“Lily! We are not having this conversation again! I can’t just…use your husband, like he’s some kind of prize stud horse!”
“Why not?” Lily Potter replied calmly, with a shrug. “Muggles do it all the time.”
“Because!” Narcissa sputtered, scandalized, though she kept her tone lone and her movements steady as she took a calming sip of tea.
Witches of the blood always conduct themselves with decorum and grace. Her mother’s haughty, crisp voice lectured in the back of her mind. No matter the circumstance or news.
Ophelia Black obviously had never had an acquaintance like Lilian Evans-Potter to deal with, Narcissa thought resignedly, although with a glimmer of reluctant amusement. Sometimes she believed that the vibrant Muggleborn witch said outrageous things just to try to get a reaction out of her, although in this case she could see that the redhead was deadly serious.
Even after over a year of working together, the blonde still wasn’t quite sure what to call her fellow mediwitch. Co-worker was the most obvious choice, but she had become more than that. Former class mate and fellow graduate of the class of ’76 from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, though they might as well have gone to rival schools for all that they actually associated with each other; at most they could possibly claim a mutual, vague, ‘friend of a friend’ relationship, but even then that wouldn’t have applied at school. Lily had been in the same year as Narcissa at Hogwarts, and a brave and bold Gryffindor to boot. Narcissa Black, on the other hand, had been her absolute opposite – pureblood Slytherin princess, almost literally; as the youngest daughter of one of the oldest wizarding families in the magical world, the Blacks could claim lineage leading back to the royal blood of Britain. Lily, by contrast, was a Muggleborn witch, which meant that her parents – and possibly her grandparents on one side – had no magical ability whatsoever.
It was below the dignity of a Black daughter to associate with someone of such common, peasant, low born lineage, but Lily had ended up dating and eventually marrying James Potter, who, although he was very much a brash Gryffindor as well, also came from a pureblood family on par with the Blacks, as well as actually being a blood relation directly. James and Narcissa’s cousin, Sirius, had been best friends from their first meeting and thus inseparable, so James was there for the various family gatherings, parties, and celebrations. All young pureblood witches and wizards were required to attend the same lessons of etiquette and social decorum, dancing, airs and graces, and the other useful things lords and ladies needed to know to effectively run a household and make a successful marriage.
Step one: produce an heir, Narcissa thought sourly. Even though James had mucked it up by choosing to take a Muggleborn to wife, their child would still be a half blood of decent magical ability, strength, and heritage. Of course, that was due to James’s lineage, not Lily’s, but even she could see what had attracted James to the other witch-even if she was prone to saying absolutely wicked things without a shred of decent modesty.
Which brought her full circle and back to the redhead in question now patiently sipping her drink, emerald green eyes sparkling with amusement as she waited for Narcissa to process her thoughts. She deliberately took a sip of her coffee, closing her eyes in bliss as Narcissa’s lip curled slightly. “Don’t say it.” the redhead warned without opening her eyes. “I can be British and still enjoy coffee more than tea. Coffee is what got us through our magic medical boards last year. Do not insult the coffee. And don’t be bitchy because you might actually be considering my suggestion.”
“Cheeky bint.” Narcissa muttered, but there was no venom in her tone. “Why do I associate with you again?”
Lily opened her eyes just enough to give a lazy, smug cat smile. “Because we are complete opposites, so we somehow balance each other out, and everyone else in our cohort are all idiots and wankers anyway?” she replied sweetly.
The other woman rolled her dark brown eyes, but let a tiny smile curve her lips. “True.”
Although, there were still moments where she seriously questioned her sanity and how she had come to this crossroads in her life. As a pureblood witch, Narcissa had grown up with wealth, prosperity, and the absolute ideology that her blood status put her in a higher class – socially, magically, and politically – than those born with Muggle, or non-magical parentage. Lily, on the other hand was the only witch in a house full of Muggles, which put her socially somewhere just above the common rabble. She had enough magic in her blood from somewhere, though, to be accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the most premier magical school in all of wizarding Britain.
