So here's the sequel to Dustland Fairytale – hope it doesn't disappoint! In case I get some new readers, here's what you need to know to get it all: the story's starting right after Andromeda left the family, and the OC named Cassandra Burke used to be Cissy's best friend, but the Burke sisters were close to Meda and Cissy alike, and foresaw Meda's departure but kept the secret, which is why Narcissa resents Cassie. The rest should be pretty much self-explanatory, I'll put reminders of Dustland background details as I go on, if needed =)
Named after this part from the song "Sam's Town" (by The Killers, to stick with tradition...):
"I've got this energy beneath my feet
Like something underground's gonna come up and carry me
I've got this sentimental heart that beats
But I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me now..."
And yes, yes, yes, the chapter title, Tranquilize, is ALSO from The Killers – though that will only show once I actually have a chapter two posted ^_^
A little girl spun and twirled on the spot, her hair flying around her face, laughing wildly. Her siblings giggled and hugged her, and their parents beamed at the scene, talking loudly.
Probably Mudbloods, from the look of it.
Narcissa Black turned her head away, trying to gather her thoughts against the distraction. "Have a pleasant year, my dear," said her mother's voice, breaking her out of her thoughts. "Live up to your family name and make us proud, as always."
"I shall, Mother," she replied, and reached out for the customary goodbye hug. It lasted exactly two seconds, that is a few seconds less than usual. She'd make do with that for the entire year, Cissy supposed, turning towards her father, who rapidly kissed her cheek, without adding a word – taken off guard, she nearly gasped. He met her gaze as he straightened up, and she drew from it, at least, a modicum of warmth. Then his hand found Druella's, and with one last nod at their daughter, they were off.
Her parents, holding hands. The oddity left Narcissa blinking on the spot for a little while, before she gathered herself and turned away, seizing her trunk firmly. Well, this was probably some kind of record, she thought as she heaved her luggage onto the train. Shortest goodbyes ever, that was it. Cissy chewed on her lip and endeavoured to control her train of thought. It wouldn't do to dwell on the obvious reasons for this saddening fact. And, well – she'd had goodbyes from her sister as well, after all. Bella was busy, she preferred not coming to see her off – that was understandable. But she'd said she'd write. Said she'd visit, even... that possibility had previously been unheard of...
Still contemplating, Narcissa settled in an empty compartment, abandoning her trunk in a corner with a huff of relief. She huddled into a seat in the corner, pulling her legs close to her body and resting her temple against the cool glass of the window, yet not gazing outside. Things were going fine – and they still would while at the castle. She could do this. If she could just... take a breath, not think too much, and remember who she was.
A few minutes later, the sound of her compartment door opening startled her out of her drowsiness.
"Hello, Black," he said, "I thought you could use a distraction there."
Narcissa raised her head and blinked slowly at the newcomer, quite taken aback. The boy was certainly familiar – it was a Slytherin of her year, called Travers. While not a young pureblood from high society, he was still quite acceptable company, and good friends with Virgil Greengrass. However, the two of them had never paid much attention to one another before. She was about to tell him that she was quite all right, thank him for his concern and send him on his way, and then she took a proper look at him – cool, confident eyes, long nose and messy hair, a slightly mocking smirk, and yet, somehow, somewhere, a foreign, unsettling warmth – and paused, hovering. Why the hell not, actually – she wasn't specifically eager to meet with the girls of her year again, but it would certainly not do to remain on her own, her reputation might suffer from it.
"I'm fine, thank you," she replied after those considerations. "Shall I assume that you're actually looking for a compartment?"
He looked mock-shocked. "Why, you can read me like an open book," he chuckled, "but there are other compartments available, in case you were unaware."
"Then by all means do as you like," she responded graciously, languidly leaning her head against the window again. He set his trunk next to her own and went to sit opposite her.
"My, don't you look quite the picture," he commented. "Are you hoping that a painter will pop up in a few minutes to capture this flattering image, or worrying that an army of fans might surge into the train?"
