The first thing I was aware of was a splitting headache. I groaned as I opened my eyes, staring at the familiar ceiling of the bedroom I shared with Narcissa. I turned my head to the right and was surprised to find the bed empty. I moaned again as I sat up; it felt like I had a hangover. But I could not remember drinking the night before.
Had I had so much to drink I could not remember drinking at all?
Curious…I really could not remember anything about the night before. I swung my legs over the side of the bed, tossed some stray blond hair over my shoulder and went over to the window. Throwing the curtains open, I saw that the sun was just rising. I glanced over my shoulder at the bed again, wondering where Narcissa could be at this early hour.
Wrapping my dressing gown around me, I poked my head into the bathroom. My brow furrowed; not because of Narcissa's absence, but because the bathroom seemed devoid of any of her belongings. Why would my wife remove all her possessions from our bathroom? That would only make sense if she was…
My eyes widened in horror. No, that could not be it. It did not make any sense at all. Had she gone to visit a friend for a while and I had simply forgotten? Surely it was something along those lines. Narcissa would never leave me.
I quickly left the bedroom and wandered down the hall to the library. Not the most likely place to be so early in the morning, but it was close by and Narcissa did enjoy spending time there. Usually with me I thought with a smug smile. But my darling Narcissa was nowhere to be found. As I headed to the stairs, I passed Draco's door and was tempted to knock to see what he knew, but I decided to continue my search downstairs first.
A quick look into each room of the Malfoy Manor proved fruitless. Then I thought of the kitchen; given our lack of a house-elf, she could be making breakfast. I gave the parlor one last check and shook my head. "Where is she?"
Startled by the voice, I jumped and turned sharply. I knew that voice, but I had not heard it in years. But there he was—bat-like ears and bulging eyes and all. "Dobby?" I sneered both in shock and contempt.
"Master," he said with a little bow.
I blinked, expecting the house-elf to vanish. However, Dobby was still standing there, cowering slightly in fear, as he always used to. But he had long been freed from his bonds to the Malfoy family, thanks to the Potter brat. I could not keep myself from asking, "What are you doing here?"
Dobby glanced around nervously. "Dobby heard you ask a question, sir, and thought Dobby was wanted."
I could not help but smile slightly. This was a dream, most likely. Draco would probably appear, a great deal younger and childish, and Narcissa…
Narcissa should have been in bed with me. "Where is Narcissa?" I asked. If Dobby was so willing to help, he may as help me find my wife, dream or not.
Dobby's face fell and he took a step back, very obviously fearing my reaction to whatever he was about to say. "Does Master not remember, sir?"
"Remember what?" I asked impatiently. If this was a dream, Dobby's accurate portrayal was getting rather annoying. Why didn't he just tell me where my wife was?
"The Mistress is…" Dobby took a small step backwards and just out of reach of my foot should I have chosen to kick him. That meant something I was not going to like. "The Mistress has been gone for a year, sir." A sharp pain shot through my heart. "She was killed in an attack by the Order of the Phoenix, sir."
I felt the blood rush from my face and my heart pound. But that was a lie. The war was over—the Dark Lord had lost. Why would the Order attack us now? And a year ago? That made no sense at all.
Taking a few deep breaths, I remembered my theory that this was a dream. Apparently it was more of a nightmare. "You're lying," I said simply. Dobby shook his head sadly. "This is a dream," I muttered, more to myself than to the servant. "This has to be a dream—a nightmare. Soon I will wake up and Narcissa will be next to me…"
Dobby shook his head again, taking another step back. "Dobby is sorry, sir, as always, sir."
I stared at the house-elf as the pain of his news overcame me. For a dream, this felt all too real. The pain of half of me being dead, my lover torn away from me…I had to wake up from this nightmare. It was too much to bear.
Sensing movement behind me, I stiffened, trying to glance behind me without whomever it was noticing. "Draco?"
Wincing, my son turned to me. "Yes, Father?" For a moment I was speechless—his appearance was not at all what I remembered. Only his pale, pointed face was the same. His hair was longer and tied back as I often tied mine. He was wearing a dark cloak that hid most of his body completely from view, but from what I could tell, he was much more muscular than the Draco I remembered. And his eyes were dead. No, not completely dead…but the only emotion I could see behind them was fear. And then a strange thought struck me.
He was afraid of me.
But why would my son be giving me the same look Dobby had been giving me when he had informed me of Narcissa's death?
The searing pain I felt in my heart could not be compared to anything I had felt before. But I had to remember that this was a dream. It had to be. Dobby was not a servant in my Manor, Narcissa was not dead, and my son was not afraid of me.
"Where is Narcissa?"
Draco refused to look me in the eye. "Father…the attack…"
"As Dobby told you, sir," Dobby said quietly.
My hands clenched, and anger suddenly welled up inside of me. Narcissa was not dead! Why did they keep telling me that?
