The kid is beautiful - silver curls surround its head, dark eyes have an intelligent, almost haunting expression. They pierce one's soul, hypnotizing and making everyone unable to look away. So mostly no one is watching, just to avoid that feeling.
He looks at it with disgust. It shouldn't be here, it shouldn't even exist; but he has to harbor it in his own house, treating it like the most precious treasure there ever was.
Because they're in a complete disgrace and there's practically no one else around who managed to successfully raise a child, they are the guardians of this little abomination. Maybe family ties played some part as well, but even if they did, they were the last on the list. Practical issues seemed to be the most important.
He suspects that, were they not here, it would die from starvation in a matter of days, considering both of its parents don't care about its well-being. Possibly no one cares, seeing even they only tend to its physical needs and nothing more.
He isn't fond of children, he has never been. Of course the situation looked completely different with Draco, but Draco is his, the blood of his blood. The memories of Draco's youngest age are the ones he cherishes the most. But he doesn't consider Delphini or whatever its name is a family. It's a mistake and nothing more. It shouldn't even be alive.
Narcissa is conflicted and he can see it. She doesn't think highly of the child as well, but she feels some kind of blood connection and it terrifies her. She feels obligated. Luckily, he doesn't. He's free to hate the thing with all his being. Maybe it's some kind of therapy - he doesn't dare to hate the ones that are responsible for their current fate, he mostly doesn't even dare to think about it, as it would come with high probability of ending lethally, so he transfers all of his hostility and confined anger into this little creature who can't reciprocate or realize anything. It's a process of healing, or at least that's what he keeps telling himself during rare waves of guilt.
But such moments of doubt don't come often, as mostly the kid gives him every reason to detest it. The other Death Eaters, seeing him in a babysitter role, find yet another basis for mocking him, the one who once stood above all of them. The kid is relentless and cannot be soothed until they both are too tired to stand and when it's finally asleep, it takes a softest of sounds to break its nap. Its cries wake him up in the middle of the night, releasing him from the nightmares, but in the same time throwing him inside them with all intensity; for a while he's just lying breathlessly, staring through the darkness, trying to remember he's no longer in Azkaban. It's home, whatever it looks like right now or whoever is inside it. It's home, but he can't realize it or even catch his breath until he feels Narcissa next to him. Her presence saves him every single time, rescuing him from the darkness and putting him back to life.
The constant lack of sleep plus irritation and humiliations don't create a particularly good mix to find footing again after coming back from hell. Sometimes he doubts he has ever left it.
He's been degraded to a silent observer of things, without a voice. Bellatrix is the one who's in charge currently, directly under the Dark Lord. Ideal role models for their child. It still sounds surreal, even though he can see the fruit of that liaison every single minute of every single day. He isn't sure whether the rest of the crowd knows the real identity of the kid, but he suspects they were fed some convenient lie. It would be too dangerous to expose too many people to the truth.
And the truth is alive and well. Narcissa often has a headache, so he's left to take care of it on his own. It cries as every other child; it demands food, changing, protection, a parent's embrace, as every other child. But when he looks in its eyes all he can see is a spore of enormous power, hiding behind the veil of darkness. He isn't willing to admit it even to himself, but it scares him. Nothing good ever comes from powerful children; besides, he's far beyond caring about anything but the survival of his family, consisting strictly of three people and not a single person more or less. The kid only means trouble on an already patchy and winding road to getting out of it alive; another problem during the fight for their lives.
He can give it food and protection - at least for now; he can change its diapers - luckily magic enables him to do that without getting his hands dirty, in both literal and metaphorical ways; but he won't give it any fondness of embrace. Not now, not ever.
When he picks it up, it doesn't gurgle or make any other sound infants usually do, but gives him a look of wisdom and threat that chills him to the bone. It doesn't surprise him the kid isn't normal, but how far beyond normal it can be put is bewildering. "Extraordinary" would be a compliment, so he doesn't use it to describe the thing. But in a way, it is extraordinary.
It squeezes his hand and smiles, which suddenly increases his heart rate. He doesn't know why exactly - is it a trace of fatherhood feelings combined with memories and longing for his own son? Is it fear? Guilt? Or maybe, in a way, compassion for the child who will never know anything positive in its entire life?
Because no matter how this war will end, the kid is doomed. Cursed, even.
