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Peki [userpic]
Fic: Ouroboros (6.2/?), Lucius/Narcissa, NC-17
by Peki (peki)
at June 24th, 2016 (02:46 pm)


The lovely mood lasted for all of seven hours. She barely slept, instead reliving the events of the night and committing them to memory. She felt a little fuzzy as she rose and dressed for work, dreamlike and floaty as if she was sleepwalking, but when she opened the door to go down to breakfast, the scent of her sister’s perfume hit her over the head like a brick, and the lovely, butterfly fluttering at the pit of her stomach was drowned by a wave of dread.

As if on cue, Bellatrix materialized in front of Narcissa before she’d even had a moment to brace herself. She stepped back hastily as her sister almost apparated on to her. How Bellatrix maintained her busy social life and still rose at the crack of dawn, she had no idea, but maybe Bella hadn’t slept, either. She seemed to function just fine on wine, sex and zeal, ‘fine’ being a relative term.

“There you are!” Bellatrix cried. “Where were you last night? Our mother was beside herself with worry.”

Narcissa doubted her mother had even noticed that she didn’t come home at the usual time, but Bella had and that was worse. “You know I work late. You should’ve told me you’d be visiting and I would’ve tried to make time.”

“Work. Is that what you call it.” Bellatrix’s dark eyes flickered over Narcissa almost like an unwelcome touch.

Narcissa fought hard to keep her expression in check. “Yes, of course.”

The glint in Bellatrix’s dark eyes made her uneasy, but after a moment, her sister turned her ire towards a different subject. “It’s shameful how Jigger treats you. You’re not just some shopgirl, you’re a Black. Perhaps he should be taught a lesson on how to conduct himself vis-a-vis a pureblood lady.”

“No!” Narcissa protested, only to receive another of Bellatrix’s glares. “I mean, I need the job, Bella, you know that. If you...incapacitate Mr Jigger, what am I going to do?” She lowered her voice. “We barely scrape by on my pay. I don’t know what father has done, but it’s been so bad this past month, we didn’t even eat, some days.”

“You shouldn’t question our father,” Bellatrix told her, but then she shrugged. “Fine. I’ll leave Jigger alone. Come now, Cissy, I brought cold cut meat, leftovers from last night. Rodolphus has quite lost his appetite lately.” She giggled darkly, and Narcissa suppressed a shudder. She didn’t even want to know what ailed Lestrange, and why it was a source of amusement to Bellatrix.

They went into the breakfast room, where their parents were already sitting in silence. Mrs Black looked wan and miserable to be up at such an early hour, but it was nigh the only time that her husband bothered to spend with the family, so she dragged herself out of bed every morning in the hopes that this would be the day he’d pay attention to her suffering. Unfortunately, Mr Black didn’t seem in the mood; he looked up from the newspaper at his daughters when they entered, but his only acknowledgement of them was a downward turn of his mouth before he immersed himself in the Daily Prophet again.

“Good morning, Father. Mama,” Narcissa said, bending down to kiss her mother’s cheek.

Druella patted her head a little with a shaky hand. “Cissy, I am all out of smelling salts. Could you bring me some more from the shop tonight?”

“Yes, certainly, Mama.” That would be four Galleons she could have spend on something useful. Narcissa suppressed a sigh. She slid into her seat next to Bellatrix and eyed the bloody beef roast her sister had brought. If Narcissa had actually felt hungry after the previous night’s lavish dinner, the meat would have killed her appetite. It looked like Bellatrix had taken an ax to it. Narcissa helped herself to a cup of tea while her sister began to heap slices of beef on to her plate and topped them liberally with mustard. Narcissa fought the urge to gag.

“Have some, Cissy. You’ll need some meat on you if you want any hope of ever growing a bust,” Bellatrix said cheerfully.

Their father harrumphed. “Where were you last night, Narcissa?” he asked. “I heard you come in, it was very late.”

Narcissa felt her sister’s eyes on her and suddenly got the keen sense that she’d better not lie. “I worked late, and then I went to dinner with a friend.”

“And who was that friend?” her father prodded.

“Lucius Malfoy,” Narcissa said as casually as she could.

Her mother gasped. Cygnus put down the newspaper, for once giving Narcissa his full attention. She wished he didn’t. “I beg your pardon? Don’t tell me you go gallivanting with the son of Abraxas bloody Malfoy, he who ruined the family business!”

“But Daddy, you know Lucius and I were classmates at Hogwarts. He’s my friend.”

“Her friend,” Bellatrix echoed, leaning in too close to Narcissa to elbow her hard in the ribs.

