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Stay Forever

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Narcissa apparated behind a tree in Bushy Park and checked whether no muggle had seen her before emerging onto the pathway. She eyed the address scribbled on the piece of parchment in her hand and couldn’t resist a smile at the idea of the bushy-haired witch living alongside the lines of Bushy Park. Her amusement however was short-lived as nerves fluttered in her stomach once more. After all, she hadn’t seen Hermione Granger in so long.

They’d worked together very closely right after the war. After having bumped into each other in the Great Hall while tending to the wounded, their paths had crossed several times. It was during their voluntary aid to rebuild Hogwarts that they’d discussed what had transpired between them and decided to move on. When Hermione told Narcissa about her ideas to reform the justice-system, the blonde had willingly co-operated.

It had been in the news all over Great-Britain. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin. A pureblood and a muggleborn. Combining their assets to orchestrate the greatest reform the Wizarding community had ever seen. Azkaban closed and was demolished. Narcissa then sold Malfoy Manor to the Ministry seeing as Draco inherited it after his father’s death but didn’t want it anymore. It now operated as a rehabilitation center for criminals and the rate of actual imprisoned witches and wizards declined drastically. A few cells underneath the Ministry of Magic sufficed.

But it went further than that. Narcissa also sold Black Manor that had a direct connection to St. Mungo’s and served as the new Janus Thicky ward and a place where patients who needed long-term or permanent care resided. After some criticism that she did it for the money, Hermione and she revealed the price for which she’d sold the estates proving that she practically gave them away.

Black Castle became a hotel for international travelers. Black Cottage a popular holiday destination for witches and wizards who lived in the city. And Lestrange Manor turned into a school for toddlers and young children who attended it twice a week to learn some basic control over their powers. It went on and on until Narcissa had nothing left in her name, apart from Maison Black in France where Draco now lived, and could truly make the fresh start she so desired.

To the outside world, Hermione thrived, but behind closed doors it was a different story. Narcissa had helped her process her trauma. Had supported her when she said she wanted professional help. The Slytherin witch had assisted in the retrieval of her parent’s memories and comforted Hermione when said parents decided to stay in Australia despite remembering their previous lives once more. And in between those moments, Narcissa had fallen in love with Hermione.

For a time it looked like Hermione shared those sentiments. The blonde witch could still recall each lingering gaze, each soft caress, each intimate moment that could have become so much more. But when they kissed for the very first time, Hermione had broken. She’d admitted to being confused about her own feelings and scared to make the same mistakes as she had with Ronald Weasley. And while being in a better place mentally, Hermione also told Narcissa about the plans she still had. Their work had been a success after all. It was time to focus on the next adventure.

But Narcissa was content. Enjoying her freedom and desperate to finally start enjoying life. So while it pained her tremendously, she told Hermione to go on without her. They’d both realized the paths in front of them no longer pointed in the same direction. Where Narcissa’s was smooth and straight, Hermione’s future was uncertain, with obstacles and many turns. Promises to stay in touch were made, but soon both witches drifted apart. And Narcissa could only watch from a distance how Hermione achieved goal after goal, like she so desired.

But now she stood in front of the brunette’s door while her finger hovered over the doorbell, hesitant after all these years apart. She eventually pressed it and closed her eyes, trying to regain control over her emotions once more. She could hear someone stumbling around inside the house before the key was turned in the lock and the door creaked open. When amber eyes locked onto blue ones, Narcissa felt her love for Hermione wash over her like a tidal wave in summer.

“Cissa!” Hermione said, immediately using the shortened version of the blonde’s name, “this is a surprise.”

“Hello darling,” Narcissa smiled as the term of endearment slipped from her lips like it was yesterday.

“Come in, come in!”

Hermione stepped aside and opened the door further, but Narcissa hesitated a moment, “are you sure I’m not bothering you?”

“You could never bother me. What can I get you? Tea? Or a nice brandy?”

“A brandy sounds wonderful.”

Narcissa entered Hermione’s living room through the hallway and immediately felt at home. The place just was so like her. It almost resembled the Gryffindor common room apart from the fact that the main colors were a sort of autumn yellow and creamy brown instead of red. She’d used a lot of wood and combined leather surfaces with soft ones like the little poufs covered in fur. A giant fireplace was the eyecatcher of the entire room while the little bits and pieces of decoration made it so much more personal.

