Over the years, I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Harry Potter series, in no small part due to the fact that I think just about every character in it is a raging asshole. Despite this, I’ve always been drawn to villains. One antagonist that I’ve neglected in my fanfiction, though, is Narcissa. This is a shame, because without a doubt, the last book turned her into one of my favorite characters. Sadly, there’s nowhere near the number of fics about her as I had hoped, but that doesn’t mean that what’s there isn’t good.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon the multi-chaptered story Light in Oblivion by TheSlytherinRose. Although Light in Oblivion is nowhere near finished, it has not been abandoned, and it’s also a good enough story thus far that it definitely deserves a recommendation.
The fic takes place during the sixth and seventh books and follows Narcissa as she deals with all the shit her family is going through. After Lucius is incarcerated in Azkaban, Narcissa discovers that she’s pregnant once again. Unfortunately, the reason she and Lucius only had one child to begin with is because she miscarried all the others, and another possible miscarriage is something that weighs heavily on her throughout the story. Making matters even worse, Narcissa constantly worries about the task Voldemort has given Draco, whether or not she’ll see her husband again, her sister moving in with her, and Voldemort stopping by for a visit whenever he feels like it. Even more unfortunate, Voldemort takes interest in her unborn child and demands that the baby be raised to serve him.
Narcissa deals with all this trauma by exchanging letters with Lucius, who offers her what little advice he can based on what little she can tell him, since the Ministry reads everything they write to each other. However, as Lucius is not around for the first twenty or so chapters, the fic’s main strength comes from Narcissa’s relationship to the other women in her family. Light in Oblivion adds a few original characters, such as Lucius’s sister, who is also in the same predicament as Narcissa—her husband is in Azkaban—and the two have a very close and supportive relationship. While also attempting to keep her new baby away from Voldemort, Narcissa even manages to reconnect with Andromeda, whom she hasn’t seen in years, and begins to repair that relationship. She and Bellatrix also get to share a fair number of scenes.
“You think I wanted to be locked up?” asked Bellatrix, scowling.
“Didn’t you?” Narcissa challenged. “I was at your trial, Bella. You didn’t even try to defend yourself. Your loyalty has always been to the Dark Lord, and you were willing to go to Azkaban for him.”
“Of course I was! I dedicated my life to serving him, and I knew that when he freed us, we would be rewarded for our loyalty—Rodolphus and Rabastan and me! I’ve earned that reward, Narcissa! That doesn’t mean I wanted to spend half my life in prison! I had no idea how long I was going to be there, and—”
“But you didn’t think about any of that, did you?” Narcissa pressed. Bellatrix had leaned forward in her chair, her voice rising with the passion she channeled into her words, but Narcissa forced her own tone to remain as calm as she could manage in order to keep her emotions under her control. She’d shed entirely too many tears, lately, and she didn’t want to seem weak to this woman who had faced the prospect of life in prison while sitting in her sentencing chair as though it were a throne. “You didn’t consider that the Dark Lord could’ve left you there. Or if he hadn’t returned—”
“I knew he would return!”
“But you were willing to take your chances, if he didn’t.” Narcissa laid Lucius’s letter on the table beside her in order to keep herself from damaging it, as her other hand had already tightened reflexively on the arm of her chair until her knuckles had turned white. “Lucius was willing to lie for you, to protect you. He tried to tell the Ministry you’d acted under the Imperius Curse, and when you made it perfectly clear that you’d acted of your own volition, it almost destroyed his credibility. I almost lost both of you, right then. I would’ve been here with my year-old son while the two people I love most apart from him were taken away. Don’t you see that, Bella? Don’t you see that you chose the Dark Lord over me fifteen years ago?”
The anger slowly drained from Bellatrix’s face, replaced over the moments that followed with shock and—Narcissa’s stomach twisted at the sight, and she wished immediately that she hadn’t said a word on the subject—pain. She opened her mouth, prepared to apologize for getting carried away. She’d meant every word, but normally, she never would’ve said any of it aloud. She’d been trained by their parents to keep her feelings to herself when they ran the risk of slightly inconveniencing someone else, and though she’d worked for years to deprogram herself of this mentality, this time, she wished she’d obeyed what Cygnus and Druella had tried to force on her so long ago.
Before she could take anything back, however, Bellatrix spoke.
I absolutely adored this story and loved getting to spend so much time with Narcissa’s character. One thing that I will say, though, is that no matter how much I love her, this fic was a stark reminder that she is still a racist and a bigot. I suppose that is to be expected, since in the books she is a blood purist, and hating Voldemort for what he’s done to her and her family is not the same thing as realizing that Muggles and werewolves are people too. I give props to the story for managing to make Narcissa sympathetic while still maintaining her canonical views on blood supremacy. I am no stranger to reading stories about awful people, but I tend to draw a line when a narrative attempts to justify their behavior. My biggest problem with Light in Oblivion is that it occasionally seemed to do just that, if only because Narcissa is our only point-of-view character, and that is how she sees the world. Offsetting this, thankfully, are both Andromeda and her husband Ted. Narcissa’s sister and brother-in-law do not share her views, and Ted makes this perfectly clear to her the very minute we see him.
As the story is from Narcissa’s POV, it does inadvertently excuse some of Lucius’s actions as well, since Narcissa doesn’t view anything he’s done as wrong. The fic also has some off-page sexual assaults, but it’s nothing explicit and while I personally didn’t find it triggering, I can’t speak for everyone on this matter. Thankfully, Narcissa does manage to put her own bigotry aside in order to save her baby, whom she leaves in Andromeda’s care—this is something Lucius also eventually agrees to put up with once he’s out of Azkaban again.
I am really excited to see how TheSlytherinRose plans to finish this story, given the addition to the Malfoy family and what that means for the characters. Narcissa and Lucius at this point in time clearly want nothing to do with Voldemort, and despite being awful people, part of me really wants to see them get a happy ending with their children. The entirety of this story deals with the psychological torture the Malfoy family undergoes during the second war and makes it very apparent just how dangerous Voldemort is to them. In canon, we know that the Malfoy family manages to avoid Azkaban after the final book, but we don’t really see their characters all that much. I really want to read more about Narcissa’s relationship with Andromeda, and I wonder if that will have anything to do with their exoneration—Andromeda is an ally to the Order, and at this point, Narcissa is in the perfect position to play spy.
All in all, Light in Oblivion is a very enjoyable read, especially for anyone who is interested in Narcissa’s character and exploring her relationship with both her sisters. Currently, it’s twenty-nine chapters long and 66k words, so it can keep you busy for a while if you have the time. Be sure to check it out here on AO3.