The Choices We Make

by Lara Wilson

She looks down on the man sleeping at her side before sliding silently from the bed to move to the window. The night sky is clear, the moon nearly full. Venus shines bright against an ebon backdrop, eclipsing the light of the stars.

Venus, the planet named for the goddess of love.

She glances over her shoulder, watches as he stirs, turns his face more fully into the pillow, falls quiet.

There is nothing of love here.

Only desperation spun from regret and fear.

Narcissa Malfoy turns back to the window and wraps her arms around her nude body against a sudden chill.

Somewhere in this dark night her son, the only brightness in her life, struggles with his task. A task she knows he will fail which is why she made this devil's bargain. If she has only one regret about Draco it's that she didn't make him strong enough.

Another shiver goes through her. Her body can still feel the pain of blows from Lucius' hard hands every time Draco failed at something. His failures were always hers to suffer.

Perhaps this is the lot of a mother. It was her own mother's and hers before her--women used as commodities, married for power and money, never love, and treated as such. Rarely praised, often abused, they suffered.

Narcissa suffers, but Lucius was her choice. While her father gained much from their marriage, he doted on his youngest daughter, allowing her to make her choice of mates from those eligible--meaning, rich, powerful dark wizards. She jumped at the opportunity to claim the prince of Slytherin. On paper they are a striking couple, a power couple in the Muggle vernacular.

Reality, though, is quite different.

She's learned to live with her regrets. Lucius is a cold man, hard and brutal and frightening at times. He has never forgiven her failure to bear more than one living child--those regrets, those losses, lay buried in tiny boxes beneath tiny stones at Malfoy Manor. The only time he was happy with her were those early years--before Draco and stillbirth after stillbirth.

She knew all along of her husband's affiliation with the Dark Lord and, at first, it was exciting to be the wife of a prominent Death Eater. They were young and she loved her husband with an almost childish love. Lord Voldemort enjoyed her wit, allowed her to act as his hostess for his galas, and Lucius was proud of her.

But, as the years passed with the Dark Lord gone, she became accustomed to being the wife only of a powerful businessman. At His return, everything changed. There were no more galas, only fear. When the dark mark burned brightly on Lucius' arm for the first time in years, all Narcissa saw was her son's future disappearing in the hissing of a snake.

Her marriage is cold and empty. Lucius treats her like a pretty appendage, mostly ignoring her unless some occasion calls for her to be at his side. On the cusp of becoming a man, Draco is terrified and there's nothing she can do for him.

She's done all she can.

Her latest regret and her only hope calls her name softly from the bed behind her, and she turns, a false smile on her face, and returns to him.

What has her life come to that she is bedding Severus Snape? That she has made a bargain with him to save her son, a bargain she knows in her always aching heart that her husband would never have made? What does it mean that this man cares more for her son than his father?

As she curls next to him, her head on his shoulder, his hand stroking through her hair, Narcissa wonders if her greatest regret will be that she chose Lucius all those years before.

Maybe her life--her son's future--would be different if her choice had been elsewhere.


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