The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne-Cara Apple  Story: The Swan  Chapter: Default
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The first expression on baby Draco’s face, once he had stopped wailing and had been passed from the Healer to his father, was a sneer

The Swan

Anne-Cara Apple

 

 

 

The first expression on baby Draco’s face, once he had stopped wailing and had been passed from the Healer to his father, was a sneer. His lip curled up above toothless gums and he squirmed in Lucius’s arms, making whimpers of protest till his father deposited him in her arms.

 

 She looked down at his red, still-sneering face. Damn, Narcissa thought tiredly. Malfoy characteristics show up early.

 

--

 

Owls bearing elegantly-penned congratulations arrived constantly over the next few days and even weeks, from relatives and old schoolmates and members of the wizarding aristocracy whom she’d never met. One of the owls she saw flying by the window was a tawny, scruffy little thing that was only vaguely familiar, but all owls blended together after a long enough time. A house-elf brought her the silver tray with the cards that had arrived in the last hour, and upon reading the third of six cards, she knew why the owl had seemed familiar.

 

My dear Narcissa,

 

Congratulations on the birth of your son; I compliment you on your choice of names. (Here a little flower had been idly inked, the stem curving into a vine that curled into the margins.)

 

I know you don’t consider me worthy of communication anymore, but we are still blood, no matter what you or anyone else might say. I should like to get to know my nephew; if you feel that is not a possibility, then I should at least like to remain in contact—friendly contact—with you. My daughter is eight and I like to think I know something in the way of raising children. You know I would be able to help, more than any house-elf. Please let me.

 

Our mother did not raise us to be so petty as this.

 

I await your answer and remain

 

Ever your sister,

Andromeda Celestine Black Tonks

 

The owl’s name, she recalled, was Diogenes, and Narcissa slipped the card back into its envelope, setting it in the pile with all the rest, resolving to deal with them later.

 

--

 

It remained to be seen whether her son’s hair would take after his father’s silver or her own pale gold. For now his hair was so pale as to be white, so fine as to be translucent. Narcissa ran her fingers through it as she held him, gazing down on his sleeping face and his little hands curled into fists. “The Malfoy heir,” she said softly, sing-song to him. “The Malfoy heir, that’s you, love.” That had always been Lucius’s pride, to have had a son from the very first pregnancy, to not have to go through the struggle her own parents had, producing only girls. She was glad it didn’t seem to pass through the generations, for Narcissa had always taken after her mother in everything else.

 

In the back of her mind, Narcissa had hoped to have a little girl, someone to coddle and pamper and cover with pretty things and raise up in the ways of society. Next time, then, she consoled herself. At least be glad you’ve a strong boy. He’ll make both families proud, Malfoy and Black.

 

And she wouldn’t let him forget he was part Black, if she had her way. That worried at the back of her mind, too, that Lucius would so monopolize their son’s upbringing that he would only know his father’s side of the genealogy. She hoped he looked at least a bit like she did; that would make it easier to impart family history. “You have the same nose as your Grandpapa Cygnus,” she would say to him, and he would say, “Tell me about Grandpapa Cygnus,” and there would be nothing Lucius could do about it.

 

Yet she and Lucius looked so much alike that it might in fact be possible for her husband to impose his family’s names on top of those that were her own. There were not untrue rumors that they were related—most Purebloods were—but they may have been more closely tied than other old families. To her, though, it didn’t matter how they were related; it just made their son more Pureblooded than most. 

 

Draco wriggled in her arms. “Hush now,” she whispered. “Go back to sleep, love. I’m here, I’ll take care of you.”

 

It seemed to work for the time being, although she knew sooner or later that she’d have to let him go to sleep in the white-cushioned bassinet that had been hers, once upon a time. “I won’t give my son hand-me-downs,” Lucius had declared scornfully. “He’s a Malfoy; he deserves the best.”

 

Narcissa had crossed her arms, a stubborn spark in her eyes. “It’s French craftsmanship,” she retorted. “It’s been in my family for generations, and Merlin knows it’s better quality and worth more than anything you could go out and buy now.”

 

They had compromised, in the end. Now, while Draco was younger, they would use her—and sometimes his—family heirlooms. But when the time came that Draco was older, Lucius would spare no expense for his heir.

 

Narcissa sniffed. That was all well and good to buy their son whatever he wanted, but she did hope that her husband kept a little sense in his head. Robes and toys were one thing, but if Draco wished to redecorate his rooms and Lucius let him—well, she would have to intervene there. Blacks were not the sort of family who bought their own furniture, and she would see to it that the Malfoys weren’t, either.

