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My Brightest Star

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Narcissa stared at her clean underwear for a very long time before hoisting herself from the toilet and pulling her knickers up again. She should have bled by now... She was never late. The blonde sighed as she gazed upon her tired complexion in the bathroom mirror. She hadn't slept much these past few days. While she and Lucius no longer loved each other by the day they parted ways, it had still broken her heart to read about his passing in Azkaban. A fate he didn't deserve according to her. A wave of nausea washed over her and Cissy steadied herself against the sinks, quickly splashing some cold water in her face. It was just exhaustion and stress. That's what she kept telling herself. 

After a few silent moments, she felt like she could move without throwing up and staggered out of the bathroom. The day had barely begun and she already wished for it to be over again. Even when she had a proper night’s sleep, she still woke up tired. A little voice told her she needed to get herself tested at St. Mungo’s, but the witch shook her head. Autumn was a season that always weighed her down a bit. That and the grief she felt for Lucius’ sudden death. She shuddered when she remembered the conversation with the Minister of Magic.

‘I’m very sorry for your loss, Madame Malfoy.’

‘Black.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I assume it’s Madame Black again. Now that Lucius is…’

Kingsley inclined his head and gave Narcissa a moment to collect herself. A handkerchief appeared out of nowhere and the blonde gratefully accepted it, dabbing at the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. When she finally looked up again, her expression was stoic. Her true emotions hidden behind a mask like she’d been taught to do all her life.

‘How?’

‘The details are rather gruesome, Madame Black. Are you sure you want to know?’

‘My husband was sent to Azkaban barely a month ago and now he’s dead? Yes, I want to know how that happened!’

The Minister shifted in his seat, ‘It looks like he went insane. The walls of his prison cells were covered in blood from him scratching his nails against them until there were no more fingernails left. According to other prisoners, he spent most of his days babbling to himself.’

‘The war already broke Lucius. He should never have been sent to that dreadful place to begin with!’

Shacklebolt winced a little bit but managed to stay calm under Narcissa’s anger. The woman wasn’t wrong after all but the war had made too much of an impact on those who survived. They wanted to see the Death Eaters being punished. And while the Ministry tried its best to have the majority of the witches and wizards who’d followed Voldemort re-instated, a handful of them had to pay the price. Lucius being one of them. 

‘Azkaban will be closed once the last prisoner breathes his final breath,’ he assured the woman in front of him, ‘Its only purpose now is to ease the victims of the war. They need to know their dead are avenged.’

Narcissa merely scoffed, for she already knew the reasons behind Lucius’s arrest while she and Draco had been allowed to remain free, ‘So, what happened?’

‘He threw himself off the cliffs.’

A silence hung between them, making the air impossibly thick and the Minister visibly swallowed. Narcissa was merely processing the information of course, but her cold gaze gave nothing away. It so didn’t fit Lucius, she thought. The first cracks in his sanity had already appeared long before the Final Battle so she was not surprised in the least to hear that he’d gone mad.

But ending his own life? That demanded a specific type of bravery she never expected him to have. A coward until the very end, she’d always screamed at him during their very heated fights. The blonde exhaled, all tension leaving her body, while she nodded her head at the wizard in front of her. She knew now and while it didn’t change the fact that she had just become a widow, she did feel pleased for Lucius. At least he found some pride in his final moments, however gruesome they might’ve been.

The memory had made Narcissa all emotional again and the witch cursed silently. Since when had she become such a dramatic cow? She didn’t even love him anymore! No, those feelings had long subsided ever since Lucius had betrayed her and Draco in exchange for status, wealth and power. He never seemed to be satisfied with what he had. And the moment their son paid the price, Narcissa had had enough. They had lived separate lives for the majority of their final year together. An easy thing to do in a Manor as big as this one. 

But that didn’t mean she didn’t care for him anymore; Narcissa truly felt like she’d lost her best friend. So she mourned. Wept even. For days straight before finding some semblance of herself and trying to live her life again. The witch snorted. Whatever life that may be. She was so extremely lonely in her golden palace of empty rooms and faded glamour. Lucius had left everything to her, and when she’d come to pass the inheritance would pass on to Draco. But their son had clearly stated that he wanted nothing to do with the name Malfoy before leaving for France to start a new life. 

It had taken Narcissa considerable effort to have him in her life again, and even then, their relationship felt forced and stilted. The witch felt new tears prickle behind her eyelids and forcefully wiped them away. She was not going to cry again! As usual she tried to ignore the hollow echoes her footsteps made in the empty Manor as she made her way to the kitchen for breakfast. There was only one House-Elf left, and he was so old Narcissa half expected him to drop dead in the next few weeks. 

But once she got to the kitchen, Beril had already cut fresh fruits into little pieces. Cissy’s standard breakfast together with some plain yoghurt and a cup of the blackest coffee. She gracefully perched herself atop of a chair and grabbed the newspaper that had been brought in by her owl earlier that morning. Whilst her eyes perused the headlines, she softly stirred some sugar through her coffee before sipping it, loving the way it burned on her tongue. But when she wanted to take the first bite of her yoghurt with fruit, the scent of oranges penetrated her nose and she nearly retched. 

With an even paler complexion than usual she pushed her plate further down the table, her appetite long gone. Beril was with her in the mere blink of an eye, his old and wrinkly ears drooping from the thought of having displeased his Mistress. 

‘Has Beril done something wrong?’

‘No,’ Narcissa said while trying to keep her coffee down, ‘but perhaps no more oranges in my future breakfasts?’

The Elf inclined his head and with a loud snap of his fingers, the offending bowl of breakfast disappeared from the table. Before he could follow suit however, a thought formed itself in Narcissa’s mind. No, not a thought. A craving! She wanted toast.

‘Beril, bring me some well-buttered toast instead. Two slices will suffice.’

If the Elf was surprised at his Mistress request, he didn’t show it as he vanished into thin air to fulfil his task. Narcissa always avoided eating anything too fat or too sugary, but the magical creature was long happy to see his Mistress eat at all. She’d been taking terrible care of herself lately. Suddenly a loud woosh announced the arrival of a guest and seeing as Narcissa only spoke to one person, there was no doubt as to whom it was.

‘Draco?’

The blonde wizard hesitantly appeared into the kitchen, his shoulders and back rigid as he was obviously not comfortable. He had grown so tall during the last years of adolescence, easily surpassing Cissy who really needed her stiletto’s in order to have some noticeable height. He wore a black, tailored suit with an elegant grey shirt and Narcissa couldn’t help but feel pleased that her son hadn’t lost his sense of style now that she no longer dressed him. 

‘Mother,’ he drawled while rubbing at the patch of hairs on his cheek. 

‘Are you growing a beard?’

Draco’s eyes widened at the realization that he was scratching his still non-existent beard and dropped his hand to his side annoyedly. He once admitted to Narcissa that he always dreaded visiting her because she insisted on living at Malfoy Manor, his childhood home he came to despise so much. That’s why Narcissa didn’t take his coldness personally. Time would heal all wounds after all. 

‘I came to invite you to the garden party Astoria and I will be hosting next month.’

‘That sounds delightful.’

‘She insisted I ask you to come. We’re family after all.’

That did hurt, Narcissa thought as she winced a little bit. But Draco seemed to realize his mistake at the change in his mother’s behaviour and he quickly backtracked.

‘That came out wrong. I wasn’t sure if I should invite you because you haven’t gone out in a long time. Astoria claimed it would do you good.’

Narcissa cocked her head to one side. Had she really not gone outside in such a long time? The silence seemed to arouse some suspicion in her son who’d squinted his eyes looking at her. 

‘Speaking of good. You don’t look well, mother.’

‘I’ve been feeling a bit tired lately, that is all.’

She didn’t need to tell him why she felt tired. Draco may have moved far away, but he still knew his mother. He knew the loss of his father struck her harder than expected. He knew that despite her claims of hatred, she’d cared for him until the very last moment. Even he wasn’t totally unaffected by his father’s passing but he had enough distractions. Astoria, work, life. His mother had nothing at all. And for the first time, he looked at her. Really looked. And what he saw didn’t please him one bit.

‘I’d like you to see a Healer.’

‘Draco there’s no need...’

‘Please. Mother.’

The insistence in his voice was unmistakable. That was the Black blood that ran through his veins and Narcissa couldn’t help but feel a pang of pride. Not one to disappoint, she softly smiled at her son and nodded her head.

‘Very well, I’ll go as soon as you leave.’

‘Then don’t let me keep you,’ Draco said rather briskly, obviously feeling uncomfortable again, ‘I’ll send you an official invitation as well. Goodbye mother.’

And before Narcissa had a chance to reply, the blonde Disapparated to the nearest fireplace and Floo’d himself back to France. It took his mother a solid few minutes to realize she still had her hand raised in order to stop him from leaving before she came to herself again. A strangled sob resonated through the kitchen and bounced off the walls of the enormous estate that served as nothing more than Narcissa’s very own prison. 

***

Narcissa nearly tripped as the loud noises of the city startled her several times. She clearly wasn’t used to being outside anymore. Draco was right. She hadn’t risked the Floo-network to travel to St. Mungo’s as every spinning notion made her extremely sick. So she had just Apparated behind a phone booth close to the hospital, intending to walk the final distance. But she already felt so exhausted and her feet hurt from walking in those ridiculous high heels because her shoes didn’t seem to fit her feet that well anymore? How was that possible?

She scrunched up her nose several times at muggles who came too close to her liking before finally seeing the entrance to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The department store Purges and Dowse with its typical red-bricks was a welcome sight for the tired witch. Narcissa quickly slipped between the doors and turned towards one of the dummies in order to gain entrance to the hospital. Finally the wand crossed with a human bone emerged in front of Narcissa and the witch breathed a sigh of relief. If she would collapse now, at least she’d be in good hands. 

‘What can I help you with?’ the witch at the reception said with a rather nasal voice.

‘I’ve not been feeling well for days. I thought I’d better have myself checked.’

‘Do you have an appointment?’

Narcissa almost rolled her eyes. She was a Black. She didn’t need an appointment. Her family owned half the hospital after all. 

‘I don’t think that will be necessary. Please refer me to the best Healer you have. Tell them it’s for Madame Black.’

At the mention of her name, the witch’s eyes flew open and she hastily stuttered an apology claiming that she hadn’t recognized Narcissa. The blonde smirked. The name Malfoy might have been tarnished beyond repair, but the name Black still held some importance it would seem. And therefore, mere minutes later, Narcissa found herself in the office of the Head Healer of St. Mungo’s. 

‘Good day, Madame Black. What seems to be amiss?’

Narcissa had to refrain from shuffling in her seat. A proper girl does not show her nerves the voice of her mother sounded tauntingly in her head. So she did what she did best and hid behind her stone cold façade while politely explaining how she’d felt for the last few days. The Healer who was an older wizard, nodded and took notes before asking Narcissa to sit down on the table. 

He ran some basic tests first. Her knee reflexes, her pupil dilation. The Healer listened to her breathing and her heartbeat and checked her throat for any redness. In the meantime he asked questions. Lots of questions and Narcissa felt she had a hard time answering them. Usually it was she who did the asking! If she had difficulties relieving herself? Salazar’s Snake no! And even if she had, a proper lady would never convey such information to a man! 

The Healer finally stopped his inquiry and asked Narcissa to lie down, something she did begrudgingly. After asking for her consent, he performed a series of diagnostic spells muttering under his breath. When he was finished, he gestured to his patient that she could sit down on the chair again before he pointed his wand to a stack of empty papers and the diagnostics began to write themselves. 

Narcissa’s eyes widened a bit at the sight of the graphs and statistics that appeared on two, three, no, four pages of paper. He then took the results and left the room without a word leaving a rather perplexed Narcissa behind. Surely her ailment would be something minor? Something a good night’s rest and lots of water could fix. When the Healer returned, he smiled sympathetically at Narcissa who didn’t like it one bit. 

‘I think I know what’s bothering you, Madame Black.’

‘Ah?’

The Healer sat himself down again and pressed the tips of his fingers together, searching for the right words to convey the news. The entire Wizarding Community of Great-Britain knew about the death of Lucius Malfoy so that made the topic even more precarious. 

‘It would seem, Madame Black, that you are with child.’

Narcissa’s stoic expression nearly slipped then and there. She was WHAT? The nausea immediately returned full force and before she could slip off her chair, the Healer was with her in an instant supporting her gently. With a flick of his wand, a glass of water emerged in front of them.

‘Drink this. It’s well sugared,’ he offered but Narcissa didn’t pay him attention as she could only hear the loud thumping of her heart and the rushing of her blood through her veins. 

‘Are you sure?’

The question came out a lot less firm than she’d intended it to be but Narcissa was reaching the point where she couldn’t care anymore and she was reaching it fast. 

‘Positive,’ the Healer confirmed. ‘We think you’re somewhere around six weeks pregnant now.’

And suddenly it clicked as the memory of Narcissa and Lucius having one last quick fumble on the dining table resurfaced in her mind. The Aurors would come and collect him later that day to transfer him to his cell in Azkaban, and before they both knew what was happening they were fucking each other fiercely. Every suppressed emotion, every last shred of affection they still had for each other was released during that final shag. 

Narcissa swallowed. A shag that got her pregnant.

Chapter Text

Narcissa barely made it in time to the toilet before crashing down onto her knees and throwing up her stomach’s contents. She cursed herself again and again and again. She should have recognized the signs sooner! Salazar’s Snake, she had recognized them. But she was too stubborn to admit they were true and instead kept telling herself that her grief for Lucius was the cause. Damn Lucius! Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she dragged herself to the sink to rinse her mouth. 

Anger flared through her body when she remembered the Healer asking her if she hadn’t used protective spells or potions. How dare he! Of course he couldn’t have known that Narcissa had tried for many years after Draco to conceive again without success. Of course he couldn’t have known that she had craved for more children until it almost drove her insane. And of course he couldn’t have known that those were the reasons she and Lucius never used protections. Just in case. Just like as some sort of miracle, they would be blessed with another life. 

Bile rose in Narcissa’s throat and before she knew it, she was once more clawing at the edge of the toilet, throwing up until it hurt. Stress always had a terrible effect on her body and, combined with hormones raging through her like a bonfire, she felt sicker than she ever had before. It would seem her wish for another life had finally been granted, but it had cost her Lucius’s life and the irony of that just made her want to do an impression of Bella’s insane cackle. When she finally managed to calm her stomach down a bit, Narcissa craved a bath. 

‘Beril!’

Nothing happened much to Narcissa’s dismay who tried to summon the House-Elf again. Her voice echoed through the Manor but the familiar banging sound of Elf-apparition never came. Exasperated Cissy marched downstairs to demand an explanation for his tardiness when she almost tripped over a body. A pang of guilt shot through her heart when she recognized the ancient creature at her feet. Dropped dead from old age, just like she feared. Poor Beril. 

The blonde rubbed her eyes. Her bath would have to wait. She marched to the fireplace and tossed a bit of Floo powder in it. If only her head travelled through the Floo, her stomach wouldn’t get sick, right? She squeezed her eyes shut before kneeling and putting her head in the flames, feeling relieved that her theory proved somewhat correct. She managed to arrive at her destination without feeling sick after all. The wizard whose office she had entered was already waiting for her.

‘Your arrival has been announced, Madame Black. How may the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures help you?’

‘My House-Elf died today.’

‘I see. Do you wish for us to collect the body?’

‘I do. See to it that it gets done as soon as possible.’

The wizard inclined his head while taking notes and tapping the paper in order for it to fold itself into a memo and fly off. 

‘Do you require a new Elf?’

Narcissa raised an eyebrow, ‘I thought those practices were frowned upon these days?’

‘There’s a lot of new rules in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the Elves. You’ll need to fill in paperwork and there will be random check-ups to see if your House-Elf is being treated properly.’

‘Never mind,’ Narcissa answered, already feeling a headache unfold from thinking about all the new requirements she’d have to follow. 

‘Very well. You can expect our team tomorrow first thing.’

‘Tomorrow?’ Narcissa almost shouted.

‘I’m sorry Madame Black. Your call was the last one we accepted for today. I’m afraid the office is closed now.’

And with a very polite smile, the wizard waved his hand at the fireplace before Narcissa could demand a special treatment and she was flung back to Malfoy Manor. The blonde scoffed the moment her head landed on her shoulders again. Customer service was not what it used to be, she thought. A quick glance at the silver watch tucked into her dress showed her that she still had time for her second call. Another flick of Floo powder activated the hearth again and off she was.

‘Madame Black! I didn’t expect to hear from you again so soon,’ the Healer she had seen earlier that day said with a surprised voice.

‘Trust me, I didn’t intend to call on you again,’ Narcissa said bitingly, ‘but it appears my House-Elf has passed.’

‘I’m sorry for your loss.’

Narcissa almost hissed at such a ridiculous answer but managed to compose herself, ‘That means I’m on my own and regarding my current… predicament, that doesn’t seem wise.’

‘I couldn’t agree more,’ the Healer answered ever so polite, ‘I already informed you that pregnancies at your age have far greater risks.’

‘Yes, thank you,’ Narcissa sighed not wanting to be reminded of her old age yet again, ‘so I want to hire a Mediwitch.’

The Healer’s expression fell, ‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible. We’re severely understaffed and there’s a waiting list as long as Merlin’s beard of people needing assistance at home.’

‘Must I remind you that my family owns half the hospital, sir?’

The Healer winced but, much to his credit, didn’t give in, ‘Even if your name could get you higher on the list, there are patients in much more dire situations who require help. Lots of victims from the war…’

Narcissa didn’t like his inclinations one bit, but was smart enough to realize that he had a point. It would not help her already seriously damaged popularity if she would use her power to acquire home-assistance from a Mediwitch. And while that wouldn’t have mattered to her before, now she had a child to think of. And she didn’t want him or her to suffer from her actions the way Draco had. So she swallowed her insults and forced a smile upon her face.

‘Very well then.’

‘I apologize again, Madame Black. But I do suggest you put out an advert? There’s lots of Mediwitches on the private market right now.’

‘I’ll take that into consideration. Good evening.’

Once back at Malfoy Manor, Narcissa started pacing. Putting out an advert would mean that everybody knew of her situation. And she hadn’t demanded full discretion of the Healer only to have the Daily Prophet write about her secret the very next day. She needed this to remain behind closed doors for as long as she was capable. Suddenly, an idea formed inside her head and the witch nodded. She didn’t need an actual Mediwitch. No, she just needed help in the house and that more than doubled her options.

***

Hermione yawned and decided that she would call it a day. She never minded working long hours as there was nobody waiting for her back at her apartment. Nobody except Crookshanks that is but he more than managed to keep himself occupied. The candle on her desk was almost completely burnt and started to sputter, but the witch didn’t pay it any attention. Hermione had been working as a Curse Breaker for St. Mungo’s for more than a year now after having spent a few years at the Ministry’s Department of Magical Law Enforcement. 

But the bureaucracy and incompetence of her colleagues had made her choose a different career path. Here at St. Mungo’s she had been given her own office, a better wage, and more flexible hours. Of course she occasionally got called to work for an emergency, but she could still count those cases on one hand. Her work itself remained much the same though. Where she used to break curses such as biting doors, she now cured curses who had medical effects like memory loss or painful scars.

And the latter was the project she was currently working on when she didn’t have any Healers who required her assistance for a patient. They always allowed her to focus on a big project as long as it would benefit the hospital. Her first success was the painless and quick removal of all warts, cysts and lumps and it had earned St. Mungo’s international praise. But as she was still being plagued by nightmares from time to time and still suffered from the curse absorbed by her own skin, she had opted to look into that for her next project.

She had always been hesitant to do so as she feared what could happen if she started tampering with Bellatrix’s curse. Especially at the Ministry where they showed little sympathy for failure and magical projects. Everything had to be done by the book. But at St. Mungo’s, Hermione did have support. From no less than Andromeda Black, the President of the Board of Directors after having worked as a Mediwitch herself for many years. She and a few of Hermione’s colleagues understood what it meant for her to have that scar removed. 

So with the promise of being treated if things went wrong, Hermione had settled on this very ambitious project. But it soon became clear that it might have been a tad too ambitious, as nothing she had tried so far seemed to work. She just didn’t have access to the right information! Even a trip to Hogwarts hadn’t delivered any results and Hermione knew St. Mungo’s was hoping for yet another breakthrough even if they didn’t say so in actual words. 

Suddenly the flame died with a poof of smoke, shrouding Hermione in the growing darkness from outside. It really was late, she noticed. Luckily this time she didn’t have any forced blind dates set up by Ginny that she would be late for because she lost track of time. No, just a hot bath and a quick bite to eat before she would crawl between the sheets of her bed with a good book. Hermione smiled when she walked to her fireplace and activated the Floo so she could travel home.

Her apartment was rather spacious and very cosily decorated with lots of warm colours like hazel brown, deep red, and vintage pink. The entire sitting area was focused around her fireplace that was decorated with pictures all with different frames. There was a large couch for three and two luxury armchairs of which one was usually taken by Crookshanks. A variety of pillows that somehow all matched together was splayed on top of them. 

The dining table could host eight people without problem but was rarely used as Hermione always ate at her kitchen aisle that had three barstools in front of it. Her kitchen itself was large enough for the amount of time she used it. Right behind it was a laundry room and storage closet for all her cleaning equipment. The apartment itself had two bedrooms. One master bedroom, which led to the bathroom that had a bath and shower combined, a toilet, and one large sink with an even larger mirror. The other room was currently being used as a home office and a library. 

Hermione sighed contentedly the moment she stepped into her home and scratched the Kneazle cat that came running behind his ears. She took one of her five-minute meals and heated it in the microwave while going through her mail for that day. There was another invitation from Molly Weasley to attend Percy’s wedding later this year as she hadn’t answered the first one yet. She still felt a bit awkward after her rather messy break-up with Ron. And while they were on speaking terms again now, they hadn’t been when the first invitation arrived. Hence her lack of an answer.

With the tip of her tongue between her teeth, Hermione quickly scribbled down her acceptance and ticked the box that said she wouldn’t bring a plus one. No matter how hard Ginny pushed Hermione to let her fix a date for her, she was going alone. The moment she had emptied her plate with ravioli in tomato sauce, Hermione sauntered to the bathroom and filled her tub. It was still her best decision ever when the contractor who renovated this place asked her if she didn’t just want a big walk-in shower. 

More than an hour later, the brunette nestled herself in her mountain of pillows and picked up the book she’d started reading yesterday. It was a novel called Gentleman Jack, and for some reason she hadn’t managed to put it down despite it being about two lesbians and her being straight. Yes. It didn’t take her long, however, to start yawning and with a pained expression on her face she closed the book and dimmed her lights. She obviously needed the rest. 

A decision she was grateful for as Hermione rose well-rested the very next day. Crookshanks was already sitting next to his bowl, obviously displeased that it hadn’t been filled yet when Hermione entered the kitchen and put on some coffee. She was just about to sink her teeth in some toast when an owl tapped her window. A little snack was exchanged for the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler before Hermione could start her morning routine perusing the latest news. Suddenly an advert drew her attention.

Wanted!

Assistance in the household and with personal affairs. Discretion and common sense are required. In return you are paid well and are allowed to use all the facilities of Malfoy Manor as you see fit. The hours may vary depending on needs. Applications via Owl before this week’s end.

Narcissa Black.

Hermione stared at the paper for so long her coffee had gone cold by the time she sipped it again. Something she quickly fixed with a simple gesture of her fingers. What in Merlin’s beard could have possessed Narcissa to be looking for help? Didn’t she have an army of House-Elves at her disposal? Hermione simply shook her head and started to prepare to travel to work. She had a meeting with Andromeda before her workday started and didn’t want to be late. 

‘Ah, Hermione! Come in!’

‘Hello Andy,’ Hermione grinned at the woman who’d become one of her closest friends. 

After exchanging a few pleasantries Andy came to business, seeing as they were both very busy women. Hermione could already tell by the sincerity of Andy’s expression that the Board of Directors had been bugging her about Hermione’s next project. She knew the dark-haired witch was on her side, but even Andy had to keep her investors happy.

‘Any progress?’

‘I can give you a very extensive list of stuff that doesn’t work,’ Hermione sighed. 

‘Well, if you can’t come up with anything else, I’ll try to work with that.’

‘Honestly Andy! What kind of magic did your sister use on me? It’s ancient, dark, and cruel and I can’t find any written information about this. And it’s not like we can ask her!’

Andy smiled a sad smile, ‘I know sweetheart. I’m afraid that type of magic was often used by the Sacred Twenty-Eight. And those families are very private about their heritage. It won’t be easy to find any books or scrolls about it.’

‘Unless,’ Hermione suddenly shrieked causing Andy to jump in her seat, ‘a member of not one but two families of the Sacred Twenty-Eight is currently looking for help and offering her library in return.’

‘What? They use books as payment?’

‘Your sister posted an advert in the Daily Prophet,’ the brunette said while flicking through the newspaper on Andy’s desk and showing her the page it was on, ‘and the person helping her is allowed to use any facilities Malfoy Manor has to offer.’ I might even persuade her to let me visit the library at Black Manor too. She’s the only one that can enter, right?’

Andy was silent for a few moments as she processed the information while frowning at the advert, ‘This is very unusual behaviour for Cissy. She must be quite desperate.’

‘This is exactly what we need! Imagine the information I could find in those libraries?’

‘Hang on,’ Andy interjected, finally picking up on what Hermione was implying, ‘you’re telling me you’d apply for that job? There’s no way Cissy will hire you! And even if she did, who’s to say she’ll take you to Black Manor? It’s been empty for years.’

Hermione waved dismissively with her hand, already lost in her own excitement, ‘It’s definitely worth a try!’

‘Hermione…’

‘Andy, do you have a better idea? Are you really going to be able to please the Board of Directors with a list of stuff that doesn’t work on cursed scars?’

Andy bit her lip but relented eventually, ‘fine. I guess there really is no harm in trying. It’s not like I can ask her. We’re still not on speaking terms.’

With an enormous grin, Hermione took a piece of parchment and started writing her application letter.

Chapter Text

Narcissa’s morning started way too early and way too hectic for her liking. For starters, the team from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures arrived to collect Beril’s body. They even charged her for it! The audacity! But before Narcissa had managed to calm herself down, an entire parliament of owls came flying through her front door, all carrying application letters as a response to her advert. 

After she had managed to perfectly ruin her own breakfast Narcissa decided to get right at it, not feeling in the mood to eat burnt toast ever again. She tossed the first application letter in the bin because the handwriting was far too sloppy for her liking. The second letter followed suit as it was written on the cheapest parchment one could find in the Wizarding world. The third letter got opened, but that’s as far as it got because the person addressed her with her first name and she wouldn’t tolerate such familiarity. 

The fourth letter she actually started reading, and after half an hour or so she had selected a few possible candidates. Narcissa wrote one polite invitation and copied it six times before manually adding a different time on each and every one of them. She’d be talking to them personally this Friday. She wanted this all to be over as quickly as possible. 

The blonde dispatched her owls and rubbed her temples. If this plan didn’t work out she’d have to write Andromeda and ask her for help, and that was something her ego wasn’t ready for yet. Narcissa frowned when she saw the state the Manor was in. Beril was gone for one day and she already noticed his absence. Of course he had been too old to properly tend to his duties, but Narcissa had always ignored that out of guilt for Dobby’s passing. She really did need to treat her servants better. 

She sauntered over to the library and summoned a few books regarding household spells. She couldn’t have the applicants thinking she was unhygienic or lazy. The Manor had to be spotless when they arrived. Narcissa flicked through the pages until she found a list of basic cleaning spells. Honestly, how hard could it be? She looked at the wand movements and mimicked them, not encountering any difficulties. But just as she was about to start, something dawned on her. She hadn’t the faintest idea where the cleaning equipment was kept…

She raised her wand to summon it from its storage but suddenly realized she also hadn’t a clue what she was supposed to summon. What does one need? A mop and a bucket? And… a duster? Narcissa rolled her eyes and simply summoned all the cleaning stuff that came flying towards her in the blink of an eye, nearly smashing into her. A quick aguamenti filled the bucket with water and Narcissa easily managed the spell to add soap. She couldn’t help but smirk. She had everything under control, as usual.

***

Hermione was just having lunch with Ginny when the owl tapped on the window of her office. It was a pretty creature with a haughty expression and Hermione couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of it. The owl hopped inside and stuck out its leg to deliver the letter attached to it. Hermione gave him a treat but he merely blinked at it before flying out of the window again.

‘Whoa, that’s a picky one,’ Ginny laughed.

‘I can only imagine whose owl it is,’ Hermione muttered while eyeing the elegant and flawless handwriting on the envelope. 

She hadn’t told Ginny about her latest impulsive decision yet because she didn’t really think Narcissa would invite her for the interview. But apparently she had been mistaken, Hermione mused as she opened the envelope and tried to ignore the faint smell of perfume that came with it. The witch invited her for a first interview this Friday at 11am together with a few other possible candidates. Hermione gulped before Ginny managed to snatch the letter from her hands.

‘Hermione?’

‘Yes…’

‘Why in the Holy Harpies is Narcissa Black inviting you for an interview?’

The brunette sighed and started to explain how her need for information led her to apply for a job at Malfoy Manor with Andy’s approval. The more she explained, the wider Ginny’s eyes grew, and by the time Hermione had finished the redhead was practically shaking with disbelief. It took Hermione a lot of promises that she’d be careful before Ginny finally agreed to shut up about it. By the time they had made amends lunch time was over and Hermione pointedly looked at her wristwatch. 

‘Sorry Gins, I really have to go. I promised Healer Abbott I’d pop by her patient later as he’s still suffering from the flesh-eating curse he’s been struck with a week ago.’

‘Fine, but don’t think we won’t discuss this further! And I want a daily update.’

Hermione scoffed, ‘I don’t even have the job yet. And when I do get the job, you can have a weekly update.’

She tried pushing the youngest Weasley out of her office, but Ginny was relentless. And strong since she worked out every day as part of her full time job with the Holyhead Harpies. When it became clear that Ginny wasn’t going to budge an inch, Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose, exasperated. 

‘What now, Ginny?’

‘Are you sure you’re only doing this because of the books?’

Hermione started to frown, ‘Why else? It’s not like I’m excited to go back to that place.’

Ginny blanched a bit at that and immediately backtracked, ‘Yes, of course! You’re right, Hermione. How inconsiderate of me. I’m sorry.’

‘What did you want to say?’ the brunette replied, once more not capable of ignoring her curiosity.

A shit-eating smirk appeared on Ginny’s face, ‘Well, not that it’s any of my business but since you discovered your… appreciation of witches… I couldn’t help but notice that Madame Black is exactly your type.’

‘W-what do you m-mean?’ Hermione spluttered indignantly, ‘I do n-not have a t-type.’

‘Blonde, smart, and way out of your reach?’

‘You just always fail to set me up with interesting witches,’ came the snarky reply.

Ginny feigned shock before blowing Hermione a kiss and finally leaving the office. She left a deafening silence in her wake as Hermione could do nothing but stare at the letter she had received from the former Malfoy matriarch. It takes her a few minutes before she snorts and goes back to work. What a ludicrous idea after all! Like she could fancy the woman who stood by when she was tortured by her deranged sister. Completely ridikulus indeed.

***

But despite Hermione spending the last four days convincing herself that she wasn’t nervous about the upcoming interview, she was still pacing about her apartment trying to calm herself down. The only reason she felt a bit anxious was the fact that her whole project depended on her having access to those libraries. Yes. It had nothing to do with the fact that Narcissa was blonde, smart, and way out of her reach. Damnit, Ginny!

Finally her phone rang and Hermione practically dove towards it, ‘Andy! At last!’

‘Sorry love, Teddy was making a fuss because he couldn’t get his hair to turn the right shade of blue.’

‘I really need your help picking an outfit,’ Hermione almost shouted, not even registering how adorable Teddy would look with his new hair colour. 

‘Hermione, you need to calm down! Your nerves are causing your magic to spark and it interferes with the connection’, Andromeda sounded rather static. 

A few breathing exercises later Hermione finally managed to explain which outfit options she had in front of her, desperate to make a good impression on the youngest Black sister who was known for her impeccable style. Luckily for her, she was friends with the best person imaginable to do that because, even after years of not talking, Andy still knew her sister through and through.

‘I’d go for the black jumpsuit and the blazer. It’s fancy but not too much and you’ll still look professional.’

Hermione sighed, ‘I feel like she will judge me anyway.’

‘Oh yes! You could arrive wearing the most expensive designer clothes and she would still judge you. It’s Narcissa we’re talking about here. You’ll just have to make sure you impress her with your wits.’

‘No pressure then.’

‘You can still back out. Nobody expects you to do this,’ Andromeda clarified when she heard the tension in Hermione’s voice.

‘I know, I know. But I need to do this. My project is doomed to fail if I don’t get my hands on those books.’

‘Very well. Good luck love.’

‘Thanks Andy.’

Hermione tossed the phone aside, grateful that Andromeda also owned one because she was certain that travelling by Floo would have had her on her knees and vomiting in no time. She just was that nervous. With shaking hands she started to get dressed, dabbed some perfume on her wrists, and searched for matching shoes and a handbag to go with her outfit. At precisely 10.50 am, Hermione apparated from her apartment, only to appear seconds later in front of the enormous iron gates that prevented visitors from entering Malfoy Manor without explicit permission from the residing family. 

Unsure what to do, Hermione glanced around. Her letter didn’t specify how she could enter the Manor. Convinced that this was a first test set upon the applicants by none other than Lady Black, Hermione straightened her posture and spoke with a loud, clear voice.

‘I have an appointment with Madame Black at 11am for a job interview.’

She almost felt silly when nothing happened before a loud squeak startled her from her thoughts. The iron gates slowly started moving, opening just enough so that Hermione could slip through. The witch tried to ignore the unsettling feeling in her stomach as she heard the loud bang indicating that the entry had been sealed again. This time it’s different. This time I can leave whenever I want. Hermione repeated the words as a mantra in her head to avoid having a panic attack. She didn’t think that would elevate her chances of getting the job. 

The young woman gasped when she finally gathered her senses and looked around. The Manor definitely had changed. While it still breathed grandeur and wealth, the cold and dark atmosphere had vanished. Nevertheless, it still felt unwelcoming to Hermione, and when she looked more closely she could see that the place had suffered from the unrelenting destruction of time. Despite everything being decorated with expensive art or gold or marble, an overwhelming sadness filled every room chilling Hermione to the bone. 

Suddenly a door nearby opened and a rather pale looking young girl fled the room. She looked like she had just graduated Hogwarts and Hermione couldn’t help but notice the faint marks of freshly shed tears on her cheeks. The brunette gulped, not even managing an encouraging smile to the fleeing witch before settling herself on a nearby chair, waiting her turn. A quick glance on her wristwatch told her that she still had some minutes so spare. The moment she saw the big hand slide to the eleven, an ice cold voice sounded.

‘Next.’

Hermione rose from her seat, smoothed some non-existent creases from her jumpsuit and wiped her hands on her blazer. Shaking Narcissa’s hand while her own was drenched in sweat would probably be enough reason for the blonde woman to throw her out on the spot. With determined strides she marched into the office before stopping dead in her tracks, right in front of the chair she was supposed to sit in. Hermione had quite forgotten how impressive Narcissa Black was. She gulped and stretched out her hand.

‘Good morning, Madame Black. Thanks for seeing me.’

The witch, who up until that point had been staring at some notes, took the hand without looking before allowing her gaze to wander to Hermione’s. And then she froze. Hermione doesn’t know how long they stayed like that. Narcissa was still seated and staring up at Hermione in confusion, who was still standing and trying to wriggle her hand free from the death grip it was in. But finally, Narcissa spoke.

‘What are you doing here?’

Hermione’s brow furrowed in confusion as she withdrew her hand and sat herself down on the chair in front of the desk, ‘You accepted my application for the job.’

‘I most certainly did not!’

Feeling her confidence slip like water through fingers, Hermione slowly took her invitation from her purse and showed it to Narcissa who visibly paled at the reveal. Suddenly she seemed to forget that Hermione was there altogether when she started rummaging through her own papers. When she finally found Hermione’s application, she squeezed her eyes shut.

‘I misread your name,’ she sighed, ‘I fear that glasses are becoming inevitable.’

Hermione laughed nervously, trying to relieve the tensions, ‘Well that’s not abnormal for a woman of your –.’

She immediately snapped her mouth shut when she saw the deadly glare from the blonde woman. 

‘I do not need a reminder of my old age, Miss Granger, I thank you kindly.’

‘That’s not what I meant! You look absolutely stunning for your-.’

Hermione nearly slapped herself when she saw Narcissa’s perplexed expression as she made the same mistake again. Trying to salvage whatever dignity she still had left, Hermione simply started rambling.

‘No, I mean… you’re stunning. Always. Everywhere. Beautiful. Errrrm, you are – yes.’

Narcissa shook her head but Hermione could swear she saw a smirk flicker across her features before the woman forced her famous stoic expression back on her face. When she saw that Hermione wasn’t moving, she pursed her lips.

‘Miss Granger. Why are you still here?’

‘You haven’t interviewed me yet.’

‘I’m not going to. I apologize for the misunderstanding. You may go.’

Hermione blinked. Totally perplexed. What? She was halfway out of her chair when something stopped her and she sat herself down again. Narcissa looked as if she smelled something extremely nasty and Hermione felt her breath hitch. Oh how she sometimes hated her Gryffindor bravado! 

‘Madame Black. I don’t think that’s fair. You can’t simply dismiss me because of my bloodstatus. That’s discrimination!’

Suddenly Narcissa snapped, ‘Oh Salazar’s snake, stop this nonsense Miss Granger! You HAVE a job. A very demanding and respectable job if I’m not mistaken. So why on earth would you apply for this one? Unless it’s to spy on me?’

And finally Hermione understood Narcissa’s reluctance to talk to her. How odd it must seem to have Hermione Granger, part of the Golden Trio and renowned Curse Breaker at St. Mungo’s, apply to being the assistant of a Death Eater’s ex-wife and pureblood supremacist no less. Not to forget the fact that Narcissa was a Slytherin through and through and used to scheming, plotting, and being suspicious of everyone around her. Hermione managed a kind smile before trying to explain herself.

‘I totally understand where you’re coming from, Madame Black. But if you would allow me to explain?’

A curt nod was all Hermione needed to explain her current predicament at St. Mungo’s and the fact that her boss had allowed her to do this as long as her research didn’t suffer from it. Hermione was smart enough not to mention that said boss was none other than Andromeda Tonks, formerly Black of course, but she made sure to point out that she was going to combine the two jobs if possible. When she continued to explain how she would be an excellent assistant to Narcissa, she noticed a flash of curiosity in the woman’s icy blue eyes before concluding.

‘It would be a perfect business agreement, really.’

Narcissa cocked her head to the side while tapping her nails against the oak surface of her desk, pondering the situation. Suddenly she seemed to have made some sort of decision to give Hermione a fair chance as she dipped her quill in some ink.

‘So, on to the interview then?’ 

Chapter Text

The moment Narcissa was finished writing down Hermione’s personal information, such as her date of birth and the reasons she applied for the job, the witch took out a list of questions she wanted to go through during this interview. Hermione had to fight every urge not to relax too much, but she knew she had this. She was smart after all. Much to her surprise however, her confidence didn’t last long. In fact, it only lasted until the very first actual question Narcissa asked her.

‘What are the different cleaning products and for what surfaces do you use them?’

Hermione, who had already been mentally listing every clever thing she had ever discovered during her research, felt her jaw go slack. What? 

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Come on, Miss Granger,’ Narcissa said while drumming her fingers on her desk impatiently, ‘it’s a simple question.’

Hermione raised her chin, refusing to show how much the question had thrownher off balance. She took a calming breath and began listing everything she had ever picked up from Molly Weasley. Despite the fact that Hermione thought it was the silliest question someone ever asked her, Narcissa took notes vigorously. 

‘And of course you must wipe the windows with an old newspaper to avoid it being covered in streaks when it dries,’ Hermione finally concluded.

Narcissa’s head shot up in surprise, ‘Right,’ she said, not being able to prevent her gaze from flicking to the windows of the office. 

Hermione didn’t know what was funnier, Narcissa tutting her lips at the window or the window itself that was covered in streaks as a result of not being cleaned properly. Before the brunette could comment on it, however, the older woman had already refocused her attention on her notes, acting like nothing had happened. 

‘How do you poach an egg?’

‘How do you p - I fail to see why this is relevant?’

The blonde shrugged, ‘I’m just curious.’

‘About poached eggs?’

‘I want my assistant to have a wide variety of skills and knowledge.’

Hermione almost snorted at that but managed to keep herself composed, ‘Well, unfortunately I don’t know how you poach an egg.’

Narcissa clicked her tongue, ‘That’s disappointing,’ before writing something down in her notes. 

‘I can tell you about my work-experience instead? I’m sure that’ll be less disappointing.’

‘There’s no need, Miss Granger. I’ve read all your papers and interviews in the Daily Prophet. I’m perfectly aware of your academic skills. Now how good are you at drawing baths?’

Hermione simply blinked, ‘How hard can drawing a bath be?’

The older witch scoffed, ‘It’s a matter of balance. The water can’t be too hot or too cold, and the bath salts need to be altered to match the current needs of the bather. The tub can’t be too full nor too empty…’

‘I get it,’ Hermione said slightly exasperated. This was by far the strangest interview she’d ever had. 

Narcissa squinted her eyes, obviously annoyed that someone had interrupted her, ‘So how are your massage skills?’

‘My what?’

‘What do you do when someone gets nauseous?’ 

‘Give them some Zofran?’ Hermione tried but mentioning the muggle drug only caused Narcissa to widen her eyes in outrage. 

‘This isn’t some joke, Miss Granger!’

