "Now, if you wouldn't mind distracting me from that truly awful image, are there any good prospects for tomorrow?" Lucius sighed deeply at this, but was secretly quite pleased to get away from the subject of Bellatrix Black and onto more familiar ground.
"Rudolphus, might I remind you that I am the groom tomorrow. I do not think it my place to set your targets at my own wedding reception. But if you insist, there are photographs with the guest list. Accio guest list." With a bored flick of his wand, Lucius retrieved the several scrolls of names and photographs from a side-table. "The usual rules?"
"I should think so. Female, human, under the age of fifty and not completely repulsive. No binding attachments, unless we agree it isn't important. What was the other thing? Oh yes, no mysterious foreigners unless they speak a civilised language. We wouldn't want another Qatar Incident, would we?"
Lucius agreed fervently with the latter sentiment. He recalled that the incident in question had involved one foreign potentate's daughter, an illegal flying carpet and two Lestrange brothers over the Muggle Houses of Parliament. Even the combined influences of Houses of Lestrange and Malfoy had been hard-pressed to cover up the consequences of that little 'sightseeing trip.' Meanwhile, Rudolphus picked up the scrolls and began to run one immaculate finger down the row of photographs, murmuring to himself as he went,
"Too old, too married, old, hideous... hmm, who might this one be? Oh, plus fiancee. Must be some Indian. Better not to upset our old friend Miss Vedpathak, Lucius."
"As you say."
Looking rather disappointed by this curt reply, Rudolphus turned to a different scroll. "This is more my line of business. Do you know anyone called Stanger, by any chance?" Rudolphus looked considerably more interested in the list now that he had found someone suitable. "Ah. With partner. Now that is simply not fair. How am I supposed to compete with this?" He pointed indignantly at a quite impossibly handsome wizard staring out of the photograph with a distinctly disdainful expression. "Mr. S. Black. What d'you suppose a Black's doing way down here on the list? The others are at the top."
"S. Black?" Lucius demanded in a sharp tone, peering at the small picture. "Sirius. The blood-traitor Gryffindor hero. I hope he manages to avoid Bellatrix. She grew quite murderous when his name came up in conversation. The family most certainly did not invite him. I suppose your delightful Miss Stanger neglected to mention his name."
"Now, Lucius. Not mine yet. I do enjoy a real challenge." A pocket-watch chimed tinnily, three times. Rudolphus pulled it out, looking abashed. "Well, Lucius, I thank you for the conversation, but I must be going. Doubtless Father will have something for me to do of which he neglected to inform me. I must say this watch is a splendid thing; you see how it keeps a record of where I ought to be?" Lucius was quite put out at this sign of Rudolphus' priorities. Lestrange pere was a domineering man, but the level to which he carried his familial authority was high, even by society standards.
"Very well, until tomorrow."
"Tomorrow." Now in a distinct hurry, Rudolphus got up to leave. He was halfway to the door when Lucius began to speak again.
"One moment, friend. In light of your admiration for Miss Black, perhaps you might consider courting her yourself. As you said, there are more than a few reasons to do so." Rudolphus looked intrigued by Lucius' stroke of inspiration, but carried on walking. Lucius just smiled in satisfaction. On the whole, he mused, the evening had not gone badly. A few nuggets of useful information had emerged in the small talk, the Black family could have no doubts of his fidelity and Rudolphus would be delighted with the two Snidgets he had found to pursue. As for Bellatrix, he had all the time in the world to come up with something suitable. If he wanted a companion, she would be there. If he wanted her dead, well, one has to be behind someone in order to stab them in the back.
A/N: Here endeth the First Chapter [and probably only chapter] of the Book of Malferret Thanks to Kerichi for the original plot bunny - Lucius/Bella would be fun, but couldn't happen. There's so much I want to say about the lives of the second-generation Death Eaters [the first being the four in HBP who were at school with the Dark Tosser]. Problem is I can't really see a way of turning half a notebook full of character notes, histories and good lines into a readable fic.
Inspiration credit goes to After the Rain on fa.org, for her wonderful Peter-fic. I don't think I actually stole anything, but I had the Death Eaters' Ballad in my head when Bellatrix arrived. Rudolphus is not a Dark version of Byerly Vorrutyer and anyone who says he is reads way too much Lois Bujold. The quotes I mangled for House mottoes are as follows:
Toujours pur = French, canon motto of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, 'always pure.'
Fidelis sine dubio = Latin, from Tertullian, 'faithful without doubt,' here belongs to the Carrow family, as seen in HBP.
Sang pur, sans remords = French, a play on Bayard's famous definition of a true knight as 'sans peur et sans reproche' [without fear or dishonour]. This one means 'pure blood and no mercy,' which I think is about right for the brothers Lestrange.
Sic semper mundanis = Latin 'thus always to the mundane' [/Mudbloods/Muggles], a corruption of the Virginian state motto 'sic semper tyrannis'. As Malfoy as it gets; Lucius considers all three inferior beings.