Cygnus’s dark expression conveyed that he had conveniently forgotten any acquaintance with the Malfoys. “And where did he take you, your friend?”

Under all the scrutiny, Narcissa blushed, and cursed her fair colouring. “To dinner. Please, Daddy, I see so little of anyone with how much I work--”

“Tut tut, Cissy. I visit every other day,” her sister said sweetly.

Narcissa ignored her; the alternative was hexing Bellatrix at the breakfast table, and that would not endear her parents to her cause.

“I don’t like it,” Cygnus growled. “Abraxas is not an honourable man, and they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Like father, like son.”

Narcissa fought very hard to keep her face impassive. From the corner of her eye, she saw her sister’s dark expression, void of any sisterly affection and at odds with her strange cheer. Damn Bellatrix to hell. “I couldn’t tell you how true that is, but he’s only ever treated me courteously.”

“Well, however that may be, it’s not proper that he would take you out without ever having introduced himself to us,” Druella put in now. She sniffed hectically at a perfumed handkerchief.

Her parents had met Lucius, of course, several times at society events from which the Malfoys couldn’t possibly be excluded, Cygnus Black’s animosity towards Abraxas notwithstanding. But Narcissa could tell there was no reasoning with them. Cold dread crept up inside her and wrapped itself around her insides in a steely grip.

“He’s a scoundrel who regards all women as pieces of meat,” Bellatrix supplied now, still peculiarly cheerful. “He’s whored his way all across Europe, or so they say.”

Mrs Black looked scandalized. “Bella, please! Not in front of your sister!”

Narcissa bit her lip on a sharp remark. With difficulty, she affected a blank look. “I’m not interested in Bella’s gossip. We chat, he helps me with my Arithmancy problems--”

Bellatrix threw her head back and cackled. “And what about the solid gold cauldron he gave you? Does he just hand those out to all of his Arithmancy partners?”

Narcissa wondered how her sister even knew; she had to have practiced her Legilimency on Narcissa. Nothing was safe or sacred to Bellatrix. Narcissa had known this all along, but she’d never wanted to dwell on it. She swallowed hard, furious and heartbroken. Even in her own home, she couldn’t be herself; she’d have to find ways to hide her very thoughts away until she was only a shell, brittle and empty.

“What? A solid gold cauldron?” Cygnus said sharply.

“He gave it to me for a birthday present. It’s perfectly innocent,” Narcissa said, forcing herself to remain calm even with panic rising inside and threatening to choke her up. “He knew I needed it for my work--”

“Work!” Cygnus Black said disdainfully. “I’ve told you before, I don’t like you selling yourself into the employ of Jigger! It’s a shameful thing to do for a Black.”

Narcissa felt the shame keenly every time she had to grit her teeth and bear another day as a ‘shopgirl’. At times like these, she didn’t know why she even bothered, why she kept trying at all. Her sacrifices were never appreciated. “It is what it is,” she said unhappily. “I need the job, and for the job, I need the cauldron--”

“And Malfoy indulged you purely out of the goodness of his heart.” Cygnus waved a hand at her to stand up. “Go and bring me that cauldron.”

Narcissa knew then that she had lost. She stood, every motion edgy and painful, and apparated down into her laboratory to retrieve it. She looked over the old, battered cauldrons that were lined up along the wall, anxious to return quickly so as not to prompt her father to come down here into her sanctuary, but unwilling to present the new cauldron Lucius had given her. It hung over the fire, only the faintest gleam showing through the concealment of her transfiguration spell. Narcissa thought fast. If only she could transfigure a different cauldron to look golden... But her father would find out immediately; Cygnus Black’s one talent was to hunt down every bit of gold within his reach and squander it. Narcissa cursed herself for not having had the forethought to buy some cheap little gold plated cauldron so she could have shown that off and feigned surprise at its poor quality, preventing this exact scenario, but there was nothing to be done for it now. Hanging her head, she put a shrinking spell on the cauldron and carried it upstairs to the sitting room.

“There’s nothing to it--” she started, but her father silenced her with a look. He waved his wand to lift Narcissa’s spell, and the grubby outer layer disappeared off the shiny surface. At the same time, the cauldron unshrunk to its proper size, which Cygnus had not expected; he looked at Narcissa, his face growing darker by the second.

“I wonder: why would Lucius Malfoy feel compelled to give you a gift like this?” he snapped. “It must be worth thousands! What did you do, Narcissa?”

