A Case of Identity || Coup de Main || Narcissa and Severus || January 11th 1979
Something was off about her. She was there but not. He realised a little belatedly that her charmswork must be much better than his, for here was a disillusioned Narcissa. Or not Narcissa. In truth all he could see was that there was a Narcissa-like person holding a Narcissa-like wand in a place Narcissa should not be. His expression was unfathomable and his dark eyes stared past the wandlight at her.
Occlumency removed emotions from ones consciousness, it did not deaden suspicions and Severus still remembered his arrest. Narcissa of course had been arrested far more recently. He would have expected more caution. He would not have expected her here. And so he did not lower his wand.
”What are you doing here, Narcissa? Does Lucius know you have come to the Ministry?” He must give nothing away, and occluding, it was easy to select words and a politely distant tone. It was impossible to use Legilimency while occluding though. He needed to ascertain just who stood before him. Alice Longbottom had already proven herself adapt at imitating Blacks. He would not permit her to capture him again.
He found that his arm ached a little from holding it out, wand still pointed at her and dropped it slightly, wand tip still lit and aimed in her direction but no longer concealing his own face, though the light shining upwards on his stark features might well have been just as intimidating as a faceless aggressor. Especially if one took into account that his foot had slid back on the tiles and weight had shifted to centre between them.
He had taken up a duelling stance. The last encounter he had had with Alice Longbottom had not gone well and if he wanted to stand a chance in this one, he needed to be prepared, with words and wand. He needed to be calm, to give reasonable answers. And if she should still attack when he did not incriminate himself, he needed to be able to incapacitate and obliviate her faster than she could incapacitate him. He knew now that schoolyard reflexes that had only occassionally been enough for besting his tormentors would not do against a trained Auror.
Narcissa knew that Severus would be on his guard, but he did not expect him to question who she was, especially when she was in front of him, even Disillusioned. His wand remained raised and Narcissa looked down it to see if she could see his face. If she were wrong and it was a ministry member, she would never find her way out of Azkaban. She didn’t want to face that again. Never.
"I…" She had no answer for his question. What was she doing here? To prove her sister wrong, to prove everyone wrong. Her reasoning was thin and she knew it; she was acting like a petty little reckless girl. She kept her voice level. “I… I wanted to help.” It was a slight lie, yes. She wanted to help to prove herself and not for the sake of helping. She wanted to help to improve her own image, in the eyes of others and herself. She wanted to be more than everyone thought she was. ”Lucius doesn’t know I’m here. I… didn’t tell anyone.”
Narcissa breathed in relief when his arm dropped, only for it to be caught as it remained, just slightly lower. ”Severus, really… it’s me. I promise.” Unless it wasn’t Severus. Unless he was actually someone else. Fear gripped her as she thought how stupid she was, thought about the threat of Azkaban. How many excuses could she come up with if she were to be caught again?
Her face hardened as she steeled herself for whatever may come. She didn’t know and the very thought terrified her. Her wand was in her hand, but she knew that any sudden movement would likely spook Snape (or whoever it was parading around as Severus).
"How am I supposed to know that it’s you?" Her movements were slow as she attempted to approach Severus, like she would approach a scared animal. Her wand remained at her side. She could barely make out his faec behind the harsh light of his wand, but she knew that the shape and the face belonged to her friend. It just mattered that the person inside that was the Potions Master.
A Moment of Peace || Igor and Narcissa || January 16th, 1979
The answer Narcissa offered on the subject of the party was delicately worded, but it was easy enough for Igor to read between the lines. That was, after all, what this sort of dialogue was meant for: understanding what was not said. Narcissa, it would seem, shared Igor’s opinion more or less. While the Ministry simpletons who had organized the monstrosity of a social event might have thought their party went well, it had certainly failed at being the pacifistic strike against the war that it had been intended to be.
As the subject turned to the Malfoy Manor’s library, the diplomatic disapproval that had laced Narcissa’s tone when speaking of the party vanished, replaced by welcoming politeness. And, if Igor would hazard a guess, muted sincerity. He remembered how the witch’s enthusiasm had managed to shine through her cool façade back when they’d first had tea in November, when she had spoken of the books that had interested her. That same energy had pervaded her demeanor as they had gone on to discuss languages and Igor supposed that such moments were both rare and indicative that Narcissa Malfoy was not as cold and unfeeling as she made the world think.
