Disclaimer: I wish Sirius didn't die.

Surprises at the bottom.

"Things do not change; we change." – Henry David Thoreau

Chapter Ten
The Nickname

" – complete disgrace to the family!"

" – can't believe you let this happen, Sirius!"

"I didn't let it happen, mum, it just happened!"

"And hanging around with – with – with those types of people! What on earth are you thinking?"

"They're my friends, dad! I happen to like them! And they aren't half-breeds, as you so nicely call them – they're – "

There is a loud slap, then a thump. Narcissa winces. She crouches lower into the corner in the hallway in which she's hiding, and she frightfully wipes the tears from her cheeks. The yelling has been going on for an hour, maybe longer. Sirius and his parents are in Sirius's bedroom with the door closed, and they've been inside for the entire time. There have been a few slaps and thumps and whimpers throughout the hour, and Narcissa shakes with terror every time she hears one of them. She's been waiting in the corridor the entire time. Don't worry, Sirius had told her before he'd followed his parents into the room, I'll be out in five minutes or so. They like to pretend that they intimidate me, but they usually get bored of it really easily. Once I'm out, we'll go out on the roof and throw rocks at Regulus while he practices flying, all right?

Narcissa stuffs her knuckles in her mouth in an attempt to stifle her sobbing. The yelling match continues behind the closed door. The volume has increased.










Narcissa slaps her hands over her ears and begins to sob freely, loudly, feeling so frightened that she can hardly contain herself. Her shoulders shake violently as she sobs. She rocks back and forth on her knees, back and forth, back and forth, hands over her ears, eyes shut tightly, her forehead hitting the wall as she moves back and forth, her entire being wishing that she could just block out the yelling, the thumping, the slapping …

It stops. She stops. The door flies open and Narcissa abruptly stops crying. She quickly sinks into the shadows so that Sirius's parents can't see her as they pass. His mother's eyes are red and swollen as Narcissa's undoubtedly are, but his father's eyes are cold and distant. Both of them stomp furiously down the corridor, not looking back once over their shoulders, not saying a single thing to each other.

Narcissa turns back towards the door. They let it slam on their way out, so it's closed tightly again. She waits. She's frozen – in fear, in confusion. She waits until she can't hear his parents stomping around any longer and then, very slowly, she raises herself up on her feet and wipes the tears from her eyes. She straightens her dress, tidies her hair, pinches her cheeks to even out the flushed tones, forces herself to stop shaking. Then, looking so composed that one would have assumed she'd just come from having tea, she crosses the corridor, puts her hand softly on the door's handle, and turns it.

The door creaks as it opens. She hesitates, then opens it further, and she sees that it's dark inside the room. It isn't too late at night – just barely nine – but Sirius apparently wants it to look as though he's gone to sleep. Very quietly, she closes the door behind her, making sure to lock it. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but even when they do, she doesn't see Sirius right away.

"Sirius?" she calls softly.

No answer.

"It's only me." Her voice is perfectly steady. It's as though she's never cried once in her entire life.

He doesn't answer her. He doesn't need to. She sees him, and she bites her lip to keep from gasping.

He's crouched in the opposite corner of his room, shaking. Shaking horribly, from head to foot. From her distance, in the darkness, she can only see his silhouette, but it's the silhouette of a person in pain. She hurries over to him and drops to her knees in front of him, trying to catch his gaze. His hands are covering his face – one of them is bloody around the knuckles.

"Sirius?" she repeats, barely loud enough to be heard.

Very slowly, still trembling ferociously, he lowers his hands.

She starts to cry all over again.

One of his eyes is already swollen shut. It's almost unrecognizable – black, blue, purple, brown, all at once. A huge, round, ugly, bloody thing. His bottom lip has been split and a trail of blood is leaking out from the side of his mouth. There is a large bruise forming on one of his cheeks, and there's a large gash across his forehead, just along his hairline. She suddenly notices that he's hunched over in an awkward position – they must've hit him in the stomach, too. He stares at her with eyes full of defiance, anger, and one emotion that absolutely terrifies her – fear. Sirius is never afraid.

