Abraxas Malfoy sat in his study at his desk, waiting. One hand, resting on the surface, tapped a lone finger over and over in a slow, angry rhythm, each tap just a hint more forceful than the last. Finally the door burst open.

Lucius rushed forward with an anxious expression, skidding to a stop short of bumping into the massive desk. "You called for me, Father?"

"Come here, Lucius," said the man in a smooth, controlled drawl.

The ominous tone did nothing to alleviate the boy's apprehension. He edged a few steps toward the man, skirting around the furniture and halting out of arm's reach. "Yes, sir?"

"Closer!" commanded Abraxas.

Lucius inched ahead another pace. Without warning the man sprang out of his chair, snatching his son by his shoulder length hair and dragging him over to a piece of parchment laying on the desk. With his free hand he picked up the paper to wave it under Lucius' nose.

"Do you know what this is?"

Lucius gulped. He knew only too well. "M—my—my O.W.L.s, sir."

"Do you know your scores?"

The boy tried to shake his head, a painful task with his father still gripping his locks. Abraxas let go in order to open the envelope and thrust the offensive page at his son, who studied it briefly. Only two O's. For an ordinary student, the rest of his grades were high, would be considered a cause for rejoicing, but Lucius was not ordinary. He was a Malfoy. Anything less than perfection was a disgrace. He gritted his teeth and dropped his head.

"I'm sorry, Father."

"Sorry," mimicked Abraxas. He let out a disgusted snort. "Your brother and sister both achieved perfect scores in their fifth year—every year, in fact. And this is the best you can do?" He grabbed the parchment from Lucius and tossed it into the fire. "You sicken me."

Since there existed no reply adequate to such a statement, not one that would allow him to keep his teeth intact, Lucius held his peace. To mention that his exemplary brother had been idiotic enough to Apparate inside a wall, killing himself, would be tantamount to suicide for the youth trembling before his sire. To dare bring up the fact that his flawless sister had married a half-breed would send the patriarch into a frenzy directed not at the offender, but at the messenger. And so Lucius kept his silence out of the only thing he fully understood, self-preservation.

"Go to your room, you have studying to do," ordered Abraxas. "Until these grades go up, you're grounded."

Lucius barely kept himself from exclaiming how unfair this was. He wouldn't be receiving more grades until mid-semester next year! His entire summer would be ruined! At least when he got back to Hogwarts his father couldn't keep an eye on him, effectively eliminating the grounding, but meanwhile how was he supposed to see Narcissa, his new girl? He thought better of voicing his dissent.

As he walked toward the exit he heard Abraxas growl, "And don't think you'll get off without punishment, boy. When I'm finished with my work here, I'll be up to see you."

Lucius' body literally quaked so hard his legs nearly gave way, yet he answered in a drawl remarkably similar to his father's, "I expected nothing less."

Lucius rolled from his stomach onto his side, wincing at the pain covering almost every inch of his backside. If only Severus were here, he could heal him, as he'd done so many times. For a youngster, he seemed astonishingly gifted in that department. Only he wouldn't be allowed to come, and Father certainly had no intention of mitigating the agony, meaning Lucius would have to give it a go himself. As much as he was able, he pointed his wand at spots on his back, buttocks, and legs as he mumbled incantations like those Severus used. Surprisingly, the pain receded significantly, though the welts and bruises from Abraxas' cane remained glaringly apparent. It didn't matter, no one would see; they never saw, not with the way Lucius kept his body covered in even the warmest weather.

He got up and wandered to his dresser, pulled open the top drawer, and removed a delicate rose constructed of red paper. Written on one of the petals was his name. He smiled.

"Narcissa," he whispered into the flower.

Instantly it opened, flattening and rearranging itself into an everyday sheet of parchment, inscribed with lovely, flowing script.

Dear Lucius,

I'm having a birthday party when school is out. I'll let you know all the details as soon as it's planned. Please come, I won't have a moment of fun without you.

