Author's Notes: Written for the 2H option of Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's One Hour Challenge with the pairing Rodolphus/Narcissa and the prompts "Drama" and "Hot".
Also for Taragh McCarthy's "Talk About Categories" Challenge with the title "Up in Flames", prompts "Cigarette, bohemian, fantasy", quote "I could've been a princess, you'd be the king. Could've had a castle, worn a ring", location "Malfoy Manor" and event "Anniversary".
2 500 words exactly. Enjoy!
Narcissa had begged and pleaded with Lucius to spend their anniversary with her, but he had denied her that.
Oh, he never did come out and say that he did not wish to spend the anniversary with her. That would have been quite improper. No, he made excuses – there's work to be done, the Minister requested dinner with me, I'll be home early tomorrow to make up for it – but Narcissa knew quite well that he wasn't with the Minister, nor was he doing work, nor did he have any intention of coming home early the next day.
Not that she especially minded.
Mother had told her all sorts of fairy stories about married life – how happy she would be, knowing that she had a man who loved her and would always be there for her – but Narcissa had long been aware that these stories were less to make her look forward to marriage and far more to convince Druella that her own relationship with Cygnus had some chance of survival. Narcissa had never expected the idyllic life that her mother had described.
Not with Lucius, at any rate.
She sat upon the couch in the parlour, a fan dangling limply from her fingers, squirming in the heat of the July evening. Even the chill that usually clung to the parlour had dissipated, leaving Narcissa hot and listless.
There was a knock upon the door.
It took all the energy that she had to heave herself up to go to answer it. For some moments, she considered not bothering – but no, it could be someone important. Someone from Lucius's work, perhaps.
Narcissa dragged herself through the hallways, towards the door, then leaned weakly against it, peering out through the frosted glass window. She could not quite make out the visitor's form, but it seemed vaguely familiar and quite unthreatening, and if it were some kidnapper or murderer, she could not quite bring herself to care.
She unlocked the door and let it fall open.
Oh, would that it were a kidnapper or murderer.
"Rodolphus," Narcissa said timidly. "You… hello."
"Cissa." He looked tired – no doubt from the heat – but managed a small smile. "I thought you might fancy a visitor, as I've heard you were alone tonight…"
"No, Rod," she said, shaking her head quickly. "I won't–"
"Nothing improper," he interrupted, stepping over the threshold and into her home without being invited. "Just… perhaps we could sit out upon the balcony? To talk?"
If she could have, she would have protested (no, Rod, get out of my home. Things are over between us), but no. No, because she had never been able to turn Rodolphus away, not ever.
He took her hand in his (don't touch me, Rod) and led her swiftly up the stairs. She stumbled, clutching the handrail, and he paused to help her up.
"You're all right, love?" he asked, letting her rest against his chest for a moment. Narcissa's every instinct was to clutch him, cling to his powerful body and let him hold her, but she straightened up and forced a polite smile instead.
"Yes, fine, thank you," she told him, then looked away and hurried out onto the balcony before he could say another word to her.
The air rippled with heat, and the whole sky was stained golden yellow from the setting sun. Narcissa sank down upon the bench that furnished the balcony, waving her delicate white fan back and forth before her face, gasping for air as best she could in her corset, and Rodolphus slumped beside her, staring out listlessly over the walls of Malfoy Manor.
"Shouldn't your husband be the one sitting with you on your anniversary?" he asked, rather bitterly.
"He had work…" Narcissa managed, fanning herself still more vigorously. A lock of pale hair had come out of her bun and was sticking to her forehead, but she couldn't quite muster the energy to push it back into place.
Rodolphus pulled a cigarette from the pocket of his shirt and lit it, inhaling deeply. Narcissa coughed, waving her hand through the air to fan away the smoke. "Don't, Rod. You know I don't like it."
"Oh, terribly sorry," he said, not looking at her. "I didn't realize that it was suddenly crucial that you and I respect what each other like… I mean, God knows you didn't respect what I would have wanted in the slightest when you got married to Lucius."
"Don't do this, Rod, not now…" she pleaded quietly. "I can't take a fight… not right now…"
"Oh, yes, go on and make me feel guilty," he said bitterly. "As though this is somehow my fault."