That’s true of all of us. Everyone feels and loves and hurts and hates. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.
It was a fact of life he sincerely believed in. Still, even as he thought it, the cold stare of the Dark Lord flashed in his mind’s eye and in his thoughts he heard the pitilessly indifferent voice. Almost everyone, he amended.
He shook his head with a small smile at her last comment. “There is no doubt in that. He is looking always for valuable books. But it is more than that, I am thinking. Mister Volkov is a smart man; he is valuing …connections as much as he is valuing books. Business with the Malfoy family would be a very good thing for him.” He took a sip of his tea and then made an apologetic face. “But do not be worrying, I would not be… hm, spy? For him, while visiting your library.”
The other tables seemed to finally be getting used to the presence of the currently infamous Narcissa Malfoy and thus were being less obvious in their gawking. Still, Igor found himself searching for topics that might perhaps cheer the witch up. He liked Narcissa and wanted their conversation to be enjoyable. “In November, you were saying that you speak many languages. Your library, it is having many books in these languages too, I am supposing then?”
Narcissa laughed slightly, something she hadn’t done in weeks. Though it had a heavy feel, it was a musical sound. She surprised herself with her sincerity. Getting out of the house had, after all, been a good idea. Igor provided much needed light conversation and amusement, and he understood the way that the world - or at the very least, her world - worked.
"Spy might be a bit of a strong word." She paused, the remnants of a smile still present on her face. "But yes, it seems that many people, even despite the hits we’ve taken lately, still wish to be a part of the Malfoy family business. Or at the very least, lay some claim to it." In Lucius’ absence, Narcissa had been reading up on the businesses that the family gives patronage to and how economically stable each one was. It was more boring work than she was used to, but she needed to occupy her time with something. That and she planned on allocating some funds for a fundraiser.
Narcissa frowned, the only indication of which was the slight turn of her lips and miniscule wrinkle of her brow. ”Has it really been since November? My, we were long overdue for this meeting, weren’t we?” She fingered the lip of her tea cup lightly, thinking of all that had come to pass in the two months since she had spent time with her… acquaintance. She didn’t believe that the two of them knew each other well enough yet to be friends - though, Narcissa would have loved to claim Igor as a friend. She had far too few of them in this world.
She thought for a moment of all the books in their library. ”There do happen to be quite a few I believe. I know I recently procured some medieval French literature, though I don’t know how much that would interest you.” She paused, once more thinking of her recent acquisitions. ”Ah, yes. I must confess that since meeting you, I have taken a fascination with Eastern Europe. I recently bought “The Epopee of the Forgotten”. To my best recollection, it’s a collection of poems following Ottoman rule of Bulgaria. I think. I admit to being not too well versed in it.” She offered him a half-smile, both embarrassed at her lack of knowledge and at the idea that she seemed like she might be over-compensating. ”But yes, do let me know if you’re interested. You are welcome any time.”
Narcissa took the opportunity during the lull in conversation to take another look around at the people who had once been staring at her. Their whispers still were present but had died down, limited to a couple of tables. Most of them were middle-class witches who likely had nothing better to do than shamelessly gossip. Narcissa had been taught to be cordial to all as long as they are in view. You could be cordially rude, as Druella liked to say, but never outright. Your words are your weapons. Use them carefully. Narcissa lived in a world where every move was scrutinized. Any opportunity that she gave for slander would be graciously taken. She, more than anyone, had to be careful.
Decaying Tapestry // Narcissa and Ted // October 23rd, 1972
Ted had been sure that was the end of it, and yet there was definitely something lurking underneath – something that she hadn’t said yet.
You don’t seem to realise what I would be risking were I to be caught, no, Ted didn’t know what would happen. He could only imagine that her family may also disown her, although he wasn’t sure what would be more humiliating to the prestigious Black family: having one sister try to keep contact with the alienated one, or having to disown another daughter. The whole black and white perspective was far too complicated and absurd to understand. It was, however, understandable how much she feared the consequences. It was understandable that she wouldn’t want to be the next person to be made an example of.
