An awkward silence stretched between the two friends in the wake of her absence. Lucius, while silently studying his cousin, was trying to discern how well he knew the youngest Miss Black. When the silence became too much for both, Lucius finally drawled, “I wonder where she went.”
“Isn’t that obvious?” the lord answered, “to her aunt’s.”
Lucius sighed. “I doubt it,” he pondered. “She would not willingly admit or imply to another living creature, let alone a Black, that there is even the slightest discord within the family. Her presence would, naturally, do as much or, if not, could lead to awkward questions.”
Alexius did not answer. Instead, he merely shook his head, the firelight dancing off of his darkened curls in an almost feminine manner, Lucius observed with a hint of disdain. And yet, the blond-haired wizard had to admit, there could be something appealing in his cousin’s form to a young witch. Although the younger man could not be considered tall, he certainly gave the appearance of being so. His figure was lean, although not athletic; and his boyish eyes complimented his intellectual yet youthful face. He could be serious one moment and then clever the next and, Lucius conceded silently to himself as he observed the nobleman, could be more than simply charming if he tried.
“And yet,” Lucius continued after a moment of silent reverie, “she came here.” To you, he added mentally.
Alexius looked at his cousin for a brief moment and then turned his gaze to the fire once more. “She was hoping,” he commented warily, “that a house elf would recognize her and give her shelter for the night as she is such a close friend of my sister.”
Lucius’ head snapped up at this confession. “So, she didn’t know you were going to be here?”
“No,” Alexius creased his fine brow, “we’d never met before.”
Alexius was surprised at the sudden change of Lucius’ countenance. One moment, the taller man (for Lucius was in fact taller than Lord Everingham) wore a pained look of indifference across his handsome face, and the next it was as if his face were shining from its own brilliance. His features relaxed noticeably and his sensuous mouth curved into a genuine smile. His eyes, Alexius noticed in horror, even seemed to twinkle.
Another awkward moment of silence hung within the room, although Lucius barely seemed to notice it.
“Well,” Alexius warily said, “I must now write to my sister.” Naturally, he did not include the reason for this letter’s sudden urgency. Lucius’ behavior perplexed Alexius and even frightened him a bit. What was the relationship between the beautiful Miss Narcissa Black and his cousin? Why did Lucius’ face light up when he heard that he had never met Narcissa? Why did Narcissa’s sister think Lucius was in love with Narcissa herself?
Please, let it not be thus, though he thought otherwise.
“I,” Lucius nearly sang, “have a better idea.”
“Really?” Alexius managed as he pushed a falling lock away from his horrified face.
“Yes,” the blond drawled, “as there is only one place where Miss Black would willing go, and although practical it can be as ‘dangerous’ as her aunt’s house. Therefore,” here he paused for dramatic affect, “I propose we go and ‘fetch’ her.”
“I’m certain, Lucius,” Alexius began, “she is a grown woman who can take care of herself.”
“No doubt,” Lucius conceded. “However, this would give you a reason to speak personally with your dear sister and would allow me to apologise to Narcissa” – How peculiar, Alexius thought briefly for Lucius Malfoy had pronounced her name with a peculiar and perhaps dangerous type of reverence – “Black.”
“Apologise? For what?” Alexius questioned. “And, my dear friend, how would ‘fetching’ Narcissa” – How vexing, Lucius thought briefly as Lord Everingham, whom he might add had just met ‘Narcissa,’ pronounced her name with a peculiar and perhaps loving type of reverence – “allow me to see June?”
Ignoring his cousin’s first inquiry, Lucius stated what he had assumed to be obvious; But, then again, he thought, I do know Narcissa better than anyone: “Narcissa went to Hogwarts, naturally.”
“Hogwarts? Why?” His brow once again furrowed.
“She can freely come and go from there without being questioned while having the familiarity of a place she most likely thinks of as ‘home.’ And her dearest friend is there in whom she can easily confide, if she feels such an inclination.”
Lucius paused, thinking of Junia of Everingham. Although she was his closest friend’s sister, he had rarely given her a second glance. She had always “paled” in comparison with the intriguing Narcissa Black and had seemed a child in comparison.