"It's okay," he suddenly croaks, shifting a little. It's obvious that he's trying with all his might not to wince or groan. "Really, I'm fine. Just a scrape here and there. Go on to bed – I'll see you in the morning."

She stares at him, the tears still rolling thickly down her cheeks. "How could they?"

He shakes his head. "Never mind it, Narcissa. Go to bed. I'm fine, really. I just need a minute."

She carefully brings a finger to his lips and softly wipes the blood that is trailing from the corner of his mouth. He involuntarily winces at her touch. "Leave it, Narcissa." His voice has warning in it now.

Wiping her eyes furiously, and with shaking hands, she straightens out the fold of her skirt, grabs part of the hem, and then tears off a long strip of the material. Sirius watches her but says nothing. Narcissa takes the cloth, folds it over a few times, and then takes it over to Sirius's bedstand. She dips it in the glass of water that's sitting there, and then she takes it back over to him, gets back on her knees, and softly dabs the large purple mound where his eye was once present.

"Bloody hell," he growls, pushing her hand away. "That hurts!"

"Just hold it there, then," she tells him, handing him the cloth. He does as he's told while she tears off another piece, dips it in the water, and begins to clean the rest of the blood off his lip. "I can't believe they did this to you," she whispers as she's working. "I can't believe they would do it."

He says nothing.

"Our family is supposed to be good," she whimpers, her hand faltering slightly. "Good, and simple, and upright, and aristocratic." The tears begin to fall again, and her hand is shaking so much that she accidentally drops the cloth. "What happened?" she cries quietly, angrily, desperately. "I don't understand! This wasn't supposed to happen to you!"

Sirius sets his cloth aside, scoots a little closer – wincing as he does so, and puts an arm around Narcissa. The other arm is still pressed tightly against his middle to stifle the pain there. She buries her face in the nook of his arm and cries into his sleeve, and he rests his head on the top of hers. "I know," he whispers quietly, again and again, softer and softer, until neither of them have the energy to repeat it. "I know," he says one final time, and his entire body shudders. "But all families have problems, Narcissa. Unfortunately for me – I'm the problem in our family."

"I don't believe that," she whispers into his shoulder.

But she doesn't even know if he can hear her.

The next morning, Narcissa wakes with a start. She jumps out of her bed and hurries over to her closet, flinging out the first dress she can get her hands on. Her family is staying at Grimmauld Place for a week, and this is the third day of their visit. It's summer again, though Narcissa has yet to feel the joys of summer. The image of Sirius's battered face dances before her eyes as she dresses. She hurries out of the room and down the stairs as quickly as she can.

Both her family and his family are eating breakfast at the table. Bellatrix and Andromeda are laughing about something while Regulus is glaring between them, looking suspicious of whatever it is that's so funny. Sirius's parents are seated at the other end of the table with Narcissa's parents, having an animated conversation about something that happened at the Ministry a few days previously.

He isn't there.

Narcissa takes a seat next to Andromeda. She doesn't say anything. She stares at the plate that Bellatrix slides towards her.

Andromeda notices her sister's uncharacteristic silence and raises her eyebrows. "Narcissa? Are you awake?"

Narcissa slides her plate away from her. "I'm not hungry."

Bellatrix is looking at her now as well. Her gaze, however, holds no warmth. When she speaks, it's directed at Andromeda, though her eyes remain fixed on Narcissa. "Don't mind her, Andromeda. She's just upset because our company is so close-minded. She prefers company that isn't so prejudiced."

Narcissa looks at her. "What are you talking about?"

Bellatrix smiles. It's an evil smile, the smile of one who is conniving and knows it. "I think you know what I'm talking about." A pause. "Or, rather, who I'm talking about."

Narcissa's glare deepens. "If you're talking about Sirius – "

Bellatrix laughs. Again, no warmth. "I never said any names," she says innocently.

"Of course I like being with Sirius," Narcissa snaps. "He's my friend – a concept that you, apparently, have yet to discover."

