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Out of Ashes

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Narcissa lay curled up on her couch reading Momo, a novel by a famous Muggle author, and a favorite of Hermione’s childhood. She’d talked to Andy about the situation and Hermione’s refusal to perform the echo. Her sister had told her to give her time, but time was what worried Narcissa. She didn’t know how long Hermione would need to decide, and even worse, what would she’d do if she refused to see reason, if there was nothing Narcissa could do to change her mind?

She’d had dinner with Draco and Astoria the night before, where Harry had shown up right before they’d settled down to eat to inform her that the cursed howler had been sent by an old man who’d lost two grandchildren during the war, killed by Death Eaters. Narcissa refused to press any charges, and Harry had accepted her decision right away.

Draco had invited Harry to stay and join them for dinner, but he’d declined, saying Ginny was expecting him at home and that it was his turn to entertain James for the night so Ginny could go out for dinner with her girlfriends. Narcissa had grown rigid for a second, and apparently, Harry had made the correct assumption and assured her that Hermione would not be among them. She’d dismissed his statement, but he’d only grinned at her and wished them farewell.

Draco had asked if there was trouble in paradise, for which Astoria had slapped his shoulder. He’d apologized, especially once he’d recognized that Narcissa’s mood had grown somber, and then spent the rest of the evening trying to make her laugh.

An apparition pop rang out and in the next second.

“Hey,” Hermione said and stuffed her hands into her pants pockets.

“Hello,” Narcissa said, taking off her glasses and placing them with the book onto the coffee table.

“You’re reading Momo,” Hermione said, her eyes shining with delight. “Do you like it?”

“So far, yes. It’s intriguing and imaginative. It’s also a part of you. Have you decided?”

“Straight to the point,” Hermione said. “I saw Andy, and she talked some sense into me, or so she’ll claim.”

“Come sit. You standing there makes me anxious you’ll run away any second.”

Hermione laughed and sat down next to Narcissa. “You ran away last time.”

“Yes, well. I was overwhelmed and I didn’t want to escalate things and—”

“Don’t worry about it. I understand,” Hermione said. “I’m sorry. I still...I don’t want this for you, this agony and it’s...it’s your sister who’s done that.”

“I was there,” Narcissa said.

“But I’ll do it. I... we can do the bond and then the echo but... we need to prepare it right. I want to make sure we have the potions ready, and Andy should be there, too, in case anything goes wrong and—”

“She could be on stand-by instead.”

“Why? Wouldn’t it be better for her to be right here?”

“Do you recall that I mentioned that the ritual was usually preformed after two people got married?”

“Yes, but you said you don’t have to be married for the ritual to work.”

“That is correct, but the blood bond will...let’s say that it will entice us to be intimate, and I’d rather not have my sister around.”

“Oh, yes, I...in that case, stand-by only is better,” Hermione said. “But what about...what would have happened if we’d done this without being involved? And what about the echo?”

“We will perform the echo afterward as they are separate rituals. The echo only requires that a blood bond exists. For your other question, I’m not sure. I’ve never heard of the bond performed between people who weren’t married. It was always designed as a magical consummation of the bonds of marriage.”

“Performing the blood bond with any other Black would have been super awkward then,” Hermione said and laughed when Narcissa’s face contorted in horror.

“Let’s not even go there.”

“Agreed.” Hermione shifted to sit closer to Narcissa. “When do you want to start?”

“The potions are good for about three more weeks, but I’d rather start as soon as possible. This weekend? That’ll give us two days to prepare everything. Andy would also be available then.”

“Sounds good.”

***

Andromeda had argued that she should be on standby for the bonding, but then in Narcissa’s townhouse for the echo, or better, once they were completely done with the bond. She had grinned at her younger sister and wiggled her eyebrows which had made Hermione laugh, but the sight of Narcissa blushing and averting her gaze had resulted in tears of laughter streaming down Hermione’s face. Narcissa had glared at her but then grudgingly agreed to send a patronus to her sister before the echo, so Andromeda could floo to the townhouse.

Now Hermione and Narcissa had finished all preparations and had set up the den at Narcissa’s townhouse. The blonde witch had created a fire-pit for the cauldron, and they’d added all the potions Narcissa had brewed beforehand.

Hermione flinched when Narcissa pulled out an ornate, silver knife. “Is this...this is not...”

“Oh no,” Narcissa said. “This has been in my family for generations. It is only used for rituals and it’s not...” She pursed her lips. “I don’t know where Bella’s knife is.”

