Chapter Six: Weekenders
Grimmauld Place was indeed a grim, old place. Harry found his oddness there in his solitude. He sometimes leaned in doorframes watching Kreacher dust the same lamp for an hour straight. He wandered the halls every morning with his breakfast, restless and useless. And lonely.
His friends visited him. Ron, Hermione and Ginny. And Cho came sometimes, or Padma or Parvati. Once they all had dinner together, reminiscing on old times that weren't so old. They talked about Hogwarts, mostly. When Cho or one of the twins brought up the hospital, Harry promptly steered them away from the topic. It wasn't right to discuss those old times, it seemed.
The amputation was still fresh and itchy. The absence too keen and emasculating. He still woke in the night thinking he smelled her spicy smell, thinking he'd felt her shift beside him… When it happened, he made himself a cuppa and moved to the drawing room. He slept on the chaise lounge sometimes. His bed felt too big.
And some days, it was hopeless. He recalled (at the oddest times) the feel of her fingers in his hair, her teeth scraping his jaw, her hot, hungry cunt eating his cock and the way her whole body had felt like a starving beast.
He supposed in retrospect that they'd both been starving. But they'd fed each other's hunger too well and now he craved her daily. He wondered if she craved the same. If she stared out her window when he stared out his window. If she ever punched her pillow to punish stupid tears.
He wondered if she made love to her husband the way he made love to Ginny. Staring at the headboard in the dimness and listening for her whimpers to subside, he was painfully aware of the pressure in his grip and the suction in his lips. Ginny was sensitive, and probably not ready for this step despite her being the one who'd insisted upon taking it.
They lay in his bed and Harry wished she would leave. He remembered the way Narcissa had so callously kicked him from her bed once, and he understood. He wished he could do the same to Ginny, then felt guilt like a dead weight.
From sadness, to bliss, to guilt and in guilt he lingered. In fact, the feeling had come to be a companion of sorts. He wondered what he would do without it.
Ginny rarely stayed, thank the gods. But when she did she fussed over him like a too mothering mother hen. Harry resisted the urge to push her hands away or throw his dinner plate to the floor. She noticed one evening and perched on the edge of his bed. "Harry. If I'm a bother, I'll go home."
"No, Gin. Stay."
"You just seem so lonely." She stroked his bare hip. "I feel helpless."
And the thought of not having her there was as tragic as the thought of having her there forever, so he apologized and took her hand. "I'm sorry I'm so moody lately."
She shook her head and kissed him. "You know. I took a lot of time to deal with my grief. And you seemed to avoid yours. Perhaps it's catching up?"
He bit his lip. "Perhaps."
She stood. He watched the outline of her body silver in the moonlit room. "Still. I'm going to go home for a while." Her eyes glistened. "When you're ready, you'll owl me?"
He shook his head, galvanized by curiosity. "Ginny, you don't have to go. Really."
She dressed briskly, not bothering to tuck her shirt. She shoved her bra carelessly into the back pocket of her jeans. "Just owl me, Harry. It's hard for me to feel like you're not here when you're laying on top of me." Then she was gone and he heard his front door slam and a pop of apparation.
He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and cradled his head in his hands.
Exactly six months after he'd begun his affair with Narcissa and approximately three months after it ended, he received an owl. He was in the kitchen when it tapped on his window; a regal, grey eagle owl with a somewhat apathetic glare. Harry took the missive from its leg and it flapped purposefully onto the sink's edge. It obviously awaited a reply. "Well, then." Harry smirked at it, reached to give it a scratch and was nipped at for his troubles. "Sorry!"
He was breaking the seal on the parchment without having glimpsed it, suspecting a letter from Padma or Parvati on their trip to India. So when the spicy scent wafted into his face, he froze momentarily, just breathing it in. His fingers shook as he unrolled the scroll.
You owe me nothing in this world, and very possibly hate me now. I daresay I hope this is not the case, but understand if it is. Baring my soul has never been a simple task for me, so please give me a moment of patience. Know that whatever you feel and have felt, I am as weak and wanting for you as I ever was. I have missed you. I miss you. That being said, I presume mightily to tell you I am in Diagon Alley presently, staying for a weekend shopping excursion. I am quite alone, and would love to see you. If this is not possible for you, or if you simply desire to never hear from me again, please send a reply with Agrippina to the Court of Three Witches Hotel. Otherwise, tell the owl to return home, and come to room 1012.
