Thyself In Me
by Branwyn

Whenever Narcissa is alone, she spends long minutes gazing at herself in mirrors.

Servants and family members who come upon her unexpectedly often find her occupied thus; all who do so are stirred to some degree of pity. For she is the youngest of three sisters, but she is by no means the fairest.

Sisters such as hers would be enough to drive any girl to a looking glass in search of her lost beauty. Bellatrix is the eldest; she walks in the confidence of her strength like a goddess among slaves. For as long as Narcissa can remember, her sister has been able to steal words from the tip of her tongue with the merest flicker of her hooded eyes. Their mother is afraid of her. Though she is a woman, their father treats her in a manner that is befitting to the heir of his house.

Bellatrix will marry where she pleases. Or not marry: also as she pleases, and no one will think to disapprove her choice.

Andromeda is the second daughter. To the Blacks, she is a blood-traitor; to the Gryffindors, she is a Black, and she discovered early on that choosing sides was not enough. She is constantly forced to prove herself, and whenever she is able she makes her family feel the shame she has endured because of them. Narcissa envies, with the pale recognition of her own deficiencies, Andromeda's belief in the integrity of her convictions--ones which are not validated by the will of their father, or the traditions of their mother.

Andromeda speaks to whomever she will. She travels under her own authority, buys things with her own money. She does not fear Bellatrix. More than this: she holds her in contempt.

Narcissa sees the cool eyes of their elder sister studying Andromeda, and knowing their power, she fears for her. But she has never been able to hold onto emotions long enough to turn them into anything real.


Narcissa and Bellatrix do not attend Hogwarts: witches in the House of Black have governesses until they are married. Andromeda's tuition is forgiven her by the school, which approves of her modern attitude, until she comes of age and can claim a private inheritance and repay them. She is only allowed to return during holidays because she threatened to wait tables at the Leaky Cauldron for her board, and their father will not be shamed by her if he can help it.

Bellatrix smirks and asserts the superiority of her education by turning objects in Andromeda's room against her--bathrobes which attempt to smother her in her sleep, candles that explode when they are lit. These are not charms she learned under their governess; Bellatrix supplements her education from books in her father's library that he does not see her take. She once attempted to teach Narcissa what she was learning, and Narcissa had complied in the effort. But the spells Bellatrix worked in secret filled Narcissa's mind with a black fog. Her lungs contracted around stars of brilliant heat, and waves of a power she could not control crashed over her head. The floor rushed to meet her. She woke quickly, and immediately fled from the contempt in Bellatrix' face.

Now when Narcissa looks at her sister she seems to see tendrils of dark fog in her eyes. She imagines Bellatrix embracing the heat and power from which she shied, and she responds the only way she knows how: she shudders, and avoids her sister's gaze, and keeps her sister's secrets.

When Andromeda comes home for Christmas during her final year at school, she too has secrets. It is almost beyond Narcissa's strength to be sister to both of them; to know that Bellatrix' power feeds on the blood Andromeda plans to dilute. Andromeda has much to say to her. She is always dragging Narcissa into corners to whisper things where Bellatrix can't hear them, but Narcissa is sensitive to the pressure of Bellatrix' gaze on her back. The house will not keep Andromeda's secrets because Bellatrix has ears in every corner of it. Narcissa finds it hard to listen to talk of death eaters and resistance and the headmaster of Hogwarts when she knows that in a month Andromeda will leave again, and she will be alone with Bellatrix. Whose eyes search out every secret--who holds the fire of white stars in one hand and relief from their burning in the other.

When Andromeda marries, she is stricken from the book of their House. Their parents rage: against Muggles, against the Mudbloods, against Hogwarts, and against Narcissa and Bellatrix who should have known that their sister meant to defile herself with a man of no ancestry. Bellatrix smirks at Narcissa sidelong, and Narcissa blushes. Her parents, mistaking the source of her shame, do not remark. Bellatrix allows her parents to rage until she finds it tiresome; then she gives them news of her own engagement with the air of one distracting a pouting child with a fresh bauble.

Her ploy is successful. Rodolphus Lestrange has everything Theodore Tonks lacks: money and lineage, correct opinions. Their mother throws herself into plans for the wedding, selecting the flowers she wanted at her own, but that her mother denied her. Their father visits with Adolphus Lestrange and begins to negotiate for namesakes among their prospective grandchildren. Bellatrix forsakes her books. She wanders the house with a sleepy smile and a gleam in her eyes that only Narcissa sees. There is no question whether or not Narcissa will marry. Pureblood witches such as herself and her sisters are very rare; even the poor ones marry into proud and wealthy families, if that is their desire. Narcissa is aware that her suitors will not hex each other into oblivion for the privilege of paying their addresses. But they will come; quietly, speaking to her father before they speak to her. The arrangement will be primarily a financial one, and will not involve Narcissa herself until absolutely necessary. This is not tradition so much as it is simply necessary. Bellatrix and Andromeda both selected their own husbands, as did their mother before them. It is simply that Narcissa has never shown any interest in the young wizards who attend their parents' parties. She has no other venue from which to choose.

