Lucius Malfoy sat up in his bed, disentangling himself from the silk sheets; he found himself regretting the fact that he was alive, because something awful had stirred inside him and he could barely suppress. He sat up slowly, almost painfully for he was still recovering. His torso was bruised and tightened malevolently if ever he moved an inch. His skin was coarse and dry and brittle, his hair dull and lank and lifeless. He walked across the room, closing the door behind him as he entered the bathroom, silently casting a look back to the bed where his wife lay sleeping. Ten minutes later he emerged, his blonde hair dripping with shower water, a towel wrapped around his lean waste. His wife was awake now, her face propped up on her hand, her beautiful hair enticingly tangled as she stared at him.

"Good morning," she greeted half gentle, half cold. Something in her eyes, something quiet and dormant and altogether fragile was showing itself and he knew himself that such a feeling existed within him. He smiled a nod of acknowledgement in her direction; a smile he hoped showed his adoration and noted how she looked uncommonly small in their cavernous bed and incidentally, how tired she looked.

"You look tired," he commented softly, lifting the clothes that had been laid over the chair by his elf with extreme carefulness and gentleness, so not a crease could possibly exist and save the elf from to early a punishment. But he couldn't bring himself to think that such a thing mattered, there was something that had snapped inside him and released a fear so ruthless that he could physically feel it gnawing at his heart.

"Is that a compliment?" she snapped but her voice broke and her eyes met his, pleadingly. Should he try to talk to her, or was he so afraid of his own fear pouring out and infecting her that he could barely look upon that pained but beautiful face. He watched her watching him dress, understanding every last though that whirred in her brain. She raised herself out of bed after a moment, having tired of divesting her attention on him, or perhaps she could no longer bear to, and made her way to the huge glass doors, and pushing with as much strength as possible opened them. A swift breeze flew into the room, bringing with it a chill so overwhelming that it made him shiver in his state of being half dressed, Dementors were breeding. But he wasn't going to stop her, he was a cold, hard cruel man but one person in the world he understood was his wife and he understood her exit from their stifling chamber as a desperate bid for solitude. He dressed slowly, carefully so not to put anymore pressure on his pained body, and tied his hair before he went to the balcony, just to hear her voice before he left to make sure the house was presentable, the grounds suitable. Then he decided he would go down to the river and sit all day, try to clear his head and take in some air.

"I shall see you for dinner?" It was a question, not a statement that he asked her. He paused for a moment, wondering just how it had come to this and why indeed, that which had once been a statement had turned into a question. Then he remembered… and he swallowed that still lingering taste of the grimy cells of Azkaban, and through his head flashed those days where she clung to him with the fluidity of smoke and they had loved each other.

"Yes," she did not turn; he didn't expect it from her anyway. But he watched her shoulder blades, her indescribably beautiful skin that he had once had permission to touch, at will – it seemed now, a distant memory. He could still smell her though, if she was near enough he could imagine how it felt and not only imagine, but remember. He dared inch closer, so close that she could no doubt feel his breath on the nape of her neck. But a part of his ruined mind told him he had no right to touch her. He wanted to reach out, touch that gorgeous skin and run his fingers through her hair. Why did they still sleep in the same bed, why did she still let him curl up beside her like a needy boy when he could feel she detested him? He wanted to let the words tumble out, but he didn't. Instead he stood there in the frozen morning air, thick with despair and darkness, hand outstretched towards her but not quite touching her bare shoulder. He willed himself to turn, to go and try and gain some steady footing and dispel this sudden regret of his actions…but he stayed. The delicious thought of being granted permission to hold her as he had what seemed like years ago (though it was just over a year) was so teasing, so wrong.

But he wouldn't tell her he loved her, it wasn't what she wanted to hear. He sighed gently and lowered his hand, very aware that that moment had disappeared and that he was only a man, who had failed the one thing he had ever cared for.

"Goodbye, Narcissa".

"Goodbye, Lucius…" Those words were so heavy, rolling with her exquisite accent were uncomfortable and not suited to how she once was. How they had been once.

"Lucius-" her crystalline voice, so eloquent, cold and dangerous faltered, "Lucius, where are you going?"

She turned on the spot and her voice was beseeching him, begging him, torturing him. That self-assured Lucius, the one who had existed when they were first married had disappeared and now, a man stripped of all of what he used to be stood before her, looking at her with horror in his eyes. They knew they could not go on like this, but neither could say it.

"He is coming… I wanted to prepare the house and grounds, enchantments, charms…" he could not continue, he could not bring himself to hurt her anymore than he had, he held out a hand, covered in cuts and bruises as if begging her forgiveness, "He is coming here and he told me to be prepared… this is the new Headquarters."

This blow did not appear to be such to her, "Lucius…" It was a whimper, a desperate, pitiful whimper and he could not stand to see her like this. She reached out to him, taking the hand he offered,

"I will follow you", she whispered, "But we cannot do this anymore. I am asking you to make a choice with me Lucius because we will die at his hands and-" tears cascaded down her pallid cheeks, "And I cannot do this to my son, you can choose to stay – to follow. I will not, I cannot. I will do nothing to assist him. Will you, Lucius, will you assist me in this."

