Another man would've curled a lip in derision while contemplating the outmoded dining chamber, but a corner of Lucius Malfoy's mouth turned up in pleasure. Throughout the betrothal dinner, the paucity of silver candelabra, scant flower arrangements, and barely tolerable cuisine had filled the wizard with deep satisfaction. The goal his father had died before obtaining would finally be realised. The Malfoy name, regarded for so long as social climbers beneath notice, was now mentioned in the highest of circles. With his impending marriage to Narcissa Black, Lucius's unspoken status as an upstart "arriviste" was transformed. He had successfully arrived.
The tapping of silver against glass drew a smirk. The lack of crystal was yet another sign of genteel poverty. Dutifully, Lucius glanced across the table.
Beside his fair bride-to-be, her dark sister announced, "I would like to make a toast."
Not another one. Every mouldy old josser slumped on a threadbare cushion had already wished him virility to produce a houseful of pure-blooded progeny. Lucius had no great liking for children. An heir would suffice. His eyes lingered on the woman who would soon grace his bed. Not that he'd find the process of creation onerous. Narcissa's white-blonde hair and pale, aristocratic beauty was incredibly attractive.
Bellatrix's clearing of her throat brought his gaze up from contemplating how the skin of his bride to be matched the lustre of the pearls he'd given her as a betrothal present. Smiling with cool civility, Lucius listened with an inner yawn while the witch declared, "May my dear sister know the joy that comes from having a partner committed to supporting the purity of our Houses and the supremacy of wizards everywhere!"
Aside from blood, he didn't believe there was anything left in the world that was truly pure, but Lucius lifted his glass anyway. Sipping an indifferent vintage that would've been better utilised in the kitchen, he met Narcissa's gaze and smiled. Nothing pure that stayed that way, at any rate.
After the women had retired to the Drawing Room, Rodolphus Lestrange offered a cigar while saying, "My wife is far from subtle, but her heart is in the right place."
What a relief. Lucius had heard Bellatrix lacked one, and relied solely on fanatical devotion to the Dark Lord to remain animate. Lifting a pale brow, he murmured, "I found her very subtle. She didn't literally put her hand out for money."
Rodolphus chuckled, stroking his dark moustache. "There are none more dedicated than Bella."
"Was she a Witch Guide, perchance? I could easily imagine her selling the most biscuits at wand point."
The man gave a shout of laughter, clapping him on the shoulder. "I'm going to enjoy having you as a brother-in-law, Malfoy." He lowered his voice and confided, "It will be pleasant not to have to curse someone I enjoy chatting with for trying to get off with my wife."
Lucius blinked. Was the man insane? If Bellatrix was caught in a compromising position by her husband, it was because she had planned it. The woman's appeal was like that of a shark. Few would wish to do more than coolly admire from a safe distance. Rodolphus's black gaze gleamed maniacally, as if in remembrance of the men he'd hexed. Or maybe it was due to the way Bellatrix had responded afterwards.
Keeping his lips curved in a show of good humour, Lucius said, "You never need worry. I shall treat your dear wife as a sister."
And with the same wary respect I'd show a vampire.
Once the men had consumed port and puffed cigars, they rejoined the ladies. Lucius moved to Narcissa's side and asked, "Are you an art lover?"
The oil painting she'd been viewing depicted a dark, gloomy landscape. She smirked. "Does this qualify as art?"
"Not compared to you."
His fiancée's cool smile of thanks warmed when she reached out to touch the collar of his dress robes. "Your tailor is the true artist. I've never seen you wear anything that detracted from your image of perfection."
Exquisite and discerning—he was a fortunate man. Lucius took her hand and lifted it to his lips. "I shall have to take you shopping soon. A diamond should have the best of settings."
This time, Narcissa's smile reached her eyes.
Impulsively, he asked, "May I stop by your room later? There's another present I wish you to have."
Unlike her sister, who would've coyly questioned the exact nature of the present, Narcissa simply nodded.
"Cissy! The enchantment on the piano's failed again. Come fix it before we're reduced to playing it like Muggles!"
Although her expression remained serene, something dark moved behind Narcissa's placid gaze as she answered, "Yes, Bella."
Lucius was intrigued.
With a tiny smile, she told him, "I look forward to your visit."
Later, as he traversed corridors dimly lit by torches, Lucius slipped his hand into his pocket and touched the box he had originally decided against bestowing on his fiancée.
Briefly, he wondered how long she'd been prowling the corridors before greeting, "Bellatrix."
"You're not thinking of anticipating your wedding night, are you?" She gasped theatrically. "How shocking!"
From the thin crimson robe she wore that matched glossy lipstick and painted talons, Lucius highly doubted his future sister in law found anything shocking. She just liked to play games. He did, too, but her kind lacked subtlety. Bellatrix was the type who failed to think before she spoke. Verbal sparring with her would be the equivalent of wizard duelling with someone who threw rocks. Rules of fair play be damned. Lucius refused to suffer a boring fool.
The sound of a door opening spurred Bellatrix into action. She threw her arms around his neck and pressed tight. Before he could do more than reach up to break her stranglehold, a calm voice said, "I'll have to tell mother how you went out of your way to make my fiancé welcome, Bella."
