Author's Note: Welcome! For those of you who have been following along with my other story The Sacred 28, this story is a companion to that one and will eventually catch up to those events.

Don't worry if you haven't read it, though. This story will be able to stand well enough on its own. However, I think reading the two stories together is definitely the most fun. Enjoy!

Trigger warnings – suicide, domestic abuse. Only in the first chapter.


When I was a little girl, my older sister Andromeda read me a line from a book: the book read, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." At the time, this meant nothing to me. Having only lived one life, and being too young to properly see into the lives of others, I could only assume that my existence was a happy one, or at the very least, an expected one with no possible alternatives.

As I grew older, however, I found that the book returned to my mind at the strangest of moments, and that the words made more sense to me with every passing year.

Happy families, I decided, are alike only because they all wear the same painted face. Anyone who dared to be unhappy, on the other hand, showed their true imperfect nature. Perfection tends to be universal. Flaws rarely are.

My mother and father were a wonderful example of a horrible thing. They married in the summer of 1945 and never forgave one another for it. In fact, each passing year brought with it new and interesting things to hate about one another, and it was to this that they devoted most of their time.

My mother produced three girls, and only one son. He died in infancy. Yet another crime between them. But she had us, myself and my sisters, and she taught us so much.

She taught us how to dress and how to speak. She taught how to take our tea and how to avoid overeating. She taught us how to be pretty, polished and present, with the only alternative being putrid, pensive and plebeian.

But above all else, she taught us how to let a room full of witches and wizards know, without ever saying a word, that we are from the ancient noble House of Black, and it is through us that this magical community is made great. To dilute our blood was a sin above all others, and no matter what my mother endured - the details of which I cannot say - this purity was what kept her alive... for a time.

The pool of pure-bloods in Great Britain was shrinking even then, but that made our lives all the more precious. We were pure-blooded daughters of the House of Black, and we were a treasure, worthy of Gringotts. That was what my mother told us.

I'd like to say I was a fool but in truth, I was only a child. And all children are fools.

1965

To a Muggle, it appeared an ancient abandoned church.

Abandoned sights were often a lure for Muggle teens, encouraging vandalism and debauchery. However, this property invited no such attempts. In fact, should any Muggle wander too close to the beautifully decrepit cathedral, a sense of foreboding would draw them away, so powerful it sometimes caused nightmares in those who lingered.

That is not to say that the true character of the building was inviting to witches or wizards, either. In truth, although the true home was as majestic and well-kept as a great country manor, no one truly enjoyed visiting, if for no other reason than because of the family it housed.

Being only ten years old, Narcissa Black did not know this. Instead, she was only aware that her family was very rich and very powerful, and if anyone disliked them, it was only because they were stupid or jealous. Or, at least, that was what her older sister Bellatrix told her, and Bellatrix knew everything.

Skimming the dangling feet of a doll across the floor, young Narcissa hummed to herself a favorite song she had heard on the radio once. She wished desperately for a radio of her own; lots of her friends had them. Her parents had the gold to buy one, of course, even though they were quite expensive. The issue was not with the cost, but with the noise.

7 Grimmauld Place was not a place of raucous activity. Instead, it demanded silence at all times. For her mother's headaches, Narcissa was told. Her mother suffered a lot of headaches, and Narcissa often felt very bad for her.

Nearby, Narcissa's two older sisters sat near the window, which shifted and groaned occasionally as rain pelted the glass from the outside. A wild storm was raging, and lightning often pierced the sky outside only to be followed by a rolling boom of thunder. Narcissa liked it.

Andromeda, the middle sister, turned a page in her book and shifted closer to the light of her candle. Andromeda and Bellatrix were both in school, but it was Easter break and they were home from Hogwarts, which made Narcissa positively giddy. Getting along without her sisters home had been hard, and Narcissa had been forced to spend a lot more time with her cousins, Sirius and Regulus, who were intolerable.

The three Black sisters could have easily had their own rooms – the home was certainly large enough – but they'd chosen to bunk together in three separate beds, lined up near one another, for as long as Narcissa could remember. Now, as they all sat in the dimly lit room bedroom entertaining themselves in their own ways, Narcissa felt perfectly content. To have them home meant everything.

"Where'd you get that caramel corn?" asked Andromeda to Bellatrix, looking up when her sister crunched loudly on some candies.

"Nicked it from Aunt Walburga's house," Bellatrix said.

"Mother says we're not supposed to have candies," said Andromeda. "They rot your teeth and then you aren't pretty anymore."

