Narcissa Malfoy was more than passingly familiar with insanity. She’d literally spent her life acting as if the statements and actions of disturbed individuals made perfect sense, starting as a child with her numerous unstable Black relatives, and continuing into adulthood with her husband’s various shady connections, both in business and ideology.
If a half-rabid werewolf who preyed on children roamed the halls of her home, stinking of rotting flesh and muttering about dirt and blood, Narcissa only gripped her wand tighter and swept by without a glance. If her sister carved obscenities in the beautiful wooden panels of the Malfoy dining room and dug up garden gnomes to practice torture on, Narcissa got up at three in the morning to fix the damage, then went out to her rose beds to make sure there were no more gnomes to find.
Now, though, for the first time, Narcissa was truly terrified. She was terrified that the Dark Lord would win, that this madness would never end. Already, she could feel her desperation rising every time she looked at the cowering shell that had replaced her husband, and the raw panic that surrounded her son like the malevolent cloud she saw every time another Death Eater appeared in her home.
So much of her life had been spent keeping hidden in one way or another that no one knew the real Narcissa. She was probably the most powerful occlumens on the planet, but no one knew that – how could they? Narcissa had been consciously hiding her thoughts since she was four years old, and probably unconsciously since she first began to speak. Her father had used legilimency on his children routinely, pulling out any undesirable or traitorous thoughts, and punishing those thoughts soundly.
Anyone reading her mind now (and it was a routine, off-handed, violation performed by her sister and the Dark Lord) would only read the thoughts she deemed safe: concern for her own and her family’s safety, normal bothers associated with running a large estate, and an unfailing “belief” that the Dark Lord would make the world a better place for those of pure, deserving blood, even if the cost was high. For authenticity, she even let a low level of her disgust at the Death Eater’s lack of proper manners in as well.
Due to her birth into a pureblood family, and the assumption that she would graduate Hogwarts only to take up her position as the Lady of a manor, she was extremely well-versed in household and healing spells, as well as those dealing with clothing and cosmetics. She was also quite skilled at potions, though Severus did her the remarkable favor of neglecting to mention how much she actually assisted him in the work he did, both for himself and the Dark Lord.
The Malfoy library was one of the largest magical collections in the world, and Narcissa had been researching all manner of possibilities for months. Something had to change, she knew. The Dark Lord could not win, but she didn’t want her husband and son in Azkaban either.
Meticulously, Narcissa had reviewed her past memories. She had made a habit of pulling out disturbing memories and carefully labeling and storing them. It was clear upon reviewing them that everything centered around the Dark Lord. She knew him better than he realized, and she knew that his insanity had worsened the less of a soul he had, and the longer he went with so little of a soul. His obsession with horcruxes was a closely guarded secret, but to Narcissa, it was obvious.
When the Dark Lord had risen to power the first time, he had been strong and charismatic – even occasionally charming. However, Narcissa had watched carefully, and by the time he was chasing prophecies and going after the Potters, he was already showing signs that his madness was beginning to rival his power. Since his 'rebirth' the night of the final task of the TriWizard Tournament, he had devolved exponentially, and Narcissa's life had devolved into a nightmare. What sort of ruler could he ever be? He was incredibly paranoid, and Narcissa knew without a doubt that he would rather rule over a kingdom of corpses than allow a rival to rise to power.
The Dark Lord was the problem, and he needed to be the solution. Narcissa had found an old dark magic spell that she had painstakingly translated from Nordic runes that could hurl enemies across space, transporting them far from oneself. She was working to combine that spell with an even older, darker Egyptian time travel spell, and as much as the thought frightened her, she planned on cursing herself, sending herself back in time to deal with the Dark Lord as a child.
This plan was not perfect. Time travel, even in the more common increments of a few hours, was dangerous and unpredictable. She accepted that she might never see her husband or son again, that changing the time line could write them out of existence, perhaps even herself. But Narcissa was a pragmatist, and she knew there was no future from this point. Either the Dark Lord won and everyone lost, or Potter somehow triumphed and she and her family spent the rest of their lives in prison, going slowly insane.
She had a target range of five years, as it was difficult to be precise with the spell, planning to arrive before young Tom Riddle started Hogwarts. Narcissa didn’t believe that time would look kindly on being rewritten, especially in a drastic fashion, so killing him outright wasn’t an option. Besides, who knew what worse horrors would rise in the power vacuum?
Though the Dark Lord did not share personal details of his life, she knew he had entered Hogwarts with no parents. If she could find a way to take him in, set herself up as a guardian, then she could influence him. She had no illusions that she could ‘save’ his soul, but she thought she might be able to keep it intact. Her plan was to find him and help him rise to power without horcruxes, to somehow keep his sanity. The wizarding world would still most likely fall to a Dark Lord, but not a madman. Who knew? Maybe she’d somehow steer him into politics and he could rule as Minister of Magic, with little to no bloodshed at all. Deep inside, Narcissa’s mind smirked. The Dark Lord clearly had both mummy and daddy issues. If she could enter as a maternal figure, she might just save the world.
The sound of blasting spells and screams of pain and rage rose to the library, and Narcissa immediately went downstairs, wondering what fresh chaos would greet her. It was worse than she had imagined – Bellatrix screeching at snatchers and Draco, everyone in the room staring at three ragged teens. Three. One a gangly red-headed boy, one a waif of a girl whose hair was a tragedy beyond description, and one whose face was disfigured – features swollen to the point a mother wouldn’t recognize. Of course, Narcissa knew in her heart that this boy’s mother was long dead.
