Prissy Cissy and the Wedding Dress from Hell
August 16, 1976.
"Everything looks so beautiful, Narcissa," Aunt Walburga cooed appreciatively, entering Narcissa's dressing room without knocking.
Narcissa didn't turn around. She was seated in front of a floor-length mirror, staring at her reflection. As usual, it was flawless. Her delicate skin, her exquisite bone structure, her pale eyes with their long lashes, her long blonde hair and her marvelous figure. At the moment, she wore a white dressing gown, that long hair flowing past her waist but stopping several inches short of the floor.
"Although I suppose I should be congratulating Druella on the excellent arrangements," Aunt Walburga continued, dismissing Narcissa as a beautiful nitwit as most women did, and turning to her sister-in-law. Druella Black sat perched on a stool beside her daughter's white wedding dress. It hung in pride of place in the center of the room, full skirt fanning out in an arc and strapless bodice stiffly held upright.
Druella's spine was at least as stiff as the dress. "Thank you, Walburga," she said coldly, neglecting to mention her youngest daughter's considerable efforts. The wedding was to be held on the grounds of Black Manor in approximately three hours. Narcissa had chosen the date, picked the flowers, spoken to the Wizarding minister, shopped with her bridesmaids, sent the appropriate invitations, and generally set the whole thing in motion.
"Your own toilette leaves nothing to be desired," Druella continued civilly. She was never at ease with her husband's family, and today of all days, the manor was filled with them.
Bellatrix, who stood by the window, now sighed long-sufferingly, bored with platitudes already. Narcissa supposed she couldn't blame her eldest sister for this—it had been a long couple of weeks—but she knew Bella's limited patience had run out, and now she would make a scene, unless something was done to avert this latest crisis.
Narcissa turned away from the mirror at long last and surveyed the room. It contained her mother, her sister and matron of honor, Bellatrix, her bridesmaids, Liv Selwyn and Betts Burke, her aunt Walburga, her great-aunt Cassiopeia, her great-aunt-by-marriage Melania, her soon-to-be mother-in-law Kali Malfoy, her third-cousin-once-removed Channary Longbottom, her soon-to-be-sister-in-law Seraphina Malfoy, and her wedding dress.
Her mother was being civil to her aunt Walburga (a feat which required a great deal of practice and patience, she well knew); Liv, Betts, Chan, and Seraphina were gossiping about who was engaged to whom; Cassiopeia and Melania were attempting to impress upon Mrs. Malfoy what a signal honor it was for her son to be marrying a Black; the wedding dress was dominating the entire room with its presence and impressive skirt; and Bellatrix was impatiently tapping one foot, sighing, rolling her eyes, and generally letting everyone know that she couldn't take much more of this feminine drivel.
"Thank you all so much for being with me on this important day," said Narcissa clearly, above the chatter of her relatives, friends and in-laws. "It means so much to me that you were able to come and support me, and I hope you'll all have a fabulous time." She paused, to observe the effects of these words. Had she been effusive enough? One could never tell with Aunt Walburga, and Narcissa really didn't feel like curtseying to, or making a big fuss over, her aunt on her own wedding day.
Everyone seemed appreciative enough. Narcissa loved being the center of attention, and she was finally mature enough to admit it. What was more, weddings were supposed to be about the bride, weren't they? She'd always heard that, although now, having lived through weeks of planning and discussion with her mother and occasionally an impatient Bella, she rather thought it might really be about the bride's mother. Or it would have been, if she hadn't taken matters into her own hands. Honestly, this planning-a-wedding thing was a nightmare.
"And now," Narcissa informed her audience, tone well-modulated to suggest becoming modesty and quiet assertiveness, "I need a moment alone with my sister."
No one asked which sister she referred to, and Narcissa could only be grateful. Liv, Betts, Chan, and Seraphina filed out at once, honoring her wishes (although Chan made a face at her on her way out). Aunt Walburga sniffed, looked like she might object, caught Bella's eye, and thought better of it. Aunts Cassiopeia and Melania swept out like queens of old, followed by a stern Mrs. Malfoy. Lastly, Druella kissed Narcissa's forehead, and cast an admonishing glance at Bella.