Somehow they had survived Hogwarts relatively unscathed, and would have gone their separate ways, but for a mutual interest in the medical field. Narcissa originally was due to marry Lucius directly out of school, but she had prettily appealed to her father to be allowed to train as a mediwitch before committing to starting a family. She had cited wanting to know what to do herself for the inevitable problems that happened along with pregnancy and through raising children, to which her father had immediately blustered and hastily agreed, mainly in order to forestall a possible description of some of those problems.
Lily had also married James almost immediately after graduating Hogwarts, but there had been no pregnancy rumors before during or after, and Lily herself had stated vehemently multiple times how she wanted to wait a year or two before starting a family.
James was now an Auror in charge of his own unit, for all that he had been an arrogant little prat for as long as Narcissa had known him; nearly all her life. He had also ran in the same social circles as she had as a child; inevitably becoming best friends with Sirius, so it was only natural that she would consider James to be an annoying cousin as well. Which they might well be anyway, distantly, with Sirius as a common factor perhaps. And it was for that reason – one of many, though not the biggest one – that she couldn’t possibly consider Lily’s audacious suggestion. No matter how desperate she might be.
She said as much out loud to her companion. “Lily. James is your husband. Sirius’ best friend. Possibly my fifth cousin, second removed or some nonsense like that.” She began.
“Yes, and he is very definitely pureblood, which is your husband is also, and fertile, which your husband is most definitely not.” Lily finished, placing a gentle hand on Narcissa’s arm. “You ran the tests and did the diagnostics, ‘Cissa. You know I’m right. Lucius is a Death Eater. He may keep his Mark covered with a glamour, but he has willingly bent the knee to the Dark Lord, and accepted his touch. Therefore, he has been rendered sterile. ”
“We don’t know if there is a correlation between the two!”
“Dammit, Narcissa, listen to yourself! How much more evidence do you need? You are running out of time! Your marriage contract, which you and Lucius both signed, states that you agree to producing a magical pureblood child by the end of your third year of marriage! We graduated in 1976. Two years of medical school, and an year of interning. It is now May of 1979. You have less than a year to successfully get pregnant and carry to term.” Lily said levelly. “How many times have you come to work and stayed late, doing research on sex magic and fertility rituals and potions? Yet nothing has worked!”
“He is not sterile because of the Mark! The Dark Lord wouldn’t punish his faithful like that!”
They glared at each other, each breathing hard as the air rang with Narcissa’s outburst. Hard, dark brown eyes met narrowed evergreen before they both pressed their lips tightly together and glanced away, avoiding the other woman’s gaze. Though they had spent many hours in philosophical and ideological discussions, this was the first time they had truly directly and verbally insinuated their allegiance to one side or the other. Pride and training forestalled the apology that wanted to race past Narcissa’s lips, so she remained quiet, letting her companion make the next move.
“Beliefs – all else aside.” Lily said quietly after a moment, her eyes still closed. “The Dark Mark is a symbol of death and dark magic. Creating a child is one of the most powerful and magical acts and ancient symbol associated with love and life and light. It is not magically possible to willingly accept and go through a rite of darkness and death, and then try to create the complete opposite. The balance of magic itself won’t allow it. I’m so sorry, Narcissa.”
The blonde sat perfectly still for a long moment, her eyes closed, though her body vibrated with tension. A single crystal tear fell from her eyes, down her pale cheek to drip off of one too sharp high cheekbone. Dashing it briskly away, she breathed deeply, pushing the emotions down, down.
Ladies don’t cry, Narcissa.
“Very well. What reasonable solutions do you suggest, then? And please don’t bring up that dreadful Muggle method, or James again–!”
“No. That will be our next conversation. I know that you want desperately to believe me, and for the sake of your happiness and future, I hope that I am somehow wrong.” Lily replied briskly. “So, I propose a test. I want you to go home and try to seduce your husband. Pull out all the stops – the skimpy nightgown, candles, coming on to him, whatever it takes.” She held up a hand at the blonde witch’s scandalized look. “And if, after all of that, he merely brushes you away with some excuse of paperwork or being too tired, or knowing his type, insinuates that you are the one who is too needy and clingy, and blames you for his sexual disinterest, then we will return to this restaurant, and speak candidly once more about other, yes, Muggle, solutions to your problem.”
