Courting Miss Black Part 4

Narcissa's chess pieces were gloating over the loss of Lucius' rook. She sat with her feet curled under her in the squishy armchair that he'd pulled over to the table for her. What the Daily Prophet had dubbed "The Wedding of the Decade" was less than a week away, and this was the first evening they'd managed to spend alone since school. Or, almost alone. Lucius' parents were in another drawing room, somewhere in the manor. That knowledge seemed to weigh on them, keeping conversation to a minimum. Of course, Lucius knew better than to say anything truthful in his father's house anyway. The paintings were all VERY loyal to Malfoy Sr. Just as they would one day be loyal to him.

Not in the least perturbed by the loss, Lucius considered his knight, his eyes darting to Narci's face as the firelight flickered. He might have paused just to look at her, had the light in the room not abruptly shifted to green. Instead, his eyes snapped toward the fireplace. He raised an eyebrow in annoyance. Severus Snape's head had appeared in the flames, and the expression on his face was not one that Lucius had seen there often. "Narcissa," Snape greeted stiffly before turning to Lucius. "He's in Knockturn Alley tonight."

Lucius heard Narci's intake of breath. She didn't approve of Knockturn Alley, he knew, but he'd promised his aid, and Severus would have it. He stood abruptly and summoned a robe and mask from elsewhere in the house. While he awaited the items, he kissed his fiancée on top of her head. Paintings be damned.

Narcissa knew better than to voice her concern. The set of Lucius' jaw was enough to convince her that this wasn't some childish prank, not that he'd ever indulged in such things, really. But she was curious what they were up to. "Who, Lucius?" she asked quietly. Severus had disappeared, and Lucius was donning his cloak and duplicating his mask so Severus would have one as well.

"Avery," he answered shortly. She felt anger well up in her chest. Lucius had told her what Avery had tried to do to Severus' betrothed, and though the girl hadn't ended up in Slytherin, she still felt protective of her. She'd known her since she was small, after all. Almost, she offered to accompany him, but she bit her tongue. The Ruse, as they'd come to call it, was still a top priority. There could be no show of power on her part, or the Dark Lord would be demanding her loyalty. Instead, she only nodded approvingly as Lucius snapped his mask in place. "We won't kill him," he added, sounding rather disappointed. She smiled then.

"I'll be going back to the manor, then. I need to send a letter to my sister." Lucius' eyes seemed to narrow behind the mask. When she meant Bella, she always said Bella. It was only when she was writing to Andromeda that she ever referred to her as her sister. And she knew quite well that she'd best not be caught writing to Andromeda after what the blood traitor had done. Running off with a muggle! It was despicable!

Still, he reigned in his anger. He had learned long since that Narcissa's discretion was impeccable. She would not be caught. And regardless of her poor taste, Andromeda was her sister. After a rather heated debate, he'd determined that he had no right to forbid her to correspond. He nodded once and disappeared into the fireplace, leaving her with a small smile on her lips. She was more than pleased that he hadn't questioned her. She was thrilled. This marriage, and the Ruse they shared, it was going to work.

* * * * * * * It had been no small feat to create a clearing in the midst of the Arnot Tower Gardens large enough for every pureblood in Europe to attend the wedding, but the Malfoy family had accomplished it. They'd had to book it for the entire month of July, and most of their more talented acquaintances had been assisting with shrinking Loch Leven to allow for an enlarged tower and courtyard garden. The house elves simply could not be trusted with such things, especially since it had to go back to normal when they left.

The Ruse was firmly in place, as Narcissa and Lucius had not seen one another, nor even corresponded, since their unfinished chess match earlier in the week. Of all the aspects of the Ruse, that part was Narci's least favorite. Lucius maintained that if no one thought he cared for her, then no one would ever use her to blackmail him. Of course it was a sound theory, but in practice, it was torment at its finest.

Narcissa stared at her reflection in the floor to ceiling mirror her sister had conjured for her. Bellatrix stood behind her, dressed rather less spectacularly than Narcissa had expected. Now that the Dark Lord had set his minions on the first resisting pureblood family, he was unable to attend such public functions, so there was no one for the dark haired beauty to impress. Where he'd desired open loyalty only a few years previous, he now desired secrecy. Lucius, for his part, had been pleased. The family honor could be restored, if only he could keep the press from learning of his nocturnal activities. Bellatrix, on the other hand, was pouting annoyingly.