"Must we get into this now?" Andromeda sighs, pushing her empty plate aside.

Bellatrix ignores her. "Narcissa, really – you'd better watch out unless you want to end up exactly like him. Do you have any idea about how much trouble he's in right now?"

"Yes, well, that isn't entirely his fault now, is it?" She can feel all four parents watching her as she speaks. Chin high in the air, she scoots her chair back, gets to her feet, and turns a cold eye towards Sirius's parents. "If you'll excuse me, I have other things I'd rather be doing."

"Narcissa!" her mother scolds, shocked by her rude behavior.

She rounds on her mother, eyes flaming angrily. "No, mother! I refuse to sit here and listen to anyone who enjoys insulting one of my friends! Not to mention your own son!" she yells, positively glowering at his parents. Then, without another word, she turns on her heel and runs out of the room, up the staircase, down the corridor, all the way back to Sirius's room, where the door is still shut very tightly.

She tries to open the door, but it's locked. "Sirius!" she calls, rapping on the door with her fist. "Sirius, let me in!"

"I'm sleeping," is his curt response. From the sharp tone of his voice, it sounds as though he hasn't slept for days.

"Obviously you aren't sleeping if you're talking to me," she says back, getting frustrated.

"Narcissa, please just go away. I just – please – go away."

She bangs her fist against the door once more. "Fine!" she yells, getting angrier by the second. "If you don't want my sympathy, you won't get it!"

And she leaves him. When she arrives at her own room, she storms inside, throws herself down on the bed, and listens with an extreme, ugly pleasure as the door slams shut behind her.

Later that night, after dinner, she's alone in her room again. No one spoke to her at dinner, least of all Sirius's parents. She hadn't gone to Sirius's room again all day, nor had he shown himself all day. However, now it is getting late at night. He still hasn't come out of his room, and everyone else has long been asleep. Narcissa is sitting straight up in bed, as she has been for hours. Bellatrix is snoring loudly and Andromeda's even breathing can be heard coming from the other corner. Narcissa glances at the clock. She makes her decision. Making sure to be very quiet, she slips out of bed and tiptoes to the door. In one swift, silent movement, she is out the door and in the corridor.

The night is cold. With a shiver, she creeps down the hall and down the stairs, hardly able to see anything through the darkness. Once in the kitchen, she sneaks around looking for food. She finds a bit of leftover dinner, as well as some cookies from the cupboards, and then she manages to get a bit of butterbeer – Sirius's favourite. With this food tucked in her sleeve, she tiptoes back up the stairs.

Sirius may be an annoying prat, but no one, she thinks, not even an annoying prat, deserves to starve.

She is almost to the top of the stairs when she hears it. A noise. The distinct step of a house elf.

She freezes. It's still very dark and though her eyes have adjusted, she can't see very far ahead of her. She doesn't have to wait long, however, because the house elf hobbles into full view, cracking a delirious smile as though catching Narcissa in some grand scheme of theft.

"Young Master's Cousin shouldn't be out of bed," the house elf observes, cackling like the ancient prune that he is. "Young Master's Cousin will be in great trouble if she's found out!"

"Young Master will starve if he doesn't get any food," Narcissa hisses back. "Now let me pass, and don't say a word about this to anyone."

"Young Master's Cousin isn't Muck's master," the house elf goes on, glaring at Narcissa with a hideous smirk. "Muck doesn't have to listen to her if Muck doesn't want to."

"You'd better listen to me," Narcissa snaps, still in a whisper. "If you know what's good for you, that is. You may not want to listen to me, but Sirius listens to me, and he'll believe whatever rubbish I tell him about you. He could set you free!"

The house elf abruptly stops cackling. "Young Master's Cousin really is what the Master and Mistress call her."

She stares at him. "What?" A pause. "What do they call me?"

The cackling starts up again. "Muck will not say! Muck keeps secrets for his Master and Mistress!"

Narcissa sighs, pushing past him. "Foul little thing," she growls under her breath. When she reaches Sirius's room, she can still hear the elf cackling maniacally at the other end of the hall.

