~ The First ~
Narcissa was sitting stiffly on the edge of the chair, looking around in the kitchen of the Burrow as though she were visiting a Neanderthal's cave. An untouched cup of tea was waiting on the table in front of her.
Minutes passed by in silence. Finally, Molly cleared her throat.
"I know you dislike this, but the two of us have at least some grasp on reality. We can't keep them apart, so we'll have to come to terms with it. Maybe our husbands will learn from us."
After a moment of hesitation, Narcissa picked up her cup and drank.
~ The Second ~
They tried to keep their conversation to non-committal small-talk. They quickly agreed on the weather, decided to avoid politics almost immediately – it was obvious they would disagree on any given political subject – and found that there were hardly common interests or hobbies. Soon, they realised they would have to decide between silence and the children.
“So, do you think it will work? Ron and Draco?” Molly finally asked.
“If they’re as stubborn about loving each other as their fathers are about the opposite, I have little doubt.” Narcissa’s smile was thin and tight-lipped, but nevertheless there.
Molly looked amused. “I’m confident, then.”
~ The Third ~
“Have you visited them since Draco was released from St. Mungo’s?”
Obviously, that had been the wrong question to ask. Narcissa’s “No,” was icy.
“But it’s been almost two months!” Molly exclaimed incredulously.
“He lives with Potter and a mudblood!” The blond woman looked like she had tasted rotten food.
“He also lives with a ‘blood traitor’, if you remember,” Molly retorted sharply, “and I’m sure they do a lot more than just living together. But you seem to have no objections to that.”
Narcissa cringed. “You may have a point – although you could have spared me the mental images.”
~The Fourth ~
“I brought something to eat,” Narcissa said as she arrived, holding a delicate, flowered porcelain box in her gloved hands. When the tea was poured, she opened it, revealing some delicious looking fairy cakes.
Molly was pleasantly surprised.
“Did you make them?” she asked after finishing the first one. “They’re wonderful.”
Narcissa seemed mildly offended but amused at the same time. “Of course not. One of the house-elves did. I think her name is...Misty? I’m not sure.”
“Well, then, give her my compliments. From one cook to the other.”
For a reason she couldn’t quite define, Narcissa suddenly felt embarrassed.
~ The Fifth ~
The tea wasn’t getting cold, because there was a spell that kept it warm, even half an hour after Narcissa should have arrived. Molly didn’t think she would come any more. She wondered if she shouldn't have expected it – for Narcissa to get tired of this.
Fifteen minutes later, a small, golden brown owl fluttered through the window.
. . .
Please excuse my absence, but I am unexpectedly indisposed. I hope to see you next week.
P.S. Minty sends her thanks.
. . .
Molly stared down on it for a while, then took a deep breath. She, too, had prejudices to overcome.
~ The Sixth ~
“I got a letter from Draco. It’s the first one since he got released. He writes that he’s fine, and getting used to the circumstances. That he likes living with his friends.” Narcissa sipped her tea with a thoughtful expression. “He never sounded like that in his letters from school. He seems happier.”
“Well, he did look happy the last time I visited them.”
Narcissa stared at Molly for some moments, then lowered her gaze. “Yes, of course,” she murmured, “you’d have been there. You’d have seen my son.”
She left soon after, looking very pale and discontent with herself.
~ The Seventh ~
“It was strange – seeing him like that.” Narcissa stared down at her untouched cake. “He looked much better than he did the last time at St. Mungo’s, but...”
“I know it’s hard.” Molly’s voice sounded sympathetic. “It takes time getting used to. I’m still shocked every time I see Fred.”
“I suppose you’re right. It’s just...I knew how he looked in a bed. But a wheelchair...” Narcissa sighed and wondered when they had begun talking about so personal things.
When Molly slowly reached over the table and took Narcissa’s hand into her own, she looked irritated only for a second.
~ The Eighth ~
Narcissa watched Molly restlessly fussing around the kitchen for a while after pouring the tea. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more.
“Stop it! Just sit down and tell me what happened!”
Molly stared, flabbergasted, but then slumped down on her chair ungraciously.
