Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
The Good Wife
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Lucius, Narcissa.
Summary: Narcissa was the perfect trophy wife. But what happens when the perfect life falls apart? Set after OOTP.
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
"The Ministry will hear the divorce application tomorrow morning."
Lucius breaks the silence without fanfare, in a dull and lifeless voice.
He goes on, "I doubt I will be allowed to attend, but these will suffice in my absence." He slides a sheaf of parchments across the table.
Narcissa looks up from her food, which she has been pushing around aimlessly with her fork. She reaches out to take the papers. Her wedding ring glitters on her hand and her fingertips brush his. His hand feels like a brittle seashell, worn down by sand and sea and crumbling beneath her fingers.
"You won't want for anything," he goes on in the same flat monotone. "I can't give you Malfoy Manor - my father's will requires that it stay in the immediate family. But there's a lifetime right of residence if you want it. I've kept a small income for myself in the event that I'm ever released from Azkaban. Everything else is yours."
She stares down at the parchments. They smell musty and the ink isn't new. She realises he has been planning this, for at least a year, maybe more.
"You should remarry quickly. Someone respectable, but not prominent. Someone who won't attract attention. From either side." She understands the implication. Lucius is no longer sure who will win the war, and he wants her to hedge her bets. He adds as an afterthought, "You should drop the Malfoy name as soon as you can. Draco, too."
This rouses Draco from his morose distraction. "Mum," he bursts out, "are you really going to let him do this?" There are tears in his voice. He sounds very young.
This cuts through her protective shroud in a way that Lucius' monotone has not. "Lucius-"
"Hush," he says firmly, holding up a hand, and she does. "Don't argue. You've been a good wife, Narcissa. You don't owe me anything."
He turns to Draco. "Son." It comes out harsh. "There are Ministry officials and Dementors outside, waiting to take me to Azkaban. It has taken more galleons than you know to have tonight with you. I didn't do that for the pleasure of an elf-made meal. I did it so we can do what's necessary to keep you and your mother safe. These arrangements have nothing to do with our loyalty to one another. Malfoys survive, above everything else, do you understand me?"
Draco pushes back from the table. His face is working, clearly fighting back sobs in that mortified teenaged-boy way. Wordlessly, he flees.
"I'll go," she says. Takes the long way around the table so she can touch his shoulder on the way. She lingers there for a long moment, then starts to let go.
Compulsively, he clutches at her hand like a drowning man. He kisses it with unusual gentleness. His lips are dry and old, like parchment and dried-out winter herbs.
"Thank you," he whispers.
Stroking his hair, she nods.
"Not just for looking after Draco," he amends. "For being my wife." He says again, "You've always been a good wife."
She says in a low voice, "You were a better husband than you know."
He musters a mirthless sound. "Bless you, Narcissa, but we both know that isn't true. I got you into this." He rests his cheek against the backs of her fingers. "If I were any kind of a man I would have set you free years ago." He gives her hand a squeeze and lets go. "You should go after Draco. He needs you."
You both do, she thinks, but she does it anyway.
She *has* been a good wife.
She thinks it while she sits on Draco's bed and rocks him in her arms, like he was a toddler who fell off his first broom and not a fifteen year old boy on the cusp of becoming a man. His breath is still hitching and his hands clutch at her dress compulsively.
Her marriage to Lucius was arranged. It isn't unusual among the wealthier families, and the matches are often successful. It most often went wrong when either party was in love with a third party, but that wasn't the case for her, or for Lucius.
The match was decided by consensus among their parents and extended families, who had intermarried several times before and wanted to prevent dilution of their considerable wealth. He was selected as a pureblood and a good provider. She was selected as a pureblood, a socially acceptable partner, an elegant and supportive companion, and potentially a good mother and homemaker - more or less in that order. She is, she thinks without a trace of rancour, the perfect trophy wife.
She has done these things, and she believes she has done them well. She was faithful until she had given him an heir, and after that, she was scrupulously discreet, as was he. She has never embarrassed him, never undermined him, and made a home that was companionable and comfortable for them both. If it wasn't a love match in the usual sense, it was at least a match grounded in sympathy, a certain dry humour, and over time, a deeply attuned friendship.
For his part, Lucius has been a good husband. His indiscretions have never been of a sort that robbed the family of his attention, and he has never taken her to task for hers. They have come to agreements about the division of responsibilities, and he does not override her in her domain. He is an astute man in business and he has provided for them in abundance. He has given her a beautiful son and he is devoted to them both.
If there is anything she can reproach him with, it is the Dark Lord. He's right, he *did* get them into this. And yet she can't think too harshly of him for it. After all, he took the Dark Mark as a dumb teenager, before the idea of their marriage was even mooted. By the time Draco was born, he was well and truly disenchanted with the whole thing, and quietly greeted the news of Voldemort's apparent death with more than a little relief.
It isn't that they ever abandoned their principles. Magical blood is a precious thing, and should not be diluted. She still believes that. But they aren't monsters, not really. She would be perfectly happy for Muggles to remain in their filthy, common world and they in theirs, and leave it at that.