‘Well clearly it is!’ Hermione almost shouted, finally having lost her temper, ‘Why are you asking me these ridiculous questions?’

Suddenly it dawned on Hermione and she slapped her palm against her forehead. Why didn’t she realize this sooner? The gossip about Narcissa’s Black deceased House-Elf had spread like wildfire through the Ministry, eventually reaching Harry who had told Ginny who had told her. Narcissa wasn’t looking for an assistant to help her with research or work. She just wanted to replace her Elf.

‘You’re not looking for an assistant. You’re looking for a maid.’

Narcissa squared her shoulders, her back now ramrod straight on her chair, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about, Miss Granger, but I think we are done here.’

Anger flared up in Hermione’s chest, mixed with desperation. She needed this job! Even if it meant she would be scrubbing the stairs. The answer to her problem was hidden somewhere in those enormous libraries and there would not be another opportunity to enter them. So in a final attempt to rectify the interview, she snatched the list of questions from Narcissa’s hands. The blonde was so shocked, her cold expression momentarily faltered. 

‘Miss Granger!’

‘I’m sorry!’ Hermione shrieked slightly panicking from her own actions while her eyes scanned the list for any questions she could easily answer. 

  • What are the best cures for a headache
  • What are the biggest risks for pregnancies at an older age 
  • Are you a discreet person
  • How flexible are you when there’s an emergency
  • Do you have any medical skills or background

Hermione wasn’t the Brightest-Witch-of-her-Age for nothing, Narcissa realized when she saw the pieces of the puzzle come together in Hermione’s head. She could just see the aha-erlebnis* shimmer in her eyes and she sighed. 

‘You’re… pregnant?’

‘And you’re insufferable. Please. Leave.’

The usually stoic and composed witch had closed her eyes while gently massaging her temples, trying to get rid of the headache the brash Gryffindor had just given her all the while refusing to look at the brunette. And Hermione realized she’d fucked up. The brunette gulped and admitted defeat.  

‘I’m terribly sorry. I really needed this opportunity, but your questions threw me off and I panicked.’

‘Leave.’

Hermione opened her mouth but when she looked at the blonde woman who was now supporting her head between her hands and staring at her lap, she closed it again. As quickly as possible she put her coat back on and grabbed her purse. Hermione walked to the door, but when her fingers enclosed themselves on the door handle she paused and turned around again. 

‘Your secret is safe with me, Narcissa.’

Was it the actual promise or the fact that Hermione addressed the woman by her given name? She had no clue, but the witch did look up and peered at Hermione with those impossible blue eyes of hers before giving a curt nod in appreciation. When Hermione closed the door behind her, she saw that the next applicant had already arrived and was waiting patiently on the chair near the door. In contrast to the young girl that had fled Narcissa’s office in tears, Hermione managed a small smile to the man before the raw disappointment of the whole situation wrenched itself from her throat with a sob. 

***

‘I swear, Andy! The entire interview was horrible.’

Hermione chugged her Firewhiskey and indicated to the barman that she wanted another one. The President of the Board of Directors of St. Mungo’s just looked at her with an amused expression. She remembered the first time Hermione drank whiskey and how she had ended up in a coughing fit, exclaiming how gross it was. And here she was, chugging glass after glass like a true alcoholic. But when she gestured for a fifth, Andy placed the palm of her hand on top of the glass and shook her head.

‘I think that’s enough. Could we get the bill, please?’

‘But Andy…’

‘No, sweetheart. You’ve had enough. I’m taking you home.’

Hermione whined but eventually slipped off her barstool and stumbled after Andromeda who quickly wrapped an arm around the younger woman’s waist to keep her from falling. The moment they were outside, Andy apparated them straight into Hermione’s bathroom. She was one of the very few people who had access to Hermione’s wards and even a spare key to her apartment. 

‘Take a shower and brush your teeth. I’ll be in your bedroom waiting.’

‘Okay bossyboots.’

Andy merely raised an eyebrow as she was, strictly speaking, Hermione’s boss but disappeared through the door to give the witch some privacy. When she emerged dressed in rather damp pyjamas, Andy cast a quick drying spell and pointed towards the bed. She’d already put a glass of water and an anti-hungover potion on the nightstand in case Hermione required it in the morning.

‘Get in.’

‘Are you mad at me?’

Andy laughed, ‘No, sweetheart. You’re a grown witch.  You’re allowed to get drunk once every ten years.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. Her friends always teased her for not letting go and always trying to be in control. But once every ten years? That was insulting. Even for her. It also wasn’t what Hermione meant.

‘No. Are you not mad at me for fucking up the interview today?’

‘Of course not. I didn’t like the idea of you being Cissy’s assistant to begin with. And now that it turns out she was merely looking to replace her house-elf? Hermione, you are a war hero and the cleverest witch I know. You shouldn’t be polishing my sister’s shoes.’ 

The younger witch giggled, ‘That sounds like a polite way to say I shouldn’t kiss her ass.’

‘Interpret it any way you like,’ Andy said while rising to her feet, ‘Goodnight, Hermione.’

‘But what about our problem?’

‘That’ll still be a problem tomorrow. You’re a clever girl. You’ll figure something out.’

Hermione stared at her ceiling for almost an hour after Andromeda’s departure, mulling over her words. And then suddenly she had figured it out. She flicked the bedsheets aside and padded over to her office whilst chugging the anti-hungover potion. A decision she would probably regret tomorrow, because although this potion could sober her up momentarily now it was really meant to be taken after the first signs of a hangover. Taking it too soon often resulted in an even worse headache; but, she needed a clear mind right now!

With a snap of her fingers Hermione summoned the sheet of questions she had so inelegantly yanked from Narcissa’s hands. After every question she read, Hermione summoned a book from her personal collection in which she was sure to find an appropriate answer. When she had researched and collected all the answers she needed, Hermione started writing. Dear Madame Black…

***

Narcissa had finally managed to stop sobbing. She had fetched her favourite bottle of wine from the cellar only to realize she couldn’t drink alcohol after she’d already opened the bottle. Seeing that dark, red, and delicious liquid disappear down her kitchen sink had been enough to make her cry. Stupid hormones! And stupid Hermione Granger who had given her an aneurysm followed by a very impressive headache. It had resulted in a restlessness that prevented her from sleeping.

She gritted her teeth. She hadn’t intended on asking those questions so bluntly. Narcissa had been subtle, inquiring and almost nonchalant when it came to the other candidates. But for some reason the young witch with her successful career, thinking she could easily get this job, had made her lose control. And she had fired question after silly question just to prove her point. Hermione wasn’t cut out for this particular job.

Unfortunately neither of the candidates were very capable either. Cissy had crossed more than half off her list just by the way they acted around her. A cold shiver ran down her spine when she recollected those interviews. People she couldn’t trust. People who would sell her secret to the highest bidder. Even when she was used to being surrounded by enemies, the mere thought of having someone around her who she couldn’t rely on exhausted her to the bone. 

Narcissa’s face contorted when she sipped her cranberry juice. Apart from having the same colour, it served as a terribly poor substitute for her wine, but still her body seemed to accept it. Even the smell of coffee was enough to make her vomit these days. She twirled the glass between her nimble fingers while squinting at the two last remaining profiles of candidates. While they both lacked the skills she was looking for, she was fairly certain this witch and wizard would keep her secret to themselves. 

Eventually she settled for the witch as she would probably be more comfortable around a woman when she couldn’t get out of her tub without assistance anymore, something she remembered from her first pregnancy. However, the blonde regretted how little she remembered. There had been elves constantly fussing around her, and her mother had given her so many questionable potions to so-called ‘relieve her from stress,’ that the entire nine months were a blur. This time, she would handle things differently. This time, she would do it herself. With an assistant of course. 

That settled it for Narcissa and she shoved her glass aside to write a letter to the lucky witch who got the job. What was her name again? The former Malfoy Matriarch rolled her eyes as she remembered how dreadfully boring the girl had been. No wonder she couldn’t recall her. She dipped her quill in the ink on her desk and pondered on the name, not noticing how a big splotch of ink dripped onto the parchment when an owl startled her. The animal tapped on her window, almost frantically, before glaring at the witch in discontent. 

It was pouring outside, so Narcissa quickly got to her feet to allow the animal inside. She almost snatched the letter from his leg before casting a quick drying spell at the owl that ruffled his feathers. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the letter itself had been charmed to withstand the weather and almost laughed when she recognized Miss Granger’s very neat handwriting. The witch walked back to her desk whilst reading the perfect answers to each and everyone of her silly questions. The girl had done her research, it would seem. 

Narcissa sank back in her chair, momentarily at a loss. Miss Granger had definitely proved her point about really wanting this job. And while Narcissa was reluctant, she did realize that she would have a remarkably skilled witch by her side should things go wrong. She doubted the other girl would know what to do if her magic went haywire because of the hormones. The witch startled from her musings when Hermione’s owl hopped onto her desk and nipped at her fingers. 

‘Shoo, I’ve already dried you. What more do you want?’

The owl gave her a very judgemental look before spreading his wings and flying back home through the open window. Narcissa muttered something under her breath that sounded a lot like ‘spoiled beast’ before glancing at Hermione’s letter again. And then, she made a decision. She knew Hermione could be trusted. She knew she was capable, smart, and someone she knew; the whole experience would be everything but boring. 

The witch smirked as she rose from her seat and ascended the stairs to her bedroom. Of course she was going to let Hermione wait a little bit longer. She had been terribly rude, after all, and one weekend of insecurity and interrupted sleep seemed like a good way to repay her. Narcissa ignored the little voice inside her head that scolded her for being petty. She was Narcissa fucking Black! She could do whatever the hell she wanted. And now? Now she wanted to sleep.

Chapter Text

Hermione bristled, annoyed at the owl that had woken her at 5am, but even more annoyed at Narcissa who had waited until the very last moment to inform her she’d gotten the job. She had bolted from her bed and immediately floo’d to St. Mungo’s to make sure she got some work done before she was expected at the Manor. Just when she rubbed some sleep from her eyes, Andromeda entered her office with a smirk.

‘Congratulations!’

‘How do you know?’

Andy merely shrugged, ‘It must be the frantic look in your eyes. My sister has that effect on people.’

‘Very funny. I’m expected at the Manor at 1pm, but I wanted to get my affairs in order here first.’

‘Ah, about that,’ Andy tapped her nose before perching herself on top of Hermione’s desk, ‘I convinced the Board to let you work from the Manor as much as possible. They at least expect you to be present here on Mondays for our weekly meeting, but other than that, it's up to you.’

‘Really?’

‘You’ve proven yourself to be a loyal worker, Hermione. Time and time again. We trust that you can combine both jobs, but realize it might be a lot easier if those jobs could be done from the same location.’

Hermione smiled, ‘Honestly, Andy, thank you. This helps me so much.’

The older witch merely hummed before pushing herself on her feet again, ‘Good luck, sweetheart. You’ll need it.’

***

Hermione cursed and cursed again. She has just finished collecting everything she would be needing to work at the Manor when an emergency had called her attention. In the end, it had turned out to be a fairly easy curse for Hermione to break, but it had rendered her extremely late for her appointment with her new employer. The brunette flung her bag over her shoulder, cursing again when she heard multiple stacks of books topple over.

The iron wrought gates from Malfoy Manor opened the second Hermione Apparated in front of them, allowing the witch to run straight through. The front door was being opened from the inside and by the time Hermione arrived, slightly panting, she was greeted by a very unimpressed madame Black.

‘You’re late.’

‘There was an emergency and…,’ Hermione suddenly straightened her spine, ‘You didn’t give me much time to prepare.’

A perfectly shaped eyebrow was raised as the blonde witch clacked her tongue in disapproval, ‘I suppose that’s what separates a poseur from a truly organised person, Miss Granger. I’d have prepared for the job without knowing I’d have it… out of caution.’

Hermione opened her mouth several times to reply, but found that she was at a loss for words. Narcissa merely stared at her for a whole minute before deciding that the girl wasn’t worth her time. She sighed and stepped aside, allowing Hermione to enter the Manor and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

‘I’d like you to clean the entire Manor. Ever since my elf died, the job has been done rather… poorly.’

The brunette frowned, ‘But that’ll take me hours. Days even! How am I supposed to get my other work done as well?’

Ice, blue eyes gave her a scathing look, ‘You knew what this job entailed before applying for it, Miss Granger. You claimed you could easily combine it with your current occupation. Are you having second thoughts?’

Hermione gulped, but shook her head nevertheless. Narcissa gave her a curt nod in response before twirling around and disapparating without a word, leaving Hermione alone in the Manor. It took the Brightest-Witch-of-her-Age a solid ten minutes of wallowing in self-pity before realizing that she was a witch and could use magic to clean the Manor. A smirk appeared on her face and she unsheathed her wand a tad more dramatically than really necessary before walking further into the big house.

With a simple flick she summoned every piece of cleaning equipment present in the house. There wasn’t a whole lot but she’d manage. With a few more flicks from her wand, the equipment divided itself into groups. She had four buckets with mops. Four brushes for sweeping with matching dustpans, a bunch of sponges and rags, two feather dusters and a window squeegee. Hermione filled every bucket with water and soap and added a sponge. Eventually she had a solid team of cleaning equipment waiting to be ordered around.

The brunette took a deep breath and aimed a piertotum locomotor at the first set of brushes and dustpans. With a flick and a twirl, she sent them to the Eastwing of the house. The second set was ordered to the Westwing while the third and fourth set got started on the ground floor. A deep frown appeared on Hermione’s forehead as she focused her magic to the first bucket and the window squeegee, banishing them outdoors to get the outside of the windows cleaned first. The feather dusters busied themselves with removing all the dust from every possible surface while the final buckets with mops had to wait a bit longer until the sweeping was done.

Within the next ten minutes after her arrival, Hermione was practically dancing through the Manor, twirling her wand and redirecting orders. She caught a statue being knocked over by a brush, refilled a bucket that had spilled, and nudged a sponge that had stopped moving. After a few bits of tweaking, everything seemed to run smoothly and Hermione brushed a few sweaty curls from her face. She apparated herself to the hallway where she had a perfect view of all the animated objects flying about. The brunette summoned a desk for herself and dumped her paperwork from St. Mungo’s on it with a loud thump before getting to work.

Hermione quickly became engrossed in her reading, only casually flicking her wand to order some equipment to another section of the house. The mops had also been magicked into action, and the moment a bucket of water emptied its contents over the marble tiles of the hallway Hermione levitated her desk and chair so she wasn’t in the way and could just continue working. And it was at that exact moment, that Narcissa decided to return home.

The blonde apparated right in front of the door and opened it with wandless magic while unbuttoning her robe. When she looked up from her fingers Narcissa’s jaw fell slack at the sight in front of her. There was a broom racing around, quickly followed by a mop. A window squeegee was drying the windows while crumpled bits of newspapers were rubbing the glass to prevent it from streaking. A feather duster nearly smacked Narcissa in the face, and she squeaked when the dustpan raced between her legs to its next destination. In the meantime, Hermione was lazily flicking through a paper, not even noticing her boss’ arrival.

‘What in Salazar’s name is going on?’

Narcissa’s cold voice startled Hermione who nearly crash landed on the marble floor with her desk. Her interrupted concentration also affected the cleaning equipment, which started sweeping, and scrubbing, and wiping, and dusting even more frantically. The brunette winced when a vase got knocked over, shattering into pieces. She scrambled from behind her desk, nearly slipping on the wet floor and tried to regain control over a passing bucket, but to no avail. It was only until said bucket splashed its remaining contents into Narcissa’s face, that Hermione gathered her senses.

‘IMMOBULUS!’

Everything halted in its movements and Hermione, who hadn’t noticed she’d squeezed her eyes shut up until now, nervously peeked through her lashes only to be met with a furious witch. The brunette sighed and with one big whoosh of her wand, banished everything back to the cleaning cabinet. She also repaired the vase but was too scared to cast a drying spell on Narcissa who was visibly struggling to keep her emotions at bay.

‘I’m terribly sorry. If you’ll allow me?’

Instead of accepting Hermione’s offer, Narcissa dried herself wandlessly. Seconds before the water had hit her, the blonde had been seriously impressed at the demonstration of magic, but now she had a hard time keeping her cool.

‘What kind of pitiful display was that?’

Hermione’s usually kind, amber eyes hardened a bit at the words, ‘I was doing perfectly fine before you startled me.’

‘You nearly wrecked the place.’

At that, Hermione arched an eyebrow and Narcissa realized she was wrong. The Manor was absolutely spotless. She had no idea the golden accents had once been so shiny, and even the windows were so clear it looked like there were none present to begin with. 

The silence between them lasted another ten seconds before the older witch huffed, ‘Very well. Apart from the unwanted shower you gave me, I assume you did clean the place in record time.’

And while working for St. Mungo’s at the same time. Not bad for a muggleborn witch, Narcissa thought, her approval hidden away behind the stoic expression she wore as a mask to protect herself. She just hoped Hermione took the offer of civilized conversation, for she really didn’t feel like arguing. Luckily for her, Hermione inclined her head.

‘I apologize again, Madame Black.’

‘No matter,’ the witch replied coolly, ‘Have you seen today’s Daily Prophet? I haven’t had the chance to read it yet.’

Hermione felt her smile turn into a grimace on her face for she’d used said Daily Prophet to dry the windows. Judging by the cold glare the Mistress of the Manor was sending her, Narcissa had also realized what had happened to her newspaper. The blonde pursed her lips, the only indication of her internal turmoil, before turning around and disappearing into the Manor.

***

‘Madame Black?’

Narcissa looked up from her writings and Hermione was sure she saw a flicker of exasperation flash across her face before it once more morphed into its typically neutral expression. The younger witch had felt so badly about the earlier fiasco she had popped to Diagon Alley to buy a new paper and a steaming cup of the best coffee they sold in London. Gathering her bravery, Hermione managed a smile.

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere. It sure is a big house.’

‘Get to the point, Miss Granger.’

‘Right! I have a new Daily Prophet for you here,’ Hermione said while placing the newspaper on Narcissa’s desk, ‘And a cup of coffee.’

The witch immediately felt her stomach protest against the smell of the coffee and had just enough time to grab the waste paper basket before throwing up her stomach’s contents. The way Hermione’s face fell almost made Narcissa feel guilty, but the bile burned her throat so much she quickly discarded those feelings.

‘What’s wrong? Are you sick?’

‘Morning sickness, Miss Granger. I’m afraid the smell of coffee doesn’t agree with me anymore. But I’m sure you had the best intentions.’

‘Morning sickness? But it’s the afternoon.’

Narcissa almost chuckled, ‘Yes, well… the name is not very fitting seeing as I’m sick daily at the most inconvenient times.’

Hermione sighed in defeat, ‘Is there anything else I can do?’

‘Just dinner will do and then you are dismissed for today.’

The brunette nodded, slightly annoyed at the idea that she’d be cooking for Narcissa but would end up eating a microwave-meal herself later today. In the meantime, Narcissa had grabbed the Daily Prophet and perused the titles on the cover before her face contorted again when a new whiff of coffee reached her nose. She pointed her wand at the cup to banish it, but the coffee flung itself at Hermione who ducked just in time causing the drink to splash against the wall.

‘Did you just attack me?’ Hermione asked with wide eyes.

‘I most certainly did not! I was going to banish it.’

Something pricked in the back of Hermione’s mind. Something she’d read in a book but couldn’t pinpoint just yet.

‘Try another spell.’

Narcissa tried to light the hearth but the flames set a curtain on fire instead which Hermione quickly put out.

‘Your magic is responding to the pregnancy,’ Hermione stated flatly.

‘So soon?’ Narcissa muttered, shaking her head.

Hermione gulped.

***

Andy frowned when Hermione stepped out of the fireplace with a microwave-meal in hand. She had been telling the witch for months that she needed to take better care of herself, but apparently she still wasn’t doing too well.

‘Andy, that was my dinner!’ Hermione shouted the moment Andromeda banished the food.

‘There’s no way I’m going to watch you eat that. I made too much and it would be a shame to throw it out.’

Hermione smiled. Andy had been systematically making “too much” food and always made sure there was a box delivered to Hermione’s apartment. She once asked Andy to at least let her pay for them, but the witch pretended not to have a clue what she was talking about. She merely had a hard time guessing the amounts right. Or so she claimed.

‘Thanks, Andy. What did you make?’

‘An ovendish with potatoes, minced meat and pumpkin. Do you want soda or water?’

‘Water, please. Thanks Andy.’

The witch hummed while fetching a glass. It always astounded Hermione how much Andy did without using her magic. It was a habit she’d developed when living with Ted and after his passing; she did it to feel closer to him. Hermione agreed that some things shouldn’t be done using magic such as showering or brushing one’s teeth, but she often relied on magic to help her manage her terribly busy schedules.

‘So, what brings you here?’ Andy questioned.

‘I wanted to ask you if you experienced haphazard magic during your pregnancy?’

Andy laughed, ‘Oh yes! I couldn’t touch anything without accidentally changing its colour or shape. I guess Nymphadora’s metamorphmagus was already shining through. Why do you ask?’

Hermione shuffled in her seat. Despite Andy and Narcissa being sisters, she was convinced the youngest Black would not appreciate her secret being told to her estranged sibling. So she simply shook her head.

‘I encountered it during my research. Is there something you can do about it? It sounds rather dangerous.’

‘Mostly it’s fairly innocent accidents, but it can be dangerous, yes. Unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about it. It’s often triggered by stress or intense emotions, so meditation or relaxation exercises might help. But when the unborn witch or wizard is very powerful, that still might not be enough.’

‘Remind me to never have children,’ Hermione muttered, ‘I’m always stressed.’

Andy cocked her head to the side, obviously noticing there was something Hermione wasn’t telling her, but she let it slide. By her knowledge, there was nobody expecting a child within their group of friends. Unless Ginny and Harry decided to go for it, but Ginny was still flying her broomstick for the Holyhead Harpies. The witch squinted her eyes. She’d find out.

Chapter Text

By the time Hermione finally managed to dive into the Floo, she was seriously considering building her very own TimeTurner. Combining two jobs had proven to be rather difficult and the fact that Narcissa had been cold and unwelcoming all week hadn’t exactly motivated her. The brunette shook her head to shake the dizzy feeling she always had after travelling and glanced at her watch. She had one minute to spare, but she’d almost ran through the morning. Something she wouldn’t have to do if she had a TimeTurner. Such a shame they all got wrecked during that attack on the Ministry of Magic.

She sighed and tried to forget the judgemental look Crookshanks had given her after she flicked some food into his bowl and crashed face first onto her bed. The only time she was at her own apartment was to get a pathetic four or five hour of sleep before heading out again. The Kneazle cat had been terribly grumpy when Hermione woke up before sunrise only to disappear for work minutes later, her hair still damp from the shower. And after a hectic morning at St. Mungo’s, she now stood in Malfoy Manor with the frizziest hair she’d ever sported since her junior year at Hogwarts.

‘There you are. Today you must take on the gardens. They’re ghastly to look at and my evening stroll is meant to be relaxing, not causing me stress.’

Hermione huffed as she still had one foot in the fireplace. The blonde was looking at her from a distance with a haughty expression on her face. She had her arms crossed in front of her chest and her chin was tilted slightly upwards. But her eyes gave her away. During her first week, Hermione had noticed that the coldness in them was just a mask. If you looked closely, you could see her true emotion. Of course most people never dared to look in her eyes longer than one second before turning their gaze away with a shudder.

But not Hermione. She remembered staring into those eyes while being tortured by a madwoman. And she had seen the true emotion then. Narcissa had been disgusted, horrified, scared and shocked by her sister’s actions. And this time, Hermione saw insecurity, shame and vulnerability in those ice blue eyes that pretended to stare at her in disdain. So she stepped out of the fireplace, dusted the soot from her clothes and smiled her most innocent smile.

‘Of course, Madame Black. Anything else?’

Narcissa merely sniffed and disappeared to some far corner of the Manor where Hermione would never find her. She always tried to keep as much distance between them as possible. Hermione sighed. She wasn’t going to push Narcissa into a conversation she wasn’t ready for, but Merlin’s beard was that woman stubborn! Hermione secretly suspected her to enjoy feeling wretched and miserable. The Gryffindor shook her head and ventured outside, wand at the ready to give the garden some much-needed maintenance.

It didn’t take Hermione long to have all the gardening equipment up in the air. The lawn was being mowed, hedges were trimmed and the garden beds were being cleaned of weeds and wilted flowers. The brunette casually strolled through the garden that could easily be some royal park while occasionally ducking for her own enchanted equipment flying about. It was only until she passed a giant shrubbery that once had the shape of a unicorn, that she noticed an enormous greenhouse appearing out of nowhere.

 

It was made out of black, wrought iron and looked more like a little church than an actual greenhouse. There was a vine that had twirled itself around the entire entrance, forming some sort of natural archway. Hermione was speechless at the harmony of it all. White flowers sprouted from the vine, without blocking the sunlight from warming the plants inside. It was obviously well tended to, unlike the rest of the garden, as the glass was spotless and the pathway to the entrance was free from weeds.

Hermione carefully approached the greenhouse and felt the thrumming of the wards that enveloped it. A quick diagnostic spell told her that it only appeared when someone came close enough, but other than that, the brunette didn’t detect any defensive mechanisms designed to keep intruders out. The moment her fingers touched the glass door, it swung open inwardly and revealed a paradise unlike she had ever seen before.

There were basic herbs that could be found in practically any garden, even muggle ones. But also the rarest of plants were thriving in this greenhouse. Plants and herbs from all over the world, all needed for potion brewing and far too many Hermione couldn’t even identify. There were a variety of flowers as well, in all shapes and sizes and colours. The brunette slowly exhaled, not having realized she was holding her breath. She wanted to reach out to a particularly pretty flower, when she suddenly felt like she was intruding. This was obviously some sort of safe haven for Narcissa and she had entered it without permission.

Hermione quickly made herself scarce from the greenhouse and ran back towards the centre of the garden where she had to prevent two hedge trimmers from decapitating one of the peacocks. The proud animal glared at her before strutting off and Hermione chuckled. She remembered some gossip about Lucius having bought white peacocks, but it slightly amused her to see those rumours were true. He had been a vain wizard after all.

With a snap of her wand, the equipment flew back to its shed, leaving a cleaned up garden in their wake. Hermione nodded, this should do. She wasn’t going to plant flower or anything without the blonde witch’s approval. The grass and the hedges were trimmed and all the decorative ornaments were restored in their former glory, albeit a bench that had been in dire need of a wash or a shrubbery that had to be reshaped to look like an animal again.

Hermione glanced at her watch again. It was too soon to start cooking dinner so she’d have to find Narcissa to ask her what else she could do. The brunette rolled her eyes, knowing she’d be wandering Malfoy Manor for ages before she’d found the bloody woman. Luckily for Hermione, she just saw a flash of a sparkly dress round a corner the moment she entered the Manor.

‘Madame Black!’

But Narcissa didn’t stop and disappeared through the nearest door. The moment Hermione rounded the corner as well; she was standing in an empty hallway. The witch frowned, wondering if Narcissa simply hadn’t heard her or ignored her on purpose. Hermione slowly made her way down the hallway, listening for any indications of where the former Malfoy Matriarch might be, when she heard someone heaving and coughing. With only the slightest of hesitations, Hermione pushed the second door on the left open and froze.

Narcissa was hunched over the sink, her heels discarded next to her feet. The witch was retching rather violently while her black and blonde hair was sticking to her face. She looked absolutely dreadful; as her make-up had started to run the moment her eyes had filled themselves with tears. Her lipstick was smudged and she looked even more pale than usual. Hermione instantly took pity on her and approached the woman with determination.

‘Let me help you,’ the brunette said as she carefully gathered Narcissa’s hair in her hands to keep it from getting dirty.

The blonde tried to speak, but the moment she opened her mouth, she had to vomit again. Hermione quickly conjured a cold compress and pressed it against the nape of Narcissa’s neck. Two blue eyes looked up at her in what looked like gratitude while Hermione filled a glass of water so the older witch could rinse her mouth.

‘It’s mostly bile as I haven’t eaten much today,’ Narcissa finally managed to whisper, ‘But it hurts.’

‘I can imagine. Is it the morning sickness again?’

Carefully the blonde nodded and hoisted herself upwards against the sink. She squinted her eyes and Hermione immediately took the hint and dimmed the lights. Next she conjured a hairband and twisted Narcissa’s locks in a ponytail in case she got sick again. The woman stood trembling on both legs, trying to regain some form of composure again.

‘Isn’t there some potion you can take?’

‘The usual potions one can acquire at St. Mungo’s either smell foul or taste foul. They just make me sick all over again.’

Hermione frowned, ‘One would imagine there existed a potion that could be digested by any pregnant witch. Muggles have invented medication against morning sickness and they don’t have magic to aid them.’

At this, Narcissa’s expression changed and the woman bit her lip. Hermione had a hard time not to grin at the sight of it, but the pureblood-supremacist looked suspiciously adorable when she did that. When the blonde spoke again, her voice sounded hesitant.

‘There is a potion that has no taste and no smell, but it’s difficult to brew and it produces a foul stench in the process before turning into a liquid that resembles plain water. I don’t have the stomach to brew it at the moment.’

The Brighest-Witch-of-her-Age groaned, ‘Potions are my worst subject, apart from Divination perhaps. I’m sure I could brew it with your assistance, but if you can’t stand to come near the cauldron…’

‘There is a way I can assist you, miss Granger. But I won’t do it without your explicit consent.’

Hermione raised an eyebrow, ‘Do tell.’

Narcissi sipped her glass of water again, needing a few moments to recollect. The nausea hadn’t passed just yet and she was aware that talking or moving was making it worse. Eventually, she managed to look Hermione straight into the eyes, once more impressed that the younger woman didn’t flinch or averted her gaze. Gryffindor bravery indeed.

‘I am the most skilled Legilimens in the whole Wizarding Community of Great-Britain, meaning I can read minds, hear thoughts without even needing to look people in the eye. A close proximity makes it easier of course, but I can read people from across the room if needs be.’

Hermione gulped, ‘Are you reading my thoughts right now?’

The witch almost looked insulted as she scrunched up her nose, ‘Of course not, miss Granger! I would never read someone without his or her consent, especially someone who hasn’t harmed me. In times of war however…’

‘I guess drastic times required drastic measures,’ Hermione said drily, ‘But I’m glad to hear your love for etiquette prevents you from digging through people’s minds.’

Narcissa tutted her lips but decided to ignore the jab Hermione made at her. Gryffindors always saw the world either black or white. She sighed.

‘Not just etiquette, miss Granger, but could you imagine how loud my world would be if I allowed everybody’s thoughts in my head? I’ve learned to block them. I only hear people’s thoughts when I want it, unless someone is in distress or thinking very loudly. Then I get bits and pieces, but I tend to ignore them.’

At this, Hermione laughed, ‘I didn’t know people could think loudly.’

‘Oh, they can,’ Narcissa said while carefully stepping closer to Hermione, her cold gaze still fixated on the younger woman’s amber eyes, ‘People like you for example.’

Hermione’s eyes widened almost comically and in her attempt to calm her thoughts, she slapped her hands in front of her face, ‘So you do hear my thought?’

‘Bits and pieces. Strong emotions or a vague word here and there. Nothing to be concerned about. You’re a thinker. Just like me. And we tend to let our thoughts take control, making us easy for Legilimens to read. That’s where Occlumency comes in handy.’

‘I’ve never learned to shield my thoughts.’

‘It’s never too late, miss Granger. If I wanted, I could read you like an open book.’

Hermione opened her mouth, a thousand questions on the tip of her tongue, when the initial cause for this conversation resurfaced in her head. So she shook her head, promising herself she’d ask Narcissa all those questions another time.

‘So, how does that help us brew this potion?’

The blonde almost smirked. Almost.

‘I do not only have the abilities to read people’s mind, I can also communicate with them by projecting my thoughts into their heads. Innocent when used for mere conversation, but dangerous when one attempts to manipulate the other.’

At this, Hermione nodded. She remembered how Voldemort had tricked Harry into believing he was torturing Sirius at the Ministry of Magic. It had looked so real, but she’d had her reservations from the start. Unfortunately, Harry always tended to listen to her after disaster had struck. So they all followed him and had paid a terrible price in the end. Hermione couldn’t agree more with Narcissa. Such a talent as Legilimency was dangerous in the hands of the wrong witch or wizard.

‘So I think about what I’m doing and you can hear me in the next room and tell me what to do?’

‘Indeed,’ was all Narcissa managed to reply as a new wave of nauseas washed over her.

‘Okay. Let’s do it.’

Disbelief flashed over the blonde’s face for a second before her usual neutral expression shifted back into place. She snapped her fingers and apparated both of them into her potions laboratory. Hermione felt her eyes bulge out of their sockets as she quickly scanned her surroundings. One wall was entirely covered in potion books while another was filled with shelves that held ingredients or already bottled potions. There were five cauldrons in different sizes and made from different materials and a giant oak desk that held piles and piles of parchment.

‘Gather these ingredients from the garden,’ Narcissa ordered as she handed Hermione a list she had just written down, ‘You can find them in the –‘

‘The big greenhouse at the back of the garden? I visited it today. It’s absolutely gorgeous!’

Narcissa was silent for a few moments as she processed what Hermione just had said to her, ‘You discovered the greenhouse?’

‘I apologize if I wasn’t allowed to enter it, but my curiosity got the best of me. I didn’t touch anything!’

‘I don’t mind your presence there, miss Granger. I think you’re enough of an academic to appreciate the beauty of the greenhouse whilst treating its contents with the appropriate respect. It’s just… nobody has ever seen it apart from me.’

‘Not even Lucius?’ Hermione blurted out before having had a chance to think about a polite way to ask her question.

Narcissa smiled a very sad smile, ‘Especially not Lucius. Gardening isn’t considered a proper way to spend time for a pureblood-wife. But it’s one of the things I love doing most apart from reading or actually brewing potions. So I warded it. It only appears when you come close enough and when your intentions are pure.’

Hermione was at a loss for words, so she merely nodded and accepted the list of ingredients she was supposed to pick up. She frowned when she gave it a quick read and Narcissa noticed her hesitation.

‘Here, in this book you’ll find sketches of the plants and herbs you need. In case you don’t know them all.’

‘Did you write this book?’ Hermione couldn’t help but ask when she saw the elegant handwriting she recognised from her correspondence with the blonde woman.

‘I most certainly did.’

‘But it’s filled with improvements of existing potions and even completely new inventions,’ Hermione almost shrieked when she flipped through the pages.

Narcissa inclined her head, ‘Like I said, potion brewing is one of my passions. I’ve spent many years researching existing potions and trying to find ways to improve them. The one you’re going to brew now, is one of my own invention.’

Hermione felt her head swirl from the many questions she wanted to ask again and judging by the little smile on Narcissa’s face, the witch could pick up on the Gyffindor’s state of mind. When Hermione had read the introductions of the handwritten book, she looked at Narcissa with such a blinding smile; the blonde was slightly taken aback.

‘Narcissa, you’re a bloody genius!’

Chapter Text

Hermione lit the fire underneath her cauldron and waited for the water to start boiling just like Narcissa had instructed. All the ingredients she’d gathered from the greenhouse were laid out in front of her. The blonde witch nodded her approval at Hermione and started to make her way to the door. She was still suffering from nausea but at least she could move around without having to vomit.

‘As soon as I’m in the room next door, I’ll enter your mind. Okay?’

Hermione nodded, ‘You have my permission, Madame Black.’

Narcissa wrung her hands nervously. There was a difference between reading someone’s mind and communicating through Legilimency. The latter was far more intimate as you practically connected both brains to allow thoughts to flow freely between them. Narcissa preferred just reading people’s mind when they weren’t aware of it. It was far less complicated and a lot safer for her own thoughts. Nevertheless she vacated the room and took place on an armchair in the little sitting area next to her potions lab.

Hermione exhaled a shuddering breath the moment the door closed behind the older woman. This was so typical for her. She always helped people even if it made her uncomfortable. The brunette tried to calm down, remembering Harry’s stories about how horrible it is when someone invades your mind. She was sure he’d exaggerated it, but still braced herself for a surge of pain the moment Narcissa would reach out.

Miss Granger? Do you hear me?

MERLIN’S BEARD! THIS IS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED.

There’s no need to shout, Miss Granger. You can just think your answers and I will pick up on them without getting a headache.

I apologize. You just surprised me.

Obviously. What did you expect then?

For it to hurt…

There was a silence before Hermione heard Narcissa in her head again.

I understand why you would think I’d hurt you, Miss Granger. But I assure you, I wouldn’t have proposed this method of potion brewing if it would cause you any harm. I’m not the woman you think I am anymore.

No no! Hermione was quick to respond. That’s not the reason. Harry told me that professor Snape always hurt him during their Occlumency lessons.

Narcissa hissed. Severus was a brute. Now, shall we begin?

***

Hermione was sweating and her hair looked like she’d been hit by lightning. She’d rolled up her sleeves and soot from the cauldron was smeared across her face because she’d wiped her brow more times than she could count. This potion had to be brewed at boiling temperature and the fumes had Hermione’s cheeks flushed to a reddish pink, but luckily the smell of rotten eggs Narcissa had warned her about hadn’t occurred yet.

It would take her about four hours to prepare the potion and then it needed to cool down for another hour before Narcissa could drink it. That’s why they had agreed on brewing an enormous batch so the blonde would have some stock for the next two weeks. Unfortunately the potion couldn’t be kept much longer than that before it lost its potency. Hermione couldn’t help but be impressed, though. It took skill, years of research and lots of practice to invent new potions.

Is it getting a deep green colour? Narcissa’s voice sounded in her head.

Hermione had no idea whether the green she saw was the right hue so she simply focused on what she saw and pushed the mental image towards Narcissa in the other room. She heard a faint chuckle in her head.

You’re getting the hang of that rather quickly. That’s the perfect colour. You can add the juice of the berries now and the last two ingredients after that.

Will that make it transparent like water?

No, that will make it smell disgusting. It’ll turn into a water-like substance when it cools off.

Hermione nodded her understanding, not realizing Narcissa couldn’t actually see her do it, and added the final ingredients. A foul stench immediately invaded her nose and the brunette felt her stomach protest. Every fibre of her being told her to back away, but Narcissa had given her strict instructions to keep stirring for exactly six minutes. She finally understood why the woman couldn’t brew it herself, seeing as she couldn’t even bear the smell of coffee these days.

Are you managing?

Merlin’s beard… this smells terrible!

Yes, you projected your disgust rather violently, the blonde sounded both worried and amused, so I thought I’d check in.

It’s nearly done.

You can just leave it to cool in the cauldron. I’ll decant it into bottles and clean up.

That’s very kind of you.

I didn’t mean for it to be kind. I assumed you’d want to start cooking diner.

Hermione wanted to scoff at that, but inhaling whatever damp came from the potion seemed like a bad idea so she refrained from doing so. The moment the last seconds ticked away on the clock, Hermione dropped the ladle into the cauldron and bolted from the potions lab. She practically bumped into Narcissa, but managed to avoid her on her way outside. She desperately needed some fresh air.

***

The smell of the roast chicken was infinitely better than the smell of Narcissa’s anti-nausea potion and Hermione happily inhaled above her pots and pans. It was at least two hours later than the usual dinnertime as the potion brewing had hassled her schedule completely. Hermione sighed. She still had a lot of work for St. Mungo’s and by the time she was done at the Manor, it would be too late to cook something for herself. It would seem like she had another microwave-meal evening coming.

The door to the kitchen creaked open and the youngest Black sister entered with a pleased expression on her face. It would seem like her stomach agreed with tonight’s menu.

‘Dinner’s nearly ready,’ Hermione said when she saw the woman standing at the door.

‘I must admit that food wasn’t high on my list of priorities today, but I’ve just sipped your potion and it works perfectly.’

‘I’m glad to hear it. Potions never were my strength, especially not such a complicated one. But I had a good teacher.’

Narcissa cleared her throat, ‘yes about that. Thank you Miss Granger. I know that couldn’t have been easy for you.’

‘It’s fine. I know you said our minds might be prone to connect automatically when we’re near each other, but I honestly don’t think you’ll hear any interesting thoughts. It’s all work and business.’

‘You are a busy witch, indeed. I know that brewing this potion put you behind on schedule,’ Narcissa said observantly.

‘I’ll just eat one of those instant meals when I get home and go to St. Mungo’s early tomorrow morning.’

The blonde woman pursed her lips. While she’d been reluctant to hire Miss Granger, the witch had proved her worth during the few weeks she worked here. And today she had gone above and beyond to help a woman who had never shown her any kindness before. Suddenly Narcissa felt a very un-Slytherin feeling settle in her stomach as she felt guilty for her behaviour towards the brunette. So she straightened her back a bit and tried to sound decisive instead of anxious.

‘Nonsense. You’ll eat with me. How do you expect to keep up your busy schedule if you eat rubbish?’

Hermione started to stutter about how that really wasn’t necessary and how she would manage, but Narcissa had already left the kitchen.

‘Bring an extra set of cutlery, will you, Miss Granger? It’s not like I can eat that entire chicken by myself anyway.’

Hermione stood perplexed. She had expected Narcissa to warm up a little towards her during her stay here, but to be invited for diner? The brunette knew she would be home late, chucking her plans to get up before sunrise in the bin, but she couldn’t resist the idea of a nice, nutritious meal. With a flick of her wand, two sets of plates and cutlery hovered in front of her to the dining room while the roast chicken, grilled vegetables, and baked potatoes followed.

‘I’d offer you wine, Miss Granger, but since I can’t have it myself…’

‘Water will do just fine.’

‘Good. I might just cry watching you drink wine.’

‘Do you miss it that much?’ Hermione asked with a small chuckle, but Narcissa raised her hand.

‘I’d rather not talk about it. Honestly, I love being a mother, but pregnancy is not for me.’

