Well, this idea has been lurking like a dirty old man in the back of our collective head for months. It sprang from a stream of consciousness conversation my other half and I had one fine day.
It would help to have read Seerius Trouble (Sirius Trouble less so), but since it is rather an epic, we tried to make it fairly accessible. If you'd like to read the relevant bits, you need Chapter 7 - Deskapology, possibly Chapter 8 – Sappy to See Me (though only a little), and Chapter 13 – All's Well That Ends, because if it ain't good at least it's over. If you can't be bothered with all Chapter 13, cos frankly it's a monster, you need the sections titled Once more into the breech, dear friends, once more; Don't argue with madmen or negotiate with terrorists; and I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.
I can find no better way to introduce this story than with a quote. It's rather lengthy, but frighteningly apt.
I present to you Mr Terry Pratchett in Thief of Time, slightly paraphrased towards the end…
…If you want the story, then remember that a story does not unwind. It weaves. Events that start in different places and different times all bear down on that one tiny point in space-time, which is the perfect moment.
Supposing an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren't there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud, clear voice…
Then you have The Story of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes.
But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story of the Boy Who Got a Well-Deserved Thrashing from His Dad for Being Rude to Royalty, and Was Locked Up.
Or The Story of the Whole Crowd Who Were Rounded Up by the Guards and Told "This Didn't Happen, Okay? Does Anyone Want to Argue?"
Or it could be a story of how a whole kingdom suddenly saw the benefits of the 'new clothes', and developed an enthusiasm for healthy sports (usually involving big beach balls) in a lively and refreshing atmosphere which got many new adherents every year, and led to a recession caused by the collapse of the conventional clothing industry,
It could even be a story about The Great Pneumonia Epidemic of '09.
It all depends on how much you know.
Supposing you'd watched the slow accretion of snow over thousands of years as it was compressed and pushed over the deep rock until the glacier calved its icebergs into the sea, and you watched an iceberg drift out through the chilly waters, and you got to know its cargo of happy polar bears and seals as they looked forward to a brave new life in the other hemisphere where they say the ice floes are lined with crunchy penguins, and then wham! Tragedy loomed in the shape of thousands of tonnes of unaccountably floating iron and an exciting soundtrack…
…you'd want to know the whole story..
And this one started with a desk.
The Pskovian: Hanky-Panky
Faustus looked startled as the whirlwind that was his brother Marcus dashed into the room where he was studying and commando rolled behind the desk. A curious female head poked around the doorframe a scant few seconds later, freezing when she caught sight of Faustus. With his long blonde hair and cold stare adding to his supremely composed – dare we say verging on arrogant – manner, he was a forbidding sight. Especially when he was frowning as he was at present.
The hapless girl stuttered out "Um… have you… that is to say… no, never mind" before fleeing from the doorway.
Once the footsteps had faded Faustus began, "Marcus, you can come out now. Care to explain? What have you done this time?"
He rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"Nothing?" ventured Marcus in an attempt to see whether Faustus would buy it. The only way to get a lie past his elder brother was if Faustus would allow it. Such was his control of his life and everything around him when he had his way.
This was not to be Marcus' day.
"I highly doubt that. Tell me. In as much detail as I need to know."
His tone brooked no argument.
"Well," Marcus began "She was on Platform 9 ¾ with her owl, and it bit her, so she was bleeding and I gave her my handkerchief to mop it up. Only problem is, it was one of the fine linen ones."
There was a pause. One might have even called it pregnant, but etiquette demands that we not cast aspersions on it, so let us simply say it was a long pause (but nowhere near nine months) and there was rather an expectation at one end or the other.
"One of the monogrammed ones with our Floo address on it?"
"So what's the problem? You give her your fine linen pocket kerchief in order to denote interest and now she's pursuing you. Everything is as it should be according to the ancient and hallowed tradition that is Handkerchief Etiquette."
"Did you see her face?"
"Ah. The wrong handkerchief then?"
Marcus looked sheepish then added, "I meant to give her one of the plain ones, but I rearranged my pockets yesterday and I got all mixed up. Can you help me?"
"I thought I just did."
"Fine. Can you help me again? I have to get rid of her!"
Faustus retained his cool impassive exterior, despite his brother's pouting face.
