Title: Down In the Shadows To Pray
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Narcissa/Lucius
Warnings: Het, slash, sex (both het and sex), voyeurism, some slight bondage, DH spoilers but EWE, odd pagan religion. Non-linear; tense switches; Narcissa POV.
Summary: Narcissa has long since accepted that she will have no daughter to follow her into the Shadows, but she had thought she would have a daughter-in-law. Now, her son's choice imperils that, and forces her towards a choice of her own between her duty as a mother and her duty to her faith.
Author's Notes: Dedicated to raphsody606, in incredibly late celebration of her birthday! She gave me pretty much free rein. Here is the result, a fic which tries to imagine paganism existing in the wizarding world but only for a small section of it, rather than the whole (which seems rather implausible given the Hogwarts celebrations of Christmas and Easter, among other things). Oh, yes, and it's weird and kind of surreal and not meant to imply anything about real-world paganism or neopaganism at all; this is a brand of religion I made up.
Down In the Shadows to Pray
She pours the water from the urn into the basin and holds still as she listens to it rush, churning and foaming, gurgling and chuckling to itself, around the stone rim. Light moves across her eyelids, and then pulses of darkness far more regular than her own scattered heartbeats. It takes endless movements before she feel assured that the pulses have settled into a rhythm, and she can open her eyes.
She kneels before a pool of shadows now, grey flash and silvery flicker across a surface that looks more like mist than water. The shadows project over the edges of the stone basin like branches. She knows that she could touch them if she reached out. For the moment, however, the important thing is that they travel before her face in a steady procession, and the second most important thing is the white brilliance at the heart of them, revealed suddenly and teasingly hidden again, like someone holding a lighted crystal and constantly moving her hands in front of it.
Narcissa Malfoy rises to her feet and flings her hood, of ermine fur, back from her face. Around her rise the voices of other women, piercing but soft, pleading if she listens with the right ears. They move around her in their own fur-lined slippers, odd wear for the stony cavern that they tread, except that a place like this is where the Daughters of the Shadows have always come and a thing like this is what they have always worn, whilst in the world above fashions spun and changed and collapsed.
The shadows spin without collapsing. Narcissa gazes steadily into them and feels her heart drop. Already the first corner of an answer is showing in the way that the shadows near her have assumed sharp-edged forms, swords and antlers and diamonds, though almost at once they melt back into the general teasing of the dance.
She does not know what the answer will be yet. Though she knows she cannot compel a favorable one, she moves her lips in soundless prayer anyway, eyes locked on the shadows and now and then, when she dares, on the light flaring at the heart of them.
This is magic indeed, but it is magic commanded by certain specific actions and English words alone, not the motions of a wand and Latin incantations, and it can only be used by women. And it is far more capricious and unpredictable than ordinary magic; if that magic may be likened to fate, this operates on whim. That makes it different enough for Narcissa to consider her words prayer.
"Mother, Father, I'd like you to meet—" And that was when Draco turned nervously away, running his fingers through his hair, and when Narcissa began to understand that she might have something to fear.
She stood quietly beside Lucius nonetheless, whilst her husband began to complain about Draco not telling them the truth at once. Of course, he sounded complacent. He believed Draco had married without their knowledge, but done no worse wrong, and now he'd brought his bride to receive their blessing.
He had no eyes. Narcissa cared for him very much sometimes, but she had not married him for his observational gift. She had been the one to notice that Draco wore no ring, no betrothal bracelet, not even the woven collar that had become popular among some of the young pure-blood couples since the war, to show that their hearts were chained to each other.
"Your lover, Draco, is it not?"
She was trained to pitch her voice low and yet command attention, though where she had got such training neither her husband nor her son would ever know. Draco turned towards her at once, flushing, eager in a way that made Narcissa think even more of the bedchamber, though she should hope he did not show so much emotion there. Being naked physically in front of someone was enough; emotional nakedness was a violation.
"Yes, Mother, it is." His voice was more confident now, and he stretched one hand towards the front doors of the Manor. They were standing in the entrance hall, the place where staircases rose spiraling towards the first floor and murals of Muggle atrocities covered the walls. Draco had chosen this place for a reason, and that reason must be that he felt his new lover could compete with the grandeur. Really, from that, Narcissa should have known whom he had chosen. "Allow me to present my lover—"
Black hair as dark as the stain on his blood. Green eyes that shone and flashed like the curse Narcissa had seen almost slay him. Nervous steps as he came to Draco's side, which showed that he, at least, had some sense of the chanciness of the occasion.
