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FIC: Garden of Memories

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i. Bitch

If I could live for one day
Without the need to hide away
I'd tell the truth to everyone
How I live for you

Narcissa was a bitch. A complete, utter, dyed-in-the-wool bitch.

That's what Lucius told everyone who would listen. He said it in gentlemen's smoking rooms, with heavy wooden décor, and overstuffed leather chairs, and expensive liquor served in heavy crystal glasses to gentlemen who – it must be said – were far from gentle. He said it lazily over aperitifs at fundraisers to politicians who were interested only in appearances and networks. He said it to the whores he paraded on his arm at private parties; not courtesans, but whores, crass, obvious, efficient at their jobs and then gone without a trace.

The sentiment was heartily mutual.

He didn't know all the places she called him a bastard, but he knew some, and could guess at the rest. Women's morning teas. Book clubs. Garden parties. Beauty shops. Pretty much anywhere that was pastel and closed to men. Not to mention the darker places her sister called home.

He said it to the Dark Lord, too, and as many could attest, had been saying it since before his return. If anyone happened to notice that he only started saying it after the Mark had begun to darken and burn, they hadn't said so.

Well, Lucius supposed, he was not the only one who had begun to execute contingency plans that year. There had been a surge in Pureblood separations, an exodus of wives to far-flung parts of Europe, and it was an unspoken gentlemen's agreement that the timing of such marital breakdowns was not for discussion. The Dark Lord had left an army of bloody-minded youths with a martyrdom complex, and returned to one of middle-aged men with families, whose thirst for righteous glory had considerably waned.

Narcissa had refused to leave, of course. She may have been a Black by birth, but she was a Malfoy in every way that mattered. She would leave his corpse without a second glance if it came to it, but while there was hope for them to come out of it together, she would stay. And so their public estrangement had begun. A compromise that allowed her to stay at arm's length from the war; gave them a chance - just a chance - of not being used as weapons against each other.

"Would you have me take care of her, then, Lucius?" the Dark Lord asked him lazily one day, not long after the awful night of his return. He was sitting in one of the private rooms of the manor, playing with his wretched snake, letting her slither back and forth between his hands in figure-eights while a perfectly respectable gathering took place in the ballroom next door.

Lucius had no idea where he stayed when he was not darkening their door; only that he was gone nowhere near enough. There was a time when he'd have been honoured to have the Dark Lord as a regular houseguest, but that was a long time ago.

Lucius stretched out on the Chesterfield, waving in an easy gesture. "Merlin, no. She's awfully useful. I'm only third-generation. Practically a foreigner. Marriage to a Black goes a long way to alleviating anti-French sentiment. And no one could ask for a wife more loyal to the cause."

The Dark Lord watched him with carefully evaluating eyes. "Indeed."

"Of course, she drives me mad. Simply mad. But that's nothing a bit of distance can't fix. Thank Merlin we live in a large house. And it isn't as though I have to work with her. That would be intolerable."

He knew it sounded contrived even before the words had finished ringing in his ears, and he felt the effortless slide of the Dark Lord into his mind in response. He didn't always feel it – that was the bloody dangerous thing about it – but he felt it now.

He felt a frission pass over him. It translated roughly as be careful, but not in words. Words were dangerous. Rather, it was a shapeless, formless shroud that fell protectively over his mind. A kind of self-hypnosis, cast from the undercarriages of his concentration, a whisper the Dark Lord could not hear.

He hoped.

He allowed lazy, low-key hostility to form into languid pools through which his intruder lightly trod. Stuck-up bitch. Prude. Argumentative bloody harridan. No great urgency to it, just the everyday irritations and resentments of marriage, forming deeper and darker shadows layered relentlessly over one another, untempered by love and light.

The Dark Lord slipped away as easily as he had entered.

"I've no plans to inflict such a punishment on you, Lucius. Women haven't the constitution for the work – Bellatrix excepted, of course. They have the most dreadful habit of showing mercy that is both unwarranted and inopportune." His voice was seemingly intended to reassure.

Lucius was not reassured. Narcissa remained out of it for today, but maybe not tomorrow.

"Indeed," he murmured, and got to his feet, uncurling himself like a sleek, elegant cat. "Well. My guests will be wondering where I am. Are you quite comfortable here, my Lord?"

The Dark Lord waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, yes, go, Lucius."

Lucius bowed his head, fighting down the sound of relief that threatened to escape him. Since the Dark Lord's return, each of these encounters left him with the uncomfortable feeling of navigating a tightrope and just barely making it to the other side. Had it always been so? Or was it only since his return? He didn't recall it before, but he'd been younger then. Perhaps he'd foolishly thought himself indestructible.

He didn't feel indestructible now. Not at all.

"Lucius?"

Lucius looked up from his submissive posture.

"About your...lovely wife. You need only say the word."

"My Lord is too kind." Lucius turned on his heel and walked away with brisk, leisurely steps. Narcissa's face was in sharp relief in his mind as he clattered away.

No matter. She was, he thought with grim determination, a bitch.

He held on to the thought as he crossed the room. Did not release it as he passed through the doors into the ballroom, out of Legilimency range, because even that wasn't safe. It was not unheard of for the Dark Lord and Bellatrix to tag-team; Bella would pick a fight to create a distraction, and the Dark Lord would enter the mind of their target unnoticed.

