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The Great Hall was unrecognizable. The four House tables and long staff table were gone, as were the four flags that hung above them to indicate which table belonged to which House. Half of the Hall was filled with neat rows of chairs, a long file cutting the section in half. Towards the front of the Hall was a long stage decorated with the four House’s colors. Each Professor was seated along the stage, waiting to shake the hand of the announced name. Today was Graduation Day. Term had ended a week ago and all the seventh years had returned for this traditional ceremony. The parents were seated in the audience as they watched their young son or daughter walk down the aisle, accept their diploma, and march proudly off stage after shaking the hands of their teachers of seven years. The Headmaster had just given the speech, the Professors had all said their last words, and finally the names were being called.

Sitting in the front row, of course, was a noble-looking couple. They were dressed quite handsomely and gave the impression they were wealthy, and probably stuck-up as well. To be sitting in the front row meant having certain connections to the Ministry or to the school. For this couple, it was probably both. They clapped gently as the first few names were called and each owner of the name walked past them to receive their diploma. As the name Narcissa Black was called, they clapped and smiled proudly, but made not apparent effort to show that this was their daughter.

Narcissa walked past her parents and smiled, got her diploma, shook hands with her Professors, and filed down to the back of the room and sat with her fellow peers. She spotted her older sister sitting towards the middle of the audience, her black hair flowing now near her elbows. Her other sister had not been invited, nor had Narcissa wanted her there. After her association with that Tonks man, she was no longer welcome in the family.

The names were finished being called and the Great Hall erupted in applause. The Headmaster again congratulated the students and wished them luck in their future. After that, the audience stood and moved to congratulate their sons or daughters. Narcissa found her sister first.

“So Sissy, you are finally out in the real world,” said her sister fondly.

“Yes, it would seem so,” said Narcissa.

“Any thoughts for the future? Perhaps a career? Or have you met that oh-so-special-someone?”

“No career in mind yet,” said Narcissa. “I have, though, been seeing someone lately.”

“Really? Is he a pureblood?” asked her sister, Bellatrix.

“Of course,” spat Narcissa, almost with resentment at being asked such a silly question.

“Well, what’s his name?”

“David O’Hara.”

“Not a name I’m too familiar with,” said Bellatrix.

“Well, his sister is a bit of a blood traitor if you ask me…she runs around with a boy called Finnegan, a filthy little Muggle. He says it’s nothing serious, but I would be disgusted to even mention her in public.”

“Well, just to give you a heads up, Mother and Father have a suitor in mind for you. I can’t recall his name, but he sounds decent.”

“Well, I’ll just have to tell Mom and Dad-”

“Tell us what, pumpkin?”

Narcissa turned around. Her father was standing behind her, his light hair now graying and his posture crooking with his age. He gave the impression of power and influence. Standing next to him was her mother, a tall woman with dark hair. She looked like Bellatrix, a fact that Narcissa had always envied. Her mother was beautiful, and though Narcissa was far from ugly, she envied the beauty her older sister had inherited.

“Congratulations darling,” said Mrs. Black. “We are so proud of you…graduating with such grace.”

“Yes, just like the Blacks always do…well, most of the Blacks,” said Mr. Black. “So Narcissa, what were you going to tell us?”

“Oh, I just wanted you to know I’m seeing a boy from school,” said Narcissa rather indifferently.

“Oh, how nice,” said her mother. “A pureblood I would imagine.”

“Yes, he is. I already asked her,” said Bellatrix.

“That’s my girl,” said Mr. Black. “So, what’s his name?”

“David O’Hara,” said Narcissa, anticipating her father’s reaction.

“Oh no,” said Mr. Black. “That simply won’t do. His family owes the Ministry quite a bit of gold Narcissa. He would never be able to provide you with the kind of lifestyle you deserve.”

“Father, it’s not like we’re going to get married tomorrow! We’re just dating!”

“All the more reason to break it off. You need a strong man to support you, and the less time you spend without a husband the better. Besides, his family is a bunch of blood traitors anyway…he would simply not do to court you.”

Narcissa looked pleading at her mother.

