Pen Strokes the Fire
Author: Bella (email@example.com)
Disclaimer (Applies to all chapters): Pen Strokes the Fire is a work of fan fiction, written due to the authoress' respect and love for the works of J.K. Rowling. The setting, mythology, creatures, and history of the world of Harry Potter is barrowed. The plot devices and characters created by the authoress are her creative property. No profit is being made by the writing of this piece of fan fiction.
Archiving: All I ask is to let me know where to find you and my story. Contact me 0through my email provided.
Short Summary: Narcissa must watch the man she loves struggle to maintain his family's way of life. In the summer proceeding Draco's fourth year, Lucius is facing harder and harder decisions, alone. Narcissa is left to the Manor and a series of letters, now her main connection to a husband walking a dark and dangerous path.
* * *
The night sky was a velvet blanket, spotted and pit-marked with haphazardly splashed bits of light, blinking with a not-quite-white quality, some looking downright yellow and decayed. But it could have been a trick of the glass through which she peered.
Several great windows cut through the opposing wall, guarded on each side with voluminous falls of fabric, so burgundy as to shimmer black. It was his favorite color, of old blood and red wine. The floor was a tile mosaic, swirling darkness, accented with dark greens and blues. Those were her favorite colors; she could never choose between the two. They appeared to dance within the graces of the flickering flames, set high upon a chandelier of dark malachite, centered within the room.
A single flame hissed and flickered upon the surface of the vanity, tailored in beige silks and various scarves, as to look singularly out of place within the room, yet to draw attention immediately in its oddity. Thin and defined in natural, a woman sat upon a cushioned chair, her eyes upon the glass before her, hands settled within her lap.
It was cold, yet she made no move to seek warmth. Swathed within fine satin and lace, it was not unexpected that it would offer little of her body's more basic comforts. But the delicacy suited and the elegance enhanced, and, of course, she relished the chance to indulge, as she could rarely deny those more prominent of desires.
Yet, she stared blankly back into the glass, her golden head slightly tilted as if it would render her answer, or she was utterly lacking of purpose and was awaiting for its arrival, careless to the now.
Various unlabeled bottles, sheer as to show the differentiating colors of the contents ranging of clear green to a murky ash, sat beside lotions and trinkets, hairbrushes and pins. All were meticulously arranged.
The candle beside her burnt endlessly, enchanted to never quit, its light ever flickering and ever there when called upon. It was an unconscious surety she would sorely miss in its lacking.
A delicate hand reached out from the depths of her satin housecoat, banded in white gold and cut with diamonds, to gently grasp the handle of a silver handled brush. Slowly, Narcissa began to run the soft bristles through her hair. As if awakening from her stupor, she continued the motion with more surety, her gaze focusing upon her own reflection, casting from the dark reflections of her surroundings.
Her hair began to slightly frizzle with the continued motion. Narcissa placed the brush aside, and resumed the attentions with her hands, calming the texture. The gesture almost became a pet as her eyes searched her own face.
She was so plain. Kohl removed, rouge faded, powder washed away, Narcissa could not help but find her reflection wanting. She could still call herself a young woman. A witch of only thirty-three years, age had yet to steal the ripeness of her features. And yet it was not age, wrinkles, blemishes that she feared reflected, for there were countless potions at her disposal. It was the utter plainness that she feared.
Narcissa looked within the mirror and found nothing that she would have thought remarkable staring back at her. Years had wearied, though they be considered few in their coming, and somehow they stole from her a greatness that she had always believed to be hiding and ever influencing within her.
Like many things, she resolved to account it a fallacy of ignorance and a self-righteousness that have ever been unquestioningly encouraged. Though she accounted it a fallacy, she did not account it foolish. For what is a girl without her fancies?
She feared she would be nothing without hers.
Thus encouragement was as close to caring, abetting as close to loving, as she was willing to consider. Lowering her hands to rest upon her thighs, she heard the door open to her left, and feel the silky hair slid over her shoulder as she turned her head to watch her husband enter the room.
His eyes momentarily slid to her, as if to assure himself of her placement. A house elf entered meekly behind him, closing the door gently and nearly without sound, her head held low, turning and awaiting, rubbing her hands nervously, and restlessly, before her.
