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Embers Rising

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Life had mostly returned to normal. They were awaiting the end of Christina’s trial, and Narcissa and Hermione had returned to work. Narcissa hadn’t been able to spend as much time with Andromeda as she had wanted to because work had picked up more than she’d expected, though she realized she had suffered from wishful thinking in that respect. At least Luna felt better, and she’d been able to ask her sister about the lake house property mystery. However, Andromeda also had no memory of it and hadn’t been able to place it.

It had been two odd weeks since breaking the barrier, and Narcissa was preparing dinner when Hermione had chosen that moment to confront her about a little side-trip Narcissa had undertaken earlier in the week. One she had hoped Hermione would greet with more understanding.

“I can’t believe you spoke out in Christina’s defense during her trial. Why didn’t you tell me?” Hermione asked, blotches of red spreading over her face and the pulse hammering in her neck clearly visible.

“Precisely because of how you’re reacting right now. You also couldn’t believe it when Harry spoke at my defense hearing.”

Hermione crossed her arms. “That’s not exactly how it happened, and besides, that’s different.”

Narcissa clenched her jaw “Why? Because you’ve realized you enjoy sleeping with me?”

Hermione’s arms fell to her side. What was going on? Why was Narcissa acting like this? “What on earth...as if there’s only that between us!”

“It doesn’t matter. I did what I felt was right. She doesn’t belong in Azkaban.”

“You’re serious?” Hermione asked.

“Christina might have gone about this the wrong way, but—”

“Might have? She poisoned us and imprisoned us here, not to mention, she planned to take away the free will of every Muggle in all of Britain, with the design to do so for the rest of the world!”

“I’m not saying what she did was right, but her motivation—”

“Is insane! You can’t do that!”

“You cannot deny that humans, Muggles, are destroying this planet.”

Hermione huffed. “No, but—”

“Then why are you so incensed about a plan to stop that?”

“I’m all for stopping the destruction of this planet, but not like that. Humans are more than puppets that you can control. You’d destroy everything that makes them human. Their creativity, their drives, their innate goodness—”

“I’m not seeing a lot of that,” Narcissa said and crossed her arms.

“There has to be another way, one that doesn’t depend on robbing people of their own choices.”

“Another way? Much like the one you found when you altered your parents’ memories and sent them to Australia?”

Hermione blanched and clenched her jaw. “I don’t believe you’d...how can you even...this is different!”

“Because it doesn’t affect you personally,” Narcissa said. “You’re good at seeing the big pictures when it doesn’t involve someone you love.”

“No one I love is involved when this planet is destroyed?” Hermione almost shrieked.

“The potential ruin of this planet is something we view in abstract terms because there are no real consequences for us to see, not yet. It’s a theory, so we can afford to be lofty in our ideas and push them to the future.”

Hermione frowned.

“Your parents faced a direct threat. You knew they would likely die without your interference and that was unacceptable to you.”

“And?”

“So you did something about it, even though it violated your parents’ free will, even though you knew they didn’t want to leave your side. You still did it.”

Hermione’s face fell.

“I’m not saying this to hurt you, dear. You were facing an impossible choice, but perhaps that is how Christina felt, an urgency to stop us from destroying ourselves. And the sacrifices were worth it in her eyes.”

“But who is she to decide that for everyone? There are so many parameters to consider and—”

“Again, I’m not saying what she did was right or that she should have done it. I’m definitely not pleased how it affected us, though thankfully, we’re fine.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“That she has a point, and that I don’t like your protracted opposition given your own history.”

“You’re calling me a hypocrite.”

Narcissa tilted her head. “Those are your words.”

“And your description. You basically say that because I had the audacity to save my parents from being murdered by your Dark Lord, I can never be opposed to the violation of the free will of others!”  

“My Dark Lord? Is that how you see me?”

“I’m just saying—”

“What are you just saying, Hermione?” Narcissa bit out, stalking to the dark-haired witch and halting in front of her, entranced against her will by Hermione’s fierce gaze and the rapid rise and fall of her chest.

Hermione raised her chin and held Narcissa’s gaze. “You’re being unfair. I know you treasure your own free will, and that you’d never want to relinquish it. I know you had no affinity for Tom, and you never belonged to him.”

“Then don’t say it. Words can damage, and—”

“I’m sorry. Let’s drop this.”

“Fine,” Narcissa said and turned to leave the kitchen, her appetite gone.

***

“What did you do?” Hermione asked the moment she’d entered Christina’s cell. She’d be released soon, to some rehabilitation program Hermione could still kick herself for championing. No. That wasn’t true. It was necessary, and it would help, but here, Hermione was convinced it benefited the wrong person.

