+Elaborate Lives+

Notes: The Prologue and Epilogue to this story areset immediately after "Chamber of Secrets." AU all the way, baby, and now unlikely to be finished.

Disclaimers and Warnings: The HP characters aren't mine, and the description of the game the Hufflepuff girls play is strongly based on the advertising blurbs of a real game, Lovers' Secret Garden, sold by cyber adult shops everywhere. Not that I ever browse them… Oh, and this story contains femmeslash/lesbian/yuri content. Homophobes, consider this fair warning.

Dedications: To my beloved Floria, for sweet memories of reading Harry Potter together, and to Asterix, to whom I just kept promising to write something Potterish…

ELABORATE LIVES

Prologue

Narcissa Malfoy murmured, "Yes, dear," without any kind of conscious order from her brain, and stared at her fingernails. She realized two things with the same kind of dull annoyance. One was that the porcelain nail on the index finger on her left hand was beginning to split, and she would have to make an appointment to have it fixed. The other revelation, which seemed no more dramatic or important but merely inconvenient, was that she hated her husband.

She had always known she disliked him. Somewhere, there might be lesbian witches who were quite fond of their husbands, who were content with their choice of marriage, easy conception of pureblood children and social position. They probably weren't married to Lucius Malfoy, which would of course make all the difference in the world.

Now, listening to Lucius rage about Dumbledore and Potter, she felt her resentment and scorn of him slowly congeal into a satisfyingly ugly lump of hatred. She almost liked it; it was something quite delightfully hideous and uncontrolled in her pristine life. She imagined it spilling over the cream marble floor, as black and putrid as… her husband's heart. And hers, just perhaps.

She hadn't responded to his rantings for too long. Careless of her, but then, Narcissa had always had a dangerous tendency to lose focus at stressful moments. She caught Lucius' suspicious gaze, and said, her voice it's usual soft, detached drawl, but coming straight from her newly recognised hatred this time, "Was endangering the child of such an old wizarding family… wise, my dear?"

Draco's bloodless face twisted into a sulky pout. It was an expression that he was much too old to get away with, his mother reflected. "Who cares? She was only a Weasley – they would just breed another within a week. They're like cockroaches."

Narcissa stared blankly at her son and tried to decide if she hated him too. She had always had the ability to separate some icy, conscious part of her mind from her emotions, as if they belonged to someone else. As if there were two Narcissas, the feeling hurting Narcissa, and this cool woman who watched and analysed her emotions as a fascinated observer. It was useful, in the life she led. Trophy wife to one of Voldemort's formerly open supporters wasn't a particularly easy job in the present anti-Dark Magic, pro-Muggle political climate.

Now she sifted through her emotions with almost clinical detachment, analyzing them. For her son Draco she felt anger… disgust… pride and disappointment tangled together so closely she could not, even in her strange mood, unravel them… and something strong, dark, passionate… Not hatred, but pure love, the overwhelming rush of tenderness she had felt when she first held him to her breast, still live and strong. Her child, her blood, her precious baby… She loved this weak, pathetic little bully of hers, with his fractured ego and inadequate spite, with a deep and passionate emotion that meant she would give up anything… anything… to try and shield him from himself, from his father.

Even remain married to Lucius…

Draco's personality problems, intrusive as they were, weren't, in all fairness, entirely Draco's fault. There was real potential in the child, potential that still shone suddenly through the dull layer of his brutality and his heavy-handed attempts at wit. Draco had quite good brains under his stupid behaviour and maybe, just maybe, some remaining decency under the putrid layers of spoiling, and despite his terminally chipped shoulder. She sometimes glimpsed, through her fiercely protective love, the child he might have been if he had had a different father. If he had not grown up with the excruciating burden of being constantly told he should be better than others – and wasn't.

Maybe she had helped destroy Draco herself, spoiling him in a futile attempt to make up for Lucius' lack of love, ruining what she loved best…

We have only each other, weak though we are, Draco, she told him silently. Your father is not on our side, whatever he himself may think.

She carefully inspected the perfect false nails on her other hard, smooth and beautiful and unreal. The part of her mind still attending to the conversation, with almost ravenous concentration, as if she could split her mind into pieces as well as her soul, noted that Lucius was attempting heavy wit on the subject of Weasleys and inbreeding. She considered pointing out that the Weasleys might have married distant cousins, but at least they still had chins. In the end, she decided against it. She could not – would not – hurt her son like that, even to slap out at her husband.

