Narcissa and the Malfoys

by Esther Kleinig

We know so little about Narcissa Malfoy, but she will be appearing in the next book. What can we expect?

I think we can expect more than just a little, like we got that little bit of Arabella Figg in fifth. I believe this because JK said that Narcissa is not named after a constellation, like her relatives, because JK had “always thought of her as Narcissa”. The way I interpret this, JK had Narcissa’s plot development planned before she had even named Sirius and Bellatrix. SIRIUS, James Potter’s best friend, Harry’s godfather, who dies, killed by BELLATRIX, one of Voldemort’s most loyal supporters, close enough for him to call her Bella (French for beauty), and the only Death Eater to escape the Ministry of Magic in the fifth. If JK had Narcissa’s name decided before she’d decided on Sirius and Bellatrix for the two most prominent Black family members so far, then I predict Narcissa will play a large, if not quite huge, part in the future.

Elements of her are very confusing, so I will look at her family in order to get a clearer picture of her and hopefully answer some burning questions I have about her.

Family

Lucius Malfoy: A sadistic man, one of Voldemort’s right-hand Death Eaters, who places huge importance on the purity of blood. A true Slytherin – claimed he was under the Imperius curse after Voldemort’s downfall to avoid Azkaban, rather than loyally seeking Voldemort or going to prison for him. He also has no concerns with remaining friends with Karkaroff, apparently sympathizing with Karkaroff’s Slytherin instincts of putting himself first (although now he probably wouldn’t side with him). However, he did give Tom Riddle’s diary to Ginny Weasley – did he know about Voldemort’s past? Did he want Tom Riddle to escape the diary? Or did he just want to Basilisk to be released and Arthur Weasley to be ruined? Seemingly traditional in his role as father – Draco is not a loved son, but an heir, expected to do him proud. Has never mentioned Narcissa, except perhaps “my wife and I” (I don’t know – haven’t checked lately.) The only way he has ever shown he has a wife is by bringing her to the Quidditch World Cup (Molly Weasley didn’t go, does Narcissa like Quidditch or was this a display/image thing on Lucius’s part?).

Draco Malfoy: An arrogant, selfish, spoiled, cunning, devious little maggot of a boy, hatching evil plans to hurt fellow students. Also values pure blood, but is not a terribly good wizard. Was in Umbridge’s Inquisitorial Squad. Apparently not trusted enough by Lucius – he doesn’t tell him about the Chamber of Secrets, nor about the plan to get Harry to the Department of Mysteries (if he had, presumably Draco would have organized for Harry to get away without Umbridge interrupting). This could explain why we haven’t yet been alerted to him possibly being a Death Eater – Lucius won’t let him be one. Brags to Harry about having a loving (?) family (well, at least a family that wants him) to make Harry feel bad. Constantly receives food and presents from home – is this Narcissa’s doing? She seems the typical smothering mother, and he the classic “Mama’s boy”. Didn’t go to Durmstrang, even though Lucius is friends with Karkaroff, because Narcissa didn’t want him to be so far away (apparently). Got insanely offended when Harry insulted the look on Narcissa’s face at the Quidditch World Cup. This is interesting – all other evidence points to Draco appreciating being pampered, but his reaction to Harry’s remark suggests that he does love his mother, in his way. It is interesting to contrast Draco’s relationships with his father and mother – Draco almost seems to brag about his father rather than love him, but he is so offended when Harry makes a remark about his mother.

Andromeda: Narcissa’s “blood traitor” sister, who married a Muggle, Ted Tonks, and has a daughter, Nymphadora (known as Tonks; Tonks is an Auror and a member of the Order of the Phoenix). Has been blasted off the Black family tree for her crime. Tonks’s age compared to Draco’s suggests that Andromeda is older than Narcissa. We haven’t actually met her but we can assume she’s good from the little we know.

Bellatrix: Narcissa’s evil sister, possibly younger, who married a pureblood, Rodolphus Lestrange (Bob Sindeldecker suggested that they probably met through Voldemort; in fact, maybe Voldemort married them!), and has no children. She is one of Voldemort’s most loyal Death Eaters – after Voldemort’s downfall, she tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom in an attempt to discover Voldemort’s whereabouts and raise him again. Went to Azkaban vowing Voldemort would return and reward her. Killed her cousin, Sirius Black. Apparently wasn’t aware that Voldemort was half-blood, and seemed shocked to learn it. Voldemort calls her Bella (French for ‘beauty’).

Kreacher: House-elf tied to the Black family but his first master is Sirius (who is now dead). Has a picture of Bellatrix. Narcissa is the only Black left for whom he has any respect, and he went to her when Sirius told him to leave. We don’t know about Narcissa doing anything directly, because Lucius may have interacted with him and made all decisions. Kreacher may not have even spoken to Narcissa for years – he may have just gone there because Narcissa married a pureblood who, perhaps Kreacher knew, was a Death Eater, and subsequently had respect for her and her family.

