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The Noise in the Hall

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She had been hearing the noises for days now, mostly in the dark of night when the tears were coming too fast and too hard for her to even attempt to rise from her bed.

At first, it was just a faint creaking, like someone was walking down the empty hall, past her room, but she supposed that was just wishful thinking. She had spent countless moons curled up with her husband, listening as their only child tried to sneak past, laughing together about how he still didn’t realize he was not as smart as they. It was only natural to hear the same sounds now, now that she was alone and abandoned, without even a housekeeper or a groundskeeper to pay her any company.

But after a few nights, it was not just creaking she heard, but the sound of whispers, as though someone was up and holding a conversation outside her door. It is only in my head, she told herself on those nights, as the tears began once more to fall, because how deeply did she miss her hushed conversations with her husband when the stars in the sky were the only light around and the rest of the countryside was silent with sleep? She always felt safe on those nights, secure in his embrace and in his love. Nothing could touch them then, nothing could penetrate the strength they had together. Of course now she still wished for that feeling, for those conversations, for those nights. That is why she heard what she heard.

But then the noises changed again, and this time it was worse. This time it was a like a moan filling the air, a cry of someone in so much pain. She thought for a moment it was her, that her cries had grown so loud that she could not even tell anymore that they were coming from her own mouth. That perhaps her grief was so overwhelming that she had been driven crazy, destined to walk her own halls without her memory, crying out for the life she had before the war, before the Dark Lord had ever come back.

But no, that could not be, because she was still in her bed, still hadn’t moved for what seemed like days, and the cry was beyond her walls. It was not her, it could not be her, but maybe … could it be?

Of course, Narcissa knew of ghosts, knew that souls could stay around, but she had never imagined …

She sprang from her bed, even as the unending tears continued to fall, hope suddenly blossoming in her chest. If only she could see him again, if only she could see them again, have one last conversation, have one last day …

She hurried to her bedroom door, flung it open, feeling lighter than she had since she had received the news that had ended her world and sent her fleeing to her bed in despair.

Now, though, she was to see him again, see them both again.

“Lucius!” she cried, and she began to run, run down the halls of her home — of their home — listening for the sounds of the footsteps and the whispers and the moans. “Lucius!”

She ran, and ran, searching frantically. “Lucius!” she cried, so sure that with this next corner he would appear, would be waiting for her with open arms.

“Lucius!”

But there was nothing. No Lucius. No ghostly figure. No sign of anyone’s presence other than her own.

Perhaps she was wrong. Perhaps it was just her own imagination.

Despair hit her again, harder even than when she first received the news. How could she have been so stupid to believe in a hope that was destined to be false? How could she be so stupid to fall for the tricks of her own mind?

She fled back to her room, sight blinded once more by tears, never feeling more alone, more hopeless.

She opened the door to her room, would have dove into her bed without a look around if it weren’t for the one spoken whisper.

“Narcissa. I have been waiting for you.”