Hermione full on laughed this time and served Narcissa who accepted her plate with a small smirk. She felt remarkably at ease in the company of the former Malfoy Matriarch and was grateful for her hospitality. Hermione wasn’t a great cook, but she certainly was better than Narcissa who had been forced to eat her own failed attempts at dinner when her elf had passed away. The blonde was obviously pleased with her skills because the moment she sunk her teeth in the roast chicken, Narcissa accidentally moaned.

***

Another week passed where Hermione stayed every evening for dinner at the Manor. Narcissa didn’t even ask her to join anymore. It was just assumed they’d share a meal together and Hermione never complained. It saved her a lot of time having to cook only once. Unfortunately she still had an apartment to keep clean and a very grumpy Kneazle cat that needed to be fed twice a day. More often than not, Hermione fell asleep with her head on the book she had borrowed from the Malfoy library.

Narcissa hadn’t objected to Hermione’s request to take the books home so she could spend more time on her research. But she had pointed out that there were a lot of books that didn’t like being moved, so Hermione could only take the general ones. The brunette gritted her teeth when she perused the list of books that she was allowed to take home. She’d read every single one of them by now, but in front of her were at least six books with more specific information that she really wanted to check. Just when she reached out to one of the books, she heard a loud crash.

Hermione came to a skidding halt in the middle of the hallway where she found a trembling Narcissa in the midst of heavy debris. The blonde seemed relatively unharmed apart from a bleeding cut on her cheekbone. The younger witch frowned when she looked at what had once been a proud statue of one of Lucius’ ancestors.

‘What happened?’

‘I was just thinking about how much I’ve always hated this statue, when it exploded,’ Narcissa replied, her voice still trembling from shock.

‘Well, you hear no argument from me there,’ Hermione smiled, ‘but that baby of yours must have picked up on your disgust and offered a solution.’

Narcissa gently caressed her stomach and couldn’t help but smirk. It would seem she’d be raising a very clever little witch or wizard in the near future. She’d probably have grey hairs sooner than later at this rate. Suddenly she craved a glass of red wine just from thinking about all the stress that awaited her and before she knew what was happening, a bottle of her favourite brand flew towards her.

‘What in Salazar’s name…’ Narcissa muttered before catching the bottle with her right hand.

‘Wow, that baby must be very susceptible to your moods. Do I need to watch my steps?’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Before you know it, it’s not a statue that explodes, but the muggleborn that annoyed you.’

Narcissa didn’t pick up on the joke and straightened her spine in defence, ‘rest assured, Miss Granger, that you have nothing to fear. While I find you infuriating sometimes, I harbour no negative feelings towards you anymore.’

‘Not anymore? What did I do to rectify that?’ Hermione said curiously, not bothering to point out to Narcissa that she was only joking.

‘Well for starters you were honest about your intentions when you applied for this job. I know you’re only doing it so you can finish your research and not to sell private information to the Daily Prophet or steal family heirlooms or whatever people have come up with to make a profit at my expense. But despite those intentions, you fulfil this job with dedication, even though it is beneath you. And you go above and beyond to assist me. It does not go unnoticed, Miss Granger. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go for a nap.’

Hermione could only splutter as she’d not expected such an honest answer, but Narcissa paid her no heed as she practically floated past the brunette to the staircase. It took Hermione a few seconds before she realized she was staring at the woman who looked so put together it was almost regal. The brunette quickly closed her mouth and went back to the library to read those books she had spotted earlier.

***

Narcissa awoke when she was floating mid-air and had to bite her lip to prevent herself from screaming in fear. She had dreamed about her and her sisters flying their broomsticks when they were younger and for some reason, her unborn child must have thought she was in the mood for some levitation. Which would have been fine with Narcissa if she wasn’t currently dangling several feet above the ground with nothing but her own haphazard magic to prevent her from crashing to her death.

It took her all of her strength to control her breathing and float herself back to her bedroom with wandless magic before she allowed herself to fall apart. Where she’d been grateful at first to be able to fully experience this pregnancy instead of being drugged into obedience and taken care of 24/7 by house-elves, she now dreaded the many months to come. She rubbed the tears from her cheeks and winced when she touched the cut that she hadn’t healed yet. The blonde was comparing the many recent surges of haphazard magic with the few minor incidents she’d had when she was pregnant from Draco, when she heard Hermione’s voice in her head. That baby must be very susceptible to your moods. And then it dawned on Narcissa.

‘Salazar save me.’

She grabbed her wand so she could apparate downstairs, when she reconsidered. It was obvious her magic could not be trusted at this point, so she’d have to reacquaint herself with walking again. Something she rarely did considering it took fifteen minutes to get from the East wing to the West wing and then she hadn’t even taken the gardens into account yet. Narcissa looked at her stilettos and realized she’d need to change her footwear because those heels were made to impress, not to walk several lengths of a Quidditch field.

‘Miss Granger?’ the blonde said hesitantly the moment she entered the library.

‘Yes?’

Narcissa felt relieved when she saw the brown head of curls appear from behind a bookshelf. She really didn’t want to be alone now.

‘I couldn’t help but notice how tired you looked these past few days. Perhaps it’s more convenient if you take up lodgings in the Manor? That way you only have to divide yourself between two locations and not three. The West wing is not being used right now. You’d have several bedrooms and bathrooms, a home office and sitting area to your disposal.’

Hermione came closer, carrying at least five books in her arms, ‘Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to impose.’

‘Nonsense,’ Narcissa said, feeling smug that she’d found the perfect excuse to have the witch around at night as well, in case her child decided to act out every dream she had, ‘you can bring your luggage over after dinner.’

Chapter Text

‘Aren’t you going to heal that?’

‘Mmm?’ Narcissa hummed, not really paying attention to Hermione as she was reading a letter from Draco that had arrived just before dinner.

‘The cut on your cheek. It’s superficial, but it might get infected if you don’t heal it,’ Hermione said patiently while rummaging through her bag.

‘Oh, I got distracted earlier,’ Narcissa admitted, thinking about her little floating accident.

‘Here, use some of this.’

‘Essence of Dittany?’ the blonde said surprised.

‘I always carry a bottle with me since the war,’ Hermione shrugged.

Narcissa wanted to tell Hermione how sorry she was that she’d been dragged into a war at such a young age. She wanted to tell the young witch how brave she’d been. How deeply she regretted her part in all of it. But she couldn’t. Narcissa had learned to hide her emotions, not talk about them. So she merely accepted the flask and smiled at the brunette in front of her.

‘Thank you, Miss Granger.’

‘Hermione. If we’re going to live under the same house, never mind it being almost bigger than Hogwarts, you should call me by my first name.’

‘Very well then. You should still call me Madame Black, of course. It’s only professional.’

Hermione opened her mouth to protest when she saw the devilish smirk that was playing around Narcissa’s lips.

‘You’re joking?’

‘Yes, Hermione. Contrary to popular believe, I actually have a sense of humour.’

‘Don’t blame me for not knowing! You always looked like you were smelling something foul.’

Narcissa raised an eyebrow, ‘it seems like I played my role with fervour then.’

‘Isn’t it tiresome? To always pretend to be someone you’re not?’

‘You get used to it. It saved me from having to actually participate in missions for the Dark Lord.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I always pretended to be dim-witted and talentless. Just a pretty face and Lucius’ trophy-wife. So the only thing they expected of me was to be a host for whichever Death Eater that barged through our doors.’

‘You’re everything but talentless, Narcissa,’ Hermione said while shaking her head, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a smart witch as yourself.’

‘Be that as it may, being underestimated is the biggest competitive advantage you can have.’

‘How very Slytherin of you.’

Narcissa raised her glass of water, ‘I’ll drink to that!’

***

Hermione was reading one of the books that could only be touched with dragon leather gloves when all the candles suddenly spluttered and sizzled. The witch paid it no heed at first, but by the fifth time the candles enveloped her in darkness again, she tore her gaze away from the papers with an exasperated sigh. She could simply cast a lumos of course and be done with it, but something told her she’d better check whether Narcissa needed her help. That’s how she found the woman, frantically pacing in her home office, causing the surges of magic that tampered with the candles.

‘What’s going on?’

‘Oh! I’m sorry Miss G - Hermione. I can’t seem to control my emotions and the baby is picking up on them.’

‘What’s got you in such a state?’

‘Draco send me a letter informing me that he’s going to visit. He usually comes to see me once a month at least.’

‘I don’t see how –‘

‘He doesn’t know I’m pregnant,’ Narcissa interrupted Hermione with a shrill voice, ‘and I don’t want him to know yet, but with my magic acting up, I don’t know how I can hide it from him.’

‘I’m assuming it’ll be a matter of keeping your own thoughts and emotions in check. Your child seems very aware of them.’

Narcissa sighed, ‘yes about that. I think I know why that is.’

Hermione pointed towards the couch as Narcissa’s pacing made her nervous as well. The blonde nodded and perched herself on the nearest armrest while she started fidgeting with her own fingers. The brunette frowned, wondering what had the woman in such frenzy.

‘I think the child is a Legilimens.’

‘Oh…’

‘It explains why my magic responds so intensely to my own feelings and thoughts. Haphazard magic is not uncommon for pregnant witches, but exploding statues and nightly levitation? That’s incredibly rare.’

Hermione cocked her head to one side. Nightly levitation?

‘She or he must have inherited your aptitude for it.’

‘Probably. But this will make it practically impossible to hide my feelings when Draco visits. The baby can probably sense even the slightest change in my mood.’

‘You can tell Draco that it’s me, practising my wandless magic? He’s always thought I’m useless, so I’m sure he’ll buy it.’

Narcissa smiled, ‘thank you. Please know that Draco admitted to you being the most capable witch of his age he’s ever met. He’ll deny it if you ask him, but underneath his haughty exterior hides a very kind wizard if you allow him to show it.’

‘Seeing as you’ve surprised me as well, I’m inclined to believe you,’ Hermione laughed, ‘but you’ll have to tell him eventually. You’ll start showing soon and there’s no way you can blame me for that.’

Suddenly Hermione frowned as if something just dawned upon her. Narcissa furrowed her brow at the sight of the confused expression on the brunette’s face.

‘Speaking of starting to show soon. Shouldn’t you be going to a Healer soon for a check-up? I don’t believe you’ve had any since I started working here.’

Narcissa sprang away from the couch as if it had bitten her and started pacing again, ‘that’s because I can’t go to St. Mungo’s anymore. If someone sees me there on a regular basis or one of the mediwitches blurts out my secret, I’ll be on the front page of the Daily Prophet the very next day.’

‘But you need medical supervision, Narcissa! Especially if this child is indeed a Legilimens such as you expect!’

‘I tried to find a mediwitch in the private sector, but apparently they’re all very busy. Something that is partially my fault according to the Healer at St. Mungo’s’

Hermione sighed, ‘I’ll admit that there are a lot of witches and wizard who need permanent care after the war, but please don’t let anyone tell you it was your fault. You never truly hurt anyone and made the right choice when it mattered.’

The blonde swirled around on her heels and pointed an accusing finger at Hermione, ‘NO! You don’t get to say that. Not after what I did to you. You shouldn’t even be here, let alone be kind to me. I don’t deserve it.’

The pointing finger started to tremble and seconds later, Narcissa sunk down on the coffee table and cried her eyes out. Hermione was confused. How did they go from being anxious about Draco visiting to being anxious about going to St. Mungo’s to be anxious about her forgiving Narcissa? She scooted closer to the crying witch and started rubbing soothing circles on her back.

‘Where is this all coming from, Narcissa?’

‘I can’t he-help it,’ the woman blubbered, ‘it’s the hor-hormones.’

‘Is it though? Or are they just a perfect excuse?’

The woman hiccupped a laugh and managed to regain some control over her emotions. Narcissa sat up straight again, causing Hermione to retract her hand which she curiously enough immediately missed. She smiled a watery smile at the brunette and sighed.

‘I guess it’s both. I would normally never show my emotions like that, so I’ll blame my lack of self-control on the hormones. But what I said was true. I don’t understand why you are nice to me.’

Hermione shrugged, ‘I know why you did what you did. You were protecting Draco from the madwoman that your sister had become. I think she would have hurt you too if you stepped out of line. Voldemort himself resided in your home. You must have been terrified.’

‘He often tortured me to keep Lucius and Draco in check,’ the blonde whispered, ‘and he threatened to kill Draco to ensure my obedience. I was a prisoner in my own home.’

‘And yet… you helped me.’

Narcissa looked up. Ice blue eyes stared into amber ones and they realized that Hermione knew. Knew what she had done all those years ago.

‘How did you find out?’

‘Andromeda told me. She was my Healer after the war, but I think we healed each other in the end. She’s become a dear friend of mine. It was she who discovered you had protected me from going insane from Bella’s torturing by protecting my mind with Legilimency.’

‘I should have done more.’

‘You did everything you could, considering the circumstances. I’ve had many years to come to terms with what happened to me and I’ve processed it, Narcissa. Your sister tortured me. Not you. And I forgave you. I think it’s time you forgive yourself.’

Narcissa started crying again.

***

Hermione grunted when she banged her head against her hearth. She’d gotten far too used to the enormous fireplaces at Malfoy Manor and had forgotten to duck when she emerged from her own. Crookshanks looked at her with such a pleased expression, she had half a mind of denying him his dinner.

‘All right, I’m taking you with me to Malfoy Manor, mister. I think a change in scenery will do you good,’ Hermione scolded as she filled his bowl with food.

With a flick of her wand, all her books shrunk to the size of a cracker and floated in her bag. A second swoosh had all of Hermione’s clothes starting to fold themselves and neatly land in a suitcase. A bag filled with toiletries came rushing from the bathroom and last but not least, everything related with her work at St. Mungo’s followed the books and floated in the magically enlarged bag. While Crookshanks deliberately finished his meal in the slowest way possible, Hermione wrote a letter to Luna asking her if she would visit from time to time to water her plants. She’d learned the hard way not to ask Ginny, because she could kill everything even remotely green.

Before she headed back to Malfoy Manor, Hermione closed her eyes and focused, disapparating on the spot. She landed seconds later in the middle of Andy’s hallway; the only place where it was safe to land unless you fancied stepping on some Lego Teddy had left on the floor. It was late so the toddler would probably be asleep by now, but Hermione knew Andy loved to stay up late with a glass of whiskey and a good film or book. She was proven right when she pushed the door open and saw a head with lightbrown curls sticking out above the couch.

‘Hello Hermione.’

‘How did you know it was me?’

‘There’s only one person who would apparate at this hour without an announcement.’

‘I’m sorry, I really needed to see you.’

‘Don’t apologize love. You’re the only person who doesn’t get hexed into oblivion when attempting to disrupt my quiet evening and you know it. Can I get you anything?’

‘I’ll have a glass of whiskey, please.’

Andy raised her eyebrow, ‘that must be quite the conundrum you have there if you’re asking for whiskey. You usually always ask for tea.’

‘That’s because I have a huge favour to ask of you.’

‘Spill.’

‘It’s your sister…’

***

‘You did what?!’ Narcissa shrieked when Hermione had finally found the courage the next morning to inform her of her rather impulsive decision.

‘You need a mediwitch or a Healer and your sister is very skilled at her profession even if she’s not been active this past year. And she’ll keep your secret, because she already had a hunch before I even told her.’

Narcissa pinched the bridge of her nose, ‘I’m having difficulties keeping my emotions in check, Hermione so get your wand at the ready to defend yourself against any accidental outbursts.’

Hermione paled a bit as she drew her wand. She realized she shouldn’t have made this decision without consulting Narcissa first, but the Gryffindor inside of her had acted before she could properly think it over. The blonde was livid and rightfully so, but Hermione refused to admit defeat just yet.

‘She’s actually looking forward to seeing you again. Perhaps this is the perfect way of restoring your relationship?’

‘People usually re-establish relationships by having a conversation over a glass of wine, Hermione! Not by shoving a hand between each other’s legs to check whether the surprise-pregnancy is going smoothly!’

‘True,’ Hermione said while casting a silent protego just in case, ‘but you can’t have wine right now and you need help.’

‘I’m seriously contemplating throwing you out of the Manor,’ Narcissa seethed, ‘so don’t mention me not being able to drink wine ever again!’

‘I’ll go if you want me to. I realize I overstepped and I’m sorry, Narcissa. But my point still stands, you need medical help from someone you can trust. Who else is more suitable than your own sister?’

‘You had no right!’

Hermione felt her patience waver and snapped, ‘well if you’d rather be miserable and alone in your ridiculously big house, then be my guest! But look me in the eye and say that you have no desire of reaching out to Andy again. Look me in the eye and say that you don’t miss her.’

At this Narcissa fell silent and a blush crept up her neck. The sparks that had been flying from her fingertips faded away as she calmed down. But instead of looking Hermione in the eye, she merely stared at her own feet. The brunette nodded.

‘That’s what I thought. You’re both far too stubborn for your own good! Consider this your second chance and please, Narcissa, take it.’

The blonde nodded, ‘Very well. I’m still angry, but that’s just because I really despise surprises. When’s my dear sister visiting?’

Hermione shuffled her feet, ‘tonight.’

‘WHAT?’

Chapter Text

Hermione rubbed her ass where Narcissa’s jinx had hit her. The blonde had claimed it was an accident, a reaction from the baby to her magic, but Hermione seriously doubted it. Narcissa was still very annoyed with her, so the brunette decided to hide in the library until things had cooled down a bit. Andromeda would arrive shortly after dinner, but seeing as they’d only just eaten lunch, there was a lot of time for Narcissa to anxiously pace around the Manor.

With a sigh, Hermione pointed her lumos to the books in front of her. The candles had sputtered so much, courtesy of Narcissa’s haphazard magic, that Hermione had just put them out because they left her in the darkness more often than not. She held her wand between her teeth and pulled the dragon leather gloves on so she could take one of the dangerous books from its dark hiding place in the back of the library to the front where sunlight lit the room and she could read without having to squint.

The book grumbled a bit in her hands, warning her to not take it outside the library, but as soon as she put it on the desk, it settled down again. Hermione cast a nox and tried to sip her tea. Unfortunately the gloves weren’t very flexible and she ended up spilling half of it on her blouse. A loud crash somewhere in the Manor distracted her from cleaning it up. Narcissa was still in a terrible mood and she hadn’t even informed her yet about the Kneazle cat that wrecked the curtains only seconds after arriving at his temporary new home.

Deciding she’d inform Narcissa about Crookshanks when the woman was a bit more agreeable, the brunette started reading, muttering to her wand so it took notes for her as the gloves didn’t allow her to grab a pencil, let alone write with one. She had considered taking off just one glove so she could write, but Narcissa had warned her that some books would kill her on the spot and while Hermione loved to gain knowledge, she had learned to sort out her priorities and dying for wisdom just wasn’t worth it.

***

By the time the enchanted watch on her wrist informed her that she needed to start making dinner, Hermione had almost completely finished the book. She’d been sitting in the same position for hours judging by the nasty crick in her neck. The library had gotten dark by now and Hermione was relieved to find the candles burning consistently when she put them on. It would seem like Narcissa had managed to calm her nerves somewhat.

It encouraged Hermione to emerge from her hiding place and walk to the kitchens to get started on the vegetable soup that was on the menu for that night. The brunette opened the door and immediately stopped to frown at the sight in front of her. Narcissa was sitting at the kitchen isle, looking at a bottle of wine she’d placed on the countertop. She was resting her head on her arms and didn’t even look up when Hermione carefully shuffled closer.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Wine used to comfort me, but since I can’t drink any… I thought just looking at it might help as well.’

Hermione didn’t know whether to laugh or not, so she kept her facial expressions in check, ‘and does it?’

‘No.’

The older witch didn’t protest when Hermione took the bottle and whisked it away to the cellar. Hermione place a cup of tea in front of the sulking woman instead and sat herself down opposite her. They had definitely grown a bit closer during Hermione’s stay here, but there was still a certain distance between them. An awkwardness or coldness even, Hermione found it hard to describe. She contemplated squeezing Narcissa’s hands, but didn’t know for sure whether the touch would be welcome.

‘Are you really that nervous for Andy to visit?’

‘I abandoned her when she needed me the most and let Bella burn her from our family tapestry. I think I have reasons enough to be nervous.’

‘You were a child yourself. I don’t think someone can hold you accountable for the actions of your parents.’

Narcissa snorted, a sound Hermione had never expected to hear from her, ‘perhaps. But I can’t blame the fact that I never reached out to her, the moment I was free from my pureblood-prison, on my parents. They’re long dead.’

Hermione smiled a little before getting up again so she could get started on the soup, ‘I get it. You have your reasons to be nervous. But I’ll bet you that Andy feels exactly the same.’

***

By the time the doorbell rang, Hermione had been forced to close the main water tap of the house seeing as Cissy’s nerves caused her magic to lash out non-stop. By the fifth time all the taps in a house with eight bathrooms had sprung to life, Hermione had had enough. Just when she contemplated hitting the blonde with a fully body-bind curse, their long awaited guest arrived.

‘I’ll get the door. You try not to demolish the house with your magic,’ Hermione said only half-joking before she left Narcissa in the sitting room.

Hermione smiled the moment she opened the door. Her suspicions about the middle Black sister being as nervous as the youngest one proved to be correct. Andromeda looked like she was ready to bolt, her hands fidgeting with the handle of the little suitcase she was carrying. When Hermione stepped aside to let her in, Andy hesitated before doing so.

‘Nervous?’

‘Of course not,’ Andy said, but her voice wavered, ‘this is merely a professional meeting. You know, to see how the pregnancy is progressing.’

‘Sure,’ the younger witch rolled her eyes. Slytherins could be so bloody ridiculous.

When Hermione guided her friend through the Manor, the entire building shook on its foundations. Short and powerful, almost like a shiver running down a spine. Andy raised her eyebrow at Hermione who seemed everything but surprised at this.

‘It’s part of the reason you’re here. Your sister’s magic goes haywire from time to time.’

Andy hummed, already mentally flicking through her medical knowledge as to why that could be. She was so lost in thought that she didn’t notice the blonde woman sitting on the couch, gripping a pillow so tightly her knuckles were turning white. It was only when Hermione stopped moving and Andy almost bumped into her, that she regained some sense of her surroundings.

‘Cissy.’

‘Andy.’

‘Aaaaand I’m off to the library,’ Hermione said after an awkward silence between the two women, ‘try not to kill each other.’

The bushy-haired witch disappeared through the door, leaving the two Black sisters alone. It took Narcissa a whole minute of opening and closing her mouth, before she managed to remember her lessons in etiquette. She rose to her feet and gestured to a nearby armchair, indicating to Andromeda that she should sit down.

‘Would you like to drink something?’

‘I suppose drinking whiskey isn’t very professional when I have to examine you.’

Narcissa couldn’t help but smirk, ‘it isn’t and you can’t drink alcohol near me.’

‘Why? Because it’s bad for the baby?’ Andy joked.

‘No, because it’s bad for my sanity. Tea okay?’

Andy nodded and perched herself on the armchair. She watched as Narcissa summoned a kettle of boiling water and filled two cups of tea herself. It would seem she was already rather accustomed to living her life without the constant service of a house-elf. The blonde finally sat herself down as well and tried to look everywhere but at her sister.

‘Soooooo,’ Andy tried, ‘pregnant again, huh?’

‘Why are you here?’

Andy sighed, ‘Honestly? Because Hermione asked me.’

Narcissa narrowed her eyes at her sister and wanted to get up, but Andromeda shot forward and grabbed her by the wrist.

‘That does not mean this can’t be an opportunity for us to reconnect?’

‘Would you like that?’ Narcissa asked, hating how insecure her voice sounded but Andy smiled.

‘Of course, Cissy. You’re my sister. I wish you came to me yourself, though. You obviously need help.’

‘I didn’t think it appropriate to show up at your doorstep asking for help after I abandoned you all those years ago.’

‘Let’s talk about that, ey. I think it’s time,’ Andy said gently pulling her sister with her to the couch again.

***

Hermione watched as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. The days were at their longest now with summer just around the corner. She had been forced to stop her research as she was literally going nowhere and had decided on a walk through the gardens to alleviate some of her frustrations. She glanced at the watch on her wrist and sighed. Andy had been inside for almost two hours now so Hermione hoped it would be safe to enter. She was rather keen on desert.

The brunette passed the sitting area on her way to the kitchen and heard some muffled sobs. She hesitated, torn between wanting to know how both women handled the situation and not wanting to be dragged into their drama. Hermione suddenly snorted. Who was she fooling? She was terribly curious so she opened the door and immediately halted in her footsteps.

Andy was currently hugging a crying Narcissa and gently rocking her back and forth while being seated in the midst of an enormous wreckage. The middle Black sister smiled apologetically when she spotted Hermione.

‘We had a very emotional conversation.’

‘I see,’ Hermione mumbled, both impressed and terrified at Narcissa’s magic.

Andromeda merely shrugged. It was nothing magic couldn’t fix. She was beyond grateful that she finally had hadnthe opportunity to talk about what happened all those years ago. Andy had apologized to Narcissa, explaining that she’d had a change of heart about muggles after meeting Edward. She no longer could agree with her parent’s supremacist views. The woman, who looked so much like their eldest sister, but had a very different personality, realized she had been selfish by leaving Narcissa behind, but she’d been too terrified. Bellatrix had already been smitten with Tom Riddle’s pureblood propaganda and Narcissa had been head over heels in love with Lucius. Andy had known she wouldn’t be able to persuade her sisters.

Narcissa for her part admitted to being a coward. While she’d also had some doubts about muggles being the scum her parents claimed them to be, she was too scared to defy them. It was easier to just nod and smile. She’d always been the princess of the three sisters and all Narcissa ever wanted was to get married and live a life of luxury. It was what she was raised to be, trained for her entire life, brainwashed until she could see no other future for herself. When her sister left, she’d been heartbroken, but her family convinced her that her marriage would be in danger if she did not break all ties with Andromeda just like they had done. So obedient as she was, Narcissa hid her true emotions and desperately tried to forget she had two sisters instead of one.

It would be the first of many heartbreaks for the blonde and each of those heartbreaks would make her realize how narrow-minded and selfish her family was. By the time Narcissa saw the truth for what it was, Voldemort had the Malfoy family firmly in his grasp and she could do nothing but pretend. Her husband was still a true believer of pureblood-supremacy and even her own son was being dragged down the same path, something that angered Narcissa beyond words seeing as she was powerless to do something about it.

Andromeda had listened to her with an open mind and an understanding gaze. The cropped up emotions that Narcissa had been battling for years violently resurfaced during their conversation, causing the blonde to hyperventilate and her magic to thrash around the room. Curtains were shredded to pieces; the many pieces of expensive decorations blown to smithereens and the coffee table had been smashed in two.

Finally Narcissa told her sister that after regaining her freedom, she was a coward once more and had convinced herself that Andy wanted nothing to do with her. So she withdrew from society and lived a miserable life during the many years they awaited their trial for their participation in the war. Even when she was cleared from all charges, the woman almost never left he Manor. Narcissa was convinced she deserved to be punished and if the Wizengamot refused to do it for her, she’d lock herself away and suffer in silence.

It had broken Andy’s heart to see her little sister like that. Convinced that everybody hated her. Convinced that she deserved to be miserable. And convinced that her own sister wanted nothing to with her anymore. Years of solitude in the Manor had not helped Narcissa’s twisted views of reality so it had taken Andromeda some serious convincing before her sister believed that she was forgiven. The moment Andy had taken Narcissa into her arms, the blonde’s magic had settled and a calm had washed over them. There was still a lot to talk about and a long road of rebuilding trust ahead of them, but they had made a start and both of them were grateful for it.

***

‘Narcissa thinks the child might be a Legilimens,’ Hermione blurted out the moment Andy placed her hands on the blonde’s bared stomach.

They had restored the sitting area to its former glory, eaten some desert and gone upstairs so Andy could finally perform her examination of her pregnant sister. She was ten weeks pregnant now, but her pregnancy could not yet be seen by the naked eye. Upon her question whether she was expecting a witch or a wizard, Andromeda had smiled. It was too soon to tell, but the pregnancy itself seemed to go smoothly. She could hear a steady heartbeat and saw no indications of complications.

‘Mmmmm,’ the middle Black sister replied, ‘that definitely explains the extreme magical outbursts. We usually see them much later on in the pregnancy and even then, they’re rare and rather innocent.’

Narcissa chuckled, lowering her blouse again and sitting up straight, ‘it seems rare qualities run in our family, Andy. Like your daughter was born a metamorphmagus, my baby will be able to read minds like we read books.’

‘True, but Nymphadora’s talent was only visible a few weeks after she was born. It needed a human body to be able to exist. The legilimency magic is already manifesting because it can respond to emotions. It doesn’t need a body seeing as your child is the size of a cherry right now.’

‘Hang on,’ Hermione said, her curiosity once more getting the best of her, ‘you’re saying there’s different kinds of magic?’

‘Not different kinds. Magic is magic, but there are mutations that allow witches and wizard to do things other witches or wizards can’t. Like speaking parseltongue for example. That also explains why those talents are rare because those mutations get extinct eventually. Mostly when magical genes get mixed with muggle genes,’ Andy explained.

‘That’s often why the higher society insists on keeping the blood ‘pure’,’ Narcissa elaborated, ‘to keep those talents alive.’

Hermione nodded, her mind already working at the speed of light, ‘so do you consider special magic that has run in families for centuries a mutation as well? Like the dark magic that’s often used by the Sacred twenty-eight?’

Andy cocked her head, ‘are you on to something, Hermione?’

The brunette’s eyes lit up, ‘I might be.’

Chapter Text

Hermione scratched Crookshank behind the ears before the Kneazle cat disappeared behind a row of bookcases. The animal had been much happier now that he had an enormous territory to prance around in with his owner present at all times. Hermione shook her head in fond exasperation as she saw the red, fluffy tail disappear and focused on her work again. She had just finished her tasks for St. Mungo’s and was about to continue with her own research when the door of the library opened.

‘I figured I’d find you here.’

‘Good afternoon, Narcissa. Can I do anything for you?’

‘Not this time. The Manor has been kept immaculately since you came to work for me, the gardens are in excellent shape and I’m feeling well nourished and healthy.’

Hermione laughed, ‘I should be asking for a raise.’

Narcissa ignored the joke and sat herself down on the opposite side of the desk Hermione was working at.

‘I came to inquire whether I could be of assistance to you?’

‘Oh,’ the brunette said surprised, ‘well actually, you could. Would it be possible to grant me access to the Black library as well?’

The blonde eyes widened, ‘are the books in here not to your liking?’

‘They are! But I read most of them and I didn’t find what I was looking for.’

Narcissa frowned, ‘what are you looking for exactly?’

‘I’ll tell you when I’m convinced of my theory, but for now, that’s all it is, a theory. I need more information and a lot more research first.’

‘Very well then,’ the former Malfoy Matriarch sighed, ‘but I’ll need to accompany you each time you visit the Black library.’

Hermione was insulted, ‘I won’t defile the books with my impure blood, if that’s what you’re afraid of.’

A perfectly shaped eyebrow was raised and when Narcissa spoke, her voice felt several degrees colder.

‘That’s exactly what my Black ancestors feared when they built the family home. It is warded to kill intruders on the spot. Anyone who doesn’t have Black blood isn’t allowed to enter.’

‘That’s barbaric.’

‘We call it tradition,’ the blonde drawled, ‘you’re safe as long as I accompany you. Shall we go?’

‘What? Now?’ Hermione stammered.

‘Unless you’d rather spend more time in this disappointingly inadequate library?’

While Hermione grumbled about how she hadn’t meant to insult the Malfoy book collection, Narcissa gave her some Floo powder and strict instructions on how to pronounce the name of the destination. The blonde disappeared in a gush of green flames and Hermione quickly followed suit. She barely managed to stop twirling around in the hearth, when Narcissa’s cold, long fingers wrapped themselves around her wrist.

‘Normally the presence of a Black is enough of an invitation for someone to visit the manor, but seeing as you are muggleborn and this house hasn’t been used in years, I suggest you stay very close to me.’

Hermione gulped, ‘I’ll hold your hand.’

‘That’s not necess -‘

‘I don’t want to take any risks,’ the younger witch practically shrieked, ‘I’m holding your hand.’

Narcissa barely managed to hide her amusement when Hermione took her hand and finally looked around the library. Her jaw dropped to the floor and the older woman couldn’t help but find Hermione terribly adorable at that moment. Where the Malfoy library was grand, the Black library was magnificent. It was nearly entirely carved out of dark marble and glass, adorned with so much gold, the vaults at Gringotts almost paled in comparison. Enormous chandeliers sprang to life at the snap of Narcissa’s fingers and the heavy curtains moved away from the windows, making the entire library bask in the sunlight.

Narcissa felt Hermione’s grip loosen and for some strange inexplicable reason, she tightened it herself by guiding the brunette towards the first row of books. Hermione was too busy taking in her surroundings to notice, but the blonde frowned at her own actions. What in Salazar’s name was she trying to prove here? It was only when Hermione spoke, that Narcissa stopped frowning. The blonde shook her head as she came back to reality.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I wondered where the books about the history of the Black family are. Perhaps even books about their magic?’

‘Mmm, I think you’ll find those all the way in the back.’

Hermione immediately started moving, pulling the older woman with her before remembering that it was not very gallant of her to drag a pregnant woman across the floor. She quickly slowed her pace; smiling nervously at the blonde who couldn’t prevent her blue eyes from twinkling with amusement, and never letting go of the slender fingers in her hand. When she saw Hermione reach for a few books, she stopped her.

‘I think you’d better tell me which books you want to read, and I’ll float them towards the fireplace. There will be books you can’t move, but we’ll visit here frequently so you can read them all. I never mind a quiet hour of reading myself.’

Hermione beamed.

***

‘Remember. If your magic lashes out, just tell Draco I’m somewhere in the manor practising my wandless magic.’

Narcissa nodded, ‘thank you.’

‘I’ll be in the library, as usual.’

Hermione disappeared through a door the moment the familiar sound of apparition announced Draco’s arrival. Narcissa smoothed some non-existing creases from her dress and made her way to the hall. A big smile appeared on her face at the sight of her son. He’d grown so much, he was several inches taller than his mother and he’d been growing a beard for the past months. Narcissa thought he looked dashing.

‘Hello, my darling boy.’

‘Mother,’ Draco said stiffly as he pecked Narcissa on both cheeks, ‘still not leaving the house, I see.’

‘Actually I have been going outside a bit more.’

Draco looked pleased, ‘that’s good to hear. Shall we sit in the gardens today? The weather is very nice and Astoria always tells me I’m far too pale.’

‘You’re a Malfoy. You can sit in the sun all you like, you’ll always be pale, I’m afraid.’

‘Another thing from father that I’m not grateful for,’ Draco muttered and Narcissa cringed.

And despite her best efforts to keep her emotions in check, regret washed over her and her magic lashed out causing a tremor to ripple through the air. The blonde wizard immediately drew his wand and took a defensive pose, but his mother waved him away.

‘Don’t be silly, darling. It’s just miss Granger practising her wandless magic.’

‘And that’s supposed to comfort me… how exactly? What is she even doing here?’

Narcissa hooked her arm through her son’s and walked him to the gardens. A flick of her wrist summoned a glass of water for herself and a butterbeer for Draco. She felt relieved to see them arrive without any accidents. They sat down on one of the benches that looked out over the pond and Narcissa leaned closer to her son, happy to see him again.

‘I told you in my letters that Beril had died and I didn’t care for all the fuss of hiring a new house-elf. So I put out an advert, because this house is really too big and I’m not going to clean it myself.’

Draco looked sceptical, ‘so Granger does it? I thought she had a very prestigious job at St. Mungo’s?’

‘A job that requires her to do a lot of research. And she needs books for that, darling. And not the kind of books you can buy at Flourish and Blotts. So we made a deal. She helps me and I allow her access to the libraries.’

The wizard looked everything but convinced and Narcissa’s magic responded to her nerves setting fire to a nearby shrubbery. Luckily the woman’s reflexes were quick and she managed to extinguish it without her son noticing. He was still very busy staring at some point in the distance while frowning.

‘I still don’t get why you need help, mother. You never leave the house. Surely you can manage to keep track of the household yourself? Even I wash my own socks these days.’

‘Perhaps I just like the company?’ Narcissa blurted in a final attempt to convince her son that there was nothing suspicious going on.

‘And you choose Granger for the job? Honestly mother, I think this solitude is starting to mess with your head.’

‘Your mother is helping me with my research, Draco,’ Hermione’s voice suddenly sounded, ‘it’s proving to be quite challenging and I needed an extra pair of brains on the case.’

Narcissa nodded gratefully as the brunette extended her hand at Draco who shook it after only a moment’s hesitation.

‘My mother is a very smart witch, so that makes sense. But why not tell me?’

Hermione shrugged, ‘the research itself is controversial and we’re not yet at a stage where we can prove anything. We’d like to stay under the radar until we have something to show for.’

Draco suddenly smiled, ‘I’m glad you found something to occupy yourself with, mother. You did always like a challenge.’

Narcissa ruffled her son’s hair and Hermione took that cue to leave them in peace again. She’d only popped by to check whether he was buying their story. She was still within hearing distance when Narcissa’s haphazard magic turned some nearby sculpted hedge into a heart shape. Draco snorted.

‘You do know that wandless magic is supposed to be subtle, Granger?’

‘Good advice! I’ll keep that in mind,’ Hermione shouted over her shoulder.

She shook her head. For a Slytherin and Heir of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, Narcissa sure had a difficult time keeping her emotions in check. And Hermione suspected that the hormones were only partially to blame for that. The woman was clearly changing for the better, and Hermione couldn’t help but smile at that.

***

Draco left an hour later, convinced that his mother was doing well and probably also convinced that Hermione wasn’t worthy of the title Brightest-Witch-of-her-Age anymore as there had been several more outbursts of Narcissa’s magic being blamed on her practising her wandless skills. Hermione didn’t care, she was consumed in one of the books they brought from Black manor and was currently near the end of her second notebook. Her alarm rang and the brunette reluctantly tore her gaze away from the pages, scribbled down a few final notes, before heading to the kitchen.

She’d tried to convince Narcissa into trying pizza, but the blonde had flat-out refused to eat junkfood. They’d bickered about it until Narcissa had agreed to try a homemade one. And that’s how Hermione ended up kneading dough and cursing herself for not just agreeing to eat a salad. Her brow was glistening with sweat by the time she shoved two pizzas into the oven and the witch longed for a bath. She set a timer on her watch and quickly apparated to the West wing of Malfoy Manor, determined to not waste time by walking the ridiculous length while she could be soaking in hot water.

Hermione had been a bit nervous for her first night at the Manor, but her quarters were more than amenable enough. She had an enormous bedroom with a walk-in wardrobe and a luxurious bathroom that housed a shower and a bath. Next to her room was a sitting area with a fireplace and a round table in case she wanted to eat her dinner in private. There was also a home office that was partially equipped to be a potions lab as well. And that was only the rooms Hermione was using. She’d glanced behind a few other doors and had encountered similar riches.

Much to her surprise she had slept like a rose with Crookshanks at her feet. The only room in the house she tried to avoid was the parlour where Bellatrix had tortured her. It’s not because she finally processed what had happened to her, that she was going to test her own limits by visiting that dreadful place.

With a sigh she rose from the tub, with fifteen minutes to spare on her timer and wrapped a towel around herself. Her hair had decided to resemble a shrubbery today, so Hermione just twisted it in a chignon braid at the nape of her neck. Feeling a bit tired she opted for grey sweatpants and an oversized white T-shirt. Tonight she just wanted to feel comfortable. By the time she emerged from the bathroom, Crookshanks was clawing at the door, desperate to get out. Hermione watched him disappear around a corner the moment she let him through the door and silently reminded herself to inform Narcissa about her feline guest.

‘What in Salazar’s name is that?’ Narcissa asked the moment she entered the kitchen.

Hermione who was busy pulling the last pizza out of the oven frowned, ‘homemade pizza? Like we discussed?’

‘No, I meant the abomination you are wearing!’

‘What? These are sweatpants. Have you never heard about sweatpants before?’

The blonde scrunched up her nose, but refused to dignify the question with an answer. Hermione rolled her eyes and started cutting Narcissa’s pizza before shoving the plate her way. They usually just ate at the kitchen island seeing as the dining room was so enormous, their voices echoed when they talked. The blonde didn’t comment when she sunk her teeth in a slice of pizza, and Hermione felt slightly disappointed. She had been slaving away in the kitchen for more than an hour!

She was just going to tease Narcissa that she’d be begging for sweatpants once her belly started showing more when suddenly Hermione spotted her cat, sneaking up to Narcissa’s light blue gown that was dangling from the bar stool she was sitting on. The younger witch glared at Crookshanks, silently warning him not to misbehave but the creature just gave her a haughty look and proceeded to crawl his way up to the older woman. When he began batting his paw at the expensive fabric of her dress, Hermione decided that now was the moment to inform Narcissa about the fact that she’d brought her cat. She was convinced the witch would still be annoyed if Crookshanks tore her dress with his claws, but the Kneazle cat seemed intend on embarrassing Hermione so this way she could do some damage control.

‘Narcissa, I’ve been wanting to tell you the moment I moved my stuff here, but you’ve been distracted with Andromeda’s and Draco’s visit and well… you seemed rather angry, so I didn’t want to risk annoying you further. Not that you’d harm me! That’s not what I’m saying, but you know, with your magic lashing out. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind. I really should have asked your permission first but –‘

‘In Salazar’s name, woman, stop blabbing! You’re giving me a headache,’ Narcissa scolded, but there was no real bite in her words, ‘just spit it out.’

