A/N:

Love, as always, to Visitkarte, and yourselves, my darlings.

This fic has an even stranger genesis than the others. I read the quote from DH about Harry's visions of Draco and how Harry was "..sickened by what use... Draco was being put." Then I was guided to the Zombies song 'The Butcher's Tale'. Finally, while listening to 'Glitter and be Gay' from Candide, the three came together in my mind. I heartily recommend listening to the last two, as they're both very cool, especially Kristen Chenowith as Cunegonde.

WARNING: This is without a doubt the strongest content I've ever written into TAV, especially considering there is an implication of violence against children. Please know what you're getting into.

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Narcissa Malfoy sits erect at her vanity, jewelry boxes spread carefully over the dense, shining teak. Her fingers ghost absently over the boxes, the velvet pads that hold parures of sapphire and emerald. She stares morosely at nothing, only half seeing her reflection which, as she'd moved into middle age, was still quite beautiful. She thinks about this without much vanity and almost no pleasure; it simply is. Birds fly, the sun rises and Narcissa Black Malfoy is beautiful.

She hates the dreary half mourning she has to wear. She and Trixie had bourne one another love of a sort that owes more to routine than real sentiment, but very little liking. Narcissa thinks it stupid that she was expected to wear horrible black robes that deaden her complexion and turn the silver gilt of her hair a tired gray for a woman who'd spent the last twenty years criticizing her and the two before that terrorizing them all.

That is a secret. She has a lot of secrets, Narcissa. Some are small things, like the secret pleasure she'd gotten when she found the McGonagall woman's body after the battle; she'd pretended delicate horror because it was expected but she'd never liked the withered old stick and consequently hadn't been bothered a wit by her fate.

Others are much more…worrisome. Her creamy forehead wrinkles and an immaculate, pink tipped hand reaches up and smoothes the lines automatically. She never dwells on those secrets, at least not consciously.

Her hand finds the lip of a satin covered box and flips it open. Her eyes roves the contents almost mechanically, and then picks up a small silver and ruby broach. Tries it on, rejects it. Too light, she needs something with gravitas tonight. She closes the box and opens the periwinkle brocade instead, probes.

For instance, Narcissa never dwells on how much she loathes the Dark Lord. Deeply, as deeply as her mad sister had loved him. Her hatred is a foil, the mirror opposite of her love for Draco. A tiny smile, no more than a flicker of her lips. Her son, her baby. Her hand tightens so much the band of her ring, the roughcut diamond solitaire that had been her engagement gift from Lucius, cuts into her soft hands. A tiny red line slowly appears on the joint where finger met palm. She doesnn't notice.

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The door is closed. Nacissa knocks gently and, getting no answer, steps inside. Draco has shed his mask and ring but nothing else. He is sitting on the bed, muddy shoes dripping on the carpet. His face is so blank that for a single awful second she believes he's been killed. Then he speaks.

"Mother."

"Hullo, darling. How are you?"

He blinks slowly and says nothing. She comes to sit beside him and gently takes his cold, dirty hand in her warm, clean one. He has the Malfoy bone structure but Black hands, like hers; long and tapered, graceful and small. Nothing like Lucius', big and startling and somehow as brutally elegant as he himself. There is a dried maroon substance under the nails.

"Are you quite well, Draco?"

"No, Mother. I don't think I'll ever be well again."

His tone is neutral. No reproach, no anger, which she could have borne. No grief or fear, which she could not have.

"Draco, your father…Lucius …regrets these awful…incidents ever happened."

"Yes, Mother."

She swallows. " I also regret…'

He puts his hand on her arm. "Please don't. I can't bear…"

A pain lodges in her heart and twists slowly. Tears prick her eyes and she fights them down.

"All right then, darling, I shall let you get some--"

"No! Mother, stay!" There's raw panic in his voice, but she would have stayed even if he had used that flat, inflectionless tone. She sits back down and cautiously puts her arms around his shoulders. He's shaking.

"Can't stop shaking. My hands are shaking, and my legs. I tried to drink some water but it sloshed all over me."

"Shall I call Lemmy and have it fetch you a potion?"

"Wouldn't help."

"Of course it will, precious.' She smoothes his hair and notices how dirty it is. ' Some Dreamless Sleep and then a good nap will--"

"Mother, please. I tried to sleep, but when I close my eyes I see--" He gulps. Raises a trembling hand to try to stay his tears and finds he can't make his fingers work.

"They made me…she was only a little girl…I had to…crying…blood everywhere."

"Shhhhh. It's over now."

