Caesar's Wife
by Ishafel

On a blustery wet day in the middle of November, Narcissa Malfoy Apparated to Azkaban to bring her husband Lucius home. Her son Draco had wanted to come, though he had never been close to his father. Narcissa had not allowed it; Draco, for all his confidence, was still a child and there were some things a child should never have to see. Draco was better at Hogwarts, safer behind the walls of those who most wished his father harm. Even Dumbledore would not stoop so low as to make war on children, not when he had some hope of holding the moral high ground.

Narcissa drew her cloak tighter around herself as she walked down the narrow flagstone path from the apparition point to the dubious shelter of Azkaban. A lesser woman might have damned Lucius for this, she thought wryly; for herself she knew exactly whom to blame. A woman's job was to guide her husband, to shape the future of her family, and if of late Narcissa did not like that shape she knew that that was because she had been weak.

Women were the wiser sex, less prone to impulse, to the small foolishnesses that kept men from being truly successful. Women were careful; they did not succumb to the power of a moment, to the wishes of their husbands, and least of all did they succumb to love. Narcissa had been bred to rule a household, a ministry, a country, and to do it without the fuss that accompanied any action a man took. She had not married Lucius because her mother wished it, or because she saw something in him to redeem. She had married him because she knew he was a fool.

Only, she thought, as she took down her long golden hair to shake out the water, and pinioned the leering guard with a glare, only she had been the one played for a fool. She had got as caught up in this strange, intoxicating game as Lucius; she had seen trouble coming sure as smoke and done nothing. It was her own fault that she was here, summoned to collect Lucius alone and in person, summoned as if she were a servant when six months ago it had been she who dictated policy to Fudge.

"Right this way, Mrs. Malfoy," the warden said, his voice subdued and his eyes downcast as befit an inferior. It was good that someone knew his place; she had little hope that Lucius would remember. Indeed, when they brought him in, Lucius did not look like he remembered much of anything. She had not been to visit him since the first week of his incarceration and now she was shocked at his appearance. Lucius had always been thin but now he was skeletal and his hair was as long hers and matted; he looked positively filthy.

"Be assured that I shall write to the Ministry at once and inform them of my husband's condition," she told them in her most threatening wicked witch of the West Country voice. Taking Lucius's hand, trying not to think of what she might catch just by touching him, she led the quivering wreck of her husband out into the rain. She had not thought to bring a coat for him, and it had been June when he'd been arrested; he was simply going to have to survive. "Come on," she said to him as gently as she could bear to. "It's not far." She had not considered the risk of Apparating with someone so unstable; she was briefly and selfishly terrified Lucius would somehow manage to splinch them both but he was docile as a child.

At Malfoy Manor all the servants and house elves had turned out to await their master. She was glad to see that they were all soaking wet and shivering in their thin uniforms; clearly they had been waiting in their line since she left. One could always tell a woman of breeding by the level of obedience her servants displayed. She stood on the dry balcony beside Lucius, looking down at the formation in the yard for an endless moment. When it became clear that her husband was unwilling or incapable of acting, she waved a hand to send them about their tasks.

Narcissa would gladly have left the house elves to care for Lucius, but as soon as she had escaped from his sight he began to scream. In the end she dismissed them all; it was not really fitting they see their master so incapacitated. She helped Lucius to disrobe; she cut off his matted hair and while he stood under the warm stream of water she bathed him and shaved the fine golden down from his chin. When she had finished he looked presentable, if one did not see the blankness in the grey eyes once so full of vicious life.

She led him to his office, she settled him at his desk; she pressed a pen in his hand and closed her fingers around his, carefully guiding him in shaping the letters of his name. One by one they signed the papers that had been waiting since he'd gone. And with each paper Narcissa wondered if this was how it was going to be from now on. She had been so careful, had made sure that nothing Lucius had done could be traced back to her. It had made so much sense when they had discussed it; one parent, at least, must remain free and alive until Draco came of age. It had made sense, there was no need for her to sacrifice herself with her husband as Bellatrix had done. It had seemed so reasonable, as rational as everything Narcissa had done, and all her care only ensured that she would be alone forever.


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