Summary: "We all love to keep secrets, it has the appeal of making one feel infinitely important," said Lucius Malfoy. Anais Selwyn has just returned from Paris. Is she about to become Lucius' biggest secret of all? What other secrets do the Selwyn family have? LM/OC & LM/NM. Rated M for sex and strong language.
Author Note: Anais is pronounced 'an-eye-es'.
"What is it? My dear?"
"Ah, how can we bear it?"
"This. For so short a time. How can we sleep this time away?"
"We can be quiet together, and pretend – since this is only the beginning – that we have all the time in the world."
"And everyday we shall have less. And then none."
"Would you rather, therefore, have had nothing at all?"
"No. This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere."
Possession ~ A. S Byatt
Selwyn Abbey, solid and stern, sat in the shadow of a thick forest. The surrounding landscape was green and fertile, still sparkling from the most recent spring downpour. A watercolour pink sky tinged with violet and gold had unfurled behind retreating black clouds. Water gushed in the gutters, birds called to one another in the trees and animals cloaked by a dense spray of foliage crashed unseen through the undergrowth. The air was fresh and damp. It smelt of dark, wet earth and worms. This scent was the first thing Anais Selwyn was aware of as she materialised beneath an ornate stone archway.
She caught her bearings and hastened towards the imposing house, her wooden trunk drifting weightlessly through the air beside her. Anais was a tall, pale young woman with thick, glossy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. There was a tense, slightly anxious expression on her face as she strode across a grassy knell towards her ancestral home. She was late and she knew her eldest brother would not be happy about it.
Silently she passed the place where a small herd of Hippogriffs were grazing in the fading evening light before crossing onto a stone path that hemmed the main house.
Pale yellow light spilled from the ground floor windows out onto the honey coloured stone, still oily with rain. Anais picked up her pace as she rounded the corner, walking with long, determined strides. She was already unfastening her travelling cloak as she trotted up the steps to the grand front door, which swung open inwardly as she approached.
The square stone entrance hall was brightly lit and there were hot house flowers in a cauldron sized vase on the table. The soft, civilised sound of a string quartet reached her ears. There were a handful of witches and wizards dressed in smart formal robes sipping flutes of golden Elf-Made wine. Anais edged her way into the hall. She peered around for a House-Elf to take her belongings up to her bedroom and to tell her what exactly was going on. When Anais' eldest brother, Adolphus, had told her he was throwing her a welcome home party this was not what she'd had in mind. She took off her cloak and laid it on top of her trunk, which had obediently set itself down on the ground beside her.
"Anais, you're back!" a chestnut haired wizard wearing an impressively jewel covered cravat called, throwing his arms wide.
"Ambrosius!" she beamed, running into the arms of her favourite brother, who pulled her into a bone crushing hug. They looked very alike, except for their colouring. Ambrosius was darker, more like their mother had been, with reddish brown hair and peculiarly amber coloured eyes.
"I've missed you so much!" Ambrosius' voice was muffled in Anais' hair.
It had been almost four months since she'd last seen him. They'd spent a memorable weekend in Finland visiting a museum full of deadly dark artefacts and getting drunk with the locals while arguing about the best way to skin a shrivel fig.
Ambrosius' hair was a little longer and his robes were more expensive but apart from that he looked the same as ever: smart, skinny and desperate to share his latest gossip. Flushed with emotion Anais threw her arms around her brother's neck and hugged him again.
"Steady on old girl!" he chided, but took Anais' hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze. "Where have you been? We expected you back hours ago!"
"I'm sorry! I had to stay late at work – I know – on my last day, but there was a huge order of Calming Draught that came in at four o'clock and had to be made. Then there was a Portkey strike going on in Paris. It was chaos. I've come via Lichtenstein. I got here as soon as I could," Anais said very quickly. "I wasn't expecting all this," she added gesturing to the guests and the flowers.
