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Peki [userpic]
Fic: Ouroboros (7/?), Lucius/Narcissa, NC-17
by Peki (peki)
at July 21st, 2016 (07:44 am)

Fic: Ouroboros (7/?)
Pairing: Lucius/Narcissa
Rating: NC-17
Summary: The long, long courtship of Narcissa Black and Lucius Malfoy.

April 1975

“My, my. This is going to be a rude awakening. The celebrations were grand, I take it.”

Blearily, Lucius opened his eyes. The world was spinning around him, the only fixed point a golden blur hovering above. He tried to focus on it through the pounding of his pulse inside his head, and slowly, Narcissa’s face swam into view. She was standing over him, smiling, looking poised and polished and all too sober compared to how Lucius felt.

He groaned out an affirmative, unable to get his tongue to form actual words. Goyle’s daughter had finally been born after the approximate gestational period of an elephant, and Lucius had spent the previous night celebrating the happy event with his old mates. It had been a good time, but he was paying dearly for it now.

Somewhere beside him, the sounds of a sleeping rhinoceros could be heard, or perhaps that was Crabbe snoring. Very, very slowly, Lucius turned his head to find the man curled up like a fat, bald baby on the rug in front of the fireplace, hugging a pillow and dribbling in his sleep. Narcissa laughed quietly as she went to poke Crabbe with the end of her wand.

“Vincent, wake up and stop making that ungodly noise!” she said too loudly. Crabbe didn’t stir.

Lucius clasped his hands over his ears and almost tumbled off the sofa. He didn’t quite remember how he’d gotten there, but at least he’d had his wits about him enough to claim the best sleeping surface in the Goyles’ sitting room. Still, the sofa was too short, every muscle in his body was rebelling, so he heaved himself upright and fought a wave of nausea.

Narcissa regarded him with evil amusement, but cast a few quick healing charms that cleared his head enough, at least, so he could speak.

“Where did you come from?” he grunted out.

“I popped by to see the baby, of course. And by that I don’t mean you. Get up, Portia will kill you if you throw up on her sofa and frankly, I don’t want to see it!” She went over to a window to let in some fresh air.

On the third try, Lucius managed to stand up and follow. He staggered across the room to brace himself against the windowframe, breathing deeply of the crisp, damp spring air. It was a beautiful morning, but he had no eyes for it; bolts of lightning were zigzagging across the insides of his lids to accompany the thunder in his head. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply in and out. “Could you be persuaded to take mercy on me and make me a hangover cure?”

“I came prepared.” He heard her rummage around in the small embroidered drawstring bag she’d used since their school days. She used to conjure up all sorts of useful things from that bag, and right now it was like a gift from the heavens when she reached into the bottomless depths and produced a vial.

He tossed the contents back in one long gulp, and after a few seconds his vision cleared and the hammering inside his head subsided. He actually felt rested, if a little crumpled and sticky. “The nectar of the gods,” he sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. He needed a shave, a bath and a cup of strong coffee, but for now a cleaning charm would have to do.

“Thank you, I made it myself.” Narcissa watched critically as he tried to tidy himself up, then waved her wand to help. “You seemed to need it. What did you get up to, you silly boys?”

“I don’t think we want to know!” Portia Goyle brayed. She stomped into the room, her squalling infant in her arms, and waddled towards Narcissa. “So good of you to come, Cissy. Here she is, my little Georgiana!”

‘Little’ was a relative term. Lucius had only glanced at the child in passing the previous night, but he estimated that she must weigh at least ten pounds. Portia handed her to Narcissa, who staggered a little but nevertheless looked happy to hold the baby. She bent over the bundle to take a look, and Lucius watched with fascination as she struggled through shock and surprise to end on an expression of indulgent fondness. “She looks…just like her daddy!”

“Thank you,” Portia beamed. It was fortunate that she was completely enamoured with her husband as well as her daughter and couldn’t find fault with either; the poor girl had a face only a mother could love. But be that as it may, the birth of a pureblood child was a grand occasion, and so Lucius nodded at the proud new mother.

“And she is Goyle’s pride and joy already,” he supplied, which was completely true. “I’ve never seen him so jolly as last night.”

“I know, he’s completely smitten,” Portia said. “But I suppose all the liquor must’ve helped, too. You look terrible, Lucius. Hahaha! Breakfast?”

Lucius didn’t even want to think about food, but he probably should have something. “If it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.”

Portia elbowed him hard in the ribs. “Not at all. I won’t be a minute!” And she was off, disappearing down the hall to call for a house elf in the dulcet tones of a banshee.

Bemused, Narcissa studied the baby girl in her arms. “Oh dear.”

Lucius sidled up to look over her shoulder. “After your potion, I can’t even blame it on the headache. This really is the ugliest baby ever born.”

“Shh,” Narcissa whispered, giggling. “Poor baby! Being an ugly girl in this world can’t be nice.”

“Not that you’d know anything about it.”

“No,” she smiled. “You look ghastly, though. Are you feeling better?”


“Good. That’ll be three Galleons for the potion, please.”

“Three, three hundred, I don’t care,” he said truthfully. He found that his purse still contained a few coins even after the previous night’s excesses and counted out three golden Galleons which he then slipped into the pocket of Narcissa’s skirt. She stiffened a little when his hand slid over her hip, and he gave her a squeeze before withdrawing his hand.

After Paris, she’d kept him at arm’s length whenever he tried to initiate closeness, which was puzzling to him. There was no doubt in his mind that she had enjoyed the encounter on the Pont des Arts just as much as he had, so he couldn’t believe that she regretted snogging him, but if she’d simply been playing hard to get, she should have come around by now. It had been weeks, and though they saw each other regularly and their conversations were just as cordial as ever, she’d maintained her distance. Lucius wondered if he should push the issue a little, but the right opportunity for shameless seduction hadn’t presented itself yet, and outside of that, the only option was to talk about what was going on, and he didn’t particularly fancy a deep conversation about their relationship. It was bound to lead to awkwardness, and he’d much rather maintain the flirtatious manner of their interactions even if her inexplicable standoffishness frustrated him.

