Disclaimer: Characters owned by JK Rowling.
A Portrait of Miss Black
The grounds of Malfoy Manor were beautiful at this time of year. They were flooded with the bright colours of his mother's flowers - snapdragons, carnations, lilies, and roses, his mother's favourite. That was why morning tea was being taken outside today. It was also to celebrate his OWL results, in which he'd done exceedingly well.
His mother raised her teacup to him in salute. "Congratulations. Your father and I are very proud of you. Have you considered what subjects you will be taking next year?"
"Yes, mother. I'm going to take History of Magic, Transfiguration, Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and, of course, Defence against the Dark Arts."
His mother smiled serenely. "Those are good choices. Your father will be proud."
Said father was not at home for his results to arrive. It didn't matter much; he was used to it being just him and mother during school holidays. He knew that sometime soon he would be called to discuss his future, though. His father would want to know what he was planning on doing with his life.
Lucius leaned forwards and took a scone off the table. As he chewed it he looked across the grounds, pensive. He was going to be in his sixth year in September. He wasn't worried about the work as he'd always found schoolwork fairly easy. He was more worried about his future. As a sixth year, his father would expect him to choose his future wife.
It was deemed proper for him to start seriously courting one girl by his sixth year. Even his mother had started hinting at him to invite a 'nice young lady' to the Manor. He couldn't stall much longer; his father would allow him the summer to pick. If he didn't, or if his choice was inadequate, his father would arrange a marriage for him.
He had full confidence that his father would choose someone acceptable, but he would rather choose his own bride. The question was who. Lucius rather suspected that his father would choose one of the daughters of Cecil Rosier, which was fine except that the youngest had left school six years ago, and was a i Gryffindor /i . Call him prejudiced but marrying a Gryffindor would be like marrying a Peruvian Vipertooth. No, Lucius would rather have someone who he knew, at least by face, which meant that it would have to be a girl from school.
There was Ovid Parkinson's daughter of course. She was pretty enough but as stupid as a flobberworm. She had been convinced by a first year that her sixth year Charms lesson was cancelled and so she had spent it in the common room. Needless to say, Professor Flitwick had not been amused. And who in the name of Merlin calls their daughter Harmony anyway? Harmony Malfoy? His father would have a fit.
Then there was Catherine Borgin. He got on very well with her; they had dated a few times in the past. However, he knew she wasn't chaste. Marrying her would be easy as he knew they got on. She wasn't from a very rich family but she was clever and pretty and more than capable with a wand. It was a shame her great-grandfather had squandered most of the family money on Firewhisky and trinkets they couldn't afford. The gambling and women didn't help much either, but one didn't talk openly about that sort of thing. The official reason for their plummet in society had been 'bad investments'. However, their store on Knockturn Alley was now turning incredible profits. Still, he was sure that his father would not allow him to marry her, despite their past fornications. The fact that her great-grandfather had caused so much scandal last century was enough for him to reject her.
Paula Stewart, a pureblooded Ravenclaw in the year above him, had the grades, the social status and the money but Lucius had no desire for her whatsoever. She wasn't unattractive, but she wasn't spectacular, either. Lucius wanted the best, and he'd get it.
The Black family had two eligible women (three if he was in the mood to steal the eldest, Bellatrix, from her fiancé, Rodolphus Lestrange, which he wasn't). Andromeda Black was attractive with long light brown hair; the family was well established and had money. There was the slight problem that he couldn't i stand /i her. He hadn't spoken to her much, but the mere fact that she had Mudblood friends was enough to put him off. She had been a running joke in Slytherin for years. Lucius didn't even want to think about what a nightmare their wedding would be.
But the last Black sister, Narcissa … she was perfect. He knew for a fact that she was intelligent, having been in most of her classes last year. While intelligence wasn't a terribly important factor in a future wife - after all, she wouldn't need to work for a living – he did need a wife who could hold a conversation. It would be embarrassing to have a wife who couldn't even do the simplest of spells. He knew he wouldn't have to continually watch over Narcissa at parties. She was also amazingly beautiful, with flawless smooth skin, long blonde hair, and large blue eyes. She was exactly what he desired.
The only problem was that she had been entirely unimpressed with him over the years. He had been out with dozens of girls, most of the Slytherin girls, the ones he deemed attractive enough, but never her. He had never asked her, because he knew she would turn him down. She turned everyone down, which only made her more desirable in his eyes. She was unspoilt, untouched by anyone.
He had made his choice. Narcissa Black would be his wife.
"Son, you need to decide on your future," Abraxas Malfoy said. He leaned forwards over his desk to survey his son who sat in the high backed chair opposite him. Lucius stared back calmly.
He had trained his son well. His back was straight, his face a blank mask. Yes, Lucius had learnt well. "Lucius, what do you intend to do with your life after Hogwarts?"