And a scar, over everything, lightning bolt and red and jagged. That scar had marred his life, Narcissa thought, detached, because she would never allow herself to feel the rage that was gathering in Lucius's eyes; now it would mar theirs.
"Harry Potter," Draco finished, his gaze darting between their faces.
Draco had survived a war, closeness to the Dark Lord, and the consequences of his father's actions crashing down on him afterwards. Narcissa thought it was permissible that she forgot, at times, how young he really was.
"I won't have it!"
Lucius was pacing back and forth, his hair flying behind him, his hands waving in the air. Narcissa watched him without speaking. She stood in front of the fireplace in their private sitting room, her own hands folded demurely at her waist. She had stood that way when Lucius had argued against naming their son Draco—it was the only continuation of the Black line that Narcissa could manage, when she knew she would be bearing a son instead of a daughter, and when she knew her womb would never be strong enough to bear more than one child—and when he tried to come up with a suicidal plan to attack the Dark Lord in their very home, because of his misplaced pride.
When she stood that way, she always won their arguments. Strange that Lucius should never have noticed.
"I don't care if Draco dates him on the sly, or fucks him, or—does whatever he does," Lucius raged, spinning in a circle and glaring at Narcissa as if she were the one who had arranged the assignations between the war hero and their son. "But he shouldn't have brought him here—he wouldn't have brought him here, unless—" His nostrils quivered like those of a stag driven before the hounds. "Draco knows what that means," he finished weakly.
Narcissa inclined her head. Yes. Draco did know what that meant. She had taught him herself that the only lover he should formally bring to meet his parents was the one he intended to spend years with. She had assumed, as Lucius had, that that would mean his wife. And as long as the woman was well-connected enough, pure-blooded enough, and rich enough, then his parents could have forgiven the minor deception of Draco marrying without their strict consent.
Narcissa knew Draco was not devoted to men alone. She had seen him with numerous women, without his knowing about it; one of the diamonds in a ring he wore always, a present from her, was a scrying crystal that let Narcissa gaze upon him whenever she wished. She had watched him in bed because it was her duty as a mother to make sure he had no hidden depravity that might someday embarrass the family and no hidden deformity to make rumors sharp. And it was her religious duty to learn who the daughter-in-law was who would follow her into the Shadows, since she would have no daughter.
She had not watched him in the past few months. She had trusted, when his answers grew short and his expression absorbed, that he had some consuming passion who would be introduced to them in time, and she had wanted him to have a bit of privacy. Like Lucius, she had assumed that he was preparing to introduce them to his future wife.
She had been as blind as her husband, in her own way.
And now she had a new duty. She must learn exactly how much Draco loved Potter, so that she would know the best way to part them. Of course Draco must be set free, so that he could love someone more appropriate to the continuation of the Malfoy line, and so that Narcissa could have the chance of finally training someone to follow her.
"Lucius," she said.
Her voice caught her husband's attention as it had caught her son's. He turned to face her and raised his eyebrows expectantly. Narcissa had to wonder, sometimes, that he had never noticed the automatic way he deferred to her whenever an unexpected problem arose. Perhaps, going down to his grave, he would be troubled by vague doubts about whether he had actually made his own decisions.
"I have a plan," she said.
The shadows are writhing now, fingers darting out of them to inscribe silver-grey traceries on the air. Narcissa tips her head back and watches through narrowed eyes as the branches begin to coruscate above her. There are sparks falling from the end of the shadows, fat, wet flares that go out before they hit the floor.
Everything about the shadows is significant, when it happens in such a way.
She extends her hands and holds them steady, watching as the shadows creep closer and closer, darting hungry tongues in a variety of directions. The women beside her gasp and then continue their chanting, but Narcissa will always remember that they faltered. She would not falter, if she were an onlooker. How could she, when she does not falter as the one taking her place at the center of this ceremony?
The shadows meet and grasp her hands.
Narcissa's plan was to observe. Now that she knew what she was looking for, she was sure she could divine it: the seriousness of Draco's infatuation with Potter. He might have been led to defy his parents by mere passion, and in a few days he would awaken, curse himself for a fool, and abandon this scarred plaything of fate. If she saw signs of such an emotion in him, then she need do nothing. Matters would change soon enough, and since there was still no such thing as a permanent binding between two wizards in their nicely civilized society, there was no way for Draco to make an irrevocable mistake with Potter.