“It’s Arthur. I asked him to help me pick a present for Ron’s birthday next week. He didn’t even answer. It’s apparently not enough he has lost two children – now he even refuses to talk to two of the remaining!”
After a bit of hesitation, Narcissa realised that this time, it was her turn to offer comfort.
~ The Ninth ~
“You should have seen their faces!” Molly could hardly suppress a snicker as she wiped off some cream from her mouth. “Poor Draco looked so desperate when Ron picked it up from the table. He certainly hadn’t planned on him unwrapping something like that in his mother’s presence. And Ron turned as red as his hair as soon as he saw it.”
Narcissa smirked. “They seem to have forgotten that we were young, too. And that their existence depended on us knowing about such things.”
Moments later, twofold laughter rang through the kitchen. It sounded like the laughter of friends.
~ The Tenth ~
She knew the twins were visiting. But when Fred limped into the kitchen, tightly clutching his crutches, the right half of his face burnt completely, with the eye closed and hair missing, Narcissa wished she were anywhere but here.
“I...didn’t want to disturb. Just need something to drink,” he said softly after a polite greeting. “I didn’t want to wake George to get it.”
Narcissa realised that he knew what she was thinking, and she’d never been more ashamed.
“Why don’t you sit down and have some tea with us?” she asked calmly.
His thankful expression was painful to watch.
~ The Eleventh ~
“He wants what?”
“Lucius wants me to have another baby, so the Malfoy bloodline continues.”
Narcissa looked deathly pale, her eyes red and swollen, as though she had cried. She could have used a Glamour Charm, and Molly felt secretly flattered that Narcissa hadn’t deemed it necessary for meeting her. Or maybe she just hadn’t thought of it.
“He seems to have successfully forgotten about the two miscarriages, or that I...I almost died at Draco’s birth.”
Molly didn’t know what to say, and so they drank their tea in silence, praying that their husbands might finally come to their senses.
~ The Twelfth ~
“I know,” Molly replied when Narcissa told her the news. “I was there just yesterday. Harry is so proud.” She chuckled. “Hermione was asking me dozens of questions – I didn’t even know which to answer first.”
“Have you seen all the books about pregnancy and upbringing? She must have got them practically on the same day.”
Molly nodded in amusement. “Some things will never change.”
Narcissa sipped her tea thoughtfully. “She asked Draco to be the second godfather, together with Ron.” It made her oddly proud.
“She’s a good girl,” Molly said warmly.
“Yes,” Narcissa slowly agreed. “Yes, she is.”
~ The Thirteenth ~
Upon arriving, Narcissa found Molly staring at the clock almost like in trance. She had noticed before that two hands, ”Charlie” and “Ginevra”, seemed to be frozen in a certain position. After a while, she realised Molly wouldn’t react to her presence, so she stood behind her, her hands on the other woman’s shoulders, waiting.
“I couldn’t take it,” Molly finally murmured hoarsely. “To see them point at Lost all the time. So, one day, I...I changed them. To Home.”
When the red-headed woman’s tears had finally subsided a little, Narcissa made tea for the first time in her life.
~ The Fourteenth ~
“Maybe I shouldn’t have come.” Narcissa’s gaze returned to the door of the living room. Right then, there was another loud sneeze, and after that, a pitiful groan.
“Nonsense,” Molly declared firmly. “You know how much of a hypochondriac every man can be if he wants. It’s nothing more than a cold and a little headache. He wouldn’t be so theatrical if it were any other friend I’d spend one hour of the afternoon with. He just doesn’t like that it’s you, a Malfoy.” She took a hearty bite of cake. “It’s a good lesson.”
Arthur sneezed again. Narcissa smiled.
~ The Fifteenth ~
“Are you sure it’s irreversible, even by magic?”
“Yes,” Molly affirmed. “I had it done at thirty-two, after...having Ginny. We couldn’t possibly afford more children. The healers told me it was safe, and final.”
“And it’s over with in a single day...” Narcissa repeated contemplatively. “Lucius would never have to know.”
