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Summary – Mistake: it was the one word in the English language that Narcissa Malfoy had too much experience with. One family blindly pledged their allegiance to the greatest dark wizard and were faced with the penalties that followed his downfall.



Paper Tiger: A person or organization that appears to be powerful but in reality is ineffectual



"Paper Tiger"


"Chapter One: Resist or Serve" 



            As long as Narcissa Malfoy could remember, her mother told her everything was either black or white and not a shade a grey. There was no medium, no halfway, no maybes, or what ifs. There was a right and a wrong; and by Merlin if her children didn't pick the right path, there would be hell to pay. If her daughters strayed down the wrong path, the Black name would be tarnished forever and that simply would not be suitable under any circumstance.



            Druella Black also talked about great tales of love and passion. Narcissa was taught that there was no such thing as coincidence when it came to love and that everything happens for a reason. Devotion to your soul mate could not waver - emotions could never be torn. Perhaps, that was why she knew her life would belong to a single boy when she was only seven years old. She knew in the instant that she saw him holding her cousin's hand and offering to play a game with him that she was in love, and there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Narcissa couldn't help but think, years later, that perhaps devotion could waver and emotions could tear.

            When did the infallible love suddenly stop? When exactly had she been persuaded to a life of tears and sorrow? At what moment did her life start to crumple at her feet?



            One mistake, that was all it took to ruin her ideal family. They were told it was resist or serve, that there was no other way out. They either served the Dark Lord or prepare themselves for unavoidable death. If only it were that simple, only so pure. Serving seemed like the obvious decision at the time: the right choice that would lead the Black name into prominence.

            The simplest of things, however, are never easy and rarely pure. If only she knew that from the beginning. If only she tried harder to convince her husband that he was going about things the wrong way. If only she stopped her sister from blindly devoting her life for a cause that wasn’t even her own. If only she herself denied to be branded. If only she heeded to Andi’s advice and stayed neutral in the fight ultimately between good and evil. If onlys and what ifs… which ones could have changed the outcome? Or would they have been doomed no matter which path they chose to march down?

            She was told it would be a high honor to serve the Dark Lord. She was told that everything she ever wished and hoped for would become reality if her arm bore the Dark Mark. Then why, if nothing but good was supposed to come out of serving him, was her life slowly falling apart? Why must Reggie die and never have his body recovered? Why must Bella be destined to the tortures of Azkaban? Why must Lucius have to pay his way out of Azkaban? Why must the Malfoy and Black names be fated to be tainted with the label of dark?



-

            Her heels clicked on the broken and stained cobblestone walkway. She unconsciously drew her expensive emerald cloak tighter around her body as the icy air emitted from the Dementors licked her flesh. Blonde locks bounced back and forth like stiff pendulums as her strides quickened. Voices filled her head as she tried her hardest to push them away. Her breath hitched in her throat, and she found it difficult to breathe through her nose. Her pale lips parted, letting a puff of frosty breath escape.

            It was evident that her life of luxury and privilege was still intact, despite the mistakes the Malfoy and Black lines made. She was still married to one of the richest men in the Wizarding World - but doubts plagued her mind about the man whom she used to think she was made for. It seemed, however, that her once fulfilling life was nothing more than a mere black hole of darkness and despair. The absence of her older sister made the world appear depopulated in her eyes. Bella. She could remember when they were little girls running around Black manor picking flowers, dancing around in circles, making daytrips through their grandparents' meadow. The memories of them together were faint as the Dementors tampered with her mind, sucking out what little happiness that still remained.

            “Name,” a gruff voice snapped her out of her reverie.

            “Narcissa Malfoy,” she spoke curtly as her jaw tightened and nose shot up in the air. “I am here to visit Bellatrix Lestrange.”

            The wizard glared at her tone, his lips twitching into a sneer. He flipped through a clipboard of papers. Dark circles resided under his bloodshot eyes. His face was gaunt, his cheeks concaved as though they were large canyons. He towered over her, his upper body muscular and tight with tension. A pink tongue snaked out of his mouth, moistening cracked lips. The papers rustled as his fingers twitched and jerked involuntarily. Narcissa held back a noise of annoyance.

            “Cellblock seven,” he mumbled mostly to himself before speaking up. “It’s highly guarded. I’m sorry. I can’t give you permission to go down there.”

            "Did you not hear that my name is Narcissa Malfoy?” she challenged. “My husband Lucius Malfoy and father-in-law Abraxas Malfoy have spent a great deal of money to keep this sorry excuse of a prison running. I think you should reconsider your decision of denying me access to see Ms Lestrange before our generous donations suddenly cease to arrive.”

