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Lucius ficlet, from hp_uk_meetup (III)

Here's the third, and longest, of my contributions to the hp_uk_meetup -- a nod to H.P. Lovecraft. Enjoy!


Shadow Over Wiltshire
Even now I'm not sure what to make of what happened that afternoon. The tale the old man told -- so far as we could string it together -- is so incredible, so horrifying, that I can scarcely give it credence. Tony believes it. But if it's true then all I thought I knew of the world is shattered. How can I exist -- go to work, enjoy a pint with my mates, make love to Jenny -- knowing of the hungry black horror out there waiting, hunting for a way in?

But let me tell it in order. The three of us had gone to Amesbury in Wiltshire for the day, because Jack's American friend Tony wanted to see Stonehenge. We stopped for a pub lunch in Wootton Bassett, and round about the fourth pint we were feeling festive. Jack's attention was caught by an old drunk in the corner.

He elbowed Tony. "Check out the gaffer there. What d'you suppose he's on about?"

Tony and I turned to look. Long, thick white hair fanned out over the man's shoulders. His speech was low but intelligible; despite the blurring of drink, his voice was cultured, with a faint accent -- French, I thought. "Dark," he muttered, eyes fixed on nothing we could see. "Endless empty dark all through the house...blackness from outside but now it's inside..."

We exchanged raised eyebrows. A cut above your average neighborhood soak -- the black clothes weren't off the rack, the boots looked like high-quality leather, and a glass of something amber sat by his elbow instead of the usual pint. "So tired," he went on. "Always keeping it at bay...and Draco doesn't believe...running out of time..."

"Let's wind him up, eh?" Jack picked up his pint and went over to the table in the corner. Sitting down across from the old man he lifted his glass in greeting. "Everything all right, mate?"

The old man raised his head slowly. "You don't want to know." He took a long sip of his drink and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Stay away. Mal fois."

Jack winked at us over the gaffer's shoulder. "A 'bad time' is it? Are they French then, these people who own the scaaaary house full of darkness?"

"French, yes, later. " The man straightened, sensing mockery through the alcoholic haze, and I realized that the impression of age was misleading. Not years but strain, and perhaps fear, had aged this man. "Before that, Roman. Before that, who knows? We were old when the Etruscans came, a very old family, we go back into the dark years, back into the dark, back before..." He trailed off with a cunning look, as though recollecting he should not be telling secrets to strangers. "French. Yes."

Jack beckoned to us and, intrigued despite ourselves, we joined him. As we sat down the old man eyed us, arrogance flowing back into his posture. Close to, the fine features, the pale skin, the slender sensitive hands, the aristocratic tilt to the head all told of a heritage of wealth and privilege. On the bench beside him lay a long black cane with a silver head, carved in the shape of a striking snake.

Jack leaned in conspiratorially. "So this darkness..."

The man's eyes narrowed. "You know nothing. Muggle!" He spat the last word as though ridding himself of a foul taste. I had no idea what it meant but clearly it was intended as an insult.

"Sure now, of course we don't," Jack said soothingly. "So tell us, then."

He glared at the three of us, only a slight weaving betraying the fact he was pissed as a newt. "Why do I bother protecting the likes of you from horrors beyond your comprehension? Mudbloods loosed it on the world, it was never our responsibility. I should let it eat your souls, let you scream for eternity as it feasts." He took another drink, and the smoky scent of fine single malt accompanied his exhalation of disgust. "But it wouldn't stop there."

"If you're planning to save us, mate, you might want to slow up there," Tony said with a wink.

The man uncoiled to his full height with terrifying speed, seizing Tony's collar in a vise-like grip and jerking him half-up out of his chair. "Filthy Mudblood!" he hissed.

"Here now," Jack began. "You can't --"

"Silencio!" The man slashed his free hand through the air -- and Jack's voice shut off as though his throat had been cut. I tried to protest and found I could not say a word to save my life.

The old man released his hold and Tony fell back, mouth hanging open. The man gave the three of us a look of deepest contempt, then waved a hand negligently. "Sobrietus," he said. The mangled Latin should have been ridiculous, but somehow we didn't feel like laughing. And though you may not believe me, at that instant all traces of beer-induced muzziness vanished and I was sober as a judge.

So too, obviously, was the man across the table. Cold grey eyes looked out from nameless depths, and in them I saw the ghost of an ancient nobility, ruined by pride and ambition but still standing tall. "Fools. You have no idea what I do for you and your pathetic kind. You cannot conceive what waits beyond the light, what lurks in eternal vigilance in the darkness, alert for a chance to break through, to rip your soul from your body and devour it. Slowly." He picked up his drink and took a healthy sip. "There is the supreme irony. I, of all people, reduced to protecting you pathetic creatures from the stupidity of one of your own. Tom Riddle, the Heir of Slytherin!" He gave a bitter laugh with no humor in it. "Not a drop of wizarding blood in him, despite all Dumbledore's genealogical guesswork. Pure undadulterated Muggle. But he found the Necronomicon, oh yes. And read it."

