A Tale of Two Marriages

by Lara Wilson

She could feel it in the air. Something had gone wrong.

Narcissa paced nervously in front of the fireplace in her sitting room, occasionally sipping from the glass of sherry in her hand, her other in her pocket, rubbing along the inner seam of her linen skirt. She was pale and worried. Lucius and Draco had been summoned abruptly over three hours ago and there had been no hint as to why they were summoned or when they would be returning. They had been armed for battle.

In the two weeks since the first major battle of the war--the attack on Hogwarts--there had only been skirmishes. While Lucius reveled in battle and killing, the war, even in such a brief time, was taking a toll on Draco. The youthful light in his eyes had dimmed, and he rarely smiled any more. She'd known for years he wasn't cut out to be a Death Eater, but he'd never been given a choice.

While Lucius would undoubtedly survive to rule at the right hand of their Lord, Narcissa was terribly afraid Draco would soon surrender to the darkness that inevitably led to death. He would get sloppy and die in battle or, worse, take his own life to escape the pain of so much blood on his hands.

She knew that desire all too well, as her own hands were permanently stained with the deaths of others. Only Draco kept her in this world. To lose him would mean her end as well.

Her hand shook as she raised the glass to her lips, and she silently prayed to whatever might be listening that her son was still alive.

*****

Lilith fretted silently while she sat in her cozy sitting room attempting to knit a baby sweater. It was turning out to look nothing like the sketch she'd drawn, but she refused to use magic. Reaching the end of a row, she held up the needle anchoring the sweater and frowned. There were so many dropped stitches, that she tossed it aside in disgust. Her attention was obviously not going to stay on this project.

Not since Severus had received the summons three hours before. The brand had burned brightly and painfully soon after they'd sat down to lunch, and he'd been forced to leave her immediately to stop the pain.

As if aware of her worry, the baby kicked hard, making her gasp and rub her side. She was moving and kicking a lot these days, as if the turbulence in the outside world was affecting her. Lilith began to hum a soothing song, trying to calm both the baby and herself.

Severus would be fine.

At the moment that thought entered her mind, images crowded it out. Battle scenes, blood. She could hear the screams of the wounded and dying, hear the curses of those yet battling. She saw Harry, injured, pale and shaking, trying to rise to his feet. She saw Draco, hood off, grab him, apparate away with him. Not to kill or give to the Dark Lord. She saw the truth in a glimpse at her nephew's soulful eyes.

When the vision faded, leaving Lilith both terrified and relieved, she summoned an owl. The boys would need sanctuary and only one such place still existed. Draco would need an entrance.

After the owl had left, Lilith wrapped her arms around herself and began to cry. Her vision had been about Harry and Draco, but she knew both Severus and Sirius had been in the battle as well. She prayed they were still alive.

*****

Severus stood back several paces, his face empty of expression, his eyes cold, as Lucius took the brunt of their Master's displeasure. Malfoy screamed, caught in a fury-backed cruciatus curse. As the blond fell to the floor, his lungs starved for air, every muscle caught in rictus, Voldemort spoke, his voice like ice on gravel. "This was our opportunity, Lucius. With one blow we could have eradicated most of the leadership of the Light. Harry Potter was to die today, Lucius." He twisted his hand and Lucius screamed again, his whole body arched off the floor. "And what happened instead? Potter escaped...with your son's aid."

Another twist and Lucius writhed, in too much agony to scream anymore. "Your son has betrayed me, Malfoy." Finally releasing his prisoner, Voldemort addressed the gathered Death Eaters.

"Let word go out. Draco Malfoy is to be executed on sight. Ten thousand galleons to the Death Eater who brings me his head on a silver platter."

Murmurs spread through the restless crowd. That was double the price on Potter's head. Their Lord was clearly infuriated.

Gasping on the floor, pain rolling over him in waves, Lucius heard the words and a different pain clenched his heart. While he was altogether disappointed in the boy, he didn't want him dead, although not enough to offer his own life as recompense.

"My Lord," Severus spoke above the murmurs, "Are we certain young Malfoy didn't rescue Potter only to gain access to the inner core of the Order? Potter might just trust him enough to allow Draco to bring down the whole resistance."

"Hm, that's an interesting point. I shall think on it more." He didn't rescend the death order, though. "You have done well this day, Severus. I was informed you used a new potion to render the dog caught mid-transformation."