So she stepped out of the room into which she and Lucius had retreated, and made Potter welcome in a quiet voice that never called him by name, and then watched how they behaved together at the table.
Draco rolled his eyes in comic helplessness when Potter picked up the wrong fork, and then guided his hands carefully to the right cutlery, whispering and shaking his head. Potter grinned at him and shot back a few words that made Draco blush, when Potter should have been the one red and stammering. Narcissa hid what she thought behind a sparkling glass of elf-made wine.
Potter and Draco reached for the same dish at the same time—a round of candied fruit, an apple sliced apart and glazed with sugar and then reassembled to look like itself, but with a dusting of frost—and then quarreled quietly about who would serve it to the other one. In the end, Draco won, and Potter leaned his head back against his chair and ate the apple slices obediently from his plate, whilst Draco hovered beside him like a servant and watched in intense delight. Narcissa ate slices of candied lemon that had made even the skin delicious, and was unforgiving.
Potter addressed them once or twice, and each time Draco ate his own dinner without looking up, as if he could not quite bear to see what his parents would make of his paramour, chosen lover or not. But on the second time, Narcissa saw that Draco's arm was bent at an unusual angle. By tracing the line of his limb with her eyes, she made out that his hand must be resting on Potter's back. She chewed softly through a mouthful of boiled greens and left Lucius to respond on his own.
Draco caught Lucius's eye at one point, and began to talk in a hurried, jagged voice of some mutual acquaintances, including several young women that he must have known Lucius had intended him to choose among for a bride. But then his words slowed, and his head came up, and he confronted them as if they, and not he, were the ones who had done something wrong. Narcissa lowered her gaze, behind the plate of baked peacock delivered with a flourish by the house-elves, and saw Potter's hand just brushing his ribs, resting there casually.
The observations told her too much for her peace of mind, and not enough to make her decision. She would have to use the scrying crystal after all.
But first there were other duties to be attended to, she thought, half-regretful, when she felt Lucius's hand touch her knee under the table.
Lucius stopped speaking as Narcissa removed the diamond earrings that had shone in her ears throughout dinner. Narcissa laid them on the dresser, concealing her faint smile with the clink they made and her averted face. Strange that Lucius, when he prided himself on being honest with pure-bloods who uneasily courted the Malfoys' support after the war and the half-bloods who tried to fawn on them alike, could not speak the words.
"Yes?" Narcissa turned to face him, undoing the knot that bound the hair at the nape of her neck as she moved. Long cascades of glittering gold fell around her fingers, plaits and waves and curls unfolding into simple strands of hair. Narcissa stood there, clad in her hair and the undershift, studded with diamonds, that she wore beneath her robes, and felt her husband's gaze devour her.
It was very far from the way she ever felt in the cavern of the Shadows, with low chanting voices joining her own and the gazes of forces beyond humanity fastened on her, and yet she had the same sense of power.
"You know what I want," Lucius whispered.
Narcissa stepped towards him. He had already laid his wand on the table next to the bed and watched her now with hungry, half-defiant eyes. He knew his weakness here, the way he molded to her hand, and he hated it. But he kept on playing the game, and he would not play the one game that would free him from it, casting her aside or moving her at last into the separated bedroom that had belonged to his mother. Lucius had ordered the rooms prepared when he wed Narcissa, because he had thought they would have a relationship like the one his parents had, fragile and bright as tin.
But Narcissa had not wanted that, and therefore she had made sure it did not happen.
Lucius had failed to reckon that his wife might come with a will of her own.
"Yes, I do," she said, and cast the spell that made him fall half-limply on the bed, so that she might cast another spell to shift him closer to the headboard, so that he could pretend to struggle and almost get away, so that she had an excuse to loosen and enlarge the flaps of skin on his wrists and use those to bind him to the bars of the headboard. They were bronze, those bars, gleaming with a touch of gold, like the bars of a gilded cage.
Matters would have been easier if Lucius had simply said what he wanted, Narcissa thought, and put her wand aside.
She undressed with Lucius watching her; his eyes were easy to bear, because this vulnerability was nothing to that she exhibited when she stood waiting for an answer from the Shadows. She shook her hair about her until it tumbled almost to her ankles. A spell to lengthen that, too, and then shorten it again when she ventured out into public. She liked hair this long only at small moments of her life.
Lucius was already more than erect. Narcissa did not linger long, though she studied his cock thoughtfully and let her hair stir across his groin, rousing the tiny hairs and the goose-pimples on his flesh with its touch, because it pleased her to do so.