Besides - by all accounts, Muggles are perfectly good at destroying themselves unaided.
So Voldemort died, or so they thought, and things went back to normal. Lucius went into business, and they prospered. Voldemort was just a dim and distasteful memory.
Until he came back.
And when he came back, what was there to do but follow? They could follow, or they could run, and to run was to die. And as Lucius said, Malfoys survive, above everything else.
And now he has been caught doing the Dark Lord's bidding, in the Ministry itself no less, and he will go to Azkaban for it. And whatever sufferings she will bear pale in comparison with those reserved for him.
Draco's tears are drying on his cheeks. His eyes have drifted closed.
Gently, she lets him down onto his bed. Feels him begin to move, and soothes him, saying, "Shh. Rest a bit. Your father will come up to say goodbye before...you know."
His eyes fill again with fresh tears, but he nods. "All right."
She leaves him there, and the last thing she sees as the door swings closed is Draco, her Draco, neither child nor man but some haunted figure in between.
She thinks about the divorce as she makes her way down the stairs.
It's the right thing to do, of course. A trophy wife would do it. Her mother *certainly* would do it. Lucius has become a liability, they all know it, and she should make a clean break. Even he knows that, because he is a good provider and he understands their world.
It isn't even a question. Is it?
Lucius has been her life for seventeen years, all her adult life, and they've had good times, lots of them. Lots of warmth in a cold old world. And nagging in the back of her mind is the question of whether the time for being a trophy wife has passed. The principal value of the Malfoys *is* survival, that's true, but it is survival of the family. And she is a Malfoy. She stopped being a Black a long time ago.
Could she really do it, though? Take leave of the sensible rules that govern her survival, stand on the precipice that faces Lucius, and accompany him on his downfall? It's so utterly alien and unfathomable idea that she can't even imagine it. Can't imagine what it would mean for her, or for Draco. She is afraid of Voldemort, but her fear runs deeper than that. Dimly, she recognises that to do this, she would have to embark on something new, something deeper with Lucius than she has ever given any man. Than she thought she had in her at all.
But she isn't really thinking of that. The hearing will take place in the morning, and she will be there. It's the sensible thing to do.
It's the sensible thing to do.
It's the sensible thing-
She finds him in the drawing room.
He is sitting there, staring morosely into the fire. He has a photograph in his hand. It is their wedding photo. Their hands are locked and bands of white light join them. It isn't an Unbreakable Vow - those aren't made at weddings, much too dangerous - but it is a Vow just the same.
I can't leave him, she thinks. I can't do that. It sweeps over her like crushing waves and she feels like swooning. The precipice is here and she has got to step off and she doesn't know how.
She goes to him. Takes the photo and sets it on the table beside him. Kneels down before him and kisses him gently on the lips.
Hesitantly, his hands come up to her shoulders. He grips her there, gently at first, then harder. Kisses her too, just once, before pulling away. Murmurs against her lips, "Narcissa. You don't have to do that."
"I want to," she says softly. "Please."
His brow creases, but he draws her back to him, and kisses her again, this time taking the lead. She finds his hair - she loves his hair - and threads her fingers through it, mirroring his own. She leans back, just a little, just enough to prompt him. He joins her on the floor. Leans over her, gazing down at her in the firelight, as though to memorise her face. Her hair is splayed out around her, and he strokes it back off her face.
"I love you, Lucius," she whispers. Wills him to understand.
A flicker of a smile passes over his weathered features. "I love you too."
She brings him up short. Takes his hand and lays it over her breastbone. "No," she says, "I *love* you. I'm sorry it took this to make me realise that."
That derails him. His face is working, betraying deep and rending pain, and love too. Devastating and crushing. She wonders how she never saw it before.
"Merlin," he whispers, "oh, no, not now. Oh, Cissa. My Narcissa." He looks utterly stricken. Bows his head to her shoulder and then he's shaking, and she thinks - *thinks* - it might be with tears.
"Lucius," she says, waves of sadness washing over her, "shhh. Love me. Just love me." She brings him up and kisses him soundly. "Please."
He gives a low sound against her mouth, could be longing, could be grieving, she isn't sure. Nods against her. Gathers her up against him, with his hand in her hair and his arm around her waist. She is unlacing and unbuttoning and pushing clothes apart and she can't get close enough.
"Lay me down," she says, and he does.
"Come to me," she says, and he does.
"Make me yours," she says, but really, she already is.
The Ministry official knocks as dawn is stretching its fingers across the sky.
Lucius said his goodbyes to Draco in his room an hour ago. They do not want him near the Dementors. Since then, they have been curled up together in the drawing room, waiting.
Now, he rises. The set of his shoulders is firm as the house-elves open the door. He kisses her firmly, just once, then releases her.
"Don't forget the parchments," he says. "You'll need them at the hearing." He says it gently.
Their lovemaking wasn't the precipice, she realises. Not really. And suddenly stepping off it with him is as easy as breathing.
"There will be no hearing," she says. "There will be no divorce." Her voice is different to her own ears. Stronger. More real.
"Narcissa," he whispers.
"Hush," she says, and he does. "I am your wife."
And she has always been a good wife.