 

The fact was, the Malfoys were the sort of family who Talked About Money. It was an old name, to be sure, and so merited respect just for that, but the actual Malfoy fortune had only really been cemented within the last fifty years. If she wasn’t mistaken, it had been Lucius’s grandfather’s generation, Cassius Malfoy, as well as his three other siblings, who had first enjoyed a life of palpable wealth. Their father, Ignatius, had set about taking what had been a comfortable fortune from lands and investments and had—well, she didn’t really know what he’d done. Rumor had it that he’d been involved in smuggling during the Muggles’ Great War, with his son Cassius taking over during the war with Grindelwald, and it wouldn’t have surprised her if that were the truth. Certainly it would explain why the fortune hadn’t seemed to grow nearly so much in recent years. Abraxas Malfoy had been a diplomat and was rarely, if ever, at home. The Malfoy estate had landed in Lucius’s hands when he was seventeen, due to his father’s untimely death by dragon pox following a duel against a Bolivian warlock.

 

At some point, Lucius seemed to have realized that he was possessed of enough money that it wasn’t really a necessity for him to actually do anything. To be sure, he held a Ministry position and sat on the boards of several companies, but the former only meant he had to make a show of being there each day before leaving for lunch, and the latter didn’t require him to do more than attend monthly meetings. The idle rich, Narcissa thought, with you just as idle as he is, for now. You’ll be grateful for it when Draco learns to walk, at least.

 

The Blacks, of course, had not needed to work for a living, with investments going back centuries. Still, her father was high on the board of Gringotts, and so made a living of entertainment, throwing bimonthly fundraising parties for the charity of the moment. All of the money went directly to Gringotts—it was just that some of it went to her father’s vaults instead of the bank’s. Her mother had been the perfect hostess, and Narcissa was determined to follow her example. She wasn’t going to be one of those mothers who left the raising of children to a house-elf. No, she was going to be involved, she was going to be attentive, and she was going to do it all while being the model society wife.

 

But what if you have other children? a voice whispered in her mind. What will you do then?

 

Well, her mother had managed fine, raising three daughters; managed fine despite the smug smiles Aunt Walburga had turned in her direction, smiles and raised eyebrows that spoke of two sons to carry on the family name, of purer blood and a longer pedigree. But Aunt Walburga had no more sons in the year 1980, for Regulus had died a year ago, and Sirius had long been disowned. Now it was her mother’s turn for knowing smiles—never smug, no; “Smugness is classless, girls,” she had said once at a family gathering, giving a pointed look at her sister-in-law from across the room. “Never be smug. It is most unbecoming on girls as beautiful as you.”

 

Indeed, her mother had done more than just manage. She had done impeccably well, as she had in all things. Narcissa knew that her mother had never let a House-elf look after the children when she was capable of doing it herself, and she knew that even when her mother wasn’t capable, she’d dressed and primped before the mirror to insure that not an eyelash would be out of place so that neither of her daughters would ever gather that something was wrong. And she knew, though she had never been told, that her mother was dying.

 

It was easy to see, if you knew what to look for. Her mother’s skin was not quite so smooth as it used to be, and though it had always been pale, lately it had taken on a quality that approached translucency. Her hands trembled when she poured tea; when she raised her own teacup to her lips, some of the liquid spilled over. To the casual eye, her hair was perfectly coiffed, but Narcissa saw how her French twist was not quite centered, how stray hairs curled loosely behind her ears. Sometimes a crumb would fall and she wouldn’t notice, and it would remain on her robes till some movement sent it to the floor. Her robes themselves began to become faintly wrinkled, something that by most standards would noticeable only under close inspection, but this was her mother and Narcissa knew that she always cast charms to remove wrinkles before putting anything on, even if there hadn’t been any wrinkles to start with. Now it was as if she couldn’t summon the strength.

 

She doubted Bella had noticed. Her sister and Rodolphus were busy doing whatever it was they did, and neither had seen fit to tell Narcissa anything. She doubted it was anything quite legal, or if they even had legitimate jobs. If she asked Bellatrix, her sister would laugh—oh, but Bella had a piercing laugh—and tell her to stop being foolish. She’d asked Lucius, a bit of a tremor in her voice (what if he laughed, too?), and he had laughed, but it had a kind sound, not a mocking one. “They serve our Lord,” he told her, patting her arm reassuringly. “That’s all you need to know.”