She settled gracefully above him on her heels, and then let herself rock slowly, first backwards, then forwards, until she had found the most satisfactory posture for allowing him inside her body. She had heard some women, including the ones who served with her in the cavern, speak of this as being impaled. Even if they played games with their husbands like the ones Narcissa played with Lucius, they could not feel dominant, because they put too much emphasis on the penetration.
It did not matter what position one took in the games, Narcissa thought. It mattered which emotion one felt whilst doing so.
And Lucius was the one who gazed up at her with helpless desire he was ashamed of feeling, and Narcissa was the one who looked down at him with a half-smile, secure in the hunger she felt, and began to move with perfect contentment.
Lucius's head fell back, and he groaned. His neck gleamed in a perfect arch, the throat bare and vulnerable. Narcissa knew she would never look the same even if she were in the same posture; she had her hair to shield her, and the small, silver, close-wrapping bands of the necklace she never took off, and which would have proclaimed her faith in the Shadows if anyone had cared to understand it.
Only women served the Shadows because only women had decided to ask secrets of metal and stone, and follow them underground, and then accept instead of run away from or attempt to master the shadows dancing on the water.
Lucius tried to bite her when he came. His teeth grasped no more than a fleeting strand of hair, the most he would ever have of her, Narcissa thought, as she rose high on her heels and brought a hand down to slide two fingers into her vulva, needing her own skill and power to bring herself pleasure, as she needed them for so many things in her life.
Narcissa stands still as the shadows surround her, feeling them press as a faint cool mist against her skin. Someone cries out. Narcissa does not know who it is, only that it is not her. Why would she be afraid? She has faith in the Shadows, and it is hard to harm someone who has that. She stands still, and hopes the woman who cried out can feel the contemptuous sting of her eyes.
The fog writhes deliciously up her sides and encircles her wrists, extending them in front of her. Narcissa arches a brow and complies with the tugging motion. For a moment, the feeling of cold string manacles holds her, but she breaks it with a flick of her fingers. She comes to the worship of the Shadows because it offers her a kind of rich strangeness and mental freedom that she cannot receive elsewhere. She will not accept imprisonment.
The shadows coil back on themselves as if displeased, and someone hisses a question, but Narcissa stands still again, and they return. This time, they slide up her chin and neck and rest against her ears like pearl tear-droplets, fringe her hair, and stroke her throat until she swallows against the tickling sensation. Heavy, wet, dripping, she is isolated in a world of fog, bound apart from her comrades and the cavern.
But still she is not afraid. She comes to kneel and to chant, to speak her prayers and offer her worship, because the Shadows have a power in them others do not realize. And one of those powers is a clear and faultless Divination, unlike the chancy art that goes by that name in Hogwarts school. That comes out only from the mouths of Seers, and only at ridiculous times, and who would ever know what it meant if no one was by to record it when it was spoken? The Seer herself could not remember its happening, as witness poor Trelawney.
But the Shadows speak the future without remorse or hesitation, always supposing that the supplicant asks without fear, and that she is a witch.
That is the reason that this form of foresight is not taught in the schools, of course. There are people who could not make room for the worship in their lives, and the men would object at not being able to learn it. Narcissa has heard some women grieve for being under the necessity of childbirth, and of course Muggle women always complain of not being equal to their men.
Narcissa has never understood this. If a woman is not equal to a man, she finds some way to become so. Having a stronger will than her husband's is her way.
This—this is something special, set apart from the rest of the world, not profaned by complaint.
She has been so successful because she accepts what the shadows show her, instead of challenging it. This is the one place where she does not need to gaze without expression at the results of someone else's action and figure out a way to change it. Lucius's mistakes with the Dark Lord, Draco's poor judgment when he cast curses at Millicent Bulstrode in his fifth year, the taint on the Malfoy name after the war—all those, she has met and mastered.
But not this. Not here. She trusts the Shadows enough to be vulnerable to them.
And now they are drawing back.
She lifts her head and looks.
Narcissa could see through the scrying crystal easily; she blessed Draco's longtime habit of taking off the ring and laying it casually beside his bed on the surface of a desk or a table. Of course, she had encouraged him in that habit with small words and pointed looks, but that was no reason to think he would still follow it in the future. Some of the formation of her son's character had to be left to chance.
"Come to bed."
Once she cast the spell to tune herself to the crystal, those were the first words Narcissa heard. She was not entirely surprised. They sounded like the kind of thing Potter would say, husky and gentle and full of yearning. That was the way that Narcissa would expect him to behave.
