spock: logic is sexy

HP Fic: The Hero of Her Own Story

Title: The Hero of Her Own Story
Characters/Pairings: Lucius/Narcissa, Druella Black (Narcissa's mother)
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Every good villain is the hero of her own story. The day after the first fall of the Dark Lord, Narcissa schemes to protect the family honor and keep her husband out of Azkaban.
Notes: For deatheaterfest, for the prompt “If women believed in their husbands they would be a good deal haphpier - and also a good deal more foolish.” (HL Mencken)
Word Count: 3200


Narcissa drew her cloak more tightly around her, edging away from the haggard-looking wizards and witches returning from last night's festivities. The remnants of crepe paper and balloons lined the edges of the streets, and a few wet-start fireworks lay in the gutter, still sparking feebly. All to celebrate the fall of the Dark Lord.

She stepped aside to avoid a trio of slightly intoxicated wizards. They weren't looking at her, she told herself fiercely. They weren't. Narcissa Black Malfoy was not a fallen woman. Not yet.

The steps of St. Mungo's loomed above her, and though she sniffed at the indignity of walking through the main entrance, she entered with relief. Here, at least, she could find calm and order. Or so she had thought. A fountain behind the reception desk squawked joyfully and rained golden glitter on her as she passed. The waiting room was filled with witches and wizards suffering from last night's excesses. Several sported antlers, and one was a rather unusual shade of purple. Served them right for celebrating the Dark Lord's demise, she thought as she swept past.

The director's suite bore signs of a recent celebration, but Narcissa appreciated their subtlety. The secretary, who had once fawned over her, stared at her with thinly veiled contempt. Narcissa stared back, daring the little mudblood to utter a single word, and walked into the director's office uninvited.

“Narcissa!” the director exclaimed, smiling warmly, just as Narcissa had known she would. “What brings you here today?”

Narcissa permitted herself a small, tired smile.

“I wanted to give you this.” She withdrew a heavy velvet bag from her purse. Its contents clinked reassuringly in her hand. “For the new maternity ward, in honor of Draco's first birthday last week.”

The director opened the bag, barely concealing the eagerness on her face.

“Narcissa, really, this is too much,” she breathed, but she showed no sign of returning the bag. “Your family has always been generous of course, but this...it must be a thousand galleons.”

It wasn't. It was one thousand twenty-two, an odd number that suited Narcissa's purposes.

“It's almost the last in my vault. I wanted to give it to someone who could use it. In case the Ministry...”

She looked down to conceal that she was not actually crying.

The director looked aghast.

“Oh, Narcissa, they couldn't. Not after everything your family has done. So many charities...”

Narcissa shook her head sadly.

“You know what they've said about Lucius.” The director looked ready to say something, but Narcissa marched on. Letting anyone think too closely about what Lucius had done or not done during the war was dangerous. “The truth is, I need your help.”

The director nodded eagerly. She was surprisingly young to be the director of a hospital, and no doubt quite ambitious. She was also from a pure blood from a family of no consequence. Narcissa knew she could use all these things to her advantage, and she had been for some years now. Lucius had tutted over her constant donations to charity, but Narcissa had thought of them as insurance against the fall of the Dark Lord. And she had been right to do so. Now she drew a shaky breath for effect.

“Lucius hasn't been himself, I'm afraid, for a very long time. These past few months, his eyes have been blank. Like he's not even there.”

“You mean...the Imperius curse?”

Narcissa nodded, managing a few small tears.

“I saw it, but I didn't want to admit it. And now that He Who Must Not Be Named has fallen, I thought I would have my Lucius back. But all night, all this morning, all he's done is lie silently and stare. It's as if his mind's gone.”

“Oh, Cissy. This must be so awful for you, all alone with the baby...”

Narcissa bridled at the overly familiar nickname, but let it pass.

“I wondered if you might have someone on your staff who could help? Someone who understands the effects of the Imperius curse? And perhaps a quiet place Lucius could rest while his mind is restored.”

“Of course, Narcissa. Anything for you.”

The director moved to clasp her hand, and the coins in the small pouch jingled together.

“Thank you, Angeline. I knew you would remember our family in our time of need.”

She straightened her shoulders, the very picture of a suffering wife born up by the kindness of friends. She paused with her hand on the doorknob.

“Hurry, if you could. If Lucius were to be arrested without a record of his mental state...”

The director nodded. Briefly, each of their gazes dipped to the small velvet pouch, and Narcissa knew that she had been understood.

“Of course. His mind could not endure such an ordeal.”