Hugs and kisses,


He'd promised her he'd come. Even if he hadn't promised, the idea of staying away from the sweetest, most beautiful girl he'd ever met was incomprehensible. And she'd sent hugs and kisses! If he didn't go to her celebration, they might be the only hugs or kisses he'd ever get from her! Three days ago she'd owled him the particulars: the gala was to be held tonight. Either he obeyed his father or his heart, and sentiments ran strongly against his father at the moment.

"I'm coming, Narcissa," he breathed quietly. To the paper he whispered, "My beloved." It promptly folded itself back into a rose, which he stashed in the drawer.

Truth be told, he thought it relatively easy to steal away from the manor tonight, what with being grounded in his room. No one would expect to see him about. Although he hadn't yet learned to Apparate, all he'd have to do was dress appropriately for a party, sneak out the window, creep over to the treeline, and run through the woods. Piece of cake. No, it had rained recently, perhaps he should carry a sack with his good clothes to prevent them becoming muddied. He debated back and forth, in the end deciding on the bag, which he slung over his shoulder while floating down to the ground under a precarious levitation spell, his stomach fluttering more from excitement than fear.

By the time he'd reached the outskirts of Black Manor, he was panting and sweaty, and quite glad he'd chosen to bring fresh clothes. In a twinkling he'd changed, brushed and fastened back his hair, and kicked the bag under a bush where he could retrieve it later.

"I'm here," he sang softly, striding up the walk to meet his girl.

Narcissa threw open the door to greet her guest as she had all evening, hoping each one would be Lucius. Frankly, she'd begun to believe he wasn't coming after all. When her eyes lit upon his blond head, she broke into a euphoric smile.

"Lucius! You came!"

"I said I would." The gift he'd purchased yesterday, so carefully wrapped by a house elf, seemed in the light a bit worse for wear from the jostling in his pack. The corners had frayed, one of them split completely. "I'm sorry, it looks awful," he lamented, whipping out his wand to fix it.

"I don't care, Lucius, as long as you're here." She stepped in to give him a peck on the cheek, thrilling him. "Come in, join the party."

Many of Narcissa's friends from Hogwarts were here, he noticed, though no one he associated with himself. No matter, he hadn't come to see anyone but her. All evening his eyes rarely strayed from her, even when she was occupied with her hostess duties and socializing with whoever these people were. He was, by no accident, the last one to leave, which pleased the girl no end.

"Lucius, now that everyone's gone, why don't you come swing on the porch with me? I can't have a boy in my room," she explained.

Lucius, trying to act worldly, nodded his understanding. He'd never been in any girl's room except his sister's, though he preferred to let people think him a stud. The closest he'd even come to sex had been when he'd kissed a girl at school and his hand accidentally brushed her rear. She'd then made out to her friends that he'd groped her, keeping them at a distance from him.

Together Lucius and Narcissa proceeded to the porch. The cool night air felt refreshing after the stuffiness of the house. As they seated themselves, Lucius gently draped an arm around her, his heart thudding against the wall of his chest.

"Do you mind?" he asked simply.

"No," she replied, snuggling close. "Can I ask you something?"


Narcissa's mouth formed into a frownish pout. "I've been noticing all evening that mark on your cheek. What happened?"

A rush of bile filled his throat as his hand sought out the spot. It was tender, making it easy enough to find. Damn it, he'd forgotten! Father had smacked him for something or other a couple days ago. Not having any mirrors in his room—mandated by Abraxas, lest he become vain—he'd not known he had a bruise.

"Uh, I—I don't know," he lied, averting his gaze.

Not so easily fooled, she reached out to lightly caress the greenish mark. "My parents say Abraxas Malfoy is a strict disciplinarian. I believe he's cruel."

Torn between the ecstasy of her touch and the subject matter, Lucius cautiously replied, "He's my father. He does what he thinks is right."

"Would he think this is right?" Narcissa challenged, deliberately crushing her lips against his.

Lucius pulled back, startled and breathless. "I don't really care what he thinks." He leaned in, enveloping her in both arms, kissing her fervently over and over, ignoring the lingering pain in his back where her hands were so delightfully playing. Time stood still, an hour passing in the space of a moment.