Something was off with Narcissa, still, and that had been the case since they broke the barrier. She remembered a shadow engulfing Narcissa after she’d poured the potion on the barrier, but at the time, she’d been so concentrated and drained from the spell, she couldn’t react to it and then, after the relief of being free, she’d forgotten. At least until things changed and Narcissa became secretive and cold.

“Hello to you, too,” Christina drawled, her arms crossed in front of her chest as she leaned against the wall of her cell.

“What did you do to Narcissa?”

Christina chuckled. “You noticed? The images you showed me in London then weren’t just a distraction, huh? Isn’t she too old for you?”

Hermione just stared at her. If she was anything like her brother, she’d be unable to keep her deed a secret, and instead, she’d relish in gloating about how clever she was. The witch who thought she could poison Muggles by adding a potion to the water supply. Hermione had to refrain from rolling her eyes.

“It was one of my cleverer inventions, if I may say so,” Christina said.

“Naturally,” Hermione muttered, hoping Christina wouldn’t hear the traces of sarcasm saturating her voice.

“I allowed for the barrier to be broken, but it came with a price. Remember my brothers imperio potion? I refined it, and as soon as a potion was applied to destroy my barrier, the potion would rise and soak whoever stood the closest. That person would feel drawn to me. They would experience a compulsion to help me, and to withdraw from those who rejected me.”

Hermione’s jaw clenched. “What’s the antidote?”

“There’s none.”

Hermione stalked closer.

“Before you hex me, it’ll disappear. Much like the potion Nils gave you. With time, it’ll decay.”

Hermione held back a sigh of relief. “You are a horrible person, and if anyone of your family ever messes with my friends and family again,” she said and grabbed the bars of the cell. “I’ll end you,” she breathed before spinning around and marching out of the room.

***

Narcissa had been appalled upon learning of how Christina had poisoned her and used her as a pawn in getting an early release, though she said it made sense and would also explain her strange dreams and headaches. Thankfully, Christina hadn’t lied about the effects of the spell decaying with time, and now, after two more weeks, she seemed to be back to normal and suggested a celebratory dinner with their friends and family. The house-elves had the night off, so it was all up to Hermione and Narcissa to prepare the dinner.

“It’s so good to see you,” Harry said and hugged Hermione.

“You, too,” she said and returned his embrace. “Ginny,” she said and embraced her friend.

“Glad this insanity is behind us. Where’s Narcissa?”

“With Draco and Astoria in the kitchen. What did you do with the kids? Don’t tell me everyone loaded off their kids at Molly’s.”

“Oy! We’re not everyone. We’re family,” Tonks said and entered the house, followed by Andromeda and Luna who all embraced Hermione.

“Come on. Lord knows what these Slytherins come up with unsupervised,” Hermione said.

“Hey!” Andromeda said and they all laughed and followed Hermione into the kitchen.

“The rest of our guests have arrived,” Hermione said.

 “Finally. I thought you’d all bow out,” Narcissa said and greeted them.

“As if Potter would say no to a meal he doesn’t have to prepare,” Draco said.

“As long as you didn’t do the cooking,” Harry said and laughed after both men had glared at each other for a second.

Ginny shook her head. “They’re impossible.”

“I don’t know how you put up with it,” Hermione said.

“Me neither,” Ginny said.

“Hey!” Harry said and bumped into Ginny.

“All right. Let’s all head to the dining room. Everything is set up,” Narcissa said and ushered them out of the kitchen and into the dining room. She placed a hand on her sister’s arm before Andromeda could enter the dining room.

“Are you all right?” Andromeda asked.

“Yes, yes. I just wanted to make sure you and Luna are still planning to stay the night. We prepared the guest room for you.”

“Oh, yes. We are. It’s odd being back here, but the changes you’ve made make it better, and surreal. It hits me every time I’m here. I’m happy you’ve made this house a home.”

“Thank you. That was the idea,” Narcissa said and squeezed her sister’s arm.

Together, they entered the dining room and sat down.

The food appeared on their plates and they ate in silence at first before Tonks turned to Narcissa. “So, what exactly happened? No one wants to tell us anything and I’ve already cornered Harry and Draco here, and even they don’t know. Unless they were lying to me,” she said and glared at the two men.

“No, not lying,” Harry said.

“Would I lie to you, cousin?” Draco asked.

“Hmm,” Tonks hummed.

“They truly don’t know,” Narcissa said and lifted her cup.

“And?” Andromeda asked. “We’ve waited long enough.”

“Officially, nothing happened. An accidental spell caused the property to become unplottable,” Narcissa said.