They shared a small smile, and Narcissa swept out the door.

***


Malfoy Manor was in disarray when she returned. Floating blocks of candles hovered near the ceiling, illuminating even the darkest corners of the great hall. Mops and brooms scoured the already spotless floors while a single, trusted servant scrubbed the Malfoy and Black crests that hung over the dining table. The kitchen rang with the sound of newly polished silver clanking into drawers, and the house elf's high, thin voice drifted across the living room, reciting its list of chores.

But Lucius was nowhere to be seen.

“Aurors?” she asked her mother, who sat regal and unperturbed in the largest of the armchairs in the living room. Her perfectly arranged hair, her understated robes, and the cup of tea hanging delicately between her fingers were each a reminder of the woman she expected Narcissa to be. Narcissa hated and admired her for it.

Druella sniffed.

“I believe they have been delayed by an unusually aggressive hedge to the east of the manor.”

“Thank you, Mother.”

Druella's sniff was almost imperceptible this time.

“See to your husband.”

Narcissa stared at her mother for a moment, the night's fears and worries rushing to her lips. But Druella looked straight ahead, as if she could no longer see her daughter now that her order had been given. Narcissa shook her head and made her way toward the stairs. It was better this way, she thought. Her mother had been right not to offer her the opportunity to collapse. She flung open the bedroom door without ceremony and splashed a glass of cold water in Lucius' face.

“Get up,” she hissed, tugging on the lapels of his robe. She hadn't been lying, at least not completely, when she spoke to the director this morning. This man was not her husband. This man was pathetic, sniveling, and utterly incapable of saving himself or his family.

“The Dark Lord has fallen,” Lucius muttered dully, though he did sit up and put his feet on the floor.

“Not the Dark Lord. He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Lucius stared up at her uncomprehendingly. He had the look of a man whose fortunes had been destroyed over night. Narcissa knew better.

“A healer is coming within the hour,” she said. “You have been under the Imperius curse. You do not remember the past year. Do you understand, Lucius?”

She knelt on the floor before him, feeling the first stirrings of panic in her chest. They still had so much. Their home. Their name. Their son. She felt it slipping through her fingers as she gazed at her husband's hopeless eyes.

“Tonight we will have a party to celebrate the defeat of the Dark – He Who Must Not Be Named. You will be seen there. You will be lost, confused, disoriented. And afterward, you will go into treatment to recover your mind.”

She stroked a lock of his blond hair to soften her words, then cupped his face in her hand. He leaned into her touch and laid his hand over hers. Their wedding rings clicked against each other.

“You'll do this for me, won't you Lucius? And for Draco?”

“The Dark Lord will return, Cissy.” He sounded pleading, and terrified.

“He will, Lucius. And you -- we -- won't renounce his ways. But we have to save ourselves. Someone must be waiting for him when he returns.”

She thought of her sister, who would rot in a prison cell for love of the Dark Lord. Foolish.

From downstairs, she heard a knock. Both she and Lucius jumped before she realized that the sound had been much too quiet and polite for a squad of Aurors. The healer, then. She stood and dropped Lucius' hand.

“The healer has arrived. I know you will not fail us.”

It was a phrase she had heard the Dark Lord utter often, and repeating it sent a small ripple of disgust down her spine. But Lucius nodded weakly, and she knew he would obey.

She didn't wait for the healer to come upstairs before she began her next task. Not bothering to disguise her haste, she ran to the trap door that concealed Lucius' secret stores. Already, she was counting down the minutes till the Aurors broke through the hedge and descended on the house. She longed to burn everything in the store room, but she remembered her mother, sitting straight-backed and implacable upstairs, waiting for her to defend the family name. Be smart, Narcissa, she admonished herself. To destroy everything would be suspicious; she must leave something for the Aurors to discover, some proof that she was ignorant and Lucius had been nothing more than a slave.

She heard pounding on the heavy wooden door upstairs and tensed. The Aurors had arrived. There was no time to destroy anything; they would leave traces that required hours and a skilled magician to erase. Think Narcissa,, she urged herself, think, think, think. The worst of the lot she shoved into the pockets of her robe with shaking hands; the very darkest she tucked into the waistband of her knickers and refused to think of the indignity. As an afterthought, she snatched a battered old diary from the shelves, perhaps a relic of Lucius' old school days, and she squeezed it between her fingers for a moment before she shoved it into her pocket, grateful for the reminder of more innocent days.

