Peals of laughter echoed up into the Common Room from the stairwell to the girls’ dorms, and several heads turned to discover the source. Most people went back to their conversations with a smile when Narcissa and Caterina entered, passing a letter back and forth, but one person got up from the sofas by the fireplace to meet them.
Dropping to one knee in front of an amused Narcissa, Mathieu deChevalliere held a folded letter up like an offering.
“My darling, my angel, ma chérie, permit me to court you like the flower you are,” he intoned reverently, though Narcissa could clearly see his mouth twitching in an effort not to smirk. She grinned conspiratorially, and held up her own letter.
“Does yours have an ‘or else’ clause?”
He did smirk, then. “It does not, ma petite fleur.”
Narcissa thought for a moment, tapping the parchment idly into her palm, and trying not to look at Caterina, who was attempting to smother her laughter with her hand.
“I shall take it on assumption that you never mentioned The Horrible Week of Fourth Year to anyone, after all?” she asked, one eyebrow arching. They had attempted to act on a mutual crush. Shy glances, tentative conversations and one fumbling, awkward, spectacularly unsuccessful kiss in a broom closet later, and they decided to be friends instead.
“I did not,” Mathieu replied. “And I suspect you did not either, or you would not look so smug right now.”
Inclining her head in agreement, Narcissa took both letters and crumpled them into a ball. Dispatching them with a quick Incendio, she said airily, “In that case, Mathieu, I find you frightfully dull and a tad boorish.”
Mathieu climbed to his feet, a wicked grin on his face. “And you are vapid, and inclined to chatter too much.”
“It was awful,” she declared, holding out her hand.
“We simply do not get along,” he agreed, placing a kiss to the back of it before pulling her into a hug.
“You two are ridiculous!” Caterina lost her battle, and was giggling uncontrollably. Mathieu winked at Narcissa and slung an arm around Caterina’s shoulders.
“And you, ma chérie, have a dark beauty that has captured my soul,” he replied, an amused twinkle in his eye.
“Git,” Caterina scoffed, elbowing him in the ribs as he led her back to his sofa.
Narcissa rolled her eyes at Mathieu’s theatrics, and headed for a small table where a skinny, dark-haired boy had laid out a chessboard, the pieces peering eagerly over the edge of their box.
Severus was always careful not to sit with his back to the room. Thus, he had a prime view of Narcissa’s entrance, her discussion with the curly-haired French boy, and the ill-concealed interest of Lucius Malfoy in the entire goings-on. Severus wasn’t the only one to notice the direction of Lucius’ attention – the Head Boy had a lapful of hissing, angry Parkinson, who had also noticed her boyfriend’s attention wasn’t where it should be and was making her displeasure known.
Hiding a grin as Narcissa slipped into the chair opposite him, Severus remarked quietly, “I wouldn’t like to be him right now.”
Narcissa glanced over her shoulder, her eyes widening at the small spectacle well on its way to becoming a full-scale argument. Turning back before she was caught watching, she asked quietly, “What happened there?”
Severus responded with a non-committal shrug, and Narcissa raised an eyebrow at her young friend as she reached for the white pieces.
“She’s doing that flapping thing girls do with their hands when they’re mad,” Severus reported quietly as he removed the black pieces from the box, and Narcissa hid a smile. “Now she’s off his lap, but he’s doing the sneering scowl he does when he’s talking to Gryffindors and other he considers beneath him.”
Narcissa let her smile show at that, and looked down at the board, making sure her pawns were behaving. Glancing up to ask Severus what was happening now, the words died on her lips at the carefully blank expression on his face, ignoring the pawn tugging desperately at her finger. Sudden pain erupted in her shoulder, and the chess pieces were sent flying as Narcissa was shoved against the board by the passing of one very angry Lucinda Parkinson as she flounced towards the dorms.
“And now he’s glaring at her like he wants to hex her,” Severus added helpfully.
“So do I,” Narcissa muttered, rubbing her shoulder and scowling at the older girl’s retreating back. The action had been deliberate; there had been no need for her to pass them on the way to the dorm. “She really does hate me.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “Have you worked out why?”
