To Whom It May Concern…

Summary: Narcissa Malfoy's memoirs, from her dubious birth to the age of thirty-five. (Lucius/Narcissa with the barest possible hint of Severus/Narcissa.)
Disclaimer: The characters, locations, themes and whole world portrayed in this fic belong to J K Rowling. Except for the ones I made up. Obviously.

To Whom It May Concern… the following is the story of my life. I do not expect you to believe all of it. I do not expect you to sympathise with any of it. I certainly do not expect you to agree with a fraction of the things I have said, done and believed throughout the course of it. But I do expect you to read it, I do expect you to remember it and by doing so it is my dearest wish that you will never have to experience anything at all like it.

I have made many mistakes in my life, and by doing such a simple thing as reading the following, you yourself may be able to avoid making many of those same mistakes. At the time of writing these memoirs I was, and am, thirty-five years old. I fully expect to make many more mistakes throughout the remainder of my life, but if things go according to plan then neither you, nor anyone else, will ever hear of them or me again. But then, how often do things go according to plan?

My name is Narcissa Black. Not Narcissa Malfoy. No matter what they may tell you, my name is Narcissa Black. Because being a Black is… well it's rather like it sounds. When you look at a dark, unlit room, it doesn't matter how much colour may be hidden within it's inky depths: All you see is black. All it is, is black. All that matters, is black. The simple addition of a new last name changes nothing, just as the simple addition of a brightly coloured trinket to a darkened room does not cut through the shadows. I was born a Black, I lived a Black and I shall die a Black. I'm not necessarily proud of that fact but there it is, all the same.

I was born to my mother and father thirty five years ago, on a bleak January morning after putting my mother through eighteen hours of non-stop pain. This was shortly followed by a brief exit from consciousness on her part, a brief glimpse of the world on my part and then eighteen years of non-stop pain on both our parts. My mother, however, is not important. Nor is my father. In fact both of them can be basically forgotten except when referenced to in the vaguest and most pitiable manner later on as "My parents".

The rest of my family played a far more active role however, I can assure you.

To start with, I had two older sisters. The eldest, Bellatrix, was always considered to be The Smart One. Though why anyone came to this conclusion is entirely beyond me, as she always had a similar capacity for linear thoughts as a bed spring. I suppose she was always brilliant in a twisted sort of way, and her magical ability was well above average. However, personally, I think she got the title because nobody felt entirely comfortable calling her The "Psychotic, Sadistic, Disturbingly Powerful, Attention Seeking One" lest she find out and slaughter us all in our sleep. Or, perhaps more upsettingly, during our waking hours.

Bella was eight years older than me and at a very early stage in proceedings she appointed herself my mentor. Luckily for me, she often forgot that being a mentor actually required spending time with your student rather than just telling them what to do like some sort of Fuhrer. Her forgetfulness, combined with her propensity to dismiss the existence of anyone and everyone besides herself, allowed for me to have a fairly comfortable childhood without having to resemble Bellatrix in any way. If you're reading this then you almost certainly know about Bellatrix, and so I can only assume you will agree with me when I say that this was quite the blessing.

The second eldest sister was named Andromeda. I can't honestly say I ever held an in depth conversation with her. She was seven years older than me, and she "did not hold with all that pureblood nonsense". Something she had already decided on by the time I was five years old, which is just old enough to hold a decent conversation. As such, discussions were rare with Andromeda and even rarer for the young and impressionable, which is what my parents decided I must be since I was the youngest. Andy was never overtly rebellious now that I think of it. Which is probably why her reputation within the family lasted so much longer than certain other elements who shared her liberal philosophy.

Andromeda was The Peace Keeper. She always had words to soothe Bella, satisfy me and mislead our parents. Despite her rather lackadaisical blood-line views she was always very much a Slytherin: She always knew exactly what people wanted to hear and she knew exactly how use that knowledge to her advantage.

I, of all people, can respect that.

Our cousins were closer to my age, though that was to be expected. I was, after all, an accident. I came along seven years after it had been decided that my parents wanted no more children. The circumstances surrounding my birth were also rather… well, never mind. There will be time for that later. What was I saying?