His expression a thundercloud, he strode over to where Narcissa sat, gossiping with Eustacia Goyle, and said coldly, "A word, Narcissa."

Narcissa's lips formed a scowl. "Must you?"

"Narcissa."

She gave a sound of annoyance. "Bastard," she said with affected sweetness, holding out her hand to him.

"The feeling's mutual, my dear," he said, just as sweetly, tucking her hand forcefully into the crook of his arm. Eustacia glared at him. Lucius considered that a rather good thing on the whole.

He squired Narcissa into his study, and as he closed the door behind them, Eustacia's affronted scowl was the last thing he saw.


ii. Nox

No, don't say a single word
Can't be sure, can't be sure that we won't be heard

"Really, Lucius. Now?" Narcissa said irritably as he cast the Muffliato and the Nox.

"Please," he murmured as he found her in the dark. Kissed her. Fiercely tender. "Please."

She hesitated; he could feel it in her lips, yielding but passive. "That bad?" she whispered after a moment.

It was pointless to deny it. He nodded against her.

She softened. Tender suddenly, mouth closing gently over his, soothing him and inflaming him. The things that rose in him were unspeakably tender and strong as well, roaring abruptly into life.

He felt behind him in the dark. One hand closing on hers, tugging her after him. He stumbled backwards onto the Chesterfield; she landed on top of him, skirts suddenly voluminous as she Transfigured them into the gaudy things worn by the women he paraded on his arm.

Her breath caught as he tugged her against him, but she said nothing. No endearments, nor his name. Nothing that could become a betraying memory later. Just pressed into him, her breaths deep and low, jaw falling open beneath his lips. He was working blind, but he knew the terrain of her like he knew himself.

He leaned up and grasped her face between his hands as she unbuttoned his shirt. Sank fingers deep into her hair. The Nox was an unnatural darkness, pitch-black, a sucking away of light. There was no glimpse of her. She was just warmth, a body, her face hidden as surely as if she had turned it away.

He'd never known how fucking much he'd loved to look at her when they were like this. Not until he dared not look on her at all. Never known how badly he needed her until they'd been reduced to this, to anonymous moments in the dark where she pretended to be the women he'd pretended were her.

Impulsively, he began to speak – he didn't know what, her name, words of longing, something – and she cut him off, capturing his words with her lips before they could fall from his. Simply nodded. Whatever he'd been about to say, she'd known it without hearing. He felt waves of hot and cold, gratitude and hurt, so familiar now that he barely remembered love without them.

His hands fell on her bare shoulders, cupped them with his palms, pressing her closer. He would never tell her so, but this part, he loved. Flimsy clothes she would never have worn of her own accord. One sweep of his palms down her arms, little sleeves falling and taking her neckline with them, baring her to the waist. He couldn't see, but he could feel, and he could imagine. Breasts luxurious and heavy from childbearing where once they had been girlish and small. Her arms, ever so lightly marked. She'd scratched at herself compulsively after the last war, during his trial. Their lives together were marked in her flesh.

She tugged up her skirts, pressing down wantonly against him. Blatant, demanding gesture she'd never have done in the light. He felt heat, but he felt a pang as well. She'd always been a submissive lover, and it had suited them both. He liked to adore; she liked to be adored. She allowed him his control, yielding eagerly to him. He loved her that way, loved to reveal her and explore her, loved to push her limits, bending them lovingly until she begged him for more. Sometimes he thought that was the thing he missed most of all.

Fuck. He was thinking too much. He'd have to Pensieve it later. He couldn't remember ever thinking when they were like this before. Now, when thoughts were dangerous, he seemed to do it all the time.

He felt predatory. Hungry. Wished he could make her cry out; his name, if possible, and if not that, then at least in her own voice, the voice he'd not heard in nearly a year. His fingers tightened on her thigh, pressing in hard fingertips to soft flesh, and she drew in her breath, hissing a little. Biting back half a name. Then it was his turn to kiss her, his turn to swallow sounds before they could reach their ears.

He tugged her harder against him, fumbling for flimsy underthings. Searched for warmth. Found it; teased her there as she painstakingly wrestled with his belt. She wasn't skilled at it – he'd almost always undressed them both – but her very awkwardness at it pleased him. So different from the women he paid to adorn his arm (and, from time to time, his bed). There were worse forms of subterfuge, but they weren't her, and he missed her. God, he missed her.

"I miss you too," she whispered. He'd said it aloud.

He kissed her forehead. "I fucked up," he said ruefully.

"Me, too," she admitted. "The Pensieve, then?"

It was tempting. Throw caution to the wind. Lift the Nox. See her. Hear her. But then-

"No." Heat was rising in his face. "I need to keep it. Even just part of it." He couldn't lose another memory of her. Not today. He didn't know how many they'd lost; had no idea the last time they'd made love in the light, or if they'd dared at all. If they had, they'd secured the memory away where neither they nor the Dark Lord could see.

"All right," she soothed. Stroking his face. "All right."

They were silent after that, touching and rocking softly in the dark. Melding together with a sigh that was as much relief as desire. They came together almost as an afterthought. The fires of pain and need ebbed away, if only for now.

They took turns with the Pensieve after, divesting themselves of memories as surely as they had their clothes. There was so little left when all the incriminating moments were gone, just vague impressions of flesh riding against flesh. It could have been anyone.