He crumpled the letter, but didn't release it. 'Presume,' indeed. "Agrippina?" The owl ruffled its feathers. "Go home."
He felt remarkably under-dressed in the Court of Three Witches lobby. Everything there was made of gold, marble or velvet. But it was bustling with wealthy wizards and witches who barely spared him a glance. In the plush walnut lift, an uniformed elf addressed him. "What floor, sir?"
"Ten." His voice quivered a bit. The elf merely nodded and the lift was on its way. The gilt gates opened and Harry stepped onto thick carpet with a pentacle motif. The surrounding walls were rounded, and as there were very few rooms, he found 1012 quickly.
In the empty corridor, he fingered his hair, aware it was probably skewed as ever. He checked his breath. It still smelled of tea. Should have brushed. He imagined her. Tried to imagine her the way she would be now – not the witch he'd known at St. Mungo's. Heart racing, he knocked.
No amount of imagining could have prepared him for her face when she opened the door; soft eyes alight and wet, bowed lips spreading into a true smile, cheeks pink without makeup. "Harry." She said so little and so much. "Here. In."
"Thanks," he mumbled. The room was what he expected: luxe and posh. A fire crackled in an ornate fireplace, shining red hues on the satiny golden bedclothes. But for the impressiveness of the surroundings, all he could see was her.
Her hair hung loose and well past her shoulders. She was in stockinged feet and a burgundy knee length skirt. An ivory silk blouse was untucked and partially unbuttoned on her shapely frame. "You look really lovely," he whispered.
"Thank you." She nodded awkwardly and wrung her hands. She was at least six feet away. "You need a coat. It's November, Harry!"
He shrugged. "I was in a hurry."
Harry's mouth was dry. His fingers itched to touch her. But uncertainty lingered between them like the elephant in the room. "I'm glad you came," she said softly.
He put his itching fingers into his pockets, shrugged. "Did you really think I wouldn't?"
She bit her lips. "I hoped. But… I know that we parted on less than perfect terms."
"You left without saying a damn word to me, you mean."
"I told you good-bye the night before!" She defended hotly, walking toward him.
"When I was falling asleep on your tits?"
"What was bloody new?"
"That's hardly a proper good-bye." She was so close now he looked down at her eyes. "I woke in the morning in your bed and everything that was you was gone."
She touched his face and he felt the tears surge. "Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry." Her own tears shivered in the corners of her blue eyes. "I couldn't."
Finally, desperately, his hands left his pockets and cupped her jaw, tilted her head back. "I know, but…" He studied her lips and she whimpered. "It was hard just the same."
"I was a coward." She rubbed her cheek against his palms, yearning for his touch. "Can you forgive me?"
"Why did you ask me here?"
She kissed his fingers. "Because I miss you. And I'm weak and foolish and I want you, Harry." This last bet came out on a breath and she bit the heel of his hand.
Harry hissed. "Gonna kick me out of bed?"
Uncertainty bleeding into need, she pressed against him. "I have all weekend."
He kissed her, groaning, rubbing all the parts of her he'd missed so strongly. She slid fingers over his stubbled jaw and into his hair. Her mouth opened and her tongue met his and withdrew teasingly – the kiss he preferred, the one she'd taught him.
Their breaths came hot on their faces. Narcissa shoved his opened oxford off his shoulders and grabbed the hem of his tee. They separated so she could remove it, then Harry kissed the top of her head while she re-familiarized herself with the planes of his chest and belly, occasionally nipping him. He reached around her to finish freeing her from her shirt. "I've missed you, too," he admitted. "Horribly."
His fingers fussed at the clasp of her bustier and she stopped touching him long enough to remove it. His hands settled on her breasts and they nearly tripped backing onto the bed's raised platform. By the time they hit the duvet, their lips were swollen and their bodies naked.
"Gods, you feel so good!" Narcissa gasped against his ear. And there was time later for catching up, for slowing down and enjoying each other to the fullest. But for now, she was wet and he needed to fuck her. So he wasted no time thrusting inside her as if it was her punishment and she took it as if she understood.
"You missed this," he growled.
"Yes!" Her cries were loud and abandoned here, the built-in silencing charms giving them allowances they'd never had before.
"I did, too." He hiked her knee over his shoulder and thrust harder. "And I still fucking love you!"
"Harry, please!" She turned her face away from his, wanted to avoid this confrontation – particularly at this moment.
