A/N: No excuses. Dark Roses is two chapters away from being finished though, so these should come a lot faster. Hopefully I catch you by surprise with this little development in one of the side pairings. :D
Eleven- Mid-April 1976
Harrigan was wandering the upper levels of 12 Grimmauld Place. He had been invited to the residence that Arcturus had opened after closing Black Manor, which had been the home of Orion since he was born. It was warded beyond belief and closed up tighter than an insane asylum, these being the words of Orion himself. He frowned to himself as he looked around, remembering exactly why he had chosen to wander these dark halls.
Orion had received a letter from Regulus just this afternoon detailing Sirius' current moods, which were swinging towards the very instability that Orion had been trying to keep his eldest from. The reaction that his eldest had shown to just a picture in the social section of the Daily Prophet was worrying to the Lord, who was trying to think of how to reply to Regulus without making his youngest more worried than he was.
Hesitantly Harrigan opened another door, smiling at the room inside. This obviously belonged to Regulus, he had Slytherin's green and silver everywhere, in banners, small flags, old uniforms hung proudly in the wardrobe for memories' sake and pictures of him and his friends on the walls. Studying the photos he noted one group off to the side, almost lost in the multitude of images belonging to Regulus' friends.
These were candid shots taken from some ways away of a boy that looked more like Orion than Regulus did, sharply angled and handsome features crowned by slightly wavy black hair and glittering gray-blue eyes. In some he was alone, studying or staring off into the distance, most showed him with three other boys or two of them, hanging out under a tree by a lake or walking down the halls of the great castle that was Hogwarts.
Having met the boy pictured once before, Harrigan quickly realised these were of Sirius, elder son and heir of Orion. The pictures taken by his year younger brother were both sweet and wistful as well as heart-breaking and slightly uncomfortable to look at. Their very distance conveyed Regulus' desire to be closer to his brother and his friends, a longing for a presence that must have been very familiar at one time and now was more distant than ever.
He left the room a few moments later, wandering down the hall toward yet another door, the images Regulus had taken still prominent in his mind. Thus, when he opened the next door, he was rather unprepared for what he was going to see. He blinked, stared and shook his head, resisting a laugh. This was obviously Sirius' room and the boy had probably done a very good job of driving his mother insane.
Pictures of pretty Muggle girls and motorcycles were stuck to the wall, their vapid stares and stillness a very obvious contrast to the moving photos of Sirius and his friends goofing off in the other photos. A large poster of a roaring gold Gryffindor lion emblazoned on a bright scarlet shield shimmered from the wall opposite, while a child's toy version of a dragon skeleton hung from the ceiling, as if it were about to lazily fly around the room. Old textbooks and clothing were scattered everywhere as well as some very unusual magazines.
The wardrobe looked to have been shoved against the wall at some point and there were a few pieces of parchment visible from underneath. The layers of dust on the floor spoke of just how long the wardrobe had been in its old spot. Curious, Harrigan walked through the errant child's room and picked them up. Turning the whole pile over he noted that they were a series of letters between Sirius and someone else. Hoping his indiscretion wouldn't be pushing his luck with Orion and his sons he started to read the top letter.
I think of you every day, you know. Corny, isn't it? It is still true. Though I have just graduated I feel lost knowing that on the 1st of September I won't be seeing you on the platform. I will wish you luck with your 5th year now, not knowing when I will be able to write or speak to you again.
Perhaps if your family comes over this summer I will finally be able to show you my favorite spot in the gardens, my love. I am there now, writing this letter to you and wishing you were here so that I could hold you and watch your expression as you look around this place… no doubt you would think it beautiful and I would without question say that you are far more beautiful than any garden.
Are you blushing? I would hope so, I fear I am becoming very sappy, a very unusual trait in the house of snakes. I suppose it no longer matters for I am through with school. As much as I will miss you my star, I will not miss the political games and maneuvering of my house, though Father tells me it is good practise for the real world.
Now I wait only until you are going to graduate and then I will approach your father and ask for a betrothal contract between our families. Do not worry about him saying no, beloved star, who would turn down a union with the Noble and Ancient House of Malfoy?