Lucius walked forward and for a moment, she wondered if he were approaching her, but he stopped after a short distance and shrugged his heavy traveling cloak. There was a muffled cry as it fell upon the house elf, who immediately took to properly folding it within her arms.
Narcissa watched sidelong, her hands rubbing together nervously, perhaps restlessly, within her lap. Her eyes caught upon a glimmer of blood red as he continued to undress, and they widened in response.
She turned to face him, "Are you hurt?"
He said nothing, merely removed a burgundy scarf from his sleeve, held it high as if for show, and let it fall to the floor.
Her eyes fell to the hands, kneading, within her lap. For several minutes there was no sound but that of falling clothe and muffled exclamations that involuntarily rouse from the house elf.
"I told you not to wait." Lucius whispered into her ear, the warm breath tickling her skin, the smell of alcohol poignant. Narcissa did not startle, as she had long grown accustomed to his near silent approaches and sudden closeness.
There was a blur at the corner of her eye and soft click as the house elf retreated with Lucius' clothing. He stood behind her only in an open black housecoat; his hair released from the fastening that he wore during the day. So different did he appear from his usually contained state that she remembered why she married him, why she gave him a son, why she waited for him.
"Are you angry?" She rose a hand, watching their reflection within the mirror, and reached to caress his cheek.
"Narcissa, no." He grabbed her wrist, and she closed her eyes a moment as he released his hold and she allowed her arm to drop wearily. "No," he continued in a softer tone. She opened her eyes and turned. He loomed so tall over her, his gaze unwaveringly upon her, and Narcissa wondered if he saw her plainness. As if in response to her thoughts, he turned towards a door upon the opposite side of the room, his words a drawl, neither uncaring nor loving in their call, "Go to bed, darling. I shall join you soon."
He disappeared behind the door, and soon steam whispered out from beneath to rise and mix with the candle smoke. Narcissa rouse from the chair, a hand making a gentle and rehearsed arc beside the vanity flame, ceasing it with the action. A ghost of a shadow caught her eyes upon her hand and she rose it with concern.
Upon her wrist was a darkened speck, where Lucius had grasped her. Narcissa's eyes fell upon the blood red scarf twisted on the floor, which the house elf had forgotten in her haste. Swiftly, Narcissa retrieved it and removed the speck with more viciousness than was perhaps called for. Tightening the silky material within her hands, she approached the bed, quite thankful that Lucius had stopped her; there was no telling what filth stained him and would stain her through proxy.
The sheets were cool and soft to the touch, dark as night. Narcissa lay upon her side, facing her husband, beneath layers of velvety and down-filled blankets. Lucius lay upon his back, as he always did, hands gently folded upon his chest. His hair, almost silver in the moonlight, spread across the pillow, a deep contrast and enhancement against the surrounding darkness. His eyes were closed, ashy lashes long and delicate. Lucius' face was contained, neither peaceful nor troubled.
Narcissa watched him, finding she could not sleep. Her hands were still wrapped around the burgundy scarf, resting beneath her chin. It was the only time she had left to truly watch him, and felt herself grateful to be allowed privy to these defenseless moments. She found that she wasn't tired. Rarely did Narcissa sleep anymore. For many years, she found relative peace in the times, even with rumors and whispers rising, speaking in shallow words of a rebirth, a second-coming, a calling. For a time, she thought that they had paid all that was needed and they would reap the rewards in comfort and safety. Service was rendered and in turn, payment was received. Simple, easy, understandable. It was sure profit, a priceless opportunity . . .a permanent employment.
Rumors and whispers became fact and statement. The Calling came, a rebirth lead to his second rising. Profit and rewards had been taken and servitude was expected, a permanent employment. No longer simple nor easy.
Business was engraved into her mind, takings and givings understandable in their weighty balance. Yet, when business became home, expectations too high, limitations too low, balance easily was forgotten, in search of preservation of the now, of comfort of one's self and one's lasting continuity. Business no longer concerned numbers and prevailing order but lives and playing God. It was powerful and intoxicating in the moment, but degrading, harmful, and permanent in the end.
Such thoughts plagued and poisoned, as the sun's first rays cast the faintest of glows about the room. Narcissa chewed upon her lip, an old and unappealing habit, and found herself slowly rocking in her thoughts.