Our cousins… ah yes, the Dysfunctional Double Act of the century those two.

Sirius was three years older than me and on our first meeting, shortly after Bellatrix had introduced me as her protégé, he told me in no uncertain terms that he disliked me. I don't think he really did though. We always got along well as children, but we were never friendly. We were never nice. We were never even polite. We just got along well.

We insulted each other and fought each other. We were constantly working towards giving the other a nervous breakdown. We never really discussed if that was as much fun for him as it was for me though, and so I can only assume.

Then there was Regulus. He was Sirius's little brother. He was in my year and house at school but he was hardly worth noting to most people, though I always made time to speak with him. He never spoke out of turn, he never had any controversial opinions, he never broke any rules, he was not exceptionally good at anything, though nor was he exceptionally bad, and he had an annoying habit of quoting his mother. He was the human embodiment of the word 'blah'.

And yet the boring little prat got three more O level NEWTS than me.


See the thing was, I always saw the barest flicker of… something underneath Regulus' bland exterior which no one else ever managed to glimpse… Now that I think about it, he always seemed rather irritated by my attempts to make others see him for what he really was, but amused nonetheless. Not that it matters now.

Then there was me. I was the youngest in my generation of Blacks. I came along, purportedly, after my father had engaged in several extra-marital affairs, finally resulting in one of his mistresses becoming pregnant. Bella told me once that my real mother was a Swedish witch who had come to the house to discuss the matter with my mother, without my father's consent. They agreed that a transferred pregnancy charm was the best for all involved, and went to Saint Mungo's the next day to have the procedure carried out. My father only heard about it after I had been move.

I didn't actually believe her then. Mainly because I didn't believe in transferred pregnancy charms. However I now know that they do in fact exist, and me not being mother's child would actually explain a great deal. Why, for example, I was the only person in my entire family to be born with pale skin and blonde hair. Or why I was always a good deal less able in Potions than anyone in my family. Or even why my mother was frequently heard to say the sentence "Ah yes my two daughters are… three, I mean three: My three daughters are doing quite well…"

I've never been especially interested in the technicalities of it. Which, for someone who's lineage is as important as mine, may seem strange. But really, I know who and what I am. I'm not some basket case with an identity crisis who needs to know who her real Mother was to make her life worth living. My knowing about my parentage would not affect my life in the slightest, nor would it have affected me then. And so I didn't care.

That said I did ask my father about it once after Bella had spun a particularly intricate tale about a proprietor of Gladrags in Sweden; his only response was to glare at me and tell me not to ask questions. To be fair, I perhaps shouldn't have posed this question during a family Christmas dinner, but my thinking was that he would be less likely to react violently if I had witnesses.

Now I think back though, I do remember a blonde woman coming to the house from time to time in my youth. And she was Scandinavian. Blonde, beautiful and far more sunny looking than any of my relatives. I recall sitting at the top of the stairs and peering through the banisters to get a look at her once. Not because I felt some mythical mother-daughter connection or anything, the very notion is preposterous, but rather because she wore such bright colours and unusually fashion-conscious robes that it made my head spin. In my family, traditional British Robes were all that were worn and so she was quite the unprecedented delight. I remember, she looked up and saw me. And she winked. A playful gesture more or less unknown to me at the time.

Naturally, I assumed there was something severely wrong with her and ran away to my nursery.

No matter. Mother's daughter or not, I was still a Black and as such I was always taught the same things as Bella and Andy. I was taught with Sirius and Regulus of course but again, that is not particularly relevant.

With Bellatrix being The Smart One, Andromeda being The Peacekeeper, Sirius being The Rebel and Regulus being The Anti-Climax, there really was only one position left for me. One pathetic little position which, at the time, I found loathsome in every possible way. To some extent, I still do. I was The Pretty One.

The very phrase conjures up images of vacuous young girls, who toss their long blonde hair and giggle a lot while referring to their parents as "mummy and daddy" despite being in their late teens. Flirtatious, light-hearted, stupidly optimistic girls with nothing on their minds, save what to wear to a dinner party at Daddy's house that night.