“Well,” Narcissa said after a lengthy pause, not quite looking at him, “If I’d known you were feeling this poorly, I would’ve charged you more. As a matter of fact...” She suddenly trailed off, her gaze shifting into the middle distance. “I just had an idea,” she said slowly, as if the words were slipping past the vines of a budding plan that had taken root in her mind. “Here, take the baby.”

Before he could protest, she’d put the infant in his arms. She took a glass off a tray on the sideboard, then walked over to Portia’s desk, where she waved her wand over a quill before she took it up and carefully drew a line across the glass, then another. “Three ingredients for a basic hangover potion,” she said, now carefully marking the lines in her neat handwriting: water at the bottom, then essence of willow bark, lemon juice at the top. Sprinkle with turmeric. Wave wand thrice, clockwise. The letters glowed for a second, then faded to appear as subtle etchings in the glass. “Here. Not even you should be able to mess it up if you just fill the glass according to these measurements.”

Lucius studied the glass. The potion seemed straightforward enough to make himself. “Careful, you’re going to put yourself out of business.”

“On the contrary,” she said cryptically, but just then they were distracted by the baby, who began to fuss in Lucius’s awkward grip.

He held the whining girl out at arm’s length, which was a balancing act. “Would you relieve me already? This is women’s business.”

Narcissa crossed her arms and smirked. “No, I think not. You need to learn.”

“Whatever for?”

She raised her eyebrows. “You’re not going to let your bloodline die because you are scared to hold an infant, are you.”

“No, but I’m certainly not going to do the dirty work when it comes to child raising. That’s what hired help is for.” He bounced the child a little so she’d stop making those terrible noises, but she only began to flail harder, and he was worried about dropping her, so he grudgingly gathered her close again. To his surprise, the wailing subsided.

“See,” Narcissa told him in a cheerfully patronising tone that set his teeth on edge, “You do know what to do with a girl. Think of the child. You’re likely the last handsome man who will ever hold her, even in your sorry state, so be a little charitable, Lucius, hmm?”

He was just about to prod her about the ‘handsome’ comment when Portia returned, followed by a house elf carrying an enormous tea tray. The elf set up breakfast in the next room while Portia offered tea to start.

“Oh, look at you!” She wrung her hands with glee over Lucius holding her baby. “You wanted your turn with Miss Georgiana too, did you! Look, Narcissa, isn’t he a natural with children?”

She wiggled her thick eyebrows meaningfully at Narcissa, who bit back a smile. “Oh, yes, this seems completely natural.”

“Lucky girl who’ll have you for a doting daddy,” Portia told Lucius, but finally relieved him of the baby. She beckoned them to follow her into the breakfast parlour, nudging Crabbe with her foot in passing. “Vincent, get up, breakfast time!”

At the mention of food, Crabbe miraculously stirred. He crawled after them into the parlour, where they were met by Goyle, who had come down in his pyjamas and blinked his small pig’s eyes at his house guests as if he’d never seen them before. A vial of hangover potion, courtesy of Narcissa, restored him and Crabbe shortly though, and soon they were tucking into hearty breakfasts while the women looked on and Lucius gratefully sipped at a cup of black coffee.

“Well, I feel like I am mother to several children already,” Portia commented, watching the two men slobbering their yolky scrambled eggs. “I daresay I like it! When will you start a family, Lucius? And you, Cissy? Our children should grow up together, wouldn’t that be grand?”

“Very,” Narcissa said lightly, obviously unwilling to entertain this subject of discussion, but that had never deterred Portia Goyle.

“Alas, we need to find you a husband first. Not that it would be difficult if you just let me work my magic, Cissy! I’m sure I could find you a willing chap to father your children like this,” Portia snapped her fingers, letting out her loud bark of a laugh. “Why, my brother Thorfinn--”

“Dear Portia, I’m sorry to disappoint you or Thorfinn, but it’s just not going to happen,” Narcissa said with all politeness possible while still dealing a death blow to Portia’s fanciful ideas.

Portia harrumphed. “Why do you keep making things so difficult for yourself? You always used to say you wanted a bunch of daughters, Cissy, so you’d better get started soon, eh?”

“Now you sound like you’re my mother, too,” Narcissa said, affecting her charming pout, and everyone laughed.

“I’ll get to you two in time,” Portia said, raising her finger at Narcissa and Lucius like a stern schoolmarm. “I’ve found Vincent a girlfriend, after all. I can match up anyone!”

Crabbe’s girlfriend, Brunhilde Burke, joined them soon after to call on the Goyles and extend her congratulations. She was Crabbe’s match in her great height and lumbering build, but fancied herself extremely feminine in a pink lace capelet and bright lipstick. She and Crabbe had met, fallen in love, and consummated their relationship all in short order at the Goyles’ wedding, and they seemed to get on well enough for Crabbe to be talking about proposing already. Lucius had little advice to give in that regard – he wouldn’t have touched Brunhilde with a ten-feet pole – but he supposed that Crabbe didn’t exactly have many options, and settling down seemed to appeal to him, not least so he’d have someone to keep house and cook for him. Brunhilde came with her share in Borgin and Burke’s to boot, so if that was all one wanted out of a marriage, the Burke girl would probably do; still, Lucius always had to fight laughter when he watched Crabbe kissing that silk-clad gorilla.

He glanced over at Narcissa, who was studying the velvet bows in Brunhilde’s mousy hair with some bemusement. She met Lucius’s eyes and coughed politely behind her hand.

“Your brother keeping well, Miss Burke?” he asked, smirking at Narcissa, who shook her head at him as the other girl turned to Lucius. “I went to your family’s emporium the other day on behalf of my father, but I only encountered Mr Borgin.”