She abruptly snapped back to full, sharp concentration, the shards of her soul cleaving into one again. Lucius was talking directly at her, his eyes hard with concentration and vindictiveness.

"I wish that whining redheaded brat had died," he said. Scrutinising her for any giveaway sign of reaction, letting her know that his hatred of the Weasleys was as much her fault as any Muggles, that if the child had died, it would have been because of Narcissa.

Molly Weasley's only daughter might have died - because of her.

Narcissa rose and left the room, not caring that Lucius, who was still speaking, let his eyes spark with cruel amusement as she left, or that Draco was calling after her. She laid herself on her bed, perfectly manicured hands fisted, and let the painful tide of memory sweep her back to Hogwarts.

Chapter One. "Hogwarts: Playing Elaborate Games"+

Narcissa, who tried to be as perfect in her studies as in everything else, was trying to study. But her Arithmancy book might as well have been written in Muggle computer code for all the sense it made to her this night. Her thoughts were trapped familiar tracks.

"C'mon, Cissy, it's bed time. And I have something to show you girls." Molly Weasley's round, pretty face was suffused with laughter, eyes almost as bright as her hair.

Of course it was Molly. After all, no other female in the Hufflepuff common room spoke much to Narcissa, and certainly never called her Cissy. She was too cold, too unfriendly, locked in her shell, too un-Hufflepuff… And too obviously burning with resentment that she had been put in the wrong house.

Looking up into Molly's sweet, unquestionably Hufflepuff face, Narcissa's cheeks burned at the memory of the last half hour. She had the humiliating suspicion that Molly was making an effort to cheer her up after her humiliation at the hands of Professor Profuse.

Narcissa had attempted one last appeal to be reassigned to Slytherin or even Ravenclaw. Anything but Hufflepuff, the house for nobodies, people who all that could be said of them was that they were not brave, not smart, not ambitious, just… nice. And she had been there for five bloody awful years, despite her repeated attempts to be moved. She wasn't going to graduate as a Hufflepuff, she couldn't.

Niceness was for weaklings. Narcissa knew she wasn't weak, and she certainly wasn't nice. She was lava iced over, dangerous, she told herself. She had only been a child when she was assigned to Hufflepuff, it wasn't fair… She had told the senile old twit who ran her House exactly what she thought, and he had laughed.

"The Sorting Hat sees who you are, not who you tell yourself you are, Narcissa. I don't think you are as glamorously evil as you like to think yourself." He paused. "Neither as evil nor as glamorous." Profuse chuckled derisively. "You are lava iced over? Oh, to be an angsty teenager again, and not to find that kind of statement ridiculous."

Bastard. She hated him.

Molly's voice broke into the unpleasant thoughts. "Please, Cissy. You'd be happier if you at least tried to be friends." She touched the taller girl's arm, with something like affection.

It wasn't surprising Narcissa was unpopular, even in Hufflepuff, where absolutely everyone was usually enfolded in warm squishy liking. The other Hufflepuff girls had endured enough teasing from other Houses, and they weren't exactly happy about some of the things said by someone who was (supposed to be, only supposed to be, Narcissa amended furiously) one of their own, despite her own undisguised struggles to leave them.

And after all, why bother with a prickly loner? They had plenty of friends without her. In the end, they were Hufflepuffs, and if Hufflepuffs weren't always taken seriously, at least they were usually well-liked.

Of course the boys bothered with Narcissa, but that was different. Anyone with her golden slenderness would be bothered with, and by, boys. She hated them for their attentions, almost impersonally.

Only Molly insisted on, despite all the evidence, treating Narcissa as if they were friends. Even though she knew she was being pitied, Narcissa had eventually stopped even discouraging her. And Molly had wound herself around Narcissa's prickly soul, ignoring the spikes of resentment and bitterness as if they didn't even exist, until they were indeed something like friends. Until Narcissa found it was too hard to give up the little redhead's endless kindness and cheerful conversation… like refusing oxygen…

She had always known she was going to follow Molly. She closed her books and silently accompanied the other girl back to their dormitory. Isis and Karen were already perched on the end of Molly's four-poster bed, giggling, their faces rosy with amusement. "Did you tell her?" Isis demanded.