"You can't make me stop." He thrust faster. She bit into his forearm. "And you can't deny what your body's telling me right now."
Her teeth broke skin and she roared into his blood as she came, clinching fingers in his hair. Harry's fingers wrenched her head toward him and he kissed her bloody mouth, shoving his own groans of pleasure down her throat – as if making her eat his lust could prove his feelings.
When he finally let her pull away for breath, there was sweat, blood and saliva bonding them. She seemed to notice the taste of iron for the first time and touched her stained mouth. "Oh, Harry! I'm so sorry!" Her leg slid down his back and she pulled the injured arm back to her lips. She kissed the wound. Harry's head dropped into the crook of her neck. "Let me get my wand. I'll heal it."
"Leave it." Harry murmured. Emotion caught up with him and the tears he'd held at bay slipped his guard. He wrapped his arms tight around her and held on.
"Shhhh." Narcissa stroked his sticky back. "Don't. Don't do this." More kisses peppered his head. "I'm sorry…"
"I don't want you to be bloody sorry!" He pushed away from her and sat up, the room's chill raising gooseflesh across his shoulders. "I want you to be happy." He sniffed and felt foolish.
Her breasts and belly pressed into his back. "I'm happy right now," she whispered. "Can't we have a little time to be happy again?"
"And then what? Back to our respective miseries?" He stood and made for the loo. She followed, wrapping a soft throw around her form.
"Are you truly miserable?" She leaned in the lavatory door.
Harry braced his arm against the ornately tiled wall over the toilet. "Yes," he answered. He had no qualms about pissing in front of his woman, and was strangely gratified when she looked away. He drew a bath for them when it was her turn to relieve herself.
In the hot water's amniotic embrace, she spoke softly. "It's my fault you're miserable. I did this to you."
"I kissed you first. If I recall correctly. I attacked you in the linen closet."
"But I didn't say no. And I should have." She examined his bitten arm again. "You turn me into something…feral. Not myself."
"Gods forbid you should lose control for five minutes."
"Don't be mean, Harry." She looked up from beneath his chin, but he closed his eyes, not ready to see sincerity in her blue depths. "I know you want to punish me. For leaving you. For not contacting you sooner. For not leaving my husband. For a multitude of things I may never understand." She stroked his jaw. There were a few days' worth of beard growth. "But this is the best I can do. And I struggle, too. Do you think it's been easy for me?"
He swallowed and listened to her, finally looking at her.
"I've a husband who's fallen apart and needs mending. A son who…is like a living shadow. A house nearly in ruins and finances so skewed and squandered by Death Eaters that I have no idea how I will ever sort them. And then there's bloody you…" She sighed. "Always in the back of my mind or pushing to the surface at the most inconvenient times. I wasn't lying when I said I miss you, you know."
"I know." He squeezed her. "I'm sorry." And he was sorry, but it merely tempered the resentment. "Why not leave it? Even if not for me, why not leave him? Let him deal with it?"
"I would be leaving my son, too, Harry. And I can't do that. Draco needs me – maybe not to mother him, but to show him we can still be strong. He needs to see we can come back from this and that he can help. The whole damned mess will be all his someday, anyway."
The bigger question loomed. Harry couldn't avoid it and decided not to try. "Do you love him at all?"
She was quiet for a moment. "Harry…for fuck's sake…Yes! Alright? I care for my husband. Is it a great passionate romance? No, and perhaps it never was. And perhaps he's been incredibly stupid and made furiously bad decisions, but he is still my husband and has been ever faithful to me which is more than I can say for myself!"
"I didn't mean to upset you." Harry rubbed her tense arms and kissed her temple. "I just want to know you're cared for. That you aren't…mistreated."
"No. Lucius has never mistreated me. Or his son. Not directly, anyway." She conceded.
"Does he…make love to you?"
"Harry!" She turned in his arms, sloshing water from the bath. "Why in Merlin's name would you ask that? Especially when we're together?"
"Because it eats me alive!" He told her his honest truth, as usual. "I can't bear the thought of him touching you!"
Narcissa wiped a drop of water from his glasses with her thumb. "He's my husband."
Harry's lip curled. He had his answer. "And what am I?"
"You told me you wanted to be lovers, once. And I took you at your word."
"So I'm still your lover? Just when it's convenient for you?"
