A/N: Many, many thanks to Kribu for the beta, and also to my cheerleader, Mollyssister. This fic is not my usual fare, as I usually write SSHG, but I enjoyed entering into the minds of Lucius and Narcissa for a change. I hope you all like it, too.
'It's a pleasure doing business with you, as always.'
Upon uttering these words, Abraxas Malfoy's lips twitched upwards before settling back into a thin line. It was a poor attempt at a smile, but no one really expected him to do that these days. Even as a young man, Abraxas had never been described as affable, but ever since the death of his wife just months previously, the once stern patriarch had become nothing short of forbidding.
Idly fingering the stem of his champagne glass, Abraxas wondered just how long it was necessary to drink with the man in his study before he could return to the solitude he required. The best that could be said of his present situation was that Cygnus Black was showing remarkable restraint for a man who had just successfully sold his youngest daughter to one of wizarding Britain's wealthiest families.
'I do hope they get along.'
Abraxas couldn't say he cared much either way, but he found himself nodding. There was no faulting Cygnus' obvious affection for his girls. Where nature had given the man no real aptitude for business dealings, Cygnus' earnest desire to ensure that each of his daughters would be provided for in the future had endowed him with considerable persistence. In the present case, it had been his timing as much as anything else that had caused Abraxas to pause and consider the man's offer.
Abraxas had never met the little girl. He did not plan to in the near future. The Blacks were an old family, and each of their daughters came with a respectable dowry. Unless this 'Narcissa' turned out appallingly ugly and sickly, Abraxas did not foresee any need to review his decision.
It would be much better for Lucius to marry the Black girl than allow the boy to form any attachments of his own.
Love was ruin.
Lucius Malfoy looked up from his whispered conversation with Crabbe to stare openly at the tiny girl about to be Sorted. At the ripe old age of thirteen, he was about to start his third year at Hogwarts, and although the latest broom held more interest for him than any girl ever could, he had a passing curiosity to see the person that Father's papers named as his betrothed. That had been one of the more interesting pieces of information he had stumbled across during the refurbishment of his Father's study during the summer.
Much to his discomfort, Narcissa was not what he expected.
Lucius was quite familiar with both the Black sisters already at Hogwarts, at least by sight. Andromeda Black was in his own year group. She was quite pretty, but quieter than most of the other Slytherin girls. On the whole, Lucius had very little to do with her; she never seemed particularly impressed by his feats on the Quidditch pitch. The eldest sister, Bellatrix, was presently in fifth year, and it hardly needed to be said that Lucius would have given his own wand arm to see the photograph of her in the showers that Rodolphus Lestrange claimed to have taken the previous year.
However, as different as they were in tastes and temperament, Bellatrix and Andromeda were instantly recognisable as sisters. They were both rather tall, with dark hair and the same nose. It was therefore hardly surprising that Lucius had always imagined Narcissa to be cut from the same mould. Perhaps she would have a quieter laugh than Bellatrix, and would smile at him more than Andromeda, but she would be identifiable as a Black.
He was unsure what to make of the diminutive, pale waif of a girl now making her way to the Slytherin table. He got no further before his train of thought was rather rudely interrupted by Crabbe's elbow.
Lucius smirked. The next boy's name was actually 'Ben Dover'. He was sure to be a Hufflepuff.
Watching dispassionately as fifteen year old Lucius Malfoy sat and snogged a Ravenclaw sixth year with the worst split ends she had ever seen, Narcissa pointedly cleared her throat several times before tapping him lightly on the shoulder.
'Might I have a word with you?'
Even though Lucius' dirty look raised no emotion in her other than strong disapproval, Narcissa found herself reciting the twelve uses of dragon blood in an effort to keep her face smooth as he took another few moments to whisper into the ear of the harlot. Finally, he sat up straight and gave Narcissa his attention. She did not wait for him to speak.
'I wish to inform you that I will be accompanying another young man to Hogsmeade next weekend.' Narcissa was proud that her voice did not tremble at this brazen pronouncement.
Although she steadfastly stared past the harlot, who certainly did not deserve any sort of acknowledgement, Narcissa still could not avoid seeing the look that Lucius exchanged with the older girl.
'And what makes you think I care what you do and who you do it with?' Lucius looked infuriatingly superior. 'Is that all you interrupted us for?'
Despite the fact that she had not raised this conversation with very high expectations, Narcissa felt stung. She, just like everyone else in the small Pureblood social circle her parents mixed in, was now thoroughly sick of the story of Abraxas Malfoy's very private, but very great love for his wife, and his subsequent self-imposed exile and decline since her death. Coupled with these retellings had always been liberal praise for how well 'young Lucius' seemed to be coping with everything. Although none of the matrons her mother drank tea with were very clear with the details, Narcissa knew that Lucius had more or less managed his family's fortune from about the time he started at Hogwarts. Prior to meeting him at school, she had already begun to develop a very healthy sort of respect for him. She had treasured the knowing, sideways glances her mother's friends would give her when they spoke about Lucius. She knew that they were all envious that Abraxas' only son would belong to her one day.
Narcissa certainly had not anticipated that Lucius Malfoy would turn out to be arrogant, self-absorbed and condescending.