“That’s nonsense,” Draco said. “What really happened?”

They all turned their gazes to Hermione.

“Why is everyone looking at me?” She asked.

Narcissa chuckled. “They are aware of your propensity to follow the rules, dear.”

“I don’t always follow rules,” she grumbled.

“We’re not talking about that, dear,” Narcissa said with a smirk.

Hermione flushed and Draco groaned.  She cleared her throat. “When we were in Germany, we had a run in with a wizard with a grudge against Narcissa. He also had designs to brew powerful potions to subdue people and governments. He has a sister, and...she was the actual potions genius and generally, a truly gifted witch.”

“So you were up against the two of them?” Draco asked.

“No. The brother is in Azkaban,” Narcissa said.

“The sister wanted revenge?” Andromeda said.

“That’s what we thought, too, given that was part of the brother’s motive. But no. She wanted to rule Muggles—”

“Again?” Harry said. “I’m so sick of wanna-be dictators.”

Ginny shared a smile with Hermione.

“As I was saying,” Hermione continued, “she wanted to rule Muggles to save them from themselves. That they are harming themselves and the planet, and if we don’t stop them, they will turn the Earth into an uninhabitable wasteland.”

Silence.

“She did have a point,” Narcissa murmured and Hermione glared at her.

“We’re not having that discussion again,” Hermione groused.

Narcissa sighed. “You’re right. She went about it the wrong way. She poisoned us. We assumed she’d tried to kill us and thought her incompetent, but in reality, it was all a set-up to both pause our research into her operation, and to distract the ministry and thus allow her to move her plan forward.”

“Smart,” Draco said.

“Yes,” Narcissa said. “She’d developed an imperio potion and planned on infiltrating the Muggle water place. What is that called again, dear?”

“The water companies.”

“Yes, right. She wanted to get her potions to people that way. Then it would travel through these metal straws and—”

“Pipes,” Hermione corrected.

“Right. Regardless, that’s how she wanted to influence all Muggles.”

Harry frowned. “That makes no sense. This plan would never have worked. What? People get imperioed by taking a shower with a completely diluted potion mixed in the water?”

Hermione snickered. “That’s the consequence of witches’ and wizards’ unfamiliarity with how anything Muggle works. You’re right. It never would have worked. Even if some people drink tap water, she wouldn’t have had the needed quantities of the potion to affect them.”

“So it was all for nothing? She almost killed you and made us all sick with worry for a plan that would never work?” Draco spat.

“Would you have preferred her plan to work, dragon?” Narcissa asked.

“What? No. Of course not.” He fell back in his chair. “The incompetence just...it irks me.”

“I’m sure your godfather would be pleased,” Narcissa said.

“To Snape, who would have delighted in eviscerating the stupidity of that plan,” Harry said and raised his glass.

Everyone followed, and “to Snape,” echoed around the room.

“Time for dessert,” Narcissa said and rose to head to the kitchen a moment later.

“I’ll help you,” Hermione said and followed.

She closed the door behind her and leaned against it, eyeing Narcissa’s concentrated expression while prepping the dessert.

“You are a witch,” Hermione said.

Narcissa laughed. “Is that new information to you?”

“I’m just wondering why you do all this by hand.”

“Because it tastes better that way.”

Hermione edged toward Narcissa when the blonde witch added the finishing touches to the trays. “Do you recall the spell you found in your journal and didn’t want to cast while we’d lost our memories?”

Narcissa froze before slowly rising and catching Hermione’s gaze. “Yes.”

“I think we should use it tonight. On you.”

Narcissa swallowed hard. “Andromeda and Luna will stay over.”

“We’re witches.”

“I fail to see how...oh. Right,” Narcissa said and stepped back, bumping against the cabinet behind her and with Hermione so close their breaths mingled. “Our guests are right through that door,” she whispered but licked her lips.

“They’re not here, though,” Hermione breathed and close the distance between them.

Narcissa groaned at the first touch of their tongues and Hermione’s hands shot up into Narcissa’s hair, pulling her closer.

The struggle over the past weeks, and the reveal of what Christina had done to Narcissa still haunted Hermione and had left her with a pent-up energy that had led to her following Narcissa into the kitchen. She’d remembered their arguments and it suddenly seemed as if it had just happened, riling her up. Hermione didn’t know why arguing with Narcissa put her in this state, but she couldn’t remember a time where Narcissa had complained about the outcome. Though usually they didn’t have a potential audience so close by.

The intensity of their kiss grew, and Hermione moaned and shuddered when Narcissa bit her lip while pushing a leg between Hermione’s. Narcissa flipped them around and pushed Hermione against the cupboard, her hands traveling down Hermione’s frame.