“Though,” he added thoughtfully, “I doubt she would in this particular situation.” Junia had always been quite taken with Lucius and, thus, he believed that he was rarely spoken of by the two friends. Junia would only become angry because he had always favoured Narcissa and only Narcissa, and Narcissa would … what? Wish that he hadn’t?
“So,” he concluded hastily as he looked up at his friend – or possible future foe – “Are you coming?”
The name haunted her; it had ever since she had first heard it in her mind’s eye.
Was that all I am to him? she couldn’t help thinking to herself. A flower! a beautiful ornament! She was enraged at the mere thought. How dare he put her through such torture, such misery, if it were merely because she was something pretty that he wanted, coveted.
She looked down at her pale hands and wondered if that was the reason. No, she challenged, it could not be that.
She sighed into the darkness.
Why was she thinking such thoughts? she wondered. Why did she seem to care?
And, letting her mind wander, she assured herself, it could not merely be for my “beauty.” Could it? She had noticed how certain boys at Hogwarts looked at her, how they stared at her in class and constantly asked her to Hogsmeade. And yet, despite all of this, she had never believed herself to be beautiful. Instead, she had thought of herself as tainted – tainted by Lucius.
“Lucius,” she whispered to herself, absentmindedly reaching for the fourth finger of her right hand, where there would one day be a ring.
She shoved the thought quickly from her mind. Of course she would never wear such an object, a gift from him of all men! And yet, she could not help but reach for where it might have been. It had been a peculiar habit of hers ever since she had reached Hogwarts. At first she had not understood why, except that there was an odd feeling of emptiness where a ring might have been. And she could never cure this lack, this want, this – dare she think it? – need.
She had tried placing a ring on that finger, to ease the haunting pain the absence created, and yet such an action only increased her suffering. Once she had nearly wept over such a loss, a lack of something that she knew would complete her if she could only identify and possess it. It had been in her fourth year, when she had thought that everyone was enjoying the Halloween feast (a quaint tradition, in Narcissa’s opinion). And yet, one student had left the festivities early and had found her tangled in her silk sheets, shivering from her unspent tears that might have stained her royal face.
The intruder had looked at her for several moments, and Narcissa had stared defiantly back. And yet this stranger had understood Narcissa’s pain and suffering. She had known the entirety, or at least as much as she needed to, just by looking at her. And then she had silently come forward and sat beside Narcissa until Narcissa had been able to will herself to move.
Narcissa had never shed a single tear, and yet Junia had understood and known. Since that day they had shared that secret, neither speaking of it nor acknowledging that it had ever happened. And yet they had, unconsciously, for a friendship had grown from that frozen moment when the one who loved was able to pity the one who was loved and understand the latter’s burden. And the object of unwanted affection who strangely need it had been able, in their mutual silence, to understand the witch she envied and her need for Lucius, for now she understood it.
Or at least part of it. The intense need he had instilled in her.
And yet she did not know what she wanted. Despite the hours of reflection she spent locked inside the castle when her schoolmates had enjoyed the outdoors or had slept quietly and in unadulterated innocence, she could not understand it. Her mind could not rationalize these feelings and although her heart yearned for something – or someone – her very soul could not identify it.
Though perhaps it did not want to.
Or perhaps it merely could not. Or would not. Or should not.
She sighed into the wind. Ever since that night when she was merely a young girl, something had inwardly changed her. If she had not already tested so many counter-curses and potions on herself, she would say that it was because of magic, although clearly it was not. It was something more than that, darker than that.
It frightened her and yet it entranced her – this feeling that haunted her desperately and had become a secret obsession of hers that even Junia did not know about. Her rational mind told her that it could not be desire, for she loathed this feeling with her very soul. And yet this absence consumed her and every word she spoke, every deed she committed was to try to appease its unceasing presence.
Narcissa looked up to see that she had wandered toward the Forbidden Forest instead of toward the castle as she had intended. She had, indeed, as Lucius had guessed, gone to Hogwarts in search of refuge, but found that she preferred the peace of the midnight grounds to the dark corridors that awaited her inside.
She looked at the daunting line of aging trees now before her and nearly cowered in fear. Ever since her third year she had inexplicably dreaded this lonely walk which had once given her such peace of mind. Something had happened here, she could instinctually feel it, but she just didn’t know what; perhaps she couldn’t remember.
