The End of the World

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, etc. I do not profit monetarily from fanfiction.

. . .

"What shall I wear?"

"Something sexy," he says through the bars, leering playfully.

She goes home and chooses satin dress robes the color of burnt roses, or blood mixed with ink. The trim is black lace. Then there is nothing else for her to do but count the days.

. . .

It's Sunday. Lucius is scheduled to be Kissed.

Narcissa has come down to the Ministry to witness it, accompanied by Draco. They stand on a balcony overlooking a chamber with a raised platform on which a single dementor stands beside an empty chair. Below, Lucius stands to the side, flanked by several unfamiliar Aurors. All that remains is the arrival of the minister.

Lucius has not looked at them yet; he talks softly with his guards. At last, he raises his gaze to his wife and son, who are alone on the balcony, allowing their last moments together to be nearly entirely private. His eyes hold a depth and gravity which Narcissa feels must carry all the answers and secrets of the world, and if only she could get at them . . . perhaps her heart might be set at rest. She can't, though; the Ministry won't allow her to speak to Lucius today. Their last words were exchanged two weeks ago.

The intensity of Lucius' stare undoes Draco, who buckles under its weight; and well he might, for if Lucius does not know all the enigmas of life, he knows at least its darker ones, and their mass outweighs all others.

"Mother," Draco practically bleats, "I – don't feel well."

Even as she turns her head to take in his blanched, contorted face, Narcissa can hear the sickness in his voice. Her eyes snap back to Lucius as she says gently, "Go, love."

Lucius gives a small, magnanimous smile which tells Narcissa that he both forgives Draco and entrusts her with the task of taking care of him. He doesn't mind Draco's abrupt departure, even if it means his son is not quite the noble dragon he wanted him to be. Draco has always been indulged. Too much, Lucius sees too late, but it is his last kindness as a father.

Now it's just Narcissa and Lucius.

His collar lies uncharacteristically open, and there is a purpose to it. It allows him to stroke the hollow at the base of his throat as his final gesture to Narcissa. She has always thought that his most beautiful feature, for more than one reason.

Just after their lovemaking, she has unfailingly been able to detect a faint flutter in that hollow, a butterfly-like throbbing of his pulse. The hollow is also wonderfully creamy and smooth and deep. The tendons of his neck run past it like great rivers. Because of its appearance, she's often called it the cradle of civilization. Certainly, it's the cradle of her heart.

She puts her fingers to the corner of an eye and holds her index and middle fingers up unobtrusively for a second, so that the single tear balanced between them catches the light of the torches. Narcissa never cries; has never cried in Lucius' presence. Blacks, as proud as Malfoys, teach their children never to weep, which proves in the end to be as effective as surgically removing their tear ducts. Naturally, this isn't healthy (the sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep). It is however, acceptable to pride, and so that's how things are done.

These tears, rarer than diamonds, mean the world to Lucius, and if he could, he would have them preserved in gilt vials of pure crystal. Of course, he can't.

There – the Minister has just entered. He strides over to the guards to ask a few questions. Meanwhile, Lucius is directed to the chair. There is no hesitation in his step. He smiles recklessly and sits. The smile might be interpreted as defiant by the Aurors, but Narcissa knows it is for her. She knows he wants her to believe he's fearless, but the trembling of his long fingers belies his impervious façade (she can only see their trembling because they're so long).

Clearing his throat, the Minister turns to face both Lucius and Narcissa. A scroll of parchment is clutched in his hands, which he unrolls and begins reading. It's a list of Lucius' crimes. Narcissa does not deign to listen.

Then, all too quickly, it's over.

Lucius keeps his eyes open as he's Kissed. There's a sharp crack that might be the sound of his soul being torn from him, or the sound of Narcissa's heart breaking.

And then, he's simply gone. Lucius does not look out from those staring gray eyes any more. Narcissa turns away, letting out a noise that Lucius has never been privileged enough to hear: she sobs.

It is only one, that lone broken sound. She quickly swallows and stands, straightening her red-and-black dress robes. She exits with her head held high, and the guards who open the door for her bow theirs in deference.

Narcissa is allowed his body after the Ministry has ascertained his lack of a soul. She wants his physical death to come quietly in the familiar, beloved confines of their home in Wiltshire.

She finds, however, that she can't bring herself to do it alone. Looking at Draco's thin, sad face, she cannot place the burden on his shoulders either. So she goes to Snape.

He says only, "I have prepared the swiftest poison I know for you." Not "I knew you would come," or "I'm sorry." His words are the greatest consolation Narcissa has had.

"Thank you," she says, and he bows her out respectfully.

They do not say good bye.

. . .

The poison is frighteningly swift. Narcissa does not touch or kiss him, but looks long at his still throat, laid bare by his unbuttoned collar. Relieved by the fact that his death was engineered not by her ministering hands but Snape's slender, nimble fingers (under which potions seem to just fly together), her mind is wonderfully blank. She traces the hollow at the base of her own neck.

Then she leaves the room and calls for the house elves to attend their master one last time.

And her life goes on . . .

. . .

A/N: The Minister is purposely kept nameless. I seriously doubt that Fudge will be serving in his current capacity for much longer (certainly – hopefully - not until the end of the war), and I simply hate the idea of Arthur Weasley (he's a rather popular candidate for Minister in many fics) lording it over as Minister while Lucius and the other Death Eaters are being rounded up and Kissed.

The quote "The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep" is by Henry Maudsley.

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