Chapter 2 : december 29, 1971
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DECEMBER 29, 1971
Mother had sent her out to pick up some flowers.
That was how Narcissa found herself trudging through the icy slush of winter, trying as best she could not to damage her expensive boots, but it was proving a difficult task with the quickly falling snow.
Narcissa remembered how as a child, she'd stand out and watch the snow fall. She was always captivated by their delicate vulnerability, their fragility, how easily they disappeared in the heat or crumbled into the ground when they reached it. She'd try to catch them in her mouth, on her fingers, and they'd leave a raw, cold burning behind them, a redness, and then they'd be gone. Mother would whisper in her ear, "Look at those snowflakes, how delicate, how cold," and Narcissa would remember she was supposed to be winter's child with eyes like shards of glass, stealing the breath from people's mouths with a single glance.
A lingering memory of the snowflakes remained even now, ghosts of their biting kisses etched into her fingertips.
Narcissa shook herself out of a world of reverie and back into the present. Muggle cars whipped past sidewalks and people bustled around her. It seemed that everyone was trying to take advantage of the usual post-Christmas sales and stocking up on holiday goods for next year. She almost laughed out loud. Muggles. How strange they were, how little they really knew about the world and the people around them. She wondered how they could live like that, a world hidden within their own and still be totally ignorant. She could never imagine herself living a life like that.
Muggles, she thought again, amused, and swung open the door of the florist shop.
Flowers were blooming around every corner of the small shop, and she found herself enveloped in a sea of color and sweet scent. The shop was like spring pickled and preserved inside one room. There could be snow settling on the windowpanes outside or leaves with colors blazing like fire, but it would always be spring in here, no matter what.
Secretly, Narcissa had always loved the spring months best, whatever Mother would say. Spring was hope and new beginnings; spring was the warmth of the sun on her skin, the way flower petals kissed her on their descent from the trees, the way life peeped up from the soil in the form of fresh green plants.
Narcissa forced herself back into the present – dreaming was for peasants; dreaming was for those who had nothing. Dreaming was not for royalty like herself.
"May I help you?" asked the woman behind the counter. A Muggle woman – it was a Muggle shop, after all, but it was the best quality around, and the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black demanded nothing but the best.
"I'm here to pick the order left by Druella Black last week."
"Just one moment please," said the woman and disappeared behind a door. She returned a moment later, carrying several large, colorful bouquets. Narcissa paid (Muggle money was so strange and cumbersome), took the flowers from the woman, and exited the shop reluctantly, the cold arms of winter embracing her once more.
The snow was falling fast and thick. Narcissa wrapped her expensive scarf more tightly around her slender neck and shivered involuntarily. She'd have to hurry home immediately or else the flowers would freeze and Mother would surely throw a fit.
She crossed the busy street and a few more, passing into a more obscure, hidden-away lane. She enjoyed the silence here and the solace of walking alone, unrestricted. The Muggle houses were blanketed by a thick layer of snow. A few people were shoveling driveways, though why they were doing it when snow was still falling, Narcissa had no idea. Muggle tools were so inconvenient, but she supposed it must be hard for them to cope with the troubles of the world without magic. Somewhere within the depths of her heart, a bubble of pity swelled up and rose to the surface.
It was shattered by the shrill sound of a girl's giggle, originating from the backyard of the house she was walking past. A boy's voice joined the girl's, muttering something incomprehensible. The girl said something back. The words were indistinguishable, for the wind had picked up, but there was no mistaking that voice.
Could it be –
She tiptoed cautiously into the front yard of the house. The lights in the house didn’t appear to be on. Then again, the windows were closed. The snow would muffle her footsteps, but what about the prints? Narcissa fumbled through the pocket of her robes for her wand and muttered a quick spell. There. That should take care of it.
She ducked behind a large row of tall evergreens leading to the backyard. Thank Merlin they were here. Narcissa started tiptoeing again, looking for a convenient spot to peer through.
"Don’t be silly, Ted," the girl was saying.
"We could do it, you know. Run away together. It'd be easy."
"No, it wouldn't," replied the girl. “I'd get blasted off the family tree quicker than you could say 'Andromeda.' And besides, my sisters need me. Bella would turn into a certified lunatic. Cissa – poor Cissa. I could't just leave them like that."
Narcissa’s free hand foraged for something to cling to and found purchase on a daffodil.
There was a pause in the conversation. Then, suddenly, Andromeda and the Muggle boy – Ted – were kissing, eyes closed, fingers fisting in tangled hair, lips searching thirstily, greedily.
Narcissa almost retched. The daffodil stem broke off from the bouquet. Her mind was whirling. A Muggle. What would she do? Who would she tell? Who could she tell?
Nobody. There was nobody.
The secret was now shoved under the carpet of her tongue, sticking out from the floorboards. It would be there for the rest of the week at least, and whenever she opened her mouth, it would be there, threatening to fall out, making her stomach churn. Secrets were dangerous things. She didn’t want any part in this, in whatever clandestine relationship her sister held.
The force of it nearly made her throw up again.
The daffodil crumbled beneath her sweaty palms, staining the snow in a flurry of dust and pollen.