            The man seemed to consider the woman in front of him for several seconds before he reached into a drawer and pulled out a badge that read, “Azkaban Visitor – 8”. Narcissa grabbed the badge and fastened it carefully on her cloak. A hand stuck itself in front of her chest, gesturing to her wand that was tucked away in her cloak. Groaning, she handed over her wand almost reluctantly. Certainly, she didn't trust the buffoons employed at Azkaban to keep her safe from Dementors and the ingrates behind bars.



            After several long minutes, a guard appeared to take her down to cellblock seven which had just been cleared of all Dementors. The new man looked sick and weak. Narcissa felt more unsafe than before.

            The two walked briskly down the uneven floor of the prison. There were more stains in the long corridors, dark blackish spots as well as sickly greenish ones.  Several of the wizards banged on the bars of their cells and shouted obscene words to Narcissa - there were even a few men who thrust their naked bodies at her and growled almost as though they were barbaric animals striped down to the core. Others rocked back and forth in the corners of the cells with their heads in their hands - mumbling and crying softly to themselves.



            They turned left where a large seven was stamped on the weathered, granite wall. The shouting and crude gestures continued to be directed at Narcissa in the new corridor, but she really didn't expect anything less from savages. One wizard reached through the bars and made a grab for her. Flinching, she hurried to be as close to the guard as she could. She bumped into him, which caused the guard to send a spark from his wand at the wizard who tried to grope her. He leapt away from the metal bars, cursing loudly while spitting in their direction.

            One prisoner caught Narcissa's eye in particular and not because she was frightened or disgusted by him. A young man with long, black hair stared at her from the back of his cell. He was in nothing but tattered cloth pants. On his torso, a distinguishing tattoo was etched upon it - a tattoo that had not been there the last time she saw him. His gray eyes were distant and burned into her. She could have sworn she saw them flicker in recognition, a small spark of hope shining. A lump formed in her throat to see her tortured cousin.



            There was a time when Narcissa and Sirius used to play games on the grounds of their grandparents' manor, when they'd joke and laugh during dinnertime, when she'd tell him stories during boring parties, when he used to be a sweet little boy who would ran to her and her sisters when hurt. She could even remember the exact moment when he was sorted into Gryffindor, when he became outspoken against their family, when he had ran away from home, when he had been blasted off the family tree. She could remember being told he was no longer a Black, no longer her cousin, that he was nothing but vermin just like Mudbloods and Half-Breeds. Tears burned her pale eyes as she forced herself to look away. He was just another reason her life fell apart - her once favorite, bubbly cousin who had betrayed her family.

            She walked farther into the block until they finally reached the prisoner she longed to see. Bellatrix was lounging on an old, dusty cot with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. Her black hair was in dirty snarls. Her robes were twisted on her thin frame and looked as though they had been intentionally ripped in several places. Bella took a drag of her cigarette as her eyes burned into her sister.

            “If it isn’t my perfect sister.” Bella’s voice was husky with sarcasm. “I hope you are only here to visit and not to become a guest in this humble abode. It isn’t as luxurious as it looks.”

            “You have ten minutes,” the guard spoke sternly as he unlocked the cell to allow Narcissa entrance.

            “Only here for a visit, Bella,” Narcissa replied once the guard left.

            “Of course, your loyalty to the Dark Lord isn’t as great as mine.”

            Narcissa stood stiffly with her back resting uncomfortably against the bars. There were so many thoughts running wild through her mind, so many things that needed to be said, but neither one of them felt it was the right place or time. They stood in silence for a couple of minutes - only the screams of the prisoners and Bella’s puffs of smoke could be heard. Narcissa wanted to cry out in anguish, but she knew Bella would only see that as weakness. How many times had Bella chastised her for crying when they were younger and carefree?



            “How did you get cigarettes?” Narcissa broke the deafening silence between them.

            “You can get anything in Azkaban if you are willing to pay the right price,” she replied with a sneer. “Naturally, everything but your freedom.”

            They lapsed into silence again as Bella flicked her cigarette butt at the opposite wall. She adjusted herself on the hard cot so that she could lean her head against the wall. Her eyes were heavy with weariness as she looked over at her younger sister as though she expected to see some change in her.

            “Is this worth it?” Narcissa burst out, her voice cracking ever so slightly. “Living in this nightmare to prove your brainless loyalty to a man who is dead?”