She raised an eyebrow. "I was attempting to think, Travers, actually – and that in any position I may prefer, if you don't mind."
"Fair enough." He nodded seriously. "I suppose we could name the picture 'Meditating fifteen-year-old flower lounging against a train window'. The masses would swoon."
"You are quite absurd, you know."
"You are quite conceited," he shot back. "I enjoy simple truths. Don't you? They are so blunt, and occasionally beautiful."
She slowly shook her head. "To what do I owe the honour of sharing the blunt beauty of your thoughts, then?" she inquired wryly, trying to conceal her amusement.
He waved a hand dramatically. "Destiny. Boredom. Your own reckless indulgence. Who knows."
She had a small laugh at that. "My indulgence. That sounds more like it."
"Indeed it does, from a conceited point of view."
Narcissa sighed. "If you don't have anything more interesting to bring to my conceited attention, Mr Travers, I'm afraid I'll have to put an end to my indulgence and ask you to leave."
He gasped in fake horror. "You would be so cruel? I must admit I am appalled. Also, just so you know, Black, your getting here first doesn't mean you own the compartment. I am perfectly free to settle wherever I like."
"True. But I can't fathom why you'd be so stubborn as to remain here if coldness was to worsen my naturally conceited attitude. How would that be pleasant?"
"You never know," he responded seriously. "I could be just starting a study on the average pureblooded Slytherin princess, which would grant me easy access to some Ministry hellhole if I happened to fail my OWLs."
She snorted. "A likely story."
"Why, you seem to find me absurd. I could be very thorough in my absurdity. Some people find logic in sheer senselessness. And now you look just like I lost you."
Narcissa found herself laughing. "No, actually, I think I understood your point. Thank you for the credit to my brain."
"Ah, good. A witty blonde. I like."
She stared. "You are as rude as insufferable, you know that?"
"Of course. But I'm counting on the effect of novelty, and your previous boredom, to win you over to my awful character, be it only for the ride. You did laugh, you know. An actual laugh, not the average society-girl, well-mannered and controlled little giggle."
She raised her eyebrows. "My ancestry seems to rouse quite a bit of frustration from you."
He had a short laugh. "No, Mademoiselle Black. I'm mocking it now, and it does seem to work as far as holding your interest is concerned, if I may say so myself. But I am not the worst of companies to keep, either. My lineage might not be flawless, but it is certainly magical, and I learned my manners well so I could have the pleasure of disregarding them later." He held her gaze steadily, seeming to defy her and yet to prove a point – to both reassure and fluster her.
"Well – very good," responded Narcissa with all the dignity she could muster, as she was feeling rather unsettled, and clueless as to whatever the boy might want from her.
He laughed softly, his eyes gleaming. "Very good indeed."
There was a beat of an oddly companionable silence at that point. "So, as usual small talk goes," he started again after a few minutes, "do you think you might be one of the lucky few to enter Slug's Club this year?"
"Certainly," Narcissa replied with honesty. The answer had slipped, arrogantly easy, from her lips, but then she bit them hard, the subject bringing to mind the company she would find herself with at the aforementioned's evenings and events... and the unavoidable gossip. "Do you think you might?" she managed, hoping to conceal her confusion.
He smirked. "I might. I made sure Slughorn noticed my abilities a couple of times."
"That's good," she said vaguely.
He nodded, staring steadily at her. "Slughorn respects both blood, and talent... the true Slytherin thing to do if he wants the powerful of the future generations all eating out of his hand." He snorted. "Some head of house we have."
"I suppose," Cissy said, getting a grip again. He had a smile that was both mocking and encouraging, in an odd way. She met his eye, smiled back a tiny smile, and then looked away.
It was at that point that the compartment's door swung open again. Narcissa jumped – once, and then twice as she recognized her former friend, Cassandra Burke.
"Hi, Cissy," Cassie said, meeting her gaze with a serious and solemn look of her own.
"Cassie, I don't want to see you now any more than I did this past summer," she retorted with venom. "Just go away, please."
