It was strange, waking up in Hogwarts after being out for twenty-five years.
The woman, who was in her mid-forties, must have looked very out of place among the bandaged and bruised students who sat in tight-knit groups at the four tables in the Great Hall. This was not because she was the only adult without a place at the Head Table; in fact, a number of parents were enjoying breakfast with their children that morning. The woman did not fit in for two reasons: one, she was wearing clothes that most of the other ladies in the room could hardly dream of buying, and two, she was the only adult who had chosen a place at the Slytherin table.
Narcissa stared down at the table, her hands in her lap. She had a full goblet of pumpkin juice in front of her and a plate of fresh fruit within arm’s reach, but she dared not move, too afraid she might look up and catch the eye of her son. He had come up from the Slytherin common room with her and had been sitting without eating just as long as she had, but he had yet to speak to her. Lucius had been busy Apparating back and forth between the school and Malfoy Manor all morning, trying to get all of Draco’s things out so that the family could return home.
At last, she glanced up, noticing that the few Slytherins left at the school were sitting a good distance away from them. The closest student to them was a girl with dark hair, sitting alone and picking at a bowl of oatmeal. Her things, which were neatly packed into matching luggage, were laying on the bench next to her, as if she intended to depart as soon as she finished eating. With a start, Narcissa realized that she was Pansy Parkinson, Draco’s former girlfriend. Well, she assumed their relationship had ended, since Draco had not received owls or visits from the girl in quite some time. Pansy noticed that she was being watched, and the look she gave Narcissa suggested further that any relationship she had once built with members of the Malfoy family was now firmly a matter of the past. She got up, abandoning her bowl and dragging her things behind her as she quickly escaped from the room. Narcissa glanced back at Draco, who was also watching Pansy now. She couldn’t quite read his expression, but it caused her pain nonetheless.
“Come on.” She suggested quietly. “Let’s take breakfast outside, hmm?”
Draco wordlessly picked up his goblet and plate, placing some bacon and fruit upon the latter. Narcissa also picked up some fruit, taking her things and leading the way out of the Great Hall, careful to choose a different exit lest they run into the Parkinson girl again. Finding no benches, she settled for a place on the stairs, stretching her legs out before her and crossing them at the ankles. Draco sat down next to her, though he made no attempt to appear relaxed.
Narcissa picked up a strawberry only to set it back down again. She couldn’t kid herself about her appetite. How could she eat when she couldn’t get her sister’s lifeless face out of her mind?
Bella’s beauty remained even after death. She had degraded a bit over the years as her zeal for the Dark Lord intensified, but she still looked like an abused doll with her bloodless skin and smudged makeup. Her black dress hugged her lifeless body, highlighting her hauntingly beautiful features even as her organs began to decay inside of her. Her untamed black hair fell around her face like the mane of a wild, enraged lion. Bella would never have settled for being a mere lioness. She fought like a man, right to the bitter end. Her wand lay within her reach.
Narcissa knew she had a duty to bury her older sister. Andromeda had offered to help, embracing the younger woman as if much time and many sins hadn’t passed between them after all. Her touch had been startling and warm, and after years with only Bellatrix’s cold hands to hold her, Narcissa did not know how to react. Had it always been this way on the other side of the war? Lucius had stood up, preparing to haul Bellatrix’s body away himself, and he was not the only one who was shocked when Arthur Weasley joined him, moving to carry the woman’s feet.
This was just one of many kindnesses that Hogwarts had shown the Malfoy family over the past few hours. Along with feeding the three of them, they had been looked after by the nurses in the infirmary after the battle, and Slughorn had offered to let them sleep in the Slytherin common room so as to avoid sending them back to their devastated house. Harry Potter had done the most for them, sparing both Lucius and Draco from spending any time in Azkaban for their crimes.
Not all had been well, however. Along with Bella, Severus had also been a casualty of the battle. Narcissa had been horrified to learn the circumstances of his death, though she hadn’t been completely surprised when it was revealed that he had been working undercover for the Order for quite some time. She half expected him to walk through the door now, wearing his trademark scowl, and gently brush her arm, one way of reassuring her that he was there to watch over their family as always. His death had broken her heart just as much as Bella’s had, she realized.
She pulled herself out of her grief momentarily, looking up to see Lucius making his way slowly up the stairs toward them. He still looked dirty and tired, one more reminder that their side always seemed to be the one that lost the most in any battle. The Death Eaters were no more; about half were dead, and the other half had turned tail and ran when the Dark Lord finally met his demise. As far as she knew, her family was the only one to make a conscious decision for the good. Narcissa desperately wanted this to mean that the cycle of destruction would end with her and her husband, ensuring that Draco and his descendants might know some of the warmth and happiness that empowered and enlivened those like Andromeda.
It’s too late for us, love, Narcissa thought sadly. He bled us dry and now we have nothing.
She looked down, remembering the plate in her hands. She was still holding the strawberry.
Was it true?
No. They had something. They were alive.
She had her husband and her son, both in one piece. Neither of them would serve time in prison. They could return to their home and try to put the war behind them together, one day at a time. Unlike her loved ones, Narcissa had the luxury of days, minutes, hours… years. She could kiss her husband and let him make love to her in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep. She could hold Draco, watch him get married, meet her grandchildren. The smell of the grass and the food in her lap filled her nostrils, and she felt overwhelmed, tears forming in her eyes. She kept them open defiantly, wanting to take in every color she could find, the gray stones and green grass, even the spilt blood on the unsuspecting battlefield. She was still holding the strawberry.
She popped it in her mouth all at once, feeling the flavor explode. It was the best thing she’d ever tasted.
Lucius reached the top of the stairs, looking down at Narcissa, who was smiling inexplicably. Draco had barely picked at his breakfast. “Are you ready to go, then?” He asked his wife.
“No.” She said, drinking a bit of the juice. “Let’s stay, at least long enough to finish eating.”
Lucius looked at Narcissa, hesitating momentarily before nodding and reaching for one of Draco’s pieces of bacon to oblige her. He took the empty space next to her, and they sat side by side in the morning light and looked out at the future together.