            “The Dark Lord is not dead!” Bella roared as she jumped up from the cot. “When he reemerges from the depths of hell that Harry Potter laid upon him, those of us who remained unconditionally devoted to him will be repaid in the highest of respects!”

         “Yes, yes,” Narcissa snapped with disdain lacing her words, “let us hope by then you are not dead or driven insane by the Dementors!”

            “You do not understand what the Dark Lord is capable of, Cissy! If you did, you would not be doubting the life he is offering you!”

            “What has he offered me?” she challenged. “A sister and cousin who are in prison? A cousin who is dead? A husband who had to pay his way out of Azkaban? He has given me nothing but grief!”

            “Reggie deserved to die for doubting the Dark Lord! Sirius isn’t even a Death Eater! Lucius is a coward! As for me, I am happy to live my life here until the Dark Lord brings salvation!”

            “Don’t be daft, Bella," she said curtly.

            “Don’t be so pessimistic, Cissy.”



            In that moment, Narcissa saw her sister as a stranger. She was no longer the girl who crafted games for her sisters and cousins. She was no longer the girl who stood up to bullies who were pushing around her younger family members. No, Bella was no longer the girl that Narcissa had grown up with, the girl who would laugh in the face of danger and loved her family more than anything. Narcissa couldn’t bear it any longer, so she left Azkaban with her mind set on the future – set onto her son. She would not allow her son to fall in the same pitfalls as so many Blacks before him.






            There was a certain etiquette that is instilled in every pureblood's mind from the time they learn how to comprehend what was said and done around them. There were rules that needed to be followed. Seven members of the Black family didn't heed to those regulations. Narcissa didn't much care at first for the sister and cousin she was ordered not to see or speak to again. They were the blood traitors who turned their backs on the family and not the other way around. With the Black empire crumbling beneath her, Narcissa made a spur of the moment decision - a choice she was sure that if she spent only seconds longer to contemplate she would never have made it.



            Before she could stop herself, Narcissa found herself outside of a small cottage with her knuckles rapping on the wooden door. After a few seconds of knocking, she regretted ever coming to the house or considering talking to someone who wasn't even worthy enough to be recognized as a Black any longer. With Bella gone, Narcissa needed an older sister to tell her what to do, how to deal, how to move on with her life.

            “I’ll get it!” a childish voice rang from beyond the door.

            The door swung open to reveal a small girl around the age of nine with vibrant purple hair surrounding her pale heart-shaped face. Narcissa couldn’t help but cringe at the sight of her so-called niece’s appearance. Forcing a smile onto her face, she asked for Andromeda. The girl opened her mouth and screamed in a shrill voice, “MUM!” at the top of her lungs. The girl stared at the woman before her, oblivious to the fact that the woman was indeed her aunt who couldn't be bothered with a half-blood.

            “Nymphador-”

            “Mum!” the girl whined. “How many times do I have to tell you to call me Tonks?”

            “How many times do I have to tell you to stop changing your hair to outrageous colors like that?” Andromeda snapped back.

            “I can’t help it! I sneezed, and it turned purple!” the girl replied annoyed.

            “You say that every single time, Dora! I just cannot under-” Andromeda broke off when she saw Narcissa standing in her doorway, “Cissy!”

            Andromeda strolled forward with her arms outstretched in a warming position. Being pulled into an embrace by her estranged sister, Narcissa cringed inwardly and hesitated before she slipped her arms around her sister as well. With two quick taps on the back, she pulled back from her older sister. The sisters had not seen each other since Andromeda moved out of Black Manor and married that Mudblood Ted Tonks. Their parents disowned Andromeda and wanted nothing to do with her after bringing such shame among the Black name. Forever being marked a blood traitor, she was disinherited from the family fortune.

            “Andi,” Narcissa whispered as she wrapped her arms protectively around her chest to ward off any more unwanted touching.

            “Long time no see!” Andromeda exclaimed as she stepped to the side to allow her younger sister into her home.

            “Likewise.”

            The house was small and the living room was decorated in an array of mix-matched furniture. On the end tables were pictures of Andromeda, her husband, and daughter. Narcissa picked up one photo to see a fifteen-year-old Andromeda in Slytherin robes with her arms around to Ravenclaw boys, one who happened to be Ted Tonks. Setting down the photo back into its spot, another picture caught her eye. Sirius Black lounged back in a chair with a blue-haired toddler sitting comfortably on his lap. He laughed as the toddler pouted at whatever had made him laugh.