Perhaps if, in another time this question had existed, he would have faltered, he would have told her she was ridiculous and that they could not lose. They were purebloods, they were supreme and even though he still believed that, he was struggling to see how this destruction of his family was living up to his expectations of supremacy.

He looked at her, startled by her willingness to take control of something she would have expected him to do, "I need you to help me…I need you now to prove to me your love for me Lucius, I need you to defend our family."

He nodded quietly, searching her eyes with intense depth that almost made her want to turn away. He could see this before she did and he grasped her shoulders tightly, holding her. "Cissy, my darling Narcissa," the affection was urgent, rushed in a breath as he held her before him, "I love you and I should have told you, every day! I should-"

"But that was not what I wanted," she said pointedly, "I did not need your words to know Lucius and your actions always sufficed but now I need your actions more than ever. He can stay here, he can-"

"Hush," he whispered, shushing her with a gentle finger, "It is cold out her, and you are shivering," she had hardly noticed but she was shaking in his arms "Let's go inside, and allow me to hold you, Narcissa?"

It did not come out as he had planned to sound gallant and strong but as a plea, the plea of a child so starved of affection as the words strangled in his throat. She took him by the hand, almost maternal in her action and led him through the doors that he closed behind her, to the bed, where she laid down and he walked to the other side. Finding her cold hand, he took it in his own while he pulled her against him, her body flush against his own in the silence of the room. He rubbed a gentle thumb over her surprisingly modest wedding band, over her stunning hands and onto her beautiful arm, over her shoulder and neck and back down to return to her hand, where it settled on her hip.

"What can we do?" he whispered, "How can we do this? How can we get out of this?"

"We can't," she said despairingly," We have to play along, until the last possible moment – until the battle, which is inevitable," at this she shivered and he pulled her closer, burying his face in her hair, "We will lose Draco, if we carry on like this, Lucius. The Dark Lord will not forgive us any mistake; we must please him as long as we can – then turn on him. We must do everything in our power."

"I – yes we must," he sat up suddenly, "I have failed you Cissy. I have led you into this. My damn stupidity…why did I ever join them? I am a fool, a power-hungry fool."

He sat up suddenly, a frantic, desperate horror in his usually empty eyes, "I was so smug, so sure of the supremacy of my race, so much better than others and look what he has reduced me to!"

He was raging, he was frantic. He flew across the room, throwing the vase of flowers from her dresser, smashing the mirror above the fire place, "He has reduced me to nothing! He has made me a prisoner in my home, made a mockery of my name!"

He slowed and stopped abruptly, stared at him once lily-white hands, "I have no liberty."

"You have me," she whispered, suddenly, with a fervent passion that stopped him in his tracks as she sat up, "And we, the three of us, have each other, Lucius. We must try to please him, we must try to please him…" she looked up, and then she stood and walked towards him, "We welcome him to our home, we do his bidding, we try to please him, and we try to stay safe and together."

"Are you afraid?" He asked suddenly, perching himself on the side of their huge bed, holding one of the ornate posts as he hung his head in his hands, near tears.

"Yes, I thought he was merciful, but he took you away from me and then, what he done to Draco…" she sobbed slightly, and he reached for her and lifted his hands to his lips, "He does not care and we are not in his favor, we are not productive to him, we are of no use to him. We are dispensable."

"And that is entirely my fault, why do you not hate me?"

"When we married," she said violently, angrily as if he had offended her by asking her, "I promised to stand by you, I will. I love you, Lucius. You are acting weak because you are tired and broken and desperate. I do not love that man, I love the man I married and in promising to stay with me, to keep me safe you have became that man again this morning. I want you to touch me Lucius," she took his hand and put it on her rear, forcibly as if she knew how inadequate he felt. He suddenly felt familiar to her again and wanted to make love to her, to touch every inch of her skin, to curl her in his arms.

"I want you to hold me and kiss me and go back to when we were at school, when you smiled arrogantly and ran your fingers through that blonde hair and kissed me in front of everyone. When you wanted to make love to me all the time, when you were so assured of yourself – when we trusted our self to get through this. Whatever happened in the Department of Mysteries I forgive you for, I forgive you for your absence, I forgive you for the pain you have put me through but I will not forgive you for giving up on us, on our family. On what we've always been proud of – our ability to survive. If you do that, I cannot…"

He understood and he stood then, opening his arms to her, planting his mouth solidly on her soft lips in a desperate attempt to transport her back to the Slytherin common room, to their wedding night, to quiet meandering days in their gardens.

"Trust me to make it better?"

"Yes," she whispered against his cheek, her hot breath on his face, "Yes, Lucius."

He held her then, desperately pushing her back onto the bed and holding her ferociously tight as they plunged to the bed, the silk sheets encasing them in a desperate enchantment.