"Please Faustus. For me. Please, please Faustie! Go on."
"Firstly I am the Malfoy Heir." The capital letters clicked into place effortlessly "I will be treated with respect, which includes, but is not limited to never shortening my given name in any way shape or form. I will not answer to it, and I do not forget. Ever.
"Secondly, it's your own affair to make your intentions clear to the young lady in question. You are a gentleman even if you do not behave like one.
"And thirdly, you should be more careful with your affections. You are a very eligible young bachelor, and it is up to you to be responsible. You carry the Malfoy name after all."
"So you'll help me?"
"My help is a negotiable quantity."
"It's time, my dear brother, for your next life lesson."
Marcus winced. The last of these lessons, lesson 23, had been the use of male beauty products, and he still winced in the presence of particularly dripping candles.
Faustus explained, concluding with
"Are we agreed?"
"Well that depends, brother mine, on exactly how you intend on helping me."
"Oh Bravo, Marcus! Lesson 5 was a success after all. I did wonder if you had been paying attention."
He clarified, smiling as he did so, a particularly lupine gesture revealing exceptionally pointed canine teeth.
When all was said and done, they did have an accord.
The next day, Marcus met his sisters in their father's private studio, in Draco's portion of the ancestral home. They were to be fitted for new Gala robes, in anticipation of the upcoming Yule Ball.
Faustus, it seemed had been and gone, since at ten o'clock every day he discussed business with his grandfather in preparation for his birthday, when he would take on a formal role in the management of the Malfoy family estate.
Marcus hung back. The fitting was a tense affair, with Ophelia monopolising their father's time, insisting on looking just-so, since it was widely expected that this would be the Ball where Stanislaus Bazyli, her beau of many years and an even larger amount of galleons would request the plighting of her troth.
Penny, who had popped in to make sure all her children were still alive, and none had died from exposure in the miles of draughty corridor between the breakfast room and the studio, came over all misty eyed at how fast her babies had grown up. Next summer would see their seventeenth birthdays, their coming of age, and their graduation from Hogwarts.
They were tears of joy. She was sure her children would be happy.
The fridge magnets had told her so.
After dealing with Ophelia and the rather easier to please Lucy (anything in brown), Draco breathed a sigh of relief. At last, he got to play with his favourite son.
Play dress up that is.
In an entirely platonic way.
Not that he had a favourite, if Penny asked.
Marcus was the favourite he didn't have, the perfect blend of Malfoy and mischief; unlike his brother, who was entirely focused on restoring the Malfoy family's respectability.
Draco had no desire to be respectable, and children everywhere still feared for their hamsters.
He drew out his samples of coloured and textured leathers along with his sketch board full of outlandish designs.
"Sorry Dad. I think this year I'll wear something a little more..."
For a moment, Marcus looked as though he would choke
"… subtle. Gala robes, Slytherin green with silver needlework, and perhaps some family crests. You know, something conventional."
Draco looked suspiciously at his youngest son and then drew his wand.
"Point me Marcus"
To his shock and horror, the 'impostor' before him, turned out to be not quite as firstborn as he had expected.
Draco snapped shut his sample book and magically shrunk his accoutrements.
In a calm voice he announced
"Very well. You may go."
Marcus opened his mouth to speak but was cut off.
He'd never heard his father speak so harshly. Except to the nanny who'd dressed Lucy in pink, but that was understandable.
As the door clicked softly shut, Draco whispered into the silence
"Marcus, what have they done…"
It was the night of the Yule Ball. Well, it was at least late morning on the night of the Yule Ball, and dressing had already begun. In fact, for Ophelia, preparation had started two days ago with a facial, but then again, it was her night for trough plighting, so it was only to be expected.
Today, both Ophelia and Lucy were booked into the most exclusive hairstylist (nothing so common as hairdressing going on here) in Paris, thanks to their Dad. At their insistence, Faustus had submitted to lowlights several days ago, to prevent him being the prettiest Malfoy at the party.
The new hair suited Faustus to the ground, though he was reluctant to admit it, the darker blond went well with black, and Faustus loved black.
But not Sirius, because they were fairly closely related. Besides, he was pretty sure that his mentor, one Severus Snape, was already touching that kettle of well oiled Black with the proverbial bargepole.