Holding her fiancé's gaze for a few moments, Narcissa did not reply, but merely turned and walked away with her head held high.
There was nothing more to say.
'I have a proposition for you.'
Lucius could see Narcissa's surprise almost as if it were written across her face. He had never approached her before. She must be wondering why he had chosen to do so now, a month or two after what he had designated the 'Hogsmeade encounter'. Truth be told, Lucius was not even sure himself.
'I have a proposition for you.' He was being very blunt, but Lucius was willing to value content above form for the moment. Although he was smooth enough around other girls, he found it inexplicably difficult to be the same around calm, serious Narcissa Black. He found himself fumbling around for the right words.
Narcissa cut in, 'What exactly are the terms of your proposition?'
Lucius glared. He hated how she always seemed to be one step ahead of him. He hated even more that he had never found anything but judgment in her cool blue eyes.
'One day, you are going to be my wife. We both know that. But while we're at Hogwarts, I don't need to know which friends you spend your days with.' At least he was master of himself enough to recognise that his present state of irritation was not entirely her fault; he would not insult her with any more overt suggestion to his expectation of how she spent her nights.
Narcissa had other ideas. 'And I suppose in return you wish me to be just as ignorant of who you spend your nights with?' Her tone sent shivers down Lucius' spine.
It was his turn to be ruthless. 'Exactly. But before you think that gives you the right to act as you please, remember that we are going to be married.' The look on her face said that she knew exactly what that meant. He held her gaze, no humour at all in his expression. 'The day you turn seventeen, Narcissa, you are mine. Do you understand?'
Her eyes, full of an odd expression that he could not name, never left his as she nodded.
Narcissa suppressed a shudder as she stood and watched her eldest sister laugh wildly when Rodolphus Lestrange dipped her so low that they both almost fell over. Though Bella occasionally divulged the more intimate details of her relationship to Andromeda, the whole thing was entirely beyond Narcissa's comprehension.
Given Bella's lack of interest in such fripperies, the wedding had largely been planned by their mother. Although everything had been very properly done, Narcissa found the ocean of white lace quite ironic. No other Slytherin girl in recent memory had a reputation quite like Bella's. Likewise, it was no secret that Bella only got away with it because of her rather masterful use of certain unpleasant curses.
That, and the fact that Rodolphus seemed to find it amusing.
Narcissa forcibly stilled her hands, unwilling to show her discomfort. While she estimated how many Galleons her father had spent on this charade, Narcissa idly contemplated that if she was asked to dance by one more leering old man, and told what a lovely young woman she was becoming, she might well vomit. She supposed that all the attention she was getting was because the dress she had been given on the occasion was cut rather differently to what she was used to wearing either at school or home. For a start, it fit better; it was not a cast off from either Bella or Andromeda. Although the elder two Black sisters fit each other's clothing rather well, significant alterations always needed to be made before anything of theirs would fit Narcissa's more slender form. More than that, in a pastel shade for once, no one had found any reason to compare Narcissa's colouring to that of her sisters. The colours of their dresses had often washed her out. Today, she looked and felt pretty. Not even the rather dubious charms of the men vying for her attention could ruin that for her.
Focusing once more on Bella, who was now giggling uncontrollably into her umpteenth champagne glass, Narcissa did not notice that she had company until she was addressed rather more loudly than convention dictated was polite.
'I believe I just asked you to dance with me.' Slow, measured words, as if she was a particularly dim-witted child.
Biting back her instinctive retort at his manner, Narcissa decided to appreciate the moment, favouring her betrothed with a rare smile.
Not that she really cared, but she had wondered if he would ask.
As he stalked down the hallways of Hogwarts castle, methodically checking every potential hiding place he had discovered during seven years of residence, Lucius fought very hard against the strong urges he felt to just leave the grounds, Apparate to Wiltshire and commit patricide. It was a possibility. Lucius knew that not even Dumbledore could stop him from leaving, if it came to that. He was eighteen years old, and once the ink on a NEWT examination paper was dry, the results were in the hands of the Ministry. Even a troll could work that much out.
Lucius supposed that at this stage, it was unimportant. In two days, he was going to leave Hogwarts forever.
The whole situation positively oozed irony. Had this all come to light a mere two days later, there would be no problem. Salazar knew that Abraxas Malfoy hated concerning himself with the living world. Lucius could count on his fingers the number of times his father had stirred himself to anything which could be called 'business' in the last seven years. Truth be told, this arrangement usually suited the Malfoy men very well. Lucius had always revelled in his early independence. He even had certain investments lined up. Plans ready to come to fruition the moment he left Hogwarts and could oversee them full time.
And now, Father had received a letter that Lucius could easily have intercepted if he had been at home, and ruined one those investments. True, Lucius had not thought it very promising at first, and he had certainly not expected it to provide a return immediately, but there had been a very definite plan in motion. A delicate, beautiful plan. The word 'livid' did not even begin to describe Lucius' feelings on reading the short note his father had sent at breakfast. He now felt like a fool for not approaching her sooner to sort this out. The one Slytherin girl that Narcissa called 'friend' had not let her near him since it had all happened. He had barely seen her, with Angharad bringing her meals in their dormitory.