‘Right,’ Hermione said just when Crookshanks shook his fur and she saw a cloud of orange hairs floating through the air. He really needed a good grooming, ‘I brought my –‘

Suddenly Narcissa sneezed and disapparated on the spot, taking the slice of pizza she was holding with her. Crookshanks let out an insulted meow and Hermione looked around the kitchen in confusion. Where the hell did she go?

Chapter Text

It had taken Hermione a solid ten minutes before she’d found Narcissa. The woman had just re-entered the manor, slice of pizza still in had and with a very confused expression on her face.

‘What the hell happened?’

‘I honestly don’t know,’ the blonde replied, ‘my magic apparated me in the midst of the gardens without a reason.’

Hermione frowned, ‘that’s weird. Why would your baby want you in the gardens?’

‘Again, I honestly don’t know,’ Narcissa said while staring in disgust at the now cold slice of pizza, ‘and I couldn’t apparate back because I’m scared my faulty magic will get me splinched.’

‘Or worse, you could end up at the North Pole.’

The older witch raised an eyebrow, ‘you need to sort out your priorities, darling.’

Narcissa didn’t register how the brunette almost choked on the term of endearment and marched back to the kitchen, determined to finish her meal. Hermione wanted to propose she side-apparated them, but somehow she felt like Narcissa would take it as an insult, rather than as help. When they arrived in the kitchen, both their pizzas had gone cold and Crookshanks was licking the anchovy off of Hermione’s.

‘You call that a cat?’

‘It’s a Kneazle cat and his name is Crookshanks. I couldn’t leave him alone. He’s miserable when he doesn’t have any company.’

The blonde witch shrugged, as she had more urgent matters to rile herself up about, ‘fine by me. As long as he doesn’t wreck my curtains and relieves himself outside.’

Hermione smiled, desperately trying not to think about Crookshanks dangling in some curtains the second he arrived at the Manor, but soon Narcissa’s expression changed.

‘He already did, didn’t he?’

‘I thought you didn’t read minds on purpose!’

‘Hermione, if you try not to think about something, your mind tends to do just that. You practically shouted it at me.’

The brunette crossed her arms in a huff, ‘I repaired them the moment I got him out.’

‘Just keep him in check,’ Narcissa decided, before glaring down at their pizzas, ‘but whatever shall we eat now?’

Before Hermione could reply that there was still some soup left from yesterday, the older woman sneezed and disapparated for a second time. She didn’t go far this time as Narcissa landed in the pantry behind the kitchen. The blonde voiced an ouch when a bag of potatoes tore and dropped some of its contents on her head, but otherwise she remained unharmed.

‘Thank you,’ Narcissa said as she accepted Hermione’s outstretched hand.

‘I don’t understand this. Your magic responds to heavy emotions, but unless my pizza was truly horrible, I don’t get why you’re being apparated around the house.’

Narcissa opened her mouth to admit that the pizza hadn’t exactly been a culinary delight, but she sneezed instead and disapparated again. Hermione, very unlike her, cursed.

***

By the tenth involuntarily apparition, Hermione had given up on trying to find the witch, because each time she’d located her, Narcissa disappeared again. She had instead decided on going back to the library to try and get some work done for St. Mungo’s as the Board of Directors had asked her to look into a new curse that caused the patients to cluck like chickens. Hermione just finished scribbling down her conclusion and was about to search for an owl to send her paper off to Andy, when the familiar pop of apparition sounded.

Her boss appeared, exhausted and very annoyed, right on top of her desk and toppled the bottle of ink over spilling its contents over Hermione’s work. She helped Narcissa clamber down from the desk, before drawing her wand and vanishing the excess of ink while the other witch muttered a few apologies. Narcissa sank down on a chair and pinched the bridge of her nose.

‘I’ve been on top of the roof, in the basement, twice in the gardens, and in a number of rooms I didn’t even recognize. I’ve had enough.’

‘I’m sorry I didn’t come looking for you anymore, but this house is so big.’

Narcissa dismissed Hermione’s apology with a vague gesture of her hand. She’d kicked off her stilettos somewhere around her fourth attempt to walk back to the library and was now barefoot, but her feet still ached from marching around all day. Hermione felt bad for the woman who sneezed and disapparated again, the sounds of her frustrated shriek still lingering in the room. With a sigh, the brunette got up from her chair and decided to try and find Narcissa again.

It took her exactly twenty minutes and in that time, the blonde had changed locations three times again. When she saw the older woman trembling in the hallway, Hermione quickened her pace to see if she was all right, but just as she reached out to touch the woman, she sneezed and vanished again. Unfortunately, this time she left her clothes behind.

‘Would you be so kind and return those to me, Hermione?’ an embarrassed voice sounded from behind her.

Narcissa stood, stark naked but with a curtain wrapped around herself, at the other side of the hallway, her pale skin slightly reddened from the blush that was creeping up her neck. Hermione quickly collected the discarded clothing and offered them to the woman while trying to avert her gaze.

‘Narcissa, this is getting ridiculous. This house is too big for me to keep finding you and you’re spending all day trying to walk back to where you came from.’

‘I’m well aware,’ the blonde snapped, ‘but what do you suggest? I can’t lock myself in the bedroom.’

‘No, but we can go back to my place until we figure out what’s wrong with you. It’s an open space with two bedrooms and one bathroom. So it’ll be much easier for me to find you and for you to stay in one room seeing as you can walk through the entire apartment in under five minutes.’

The older witch seemed slightly hesitant to accept, but sneezed and disapparated again before she could voice any complaints. Hermione snickered when she heard her shout from the second floor that she accepted the proposal, because Salazar’s snake, she just wants to nap.

Half an hour later both witches had packed some clothes and stood in front of the hearth in the hallway. Hermione scooped up Crookshanks and smiled gratefully at Narcissa who threw some Floo powder in the flames for her.

They both landed in Hermione’s apartment moments later. The brunette shook her head, remembering that she had packed all her stuff only two days ago, not expecting to be back here for months. She eyed Narcissa who took in her surroundings with a curious expression.

‘I know it’s not what you’re used to, but it’ll be easier for the both of us while we try to figure out why your magic is behaving like this.’

‘I actually quite like it, Hermione. It suits you.’

Hermione flushed and quickly distracted herself by showing Narcissa around. The woman followed her and showed the same interest in every room they encountered, although the kitchen with its modern muggle appliances had her linger the longest. It was only when they stood in Hermione’s home office that Narcissa spoke again.

‘You said your apartment has two bedrooms, but I only noticed one bed.’

‘Oh! Yes, I use this room for work seeing as I live alone. But that’s okay! I’ll sleep on the couch.’

Narcissa scoffed, ‘nonsense. We shall go back to the Manor. It may be big, but at least it has enough beds for its occupants.’

Hermione laughed, ‘don’t worry about it! It’s a sofabed.’

‘A what now?’

‘A sofabed. I can transform it into a bed. No magic required whatsoever.’

The blonde witch shook her head, ‘I have to admit, muggles can be quite clever.’

‘Don’t let anyone hear you say that,’ Hermione said with mock-outrage, ‘they’ll think you’ve lost your mind.’

‘That’s hilarious, Hermione. Really. I’m dying,’ Narcissa said with so much sarcasm, it practically dripped from her voice.

‘Hey! Be nice to your host. You get yourself settled in the bedroom and I’ll order us some food, because I’m starving now.’

About an hour later, Hermione had a hard time playing cool when Narcissa moaned the moment she sunk her teeth in the pizza the brunette had ordered.

‘Salazar’s snake, this is so much better than that tasteless drab you dared call food.’

‘Excuse me?’ Hermione said insulted, ‘I made that from scratch because someone refused to have take-out.’

‘Yes, but that was before I knew how delicious it would be.’

‘I told you. Repeatedly.’

‘I’m a Slytherin, Hermione. I don’t trust that easily.’

***

Two days passed where Narcissa sneeze-apparated her way around the apartment, but Hermione had been right. She could very easily walk back to the room she’d been in and Hermione didn’t have to go looking for her anymore. They had intended to ask Andy for a check-up, but Hermione had been called away to St. Mungo’s for an emergency. She had explained to Narcissa how the microwave worked and told her to make herself at home.

And that’s how Narcissa ended up on Hermione’s couch, a glass of juice on the coffee table next to a tray of biscuits, reading a book and generally enjoying some peace and quiet. The other witch had not come home for the night, but had send a memo to tell her that everything was under control and that she needn’t worry. Narcissa almost scoffed. Like she would worry about someone she didn’t particularly like. Right?

Suddenly the hearth sprang to life and a green, roaring flame spat out an exhausted looking Hermione onto the carpet. Narcissa put her book down and frowned when she realized there was an enormous smile on her face. Since when did she smile so much? She didn’t have time to think about it however, because Hermione immediately asked how she’d been.

‘Don’t worry about me, Hermione. I’m a grown woman. I can be alone for more than an hour.’

‘I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s just that you were in a strange environment with a lot of muggle devices. I assumed you might be overwhelmed.’

‘Apart from the infernal noise the rifridgerator makes, I’ve actually been rather comfortable.’

Hermione snorted, ‘the refrigerator. I’m glad to hear it. Have you eaten yet?’

The blonde shook her head, ‘No, but I’ll warm up our meals while you take a bath.’

‘You really don’t have to!’ Hermone protested, but Narcissa cut her off with a glare.

‘Don’t start an argument you can’t win, darling. You look like the Hogwarts Express ran you over and I’m quite capable of operating the microwave. Let me help you.’

‘Very well. Thank you,’ Hermione relented, not even bothering to try and argue. She really was knackered.

After agreeing on Mac&Cheese, Hermione made her way to the bathroom and happily shrugged off her robes she’d been wearing for far too long. The water clattered against the tub and after a moment of hesitation, she added some lavender to make it extra relaxing. She heard Narcissa sneeze in the kitchen and couldn’t help but chuckle. She had to add extra wards around her apartment to ensure the blonde wouldn’t accidentally pop up at one of her muggle neighbours.

Their dinner would need a solid fifteen minutes so there was no time for a long soak, but she could still feel her muscles unclench at the hot temperature of the water. She quickly scrubbed her body clean of sweat and whatever substance her assistant had spilled on her and immediately felt happier. Some clean clothes and a warm meal and she’d be as good as new! Hermione had just squirted some shampoo in her hands to start soaping up her hair, when another sneeze announced a new involuntarily apparition.

Hermione shrieked when Narcissa landed in her bath with a loud splash. The water gushed over the edges and Hermione shrieked again when some soap got in her eyes and started stinging like crazy. When she finally managed to open her eyes, she saw Narcissa squeezed in the tub together with her, completely shocked and fully clothed. Hermione quickly crossed her arms in front of her chest to hide her naked body from view, but she could feel Narcissa’s feet touch her outer thighs and it was very hard not to shriek a third time.

‘I am so sorry, Hermione,’ the blonde stammered, ‘but I really have no control over this sneeze-apparating.’

The brunette had finally recovered from her initial surprise and started laughing, ‘Merlin’s beard, you startled me.’

‘You’re not angry with me?’

‘Not at all. You’re hardly doing it on purpose, but I will call Andy first thing tomorrow to see what’s going on because despite being a social owl, I prefer to take my baths alone.’

Narcissa quirked an eyebrow, but refrained from commenting. Sitting with a naked girl, nearly half her age, in a bathtub was hardly the place for inappropriate jokes. With a stiff nod she hoisted herself from the water and stepped out of the tub while Hermione tried very hard not to notice how the soaked fabric of the blonde’s dress clung to every curve of her body.

***

Andy frowned when she asked Narcissa to open her mouth so she could check her throat. It looked slightly swollen, but apart from that, there was no apparent redness. Not unlike her sister’s eyes who were obviously irritated. She pushed the flats of her fingers against Narcissa’s neck to check her glands and felt a light swelling there as well. It only confirmed her suspicions.

‘I don’t recall you being particularly fond of animals, apart from horses, but do you own any pets, Cissy?’

‘Apart from a few owls to deliver my messages? No.’

Precisely at that moment, Crookshanks decided to make a grand entry as he jumped on Narcissa’s lap and wacked her in the face with his tail. The blonde immediately sneezed and disapparated. There was a loud clatter to be heard, followed by a string of very unladylike curses. Hermione sighed, walked to the storage room next to her kitchen and opened the door. Narcissa was sitting in the midst of all her cleaning equipment, with a bucket on top of her head. The younger witch took pity on her and crouched down so she could free Narcissa from the bucket and her embarrassment. Blue eyes looked up at her and smiled when Hermione offered her hand to pull Narcissa to her feet.

‘It’s been like this for days now,’ Hermione explained to a very amused Andy who was waiting for them in the living area, ‘and we don’t understand why the baby or the magic is doing it.’

‘Well, it’s obvious that the baby is just trying to protect his or her mother by apparating her away from danger.’

‘Danger?’ Hermione and Narcissa echoed at the same time.

‘Honestly and you two are supposed to be the Brightest-Witches-of-your-Ages?’ Andromeda said while rolling her eyes.

‘What’s your point, Andy?’ Narcissa snapped.

‘Has it never occurred to any of you that Narcissa is simply allergic to cats?’

Oh.

Chapter Text

Armed with an anti-allergy potion for Narcissa, both witches moved back to the Manor seeing as the blonde insisted the amount of beds should at least triple the number of people in the house. Despite Malfoy Manor not being Hermione’s favourite place to be, the brunette had not offered any resistance. While she managed to be civil with Narcissa, it was a whole other thing to live together with the woman in the limited space that was her apartment. At least here they had an entire wing to themselves and a fifteen minute walk in between them should things get awkward.

Much to Hermione’s surprise, Narcissa had allowed Crookshanks to come with them again. She even spotted the blonde scratching the Kneazle cat behind his ears. And when he was dangling in some curtains again, the witch did nothing but shake her head. Hermione secretly suspected Narcissa to enjoy the life in the house, as it had been deadly silent for so many years.

‘What are your plans for the remainder of this Friday?’

‘I’m not too sure. I read almost every book that can be of use in this library and the ones I still want to read in the Black library start to scream when I move them.’

'Shall we go to Black library once more then?' Narcissa offered with a smile.

'I only have the books left to read that refuse to be moved so you'd have to stay with me, I'm afraid.'

The blonde shrugged, 'what else am I going to do with my day?'

Hermione beamed and nodded her consent. They both travelled through the Floo and landed in Black Manor. Narcissa barely managed to suppress a laugh when Hermione practically dragged her to the library. The brunette almost let go of the older woman's hand so Narcissa squeezed a bit harder.

'Right,' Hermione blushed a bit, 'got to make sure the library doesn't strike me down with lightning on the spot.'

'Indeed. I would hate having to clean the Manor all by myself.'

'Oh, so that's all I'm good for?'

Narcissa smirked, 'wouldn't you like to know?'

Hermione, usually rather eloquent, opened her mouth but didn't manage to formulate a proper response. She felt a hot blush creep up her neck and the fact that the blonde witch's smirk was only widening, didn't exactly help. Luckily for her, a growling book provided her with an excellent excuse to be distracted.

'I'm going to read the History of the Noble and Ancient House of Black. I've been eyeing that one since our first visit here.'

'I can't stand that book. Mother forced me to learn it by heart. I don't mind reading the same book multiple times, but only when it's out of my own free will.'

Hermioned nodded her agreement, 'that makes sense. I can reread Hogwarts, A History a million times but give me a book on Divination and I'd rather become a professional Quidditch player.'

Narcissa made a little sound of amusement, but the way Hermione could really tell she was happy, was by the shimmer of joy that flickered in those ice blue eyes. The brunette had gotten better in reading the so-called Ice Queen's facial expressions and knowing what was going on behind the façade, really helped Hermione be more at ease around the blonde.

'So as much as you are a bookworm, you detest Quidditch and Divination?'

'I don't hate Quidditch,' Hermione corrected Narcissa while floating the long awaited book to the sitting area in the library, 'I just don't like flying.'

'Because you don't like the feeling of not being in control.'

It wasn't a question, but a statement and Hermione frowned. Narcissa, who was still perusing the bookshelf and holding Hermione's hand, softly smiled.

'I meant no insult by it, Hermione. You just reminded me of myself a little bit. I don't like flying for that exact reason and I assumed it was the same for you.'

Hermione relaxed a bit, 'I guess you have a point. Perhaps it also applies to Divination as it's a tricky subject to get a hold on.'

'No, it's because Divination is a load of hogwash. Honestly it's just a bunch of hippies seeing omens of death in the drab they dare call tea.'

The youngest witch couldn't help but full on laugh with Narcissa's expression of disdain, 'well I feel the same, but I was trying to be polite about it.'

Narcissa shrugged, 'I'm pregnant. I get to be impolite.'

'I wondered when you would start pulling the pregnancy-card,' Hermione groaned.

 

***

 

They had been sitting in silence for a few hours before Narcissa closed her book. Not that she'd read much of it. It had proven to be rather difficult to focus when Hermione was making the cutest faces while scribbling down her notes. It would seem she had found a book that suited her needs for her research because she had not looked up from the pages once. Perhaps that was a good thing or she would have spotted the blonde watching her intently.

'I'm thirsty,' Narcissa said breaking the silence, 'can I get you anything?'

'I thought you weren't allowed to leave me alone?'

'Am I not a witch then?' Narcissa replied as she twirled her wand between her fingers.

'Right,' Hermione facepalmed, 'I sometimes forget we can do magic.'

Narcissa would have snorted if the action wouldn’t have been everything but ladylike, so she opted for a scoff before drawing her wand. Honestly, how could one forget she is a witch?

The blonde drew her wand and wanted to give it a twirl when Hermione intervened, ‘perhaps I should do the summoning?’

‘Why? I’m perfectly capable of performing magic when my emotions are under control.’

Hermione shrugged, ‘just saying, I don’t feel like having a butterbeer flung against my head.’

‘I don’t think I have anything alcoholic in the house apart from wine,’ Narcissa replied with pursed lips.

‘That’s okay. I normally never drink, apart from the occasional cider beer when we go out on the weekends.’

Narcissa couldn’t help but smile a sad smile at that, ‘I don’t recall the last time I went out. Or the last time I had friends.’

Hermione looked up at the witch, but Narcissa was avoiding her gaze and staring at her lap. They both sat in silence while a bottle of water and two glasses floated into the library and settled themselves in front of them. Narcissa occupied herself with pouring the glasses and Hermione realized the woman needed a moment to recollect. When the brunette sipped her water, she carefully spoke again.

‘How long has it been since you went outside for anything that wasn’t strictly necessary?’

‘Years. By the time the Wizarding community of Great Britain had rebuild themselves after the war, they started to hunt down every last Death Eater that had managed to escape the grounds of Hogwarts. They were all placed under confinement in their own homes until the trials began. Two years passed before the Wizengamot even began sentencing supporters of the Dark side to Azkaban.’

‘I remember those days. They needed to re-elect the entire Wizengamot and re-establish the entire Ministry of Magic again because so many spies of Voldemort had infiltrated the ranks.’

‘Exactly. So they first had to figure out which ones were under the influence of the Imperio curse and which ones were not. They all claimed to be innocent of course. It was such a mess.’

Hermione nodded her head in agreement. The first few years after the war hadn’t been exactly smooth sailing. There were a lot of trust issues among the Wizarding community and a true manhunt had been going on to find the last followers of Voldemort.

‘When they finally started the trials, Lucius and I had been confined to Malfoy Manor for a solid three years,’ Narcissa continued her story. ‘Our trial was complex and messy. There were people screaming for our heads on one side and people speaking up for us on the other.’

‘Like Harry.’

Narcissa inclined her head, ‘like mister Potter, indeed. So by the time they finally decided to only punish Lucius and let me walk free, the entire justice system was being questioned. Wizards now instead of Dementors were guarding Azkaban, but some journalist had discovered that said wizards were often abusing the prisoners. It was quite the scandal.’

‘I remember. The Daily Prophet interviewed Harry, Ronald and me about it. To ask for our opinions.’

The blonde smiled, ‘I read your very fierce plea to have Azkaban shut down.’

‘It didn’t help, though.’

‘Not immediately, but the Minister has promised me that the prison will close its doors when the last prisoners have died or been released. Anyhow, our confinement to Malfoy Manor was once more prolonged during the times they investigated the malpractices at Azkaban. When they finally came to collect my husband, another eighteen months had passed.’

‘So…,’ Hermione quickly calculated the years, ‘you have been living in the Manor for five years now? Why didn’t you go outside once your confinement was lifted?’

Narcissa cleared her throat, struggling to keep the emotion from her voice, ‘I got used to never going outside anymore, but I think I also was too scared to break my routine. I’m safe here, Hermione. Safe from everyone who wishes to never see me in public again.’

The brunette shook her head, ‘no, that’s ridiculous. So many years have passed. There’s peace and trust once more. The world has changed, Narcissa. I’m sure they’ll accept you in it once more.’

‘I’m not ready,’ the blonde whispered and before Hermione knew what she was doing, she grasped one of Narcissa’s hands and squeezed it comfortingly.

‘We’ll start slowly. If you go to the muggle area of London first, you can get used to crowds again before being recognized again.’

‘We?’ Narcissa said, her voice thick with emotion.

Hermione smiled, ‘yes, I’ll help you! You must be going crazy being cooped up in here for years, even if it’s a big house.’

‘You’d do that for me?’

‘Sure,’ Hermione said decisively, ‘but we better not wait too long. You’ll start showing soon and you don’t want your pregnancy to be made public just yet.’

‘Tomorrow then?’

The young woman nodded. Tomorrow.

 

***

Hermione swallowed when she saw Narcissa stride down the staircase. She had insisted that the woman wore something more muggle-like, but hadn’t expected to see Narcissa clad in black slacks and a silver-grey cardigan. Her darkgreen trenchcoat reached halfway her calves and the flat shoes she wore were made from shiny leather and looked equally uncomfortable as her stilettos. The blonde was fidgeting with her purse, obviously nervous of what was to come.

‘Shall I side-apparate us?’ Hermione suggested.

Narcissa nodded and wanted to link her arm with Hermione’s, but the brunette offered her hand with a warm smile. Their fingers entwined in a firm grip Hermione shut her eyes and focused on a very cosy muggle pub she once visited with her parents. The moment they landed, Narcissa hunched over and gasped for air.

‘Are you okay?’

‘I am. I just don’t think the baby agrees with this mode of transportation. I stopped apparating around the Manor as well the moment my magic started acting up.’

‘We’ll take a taxi home then. Are you ready to go inside?’

After Narcissa’s nod, they pushed through the doors and a warm atmosphere washed over them. The entire pub looked like it was made out of books. Not only were the walls covered in them, but stacks and stacks of literature also supported the tables. Narcissa chuckled.

‘Always the bookworm.’

‘That makes two of us. There’s a free table over there,’ Hermione pointed before helping Narcissa out of her trench coat and storing their jackets away in the foyer.

‘Can I get you ladies anything?’ the waiter inquired the moment they sat themselves down.

‘Can we have two virgin cocktails on the house, please?’ Hermione replied.

‘Virgin cocktails?’

‘It’s a cocktails but without alcohol,’ Hermione explained to Narcissa, ‘I’m not taking you to a pub to drink a glass of water.’

The blonde witch snorted, ‘a cocktail without alcohol. What else are muggles going to come up with?’

‘They’ve invented non-alcoholic wine as well.’

Narcissa’s face crumpled in disgust so quickly, Hermione couldn’t help but full on laugh, ‘it’s not bad! I’ve tried it.’

‘Miss Granger, kindly stop this blasphemy because haphazard magic or not, I will hex you!’

Hermione shook her head, ‘they should have named you drama queen instead of ice queen.’

‘I always hated that nickname,’ Narcissa confessed, ‘but I suppose I earned it. I’m not exactly the most welcoming person.’

‘Only with people you don’t know. You’re warming up to me and I think you have the kindest heart towards the people you love.’

Narcissa opened her mouth, but was interrupted by the waiter who brought their drinks. Her eyes flickered in surprise when she tasted the cocktail and she couldn’t help but laugh at Hermione’s smug expression. She had to admit it was delicious, even without any alcohol.

‘I was wondering,’ the blonde eventually said, trying to divert the subject to something a bit less personal, ‘if you’d be willing to brew that anti-nausea potion again?’

‘On one condition.’

A perfectly shaped eyebrow was raised, but Hermione wasn’t going to be deterred.

‘Shoot.’

‘You publish that brilliant book of yours.’

Chapter Text

The last few days had been…challenging to say the least. Narcissa’s emotions had gone absolutely haywire, causing her magic to lash out more often than not. It had become so hard for the blonde to keep herself in check that they had decided to not go out in public anymore in order not to risk breaking the Statute of Secrecy. But the walls seemed to be closing in on the older witch and Hermione had no clue what to do about it.

The younger woman had currently sought refuge in the library where she was reading over Narcissa’s handwritten book as a final check-up before they would send it to the publisher. When she’d suggested asking Luna to provide the book with illustrations, the pregnant witch had first laughed hysterically before bursting into tears wailing about how she’d mistreated Luna Lovegood as well. Several painting had been shredded to pieces after that little meltdown and had prompted all the other portraits to vacate their canvasses and find refuge elsewhere.

Suddenly the door to the library swung open and Narcissa strolled inside, seemingly casual and immediately making Hermione extremely suspicious.

‘Hello Narcissa.’

‘Good afternoon, darling,’ the witch practically purred, rolling the R on her tongue.

Before Hermione could question the term of endearment, the blonde had snatched the book she was reading from her hands so she could sit on the desk. She batted her eyelashes at Hermione who snorted.

‘I see your moods are still all over the place.’

Narcissa pouted, disappointed that Hermione wasn’t immediately swooning, ‘it’s horrible. I’m rapidly going back and fourth through the entire spectrum of human emotions’

‘Where are you now?’ Hermione asked jokingly, not prepared for the response as Narcissa bent forwards and whispered in her ear.

‘Right now, I’m very horny.’

Hermione yelped and toppled the bottle of ink that immediately started to spread over the expensive oak desk. Narcissa laughed when she saw Hermione clumsily draw her wand to clear up the spillage, her face beet red.

‘Merlin’s beard, Narcissa! Don’t do that.’

The blonde hiccupped as her laughter died and suddenly, her eyes filled themselves with tears.

‘But I can’t help it. It’s the hormones,’ she cried. ‘I’m pregnant! You should be NICE to me!’

Hermione watched with a baffled expression how the blonde went from horny to sad to angry faster than a Snitch during a Quidditch match and disapparated with a scared squeak to a safer place mere seconds before Narcissa’s magic incinerated half the library.

***

‘Are you feeling a bit better?’

Narcissa looked up when she heard Hermione’s timid voice. The brunette was standing in the doorway, awkwardly shuffling her feet, as she was too scared to approach the blonde without permission. The older witch sighed.

‘I’m fine, Hermione. I apologize for scaring you.’

‘That’s okay. I apologize for abandoning you when you needed comforting.’

Narcissa scoffed, ‘I’d have incinerated you too if you stayed.’

‘How are the books?’

‘I tried to cast a reparo, but somehow that only made them start giggling.’

‘I’ll go in later and restore them to their proper glory,’ Hermione offered.

‘Thank you.’

‘Oh, I’m not doing it for you,’ the brunette joked, ‘I’m doing it for the books!’

They looked at each other for one whole second before Narcissa started sobbing again. This time however, Hermione didn’t run. This time she wrapped her arms around the blonde and let her cry against her shoulder. She rubbed soothing circles over Narcissa’s back with her hands, allowing the woman her little breakdown.

‘Those poor books!’

‘I can’t believe I’m saying this,’ Hermione chuckled, ‘but they are only books. Nothing that can’t be fixed with magic.’

‘Hermione?’

‘Yes?’

‘Will you do me a favour?’

Hermione merely hummed her agreement, trying to ignore how her own heart skipped a beat when Narcissa gripped her a bit more firmly. Her T-shirt was wet with tears, but the crying witch clung to her for dear life and Hermione couldn’t help but wonder how touch-deprived the blonde must be after years and years of solitude.

‘Will you drink a glass of wine and describe to me how it tastes?’

‘What?’

‘Please? I’m really craving a glass, but I know I won’t be able to stop when I do so it’s better that I don’t have any at all. Maybe it helps soothe the ache if you drink it for me.’

‘That’s the most absurd reasoning I have ever heard. And that’s coming from someone who spend many years in the company of Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter.’

But Narcissa wouldn’t relent and looked at Hermione with such big, wet eyes, the brunette sighed in defeat.

‘Fine.’

***

‘So? How does that one taste?’

Narcissa was leaning on her arms, her chin tucked between her hands as she looked at Hermione with such a bright smile, the brunette couldn’t help but start sipping her fourth glass of wine.

‘I feel like this one is a bit more rich than the previous one?’ Hermione tried, having absolutely no knowledge of wine whatsoever, but Narcissa’s nod encouraged her. ‘It also smells fruitier.’

‘Yes. Have another sip, darling. Tell me more.’

Hermione wasn’t sure whether it was the hormones having Narcissa all excited again or her talking about wine, but she drank some more nevertheless. What had started as a promise to drink one glass of red wine had quickly resulted in Narcissa summoning her entire collection and having Hermione taste them all. White, red, rosé, it didn’t matter, and Hermione was slowly becoming too drunk to distinguish them from each other.

‘This one is dark and bitter,’ Hermione said after accepting a fifth glass from her employer who giggled.

‘Dark and bitter. Sounds like me.’

‘You’re not dark and bitter,’ Hermione hiccupped, ‘you’re pale and cold.’

‘Flattering.’

‘I’m bushy-haired and nosey. And so very, very alone,’ Hermione sighed.

Narcissa quirked an eyebrow, ‘alone? How can you be alone? You are the Golden girl!’

‘I hate that nickname as much as you hate yours.’

The blonde watched as Hermione swayed, surrounded by glasses of wine and laughed when she eventually picked a glass of water and proclaimed that that one was her favourite so far. But the expression of the brunette had changed. An all-consuming sadness had washed over her, and Narcissa immediately felt the urge to console her. She had never felt more emotionally stable now than in the past few days and silently thanked her hormones to behave when it mattered.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’

Hermione, who had just chugged a glass of rosé, shook her head and wanted to get up from her chair but the blonde witch grasped her by the wrists firmly.

‘Hermione,’ Narcissa whispered softly, ‘please talk to me.’

Amber eyes looked into blue ones and for the very first time since Hermione started working for Narcissa, she couldn’t be strong any longer. Her resolve crumbled. Her face fell and before either woman knew what was happening, Hermione choked back a sob before the tears started falling from her cheeks. Narcissa had to fight the urge to wipe them away with her thumbs, but held Hermione’s hands instead.

‘I just feel like I’m at a standstill while the entire world around me keeps moving at a pace I can’t follow.’

‘Why’s that?’

Hermione shrugged, ‘I’m finding myself constantly outraged by the lack of justice in our system. Yes the war is over and yes muggleborns are being accepted more and more, but there are still so many other magical beings in dire need of help. And I can’t help but wonder if we need yet another war for them to be treated better?’

‘You’re talking about house-elves here?’ Narcissa asked, remembering how Draco had sneered at Hermione’s S.P.E.W at Hogwarts.

‘Among others, but it’s so much bigger than that. I’m talking about werewolves, centaurs, goblins and other creatures that are looked down upon for reasons I do not understand.’

‘And this makes you feel alone, because…?’

‘Because I feel like I’m the only one who sees it that way. My friends are amazing and I love them dearly, but they always laugh at me when I talk to them about it. And I can’t talk to my parents about it, because magic has become a taboo in their house ever since they found out what I did to protect them from the war.’

Narcissa swallowed. She had remembered the story in the Daily Prophet. It had been Hermione’s first big breakthrough during her career at St. Mungo’s. Restoring a memory that had been obliviated. Narcissa had been impressed by the difficult and thorough research, but also horrified that a seventeen-year old witch had gone to such drastic measures to protect her parents from magic. It had made her respect her more, realizing that her parents would never have stood a chance otherwise. It had made Narcissa realize that muggles feared witches and wizards and not the other way around like Voldemort had always claimed them to be dangerous and untrustworthy.

‘I feel,’ Hermione continued since Narcissa kept silent, ‘like everybody just lives their life again like nothing happened. But something did happen! A bloody war happened. And I’m terrified it might happen again.’

‘Are you still haunted by it?’

Hermione pondered on the question before shaking her head, ‘no, I don’t think so. I mean the scar on my arm is a constant reminder of course, but I’ve processed it. The woman who did this is gone and the reason it happened is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Muggleborns are being accepted into the Wizarding community. But it’s not enough.’

‘The world can be a cruel place for perfectionists such as yourself,’ Narcissa said, ‘but it’s up to you how you deal with that. Either you let it go and try to live your life. Or you stand up for what you believe in and you fight for it.’

‘You mean, quit my job at St. Mungo’s and start working for the Ministry again?’

Narcissa tilted her head, ‘I believe the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures continues to be one of the lesser developed departments of the entire Ministry. Perhaps it’s time someone like you changed something about that.’

‘I can’t believe you’re not making fun of me like everyone else,’ Hermione muttered.

‘Hermione, I have treated my house-elves horribly. We both know that. There was nobody who stood up for Dobby until you and Harry did. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps magical creatures need a witch or wizard who stands up for them, because they cannot do it themselves. Perhaps our society gets away with being unjust too easily by simply accepting muggleborns and pretending everything is okay again. Perhaps we need to take it a step further.’

Hermione started crying again, but this time her tears were of a happier kind. She entwined her fingers with Narcissa’s, not realizing how it made the blonde witch gulp, and smiled.

‘Dobby was such a kind elf. I’m sure he would have forgiven you like I forgive you.’

‘Salazar’s snake, Hermione. Look at the sight of us,’ Narcissa said, blinking away fresh tears, ‘we’re both crying about our loneliness. One drunk on wine and the other drunk on hormones.’

The brunette exhaled a shuddering breath before wiping away her tears, watching as Narcissa did the same.

‘I know this is supposed to be a professional relationship, Narcissa. But you have a friend in me.’

The blonde sobbed again and this time, it wasn’t because of the hormones.

***

Hermione was practically bouncing on her feet, barely managing to contain her excitement. Andy winked at Narcissa who settled on the bed and bared her stomach for her. For some reason her sister had insisted that Hermione should be present during the examination and for some reason, the younger witch had accepted immediately.

‘Stop looking at me like that, Andy. It’s very unbecoming,’ Narcissa hissed, making sure Hermione wouldn’t hear her.

‘I’m not doing anything. Just promise me you won’t just use the girl for your own needs, Cissy. Hermione is very dear to me.’

Narcissa’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets, ‘I beg your pardon? What in Salazar’s name are you implying?’

Andy merely shrugged, ‘nothing, but you should be entering the stage where your hormones go a bit overboard and you know… some witches tend to get a little… antsy?’

Narcissa, blatantly ignoring the fact that she’d been aroused for three days straight, pretended to be insulted. Andy raised her hands in defeat.

‘I’m just saying! Don’t pounce on the girl.’

Before Narcissa managed to hex her sister, Hermione could no longer contain her curiosity and she came closer to both women, ‘and? What’s it going to be?’

‘Hang on,’ Andy said, drawing her wand and performing a few diagnostic spells.

She applied pressure on Narcissa’s stomach while prodding her wand and Cissy grimaced, ‘I hate all the poking around.’

‘Trust me,’ Hermione joked, ‘you’d be horrified if you found out how muggle gynecologist work.’

‘Gyno-what?’

‘Nevermind,’ Hermione dismissed, ‘come one, Andy! Tell us!’

Andy smiled and sheathed her wand. Everything seemed to be going splendidly.

‘You’re going to have a girl.’

Chapter Text

‘And you’re absolutely certain it’s fathers?’

Narcissa’s eyes widened in outrage at the unspoken accusation in her son’s words, ‘of course! Who else’s would it be?’

‘You tell me,’ Draco replied with a shrug.

‘Salazar’s Snake, I can handle the entire Wizarding community gossiping about me. I can handle being loathed everywhere I go and I most certainly can handle being stabbed in the back by strangers. But I cannot handle my own son accusing me of sleeping around,’ Narcissa shrieked and a nearby chandelier unscrewed itself and dropped into a million pieces on the floor.

The wizard paled and winced at the loud crash from the pieces of glass and raised his hands in defence, but Narcissa wasn’t finished with her rant.

‘No, don’t interrupt me! I stood by your side for as long as you lived Draco. I tried to protect you from your father, from your aunt, from the Dark Lord. And what did you do when the war was finally over? You left me and fled to France and started treating me like I did not try my hardest to keep you safe.’

Narcissa had to stop shouting because her voice broke and she started shaking so violently, Hermione couldn’t stop herself and stepped forward to place her hand on the blonde witch’s shoulder. The fact that his mother visibly calmed down did not go unnoticed by Draco who had started to shuffle in his seat awkwardly. After a few minutes of inner-turmoil, the wizard seemed to have reached a decision and he enveloped his mother in a hug.

‘I’m sorry, mother.’

‘I’ve missed you so much, my dragon.’

Draco used his thumbs to wipe the tears from his mother’s cheeks, ‘I know and I really am sorry. But I just couldn’t deal with the hatred, the gossip, and the way people looked at me. I’m not as strong as you are mother, never was, never will be. So yes, I fled while I should have been here to support you.’

Hermione shook her head, ‘the world has changed now Draco. I think the people are ready to let go of the past and look to the future. I’m sure you can reappear in Great Britain again without any consequences. It would be nice for your sister to have a big brother in her life.’

‘It’s a girl?’ Draco beamed, ‘I’m going to have a little sister?’

Narcissa chuckled before her expression grew more serious, ‘I’m afraid she won’t be able to carry the Malfoy name.’

‘Why not? I know you and father tried so long to have more children. I practically begged you two for siblings. He must have been delighted!’

‘Draco darling, your father died before knowing that I was pregnant. He can’t acknowledge the child so she’ll never be a Malfoy.’

Hermione frowned, ‘what will her name be then?’

At this, Narcissa smiled as she gently cupped her slightly protruding stomach, ‘she’ll be a Black, of course.’

‘I don’t care what name she carries,’ Draco huffed, ‘she’s my sister and I look forward to meet her!’

Narcissa hiccupped and pulled Draco in another hug. This time the cushions of the couch they were seated on all changed into little heart shapes with a poof and Draco snickered.

‘What’s with all the magical outbursts? I thought you were going to attack me earlier when that chandelier exploded.’

‘It’s not your mother,’ Hermione explained, ‘it’s your sister responding to your mother’s magic. She’s a Legilimens.’

Draco full on laughed, ‘typical. I finally get a sibling and they get the cool powers.’

***

‘Hey,’ Hermione said softly after she found the blonde woman sitting in the porch flicking through a magazine, ‘everything all right?’

Narcissa smiled, ‘I’m glad Draco and I made the first step to a better relationship once more. I really did miss him.’

‘I think he was a git for suggesting the child wasn’t Lucius’.’

‘Oh yes!’ Narcissa smiled, ‘I haven’t forgiven him for that just yet. But I’m distracting myself by picking out a nursery.’

‘You’re picking it based on pictures in a magazine?’ Hermione asked surprised.

‘They have home delivery. It’s the easiest way.’

‘But it’s not the same! You can’t pick a nursery based on what looks pretty. You have to see it for yourself. What looks nice but is also efficient? And which pram has the prettiest colour and which bed the best mattress?’

Narcissa couldn’t help but chuckle, ‘you’re rambling, dear. I didn’t know you were such an expert when it came to children?’

The brunette blushed a deep red and started to mumble about how Ginny had searched and searched for a nursery until she had found one she’d fallen in love with from the very first second. Narcissa allowed Hermione a few minutes of awkward explanation before closing the magazine and hoisting herself upwards.

‘Very well, let’s go shopping for a nursery.’

‘You want me to come with you?’

‘Naturally. You seem such an expert when it comes to nurseries. My previous one was entirely purchased by my mother and I hated everything about it.’

Hermione smiled nervously, ‘sure, where do you want to go first?’

The blonde shrugged, ‘preferably somewhere in the muggle areas of London. Now that Draco knows my pregnancy doesn’t have to be a secret anymore, but I’d still like to keep the amount of people who know about it at an absolute minimum.’

‘Very well, just try to limit the magical outbursts, okay?’ Hermione said and she disapparated them away.

They landed at a more luxurious part of the muggle shopping streets where Hermione had visited a few babystores with Ginny. That the redhead had eventually found her dream nursery at IKEA was something Hermione wasn’t going to share with Narcissa. Taking the woman to a budget furniture store would probably not be something the posh witch appreciated. She looked at the woman in question who was eyeing her surroundings and smiled. Even through her jacket, the attentive eye could spot a very small bump. Soon, Narcissa wouldn’t be able to hide her pregnancy at all.

‘Shall we?

The moment they entered the store, Narcissa’s eyes widened. Everything inside breathed luxury and there were very few muggles about. A soft music was playing in the background and pleasant lighting made sure you could easily see the shades of colours without getting a headache in the process.

‘You know what I like, Hermione.’

The brunette beamed and grabbed a little notebook with a pencil, ‘let’s go. I’ll write everything down you like and then we eliminate at the end of our tour until there’s a clear winner. And if you hate everything, we go to another store.’

‘Efficient and pragmatic. Just the way I like it,’ the blonde commented.

Hermione quickly discovered that Narcissa was a witch who knew what she wanted. She practically marched passed a few showrooms dismissing the nurseries after a single glance. The ones she wasn’t sure about caused her to purse her lips and squint a bit while she slowed her pace. By the time Hermione had caught up with her, the witch had already moved on. At the rate Narcissa was dismissing nurseries, Hermione feared this shopping trip might have been a wasted effort until they reached the very last showroom at the back of the store and the blonde halted in her steps.

‘Oompf,’ Hermione exhaled when she crashed into Narcissa, ‘sorry about that.’

