Author’s Note: Much thanks to Zsenya, to whom I am indebted
not only for the beta but also for the idea of enchanted embroidery.
Narcissa Black Malfoy had always
had a gift for magical embroidery. She had the perfect hands for it, or so her
mother said. Andromeda’s hands were too clumsy. Andromeda was different from
her two sisters, even in build. Their aunt uncharitably called her “hearty,”
but Narcissa always thought of her as normal. She looked like the children they
saw in Diagon Alley, rough and ready, as though she was brought up on kidney
pie and fresh air. Bellatrix’s hands were too restless. Long-fingered and agile
they flew along the keys of the Broadwood, but could not be slowed to the pace
of delicate needlework. Narcissa’s hands were smaller than her sisters’, slim,
capable, and above all, patient. Perfectly suited to the painstaking task of coaxing
the enchanted threads into animate works of art. When she was a child, her
father would kiss her pink fingertips and smile. “A lady’s hands,” he would
In the days after Lucius had gone,
Narcissa found that without him, she no longer knew what to do with her hands.
There were no strong shoulders over which to smooth robes, no neat queues
awaiting the tying of a ribbon, no tantalizing bits of skin to stroke. The
house seemed to echo with his absence and for the first time in her life she
felt truly lonely. She tried to occupy herself with the running of the Manor-
feeling the linens for wear, paging through ledgers- but she was a skillful
manager and there was little to do. She took to writing letters, but most of
what ended up on parchment was entirely inappropriate to send to anyone and
went straight into the fire. Eventually, without much conscious thought on the
matter, the embroidery hoop became her companion. Hour after hour she sat
creating elaborate designs with enchanted silk.
One morning the solicitor brought a packet,
along with the news that Lucius would not be released before his Wizengamot hearing.
When the solicitor had left, she tore into the envelope. There were two letters
inside, closed with black wax and the unmistakable M of Lucius’ signet ring. A
quick pass over it with a letter opener revealed the presence of an
enchantment. She wondered idly how he had managed a blood seal in Azkaban. But
then, Lucius had always been resourceful. The other letter was addressed to her
in his familiar, precise hand. She read it, then stared, and read it again. The
missive was mostly instructional. The sealed letter was, apparently, to be given
to Draco along with the family chronicle. There were directions to safely
retrieving it from his study. He also suggested collecting a number of
documents relevant to the estate. She tamped down her irritation at the
impersonal words and fetched the book. The papers she left; Lucius would be
But Lucius did not come back. Narcissa kept on
as normally as she could. She went to tea at the Parkinsons’, Iris smiling a
sickly sweet grin and alluding frequently to the “unfortunate situation.” When
Narcissa returned to the Manor, she used the Reductor curse on the hideous
knickknacks they had received from the Parkinsons every Christmas. Judith Nott
had shown up on her doorstep one morning, babbling hysterically about warrants,
and Aurors in the house. Narcissa had slapped her soundly, scolded her for
failing in her duty to her family, and sent her back. When the Aurors came to
Malfoy Manor, Narcissa sat in the parlor, quietly embroidering monograms with
slithering serpents on to the new silk handkerchiefs Lucius had ordered the
She took a trip to Diagon Alley to break the
monotony of her days. Whispers followed her from shop to shop. People no longer
bothered to hide their stares. She wanted to scream, to demand respect, but for
once neither her bloodline, nor her husband’s name meant anything. Narcissa did
not scream; she shopped. With her head held high she walked among the
whisperers. She made a thorough tour of Diagon Alley buying the latest in
practice Snitches for Draco, and some new books, a basket of silk threads for
herself, and sundry household items. Every time she made a purchase she smiled
icily at the clerk, her eyes telling them that they knew their dirty secret.
They called her husband a monster, were suspicious of her, yet they took the
money all the same. Hypocrites all. And though she felt a cruel satisfaction as
the recipients of her gaze lowered their eyes in shame, she couldn’t erase the
unfamiliar sting of having been judged and found wanting. She did not venture
out again until it was time to pick up Draco from King’s Cross.