Bellatrix responded by shoving as much caramel corn into her mouth as she possibly could, then smacking so that pieces fell out and onto the floor. "Am I pretty now?" she asked through a mouthful of candy, and Andromeda bit her lip before dissolving into giggles. Narcissa laughed as well, a little too loud, and Andromeda reached over for her and shushed her.

"Can I have some?" asked Narcissa hopefully.

"You can eat the pieces I dropped on the floor," said Bellatrix, making Narcissa pout. The eldest sister rolled her eyes and extended some to Narcissa, who ate just a few pieces, because she wanted to stay as pretty as possible but candy was hard to resist.

"I wish I looked more like both of you," said Narcissa admiringly. She frowned at her blond hair and pale skin. Her mother often said it made her look sickly. "Why don't I have dark hair like you two?"

"Because you're adopted," Bellatrix told her, smirking as Andromeda glared at her.

"You're beautiful," Andromeda consoled the youngest sister, holding her close. "I would love to have hair like yours. You're unique."

"Really?" said Bellatrix, looking unconvinced. "She looks a lot like Father's secretary if you ask me." Her eyes shifted mistrustfully to the door. Andromeda rolled her eyes.

"Shut it, Bella. She's just joking with you, Cissy."

"I know," said Narcissa, but she still made a face at Bellatrix, who threw a caramel candy at her. Narcissa caught it with her mouth and all three girls dissolved into laughter again. Soon they were each picking up candies and tossing them at one another, giggling madly. It went on for only a few minutes before the door to their room swung open and slammed into the opposite wall.

All three girls jumped and froze, eyes wide.

At the door, Druella Black stood, her fingers still spread against opening and her pale face hanging, ghost-like, just against the dark backdrop of the hallway. Narcissa noticed immediately that her mother had a painful looking bruise on her face, welling just beneath her eye and giving her pretty features a lopsided look. There was also that vacant look in her eye that Narcissa could not identify, being so young. However, she knew from experience that this faraway stare meant that sometimes her mother would say things that didn't make sense, and she would also appear very sad and distant.

This was the look Narcissa was most familiar with, of all her mother's faces.

"Sorry Mother," said Andromeda, standing. "We got a little carried away." She edged her foot around to sweep away the candies, hoping they wouldn't be punished further. Their mother didn't look to the floor though, and instead let her eyes fall on Narcissa.

"It's alright," said Druella dreamily, moving forward and sweeping a hand over Andromeda's face. At the window, Bellatrix grimaced in her mother's direction, not moving to accept the touch as it was extended to her. Instead, she glanced out of the window and saw her father bidding good-bye to someone who was leaving in the midst of the rain. It appeared to be a woman. Once the unfamiliar witch was gone, their father turned his stern expression back to the front door and slipped inside.

"My daughters," said Druella, ignorant of Bellatrix's scowl, "My beautiful, beautiful daughters."

Narcissa sat up higher at the praise. Druella looked at her and blinked several times. Then she extended her arms, and Narcissa hurried gratefully into them, because hugs from Mother were a special treat. Andromeda and Bellatrix both hung back.

"Go to bed, my dears," said Druella, and the three girls moved from their spots to their respective beds. Narcissa couldn't remember their mother ever tucking them into bed before, but she did so now, making sure each corner was secure at their shoulders. Bellatrix allowed this with a stiff posture, and she did not respond to her mother's wish of a good night. Andromeda tried to smile a little, nodding in reply.

Narcissa held out her arms happily, hoping for another hug, and Druella delivered it with another vacant smile.

"Good night, my daughters," said Druella, moving across the dark room. The storm outside only seemed to intensify, pounding against the house as if the home had personally offended it. The candle was extinguished, and the candy forgotten. The three girls relaxed slowly as the door closed.

"Good night," said Narcissa to her sisters.

"Good night, Cissy," said Andromeda. "Good night, Bella." A pause when the oldest sister didn't respond. "Bella?"

"Good night," said Bellatrix at last. She was staring at the window still, wrapped up in her bed. The girls settled in and gradually fell asleep.

For hours, the storm raged on, but Narcissa found comfort enough to sleep. Then, for no reason she could name, something startled her awake in the early hours of the morning. On a day of pleasant weather, the sky might've been brighter, making way for the sun as it rose. However, the storm kept the world outside devastatingly dark.

Still, Narcissa awoke, blinking in confusion for a moment before shifting to her side in an attempt to return to sleep. She didn't, though, because she spotted at that moment her mother sitting in the room with them. Druella was sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room, fast asleep.

Narcissa's heart leapt. Her mother was watching over them. What a good mother she was!