But it was her. He held onto just enough – her scent and the sound of rhythmic breaths – just enough to know it was her. Minutia below even the Dark Lord's levels of perception.

It was enough. It had to be.

Narcissa was opening the door to the ballroom. "You're such a bastard," she said irritably over her shoulder.

"Bitch," he called, just as irritably as the door swung shut behind her.

He sat back down on the Chesterfield, and sank his head heavily into his hands.


iii. Safekeeping

I refuse to think of losing you
I won't give the world the chance of accusing you

"I'm afraid I cannot allow you to see your husband, Madam Malfoy."

These words were uttered from behind a desk in conventionally bureaucratic tones. The man who spoke them was flipping through papers, multitasking with the jitteringly efficient air of someone who has not slept much and is functioning on adrenaline alone. Moonlighting as a member of the Order of the Phoenix had to come at a price, Narcissa supposed. Idealism was all very well, but it didn't pay the bills.

She thought quickly. Rifled through what she knew of the man. In his own land, he was an emir; he knew the language of aristocracy, but he would recognise her only as an equal, not a better. Superiority would not work on Kingsley Shacklebolt.

Vulnerability, then.

"Please," she murmured. "Please. I'll do anything. Anything at all." She didn't really think Kingsley was one to succumb to either her body or her money, but it spoke to her desperation - which was, of course, utterly real. And if by chance he took her up on her offer, she would give either.

She'd give anything.

Kingsley looked up from his papers then. Studied her with a keen eye. "Which tells me you have more on your mind than a few sweet nothings before Lucius' richly deserved stay in Azkaban. What is it, Narcissa? A Dark artefact? A suicide potion? A spare wand? Do spare us both the trouble of searching your person."

She shot him a cold glare at that. "You've no right. I'm accused of no crime."

"Actually, I'm accusing you of attempting one right now, and if you think anyone in the Ministry will be too concerned about the finer points of your procedural rights within hours of glimpsing the Dark Lord himself in your husband's company, you're sorely mistaken."

Well, he had her there, she supposed. Quickly, she ticked over the implications of being caught with her contraband. She could tell the Dark Lord she was trying to retrieve evidence before it could be used against them all, and she doubted Kingsley would do more than issue a fine. The damage would be minimal.

But Lucius, what about Lucius? her mind jangled.

She would just have to find another way.

She sighed. Unfastened her necklace, and held it out in her hand. The pendant was a tiny trinket – a silver charm that looked like a baptismal font, with a pearl set into the basin.

Kingsley frowned. Got to his feet, came around his desk to meet her, and took it. Inspected it closely.

His frown deepening, he passed his wand over it. A diagnostic spell. The pearl shimmered a moment, and the spells within appeared in silvery letters in the air. Narcissa noted with interest that they appeared, not in Latin, but in Arabic, his own language.

His expression changed.

"Narcissa," he said softly. "This is extreme. The risk-"

"Is acceptable," she said peremptorily. "I do not expect you to understand. I'm sure you think him quite undeserving of such measures."

"I don't think such measures fall within the realms of deserving. For anyone." He was staring down at the trinket with an expression of wonder.

Narcissa looked away. "Well, it's moot now. Kindly issue me with whatever fine or summons you see fit and I will leave you in peace."

Kingsley hesitated. Said quietly, after a long moment, "Narcissa, if I charge you, I have to take this as evidence. It will be available to anyone with access to the Ministry. You have enemies on both sides of the war. And it will have traces of past uses, to a witch or wizard skilled enough."

She drew in her breath in a hiss. She hadn't considered that.

Kingsley repeated, "If I charge you."

Narcissa's voice fell to a whisper. "What are you saying?"

Kingsley drew a little calling card from his pocket and wrote on it quickly. He approached her. Took her hand and pressed the trinket and the card into it.

"Show this to the Floomaster. He'll let you take the secure Floo to Azkaban. Show it again to the warden. You'll have half an hour. That's enough, isn't it?"

It wasn't nearly enough, but more than she'd dared to hope for. She nodded. "Thank you." Then, in a faltering whisper, "So much."

Kingsley nodded. "Go now," he said, turning away and returning to his seat. He didn't look at her. A dismissal.

She started to leave, but she paused at the door. Turned to look at him. "I have to ask," she said softly. "Why are you doing this?"

Kingsley pursed his lips, and for a moment, she thought he wasn't going to answer. But then he looked up at her. Pressed his fingers together.

"I come from a Muggle city called Tetouan. It has welcomed many refugees down the centuries - Moors and Jews exiled from Catholic Spain, to name just two. The English don't think of the Muslim world as a diverse one, or a tolerant one, but it is. My part is, at least."

Narcissa nodded in recognition. The Malfoys had estates in North Africa, one not far from the place of which he spoke. She didn't say so. They might need to hide there one day.

Kingsley went on sharply, "I think what you stand for is evil. Not just misguided. Evil."

Narcissa held her jaw steady, forcing herself to accept the rebuke. It didn't come naturally. She felt very pale, and her breaths came in hitching little puffs.

He softened, just a fraction. "But I also think that good people do not have the market cornered on love. What you seek to do does no harm to our efforts. There is no reason to stop you, other than rules, and I stopped following those long ago."

"I see," she uttered in a strangled voice. "Thank you."

"For what?" he said. "This conversation never happened."

He bent his head back down to his work, and Narcissa turned on her heel and fled.


Lucius felt empty.