Narcissa looked around in confusion, “where’s Crooks?”

“Oh,” Hermione smiled a sad smile, “he passed away a few months ago. I found him on his favorite windowsill in the sunshine. He went peacefully in his sleep.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I was always rather fond of that rascal.”

Hermione nodded and pointed towards one of the leather armchairs while pouring a brandy for them both. Narcissa couldn’t help but marvel at the gorgeous woman she had become. Not that she’d changed drastically of course, the differences were subtle, but Narcissa saw them anyway. Hermione’s hair was longer and a bit more manageable than before and her freckles were harder to spot on her sunkissed skin. There were crow’s feet around her eyes when she laughed, together with the dimples her cheeks had always sported, and her body language was much more relaxed. No more nervous fidgeting, no more jerky motions. Hermione moved gracefully and at ease, but the biggest difference were her eyes.

Where there had been an insatiable hunger for knowledge, adventure, and new experiences, Narcissa now only saw common sense. Her enthusiasm had changed into a positivism she had been too young for to possess before. She was no longer looking into naïve and excited amber eyes, but into a golden gaze that had seen it all. Hermione had grown up.

“So, what brings you here?”

Hermione looked at Narcissa in such an intense way it was almost as if she was scared the woman would disappear again. She’d missed her and to be fair, she’d never expected to see the blonde again. Narcissa still looked stunning, albeit perhaps a smidge too thin. She wore her bicolored-hair in a braid and Hermione could spot some grey hairs woven in between the black ones, marking the years that had gone by since they separated. She was sporting slacks with a silk blouse and a matching blazer combined with those ridiculously high pumps she seemed to have no issue with to walk around in.

“I’ve come to ask for help. I don’t know if you’re aware, but I’ve pursued that career as an author like I always wanted.”

Hermione smiled broadly, “that’s wonderful news!”

“Thank you, darling. The thing is my publisher wants to try and sell in the muggle world too. My books are about growth, love, pain, adventure, and trust. All values muggles are equally familiar with. And the few bits of magic that might appear in them will just come off as fiction for the readers.”

“True,” Hermione nodded along, “I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a go.”

“My publisher told me I need a muggle picture of myself. You know, one that doesn’t move,” Narcissa laughed as she moved a stray hair from her face, “and I don’t have the guts to venture into a muggle shop and have one taken from me.”

The Gryffindor witch couldn’t resist a chuckle and nipped her brandy, “have you tried?”

“Yes, but I couldn’t even answer the first question they asked me, panicked and left.”

Narcissa glared when Hermione full on laughed, but it wasn’t very effective seeing as her own eyes shimmered with amusement. She’d forgotten how easily she could talk to Hermione, how normal it felt to entrust her with things. Narcissa didn’t have that with anyone apart from Draco and her own sister who she reconciled with after the war. She brought the brandy to her lips and hummed approvingly at the taste.

“I could go to a muggle photographer with you, but I’ve taken up photography myself and it’s become somewhat of a hobby,” Hermione said while biting her lower lip, “I could use the practice if you don’t mind?”

“You? A photographer?”

Hermione cleared her throat, “yes, after rushing through life like a maniac, ticking off everything I had on my bucketlist I got a burn-out.”

Narcissa frowned at the term, but Hermione quickly provided an answer, “it means that you’re so overworked, your body and mind simply can’t cope anymore. I had achieved everything I wanted to achieve in record time, but it was never enough,” Hermione gulped while pointing at her chest, “it felt like I was never enough.”

Narcissa leaned forward and squeezed Hermione’s knee in sympathy, “so all those things you did. Everything you accomplished. You were never proud of that?”

“I am now, but back then? No. Not really. So there I was, nearly thirty years of age and nothing could excite me anymore. I’d seen it all. Done it all.”

“That’s a shame, darling. All those wonderful memories you’ve made, and you can’t enjoy them.”

“Exactly,” Hermione slapped her thigh, “that’s what got me into photography. I had to relearn how to enjoy life. Take things slowly. My therapist told me I had to force myself to truly experience new things and suggested taking pictures of it. I have to look for the nicest angle, try out different settings, … and while I’m doing that, I’m paying attention to my surroundings.”

Narcissa smiled, “and the picture serves as a reminder of it.”