The door is still locked. Narcissa sighs. She knocks as loudly as she dares, then waits patiently for a few seconds.

No response.

She knocks again. She waits again.

No response.

Certain that Sirius is awake and knows that it's her, she gets on her knees and pulls the biscuits out from her sleeve. She slides the other food into her pockets and sets the butterbeer on the floor, then takes one of the biscuits, sets it on the floor beside the goblet, and slides it under the doorway with a finger. She then waits again.

A minute passes. Another minute. Another. She thinks that maybe he really is asleep after all, maybe she was simply being too hopeful before, but suddenly, the floorboards creak. Someone is walking on the other side of the door. The footsteps stop just on the other side, there is another creak – as though someone is sitting down, and then the biscuit disappears from Narcissa's view.

She smiles.

She slides another biscuit under the door. Not a second passes before it, too, disappears. When she doesn't put another biscuit on the floor, there is a pause, and then the lock clicks, and the door slowly opens.

Sirius is looking a little better, even in the darkness, though he isn't smiling. Narcissa silently takes the food from her pockets and hands it to him, then holds out the goblet of butterbeer. His fingers brush hers as he takes it, and they're much colder than hers.

"You have blankets, don't you?" she whispers.

He nods.

She nods back. "And will that food be enough for the night?"

He nods again. "Thanks," he whispers. "I – " His expression is a strange one, as though he wishes to say something he cannot express.

"You're welcome," she smiles. "You know I would never let you starve."

He smiles, too. "I know. You aren't such a little Ice Queen after all."

She stares at him. Something in her mind clicks. "Is that what they call me?" Her voice is barely audible.

His smile falters a little, but it is because he's chewing. "It is indeed." He pauses. "And don't think I was eavesdropping on you just now when you were in the corridor, because I wasn't."

She can't help it. She smiles again. "If you weren't eavesdropping, then how did you know what Muck was saying to me? How did you know he mentioned that nickname?"

He shrugs. He takes a sip of butterbeer. "I have exceptionally good hearing."

"Narcissa, darling, may I talk to you for a moment?"

Narcissa looks up. Her mother is standing in the doorway of the bathroom, adorned in her bathrobe and slippers, looking rather anxious.

Narcissa sets her hairbrush aside. "Certainly, mother."

Her mother nods, enters the room, picks up the hairbrush and then stands behind Narcissa, continuing to brush where Narcissa left off.

"You have such pretty hair," she says admiringly. "Such a pretty colour, so blond. I wonder where you get it from." Her own hair is a light shade of brown, like Andromeda's, except that it also has a touch of gray in it now.

Narcissa says nothing.

"You've been to see Sirius, haven't you?" her mother asks softly, bluntly.

"Yes," Narcissa replies quietly. "He should see someone for his eye. It's still swollen shut."

There is a moment of silence. Then, "Narcissa, you have to try to understand." Her mother's voice is still soft, soothing. "His parents didn't mean to be cruel. They just – well – they didn't mean to be cruel. They felt that Sirius needed to learn a lesson."

Narcissa narrows her eyes. "And they decided that the best way to do this would be to beat it into him?"

"Yes," her mother says simply. Her voice is still peaceful, mediating. "You have to understand."

"I don't understand," Narcissa hisses. "I don't understand at all, mother. They didn't have to touch him. They didn't have to lay a single finger on him, but now they've rendered him half-blind!"

"You're being melodramatic, darling – try to see things from my perspective – "

"I've tried that, mother, and your perspective terrifies me. I do not want our family to become one of those families that mistreats its members just to maintain an image. That isn't right."

"Of course it isn't right, and that's why our family will never become one of those families."

"We already have become one of them! Have you seen Sirius?"

Her mother sighs. She sets the hairbrush aside. Moving so that she's in front of Narcissa, she gets on her knees, takes her daughter's hands, and looks straight into her eyes. "Let me try a different approach. Would you be willing to give me a chance to plead my case?"

Reluctantly, Narcissa nods. Her eyes are still narrowed.