"I regret that I was unable to kill him, but he was apparated away before I could reach him." Severus snarled slightly. "We did kill half a dozen Aurors and I believe the werewolf was severely injured as well."

Voldemort sighed. "I had hoped for better, but..." He gestured to his bedraggled Death Eaters, "One makes do with what one is given," clearly indicating that they were at fault for not being strong enough and fast enough. "Malfoy, get out of my sight," he snapped.

Dragging himself to his feet, Lucius managed a shaky bow before limping from the room. From beneath hooded eyes Severus watched him go, knowing that wounded Malfoy was even more dangerous. He was surprised the Dark Lord hadn't simply killed him, but that error in judgment might actually benefit the Resistance.

"Outside of my Potions Master, one of you performed in exemplory fashion. Virginia, come forward."

The crowd parted and Ginny Weasley, robe and hood gone to reveal her slender body encased in red leather pants and a black bustier, strode forward, dragging a length of chain behind her. Attached to the other end was a struggling Hermione Granger.

Severus forced down his shock. He'd seen Ginny kill one of the Weasley twins and known that several Death Eaters had captured Ron who even now languished in a dungeon cell unconcious, but he hadn't seen this.

Obviously terrified, Hermione managed to stay on her feet, her hands tugging at the collar around her neck. She didn't look at Voldemort or Ginny, only at the floor. Her clothes were torn and dirty and there was an ugly bruise forming on one cheek, but she didn't appear to be wounded. With a hard yank on the chain, Ginny sent her flying forward onto her hands and knees.

"The Mudblood," Voldemort crowed with relish. "No wonder the Light falls so easily when they rely on such as this creature. You have done well, Virginia."

Ginny smiled, a smile that twisted Severus stomach as he resoluytely refused to look at Hermione. He knew that doing so would end him as well, as he'd instinctively try to save her. "Thank you, Master. It was fun. I always knew I was stronger than her."

"I'm sure she has secrets we need to extract, but as a reward I'll allow you to play with her while you do so. Just don't kill her...yet."

"Oh, thank you, Sire." Ginny jerked on the chain, forcing Hermione's head up, and leaned down to lick her lips in a lacivious fashion. "Oh, yes, I'll have a lot of fun with her. She'll beg for death by the time I'm through."

Voldemort smiled in pleasure at his young protege, and caught Hermione's frightened eyes with his. "One by one Potter's allies fall. Perhaps this is the best way to kill him after all, tortured by thought of what we must be doing to his friends." He gestured for Ginny to take Hermione away, then turned back to Severus. "I know you are anxious to return to your wife, my friend, but before you do so I will need you to send me a supply of various restorative potions in the next few days. I doubt Mr. Weasley will break anytime soon, but he will need them eventually."

"Of course, my Lord. I shall begin preparations immediately." Bowing, Severus accepted the dismissal and hurried from the Court.

*****

Lucius strode into his home, furious and humiliated. His earlier concern for Draco had turned to outright hatred. His son would pay for this, and he would be the one to exact payment. Draco would die on his knees crying for his mother.

His mother.

A sneer curled Lucius' upper lip and, although his body still ached and trembled from the cruciatus curse, he took the stairs two at a time, heading for Narcissa's rooms. She'd coddled the boy. His betrayal was as much her fault as his.

Flinging open the door to her sitting room, he spied her sitting on the sofa, inevitable drink in hand. He advanced on her, noting the look of fear blossom on her face. As she rose, he backhanded her, sending her spinning to the floor, the drink flying from her hand and the glass shattering on the marble hearth.

Narcissa crumpled, gasping at the pain and shock. What had she done? She tried to rise and he kicked her arm out from beneath her, sending her back onto her stomach.

"Stay there," Lucius hissed. "You always look better at my feet."

Tears sprang into her eyes and she moaned, cradling her arm against her chest as she curled onto her side. "Lucius?"

"Today was to be my moment of triumph, wife. I'd been given permission to end Potter's miserable life, and do you know what happened instead?" He didn't wait to hear her response, only continued to rant. "Your son, your worthless son, betrayed us all and rescued our Master's enemy. I always knew he'd never amount to much," he sneered, "but to actually turn against us..." He shook his head in stunned anger.

Narcissa tried to process what he was saying, but it was too much, too unbelievable. "Is...is Draco all right?" she finally asked meekly.

