Chapter 49 - Smile

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∞ 49 ∞

SMILE


The rest of February and the first couple weeks of March had flown by. Lucius kept himself busy at the lab to keep his mind off of his personal life. He was still regretting that he had gone to Lupercalia. Draco was still bellyaching incessantly that Lucius hadn't shown the appropriate interest in some lackey from the Ministry and therefore it had weakened his position. (And there was still the problem of Apollonius suing over rights to occupy Malfoy Manor.) Justinia was jealous, over some Witch she had seen him speaking with at one of the galas. After an extended punishment of the silent treatment and then saying she needed "a break" –which he agreed to– she had thrown a strop verging on the magnitude of one of his deceased wife's sister's fits... In truth it hadn't been anything like as bad Bellatrix the Banshee would have behaved, or else he would have ended it with her for good (and he did like that she was jealous) but he just didn't know what she wanted. SHE SAID SHE NEEDED A "BREAK", so he gave her one. Now she was angry with him FOR - DOING - WHAT - SHE - WANTED! For heaven's sake!

He felt like it would be better to just end it all together with Justinia. Between the drama and sneaking around –even with Sander's ingenious help– and her temper and mixed messages, the affair was tiring to say the least. He had enough stress at the lab and then at the Ministry and then at home with Draco. Why did females have to be so confusing? SHE SEDUCED HIM! But then he was never quite sure what he was to her: One moment she was drooling over some nearly-naked Muggle she had been introduced to, who made his living modelling perfume and swimming garments for some other Muggle and the next, she was going mad at him for speaking about the weather with a Witch he had never even seen before! She knew he was supposed to be looking for a new wife, for goodness sake! What was she getting upset about? Faidit or not, SHE WAS A MARRIED WITCH! She didn't see him being unreasonable and going mad over the nearly naked, muscle-clad Muggle and 'the toddler' Quidditch player she was running about with when he wasn't there.

The tensions both between clandestine lovers and father and son had boiled over into two massive rows a couple days apart, leaving Lucius in a foul mood. The morning following the last row, he sat having breakfast while speaking with Elliott through a Speaking Dish that was set up on the table a few feet from him. The footed, ormolu dish holding the necessary fire and charm transmitted a slightly wavy mirage of Elliott's head and neck through the red flames. Elliott had news that Arthur Weasley was on his usual offensive, trying to dig up scandalous information on Lucius and Lucius was slinging some of his own mud at the Pure-blood Wizard (albeit Lucius's harsh words weren't threatening Arthur's liberty).

"...Mmmh, well he's one for unearthing dirt, the amount of amendments he has had passed, purely so he could carry on with his absurd pastimes and breed little ones like a poxy rat, without ever paying the proper taxes. What was that one: 'Remuneration for Pure-bloods Who Have Had More Than Five Children – for services to Magical society, due to the population decrease'? And how many Pure-bloods have you ever heard of with that many biological offspring?... I am sure he's a bloody sprout. Look at the shape of his eyes for goodness sake," Lucius declared in a superior sort of tone and flaring his nostrils.

"Yeah well, sprout or not, just keep out of sight for the next few days until I find out what he's up to," Elliott warned.

"Yes alright I will stay indoors for a couple days... Thank you. Speak to you in the week."

Elliott nodded and his image in the flames disappeared. Lucius blew a soft, swift puff, as if he were blowing a bit of lint off of something near to his face and the fire in the Speaking Dish several feet away went out.

Urania who was passing and heard the tail end of the call (she had actuality somehow managed to get past Lucius's Muffliato charm and had been eavesdropping) stopped in the dining room on pretence of arranging the flowers in a large vase on a console table.

"Well he must be a sprout if you say. You would spot Muggle blood when you saw it, with all of your personal experience," said Urania with an air of sarcasm.

Without reacting or looking up and without any noticeable effort, Lucius put a Lockjaw Jinx on Urania and added a Creepy Crawly Jinx for good measure. (She couldn't yell out with her mouth sealed shut, but it was apparent she had been hit, because she jumped and was immediately wriggling around as if she had insects crawling under her clothing. She stood still and glared at him angrily with her eyes as wide as saucers.

"Something you want to say, Narcissa's Aunt?" he said with disinterest and took a sip of tea. Urania made her fists tight and continued glaring at him, but the creepy-crawly sensation she was trying to overcome started to feel like they were biting and she scampered off, scratching herself all over and flinching and wriggling every so often. The fine would be worth it to not have to hear her voice for the day. He would have to look up how to cast the Tacitus charm on a Speaking Dish in the future.

Looking down sombrely at his breakfast, Lucius rearranged the duck eggs and salmon on his toast precisely, so that all toast was covered without the salmon going too far over the edges and the eggs were evenly distributed, added two large dollops of Béarnaise sauce and opened up the paper he had been reading before Elliott's call.

After breakfast he visited his horses for a couple hours but couldn't take any of them out because they had all just had their hooves trimmed (and he had probably gained too much weight and didn't want to burden any of them). So, he returned to the house and mulled about for a while. He was bored out of his mind. There never was anything to do there. He contemplated packing and going back to the lab early, but he had promised Elliott he would stay out of sight (and anyway he wanted to keep out of London, so he had an excuse not to see Justinia).

Just as Lucius grudgingly decided he would go to the attic and take in some darting practice with the aspen wood wand, he remembered he needed to check on the protective enchantments on the girl's property that he had requested Sander order from D'Estaing. He had to wait until Urania and Hestia were engrossed in one of their "Witch's Best" radio programs to slip out. He deeply resented sneaking around in his own household, but there was nothing for it until the trial passed. His plan was just to do a quick walk around the perimeter, staying well away from the house, but when he couldn't hear the girl's voice when he sent out an amplification charm or see her on the latest map, he became slightly worried and wondered if she were still unwell. He didn't feel like practising his marksmanship and didn't have anything better to do anyway. The extra exercise wouldn't hurt... And she was all alone. What if something had happened to her? He started to feel nervous and realised that he should not have left her alone when she was very ill without at least sending Socrates with a tonic. So he went up to the house just to be sure... Just in case.

Shortly after Lucius arrived (he was cloaked as usual) Valentina came out of the house with a jar that she turned upside down and shook gently: "Come on. Come on. I let you stay and you always take advantage – every time. I don't understand why all of you can't just stay in the barn." She looked in the jar and frowned. "Come O-O-ON. Come on little spider. I don't have all day, you silly thing," she said in her sing-song voice and turned the jar upside down again with another shake and a shake of her head. A greyish, brown spider about the size of a Sickle jumped out the jar and scuttled into a bush.

She just... ... ...

She had such a cuteness about her. Mad as a pot turner, but... She just made him smile.

It was not an easy feat.

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