"Well, father," Lucius started. "I hope to work within the Ministry, most likely in the Political Bureau." Here he smirked. "I'm sure I could do much to benefit the Wizarding world from there."
His father didn't smile back. His father never smiled. "That is an acceptable choice, Lucius. I'm sure you will fit in well there." Abraxas leaned forwards over the desk. "What about your future wife?"
His father never beat about the bush when it came to Lucius, or his wife for that matter. "I have given it much thought and have decided on Narcissa Black … with your approval, of course," he added hurriedly.
His father paused for a moment, considering. "Why?"
The question threw Lucius. He never expected to have to explain his reasoning. "She is the most attractive girl in my year and shares our views on purebloods and Mudbloods. She is intelligent, witty, and has been trained well by her mother in the etiquette of a proper lady." His father continued to watch him. "And she has never been touched by a man, indicating that she is pure not only in blood."
"Of course, you don't know that for sure," his father interjected. Lucius felt a small stab of worry. He masked it well, but it was there all the same. If his father decided to reject his idea then he would arrange one for him. He respected his father and knew he would make good choices for him, but not being trusted to make his own was insulting. Having his life dictated entirely by his father didn't appeal to Lucius.
After a long pause, his father continued. "Your idea is acceptable. The Blacks are a fine family, despite one or two unfortunate members…." There was a frown on his face as he said this. Neither of them needed to clarify who Abraxas was talking about. Marrying into the Weasley's had ensured no more society invitations for Cedrella Black. "I'm sure Miss Black will be delighted to be invited to join our family," his father added.
Lucius looked down and said nothing. He barely spoke to Narcissa, and while he was fairly confident that she wouldn't pass up a chance to be joined to the Malfoy family, he couldn't be absolutely sure. If she refused to even give him a chance, his father would be extremely displeased.
"We have been invited to the marriage of Bellatrix Black and Rodolphus Lestrange. In a month's time, you can begin your wooing of the youngest Black." He nodded once to Lucius, indicating that their conversation was over. Lucius stood, bowed slightly and left.
He went straight to his room and pulled a desk drawer open. He took out his best writing paper, a quill and Slytherin green ink. He had to write to Narcissa before he met her. If she appeared less than pleased to see him in a month's time, his father would be disappointed in him. That was the one thing Lucius didn't want.
i Dear Narcissa/i he wrote, then paused. How was he supposed to write this? Somehow he didn't think telling her that she wasn't his first choice would go very well, nor would telling her that he had to pick a girl or have his marriage arranged. He had never had a woman reject him when he was open and honest, and by that he meant lying and pretending to be in love with them. Women were fools when it came to a love story; he had yet to meet one who wasn't.
I hope your holidays are going well and that your OWL results were good. I expect that you did spectacularly. Your quick mind has always been one of the things that has fascinated me about you.
Lucius shook his head irritably at the sickly sweetness of it all. He had never had to pretend like this with other girls - a simple look and they were his. With Narcissa, he would have to work much harder.
I must say that I have been enraptured by you for some time. All through the exams I was constantly on edge, thinking of ways to impress you.
Lucius immediately erased those lines out. She would never believe him. He needed to meet her; then perhaps he could make her see the sense in their match.
I have to confess, I would very much like to get to know you better. Perhaps we could meet in Diagon Alley sometime this week? Thursday? We could go to the new restaurant, Le Jardin de Laurier, for lunch.
I eagerly await your owl.
Content that his letter was enough to peak her interest but also flattered her enough to warm her to him he sealed it with wax and stamped the Malfoy crest onto it. He leaned out of his window and whistled. His owl, Orion, soared towards him.
"Take this to Narcissa Black," he instructed softly. Orion hooted, and then took off into the sky. He watched it fly away until it faded into the horizon.
Narcissa calmly folded the piece of parchment and placed it onto the table. She reached for her glass of pumpkin juice and took a sip from it. She was well aware that her family was watching her eagerly, wondering who the mysterious letter could be from. None of them had recognised the stately owl that delivered it.
It was Bellatrix who cracked first, just like she had expected. "Who was the letter from, Cissy?"
"Lucius Malfoy," she replied evenly. The look on her sister's face was priceless.
"Lucius Malfoy?" she sputtered. "Why would he be writing to you?"
"I don't like him," her other sister, Andromeda, added. "He's spiteful to anyone he thinks is below him and he's a bully. Do you know what he said to Constance at Christmas?"
"Called her a 'filthy Mudblood', as likely as not," Bellatrix said in a bored tone. Andromeda frowned at her. "What did I say?" she asked, baffled.
"What does the Malfoy boy want with you?" her father asked. He had tried to feign interest in the conversation, but felt that they were getting rather off topic.