She stood, her expression clearly reading she needn't subject herself to his ranting. "I haven't left my house in nearly six months, Harry. Because it's taken that long to get the men in my life self-sufficient again." She wrapped a plush towel around her nakedness. "You hadn't anyone who needed your nurturing, so I imagine these last months have been long and for that I apologize. But…"
She gave up. Sat on the closed toilet and put her head in her hands. Harry recognized the position as one he found himself in often enough. Finally, she found her words. "Harry. You and I are very rare people. We are strong when others need us. And sometimes, we need our strength to ourselves. We have to…regenerate. I think we happened to find each other during that regeneration. I think we strengthened each other, but I also think we took from each other."
Harry leaned over the edge of the bath, watching her pick at her fingernails. "What did you take from me?" She looked up, perhaps surprised he was truly listening, and he shrugged at her gamely. "Aside from the obvious, I mean."
"I took your affection," she answered. "Your innocence. Your passion. Your gentleness." Her eyes misted. "Your love."
"And you regret that."
"Yes. Very much."
"Because I didn't offer mine in return. I tried so hard not to…"
He stood, gestured for a towel and she gave him one. "I took from you, too, you know."
"Did you?" The look in her wide eyes was hopeful.
He walked to her, towel low on his hips and she kissed his stomach, followed the trail there down his abdomen. "I took your desire. Your experience. Your desperation." He pulled her up by her elbows and wrapped her in his embrace. He took a chance, an irrational gamble. "And I think I took your love, too. No matter how hard you tried to keep it."
She was kissing his neck and collar, tiptoes stretching against the cool, moist floor. "Let's go to bed," she murmured.
Bastioned amid sheets and thick duvet, they made love the way they had during their last days together at St. Mungo's, quietly and intensely. They exhausted each other, comfortable in the knowledge they would wake together in this haven.
Afterward, Harry stroked designs on her arms and shoulders while she lay against his chest. "Do you expect you'll be able to get out a bit more now?"
"Mm-hm." She kissed a pectoral. "I do."
"So we could meet once in a while?"
"I would like that." Her fingers spidered down his belly. "I can't always guarantee a weekend, but…"
"So long as I don't wait six months, I'll settle for a day now and then." He couldn't have her forever, no. But he could have her occasionally. And that might suffice.
"Will it be safe for me to owl you?"
Harry nodded. He knew she spoke of Ginny – of the possibility of his having his own relationship. "It's just me for now." Unlike himself, Narcissa didn't ask questions. If there was ever another witch in his life, he doubted this one would want to know about it. "Your owl is awfully radgey."
She pinched his thigh and he yelped. "Agrippina is a fine creature! She's just old and…neurotic. Like me."
Narcissa chuckled, ducked beneath the duvet. "Also like me…"
Harry shivered and bucked beneath her ministrations. Sleep was slow in coming for both of them, and they slept until past noon. When Harry finally opened his eyes, he saw her already staring back at him. He swept her bangs aside. "Hello."
"Hello," she whispered back.
"You've been thinking." He was hesitant, nervous about what made her face so serious. Last time he'd seen her this way, she'd told him they were through.
"I have been."
He swallowed. "What about me?"
She blinked, again rubbed his bearded face. "How you were right."
"Right about what?"
Her teeth took hold of her bottom lip. "You did take my love, Harry. And reminded me I have more left to give. I thank you for that."
His smile was genuine and free. He collected her to him like a precious thing. "I think we've both a good deal left to give, Narcissa."
He refused to believe it was simply lust that drove them together. There was love there – odd in its timing but as blatant as the sun. And it was love that drove them apart. And love would bring them together again. Harry thought of the love Narcissa had for her family, of the love Ginny had for himself. Selfless love. Unconditional love.
He tumbled the witch in his arms, listened to her squeal. This love had conditions. It had terms and limits and boundaries. But if it could keep them both going through the lean times on either side, it was worth every negotiation. And if it required a little extra work – a little more detailing, he would be the first to volunteer.
AN: Thanks to my lovely Britpicker always – Insights. And to all of you who have followed, favorited, read and especially reviewed. This fic has been a very different experience for me, and was influenced by several sources. Two films you should note include The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman and the indomitable Anne Bancroft and Tony Marchant's recent Leaving starring the indomitable Helen McCrory. Also a rare but pristine French novella simply titled La Mer. I don't know if it's translated. And (of course) Madame Bovary. The new Lydia Davis translation is…impeccable. I hope you all enjoyed.