Which was a thought that he never wished to have again.
Marcus was relatively low maintenance in comparison. His hair was naturally glossy raven black, and however hard he tried, was entirely manageable, straight and sleek.
All that was left was to do nails, toenails, get dressed, do their makeup and decide on accessories. Barely five hours worth of preparation.
When they were finally dressed, they had to present themselves to their father, who had been known, while faced by the improperly clad, to throw sour cream and shout "No, that's dressing!"
This time, they weren't aerially assaulted by any off dairy products, but neither were they met by any approval. It seemed that Draco's spat with Marcus was to affect them all.
In the beginning there had been trouble over the order in which the children should enter any event. Being as they were so close in age their precedence was not as firmly established as it otherwise would have been. Certainly they knew the order in which they had been born, and if they ever forgot, they could always translate their middle names, but there was a feeling that this took standing on ceremony to whole new levels. And of course you are to recall that this was the new, improved and enlightened post-post-Voldemort administration that encouraged closer ties with the Muggle world, and necessarily, their seemingly universal abandonment of tradition and ceremony.
The problem was that once Ophelia had walked into any room, no-one even spared Lucy a second glance, trailing along at the back as was her place. She didn't even have flaming red hair to her name to attract the eye, and unassuming as her nature often was, she never really recovered from this initial setback. While not unattractive by any measure, in fact she was rather pretty in a sweet kind of way with her curls and baby-blue eyes, she was simply outclassed by statuesque beauty of her elder sister, and truth be told in the pre-lowlights days, by Faustus also.
So they had arrived at a compromise, Faustus would enter first, escorting Lucy in with him, for it was clear to all that she had always been under his protection to a special degree (something to do with her position as baby sister) and Marcus would enter second, escorting Ophelia. Although seemingly it was a disadvantage to Ophelia, ever since her betrothal to Stanislaus Bazyli, heir to the throne of a small but rich principality in the Eastern European area (to be honest she'd stopped listening at rich) she hadn't really minded. The Bazylis had bought their principality some generations back (around about 1650 when it was lost to the minds of men) with money that had to be washed clean of the blood and other chemicals and dubious powders, but Stanislaus was the first wizard the family could remember. They were pretty sure their last relative to be burned at the stake had been the victim of rebellious peasants, not a witch-hunt, but then in those parts you just couldn't be sure. Nevertheless they were keen to continue their magical line, immediately seeing the advantages sorcery held for the less principled practitioner, and Stanilaus had been sorted into Slytherin the instant the hat touched his head.
Not long after this the Bazylis and the Malfoys had run into one another at some fete or other and had hit it off immediately. Apparently there was a bit of prejudice against redheads out the Pskov way (they were all killed for being devilspawn, seemingly) and quite clearly Ophelia was more suited to being a queen than little Lucy, so the betrothal had followed soon after.
Shortly after that Ophelia had discovered that her royal boyfriend was not just precious, but also a bit precocious. Thankfully for Ophelia's honour his roving eye settled mainly on bodies in his own locker room, and it had been quietly suggested to her that perhaps she would have to allow him his gentlemen friends whilst quite rightly reserving the right to castrate him should any of them turn out to be female. Hence the insistence that Faustus could no longer be the prettiest Malfoy, and the fact that she didn't mind not been held in direct comparison with him.
But this was all just an aside, and in the years between the betrothal and today, this had settled into something of a routine, and on the evening of the ball they formed themselves up into this little square without a second thought, even though it did exclude the dates they had all brought. They were allowed to tag along behind, and such was the stature of the restored Malfoy family, that they were all grateful for it too. Hence Faustus entered, resplendent in thick, black velvet high-collared robes, with the much less austere-looking Lucy on his arm, wrapped in a satin gown the colour of burnt umber and led her into the first dance; they were followed at a suitable interval by Marcus and Ophelia, Marcus somewhat subdued in his unfamiliar robes and Ophelia a vision in white. In fact, she seemed to glow so much with the combination of the hair and the gown that for a moment until one's eyes adjusted it was impossible to see the wealth of subtle detail worked into the robes. Suffice to say they were magnificent, and indeed just the thing.