In a very real way, he was empty – devoid of everything that brought him joy. He was not miserable, not sad. Just...empty.

It was not an entirely unpleasant sensation. Left empty like that, he supposed his mind would eventually cannibalise itself, but this was not like that. He was empty because he had made himself empty. Emptied himself to make way for something new.

His memories were in the transfigured Pensieve, glowing in the corner of his cell, bright with all the joy and love that they contained. It was only the happy memories that had to go, of course. The Dementors couldn't feed on the others.

He could no longer remember the feeling of happiness; he retained only a cognitive understanding of the fact that he had a family, and that his family was meant to be important in a way that he could no longer grasp. But the happiness seemed to radiate out of the Pensieve anyway. He felt it as warmth in the marrow of his bones, faint glimmers of something his body recalled though his mind no longer did.

Now, he turned to his wife. He felt nothing for her, and understood suddenly the danger of doing this. It would have been oh, so easy for him to look on her, this beautiful woman who was a stranger, and withdraw his allegiance from her. Give what was left of himself completely to the service of the Dark Lord; the only loyalty left in his atrophied soul.

He might have done it, if not for the warmth of the Pensieve. Glimpse of a brightness he could no longer remember. Warmth blowing into dark corners, driving his doubts away. Keeping him on the course they had agreed, a lifetime of memories ago, in the time when he had loved her.

"Begin," he urged. Before I change my mind, he thought, but did not say.

Relief spread over the woman's face. (Narcissa, he corrected; one didn't call one's wife the woman, even if one did not remember loving her).

Now, she drew out a memory of her own with her wand, and touched it to his temple. He felt it slide into his mind and seat itself firmly there, like a cornerstone falling into place.

Their first time, seen through her eyes. Not the first time in the marital bed, but the first time they'd loved each other. It had taken a while for duty to turn to love, and it had been her mother's death that had done it. Lucius had loved his mother, frail young woman taken far too soon, and he had found more kindness for Narcissa in her grief that he'd ever known he had. Empathy and gratitude had turned to comfort, then to passion.

It was like Lumos lighting up a room. The mysteries of his own life suddenly made sense again. The numb void shrank and vanished. She was his wife, and he remembered her. He remembered them. It was like a gust of wind blowing through thrown-open windows in an empty house, driving the cobwebs away. He gave a harsh, low sound. It was relief and the wind being knocked out of him in a single breath.

Narcissa paused. She took some of his own memories from the Pensieve, and drew them into herself. Lucius had needed to divest himself of everything, every shred of love and joy. Only by doing so could they be sure there was nothing left for the Dementors to use to eat him alive. Narcissa had no such need, so she gave to him and replenished herself in turns.

They continued like this for a while. Layers and layers of memories, one on top of another, rebuilding the life he had discarded into the Pensieve – only this time, built from her memories, exchanged for his. The Dementors could not feed on another's memories, so he would see himself, and them, through her eyes. He would use them to hold on to who he was and who they were together.

Finally, it was done.

Narcissa touched the little pearl set into the Pensieve, and it Transfigured back into her pendant. Quickly, she put it back onto her necklace. Reached out for him and tugged him close.

"I love you," she whispered urgently, pressing her lips to his cheek.

Had he thought he'd known it before? He hadn't. Not even the risk she'd taken, the crumbling of her own mind to save his, had really told him the measure of it.

But now, he saw himself as she saw him. Now, he knew.

He had no way of expressing any of this, so he only pressed her harder to him, hands shaking and restless in her hair. "I love you too."

Her breath caught in her throat. "I know," she whispered.

They knew.


iv. Seeds of Yesterday

Love has never been easy for me
Can't you see I have always been lonely
Faith - it seems like a mystery
Girls like me have to hide our hearts away

"This is the end," Narcissa said softly to herself. "You know what to do."

She had not cast the wards. Their home was in the process of being taken over by monsters, cooperation her only option. Even now, she could hear the protesting sounds of the portraits, the creaks of floors and walls of wings long left undisturbed. The Dark Lord's minions were arguing over bedrooms and who would get what. Their sanctuary was no more.

Narcissa didn't care. She would have once, but no more. Let McNair sleep in Mother Malfoy's bed. Let Pettigrew build his disgusting nest in Draco's nursery. Let Bella defile the drawing room with the Dark Lord himself. None of it mattered.

She held in her hands the only thing still of value besides themselves and their son. The only thing she still would hide if she could. The last of their memories, besides those in her own mind, scavenged from Pensieves and bottles around the house. The little things, the times one or other of them had slipped up in the dark, cried out a name. Betraying memories quickly discarded into whatever vessel had been nearby before they could be seized by another.

Now, she descended the little stairs behind the kitchen, Transfigured into a smaller version of herself. She'd learned it as a child in the care of her house-elf Lotty; she'd mastered the trick with the unconscious ease of one with no clue of how difficult a feat it was.

It was a different kitchen, but the same elf. Lotty had come with her into the marriage. It was Lotty to whom she went to see now.

She passed between earthen walls that changed as she passed out beneath the Manor. First the walls were broken overhead by boiler pipes, then by stone foundations, then water dripped as she passed harmlessly beneath the pond. Then more stone overhead as she passed under the family graveyard; the steel coffin of Abraxas Malfoy protruded into the tunnel. She touched it with a tangled pang of warmth and revulsion as she passed. Lucius' father had been horrid man, but Narcissa had resembled his wife as a girl, and he had been kind to her, even as he reigned viciously over everyone else around him.