Crawling from her bed, Narcissa padded across the cold floor on bare feet and reached the sleeping woman. "Mother," she said, touching her arm. "You can come and get into bed with me, if you want." She paused, but nothing happened. Narcissa shook her harder. "Mother, wake up! You shouldn't sleep in a chair. Mother!"

By then, Andromeda and Bellatrix had both awakened, and they came over behind Narcissa as she attempted to wake her mother again. "Mother! Wake up!" said Narcissa more insistently. Behind her, Bellatrix and Andromeda both looked to the small table next to the rocking chair, where a drinking glass and an overturned potion bottle waited, both empty. The smell from the potion bottle was noxious.

"Mother!" said Narcissa again, growing more frantic, but now Andromeda was moving forward, shaking Druella furiously. Then she reached up to touch her neck, and her eyes widened.

"Merlin," she whispered, her eyes wide with terror. "No! No, we've got to – "

"Get out of the way," growled Bellatrix, shoving them both aside. Their mother's head rolled to the side but otherwise the motionless body did nothing. The skin was cold to the touch, and Narcissa could still feel it under her fingers.

"Mother…?" Narcisa said, her eyes filling with tears. "Andromeda, what's wrong with her? What's wrong with Mother?" When she saw her older sister was crying, Narcissa began to panic. "Tell me what's going on!" she shouted, but instead Andromeda began to drag Narcissa away from where her mother sat.

Bellatrix was screaming now.

"HOW DARE YOU?" she shrieked at the lifeless witch. "HOW DARE YOU, YOU SELFISH BITCH!" Bellatrix had Druella by the shoulders now and she was yelling right into her face. Andromeda was crying so heavily, she could scarcely pull Narcissa away, but finally she managed to drag her youngest sister out of the room and down the hallway. Bellatrix's voice continued to shriek. She hadn't even noticed they'd left.

"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?" screamed Bellatrix from the room. "HOW COULD YOU LEAVE US WITH HIM? I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!"

Together, Andromeda and Narcissa found a closet and huddled together in it, sobbing. They could not see anything anymore, it was too dark for that. But they could hear Bellatrix, as if she were in every room of the house. Their father must have been close enough to hear; surely anyone in London could have.

But he didn't come up, so Bellatrix screamed all night.


1972

The train whistle blasted loudly, startling Narcissa from her thoughtful inspection.

"You have everything, then?"

Sixteen-year-old Narcissa looked up at her sister, who beamed down at her. "Yes," she told Andromeda with a small smile. "Stop babying me."

"I'm sorry," said Andromeda. "It's just – your first year at school without either of us there –" At Narcissa's glare, Andromeda stopped and rolled her eyes a bit. "Okay, okay. I get it. You'll be fine."

"Better than fine," said Narcissa, standing as straight as she could. "Now I will be the only Black sister in attendance at Hogwarts, and all eyes will be on me." Besides, any time spent away from home was welcome in Narcissa's opinion. The fact that she would no longer be in the shadows of her sisters was just extra.

"Of course they will," said Andromeda, adjusting one of her own dark curls. "You're the very best that school has seen." She touched Narcissa's face and leaned closer. "And when you come home for summer holidays, we'll prove it to everyone by having your big debut. Young wizards will be scrambling all over themselves for you!"

Narcissa felt her spine straighten under the praise. The train whistle blew again, and she knew she had to go. "Is Bellatrix coming to say good – "

"Here I am, here I am," said the eldest sister, appearing in an instant. Narcissa looked to Bellatrix and let out a breath of relief, even as her sister's heavy-lidded eyes looked over the platform disapprovingly. "Merlin, this place smells worse every year," Bellatrix said, looking over some students as they parted to get on the train. Then she looked to Narcissa.

"Well, Cissy, I hope you're ready. Big sister won't be there to protect you this year."

"I don't need protecting," said Narcissa hotly. "Besides, I have my friends."

"Ah," said her Bellatrix, as if this was news to her. Bellatrix had never had any friends at Hogwarts. "Go on, then. Get aboard." Narcissa gripped her elegant leather handbag, adjusted her fine coat and nodded smartly.

"Good-bye," she said to them both, though she hesitated, and then she quickly moved forward, taking both of her sisters' hands and giving them a squeeze, which made Andromeda beam and Bellatrix pat her awkwardly on the top of her hand. Placated, Narcissa moved away from her sisters and – although she wanted to sprint onto the train –forced herself to walk slowly and elegantly, with every air of importance, as if the Hogwarts Express had been sent just for her.

As the two older sisters watched Narcissa board, Bellatrix folded her arms and said to Andromeda without looking at her, "This is the third year in a row he hasn't seen her off."