Now if only Draco has not yielded to that gentleness and made a fool of himself in turn.
"Impatient, aren't you?" Draco's voice asked, teasing. Teasing could mean many things, good or bad. Narcissa concentrated, trying to force the vision to coalesce; seeing through the crystal was rather like seeing through the multifaceted eye of an insect, and that had always taken her longer to master, as many times as she had used it, than bringing in the sounds of conversation had.
But she managed it at last, and the first thing she saw was a dazzling reflection of Draco standing in front of the mirror in his room, naked and casually admiring himself. That heartened her. It was a good thing that Draco didn't stammer and blush in front of his lover. Treating the sight of bare skin as if it should be full of awe or seem sacred was a symptom of the fever that Narcissa had hoped Draco would never suffer from.
"Yes, I am."
The vision swung away from the straight-ahead stare, controlled by Narcissa's will—she was moving her eye, essentially, to take advantage of the other equally clear diamonds set in the ring—and focused on the bed in the center of the room. It was a four-poster, of course, laden with cushions and silks and satins until to lie on it was to drown in comfort. Potter didn't deserve to lounge in the middle of it and ogle Draco like he was doing, but Narcissa didn't mind that he was unworthy at the moment, because it gave her a chance to study him more openly than she had dared to do at dinner.
He was naked, though blankets decorously buried his groin as yet. He had one hand, the right one, cupped around his cheek, and his right elbow propped up his head as his eyes feasted on Draco. His hair lay wildly disordered around his face, of course, baring the scar. Narcissa wished for a moment that it might crack open and take Potter's head with it, as the Dark Lord's long-delayed vengeance came home at last.
Should she have saved Potter in the Forest that day? It was the first time she had ever thought so—she did not often have cause to regret her actions—but now, yes, she wished he had died before he had intruded into their family and the continuation of their duties.
Draco turned around and smiled at Potter. Narcissa controlled the diamond nearest him to look at him just as he did.
And her worst fears were realized.
In that smile was all the softness and weakness that Draco had not showed by trying to cover his naked skin or preen more than was necessary when looking at Potter. It lit Draco's face and blurred the angles of the cheekbones and chin Draco had inherited from his father and which Narcissa had looked on with complacency when she realized how much Draco would resemble Lucius, because at least they were a sign of pride. It threw glittering light into his gray eyes that Narcissa had hoped she would never see there.
The light of passion, of infatuation, brighter than the white light that shone through the Shadows when she danced for them.
"It's been too long since we shared a bed together," Draco agreed softly, laying down the brush he'd been using to pick snarls out of his hair, "even though it was only this morning."
And then he went to the bed, and Potter opened his arms to him, and Narcissa had to witness their lovemaking.
She was still hoping that Draco had played a trick on Potter, on his family and the entire wizarding world, and was only dallying with Potter out of a fascination that could crumble at any moment. So she watched for the time when that would betray itself in his actions and words to one who had the gift of observation. The tale he had told them—of meeting Potter at a political party Draco had attended willingly and he'd been constrained to come to, of realizing that they were both adults now and surely they could indulge their attraction with one another if they felt it, of gathering up the courage to ask Potter on a date—was ridiculous. Too simple, too straightforward for one who bore the name of Malfoy. She would see the moment when Draco looked down into Potter's face and smiled contemptuously, the secret laughter lurking in the corners of his eyes, the haughty resignation to being embraced and kissed and smothered.
But Potter didn't react like that. And Draco didn't react like that, either.
They murmured together for long moments, then suddenly launched themselves at one another and began attacking. Narcissa would have blinked in astonishment if the diamonds could have. This was certainly not the way she had thought a hero of Potter's stature would make love to someone he desired. The details about his private life that had escaped into the Prophet said he was an infallibly tender and gentle lover, and even the girl Weasley, whom he'd parted with on account of "mutual incompatibility," had admitted that she never had anything to complain of with him.
But here they were, tumbling and sporting among the royal blue blankets, the silvery-white pillows, the green curtains. Flashes of limbs occluded her vision. Draco's pale skin, Potter's dark tan, Potter's wild hair, Draco's tamer. An arm curving over a back, a hand caught behind a knee and cleverly throwing it, a leg locking around a waist and then trembling with the effort of holding still. They moved like young horses or snakes, lithe and free and strong, and more than once Narcissa heard Draco laugh.
She could not remember the last time she had laughed in bed with Lucius.