Absentmindedly, she stroked the aging bark of an old oak near her. She loved the feeling of its imperfections, the comfort of it being real and rooted in reality. As her smooth fingers caressed the rough and splintering wood, she closed her eyes, trying to shield herself from her emptiness and from the biting cold.
Then, in the peaceful night, she had felt an odd warmth against her right hand and a strange kind of spiritual relief. It was as if, in that moment of silence, all of her fears had strangely melted from her belaboured form. She smiled softly to herself and her eyes fluttered open.
“Why do you smile?” a deep voice asked softly against her ear, her loosening tendrils of gold stirring ever so slightly. It sounded so comforting, so familiar in that moment that she did not even bother to question its presence. She felt too light, too inexplicably content, and far too tired to think rationally.
I must be dreaming this, she thought to herself before answering. She trembled at this depressing realization: none of this was real. And she would awaken in the morning, in her bed at home or at Hogwarts, longing for fulfillment more than she ever had. Her soul would burn at the very absence, and she would be alone again.
“Are you cold, dearest?” the voice inquired quietly. Briefly the warmth left her hand and then she felt a heavy cloak placed gently and perhaps reverently on her shoulders. “Is that better?” The elation in the voice echoed against the trees.
“Don’t let me awaken,” was all she whispered in return, as her eyes fluttered shut once again. “Please don’t make me leave.” She leaned backwards slightly, feeling the warmth of the form of the voice against her. Resting there seemed so natural, and she smiled again, “Not just yet.”
“As you wish,” the voice replied. His hand, that was enveloping her small one, brought hers to his lips and gently kissed it as he spoke. His other hand easily found her other resting against her side and began to intertwine its fingers with hers. His lips’ aching slowness taunted her. Their kisses were so gentle and yet so full of longing that she felt as if she would burn in the fires they created against her skin.
Slowly she felt herself being turned around by the voice’s artful hands, soft kisses being placed against her arching neck. “I love you,” he whispered against her skin as she slid her hands behind his neck. His voice, though soft, was raw and was seeped with want and desire. And yet there was a tender sweetness to his words that made her want to give in to his every wish.
She loved the way his light fingers caressed her hair, slowly removing the fastenings that held it elegantly upon her head. She could hear him sigh in wonder as her golden locks tumbled past her shoulders. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispered into her hair.
Her eyes jerked open suddenly at the declaration. “Beautiful?” she asked harshly as she pulled away from the voice, her vision revealing a very startled Lucius Malfoy. She tugged herself out of his arms and felt the loss instantly. The aching returned to her soul, and she nearly screamed at the physical pain the lack of his touch created in her. “Beautiful?” she rasped again as he instinctually reached for her. “Is that all that I am to you? Something beautiful?” she spat cruelly as she fully recoiled, accidentally slamming against the trunk of the ancient oak she had been admiring a few moments before. “An ornament?” she continued ruthlessly, “a flower? Anthos?”
He reached for her again, but she turned her head away. “Is this some game to you?” she screamed at him, turning towards his handsome form again. She was so wrapped up in her anger, her pain, that she did not hear the faint rustling of someone approaching.
“No,” he breathed, grabbing her gently as she tried to flee. “How can you possibly think that?” he queried as he pulled her tensing form toward him and noticed how she reluctantly relaxed against him as her pain, unknown to him, ceased.
“I’m sorry,” he breathed into the air, hoping that he could hold her for just a moment longer.
She pulled away slightly in surprise, looking into his grey eyes as she tried to read them. “Sorry?” she asked breathlessly.
“Yes,” he confirmed huskily as he searched her eyes for some kind of emotion. She noticed how his lips were tinted blue and how his breath solidified between them. She was so close to him. She lifted one exquisite eyebrow in question, words were strangely not needed between them. He sighed, as he broke her unflinching gaze and whispered, “for loving you.”
He began to pull away from her although he felt that his heart would break, but then he felt her hand against his cheek. With her soft yet cold hand she guided his gaze back to hers and seemed to search his eyes for the truth. He looked back at her, imploring her to believe him for once.