Cassie shook her head. "We should talk – "
"We talked it out."
"No we didn't, Cissy," she said quietly. Narcissa had looked away from her face, bitter memories making her eyes sear and her stomach churn.
"Look, I think she's just been pretty clear," Travers intervened in a clear, loud voice. "You should go now."
Both girls started and stared at him incredulously. "What is it to you?" Cassandra hissed.
"Nothing at all, until you came barging in here and demanded she listen to you when she obviously doesn't want to," he shot back. "I'm only being helpful to you both by suggesting you stop being a nuisance. That kind of behaviour very seldom helps with anything."
Cassie swallowed. "Cissy?" she asked a bit shakily.
"Just go," Narcissa mumbled.
Cassandra turned, and went to the door. From there, she called over her shoulder: "You'll have to talk about it at some point. You can't escape it. It is not only about me." And then she was gone.
Narcissa hissed under her breath, biting her lip hard, hands clenched on her lap and hair concealing her face.
Something brushed and firmly squeezed her knee. She gasped a little, then clamped her mouth shut again. She took a slow, deep breath through her nose, a ringing sound in her head, hammering her brain. She exhaled. The hand was warm. It was real. She clung to the feeling and allowed it to anchor her to the earth, to the here and now, the train racing toward Hogwarts and herself sitting there, Narcissa Black – and Travers.
She leaned back into her seat and drew her legs closer to her chest, carefully clearing her mind of all thought. It was a slow, quiet process until she turned her head and looked at him.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
He nodded with a slight bow and a wry grin. "You are quite welcome."
She cracked a smile and let the silence stretch. He didn't break it.
"Fancy a game of Exploding Snap?" he eventually said.
She looked up at his crooked grin. She'd never been really keen on Exploding Snap – her sisters had...
"All right," she said.
"My, my, looks like everyone is having loads of fun in here."
The voice came half-drowned by a resounding crack and a peal of laughter from Cissy's lips. She quickly withdrew her fingers to avoid getting burned, and turned her head, flushed pink with blond strands flying everywhere against her forehead and cheeks.
Alcyone Nott was leaning against the door of their compartment, all cold smirks and haughty attitude. "Hullo, Narcissa," she said. "I was coming to check up on you, but it looks like you're doing fairly all right."
Cissy swallowed, feeling considerably colder all of a sudden, and rearranged her hair quickly, without thinking. "Hello, Alcyone," she responded. "Yes, I am fine, thank you for your concern."
"Oh, but you are very welcome," Alcyone shot back sweetly. "It is nothing but my duty after all. I made Prefect, you know – you must have wondered whom this year's badges had gone to... Or maybe you had other things on your mind."
"Well, congratulations," she said shortly.
"Thank you. Cadmus is the other one; we have just been doing our first round together. We are getting on extremely well – he is such a gentleman!" Alcyone giggled, then went serious. "Anyway, we ran into your sister on the way."
Narcissa started. "What?"
"She was there, yes, locked alone in a compartment. Oh, maybe you would have expected her to drop her studies now that she's living with the Mudblood? Quite honestly, so did I. Who would want to face everyone, flaunt the filth of her betrayal for the world to see... But no, she's back. Quite the embarrassment for the whole house, frankly. Not to mention you, Cissy – I feel so sorry for you. The shame your family has been undergoing recently... Truly dreadful." She sighed wistfully. "My family has never known anything of the sort, thank Merlin, so I can't really relate – but I certainly feel for you, my dear."
Narcissa tried to find a suitable answer, yet her tongue and brain felt equally frozen. Alcyone had a small, unpleasant laugh. "Then again, I am glad you're having company to help let off your steam. No one would want you to go out of control like the last time something of the sort happened. You very nearly clawed my face off – you're quite lucky I have a kind and forgiving nature, truthfully." She eyed Travers with a smirk. "Of course, as far as acquaintances go, only recently you could have done so much better, but... now is not the time to be picky."
