A/N: This is for MysteriousFlower. Happy Birthday! =D
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR.
He's gone. But he's always gone and it's time that she gets used to that fact. Seamus, Dean, Harry; their names blur together, their faces. The differences between them no longer matter – it's the similarities that count. Like how suddenly, it's their company that her husband craves and not her own; how it's them he wants to sit down with at the end of the day and rant about how his day was.
But he's blind and he's stubborn and he just can't see that all he does is push her away. And she's left with no one to turn to, no one to talk to, because Harry is just as blind as Ron, and Ginny is too busy taking care of James to be bothered with her problems.
It's on an evening when the silence of her empty flat is blaring in her ears, the echo of Ron's long forgotten laugh shattering her attempts to suppress the past, that she changes her nightly routine. She doesn't go to bed early, waiting for a husband who won't come crawling into bed until the early hours of the morning. She adorns her cloak and she pockets her wand, and she steps out into the turbulent and unpredictable night.
The wind whips at her face, it whistles in her ears, and she would swear it's mocking her very presence, laughing at the now pathetic life of Hermione Weasley. And she doesn't disagree, in fact, she couldn't agree more. But that's why she's here, that's why she wandering the streets of London, and not giving the monotony of her wretched life another chance to tear her hope away bit by bit.
When she steps into the Leaky Cauldron, her hair is mussed around her face, tangled and knotted. But there is a light in her eyes, a glowing determination that was put to rest the moment she said I do. She slips into a corner booth, watching and waiting, not knowing what exactly it is that she is waiting for – but completely exhilarated by the impulsiveness of the situation.
She glances around the smoky room. She spies a man at the bar, but, with warm eyes and a kind smile, he's much too boring, he's much too safe. There is a man in the opposite corner, with dark mysterious eyes, and he is almost exactly what she is looking for – but he is much too drunk; she can almost see the stench of alcohol radiating from him.
That's when she looks to the table nearest the fire and her eyes fall upon the woman sitting there. The flames cast shadows on her silver-blonde hair, as her blue eyes stare into its depths. She is completely alone, and her only movement the steady rise and fall of her chest. Clothed all in black, her pale skin stands out in a stark contrast. But it is her expression that causes Hermione to take a second look.
She could be her; she is her. Every time she glances in the mirror, that same face stares back at her. Empty and forgotten, lonely and defeated; she's worn that face so long that she would recognize it anywhere. Only she never thought it would be found anywhere but her own reflection.
The woman – and there's something familiar about her, but she cannot place it – takes a deep breath and swallows the remainder of her drink. She looks away from the fire and her eyes meet Hermione's, and that's when realization hits. Narcissa; Narcissa Malfoy.
There is an understanding in her gaze, and Hermione knows that Narcissa can read her expression just as well as she can read hers. She gives her a sad, half smile, before standing up and walking gracefully towards the door.
As the door swings shut, Hermione realizes she has two options. She can stand up and leave, go back home and slip easily back into her routine, forgetting this minor detour. Or she can do exactly what she set out to do; she can do something unpredictable, something wild and wicked, for once forgetting about each and every little consequence.
She doesn't know what she wants, but either way, it's time for her to leave. So she picks herself up and slips from the building without one glance flickering her way. The streetlights cast patches of florescent beams into the black night, and it is in one of these that she catches a flash of silver before it disappears into the dark.
She doesn't stop to think, she acts on an instinct that she doesn't understand and follows her. Dressed in black she is hard to find, but it is her hair, falling down to the middle of her back, that gives her away. Hearing the swish of her cloak, and the soft thud of her footsteps, Narcissa turns around to find Hermione a few yards away.
"Miss Granger," Narcissa says; her voice is soft and sweet. Hermione doesn't bother to correct her name – she has no desire to do so.
"Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione says. Neither of them moves nor says a word more. And Hermione realizes this is just what she was looking for, exactly who she was looking for – someone to understand, someone she can talk to about all the fractured pieces of her life. But it's not talking that she wants in this moment.
Narcissa's face, open and clear a moment ago, is completely devoid of any emotion, her thoughts tucked snugly away. Hermione takes a small step forward and then another. Narcissa doesn't move.
"There's nothing you can do to change it." Hermione sucks in a startled breath, not having expected the other woman to speak.
"To change what?" she asks after a moment's pause.
"The loneliness, the desperation. He's only going to grow more distant." She gives a humorless laugh and looks off into the distance, before bringing her eyes back to Hermione's, a pleading look in her eyes. "You should get out while you still can."
Hermione takes a moment to digest this before replying. "Are you saying it's too late for you? That you cannot leave him?"
"I've been married a long time, Hermione." She startles her yet again by calling her by her first name – unpredictable, indeed. "And after so many years of marriage, one does not simply pick up and leave."
"What would you call what he has done? A man doesn't have to pick up and walk out your door for good for him to have left you." Narcissa chuckles softly at her words.
"We're more alike than you can imagine, Miss Granger," she says, and Hermione takes another step into the space between them.
"Then you're just as lonely as I am." Something flashed quickly over Narcissa's face at her words, and while her expression is still unreadable, it's beginning to fracture.
"I—you have no idea." There's a slight tremble in her voice, but Hermione can tell that she's trying to hide it. She lifts a delicate hand and brushes a stray strand of golden hair behind her ear, and as she lowers her hand back to her side, Hermione reaches out and grabs her hand. Narcissa stares down at their clasped hands before looking up and meeting her eyes. And when she does, Hermione can see that her carefully crafted façade is gone. Her expression is abandoned and forlorn, but underneath that, almost completely masked, is a desperate longing and hope.
Her grasp tightens on Hermione's hand, and she takes the last step between them. "I don't have to be alone, and neither do you," Hermione whispers. Narcissa lifts the hand that isn't being held, and cups Hermione's cheek in her palm.
Slowly Hermione leans forward, their lips brushing softly together. Narcissa's hand slips from her cheek and winds around her neck, pulling her closer. And for the first time in years, neither of them feels alone.
A/N: Leave a review and let me know what you thought, good or bad. =] (And if you happen to notice any mistakes, let me know. It is really late at night and my editing skills are long gone. ;) )