With his mind filled with unpleasant consequences for Father, depending on the outcome of his present attempts, Lucius almost ran up the steps of the Astronomy Tower. Not a particularly devious place to hide, but should she be there, he supposed that he could forgive Narcissa for not thinking very clearly.
After all, it was not every day that one's sister left school and ran away with Mudblood scum, ruining one's own prospects in the process.
It had taken him years to come to terms with the choice that his father had made for him so long ago, but Lucius had only very recently come to understand that Narcissa was exactly what he needed. Pureblood, well brought up, intelligent, beautiful and faithful. Because that was what she was, what she had always been. Lucius was not longer at a loss to understand the judgment in her eyes. He even understood that he had possibly made some very foolish choices in his early years at Hogwarts. He could not fault her. From the very first day she had entered Hogwarts, Narcissa had considered him to be hers. She had seemed to know, even all those years ago, how she deserved to be treated, and had proved him to be severely lacking.
But more than all of those logical reasons, the reason that he would stretch every piece of power and influence connected to the Malfoy name to keep this plan afloat was simple: she was what he wanted.
Lucius almost collapsed with relief when he reached the top of the stairs and saw Narcissa standing beside one of the smaller, permanent telescopes that the NEWT Astronomy students occasionally used when their collapsible ones weren't powerful enough.
As he took a few moments to catch his breath, she anticipated him. 'If that's you, Harry, I told you that I wanted to be left alone.'
Lucius did not know who in the nine hells 'Harry' was supposed to be, but after everything he had just gone through to track her down, Lucius was seething that she expected a 'Harry'. Her words also created a terrifying moment of doubt. He knew what he wanted, but what did she want?
'I'm sorry to disappoint you.' Lucius winced as he heard the words come out. He really needed to focus on being less cold and formal, if only with her. Striding towards her, he noticed her flinch slightly as he got close, lowering her eyes. He grimaced. He knew what the other Slytherins had been saying about her. It seemed that she did, too.
'Forgive me, I thought you were Angharad. Can I help you with something?'
Ignoring the fact that she appeared to call her closest female friend something as coarse as 'Harry', a fierce pride ignited in Lucius. Despite the awful couple of days that Narcissa had just lived through, her voice was calm and even. She had even managed a touch of hauteur. His doubts dissolved. She was going to make an admirable Mrs Lucius Malfoy.
'I'm here to remind you of our agreement.'
'What agreement?' she spat. 'If you think I don't already know that your father ripped up your side of the betrothal contract, you are mistaken.'
Lucius expected that. He had thought long and hard about how to do this. There was simply no way that Narcissa was going to beg him to keep her. Quite frankly, he would find any sort of display to that effect humiliating and offensive, and he knew that her pride would equally rebel against putting one on in the first place. But there need not be loss of face on either side.
'No, not our fathers' agreement. Our agreement.'
When this obviously failed to produce any recollection, he tried a different tack. 'So, tell me, when is your seventeenth birthday, Narcissa?'
'The sixteenth of August, just before my seventh year at Hogwarts. Why do you ask?' With each new word, Lucius could see Narcissa begin to shake slightly, her tone of voice becoming less controlled. If he did not want to upset her, he was going to have to be blunt.
'Because, my dear, that is going to be our wedding day. We have an agreement. Do you remember now?'
As comprehension dawned, Lucius was alarmed to see that rather than the happy smiles he had hoped to produce with this news, Narcissa's eyes were filling with tears.
'Why? I thought you would be the first to sever ties with me, all things considered.'
Lucius hesitated. The way he actually felt about Narcissa was still too fragile and private to share with anyone, even Narcissa herself.
'What I thought,' he said slowly, struggling to string together a logical response, 'was that you might be sad to have lost a sister…'
It seemed that he had hit a nerve. When Narcissa actually started sobbing, Lucius opened his arms and let her literally half fall into his embrace. As she did so, he supposed that slips in her otherwise flawless manner were acceptable in the face of extreme emotional distress. At least, he was quite sure that he was the only one who would ever know that she was not perfect. Wrapping his arms around her tightly, Lucius turned his mind to schemes for making sure that Narcissa was treated properly at Hogwarts in his absence.
He was leaving Hogwarts in two days.
As he escorted her off the Hogwarts Express and offered her his arm as they made slowly for Mr and Mrs Black at Kings Cross, Lucius marvelled at how easy some things could be when one was rich and had an intimidating glare. He knew that he would never be able to stop everyone from gossiping about the Blacks behind their backs, but he could at least spare Narcissa the pain of many snide remarks to her face.
The world was truly his oyster. With one project seen to, Lucius had begun to turn his mind to some of the other things he hoped to achieve now that he had left school. In particular, he had meetings to arrange. Hopefully Bellatrix would hear of what he had done for Narcissa, and still be willing to sponsor him.
Bending down to accept a goodbye kiss from Narcissa, and promising to visit her soon, Lucius suddenly found himself able to put a name on the mysterious emotion that had been in her eyes the day that he had first presumed to 'claim' her.
Morgana bless her, it had been triumph.