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Beauty

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The day Narcissa Black marries Lucius Malfoy, the house elves float hundreds of gardenia blossoms in her bath. The scent is cloying, heavy, and between the flowers and the steam, Narcissa can barely breathe. Creamy petals cling to her skin; she picks them out of her hair for what seems like hours afterward. When the flowers have been banished, though, and only their fragrance remains, Narcissa feels as if she is cloaked in something powerful, sensuous. Bellatrix joins her at the foot of the stairs just as the orchestra begins to play in the gardens. Her sister’s arms are full of honeysuckle and jasmine, a wild tangle of white flowers and greenery that nearly glows against the silk of her dress, the darkness of her curls. “Are you ready?” Bellatrix asks. Narcissa thinks about the sister who is missing, and she can almost smell the tuberose and lilacs of the bouquet she’d bear. Bellatrix looks at Narcissa, at the empty space next to her, and Narcissa smiles before Bellatrix can scold her for being maudlin. “Yes,” Narcissa says and follows her sister through the Great Hall and into the gardens where the rest of her life is waiting for her.