Off to the side, a door was thrown open so hard it crashed against the wall, shedding light on their feet. "Narcissa, here you are! Come in here this minute!" a woman's voice scolded. She bent over to get a look at the boy gaping back at her. "And you, Mr. Malfoy, ought to be on your way home. My daughter is a proper young lady."

"Yes, ma'am," he agreed, jumping to attention. "She's going to be my wife."

Narcissa's and her mother's jaws dropped at the same time. Lucius could have kicked himself; what the hell had prompted him to blurt out something like that? Then he knew. He wanted her, now and forever. She would be his wife one day.

"Good night, Mr. Malfoy," responded Mrs. Black coldly, obviously considering him a lying womanizer.

"Good night, Lucius," said Narcissa, furtively blowing him a kiss.

Lucius took Narcissa's hand, pressing his lips to its trembling warmth. "Good night, my love. I meant what I said, if you'll have me."

"Narcissa, in the house! Lucius, do I need to summon your father? I'm sure he'd be very interested in your proposal."

"Yes, I believe he would. Nevertheless, if I survive his parenting until I'm seventeen, I plan to leave his home and wed Narcissa." He bowed, turned on his heel, and stalked into the darkness.

Lucius hadn't bothered to change his clothing before returning home. If truth be told, he completely forgot the bag he'd stowed under the bush at the Black Manor. All the way home his feet scarcely touched the ground as he repeatedly replayed the night in his head, humming happily to himself. Another levitation spell brought him to his window, where he crawled inside and flopped onto the bed with a huge smile on his handsome face.

A light suddenly illuminated the place. His smile faded.

"So you finally dragged yourself home," Abraxas murmured, treading up to the bed. His lack of emotion made his words all the more chilling. "I had thought I grounded you."

Lucius sat up, wide eyed, barely breathing. "Yes, sir, but I promised."

"Narcissa?" he asked, knowing full well the answer.

"Yes, sir. I—I promised her I'd go. I couldn't lie."

"You couldn't lie," his father repeated as if the phrase held no meaning for him. "But you could disobey your father, sneak around like a thief in the night, disregard your order to study, and what else? Let me see." He glanced up at the ceiling, squinting and pursing his lips. "Oh, yes, I remember. You could propose marriage to the Black girl without my knowledge or permission."

Lucius swallowed hard. There was no way his father could know that unless Mrs. Black had paid a visit, likely an unpleasant visit filled with accusations and recriminations, which undoubtedly served to infuriate the elder Malfoy. If a time for saving himself had existed, it had passed by rapidly and incognito.

"You don't seem to have anything to say, son, though I sincerely understand why. How can you defend an untenable position? You know you're wrong."

"No." Had that come from his mouth? Apparently it had, for Abraxas looked as if someone had thrown ice water in his face. "I wasn't aware I needed permission to marry whomever I choose." Ignoring all his other transgressions, which he truly couldn't defend, Lucius marched on, "Narcissa is pureblood, you can't object to our union."

"Narcissa," clipped his father, advancing menacingly, "is engaged to a young wizard in Romania!"

The bottom dropped out of Lucius' stomach. He let out a tiny cry of dismay and would have crumbled if he hadn't been still sitting on the bed. "That can't be. She likes me, she…" His lips started to quiver.

"This is what you get for your willful defiance," Abraxas intoned. "Had you asked me or the Blacks, there would have been no confusion." He snapped his fingers, summoning his cane into his hand. "Regardless of your childish sentiments, I will not have an insubordinate son."

Lucius' summer passed in the loneliness of solitude and incessant studying, punctuated by an occasional cuff for insolence. He actually incurred less misery than he was accustomed to, as any other fight had been drained from him the night of Narcissa's party, not by the horrific beating which he admitted to deserving, but by the betrayal of his heart. He had not made a move to contact the girl the entire summer, nor received a single owl from her or anyone else.

He dreaded returning to Hogwarts, most especially to the Slytherin common room where sooner or later he'd cross paths with her. He hated her, or he wished he hated her because at least then he wouldn't feel guilty for hexing her and doing all manner of mischief against her. Brooding in a compartment of the Hogwarts train, he scarcely noticed when some boys came in and sat opposite him.

"So, Lucius, where've you been all summer?"