But the older woman didn’t seem to hear her as her eyes were transfixed on the nursery in front of them. It wasn’t extremely fancy or expensive-looking, but the room breathed calm and cosy. The furniture was made from wood and painted in a broken white while the decoration such as the lamp, the carpet and a toy basket was made from wicker. The plaid on the crib was ochre yellow and the entire scene was knitted together with plants and ochre flowers.

‘Apart from that ridiculous Live, Laugh, Love quote on the wall, I absolutely love it,’ Narcissa whispered.

‘It’s gorgeous,’ Hermione confirmed, ‘and yellow is such a nice colour for a little girl.’

‘And yet somehow I was convinced I wanted a green nursery.’

‘You can still change the yellow for another colour when you order the nursery,’ Hermione answered, ‘I believe they have a few options including green.’

‘No, darling, it’s like you said. I couldn’t have picked this from a magazine. I love it just the way it is.’

‘Let’s order it then. Are there things apart from the quote that you want to leave out?’

Narcissa looked at the mirror that had dried leaves and flower around it and at the baby’s mobile that had little animals made from braided wicker dangling from it. The drawers from the changing station had ochre yellow flowers as buttons and there was a rocking chair with a similarly yellow cushion. The witch shook her head.

‘No, it’s perfect.’

***

Hermione awoke with a shock as the entire Manor shook on its foundations. The window from her bedroom rattled and the ceiling showed such a giant crack, the witch feared it might fall down on her. She leapt from her bed and apparated around the premises until she’d found Narcissa. The woman was standing in the dining room holding a crumpled Daily Prophet in her hands while her blue eyes shot daggers at it.

‘Narcissa? What’s going on?’

‘Read this!’ the blonde shrieked as she tossed the paper at Hermione who clumsily caught it.

Bastard baby?

Rumour has it that none other than Narcissa Black, who disappeared from society after the war, is pregnant. Who the father is, now that her husband has passed away, remains a mystery but it is clear that the former madame Malfoy has spent her years in less solitude than expected. So cold is the ice queen that not even her lovers stick around for the frosty news of her pregnancy.

We can only hope she keeps the unwanted child hidden away just like herself, because let’s be honest. Are we really waiting for yet another privileged practitioner of dark magic and pureblood-beliefs who painfully wedges themselves into polite society occasions?

R. Skeeter

‘That filthy bug!’ Hermione seethed once she’d read the article.

She turned towards Narcissa but the hatred that had shimmered in the blonde’s eyes had faded away, leaving nothing but a dull stoic gaze. Narcissa walked towards Hermione and took the paper from her hands, folded it neatly, placed it on the table, and walked away leaving the brunette behind in confusion.

‘Narcissa?’

‘Leave it, Hermione.’

‘But I don’t understand. Are you not angry? Are you not going to fight this?’

The older witch turned around and gestured at nothing specific, ‘no, this just proves what I’ve suspected all along. I’m not welcome in the Wizarding community anymore. And judging by that article, neither is my unborn child.’

‘You surely do not believe anything this Skeeter woman –‘

‘No,’ Narcissa interrupted Hermione, ‘I do not, but so many people do. And I don’t know if I have the energy to face them.’

‘But… what about your daughter?’

Narcissa gave her a look of utter defeat and it nearly ripped Hermione to shreds. The blonde shook her head and disappeared through a door. When Hermione decided to follow her, the witch was nowhere to be seen.

***

The next day, Hermione was up before the sun had truly risen. She hadn’t seen Narcissa all day yesterday and before she knew it, her Gryffindor determination had taken over once more. If Narcissa refused to fight for her honour, then Hermione would! If there was one thing she couldn’t stand it was injustice and the article Skeeter had written was just that.

‘There you are! Have you read today’s Quibbler yet?’ Hermione squeaked excitedly when Narcissa finally appeared in the kitchen, her eyes red from lack of sleep.

‘Why in Salazar’s name would I read that rag?’

‘It’s actually quite good. In fact I signed you up for a yearly subscription.’

Narcissa opened her mouth to answer, but whatever snarky retort she had, it got lost along the way and eventually the blonde simply sighed. She was tired and not in the mood for Gryffindor enthusiasm. Whatever Hermione was trying to do, she’d better do it quickly.

‘What have you done this time, Hermione? It can’t be worse than reaching out to my sister without consulting me first.’

Hermione grinned at the memory and simply shoved the Quibbler towards Narcissa across the kitchen isle, ‘read.’

The blonde rolled her eyes and ignored the cover that claimed to have discovered an extinct species related to the house-elf when she came across an article that drew her attention.

The highest result of education is tolerance (Helen Keller)

The recent article from the notoriously incompetent Skeeter who claims to have valid sources where there are only suspicions, shocked me deeply. Narcissa Black is indeed expecting and while the late Lucius Malfoy most certainly is the father, I don’t understand the need to pry into the private life of a woman. Why is it that men are cheered at for having romantic involvements but women are frowned upon for the same situation?

Speculations about lovers aside, the question of fatherhood is irrelevant seeing as Lucius Malfoy has passed away and this child cannot take the Malfoy name. But rest assured, miss Skeeter, she won’t be a bastard, but a Black! And that name alone will provide her with everything she’ll need in life seeing as she will have to grow up without a father.

And as if the speculations about Narcissa Black’s pregnancy weren’t vile enough, you also decided to claim that this child is unwelcome even before it is born! How dare you? Have we not fought for a better world? A world where everybody is accepted and valued? Who are you to decide that this child should not exist while it shows promise of impressive talent seeing as her mother is one of the most skilled witches I have ever come across?

The only reason Narcissa Black disappeared from society was because she believed to be no longer welcome. Because she believed she deserved to be punished even though the Wizengamot decided otherwise and because she was scared. Well I say no more! I believe it’s time to let go of the past and look to the future. A future where Narcissa and both her children are welcome. Otherwise our fight will have been for nothing.

Hermione Granger

Narcissa slowly looked up when she’d finished reading and dropped the Quibbler at her feet. Before Hermione could wonder if she’d crossed a line once again, she was pulled into a tight hug. It took her only a few seconds to wrap her own hands around the woman’s waist and hug her back with every fibre of her being. Overcome by emotion, Narcissa couldn’t speak so she simply projected her thoughts into Hermione’s mind. Thank you.

Chapter Text

Narcissa couldn’t believe her eyes when another parliament of owls flew into the Manor to drop a bunch of cards on her dining table. Ever since Hermione’s article had appeared in the Quibbler, witches and wizards from all over the country had congratulated her on her pregnancy. The Daily Prophet had been forced to apologize for its bigoted article and hatred towards her and her unborn child. It was truly remarkable how much the world had changed indeed.

‘Wow, you’re quite the popular owl,’ Hermione joked when she came downstairs after an early morning of work for St. Mungo’s.

‘I am flabbergasted. There’s people I have never been kind to sending me letters telling me I shouldn’t be hiding in the Manor anymore.’

‘It’s a second chance, Narcissa. I suggest you take it.’

The blonde smiled and nodded. She definitely was going to, even if it only was to ensure a bright future for her daughter. Suddenly Hermione pointed her wand at her and transformed her outfit into an overall.

‘What in Salazar’s name?’

‘I assumed you wouldn’t want to get paint on your clothes. The nursery arrived this morning so we can get started on the baby’s room.’

Narcissa full on laughed, ‘and we’re going to paint it manually?’

‘Yes, it’ll be so much more special. Trust me.’

‘You really are a strange witch,’ the blonde said shaking her head, ‘but I mean that as a compliment.’

Hermione opened the can of paint with a flick of her wand and stirred it until it became a nice broken white. She handed Narcissa a paint roller and quickly explained how she had to move it in different directions so the colour was evenly spread and there would be no stripes. They had magically sanded the hardwood floor the day before so Hermione covered it with plastic in case they’d spill any paint on it. She grabbed a paint roller herself and started on another wall.

They’d been working in a comfortable silence for twenty minutes when Narcissa suddenly perked up, ‘there’s someone at the door.’

‘How can you tell? I don’t think you have a doorbell?’

‘No, my wards warn me when someone approaches the Manor. I’ll be right back,’ Narcissa replied before walking out of the room, paint roller still in hand.

‘Good morning, madame Black. I’m Bertha Jorkins and I work for the Daily Prophet. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about recent events?’ the journalist rambled the moment Narcissa approached the gates.

‘Sure,’ the blonde witch replied hesitantly before Bertha noticed the paint roller in her hand.

‘I’m not interrupting, am I?’

‘Not at all. I’m painting the nursery, nothing that can’t wait.’

‘You’re painting your nursery?’ the journalist echoed, ‘by hand?’

‘Apparently it would make for a memorable experience. It only just arrived today because I bought it at a muggle store so it had to be delivered at a muggle house first of course before being sent here.’

Bertha Jorkins’ eyes nearly bulged from their sockets, ‘would you tell us which muggle store? I’m sure our readers will be delighted to know. You always were rather stylish.’

Narcissa laughed, ‘stylish? I feel everything but stylish these days when I cry my eyes out over the fact that I can’t have a nice glass of wine.’

‘The struggles of a pregnant woman,’ Jorkins joked, ‘I’m sure there’s other drinks out there you can have.’

‘I’ve been recently introduced to virgin cocktails, a muggle drink without any alcohol in it. I can absolutely recommend it to my fellow pregnant witches,’ Narcissa replied dead serious, not realizing the journalist was just kidding.

‘I’ll make sure to mention it in the article. Now, seeing as you’ve received a lot of attention lately, perhaps you would be willing to tell us about your heroic act during the war? We’ve only ever got mister Potter’s version of the story.’

Narcissa shook her head, ‘Please don’t go there. There’s no heroic act to speak of. I was a coward and am guilty for standing by and doing nothing while terrible things happened right in front of me. My decision in the end was one of selfish reasons, no matter how hard mister Potter insists on praising me for it. I did wrong and I’m paying my penance for it. All I want now is for my daughter to have a better life than I had. To have genuine friends. For her to be able to make her own decisions and to grow up in a safe world.’

Bertha Jorkins nodded while taking notes and tried to pull some more information out of the blonde witch by asking more questions, but Narcissa was determined. She would not fabricate some false story about heroism to win back some popularity with the Wizarding community. Eventually Jorkins gave up and wished the former Malfoy matriarch a good day before disapparating on the spot. Narcissa shook her head; she really didn’t want the media-attention she used to enjoy anymore.

***

They were just finishing up the nursery when Narcissa yelped in surprise. Hermione who’d been screwing the flower buttons on the drawers of the changing station immediately looked up in surprise.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘I felt her kick for the first time,’ the blonde whispered.

Hermione smiled, ‘she must approve of her bedroom. It looks amazing! I really love the yellow flower you painted on the wall as well.’

Narcissa checked whether the mirror she’d just hung up was levelled before sitting herself down in the armchair to take a breath. She sipped her glass of water and chuckled when she felt her daughter move again. Cold water usually did the trick.

‘Do you want to feel her?’

‘Oh. Yes, I’d love to,’ Hermione said happily before coming closer to the blonde.

Narcissa took Hermione’s hand and placed it on her stomach before sipping her water again. The way the brunette’s eyes widened when she felt the baby move was almost comical. The older woman sighed dramatically.

‘She’s a feisty one, I can tell you that. I’m already exhausted and she isn’t even born yet.’

‘You better go and have a quick nap then,’ Hermione said, ‘because I have a little surprise for you later this evening.’

Narcissa raised an eyebrow, ‘darling at what point during your stay here have I given you the impression I like surprises?’

***

Narcissa could see how much effort Hermione had put in her baby shower, but she still wasn’t extremely comfortable. The brunette had obviously limited the amount of guests to a select group of women who had a direct link with her. Seated in the comfortable couches around the coffee table were her sister Andromeda, her daughter-in-law Astoria and her sister Daphne, her former best friend Aida Zabini, and for some reason Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood.

‘Minerva couldn’t make it unfortunately,’ Hermione said with a cheerful voice, ‘but she told me to reassure you your daughter will be receiving her Hogwarts-invitation when she turns eleven.’

‘I’m glad to hear it,’ Narcissa tried to sound relaxed, ‘did you not invite Grace?’

Hermione looked up, ‘Grace Parkinson? Mother of Pansy Parkinson? I did, but she wrote back to inform me that she didn’t want anything to do with a … witch of my blood-status.’

An awkward silence fell over the group of women until, to anyone’s surprise, Mrs Zabini spoke up.

‘She’s always been so terribly stuck-up. Don’t take it personal, Ms Granger. There are still some who belief in pureblood-supremacy, but they are a minority. I’m proud to call myself reformed in that regard.’

‘I guess that’s the reason I got along with you better than with her,’ Narcissa remarked dryly before sipping her cranberry juice and making all the guests laugh when she scrunched up her nose at the taste of it.

‘Well then, to better times and friendship then,’ Aida laughed and they all lifted their glasses.

The atmosphere noticeably changed after that, as the guests got more and more comfortable with each other’s company. Astoria and Daphne turned out to be extremely warm women with sharp minds while Andy and Ginny managed to make everyone laugh with their jokes. Luna even had a normal conversation with Narcissa about the drawings for her book before getting off topic again and spouting nonsense about Nargles, which earned her a few concerned looks from Aida Zabini.

Narcissa couldn’t help but be happy with the company. She’d missed Aida terribly, but was too scared to reach out to her during the trials and figured it was too late to try and salvage their friendship after years of silence. She even saw a whole other side from her daughter-in-law who hadn’t been her first choice when Draco introduced her but quickly managed to convince her when she proved to be an independent, smart woman with a heart of gold. Narcissa just knew the dark-haired witch would be perfect to help Draco find his way again.

‘Cissy, Hermione told me you’ve bought a muggle nursery and painted the baby’s room by hand?’ Andy suddenly asked her, an amused smirk playing around her lips.

‘I have and it’s beautiful,’ the blonde replied with a set jaw, challenging her sister but Andy merely smiled.

‘I’d love to see it. Can we go upstairs?’

They all rose from their seats and followed Narcissa to the nursery where everyone praised her for her choice of colour and decorations. Hermione couldn’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside when she saw the glimpse of pride flicker across the blonde’s features. It was only when Ginny remarked that she’d have difficulties living in such a large and empty house, that Narcissa’s initial discomfort returned.

‘It isn’t easy,’ she replied when seven pairs of eyes were looking at her, ‘but I haven’t decided yet what to do with the Manor.’

‘In any case, you’re always welcome at my place when the echoes drive you insane,’ Andy said warmly.

Ginny realized her mistake and quickly apologized, ‘it’s probably because I’m used to living with far too many people in far too few rooms.’

That did the trick because Narcissa visibly relaxed again and allowed herself a little smirk at Ginny’s joke. Luckily the remainder of her baby shower went without any discomfort. Narcissa even enjoyed herself and suddenly realized how starved for social contact she had been during her years of confinement in the Manor. Her guests all promised to write her or invite her for tea should she want some company and by the time her daughter-in-law hugged her farewell, only Narcissa and Hermione remained.

‘So good surprise or bad surprise?’

‘Good surprise,’ Narcissa laughed, ‘but also the very last surprise. I can’t take any more.’

‘Deal! Now off you pop. You look exhausted. I’ll clean this up.’

‘Are you sure?’

Hermione drew her wand and waved Narcissa off, ‘I’m sure. It’s not like you can help anyway. You’ll end up somewhere on the roof surrounded by diapers.’

Before the blonde could stop herself she snorted in amusement and Hermione’s stomach did a little somersault.

***

Narcissa slowly stirred her tea while chewing on a few pieces of toast Hermione had prepared for her before disappearing into her own wing to work for St. Mungo’s. She’d slept horribly, her hormones once more taking control over her body. What had started as a ticklish feeling in the pit of her stomach had now grown to an aroused restlessness she could barely ignore. At one point during the night, Narcissa had to refrain from shoving a pillow between her legs and rutting against it. It was only her sense of propriety and etiquette that had stopped her from doing so.

Andy had warned her for this stage of her pregnancy, but she’d obviously underestimated the effect it would have on her. Especially when there was a very attractive young witch walking around her house. The soft plop with which the delivery owl dropped the Daily Prophet in front of her pulled Narcissa out of her musings. She nearly choked on her toast however when she saw her own picture waving at her on the front page.

‘What in Salazar’s name?’ she muttered as she flicked the newspaper open to read the article that had been written about her.

From Pureblood supremacist to Muggle loyalist?

It would seem like Narcissa Black, formerly Malfoy, has really turned over a new leaf. She was recently spotted buying a nursery for her unborn child in a muggle furniture store. While she didn’t hesitate to answer our questions regarding the colours of the walls, she refused to tell us her side of the story during the terrible events at the Battle of Hogwarts.

The entire article blabbed some more about how she now frequented muggle bars, with a recipe of the virgin cocktails she so-called swore by during her pregnancy. Narcissa rolled her eyes. That rag always had a talent of twisting facts and dramatizing silly things so they became news worthy. Nevertheless, the general tone of the piece was positive and forgiving towards her. The blonde bit her lip, could this really be redemption? A second chance like Hermione had called it?

As if summoned by her thoughts, Hermione appeared in the kitchen as well looking slightly frazzled and Narcissa couldn’t help but think she was adorable. Her hair was tied in a messy bun above her head but a few locks had managed to wriggle their way out of the elastic band and dangled around her face. Hermione had just changed into her work clothes she always wore for her chores around the Manor, leaving her in a baggy sweater and leggings.

Narcissa sauntered over to the porch wanting to finish the Daily Prophet and her cup of tea there, but the quiet humming of Hermione made her turn around in the doorframe. Hermione was bustling about in the kitchen, clearly making some breakfast and a cup of tea for herself while quietly singing a song that got stuck in her head. When her eyes met Narcissa’s, the brunette blushed and stopped humming.

‘You’re in a good mood.’

‘I slept wonderfully.’

‘That makes one of us,’ Narcissa grumbled once more trying to ignore the arousal that roared through her body like a Fiendfyre.

Hermione didn’t hear her and started spreading jam on her toast, causing her oversized sweater to slide off of her shoulder. Narcissa’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets at the sight of the exposed skin and her mind went to places it had never gone before. Suddenly she felt herself wondering if Hermione had the same light freckles on her entire body as she had on her shoulder. And suddenly she noticed how tightly the leggings clung to the swell of the brunette’s ass, barely visible underneath the sweater. She couldn’t help but wonder if Hermione’s calves were as muscular as they looked in those ridiculously fitted trousers. The blonde couldn’t stop her train of thoughts, her hormones and aroused state completely taking over.

And when Narcissa wondered with a smirk on her face what the brunette would look like without her clothes, her haphazard magic struck in the worst possible way imaginable, leaving Hermione in nothing but her knickers and bra.

‘CISSY WHAT THE HELL?’

Chapter Text

Hermione looked at the sputtering candle she’d smuggled from the library. Please don’t die she thought, desperate to stay in her little hiding place. After the unfortunate incident where Narcissa had accidentally vanished all of her clothes, it had only gotten worse. Hermione had soon established that Narcissa was in a very awkward stage of her pregnancy where her hormones made her focus on one thing and one thing only. Sex!

Despite Hermione not losing any more clothes, she did spot Narcissa literally everywhere she went, lurking somewhere in a dark corner of the Manor. The hungry look in the blonde’s eyes made the young Gryffindor witch so nervous she constantly dropped things. The fact that Narcissa didn’t only stare at Hermione like a predator at its prey, but often whispered seductively in her ear instead of just talking to her didn’t help either.

Andy had howled with laughter when Hermione had told her what was happening. Unfortunately according to the middle Black sister, there was no other way to deal with it than to just sit it out or help Narcissa alleviate the tensions in her body. Hermione blushed when she remembered how Andy had nudged her at the suggestion going ‘come one, Hermione. We all have needs!’ But when Narcissa had licked her lips that same evening the moment she laid eyes on Hermione, the brunette had shrieked and sought refuge in the abandoned attic of the West Wing.

The candle eventually betrayed Hermione and died leaving the witch in the darkness. Hermione couldn’t use her magic though because then Narcissa would succeed in tracking her down and it was obvious that the blonde grew more restless with each passing day. Hermione cursed for she was so close to solving her conundrum. Fumbling in the darkness Hermione searched for the hatchet and carefully opened it, lighting the attic a little bit in the process. She knew there were more candles in the kitchen so if she could manage to steal a handful…

Like a true ninja, Hermione made her way through the Manor. She peeked around a corner and sighed in relief. There was no trace of Narcissa. The witch had made it partially through the hallway when suddenly a cold voice reached her ears.

‘What in Salazar’s name are you doing?’

Hermione looked up at Narcissa and realized she was still standing in stealth mode and quickly assumed a more natural pose, ‘nothing.’

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Are you avoiding me?’

The hurt in Narcissa’s voice was obvious and there was something in her blue eyes that made Hermione feel extremely guilty. She sighed.

‘Yes. I was. I’m sorry Narcissa but you were making me very uncomfortable!’

Narcissa pouted, ‘I can’t help it.’

‘I know. And I’m sorry for how I handled it. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.’

A watery smile appeared on Narcissa’s face when Hermione reached out her hand, ‘join me in the kitchen for lunch?’

The pregnant witch accept the offer and started to wobble towards the kitchen, making Hermione frown, ‘you’re limping? Are you okay?’

‘That’s why I was trying to find you. My ankles are so swollen I can hardly walk. You can imagine how slow my search for you went since I can’t use my magic either.’

Hermione couldn’t help but chuckle, ‘are you going to guilt trip me into giving you a foot rub?’

‘Is it working?’

‘Of course. You know I can’t deny you anything.’

‘Oh, is that so?’ Narcissa replied in such a husky voice, Hermione tripped over her own feet.

‘Cissy!’

‘Right, I’m sorry.’

Narcissa sat herself down on a chair and kicked off her slippers. She wanted to lift her leg to place her foot on Hermione’s lap, but her pregnant body thwarted her. Hermione grinned and picked up the offending foot herself. Narcissa threw her head back and groaned the moment Hermione started applying pressure on the swollen limb.

‘Sssssssalazar’s sssssnake,’ she hissed, ‘that feels ssssso good.’

‘I genuinely can’t tell if you’re enjoying your foot rub or are using this as an excuse to get me all flustered again.’

Blue eyes looked at her in surprise, ‘whatever do you mean?’

‘You’re moaning Cissy.’

‘Oops. My bad.’

Hermione shook her head in fond exasperation and started on the other foot, ‘wearing loosely fitted clothes might help with the swelling, I think. They allow for your blood to flow more freely.’

‘None of my dresses fit me anymore and I only own tight pants.’

‘Yes I’ve noticed that,’ Hermione muttered feeling a blush creep up her neck once more.

‘Perhaps it’s time I stop being stubborn and start wearing those sweatpants you suggested to me months ago.’

Hermione smirked, ‘I knew you’d cave. There, that’s your feet done. I’ll fetch you a pair of sweatpants you can borrow and then I’m off to the library for some final research. I’ll rub them again before dinner if you want.’

‘That would be divine. Thank you darling.’

The younger witch nodded, the term of endearment suddenly making her a bit shy. Merlin’s beard did those hungry blue eyes make her stomach somersault. Perhaps Narcissa’s hormones were rubbing off on her a bit?

***

Andy apparated in the middle of the Manor with a curious expression on her face. She had received a rather frantic message from Hermione asking her to come to the Manor as soon as possible. But now that she’d arrived, mere minutes after said message, there was nobody to be seen. Suddenly she spotted a flutter of blond hair above one of the couches in the sitting area and she smirked.

‘CISSY!’

‘Argh, damnit Andy! You know I hate it when you do that. What are you even doing here?’

The middle Black sister laughed, ‘you make me feel so welcome, truly. Why they call you the ice queen is beyond me.’

Narcissa merely glared and Andy sighed, ‘Hermione said it was an emergency. I thought something was wrong with you?’

‘Apart from being very horny, I am absolutely fine,’ Narcissa said her own curiosity triggered as well now.

Before Andy could retort Hermione came running and skidded around a corner nearly faceplanting against the marble floor. If Andy hadn’t supported her, the Gryffindor would probably have crashed into her as she was going so fast. Both sisters raised an eyebrow at each other while waiting impatiently for Hermione to stop gasping for air and explain what the hell was going on.

‘Oh good, you’re here as well Cissy. Saves me some running.’

‘You know you can just apparate around the Manor, right?’ Andy said slowly.

‘I sometimes forget that I’m a witch,’ Hermione laughed, ‘especially when I’m excited about something.’

Andy gave her sister a weird look but Narcissa merely shrugged, ‘I’m used to it by now.’

‘I found it.’

‘It?’ both sisters said in unison and Andy joked, ‘do you mean your common sense because I’m not inclined to believe you.’

‘Haha, very funny. No, I found a way to heal my scar.’

A deadly silence fell between the three witches as both Andy and Narcissa were too perplexed for words. Hermione didn’t notice the little bomb she’d dropped and was already ruffling through the papers she’d brought with her. With her nose buried in parchment Hermione shuffled towards the couch and Andy sat herself down as well.

‘It’s not exactly the treatment I was looking for,’ Hermione started her explanation, ‘because this one only applies to a specific kind of scars. But I’m sure St. Mungo’s will be thrilled nevertheless so you don’t have to fear that the Board of Directors is going to be annoyed with you Andy.’

Andy merely nodded and Narcissa closed the magazine she had been perusing, ‘go on, darling. Tell us what you discovered.’

‘So, seeing as this obviously isn’t an ordinary scar because nobody at St Mungo’s knew how to get rid of it, I started looking into Dark magic a while ago. But nothing I encountered came even vaguely close to whatever darkness resides in my scar. I haven’t told this to anyone but…’ Hermione suddenly became a bit nervous, ‘it’s like I can feel her, festering inside me.’

Hermione held up her hand when both Black sisters wanted to talk, ‘it’s fine. I’ve learned to live with it over the years while searching for a way to heal my arm. I was going nowhere with my research until you two mentioned those different kind of mutations in magic and it got me thinking, what if it wasn’t Dark magic that caused this but another mutation? Seeing as both mutations and Dark magic led me to the Sacred Twenty-Eight, I started looking into those family histories. And what better place to start than at the bottom of the Black family tree?’

Hermione took a break from talking and summoned three glasses of water from the kitchen. She took a few sips to soothe her already hoarse throat while Andy and Narcissa’s facial expressions were constantly switching between impatience and curiosity. Eventually Hermione took a paper from her stack and placed it on the table, with the tips of her fingers she spun it around so both sisters could read it. It was their family tree and Hermione had circled a few names in it.

‘It quickly became clear that there were witches and wizards who had an aptitude for Dark magic. I encountered them in other pureblood families as well but even then they turned out to be Blacks who had married into other family trees. The use of this specific Dark magic became so special that it eventually got its own name.’

‘The Black family magic,’ Narcissa whispered.

‘Exactly. Well, normal Dark magic manifests itself through curses, spells or potions but not this kind. This kind of magic ran through blood. Like a mutation.’

Hermione stopped talking here to take another sip of her water. She had a hard time not being too smug about her discovery and while realization started to dawn upon Narcissa’s face, Andy showed no emotion whatsoever. The Gryffindor witch cleared her throat and resumed her explanation.

‘This so-called Black family magic was nothing more than a mutation that ran through the Black family for centuries. I circled all the witches and wizard for whom I found proof that they had this particular mutation. As you two explained to me that mutations go extinct over the years, it’s much the same with this one. You can see the amount of Blacks who had it get lesser and lesser until… there was only one left,’ Hermione said and she tapped her finger on a very familiar name.

‘Bella,’ Narcissa read out loud.

‘Bellatrix Black,’ Hermione confirmed, ‘now because this mutation has never been truly discovered such as Parseltongue or Metamorphmagus magic, it doesn’t have a name apart from what you call it. But I think this specific mutation was an aptitude for pain. To cause harm.’

Hermione took another piece of parchment from her research and placed it on top of the family tree, ‘I have a list of recorded events where this aptitude for pain is described. And it’s my theory that blind rage triggers the mutation, no matter in what form that rage is projected. Maybe it starts in an accidental fashion? Like things just happen and people get hurt? And I think some Black witches and wizards were aware of their talent and learned to harness it and hone it into something truly destructive. I mean… there’s a reason Bellatrix’s crucio was so effective.’

Narcissa had taken the piece of parchment and had scanned the events Hermione had scribbled down. She passed it onto Andy who dropped the document in her lap without looking at it. The blonde witch squinted at the family tree, clearly lost in thought.

‘Our Bella could become so angry as a child. They always thought she just had anger management issues, but perhaps it was the mutation taking control?

‘Quite possibly,’ Hermione nodded.

‘I still don’t see how this heals your scar?’

‘Well the thing about mutations is that they can be neutralized. Don’t you remember what you told me? The reason pureblood families insisted on only marrying members of other pureblood families?’

‘Because muggle blood destroys mutations and they wanted to keep their special talents alive,’ Narcissa replied.

Hermione nodded, ‘correct. So ironic as it may be, my own muggleborn blood will be the cure. I’d have to magically drain my blood, purify it from Bellatrix’s magic and re-inject it into my body.’

‘That sounds very dangerous, don’t you think Andy?’ Narcissa turned to her sister who didn’t respond, ‘Andy?’

The middle Black sister looked up from the document that was still in her lap while tears glistened in her eyes, ‘so you’re telling me that Bellatrix couldn’t help it that she became a deranged maniac? You’re telling me that I can’t hate the woman who murdered my daughter and son-in-law because it wasn’t really she who did it but a fucking mutation?’

Hermione gulped, ‘yes…’

Andy jumped from the couch and started pacing around the sitting area, ‘you’re just trying to pin your trauma on something that isn’t there because you refuse to believe that you were tortured by a madwoman. This is bullshit!’

Hermione’s mouth snapped shut. She had researched this very thoroughly and to just have someone call it bullshit like that? She squared her jaw and looked Andy who had stopped pacing straight in the eye.

‘But what if I’m right?’

‘SHE MURDERED MY DAUGHTER, HER OWN NIECE.’

‘I know,’ Hermione visibly winced at Andy’s unexpected outburst,‘but wouldn’t it give you some solace to know that it wasn’t truly Bella? Your very own sister?’

All strength suddenly left Andy’s body as she sunk to her knees and clutched her head, ‘no, because that would mean I’d have to forgive her for what she’s done… and I don’t think I can.’

Hermione deflated as the reality of the situation suddenly dawned upon her. It made perfect sense that Andy needed someone to blame for her daughter’s murder. The grief that radiated from the otherwise proud and strong witch hit Hermione hard and she, uncharacteristically, was at a loss for words. Meanwhile Narcissa had slipped from the couch as well and had knelt next to her sister to envelope her in a hug. The blonde had resorted to French to console Andy so Hermione didn’t understand what was being said, but the older woman seemed to visibly calm down.

‘We will help you, Hermione, in your attempt to heal your scar,’ Narcissa whispered, ‘but now Andy needs time to process this new information.’

‘Of course, I’m so sorry Andy,’ Hermione said as she turned around to leave the two women alone. When she left the room, she could hear Andy whisper to her sister.

‘I miss my Dora so much.’

Chapter Text

After a night of tossing and turning, Hermione encountered two sleeping witches on the couch in the exact same sitting area she had left them the previous evening. Hermione smiled when she saw the two Black sisters holding hands while seemingly having spent the night in the most uncomfortable position ever imaginable. She quickly shuffled to the kitchen as quietly as possible to make them all a nice cup of tea to start the day. After a moment’s hesitation she grabbed some toast as well and the leftover egg salad she had made the other day. When she arrived moments later and put the tray down, the soft thud woke Narcissa who blinked lazily at the brunette who was busy frowning at the tray as if it had insulted her.

‘Good morning darling,’ the witch purred but her sleepy expression quickly turned into a pained one when she tried to get up and discovered the nasty crick in her neck.

‘That’s what you get for falling asleep on the couch,’ Hermione said and the sound of her voice made Andromeda stir, ‘is she still angry with me?’

‘She was not angry with you, Hermione. I think she was angry with herself.’

Hermione nervously wrung her hands, ‘did you talk about me yesterday?’

‘We did and Andy will discuss what happened with you later today. She just needed some time. Now how about some tea?’

Narcissa smiled warmly at Hermione who finally relaxed a little bit. The older woman couldn’t help but notice the dark circles underneath the Gryffindor’s eyes and pitied the girl. She hoisted herself up and grunted at the discovery of more sore muscles and joints.

‘Ouch, I’m getting too old for sleepovers like this. Would you mind terribly giving my neck a rub, darling?’

Hermione ignored the fluttery feeling in her stomach and reminded herself that Narcissa only called her darling because she needed a favour. The brunette nodded and tried not to faint at the sight of the pregnant witch pulling her overly large sweater lower baring her shoulders in the process. Narcissa moaned loudly the moment Hermione started kneading the tense muscles underneath her hands.

‘Honestly, you two should just shag and be done with it,’ Andy’s voice suddenly sounded from the couch causing both witches to jump.

‘No Andy, I’m afraid Hermione was right. I made her uncomfortable with my innuendos and it was wrong of me. So don’t be afraid,’ Narcissa said while glancing at Hermione over her shoulder, ‘I won’t bother you again.’

Hermione nodded but couldn’t help but notice the disappointment that settled in the pit of her stomach. She watched as the blonde witch rose from her seat and announced that her baby felt like a bludger hitting her bladder before disappearing through the nearest door, leaving Hermione alone with Andy.

‘Are you still angry with me?’ Hermione asked with a timid voice and Andromeda immediately stood up from the couch as well.

‘No love, absolutely not. They always say to not shoot the messenger and that’s exactly what I did.’

Andy enveloped Hermione in a hug and felt the younger witch melt into it, ‘I often get so absorbed in my research that I don’t think twice about the consequences it has for other people. I’m sorry for being rather tactless Andy. It must have been so hard for you to hear that your sister….’ Hermione couldn’t finish her sentence out of fear of hurting Andy again but the older woman merely sighed.

‘That my deranged sister might have been in need of help? But that I chose to hate her for her actions instead? That wasn’t easy to hear, no, but it’s the truth Hermione. And I’ll find a way to deal with that.’

Before Hermione could reply, Narcissa had returned to the room with Draco in her wake. When the wizard was offered to join them for breakfast, he glanced at his wristwatch and frowned but his mother wasn’t having any of it.

‘Don’t give me that look, young man! Either you join us for breakfast or you don’t.’

‘Just call it lunch instead?’ Draco drawled, ‘because that’s what it is at this time of the day.’

Hermione snorted and summoned another cup of tea that Draco barely caught in time before it smashed against his head. He squinted at Hermione before sitting himself down and cleared his throat.

‘I just wanted to inform you that I have sued the Daily Prophet for the slander they wrote about you mother.’

Narcissa sighed, ‘oh dear, I’m afraid Ms Granger beat you to the punch Draco. Her fierce article in the Quibbler made the Wizarding Community, and with them the Prophet, change their views about me.’

Draco squared his jaw, ‘I know. I read it, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let Skeeter get away with insulting my mother and my baby sister.’

Hermione noticed the loving gaze that slipped across Narcissa’s face as she listened to Draco proclaiming his love for his unborn sibling. The brunette couldn’t help but stare at those azure eyes that were often perceived as cold, but showed so many emotions if you cared to look. She let her eyes trail over Narcissa’s cheekbones and her plump lips and nearly choked on her tea as she noticed how the blonde’s breasts had gotten more voluminous as well. Merlin’s beard was she even supposed to see things like that? She hadn’t exactly looked before? Right?

‘Hermione?’

‘Uh?’

‘You were miles away,’ Andy said with a grin, ‘I wonder what you were thinking about seeing as you were staring at Cissy’s –‘

‘Right!’ Hermione interrupted the middle Black sister, ‘I just remembered I had an important meeting at St. Mungo’s.’

‘I’m not aware of any meeting,’ the President of the Board of Director’s countered, pointedly ignoring Hermione’s pleading eyes.

‘Yes… well… your presence isn’t required!’ Hermione practically shrieked before disapparating on the spot.

Draco shook his head, ‘brilliant or not, she’ll always be a little weird in my opinion. Now then Andromeda, shall we go?’

‘When are you going to start calling me aunty?’

The blonde wizard rolled his eyes and Narcissa looked confused, ‘where are you two going?’

‘Draco agreed to babysit Teddy for a while and I took some time off from work… you know… to process things.’

Narcissa smiled at her sister, ‘of course Andy, take your time. I’d offer to babysit him too, but I don’t think I can keep up with a five-year old little wizard in my current condition.’

‘Oh, you definitely wouldn’t. His magic often goes as haywire as yours. Last week he managed to transform the rubber duck in the tub into a real one by accident. By the time I had caught the beast, the entire bathroom was soaked while he was screeching about the soap that had gotten into his eyes.’

Draco groaned, ‘wonderful.’

***

‘Hermione!’

The sleeping Gryffindor grumbled something unintelligible, but Narcissa wasn’t going to let that deter her and she shook the young witch harder.

‘Hermione, wake up!’

Hermione managed to open one eye and groaned. It was pitch black outside so it was either still very late or very early. She had once again been tossing and turning before finally succumbing to a restless sleep, but this time it wasn’t because she was stressing about Andy. No, this time she couldn’t stop wondering why she had been so disappointed about Narcissa losing interest in her.

‘What is it?’

‘I crave pickles.’

The brunette closed her eyes again, ‘marvellous. Enjoy.’

‘No,’ Narcissa whined as she shook Hermione again, ‘I crave pickles but we have none!’

‘I’ll buy pickles tomorrow! Go to sleep Narcissa.’

‘I’m your employer! You should do as I say.’

Hermione turned on her side and opened both eyes now so she could glare at the blonde, ‘only if it’s within reason. Fetching you pickles in the middle of the night is NOT within reason.’

‘But I’m pregnant,’ Narcissa said with a pout and Hermione could feel her resolve crumbling.

‘You’re taking advantage of my sleep muddled brain. I can’t think properly right now!’

‘That means you’ll find me some pickles?’

‘Yes!’ Hermione said exasperated as she threw the blankets aside, ‘anything to get you to leave me alone so I can sleep again.’

The pregnant witch squealed in delight, a sound Hermione had never expected to hear from her and kissed Hermione firmly on the cheek. The younger witch flushed scarlet, grateful that they were standing in a pitch-black room and desperately tried to ignore the feel of Narcissa’s body against hers only separated by two very thin nightdresses. Now, where could she find some pickles?

***

Hermione smacked her own head with her ledger. She had been in her office at St. Mungo’s for three hours now but hadn’t managed to write down more than two sentences for her thoughts continued to drift off to a certain blonde witch. She could still hear Narcissa’s moans reverberate through her mind. Honestly, pickles couldn’t taste that good?

Despite her initial discomfort about Narcissa’s innuendos, she had quickly discovered that she missed the woman wrapping herself around her shoulders and whispering filthy suggestions in her ear. Hermione silently berated herself. How in Merlin’s beard could she be more turned on by the thought of sleeping with Narcissa when the woman wasn’t trying to seduce her into her bed anymore?

She almost jumped in her chair when one of the Directors of St. Mungo’s barged into her office. They had all been ecstatic when she told them about her discovery earlier today during a meeting. The fact that she’d changed directions with her research and wasn’t closer to solving the initial problem had been instantly forgotten. Hermione smiled at the wizard who began to inform her about the next step in the research. They had decided to ask the three best Healers of St. Mungo’s to perform the magical blood dialysis on Hermione to see if her hypothesis held any truth.

Hermione wasn’t really listening. She knew Andy would tell her again in a less condescending way, but she had to keep her investors happy so she suffered through his monologue while trying desperately not to think about Narcissa’s bare shoulders. Or the press of the woman’s breasts against her back when she’d hugged her out of gratitude for those pickles. Or the times she accidentally moaned at something. Merlin’s beard, she had it bad.

When she arrived at the Manor several hours later than expected thanks to two other members of the board harassing Hermione with ideas to boast their own egos, she felt stressed and tense and antsy. The fact that Narcissa greeted her, barely dressed in a tanktop and shorts and holding her jar of pickles was not helping!

‘There you are! I was wondering if I’d scared you away, but I’m trying very hard to behave!’

‘You didn’t scare me away,’ Hermione said after having counted to ten to regain her composure, ‘I just had a very busy day at work.’

Narcissa tilted her head to one side and bit her lip while Hermione cursed her for being so ridiculously adorable, ‘you know what? I’ll trade you a massage. You give me another foot rub and I’ll do your neck.’

Hermione felt herself nod before she realized what she’d just agreed to but Narcissa’s blinding smile more than made up for it. That was until the blonde asked Hermione to take off her robes. The Gryffindor witch felt every ounce of bravery leave her body like water through a colander.

‘What?’

‘Take your robes and your sweater off, darling. How else am I supposed to reach your neck properly?’

It took Hermione all of her self-restraint to not slap Narcissa’s hands away when the woman reached out to help her undress. The younger witch felt so confused. Narcissa was behaving! She hadn’t said anything inappropriate anymore, hadn’t been following Hermione around the Manor anymore and yet, the brunette wished for nothing more than Narcissa to want her again. Now that the pregnant woman was just being polite to her, Hermione almost couldn’t bear it.

‘Salazar’s snake, your neck feels like it’s been hit with a Petrificus Totalus!’ Narcissa exclaimed the moment her pale fingers wrapped themselves around Hermione’s tendons.

‘It’s often like that,’ Hermione admitted but her voice sounded hoarse, ‘when I’m stressed, it always twists my muscles into knots.’

The blonde hummed and started kneading, ‘perhaps I should order one for you as well. It looks like you might need it.’

Hermione’s nose crinkled in confusion, ‘order me what?’

‘A sex toy.’

With a strangled shriek Hermione leapt from the chair and turned towards Narcissa, ‘what? Why would you think I need that?’

