"Lucius, darling, what a pleasant surprise!' Lucius wasn't quite sure what the protocol was. Narcissa was not dressed. She was coming through the door to their bedroom from the master bath wearing nothing but a pair of towels; one around her body, and the other in her hair. "To what do I owe this visit?" she asked. What had he wanted again? He was too distracted by the sight of her bare legs and shoulders to remember. Lucius ran his fingers through his hair and squared his jaw. He had to stop thinking about that. Narcissa was worlds better even than she had been two weeks prior when she had been allowed home from St. Mungo's, but she was certainly not well enough for that and likely would not be for some time.
It was certainly difficult not to think of those things as she removed the towel from her body and replaced it with a wispy white dressing gown. "I…" He had to think of something. "I just came to wish you good night," he answered her. Narcissa seated herself at her vanity and removed the towel from her hair.
"I appreciate that," she told him, turning her head to look at him. Lucius took a further step into the room and seated himself on a chaise near to her vanity.
"Have you taken your medicine?" he asked. This was what he had come for. He remembered. Narcissa had to constantly be reminded about the potions she should be taking. The Healers had made him swear to see to it that she got her potions on schedule before they agreed to let him bring her home. She had been too ill for too long to let something like that slide.
"Not yet," she confessed. Lucius frowned at her. "They've begun to make me feel a bit dizzy and nauseous," she explained. "I've sent an owl to Severus already, and he promised to bring along something for the dizziness the next time he's by. But until then, I've learned: shower first potions second, or I'm likely to feel very faint while in the shower, which is not the most comfortable place to pass out." What? Narcissa had fainted in the shower? How had she not told him this? Had he been so preoccupied with the baby and the staff that he'd left her unconscious on the bathroom floor?
"When did this happen?" he asked. He had to know; he would never forgive himself for that.
"Oh no," she countered, "I didn't pass out. I just thought I was about to. I wound up sitting on the floor of the shower until long after the water had run cold. It was most unpleasant."
"Then…" His head was swimming. He would have to get Severus here immediately. She needed something to get that under control and Severus was the only person he'd trust within a mile of any potion intended for his wife. "Shower first, potions second," he affirmed. Narcissa turned to him as she ran her hairbrush through her hair, each section becoming instantly dry as the enchanted instrument passed over her golden locks. She looked well. He had noticed it for the first time this morning. They'd taken their breakfast together on the veranda and her face had looked pink and alive for the first time since she went into labor. He could tell that she was getting better, and it made him happy. Soon he would have his family intact and well. "Can I get you anything?" he offered. Narcissa looked at him briefly, her eyes looked sad somehow as she answered.
"No, thank you." She finished her ministrations and stood from her seat. "Lucius,' she began, inhaling a ragged breath. Her back was to him and yet he could imagine some distressed look on her face. "You've been quite dear to me since this all happened," she told him. "I couldn't have asked for a better husband." She turned to look at him again. "But you don't have to come in here to tell me god night when you've got other engagements for the evening. Not any more," she told him. He didn't get what she meant in the slightest.
"Narcissa?" was all he could manage to get out as she slowly shook her head.
"And I know you're a gentleman and I was raised a lady. It is a very indelicate subject and I fear, in light of the situation with my health, that you may not be certain as to when it is appropriate to bring this up. So I tell you now that I am ready to discuss an arrangement with you as soon as it is quite convenient." What the hell was she talking about?
"Arrangement?" he asked, leaning forward in his seat.
"Of course, I would prefer to stay here at the manor," she began. He was totally confused. "I just think that with Draco still being so small and ill, and I fear that you'll have questions to answer were there to be visitors and your wife absent. And I assure you that, if you allow me to stay, I will allow you to go on with your life unhindered. I am quite skilled at being unobtrusive; it comes from being the youngest of three. But if you'd rather me not remain here, I do understand and I was thinking perhaps of the house in Coventry. I mean, it was mine, and I've a suspicion that this is the reason you bought it in the first place. Either way I will certainly be at your disposal for social obligations, and I'll certainly welcome your company should you choose…"
"Narcissa what are you talking about?" he finally managed to say. What did she mean 'this is the reason' he bought the house in Coventry? He bought that house because it was her childhood home and her father had died and her mother thought to sell it. He bought that house to keep it in the family.
"Lucius do not insult us both by acting as though you are not aware of what I am referring to," she insisted.
"I am not pretending, Narcissa," he assured her. "I am quite in the dark as to what you speak of." Narcissa heaved a heavy sigh. She looked almost angry. He had never seen his wife angry, so he couldn't be sure, but he was certain that whatever she was feeling, it wasn't happy.