 

“Lucius, she’s my sister,” she’d said reproachfully. “I think I have a right to know. Don’t you shut me out too.”

 

“I’m not shutting you out,” he’d said, and his silver-gray eyes had flashed. “I’m protecting you. The less you know the better, Narcissa, and it’s bad enough you can identify more than a dozen of the Dark Lord’s servants off the top of your head.” He had drawn her close. “I don’t want you hurt if things go badly. Someone’s got to see to the estate, after all.”

 

He’d laughed. She hadn’t found it funny.

 

It didn’t seem fair that her mother would be dying so soon after Draco had been born; grandmothers were supposed to be there to spoil their grandchildren, to buy them impractical toy brooms and sneak them candies before dinner. Lucius’s mother was still alive, it was true, yet Blodwen Malfoy hardly struck Narcissa as the kind of woman who would pamper.

 

In too many ways, her mother-in-law reminded her of Bella; if they felt anything, they felt it intensely and sharp-edged, committing life and breath and blood. Lucius was ever so much more languorous than his mother, yet now and then she had seen a cold look come into his eyes and he became focused and cutting, sharply purposed in everything he did. In those moments her husband became dangerous, and Narcissa, knowing what was best for her, retreated into the safety of her study until he came and sought her out.

 

There was a leopard coiled beneath her husband’s skin, she thought, smoothing her son’s pale hair. He would despise the feline comparison, scornfully asking if she was trying to paint him a Gryffindor, but it was true nonetheless. Bellatrix was all serpent, all the time, lashing out with glistening fangs before recoiling, tensed for another strike. Lucius, on the other hand, liked to play with his prey, batting them about before breaking their necks with one swift bite. He was intense when the mood struck him, and almost entirely unconcerned otherwise, napping with one eye open.

 

She didn’t think she could be objective enough to analyze herself into an animal, for that form of analysis required acknowledgment of all faults and strengths together. Oh, she recognized her damaging faults, of course; Narcissa was far too much of a perfectionist to allow such major flaws to escape her view. But to the little ones, the ones that some saw as quirks and others as irritants, she turned a blind eye. If any developed into a problem, why, it should have to be corrected. Otherwise, why bother? Everyone needed to have a Persian flaw or two.

 

“A swan,” Sirius would have said. “You’d look all graceful, yeah, but as soon as you glared and opened up your beak and hissed, people wouldn’t be nearly so keen to be around you anymore.”

 

Of course, she hadn’t seen Sirius since her wedding, and only briefly then; it just wouldn’t do for one of her class to associate with blood traitors. Yet memories, even ones that she made up for self-analysis, weren’t associations. You had to remember, or else you would forget—a simple phrase, perhaps an obvious one, but that was what Blacks did. “How can the Blacks remain Toujours Pur if we cannot remember our history?” Aunt Walburga had asked, stalking back and forth before the tapestry. “But don’t forget that there are two parts to the motto—Toujours, yes, for we have always been and must always remember, but what have we been?” She had smiled thinly, coldly, smugly. “Pure, my dears. Pur. It is not enough to exist; we must exist with all purity of blood. When members of our family turn blood traitor, they are not only betraying us, they are betraying everything it is that the House of Black represents.” Then, patronizingly, she gathered Narcissa and Bellatrix close before the tapestry, indicating with her thin ebony wand. “Look there, my dears. That’s your side of the family—your parents, the two of you….” Her smile turned cruel. “And your dear sister Andromeda. Exterminus!”

 

There had been a great flare of light then, and even after it had faded Narcissa was still blinking glowing spots from her vision. “There will be no more Andromeda Black now,” Aunt Walburga said coldly. “This is what happens to blood traitors, girls. They don’t deserve any better than that.” And she swept from the room, all dark hair and dark robes, past Narcissa’s mother, who was standing pale and withdrawn just inside the room.

 

“The Blacks must always remain pure,” her mother had said quietly when Aunt Walburga was gone, a faraway look in her eyes and a sigh lingering behind her voice. She had never said more on the matter, claiming that what was done was done, and it wasn’t worth wasting breath over things that could no longer be changed.

 

“Toujours Pur, love,” Narcissa whispered, kissing Draco’s forehead lightly and laying him gently in the bassinet. “Sleep well.”

 

--

 

“Milk and sugar?”

 

“Oh—no, thank you, I shouldn’t. I’m trying to lose the baby weight.”