She hadn’t meant to escalate this, only desired to tease Narcissa and suggest the spell for tonight, but those thoughts fled the moment Narcissa’s deft fingers undid the button of her jeans.

“Cissa,” Hermione moaned and dropped her head back, not even registering the hard surface of the cabinet behind her. Narcissa’s cool hand stood in stark contrast with the heat she encountered when she pressed against Hermione’s panties.

“You’re so wet,” Narcissa muttered, claiming Hermione’s lips in another kiss.

Hermione gasped and rocked her hip against Narcissa’s fingers. She closed her eyes at the sensation of one of those fingers sneaking underneath her panties. Trailing along...

“What is taking...Oh Salazzars’ snakes. My eyes!” Andromeda called and stomped her foot while Hermione and Narcissa jumped apart, both flushed and with their gazes on the floor.

“Uh, we got distracted,” Hermione said, still avoiding Andromeda’s gaze. Her neck burned and she was sure she’d never been more embarrassed in her life.

“I can see that,” Andromeda said. “Wash your hands, Narcissa,” she huffed and grabbed the first tray of desserts. “Make yourselves presentable.” She dashed out of the kitchen.

Hermione groaned. “I’m sorry.”

Narcissa still stood frozen.

“Are you OK?”

The blonde witch nodded but remained silent.

“Come on. Let’s get going. I don’t want her to come back and...”

“Right,” Narcissa said before rushing to the sink and washing her hands.

***

After desserts, they’d settled in the living room and Narcissa had brought out two bottles of her best wine and added some snacks on the coffee table.

“I don’t know how you always end up in so much trouble,” Andromeda said.

Harry chuckled. “Trouble finds us, though it seems to have found its new home in Hermione.”

“So did my sister,” Andromeda muttered, and Ginny, who sat to her left snorted before coughing and placing her glass on the table.

“What did you say?” Harry asked.

“Nothing,” Andromeda said.

Ginny patted Harry’s leg.

“Let’s play a game,” Tonks said. “A Muggle game we played at Hogwarts, learned it from a few Muggle-born students. It’s loads of fun.”

“Hermione’s been teaching me a few of them. Does it involve tasks?” Narcissa asked.

“I bet she is,” Andromeda mumbled, and Ginny shook her head.

“What do you keep muttering, Andy?” Narcissa asked and frowned at her sister.

“All right. So this game, Tonks? How does it work?” Ginny asked.

“Is it like bowling? I don’t see how this could happen here. I suppose we can transfigure the den,” Draco said, tapping his index finger against his lips.

“You and bowling,” Harry said and rolled his eyes. “We never should have introduced you to it.”

“You’re just bitter because you keep losing,” Draco said with a smirk.

 “Dora, dear, go ahead,” Narcissa said.

“It’s called Never Have I Ever,” she said. “OK, so I start and say never have I ever cast a spell. Then everyone who has cast a spell must drink a sip of their wine. It’s better with shots, but this’ll work, too. Those who never cast a spell don’t have to drink.”

“But everyone here has cast spells,” Draco said.

“That’s an example, blondie,” Tonks said and bumped into her cousin. “You can say what you wish.”

“You played that game at Hogwarts? With alcohol?” Andromeda asked.

“Maybe?” Tonks said and grinned.

“As if you’re so innocent,” Narcissa scoffed. “Never have I ever drank alcohol while at Hogwarts,” she said and raised her glass to drink. So did everyone else in the room.

“Never have I ever seen Dabberblimps,” Luna said, and remained the only one who drank afterwards.

Andromeda chuckled and patted her hand.

“Never ever have I had sex with someone in this room,” Draco said and amidst a mixture of groans and snickers, everyone but Tonks drank.

Astoria rolled her eyes but smiled at Draco.

“That was a no-brainer, Ferret,” Harry said.

“Then let’s make it more interesting,” Tonks said. “Never ever have I had sex with two people in this room. Not at the same time. Though, if that’s what floats your boat...” Tonks said and shrugged her shoulders.

“Dora!” Andromeda hissed and right after, everyone fell silent when both Ginny and Hermione drank from their glasses.

“Wait,” Harry said, his gaze flickering between the two women. “But...that means that...”

“Your bestie had sex with your wife, scar-head!” Draco said and laughed. “This is fantastic.”

Harry took off his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. “When did this happen?”

Ginny and Hermione exchanged a glance.

“Did you know about this?” Harry asked Narcissa.

“Yes,” Narcissa said and held Harry’s gaze.

