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inevitable

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If Narcissa could go back in time and change a single thing that she had done after the war ended; she would go back to the moment she had decided getting involved with Hermione Granger would be a good idea.

That was a lie, of course, and she knew it. She wouldn’t give up her friendship with the woman for anything in the world. She still remembered clearly the day she first saw Hermione after the war. It hadn’t been straight after, thankfully, otherwise she was sure she wouldn’t have gotten the reaction she did from her that day.

***

It was by pure chance that they had run into each other. Narcissa, having only started working in the Ministry a few days prior, had no idea that Hermione worked there too. They were in different departments, but crossed paths in the Atrium one morning. Narcissa completely froze up, her mind racing with all the possible insults Hermione could have thrown at her.

Instead, Hermione had smiled at her. It was only to be polite; Narcissa could clearly see the strain behind it, but nevertheless, it was a smile. It had thrown her for a loop for almost two weeks afterwards. For some reason, she couldn’t get the witch off her mind.

That wasn’t a particularly unusual thing for her, really. After what had happened to Hermione in her own home, while she watched… Though it had been years, that night still haunted her dreams. The screams still echoed in her mind, taunting her, guilting her, never letting her forget what she had been a part of.

But this was different. For those two weeks - and more to come, though she didn’t know that at the time - Hermione’s smile played on her mind near-constantly. There were questions too, such as, why on earth would Hermione Granger ever smile at her, even if it was just a formality? All her questions generally fell under the same category, but no matter how much she racked her brain, she could never find an answer. It happened again soon after, and then every time the two witches saw each other.

It was just over a month after the first time when Hermione had treated her to a quiet “Good morning, Ms Black.” And, Merlin, she was one of the only people in years who actually acknowledged her divorce from the Malfoy family. Embarrassingly enough, it caused Narcissa’s heart to soar.

Far too long she had been known only by her ties to that family; one she had never wanted to be a part of in the first place. And out of everyone, it was Hermione Granger whose use of her maiden name made her giddy. Giddy! Narcissa Black did not get giddy. Or, so she told herself.

Their first conversation took place one late night where both of them stayed at work long past their official hours. Narcissa had walked by Hermione’s office and heard her muttering swears to herself as she paced back and forth in front of a chalkboard covered in Arithmancy equations.

She almost jumped out of her skin when Narcissa spoke from the doorway, and was so shocked by the sudden presence that she completely missed what Narcissa said to her. She blinked at the blonde a few times before realisation dawned and she spun back to her board with a gasp.

“That’s it! You’re a genius.”

“Not a genius, Ms Granger,” Narcissa chuckled, “Merely someone with an affinity for the subject.”

“Still,” Hermione murmured as she added Narcissa’s solution to her equations, “I’ve been at this for weeks. It’s been driving me up the walls, and you solved it, just like that.”

“I’m glad I could help.”

Narcissa was about to move away from the office when Hermione looked at her, lips parted as if she wanted to say something, but she couldn’t find the words. So, Narcissa just gave her a small, polite smile, like the ones they often wore whenever they passed each other, and said goodnight.

There was less tension between them after that night. It was still mostly there, but Narcissa had begun to notice a slight change in the smiles Hermione sent her way. They were far less strained, and there was a slight crease in the corners of her eyes that had never been there before. It was a small thing, really, but to Narcissa, that slight crease meant everything.

Then came the night they finally laid all their cards out on the table, and somehow managed to brush them all aside. Once again, they were both working late, but this time it was Hermione who appeared in Narcissa’s office. She was visibly nervous; shifting on her feet and fidgeting with her thumbs, and it took her a few tries to get her words straight, but eventually, she just blurted her request out in one breath.

“I don’t mean to bother you; I know you’re probably insanely busy if you’re here this late, but… I was wondering if perhaps you could give me a hand with a couple of equations? I’ve been having trouble solving them and, well, there was that night a few months ago when you solved the equations, and-”

“Miss Granger,” Narcissa interrupted calmly, already standing out of her chair, “Lead the way.”

Narcissa had been able to help her, of course, and after many, many words of gratitude from Hermione, she finally built up the courage to ask, “Would you care for a glass of wine?”