The nightmare is over, but she's still here, orphaned and alone.
Smiling and gurgling, she looks at Narcissa joyfully. The woman tries to smile back, but it's difficult; she immediately feels guilt and sadness overwhelming her. Delphi's parents lost the war and Narcissa lost her sister. Of course there is grief, there is pain coming from the loss. But she would be lying if she said she isn't relieved Voldemort didn't win. The world might not look their way right now and it may as well never look like it again; however, that's not what matters. What matters is that they are alive and free. They have rebelled and thanks to that Lucius will escape Azkaban. They all can be together in their home again, unharried by anything, living their lives in a kind of a powerful seclusion, like they used to before.
Although she knows nothing will ever be like it used to.
But now it's not the time to think about the future for the three of them, because there is some other future she has to write first. As the girl reaches out her arms towards Narcissa, the harsh reality of the child's fate breaks her heart. Delphi is left with nothing else but the aunt that isn't able to love her and the legacy no one should be forced to bear. If it happened twenty years ago, Narcissa would probably think it's unfair that the child with such an ancestry is walking on the thinnest ice, her future unsure; she would look at the situation from the perspective of Delphi's possible power and pure blood. But now she looks at her from the perspective of a mother; she sees Draco in her mind and shudders at the thoughts her imagination creates. Now she looks at her from the perspective of a woman who no longer cares about ideologies. Delphi's just a little child, demanding and expecting love and care she deserves. But there is no one to give it to her and that fact truly saddens Narcissa.
Right now Delphi is demanding Narcissa to lift her up and hug her, but the woman is unable to do that. Looking at the girl, Narcissa sees her biological father, although they are nothing alike. She can't touch her anymore. She feels disgust, but it doesn't stop her from drowning in guilt and self-hatred in the same time.
She feels the slightest touch on her arm. Squeezing her husband's hand, Narcissa transfers all of her conflicting emotions into him; she knows he understands, she knows he feels more or less the same.
"What are we going to do with her?" she whispers, her voice hoarse.
"What do you want to do with her?" he asks quietly. She turns her head slightly to look at him; his gaze tells her everything she wanted to know. He'll follow her every wish, even raise the child if that would be her decision, despite his strong negativity towards Delphi. Or he'll give her away and pretend the girl never existed. The choice belongs to Narcissa and she knows it.
She looks at the girl again and smiles sadly as Delphi starts sucking her thumb in a completely innocent way.
"We have few options," Narcissa starts slowly, trying to steady her voice. "And every single one is possible - no one knows the truth and no one will dare to ever question anything that happened during last few months. So... we can have her as our own." She counted the possibilities on her fingers. We can raise her as Bellatrix and Rodolphus' daughter. We can give her to some respected, but not well-known orphanage anonymously. We can take her to someone we know. And we can..."
She stutters, terrified by the thought that came to her mind unannounced and uninvited. It takes her breath away for a moment, while the end of this sentence keeps replaying in her head. What kind of monster does it make her?
And we can end her misery.
"No, we can't." Lucius' quiet, calm voice brings her back to the reality. His hand comes to rest on her shoulder as he brings her closer and hugs her from behind. That's exactly what she needs, but it's not enough. It can't be.
For a moment they look at the girl in silence as she stares at them wide-eyedly. Her intelligent gaze pierces Narcissa's soul; does she know they are plotting her future demise? Somehow, Narcissa fears she does.
"I opt for the fourth option," Lucius finally says. Narcissa looks at him questioningly; she's in such a deep state of confusion and terror she doesn't even remember what the fourth option was. "Giving her to someone we know," he explains, seeing her puzzled expression.
She looks at Delphi again. Her silver curls with an addition of big dark eyes make her face seem unworldly, like a seemingly innocent creature of doom. There is a power radiating from her that electrifies the air around.
"There is also another option," Narcissa whispers, not letting her gaze wander from the girl even for a second. She's looking at Delphi, but doesn't see her at all; she's somewhere else entirely. "We can tell the truth and let the world decide."
Lucius sighs. He's silent for a moment, like he's carefully weighing his words.
"Do you remember what our most important duty is? Do you remember what we swore to do, no matter the circumstances and consequences?" he finally asks.
"To protect Draco." Narcissa's voice is even quieter now, barely a rustle of air particles fleeing from her mouth.