“It was at Hogwarts, after...we’d broken up,” Ginny said.

“Oh,” Harry said and put his glasses back on. “All right, then. Still better than sleeping with my mum,” he said and glared at Draco who narrowed his eyes.

Hermione spluttered and coughed, which drew all eyes on her.

“What? But...that’s not possible!” Harry said.

“Not me!” Hermione said. “Merlin!” She said and eyed Narcissa who closed her eyes.

“Wait...mother? You...did I understand that correctly? You slept with Harry’s mother?”

Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know the answer.”

“But I do!” Draco said.

“It’s hardly any of your concern,” Narcissa said and felt color rise in her cheeks. Hermione would have been the worst Slytherin. Ever.

“You did! Oh, this is the best evening ever,” Draco said and shifted to slap Harry’s back. “We finally got something in common!”

“What? That your mother slept with my best friend and my mum? You notice the common denominator here?” Harry growled.

“Yes! And I’m in complete denial about that, but now I’m not the only one traumatized by this.” Draco laughed.

Harry sighed. “Great game, Tonks.”

“Hey! That’s not my fault. The Black ladies are always good for a surprise,” Tonks said.

“Very tue,” Andromeda said and drank a sip of wine.

“Is all of this about you walking in on Narcissa and Hermione having sex in the kitchen earlier?” Luna said.

Andromeda coughed before heaving, “it’s not safe to drink anything here.”

“You what?”

“Mother!”

“Are you serious?”

Ginny wiped her eyes.

“We were not having sex,” Narcissa said.

Hermione flushed crimson and her eyes found the bottom of her glass.

“You had your hands down Hermione’s pants!” Andromeda said.

“Too much information!” Draco muttered and dropped his face into his hands.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Harry snickered.

“Oh, shut it, Potter,” Draco groaned.

“Does this game always escalate like this?” Ginny asked.

“Not when we played it,” Tonks said.

“I’d sure hope not!” Andromeda growled.

***

The guests had left and Narcissa had excused herself to talk to Andromeda.

“Will you join us? We plan to check out the lake house tomorrow. It’s by Windmere lake. The one I mentioned the other day?”

“Sure. Luna and I will tag along. After breakfast. I’m assuming you’ve filled up the pantry after being trapped here?”

“You didn’t starve tonight,” Narcissa said.

“Indeed. Don’t be too loud in case you feel inspired to finish what you’d started in the kitchen earlier.”

“You’ll never let this go,” Narcissa grumbled.

“Of course not,” Andromeda said and smiled before wishing her sister goodnight.

Narcissa sighed and returned to the bedroom to find Hermione sitting on the bed, reading.

“Did she give you a hard time?” Hermione asked.

“This is all your fault,” Narcissa grumbled.

“If I remember correctly, you were the one with your hand down my pants. All I had planned was some necking and teasing.”

“I don’t recall you complaining,” Narcissa drawled.

“I wasn’t. In fact, I’d like to continue. I’ve already soundproofed the room. Go and hurry up with your shower,” Hermione said, her gaze shifting from Narcissa’s eyes down her body and back up again.

“You’re impossible,” Narcissa huffed and disappeared into the bathroom.

Narcissa had taken a quick shower, put on a night gown and braided her hair before exiting the bathroom.

Hermione sat cross-legged, clad only in red panties and a white t-shirt, in the recliner, reading again. She placed the book on the side table upon Narcissa returning.

“Come here,” Hermione said in a rough voice.

Narcissa sauntered over and halted in front of the dark-haired witch who rose and took off her shirt before stepping out her panties, dropping both items on the floor.

Narcissa swallowed hard.

Hermione edged closer and without saying a word, grasped the hem of Narcissa’s nightgown and pulled it over her head before it joined Hermione’s clothes on the carpet.

“Sit,” Hermione said and guided her to the recliner.

Narcissa sat, holding the younger witch’s gaze. She laid her hands on top of the arm rests and her fingers dug into the soft fabric when Hermione joined her and straddled her lap.

Narcissa’s heart pelted and she exerted an enormous effort to keep her breathing semi-regular.

A spell, her spell, fell from Hermione’s lips and the blonde witch groaned at the swelling between her legs.

“I’ve been thinking about this all day,” Hermione moaned.

“Even earlier when we had that little disagreement?” Narcissa mumbled, her eyes falling shut when Hermione stroked her, trying to keep from hyperventilating at her lover’s touch.

“Especially then,” Hermione whispered before leaning closer to lick into Narcissa’s mouth.