The blonde merely shrugged, ‘to alleviate the tensions in your body? I was thinking of buying one for myself because I can’t seem to get my hormones to calm down. Using a vibration spell has never really worked for me but I hear muggles are rather inventive with toys. Shall we take a look together?’

Hermione blinked and blinked again before turning on her heels and marching upstairs, ignoring Narcissa’s confused questions as to where she was going and whether she had forgotten about her foot rub. She just couldn’t deal with this she thought to herself as she opened the shower and turned the tap towards the cold side. As the freezing droplets cascaded down Hermione’s body, the witch shivered but it wasn’t from the cold.

Slowly she felt her hands move on their own accord, trailing a path down her body starting from her neck and caressing their way to her stomach. She cupped her own breasts, desperately trying not to envision Narcissa doing it and slipped a finger between her legs. But after a few minutes of teasing and even a few minutes of frustrated rubbing, Hermione had to admit defeat. Her body wanted sex, but her mind didn’t allow her to take care of her needs herself.

Hermione’s head fell backwards and landed against the tiles with a thud, her frustrated cry echoing through the bathroom. She didn’t want Narcissa to buy a toy she realized, just as much as she didn’t want the woman to stop lusting after her. Because for the first time in her life, Hermione had felt wanted. Desired. And she couldn’t even care that those desires might have been hormone induced for she felt enormously attracted to the youngest Black sister.

Suddenly Hermione made up her mind. It would just be another business agreement. Narcissa would be relieved from her aroused state and Hermione would finally experience what it felt like to share the bed with someone she fancied. No offence to her previous bed partners of course, but they had been male and Hermione suspected that the cause of her disappointing sex life had something to do with that. Plus it would allow her to relax a little during these stressful times. She nodded to herself, yes, it was a flawless plan.

‘There you are,’ Narcissa said when Hermione re-emerged into the sitting area, ‘I was contemplating reporting you as missing.’

‘I’ll do it.’

The blonde stopped flicking through her magazine and looked up, ‘do what?’

‘I’ll sleep with you.’

Chapter Text

Hermione was sitting nervously on the bed, her hair still damp from the shower and her hands awkwardly rubbing against the jeans she’d put on. Why she had chosen to get dressed again, knowing she’d be naked very soon was beyond her. The shower in the bathroom suddenly stopped running and Hermione gulped. Despite being convinced about the brilliance of her plan, the witch was nervous.

If Narcissa found it odd that Hermione was fully dressed, the woman didn’t remark on it and Hermione was grateful for it. She was simply dressed in her bathrobe and had twisted her hair in a quick braid, but to Hermione she looked stunning. The witch walked over to the brunette and lifted her chin with her fingers.

‘Nervous?’

Hermione nodded, ‘a little.’

‘Have you slept with a woman before?’

This time Hermione shook her head, silently berating herself for her lack of eloquence. She usually had a way with words but now she didn’t seem capable of uttering a single sentence. But again Narcissa simply smiled a reassuring smile.

‘We’ll take it slow then. And if you’re uncomfortable, you tell me, okay?’

Hermione frowned, ‘really?’

‘Of course! It’s not because you agreed to sleep with me, that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself? And if at any point you decide you don’t want to go through with it, we’ll stop.’

Hermione looked flabbergasted and Narcissa shook her head, ‘honestly darling, what kind of partners have you bedded before? You’re meant to enjoy sex!’

‘But you’re suffering from your hormones! What if we stop after I’ve gotten you all riled up?’

Narcissa’s expression turned serious, ‘Hermione, if you want to stop, we’ll stop and I’ll find some other way to deal with my hormones. Do you understand?’

Hermione nodded and Narcissa sighed, ‘besides this isn’t just about me. I believe you needed a way to relieve tensions as well?’

At this Hermione laughed and Narcissa relaxed again, ‘I’m sorry, I guess my experiences haven’t been very great.’

‘Don’t apologize darling, I’m glad we had this conversation. Now, are there things you don’t want to do?’

The brunette fidgeted with her hands, ‘this may sound silly…’

‘I’m sure it won’t.’

‘I’d prefer not to kiss if that’s all right with you? I’ve always thought it to be much more intimate than sex and well… since it’s a business agreement.’

Narcissa snorted at the term Hermione chose to describe their deal but nodded her consent, ‘very well. Shall we?’

The blonde witch gently pushed Hermione on her back and straddled her hips. She noticed how the Gryffindor sucked in her breath and stiffened underneath her. Narcissa lowered herself until her lips were against Hermione’s ear and she whispered.

‘Breathe.’

The moment Narcissa felt Hermione’s lungs fill with air she got to work. Her hands trailed up and down the witch’s body, softly almost like a caress while her teeth and lips nibbled and sucked on every piece of skin she encountered. Slowly Narcissa undressed Hermione by pulling her T-shirt over her head and vanishing the skinny jeans with wandless magic. Narcissa was speechless at the beauty she uncovered and tried to show it by worshipping Hermione’s skin. Within minutes the young witch was a hot mess underneath her but she halted the blonde.

‘Can I go first?’

Narcissa immediately stopped moving and glanced at Hermione, ‘if you’re sure…’

‘Yes, I don’t think I’ll be able to function if you continue like this. I want to fulfil my end of the deal first.’

With a smirk that made Hermione’s knickers dampen on the spot Narcissa slithered off Hermione and laid herself on her back. Hermione moved so she hovered above the blonde and tried to ignore how much she regretted her decision not to kiss when she saw Narcissa lick her lips. The older witch seemed to notice Hermione didn’t really know where to start so she tilted her head and offered her throat to the younger woman.

Completely in awe, Hermione trailed her fingers across a collarbone before undoing the knot in Narcissa’s bathrobe. Right before sinking her teeth in one of the tendons, Hermione whispered.

‘Will you guide me?’

‘Darling, I’m at a point where everything you do will be absolutely divine,’ Narcissa sighed but after seeing Hermione’s insecurity she quickly added, ‘but I’ll help you when necessary.’

That seemed to reassure the Gryffindor witch who immediately got to work seemingly intending to lick every inch of Narcissa’s body. The blonde’s hands were in Hermione’s hair immediately, gently tugging on it while her hips involuntarily arched up in search for friction. But Hermione was too distracted by Narcissa’s breasts to descend further south. The moment she closed her lips around a pert nipple, the older woman moaned.

Despite never having slept with a woman before, Hermione found she immediately felt familiar with the body that was writhing underneath her. She tried whatever she liked herself on Narcissa and took her cues from the woman’s responses. The brunette couldn’t help but notice how easily their bodies moved together, how in sync their noises of pleasure were and how desperate she was for more.

Nipping her way down from Narcissa slightly protruding stomach to the patch of damp curls between her legs, Hermione felt the anticipation in the blonde growing. Her belly wasn’t in the way just yet, but very soon it would be harder to dive between her thighs in this position. Hermione shook her head. There wasn’t going to be a next time she scolded herself before a desperate please pulled her from her musings. She looked up to Narcissa who looked flushed and dishevelled but also blissfully content.

‘Darling if you want to stop, stop. But otherwise… fuck me.’

Hermione closed her eyes and licked Narcissa’s pussy from entrance to clit trying to ignore how every fibre of her being screamed in pleasure. With every noise she pulled from Narcissa, Hermione came closer and closer to the realization that she was ruined forever. For who could satisfy her after she’d had a taste of heaven?

Feeling Hermione scooting closer, Narcissa spread her legs wider while every synapse of her brain stopped functioning. She usually was in control in the bedroom, always telling her partners what she liked and how she liked it, but Hermione managed to touch all the right buttons and caress all the right strings. She felt like a harp being played with fervour and she gladly sang her tunes.

By the time Hermione slid two fingers in Narcissa’s sopping wet pussy, the woman was close to her peak. Hermione could tell she was fighting her orgasm and sped up her pace even more. The room was filled with the sounds of flesh against flesh and moans of pleasure from both women while the scent of their arousal mingled with that of sweat.

They kept moving together, Narcissa meeting Hermione’s thrusts with her hips so the brunette could hit that spot inside of her. Just when Narcissa managed to scramble a few functioning braincells together and realized she was pulling Hermione’s hair rather roughly she tumbled over the edge. Her toes curled as every muscle in her body went taut and she tried not to suffocated Hermione with her thighs while the Gryffindor witch kept licking.

Eventually Hermione came up for air, panting heavily and it took Narcissa all of her self-restraint to not lick her own arousal of the brunette’s lips. But they’d agreed not to kiss, despite her desiring it above all else right now. Trying to distract herself from how beautiful Hermione looked, Narcissa attempted to reverse positions but noticed how Hermione’s initial nerves resurfaced. So instead she opted to pull Hermione up and slid her thigh between the younger witch’s legs.

Hermione gasped when the muscular thigh touched her slick panties. Narcissa, still trying to catch her breath, placed both her hands on Hermione’s hips and indicated to the brunette that she should start moving. A soft moan of pleasure escaped Hermione’s lips and Narcissa couldn’t help but feel a bit smug when she felt the younger woman relax again.

By the time Hermione’s thighs were trembling and she was no longer self-conscious, Narcissa flipped them around making sure her belly didn’t collide with any limbs. Hermione arched her back before willingly lifting her hips so Narcissa could help her shimmy out of her knickers. Next to go was Hermione’s bra revealing two small but firm breasts slightly spotted with freckles Narcissa immediately found endearing.

The Slytherin flicked her tongue at the young witch’s nipple and watched her shudder in pleasure underneath her. Narcissa smirked and repeated her actions before sucking on both nipples until they were hard and stiff. She saw Hermione fist the sheets out of the corner of her eye and softly patted her on the nose so she’d open her eyes.

‘Scoot towards the end of the bed, darling. I’m not comfortable lying on my stomach anymore.’

Numb with lust Hermione immediately obliged, not entirely believing that none other than Narcissa Black lowered herself onto her knees for her while gripping Hermione’s thighs and pulling her even closer. The blonde’s hot breath on Hermione’s centre made the Gryffindor whimper and Narcissa decided to torture the witch no more. She flattened her tongue against her clit and relished in the sounds her actions emitted from Hermione.

When she felt Hermione starting to wriggle away from her tongue, Narcissa had her suspicions confirmed. She didn’t think Hermione had ever managed to reach an orgasm before. At least not by the actions of someone else… Narcissa squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to chase the image of Hermione pleasuring herself from her mind and vowed to give the Gryffindor an earth shattering orgasm. She was nothing if not a little bit smug about her bedskills.

The blonde followed Hermione back onto the bed and settled herself directly behind the younger witch on their sides. Narcissa gently nudged Hermione’s legs apart and nuzzled her nose in the bushy brown locks close to Hermione’s ear. She started teasing around the witch’s entrance with her fingers while whispering words of encouragement.

‘That’s it. Don’t focus on it too much, try to relax.’

Hermione’s pants turned into one long moan the moment she felt two slender fingers slip inside her. While her other hand toyed with Hermione’s breast, Narcissa started to move, slowly at first but the Slytherin quickly fastened her pace. Narcissa never stopped talking to Hermione, encouraging her to chase her orgasm instead of trying to run away from it.

Despite Hermione’s earlier struggles, it didn’t take her long to climax. Her entire body convulsed and her inner walls contracted strongly around Narcissa’s fingers while a soft squeak escaped her lips. The moment the brunette melted in Narcissa’s embrace, the older witch knew she was lost. Suddenly she desired nothing more than to hear that squeak again and make sure that Hermione felt loved. Silently cursing their deal not to kiss, Narcissa opted to stroke the brunette’s hair instead while extracting her fingers from Hermione’s pussy.

They lay like that in a comfortable silence while listening to each other’s heartbeats. After a while, Hermione slowly turned around. Narcissa smirked when she noticed that the Gryffindor had finally caught her breath and propped herself up on her elbow, ‘would you care for another round? I’m afraid my hormones have been raging inside my body for so long that one orgasm simply won’t cut it.’

***

Hermione stared at the ceiling while listening to the irregular breathing of the sleeping witch next to her. Sometime after their third round, Narcissa had blissfully fallen asleep as her body had finally been released from all the sexual tensions. The Gryffindor, lacking her usual courage, didn’t dare to glance aside afraid that the sight of a peacefully slumbering Narcissa would be her final undoing.

Realization had hit her hard. Realization that this had been a mistake. Hermione gulped, desperate to not let the panic get a hold of her but the walls seems to close in on her nevertheless. She needed fresh air! As slowly and as carefully as possible, Hermione disentangled herself from the sheets and covered Narcissa’s naked body so she wouldn't go cold. She took the bathrobe Narcissa had been wearing earlier and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her while hoping that she could also escape the whirlwind of emotions that currently wreaked havoc in her mind.

The cool breeze of the summer’s evening helped Hermione calm her breathing. She was padding barefoot through the gardens of Malfoy Manor, careful not to rouse the peacocks. Hermione bit her fist in order to muffle her frustrated screams. Blinded by her own desires, she had given her heart away to a woman who did not want it. You fool, she thought, you bloody fool!

***

Narcissa woke up the next morning and scolded herself when she realized she was disappointed to find the other half of the bed empty and cold. It was a one-time thing. A business agreement! Of course Hermione wouldn’t still be in the bed with her. The blonde shook her head at her own thoughts and stretched her limbs until she felt that satisfying pop.

She sauntered over to her vanity and sat herself down in front of the big mirror. Her blue eyes trailed across her naked body and Narcissa smiled when she saw the many marks Hermione had left on her pale skin. With both hands on her slightly protruding stomach, the youngest Black sister reminisced about last night trying to remember the exact path Hermione’s mouth had taken.

Narcissa sighed as she suddenly felt lonelier than ever in her big manor. Because last night had made one thing very clear… she could get used to finding Hermione in her bed every morning, but unfortunately that would never happen again. Narcissa turned away from her mirror because she no longer could stand the sight of the fool in front of her. Madame Black, political strategist and calculated conversationalist, had just given her heart away to a witch who did not want it. And by doing so, she had surrendered all control and she hated it.

***

If Andy noticed the tension in the room, she simply chose not to comment on it as she checked how her sister’s pregnancy developed. Narcissa’s blood pressure was still on point and her diagnostics showed no abnormalities. Andy nodded approvingly.

‘Seems like everything is progressing smoothly.’

‘Wonderful,’ Narcissa muttered desperately trying to catch Hermione’s gaze but the brunette seemed determined to avoid looking at her.

Andy noticed as well because she smirked, ‘I’ve noticed how you haven’t missed a single appointment yet, Hermione. You’re doing better than most fathers I’ve encountered during my days as a Mediwitch.’

‘Andy, don’t,’ Narcissa replied noticing how Hermione paled at the comment.

Her sister rolled her eyes, ‘honestly you two should just fuck and be done with it,’ she snarked before packing her bag and leaving the room in search of snacks.

‘Hermione,’ Narcissa pleaded before the Gryffindor witch could follow Andy, ‘ignore her. She doesn’t need to know what happened between us. It was a business agreement after all, right?’

Hermione slowly nodded, ‘a deal between friends. Assuming that we are still friends?’

‘Of course,’ Narcissa smiled, but her expression turned sad the moment Hermione left the room.

Just friends.

Chapter Text

Hermione fidgeted with the hem of her hospital gown. After a few extremely awkward days at the Manor where both witches had tried to avoid each other as much as possible, she had left to be treated at St. Mungo’s without really having had a chance to discuss it with Narcissa. And now, sitting in her room waiting for the Healers to collect her, she regretted not saying goodbye.

‘Miss Granger?’ a voice sounded at the same time the door to her room opened, ‘we’re ready for you. I assume you’ve been informed about the procedure?’

Hermione nodded. She’d spend all day with Andromeda yesterday to discuss what would happen. A team of the best Healers would assemble and bring Hermione under a magically induced coma. They would drain all her blood making an incision across her mudblood scar and clean it with a dialysis spell. The purified blood would then be re-injected in her other arm to avoid cross-contamination. Hermione had snorted at the end of Andy’s explanation.

‘Bellatrix would go crazy if she heard that purifying my blood means it has to be separated from her magic.’

Andy had only managed a little smile, ‘this is serious Hermione. This procedure is extremely risky. Your organs can only survive for a short amount of time without a solid blood flow. The Healers will need to work fast while also making sure not to make any mistakes. If they miss even the smallest part of Bella’s magic, it can start to fester again and we’ll have to do it all over.’

‘I have every faith in the abilities of your Healers, Andy. Not doing the procedure holds greater risks on the long-term so let’s just get this over with.’

‘Gryffindor bravery versus Slytherin suspicion,’ Andy chuckled, but the younger witch scoffed.

‘I’ve always deemed myself more of a Ravenclaw than a Gryffindor, to be honest. And you don’t belong in Slytherin either.’

‘A Hufflepuff like my Nymphadora. I’d have loved to be in that house.’

Hermione smiled, ‘our houses don’t define us. I’d like to think that my courage comes from just being fed-up with having Bellatrix ghost around in my head. And your suspicion comes from being worried about my wellbeing. It is greatly appreciated, Andy. But I’ll be fine.’

The middle Black sister had nodded, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Go get some sleep now.’

Sleep had eluded Hermione of course and judging by the frequent tremors that had buzzed through the Manor, Narcissa hadn’t slept much either. And yet, neither witch had found the courage to find the other one. Hermione shook the memory from her head and tried to focus on whatever the Healer was saying to her.

‘If you could lie down on the bed so I can hover you to the surgery?’

Hermione quickly obliged and tried to ignore her rapidly beating heart. She stared at the ceiling while the Healer guided her bed through the hallways with his wand. Just before the doors of the surgery closed, Andy appeared looking rather flushed.

‘Oh! There you are, I thought I’d missed you. Know that we’re all rooting for you, okay?’

‘All?’

Andy smiled, ‘the entire St. Mungo’s waiting room might be filled with a dozen Weasleys, the Boy Who Lived and a bunch of friends and colleagues. Even Hagrid’s here.’

Hermione giggled at the thought of the half-giant occupying at least two chairs before her expression turned serious again, ‘and my parents?’

‘I promised to update them every fifteen minutes with a text message and to call them if there’s any news.’

‘Thank you. It’s a good thing you can work with a smartphone, because my parents are too afraid of magic to come here.’

‘Of course love, I understand.’

Hermione opened her mouth to inquire after Narcissa, but the Healer interrupted them politely asking Andromeda to leave the surgery so they could get started. Andy nodded and kissed Hermione on her hair before closing the doors and joining the members of the Board of Directors who were all watching the procedure from the observatory. Andy’s heart clenched at the sight of Hermione being put to sleep. If only the witch knew why she’d been late. If only Hermione knew how Andy had tried to comfort her pregnant sister who was so nervous about this whole ordeal, her magic had stopped lashing out and just… ceased to exist.

‘I’m a wreck Andy! What if she doesn’t make it?’

Andy who had been casting diagnostic spells to determine why Narcissa could no longer feel her magic, frowned, ‘she’ll make it. Hermione is young and healthy and above all, she’s determined. We’ve set the very best Healers on the case.’

‘That better be true Andy, or I’ll use whatever fortune I have left to sue St. Mungo’s into bankruptcy!’

Ignoring her younger sister’s threats, Andy frowned at the empty diagnostics. She almost didn’t hear Narcissa coming up with bullshit excuses why she was so worried about Hermione. As if it had something to do with the woman’s brilliance at foot rubs. If only her sister would just admit how she felt. Andy cleared her throat.

‘I don’t think your magic is “gone” as you stated. I merely think it’s gone dormant for your own protection. But that’s just me guessing because I have never seen this before.’

Narcissa blinked, obviously forgotten that she was supposed to care about her magic having disappeared, ‘right… I’m sure enough rest will fix things.’

Andy rose to her feet, ‘I really have to go now, Cissy. I promised Hermione I’d see her before the procedure.’

‘You’ll keep me informed?’ Cissy called after her sister who’d already stepped into the Floo.

‘Always.’

***

Andy laughed when she entered Hermione’s room and saw the young witch already nose-deep in a pile of parchment, ‘honestly Hermione, you should be resting!’

‘But I have never felt so good in my life, Andy! It’s like I finally slept through the night. I have so much more energy.’

‘That’s good to hear! What are you doing? Answering your fanmail?’ Andy teased eyeing the huge pile of letters next to the witch’s bed.

Hermione snorted, ‘only Harry gets fanmail. No, seeing as the procedure was such a success, I didn’t want to waste any time to write down my final conclusion. I mean… I did just confirm my theory about magical mutations.’

‘You sure did! The Board of Directors is more excited than a child at Honeydukes Sweets shop. They actually asked me to inquire whether you’re up for a first interview?’

The younger woman beamed. While Hermione had always despised talking about herself, she never minded giving interviews regarding academic achievements. Andy nodded and wanted to leave the room, but she hesitated and turned around.

‘Fair warning, there’s a lot of visitors wanting to see you. I’ve allowed them all ten minutes in groups of maximum three. And after that, rest!’

Hermione rolled her eyes but her exasperation quickly turned into laughter when Harry, Ginny and Ron entered her room. They all marvelled at her arm that now held a faint scar from the incision, but looked unscathed otherwise.

‘Wauw, ‘Mione! We’re so happy you finally got rid of it,’ Ron said and Hermione couldn’t help but feel fond of him. While their relationship may not have worked out, their friendship surely had survived and she was grateful for it.

‘Thanks Ron. I never cared much about the scar, but the mental presence of that woman always seemed to pull me down,’ Hermione admitted, ‘but now she’s gone and I have another badass scar to show for it!’

‘If you want to stay with us for a while to recover, just say so.’

Hermione smiled at Ginny but shook her head, ‘I’ll be fine at the Manor. If I ever get there, that is. It looks like I have a few busy days ahead of me.’

They chatted for what felt like seconds when a Mediwitch barged into Hermione’s room and ushered her friends out to make room for the next group. When Hermione glanced at the long line in front of her door, she barely suppressed a groan. Would it be horrible to admit that there was only one person she longed to see right now?

***

The initial energy Hermione had felt after her treatment was rapidly declining the moment she’d published her paper. She was still residing at St. Mungo’s merely for the fact that the Board of Directors could control her agenda more easily than when she went home. It had annoyed the Gryffindor witch to no ends, but in the end the hospital was her employer and she merely an employee. Luckily Andromeda frequently demanded that Hermione was left alone so she could catch her breath.

‘Good morning, love. Ready for another busy day?’ Andy said sarcastically as she walked into the hospital room.

‘I know I shouldn’t complain because every researcher would kill for the media-attention I’m getting now,’ Hermione sighed, ‘but I’ll be happy when all the formalities are over.’

‘Well today you start with a follow-up meeting with the Board of Directors. They want to know what the next step will be concerning this revelation. And after that you have a second interview with the Daily Prophet and St. Mungo’s wants you to cut a ribbon at the opening of their new potion’s lab,’ Andy listed while flicking through her agenda.

‘And after that?’

‘After that,’ Andy replied with a wink, ‘you’re free to go.’

‘Really?’

‘Officially discharged from hospital. Of course, you’ll still get letters from researchers, journalists and fans, but you can answer those in your own time.’

Hermione practically flew through her day, yawning her way through the meeting with the Board and managing a smile for the Daily Prophet’s photographer. Both occasions focused on the magical dialysis Hermione had undergone seeing as it could form the foundations of a new approach to cure diseases and curses. While it wasn’t an answer to Hermione’s initial case about cursed scars because mutations weren’t to blame for everything, it did nudge her in a new direction.

After a brainstorm of nearly two hours and a dreadful photo-shoot, Hermione walked to the new potions lab shaking a few hands along the way. She accepted the pair of scissors, secretly amused by the very muggle-custom and snapped the red ribbon that adorned the door in half. Together with Andromeda she strolled through the new lab holding a glass of champagne after having agreed to stay a polite thirty minutes before leaving the reception and going home.

‘If I have to smile for a picture one more time, I will scream,’ Hermione muttered to her friend when she saw another photographer look in her direction.

‘You don’t have to! Our obligatory thirty minutes are up,’ Andy said while gulping down her champagne, ‘let’s go home, love.’

Andy flicked her wand towards one of the cauldrons causing it to sizzle and draw the attention away from Hermione so they could disappear through the nearest door. They ran through the hallway to Andy’s office where they could use the Floo seeing as apparition wasn’t possible inside St. Mungo’s. Slightly panting and giggling both witches hugged each other.

‘Thank you for everything, Andy. Please take care of yourself,’ Hermione said with a voice that left nothing to the imagination. She knew Andy was still processing recent revelations, but the older woman merely shrugged.

‘I’ll be fine.’

Hermione hummed but decided to let the matter go. She stepped into the fireplace and grabbed a pinch of Floo powder while stating loud and clear Malfoy Manor. The Gryffindor witch disappeared in a gush of green flames and landed mere seconds later in the marble hallway she had cleaned so many times by now. She ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she went to search for the sole inhabitant of the large building.

***

Narcissa had heard the Floo and recognized Hermione by the sound of her footsteps echoing through the Manor. While she’d come to appreciate that sound, she now felt her mood sour with every step the younger woman took. Little did Hermione know that Narcissa had been without her magic for four days now, meaning the woman could not resort to magical means of contact. The blonde witch had been entirely dependent on the few owls her sister had managed to send to inform her about Hermione’s condition.

Little did Hermione know that Narcissa had been mad with worry and had foolishly convinced herself that Hermione would feel the same way. She’d hoped that their time apart would have made it clear for the brunette that their adventure between the sheets of Narcissa’s bed had been more than a business deal. So when she heard that Hermione was too busy shaking hands and doing interviews to reach out to her, Narcissa’s initial coldness towards the Gryffindor had resurfaced.

‘Hi…,’ a timid voice pulled the former Malfoy matriarch from her musings, ‘I’m back.’

‘Ah, you must have returned to collect your belongings,’ Narcissa said while raising herself from the couch and ignoring Hermione’s confused expression.

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’ve completed your research, surely you don’t have any reason to stay here a moment longer?’ Narcissa snarked and Hermione winced at the harshness in her voice.

A silence fell between the two witches and while Hermione processed what Narcissa had just said to her, the blonde was fighting the urge to reach out. To touch. Narcissa witnessed how Hermione’s confused expression morphed into a stubborn one and felt her heart clench. She wanted to ask Hermione to stay. She wanted to plead to the brunette not to leave her, but her stoic expression gave nothing away. Seemingly unfazed Narcissa waited for the backlash of her actions, cursing herself mentally for being so skilled at pushing people away.

‘You’re absolutely right,’ Hermione said with a voice that almost didn’t waver, ‘it would seem like our business agreement has come to a conclusion. I wish you a good day, madame Black.’

Narcissa’s azure eyes widened at the mention of her surname, but Hermione had already turned around and couldn’t see the regret that radiated from the older woman. The brunette felt tears blinking in the corners of her eyes but refused to acknowledge them. How foolish she had been to think that Narcissa would still want her around after her research was completed. She’d been nothing but a puppet in a master manipulator’s scheme. With a wild flick of her wand, her belongings came thundering downstairs and she disappeared together with her suitcases and a very startled Crookshanks in a woosh of green flames.

‘Goodbye, miss Granger.’

Narcissa’s voice was a mere whisper in the empty house. And that’s when it happened. With a loud crack, Narcissa’s magic came back as abruptly as it had disappeared roaring inside of her like a Fiendfyre. It coiled, twisted and lashed out, bursting from her fingertips and wreaking havoc everywhere it touched. The second loud crack announced the demolishment of Malfoy Manor, the proud and noble house that had stood for many generations as it came tumbling down in a heap of bricks.

Once the dust had settled and the final walls had fallen, Narcissa managed to regain control over her magic but not her emotions. The pregnant woman fell to her knees, gasping at the sharp stones that tore open her skin and she sobbed. Hot tears fell from her cheeks as she mourned the loss of something she hadn’t even possessed in the first place. The heart of Hermione Granger.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed in silence, each witch too stubborn to reach out to the other. Hermione, who’d given up her apartment after realizing she couldn’t stand to live alone anymore, had been living with Harry and Ginny but she knew Narcissa had moved in with her sister. The Daily Prophet had dedicated the entire front page about the destruction of the Manor, and Hermione had reached out to Andromeda immediately to inquire whether Narcissa was unharmed.

And that’s how Hermione kept harassing the middle Black sister to stay updated on the pregnancy since she didn’t accompany Narcissa to her check-ups anymore. After a while Harry had gently tried to remind Hermione of her own “I’m not an owl” when Andy had complained to him about being between two fires. But the Gryffindor witch had merely glared at her best friend who’d felt his courage disapparate on the spot.

Of course Harry and Ginny hadn’t hesitated to take Hermione in when she tumbled out of their hearth with all her suitcases and a crumpled looking Kneazle cat. It had taken her two cups of tea and a Firewhiskey to finally tell her friends what had happened. And they had listened to Hermione, without judging her even when she admitted to having fallen in love with none other than Narcissa Black. They had comforted her, offered her a room and accepted Hermione’s love for the former Malfoy matriarch without a moment’s hesitation.

‘Hermione,’ Harry carefully began a few days after trying to tell Hermione that she should allow Andy a moment of peace and quiet once and a while.

‘Mmmm?’

Hermione didn’t look up from her Daily Prophet while she stirred her morning tea. Ginny had already left for an early training with the Holyhead Harpies so it was just Harry and Hermione at the breakfast table.

‘Don’t you think it’s time to start talking to Narcissa? I’m sure she-‘

‘What day is it?’ Hermione interrupted Harry without even acknowledging what he was trying to say, but before he could respond, Hermione had already pushed herself away from the table.

‘What’s going on?’ Harry asked his friend who was squinting at the week planner on the fridge.

‘Narcissa’s 35 weeks pregnant today.’

‘Right. About that…’

‘Not now Harry. I need to call Andromeda,’ Hermione said before leaving the kitchen to find her smartphone.

Harry groaned and called after her, ‘at least wait an hour or two so the woman is actually awake this time!’

***

‘So, what did Miss Granger have to say this time?’ Narcissa asked as she sipped her tea, pretending to be nonchalant about it.

Andy gritted her teeth. She’d had about enough of this ridiculousness. If neither witch was going to admit how they felt about each other, Andy would just shove their faces together to make them kiss and be done with it. Useless lesbians!

‘She wanted to know how your last appointment went. Honestly Cissy, why can’t you keep her informed yourself?’

The blonde merely pursed her lips and stubbornly stuck out her chin, which made Andy groan. She wasn’t sure which Narcissa she liked better. The crying mess she’d found in the rubble of Malfoy Manor or the witch who had now somehow convinced herself Hermione wanted nothing to do with her and she deserved to be miserable.

‘She wouldn’t ask about you all the time if she didn’t want anything to do with you.’

Narcissa squinted at her sister. Had she really just used Legilimency on her?

‘You haven’t unlearned any family tricks, I see.’

‘Yes well,’ Andy defended herself, ‘you’re not exactly shielding your thoughts very well lately.’

‘I didn’t expect to be needing it in my own sister’s company!’

‘Said sister is very close to throwing you out! There’s obviously been some misunderstanding and I’m sure that if you talked-‘

A raised hand cut Andy’s rant short but if Narcissa’s blue eyes hadn’t been filled with tears, the older sister probably would not have accepted it. This time however, Andy just enveloped the blonde in a hug. There was a time for lectures and a time for consoling. It was obvious which one Narcissa needed the most.

‘It’s just… I somehow had convinced myself that Hermione could actually be more than a friend. It felt so genuine. She felt so genuine.’

‘I know,’ Andy hushed, ‘but I still think there’s been some kind of miscommunication. I know Hermione and she wouldn’t have taken advantage of you.’

‘That’s not what I’m saying. We both stepped into this venture knowing it was nothing that a business agreement with mutual benefits. I’d have a capable witch to assist me around the house and she’d have the rarest collection of books to her disposal. But I didn’t expect her to drop me like a dented Galleon the moment she’d achieve her goal.’

Andy scrunched her nose a little bit at that. Despite Hermione being reluctant to tell her what had happened, they did talk about it somewhat. And she knew Hermione hadn’t exactly dropped her sister, but the woman was finally opening up to Andy so she kept quiet.

‘We grew closer and I let her in, Andy. For the first time in years I let someone in and it backlashed.’

Suddenly as quickly as they had come, Narcissa’s tears disappeared and she withdrew from her sister’s hug, ‘I never want to look like a fool again.’

The pregnant witch started making her way towards the door, but hesitated when her hand touched the handle. Narcissa turned around and her voice was soft as a whisper, but Andy heard her nevertheless.

‘Please…just send her the letter?’

***

Hermione’s thumb caressed the small photograph that had been enclosed with Andy’s latest letter. The owl had arrived around midday but she was still sitting on her windowsill where she had watched the bird fly off almost an hour ago.

Hermione

I told Cissy how a muggle gynaecologist works and naturally she was horrified. But the thought of having an echography of her daughter did intrigue her so believe it or not, we went to see one! I had to persuade the doctor a little bit because they don’t perform ultrasounds at this stage anymore ;) The baby is fully grown now, so we’re starting to count down the days… Enclosed you find a copy of the ultrasound. Cissy wanted you to have it.

With love

Andy

The Gryffindor couldn’t resist smiling warmly at the square piece of paper in her hand. The little girl was clearly visible and Hermione could even count ten fingers and ten toes. Look at you Hermione thought, a perfect little witch already.

The roaring of the Floo startled Hermione from her reverie, but she stayed where she was. Harry was home after all and she wasn’t expecting any visitors. But when she heard a familiar voice shout GRANGER she bolted from her room.

‘Draco?’

The blond wizard was standing in Grimmauld Place’s hallway, the dust of the Floo journey still on his shoulders. He was clad in a three-piece suit, ever the stylish wizard, and a now full beard adorned his chin. When he saw Hermione standing on the top of the staircase, he pointed a ringed finger at her while his grey eyes turned hard.

‘We need to talk!’

‘What is going on here?’ Harry said surprised when he saw his former school-bully standing in his house uninvited.

‘Potter,’ Draco sneered before remembering that his anger wasn’t aimed at Harry and he visible recollected himself, ‘apologies. I’m here to talk to Granger.’

Harry smiled and offered his hand, ‘I’m sure Hermione is happy to see you. Would you care for a drink?’

Draco looked at Harry’s hand in surprise for a few seconds before accepting it, ‘I’m good. Is there somewhere we can talk?’

‘Sure, I was just going to… trim the hedges in the garden,’ Harry obviously lied, ‘I like to have them peacock shaped.’

With a smirk on his face Harry disappeared leaving Hermione and Draco alone. The blonde wizard looked up to the top of the staircase again and scoffed.

‘Are you coming down or what?

Flabbergasted Hermione watched how Draco Malfoy marched into Harry and Ginny’s living room and settled himself on an armchair like royalty himself while she ascended the stairs. He tugged on his collar, clearly uncomfortable when Hermione slowly lowered herself onto the couch opposite Draco.

‘Why have you abandoned my mother?’

‘Erm…,’ Hermione tried to comprehend what was going on but her usually brilliant mind seemed to shortcircuit for a moment.

‘First,’ Draco started and he stretched his index finger, ‘you convince my mother that it would be the perfect business agreement for you to help her during her pregnancy while in exchange you get access to our libraries. Second,’ Draco continued as he added his middle finger to the count, ‘you give her this strange delusional ideas about you two being friends. And third the moment you had what you wanted, you toss my mother aside like some old rag while you prance around in front of the cameras.’

‘I’m sure there must be some misunderst-‘ Hermione began, but Draco interrupted her.

‘She truly believed you were friends, Granger. Don’t you get it? My mother never lets anyone come close unless they’re family.’

‘We were friends!’ Hermione shrieked, ‘but after I came back from St. Mungo’s, she was cold and distant and I don’t know why.’

Draco looked at Hermione for a moment before standing up from the armchair to pace around, ‘you were gone for days to undergo a new, untested and extremely dangerous treatment and you couldn’t find five minutes to reach out to her after it was done! It was obvious you cared more for the media attention than her.’

‘That’s not true,’ Hermione protested clearly remembering how her thoughts had been with the blonde witch every minute of every day, ‘but you have to understand Draco. I wasn’t in control. My bosses planned my entire agenda and I counted on Andy to keep your mother updated.’

‘She did.’

‘Then I don’t understand why Narcissa was so upset with me?’

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose, ‘because she cares for you!’

Hermione blinked. Draco had become visibly uncomfortable and she couldn’t fathom why. She slowly tried to repeat what she’d been trying to say from the very start of this strange conversation with her former school-bully.

‘Like I said…I care for her too, but-‘

‘Argh! Granger! And you’re supposed to be the Brightest-Witch-Of-Her-Age? Better change that to Most-Oblivious-Dumbass-Of-Her-Age. My mother loves you!’

Draco visibly swallowed after he finished his rant. He had received a rather distressed Patronus from his aunt asking if he could please come to her house at once. After giving the blonde wizard access to her Floo, Draco had travelled to Andromeda’s to find his mother covered in dust and pieces of glass and brick. Upon asking what had happened his aunt had merely told him to check out the Manor. Confused Draco had disapparated on the spot only to return mere seconds later, his face even more pale than usual.

Andy had refused to tell him herself, claiming it wasn’t her place. It had taken him weeks to finally get his mother to admit her feelings for Hermione towards him. When he had merely smiled at her, Narcissa had asked her son confusedly why he wasn’t more surprised. And Draco had laughed. He’d been collecting pieces of a puzzle for months now but didn’t seem to be able to see the picture in front of him until he saw his ancestry home in ruins. ‘You used to be so angry at father all the time, but you never wrecked anything with magic. You only threw things at him. The damage you did there… it had to come from some other emotion,’ he had explained.

And Narcissa had cried again, snuggled close against her son’s chest. Andromeda had poured them all a cup of tea and Draco had thanked her once more for opening her house to her formerly estranged sister. Together they had listened to Narcissa explaining what had happened. How it had happened. And together they tried to convince the blonde witch that it all had been a misunderstanding, but Narcissa refused to believe Hermione felt the same.

And that’s why Draco had decided to take it upon himself to fix things. That’s how he found himself standing awkwardly in Potter’s living room, watching how Hermione took in the news. The brunette seemed perplexed for a moment, but soon her confused expression morphed into the broadest smile he’d ever seen. Her eyes lit up and for the first time in his life, Draco realized Hermione’s were amber coloured.

‘Yes… right…,’ he muttered embarrassedly when Hermione was still grinning like an idiot, ‘I guess the feeling’s mutual then?’

‘What?’ Hermione snapped out of her daydream, ‘oh! Yes! I’m afraid it is. Sorry Draco.’

The wizard shrugged, ‘I’ve seen my mother waste away in that house. You’re the first one who managed to make her happy in a long time. Just…be good to her, okay?’

Hermione sniffled, trying to fight the tears that were welling up in her eyes when Harry’s voice suddenly sounded from the door.

‘I told you it was a misunderstanding! But you’re so stubborn Hermione,’ he said smugly holding a pair of gardening sheers.

‘That makes two of them. Honestly Granger, do me a favour and be the bigger person here. Because my mother definitely won’t,’ the exasperation in Draco’s voice was almost palpable.

Hermione frowned and looked at both wizards, ‘but I don’t understand. If she loves me, why did she react the way she did? Why not let me explain?’

Harry snickered, ‘welcome to the world of men, Hermione. If only I knew.’

‘I told you, Hermione,’ Draco said using the brunette’s first name for the first time since his arrival, ‘my mother never lets anyone in. But somehow you managed to break down her walls and I guess it made her feel vulnerable. When she didn’t hear from you, she must have cursed herself for letting her guard down. And if there’s something a Black does best, it’s pushing away the people they love just to protect themselves from getting hurt. I mean look at her and Andromeda!’

Hermione bit her lip, ‘how do I fix this?’

Draco sighed and sunk down in the armchair as if this conversation was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He combed his blonde hair back with both his hands before shrugging at Hermione.

‘I guess you could write a letter?’

Chapter Text

Hermione paces back and forth in her room. Ever since she released the owl into the air she’d been a nervous wreck. What if Draco was wrong? What if Narcissa actually didn’t want anything to do with her anymore? The brunette groaned and kicked against the waste paper bin that had overflowed with crumpled failed attempts to write the damn letter as Draco had suggested.

Hermione cringed when she thought back at what she’d eventually written down. Would Narcissa like it or find it ridiculously cheesy? She had poured her heart out on that piece of parchment, telling Narcissa exactly how and why she’d fallen in love with her. Promising Narcissa that Hermione had wanted nothing more than to go home to her instead of doing interview after interview.

Would it be enough? Hermione nearly decided to summon the owl back with a desperate accio when it suddenly flew through her window. A surprised yelp escaped the brunette’s lips. Had she been pacing around for that long? She glanced at her wristwatch and couldn’t help but chuckle at her own silliness. Yes. She had.

With trembling fingers she managed to untie the little note around the owl’s talon before she carried him to his little nest in the nook above the door where he munched on some treats. Hermione breathed in and out a few times before unrolling the scroll. Her eyes widened upon reading the short sentences that had been written down by Narcissa’s elegant penmanship.

Darling, please come and see me. I miss you.

Hermione’s laughter resonated through her room as her heart did a triple somersault from sheer joy. She almost disapparated then and there before realizing that she’d been sulking for weeks and probably didn’t look too appealing. The witch bolted through her door to the bathroom nearly knocking Ginny over in the hallway.

Hermione was sure she broke the world record for the fastest shower when she dried herself with a wandless spell. She brushed her teeth feeling ashamed at how many times she’d skipped it just because she didn’t have the energy to do it and bolted back to her room to get dressed. She yanked her wardrobe open and flung every piece of clothing that did not meet the requirements for being reunited with Narcissa into her room.

The last discarded top hadn’t even touched the floor yet or Hermione grabbed her wand and turned on her heels, the familiar pop of apparition the only warning she gave her hosts that she’d left the house. When she landed seconds later into Andy’s living room, the woman didn’t even look up from her Daily Prophet.