“Oh – my brother is very well, thank you, Malfoy. And it’s Brunhilde, if you please.” She fluttered her lashes at him, which made Crabbe look round from his third helping of eggs to glare at Lucius.

“Brunhilde.” He toasted her with his coffee cup. “You should bring Bertram along sometime, the more the merrier, right, Portia?”

Portia, bless her, picked up that thread right where Lucius had hoped she would. “Yes, a splendid idea. Say, Cissy, didn’t you go out with Bertram once? Whatever became of that?”

Narcissa glared daggers at Lucius, but her tone was as pleasant as could be. “Mr Burke is a busy man, we simply couldn’t find the time for another date.”

“Well, there you go! Do bring him next time, Brunhilde. I won’t take no for an answer!”

Narcissa was mightily displeased at this turn of events, which she made clear to Lucius as they apparated into London together an hour later and he walked her to work.

“Why would you do that to me? I had just managed to shake Bertram off. And after I brought you the hangover cure, too.”

“You made me pay for the potion, unlike Crabbe and Goyle I might add, so I consider that debt settled.”

Narcissa could look extraordinarily scary if she wanted to, but still, all Lucius could do was laugh. “Encouraging Portia's matchmaking is just cruel. To her and to me.”

He sniggered. “Well, if she sets her sights on Burke as a potential match for you, perhaps she'll stop trying to put us in compromising situations together.”

He'd wanted to see if Narcissa would laugh off their friend's clumsy attempts at matchmaking or whether she would be flustered and thus show him that she wasn’t as unaffected by him as she liked to pretend, but neither happened. She coloured slightly, but she actually sounded hurt when she said, “So being linked to me is so very unpleasant that you had to throw me to the wolves, or in this case, Burke. Not that there's much difference.”

“Burke's more of a mangy dog, I'd say. You can handle him.”

“But I'd rather not have to!” she snapped, and he realised somewhat belatedly that she was truly angry at him. “I want to be sick every time he paws at me. Do you know what it’s like to have to grin and bear that sort of harassment? No - you’re usually on the other side of the equation!”

Lucius was fairly sure she didn’t actually consider his advances as unwelcome as Burke’s, but he still resented the implications. “I didn’t know he’d bothered you that much--”

“No, but now you do. So if you don’t want to be in ‘compromising situations’, don’t pass me off to some wanker like an old set of robes. Just don't give me presents or take me out to Paris.”

Lucius raised his eyebrows, surprised that she'd finally stopped pretending about Paris, about everything. After they had kissed, she had been adamant that nothing had changed, and Lucius had been content to go along with the pretence, although it was becoming harder to maintain the veneer of friendship that was the necessary guise for their frequent meetings. Lust would be another plausible excuse, at least to his mates, but Narcissa surely wouldn’t appreciate it even though he was fairly sure that she was just as attracted to him as he was to her. But it was becoming blatantly obvious that there was something else between them, something of more substance than just physical attraction, and Lucius found that he was actually willing to pursue it, provided that he never, ever had to admit to or talk about it.

“So you would like me to stop showing you a good time?” he asked dryly.

“I've told you before, I don't want your charity,” she countered, her blue eyes flashing.

“I take charity very seriously,” he said, smirking, “But I do enjoy your company too, Cissy.”

She stopped outside the apothecary's, turning to him in a huff. “You're too kind,” she cooed. “But only as long as no one catches you at it. Isn't that right, Lucius.” She turned to walk into the shop, but at the last moment, he caught her arm.

“I don't care what the others think,” he said, more seriously now. “And I thought you didn't, either.”

“I don't. But I'd rather you didn't have a laugh at my expense.”

“I wasn't—“ Well, that would be a lie, but he honestly hadn't been malicious in teasing her about Burke. They both knew the mere suggestion of that ever happening was ridiculous, so he'd thought he'd be laughing about it with her, but Narcissa didn't seem to see the humour. “Come now, I didn't mean to offend. Burke is no match for you, everyone knows it. They'd be laughing at him, not you.”

But she shook her head. “This isn't about Bertram at all, don't you see? It's about you, and I will take offence if I so please!” And with that, she shook him off and hurried into the shop.

Lucius stood outside for a minute, scowling, but she didn't look back at him through the shop windows. He saw her disappear into the back room, and then her little Hufflepuff friend peek through the glass door, looking out at Lucius with wide eyes before she followed Narcissa.

Shaking his head, he went home to clean himself up. He was sure he didn't understand her at all sometimes, which was all the more frustrating because they usually understood each other perfectly. She wanted to pretend that they were friends - and she'd been thorough in establishing her boundaries over the past few weeks - but at the same time, she would like him to make a show of feelings that went beyond friendship, and Lucius didn't at all feel inclined to indulge her when he wasn't reaping any of the rewards of a non-platonic relationship.

Still, he supposed that he had given an impression of indifference when he carelessly joined Portia in matchmaking for Narcissa, but then again, she shouldn't have taken his behaviour to heart. She should know better; hadn't he shown her that he valued her, with his attentions and gifts and extravagant treatment of her? What else did a witch require, he thought grumpily; if she expected public displays of affection, outside of snogging on bridges that was, she would be disappointed. It wasn't his way to be effusive; the mere notion felt embarrassing. He was never going to be so carried away as to make a spectacle of himself like Goyle, utterly besotted with his wife, or Crabbe awkwardly wooing Brunhilde Burke. What surprised him was that Narcissa evidently had some romantic notions, no matter that she might deny them.

Lucius was suddenly reminded of their school time, and had to smile. Back then, Narcissa hadn't liked to be caught wanting what she wanted either, but once he'd stripped away her prim and proper persona with a few layers of her clothes, things had become very clear. They’d desired each other then, they still did now, and they both knew it. Once again, though, Narcissa had decided to make things inexplicably difficult. How had he persuaded her last time, Lucius wondered, and how could he do it again? It was becoming clear that, if he wanted to get anywhere with her, he had to do something beyond teasing and figuratively pulling her pigtails by suggesting she humour Bertram Burke.