I was hardly aware that I had moved when my foot suddenly impacted with Dobby's head. The house-elf gave a little squeal of pain, but did not run or plead. He merely braced himself for another strike, as though expecting more blows to follow, like it happened all the time.
Like it happened all the time…
I turned to look at my son again, an eyebrow arched with morbid curiosity. Draco flinched and slid a foot backwards, and I now noticed a scar on the side of his face. He had been partially turned the other way before, and I had not seen it. It appeared suspiciously jagged, like something had caught on his skin and torn it.
I instinctively flexed the muscles in my hand, glancing down at my wedding ring before looking at Draco again. My eyes suddenly went back down to the ring. I ran a finger over it, feeling the small bit of metal that was out of place. It gave the ring character, in Narcissa's opinion, so I never had it fixed. But looking up at my son's scar made me realize that I had hit him, and the ring had caused extra damage.
But I never hit my son. I had struck him once, when he was excessively rude to his mother at a party when he was seven, but that had not left a mark. The way Draco was looking at me…he was a young man, not a child, yet he was obviously afraid of me.
I felt the strange urge to strike Draco as he continued avoiding my gaze. I took a deep breath to keep myself under control as I strode up the stairs as quickly as I could and into my room. It was dream, and dreams could be changed. Perhaps if I did what was normal for me, changing clothes and eating breakfast or something, then maybe the dream would turn happier, or at least into daily life.
As I was changing, I suddenly felt a burning pain in my left arm. I dropped the cloak I was holding, cursing in surprise at the pain, and looked at the source.
The Dark Mark.
It was as clear as the day the Dark Lord had returned. And it was burning—he was calling.
That could not be true. The Dark Lord had lost; he had been killed in the battle at Hogwarts. I quickly finished changing and headed downstairs again, completely confused and terrified as to what was happening. The Dark Lord and I were on less than good terms…I think. Then again, I do not remember beating my son, or Dobby being around anymore, or Narcissa being…my breath caught in my throat.
"The room is ready, Father," Draco said quietly, motioning to the dining room.
I stared at him with confusion until there was a sharp knock at the door. My Manor was not the headquarters again…was it? Dobby answered the door and was immediately kicked aside by a young man in his early twenties.
I knew the man instantly, although I did not recognize him. His cold eyes surveyed the room, looking upon Draco and Dobby with distaste, before taking a few steps toward me. "Lucius!" he said, his voice as cold and snakelike as I remembered, although the body it came out of was considerably younger and much better looking.
"My Lord," I said, bowing my head respectfully. What else could I do in the presence of the Dark Lord?
I shivered as the Dark Lord chuckled. "Lucius, my old friend." His hand sent a shudder through my body as he placed it on my shoulder. "How are things at the Ministry? I trust you are enjoying your latest appointment?"
"Yes, my Lord." I tried my best not to stutter, my mind still trying to overcome the shock and horror of the Dark Lord being alive, in my house…and so young! Had I traveled back in time?
No, not with Draco being a young man and Narcissa being dead.
This is not a dream.
The thought caused me to momentarily freeze with terror. Though I had no other explanation for what was happening, I had never had a dream like this, or one that felt so real. I had to believe that this is reality.
"Minister of Magic—a high post. But you served me well—you deserve it."
I have…what? I had been a failure. My family had been decimated because I had failed in one task.
"The others should be arriving soon." As we headed into the dining room, which was set up for a large number of people, the Dark Lord continued. "The Order is beginning to cause problems again. We should have eliminated them before, but apparently our mercy on them has led them to regroup and strike again."
The Dark Lord sat at the head of the table, and it was only then that I noticed the snake at our feet. Nagini curled up on the chair around her master. When I did nothing, the Dark Lord motioned to the chair to his right. Apparently I did something right. But what?
"I thought you would be interested to know that Severus has discovered who killed dear Narcissa."
I turned to him sharply, daring to look him straight in the eyes as pain shot through me. So she was really dead. But Severus wasn't? Moistening my lips, I managed to say, "Who?"
"Your niece, ironically." My brow furrowed. "Nymphadora Tonks. I suppose I can understand that action." I glared at him without thinking of the consequences of such a bold move, but the Dark Lord appeared almost sympathetic. "You did, after all, kill her mate; that werewolf."
"Remus Lupin," I said quietly. But his wife was dead, and I had not killed him…at least, not in the reality I knew. Something had certainly changed.
"She's being left alive for now—I suspect you will want to have revenge."
I nodded, though I was almost numb to the Dark Lord's words as I began to truly understand that my darling Narcissa was dead. She was really gone…
Bellatrix was the first in. She came in and stooped to kiss the hem of the Dark Lord's robes. I wondered how I had forgotten to do that, and then how I had received no anger from the Dark Lord. I was actually in his favor. That had not been true for a long time.
Of course, it should not be true now either, since the Dark Lord was dead…and yet he was not, but he should have been…and Narcissa, my darling Narcissa, should be alive…
What the bloody hell happened?