Stunned, Harrigan looked to the next letter, dated a year and a half ago. It was by Sirius and was so blotched and stained in places it was hardly legible, several lines were viciously crossed out as well.
Are you feeling good right now, you smug bastard? I hope so, my mother just announced the WONDERFUL news about my cousin Narcissa's engagement to the MALFOY heir. Considering there is only one, I know she means you. I bet you are laughing at me right now.
I hate you. No, that doesn't convey the depth of my feelings. I doubt there is a word that can but for now I will say that I absolutely LOATHE you. Did you enjoy playing with me, did it make you feel pleasure to see the purest love and devotion in my eyes and know that it was nothing but empty feelings for you?
I will NEVER forgive you for any of this, the very least of all the gardens this summer. Do you know how important that was to me? DO YOU! No, I hardly think so, after all you are the 'Heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Malfoy'.
You got what you wanted, you sick arsehole, a marriage to the House of Black. I hope my cousin makes your life miserable, she's so shallow it's a surprise she hasn't followed her mythological namesake yet and wasted away staring at her reflection.
Suffice to say, HEIR MALFOY, that if I see you again I don't know what I will do, so I never want to. Stay out of my life, stay out of my sight and rot in whatever dark corner you can find, I can think of several.
Sirius Orion Black
Heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black
Unable to believe what he had just read, Harrigan immediately left Sirius' room, both letters in hand and headed to Orion's office. Unless he had severely misunderstood, he now knew exactly why Sirius Orion Black wanted nothing to do with his father and brother, not to mention the purebloods in general.
When Lucius was summoned to his Father's office he was very curious. Their lessons on business and politics were over for the week and he knew of no other reason to get such an official summons. Regardless, he bound his loose hair back with a simple tie and made sure he looked presentable before heading for his Father's private office.
When he reached the door he gave a single brisk knock and was rewarded with a warm, "Come in."
Lucius pushed open the door and was more than relieved for his precautions when he was met with the sight of not only his father but Lord Orion Black himself as well as Lord Harrigan Peverell. He had spoken to both men at his father's little gathering a few weeks prior and had been impressed with both men, as well as relieved that they treated him like his opinions mattered instead of simply talking over his head or ignoring him all together.
"Take a seat, Lucius. Don't worry, you're not in trouble or anything of the like."
He took a seat, greatly relieved by the reassurance. But why did these three powerful individuals want to talk with him? He was flattered of course, anyone would be, but he held no illusions about his influence or input. He was not necessary in their goals.
"Heir Malfoy, I am here on something of a sensitive subject. I know it may be difficult to talk about but it concerns your engagement to my niece Narcissa," Lord Black began.
For a moment Lucius' silvery eyes flashed with annoyance before he carefully cleared his expression. For what made-up reason had the girl contacted her uncle?! If this was another ploy trying to get him to pay more attention to her…
"Heir Malfoy, I must ask you, did you want this engagement to Narcissa?"
The question caught him totally off-guard. He sat still for a long moment, blinking. When he finally registered it he said, "Of course I did, Lord Black. An alliance with the House of Black is an honour."
"That is not what he asked," Lord Peverell put in shrewdly, staring at him with more insight than Lucius quite frankly liked at the moment. "He asked whether you wanted the engagement to Narcissa, not the House of Black."
Wondering what the man was getting at he said, "I knew what Lord Black meant and my answer still stands."
"Would it, if you saw these?" Harrigan waved a couple old pieces of parchment and handed them to Lucius, who stared at him in a somewhat bewildered manner.
"You are meant to read them, Lucius," Harrigan said somewhat primly.
Lucius looked down and his heart leapt into his throat when he saw at the top of the first page the words, Dear Sirius. He didn't need to read any further. His throat tightened and his eyes burned as he stared at the second page, obviously the first draft of the venomous and hurt letter he had received just a week after his betrothal to Narcissa. He didn't need to read it, the words were burned into his memory.
Setting them down he stared firmly at Lord Black and said, "Obviously you have read these, my Lord Black. The question now is, what is the real reason for your presence here today?"