"If we let the world decide what to do with her..." he suspends his voice for a moment, letting the truth of his words sunk deeply into her heart, "...the same world will always regard our son as a relative of Voldemort's spawn. Can you imagine what it would do to him?"
She knows that, she understands; even though, her heart hurts. Draco has always been fragile, despite his countless attempts to prove the whole world otherwise. It would break him, shatter to million pieces and throw into a bottomless pit of darkness, one he would never be able to crawl back from.
Delphi cocks her head, her stare telling Narcissa she understands.
Or that's what Narcissa tries to believe.
Some last dying thoughts about the decision she's about to make rush through her mind at a pace of light. Delphi is her sister's child, she's her niece, a family.
But... but she's also Voldemort's child. She's a danger, an unknown threat. And these are the qualities that rise beyond anything else.
Narcissa doesn't know why she's still stalling; she had her answer the moment words "protect Draco" came out of her mouth.
"We should find her a home," she finally says, although her voice stutters. It isn't easy and it probably won't get any easier soon.
Seeing her haunted expression reflecting in a windowpane Lucius turns her around so she's now facing him, her back turned to the child.
"She's not our responsibility," he whispers, kissing her on the forehead and closing her in his embrace. Narcissa leans into his touch, letting herself feel safe, even if just for a moment.
"She is," she answers so quietly he isn't sure he heard her correctly. "She has no one else but us."
He remains silent, then says as quietly as she did: "She doesn't have us."
Feeling agonizing grief Narcissa closes her eyes, not able to neglect his words that are everything but a lie.
They are not Delphi's. But they are safe and so is she.
That's all that matters.
There isn't a lot of potential candidates for Delphi's new family for plenty of reasons. For one, most of their acquaintances already managed to end up either dead or in Azkaban. For the other, they are considered traitors among those who made it out alive and free, therefore not many people would want to have anything to do with them.
Finally, they decide on the Rowles, or rather what's left of them. Opportunistic, always ready to do anything for gold, the money being the quality they put higher than anything else.
Narcissa has second thoughts and doubts, but she doesn't speak of them aloud. She knows better than to delve into it. The decision was made and it is the only proper way. Moreover, they have to take Delphi to her new home as soon as possible, so Draco wouldn't have to find out about her existence. They managed to keep him in the dark for so long it would be terrible to waste this advantage now. It's much safer for him not to know, for both his future and mental state.
They Apparate some distance from the Rowles' house; Delphi's silent in her so-called pram, her gaze full of pain and sorrow. Narcissa can't look at her. The girl surely know they are betraying her and she'll never forgive them for that. Neither will Narcissa herself.
"If we pay them enough, they should provide for her well-being," Lucius says as they make their way towards the building. He doesn't seem to have a problem with giving the girl away, but he avoids Delphi's stare as well. The feeling of guilt is contagious or so it seems.
"Well-being, yes, but what about... love? Family?"
Lucius looks at his wife, wondering exactly how much damage their deed will inflict upon her. He fears the extent will be ferocious.
"I'm afraid that's not written into her fate," he answers. Now that the decision was made, apart from the slight guilt he feels only relief. The problem is no longer on their shoulders; he doesn't really care what will happen to the girl, as long as it keeps the three of them safe.
And it will.
It's more like a transaction than anything else - not many words are said or even are necessary; the Rowles know the basics. They get the money - a one-time deal with a great amount of money involved - and they raise the girl without asking questions about her identity, without revealing to the world where they got her from, without ever turning to the Malfoys for help or more money.
A little, breathing, beautiful creature for gold. Simple as that.
Narcissa looks at Delphi for one last time. She sees severe disappointment in the girl's eyes and experiences an unpleasant feeling of immediate threat. I'll get my revenge, the child seems to speak in her mind. For a moment she can't take her eyes off Delphi; for a moment she's morbidly driven to her, almost hypnotized. Only when she hears Lucius clearing his throat does she blink and manage to break away, feeling like she's just woken up from a deep sleep.
Goodbye, Delphi, she thinks, hoping the girl will conquer the fate that was probably written for Voldemort's child and live a decent life. Hoping she won't be to blame if it all goes sideways.
She just needs her family to be safe. That's all she wants.
Squeezing her husband's hand she walks away, not looking back at the child she's leaving behind.
Goodbye, my sweet child. May the world treat you gently.