"All right, then," says her mother. "Narcissa – do you remember the stories I told you about muggleborns and half-breeds when you were a little girl?"

Narcissa nods.

"Well, you certainly aren't a little girl anymore – I can't believe you'll be in your fourth year after this summer holiday – but do you still believe in the family's motto? In the message behind all those stories I told you?"

Again, Narcissa nods. "Toujours Pur," Narcissa recites. "Always pure."

"Yes," her mother says, smiling. "Always pure. You do believe in that, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Narcissa says at once, proudly. "I always have. And I've always supported every decision our family has ever made – until now. I can't support what they did to him."

"They're sorry for it, my little darling," her mother says, and suddenly she looks as though she might cry.

Narcissa shifts uncomfortably. "They are?"

Her mother nods. "Very sorry. They were just worried about him. They want him to have a bright future – the best future, the best opportunities. He's a brilliant boy – he's going to do something wonderful and successful with his life, and we all know that. When his parents thought for a moment that those opportunities were slipping away from him, they simply panicked. They acted wrongly. They know that. I think that there's a lot of stress left over from when they found out about his sorting into Gryffindor – they've been a little worried ever since." She pauses, squeezes Narcissa's hand, and smiles. "We will get through this, Narcissa. It's just a little rough spot. But we are a strong family, a good family, a pure family, and we will get through this. We're the Blacks, after all."

Narcissa thinks a moment before she answers. She catches a glimpse of their reflection in the dimly lit mirror – both of them are wearing perfectly white, silk robes. She smiles. "Yes, mother," she says finally, returning her mother's hand squeeze. "We are a strong family."

On the last day of Narcissa's visit, Sirius finally emerges from his bedroom to watch her while she's packing. He's sitting on her bed, watching her walk back and forth between the closet and her trunk, saying nothing to her as he watches.

She decides to speak. "My mother talked to me two nights ago."

He raises his eyebrows. "Is this a rare occurrence, or something?"

She rolls her eyes at him. "She talked to me about you, you idiot. About you and – and the fight with your parents."

"Oh," he says, realization dawning on him. "About how they basically beat me to a pulp, you mean?"

"Yes," she says quietly. "She told me that they're sorry for it. That they were just worried about you."

He says nothing. He's staring intently at the wall beside him, so she can't read his expression.

With some hesitation, she adds, "And … and well … quite frankly … I'm a little worried about you, too."

That gets him to look at her. "What?"

"Just be careful, won't you?" she says, pausing in her packing. "Be careful about – about who you associate with."

His turn to roll his eyes. "Oh please, Narcissa, spare me the lecture. I've already heard it from everyone else in the house."

"I'm just saying that you could do better than James, Remus, Lily – "

"You don't even know them," he says bitterly, tossing one of her books aside. "You don't even want to know them. Don't think that I don't see you glaring at them in class everyday."

"They're just so … so … annoying!" she sighs, picking up the book that he tossed and throwing it into her trunk. "Especially Lily. She thinks she knows everything."

"She certainly knows a lot," Sirius retorts.

"So do I," Narcissa snorts. She wrinkles up one of her dresses into a ball and shoves it down one corner of the trunk.

Sirius sighs. "Narcissa, you're about the only person in the family that I'm not angry at right now – besides Andromeda – so I'd rather not argue with you about this at the moment, if you don't mind."

"Fine," she says dismissively, her back to him. She crosses her arms, staring into the closet even though it's empty. "Just one more question."

"Fine," he agrees wearily. "Go for it."

"Why do your parents call me the Ice Queen?"

He laughs. "And here I thought it would be something important."

"It's important to me!" she huffs defensively.

He puts up his hands. "Okay, okay, sorry – Merlin, you're such a girl."

She opens her mouth to retort again, but he raises a warning eyebrow, and her mouth closes.

"They call you the Ice Queen," he muses, "because of your appearance and your personality."

She frowns. "What about them?"

"Well, ice is white, isn't it?"

"It's transparent."