"It isn't your fault that things didn't work out between us," Narcissa told him. "It isn't anyone's fault except perhaps Mother's, all right? Please… please don't act as though it is…"
"You could have said no!" Rodolphus's voice had gone from bitter to downright angry, and he whirled on Narcissa, his eyes blazing as hot as the summer sun. "You could have told your mother that you wouldn't marry Lucius! What could she have done about it?"
"She could have disowned me, as you know very well."
"And then?" Rodolphus threw down his cigarette, grinding it into the wood of the balcony with his shoe, then reaching out and grasping Narcissa's hands, pulling them to his chest. "If she had disowned you, I would have taken you. We would have run away together and everything would have been perfect…"
There was a moment in which Narcissa believed him. She yearned for her once-lover's embrace, she was desperate for him, and yet there was nothing that she could do. Tears stung her eyes, but she managed to find the willpower to pull away from him.
"I don't want this, Rodolphus," she said quietly. "I didn't want to run off like my sister or one of her – her bohemian friends…"
"So you'd rather be rich with Lucius than poor with me?" He looked disgusted. "I can't believe you sometimes, Narcissa."
She placed her hand upon her stomach, running it slowly up the front of her dress and wishing that she could loosen the corset she was wearing. It seemed to intensify the heat a thousand fold, enough to make her dizzy. "Don't be angry with me, Rodolphus."
"Don't you dare to tell me not to be angry with you when you betrayed me–"
"You married too!" She turned on him, unable to bite her tongue any longer. "You're married to Bellatrix – or had you forgotten that? Why should you be allowed to marry and I shouldn't be? I haven't said a word – not one word – because I know you don't love Bellatrix, not the way you love me, and if you were any sort of man, then you would know that I don't love Lucius either!" Her voice rose to a shrill cry and she leapt to her feet so that she might stand over him. "Do you think that I ever wanted this, Rod? Don't you realize…" She broke off, heaving for breath and swaying on her feet. "No… no, I'm not going to have this fight," she whispered. "I'm going inside. Excuse me."
Her knees wobbled a little as she slowly turned and started for the door, gripping onto the frame to keep herself upright. She could feel Rodolphus's eyes upon her, but did not look back, barely managing to get into the cool dark of Malfoy Manor before she collapsed to her knees. With shaking hands, she reached around herself to undo the buttons of her dress as best she could, so that she might shed the corset that was making it so hard for her to draw air.
Narcissa's fingers were slippery and numb from heat. She could not get a proper grip on the buttons and every time they slipped through her fingers without going through the buttonholes, more tears welled in her eyes, until she was kneeling upon the ground, positively bawling – or, as close as she could get to bawling while she could not draw one single lungful of the hot, sticky air.
And then she felt hands – broad, smooth, dry hands, upon her cheeks, wiping away the sweat and tears, and she looked up. Rodolphus was bending over her, looking unusually tender.
"Give us a moment, darling," he whispered, moving around behind her and slowly undoing the buttons on the back of her dress. When he pulled the knots in her corset strings loose, Narcissa thought that she might cry again, purely with relief.
"Th- thank you," she whispered, but Rodolphus's hands were upon her sweat-soaked back now, running up the skin, and she twitched away. "Rodolphus… if Lucius comes home…"
"What point is there in discussing such unlikely circumstances," Rodolphus asked quietly. "Why would he come home? Simply because it is your anniversary? If that mattered to him, then he would not have stayed away so long…"
Narcissa lowered her eyes. "I… I don't think…"
"He doesn't care, darling," Rodolphus said, with sympathy that a part of Narcissa could tell was feigned, though she wanted desperately to believe in his sincerity. He took her hand and patted it. "He's probably off with some other woman–"
"Stop it!" she cried. Grabbing her dress to keep herself covered (what's the point, he's seen you a dozen times or more…), she struggled to her feet and backed away. "I don't like you talking about my husband that way – he is my husband, and I love him, and he loves me! He loves me!"