It was odd, if not a little disconcerting to see a brief glimpse of a smile. No doubt it was genuine and that there had been a moment of satisfaction. She had “won” that round. Yes, of course. Ted had come prepared and produced a small white envelope from his inner coat pocket; inside was the invitation they were going to hand out. He had managed to sneak one before Andy had begun to mail them to friends. “It’s all in there,” he answered as he took the little card out and set it in front of her. “I’m afraid you can’t take it with you,” you probably wouldn’t want anything with my name on it anyways, “we’ve got a set number of invitations. Though it won’t be a problem if an extra guest shows up.”
Again, she eluded to his lack of understanding. Ted wasn’t sure how best to answer the question. Whatever little bit of success he felt from the last few moments was gone. In his stomach, he could feel something akin to butterflies, but ones that induced anxiousness. Was she threatening him too? He would have to pay if she messed up the whole thing. Yes, because that’s completely fair. Ted took a deep breath, “I do believe I can comprehend some of it. I have not experienced it first hand, but Andy has told me some things. It takes a lot of courage to defy a norm and then to possibly face the consequences. As for the other thing, I have no doubt you will live up to your word and that you’re right: I don’t know what you could possibly do, but that’s something I’m willing to live with.” You’ll have to get in line though, especially after the wedding.
There was certainly a chance that she wouldn’t show up, even with their agreement. Still, the Blacks were reliable in a sense that they kept their arrangements. Moving a hand to scratch an itch on the side of his neck, Ted couldn’t help wonder if she was drawing this out to allow for a backdoor escape.
Ted reached into his pocket and Narcissa looked at the object curiously. It was the invitation. The first thought that came into her mind was if she couldn’t have it, then why bother even bringing it. It was written in a delicate script, but despite that, was unconventional at best. All the invitations that Narcissa had seen in the past were all representative of the bride’s family, usually some variation of “Master and Madame so-and-so humbly request your presence at the marriage of their daughter.” This invitation had none of that. There was little trace of Andromeda’s lineage at all, in fact, save for the last name. Narcissa felt a twinge of regret in her heart that things had to happen this way.
Despite knowing that Andromeda would hate her if she caused any harm to the mudblood, Narcissa meant what she said. Despite what was actually her fault - or even the fault of no one - if anything went wrong, she fully planned on blaming him and she was fine with that.
Narcissa was taken mildly by surprise when Ted revealed that Andromeda had told him some of what it was like. She thought that Andromeda would have wanted to put it all behind her. Still, she knew that it was very likely that Andromeda had not told him everything. Even if she had, it was one thing to know it and another entirely to experience it. She shuddered at remembering the few times that she had directly disobeyed Cygnus, the memory of his hand harshly striking her face still fresh. “You can’t possibly understand,” her voice was soft, almost a whisper, “there’s no way.”
Something that Narcissa had seen in the past weighed heavily on her. The way certain students talked about their parents, the looks on their faces when they left home. Narcissa may have been privileged but she felt like she was missing something. She didn’t know why, but she had that strong feeling. The closest to that she thought that she had ever felt had been with Andromeda, and now that was taken away from her. Don’t you want Andromeda to be happy? Ted’s earlier words echoed in her mind.
After a moment’s silence, she stood up abruptly, the harsh sound of the chair scraping against the ancient wood floor. ”Anyways, I’ll be there regardless. For Andromeda only.” The words forced themselves out, her usual superior tone creeping back in out of practice and habit. ”I’ll leave the bill with you. I trust you’ll take care of it.” Leaving him with that last thought, she stepped away from the table and blended with the crowd, exiting the tavern.
Sanctimonia V i n c e t Semper
Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.
Decaying Tapestry // Narcissa and Ted // October 23rd, 1972
Nicely done, Ted. Ted’s mind had become so used to explaining Muggle things that it was second nature to do whenever someone asked. Not surprisingly, he was about to explain what a tape was, when he caught himself. For one, she wouldn’t care and two, it would be pointless to explain. It had clearly been a mistake for him to even mention using Muggle technology. You idiot. Still, he was right about one thing: the video would be more practical – it’s like a photograph, except it moves a lot longer and there’s sound.