Narcissa did not remove her hand from his face and the feel of it tortured him. Although her touch was gentle, it was not loving. And it was so cold; she was shivering even under his cloak and he couldn’t bear to see her in any distress. Slowly, he covered her freezing hand in his gloved one, warming it with the unnatural and yet strangely intimate touch of leather. However, as she held his eyes, he could see that she was still cold. Slowly, he removed his hand from hers, and removed the glove, letting it drop to the ground between them. Then, he replaced his hand, allowing his flesh to warm her.
Her green eyes fluttered to his now uncovered hand, understanding this simple gesture. And yet his eyes never left hers, hoping there might be a glimmer of that which he desired most.
Quickly she removed her hand from his cheek, “what happened here?” she asked brusquely, turning away from him.
And yet he did not release her from his grasp. She knew something was wrong, this intimacy that paralleled the past she could no longer recollect. He could not help but notice the tremble of fear in her angelic voice, and although it pained him to answer, he replied, “I tried to make sure you wouldn’t remember, that” – his voice caught in his throat and Narcissa turned toward him again and saw the pain lined on his face. “That,” he continued as he looked away from her, “it wouldn’t haunt you as it has haunted me these many years.”
“You? Haunted?” and yet her reproach lacked bitterness. Instead it seemed more of a question, as if she could not believe her ears. “Lucius,” he turned toward her once more as she said his name, her voice devoid of the usual disdain it carried when she uttered his name, “what happened?”
“I,” he began, looking at her and being unable to continue. After a moment of silence, he asked hesitantly, “would you like me to show you, Narcissa?”
At first she did not move or answer. She just stared fixedly at nothing, searching her aching memory that refused to remember. Then, timidly, she nodded her head.
“Forgive me,” he whispered before his mouth unexpectedly claimed her lips. She tensed momentarily at the sensation that she had not known since her second year as he tenderly kissed her cold lips. She smiled unconsciously at the warmth his touch gave her and slowly melted into his arms.
Lucius, despite the elation he felt as he kissed her again and again, was gripped with fear. Last time they had stood nearly on this spot, at the end of his seventh year, he had been unable to convince her that he wanted her, desired her – needed her. And was this kiss, possibly their last, to be the same? Was she going to begin to shiver in fear again, to weep because she despised him with her very soul?
No, he thought as he pulled away and gently kissed her nose. It was not going to be like that again. And then he opened his eyes only to see her smiling sweetly at him, her green eyes shining in the darkness.
“Why did you stop?” she implored without thinking, not noticing the somewhat astonished look on his face that her comment caused. He looked into her eyes and saw the same need he had felt since he had first laid eyes on her.
“I did not want to frighten you – again,” he replied as his hand caressed the side of her face. He smiled as she leaned into the palm of his hand, her eyes closing in contentment.
“If only this were real,” she sighed.
Does she still think she’s dreaming? Lucius thought in consternation. Bending low so that his forehead rested lovingly against hers, he whispered into her pinking lips, “it can be, dearest one.”
She laughed lightly.
“Would you like it to be, my darling?”
Her eyes fluttered open and she simply looked into his imploring eyes. How she feared them and yearned for them. Before she knew what she was doing, her lips had reached for his and had kissed him passionately. Her hands became entwined in his hair, pulling his lips down to her as she collapsed into his strong arms. He kissed her as blindly as she kissed him, reveling in the feeling of her sweet mouth that she was strangely willingly giving to him. Perhaps this is a dream, he wondered momentarily. He pushed the taunting thought quickly from his mind. This is too real, he thought, to be just a dream, and as he deepened the passionate kiss even farther he swept her into his arms when he sensed that her legs would no longer hold her.
How young and innocent she looked, he noticed as he kissed her pale neck. Her hands were still clenched in his flowing hair, almost painfully so, but he did not care. She wanted him. After all of these years she was kissing him as if she would die if he ever stopped holding her, if his lips did not continue to worship her.
“Do you really love me, Lucius?” she moaned as she once again captured his roving lips in her own. He thought his heart would burst if she were to kiss him again, if she were to deepen this passionate embrace. He had never been in such delightful agony. Everywhere her lips touched, his skin tingled and burnt to the point where he thought he would be consumed by the very fire she inspired in him.