Andromeda kept her gaze on the train and a careful smile on her face. "It's better that he isn't here, you know that," she told her sister. "Father's not well."

"Stop making it sound as though he's ill," said Bellatrix, not bothering to hide her sneer. She turned and sent a glare Andromeda's way. "And stop making excuses for him. He deserves none of it."

Andromeda sighed and opened her mouth to reply, but Bellatrix was gone.

Shoulders dropping, Andromeda turned on the platform and walked away just as the train began to roll forward. She did not have time to wait and wave good-bye further; a seat at Madame Lebelle's Finishing School for Witches was waiting for her.


It was not long before Narcissa found her friends, many of whom were crowded into one compartment that was quite over capacity. Narcissa didn't mind, though. She preferred large groups. Any time it came down to just a few girls, she felt their eyes on her, and although Narcissa knew she had every reason to lead her group of friends as the most brilliant and beautiful of them, it somehow managed to never work out that way.

That would change this year, she decided. Her sisters were gone, and Narcissa knew she was now the most eligible pure-blood witch at Hogwarts. Sure, Andromeda had gotten the best grades in her year, and Bellatrix – although not necessarily popular with other witches – got lots of attention from the more daring wizards of her year, but Narcissa truly felt she deserved to be at the center of attention now. And it would happen. She was determined.

"Oh, I love your bag!" piped up Agatha Bullstrode. "I didn't even know that brand was available in England!"

"It's not," said Narcissa smugly. "But I wanted it, so my father had it express shipped from Paris."

"It is nice," chimed in Ellaria Nott, who had been Narcissa's closest friend until fourth year before she'd decided, for whatever reason, that she and Narcissa were in competition with each other rather than friends. "But pity it isn't in the tartan pattern. That's the one all the celebrities are using!"

The other girls quickly agreed, and Narcissa forced herself not to roll her eyes. The tartan prints had been ugly, but she resolved that she'd get one next time anyway.

Sybil Flint, who looked like a pug, giggled and brandished her own bag, the same brand as Narcissa's but with the print Ellaria had spoken of. The other girls shrieked and Narcissa was forgotten. Scowling inwardly, Narcissa edged forward and squealed with the other girls over the bag.

The train rolled on, and soon all the students were changed into their robes. All of Narcissa's friends shared her house, although there was the occasion that a Ravenclaw or two joined them, depending on her upbringing and how forgiving the mood of The Group was. Marching into the school, many of the girls linked arms, happy to be reunited. Ellaria, apparently deciding that she and Narcissa were friends once more, took arms with her and Sybil flanked Narcissa's other side.

"Oh, I'm so glad to be back!" exclaimed Sybil.

"Why?" asked Ellaria with a laugh. "You're stupid in school." She paused, before adding sweetly, "No offense, of course. I'm sure you're good at other things."

Sybil made a face. "I don't have to be good in school to know that this is where my future husband is. We only have two years left, girls! Two years to make our best impressions on this school's most eligible wizards. If we're lucky, we can get one to fall head over heels for us without even having to go to that awful finishing school!"

"No wizard worth his wand would have you without Madam Lebelle's," said Ellaria, rolling her eyes. "Besides, we both know your family can't afford it. Not after that whole scandal last year."

Sybil flushed. "That's all been smoothed over now," she said, but Ellaria caught Narcissa's eye, and the two giggled at Sybil's embarrassment. "Really," said Sybil. "Most of that was just rumor anyway."

Glad to be on the other end of the harassment, Narcissa looked to Sybil and said, "What are rumors, really, but truths yet put to parchment?" She smirked, and Ellaria laughed. Sybil clamped her mouth shut and said nothing else as the three girls reached their table and sat down.

Someone else began talking about their summer vacation, which immediately distracted both Ellaria and Sybil ("Oh, you went to Brussels? I heard it's really quite dirty there") and Narcissa turned away to look down the length of the Slytherin table.

Other students filed in, many chattering with one another, happy to be back with their friends. Teachers gathered at the front of the Great Hall, shaking hands and exchanging well wishes. However, Narcissa was not looking at them, but at the handsome seventh year student sitting several spots away, on the opposite side of the Slytherin table.

"Would you look at that," said Elizabeth Burke, following Narcissa's longing gaze. "Lucius Malfoy was made Head Boy!"

"Of course he was," said Sybil. "I'm surprised they didn't give it to him in his third year! Everyone knows the teachers favor him."