I was never any of those things… well… I suppose I had long blonde hair, however one cannot be blamed for that single trait.

Though I suppose I could have always cut it into a stylish short cut like Andromeda, but by the time I was capable of making such drastic decisions Andy was already courting muggle-borns and attending "movers" or some such nonsensical entertainment with them. Anything done that may imitate her would have almost certainly resulted in my, already shaky, standing within the family tumbling town like a tightrope walker with a dizzy spell.

And so for most of my life, my hair fell elegantly down to my waist in what one admirer (read: Stalker) lovingly referred to as 'a luscious waterfall of liquid gold'. He did this at a crowded dinner table in front of my friends, who teased me mercilessly for weeks. Needless to say, he wound up in the Hospital Wing.

His affection for me quite clearly waned after that. In fact I spotted him once, shortly after Draco was born. He let out an odd sort of whimper and scuttled away, clutching his… well anyway. (I don't see what he was so upset about, I'd wager you could hardly even see the scar by that point. And unless you happened to be married to him you'd never get the chance to look anyway. Far too sensitive if you ask me.)

Despite my unusual colouring, I always looked like quite the Black girl. The resemblance between the three of us was actually quite remarkable, or so I've been told. But while we shared the same willowy build, the same grey eyes, the same thick, ceaselessly elegant hair… there was always a slight difference. Bella's bone structure made her look hard and intimidating; despite being almost identical, mine made me look aristocratic without being unapproachable. While Andy's full, shapely lips always looked ever so slightly out of place, mine appeared to have been designed specifically for my face.

It was one of those quirks of genetics I suppose. One which, in our later years, Bella never let me forget. She was a terribly insecure psychopath really. She never even trusted me alone in the same room as her husband. Like I'd ever sink so low as to even look at Lestrange. But I digress.

I always rather resented my title. And since I knew what was expected of me -giggly, vacuous, etc-, I did everything in my power to ensure that no one outside my family would be foolish enough to mistake me for 'just a pretty face'. Inside my family, nothing I did would change their perception of me and so I failed to see the point in trying. Particularly when there were so many advantages to perpetuating the myth that I was a brainless twit.

Yes, that's right. Advantages.

People have a tendency to reveal the most delicious secrets when they believe they are revealing them in the company of a fool. It is, undoubtedly, the stupidest thing anyone could possibly do and yet they continue to do it with astounding frequency.

Perhaps it would be pertinent of me to note, at this juncture, that people did the same around Regulus. And, if I'm honest, they did it to a far greater degree with him than they ever did with me since, from time to time, I was entirely unable to keep a scathing remark or two to myself. It made people suspicious of my Incompetent-Idiot act.

But not Regulus. He was the King of Cretins, no questions asked. Or so everyone thought. Then again, I don't suppose anyone else was forced to study with him. Because while it holds true that he never appeared tremendously good or tremendously bad at anything, he was like a sponge when it came to knowledge. He sucked it up like water and stored it all away until later. And he never gave out any impression of ever having done so.

When I mentioned this fact to Regulus once, he gave me a smile.

It is a smile that stunned me at the time, and has stuck with me to this very day. A smile of truest, deepest understanding. The sort of smile that is usually reserved for partners in crime after they've just pulled off the most dastardly brilliant scheme imaginable. It was almost as though a mask had slipped from his face and revealed, just for a moment, the person underneath. The person underneath who (for that single instant) wore a charming smile that would rival Lucius' best, and held a devious glint in his eye that would have made Sirius pale in comparison. Then the mask was back, the fool was back, and any hope I had held for finding a… well… kindred spirit, I suppose, was lost. Sirius had Andromeda, Bellatrix had… God, she had the entire family. And I had hoped just for that second that I would have Regulus as my In-Family-Confidant. But it was not meant to be, I suppose. As Regulus Black apparently did not need, nor want, anybody. And over the years I have come to agree with him.