At last Potter had Draco pinned to the pillows by his shoulders, and lay panting into his face, his own face red and unattractive with exertion. Draco grinned up at him and spread his hands wide in exaggerated surrender. "Here you have me," he said. "What are you going to do with me?"
Potter smiled, a faint thing that melted almost as soon as he gave it, and leaned down to press his lips to Draco's.
Narcissa experienced an odd sensation in the pit of her stomach when Draco arched his neck up and kissed back.
He was making almost the same gesture that Lucius had when she had taken him in the bedroom earlier, and since he looked so like his father, the comparison was natural. But Lucius had bared his throat in reluctant vulnerability, knowing that she would rejoice in the power she held over him. Draco seemed not to understand the weakness inherent in the gesture, though Narcissa knew he must; she had trained him better than that.
And when Potter kissed and bit at his neck, Draco groaned encouragement and reached up to tangle his fingers in Potter's hair.
Narcissa understood his motives then.
He trusted Potter.
She stared without moving, frozen rigid with shock, as Potter slid down Draco's body, lapping with his tongue and leaving wet trails everywhere that he then blew on to make Draco writhe. He sucked thoughtfully on Draco's hipbones and let his hand rest possessively over Draco's navel, not touching the one place Narcissa knew was most important to men. Draco spread his legs and hunched provocatively; Potter laughed and slid his hand away again.
"You promised that you wouldn't tease as much next time," Draco muttered, a hint of a whinge in his tone that froze Narcissa again. She had never heard Draco speak like that except in front of the house-elves, whom he knew were bound not to betray him, and once in front of her when he was quite a child and had not learned to act properly yet. The amount of trust he must have in Potter was greater than she had envisioned.
"Is it teasing when the promise is fulfilled?" Potter's voice grew rough and blunt with desire, taking on the lack of culture and eloquence that Narcissa had pictured for him from the beginning. "No. It isn't." He rocked back on his heels and concentrated for a moment. The diamonds rang as a current of magic shifted past them. Potter held up a hand, triumphantly exhibiting—as if he knew someone was watching—a glittering palmful of oil, and then he reached down and slid his hand into a place on her son Narcissa was glad the angle prevented her from seeing.
Draco only closed his eyes and took a deep, huffing breath, letting his legs fall further open.
Potter took his time. He was murmuring, but the words escaped Narcissa now, though she was wise enough to know that was partially because of her horror at the situation. Potter's hands moved in small, sideways swipes across the place that made Draco pant and whinge and toss his head back further and further, though with the pillow behind him he had nowhere new to go. All the while, Potter's gaze stayed on Draco's face. Narcissa could not name the emotions she saw there.
Or, at least, it had been years since she permitted herself to think of their separate names. If she had seen them on a face or heard them in a voice, she was forced to categorize them all under the same name of weakness.
Draco finally huffed a particularly deep breath, which Potter seemed to take as a signal of some kind. He made a swipe against himself, at least, and then murmured some words Draco replied to with an impatient growl. Potter smiled, conjured a pillow—also wandlessly—that he placed under Draco's arse, and then shifted back and braced his knees on either side of Draco's hips.
And Narcissa saw what she had not known could exist: surrender without weakness, yielding without giving up one's soul. Draco smiled and grunted as Potter entered him, and then wound his legs into place around Potter and didn't let go. Potter had already begun to rock, a smooth, practiced motion that hinted at how many times they had done this already. The fireplace in the hearth across the room threw deep golden shadows into his hips and the corners of his face, but left those condemnable green eyes in full light, so that Narcissa could see the way they quivered and softened as Potter stared at Draco.
He never looked away from him, never, not once, even when his body began to move faster in the throes of his own passion. His hand reached out and sought blindly for Draco's groin, and Draco groaned like a dying man and flung his arms up to rest around Potter's flanks, falling a little short of his shoulders. Potter sighed as if in compulsion, the sound drawn out of him and blending with rather than destroying the worshipful silence.
And that was what it reminded Narcissa of: her own worship when she was in the Shadows, the embrace of ecstasy that drew her out of herself and made her larger than she was. She had stood in such awed silence before the burning basin. She had watched the future form out of the air for others, and for herself, with the same rapt attention Potter was using to watch Draco's face now.
Draco tilted his head back and took deep, panting breaths.
Narcissa had mourned in silence for years because she did not have a daughter of her own whom she could introduce to the Shadows and have follow her. She had mourned that Draco would be denied knowledge of a faith that would have given him the strength and balance he had needed during some phases of his life, such as the war.
