Where: The nursery. Venice.
When: Early morning.
What: Nicholas' debut.
It was early in the morning, and Narcissa was already clean and breakfasted, even if she hadn't bothered getting dressed (beyond tossing a silk dressing gown over her slip). She was fairly sure Antonin and Aldous were still asleep, and was treasuring the peaceful moment with her Nicholas. She cradled him carefully in her arms, walking (swaying, really) over to the large windows to open the curtains and let the sun in, singing softly to her rapt audience of one.
"Hush little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mocking-bird, and if that mocking-bird don't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring. If that diamond ring turns brass, Mama's gonna buy you a looking-glass. If that looking-glass gets broke, Mama's gonna buy you a billy-goat. And if that billy runs away, Mama's gonna buy you another, today."
Antonin was feeling triumphant. NOT ONLY had he performed the minor miracle of persuading Aldous into something like a functional relationship with his son, but he'd followed this up with Aldous spending a normal night in bed as opposed to him wandering about in his lab, "working" and then passing out on the sofa. Aldous was still asleep now (Narcissa had got that right), but Antonin was awake. Even with one-half of the Mulcibers beside him, being in their home was unsettling and... and he longed to get back to Sankt Peterburg. The only thing keeping him there was -
shit, cradle empty. Shit shit - oh. Antonin stood transfixed, not quite daring to announce his presence.
Narcissa didn't notice him, humming the lullaby and settling herself in the rocking chair she'd had sent over from the Black Manor, Nicholas still safely cuddled to her.
...Of course, sitting down put Antonin directly in her line of sight. She stared at him, for a moment, and then sighed faintly, and murmured a faint, "Good morning, Antonin."
Antonin straightened. "Good morning, darling. How is he?"
"He's fine," she said, keeping her voice carefully calm and even. "Did you sleep well?"
"Da," he nodded, then - feeling obscurely defensive, crossed and crouched down, level with the baby. Murmuring in Russian, he was rewarded with an opening of already fathomless dark eyes, and an answering noise. He smiled. "God, he's beautiful. He'll be the most amazing child. Speaking of amazing children, darling - has anyone owled Draco?"
Narcissa shook her head, staring down at Nicholas. "No. Not yet. It should be perfectly easy to write and tell him, but I find myself lost for words when I try." She'd tried to write to Rabastan, as well, and her bedroom floor was littered with the attempts.
Antonin gave the baby a secretive smile, reaching out to touch what hair he had. "I could do it, if you want. Better I than you or Aldous, really."
She almost laughed, humourlessly. "I would appreciate that. You're probably right." And didn't that hurt to say. "What are you doing up so early?" she asked, eventually, changing the subject. She'd prefer not to discuss the mess that was her relationship with her elder son, thanks awfully.
He shrugged. "Couldn't sleep." Uncertain how to proceed, he sat still on the hearthrug for a moment before delivering the news calmly. "Aldous held him last night. I persuaded him.... he'll be wonderful at it, now. Although I've been threatened with death if I teach Niko to call him "Daddy"."
Well, he had to test the waters somehow.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire. It seemed there wasn't any topic of conversation that wouldn't hurt.
In that oddly even voice, she replied, "I told Aldous he'd be a good father. I don't think he believed me. It's very nice to know I was right."
"...milotchka, you usually are. Important that Nikolai knows who we all are, anyway. Well, you and Aldous. I don't think I'm in the dictionary as far as familial titles go." He watched Nikolai's little hands flail for a moment, distracting himself from the slight pain he'd felt, speaking.
She shrugged, slightly awkwardly, and shifted Nicholas in her arms to sit more comfortably. "I asked Emmeline to be his godmother. She's going to." She stroked Nicholas' cheek, as she spoke. "Actually, I spoke to her as well...before I decided to divorce Aldous. When I was still deciding. It's strange. We get along so well when we're not tearing at each other's hair."
Antonin started back as if he'd been stung. "Oh. Emmeline. .....who's going to be godfather, then?"