Narcissa looked away, unwilling to reply. Saying it out loud made it real, and she wasn’t quite sure she was ready to accept that. Concentrating on rearranging her chess pieces, she didn’t see Severus lean out slightly to give the tiniest of nods to a brooding Lucius Malfoy.
A disadvantage to aiming for her Charms mastery was that her abilities now far exceeded her classmates, and Narcissa was bored. Only four students had successfully animated their tea sets, and of these, only Narcissa managed to get hers to dance the quadrille in correct formation. Caterina’s tea set was obstinately polkaing, and Xavier’s seemed to be performing precise military manoeuvres, despite being delicately pink and floral. A Gryffindor had also managed the feat, but Narcissa didn’t think that jiggling in a circle qualified as dancing.
It was amusing end to a long day of classes, though, and she was entertained enough to not notice when a small first-year slipped into the room with a note.
Professor Flitwick’s piping voice did gain her attention, and she straightened in her chair, a subtle flick of her wand causing her teacups to bow to each other before settling onto their saucers.
“The Headmaster has requested your presence in his office,” the diminutive man informed her kindly, and Narcissa began to pack her things away. He stopped her with a hand to her arm. “Miss Burke will take your belongings back to your common room.”
Thoroughly confused, Narcissa glanced at Caterina, who nodded her assent with wide eyes, and with a grateful but slightly absent smile for her friend, Narcissa left the classroom.
Desperately trying to think of any transgressions she may have committed that would be cause for a summons to see Professor Dumbledore, Narcissa was forced to admit defeat when she reached the gargoyles. She could not think of any reason the Headmaster would need to see her, and worry set in. Had something happened to her family?
The presence of the Head Girl in the office only fueled her suspicions, and Narcissa felt sick to her stomach at the overly kind smile from the statuesque brunette in the Gryffindor tie. Dumbledore’s trademark twinkle did little to dispel her fears.
“Ah, Miss Black. Won’t you sit down?” The old man’s tone was kind, if serious, and Narcissa sank into the armchair that appeared behind her. She thanked him automatically, her attention focused on the letter he held.
“It seems you have a visitor in Hogsmeade, my dear. While I wouldn’t normally remove a student from class, I am willing to make an exception in this case.”
That twinkle was worrying. Clearly Dumbledore knew who had requested her presence, and just as clearly he wasn’t going to tell her. The Professor set aside the letter, and held out a bowl of lemon drops. Narcissa declined with a shake of her head.
“I cannot let you go alone,” he continued, putting the bowl back and steepling his long fingers under his chin. “But your visitor has limited time, and you need to go now. Miss Jones has no class this session, and will accompany you to the village.”
Narcissa blinked in surprise. Miss Jones was a Muggleborn Gryffindor she knew by sight only. Tall and dark-haired, the Head Girl had a reputation for not taking any nonsense, and was likely the do-gooder sort, going by the earnest expression on her face.
“Fine,” she said abruptly. The choice was clearly out of her hands. “I’ll need my cloak.”
The Professor smiled. “It’s on the hook as you leave, Miss Black. You’ll be going to The Three Broomsticks.”
They’d made it halfway to Hogwarts’ gates when Lucius intercepted them. He held tight to the elbows of two mutinous-looking first year boys in Gryffindor robes wet to the knee, and he did not look pleased.
“Jones. These are yours, I believe.”
Narcissa watched in bemusement as the Head Girl took one look at the boys and breathed a long-suffering sigh.
“Creswell, Lynch. Not only are you out of class, but I have told you repeatedly to stay away from the squid.”
The boys opened their mouths, but Jones cut them off with a hand movement, and turned to Lucius.
“Malfoy, I’m supposed to be escorting Narcissa to Hogsmeade. Just make sure they get to class, and I’ll deal with them later.”
Lucius scowled and pushed the boys forward.
“We’re trading. Your housemates, your problem. Let’s go, Black.”
