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Pale Serpents

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 "What does he mean, demanding explanations from me!  How dare that worm demand anything from me!" Lucius was in a temper, snarling and hurling spells that shattered ornamental objects as he stalked down the hall.  A trail of broken porcelain and shattered furniture, as well as shredded curtains marked his progress.

 Narcissa sighed, rubbing at her temple.  Lucius was clearly furious, and his precious Malfoy pride had been insulted.  She wondered if it had been some irritation at the Ministry, or one of the other followers of the Dark Lord.  Most of all, she wondered what his current rage would mean for her.

 "Without me, he would still be an insignificant nobody, scrabbling for someone - anyone - to notice him!  Still certain the name Fudge only meant sticky sweets.  And he would have been justified in that certainty!"

 Ahhh, Lucius was ranting about Cornelius Fudge.  Which meant the Ministry and politics.  Narcissa had no desire to find herself caught in any sort of argument or discussion about politics or specific politicians, especially since anything resembling disagreement would only lead to pain.  She had no desire to be the object of Lucius's wrath this time - or any time.

 With as little noise as she could manage, Narcissa slipped from the side room and into the gardens.  Once there, she apparated herself to the Bulstrode home, where she glanced about the front gardens before apparating herself to the Parkinson Manor, where she gave an inspection to the impressive front gates while catching her breath.  After that, she apparated herself to London.  She was feeling far too tired for the little magic that she'd been doing.

 If fate smiled, a discreet visit to St. Mungo's could give an explanation for her recent fatigue.  She'd been sleeping more, and having less energy.  Even a few spells here and there would leave her feeling the effects, as if her magic was slipping away.  It bothered her, because she had been very careful to do all she could to stay healthy, and there were very few things which caused a witch to be able to access less magic.  Most ranged from bad to disastrous.

 With less luck, she would have no answers, but still avoid Lucius and his current foul temper.

...........................

 Willow made a gesture, and the next batch of homework essays leapt through the air to land on the edge of her desk.  Her fifth years were supposed to read up about various sorts of lingering dead, and write essays about one type, with an explanation about why they chose the dead that they picked, what the dangers of that sort of dead thing were, and how to deal with one.  Letting them pick one should keep the essays from blurring together.

 If she were feeling chatty, Willow might admit that she was particularly curious about a few of these essays.  Draco, who'd asked her to help review the material.  Hermione Granger, who seemed to be an academic over-achiever in a way that reminded Willow just a little of herself at that age.  Harry Potter, trouble magnet, who seemed to be able to find danger and plots anywhere he went, even international sporting events.  And Su Li, who'd caused her to wonder if there were Watchers or Potential Slayers lurking in her family tree on several occasions.

 She kept perusing the homework essays, trying desperately to keep her mind away from the attempt to kill her in London.  The ambush had been organized, deliberate, and intended to kill her, probably slowly and with some torture thrown in for bad measure.  Organized by people who just didn't like where she came from, didn't like her ancestry.  Organized by bigots.

 It made her furious.

 As her magic had replenished, her hair had darkened, becoming a light-swallowing black.  Her eyes were still dark green, mostly, though she suspected her voice would have a bit of the creepy echo if she thought too much about the latest attempt on her life.  Furious, and wanting to flay-incinerate-shred the ones responsible.  Ideas about horrible, painful doom shifted in her mind, along with the awful whisper that if she'd just given in, not fought against the dark magic, against her temper, they would all have perished.  Whispered that she wouldn't have needed a vampire, no matter how muscular or smooth-talking, to save her.

 Willow knew better than to trust those whispers.

 She checked half the papers wanting to ask Severus or perhaps Narcissa questions to sort out who would be attempting to kill her or have her killed - knowledge was power and often determined living or dying.  Willow had always favored outcomes where she lived. The other half were attempting to cling to her not-knowing and thus deny herself the targets for destructive vengeance that might resemble the smite-y wrath of at least an aspiring godling.  She was sure she could do it, though that might be the dark magic whispering, and her own overconfident vengeful side.

 By the end of the stack of essays, Willow had a plan.  She would talk to Severus, and Narcissa, and maybe even Narcissa’s uncle Kiarran about the current political shape of magical Britain.  She’d learn who might have been responsible for the attack.  She’d learn who had deep roots and a taste for trouble.  Where they lived, who their allies were, and what strategies they used.

 Then she’d destroy them.

 It might be best not to tell Giles too much.  It would only make him tut and fret.  She suspected Severus and Narcissa would approve of the idea, and worry about the methodology and proof of culpability.  Kiarran would probably consider it fun.

End Pale Serpents 20: Musings.