"You know 'Dolph, any excuse for a party," Ambrosius said casually, catching two glasses of wine from a passing waiter dressed in pristine white robes. He offered one to Anais, who drained it in one go.
This was not the Adolphus that she knew, but then the last time she'd seen her eldest brother was three years ago when the war with Lord Voldemort was at its peak. Back then there hadn't been anything much to celebrate.
"Is he angry? Merlin, I'm starving. I'm not dressed for this," Anais murmured massaging her stomach and taking another glass of wine from the waiter's tray.
"You don't look bad considering you've come straight from work and had to hop-scotch your way across Europe to get here," Ambrosius remarked. "If you pretend you've been here ages I think he'll swallow it. He's been holed up with Tiberius Ogden and Bertie Higgs most of the night talking Wizengamot business."
"Elladora wrote last month practically gloating about Adolphus snatching up the Bedfordshire seat when Elphias Doge retired," Anais remarked.
"Oh, you haven't heard the latest," Ambrosius cackled gleefully. "He's taken control of the Wiltshire seat too. I'll tell you all about it later. Tres scandaleux!" He wiggled his eyebrows for maximum effect.
"I suppose it's a good thing he's so busy with work," Anais sighed, glancing around hoping to spot some morsel of food. "It'll keep him out of trouble. Are you sure he's not mad at me?"
"So what if he is?" Ambrosius shrugged. "It's not like you give a bat's fart what he thinks anymore. You're an heiress, you can do whatever you like. Besides, he can hardly make a fuss with all these people around," he said stepping into the drawing room.
"I do care what he thinks," Anais corrected, finishing her drink. "I've got to live with him and Dora for the next couple of months."
She stopped short of saying just how much she couldn't stand the thought of it because they had drawn level with a waiter holding a tray of canapés. Anais crammed a couple into her mouth.
"You should know they've got big plans for you," Ambrosius said in a low voice, leaning closer to her so there was no chance of them being overheard.
"Doesn't he always?" Anais asked darkly. "Is that why half the Ministry for Magic is here?"
Ambrosius didn't have time to make the quip that was on the tip of his tongue because Elladora Selwyn was sweeping towards them.
"There you are! Adolphus has been looking all over for you," the whippet thin witch with doleful green eyes said in a treacle thick voice. "Cranberry, really darling?" she added doubtfully, eying Anais' silk lantern skirt. "It's a little late in the season for that, don't you think?"
Anais kept her disagreement to a pointed look, which her sister-in-law didn't see because she was off again, tugging Anais along behind her. Dora, who had the long, coltish body of a prepubescent boy and short, shingled brown-sugar hair was wearing a sheer, shapeless smock through which her silk slip was clearly visible. She wasn't a beauty but there was something interesting about her sleepy green eyes, which turned down ever so slightly, giving her a constantly baleful look
"Don't waste tonight," she said giving Ambrosius a dismissive look. "Everyone worth knowing in Britain is here. Your brother and I were just discussing the price of treasure with Millicent Bagnold herself."
"I suppose he was trying to take her spot on the Wizengamot council too?" Anais asked.
Ambrosius snorted. He tried to disguise it as a cough which earned him a withering look from Dora.
"Perhaps he will one day," she speculated, unflinchingly. "He's quite the politician. He's in the garden and I'm sure he'd like to see you."
"Righty-oh," Anais replied, taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders. "I'll see you later," she told Ambrosius, "if I don't get transfigured into a snail."
"If he asks just say you've been doing keg stands in the cellar with the entire Wimbourne Wasps Quidditch team."
"I don't think he'll buy it, but thanks."
Anais kissed her brother's cheek and began to make her way through the house.
In many respects Selwyn Abbey was the same as ever. The wood panelled rooms with their high ceilings, yawning fireplaces and Axminster rugs were exactly as she remembered. The mounted antlers and stuffed Nogtail heads were still displayed on the walls along with old portraits of family members and ancient wands, too untrustworthy to be used. Yet there was an indefinable sense that things were changing. Anais supposed it was all the bodies dripping with jewels and prominent positions in Wizarding society.