“Nothing!” Narcissa said unhappily. “It’s nothing to him, he’s my friend, he was only looking to give me a birthday present--”

“This is not a gift one would give to a friend.” Mr Black gave the cauldron one last look, then waved his wand over it to shrink it again. He picked up the cauldron and stood. “It is entirely inappropriate and I will not allow it.”

Narcissa’s face felt very hot. Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. “Daddy, please give it back, I need it, I haven’t any good equipment otherwise--”

“And I don’t see why you’d need any. You can work in Jigger’s basement, can’t you? So go there if you must.”

She tried hard to clamp down on the anger that threatened to drown her, but some of it spilled over regardless, like water slowly leaking through the cracks in a dam. Eventually, it would break, and what then, what then? “It’s mine, you can’t take it! You don’t care who I got it from or how, you only want it to pay off some debtor!”

Her father raised himself up to stand over her, his dark look forbidding and all too remindful of Bellatrix. “And what if I do? It’s our family I must keep afloat, you girls contribute precious little!”

Narcissa wanted to speak up about the gold she put into the family vault each month out of her meagre salary, about the job she hated and which she’d taken up for the sake of making ends meet when she had been destined to inherit her forefathers’ business, the business her father had ruined with his recklessness. But what good would it do; in the end he wouldn’t care, and she would be worse off for it if she opposed him.

She should have seen this coming, anticipated her sister’s jealousy and her father’s greed. It was her fault. Without another word, Narcissa pushed back her chair and left, her head held high until she made it out the front door. Shakily, she drew her wand; she didn’t want to spend one moment more near her blasted family, but she was crying now and in no state to apparate. She began to wander down the long driveway that led away from the house, shivering with sobs and misery.

She should have known her family would spoil every nice thing that ever happened to her. She’d been stupid to hope that things were changing and her life might be different someday. Her father and Bellatrix would find a way to ruin everything. Especially Bellatrix.

At that moment, Narcissa hated her sister with all the pent-up passion that she was never allowed to show. Her blood boiled with it, and she allowed the feeling to wash over her like a wave of molten lava, tempering her in its fiery heat. She had always shied away from allowing her temper to take over, she’d seen what recklessness had done to her sisters, but now she didn’t want to douse the anger that burned through her like wildfire. Bellatrix deserved no less.

“Cissy?”

Narcissa whirled around. Her sister stood behind her suddenly, as if Narcissa’s unkind thoughts had summoned her. “Go away.”

“Now now, don’t be like that. And stop blubbering, it was only a cauldron. Honestly!”

Narcissa laughed bitterly. This wasn’t really about the cauldron at all, but of course Bellatrix didn’t understand that. “Why do you have to make me miserable? What did I ever do to you?”

Bellatrix shrugged. “I don’t like Malfoy, is all. He’s a smug bastard who flaunts his wealth.”

That might be so, but it hardly warranted Bellatrix’s animosity. Narcissa vowed she would get to the root of it eventually. “Well, I like him. Shouldn’t that be good enough for you?”

“I’m only trying to protect you,” Bellatrix cooed. “As your older sister, it is my duty.”

Narcissa turned and walked off swiftly, unable to stand in her sister’s presence for a moment more without hexing her.

“I saw you with him the other day, you know,” Bellatrix called after her, “In Diagon Alley. How often do you meet with him and tell our parents you’re at work?” She laughed derisively. “And it’s time wasted, Cissy. Even if father got over his animosity towards that family, old Abraxas would never allow anything serious. You have cursed Andromeda to thank for that. The shame she brought over our family name!”

Bellatrix hardly ever bothered to pick her words with care, but when she did, they stung just as much as her curses. This was her sister, Narcissa thought, forcing herself to keep moving. Her last sister – her only sister, as far as her family was concerned – and this was how Bellatrix chose to employ her considerable gifts.

Of course, when her words went unacknowledged, Bellatrix quickly lost patience. She came running after Narcissa and seized her arm with hard, bony fingers. “Don’t walk away from me!”

Narcissa tried to shrug her off to no avail. “What do you even want from me? Lucius is my friend.”

Bellatrix laughed. “Men like Malfoy don’t have friends. He has cronies, like that Crabbe and Goyle, and he has lovers, but not friends.” Her eyes narrowed. “So which is it, Cissy?”

Why did her sisters have to hurt her so, each in their own way? Andromeda’s cruelty was in the lack of any sort of sisterly feeling, the void of her absence, but if Bellatrix felt that too, she forged words like daggers from her own pain.

“You have it all wrong, Bella,” Narcissa said through clenched teeth, trying to stop them from chattering with sobs. A painful twist of her arm, and she was free.