Narcissa paused before the door, woven in soft, yielding tree roots that still lived. Whatever dominion she held upstairs, this was Lotty's world, and her etiquette here must be that of a guest.

She knocked. She did it gently.

The door opened. It was answered by Millie, Lotty's daughter. Millie did not work upstairs; she knew Narcissa only as an occasional visitor in times of need. She nodded to Narcissa autocratically and allowed her through.

Narcissa found herself in the only space she had ever seen down here. It was roughly equivalent to a room, but elves did not box themselves into rooms. It was a freeform space framed by tree roots and natural formations of clay.

"Please be sitting, Madam Malfoy," Millie said, gesturing to a curved rock with a hand-stitched cushion atop. Little tufts of green protruded from the stitching; it was stuffed with moss. Not all elves chose to live so close to nature, but Wiltshire had been a feudal town, wizards reigning over superstitious Muggles who knew nothing of elves. The underground had been their refuge for millennia.

She sat. She felt like Alice in Wonderland.

Narcissa knew Muggle lore; had read their books at school. Many Pureblood children did - the thrill of the forbidden, she supposed. It had worn off inside of half a year, but in that time she had read most of the children's classics, and dipped in and out of the Muggle Bible, too.

Of course, many of the stories came from her world anyway. She'd recognised the Wizard of Oz as a bastardised tale of four great witches in America; the eponymous Wizard was an invented male intrusion. Alice was a magical tale, too; the Hare and the Cheshire Cat were clearly Animagi. Narcissa knew these things before anyone told her.

Alice, though, was not her concern as she sat there, twisting her hands together, her precious memories resting in her lap. What her mind drifted to was Moses in the bulrushes.

It was dangerous to be a Hebrew child in Moses' time. His mother had placed him in a cradle of reeds in the Nile in hopes that he would find safety. This most precious thing of hers, entrusted to water, and to hope against hope. God had smiled on her; Moses was found by a princess, who hired his mother to care for him.

Her own precious things would now be trusted to water and hope as well. Perhaps God would smile on her, too.

"Miss Narcissa," Lotty said, rousing her from her reverie.

Narcissa looked up abruptly. Her face was damp with tears she did not remember shedding.

"This is the end," she said haltingly. "You know what to do."

Lotty nodded slowly. "Very well," she said, her voice grave. "Millie," she went on, with an authority Narcissa had never heard in her own world. "Go."

Millie turned, and left without a word.

Lotty turned eyes on Narcissa that were unspeakably old, indescribably kind. "Miss Narcissa understands what she is giving up? The risks?"

Narcissa closed her eyes and nodded. Tears slipped from beneath her eyelids, leaving cool tracks down her cheeks.

Lotty nodded too. In her way, in her own domain, she was as strong a woman as Narcissa herself, and she looked on her as one matriarch looks on another. With kindness, with pity, but beneath that, with steel.

Gently, she took the memories from Narcissa's hands, and with the magic of her own kind, she thrust them up into the air and captured them in a swirling pool of silver light. The light twisted and curled and settled into a floating orb, shape loose and flowing.

Narcissa stared up at it. Glowing warmth fell on her upturned face, drying her tears. She felt a precious moment of peace and closed her eyes once more.

"I'm ready," she whispered.

Lotty pressed one gnarled hand over hers. Narcissa didn't see what she did next, but she felt the swirling warmth of silver as it rushed around her. Saw a thousand moments with Lucius in her mind, saw them through his memories that she had exchanged for hers, swirling in light and colour. Touches to her cheek, smiles, glowing moments. Sparkling laughter as he tugged her by the hand, slipping away from some awful fundraiser for a stolen moment in a rose garden. Hand on her brow when she was sick. Holding back her hair as she leaned over the commode in the worst of her pregnancy.

Their life together washed over her. Stunning. Beautiful.

Then it left her.


Presently, Narcissa came to herself.

She was in Lotty's reception room. She'd not been here in years. Lotty was sitting opposite her, holding a silver orb. There was a grim look on the old elf's face.

She said in confusion, "How did I get here?"

Lotty said gently, "Miss Narcissa was upset. The Dark Lord is moving his people into the Manor. Miss Narcissa had to get away."

Narcissa's brow puckered. "Oh," she whispered.

"The Master is still in prison," Lotty went on. "The Dark Lord says Master should suffer some more."

Narcissa absorbed this new fact, considered the implications. "Then it is all up to me."

A strange, sad look passed over Lotty's features. "Yes," she said. "It is all up to Miss Narcissa."

She paused over the fact of Lucius' imprisonment a moment more. "Well, I dare say he will be safer for it. The Dementors will only bend him now, not break him. They follow the Dark Lord's will." The prospect of Lucius so tortured carried no weight for her. It was a detail to be evaluated, nothing more.

"Yes," Lotty said again. Still with that strange sadness in her eyes.

"Well," Narcissa said, "you've been most kind. I must return to my home. Thank you for welcoming me into yours."

"Lotty is always welcoming Miss Narcissa." Lotty waved a gnarled finger at her, and a little brooch appeared on Narcissa's lapel. "A gift, Miss Narcissa. Miss Druella gave it to Lotty when Lotty's son died. Miss Druella said it would be bringing Lotty comfort. Miss Druella would want Miss Narcissa to have it now."