"Must I say it?" she snapped. "I have been prepared by my mother and other female relatives to be the perfect pureblood wife. I have been reared to be prepared for every contingency: including this one. I had half expected this wouldn't come… with the way we were together… but the best one can really hope for in this life is to get what you expect; and I have expected this, on some level, for a good portion of my life." Lucius sat silently. He still wasn't sure what she was getting at. Narcissa frowned at him and wrung her hands. He could tell that it pained her to say these things to him, but he could not bring himself to stop her. She was talking as though some decision had been made to leave him and he had to hear all she had to say on the subject. "Lucius, I am not stupid," she insisted.
"Of course not, pet," he affirmed. She shook her head and covered her face with her hands for a moment before going on.
"You have a son now," she reminded him, "an heir to your name and to your legacy. And you have been left with a wife who cannot give you another; an invalid with a weak heart and a barren womb. You will want to get on with your life. I respect you enough to support that." Lucius shook his head. He had to get out of there. This was too intense, and furthermore he had no clue what to say back to that. He had no intention of letting Narcissa leave him because she felt it her honorably duty to do so. He looked up at her and his mouth fell open.
"Wha…" He was going to sit there like a sane man and at the very least find out what had put this mad notion in her head. "What makes you think I am desirous of such an arrangement, Narcissa?" he managed to ask. He was actually proud of the fact that he sounded totally like himself in asking.
"Lucius," she said back to him with the saddest smile he'd ever seen. "You have many talents, my love, but subtlety is not one of them." She turned her back to him and took a few steps toward the fireplace. "You were adamant about my not leaving hospital when I did. I realize now that I was quite stupid about that and that you likely did not intend for me to come back here at all. I do hope you'll forgive me that singular indulgence. I wanted to sleep in our bed, on fine sheets; and I wanted to meet Draco. I wanted to see our son; that perfect little person who bears both of our fathers' names and your beautiful gray eyes,"
"And your chin," he added. Narcissa nodded and turned to face him again, the faintest glimmer from a tear shining on her cheek.
"And my chin," she affirmed with a tiny sniffle. "You've barely touched me since last December," she added, what little smile she'd had left dropping from her face. "And as though that weren't enough, Lucius," she offered, "you've been quite transparent since I've been back here."
"How do you mean 'transparent'?" he asked. Lucius' head was swimming. He had to find a way to explain himself, soon, and well, or risk losing her to some medieval notion she had that he wouldn't want her anymore.
"I will have been home for two whole weeks come Friday," she informed him. "And you've not so much as told me where you've been sleeping; much less shared my bed or invited me into yours." Narcissa's lower lip was trembling. She was about to cry in earnest, and he would not be able to bear that; at least not with his ability to explain himself intact. He stood purposefully from his seat and looked her in the eye.
"This conversation is not over," he informed her. He feared he may have taken too stern a tone as he made the quick trip through the bathroom and into their private sitting room, but he figured he could just add that to the long list of things he was about to have to apologize for. He spotted the nanny in the sitting room and called her over to him, barely pulling the door to as he stepped only inches inside the room. "Katy?" he addressed her. "Are you here for the night?" he asked. The young girl with brown hair nodded.
"I'm here 'til eleven, sir," she answered. "And then Meg's on 'til morning. Faireen will be in at seven."
"Good," he replied. "Katy, Mrs. Malfoy has had a rather bad day. She's not feeling altogether well."
"Should I call someone?" Katy asked, her eyes growing wide. Lucius shook his head. He appreciated that the girls he'd hired from St. Mungo's to help with the baby were so concerned with Narcissa's well being, but he was completely certain that the malady she was suffering tonight could not be cured by even an army of Healers.
"No thank you, Katy," he answered. "It's not so bad as all that; potions making her dizzy is all. But I am going to stay with her tonight. Please let the other girls know. I am going to do what I can to see to it Mrs. Malfoy gets a peaceful few hours sleep," he informed her, "so please see to it that we are not disturbed unless it is an absolute emergency."
"Yes sir," Katy affirmed, bobbing a little curtsy. "I can assure you there'll be no emergencies, Mr. Malfoy," she said. "Your boy's strong now. He's a fighter. He'll only be needing a bottle and rocking overnight, and we can certainly handle that."
"Thank you," Lucius told her, turning and walking back through the ensuite bathroom and into the bedroom. Narcissa was seated on the floor in front of the fireplace, leaning into the seat of one of the brocade chairs that sat there. He could see that she had a book sitting on the seat in front of her, and it comforted him to know that she'd likely sat there completely by design and not that her potions had made her dizzy and she had chosen to remain where she'd fallen. He crossed quickly to the chair and knelt on the rug beside her. "Cissa," he addressed her. It was his private name for her. She'd once told him not to call her 'Cissy' anymore because it was her nickname from childhood and she wanted to relate to him as an adult. So, even though he still used her old nickname on occasion when he was pleading or teasing, he had begun calling her 'Cissa' when something was important. No one else had ever called her that. Her glistening eyes looked up at him.
"What is it, darling?" she asked. Lucius brushed her face with the back of his hand and shook his head. He was bad at this. He was epically bad at this. There had been very few times in his life when it had been necessary or even appropriate to say something heartfelt. This was possibly his greatest shortcoming, and he was well aware of it.
