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Solace

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Malfoy Manor

Wiltshire, England

Monday, November 24, 1991



Lucius Malfoy went to war on a Tuesday.

It began on the rainy Monday morning with a message. Reclined on their enormous bed, the remains of their mutual breakfast tray and steaming tea set aside, the man in question looked up from kissing his wife's pale, delicate neck to the sound of a small, determined cough.

"Yes, Kippy?" he inquired. "What can we do for you?"

"Kippy is very sorry to interrupt, Master Lucius," the house-elf said primly, eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling. "But Kippy is receiving a delivery that is needing special delivering. Straight to Master's hand and no others, without delays."

"Ah." Lucius  boosted himself up. Narcissa Malfoy sighed and arranged her pillows and lingerie, settling back and reaching again for her tea as the Lord of the Manor reached courteously for his abandoned sheet and held out his hand.

"It's alright," the Lady of the Manor said to the elf. "We're decent."

The elf muttered something that may or may not have been 'That is being rather a matter of opinion, isn't it,' but Narcissa ignored it. Beside her, her husband pushed back his loosed mass of pale hair and ran a long finger under the seal, unrolling the parchment. Narcissa sipped as he scanned the words within.

"Everything alright?" she asked. Lucius said nothing, just held out the parchment. Her eyes widened slightly as she leaned in and read over his broad, bare shoulder.

"Well," she said after a moment. "It's not surprising, really, is it. All things considered.'

"No," her husband said. "I suppose it isn't." He let the parchment roll shut again. "Tell Polly to tell her master that I will be there at five, Kippy. I'll apparate directly into his back room. In the meantime... Burn this, please."

"Yes, Master Lucius." Kippy summoned it; it snapped into her hand. She popped out. Lucius lay back and closed his eyes. Narcissa set her cup aside and lay beside him, twitching the sheet off of him so that she could survey him properly... At six foot four in his bare feet, she found the mature solidity of her husband's hard, broad-shouldered, long-legged body even more pleasing than it had been ten years ago, when he'd been quite as ripped as Master Lawrence Domitian Cartwright was now. The few pounds he'd gained since then had made a man of him, Narcissa thought; he'd always, with his height, been a bit raw-boned and gangly (the clothes he, or rather she, had chosen accommodating for the fact) but now, at thirty seven, he was just...

Powerful.

Powerful, with the kind of strong natural elegance that all of the European aristocratic elite aspired to, and very few ever achieved without considerable sartorial and magically cosmetic help... His lips tilted up at her. She draped her arm over his chest and stroked the line of his collarbone before trailing down to stroke the surprisingly thick, shining gold mat (several shades darker than his hair, and a near exact match for her own) on his chest with her fingers.

"It's not a coincidence," she said quietly. "It can't be."

"No," Lucius Malfoy said bleakly in return. "It is not."

She propped herself up on her elbow and kissed him slowly. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. A soft tap sounded... Niss Black Malfoy sighed and detached gently, slipping out of the bed. Her husband watched her appreciatively as she went. Slight and delicate as she was, her own long sheet of hair fell straight and untangled down her back to the base of her spine, her ivory negligee skimming the tops of her slim, shapely thighs. She made her way to the window, opening it and retrieving the letter from the wind-blown, rather damp and cross-eyed long-eared owl perched on the sill.

"Poor thing." She offered it a scratch between the ears and a mouse treat from the dish. It hooted mournfully and spiraled off. Narcissa closed the window and returned to the bed, sitting cross-legged on the blankets. Lucius hoisted himself up and reached for his own tea. His wife snapped the seal on the letter and extracted the contents. He sipped, watching as her eyebrows rose higher and higher.

"May I?" her husband inquired, when she'd done scanning a second time.

"You may." She held it out. He took it and held it unfurled. His own eyes widened.

'Well," he said. "This does change things, doesn't it."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. There is still the political to be considered, after all. Dobby?"

A beaming elf popped in: shining, groomed and immaculately clad in a crisp dark green tea-towel pinned elegantly with the crest of House Malfoy.

"Good morning, Mistress," Malfoy Manor's head house-elf said happily. Unlike Kippy, he seemed absolutely unperturbed by, or even cognizant of his mistress's scanty attire and her husband's unapologetic and complete nudity. "How may Dobby serve you this repulsive morning? Good morning, Master Lucius!"

"Morning, Dobs," Lucius greeted him amiably. Narcissa poked him reprovingly.