Considering his actions in this context, he realised that he might have been immature, but Narcissa was being extremely silly getting upset about it. Still, he had to acknowledge that the old patterns of their relationship didn't work for them anymore; they had both outgrown them like outdated clothes, so perhaps it was necessary to get with the times and be a little more straightforward.

How to go about this, though, he wasn’t quite sure. He left Narcissa alone for a few days, knowing that she always needed a little time to get over a tiff, but she didn’t reach out either for almost a week, which told him that she wouldn’t just calm down and carry on. Amends would have to be made, and though Lucius was irritated at the woman’s stubbornness, he couldn’t help but admire the self-assuredness with which she clung to her grudges. He knew her feelings were of little importance to her family, who passed her over almost always in their considerations, and he’d often encouraged her to stand up for what she wanted so he could hardly blame her for doing so now even if he wished that she’d do it with anyone else but him. It would certainly be convenient if she really was as meek and easily subdued as she pretended, but if he was honest, it would also be boring.

Narcissa was anything but.

He knew he would see her again at Georgiana Goyle’s naming ceremony, which took place one week after the baby had been born. It was a lavish affair, the official presentation and induction into society being the first major event in any magical child’s life. Everyone who was anyone in their circle was invited to see the baby and give their individual blessing, which always made for a lengthy ceremony. Even Abraxas Malfoy had come out for the event, having been acquainted with Goyle’s grandfather; he limped along clinging to Lucius’s arm like a leech, which put a hold on his plans for the evening. Lucius couldn’t wait to shake the old man off. Fortunately, being close friends with the new parents, he got to be one of the first to drop a symbolic gold Galleon into the baby’s gift basket and extend his well wishes for a long and happy life, after which he deposited his father in the nearest armchair.

“I will go find the bar. Would you like a refreshment, Father?”

“Get me some gin. And come back at once. You’ve been running around doing who knows what, it’s time you were seen with the right people for a change. There are some old friends here who I want you to meet.”

Lucius knew that if he wanted any chance to go about his own business later without his father breathing down his neck, he had to obey now, but it still rankled him. He made the rounds through the assembled crowd under the watchful gaze of Abraxas, who sat by the fire and scowled at everyone who dared approach. Lucius greeted some of his friends, but steered clear of Narcissa. He’d seen her earlier that night when she stepped up to the dais where baby Georgiana was being presented, and then later being held prisoner by a chattering Violet Bulstrode. Cygnus Black and his wife were there too, looking ill at ease in each other’s company, as well as Bellatrix Lestrange, who was yawning and making a great show of the fact that she’d rather be elsewhere. It was probably in Narcissa’s best interest that he avoid her as well as his own, Lucius thought; her parents were fools, and Bellatrix might pretend to be half asleep while others were conversing at her, but she wasn’t as thick as her behaviour sometimes suggested. Besides, his father was watching him like a hawk. Lucius didn’t want to give any of them reason to suspect that there was more than a distant acquaintance between him and Narcissa.

He knew that the moment he expressed any preference whatsoever, his father would exploit it like the weakness it was. He harboured no illusions about his father’s affection for him or about Abraxas’s intentions. Old Malfoy would grudgingly see his lineage continue through his son, but he would make Lucius as miserable in the process as propriety and blood status allowed. If Abraxas hadn’t been zealous about the purity of his bloodline, Lucius had no doubt his father would try to saddle him with a Squib or, worse, a Muggle bride purely out of spite. As it was, Abraxas seemed determined to present to him only the plainest, most awkward little ducklings among all the available pureblood girls, and while a few of them had provided Lucius with some temporary amusement, others had been so unfortunate in looks or manner that he hadn’t even been tempted to spread their legs.

Those embarrassing encounters made navigating social events such as this an ordeal like walking through quicksand. Lucius dodged a few desperate damsels and their glaring parents, his resentment of his father building. He glanced towards the man, frowning, and found Abraxas glaring coldly across the room from his place by the fire. He was old, but his physical ailments had unfortunately not affected his mental capacities. Lucius had endured the man’s scrutiny throughout his life and knew that it never boded well. His father’s attention was a painful thing to suffer more often than not, and the fortune that would be the reward for all the abuse one day sometimes seemed to Lucius to come at too high a price.

Hateful man; still, Lucius grudgingly admired the tight grip of control his father had on everything and everyone around him. Even now, sickly as he was, Abraxas was influential enough for people to approach him with a sense of deference and to endure his perpetual ill mood while they licked his boots. It was uncertain for how much longer his connections would be of use, but Lucius had to concede that it was prudent to play the game for a while longer, even if he would much rather pursue more interesting people than the sycophants who droned in his ear about Ministry policies.

Abraxas waved him closer again, and Lucius was obliged to stand behind his father’s chair for a while, half listening to his conversation. He was talking to Cornelius Fudge now, an inconsequential man who, according to Abraxas, had some potential for political advancement in the coming years. Privately, Lucius thought that there wouldn’t be much advancement of any kind once the Dark Lord rose to power unless He willed it, but Abraxas had sneered at him when he’d voiced that thought and told him that it was never safe to make non-diversified investments. Lucius still thought his association with Lord Voldemort would pay off sooner than pulling the strings of a puppet like Fudge. He had no desire to contemplate his own fallibility, especially when it was so much more pleasant to fantasise about gloating once his plans came to pass, but he was determined not to be unreasonable simply because he disliked his father’s approach. It was true, one could never be too careful, and in the current climate, with unrest stirring beneath the prim and proper veneer of society, it was only smart to remain above reproach.

“I say!” someone huffed now, and Lucius turned his attention back to the conversation to find that Bartemius Crouch had cut in to Fudge’s prattling. “By calling those rioters ‘revolutionaries’, you are only aiding their cause, Cornelius!”