Draco's chest heaved like a bellows. Twice he trembled, and once he roared. Under the diminishing echoes of that sound, Narcissa heard the faint splash as he came, and saw the muscles of Potter's back clench and tremble, as if he were witnessing a miracle.
She had watched her son with wistful eyes, and Draco had never noticed. He had never known what Narcissa denied to him, because the faith of the Shadows had always been small and secret. But he had been sure that his mother had done everything she could to protect and save him. Would he still have felt that way, if he had known all the secrets she was hiding?
Potter let himself go then, and followed Draco into the rush of bliss. Draco's eyes were open now, regarding Potter with tranquil satisfaction, and his hands stroked up and down over his lover's hips.
Draco had found something that gave him the peace Narcissa would have wished to give him, were it possible for her to safeguard his soul as well as his body.
Potter drooped over Draco's chest and kissed him deeply. Draco lifted his head to meet the kiss, face so triumphant that Narcissa knew he had found a source of strength, not weakness. He would appreciate all the advantages of being Harry Potter's lover and wield them and exploit them at the same time as he was giving of himself to Potter, enjoying a relationship in true lovers' fashion. He was, in one way, luckier than Narcissa herself had been.
Would he forgive her for destroying that?
Narcissa withdrew her awareness from the diamond, aware that the final look on Draco's face was both infinitely smug and infinitely happy—and not at all powerless.
So she stood in the middle of the small room at the side of the house, up in a tower that was concealed by wards from the ground below, and watched the moon through a window. The moon was not the center of her own worship as she knew it had been for some witches in the past, but it was still a source of light, which meant it could cast shadows.
She watched the shadows playing across grass and stone below, water and strutting white peacocks, and wondered.
She had two duties that said she should endeavor to separate Draco from Potter, and one that said she should not. The two duties were old, familiar, powerful. One was the voice of the Malfoy family. Since one of her sisters had died mad and childless and the other had given birth to only one tainted daughter—whose own son was further tainted—Narcissa's care for the Black line had necessarily diminished. The Black line would live on in Draco and his children, or not at all. And now there was an excellent chance that Draco would never have children.
The second was the voice of her religious duty. She might have had to content herself with initiating her daughter-in-law instead of her daughter to the worship of the Shadows, but some women had found very worthy heirs that way. And there was the opportunity for a granddaughter to carry on the tradition, if Draco sired one. Draco might have many children, if he left Potter and married.
The lone voice left was the voice that had spoken in her since Draco was laid in her arms, and which saw him not as a chance for continuation or daughters, but as himself—her son, her only child, her beloved.
Narcissa closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Outside the window, the moon shone on, steady and unconcerned with her.
Why else had she fought so hard to protect Draco from the Dark Lord and the threats that hunted him, if not because she loved him? Yes, she should also have fought to protect her line's and her religion's future, but a more restrained guardianship, involving less of sacrifice, would have sufficed. In fact, it was recommended, because too much passion might cause enemies to suspect that the matriarch of the line was frantic for unusual reasons, and that might lead to the discovery of the Shadows by men.
But she had gone raging to Severus Snape's house and secured the Unbreakable Vow when she could have done something more considered and less dangerous. She had trusted to Bellatrix as their Bonder when it was madness to trust her sister with anything. She had stayed by Lucius's side and Draco's when they were both in the Manor, when remaining at a distance from them both might have served as well to defend them; what was her power against the Dark Lord's?
She had acted as a mother to safeguard her son's life, and now the temptation was there, to act with the same strength and decisiveness to safeguard his happiness.
His happiness, his future. Her hands moved in a weaving pattern, though she was not in front of the Shadows and with the other women to make them mean more than wandering. Or the happiness and future of others.
And then Narcissa hesitated, and opened her eyes, remembering the words of her mother, who had initiated her into the worship of the Shadows.
"Take what you can from the Shadows." Druella Black's face, cast in the high-cheeked and stubborn-jawed mold of the Rosiers, had never been handsome, but Narcissa still remembered the strength with which she had looked down on her kneeling youngest daughter. Her hands held gray roses, withered laurel, and dusty thorns, all the instruments used to crown a new initiate in the moments before she was led in to the first of the mysteries. "Power, peace, foretelling. Those things they offer without stint. But the main fault of those who serve them has ever been asking more than they can give. Joy, some people demand. Security, safety, protection from enemies, others ask. And those things, the Shadows cannot give. We are secret. What has that to do with open exultation, or high-built walls of defense?"
