Disclaimer: I tinker only. If you want to give me money, that's fine, but not for this.
A/N: This was written for a femmeslash competition. It contains some adult themes, I guess, but nothing explicit.
The morning after the final battle, Hermione lay half-asleep in bed with her eyes tight shut. She had the covers pulled up to her shoulders and they caressed her bare skin. She could feel the blankets pulled this way and that with the shifting as Narcissa Malfoy, sitting on the edge of the bed, fiddled with something.
Feeling especially bold, Hermione opened one eye. The other woman, facing away, couldn't see her watching. Narcissa was still naked, and her blonde hair fell down halfway down her back as she brushed it. Below, Hermione could count the bumps of the older woman's spine, nubs she had felt the previous night. The war had not been kind to Narcissa Malfoy. She was too pale and too thin.
As the light filtered through purple curtains cast amethyst highlights onto the long, golden hair, Hermione's chest and throat grew tight. Worn though she was, the older witch was still beautiful. Not from Lucius alone had Draco inherited his striking good looks and colouring.
Hermione's thoughts turned sour at the recollection of the male Malfoys. "Won't your husband and son be looking for you?" she asked.
Narcissa didn't seem surprised to find Hermione awake. She ran the brush through her hair twice before replying. Then she said only, "Won't Messrs. Potter and Weasley be missing you?"
Hermione had no answer.
Narcissa put the brush down on the bed and picked up her wand. Hermione tensed at once, then caught herself. Slowly she relaxed, ashamed of her mistrust. The war was over and Narcissa's conduct in saving Harry had proven she could be trusted.
Waving her wand, Narcissa flicked her hair into a perfect bun.
At least, the woman could be trusted not to kill her, Hermione reflected. That didn't mean it hadn't been a mistake to fall into bed with her.
She had just been confused and lonely, wandering among the unburied dead and hearing the sobs of the living. She had tripped on something suspiciously like a severed limb and fallen straight against something thin and hard. Finding it was Narcissa, Hermione hadn't had the strength to stand on her own and she suspected Narcissa hadn't either. All they had strength to do was stumble to a forgotten corner of the castle and sit down against a wall.
At some point, they started leaning against each other and Hermione realised Narcissa was shaking. She put her arm round the other woman in an oddly intimate gesture of comfort. Narcissa put her head onto her shoulder and when they turned to look at each other uncomfortably, they had seen that their lips were centimeters apart.
It had all happened quite quickly after that. Apparation to a cottage, presumably one of the Malfoy's summer homes, and a vast bed. Hermione had just had time to be shocked that she was kissing Narcissa Malfoy before the kissing itself preoccupied her. It had felt so easy.
Now they were tense. Narcissa sat there with her hair done and her whole back exposed and Hermione wondered why she didn't get dressed. She looked frail and tired.
Then she thought about it and understood that she didn't want to get dressed, either. All she had were the clothes she had worn yesterday. They were dirty, but they could be cleaned. They were ripped, but a quick charm would fix that right up. What really bothered her was that they tied her to the real world, where Ron and Harry would be worried sick and people would have so many questions.
Hermione didn't want to think about the war and she knew as soon as she saw Ron's hair or Harry's scar she would have to consider it in all its horror. She wondered what Narcissa was avoiding.
Still, Hermione was nothing if not practical. She slid out of bed, cleaned her clothes, and put them on in the space of about thirty seconds. Narcissa never moved and Hermione wasn't sure what to do.
She settled for saying, "Can I count on you to keep this out of the papers?" As the words left her mouth, she knew they were absurd. The papers would have better things to write about and even within their private circles, Narcissa had more to lose from this than she did.
Narcissa said softly, "You can count on my discretion, Miss Granger. Now, please leave."
Four months later, Hermione stood in the doorway of Gringotts. She needed to go in. She had a task to perform, something about going back to school. It was terribly important, but she couldn't quite remember what it was. Ron had offered to come with her, but his soft brown eyes annoyed her more and more and she couldn't handle the claustrophobia of a day alone with him.
She was fully conscious of the odd looks she was getting from the customers and staff inside the bank. After half an hour, she decided her errand could wait a day and turned to go. As she turned, her shoulder knocked against the shoulder of someone a little taller than she was.
"Excuse me," Hermione said to a pair of blue eyes.
"Excuse me," a pair of pale lips replied. Then the disparate impressions resolved into Narcissa Black. She was standing there looking at Hermione with her pale hands folded in front of her. Hermione couldn't help staring.
Narcissa was clad in a pale pink sheath that shimmered in the autumn sun and her hair was in her usual bun. She wore no jewellery and no makeup. She looked young and serene.
"Am I in your way? Hermione asked, gesturing to the bank behind her. Narcissa shook her head, but Hermione moved to the side anyway. Narcissa went in.
There was no earthly reason for Hermione to stay around, but she didn't leave. Fifteen minutes passed and Narcissa exited the bank. Because Hermione was standing in the shadow of a pillar, the other woman passed without seeing her. Knowing it was selfish and self-destructive at once, Hermione cleared her throat and called out, "Ms. Black?"
They had lunch in a little cafe with a snotty maitre'd and a nosy waitstaff. Their waiter kept shooting disbelieving glances between the two of them. Hermione strove to ignore them but she knew that Narcissa noticed her discomfort. After the boy brought the soup and oiled away, Narcissa said coldly, "Afraid the staff will gossip?"