The blonde witch greedily sucked at the hot muscle pushing into her mouth. The kiss escalated quickly and Narcissa’s hands clasped Hermione’s back, pulling her closer. Her hips pushed up and Hermione broke the kiss.

She leaned in and breathed into Narcissa’s ear, “Don’t move. I want to ride you.”

Narcissa trembled and her fingers clawed at Hermione’s back, but she stopped all movements of her hips. She moaned when Hermione rose and guided her inside. There was no resistance and the dark-haired witch’s wetness along with being slowly engulfed in liquid heat ripped a long, guttural moan from Narcissa’s lips. She struggled to remain still while everything within her shouted to rise, to grasp Hermione’s hips and thrust. She quivered and sweat pooled on her body from the strain of keeping still.

Narcissa’s hands on Hermione’s back slipped lower, and she wasn’t sure if this was caused by her sweat or her desire to hold on to Hermione’s hips and grind.

Hermione still didn’t move, she sat still and nuzzled Narcissa’s neck. When she squeezed and released her inner muscles, Narcissa, close to fainting, dropped her head back and opened her mouth, but no sound escaped.

Heavy breathing remained the only noise filling the room along with the sound of their bodies clinging to each other.

Hermione shifted and her hips rocked forward, slowly, and far from the speed and urgency that Narcissa needed.

“Please,” Narcissa begged, never relinquishing her vise grip on Hermione’s hips.

“Please what?” Hermione asked while continuing her languid movements.

“Let me move,” Narcissa pressed out.

“Not yet,” Hermione said and kissed Narcissa, hard.

The blonde witch returned the fevered kiss and moaned into Hermione mouth while tears leaked down her cheeks when the dark-haired witch increased her speed.

“Don’t move,” Hermione panted.

Narcissa’s body locked and she feared her back might snap from the strain of holding still. She opened her eyes and even through her blurred vision she realized her mistake.

Hermione’s eyes were screwed shut and her lips barely apart with wisps of hot air morphing into small pants. Her cheeks were flushed, the redness traveling down her neck and spreading across her chest.

Her earthy scent filled Narcissa’s nostrils, mixing with the heady aroma of their combined arousal and making her dizzy. Hermione’s breasts rose and fell with the rhythm set by her rocking hips. There was a look of pure concentration etched on Hermione’s face; she was chasing her pleasure and Narcissa had to restrain herself from climaxing from the vision in front of her.

Narcissa’s hands released Hermione’s hips and instead stroked her breasts, she pinched and rubbed her nipples.

Hermione moaned and Narcissa’s stomach clenched.

The blonde witch lifted one of Hermione’s breasts and sucked her rigid nipple into her mouth, twirling her tongue before scratching her teeth along the skin.

“Merlin,” Hermione groaned and sped up her hips, but the pace still fell short.

Then Hermione once more squeezed her inner muscles and Narcissa released Hermione’s nipple with a pop, shouting in near agony.

“You’re...killing me,” she groaned and shut her eyes.

Hermione chuckled and pulled her closer. “That would ruin my plans for later,” she mouthed and kissed Narcissa’s damp temple, pressing their chests together.

“What plans?” Narcissa asked, regretting the question the moment it left her lips. She feared she might not survive the answer.

“I will have you on this bed, with your spell again, until you are too hoarse to shout and too weak to move,” she whispered while placing kisses all over Narcissa’s face who scratched her nails down Hermione’s back and shuddered.

“Most of all, though, you’ll be sore. As sore as I’ll be when you’re done,” she said, sounding almost dreamily.

Narcissa doubted she’d make it through the night. Hermione’s words rang in her ears, so she almost missed what the dark-haired witch uttered before lowering her head and biting Narcissa’s shoulder.

 “Move. Now,” she’d demanded.

Narcissa didn’t react at first, her body too far lost in the sensation of Hermione’s teeth sinking into her skin, the hot, pulsating throb between her legs, and the anticipation of the pictures Hermione had just painted. After a few seconds ticked by where her heart lurched to a stop, much like the stillness that had overtaken Hermione’s body and the room, it clambered to a battering pace when Hermione’s words finally penetrated the haze in her mind and Narcissa croaked, “yes,” before pumping her hips.

She gripped Hermione’s hips and worried for a second about bruising her lover’s skin but then Hermione groaned and called out her approval, causing Narcissa’s mind to go blank while her hips thrust upward, undulating in a punishing pace that had both witches shout out their release in quick successions.

***

They apparated near the lake house and from the outskirts, Narcissa felt the wards that protected the property.

“These wards are strong,” she said and raised her hands to touch them. “They’ll let us through, well aside from Luna.”

“I can wait here. I think I saw some Heliopaths over there,” she said and wandered to the side, near the lake.

