3.5 Courting Miss Black Part 3

Lucius stumbled as he arrived, still disoriented from the sudden tug of the portkey. He didn't speak, but instead tossed the thin book onto Severus' lumpy bed, garnering a grunt from its occupant. Without waiting around to explain, he lurched unsteadily into the adjacent bathroom and retched violently into the toilet. He had no idea how much time passed before he felt Severus pulling back his long blond hair.

Later, in a whispered conversation, he related the night's events. "It never occurred to me that the Dark Lord would expect us to perform that particular brand of torture," he said delicately, his eyes fixed on his hands, which was all he could see in the darkness. He wasn't so much worried about Severus' innocent young ears as he was about upsetting his still churning stomach. Watching the older men force themselves on the mud blood's mother had sickened him far more than he'd anticipated. "Thank Merlin he doesn't dare let us participate so long as we're under Dumbledore's watch. Crabbe and Minchew didn't seem to mind – "he stopped, then continued, his discomfort making him uncharacteristically honest. "Of course, I didn't SEEM to mind either, couldn't afford to, really. Maybe they were just as upset, for all I know." Even as he said it, he knew it wasn't true. The unholy, anticipatory gleam in his dorm mates eyes was part of what had made him so ill.

Severus sat cross legged on his bed facing the older boy, a solemn expression on his face. His mind was already processing how exactly he was going to explain all this to Mur when it was his turn to face it. "You'll have to tell Narci," he whispered finally.

Lucius cringed. That was NOT a conversation to look forward to, but Severus was correct. If he didn't tell her, he could count on Bellatrix to owl her about it the first time he had to participate in such a thing. He and Bella had gotten some things straight earlier in the summer, thankfully without an actual duel. There would be no more hostility between her and Narcissa. Lucius and his father were very much in favor with the Dark Lord just now, and he hadn't hesitated to use that clout to blackmail the brutal beauty into backing down. The down side to their renewed civility was that Narcissa was once again opening her letters, and Bella would surely be present each and every time Lucius was summoned to the Dark Lord's side. He couldn't let her be the bearer of that particular news. No. He would have to speak to Narci about it as soon as school began, before he was required to do anything.

* * * * * * *

"What are you saying, Lucius?" Narcissa looked up at him from her desk. Her dorm room had cleared as soon as he flew through the door, except for Korina Knott, who'd caught the stunning spell that he dodged. Lucius had simply levitated her into the hallway and let her slide, unconscious, down to the common room. It was a shame that Tantry had been so diligent about fixing the statues. No one had been foolish enough to inform the head of house who had been responsible for their destruction in the first place.

"I'm saying that it's likely that the Dark Lord will expect something similar from me." He heard the words as he spoke them and thanked Merlin yet again for the years he'd spent perfecting his mask of indifference. Otherwise, he was sure she would see just how upset he was about it all, and he couldn't afford that.

"Not until we finish school, surely," she replied primly. Then she lowered her voice to a confidential whisper. "He can't afford for Dumbledore to get wind of it."

"We finish school three weeks before the wedding, Narci," he replied dryly, trying to get his point across without upsetting her. He'd thought it through every way but sideways. There was no escaping this fate. He'd even briefly spoken with his father about it, only to be told that it was, indeed, one of the benefits of being a Death Eater. At the time, he'd smirked wickedly, matching his expression to that of his father, and silently reaffirming his vow to kill the man just as soon as Severus was out of school to help him. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger together unconsciously, remembering the blood pact they'd made only a few weeks previous. He'd help kill Mr. Snape if Severus would help kill Mr. Malfoy. It shouldn't be hard. Severus' father liked to drink and Mr. Malfoy could be counted on to sleep through anything. They had gotten sloppy in their old age.

He snapped out of his thoughts as Narci pushed her chair back and stood. "It doesn't have to be this way, Lucius. We could elope – run away to Australia or Thailand. Someplace exotic and distant where he won't find us." As she spoke, he felt something break inside him. His calm façade fell away. Her tone was so gentle she was nearly pleading, but all it evoked in him was anger. A vision of her beautiful face surrounded by death eater masks flashed through his mind, and he felt his face twist into a snarl. Run indeed. There was nowhere to go that the Dark Lord couldn't follow.

"Malfoys do not run," he spat angrily.

Like lightening her tone changed as well, though she didn't raise her voice. Her mother had always told her that women of good breeding need not do so. "Perhaps it isn't worth much to be a Malfoy these days, since the grandeur of the name is being tarnished at the whim a raving mud blood," she replied coldly.

In three long strides, Lucius crossed the room and backhanded her hard, snapping her head forcefully to the right. "Don't ever say that again. Don't even think it, do you understand me?" The smooth, dangerous voice of his father startled him even as he said the words, but his expression betrayed nothing. Merlin! Had he really just hit her?

Narci stood before him, her head still turned away and her eyes closed tightly. "Oh, I understand you, Lucius," she whispered. Then her eyes snapped open and met his, her face still serene. "You would do well to think on just how WELL I understand you." Born and raised in the Black household, Narcissa was no fool. Lucius had told her things that would bring the Dark Lord to his door in an instant, as well as things that would land him and most of his family in Azkaban. Perhaps he had believed her father's pitiful assertion that she was weak. Her mother had taught her long ago that the best way to stay out of trouble was to encourage such drivel, and she, like her sister Andromeda, had done so without question, allowing Bella to be the best at everything. That did not, however, mean that she was prepared to be treated like a common muggle whore.

"Are you threatening me?" Lucius asked quietly. His rage had subsided, and the blossoming of blood on her cheek was bringing an uncomfortable feeling to his chest. His words lacked the sting that he'd intended.

