Courting Miss Black – Part 2

Lucius strode into the common room several hours after curfew and looked arrogantly at his housemates. Not a soul among them ventured a comment, including this year's Head Boy. His gaze fell on the second year boy, Severus, who'd just slid out of his chair and onto the floor, not bothering to look up. He swept across the room and threw himself elegantly into the newly vacated chair. "Potions again, Snape?" he asked disinterestedly. Though he and the younger Slytherin had developed a tentative alliance last year, it would hardly do to let the rest of the house know it.

"I've got to be as good at SOMETHING as she is at Arithmancy, don't I?" Severus pulled his book back over his essay and spoke quietly, a disgusted look on his face. Lucius only smirked and shook his head, gazing into the fire. Severus had mentioned Muriel's outstanding OWL score in Arithmancy, and Lucius, though he hadn't spoken of it to anyone, had spent all last year and this term making sure he got the same score. He was NOT going to be outdone in his favorite class by an eleven year old! Apparently Severus felt the same way.

His eyes flickered away from the flame when he realized Severus was looking at him. "How's Narci?" the boy whispered. Severus was the only one who knew of Lucius' summer exploits, having had a hand in plotting them. Therefore, when Narcissa had received a rather uncouth letter from Bella last week, he was the only one to whom Lucius had mentioned it.

Lucius was suddenly aware that Avery was watching them carefully from a table by the door. "It hardly matters," he exclaimed, sneering coldly. "I've told her she can't take the mark, and that's final." He fell back into the old standby conversation easily. He had decided that the best way to protect Narci, from Bella or anyone else, was to keep her out of the death eater group. He himself was taking the mark during Christmas holiday, but he'd made it clear to the entire house that Narcissa wasn't taking it, whether she wanted to or not. She would likely be the only fifth year student left here during break. And it was best if the others thought she was resisting his decision. It wouldn't do to have her seem apathetic to the cause.

Severus caught on quickly, noticing their audience as well. "She'll come to terms with it eventually. You're lucky to have a girl so devoted to the cause, even if she isn't powerful enough to be of use."

This comment earned him a glare that he immediately recognized as authentic anger. It was a fine line to walk - playing along without insulting Lucius' betrothed - and he wasn't all that good at it yet. He cringed as Lucius opened his mouth to reply, but they were interrupted by several piercing screams and the sound of footsteps beating down the girl's staircase. They turned abruptly and stood.

The fifth year girls thundered into the common room, all of them crying. Everyone looked up, and Lucius and Severus ran toward them. Several girls fell into Lucius, and Sev caught Narci as she stumbled into the room. There were a few moments of confusion before Lucius, as prefect, took control.

"What happened," he demanded smoothly, making Narcissa look up from Severus' shoulder. She hadn't seen who'd caught her, because her eyes were shut tightly, but she could hear that Lucius was speaking from somewhere else. The other girls were chattering excitedly now, each clamoring to be the one to explain, but Lucius shushed them and made his way to Narci.

His face contorted in sudden anger as she looked up, and the common room went silent in response. Her eyes were still shut tight, and instead of tears, drops of blood were running from them. "What happened, Narci?" he whispered, struggling not to let his concern show in his voice.

"I got a package this evening, and when I opened it – "she would have finished, but the other girls had started chattering again. Amid the noise, Lucius made out a single name. "Bellatrix." He rounded on them in fury and hexed them all quiet.

"What happened when you opened it?" He kept his voice carefully even. His patience was wearing thin, and it was an effort. He ignored the sullen girls behind him, who'd drifted toward the fire in an attempt to glean some sympathy from their watching housemates. No one dared to remove the silencing charms, however.

Narci knew Lucius wouldn't appreciate hysterics or theatrics, so she forced herself to answer calmly, in spite of the fire that seemed to be eating at her eyes behind their lids. "It was a set of oriental hand massagers, beautiful enameled ones. Each one had a great orange dragon eye with long lashes on it. But when I went to lift them out of the box, they started to float. Then there was a flash of light, and - I closed my eyes. Then we all ran down here – I think we trapped them in the room." She left out the fact that her eyes stung as though someone had poured molten lava in them. Likely he was already aware of that, anyway. Someone still had a comforting arm around her shoulder, and Lucius' hand was under her chin, his thumb stroking her cheek. That alone was enough to calm her. It wasn't often he was willing to display affection that way, even privately. She knew it had to be him, since if anyone else had done it she was certain Lucius would have hexed whoever owned that soft hand.

Though she couldn't see it, Lucius' eyes were lit with excitement. Sure, he was worried about Narcissa, but he had a good idea what was waiting up in that room, and he knew it was something worth having. For a minute there was silence while he decided what to do about it.