“I was merely quoting the Daily Prophet, Barty,” Fudge said. “One cannot deny that there’s a certain air of...mystery surrounding the Death Eaters, which might appeal to impressionable young people--”

“There is no mystery at all.” Crouch looked offended at the mere notion. “They are common criminals and they will be stopped, by any means necessary.”

Abraxas let out a croaking laugh. He stroked his bushy white beard with a sinister air that Lucius found quite ridiculous. “And what do you mean by that, Bartemius?”

Under the scrutiny, Crouch turned a dull red. “Whoever resists the force of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement must not expect mercy,” he said, his thin moustache quivering. “Those people have opposed us long enough, murdering and terrorising the population. There will be riots in the streets soon if we don’t act. I see no point in clogging up the system by arresting that scum. Once I can get the necessary majority, I will convince the Wizengamot to authorise my Aurors to use deadly force in combat, if necessary.”

“Deadly force! And escalate the situation! The streets will be lined with bodies! You can’t be serious, Barty,” Fudge exclaimed, turning a few heads. There was a murmur among the crowd who had assembled around them, people glancing at each other and then towards Crouch again.

“I am quite serious,” Crouch huffed. “The enemy will not hesitate to use Unforgivables and all manner of dark magic. It is time we repaid them in kind!”

There was a charged moment of silence as he glared all around, but no one wanted to invite Crouch’s ire. The man’s righteousness really was tiring; Lucius had heard quite enough.

Fortunately, his father could always be relied on to keep conversations brief once he’d heard everything that was of interest to him. “Well,” Abraxas growled, “As Head of Magical Law Enforcement, surely you know best how to handle this...issue.”

Crouch nodded uncertainly. “Your support is appreciated, Mr Malfoy.”

Abraxas drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Revolutions will begin and end again, but the Ministry will remain. If I can aid you, Bartemius... Now, I’ve had enough of this hullabaloo. Lucius, assist me.” He heaved himself upright with the aid of his cane, and Lucius quickly stepped forward to support him, all dutiful son.

“You heard him, I hope,” Abraxas muttered as Lucius helped him towards the Floo. “Act accordingly. Assuring Crouch of our support is all I can do for you, but trust, if you manage to let one of those moronic Aurors kill you, I will disown you and strike your name off the family tree as though you never existed.”

“Noted,” Lucius said curtly. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Father?”

Abraxas peered closely at him, scowling. “Don’t get in trouble. Of any kind.” He limped into the Floo and was off.

“Good night, Father,” Lucius said through his teeth as the green flames flared. He wondered what that last part was supposed to mean; it was a warning, a threat, but it only made him itch to start something if only to spite the man, and Crouch, and the whole lot of useless tossers. What had they ever accomplished aside from allowing Muggle lovers to gain power while they let the traditions of their world fall to the wayside? The one thing that could be said for Abraxas was that he had quietly furthered the family fortune in his time, but in spite of all his machinations, he had been unable to prevent the decline of pureblood values. It was time to act, and if Lucius had to step over every old man in his path to do so, he would.

But not tonight. Tonight, he’d come with a different sort of agenda, and his father had been an unwelcome distraction. He went back to the bar for another drink and waited for more pleasant diversions, which began soon after when Narcissa swept into the parlour from the ballroom where the ceremony was still going on, her sister following in her wake for once.

Bellatrix’s boredom seemed to have vanished. Her eyes were aflame with anger as she whispered urgently to her sister, and Lucius wondered idly what had set the woman off this time. Narcissa held herself rigidly as if to brace herself against the storm of her sister’s temper, but she maintained a smile that looked only slightly strained.

At the women’s entrance, several men popped up from pieces of furniture like mushrooms on a wet autumn day. Narcissa turned back to Bellatrix and whispered something to her, then swept off to greet a young man whom Lucius remembered as a friend of Rosier’s, Mulciber or whatever his name was. Mrs Lestrange was left to glare at her sister’s back, but when Narcissa ignored her determinedly, she disapparated with a huff, which showed surprising restraint. Perhaps she’d had the good sense not to make a scene at an event like this, or, more likely, she’d decided to go take out her foul mood on some unfortunate soul under the guise of serving the Dark Lord.

Be that as it may, it was good riddance, and Narcissa seemed instantly less tense. A flock of admirers was gathering around her, and she was soon in her element, laughing and chattering with half a dozen people at once.

Lucius gestured to the bartender to refill his glass of Lillet, watching as she settled herself on a chaise longue by the fireplace and smiled up at the men who gathered around her like acolytes at the altar of a goddess. She said something, and three of them hurried off at once towards the bar. The lucky one who made it there first got to fetch her a glass of champagne, which he then carried over like a sacrificial offering. It was all extremely silly in Lucius’s opinion; the witch was beautiful, yes, but a man had to have some pride, and those pillocks didn’t even know her. All they saw were her smile and the twinkle in her eye, which they didn’t know was amusement at their expense instead of innocent mirth.

Still, Narcissa was in fine form tonight, looking flawless in the pale blue set of dress robes she pulled out for grand occasions. Her hair was in an elaborate braid, which hung over her shoulder like a silken rope with thin golden ribbons threaded through. She played idly with it as she made pleasant conversation, giving the appearance that she was genuinely happy to chat with every single member of the growing crowd around her. Bertram Burke was among them, Lucius noted, and when she addressed him, she glanced over at Lucius as if to say, This is for you.

Burke said something and she laughed like it was the funniest thing ever. The man puffed out his chest, looking smug as if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to be the focus of such a woman’s attention. Lucius found himself agreeing with Narcissa that Burke really was a slimy bugger; he would have to go.

