It was cold. It was late November, and I, Narcissa Black, was currently on patrol in one of the many towers that populated the castle that I had been tempted to call home for nearly 7 years. Or at least I was supposed to be on patrol. Truth be told, I was leaning against the stone wall with my eyes closed, counting the minutes until I could return to my comfortable bed. It was cold.

It was cold. I guess in a way I was so used to the cold that it became that simple to me. A simple description, a simple condition. It almost didn't matter at all. Except that for some reason… tonight it did.

I had never been in this tower before. In fact, until just a few weeks ago, I hadn't even known it existed. I suppose that was the true magic of Hogwarts. It would always have its secrets. I almost felt parallel to it in that way.

The Tower of Atonement. That was what it was called, or so Bella had told me. It was rather ironic really, given the circumstances. In some ways I had been reluctant to accept the offer to guard this particular tower. And yet… I had never encountered less trouble in my time as a prefect. I got to be alone here, in the dark, dealing only with my own thoughts. And the cold.

Slowly, I traced my thoughts into the stone wall I was leaning against. This had become a hobby of mine over my teenage years. At one time I had kept a diary like normal people… but I had an ignorant snoop of a younger cousin, and I soon learned my lesson. Sure the words would fade into nonexistence, but who keeps their diaries after a certain point, anyways? I had only wanted to write to help straighten my thoughts, not preserve them. I didn't want to remember what I was thinking now.

They had always told me that the summer before my last year at Hogwarts would be the hardest… I suppose they had been telling the truth.

I gasped for air. For some reason I had lost my breath for a moment. But the moment passed, and I leaned back against the wall. The ring on my finger burned like fire, but I resisted the temptation to fling it into the darkness. He was testing me again… and I knew it.

I focused on ignoring the pain… I would think of other things. Like how many stones it took to build a castle this large. And how long it had taken… even with magic it must have taken quite awhile. The light swishing of my cloak sleeves as I traced my words ever constantly. Why there were no paintings on these walls. The dinner had been delicious tonight. The turkey had been roasted perfectly. And steamed broccoli covered in my favorite sauce. And lemon meringue pudding with little chocolate tarts on the side. And suddenly I was a bit hungry.

The ring continued to burn, as I cursed myself for not bringing some chocolate frogs or pumpkin pasties with me. I tugged at the ring, becoming more and more frustrated as time passed. Why hadn't I just refused? Why couldn't I have accepted and just forgotten about my last year at Hogwarts? Why had I…

I stopped my tracing mid-sentence. I could swear I smelled chocolate. Wonderful, delicious chocolate… But there couldn't be chocolate anywhere nearby. I pulled out my wand and lit it. There was no one in sight. But I smelled chocolate. Only how could I? Perhaps I was hungrier than I thought.

I couldn't see anything. If there had really been anything or anybody around, I would have seen them. And then… as if someone had read my mind, a chocolate frog appeared. My eyes widened as I took in the small sight hopping about. I walked forward slowly, wondering idly as to as to whether or not this was his doing as well.

As I got closer, I could swear I heard the scuffling of someone trying to get past me. I pitied them for thinking they could trick me. I whipped around quickly and bumped into… nothing? I fell to the ground… yet somehow I didn't quite hit it. But someone had, apparently. A young man's voice swore as I quickly pulled away. Was he… invisible?

Suddenly I could see his legs, and I felt an invisible hand on my leg. I didn't think twice before kicking the stranger with all my might.

"Stop! Wait!"

I scrambled to get to my wand, but he wouldn't let me. So I kicked him again. And finally he let me go. I grabbed my wand and pointed it straight at his chest… or where I assumed it was.

"Stop, stop!" And suddenly he was by my side and fully visible. He was terribly fast.

I screamed.

He put a hand over my mouth. "Shh… do you want to wake the whole castle up?"

"Get off me!" I snapped. I pulled back away from him to realize that I knew him. Oh, yes… I knew him quite well.

"Potter," I mumbled.

James Potter, my cousin's best friend. Yes, I knew him. And not just for that… he was the king of getting in trouble… and somehow talking his way out of it.

"Why hello, Miss Black," Potter said, putting on his signature smile. "How nice to see you this fine evening."

"Oh, stuff it," I said. "Just run along so I can decide how many points you've lost your precious Gryffindor tonight."