(In fact, Druella would no more have given a precious object to an elf than a Mudblood. Indeed, her only reaction to Lotty's bereavement was to sniff that maybe now she would spend more time doing her work. Narcissa no longer knew it, but she had given Lotty the brooch herself).

Narcissa inspected it. It was a fine piece, goblin-made. It was a strange design, orange blossom and rose and myrtle and pea pods. A vague impression rose up in the back of her mind, half-remembered moment, scents rising from a bouquet on the wind, Lucius looking at her over hands fastened with silver ribbon. The image lingered for an instant, faded, indistinct. It evaporated as quickly as it came.

Her brow puckered as she traced the details of the brooch with her fingers. "Thank you, Lotty. I don't have anything of my mother's. I shall treasure it."

Lotty looked at her from beneath half-lowered eyelids. "Lotty knows it."

Narcissa felt a frission of something, some heightened sense of something unknown. Not malign, exactly, but suddenly she very much wanted to get away. "I must go."

She left with indecent haste, stumbling over her feet, over the roots around the door. She fled along the tunnel, under the graveyard, under the pond, under the foundations and the pipes. Found herself stumbling up the tiny stairs, up through the elves' entrance to the kitchen. Landed in a heap, and sat there, leaning against the huge leg of the kitchen table. Breathing heavily. Getting command of herself.

At last, she ran her hand shakily over her hair. Her dress. Straightened herself out. Got to her feet and positioned herself carefully, far from obstacles. Transfigured herself back to her normal height.

She grasped the bench for support as she fought off vertigo, staring out the window. Vines climbed the walls outside. The familiar sight of leaves and flowers, peeping around the windowsill, was suddenly, overwhelmingly nostalgic.

Narcissa reached out. Stroked the little buds of jasmine and rose and myrtle, a smile touching on her features.

(Rose and myrtle? Were they there before?)

No matter. She had other things to worry about.

She passed out of the kitchen, into the hall. Made her way to the drawing room, idly tracing over details etched in wood, myrtle and rose emerging from sprays of forget-me-nots. Dragging fingertips along curtains, embroidered with orange blossoms and little peas in pods.

She gave Lucius not a thought as she entered the drawing room to face the Dark Lord. Thought nothing of him in his cell. Remembered nothing of his smile or his touch, only that he was her husband and that fact must enter into her calculation of her situation.

But she was surrounded by sights and scents that enveloped her mind, and on his return, she would want him, as unthinkingly as she might hunger or thirst. They would pass each other unseeing by day, but they would love by night in the mists of theta, forgotten moments just before sleep took hold. They had become automatons, their only goal survival; she in her home and he in his prison, his memories safe in Millie's care.

Narcissa knew nothing of this. She knew only darkness, and far, far beneath it, curling orange-blossom tendrils of light.


v. The Garden of Memories

We must be wise
And keep our disguise
Stand by our lies
My secret love

Lotty left her home with her precious cargo, and slipped unseen into one of the Manor's many secret passageways. From there, she used magic of her own to transport herself. The method was not Apparition; it had its own laws and a name unpronounceable to those not of her kind. The span of travel was longer and wider. In more ways than one.

Neither Narcissa nor Lucius knew her destination, though both had once known it existed. They knew not the land, only that it was not their own.

Her destination was Kuna Yala in Panama, a land of enchantment. The people there were neither Muggle nor magical, but the Kuna, a kind of their own, moving comfortably through all worlds while remaining themselves unchanged. They maintained autonomy from revolving doors of Muggle government in one moment and defended the moon from dragons in the next. The Kuna accepted all with equanimity, welcomed all, but bowed to none.

The Kuna was ruled by its mothers and grandmothers; women who had faced down Spanish invaders and their own despotic countrymen. The Dark Lord, should he darken these women's world, was merely another man and would be despatched just as swiftly. Their sacred claim on this land would not be touched by any force; the magic of their kind protected them as surely as that of the elves.

Lotty was not Kuna. But like the Kuna, she was a powerful woman, and unlike many indentured elves, she was a mother. She was recognised in their land, welcomed as an honoured guest, matriarch of a foreign tribe.

Deep in the tropics of Kuna Yala, watched over by its mothers, there was a sacred garden, and in that garden was a sacred spring. And in that spring, perfectly preserved, was every memory Lucius and Narcissa had ever entrusted to her. None but their owners could access them, but all who bathed there could feel something of their power and warmth.

Lotty had raised Narcissa, and there was love between them. Muted on Narcissa's side, yes, muted by her world's conventions and by growing up and growing away. You could no more blame a Pureblood witch for that than an ignorant child; they knew no better. But it was love, nonetheless. And when Narcissa had asked this impossible task of her, to find a place of safety in these darkest of times for their most precious, most beloved and vulnerable possessions, when even the laws of obedience of her own kind had seemed unable to help, love had found a way.

Lotty looked down at her cargo between her gnarled palms. Such a little thing, really, just an orb filled with silver. And yet it held so much of her Mistress and the man who had made her happy. Not a nice man, no; mean to his elves if they earned his mistrust, and mean to his own kind, often, too.

And yet there was good in him as well. She held it here in her hands. He had brought joy to her Mistress, and her Mistress had asked her to keep the best of him safe.

Lotty would.

Love had found a way.