She watched silently as Bellatrix urged Draco to identify the boy, then lash out when he refused to do so in any definitive way. The boys were hauled away and the girl was tortured, Bellatrix taking great delight in practicing the work she’d started on the garden gnomes. Narcissa felt ill, though she knew her face was impassive. The girl said nothing, though she screamed loudly. Her tears streaked her dirty cheeks, and she bit her lips into a bloody mess. In the walled part of her mind, Narcissa allowed herself to note that the girl was incredibly strong and brave for one so young and outwardly frail.
“Bella, darling, leave some for the Dark Lord,” Narcissa spoke softly, as one did with mad people. “He’ll want the girl to be able to speak, to answer questions,”
Bellatrix looked up, her eyes wild. “You always try to spoil my fun, Cissy!”
“No,” Narcissa soothed, adopting the words from their childhood. “I always try to keep you safe. You are my sister. You are the Dark Lord’s favorite, but he will not be happy if you damage the mudblood beyond repair before he’s ready for that to happen.”
Bellatrix squeezed her thighs tightly against the girl’s ribs, which were most likely broken from the extended cursing. Smiling at the strangled sound of pain that emitted from her prey, she pushed back her sleeve to reveal the Dark Mark.
“Bella!” Narcissa couldn’t afford to speak softly now. “Please, wait.”
“Cissy,” Bellatrix growled, her angry magic crackling around her.
Narcissa put up her hands in what was half-plea, half-prayer to whatever deities might be listening. “Just an hour, Cissy. Only an hour. I am certain the hex on the second boy’s face will be faded by then. Let us please be certain before we call on the Dark Lord.” Because she knew her sister felt most powerful when reminded of others’ weakness, Narcissa added, “For me, for Draco, please. We cannot afford to displease Him anymore. We are not favored as you are.”
After a moment’s silence, then a spiteful jab of her wand into the girl’s neck, Bellatrix rose from astride the girl, leaving her bleeding and convulsing into the four hundred year old carpet. Narcissa cast a minor healing spell nonverbally, and the girl’s whimpering lessened. Bellatrix was across the room, pacing. Draco and Lucius were standing still, as if pretending to be statues would somehow solve this disaster of a situation.
“One hour, Cissy! That is all!” Bellatrix swept away regally, as if she were a magnanimous queen extending mercy to unworthy subjects.
“I’m going to move her to the dungeons,” Narcissa announced to no one in particular, casting a levicorpus and floating the girl’s body in front of her as she walked out of the room. No one protested, nor did anyone follow her.
It was truly her plan to deposit the girl in the dungeons, after a few more healing spells. Narcissa needed to leave soon, and this girl’s nasty fate, along with that of her friends, would hopefully be rewritten or even written completely out of existence once Narcissa made it back to the past.
That idea was thrown to the winds as the bottom of the girl’s dirty and frayed shirt caught the edge of one of the many Malfoy ancestors’ portrait frames. The fabric rose up, revealing pale flesh, a sunken stomach, and ribs that were too prominent to be healthy. But what ruined all of Narcissa’s careful planning was the magical writing circling the girl’s navel. In a slanting, beautiful cursive, the words What are you? What are we? spiraled inward like the curve of seashell.
Narcissa stared, barely daring to breathe. This type of magical writing, embedded in the skin deeper than any Dark Mark, was a very rare, very special occurrence. There were enough instances in history that she knew exactly what it was, but not nearly so many that it didn’t shock her. These were the first words that her soulmate would say to Hermione Granger when they met. Everyone had a magical soulmate, someone whose magic melded perfectly, someone who made the other stronger, better. But only those with incredibly powerful magic were ever marked in such a way. The history books said that Merlin and Morgana La Fey had such marks, and even though they did not have a happy ending, there was no doubt their magic both separate and combined, had been formidable. It was also rumored that Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin had been marked for one another, though that had ended in tragedy as well. There were a handful of others, with happier outcomes. What Narcissa knew, though, was that soulmates found one another, time and space be damned. And what she also knew was that the words etched into the stomach of one of Harry Potter’s best friends were in the handwriting of Lord Voldemort.
The words themselves had to be spoken in the past, Narcissa decided, her mind working at lightening speed. The only word likely to come out of the Dark Lord’s mouth towards the girl now was crucio. There were time circles and paradoxes at play here, and she hadn’t even spoken the damn curse yet! Her frustration mounted, but her determination strengthened.
This was the moment. Not the one she’d wanted, but the one she would seize. It would be nothing to add this girl to her spell, and if even half of the reports she’d heard of this girl were true, then she’d be a powerful ally, not even factoring in that she was apparently Lord Voldemort’s soulmate. She’d cast legilimens on the girl while Bella had been torturing her and found an intelligent mind with a strong moral code, but also pragmatic and flexible like her own – it was a mind Narcissa was sure she could work with.
Turning the corner, she took the girl into a long, narrow linen closet only ever visited by the house elves. She cast several silencing spells, a few more healing spells, and then ended the levicorpus, and instantly cast a petrificus totalus.
The girl’s eyes were wide, but she was frozen, as well as too shocked to panic.
“Hermione Granger,” Narcissa began, immediately deciding to leave off any talk of soul mates for now. As a muggleborn, the girl might not have any idea what the marks were, and they didn’t usually appear until the age of majority, so the girl probably wouldn’t have had them long – she was not much older than Draco. “Listen to me carefully. The Dark Lord will be here any minute. There is no way this war will end without unacceptable losses for everyone. I am going to change everything. I am going back in time. You can stay here, oblivated, and hope that you and your friends aren’t killed in the next few hours, or you can come with me. We will rewrite history and shape the magic of England.” She arched a perfect brow. “Don’t you think it’s time witches were in charge?”
There was no response as the girl was still petrified. Narcissa pointed her wand at the girl’s head. “I am going to go into your mind, but only to listen for one word. You must tell me “yes” or “no” to my offer, and you must tell me now, because I will be leaving with or without you.”