Chapter 3 : Asking
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Being an illegitimate Halfblood to a Pureblood father, she hasn't spent her whole life among our 'way of life', as she calls it; balls are for princesses and afternoon tea is for lazy days with good gossip.
No. Balls are for making yourself known and looking for potential marriage prospects, you want to look your best when you're chosen; afternoon tea is for finding out people's most private thoughts and darkest secrets under the impression of good gossip, to give you control and help you climb the social ladder. It's about power and knowledge is that power, it's often better than magic. If we're not blackmailing and using others to help ourselves, we're not doing our jobs right.
I quickly found out that money and an old name were not the only things holding the Malfoys in such high regard; Lucius knows everything about everyone, including his own parents. It would be unwise to cross him. Respect him and fear him, love him and hate him, but do not cross him - that's your reputation, your name, ruined. And reputation is key here.
We had to wait for the Easter holidays to go out as a couple; Hogsmeade doesn't have many places to go and I refused to set foot in that damn teashop. And though he joked about it, I was sure that Lucius would never go in there either. Sometimes I would think about playing along just to see his face when he'd think I'd agree to go, but then we'd both continue the game to try and beat the other and the end result would not be worth it. Better to not go through with it at all then to back out and lose.
People whispered when they saw us together, wondering how long it would be before he broke my heart and went back to his type. A look or two quelled the rumors, though they still watched and waited. Jane was furious and always tried to sabotage us; Leo and Elizabeth were good at keeping her away when we weren't, but there were a few times when things were damaged or ruined or a threat to me. She expected to get close to Lucius when a botched potion put me in the hospital wing, but she underestimated him and his ability to get what he wants - he snuck away and was with me all night. Madam Pomfrey told me he refused to leave while he was sleeping. That says more than any romantic night out ever will.
The watching and waiting mostly stopped the night after we were photographed together. I expected our first 'date' to be dinner with his parents so his mother could interrogate me about my intentions and she could determine if I was good enough.
I was wrong.
He took me to the restaurant where we first met, when we were ten. We had bumped into each other as he was leaving the male restroom and I was moving toward the girls'; he was horribly rude, insisted it was my fault. After that, he always seemed to pop up out of nowhere and annoy me. The insults lessened as we got to know one another, but this place was what we talked about when we reminisced.
My parents took the news very well; in my letters, I had never denied my interest in the Malfoy heir when my father asked and I left little pieces of information, such as the two us spending more time with each other and part of my reasons for being in the hospital wing, but nothing that implied an actual relationship with Lucius. I thought they would take the deception badly, until I saw the pleased look on my father's face and remembered that he was trying to make me the perfect Pureblood. He probably thinks my falling for a 'suitable man' is thanks to him. My mother, always in agreement, would think so, too.
(Lucius laughs when I mention that to him; I do not do as I am told unless it's in my best interest, he says. He doesn't deny that I am perfect, though I suspect it's mostly to compliment me. He sometimes gains something from it.)
His father did not seem to care who Lucius was with, as long as I was Pureblood. Purebloods are low in number as it is, with respectable families dying out completely; status seems to be enough for Abraxas Malfoy. His mother, on the other hand, was mortified that she was not introduced to me before our first date - she ignored me if she saw me and tried to belittle me in front of others until Lucius snapped at her. I didn't care much, she has nothing on me.
A formal introduction between our families was held during the summer before seventh year; a dinner at Malfoy Manor, with us, our parents, Bellatrix and her husband in attendance. I still do not know why we had to go through with it, especially with everyone - almost - there, but his mother insisted.
It was horrible; Bellatrix was in a foul mood, Rodolphus Lestrange not making it any better by ignoring her; our fathers talked about marriage like it was a contract to be signed, which Lucius tried desperately to ignore because he wasn't ready for that; our mothers didn't, and still don't, like each other.
I felt Lucius freeze when the conversation turned to the Dark Lord, particularly when Bellatrix spoke up. He hates her with an intensity I have never seen in him before, as though he would gladly use his bare hands to kill her rather than magic, even though it is quicker and easier. He always has, ever since we started Hogwarts, but I think it got worse after I told him I used to be target practice.
He knows how I feel about the subject and he doesn't like anyone bringing it up, partly in case I change my mind about him, mostly because he doesn't want me upset. The conversation that night had barely started when he dropped his fork, held out a hand and asked me to follow him, telling the table that we were full and he wished to show me something.
He did not wait for a reply.
He showed me the drawing room, where his mother would have her tea with her 'friends'. In the corner, was a grand piano, all in black and almost glittering when the light touched it. Lucius led me to it and sat me down before joining me. That was the night he told me that his mother's way of getting information on people was to use him - he was taught to play when he was young and played for the women every week. No one turned away an adorable six year old when he asked his rehearsed questions. He was glad to get to Hogwarts.
He played for me that night, nothing special, but it made me feel better and I almost forgot that my crazed sister was worshipping a dark wizard at the end of the hall.
He still plays for me, when I'm upset, even when I deny it - he doesn't ask, he just plays. He couldn't do that in Hogwarts, so resorted to humming. Sometimes that works better and he still does that, too, often to help me sleep.
