Sometimes I lie in bed in the morning, long after Lucius has padded out to a table that is perpetually filled by people I don’t want in my house, and I pretend to be asleep for at least twenty minutes. It is during this blissful time that I sit and count all the ways I hate the Dark Lord – the Dark Lord, never Voldemort. Even in my head, his title reverberates. I am not myself anymore; I do not belong to myself and cannot pretend to. I can’t even belong to Lucius.
The Dark Lord’s voice drifted out of the open kitchen door and around the side of the house through my bedroom window. I clamped a pillow over my head but couldn’t shut him out.
“There is some progress on that account,” replied Severus Snape. I wouldn’t mistake that improperly gleeful voice anywhere. I shuddered, doubling up my pillows to fold over my ears. What was up with the total disregard for common courtesy with these people, anyway? I should be entitled to moan to myself about my problems without having some jabbering idiots constantly interrupting.
“There is a person in the Order I suspect will be very easy to sway,” Severus went on silkily. “He was in my year, and I observed during our time together at Hogwarts that his friends were not as fond of him as he was of them. There is a rift, however small, and I’ve begun to sow seeds of doubt there. It shouldn’t be long before he’s willing to hand over information on those who have treated him like an afterthought.”
“What is this man’s name?”
“Pettigrew.” He paused for effect and added, “His social circle includes James Potter, Sirius Black, and a werewolf by the name of Remus Lupin. You’ll find these names to be of particular interest to you, I believe.”
There was a mixture of noises after this, with mutterings to convey their disgust for the wolf and murmurings of appreciation where Potter and my cousin Sirius were concerned. I rolled my eyes. In what way was Sirius Black valuable to anyone? The boy couldn’t even drink soup without slurping. Maybe Bellatrix wanted vengeance on him for making the Blacks look bad. Did she notice that the other Black boy was gone? Did any of them take stock of the empty chair that Regulus once sat at?
I doubted they noticed anything that wasn’t right in front of them.
Regulus had disappeared, presumably killed by the Order, and Sirius was fighting alongside the revolutionaries who compared themselves to phoenixes – which never failed to incite sniggers and snorts from the Death Eaters. They thought that ‘the Order of the Phoenix’ was a ludicrous, flamboyant title. All feathers, no force, as Severus once said. Personally, it was my belief that they were wasting their time and resources on people like Sirius, Lupin, and that Potter boy who always had the messy hair. How many secrets could those idiots possibly know, anyway? Pettigrew was a misuse of our energy.
I wouldn’t say anything, of course. I wouldn’t dare disagree out loud. Even in my own head, I’d become something of a doormat. I let everything pass right over me because it was dangerous to bring attention to myself, and spent most of my waking time stewing in resentment over the current state of my life.
My wedding to Lucius, to start with, had been a hushed, uncomfortable affair with none of the intimacy I would have wanted. I had intended to elope in France and escape the gloominess of England for a brief spell before we moved to Scotland. Instead, I found myself locked into a ceremony in Bellatrix and Rodolphus’s house, surrounded by people I hadn’t invited. When Lucius kissed me, I didn’t reciprocate it. I didn’t want to feel anything when the Dark Lord was in the room, as I didn’t want him to somehow take those emotions from me. I got the strange sensation that he robbed people of their sentiments, and so I took great care to hide mine.
Adding to the list of things I was bitter about, my husband and I weren’t permitted to move to Scotland. We were only told that it was the Dark Lord’s preference that we remained ‘stationed’ in Wiltshire. We have since built tall hedges and an iron fence around Malfoy Manor, as if that could keep the evil out. But the evil always finds ways of trickling in…I catch Lucius turning out his pockets whenever he comes home, and inside them he has concealed Dark objects. He brings them here and hides them, thinking that if he keeps them locked up under the drawing room floor, it will tilt the power in our favor. I don’t want to be protected by Cursed candles. I want my freedom back.
I don’t know how many years it’s been since I lost that. By the time I started to count, I realized I couldn’t remember when it began. The years congealed together, the newlyweds who should have been over the moon fading away into two ships passing in the night. I loved him but I wouldn’t tell him, and he told me he loved me so often that I was starting to question the sincerity of it.
And now, with another summer soon approaching, Lucius had gotten worse than I’d ever anticipated. He was beginning to suffer under the delusion that if he hoarded these items in our home, they would somehow protect us. He makes me sleep with amulets under my pillow. There’s a skull that rests on the bed post that has been bewitched to recognize intruders, and it keeps me awake for hours at night with its glowing yellow eyes. Those two yellow blurs for eyes seep into my nightmares with the candles and amulets and all the other diseased, illegal artifacts Lucius has begun to collect, and they are doing the opposite of what he intended.
They terrify me. Lucius terrifies me. I love him, I do, but my resentment is a powerful, powerful thing and it threatens to surmount that love. I know that in order to survive, I’ll have to smother these waspish thoughts with a pillow. I will have to pull a sheet over my face, over my mouth, and breathe deeply until I am out of my own body and can bear the day-to-day shouting, plotting, murdering. I wouldn’t have cared if all of this occurred next door. I don’t care about the people dying, the people they plan to kill. I only care that headquarters is right under my roof and it’s draining all of the precious time I still have left with my husband before they turn him back into the monster he was when I first met him.
I hate the Dark Lord. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him. He makes Gaspard Pravus look like a saint. Gaspard will be dead soon, from what I hear. I wish I could be happy about it but I’m upset that I can’t kill him myself. What right do the Carrows have to take Gaspard’s life? It isn’t fair. I deserve to feel his soul slip out of his bones. That right belongs to Lucius and me, not to a couple of hunchbacked nimrods who had never even heard of Pravus two months ago.