"You girls don't dawdle," she said firmly. "Narcissa doesn't have that long, and she'll be needing to get dressed." All eyes turned to the wedding dress, dominating the center of the room. Narcissa shivered a little at the prospect of actually wearing the thing.
"Of course, Mother," she said. Bella waited by the window.
At last, they were alone. "How do you stand them?" Bella asked, in a voice of suppressed violence.
Narcissa shrugged. "They're not that bad."
"Right," Bella said, glaring. "Not if you're Miss-Perfect-Pureblood-Princess!"
"You sound like you're jealous," Narcissa said mildly. "But that's impossible, because you could never be jealous of me."
"Whatever," Bella said impatiently. She crossed over to the dress. "Put this on, Prissy Cissy." Narcissa made a face at the childhood nickname. She'd tried explaining to Bella that they were really too old for that sort of thing, but Bella insisted sisters had silly nicknames for each other, so they would have silly nicknames. In an effort to compensate for their third and middle sister's absence (not to mention Bella's secret life as a dangerous vigilante fighting for the survival of the Wizarding race), Bella was on a new 'Let's-be-normal' kick.
Narcissa did admit to herself that she was missing Andromeda more than ever, now that she was about to get married. If Andromeda were here, Bellatrix wouldn't be nearly so annoyed at every little thing, and Mother and Aunt Walburga would have someone else to complain about. Not that they often complained about Narcissa ordinarily, but weddings bring out strong feelings in everyone, and without Andromeda to complain about (or Sirius, who had recently left his ancestral home in favor of the blood-traitor Potter's), Narcissa was almost the only choice. No one was going to complain about Bellatrix (who was wickedly good with a wand, generally not too respectful of things like family hierarchies, and came with a devoted, smooth-tongued husband who could get anyone into financial and political trouble with just a word to his large staff of journalists) and Regulus was now the family's only hope for the continuation of the name, the direct male line, and the honor the Blacks deserved. Which left Narcissa.
Of course, Andromeda had never liked Lucius, which would have been a bit of a drawback. Narcissa was in no mood to hear her beloved criticized, even by her elder sisters, and it was no secret that Andromeda and Lucius had been betrothed at birth, practically, and hated each other every since. That could have made things awkward. In fact, Narcissa wasn't sure she could've brought herself to steal Lucius from Andromeda if Andromeda hadn't made it abundantly clear that, not only was she incomprehensibly not interested in Lucius, but that she had a yen for pathetically cheerful little Mudblood Hufflepuffs. So one good thing had come out of Andromeda's inexplicable blood-traitor tendencies. Of course, everything would have been much simpler if the whole thing between Andromeda and the Hufflepuff Mudblood had been a phase, like Narcissa thought at first. Instead, the day after her Hogwarts graduation, Andromeda had informed the family she was marrying the low-blood loser, and left.
Bellatrix and Narcissa hadn't said Andromeda's name once since.
Narcissa made it into the dress, which had a very tight bodice that pinched her ribs, and a very full skirt that made her look like a tea-cake, and then she started fussing with her hair. It took at least an hour and the combined efforts of both sisters to get it right (all Narcissa could think was that she was going to be the perfect pureblood bride for Lucius if she had to kill all her guests to do it), but at last, they got it. Long, pale blonde hair bound and twisted into submission at the back of Narcissa's head, above the nape of her neck. The hair supported the wedding veil, which was long, white, and translucent, and one lone blonde curl was allowed to fall down Narcissa's white neck and past the top of the bodice.
Narcissa pirouetted once, and then surveyed her reflection again, trying to observe the whole picture. She frowned.
"Close…" she murmured.
Bellatrix grabbed her shoulders and twisted her around. "I can make you look more than beautiful," she whispered intently. Narcissa closed her eyes.