Narcissa simultaneously cursed and admired her friend’s tactics, wording her challenge so that the Slytherin had no choice but to accept; pride prevented her from doing anything else. Despite her unfortunate parentage and those she chose to associate with in school, the redhead really could have done extremely well in Slytherin. “Lucius loves me.” She said fiercely. “He is everything that a pureblood wizard should be, virile and strong. I will accept your challenge, and then you will cease with this madness at once!
“Then we will still meet for lunch here as usual, but I will never speak of any of this again.” Lily shrugged, taking a delicate sip of her coffee and grimacing. “Ugh. Should’ve just gone for an iced mocha.”
“Snob. So, do we have an agreement?” She raised her brows, waiting.
“I really don’t know why I associate with you.” Narcissa sighed after a moment, yielding with a silent nod. “Crazy witch.”
Lily tapped her cup with her wand, hidden in her sleeve, before saluting her with it. “Because I’m the most Slytherin Gryffindor you will ever meet, and you can’t help but respect me for it. Admit it. You like me. You really like me.” She smirked. “Now, are you all caught up on reviewing for our practical next week? I still can’t for the life of me remember what ingredients go into a bone bruise poultice…”
The next evening, Narcissa approached Lucius’s study with a bit of trepidation. Taking a deep breath, she knocked sharply on the door, waiting for his call before entering the room.
“Good evening, my lord,” she said demurely, stopping just inside the door and waiting for him to look up and acknowledge her.
Resentment and anger rose like bile in her throat as he deliberately waited a few moments before lazily lifting his gaze from the document in front of him, but she forced it back down to offer a pretty, coy smile.
“Narcissa.” He said, and though his flat grey eyes travelled over her body, showcased to perfection in the sheer dressing robe and lacy nightgown in a mint green that accentuated her curves and her coloring, there was no flicker of interest – or anything – in his expression. “I thought you had already retired. Did you need something?” There were no inflections in his cultured, cold, drawling tone as he returned his gaze to his paper, dismissing her as of no importance before she even had a chance to answer.
“The Mark kills everything related to life and love.” Lily’s voice sounded in her head. “He will show no sign of sexual or personal interest in you, will not seek to touch or take. The only emotions left to him are of anger, resentment, pride, and arrogance.”
“He is still the man I married, the one who courted me so persistently!” Narcissa had protested. “You are wrong about him, Lily.”
“Again, I hope that is true, for the sake of your heart, happiness, and future.” The redhead replied quietly as they had gathered their things to leave. “But we are both Slytherin and female enough to know better than to trust solely our heart’s hopes and wishes, when our heads and magic know the truth. Enough time has passed that, were there other reasons, they would have revealed themselves already…”
The courtship and marriage of the golden couple was the talk of wizarding society. Rumors abounded of Narcissa being pregnant out of wedlock, although there was never talk of them marrying for love. Nine months passed, then another nine, and the whispers began, along with the sidelong looks and patronizing tones. It never occurred to anyone to blame Lucius, but Narcissa went through months of ‘helpful’ suggestions and remedies, all couched in false sympathies and a covetous eye on her husband.
Now, as Narcissa stood looking at Lucius, really seeing him for the first time, she felt nothing. No guilt or remorse, or longing of what might have been between her and this cold, stoic, merciless creature before her.
“I…was coming to see if you needed anything before I retired.” She said finally into the silence.
“Don’t be silly, Narcissa, you’re not a house elf.”
“No. Of course not. How…silly of me, indeed.” She murmured. “Good night, then, my lord.” Not waiting for his reply, if he even bothered to make one, she strode out of the room, head high. As soon as she had returned to her own quarters, she summoned a quill and parchment.
You were right.
P.S. You’re buying drinks tomorrow.