“Yes. It’s only a hobby though. I do still have a job, but I’ve lost my hunger for bigger and better. I’ve been offered a promotion but have declined it. I’m content with how things are right now.”

“And what is it you do?”

Hermione blushed, “I just work in a shop now. Nothing fancy.”

“No need to feel ashamed, darling. Tell me about it.”

“It’s a secondhand shop that deals in rare and ancient artifacts. We have contacts all over the world and each time a new object presents itself, one of us travels to retrieve it seeing as they’re too valuable to be transported by owl. It’s an opportunity for me to see the world a second time and to learn more about magic. Not everybody gets to see these special magical items.”

“Do you enjoy it?”

“I do. I really do. The magical objects we acquire are often a mystery to us, so we must find out what they are and what they do before we can sell them again. It’s really quite fascinating.”

“Then that’s all that matters,” Narcissa said pointedly, “I’m happy for you. No new partner I take it?” she eyed the house that seemed to breathe Hermione’s signature only.

The brunette laughed, “I didn’t have time for love when I was rushing through life like a maniac. And now that I’ve finally settled down and found myself again… It just hasn’t happened yet,” her amber eyes looked at Narcissa curiously, “you?”

Narcissa smirked, remembering all her dalliances. Every pretty witch that had ever found her way into her bed, her couch, or her bath but somehow never stayed for a second night. All the men who’d courted her but had been politely declined. All her futile attempts at love that could never compare to the love she’d felt for the woman in front of her. She shook her head.

“Just me, I’m afraid. But I’m being kept busy with my grandson and nephew visiting me regularly. They somehow always manage to time their sleepovers after I’ve just cleaned the house,” Narcissa laughed, and Hermione chuckled with her.

They finished their brandies in a comfortable silence when the clock on the mantelpiece chirped and startled them both. Narcissa had planned her visit after office hours and dinner to make sure she wouldn’t disturb Hermione, but that also meant it was getting late if they still wanted to take her picture. Hermione seemed to have read her mind for she pushed herself to her feet and gestured for Narcissa to follow her.

“My camera is in my study and I’ve a screen there we can use as background.”

Hermione’s study was much like Narcissa expected it to be, packed with books and manuscripts, with a healthy layer of dust. There was one big window from floor to ceiling and a separate corner that held her photography equipment. The Gryffindor witch scratched her head.

“I think my tripod is still on the attic from when I was photographing the stars. I’ll fetch it.”

She left Narcissa who’d started to peruse the bookshelves with the tip of her index finger. The blonde smiled as she recognized some of the titles before a stack of books drew her attention. They were piled onto Hermione’s desk in a wobbly tower but had no dust on them whatsoever unlike the other tomes in the room. When she picked up the first one, she recognized her own works. Narcissa gulped as she noticed how worn down the pages were, as if someone had been flicking through them every day for years.

“Cissy?”

Hermione stood in the doorway, holding her tripod and tilting her head in a silent question. It was only then Narcissa noticed how she was clutching the book against her chest. Flush with embarrassment she put it back on the pile and gestured at it.

“You have all my books. You knew I’m an author.”

“Of course, they’re my favorites. I think I know them by heart now.”

They looked at each other for a moment, both clearly feeling the tension that lingered between them. Narcissa so desperately wanted to reach out, her heartbreak over Hermione momentarily forgotten before the brunette broke the spell. She cleared her throat.

“Right, if you could sit over there? Then I’ll get the camera ready. I haven’t done a lot of portraits yet, so this may take some time.”

Narcissa shook the disappointment from her body and stepped out of her heels, immediately dropping a few inches in height, “take all the time you need. I’m already grateful you’re willing to help me.”

“Couldn’t you have asked Andie? I’m sure she knows her way around the muggle world.”

The youngest Black sister stammered, feeling called out at her choice to visit Hermione instead of her own sister but Hermione’s hand on her arm calmed her.

“Don’t worry, Cissa. I’m glad you’re here,” Hermione suddenly pursed her lips, “is it me of have you gotten smaller?”

Narcissa swatted the hand away in feigned offence before strutting towards the bucket seat in the corner and settling herself down upon it. She watched patiently as Hermione fidgeted with the settings of the camera and the stance of the tripod before turning her amber eyes towards her again.

“Let’s snap a few pics first to see if the lighting is alright. Then we can try a few different poses.”