She ignored his question and turned away. He had no right to expect her loyalty after such treatment. She threw open the window, purposely refraining from touching her face, but subconsciously desiring the cool autumn air. She let it blow through her hair, loose and wet after her evening bath. It was the first weekend of her sixth year, and frankly this was NOT how she'd foreseen spending it. She heard his footsteps behind her. A moment later his hand was resting gently on her shoulder. Was it her imagination, or was it shaking just a bit?

"Let me heal it." Narcissa smiled faintly, recognizing the soft-spoken request as the apology he intended it to be. She turned her now purpling cheek toward him, but when his wand came up, she pushed it away.

"No. This fits nicely with your carefully cultivated image, does it not? Go out the window. I will have Pomfrey heal it." She turned and watched as his face closed and his eyes turned cold again, his hand falling from her shoulder. In her mind's eye, she could see her face doing the same thing. He nodded once and summoned her broom, which jumped into his hand almost instantly.

Lucius shot out the window a bit exuberantly, but quickly rediscovered his poise. His mind was racing. She knew. Narcissa was completely aware of his "carefully cultivated" façade. What did that mean? He closed his eyes briefly as he landed, but no conclusion came to him. Except that she was willing to play along. He swung the broom up over his shoulder as he walked. She was willing to play along. They could make this work.

She stood in the window as he glided to the ground and made his way casually toward the front of the castle. "Damn you, Lucius," she muttered, thinking of the trip through the common room that she was about to make. Once he was out of sight, she opened the door and walked sedately down the staircase. Korina had been woken and was glaring at her from the fire. She met the girl's eyes and raised an eyebrow, daring her to comment on the bruise. In that instant, she felt every pair of eyes turn away from her. She raised her chin and headed for the portrait hole, satisfied that her demeanor had had the intended effect.

"Narci?"

She turned sharply in time to see Snape coming toward her. His face was expressionless and his voice neutral. "Can I walk with you? I need your help with this transfiguration assignment." Sure enough the boy was carrying his book. She suppressed a smile, and nodded, keeping her haughty expression firmly in place until the portrait swung closed behind him.

"I can't believe he hit you," the boy whispered, as soon as he was sure they were alone. He might have said more if it hadn't been for the momentary glare he received for his concern. They were nearly to the hospital wing before she replied.

"Neither can I, but I don't believe it will happen again." Her voice had an edge to it that reminded Severus of his best friend when she was angry, and he let the matter drop. He opened the door for her, but didn't follow her inside. Instead, he went looking for Lucius.

The next morning found Narcissa surrounded by her dorm mates at the breakfast table, covertly watching her betrothed as he ignored both his food and his housemates. He didn't look at her at all, preferring to sit haughtily in silence. Owl post arrived, and an elegant green envelope fell onto his plate. He scowled as he wiped the eggs from the paper and pushed his plate aside, snapping his fingers angrily at the bird to let it know that such a clumsy delivery earned it no treat. It flew away with a squawk.

"Lucius, Come to the seventh floor corridor Friday evening at 7pm. Look for me behind the unfamiliar door. I'll take care of everything."

Scowling, he reread the note. The handwriting was familiar, but it wasn't signed. It was on green parchment, so was from a Slytherin, especially considering that no one in the other houses was likely to request his presence anywhere except hell. He lifted his eyes to scan the table and caught Narcissa looking at him. The corners of her mouth were turned up just a bit, into an unnerving smirk.

He spent the next four days wondering what she was up to. He'd shown no one the note, and was still pondering their last conversation as he climbed the steps to meet her on Friday night.

* * * * * * *

When the door opened, Narcissa looked up from her book. She was lying on her stomach on the bed. Her school robes and tie were draped over a chair on the other side of the room. Her crisp white shirt was unbuttoned just a tad too far, and she knew her skirt showed a goodly portion of her upper legs. She watched silently as Lucius gazed around the richly appointed room, letting the door fall shut behind him. When his eyes fell on her, she held his gaze unsmilingly, waiting for a look of understanding. No such look crossed his face.

Finally she stood, her wand held inconspicuously in her hand to keep up the illusion of clothing. She saw his eyes glance at it anyway, and a pained expression crept over his features, but he stood stoically in front of the door, knowing he deserved whatever she was going to do to him. He was extraordinarily surprised when she put her other hand on his shoulder and brought her lips to his. It was a moment before he could bring himself to close his eyes, and when he did, Narcissa set her wand down on the nearest dresser. Her school uniform abruptly changed into an elegant black nightdress made of delicate lace.

If he felt the material under his hands as he held her, it didn't register. He was so relieved to find that she wasn't about to hex him that he let his guard down entirely and kissed her thoroughly. It wasn't until he reluctantly pulled away that he noticed the change, his eyes widening in shock.

"Narci, what – "

She placed her fingers delicately over his lips and took his hand, pulling him further into the room. Her hand, which had been on his shoulder, fell to his tie and she loosened it. She'd just about finished when both his hands grasped hers, forcing her to stop. He wanted an answer, and his eyes were boring into hers. "I can't spare you what will happen, but I can at least make sure it isn't the only experience you know," she whispered, her breathy voice full of promise.

Finally comprehension dawned. This WAS her response to the conversation they'd had last week. But it was nothing like what he'd expected, and certainly far better than he deserved. She should be hexing him, not offering – THIS! Then another thought occurred to him. "But what if you – "

"Lucius," she whispered, cutting him off, "I've taken care of everything." She had accepted the same assertion from him on several occasions, never questioning. A slow smile crept across his face, which startled her somewhat as she'd never yet seen him smile. She had only a moment to marvel over it, however, before he swept her up into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the bed, his expression once again serious.