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Black Magic

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“All the girls on the block knocking at my door!
Wanna know what it is make the boys want more!

Is your lover playing on your side?
Said he loves you,
But he ain't got time.
Here's the answer.
Come and get it
At a knocked down price.”

Thomas stood on the periphery of the Library as the family had a lively discussion about the future of the estate. Matthew was in the process of explaining how they could be utilising more of the estate to bring in extra revenue and Lord Grantham was refusing to hear it. It looked as though they may come to blows if things continued in the way they were. Much as Thomas may find that prospect amusing, Mr Carson clearly didn’t and with a gesture, he motioned for Thomas to diffuse the tension and pour them some more tea. Thomas stepped up and refilled their cups. Lord Grantham ignored him, but Matthew looked up and met his eyes with a smile.
“Thank you.”
The twinkle in Matthew’s eyes made Thomas’ stomach flutter. Even though Matthew had always been perfectly friendly towards Thomas, he still wasn’t used to gratitude from members of the family; but that wasn’t the reason for Thomas’ feeling. The reason was because of the way that Matthew was with him. Even with the quickest of glances and the most fleeting of smiles, Matthew always made him feel special. Thomas felt warmth spreading in his chest. Matthew was a good man. Lady Mary was very lucky.

“Full of honey,
Just to make him sweet.
Crystal balling,
Just to help him see
What he's been missing.
So come and get it,
While you've still got time.”

Thomas added sugar to Matthew’s tea and stirred gently. He heard Lord Grantham’s voice from his other side.
“The estate has sustained itself for hundreds of years this way, there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.”
Thomas looked up to see Matthew run his fingers through his hair in frustration.
“The estate may have survived these past decades, but you yourself admitted that it was in need of rescuing when you married Lady Grantham. The world is a different place compared to how it used to be and we can’t afford to have land that is not being put to use. The advances in technology are making things possible that wouldn't have been before the war. Downton needs to keep up, if we don’t, then we risk going under.”

Thomas stepped back and returned to the corner. He carefully avoided looking at Lord Grantham, who no doubt was not pleased with having his authority challenged by the young heir. Thomas’ eyes met Matthew’s and he gave him an encouraging smile, which Matthew returned, his eyes lingering on Thomas. With that look in his eyes, Thomas almost wondered if Matthew was thinking the same things he did when he looked at Matthew. He wondered what experience Matthew had with other men. Had Matthew dabbled during his time at Oxford? The pictures that thought conjured in Thomas’ mind were enough to make him feel hot. No, this was Matthew Crawley, Matthew famously-in-love-with-Lady-Mary Crawley. Surely he’d never entertain those notions. Matthew glanced at Thomas again with a quirk of his lips and Thomas thought about all of the things Matthew could do with that mouth. It was a delectable thought, but not one to be having while serving tea to the family. He was grateful for the fact that Mr Carson looked like a bulldog chewing a wasp, which effectively scuppered any further thoughts of Matthew’s mouth.

“Get your boy on his knees
And repeat after me, say

Take a sip of my secret potion,
I'll make you fall in love.
For a spell that can't be broken,
One drop should be enough.
Boy, you belong to me,
I got the recipe
And it's called black magic”

When Matthew and Lord Grantham retired, Mr Carson took the tray with the teapot down to the Kitchen and left Thomas to put the cups on the other tray and follow him down. Thomas stacked the cups and picked the serving tray up. He backtracked and hit the cabinet. Thomas turned to look at it, to make sure it wasn’t damaged, who knew how many weeks wages that would have cost him, then something caught his eye. On one of the shelves, a light damaged, purple book sat about eye-level, with faded gold lettering spelling the title ‘Natural Magick.’ Thomas stared. What would the Earl and Countess of Grantham want with a book about magic? Surely they weren’t interested in dabbling in witchcraft, or they might have found a spell to improve the fortunes of the estate. Come to think of it, he had studied the book titles in the Library, while he was attending to the family and boredom had set in, and he didn’t recall ever having seen this book before.

He set the tray down and looked more closely. It was clearly an old book, if the fading was anything to go by and seemed dusty, so it must have been here for a while, which was odd, because the maids dusted in here every day. Just like those lazy maids to neglect their duties, Mr Carson would have had a fit if he had seen this. Thomas ran his finger down the spine, noting how rough it felt. The book seemed to be calling to him, so he plucked it off of the shelf. He opened the pages and thumbed through it, noting the beautiful style of the text. He looked to the door. He was completely alone. It was a thin enough book, so he could easily take it with him. He quietly slipped it into the waistcoat of his livery on his left side. He was sure the family wouldn’t miss it for a few hours.

“Take a sip of my secret potion,
One taste and you'll be mine.
It's a spell that can't be broken
It'll keep you up all night
Boy, you belong to me,
I got the recipe
And it's called black magic”

Thomas sat up in bed reading the book by candlelight. There were spells for just about anything, how to bring fortune, Thomas made a note of that one for later, how to ward off people who would do you harm, perhaps he could use that one on Ms O’Brien, but the spell that caught Thomas’ eye was how to bring a lover to you. Thomas read on with interest.

‘The luckiest of all who walk our Mother’s earth are those who find true love. When one soul yearns for another, forces will work to push them together, but sometimes, these forces need help. Love cannot be forced, however; this spell merely serves to bring the one who loves you forward. The following potion is best served on the night of the full moon.’