The shutter clicked before Narcissa had time to blink and Hermione nodded approvingly, “that’s about right. You don’t look too pale against the background. Do you want to keep your hair in a braid or let it loose?”

“Whatever you think is best.”

Hermione stepped from behind her camera and stood close to Narcissa who felt her breath hitch in her throat. She stiffened in her seat the moment Hermione’s fingers dug into her hair and undid the intricate braid at the nape of her neck. Nails scraped over her skull when the brunette ruffled up her hair and combed through it with both her hands. When Hermione was done, her gaze dropped to Narcissa’s eyes and then flickered to her painted lips.

“There… all done.”

Narcissa felt tears well up, but furiously blinked them away refusing to acknowledge the effect Hermione had on her. The emotions coiled in her stomach, fighting to get out. She couldn’t withstand the look in the Gryffindor’s eyes. It was the same look that had won her heart all those years ago. That fondness mixed with respect. Something Narcissa had never had before and Hermione seemed to give her freely. She eventually choked on a sob.

“I’ve m-missed y-you.”

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment as if she remembered the day they parted ways before she walked to her camera again. She made a few more pictures, the sound of the shutter bouncing of the walls, but Narcissa was no longer smiling and Hermione’s own movements faltered. She looked at the blonde in front of her and hated the sadness she saw in her pale blue eyes. But most of all she hated that she was responsible for said sadness. She stood next to Narcissa again to wipe the tear that had escaped from her cheek using the pad of her thumb and sighed when the older witch leaned into the touch.

“I don’t deserve your kindness,” Hermione whispered.

“Why not?”

Hermione’s voice cracked as her own tears fell softly on the wooden floor beneath them, “because I broke your heart.”

“No darling, you did what you had to do. You would have regretted not chasing your dreams.”

“But I regretted leaving you the moment I closed the door behind me.”

The weight of Hermione’s words felt heavy on Narcissa’s chest and she struggled to breathe. She took the hand that still rested on her cheek into her own and cradled it in her lap, softly stroking its back with her thumb. Hermione was looking at her own feet while Narcissa looked up at her, already back in control of her own feelings like she’d been taught from the beginning.

“Darling, we made that decision together. You were so young still. You had your whole life ahead of you!”

“And I lived it,” Hermione suddenly cried out, “I lived it and it left me broken. No matter what I did, Cissa, I always felt like there was something missing.”

“Something… or someone?”

It was a daring question, but Narcissa had to ask it. Had to know whether Hermione’s feelings all those years ago had disappeared or instead had dug their claws into her heart like they had with her. Hermione was older now. Knew what she wanted and who she was. Perhaps this time, she wouldn’t be afraid anymore to accept her sexuality. Hermione hiccupped before straddling Narcissa’s lap.

“You, Cissa. It’s always been you.”

While Narcissa grabbed Hermione by the hips to support her, the Gryffindor witch entwined her fingers behind the blonde’s neck until their foreheads touched. They breathed in unison, drowning in each other’s presence after so many years apart. After a moment, Narcissa withdrew and softly caressed Hermione’s legs that were tucked besides her own in the leather chair.

“I know you feel like you made a mistake, but I think it was a necessary one. You needed to discover who you are. What you want in life. And my presence would have influenced that. And who knows… you might have resented me for it later.”

Hermione shook her head, “I could never resent you. I love you.”

Their lips clashed and this time Hermione didn’t change her mind. She savored the cherry taste that came from Narcissa’s lipstick and relished in the way the blonde softly moaned against her mouth. She pulled her even closer before partings her lips and allowing Narcissa’s tongue to collide with her own. When they eventually needed air, Narcissa wasted no time in exploring Hermione’s earlobes and neck causing the brunette to squirm in her lap.

“Are you sure about this?”

The Gryffindor witch huffed and laughed at the same time, “am I sure about this? Cissa if I hadn’t convinced myself that you wanted nothing to do with me anymore, I’d have reached out to you years ago!”

Narcissa pulled on Hermione’s shirt and nipped at the witch’s collarbone before mumbling against her tanned skin, “and if Andie hadn’t suggested to visit you, I might never have.”

“Andie?”

The blonde witch reluctantly interrupted her exploration of the woman on her lap, “I did reach out to her first for that muggle picture. But she told me you’d been doing better lately and hinted that it might be a good idea to ask you for help with the portrait.”