"Not yet." Molly pulled her robes and jumper over her head. Her bra, barely containing her ample breasts, dug into lightly freckled skin, a velvety layer of flesh over her ribcage.

Molly never cared what she ate, never worried about her figure or wore makeup. She claimed to enjoy life too much to fuss over irrelevant details like vanity. Narcissa, who ate sparingly, exercised daily, and never looked at her reflection without seeing every scrap of excess weight on her willowy frame, every flaw in her perfectly made-up face, often wondered how Molly, dumpy, carrot-haired and freckled, could look at her own reflection and smile. Narcissa scorned her for it, envied her, and dreamed about sinking her fingers and teeth into that luscious flesh…

She jerked herself back to attention. She was spacing out more and more lately, and it was beginning to worry her. But this could be important – she didn't like the way Isis was sniggering. Blue-eyed Isis had been the first to offer Narcissa friendship at Hogwarts, and had hated her ever since the rejection.

Narcissa had a Hufflepuff enemy. It was almost funny. Excpet that it wasn't at all funny to live with hatred in your own dorm.

"Karen bought a game," Molly explained, still undressing. She pulled her jeans down over wide hips, and turned to grin at Narcissa. Unfortunately, at just that moment Narcissa had been staring at the tiny red curls escaping elastic above softly dimpled thighs. She was forced to harden her face and look away, fighting embarrassment and lust.

"It's – a – dyke game…" Karen buried her head in Molly's pillows and choked helplessly. It was Isis who added, face smug with dislike, "So we thought you would enjoy it, Narcissa."

Molly frowned at her, in a flash of the temper that went with her warm temperament and hair. "Shut up, Isis. Cissy, it's only a fun game, to help girl friends become closer."

"Become girlfriends," Karen amended through her giggles.

Narcissa felt dull heat flood over her face, but of course they had realized. It would have been obvious. As long as they didn't also realize who the focus of her obsessions was… Fortunately, Molly had pulled on her nightgown by then. Narcissa flung back pale blonde hair and curled her lip in a well-practiced gesture.

"What is this game about, anyway?" she asked, as detachedly as possible.

Molly, seeing her bed was taken, plumped down on Narcissa's mattress. Hesitating slightly, Narcissa sat beside her. She was aware that she took altogether too much time to decide the correct innocent distance to sit from her friend.

Molly smiled happily at her, apparently unaware of how ridiculous Narcissa was making herself, and just glad Narcissa was, as she would put it, trying to fit in and get along with everybody. "It's called Garden of Gaia. It says it's a celebration of witches' femininity. It sounds like just what we want, doesn't it?"

Narcissa had to admit to herself that it sounded just like something that would appeal to Molly. With her small body already rich with curves – fat, the nasty part of Narcissa's mind inserted, while something connected directly to her centre corrected, lush – Molly oozed femininity. The lines of her body were as uninhibitedly female as Narcissa's were toned, pared down and contained by dieting and exercise.

"And it's to explore deeper levels of relationships with your girlfriends," Isis added, tones laden with meaning. "I bet that's just what Narcissa here wants, right, Cissy?" She and Karen exploded into giggles, and Narcissa felt her pale skin flood with blood.

"I don't understand what you think is so funny. It's just to become closer friends, right?" Molly asked in confusion, and Karen and Isis shouted with laughter.

"Goddess, Mary Weasley, you are just too cute to be true," Karen gasped, as Molly looked at her with wide-eyed confusion. Narcissa tried to be scornful of Molly's naivety, but her treacherously infatuated heart was too distracted by melting at her innocence. No one would know Molly was seventeen in a depraved world, to listen to her. Narcissa was entranced, and sad and angry at the same time. How could Molly be so dense – and so utterly adorable?

"What do we do?" Narcissa asked at last, and the two girls on the other bed collapsed entirely into hysterics.

Molly gave them a bemused look, and picked up the game. "It looks like Truth or Dare, only with counters and cards. You have to perform dares, or answer questions about," she looked closer, "your deepest feelings, desires and dreams."

Narcissa smiled calmly. She could survive that. She was an excellent liar. It might even be a useful exercise, especially if dear Isis told the truth. Blackmail was always useful. "Let's play, then," she suggested.

"And the game is enchanted, so everyone can tell if you're lying!" Molly added happily.

Narcissa flopped suddenly back on the bed. She was in big trouble.

TBC