“If I were you, I’d do it,” Molly said softly. “Your son needs you. And your life is worth more than a bloodline.”
Narcissa smiled cynically. “Some years ago, I’d never have agreed. But circumstances have changed.”
“Do you regret that?”
“Sometimes. Right now, though, I’m nothing but relieved.”
~ The Sixteenth ~
“I’m glad you got an appointment so quickly. Will you tell Draco about it?”
“No. I’d be thankful if this could stay between you and me.”
“So...you didn’t tell any of your friends?”
“Friends!” Narcissa laughed cynically. “They’re under supervision of the Ministry, like us. It would be foolish to contact them. It’s a miracle we got Lucius out of Azkaban. I didn’t believe we could rely on our connections anymore. I will not risk his freedom!” Only seconds later, she realised what she had said.
After a long, awkward pause, Molly said slowly, “We won’t talk about this again.”
~ The Seventeenth ~
Narcissa found Molly in low spirits, and not very talkative.
“What is it?” she finally asked over the second cup of tea.
Molly sighed. “Last night, I woke up and Arthur wasn’t in bed. I found him in the living room, crying over Percy’s last letter to me.”
Narcissa was not particularly surprised. “Lately, I’ve often seen Lucius going through our old photo albums, when he thought I didn’t notice. He didn’t look very happy.”
Molly shook her head in frustration. “Why can’t they see they’re just making themselves miserable with their attitudes?”
Unfortunately, neither of them had an answer.
~ The Eighteenth ~
“So, all went well?”
“Yes. Everyone was very nice and discreet, and there were no complications.”
Molly thought Narissa looked better than she had during the last weeks – like a heavy weight had been taken off her shoulders.
“I’m glad for you.”
“Thank you.” Narcissa smiled back at her. “Actually...” She fell silent, seemingly having to bring herself to talk. “Lucius will be away all day next Friday. Wouldn’t you like to come over, for a change?”
Molly was stunned at first, but then readily agreed. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that they had just taken a great step.
~ The Nineteenth ~
“What is she doing here?”
Narcissa’s cup shattered on the floor of the elegant sitting room she and Molly were having tea in after a tour of the house. Lucius Malfoy was standing in the doorway, staring angrily not at Molly, but his wife.
“I want her out of my house immediately!”
Narcissa winced again at Lucius's yelling, suddenly looking tense and pale. It was then that Molly realised that Narcissa feared her husband.
“It’s not your fault. I’ll see you next week,” she whispered, then got up and left, brushing past Lucius without so much as looking at him.
~ The Twentieth ~
Narcissa didn’t come, and this time, there was no letter. Molly drank her tea alone and couldn’t help worrying. She tried to tell herself that there was no reason, but she couldn’t forget that look in Narcissa’s eyes, and how she had flinched.
Of course, Arthur was the last person with whom she could have talked about this subject. The evening went by with Molly feeling restless and irritated, and when he asked her what was wrong, she almost snapped at him. Finally, they ended up lying awake in bed for a long time, stubbornly facing away from each other.
~ The Twenty-first ~
Narcissa was changed, and Molly didn’t like it. She was acting cold and superior, barely speaking as she sipped her tea. It was as though they had been catapulted back to the beginning.
“I’ve been thinking,” Narcissa finally said. “All this wasn’t a good idea. I think I shouldn’t come again.”
Molly’s objections didn’t seem to impress her much. In the end, she left far earlier than usual, with a cool “goodbye” and without a second glance.
When Arthur came home, he found his wife with her face buried in her arms, crying. She wouldn’t talk to him about it.
~ First Interlude ~
Weeks went by without a sign of life from Narcissa. Molly sent two letters, but the owls returned them unopened. Arthur wouldn’t hear anything about it. She should have expected it was all he had to say.
She had thought the other woman had severed ties only with her, but as she visited Ron and Draco, she learnt that the latter hadn’t heard from his mother since Lucius had thrown Molly out.
Draco’s birthday came and went, but even then, Narcissa wouldn’t write. While Molly had first been angry, she now became worried. But there was nothing she could do.