"Now come on, Narcissa… It's almost Christmas," Potter said coming closer to me. "Can't you give a guy a break?"

I rolled my eyes. His attempts were almost amusing, but I would not budge. I had a job to do, and for once I was rather enjoying it.

"It's not even December, Potter," I said. "How is that almost Christmas?"

He laughed. "It may not be December, but it sure feels like it."

I felt a smile tempting its way onto my features, but I pushed it back. I noticed then the cloak in his arms. An invisibility cloak. Of course.

"Well, I can't say I disagree with you there."

His smile grew larger, and I couldn't resist smiling back despite myself. He laughed.

"Wh-what?" I snapped.

"Nothing," he said, his hazel eyes twinkling in the wand light.

I gave him a questioning look, but he ignored me.

"I wonder where my chocolate frog got to…"

"Uh, no idea," I said, looking around.

"Damn, it was my last one," he said, laughing once again.

He was very good looking. I hated thinking it, but it was true. I remember when I first thought it: the first Quidditch match of the previous year. He had floated quite close to my spot in the stands. I didn't really care much for Quidditch, but Bella was quite enamored with one of the Slytherin players and would drag me along to all the Slytherin games when she had still been at Hogwarts. She was too distracted to see me tracing it on the bench.

I must have looked as though I was swooning for he smirked. I felt myself become quite flustered, and I wasn't quite sure why. He was so kind, so true. He was everything I wasn't. He made me feel weak.

"Wh-what?" I asked again.

"You're quite pretty."

And then it hit me. He was just trying to get out of trouble. The creep. The worst part was… it was actually working.

"Your little tricks aren't going to work with me, you know," I said, sharply. "I'm not one of those giggly little Hufflepuffs who are going to just let you and your comrades take over this school just because you throw out some nice words. I don't play those games."

Potter bowed. "Touché, my lady."

I stared at him. What was he doing?

"What are you doing?"

"Well, obviously I'm paying my respects as a kind and benevolent ruler," Potter answered. "And though your words were rather jagged and cold, I am still willing to give you a place of honor… being my best friend's cousin and a lovely lady, as well."

I couldn't help laughing. He looked ridiculous, and yet perfect. And I couldn't stop either, though he shushed me.

"You're going to get both of us in trouble, you know?"

"Oh, please," I said, finally able to settle myself. "You're the one that's not supposed to be here."

"Yeah, well… I doubt you're supposed to be socializing with other students," Potter pointed out.

I smirked. "Touché, my king."

And suddenly I felt a burst of emotion enveloping me. I… wanted him to hold me. It was crazy, and I knew it. We were complete opposites… and despite popular belief, that just doesn't work in the real world. We could never be together.

So maybe I had feelings for him. I still hated him for making me have feelings for him. If that made any sense at all… No, of course it didn't make sense. My thoughts were jumbling, and I automatically began backing against the wall.

No, I wasn't thinking properly. Perhaps I did have some feelings for him. But in reality, that meant nothing. In reality, my feelings would have no impact on fate.

Maybe I loved James Potter. Of course this was assuming there was such a thing as love. Perhaps I loved him more than I would ever be willing to admit. But regardless of what I was feeling now, I would still leave this school in a few months to never see him again.

And in a few years it wouldn't even matter.

"Are you all right?"

I leaned back against the wall and traced something so quickly that I hardly had time to process it myself.

And suddenly, I heard footsteps.

"You should go," I said, quietly.

I felt weak and vulnerable. I never felt that way. Never.

And I never would again.

"I-" he started, but I shot out my hand to grab the cloak.

I don't know what I was doing, wrapping the cloak around him like that. It was probably the most impulsive thing I had ever done. And maybe I just wanted to be close to him. To feel warm for once in my life.

Maybe I thought by letting him go I could right all the things I had done over the summer.

"I meant what I said, you know."

Just that whisper and he was gone. I leaned back and slowly traced my last words of the night once again, adding just one word – always.

A/N: Dedicated to my wonderful beta as a very late Christmas gift.

Challenge: "Hm... oneshot, preferably. A random meeting in which Narcissa/James have a conversation and are very decent to one another. James notes that she's really quite pretty. Narcissa's pov."

I hope I did well with it. Happy Christmas, dear!

Special thanks to Audry for helping me out.