Interestingly enough, as Bob Sindeldecker pointed out to me, Narcissa and Bellatrix both married into French names (albeit “Malfoy” is made up, but “mal foi” is French for “bad faith”), while Andromeda married into the Tonks family, which sounds distinctly English to me. As Bob put it, “the Brits and French have despised each other for almost a millennium. France invaded Britain in 1066, and a French name is seen in Britain as proof of ‘bad blood.’ Yet another example of JKR’s clever humour.” Don’t you just love JKR and her symbolism?

Why isn’t Narcissa a Death Eater?

Contrast Narcissa and Bellatrix. There’s nothing to suggest they’re much different – Narcissa was probably a Slytherin, probably values the purity of blood, and supported Voldemort. So why isn’t Narcissa a Death Eater? We don’t know how old she is (ditto for Bellatrix), but Voldemort was in power for ten years before Draco was born, so it can’t be because having children exempts her from Death Eater duties. It can’t be that she married late, because she was a Black with a Death Eater sister, and would have had plenty of opportunity to be a Death Eater before Lucius came into the picture (though I would imagine they’d be dating at Hogwarts). Come to think of it, why isn’t she a Death Eater now? It’s not like she’s got heaps to do at home, with Draco away at Hogwarts. Or is Bellatrix the anomaly as a female Death Eater? Is this abnormal?

Well, we don’t know that she isn’t a Death Eater. Odds are, she probably is. Many Death Eaters were unnamed in GoF (why wasn’t she standing next to Lucius?). And not all Death Eaters went to the Department of Mysteries. What would excuse a person in her position from being a direct follower of Voldemort?

Bob’s suggested a few explanations to me that you might like to think about:

  1. Lucius may have wanted her to stay out of it, to give them a strategic non-member who can deny any involvement.
  2. She may not have wanted to get that icky Dark Mark on her arm – seriously!
  3. Or most likely, she didn’t want to divide her loyalties: she lives for Draco and nobody else. (Except that this doesn’t explain her lack of involvement before Draco’s birth.)

Why doesn’t Bellatrix have children?

If they are both Death Eaters, why is there this other difference? Is it simply that Bellatrix was too young at that time she went to Azkaban to have decided to have children? (Although we know that being young doesn’t stop people from deciding to have children; the Potters had Harry when they were young, early twenties.) Lucius was 27 when Voldemort disappeared. Harry describes Crouch, Jr. as young in the Pensieve, but not Bellatrix. Maybe she was about twenty-two? Narcissa could be four or five years older than her. On the family tree it says the scorch mark for Andromeda is between Bellatrix and Narcissa, but that doesn’t really tell us the birth order, just that Andromeda is probably the middle child. Then again, she might have been the first, and then the others were put on either side. If we take the order as left to right though, Bellatrix then Andromeda then Narcissa, that even further complicates the issue of why she doesn’t have any children.

Maybe it depends on whom each of the sisters married. Lucius Malfoy is a true Slytherin, worming his way out of things, whereas Bellatrix seems much more forceful, her loyalty never wavering. (How do they get along now? Do you think Bellatrix will kill Lucius, wanting them to be punished like Crouch, Jr. wanted?) She may have decided motherhood wasn’t right while Voldemort needed her. Is it sort of like an evil nun concept – the more devoted you are to your Lord, the more you give up to serve him? She’s married, but Voldemort seems to be more important to her – it seems almost superfluous that she is married, although I can’t see JK doing it just so we wouldn’t know Bellatrix and Sirius were cousins until the fifth book. What is the significance of the Lestranges? Are they as loyal to Voldemort, just quieter at the trial? Or did Bellatrix pull them into the crime with her?

I find it hard to deal with the concept of Bellatrix getting married for love. How do evil people love? How can Narcissa love Draco? And Lucius? How can Bellatrix be married when she has such devotion to Voldemort? I suppose there are no absolutes in the Harry Potter world, except for Voldemort as pure hatred and Harry (maybe) as pure love. The way I think it works, evil and good people alike can hate only their opposites and “love” only likeminded people. Bellatrix didn’t kill her cousin; she killed an enemy. She doesn’t love Rodolphus, she loves what he stands for – purity of blood and evil. She loves what he does for her – ie. gives her a good pureblood image and caters to her ego. Lucius doesn’t want a child; he wants an heir. Maybe he doesn’t want a wife, but an accessory. Where does Narcissa stand with this? What does she want? What role does she play?

Why didn’t Narcissa want Draco to go to Durmstrang?

I find it hard to believe that Draco going to Hogwarts is much different to Draco going to Durmstrang. Narcissa doesn’t see him when he’s at boarding school anyway, what does it matter? Can’t her eagle owl deliver cakes and goodies to Durmstrang? Is it that tragic if their letters take a few extra days to arrive?

I think maybe she doesn’t trust Karkaroff, after his traitorous behavior. Lucius does, it’s obvious. He sympathizes with Karkaroff. Maybe she’s more like Bellatrix and Crouch, Jr., though, hating Death Eaters who walked free – but that wouldn’t sit well in her marriage. So it can’t be about Karkaroff.

Is it a motherhood instinct, to have her son nearby? Would an evil mother decide to have him nearby rather than learning the Dark Arts, even though distance seems irrelevant anyway? It’s not that surprising for a Slytherin to put her own selfish needs and desires – him nearby – ahead of the “greater good” – Draco learning the Dark Arts.

