Author's Notes: Written for the 2 000-plus "Running" (Participants may write whatever they like, but bonus points to who can theirs up first.) event in the 2012 Hogwarts Olympics on the HPFC forum.

)O(

Narcissa was curled in an armchair in the darkened library of Malfoy Manor, half-dozing and watching flames flicker gently beneath the mantle as night fell over her. There was a slight chill in the air, just enough to make Narcissa grateful for the heat of the fire.

Any woman with a decent husband would have spent a night like this curled up in his arms, she thought. That was what she wanted. She wanted to be lying in Lucius's (any man's) bed, tight and warm and safe in his embrace and enjoying the sound of his heartbeat close to her ear, not lying all alone in the library while he was at the Ministry. God only knew what he did there – for all she knew, he was making love to some woman over his desk when he ought to have been at home with his wife.

Would she care if he was?

Narcissa sighed, closing her eyes and putting her hands over them to block out the light of the fire. Yes, she told herself. She would have cared very much if Lucius was having an affair. She would have been furious at him. It was only right. She was his wife, after all.

She shifted in the armchair, into a slightly more comfortably position, and let her breathing go deep and steady. She tried to wash all thoughts of Lucius out of her mind, tried to drift off to sleep.

There was a knock on the door.

It seemed dreadfully far away, almost like she was hearing it from another world, and at first, Narcissa thought that perhaps she would be best suited to let the house-elf open it, but then, she registered the time and sat up abruptly.

But who would be calling upon us at such an hour?

Her heart skipped a beat. Suddenly she was wide awake, and very much afraid of who might have come calling past nightfall on the Malfoys. If it was someone for Lucius – and if he really was at the Ministry like he said – surely, whoever it was would have gone there. It could only be…

Aurors, perhaps? Had the Aurors finally realized that perhaps Lucius Malfoy was not being perfectly honest with them – that perhaps the rumors about his affiliations with the Death Eaters had some truth? Had they decided that it was time to follow up on some tip given to them by someone who was jealous of the Malfoys' rise in stature? The very idea sent sickening chills through Narcissa's body, for Lucius was not here to protect her, and she did not know what she could do if she was accused. Even her name could not protect her if the Aurors thought that she knew about the Death Eaters.

She stood swiftly, shivering a little from fear – though she forced herself to attribute it to the drafts that permeated the library from the cracks around old windows and between ancient stones – and hurried to the door, pausing for just a moment to grab up her shawl from where she had tossed it carelessly over the back of an armchair when she had lain down in the library hours before. She wrapped it about her shoulders tightly, hoping that it would lend her some degree of warmth, then rushed down the stairs with her heart in her throat. The knocking on the door was intensifying in volume and urgency, which only frightened her more.

"Get out!" she snapped at the house-elf that was reaching up to open the door. It squeaked as she kicked it away, then she drew her wand from the pocket of her skirt, concealing it as best she could behind her back, and opened the door slowly.

Narcissa had been expecting the somber figures of Aurors – perhaps only a few, perhaps many – but she drew in a sharp breath and considered slamming the door shut again when she saw who it was.

"I've missed you, Cissa," Rodolphus said.

Aurors would have been preferable.

She started to close the door but he put out his hand, holding it open, and Narcissa stopped.

"What are you doing here, Rodolphus?" she asked, her cheeks flaming red. "We've talked – you know that I don't want to see you anymore, and I've told you not to come to my home…"

Even in the darkness, she could see a small smile twisting the corners of Rodolphus's mouth and one eyebrow lifting slightly as though he was amused by her question – which she suspected he was. He did have an infuriating habit of being amused when he should have been angry with her.

"Why, Cissa," he said, and there was more than a hint of a bitter laugh in his voice when he said it, "I would have thought that the answer would be rather obvious … you didn't really think that I was going to stay away from you, did you?"

Narcissa bit her tongue against the urge to snap at him. Rodolphus was infuriating; he always had been and she suspected that, as long as she knew him, he always would be. Perhaps, she sometimes thought, it was the very collection of qualities about him that she found infuriating – his stubbornness, his arrogance, his unbelievable (and not entirely unfounded) belief that he was irresistible to her – that she also found so deeply attractive…

Don't you dare start thinking like that, Narcissa!

"Lucius is home," she lied, but the blush on her cheeks gave her away, and Rodolphus simply smirked and shook his head as if her falsehoods amused him. Perhaps they did.

"Lucius is at the Ministry – God only knows what he's doing there," he said. "But it doesn't matter much what he's doing, because I'm sure that he'll take his time, and that means that the two of us…" He trailed off, then stepped inside and pulled Narcissa against him.

She let out a soft, shuddering gasp – almost a sigh – and shivered a little at his touch. Though he had been outside and she inside and by a fire, his body felt beautifully warm against hers.He drew Narcissa slowly into his arms and pressed his lips against hers, gently at first, then more forcefully. Her body responded instantly – her back arching, her head falling back as she softened in his embrace – and she sighed in quiet delight.