Some time later, Bella announced, "Done!" in a triumphant voice. She turned Narcissa to face the mirror again. "Told you I could make you look sexy," she whispered in Narcissa's delicate, perfectly formed ear.
Narcissa gave her reflection another critical review. Her eyelashes looked darker, and they curled upward adorably. They made her eyes look smoldering instead of remote. Her elegant cheekbones now flushed the faintest pink, and her skin gave off a healthy glow. The biggest change, though, was her mouth. Her lips were now bright red.
Narcissa pouted at her sister's reflection. "Too much?" she asked.
Bellatrix leaned on her shoulder. Beside Narcissa's bridal white, Bellatrix's black robes and hair looked especially grim. They could have posed for Witch Weekly's Fashion Opposites section. Only the two sets of vivid red lips were the same.
"It's perfect." Narcissa wasn't sure if she heard Bella's voice echo in her ears or her mind, but she was grateful for the reassurance.
How long they stood like that, each thinking her own thoughts, yet closer spiritually than they'd ever been in either's memory, Narcissa never knew.
"Ahem, I hope I'm not interrupting something incestuous and really gross," drawled Sirius from behind them. Narcissa, whose eyes were closed, hadn't seen or heard him enter.
Bellatrix whirled around, glaring. "What are you doing here, blood traitor?" she demanded, raising her wand.
"I came for the wedding. My invitation must've gotten lost in the owl post," Sirius said snidely.
"After what you did to your poor parents, you dare—" began Bellatrix. She looked like she was debating whether to go on haranguing her cousin or if she should start hexing and cursing him in earnest.
"Yes, I dare," said Sirius stridently, pulling out his own wand and glaring right back at Bellatrix. Although he was nine years younger than she, at sixteen he was already taller. Which was saying something, since Bella towered over most women, including Narcissa. "I'm not afraid of you, you b—"
"Stop!" shrieked Narcissa. Surprised, the combatants paused, Sirius on the verge of calling Bellatrix something awful, and Bellatrix on the point of hexing him for it. Narcissa wanted to laugh at how alike they looked in that moment.
In a gentler voice, she continued, to Bellatrix, "I'm twenty-one years old, Bella, I can take care of this myself." She crossed briskly to the clothes rack and pulled Bella's matron of honor dress off, saw that the gloves were missing, and summoned them across from the prop table, along with Bella's bouquet of pink roses. "Now go," she told her sister firmly, "you look like a vulture."
Bellatrix didn't bother looking down at her outfit to check Narcissa's assertion. Bellatrix always wore black. Still, she glared at the implied insult reflexively, glanced disapprovingly at Sirius, and protested, "I don't want to leave you all alone, my darling sister." She made 'darling' sound cruel, and Sirius flinched at 'all alone.'
"I'll be fine," Narcissa insisted. She thrust the matron of honor outfit, dress, gloves, bouquet and all, into her sister's unwilling arms. "Just go."
Bellatrix took the bundle of fabric and flowers enchanted to bloom, gave Sirius one last glare, and swept out, quite as majestically as Aunts Cassiopeia and Melania.
"That dress is the color of dried blood," was Sirius's first, disapproving comment once he and Narcissa were left alone.
"No, it isn't," Narcissa said automatically. The dress was a rich, faded burgundy in color. "Dried blood is brown."
Sirius looked at her in shocked horror. "How do you—?" he started to say, in a voice completely unlike his own.
Narcissa rolled her eyes. Did Sirius really think the only way she could know what dried blood looked like was if she deliberately hurt people and then waited around until their blood dried, just because she had nothing better to do? The idea was ridiculous on some many counts. Of course, he was only sixteen. In that moment, Narcissa felt much older than her cousin—far more than the five years that separated them. For all his loud talk about how the family was crazy and evil, and Bellatrix was a criminal, and pureblood ideals were passé, etcetera, he was really just a kid. Aunt Walburga ought to just wait him out. Given time, he'd probably return to the fold, as long as the family refrained from going out of their way to anger him further.