Narcissa wasn’t done with him just yet, though. Smiling, she took a sip of champagne and set it down on a side table immediately; it was terrible, but one wouldn’t know it from the pleasure that was painted all over her face like a beautiful mask. She made a joke and every man around her laughed, all of their faces turned towards her in prayerful devotion.

Lucius scowled. He knew it was all an act, completely fake, but it riled him anyway. Tension coiled tightly at the pit of his stomach as he watched her flirt and smile with the hunchbacked, awkward Burke, and when she put her hand on the other man’s arm and rose to accompany him to a more private corner, Lucius felt his jaw clench and knew he had got his comeuppance.

A part of him didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of rising to her taunts, but a larger part wanted to get her away from that crowd and Burke in particular. Lucius snapped his fingers at the bartender for a second glass of Lillet, with which he intercepted Narcissa and her unworthy admirer at the door.

“Thank you, Burke, that’ll do,” he said, handing her a glass so she was forced to let go of Burke’s arm. Lucius put a hand on her back and steered her into the next room, which was mercifully empty. Burke was left looking after them like a fish gaping out of water.

“Oh, but I was having so much fun,” Narcissa said when they were out of earshot. She was still maintaining her dazzling smile for the sake of the men watching through the open door, but her tone was chilly.

“Were you? That looked like a lot of hard work.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Narcissa said, turning her back towards the door so she could take a sip of the Lillet. Upon discovering that it was a lot better than the champagne, she drained half the glass.

“One can tell it’s bad champagne when even you refuse it,” Lucius said, clinking his glass against hers, “And I can tell you have ulterior motives when you invite the attentions of Bertram Burke. Fine; your point has been made, Witch. I apologise for singling him out as a potential candidate for your affections. I can see how that was insulting to a lady of your beauty and grace.”

Narcissa snorted quietly, but the corners of her mouth twitched. “You think you’re very smooth, don’t you.”

“Yes,” Lucius said, perfectly aware that she was too vain to ever resist a compliment. “But it’s the truth, too.”

She drank the rest of the Lillet, which seemed to aid in smoothing her prickly temper. “You apologise. I never thought I’d see the day!”

“Well, I still think you should have known I was merely joking. You can’t possibly believe I’d allow Burke to get cosy with you when I myself have been kept at arm’s length lately.”

The remark simultaneously managed to break the ice and make things awkward. Narcissa coloured slightly, which was the first genuine reaction she had shown all night and made her look even lovelier than before. “I wasn’t sure you cared.”

Lucius had had some vague plans to mollify her with a few well-placed courtesies, but somehow she had a way of making him want to do things he hadn’t previously considered and which weren’t always reasonable. As a general rule, though, he didn’t often question himself. He wanted what he wanted, and what he wanted, he took. Reaching out for her was pure instinct; he grabbed her hands and pulled her further into the room, away from the door and into his arms, where she fit as snugly and perfectly as ever. He’d been in a state of mild arousal ever since he’d laid eyes on her that night, and her closeness now did the rest. “It is you who has made herself scarce lately, not I.”

Her lashes fluttered gently as she peered up at him, an affectation that came so naturally to her that not even he was able to resist it. “And has that bothered you?”

“What do you think?” He pressed close to her, letting her feel the effect she was having on him. She looked startled, but did not move back. He searched her face for signs of disapproval, but she merely glanced towards the door, nervous, not unwilling. “Why have you been so distant, Cissy?” he whispered, leaning in so his breath brushed over her ear with the words. “You’d tell me if I’d caused the same offence as Burke, I trust.”

“Oh, you’ve caused offence, but not like that,” she said, so he felt free to press a kiss to the soft skin of her neck, just below her ear. She shivered. “Can we go somewhere else?”

Lucius thought there was some irony in her demanding privacy when she’d just forced him to publicly stake his claim, but he was too eager to take her somewhere alone to point this out. He held on to her and apparated them away from the curious onlookers in the next room. They needed time, a bit of anonymity, and that was easier to come by elsewhere.

They materialised on a small pergola underneath a wisteria that was just beginning to bloom. A lantern hung above them, swinging gently back and forth in the gust of wind from their arrival. Even in Muggle London, spring was in the air; the garden square was green and lush with bright new leaves and bunches of narcissus flowers, which was all too fitting.

Narcissa looked around, uneasy to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings, but they were alone. Lucius knew that the garden was private; he had accompanied his father once to the embassy that the Ministry of Magic maintained nearby to liaise with officials from the Muggle world. He had taken note of the secret garden back then, and now it had been the first place to pop into his mind when he whisked them away. No one would ever look for them here.

“It’s all right. No one’s here to see,” he said softly.

She turned to glare at him. “See what?”

“This.” He swept her up against his chest and kissed her, pushing past her cry of surprise to fuse their lips together and allow no protest to pass through, not until he’d snogged her so thoroughly that she forgot she’d ever been angry at him. Narcissa bit down lightly on his lower lip, but her resistance was feeble otherwise, and after a second, he felt her tilt her head to return the kiss with equal fervour. Their tongues tangled, warring for dominance, neither of them wanting to surrender first and admit the depths of their passion for the other.

Breathing hard, she broke away at last, staring up at him with fire in her eyes. “What are you doing?”

“I would’ve thought that was obvious,” Lucius smirked.

She crossed her arms when he tried to draw her back in. “No, actually, it isn’t. Enlighten me.”

He had an answer ready for once, although he’d still much rather be kissing her. “It’s very simple, isn’t it. I want this, you want this, so in the interest of efficient energy expenditure, let’s just stop pretending that we don’t, shall we? You quit playing the shrinking violet and I’ll stop suggesting you should be snogging anyone but me.”

But she shook her head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because there needs to be something in this world that you want, but can’t have,” she said with a haughty air that he recognised as a desperate act of self-preservation.

He reached out and took her hands, uncrossing her arms so he could draw her back against his chest. She came, unresisting, but she was frowning now. “That’s a bloody awful reason for self-denial, Cissy.”

