Gaze no more in the bitter glass

La Reine Noire

Story Summary:
If there was one talent that threaded its way through the bloodlines of the Black family, it was that of survival.

Chapter 01


If there was one talent that threaded its way through the bloodlines of the Black family, it was that of survival.

She forced herself to remember that during those last dark months as her home--her haven, the little world in which some of her most treasured memories now fought to linger--was invaded. The Dark Lord's sinuous shape haunted her corridors, his shadow fell across the paintings she had so carefully chosen, his filthy steps darkened each and every room, and Malfoy Manor, the showplace of which she had been so proud, steadily decayed as if infected by some dread plague.

And it was Lucius--her husband, her love--that had let him in. Invited him, even.

Of course, it had not been his choice. Narcissa knew that, had felt those awful fingers scrabbling across her deepest thoughts and fought to think of nothing at all---

Think of a blank wall, Narcissa. Nothing but white.

They were Severus' words, not hers. She had begged him to teach her Occlumency in the days of the previous war, when she'd still been young enough to think they could outrun the darkness.

Severus was dead now. They had buried him beside his mother and father in the tiny parish churchyard not too far from that dreary house where she and Bellatrix had tracked him down what seemed like aeons ago and bound him to the promise that had ultimately killed him. The worst part was the knowledge that, were she given the chance to make that choice once more, she would have done no different. Nor would Severus.

He'd forgiven her for it, thin lips stretching into what might have once been a smile. A death's head grin now. He does not deserve your love, Narcissa. But they rarely do. She had long suspected that Severus had loved and lost years before, but it would never have occurred to him to say anything. Nor would it have occurred to her to pry. Instead, she had leant forward and kissed his cold cheek. "You are better than I deserve, Severus. If we live through this, I--"

His fingers pressed against her lips, trapping the unspoken words. Though it stung at first, he was right. They had no call to speak of a future that might never exist.

It existed now--that much was certain. Murky and broken, the world after the war was a maze of shattered glass and ghosts. She could not think of a single family that had not lost someone and it seemed a miracle that she and Lucius and Draco had all survived.

Bella, in spite of all arguments to the contrary, now rested in the family mausoleum. In the first days after the carnage at Hogwarts, the Ministry had kept the remains of all identified Death Eaters as if in fear that they might somehow rise again. Narcissa had seen her sister's body with her own eyes and there had been no doubt in her mind that whatever fragments of Bella's soul the Dementors had not drank were long gone. She had gone to the Ministry herself and demanded that they release her sister for burial. Shorthanded and overworked, they'd barely protested.

At least Bella slept in quiet now, the dreams of Azkaban forever silenced. Not like Lucius, who still awakened in the dead of night with the taste of the Dementor's Kiss in his mouth, or Draco, whose eyes held echoes of horrors he should never have witnessed, let alone committed.

Draco, for whom she had destroyed the Dark Lord Voldemort.

The Potter brat may have cast the killing spell but it was Narcissa's eleventh-hour deception that had given him the chance. Of course, nobody would ever know. This troubled her not one bit. Narcissa had never sought the limelight as Bellatrix had. Her strength lay in her ability to disappear, to fade into the background where she could listen unnoticed.

She did not know to this day if Bella had realised who had betrayed her precious Dark Lord in the end. But Bella had given herself body and soul many years ago, willing to sacrifice even her own family for the favour of an upstart--a powerful upstart, no doubt, but unworthy of any scion of the Black lineage.

She'd killed her own kin for him.

Narcissa had barely recognised the description of her cousin when Kreacher had appeared at her door what seemed like decades before, filthy and muttering. He'd gone round the bend well before Aunt Walburga died--unsurprising, given how much he'd adored Regulus--but even afterward, he had refused to leave Grimmauld Place, insistent that his master needed him there. Narcissa, herself still reeling from the loss of both cousins and her sister, had ordered one of the Malfoy house-elves to keep watch over him and left him there with his ghosts and his trinkets.

...lets in filthy Mudbloods and blood-traitors, Master Sirius does. If my mistress could see the state of it, if only she could see it...

Narcissa had known of Sirius' inclinations, of course; how could she not when he'd made such a spectacle of himself? She supposed it shouldn't have surprised her that thirteen years in Azkaban had done nothing to improve his temper. One could have argued--and no doubt this was Bella's rationale--that Sirius had forfeited any claims to the family name on the day Aunt Walburga's furious spell blasted him from the family tree in the parlour at Grimmauld Place. But Narcissa, as Lucius often teased, could never accept the simple answer to any problem.

And, what seemed like a thousand lifetimes ago, she had loved her wild, idiotic cousin. Just as she had loved her sensible elder sister before Andromeda had abandoned them all for a Mudblood and Bella before the Dark Lord had enslaved her. Only Narcissa, it seemed, understood that the Blacks had survived by putting family above all else.

The cost was yet to be determined.

Draco had barely spoken to her since that night in Scotland. Nor did he confide in his father; indeed, the awful gentleness in his eyes whenever he looked at Lucius sent a gnawing pain lancing through Narcissa's heart. She had sworn so long ago that he should not watch his world fall apart as she had, and there was no doubt in her heart that she had failed beyond measure.

Or so she had thought until the day Draco dropped a thick, embossed piece of parchment onto the table in front of her some several weeks after Bella's burial.

"Shacklebolt's to be sworn in as Minister for Magic," he said without preamble. "We should be there."

"You can't be serious." Narcissa studied the invitation, noting the smudged ink and imperfect calligraphy that implied how hastily it had been put together. "We'll be shunned. We'd be lucky if they didn't spit on us and throw us out."

"But at least we'd have tried." Raking one hand through his hair and looking so much like his father that her heart lurched, he jabbed at the paper with one finger. "This is the future, Mother. Like it or not. You may be willing to shut yourself away in this bloody mausoleum and pretend the rest of the world no longer exists, but we both know you're lying to yourself. Even Father knows it, though he'd never tell you."

"Your father is ill--"


"Draco, I'm warning you--"

"No, Mother," he snapped. "No more warnings. No more...I don't even know what it is you're doing here anymore." He grabbed her hands, forcing her to meet his eyes. "You need to stop this if we're going to do anything more than survive by the skin of our teeth. And you know this. You just won't do it."

She could feel the tears welling in her eyes. "I can't recognise anything anymore."

"Then you learn it all over again. You've done it before, Mother. And you're far from the only one."

He was right, of course. There were countless others to whom the world had become a strange, twisted reflection of itself. And one of them she knew could understand as nobody else did.

In the end, it barely merited the title of letter. A series of words, stilted and halting, conjuring shadows long since consigned to dust.

She did not know if Andromeda would reply. But if there was one thing she knew as she watched the owl disappear into the sunset, it was that, one way or another, she would survive.