~ Second Interlude ~
Molly carefully closed the door of Percy’s old bedroom. Finally, an hour and a half after she had stumbled into the kitchen, with a black eye, split lip and sprained ankle, Narcissa had fallen asleep.
They hadn’t been able to get much out of her, aside from tears and the information that Lucius had found out about the sterilisation – Narcissa hadn’t known that he could do Legilimency. After a while, Arthur had tactfully left his wife to the task of calming her friend down and had prepared the bed.
Never had Molly regretted more that she had been proven correct.
~ The Twenty-second ~
The three of them were sitting in the kitchen the following afternoon, after Arthur had come back from work, a thick and awkward silence enfolding them.
“Of course, you can stay as long as you want,” Arthur finally said surprisingly softly.
Narcissa forced a smile on her pale face. “Thank you. I...I really don’t want to go back any time soon.” She looked down at her untouched tea. “He’s changed a lot since Azkaban. He was different before.”
Molly said nothing, but thought that someone who’d been a Death Eater for so long couldn’t really have been all that different.
~ The Twenty-third ~
“...people think? You will come home immediately, or you will regret it! You are my wife and will do as I say!”
When the Howler had finished, Molly threw it into the trash where it belonged. It had been the third in as many days.
“He’ll have to understand that he can’t order you around,” she said, placing cups of hot tea in front of Narcissa and Draco.
“The more important thing is that I begin to understand.” Narcissa looked tired and thinner than before.
Draco squeezed her hand. “It takes some time, but you will. Believe me, I know.”
~ The Twenty-fourth ~
“How is everyone?” Molly asked, just preparing the tea as Narcissa returned.
“Hermione is still feeling sick every day. I gave her some tips that worked for me, at least sometimes. It's going to be hard on her.” Narcissa sighed sympathetically. “But the boys are fine. Ron had about a third of the cake within twenty minutes. You’d think they don’t get fed properly.”
Molly laughed. “It’s a good feeling to see someone appreciate your efforts, isn't it?”
Narcissa agreed. She would never have imagined that something like baking a cake herself could be anything but a waste of time.
~ The Twenty-fifth ~
Narcissa and Molly were sitting at the kitchen table silently, all thoughts about Lucius and Howlers currently forgotten.
“Harry said it helps her a lot to talk with you,” Molly finally said. She had just returned from visiting Hermione at the hospital.
Narcissa smiled sadly. “I had hoped it would. Others can’t really understand, no matter how much they try.”
“I believe that. At least I saw Charlie and Ginny grow up...but to not even get to know your child...” She couldn’t suppress a sob, and soon, the two women were crying over Hermione’s loss as well as their own.
~ The Twenty-sixth ~
“Harry’s aunt was there as well.” Narcissa had returned just punctual for teatime from visiting Hermione at home, a little over a week after the miscarriage. “I didn’t see her come, but when I left, she was sitting in the living room with Harry. They seemed to get along quite well.”
“Harry told me his cousin died in a car crash a year ago,” Molly said thoughtfully. “They didn’t have contact after that, but maybe this was the final straw.”
“Maybe,” Narcissa agreed. It made her hopeful, but also scared. What would it take for her own family to mend?
~ The Twenty-seventh ~
“I miss him.”
During the last week, there had been no more Howlers, and no angry letters. They had annoyed Narcissa and made her feel bitter, but their absence made her miserable.
“I know. But he’s dangerous. He hurt you.”
She didn’t like the sympathy in Molly’s voice. It irritated her for no good reason.
“Only since Azkaban. He never hit me before. He was different!”
The other woman said nothing. Narcissa stubbornly looked down at her tea.
“He loved me.” The words sounded hollow. It had been true, once, but not anymore. Or so it seemed. “I love him.”
~ The Twenty-eighth ~
Narcissa was sitting on her bed, looking at an old photo album. Molly, who had come to get her for tea, sat down next to her silently. The pictures showed a young and happy couple in wedding attire, both apparently very much in love.
“He promised me he’d be different from Father,” Narcissa finally said. “That he’d never hurt me, or our children, for whatever reason.” Suddenly, she slammed the album shut with surprising force, her fingers tightly clenching around it.