"I swear, woman." Lucius grumbled. His eyes stole upon her sidelong, a slight amusement in his voice, a wariness and concern in his eyes. "If you do not sleep on your own, I shall force-feed a potion down your throat so I may find rest!"
"I don't need to sleep." She stated with more surety than felt. "I merely wished to think."
"Of course, you need to sleep, Narcissa. Must I constantly remind you that you are merely mortal, Love? And cease that incessant rocking."
"There's more than enough time to sleep when I'm dead."
"That's right." Lucius raised an eyebrow, dark eyes filled with bred control and calm. "There's also more than enough time to think when your dead, Love."
"But little help they'll serve me then."
"And little help," Lucius said in a soft manner, whether wearied or careful in their delivery unknown, "those thoughts shall serve you now. Unless, of course, you wish to work yourself into a dither and drive your husband mad."
"No." Narcissa whispered, a smile crossing her lips, her eyes rising to meet his own, "A dither is quite exhausting."
"Ah," She watched as he sat up in bed, the velvet covers falling to his waist, "Then please continue, I shall be in the Northern Guest Suite. Perhaps, then, we may both find rest."
He moved to rise from the bed.
"Oh, Lucius!" Narcissa firmly grasped his shoulders, pressing her cheek to the warmth of his back, his hair tickling against her ear. "Do I truly bother you so?"
There was a silence.
"Yes." Lucius said firmly.
"Uh!" She slapped him hard against his bare back and heard him hiss slightly at the sting. Narcissa was proud to see a pink handprint against the pale ivory of his back. "Good. Then my evil plan is working."
"Narcissa," Lucius looked back to her thoughtfully, consideration in his mannerisms.
"Your evil plans never work."
She grinned, "I married you, did I not?"
"Yes," Lucius said, slightly inclining his head, "And you see how that panned out."
Narcissa sighed and laid herself down playfully by his side, nightgown twisting up about her thighs and loosening about her bosom. It came off as chance, but it was well practiced and precisely executed to appear so. Lucius absently began to caress her temple, with small, familiar sweeps, petting the hair from her eyes. He looked thoughtfully across their bedroom, his eyes inattentive and unfocused.
"Draco believes he's secured the position of Prefect." Narcissa murmured distractedly. More for something to say into the darkness than it being of any true concern.
"He's very proud. You should tell him that you are, as well. You know what high esteem he holds your approval to. I believe it would mean a great deal to him."
Lucius' eyes moved from the middle-distance back to the woman whom he was still petting affectionately. "Not today, Narcissa." He said with finality.
She was silent for a time, satisfied to merely lie by his side, sharing this short-lived intimacy. His hand stopped mid-caress and settled, fisted, upon the bed.
"Where were you?" She whispered, unsure of whether she wished herself heard or not.
Several moments passed and Narcissa thought that he had chosen not to answer, as she knew by his sudden rigid posture that he had heard.
"You know full well that that is none of your concern."
As she expected, he had not answered.
"What did you do?"
Lucius looked down upon her severely.
"Is it like what we used to do? Why am I no longer involved?"
Lucius pushed her from his side, causing her to nearly overbalance and fall feet over head off the bed. "Of course, it is like what we used to do, Narcissa. Don't play daft. And you are no longer involved because I would spill my own blood to make sure you aren't, you stupid, ungrateful woman."
"Have I what?" Lucius bite out.
Narcissa allowed a few moments' silence to meet his tone, and soften her own. "Have you spilled your own blood?"
He offered no answer, but an avoidance of her gaze by casting his back to the middle-distance. She grabbed the hand fisted to his side and cradled it in her own, prying his fingers back to expose his soft palm.
"Don't make it into a grand romantic gesture, Narcissa. It is merely practical that one of my family not become involved." He pulled his hand from her grasp.
"So through my absence of action, Draco is to be put to service?"
"Draco wishes to follow my path. As you said, he holds me in high regard. He is a Malfoy and I would not have him softened and disillusioned by the world."
Narcissa sat upon her knees, her arms folding across her chest. "I do not like this. I do not like this, at all."