"I'm lousy at this," he admitted to her. Narcissa nodded her head a little.
"This isn't the part you look forward to on your wedding day," she agreed.
"No," he corrected her, "you don't understand."
"What don't I understand?" she asked, shifting to face him with her back against the seat of the chair and both legs stretched straight out in front of her. Lucius was lost. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. No. He knew what he had to say to her, he just had no clue as to how. He took her face in both of his hands and did the only thing he could think of.
He kissed her. He kissed her in a way he hadn't let himself kiss her in months. Narcissa started a bit beneath his lips, but almost immediately her mouth was open to him, kissing him back with as much passion and longing as he had. When he finally broke the kiss, he leaned back to look her in the eye. "I don't tell you this nearly enough, but I love you, Narcissa," he told her.
"I…" she began to answer him but he silenced her with another brief but hungry kiss.
"Listen to me," he implored. "I spent months biting my lip and sitting on my hands and taking cold showers because I was terrified that, if I touched you, you'd break." He ran his hands through her hair and continued. "After what had already happened, all I wanted was to protect you from having to feel that again. I was petrified that if I squeezed you too hard that my worst nightmare might come to pass. And do you know what, Narcissa? It almost did. I did everything right and you almost died anyway. And we almost didn't have Draco," Lucius steeled himself for a moment. He was NOT going to cry. He refused. If he let himself break down right now, he knew the two of them would spend the rest of the night sobbing on that rug and he would never get to say everything he needed to. "I stayed a foot away from you for all that time because I didn't want anything to happen and then the worst possible thing happened in spite of me. And when you wanted to leave hospital, Narcissa," he took both of her hands in his. "You still hadn't had two nights in a row in which you hadn't stopped breathing at least one time. I was afraid for you to be anywhere but within five steps of the Healer in Chief. I was petrified that I might leave this room for some errand and come back to find you had died. I couldn't handle the thought of that. The Healers had to convince me that the apnea was not life threatening and that you would likely be much happier in your own bed. And as for where I've been sleeping since you got home; Cissa, I really haven't. I've had a few decent hours on that sofa," he pointed to the velvet fainting couch he'd been sitting on a few minutes previous. "And I'll drift off some nights in the rocking chair in the nursery," he added. "Draco wakes up in the night just crying for no reason. But then all I have to do is pick him up and he stops. It's amazing," he shared. Narcissa squeezed his hands and look into his eyes.
"Then he's not crying for no reason," she corrected. "He's crying because he wishes you to hold him. I am intimately familiar with those particular tears." Lucius felt like his heart had jumped into his throat. He looked down at her and had no idea what to say.
"I am so sorry, my love," was about all he could manage. Narcissa sniffed and he could tell she was trying to keep tears from erupting almost as hard as he was. "Are you still in any pain?" he asked her. Narcissa looked at him wide-eyed and shook her head.
"Not really; no," she answered him, her voice soft but calm. He smiled warmly at her and scooped her up into his arms. She wrapped her hands around his neck as he carried her to their bed and placed her carefully into the center of it. He wanted to make love to her; to prove to her by his actions that he was sincere in his affection toward her. He had always been a man of action and that seemed the appropriate course. But he knew that they could not engage in such a physical affirmation just yet; as that particular action would require medical clearance. He leaned over her and kissed her lips, lightly and sweetly. He then settled himself beside her, with his arms wrapped tightly around her and his face buried in her golden hair.
"This is to be the arrangement, Narcissa," he informed her, pulling her tighter toward him for emphasis. His voice sounded cool, businesslike almost, but he had to get these words said or else he would be left to wonder for the rest of his life. "This is the only thing I will agree to. You are to remain my wife in every sense of the word. I will not have you leaving me because you think it is in my best interest or that I will someday wish it. I do not now nor will I ever want rid of you. You are the only woman I have ever truly loved and I doubt there could be another even if circumstances warranted; which they do not. I will hear nothing further of this nonsense about the house in Coventry. Draco will inherit that house someday, but until then you are not to mention it. Do we have an understanding?" A teary Narcissa nodded her head. Lucius sighed and adjusted his hold on her so that he could pet her hair. "Good," he whispered, placing a tiny kiss on her nearby earlobe. "Now go to sleep my pet," he instructed her, stifling a yawn of his own. He felt her nod again as his eyelids got heavier.
It occurred to him that he'd not gotten a good night's sleep in more than eight months. He'd been so preoccupied with not disturbing Narcissa that he'd barely let himself relax enough to sleep while she was pregnant. Or he'd come home from some quest or another on the behest of the Dark Lord and find her sleeping already and therefore choose to spend the night on the chaise so as not to wake her. But he'd been unable to get to sleep properly without her comforting presence. He felt himself relax for the first time in a long time as she drifted off to sleep in his embrace. Yes, this was the only acceptable arrangement.