Disclaimer: I do not own HP, I'm just taking the characters out for a spin.


Lucius has come home. The thought reverberates through Narcissa's head, an echo that grows rather than decreases. Their lord has kept him back after the meeting and Narcissa has had only one small glimpse of her husband.

She sends Draco to keep his aunt company, an occupation he hates but which is safer than being unseen. He does not grumble today, too happy that all of his hard work has paid off as he hoped. Narcissa resists the urge to hug him, to hold him tight and kiss his forehead as she did when he was a child. He is a man now, a soldier in their lord's army, and his fellow soldiers hide in every dark corner, eager to see some weakness in the proud Malfoys.

Narcissa watches him accompany her sister out the doors. Bella thinks he is not so good a flier as he should be and has taken to sending curses at him while he dives after the snitch. Narcissa should stop it but the curses are not fatal and Draco has met all of her concerned looks with the reminder that Bella has their lord's ear.

The study, Narcissa thinks once the two are out of sight, Lucius will go there first. Her feet are carrying her there before the thought is fully formed in her mind. He has been gone for a year and will want to see for himself how they are doing financially. She has done her best, thankful every day of his absence that her mother insisted she help manage the Black fortunes as a young girl.

She tidies the desk, pulling out ledgers and important correspondence she thinks he'll want to see first. These she lays open on the desktop, changing the angle each sits at twice before realizing she's letting her nerves show.

Lucius has come home. The words are still pounding in her mind, keeping time with her frantic heart. She smoothes her hands over her skirt and takes a deep, calming breath. She stands beside the desk for several seconds before realizing she will explode if she doesn't do something else.

Light, he will want light after months locked away in Azkaban. She waves her wand and four loud bangs follow one after the other, sounding the opening of the shutters outside. The curtains she opens by hand, running her fingers over rich fabric and remembering the summer they were first married, when he let her redecorate this room. He huffed and moaned and whined the whole time, refusing to take his work elsewhere while she did hers. She would have felt bad for disrupting if she hadn't sensed him watching her every move. More than once all work was disrupted when Lucius decided he was tired of simply looking.

She runs her hands over the last curtain, remembering the feel of it wrapped around her. Heat rises up on her cheeks at the memory. She quickly stamps it down. Things are so different now than they were back then. She will have to wait and see what the Dark Lord wants with Lucius that is taking so long and then judge how much of what has happened he needs to hear now. He knows that Dumbledore is dead, that war is now more real than it was last time, that Draco bears the Dark Mark, but there is no telling how much else. Does he know what their son was tasked with last year? Does he know what she asked of one of their oldest friends?

The door opens and Narcissa's back, already perfectly straight, stiffens. She knows it's him, can feel him as clearly as her own magic thrumming in her veins. She opens her mouth to ask what the Dark Lord said but the words won't come. It is the second time she has lost her voice around her husband; she doubts this time will resolve itself as happily as their wedding night did.

She feels the heat of his body as he comes up behind her. His arm snakes around her waist and she instinctively covers his hand with hers. He is dirty, his skin paper thin, and she can feel ill-healed broken bones in his hand. She closes her eyes, not wanting to imagine how much worse the last year must have been for him than for her. His forehead rests against her hair as he pulls her flush up against him.

"Narcissa." The breath of a word wraps around her ear. She reaches up behind her to run her fingers through his hair but cannot.

"You need a shower," she says, feeling a sharp prickling behind her eyelids.

He laughs in a way that might have been a sob were he any other man. "Only if you join me."

She smiles for the first time in far too long and turns her head to kiss his filthy, scratching cheek and bury her face in his neck. He tucks his chin over her shoulder and holds her close. She isn't sure which one of them is shaking and does not want to know. For now she is more than content to simply hold her husband again.