Staring shrewdly at him through a face that reminded him painfully of his beloveds', Orion stated, "The reason for my presence, as you so put it, is to ask why? Why you didn't decline the betrothal to Narcissa? Why you haven't approached me about my eldest, or why did you hurt my eldest, my beloved Dog Star, in this manner?"
Hearing the familiar nickname from father to son, so similar to what he called Sirius himself made Lucius break eye contact and stare at the marble floor for a moment. Gathering his courage he looked up and began to speak.
"As you know, my mother Belladonna was a vicious and self-centered woman who cared nothing about her families' happiness and everything about her status and influence. I do not know how, but she must have managed to catch sight of me an Sirius at one point that summer. She hated homosexuals, despite the fact that they can still produce children."
"One day about a month into the summer, she requested my presence. In the sunroom with her were the Ladies Walburga Black and Druella Rosier-Black. She confronted me about Sirius and I told her bluntly that I wanted him and him only, that I had fallen for him when I was in my 5th year. She was disgusted and told me in no uncertain terms that she refuse to have a Consort Malfoy over a Lady Malfoy while she still lived. She told me that in two days Cygnus Black would approach my father with a contract between myself and Narcissa and I was to agree to it."
"I would have told my mother exactly what she could do with her narrow-minded demands if Lady Walburga had not added that unless I did this it would be very easy for Sirius to have a sudden accident and either die tragically young or be rendered barren for the rest of his life. I may have fought with my own life, but I love Sirius more than anything in this world and I know that Walburga would have found a way to hurt or kill him. I couldn't risk it, so I agreed. One of the 'terms' to our little agreement was that I couldn't even tell Sirius why I had done this, so I ended up hurting him very badly, which I wish with all my heart I could have taken back."
There was silence after he finished his little tale and it was a few minutes at most before Orion Black hissed in anger and snarled, "That bitch couldn't have died soon enough! I know she hated Sirius for some reason but this?! No wonder he won't come home, he thought I knew about it!"
Seeing Lord Black's very emotional reaction to the story made Lucius slightly uncomfortable but also very hopeful. Making a quick decision he stood up and moved to stand in front of the formidable wizard. "Lord Orion Black, may I make a request of you as Head of House Black?"
The formal terms made Orion calm down and stand as well, staring down a few inches at Lucius' face with an imposing mask upon his features. "And what would this request be, Heir of House Malfoy?"
"I formally request your aid as Head of House Black in dissolving the betrothal contract between myself and Narcissa Druella Black, daughter of Cygnus Black. She is unsuitable to me as a wife and bonded. There is another I wish to have as partner for House Malfoy."
The beginnings of a smile twitched upon the elder Lord's face and he turned to Abraxas. His old friend's eyes were sparking with pleasure as he stated, "Lord Malfoy, would you happen to have the betrothal contract in question available?"
Equally pleased, Abraxas responded, "I do, Lord Black."
He opened a drawer and retrieved a piece of gold-coloured parchment.
"Would you have any objections to this dissolution, Lord Malfoy?"
"No, Lord Black, I would not. I agree with my Heir on the suitability of Miss Narcissa Black."
A warm, genuine smile crossed Orion's features as he stated firmly, "Then upon my power as Head of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, I declare the betrothal contract between Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, Heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Malfoy and Miss Narcissa Black, daughter of Cygnus Black and Druella Black nee Rosier to be null and void, so mote it be!"
The parchment on the desk dissolved into bright red and orange flames that scorched neither desk nor the papers Abraxas had been working on when they had Flooed in.
Turning to Lucius the Lord Black smiled warmly and said, "Hopefully with this removed you may fix the situation between yourself and my eldest and perhaps cause the rift between myself and my precious Dog Star to heal as well. I must warn you, the House of Black is famous for it's temper and you may find it difficult to talk to him."
"If I can get him alone I can convince him," Lucius replied firmly, mind awhirl with details. "The hardest bit will be getting him alone. I may know of one of his Gryffindor compatriots that will help, however."
"Good luck, Heir Malfoy. You will need it."
As Lords Black and Peverell made their goodbyes and Flooed back to where they had previously been, Lucius wryly thought to himself, Good luck indeed. I remember my beloved's skill with hexes and curses.
If he could fix this however, it would be more than worth it.