Chapter Five: Household Items and Furniture
As historians, we must accept that while we may know much, what we do not know will always be more. We know, for instance, because a clerk at Bait and Krarell’s Magical Homeware has told us so, that in June of 1995 one Narcissa Malfoy went out to buy an entire set of new china, silverware and furniture. We know that she bought the most expensive items in the shop, such as a tasteful but modern set of ivory-colored plates and cups so finely made they were almost transparent; a gold-coated chaise lounge with French silk upholstery in emerald green. We know that she spent more than a thousand galleons on this, on a summer’s day in Diagon Alley, surrounded by other rich and oblivious witches. We also know that that day would come to mark the day after Lord Voldemort’s return to Britain.
But that is all we know for sure.
She was sitting in the downstairs drawing room, reading, enjoying the evening sun and a glass of chilled white wine, when he walked in. He’d been puttering around in his study during the past few weeks more than was usual or permissible, coming to bed late, when she was either asleep or pretending to be. It had never been like this before- if anything, they had been a little too preoccupied with each other when Draco had first left for Hogwarts. And before that, well, he’d been a doting, caring father who rejoiced with her in Draco’s first, scrawled letters and his first signs of accidental magic.
Well, there had been a time when they had not been on the top his agenda. There had been that time, a time that felt like a distant nightmare now, times too tainted and terrifying to be real, to not pale against the comforting light of her daily reality. She took another sip of her wine, reflecting that, for sure, it would never be like that again.
“Good evening, darling,” he bent down and kissed her on the cheek.
“Hello,” she smiled. “It’s nice to see I have a husband again.” She summoned a glass from the cabinet and poured him some of her wine.
He nodded, self-consciously. “Yes, darling, I know I’ve been…absent. I apologize.” It was then, that moment of stilted formality so unlike them that she realized something was wrong. And not just bothering-him wrong- at that moment she sniffed danger. She sensed that there was something dark, something thoroughly unpleasant invading her world. Still, maybe it was just everyday worries; maybe he was just missing Draco, as she was.
Casting around for something to say, her eyes landed on the brochure from the travel agent’s in Diagon Alley, the owl-card her sister-in-law had sent them folded into its middle. “Catalina told me about the resort in Atlantis they traveled to in the spring. It looks beautiful- we should take Draco before he has to go back to school in the fall.”
“Yes, that sounds lovely,” he replied mechanically. Her eyebrows shot of- this sort of idea was usually followed by an argument, because he felt that she spoilt their son too much, whereas he wanted him to have to work for his luxuries. “Although I’m afraid you might have to take him alone. I expect I will be rather busy this summer.”
She frowned. “Busy with what?” Busy was not exactly a word frequented in their vocabulary. Part of being a Malfoy was having an endless supply of gold without ever being busy.
“Oh, nothing of importance-“ he took a deep swig of wine, looked out of the window, anywhere, it seemed, but at her.
“Lucius,” she said, trying to catch his eye, “What aren’t you telling me?”
It was a joke between them, an old catchphrase- it was what she’d said to him when they first met, at a summer masquerade at Rosier Hall. He was wearing a somewhat sinister mask to go with his purple Venetian costume, and he seemed to her too perfect to be true, and so she asked him, without an air of seriousness, “What aren’t you telling me?”
It was only much later that she found out that what he wasn’t telling her was that he was blessed with the ability to understand what she was thinking. That he was the only person on the planet who, instead of saying “Oh, what would you know about it?” would pour her another wine and let her finish her sentence. It was only much later that she understood that what he wasn’t telling was that he was ready to let her sit on his desk, write his letters for him, and run her fingers down his shirt with a smirk on her face. He wasn’t telling her that her schoolgirl crush, her delight to have found a man whom her parents would appreciate and she could admire, would over the years grow into honest respect and love for an intelligent and understanding man. And it was also only much later that she realized what he wasn’t telling her that even if he vowed to honor, to cherish, to keep her, his Lord would always come first.
“Nothing, dear, how do you mean?” He replied, airily and without a flicker of a smile.
She laughed. “Honestly, Lucius, if I didn’t know better I would think you’ve been having a secret love affair.”
His laugh came too forced, too late, and still he wasn’t looking at her.
It was like a punch in the stomach, but she knew, she knew that this was not about a secret love affair. This was not about some vapid girl with less body fat than was good for her, a pale midriff and long legs. He would never dare. And then he unconsciously rubbed his forearm, and she understood.
