This story was written for the wonderful LJ fest Dysfuncentine.
The plotline (or a large part of it) is Enid Blyton's. The characters are JK Rowling's. The perverted mind that wanted to combine these wholesome children's universes with a lesbian pulp novel is Tetleybag's. Don't blame the typist.
Also, my beta is absolute perfection and the best teacher of composition an eager student could have. Thank you for everything, dear Kelly Chambliss.
6.00 AM, St Hogarts School
The man striding through the Great Hall of St Hogarts nodded approvingly. The floor was spotless. The tables were polished. The chairs were aligned just so. He continued his inspection towards the hall. The staircase positively shone with cleanliness. He opened the entrance door. The brass knocker gleamed in the early morning light. With a satisfied grunt, he looked out over the immaculate grounds.
To an observer, the man might look like a General inspecting the barracks, and one who is pleased at what he sees. Unless the observer were at close range, in which case one look at the so-called General's scruffy clothes would lead to 'look, Old Filch is giving the place an eye-over for Half-Term Day'.
Argus Filch felt like a General, though. Or rather, like a Captain. A Captain sailing a tight ship for once. Every other day of the year (apart from the blessed holidays) the fight against grime and filthy floors was a desperate one. But on this day of all days, for a few hours of the morning at least, Hogwarts truly looked in apple-pie order.
Hogwarts. Filch grinned as he thought of it. Them as had founded the school might have had lots of book learning – he wouldn't gainsay it. But they'd had no common sense. Any sensible man, such as Argus Filch himself, could have told 'em in advance that a school named St Hogarts would turn into Hogwarts before the first year were over. And the Old Hogartians never called themselves anything but Hoggywartians.
Today, Filch would see quite a few of his Old Hoggywartians. He liked that. He were hoggy and warty enough himself to appreciate the moniker, and it were flattering to be sought out by so many Old Boys and Girls. Proper respectful they was, too. More than made up for the snootiness of some of them New Money parents. And to make up for Lord Malfoy. He weren't no new money, though, Lord Malfoy. Just bloody rude. Them New Money snobs would sometimes look the other way to avoid talking to the caretaker. But that Lord Malfoy – he looked straight through a man. So straight through him, that Argus Filch sometimes wanted to look in the mirror afterwards, just to check that he weren't invisible.
But never mind Lord Muck and his snooty wife. Today was Half-Term Day, and Argus Filch meant to enjoy himself.
7.00 AM, St Hogarts, Miss McGonagall's private rooms
Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of St Hogarts, looked critically at the clothes she had laid out. The tailored suit had proven a most satisfactory purchase. Sober and well-cut, it discreetly underlined her authority. And the heels on her court shoes were low enough to see her through the hours and hours of standing and walking. Anyone who would see Deputy Headmistress McGonagall that day would know her for what she was: successful, respected, and respectable.
If people gave any thought to her private life, they would imagine something equally respectable – but they wouldn't call it successful. Women who were a success in their chosen career achieved this success precisely because they were a failure elsewhere. They were spinsters who had found a 'wonderful compensation' in their work. The most they could hope for elsewhere was the company of a spinster friend, with whom they could go to plays, concerts, or museums. Perhaps even on little trips abroad during their holidays.
Minerva smiled. They weren't completely wrong. She had exactly such a spinster friend, a respectable and fairly highly-placed civil servant. They did, indeed, go to plays and exhibitions; on such occasions, Minerva conveniently stayed at her friend's place for the night. It was on that aspect of their relationship that most people's imagination was sadly lacking. They had no idea of the things two middle-aged spinsters could get up to after a pleasant cultural outing: in Amelia's flat or in holiday cottages, occasionally even in secluded spots where a picnic blanket would be spread out after an invigorating country walk.
Miss McGonagall had a private life, and one she considered most satisfying.
It was a life in which she didn't need to be the prim and proper Deputy Headmistress, perfectly in command at all times. With Amelia, she could give up control; let herself be pushed down on a soft mattress while Amelia told her what she planned to do. And then she would be as good as her word. And sometimes there would be the teasing, maddening, "I'll make you come if you ask me nicely enough." Occasionally it would be, "if you ask me precisely enough," or "if you ask me boldly enough". Bold had come easily to Minerva, but after the first request for precise instructions she had purchased a medical dictionary and done some proper research. After all, if one wanted one's partner's digitus secundus and digitus medium to rub one's Gräfenberg Spot, one should say so.