He sighed into her lips. “Desperately,” he gasped as he broke away.
“As much as you cared for Bellatrix?” she asked innocently, leaning away from him as he searched for her lips again. “Or more?” she quipped.
And then, as he gazed at her in amazement, he saw that taunting glimmer in her eyes. He suddenly understood. She was punishing him for his past acts. “Is this,” he spat despite himself, “to be my punishment?”
As she freed herself from his grasp and gracefully fell to the ground, she asked with that seeming innocence again, “Are you deserving of punishment, Lucius?”
Did her voice hitch when she spoke my name? he wondered. What game exactly is she playing?
“How do I know, dearest,” she paused as she spoke the term of endearment softly as if whispering it to herself, “that you will not discard me like you did her? How can I truly know?” Her eyes flared in the darkness, but he said nothing. “How am I to know, Luc? How do I know that if we lie here by this forest and an innocent ten year old happens upon us, that you will not want her as badly as you wanted me all those years?” she cried passionately. “And then you will haunt her until she becomes bitter and vindictive and fears your very name. But you will not leave her alone, you will reside in her nightmares, her most passionate dreams until …” Her voice suddenly caught in her throat as tears welled in her majestic eyes.
“Until?” he whispered as he pushed a falling lock of her hair away from her infuriated face. “And since when did I become ‘Luc,’ dear?” he asked with disdain.
“It doesn’t matter,” she answered as she shied away from him, away from the trees. Vaguely in her peripheral vision she saw a form that was watching her intently.
He caught her arm gently, “why not?” he asked roughly.
“Because,” she nearly cried, “none of this is real. This is just another one of my dreams. And whatever you say to me will mean nothing, absolutely nothing. You don’t love me, you never did. You would never say so in my waking hours!”
“But this is real, Anthos. As real as the blood that runs in our veins. Here,” he grabbed her hand and placed it against his beating heart. “Can you not feel that? I’m here, in the flesh, and I do love you.” His voice softened, “how can I prove it to you?”
She merely stared at him. “Did you sleep with her?” she asked coldly. At his astonishment at her question, she tried to clarify, “Actually …” her voice faded. When he continued to look at her but not answer, she cried, “Tell me!”
He moved toward her, and caressed her forehead with his lips. “No,” he breathed, “I’ll swear on whatever you require.” He pulled away, “Anthos?” he questioned when she showed no emotion, not even to his tender kisses. Instead, he noticed, she massaged the fourth finger on her right hand as if it felt empty, as if it were missing …
“Anthos,” he spoke passionately to regain her attention. He took her right hand in his own hands and kissed it tenderly as he sank to his knees. “Narcissa,” he began again, noticing how her swollen lips were beginning to turn blue from the cold. He could see their short breaths in the air before them. “I love you dearly, more passionately than I have ever loved anyone,” at the look of disbelief in her eyes he added, “truly. Will you, my dearest,” he breathed uncertainly, and he noticed a look of understanding suddenly dawn in her eyes, “consent to be my wife?”
The words hung in the air as she stared at him dumbly, and he could not help but notice how beautiful she seemed with the moonlight shining on her hair, turning it almost silver.
When she continued to say nothing, he continued, “I am in earnest, my dearest – Anthos. I love you, I always have and I never meant to make you fear me when you were young.” He sighed. “And yet you are still so young,” he reflected. “You would have been so innocent if I hadn’t –”
“And what of Bella?” she asked uncertainly.
He held her gaze steadily although he could not help hearing a faint rustling somewhere near them. “I swear, Anthos. On that night when we met, I had not … yet. And I left right after you did. Though,” he admitted, “by the window.”
I’m dreaming, Narcissa thought sadly. There was such raw emotion in his eyes, and she wanted him to hold her. She wanted to believe him; she needed to believe him, to believe that he loved her and that he would never leave her, at least in her dreams.
She slowly sank to the ground so that she could look more clearly in her eyes. Her lips parted agonizingly slowly, and Lucius couldn’t breathe as she uttered “Oui, car je t’aime, belle reve.”
Yes, for I love you, beautiful dream.
Silently, the one who had followed them began to cry.