Title: Three Hours
Characters/Pairings: Lucius/Narcissa, others in mention
Word Count: 1,537
Summary: Lucius is preparing to turn himself in to the aurors after Voldemort's fall in 1981. Narcissa is not convinced the risk is worth it.
Narcissa’s hands are cold, despite the warmth of the room and the blazing fire. Her wand is tucked safely up her sleeve and she can acutely feel the smoothness of the wood. Unlike her hands, the wand is almost warm.
Her dark grey dress is just a shade off mourning black. Narcissa had hated that color as a girl and did not care for it much as a woman, but now she understands why her mother sometimes wore it. The color had been especially prevalent in the house after Andromenda s elopement. Black would not have been appropriate – it was too dignified, reserved for families who had borne a true loss, without the baggage of shame to accompany it. So Druella had bought charcoal grey dresses for her two remaining daughters and dawned a similar gown herself.
Narcissa and Bellatrix had both hated the color, but for different reasons. Bellatrix had wanted to wear angry reads and poisonous greens. She loathed the thought that Andromeda, who had already caused them so much grief, was also restricting her wardrobe. Yet, despite Bella’s temperament and tendency to rebel, she wore the dress anyway, not quite able to break away from the bleakness of the situation.
Narcissa had simply hated how the color neither allowed her to mourn her sister properly nor to go on with her life. She missed her soft pastels and bright accents. She worried that Lucius Malfoy, who had begun courting her, would not understand. Lucius turned out smarter than that.
Numbly, Narcissa notices that she is wearing the very same dress she wore back then. It seems firmly ingrained in her as something that comes out from the back of the wardrobe when there is something to mourn, something which ought not to be. She also thinks that in the gloom of the room, the dress probably looks black, much like Lucius’ tailcoat, which she knows to be dark green.
Narcissa shakes her head and moves closer to her husband, her steps muted by the thick carpet. She watches as Lucius sorts through his papers. Some he throws in the fire, others are placed in a separate stack, and yet others are spelled back into their original locations.
Finally, there are no more scrolls of parchment before him and he sits back on the floor, leaning against an armchair. “I think that’s everything.”
“What are those?” Narcissa points at the stack of parchment still on the floor, neither condemned to the fire, nor returned to their proper places.
“I’d rather not do without these. Not just yet, but I’d also rather the aurors not get to them.”
“If you’re really going to do this, wouldn’t it make sense to leave some sort of trail? Burning everything looks suspicious in this case.”
Lucius shakes his head. “The Lord would have never trusted someone who was Imperiused into fighting. I’ve left some things – letters from Edward and Roddy, mostly – which have passing references, things of little note on the whole, but which could be said to someone who was under your Lord’s control. No one would have cared much to be intimate friends with me if they thought I might betray them at any moment if the curse broke. You didn’t actually think I was going to tell them I was a High Officer, did you?”
Narcissa shakes her head numbly. She, truthfully, had not thought anything. Other than that she distrusted this idea. “Did I know?”
“You thought I might be having an affair.” Lucius stands and paces over to her. He slides his arms around her waist and looks into her face with a strange, resolute intensity she had rarely seen there. “I will need you to play the part they would expect you to play, Cissy. Feed all of their prejudices and stereotypes. You are a dutiful pureblood wife, your place is to be quiet and bear children, not ask questions. You didn’t think to act on your suspicions of my affair because there was nothing you could have done about it. Can you do this for me? For us?”
Narcissa smiles sadly and runs he fingers over his chest, up to his shoulders and finally rests her hands on the sides of his neck, warming them against his skin. “Of course I can.”
Lucius kisses her forehead and she closes her eyes to ward off the uneasiness that creeps up her throat. “I still don’t like this. You’re so sure it’s going to work. But you’re Marked, Lucius.”
“Avery’s boy did it.”
Narcissa flinches. “Jack is a child.”
“Hardly. We’re not old enough to be his parents. He’s Severus’ age. Now, you know what to do?”
Narcissa feels the urge to bite her lip but resists. She had killed that particular bad habit as a schoolgirl and had no desire to revisit it. “What if you don’t…what if…” The words get stuck in her throat. She used to be braver before this war, before almost everyone she loves was either killed of thrown to the Dementors. She can’t stand the thought of losing Lucius, too.
“If you don’t hear from me or Gorski in three hours, burn those,” he makes a gesture toward the stack of parchment still on the floor, take Draco and leave the country. Don’t worry about the Gringotts vault. Take what is in the safe and go to Venice. At least until everything blows over and you know whether or not it is safe to come back.”
“We talked about this, Cissy.” His tone holds no compromise and Narcissa feels everything inside her fold up. She is terrified of being left completely alone. She would never admit it, even to Lucius, but she has been losing since she was sixteen – like Andromeda cursed her and their entire family with her elopement – and she did not want to keep losing until there was nothing left. “Tell me you understand, Narcissa.”
She had always been the brave one between them, up until now. But Lucius is far more afraid of exile than of death. Narcissa fears losing more than exile. They will never see eye-to-eye in this. Yet she forces her trembling hands to still and kisses him softly goodbye. “I understand.”
Narcissa watches as Lucius dresses in his finest. She watches as he shrinks and hides a spare wand with a trick Tony Dolohov had showed them years ago. She stands at the door to the nursery as Lucius kisses a sleeping Draco for what could be the last time. The last time she had felt this numb was at Andromeda’s disownment ceremony.
She thinks of her dead baby cousins – Regulus and Evan – Eleanor Bonfante’s tears at her brother’s funeral, Theodore Mulciber with his head in his arms as he told them that his younger brother and Andre Rosier were dead. She thinks of the hitch in Lucius’ voice when he told her the aurors had Tony. And Michelle Parkinson, cursing her pregnancy in one breath and promising Pansy to Draco in the next – “they are both born in a time of grief, your boy and my girl, let them forever belong to one another.”
Narcissa tries not to think about Bellatrix. Tries not to remember the look her sister had given her on the last night they saw each other: “If we don’t find the Lord, Cissy, it is over. For all of us. Forever. This is our only hope.” Tries not to think about the upcoming trial and what kind of havoc the dementors will wreck on her sister’s soul, already tortured, without the extra help. Bella had always done a fantastic job of self-destructive. Narcissa feels guilty about it, but she must admit that she would not take her sister’s place in Azkaban if she had the chance. I have a son to raise, she tells herself, as though seeking absolution in a ruse.
But despite all she knows and all the war has taught her, Narcissa stands by, preparing herself for three hours of purgatory. In three hours, their solicitor will show up and say, “Mrs. Malfoy, something has happened. Come to my office, there is something you must know.” He will give her a calm, steady look and she will know.
Or there will be silence and she will take her precious, long-awaited child and run.
Somewhere deep inside, she must know that Lucius is right, that this is the only way. Or she would never let him go.
In the hallway he takes her face in his hands and says, “Remember our wedding night?”
She nods, silent.
“You trusted me then, Narcissa. Trust me now, too.”
“I do, I always have.”
Lucius throws on his cloak and takes out the portkey. He looks up at her one last time, runs his eyes over her slim frame, in its sooty-grey dress, with the plain bun she had thrown her hair in slowly coming undone so that stray strands of hair fall over her ears and plaster against her neck. He looks at her like he’s memorizing every line and curve of her. Just for a moment. “Three hours.”
And then he’s gone.
“I love you,” Narcissa whispers to the empty hallway.