Narcissa spent the day locked up in her room, feeling sorry for herself. More than once, Andromeda approached the door and knocked – or, more often, banged and reminded Narcissa it was her room too and demanded to be let in – but Narcissa ignored her. She didn't come down for dinner either, claiming she had a stomach ache. Only when both Bellatrix and Andromeda stood at the door and insisted to be let into their bedroom did she unlock the door.

"We're forever in your debt," Andromeda said sarcastically, striding past her and collapsing into bed. Bellatrix followed suit, stretching out on her own bed with a satisfied smirk, and Narcissa returned to her own bed with a slight scowl.

"So," she said at last, addressing Bellatrix, "How's Rodolphus?"

"Oh, pardon? Are you talking to me?" asked Bellatrix, turning to Narcissa with a look of utmost scorn upon her face. "You've been shunning me all day and suddenly you're all interested in hearing about my boyfriend?"

"He's not–" Narcissa began heatedly, but stopped herself. "I haven't been avoiding you, you've been with him!"

"You locked us both out of the bedroom," Andromeda put in. "I call that avoiding us."

"Shut up, Andi!" Narcissa didn't know why she was even bothering to ask Bellatrix about Rodolphus. She didn't want to hear her sister telling her how fantastic Rodolphus was – she already knew that! But she couldn't bear having to wonder about what Bellatrix and Rodolphus had been doing. Whatever she imagined would surely be far worse than what they had really done.

"I don't much fancy passing the intimate details of my sex life on to you, Narcissa," Bellatrix told her sister, smirking. "You'll have to go and find your own boyfriend if you want to know what it's like…"

I do have a boyfriend! Narcissa mentally screamed. Rodolphus! Rodolphus is mine! But she kept her mouth shut, her lips pressed tightly together, not making a sound. Don't tell them, don't give it away, Narcissa

"Narcissa already has a boyfriend," Andromeda said matter-of-factly.

"Andromeda, SHUT UP!" Narcissa screamed, but Bellatrix's eyes had already lit up with excitement.

"Do you really, Narcissa?" she purred, a smirk playing upon her lips.

"NO!"

"Spit it out, Cissy. Who is it?"

"No! No one!"

"So, if you have a boyfriend, why are you so jealous of me?"

"I don't have a boyfriend!"

"Well," Bellatrix continued as though she hadn't heard, "I can understand you being a little jealous, I suppose… I mean, Rodolphus really is fantastic, and if I couldn't have him, I would most certainly be jealous of anyone who was lucky enough to–"

Narcissa leapt to her feet and fled the room, trying as hard as she could not to let tears fall until she was out. She practically flew down to the library, where, at last, she had enough privacy to curl up in an armchair and cry.

This wasn't fair, she told herself. She should get Rodolphus – she had Rodolphus. Even if she was going to be allowed to marry him eventually, it drove her mad that she had to suffer through Bellatrix's smugness. Here was Narcissa, actually getting something that she wanted for a change, and she couldn't tell a soul, because Bellatrix looked as though she was getting it.

Maybe Narcissa ought to tell people. Her lips curled into a smirk. How that would humiliate Bellatrix – people knowing that her precious new boyfriend had been bedding her little sister. But no, then Rodolphus's plan would be ruined and Narcissa would not be able to marry him. She would have to wait it out. That would humiliate Bellatrix more in any case.

The thought of Bellatrix being stigmatized for not being a virgin made Narcissa smile, and she immediately felt horrible. What had happened? She used to be so nice…

And look how far that had gotten her. Up until she had started sleeping with Rodolphus, she had been bored with life – worse, she had been boring. And now interesting things were finally beginning to happen – why should she be ashamed if it meant that she wasn't as weak as she used to be?

She wasn't as weak as she used to be, was she?

Before, she had sat and accepted anything from her sisters, their insults, their teasing, even when they went far beyond what they should have. Well, she didn't do that anymore – she had run and locked herself away from them, but…

You're tired, Narcissa. Stop questioning yourself. You've done nothing but improve since Rodolphus chose you.

She closed her eyes, pressing her fingers against them until stars popped. Not daring to go back upstairs and face the questions or scorn of Bellatrix and Andromeda, she pulled a blanket around herself and closed her eyes.

"Cissy, wake up."

Narcissa's body jolted, and her eyes flew open. "What?"

"Calm down, Cissy, it's just me." Andromeda was leaning over Narcissa with a slight, teasing smile. "Did we really shame you so much you didn't feel you could come back upstairs?"

Her cheeks flooded with colour. "No, it's just–"

"Just that we were teasing you and you took us too seriously and got personally insulted." Andromeda nodded. "I understand. And I wanted to apologize."

"You, er… pardon?"

"I wanted to apologize for what I said to you. And I apologize on Bellatrix's behalf as well. We were unnecessarily harsh on you, and we should have known when to stop."

"Why are you apologizing?" Narcissa asked suspiciously.

The easy smile Andromeda had been wearing slid from her face. "I was under the impression I had insulted you, and the proper thing to do when one has insulted someone is generally to apologize to them."

"Yes, but… you don't normally apologize."

"Good God, Narcissa!" Andromeda looked exasperated. "Pardon me for trying to improve my behaviour and to act better towards you now than I've occasionally been known to in the past! Next time I'll make an effort to be as unpleasant towards you as humanly possible!"

"You wouldn't have to put effort in," Narcissa grumbled. Her neck was sore from sleeping curled up in the armchair and Andromeda's holier-than-thou self-righteousness wasn't helping matters any.

Andromeda's eyes narrowed.

"Fine," she snapped, turning for the door. "If that's how you're going to act, I won't bother." She had almost reached it when she turned back with a look of utter derision on her face. "But I'm not surprised that Rodolphus doesn't want you, if this is how you act–"

"Get out!" Narcissa shrieked. And, as Andromeda slammed the door behind her, Narcissa added in a derisive hiss, "You don't know anything."