Coda

I refuse to think of losing you
I won't give the world the chance of abusing you
I refuse to tell the truth of you
I refuse for you
My secret love

"I order you to let us go. You filthy elf, I order you to let us go!"

Lotty ignored her struggling prisoners as she Levitated them over sand beneath crimson twilight sky. She was technically still within the parameters of her orders; Lucius had never, in his apoplexy, had the presence of mind to demand she put him down now.

The spring was close.

"Lotty, what on earth has come over you?" Narcissa demanded. She was as furious as Lucius, but hid it better. Well, Narcissa knew her; knew that Lotty would never hurt them. To Narcissa's way of thinking, Lotty must be engaged in some sort of well-intentioned mutiny that was supposed to be for their own good.

Which was, of course, exactly what it was.

This Lucius and Narcissa knew nothing of the orders they had given her a year before. This Lucius and Narcissa barely tolerated each other; they had been on the verge of divorce when Lotty found them.

It had taken two months after the war's end. She'd tracked them across Europe, to the Chefchaouen estate in Morocco. Chefchaouen had the same triggers as all the estates, scents and carvings and decorations, enough to draw them together again and again, even as the recriminations and indifference repelled them.

It had been enough to keep them together, but they had been miserable, and their son too. They had hurt each other this last year; the reproaches between them were real. They had paid a high price for their survival.

The spring was in sight.

"Put me down!" Lucius said again, pulling futilely against magical bonds as she Levitated them ahead of her. "Put me down now!"

"If Master insists," Lotty said, unperturbed. She snapped her fingers, and her two charges catapulted abruptly into the spring, bonds falling away.

Lotty brushed her hands together with a sound of satisfaction. In the distance, she could hear the sounds of the inna-mutiki, the night festival, Kuna celebration of marriage. It was for them; they just didn't know it yet.

They would.

Love had found a way.


Lucius broke the surface of the water. It crashed over his head and streamed down his hair. It was clean and warm, sparkling and blue and silver under twilight sky. Silver threads of light swirled through the water around them.

"That damned elf!" he sputtered as Narcissa emerged from the water beside him. He steadied her, taking her elbow with his hand, feeling real concern that surprised him. "Are you all right?"

Narcissa was wiping water from her eyes. "I'm fine. Don't fuss." She said it crisply, but the rancour he was used to was gone. She'd had a lot of blame for him since the Dark Lord's fall, both spoken and unspoken. It was heavy in the air between them. It was absent now.

He peered at her in the fading light. Her dress was heavy, dragging down into the water. She seemed even taller and slenderer than usual. Her hair was a bedraggled mess. Impulsively, he reached out and smoothed it back, placing it over her shoulder. It was something he could not have imagined doing even hours ago, but his confused, shapeless anger seemed to have been washed away. Like an empty slate, wiped clean, waiting to be re-written with - with -

With what?

"I said, don't fuss," she reproved mildly. "Here, let me get yours. It's like a bloody birds' nest." Casually, she suited the action to the word.

"Thanks," he said. The word felt rusty on his lips. How long had it been since they had exchanged pleasantries like please and thank you? "Come on, let's get out of the damned water."

They waded through the spring, towards the edge, holding each other for balance. His clothes were as heavy as hers, and the water was chest-deep.

They were dragging themselves up into shallow water near the edge when he became aware of a light at the very edges of his vision. He jolted. Narcissa was surrounded by a lazily-moving, shimmering light, weaving around her in the water. They both were.

"Lucius?" she said softly, looking back and forth from his illuminated form to hers. "What is this?"

"I don't know. But it doesn't mean us harm," he said, with sudden, utter certainty. He knew it as surely as if the spellwork was his own.

Narcissa was very pale. "But what is it?" Then, more quietly, she said in realisation, "Is it - us? Lucius, how is it us?"

He shook his head. "I don't know."

"But it's been different - hasn't it? Since we've been in the water? It's like - I can see you. Like something I'd forgotten."

He nodded. "It's like at night. We find each other."

Grief flitted across her features, so quickly he could have imagined it. "Oh, Lucius, don't start. A bloody shag in the night doesn't make everything all right."

"It's not just a bloody shag," he snapped. "It's us. It's the real us."

"What does that even mean, Lucius?" she demanded. "You keep saying that, but I don't think you know what it means, any more than I do. And-"

He followed her gaze when she broke off. Felt a sudden knot of fear. The light was moving faster, and it was rising from the water.

It swirled quickly around her. Around them both. Forming a silent whirlwind, with them at the centre. Lucius felt sudden panic, and realised that it was for her. His arm closed compulsively around her shoulders.

"Lucius?" she whispered. Drawing closer. Pressing against him as the light formed a tapestry, rising up and falling over them both in a shroud. It was light and fragile and made of thousands of silver threads of memory, falling over their skin and seeping into it, knitting themselves back into their bodies as though they'd never left at all.

"Oh!" he blurted. "Oh!"

He remembered, but remembered was the wrong word. More like waking from a long and restless sleep. He couldn't process all that was restored, but he felt the pieces falling back into place, one after another. It was happening in his mind, but the sudden wholeness was something he felt in his bones. As though they had a substance that had been missing before.

He saw all this mirrored in her face, first frozen, then, cautiously, opening up. Eyes softer and wider, then wider still as understanding dawned. The harsh sigh as her breath caught and released.

They stared at each other for a long, long moment.