He was back. That was what this was about. She rose abruptly, spilling some of her wine on her green gown. “Excuse me,” she stammered, “I need to…Dinner should be ready, I’ll meet you there, yes?” Without waiting for him to reply, she fled the room, into the bathroom off the hall. She stared at her reflection, pale and somehow looking so much younger- wide blue eyes, watery, and hectic pink patches growing on her cheeks. It was like looking at her younger self in the mirror. Instinctively, she pulled out her wand and with a tap, fixed her elaborate hair do, which had unwound in the course of the day. As she renewed the coiffeur charm, invisible hands seemed to speedily rebraid her hair and reclip it tightly. The woman she looked at now- that was who she was at this moment, Narcissa Malfoy, thirty-two years old, mother not of an infant but a fourth year at Hogwarts. She was a woman who could sleep without fear, who could look at her husband without wondering when she would see him again. She was a woman who could live her life free of fear and bloodshed. She was Narcissa Malfoy. And no one would take that away from her.
With a deep breath and square shoulders, every bit the proud fighter her sisters had always wanted her to be, although for a cause neither of them would think much of, she closed the bathroom door behind her and went to meet her husband in the dining room.
He was already sitting down, absentmindedly playing with his fork in a way that immediately reminded her of Draco- the gesture was so characteristic of him, the similarity between father and son almost chilling. Draco. He was another part of her life she would not let Him ruin all over again. As a baby she could clutch him in her arms and run away with him, but now he was almost a man and she needed to protect him more than ever. In this, at least, he must never be like his father.
She sat; mechanically tapping the little bell next to her plate, which she knew, would ring in the kitchen, informing Cookie they were expecting dinner. Sure enough, two plates of watercress soufflé with fresh trout from the creek behind the house appeared before them. Tasting the exquisite food, she remembered the brief spell of elf-less-ness they had encountered after that Potter brat had freed Dobby… Lucius, standing over the stove insisting he could make pancakes while she and Draco fell over laughing, going out to dinner seven days a week until her sister-in-law, Catalina, took pity on them and sent over Cookie as an anniversary present.
They sat in silence, eating the delicious food, the scraping of plates and clinking of china echoing eerily in the marble hall. They had filled this house, this cold marble manor, with noise, with noises of love. Lucius’s attempt at whinnying when he carried Draco around on his back, her nursery songs for their baby boy, his laugh as he whizzed around on his toy broomstick. Lucius’ low voice of desire when he saw her sprawled coyly on that sofa, her moans when he kissed her in exactly the right spot. Laughing and arguing with her husband over wine and Dobby’s excellent cheese puffs. All that was left now was silence.
“Narcissa, we need to talk.” He pushed away his plate and emptied his glass of wine in one.
“Yes,” she said, sighing. “Yes, we do.” She suddenly found herself incapable of looking at him, stared at her own distorted reflection in the silver chandelier in front of her instead, twisting a lock of hair into a tight rope. “He’s back, isn’t he?”
“I know.” She looked up at him with a sad smile. “We’ve been married for over fifteen years, Lucius. I remember what it was like. I know you. I know.”
“The mark- it’s been growing stronger for months.” She remembered him flinching when they made love, remembered thinking it was her fault. Remembered staring at her reflection, tracing the first, thin threats of crow’s feet with panic and spending a fortune on skin care the next day. Fury rose in her. “Cissy, when he calls, I will have to answer.”
Her eyes met his. “Don’t.”
“What?” His eyes widened in surprise.
“I don’t want it again,” she explained. “The fear, the blood. Bella- he will get her out of Azkaban, I expect. I don’t want them in Draco’s life, none of them.”
“They are in Draco’s life,” he reminded her with the crease between his eyes that she loved. “Role, Rosier, he’s known them since childhood. And Snape-“
“I don’t want it again,” she repeated, her voice low and dangerous.
“But-“ He shook his head in a gesture of confusion. “How can you not want it? How can you not want him to return, to make the world we always agreed was a better world, without Mudbloods to worry about? That’s the world we want for Draco.”
“I know,” she replied, sighing. “And I agree with all of that, I just don’t… it’s not worth dying for. It wasn’t then and it certainly isn’t now. Look what we have, Lucius- a comfortable home, a good standing in society. We don’t need him. I don’t want to lose all this.”
“It is worth dying for. And even if he wasn’t, he’d kill me if I deserted him, you know he would. He’d hunt us, and he’d kill us, you and Draco too. We’d lose all this anyway; we’d lose everything, maybe even our lives. Don’t be so naïve.”
“I am not naïve!” She was on her feet before she realized it. “It’s you who’s being absurd. I understood then, you were young and needed something to believe, some stupid cause, but you’re a grown man. How can you throw all this away?”