"Yes, fine, white, transparent, same thing. When you think of ice, you think of the snow, which, in fact, is white. And your hair is so blond that it's almost white, and your skin is a bit pale. And ice is also really fragile-looking and pretty, and you're – well – " He pauses. Narcissa is alarmed to see that he's blushing.

"You think I'm pretty?"

He shrugs off the question. "Of course I do," he says casually, as if it's nothing. "Anyway, that's not the point – ice is also really cold, isn't it?"

"Well, yes," she begins, "but Sirius, do you really think that I'm – "

"And they think that you can have the tendency to be a bit cold sometimes – or at least really proud, scornful … you know, like Bellatrix."

She narrows her eyes. "Don't ever compare me to Bellatrix."

"See?" he demands, eyes lighting up, finger pointing at her. "That's exactly what I mean. That was a cold comment."

"So that makes me the Ice Queen, then?"

He shrugs. "Pretty much."

She thinks a moment, laughs, then shakes her head at him. "I hope that isn't part of my epitaph. It's not a very nice nickname, is it?"

He laughs too. His eyes are sparkling. "Don't worry – none of us will be around to write your epitaph. My parents claim that you're going to outlive us all. You'll be the one to break all of our hearts in the end, you'll see."

Hey guys … I hope you're all well and enjoying the story and such. Thanks for your continued comments and questions … I love you all!

Here are a few things that you either wanted me to respond to or that I felt I should respond to:

Lizzy: Yes, I love digging into Narcissa and Sirius's relationship to see what chaos and tension I can cause. I'm pretty much basing this entire story on the quote I put at the beginning, the one where JK says that she doesn't believe anyone was born evil. I mean, like you said, there must have been some funny and – dare I say it? – heartwarming moments in the lives of the Black sisters. Especially in the life of Narcissa. Another person that you should really pay attention to in this story is Snape. I'm also really sorry to hear about that woman you knew … it seems like everyone is getting cancer nowadays, doesn't it? I hope you can feel better about it soon … being the person left behind always seems to be the hardest thing. Thanks again for your continued reviews, my dear. You always bring a smile to my face!

Jack Robinson: Your question about Ted Tonks … well, I can't give you an answer, but I will tell you this: it was a very good question. – wink –

Kevikins: Cake! By now I assume they've come and gone to your school, so how were they? And … er … about my computer … yeah. I don't know. Things are busy lately with school and college applications and my personal life and whatnot, so getting the computer fixed isn't a current priority. Sorry. I'll see what I can do after November, once all my applications are sent in.

Claudiastar: So flattering, thanks! I do love writing in the present tense. Gives the story a more whimsical feel, doesn't it?

Lainia26: Actually, even though Sirius and Narcissa are cousins, romance isn't completely out of the question. In fact, it was quite common in ancient and medieval times for cousins to marry each other, especially in royal families, so that the families could remain in power. I'm not saying romance is going to definitely occur between Sirius and Narcissa – that's for all of you to find out – but I'm saying that it wasn't completely random for McGonagall to suspect something. And besides, Sirius is quite good-looking and charming while Narcissa is very pretty … you'll see soon that another character might be getting suspicious of those two as well.

Morganofthefairies: Lucius will most certainly be making an appearance soon. In the next two or three chapters, I believe. And trust me, he'll be causing plenty of entertaining drama! And yes, this piece is somewhat of a companion to my other one (The Ancient and Most Noble History of Black). Some parts will be exactly the same as in that one, but I think a few parts about the ending will be slightly different. Thanks so much for reading!

Dixio: Haha … everyone is so worried about incest! Well, I mean, I can't say that I'm an avid supporter of it … it's pretty darn wrong. Extremely gross to think about, too. However, like I said, Sirius and Narcissa's relationship is really abnormal … I mean, look at this last chapter: they're fine, then they slap each other, yell at each other, and are fine again, all within five minutes. Knowing this, I think it's safe to assume that absolutely anything can happen between them. Then again … absolutely nothing could happen, too. – wink –

Spastic Asian: The relationship between Narcissa and Bellatrix is a strange and complex one. It's going to take more than hating muggles for them to get along, I think.