Narcissa nodded at her elder sister's words, cringing each time Bella began talking belligerently about muggles and mudbloods. Andromeda, covered in the invisibility cloak which Lucius had owled to her, sat fuming on the floor nearby. When Bellatrix began spouting off about her marriage to Mr. Tonks as if it was some kind of abomination, Andromeda couldn't resist casting a quick charm to make her choke on her words. After all, she may have fallen in love with a muggle, but she was still a Black. Narci's attention snapped to Bella as she coughed violently, and she suppressed a grin, knowing what must have happened. She quickly conjured a glass of water and handed it to her scowling sister.

"Bellatrix Lestrange, you should know better than to speak that way of your own blood," she scolded in her most superior tone of voice. "Nothing good ever comes of it. And don't get that on my robes!" she exclaimed, as Bella continued to sputter in agitation. Narcissa smoothed her robes again, admiring the deep gold fabric. After consulting her mother about several issues at the beginning of her sixth year, she had known better than to expect to be allowed to wear white as Bella had last year. (Not that she thought for a moment that Bella had deserved the white robes either.)

The Prophet would have a field day with that, she knew. Lucius' self- satisfied smirk would be all over the paper by the end of the day and everyone would know that she hadn't made him wait. But it suited the Ruse just fine. She smiled conspiratorially in the direction of her eldest sister, or where she thought her to be. Everyone might know, but no one would DARE look down on her for it. After all, in half an hour, she would be a Malfoy.

Lucius felt like a fourteen year old again as he stood beside Crouch with an artfully disinterested expression on his face. The girls were not yet ready. He idly wondered what Crouch would do if he ever found out he was presiding over a terrace filled with death eaters. Active ones, at that. His eyes clouded as he remembered the most recent exploit. Avery had deserved every hex, welt, and cut they'd given him. He was bound to be in St. Mungos for quite some time. Particularly satisfying had been the single punch Severus had thrown. For fourteen, he'd certainly held his own, barely letting Lucius cast anything at all. He was going to do quite well in the group, once his father was out of the way.

Lucius unconsciously rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, his closed expression firmly in place as he watched Mr. Deesia and his daughter, Muriel, walking up the south stair. The girl had been more trouble than she was worth in the last year, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Severus was growing steadily more proficient in the dark arts, even as his betrothed moved away from them. Not that she wasn't turning out to be a formidable witch in her own right, he acknowledged grudgingly, remembering her summoning spell. Besides, he owed her something, and, as distasteful as it was to admit it, that 'something' might very well be a life debt.

Unbidden, the thought came to him that he owed her even more than that. She had seen the mark and saved him anyway. One of three people in all the world who knew him and didn't think him a monster. He tore his thoughts away as they passed him and headed toward their chairs. Realizing that he'd begun to scowl, he carefully neutralized his expression. Disinterest rather than outright defiance was the Ruse of the day, and he would maintain it.

Music had begun playing from somewhere. Classical something or other – probably Mozart. There were so few classical wizard composers, and at the Wedding of the Decade, muggle music would have been an inexcusable faux pas. He smirked, suddenly, wondering how Narci and Bella were getting along, and if Andromeda had yet joined them. He hoped Narcissa knew what she was doing, requesting that he give the woman that cloak. If she were caught here, she'd be dead in instants, and the Prophet wouldn't say a thing about it. The Black family was taking her betrayal quite hard.

With a few terse words to Crouch, Lucius strode from the terrace back into the scented courtyard, and they took their places before the seated guests. Behind them a huge magnolia tree, in full blossom, provided a backdrop. Where it had come from, Lucius could only guess, but he supposed perhaps old Mr. Knott had provided it. For an evil, vindictive old wizard, he did have a soft spot for herbology. Smirking again to hide a sudden and uncharacteristic bout of nervousness, he glanced over the crowd. Severus was sitting with the Deesias, away from his parents, and both sets of people looked happier for it. He'd have to speak with the boy. It wouldn't do for everyone to know he disliked his father. How would they get away with killing him if everyone already expected them to?

He was reminded a moment later how difficult it is to pretend to care for a complete and utter bastard when his own father approached him. Lucius withstood the false joviality, as well as the lowly spoken reminder that the family honor must be upheld at all costs. Oh yes, Lucius would uphold the family honor. Just as soon as his father was safely stowed away in the graveyard behind the manor. In the meantime, he affected boredom and awaited his bride.