“Please don’t drown,” Narcissa muttered.

“She’s fine,” Andromeda said. “It shouldn’t take long, dear.”

“It’s all good,” Luna said with a smile and waved at them.

“Here we go,” Narcissa said and the three of the stepped through the wards.

The house appeared to be in better shape than expected. The garden was overgrown with weeds and shrubs that hadn’t been cut in ages. Ivy grew on the outside walls of the building and the pier leading to the lake didn’t fill Narcissa with confidence that it would carry their weight.

“You could renovate it and it could be a lovely place for summer vacations,” Andromeda said.

“You’re the oldest of us. It should be yours,” Narcissa said.

“I’ve also been disowned.”

“The wards still recognized you.”

“They go by blood,” Andromeda said. “I appreciate the gesture, though,” she said and reached out to squeeze Narcissa’s hand.

“You could share it,” Hermione said. “If it’s a summer home, you likely wouldn’t need it at the same time.”

“True,” Narcissa said.

They strode up the pathway and halted at the front door.

“Are you ready?” Narcissa asked and both women nodded. She touched the front door with her hand, and after a moment of silence, it sprang open with an elongated scrape.

 The inside of the house was dark and damp. Hardly any light entered the building and any illumination stemmed from thin streaks hitting the ground amidst shadows.

“Let’s get some light in here,” Andromeda said and marched to the closest windows, opening the shutters.  

The entrance way led to a sitting room and wooden stairs rose from the hallway, leading to the second story that was also shrouded in darkness.

All three startled when a bang echoed down from upstairs.

“Someone’s here,” Hermione whispered.

“Rats?” Andromeda asked.

“Those are some big rats,” Narcissa said, stepping in front of Hermione and Andromeda at the bottom of the steps.

A creak followed a shuffling noise and a shadow appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Who’s there?” Narcissa asked, drawing her wand. The other two witches followed suit.

“Mistresses Black. How lovely seeing you finally. You were wee ones last time we saw you,” a high pitched voice rang out before a wizened house elf came into view and toddled on short, stubby legs down the stairs.

“Who are you?” Narcissa asked.

“My Dolly still serves at the Black Manor? We has been forbidden from seeing or talking with her.”

“She does. Wait, are you Dodie?”

The house else nodded and a smile spread over seemingly paper-thin skin.

“But…what are you doing here?”

“Me and my other daughter, Dee, are taking care of the wee one.” She snapped her fingers and another house elf appeared next to them. This one looked younger and she held a child in her arms who dwarfed her in size. The little girl looked to be about three or four years old. Black curls hung loosely down her shoulder and her wide, dark eyes stared down at the three speechless women.

“Merlin help me,” Andromeda muttered. “She looks just like Bella.”

“This is Delphini. Mistress Bellatrix’s wee one. She handed us the babe after it was born. We raised her ever since.”

***

Two Weeks Later

Bright, chiming laughter filled the room, followed by a crash, and the shriek of a scandalized cat who had just been rudely woken up.

“No, Delphini. We don’t scare Crookshanks,” Hermione said, hurrying after the little girl who had thrown down her books from the side table, right next to the arm rest of the couch where her cat had been resting.

“Crooky!!” Delphini called, clapping her chubby hands in delight.

“He’s too old for that,” Hermione muttered and picked up a squealing Delphini.

“Too old,” she repeated before snuggling against Hermione.

“Where’s your aunty, hmm?” She rocked the child against her before dropping on the couch.

“Aunty bubbles!” Delphini shouted and raised her hands, her fingers outstretched and a wide smile on her face.

“Why did I ever mention that?” Hermione said with a smile. She had told Narcissa about her love for soap bubbles as a kid, the kind you blew through a plastic ring. Naturally, Narcissa came up with a magical version of that and had been enchanting Delphini ever since.

It had been a challenging two weeks. After finding Delphini, they had decided to take her in, along with the two house-elves who had a tearful reunion with Dolly and Eddie at the manor. While they would rely on Dodie and Dee to help with Delphini, or better, to remain a presence in her life, given that the two house-elves had been her sole caregiver since she was born, Hermione had suggested a new arrangement.

From now on, the house-elves of Black manor would own the lake house, and they’d get a monthly stipend. For that, they’d still restock the family pantry and kitchen with supplies, and twice a month they’d clean the manor, while Narcissa and Hermione would take care of anything else. The house-elves would always be welcome and were free to visit any time.

As for Delphini, they wanted to share custody, so to speak, with Andromeda. Both Narcissa and Andy had been enthralled by the little girl and neither wanted the other to miss out on raising their niece.