“I’m sorry. That didn’t even make sense. Of course we wouldn’t be using the same knife that she’d used...back then.”

Narcissa reached out and squeezed Hermione’s arm. “Your reaction is understandable. Logic isn’t always available to us when we’re dealing with something emotionally traumatizing.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said before standing straighter. “Let’s do this.”

“To show that this is voluntary, we each need to cause our own wounds,” Narcissa said and cut her hand, squeezing blood into the cauldron. She healed her wound, cleaned the knife, and handed it to Hermione. The liquid in the pot bubbled and a layer of foam frothed at the top after Hermione added her blood.

“Now what?” She asked.

“Now you sit down while I stir the cauldron and say the incantation. It’ll take an hour before we’re ready to drink it,” Narcissa said and closed her eyes. A mixture of Latin and English spilled from her lips in an almost inaudible whisper while she blended the liquid.

Hermione sat down and steadied herself. She’d tried and failed to calm her nerves all morning. In fact, she’d been a wreck since the night before. She’d hardly slept, instead tossing and turning, envying Narcissa’s seemingly easy slumber. Hermione loathed the inability to analyze something, and this ritual, the echo...yes, she’d read everything she could find on it and even branched outside of the information Narcissa and Andromeda had provided, but still. There was something that slipped out of her grasp, and it was maddening.

Maybe it all boiled down to her anxiety about the echo. She’d been in denial about what would happen to her if her scar got triggered, but last night, in the half hour of sleep she’d gotten, she’d dreamed of it, and the memory of that nightmare still clung to her. How the color had been drained out of her life, and the only emotions left were grief and despair. She’d stood in front of her mirror with a knife in her hand, her eyes hollow and dull reflecting back at her when she’d plunged the blade into her stomach.

Her gaze had been stuck on the crimson spreading and soaking her shirt. She’d woken up in a cold sweat, muttering something about inefficient suicide and that she’d never be so daft before she’d gathered her bearings and rushed to the bathroom. Thankfully, Narcissa had slept through all that.

She hadn’t told Harry or Ron about this. Their unease and worry would have bled into her and worsened her already pernicious state of mind. No, she’d tell them when it was all done. Well, she’d tell Harry for sure. After she could reassure him she wasn’t, in fact, hurtling down a path toward apathetic suicide.

 She watched Narcissa work, and the whispered chants of the blonde witch’s smooth voice lulled her into the state between wakefulness and sleep until Narcissa’s hand on her shoulder startled her.

“Hey sleepy-head,” Narcissa muttered and stroked Hermione’s back.

“You’re done already?”

Narcissa chuckled. “Already is a matter of perspective. Your nap surely helped make this seem expedient.”

“Sorry,” Hermione said and rubbed her eyes. “All we have to do is drink it now?”

“Yes, though you have to get it yourself.”

“I’m surprised such a traditional family as the Blacks would put so much effort into consent.” Hermione allowed Narcissa to pull her up to her feet.

“It’s mostly for show. There are ways to make someone ‘choose’ to do this.”

Hermione shuttered. “I’m going to pass on those tales.”

“As you should.” Narcissa poured the potion into one glass for herself before handing the ladle to Hermione who filled up her cup.

“Do we need to say something beforehand?”

“No. You should recognize its effects right away. It’s a fast-acting potion and bond. I’m not sure what you’ll feel because it depends on our bond, and people appear to have reported different...outcomes.”

“Outcomes that will all lead to your bedroom,” Hermione said.

“Here’s to that,” Narcissa said with a sly grin before raising her glass.

Both drank the potion.

Color exploded in Hermione’s vision and she stumbled backwards, dimly aware of Narcissa calling her name. Her senses where muffled and her vocal cords appeared to be locked in tar since she could only press out a slight whimper. There was no pain, just complete disorientation, much like when she’d been to a carnival with her parents as a child and talked them into letting her ride a rollercoaster for the first time. Hermione didn’t deal well with sensory overload, and back then, she’d almost fainted, and she felt the same buzz drumming through her body from the potion, or the bond. She wasn’t sure what exactly was causing it.

By now, she’d doubled over and was kneeling on the floor. The plush carpet underneath her fingers acting like an anchor, a familiar and binding sensation that allowed her to catch her breath. Eventually, she became aware of Narcissa holding on to her. She flung herself in the other woman’s embrace and breathed in her earthy scent, allowing it to smooth the tension still running rampant in her body.