Though I was always a little more respectful of Regulus after that. I was always a little more aware of him. I was always severely disinclined to reveal anything around him. And from time to time, I saw his little smile of appreciation at my behaviour that made one almost suspect… No. I have never shared any of my suspicions about Regulus. I have seen no need to before now and see no reason to do so now.

Where was I?

Ah yes.

As I mentioned, Black children are educated in a great number of things. Most are privately tutored from an early age. I was taught English Literature, Mathematics, Latin, French, Italian, basic Mermish, troll (a lesson which took less than five minutes "Point and grunt, point and grunt, there you go! Now you've got it! Back to mathematics children."), etiquette, modern Politics and, of course, History of Magic. Then there were the other classes, the ones that weren't taught by a greying old tutor with a comb over and a stutter.

Like fencing: We were taught fencing from an early age because it improves your reflexes and your ability to duck and aim curses during a duel. Not to mention the fact that, sword or wand, the procedures are largely similar in any duel of that nature.

I received my very first fencing lesson when I was six. Well, calling it 'lesson' like that, implies that there was a teacher present and that they told me what to do and how to do it. This is, quite possibly, the biggest misnomer in the history of the world.

I remember it as though it were yesterday. And because I do, I fear I may go into some detail but try to bear with me.

The five of us (Bellatrix, Andromeda, Sirius, Regulus and I), were sitting in the fencing room at home. Grimmauld Place, while having innumerable benefits, was hardly suited to fencing lessons and so Sirius and Regulus came to our house in the country. At the time, everyone save myself was considered old enough to be taught properly, including Regulus despite the fact that we were born three months apart. But since I was a girl and therefore helpless and delicate, I was not capable, and was instructed only to watch.

At the time, the Instructor was not present. Which was unsurprising really, as we were later informed Sirius had glued him to a toilet seat and the man had to be escorted to Saint Mungo's for a series of removal charms. Which took around eight hours, total. After he was found of course. Which took quite a while on it's own as we had seven bathrooms. But I digress.

Anyway, to pass the time, and to unleash a few of their pent up frustrations, Bellatrix and Sirius started duelling. At the time I was in awe. This was not the same, structured, refined manner of duelling that occurred whenever the instructor was present; this was war, no doubt about it. There were no polite apologies to be found when a strike was hit, only a grin of feral satisfaction at causing your enemy to suffer. It was vicious, furious, fast-paced, violent… and utterly enrapturing.

In my years since, I have seen far more talented duels, going at far quicker speeds. Some of these duels have even involved the two participants in question. But to this day the memory of that fight strikes a chord with me. And since both were far too stubborn to ever admit defeat, it seemed to go on forever. It would only be finished when one acknowledged the other's superiority, a high request to make of either Bellatrix or Sirius it has to be said.

After around an hour of sword on sword, both participants were drenched in sweat and panting for breath. Bellatrix won, of course. But it was by a narrow margin, and she did have five years on Sirius. It wasn't long before he bested her with ease. However it was fairly obvious to everyone that Sirius was improving while Bella had reached her peak, and so Bellatrix savoured making him admit defeat. Her humiliation of him seemed to go on even longer than the duel itself, but Sirius repaid her in kind when his time came.

When both had finally recovered and were capable of standing once more, Andromeda decided that she had had enough with them both. As she was trying to dissuade them from round two, I was examining a blade on the other side of the room. I remember practising a few basic moves and feeling delighted with myself for managing them without sustaining a grievous injury. Just as the three eldest were raising their voices, hurling insults and looking thoroughly enraged, I made the request I had been dying to make for quite some time.

"Can I try duelling?"

Now perhaps I should paint a small picture of the scene here; the other four were wearing full fencing gear. I was wearing black muggle jeans and a black muggle t-shirt, so that I could mime the other's movements without difficulty. The other girls had their hair scraped tightly back from their faces while my own flowed freely. They wore the correct footwear, while I -if memory serves- wore high heeled Mary-Jane's. When I say 'high' I do of course mean high-heeled for a six year old rather than what I now consider to be high-heeled, but still. And, more to the point, everyone else had duelled each other numerous time while no one had ever done so with me, or even seen me practising my moves.