Ted hadn’t realized she had thought up a plan; she hadn’t give any sort of indication, and he hadn’t felt that she was as enthusiastic in coming up with ideas. I would ask you what your plan was, but something tells me that you won’t divulge it now. Ted briefly tried to think of what might possibly have been her idea, but put that aside since it seemed near impossible to deduce.
When she gave him the choice of accept her proposition or be done with the entire thing, Ted didn’t have a choice but to agree. “I will take it. Polyjuice or anything else that you come up with will be fine.” In the end, her decision would have to be fine; he couldn’t make her do anything she didn’t want to, and anything above her absence or lack of notification was a great improvement. He couldn’t help feel some amount of pride in himself, but ultimately knew that his success wouldn’t be determined until she actually showed up or left a note or something. With this arrangement, Ted hoped that perhaps the two sisters wouldn’t be so distant to each other as he knew that Andy would be much happier not being estranged from her closest sibling.
“I think this will be a good thing and it might very well open some doors of communication for the future.” He hoped that she could realize it too.
About the time he leaned back in his chair again, the waitress returned; she sported a very displeased look as she asked him if he wanted another. Ted declined, believing that the conversation would be over in the next few minutes or less. “Is there anything else you wanted to address,” he asked Narcissa. It was asked more out of formality, but Ted also wanted to make sure that they had covered everything – he didn’t want something to come bit him in the arse just because something was left out. It wasn’t one-hundred percent guaranteed that nothing would come to bit him, but at least he could tell himself that it wasn’t anything he could have done to prevent it. Please let there not be anything else that might damage the progress we made.
The way Ted was acting, Narcissa was sure that he thought that she didn’t want to have anything to do with Andromeda. Not that he wasn’t completely wrong. She didn’t. She was angry and hurt - much more than she would let on to anyone. Andromeda was her confidante, the one person that she felt she could trust her secrets with, and now that was taken away from her. How else was she supposed to feel? Family was the one thing she thought that she could trust. Right now, it was tumbling out from under her, shattering into pieces.
More and more, it was like she felt her carefully constructed world falling apart around her. It was all she could do to keep it together, keep being the image of perfection that everyone thought that she should be. Well-groomed, well-mannered Narcissa Black would never rebel against her parents, never invoke the rage that lurked just below the surface, never tip the delicate balance. She had to maintain the constant image, no matter how she felt patronized, how she felt looked down upon.
"You don’t seem to realise what I would be risking were I to be caught." She closed her eyes, running a hand through her hair in exasperation. "I’m not like Andromeda. There is no fail-safe for me." There was no place for Narcissa to go but up. She had no choice in the matter.
In this situation, she did, however, decidedly have the upper hand. Ted either had to accept her proposal or let his fiancée down. He made the wise decision. Narcissa flashed him a smile in response. ”Anything else I would like to address?” She repeated the question, annoyed that he hadn’t answered her own. “You have still failed to tell me when the date is. I must plan accordingly.”
The answer was yes, she did have more things she wanted to address, though none that could be done civilly. She was not ready to yet hand over her sister, she didn’t trust that this Mudblood - who had come out of nowhere - could treat her right. Instead, she took a deep breath. “I would,” she paused, thinking of how to phrase her question, “like to know if you realise what I risk just by coming here. What I risk by planning this.” She paused for another moment before her eyes took on a harder gleam, her voice quiet. “And if I do - get caught, that is - trust me when I say that you don’t want to know what I’ll do.” If she got caught, she would lose everything. She would lose her family, she would lose Lucius. She would lose everything that she knew, and not willingly either.
Jardin des Tuileries, view on the Rue de Rivoli at night, 1936
A Moment of Peace || Igor and Narcissa || January 16th, 1979
An uncharacteristic amount of emotion shone through Narcissa’s expression in the aftermath of Igor’s airy compliment. He supposed that nowadays, what with the rumours and bad press, she likely wasn’t hearing many nice things said to or about her, but he wondered now if he’d underestimated the damage Azkaban had done. This was a witch that would face an oncoming hurricane without batting a perfect eye. Yet here she was looking almost openly moved by his simple compliment. That she was showing so much emotion hinted at how exposed her stint in prison had left her. He waved aside her thanks with a polite nod and smile.