For a moment, the two Narcissas were overlaid on one another, one distant, filled with anger, the other passionate, his partner in devotion. Tentatively, he sank shaking fingers into her hair, and fixed his gaze on hers. Wondered which Narcissa he would see there. They had been lonely and empty side-by-side in the darkest moments of their lives. How could she ever forgive that? How could he?

Her lips were trembling. "Lucius?" she whispered. Afraid. Unsure.

He let out a low, rough breath, and folded her into his arms.

They stayed that way for long, long moments, but at last, gently, she pulled away. Looked away. She wouldn't meet his eye.

He reached out and, gently, touched her chin. Urging her to face him. Tears slipped down her cheeks as she finally held his gaze. Her eyes were filled with love and with guilt and with hurt.

He was suddenly, coldly certain that she would leave him anyway. That whatever they'd had before, the hurts they'd inflicted could not be undone.

"Please," he said. A rasping sound over his lips. "Don't let it be for nothing."

Hesitantly, she bridged the gap between them. Slowly pressed her mouth to his. She tasted of tears and her lips were like crumbling leaves. He kissed her too, tender and urgent. Cradled the back of her head in his hand. That seemed to free her of the things that held her unsure, and then she met him, longing for longing. His hands rose up to cup her shoulders, holding her against him, as she kissed and kissed and kissed him. He kissed her as instinctively, as unthinkingly as he had for a year. But when he pulled away, he saw her, and he loved her.

"I remember," he said in wonder. "I remember it all."

Narcissa said softly, "I was so afraid that we wouldn't."

He touched her chin. This time, she faced him willingly. He stroked down her cheek tenderly with the backs of his fingers. Sank his hand deep into damp hair, tangling it lovingly.

"Say my name," he said. He wanted to tell her how much he'd missed it, but he didn't have to. She'd seen his memories. She knew.

"Lucius." Her face lit up, breaking out in joy. "Lucius."

"Again," he whispered.

She pressed against him, rising up on her toes. "Make me," she teased. Then, more softly, "Make me yours." Suddenly not teasing at all.

He did, and there in the sacred waters of Kuna Yala, their healing had begun.

END


Author's Notes:

1. Bitch and Nox – this couplet began with an image in my head of Lucius and Narcissa bickering for an audience, their insults turning to endearments as they moved out of earshot. Him whispering an adoring, breathy "bitch" as he nibbled her ear, that sort of thing. Pure smut biscuit fodder, basically. But once the sequence of vignettes started to form a bigger picture in my mind, that light-hearted treatment didn't work anymore. I still might write that take on it one day – or, if someone else wants the plotbunny, by all means take it. Just let me know in the comments so I can come along and read it.

2. Safekeeping – this vignette began with a question that has nagged at me for years, which is simply, how did Lucius emerge from Azkaban with his mind and his love for his family more-or-less intact, when the only other person known to emerge even partly sane (Sirius) is explained as having survived by nursing anger and hate?

3. Seeds of Yesterday - Rose and myrtle are symbols of true love, while orange blossom and pea-pods are symbols of fertility. All were common details in Victorian era weddings, in both mens' and womens' ensembles. I was inspired for those details by Unveiled, an exhibition of 200 years of wedding wear at the Museum of Western Australia (visiting from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). There is an exquisite veil hand-embroidered with pea pods dating to the 1840s. Silver and gold threads were common features in aristocratic wedding wear, as well, which also inspired my use of silver thread imagery to represent their memories.

4. Garden of Memories and Coda – the Kuna people exist, and are almost exactly as described. Most of the cultural details are factual, such as their matrilineal arrangements and the defending of the moon from dragons. (Albino Kuna are considered moon warriors who were born into the role). The sacred garden and spring is invented; I don't know if there is any element of their tradition that would incorporate that. I had a mental image of a miniature version of El Salvador's Lago de Coatepeque for the spring.

5. My Secret Love – this song is from the soundtrack of the pseudo-biopic Grace Of My Heart (a fictional movie loosely based on the lives of a number of female musicians from the 1950s-1970s). In the movie, the track was written by a sympathetic songwriter for a tormented ingénue who had a secret life as a lesbian (played by Bridget Fonda). The track was co-written by Lesley Gore and sung by Miss Lily Banquette of Combustible Edison. I loved the turned-on-its-head concept of denying one another as an act of love, and it seemed very Lucius and Narcissa. The full lyrics are:

Love has never been easy for me
Can't you see I have always been lonely
Faith - it seems like a mystery
Girls like me have to hide our hearts away
If only we could live one day
Without the need to hide away
I'd tell the truth to everyone
How I live for you
But people never understand
They'll destroy us if they can
Say we were struck down by the hand of heaven
We must be wise
And keep our disguise
Stand by our lies
My secret love
I refuse to think of losing you
I won't give the world the chance of accusing you
I refuse, I'd sooner die than tell
I'm under your sweet spell
My secret love
No - don't say a single word
Can't be sure, can't be sure that we won't be heard
Like Romeo and Juliet
They will chase us to our deaths
Then voice their false regrets - the liars
But since the day that we first met
And until I take my dying breath
I will be tangled in your net of desire
I refuse to think of losing you
I won't give the world the chance of accusing you
I refuse, I'd sooner die than tell
I'm under your secret spell
My secret love
I refuse to think of losing you
I won't give the world the chance of abusing you
I refuse to tell the truth of you
I refuse for you
My secret love