"Master Cartwright will yet be joining us on Wednesday," she said to the elf. "But he will be bringing his fiance. Tea for four, and if you would, send a note to the Weasleys' house elves to determine Charles Weasley's preferred refreshments. Discretion is paramount; we prefer to keep the matter from their humans till we are sure that Master Cartwright and Mr. Weasley have made the announcement to their families themselves."

Dobby's eyes widened hugely. He did not, to his credit, squeak.

"Yes, Mistress Narcissa," he said obediently. "Dobby will be happy to. Is Master Cartwright's engagement being a secret, then?"

"I'm guessing no," Lucius said. "But the announcements can be a matter of some delicacy. You will know when it happens - we all will - because we'll be able to hear Molly Weasley's rabid squealing from here to Ottery St. Catchpole."

"Luke, really. However true that may be..." Narcissa paused. Her husband grinned at her.  "Very well. The point is yours."

"Dobby is on it." The little elf snapped a sharp salute. "Is there being anything else, Mistress? Master?"

"Not right now, thank you."

Dobby cracked out again. Narcissa traced her husband's thigh as her mouth  twisted thoughtfully. Lucius mm'd, and was just about to set the letter aside when he read the signature and dropped his retrieved tea all over the blankets. It self-cleaned automatically of course, but...

"Really, Lucius? What on earth..." She leaned over and read the indicated words.

"Master-Adept Lawrence D. Cartwright?" she read. "Salazar's scrotum; they awarded him a Grandmastery?!"

"It would seem so," Lucius said. "A fact that deserves celebrating, would you not say?"

Narcissa arched an eyebrow at him. He lay back and grinned at her hopefully. She rolled her eyes indulgently. A slim silver bangle on her wrist (one of three, and shaped, as they all were, as snakes) uncoiled itself and slipped off, heading straight to its magically designated target... Lucius jumped, yelped, and moaned.

"Ah, Niss..."

"Hands up, my love. You were saying?"  

Lucius just gasped and raised his arms above his head, long elegant fingers curling tightly around the railed headboard as he threw his head back and squeezed his eyes shut: his fine, elegant patrician's features taut with anticipation and ever-so-slight, not remotely unwelcome discomfort. The gasp translated to a second guttural moan as the silver snake settled contentedly and tightened its coils just a little. Narcissa reclined comfortably, offering the snake a fond little look before proceeding to the rather obvious agenda. Lucius bucked violently, his hands slipping on the rail. The two remaining bangles - one of rose gold and diamond encrusted, and one a delicate, magically hardened and thinned strand of blown glass - sprang off of his wife's wrist and slithered up the bed to wrap themselves around his wrists and anchor him firmly.

"Niss, please!"

"Mmmmno." She adjusted her ivory negligee and sat up, slinging a long, pale leg over him and settling across his bare, muscled upper thighs. "You celebrate once I've celebrated, my lovely." She smiled at him beneath hooded, lazy eyes as the snake around the base of his cock tightened a bit more. "Then we celebrate together." She traced a finger down his gold-matted chest, and trailed a light hand over and around his long, pale cock, catching several pearly droplets and raising her hand to lick them off her fingertips thoughtfully.  "I must say, you do have excellent taste in proxies. As awkward a position as we are in... A triple International Master and a potential double Grandmaster, never mind one with such an absolutely delectable body to go with that obviously delectable mind, will make the inevitable social disparagement considerably less of an issue."

"Nothing but the best for you, my heart," Malfoy managed. He swore in agony as she raised herself, reached down again, positioned herself and slid down hard, all the way, in one hot, slick rush of pure sensation. She leaned forward to kiss him deeply, and without moving, clenched around him, hard and rapidly and repeatedly. He could do nothing but gasp.

"I've always had that," she informed him. "Why would you ever think I'd settle for less for you?" She flicked her fingers. The snakes around his wrists slithered off. "Up."

Lucius released the headboard and flexed neatly, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her hair. She pushed his own hair back and rubbed his bare back gently with both hands, not moving. Narcissa Black Malfoy kissed her husband's closed lids, and the jumping muscle in his jaw, and his lips again.

"Mine," she whispered against his mouth. Then... "Regrets?'

"No. Just a touch of abject fear. I will survive it, I am sure."

"Oh no," she said. "Oh no, my lovely. You will not survive it. You are to enjoy it."

"Niss..."

"Shh." She pulled back a bit and touched his lips with her finger. "However things fell out... Enjoying this will be our best retaliation. They cannot humiliate us, my love, unless we allow it. And insofar as that goes... We have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If you had it to do over again... If you could go back; if we could go back... Would you trade in the curse for the experience of what we did to earn it?"

"No," Lucius Malfoy said immediately. "Never. Never."