"He asked me to meet him Diagon Alley on Thursday; he wants to take me to lunch at Le Jardin de Laurier." Her father's eyebrows rose. Even Bellatrix seemed suitably impressed. Le Jardin de Laurier was a very expensive restaurant, known for its exclusiveness.
"You're not going to go, are you?" Andromeda asked, scandalised. "He's a horrible boy! You've seen how he treats people. How can you even consider-"
"Andromeda, dear, please be quiet," said their mother, frowning. "I'm sure that young Mister Malfoy is a fine gentleman. I hope you won't turn down his invitation?"
"Of course not, Mother. If you'll excuse me, I'll reply to him at once." Her mother nodded and she rose gracefully from the table.
She had barely reached her room when she heard Bellatrix behind her. "Cissy," she called. "Are you going to meet up with him?"
Narcissa paused as she opened her door. "Perhaps. To see what he wants at least." They walked into Narcissa's room and Narcissa sat at her desk. Bellatrix reached over and pulled the letter from her hand, reading through it quickly.
Narcissa took out a quill and ink, thinking of what to say.
"Isn't it obvious what he wants?" Bellatrix asked. "He wants to court you."
"Bellatrix, don't take me for an idiot. I did get more OWLs than you." Her sister scowled. Narcissa tapped her finger against her cheek thoughtfully. "I want to know why. After all, he hasn't shown any interest before now."
"Well what do you expect when you turn down every date offered to you? Malfoy's hate to be refused, it's a family trait. He wouldn't ask you because he knew you'd say no."
"Maybe," she conceded. "Or perhaps, I would have said yes. Perhaps I only said no to everyone else because I was waiting for him." Bellatrix's eyes widened and Narcissa smiled. "I knew that when the time came for him to choose a wife, which is apparently now, I would need to be untouched. It would sway his mind in my favour. Men are so predictable."
Bellatrix's mouth fell open. She wasn't capable of speech. Narcissa reached out and pushed it closed with one finger. "Please, Bella dear, that is so unladylike."
"You can't be serious. There's no way you had all of this planned out. I don't care how many OWLs you got Cissy, you can't have had this secret plan all along." Narcissa raised one perfectly sculpted brow. "No … really?"
Narcissa nodded. "It was quite simple really. I knew I had to marry the most eligible bachelor there was, and who better than Malfoy? The name has credibility; he is one of the richest wizards around and quite handsome too. He's the perfect choice. I just had to think of a way to guarantee that he would want me."
"What did you do?" Bellatrix asked, awed.
"I ignored him. He had tons of girls falling over him, I didn't want to be another one of the girls used and then tossed away. I became elusive to him, and I daresay I frustrated him. But I couldn't go for the overused plan of making him jealous by dating loads of other boys. Then he would simply write me off. By keeping myself unattainable to everyone I have become the prize catch as it were," Narcissa said.
"So what are you going to do now? Are you going to go out with him?"
Narcissa laughed lightly. "Of course not, silly darling. I have to let do the wooing scene whilst I keep my distance. If I were to act too keen too soon, he would treat me like every other woman in his life. An unimportant extra and I don't want that. I will make him treat me as an equal. He will think he has a power over me, but he won't."
Bellatrix's lips twisted into a smile. "Your plan is pure genius, Cissy. I must say, I am awed."
Narcissa smiled back at her sister. "Well Bella darling, I am a Slytherin, after all."
Lucius wasn't surprised when an owl swooped down onto the breakfast table the next morning. He allowed himself a moment of silent thrill before he opened the letter. After all, she had done exactly what he had expected her to do. She had replied, despite the fact that she and him had barely spoken. She was curious, if nothing else. For the moment, at least.
I was rather surprised to receive your letter. I wasn't aware that you even knew my name, seeing as how we have barely said two words to each other over the years. However, I can see from your letter that you plan to rectify that, which, I believe, is an excellent idea. I would be delighted to meet with you for lunch. I'm sure it will be an interesting experience for us both.
Would twelve o'clock be suitable for you?
Lucius sat back in his chair, well aware that his mother was watching him intently. It was only a matter of time before she …
"Lucius, who is the letter from?"
Yes, there it was, right on time.
"It's a letter from Walden, mother. He wants to meet me in Diagon Alley on Thursday," he replied without missing a beat. Lying was so easy, especially to his mother. She didn't even know about his father's Dark Arts collection, let alone her son's interest in the trinkets hidden behind the secret door in Abraxus' study.
"Walden Macnair?" his mother questioned. "I haven't seen him since he was practically a baby. I wonder how his mother is. I suppose I'll see her at the Black Lestrange Wedding won't I? Those families have been friends for generations."
Lucius allowed his mother's voice to drown out while he relished his first victory in seducing the rare flower that was Narcissa Black.
Author's Note: Beta'ed by Ladyrhian at Ashwinder.