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Whispers and Rumours
The Fall and Rise of the House of Malfoy

The whispering bothers him sometimes. Draco Malfoy goes about his business, day after day, and tries to ignore it. They know what he was. He knows that they know it. He can see it in their eyes. He watches, sometimes, as their gaze drops to his sleeve-shielded forearm with a kind of sick fascination, knowing what lies beneath the cloth.

Always, after they do this, he knows what comes next. The stares become far more hostile as they return to his face. It's at that point, if he can, that he makes his excuses and leaves.

The only company who don't shun him are a few of his former House members. Many, of course, with typical Slytherin pragmatism, have severed ties with him to protect their own reputations. He doesn't begrudge it of them. It's what he would have done in their place.

He tries not to make a scene. He doesn't want to draw attention to himself, not after seeing what happened to Goyle. Feelings were still running hot, just after the war had ended, and Goyle was never very good at hiding himself.

Always so large, always standing out, Gregory Goyle had drawn the ire of those who had suffered because of his father... or because of his own brief career in service to the Dark Lord. Evading a sentence in Azkaban hadn't helped him much after all.

Goyle speaks even less than he used to, these days. With his father dead in the Battle of Hogwarts, there was no one but Draco to collect him from St. Mungo's. He works for Draco, now, maintaining the grounds of Malfoy Manor. Draco keeps him fed and sheltered. Draco gives him somewhere away from the anger of others, and a familiar face to respond to.

It's something Draco feels he needs to do. Crabbe's shadow falls over his mind too often. He can't do anything about Crabbe except wake in the night, wondering with a shudder how it feels to burn alive amid your own curse. He can't do anything about Crabbe, but he can do this much for Goyle, at least.

"That side?"

"Yes, Goyle. Trim the grass on that side of the grounds today."

A sound that Draco had learned indicated an affirmative followed, and Goyle trudged off to do his job. It had taken a while to teach him what to do, but once he'd learned, he seemed to derive some kind of childlike pleasure from making the grounds look better.

He had never been the brightest soul at Hogwarts, and the attack hadn't helped. Curse scars standing out lividly against his skin, Goyle would never fit in elsewhere again, or adjust to an independent life.

Draco is glad of the manor's protection. No matter how its masters have fallen in the public estimation, ancient and powerful enchantments swathe the grounds. Draco is protected there from most potential reprisals, as is Goyle. Draco's parents, too, remain there, in comparative safety.

***

Lucius Malfoy no longer leaves the manor. At times he feels stifled by it. At times no amount of effort by his family can soothe the terrible restlessness he feels. He feels stifled, but cannot leave, because beyond those walls, everything is gone.

They barely kept the manor. Lucius knows he barely evaded a return to Azkaban, and he shudders every time he remembers that place – oh, sure, there wouldn't be Dementors there anymore, but the memories...

He hates to even think of that place. The utter, twisted irony of failing the Dark Lord so utterly that imprisonment within those walls was safer than being outside them... and the things that place took from him. He doesn't speak of it to Narcissa. He doesn't tell her that toward the end, he could barely remember her face, and only her visits kept him sane.

She is his happiest memory. She is all the goodness and warmth the Dementors tried to leach from his world. Now free, the memories he'd thought lost have returned, and he guards them almost jealously. He will never again lose a single thought of Narcissa or of Draco.

Though, he does want to forget some things. He wants to forget the agonising wait, knowing his son had been sent into peril in order to punish him. He wants to forget that dreadful time of wondering if he'd ever see his son alive again. He wants to forget, also, the pain he suffered at every capricious whim of the Dark Lord, who seemed to have deemed him only of sufficient consequence to periodically Cruciate with all the malice in that darkened heart, where once Lucius had been his valued and noted follower.

He cannot leave the manor. Outside it... they know. People know what he did and what he was and the respect, the awe, the deference are gone, replaced by contempt or outright hatred.

"Murderer." Lucius didn't look around. They'd only get worse if he did.

"Dunno why he's not in Azkaban."

"They say he changed sides, but I hafta doubt that. Saw who was winning, more likely."

Lucius did his best not to listen to the gossip erupting behind him. Once, he reflected bitterly, he could have swept through the streets like a prince, and no matter what anyone thought, they'd never have dared to speak like this. Now, he was fodder for insults and loathing.

After a few abortive attempts to leave, he has largely given up. He considers it far better to stay inside, after all, than to be the sudden and mysterious victim of some astonishingly unwitnessed curse.

In some ways, it stings at him. This manor, the place that should have been his unquestioned home, is where he was confined, by order of the Dark Lord. Now, the Dark Lord is gone. Lucius should be free, and yet he finds himself confined just as much by public opinion as he ever was by his former master.

***

Narcissa keeps her head held high, no matter what. She is a daughter of the House of Black, a wife of the House of Malfoy, and she does not back down just because somebody else thinks she should.

There are times when she does not feel as strong as she acts. One of her sisters is dead. The other no longer speaks to her. The prestige of her family is shattered. Still, she has her husband and her son, and she already risked everything for both of them. They need her, and they need her strength, and so she refuses to crumble.

These others who sneer and glare... they have no idea what she has done. They have no idea of the risks she's taken, and what the consequences would have been for them if she had not. Could they have faced down the Dark Lord, lied to so skilled a Legilimens? She thinks not.

She could protest, of course, and declare her part in their proud victory far and wide, but she utterly refuses to give them that satisfaction. They will never know that they have affected her in any way. She's stronger than that, and prouder.

Some of them try to thwart her in petty little ways, but she disregards such things with all of the aristocratic composure at her disposal. She can withstand their efforts. They'll lose interest eventually, and where they back down, she will be left strong.

"We're all out," the shopkeeper declared, studiously avoiding Narcissa's gaze.

"Of bread?" The faintest hint of incredulity touched her voice.

"Of bread, and rice, and potatoes. We're all out," he repeated.

"I see. My apologies, then, for calling attention to so embarrassing a lack in your establishment. I'm sure you'll be able to restock very soon," Narcissa said, ever so graciously. With the merest, most precise little nod, she turned and walked out.

After a pause, however, she allowed herself to glance back in the window, out of the corner of her eye. Inside, the shopkeeper was dutifully toting bread and other essentials out from beneath the counter and returning them to the shelves.

Lips pressed tightly together, Narcissa kept walking. She'd find somewhere else.

She knows she mustn't waver. Her stability gives strength to Lucius and Draco. Her composure restores their own. She loves them above all else, and if that means standing a little straighter when she wants to slink away and hide, so be it.

She will not back down. She will not lower her head in shame, or apologise for who she is. Because no matter what she has lost, she is Narcissa Malfoy, and she has her family. She is Narcissa Malfoy, born Narcissa Black, and she has her pride. It is enough.