Hermione had worried about the lack of stability that came with such constant change, but Andy had argued that as long as they’d establish a routine, she’d be fine.

They created two identical bedrooms for Delphini at both their places and each of them would have the girl for two weeks.

“Hey,” Narcissa said after entering the room. She hurried to the couch and sat next to Hermione.

“Aunty bubbles!” Delphini cried and flung herself at Narcissa who caught her with a laugh.

“Hello sweetie,” she said and kissed the crown of Delphini’s head. She reached out and grasped Hermione’s hand. “How are you? Has she been good?”

“I’m fine,” Hermione said and squeezed Narcissa’s hand. “Define good for a three-year-old,” Hermione said.

“So she’s been a perfect little angel, haven’t you?” Narcissa said and kissed Delphini who giggled.

Hermione snorted. She could vividly picture Draco’s upbringing and it explained so much. Everything, really. “Did you find out? About...you know,” she said and nodded at the little girl. “Her other...maker?”

“It seems Bella had kept her pregnancy a secret. Rodolphus is still in Azkaban, but as far as my sources could tell me, he is unaware of her existence.”

“That’s good, right?”

“Yes. We’re in the process of registering her as a Black, but...” Narcissa’s gaze drifted to Hermione before returning to the little demon in her arms who had the audacity to fall asleep in Narcissa’s arms, after having thrown a tantrum earlier, refusing to lie down for a nap.

“Traitor,” Hermione muttered.

Narcissa’s eyes widened and her head snapped back. “Excuse me?”

“Her, not you,” Hermione said and pointed at the slumbering child. “She absolutely didn’t want to sleep earlier, no matter what I tried. And now look at her,” she grumbled.

Narcissa chuckled.

“You were going to say something that you worried would upset me?” Hermione said.

“Yes, well,” Narcissa started before clearing her throat. “It’s not apparent when or if Rodolphus will be released, but...neither Andy nor I cherish the possibility of him claiming Delphini when that happens so...would you mind it terribly if we register her as our child?”

“Ours as in yours and mine?”

“Yes. Who else?”

“What about Andy?”

“I am quite aware what they say about pureblood families and some might not be that far off, but I’m not registering a child with my sister!” Narcissa said, clearly affronted.

Hermione laughed. “Right. OK. Could we still share custody?”

“Of course. We wouldn’t call it that officially, but since Andromeda is family, she’d have guardianship over Delphini regardless, should something happen to us, and what we do in the meantime, well, that is up to us.”

“All right. I don’t mind.”

“You know what that means, correct?”

“Uh, we take care of Delphini? How is that different from what we’ve been doing or discussed before?”

Narcissa sighed. “If I register Delphini as our child and heir to the Black family, it binds you to me.”

“As opposed to the blood bond we share?”

“This is a legal bond, and usually involves marriage, though it doesn’t have to. Just both parents have to acknowledge the bond to their child.”

“That’s the second bond between us that traditionally involves marriage,” Hermione said. “You’re sure you’re not asking me to marry you in a kind of round-about way?” Hermione continued, struggling to hold back the grin that threatened to spill over her features.

Narcissa sat up straighter, jostling the little girl who grumbled before burying deeper into her. “What?”

“It’s fine. I’m messing with you,” Hermione said and leaned closer, pressing a soft kiss against Narcissa’s lips. “I’d say yes, though, in case you wondered,” she whispered before withdrawing and enjoying the blush that spread over Narcissa’s cheeks.

“That’s...good to know,” she said.

“When’s Andy coming to pick up the spawn of the devil?”

“Hermione!”

“Just kidding. She’s a handful, but so adorable. I didn’t...I never thought much about having kids, to be honest. I also didn’t think you wanted any more children, though it wasn’t on my mind a lot. With everything that has been going on and...I don’t know. But I’m glad she’s here.”

“Me, too,” Narcissa said with a smile. “This is really OK with you? If not, we can look into—”

“No, it’s perfectly fine. I’d never ask you to abandon your niece.”

“Not abandon! I’d never do that. I meant we could make Andy the legal parent or have her take care of Delphini more. I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t lose me. Just because I never had an urgent desire to be a parent, that doesn’t mean I’m not up for it or that I don’t want to do this with you. It’ll be...I’m happy that at least one Black child will be raised with love and support,” she said and squeezed Narcissa’s hand.

“Me, too,” Narcissa said in a hushed voice before turning shinning eyes at Hermione. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Hermione said.

Life may have turned out differently than she expected, but if she were honest, she’d never been able to dream up the joy and happiness that filled her being while gazing in wonder at her family.

 

The End