“Shhhh, you’re OK,” Narcissa murmured, her face pressed in Hermione’s hair.

When the overload receded, Hermione noticed a tether that stretched out between them. A stream of concern and worry flooded her, along with a deep well of love and affection poured out of Narcissa and swept over her. She breathed it all in and after a brief moment, a joyful laugh sprang from her lips and she tightened her hold of the older witch before raising her head and crushing their lips together.

Narcissa released a squeak that turned into a groan and she drew back, pulling Hermione down with her.

***

Hermione shut her eyes and let the water raining down on her soothe her sore muscles. She startled when the shower door opened but smiled at the sight of a nude Narcissa before a frown marred her features. “This is a terrible idea. Your sister is expecting us to do the echo this morning. Remember, that’s what you told her last night.”

“She’ll survive waiting longer,” Narcissa said with a smirk while her pupils dilated as her gaze roamed over Hermione’s body.

“Stop looking at me like this,” Hermione groaned, resisting the urge to press her legs together.

“How am I looking at you, dear?” Narcissa asked, and Hermione’s eyes narrowed. Playing innocent? After the previous night?

“You know what I mean,” Hermione said with a sigh when the stream of hot water hit a particularly tense muscle in her shoulder.

“I have a problem and it’s your fault, so I feel it’s only fair that you fix it.”

“What problem? How is it my fault?”

Narcissa stepped closer to Hermione, halting right before their bodies touched but close enough to get doused by the water.

The droplets of water cascading down Narcissa’s skin distracted Hermione to where she almost missed her lover’s next words.

“I had a very interesting dream and you played an enthusiastic and important role in it.”

Hermione laughed. “I don’t see how that’s a problem.”

“The dream was a delight, at least until you’ve left me in the waking world to take a shower. It roused me, in a moment where I’d have preferred to keep sleeping. And dreaming.”

“I see. What was I doing in that dream? Was I reading a potion textbook to you?”

Narcissa leaned close to Hermione and whispered in her ear. “You didn’t read, or talk, though your mouth was quite busy.”

Hermione swallowed hard and couldn’t prevent the whimper that fell from her lips.

“Would you like to continue what you’ve started?”

“Technically, I didn’t...” Her answer morphed into a low moan when Narcissa clasped her hand and directed it between her legs. Hermione’s stomach clenched at the wetness she encountered, not caused by water, and the brief hiss that left Narcissa at her touch, apparently still tender from the night before.

“Yes, I do believe that I should help you with your problem,” Hermione said, and a surprised yelp left Narcissa when she pushed her against the shower wall to claim her lips in an eager kiss.

Narcissa adjusted to her new position and pulled Hermione closer, her hands stroking over Hermione’s back.

Hermione’s hands trailed down to Narcissa’s full breasts and she first played with stiff peaks before breaking the kiss to suck and lick down a path from Narcissa’s neck to her breasts. Greedily, she sucked, then bit the blonde witch’s nipples.

Narcissa groaned and her hips rocked forward, pushing into Hermione.

After switching breasts, Hermione’s quest for equality never ending, she sunk lower, whispering a cushioning charm toward the floor before her knees made contact with the tiles.

Narcissa groaned in seeming anticipation and her stomach trembled when Hermione trailed her nails along the path from her breasts to her mound, leaving red lines on pale skin. She nuzzled her face against Narcissa’s curls and bestowed kisses and licks at her groin.

Narcissa’s head fell back against the shower wall and she pushed her hips closer to Hermione. “It’s not nice to tease me,” she moaned.

Hermione chuckled. “Look who’s talking,” she said before parting Narcissa’s folds and swiping her tongue from Narcissa’s entrance up, all the while avoiding the pulsing nub and instead, she sucked her lover’s folds into her mouth, moaning at the taste.

Narcissa groaned and her hands found their way to Hermione’s head, urging her on.

***

Narcissa always thought she had a low sex drive only to discover that the problem rested with her choice of partners. Not that it had been her choice to begin with, at least not since Hogwarts’s little dalliances, not since Hermione.

Now, since agreeing to this madness, since her inability to shed her selfish desires, she’d been dizzy with want for her dark-haired witch. Even after a night spent making love, she’d dreamed of Hermione and her mouth, her lips and her hot tongue dancing between her legs.