And Narcissa believed those words now as she had believed them years hence.
She would secure continuation by acting against Draco's bond with Potter. She would secure continuation and happiness by supporting it.
Narcissa leaned one shoulder against the stone and nodded slowly. She could bear it. Precisely because the Black line had blended into the Malfoy one, she did not feel as strongly about the prospects of its continuation as she would have if Draco had borne her birth surname. And there were other women in the Shadows who had been disappointed in the hopes that one of their blood would follow them into the faith, sometimes because of an unworthy daughter.
What did they do?
Narcissa felt a small smile creep across her face.
Why, they asked the Shadows.
Narcissa steps backwards, and the vision appears in front of her, a face floating in a sea of crystal light, as the white heart of the Shadows strikes briefly through them to give her clarity.
A young face, a pale one, with blonde hair like her own and shattering green eyes like those of her son's consort. A quivering lip that firms as Narcissa watches, and wonder creeps over her face. She will look like this in the moment she is introduced to the Shadows, Narcissa knows.
Yes, she recognizes the face. This is Astoria Greengrass, younger by two years than her son. A pure-blooded witch, quiet but sometimes resentful, as her mother has delicately hinted, of the way that things had stagnated for her family after the war. Fairly powerful in magic, too.
In other circumstances, in another life, Draco might have married her. As matters stand, Narcissa will be glad to accept her as her own successor.
It is enough. The continuation of the worship need not be based on blood, and no one will murmur against Narcissa's choice when the Shadows themselves have proclaimed it. Indeed, the others fall back from her like oiled silk as Narcissa whirls in the middle, dancing in celebration and thanks of the vision the Shadows have given her, her hands raised.
The Shadows dance about her in answer, and then break apart, whirling, arching, for a moment floating above her like the arched ribs of some vast church, or a whale's skeleton. Narcissa dances still, looking up at them, unafraid. She has never been afraid that she can remember when she is in this cavern, and even outside it, it is a rare emotion for her. More common is the shock that froze her when she realized that Draco had found his match and his happiness in such an unlikely person.
Now she feels nothing like that, and she lets down her hair as she does when she mates with Lucius, so that the light and the shadows, turning back to flying drops of water again, can dart freely through it.
The chanting becomes a washing song, playing around the walls of the chamber in endless transience, endless mutability. Narcissa smiles and lets the steps of her dance become more uncontrolled and wild, her arms lifting and falling in a defiant lack of patterns. This is one of the reasons the faith of the Shadows has survived so long, where other, similar faiths, known to a small section of the wizarding population, have crumbled and torn under the pressure of time. They are united to a single, true precept—that only women can serve the Shadows—and around everything else, the rituals and the meeting places and their sense of the divine, they ebb and flow and change. They cannot be harmed or killed any more than one can harm or kill a shadow, because they cannot be stricken through the heart. The heart of their faith beats in every initiate, and it would need only one of them to make the faith whole again, if all the others were dead.
Narcissa leaves the cavern with something like that wild exuberance still beating in her heart, and she remembers it when she meets her son not far from the entrance to Malfoy Manor. He has evidently been looking for her, but he learned when he was a child to expect that sometimes, he would simply not be able to find her. Now he smiles hesitantly and steps forwards to take her hand.
"Mother?" This is the son she raised, Narcissa sees, looking on him now, seeing the cool mask he inherited from Lucius on the surface. Underneath is the quicksilver strength he received from her, shifting, changeable, beautiful beyond endurance—and not weak, no matter what a man like Lucius or a woman like her old self may think.
Draco retains the strength not to ask the question aloud, but anyone may read it, yearning in his features.
Narcissa touches his cheek. "I approve," she says quietly. "I cannot be overwhelmed with joy that you have chosen him, and a man, but I approve that you have found your happiness in him, and I understand that I may not need to understand."
Draco embraces her, then, fiercely and without prompting. It is the first such embrace Narcissa can remember in more than ten years. She links her arms around him and closes her eyes, and feels his heart beat against her own for a moment before he sprints away, face shining as he runs up the stairs.
"I have to tell Harry!" he yells over his shoulder in explanation as he runs.
Narcissa touches her chest for a moment, retaining the warmth, enfolding the delight of her son's reaction in the secret place where she keeps her faith. She drops her hand then, and turns towards the bedrooms at the back of the house.
Lucius will not be pleased. But Narcissa knows well how to master him.
She knows well how to find her own peace. Can she not rejoice, quietly, that Draco has found his?