"I don't want him tied to that," she made a grand gesture with her hands, "That thing! I could understand if it were the same as when you and I served, together, and it was true to the cause. But the Dark Lord has changed. You have changed. I thought our servitude was only transitory. I thought that a Malfoy had no Master.""Where have you been these past sixteen years, Narcissa? Tell me, does your fantasy world serve you well?" Narcissa raised her chin, eyes squinted with annoyance. "Do not blame me, Lucius, when your world and its values have fallen apart and I refuse to let my own follow suite."
"Love, the only reason you're allowed such luxury," He made a grand gesture, "Is for the fact that I have sacrificed my own. Do not think to preach to me, Narcissa, when you know nothing of what you speak."
He rose from the bed swiftly, casting back the blanket into her own lap.
"Then tell me." She said, throwing the blankets back and following him across the room to a chair that sat beside one of the floor-to-ceiling-high windows. "You never speak to me anymore. Not like you used to."
"It's not like it used to be." He looked halfheartedly to the day's clothes that were already set out, before his gaze swept to the window.
"Whose fault is that?" She asked as if she very well knew.
"Does it matter?" Lucius folded his hands behind his back, eyes searching the flowing green of his grounds.
"It matters to me." Narcissa stood beside him, her hands clasped before her, as she couldn't think of anything useful for them to do. "I want to help you, Lucius. I am your wife. I share your bed, but it is cold and you are cold and I worry. I worry about what you are doing, that I am not there, that you may not come back. What am I to do then, Lucius?"
He distinctly avoided her gaze as she pursued his own. Finally, she stepped before him, a hand catching his chin and lowering his eyes to hers.
"Lucius, if you do not tell me, my mind will wander. You do not wish to know the dark places it could go."
A twisted smile graced his lips, his eyes deep and intense, "I doubt greatly that they could be darker than the places I am forced to."
"I think you like it." Her voice was hoarse; eyes shinning with unshed tears, not out of sadness or hurt but from passion. "I think you like those dark places, Lucius."
The smile left to be replaced by a stern and cold façade.
"The end was ever my goal, but it appears that the means are yours. Is that why you wish not to tell me? Do you truly think me daft, not to see the man who my husband has become? I would not delude myself into thinking that I am the same woman, the same child, who you married, Lucius. I think we have both changed. For the better or for the worse – does it truly matter?"
She looked to him intensely; hoping her gaze could urge him to places he would otherwise refuse, as it often did. His eyes remained cold upon her, unyielding and shielded from her attempts.
"What a lovely little speech, Narcissa. What was your hope that it would bring you?" He laughed bitterly, "Oh, you have been speaking to Nicole again, haven't you?"
She let go her grip upon his chin with a shake of her golden head. "No, this isn't about Nicole or Catherine or Zaria. I do not need them to think for me."
"Of course not. You are quite sensible when you do not listen to their foolishness."
Lucius sighed lightly, his shoulders loosing their rigid quality. He turned to her with a softness, an almost weariness, "Narcissa, love, what is the meaning of this? You are usually quite satisfied to let me my discretion with such matters. Are you unhappy? Where have I deprived you?"
"Yes, I'm unhappy, Lucius." She closed her eyes briefly, counting her breath to order her thoughts. Opening them, she continued, "Because you are depriving me of a husband. You give me everything I could wish, but you. I used to have you. You would look at me and I would feel loved. We had everything that we could wish for. There was no Dark Lord. We had met the end, Lucius, and we were finally receiving the rewards. You left the Manor and I knew that I would see you again. I miss that comfort. I am so lonely."
"And how am I to change that, Narcissa? Perhaps, I should send the Dark Lord a letter." Lucius looked down upon her, a mockery in his voice, "'Forgive me, my lord. My wife feels deprived of her illusions of perfection and I must send you my resignation as torturer, manservant, and general bad guy. Oh, and please don't dismember myself and family in your fit of mad rage.'"
"I'm not laughing, Lucius." She berated, hands on her hips.
"Neither am I!" He bellowed, catching her off guard. Her hands flew from her hips to her chest, as if to catch her breath. "Neither am I." He seemed to control his anger and turned to the woman, as if suddenly noticing her presence. "Narcissa . . ."
Quickly, she flew from the room, slamming the door as hard as she could, more vexing than satisfying as it was enchanted against just such an action.
"Well, I do say . . ." A portrait of an old man with silver hair grumbled as she stormed down the hall.