Lucius laughed harshly and reached down to drag her to her feet, his fingers biting into her upper arms. He shook her hard, watching her head snap back and the fear flood her pale eyes. "He is dead as soon as he is found, Narcissa. Don't even think about trying to aid him."

The ice in his voice, the hardness in his countenance, made her cringe and whimper. Pleased at her reaction, Lucius pulled her closer, bent to whisper, "I have fallen out of favor with our Lord, Narcissa. Perhaps it is time you do the only thing you're good at and help redeem our family name."

She could feel the scream building as terror seized her, but forced it down. Staring numbly into her husband's eyes, she could only nod helplessly.

With another laugh, Lucius shoved her away and turned, not even caring where she fell. He felt a presence slip through the wards around the house and his eyes narrowed as he strode towards the door to his sitting room. "Do not leave your rooms. Do not attempt to send an owl to anyone. We shall discuss this further in the morning," he ordered, not looking back as he went through the door.

Distractedly placing a soundproof barrier between his rooms and his wife's, he cointinued into his bedroom and gave Ginny a wicked smile.

*****

Severus hurried into the cottage and found Lilith curled into her chair, weeping. His immediate concern was for the baby, but she didn't look like she was in pain. As he dropped to a knee before her, she looked up with eyes full of horror.

"I saw," she said, her voice strangled with emotion. One shaky hand went to his face. "Who...who died?"

His own mask slipped, allowing her to see the grief he'd been bottling since the battle begun. Leaning into her soft hand, he closed his eyes and whispered the names. "...and one of the Weasley twins."

"Oh no," she cried softly, her free hand going to her mouth to stem the emotions that wanted to spill forth.

"Others were injured. Lupin, Tonks...Black." He opened his eyes and frowned at the expression on her face. "Do not fear for the latter. I used a new potion on him to trap him between forms. It should have worn off by now, leaving him only bruised and sore. Others took much worse damage."

Lilith forced aside the spark of anger and nodded. "Who else?"

"Ronald and Hermione were both captured."

"No." Her eyes widened in horror. "Oh gods, no. Sev, we have to help them."

He closed up, rising to his feet and turning away from her.

"No, don't you do that, please," she begged, scrambling awkwardly to her feet and reaching for him.

"Lilith, there is nothing I can do as of yet. I must speak to Dumbledore. We must regroup. The Dark Lord won't kill them yet." Severus let her turn him and take him in her arms, but he remained stiff. "There is one bright spot." When she looked up at him through teary eyes he continued. "Potter was injured but rescued...by Draco. It seems your nephew isn't a Death Eater after all."

A watery smile creased her face. "I saw that. I didn't quite understand it all between the battle and the screams, but I saw Draco and saw what he was feeling. I sent an owl to Dumbledore. If they're able, the boys will head to Grimmauld Place."

"I'm...pleased as well," Severus admitted. "Draco has too much potential to waste on becoming a mindless murderer." With a soft sigh, he changed the subject. "Come, you need to eat. I need to eat and then I must talk to the headmaster."

Nodding, Lilith took his hand and they walked into the kitchen.

*****

Narcissa spent the evening curled into a ball in the corner of her settee. Darkness fell but she lit no lights. The room grew cold but she made no attempt to warm herself. Her tears fell like ice on her cold cheeks. Fear had her in its grasp. Fear for Draco and for herself.

She wouldn't survive being the Dark Lord's plaything again.

She couldn't survive Draco's death.

Why had he done this?

Why had any of this happened?

There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to drown out her terror, but she reached for the sherry decanter just the same.

*****

Lilith spent the evening in her husband's arms, both of them distracting themselves by reading a baby name book and debating over names. Severus had contacted Dumbledore, and made arrangements to see the older wizard the next day. There was nothing either of them could do for the dead or missing--although Lilith had composed an owl to the Weasleys while Severus made dinner.

"Adelaide is a perfectly good name."

"It's the name of a city in Australia."

"It was my great-great aunt's name."

Lilith smiled up at his stern face and crossed that name off their list. "If you want to name her after a relative how about Brunhilda, my grandmother's name."

"If you insist." He managed to keep a straight face at her obvious dismay.

"No, no. Um...Rose is nice."

"Floral names are always pleasant."

She added it to the list.

End

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