He shook his head frantically, desperate to make her understand. "Not in my head. Every time I close my eyes, I see them doing…things…to her. Uncle Rudolphus…Dolohov…

Rabastan…even Wormtail." Narcissa puts her other arm around her son and holds him. After a second he hugs her back and cuddles close, reassured by the scent of her perfume, the utter safety and comfort of Mother. She rocks a little bit, recoiling from what her son has seen tonight. If it involved Rudolphus and his friends, she has a good idea of what went on and it sickens her. Narcissa has no love for muggles, Merlin knows, but a child…she tries not to gag, knowing she'll sick up later and glad of it.

"And then…the man…they made me… he begged me for death. Begged me. They wouldn't…I had to keep casting Crucio over and over. I tried to stop and Aunt Bellatrix made him…' he can't say anymore ' Uncle Rudolphus laughed. Stood there and laughed as she, she touched him…and then she slapped me. She called me a…' he can't use that word in front of her. Mother must not be stained, as he is stained, by the night's horrors. ' She called me a bad name, Mother."

Unconciously, he is reverting to the language of his childhood, where Father could do anything and Mother stood between him and all the bad things in the world. His tears roll sluggishly down his cheeks, as traumatized as he is by the night and it's works.

"There there, my darling, Mother is here." She rakes his fringe off his forehead and feels him finally, slowly, starting to relax. This is the last time she will ever hold him as a child; when he emerges in the morning, he will have aged ten years in emotional terms. She knows instinctively that he's being changed in a new and terrible way and feels deep in her heart that she can't stop it. The time to stop it was years ago—now all she can do is cradle him, midwife to this great abominable birth, and hope he survives the night spirit intact.

" Will you take that potion now?"

He nods. "Yes, Mother."

She bends and unlaces his shoes. Taking up her wand, she transfigures his clothes for him and lightly pushes him back.

He swallows as fast as possible, eager to escape into the soothing darkness, where nothing writhes memory tipped claws at the vulnerable places in his mind. Mother holds his hand the whole time, and covers him when at last he sleeps.

"I love you, Draco."

She goes to her room and is sick. The next morning her husband present her with a beautiful ring, the origins of which he does not reveal, only that dear Rabastan wants her to have it, as a late birthday gift from himself and his brother and Bellatrix.. The ring is an aquamarine set in rose gold, obviously old, probably valuable. Had he given it her twelve hours earlier, she would have been delighted and taken the first opportunity to show it off. A strange alchemical change has occurred overnight, it would seem; lovely as it is, the stone has no shine and, she thinks, the whole thing smells faintly of …something. She prefers not to guess at what that something might be.

Amazing, isn't it, how things lose their luster?

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A lady always remains gracious and pleasant, no matter what. She threw back her head and lifted her shoulders, knowing that Lucius would be up soon. Her hand found another box, this one some exotic wood inlaid with pearls. She opens it and digs about, willing her face into a mask.

She can't find anything that suits. If she mentions this fact to her husband, he'll urge her to go and buy something, anything she likes. For that matter, he'll tell her to take Hermione and make a day of it.

Bile rises fleetingly in her throat as the image of long rows of gleaming gems juxtaposes itself in her mind with the smell on her son's clothes that night, the ring and Draco's haunted voice. She stands abruptly and the box falls, contents pouring onto the rug in a clinking stream.

"Elf" her voice is shaking slightly. Minky, bought to replace Tibby after she died, appears at once. "Yes, mistress?"

"Clean it up, idiot. And fetch me a fresh cut rose from my garden."

When the elf returns, he's clutching a rose in his hands. She takes it and breathes, glad of the sweetness that takes away the residual shades of reverie. She's sure the Dark Lord knows of the hatred she bears in her heart, the same way she's sure he'll never do the slightest thing about it. It amuses him too much. Even Potter, lost in his miserable marriage and the comforts of the bottle, does not hate him with such resolve.

Inspiration strikes her as the clock chimes the quarter hour and her husband's footstep sounds on the stair. Taking up a plain gold pin, she fixes the rose to her collar. No jewels tonight, nothing that gleams like hardened tears. Lucius knocks and enters, pleased by what he sees. His wife looks austerely stunning, a funeral vision, and the live flower is a dazzling touch, more elegant than the most elegant of diamonds could eve be.

"Narcissa, my dear, you are exquisite."

"Thank you, my love." She embraces him unexpectedly and he savors the smell of her hair, her perfume and the rose all at once.

"Is something wrong?"

His wife steps back and smiles winningly. "No, nothing. Why do you ask?"

"No reason. Come, the portkey leaving soon."

She sweeps from the room without a backward glance, leaving behind her only the sweet smell of roses and a pile of gems, gleaming mellowly in the soft darkness.