She was asking him to repeat his question when the waitress approached and when she had once again moved away from their table, he refocused on the conversation. “Ah, I was just asking if you had a good Christmas. Did you go to the party that the Ministry had?” He grimaced slightly. That party had been sheer idiocy. Like the war could be solved – or even ignored – by forcing everyone into a room together to play nice. Though he’d met a few nice people, most of his memories of the Christmas Ball involved arguments and a hostile werewolf. “I confess that I do not think that it was a very good idea, that party.” Parties should either be small get-togethers with only friends and family or strategically planned affairs with everything given due consideration. The Ministry disaster had been neither.
He realized he had never answered her earlier comment about visiting the Malfoy Manor. Taking a sip of his tea, he nodded again. “I would be happy to visit your manor. It would be nice to be around books that I do not have to try to sell,” he added with a dry half-smile.
He looked around the shop again, listening the the white noise of different tables’ conversations blending together in an unintelligible buzz. A few people were still throwing more glances in their direction than what he deemed strictly coincidental and he found himself thinking that perhaps they ought to have chosen a less public place for their visit. He doubted he was well-known enough, even with the rumours that had plagued him in the fall, to be recognized by many, but if he was, it probably wouldn’t help Narcissa’s undoubtedly suffering reputation to be seen with an rumoured murderer.
Then again, what good would come of her hiding away in her manorhouse? That would speak of shame and weakness and that didn’t seem like something the socially savvy Narcissa Malfoy would stand for, no matter how tempting it doubtless was. “I am certain Mister Volkov would be happy to give me another afternoon free to visit your library. Though—” He adopted a guilty smile. “—that is because he will be wanting me to see what books you have that he does not probably.”
Narcissa remembered the Christmas party with a fair amount of disappointment. It was supposed to be a nice party, with all the benefactors. Instead, it had been opened to many other MInistry workers, some public relations disaster to get different people together to celebrate whatever in holiday cheer. The only laugh that Narcissa had had was at Remus’ Secret Santa gift - someone had seen fit to buy him a sex worker as a date.
That had really been the only highlight of the night. The silver rattle that had been gifted to her was more a reminder of her shortcomings than a kind gesture. She thought about her answer to Igor before proceeding, knowing both that diplomacy in delicate situations like the existing one at the Ministry, but that there would be no sudden changes of hearts. This was war and everyone knew it, even if they pretended not to.
"The party…" she paused once more, searching for the right words, "the party was a successful party." Her eyes strayed to her tea cup, "however, its purpose was by no means successful and the entire thing as a whole could have been carried out much, much better.” She didn’t bother to delve further into the details of all the party’s inadequacies, trusting that his own opinion would be enough.
"I do think that you would enjoy our library. It’s quite extensive, and as you said, it would be nice to be around books that you don’t have to sell." A wry smile formed on her lips. "I confess that I have not yet shopped at Mr. Volkov’s store, though I am assured that his wares are of the highest quality." She had heard Lucius vaguely speak of Volkov and his books, but she knew that Lucius much preferred Borgin and Burke’s, mostly because they knew him and his entire family well. "Anyways, we have a number of volumes on history as well as the roads lesser travelled. It’s quite extensive. A paradise for any book lover, I’m sure."
The looks, though still present, were definitely decreasing in their number, reassuring Narcissa at least a little. She would have to show that she had nothing to lose, nothing to hide, and most importantly, that nothing had changed. Instead of paying them any more mind, she focused on her present company - the only person in the shop who seemed remotely interested in her as a friend rather than a piece of gossip.
"Yes, well, I’m sure that if Mr. Volkov saw our library he would doubtless like to purchase a few tomes for himself."
Who would win in an argument: you, Bellatrix or Andromeda?
It depends on the subject. Generally, though, I would say either me or Bella. We inherited a rather determined stubborn streak.