Marcus also led Ophelia into an opening dance, but after he missed his steps for the second time Stanilaus judged it safe to cut in, and it was some while before the pair spoke to anyone else again. Marcus wandered over to talk to Lucy who had found her way to the drinks table so that the pair of them could indulge in a little more self-congratulation – Marcus had recently found he was offered a place on the Auror training programme; Lucy on a Healers' one – and perhaps a Frenchman or two. It was a cocktail their father had introduced them to, an old favourite of his that had caught on in the household, but one which this evening they were sadly denied. And while it may have been their father's influence that brought them to love the Frenchman (and the French) they never even considered that his influence had also got them their places. They felt worthy, and in truth they were worthy of their new opportunities.
The self-flattery (because when it's your quad who's flattering you, that's almost like flattering yourself) continued for some time, and Marcus' mind considered the girls nearby, possible pranks and the conversation with about equal importance, so when he heard Lucy say "….and Galeno has been accepted too," he had to cut in:
"Yep, that's him. He's been accepted, which is good because he has access to unusual…" and so the stream of conversation ran on.
In a manner that would have seemed eerie, had they not been magical quads, all at once the youngest generation of Malfoys noticed something was amiss.
In fact, they would have gone so far as to say, if they had to put the thought into words, something was missing.
From separate points in the room, they simultaneously headed towards their mother who was chatting amicably with their grandfather. She would be sure to know what was wrong.
It was then that Marcus' superior powers of observation kicked in and he paused on his way to the High table. Either that or he'd had the best view from his position on the balcony.
In a sea of heads, he'd been able to pick out his family easily enough. His mother was, as a brunette, the most difficult to pinpoint, yet he'd used his powers of deduction to assume she was the witch surrounded by a redhead, Lucy, and three glorious blondes – Faustus, Ophelia (who had somehow managed to tear herself away from Stan-whatever-his-name-was) and his grandfather.
In fact, they were the only blondes in the room.
Someone was missing.
He hurried downstairs and tried to mask the anxiety in his voice. Something terrible must have happened. His father loved balls.
"Mother, has Father come down yet?"
Penny had initially assumed Draco simply wanted to make an entrance, and avoid out-prettying his adopted children, but fashionably late had now passed into indecently tardy. Lucius had pointed out his absence some time before, as if she hadn't noticed, and now the children were worried.
She headed for the library, Draco's favourite room in the house.
It was here that Penny found him an hour after the ball had begun. He sat, clad in a smoking jacket and yellow cravat, and stared into the fire moodily. His Gala robes were strewn on the floor beside him, the poor house-elf he'd thrown them at was sobbing in a corner thinking it'd been dismissed. . He had been at the Ultimate Cocktail Book again, she noted with despair.
"Draco, it's time for your entrance. The children have been there for hours, and suitably admired."
"I'm not going Penny." He seemed strangely sad about something, but she was a dedicated mother, and her children needed their father, or at least the man they called 'Father'.
He, on the other hand, had no intention of budging any time soon, besides, he wasn't sure any attempt at coordinated limb movement would be successful.
She tried the direct approach. "Please?"
She tried appealing to his flair for the dramatic – didn't he want to make an entrance?
She tried appealing to his libido – there were lots of very attractive people in the ballroom, didn't he want to flirt?
She tried appealing to his business sense – shouldn't he go and do a bit of discrete advertising?
She even tried appealing to his vanity - after all, he had made the robes his children were wearing that people were so complimentary about – but this seemed to make things worse.
He began to sulk.
Something had put him in a fine mood, to be sure, but Penny wasn't the mother of miraculously unspoiled quads for nothing. She had been through temper tantrums and sulks and fights, always coming out the victor. Even Faustus deferred to his mother, though she was sure it was more out of respect than any question of his superiority.
Being married to Percy had been fine practice for child-rearing.
"You have a duty to do!" she hissed, "A duty as your father's son and Heir, as my husband, and as the father to those children, and I intend to see that you do it. Draco Lucio Malfoy, you will go to the Ball!"
He giggled, and the fight was won.
"Let's get you sober and dressed."
Draco sighed. He just didn't feel like wearing the golden fur-trimmed robes any more. His spirit was muted, and as such, his clothes should be too. His fight with Marcus weighed heavily on his mind.