The Selwyns were an old wizard family, occasionally mentioned in history books. Mostly they had been a reserved, traditional bunch who had spent centuries working in Wizard Law or else trying to protect the vibrant magical community in Oxfordshire by sitting on the Wizengamot council, roles which were now filled by Ambrosius and Adolphus respectively. At twenty one Anais was finding it a little more difficult to figure out what she wanted to do with the next hundred years of her life.
Anais popped out into a tranquil walled garden. Paper lanterns had been strung up in the fruit trees and the daffodils, bluebells, crocuses, lavender and camellias had been magically magnified so they spilled from every bower. Here and there guests were standing in groups on the wide stone patio, talking and laughing, their faces softly illuminated by fluttering fairy lights. They were mostly important Ministry of Magic types and Wizengamot elders, all scrubbed clean and glittering with jewels in the hazy pink evening light. The air was heavy and sweet, drowsy with pollen. Anais felt light and fuzzy, as she crossed the flagstones. Her cheeks turned rosy as the warmth of the wine wound its way through her veins.
It was not difficult to spot Adolphus. He was a tall, athletic blond wizard in his late twenties who towered over most of the guests. He was brutally handsome with the same well muscled, hairless, scentless masculinity of an underwear model. Anais had been planning to march right up to him and get things over with quickly, but she hesitated at the sight of him. Opportunistically she plucked a third glass of wine from a passing waiter. With a fortifying sip Anais made her way forward. She was at her brother's elbow before she spoke.
"Adolphus…" she said in what she hoped was a warm, confident voice.
His displeasure was obvious as he turned from his companion. His mouth was set in a thin line and his jaw was clenched.
"Nice of you to show up," he growled, but opened his arm and allowed her to slip in beside him and fold into an awkward embrace.
"I'm sorry," Anais cringed. "This party is spectacular. I had no idea you'd go to all this trouble. I'm sorry I'm so late. I understand if you don't want me here…"
Anais chanced a look up at him from the shadow of his embrace. She hoped she was doing a convincing job of looking down at heal.
"No no," Adolphus said quickly, with a cheer-up kind of squeeze. "There's no need for that. You might as well stay."
She had not expected such magnanimity and was instantly disappointed by it. What she really wanted to do was to take herself up to bed and sleep for twelve hours straight.
Adolphus gave her a quietly triumphant smile as he said, "Actually, I've someone here you should meet."
He'd busted her right away, she realised, and this was how he was going to make her pay. She narrowed her eyes at him before turning her attention to the wizard who'd been politely ignoring them for some time now.
He was also tall and blond, although a startling white blond, which made her brother's hair look dull in comparison. He was leaner than Adolphus but he had the quiet grace of a panther. Anais was sure at a second's notice he could strike hard and fast or outrun the fittest of opponents. He was resplendent in midnight blue robes embroidered with silver stars at the hem and cuffs. His navy dragon hide shoes were polished to a high shine. Anais thought he looked so wealthy he'd probably smell like golden galleons.
"This is Lucius Malfoy. You aren't likely to meet anyone as -"
"- Extraordinarily talented? Devilishly cunning? Astoundingly intelligent?" the wizard interrupted in a languid drawl.
Lucius Malfoy may have been incredibly good looking but his arrogance provoked Anais to add,
This got his attention.
His piercing, pale grey gaze jack-knifed into her chest. For a moment, a heartbeat really, as their eyes clashed she couldn't hear or focus or breathe. She felt dizzy, as if falling from a great height. Dazed, she was surprised to hear him say in a deep, velveteen voice,
"She's got a sense of humour. I like that in a woman."
"This is my baby sister, Anais," Adolphus said, a bite of agitation in his voice, as he shot Anais a warning look.
"Where's he been hiding you?" Lucius asked with an appraising look.