She exited the storeroom with her chin held high and stopped to swoop Draco from his crib. She pinched one fat thigh as she walked down the stairs, and her heart twisted when he began to cry. Jostling him on her hip, she began singing his favorite lullaby, and she met the Aurors not as Narcissa Black Malfoy, but as the harried mother of a crying child. She offered them tea and biscuits before inviting them to search her home.

***


Four hours later, Narcissa sagged in a chair at the dining table. Her mother was gone. The Aurors were gone. So were half the family heirlooms. Her mother and Aunt Walburga would weep over the loss; Narcissa found that she did not particularly mind their absence. Lucius was still here. That was what mattered. The original copy of the healer's parchment dangled from her hand, its corners creased and stained with sweat. But it had been their salvation, or at least the first step of it. It legally certified that Lucius suffered from extreme loss of memory, and that his mind was too frail for trial, arrest, or incarceration. He would be committed to a treatment facility within twenty-four hours, it commanded. It was a small blight on the family name, but far better than an arrest.

“How long?” Lucius had asked her, standing over Draco's crib.

“As long as it takes,” she'd answered dully. It was strange to think of Lucius missing weeks or months of Draco's life. At this age, he seemed to change every day, outgrowing clothing as quickly as she bought it and walking further and further across his play room to claim his toys.

She could – and would – handle Draco just fine on her own. Only, she didn't want to. The servants would listen dutifully when she recounted Draco's latest achievements, but only Lucius' eyes would glow with pride. She had left him at Draco's crib when she could no longer stand to watch him drinking in the sight of their son, as if it were the last time he would see the boy in his life.

She slipped the healer's affadavit into a warded file box and smoothed a fresh sheet of parchment in front of her. Dearest Elfrida, she wrote, even though Goyle's dull-witted, toad-faced wife was anything but dear. A most wondrous thing happened last night, she continued, my husband at last awakened from the power of He Who Must Not Be Named. But our happiness is tempered with fear as it seems his mind is gone. He has no memory of these past months at all; he barely even recalls our wedding. Please do inform me if your husband is similarly stricken, and I will support you in whatever way I can.

She addressed the letter to the Goyles' estate and sealed it with the Malfoy and the Black coat of arms because it never hurt to remind people exactly how much power she wielded. Neither Goyle nor Elfrida were blessed with intelligence, but they were discreet, and they followed orders well. They would make good allies in the battle to come. Avery, Crabbe, Rookwood, MacNair, Nott, and Snape had also remained free, and she wrote to all of their families except Severus'. He had neither the political nor the financial connections to stand with the old wizarding families, and she could not afford to take on a charity case.

The reply from Rookwood came first, and it was from Augustus, not his wife. Those who denounce the Dark Lord shall suffer upon his return it said, and Narcissa tucked it into the front pocket of her robes as evidence. The rest, fortunately, wrote to request her leadership in these difficult times, and Narcissa extended invitations to “a party to celebrate the downfall of He Who Must Not Be Named, so that our husbands might begin to recognize that they are liberated from his evil spell at last.”

When the last invitation had been sent, Narcissa rose from the table, kneading the spot where her shoulder ached. It was a service Lucius would normally perform, and she suppressed a small pang at his absence. The pang flared again when she strolled past the window and noticed the mob of reporters gathered outside. She shut the curtains hurriedly and regretted setting fire to the letters of public relations experts who had offered to help her “protect her family's image during these difficult times.” But she would not entrust her family's fate to anyone but herself, so she returned to the dining room, this time taking the heavy chair at the head of the table normally reserved for Lucius. The House Elf brought her a gold-framed hand mirror which showed the grounds of Malfoy Manor when she tapped it with her wand. Through it, she watched the mass of reporters grow while she sat, looking as rigid and forbidding as her mother, until she had thought of every question they might ask and how she would answer it.

Then she stepped out to face them alone. All her preparations had not prepared her for the reality of flashbulbs popping in her face, winged microphones diving toward her head, and the reporters swarming around her, each shouting a different question.

“Is your husband a Death Eater?”

“Do you expect your husband to go to Azkaban?”

“What crimes do you expect Mr. Malfoy to be charged with?”

“Did you serve He Who Must Not Be Named?”

“Were you aware that your sister and brother-in-law were sent to Azakaban one hour ago after torturing Alice and Frank Longbottom to insanity?”

Narcissa stumbled back against the gates. She hadn't known that. She had known that Bella was on some quest to find the Dark Lord, and she had known that it would end with her dead or jailed. But she had not known what a relief it would be to know that her wild-eyed, fanatic sister was gone. Away from her, away from Draco, unable to retaliate against them for turning their backs on the Dark Lord and saving themselves. She hadn't thought of herself as this kind of person – the kind of woman who would abandon her sister while scheming for the safety of her husband. But she would have time for self-examination; now it was left to her to uphold what was left of the Black family honor.