(I had felt exceptionally foolish doing something so childish as miming fencing techniques, and so I had tried my hardest to do so out of anyone else's line of vision.)

So I suppose that I can't feel too outraged as I think back to that day, and recall each and every one of them bursting out laughing. At the time, however, I was fairly upset. And since everyone knows that, when a Black gets upset, it doesn't end in tears so much as it ends in torture, I was understandably irked to say the least. I remember glaring daggers at them all with the passionate hope that they would spontaneously combust merely for offending me. Safe to say, that didn't happen.

Andromeda tried to convince me how foolish it was to even suggest such a thing, with Sirius throwing in such helpful comments as "Plus you'd be slaughtered in two seconds flat." Far from turning me off the idea, the prospect of being hacked to death by my family seemed to encourage me.

It has since been suggested to me that I have issues with expressing my anger in a healthy manner. Rather than communicating it with words and expressions, I instead pent it up and… feel inclined to get hacked to bits by my family members.

And if getting hacked to bits would one day lead to me doing the hacking, then all the better.

I remember, quite clearly, that while Andromeda persuaded, Sirius remarked, and Regulus looked dimly amused, Bellatrix continued shrieking with laughter. It shook her all over, and she had tears streaming down her face as she clung to the wall for support. Gradually, the other three seemed to fade from my vision and all that was left was the quivering, cackling loon who dared doubt me so.

I remember commenting, in a hard and emotionless voice, that if she found the suggestion so hilarious then she really had nothing to be afraid of.

A tense silence fell on the room as Bella regained her composure, and a look of cold hatred appeared on her face. I doubt she really hated me, then at least, but she was exceptionally good at the look. "Have it your way, Princess. Just don't cry too hard." she hissed. Had I been less furious, I feel I would have been quite intimidated by her. Princess, by the way, was her special little insult for me. It once again implied that I was worthless, except for my appearance and my heritage. An odd insult now that I think about it. After all, I am her sister.

I glowered back at her and immediately walked towards the duelling ring, holding my blade in the wrong position. I did so deliberately. Let them think I was inept and careless. As soon as I got the hang of moving in the ring, I would begin to demonstrate all the little things I had learned watching them. In hindsight, I really deserved each and every injury I received and then some, just for being so moronic.

Andy, I remember now, followed me into the ring and handed me her hair tie. Bellatrix was stripping off her duelling gear ("Why would I need it to fight her?" was her reasoning) so she was clad only in her trousers and vest.

I scraped my hair back and glared over at my sister, envisioning all the terribly skilful ways in which I would demolish her. None of which ever happened. Around that point, Sirius approached me with one piece of advice, which, wouldn't you know it, has held true to this very day. He told me. "She thinks she's better than she is. If you lull her into a false sense of security you can make a killer blow."

I reminded him that he never did that, to which he simply responded "Yeah, well I'm a prat."… Isn't it strange how much affection I feel for that lumbering Gryffindor scoundrel now that he's gone? It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

However, at the time I merely sent him a pitying look and began doing a few stretches. Since I was unaware of any specifically designed fencing stretches, I did a few I had learnt in ballet classes. Which I still maintain are more effective anyway. Bellatrix made some comment or another to insult me, but since I didn't hear it I didn't really care.

We approached one another and bowed in the centre of the ring. Such formalities were never to be overlooked, after all. Over her shoulder, Andy, Sirius and Regulus were all wearing expressions which suggested they were attending a public execution.

I was of the opinion that Bella would, at least, ease me into the world of duelling. She very well may have, had I not previously suggested she was scared of fighting a six-year-old. But I did.

So she didn't.

When we began fighting I managed to block only a single blow before she swung the sword around and sliced open my forearm. Which, by the way, was not part of my Oh-So-Brilliant plan.

I cried out in pain, and immediately regretted doing so as it showed weakness. Granted, everything about me showed weakness in comparison to Bellatrix, but I was hardly going to admit that at the time.