Narcissa raised an eyebrow at his imperious tone, but given the choice of being accompanied by a Muggleborn or by an annoyance with a possible agenda, Malfoy was still the lesser of two evils. With a shrug of acceptance, she fell into step beside him, glancing behind once to see Jones berating the first years, gesticulating madly as she herded them towards the castle.
They walked to Hogsmeade in awkward silence. Narcissa could tell that Lucius wanted to say something, because she could see him from the corner of her eye. He’d open his mouth, then apparently think better of it and close it. Four times he’d done this, and she was about to ask him to just say it already, but they’d reached the village proper, and she forgot about it in favour of meeting her mysterious visitor.
Pausing to remove her cloak just inside the door of the tavern, which Malfoy held open for her, Narcissa barely had the chance to turn around when an eager voice called her name.
Her head snapped up, and she took an involuntary step backwards, very nearly colliding with Lucius, who steadied her with a hand between her shoulder blades. Andromeda was walking towards her, an uncertain smile on her face. Narcissa felt the tell tale burn of tears beginning to well in her eyes, and she whirled around and walked straight back out of the tavern. Startled, Lucius grabbed her cloak and followed her, with Andromeda close on his heels.
“Narcissa, wait!” she called. “Let me explain!”
But Narcissa did not want explanations, and threw her hand up in the air in a dismissive gesture. So angry was she with her sister’s sudden appearance after weeks with no word that she didn’t even snap at Lucius when he laid her cloak across her shoulders.
Andromeda tried again. “Cissy, please hear me out…”
The baby nickname did it. Narcissa turned and marched back towards her sister, one finger pointed accusingly.
“Why should I? It’s been four weeks! You didn’t think it important to tell me until now – I had to find out from Bella.”
Andromeda winced and began to reply but Narcissa hadn’t finished. “Not that it mattered – your little escapade was all over the Evening Prophet. How hard would it have been to send me a letter? A note? Or do I not rate a moment of your time anymore – instead, I get a pity visit a month after the fact? The entire school knew before I did!”
The older girl looked stricken, and held out a pleading hand, the plain gold of a wedding band glinting in the late afternoon light. “Cissy, please. I never meant--”
“It’s Narcissa,” she snapped back. “I’m not a baby anymore, so stop using that stupid name.”
The tears that had been threatening earlier spilled over, and Narcissa dashed them away angrily. Andromeda sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Narcissa recognised the gesture as the one her sister used to keep from crying, but it was short-lived – Andromeda took a deep breath and stood tall, a determined expression on her face.
“Cis- Narcissa. I didn’t want the life they planned for me,” she said firmly. “I couldn’t sit by and watch them blithely sign me over to someone I didn’t like, or had never met. Yes, they’ve disowned me, but Ted and I are happy, and we don’t regret this.”
Her blue-grey eyes, so like Narcissa’s own, flickered to where Lucius was standing quietly, before coming to rest on her younger sister.
“You’ll understand one day, Cissy.” She smiled wistfully, and Narcissa could only watch through her tears as her sister turned and walked to where a solemn but smiling dark-haired man was waiting. It wasn’t until the crack of Apparition sounded that Narcissa finally moved, and then only because Lucius placed a hand on her shoulder and gently steered her up the winding path that led to the castle.
It was a measure of how hurt she was by what she viewed as Andromeda’s abandonment that she didn’t care that Lucius could see her crying openly, her shoulders slumped and head bowed as they walked. He had been uncommonly and almost respectfully silent, and it wasn’t until they’d covered half of the return journey and the afternoon light had faded into twilight that he finally said something.
Her given name sounded very different from his lips. Perhaps it was the way he said it – his arrogant drawl was missing, and his deep voice lingered a little over the vowels, drawing her name out til it was almost a verbal caress. Shocked into stillness at the sudden realisation that she liked the sound of her name when he spoke it, she stared at him with wide eyes and wondered fleetingly what it would take to make him say it again.
Her reverie was broken when he reached out to brush away a tear with his thumb.
“You’re doing it wrong.”