The other parents at the station gave Narcissa a
wide berth. She waited as the train pulled up to the platform and students
piled out, stomach sinking as the minutes ticked by. Then at last a fair head
appeared from a doorway near the end of the train, followed by two hulking
figures. They all moved gingerly through the crowd, the two shadows slinking
away, and then Draco was standing before her. He had hex marks again this year,
which she ignored; people were bound to be watching. Instead she smiled wanly
and offered her cheek for a kiss. He seemed relieved that she didn’t fuss over
him. Every inch his father’s son, Draco took control of the trolley and
escorted her through the crowds. He slept the entire way back to the Manor; or
It wasn’t until Draco had disappeared behind his
bedroom door that Narcissa remembered Lucius’ letter. She retrieved it,
slipping it between the pages of the book, and went down the corridor to
Draco’s room. For a moment, she stood outside. What was she going to say to
him? If Lucius was as vague in Draco’s letter as he had been in hers, the boy
was bound to have questions. And if Lucius wasn’t…but of course he would have
been. Would he confide in a sixteen-year-old boy, and not his wife? She looked
down at the book in her hands and felt bitterness rise within her. Even in
Azkaban Lucius had plans, and they did not include her. She opened the door.
“Your father wishes for you to read
Draco reached for the book and his
fingers closed over hers. Narcissa looked into the face of her beautiful boy,
all angles and indignation. He was growing up so fast, and he needed his
father. She wanted so much to tell him how much she loved him, to tell him that
everything would be fine. Her hands very nearly trembled with the desire to
pull him into her arms and stroke his hair. It had been so many years since he
had allowed her that. Draco, her little man. But the time was past for such
things. Without a word, she dropped her hand and hurried from the room.
Dinner that night was nearly unbearable, and
Narcissa found that she was relieved when Draco retired to his room afterwards.
She felt wrung out with the effort of trying to act normally, make polite
conversation. In the master suite, she peeled off her clothes, went into the
bathroom and flicked her wand at the taps of the enormous bathtub. She slipped
on a silk dressing gown and sat at the vanity to remove her jewelry and pull
the pins from her hair. The face illuminated by the sconces was strangely
unfamiliar; the pallor, the faint creases around the mouth and across the
forehead. Even her eyes, the celebrated Black eyes were blank and dull. She
stood and ran her hands down the planes of her stomach and over her hips,
noticing the gauntness for the first time. Her body was in mourning for him.
She was suddenly, consumingly angry. No man did
this to Narcissa Black. Not even Lucius bloody Malfoy. She seized his ivory
handled shaving brush and hurled it at the mirror. It almost seemed as though
the mirror’s screams came instead from her ghostly reflection as it shattered
into a thousand pieces. She stalked into the bedroom, throwing open the doors
of the mahogany wardrobe and pulling out a crisp white dress shirt. She grasped
either side of the collar and tugged, grunting in satisfaction as threads broke
and buttons flew off. A pair of charcoal gray trousers was next; Narcissa
pulling at the front until the seam gave and split them down the crotch. The
items from his bedside table were swept off in one motion, a small inkpot
upending and bleeding onto the carpet.
She glared at the bed, chest heaving. It hadn’t
been changed in an indecently long time. Unable to allow the scent of him to be
washed away, Narcissa had forbidden the linens to be touched and had instead
charmed her side of the bed clean. Now she tore at the sheets, hating the
traces of his musky cologne, hating her own sentimentality. She tossed them
into the fireplace with a growl. As the sheets caught fire Narcissa could feel
the sobs welling up inside her, tears that she had not shed since Lucius’
arrest. She willed them to break free, needing the release of weeping, and yet
none came. Howling with rage and grief she cast about the room, destroying
things, clawing at her skin, until exhausted and gasping she curled up on the
floor in front of the fireplace.
When she woke some time later, her head was
throbbing dully. The house-elf must have come while she was sleeping, as the
room was set to rights. There were fresh linens on the bed, and a nightgown
laid out for her. On her bedside table was a tea service. Narcissa put on the
nightdress, brought a headache potion from the bathroom and poured it into her
cup of tea. She sat on the bed and sipped, staring into the fire. The quiet
chime of the clock down in the foyer broke her reverie. Midnight. Feeling
maudlin, and slightly fuzzy from the potion, Narcissa pulled on her dressing
gown and padded out the door, intent on her most secret indulgence.
When Draco was five years old, there had been a
problem with the Malfoy holdings in France. For more than a year Lucius had
traveled back and forth, and was gone for at least a week at a time. In his
father’s absence Draco had started having nightmares. Narcissa had taken to
sitting by his bed at night, so that she would be there when he woke,
frightened and crying. She whiled away the long hours embroidering, her fingers
working deftly in the dim firelight until she was lulled to sleep by the soft,
snuffling sounds Draco made. Those nights she kept secret, even from her
husband. There was something sacred about them, something so primal about
shielding her child from the shadows that she couldn’t bear to share it with
The door to Draco’s room was ajar. Narcissa
stood in the corridor listening for any sign of wakefulness. All was quiet, and
so she crept through the door. Draco wasn’t in bed, or anywhere else in the
room. Narcissa was just turning to leave when something caught her eye.