She almost regretted asking when Hermione didn’t respond instantly. But before she could take back her offer, Hermione agreed. They returned to Narcissa’s office and transfigured her two chairs into a comfortable couch, both of them occupying either end of it, turned slightly to face each other.

The conversation had been awkward at first, but with a few drinks in them, they had no problems whatsoever in discussing their lives with each other. It was in a moment of silence when Hermione finally addressed the elephant in the room.

“I don’t blame you, you know?”

“Pardon?” Narcissa knew what she was referring to, of course, but she hadn’t quite believed her ears when Hermione spoke.

“For Malfoy Manor. I’ve seen the guilt in your eyes whenever you look at me, and I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame you. For any of it. You shouldn’t blame yourself either.”

“I- I don’t know what to say…”

“So don’t say anything,” Hermione shrugged, taking a long sip from her glass, “It’s long in the past now. There are no hard feelings.”

“Miss Granger-”

“Hermione, please.”

“Then call me Narcissa.”

“Okay, Narcissa,” Hermione chuckled.

It became a sort of routine for them. Every so often, when both of them were staying late, they would finish up their work and open up a bottle of wine between them.

Narcissa reckoned it was during one of these occasions that she fell for Hermione.

She couldn’t help the laugh that had escaped her lips when she realised that. It was quite some time afterwards, lying in bed one night when all she could think about was Hermione. It was everything; the way she spoke, the sound of her laughter, her eyes, her smile… What it would be like to kiss her.

That particular thought had snuck up on her, startling her out of her trance. She shook it off at first, but her mind kept circling back to it, over and over until she couldn’t deny it any longer.

She had feelings for Hermione bloody Granger.

No big deal, she was only the wizarding world’s Golden Girl, Gryffindor war-hero. And Narcissa was only a follower of Voldemort, Slytherin Ice Queen, and long-time enemy of hers. No big deal at all. There was absolutely nothing that could go wrong there, of course.

That was what had led her to her fit of giggles at three in the morning. Just the realisation of how completely and utterly fucked she was.

She tried to bury her feelings as much as possible. That was a skill of hers, at least, so it should have been easy. But no. For some reason, Narcissa couldn’t stop these particular feelings from making an appearance.

It got to the point where, despite everything in her fighting against the instinct, Narcissa began to avoid Hermione where possible. And, oh, how she hated doing so, especially when she had to watch the way Hermione’s face fell when she continuously made up excuses to get out of their weekly drink together, but she didn’t see any other option. She didn’t know what she might blurt out under the influence of alcohol, and there was absolutely no way she could let Hermione find out about her feelings.

However, it seemed that the universe was conspiring against her, for the more she tried to avoid Hermione, the more she seemed to crop up in the most unexpected of places.

She first noticed it one morning while she was wandering through Diagon Alley and passed a newspaper stand outside one of the shops. It caught the corner of her eye just as walked by, causing her to stop dead. There, grinning at her from the front page of the Daily Prophet, was none other than Hermione Granger.

Nevertheless, she bought a copy, intending to congratulate Hermione on the interview about her research project, but she lost her nerve the second she caught sight of the younger witch in the Atrium and hurried to her office to avoid her. So the paper remained on her desk instead, greeting her each morning with that smile she had come to adore - and miss dearly.

Another time, she had gone into Flourish & Blotts to pick up a book on potion-making, and by Merlin, Hermione was everywhere. The shelves were lined with books, all of which had Hermione on the front cover.

She bought two copies of that; one joined the newspaper on her desk, while the other was given pride of place in her home library. And this time she did speak to Hermione about it. The conversation was strained again, as it had been in the early stages of their friendship, and it killed Narcissa to know she had caused the rift between them.

***

And so she found herself, only a few days after that, as she moped about the house, wishing for a Time Turner to take her back to the beginning. Her mind seemed to only be capable of thinking about Hermione. She wanted to try to fix things, but there was a small voice in the back of her mind that kept telling her it was too late; she had ruined things already, and Hermione wouldn’t forgive her.

Salazar, she needed to distract herself before she went insane. Huffing to herself, she summoned a chocolate frog from her stash - chocolate always made her feel better, so she liked to keep plenty around, just in case.