“Coming from someone who had already killed Muggle women and children, I should have known it was a lie.”
~ The Twenty-ninth ~
Arthur and Molly were sitting on the couch after coming back from visiting Percy at St. Mungo’s in the afternoon.
Narcissa had tactfully left with Harry and Hermione when Arthur had rushed into the kitchen during teatime, telling his wife that Percy had been badly injured in an accident at work. They both hadn’t had much time to think about it, but now, finally, the impact of what had happened slowly settled in.
“He could have died...my son could have died...”
Despite her own worry, Molly had to smile. It had been years since Arthur had called Percy that.
~ The Thirtieth ~
“Thank you.” Narcissa, who had just returned from visiting Draco, collapsed on the chair and took the cup Molly had filled with tea. “If I had known that woman would be there as well, I doubt I would have gone. What was Draco thinking when he invited me?”
“Who was there?”
“Petunia!” Narcissa made a most un-ladylike face.
“Oh.” Molly nodded sympathetically. “Was she so hostile?”
“No. Just…exhausting. Hard to get used to.”
Molly smiled. “You have something in common, then.”
The other woman looked indignant – only to burst out laughing after a second.
“I guess you have a point.”
~ The Thirty-first ~
They had brought Percy home this morning, and even though he was better already, his pale, drawn looks still made Molly want to cry more than once in the course of the day.
She pulled herself together, though, and it was only in the afternoon, as she watched Arthur make his son drink tea from a cup Percy was still too weak to hold, that she wasn’t able to hold back her tears any more.
No one saw Narcissa watch from the doorway before she left for her room, and no one was there to hold her as she cried.
~ The Thirty-second ~
After a long talk with Percy and some sleepless nights, Arthur had gone to visit Ron.
Meanwhile, there was little Narcissa could do to calm Molly down, who was fussing with her cup so nervously that she finally dropped it. They ended up on the couch, with Narcissa patiently listening to Molly’s list of reasons why it wouldn’t work.
“…they’ll never admit – “
Molly fell silent as Arthur appeared in the doorway. He looked exhausted, his eyes suspiciously red. But there was a smile on his lips, and Ron tightly held to his side.
At that moment, Narcissa hated them.
~ The Thirty-third ~
Narcissa had gone back to the kitchen to get Percy’s cup, which they had forgotten there, to the living room.
Pouring her own tea, Molly suddenly heard a strangled outcry, then a heavy “thud”, like from a body hitting the ground. Within seconds, she was in the kitchen, only to find Narcissa unconscious on the floor, together with the Daily Prophet, which had been lying in a corner unread since morning.
The headline next to the picture of a haggard, black-haired woman was printed in red, covering almost the whole front page:
BELLATRIX LESTRANGE: CAPTURED AND BOUND FOR DEMENTOR’S KISS!
~ The Thirty-fourth ~
“Narcissa, please. Won’t you come down for tea today?”
Three days ago, Bellatrix had received the kiss, and since then, Narcissa had hardly stopped crying. They hadn’t even allowed her to visit her sister one last time.
Just like the previous days, she received no answer, and so, instead of making tea, Molly sat down on the bed next to Narcissa and stroked her hair until, half an hour later, the other woman fell into an exhausted sleep.
There had to be something she could do, Molly decided. That night, she and Arthur had a very long, very serious discussion.
~ The Thirty-fifth ~
“You can’t be serious!” Narcissa was staring at them as though they had both grown a second head.
“Of course we are,” Molly said softly. “She’s welcome here as long as you want.”
“But she's –”
“Your sister,” Arthur interrupted now. “And you’re like family. Just accept it. I've had enough of arguments after fighting about this with paranoid, megalomaniac pen pushers all week long instead of working.”
He handed Narcissa, who looked close to fainting, her cup. Unable to speak, she thankfully hid her face behind it. She didn’t know what she had done to deserve such friends.
~ The Thirty-sixth ~
Molly had excused herself, saying she wasn’t well, and had lain down in bed, leaving Narcissa and Percy alone for tea.