But those were pleasures for another day. Today she would enjoy meeting the parents. Well, most of them. There were always the difficult cases. The "my child is highly-strung and of a delicate disposition" ones, who had to learn that their sturdy, complacent children would not melt in the rain. And the parents of "a truly exceptional, once-in-a-generation talent" who had to be guided towards acceptance of a perfectly pleasant, but also perfectly average child. And last but not least the snobbish ones, who would have preferred a major public school for their offspring.
Lord and Lady Malfoy, for instance. Lord Malfoy had made his dislike of St Hogarts perfectly clear. Lady Malfoy had been more diplomatic in her criticisms, but she, too, felt that their Draco wasn't associating with 'the right sort of children'. True. Most of her students were far too good for the little chip-of-the-old-block.
Lady Malfoy, despite her gracious ways, was all that Minerva found most annoying. She might have the exquisite perfection of a bone-china figurine; in Minerva's eyes she was as useless as a china figurine, too. A woman who derived her raison d'être from being The Wife Of and The Mother Of. True, Narcissa Malfoy, née Black, was a peeress 'in her own right', as the expression went. But that merely meant she was also The Daughter Of.
To make matters worse, Narcissa Malfoy was the wife of and the mother of two of the most unlikeable people Minerva had ever met. Lucius Malfoy had been downright insolent in his assessment of St Hogarts and had pointed out in great detail that his son and heir would have gone to his own Old School, had it not been for the damn lefty government and their ludicrous ideas on death duties. Which left him, him, Lucius, fourteenth Earl of Malfoy, with a choice between selling part of his land and sending his heir to a minor public school. "And, of course, I've no intention of diminishing my son's legacy for a school. His time here is of no importance. His stewardship of the land is."
When Malfoy made that particularly charming statement, however, Minerva had noticed a look on Narcissa's face that she had found interesting – it had reminded her of something. At the time, she hadn't been able to place it, but that evening, as she had relaxed in her own rooms, a glass of Single Malt to hand, she had remembered. A few weeks before, she and Amelia had been to a play. The acting had been brilliant on the part of the actress, but her leading man had fluffed his lines once or twice. And Minerva had seen the same fleeting look of deep annoyance on the actress's face. Annoyance at her lead's unprofessionalism that threatened to ruin a fine performance.
Was Narcissa, then, acting the part of the Countess? If anything, the idea of a performance irritated Minerva even more. If a woman truly believed that producing a heir, opening village fêtes, attending Ascot, and taking part in the Season were worthwhile and meaningful ways to spend a life she might be misguided, but at least she was sincere.
But Narcissa, Countess of Malfoy simply seemed to consider life as an entertaining play. Servants, villagers, even the staff and parents on Half Term Day were both the walk-ons and the audience, whose sole purpose was to both support Narcissa's performance and admire her for it. And everyone usually did just that.
Minerva most assuredly wasn't interested in a life as empty as Narcissa's, and she honestly didn't think she craved that kind of admiration – it was verging on idolatry. She was just annoyed at a world that adored its Narcissas and dismissed its Minervas and Amelias as 'worthy and admirable' in their presence, and as 'prim and proper' behind their backs.
Still, annoying as Lady Malfoy would be, Half-Term Day would have enough pleasant moments. Minerva glanced at her bedside clock. Seven thirty already. Quickly, she finished dressing and fastened her hair in the customary tight bun.
Deputy Headmistress McGonagall was ready to face the day.
9.30 AM, Malfoy Manor
The Countess of Malfoy looked into the theatre mirror in her bedroom. Narcissa Black's face, as yet a blank canvas, looked back, framed by light bulbs. She loved these moments of quiet thought. A bit of alone-time to prepare for the day ahead and the part she'd have to play.
Lucius had frowned at the mirror, of course. Too large, too theatrical. "A boudoir should be elegant," Lucius had drawled when the mirror was brought in. "Please don't tell me you go in for quirky. It's invariably a failure. The 'I long for the simple life in a cottage' style looks ludicrous in a decently-sized room. The 'I should have been a painter; look at the easel and all the artses décor' makes one stubs one's toes on the bloody statues. And audacious colour schemes make me bilious. Please don't become the inventor of the 'West End Dressing Room' quirk."