 

“Don’t be foolish, Narcissa. Never deprive yourself of a small pleasure like this; a little bit of sugar will hardly make a difference.”

 

“Yes, Mother. Thank you. Oh, here, let me pour for you, please.”

 

A faint breeze wafted the lace curtains; outside, a small white butterfly fluttered a pattern through the air. The women, pale and golden, sipped their tea in silence.

 

“Mother?”

 

“Mm?”

 

“Mother, how long have you been in contact with—her?”

 

The elder of the women replaced her teacup in its saucer with the faintest of rattles.

 

“Oh, Narcissa, my dear. Try to understand this. She may be removed from the tapestry, but that doesn’t change the blood that runs through her veins—remove the Black and she is still a Rosier of my blood. I know she has betrayed her father’s ideals, and if he wishes to turn his back on her then he may. But I bore her, I raised her, and I love her still. She is mine, even if she is not his. Rosiers do not abandon their own.”

 

“But, Mother, you’re a Black now. You’ve been one for years.”

 

“Do you consider yourself any less a Black because you married a Malfoy?” She smiled thinly. “Of course not. Why should you? You were raised a Black and a Black you shall remain. Andromeda does not consider herself any less a Black either, despite all that has occurred. She has not changed since she bore the family name. But I do believe…if there is one thing I failed at as a mother, it was not raising you to also be a Rosier.”

 

“You’ve never failed at anything, Mother.”

 

“Don’t be so naïve, my dear. We all have our failures, you know that. It doesn’t matter if no one else can see them. They’re still there.”

 

Under the table, Narcissa’s hands fidgeted with her napkin. “…she sent me a letter.”

 

“She would. Andromeda always did like to write. Have you responded?”

 

“Not yet.”

 

“No, you wouldn’t have. I hope you’ll give it some consideration at the very least.”

 

“I will.”

 

“I’m glad to hear that. Now,” said her mother. “Let me pour you some more tea.”

 

“Aren’t you going to ask how I knew?” Narcissa asked.

 

“My dear, I have never made a secret of it, for those who listen carefully enough. The Blacks must always remain pure—but the Rosiers have never said any such thing.”

 

--

 

The silver curve of the moon hung high in the sky, appearing to be just barely brushing the tops of the trees on the grounds of Malfoy Manor. Two candles lit Lucius’s study with pale, unburnable fire; Narcissa sat on the divan, absently turning the pages of a collection of French essays on wizarding fashion, a steaming cup of tea on the antique end table. Her mother had insisted that all her daughters be educated in more than just magic, but she had been the only one who had taken well to languages; Bella had rebelled against it all, and Andromeda had preferred to do maths, which she had then channeled into a great talent for Arithmancy. But Narcissa spoke and read French fluently and Italian only slightly less so. Her Spanish was passable—if on occasion accidentally peppered with Italian—and she could carry on a polite conversation in Russian. You would have made a fine diplomat’s wife, she thought. A pity that Lucius was often far from diplomatic.

 

He was fully capable of diplomacy, of course, but pride filled him with scorn for those lesser than he, and he saw no reason to feign politeness to those whose company he did not and would never keep. Now married and a mother, it was impossible for Narcissa to go into diplomacy herself, but she had never really wanted to. She alone of her sisters had accepted the responsibility of being groomed to be a society wife. In less Pureblooded circles, that role might be looked down upon, but there was a great tradition of social gatherings among the old families (the old and wealthy families, that is; the Weasleys may have been as old as dirt, but they were as poor as it, too). They occurred at least monthly and on a rotational basis; Narcissa had never seen her mother so harried as on the occasion that they had hosted a societal gathering and a Gringotts fundraiser within a week of each other. Narcissa herself kept a busy social calendar, hosting or attending teas five days a week and dining with a different family each week.

 

Tonight she had played hostess to Rutherford and Adriana Flint, whose six-year-old son, Marcus, accompanied them. As dinnertime had grown near, Lucius had remained absent; at first, she had assumed he was working late, but as Marcus began to complain ever more loudly about being hungry, it became obvious that her husband was not going to be on time. Narcissa was about to rise and see if she could contact him via Floo, when Adriana said, “I find it absolutely remarkable that you’re entertaining so soon after giving birth, my dear; Merlin knows I couldn’t have managed it. It almost strains the bounds of credulity.”

 

“I’ve always found it better to return to things as quickly as possible,” Narcissa said with a polite smile. “Draco is quite a docile and cooperative child, so I needn’t postpone any of my engagements for him.” Having avoided looking askance at the ill-behaved Flint boy herself, Narcissa was pleased to see Adriana’s lips tighten as she glanced at her son.