"Nor I." She replaced her finger with her lips.  "So. No regrets. As for the details... They're my concern. You take care of everything else..."  She paused expectantly.

"And you take care of me."

"Always," she said, and pushed him on his back, bringing his lean, elegant hands to her hips and rising up above him as a goddess as she threw her own head back in pleasure and began to  move... The rain came down, and pale, shimmering blond mingled with brilliant gold, and they shone together.

Much later that day, Lucius Malfoy watched from the back room of Ollivander's as, just before closing, the front door opened. The shop was empty, and as if in anticipation, the lock clicked and the window darkened magically. Ollivander looked up from behind the counter. A black case, rather than a box, lay neatly before him. Beside it were two custom-made dark green and silver wand holsters, one designed for the wrist and the second for the boot.

"Mr. Weasley," he greeted the newcomer. Bill Weasley nodded. Malfoy's hand actually came to cover his mouth in dismay as he saw the young man before him. He looked sick and exhausted unto death: not just fragile, but frail. His blue eyes were dull, and his expression carefully schooled into neutrality. The old man came out to meet him as he sat in the chair.

"Would you like some tea?' he inquired gently. "You look a little tired."

"I'm fine," Bill Weasley said, and at Ollivander's raised eyebrow... "I will be. The curses that Master Cartwright removed from me were partial. A stop-job, till he can finish up tomorrow."

"You are sure there is nothing that I can get for you?"

"Just what I came for. They're waiting for me." He jerked his thumb in a vague gesture over his shoulder, across the street and again, vaguely, to the left. Ollivander nodded, but instead of waving him to the counter, brought him the case itself, sitting on the chair beside him and half turning to face him. Bill Weasley's eyes widened as he opened it. It was padded in midnight blue velvet. The wand within...

"What..."

"Ah, ah," Ollivander tutted, pulling the case away. "Not yet."

The curse-breaker withdrew his hand. Olivander actually looked a bit indecisive, and definitely uneasy, but in the end, firmed his mouth.

"I would be remiss if I did not warn you again, Mr. Weasley," he said. "The bonding... There will be a bit of blood involved - nothing Dark: it is merely how it attunes itself to your particular and unique brand of magic - and once the wand has tasted it, it will not spark visibly like another wand would. The spark you will sense will be inside your core. It will be, I am afraid, intensely painful, and is why I suggested we proceed in private. Once it is done, though... The wand will work for none other than you. It will not produce so much as a lumos for another, ever."

"Painful," Bill repeated. His mouth twisted a little with sour... Something. "So noted. What else?"

Ollivander extracted the wand carefully, and set the case aside. "Bloodthorn and phoenix feather. The wand itself is a single unbroken thorn, rather than carved wood. Twelve and three quarters of an inch, and the feather - half burned, half newly formed - was extracted from the ashes of a phoenix on its burning day."

"I've never heard of that before. Bloodthorn, I mean."

"You would not have. It is not a wood, or a plant, typically used by any wandmaker - not in Europe, Asia, or North America, anyway. It is native to South and Central America."

Lucius Malfoy watched as the frail young man - boy, really - processed that.

"Why the hell would I want a wand made from anything that grows there," he said roughly. "Place is cursed. Forsaken by God, if you believe in Him, which after this last week..."

He stopped, struggling.

"The curse is ended," Ollivander said gently. "Or will be, soon enough. You witnessed it yourself. And you were a part of its ending, which means in turn, that anything from that land can do nothing but bless, and be nothing less, than a blessing to you. I know it is hard now, but a phoenix must burn, Mr. Weasley, before it can be reborn, yes? If you can survive this... And I do believe you have that capacity..."

He hesitated, choosing his words carefully.

"I have always suspected," the wandmaker said at last. "Indeed, I told you, when you first came to me as a child, that there was a great deal more to you than meets the eye. Much more than your wand could account for, I thought, even as it chose you, and I suspected that I might very well see you again one day.  Now... Today... You are here again, and I have something more to tell you. I have sent many wands forth from my shop, young man, that were destined to do great things. There have been less than a handful of witches and wizards though, I would say, on the other hand, and I do mean that literally - who, upon bonding with one of those wands, have had the potential to become, not just great themselves, but utterly magnificent. You are... Not might be, but are... One of them."

"I don't..."

Bill struggled again. Ollivander just held out the wand silently, flat on his palms. It had not been hewn or carved in any way, but was the single unaltered thorn, pitch black and needle thin: the exterior surface not rounded, as per standard, but flattened like the blade of a sword. There was utterly no variation in colour, only the tip was bright red, as if dipped in fresh blood.  A delicate iron crosspiece had been attached, so that the wielder could hold the sharp-edged wand without risking his fingers slipping down the blade and cuts on his fingers... A hole had been drilled through a small knot above the crosspiece, and a fine black linked chain had been attached.