He was caught entirely unprepared when she arrived. Thankfully everyone's eyes were on her. Only she noticed the look on his face. Narcissa pressed her lips together in annoyance. Lucius Malfoy had bragged of being the most accomplished actor of the century. Why then was he grinning like a schoolboy when they were supposed to be performing the Ruse? A rather rude cough from the left caught his attention, and his eyes flicked to Severus, who was raising an eyebrow at him in warning. Instantly his face resumed its customary sneer. In the same instant, Narcissa felt a great weight lift from her chest, and a huge swell of gratitude to the Snape boy. Once again he'd covered for them.

The wedding proceeded with all the pomp and circumstance that the main participants could have hoped. The society section of the paper would speak of nothing else for nearly a month.

When they were finally and officially Mr. and Mrs. Lucius Malfoy, Lucius kissed her dispassionately and led her back down the aisle. Narcissa looked decidedly unhappy, until flashes began to go off. Then her face lit up, and her posture improved greatly. As planned, Lucius made a snide comment about her vanity, and she became remarkably cold as they led the way to the terrace for dancing and dinner.

It was a long evening, and Lucius spent most of it dancing with his relatives and sending Severus to whisper things to Narci each time he found himself with a moment of peace. Narcissa danced with the younger boy several times as he relayed her new husband's messages. She listened with a look of forced distaste on her pale face as he told her that Lucius thought her beautiful, and as he stumbled over the innuendoes that he'd been asked to repeat. They would share a hearty laugh later over the boy's discomfort, though she knew that his willingness to do such a thing meant a great deal to Lucius.

As the evening wore on, Lucius found himself growing more and more impatient. There didn't seem to be any end of the festivities in sight, and the Ruse was getting old. He excused himself smoothly as yet another busty guest he didn't recognize attempted to lure him onto the dance floor. He made his way to Narcissa, who was now dancing with a somewhat tipsy Mr. Ollivander. "Come, Mrs. Malfoy, it is time we departed," he began formally.

Narcissa lifted her chin defiantly, but excused herself politely and followed Lucius as he went to stand near the door. She stood deferentially behind him as he cast a sonorous charm on himself and bid everyone goodnight in elegant words, spoken haughtily. He did not thank them for attending. He expressed no pleasure. It was truly a masterful performance. When they reached the apparation point, he took a sly look around. Seeing no one, he swept her into his arms in one smooth motion, and they disappeared, neither one noticing the very confused girl who'd been sitting in a window of the ruined tower, watching through tear-blurred eyes.

Muriel shook her head, her tears forgotten. Did she dare to believe what she'd just seen? To all accounts, the Malfoys had been nothing but cold and distant with one another all night. But for just a moment they had looked so happy. She wiped furiously at her tears when she heard footfalls on the decrepit stairway.

"Those stairs are in no shape for climbing, Sev. You'd best levitate yourself up here," she warned, steadying her voice carefully.

Severus floated into the open-ceilinged room a moment later and looked shrewdly at his best friend. "What're you doing up here?" Of course, it was quite obvious what she was doing, and he knew it was probably his fault. But then, he'd TOLD her he hated to dance, so she shouldn't have expected to be asked. Not that he wouldn't have asked her, of course, if Lucius hadn't kept him so busy.

She hadn't moved from the window, her arms still wrapped tightly around her knees, in spite of the creases it made in her robes. "The fountains are lit," she responded quietly.

"Well, Papa says it's time to go."

With a sad smile, she hopped down from the window ledge and apparated to the ground, startling her father, who was waiting for them. Severus followed a moment later. It had been a good night. He'd managed to avoid his father the entire time. They apparated home, not waiting for the rest of Severus' family, and he shook hands with Mr. Deesia and said goodnight to Mur before trotting across the lawn to sequester himself in his room.

"Everything alright?" Mr. Deesia looked down at his daughter as her eyes followed her friend home. For a moment, he thought perhaps she hadn't heard him.

"Perfect, Papa," she replied sweetly, smiling bravely up at him before leading the way into the house. 'For someone,' she added dryly as she tucked herself into bed, remembering the fleeting vision of joy on the usually sneering face of Lucius Malfoy.


A/N: This is the last of the one-shots about Lucius and Narcissa, however, they will be mentioned again later in my works. (Story 12, chapters 25 and 26.) I really appreciate all the feedback I've gotten on these ones – they've been particularly tricky. Rowling revealed so little about them that it was difficult to get their personalities right, but I hope you found this to be entirely canon, as that was my goal. Thanks so much for your reviews!