Author's Note: This is most likely immediately before Half-Blood Prince, and before Draco receives his assignment. My obsession with musical notations was long ago inspired by Kathy Tyers and her chapter subtitles. Pianissimo is "very softly", in case that's not clear enough. Thanks is due to LadyMoriel, who suggested that I attempt to get into the head of one of the less likeable characters—sorry, no Umbridge; maybe one of these days—and also abstractly to FernWithy, who began my fixation on the Black sisters. (To be fair, however, I have wanted to write something on Narcissa since reading "Spinner's End", just like half the other writers in the fandom.)


Pianissimo

Dark gathers, and she plays, plays the sun down with languid, quizzical fingers. She plays. It has always been an easy sort of solace, a way to wrap oneself in thoughts that dance beyond the reaches of this long, cold world. For long it is, and cold it is more so, and few know this better than Narcissa Malfoy.

She plays, calmly and gracefully, fingers along the strings, stars shining the best they can above her head. She always thinks of stars. Stars are a Black family legacy.

Narcissa thinks, The Blacks have too many legacies.

Late at night, sometimes, she thinks that she wonders too much for a Black. She thinks that maybe she wonders too much for anyone, thoughts chasing around arpeggios, rising, falling, crescendo, morendo; dying away. And she waits for her husband's breathing to steady before she slips silent from the bed, hanging a dressing gown about her pale shoulders, and whispers from the room like a thin silver ghost. She plays the harp softly on those chill, lonely nights.

(Pianissimo, pianissimo, morendo...)

She knows she shouldn't be lonely.

She isn't, sometimes. She has a husband and a son and a family and a future. And a war. And a family. And a Dark Lord.

(Pianissimo, pianissimo; sometimes the notes are more difficult.)

And Narcissa does not regret. Narcissa never regrets. She plays and plays and plays until sometimes her fingers bleed, but she never regrets.

She doesn't regret, but she remembers.

She remembers Andromeda, because Andromeda was her sister, and she remembers Sirius, because Sirius was flamboyant and alive and it is difficult not to remember him. She also remembers that Bellatrix killed him, for death is another legacy of the Blacks.

She doesn't regret that, either—Gryffindor Sirius, traitor to his family, deserved to die. She just wishes that it hadn't been Bellatrix who'd done it. She just wishes that it hadn't been Lucius who told her, with a queer, excited gleam in his eyes, fever-bright.

(Oh, and Narcissa—that damned cousin of yours is dead.)

He wouldn't have understood her need to mourn. Sirius was a blood traitor, yes, but he was still a Black, and blood runs deep in the Blacks. The Malfoys, she thinks, are not like this. They are proud, they are pure, they are ancient, but they are not Blacks. They have no such loyalty. She wonders which is the crueller.

But she is a loyal servant, even if she does not bear the Dark Lord's mark. To be Narcissa Malfoy is enough. To love Lucius, to raise Draco is enough.

She thinks, To groom him for the Dark Lord's command. War has made her bitter, and she does not want to watch her son die. Death is no honour to her. Perhaps this is where her weakness lies.

(Morendo, morendo, morendo...)

And sometimes her fingers slide across the strings and she thinks, Don't let him turn out like Lucius. She feels as if she has tarnished herself with such prayers, and presses her lips to her sleeping husband's brow in silent apology when she returns to her bed. For there is no question of her not loving Lucius. She still bears a flame that has lessened little since they first met in long, cold halls, though, as with all of Narcissa, it is a quiet one.

(Pianissimo; everything she plays is quiet. Everything she dreams is quiet, even when there is blood.)

But Lucius terrifies her behind the sheen of her love (—that damned cousin of yours is dead), when he kisses her and touches Draco's shoulder and goes to do his Master's bidding. At night, he holds her, and her long pale hair runs though his fingers, but as he kisses her and his hands caress her throat, she wonders, How many men have these hands killed? And she wonders, Do you love me? And the thoughts spill away into lonely question marks.

(Morendo, morendo.)

She knows—she thinks—that he loved her in the beginning. It was easy, when the war was just words and occasional Muggle-born killings and spraying the Dark Mark into the sky because they wanted to be seen and taken notice of. And he held her and said that it would be all right, and sometime the world would be safe and pure and whole. Draco was born, and Lucius held her hand. And his Master called, and he came. And came. And went. And she watched his eyes grow more fevered, and when he came home he boasted of the things that he had done, and she could only stare at his hands. He would kiss her lingeringly and bury his hands in her hair, but it was not the same, and she thought, You have taken a part of yourself away.

She says, Come home more often. You are more mine than the Dark Lord's.

He says, Hush, and his kiss is more rough than usual.

(Pianissimo, pianissimo; this is how she breaks.)

And now Lucius begins to speak of Draco, and the Dark Lord, and duty—a hard, cold, loveless word—and Narcissa's fingers slip more often on the strings and the notes ring wrongly. She finds it difficult to find them again.

She says, Lucius, what if there's another war?

He says, We mean for there to be.

She says, Nobody's safe in a war, not even us. Not even us.

He says, You must learn to bear that cost.

He says, I love you, Narcissa.

She says, I know, and strikes another wrong note.

(Pianissimo, pianissimo; this is how she falls.)

Draco says, I want to, Mother. You don't understand what an honour this is.

She knows. She knows that this is what must be done. She sees the old way of life tainted and dying (—morendo, morendo), dying like the Blacks (rotting like the Blacks; rotting!), and perhaps only blood can amend the rends. Perhaps only blood can cleanse the wizarding world. She knows, oh she knows, but she aches anyway, notes playing morendo, morendo long into the night.

She has seen too much of this kind of honour.

Bellatrix, gaunt from years of Azkaban (this is you, love; is this what your master would have you give?), surveys her sister as coldly as she did before her beauty went to waste. She says, I gave all. You will not give yourself, you hold back your husband, you hold back your son. And she spits, and Narcissa beneath her shadow is only little Cissy again, who doesn't want to play the blood games anymore.

And she sees the fever in her son's eyes. And she fears. And she strikes so many wrong notes that her hands fall to twist erratically in her lap, and the moon glares on, glares on, glares on.

(Pianissimo,

pianissimo,

this is how she drowns.)