It had been two days since they’d transferred Bellatrix from Azkaban to the twins’ old room, and Molly wondered if she hadn’t overestimated herself. The idea had sounded good in theory. Reality was entirely different, though.
It had never been unequivocally proven that it was Bellatrix who had killed Charlie, but from what they had heard about it, Molly had little doubt. She had thought she would be able to cope, but now she wasn’t so sure any more.
~ The Thirty-seventh ~
“It’s nothing much, really.” The dark circles under her eyes belied Molly’s forced smile as she warded off Narcissa’s concerned questions and her offer to help. “I just...I’ve been thinking about Charlie and Ginny a lot. Last Thursday, it was three years since Ginny died.”
During the last week, Narcissa had watched her friend grow quiet and listless, much different from her usual cheerful and proactive self. Besides doing the housework, she had spent a lot of time alone in her room, saying she didn’t feel well.
Narcissa nodded, but she was convinced that Molly hadn’t told her the whole truth.
~ The Thirty-eighth ~
“Bella did WHAT?”
Narcissa was staring at Arthur incredulously. They were sitting alone in the kitchen after he had come home, Molly once again being “unwell”.
“Why didn’t you tell me? I’d never have accepted --”
“Which is why we kept silent at first. But we didn’t think things would develop like this.”
“This is...not right. I should look for other accommodations for us.”
Arthur shook his head. “There were clear conditions. She’ll either stay here or go back to Azkaban. I am responsible for her, not you.”
Narcissa understood. She would lose her sister all over again.
~ The Thirty-ninth ~
“This can’t go on any longer.”
Molly knew Arthur was right. She had refused to let Bellatrix leave again and had pulled herself together, despite Narcissa’s protest. But she had not seen her friend’s sister even once during the last five months, and had, if possible, not mentioned her, making the atmosphere tense and uncomfortable.
Even Harry had laid aside his hate at some point and had visited Bellatrix. Afterwards, he had tried talking her into doing the same. It would help her find peace, he’d said.
She took a deep breath. “All right. But don’t expect too much immediately.”
~ The Fortieth ~
Molly had lain down for a nap after tea, just before Arthur had come home. It was hard on her to see Bellatrix every day, even for an hour.
"Why is it so much easier for you?" Narcissa had been wondering about this for some time.
"I didn't always work where I'm now. Before that, I had to do with people who'd been kissed." Arthur's voice was soft, his expression sad as he watched her making Bellatrix drink tiny sips from a feeding cup. "I can't hate them, no matter what they did."
Narcissa knew better than to ask more.
~ The Forty-first ~
With every passing day, Molly found her feelings change. She didn’t like it much, and maybe it was for this reason that she had refused to face Bellatrix for so long.
She’d hated a Death Eater, the murderer of her child, but that person did no longer exist. What was left was a frail woman slumped in a wheelchair, her stick-thin legs wrapped in a blanket, fisted hands pressed tightly against her chest, eyes sunken and lifeless.
Yes, the hate was slowly fading away. But it left a hole in Molly’s heart, and she didn’t know how to fill it.
~ The Forty-second ~
“Good, and now another one.”
For the last hour, Molly had been patiently coaxing Bellatrix into eating spoonful after spoonful of pureed food. Narcissa was too sick with the flu to leave her bed.
She set the now empty bowl aside and absently ran her fingers over the black hair. All this reminded her of taking care of Ginny during the last weeks before she had died at home. She had been so thin, so weak, so helpless. So like her.
When she finally realised what she was doing, her hand began to tremble – but she didn’t take it away.
~ The Forty-third ~
Narcissa’s first instinct had been to turn and run, but she had fought it. After so long, he’d come to talk to her.
Now they were sitting in the kitchen, Molly and Arthur being present to make her feel safe.
“I won’t discuss my marriage with them listening,” Lucius finally said disdainfully.
Narcissa took a deep breath. “Things have changed,” she replied firmly. “If you want your family back, you’ll have to do the same.”
Lucius didn’t answer. Only now did she notice how tired and unhappy he was looking.
When Molly handed him a cup of tea, he drank.
~ The End ~