He comforted the snivelling elf and gently reminded him of the 'Harry's Sock Rule of House-Elf Dismissal', before he and his lovely wife exited via the obligatory secret passageway.
When he eschewed all the colourful Gala robes in his walk-in closet in favour of a muted grey number he'd designed at the tender age of sixteen after Snape had advised him of the perils of standing out at a Dark Revel, Penny was worried - maybe she had been a little harsh on him.
"Are you ok? You look a little off-colour. I can make excuses for you if you really don't want to go."
His response did nothing to ease her concerns.
"That's ok. You're right - it's time I started to behave like a Malfoy. Shall we?"
Their entrance into the Ballroom was sedate and unassuming. Draco and Penny, side-by-side, for in this state she was reluctant to leave him, charmed their way to the High Table and were seated.
"My apologies Father, I was indisposed."
Lucius looked suspiciously at his son and surreptitiously drew his wand.
A quiet 'Point Me Draco' revealed that the 'impostor' before him was not quite as firstborn-of-his-bastard-son as he had expected.
"Apology accepted Draco."
Every now and then, Lucius would glance away from the guest he was entertaining and check on his son.
Not that he was worried.
Maybe Severus could find out what was wrong when he and his companions joined them for New Years Eve.
Purely by chance, the next time Lucius could check on his son, it was to see him glance with an almost readable (to an outside observer) expression of pain. A moment of panic - Draco was hurt; he was sick; hell, what if he was dying? Giving way to relief when he realised his son was in fact looking at Marcus.
He wondered what exactly the boy had done this time.
Lucius paused for a moment, curious at the fiercely paternal feelings coursing through him. He'd had little enough to do with Draco's upbringing, what with one thing and another, and he'd be damned if anyone was going to hurt his son now.
He glided over to Marcus who was quietly chatting to Faustus and some eminently suitable young ladies. All too quietly chatting to Faustus and aforementioned girls, and suddenly the misty mists of mystery lifted.
Lucius blinked, puzzled at his own turn of phrase; maybe those Frenchmen were more potent than he had initially anticipated.
Thank the Fates for Sobriety spells.
He resisted the urge to let this little power play work itself out, reminding himself that Draco's happiness was at stake.
"Might I borrow my grandchildren for a moment dear ladies?" he asked sweetly, baring his teeth in what would have been a charming smile had these girls not been fully aware of his past. They nervously acquiesced, and he took a moment to bask in his power.
He kept his voice pleasant but his eyes flashed fire. To an outsider, they looked to be having a private but nonetheless affable discussion. The boys realised with a start they were in for a bollocking. Only their upbringing prevented the boys from looking gobsmacked. Their grandfather had never come this close to losing his cool, in private or in public, for as long as they remembered.
Marcus suddenly remembered Uncle Harry's tale about the time Dobby was freed. He'd never really associated his grandfather with the Lucius Malfoy, evildoer and villain of stories. Until now, that is. He inched closer to Faustus.
"I don't know what the hell you did to your father, but I suggest you fix it."
"I don't understand grandfather. You're suggesting we're to blame for father's absence tonight?" began Faustus, but Lucius cut him off.
"On the contrary Faustus, your father has been in the room for the last hour. He's dancing with your mother."
So used were they to Draco's grand entrances, that they automatically sought confirmation. Only the blondeness of his hair could identify their mother's partner. Their father, for it was he, danced perfectly but without any of his usual flair.
As they continued to watch, Ophelia cut in, smiling her most dazzling smile, and gazing with open affection at Draco. The dance progressed and she began to look puzzled. With a series of minute hand signals she displayed her intent, and Lucy took her place.
Seeing another blonde-haired Malfoy progressing purposefully toward him, Marcus suppressed a groan. Ophelia ignored him and turned to the senior Malfoy.
"Grandfather, is Father dying?"
The question shocked her family to the core. Faustus and Marcus both lost their neutral facades, and turned to stare wide-eyed at Lucius, silently begging him to reassure them. That Ophelia had descended from cloud nine for long enough to notice something was wrong worried them more than they could say.
This reply did little to reassure them. They all remembered their history lessons of Luthien Malfoy, their great-to-the-power-fifth grandmother who had baffled experts by dying of what seemed to be a broken heart. It was one of the less publicised facts about the Malfoys, yet it explained much of their behaviour.