I don’t honestly predict that she supports Dumbledore, is good, wants Draco not to learn Dark Arts or anything like that, though I have my suspicions that we could expect a surprise from her. There’s something fishy going on with this. I don’t think the distance is really relevant.

Anyway, if it is, how would that conversation with Lucius go? “Oh but darling, can’t he stay nearby? He can learn Dark Arts anytime… he can’t speak any other languages… and Dumbledore’s a much better Headmaster than Karkaroff…” Something tells me there must be a very valid reason for Lucius to agree that Draco should go to Hogwarts rather than Durmstrang, and distance doesn’t seem good enough. Or is Narcissa the dominant one in that relationship, withholding certain privileges to get her way with him?

What reason could she have for not wanting him to learn the Dark Arts? Is she good? I’m starting to wonder, even though I don’t really think it’s a possibility …

Draco may have even been lying at this, driving into Harry how spoiled and loved he is. Lucius may not be friends with Karkaroff (similar to that statement about Professor Marchbanks) and Narcissa may not care about which school Draco attends. Draco may never have had the option of going to Durmstrang – he might have said that to sound impressive, then topped it off with the bit about his mother missing him to make Harry feel bad about not having a proper family. In any case, Lucius wouldn’t have an excuse to be a school governor and go to Hogwarts to keep his eye on Harry and Dumbledore if Draco wasn’t attending the school. That’s the most logical explanation I can think of.

Why are Narcissa and Lucius married?

Lucius and Narcissa may be “in love” (the kind of love that makes people with evil tendencies get married). It’s very likely, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. They might each see the other as a sort of prize, smugly thinking, “I got the best one… my friends must be so jealous.” As Slytherins go, though, the only way they can love each other is by loving what they do for each other, ie. good image, support in opinions, catering to each other’s egos.

I’m presuming the Tonkses got married before the Malfoys did, because of the children’s ages (remember, we really have no idea how old Tonks is, she’s a Metamorphmagus, she could pretend to be any age!). In that case, Narcissa would have seen how her family reacted to Andromeda when she decided to marry Ted. Narcissa might have been reluctant to choose someone other than a pureblood because of this – she might be quite cowardly and weak, not wanting to upset anyone. Not necessarily because she prefers a peaceful home, but because her Slytherin instincts tell her not to risk the wealthy and comfortable life she has being a Black or a Malfoy by upsetting her family.

I wonder at the look on Narcissa’s face at the Quidditch World Cup – Harry notes that she would look pretty if she weren’t looking as though there were some nasty smell under her nose. Yes, that may be the face of an evil woman mingling with her view of commoners – Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers. Alternately, she might be disgusted with her husband’s behavior. She might not like her family much, and wish she didn’t have to be with them on this occasion, accustomed to being left alone at home. Or she might just not like Quidditch.

I had the theory that she might be good because of Harry noting that she might look pretty. She has potential to be good, in other words. But this is probably just related to her being a Black – Sirius is handsome too. Rita Skeeter, Umbridge, Draco, Lucius, Pettigrew etc – all unattractive, not-nice people. But which bad people are attractive? Evil seems to corrupt a person’s looks – suggesting that Narcissa does have the potential to be good, but certainly isn’t at the Quidditch World Cup in GoF. I worry about this generalization – I doubt JK would depict all good people as nice-looking – after all, isn’t Eloise Midgen “really nice”?

Conclusion

My conclusion is that we won’t be seeing a nice Narcissa. She looks disgusted in the presence of the Weasleys, Kreacher respects her, she is a member of one of the most evil families, she appears to place importance on the purity of blood, she most likely was a Slytherin, there’s no evidence she’s not a Death Eater, and she perhaps (very selfishly) didn’t want Draco to go to Durmstrang. There are loopholes – looking disgusted for some other reason, not directly interacting with Kreacher, she may have felt forced into marriage with Malfoy, not all Slytherins are necessarily Death Eaters or even evil (just malicious, most of them), there’s no evidence she IS a Death Eater, and she might not support the Dark Arts. But there are probably loopholes with any character, and I dare say most of them aren’t deliberately planted by JKR.

I think her tale is just another one of a life gone wrong. She grew up in the Black family, but could have followed either of her sisters – Andromeda or Bellatrix. She made a choice, though – what we would deem as the wrong choice – and we all know the emphasis JK places on choice. Our choices define us, shape us, even. It is so extremely rare for someone like Snape to make choices in one direction his whole life, only to turn at the last moment, and Narcissa has been making the same choices. It’s probably too late for her to make a choice that contradicts everything she has done so far – I think it would be too forced for JKR to suddenly have her pop up good. Granted, she may not be a Death Eater, but not all the Blacks were either. The world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters – you can support Voldemort without being a Death Eater, just like you can be a good person without being an Order member. (Remember though, you can be an evil person like Umbridge on the good side, so maybe a character could just as easily be a good person on the evil side…)

But it is interesting to draw the contrast between the three sisters (just like contrasting the childhoods of Snape, Tom Riddle and Harry), and wonder – how did they all turn out so differently?

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