The Dark Lord told me, after a sensitive search of my mind, that I had a talent with persuading people. He saw the memories of me speaking to Gaspard’s henchmen; how I softened Lucius and convinced people to buy my cheap trinkets in the Wasteir village square for inflated prices. He decided that I could be of the most use to him as a recruiter, so he has dispatched me to bribe and lure followers into his ranks. Despite my gift for it, I receive no fulfillment from this. I’m not getting anything out of it, after all, and I highly detest being treated like a puppet.
So this is my life now, it seems. I say little, and think even less (except for these prized minutes in the morning when no one can see the expression on my face). I have learned how to keep my mouth shut when it counts. I am never told what Lucius does for the Dark Lord, nor do I ask anymore. All I know is that whatever he gets up to with his Death Eater mates has had a strong effect on his demeanor – his patience is easily worn and he snaps at others. He never snaps at me. I think he knows that he would mysteriously die in his sleep if he treated me like he treats his inferiors in ranks below him.
There are premature lines in his forehead. He’s always pale and sickly-looking, his hair sometimes falling out for me to wipe off the pillow every morning when I turn over to find him already gone. I punish myself by imagining what our lives would be like if we’d never stumbled into the Dark Lord’s web. If Lucius had never played the wrong note on his piano and fallen into a deep sleep, and if I had never been pulled through a mirror into Gaspard’s clutches.
Horatio and Ramien and Wren would all still be here, and the house would still be as grand and ominous as it ever was. Lucius and I would have every single day to ourselves. There would never be enough hours in the day. We would never rise early enough to kiss each other good morning, would hate falling asleep at night except for the fact that we did so together. These days, I was lucky to get an owl from him before I fell asleep, telling me not to wait up.
The Dark Lord is a thief.
I hate my sister, too. She doesn’t even care that he robbed her life from her. It revolts me; it’s such a waste. I hate that little cockroach Rabastan for mentioning to Lucius that he ought to get some elves to look after me during the day – like elves would fill the void Lucius left behind. I told Lucius that I didn’t want elves. I said that I wanted him. He stared coldly at me and said, “You know that you ask for too much.” So he got me elves to make himself feel better about having a lonely wife, and he got me twin albino peacocks to serve as a consolation prize.
Now I never have a free moment.
“What would you like for breakfast, ma’am?” an elf squeaked. I scowled at the door, which I hadn’t noticed was open. The voices in the kitchen were much louder now, but they lacked the usual sobriety and were more raucous, less stressed. The Dark Lord must have left.
“Get out,” I spat. The elf stared dumbly at me, tray in its grotesque fingers rattling, and I hurled a pillow at it. “I said to get out!”
The elf fled, trembling, and Lucius appeared in the doorway. He frowned at me, but he also looked relieved. “Narcissa,” he chided gently. “Don’t upset the help. I would hate for them to burn my breakfast and have to wait an extra twenty minutes for another.”
I stared at the ceiling, eyes glazed. I think I’ve been lying like this for days. My dressing gown feels like I put it on a week ago, the way that it sticks to my legs and outlines my shape like a snow angel. I absently twirled a lock of hair in one finger, my body sprawled all over the bed and sinking into the mattress several inches. “I hate you,” I replied to the ceiling.
The door closed with a click, muffling the voices that never, ever went away. I felt Lucius’s weight press onto the end of the bed, just on the corner’s edge so that he wouldn’t have to be too close to me. I knew he wasn’t worried about physical proximity, but emotional. I couldn’t blame him, really; every time I got the opportunity, I yelled at him for leaving me alone all the time even though I knew he had no choice, even though I wanted to be alone. I couldn’t stop making him say he was sorry. I didn’t know how to. “My darling, you’re doing it again.”
I didn’t try to hide my venom. “Darling, I don’t care. I just don’t care.”
He stood up, annoyed. “Fine. Sit in here and feel sorry for yourself if it suits you.”
I wanted to roll over so that he wouldn’t have the privilege of seeing my face, but didn’t have the motivation to. I also didn’t want to see his eyes. I knew about the horrors he kept safe from me, the horrors I didn’t want to know he committed so he kept them bottled up in his own heart. I would have liked to watch him perform curses on his marks. I loved to watch his wandwork, and was more than a little put out that they had banded together and decided I could never tag along.
They were quite rude, my lot. Pushy, bossy, busybodies.
“Nothing suits me,” I drawled to the ceiling again. The albino peacocks floated over the garden hedge, cooing at each other. I could see them out the corners of my eyes. “I want to die.”
“Feeling melodramatic, are we? I’ll be glad when that thing’s out of you. You haven’t been yourself.”
I closed my eyes and felt the brush of Lucius’s lips on my forehead. “How can I be?” I answered, hoping that I hadn’t only imagined Lucius’s kiss. No matter how many times I said I didn’t want it, I did. I looked forward to it and hated it when he kept his affection from me just because I told him to. Sometimes I just wanted to hurt him, to tear him up with psychological scars. “I don’t belong to myself.”
“You belong to me.”
I almost smiled. “You’re a liar.”
He didn’t have anything to say to that, and stood up. He strode over to the door, opening it wide enough to let in the odious smells of a luncheon. I wrinkled up my nose against the assaulting beef. “Shut the door. I want to die in peace.”
“You can die when you’re old, Cissa. For now, you need to eat something.”
I finally found the motivation to roll over, grumbling to myself. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
The door closed on his last words: “I love you.” I didn’t say it back. If I refused to give him sentiment, then the Dark Lord wouldn’t be able to just take it away from him again. He couldn’t take what I wouldn’t give.
A tiny foot kicked my ribs. “You can’t tell me what to do, either,” I told the foot. It kicked harder, reminding me that I was wrong.