Several days passed and Narcissa saw little to nothing of her husband. She saw little to nothing of any living being. Much of her time she spent before a window in her study, hidden behind a drawing room and one of a number of sitting areas. Few bothered her. Tea was set before her without word or question by the house elves and it was taken away just as silently.
Lucius no longer slept within their bed. She knew nothing of his comings or goings.
"Where is my husband?" Narcissa said tonelessly upon the second day. The house elf who had been silently collecting her teacup and cleaning with the tip of his pillowcase, which served as the only form of clothing, where her frail hands had spilt a spot of crème nearly dropped the china.
"He-he," This house elf always stammered upon mention of her husband, "left this morning, mistress. Very Early. When it be still dark outside. Stubby asked m-master if h-he'd like a crumpet, danish, chocolate biscuit, perhaps. M-master wanted no chocolate biscuit, mistress."
"Where did he sleep?"
"He-he," Narcissa began to feel that familiar tickle of annoyance at the house elf's stammering, "Stubby thinks m-master doesn't sleep, mistress."
Narcissa looked sternly at the bent and stuttering creature before her. She allowed for all of her annoyance, especially that not by the house elf's fault, to frost her words with their cutting chill, "What do you mean he doesn't sleep?"
"Screams!" The house elf squeaked, "Horrible, horrible screams! Sometimes just whimpering." His hands began to shake where they held the fine teacup; she watched as his fingertips turned a pale green at the pressure. He held the cup with a grounding force.
"Why have I not heard these screams?" She asked in a bored tone; it came naturally upon her from the years of practice, often the more concerned, the more publicly bored she would present herself as.
"M-master takes to the Northern Suite, mistress, soon as h-he be home."
Narcissa allowed a rueful curve of her thin lips, "Ah, the Northern Guest Suite."
The house elf shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"What does he scream about?"
The house elf looked absolutely horrified at the request. "Stubby dare not say, mistress!"
"And why not?" She asked sharply.
The house elf dropped the delicate teacup and looked at the low oak table before them. She knew a second before what he was to do, a second-sense born of experience and repetition. Stubby grabbed the silver tray upon which the expensive, and antic, tea set had been set and the crashing of the china upon the hard oak table caused Narcissa to flinch.
"Bad, Stubby!" The house elf screamed as it began to whack itself repeatedly upon the head with the silver tray, "Bad, Stubby! Master-Said-No! Bad, bad, bad . . ."
"Stop it." Narcissa hissed, sitting straight, ankles crossed, upon her armchair. "Stop." She ordered with slightly more strength.
"Bad! Ow! Bad! Ow!" The house elf's chanting continued.
"Stop this instant!" Narcissa exclaimed fiercely.
Stubby obeyed, slowly lowering the, now bent, tray down to rest waist-height in his hands. His left ear, echoing the tray, appeared even more bent then usual and there was a growing green bruise developing nicely upon his forehead.
"Forgive Stubby, mistress, but m-master has ordered Stubby and Stubby can't say." The house elf looked quite contrite, a hand rising. It attempted to right his abused ear, but it seemed permanently mangled.
"That is obvious." She whispered to herself, half unaware that she had spoken aloud. Her eyes returned to the creature before her; she felt a slight curl of the lip come upon her and cared not to smother the impulse, "He wouldn't have happened to have told you where he was going?"
Stubby's eyes widened in the familiar horror.
"Don't even think about it!" Narcissa fairly hissed as he moved to bash his head against the oak table. The house elf paused, his hands upon the edge of the table, platter abandoned upon the floor, but his eyes were constantly straying to the tabletop, mirroring a nervous tick. "I won't even ask when I can expect him home."
Stubby visibly relaxed.
For several moments she stared into the middle-distance. A minute later, her eyes once again fell upon Stubby. Her hands gripped their respective armrests. "Well? What are you still doing here? You're no further use to me!" She dismissed him with a practiced swat of the hand, as if she were trying to hit away some offending insect with the back of her hand. "And do take your mess with you!"
The house elf disappeared with a pop, the tray and tea set following suit.
Narcissa was again left alone.
* * *
Please tell me what you think. Leave me an email with a review so that I may reply to questions or thoughts and give my proper thanks for your feedback.