Her father believes that, at seventeen, his youngest daughter wishes merely to postpone the responsibilities of her maturity. Her mother, on the other hand, believes that her vanity has not been sufficiently kindled. No one, not even Bellatrix, taunts Narcissa with her name--it is held an unnecessary cruelty to belabor comparisons between the great mythological beauty and his pale, pointed, namesake. Narcissa's mother knows that skill can often supply what nature lacks, with unlooked for results; that there are colors and fabrics and simple charms to blur the line between weak and dainty, inattentive and unattainable. She believes that if Narcissa could be made to see this, her listless younger daughter would finally assume the dignity of her blood and her House.

But this, though her mother will never know it, is not the problem. Narcissa is not aware that she is plain, nor is she aware, save in the intellectual sense, that this is at all significant. It is simply that, in her mind, Narcissa is featureless. She tries to picture herself, and all she can see is a smear of grey ash on parchment. She has spent hours searching mirrors, not for beauty, but for herself; for proof that she is more than a thought in the mind of her family, or a glint of light in Bellatrix' eye. Narcissa observes herself from a tower she has constructed inside her mind, and there is only the most distant relationship between the impulses of the voice that lives there and the actions of her body. She cannot be interested in finding a husband because she has no preferences, save the avoidance of pain.

She is content to be chosen by the first wizard who sees something pleasing in her. It is her hope that she will see reflected in him the gracious portions of herself that are hidden to her eyes.


Andromeda does not return after her marriage. No one is surprised. Or if they are, they do not say so; no one speaks her name, save Bellatrix, when she teases Narcissa. Bellatrix marries shortly after Andromeda leaves them for the last time. She kisses Narcissa, not lovingly, but kindly, and Narcissa goes home and tries dutifully to miss her. All she can conjure is relief.

A month later her parents tell her that she is engaged. She has met her fiancé three times, and spoken with him once. When they tell her his name, she is silent; not until they give her his portrait in miniature does she remember him at all.

He comes to call the next day. They are given a parlor where they can be alone together, and he kisses her hand with an accomplished flair. He speaks of his Wiltshire home, of his family, of his horses, of her family, and she listens to him carefully, all the while trying to think of questions to ask him in turn. But she cannot think of any. When she does speak, it is only to murmur accepted, automatic responses to questions and sentiments that could have passed between any two wizards or witches, and it is Narcissa's distinct impression that her silence suits him. When they rejoin Narcissa's parents for tea Lucius is drawn into a conversation with her father, and he does not speak to her again until her takes his leave at the end of the meal.

When he is gone, her mother speaks rapidly and excitedly of how handsome they look together. It is true that to glance at them Lucius could be her vibrant older brother. Their hair is the same color and the same length (though in private her father refers to his hair as an "annoying affectation" and wishes he would cut it). Bellatrix sends an owl with a note that would read to anyone but Narcissa like warm congratulations on the quality of her match. Andromeda sends an owl too, in the dead of night, begging Narcissa not to go through with it. She'd gone to school with Lucius Malfoy and she knew what he was, and if Narcissa would just run away she could come live with Andromeda and Ted. Narcissa burns both letters without replying to them. The next time Lucius comes to visit she spends a quarter of an hour listening to him talk. She watches his eyes intently, and though they are the same color as hers she sees only him in their reflection. The disappointment is a new but not entirely unfamiliar feeling, and she tucks it away for herself to examine again the next time she looks in the mirror.

She marries Lucius two months later, shortly after her eighteenth birthday. The night of her wedding, she mounts the stairs of the tower in her mind, and remains there; long after morning comes, long after Lucius kisses her goodbye, pleading business in the North to which he must attend. She looks around her at the grey marble walls and the savage tapestries of her husband's ancestral home, and thinks she might stay in the tower forever.

There is a mirror in her new boudoir, and in the following months she spends much time seated in front of it; especially when her husband is gone, which is often.

By the end of the year she has a son. The experience lays siege to her tower, and when it is over the wreckage of the battle is in her arms; a squirming, featureless bundle that screams when she leaves him. His dependency upon her is real, as no emotion and no experience in her life has ever been before.

Bellatrix visits, not long after Draco's birth. The eyes that once devoured the minutiae of Narcissa's every expression are locked now on her son, and there is intent in the gaze. Lucius joins them, and for a moment his expression mirrors his sister-in-law's. His eyes speak of pride, possession, ambition. He is ridiculously pleased with Narcissa for providing him so promptly with a son and heir, and in the effusion of his approval he does not see her face shift and harden.

She leaves them both after only a few minutes, carrying Draco back to the nursery and dismissing the nurse to remain there with him. She sits and holds him for a few minutes, uncertain and slightly dismayed by the changes at work in her mind. The world suddenly has structure; there is a standard for judging the people and events of her life, a criteria by which she could establish preference, if not taste. She looks around her for the origin of these changes and finds them in her son. She does not understand it until he begins to grow older, and she sees his pale, pointed face gain in nuance and expression. The older he gets, the less she goes to mirrors in search of herself.

The cipher of grey ash that was once her face has faded in her mind. When she needs a picture now, she thinks of Draco; there is much that is pleasing in his face.

He is, all in all, a reflection worth drowning in.


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