Narcissa sighed. "Sirius," she said clearly. "We don't have much time."
"Andromeda says good luck," Sirius said abruptly. Narcissa's spine stiffened. "Her little girl's almost three now, you know."
"I…I see," Narcissa said, voice remote, and cold as a mountain stream.
"Don't you care?" Sirius demanded angrily. "She's your sister, Cissy—I'd have thought you, of all people—"
"Shut up, little cousin," Narcissa said harshly, reminding herself of Bellatrix. She hated that. She took a deep breath, and put her arms around Sirius's shoulders. Their eyes met. His were dark, like Bella's, or Andromeda's, or Father's, or Aunt Walburga's, or Uncle Orion's, or most of the family's, to tell the truth.
"I'm never going to see you again, am I?" Sirius whispered, sounding younger than his sixteen years.
Narcissa didn't answer. She pulled Sirius closer, into a hug. It was brief, but heartfelt. She pulled away slightly and kissed him once on each cheek. Then she stared at his face, so familiar because it was like looking into a distorted mirror—her own face, if her coloring were darker, if she were younger and male—all the Blacks looked the same, in the end. Her eyes devoured the familiar features.
"So this is good-bye, huh?" Sirius asked. "You won't reconsider? Run away with me, right now—I can take you to 'Dromeda, she'll be so glad to see you—we can start over, make a new family—"
Narcissa smoothed a lock of hair away from his brow. "You tempt me," she told him, knowing how much the offer had cost his pride, "but no. This is where I belong, little one."
"Fine," Sirius said crossly, jerking himself away from her. "Be that way. You and Malfoy and all the other pureblood fanatics—I hope you're happy, joining You-Know-Who."
Narcissa closed her eyes for a moment, gathering strength. She had no intention of becoming some sort of fearless vigilante like Bellatrix, and, although she knew Lucius was also involved in the Dark Lord's schemes, she preferred not to get involved in politics.
"You should go," she told Sirius.
He gave her one last glare, full of reproach, anger, and hurt, and then his expression smoothed into his habitual bored mask and he swept out, as regally as any Black, for all he was pretending to be a Potter now.
Narcissa, shaken, returned to the mirror. Somehow her own reflection always calmed her spirit. She drew on her long white gloves, up past her elbow. The gloves motif was a nod to Bellatrix's allegiances. Narcissa rather suspected Seraphina Malfoy at least, of her bridesmaids, of also being elbow-deep in the Dark Lord's plans.
Narcissa also, rather distractedly, put on jewelry—the silver necklace Lucius had given her as a betrothal present four years ago (it was surprising how much more freedom just the understanding between herself and Lucius had given her among the elders of her family), the sapphire earrings and tiara that were heirlooms handed down from her Great-Great Grandmother Ursula, and the anklet of tiny silver skulls Bellatrix had lent her, claiming Lucius would think it was sexy…She pinned a white narcissus flower to her well-coiffed hair, for once not to improve the look or pay homage to some revered bit of Black heritage—just for herself.
"Is the blood traitor gone?" Bellatrix asked sourly, coming up to stand behind Narcissa. She looked very striking in the burgundy matron of honor gown. The pink roses hung from one clawed hand. She was scowling.
"Yes," Narcissa sighed, not even considering discussing the problem of Sirius calmly and rationally with her sister. It was impossible to discuss anything calmly and rationally with Bellatrix. "He's gone."
Bellatrix put her arms around Narcissa's waist and leaned her sharp chin on Narcissa's bare shoulder. Narcissa fought not to flinch. In the mirror, they still looked like polar opposites. Narcissa studied Bellatrix's blatant sexuality dispassionately, and decided she was grateful for the bold red lipstick.
"Are you ready, girls?" Druella asked, coming in on her husband's arm. Cygnus looked distinguished and handsome, as always, but his expression was cold and remote. This was also typical.
"Of course, Mother," Narcissa said bleakly. How she longed to be out of this endless loop of pain and suffering that was her family! The extremely good looks were also part and parcel of being a Black, but those she would keep, and hopefully pass on to many children. Four, or five, perhaps.