‘There you are. Cissy’s in the garden.’

Hermione nodded and kissed Andromeda on the head when she passed her, ‘thanks and sorry for all the trouble I gave you.’

The witch waved her away, ‘yes, yes, I’m not the one you should be kissing!’

With a grin and a blush Hermione stepped through the backdoor into the gardens and felt her throat constrict the moment she saw the black and blonde locks of the woman she so desired. Narcissa had her back turned towards her and was looking at a few garden gnomes that were wrecking Andy’s roses when she suddenly seemed to perk up.

Slowly she turned around and when azure eyes locked onto amber ones, both witches smiled. Narcissa tapped her fingers against her head wordlessly telling Hermione her thoughts had announced her arrival and the brunette shrugged. She was a loud thinker, what was she supposed to do? Suddenly her eyes drifted from Narcissa’s gaze and wandered lower.

‘Merlin’s beard you’ve gotten big,’ Hermione gasped and the blonde rolled her eyes.

‘Rub it in. Are you going to keep standing there or do I finally get to kiss you?’

A sudden shyness fell over Hermione and she slowly shuffled closer causing Narcissa to laugh.

‘Seriously? We slept together!’

‘Don’t you remember,’ Hermione whispered when she finally reached Narcissa and gently cupped her face with both her hands, ‘that I’ve always thought kissing to be far more intimate?’

Before Narcissa could respond, Hermione closed the distance and pressed her lips against the older witch’s mouth. Hundreds of roses sprouted from the ground around them but neither woman was aware of it for they were solely focused on each other. When Narcissa was forced to break to kiss to gasp for air, she laughed.

‘She’s finally settled down. Salazar’s snake that girl has been so restless ever since you left.’

Hermione licked her lips, savouring the taste of the blonde before glancing at her belly again, ‘do you think she recognizes me then?’

‘Oh, I know she does. Andy explained why she sometimes doesn’t respond to my heavy emotions when on other occasions she wrecks an entire manor.’

‘And?’ Hermione asks before turning Narcissa around and hugging her from behind as to not push against her stomach.

Narcissa smiled, ‘when there’s heavy emotions but experienced in a safe environment, the girl doesn’t respond. That’s why nothing happened when we slept together. It’s not waterproof of course,’ the pregnant witch added with a smile upon seeing all the additional flowers, ‘she sometimes just has a mind of her own.’

Hermione sobs, ‘can we stay together? Please? I can’t stand not being a part of this pregnancy a moment longer. I’ve missed so much already.’

‘You missed me eating whatever I could get my hands on and driving Andromeda up the walls with my complaints about… practically everything.’

They smiled at each other and Hermione couldn’t resist kissing Narcissa again, ‘so you come back to my place? I gave up the apartment but it’s still available. I’m sure I can get it back.’

‘Oh darling, I’m sure that if I don’t, my very own sister will kick me out herself.’

Hermione snickered, ‘do you need help packing?’

‘I’ve wrecked my entire wardrobe. The only thing I own is the things I stole from Andy. That woman owns far too many sweatpants if you ask me.’

‘We’ll go shopping,’ Hermione said with a wink before offering her arm to Narcissa who faked shock.

‘Marry me!’

‘One day, I will,’ the younger woman laughed before disapparating them to her landlord to ask for her keys back.

***

‘So what do you think?’

Hermione looks up at the question and can’t supress a small chuckle when she sees Narcissa waddle towards her. The witch was in her final month and her belly had grown considerably compared to when they still lived at the Manor. Narcissa had decided to have it repaired and donate it to the Ministry as a rehabilitation centre for criminals. To help the Minister keep his promise of closing Azkaban and to prevent anyone else suffering the same fate Lucius had.

She had asked Hermione to help her find a new house to live in. A nice London townhouse with a garden that was close to Andy’s place. They’d contacted a real estate agent and were currently visiting their tenth house in a week seeing as Narcissa was rather picky about even the smallest details. But so far she hadn’t made a single remark on this one.

‘What do you mean?’ Hermione laughed, ‘you’re the one who has to live here!’

Narcissa suddenly became bit nervous and wrung her hands together, ‘I know but I’d hoped that perhaps one day you’ll join me?’

Hermione’s jaw drops and her mouth forms a perfectly shaped O before she strides over to the blonde and hugs her as best she could with the baby between them.

‘Of course!’

Narcissa sighs in relief and pulls her close for a kiss. Forgetting the real estate agent who awkwardly shuffles to another room, Hermione pushes her tongue past Narcissa’s lips and moans a little when they fight for dominance. When the blonde softly nibbles on Hermione’s lower lip, the Gryffindor loses her courage and breaks the kiss.

‘No, no! We’re not going there. Before we know it you get all aroused again and I’m not having sex with you anymore until the baby’s born.’

Narcissa full on laughs and the sounds reverberates through the empty rooms of the house, ‘scared she’ll hear us?’

‘Well, you said she recognizes me,’ Hermione defends herself while gesturing at Narcissa’s protruding belly, ‘what in Merlin’s beard will she think of me once she’s born?’

The older witch kissed Hermione on the nose, ‘you’re adorable when you overthink things. Let’s find that poor man and tell him I’ve finally decided to buy a house.’

***

Narcissa is flicking her way through a magazine when Hermione comes home from work and slams the door behind her. She’s thirty-eight weeks pregnant now and can’t do much without her ankles swelling immediately so she rests as much as possible. But the walls of Hermione’s cosy but tiny apartment are closing in on her and she’s secretly looking forward to moving to her new house. Soon she’d receive the key.

‘Welcome home. How was work?’

‘I quit!’

‘You finally did it,’ Narcissa says approvingly remembering the many conversations she’d had with Hermione about her job.

After all the media-attention, Hermione had realized that apart from Andy nobody truly cared about her at St. Mungo’s. They only cared for her intellect and the fame she brought with her. And when they started to give her projects that would draw the attention of the Daily Prophet instead of actually help people, Hermione had had enough. After talking with Andy first who had understood Hermione’s motives, the brunette had resigned.

‘Yes! You should have seen the shocked expressions on their faces, especially when Andy walked in right after me and announced her retirement,’ Hermione laughed.

‘Good for her! I’m sure she’ll be happier with her part-time job as a wandmaker for Olivanders,’ Narcissa replied, ‘she always was interested in the magic behind it.’

Hermione nodded her agreement. A few days ago Andromeda had visited them to ask if they would be agreeable to watch Teddy once and awhile. She’d have to work everyday in the mornings and would be home around twelve, but she didn’t have a babysitter for the days when Teddy didn’t attend The Lodge, a preschool for magical children to help them in learning to control their magic. And while he wasn’t a toddler anymore, she couldn’t exactly leave a seven-year old on his own.

‘It’s not like she needs the money, but she want to keep busy.’

‘A family trait, I’m afraid,’ Narcissa sighed, ‘I can’t wait to find something to occupy myself with once I’ve given birth.’

Hermione raised an eyebrow, ‘you mean apart from changing dirty diapers?’

The wandless stinging hex on her backside made Hermione yelp, ‘ouch! What if your magic had gone haywire again? You could have hexed my buttocks off.’

‘Serves you right. Now, what did the Minister of Magic say?’

‘Kingsley? Oh he was more than delighted that I’d decided to come back. You’re currently looking at the new head of the Department of the Protection and Legislation of Magical Creatures.’

Narcissa beamed, ‘I hear you immediately changed its name.’

‘Something that was long overdue.’

‘You’re absolutely right. It’s perfect. Congratulations darling.’

Hermione bent over so she could press her lips on Narcissa’s. She walked around a pile of boxes and collapsed onto the couch next to the older witch. They’d lived in the apartment for only three weeks before mutually deciding that Hermione would immediately follow Narcissa to the new house. Something her landlord wasn’t too happy with when Hermione announced that she was leaving for a second time in two months.

But it just felt right. They were comfortable in each other’s company and missed each other when they weren’t together. Hermione would be around everyday to help with the newborn witch after all, so it felt stupid to keep paying rent when she wasn’t going to live in her apartment that much. And while neither woman was going to say it out loud, they both couldn’t stand the thought of waking up in an empty bed anymore.

***

Hermione tumbled from the Floo into her living room to share her lunch with Narcissa when she nearly bumped into Andy.

‘Woops, sorry! Didn’t see you there.’

‘I just came to pick Teddy up,’ Andromeda smiled, ‘I hope he doesn’t give you too much trouble?’

‘Not at all,’ Cissy said while ruffling her nephew’s blue hair, ‘we get along splendidly.’

Teddy grinned and Hermione couldn’t help but notice how much he’d changed over the past year. He was still a child of course, but his baby face had morphed into that of a boy and his posture was already tall and gangly promising a huge growth spurt in the future. It looked like Teddy himself didn’t always know what category he belonged to. The little boy who needed his grandmother to wash his hair or the wizard who already managed magical performances Hermione could only admire.

‘Thanks aunty Cissy,’ the boy chirped before joining Andy in the fireplace and disappearing in a gush of green flames.

Hermione faked offence, ‘and gone she is! I didn’t even get the chance to ask her how her new job’s coming along.’

‘She had an appointment at the optometrist to check whether Teddy needs glasses or not. Apparently he keeps bumping into things and she wants to make sure he just inherited his mother’s clumsiness and nothing else is amiss.’

‘How much did you have to practice pronouncing that word?’

Narcissa laughed, ‘so much! I swear muggles and their weird names for Healers. I don’t understand why she doesn’t go to St. Mungo’s. It’s not like they fired her and she’s no longer welcome there.’

‘You went to see a gynaecologist as well,’ Hermione said while patting Narcissa’s knee, ‘muggle healthcare really isn’t that bad.’

The blonde witch hummed and sat herself at the dinner table while Hermione flicked her wand and two sets of cutlery, two plates and two glasses floated from the cupboards. She grabbed the bowl of pasta salad she’d made the day before and poured them each a glass of water. When Hermione sat herself down Narcissa smiled gratefully at her.

‘How was your morning?’

‘Busy. That case with the centaur going haywire and attacking two muggle tourists still hasn’t been resolved,’ Hermione replied before noticing a rather peculiar glint in Narcissa’s eyes. She took a bite of pasta and tilted her head in curiosity, ‘what have you been up to?’

‘Me?’ Narcissa said with fake nonchalance, ‘I’ve been looking at baby names.’

‘I know,’ Hermione chuckled seeing as Narcissa had read so many books with names for girls over the past few days.

‘Well… I found one.’

Hermione’s face lit up when she felt the cool caress of Narcissa’s presence in her mind as the blonde witch told her the name via Legilimency. The Gryffindor witch beamed.

‘It’s perfect. I love it.’

Chapter Text

‘No peeking!’ Hermione scolded Narcissa the moment she saw the blonde peer through her lashes.

‘Can’t blame a Slytherin for accepting an opportunity when she sees one.’

Hermione scoffed and flicked her wand summoning a blindfold to cover Narcissa’s eyes. Cissy’s amused laughter tinkled through the air and she blindly searched for the Gryffindor’s hands. Gently Hermione took Narcissa’s hand in her own telling her to brace herself before she disapparated. They landed seconds later in front of their new house. The one Narcissa thought they’d be moving into by the end of the week.

Little did she know Hermione had managed to procure the keys days ago. And little did she know Hermione had summoned all of her friends to install an exact copy of the nursery Narcissa had purchased for the Manor in their new home. All the extra work Narcissa had wanted done in the house was finished. There was a new kitchen and bathroom installed, the entire house was repainted and the floor had been sanded down and waxed.

Narcissa didn’t even know that all the new stuff for the house she’d purchased and stored in cardboard boxes in Andy’s garden shed had been moved here already. Hermione knew the blonde had been nervous about moving so close to her due date. This way she wanted to alleviate some of the pressure on the older witch so she could spend her last two weeks of her pregnancy in peace.

‘Can I look now?’ Narcissa whined when Hermione didn’t move or speak for a whole minute

The brunette startled out of her daydream. She’d apparated straight into the nursery seeing as the wards around the house hadn’t been installed yet. She didn’t want to ruin her surprise by asking Narcissa because the woman would surely have known she was up to something. Hermione quickly twirled her wand to remove the blindfold.

‘Sorry, of course you can look.’

Narcissa breathed a very surprised oh when she saw her very own nursery in front of her. It was exactly the same as the previous one, wicker ornaments included. Even the flower Cissy had painted on the wall in the Manor had been replicated. Her eyes filled themselves with tears and Narcissa knew she couldn’t blame it on the hormones this time.

‘Are those happy tears?’ Hermione asked when she turned Narcissa towards her by her elbows.

The blonde nodded and snuggled close to Hermione’s chest where she let her tears fall freely. The Gryffindor witch comforted the crying woman in her arms as best she could until she was sobbing softly and quietly.

‘I didn’t expect you to react so emotionally,’ Hermione whispered, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t apologize. Never apologize for kindness. I’m just not used to it and it caught me by surprise.’

Hermione pushed Narcissa away from her a little bit so she could look into her eyes and squeezed her arms, ‘you deserve all the kindness in the world, Cissy.’

Narcissa laughed and shook her head, ‘I sometimes can’t believe how happy I am now considering how miserable I was when this entire adventure began. And now, almost nine months later, I have the kindest witch by my side to help me.’

‘You’ll always have me, Cissy,’ Hermione said seriously for she wanted the woman to understand that she was in it for the long haul.

Narcissa shook her head a second time, ‘it’s so strange. We’re opposites but we work so well together.’

‘They always say that opposites attract. But here we are and…,’ Hermione hesitated but continued after a nervous chuckle, ‘I love you, Cissy.’

‘Oh darling,’ Narcissa’s tears flowed again but this time she laughed through them, ‘after a long time together and a very short time apart, I can positively say that I love you too.’

They closed the distance between each other and kissed. Softly at first, but soon the kiss grew a bit more bold, a bit more hungry. But before Hermione could even think about letting her hands roam across Narcissa’s body, the blonde broke the kiss and fanned herself.

‘Salazar’s snake, it seems like the little one doesn’t agree. It’s like my blood is boiling.’

Hermione smirked, ‘are you sure you’re not just horny? I remember you walking around like you were on fire, pouncing on me everywhere you could.’

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ Narcissa replied snootily before wiping a bead of sweat from her brow, ‘but I really think I should start teaching you Occlumency. This child is far too perceptive to my liking!’

‘Well we only need to fetch your clothes and toiletries and we can get started.’

Narcissa blinked confusedly, ‘what do you mean?’ Suddenly her eyes grew wide in realization, ‘you already moved everything here.’

Hermione smirked and pretended to swipe some dirt of her shoulder before blowing on her fingernails, ‘of course.’

Together they walked to the master bedroom that held a queen-sized bed and a big walk-in wardrobe. They’d worked with grey oak floors, white walls and forest green accents that came back throughout the entire house. There was a home office for Hermione as well as a separate bathroom and of course the nursery. The house had an attic that had been decorated entirely as some kind of lab where Narcissa could tinker away.

They ascended the iron wrought staircase and marvelled at the hallway with its high ceilings. There was a guest toilet and a big wardrobe for jackets and shoes. A big wooden door with stained glass granted access to the living room where a comfortable couch and two armchairs were gathered around the fireplace. Right next to it was the dinner table that looked out onto the open kitchen. It was fully equipped to muggle standards seeing as Cissy had gotten to appreciate non-magically cooked dinner.

The kitchen had a large window that looked out onto the garden while the pantry held the backdoor. The garden itself was spacious and colourful with a gazebo so you could sit in the shade and a similar greenhouse like the one at Malfoy Manor stood in the back. A wooden garden shed held some basic gardening equipment and the owl’s nests. Narcissa raised her eyebrow when she saw two bicycles standing in the shed. Those weren’t part of the changes she’d asked to be made. Hermione laughed.

‘I’ll teach you one day. It’s an excellent way to travel incognito among muggles.’

‘Whatever you say, darling.’

They concluded their tour and quickly apparated back to Andy who watched them pack the last of Cissy’s belongings with mixed emotions. After both sisters hugged and promised each other to visit regularly, Hermione brought Narcissa back to the house so she could go to her apartment and pack her own stuff. In true Hermione fashion all her belongings whizzed through the air after a simple flick of her wand and organized themselves neatly in her suitcases.

She grabbed a mischievous Crookshanks by the scruff of his neck and ignored his outraged meows. Last time she left this apartment it had been a decision in the heat of the moment after the first night of tossing and turning. This time it was well thought-through and somehow it filled her both with sadness and anticipation. Hermione reminisced about the years she’d lived here before smiling to herself and closing the door behind her. It was time for the next chapter.

***

‘What are you reading?’ Hermione asked when she saw Narcissa nose deep in a book.

‘The latest book about raising children. When I had Draco, my mother made a lot of the decisions and half of the time the house-elves were in charge of his care. This time I want to do it myself and I want to do it right. So I’d thought I’d better check whether my knowledge about children is still up-to-date,’ Narcissa replied half-joking.

‘Oh, can I read it after you?’

Narcissa looked up in surprise and Hermione immediately backtracked, ‘not that I want to meddle. Of course not! It’s not my place, I’m sorry.’

Hermione’s face contorted into worry when Narcissa quickly stood up to reassure her. Unfortunately her blood pressure had been somewhat irregular the past two days and she immediately swayed on her feet.

‘Careful,’ Hermione scolded as she supported the blonde back onto the couch, ‘you know you have to get up slowly. Andy told you.’

‘I know, but I wanted to stop you from overthinking this.’

‘I really am sorry,’ Hermione squeaked but Narcissa placed a finger on her lips to shut her up.

‘Darling, let me make one thing very, very clear. I want you in my life and that of my child. I want this to be our child if you’re up for it. So yes, of course you can read this book after I’m done. I was just surprised you felt the need to ask.’

Hermione tried to smile, but her lip started to tremble instead, ‘really?’

The blonde witch frowned and pulled the Gryffindor next to her on the couch, ‘you honestly didn’t think I’d let you help during the pregnancy but not when the child is actually born?’

‘Well I wasn’t exactly present when it was conceived…’

‘Darling, I’m a firm believer that you’re not a parent because you put a child on this world. I think you become a parent when you’ve earned the title.’

‘Earned it?’

The blonde smiled, ‘by caring for a child, nurturing them, raising them, loving them, Salazar’s snake by making sacrifices for them! That’s what makes a parent. And you, my darling, you have gone above and beyond already and she isn’t even born yet. If you’re not her parent, I don’t know what you are…’

This time Hermione managed to smile and she placed her hand on Narcissa’s stomach, feeling her heart flutter when she felt the baby move.

‘I have to admit, I’m really nervous.’

‘That makes two of us,’ Narcissa replied with a wink, ‘but you’re up for it?’

‘I am. I hated being separated from you, but I hated the thought of not being involved in the life of this little witch just as much.’

Narcissa smiled, but Hermione’s nerves only seemed to amplify because her expression changed into one of worry again. The blonde could read Hermione like the books she loved so much by now so she gently nudged the brunette.

‘What’s going on? Talk to me?’

‘It’s fine,’ Hermione tried to wave her off, but the older witch wasn’t having any of it.

‘Darling, I’d rather not read your mind but I will if I have to. Please, tell me what’s going on.’

Hermione rolled her eyes, ‘it’s just that I read this book about the nature/nurture debate. What if she starts asking questions about her father and realizes I’m not related to her. What if our personalities clash?’

Narcissa kissed Hermione to shut her up, ‘first of all, how in Salazar’s name could she possibly not get along with you? You’re a good person Hermione and very likeable. That’s what frustrated me so much about you.’

Hermione chuckled and opened her mouth, but Narcissa kissed her again, ‘no. I don’t want to hear such talk. And about those questions… we’ll tackle them together when they arise. Try not to panic about problems that don’t even exist yet.’

‘How are you so cool about this all?’

‘I’m not saying there won’t be any hiccups, but I know we can handle them together.’

Hermione nodded and laughed, though it sounded a little bit hysterical, ‘Merlin’s beard, I’m going to be a mom!’

***

The whoosh of green flames announced Andy’s arrival and seconds later the middle Black sister stepped out of Hermione’s and Narcissa’s fireplace. Hermione worked from home on Wednesday so she’d agreed to look after Teddy while Andy went to Diagon Alley for her job. She was only working for Olivanders for a solid week and she’d already taken it upon her to search after different magical substances that could be used as wand’s cores seeing as the current ones were all very rare and hard to come by.

Hermione had been very impressed when Andy told her about it, but Narcissa had merely rolled her eyes and called her sister a show-off. Andromeda had countered the attack by simply pointing at Narcissa’s published book about new and improved potions that stood proudly on the bookshelf. Eventually they’d all agreed that they were all ambitious witches when Narcissa had pointed out Hermione’s latest successes to divert the attention from herself.

‘Hello, Hermione. How has your day be-‘

Andy stopped talking when she saw the forlorn expression on her friend’s face, ‘what’s wrong?’

‘I don’t think I’m parent-material.’

A knowing smile appeared on Andromeda’s face and she summoned two glasses and a bottle of Firewhiskey from the kitchen, ‘alright, this calls for an intervention.’ Suddenly she hesitated, ‘Cissy isn’t here right? If she catches us drinking alcohol…’

‘She’s taking a nap upstairs. Teddy’s in the garden.’

‘Good. Now why do you think you’re not parent-material?’

Hermione shrugged, ‘I had somehow convinced myself that the baby will want nothing to do with me when she grows older and realizes I’m not her real mother. Or that we simply don’t get along, related or not. Cissy says I shouldn’t stress about things that haven’t happened yet and she’d managed to calm me down somewhat. But today something happened that made all those doubts resurface again.’

‘What happened?’

‘Teddy called me a nerd.’

Andromeda was speechless for one whole second before she threw her head back and barked a laugh, ‘Morgana’s tits, you are a nerd Hermione!’

The brunette looked affronted, ‘but that just proves my point! How will she ever like me?’

‘Hey, hey,’ Andy intervened, ‘who claimed being a nerd is a bad thing? I’m a nerd. Cissy is a huge nerd. Being a nerd is marvellous! I’m sure Teddy didn’t mean it in an insulting way and if he did, I’ll have words with him.’

‘He hasn’t been impolite, don’t worry,’ Hermione waved Andy’s concerns away.

Andy sipped her whiskey and nudged Hermione to do the same. They sat in silence for a while before the older witch spoke again.

‘How you feel Hermione… it’s normal. You’re going to take care of this human being with a mind of her own, but don’t forget you’ve been there from the start. When she opens her eyes for the first time, she’ll see you and Cissy. It’s not like you suddenly pop into her life and ruffle some feathers.’

Hermione sighed, ‘that’s true. I guess I’m focusing a little bit too much on the fact that we’re not related. Families get mixed all the time these days. I’m sure parents fight with children all the time. Related by blood or not.’

Andy barked a laugh again, ‘you got that right! We’ll talk again when she’s a teenager. But seriously Hermione. Don’t read too many of those books. In the end it all comes down to your own feelings.’

‘Cissy told you about that book, huh?’

‘Of course. She worries about you. You make things so hard on yourself sometimes.’

Hermione made a decision there and then, ‘you know what? You don’t need to worry anymore, because I’ve decided to go for it and I’m going to give it my very best!’

Andy raised her glass to that, ‘that little witch is lucky to have you and she will love you, I’m sure of it!’

Chapter Text

Narcissa huffed and puffed. The temperatures were raising and with them, so did her discomfort. She was slightly overdue and wanted nothing more than for this baby to finally be born. Her back ached, her calves were permanently swollen, her breasts had grown to a ridiculous size and her bladder seemed to have lost all self-control.

Her grumpiness lessened a little when her girlfriend stepped through the front door holding the groceries, ‘I’m home. How are you holding up?’

‘Feeling fat and bloated.’

Hermione smiled sympathetically and whisked the groceries away with a wordless spell, ‘well, I’m ready to distract you. Shall we do another lesson in Occlumency?’

Narcissa shrugged, ‘if you want, but you’re already above average even after only a few lessons. I’m sure you’ll be able to withstand the prying eyes of our daughter.’

‘Well one more lesson can’t hurt, now can it?’ Hermione said with a wink before she scrunched up her nose in contemplation, ‘won’t it be very confusing for her? Hearing everyone’s thoughts?’

‘If her talent evolves a little like mine, it’ll take her a while to actually understand what someone is thinking. I was the first in a very long time to have been born with the mutation of Legilimency. So I had nobody to help me control it and I had to teach myself. This little witch won’t be alone.’

Hermione nodded, ‘it’s just because someone who’s born with the mutation can hear people’s thoughts without asking for it. While someone who’s learned to read minds always has to look for discarded thoughts to pick up on.’

‘It’s different, indeed, but she won’t hear random thoughts during her first years. She only responds to mine because I’m carrying her.’

‘All right, we have two hours before our guests arrive. Let’s see if you can discover what I’ve bought them for dinner,’ Hermione joked while bracing for impact the moment Narcissa reached out with her mind.

***

‘We have a big announcement to make,’ Draco and Ginny said in unison and everybody laughed.

‘Ladies first,’ Draco said with a smirk and Ginny who was carrying a two-year old James on her hip, inclined her head.

‘James is going to be a big brother!’

Andy, Astoria and Hermione squealed in delight while Draco groaned, ‘ugh Weasley, you stole our thunder there!’

‘How come?’

‘Well,’ Draco turned towards his mother, ‘you’re going to be a grandmother.’

Another round of congratulations passed among the guests and Ginny laughed, ‘okay, you should have gone first. Another expansion of the Weasley family tree isn’t nearly as rare as the Malfoy one getting a new member.’

Andromeda laughed at that, ‘yes, about that. How’s Molly coping with all the grandchildren? I have one and I sometimes don’t know where my head is.’

‘It’s becoming a bit much,’ Harry admitted, ‘but Ginny has decided to quit the Holyhead Harpies.’

‘Seriously?’ Hermione asked in surprise, knowing how much her friend loved Quidditch.

‘Yes, I want to be a good mother to them and having their grandmother raise them most of the time just doesn’t feel right. Besides, it was time for a change. Every time I saw a Bludger coming my way, I was feeling anxious knowing that James was waiting for me.’

Hermione squeezed her friend’s arm, ‘do you know what you’ll do instead?’

‘I’ve applied for a job as journalist for the Daily Prophet. Actually I have you to thank for that Draco. After you sued Skeeter they fired her but that left them severely understaffed seeing as she wrote half of the articles with that enchanted quill of hers.’

Everybody turned their attention to Draco and Astoria but nobody noticed the growing frustration in Narcissa. Andy smacked her on the shoulder congratulating her on becoming a mother and a grandmother and when Draco asked hesitantly whether Narcissa was at all happy for him, she snapped.

‘Yes of course I’m happy. Everybody is nicely pregnant, but you know what? I’d like to be UNpregnant!’

All the guests and Hermione blinked in surprise for a moment before they started snickering. In an attempt to make it up to the blonde, everybody started sprouting tips for her to move the labour along.

‘Have you tried drinking pineapple juice?’

‘… ropeskipping apparently is the best trick to break your waters.’

‘Someone told me that eating dates moves things along real quickly...’

‘Just have sex,’ Andy suddenly said louder than everybody else and Hermione rolled her eyes.

‘That seems to be the only advice you can give.’

The middle Black sister shrugged, ‘worked for me.’

The conversation shifted to another topic after Draco claimed he wasn’t comfortable discussing his mother’s and Hermione’s sexlife, but Narcissa wasn’t really paying attention. She focused her attention on Hermione. We’re going to try every single one of those tips.

***

Hermione had been sent to the grocery store again the very next day to buy Narcissa dates and a container of pineapple juice. The Gryffindor had asked for a leave of absence from work, but she tried to work as much as she could in between moments seeing as she’d only started working as Head of Department recently. But whenever Cissy needed her, she abandoned her desk eagerly wanting the blonde to be as comfortable as possible. They were fully prepared for their little witch’s arrival. Narcissa’s suitcases with everything she’d need at St. Mungo’s had been standing at the front door for more than a week now.

‘They didn’t have pineapple juice on its own. Only mixed with apples,’ Hermione said apologetically the moment she came home again. She held up the container, ‘I bought it anyway together with a can of pineapple slices in case you don’t think the mixed drink will do the trick.’

‘This is why I love you,’ Narcissa smiled as she reached for the can of pineapple slices, opened it and poured the juice in a glass.

Her face contorted when the sickening sweet liquid touched her tongue, but the blonde kept drinking desperate to kick-start her labour. When she’d chugged the glass, she smacked her lips and frowned.

‘How long do you think it’ll take?’

‘I’d be very surprised if your water broke just now,’ Hermione laughed, ‘give it some time.’

Narcissa groaned, ‘I’m going to eat the dates right after. To maximize the effects.’

The younger witch snickered and kissed her girlfriend on the head before announcing that she was going to read up on some legislation. She went upstairs to her home office and settled behind her desk. Her new job was already giving her so much more satisfaction and Hermione felt grateful for having made the decision to quit. Especially since she had four people working for her now and she’d have far more manageable hours, which would be convenient for when there was a little witch padding around the house.

It was nearly evening when Hermione left her home office in search of Narcissa. She hadn’t heard the woman all day apart from when she’d inquired what ropeskipping exactly was. After hearing Hermione’s explanation, Narcissa had merely opted to jump up and down a bit but she’d quickly abandoned that trick because it was so uncomfortable for her body. Seeing as the Gryffindor witch hadn’t heard any cries for help, she assumed her girlfriend was still very pregnant and very grumpy.

The blonde was nowhere to be found on the first floor so Hermione went to check the living room and kitchen. She didn’t see Narcissa but her grumbling stomach momentarily distracted her from her search. Hermione was just about to open the fridge when two cold hands grabbed her by her hips and slammed her against the kitchen cabinets.

‘Hmpf,’ Hermione’s protests were muffled by Narcissa kissing her firmly on the lips. When the blonde withdrew, Hermione gasped for air.

‘What the hell, Cissy?’

‘I need you to make me come.’

Hermione spluttered, ‘no, we talked about this! Not until she’s born.’

‘Darling, I am this close to losing my damn mind. Just use your fingers. Do it quickly,’ Narcissa whined.

‘Sure, no pressure!’ Hermione couldn’t help but laugh when she brushed some stray strands of blonde hair from her girlfriend’s face. But her expression soon turned serious, ‘are you sure?’

‘Yes, if it helps, I’d like to try it. I’m so uncomfortable all the time.’

Hermione sighed. She knew Narcissa had been sleeping horribly of late, not being able to find a good position. Every joint in her body ached and she longed for a glass of wine more than anything else in the world. An argument Hermione remembered all too vividly when the blonde had smelled the whiskey on her that night Andy had comforted her.

‘Very well,’ Hermione complied, ‘but I refuse to do this the quick and messy way. I still want this to be enjoyable, okay?’

Narcissa nodded and allowed Hermione to turn them around so she was the one pressed against the kitchen cabinets. She melted against the wood when the brunette placed her hands on her cheeks and kissed her on the lips. Slowly the Gryffindor witch peppered Narcissa’s face with kisses and soft nibbles before she pushed the woman’s robes from her shoulders and gently bit on Cissy’s neck.

Hermione smirked when a quiet moan escaped the Slytherin’s lips as she stroked her breasts with feather light caresses knowing they were too sensitive for anything else. Narcissa gripped Hermione’s jumper in her fists the moment the younger witch cupped her over her underwear and applied pressure. When Narcissa moaned again, Hermione grabbed her by the back of her neck with her free hand and kissed her deeply.

‘D-darling,’ Narcissa stuttered and Hermione looked her in the eyes.

‘Are you sure you want to keep standing up?’

‘Yes,’ Narcissa whispered while her teeth grazed Hermione’s ear, ‘just… hold me tightly.’

Hermione pressed her forehead against Narcissa’s at the same moment deft fingers pushed the lacy knickers aside and slid through wet folds. Despite the blonde asking for sex to kick-start her labour, it would seem she was feeling aroused by Hermione’s touches and the Gryffindor witch couldn’t help but hum appreciatively.

‘So wet.’

A chuckle escaped Narcissa’s throat as she gripped Hermione’s jumper even tighter. The Gryffindor had started circling her clit and was slowly increasing her pace but it wasn’t enough.

‘Lift my leg. I can’t do it myself.’

Hermione released Narcissa’s neck and reached behind her to grab one of the stools at the kitchen island. She yanked it towards them so the blonde could place her foot on the footrest before holding her tightly again. The Slytherin gasped in pleasure as the new position allowed for a better stimulation.

‘Clever girl,’ she purred but Hermione shook her head.

‘Don’t get me all worked up, because I doubt you’ll have the energy to return the favour.’

Narcissa wanted to answer but a whimper escaped her lips instead when Hermione quickly dipped her fingers in her entrance to gather some more wetness. When she found her voice again, Narcissa sounded breathless.

‘But I… what about you… I want…’

‘Shhhh,’ Hermione shushed her before increasing the pace to help Narcissa reach her climax, ‘this is about you.’

It took Hermione only a few more strokes before Narcissa shuddered her release, squeezing her azure eyes shut as her head thumped against a cabinet. They stood like that for a while longer, both panting and looking each other in the eye before Hermione smirked and withdrew her hand from Narcissa’s knickers.

‘You okay?’

‘More than okay. I’m going to take a hot bath now. I’ve read that should help as well. Are you sure you don’t want me to reciprocate?’

‘Take that bath and don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.’

Narcissa smiled at her, ‘will you come pull me out of the tub in an hour?’

***

When Hermione finally emerged from the bathroom, still rubbing moisturiser on her skin - something she’d never done before, but according to Narcissa one could never start skincare too soon - she’d expected Narcissa to have dozed off seeing as she slept in bits and pieces. But the blonde was wide-awake and looked annoyed.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘I’m still pregnant. Having an orgasm and a hot bath clearly didn’t work.’

Hermione crawled underneath the blankets next to Narcissa and sighed, ‘I’m sorry, Cissy. I’m sure it won’t be long now.’

‘I have been thinking,’ Narcissa continued, obviously ignoring Hermione, ‘having sex worked for Andy but she was in a relationship with a man.’

Hermione frowned, ‘I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at?’

‘It’s the penetration that does the trick. So I was thinking you could use a strap-on and -‘

‘No,’ Hermione said firmly, ‘that’s a boundary I won’t cross. We’ve discussed this.’

Narcissa grumbled a bit, but settled against her pillows nevertheless. Hermione hugged her girlfriend and used a wandless spell to turn the lights off. She knew it was no use trying to comfort the Slytherin witch right now. She’d tried many nights before and failed an equally amount of times. So she just let her grovel in self-pity and kissed her on the shoulder.

***

Hermione woke from the sound of the toilet lid that clattered close and squinted her eyes at the light that came from the hallway. She rubbed her eyes and felt that the bed was empty next to her.

‘Cissy? Is everything all right?’ Hermione’s whisper sounded through the hallway as she made her way to the bathroom.

No answer came but Hermione could hear the rapid breathing of her girlfriend and it sounded like she was in distress. Knowing Narcissa sometimes suffered from nightmares, Hermione quickened her pace. The moment she pushed the door of the bathroom further open, she found the blonde witch leaning on the sink and panting heavily.

Already exhausted Narcissa looked up when she felt Hermione’s warm hands on her back. She smiled when azure eyes locked onto amber ones that showed a mixture of confusion and excitement but also fear. When Hermione felt her feet getting wet, she looked down and realization suddenly dawned upon her face.

‘Is that…?’

‘Yes, darling,’ Narcissa managed to say, ‘take me to St. Mungo’s, My water finally broke.’

Chapter Text

‘There you are,’ Andy said the moment she saw Hermione in the waiting room at St. Mungo’s.

The witch immediately looked up from where she was seated cradling her head between her hands. Her face was ashen grey, her eyes bloodshot and she looked more crumpled and frailer than Andy had never seen her before. The older witch rushed over to Hermione and knelt in front of her.

‘Hey, it’s going to be alright.’

‘They won’t let me see her, Andy,’ Hermione said with a rough voice, ‘the moment things went wrong, they pushed me out of the room.’

Andy nodded, ‘that’s standard procedure. Let me see if I can pull some strings and find out what’s going on. I take it they haven’t informed you yet?’

‘Not at all. They just pushed me out and told me someone would be with me shortly. That was more than an hour ago.’

Hermione was starting to sound a little bit hysterical and Andy quickly enveloped her in a hug. She’d received the Gryffindor’s distressed phone call but had to drop Teddy off at his great-grandparents first before she could rush to St. Mungo’s. Andy knew Cissy had gone into labor for Hermione had texted her, but that was nearly ten hours ago and she had actually expected the phone call to be a baby-announcement. Hearing Hermione cry had turned the blood in her veins into ice.

‘Okay sweetheart, have you eaten anything since you arrived?’

The trembling witch shook her head and Andy sighed, ‘drank anything?’

At the second shake of Hermione’s head, Andy rose to her feet and pulled Hermione from her seat. She quickly fished some changes from her pockets and pressed it into the younger witch’s hands.

‘I want you to find the nearest vending machine and buy yourself a soda and a snack. You’re trembling on your legs, Hermione. Your body is on the verge of collapse.’

Despite her initial distress, curiosity peaked in Hermione and she looked up into Andy’s kind eyes, ‘they have vending machines in the Wizarding world?’

‘Of course they do, just be polite to them or they swallow your change and don’t give anything in return.’

Andy gently but firmly pushed Hermione into the right direction before making true on her promise to find someone who could give her some more information. She quickly glanced across the room before seeing Healer Abbott who’d gotten along with Hermione splendidly when she still worked here.

‘Hannah! A word if you please.’

The Healer looked up and her eyes widened in surprise when she saw non other than Andromeda Tonks approach her. The witch knew she could look fierce to people who didn’t know her too well and didn’t see the differences between her and Bella. Andy knew it could come in handy this time and squared her jaw a little bit more.

‘How can I help you?’

‘My sister was admitted at St. Mungo’s more than ten hours ago to deliver her daughter. Apparently there were some complications, but we have been kept in the dark entirely. If I don’t get an explanation fast, I will file a complaint with the Board of Directors.’

Hannah paled a little bit at that and started stammering how she had just started her shift and wasn’t aware of Narcissa Black being admitted. Andy gritted her teeth, realizing that threatening the witch wouldn’t get her any further.

‘Listen,’ Andy interrupted Healer Abbott’s rambles, ‘can you please go and see what’s going on with my sister? If not for me… then for Hermione?’

Hanna blinked at Andromeda before the final piece of the puzzle fell into place and realization struck her, ‘Hermione didn’t just write that fierce defense of Miss Black out of her sense of justice, did she?’

Andy merely smiled and that finally seemed to convince Hannah who quickly tapped her wand at the clipboard she was holding to see in which room Narcissa currently resided. She turned on her heels and wanted to march off before she seemed to change her mind.

‘Why don’t you come with me? You were a Healer once, were you not? It’ll be easier if they can explain to you directly what’s going on.’

The middle Black sister nodded appreciatively and marched after Healer Abbott. When she returned half an hour later, she found Hermione slumped in the same chair she’d been in earlier. There was an empty can of soda next to her and a half eaten candy bar still tucked in her fist while she softly snored. She gently tucked a loose strand of hair behind the brunette’s ear before waking her up.

‘Sweetheart, you have to wake up.’

Hermione muttered a few confused words before her eyes regained their usual alertness and she jolted in her chair, dropping the candy bar on the floor.

‘What did you find out?’

‘Cissy had been warned by the Head Healer almost nine months ago that her pregnancy held some risks, due to her age.’

‘Don’t tell her that,’ Hermione muttered remembering how sensitive a subject Narcissa’s age was to the blonde witch.

Andy gave a little smile and grabbed Hermione by the hand, ‘her labor progressed slow. Too slow. And by the time she actually had to start pushing, she was too exhausted, and her vitals went haywire. That’s when they pushed you out of the room Hermione. She’d lost a lot of blood and they’ve spent the last hour trying to strengthen her again.’

‘And? Did it work?’

‘It did. They’ve asked whether she’d consider a cesarean, but she’s adamant she wants this child to be born naturally. And she’s also been very adamant that you’re there with her, Hermione.’

Hermione rubbed the exhaustion from her eyes, ‘I can see her again?’

‘They’re waiting for you. You’d better hurry.’

‘Will you stay here?’

Andy kissed Hermione’s hand she was still holding, ‘for as long as it takes. I’ll warn Draco his little sister is on her way. Now, go to Cissy. If I remember correctly, she hates being kept waiting.’

Hermione managed a snicker and sprinted to the corridor Andromeda had pointed at to find her girlfriend. Before she was allowed to enter the room, an intern cast a few disinfectant spells at her after which he nodded his approval for her to go inside. With her palm against the door, Hermione counted to ten to regulate her breathing. Narcissa couldn’t use a hysterical partner now. No, she needed Hermione to support her through this and she would. The moment Hermione reached ten she let out a shuddering breath and pushed open the door.

***

‘Draco, please stop pacing!’ Andy scolded her nephew while she was pacing herself.

The blonde wizard had appeared minutes after receiving Andy’s Patronus having brought Astoria with him to calm him down somewhat. So far, to no avail. After them, Harry and Ginny had come to St. Mungo’s followed by Miss Zabini, Daphne Greengrass and Luna. They all wore a somewhat excited nervousness on their faces, but most of them managed to remain seated in the waiting room’s chairs.

‘I want to know if my mother’s alright,’ the wizard snapped at his aunt, ‘she nearly died when she gave birth to me!’

Astoria grabbed Draco’s hand and pulled him towards her, ‘it’ll be all right, my love. She’s taken care of here.’

Andy watched how Astoria soothed her husband with whispered words of comfort and winced when the nail she’d been biting finally tore. The taste of iron pulled Andy back to the present and she immediately marched of to find Healer Abbott again. The moment Hannah saw her however, the witch shook her head.

‘No progress just yet. I checked five minutes ago.’