            “Would you like something to drink?” asked Andromeda.

            “No, no thank you.” She cleared her throat as her eyes wandered longingly to the door.

            “I didn’t see you at Bella’s trial,” Andromeda commented.

            “No,” Narcissa replied as she glanced up at her sister, “Lucius didn’t think it was proper.”

            “It wasn’t much of a trial anyways,” Andromeda announced as she sat herself down in the nearest chair. “Bella just shouted a whole bunch of bullshit about how she was going to be repaid for being a loyal follower to the Dark Lord.”

            “Bella was never able to keep her mouth shut.”

            “Always loyal though… sort of surprised she wasn’t in Hufflepuff.” Andromeda grinned impishly. "Gosh, she'd kill me if she heard me say that… quite literally too I suspect."

            Narcissa didn’t say anything to her sister’s comment. She sneered slightly and turned her head away. There were just so many rules to adhere to, so many regulations of whom she could and could not speak with. Narcissa longed for the days when the three sisters got along famously, longed for when they would share a bed and talk into the late hours of the night. Narcissa hated Andromeda for choosing the Mudblood over her, hated her so very much.

            “Why are you here, Cissy? I’m sure you don’t need to borrow money or a pair of earrings,” Andromeda said with a hurt tone in her voice. “We both know that you’re at least ten times richer than I’ll ever be – considering you married into a rich, respectable family and didn’t get blasted off the Black family tree. I’m sure it’s not for a little reunion with mother, father, and Aunt Walburga. I’m sure that you’re not here to discuss Sirius or Regulus either.”

            “I don’t need money nor am I here to discuss our family.”

            “One would think that family would be what you would want to discuss.”

            “You were disowned by the Black family when you decided to marry that Mudblood,” Narcissa snapped. “You could have everything, yet you have nothing because you couldn’t marry into a reputable family!”

            “For someone who is disowned, I certainly care more about our family than you do! Who was at Regulus' memorial? Who was at Bella’s trial? Who was the one who went to the Ministry after Sirius was taken to Azkaban to figure out what happened? Not you, that’s for sure.”

            “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Andi! Don’t go pretending like you’re the perfect, innocent sister in all of this!”

            “Don’t start on me, Cissy,” Andromeda roared. “You were too caught up with Lucius that you didn’t even realize what was happening to our family! Bella’s a Death Eater. Did you know that? They say Reggie was one too. They say Sirius joined as well, but if Sirius is a Death Eater then I’m Grindelwald.”

            Narcissa unconsciously ran a hand over her left arm. The dark mark burned faintly in her arm, but it was nearly faded now. All the marks were nearly gone now. They were quickly disappearing for the Dark Lord vanished – but for how long? How long would Lord Voldemort cease to exist in a post-war England? Surely, he wasn’t dead. He often talked about how he went to extreme measures to ensure that he couldn’t be killed. What extreme measures could they be though?

            “It was a mistake coming here,” Narcissa mumbled as she slowly made her way to the front door. “Sorry to have wasted your time, sister dear.”



            "You know, Cissy, I have my thoughts about you."



            "What thoughts would those be, Andromeda?" Narcissa snapped as her hand clenched the doorknob.



            "I know you only joined him because of Lucius and Bella. I know that you would never put Draco in harm's way. I get it, Cissy, I really do. You thought the Dark Lord was powerful, unbeatable. You thought it was the right path to go down. It's only now that you're realizing that he wasn't as strong as he was made out to be, that he was weak and pathetic and now our family is paying the ultimate price."



            "Don't even presume you know what you're talking about." She didn't dare look at her sister. "Don't you dare judge me or my family."

            Andromeda merely sneered at her sister as she watched Narcissa wrenched the door open. With a loud WHACK! she slammed the front door shut with no intention of ever going back.



-

            If only she could go back to when she was a child, a teenager even. She could remember the games her sisters and her played before Andi chose the wrong sort of partner… before Bella went insane for power. She could remember the first day she met Lucius at the tender age of seven. She could feel the love and adoration she felt for him then. Now, however, her family was either dead, disowned, in prison, or changed so much that she couldn't even recognize them anymore.



            Was it too much to ask to go back to the way things were before the Dark Lord and the Death Eater deeds? Back to a time before war when the only thing Narcissa worried about was looking perfect for her dates with Lucius. She missed the family dinners at Aunt Walburga's home, missed the lazy summer days at her grandparents', and longed for a time when her family all got along.

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