 

Eventually, unable to postpone eating any longer, they adjourned to the dining room, her husband remaining conspicuously absent. “Is Lucius ill?” Rutherford questioned, raising an eyebrow at the empty seat.

 

“Oh no, he’s entirely healthy, but thank you for your concern,” she answered. “I had forgotten—he told me this morning that he might be called to the continent on business. I can’t believe that slipped my mind; I do hope you’ll forgive me.”

 

It was a torturous evening, and when the salmon served didn’t agree with Marcus’s stomach and he vomited all over the table, Narcissa exclaimed with the proper amount of sympathy for poor Marcus’s delicate constitution and ushered the Flints from the house with as much haste as propriety allowed.

 

Now, sitting in an ivory dressing-gown and reading French essays, she waited for her husband to come home. It was many more hours before he did, and when he finally Apparated into his study, the moon was low in the grayish-purple of the pre-dawn sky. “Welcome home, Lucius,” Narcissa said, setting aside her fourth cup of tea of the night. “Tea?”

 

He gave a start. “Narcissa!” he exclaimed, and in the pale light of the candles she saw that he held a mask in one hand and his face was streaked with sweat. There was a smell about him of blood and feces, and she narrowed her eyes.

 

“Go clean yourself,” she said coolly. “I’ll be right here when you come back.”

 

No doubt he took a long, luxurious bath in order to postpone the inevitable, for it was nearly an hour before her husband returned. “My dear, you must be so tired,” he began.

 

“I don’t want to hear it,” Narcissa said, for she was indeed tired. “I gather that you forgot about last night?”

 

“Last night?”

 

“Oh, yes. We were to dine with Rutherford and Ariana Flint and their wretched son last night. As you didn’t see fit to tell me that you were going to be elsewhere, I was forced to dine with them alone.”

 

Lucius sat across from her in a wing chair. “Did they ask where I was?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“And you…”

 

“Lied, of course,” she said shortly. “I told them you’d been called to the continent on business. Lucius, you told me that this business with the Dark Lord would never interfere with the rest of your life!”

 

“It was only the Flints,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that they believed your little story.”

 

Only the Flints have large enough mouths to blab that you stood me up in our own home, ‘business’ or no! Between the two of them, this will be all over the high families within a week!”

 

“You’re blowing this out of proportion, Narcissa,” he laughed. “Most of the people I was with tonight were from the high families.”

 

She looked at him coldly. “And it will do nothing to gain their respect when they find out that you were careless enough to forget about your prior commitment and leave yourself open to that kind of embarrassment!” He moved to reply and she cut him off sharply. “No. No, Lucius, I have been with you when the Dark Lord’s called; I know that if you have the time to conjure up those ridiculous robes, then you have the time to dash off an owl to your wife! But you didn’t, and that tells me that you forgot.”

 

“Everyone forgets,” said Lucius. “But you have my sincere apologies. I don’t see why you didn’t just turn the Flints away, though,” he said thoughtfully. “My mother does that whenever she doesn’t feel like dealing with visitors.”

 

“Your mother once laced biscuits with cyanide and had everyone admire their almond flavoring!”

 

He blinked at her, unruffled. “And?”

 

“She’s lucky her guests weren’t killed!”

 

“Oh, she knew precisely what she was doing,” he said with a laugh. “You should have been there when she mixed aconite in the pudding. No one ever came to the manor without a bezoar again.”

 

“Lucius,” she said icily, “that may be how Malfoys behave, but Blacks tend to have a great deal more class.

 

His expression hardened. “I see no need for you to worry yourself over these matters any longer,” he said. “I think it’s best if you confine yourself to raising our son, see that he’s a credit to his father.”

 

“How dare you!” she cried. “How can I raise my son to be a credit to his father if his father is a discredit to his name?”

 

Eyes flashing, he raised his hand to strike her, only to be faced with her wand pointed at his neck. “I warn you, Lucius,” she said dangerously, “if you ever dare lay a hand on me, I will leave you and take our son with me, and I will see to it that any good repute the Malfoy name has ever had will leave too. I and the Blacks have enough power to utterly destroy you, and you know it.”

 

He lowered his hand, but a sneer was on his face. “You would do that do the man you love?”

 

“Oh,” Narcissa said, almost pityingly. “If you hit me, you wouldn’t be the man I love.” She lowered her wand. “It’s time you think about where your chief loyalty lies—to the Dark Lord, or to your family.”