I instinctively brought my blade up to protect my face and throat from any killer blows. Since she wasn't trying to kill me this was fairly useless, and just left my body exposed to any damage my opponent felt like inflicting upon me. I realised my mistake less than a second later, but by then is was too late. I suffered two tiny, remarkably painful, cuts to my thigh and stomach. The pain I felt coursing through me was enough to drop me onto one knee, shaking slightly. Bella smirked down at me and began circling like a vulture.

"You wanted to play with the big kids, Cissa. Don't you remember? Well this is what you get." she told me in that infuriating sing-song voice, which she mastered at the age of nine. A quick flick of her blade and I was bleeding from my shoulder, not to mention feeling unbearably sorry for myself and trying not to whimper. "Do you feel happy now Cissa?" she asked tauntingly. "This is what you wanted isn't it?" Another flick and my left hand was seeping blood, I didn't even try to hide my yelp of pain this time. Behind her, my sister was hiding her eyes, while Sirius hurled abuse at Bellatrix.

"Answer me Cissa. Are you happy now?" she demanded with a sneer, not even seeming to hear Sirius. Her dark eyes were dancing with delight, and I saw my crouched, bleeding form reflected in them…

People speak about moments of clarity, but very few people ever seem to experience them. My moment of clarity came as I realised three things simultaneously. One: My sister was a sadistic bitch.

Two: My sister was tightening her grip on her sword, readying herself to do something that would almost certainly be far worse than what she had already done.

And Three: I had a big, sharp sword in my hand.

I held the blade tightly and swung it up, just as Bellatrix swung hers down. The clang of metal on metal rang out, echoing around the cavernous room. Everyone seemed stunned to the point of stupidity. This temporary paralysis was only really relevant in Bella's case, however I feel the others' astonishment should be mentioned.

I threw all my weight behind the sword as I surged to my feet, knocking her blade away from my own and making Bella's eyes go wide with shock.

"Yes Bella." I growled at her. "I'm perfectly happy." Sirius later informed me that I wore a carnal grin to accompany this statement, though I can make no claim to being aware of it.

I stood poised and ready with blade in hand. Then, it would seem, all thoughts of style and finesse left me and all that was left was the knowledge that the girl in front of me had made me bleed. And as such, must be punished. I swung madly, swiping and slicing at my self-professed Mentor with levels of savagery that would have made the warped lunatic positively glow with pride, had I been directing them at someone else. Strangely, she felt rather differently when they were directed at her. It has to be said, only a few of the swipes made contact before Bella regained her wits and began to block me, but I didn't care. The mere sight of her slashed hand and thigh were enough to encourage me.

She was having to move back towards the wall to avoid being cut to ribbons, and the fact that my All-Powerful sister was having to back away from me seemed to be nothing short of invigorating.

When Bellatrix also noticed that the wall behind her was fast approaching, she stopped blocking me and ducked under at mighty swing I had been sending her way, popping up behind me. It was about then that I remembered the 'style and finesse' concept once more. And so, in a move which I will freely admit came from dance training rather than fencing, I continued the swing, turning lightly on the ball of my foot, and drew the sword up just as it came in contact with her flesh.

To my dying day I will remember Bella's look of abject horror as I sliced open her shoulder. I am not arrogant enough to suggest that she was scared of me, but there is no doubting the fact that she was horrified at the idea of being injured by me. The young, delicate one who couldn't hope to beat her had just wounded her with a skilled move. Not a mindless swinging of metal as before; a skilled and practised move which she had been too slow to block.

I smirked then, still too worked up to feel the multiple injuries I had sustained or to even realise that Bella was more than capable of making me pay for that smirk a thousand times over as soon as we left the duelling room. Drawing my sword back and standing at the ready, I told her, in that overly-confident manner that tends to come from outright stupidity, "Try not to cry too hard, Trixie."

Trixie. Bellatrix hated that name. Probably why I used it. Her eyes narrowed and she started attacking me. Really, truly, attacking me. Before she'd been toying with me, I now realise, but I had crossed some sort of line. A line which even Lucius has admitted to being afraid to cross with Bella. And a line which I have spent the rest of my life dancing along merrily.