She peeled back the lid, making sure to grab a hold of the frog before it could escape and rolled her eyes when she saw the card sitting inside the box. Of course it was her. There was no escape from the witch; that much was becoming increasingly clear to Narcissa. Hermione Granger was inevitable.

She stared down at the card for a few moments, until finally, she made her decision. Without letting herself overthink it for another second, she stormed to the Floo and called out Hermione’s address.

Hermione jumped when Narcissa stepped out of her fireplace without warning and raised an eyebrow when the blonde stood in the middle of her living room, unmoving.

“What are you doing here, Narcissa?”

“I… I came to apologise.”

“Oh? And what would that be for?”

Narcissa sighed, feeling the anger radiating from Hermione.

“For avoiding you,” she said, “For being so distant all of a sudden. For-“

“For leading me to believe that this was actually real? That our- our friendship could actually work?” Hermione snapped.

“For everything, Hermione. I am so sorry that I ever hurt you. That’s the last thing I ever wanted to do-“

“Then why did you?”

“Because… I was scared,” Narcissa admitted quietly, “You and I… I never expected us to even look each other’s way after what happened during the war, nevermind actually become friends-“

“So, you’re saying this was all a mistake?” Hermione asked, crossing her arms.

“No! Salazar, Hermione, our friendship is the best thing that’s happened to me since the war. That’s what scared me. You have become very dear to me; more so than anyone else I know besides Andy and Draco. I’ve told you things about myself that I’ve never told anyone… That terrifies me. You terrify me, but… in the best way possible.”

“What does that even mean?”

Narcissa bit her lip, looking everywhere but Hermione. “It seems that… sometime over the course of our friendship, I… developed certain feelings for you. And I was foolish. I didn’t want my feelings to ruin this friendship we built, and in trying to prevent that, I ruined it anyway. I’m sorry. I should go.”

Hermione didn’t say anything, so Narcissa stepped back into the fireplace. It was only when she was about to leave, her address on the tip of her tongue, that Hermione stopped her.

“Wait! Wait, Narcissa, you… You didn’t ruin anything.”

Narcissa looked sceptical. “Then what do you call this?”

“An argument? A misunderstanding?” Hermione shrugged, running a hand through her hair. “Whatever it is, they happen. Friends fight sometimes. But you didn’t ruin anything. In fact…”

“In fact?” Narcissa prompted.

“In fact…” Hermione took a few steps closer, closing the distance between her and Narcissa until they were inches apart. Her eyes flicked downwards and she let out a soft sigh, her breath ghosting across Narcissa’s lips.

Narcissa’s eyes widened as she realised what was happening. Hermione’s eyes met hers again, and she tucked a loose strand of hair behind Narcissa’s ear. Her hand trailed a path to the back of Narcissa’s neck, scratching lightly.

She stayed there for a moment, searching Narcissa’s eyes for any signs of hesitation. When she found none, she leaned forward and connected their lips.

And Narcissa was done for. She had never felt a fraction of what she was feeling now. She had only ever kissed Lucius before, so didn’t have much experience in the field, but she was sure that nothing would ever compare to the feeling of Hermione’s lips on hers. Whatever she did for the rest of her life, she swore in that moment that none of it would be worthwhile if Hermione wasn’t by her side for it.

At last, Narcissa remembered to respond. She wrapped her arms around Hermione’s waist, grasping at her shirt like it was a lifeline keeping her from drowning in the emotions flooding her brain. She knew she was probably getting Floo Powder all over Hermione, but neither of them cared. All they cared about was one another.

They broke the kiss, but stayed close together. Narcissa took in a shuddering breath, not wanting to open her eyes just yet. She never wanted this moment to end. She felt Hermione stroking her cheek with her thumb and smiled, letting out a quiet chuckle. She opened her eyes and found Hermione grinning back at her, and she couldn’t help it. She kissed her again without warning, chastely this time.

“Well,” Hermione breathed, eyebrows raised slightly, “This was unexpected.”

“I’m inclined to think it was inevitable,” Narcissa replied.

“You might be right,” Hermione chuckled, bringing their lips together once more.