"Snape, get Narcissa up to Madam Pomfrey. Tell her she was brewing a potion with dragon tears in it and leaned over the cauldron too long. The effect would be similar, and that should tell her how to treat it." Madam Pomfrey was notorious for not asking too many questions. The explanation would be good enough.

"I'll go for Tantry," his dorm mate, Minchew, offered from behind him. If anything called for the interference of the Slytherin Head of House, this would be it.

"No!" Lucius said dangerously, turning on the spot. "I'll handle it. You aren't going to mention this to anyone," he ordered, glaring around the room. Even the upperclassmen nodded dutifully. Satisfied, he summoned his broom as Severus and Narcissa made their way to the portrait hole.

After eight rather embarrassing attempts, which no one was foolish enough to laugh at, Lucius finally made it into the fifth year girl's dormitory. He quickly slammed the door behind him. It was only an instant before he was looking into the hovering eyes of a Chinese Fireball. Of course, the rest of the dragon was missing, but the eyes could do their share of damage when properly charmed. He ducked as the left eye shot something shiny toward his face, then dodged past them toward Narci's bed. He could see how she'd mistaken that for a flash of light. Thinking remarkably clearly, considering the situation, he cast a bubble head charm on himself.

He snatched up the padded box, and summoned the first eye to him, thrusting it into the box, pupil downward. Another spray of toxic, iridescent dragon tears erupted from the remaining eye, coating his bubble even as he summoned it and forced it into the box beside its match. He slammed the lid closed as the moisture evaporated, and removed the now melting bubble from his head. Then he placed a secure locking charm on the box. Smirking smugly, he opened the dormitory door, only to jump out of the way. The great marble cobra on the landing was STILL shooting stunning spells at him. He wasn't in the mood to care about consequences at this point. Without a second thought, he decimated the beautiful statue, then turned on the one beside it. Tantry would just have to fix them later.

When he emerged, bits of marble scattering into the common room ahead of him, the rest of the house was still looking apprehensively in his direction. He smirked again and held out the box. "Old wizarding torture device – the tears of a Chinese Fireball, continually renewed so long as the dragon they were taken from is alive," he drawled proudly. Even his father didn't have a set of these, and the Malfoy collection of dark arts artifacts was extensive.

He placed the box in his trunk and locked it as well, charming the leather to release toxins if anyone so much as brushed a leg against it. His dorm mates were used to that, and knew better than to get into his things. Then he set out for the hospital ward, quite pleased with himself.

* * * * * * *

"Damn," Severus muttered. They were finally in the correct corridor. Unfortunately, so was Filch. He wasn't going to be able to avoid the caretaker with a blind girl clinging desperately to his arm, so he held his head high and steered her into the center of the corridor. Best not to look shifty.

Filch was furious when he saw them, but the blood running steadily down the girl's face brooked no argument, and he led them to the hospital ward, swearing continually under his breath at the trail of blood that had followed them all the way from the dungeons. He ought to give them each a detention for that, but knew Madam Pomfrey wouldn't hear of it.

The medi witch threw an appropriate fuss over Narcissa, and accepted the concocted story without question, bustling off to procure the needed items to brew a cure. Severus, unsure of exactly what was expected of him, sat silently beside her bed, listening uncomfortably to her muffled sobs.

"Does it hurt very much?" he asked finally.

"I just wish Lucius were here," she replied after a moment. It wouldn't do to show her pain to a second year, and with some effort she quieted herself. She still couldn't open her eyes.

"He'll be here once he's caught the dragon eyes," Severus replied with conviction. "He loves you, you know." He realized immediately that he probably shouldn't have said that, but it WAS painfully obvious. Lucius spent most of his time lately plotting how best to protect Narcissa. When he wasn't thinking of that, he was owling his mother about wedding plans or sneaking to Hogsmeade to buy jewelry. Severus grinned. He'd even gone with him last time, through the tunnel that began on the fourth floor, behind the mirror.

Narcissa sat up a little, not bothering to turn her head toward the boy. Could that be true? She'd been immensely flattered when, only a week before her 15th birthday, Lucius had given her a betrothal necklace. But she hadn't imagined that he was led to do so by anything as significant as love.

Although, now that she thought of it, hadn't he been extraordinarily attentive ever since? They'd attended the Halloween ball together last month, and he'd not looked at a single other girl all night, in spite of their obvious and rather disgusting attempts to flirt with him. When she'd confided in him that she was afraid of Riddle, or Voldemort, as he was beginning to be called, hadn't Lucius said she didn't have to take the mark? Hadn't he promised that he'd take care of everything? And when Bella's cruel letter had come last week, hadn't he comforted her?