She let her words hang a few seconds before turning gracefully on her heel. "Well, I would gladly have stayed a bit longer to converse with you, Cissy, but I have things to be doing. I'll see you at the castle."
The door slammed; Narcissa had not even uttered one word. Travers peered at her. "Are you all right?" he inquired. "You look rather white."
Feebly, she nodded. "Nott's a bitch," he went on. "Well, maybe now she'll start the gossips thinking that we are together – I wouldn't put it past her, she's probably that dumb. It's better than other rumours, no?"
"I guess," she muttered. Still in shock, she looked down at the messy stacks of cards sprawled all around them. Slowly, she started picking them up and putting them in order. He did not comment.
Narcissa looked down at the card on the top of the pile, blankly. The Queen of Hearts, that was right. The figure raised its eyebrows arrogantly at her, and her fingers, seemingly of their own accord, started twisting the little rectangle, pulling viciously at it. With a dreadful tearing sound, the queen's head was severed in two. On one side there was only a tuft of golden hair left of her, while on the other the tiny character was writhing and screeching without sound. Fitting. Cissy bit back a fit of hysterical laughter, and took out her wand to repair the damage.
"That's yours," she told him once she was done, the deck of cards safely turned upside down.
"Oh, I have others. You can keep it if you want," he retorted flippantly.
There was a beat of silence. "I don't. It's yours," she repeated, and leaned forward to place it in his palm.
He had a small smirk. "As you want."
The cold wind slapped Narcissa, taking her breath away and making her stagger. She hurried amongst the masses of students who were stepping down from the train. It was unpleasant and claustrophobic, being jostled this way; she broke away from the crowd, filling her lungs to the brim with the cool evening air. Her eyes drifted shut for a second, and when she opened them again, it was to spot a hovering silhouette, a ways away from the mob as well, staring at her.
She hadn't changed, and the mere fact made Narcissa dizzy, harsh feelings of unfairness nagging at her. She shouldn't have the right to be Andromeda Black anymore, in any way, married or not. That wasn't relevant – nothing was relevant but the ashes of her last letter and the summer spent in dead silence and the empty bedroom and the hidden-away photos and... and... the billion things that made absence bitter, that made absence burn, so tangible and so painful that her standing there was the insult added to the injury. She didn't have the right.
She turned away, and Meda raised a hand, abruptly. A flash, she only saw a flash of pale face, gleaming teeth as her mouth opened to call out – not Meda, this wasn't Meda, not anymore – and she ran, pushing against the students, not seeing where she was going, not caring.
"Hey, Black." A hand seized her arm, holding firmly onto her. "Black! Narcissa!"
She whirled and faced Travers, standing too close altogether – she fought not to scream. She struggled instead, wildly, and he gripped both of her arms, shaking her slightly, then harder. "Come on!" she heard him call over the din, and he towed her forward, into a carriage where he pushed her into the corner before sitting by her side.
He was right in the way of her, blocking her from sight, and so the pair of Ravenclaws who got in after them never took a good look at her, all shaking hands and tear-stricken face. He turned her way, staring fearlessly into her eyes. She trembled, bit her lip and tried to hide beneath her hair, suffocating with hurt, shame and countless confused feelings.
"Sorry, didn't really handle you like a lady there," he whispered. She had a tiny, too-high laugh.
"Don't worry about it," she mumbled. "That's twice now." She blinked, slowly getting a grip. "Yes – that's twice now." She glanced up, wiping her eyes discreetly, and peered at him. "Travers? Why are you... there for me, all of a sudden?"
He grinned. "Selflessness and generosity – surely you are acquainted with the concept?"
She swatted him weakly. "We are Slytherins," she reminded.
"That doesn't make it impossible for us to act selfless and generous, my dear. Well, maybe not quite selfless – only means that we also know to catch an opportunity when we see one. And I see one." He nudged her nose, the very tip of her finger lightly, accidentally brushing her lips as he withdrew. "A pretty one."
She blushed crimson, like a naive thing, and stared at her lap. He laughed quietly.