Her hands came up to smooth down the front of his robes, toy with the buttons on his waistcoat. “It’s not just that. We’re not at school anymore. That was different, it was like another world, but this is real life. We can’t carry on like we did back then and pretend it’s nothing.”

“Who’s pretending?” She looked up at him then, her eyes wide and round and blue like deep, cool water. A pleasant calm came over him whenever he looked into those eyes, as if he could dive deep beneath the surface of those pools of blue, pass under the ripples and waves that often rocked his ship in the storm of his temper and find the lost treasure in the deep. He stroked a hand over her golden head. “My dear Miss Black, I wouldn’t invest so much time, effort and, frankly, money into ‘nothing’. Has this not occurred to you?”

He’d surprised her; she did not know what to say, and he smirked, enjoying the rare moment of unguardedness as she felt around for the right response. “Who am I to guess at the whys and wherefores of what you do?”

He laughed. “I do love it when you play the little idiot for the blustering halfwits of our acquaintance, Cissy, but don’t expect me to take you seriously when you do.”

“So where do we go from here?” she asked at length, still looking at him with those eyes that seemed to lure him in to drag him under, deep inside her. “I can’t keep going off with you, my father won’t allow it, especially with what happened earlier.”

“What’s that?”

She heaved a sigh. “Didn’t you see Bella, how angry she was? It was that blasted Violet Bulstrode! She took the first opportunity to tell Bella about my meeting with Andromeda. As I knew she would! Bella was livid, I can only imagine what she’ll do next time we’re alone. And she’ll certainly tell my parents.”

One day, some way or another, Violet Bulstrode would reap what she sowed. Lucius filed the thought away to act upon at some opportune time. “Well, nothing to be done for it now, is there. You’ll live.”

She pouted prettily. “Easy for you to say, you’re free as a bird.”

“What’s your father going to do, lock you up in your tower?”

“Probably!” she glowered.

Lucius wasn’t in the habit of aiding damsels in distress, and she was hardly helpless, but in all honesty, if there was trouble, he knew he would find himself on a broomstick at her window again, coming to her rescue. Not that he would tell her this; she had too much power over him already.

“Well, if that’s how it’s going to be, I’ll have to come to you, won’t I.”

Her smooth brow furrowed. “You would visit me at my parents’ house? It’ll be impossible to sneak around without them noticing.”

“I wasn’t planning to do anything so undignified as ‘sneaking around’.” Good manners dictated that he reintroduce himself to her parents, after all, and it would be a good opportunity to impress on Cygnus Black that Lucius would not suffer opposition in his pursuit of Narcissa. The man was making her miserable enough; he would not get in the way of a good time.

“Daddy won’t like us spending time together,” she said, but a small, hopeful smile tugged at the corners of her mouth now. “He gave me hell last time when he found out I went to dinner with you.”

So that was why she’d been so reserved. Lucius was glad to find out it was nothing to do with their relationship, but he still wished she’d just told him about it so he could have taken appropriate action sooner. “I’d like to see him try to stop me visiting you,” he said dryly. “What could he possibly do about it?”

“You know how he cursed Thorfinn--”

Lucius laughed. “Please don’t concern yourself with worry for me. Your father will not curse me.”

“Then I will suffer the blame.”

He smirked, leaning in so he could feel the heat of her skin under his lips when he spoke. “It’s worth taking the risk, don’t you think.”

“That’s a lot to ask, Malfoy,” she whispered, her lips moving over his now, breathing the words into him.

He nipped lightly at her mouth, snapping his teeth. “Is it really?”

With a low moan, Narcissa kissed him hard. He hadn’t been wrong about her wanting this, but he was still unprepared for the onslaught of her passion. She was always so restrained that even he, who knew her better than anyone, was surprised to be reminded of the temper that lay hidden beneath the veneer of propriety, and which unveiled itself sometimes to be a fiery beast, like a dragon bursting from flame and taking flight. It was a secret thrill, only for him to know, and no one else could ever have her, no one.

The thought startled him enough to draw back. “Well then. We agreed we wanted to do some...exploring, didn’t we. Of the English countryside,” he added after letting the first bit stretch out for a few seconds with promise. “I would like to see more of your home county. You could show me your herb garden.”

Even after the kiss they’d just shared, Narcissa could still blush, but her tone didn’t match her charming ruse of innocence when she said, “I suppose it’s a good time for it; my garden is in full bloom.”

Lucius swallowed hard, his throat suddenly dry. He was quite caught in her spell, it was impossible to deny it, but he didn’t particularly care to fight the hold she had on him. They were matched, he thought as they stared into each other’s eyes, each of them both captor and captive. He did not care for entanglements, they made life complicated, but the two of them were wrapped up in each other like vines, having grown together until they became one. There was no fighting nature, especially when it asserted itself as strongly as it did whenever he laid eyes on this woman.

He inclined his head, too overcome with desire to be witty. A faint smile twisted the corners of her mouth. Narcissa produced a fine linen handkerchief from her décolletage and dabbed at his lips. It came away pink with her lipstick. “I take tea at half past three on Sundays. Come and join me if you dare.”

“I dare,” he said, low, and she smiled at him before slithering out of his embrace with the fluid grace of a snake. A fierce light shone in her eyes, like the sun rising bright beyond a dark cloud.

“I shall look forward to it. Good night, Lucius.”

He grabbed at her, but all he managed to snag before she disapparated was her handkerchief. Lucius stood there in the swaying light of the lantern, his body aching with her nearness and the sudden loss of it. He held the fine white cloth to his nose. It smelled sweetly of daffodils in a spring breeze, but there was a new edge to it, a hint of bitter spice, residue of some potion perhaps, that made his head swim. “Minx,” he muttered, stifling a chuckle in the soft fabric. Pressed up against his face, the scent enveloped him, and it was so easy to close his eyes and imagine all the forbidden pleasures that they had not shared but which still felt so real for all that he had dreamed them.