"Beautiful city," he remarked in a would-be casual tone, "shame about the muggles."
"Do you think so?"
His flint eyes slowly travelled across her face. She felt a sensation a little like taking a Portkey – a jolt, somewhere deep inside - only hotter and lower down. Dangerous, her mind whispered, as a fierce blush stung her cheeks. This was the type of wizard that witches shied away from.
"Anais is going to be living with Dora and I for the summer," Adolphus explained. "She's moved back from Paris to take on more family responsibilities now that she's come into her inheritance."
"Such devotion to ones family is a rare virtue," Lucius said, his eyes flashing.
They were curiously shaped, thin and triangular and such a pale grey in the lantern light they shone mercury. There was a gleam in them as he looked at her, something molten hot and dangerous darting beneath the surface, like a silver fish in the depths of a pond.
"How do you and Lucius know one another?" Anais asked Adolphus curiously.
"I'm minding his Wiltshire seat on the Wizengamot council while his suspension's being re-evaluated." Adolphus looked incredibly pleased with himself as he took a self congratulatory sip of his wine.
"Suspension? What did you do?"
Anais eyed Lucius curiously, recalling Ambrosius' words: tres scandaleux.
"It's a black and ghoulish tale of Death Eaters, Dark Arts and deception," Lucius said silkily, lowering his voice and leaning towards her conspiratorially. Anais' eyes widened and she watched the razorblade smile on his face with quiet intrigue.
He was teasing her. That much was obvious.
Adolphus looked alarmed and emitted a dry, nervous laugh. "He's innocent, of course. His suspension was just a formality," he said quickly.
"I'm up for review. Three years good behaviour," Lucius explained, his eyes still fixed on Anais.
She gave him a polite, somewhat secretive smile and sipped her drink.
Already she thought she had the measure of him: proud, arrogant, though perhaps not without reason. There weren't many wizards who were brave enough to joke about that sort of thing. There had been relish in his voice too, a flare for the theatrical, which matched his elaborate robes. He had been irreverent, but there had been an excitement at the mention of one of the most brutal periods in living memory. Anais had the fleeting impression that he was dangerous but it didn't stop her from asking,
"Are you at Selwyn Abbey often?"
"Almost every morning."
He was the sort of man who didn't want a woman to demonstrate her feelings explosively, but wanted to know they were there all the same. Anais felt him peering into her heart to see if she would be that sort of woman, that sort of lover. She could feel herself bending out of shape to better suit him.
"Your brother takes my constant meddling surprisingly well," Lucius said affably, his eyes hot against her cheek.
"Nonsense," Adolphus insisted. "We hardly differ on anything, and if we do, well, you love a fierce debate. As you can see, Anais, we've become fast friends."
For the merest of seconds Lucius looked both surprised and triumphant. He mastered himself and his expression returned to neutral haughtiness but Anais hadn't missed it.
"Ambrosius likes him too," Adolphus added, as if this settled things. "The two of them can talk Gringotts and treasure until the Hippogriffs come home."
"You should know I plan to monopolise your attention for the rest of the evening," Lucius said silkily. "I could do with another drink. What do you say?"
That sly ghost of smirk returned to his lips, which made Anais' stomach roll over like a wave. His fingers lightly brushed the back of her elbow and a shivery quaver shot all the way up her arm like lightning to her heart.
"I suppose it's my family duty to form an objective opinion of you," she said slyly.
"Indeed," Lucius agreed, not missing a beat, his eyes alight with humour.
Anais allowed herself a real smile this time. Unable to bear the brilliance of his eyes for a second longer she looked down. Her golden hair slipped free from behind her ear as she bowed her head, veiling her face as she stroked her hand through a large stone basin full of pink hydrangeas. Her heart was racing in her chest like a jackrabbit pursued by a fox. She took a sip of her drink and tried to shake the comets from her mind.