Draco had defied the edict his father had issued about remaining in control for as long as Lucius could remember, and it seemed his son's openness might be his downfall yet.
"I assume I can leave this matter in your hands, boys?"
They assured him that the matter would be dealt with forthwith, and their grandfather left to mingle once more.
Faustus opened his mouth, no doubt to begin what would become a scheme Machiavellian in nature and complex in the extreme. Marcus stopped him with an upraised hand. On matters of Draco, and little else, Faustus bowed to his superior knowledge.
Marcus eased his way across the dance floor towards the spot where Lucy occupied the Malfoy in question to prevent any scheming being observed.
"Lucy darling" for thus she was always addressed, being the baby of the family, "might I steal father away for a moment?"
Draco's eyes were cold and hard, "Perhaps your father doesn't wish to be stolen."
"Please? I need to talk to you. Alone."
Draco allowed himself to be led, via the apparently-not-as-secret-as-he'd-thought tunnels to the library. On the way he made a note to password protect, or simply booby trap the entrances to his inner sanctum in future.
As soon as they arrived, Marcus began to strip, shedding layers of clothing.
Draco edged away, until there was a beautiful rosewood desk forming a physical barrier between them.
"Marcus, I know I'm not your biological father, but really…"
Had there been a fan in arms' reach, he might have fanned himself.
The half-clad Malfoy in question fell over trying to remove his socks and balance on one leg. The dangers of male multitasking reared their ugly heads.
Draco rushed to assist him, resisting as best he could the urge to flap his hands, but not the urge to roll his eyes.
When the resultant tangle of fabric, limbs and chair had been sorted into some semblance of order, Marcus felt, from this position of indignity, he could begin to make his father understand.
"I can't breathe in those robes. They're so stiff and starched and proper."
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"If you dragged me all the way up here, from a perfectly good party to complain about your clothes…"
"The robes are perfect Dad. But I'm not." He sighed, "I found myself in a bit of a situation, it doesn't matter what, and Faustus helped."
"And this was his fee." Draco finished helpfully, looking slightly less pallid than he had when they entered.
"Got it in one."
Draco smiled wryly. "Then we had better see that it is paid in full. Come on, up on your feet and back into those" he preened slightly, "perfect robes of yours."
"Daaaaaad" Marcus whined.
"You can sit at High Table with your mother and I. No dancing or polite conversations, I promise." He then amended, "Unless your grandfather is present."
As they walked through the halls of Malfoy Manor (since everyone seemed to be taking the hidden passages, it seemed that they might be better concealed without than within), Draco continued,
"Father was acting very strangely tonight. He kept feeling my forehead and I swear I felt a medical diagnostic spell coming from that end of the room."
Marcus grinned, "He was worried," his normally cheerful countenance turned serious for a moment, "we were all worried."
Basking in the love, Draco ruffled his youngest son's hair, safe in the knowledge that here was the anti-Potter. This boy could be dragged through a hedge backwards (literally, they'd tried) and still his coiffure would be impeccable.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his clothes. As they approached the doors and waited to be announced, Draco spent the few minutes they had magically pressing and smoothing his son's clothes.
As he critically surveyed the boy before him, on the cusp of adulthood, Draco found he could fault practically nothing. This was a child he was proud to have had some part in raising.
"Marcus," began Draco in a tone of innocent inquiry, "do you have a clean handkerchief?"
He was met by a horrified look, "Who told you?"
Which was closely followed by a "You were faking?"
"In Malfoy manor, my boy, even the very walls have ears."
And that was the last he would say on the matter.
Stanilaus means 'Camp Glory'. Bazyli means 'Royal'. Pskov was a real place around 1350-1650, but eventually got sucked up into Lithuania/Poland kind of region. Don't think it ever was a proper principality, though.
Galeno means 'little bright one'.
The running round flapping arms is a Robert Rankin thing.
Luthien Tinuviel is an elf from Tolkien who plights her trough to a mortal and dies of a broken heart.
As always, the Frenchman appears courtesy of the Ultimate Cocktail Book.
Harry's Sock Rule of House-Elf Dismissal will be explained further at some point in the not too distant future.