Author's Notes: Written for Shira Lansys' Speed of Lightning Competition on the HPFC forum.
The prompt for this round is the proverb "All that glitters is not gold", and I'm upping the minimum word count to 1000.
Warning: This story contains a depiction of an abusive relationship. I condone the behaviour of neither involved party. It also contains mentions of other forms of abuse, which I do not condone either.
1 100 words.
Narcissa spent hours pondering how to tell Rodolphus that her engagement to Lucius Malfoy had been finalized. They had both known it was coming for months, but there was something about seeing the ring on her finger at last that made Narcissa fear her lover's reaction.
He was not a temperate man – that was something that she knew about him – and she knew how important it was that she not phrase the news of her impending marriage in such a way as to make it sound as though she would rather be married to Lucius than to him, but the second she saw him, everything fell apart. She forgot what he was going to say when she saw the anger rising in his eyes.
"You're going to be married to Lucius?" Rodolphus hissed. "Lucius Malfoy? What for? He's useless! You know that you'll be miserable if you get married to him!"
"He isn't that bad," Narcissa said in a tiny voice. She couldn't stand the thought of Lucius being her husband – but she had to defend him. It was her duty as his wife-to-be.
"Oh, don't be so bloody pathetic, Cissa!" snarled Rodolphus, his voice taking on a dangerous tone. "You know I'm right! You couldn't ever be happy with him! Don't even pretend that you could!"
"It's a perfect marriage," Narcissa told him. She felt tears clogging her throat, but she managed to swallow them back enough to parrot her mother's words. "Lucius is a very good man, and his family is wealthy. Besides," she added, allowing a bit of emotion to crawl into her tone, "It's not as though I can marry you, since you've gone and married Bellatrix." Her voice took on a petulant tone at the end as she half pouted, half glared up at him through her eyelashes.
Rodolphus's face flushed slightly. "What is this – are you trying to- to pay me back? Is this some kind of punishment for me marrying her? You're going to teach me how it feels; is that it?"
"No!" Narcissa cried. She shook her head wildly, eyes going wide as she shrunk back from him. "No, Rod, it's not like that at all! I don't want to marry him! You know that I don't!"
"So don't marry him!"
"It's not that easy!" Narcissa lost her temper, stamping her foot in sheer frustration. If she looked like a child – and, really, she knew deep down that she did – it did not matter to her at that moment. "What do you want me to do about it? I can't just tell my mother that I won't marry him! She'll want to know why! Do you expect me to tell her that the reason I don't want to marry Lucius Malfoy is because I'm in love with my sister's husband?"
"Lie to her, then!" Rodolphus ordered. "Tell her there's some other reason! Say you're infertile and that it would ruin the Black family reputation if their youngest daughter got married to a Malfoy and didn't have any children!"
"I can't lie about that!" Narcissa cried. "People would find out!"
"No they wouldn't!"
"If it's that easy," she hissed, suddenly sounding quite dangerous, "then why didn't you do it when you were supposed to marry Bellatrix?"
Rodolphus's eyes widened and he reeled as though he had just been slapped. "What did you just say to me?"
Narcissa knew she had crossed a line, but she couldn't go back now. Her voice shook, but she managed to speak. "If it's so easy to get out of a marriage, why didn't you get out of your marriage to Bellatrix? It would have been easier for you; you're a man, so if you expect me to–"
She broke off with a sharp gasp as Rodolphus grabbed her roughly, shaking her back and forth. Narcissa shrieked, her head snapping back with the force and she began to cry. She hated thinking that she'd made Rodolphus angry enough to hurt her like this.
"Oh, Merlin, Cissa…" He stopped immediately, his hands falling away, and she saw, through eyes blurred with tears, that he had taken a step back. "I– I didn't mean to…"
"Didn't mean to hurt me, I know," she murmured. It was her mantra, to go along with the constant repeating pattern of their relationship – Narcissa would do something stupid, Rodolphus would become upset, he would hurt her, and she would forgive him. Andromeda would have called her stupid for acting like that, but Narcissa saw nothing wrong with the virtue of forgiveness – after all, Bellatrix forgave the Dark Lord. Druella forgave Cygnus. Narcissa forgave Cygnus…
She looked up at Rodolphus, her lip trembling. "I'm sorry that I upset you, Rod," she whispered, and her voice cracked.
"Oh… my little girl…" Rodolphus sounded tender now, as he always did after a fight. "I'm the one who should be sorry… I am sorry…"
"It's my fault," Narcissa told him quickly.
"No… I know you don't want to be married…" Rodolphus reached up and touched her cheeks, holding her head lightly so she was looking him in the eye. "I know that your parents require it of you, just like my parents required me to marry Bellatrix. But Cissa, please don't ever say that it's the perfect marriage. Promise me you won't ever say that again."
"Why?" she asked quietly.
"Because it's not perfect if you don't love him," said Rodolphus. "And it never will be. If you don't love him, it will only ever look perfect to other people."
Narcissa nodded, saying nothing.
"Remember that looking good to other people doesn't mean something is good," Rodolphus told her. "All that glitters is not gold…"
As though she needed reminding.
"People would say that we aren't perfect, after all," Rodolphus told her. "And look at us… and people might think that you and your father–"
"Stop it!" Narcissa cried, tears welling up in her eyes. "I understand! Please stop!"
Rodolphus fell silent, but there was an unmistakable smirk crawling over his lips. Narcissa looked away, hating how easily he could hurt her, just by mentioning her father. No girl should be so easily upset.
"Good girl," Rodolphus whispered, then leaned forward to lay a quick, soft kiss upon Narcissa's lips. "I love you."
She responded to the kiss half-heartedly, but she couldn't quite be angry at him. Those were words that she so rarely heard – at least, with any degree of sincerity – and she could never turn him away when he said that to her.
"I know that you do," she murmured. "I love you too."