“Do I?” Bellatrix sneered. “Or perhaps you do. I’ve watched him when he’s been at my house, he sure has a wandering eye. I know for a fact he’s bedded my friends Alecto and Rosalind!”

“Alecto Carrow?” Narcissa was less put off by the revelation of Lucius’s philandering ways than by the thought of him engaging in fornication with someone who was so much beneath him in status and looks.

“She’s no great beauty,” Bellatrix said with relish, “But I suppose that makes her more eager to please.”

Narcissa had met Alecto Carrow once; she remembered the girl’s foul mouth and ill-tempered air, and couldn’t imagine that she would be particularly pleasant towards anyone. Rosalind Wilkes was plain at least rather than actively revolting, but she was one of those weak-willed idiots who seemed to trail in Bellatrix’s wake, ready to jump at her orders. What Lucius should find attractive about either of them was beyond Narcissa’s imagination, but perhaps she simply didn’t have it in her to think like a man, didn’t care to, either.

“He really is shameless,” Bellatrix said now, contorting her face into a terrible approximation of sympathetic. “Why, he even made a pass at me once, and I’m a married woman!”

It was then and there that Narcissa realized, without the shadow of a doubt, that her sister was lying to her, and that she could never, ever trust Bellatrix again. Somehow that made it easier to clamp down on her anger and heartache, as if she was tying off a bleeding limb. If she could bring herself not to care for her sister, like Bellatrix didn’t care for her, Bella could never hurt her again. Narcissa would have to be on her guard always, but at least there would be no more disappointment. She dabbed at her eyes with her sleeve and smoothed her face into a mask of nonchalance.

“Shocking,” she said in a tone as dead and cold as her heart. “But I don’t see how any of it is my business.”

If Bellatrix noticed the change in her sister’s demeanour, she was too foolish to recognise what it meant, but then again, Bella never had learned to tread carefully. “Aw, come now, Cissy, I know how you love a bit of juicy gossip. And Malfoy’s good for that, if nothing else. Rich people. They get bored so easily.”

She would not find the chink in Narcissa’s armour ever again. “How lucky, then, that we are practically destitute.”

Bellatrix’s leer slipped. Scowling, she said. “I forbid you to speak like that.”

“It’s the truth, isn’t it?” Narcissa shrugged. “Everybody knows it, too.”

Bellatrix hovered over her sister like a dark storm cloud. “So is that what you’re after? New frocks and pretty baubles?”

“You see right through me,” Narcissa said blankly. Her eyes watered with the unblinking effort of returning Bellatrix’s merciless glare, but she refused to duck down and avert her eyes for once. Let Bellatrix see what she’d done; if there was any shred of familiar devotion in her, she ought to be ashamed of herself, but Narcissa refused to let herself hope for that. “Now please go and stick your nose in someone else’s business, Bella.”

Her sister’s expression darkened. “Careful now. I haven’t told father half of what I know.”

“What do you know?”

“I know Malfoy isn’t just your friend,” Bellatrix snapped. “I know you have plans for him, I’ve seen you two together.”

“And what if I did?” Narcissa retorted, if only to be contrary. “It’s hardly as scandalous as you’re making it out to be.”

“Oh, you silly goose! Do you want to know what he really thinks of you?”

“How would you know?”

Bellatrix cackled. “I’ve heard things. Straight from his mouth, in fact. ‘A little girl with a little girl’s talents’, is what he called you. He thinks you’re a pretty little fool, and you are!”

“I don’t believe you,” Narcissa said, clenching her fist around her wand. She could not let her sister win, she couldn’t.

“Fine, don’t. Go and run into his trap. There’s only one thing he wants from you, Cissy, and it’s what all men want. But you’re so besotted, you’d probably give in to him and thank him for his attention!” Narcissa recoiled when her sister spat on the ground.

“You believe no one could appreciate me because you don’t. But you’re wrong.”

Bellatrix affected a look of confusion, but it was spoiled by the angry flicker in her eye. “I care about you, Cissy, you must know that. All I care about is my family.”

“You have strange ways of showing it.” Perhaps she should feel flattered, Narcissa thought; perhaps Bella really did hurt the ones she loved the most, but Narcissa didn’t feel willing to endure that kind of punishment any more. “It doesn’t matter. Go; run rampant as you will. When you’re done cutting down everyone and everything in your path, it will be my reputation keeping this family from ruin, and so you’d better think of that, Bella, before you threaten me.”

Bellatrix hadn’t expected opposition. Wild eyed and mad, she seized Narcissa’s wrist again. “You’re a good girl, Cissy,” she cooed, oddly resembling their mother in her breathy, singsong voice. “You wouldn’t do anything to sully our family name.”