She began to speak.

“My husband...”

The wind and the reporters' shouting carried away her words.

“My husband,” she said more forcefully, “acted under the influence of the Imperius curse. He will enter treatment at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, where he will attempt to recover his memories and aid the investigation against the willing followers of He Who Must Not Be Named. Our family will cooperate fully with magical law enforcement authorities to ensure that justice is done.”

She blinked her eyes rapidly, willing away sudden tears and hating herself for the weakness. She wanted, suddenly, to fling herself on their mercy and say that she and Lucius had put their faith in the wrong man, that they hadn't done anything that hundreds – thousands – of others hadn't done, and they did not deserve this frantic scramble to keep their families whole and free.

The air around her grew quiet; she could feel the expectation growing. She willed herself to choose her words carefully, to give something without surrendering everything.

“To all the families that have been hurt by my husband, I apologize. And I -- we -- ask your forgiveness.”

Her head bowed, and she spoke the last words around a growing lump in her throat. But even through the haze of her tears, she noticed the young reporter at the edge of the crowd taking avid notes with an acid-green quill. She looked like the very pinnacle of poor taste, but she also looked like a woman who loved a good story -- even if it wasn't precisely a true story. Rita Skeeter, the woman's press badge said. Narcissa filed it away for reference and knew suddenly that she would keep finding the strength to do what needed to be done.

With a small, elegant gesture of her wand, she opened the gates of Malfoy Manor and turned to walk down the long path to the house alone. The train of her robe trailed on the ancient flagstones, and the trees cast long shadows over her small body. Flashbulbs popped behind her. The pictures, she thought, would be very good.

Tonight she would have a party, and tomorrow she would begin making discreet inquiries about a good solicitor. Lucius would thank her later; Crabbe, Goyle, Avery, Nott, and MacNair would not, but they would know what they owed her – and so would she. Perhaps she could salvage something from this ordeal after all.
Oh, yes. I love Narcissa, and you've sketched her out so beautifully here. Talk about manipulating the system! I also like the little glimpse of Rita as a young reporter; it's a nice touch.
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked seeing Rita here too. I had originally planned for her to do a full-length interview with Narcissa, but as you can see, I did not quite make it that far...
I know you were worried about this, but you needn't have been. What a strong Narcissa you've created here, and it's believable that this woman you've presented will later go to Severus to protect her son.

Also, this:

to give something without surrendering everything

I wish I'd written this line. So very powerful.
Thank you! The advice you gave me was extraordinarily helpful in getting the finished product. Some day I would like to write that scene where she goes to Snape for help from her POV... I think it might be the only time in her life she was ever totally sincere.
Some day I would like to write that scene where she goes to Snape for help from her POV... I think it might be the only time in her life she was ever totally sincere.

I think I agree with you about her sincerity, and I wonder just exactly who Voldemort was really trying to punish by choosing Draco.

No pressure, but I would love to see this if you do write it. :)
For some reason, Narcissa presenting herself with a wailing baby and offering tea and biscuits to the aurors really did it for me. A very cool exploration of her character, her pride and values and intelligence.
Thank you! As you probably know, I angsted a lot over this story, so I'm glad you thought it came out well.
This is sheer brilliance. The way you've characterized Narcissa is brilliant - the way every action is calculated, and she presents herself so differently to everyone around her. And you feel terrible for her, despite the fact that she is essentially ducking law enforcement.

I really like how you had her so neatly organize her crowd around herself at the end. It's so perfect, and ties itself to canon wonderfully.
Thank you so much! I really, really wanted her to come off as sympathetic here, even though she is doing unpleasant things. I'm glad that part of the story came through for you.
This was gorgeous. I love love love the portrayal of Narcissa that you've written and it is so in-character for such a strong, family-minded woman. (I honestly think that if you went down to her very bones, that family and its honor are her most important values.) Absolutely stunning.

Edited at 2011-03-22 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! This is my first story in this fandom, so it means a lot that you liked it :)
This is brilliantly done! Narcissa is a consummate Slytherin. And it makes sense to me that she would be the one to carry the family in the face of Lucius's weakness.
I'm so glad this story made sense to you - it was my first in HP fandom, and I worried about it so much! And I'm sorry for the late response; somehow I did not notice this comment until now.
A lovely piece! It says so much about Narcissa and those crazy first days after the Dark Lord's fall.