"I'll leave the two of you to get better acquainted then," Adolphus said breezily. "I'll see you in my study before bed," he added pointedly to Anais.
Clearly she wasn't off the hook but she could worry about that later.
Anais watched Adolphus cross the lawn to join Dora, who was terrorising a small band of witches and wizards. Anais half wanted to call Adolphus back. She didn't trust herself to hold a decent conversation with Lucius Malfoy in her flustered, tipsy state.
"Tut tut," Lucius purred at once, his mouth twisting into a smirk. "Late to your own party."
"Better late than never," she chimed.
"What kept you?"
"And this isn't?"
"It's not mine."
"I think 'real life' is what your brothers have been protecting you from," Lucius said astutely, leading the way across the dewy lawn. "Isn't that why you were in Paris?"
Anais marvelled at his keen mind. Lucius Malfoy didn't waste any time. She was sure that her evening was about to get a lot more interesting. However, her appreciation of his company did not stop her from folding her arms defensively across her chest.
"It wasn't a secret," Anais said mildly, forcing herself to look away and take in the vivid colours of the flowers: soft lilac, zingy yellow and creamy white.
Had it always been this alive, she wondered, sucking in a refreshing breath of cool air that she hoped would clear her head.
"Ah, but we all love to keep secrets. It has the appeal of making one feel infinitely important."
He was the brightest thing in the garden. Everything seemed dim after the luminescence of his silver eyes, Anais thought, as she found herself arrested by that mercurial sheen once more.
"I don't have any secrets," Anais said plainly, though this was obviously a lie.
"Perhaps not now. But soon you will." He said it with supreme self confidence, like a prophet.
The smile that was playing around his lips seemed to say: how young and fresh and naïve. The gleam in his eyes belied his intentions. With her pink cheeks and shinning eyes, he wanted to take her there and then, rushing her back against the slippery stone floor. He wouldn't mind hurting her, just a little. He wanted to hear her cry out. He would enjoy the surprised pleasure-pain of her expression as held her down and charged, too roughly, into her.
Anais looked at him levelly before raising one eyebrow quizzically at him. Was she supposed to be intimidated or turned on by that fantasy?
"What did you do while in Paris?" he asked so smoothly, so politely that it took Anais a long moment to reply.
"I worked at l'Hospital de Pierre Bonaccord as a Potioneer," she said, though she couldn't help feeling that this wasn't exactly what he was asking her. "Hardly reason for an Advanced Guard or a Fidelius Charm, don't you think?"
A small smile upturned his mouth. He exchanged her empty glass of wine for a full one as they stopped beside a spotty, gangling waiter with red hair, who was trying to look impassive, but instead just looked bored.
"Why not St. Mungo's? Why go all that way?"
"You ask a lot of questions, Mr Malfoy," Anais countered genially but she was beginning to feel a bit like she was being interrogated.
"Call me Lucius," he insisted. "You're deliciously remote and you've made some interesting choices. I'm intrigued."
Anais kept her face impassive but felt herself looking at him shrewdly. She couldn't help feeling there was a little more to it than that. She wondered how much Adolphus and Ambrosius had said about her.
"I moved to Paris because I wanted to see a bit more of the world."
This was not exactly the truth.
"How worldly have you become?" Lucius purred with an arched eyebrow that made Anais' stomach coil and uncoil in quick succession.
She laughed, almost out of relief. He was definitely flirting with her now, so she replied enigmatically, "Worldly enough."
Lucius didn't smile but his eyes softened. A good answer, he seemed to say.
"Let's keep moving. We don't want to pick up unwelcome orbits."
He looked warily in the direction of an immaculately dressed witch carrying a large, boxy camera. She was wearing a lanyard with a card clipped to it that read: Daily Prophet Photographer.