Completely out of place in the scrupulously clean room was a piece of paper on
the floor at the foot of the bed. It was Draco’s letter from Lucius; her
husband’s handwriting was unmistakable. She stooped to pick it up, ethics had
never been of much interest to her, and began to read. When she was done, she
dropped it carelessly back to the floor and sat on the bed, rubbing at her
So Lucius thought Draco was ready to become a
man. He wanted Draco to choose a side. She let out a small bitter laugh. What
choice was there, really? He would be as his father was. If Draco had harbored
any doubts, the family chronicle would snuff them out. The Malfoys were a proud
line, their history was compelling, inspiring; it would fire the imagination of
an impressionable boy. She would lose him as she lost his father. He wasn’t
ready to make this choice. Draco was still a child in so many ways- impetuous,
quick to anger, certain of his own privilege and infallibility. He hadn’t yet
learned his father’s reserve nor gained his uncanny gift for self-preservation.
He would not find the Dark Lord’s service as easy to navigate as Lucius had.
Narcissa lay back. The canopy was deep blue.
When Draco was a child Lucius used to charm stars across it, and Draco’s eyes
would go wide. A tear slipped across Narcissa’s temple and into her hair. Draco
never stopped looking at his father as though he set the planets spinning in
the heavens. Another tear made its way across the side of her face, and then
another. Her breath began to hitch, and then she was sobbing quietly, her whole
body shaking. She curled up onto her side in the softness of her son’s bed and
wept out her pain, and her sorrow, and when the tears subsided she smiled. She
felt…real, human, alive for the first time in too long. Narcissa rose from the
bed and hurried back to the master suite. She went to the closet and picked
through the purchases from her last Diagon Alley visit until she found what she
was looking for, then she crossed to the bell pull and summoned the house-elf.
The elf was only too happy to answer Narcissa’s
question, and when it had gone, she took the small wooden box in her hand and
went down to Lucius’ study. The door was closed, and she knocked softly. There
was no answer. She knocked again, and then pushed the door open slowly. Draco
was slumped over Lucius’ desk, facedown in the open family chronicle. His
features were slack and his hair shone golden in the firelight. Narcissa
crossed the room silently, grabbing a blanket from the back of a chair, and
stood over Draco’s shoulder. She set the blanket and the little box on the desk
and ever so gently lifted his head, pushing it back until he was upright again,
temple resting in the corner of the wingback chair. Then she spread the blanket
over his body, tucking it up under his chin. Draco’s eyes fluttered open.
Narcissa reached out and brushed the hair out of
his eyes. “You fell asleep.” Draco sniffed and pushed off the blanket. “I
bought you something.” She put the small wooden box into his hands.
He sat up and looked from her, to the box, and
back. “It’s not…” he undid the catch and the box sprang open, and there was the
soft flutter of tiny wings. The Snitch rose a few inches from its resting place
drifted from side to side as though it were considering its next move, then
accelerated. Draco was on his feet in a second, his right hand shooting out and
pulling the struggling golden ball out of the air. He whooped in triumph and
turned a brilliant smile towards Narcissa.
“I thought you might like it. I thought, maybe,
I could strengthen the concealment charms by the West gate and you could
“Thanks Mum.” Draco kissed
Narcissa’s cheek. He unfurled his fingers, letting the Snitch hover for a
moment before grasping it tight once more.
“But perhaps now you ought to go to
Draco looked longingly at his
closed fist before picking up the wooden case and placing the Snitch inside.
“Goodnight Mother,” he said, and kissed her again before leaving.
Narcissa waited for the door to
close, and a few seconds more to be sure he wasn’t coming back, then she sat at
the desk. Draco had got as far as the French Revolution. Julian Malfoy had
staged a daring rescue of his cousins and secured their property and assets,
forever cementing the bond between the English and French branches of the
family. It had been Lucius’ favorite story as a young man. Narcissa sighed,
pulled a length of black ribbon from the right hand drawer to mark the page,
closed the book, and left.
Back in the master suite, she peeled of her clothing
and took a warm shower, letting the water wash away the tension in her body.
She dressed and plaited her hair. The bed did not seem particularly inviting.
After a moment’s consideration, she picked up her embroidery hoop and basket of
silks, and tucked her wand into the belt of her dressing gown.
The corridor outside Draco’s room was dark and
quiet. Narcissa opened the door silently and slipped inside. He was asleep,
wrapped in blankets up to the neck. Moonlight shone through the open windows,
making a halo of his white-blond hair. With a swish of her wand she conjured a
chair by the window and sat, facing out into the darkness. She took up the
hoop, hands moving in familiar patterns as she listened to the soft sound of
her son’s breathing.