Hermione blushed at being so transparent and fiddled with her napkin. Her companion did not press the subject. They talked about the weather for a while and then lapsed into silence. Hermione had thought many times over the last few months how sick she was of silence. The quiet after all the questions had been answered was worse than the queries themselves, no matter how painful or impertinent they had been. She and Ron didn't seem to have anything to say to each other any more.
This silence had a different quality. It stretched between them like a living thing, quivering. They got up in unison and left their money on the table.
This time Hermione wasn't even surprised when Narcissa pushed her down onto the bed.
Afterwards, Hermione rolled into a sitting position and bent down to look for her shirt. Cool and serpentine, Narcissa's hand ran down her spine and coiled round her stomach, pulling her back down. Hermione turned over and buried her head in Narcissa's neck. At once her sight was limited to a sheet of golden and brown hair intermingling, illuminated by the afternoon sun shining through those purple curtains. Hermione could feel Narcissa's chest rising and falling in time with hers and the spicy smells of sweat and perfume curled up between them. The shadows moved over Hermione's vision as the sun went down. Hermione couldn't have said who fell asleep first, but her eyes felt heavy as she felt Narcissa's breathing slow.
The next morning, Hermione woke before Narcissa did. She slipped out of bed and padded downstairs in her shirt and crumpled skirt. The cottage had a very nice kitchen, immaculate and cozy at once. Not feeling bold enough to make breakfast, she settled for hunting around for a kettle. One quick charm later, the pot was bubbling merrily away on the little stove and Hermione was finding cups.
Narcissa walked in a few minutes later, wearing a fresh set of clothes, these a light blue that matched her eyes. Her bun, newly made up, was speared through with prismatic crystal chopsticks that reflected light on the walls. She didn't say anything as Hermione placed two willow-patterned teacups on the table. They drank their tea quietly and Hermione arose only with reluctance.
As she stood in the doorway of the cottage, preparing to leave, Hermione reddened under the cool stare she was receiving from the far end of the kitchen table. She smoothed her skirt self-consciously and tried to look confident. When she opened her mouth to ask again if Narcissa would keep this out of the Prophet, something in her companion's eyes stopped her. She turned and left.
May was unusually warm. Hermione sat on the stage with her legs sticking to her chair, looking over the sea of faces below. Her parents were there, as graduation was the only time Muggles were allowed on Howarts grounds. They had flown in from Australia especially for the occasion. Harry and Ron were there, as well, though neither of them was looking at her. Harry had his intense green eyes fixed exclusively on Ginny, who was smiling back. Ron was staring into space and Hermione suspected it was no accident she hadn't been able to catch his eye.
Ron's distance hurt but Hermione held on to the memory of the night in September when she had come to him at twilight and left by midnight with all her stuff in a battered trunk. He hadn't cried. He had just been pale with shock and, as she was about to Apparate away, he had touched her shoulder ever so gently with the hand that had borne her through so many dangers.
"Hermione," he'd said, "I need to be gone for a little while, but I will always be there for you. I will always love you."
"I know," she'd said, and vanished with a crack.
Small wonder he couldn't look her in the eye.
Hermione was too high up to hear the whispers that spread through the crowd like wildfire as she was musing on her troubled friendship with her ex-boyfriend, but she saw the heads turn. Following their motion, she saw Narcissa standing at the back, straight as an arrow. Her dress was spring green and she looked neither left nor right as she moved to a seat on the side.
Hermione couldn't stop staring. In her fresh colours, Narcissa looked delicate, but her movements were strong and decisive. Her hair was down.
Her logical side told Hermione she was overreacting. Her logical side was of the opinion that she was reading too much into the appearance of a minor celebrity at an event open to the public. Her logical side said Narcissa might just have decided to wear her hair down for once.
Hermione told her logical side where it could shove its advice.
Later Hermione would be unable to recall anything McGonagall said. She just stared at Narcissa's porcelain face framed in sweet golden curls and noticed nothing else until the thunderous applause told her it was over. Hermione rose in a fog and her vision exploded into a hundred white flashes as the photographers vied to get pictures of the Girl Hero getting Her Heroic Diploma. Gazing past them, Hermione saw Narcissa's limpid blue eyes and knew she hadn't misunderstood.
She tried to make her own eyes that communicative. Hoping Narcissa would get the message, she tried to communicate, Later.
The other woman's head jerked up slightly. No, that proud chin said. Now. Now or never after.
Harry and Ron were waiting. Her parents were waiting. The paparazzi were waiting with baited breath.
Taking each step at a time, Hermione inhaled, exhaled, and stood by Narcissa. Tentatively, she wrapped Narcissa's fingers in her own and pulled the other woman's hand to her mouth and kissed it lightly. A heartbeat passed and she released it.
The cameras went wild. Hermione knew she was in for hours of interviews with the press, grilling from her friends, and tactful circling from her parents, but she didn't care. She could already see the little cottage. Narcissa's scent had floated off her hand and onto Hermione and it hung like armour on her lips.
Many hours later, she knew what Narcissa would say before she said it.
"Stay with me," Narcissa said.
"Yes," Hermione said, and stayed.
A/N: Well, that's that. I hope it wasn't too out of character or drippy. Please review.