He apparated home and into his bedroom without any conscious thought, wrapped up in that scent and the fantasy of the face that went with it. They had only shared the most perfunctory of touches, and he burned with unfulfilled desire. Before long, he was coming into his hand, hips rising up off the bed as he spat out a curse and her name. He lay there for a minute, feeling boneless if not quite satiated. No fantasy could satisfy the very real need he felt to have her close, but even in absentia, she had taken the edge off his suffering.

And so the night concluded with reconciliation, he thought, which was a rare enough thing in his life. He reached down to clean himself up with the handkerchief. When he raised it to his nose again, it smelled of her and him, the way he imagined she would smell after he’d come inside her. Pleasant as the thought was, it only made him needier for the real thing.

When had that happened? He had his preferences, certainly, and Narcissa fit them well, but his perception had never narrowed in this way, where nothing and no one else would satisfy his cravings but this one person. The feeling was like an enchantment in how suddenly and completely it had come over him, but if she had bewitched him, the feeling should seem more artificial, not as natural as breathing. It should also be wearing off at some point, but it wasn’t; it was only becoming stronger every time he saw her.

Lucius shook his head at himself and had to grin. It was doing Narcissa an injustice to think that she would need to resort to magic to imprint herself in the mind and body of any man. Still, he had considered himself immune to such things, and to find that he might not be was puzzling.

He’d wondered before what it would be like to have Narcissa for his own, so the sudden rush of desire wasn’t exactly surprising, and even the feeling of fondness wasn’t new, but he hadn’t seriously considered acting upon either until now. Somehow, though, the thought didn’t make him squirm with discomfort as it might have a few short months ago. He knew what was required of him in terms of continuing the Malfoy lineage and making a suitable match, and in all respects, this was an excellent coupling. Narcissa was his peer, his friend, and they had enough of a history between them that imagining her as his lover wasn’t exactly a stretch. The only surprising thing about it was that Lucius actually considered the idea of a serious relationship with pleasure.

He didn’t exactly envision himself settling down soon, but Narcissa could have any man she wanted worshipping at her feet. She would be stupid to allow herself to be toyed with, and she wasn’t that, no matter what she might pretend. Of course he could rail against his feelings for her, clamp down on them and have all sorts of other pleasures fall readily into his lap whenever he felt but a passing fancy, but he’d begun to feel a sense of boredom lately. There was nothing and no one he couldn’t buy except she, and that made him want her more than he had ever wanted anything in his life.

That, and he’d really begun to hate watching her suitors sniff around her lately. Tonight he had probably made enemies of Bertram Burke and another half dozen men, but he could barely bring himself to care. He was possessive of her, perhaps to the point of stupidity, but if he wanted to put the other men who vied for her attention in their place, he’d have to declare himself first, declare her his own.

He envisioned it now, entering a room with her on his arm and having every male in attendance shrink in jealous envy. And then there were the fantasies of what they could be doing in private, when they were alone... Yes; Lucius could imagine them both being quite content with such an arrangement.

They had been friends for a long time, but now they were on the cusp of something else, and the anticipation of finding out what was going to happen between them was enough to make him shiver. Her family’s resistance was nothing more than a passing concern. Of course tongues would start wagging when he formally introduced himself to Cygnus Black, but there was never any way to avoid gossip and one couldn’t live one’s life in deference to the opinions of others. It might even be amusing to set their circle of acquaintances aflutter, and the Blacks couldn’t afford to refuse a wealthy suitor no matter how they might feel about him.

The only reason to tread with caution was his father. The elder Malfoy had been in a clinch with Cygnus Black and his cousin Orion ever since Abraxas had invested in Slug and Jigger’s Apothecary and, by doing so, hastened the downfall of the faltering Cepheus Black and Sons. As far as Lucius knew, his father had done nothing more than reap the rewards of the Blacks’ self-inflicted misfortune, but there was no love lost between the men. The Blacks’ arrogance was ill matched to their squalor, for which they not so secretly blamed the Malfoys; Abraxas, for his part, simply hated dramatics, and the Blacks were always good for a juicy scandal.

Of course none of that would truly be a reason to forbid such an advantageous match, were it not for Abraxas’s disdain of everything Lucius did. He would find reasons to frown on the match, not that the Blacks’ conduct made it hard to; still, Lucius was too well used to his father’s disappointment to fear it. What concerned him was that his affection for Narcissa might be used against him if Abraxas detected any hint of it, so Lucius’s true feelings on the matter had better stay hidden, which required a balancing act of some skill. Narcissa wouldn’t have him if he didn’t commit to her, he was sure, but if he showed too much of a preference, his father would sneer at it for the weakness it was and forbid the relationship for the simple reason that it was what Lucius wanted.

Lucius didn’t know how long he could stall until his father would truly put on pressure for him to shoulder the burden of the Malfoy legacy and thus force his hand. Lucius was hoping to just wait him out – Abraxas wasn’t getting any younger and he’d been in poor health for years – but he wouldn’t put it past his father to live to two hundred by sheer force of will. As long as Abraxas limited his meddling to mean-spirited remarks at the dinner table, Lucius could ignore him, but he’d noticed his father watching him tonight, and that sort of attention didn’t bode well.

He had to be on his guard even with the pleasures he craved his for the taking. It wouldn’t be easy to not be distracted by the charms of a certain witch, but for both their sakes, he had to keep hold of his wits.

So he cast a cleaning charm on the handkerchief and resisted the impulse to hold it to his face again to try and catch the scent of flowers. He dropped it on the pile of his worn clothes to be washed and pressed, then reached for the book of curses he’d been reading, banishing the thought of her to the back of his mind for the moment. He could not fully immerse himself in her without losing focus, but even with one eye on the machinations of his father, Lucius could begin to lay some groundwork for their budding relationship.

The coming months would be interesting, that much was for certain.