"What's the significance," the young man said finally. "What does it do?

"It depends on the wielder," Ollivander said. "And what the wielder considers important. It takes it into consideration."

"Uh?"

"It is a wand that signifies reinvention, when something so profound and painful has happened to you that everything you were, and ever imagined being, has been burned away, and you must perforce start over as a newborn. The bloodthorn represents the pain you have suffered, and the phoenix feather your near-simultaneous death and rebirth. It will do any kind of magic that you demand of it to start off with, but as you recover, or rather, re-evolve, it will learn to specialize according to your new passions and priorities. The flattened blade - let us call it what is is - represents the fact that your core will literally cut away at the wand's magical range, and will shape it as a weapon that channels your all-consuming passion. Eventually, it will be only good for one kind of magic. In short - it is not a wand for anyone with a wide variety of interests. You will eventually have to come back, once you have progressed past the point, to find a second wand - one that is a little more flexible and inherently understanding and patient of your single-mindedness, and that will oblige you in all of those other magical matters and endeavors that this one will eventually refuse to."

Bill looked at the wand, and at the wandmaker.

"Is it evil? I mean, is it Dark? Inclined toward Dark magic, I mean?"

"It is, or rather will be, what you are and will be, Mr. Weasley," the old man returned. "Completely and absolutely. If you are not inclined to Dark magic, it will reject it - and, as I said, no one will ever be able to wield it besides you, so you need not worry on another co-opting it in the hopes of replacing your focus with theirs."

"And what's the chain for?"

"To loop around your wrist so that you don't drop it." His lips quirked a little. "I imagine that if you plan to spend any amount of time working from a broomstick, it might come in handy?"

Bill reached out to touch it, and withdrew his finger.

"Can I get another now," he said. "To go with it?"

"No other wand would choose you now, Mr. Weasley. You are not an entirely blank slate... But you are still burning. Any yet unbonded wand you touch at this point  - any wand - would explode in your hand. Once you have cooled a little... Come back, and we will see what is what. I imagine I might find something for you in hornbeam. A wood inclined again toward the single-minded, but with an inherent understanding that no matter your passion, you must yet lead a life that demands you do something besides work. Hornbeam and unicorn hair, more than likely, for when it is time, you will need a bit of help healing. That time is not here yet, though, and in the meantime, the thorn will be all-purpose as you need it to be, until you are suited to bond with another."

Bill pressed his fingers to his eyes.

"How did you know," he said. "I mean..." His voice shook a little.

"Wands are not people," Ollivander said. "Well. Not the vast majority of them... But they are extremely emotive, nonetheless. They sense when a customer comes in, and, curious things that they are, will try to identify your magical 'scent'. As soon as you set foot in my shop with your brother this morning, Mr. Weasley... They all, every one of them, shrank down in their boxes and began a simultaneous novena that you would not go near them. That has happened only one other time in my lifetime, and the individual in question ended up crafting this one, and his own, as a result."

"Why wouldn't I be crafting my own, then?"

In the back room, Malfoy watched silently. Ollivander hesitated.

"I cannot answer that," he said finally. "One day... Not that far in the future, I think - you may meet this wand's maker. Perhaps he will tell you his story, and you will begin to understand how it is that you complement each other in your pain. That story, however, not mine to tell, and I will not betray his confidence, not for the world, do you understand? Not because I fear him, or because he has forced me to remain silent on the subject... But because he has earned my absolute and utter respect. Remember that, if  he ever reveals himself to you, Mr. Weasley. The respect of a true wandmaker - one who must create matches for every soul who passes through his shop, however dark or light they might be, and must, by necessity then, remain absolutely neutral on the subject of the human condition - is not easily won." He nodded to the counter. "The holsters, as is the wand itself, are his gift to you."

"I can afford it. Them."

"That is not the point. His point is that if you have arrived at this point... You have already paid more than anyone can ever afford."

Bill rose to his feet and went to the counter to examine the holsters.

"Green and silver," he said. "Is he a Slytherin, then?"

"I'm sure I couldn't say. And again, that is not the point. The point is that you are a Slytherin."

"Alright," he said. "I've been warned." He came and sat again, and held out his hands. Malfoy watched as the old man let the wand tilt down off his hands, dropping across the younger one's outstretched palms. Bill's fingers closed around it automatically. He swore a bit, jumping, as the sharp, razored edge of the thorn bit into his fingers. Blood welled, and immediately disappeared. The cuts healed over. He juggled the wand a bit gingerly, and, looping the chain over his wrist, took it by the crosspiece and adjusted his fingers a bit awkwardly. It took him a few moments for him to settle on a comfortable grip.