Although the people he spoke of meant nothing to me, at the name of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazrad's book I went sick and cold, as though an obscene spider had spat poison in my face. Glancing at Jack I saw no comprehension in his face -- but Tony had gone as pale as skim milk, his eyes staring wide in horror.

The man leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. I wondered if he had forgotten we were there. "Oh, I supported him at first, I don't deny it. I thought he was simply a powerful wizard; my only goal was to further enrich my family and enhance our reputation. How could I have guessed the truth? A Mudblood not only finds the mad Arab's manuscript, but seduces my sister-in-law, whose knowledge of the Pnakotic manuscripts gave her the ancient knowledge required to read it. Incredible!" He shook his head. "But so it was. They called on the Great Old Ones, thinking to bargain with them. On Yog-Sothoth, on Nyarlathotep, on Yogash the Ghoul, on Shub-Niggurath, the Goat with a Thousand Young. And they came, in all their creeping vastness and their infinite undying hunger."

As he spoke the unfamiliar names, I felt a nauseous horror seeping through me. I seemed to sense an abyss opening at my feet, filled with a shapeless but sentient evil. The afternoon sunlight shining golden through the windows lost its vitality, became thin and desperate, and fluttering batwings of darkness nibbled at its edges. Tony looked like death itself.

"Fools. One does not bargain with Those Who Cannot Be Named." He sipped his drink, savoring the amber liquid. "When I realized what they had done I went in search of the binding spells of R'lyeh. Scrolls that have not been read in five million years gave up their secrets to me. They did not expect anyone to stand against them -- who can weave a net to hold a nothingness? But I did. I bound them in the deepest cellars of the Manor, caves which go back to the nameless Years Before. And there I keep them."

He sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching out long black-clad legs. "But I am tired, and I am not immortal. Draco does not believe me -- he thinks my mind is unhinged." His mouth twisted in a grimace. "He has no idea how much I wish it were so. Without someone to maintain the wards, when I am gone they will be free. Free to crawl the earth, to eat light and joy, and belch a blackness darker and emptier than you can possible imagine."

He stood, a tall slender man with grey eyes like ice, infinitely proud, infinitely weary. "Finite incantatem," he muttered, then turned and walked away, leaving us haunted with the thought of what may someday come stalking from the shadows.



My other two contributions are here and here.

Comments

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daiseechain
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
I'm still loving this.



delphipsmith
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thanks :)
lokifan
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
Fantastic!
delphipsmith
Jul. 13th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
Thanks :)
critterel
Jul. 20th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
This is incredible. Just absolutely incredible...a sort of reformed Lucius but having lost none of his arrogance or pride. Just tired. About time to smack some sense into Draco, me thinks.

Clare
delphipsmith
Jul. 20th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, that's what I was going for -- it's still our old friend in there, with all his pure-bred snootiness (because after all, that's why we love him, isn't it?). And yes, Draco needs to learn a lesson. Maybe I'll write a sequel :)

Edited at 2010-07-20 03:06 am (UTC)
critterel
Jul. 20th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
It'd be kind of cool if Draco was called in for questioning by the Aurors...maybe Lucius was taken in to St Mungo's for magical exhaustion or maybe those Muggles went to the police and Harry had to go interview them and then had to follow up on their odd stories of the aristocratic man's tales of "Tom Riddle" and basically hell being locked in the basement of a manor in Wiltshire.

You can probably smell the bunnies multiplying eh?

ROFL.

I'd LOVE to see what you come up with. When Noe said that you write about Lucius I trotted right on over. He's my absolute favorite character. There is just so much possibility in him. He can be so bad, or capable of so much familial love...you really never know what he'll do. He's fascinating. And he's handsome as sin which doesn't hurt either...

Clare
delphipsmith
Jul. 20th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
He can be so bad, or capable of so much familial love...you really never know what he'll do. He's fascinating. And he's handsome as sin

Yes, the total package LOL!! I assume you found the other two just prior to this one; there's one more very short piece buried way back here in Oct 2009 if you're interested :)


Edited at 2010-07-20 11:06 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
delphipsmith
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth thank you...
inamac
Apr. 28th, 2012 04:25 am (UTC)
Ooooh1 Lovely and atmospheric. Bookmarks.
delphipsmith
Apr. 28th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
Thanks :) Ooh, and nice icon. That's a bit how I picture him doing battle with Nyarlathotep!

Edited at 2012-04-28 04:50 am (UTC)
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