She looked almost surprised. "Do you honestly think it would be anyone other than you?"
"Since you asked Emmeline, yes, frankly." He raised his eyebrows. "Do you still want me to be, then?"
"Antonin, you really are my closest friend. Everything else aside, that remains true. There are no other choices. I always assumed you would be godfather. I see no reason for that to change now." And she was very proud of the way her voice didn't shake even once.
He gave her a disarming smile, and knelt up beside her. "Don't squeeze the baby, but come and be hugged, darling. It's going to be alright. I love him already, and so does Aldous, and everything's going to be fine." He put an arm round her shoulders, kissed her hair as he hadn't done for months.
"Do you promise?" she asked, in a very small voice, cuddling into his side, careful of Nicholas. "I want to think so, but I can never quite convince myself."
"Yes," said Antonin, sounding determined. "I'll take care of everything." His lips quirked as he remembered saying something similar to Aldous the night before (his response had been to inform the baby that they were all doomed). "Nikolai Aldevich Mulciber - and you are going to let him come and stay with us, da?"
She bit back her instinctive response -- 'no, you can't have him, too' -- and nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course."
"Spaciba. Aldous already brought one child up, darling - me - he'll be good at it. Anyway, milotchka, I should go and find someone to make Crumpet's breakfast, if nothing else. He requested kippers and quails' eggs - odd, but he's indispensable for translating things and delivering babies." He released her, and rose, eyes still on the baby.
Narcissa nodded, and rested her cheek against the top of Nicholas' head. "Yes, of course. I suppose I ought to get dressed soon, anyway..."
"Indeed. Give him here, standing up is harder than sitting down, you need free hands." He held out his arms, tone determinedly light.
There was only a moment's hesitation before she handed Nicholas over to Antonin, and pushed herself up out of the rocking chair. "Thank you."
Antonin gave her son a conspiratorial grin, leaning forward and laughing when his dark hair fell across the baby. Nikolai made a noise that was half-sneeze, half a complaint, and clutched at it with blind little hands. "Angel moy. Myi tebya lyubim." He almost cooed. Not that Death Eaters ever coo, of course.
Of course, Death Eaters never coo. Narcissa couldn't help but smile at the sight they made. "Adorable, the both of you. I'll let you put him back down, Antonin...I want to go and get dressed."
Trust, however tentatively offered.
Antonin beamed, looking up at her sideways. "Will you? Marve - OW, Niko, that's.... so, um, your baby has a very strong grip." He grinned, moving back towards the cot, hair still trapped in the tiny fingers.
"He does, doesn't he? You have to be careful with your hair. I think I will have to start wearing mine up again more often, or I will lose it all to him." She chuckled, albeit somewhat weakly. A moment of deliberation, and then she kissed Antonin's cheek, before excusing herself to get dressed.
Antonin stood very still, caught off-guard by the kiss. Then, when he was quite alone, he sighed and turned away from the cot, sounding relieved when the baby relinquished his hair. He carried Nikolai back towards the window, rocking him gently. "Listen, darling," he whispered, reverting entirely to Russian now that he was alone (no way this child would grow up speaking just English). "Haven't introduced myself yet, have I? Well, I'm Antonin Dolohov. Murderer. Native Russian speaker. Also your father's lover, all of which I imagine will be rather a lot for you to grapple with once you have teeth and hair and the power to sustain a conversation. But, anyway. I'm pleased to meet you." He swallowed, and lowered his voice further. "I want you to know. I love your father, and I love you. And nobody is going to keep you from him, or him from me. So.... if you're ever in the market for yet another disreputable parent, you know where to come. I'll protect you, and so forth." He exhaled, displeased by the tightness in his throat. Then, rolling his eyes (ridiculous, he was barely three days old, he couldn't understand), he dropped a quick kiss onto the baby's forehead, and laid him back in the cradle. Nikolai protested at being tucked in, and Antonin grinned. "About as stubborn as Aldous. Marvellous, another Mulciber in the world. Someone should warn Dumbledore and Snape." He laughed as he left the room.