Lucius peered over at Macnair. He'd never liked him, nor Crabbe or Goyle either, though he'd enjoyed their adulation as their superior. Right now he wished they'd all go away and leave him alone.

Crabbe insisted on pressing him. "Yeah, where you been?"

"Home studying," he answered curtly, turning to the window.

"I thought you had big designs on that Black girl," smirked Goyle.

The others laughed in a way that made the whole thing feel dirty. Lucius whirled around, eyes blazing, and the revelry stopped cold.

Suddenly understanding, Macnair spoke up. "I can't believe she rejected you."

"She didn't," Lucius seethed through clenched teeth. "She's engaged."

No one spoke for several minutes, each pretending to be occupied with his own thoughts. However, having few original thoughts, this left Crabbe and Goyle staring vacantly at each other until Macnair broke the silence.

"You could get rid of him. Then Narcissa would be free for you."

Lucius was about to scoff at such a ludicrous idea. How on Earth was he to rid Narcissa of this foreign wizard? And assuming he did, who's to say Narcissa would then fall all over herself to be with him? And why would he want the duplicitous witch anyway?

"I—we—know someone who could arrange it so it couldn't be connected to you," Macnair continued. Slowly he pulled up his left sleeve to reveal the snake figured Dark Mark.

Stunned, Lucius gaped in both fascination and rising fear. Word of this dark wizard had been spreading, he was surely a force to be reckoned with. They'd even talked about joining his legion last term, purely sophomoric rhetoric. He had no clue these morons had any real intention of carrying it through. Now they wanted him to enlist in earnest. Was it worth his soul to throw in with the most evil wizard ever to walk the Earth? There was power to be had if the dark lord managed to overthrow society, but still…

"How—what's in it for me?" he asked at last.

"This fiancé of hers gets bumped, you step in. And who knows, the dark lord might have big plans for you."

Lucius shrugged and shook his head. "I'll have to think about it."

"Fine, you do that. Don't think too long or when the time comes he might decide he doesn't want you," Macnair replied cryptically.

"What are you doing in here?" hissed Lucius to the girl standing awkwardly in the doorway. He hurriedly covered his post-shower body with a large towel. "You'll get us both in trouble!"

Narcissa picked her way across the clothing-strewn floor to Lucius, ignoring his demands she leave immediately. She'd come this far, she couldn't falter now. Besides, she'd caught a glimpse of his naked rear, and she liked it.

"Lucius, I need to talk to you. You've been avoiding me since school began, this is the only place I could think to look."

"I'm trying to get dressed! Do you mind?"

"No, go right ahead." She blushed at the furious stare he threw her, then turned around to allow him some privacy. "I should have told you about Ivan, I'm sorry."

The boy yanked on his underwear and pants, feeling at once more secure. He continued to dress as he spoke. "Yes, you should have. If I were him, I'd want to know my betrothed was snogging behind my back."

"It's not that simple." She peeked over her shoulder, then spun to face him. "I've only met him once, and it wasn't my choice, our parents engaged us when we were little. I don't even like him!"

"Then break the engagement."

"I can't, we were forced to make an Unbreakable Vow. If I don't marry him, I'll die!" A hiccupped sob escaped her. "And he's a creep!"

In light of this revelation, everything seemed different to Lucius. He kicked his roommates' clothing out of his way to come to her and encase her in his arms, holding her tight while she wept.

"And he already cheats on me!" she wailed, which caused Lucius to glance warily toward the door. If someone came in to find him in this compromising position, he could be expelled. "He's twenty-two, you know. He has a bastard child by some Muggle!" She broke down again.

His mind whirling, Lucius squeezed her tight. What he had to do appeared clearer by the moment, with one glaring exception. Narcissa didn't want this Ivan asshole, but did she want him? "Narcissa, it'll be okay, trust me. We'll figure a way out."

"There is no way! It's an Unbreakable Vow!" Her body shuddered and trembled against him as she cried. "I thought it was okay—I could—live with it—but I think—I love you."

Any hesitancy vanished with those three words. Lucius pressed his lips to hers in a frenzy of desire, devouring her, not thinking anymore. He didn't need to. The decision had already been made.