Lucius placed a hand on the small of Anais' back and steered her away from the light and buzz of the party. That guiding hand at the base of her spine was all she could think about as they walked a deserted path into a silent corner of the garden. The air was thick with the scent of lavender. The sky overhead was deep indigo and above the hills stars were burning brightly. Anais felt a great connectedness to her ancestral home and those distant English hills. It was good to be home.
"What will you do now you're back from France?"
"I don't know. I haven't decided yet," Anais admitted. "I plan to rest, read, catch up with old friends and brew some experimental potions."
She felt weightless like a balloon, as if she was floating. The only thing keeping her grounded was Lucius' hand, which remained at the small of her back.
"I've a large collection of ancient Nordic potions manuscripts. They might be of interest to you. You're quite at leisure to come to Malfoy Manor to read them," he offered.
"Could I?" Anais asked brightly, a little surprised by his generosity.
"You'd be very welcome," Lucius assured her.
Once more she had the impression of something flashing beneath the surface of his eyes. She wondered if he wanted to trap her in his manor and eat out her heart, just like a story by Beedle the Bard. It was hard to be sure. They had come to the farthest corner of the garden, which was almost black, lit only by a handful of fairy lights. A thick silence had descended occasionally punctured by the rustling of the wind sliding through the leaves of the trees.
"Have you ever been to Denmark to see -"
"- the woodcuts of Iofur the Ingenious' book on early Nordic medicine? Yes," Lucius intercepted, a look of pleasant surprise on his face. "Did you ever visit Ragmar Ragnison's Repository -"
"- of Dark Artefacts, in Finland? Ambrosius and I were there last winter!"
"Did you see the jinxed Taxidermy? Deeply impressive, don't you think? I was never much perturbed by racoons until I saw what effective dervishes they can become. Ever been to Norway?"
Anais shook her head. "One of my great-grandmothers was Norwegian so I really ought to have been."
"You should go. I travelled cross country by broom once. I'd been curious about Polar magic since I was a boy - and I wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. It was insanely beautiful."
The hushed reverence of his words stilled Anais. She looked at him with renewed curiosity.
"I lived with a small nomadic community on the edge of the Barents Sea," Lucius explained. "They taught me how to read the weather, to sense magic in the air, to reveal hidden things. When you live in a world of white you begin to see how many subtle shades it truly has. Magnificent place, the North."
"On a still night when the wind is down the silence wakes you. You can hear your heart beating and the blood pulsing through your veins. And the seals. They make the most inorganic sounds."
"What do they sound like?"
"Like stars turning in the heavens. Only it rises through the ice and you realise there's a secret world beneath you."
A slow, entranced smile worked its way across Anais' lips. She could feel the heat radiating from Lucius' body, could smell a primal, minty scent rising from his skin, so masculine and virile it started a warm throb like a second heartbeat deep in her body.
"What was it like, seeing the Northern lights?"
"There wasn't a whisper of wind that first evening. The sun set, the snow and the sea lay quiet. Such blissful silence!" he said in awed voice so quietly that she had to watch his mouth form the words to be sure she didn't miss anything.
"Even the polar bears were mystified and they have the most delicate ears imaginable. As an inky darkness seeped out across the sky the moon ascended. Arches and swathes of turquoise appeared above the mountains. They curved sinuously overhead like tapers, cracking like whips in the frozen night air. It lasted about twenty minutes, this celestial dance. When it was over the sky was filled with vapour like broken clouds."
Anais looked up at the darkened sky, at the belt of stars burning brightly and tried to imagine such a sight. When she looked at Lucius she wondered what it would be like to touch him, what snowy world lay undiscovered beneath his clothes. His gaze dropped to her mouth and she realised how close they were standing to one another.
"Tell me a secret," he murmured.
Anais gave him a questioning look. Did he expect her to spill her soul so easily?
"I didn't want to be here tonight until I met you," Anais breathed, smiling in the half-dark.
Lucius smiled, a slow, crocodile smile, his eyes glinting like chips of ice in the semi-darkness. He thought her heart was in his teeth and he could bite down if he chose.