She’d woken groaning but unfulfilled, and then she’d heard the shower run. Temptation had led her to join Hermione and so far, this could be the best decision she’d make all day, especially considering what else was on today’s agenda.

She was still tender from their activities the night before, so Hermione’s first touch shot a mixture of pleasure and pain along her nerves, but once her tongue came into play, the pain vanished and was once more replaced with exquisite, almost decadent delight.

Narcissa trembled and her body shuddered while Hermione’s tongue mapped out every spot she’d discovered as the sure-fire way to drive her insane.

A long moan fell from her lips when Hermione’s focus shifted to where Narcissa needed her the most. She licked first, slow, languid strokes that turned into nibbles and bites that led to Narcissa banging her head against the wall. Her eyes screwed shut, she panted while the shower still poured water over their bodies.

Her moans grew louder when Hermione sucked her into her mouth and applied the right pressure that sent shockwaves of pleasure through Narcissa’s body.

“Yes,” she moaned. A weak “don’t stop,” followed by nonsensical words and sounds dripped from her lips as pure pleasure and heat raced through her body, catapulting her higher and pushing her to an explosive release. She shuddered then froze before pulse after pulse of bliss shook her body and Hermione’s name left her mouth in a hoarse shout. Her lover held onto her while aftershocks ravaged her frame before sliding up her body and seeking her lips in a searing kiss.

***

“That took longer than I expected,” Andromeda drawled the moment she stepped out of the fireplace.

“You can wait for us here. We’ll perform the echo in the den. I’ve cleaned it from the ritual yesterday and it’s the best place for today’s events.”

“I’m sure the clean-up is what kept you busy yesterday,” Andromeda said and chortled.

“Are you done?” Narcissa asked.

“For now, sure, baby sister.”

Narcissa huffed and left her sister sitting in the living room. Hermione was already waiting for her in the den.

“Is this necessary?”

Narcissa halted. “We’ve been over this. Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind now?”

Hermione’s brows crinkled. “No. I just wish we didn’t have to do this.”

“It is necessary, and while it’ll be hard, it’s worth it. I can’t even contemplate what would happen...” Narcissa gritted her teeth. She’d had untold nightmares since learning about the trigger, of Hermione’s downward spiral in excruciating detail, and of losing her. She had thought before that being with Hermione and then losing her once the dark-haired witch figured out that their relationship was a mistake would be painful, but that was nothing compared to losing Hermione like this, completely and forever, her beautiful light snuffed out. By her own sister. Narcissa didn’t care how much the echo would hurt her because the alternative was beyond anything she could imagine.

“Hey,” Hermione said and linked their hands. She drew Narcissa to sit on the ground next to her. “I’m right here, and that’s where I’ll stay. You’re not getting rid of me, not after I had to work so hard to convince you to give us a chance.”

Narcissa offered a teary chuckle

“I’ve had a crazy idea, for after...after the echo. If you’re up to it. I mean, the idea sounded better at three in the morning, but it still might have merit now and—”

“Stop babbling and tell me your idea,” Narcissa said.

“I keep thinking of Black Manor, and... I was wondering, have you thought some more about renovating it? I know I’ve mentioned that before, but it got drowned out by everything that happened. It might be a great idea. You could get rid of the memories that bother you. Cast them out, so to speak.”

“Are you sure this isn’t due to your infatuation with the library there?”

“What? No? I’d never. As if I cared that much about books,” Hermione said and peeked at Narcissa who smiled fondly at her.

“It’s not a terrible idea.”

“I’d help you. We could get Harry and Ron to help as well.”

“And Draco. He always disliked the manor. I’m sure he’d be delighted to tear it down.”

“Well, not destroying it. That might be extreme,” Hermione said.

“I’m exaggerating, dear. But dismantling all the old wards and making the rest my own...it’s appealing.”

“There you go. We have our next project set-up.”

“Given how busy work is, this will be a slow project,” Narcissa said.

“Right. That’s true, too. Did your analysis of the potions get us any closer to who’s behind those crime sprees?”

“Not yet, but one of my colleagues mentioned we’re supposed to receive a fresh batch of potions next week. Perhaps something will pan out then.”

“That’s good.”

“Now, let’s quit stalling and start the echo,” Narcissa said and leaned forward to give Hermione a quick kiss.

“All right.”

They sat on the floor, facing each other with crossed legs and closed eyes.

