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Relative Solitude

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Lucius despised Muggle London as being full of filth and noise, but then, wizards were loud, too, and the city was not without its advantages. Chief among these was Kew Gardens.

Wizards, Lucius thought, and not for the first time, must have a hand in the care of this place.

He'd come, despite an aching head, to see the early bloom of the Hyacinthoides non-scripta. In spring, bluebells created a gorgeous carpet of colour amidst winter's decaying leavings, and the ones at Kew Gardens, in this year of two thousand eleven, had sprung up with record impatience to celebrate the season.

"The scent's nothing to apple blossom," a harsh-voiced woman said.

Thinking that she was addressing him, Lucius turned to see a rotund, florid-faced harpy of a woman standing with a tidy-looking blonde. The harpy didn't notice his presence, but the blonde did; she flushed as if in silent apology for her companion as he caught her eye. In a rare burst of sympathy, Lucius nodded to her. She favoured him with a tight smile and turned away.

"I think they're lovely," she told her companion, "and did you know, Marge? Bluebell glue was once used in book-binding."

"Books! Books? I'm starving and you're nattering on about books? Really, Petunia."

"Perhaps you should join Vernon and Dudley for tea, dear. I'll be along presently."

"At last, some consideration! It's been hours, your dragging me about."

Lucius repressed a desire to put an arrow in the harpy's ample buttocks and smirked at the thought, which was no doubt inspired by his knowledge that "bluebell glue" had also once been used to affix flights to the shafts of arrows.

"And you've been very good to accompany me, but—"

"Yes, well," said the harpy, glancing in Lucius' direction, "just see you're careful. One never knows in what company one might find oneself in public."

As the awful woman left her, the blonde, Petunia, relaxed visibly and returned to her silent contemplation of the bluebells. She didn't look at him again, but Lucius wasn't offended. Muggle though she was, his inadvertent companion was obviously as plagued by unwanted family as he, himself, was, and given that he'd fled his future son-in-law's company, he didn't begrudge Petunia her relative solitude.