PAIRING: Lucius/Narcissa, with a side of PG Lucius/Severus
SUMMARY: Every year, the Malfoys host a rather exclusive Christmas event. Ten scenes over the course of a decade tell the story of some of Lucius' choices.
DISCLAIMER: JKR wrote the world and the characters. I'm just having fun and telling make-believe stories about them.
NOTES: 2325 words. A huge thanks to my wonderful betas, anneline and chthonya who both helped this story tremendously. Any remaining errors are entirely my fault.
Inspired by the "one letter, ten words" meme from dracofiend, who gave me the letter "P". You can play too: Comment on this entry and I will give you a letter. Write ten words beginning with that letter, including an explanation of what the word means to you and why, then give letters to those who want to play along.
Christmas 1972: Pretty
There's no question that Narcissa is the prettiest of the Black sisters. As far as Lucius Malfoy is concerned, it's just as well. He might not like the idea of having a mindless twit foisted on him in order to forge some sort of bond with a more influential family, but if he has to live in a cage, it may as well be a gilded one.
Abraxas is at his shoulder tonight, gripping his arm. The message is clear.
"And this," his father says with a final squeeze, "is Lucius." That is his cue to smile warmly, offer his hand, remember not to look down his nose even if Cygnus Black is shorter than him. Mr. Black runs an appraising glance over him, though Lucius thinks the man is more likely to be appraising his clothes than his character. Finally, Mr. Black nods and turns to motion the girl forward.
"Allow me to present my youngest daughter," he says, guiding her by the elbow. "Narcissa."
She extends a gloved hand. Lucius bows low over it, as if they were meeting for the first time, and brushes his lips against her fingers. "Enchanté." He straightens. "May I offer you something to drink?"
Narcissa lifts her eyes to meet his for a brief second. She must be aware of her position as youngest daughter—a bargaining chip, good only for the marriage ties she can secure for her family. But, as Lucius knows, being the youngest means she has a little more say with her father over whose ties she will eventually secure. Bellatrix had no choice at all.
So he plays the part of suitor, escorting her to a corner of the manor's Grand Hall where the Christmas party is always held. He asks her politely about her last year at Hogwarts, hands her an elegantly fluted glass of champagne, and turns on his charm. She blushes a little under the attention. Lucius decides she is rather pretty when she blushes.
Christmas 1973: Power
Abraxas has been very cautious in choosing a bride for his heir and only son. Narcissa would have been enough of a prize, as a daughter of the Noble and Ancient House of Black, but what decided him was the rumored connection to the underground "pureblood rule" movement. Lucius didn't know everything his father had learned, but apparently he had learned enough to want his son to be a part of it.
So the invitations are sent to a slightly wider circle this year: the Rosiers, the Carrows, every last one of the Lestranges. The day before the party, Abraxas is in a terrible temper, having just found out that the young Black cousin—Regulus—is already being considered for inclusion in the set closest to this Voldemort character.
"If a child who just got his first wand can be considered because he's family, then they are being stupid to delay inviting you, family ties or no!" Privately, Lucius isn't sure any organization that considers inviting children is worth his time at all, but he bows his head in answer to Abraxas' tirade.
Christmas 1974: Pleasure
She was a virgin when he took her the first time; he's sure of that. But he has taught her over the past few months, and she is learning what he likes as well as what she likes, and what to do to get it. He encourages her, comforts and reassures her, and because of that she grows bolder. He likes boldness. He cultivates it in her.
Narcissa is personally invited to the Christmas party this year, by him and not his father. He has been her escort to a few other events this season, but here at his own house, he knows exactly where to slip off to when the party gets old and the curve of Narcissa's neck too tempting. She follows him willingly, goes to her knees on a silk cushion while he braces himself against the wall. She is eager—she knows he is easy to please this way. He pulls her up after a few minutes and turns her, putting her face to the wall. She helps him lift her dress up and pushes back against him when he slides inside her.