Her thoughts were interrupted when the door swung open and Lucius himself sauntered in. His pleasure at having acquired the dragon eyes had faded, and his face now held nothing but concern. "Lucius is here, Narci, so I'm going to go," Severus said abruptly. He was gone a moment later, and Lucius took his chair, reaching for her hand.

It was another few minutes before either of them spoke. "You can cry if you need to," Lucius said finally, his concerned whisper startling her, as it was the only sound. He knew how much the toxic tears must sting her eyes.

"It's no worse than the Cruciatus," she replied tightly. She couldn't see the anger creep over his face as he wondered why his beautiful bride would know what the Cruciatus curse felt like, but she continued anyway. "Bella tried to practice on me once because I'd spilled something on her favorite dress," she said quietly, answering his unspoken question. "She was in all kinds of trouble when Father caught her." To his surprise, she laughed a little, making him marvel at her strength. "It's no worse than that, though."

"Pomfrey will have the potion done in no time," he said comfortingly. Then his voice fell into a dangerous tone. "And don't worry about Bella. I'll take care of everything."

Startled, Narci gripped his hand tightly in response. It struck her that Severus had been right. In the five months since their betrothal, Lucius truly had taken care of everything. It was his way of showing that he loved her. In spite of her pain, she smiled prettily. "I know you will," she whispered.

They left the hospital ward together nearly an hour later, a potion-laced, cloth compress fastened over her eyes, and Madam Pomfrey's admonishing voice ringing in their ears. "No classes tomorrow, and don't even THINK about removing that cloth." Walking with Lucius was nothing like being led by Severus. For one thing, he picked her up every time they came to a staircase, which was often. Narci reveled in the comfort of resting her head on his shoulder. He hadn't said anything since they'd left Madam Pomfrey, but she didn't mind.

She lost count of the staircases after a time, and was nearly asleep when he set her carefully back on her feet. Being nearly as tall as he was, she knew she couldn't be easy to carry. She heard him open a door, and wondered what he was up to. There were no doors between the hospital ward and the Slytherin common room, none except the portrait, anyway, and he hadn't spoken a password. But she said nothing, only buried her face in his neck when he lifted her again.

He took only a few steps forward before setting her down again, and she heard a door close softly. Gingerly she pressed at the compress. The stinging and burning had subsided, to be replaced by startling flashes of light. This effect wasn't unexpected, but it was certainly disorienting.

Lucius closed the portrait behind them and walked back to Narcissa slowly, taking her elbow to let her know he was there. "We're in the passageway that leads to the Potions master's storeroom," he whispered, wondering how she would react.

"I've never been here before," she answered softly, suppressing a smile. So he was finally going to kiss her. She'd been starting to wonder when he'd get around to it. She wasn't surprised, really, when she thought of how long he'd been carrying her around the castle. He'd been a perfect gentleman, keeping his hands were they belonged, so she thought he deserved some sort of reward.

"Narci, I – "

She turned to the sound of his voice when he trailed off. Wordlessly his arms slipped around her, and amid the strange flashes of light that made up her only vision, he brought his lips gently to hers. For a brief, uncharacteristic moment she pitied the girls whose first kiss happened any other way. Then he was pulling back, his hands on her elbows again.

Lucius smirked in the dark tunnel as he watched her lick her lips. It had been torture to carry her down all those stairs without doing something she'd be sure to make him regret later. Abruptly, however, it seemed worth it to him. "Are you ready to go back?" She nodded hesitantly, and he led her back into the hallway, falling back into companionable silence. If nothing else, this ability to just be silent in one another's company indicated to Lucius that she was, in fact, the best wife he could have chosen. He spoke the password and the portrait to the Slytherin common room swung open.

Only Severus was still awake, his potion essay forgotten on the table as he stared into the fire. He smirked at Lucius as they entered. "Alright then, Narci?" he asked quietly.

"She'll be fine. Get to bed," Lucius responded for her. It was a good thing, since Narcissa was still thinking fixedly about the kiss he'd just given her and had no intention of answering. Severus gathered his things soundlessly. The others had told him about the decimated statues that no longer guarded the girls' dormitory, and he had a sneaking suspicion that Lucius wouldn't be spending the night in his own bed. It would certainly explain why the prefect didn't move until Severus was on the stairs, headed back to his room.

Lucius set her down on her own bed, disregarding the twittering that came from her dorm mates curtained beds. "Goodnight, Narci," he whispered. Then he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the finger that would one day bear his ring.

"Thank you, Lucius," she responded as he set her hand down on the covers. An instant later, she heard the door close behind him. When his footsteps were entirely out of earshot, three very eager and very jealous dorm mates threw aside the curtains of her bed and demanded answers. Exhausted as she was, she was only too happy to give them.