"He deserves it," sighed Narcissa wistfully. "He gets top marks, he's handsome, he's rich – "

"And taken," cut in Ellaria, eyebrows raised. "Or have you forgotten about a little someone called Corinne Lestrange?"

Narcissa's dreamy look vanished because for a moment, she had actually forgotten about Corinne Lestrange. But then the beautiful dark-skinned witch swept down the length of the table and gracefully moved into the spot next to Lucius, which he had saved for her. As soon as she was seated, Corinne looked over at Lucius and offered her sly smile to the Head Boy, who gazed at her adoringly. Corinne placed a hand on Lucius' shoulder and cast a narrow-eyed glare around the table, so that her position there was crystal clear.

"They've been dating since fourth year," said Agatha. "And everyone knows Malfoy is wild for her. The two are inseparable!"

"They're practically betrothed," added Ellaria, unwilling to let the attention shift away from her. "You don't stand a chance, Narcissa." She giggled. "No offense."

Narcissa hid a frown. "We'll see."

"You better not let Corrine catch you looking at him," said Mischa, a fifth year. "She's vicious, you know."

"Even your sister Bellatrix only crossed her once," added Sybil. "That was a sight to see!"

"The girls lavatory will never be the same," sighed Mischa.

The girls continued to chatter, but Narcissa tuned them out as the first year students filed in and prepared to be sorted. Despite her friends' warnings, Narcissa couldn't help but look over at Lucius Malfoy longingly whenever she felt neither he nor Corinne was watching.

Lucius Malfoy was a powerful wizard, Narcissa thought, but it was more than that. The Blacks were an important family, but the Malfoys were the family of Wizarding Britain, and Lucius was the sole heir. Not only that, he was positively gorgeous, with long white blond hair, sharp angular features and grey eyes to die for.

Unfortunately, Lucius Malfoy had never once spoken to Narcissa, nor she to him, and even though he was only one year ahead of her, she had never once mustered up the courage to speak to him in the Common Room or anywhere else. This was mostly because, as her friends had pointed out, Lucius had been attached at the hip (and Merlin knows where else) to Corinne Lestrange for quite a long time, and Corinne was not to be crossed.

This year, though, Narcissa was finally confident enough to place herself in Lucius' path. Once she did this, she was certain (though she couldn't explain why) that Lucius would finally see that Corinne Lestrange was not worth his time, despite the fact that she was indeed one of the most beautiful witches Narcissa had ever seen.

Narcissa's eyes shifted to the witch in question.

Corinne had lovely dark skin and silky jet black hair, with large hazel eyes and long eyelashes. She often wore red on her lips, giving her smooth features a burst of color that also somehow managed to be intimidating. Perhaps it was her smirk, which always seemed more malicious than amused, or the way her eyes narrowed on practically everyone. Even those within her circle were intimidated by her, and the only person in the entire school who didn't seem to feel she was the walking incarnation of the Killing Curse was Lucius Malfoy, who had been enamored with her for years.

Corinne shifted her steely gaze in Narcissa's direction, and Narcissa quickly looked away. Still, she clenched her jaw and fought not to look intimidated. No more. She was in control this year.

At the front, the sorting of the first years had begun, and very soon, a familiar name was read.

"Sirius Black!"

A little boy with messy hair and a cocky swagger moved across the stage and sat on the stool, where Professor Minerva McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on his head. "Curious," said the hat aloud, and it seemed to chuckle. "Definitely… GRYFFINDOR!"

The boy jumped up with a triumphant shout, yanked the Sorting Hat off his head, tossed it into the air and then ran to the Slytherin table, where he slammed down both hands and shouted gleefully, "IN YOUR FACES!" He did a little dance, much to Narcissa's mortification.

"Mister Black!" exclaimed McGonagall. "Please join your table and behave properly!"

Narcissa pulled back as far as she could from the offending little troll as he hurried off, laughing maniacally as he joined his fellow simpletons. "My aunt and uncle are in the process of disowning him as we speak," hissed Narcissa emphatically to her friends. "He's practically off the tapestry already!"

"Disgraceful," muttered Sybil, while Agatha turned up her nose. The rest of the Slytherins at the table scoffed and scowled accordingly.

Finally, the ceremony came to an end, dinner was served, and Narcissa managed to impress the group by going on in detail about her upcoming debut, which she promised would be the event of the season. After a while, dinner was over and the students were released to go their respective dormitories.

Narcissa got up to head out with her friends, only to be bumped by someone. When she looked up, she saw Corinne Lestrange looking back at her over her shoulder, eyes dangerous. Then the older witch took Lucius' arm in hers and the two older students moved off.

This is my year, Narcissa told herself. I can feel it.