"Not exactly subtle, are you," he said to the wand, raising it before his face. "I can hear Mum now. 'Don't leave that thing lying around now, Bill; the children might hurt themselves on it. Honestly, what was Ollivander thinking!" He pointed the wand at the counter. "Accio holsters!" The holsters shot across the room toward him before the second half of the second word was out of his mouth, skidding to a halt in front of him. He lowered the wand and blinked at them.

"Okay then," he said, and to the wand again - "Good job."

Ollivander's brow wrinkled. "You're not in pain?" he said cautiously. "The cuts on your hand aside?" Bill shrugged as he fastened the first holster to his boot, and pushed up the sleeve to adjust the second.

"Little twinge," he said. "Nothing serious." He got to his feet, sliding the wand under his sleeve. The crosspiece folded up neatly, parallel to the sides of the wand, and slid as if greased into the slightly wide-mouthed holster.

"Iron that bends?" he inquired.

"Magic," Ollivander said. Bill's lips quirked a little.

"Thanks. Tell  the bloke I appreciate it, whoever he is."

He made his way out. The door chimed behind him. Malfoy emerged, standing in the door of the back room. Ollivander looked from him to the sidewalk through the window, and back again.

"You were unconscious from the pain of bonding for an hour," he said. "And he called it a 'little twinge'? What kind of curses did - does - he have on him, that have allowed him to build up such a tolerance?"

"He has at least one serious potions addiction," Malfoy said. "It is obvious." He came to the chairs and bent, picking up several dull, brittle red strands that had fallen from Bill Weasley's hands after he ran his fingers through his hair. He shook his wand out of his sleeve - not the match for the one that had just left the shop, but a longer, plainer standard - and lit the end, holding it up and examining the length and roots carefully. "Mm. The color of the hair shaft is stable, but the follicles are mottled black and indigo. Mycanthus."

"My..." Ollivander nearly swallowed his tongue.

"I will find a way to tell Cartwright before the treatment tomorrow. It will likely change his approach, and he has, after that, perhaps till the beginning of the weekend to get him to St. Dymphna's before the hallucinations and seizures start."

"How could he afford mycanthus? His family is certainly well off now, but..."

"I imagine the goblins funded him," Malfoy said. "He brought them in quite ridiculous amounts of treasure, and if, as Master Cartwright said on Thursday last, the curses were aligned toward the inducement of divining magics, controlling his pain would have been in their best interests. Before that... I do not know. But I intend to find out - and, if he had a dealer before he began work with the goblins, just who that dealer was. There is a reason that trafficking of the particular substance will net the convicted twenty five years in Azkaban without parole."

He conjured a small Muggle ziplock bag, deposited the hairs within, and tucked them into his pocket.

"I will analyze them later tonight," he said. "In my home laboratory, so that I might see what else the healers might be working with. Thank you, Garrick."

"I won't say it was my pleasure," Ollivander responded. "But the young man considered, it was definitely a privilege." He watched as Malfoy made his way back to the back room. "Lucius?'

Malfoy looked back over his shoulder inquiringly. Ollivander's eyes glimmered a little at him in sly, if quiet amusement.

"My congratulations," he said. "I look forward to fitting your future children with their wands in a dozen years or so. I imagine they'll be worth the wait, in all ways, to all of us?"

Malfoy's wand slipped out of his sleeve, faster than lightning. The old man yelped, hopping and stamping as his shoes smoked... Malfoy smiled at him pleasantly. The smoke ceased abruptly.

"Don't push your luck, old man," he said. "I like you, but Niss can be a bit sensitive, and you know how I live to make her happy. Too, I daresay that a certain man who holds a Grandmastery in Warding and a potential Grandmastery in Combat  Dueling might feel a little... protective... of the couple who are offering to provide him with those children you just mentioned?"

"To be honest," Ollivander admitted after a moment, "it's the dragon wrangler that would worry me most. Don't let the cheery, radiant beam fool you; that is one formidable young man, and surviving and internalizing a double blast of mated Horntail fire is bound to have a bit of effect on his temper and power levels if he ever were properly riled."

"Feel free to intimidate the general public with the prospect," Malfoy said. "It can only work toward the good. My good specifically, and you may call me a self-interested man if you like, but I think we'd both agree it's far, far better than the alternative?"

"Mm," Ollivander agreed, and watched as he strode into the back room and popped out with barely a whisper of sound or displaced air.