Hermione snorted, remembering her conversation with Andie not so long ago where she’d admitted to being ready for a relationship. How that witch always knew what Hermione needed best. She’d also been the one to support her during her burn-out. Hermione had neglected her friends so much, she was too ashamed to contact them again, but with Andie’s help, she had gotten her life back on the rails. She even was a proud aunt of two little wizards and one little witch now.

“Remind me to thank her later.”

They kissed again, more slowly this time but even more hungrily. Narcissa’s fingers trailed up Hermione’s legs and slipped underneath her shirt, making the brunette’s muscles flex when she caressed her stomach. When she palmed Hermione’s breasts through her bra, the younger witch whimpered and sucked Narcissa’s lowerlip between her teeth. They kissed countless times only stopping to hug or to simply stare and smile at each other. When Narcissa pulled Hermione’s shirt over her head, she paused and visibly swallowed.

“I can’t believe this is happening. I’d given up on us.”

“So did I,” Hermione admitted before standing and summoning her camera with a flick of her wrist, “may I?”

“I don’t think this is how I want to look on the back cover of my book, darling.”

“I’ve already got your portrait. These are for… personal use. Say cheese!”

Narcissa’s hair was muzzled, and her lipstick smeared, but her eyes shone with such happiness, Hermione just had to snap a picture of it. The shutter of the camera clicked and the blonde witch smirked into the lens causing Hermione to almost drop the thing onto the floor. Narcissa stood to take off her blazer, unbutton her blouse until it slid off her body a bit and turned her back towards Hermione to gaze over one shoulder. Hermione managed to take exactly one picture of the pose before tossing the camera aside and toppling both of them into the chair again.

They kissed and poured all their long-lasting desire for each other into it. It was passionate and sloppy at the same time. By the time they needed to breathe, Hermione had taken off Narcissa’s bra and focused her attention on her pale breasts with quickly stiffening rose buds. Carefully taking the first nipple in her mouth, Hermione felt Narcissa arch into the touch as she twirled her tongue around it. Not forgetting to give the other nipple some attention, Hermione let her fingers wander across Narcissa’s stomach, but the blonde flinched.

“I’m afraid I lost a bit of self-confidence over the years,” she whispered and when Hermione shook her head, she remained adamant, “my body’s not as firm as it used to be.”

“You’re not my trophy-wife,” Hermione said as she momentarily released the nipple from her lips, “you’re allowed to be human. You’re allowed to be perfectly imperfect.”

Hermione sealed her words with a searing kiss while kneading Narcissa’s breasts with both hands and being vaguely aware of Narcissa’s own fingers fumbling with the clasp of her bra. Both topless they pressed against each other, relishing the feeling of skin on skin and gazing into each other’s eyes as if they’d have to spend the next six years apart as well. Narcissa ran her nails across Hermione’s back, scratching it lightly while kissing the brunette’s breastbone teasingly.

She reached for the elastic band of Hermione’s pants, secretly relieved the young witch had already changed in evenings clothes and thus granting her easy access to her dampening knickers. Narcissa caressed her through the piece of fabric and smirked at the choked sounds that escaped Hermione’s throat as she bucked her hips. Just when she slipped underneath the brunette’s underwear and ran her fingers through her wetness, she felt Hermione’s thighs start to tremble underneath the strain of their position.

Narcissa withdrew, ignoring Hermione’s whine and kissed her lightly, “take me to your bedroom.”

°°°

It was almost midnight when both women lay panting into each other’s arms. The remainder of their clothes lay spread across the room, haphazardly tossed away when they’d undressed each other for the very first time. Narcissa was softly caressing Hermione’s naked body, going up from her shoulders all the way down to the curve of her ass making the brunette shiver each time she did it. The older witch squirmed, the aftermath of her last orgasm still jolting through her while Hermione was slowly drifting off to sleep.

Not sure what to do, Narcissa tried to untangle herself from the sheets. She’d only come here to ask for help with a muggle picture and didn’t want to presume she could just stay. But when she tried to escape Hermione’s embrace, the Gryffindor witch muttered a protest.

“Stay.”

Feeling relieved, Narcissa nodded and kissed the head of brown curls, “of course. I’ll stay the night.”

“No. Stay forever.”