 

--

 

My dear Andromeda Tonks, (Narcissa wrote)

 

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to receive your letter. It brings me great joy to know that you are thinking of me and my son in this delicate time. I apologize for the brevity of this letter—motherhood does keep one busy!

 

Yours sincerely,

Narcissa Selene Black Malfoy

 

Yes, that would do. Narcissa slipped it into its envelope and sealed it with her own personal insignia, and picked up another sheet of stationery.

 

My dear Louisa Parkinson-Bletchley,

 

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to receive your gift. It brings me great joy to know that you are thinking of me and my son in this delicate time…

 

--

 

One day Bellatrix arrived unannounced to visit her baby nephew, only to discover that Narcissa was not at home, but had in fact gone out visiting. Not five minutes later, a wide-eyed House-elf appeared with a pop! before Narcissa and Iris Parkinson, causing both Draco and two-month-old Pansy to let out surprised cries. “Fisky, what on earth—”

 

“Visitor!” the elf squeaked, rapping herself sharply between the eyes with the sugar tongs. “Very impatient visitor! She is wanting to see—”

 

The parlor doors flung open, revealing Bellatrix, her skin as pale as Narcissa’s own, but her black hair wild and her eyes fierce, and Narcissa was reminded almost of a banshee as she rose from her chair to say, “Bella, what…”

 

“I got bored,” the woman said.

 

“Yes, I can see that,” Narcissa responded dryly. “I’m terribly sorry, Iris, I think that I should be going, but I’m free all day Thursday next if you still wanted to go to that boutique in Kent.”

 

“Oh, don’t cut your afternoon short because of me,” said Bella with a saccharine smile. “I just want to spend time with my widdle nephew Draco, and I can do that here just as well as anywhere else.” She took a seat at the tea table, helping herself to a biscuit.

 

“No, Bellatrix,” Narcissa said, a chill coming into her voice, as she gathered Draco into her arms. “I think it’s best we not trespass on Iris’s hospitality any longer.”

 

Bella’s eyes flashed. “And if I don’t go with you?”

 

Iris Parkinson picked up Pansy and wisely slipped out a side door as Narcissa laughed. “Let’s not go there, Bella. Your hexes might have been nastier, but mine were always faster, and that hasn’t changed since we were children.

 

And Bellatrix threw her head back and laughed so that her sister flinched and Draco let out a wail. “Oh, my little Cissy,” she cooed. “It’s nice to see you’ve kept a spine about you since you turned Malfoy on us.”

 

“You’re making my son cry,” Narcissa said softly, her blue eyes icy.

 

“I made you cry often enough,” her sister replied with a scornful toss of her head. “So make him stop. Babies cry too much anyway. I’ll never have one, if I can help it.”

 

“Not going to carry on the Lestrange name?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.

 

“That’s what Rabastan is for,” said Bella breezily. “He gets to breed. Rodolphus and I get to…well.” She smiled thinly. “You’re not supposed to know about that, are you, little sister? Plausible deniability and all that.” With a sigh, she shoved her chair away from the table and rose. “You’re no fun since you birthed that brat, Cissy. One of these days I’ll get you furious enough to have a real duel, and won’t it be fun to see who ends up bloodiest when we’ve finished?” And with a pop, she Apparated away.

 

Iris Parkinson poked her head around the door, Pansy in her arms. “She’s gone, then? Got her bored enough and she went away?”

 

“Exactly,” Narcissa said, sitting back down. “I’m so sorry, Iris. She always seems to do this when I’m visiting you.”

 

“Perfectly all right,” the other woman said blandly, pouring their tea and adding a bit of brandy to each cup. “I had the hardest time replacing the House-elf she decapitated last month, so I’ll just be thankful that this time around she didn’t kill anything.”

 

--

 

She was stopped the next week in Diagon Alley by a man who jabbed his wand into the small of her back and growled, “Don’t make a move, woman. I don’t want to hurt you, but I’ve got a question for you that needs answering.”

 

“Don’t keep me in suspense,” she said coolly. “I have robes to buy. What is it?”

 

The wand point dug a bit more sharply into her back. “Whose side are you on? Who’re you loyal to?”

 

“I am on my own side,” Narcissa said to him, not knowing which side he took, nor caring. “And my loyalty is to my family.”

 

“That’s all?” he asked. “That’s it?”

 

“It’s enough,” she said, and it was.

//
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