There followed a list of ingredients:
Three tablespoons of honey
Two rose hips (removing any hairs)
The seeds of one pomegranate (crushed)
Two vanilla pods (thinly sliced)
A sprinkling of dark chocolate

Thomas paused thoughtfully, his mind drifting back to the way Matthew had looked at him. If the spell only worked to bring a would be lover forward, then it had to be worth a try and it was the full moon tomorrow night. Thomas got out of his bed and made his way down to the Kitchen to look for the ingredients. His rational mind told him it was a load of bunkum, but when faced with honey, rose hips, pomegranates, vanilla and dark chocolate, he thought it was bound to be worth a try. He set to work making the potion, working by the light of the moon.

“If you're lookin' for Mr. Right,
Need that magic
To change him over night.
Here's the answer.
Come and get it,
While you've still got time.”

Thomas stifled a yawn as he stood in the corner of the dining room. The potion had taken him longer to prepare than he thought, bloody rose hips had hundreds of hairs, he’d almost given up at that stage, but he’d come so far by that point that he might as well see it through. He had regretted it the next day when the Hall Boy had woken him up and Thomas had nearly thrown a shoe at him.

“If that is all, then we shall retire to the Library.” Lord Grantham announced. The men stood, Matthew giving Thomas an alluring smile which jolted him out of his stupor, and they made their way to the Library. The ladies withdrew to the Drawing Room, leaving the footmen to clear up after them. Mr Carson beckoned for Thomas to follow him into the Library, which he did.

Mr Carson went to the drinks cabinet and showed Thomas how to serve the port, brandy and whisky in the correct glasses. When he took Lord Grantham’s port to him, Thomas saw his chance. He slipped the potion into Matthew’s whisky and watched with baited breath as the amber liquid reddened, before returning to its previous hue. Mr Carson returned and gestured for Thomas to serve Matthew his drink, which he did, wordlessly placing it next to Matthew, who was immersed in conversation with Branson. Matthew thanked him and took a sip. He glanced approvingly at the tumbler and took another, clearly finding nothing wrong with the drink. Thomas breathed a sigh of relief.

“Get your boy on his knees
And repeat after me, say

Take a sip of my secret potion,
I'll make you fall in love.
For a spell that can't be broken,
One drop should be enough.
Boy, you belong to me,
I got the recipe
And it's called black magic”

Thomas watched Matthew as the evening progressed. Their eyes met several times and Matthew seemed to lose himself watching Thomas. He seemed to grow ever more distant from the conversation, clearly lost in thought. He didn’t even comment when asked about when he and Lady Mary were planning to start a family. Branson nudged him and Matthew dragged his eyes away from Thomas.
“Oh, I’m sure… When the time is right…” Matthew replied absently.
“Are you quite well, dear boy?” Lord Grantham asked.
“Do you know… I feel rather strange…” Matthew’s eyes were again fixed on Thomas. “I may have to call it a night.”
“Certainly, you must retire if you’re not feeling right.” Lord Grantham replied.
“You get some rest, Matthew.” Branson prompted.
Matthew drained the rest of the tumbler and stood up.
“Thomas, could you help me to my room, please?”
Thomas immediately glanced at Mr Carson, who was stunned with this breach of protocol.
“Mr Crawley, I can call for Molesley if you would prefer…”
“There’s no need, Carson. Thomas is here and he will be more than adequate.” Matthew smiled at Thomas. “You don’t mind, do you, Thomas?”
Thomas felt the eyes of the room on him. Ignoring this, he addressed Matthew.
“Not at all, Mr Crawley.”
“Good.” He led Thomas out of the room and towards the main staircase, never once taking his eyes off of him.

“Take a sip of my secret potion,
One taste and you'll be mine.
It's a spell that can't be broken
It'll keep you up all night
Boy, you belong to me,
I got the recipe
And it's called black magic”

As soon as the bedroom door closed behind them, Matthew spun around to face Thomas.
“Forgive me, Thomas, but I had to speak with you privately. I hope that you don’t mind me saying this, but it’s been gnawing away at me for so long that I can’t keep it to myself any longer.” He took Thomas’ hands in his, clearly encouraged when Thomas didn’t pull away. He looked up and their eyes met. Thomas was surprised to see the intensity of Matthew’s gaze. “I apologise if I seem forward, but I must let you know the truth of my feelings. I have thought about you every day since we met. I have to confess, I am completely taken with you; you are the most beautiful man I have ever known and though my feelings wouldn’t be accepted by most of society, the things I feel for you are no less real than the love between a man and a woman. What I mean to say is, I’ll understand if you don’t want me, but if you return my feelings, then know that I am yours, heart and soul, for as long as you want me.”

Thomas blinked. He hadn’t expected the potion to work this well.
“What about Lady Mary?” He asked, immediately wanting to kick himself. Matthew tilted his head, still looking at Thomas.
“She is so like you.”

Thomas’ hands came up to Matthew’s neck and he leaned forwards, pressing his lips to Matthew’s, Matthew’s arms wrapped around Thomas’ waist and drew him closer, he tilted his head and deepened the kiss, Thomas’ mouth opened and allowed Matthew’s tongue entry. Matthew explored Thomas’ mouth, gathering confidence. Thomas moaned softly. Matthew was a very skilled kisser. Eventually, they broke apart. Matthew rested his forehead against Thomas’ and they laughed softly.

“I take it back.” Matthew panted. “There’s no-one like you.”