Bellatrix pushed away from him. Her dark eyes betrayed the uneasiness not found in her tone. "No need, Cissy, I'm just on my way to bed."
"Sweet dreams." Narcissa opened the door wider. "This way, Lucius."
He couldn't help smirking while closing the door in Bellatrix's disbelieving face. Turning, he said, "Thank you for the timely rescue."
"I know my sister," she replied.
Lucius admired her graceful form in a delicate white robe that had probably been her grandmother's. It looked elf-made.
Crossing the room decorated in shades of white, Narcissa took a porcelain doll off a shelf and held it out. "This is one of my most treasured possessions."
He obligingly took it, gave a cursory glance, and handed the toy back. "Really?" Other than having white-blonde ringlets and an ornate white dress, he saw nothing of value. His fiancée's tone, however, was of extreme interest.
She said, "I had only Bella's cast off doll and hated its smudged face and torn hem. A playmate offered this one, because it looked like me, and she wanted me to have something my sister had never played with."
"Kind of her." Lucius had a suspicion the friend had done it to spite Bellatrix as well. The elder sister had probably delighted in tormenting Cissy's playmates.
Smiling in a way that showed she used brushing/flossing mints as diligently as he did, Narcissa nodded and continued. "When I returned home, Bella took my doll and wouldn't give it back. The next morning, my sister woke to find the hairs of her eyebrows had all fallen out."
His eyes widened, although he kept his voice bland. "She must have looked as surprised as she felt."
Narcissa giggled. His answering smile widened when she shared, "Bella kept my doll and used a hair growing tonic. Something went wrong, though. My sister's brows looked like fuzzy caterpillars marching across her forehead."
"What happened then?"
Returning the doll to its shelf, Narcissa smoothed the tiny skirt. "She put the doll back and never took anything of mine again."
Lucius frowned. "Bellatrix didn't retaliate?"
"She never knew for sure if I was the one responsible, or my mother, who everyone knows likes me best."
Who wouldn't? He stepped forward, asking with an admiring smile, "Was there a deeper meaning to that charming tale of childhood?"
Her expression changed from angelic to something that made his heart beat faster. "I'm going to give Bella a warning. The next time she touches what's mine, every hair on her body will fall out…and it will never grow back."
He pulled her into his arms, hungrily kissing the mouth that belonged to a Valkyrie, a Fury, a Dark goddess. Narcissa's lips moved hesitantly against his. Lucius became aware of both the depth of her inexperience and the fact that this beauty, known as the ice queen, would melt for him. He gentled his embrace to soft kisses and eventually pulled away to offer the small box.
"It was my mother's," he said with only a trace of stiffness. "She saw it in a Muggle shop window and entranced the owner into giving it to her as a gift."
The diamond solitaire was magnificent and flawless. He relaxed when Narcissa sighed. "Your mother had superb taste."
"Her family were merchants, bourgeois and common."
She lifted her hand. "They were wealthy, and smart enough to marry well. My family may worship bloodlines, but I'd rather have rich and clever and handsome over poor and stupid and plain." Seeing his expression of astonishment, she laughed shortly. "Who do you think suggested I marry someone other than a cousin with barely enough gold to merit a vault at Gringotts?"
He jerked his head back in surprise. "You?" He said wryly, "And I thought you would resent lowering yourself to becoming a mere Malfoy."
"You are not a mere anything, and I will join my life to yours tonight if you desire it."
"Don't tempt me," he said with a pained smile. "I signed a contract agreeing to maintain your purity until our wedding night."
She untied her robe. "Is anything truly pure?"
A slow smile crossed his face. Kissing and touching wouldn't compromise the letter of the agreement. Thinking of Bellatrix, who was likely prowling outside counting the minutes he remained behind a closed door with her sister, Lucius tipped Narcissa's face up for a kiss.
Traditional joining ceremonies had candles of red and white to represent Fire and Air, multi-coloured stones for Earth, and various seashells to signify Water. Since Lucius considered the match between man and woman, not some mystical binding of souls, it had amused him to indulge his bride.
It was a white wedding.
Every candle, stone, and shell was white, as were his dress robes and those of the celebrant. Standing inside the circle of witnesses dressed in shades of the wintry colour that did not become most, Lucius smiled. His bride was walking toward him, a vision in white. Narcissa projected a regal façade to the guests, but when she spoke her vows in a soft, clear voice, her warm gaze revealed the woman who had slept in his arms.
Before this moment, Lucius had strived to obtain the life his father had coveted but never achieved. Now, status and power and wealth were his. He was starting over, seeking partnership with Narcissa, and striving toward a new goal: to expand his holdings and influence into an empire.
Speaking his vows, he thought it was a fine day to start again.
A/N: Narcissa and Lucius are great characters in any story, adding biting wit and that touch of black which goes with everything, lol. Thanks to Machiavelli Jr. mentioning his writing of a Lucius one shot set on the eve of his wedding, and the song by Billy Idol, a certain idea began to grow. When I found out that his story became An intriguing proposal instead, the ficlet that had been lurking sadly at the back of my mind, like called-off nuptials, was on again! I hope everyone who's ever had "Hey, little sister…" stuck in their head will enjoy the Slytherin slant. And if this fic makes the song ring in readers' minds like wedding bells…well, I'll cross fingers that wherever you are, it's a nice day for…reading! ; )