Christmas 1975: Pretend
"I love you," he tells her. It always makes her blush, which is a nice enough reason to say it. His heart doesn't stir when he sees her, but other parts do, and that's enough to make an heir. Besides, his heart never stirs.
Until, at the Christmas party, she introduces him to a guest of her parents, the boy they have fostered for so many years. Severus. He is scowling, dark in hair and eye and expression, and he looks so guarded that Lucius wants to fall to his knees and swear that he will protect the boy, that nothing ever need hurt him again. Finally, he finds his voice to introduce himself in return, and he reaches for the boy's hand.
"I know who you are," Severus says in disdain. His hand is cool.
"How old did you say he was?" he asks Narcissa later. She is probably tired of talking about Severus, but Lucius can't help himself. She's his best source of information.
An hour or so later, he notices the boy slipping out of the room. He leaves Narcissa with a few guests, deep in discussion about the latest trends in wizarding marriage ceremonies, and follows Severus.
He is hesitant; it is his house, but he would let Severus have the whole of it to himself if it were what the boy wanted.
"Why are you following me?"
Lucius spins around, finally spotting the glittering eyes in a dark doorway.
"Severus," he breathes, and his chest is constricted again. He wants to convince this child—not yet seventeen!—that he is trustworthy; wants to give him something to believe in. He has never felt this way about Narcissa.
Christmas 1976: Pressure
Halfway through a meeting with the caterers for the annual Christmas event, Abraxas collapses. Private Healers can't stop the progression of the disease, and suddenly Lucius is alone in the Malfoy estate.
It is a shock. After his mother died, he’d somehow come to believe that Abraxas would always be there. Perhaps he'd thought, with the logic of an eight-year-old, that laughter and warmth and those fierce hugs had actually hastened her death, so of course his father would live forever.
At first, he constructs a careful mask of grief to wear in public, while inwardly trying to deal with the sudden possibilities. He doesn't have to continue any of his father's plans. If he chooses, he can forget about Narcissa and her precious Lord, he can ask Severus to live with him and tell the rest of the world to bugger off.
But an heir—he must produce an heir. It was a lesson he learned before he could walk. The idea of being the only Malfoy in the entire world is unbearable, looming over his shoulder, chasing him like a pack of wild thestrals.
The invitations to the Christmas party go out as planned, signed in Lucius' hand instead of his father's, but they are invitations and wedding announcements in one. A year is the shortest acceptable engagement, and so the date is set. He tries not to imagine Severus' face when he receives his in the owl post.
At the party, Narcissa stays by his side. She doesn't mention Abraxas, even though every other guest does. He is grateful to her. Bellatrix and her husband are there, mouthing their condolences. They ask him to come to a "small gathering" they are hosting. It is exactly what Abraxas had been trying to accomplish for so long.
Lucius isn't surprised when Severus stays away from his party, but he is startled to see him at the Lestranges' in the same mask and dark robes as the others.
Christmas 1977: Promises
Narcissa looks radiant on their wedding day, but Lucius' gaze keeps drifting to Severus. He hasn't seen the boy in a month. Severus' eyes are darker than ever, but he watches intently as Lucius recites the vows that will bind him to his bride.
He is watching just as intently the next day, as the Dark Lord burns his personal sigil into Lucius' arm, binding him to the cause. The celebration after this promise is just between the two of them.
Christmas 1978: Prices
The idea had been to start their family as soon as possible, but after an entire year of sex three times a week or more—nothing. Lucius is exhausted. They call in Healers and mediwitches, but still nothing. Once, someone very quietly suggested a Muggle doctor, and Lucius reported him to the Dark Lord for his trouble.