“Narcissa, calm down. My devotion to the Dark Lord and his cause-“
“Your devotion?” She sneered at him. “Do you even know what devotion is? Bella was devoted, yes, but you? Lying and bribing your way out of prison and into Fudge’s inner circle, that’s devotion? Devotion lands you in Azkaban or in the grave. Bellatrix is my sister, I know what ‘devotion’ did to her.”
“What I did then was to keep you and Draco safe, and what I’m doing now is the same thing. He will be very angry with us, at those who deserted him after he fell. Your sister and brother-in-law will probably be the only ones spared his wrath.”
“That will please her,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Undoubtedly.” They looked at each other, and she wanted to laugh. They understood each other so well. But then he spoke again, and the moment was over as quickly as it had come. “You understand, don’t you, why I can’t say no? Why I have to go?”
She thought of Azkaban, of Draco, of little Regulus, her favorite cousin, of his lifeless body and Bellatrix’s cruel laugh. “I do.”
“I will have to offer him something. In payment, if you will, to soothe his anger.”
Not Draco. The thought shot through her with the force of a spell. Not Draco. Anything but him.
“No,” she said, and she wondered, briefly, if it was worse than what she had believed to be her worst fear. “Not this house. It’s ours, Lucius.” Full of our sounds and our smells and our things and our love. With the furniture we picked out when we got married, this china, this everything, part inherited, part dowry, part picked out when we were young and completely without taste.
“Cissy, you know I have to. We need to help the Dark Lord achieve his goals, for our own sake as much as for everyone else’s.”
“Why our house? Why us? Yaxley and the Carrows-“
“Do you want Yaxley and the Carrows to rise in his favor while we, superior to them in every way, plead with him for our lives and our liberty? Think, Narcissa! We make this sacrifice and we will be in his inner circle, our house will become center of the movement, and once we our successful –and we will be, I am sure of it- we will be more powerful than Fudge and his bumbling colleagues could ever make us!”
And she crumbled. It was no use. He was right, she knew he was making sense, she knew there were sacrifices they would have to make in payment for their lives. She did agree with him on his politics, she did want Draco to inherit a world from them where he would not have to deal with usurping Mudbloods, trying to steal the glory that was his, only his, son of the Blacks and the Malfoys. But it was not this, not even the prospect of this hall becoming a rallying point for the Dark Lord and his movement, that made her feel sick to her stomach. It was the fact that behind his rational words she could hear his voice shake with barely measured excitement. She could see his eyes gleam manically, and she knew she had lost this battle. She had lost him, lost him again to his Lord, his cause. Lost him like she had lost Bellatrix, like she had lost Regulus, like, in a way, she had even lost Andromeda. He was gone, and now it was up to her to protect him from himself, and protect Draco, like she had when he was a baby. “I understand,” she whispered, willing herself not to cry. She could do that later, alone in their bed once he had flown to the Dark Lord’s side. “I do.”
“I knew you would,” he sighed. He pushed his plate away. “I should get ready. He will be calling soon, I can feel it.”
She nodded. He got up and, to her surprise, walked over to her, gathering her up in an embrace. “It was always a matter of time,” he whispered into her hair, and she savored the feeling of his clean cheek against her neck, knowing it might be the last time he would smell so innocent, of nothing else than his cologne. “We were living off stolen time, Cissy.”
“I know,” she whispered. Her slim fingers closed briefly around his wrist. “I just wish we could have had more of it.” He kissed her, urgently, than stood up and straightened out. And then he flinched, his hand flew to the side of his other arm, and she knew the Dark Mark had just burned.
“It’s time,” he said, tonelessly.
“Be careful,” she told him, “please. Be safe.”
“I will.” He walked out of the door, to their apparition spot on the front porch. “Get the house ready, just in case.”
“Be careful,” she repeated. She blinked away a tear, and he was gone. She pulled herself together, wiping her eyes.
“Cookie,” she called, walking back into the house, working to keep her voice measured. “Assist me in putting away the china. The silverware. Everything. I will buy new things tomorrow, tonight, you will help me put away the old things.”
“Everything, Miss Narcissa?”
“Yes, everything,” she snapped. “The plates, the goblets, the furniture. Move it into the cellar, there ought to be enough room. Leave Master Draco’s room and the Master Bedroom the way it is, but I want everything else cleared out by the morning. Well, move!” The elf scurried away, and as she moved upstairs, she could hear the whizzing and whirring of objects being levitated though the air and into conjured crates. She would keep the life they had had for thirteen years safe. She would make sure the Dark Lord never touched the bliss they had had. That at least he could not take away from her, even if he took everything else.