I couldn't tell you what happened next, even if I tried. A few more wounds graced my body, not that I noticed by that point. My cheek had even been slashed open without my knowledge; my eyebrow still holds the scar. I was left feeling very much disorientated. I was only vaguely aware of Sirius as he sent Andromeda and Regulus to fetch the adults at once, while screaming at Bellatrix to leave me be. I think I must have looked far more seriously injured than I actually was in order for Sirius Black to sound quite that panic-stricken on my account.

All of this seemed to be happening somewhere outside my immediate awareness however. The only thing that was happening which I was actually aware of, was the fact that I was lying bleeding on the floor while my sister stood over me, quivering with unadulterated furore. And that my sword was somewhere at least three metres to my left.

As a six-year-old, one is not blessed with a huge amount of rationale or logic. One tends to act on instinct or emotion. Since my emotions at that exact moment seemed to amount to little more than minor bemusement at how I could have possibly lost the upper-hand so quickly, I acted on instinct. My instincts told me to either get the sword away from Bellatrix or to get my own. Or, if at all possible, both. So I did what now strikes me as rather idiotic: I attempted to kick Bella's legs out from under her.

As everyone with even the slightest level of intelligence could have predicted, she simply hopped over my legs and proceeded to smash her foot into my face, effectively shattering my nose.

"Bellatrix! Your parents are coming!" Sirius yelled, trying to stop Bella from continuing to pulverise me. Then my darling sister called me the one thing that no one should ever call me, apparently under the impression that I had somehow been paralysed or rendered deaf.

"Good, they can see their Pretty, Little Princess learn some respect." she spat at Sirius.

Pretty, Little Princess. Oh things never go well for people who use that phrase around me. I reached out blindly, grabbed hold of Bella's nearest ankle and heaved with all my might. Which, to be fair, wasn't exactly a huge amount of might (I was six) but it was enough to send her crashing to the ground with a tremendously satisfying scream of alarm, and to send her own sword skidding across the ground, coming to land right next to my own.

I pounced onto Bella's sprawled figure, scratching, biting and breaking every body part I could get my hands on. Sirius hooked his arm around me and attempted to pry me off of her, but I just shoved my elbow into his face and kept right on going.

When my parents entered the room seconds later, it was to find me gripping Bella's hair like reins on a horse, and slamming her face into the floor while passionately fending off Sirius' attempts to restrain me.

Both of my parents instantly directed rather powerful stunning spells my way. I woke up twelve hours later in Saint Mungo's. I was fully healed, save the scar on my eyebrow, and I was completely alone, save the nurse in my room. I remember asking her where my family was and how I'd got there. She told me, quite simply, that my family had sent me in, dropped me off and gone home. I was to floo back there when I was feeling myself again. She sounded quite disapproving.

I stayed there for two whole days, relishing the fact that I had my own private room and that no one could enter it without my consent. Also dreading the idea of returning home where Bella would no doubt make my life hell. I didn't receive so much as a card from home. Once more, my nurse appeared more than a little miffed at our family dynamic.

Bella had, apparently, been seen to and sent on her way. She had not been hit with any spell of any kind and so was in perfect health apart from a scar of her own across her wand hand. It gave, and gives me, great pleasure to know that she could not cast a single spell without seeing my mark on her. But then, in that respect, perhaps I am just as sadistic as she.

By the time I actually gathered the strength to get home again, everyone seemed to have forgotten about the entire thing.

Seemed to.

No one ever truly forgot anything in the Black household. But it was never spoken of again. For two whole years, Bella and I were not permitted to be alone together and we were never allowed to duel in fencing classes. The fencing classes themselves were run differently, so that none of us could get access to the weapons unless the Instructor was present.

And Sirius suddenly started to remember my birthday every year.

After that, it has to be said, nothing particularly interesting happened in my life for quite a while. At least it didn't until September 2nd two years later, when Sirius' owl arrived home from Hogwarts. The one that told us he'd been sorted into Gryffindor...