The Dark Lord has been an entirely different source of strain for Lucius, between the killings, which he finds distasteful, the Death Eater meetings, which he finds pointless, and the financial outlay, which he finds excessive. Lucius is told he is trusted, that he's a critical player in the inner circle, but the Dark Lord won't tell him what the plan is, and Lucius is starting to doubt that there is a plan. On top of that, he's got to keep the daily business of the Malfoy holdings going, and there isn't as much liquid capital as he would like. Last but not least, Ministry officials have come sniffing around, which just means more money out the door.
And he's supposed to be planning a Christmas party.
It is Severus who keeps him sane: Severus, who is safe to talk to and who comforts him with his very presence. After Narcissa breaks down and confesses her fear and shame, it is always Severus who knows he needs silence. He had thought, once, that he could be the one taking care of the boy, but it is the other way around.
He wonders what sort of price Severus pays.
Christmas 1979: Protective
"No champagne for you," Lucius admonishes, and takes the glass away from Narcissa. She giggles and blushes prettily and turns back to her guests as Lucius continues moving around the room. They announced the pregnancy tonight, even though her belly has not yet begun to swell.
Narcissa is in fine form—she has blossomed from the shy girl he first met in school to a confident, self-assured woman, and now mother. She graciously accepts congratulations from the guests at the Malfoy party, and it is as much her event as it is Lucius'.
Only two people look less than happy tonight: Bellatrix (whom Narcissa refers to privately as "barren Bella", now that she is confident of her own womb's ability), and Severus.
Lucius pulls him aside, but the boy is as sullen as ever.
"It changes nothing, Lucius."
"Of course it does! Severus…"
"You are still married."
"But now my obligation is fulfilled, don't you see?"
Severus did not see, and he refused to let them announce his hand in their recent success. It was Severus who had developed the special fertility potions for each of them, fine-tuning them over the course of months. After almost two years, when Healers had given up on them completely, it was Severus who made it possible.
Lucius tries to thank him.
"I didn't do it for you, Lucius." Severus' gaze strays to Narcissa, his eyes alight with something like affection. "She will be a wonderful mother."
"Yes," says Lucius. When he looks at Narcissa now, he feels an echo of that strange tightness in his chest that he has always associated with Severus. He wants to protect her now, like he has always wanted to protect Severus. Her and the strange, tiny child growing inside of her.
Christmas 1980: Possessive
It is supposed to be a time of great joy, but everyone in Lucius' life seems to be keeping secrets from him.
The Dark Lord is in his prime, moving more openly than ever, but there is a pattern that makes Lucius think there is a specific goal in mind. Not knowing what it is would be bad enough, but Lucius strongly suspects that Severus knows. Severus denies it, but he won't meet Lucius' eyes.
Ever since Draco was born, Severus has been growing more and more withdrawn. Lucius' heart aches to see him pulling away, but he doesn't know what to do.
Little Draco is handed around at the party. He goes happily enough, until he reaches Aunt Bellatrix, who holds him possessively and doesn't want to let go. Narcissa hovers until Draco cries, and some harsh words are exchanged.
Lucius sees it with only half his attention. He calls for the nurse to take the baby away, and then watches Severus avoid him. He wonders why Severus isn't touching the food.
Finally, he catches him alone. "Severus… I want to make your world better."
"It's too late for that, Lucius."
And he leaves the house, as if he doesn't live there too, as if he were a guest who had been offended and was going home early.
Christmas 1981: Persevere
How much can change in a year! Under orders from the Dark Lord, Severus—Severus who hates children—took a position at Hogwarts. And then, the unthinkable: the Dark Lord was defeated. Lucius did what he had to do to protect his family. Narcissa has finally stopped having nightmares, and every day she coos over something new that Draco does.
Best of all is the change in Severus: he seems more at ease, now, calm, and he once more comforts Lucius with his equanimity.
"We all do what we have to do," he tells Lucius, when Lucius is fretting about his Imperius defense. "The important thing is to survive."
"Yes," Lucius murmurs as he brushes a lock of hair off the boy’s face, "we must persevere."
"It is what we do," Severus says.