"You look beautiful, daughter," Cygnus intoned solemnly. Narcissa didn't need the compliment, but she smiled, blushed and thanked anyway. If only her father could remember her name, it would have been nearly perfect.
"See you out there, Prissy Cissy," Bellatrix said, pretending this was a day like any other. Cygnus frowned at the nickname.
"Kindly refrain from referring to your sister as prissy in front of Abraxas Malfoy," he said sardonically. Of course—old Mr. Malfoy, the irritating man, wanted grandsons. Narcissa knew that perfectly well, and couldn't blame him, although if he'd had his way, she and Lucius would've been married three years ago, the day after she graduated Hogwarts.
Bellatrix flounced off to join Narcissa's bridesmaids, and Druella kissed her daughter on both cheeks and left to sit across the aisle from Kali Malfoy. Cygnus Black offered his daughter his arm, and Narcissa prepared to step into her future.
Weddings were surprisingly boring, Narcissa decided several minutes into the Wizarding minister's speech. The one plus side was that she was conveniently placed to stare romantically into Lucius's gorgeous grey eyes.
He really was marvelous, Lucius Malfoy. Smart, cunning, sexy, surprisingly, unexpectedly sweet…he also, which no one, looking at him, would ever suspect, had a brilliantly mathematical mind. He'd excelled at Arithmancy.
Also, which fact still amazed her, he claimed he'd been in love with her ever since their first meeting. Narcissa rather doubted that, since they'd been children at the time, but she appreciated his sincerity and fidelity. They'd been informally engaged for four years, and formally for three, and, as far as she knew, he had remained absolutely loyal to her. If he hadn't, his cunning, lightning-swift mind was such that she'd probably never hear about it, which was just as well. She didn't know what she'd do. Still, sometimes, even a Black girl had to take things on faith. He loved her. Nothing else mattered.
Well, except for the usual stuff—her parents never would have agreed to the match if his family hadn't been pureblood and richer than the governments of some third-world countries.
Narcissa was incredibly grateful for the neatness of the way that had worked out.
As the minister droned on, the wedding dress became more and more uncomfortable. No matter what magic Madame Tula had poured into the thing, the fact remained that it was designed for beauty, not comfort. Narcissa longed to fidget.
'I can't wait to get out of this dress,' she thought yearningly.
Lucius's eyes widened imperceptibly. 'I will be delighted to assist you,' he thought back at her, and she had to fight back a naughty giggle.
"Do you, Lucius Abraxas…"
Lucius repeated his vows solemnly, eyes twinkling down at her. His blonde hair looked smooth and silky, and Narcissa longed to run her fingers through it. Decorum, she repeated to herself. Patience.
"Do you, Narcissa Svetlana…"
Narcissa straightened her spine even further, feeling like liquid poured into a mold—in this case, the wedding dress.
"I do," she said clearly, eyes smiling but mouth firm.
"…then I declare you bonded for life."
In those days, it wasn't typical for the newly wed couple to kiss, but Narcissa decided to flout convention in this small way. Lucius, apparently, had the same thought—his hand on the audience side found her waist, and he leaned forward.
Narcissa closed her eyes (so as not to see Aunt Walburga's disapproving frown or Bellatrix's vulgar wink), and reached up, fingers gently cradling her new husband's face.
Their lips met.
It wasn't the best kiss they'd ever had—all those spectators—but it held the hope and promise of things to come. Narcissa, feeling daring, hooked her fingers around Lucius's belt loop and yanked him closer. She felt rather than heard his moan of desire against her open mouth.
They broke apart, and prepared to receive the congratulations of their peers, acquaintances, parents, elders, and other pillars of pureblood society. Together.
"Here we go," Lucius whispered in her ear. Narcissa set her long, elegant fingers on his sleeve, and pinned her best I'm-A-Proper-Pureblood-Lady-And-You-Love-Me-For-It smile to her red, red lips.