"I like perfection," Narcissa had answered, while making a mental note of her husband's in-depth knowledge of boudoir styles. "For perfectly-applied make-up, one needs proper light. Just look at your hostess's face tonight and you'll see that I'm right." Mrs Scrimgeour's ruling passion was gardening, but whenever her husband's position forced her to give a dinner she would dutifully don an evening gown and slap up some eye shadow. Unfortunately, the mauve and purple schemes that worked so well in her perennial borders were less successful on a fifty-something face with ruddy cheeks. And her habit of thinking in groups of colour didn't help, either.
Lucius had grinned. "All right, my little perfectionist. Have your proper light," he had said, and the mirror had stayed, the one theatrical element in an otherwise exquisite bedroom. It had been another well-delivered scene in Narcissa, my elegant and amusing wife.
For Narcissa Black was, indeed, an actress, and an excellent one, too. One who knew how to select her parts – which was why she had never seriously considered the stage as a profession. She would have loved the actual work, but not the touring with repertory companies. Nor the inevitable spells of "resting". And why settle for a cardboard set when one could play out one's life surrounded by the real thing?
It was at school that she had first discovered her love of acting. Each year the students performed a pantomime, and she had auditioned when she was in the second form. She had been given the part of a saucy lady's maid and had adored every minute of it. The delights of being someone completely different! For the life of her she couldn't understand why so many girls craved the main part. Those heroines were all so boringly identical: lovely, admired, and virtuous. Of course, for some of those girls it was as close as they'd ever get to being admired. Narcissa, who was considered the loveliest girl in the school, who was, in fact, the loveliest girl wherever she went, wanted to be different. There was no point in playing Cinderella or the Sleeping Beauty – wicked witch, ugly sister, nasty step-mother: those were the parts she craved. As an added bonus everyone thought it awfully decent of her to volunteer for the ugly roles. Narcissa, a Jolly Good Sporthad run successfully for five years.
It was one of the two things that had made boarding school such a very satisfying experience, crushes being the other one. The agonizing delight of the unobtainable at first – the English teacher, that goddess with her beautiful voice; the French Mam'zelle with her enchanting accent. Then the painful pleasure of the almost-possible: after all, the Head Girl might suddenly take an interest in a beautiful Third Former. And finally, the discovery that crushes on women were not something you had till Mr Right (or, in Narcissa's case, the Earl of Right) came along, but something you enjoyed until another girl showed you the very real joys of some hidden places, both on the school grounds and on your body.
It had made her think long and hard about possible parts for women-loving women. There was the academic option, of course. Once Narcissa's eyes had been opened, she noticed the way Matron and Mam'zelle looked at each other. It would be fun, thrilling, to have such a hidden relationship. It would be delightful to find a Matron of her own. At night, in the dorm, whilst firmly ignoring the hands-above-the-duvets rule, Narcissa had indulged in a lovely fantasy or two on a Matron and the things that could be done in a Sick Ward, with Matron in her beautifully-starched uniform and Narcissa half-naked on a bed, while firm, capable fingers ran all over her body, and then inside her body, too, for a very, very thorough examination.
But in reality, that life would also mean an academic study, and worse, years and years of teaching giggling schoolgirls. Narcissa had quickly decided against a long run of Teachers' Delight.
Then there were the two stalwarts of various village committees at home: Miss Pince, who ran the village library, and Miss Grubbly-Plank, who spent most of her leisure hours looking after her chickens and volunteering in animal sanctuaries. They shared a cottage, to have a bit of company and to minimize costs, as the village would have it. With her new-found knowledge Narcissa had looked at them more sharply, and she had had her suspicions. When Miss Pince happily announced that a dear friend would spend a fortnight with them, she had known for sure. A two-bedroom cottage with a spare room?
The idea of a quaint cottage with hollyhocks, roses, lavender, and a cat – there simply had to be a cat – of fooling the villagers by looking so very respectable by day whilst having passionate sex by night, was a charming one. But Miss Pince and Miss Grubbly-Plank couldn't afford a maid and had to do all the heavy work themselves. And just look what that had done to Miss Pince's hands – they were like vulture claws. When Narcissa realised that the frumpy clothes, too, were a financial necessity rather than a choice – although Miss Grubbly-Plank did seem to like her corduroy trousers and flannel shirts – her mind was made up. Love in a Cottage might be charming for one season, but not for a lifetime.
