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Son and Heir [+podfic]

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He's gone again. My husband. There is nothing I can do but wait.

The midwife has bathed the baby and placed it in my arms, even though he told her not to until he returns. I am numb. When I look into the red, wailing face of my child, I feel nothing. I don't dare. My breasts ache in response to its cry. I suppose that means I should feed it, but I don't dare do that, either. It gets nothing. No milk. No name. No right to exist. Not until my husband says so.

Don't get attached, I tell myself. Not this time.

It's worse than the last time. The waiting. I was afraid then, too, but I was so certain that everything would be all right.

It was bad luck that I conceived during a time when my husband was so frequently away from home. He is an important man, often too busy for such trivialities as wife and family. But I was faithful. The child was his. He didn't believe me. He called me all manner of vile names -- threw accusations at me -- but he never once laid hand nor hex on me. He would never do that, unless I provoked him. He is a good man.

When the child was born, he did not even come to look at it. Instead, he went to Hogwarts to check the Book. The Book records the birth of every magical child in Britain, along with the names of the child's parents. These are matters of public record. He had every right to check whether I had made a scandal of myself, and besmirched his good name.

I waited, then as now, knowing I had done no wrong, but terrified nonetheless. I rocked that baby, murmuring soothing words, telling it and myself that everything would be all right, only that time, I had the misfortune to believe. My husband would see that I had not been unfaithful, and all would be well.

When he returned, eyes blazing with cold fury, he spared no glance for the midwife, only snapping, "Out!" before rounding on me. He stood at the foot of my bed, his wand in his hand, glaring. I kept my eyes lowered, hunching protectively over my baby.

"What's wrong?" I asked, willing my voice not to shake.

"What's wrong?" he hissed. "What's wrong, you fucking useless bitch, is that thing attached to your tit. Put it away from you this instant, or by all that is pure and powerful, you will wish that you had."

Trembling but obedient, I laid the keening baby on the bed. My husband pocketed his wand and strode over to it, lifting the child with an expression of revulsion. He turned towards the door.

"W-where are you taking it?" I asked.

"I will not have this abomination in my house," he said. And he was gone, the door slamming shut behind him.

The infant's wail drifted back to me from the corridor for a moment, then a flash of green light appeared under the door, and the sound abruptly ceased. A scream of anguish tore from my throat. I slumped onto the bed, curled around my aching and empty womb.

I don't know how long I lay there. Ten minutes. An hour. Longer. When he returned, I threw myself at him with a cry of rage. I would have clawed those cold eyes out of his head if I had reached him, but he held his wand, and I had nothing but my own hands.

"Crucio!" he hissed.

Pain lit every nerve of my body and I crumpled to the floor. It was over almost as soon as it began, but I did not try to rise.

"Why?" I wailed.

"There was no name in the fucking Book," he spat. "You bore me a Squib, you worthless cunt! I thought I was getting a wife of unquestionable purity who would bear me a powerful heir. Your family sold me a bill of goods. You're a disgrace to your name. I should send you back to them in pieces."

"Please," I begged, raising my tear-streaked face to look at him. "Give me one more chance. It wasn't my fault! I -- I'll do better next time. I promise --"

With a look of sneering disgust, he turned on his heel and strode from the room, slamming the door behind him once more.

He gave me another chance, though, because he is a fair man. A good man. My last chance. I suppose he had to, to save face. It would have done him no more good than me if word had got out that I had borne him a Squib. So it was kept quiet, and he put the word about that the baby had been born dead. The midwife was paid handsomely for her silence. It was not the first time such a thing had happened, after all, and it would not be the last.

I did not conceive again for nearly a year. My husband is such an important man, always busy, rarely home. But he did his duty in my bed, and a year later, I was with child for a second time.

And now I wait, cradling another infant to my breast, so warm and alive, murmuring the same soothing words that the other once heard, but believing them not at all.

The worst that could happen would be for him to kill this baby, too, and send me back to my family in disgrace. I have no illusions about how they would greet a daughter who had borne two Squibs. Better for everyone if he kills us both. He would be right to do it. There is no reason why a good pure-blood man should permit a Squib child to pass between his wife's thighs. To allow such a child to live is anathema to all that we hold true, and a pure-blood woman who cannot bear a pure-blood child is worthless. A man such as my husband is entitled to a proper wife who can bear him the heir he deserves.

But my baby is so strong and perfect and beautiful. I cannot wish it dead, no matter what its faults. I can't just sit by and let it happen. Not again. I could try to run now, before he comes back. I wouldn't get far, though. Not carrying a baby. Not with my body exhausted by birth and fear. Even if I did run, where could I hide? The blood-bond of our marriage makes it easy for him to track me, and a man has a legal right to his wife and child.

I'm not a coward. I won't run. I'll stay and face him. Better that I should die fighting for myself and my child, even if there is no point to it, and no hope.

Footsteps downstairs. He's back. My husband. Our time has run out. A shiver of fear rolls down my spine. I wonder if anyone will miss me when I'm gone -- wonder if I'll go to a place where I can be with my babies -- wish there was something more I could do than be afraid. But there is nothing left. Nothing but me.

Footsteps in the corridor. My baby is crying. I'm holding it too tightly, but I can't seem to loosen my grip.

The door opens, and he's standing there, silhouetted by the light from the hallway. He crosses the room to stand beside my bed, eyes unreadable.

"Give him to me, Narcissa," he says in a low voice.

My breath catches in my throat. Him, not it.

I cannot refuse him. He is too powerful; too commanding. Arms shaking, I offer my baby up to him. He lifts the child into his arms.

"Draco Malfoy," he murmurs, cradling our child's head in his palm. "Welcome, my son."

I feel dizzy -- faint with relief I had not dared to hope for. We'll live, Draco and I, because Lucius decrees it. And one day, he'll be a powerful, proud, and righteous wizard, just like his father.