Lucius spoke quietly, and his grey eyes held no trace of mockery or scorn. She knew immediately that he wasn’t merely being facetious; in fact, he made an excellent point. Half the school, and certainly all of Slytherin, would know she’d been called out of class, and it would not do to return to the Common Room in tears.
Nodding her silent agreement, Narcissa lifted her chin and straightened her spine. The movement caused her cloak to slip, but Lucius caught it and put it back, his hands gentle. Narcissa noticed that he left his arm around her shoulders, but for some reason, she didn’t shake it off. Perhaps she simply needed human contact.
“Narcissa,” he murmurs. His voice is low and rough with need, and she trembles in response. His breath is hot on her neck as he slowly drags his lips across her skin. His mouth finds a particularly sensitive spot, and her hand rises to his neck, holding him where she wants him.
“There…” she breathes.
He chuckles. “There?”
She gasps as his teeth graze her collarbone. “Right there…”
“Good to know,” he whispers, and begins to trail a line of teasing kisses down her chest to where her nightgown starts. Deft fingers slowly peel the garment away, replacing the simple cotton with hands and mouth and her back arches in eager response. He moves over her, hard against her hip and one strong thigh firm between hers as he lays hot, open-mouthed kisses on her feverish skin.
The sensations are overwhelming, and she reaches for him, entwining her fingers in his hair as she presses an almost frantic kiss to Lucius’ mouth—
Narcissa sat bolt upright in bed, eyes wide, breathing fast. The dorm was shadowed, the only light coming from the dimmed lamp by the door, and the quiet symphony of snores told her no one else had been awakened by her sudden movement. Pushing her slightly tangled hair back from her face, she reached for the small clock on her bedside table, which blinked sleepily at her before displaying the time. Three-seventeen. Narcissa grimaced, and flopped back against her pillows. Her heart was racing, and there was an insistent ache between her thighs, and sweet Circe on a bicycle, she’d had just had a pervy dream about Lucius bloody Malfoy.
It was probably just because he was the last person she saw today, she told herself, ignoring the fact that once they’d returned from the village she’d been to dinner with the whole school present and shared a dorm with four girls. Because really, there was no other reason for her to dream of him – besides which, it was usually famous Quidditch players in those sorts of dreams, with the occasional appearance by Xavier but only if they’d had butterscotch pudding for dessert. The way he ate that was positively sinful. So it must have been proximity to Lucius that caused it, she decided, as her hand moved downward. An anomaly, she told herself when her fingers met slick heat. And it would never happen again, she promised, biting her lip as pleasure mounted. Never, she repeated, and sweet release swept through her.
Closing her eyes as her body relaxed, Narcissa drifted back to sleep, all thoughts of blonds with deep voices and gentle hands banished.
Covering a yawn as she slipped into the seat beside Caterina at the breakfast table, Narcissa eyed the large bowls of porridge with distaste. No matter how much honey she put in it, rolled oats still felt and tasted like sawdust in her mouth, and she couldn’t fathom how so many students were happily eating it. Taking some toast instead, she was reaching for the tongs on the platter of bacon when someone else did the same, and warm fingers closed over hers. A jolt of awareness shot through her, and she glanced up to meet the grey eyes of Lucius Malfoy, who was seated opposite her and whose hand was covering her own.
Oh Merlin. His hands. Last night’s dream came rushing back and colour flooded her cheeks as the memory of just what she’d imagined those hands doing appeared in the forefront of her mind. Snatching her fingers away as if burned, Narcissa stood abruptly from the table.
“It's - your hands - bacon… you have it,” she stammered, staring at him as though seeing him for the first time. Had she bothered to look around her, she’d have seen Caterina giving her an odd look, Mathieu a curious one, and Severus hiding a smile. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Lucius said something in reply, but she didn’t hear it. Forcibly tearing her gaze from his, Narcissa hurried from the hall, ignoring Caterina’s cry for her to wait. Slughorn wouldn’t mind if she was early to Potions, and really, the farther away, the better. Or anywhere he wasn’t, really.
So focused was she on getting away that she didn’t even notice that she practically bowled Lucinda Parkinson off her feet on the way out, nor that the older girl simply stared after her.