Boarding school had been followed, inevitably, by finishing school in Paris. Everyone who was truly anyone went to that most exclusive of establishments: Institut Maxime. And finished Narcissa had been, with the enthusiastic help of Apolline Verdoux. It was Apolline who had pointed her in the right direction. "One must have a rich husband, of course, if one wants the beautiful things in life," she had said, matter-of-factly. "But after that, Chérie, what you must do is find yourself a woman friend. In your own circles, of course. It is perfectly normal for women to have a very, very close friend, is it not? Really, we are the lucky ones – we do not even have to wait until we have given our husbands a male heir – we can take a lover whenever we want. And wherever we want – a man and a woman absent together, it is noticeable. But two women absent – ah, one had a malheur with her dress, and the other helped her."
And that very evening, when their class dutifully attended a play by Racine in the Comédie Française, Apolline had winked at her during the interval, and after a beautifully-delivered "Ah, zut! How terrible! Madame Maxime, I have a problem with my … with my …" fluttery hands pointing at the fullest of New Look skirts in the general direction of a garter belt, an embarrassed look, and Apolline had permission to go to the ladies' room, with Narcissa to help her fix the problem.
Narcissa smiled as she remembered the scene. Two sets of petticoats in one cubicle – how had they managed? But Apolline had pushed her against a wall, had put her finger to her lips (as if Narcissa would have been so stupid as to make a sound!) and she had lifted Narcissa's skirt and gestured that she, Narcissa, should hold it up. Then she had taken Narcissa's other hand, and used it to push aside her knickers. She had smiled the most tantalizing, wicked smile, and she had slowly licked and sucked two fingers of her own hand, while Narcissa stood there, waiting, watching, agonizing. Finally Apolline had touched her, the smile widening into a grin when she had felt Narcissa's wetness, and she had slipped those longed-for fingers inside her, pushing and scissoring. And, thank heavens, she had kissed Narcissa on the mouth when she came, or there would have been noise after all.
"See?" Apolline had said, when they returned to their seats, every inch the demure young ladies they were supposed to be. "See? We can make each other enjoy whenever we want to!" Narcissa had corrected her, as Apolline had begged her to do whenever she used a wrong expression, but "make you come? One makes the servants come by ringing the bell. Never will I use a word so cold! It is jouir, enjoy, you must call it that," Apolline had insisted.
After finishing school, Apolline married the Baron Delacour, with Narcissa as her bridesmaid. Then Narcissa herself received an offer of Lord Malfoy – the catch of the season. Apolline stood godmother to Narcissa's son. The husbands hunted together in Sologne and shot grouse in Scotland, knowing that their dear wives didn't mind those long shooting trips in the least. "You two just go ahead and have fun. Apolline and I have so much to talk about – we'll enjoy ourselves, too, " Narcissa would say, and, at the word 'enjoy', Apolline would run a dainty pink tongue along her full lower lip – razor-fast, nearly invisible, but it was enough to send a jolt of anticipation through Narcissa's body.
"Look at the Baronne Delacour and Lady Malfoy," said mothers to tearful, homesick daughters reluctant to go to Olympe Maxime's select establishment. "Look what wonderful friends you can make there."
And they were right, thought Narcissa, slowly dragging her thoughts back to the day ahead. She daily blessed the stars, the goddess of love, or whoever had been responsible for putting Apolline on her path. Who would have thought one could truly have it all? A title, a beautiful house, an enchanting son. And at the same time, hidden for all, she had a lover who was as passionate as she was herself.
And who was as fond of role-play.
Narcissa felt a sliver of excitement run through her body as she thought of the various scenarios they had acted out over the years. A favourite one was where a stern schoolmistress found fault with Narcissa, and disciplined her in her study. Apolline's exquisite stern voicealone was enough to arouse her.
But today's enjoyment would not involve that kind of acting. She would have to find pleasure in being the perfectly gracious Countess of Malfoy, who took such an interest in her son's school. She would be charming to other parents and teachers. And, of course, to Miss McGonagall, who was such a prim and proper schoolmarm that Narcissa had been reminded more than once of Apolline's interpretation of the part.
Wouldn't that be delicious – to be punished by wonderfully-stern Miss McGonagall?
But now was not the time to indulge in fantasies. Narcissa reached for the array of make-up on her dressing table. With deft, expert gestures she started to put on the Countess's face.