“Narcissa, your father is right. I got married right after I graduated, and look how happy I am,” said Mrs. Black. This was the least bit comforting to Narcissa, though. Her mother had always dreamed of becoming a Healer. Her parents, however, had demanded she find a suitable husband so she would never have to be burdened with meaningless tasks such as working. Though her mother seemed happy, Narcissa knew she would have chosen a different life if she would have been allowed.

“Besides, I already have someone in mind,” said her father.

Narcissa looked at Bellatrix, who nodded sharply towards her.

“Who?” asked Narcissa.

“His name is Lucius Malfoy.”

“What? Lucius? He and I would never fall in love.”

“Sometimes love is overrated,” said her father. “The important thing is that you marry as soon as you can. What would the men at the club think if I had a daughter who lived with her parents instead of finding a husband?”

Narcissa nodded. Of course the men at her father’s country club had more opinion than she did regarding her own love life. Her father lived in a world of money and power. Women married right out of school, no questions asked. They were supported by their rich and influential husbands who cared more about how their wives look rather than how kind or smart they were. There was no need for Narcissa to look for someone to love…a rich Pureblood had already been found for her. And if the men at the country club approved…

“Father, you can’t expect me to marry someone I barely know, can you?”

“No, which is why I have invited him to join us for dinner sometime over the summer. He was quite excited. Says you’re quite a catch.”

“Well, I feel so lucky,” said Narcissa, careful not to let the tone of sarcasm in her voice seem too obvious.

It wasn’t that she was in love with David. She actually thought he was a bit dull. It was that fact that she was only seventeen. Narcissa wanted to live life a bit before settling down and producing heirs to the Black family fortune. She knew her parents meant well, but she wished she could have some choice in her future. Narcissa knew it was customary for women in her family to have some sort of arranged marriage, what with there being only a few respectable Pureblood families left. She just wished it wasn’t a big deal at the moment. Narcissa glanced up and looked around her. She saw her friends making plans for their futures, all excited for what would come. She envied them as well.

As she turned her head she saw Lucius smiling at her from across the Great Hall. He was fairly handsome and she knew she could do a lot worse. At least he would be able to protect her…he was skilled in Defense Against the Dark Arts and would go very far in life. Though he could be cold and cruel, Narcissa had always felt there was a softer side to him. He just needed the right person to yank it out of him.

“Narcissa, were you listening to anything I just said,” said Mrs. Black. Narcissa snapped her head back towards her mother, who was now the only one standing with her.

“Where are father and Bellatrix?”

“They left to go mingle with the Minister of Magic. He may have something for Bellatrix in the Department of Mysteries. Did you hear what I just said?”

“Sorry mother, I wasn’t listening,” apologized Narcissa.

“As usual,” spat Mrs. Black. “You constantly daydream. Your sister Bellatrix never had any problems paying attention. Come to think of it, you’re worse than Andromeda…the filthy blood traitor.”

“I said I was sorry,” said Narcissa, who was used to the guilt trips her mother was constantly putting her on as she compared her to her older sister.

“As I was saying,” said her mother. “To what you were not paying attention was my advice to you on your father’s suggestion of a husband.”

“Why do I have to marry right out of school?” asked Narcissa.

“Because,” said Mrs. Black. “Your reputation would be at stake if you fancied actually working for the lifestyle to which you have been accustomed. People might think you are undesirable, and maybe you would become so after the gossip was through with you.”

“But I’m only seventeen,” said Narcissa.

“You do not have to marry Lucius right away. A longer engagement might seem more mature anyway.”

“Why do our lives have to revolve around what other people think!”

Mrs. Black slapped Narcissa across the cheek. “Lower your voice,” she hissed, as they were beginning to attract a bit of attention. “You know very well your father is involved in illegal activities. How would it look if he began to get earn a bad reputation? He would be easily caught. Our status keeps us out of Azkaban.”

“So, you want me to fall in love with someone I barely know? Just so I can keep your name clean?”

“Of course not,” her mother chuckled. “I expect you to try, Narcissa. After all we have done for you, this is the least you can do.”

“Why aren’t you forcing this on Bellatrix? She’s older,” said Narcissa.

“Bellatrix has recently began seeing Rodolphus Lestrange, whom your father and I consider to be quite respectable.”

Narcissa nodded. There was no way to talk her mother out of her position on the matter, so she dropped the debate. She walked away to talk with her friends from Slytherin as she thought about how her parents had ruined her graduation day.

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