“Who knows what I might do if you make me,” Narcissa said, infusing her voice with as much venom as she could.

Bellatrix stared at her. “You’re in love with him. What is wrong with you?”

Narcissa blushed, but did not back down. This was too, too ironic. “What is wrong with me?”

“You’re making a fool of yourself, and for what? The most arrogant prick in England! I can’t believe it, first it was Andromeda, now you--”

“I’d thank you not to compare Lucius to Andromeda’s Muggle!” Narcissa snapped. “You don’t know him, you don’t even know me, your own sister! You know nothing, so leave me alone!” She snatched her hand back and finally disapparated, the last thing she saw her sister’s face, slack jawed and utterly astonished before she was gone.

But there was little triumph in getting the last word in. Narcissa only felt exhausted, sick and tired of her family and heartbroken over the loss of the cauldron. A part of her wanted to go crying to Lucius, which was a startling impulse in and of itself, but in the end, she felt too ashamed to tell him she’d allowed her father to take away the amazing gift he’d given her, and there was nothing Lucius could do about it anyway.

She dutifully went about her work, trying to put on a pleasant facade for the sake of Eleanor and the customers, but willing her feelings away didn’t work as well as it used to. She’d once been able to shrug off her father’s treatment of her or Bellatrix’s antics as madness, secure in the knowledge that she herself was more sensible than they, but she had little hope left that it would do her any good. Her dreams of independence seemed far away while she was trapped in the mind-numbing routine of her job, and her determination to struggle through and hone her craft for the future was waning. The gold cauldron had been symbolic of her hopes, of her worth as a potioneer and great things to come, but now that was gone too and with it any chance she might have had to escape mediocrity.

She knew Lucius would sneer at her for wallowing in self-pity, so she tried to direct her thoughts to more uplifting things, but even the memory of Paris was tainted now. Bellatrix had seen to that with her hurtful words, and much as Narcissa fought her sister’s power over her, she could not stop thinking about what Bella had said about Lucius, or Narcissa’s feelings for him. She wouldn’t call herself ‘besotted’, there was nothing unreasonable in how she felt about him, but she squirmed to recall what else Bellatrix had called it. ‘You’re in love with him.’

So what if she was, Narcissa thought, but she felt uncomfortable with the assertion, unsure as a weary traveller taking her first steps on new land and utterly vulnerable. For all that she cared about him, she knew that Lucius wasn’t warm in his affections. He liked her, sure, but he could hurt her so easily and without even meaning to, like a fire never meant to burn anyone but could still lay ruin to vast empires. He was a dangerous person for her to be around, and her sister had already shown her that Narcissa’s feelings for him could be used against her by others, too. It was a weakness to allow oneself to become too close to anyone, and Narcissa struggled mightily with it, but ultimately, she couldn’t help herself, didn’t even want to imagine what her life would be like without her one true ally.

Still, she’d have to be on her guard, she’d have to be more careful and stop indulging her whims. There was no harm in her spending time with Lucius, no matter what her parents might think, but she couldn’t just go and snog him as if it meant nothing. No; she would enjoy his company while maintaining a safe distance, and that would have to be enough.

It was a depressing thought, with the memory of his kisses still fresh in her mind, but at the end of the day, she had almost convinced herself that she felt resigned to it. What else was there for her to do? The more things changed, the more they stayed the same, and Narcissa felt the injustice of that keenly as she sat in her room that night after work, brushing her hair out, and her father knocked on the door.

Cygnus Black was whistling softly to himself, his good mood startling for how rare it was. He handed Narcissa a small box wrapped in ribbon. “No hard feelings, Cissy, eh?” he said, patting her on the head. “You’re a good girl. Here, I brought you something.”

“Thank you, Daddy.” The smile she wore was as fake as his concern for her, but Cygnus didn’t seem to know it.

Narcissa unwrapped the parcel when she was alone. It contained a vintage hair ornament, a decorative comb that was missing a few teeth. She stared very hard at it, feeling anger bubble up inside her like poison. Her father must have picked it up at the pawn shop where he’d taken her cauldron. No wonder he was in such a good mood. He’d probably made enough off it to last him for a few weeks of reckless spending.

The comb smoked when she threw it in the fire, like a sacrificial offering to a vengeful goddess. Narcissa watched it crack and burn, staring into the flames until she saw nothing but specks of gold and light dancing behind her eyelids. One day, she vowed, she would watch her family beg and plead before her, and if that was the only reason for her to go on, succeed, it was enough. Until then, though, if love could not sustain her, perhaps resentment would.