"Oh, Rod…"

"I've missed you, Cissa," he murmured. His hand moved to her breast, squeezing it lightly, and Narcissa's breath caught. It had been so dreadfully long since she had been touched that way – Lucius never seemed to want to bother.

Lucius…

A little bubble of guilt swelled in Narcissa's heart, only half dissolved by the pleasure of being touched again.

"Perhaps we shouldn't be doing this," Narcissa breathed quietly as Rodolphus's fingers tangled in her hair and he pressed kisses along the side of her neck. For her meager protests, her body trembled in delight with his every touch.

"Should we not?" murmured Rodolphus. He lifted his mouth from the side of Narcissa's neck, looking down on her with a small smile. "Why not?"

"You're- my sister's husband…"

"And?"

"And…" It was becoming increasingly difficult for Narcissa to speak. Her heart was pounding and Rodolphus's hands were still on her and she couldn't quite bring herself to push him away, even though she could not help thinking of what Bellatrix would say if she ever found out that her husband and her little sister were having an affair. "And you ought to be faithful to her, oughtn't you?"

Rodolphus let out a short, mirthless laugh, pushing Narcissa away very slightly. "Ought I to? Why? Why should I bother being faithful – and don't try to fool yourself, Cissa, you know as well as I do that she doesn't want me. She's all caught up in her exciting new life as a Death Eater…" He sounded bitter, and Narcissa ran her tongue nervously around her lips.

"Has she been neglecting you, Rod?" she asked, her voice softening a bit. Perhaps she ought to have been angry at herself for how easily Rodolphus could make her melt, but the way he looked at her – doleful and morose and resigned – made it impossible for her to feel anything but sympathy for him. She put one hand on his shoulder and felt it trembling with suppressed emotion.

"Of course she has," he said quietly, and Narcissa could hear how very hard he was trying to hide the pain in his voice. "You know that she has. You know how much more interested she is in the Dark Lord than she could ever be in me." He looked away, and Narcissa's heart twisted in her chest.

"I'm sorry," she said softly.

"Are you really?"

"Of course…" Narcissa hesitated, then pressed her palm against Rodolphus's cheek, turning his head so that he was looking at her again. "I'm sorry that she isn't a good wife to you. You deserve better than her; you know I think you do."

"Then why won't you love me?" Rodolphus demanded, and Narcissa flinched a little. His eyes were wild and looked a touch mad. Not so unlike Bellatrix's.

"I do love you, I do…" Narcissa whispered helplessly.

"If you loved me then you wouldn't deny me."

"Don't do this, Rodolphus," Narcissa murmured, dropping her hand from his cheek and backing away. "Please don't… you know that I love you and you're not being fair."

"I'm not being fair?" Rodolphus looked livid. "How am I the one not being fair when Bellatrix is the one sleeping with the Dark Lord?"

"What Bellatrix does is not my fault!" Narcissa's voice cracked. This was always what happened, always with Rodolphus – he would take her to be at fault for something that she had no control over, and she couldn't explain to him why it wasn't her fault because if she did, he would only get angrier at her. "Please don't try to punish me for it!"

Rodolphus raised one hand and Narcissa flinched automatically, shrinking back and putting up her arm to shield her face. There was a moment of breathless stillness, in which Narcissa trembled a little. Much as she did not care to admit it, even to herself, Rodolphus frightened her when he was angry. He reminded her terribly of her father…

"Cissa…" he said quietly, and she dared lower her arm to look at him. He reached out gently, laying one broad hand lightly upon her neck. Narcissa shuddered at his touch – why did he have to make her feel so vulnerable; why? – then looked up at him, blinking back tears.

"I'm not punishing you," he told her quietly. "Do you think that's what this is? I don't want to- to hurt you, Cissa…"

"I know you don't," she whispered, her voice cracking. She brushed tears from her eyes and looked up at him, biting down on her lip to stop another sob from escaping her and resting her own trembling fingers on Rodolphus's hand. "I know that you don't want to hurt me…"

"Say you love me."

"I love you," she told him, not hesitating for a second. Rodolphus's arm twined around her waist and his lips brushed hers gently, and Narcissa closed her eyes, melting into his arms.

It was all so terribly unfair, she thought. Bellatrix didn't know how lucky she was to be married to Rodolphus. She didn't know how lucky she was that Rodolphus loved her so, when all she did was fawn over the Dark Lord and ignore her husband. Tears prickled in Narcissa's eyes and she clung to Rodolphus as tightly as she could.

Why couldn't Bellatrix divorce him so that she could have the man she wanted? (Not that it made a difference to her; she obviously didn't care about being unfaithful)

Why couldn't he divorce her?

Why, oh why, Narcissa wondered as she allowed tears to fall at last, streaming down her pale cheeks and wetting Rodolphus's shoulder, couldn't she have him?

)O(

Fin