Title: Dinner Settings
Universe: HP x BtVS
Series: Sequel to Willow Tree Burning
Disclaimer: JKR owns all HP, Joss is the god of BtVS
Rating: depicted violence and suicide, dark thoughts, general ill will wished to many, grousing
Summary: No one ever expected smooth sailing after Voldemort’s defeat, not even Narcissa Malfoy.
Dedication: For EmeraldSwan, her wishlist fic.
The table was laid out in glittering splendor: shining sliver, gilt-edged plates, great arching candelabras filled with magical lights that flickered with palest silver, softest blue, and brightest gold. There were vases of flowers, exotic and brilliant in their beauty, obtained magically from some far-off land where it was perpetually warm. Their aroma drifted through the room, an almost tangible reminder of the day at hand.
The annual Malfoy New Year’s celebration. A party to be spent in joyous contemplation of life and renewal, filled with the laughter and cheer of friends and family.
Narcissa looked at the place cards, elegantly trimmed in silver and tiny shooting stars, and tempered the urge to crumple them in mindless rage.
But she resisted, as she always did, and shuffled through them one more time. Minister Fudge, Councilor Harburg, Leona and Filmore Rudger, Madam Goyle, Lisetta Teamunny, Severus Snape and a handful of others. Willow. Draco.
Names she had to order around the table as she had done before for countless parties, balls, fetes. It should have been so easy, like clockwork, but it wasn’t because this was the first party she’d thrown, a famous Narcissa Malfoy party, since her husband had died.
Or, if she were being a tad more honest, the day she had him killed. She stared down the length of ostentatious glamour and didn’t see anything but her husband’s face, frozen in horror as she’d sealed his fate. His pale blonde hair floated on the breeze of flickering candles, his eyes flashed with the silver flickers of light from the place settings.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and wished she had the luxury of going mad. After all, it was in the family- look at Bellatrix. Stark raving looney, hair pulling, cheek scratching fury. It must be liberating, Narcissa thought, to finally not give a damn. Then again, a week after Voldemort’s demise, Bellatrix had leapt on her in the middle of Diagon Alley, eyes wild and skin pale, and tried to rip her face off with just her nails.
Good thing Willow’s new amulet of protection had held, because the crowd hadn’t been terribly quick to come to her rescue. Narcissa had rolled around with Bellatrix on the dusty road like two common street urchins, neither doing much physical damage, but Narcissa was horrified at her sister’s pain. Eventually those two twin Weasley brats, of all people, came thundering through the gawkers with typical Gryffindor bravado and yanked her deranged sister away.
“You little traitor bitch. You’ve undone us all! How could you! How could you!” Bellatrix spit at her, face blotchy with rage. “You think they’ll accept you? Never, you’re as damned as I am! As I am!”
With that, she twisted and pulled a dagger from her tall leather boot, but instead of throwing it at Narcissa as everyone expected, she took a clean swipe at her own neck, the brilliant red blood spattering the perfect cream of Narcissa’s outer robes.
There was silence then, the uncomfortable stillness of horrified onlookers- unsure whether to acknowledge that the scene they’d been so ravenously observing a moment before had actually happened. Had the feared Malfoy matriarch really been tussling with her demented, decidedly evil, and now very deceased sister, in the middle of the street?
When Bellatrix slumped to the ground, Narcissa ignored the crowd and took a few steps forward to kneel by her sister. The light was gone from her eyes, and without the madness distorting things, Narcissa could see the sister she’d loved so very dearly all those years ago. It had always been Trixy and Cissa against Andromeda, but no more. Childish ways had been put away many years ago, and all she had left was a body growing cold under the watchful eyes of a judging public.
The Weasley twins shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as Narcissa stood again, looking them over carefully. “If you help me get my sister home, I’ll see you handsomely rewarded.”
Head held high, Narcissa led the procession through the streets, pretending her robes weren’t soiled, her hair wasn’t mussed, and the corpse of her sister wasn’t floating along behind her. The Weasleys, Fred and George she’d learned, had followed her home, somber, and had even more somberly accepted the bags of galleons she’d dropped in their outstretched palms.
“You needn’t ma’am, we-“
Narcissa cut off the one called Fred with a wave of her hand. “Nonsense. Please, do something nice in honor of your brother.” Even Narcissa, famed for her insular outlook on life, had known about the casualties. She’d have been blind not to. The twins took the money.
Bellatrix Black LeStrange had been buried in the family plot two days later. A wake attended only by Draco, Willow and herself had taken place in the parlor, the room next to the one in which she current stood, fingering the place settings. Many had sent flowers, because even if the Malfoys were currently uncategorizable into ‘good’ or ‘evil’, they were always categorized into ‘frightening’.
No one showed any overt disrespect and everyone from the LeStranges to the Goyles, from the Parkinsons to the Zabinis sent overly large, entirely depressing heaps of flowers. The Weasley twins sent one as well, though the card was directed to Narcissa herself, and said ‘No one should suffer the loss of a sibling, no matter how estranged’. She’d been touched, but hid the card from her son.
Her son. Draco. His was an easy placement around the table- the head. He was the man of the house now, with Lucius gone, and he would sit in the place of honor. His new found gravity would suit him well, but Narcissa knew she’d be hard pressed not to blink and see another blond head in that seat. Willow was a bit more difficult to place.
Narcissa sighed and glanced out the large picture window overlooking the garden. The redhead in question was pacing through the small maze, Glacies at her side. She was talking to herself, reciting something, and Narcissa guessed it was the proper modes of address for the guests here this upcoming evening.
Willow was adjusting satisfactorily to her new life, but sometimes Narcissa caught the young woman staring blankly at a wall, her hands held tensely in her lap. There was a certain stillness to her body that reminded her of wild animals poised to spring, and she wondered just how much difficulty Willow was really having.
But she never complained, and took to the family business like a natural in the few short weeks she’d lived in the Manor. Narcissa was pleased, and hoped that avenue would help Willow heal.
She knew what it was like to lose the ones you loved, whether they’d been left behind or murdered in their basements.
Narcissa shook herself, tracing small patterns in the frost on the window. The house elves would be along shortly to clean everything to a royal shine-- what did it matter if she mussed the glass?
She laid the place card with Draco’s name at the head spot and ran her fingers over the edges of Willow’s card. By rights, she should sit at the foot of the table, the position of the lady of the house, as she was Draco’s wife. Except, she was wife in mystical bonds only- the rest of the Wizarding community had no idea about her status. So Narcissa would retain her usual place at the foot and seat Willow at Draco’s right. The girl would be more comfortable there anyway, she decided, as she knew so few people.
Selfishly, Narcissa switched Severus’ place card from its location at the middle of the table to the seat to her right. If she had to be alone at this gathering, she would be alone amongst friends.
It had not been hard to choose her son over her husband when the time came, but Narcissa hadn’t really understood what it meant to be alone. How long until she was no longer necessary, until she was replaced in name as well as status?
She looked again out the window at Willow’s winding path, the chill wind ruffling her cloak and Glacies’ neck ruff. The young witch was silent now, one hand delicately caressing the great serpent’s crest, moving along side him smoothly. They were headed into the house now, and in a few moments they’d be in the dining room.
Narcissa took a deep breath, and reshuffled her place cards. She would lay them out with outward dignity and calm. The house elves would provide a dinner with splendor worthy of the Malfoy name. The celebration would be one talked of for years, a fitting follow up to the Yule Ball at the Ministry. The Malfoy name would continue to inspire awe and not a little fear. Throughout it all, she would welcome her daughter-in-law into the social fold with high hopes and higher expectations.
She was Narcissa Black Malfoy, and she now ruled alone.