We have been together for just over two years now and so much has happened since our relationship started, not only with our families, friends and enemies, but with each other, too. We've overcome rumors and reputation, we've had fights and we've made up, we've been asked for by the Dark Lord's Death Eaters because of our names and Bellatrix's influence (we declined, for self-preservation above all else, though I had held my breath, thinking Lucius might say yes), we've given each other a part of ourselves physically (only I was the virgin, I always knew that Lucius' 'dates' tended to end with sex, but I didn't care, nor did I care about waiting until marriage - it felt right because I had waited until I knew I loved him and he felt the same, so it was still special, something even I agreed with when Elizabeth told me).
I don't think anything else could possibly change our relationship until I find myself listening in on a conversation from behind the door of my father's study, Lucius inside with him.
I was out shopping with Elizabeth after lunch and had bumped into Leo in our way back to my home. He followed because he knew I was meeting Lucius there. The house seemed silent at first, then Leo pointed out the voices faintly coming from upstairs. I had gone to the study to knock and announce our presence, but hearing my own name stopped me. Now the three of us are pressed together, our ears turned to the crack of the door. The crack is the only reason we can hear anything at all; Father has a one way silencing charm around his study, which activates when the door shuts. He would be able to hear outside, but no one would hear inside.
"You are absolutely sure about this, Malfoy?" Father demands to know sternly, almost cold. This is important.
Lucius' voice doesn't waver, it's formal and straight to the point. There's no warmth, that's only for me and, sometimes, the two beside me. "I have never been more sure of anything."
Father is silent for a few moments, then finally he answers and there's an almost pleasant undertone barely concealed. "Very well. You have my permission."
"Thank you, Sir."
There's no hint as to what their conversation could mean, they've obviously already mentioned it at least once, so have no need to do so again. They know what they mean even if we don't.
The sound of footsteps forces us to move, going down the stairs and into the sitting area as quickly and as quietly as possible, so they don't know that we were listening. A minute or so later and Lucius is standing by the door, having seen Leo from the stairs, no doubt. He nods in greeting to our friends, then smiles warmly at me.
"When did you get back?" he asks me.
"Just now," I answer, acting as though I have no idea that he's been speaking to my father. "Would you like to see what we bought?"
He shakes his head once and holds out a hand. "Maybe later. Will you come with me?"
Hesitantly, I accept his hand and allow him to lead me away, sharing a look with Elizabeth as I leave - she seems to have the same thought as me and is already trying not to jump up and down in excitement. There are only a number of reasons why a man would go to a girlfriend's father for permission for something and only one is something Lucius would do, if only to not cause chaos.
We go to the garden, neither of us talking at all. I graze the petals of each flower I can reach with the tips of my fingers, plucking a small daisy from the end. They're insignificant compared to all the large, brightly colored flowers in my mother's garden - just splashes of yellow with tiny white petals circling them. It can be easily crushed in my hand, but it don't. I just hold it.
This was how I used to think of myself, compared to Lucius' previous girlfriends I was the daisy. Now here we are and I'm fairly certain he wants to ask me a question I never in my life expected to hear from him.
We stop at a cement bench with no back, one of my mother's decorations, and I sit while Lucius stretches his leg across to side-saddle it. I have to turn my body and rest my knee on the bench, which is slightly uncomfortable in my dress but worth it when I see the nervous anticipation on his face. He's always so cautious with showing his emotions.
"I know that people view this as an arrangement, something our parents set up during the Christmas ball where we first danced," he starts softly, taking my hands in his own. "I know that sometimes you're afraid that it might be true, at least with our fathers, that I might only make a commitment if it's presented to me as an arrangement. But that's not true."
I understand, why he's so willing to reveal what he feels now; the promise is in his eyes rather than on his lips. His lips lie more often than not, but he can't hide the truth in his eyes. He can force it away, but he can't hide it completely. I see it.
"I'm not the hardest man to get along with, I do things you don't like and I believe in things you try to ignore, but I do love you and I will always try to put you above those things."
He puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out a small, dark green box. My gasp does not go unnoticed by him. Lucius opens it slowly to reveal a beautiful diamond ring, a small emerald on either side of it. I can't tell if it's new or if it's a family heirloom; his mother kept her jewelry hidden away and she doesn't like me, so I doubt she would allow me to have an engagement ring. A part of me hopes it's new; I don't want anything of that woman's, but even if it isn't I won't complain - she isn't the only woman to come have come into his family and if he's willing to commit to me and show that he loves me, I don't care about the ring. He could buy me a cheap kid's toy ring and I'd still say yes with the same excitement... and then we would go out and I'd pick a new one.
"Will you marry me, Narcissa?"
I count the seconds, my eyes on the ring, and then I look up to his face. He waits nervously for my answer.
"Yes," I whisper, holding out my hand.
Lucius relaxes, slips the ring into my finger, where it fits perfectly, and he moves forward to kiss me. It starts off slow, deepening when my excitement starts to show and he is sucked in.
He stands, pulling me to my feet, and twirls me around before holding me tightly.
"Now you have to teach me to dance," he says, remembering our old joke.
I only smile, already picturing our wedding day.
Narcissa Malfoy; it has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
A/N: I hope you enjoy this new chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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