Narcissa started the incantation, then reached out her hands and grasped Hermione’s. “Lower your shields,” she said and once the younger witch did, Narcissa slipped into Hermione’s mind. Her senses were swamped with vivid images and sound that swelled into shouts. Heat suffused her body while her skin grew taut.

Little pinpricks crawled from her hands up, settled in her neck before traveling down her torso. The torrent of images shifted into clearer shaped outlines until she dropped into the drawing room at Malfoy manor. She was right there, on the floor with her sister on top of her. Crucio singed through her body and nausea bloomed, rising along her esophagus. She gagged.

In her den, she’d collapsed backward and from a distance she heard Hermione shout her name, but the present was drowned out once Bella’s knife sunk into her skin. Narcissa screamed. Her consciousness snapped back to the drawing room and the searing heat of the meticulous and slow cuts along her arm. Her surroundings in the drawing room blurred. She registered nothing but Bella’s weight and the knife burning her.

Narcissa lost track of time and didn’t register that the echo had finished until Hermione’s cries drew her back into the den. Next, she heard her sister’s hushed voice, trying to calm the younger witch. Narcissa’s eyelids refused to budge and instead lay heavy against her skin while tears tracked down her face. She grunted.

“Why won’t she open her eyes? Narcissa? Please come back,” Hermione cried.

Narcissa focused on Hermione’s vise-grip on her arm, allowing the sensation to soothe her still stinging and shouting nerves.

“’s fine,” she mumbled, finally able to blink a few times though the light blinded her, and she groaned. “Close the...curtains,” she ground out.

Then the room went dark and she opened her eyes. “Better,” she breathed.

“Are you all right? You were out for almost an hour!”

“Don’t shout, dear. My head.”

“Oh, sorry,” Hermione said in a whisper and shuffled closer.

Narcissa couldn’t believe she’d spent an entire hour in the echo, but given how disorienting the experience was, it was no surprise that she had had no feeling for the passing of time.

“How’s you...your arm?” Narcissa said and reached for Hermione’s limb. “Did it work?”

“Yes,” Hermione said and pushed her sleeve up to show her scar to Narcissa.

Narcissa cried. Hermione’s scar had lost all redness and was no longer puffy. Instead, there were flat, drawn in letters that still made out that vile word, but it blended in with the surrounding skin and she had to look closely to decipher it. She’d done it. She’d removed the trigger and Hermione would live. “Thank Merlin,” she said and passed out.

***

Two weeks later, they had arranged to meet at Black manor to start the renovations. Narcissa wanted to celebrate Hermione’s twenty-first birthday at the manor, and that only left them around three weeks to finish the restorations. Harry had been excited to participate, though Hermione suspected he was keen on escaping the house with a teething baby. Ron hadn’t seemed eager at first, but when Hermione said he’d be great at coming up with the best strategy to tackle the renovation in a way that wouldn’t lead to the Black wards killing them all, he’s preened and agreed to join and help.

They’d meet them there later today. Narcissa wanted to make sure she’d taken down the more vicious wards before allowing a Potter and a Weasley on the property. Draco had suggested they should wait and see what would happen, just for research purposes. Hermione had glared at him while Narcissa had only rolled her eyes. She was strolling ahead while Draco and Hermione trailed behind.

“I’ll never call you mother,” Draco hissed while they walked up the winding path to the Black estate.

“I’ll hex you if you ever do,” Hermione retorted.

“I was under the impression that my one child was a grown-up. I refuse to be surrounded by two children,” Narcissa chided.

Draco smirked at Hermione.

“You started it!” Hermione protested.

“I think you’ll find you did, by dating my mother!”

“I didn’t plan that!”

“You better be serious about her! There better be no young witch or wizard for you because you get bored in a year or two.”

“I’d never! How can you even…”

“Good. I’ll work on…living with this then. For mother,” he said and straightened up.

“Thank you. I’d like to get to know you better. The Draco who loves his family because that’s what we’ll be.”

“Oh, bite me, Granger,” he said and rolled his eyes.

“I rather bite your mother. She seems to enjoy that quite a bit,” Hermione said and grinned at Draco before darting away to catch up with Narcissa who entwined their hands, leaning closer to her.

“Was it really necessary to tease my poor dragon like that?”

“He started—”

“Don’t finish that sentence unless you want to sleep on the couch tonight,” Narcissa deadpanned.

“Strike me dead, Merlin. Or at least deaf and blind,” Draco muttered and kicked a pebble up the road.

The End