"Don't lie to yourself," he told her, and now there was a touch of danger in his eye, and in his tone. "You know that it isn't true. If he loved you, then he would be here – and if you loved him, then it wouldn't be me that you think of when you're in bed with him…"
"I don't," she whispered, but even she knew she sounded guilty.
"You don't need to lie to me, Cissa…" He approached her slowly, reaching out to hold her hands. "Please don't… I know you, Cissa, you know that I do…" His lips brushed ever so gently against her throat. "And I know that you love me, however much you might want to believe otherwise." And now his hand was on her waist, drawing her closer.
Narcissa tried to look away, but both of them already knew that she was his. He could control her so very easily, and she had no will or desire to resist him.
"What would you have done if I had run away with you before I married Lucius?" she asked softly, her eyes, wide and imploring, fixed upon his. "What would have happened?"
"You would have been my princess, Cissa," was his soft, gentle answer. "I would have done everything for you, if you had only come away with me… I would have made you the happiest girl in the world. I'd have been your king…"
"We'd have lived in a castle, you know," he murmured, and his voice was low, sensual, but with that slight roughness that she even if it was only a castle in our minds. It would be the most beautiful place in the world, because it would have had you there… if you'd just worn my ring, Cissa…"
Her lip trembled.
Oh, he knew her so well.
He knew so well how to flatter her.
He had her already, and she could not help but melt into his arms, burying her face in his shirt and sobbing. "I- I wanted- I wanted to go, Rod…" she barely managed. "I wanted to… when I found out that I was to marry Lucius- I- Mother caught me- I was going to go to you… I didn't want to marry him!" Confessions that she had locked up inside herself ever since the day of her betrothal came spilling out at last.
"I know you didn't, my darling…" he told her, letting her cry, cradling her gently against his chest. "I know that you didn't want to marry him any more than I wanted to marry Bellatrix – you do know that I never wanted to marry Bellatrix, don't you?"
"I know," she sniffed.
"My sweet little girl…" Rodolphus kissed her hair.
"I love you, Rod," she whispered tearfully, clinging to him. "I'm sorry… I'm sorry that I married Lucius…"
"I know… and you don't have to feel sorry, not anymore – not ever…" He touched her cheek, then lifted her up into his arms as easily as she might lift a rag doll, letting her drape her arms around his neck and clutch him, burying her face in his shoulder. Her tears felt as hot as the sun, as hot as fire on her cheeks and soaking into his shirt.
"Shh…" Rodolphus's hand moved slowly up her back, and she did not look up to see where he was taking her. She sobbed into his shirt until, after what seemed like an unbearably long time, he set her down gently upon her bed.
"You are my princess, Cissa… you know that, don't you?"
She could barely bring herself to meet his eyes. It hurt to think that she had betrayed him, and hurt even worse when he looked so gentle, and fresh tears poured down her cheeks.
"Yes, Rod," she whispered. "I know…"
"Lucius…" His hand had crept to her leg and was running up it slowly, towards her hip. Her breath caught – she had forgotten how different Rodolphus's touch felt from her husband's.
"Lucius… wouldn't need to know… if we…" She trailed off, managing a weak laugh, for Rodolphus's face had already broken into a wide smile. "He wouldn't ever need to know…"
"No, he wouldn't," he said quietly.
And then he was on top of her, his lips against hers and he was tearing at her dress. Narcissa winced at the chafe of the fabric against her skin as he pulled it off, but oh, it was a relief not to be wearing so much in this heat. His hands felt almost cool, running up her sweaty torso.
She flung her head back when he lay between her legs, when his mouth kissed hers hungrily, and as he thrust quickly and roughly against her (so differently from Lucius), she gazed up at the sunlight playing across the ceiling, lost in pure happiness.
Narcissa was aware that by doing this, by sleeping with Rodolphus, she was ruining her marriage. If Lucius ever found out, then it would be the end of her, and her reputation, and Rodolphus's as well. All that should have made her guilty – guilty enough to stop.
It did not.
If anything, it brought her joy.
Narcissa laughed, a little trilling noise, when Rodolphus spilled inside her, moaning with pleasure in her ear.
Her marriage would go up in flames if she was ever found out, and she would gladly watch it burn.