The middle Black sister ran her hands through her hair and rubbed her cheeks in despair, ‘could you check again? Please?’

Hannah eyed the witch in front of her for a second before giving her a sympathetic smile, ‘of course. Wait here.’

Andy nodded gratefully and tried not to wince when she heard the miserable cry of her sister the moment Healer Abbott opened the door. It sounded like Cissy was in agony and fear held Andromeda’s heart with an iron fist. She couldn’t’ loose her sister as well. Before her mind could spiral, a firm hand landed on her shoulder and when she turned around, the warm eyes of her mother-in-law grounded her.

‘I brought Teddy. He was adamant his gran and aunty Cissy needed him right now.’

A sob escaped Andromeda’s throat when her blue-haired grandson wrapped his arms around her waist. She sunk to her knees so she could hug him and watched Hannah shake her head at her over the little wizard’s shoulder.

‘Right you are, my soldier,’ she whispered in Teddy’s ear, ‘you came right on time.’

***

Hermione wiped the sweat from Narcissa’s brow and looked at the Healer who eyed the blonde’s diagnostics with a worried frown on his face. He looked at the Gryffindor witch and Hermione wordlessly understood him. It was now or they’d have to perform an emergency caesarian section.

‘Cissy,’ Hermione said while gently cupping her girlfriend’s face so she’d have to look at her, ‘you have to keep pushing.’

The blonde shook her head and closed her eyes, ‘I can’t. I’m not strong enough.’

‘You’re the strongest witch I’ve ever known,’ Hermione replied firmly, ‘and I know you’re in pain. I know you’re tired. But you can’t give up! Not now.’

Narcissa was crying now, but Hermione merely kissed the hand that was squeezing her own so tightly, ‘do it for our daughter. Before you know it, we hold our little witch in our arms.’

Azure eyes flicked up to amber ones while a smidge of hope flickered through them. Exhausted Narcissa panted through the next contraction before turning her attention to the beautiful young witch next to her. Hermione was here. And she’d promised to never leave again. Narcissa finally realized she wasn’t alone in this and she smiled.

‘Can I borrow some of your Gryffindor courage?’

‘Take all you need. It’s yours. I’m yours. My brave, strong, Cissy.’

Suddenly the Healer interrupted them with an urgency in his voice that did not go unnoticed, ‘are you ready to start pushing again, miss Black?’

This time, Narcissa nodded.

***

Less than an hour later, Narcissa lay freshly bathed in her hospital bed with her newborn daughter cradled against her chest while Hermione sat as close as she could on a chair. They had given Narcissa a few potions to strengthen her, but they only lasted a short amount of time. Their sole purpose to allow Narcissa some time with her daughter before she’d succumb to a long, healing sleep.

A tuft of the blondest hair adorned the head of the little witch and Hermione carefully ran her fingers through it, completely awestruck. Suddenly she noticed Narcissa was looking at her and she snorted.

‘What?’

‘The way you look at her… darling, this girl is so lucky to have you as her mother.’

Hermione kissed the baby on the nose and sighed, ‘I can’t help it. She’s perfect.’

‘She really is,’ Narcissa agreed, ‘you better inform Andy and Draco of her arrival, because I’m going to fall asleep any second now.’

Reluctant to leave her girlfriend and newborn daughter, Hermione rose from her chair. She’d asked Hannah to inform their friends that Cissy was okay, but apart from that, they hadn’t received much information yet. She glanced over her shoulder before pushing the door open and walking to the waiting room. Everybody jumped from their seats the moment they saw her and Hermione couldn’t help but grin like an idiot.

‘A perfectly healthy little witch! Ten fingers. Ten toes and you better start practicing that Occlumency.’

A collective sigh of relief rippled through the crowd and they all agreed Andy and Draco should visit Narcissa together first while they went to grab a bite to eat. That way Narcissa wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Teddy however managed to persuade Andromeda in joining her after making the biggest puppy eyes she’d ever seen. His great-grandmother checked whether Andy needed anything else before going home. While everybody else turned towards the hospital restaurant, Andy, Draco, and Teddy followed Hermione who practically ran back to the room.

‘Cissy,’ Andy gasped when she saw the little girl, ‘look at her!’

The blonde witch in the bed beamed and chuckled when she saw her son wipe a stray tear from his cheek, ‘who wants to hold her first?’

‘I think Draco can use the practice,’ Hermione joked and she gestured at the wizard that he could sit down on the chair next to the bed.

Draco carefully took the newborn from his mother’s arms and supported her head with the palm of his hand, almost afraid to break her. When his sister opened her eyes and looked at him, he raised his eyebrows in surprise.

‘She has amber eyes. Not blue ones.’

‘I know,’ Hermione laughed, ‘such a pity.’

But Narcissa shook her head, ‘I disagree. She has warm, gorgeous eyes.’

Both witches smiled at each other. The Healer had warned them the color of the child’s eyes could still change, but their gut feeling told them that their daughter would always sport a magnificent pair of brown eyes. Suddenly Teddy tugged at Narcissa’s bed sheets, drawing her attention. Narcissa directed her exhausted gaze to her nephew and smiled kindly at him.

‘What is it darling?’

‘What’s her name?’ Teddy said, voicing the question everybody wanted answered.

‘Well, I wanted to honor our family’s tradition to name children after stars or constellations. Don’t ask me why,’ she said with a smirk directed at her sister, ‘I’ve thought about breaking that tradition but when push came to shove, I couldn’t do it.’

‘No judgement here, Cissy. But there are many stars and constellations. Which one did you pick?’

The blonde looked fondly at her daughter who was suckling on her brother’s pinky, ‘seeing as Sirius is a man’s name, I went for the next brightest option.’

A silence fell that was only interrupted by the soft gurgling sounds of the baby. Suddenly Andromeda’s eyes widened in realization. She’d always been rather familiar with everything related to space and its stars, curtsy of her extremely curious grandson.

‘You named her Carina, after the constellation that holds the second brightest star in the galaxy.’

Hermione nodded, ‘Carina Granger Black.’

‘And she’s our brightest star,’ Narcissa added.

Chapter Text

Narcissa nipped her way down Hermione’s breastbone, across her stomach towards the apex of her thighs. The Gryffindor fisted the sheets of the bed in her hands and squirmed in anticipation. After a few exhausted first weeks with a newborn in the house, they’d finally found some time for each other without falling asleep before the last piece of clothing had been unbuttoned. But just when Narcissa clasped the waistband of Hermione’s knickers between her teeth, a wail startled them both.

‘Oof,’ Narcissa sighed while letting go of the waistband that snapped back against Hermione’s skin loudly.

Hermione groaned as she felt the arousal leave her body like water through a colander. She stopped Narcissa who’d rolled off her to get up.

‘I’ll go.’

The brunette padded through the hallway knowing Narcissa was beyond exhausted and stepped into the nursery right next to their room. They always left the door open so they would be able to hear Carina cry. Hermione snapped the little light by the door on and whispered soothing words to her daughter.

‘What’s the matter, little witch?’ she asked while sniffing Carina’s diaper to check whether she needed changing. When she noticed the diaper was still dry, she smiled, ‘that’s not it. Are you hungry then?’

She laughed softly when the gurgling baby closed her fist around her index finger. Hermione glanced at the clock and had to suppress a yawn. Slowly she walked into the hallway. The Gryffindor wanted to go downstairs to make Carina a bottle of milk when her girlfriend called her from the room.

‘Darling?’

‘Yes?’

‘Is she hungry?’

‘I think so. I’m going downstairs to warm up a bottle unless you want to feed her?’

Hermione pushed the door to their room open and couldn’t help but grin when she saw Narcissa blinking lazily at her the moment the light from the hallway shone in her eyes. The blonde pushed herself upwards in the bed and unbuttoned the satin blouse she was wearing. She took the newborn witch from Hermione’s arms and held her against her chest.

Narcissa’s nose scrunched up a bit the moment Carine latched on, but she quickly hummed a little lullaby for her daughter and Hermione melted a bit on the spot. She settled behind her girlfriend so Narcissa could lean against her a little bit and wrapped her arms around the blonde’s waist.

‘She’s does love her midnight snacks,’ Hermione joked when looking at her daughter.

‘Mmmm,’ Narcissa replied, ‘but I wasn’t finished with my midnight snack yet.’

Hermione blushed, but it was hidden in the room that was dark apart from the strip of light coming from the hallway. When their little witch was fully sated, Narcissa gave her back to Hermione after kissing the tuft of blonde hair on her head. Before the brunette disappeared through the doorway, Narcissa called for her.

‘I’ll keep this unbuttoned,’ she winked while pointing at her blouse and settling seductively on the bed.

Hermione almost stumbled back into the hallway while Narcissa’s tinkling laughter made her ears redden even further. She bent over the edge of Carina’s crib when the smell of a full diaper reached her nose. With a sigh Hermione stood up again and walked her daughter to the changing table.

‘Better now than waking me up in an hour again, I suppose.’

Despite only being a mom for a few weeks, Hermione’s fingers were already rather skilled at undoing and folding dirty diapers, cleaning Carina’s buttocks, rubbing them with salve, and wrapping the girl in a new diaper. She swore the little witch even smirked when Hermione was doing it, but Narcissa claimed she was just imagining it.

‘Why don’t you never smirk at your other mommy, ey?’ Hermione questioned with a laugh, ‘she thinks I’m going crazy.’

Hermione blew a raspberry kiss on Carina’s stomach and rocked the little girl in her arms for a few minutes until she saw her eyelids grow heavy. Carefully as to not rouse her again, Hermione put the girl in her crib and sneaked out of the room in true ninja-fashion. She turned off the hallway lights before joining Narcissa again only to find the blonde softly snoring in her pillow, her blouse still unbuttoned from breastfeeding Carina.

Hermione felt her heart melt a little as she tucked Narcissa in and gently kissed her on her hair before settling down next to her. The Gryffindor witch felt her eyelids grow heavy immediately and the last thing she thought before succumbing to sleep, was the very naïve thought that perhaps they’d get lucky in the morning and Carina would allow them some intimacy before another busy day was upon them.

***

The moment Narcissa opened the door she knew something was wrong. Carina was crying her lungs out and she could hear the desperate pleas of Hermione who tried to calm her daughter down but was obviously failing. The blonde put down her shopping bags with the clothes she had just bought claiming that after months of being pregnant, she deserved some new outfits.

‘What’s going on?’

Hermione swiveled around on her heels the moment she heard Narcissa’s voice, and the older woman could see tears blinking in her girlfriend’s eyes, ‘Narcissa! Please help me. I’ve tried everything.’

Narcissa frowned and took Carina from Hermione’s arms, but the little witch kept wailing. The Slytherin put her hand on her daughter’s forehead to check her temperature, but she wasn’t feverish so that couldn’t be the cause of her distress.

‘I changed her diaper, fed her, gave her that potion against cramps,’ Hermione summed up, ‘but nothing seems to help.’

‘That’s odd,’ Narcissa replied, ‘but sometimes a baby just cries, darling.’

‘It’s because she can’t stand me. I knew this would happen!’

Hermione was almost equally hysterical as her daughter and Narcissa squeezed her shoulder to comfort her, but the woman was close to a nervous breakdown, ‘that’s not true and you know it.’

‘I know it’s not okay to give a baby calming draught, but I came this close Cissy,’ Hermione shouted while putting her index finger and thumb a hair breadth apart.

Suddenly something clicked for Narcissa and she grabbed Hermione’s chin to force her to look at her, ‘are you experiencing a lot of stress at work?’

‘Yes, but I don’t see why that’s relevant,’ Hermione frowned.

‘There’s a vial of calming draught in the storage cupboard in my lab. Please drink it.’

‘Why? I know I said I wanted to give it to Carina, but I wasn’t actually going to. I’m not going crazy!’

‘Darling,’ Narcissa said losing her patience, ‘do as I say.’

Hermione wasn’t the Brightest-Witch-of-her-Age for nothing and she understood that Narcissa wasn’t in the mood to negotiate this. With a grumble she summoned the vial from upstairs, yanked the cork out with her teeth and downed it in one go. A wave of calm immediately washed over her and together with that, Carina’s wails subsided.

‘How…,’

‘You forgot our daughter is a Legilimens, darling. She must have sensed your stress caused by work and responded to it. Instead of calming down, you got more and more stressed when she refused every attempt you made to soothe her. I’m afraid it was a bit of a vicious cycle you two were in.’

Hermione slumped against the couch and cradled her head between her arms. She felt the couch dip next to her as Narcissa sat down as well with a peaceful baby in her arms. They sat in silence like that for a few minutes before Hermione looked up with teary eyes.

‘I almost dropped her, Cissy. She kept squirming and… I almost dropped her.’

‘I know it can be a little overwhelming at times, darling. Don’t beat yourself up about something that did not happen. She’s perfectly fine.’

‘Parenting is hard,’ the brunette huffed and Narcissa couldn’t help but laugh.

‘Oh, it certainly is! And this isn’t some ordinary little girl, Salazar’s snake she isn’t even a regular magical girl. She’s a Legilimens and that comes with its own challenges.’

‘Why are you not angry with me?’

‘I have no reason to be angry with you, darling. You’re doing great and this won’t be the last time you feel out of your depth. Just… maybe sit down when she’s very squirmy? Dropping babies isn’t exactly advisable.’

Hermione laughed and took Carina from Narcissa again, feeling relieved the girl didn’t immediately start to cry again. Two tired amber eyes looked up at her and Hermione offered her pink so the girl could suckle on it.

‘I’m sorry I said you couldn’t stand me. Your mom was being a bit dramatic.’

‘Wait until she gets a mind of her own,’ Narcissa joked, ‘you’ll think she can’t stand you all the time when she slams a door in your face.’

‘Urrgh, no I don’t want to think about that just yet! Please distract me by showing me the clothes you just bought.’

‘On one condition.’

‘Tell me.

‘You can’t judge the amount of clothes I bought.’

Hermione laughed again.

***

Narcissa wore a comfortable set of loose pants and a sweater while padding barefoot through the house. Hermione was abroad for work and wouldn’t be home until the next day so Narcissa had decided on having a lazy day. She’d twisted her hair in a messy bun and was wearing her glasses for reading without them often gave her a headache. Carrying her daughter while levitating a cup of tea in front of her, she walked to the living room.

Carina’s crib stood right in front of Narcissa’s armchair so she could rock it with her foot while reading her romcom, a guilty pleasure of hers Hermione loved to tease her with. She gently put the sleepy little witch down and made herself comfortable. It was raining softly outside and the sounds of the drops splashing against the rooftiles had a relaxing effect on the blonde who sighed contentedly.

‘We can get used to his, can’t we, my darling?’ she asked her daughter who gurgled something in response.

She blew on her tea causing it to steam a bit and carefully sipped it, savoring the chamomile taste on her tongue. Despite missing Hermione, Narcissa immensely enjoyed having some quality time with her daughter for she’d never had a moment alone with Draco when he’d been little. There’d always been Elves fussing around her or her mother glaring over her shoulder telling her what to do.

But now, knowing that her own son was all grown and happy, she saw this as her second chance. She was in a wonderful relationship with a kind woman who always supported her. They were raising a sweet little witch who also had a fiercely protective brother watching over her. And she could finally make a career for herself, something she’d always wanted but hadn’t been allowed due to pureblood culture. She smiled when she saw the pile of notes sitting on the coffee table, almost enough material for a second book.

Narcissa wasn’t entirely sure yet what she wanted to do with her talent for brewing. St. Mungo’s had already offered her a position, and she’d still been thinking of maybe opening her own shop when a letter from Minerva McGonagall arrived asking if she’d consider teaching potions at Hogwarts. Her options were endless and for once in her life, Narcissa could make her own choices and she loved it.

The blonde witch looked up from her book and laughed when she saw two amber eyes stare at her intensely. Carina had just learned to sit upright and apparently wasn’t sleepy at all anymore. She must have sensed Narcissa’s excitement about the future and blabbed happily at her mother who didn’t understand a single thing.

‘You’re growing way too fast, little lady,’ Narcissa said as she closed her book.

Although, Narcissa reminded herself, they’d been very happy when Carina’s teething phase had passed. It had been quite challenging to stay calm when she was crying non-stop in discomfort. Luckily Narcissa had managed to come up with a potion they could rub on her gums to soothe the pain somewhat. A new invention from the blonde that would definitely be published in her second book.

By the time Carina’s teeth weren’t hurting her anymore, the little witch had started to crawl around the house testing them out on everything she could get her mouth on. Narcissa remembered Hermione’s desperate dive towards the floor when she’d dropped her wand and Carina had already been chewing on it before they could accio it back. Narcissa chuckled at her daughter who was now munching on her chewing rings and picked her up from her crib.

‘It’s stopped raining. Let’s go for a walk.’

***

Andy appeared through the fireplace with a loud woosh covered in green flames, late to the party as usual, ‘don’t glare at me Cissy! I was having an argument with Teddy who kept insisting he was old enough to travel by Floo alone now,’ she explained stepping aside and eyeing the flames rather nervously.

After a few seconds of silence, the fireplace came to live again and spat out a rather frazzled looking Teddy who coughed letting out a puff of smoke, ‘I forgot to keep my mouth closed as you said, gran.’

Andy rolled her eyes and twirled her wand to clean her grandson up before turning towards the other guests. Draco, Astoria, Harry, Ginny, and Aida Zabini were all snickering at the display, but Andy merely shrugged and sat herself down as well. Teddy awkwardly smiled at his great-aunt and tugged on Cissy’s sleeve.

‘I have a birthday gift for Carina,’ he mumbled, ‘it used to be mine, but I want her to have it.’

Narcissa ruffled his now dark, nearly black, hair and opened the bag only to reveal a scruffy looking stuffed owl wearing a mixture of a Gryffindor and Slytherin tie. Teddy reached out his finger to press on the owl’s head and it started singing a lullaby.

‘I know it’s not much and he’s a little old, but he helped me fall asleep a lot. And gran helped me with the tie. It was a project we made at The Lodge, but everybody did a tie in one color, and I wanted two.’

Narcissa cut off her great-nephew’s rambles with a kiss on his cheek, ‘it’s perfect, sweetheart! Let’s give it to her right now, shall we?’

And at that point Hermione came in the living room holding Carina by her hand as she slowly walked next to her mom. The guests all clapped at the little witch who made it all the way to the sitting area without falling over. Ginny who was holding onto James quickly cast a muffliato to avoid rousing Scorpius and Albus who were both fast asleep in the prams behind her. Andy wanted to pick her niece up, but Draco beat her to it and placed his sister on his knee so Teddy could give her the stuffed animal.

Carina squealed in delight when the owl started playing his lullaby and tugged on his tie, almost ruining Teddy’s hard work within seconds until she suddenly muttered, ‘owl.’

Hermione and Narcissa looked at each other in surprise before grinning like idiots, ‘her first word! I knew our daughter was going to be a genius,’ Hermione shrieked.

‘I dunno about that,’ Andy said with barely contained amusement, ‘haven’t you been trying to make her say ‘mom’ for weeks now?’

Narcissa and Hermione responded in unison, ‘shut up Andy!’

Carina gurgled happily, ‘Andy!’

The shit-eating smirk that appeared on Andromeda’s face was something none of the guests at the party would easily forget.

Chapter Text

Narcissa was busy tinkering away in her lab testing some potions for her fifth and probably last book. Her own company that manufactured affordable potions was booming and she had her own weekly column in the Daily Prophet to talk about her latest discoveries. She smiled at the realization that she had everything she could ever wanted when she heard some shuffling at the door. The witch turned around, wiping some stray hairs that escaped from her bun from her face and smiled at her daughter.

‘Hello darling,’ she started cheerfully, but Narcissa’s smile disappeared the moment she saw Carina’s sullen expression, ‘what’s the matter?’

‘Maman, I don’t want to go back to Hogwarts.’

Narcissa immediately pointed her wand at the fires sizzling underneath her cauldrons and put a stasis spell on the brews before inviting her daughter in a hug. The blonde teenager almost ran towards Narcissa and melted into the embrace outing a single sob before managing to control her emotions again. Something she definitely learned from her Slytherin mother.

‘What’s going on sweetheart? Are you being bullied?’

‘No, not at all! I even have friends in Gryffindor and Slytherin seeing as I have rather famous moms.’

They both chuckled lightly at that and Narcissa gently pushed Carina backwards so she could look into her amber eyes. She and Hermione always occluded their minds around their daughter and Carina did the same for Narcissa so they all respected each other’s privacy. But that meant Narcissa hadn’t the faintest idea what was bothering her daughter.

‘Then what’s wrong?’

‘I’m scared. Last year was already a challenge but my powers have grown so much over the summer. I’m scared I’ll go crazy from hearing everyone’s thoughts.’

Narcissa sighed, her heart aching for her daughter as she pulled them both towards the Chesterfield couch in the corner of her lab. Carina was crying now and the older witch recognized herself a lot in the entire situation. The difference was that she’d had nobody to help her while Carina would always find a listening ear with her mothers.

‘Darling, I know it’s scary and overwhelming sometimes but we’ve practiced so much these past two months. I’m quite confident you’ll manage and Minerva knows about your special gift. She said you could always come to her if you’re struggling.’

I know maman,’ Carina hiccupped, ‘but it’s so exhausting to shut everyone out all the time and it’s hard to focus on studying when I’m also resisting letting those thoughts in.’

Carina curled up on the couch and settled her head in Narcissa’s lap who started stroking her daughter’s sleek, blonde hairs, ‘you know I can always ask Minerva for that position as Potions teacher if you want. Then I’ll be around to help you if you need it.’

‘No maman, I know you don’t want to teach at Hogwarts. You refuse the Headmistress every year!’

‘Only because I don’t want to embarrass you by being both your teacher and your mother.’

The young witch snorted, ‘you could never embarrass me.’

‘You know what? I’ll talk to your mom and see if there’s nothing we can do to help you. And in the meantime, we’ll practice some more.’

‘Thank you maman. I love you,’ Carina whispered.

‘I love you too, ma cherie.’

***

Hermione slowly pushed the door of their daughter’s room open and saw her sitting on the windowsill, already reading up in her new books for her second year at Hogwarts. A true Ravenclaw indeed, Hermione thought amusedly. She softly rapped against the door to draw Carina’s attention who smiled the moment she saw Hermione.

‘Hey mom, how was work?’

‘Not too bad, but I took a few days off to tend to an emergency.’

Carina’s nose scrunched up in confusion, ‘emergency?’

‘Mmmm,’ Hermione hummed while entering the room, ‘I’ve heard my little genius is a bit nervous about going back to Hogwarts.’

Carina’s face fell, ‘I am.’

‘Well, how about we use these final days of the summer holiday to come up with a solution for that?’

‘You’re serious? Is that even possible?’

Hermione shrugged, ‘it’s worth a try, don’t you think? It’s certainly a challenge for us nerds.’

‘You’re the most amazing nerd there is,’ Carina laughed while she flung herself around Hermione’s neck.

‘You’re not so bad yourself. Now, I’ve been thinking about this ever since we noticed your powers were enhancing. Don’t tell your maman, but I’m not too fond of solving this with a potion because that would mean you have to brew them non-stop and I’d rather not you drink them every day.’

‘I agree. I’ll be needing all my spare time to study after all.’

Hermione couldn’t resist a laugh for she recognized herself so much in the young witch, ‘don’t forget to have fun with your friends either, Carina. They matter just as much as your grades.’

‘I know, I know! I can’t wait to go to Hogsmeade next year!’

‘Don’t grow up too fast, love,’ Hermione said while softly stroking Carina’s cheek, ‘I’m starting to feel old.’

Carina rolled her eyes, ‘so, what did you come up with?’

‘Remember those earbuds Teddy always wears to listen to music?’

‘Of course,’ Carina adored Teddy who was now nineteen years old and no longer in Hogwarts.

They’d just missed each other, Teddy leaving Hogwarts while Carina attended it for the first time the next year. But she got along with the blue-haired metamorphmagus splendidly even though he wouldn’t be seeing her off this year as he was studying abroad with his girlfriend Victoire.

‘I was wondering if perhaps there is a way we can make you similar earbuds that block out everyone’s thoughts.’

The Ravenclaw’s eyes lit up upon hearing the challenge, ‘oh, that’s a tricky one! I like it!’

***

‘Did nobody hear me calling,’ Narcissa sighed with fond exasperation when she stepped into Hermione’s home office and found her wife and daughter nose deep in books.

‘Uh?’ Hermione muttered, ‘what did you say?’

‘Dinner’s ready. Has been for ten minutes!’

‘Sorry maman, but we’re on the verge of an academical breakthrough!’

Narcissa couldn’t keep up her stern expression and laughed heartily at that, ‘I have no doubt! What have you come up with?’

‘Our little genius here,’ Hermione explained, ‘found a way to block out all superficial and involuntary thoughts of people within a ten meters radius.’

‘It was a mutual discovery,’ Carina corrected her mother, but she couldn’t keep the proud expression from her face.

‘I want to hear all about it, but at dinner while we’re eating because I did not spend two hours slaving away in the kitchen to let it all go cold. And don’t suggest another stasis spell like last time because no matter what you say, I could taste the magical residue on the food.’

Both witches reluctantly tore their gazes away from the pages of their books and followed Narcissa downstairs. Once seated, Carina couldn’t sit still from excitement. She started to explain how they’d come up with a scheme to combine a muffliato spell with a basic organizing spell and a recognition spell.

‘So the earbuds will be able to differentiate superficial thoughts from actually spoken thoughts while the organizing spell directs them. I’ll be able to hear everyone talking like a normal person, but superficial thoughts are countered by the muffliato.’

‘That’s impressive,’ Narcissa said with genuine admiration in her voice, but her daughter waved her off.

‘We first made the mistake of wanting to block out all thoughts, but subconscious ones are nearly impossible for me to hear without actively searching for them. So once we knew we only wanted to tackle the superficial thoughts and involuntary thoughts, it became a lot easier.’

‘I’ll add Runes to the equation to prevent the spells from wearing off after a while,’ Hermione added, ‘that way the earbuds will keep working forever. We were just testing if we could also add a camouflage spell so nobody will ask Carina why she’s wearing them.’

Narcissa nodded her agreement, ‘good call, I’d also add a waterproofing spell in case you get surprised by the Scottish weather.

‘Oooooohhh good one,’ Carina said while pointing a fork full of mashed potatoes at her mother.

‘I do want to make an agreement on these earbuds,’ Hermione pointed out, ‘I don’t want you to use them all the time. You need to practice your skill, but if it overwhelms you or you want to study or whatever, you can put them in. Minerva will be keeping tabs on you.’

‘I agree. Being a Legilimens is part of you and you’ll need to learn to live with that.’

Carina swallowed her potatoes before grinning from ear to ear, ‘deal.’

***

Hermione and Narcissa sandwiched their daughter between them in a soul crushing hug when the Hogwarts Express sounded its horn to announce its departure. Next to them Draco was fixing Scorpius’s tie while Astoria secretly handed him a bag of sweets for the journey. Ronald Weasley was standing on the platform as well with his gaggle of red-haired children while Harry was giving Albus some last words of encouragement.

‘Good luck, little genius,’ Hermione muttered in her daughter’s ear, ‘and don’t forget to have fun as well, okay?’

‘I will!’

‘But not so much fun that we’re summoned to the Headmistress’ office like Andy had to do so many times for Teddy,’ Narcissa laughed quietly.

‘Honestly maman, I would never do that.’

‘Can we get that in writing?’ Hermione joked causing Carina to roll her eyes.

Suddenly someone cleared his throat behind them and they were greeted by a smiling Draco, ‘can I give my sister a farewell-hug before she takes off?’

While Carina clung to Draco’s neck, Narcissa sunk to her knees to kiss her grandson on both cheeks before putting some more sweets in his other pocket. The blonde wizard smiled at his grandmother who winked at him while Astoria pretended not to have noticed. The train’s engine hissed and suddenly all the parents were rushing to push their children on the train before it took off without them.

‘You must all write us letters at least once a week or I will take that position as Potions teacher and put you all in detention,’ Narcissa said sternly and James, Albus, Scorpius, and Carina all laughed.

Hermione and Narcissa walked with the train when it started moving, having promised their daughter to keep waving until the train had disappeared around the first of many turns. Harry also kept waving, but that had something to do with the fact that everybody still recognized him and the children were always excited to see the hero from their bedtime-stories.

‘Well well well, Potter,’ Draco sneered the moment he stood next to Harry, ‘isn’t it repulsive that our sons have become best friends over the summer?’

Harry looked at the black-haired wizard that was leaning out of a train window alongside his blonde-haired buddy and nodded, ‘absolutely disgusting. A Potter and a Malfoy!’

They stood in silence like that until the train had truly disappeared from view. When Hermione and Narcissa returned to the group, Draco smacked Harry against the shoulder.

‘So are we still on for tonight’s game of Poker?’ he asked.

‘You bet, Malfoy. I’m going to drain your vault.’

Both wizards laughed and walked away from the platform not noticing how all the women behind them rolled their eyes at their antics. It had started with a weekly game of Quidditch but after Draco had nearly broken his neck during an accident, they’d agreed it was time for games more suited to their age. Ron joined his friends as well to double-check the time for their game tonight before walking his wife to their blue, flying car. Narcissa and Hermione waved at Ginny and Astoria who hurried to follow their husbands before they all disapparated on the spot.

Both witches landed seconds later in their home that already felt quiet and empty without their daughter bustling about. Hermione hugged Narcissa from behind, knowing the woman always suffered the first days when their daughter went back to Hogwarts. With a flick of her wand, Hermione put a record on that softly started playing their opening dance song. She turned Narcissa around in her arms and smiled.

‘Dance with me?’

‘Always.’

They swayed together until the song came to an end and Narcissa leaned her head on Hermione’s shoulder. She sighed.

‘I miss her already.’

‘I know, Cissy. But she’s happy.’

It was true. When their relationship was made public officially, they’d feared for some backlash, but none had come. Everybody seemed happy to accept Narcissa back into society and nobody questioned Hermione’s love for the little girl. Even at The Lodge, Carina had made friends easily and was never confronted about her rather unusual family situation. And the only boy at Hogwarts who had - much to Hermione’s dismay - been a Gryffindor who’d tried to make fun of her, had been hit with a series of stinging hexes from Carina’s friends and never tried again.

‘We did so well,’ Narcissa gulped suddenly overcome with emotion.

‘We did, and now we have some time for ourselves. It’s been a while since I took my wife out for dinner.’

Narcissa frowned, ‘it’s not even noon yet.’

‘I was thinking we could probably spend some time trying out that new toy we bought first.’

Hermione felt the blonde witch shiver in her arms and noticed with a smug feeling that her ice blue eyes had gone a few shades darker. The blonde licked her lips and smirked knowing it made Hermione a bit weak in the knees.

‘Shall we go upstairs?’

‘I don’t know,’ Hermione said while her teeth grazed the shell of Narcissa’s ear, ‘we’re home alone. We can have sex anywhere we want.’

The blonde snorted, ‘you forget that I’m old, darling. But you can warm me up in the bath and perhaps we’ll try your desk if I’m feeling up for it.’

‘You’re not old, you’re breathtaking.’

A light blush adorned Narcissa’s cheek, ‘Salazar’s snake I love you.’

Amber eyes locked onto blue ones and they both smiled, ‘I love you too, Cissy.’

Chapter Text

The moment the Hogwarts Express rounded the corner and appeared into view, Hermione felt her wife relax next to her. Narcissa had been antsy all day and hadn’t stood still for a moment ever since they arrived at platform 9 ¾. She’d been pacing like a madwoman while Hermione had been visibly calmer. Funny, the brunette mused, how Narcissa was always so poised except when it came to their daughter.

‘Do you think she’ll be happy to see us?’

‘She’s always happy to see us,’ Hermione said with a slight undertone of amusement, ‘you know she is.’

Narcissa nodded. Even though Carina had been quite a handful at times during her puberty, she’d never been unkind to her mothers, albeit a bit unreasonable once and a while. Luckily for Hermione’s nerves, said puberty had been short and powerful and Carina had quickly returned to her sweet self. No more moodswings and random crying, Hermione thought, no, now it was boyfriends.

‘She didn’t want to come home for Christmas this year,’ Narcissa pushed and Hermione rolled her eyes.

‘Only because her boyfriend was staying at Hogwarts. The moment I suggested he could celebrate with us, she changed her mind.’

The blonde witch pouted a little bit, ‘I don’t like being second choice.’

‘You’ll always be my first choice.’

Hermione kissed her wife’s cheek and felt her stomach flutter at the sight of the big red train coming to a steamy halt in the station. Their daughter coming home for the holidays was always a joyous occasion event though both mothers teased her by pretending they missed the peace and quiet the moment she arrived. 

‘I can’t see her yet,’ Narcissa tiptoed and craned her neck to spot the head of platinum blonde hair that was so unmistakably their daughter’s. 

‘You know she dislikes crowds. She’ll be out last.’

Hermione’s words were of little comfort to Narcisa who desperately wanted to see her daughter who attended her sixth year at Hogwarts. Time really did fly and she cherished the moments they were all together. It had been decided after all that Carina would take up an apprenticeship in France with a rather famous wizard-inventor. The Ravenclaw witch was adept at fabricating new magical objects and spells and wanted to pursue a career in it. She’d be staying with her older brother Draco who lived there with his wife and son and Narcissa would miss her terribly.

‘Maman!’

Narcissa startled from her own thoughts at her daughter’s voice and was just in time to catch the witch that flung herself into her arms.  Feeling grateful for the warm reunion and remembering the times when Carina thought hugging her moms in public was rather embarrassing, Narcissa squeezed her tightly.

‘Hello darling, how was your trip?’

The blonde withdrew from the hug and looked into those bright amber eyes their daughter had somehow inherited from Hermione despite leaving all the Healers at St. Mungo’s rather baffled by it. Something about the merging of magic during pregnancy? Narcissa didn’t care. 

‘Tedious. I’d put my earbuds in my trunk so I had a hard time blocking out everyone’s thoughts without them.’

‘I thought you barely needed those anymore,’ Hermione laughed when she opened her arms for Carina who beamed at her.

‘True, but you know how hard it is when people are excited. They don’t just think their thoughts… they shout them.’

Narcissa nodded knowing all to well what Carina was talking about and turned to the young wizard who’d appeared beside them. He extended his one hand while loosening the yellow tie around his neck with the other.

‘Aidan Finnigan, ma’am. Pleasure to finally meet you.’

‘We’ve heard a lot about you mister Finnigan,’ Narcissa smiled while shaking the offered hand.

Hermione broke her daughter’s embrace and followed her wife’s example, ‘indeed, how’s your father? I must admit I’ve lost touch with Seamus a little bit after the third war reunion.’

‘He sends his regards. Him and mother are currently in Russia so he was delighted to hear I’d be spending Christmas with a former classmate of his.’

‘Draco told me about him. I remember his appetite for fire and explosions,’ Narcissa joined in polite conversation and Aidan laughed.

‘I think that’s partly why he and mother decided to travel the world a bit after he nearly burnt down one third of Ireland. By accident so he claims.’

Hermione looked at Narcissa talking to the young wizard with practised ease and felt a wave of fondness wash over her. How that woman managed to charm anyone who approached her was beyond her understanding. Suddenly she felt a hand slip into her own and she entwined her fingers with Carina’s.

‘He seems like a charming young man.’

‘You don’t mind that he’s a Hufflepuff?’

The Gryffindor witch huffed, ‘honestly Carina, why in Merlin’s name would I care?’

‘Would maman care?’

Hermione sighed and halted in her steps, forcing her daughter to look at her. When amber eyes looked into amber eyes, Hermione pulled up her Occlumency shields while Carina ignored her Legilimency. A courtesy they granted each other all the time to ensure everyone’s right of private thoughts.

‘You know she won’t. She’s a proud Slytherin, but that’s the only remnant of the old Narcissa that remained.’

Carina chuckled, ‘you’re probably right. I don’t know why I made a fuss but Aidan was a bit nervous when he heard who my parents were. When he introduced himself to me, he didn’t start with his name but with his blood-status.’

‘Oh lord,’ Hermione laughed, ‘bit awkward.’

‘I just want you two to like him.’

Hermione looked at the blonde witch who laughed at something the Hufflepuff wizard had said and smiled, ‘he’s the first boy you ever brought home. That means something Carina. I’m sure we’ll like him.’

The young witch that had almost outgrown both her mothers smiled, ‘at least all the Hogwarts houses are represented now.’

They laughed before joining Aidan standing next to Narcissa who apparated them all home. Carina squealed when she saw the cheerful decorations and the huge table that seemed set for nearly twenty people. Her equally blonde mother wrapped her arms around her middle and rested her chin on her daughter’s shoulder.

‘I know the party isn’t for a few days, but I didn’t want to waste time decorating when you were here. I’ve missed you.’

‘I’ve missed you too, maman. How many people are coming?’

Narcissa sighed, ‘probably more than my cooking skills can manage. Some of the guests have asked to stay the night as well so it might be a bit cramped here.’

Carina turned around in her mother’s embrace so she could look her in the eyes and shuffled her feet nervously, ‘perhaps Aidan and I can sleep together? That’s at least one extra room for guests.’

Before Narcissa could reply Hermione strode into the room, ‘before I forget, I’m under strict instructions to send you two to Andie to moment we got home. So off you pop. She’s expecting you and Aidan.’

‘Aunty Andie is going to interrogate you,’ Carina told her boyfriend after a girlish giggle, ‘but remember what I told you. She likes to pretend she’s all tough and scary while in reality she’s the biggest softie.’

‘I haven’t gotten time to change into something else,’ Aidan protested but Hermione shook her head, ‘her own daughter and grandson were in Hufflepuff, she’d be delighted.’

Carina nodded enthusiastically before practically dragging her boyfriend into the Floo and disappearing in a whoosh of green flames. The moment the house got silent again, Narcissa pinched the bridge of her nose.

‘You saved me just in time. She asked to share a room with Aidan.’

‘We both knew that question was coming. I’ve talked it over with his parents and they’re fine with it as long as we are.’

Narcissa sighed in defeat, ‘one day I’m going to have to admit that our little girl isn’t so little anymore, but this still feels a bit strange to me.’

‘Better with permission under our own roof so they feel safe and come to us if they have questions than somewhere sneaky with unpleasant consequences,’ Hermione offered as an argument and judging by the way her wife rolled her eyes, she knew she’d won.

‘Very well. But do you think I should have the talk with her again?’

‘Cissa, you’ve put her through that embarrassment twice already. I’m sure she knows the specifics by now. Did you fuss about this as much with Draco as well?’

‘That’s not the same. He was a boy so I told him to respect women and to treat them kindly. Our star is a girl and whether I’m loathe to admit it, she’s more vulnerable.’

‘But Aidan seems like a really nice guy.’

Narcissa smiled at that, ‘that we agree on. I knew she was smitten with him judging by her letters, but after witnessing how she looks at him? It’s quite endearing really.’

‘You used to look at me like that,’ Hermione said with feigned melancholy. 

‘I still do, but perhaps you don’t notice it anymore.’

Hermione grinned before kissing the blonde witch slowly and deeply, ‘how about we bring their suitcases to Carina’s room and prepare some tea? Andie didn’t really expect them so soon, but I saw the panic in your eyes when Carina asked that question and I wanted to save you. I’m sure they’ll be back soon.’

Narcissa took a brown curl between her fingers and twirled it before tucking it behind Hermione’s ear, ‘only you can see a panic attack behind the cold blue in my eyes. Only you see the emotions behind the ice queen façade,’ she mused before kissing her wife again and again.

***
‘What’s that you’re reading?’ Hermione asked when Carina came downstairs holding a letter and smiling like a buffoon at it.

‘A letter from Aidan thanking us for the lovely days he spent here. He hopes he can visit us again someday.’

Narcissa poked her head around the door from the kitchen, ‘he was a lovely boy. He’s welcome here anytime!’

Carina beamed and settled with Hermione on the couch while Narcissa finished their cups of hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. It was their own little Christmas tradition where they snuggled up in front of the fire with a hot beverage to reflect on the past year and listen to Narcissa sing a few songs. It was the only time of year she indulged her wife and daughter for she never sang when anyone could hear her. 

They always had a big party, but after the last guest had gone home, the little family made time for themselves. Carina had insisted Aidan went back to Hogwarts for she was not ready just yet to share this moment with an outsider. The Ravenclaw witch had spend nearly all days with her boyfriend, but now she relished in the warmth of her mothers’ arms. Carina sighed when Narcissa settled next to her as well and combed her fingers through her platinum tresses. 

‘So… did you enjoy sharing a room with a wizard?’

Hermione rolled her eyes at her wife’s lack of subtlety. How she got so skilled in etiquette and international relations and co-operations was beyond her. Carina snorted.

‘Honestly maman, if that’s your way to ask whether something happened, it’s quite pathetic. And don’t worry, you won’t become a grandmother a second time soon.’

Relief washed over Narcissa’s face, but Hermione embraced her daughter a bit tighter, ‘is everything okay?’

‘Oh yes, Aidan is quite the gentleman but I don’t seem to be able to shut out his thoughts when we… you know. It’s embarrassing really but we laughed about it. He says he’ll wait until I’m ready. I don’t want to use my earbuds for it. I want it to be real.’

‘As long as you know you can always come to us.’

Carina nodded, ‘I know. I love you both so much! Now, where’s my hot coco?’

With a flick of Hermione’s wrist the fire fizzled to life a bit more and all three witches drew up their feet clad in ugly Christmas socks and tucked them underneath the blanket. Narcissa kissed her daughter’s nose before starting to sing. Her usually cold voice now rang softly throughout their home and they all enjoyed each other’s company, thinking about the past and dreaming about the future, knowing they’d stay like that until Carina had fallen asleep into her mothers’ embrace. Safe and sound.